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November 2010 Archives

Looms, Poetic Trash Cans, and other fun in Guilin

One tourist spot in Guilin had various craft demonstrations. I liked this loom and this clever way of keeping strings taut:

Loom  Interesting way to keep the strings taut

Here is a guy carving characters into bamboo: (I like how the lighting and colors look in this shot.)

Carving characters onto bamboo

This was a demonstration of the traditional Chinese version of a rap battle:

Chinese song battling

The girl on the raft sings a line of song, and a guy on the shore has to improvise an appropriate response, and so forth. In the old days, a guy who was good would win the girl's hand in marriage. Here, one of the tourists who responded well just got a free raft ride. :P

And now.. Waterfall Climbing!


You had to swap out your shoes for these straw sandals, and then you basically pulled your way up the side of this waterfall with a chain. This being China, there was of course no safety rope. :)

I was a chicken and didn't try it. :P

And finally, here is a series of curiously inappropriate(?) poetry on trash and recycling bins at this park:

Recycling bin with interesting label 1

Trash bin with interesting label

Recycling bin with interesting label 2

Recycling bin with interesting label 3

Camels and fish and birds (on rafts) oh my!

On our second day visiting Guilin, in Yangshuo County, we took a bamboo raft tour in these covered rafts:

We took these bamboo rafts out to sightsee in Yangshuo

I like how even my shot of rafts has those awesome Super Mario Bros mountains in the background. :)

Here I am pretending to punt the raft!

Me pretending to punt in Yangshuo

It's tough! You have to jam that bamboo stick all the way into the riverbed and push really hard!

Once we started taking pictures, this merchant punted up to rent us traditional outfits for the photos:

I liked this merchant's wacky outfit

But I really liked HER outfit a lot, actually, with the hot pink and purple boots and straw hat. :)

Instant digital photo booth in the middle of a river

That's an instant digital photo booth in the middle of the river! These were everywhere in China. They would take your picture with a DSLR and then immediately print it and laminate it, typically charging 10-20 RMB (about US$1.50-3.00) per picture. Note that the tents in the background were for pictures, too.

The craziest part, btw, is where the power comes from. I looked behind the setup and saw that all these electronics are plugged into a power strip, and that power strip's cord... goes straight into the water! It presumably runs underwater all the way to shore? And it didn't look particularly reinforced, either. o_O

And now, taking pictures in those outfits! In the back is "Camel Mountain".

Taking pictures at "Camel Mountain"

To be honest, I felt like the outfits were maybe a little bit exploitative of minorities? I'm undecided.

I think these guys are cheating:

Lazy punters

Finally, we saw a demonstration of cormorant fishing:

Cormorant fishing in Guilin

They put a ring around the cormorant bird's neck to prevent it from swallowing the big fish, and then they retrieve the fish:

Retrieving a fish from a cormorant

The birds do eventually get fed. :P

The Evolution of a Creative Commons Photo

So a few years ago, I took this picture:

I gave it a Creative Commons Attribution license so people could do whatever they want with it, and I use Google Alerts to look for cases where people link back to the Flickr page or mention my name. It seems quite a few random blogs use this picture (searching for "blank screen"), but today I noticed people actually adding to it!

First came a Fast Company article (about movie theaters watching you back) that added an eye:

Creepy. (Oddly, they credit me, but not whoever shot that eye.)

Then a Slash Gear article upped the ante by adding crazy lightning bolts!

Yay Internet. :)

In China, an actual river is the stage, and actual mountains are the backdrop

(Click to view larger.)

This is the Impression · Sanjie Liu 《印象·刘三姐》 show in the Yangshuo part of Guilin. They perform pretty much every night to a capacity of about 2600, sometimes doing two shows a night. And there are 600 performers per show! Supposedly, about half of them are area minorities, and the other half are professionals.

They actually light up real mountains in the background during parts of the show. You just can't get this kind of scale elsewhere!

Torches across the water

Not only did people use the main stage, they also used the water and the far shoreline. Above, you see people carrying torches there.

Girl on a boat

The show was based on an old story about a maiden and a suitor who "dui ge" 对歌, which is like the traditional Chinese version of a rap battle. The girl sings a line, and the guy has to sing an appropriate response. Only if he's good can he win her hand in marriage. Typically, the girl will be on a boat, as you see above, while the guy is on the shore.

Red ribbons across the water

I have to admit that, although the performance was clearly inspired by things like the Olympic opening ceremonies, most of the choreography wasn't quite up to that level. The only part that came close was this bit with red ribbons across the water, being pulled up and down like waves.

Boats and manually-operated spotlights

I was pretty surprised to look closely and see that all the spotlights were manually operated and not computer-controlled.

Riverside daily life scene

(Click to view large.) I also liked this bit, where they took a break from singing and dancing to just act out a typical daily riverside scene from back in the day. You could see people doing laundry, selling goods, eating, and playing games.

Raft by a crescent moon

This floating moon was quite pretty.

Lady running on the moon

Supposedly, the lady running on the moon used to actually be naked, but you couldn't see very well anyway from far away. After some complaints, they gave her a flesh-toned body suit instead.


Finally, these folks came out wearing a light show. The lights were all centrally controlled and made patterns and such. I was most fascinated by the fact that the lights on one person would occasionally die out. When that happened (a total of 3 times that I noticed), that person would discreetly step back, and their neighbors would join hands. I liked how fault-tolerant it was. :)

The image at the top is actually from the finale, so feel free to go back up there and look at it again, and be like, wow, that is the most insane stage ever. :)

Of course, you also have to consider that they can afford paying 600 people a night because they don't pay them very much. I heard from a local tour guide that the non-professional performers only make 700 RMB (about $100) a month, which is a low even by Chinese standards, and that they only make an extra 20 RMB or so each night that they have to do two shows. Still, I think this show has probably brought in a lot of business to Yangshuo and helped the local economy.

All that aside, though, again, where else can you see a nightly show that employees 600 performers and has actual mountains as a backdrop! Not cardboard ones! Crazy!

Fans and Zombies

One of these frames is from KTVU news footage of celebrations following the San Francisco Giants' victory in the World Series. The other is from Sunday's premier of the new AMC series Walking Dead, set in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse. Can you guess which is which? :P

(Apparently, a car drove into a crowd at 21st and Mission, and then the crowd started beating the car.)

[Full KTVU footage] [YouTube footage from the ground]

About November 2010

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