Friday, March 25, 2011

Ryan Pyle Blog: Guinness World Records


In a very round about way, today's blog posting is a "one of a kind". Many of you have followed along as my brother Colin and I rode our motorcycles around China during our 65 day - 18,000km - odyssey. While it was the hardest, and one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, it also appears that it was a first.

My brother and I became the first people to ride a motorcycle around China, and we also were awarded a Guinness World Record for the longest continuous motorcycle journey within a single country. It is a very surreal feeling to know that Colin and I are now Guinness World Record holders for endurance motorcycling. Our press release is below. Please "Like" us on our Facebook page and be sure to stay up to date on our film, DVD and book release.

Online Guinness Record: Follow this LINK.

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Our Website:
March 21th 2011
PRWEB Press Release

Canadian Brothers Set a World Record for their 18,000km Journey around China on BMW Motorcycles.

Canadian brothers Colin and Ryan Pyle are honored to receive an award by the Guinness World RecordsTM for their 18,000km odyssey around China on BMW F800GS motorcycles. Their journey will become a documentary film and book entitled The Middle Kingdom Ride.

"It’s an honor to be recognized by the GWRTM for what was 65 of the most exhilarating, exhausting, and rewarding, days of my life. We have taken our BMW motorcycles through the toughest terrain in the world, and we’re alive to tell the story!” Ryan Pyle

On March 09th 2011 Canadian brothers Colin and Ryan Pyle received a confirmation by the Guinness World RecordsTM that they had indeed set a World Record for their motorcycle journey around China. According to the Guinness World RecordsTM the name of the record they received was for the “Longest Journey by Motorcycle in a Single Country”.

Canadian brothers Colin and Ryan Pyle completed their epic motorcycle journey by returning back to Shanghai on Sunday October 17th 2010, after 65 days on the road circumnavigating China on their BMW F800GS motorcycles. Their journey was a unique one, as they have become the first riders to fully circumnavigate China by motorcycle in one single journey. During their remarkable 17,674km odyssey the brothers have encountered some of the most intense changes in culture, weather, altitude and terrain that exist in the world. They tackled heavy rains, flooding, landslides, freak hailstorms, extreme altitude (above 5000m/16,000ft), sand, gravel, thousands of kilometers of road construction and even bureaucratic / military interference.

Colin and Ryan intend to produce both a documentary film and a written book on their experiences in China, which have been far from regular. Anytime someone puts him or herself out there, into the wild, and opens themselves up to the experiences of such a vast and unique country one can’t help but encounter moments of danger, humor, sadness, gratification and personal gain and setback. Their journey will prove to be both colorful and dramatic, both intense and fulfilling.

Colin and Ryan Pyle are brothers from Toronto, Canada. But that’s about all they have in common. Ryan has spent the last decade in China building his career as a [Documentary Photographer]. Colin stayed closer to home, in Toronto, and built up, and sold, his own successful currency trading company. Together they plan to showcase much of China’s change and development from factory to farm. The general purpose of the trip is to put China on display. To explore the visual and cultural wonders that is China. With a massive population, crowded cities, abundant minorities and its stunning natural landscape; China offers a traveler an experience like no other. Colin and Ryan have titled their project, “The Middle Kingdom Ride”, as China’s historical name was once The Middle Kingdom.

Ryan and Colin will be raising money for the [SEVA Foundation] during their journey. SEVA, is a San Francisco based charity that has, for more than 30 years, been serving people around the world who are struggling for health, cultural survival and sustainable communities.

You can follow The Middle Kingdom Ride at [], [FACEBOOK], [YouTube] and [Twitter].

The Middle Kingdom Ride would have never happened without our amazing sponsors: [Mandarin House Language School], BMW China, Touratech, The Tomson Group, Airhawk, Pelican Products, Kodak, Oakley, Cardo Systems, and Lowe Pro.

Ryan Pyle

Friday, March 18, 2011

Ryan Pyle Blog: Being Gay in China


I read an article by Nicola Davison a few weeks back on what it was like to be gay in China, and I thought the article was revealing and interesting and well worth sharing. Please be sure that while China has it's own problems with gay people, so does much of the rest of Asia, notably Japan and Muslim Indonesia.

For what my opinion is worth, I really enjoyed this piece by Nicola. I like how she followed the stories of a few people and showed the lengths that people will go to in order to hide who they really are. A copy of the article is below, as is the original link.
Copyright: SLATE

Original Store: LINK

Title: Gay Marriage With Chinese Characteristics. A visit to a Shanghai fake-marriage market, where lesbians and gay men meet to find a husband or wife.

Written By: Nicola Davison

SHANGHAI, China—"I'm here to find a lesbian, to be with me and to build a home," No. 11 says to the crowd clustered on floor cushions at a sunlit yoga studio in Shanghai. No. 11 is a muscular man in a flannel shirt and cargo pants, and he easily commands the attention of the crowd of 40 or so young men and women who are gingerly sipping glasses of wine and whispering to their neighbors.

"In my view, a 30-year-old man should start thinking about having a family, but two men can't hold each other's hands in the street. We're not allowed to be a family," he says. The crowd nods.

I'm at a fake-marriage market, where Chinese lesbians and gay men meet to find a potential husband or wife. In China, the pressure to form a heterosexual marriage is so acute that 80 percent of China's gay population marries straight people, according to sexologist Li Yinhe, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. To avoid such unions, six months ago, Shanghai's biggest gay Web site,, started to hold marriage markets once a month.

Thirty minutes earlier, I triple-checked the address scrawled in my notebook. The studio—located in a high-rise apartment complex—seems an unlikely spot for a fake-marriage market. "The boss of the yoga studio is very kind to us," says Fen Ye, my guide. Slipping off my shoes at the doorway, I pad up stairs lined with Buddhas in the red plastic flip-flops provided. When Fen slides open a door to reveal men and women chatting quietly, conversation falters. "They weren't expecting a foreigner," he whispers, adding, "and don't tell anyone you're a reporter. I'll just say you're my lesbian friend." He bustles me to a cushion on the floor and hands me a glass of Chinese red wine.

Precautions are necessary for an event like this. Though there are an estimated 30 million to 40 million gay people in China—there has been no official count—even simple actions such as trying to access Wikipedia's "LGBT" page often result in a "This webpage is not available" message. Chinese society has adopted a "don't ask, don't tell" policy. A 2007 survey by Li Yinhe found that 70 percent of Chinese people think homosexuality is either "a little" or "completely" wrong, and only 7.5 percent of respondents said they knew a gay person.

While past generations buried their sexuality in straight marriages, the people gathered at the yoga studio are trying a new approach. No. 8 (the men sport numbered buttons in a pleasing shade of blue, the women's are pink), a pretty 22-year-old woman with curly dyed chestnut hair, skinny jeans, and Snoopy slippers wants a fake marriage to ease parental pressure, but she doesn't want a baby. No. 15, a strikingly tall man with side-swept bangs, says: "I want to get married for my parents, but I think lying to them will make me feel terrible. So I want to have a fake marriage with a lesbian girl, but just for one or two years, and then I want a divorce to show my parents that I am not a marriage type." There's one constant: All the participants talk about pleasing their parents.

Influential Zhou Dynasty Confucian scholar Mencius said that the "most serious" way to be unfilial is to not produce an heir. It's an idea that still reverberates through China's family-centric culture. In contemporary slang, single women over the age of 27 are known as sheng nu or "leftovers."

"I could absolutely not come out to my parents. If I could tell them I was gay, I wouldn't have needed to get married," says my guide, 30-year-old Fen, as we sit in a converted Shanghainese shikumen lane house near the popular tourist spot People's Park. We're talking about his lesbian wife, whom he met on

"I had a big, traditional Chinese wedding. It lasted for three days, and there were maybe 500 people there. My parents were so happy," says Fen, who knew his wife for seven months before they married. "In your job, in your social life, and for family gatherings, you need to bring a partner. It's hard to do these things alone in China. My grandfather and grandmother … everyone was waiting for me to get married. The wedding felt like a task I needed to accomplish, something I needed to get through step-by-step, a bit like doing homework."

For many gay men, the chance to experience parenthood—and to provide a grandchild for longing parents—is a distinct advantage of these unions. At the yoga studio marriage market, almost every man says he wants a baby, Fen included. "[On the Web site] I said that I didn't want to have a sex life with my wife—absolutely none." Although he says he and his wife are not "very good friends," they have discussed having a child. "For a baby we will maybe use artificial insemination," he says.

Past generations did things differently. The Lai Lai dancehall, in a rundown corner of Shanghai's Hongkou district, is a refuge for gay but married men. Every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night, about 200 men crowd the dance floor in their mismatched suits, twirling together in the green light and cigarette smoke. When they're not dancing, they sit in groups around the edge, nursing flasks of tea, though beer is available for 75 cents a glass.

Zhang, who is 55 and married with children, goes every week. "You can find gay bars in every city, but a dancehall like this only in Shanghai," he says. While tinny speakers rattle out familiar patriotic songs, the dancing stays elegant and refined. Flirting is discreet, barely noticeable. "Older gay men feel comfortable in this place," Zhang tells me. "Because the dancehall starts early, they can go home to their families and keep it secret. Though sometimes the wives come to look for their husbands, and then other people have to persuade them that their husband is just dancing."

But 30-year-old Mu Mu knew that her husband was not "just dancing." Just after she became pregnant, Mu Mu's husband started openly dating men. "I knew he was gay before we got married," says the Shanghai resident over the phone to protect her anonymity. "But the word gay was really strange to me. I read that being gay is something you're born as, but other people said it's like a disease that can be healed. Because I loved him a lot, I hoped that maybe he would change." It wasn't until a year after the birth of their daughter, and after her husband brought home another man to live with them, that Mu Mu left him.

Mu Mu is one of China's estimated 16 million to 25 million "homowives"—or tongqi in pinyin (the word is an amalgamation of the Mandarin for gay and wife)—women who are married to gay men.

"The happiest time of our marriage was when I gave birth to our daughter," says Mu Mu. "That one week when I was in the hospital, he took care of me and the baby. Much of the rest of the time I felt abandoned."

For many women, speaking out about their gay husbands is more difficult than staying in loveless marriages, but in the last few years Web-based support groups have started to form. Li, 33, is a volunteer on a homowife support forum on QQ, a Chinese social networking site. Her job involves giving advice and answering questions, and she is often the only person the homowives confide in. "The women are desperate," she explains over iced tea on a busy shopping street in central Shanghai. "At first they feel shock, and they don't know what to do, because people don't know much about gay people. They think their husband is a disturbed person."

While it's relatively easy to get divorced in China, Li says, many women stick with the marriages for complicated reasons. "Some stay because they still love their husband. He's a good person, and a good father, and they want their children to have a father," she says. Another reason is social stigma. "Most of the women can't go to their friends, they don't think they will be able to accept it or understand. Which is true. I think in China people make a moral judgment about it. [The women] think people will think, 'Wow, your husband would prefer to be with a man than with you—what a loser.' "

But there are tentative signs of change. Pink Space, a Beijing-based sexuality research center, started a support group for homowives earlier this year—the first of its kind in China. Zhang Beichan, a director at the China Sexology Association, thinks the homowife "problem" is shrinking. "In 2005, a TV station put out a program about gay issues, and I introduced a homowife who talked about her problems. This was one of the first times this issue was introduced to the public. It had a very big impact—some gay men still share that program with their families when they are pressured into getting married. Also, there are more and more gay men coming out of the closet, and more awareness of gay issues."

Back at the fake-marriage market, Fen Yu and his friends see themselves as the "transitional" generation. While they can't come out to their parents, they can, at least, be open about their sexuality among friends, go to gay bars, and date. "For the generation after ours, it might be easier," he says, "Our parents have no idea what homosexuality is. It's very difficult, because it's just opening up."

If Fen becomes a father, his will be a different approach: "I might not be able to tell my parents," he says, "but when my child grows up, I will tell them the real story about why it happened and who I am."

Ryan Pyle

Friday, March 11, 2011

Ryan Pyle Blog: Huffington Post Purchase


I know most of the media world has moved on, but I think it's worth while to revisit what this purchase means and what it might (or might not) mean for content producers like myself. Uh, I cringe when I use that term to describe my art work, but alas my imagery is the content that fills pages of magazines and using "Account-Speak" I am a content producer and nothing more. Sad but true, but let's stay on track and get back tot he point of this blog - The Internet Publishing Model.

Back a few weeks ago the world all learned, as I did, that online media is worth something. Sure, the big story here is that AOL is trying to remake itself, but that issue is secondary for me. The real headline grabber is that an online newspaper that started off with a USD 1 million investment and operated much like a blog was just purchased for USD 315 million. Wow, that's a lot of Chinese RMB.

Is this a game changer for online media? Will online portals start paying for writers and photographers to create content? Could this be the beginning of a turn around for content producers like myself? Sadly, I don't think so. The Huffington Post seems to operate in a real niche market and tends to be very writer driven, which is odd for an online publication. The rumors I've heard is that they pay a few "big name" columnists a lot of money, and the rest of the content they pull in at very low cost from wire services and bloggers.

As a person who does not frequently visit the Huffington Post portal I was pretty surprised by its coverage: being a unique mix of one half politics, one half economics and one half celebrity. On top of that it seems to do well covering local markets, like Chicago and Denver, no doubt pulling audiences away from local newspapers and magazines in those areas.

I think a big congratulations goes out to the Huffington Post owners and management team for creating value out of online content. Will this deal shake the industry? Maybe not right away, but the next time a online publications contacts you asking for free imagery for writing you can call their bluff and let them you know exactly what online media is worth. Let's pray it's a game changer.

Original Story LINK
Copyright: The New York Times

AOL’s Bet on Another Makeover
SAN FRANCISCO — AOL is trying to remake itself, yet again.

The new strategy in many ways resembles the old strategy: make acquisitions to attract traffic and reverse a continuing decline in advertising and revenue from its dial-up Internet service. In the latest iteration of its do-over, it is paying $315 million to buy the liberal news commentary site The Huffington Post, not long after paying $25 million to buy TechCrunch, the Silicon Valley technology news blog.

But skepticism runs deep that this effort will be any more successful than the many other makeovers it has tried in the last decade.

“My gut says that the clock has run out for AOL, but I’m happy to see someone make a bold bet,” said Salim Ismail, a former Yahoo executive. “Doing nothing is worse.”

AOL has its doubters among investors. Its shares fell 75 cents, or 3.42 percent, to close at $21.19 on Monday.

Even some AOL insiders poked fun at The Huffington Post deal. Michael Arrington, the voluble founder of TechCrunch, who frequently ridicules AOL’s bureaucracy even though he now works for the company, did so again on Monday. “I want to know right now,” he wrote in a post on Twitter to Arianna Huffington, the site’s founder, on Monday morning, “whether or not you had to sit thru the four-hour orientation meeting.” Several hours earlier, he wrote that he liked her, “despite her insane politics.”

AOL is making a big bet on Ms. Huffington. She has been given the task by AOL’s chief executive, Timothy M. Armstrong, of stitching together the company’s disparate content sites into a cohesive news factory for the digital age. But turning that vision into reality will be a challenge, given that AOL is beset by a decade-long decline in its core legacy business of dial-up Internet service as well as declining revenue from online advertising.

Indeed, despite traffic of 112 million visitors a month, AOL’s online advertising fell 26 percent last year, to $1.28 billion, while advertising for the rest of the industry rose 17 percent, according to eMarketer. Revenue from its dial-up subscribers also declined 26 percent, to $1.02 billion.

Finding a way to replace revenue from AOL’s declining dial-up business is an imperative for Mr. Armstrong, who took over as chief executive in 2009.

The company has gone through multiple overhauls over the years, but none of them have worked. It bought a collection of blogs, including Engadget and Joystiq, in 2005. It bought an advertising network, Tacoda, for $275 million in 2007. It lurched yet another direction when it bought Bebo, a social networking site in 2008, but sold that last year for a fraction of the $850 million it paid. It also made its subscription e-mail service free, like Google’s or Yahoo’s, yet it lost users.

Mr. Armstrong is now focusing his turnaround effort on editorial content, one of AOL’s traditional strengths.

Mr. Armstrong’s vision resembles that of another chief executive struggling to resurrect a legacy Internet company, Carol A. Bartz of Yahoo.

Internet users would come get a variety of news from one source. In AOL’s case it would be local news from Patch, technology start-up news at TechCrunch and cultural and political news from The Huffington Post. AOL also would provide information from its Mapquest and Moviefone services.

But AOL has yet to show signs of progress with this model, though AOL executives have said that its display advertising business will pick up in the second half of 2011.

“This huge transition that Tim Armstrong is trying to pull off hasn’t worked yet,” said Ken Doctor, a news industry analyst with Outsell and author of the book “Newsonomics.” Mr. Doctor said, “They have all these assets that aren’t recognizable as a single company.”

AOL finds itself in the rare position of selling less online advertising, while all around it major media companies are selling more. AOL’s problem is that it is still dependent on subscribers, those people who pay a minimum of $10 a month for dial-up service, to support its advertising business. AOL’s paying subscribers peaked at 26.7 million subscribers in 2003, but has now dropped to 3.85 million. That’s 86 percent fewer people looking at ads on AOL.

Mr. Armstrong is counting on The Huffington Post to lift online advertising by lifting traffic and page views. Eventually, AOL hopes to rebuild on this new foundation.

How does Ms. Huffington change that? Huffington Post is a master of finding stories across the Web, stripping them to their essence and placing well-created headlines on them that rise to the top of search engine results, guaranteeing a strong audience. For instance, on Sunday it posted an article that was pure search engine bait, “What Time Does the Super Bowl Start?”

Mr. Armstrong said that he hoped to accelerate The Huffington Post’s growth by tying it in with AOL’s other properties, and in turn lift traffic to those other properties. Expanding The Huffington Post internationally and creating a video version of The Huffington Post are among the planned projects.

Mr. Armstrong said that this time AOL’s remodeling would be different. Unlike the previous failed strategies by his predecessors at AOL, he said in an interview Monday, “We’re betting on something that’s a known quantity and something that’s going to happen.”

Buying The Huffington Post is “doubling down” on that strategy, he said.

He said, for instance, that The Huffington Post created a second front door for users into AOL’s content and gave AOL the ability to cut content in different ways and target advertising.

“Huffington Post is a scaled version of what we’ve been doing.”

AOL can help to improve The Huffington Post, which he says, commands low rates from advertisers. Paring with AOL will lift The Huffington Post’s traffic. AOL increased TechCrunch’s traffic by 30 percent since its acquisition, he said.

Mr. Armstrong acknowledged the skepticism about AOL given its past failed turnaround efforts. But he said that growth in online advertising would ultimately offset the loss in dial-up subscribers sometime in 2013.

“We are essentially two years away from a growth business on the Internet.”

AOL will pay for The Huffington Post out of nearly $802 million in cash on hand at the end of 2010. The remainder provides a cushion for expansion.

“They need to buy their way out of the access business, and this is a pretty big step in that direction,” said Youssef H. Squali, an analyst with Jefferies & Company.

Ryan Pyle

Friday, March 04, 2011

Ryan Pyle Blog: New Work: The Butter Lamp Festival


I've recently completed some work that I thought be of interest to my blog followers.

I traveled to the Ganden Monastery, located in Central Tibet, during winter to photograph the Butter Lamp festival. The reason for visiting was that years ago, on a previous assignment, a local once told me that she had always wished to celebrate the Butter Lamp festival at the Ganden Monastery because of the special Thanka (large carpet with painted Buddha) that is unveiled during that celebration. I marked it down on a my list as something that I was keen to photograph. And so I was finally able to make the trip, and it was an amazing visual experience at over 16,000 feet; I spent most of the next two days in bed with altitude sickness after shooting the festival. Details are below.

What is the Butter Lamp Festival?

The Tibet Butter Lamp Festival is celebrated on the final day of the Great Prayer Festival The event was also established way back in 1409 by Tsong Khapa to celebrate the victory of Sakyamuni against heretics in a religious debate. At that time he commissioned monks to make flowers and trees with colored butter. This tradition has been maintained to this day. In the past, various giant butter and butter sculptures, in forms of auspicious symbols and figures, were displayed on Barkhor Street in Lhasa. But today things are toned down an the festival is centered around the display of thousands of small hand held butter lamps.

What is the Ganden Monastery?

The Ganden Monastery was the original monastery in the Geluk order, founded by Je Tsongkhapa himself in 1409, and traditionally considered to be the seat of Geluk administrative and political power. Being the farthest from Lhasa of the three university monasteries, Ganden traditionally had a smaller population with some 6,000 monks in the early 20th century. Ganden Monastery consisted of two principal original colleges, Jangtse and Shartse, meaning North Peak and East Peak respectively. Ganden Monastery contained more than two dozen major chapels with large Buddha statues. The largest chapel was capable of seating 3,500 monks.

Below is an edit of the photography completed at the Ganden Monastery, part of the Yellow Hat Sect of Tibetan Buddhism.

My Favorite Images: LINK#1 & LINK #2

For anyone interested, the work was shot on two Lecia M6's. One had a 50mm f/1.4 and the other had a 28mm f/2.0. The work was shot on Kodak Color 100 VS film.

Ryan Pyle