Morning, October 1

Last night’s dismal attempt at rain — whether artificial or manmade — doesn’t seem to have done much: the sky is distinctly overcast, though the air at least doesn’t seem to have the velvety quality it did yesterday.
I’m guessing that right now there are a lot of people a couple of blocks south of me on Chang’an Jie who are burning incense, rubbing rabbits’ feet, sighing heavily and looking up towards the sky every thirty seconds or so, and really, really hoping this clears up within the next three hours. The 60th anniversary of Mao Zedong’s speech from the rostrum at Tian’anmen announcing the new People’s Republic of China really ought to be a blue-sky day, after all.

It brings to mind a passage from the start of 王小波 Wang Xiaobo’s novella 2010:


In 2010 I lived in the seaside town of Beidaihe under a blanket of diesel smoke. In winter when the sun came out it revealed a sweeping vista of beige. You wouldn’t see this in pictures or on TV, of course, because every lens had a blue filter in front of it. Orders from the top. This scene you could only see with the naked eye. If one day the order came down for everybody to wear blue-tinted glasses, then there’d be nobody at all to see it. The sky would look just as blue as it had during the last century. It seemed likely that they would come out with a rule like that any day now, so that all the air pollution we’d been complaining about would simply cease to exist.

Update 7:10 am: It may not rain on their party, but it looks like it’s about to rain on ours: All foreign acts booked for this week’s Modern Sky festival have been yanked. Oh well; I guess listening to Song Zuying belting out patriotic moldy oldies in her simpering grackle squawk is almost as good as getting to see The Buzzcocks.

Update 8:37 am: The skies are clear! Truly, what wise and powerful leaders we have!

Update 8:44 am: @davesgonechina: CCTV-9 unintentional humor: “Many people gather at Mao’s tomb to reflect on the great leader’s legacy. We’re not going to talk a lot about that.”

Update 10:18 am: Hu Jintao’s custom Red Flag sedan is totally cash. He’s SO getting laid with a car like that.

Update 10:20 am: Looks like there’s a fourth Red Flag in the motorcade as a backup: it’s empty, open-top, and also outfitted with microphones.

Update 10:28 am: What changes thirty years of Reform and Opening-Up have wrought: look at all of the salutes to gay pride. And Comrade Hu even came out as a 同志! Go, New China! Keep reaching for that rainbow!

Update 10:30 am: Clumsy, inappropriate cut to audience applause footage.

Update 10:33 am: Joel notes that we were wise to abandon our National Day drinking game plans. Alcohol poisoning likely fatal within minutes.

Update 10:36 am: “为了国家、和平、民族、和谐…” That’s four shots we just dodged.

Update 10:41 am: Aaaaand time for the goose-stepping. (It’s OK to call it that if Xinhua does.) Don’t care what CCTV says, those hands are NOT perfectly level. Shape up, chumps!

Update 10:41 am: Human pixels on Tian’anmen Square now holding up cards that read 听党指挥 — “Listen to the Party’s Commands.” Wonder if that’s supposed to be addressed to the helicopter cameramen.

Update 10:43 am: @gadyepstein wonders what Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin are saying to each other up on the rostrum. My best guess:
H: “Did this go on this long when YOU were in charge?”
J: “Fuck you for arresting all of my guys.”

Update 10:46 am: Air stewardesses (?) carrying sidearms. Mm-mm-MM.

Update 10:54 am: Tanks rolling down Chang’an Jie while human pixels on Tian’anmen spell out 忠诚于党 “Remain Loyal to the Party.” No snark necessary.

Update 11:14 am: Rainbow planes streaming over the city now. Can hear them, and just saw them out my window, so not CGI. Rainbow!
I think @davesgonechina may have it: “You’ve got to wonder if they just googled for ‘international symbols of pride’ and got these.”

Update 11:43 am: Friend (via SMS): “Purple and orange beach balls represent Mao Zedong Thought HOW?”
Me: “The beach balls are 70% purple and 30% orange.”

Update 11:54 am: I like that the “rule of law” float is the one they clearly gave the least thought to. It’s a featureless block on wheels with a posterboard Constitution.

Update 11:56 am: CCTV-9 gives the weird English title “Asperas” for the space program float. Thought it might be typo for ‘Apsaras’ before realizing it’s probably from “ad astra per aspera.” (Note: upon later viewing of the Chinese broadcast it became clear that it was just a typo for  飞天 ‘Apsaras.’)

Update 12:04 pm: Hey, it’s the foreigner float! Dance, monkeys, dance!

We also discovered during the rebroadcast of the parade that the marching and camera cuts synced up almost perfectly with Rage Against the Machine, “Doomsday Clock” by Smashing Pumpkins, and “Chinese Democracy” by Guns ‘N’ Roses. All hail 4/4 time!

Comments (9)

  1. Todd wrote::

    Rabbits’ feet are a little out of place in China, aren’t they? Still, it apparently worked. I hear that that this is the first time there have been clear skies for the military parade since 1959!

    Thursday, October 1, 2009 at 11:57 am #
  2. John B wrote::

    The skies looked pretty good on TV. I was impressed. They seriously need to pack that weather mod shit up and bring it down to Shanghai, though — we’re drowning here.

    Here’s my burning question — why are the 舰空导弹 mounted on trucks? The PLAN had to weasel in somehow, I guess.

    Thursday, October 1, 2009 at 4:04 pm #
  3. nick wrote::

    yay, you’re posting on here again! watch me drink a bottle of 二锅头 in celebration.

    Saturday, October 3, 2009 at 2:27 am #
  4. Froog wrote::

    Love the Wang Xiaobo quote. Seems I’ve seen it somewhere before – didn’t you put some excerpts on Paper Republic a while back?

    But, really, is this it? You gave up on the great live blog enterprise 15 minutes before the show even started?? It would have been a difficult undertaking, I admit. I was laughing so hard at the CCTV9 commentary, I don’t think I would have been able to type.

    Saturday, October 3, 2009 at 11:47 am #
  5. @Froog — I think I may have shown you that excerpt before. The excerpts we were forced to remove from Paper Republic were from 黄金时代 The Golden Age.

    The live-blogging continued on Twitter for purposes of convenience; I’ve now updated this post with edited versions of some of the better tweets.

    Sunday, October 4, 2009 at 7:51 pm #
  6. FOARP wrote::

    Glad to see you back dude.

    Sunday, October 4, 2009 at 9:09 pm #
  7. Todd wrote::

    The clear skies really did seem like a miracle at the time. I’m a little disappointed to discover it was science, not nature, that blessed the parade (

    Monday, October 12, 2009 at 2:41 pm #
  8. Hi Brendan,

    I have set up a updated list of blogs written in Chinese by foreigners at

    Do you have an updated Chinese blog address. I checked your previous one, and it was a blank wordpress page :(

    Tuesday, October 20, 2009 at 10:42 am #
  9. sara wrote::


    Thursday, October 29, 2009 at 12:36 pm #