The Red Electric Bicycle


so much depends

a red electric

parked for lunch

beside the green

Written with deference to William Carlos Williams. (I took this photo last year in Shanghai.)


Let It Flow . . . and Tilt Shift: Take a Look at These Beautiful Timelapse Videos

UK-based filmmaker Rob Whitworth has established himself as a master of hyperlapse video. Regular timelapse photography captures the movement in a scene using a camera that is set in one place or that moves only slightly. Hyperlapse goes beyond this by moving the camera over large distances.

Whitworth’s brand of hyperlapse takes the method one step further by using the camera motion to stitch clips together into a continuous piece. He calls the result “flow motion.” Below are his unique looks at Barcelona, Pyongyang, and Shangai. (For the video of Pyongyang, he and JT Singh were given unprecedented access to the North Korean city, though it is still the view that the government wants to be shown.)

Whitworth tells The Creators Project that Keith Loutit’s Bathtub IV was his inspiration to specialize in timelapse. Loutit uses tilt-shift photography, a technique that results in the illusion of filming a miniature world. Bathtub IV was made with the cooperation of Australia’s Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service.

Another of Loutit’s videos shows miniaturized view of Singapore.

Whit worth also tells The Creators Project of his love for the work of Pau Garcia Laita, specifically praising his video showcasing Girona, Spain, part of the same project as Whitworth’s Barcelona piece above.

(Beckett Mufson, “Meet the Filmmaker behind Unreal Hyperlapse Tours of Barcelona and Other Cities,” The Creators Project, July 14, 2014)

Chinese Towns with Châteaus and Pubs

421040590_416a162457If imitation truly is the greatest form of flattery, then many in China believe that flattery will get them everywhere.

Over the past decade, China has experienced a boom in the building of look-alike cities and structures, fashioned after architecture from non-Chinese locales. Leading the trend is Shanghai’s “One City, Nine Towns” project, building foreign-inspired housing developments to draw residents out of the city’s crowded center—though it seems that the people have been a little reluctant to make the move.

There’s been a bunch written about the carbon-copy construction—lots of photos, too. Here are links to some of the articles around the Web:

Welcome To the Bizarre Chinese Ghost Town That Looks Like It Was Plucked from the British Countryside
(Julie Zeveloff, Business Insider, June 14, 2011)
“Thames Town is not nestled in the British countryside; it’s located in the northeast corner of China in Songjiang, near Shanghai. And it didn’t grow gradually over hundreds of years.”

Anting New Town: Car Museum, Cafes and Homes, but No People
(CNN Travel, September 24, 2010)
“The Anting New Town development was designed by Albert Speer, the son of Hitler’s favorite architect, to accommodate 50,000 inhabitants in apartment buildings and stand-alone houses.”

Going Dutch: Shanghai’s “Holland Town” Brings Europe to the City
(Mathias Guillin, CNN Travel, July 8, 2010)
“Life in Shanghai can be a bit monotonous: work, party, brunch and then do it all over again the next weekend. If you need to break things up and don’t want to hop on plane, head over the river and check out Pudong’s Nederland, aka ‘Holland Town.'”

Luodian—a Slice of Sweden in China
(Ulrika K Engström,, February 10, 2006)
“Luodian is a fully fledged copy of a Scandinavian town. Even the weather seems to have been specially imported to this newly built development in Baoshan, one of 16 districts in Shanghai.”

China: Shanghai: Citta di Pujiang
(Bret Wallach, The Great Mirror)
“An Italian city in Shanghai? But of course: this is another of Shanghai’s new towns, like Thames Town, but in this case Venice. Well, that’s what you’ll read in the press, but this new town doesn’t ape Europe: it has lots of water, in other words, but an intensely modern architectural style.”

China Builds Its Own Eiffel Tower
(Metro News, September 21, 2007)
“Chinese architects copied the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe and the famous fountain in the gardens of the Palace of Versaille to make their own version of the French capital. Famous buildings and Parisienne style gardens are surrounded by rows of European-style villas where up to 100,000 Chinese people will live in a special gated community called Tianducheng just outside Shanghai.”

Made in China: An Austrian Village
(Reuters, June 5, 2012)
“A $940 million Chinese clone of one of Austria’s most picturesque villages, the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Hallstatt, recently opened its doors to visitors in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong amidst some controversy.”

Photos: Jiangsu City Has Four Fake US Capitols
(Michael Evans, Shanghaiist, December 3, 2012)
“The Jiangsu city of Wuxi is home to not one, not two, but four buildings with a less-than-coincidental resemblance to the US Capitol.”

Village Uses Famous Site Replicas to Draw Tourists
(Wang Hongyi, China Daily, October 12, 2011)
“[T]ourists can also see replicas of the US Capitol building, the Arch of Triumph in France and the Sydney Opera House by going to Huaxi village, which is deemed the richest village in China.”

Dorset Town is Re-built in China
(BBC News, July 26, 2007)
“A town in China has been modelled on Dorchester after planners saw the town’s picture on a Christmas card. The development in Chengdun, Sichuan province, named British Town, is complete with mock Victorian and Georgian architecture.”

Mr. Zhang Builds His Dream Town
(James Fallows, The Atlantic, March 2007)
“After lunch, Zhang thanked the guests for coming and invited them to spend time seeing some of the other highlights of Broad Town: the 130-foot-high gold-colored replica of an Egyptian pyramid, for instance.”

China’s Elite Learn to Flaunt It while the New Landless Weep
(Joseph Kahn, The New York Times, December 24, 2004)
“Chateau Zhang Laffitte is no ordinary imitation. It is the oriental twin of Château Maisons-Laffitte, the French architect François Mansart’s 1650 landmark on the Seine. Its symmetrical facade and soaring slate roof were crafted using the historic blueprints, 10,000 photographs and the same white Chantilly stone. . . . ‘It cost me $50 million,’ Mr. Zhang said. ‘But that’s because we made so many improvements compared with the original.'”

Château China: $30 Million “Hobby”
(Sheila Melvin, The New York Times, January 10, 2006)
“The town of Changli, in Hebei Province, resembles any other nondescript county seat in northern China. . . . But just outside the town center is a 200-hectare, or 500-acre, vineyard replete with a state-of-the-art wine production facility; a villa with tasting rooms and restaurants; a three-story wine school; a luxury hotel, and an immense private château. The Tuscan-style complex is so opulent and incongruous in the Hebei countryside that it at first seems like a mirage.”

Related Post:
Shanghai Calling: “Come Home”

[photo: “07/02/23 15:10:06 Shanghai,” by 2 Dogs, used under a Creative Commons license]

Shanghai Calling: Come “Home”

I just saw a trailer for a new movie coming out. The movie’s called Shanghai Calling, and it’s about an American-born Chinese who is sent “back” to China by his boss. It’s a fish-out-of-water story, with the extra twist that this fish feels more out of place because he looks like he belongs.

When our kids attended a mission school in Taipei, they often had visitors come to talk about Third Culture Kid issues. One year, we were honored to hear from David Pollock, one of the authors of Third Culture Kids: Growing Up among Worlds. He said that, often, the people who have the hardest time fitting in to a new culture are those who look like they should fit in. So in China, an obvious foreigner will get praised for knowing a few Chinese words, while an outsider who looks Chinese may get scolded for not knowing “his own” language and culture.

Here’s the trailer. It’s pretty funny. Reminds my family of some of our experiences, like when the lead character shows an address to a taxi driver and it ends up being only half a block away. The complete film hasn’t been rated yet, so I can’t speak for whether or not it’s family friendly. Here’s hoping it is.

And it sounds like it’s getting a good reception in China from expats and nationals alike. Here’s what Daniel Hsia, the director, wrote in his blog (dated March 23) about preview screenings of Shanghai Calling in Beijing and Shanghai:

Fortunately, the audience loved the film.  After the screenings, American viewers thanked us for making a movie that could finally explain to their friends and families back home the strangeness of their daily lives in China.  Chinese viewers told us how refreshing it was to see a movie about modern China, and not just another ancient martial arts epic.  And both groups were surprised at how funny the movie was.  I guess most expats don’t necessarily see their lives as inherently comedic.

[photo: “Shanghai by Night,” by Sjekster, used under a Creative Commons license]