Thursday, March 23, 2006

My friend Ming and I went out for dinner at the Tree, an excellent beer and pizza place down on Sanlitun, last week. After dinner we stopped by the DVD shop around the corner because I had been trying to track down a copy of the film about Truman Capote, starring Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

The shop we went to is usually stacked to the ceiling with DVDs. The new stuff is always up front and the older stuff is arranged by genre in the back. Each DVD is 10 RMB, and if you buy 10, you get one for free. The quality at this place is guaranteed, so while 10 RMB is a bit stiff, its location is convenient and customer loyalty is high.

Nothing makes me happier that perusing piles of plastic sleeved DVD cases. My finger flipping technique has been perfected and I can, without any hesitation, ask in Chinese, if a movie has English or French subtitles (yes, my French has improved that much here in China). there's lots of hype in the media about copyright protection and I do know some foreigners who feel guilty about buying bootlegged DVDs, but all I have to say about that is "fuck Hollywood." (They lost their chance with me years ago.)

I can find anything here on the streets of Beijing. Really, anything. I have purchased all of Wong Kar-Wai's films, a Charlie Chaplin collection, a substantial amount of Almodovar's work, Scottish films, French films, classic (I mean 70s) American name it. Several boys have also informed me that finding "tranny porn" or even animal porn is no challenge, at all.

So, shocked I was to find the shelves of the shop nearly bare. The only things out were Chinese movies, some CDs and some very old American Hollywood flicks. On the shelving above the cash register was a new arrangement: stacks of Mao's little red book, in English and in Chinese.

Ming, who speaks decent Chinese asked what happened to the usual decadent collection. The woman, indirectly, said something about officials in town for a meeting. She wouldn't elaborate, but then said, "Come back in two days." "What officials? What meeting?" Ming persisted. "Come back in two days!" the woman said. That was that, and we left empty-handed.

I read this in the New York Times today:

American congress people are in town. It seems to be a fair conclusion that Beijing tidied up a bit in anticipation, especially, since the Americans are so uppity about intellectual property rights violations here.

PS - I didn't have to wait two days to go back to the store to get Capote. A guy who keeps cart on the sidewalk in front of my gym had it for only 5 RMB the next day.

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