Making the Band

Recently my co-worker Greg (of Sinobling) developed a really fun activity for English class. A lot of the other teachers here (including me) have tried out his activity as well, and it has gotten top scores all around. It’s been weeks and he hasn’t blogged about it. I guess maybe describing an TEFL activity doesn’t lend itself well to Greg’s awesome powers of humor.

The concept is that you break the class into groups of 4-6 people each and give them the task of creating an imaginary band. Clearly, there’s plenty of “pre” work to be done. What is a band? What types of music can bands play? What instruments can be played in a band? After you discuss these questions with the class and make sure they understand what’s going on, you tell them to come up with some of the following (be selective depending on how much time you allot to the activity):

  1. Band name
  2. Genre of music
  3. Band member names (these should not be the same as their English names — this is the time to come up with creative English names!)
  4. Musical instrument that each member plays (don’t forget vocals!)
  5. Story of the unusual circumstances under which the band met
  6. Name of the band’s first smash hit
  7. Lyrics to the hit song (if you have a lot of time to kill…)

This activity absolutely works magic on the students. I can’t explain it, but it seems to awaken deeply buried creative juices in the students’ cute passive little skulls. The activity inspired some of my students to write lyrics when I didn’t even ask them to, and to even voluntarily perform their songs in front of the class! Greg says he got almost all his groups to perform by telling them that any group that performed got him as a backup dancer. Cool trick.
Greg’s favorite band name out of all his classes was Milk Cow Goes to Australia. I gotta admit, it really works. Carl‘s favorite hit song out of all his classes was Love me, love my dog.
The following are some of my classes’ results:

Moth is a rock band bringing you the hit song Transform.

11pm is a light music band. Playing violin, piano, lute, and bagpipes, their hit song is Dreaming of Tiger Spring at Hupao Valley.

The industrial band Noisy is: Shadow on guitar, Blue on bass, Kid on drums, Dust on vocals, and Ghost on the keyboard. Their hit song is Waste Gas.

Seasoned Band is a rock band comprised of Curry on bass, Mustard on drums, Vinegar on vocals, and Ginger on the keyboard. Their hit song is The feeling of sweet and sour.

Super Chemical Girls is a hip hop band comprised of Oxygen on guitar, Hydrogen on bass, Atom on keyboards, Silver on drums, and Carbon on vocals.

Falling Angels is a metal band. The band members are Ghost, Sorceress, Demon, and Satan. [The 4 girls in this band are some of my sweetest students, too.] Their hit song is Hell Gate. Below are some lyrics: Wings broken, Falling falling Soul gone, leaving leaving hell gate, opening opening Death hands, waving waving

Rock on, Chinese students. Rock on.

Hong Kong Bloggers

I don’t regularly read Hong Kong blogs, so I was in for a surprise recently when I visited Flyingchair and took a good look at his blog links. There are so many new ones! Flyingchair is pretty much the gatekeeper of HK blogs, it would seem. You may want to check out the Hong Kong blogs in the China Blog List to see the new additions.

Also, the HK bloggers had a pretty big face-to-face meeting of bloggers recently. Kinda reminds me of my high school BBS days. We had a few meetups back then (oh man, it was scary!). Anyway, if you’re interested, Ukjoe gives a pretty complete account.

[Side note: Simon provides graphical evidence of the “Muzimei Spike” phenomenon rippling through the blogosphere. The idea is that any blog that writes about Muzimei gets a huge surge in traffic. Hailey reported it almost a month ago, but it seriously intensified a week or so ago. Sinosplice hasn’t felt it.]

Movable Type

This past weekend I finally made the switch over to Movable Type. I’ve been meaning to do it for a while, influenced by John B, Russell, Andrea, Brendan, and Adam. I recognized the superior blogging technology and wanted to use it, but I was just lazy.

I didn’t completely relinquish my lazy ways, though. The switchover is not yet total. Although the installation was utterly painless, I haven’t done the archive pages and some other fine tuning. There’s no good way to import the Haloscan comments. (This one looks good, but apparently the plugin is not online!) There are lots of little problems.

Why does my <p> text formatting go awry any time I post a picture, use a blockquote, or use a list? (It’s especially obvious on my Chinese blog; I’ve made some cosmetic alterations on this one.)

Why doesn’t the Textile plugin work even though I followed the installation instructions exactly?

OK, sorry this post is incredibly boring. Everything should be squared away soon. In the meantime, the old Blogger archives are still there.

Thanksgiving and Melancholy

Yesterday was Thanksgiving, and ZUCC teachers and friends had a great meal at the Holiday Inn. 148 rmb per person is pretty steep, but it was all you can eat (and all you can drink), and the food was top notch. I had at least 5 plates. I was hurting. It was all worthwhile.

There was great turkey, with gravy. There was cranberry relish. There was pumpkin pie. There almost wasn’t mashed potatoes, but Heather, having read my account of Thanksgiving at Holiday Inn last year, fixed that problem. She called ahead and requested mashed potatoes at the buffet. As a result, there were mashed potatoes, and they were good. There were tons of other non-Thanksgivingesque selections as well, such as sushi, steak, “roast beef salad,” and pasta. But we were all happy to see the Thanksgiving traditional dishes represented.

So I guess now it’s back to Chinese food every meal, every day.

Regarding the melancholy, there are a whole lot of factors contributing, and it’s a strange mix of emotions. I have already committed to a move in early January, and I’m not looking forward to leaving Hangzhou and all my good friends here behind (look at Greg’s sweet Thanksgiving post). Yet it’s time for a change. So there’s a lot of excitement and uncertainty too. I think I’ve found a great job, but it’s not quite finalized yet, so I don’t want to announce it publicly.

Also, next month I take the HSK. That’s the big Chinese “TOEFL.” I have been skipping too many classes lately and not studying nearly enough. It’s time to really buckle down. If I don’t get an 8, I’m going to be sorely disappointed and pissed at myself for not working harder. I know I can get an 8.

Also, I haven’t been blogging much lately. It’s partly because I don’t have much time for it, but also because lately I’m feeling a little unhappy about the whole deal. I’m not sure why, exactly, and it’s hard to pin down the exact emotions, but I have some vague ideas.

One of the biggest changes to the “China Blog Community” of late has been the addition of Living in China. It’s a community blog in every sense of the word, and the founders did an amazing job. The site looks awesome, and there are new posts frequently, on a wide range of topics. The site is just so professional. It deserves every hit it gets.

Still, there’s something about it that feels strange. I agree with Richard’s assessment. I suppose I really like the process of browsing blogs, and I’ve never been a fan of RSS feeds. Now it kind of feels like if you don’t have an RSS feed then you’re out in the cold. I guess the need for RSS is an inevitable development given the tremendous surge in the number of China blogs. But I still feel a little bit like the Wal-Mart of China blogs has arrived, if that makes any sense.

I’m not trying to criticize Living in China, though. What they’re doing is great, and my reaction is strictly a personal one.

Along those lines, though, it’s been disturbing to me seeing the personal, nasty side of the China blogs. Attacks on Glutter, Hailey…. Why is “who’s right” always the most important issue? Why do blogs tend to encourage raging, ruthless egos?

I guess I just miss the good old days when everything seemed so intimate and friendly. But things change, and that’s fine. For the time being, though, I’m very content with being pretty quiet. But I’ll stick around.

Fixing what's screwed up

You gotta admire people who see a problem and then actually do something about it. I’m not talking about just words, I’m talking actions. I try to adhere to this philosophy in my own life (hey, the Sinosplice Network!), and I applaud it when I see it.

One of the things foreigners quickly recognize as very wrong in China is the horrible dance music played in clubs. It’s really bad. You really need a good dose of alcohol to withstand it for any decent length of time.

When Wilson was here, he tried to bring some better music to Chinese clubbers by DJing at two different clubs in Hangzhou. Now some friends of mine are taking a slightly different approach. They’re renting out a club, hiring their own DJs, playing good music, and charging a small admission. They’re even keeping beer prices low somehow. This could be the start of something big. Definitely check it out if you’re in Hangzhou Saturday, November 29th. It’s all going down at “Sacred Chrees Pub” on Ding An Road by West Lake Boulevard.

(Note: DJ “Nasdaq Composite” has his own site!)

Clear Skies

I think Hangzhou is a great city as Chinese cities go, but one of the things I really don’t like very much about it is the weather. Particularly the winter weather, not because it’s cold but because it’s basically just rain, rain, rain. Hence my last post, which was basically an elaborate “I hate puddles” whine.

That’s why I am really happy about our weather of late. It’s winter already, but the weather’s great, and doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon. Loving it. (Too bad it’s causing a drought.)

Click for Hangzhou Weather (

Uncooperative Water

Water flows downhill. This is a simple fact that has been pretty well mastered by the average 8-year-old. Yet somehow it seems to elude Chinese civil engineers. I speak, of course, of the deplorable condition of drainage engineering in Hangzhou. That “the things we take for granted back home just don’t apply here” is a tired, worn-out cliche, but we’re talking about the most basic principles of physics here. Water flows downhill. Place drains in low points, and the water will “magically” drain into them. Is that hard? I don’t know, maybe it actually is. But looking at the drains around my campus, they seem to be almost randomly placed. You know something is wrong when huge puddles and big thirsty drains live side by side in perfect harmony.

Here are some good examples of uselessly placed drains:

Pictures of water on the ZUCC campus not flowing anywhere:

Granted, none of the puddles are really deep. The pavement is reasonably flat. But it doesn’t really drain. If there is an absolute deluge, then the water will find the drains. That seems to be the guiding principle, though, instead of good old “water flows downhill.”

The greatest part is how the stubborn puddles are taken care of. Grounds maintenance staff sweep them into the drains. Yes, they sweep the water. With a broom. (Sorry, I didn’t manage to get a picture of that.)

Come on, China, you’ve got a space program now, for crying out loud. Let’s see a little better display of your mastery of gravity.

Mutant Mandarin: A Guide to New Chinese Slang

Mutant Mandarin

by Zhou Yimin & James J. Wang (China Books & Periodicals, Inc., 1995)

Review by: John Pasden

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Outrageous Chinese: A Guide to Chinese Street Language

Outrageous Chinese

by James J. Wang (China Books and Periodicals, Inc., 1994)

Review by: John Pasden

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Making Out in Chinese

Making Out in Chinese

by Ray Daniels (Yenbooks, 1993)

Review by: John Pasden

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