Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The thing about the past is...

It's not stagnant. Much like history, which is written by the victors, it changes with time and circumstance. It's vulnerable to alteration, and manipulation, and if not for the efforts of the vigilant and valiant, it can disappear like smoke.

I'm reading two books about China that came out over the past year -- I wanted to read them this summer and would have if not for the Olympics -- and I'm struck by two separate but related passages:

Peter Hessler, Oracle Bones:

The [Nanjing Massacre] memorial featured signs in Chinese, English, and Japanese:



Philip Pan, Out of Mao's Shadow:

There were dozens of other graveyards with victims of the Cultural Revolution scattered across Chongqing. The party demolished them all after Mao's death. The cemetery in Shapingba Park has survived, Zeng said, but the government "wants it to erode and deteriorate naturally. It wants people to forget about what happened. But I think it would be a tremendous loss if this history were forgotten, because it was cast in the blood and tears of the Chinese people. Furture generations must learn these lessons so tragedies like this don't happen again.

"In the future, when people visit this cemeery, the words on the tombstones won't be visible anymore," he added. "I hope my written record can fill in the blanks."

Monday, November 24, 2008

A brief note from the U.S.

When this site returns, the content will be different -- more focused, relevant and interesting. No more random pictures, and no more self-indulgent cat stories. I have a personal blog for that.

As for when I'll write regularly on here again, that is still in the air. Trying to return to Beijing in late-winter/early-spring. Process may be expedited if I'm introduced to job opportunities before then.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The most amazing sentence...

From the NY Times:

Barack Hussein Obama was elected the 44th president of the United States on Tuesday, sweeping away the last racial barrier in American politics with ease as the country chose him as its first black chief executive.

Read that a few times over. Barack Hussein Obama has been elected president of the most powerful country in the free world.

Only in America.

POSTSCRIPT: This entry was posted almost word-for-word in my other blog, but it's worth it. An incredible night.

From Hong Kong with love: What you looking at?

A preview...

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Pictures of the day

Via good friend Reid, still of Beijing:

The first picture is of Darlie toothpaste, which longtime China residents will always know as Darkie toothpaste -- what it was called before someone politely informed the company that you can't, even in China, name a product darkie.

The second picture is of Omo detergent, which... well, who knows.

China and Taiwan agree on trade

More later, but this breaking news from AP is worth is own post:

TAIPEI, Taiwan – Negotiators from China and Taiwan have signed an agreement that expands passenger flights and allows shipping links across the Taiwan Strait.

The deal approved Tuesday increases the number of weekly passenger flights between the two sides from 36 to 108. The agreement also allows 60 cargo flights per month and direct shipping links.

The historic session came a day after Chen Yunlin — the highest-ranking Chinese official to visit Taiwan in six decades — was greeted on arrival by anti-China protesters waving signs, calling him a communist bandit and rallying outside the legislature.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

China's peasant Olympics

Straight out of The Onion, except... it's real. And would you believe this is the sixth time it's happening?

QUANZHOU, China (AFP) – Two months after China's elite athletes dazzled the world at the Beijing Olympics, the sporting prowess of its 900 million peasant farmers is getting its turn in the spotlight this week at China's 6th National Peasant Games.

Time's China blog has pictures, like this one:

Video here from AFP. "This is our Olympics," says a rural Chinese girl.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Job posting at Beijing Review

Now that I'm in the States, these no longer concern me:

Seeking Ace Copy Editor:

I.Beijing Review, a weekly English news magazine, needs one full-time English language copy editor.

Job Description and Qualification Applicants must: 1. Be a native English speaker; 2. Have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in journalism or have substantial work experience in journalism at a general news magazine or newspaper; and 3. Be able to work under pressure, have experience working on an international team and have a keen news sense about Chinese affairs.

Responsibilities 1. To write, rewrite, edit and polish articles; 2. To participate in editorial planning and help with cover design and layout; 3. To write or rewrite key articles, headlines and captions; 4. To do interviews as requested; 5. To participate in editorial meetings and other key routine editorial work; and 6. To train Chinese editors and reporters.

Please send your CV with date of birth, nationality, marital status and gender to: Ms Pan Shuangqin International Cooperation Dept., Beijing Review 24 Baiwanzhuang Rd., Beijing 100037, China Or E-mail:

II.Beijing Review’s ChinAfrica, a monthly English news magazine, needs two full-time English language copy editors.

Job Description and Qualification Applicants must: 1. Be a native English speaker, also fluent in French (written and oral); 2. Have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in journalism or have substantial work experience in journalism at a general news magazine or newspaper; and 3. Be able to work under pressure, have experience working on an international team and have a keen news sense about Chinese and African affairs.

Responsibilities 1. To write, rewrite, edit and polish articles; 2. To participate in editorial planning and help with cover design and layout; 3. To write or rewrite key articles, headlines and captions; 4. To do interviews as requested; 5. To participate in editorial meetings and other key routine editorial work; and 6. To train Chinese editors and reporters.

Please send your CV with date of birth, nationality, marital status and gender to Ms Pan Shuangqin International Cooperation Dept., Beijing Review 24 Baiwanzhuang Rd., Beijing 100037, China Or E-mail:


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Back in the U.S.A.

Where the Internet is free and the people are portly. And the skies... wow. Let the sunshine in, indeed.

Far from bringing this blog to a close, however, I'm going to keep it active indefinitely, both as a reminder that I should return to Beijing before too long (within half a year, I'm hoping) and as a way to keep up-to-date China happenings.

For now, however, I need to organize my life here and retrieve my luggage (it's still at the airport while I'm at home. Long story.) Will check back later.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Back from Hong Kong

And preparing to spend one last day in Beijing before heading back to the States tomorrow.

I know what you're all asking: how did we fare at the party on Saturday?

Just ask yourself: can a team that looks like this...

...possibly lose?

More to come later.

(We were one of four teams to finish 3-1 after Day 1 in our Ultimate competition, but since we won our cross-over game we were the two-seed heading into Day 2's tourney. We beat Hong Kong in the quarters, then Ringers of Fire on Universe Point in semis before losing to Sunken Pleasure from the Philippines, 15-12, in finals.)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Be honest: do I look more like Optimus Prime...

...or a Klan member?

Keep in mind that I've yet to find a black marker with which to draw in the facial features of Optimus, plus you don't see my silver belt, blue shin armor and blue fists of steel, i.e. shoe boxes around my hands concealing bottles of silly string which I can blast out of apertures. Also, that tubing on my arm, when rolled up, looks so much cooler. (I have trouble getting out of that thing as is; with the tubing on my shoulders, forget about it.)

Let me explain: I'm leaving for Hong Kong tomorrow via train for an Ultimate Frisbee tournament, and at the Saturday party our team is going to dress up as characters from the catchy music video Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny and do a reenactment. One of our captains, Doc, came up with this idea, as he comes up with all our good ones. At the last tournament in Shanghai we made Monopoly placards and had conditions written on the front, such as "If hotel is owned, lick nipples." I was Waterworks. Those who stood next to me had to take a swig of baijiu, which I was double-fisting... until someone bought a bottle off me using Monopoly money.

POSTSCRIPT: The Return of Optimus Prime: the most famous Transformers episode ever?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Chinese oil workers kidnapped in Sudan

From AP:

KHARTOUM, Sudan – Nine Chinese oil workers were kidnapped in an oil-rich region of southwestern Sudan in the latest attack on China's interests in the African country, officials said Sunday.

Sudanese officials blamed a Darfur rebel group for Saturday's kidnapping, calling it a stab at development efforts in Sudan. The attack took place outside the western Darfur region and none of the Darfur rebel groups, who have fought the central government for five years, claimed responsibility.

As we get more information I may have more thoughts, but for now I'll say that this reminds me of an article by Peter Hitchens last month. Basically, after almost getting killed by a murderous mob in Zambia, he wrote a withering and -- to be quite honest -- blathering anti-China piece titled "How China has created a new slave empire in China." I excerpt from the Daily Mail:

It is my view - and not just because I was so nearly killed - that China's cynical new version of imperialism in Africa is a wicked enterprise.

China offers both rulers and the ruled in Africa the simple, squalid advantages of shameless exploitation.

For the governments, there are gargantuan loans, promises of new roads, railways, hospitals and schools - in return for giving Peking a free and tax-free run at Africa's rich resources of oil, minerals and metals.

For the people, there are these wretched leavings, which, miserable as they are, must be better than the near-starvation they otherwise face.

Read the article with a critical eye -- that is, ignore the part where he describes his narrow escape from death's grip, or whatever -- and you'll see this isn't an article at all: it's an op-ed, and a poorly conceived one. (Is it just me, or do most British articles seem terribly subjective and biased, not to mention poorly written?) For example, edit out some of Hitchens's select adjectives and this is what you get:

It is my view that China's new version of imperialism in Africa is a(n) enterprise.

China offers both rulers and the ruled in Africa the simple advantages of exploitation.

For the governments, there are gargantuan loans, new roads, railways, hospitals and schools - in return for giving Peking a tax-free run at Africa's resources of oil, minerals and metals.

For the people, there are these leavings, which must be better than the near-starvation they otherwise face.

In other words, when viewed with an objective eye instead of one from a guy who "was so nearly killed," there's no evidence that the enterprise is "wicked"; there's no evidence that the "promises" of those new roads, railways, etc., were, as Hitchens implies, empty promises; there's no evidence that the leavings are "wretched." And one has to ask -- the writer should have at least asked if not answered, which he does not -- why are they wretched if in fact they are "better than the near-starvation they otherwise face"?

Here's the thing: we all know mining is a tough job, and we readily acknowledge it must be tougher in Africa than elsewhere. No one denies that. And no one denies the endemic poverty in many African countries, and the squalid conditions, and the diseases, and, yes, the exploitation. It's truly a tragedy, this on a continent that does not lack for tragedies. But to say China has "created a new slave empire" is rubbish. It also happens to be irresponsible and sensationalistic and stupid -- maybe we can blame the Mail's editors on that one, but we're not here to pass the buck.

Just read the section that starts...

It is noticeable that in much former British territory we have left behind plenty of good things and habits that are absent in the lands once ruled by rival empires.

Even so, with Zimbabwe, Nigeria and Uganda on our conscience, who are we to lecture others?

...and you'll understand how unorganized and ill-conceived this article is. The question "who are we to lecture others" is never answered. Hitchens doesn't so much as attempt to write around it: he flat out drops it in favor of more China-bashing -- "Peking regards anything short of deep respect as insulting, and it does not forget a slight," etc.

One more excerpt -- this is from the same piece, mind you:

[China] has cancelled Zambia's debts, eased Zambian exports to China, established a 'special economic zone' in the Copper Belt, offered to build a sports stadium, schools, a hospital and an anti-malaria centre as well as providing scholarships and dispatching experts to help with agriculture. Zambia-China trade is growing rapidly, mainly in the form of copper.

This is the great wretched doing of China's slave-drivers? Really?

What am I missing here?

Picture of the day: cats and dogs

Taken last Wednesday at Sini Pet Store (思妮宠物店), located on my street (Xihuangchenggen South St. 西黄城根南街). More here.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A hutong pajama party

Night of Saturday, Oct. 18, post backdated from Oct. 20. From left to right: Lauren, Kevin, Roman, Matt, Joe. Please, everyone, notice Roman's pee-hole.

On his pajamas, you sickos.

At the south entrance to Nanluoguxiang we spied twenty to twenty-five East Germans, a scary sight for any partygoer wishing to retain his happy buzz (they emit radioactive ions of nippiness, you know). Reid, however, was nonplussed. He went to them like a Chinese boy charmed by the sight of a brown-bearded laowai and asked what they were about. A theater troupe waiting for their Chinese guide, apparently. He offered, with only the most heartfelt and generous of intents, a sip of his "snake blood," which was actually grenadine and vodka, contained inside a small fragrance bottle along with the coiled body of a baby cobra (authenticity unverified). The Germans -- about five men who sported poor hairstyles and terrible accents and a large assembly of fairly attractive to very attractive girls -- positively retched. Reid, again with a charismatic innocence that's either positively childlike or positively American, asked them to join our party. They refused. He asked again. They refused again. And so on it went for a while.

Later that night Reid (on the right in the picture) spotted the Germans again while we were inside a bar called Salud and they were wandering on the street outside, pondering whether to enter. They made eye contact, and the Germans blanched. Reid produced the snake bottle with the red liquid and slowly waved it like a pendant, an inviting glint in his eye. As he told it the next afternoon (paraphrasing), "They ran away. I literally drove them into a second-class bar."


Inside, Joe was being Joe, half-naked with his oversized pint of beer while inappropriately stealing kisses from the ladies -- one in particular named Sarah. She wore hot pink PJs that were obviously too small and, if not for the gray tights on the legs, could have with flying colors passed for a cheap whore in the vein of the one who took Stephen Dedalus's virginity in Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Her kisses too would have been wet, yes they would have.

Jeff Orcutt was there with a straw hat that got passed around from head to head. Lauren was trying to convince Sarah, Joe and Matt to play a drinking game in which two pairs of partners drink out of the same glass, and whichever pair finishes first -- drinking at the same time, lips touching -- wins something or other. Kevin rocked a pair of sunglasses. Others drank more.

The details I don't remember or if I do I don't feel particularly inclined to share. There was conspiracy and conniption. There may have been a mole. There were some who were drunker than others, and others who blacked out. For all I know there may have been a stabbing in the back room, but I highly doubt there was. There was a good time.

Jeff, Roman and Matt

Much after our pre-party drinks had kicked in -- Matt, Roman, Joe, Sarah and I drank a wide variety, as the picture will show, while watching The Transformers, a movie that was beyond awesome for all the wrong reasons, i.e. in all the it's-a-Michael-Mann-movie sort of way -- Reid stepped outside and again saw the East Germans. A couple guys, like lost sheep, had wandered away from the safety of their homestead and were now staring into the steely eyes of their new worst enemy.

Reid looked.

They looked.

Reid made like he was reaching for the snake wine.

They bolted.


As these things happen, the alcohol -- including that which no one dares speak its name -- began taking hold and the world stopped making sense. Some sounds were no longer audible (one's own voice) while others were accentuated. No longer did Earth rotate from west to east but from whatever direction the bar was to the chair. Wooden supports and bathroom pictograms suddenly looked fuckable.

By the end there were five of us guys left, and I spied a table of five ladies. Five of them and five of us, I said. Joe took a seat a little ways away from the table and was joined by a brunette bird with a British accent. She had a glazed look in her eyes and was not particularly keen on smiling.

You guys look nice.

Oh thank you.

It's good to look nice.

Yeah, yeah it is. Where did you all go tonight?

Oh, blah blah blah.

Blah blah blah.

Blah blah blah.

Oh, cool.

Well, I gotta go.

Okay. Bye.

Nice talking to you.

Yes, you too.


We sat down at a restaurant after a fairly long walk and ordered three dishes and some chuan'r. A group of Chinese patrons sitting in a nearby table took off without paying their bill of 70 kuai, which Lauren noticed and alerted the boss. Joe took off after them, giving dead chase for a block or two before losing them. (They were on motorbikes.) The boss came back and spoke with his wife, confused and probably mad as hell.

Lauren and Kevin decided to drop a few extra RMBs to cover their bill. Ours was 85 but we left 150.

Not everyone remembers doing this. I'll give you a hint:


Saturday, October 18, 2008

An inventory of what I've done since returning from vacation

Backdated from Oct. 20.

Sunday, Oct. 12: pickup Ultimate. Met an AFP reporter named Marianne. I think it's spelled that way, anyway. Boozy Chinese dinner (BCD) afterwards, followed by drunken something-or-other at DQ and a friend's apartment.
Monday, Oct. 13: can't remember... lunch at Nainai's (grandma's).
Tuesday, Oct. 14: pickup Ultimate, then BCD with Char, Jim and Jeff.
Wednesday, Oct. 15: interviewed Chinese pet store owner for The Beijinger.
Thursday, Oct. 16: dinner at Nainai's with dad, who's in China again.
Friday, Oct. 17: lunch at Nainai's.
Saturday, Oct. 18: early morning Big Brother practice, then food at Grandma's Kitchen.

Tell me this doesn't look delicious and that you wouldn't pay 50 kuai for it. Also, they have 16 kuai all-you-can-drink coffee.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

My trip as told by two numbers

Never a standing body of water that doesn't reflect the sky

Photos and videos from Guilin, Yangshuo and the surrounding area: 1,697 (plus some from other people's cameras).


Photos and videos from Yunnan (plus the final day in Yangshuo): 1,750

Black Dragon Pond

From Elephant Hill in Lijiang's Black Dragon Pond Park.

So, yeah, this will take me a couple months to sort through. Again, wait for the new blog to get published next month.

Lijiang at dusk:

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

An interesting map

From Salon's incomparable Glenn Greenwald, on American eavesdropping and the expectation of privacy in the U.S.:

China, Russia and... the U.S.: black.

Reading GG never fails to impress and anger me.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Grandpa Wen on CNN

China's exceedingly popular statesman appears on CNN for a conversation that interviewer Fareed Zakaria called "the most open and frank conversation I had ever seen or read with a Chinese leader." Judge for yourself:

Transcript here.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


Vacation's over. I'm back sitting in my plain, messy, fifth-floor smoke-free room, my white Mac keys under my fingers, the hot keys where they should be, trying to organize the last two weeks in my mind and type something coherent. But I have more than 2,000 photos to sort through and 11 and a half pages of notes, so it may take a while. Look for a new blog to start up in a month or so, then some extended narrative posts.

For the time being... it's good to be back in Beijing.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Cigarettes are China's new opium

It is truly scary how widespread smoking is in this country. Just a few anecdotes from southwest China: on a minibus from Dali to Lijiang I was surrounded by smokers, forcing me to open my window and suck at the night air; here at an Internet bar I'm again surrounded by smoke, and while I can usually bear secondhand smoke without complaint, I feel nauseous right now; there are, believe it or not, ashtrays screwed knee-high on the stalls of the public bathrooms, as if some people really can't wait five minutes to pull up their pants before lighting up.

Seven years ago a BBC story, citing a British study, claimed "smoking could eventually kill a third of all young Chinese men if nothing is done to get them to drop the habit." That may be overstating it, but the sentence nails the essence of China's problem: lack of education. The "if nothing is done part" speaks to the authority's reluctance to tell its people smoking can cause disease, a fact that folks overwhelmingly deny. And why spend money to educate people? The tobacco industry's a cash cow, where, according to a 2007 Bloomberg article, generated "$31 billion, in taxes in 2005, according to a study at a Beijing University research center." As Bloomberg put it: "China, which consumes a third of the world's tobacco with a fifth of the population, must mediate between cutting health care costs and its financial stake in tobacco." In other words, cigarettes aren't going anywhere, even if it costs the country $5 billion per year in medical bills (31 > 5). (Although this article from Shanghai's Crazy English website claims it cost the country $32.5 billion in 2006.)

I don't know what's to be done. Usually I put my faith in the younger generation, but they're as addicted as anyone. This might be a pandemic with no relief in sight.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Who the hell is Thomas Kohnstamm?

Looks a bit like this guy, if you ask me.

Via TravelPod's forum, via happysheep's really good Finding Shangri-la blog.

Also see:

And while we're in Lijiang: TravelPod.

POSTSCRIPT: Unrelated to travel: scary. At least the Asian markets are okay -- I guess.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Beach Ultimate Lovers Association

I did not realize this site existed until I found this.

Settling into Lijiang

Guilin --> Yangshuo --> Kunming --> Dali --> Lijiang

On the bus from Dali to Lijiang last night I knew I had an even chance of waking up in the morning with either a fever or a reprieve, thus were the signals my body -- my poor, battered, persevering body, willing to shut down and kill itself in order to kill the pathogens -- were sending. After showering that night I realized the cause of my sudden discomfort -- there was a distinct moment while biking along a Dali highway that I felt my spleen shutting down, and later my stomach grew warm as when with virus -- might have been due to a spider bite. Hiking Chanshan Grand Canyon yesterday I walked into a web and thought I felt something. Later I reconsidered: maybe it was a mosquito. I lay shivering under sheets with the fear that I'd wake with Japanese encephalitis and might have to go to the hospital.

Instead, I woke up happy, feeling a mild delirium that comes to those whose fevers have just passed or, I surmise, who smoke opium or other mild hallucinogens.

The hotel, I should mention, is awesome -- two beds, shower, Western-style toilet (that is to say, an actual toilet), towels. I could have easily bargained the price down to 30 kuai/night (a little more than $4) but I settled at 40 kuai because the receptionist was sleepy and nice (I'm too nice for haggling). Here's the best part: the room hasn't been used for so long that there are mosquitoes dried and withered on the walls, dead from starvation. Another one was alive but too weak to fly. I killed it with my bare foot.

POSTSCRIPT: If you ever make it out to Lijiang -- and you should, because it's beautiful -- make sure you try the Naxi (not to be confused with Nazi) bread pancake. And the sugary Lijiang cakes. Absolutely delectable.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Leaving for Guilin

I'm leaving for Guilin tomorrow in a little more than eight hours, which Lonely Planet describes as "one of China's greener, more scenic cities." It's a pride of China, "celebrated for generations by painters and poets."

I'm excited. Of course, there's going to be a 36-hour train ride, and the last time I endured a long journey cooped up in a small space I churned out two poems along and a bunch of other worthless mumbo-jumbo.

Still... excited.

Of course, I had to drop Pi off with a friend. A sad departure.

I'll check back in when I can. Don't expect anything for a couple days, though.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Picture of the day: subway madness

The 1-line at Jiangguomen on Thursday at 5:27 p.m.:

You don't see it, but a man nearly got trampled while trying to squeeze into the train. The queue you see in the second picture are the folks who couldn't get in.

An interesting approach to the milk scandal

BBC's James Reynolds recently recalled this anecdote:

Right now, China might want to remember Cordelia Gummer.

In 1990 Britain was worried about infected beef and "mad cow disease". The government insisted that no-one need panic - Britain's beef was fine.

In order to make the point in a dramatic way, Britain's Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Minister John Gummer decided to feed his four-year-old daughter Cordelia a beefburger in front of the cameras. It was a slightly curious, much criticised and derided tactic.

Reynolds wondered whether any Chinese leaders would step up and drink a glass of milk to prove its safety.

None did. This, however, is close:

Via China Daily.

Every time I click on the picture it leads me to an article about China's spacewalk, so here's a screenshot for you:

China's first spacewalk

China Daily

China's first ever space walk happened today, which was hard to miss because it was broadcast on every channel. My grandma, yesterday, could hardly leave the TV to eat, and she's one who almost never has the TV on during lunch.

Of course, the most spectacular moment during the spacewalk -- when astronaut Zhai Zhigang waved the Chinese flag -- was captured by... a screen grab. Here's the caption to the following picture:

In this video grab taken on Saturday, September 27, 2008 from China Central Television, Chinese astronaut Zhai Zhigang waves a Chinese national flag as he conducts the nation's first spacewalk. [CFP]

Bravo, China Daily: you know how to connect a CCTV1 broadcast to your computer and hit the SAVE SCREEN button on your keyboard. Intrepid, guys.

I'm going to toss the final word over to James Reynolds of BBC:

This is a country that spent decades feeling left behind - and even picked on - by the rest of the world. But this year that feeling has begun to change. It's hard to carry on feeling like a victim when your country hosts the Olympic Games and then does its victory lap in space.

Now if we can only get the people to be less defensive. But inferiority complexes take a while to overcome, if they can be overcome at all.

POSTSCRIPT: Video via Danwei.

White rabbit candy contaminated? No!!!!!

Yup, it's true. Via BBC:

A Chinese sweet maker has stopped domestic sales of one of its best-known brands after it was found to contain the industrial chemical melamine.

The company, Guanshengyuan, has already halted exports of the popular White Rabbit candy, made from milk.

This is terrible. I have a bag that I'm going to have to throw away...

...Or keep eating. I dunno. They're irresistible.

As Doc, a vegan in Beijing (how does he survive? I don't know), says: "Yet another reason to go vegan."

Friday, September 26, 2008

On the eve of the American presidential debate...

A few things to read:

  • NYT: Roger Cohen's Sept. 25 column was... exceptional.

    I’m going to try to make this simple. On the Democratic side you have a guy whose campaign has been based on the Internet, who believes America may have something to learn from other countries (like universal health care) and who’s unafraid in 2008 to say he’s a “proud citizen of the United States and a fellow citizen of the world.”

    On the Republican side, you have a guy who, in 2008, is just discovering the Net and Google and whose No. 2 is a woman who got a passport last year and believes she understands Russia because Alaska is closer to Siberia than Alabama.

  • Salon's Glenn Greenwald, who should alway be read, on Sarah Palin.

  • Sadly No, which should also always be read, also has a take.

  • I regret not getting Comedy Central or watching more of their shows online. Jon Stewart, folks.

  • I love science quizzes, like this one from Nature News. McCain... not so much.

  • Cup of Cha finds some interesting similarities between Palin's words and President Clinton's...

I'll wrap this up because politics can only be indulged for so long before it bites your nose off. Just one more thing:

Both parts of the interview here. Nice job, Katie Couric.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Pictures and video from the beach Ultimate tournament

As I explain in the recap here, this layout hurt. A lot.

But it was worth it, I think.

Video of championship point:


That was my reaction when I stepped outside today, with blue skies over my head a crisp autumn chill in the air. This is the weather to wear shorts with tennis shoes and a long-sleeve t-shirt while biking around town.

Maybe it's because I had a non-hangover hangover (I don't get hangovers) after drinking a double shot of Jameson on the rocks and an 18-year double malt liquor followed by seven shots of rum and a beer, but I would say today is a stunningly perfect day, the sort that has made me fall in love with this city all over again. A strange thing to say, I know, but I haven't felt this good in weeks.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A topic we haven't broached in a while

From Time's China Blog

Headline from Danwei: 1,900-yuan fine for downloading porn at home. $271 is quite a bit around here.

Of course, porn has to be downloaded -- as opposed to watched and quickly exed out of -- because it can't get past the Great Firewall.

Not really at all the same thing, but Time Style recently reported on Asian supermodels.

POSTSCRIPT: Via Peking Duck (via Kaiser Kuo): shocker indeed.

America's financial crisis

I don't know enough about the markets to comment at length about what's going on on Wall Street, but I do have the ability to sense trouble when it's here. And reading this from NY Times' columnist Roger Cohen has me positively frightened (not as frightened as by this, but still). I excerpt:

Asked about the crisis, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the Brazilian president, said: “What crisis? Go ask Bush.”

Thanks, Lula. Brazil is sitting on $208 billion of its own in reserves, so perhaps Lula would say his flippancy is justified. But I don’t think it is.

Remember the last financial crisis in 1998? With the Russian economy in a freefall, Moscow officials scurried to the U.S. Treasury to secure vital American support for $17.1 billion in new International Monetary Fund loans. That steadied things.

The world has changed in the past decade. There’s been a steady transfer of wealth away from the United States in a shift most Americans have not yet grasped. But there has been no accompanying transfer of responsibility. New powers are free-riding as if it were still the American century.

This is not exactly a new theme. We've been hearing about a world power shift for a while now, from America to not-America, and the Democrats have used it as a sort of rallying cry for their campaign (not quite phrased as "America's decline," of course). But what are truly the ramifications of a new world where America doesn't have the strongest voice?

We can speculate for hours. But here's one thing that must end, and might under a Democrat in the White House: American hubris. I'll end on a quote from a Democrat in the House of Representatives, from Cohen's column:

“I think it’s a perverse pride thing,” he said. “We don’t ask for help. We’re the big, strong father figure. But let’s be realistic: we’re no longer the dominant world power.”

Cohen's column brings up China on more than one occasion. Well worth a read.

UPDATE, 9/24: China Vortex says if America's financial system goes down, so does China's.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A video from May 19, China's first day of national mourning

I was organizing my computer's hard drive tonight when I stumbled upon a few pictures and videos I thought would be worth sharing. I got a little carried away and created a YouTube video:

More on the Wenchuan Earthquake here, and two more videos (blaring car horns) from May 19 here.

Paralympic Murderball video

U.S.A. vs. Australia in the gold-medal game. This happened last week at Beijing Science and Technology University.

Two other videos and lots of pictures from the night here.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The awful ordeal of China's milk

Is absolutely awful.

AP: "Out of control" dairy system.

CNN: "The official Xinhua News Agency said Li Changjiang had quit with the approval of China's State Council. Li's agency is responsible for ensuring that China's food supply chain is safe." Execution to come?

Time: Is sorry enough?

UPDATE: Nice to see China's "pulling through." Thank you,

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Beach Ultimate Frisbee tournament in Beijing

Saturday at City Seaview

The sand was artificial and, at places, hurt like hell to land on (more on this later), but it was still a fun day at the beach, even if there was no water. Organized by the inimitable Jeff Orcutt et al., we split into four teams -- names drawn out of a hat -- and played four games each.

In the final game of pool play, my team, 1-1, went up against Jim's team, 1-1 as well, and we fell behind 6-1 in a game to 9. At 8-4 it looked particularly bleak, but I threw an endzone-to-endzone forehand score to Guy to make it 8-6 and keep our hopes alive (Wildwood rules, so an end-to-end toss is worth two). Then we got a D, and as hope rose in all of us, I took off for the end zone as Guy hucked a beauty of a disc that raced past a lunging opponent nicknamed Baby Girl as I chased it down for another two-pointer to tie the game at 8.

It was Universe Point. We got the disc when a pass intended for Jim sailed long and out of bounds, at which point I made a deep in cut and received a high throw from Guy. After a contested stall count, I scoober dumped to Roman and cut into the end zone, planted and made a quick break for the force (strong) side corner. Here I will note the main difference between playing in sand and playing on grass: sand shifts under your feet. This has, as far as I can tell, no benefit for anybody except those who don't enjoy playing with shoes; for most players, running on sand takes a lot of effort, with minimal gain. I point this out to set up what happened next: as I turned, the ground gave out underneath me; the disc went up anyway, along with Roman's groan, "Oh no!" The throw is high and looks out of reach, sailing out of bounds.

But, see, here's the thing: I'd made the mistake by slipping, so I had to do something to set it right; and everyone's watching because the other game ended early and the light is perfect for photos* and we'd all exerted such great effort and it was, after all, Universe Point, so I said, Fuck it. I'm getting this disc no matter what.

And here's what I remember: leaving the ground; going parallel to the ground; snatching the disc; falling to the ground. Pain. The sort that takes your breath away, when, say, the small bit of flesh and nerves pinched between your upper pelvis and skin gets thrown to the ground by gravity and crushed between the weight of your entire pelvis plus hips plus that mass+acceleration equation and a surface that can only accurately be described as concrete brushed over with a plywood-thin layer of sand. So what I felt was: more pain.

The disc was secured in my left hand but I flung it aside out of pain. After writhing around for a bit I got up and acknowledged that I was out of bounds, even though some folks tried to say the disc landed before my body did (true), and that the disc was in bounds (doubtful). Then I finished the point, which we lost. And the team that beat us happened to go on to win the championship after we played the 3rd-place game, which, fittingly, we won on Universe Point.

And then we drank beer.

Two players from the winning team, Yin and Gabe. [CORRECTION: Yin did not win.]

More of the winning team, which beat us to claim 2nd place after pool play.

Did I mention beer?

Like I said... a great day.

One more picture, this one from the restaurant where we had dinner:

*POSTSCRIPT: There's a great series of pictures of my layout catch that's currently on someone else's camera. As soon as he uploads it to the Internet I'll post them along with a video of the last two points of the finals. [UPDATE, 9/25: HERE.]