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China, October 12, 1999

At Least The Music Is Cheap

Everybody wants to steel you a CD!

Chinese music is so bad, we gotta make our own
Better than Tori Amos!
VCD! VCD! CD! VCD! Look, look, I have CD!

This is what ya'll hear if you look Western, as I do, and you walk anywhere in Beijing. Unlike Moscow, where they have a specific pirate CD market, it is illegal, or so they say, to buy and sell pirate CD's in China. This is complete crap in reality, but it makes for an odd scene when you're at the Silk Market.

No, it doesn't really sell silk anymore; just oodles of pirate North Face coats and Timberland shoes swiped from the factory, but the market it full of CD hawkers. Today, while getting a few pages added to my visa a the US Embassy, conveniently located right in the middle of the market, I decided to take a look at their selection.

Usually I just shove past 'em, or try and pre-empt their sales pitch with a forceful 'Neyt,' but today I wanted some tunes to work out with later. Chinese TV has one MTV-ish station that figures Tori Amos is fast enough for one billion people to jam to. Me, I go faster than that, so I found myself following this lady down a few back alleys into a small enclosed area perfect for a mugging, rape, or murder in DC. Back there, she opened a small desk to reveal a sports bag full of CDs in small plastic bags. I quickly passed the Tori Amos, Cher, Abba, and Pink Floyd recordings, only finding Madonna's Ray of Ling and one disco compilation suitable for my listening pleasure.

While I was looking, a line of other CD sellers formed behind the first lady, all with thick sports bags hanging from their shoulders. I flipped through a few more selections before I became numb to Spice Girls, Seal, and Beatles CDs, with my eyes glazing and my hands hurting from glancing at all those covers.

At 10 RMB, or about $1.20, I can't complain about the price, but the selection was pretty poor. I miss the Russian/Bulgarian connection and their acreage of CD kiosks. No, I just miss Moscow in general!

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