Monday, March 29, 2010


(Backdated post on April 8)
Does anyone know how to fix a damaged (or unresponsive) external harddrive? I plug it in but my Mac tells me it can't read it. I try Disk Utility but the drive doesn't even show up as having been partitioned. I fear I may have lost all my pictures from Rugby Sevens, and a couple videos to boot.

Anyway, here's a picture of Shenzhen, where I was from March 27-29 for an Ultimate Frisbee hat tournament (that my team won).

Yeah, not really sure, either...

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Kunming travel article in the Beijinger

From a few days back (or a few weeks, since I'm backdating this on April 8)... the Beijinger:

I’m sitting in a bar/restaurant/café called Salvador’s in downtown Kunming when Jim, a friend who’s made this trip with me to the city of eternal spring, finds a small mountain of ice cream amid two bananas all slathered in chocolate sauce placed before his eyes. As I’m staring agog at this glob of gooey awesomeness, he looks at it and looks at me, looks at it and back at me, then looks at it again and lets out a hysteric chuckle, an expression of disbelief at his luck. So this is how banana splits are made in the south.

This would be a recurring theme of our trip: taking way too much delight in the most ordinary of things.

Facebook album here.

Optimus Prime

Nordica Art Gallery -- should be viewed in conjunction with these pictures

Green Lake Park

From Salvador's

Bird and Flower Market

Dai restaurant

Friday, March 26, 2010

Hong Kong

High-rise after high-rise after high-rise after high-rise, and some on hills. And bridges. What an incredible and inexplicable city.

Will be posting about Rugby Sevens, belatedly (as everything seems to be these days), later.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Quote of the day, via China Daily, RE: Google


Without Google access to pornographic and subversive content, China's cyber space will continue to grow in a cleaner and more peaceful environment.

HT: Dan of tbj

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


I've been busy at work on a cover story for City Weekend, along with some other assignments (I'll blog more regularly next week), but while on assignment I took a minute to enjoy watching some puppies at play. Here's the video:

Yeah, who doesn't like puppies...

"Hey guys, wait up!"

"Where're you going?"

"Is she gone yet?"
"Don't tell her, but she smells like curdled milk."

"Hey! I heard that!"

The power of one unnamed source

UPDATE, 3/23, 1:26 pm: Google's statement, China's (via Xinhua) response.

I'm glad to see not ever news organization has jumped on this, but ever since Wall Street Journal quoted one unnamed source on Sunday as saying that Google will announce its imminent departure from China, lots of folks have taken it for truth. If it happens, it happens, I suppose. I won't get into the details in this space (you can read TechCrunch's excellent summary of the situation from January) except to say I would much rather have seen Google forced out, as then maybe China's state media can stop harking on the "Google is just making a selfish business move" angle.

Google very well may be looking after its (domestic) business interests by pulling out, but that seems beside the point. The issue none of the state-owned op-ed sections wants to scrutinize is censorship, something that takes a dramatically different form here than in the U.S. (let's just say there're a couple media personalities in the U.S. that make me very much want to apply China's censorship policies to that country).

According to WSJ's unnamed source, an announcement of some sort is happening later today. Stay tuned?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Sunday, March 21, 2010

CBA All-Star game in Beijing

7:36 pm: Stephon Marbury just checked into the game.

Misses a three.

Tried throwing an alley oop that end up hitting back rim.

Very bad basketball. For a group of all-stars, there're a lot of missed wide-open three-pointers. Fancy passes flying up and down the court though.

In the end, Marbury finished with 30 points and won the MVP award. No surprise there.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Take heed, developing countries

An interesting read from the New Yorker:

America’s felicific stagnation shouldn’t be ignored, Bok argues, whatever the explanation. Growth, after all, has its costs, and often quite substantial ones. If “rising incomes have failed to make Americans happier over the last fifty years,” he writes, “what is the point of working such long hours and risking environmental disaster in order to keep on doubling and redoubling our Gross Domestic Product?”

And then the article proceeds to discuss the relative importance of happiness.

A lesson learned

Don't travel by car in Beijing. Just don't do it.

It took more than 30 minutes for my cab to get from Chaowai SOHO to Dongzhimen Nei ... at 4 p.m.

There are those who believe cars are necessary as a social tool. They're stupid.

My cab driver was nice though. More frustrated than I with the traffic, he asked for seven kuai less than what was shown on the meter. Redeemed the entire trip.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Um... welcome, Italian, French, and Spanish readers?

Okay, I've calmed down, and -- prodded by a couple of commenters -- have reread the column that threw me into fits yesterday.

The opening sentence should have been a dead giveaway:

The most frightening piece of writing I've read recently is a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) blog about my colleague Alessandro.

Colleague Alessandro. That's brilliant. Now I feel stupid for pointing it out in my blog post -- the "keeping up the ruse" part -- but not taking what I said to heart.

Within the first paragraph, another giveaway: discussing vaginas amid the Chinese ambition of gaining a bigger voice among foreign audiences.

The mockery of WSJ is obvious. I missed it the first time around. Simply missed.

And if it's not clear yet...

Oddly enough, I feel more frightened than ashamed after reading the blog titled A Vulgar Turn in China's International Media Ambition...

It goes on. Nice work, guys. I take back all that I said that didn't involve the word vagina. Look forward to buying y'all a drink.

And now, I refer you to the Italian newspaper The Republic. (And this Italian in New York also thinks Alessandro is a genius.)

POSTSCRIPT: Getting a lot of hits from French and Italian and Spanish Google...

Spring City?

It was awfully cold in Kunming on Wednesday, the day I left. Figured these pictures, taken from around the city, sum up my mood.

UPDATE: Also see: Kunming travel article in the Beijinger.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Gutless: Global Times's response to Sky Canaves

UPDATE, 3/12: I've since re-evaluated my initial response. I've kept the below for posterity, but here's my apology to Jacob Li and the Global Times editorial team.

Well, the "impending death" alluded to in my Alessandro post turned out to be an indefinite suspension, as Global Times's Jacob Li tells us in today's issue:

The most frightening piece of writing I've read recently is a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) blog about my colleague Alessandro. He, together with our newspaper, was accused of projecting a vulgar voice by discussing vaginas amid the Chinese ambition of gaining a bigger voice among foreign audiences.

You, sir, are a pussy. No, not pussy... vagina. You are a big fat vagina dripping with vagina juice and you deserve to be stuffed back into the vagina from whence you came, you stupid vagina.

Admittedly, the joke is sophomoric and perhaps should have been killed with better judgment...


...Oddly enough, I feel more frightened than ashamed after reading the blog titled A Vulgar Turn in China's International Media Ambitions...

...written by a humorless vagina...

...and its more fearsome Chinese translation Chinese Media's Vulgar Voice Irks Reader...

...written by vaginas who take humorless vaginas way too seriously...

...thanks to last year's anti-vulgarity crusade during which...

Vagina, vagina, vagina.

The joke was just about the vagina, not about China. It was not even about Chinese vaginas – the one who raised the question was a foreign woman.

[Vagina joke.]

Still, I would like to apologize to those who have been offended by Alessandro's occasional vulgar language during the last three months.

Have I mentioned how much of a vagina you are?

I decided to discipline the foul-mouthed Italian...

You HAVE to understand that by keeping up the ruse that Alessandro is 1) real, and 2) actually Italian, you're undercutting your message, right? Or is that your point?

If you're really apologizing, why not out "Alessandro"? Grand plans for the future? If that's the case, ignore the rest of what I have to say. Email me off-blog and explain how a creative, free-spirited, subversive, hilarious voice was able to get a job at your publication, because by God, the writer of Alessandro was actually good. canceling his advice column until he realizes how wrong he is and how he has jeopardized Metro Beijing, the first daily English language local news provider in town.

So let me get this straight: you're canceling the column because some prude working for the Wall Street Journal hates humor and has, with the might of all that is holy in the name of the Western press, derided it in a fucking blog post, and as a result you think your action -- this cancellation -- will save Metro Beijing? VAGINA, how chicken-hearted are you? The equivalent of this would be MSNBC issuing an apology for everything Keith Olbermann has said in the past three years because Rush Limbaugh called him "offensive." Apparently, however, hell has no wrath like a vagina in the Western press scorned.

As I read more of the blog, I did start to feel ashamed of being incompetent, particularly when I saw the appellations Miss Canaves of the WSJ gives us: An arm of the People's Daily, the Communist Party's official mouthpiece and the "government-run" epithet, and calling us on our so-called great ambition of gaining a voice abroad.

Oh, Ms. Canaves, spank me harder, I've been a bad boy, I've been real incompetent, oh please shame me, Ms. Canaves, oh please give it to me, tell me I'm an arm of the People's Daily, oh yes! yes I'm a mouthpiece, oh yes I'm a mouthpiece, oh yes the mouthpiece! the mouthpiece! yes! yes! yes!!

Is the "fake" Italian a spy who has sneaked into the "government-run" newspaper, trying to sabotage our mission of making the official voice roar in the West? Have I been trapped in his well-designed snare?

I'm a bit confused. Your mission is to make the official voice roar in the West? Are you being sarcastic here? Are you saying you believe you DO represent the "official voice," i.e. you ARE a mouthpiece of the government? And furthermore, that you want that voice to "roar"?

If you are being sarcastic, shouldn't you be, um, PROMOTING Alessandro? Maybe you are promoting Alessandro. Maybe this is all a joke, and I've fallen for it. Maybe you are much wiser than I've given you credit for. Maybe I've failed to read between the lines. Maybe I will be retracting everything I've said in two months when Alessandro makes his glorious return.

Then again, maybe you're just milquetoast.

And yes, you have been trapped, you vaginisitc vagina.

All the anger and doubts, however, disappear when I recall the statement we made in our launch issue: We simply aim to provide reliable and fast news and become a communication platform for expats living in this country.

I'm confused again. Fill in this blank: My anger and doubts disappear because ___.

I think you would say -- and forgive me if I'm wrong, I'm not practiced in reading the minds of namby-pamby vaginas -- that your anger and doubts have disappeared because you've realized you're a vagina whose diet consists of high-energy, high-fiber, low-fat vaginas.

The column was becoming a communication platform for expats, which means on top of being a vagina, you are a vaginaing vuhgina vagina.

We're clear about who we are. This is simply an English language newspaper run by Chinese people, with the help of some foreigners.

You're a fucking China Daily wannabe.

But if objectivity and plurality happen to build up our country's soft power, everyone who is involved should feel proud.

You're a milksop.

Anyway, we should thank Miss Canaves for pointing out the inappropriateness of some of Alessandro's advice.

You're a douchebag and a groveling idiot.

It helps us, a fledgling English language newspaper, to find the boundary.

Define your own fucking boundary and find your own fucking voice, you conforming vagina.

But the spirit of Alessandro will live on, in a good way.

If by "spirit" you mean as the 17th century poets meant it -- cum -- and if by "a good way" you mean "in my vagina," then yes, good sir, you have redeemed yourself and your column was a worthwhile use of our time which we shall never want back even if we would eat maggot-flecked goat testicles to get it back.

Well done, Global Times. Vive le Western media!

p.s. Fuck you, Sky Canaves.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Off to Kunming

I'll be away for a few days. Maybe I'll post a picture from the road.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The impending death of Ask Alessandro?

Alessandro is a man. He lives in Beijing now. Earlier he was Italy's greatest character actor in advertisements, at which time he was known as Marlon Brandex. He has loved many women, very much.

The picture of "Alessandro," after redesign.

Alessandro, before redesign. Way to decide to crop him, Global Times.


Many months ago, I came across Ask Alessandro, a humor column in the Global Times, through a friend's gchat status message. This, by way of example, is one of the many posts that made me laugh out loud. Forgive me for excerpting liberally:

Dear Alessandro, Ever since I got to Beijing, it's like my boyfriend doesn't even notice me anymore! He spends all of his time looking at these Chinese girls, and they are looking at him! And then he tries to tell me how beautiful they are! It makes me feel so angry! Why is he like this, and what can I do to make him love me again?



Hello Monica,

When I first see this letter, forgive me I make an assumption. You are obviously not a very beautiful woman. But I mention this to my friend Beppe, who is analyst. He tell me some things, like one time, a woman came to his o. ce – maybe 40 years old, but still scorchio – and he says you can see the line of her suspenders under her skirt while she was talking! Serious! Amazing he get paid for this.

Anyway, he say some times there is beautiful women come to him and their lover doesn't try to satisfy them. He study this and fi nd some men so lazy in their lovemaking they actually give the woman a "negative orgasm". I don't know what they waste all their energy on, maybe they like jogging very much or something. But serious, it seem all the woman getting negative orgasm have something in common: they married to British and German men. So maybe not so surprising after all. I guess maybe your boyfriend is British, ha ha. Or German. Sorry, is not funny.

Beppe writes a thesis on the condition at the moment, what he call "Deprivation of Any Vaginal Ecstasy", or DAVEgasms for short. Don't bother to read, is mostly boring. My advice to you is become more like Italian woman. If your man can't satisfy you, get drunk, scream, throw things at him and tell him if he don't make you feel like a real woman you will cut yourself and fottere his dad.

"You are obviously not a very beautiful woman"? Scorchio? DAVEgasms? Wow.

Wait, there's more!

Dear Alessandro, I'm a single, white, North American female between 30 and 35 living in Beijing, and I can't find a date. What should I do?


TCAMF (The Cat Ate My Face)

There is old saying in my tongue, which is Italian. We say, "Il mio fronte sta fondendosi," which translates literally as "my face is melting," though often we use as metaphor for when someone has told a ribald joke. For instance, we might say, "I am standing too close to this tanning bed, il mio fronte sta fondendosi." But that a very literal way to use the saying, and standing too close to tanning bed is no joke. Can get skin cancer. But it is important that you realize that the phrase can be taken literally or fi guratively, as I assure you, when I first came to China, il mio fronte sta fondendosi. Literally. I don't know why this be. Maybe pollution.

Instantly, I knew four things about this column:

1. This was among the funniest, most creative recurring pieces in ALL the serial print world, not just Chinese media.

2. The editors of this column -- surely Chinese, if such editors existed -- were NOT in on the joke. (Unless, now that I think about it, I haven't given been giving Chinese editors enough credit.)

3. This was great satire.

But beyond a shadow of a doubt,

4. This wasn't going to last.

Yet somehow, someway, the column persevered, thrived, even. And that made me happy in the same way that small surprises, like blue skies in Beijing, made me happy. It made me perk up the way you might if you walked into a random neighborhood bar in Brooklyn and discovered an absolutely brilliant band playing in front of six people.

No one I've spoken to about this column has expressed dislike -- most, in fact, have given it a ringing endorsement, even if they didn't always find it funny. Surely, I thought, whatever subversive expat penning this and laughing his her ass off was a brilliant, daring, reckless scribe who gave a damn about neither censors nor authority. She was, in a disguised manner, showing the world that China did not utterly lack a sense of irony (though it does, really). It became easy to believe that there was hope yet for Chinese media to loosen its shackles, laugh every once in a while at itself.

More to the point, the Ask Alessandro column defined Global Times, made it unique. It might not have been enough for me to actually seek out Global Times and buy a copy, but it gave me a reason to talk about the paper. It added to its identity, which, while still in its formative stages, can be roughly defined as not-China Daily. If there's one place to NOT find humor, it's China Daily.

But now I fear Ask Alessandro has met its match and may soon come to a crashing halt. And for that we have the prudes over at the Wall Street Journal to thank.

At 9 p.m. earlier tonight, WSJ's China blog's top post was one titled, "A Vulgar Turn in China's International Media Relations."

The piece is so clueless, I cannot think of a way to summarize it for anyone with a sense of humor. I will, however, provide a link. (Suffice it to say, it involves an over-sensitive business reporter.)

As I commented at the end of the WSJ post (with less-than-exemplary grammar):

Here's to hoping -- to really, really hoping -- that Ask Alessandro's next column makes due mincemeat of this unjust attack on its Italian machismo.

POSTSCRIPT: This is the offending column that got the WSJ writer (who does good work normally, I must say for the record) so upset. In all honesty, I was expecting to see that Alessandro dropped the C word. UPDATE, 3/11: The editors have since taken down the column, and all his rest.


UPDATE, 3/11: My response to Global Times's response.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Introducing: ArtSpeak, China

Check it out. HT to the Beijinger, again.

POSTSCRIPT: Blogroll's been updated to include a few other blogs as well.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The end of Chinese New Year and return of winter

It began snowing yesterday night during the Lantern Festival -- the final day of spring festival -- this after we were blessed with a week of spring-like weather.

No buildings burned this year, and there is peace and quiet at last. Exhale.

Meanwhile, was anyone among you at The Irish Volunteer last night to watch USA-Canada hockey? I wrote a preview article for the Beijinger's blog but decided not to brave the snow to go out there (instead I watched from home on CCTV-5). I heard the bar was packed.

And now, links from last week (or so) I found interesting:

  • Brendan O'Kane on GFW and VPNs; I've noticed that Hotspot, back in the day when I still used Hotspot, never worked from one specific Starbucks at Dongsishitiao. Always wondered about that...
  • The end of Cup of Cha?
  • China Hush's translated article of a hitchhike from Beijing to Berlin.
  • Global Times on the 50-cent army.
  • Black and White Cat on "Hu Jintao's non-microblog"
  • South Koreans NOT happy about the judge's decision to DQ their short-track relay team (Chinese women got gold as a result... you may have seen a replay or two of this on CCTV-5)
  • Bloggers in China, NYT
  • "A stunning makeover for China Daily," say the editors of China Daily. What, so it can look more 2-dimensional and give front-page ads more prominence? The font's gonna need a bit of getting used to. It reminds me of the font for the Chicago Tribune, a paper I don't particularly like. But I'm just grumbling to myself.

And finally, a blog everyone should read: China/Divide. First post here. (HT: the Beijinger.)