Friday, December 30, 2011

What's up, Ducks?

Beijing's professional basketball team, after winnings its first 13, lost its third straight game Wednesday night -- all at home -- to drop into a first-place tie with eminently hatable Guangdong. The Ducks surrendered a huge lead against Zhejiang Guangsha to lose 118-112, squandering a great performance by Stephon Marbury -- the China Daily columnist -- who, best I can tell, was not stoppable. He scored 34 points on 15-for-24 shooting and was credited with 9 assists, but who knows how many he'd had if the CBA weren't notoriously bad at tracking assists.

But he was outdone by one Wilson Chandler, one of the three Denver Nuggets players who elected to sign with the CBA during the NBA lockout, who scored 44 and grabbed 18 rebounds. Those are, indeed, eye-popping numbers, but Guangsha also got remarkable contributions from Puerto Rican big-man Peter John Ramos, who went 26 and 14. Ramos, in the minutes I saw of him, sealed his spot in my heart as least likable basketball player in the world, with his scowls, his complaints, his uninterested demeanor, his sleepwalking up and down the court, and the elbows he threw after every rebound attempt. The man does not look happy to be alive when he's playing basketball.

POSTSCRIPT: Unsurprisingly, Chandler was selected player of the week. Eurobasket also reports: "Guangsha L. will need more victories to improve their 12-4 record."

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The new New Colossus

Via Beijing Today, a story written by Huang Daohen that's not yet online:

“Come the new year, it may be hard for new expats to gain employment in the country, at least legally," said Liu Yan, consultant at FESCO, a local HR services company.

Liu said as the country tries to move up the value chain, it simply does not need foreigners with little or no actual skills. Chinese returnees can fill the positions.

“Essential expats will remain, but recent graduates will be replaced, or simply asked to work on tourist visa to keep them off the welfare payroll,” Liu said.

Perhaps you know a couple people this applies to. No more weekday binge drinking and playing of 80-cent XBox games for them.

Unless... unless there were some other developing country willing to harbor the West's tiresome, its poorly educated, its talentless masses yearning to breathe "free" in the worst interpretation of the word...

[Some girl working as an English teacher mentioned earlier in the story] will leave Beijing after Spring Festival. But since the economy in the US isn’t much better, she’s decided to try out other parts of Asia, like Vietnam.

This how the mob works, isn't it? Work flows down, money trickles up.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Chinese official calls democracy "sunshine"; Sun barfs

Global Times has an interesting editorial that, other than getting Mao Zedong's birthdate wrong (the online version's date reads December 25; I'll allow that the writer thought the article was appearing in the print edition the next day, thus writing "today" instead of "tomorrow," but still), features a few interesting quotes by one Li Jie, identified as the "vice director of the Literature Research Office of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China."

Here's quote No. 1, coming at the end of the article titled "Mao's past mistakes show need for open government" (HT: Alicia Lui):

The report of the Party's 17th National Congress says that power should operate in the sunshine. This sunshine is democracy. Only with the supervision of the people can people's power be used for the people and controlled by the people.

Here are some other similes for democracy I just thought of:

  • This accretion of holiness is democracy.
  • This bag of kittens is democracy.
  • This Paulo Coelho novel is democracy.
  • This Fallout 3 stimpack is democracy.
  • This porn star's climax is democracy.
  • This Lady of the Lake miniseries poster is democracy.
  • This roast turkey breast is democracy.
  • This panacea to all our ills is democracy. (Oh wait, I'm getting confused... sunshine is panacea to all our ills.)

On a serious note, I'd like to quote Richard MacGregor from the highly illuminating book The Party, who points out that "democracy" as used by a Chinese official never really means what we would like to think it means:

Wen Jiabao blindsided many... in 2007, declaring at his annual press conference that "democracy, law, freedom, human rights, equality and fraternity" did not belong exclusively to capitalism, but were "the fruits of civilization jointly formed through the entire world's slow course of historical development."

Wen's pronouncement produced the usual flurry of stories in the foreign media about how China seemed to be embracing western-style political reform. But most missed the fact that, mindful he was addressing an international audience, Wen had left out the all-important rider carried in official documents on democracy in China, including the Party's own 2005 White Paper on the topic. "Democratic government is the Chinese Communist Party governing on behalf of the people," the paper said. Within the system, the reaction to Wen's 2007 pronouncement was more hard-headed. As a former senior official ousted after the 1989 Beijing crackdown joked to me, "You need a new dictionary to understand what Chinese leaders mean when they talk about democracy."

(You should probably read that book if you haven't already.)

Quote No. 2 from the Global Times editorial:

Just as the Party's central committee concluded in a resolution issued in 1981, Mao's positive contribution to the building of a new China was much greater than his mistakes.

IS IT REALLY? (Pardon my use of third-person singular present ["is"], but I'm confused by Li Jie's statement: does he mean "Mao's positive contributions," or does he really mean Mao's contribution -- some lone positive deed -- outweighed all his mistakes? I'm being arch with the grammar thing, but my question isn't completely facetious, is it?)

The editorial, as it reads to me, makes the assumptions that 1) readers think Mao acted maliciously when he set in motion the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution, and 2) readers think Chinese people uniformly worship Mao. When you assume such things, you're liable to pen an editorial as flimsy as Li Jie's.

As to point No. 1: Educated outsiders (i.e. those not moonlighting as commenters at the end of CNN articles) don't think of Mao as a mass murderer; they merely condemn the blithe idiot for his gross incompetence. Yet criticism levied against Mao doesn't usually sit well with the conservative Chinese set, who, as they're wont to do, get defensive. But you don't know his positive contributions, they claim.

Actually, we're well aware, but were Mao's contributions to New China in the years from 1958 to 1976 actually substantial and sufficient to override all the horrors he inflicted? It's a difficult question, made more so because of the residual trama (how many thousands who survived the Cultural Revolution are too emotionally scarred to talk about it?). Yet it's one that intellectuals in this country should ask and answer, lest we want to live as the post-Mao Party nostalgics who "looked back to the Mao who was the revolutionary leader of the Party during their own youthful days as revolutionaries" (from Maurice J. Meisner's Mao's China and After). The revolution is over, people. Time for some adult questions.

As to point No. 2: without mentioning the whole "70 percent right, 30 percent wrong" silliness, I'd really like to hear someone speak objectively about whether Mao could have achieved his goals without, you know, sacrificing millions of lives. There's a difference, methinks, between failing to move forward and moving a country back via swift punt to the gonads; shouldn't we collectively be a little harsher in the judgment of one who does the latter?

So yeah, I understand that the Party needs Mao to legitimize itself post-Mao, and I understand the trappings of nostalgia, and I think I understand why so many Chinese are defensive when it comes to this subject, so inextricably tied as it is to nationalism and a fiercely nationalistic period in this country's long history, but still... I'd like an honest discussion about this, and I'd like to not be talked down to by flaks like the vice director of the Literature Research blah blah blah. Maybe that's asking too much for the time being.

Finally, a third quote from the article:

The main reason the Cultural Revolution happened and ran out of control was because of the absence of collective decision-making in the Party. Blind worship of Mao took over, and he enjoyed unchecked power.

YOU FUCKING THINK?

Monday, December 26, 2011

"Translating a good deal of the 'paratext' as well as the text"

Yesterday, to no one's attention, I added the website Paper Republic to the "Best" category on the blogroll sidebar. I'm still combing through its archives, but if you want an idea why it's such a great read, check out Lucas Klein's May 11 post "A Good Translation of a Bad Poem?" and the ensuing discussion, from which this blog post's title quote is pulled. A quick excerpt:

But then I came across this poem:

Spring Dawn

From spring sleep
I awake before dawn
To a world filled
With birdsong

A stormy night
Wind and rain I recall
But of ten thousand blossoms
I wonder how many have fallen

I like this poem. I like the detail, the specificity of pre-dawn birdsong, the slight lilt of formalized poetic phrasing in l. 6, the suggestion of an ancient Chineseness in “ten thousand blossoms,” and especially the way the poem snuggles up against rhyme without taking it over (dawn / birdsong) before jettisoning it conspicuously (recall / fallen).


I'd also recommend these related sites:

  • Xiao Kang 2002: No updates for a while, but all bloggers out there, take note: sometimes it's wise to go for quality over quantity, because then your best work remains visible even after other affairs of the world suck up your time and attention; Xiao Kang 2002 is a prime example.

  • Notes on the Mosquito, a blog (by Lucas Klein) about poet Xi Chuan (whom I had the pleasure of hearing at the Bookworm) and "Chinese Poetry in English translation."

  • The always good Bruce Humes, whose site has been buried under the wrong category in the blogroll for much too long.

  • Twelve Hours Later: Chinese sci-fi.

  • And I think everyone knows about this already, but Popup Chinese is a site that's here to stay. Check out its podcast on the translation literary journal Pathlight, a copy of which arrived at my door today. (Pathlight is very good so far.)

Friday, December 23, 2011

Wukan update: you don't really know

A few interesting points to take away from the two New York Times articles yesterday about Wukan (Canny Villagers Grasp Keys to Loosen China's Muzzle; Demonstrators Who Took Over Chinese Village Halt Protest).

The villagers have been very welcoming of reporters. They even set up an impromptu "press center":

On one wall of the living room was a portrait of God staring down from the heavens. Below that was a small wooden cross with a figure of Jesus. And below that, taped to the wall, was a white sheet of paper with a statement in Chinese and English. It beseeched reporters not to call the protest an “uprising.”

“We are not a revolt,” it said. “We support the Communist Party. We love our country.”


Of course. In a country whose citizens are as outwardly apolitical as here, no one wants to risk their livelihoods over ideology. People would much rather cooperate, get what's theirs. In this case, we're not exactly sure what that is. Perhaps to keep their homes or be properly compensated? Though that seems like an unlikely result, for land disputes never end well for the majority of people. Expect a compromise in which some profit while most get just barely enough to begrudgingly stop their demonstrations.

You know how sometimes, at the scene of a fight or an accident, everyone rubbernecks it or gathers around to watch? This happens all the time here. Public disputes are a spectacle, a free show. But ask someone to intervene, and watch them turn their heads. Anyway, I wonder how much of what's happening in Wukan is simply a spectacle for the villagers. They don't actually want to risk anything, and you can't really blame them, or say "too bad," for there's a measure of hypocrisy in that sort of response -- we too just want a spectacle, don't we? Because we're safe and sound wherever we're at, and god forbid we're the ones asked to make the real sacrifices in the name of change.

In midmorning, as officials began arriving outside the village, hundreds of residents lined the roadside. Dozens held up a red banner that welcomed the officials “to come to Lufeng to resolve the Wukan incident.”

And the central government's stance?

On Thursday, People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of the Communist Party, criticized local officials for letting the situation spiral out of control while praising the efforts of Mr. Wang’s team to resolve the dispute. The provincial officials “created the basic conditions for stability and harmony” in Wukan, the newspaper said.

And finally:

There was relief that the blockade of the village was ending, but also fear among some residents. What would happen, they wondered, once all the outsiders decamped and the spotlight shifted away from Wukan?

“I’m afraid they might come and take people away,” said Huang Rongrui, 40, a construction worker. “The local government always says one thing, but does another.”

An excerpt from "Last Train Home: An Amanuensis"

I may have mentioned a while back that the documentary Last Train Home, by Chinese Canadian filmmaker Lixin Fan, was "stunning and heartbreaking" and that "I don't have any other words to describe the viewing experience." I sorta lied about that last part. Below, an excerpt of the viewing experience, in words.

***


85


This film is dedicated to the migrant workers and their families


1


Opening credits. Zeitgeist Films: the red Z flies into place. We’re zoomed in as the letters in “Eye Steel Film” chug across to a backlit scrim the color of the sun. Pitter-patter of rain. In a tidy white font at the bottom left of a black screen are the words “TELEFILM CANADA and the ROGERS GROUP OF FUNDS through the THEATRICAL DOCUMENTARY PROGRAM present.”


2


FADE IN. Only a uniformed policeman, bundled in black, occupies the public traffic lane. He walks toward the camera, which is perched high and panning left, and quickly we understand that the emptiness on the right of our screen is a foil for the congestion on the left, the serried bodies so tightly packed that we lose the human face, the human arm, the leg, the semblance of movement: we see only a concourse of black-haired beings corralled by a vertical line of officers as barricade. There is a buzz of flesh and blood, a swelling commotion of such bestial strain that the sound of a steady downpour could well be part and parcel of this manmade scene. We see a scattering of umbrellas in the colors of neon, sky blue, army green, sandstone, burgundy, yellow, fuchsia, brown, turquoise, teal, charcoal, light purple, mahogany, orange – and as the camera pans, they proliferate until our screen is filled with these varicolored mushrooms abloom in this soil of humanity.


At ground level, men and women are rushing forward amid an expanding hiss of babble. They flow with the tide, and divested of agency, individuals are freed from obligations of human compassion, sympathy, and courtesy. Uniformed men with hard-billed caps steer traffic best they can, but they are outnumbered. The energy is ramifying from some heart of the matter, the heart which is this: the primal, animalistic instinct and need to be at a place called home. We zoom in on a man being tugged from behind by one who does not want to lose him. A woman emits a screak. A cop says into a megaphone, “Be patient, don’t crowd.”


3


We are in the bowels of the station, our vision pointed down a concrete gully daubed with the pale glow of cylindrical fluorescent lights. Plaster is peeling off the walls. There are over 130 million migrant workers in China. Travelers appear from the vanishing point hauling roller suitcases, handbags, duffel bags, buckets, makeshift carts – and their weighty footsteps, their burdens, their haste. They go home only once a year, during Chinese New Year. They jog, fast-walk, and now they are rounding the corner. This is the world’s largest human migration. Cut to station platform: a man cranes his neck to make space for an oversized blue bag of woven plastic, possibly containing everything he owns in life, that he hoists onto his shoulder. We see the side of the train, already in motion. The faces inside are a blur. A bright light, belonging to the camera, reflects off the windows, blinking in symphony with the clank of the train’s metal wheels. The clanks grow distant, for we have remained on the platform while the locomotive slips into the night. A whistle sounds, the mistuned French horn, distant and muted. The screen cuts to black, except these words, in English and Chinese:


LAST

TRAIN

HOME


Clank, clank, clank. Again, that distant and muted whistle…


A film by

LIXIN FAN


4


Winter 2006. Here is the postcard of a modern Chinese city: a layer of buildings, a mildewed sheet of fog, a few construction cranes. Arrayed in two dimensions: at the bottom are white and dull-pink low-rise buildings; slightly above that, a vanilla six-story building, possibly a factory; rising a little, pink apartments that could be dormitories. We are halfway up the page now, and here everything is hazy, implying distance. There is the mound of a hill. Higher up, hazier still, is the outline of a skyscraper, one side rounded off like a half-licked Popsicle. The top third of the page is simply a swath of gray-red, Teflon-soot, particulates of orange, the hue of cancer. It is the sky. We hear the tittering of a jackhammer, that metal woodpecker. Guangzhou, Guangdong Province.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Chinese government on Christian Bale, and another protest


"But he was not invited to create a story or shoot film in a certain village," said [Foreign Ministry spokesman] Liu [Weimin]. "I think if you want to make up news in China, you will not be welcome here."

There's no sense getting angry at Chinese government mouthpieces. They're just doing their jobs. No one really cares about what they think, not the Chinese, certainly not, I hope, Christian Bale.

But you know what? Fuck you, Liu Weimin. Fuck you.

OK, glad we got that out of the way.

MEANWHILE in Guangdong... another protest!


Thousands of people besieged a government office in a southern Chinese town Tuesday and blocked a highway to demand a halt to a planned coal-fired power plant because of concerns about pollution, protesters said.

Riot police used tear gas in an attempt to disperse the protesters at the highway in the town of Haimen in Guangdong province, and the demonstrators hurled rocks, water bottles and bricks in return, said one of the protesters, a 27-year-old man surnamed Chen.

It is the second major protest in two weeks in a corner of coastal southern China that has been seeing periodic unrest over the last few years, primarily over land disputes. In much of Guangdong province, conflicts have been intense because the area is among China's most economically developed, pushing up land prices.


You treat your people like shit, and they'll throw rocks at you. Literal and metaphorical. The literal rocks you probably don't care about, since you have armor and guns. The other kind? It'll ruin your day, believe that.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

China Daily just does not give a fuck

Yes, they will spit on your intelligence and then tell you how stupid you are. Because sometimes, their stories just aren't meant for you. Why would they be? You're just a person.

Meanwhile, Pyongyang must be pretty happy with this cover. They are, as you know, allies.


The culture of "journalism" here, folks. Like it or leave it.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Changes abound in this city of ours


We can talk about big changes all day, but it's the little stuff that's more likely to sneak up on us and one day to make us exclaim, "Holy shit, that happened?" Take note of the neighborhoods between Dawanglu and Shuangjing, i.e. between Carrefour, Today Art Museum and Beijing City International School. There's some shit happening.


Two people kicking around a shuttlecock.

If you ever want to buy property, look here. It's still somewhat affordable -- by which I simply mean it's not in the millions of usd as a place near Second Ring Road might be -- but the area's nice enough that prices are probably only going to increase.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Cardboard Men (A Video)

You touch the cardboard man, talk to him.
What does he say?
Nothing, probably. He is made of
thickset crenellated pulpwood, after all,
and is mono-dimensional, and even if
he understood your words, golden like a metaphor,
he would not deign to reply,
to hand back your arrogance,
you prehistoric mumbler,
alien wanderer of our streets,
for the cardboard men
have evolved beyond language,
which is why, to you,
they make no reply.

Even if i know that tomorrow the world would go to pieces I would still plant My apple TREE



Also see: still LOVE U.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Highlights from the latest NYT article on Wukan

Full article here.

The pessimistic:

How long they will last is another matter. As the days pass, the cordons of police officers surrounding the village grow larger. Armored trucks and troop carriers have been reported nearby. On local television, a 24-hour channel denounces the villagers as “a handful of people” dedicated to sabotaging public order, with the names of protesters flashing on a blue screen, warning that they will be prosecuted. Many here fear this will all end badly.

The... not pessimistic:

Here in Wukan, many residents believed that the national government had not yet intervened to resolve matters simply because it had been misled by nefarious local officials to believe that all was well.

So far, however, it seems from inside this locked-down village that government leaders at all levels are flummoxed at their blue-moon, if temporary, loss of control.

Lin Zuluan, 67, a retired businessman who is now the village’s de facto leader, said that officials had approached him to negotiate an end to the protest, but that talks had gone nowhere, in part because the officials would not meet villagers’ demands to return all their land.

“I do have concerns” over the lack of progress, he said. “But I do believe this country is ruled by law, so I do believe the central government will do whatever it has to do to help us.”

Why a big fuck-you kick should be aimed at a whole lot of authorities:

They said that he had died of a heart attack in a hospital and that medical records of his care would be provided.

But family members say officials confiscated their mobile telephones before allowing them into the funeral home, apparently to prevent them from taking photographs. Mr. Xue’s nose was caked with blood, his body was black with bruises and his left thumb was broken, apparently pulled backward to the breaking point, one of them, a nephew named Xue Ruiqiang, said on Friday in an interview.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

We should probably all be following what's happening in Wukan

The New York Times called it an "open rebellion." Business Insider gave three reasons the protests are "totally unprecedented." Roads are blockaded. It has its own Wikipedia page ("Siege of Wukan").

The situation: a bunch of people are angry that government officials or cadres, in cahoots with developers, are evicting them to build luxury housing that they won't be able to afford. Of course they haven't been properly compensated -- oh, and a village representative was killed while in custody. This is a huge deal. Because while chai-qian (demolish-relocate) is common -- the biggest surprise is these large-scale protests don't happen more often -- a death of a well-respected villager is the type of cataclysmic event that can galvanize and embolden the masses, and suddenly a dispute has become a months-long protest.

We should probably be clear about what the villagers are fighting for, though. It's not, as Hong Kong's Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movement in China chairman Lee Cheuk-yan rather selfishly put it, "democracy in China" (quote: "We are very much encouraged by their struggle and we believe this is the hope for democracy in China.") For fuck's sake, their land is being pillaged; I think "democracy" and all its nebulous meanings is the last thing on their minds. We can help the movement or we can hurt it, and wielding words like "democracy" and, really, "rebellion" (implying overthrow of the government) probably aren't the best. In this sense, this is nothing like Occupy, and not really at all like Arab Spring: these villagers have a specific reason for protesting, and it's a pretty narrow, selfish reason, however justified they are.

Still: we should pay attention. You never know where the threshold is for critical mass, and once that's reached, things will never be the same.

POSTSCRIPT: Somehow related: Christian Bale stopped from visiting Chen Guangcheng. Some days, I tell ya... fuck this government.

Friday, December 9, 2011

J.R. Smith is the CBA's Carmelo Anthony

Laid out on flu medicine here and just finished watching the Beijing-Zhejiang game on CCTV-5. J.R. Smith missed a three-pointer at the buzzer that would have erased a nine-point deficit in two minutes. Back rim. Decent game.

Afterwards, Beijing's coach basically said Smith had no help and that the team's strategy was to let Smith get his points (at least 37, I think) and contain everyone else. Success!

This might be the Beijing Ducks' year. With its win over Zhejiang (now 5-2), Beijing sits atop the standings as the last undefeated team at 9-0. Every other team has at least two losses.

In another Chinese sports happening, there's this Peak commercial with Shane Battier where he says, "Indomitable heart and aggressive mental power." Perhaps Peak should consider a different writer.

Also, Kevin Love is sponsored by 361. Who knew? It's too bad, because Stephon Marbury's the one rocking that whole "love" theme.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Last Train Home

Stunning and heartbreaking. So thoroughly stunning and heartbreaking that I don't have any other words to describe the viewing experience. It's perfect in ways many filmmakers wouldn't dare trying to be.

UPDATE, 12/23: Words.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

At the Akon concert last night

It was difficult hearing him say anything over the bass while sitting in the third deck of Wukesong (MasterCard Center, if you insist), but I've never seen so many Chinese people standing at a concert before -- and ushers letting them do it. Akon had the crowd hot, which is a tribute to his showmanship, I suppose, but a real sign of what Chinese club music is all about: American club music that's upbeat and safe, about beautiful girls, basically.

Hope fun was had all around. Here's a clip:

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A note to Chinese web designers

Just now I tried ordering from Pizza Hut's website. There's so much flash and miscellany on that site that it took about 90 seconds to respond to my clicks. I had to click through three fucking pages to get to the fucking pizza menu (never made it). I couldn't apple+click to open pages in new tabs. I didn't find the delivery number.

I ended up ordering from Pizza Company. (4008-113-113 for delivery; one medium pizza for 39 yuan, two for 69 yuan; it's a great deal!)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

This is so refreshing

From Shanghaiist: Shenhua coach invades pitch to lift injury-faking

Excerpting:

Shanghai Shenhua's coach was so enraged by the play-acting of his own midfielder that he stormed angrily onto the pitch and dragged the offending injury-faker to his feet.

...

The reactions of those around Besek are priceless. Liu himself looks shocked and confused, whilst Shenhua midfielder Cao Yunding appears to be asking Besek what the hell he is doing. Meanwhile, the referee's reaction is priceless, smiling cheesily at Besek and giving him the thumbs up.

Afterwards, and in a video reel, Bezek told reporters that Liu was a professional footballer and that there are some things professional footballers should never do. He said Liu was a young player who still had a lot to learn.

Chinese soccer needs more athletes, fewer cunts.

Actually, this also applies for Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, South American, and probably French soccer, too. (Help me out, what countries am I forgetting?)

Friday, October 28, 2011

There's a baseball game on right now

It's going to the 11th inning. You should probably watch.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Back in the Beijinger

The magazine that held its 10-year-anniversary party recently published this on its blog. Disclaimer: it's got my picture in it. Blagh.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

NYT journalist in DPRK

If Edward Wang got that crappy hat for three US dollars, he got ripped off. Same hat at Yashow in Beijing sells for $1.50. Less if you can bargain well.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Cartoon about American politics

I've been a bit harsh on China Daily as of late, but Luo Jie does something good here:


Monday's cartoon

If nothing else, because there sure is a lot of bickering in the U.S., for the sake of bickering, I guess. Can't wait for that election season, huh.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Andre Vltchek or China Daily (again) misses the point

Got this from a China Daily article, so proceed with caution, but...

[Andre] Vltchek, who is also a novelist and political analyst, has been discovering places that are rarely covered by the mainstream Western media, and exposing disparities in today's world.

One of his articles, titled The West Perfecting its Techniques to Hurt China, was recently translated and published in People's Daily, a major Chinese newspaper.

"The West has absolutely no interest in human rights in China or anywhere else. How could it, considering that it is violating them on basically all continents, worldwide?" he wrote in the commentary posted a year ago on Znet, a website focusing on politics from a left-wing perspective.


I've said this in various ways on this blog before, but I'll say it again, this time in numbered points:

1. Whether "the West" (western governments) has violated human rights is immaterial to pretty much anything. It simply DOES NOT MATTER. If you're a tenant in rural China who gets relocated because some cadre wants to build a hotel (or if you're a tenant in the heart of Beijing...), whether or not America waterboarded prisoners has absolutely no relevance whatsoever.

Similarly, whether western governments care or don't care about China's human rights doesn't matter either. See above. The idealist thinks that perhaps a country like the U.S. could push China to [fill-in-the-blank], but that's about as likely as China convincing Obama to close Gitmo. In other words, if change happens, it won't be because of a foreign diplomat.

2. There are a lot of people in a lot of places who take governments to task for abuses of human rights. Why don't we talk about the efforts of these civilians instead of dancing around government press releases and diplomatic talk? Does anyone actually find government officials interesting? Their job is to maintain holding patterns, and if we expect anything else from them, we're really giving them too much credit. A more interesting and telling question is, proportionally, are there more or fewer human rights lobbyists in China than there are in, say, the U.S.? Granted, it's not that interesting a question, and we can go a lot deeper, but at least it's not the classic red herring that Chinese commentators seem so fond of: "Because the West is flawed, we're allowed to be flawed as well."

(By the way, I think this is why I took so much issue with China Daily's Chen Weihua in my previous post, who seems to think that the blanket argument "West is flawed" is JUSTIFICATION for China's misgivings (in this case, censorship of media). It's so juvenile: Mommy, but Jimmy's doing it too! To say nothing of the fact that Chen was wrong in his premise -- his premise, I think, being that the West doesn't care about the West's own problems; Westerners do care -- quite a lot, actually. And sometimes an individual who happens to live "over there" turns his or her eye to China, and all of a sudden the natives -- such as Weihua -- flip their shit.)

3. People's fixation -- by "people" I don't specifically mean Vltchek here, even though he wrote about it -- with what "the West" or, more generally, "non-Chinese people" think about China is stupid. It's, again, immaterial to anything. It leads to straw man arguments and non sequiturs and various other logical fallacies that we can generally label "stupid."

But, then again -- and you know this already -- it's part of the country's long process of maturation. China can build skyscrapers and luxury malls and turn a fishing village into a 10-million-strong metroplex within a couple of decades, but changing attitudes and mindsets, well -- no shortcut there.

Friday, October 7, 2011

China Daily insults collective intelligence of readership, itself, EVERY FUCKING PERSON

I'm quite late with this, but I just noticed this column from Chen Weihua titled, "US media blackout of protest is shameful," and I couldn't resist channeling some rancid anger. Excerpt:

While there are many videos of harsh police action on the Internet, I have witnessed how the formerly helpful police patrolling the streets have suddenly resorted to force in Zuccotti Park, also known as Liberty Plaza, in Lower Manhattan.

In one scene, several policemen jumped on one skinny man who was not acting violently. They pushed him down and handcuffed him. Just five minutes later, a policeman waved his fist at a man. That day, seven people were arrested, with one suffering a serious leg injury.


Wow. Pushing him down, handcuffing... sounds like some serious violations of human rights there.

Here's the thing: I understand China Daily's agenda. I know it secretly relishes the role of devil's advocate. I know there's nothing it loves more than using shoddy Western reporting tactics against the West. But what I absolutely don't know yet want to find out is whether their "columnists" (very poorly disguised government shills and general hacks) have any morsel of self-respect. The above-linked column isn't just pot calling the kettle black, it's Chappelle Show "black white supremacist"-level outrageousness. It's beyond "stupid," it's a sort of universal dark matter that is threatening to suck intelligence off the face of the knowable cosmos. A Chinese newspaper -- China Fucking Daily, which is FUCKING CENSORED BY THE FUCKING HIGHEST ORGAN OF STATE PROPAFUCKINGANDA -- calling out any country's media for not reporting on something, when at first there was nothing to report and later there was all this, all this, all this -- Jesus, just fucking google it, asshole -- not to mention this Krugman column, has to be the boldest, most bald-faced expression of "I'm China, and I just don't give a fuck" that anyone can slap down, short of:

China: "Traffic pretty bad, eh Los Angeles? SUCK ON A HERPES SORE, LOS ANGELES!"
Los Angeles: "Um, but Beijing has the worst traffic in the world..."
China: "I'm China, and I just don't give a fuck."

Well done, China Daily. Your quest for legitimacy, especially in those new offices in New York, is going swimmingly.

UPDATE: Article about this in Want China Times.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Beijing, please

The city has emptied its bowels of people, and suddenly the streets are cleaner, the skies bluer (mountain visible!), the traffic wardens friendlier. (A short old man engaged me in a one-way conversation at a crossing yesterday, details of which aren't important, but it made me appreciate, all over again, the wardens' stupid, stupid jobs.) We are in Golden Week, the country's monthlong celebration of itself, a time when those in the middle class pack their bags and take a leave. The result is a metropolis mercifully relieved of the pressures and stresses of the hoi polloi, the ruckus and racket of the multitude among ones. There are suddenly seats in the subway and bus (and at certain McDonald's). There is a much-needed calm, a great slowing down, leading to a sense that this way of life is the norm. Of course the illusion will be lifted in due time, as this reprieve is as temporary as the blue skies. They will all return, by choice, because to live in Beijing is a privilege and at this heart of the world we are all part and parcel of the rat-a-tat of scuttling feet and all that happens, all that traffic, all that drunkenness, all that fire and ardor, the conflagration and consolidation of hopes and goals. Our choice is clear: Beijing, please -- another. And one for my friend here.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Just want to get this on the record real quick: baseball

The craziest final day in Major League Baseball history saw the culmination of two epic collapses. The Braves lost after blowing a lead in the final frame. The Rays came back from a 7-0 deficit -- with a solo home run by Dan Johnson in the bottom of the 9th (two outs, two strikes, of course) to tie it -- and the Red Sox, with their presiding closer on the mound, give up two two-out runs in Baltimore mere minutes before Evan Longoria's walk-off home run in Tampa Bay. In real time, moments in the form of movements are fleeting, the world itself transitory; only in memory does time metamorphose into a spectrum and achieve shape, which can be inspected. Focus on one part and you will never believe against the trajectory, never imagine alternatives or that which is not prewritten. Thus we are taught: the slopes of mathematics are fastened to the verities of probability, order. And then it all comes undone. And then -- fans of the Red Sox, say -- are forced to focus on a parallel order, which is chaos. It is tempting -- is it not? -- to see time, that spectrum, as an accordion, and compress it so that we return to the previous spot on our mapped course where the score is 3-2, 7-0, and shall remain that way forevermore, until Boston meets Philadelphia in the World Series, until confetti fall and the world ends, until the end of time.

Now back to your regularly scheduled China news.

What happens when you hold a baseball tournament and no one writes about it?

Apparently the Guilin Tourism College beat Xinjiang University in the finals of the China National College Baseball Tournament last month. I would link to the results or something, except I can't find any, in either English or Chinese. I've reached out to Xinjiang's coach, though, so maybe more info TK in the upcoming days.

This would be the same Xinjiang team, by the way, that momentarily captured the blogosphere's heart last year as it tried to muster the necessary funds to compete in the National College Baseball Tournament in Shanghai. They ended up sending 13 players over.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox and Rays are tied for the AL Wild Card going into the final day of the season, and the Braves and Cardinals are tied for the NL Wild Card. Yes, I will be getting up early tomorrow to watch those games on MLB.tv.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Arriving in Beijing

The train from Dalian hadn't yet reached Beijing East Station on its way to the main station on the corner of Second Ring Road when a recorded message over the intercom listed our destination city's distinctive features, such as the Forbidden City, along with superlatives, such as the "biggest public square in the world, Tiananmen." A neighborhood of shanties swung into and out of sight like the motion of a pendulum, time itself; soon those low-rise shacks will be swept aside by the brooms of construction, their dust absorbed by the free-floating elements above, the haze, through which, at that very moment, a piercing gleam in the distance announced the presence of a golden skyscraper burgeoning out of the earth. A small child nearby kept repeating in a manner of singsong, "Arriving in Beijing! Arriving in Beijing!" until his mother told him to quit it. Arriving in Beijing, indeed. Back home.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Ultimate Frisbee in North Korea

This was the purpose of my trip to Pyongyang two weeks ago. Wrote an article as well, which I'll link to when it comes out.



Related: North Korean kids playing soccer:

Friday, September 9, 2011

Goodbye, fiona...

I never knew you. Except now I find out you also have a Xanga account?! Where have you been all these four years?

Sadly, quirkyBeijing moves down on my blogroll, partly to make room for the excellent Seeing Red in China.

This post was backdated on 9/29.

Monday, September 5, 2011

A trip to Pyongyang, August 27-30

I know I've made a habit of saying, after returning from a trip, that I'll write "more about this later," but this time I mean it: I really will write more about North Korea in the coming weeks.

For now, though, feast your eyes on this video I made:

Full videos (two parts) here:

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Duke treats Chinese "Olympic Team" like Fairleigh Dickinson"

It was not, of course, the Olympic Team we all know, because last I checked, the Olympic Team was coached by Bob Donewald and has Yi Jianlian. That team would have crushed Duke. The one that played last night went down 28-6 and, despite spurts of competence, never really challenged the Dukies.

In case you were wondering: Duke: 3, teams from China: 0.

The highlight of the night -- other than a couple of monstrous dunks by the Blue Devils -- was a mascot copping a feel from two Duke cheerleaders, and the Blue Devil mascot going up to that other mascot and doing a "get the fuck off your knees you pervert" hand motion. I really, really wish I'd gotten video of that.

I'll have pictures and a vid of something else in a couple weeks or something.

Monday, August 22, 2011

This is Duke

"The veteran-laden white squad dominated in full court action in a steamy MasterCard Center."
--From Duke's athletics website. A Day in the Life.

I'll be at the game tonight, so if anyone has any good Duke-related heckles, let me know ...

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The most hackneyed article about China you will ever read

You know how some poets write with a thesaurus or a rhyming dictionary, and end up endlessly churning out couplets that rhyme "light" with "bight"? No? Right, of course not, cause that's FUCKING RIDICULOUS. You would have to be in third grade to do that.

Well, someone at Fox News decided to write a story about China -- sorta -- using a list of cliches that is FUCKING RIDICULOUS. Let's examine the first five paragraphs, shall we:

It could be said that China has engaged the west by fighting without fighting.

Which is why the Georgetown University men's basketball team received a Shanghai Surprise in its game the other night against the Bayi Rockets in China.

The game devolved into a fight worthy of the spectacle at the Palace at Auburn Hills, rather than the Great Hall of the People.

The only thing missing was an appearance from Ron Artest.

So much for ping pong diplomacy. Try KO diplomacy. All of the punches, kicks and chairs that were thrown represented a Great Leap Forward into what some dubbed "The Great Brawl of China."

Okay. We got:

  • Shanghai Surprise (game was in Beijing)
  • Great Hall of the People (game was nowhere near the Great Hall of the People)
  • Ping pong diplomacy (I believe they were playing basketball)
  • Great Leap Forward (next time the Atlanta Braves lose a game, I'm going onto my Royals blog and leading off a post with, "War is hell.")

But of course, no article written this poorly could go without a reference to ...

Bruce Lee called it the art of fighting without fighting.

Bruce fucking Lee.

I'm wracking my brain here, and I can't think of five comparable cliches for America. I mean, maybe "You're not in Kansas anymore," but you would have to REALLY TRY to write as lazy and cliched an article as the above. Like, you would have to google "most obvious references to American pop culture as seen in other countries" or some shitty phrase like that to get the list, then you'd have to print out the list, then put it in front of you as you build sentences and paragraphs around those items. You would get something like this:

War is Hell.

The pitcher was quickly reminded he wasn't in Kansas anymore. First there was a home run, then another. Someone should have called Social Services, because this was the Invasion of Normandy.

So much for the Four Horsemen.

Phillies 5, Braves 2.

Here's how the Fox News article ends:

Perhaps the era of fighting without fighting is over.

Enter the Dragon.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A dinner exchange with Mom

Me: Are these shrimps skinless?
Mom: Yes, in America, shrimps come without skin.

Have I already talked about HDTV?

Monday, July 18, 2011

U.S. of A: Free (and fast) Internet, HD TV and ... US Airways

First, I have to put on the record that US Airways is my new favorite airline, at least until I fly with Southwest again. I missed my flight from Regan National Airport to Kansas City TWICE within a span of 13 hours. Leaving aside the magnitude of incompetence required to accomplish this, I have to say that US Airways put me on another flight both times without charge.

The first time I missed it, on Friday night, was due to the fact that 1) I didn't know different colored trains share the same track in DC's subway system (and I was buzzed off America's actually-alcoholic beer), and 2) the subway train I was on (the wrong subway train) broke down as I was headed toward not-Regan. Then I switched trains and waited 30 minutes and then transferred (waiting 10 minutes) and got to the airport just as the flight was leaving the gate.

The second time ... well, there's no good excuse, really. I got to the check-in counter for my 9:20 am flight at 10 o'clock and told them I missed my flight -- again -- and the guy said, "You're making a habit of missing flights, huh?" I replied, "Yeah, it was idiotic." He put me on the 10:40.

*

Watching the US-Japan game on HDTV without drunk people next to me. Wow. When ESPN HD showed highlights of the '99 game, which wasn't in HD, all I could think was, HOW DID WE LIVE BACK THEN?

*

I can stream WWE Raw from Tudou.com without lag. To put this in perspective: I certainly can't stream YouTube (with VPN, of course) in China without having to pause the video every 10 seconds so that it loads.

American Internet is the thing I miss the most about this country.

And Paninis with bacon, bulgogi beef, grilled peppers and onions.

And my cat, Kiddy.

(Mom... goes without saying, I hope.)

*

Quick thought about this game that I'm watching on HDTV as we pass the 34-minute mark: I've never seen any goalkeeper layout as often as this Japanese keeper without being anywhere close to the ball. Poor keeper.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Not my best side, but ...


Just kidding, of course. Beijing Ultimate could use all the publicity it gets. Thanks to Vera Peneda and Global Times, which I believe I've said before is the best English-language publication in Beijing.

Article here.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tonight at Punk

I might be reading as part of Global Times' Flash Fried Fiction finals. 6 to 9 pm is all I know.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Mongolia?

"... Mongols and Mongolians always looked down on the Chinese as a inferior race of rice-cultivating peasants."

Thus begins a series of weird comments from BAAGII on this Foreign Policy article about Mongolia. Did you know, according to another commenter, Aquarium, that...

The original and modern meaning of “Hya” is castrated male slave or eunuch, and stavkove kancelarie tad is plural. Therefore, China is called Republic of “castrated male slaves or eunuchs” in Mongolian. This term is still used to describe China and Chinese. For example, Mongolians often say that Hu jintao is the Chairman of the People’s Republic of China, and the Mongolian meaning’s literal translation is actually “Hu jintao is the Head Eunuch of the People’s Republic of castrated male slaves-eunuchs”, in Mongolian.

Great and awesome. Er, hmm.

Just started a Mongolia tag. May revisit this subject later.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Out of the dark ages?



China may have relaxed its Gmail restrictions, but that's no longer relevant. My VPN is working again after a small hiccup and all is well in Internet world. Thank you to Support Team.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Slow fire rescue





It would be an exaggeration to call this the world's slowest fire rescue, because I can easily imagine fire rescues being slower (hey, at least the traffic is moving!), but let's all agree that if you want to be rescued from the Central Business District, it's best not to have an accident at rush hour.

The below video was taken just a little after 5 pm on Thursday, with big plumes of dark smoke clearly visible against a pale blue sky:



The fire began in the "afternoon," according to Xinhua, and as you'll notice because of the timestamp in that linked article, it was still ongoing at 6 pm. A friend of mine who works near CBD said the fire went on for about two hours before any firetrucks got to it.

Beijing's roads could use more private cars to impede vehicles that actually need the road. Buy some more cars, fucktards.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Google accuses China of blocking its mail service

Because China is indeed doing it. I think I said enough last week on the subject of this country's censors.

NY Times excerpt
:

Google said that it was not having any technical problems with Google’s main Web site or Gmail service in China.

“There is no issue on our side; we have checked extensively,” Google said in a statement released Sunday. “This is a government blockage, carefully designed to look like the problem is with Gmail.”

Analysts who track Web developments say that the Chinese government may be intentionally disrupting access to Google and other Web services as part of a campaign to tighten Internet controls and censor material.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Global Times Flash Fried Fiction contest

I'm being more than a little self-indulgent in linking to this, but here's my entry in Global Times' fiction-writing contest.

As part of the competition, the Raffles Design Institute assigned some of its students to make posters related to each of the 12 finalists. The picture in the above link is the one that got the highest grade. Below is the poster I prefer:

Monday, March 14, 2011

On Charlie Sheen and Global Times (and al-Jazeera, et al.)

I didn't want to comment on this. I think satire's best left uncommented on, lest you become, unwittingly, the butt of the joke (see: Alessandro; Alessandro, fallout to; my friend's buzz thread; those in bullet points below). But now that Global Times' Charlie Sheen piece is out in the way-the-fuck open, I think it's time for me to throw in a couple cents.

But first allow me this detour: Charlie Sheen is an American hero. Can we all agree on that? Not because he lives the social liberal's dream life with three blond porn stars, but because he's been able to say, clearly and resoundingly, FUCK YOU to an establishment that includes prudish CNN and Wall Street Journal types, overly serious journalists trying to "make sense" of him, conservatives who are disgusted by him and anything resembling non-missionary-position sex, and amateur psychologists all the world over. Charlie Sheen is to be enjoyed while he's still with us (I don't say this with insensitivity) because he's the sort of one-in-a-million personality who, given the platform to communicate with wider audiences, eschews the phony in favor of brutal honesty and entertainment as if to say it actually is possible to be yourself and absolutely right-fucking okay ... okay to be interesting, okay to be funny, okay to have a laugh at everything staid and cliched. Because surely we must recognize how much of our lives are spent wading through the marshes of cliche, right? That we live trapped in houses within houses built by predecessors and ancestors and god-knows-whom, and that people like Charlie Sheen (and poets) open a window ever so slightly and allow us a whiff of freshness. Surely we must understand that the opportunity to diverge from our lockstep march toward death is an opportunity that deserves to be celebrated -- not crushed by loathsome words like "mental" and "unstable." Yes, I know Charlie Sheen is a tragedy wrapped in a comedy, but in all honesty, we have him to thank for giving that to us. Giving himself. America has allowed him to do that. He's the epitome of America in so many ways.

So any news media that uses Charlie Sheen (and they're all using them, those sluts -- worse than any of the porn stars Charlie's loved) in any way that is in the "Charlie Sheen spirit" is off to a good start. So Global Times deserves kudos off the bat here. Charlie Sheen as vehicle for satire. Charlie Sheen as net to catch the hypocrites, even long-time "China watchers" who really, really should know better.

Remember when I implied up top that the best satire ensnares as much as it incites laughter? Well, here is a compendious list of GT's victims:
  • Shanghaiist's Kenneth Tan
  • At least three people on my friend's buzz thread, linked above.
  • Al-Jazeera's Melissa Chan
  • At least he admitted to being "punk'd": Foreign Policy's Daniel Drezner
  • Richard, Peking Duck (disappointing...)
  • Snark, NICE! (I might have to spell it out for him: "nice" is in all-caps = sarcasm): former Chairman of the American Society of Magazine Editors Robert Stein, who, instead of admitting he didn't get the joke, replied: "Yeah, as I remember. Chairman Mao had us in stitches for years."

Here's the thing with all these people: they failed to get the joke even after it was explained to them by a Global Times editor (from Shanghaiist):

The answer is, it’s a spoof column, with full editorial connivance, and was intended to amuse as well as gull a few “Western” readers who’ll believe either a) any mad crap a Chinese commentator says or b) failing that, that the Chinese are incapable of humour or being “in on it” and therefore must be having a prank played on them. Either view is patronizing and/or offensive, I think you’d agree but - even if you don’t - in this case, you’re wrong.

Kenneth Tan's response to the above was essentially: we're just a blog, don't get mad at us.

But Kenneth, you're a blog of some repute, and even after the joke was explained, the best you could offer in reply was a defensive-sounding, "Yes, it didn't quite cross our minds that your bosses were in on the joke. But seriously, can you blame us for that? Have you read some of the jackshit that's published on the other pages of your paper?" You're not necessary wrong for not assuming the best in people, but your tone conveys a strange lack of awareness of who the enemy is -- if there is one.

The other things you say -- which I'll spare you the humiliation of re-reading on this blog -- sound even more defensive. You're the Shanghaiist. You probably blog out of an office -- unlike me, I'm blogging in my pajamas right now. You have influence. Act like it.

And here's al-Jazeera's Melissa Chan: "And so The Global Times editors signed off on a piece ostensibly about Charlie Sheen, probably believed there was some merit to the argument for Eastern values, recognised the reality of how business and mistresses are dealt with in China -- and in doing so, published a piece that was also mocking The Global Times itself."

I learned my lesson a while back with Alessandro: don't assume. In this case, don't assume that Chinese people don't "get the joke." And certainly don't conflate, as people are wont to do, the dispassionate and seemingly unbreakable veneer of the authoritarian government that controls China with the people who inhabit this country. It's one thing to say the government doesn't like joshing around -- though didn't Wikileaks show us the goal of international diplomacy for basically every country is to establish as elaborate a facade as possible? -- but it's another to say that the Chinese just don't "get" it.

Alas, I fear if we delve further, we're going to lose some readers. As Thomas Roche of Techyum puts it in a good but sorta roundabout piece: somehow we've reached the stage of "a hoax within a hoax within a hoax." And that's not a good place to be.

Try as I might, I can't really angry at any one person. But I'm going to use Melissa as an illustrative case here. The target of the satire was not the U.S. It wasn't China, really. It was ... you ready for this, Melissa Chan? ... YOU! (I'm channeling the spirit of Time, please excuse me.) YOU, Melissa Chan! I think balloons are falling from the rafters! Confetti is rocketing up to meet them in starbursts of color! The lights are flashing, Melissa, the lights, the hot lights of fame and glory!!! You are winning!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

A friendly note to China's censors

You're fucking around with our VPNs now, are you, you slimy pouches of rat shit? I don't really know how to communicate with you right now. I want to take the nastiest, runtiest, cum-filled-est pair of screwdrivers and shove 'em in your eye sockets. I want to find the most oft-used and least-cleaned douches from the fattest, smelliest, foulest cunts -- basically your daughters' -- and jam 'em up your nostrils that have been cut open by a blunt Swiss army knife. I want to break a bottle of beer over your head and castrate what little of your dick I can find with a microscope and then jam that microscope so far up your ass that your poop reeks of the spirit of Robert Hooke, and then ...

...whoa, okay, I blacked out momentarily there ... hang on...

OK I'm back. I want to hit you in the back of the head with a baseball bat. Yes, I'm borrowing imagery from a Tarantino film, that's how mad I am. So how should we talk? Over tea, you maggot-brained lard-loving swill fuck?

My anger for you knows no bounds. I will kill you, motherfucker.

Friday, March 11, 2011

More satire than satire

(Paraphrasing Rob Zombie in the title, I think...)



From our favorite news site, People's Daily.

HT: Laura Fitch

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Bigger space at Kro's Nest for trivia Thursdays

If you haven't checked it out yet -- or even if you have, because you haven't quite seen it like this -- trivia night at Kro's Nest is going to be better than ever tonight (Thursday) starting at 8 pm. Jim and I are in the back room, which is a much better layout. More teams, more fun.

If you happen to attend because you heard about it from here, do make sure to introduce yourself.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Bye, YouTube

And gchat's been sporadic for many days now. VPN, I hang to you with the last fibers of my soul.

UPDATE, 3/11: Well, I think YouTube is back, but Witopia is gone ...

NOT. Witopia, of course, is much more agile than China's Net nannies. I was angry for a while. Then I decided to contact Witopia and get everything sorted out. There is a workaround for every China problem.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Welcome back, YouTube

Now if they'll unblock Blogger, my life will be complete slightly easier.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Chinese police and Western media dance at Wangfujing

This is very cute. On one side, state police, like school girls wearing bonnets waiting for their young knights; on the other, Western media types, horny and hormonal and needing but a little punch to work up the nerve to approach. All to the backdrop of Wangfujing, where soirees are are often attended by the grand duchess herself.

There was no revolution, but you know this already. By now -- if you've been in China for any length of time -- you understand that no one cares about these sort of things, by and large. But the police showed up in force, because you can't be too careful in either sex or statecraft, and the Western media types lived up to their reputation. Consider the rabble roused. Perhaps next time ... smile?

The only losers here? As Adrienne Mong of MSN reports:

Ordinary Chinese were bewildered. “What’s going on? Why can’t we walk here?” they asked.

Some were more belligerent. One woman started shouting, “Why can’t I go down here? Why are you stopping me? Stop pushing.”


The consumers, who only wanted to spend a few hundred kuai and be on their way. But, again, you know this, too: consumers rule China.

Well done, everyone. Well fucking done.

Meanwhile, Chinese Internet buzzes over Richard Li and Isabella Leong.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Cataclysm around the corner

Twenty-six. Last day of 2011's February. Late afternoon sun mere tarnished coin in a sky half-baked, as if an artist ran out of colors, as if a patient dropped his coveralls with a shrug and stepped into the light; redolent of autumn; redolent of infatuation, somehow. I don't dare say love.

Change is about us, a thing arriving like a long-expected house guest. We must embrace. We must accept one another though we are unsure whether to trust. I am sure we will never love. The ones we love are on their way out, to make way for these strangers. The rules will soon be theirs, as it was once ours.

Old men hobble on crutches. Women tote groceries forever up and down a weatherbeaten stairwell that could survive nuclear winter. One day, the days will become unrecognizable. One day we will debouch into the light and everything will be different, as if a great elemental spirit had swept his hand across our landscapes and our homes with their manicured lawns and our yawning high-rises and precious dams with the intent of starting anew, leaving nothing but the attar of nostalgia. Spring, perhaps. Surely spring.

Except this day, as clear as ever: a final day of a second month, redolent of autumn. You can sense it in the air. You can almost hold it for it has shape, it has texture; it circulates within us, breathed out in shared breaths.

Around the corner I see him, plain and recognizable as ever. Change. He extends his hand. We awkwardly hug. I know why you're here, I tell him. I know what you have come to do. He only smiles, that smile of perpetual understanding, of knowing he will outlive your son, your father; the smile one might give to a sufferer of terminal cancer. No trace of mocking. Do not mock me, I tell him nonetheless.

We walk briefly, though at any moment he is liable to disappear. Busy, he says. You understand, I hope. I tell him I do not understand much these days, perhaps nothing. Nothing feels right. Nothing feels permanent. There is nothing to hold, nothing to look forward to. Have you considered Buddhism? he asks me. Smile smaller. I remind him again to not mock me, though I say it teasingly.

He asks me what I want, and I tell him: just this day. Just let me have this day. I renounce these things, I say: these places people go, these stubs of hair on the collar of that man on the elevator, back from the barbershop. I renounce all my possessions, even that which I do not possess, the people I cannot possibly love, who cannot love me. I am renunciate, I am the elements. As I say this, it becomes apparent that I am no longer speaking, that my words have broken down beyond its smallest parts, the moneme atomized; I am communicating directly. I am a shaobing proprietor from Shanxi who cooks eggs and chicken meat over a hotplate; I am a man swerving to avoid a fellow biker; I am a foreigner rejoicing at finding Franziskaner at the local bodega; I am a salty youth in the torpor and ardor of my best days.

Trees reaching toward the waning light like supplicants. Beaks of birds desperate to start their journey. If only they knew the plushness of spring, the desolation of winter. I reach out and tell him -- I tell them many, many things, so quickly and thoroughly that there cannot be any language to translate what was said. They are unlikely to understand, but that does not matter. They search for the antonym of abandonment, an undo for renunciation. I see them stretching across the sky, the last one trailing slightly but keeping pace.

Who owns this day? Who can shake this cheeseparing owner of day by the cuff, rob it of its last penny so our journeys are halted... -- for just one day, one hour? Pardon me for wanting to be together.

I slowly fade back into the world. I am on my bike now. I am biking against traffic, toward home. Change has disappeared, though I know it is just around the corner, as surely as the sun. I am a speeding locomotive. I am watching on the platform, and it is too fast but I fling myself at it. A cataclysm is around the corner, or maybe it isn't.

After this day, nothing will be the same. Thus it is decreed -- and so it shall be, on this finest of days, redolent of autumn.