Friday, August 29, 2008

Olympic Recap

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So, the games are over and all the videos we made are compiled on English, baby! here, and my written record of the trip is indexed here. But for all that documenting, I realized the other night when my friend Kurt said, "How was China? Tell me a story!" that my most Olympic moment from Beijing didn't make it to the Web anywhere. So I'll finish this topic with that.

As my only non-work-related indulgence, I bought ping pong tickets months in advance because I always thought it would be cool to see Olympic table tennis. It was nice to look forward to too since the session I had tickets for was on our last day in town.

When Zach (aka Captain Jeff) and I arrived at our seats, we realized they were incredibly shitty. We could only see half of the 8 tables on the floor and the ones we couldn't see included the only matches with American and Chinese participants.

But, as covered in my scalping video, there were a million empty seats because all the "sold out" Olympic events had tons of unused tickets. So we tried to move down to better seats but were stopped by the ubiquitous Olympic volunteers.

After about 3 such failures, Zach was ready to quit, but I figured we should just try every section and eventually we'd find someone not paying attention. As we approached another section entrance, I said, "OK, stay close, walk fast, don't make eye contact, and sit down like you own the place." We did and it worked.

A tanned and fit guy in his late 40's who was sitting next to our new seats in the front row said, "Americans?" As it turned out, we happened to plop down next to the American tennis coaching squad. They knew enough about table tennis to enlighten us on the rules we didn't understand, even though they said the tennis and table tennis players don't kick it in the village.

Suddenly, one of the coaches sprang up from his seat while looking at his phone. "Phelps won a fourth medal!" he shouted. "He broke the record!" By the end of the ping pong session, Phelps had a fifth as well.

It wasn't until afterward that I realized that that was the most Olympic moment of my whole experience. I mean, with tickets to swimming harder to get than a tan in Portland, what better way to learn about Phelps' fourth medal than from the Olympic tennis coaches in stolen seats at a table tennis match? The only thing that could have made it better would have been if the American woman had managed to top Singapore on the table that day.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

I Met Jared Leto

It's true. We ran into him at the Silk Market where you can buy anything from fake designer jeans (wearing my $20 "7 for All Mankind" right now) to jade Buddhas. He looked away for most of the time we were filming him, but we got his pretty face on camera for a second. I told him I loved My So Called Life and American Psycho, forgetting that he was fucking PREFONTAINE and I was dressed in a track outfit. My teammates and I used to watch that movie to get pumped before cross country meets.

He was on my plane on the way home too, but up in first class and I didn't get a chance to talk to him again. At the market he had a Chinese chick with him, but on the plane he was alone. He was, however, wearing the exact China shirt I bought for my dad (a red polo with "CHINA" on the back and "Beijing 2008" on the front).

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Olympic Photos

In between these photos, which document goofing off for the most part, there were events like field hockey and road cycling.

China is pretty relaxed. They didn't hassle us even though we showed up wearing outfits like this.
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There are neat communist relics lying around everywhere. This one was in our hostel.
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Every meal was really good and really inexpensive. Dumplings might have been my favorite. It was $2 for four of us.
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Menus are as funnier than you would imagine. Can I offer you a three explosions spring roll? How about North Korea is grim? Here's Jewel translating a menu for a restaurant. They thrust the draft in front of her when they realized she knows English and Chinese.
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We had a big English, baby! party and afterward did private karaoke.
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We rented bikes that match our outfits to try out the bike lanes that are as wide as normal street lanes. Couple the striking blue of this photo with my blue eyes and understand why I was constantly asked to pose for photos with people.
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Here is a sequence of photos in which I eat a giant scorpion. It tasted OK but took forever to chew the exoskeleton-y bits.
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Word to Mao. Peace out.
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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Boycot CDs!

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As of now, I am officially boycotting CDs. I've probably only bought a handful in the last couple of years, but the RIAA's recent attack on Muxtape has crossed the line. This is WAR.

Muxtape, as I saw it, was a pretty benign compromise. You could only stream music on the site and there was link to purchase the Mp3 of the song you were streaming. That's a far cry from the anarchic days of Napster and it has roots in a tradition older than I am: that of the mixtape.

But no. According to a statement by the RIAA what Muxtape was doing was illegal. Well I've HAD IT. The goddamn recorded music industry isn't going to get a cent out of me until it shapes up.

Sure, maybe some artists will be deprived a nickle or two that the RIAA would have tossed them, but it's acceptable losses to kill the cancer of the RIAA. Here's my pledge, I urge you to take it with me:

I __________ hereby vow that from this day forward I will obtain music only in the form of used vinyl and illegal download until the RIAA quits being such fascist assholes. (Fine print: Exceptions may be made for purchases directly from bands with no ties to the greater music industry machinery.)

Sincerely,

Jason Simms

PS Please buy my band's CD.

Outside the Olympic Venues

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I'm back from Beijing and the videos we made there are getting edited daily. Here are the ones the have been finished so far. My favorite is the second one.

This covers our arrival and first event: Hutong bike race. A hutong is an old neighborhood with tiny streets.


Outside of the Water Cube we met a very interesting man with very interesting hair.


We had a party for our users and I got to do real Asian karaoke!


My adventures buying a ticket to the sold-out games on the street.


Another street challenge, this one starring the Australian drinking team.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Beijing Bound

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I'm leaving for Beijing in less than 48 hours. I'm really nervous about going to a country where the police randomly seem to shoot troublemakers like me. Especially since I'll be wearing the most obvious outfit ever. But fear is no reason to give up and throw away all the hard work I've been doing to get ready for the games.