In February the State Council of the Chinese central government released an “urban blueprint” calling for buildings that are “suitable, economic, green and pleasing to the eye,” and putting the kibosh on those that are “oversized, xenocentric, weird.”
One wonders how the officials behind that directive reacted when they saw the building recently unveiled by an educational facility in Hainan, China. It bears a striking resemblance to a certain plumbing object that most of us use every day.
Here’s the kicker: the school in question is actually the North China University of Water Conservancy and Electric Power, leading some to suppose that the commode-ish design of the structure is a tongue-in-cheek reference to the purpose of the university. That it was deliberate!
This new toilet-building arrives in a year when many people are saying that Zaha Hadid’s design for the airport in Beijing, scheduled to be completed in 2019, looks suspiciously like a vagina.
A strange reverse “human centipede” style playground sculpture.
Many of the images in this nightmare-fueled post were taken in playgrounds around Russia, and they are about as bleak as a vodka shortage in Moscow in the middle of winter.
The “peeing rainbow kids” of Kiev, Ukraine.
Some of the other perplexing playground structures that you’ll see, such as a rock climbing “thing” that looks like a giant dick, and the reverse human centipede sculpture (pictured at the top of this post) were photographed in China, Tokyo and some European locations. Each of them has one thing in common: they appear to have been created by people who don’t like children at all. Of course there are plenty of demented looking clowns as well as depressed looking bears (because, Russia), and other odd animal-themed slides and such that are just too inexplicably odd for words. Unless those words consist of the triple-threat known as “WTF.”
If you need me, I’ll be under the bed.
More images of strange playground structures that need to be put out of their misery, after the jump…
On some level, a lot of the music we play for kids—and the music we teach them to sing—is propaganda. Not necessarily overtly so, but beyond learning the alphabet and numbers, the music we offer children is always going to serve as some manner of cultural value metric. And such music originating from a hypernationalist, militaristic culture is sure to seem utterly nuts to cultures that don’t go so completely all in for that kind of thing.
Case in point: China. A friend of mine with the dually cool distinctions of being both a university librarian and a badass sludge/doom bass player turned me on to some Chinese children’s (and other) records, dating I think from the early ‘70s, which had recently arrived in her employer’s collection via a donation. They were all pretty amazing—just the song titles alone sound alien enough to underscore incredible cultural differences:
THE PEOPLE IN TAIWAN LONG FOR LIBERATION
PATROLLING ON THE GRASSLANDS
THE OIL WORKERS ARE FULL OF ENERGY
CHAIRMAN MAO IS THE RED SUN IN THE HEARTS OF ALL NATIONALITIES
The killer item, though, was an 11-song 7” children’s record called I am a Sunflower, with wonderful cover art of smiling children marching with shouldered rifles and songs expressing totally overt themes of youth para-militarism:
LITTLE RED GUARDS GROW STRONGER IN THE FIGHT
GROWING UP AT THE SIDE OF CHAIRMAN MAO
LITTLE RED GUARDS ATTEND A REPUDIATION MEETING
I’LL GO TO THE BORDER REGION, TOO, WHEN I GROW UP
Now, it’s maybe easy to be cast aspersions at all that, but we have our school kids sing “The Star Spangled Banner” which is forthrightly a war song, and the differences between the Young Pioneers/Little Red Guards and the Boy Scouts are surely more a matter of degree of fanaticism than of kind…
CRITICIZE LIN PIAO AND DISCREDIT HIM COMPLETELY
OK, holy fuck, WHAT? That’s pretty disturbing: Lin Piao was an officer in the People’s Liberation Army, and was instrumental in the communist victory in China’s civil war. He died in 1971, in an iffy plane crash. After decades of enjoying high rank in the party—I mean HIGH rank, at the time of his death he was Communist Party vice-chair and Mao’s presumptive successor—he or his son led the Project 571 coup against Mao. The family was attempting to flee after the coup failed, and it’s been pretty widely speculated that the plane crash may have been an assassination. He was branded a traitor posthumously; his name was scrubbed from the Little Red Book, and there was a goddamn children’s song about how hard he sucked. Here it is. I will fully cop to having ripped this from the record and uploaded it myself. Ordinarily that’s a HUGE no-no, but I’m making an exception in this instance because I’d quite enjoy the comic irony of a DMCA copyright takedown coming from China.
That’d be really cute if you had no idea what it was about, right?
Lately it’s become a trend in China for live streaming websites to feature women eating fruits—especially bananas—in an “erotic” manner. The authorities in China, however, are not amused, and have moved to block distribution of the images.
As part of the Chinese government’s crackdown on “inappropriate” online content, Chinese live-streaming video services are banned from showing images of women filming themselves while eating bananas “erotically,” China’s state-run CCTV news reported last week. The details of what is and isn’t legal have not yet been set, but people featuring themselves in live streams are henceforth barred from eating “bananas seductively” in front of the camera.
On April 14 China’s Culture Ministry announced an investigation of popular live-broadcast websites for “allegedly providing content that contains pornography or violence and encourages viewers to break laws and harms social morality.”
On Thursday, CCTV reported that the targeted websites had already moved to restrict the behavior of some of the most popular hosts, which were “predominately attractive women showing their cleavage.”
The draconian new regulations require live-streaming sites to monitor their output 24 hours a day to make sure that explicit material is not broadcast.
Some Chinese social media users think that the new regulations can be circumvented by dispensing with bananas. “They will all start eating cucumbers, and if that’s no good, yams,” one user commented. (I am reminded of this song. Wait for the punchline)
Here’s an example of the kinds of streams that will no longer be allowed:
The short story here is that there was a contract dispute between two competing construction companies and that these six guys—like low tech Transformers—really went for it. That’s probably all the backhoe backstory you need to be armed with to thoroughly enjoy this clip of these duelling KILLDOZERS on the streets of China.
The moral of this story? Never piss off a man driving a bulldozer, even when you are driving one yourself…
China’s air pollution is a serious issue, one that can be downright deadly, especially for small children. Predictably there is a lot of brutal Chinese environmental art out there, but this is one of the most legitimately creepy stunts I’ve ever seen—projections of wailing children and babies on columns of smog. My first impression of the spectacle was, “Oh, it must be a Chinese artist making an environmental message!” Nope, the installations and associated video are actually an advertisement for air purifiers. Yes, despite all those nifty overtures to communism, China is very much a country that runs on capitalism. The company’s statement on the ad:
Xiao Zhu wanted to stand out in a market that was almost as congested as the air. A market where half a million people, mostly children, have died due to air pollution related illnesses. So we decided to put a spotlight on air pollution’s biggest culprits—the factories—by using the actual pollution from the factories as a medium. People took notice, and the word spread.
Clear the air. Let the future breathe again.
Oh wow, I feel so hopeful about the future now that there’s a product to remedy this problem!
Remember kids, if capitalism caused the problem, you can certainly count on capitalism to solve the problem! (Right?)
Automotive culture and scantily clad women seem to go together. We’ve all been in garages where the primary form of decoration is a pinup calendar or an old Playboy centerfold. Even if you have never heard the phrase “mudflap girl” before, you could probably figure it out, even sans context. The commodity the babes on The Price Is Right probably stroke the most often is “A NEW CAR!!!!” (in the voice of Johnny Olson or Rod Roddy). Cars. Ladies. Two great tastes that go great together. And it’s as American as apple pie for a nubile lass to pose in her short-shorts on the hood of a bitchin’ Camaro.
But—well, not only American. Turns out, in China the practice surpasses even our own salacious limits. Apparently automotive conventions there are positively teeming with the so-called “booth babes,” but the central government in Beijing considers the idea vulgar, taking a dim enough view of the practice that it recently banned it outright. To be fair, it was a bit out of control—it wouldn’t occur to Americans to present a car in the following way, where you, ah, can’t even see what the car looks like:
It’s odd because China’s move is actually supposed to be a blow in favor of gender equality, but with a repressive, heavy hand that would never be tolerated in the U.S.
The 2015 Shanghai Motor Show, which is happening right now, is the first major automotive event affected by the ban and the “booth babes” who are now out of a job have decided to use it as the perfect platform for an organized labor protest. They’re out on the streets of Shanghai masquerading as unemployed beggars and getting the word out about the injustices that have befallen them. (I guess you do a “beggar” costume the same there as here—you put a little charcoal on your cheek.)
The large sign reads “The world’s a big place, shouldn’t we be allowed to survive?”
Apparently this year’s Shanghai Motor Show is hardly bereft of beautiful women, they’ve just been re-classified as “sales representatives,” “shopping guides,” “stand attendants,” and “car cleaners,” among other titles. Reuters spoke to one of these newly-renamed woman named Dai Jun: “I’m not called a ‘model’ here because they banned models this year.”
The Orgasmatron was a device in Woody Allen’s classic comedy Sleeper. It was a cabinet one (or two) could enter to induce instant orgasm, a necessity in the film’s fictional future were everyone is impotent or frigid, except Italians. And, like videophones and space travel before it, this sci-fi conceit seems to be coming (sorry, I had to) closer and closer to reality as technology marches on! Well, for men, at least.
We’ve all seen some of the silly projections from earlier decades for future lifestyles that never panned out, most prominently the space age home of the Jetsons and similar inventions from the postwar era. We know how hard it is to envision with any accuracy genuinely transformative ways of living, and yet the yearning to be authentically impressed by visions of the future powerfully remains, a yearning most concisely captured by the name of the Scottish band We Were Promised Jetpacks.
These images here, of a floating city that may actually happen in the relatively near future, gives me that Jetson-y tingle like few things I’ve seen in a very long time. Whether these plans ever get realized or not, these images are just cool as fuck. I sure hope these self-contained cities come to pass in my lifetime.
The China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) has commissioned AT Design Office to design a floating island with an area of four square miles. The cities make use of technologies that CCCC is already using to build a 31-mile bridge to connect the cities of Hong Kong, Macau, and Zhuhai.
AT Design Office’s proposal involves a series of prefabricated hexagonal modules that “tesselate” to create the infrastructure needed for a city on water, including a transportation network of yachts and submarines and a floating hotel and entertainment complex. Apparently AT Design is waiting for “its newest blueprint” to get “approved,” which sounds like the project may be impressively far along, but who knows, it could just be hype. Here’s a useful summary by the My Modern Met blog:
The Floating City will have an above ground layer and an underwater layer. There are two designated areas for greenery and gardens, plus a network of walkways and tunnels that will allow people to traverse the city. AT Design Office is opting for electric cars to reduce pollution and they have ports for submarines to dock. They also have a series of canals and waterways that will allow boats to operate as a means of transportation. The city will have a farm, a hatchery, and a waste disposal center in order to be entirely self-sufficient. AT Design Office has plans for a hotel and an entertainment hub that will appeal to residents and visitors alike. The city’s link to the outside world will be an enormous cruise dock that will facilitate travel and tourism. If this plan becomes a reality, then floating cities may very well be the wave of the future.
The next two images demonstrate the modularity of the city’s sections as well as the multiple systems that the deceptively simple components would encompass:
Part of the rationale for the city is green thinking; the city is conceived as “a possible eco-friendly city expansion alternative to continuing on land. With the amount of pollution, deforestation, and other detrimental environmental impacts that are a part of our current city development system, the Floating City was created as an attempt to minimize our carbon footprint for a sustainable future.”
Looking at the images, it’s difficult to imagine too many people actually choosing to live in this city; the pictures of the people living in the idyllic underwater environment particularly smack of a world that just can never be, but again: who knows? Is there any way this thing could survive a hurricane? Are sheep ever actually going to live on something like this?
You may recall a post I did a while back on Soviet holiday cards and their predilection for space travel. If you were able to get past the whole “Santa on a rocket ship” motif, you might have also noticed the prevalence of a little boy in cosmonaut get-up, another symbol of the USSR’s vision of an exciting future of fantastic technological advances—one which awaited all good little Soviet children. In the US, of course, the space race was a far more sober affair. NASA didn’t really produce this kind of propaganda, beyond some (admittedly very cool) space colony concept art. So while the US promoted a much more “dignified” view of space technology, Soviet space imagery was much more familiar.
However, Chinese space propaganda makes the Soviet stuff look like military school. Progress is commonly represented by children and technology in a lot of nationalist art, but the Chinese child taikonauts are a step beyond. This stuff is so kid friendly, it had toys, puppies, bunnies, and all manner of toddler-friendly spacecraft. Perhaps hoping to excite the younger generations, these pieces abandon almost any semblance of science fiction and go straight to fantasy.
Photos of Chinese Millennials hard at work, sportin’ some fun-loving, kind of elaborate, hair’dos:
It is 8:30 at night. A group of young workers are busying processing products at a plant in Zhuhai city, South China’s Guangdong province. They have been working for nearly 10 hours. All of them are born in the late 90s and come from rural areas outside the province. Wearing blue uniforms and having peculiar hairstyles, they make a living by repeatedly working on the assembly lines and contributing as one of the forces of the city’s construction.
China and the United States are both among the countries that execute the most prisoners annually—but only one of them has ever had a TV talk show dedicated to presenting the death row inmates in a personal way. (According to Amnesty International, China executes the most people by more than an order of magnitude over its #2 competition, Pakistan. The United States is #6 on the list.)
From 2006 to 2012, the Henan Legal Channel in China’s landlocked Henan province ran a weekly TV show called Interviews Before Execution, with an appealing host named Ding Yu, who became something of a star because of the show. She has interviewed more than 200 inmates on the show. In March 2012, BBC Two, on its This World series, aired an hour-long documentary on Interviews Before Execution; with its typical light touch, the Chinese authorities, fearful of embarrassment in the international arena, quickly moved to cancel the show.
In China, citizens can be executed for any one 55 offenses, including endagering public security and “economic crimes” such as embezzlement, but Interviews Before Execution focuses almost entirely on brutal murder cases. Most of the prisoners are glumly contrite, resigned to their fate, inarticulate about the motives that led to the crimes. Providing an instructive snapshot into China’s sexual mores was Ding Yu’s extended interview with Bao Rongting, a homosexual man who was convicted of murdering his mother. In China, homosexuality was a criminal offense as late as 1999. The Bao Rongting episodes of Interviews Before Execution were a huge ratings success. Since 2007 a new safeguard has been introduced: all capital cases must be sent to the Supreme Court for review—it does happen that they occasionally return cases to the lower courts for further investigation.
Interviews Before Execution is a fascinating mixture of good, old-fashioned reporting, TV sensationalism, and an undefinable quality that is uniquely poignant and human. In its tone, the show feels like a cross between America’s Most Wanted and a Barbara Walters special. Regardless of one’s feelings about the death penalty—count me against—it’s difficult not to think that the show’s positive effects outweight its negative ones. As none other than Albert Camus pointed out (in “Reflections on the Guillotine”), if you argue for the death penalty because of its deterrent effects, it’s a contradiction to conduct the executions and everything surrounding them far from public view, as is done in the United States. Whatever your position, the show has featured some incredibly compelling television, and even if the viewers’ reactions may feel comparable to rubber-necking, the show does permit the audience to get to know convicted murders not as statistics but as complex members of the human race.
The BBC2 documentary is linked below; it’s one of the most interesting and powerful hours of TV I can remember watching.
In their exhibition “The Beautiful Future” at Beijing Design Week a few weeks ago, westerners Nick Bonner (Koryo Tours) and Dominic Johnson-Hill (Plastered8) pulled something of a Komar and Melamid when they commissioned paintings of contemporary China from North Korean artists.
The remarkable canvases that resulted challenge one’s notions of irony or protest—they seem incredibly pointed but may have been meant sincerely. One suspects that the fantastic juxtapositions—Maoist uniforms and karaoke, or socialist flags and office cubicles—were at a bare minimum prompted as compelling subjects by Bonner and Johnson-Hill. It’s a little unclear.
Several of the paintings feature notable architectural gems of the recent past, including the Bird’s Nest Olympic Stadium by Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei, the Beijing National Aquatics Center by PTW Architects, and the CCTV Headquarters by the Office for Metropolitan Architecture.