Fri 30 Sep 2005
Today was the first day of a 9 day holiday to celebrate Chinese National Day so the kids were home. During the holidays entertainment becomes a factor. Blysse and Ellie are capable of dressing up, singing, dancing and engaging in general role playing for an entire day, with only begrudged breaks for meals. That said, when they feel the need for inspiration, nothing beats DVDs. And a good supply of games. And, of course, the Internet!
There are plenty of places offering free flash games for kids and some are getting remarkably good. Most actually manage to combine fun with learning. For example, the game Ellie was playing when I left the kids with the ayi and took off for a lunch meeting, Funschool - Coloring Book Fun!. It’s a great improvement on the typical paint program because you have to match letters and numbers to color, thereby developing useful skill sets.
When I came back, however, she was playing something else entirely, Kellog’s Cinna Island, which I must say gets my vote for “most psychologically satisfying marketing effort, ever.” You help CinnaMon safely land in a bowl of Apple Jacks (don’t worry, its mostly milk with a few helpful rings floating nearby) after jumping out of a plane, with his arch-nemesis, Bad Apple close at his heels, accomplishing little in the way of obstruction but helping to evoke a spirit of competition nonetheless. The whole screen fills up with flying rings, in comforable shades of green and orange, somewhat akin to the Eye of Modok colors. At first, I tried to avoid them but they quickly grew too plentiful. Blysse’s voice came from behind, “You’re supposed to eat ‘em.”
Ah. Why, that’s easy. All too easy.
You gobble your way down, the altimeter falling at a leisurely pace. You guide CinnaMon along his ambiguous quest to eat the rings and watch at they disappear with no noticable criteria except that you were recently in that region. If you can stay ahead of the delay, you can help CinnaMon gobble up quite a bit. Things get interesting when the parachute pops out and you catch glimpse of your target below. With an eye on the altimeter I took daring sweeps out from the center of the bowl. I gobbled to the end and safely spashed down! A prompt to enter my name came up, and the results… 9th place! Ahhhhh, how satisfying!
Now damage assessment. I had no way of gaguing how much time they spent playing but I didn’t think it was much. The kids are pretty used to the idea that they are never going to eat Apple Jacks but they do get the organic equivalent, Orangutan O’s, which while not necessarily of much higher nutritional value, are at least far less harmful. We’re really lucky that they started carrying them here! Of course, they do have Apple Jacks, as well. Here’s hoping they stay happy with the status quo. So, we seem to be escaping the draw of the marketing but I have to admire the execution of the strategy. I wonder how effective a campaign this is.
UPDATE: The following morning
How foolish of me to think I had escaped so easily. Not ony did they both ask me for Apple Jacks this morning on their own, when they encountered resistance, they teamed together struck up an impromptu chant, “We want Apple Jacks! Buy it.. toDAY!! We want Apple Jacks! Buy it.. toDAY!!”
Thu 29 Sep 2005
Yesterday, we went to the World Carnival Beijing. Salomae got 5 free tickets so we took the kids and asked the ayi (maid/nanny) to come with us so we could ride the big rides ourselves. Free tickets got us a ride on the world’s highest ferris wheel, which we a bit scary for the kids but they enjoyed it. After that, lots of money went flying out of our pockets.
Blysse got terrified in the 3-D Haunted House, as did mother, though not quite to the same extent. We had a really good time. I loved the carnival feeling I hadn’t noticed I missed. We all rode some rides and they fortunately had some cheap ones for the kids to whom quantity matters but even they were pretty special compared to the ones in the parks here. And then I got my ass kicked by a ride. I finally allowed victory to go to a ride, after years of chasing the best and most thrilling in the world. It could be my body just can’t take things as well after 30 years but I don’t think so. Perhaps, evolution is moving beyond what I was made to endure. Let’s not dwell on it.
Top Buzz, the flashing neon lights declare! The colorful swaying spotlights emphasize the wild gyrations, flashing in your eyes and then gone, dazzling you with the speed. It is the first thing you see as you approach the gate. After you have lowered your eyes from the towering wonder that is the ferris wheel. As we neared the entrance, Blysse and Ellie, eyes lit up with excitement, practiacally dragged me to the gate. And there it was, challenging me. “I’m gonna kick your ass,” it remarked, sanguine in its confidence.
“You just might,” I replied, “But I haven’t been licked yet.” There was no reply. The challenge had been issued and accepted.
After enjoying the rest of the carnival we approached, eager in our anticipation. We strapped in, uncomfortably close to the guy next to me, perhaps, because he was digging his elblow into my forearm. I rearranged myself so that my arms are free of the grips; maybe not such a wise position, in retrospect, as my limbs did rather flail about. At last it lifted its tentacles upward and the next thing I know I’m upside down and all the blood is rushing to my head. The rest was just one whirling, twirling, nearly hurling, headrushed blur. An above average amount of time was spent upside down, combined with the centifrugal force from the spinning. Exhileration soon gave way to the feeling I was trapped in a ritual I must simply endure.
At last the ride slowed down. My head was pounding. I was thrilled by the experience but I knew I had met my match. Top Buzz did not gloat. It didn’t even deign to acknowledge me as I departed, sure in my knowledge that I just taken my first and only ride.
Sat 24 Sep 2005
Yesterday I was treated to another fine surprise - free tickets to the women’s quaterfinals of the China Open. I wouldn’t ordinarily go out of my way to attend such an event, but as I was invited I took advantage of the opportunity. It turned out to be a very enjoyable day.
Tennis has yet to catch on big here in China, but those attending seemed to be into it. Our seats were quite good and we got to see some world class players duke it out. Venus Wiiliams graced us with her presence long enough to tell us that she had an accident the previous evening and was sorry but she wouldn’t be able to play. Hmmm. Her sister had been knocked out in the first round by Chinese Olympic doubles champion, Sun Tiantian, much to everyone’s surprise and to the dismay of the organizers. The official China Open site has some nice photos of the Williams sisters enjoying their stay in Beijing.
Certainly, the highlight of the day was the match between Maria Sharapova and Shinobu Asagoe, not necessarily for the prowess displayed by either player, though it was a pretty good match, but because it offered something that you just can’t get from the TV - live grunts. All of the players make some noise when they play and with the female players, often it sounds more than a little intimate. Sharapova was an exception in that the sounds she emiited while playing sounded more akin to a wailing banshee, almost as if she were attempting to frighten her opponent. Asagoe, for her part, sounded more like a karate expert. The accoustics of the center court amplified the sounds and the effect was quite eerie, and often amusing, at least to Salomae and me. Here’s a transription of a portion of the event:
Asagoe (serving): Aaaaaaagh!
Maybe you just had to be there.
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