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6 entries from May 2012

Going home

Yesterday was the full-on day we expected with four two hour lectures back to back to back to back.

Due to "Chinese time" Robin, from Taiwan, started late and lectured in Chinese on squeakers and (from what I can gather, entertaining family audiences. After him came Arthur Trace and he lectured not only on the theory and art of magic, but also on a wide range of effects from cards, to cups and balls, to topits. Due to the sporadic nature of the translation his more visual effects got the strongest reaction.

I was lecturing after lunch and, though ready to start on time, had to wait for the translator, the camera person, and the stage lights... but once everyone arrived the lecture (which included some of my FISM Asia lecture, plus Runaround Sue, MagicSports and tips for the competitors) went very well indeed with a lot of people standing (no, not to leave!) at the end.

Selling DVDs was always going to be tough because the culture here places value on the cost of making the actual physical DVD itself and not on the intellectual property on it. I priced my DVDs at discount retail despite being told they need to be really cheap to compete with the pirate copies available at the local magic shops. I figured that I'd rather people pay close to the rest of the world prices so those who want to show respect by buying the real thing can get into the habit and, in the end, I sold more than half of the DVDs I brought. Strangely enough it was the books that sold out straight away. Because they are in English we thought they wouldn't sell... and they were even more expensive than the DVDs... 

After me came a lecture on Mentalism by a local magician (who was later awarded "Act of the Year") and then it was time to prepare for the Gala Awards Show.

Arthur and I were each told we were presenting one award each. Arthur at the start of the show, me near the end. Then, as the show began, Arthur was told he was going to be called on and hand an award to some competition winners as well. When I came off, I rushed over to his side of the stage to say something to him and suddenly I heard my name and I had to walk on and present an award too.

You just have to go with the flow and expect the unexpected in China. In fact throughout the whole trip it's been a case of never knowing what's coming up next.

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There were a variety of unusual acts throughout the show, interspersed with video clips and comedy bits by the MC, and then finally Arthur came on to say a few words about the CMUC Internet Forum and give an award to contributor of the year, then I was called on to present Act of the Year. Then it was all over.

Lots more autographs and photographs and we were all ready to get back to the hotel, but wait... there's more!  ;)

Now we were all going to an after party at a nearby restaurant and, though we were all way over tired, we headed off to a beautifully decorated place nearby where we socialised, signed stuff and did some impromptu magic for a few more hours.

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Then it was time to grab my big case and get a cab back to the hotel. That's where things started to get surreal. The first cab had stuff in the trunk some my case simply didn't fit. There were four of us, so we couldn't sit it on a seat inside the cab, so we called a second taxi... same thing... it had junk in it's trunk too.

We started chuckling at how funny this why by the time we got to our fourth taxi and it wasn't until taxi number 11 that we were finally able to fit the case in and get back to the hotel.

Now, it's the morning on May 7 and Arthur has headed off to catch his flight back to LA, and I get picked up in a couple of hours to jet back to Melbourne (I arrive home on my birthday!)

But first, I need to squeeze in an hour of souvenir shopping.. somehow... wish me luck!


First day of the CUMC Convention

What a huge day!

At 9am we arrived at the China University Magic College convention ready to judge the competition,

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but first we had to do an interview with CCTV.

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I have no idea what I'm doing... they just gave us lines in Chinese to repeat. It was very weird.

Not quite as weird as the randy Sponge Bob Square Pants that was sharing the dressing room with us

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So the competition began - with a bunch of cute kids to start with, to stage acts, to close up acts. Then it was lunch and returning again to judge more acts until around 5.30pm

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After that it was preparing for the big Stage Gala Show - and by big, I mean 14 acts!!!

Scheduled to start at 7pm, it started late at 7.30pm and went on without an interval until at least 10.30pm! I was the second last act and the audience was still wildly enthusiatic for magic (thank goodness!) What was most bizarre was they encouraged the audience to tweet during the show and displayed all their messages on the video screens live during the show! I guess it stopped them from using their phones to film it...

Here's a shot I took from the stage during the curtain call.

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It was a wildly busy and exciting day, and the enthusiasm they have for magic is overwhelming!

However, it's very late and we have an even bigger day tomorrow with lectures and the Gala Awards Show.


Shopping

If you ever want to feel insignificant on this planet, spend a day driving around Beijing. There are so many people everywhere it's amazing that anyone can muster up the drive and ambition to stand out from the masses and succeed in their chosen field.

Today we drove to the fabric market where some of the magicians planned to get some material and have some suits made.

After a long drive to a nearby part of the city (I have no idea how long it took, I fell asleep) we arrived in the fashion district.

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It didn't take that long for the magicians to realise they had no idea what they were looking for amongst the mountains of every type of fabric imaginable.

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Nevertheless, we strolled around for a while before heading off to a nearby (30 minutes) restaurant for a lunch of China's famous 'Hot Pot'.

From there we were off to the tailors at Ya Show Fashion Complex. Only 20 minutes away, but I'm pretty sure it took over an hour. This was a multilevel bargaining bazaar filled not only with tailors but t-shirts, souvenirs, electrical goods, and pretty much anything you can imagine.

I picked up a few fun t-shirts for myself at around $7.50 each as well as a souvenir, but I did resist getting the official Beijing souvenir T-shirt

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I really don't think the first thing Australians would associate BJ with is Beijing...

No suits were tailored today, and we headed back to the hotel through Beijing rush hour and, after a quick meal at the dodgy Irish Pub across the road, I'm settling in for an early night as I prepare for the CUMC Magic Convention starting tomorrow at 8am

I'll leave you with a few other odd sights

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Day off

As the title suggests, today was a lazy day. Late breakfast in the hotel buffet with Arthur Trace as shared the free wifi in the lobby (LAN only in the hotel rooms), then I went out to do a little exploring.

I quickly discovered that we are not in a tourist district, the only shops outside of the hotel selection being a no-name convenience store, a dodgy video shop and an even dodgier Irish pub.

I ended up heading back to the hotel and having a sandwich at Starbucks (28rmb = $4.50) and a Baskin Robbins ice cream (40rmb = $6).

I got a bit of Magic Festival work done, watched a movie on TV and then we all headed out to a Korean BBQ dinner which was yum!

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Back at the hotel Arthur and I had to do a quick video interview for part of the convention and then, as it was getting late, I popped in to the hotel's Ye Olde English Pub for a quick Coca Cola. Being a hotel my glass of Coke mix was 30rmb versus the 2.5rmb I paid for a can across the road at the convenience store! 

As I was savoring my $5 Coke a very elaborately dressed Chinese girl approached me and asked if I spoke English. It was then I realised 90% of the customers in the pub were equally elaborately dressed Chinese girls, all looking enviously at this woman and her potential mark (me). 

I asked her the time, then borrowed her watch, caused the time to magically change in her hands, downed my Coke while enjoying the stunned expression on her face, and got out of there while the getting was good!


A very long day...

I should be asleep but I know if I don't update this now I'll never do it.

Today started early because our host wanted us to experience the Dinosaur Land as guests and, if we dared, go on the new 4D roller coaster.

First stop was the wet log flume ride... sort of low rent version of Universal Studios Jurassic Park with moving dinosaurs, dark areas, fog, and a sudden drop down three stories with a big splash as the end.

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Thankfully we were provided with full body raincoats, including little plastic bags to cover our shoes.

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A few more adventures followed as we explored the bizarre couplings of dinosaurs and medieval knights

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Watched people get turned inside out

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Though we were on a VIP tour and could skip lines and get on any ride instantly, none of us chose to ride this one... but we all rode Dino Mountain, an indoor roller coaster in the dark (think Space Mountain) and then watched a 4D version of Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs.

Then came time to go on the 4D roller coaster Dinoconda.

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Suddenly, I was the only one interested in riding it despite the fact that we could avoid a three hour line. Graciously, our host Borg Yuan accompanied me on the ride and screamed like a girl all throughout it  ;)

This link should give you a Youtube clip of the coaster in action. If not, try this one.

How serious do they take their coasters in China? When you get off you are confronted by the vomitting bin.

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After that adventure it was off to lunch at the dumpling cafe and then a quick visit to watch the bird show (with macaws, cockatoos, budgies and even an emu) before taking the bus to ride something even faster than the 4D coaster - the new bullet train.

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At speeds of over 300kmh we travelled the 961 kms from the Changzhou station (pictured above) to Beijing in just under five hours. 

Then we were bussed from the station to our hotel at substatianally slower speeds that seemed strangely so much faster...

All through the journey I had a craving for tacos. No offense to Chinese food, it is great but I've had it non stop since I've arrived and I just had this weird desire for Mexican food which, realistically, I knew would go unfulfilled.

Then, at the hotel, I found a Texan Bar and Grill and thought to myself "At least I can get a steak dinner..." But what did they have on the menu...? TACOS!!!

So I go to bed tired after a long, speed filled day, but with a very happy stomach.

No vomitting bin for me!

 


Day three and all 12 shows done

Well it's goodbye to the Dinosaur theatre as I've finally made it through twelve big shows - though tomorrow we are returning to Dinosaurland one last time to go on all the rides.  :)

Our host had a surprise for us tonight. Not only was it the now customary group dinner in a private room at an elegant restaurant, but after dinner we went to the Dino-Valley Hot Springs.

You'll excuse me if I didn't take any photos, despite the beautiful architecture and extremely lush gardens, but we were busy moving from one specially designed thermal spa to the next.

Now it's after midnight. I'm waaaay to relaxed to be blogging plus I have to get up early tomorrow morning to pack, so I'll leave you with some examples of classic Engrish I saw at the Springs.

First, a sign above the paper towel dispener:

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Next, a basket sitting next to one labelled RECYCLE:

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And there was one particular Hhall we found especially restful:

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