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Quick History (from an English major)

Little known fact:

Native Americans were known to enjoy ping pong; some even believe they invented this beloved sport.

Ball: Inflated fish bladders, sun-dried for precision.
Paddle: White Oak tree bark; indigenous to North Florida, known for it's strength and light weight.
Table: Buffalo hide stretched between four rocks.

Don't believe me?

Chief 'Stands With Paddle' - 1735

Photo by MOGO


Quick post

Bet had a nail chip today and it looked like Bobby Brown's hair cut. Sadly, I couldn't get a good picture of her nail, but trust me, it was awesome!


From the phone, Vol. 3

Public safety is, naturally, very important in a city of 20+million, but how do you 'ring the message out'? Well, Shanghai has recently began a new campaign on it's subway system to promote awareness of some simple measures we, the people, can all do to make this beloved city a little safer.

Safety tip #1:

See, I never would have thought that there was an epidemic of people recklessly trying to take on a whole train by themself. But thanks to this safety tip; Bet is prepared for the fight! (and happy?)

Safety tip #2:


Thanks UMTBSPSB! (The Urban Mass Transportation Branch Shanghai Public Security Bureau) These guys have come a long way since their days of 'Mind Your Head'!

From the phone, Vol. 2

Some of you may have noticed that I often post in bundles. That's b/c I finally get around to posting one and then I remember a couple other things I had thought about posting; wah-la, bundle-posting! (I just created that name, it's not great but it'll work)

So this is easily my favorite phone-photo that I've ever taken. These are the only kinds of moments where I think "I'm so glad I have a camera in my phone." This poster only lasted about a day before someone finally noticed why some people were stopping and laughing. Can you spot the mistake?

Still perplexed? I'll give you a hint; there's a letter missing somewhere.

Don't read below if you've still not found the folly.
I've made a lot of dumpings in my life but never once thought about recycling one!

I'm sure they meant well, but 'free' is still too expensive for a lesson from this bunch. And 'survival'? I've seen a lot of those Nat Geo 'seconds from disaster' shows and I don't remember 'eating your poop' being one of the 'survival tips'. So, even though it's free, I'm going to have to pass on this opportunity to 'try the dumping made by myself.'!

What are they talking about?
If you're unfamiliar w/ Chinese cuisine; this should read 'dumpling', as in jiaozi, the famous Chinese dumplings. (they're really good; they don't 'taste like crap!')

Confessions of a Macaddict...

This is just a quick blurb...

Over the last two years I've completely become a Mac nerd, I can't help it, they're amazing!
I mention this b/c the only reason I am awake at 1:30a.m. is to watch a live blog following what's going on at their product launch today.

New aluminum iMacs, the best .Mac ever, and iLife '08 w/ some crazy updates!

Oh the joy!

Yes I'm lame, no I am not ashamed...

pics from Engadget

Brother/Sister-in-law(s) - revised

Two of my three brother-in-laws now live w/in a 5 minute walk from me. That's unusual but not unheard of. Add in the fact they're not siblings and the odds are a little stronger.

One's my sister's husband, Buster, and the other is my wife's brother, Mat {w/ one 'T'}.

But what really makes it unlikely is that I live in China. This might be the smallest demographic I'll ever squeeze into. Seriously, I wonder how many American dudes have two of their brother-in-laws, from different sides of their marriage, living w/in 5 minutes of them in a foreign country? Not that this is very interesting in any amazing way, I just realized that I was in this very select group and wanted to mention it.

Also, it should be noted, that these two guys are my only two regular readers here at Batesdynasty, so I figured I'd give them a hola!

But b/c Mat {w/ one 'T'} is currently new to China and w/o internet, and Buster is busy w/ his new daughter, I feel like I should take this opportunity to say something bad about them while they can't respond!

nah, I'm too nice...

(actually I'm just brain-farting at the moment and can't think of anything to say about them)


After posting this, I realized that my wife has me beat; she's only got two sister-in-laws and they BOTH live here. (married to Mat {w/ one 'T'} and Buster) Coincidentally, they're also both named Amy. Furthermore, one is Amy Beth and the other is Amy Elizabeth. I think Bet really is one-of-a-kind.


Top 5's

I'm gonna start posting my top 5's in here. These aren't top 5 topics that I just pull out of thin air; these top 5 topics are from a group I'm in on Facebook. Anyone that knows me knows that I'm very obsessive about prefecting/editing myself. (which is why my blog posts are almost unreadable) Thus, these lists take me a long time to create, so I figured, if I'm gonna spend this much time writing it, why not also make it a Bates Dynasty post...

So this week's topic was Top 5 Albums (who could answer that!?)

Here's my post, feel free to comment on/ridicule my choices...

This is a top 5 right up my alley, other than the fact I can’t seem to ever decide what my favorite albums are. My friends will vouch that I’ve said ‘this would make my top 20 albums’ in reference to probably 50 albums. So this will be tough…

To me, this top 5 is a little too grandiose. It’s like saying ‘choose your top 5 days’! I’ve lived about 10,000 days and I’m sure I’ve LOVED over a thousand of them. So for me to narrow this down is just too much to ask. What I will do is write my top 5 ‘impact’ albums. If I ever hope to one day name my ‘top 5 albums of all time’, I’ll need to go through this process of sub-top fives. (not that anyone actually cares)

(Also, as much as it pains me, I’m only including one Pearl Jam album and I’m only using albums released in my lifetime.)

So here’s my top 5 albums…sorta...

5. Pinkerton – Weezer
The Blue album is Weezer’s ‘best’ album, who could deny that? It’s basically perfect in everyway. In fact it was so ‘technically’ perfect that when Pinkerton came along w/ it’s awkward stories and sloppy arrangements, people pulled a ‘pet-sounds’ on the thing and basically banished the band into obscurity. But Pinkerton is like a swinging gold watch, if you stop and really watch it for a second, you'll be hypnotized by it's charm! (or clucking like a chicken in front of your whole school)

Even if you never stop and enjoy it's stories of torture, that we all share, you’ll still fall in love w/ the music. It’s such a fun album! These days every album is so over processed and layered and polished, it’s enough to drive you insane. That’s exactly why this album is still refreshing every time I listen to it. It’s so raw and honest and messy and fun, it’s like a stray dog that wanders up one day and spends the next 10 years just trying to make you happy.

4. Siamese Dream – Smashing Pumpkins
I know, I know, it’s another sophomore album. (stay tuned, there’s two more coming) This album wasn’t drastically better than Gish but it perfected everything you love about Gish and then added a little extra on top. It’s also a portrait of the band before they started taking themselves too seriously. Songs like Disarm give you a hint of their next transition as a band but it’s subtle and interesting. (not that Melon Collie was bad, it was just a little too much diversity and self indulgence for my taste)
I’ve kinda grown out of this phase in my life now. When I look back at this album and The Bends, I realize that they’re a little too serious for everyday listening. In recent years, I’ve totally fallen in love w/ the lighter side of music, but that’s not to detract from the perfection of these albums. It’s just that if I’m going to be sitting in the dreary reality of a rush-hour subway car in a city of 20+ million, I’d rather be pumping a bouncy little number by the White Stripes or Black Keys. Kinda like the reality of sitting in crap isn’t as bad when you got nose plugs. But you can’t live your whole life in la-la land, and this album is an adequate dose of reality. (wrapped up in a fuzz-box distortion peddle w/ some really really crappy singing!)
I could bang on about all the reasons I think it’s great but I think I’ll just leave it be and say that it helped to turn me into the complete music weirdo that I am today!

3. The Bends – Radiohead
I can’t say that Pablo Honey was a good album, and not many would argue that point. And sophomore albums tend to be a let down, so after a mediocre debut, expectations weren’t very high for number two. But this album was such a departure from their first; it was interesting, rough around the edges, dreamy, noisy, and, basically, just well written. It was like they collectively had a musical epiphany. Tracks like Fake Plastic Trees and Street Spirit show the band’s ability to write spacey melancholy songs that can not only carry your attention for 5 minutes, but also take hold of your imagination. (Who hasn’t fully imagined the characters in Fake Plastic Trees?) The album also has the middle ground covered w/ mid tempo pop songs like ‘High and Dry’ and ‘Nice Dream’ but I have to say that the thing that first caught my attention was the feedback driven, volume on 11, all out swaggering wall of noise that you hear in songs like Iron Lung, Bones, Bends, and Just. Radiohead has made some astounding albums since this one, possibly even better albums, but this one definitely stands out to me, it just caught me at the right time.

2. Elephant – The White Stripes
Kiss (and Stryper) said “God gave rock ‘n roll to you” and I think God gave The White Stripes to rock ‘n roll! Seriously, not since Pearl Jam has a band come a long and hit me at the EXACTLY PERFECT moment! Rock was getting monotonous and dreary; I mean I was even listening to Pearl Jam as a ‘pick-me-up’. Not that PJ’s depressing; they’re just consistently dwelling in realism and honesty.
So along came the White Stripes w/ their ‘Muddy Waters meets Capt. Kangaroo’ style of punk rock and I fell for them like Wesley for Buttercup.
Why Elephant? I’m not sure… I mean; their first three albums were great, but Elephant just seems perfect. The only reason I’d skip a song on that album is to save it for last; it’s just perfect!

1. Vs. – Pearl Jam
This is a band that is near and dear to me. Picking a favorite PJ album is like picking your favorite child; you couldn’t and shouldn’t! But since this is ‘top 5 impact albums’ I suppose I can ‘categorize’ my children, er, I mean albums.
Some people don’t love PJ and some are bonkers about them, I fall into the latter category. To start this off, I should say that Ten should be on this list b/c it is what truly turned me onto music. At the end of the 80’s and beginning of the 90’s, I was listening to rock music, regretfully that meant lots of hair and lots of make-up. I loved to rock but can’t say that I was totally in love w/ the schtick of the time. So one night I’m at my friend’s house and he’s got Mtv, this is back when they played music videos, so on comes this ‘fresh out the oven’ video and its Pearl Jam’s ‘Alive’. At that moment I officially hated all of the music I owned b/c this was what music should be. They weren’t wearing tights, or make-up; they just got up on stage and rocked b/c it was the right thing to do, not b/c it could make them rich or get them laid. Ah, what a wonderful moment in rock history!

So why Vs. and not Ten? Well to be honest, Vs. is a better album and it validated my love for this musical movement. It told me I wasn’t crazy, this wouldn’t just be a flash in the pan. Another reason is, Ten was musically written by two guys and Vs. was written by a band, (sort of, it was actually about 90% Eddie Vedder) so it was well rounded and seemed more cohesive. Also, Vs. shows the band writing about normal life, something they’ve continued to do, it’s just that after April of 94, they got a little paranoid and abstract for a while. (see also: Vitalogy) While there are a lot of artsy songs on Vs. that serve as a precursor to Vitalogy, it was toned down enough to make the album palpable to the common rocker. Also, the 'art' songs were usually quirky and interesting, like Glorified G and Rats. Those songs are much more normal than songs like Aye Da Vanita and Bugs. To me Vs. is one of the greatest rock albums ever, in terms of longevity, album sales, quality and validity. When you can put Leash, Indifference, Elderly Woman, Blood, and W.M.A. on the same album and there’s still a balance, wow!

Honorable mentions:
Violent Femmes – Violent Femmes
Goo and Murray Street – Sonic Youth
YHF and Summer Teeth – Wilco
(ya, I know that they have albums that are just as good or better, but these are my ‘impact’ albums)
Gold – Ryan Adams
Rubberneck – Toadies
Rubber Factory - The Black Keys (should be in the list!)
Odelay - Beck

Crap, between Odelay, Rubber Factory, and Summer Teeth, I’m rethinking my list! Hmmm...Swap out Siamese Dream w/ Odelay and The Bends w/ Summer Teeth. These two albums found me right after those two and helped bridge my transition between serious rock and an appreciation for quirky interesting music.

In fact, ditch my whole list b/c I could never make a proper top 5 in anything music related, it’s too difficult!


From the phone, Vol. 1

I mentioned a little while back that I was planning on adding photos of random stuff I stumble across while out and about here in Shanghai. Now b/c I don't have a nice small camera, these little 'looking glass' moments will be brought to you by the crappy camera in my phone. So don't complain about image quality! Also, I'm to try to not talk to much about the photo. I'll just try to set up the moment.

Today's installment is from a store front we passed recently. In China there's always some kind of construction going on and many times a whole row of shops will close due the pending demolition of the building housing them. For some reason they always cover the windows w/ newspaper; like is there some epidemic of people crowding around to stare into an empty store? But that's beside the point. So yesterday we're walking along and Bet notices an interesting article among the pages of (all) Chinese newspaper that were plastered to the store window. That's about all the introduction I should have to give...

Dog the Bounty Hunter? Now, I'm not too good at reading Chinese, but I think the '#1' is talking about him winning the recent Mr. (worst hair in the-) Universe contest.

For perspective sake, here's the store front:

Hope you enjoyed volume 1...