“The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead station.”

Back in China. I had been feeling like the frequency of my travel here had diminished some of the (wander)luster of the place. Until last night, that is. We were having dinner with the History Channel team (who are making a documentary which includes my project here), but my pal Victor re-routed my driver to meet him at a Starbucks at a mall somewhere in the megapolis known as Beijing. Ninety minutes of the most infuriating, nauseating traffic later, I was there. I was so jetlagged, tired, irritated, and sick of the car that I only wanted alcohol or a bed.

I was too out of it to notice that I was standing directly underneath a 22,000 square foot television screen.

The thing is simply too massive to believe. You wonder instantly at what resolution it displays and then how in the hell content is created for it. The answers sort of inform each other: ginormous and artificially. That is, it is simply too large (and odd) a format for video, except some sort of composite montage which it never showed. Everything is animated CGI. Victor says the variety of content is amazing, though I all saw was this underwater scene, the best screensaver I’ve ever zoned out to.

It is also a pickpocket’s wet dream. Think of it, a destination that entrances shoppers and keeps them looking straight up. I was there on a cold night, so the crowds were thin. But that didn’t stop Johnny Quickfingers, no. He brushed aside me, muttered apology, then vectored off empty-handed into the wide open space like so much Brownian motion. Our gazes locked and I flashed him a you-fucking-amateur look. If you’re going to burgle my person at least do it with panache … or complete stealth. Jeez.

As a sidenote, a little more than three years ago this blog started on a similar trip with the History Channel to make a documentary of the Eternal Egypt project.