Cats and dogs, licks and howls…

Music lovers: head to Shunyi’s The Pomegranate this Saturday for the “pet sounds” of blues bands Black Cat Bone and The Rhythm Dogs. Join host “Humble Mike” as The Pomegranate marks its one-year anniversary with food, drinks, guitar licks and howling vocals. (The Pomegranate, September 1, 4:30-11 PM)

By the way, whenever I hear “cats and dogs”, I’m reminded of this scene from the movie Ghostbusters…

Dr. Peter Venkman: This city is headed for a disaster of biblical proportions.

Mayor: What do you mean, “biblical”?

Dr Ray Stantz: What he means is Old Testament, Mr. Mayor, real wrath-of-God type stuff.

Dr. Peter Venkman: Exactly.

Dr Ray Stantz: Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies. Rivers and seas boiling.

Dr. Egon Spengler: Forty years of darkness. Earthquakes, volcanoes…

Winston Zeddemore: The dead rising from the grave.

Dr. Peter Venkman: Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together – mass hysteria.

Notes of coal, hints of asbestos…

The other day I placed my nose above a glass of wine and picked up an intriguing aroma of car exhaust, construction site dust, coal, and asbestos. Then I realized that it wasn’t the wine, it was the overwhelming smell of Beijing air. Of course, I’m kidding – I don’t know what asbestos smell like – but the point is that the air is bad, very bad, and this is the worst sustained period of pollution I’ve experienced in a dozen years in Asia.

Providing context for this experience is a new blog –  Beijing Air: just how bad is it?. In easy-to-understand (and sobering) language, it explains the air pollution index, how China measures pollution vis-a-vis the United States and Europe, the impact of that recent four-day partial car ban, and how Beijing’s air fares in contrast to other Chinese cities.

Sobering stuff…

What is most disturbing to me about the current situation is that people are focused on whether the city can clean up for a few weeks – for the Olympics – rather than cleaning up in general.

Again, sobering stuff…

If that’s not enough to make me want to crack open a bottle of Glaetzer Shiraz – available from Palette Vino and with a powerful nose that will overwhelm the bad air -  then I don’t know what is.

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Another (grayish) blue sky day…

Hooters “owl” set to open…

Hooters, the American restaurant chain widely known for its top-heavy “Hooters girls”, is set to open in Beijing on September 12 on Workers’ Stadium East Road, just a hop, skip and jump from The Den (look for the trademark owl* in the second-floor windows).

No doubt this will launch a thousand all-too-predictable jokes - “where will they find local staff?”, etc** – as well as indignation among some, though if my readers are indicative, a great many people are looking forward to the opening. Hooters has two Shanghai outlets and, according to an industry insider and friends who have visited them, they are doing a good business.

The doors open at 11 AM…

* People commonly associate the sound “hoot” with an owl, thus explaining the animal’s presence in the chain’s logo. Plus, owls have two really big and round eyes.

* Unfortunately for the yuksters, Maggies moved from up the street to near Ritan Park a few years back, otherwise there could have been another thousand all-too-predicable jokes about the titular Hooters-Maggies-Den triangle.

Wine Workshop: Lecture notes…

I attended seven lectures and tasted fourteen local wines on August 9, the second day of the International Workshop on the Wine Market in China, held in Beijing. I put notes from the first three lectures on my grapewallofchina.com site in case anyone is interested:

Shop til’ you pop
Getting wine to China is one thing, getting consumers to pull the cork on a purchase is quite another. Huiqin Ma, associate professor at China Agricultural University and the workshop’s organizer, reports on a survey done with Ying Yu of 230 shoppers in Beijing supermarkets.

China Wine 101
Qi Wang, general secretary of the China Alcoholic Drinks Industry Association, provides facts and figures on Chinese wine production, wineries, imports and exports, and regulations.

Taste, with Chinese characteristics
Here’s a shocker: Chinese people drink wine to get drunk. That statement might trigger eye rolls from some people, but in a world where pairing wine and food gains growing popularity, it’s an important point, and one made by wine educator and writer Frankie Zhao, who discusses the Chinese palate.

Squatter’s rights…

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There’s the toilet, but where’re the dumplings?

We won’t swim in your toilet if you don’t pee in our pool goes a famous saying. It’s one that might be adopted for Beijing’s public toilets since they’ll no longer be allowed to be neighbors with food stands. I don’t exactly know what that saying might be – maybe We won’t eat in your toilet if you don’t squat in our kitchen - but it would be interesting to know how “food stall” is defined: whether it means a guy hawking ice cream cones near the door of a public toilet or a restaurant that shares the same building.

Interestingly, Taiwan has no such qualms about mixing eating and flushing.