Saturday, December 11, 2010

S.E. Asian tour of massage parlors and opium dens. Part 1.

The MazReal community bus has at last slid to a halt after its arduous educational tour of the hot pillow joints, opium dens and massage parlors of S.E.Asia. Memories of this exercise are still fairly fresh in the mind so they have to be rapidly recalled because soon they will disappear forever from the addled and befuddled goldfish brains of the members.

We returned via Singapore a few days ago where we managed a quick stopover in Paris to chill out and drink mint tea and smoke hookahs in the El Tangier Moroccan restaurant just off the Champs-Élysées surrounded by the soothing warbling tones of throat musicians from the Atlas Mountains. Safely back in London just in time to join the student riots we will soon be taking that flight to Mazatlán to comment on the new season of art walk tours and any other thing that takes our childish fancy.

Stop One - Shanghai China

View south over Shanghai and the Huangpu River

Smog makes for striking post apocalyptic images over Shanghai.

What seems like many moons ago we touched down at Pudong International airport in Shanghai and were chauffeured to our first appointment high on the 59th floor of the Park Hyatt hotel in the Jin Mao building just the other side of The Bund on the Huangpu River. These views from the massage parlor confirm the striking views that be seen over the megapolis of Shanghai. Image these images when the mind is enhanced after a few hookahs and the tingling of a post massaged body.

Roaming the streets and underground transport system of that fabulous city we couldn't help to have been overwhelmed by the 'in your face' tone of advertising that has taken off in China. All quite scary in a heightened state of mind and body. The Chinese themselves must be reeling with this onslaught of Western consumerism and this onslaught has been to promote the products with the biggest posters ever seen and blast the poor people senseless with it.

Kit Kat chocolate is not about taste but giant bland sensuous women who will no doubt spit the offending crispy block out post - photoshoot

Adidas is all about screaming, flying, muscular US basketballers. China loves basketball and generally have to import tall men.

Gap is smiling women tied up knots lying at the feet of uninterested no doubt gay males ( I have been in the business and know the facts).

More sporting goods explode off the posters.

Pudong from the Bund across Huangpu River.

Stop Two - Dongying City Shandong Province North China.

The delights of Shanghai sampled, imbibed, ingested and found to have been immensely satisfying we moved on to view a particularly interesting region on the flatlands of the Yellow River flood plain in the northern province of Shandong. We wanted to sample industrial China and were invited to tour a tire factory outside Zebo City. You may think that a tour of a tire factory is strange to say the least but within that factory is one of the finest cooks of the region who produces local food from an adjacent farm owned and grown by factory workers for the factory workers and served in the workers canteen. There is also the benefit of a fine massage parlor in the communist party styled Huatai Hotel that we decamped to once we hit town.

The wonderful Huatai Hotel built in a suitable grand scale by the state and featuring marble from top to bottom. Even the vast carpark is marble.

The diminutive and not very flamboyant lobby

Communist style garden sculptures. Spacey and heroic to say the least.

Got an hour? Choose your food for dinner. Every plate had something new in my food vocabulary.
The sea food section. Choose your selection aquarium.

Meanwhile back in the tire factory we were invited to the worker's canteen to sample the lunch offerings.

A tire factory at lunch time. Next time you change a flat tire by the side of the road, this is where they come from. Looking like dark satanic mills but in fact a very relaxed atmosphere prevailed.

The Factory again during lunch break.

Food and beer and a revolving table laid out with some of the finest food to have passed into the mouth of  this international gourmet in the simple surroundings of a large Chinese tire factory. It doesn't get much better than this. Organic, non chemical and busting with taste.
View of downtown Dongying City from the back view of our limo.

The meal and tour over we quickly repaired back to the hotel and a tour of the massage parlor and illegal opium den behind the Huatai Hotel. The madam (disguised as a peasant) greeted us and posed for this quick snap as she took us out back to be pummeled and ravished by the staff therein this notorious den also disguised as a simple habitation and owned by the equally notorious Dr. Wang whose shadowy figure made our stay one to remember. What those people did to you is best kept a tight secret.

Madam Wang poses stiffly keeping up her disguised appearance with great skill.
Back at the hotel and glad to be reminded by the elevator carpet that it was in fact Wednesday. We prepared to leave.

The flatlands of Shandong as the limo whisked us through the ever present twilight industrial smog to our next destination of Chennai formally the Indian city of Madras on the east coast of Tamil Nadu southern India.

Part Two around the corner.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Figures seen in Our Virgin's Eyes? Or is it Pareidolia?

Pareidolia is a type of delusion or misperception involving a vague or obscure stimulus being perceived as something clear and distinct. For example seeing Ronald Reagin in a cinnamon bun or a potato that looks like Ganesh or human figures seen in the Virgin of Guadalupe's eyes that testify to the fact that the tale of Juan Diego was true. His image was imprinted on her tilma and to add to the authenticity an image of him and others was imprinted on her eyes.

"According to many scientists who have inspected the image, it seems that in her eyes, in both of them and in the precise location as reflected by a live human eye, could be seen many figures that have been extensively analyzed and seem to correspond to the shape and size ofhuman figures located in front of the image.”

Like other relics, all sorts of claims to support supernatural characteristics are promoted by the faithful. What the faithful see in the eyes of The Virgin of Guadalupe is simply pareidolia.

Horatio tells it how it is.

Here's some more famous examples:

Man on the Cydonia region on Mars. With a creepy name like Cydonia why wouldn't there be a big man.

Jesus in toast

Person in my bathtub. This really bothers me every time I want to relax in the bath.  I now keep my swimming kit on.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Beijing and Shanghai in a Dream

While we notice that a new art gallery has opened in old town Mazatlán where the familiar (sun reddened) faces - bloggers, artists, columnists, retirees and frightening pink magazine editors turned up to look at real art and the catering looked from a distance like fusion Asian we were brought to mind our ongoing Asian odyssey. So we are putting together a travelblog and imagery that will allow you to get a glimpse of the outside world before we land back in Mazatlán in time for the rounds of Christmas socializing and boozing and piñata wackings unless we have been laid low by social diseases or jail or penury.

MazReal staff and itinerant hangers-on, slaves, masseurs and groupies landed in the New World. The new world that is S.E.Asia on a relaxed tour that will take in Hong Kong, Singapore and closer to the orient - Chennai (Madras to those of colonial persuasion) in Tamil Nadu India home of the old world idea of the blindingly hot curry or 'The Ring of Fire'. China is the future of everything, China will be the future. You only have to see those Asian magalopolises with their cloud tall skyscrapers where the 88th. floor is not even half way up, where you can hardly see the ground from that level covered it is in smog. That brown, dirty contamination of progress.

Wangfujing Street Beijing. A pedestrianized shopping experience that makes 5th. Ave. NYC look like Calle Benito Juarez.

Wandering through Beijing and Shanghai is a dream-like experience. The smog, the size of the cities, the slow moving crowds and the architecture are just so different to anything we experience in Western cities. The contamination dissolves the distance objects and makes streets look like tunnels of light.

Across the Huangpu River that divides Shanghai. The river reflecting the smoggy sun looks like burnished gold.

Beijing outdoor restaurants in streets lined with blue bucket spittoons

The famous olympic 'Bird's Nest' stadium with attendant tourists diving into the papyrus grass for a snap as they affect strange positions. We started the trend by taking the image a few below. The idea caught on.

You cannot say the Chinese women arn't stylish but their poses are strange.

Crssoing the Huangpu River in Shanghai.

Papyrus and the Bird's Nest Beijing.

Colonial Shanghai along The Bund. The equivalent to the Mazatlán Malecon. A promenade along the Huangpu River made famous by the British back when they were a power in the region.

From our hotel window into the Pudong financial area of Shanghai. Actually this is a breakfast room view of a smoggy sunrise.

The Central Business distirct of Beijing.

We have left China for the time being as our hedonistic lifestyle in the search for the long gone opium dens of Shanghai came to the attention of the authorities who still haven't yet shaken off their Maoist almost Calvinistic Tea Party hatred of having a good time so we have retreated to Hong Kong where the lifestyle is certainly more open and free. From there the entourage will report.

Images © 2010 MazReal

Thursday, September 16, 2010

El Chepe to Divisadero

While we are, as those Brits say, swanning around Europe with our hired Malay manservants carrying our bags, giving us sensual massages and lighting our opium pipes we will be showcasing sets of photographs taken within the last year in and around Mazatlán starting with El Chepe to Divisadero. Much like watching re-runs on the TV when the execs are two damn lazy to commission anything else. But these are fine original images.

El Chepe and The Copper Canyon.

If anyone reading this has not taken the El Chepe train from Los Mochis through the Copper Canyon it's about time you did. These images will give you a taste of the sights through the train window but they cannot convey the feeling of vertigo as the train moves upwards sometimes hugging vertiginous rock cliffs only holding onto two narrow rail lines.

What other train line in the world employs dapper stewards in waistcoats and dicky bows that match their moustaches?

A late night luxury bus took us to Los Mochis (on which the camera gear fell off the overhead rack onto the head of our sleeping assistant causing a river of blood and screams. The driver raised the music and drove on) and a taxi to the rail station arrived early.

The idea of this trip was to shoot our model and red umbrella standing precariously on the edge of a cliff inches from a 2000 metre vertiginous drop. Poor woman, she hated heights and we shot her with long lenses from the safety of solid ground one hundred yards away. Using long sharp sticks and a cattle prodder we forced her to stand near the edge and came back with great shots. (see example further down and the end result color panorama arriving shortly.) We stayed at the Hotel Divisadero Barrancas before they were bought out by someone who has almost tripled the room rates presumably for all those Chinese tourists that have been arriving by coach by way of Chihuahua.

July is the dry season up here

Our plucky model nears the edge. (color panorama in the next post)

Obviously we are accompanied by nice men in black carrying M16s

Images ©2010 MazReal

Thursday, August 12, 2010

2006 Video from the founding father of MazReal. We go winging into the future from here. Video is THE FUTURE.

Back in 2006 a famous and talented photographer from London UK dusted off his DV tape video camera and persuaded the famous and talented surfer David 'King Tuberattor' Urso to allow him to accompany him by bus to Playa Bruja and document his day. A warning by the touchy 'King Tube' - "Stay outta my fuckin' way man" urged the photographer not to stay in his way and film him from the safety of the beach. Accompanied by backing music from the excellent British trance group Groove Armada .The video was syndicated around the backyard. This was our first foray into video from a founding father of MazReal (he has since joined a Mexican circus troupe and is learning the art of sword swallowing. Go easy on that iron diet Mateo!!! Hahaha. He consequently got married to Araña woman and has a nest of 8 legged midgets) but since then the equipment is lighter and better and the learning curve has shot up but the results are 'movie quality', 'big screen' quality. The last season of House was shot on this equipment we have now invested in and we hope to proceed into the future with some hard hitting and beautifully shot video of stories and happenings in an around this steamy little tropical city.

Our next blog will be our 2010 introductory blog to our new ideas within the medium of video and the High Definition new Canon 5d2 equipment.

Excitement has again got the better of us and we are going to crack the seal on another freezer chilled bottle of Stolichnaya Russian vodka. So Nazdarovje Zalyoobov , Spokojnoj Noch.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Food and Drink Critiques 1

To be a successful publisher you need to a ruthless, conniving, cunning, underhand, backstabbing bastard. Just take a look at some of the unsavoury champions of this industry Conrad Black (Canadian) charged with racketeering, Rupert Murdock (OzStrayn), just a plain nasty James Bond villain bent on taking over the world and that other power hungry schemerRobert Maxwell from the UK and the Ukraine before that whose 'fraudulent activities were carried out intelligently, tenaciously and ruthlessly'. This fat, greedy tycoon was either pushed or jumped off his yacht after going into massive debt and defrauding the pension funds of his failing media empire. His body was found floating somewhere in the Atlantic causing a big stink no doubt.

To venture into the publishing business you need either to be already immensely rich or have to start from the bottom and work up, be nice and get backing from advertisers. In the small expat community of this tropical city, to be a publisher you have to be nice to everyone, do the rounds of openings and parties and look well groomed with a good set of smiling pearly teeth and more importantly write articles that keep your advertisers on board. That means write positive articles especially about food and drink because if you look at the monthlies published for the benefit of expats, they are generally kept solvent by the advertising revenues of restaurants and real estate agencies. Write negative articles and you will go down. Magazine design is also essential. Compare the designs of Mazatlán's two monthly information magazines - one is getting there and the other is positively awful.

To be a food and drink critic it is essential you keep in with the restaurants and bars and choose good establishments before you go so you can write a positive review. This also ensures the waiters won't spit in you dish before they bring it from the kitchen. I have worked in many of the top kitchens around Europe and I know that happens. (My rice pudding was voted best in London by a famous critic Fay Maschler, but my spit roast suckling pig was given an indifferent review but that didn't warrant putting glass in the critics dish.) So if you fear having spit in your food, anonymity is the best approach and come with a guest as single diners can sometimes be picked out as a critic especially if they spend a lot of time perusing the menu, ordering many dishes and not eating them all and generally looking shifty writing on a pad.

Here at MazReal we don't have to be sycophantic and can be as disparaging as we need to be so we will be discussing two establishments - one an eatery that needs to be banned or even destroyed and the other is a bar in a very strange location.


Thorney pretending to share a joke with an imaginary long line of people waiting for service outside his dark hole-in-the-wall eatery 'Thorney's Surf Burger Bar'.

Thorney is the proprietor of a dirty hole in the wall that sells "The Surf Burger". It has a greasy grill, a grubby refrigerator and concrete tiled bar and metal stools to sit on. There are a set of white hand prints on the wall that seem to me to have come from a person frothing at the mouth dying of food poisoning trying desperately to find a way out. They go inwards in a disorientated way and I fear for that person's life. Thorney sleeps in the dark recesses of his hole on a brown stained mattress behind an unwashed curtain strung over a piece of string attached to the walls. Thorney hovers inside waiting for custom. Sometimes he leans on the 'Take Away' bar smoking a cigarette and swatting flies with a red fly swat that never leaves his hand. He told me he makes the best Surf Burgers in town and in fact makes "The Surf Burger." According to my research a surf burger is meat patty burger with fresh ingredients and sometimes a 'special' sauce that is served from a reputable bar or restaurant that is close to the sea.

On enquiry Thorney said after smashing a fly on the counter with his swat:

"I make my speciality surf burgers with mashed up shrimp and a special sauce."

He picked up the fly with his finger, looked closely at it and flicked it into his kitchen.

"You don't seem to be busy." I said looking at the dead coals under his grill.

Not one for conversation, "It gets busier." he said grinning a huge grin and taking a deep drag on his cigarette.

I have never seen anyone sitting at his bar enjoying The Surf Burger and I presume the only people he may persuade to enter his premises are those unfortunate people who carry a white cane and wear dark glasses. If they are even more unfortunate to have lost their sense of smell and taste he may watch them get stuck into one of his legendary surf burgers but I don't think they have ever left the premises. I now know that 'special' ingredient he keeps banging on about is 'blind person'.

Thorney and his fly swat sharing a joke with no one in particular.

Hang on a minute maybe we should have second thoughts about blowing up Thorney. You've all seen that interminably long cartoon about Parisian rats cooking 5 star cuisine called Ratatouille, well we think Thorney keeps a rat in his hat that dictates in squeaky rat language what goes into THE Surf Burger and in fact it is absolutely brilliant. I did however notice his hat moving around his head during the short interview but that could be roaches. So in conclusion it is probably a wise move to allow Thorney's Surf Burger Emporium to stand as it is as a classic example of how not to get into the business of hygienic public catering.

Keep smiling Thorney!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Mazatlán Artists Good and Bad. Good Artist Number 1


We have a new art critic - Drake Lovelace - who will make the rounds and comment back here on MazReal and decide once and for all who we think deserves to be labelled creative artists in old Mazatlán. The reason so much average or absolutely awful art gets promoted is that no one seems to understand what criticisms are; if nothing is properly criticised, mediocrity triumphs. A critic is basically an arrogant bastard who says, "this is good, this is bad" without necessarily being able to explain why. The truth is, we feel this stuff in our bones and therefore feel we are right. Of course, by being so blunt, we run the risk of vilification. But we are just trying to be honest.

Art is an adventure into an unknown world, which can only be explored by those willing to take risks." said Mark Rothko the great American Abstract Expressionist and an art walk itself should also be an adventure. I am that new critic who has been paid vast sums to spend time in this fine city of Mazatlán to walk the art walk incognito and drink beer in the local bars. On the art walk I have come across one or two local artists who can be labelled creative and adventurous and mysterious and in the words of that great essayist, critic and poet Paul Valéry, “To find is nothing. The trick is to add to what you find” and the Mazatlán artist Lucila Santiago is a great finder. She also knows how to keep a sense of mystery to keep the viewer fascinated.

Her latest on-going project is called ASTILLEROS – Shipyards. This particular shipyard owned by Strategic Marine Australia is off the road that leads out to the airport and here they built 50 metre aluminium boats for PEMEX used for oilrig to shore personnel transport and next to it a smaller yard with two bright red tugboats sitting onshore undergoing repairs.

Picasso said “A green parrot is also a green salad” With it he meant that an artist who copies the scene in front of him diminishes its reality and blinds himself to the real scene.

Lucila Santiago sees things otherwise and these wonderful paintings from her recent exhibition Astilleros reinforce that idea.

Unfortunately I have come across many artists on the art walk who are more than mediocre and are in fact downright awful. More about them in further blogs. In the meantime I, Drake Lovelace, will be touring the studios and establishments of fine art in Europe brushing up on the knew talent and casting an eye over the old masters while the Mazatlán art scene closes its' doors for the Mexican summer. Let us hope there is some intense creative activity going on behind those doors and under those brain chilling air conditioning systems.


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