Fake currency update

In the interest of science (of course!), i’ve been trying to collect fake currency from various shopkeepers and friends and have been relatively unsuccessful. no one admits to having any counterfit bills to give me. the taxi drivers have been particularly vehement in denying their involvement with fakes.

three possible explanations. either (1) i come off as some kind of spy and no one trusts me; (2) there really isn’t as much fake currency out there as the signs and gossip would have it, or (3) all of the above.

a close friend did pull a fake ten out of her cash register for me, explaining, “the new help can’t tell the difference between real and fake currency.”

joys of field research!

more graffiti

walking from coastal city, one of the large malls on the houhai landfill toward haiya, a mall built about ten years ago, i past this bit of graffiti. it does say it all.

morning walk 6 july: 鹿丹村


ludan village wall

Pleasantly chilled inside Shenzhen’s upscale malls and glass towers, one forgets that outside mold relentlessly creeps across older surfaces, unmaking walls that once upon a time boasted distinct edges and sharp, modernist lines. Mold flourishes in Shenzhen. There was a time, an earlier, less refined time, when Shenzhen pioneers built in concrete, as if they were still living in northern climes, where winter snows deter topiary from swelling to monstrous sizes and arid lands hold in check uncontrolled growth. In visible contrast, glazed tiles valiantly slow fungal expansion on the high risen walls of post-millennial Shenzhen’s inner city villages and well-serviced business apartments. Indeed, so pernicious are southern spores that less than thirty years after Deng Xiaoping initiated economic reform and social opening, Old Shenzhen walls crumble, held in tenuous place through ad hoc measures, while unhinged doors slouch carelessly, indifferent to neoliberal respectability; razing these buildings is–like building them was–merely a question of time. Pictures of Ludan Village, July 6, 2008.

obligatory olympic torch entry


中国加油!

i have been avoiding discussing the olympic torch procession, hoping that the sadness and the confrontation will soon lift, so that conversation might begin again. nevertheless, today i joined the crowds at city hall (市民中心) to greet the torch in shenzhen. originally scheduled to begin at 8 a.m., the procession was rescheduled for 12 o’clock. in those four hours, thousands gathered on city hall lawn and marched in the roads chanting: go china! go beijing! go olympics! (中国加油!北京加油!奥运加油!) meanwhile, police cars circulated, broadcasting the recorded message: the torch procession will not begin until noon, please go home and watch on television. those police officers not directing pedestrians or traffic were, like the rest of those of us, taking pictures.

comments heard:

my throat is so hoarse from screaming i can’t talk.

they [the government] is afraid of something happening (出事).

it’s 32 degrees, how many people do you think have fainted?

a worker from sichuan encouraged me to spread the word about how great this was for shenzhen. he reminded me that he wasn’t from here, but that he had many opportunities. he then started talking about a subject that seemed even more urgent: his lack of english skills and did i know anyone who could help him apply for u.s. copy rights for the products his company produced?

however, all the carnivalesque excitement, notwithstanding, i soon felt bored and started taking pictures of the amazing cloud formations that accompanied the torch. whatever else happened today, pictures of the event will show shenzhen shining beneath blue skies and white clouds. i then joined friends for lunch,who unlike the crowds outside seemed mildly frustrated by the whole thing. one commented that on days like this, he thought chinese people were pitiful; don’t we care about anything else? he asked rhetorically. another joked: thank god for schools and assembly lines, otherwise where would we keep all these people?! the fourth boasted: on a day like today you can get away with anything. no one knows who you are, and so no one stops you.

indeed. obligatory pics of olympic torch procession, shenzhen.

shekou upgrades part the second


green panels

the transformation of shenzhen from an industrial processing zone into a center of creativity continues, this time with a green twist. rennovation of the old sanyo factories in shekou has begun. panels with green plants have been attached, giving the area an environmental conscious atmosphere, even though i don’t think the plants do anything but grow. pictures here.

海岸城:city on the fill


coastal city, west and east

one of the newest, most expensive, and flashiest of the recent crop of development projects on houhai reclaimed land, coastal city (海岸城) sparkles even in a winter drizzle. i suspect that coastal city will soon enough fade into some post-whatever background, but today as i walked around both the east and west complexes, i wanted this to be important, not just an object of anthropological critique, i wanted all this building to mean something other than wild real estate speculation and irresponsible environmental policy. i wanted it to become a city to fall in love with, even though i can’t bring myself to say i like shenzhen. clearly if not misplaced, my sentiments are vexed.

so pictures.

more neon nights


storefront, shennan middle road

even when you least expect it, expect it. shenzheners will find another corner to light up; even tianmian glows at night.


tianmian corner market

more neon here.