Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Do You Know This Potato Chip?

If somone at THE Beijinger could help me find this potato chip I would be forever indebited!!! It called Carla Dalila Rosa, born in Azores, Portugall but raised in the proud C-A-N-A-D-A (Vancover, LOL). It's eyes are dark brown almost black like a pearl.

It was last seen in my mouf but maybe it fallen out and went under the SOFA!! I have included a pic which you can see below it is white and has ruffles and maybe som green onions. VERY BEAUTIFULL. I dont know where it could be now but maybe in Beijing teaching English???

Oh and its my niece but plz dont tell nobody..

Chinese readers react to NYT Foxconn story

Via Forbes

Americans really don't understand China. That's my takeaway message. ["People Are Spouting Nonsense about Chinese Manufacturing," Forbes]

Corollary: Remember the New York Times's big piece to kick off its iEconomy series? Of course you do. Well, they've collaborated with Caixin to translate the article into Chinese, and here were some of the hundreds of comments from Chinese readers (translated, of course):

Without Apple, Chinese workers will be worse off. I hope China can some day soon have dozens of its own companies like Apple, who (only) work on high-end research and development and send manufacturing lines to Africa. — Anonymous

Even though Apple should be ethically condemned, the key point is: whether the working conditions inside the factories are supervised by law. This (supervision) is the duty of judicial officers and labor unions. Now everything is driven only by G.D.P., so which government official would dare supervise those companies? They (the governments) have long reduced themselves to the servant of the giant enterprises. — Occasional Think

If people saw what kind of life workers lived before they found a job at Foxconn, they would come to an opposite conclusion of this story: that Apple is such a philanthropist. — Zhengchu1982

When the explosion happened, I was working for media in Chengdu. Domestic media were all silenced and only allowed to use the (Xinhua) official report, because that (Foxconn factory) was a key project. Compare to what The New York Times wrote, the gap really saddened my heart. — Chen Qiye

Well worth a look. [The Lede, NY Times]

Also see: Stan Abrams, China Hearsay.

Firecracker kills 1 in Beijing. In classic Xinhua-speak: "The holiday firecracker casualties this year, however, were down nearly 50 percent from a year earlier, according to the municipal health bureau." [Xinhua]

Corollary: From China Daily: "On average, a family may spend hundreds of yuan on firecrackers during the Spring Festival, with some paying more than 10,000 yuan (about $1,500) for the seasonal spree." From China Daily Show: "Man blows family’s entire food budget on fireworks."

Wukan update. "It is too easy to assume that the initial resolution of a problem in China represents the last word. That’s almost never the case. Now we know that we should continue to pay attention to what happens in Wukan. It matters a lot -- not only for the people of Wukan but also for our understanding of the evolving debate and real potential for wide scale political change in China." [Elizabeth C. Economy, Council on Foreign Relations]

Flowers of War flops in U.S. "'The Flowers of War,' a dark and violent Chinese-language movie about the Rape of Nanking that cost more than $90 million to produce, grossed an anemic $48,558 in 30 U.S. locations last weekend. Its per-location average: A mere $1,619." [Reuters]

Twitter: China thinks you're doing something right. (Pssst... that means you're not.) "It is important for it to respect the cultures and ideas of different countries so as to blend into local environments harmoniously. This is normal practice. To some extent, it is a necessary step in the evolution of Twitter. But many of its users, particularly some political activists and dissidents, have found it unacceptable." [Global Times, via Sinocism]



If your sort of thing is an image of a doctor ("doctor"?) removing an organ from a boy's chest... Have at it [warning: GRAPHIC]. Via Seagull Reference.

NON-CHINA READ: "[Salman] Rushdie has had a flat in London for decades, but tells me he spends more and more time in New York. Like Martin Amis, he finds the viciousness of the British media towards writers mystifying. Journalists who rely on their exercise of freedom of speech to put food on their tables and clothes on their children's backs hate a man who had to risk his life to defend the liberties they so thoughtlessly take for granted. I am not going to go into why English literature's first great Asian novelist is the object of such venom, and was cheered to find that Rushdie did not want to speculate either. Aware of the danger of sounding like a moaner, he adds that Americans may not turn on their writers with the passion of the British because they care so little about what novelists have to say that they lack the energy even to loathe them." [The Guardian]

Monday, January 30, 2012

Something is beginning to tell me JR Smith and his sister don't really care


Photo via V1.cn

Deadspin reports in a post titled "Please Get J.R. Smith Out Of China Before His Family Starts World War III" that Stephanie Smith -- this one -- was involved in another tussle, this time in that wonderful city that makes me want to kill myself every time I go there, Tianjin. One of the staffers at the game told a Sina reporter afterwards, "JR's sister really has an explosive temper. Even after getting ejected, she howled loudly and smashed stuff."

Here's a highlight video from Titan that touches on the incident. (I'll post a better video when it becomes available... as we speak, only the game's first half is online.) You can clearly see that it was a physical game all night, and Tianjin's strategy for defending Smith was apparently to get inside his head. Or his sister's, I suppose. The player charged with that task, Meng Xianglong, eventually fouled out, and said afterwards, "I didn't think [my tactics] were a big deal, I just executed our normal offense and defense, it was very ordinary."

Smith's team, Zhejiang, lost 112-104 to the fourth-worst team in the league. Smith left the court for a bit to attend to his sister -- to "protect" her (as reported by Chinese media) -- and apparently he wasn't himself when he came out for the fourth quarter (again, according to Chinese media). It should be pointed out though that he scored 37 points and went 19-for-22 from the foul line. Afterwards, Zhejiang's coach said it was "not convenient" to say why the team lost. Hmm. Here's the full quote from the above-linked Sina article:

About the loss, Zhejiang head coach Ding Wei was extremely displeased. Postgame, he said, "I was very satisfied with our players' performance, but some other factors led to our defeat, it's not convenient for me to say, I don't dare say, and I cannot say."

You know how it goes in sports: players who are high-maintenance are tolerated until the team begins to lose. And then?

Earlier this month, China Daily reported that "an insider from the Golden Bulls reveals that the team was planning to waive Smith, who has been too demanding." Too demanding, eh? Let's see...

According to Zhao Bing, the club had provided Smith with a presidential suite at a cost of 6,880 yuan per day, arranged a special chef and spent 700,000 yuan in insurance as he requested. However, he wanted another villa in Shanghai or Hangzhou with a chauffeured car to commute for training in Yiwu.

Oh, he's also making 3 million dollars. That's USD.

Oh, he pissed off some team officials recently by flying to Beijing without permission to get an MRI on his knee.

Oh, um, he's also been caught on shopping sprees in Shanghai when he was supposedly "ill." And when the rest of his team was practicing.

Did we mention the chauffeured car?

It's good to see Smith's making the most of his stay in China and living it up. You just know he's heard stories of God Shammgod's fate in the CBA and said, Nuh-uh... not gon' be me.

Your Happy-Times-Back-at-Work Links Edition


Photo by Ren Hang via NeochaEDGE

Yesterday, most Chinese returned to work. By yesterday I do indeed mean Sunday. The holiday schedule is fucked up, don't ask questions.

Oops. "[Famous architect] Liang [Sicheng's] 'siheyuan,' the traditional courtyard home, was reportedly bulldozed by a real estate developer on Thursday in the name of preservation. // The former rectangle brick structure in Beizongbu hutong where Liang and his also architect wife Lin Huiyin (Phyllis Lin) resided and started the unprecedented profiling of ancient Chinese architecture during the 1930s was reduced to piles of rubble surrounding a lone wooden gate. // The government said Saturday that the demolition was not approved by the cultural heritage authorities and officials would investigate and deal with the case in accordance of the law." [Xinhua via China Daily]

Piss

Well, this pretty much sucks a big stinky asshole. "Obama... made it a point to remind the world that though the defence budget had been trimmed, U.S. defence spending would still continue to remain higher than the combined defence budgets of the next 14 biggest militaries in the world.... // The latest Pentagon doctrine identifies China as the enemy the U.S. will have to confront. 'Over the long term, China's emergence as a regional power will have the potential to affect the U.S. economy and our security in a variety of ways…. The U.S. will continue to make a variety of investments to ensure that we maintain regional access and the ability to operate freely,' the document states. 'The growth of China's military power must be accompanied by greater clarity of its strategic intentions in order to avoid causing friction in the region.' Though U.S. officials keep on harping about the China threat, they do concede that the country is far away from achieving any kind of parity in military capabilities with the U.S." [Frontline, "India's national magazine"]

Corollary: "China should impose 'sanctions' against the Philippines after it offered to allow more US troops on its soil, state media said Sunday, amid growing tensions over disputed waters in the South China Sea." [AFP]

Shit

Interview about democracy in China. Uh-oh. "I still think China needs democracy, that it needs to change."

Fuc... wait a minute. This is actually intelligent...

Ian Johnson interviews former deputy editor of Southern Metropolis Weekly Zhang Ping in the New York Review of Books.

I really oppose several arguments [that are commonly made] about why China can’t have democracy, such as the argument that China is unique—that Chinese people need to wait because their “quality” [a Chinese term, suzhi, that implies everything from educational level to manners] isn’t high enough and other ridiculous things like that. Some people said that democracy wasn’t part of Chinese culture, and then Taiwan became democratic. Then they said that Taiwan was a special case. Now look at Wukan. They had their own elections. People say it’s special, but in fact Wukan is really typically Chinese. It’s a Chinese town but they organized everything. So what argument are you left with? If Wukan can have democracy so can other parts of China.

I’m not saying that China should have western-style democracy. In fact, there’s not a single western model. What do they mean? Germany didn’t copy America and America didn’t copy Britain. The issue isn’t copying. It’s do you or don’t you want democracy? Of course democracy has a lot of problems but it’s a way forward.

Who knew, democracy really is sunshine.

A Global Times editorial done right... not by Global Times, of course. Oh no -- if you want something done right, you gotta let someone like Eric from Sinostand do it (I'm assuming Eric, who owns the site, wrote the post, but if not, apologies to the real author). "I’ve taken the liberty of re-writing it so that it has a chance of actually influencing some people toward GT’s viewpoint," the author writes. Go compare the results: Original vs. Modified. [Sinostand]

The Economist just can't catch a break. This is the third straight links post in which the London-based news magazine has been dissed. "Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi derided western economic prescriptions of the late 20th century as 'medicine that turned out to be worse than the disease.' // He singled out The Economist magazine for criticism, saying policies it advocated a decade ago had set the continent on the path to recolonization." By the way, the story is about the African Union's new headquarters in Ethiopia, and yes, it is somehow related to China. [Voices of America]

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Fan Lixin, director of Last Train Home, speaks at film screening

I've been on the record plenty of times with my praise of Fan Lixin's Last Train Home (winner of the Best Documentary Film Award at Amsterdam's International Documentary Film Festival), so I won't repeat myself, even though the movie probably deserves all the repeated praise it gets. Fan was at The Hutong yesterday after the film screening for a quick Q-and-A, highlights of which are below.

Fan, who worked as a cameraman for CCTV's English channel for three years, was inspired by his many encounters in the countryside, stunned by what he described as the "disparity between rural China and the cosmopolitan life that I had in Beijing." Often, upon returning to CCTV's offices near Sanyuanqiao, surrounded by glistening high-rises, he'd ask: "Where does all this prosperity come from?"

His answer, given last night to an audience of nodding heads:

"I really believe it's built on the sacrifice and the contribution of the migrant workers in China, so I felt I wanted to make a story and dedicate this to them."

Minor spoiler alert.

An update on the family:
We always kept contact with the family after we finished filming. The girl, she quit that job at the bar and went to find a new job. She's floating around. I knew she had a job at a hotel as a bartender and she went back to the factory for a small while and she came to study in a vocational school in Beijing last year for a few months, and then she quit again. Now she's working in a small city in Hubei. She's 22 now, so a big girl. She doesn't [get back for Spring Festival]. She still resents her parents very much. She thinks she never received any love from the parents, so she'll deliberately avoid them during Chinese New Year.

The little brother is now 16 years old. He was doing really great in school, he got really good marks. He's second-year in high school [Chinese high schools go three years]. He got a few No. 1s in the past few years. His parents were really happy.

Mother, she lost her job. She [technically] quit, but it's because of the financial crisis, [which] brought down the salaries so much. The factory usually doesn't fire you, it just drops the salary to a level that makes you quit by yourself. So she went back to the village to take care of the son. So now it's the father working alone in Guangzhou in the factory. So I think it's a really sad thing to see: by the end of this documentary, you see this family has been shattered into smaller pieces. Although the daughter did "succeed" in finding her own independence in the city.

What did the family get out of this film?
When I first approached the family it was only the parents. His children were still young. At the time Qin was only... almost 16 years old. But I only spoke to the parents, but it took them a while to agree to participating in the filming because nobody knew at that time how long would it be. Of course we spend time with them first, try to make friends, there's always a process for you to start filming with a potential subject. I didn't pay them or commit to any future payment, but I think the moment when they decided to participate may be when I told them that although this film is filmed with your family, it's really not just about you. I want to tell a story of all you people, all the 130 million migrant workers. So I think your story needs to be heard by all those people in the city. All this time I thought this will only be a Chinese film, I never thought it would go international.

On family's reaction to film.
When we finished the film I gave the family a DVD. The father saw it, he felt very, very sad watching their story on the big screen. The mother never saw it because she thought she couldn't take it, so she never saw it. Qin, the daughter, never wanted to see it. I also offered for her to see it, but she never wanted to. I hope she can maybe change her mind and go see it when she grows older.

But legally we did have all the papers. I think making a documentary film is really more than that, it's really more than getting the release form signed by people, so we tried to make sure that they're okay with us showing material. For example, when the fight between the daughter and father happened, that night we sat down with both the father and the daughter. I sat down with the father, my cameraman, Xiao Guang, sat down with the daughter, and we spoke for a really long time and in the end I wanted to make sure the father thinks it's okay for us to show this, and he gave us permission.

What can viewers do to help?
I would say that's the question why I wanted to make this film in the first place because I believe everybody can do our own share. We can all make our own effort in helping with the overall situation. A lot of people asked me what did I want to say with this film? I think, Wow, this really can take hours for me to answer. If it's a Chinese audience, I'd say don't look down upon the migrant workers. They could be building your house, they could be building your home, they could be serving your meal, and you really have no right to look down upon them. We know city people do look down upon them.

When we're showing the film in Western countries or the rest of the world, I would... uh, I would urge people to think about the lifestyle that we're living. All of us are consuming made-in-China products, and in a way we're part of the game, so I always thought every one of us could do something. We could maybe change a little and see how we can help. I can't get too specific.

But if I need to get specific on this family: we are doing this release and we're doing posters, we're collecting donations and we're selling posters and t-shirts made by this father to try to collect some funds for the son's education.

Next project.
I wanted to focus on the younger generation of migrants because they're quite different than their parents' generation. They grew up in a freer society and are much more aware of their rights and their opportunities in today's China, so whether they can blend into the city life or find their own destiny within the city is a question I want to pursue.

POSTSCRIPT: The picture above was taken from this dGenerate Films' post, which features a trailer and links to this very insightful interview with Fan.

Gingrich and Romney [EDIT: Sorry, no Romney] try to out-dumb one another, and NY Times goes after Apple again


Via Shanghaiist, from the ATV 20th Miss Asia Awards in Hainan province

These are America's leaders:

"And I'd like to have an American on the moon before the Chinese get there." Newt Gingrich, everyone.

"I do not want to be the country that having gotten to the moon first, turn around and say, 'It doesn't really matter. Let the Chinese dominate space. What do we care?' I think that is a path of national decline. And I am for America being a great country, not a country in decline." Mitt RomneyGingrich, everyone.

THESE ARE AMERICA'S LEADERS.

Do you hear that, Chinese people? You have absolutely nothing to fear from the U.S. Now get off its back.

[Quotes via Shanghaiist]

EDIT: Well, that's embarrassing. Thanks to Kenneth Tan for pointing out my quote attribution error. But my feelings about the Republican field of nominees remains the same.

The NY Times on Apple, China... again. "People like Ms. White of Harvard say that until consumers demand better conditions in overseas factories -- as they did for companies like Nike and Gap, which today have overhauled conditions among suppliers -- or regulators act, there is little impetus for radical change. Some Apple insiders agree." Meanwhile, other Apple insiders designed to drink some orange juice. [NY Times]

The first thing that should signal something is awry is the subhead: "For China's rise to continue, the country needs to move away from the model that has served it so well." Stop doing what works... OK, gotcha. But I hate this headline for another reason. The Economist is implying that there are only two options: 1. Western, the model we know; 2. Anything else. And if you're doing "anything else," there's no chance of you succeeding, or mending the model so that it guarantees future success. Why? Because it's not the model we know. [The Economist]

Stan Abrams of China Hearsay then finishes the takedown. "Fourth, religion. Not surprisingly, I find this one laughable. China needs religion to help the poor and to offer people a meaning to their lives beyond economic growth? From reading The Economist over many years, I thought economic growth was an end in and of itself! // But seriously, the government is certainly capable of dealing with poverty on its own; indeed, modern China can boast of having lifted more people out of poverty than any other nation in the history of the world. Thanks, but no thanks, religion. As to the meaning of life, this was a throwaway line in the article not elaborated upon, so I think I’ll ignore it." [China Hearsay]

Paper Republic's Eric Abrahamsen writes about Han Han. "'When the drivers in China turn their high-beams down as they pass each other on the road, they will be ready for revolution,' writes Han Han. 'Of course, by then, revolution won’t be necessary.' Instead, he argues, the process will be a gradual one, in which the cultural values conducive to democracy evolve along with democracy itself. 'Democracy is a long process of negotiation.'" [LA Times blog]

The death penalty. The Economist reports on netizens' support for 31-year-old Wu Ying, sentenced to death for "illegal fundraising." Really, China should practice more leniency, and judging by many of the comments in these two China Smack posts, it seems the people feel the same. I know the government really, really hates drugs and all, but smuggling doesn't warrant a death penalty. Sorry, it doesn't.

A glowing review of James Palmer's Heaven Cracks, Earth Shakes. [The Peking Duck]

NON-CHINA READ: "The accelerating rate of incarceration over the past few decades is just as startling as the number of people jailed: in 1980, there were about two hundred and twenty people incarcerated for every hundred thousand Americans; by 2010, the number had more than tripled, to seven hundred and thirty-one. No other country even approaches that. In the past two decades, the money that states spend on prisons has risen at six times the rate of spending on higher education. Ours is, bottom to top, a 'carceral state,' in the flat verdict of Conrad Black, the former conservative press lord and newly minted reformer, who right now finds himself imprisoned in Florida, thereby adding a new twist to an old joke: A conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged; a liberal is a conservative who’s been indicted; and a passionate prison reformer is a conservative who’s in one." [New Yorker]

Saturday, January 28, 2012

A fireworks accident

This is a story about how not to play with fireworks.

Don't do it in an alley.

Don't do it in an alley with lots of people.

In short, don't do it in Nanluoguxiang.

My friend Alex was walking through NLGX yesterday when a firework burst near him and some shrapnel sliced his chin. He bled somewhat profusely and might have needed stitches if he weren't lucky. See the picture to the right.

He demanded an apology from the person who set off the firework, but the guy apparently basically replied, "This is China, I do whatever I want."

"I was just MAD," Alex said. "Ginny had to restrain me from bashing that man's fat face in."

This is the sort of thing that happens when cultures collide a fella gets hit at close range with a firework. He gets MAD.

"I'm most angry about the man's lack of remorse and the fact that he and his buddy set off more of them in our faces just to piss us off," he said.

I asked Alex to write a guest post, but to his credit, he deferred, fearing he'd come off "horribly racist and xenophobic," when in fact all he wants is to express his anger at getting cut by a gunpowder-fueled projectile.

So this post is for you, Alex. You now join the esteemed Jeff Orcutt as known acquaintances to get hit by fireworks. May you consider your scar a badge of honor. You're a small part more Chinese today.

Zhang Yuan's Seventeen Years is a sad story of redemption, and it's very good

Yesterday I watched Zhang Yuan's Seventeen Years at The Hutong as part of Time Out Beijing's Spring Festival film series. Props to Time Out film editor Wang Ge, who's been spot on with his picks so far. Made under the auspices of state sponsors, the movie nonetheless succeeds on several counts, most significantly a final two minutes -- capped by the most perfectly timed cut-to-black -- that are positively wonderful.

It's a simple story, but very well told. There's a great scene in the middle of the film that I can't believe I haven't seen in any other movie: the two protagonists try to cross a street in Tianjin, and it's shot in such a way that conveys the exact meaning of "urban jungle," especially for one that's been locked away for an extended length of time. The scene is well executed. That's what I'd say about the whole film, actually: it's just well done. Maybe not great across the board, but certainly good, with flickers of greatness. It's the type of movie I wish would get more publicity in China. As is, Seventeen Years won several international film awards, but wasn't even nominated for anything domestically.

The last thing I want to point out is that the Chinese title of this film is 过年回家 [Guonian Huijia], translated literally as "Going home for New Year's." I haven't figured out if it's a straightforward title or if it might be imbued with the same kind of meaning as "Seventeen Years." The English title implies the loss of the best years of one's life, and time itself as prison and punishment; the Chinese title implies a new start, which happens to coincide with a new year. The two probably work in synchrony.

Tonight, The Hutong is showing Last Train Home (been sold out for a while). Director Fan Lixin is supposed to be present. I'll probably have something to say about it afterwards.

Dance, you fucking monkey

Dance.


Yesterday was the fifth day of Spring Festival, a traditional fireworks-setting day.

Friday, January 27, 2012

This is kind of why I hesitate to take a seat on the subway sometimes

I'm leaning against a pole inside a Line 1 train when I hear a man sitting close to me say to a woman standing next to him, What's that question supposed to mean?

She had asked if there was a seat -- 有坐儿吗?

Do you mean you want to sit? he asks brusquely. His tone is sharp, his voice loud.

No.

He seems willing to stand but then decides better of it.

What do you mean is there a seat? Do you see any seats?

Indeed all the seats are taken. But now the two of them are both speaking loudly, attracting attention. I look left and see an older man with gray whiskers. His eyes are wide, his body tense. Swiftly, he moves over. He has an iron posture -- I know this because he nudged me out of the way -- and he stands up for the lady by planting himself next to her. Perhaps he's her husband, ready to put up his fists if the seated man dares touch her.

How can you talk like that? she asks.

Talk like what? the seated man demands.

I just asked you a question.

You asked if there was a seat. Is there a seat? I'm sitting right here and you ask if there's a seat?

She was just asking a question, the old man interjects, leaning in, shaking his finger. Their arms brush against one another.

Asking if there is a seat. What do you mean is there a seat? Does it look like there's a seat Where do you want to sit? Here? He signals at his lap.

Two more men, who are younger, come over. One stands next to the lady and joins the bickering, their Mandarin accented (unlike the seated one, who appears to be from Beijing). Everyone is staring at them. We're approaching Dongdan station, my stop.

The young one next to me leans into the seated man. Sit down, he says. Stop pointing your finger. Then, pointing his finger: Who talks like you just did? Was her question not right?

The man hesitates briefly. No, he says. I'll tell you why. You see me sitting there. So what do you mean, "Is there a seat?"

It's here that I had to get off.

This is what happens when you criticize America, and Reporters Without Borders's bit of ridiculousness




This is rich. Sima Nan, a vocal American critic in China (so, like every liberal American, I guess), got his head pinched between an escalator and wall last Friday. In America. Wait, I italicized the wrong thing. Got his head pinched between an escalator and wall. Global Voices has a translated piece from blogger Yu Xiaoping in which Yu writes, "I deeply sympathize with the injured person, and I don't think this is the time to be ridiculing him." REALLLLY? I can't think of a BETTER time. I'm not familiar with Sima Nan's work, but dude -- you got your head stuck on an escalator. The equivalent on the stupidity scale has to be blowing off a digit while mixing dry ice and Coke.

China is 6th worst country for press freedom, according to organization that knows nothing about China. Even for an organization that only gets news through a Western filter, this is beyond ridiculous -- and I say this as someone who fully realizes how bad the Chinese press is, seeing as I work inside the machine and also hate censorship. Russia, a country in which journalists are murdered for doing their jobs, is 32 places above China. Mexico, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq are ranked 149-150-151-152, which is bad, but hang on... Somalia is 164... Egyptians raped Lara Logan, but that country is 166... Cuba is 167... Sudan is 170... Vietnam is 172. And then, after Vietnam, is Bahrain. Then China. [Reporters Without Borders]

Wait, you mean Americans don't like menial labor? I'm not going to quote from this rather bland Forbes article, but the author's point basically is: Americans are too good for those crappy iPhone manufacturing jobs in Shenzhen. I think the most telling thing he says is, "I would rather my children designed iPhones than made them."

So to summarize:

PEOPLE WHO DO NOT WANT iPHONES MADE IN CHINA:
Liberals: The jobs are inhumane
Conservatives: These are jobs Americans should have

PEOPLE WHO WANT iPHONES MADE IN CHINA:
Liberals: I would rather my children designed iPhones than made them
Conservatives: See above

And meanwhile, factory workers clock in and clock out, eke out a living, do the best they can.

Al Jazeera's Melissa Chan goes to a CCP school, puts her lead at the very end of article: "For hundreds, if not thousands of years, China has always had the challenging business of governing a large population." [Al Jazeera]

I tried forcing myself to watch the CCTV Spring Festival Gala, I really did. But I haven't. Maybe I will next week. Maybe I won't. It depends how drunk I get. Have at it if you'd like.

Corollary: "Sleeping Sister" via China Smack.

Falun Gong apply to march in Chinese New Year parade in New York. Well, what could possibly happen? Maybe aliens. Yes, maybe aliens alone can spare us from this stupid, stupid shit. [Wall Street Journal, subscription required (don't bother subscribing; Alicia Factiva'ed it for me, and it's stupid shit)]

NON-CHINA READ OF THE DAY: Cats. The link is full of cat videos. HT: Alicia. [The Telegraph]

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Tale of Two New Year's (a guest post)

The author of the following is the editor of China Daily Show, a site that, when it first launched, ended my 10-day blogging hiatus and made me write, "Go here now. The greatest thing to happen since Ask Alessandro." The man is British, so pardon that. And the Dickens reference. Personally, I would've gone with "A New Year's Tale of Drugs, Sex, and Thievery," though only one of the three (that we know of) happens in the story. Hint: it's not drugs.

***

If there’s any time for the foreigner to feel especially dislocated in China, it’s during Spring Festival, when everyone gets ready to do one (or all) of these three things: travel, watch a disappointing four-hour televised revue, let off fireworks. Oh, there’s other stuff -- drinking, dumplings, the sending and receiving of mass blessings, some ancestral worship, perhaps the temple fairs -- but I warrant those three are the biggest, which is why, as editor of China’s only reliable news source in uncertain times, I chose to write about only two of these but will probably post the other soon (next year, say).

The celebrations are a bit of a mystery for the outsider: sure, the spirit of the festive holiday is there, especially in the nightmare 45-hour standing-room-only commute plus managing expectations after finally seeing your home and family for the first time in a year -- I’m expecting a flurry of “Migrant worker kills two after wife’s affair with ESL teacher” stories as the nation’s love affair with English penetrates even the most remote Han outpost -- but generally, China expats fall into two camps: married ones making the diligent journey to their in-laws or single youths who celebrate their way (boozing, pratting).

It’s a bit like being an orphan invited to join another family’s Christmas but given that the authentic one was less than a month ago this year, I found it particularly hard to enter the Spring spirit. But what would I have done with it anyway? Probably headed somewhere pleasant: my girlfriend, although a proper Beijinger, feels little for the festival either. Her mother, a somewhat difficult divorcee I’ve yet to meet, greeted her admission of having a winter cold with the curt directive to stay away. That was a win, though, as far as we were concerned.

As the shit kicked off around 4pm, I watched fireworks from my balcony with amused detachment, though it was already getting cold out there within seconds. I knew it was -15 outside, and there was every reason to stay indoors and hit the download collection all night long but the tiny part of me that hasn’t become a curmudgeonly, sixty-year-old estranged colonel in the East India Company was suggesting we actually go out.

No such luck for my English former housemate, C__, who was two days into his annual visit to see his best mate from the days (2007-9) back in the jewel of the Pearl River, Dongguan. Fortunately he doesn’t have to stay there (read for a summary of every night out that ever conceivably happened in DG; he’s nailed the One for the Road) as Rex’s folks actually live in nearby Hunan -- so it’s off to the country. C__’s sort of a migrant worker himself, except he doesn’t work very hard, but during these trips he gets very much under their skin, travelling down by rail “sleeping standing up, with a man with four massive packing cases for luggage snoring on my shoulder.”

Things don’t get easier on arrival: a day before New Year’s Eve, he arrives casa Rex, a remote village (maybe he should open an English school there?) one can picture easily enough: lots of one-storey buildings (ping fang) and farm outbuildings, rubble everywhere, some petrified trees, a few sorry-looking or dead animals, and kids with even sorrier-looking “toys” (often dead animals). In a few decades or so, this enclave might be replaced by three high-rise apartments that don’t accept chickens as guests, but for now it’s rural China as it really is: a hardscrabble existence. He’s a brave boy but sure enough, even he was shaken: “general living conditions are horrific… ” he texted. “I haven’t had more than 2 hours sleep in a week and about to try. Not sure when back… in my minds eye as soon as possible” ([sic], obviously, but not too [sic] considering his usual sleep-deprived texting quality).

As I received this, I’m opening a bottle of discounted weiss beer and checking the Sichuanese-style pork rinds we’re roasting in our oven like some bubble-icious expat cocooned in the 1920s. In fairness, our compound is just a bunch of squat, Soviet-style building which, in any country outside China, would rightfully be full of junkies and condoms, so it’s not inauthentic -- still, the most anti-social sight you’re likely to meet there is a granny pretending she can’t see you desperately running for the elevator.

I suspect the chief enemy out in the sticks is boredom, which, just after bad weather, is hard to deal with on a short-term basis so I sent C__ a cheery text from the history book I’m reading, which is about the sex lives of British Empire-seekers. A considerable amount viewed the Empire as a handy way to enjoy the kind of private life it would’ve been near-impossible to enjoy back home, while the rest would have been succumbed out of sheer desperation (the writer offers some salutary stuff about the chronicle of those who buckled under the toil abroad, “the heat and constant rain, the inertia and loveliness, the monotonous food, the lack of inertia and intellectual stimulus, sometimes snot even white neighbors to make up a game of tennis and bridge… men took mistresses, developed homicidal manias, drank themselves to death or broke down into neurotic wrecks by themselves in the back-bush.” We’ve all been there).

And indeed, C__ was there at that point. Was he considering taking a peasant mistress or had he, at least, developed a homicidal mania? For the situation was worse than even he’d expected: an SMS missive (no web!) baldly stated: “[I’m] living in a barn with chickens, no heating, it’s pouring with rain and I am sharing a hard bed with [Rex]. A grandma has just pumped and boiled some water from a well and given it me with a flannel so I can have a strip wash” -- no doubt, one hopes, all to take place under her vaguely disapproving, unblinking gaze. When people talk wistfully about the Real China, this is what they are in fact talking about, whether they know it or not. That’s foreign people, of course -- diehard Maoists aside, you rarely find proper Chinese yearning for the authentic old life, outside the city. That’s an indulgence only foreigners can afford.

(Plus, as anyone who’s grown up there can testify, the countryside is no place for anyone to grow up. The cost of not having multiplex car parks for shopping malls, cinemas and bowling alleys spoiling your view is -- no cinemas or bowling alleys.)

Communist country tends to be even worse. To witness this in living motion, take a train from Germany over the Polish border -- you can see the quality of life declining by the mile.

So I had an advantage in simple access to entertainment: decent-enough bookshelves, Playstation and live Republican debates, all at my fingertips. Yet... Megaupload.com has been shut down (by the folks who brought you SOPA, surely? Never used it or even heard of it actually), so I had to go out, didn’t I? Even though I wasn’t (nor ever will be) one of those sorry bastard expats joining four generations of in-laws under one leaking roof for a week in rural China not doing much.

I gave a hongbao to my ayi, then texted another couple who immediately agreed to meet at a central nightspot offering an 80-yuan open bar and 2-4-1 champagne (it turned out to be 120 when we arrived). My stomach honestly baulked at the thought of all that booze for under a tenner -- there’s nothing quite so debilitating as a gutful of fake Long Island Ice Tea -- but choices are thin on the ground if one doesn't want to spend the evening outside inhaling firecracker dust. We watched Bill Maher for an hour, then waited inside an ATM booth (whose incessant alarm was shrill enough to drive me out into the cold, among the fireworks people) to be picked up by L__, a friend of my girlfriend who had just left 14 family members playing mahjong to drive us all to Chaoyang Park West Gate. After one of the most hassle-free journeys I’ve ever enjoyed in any city ever, we arrived around 10 to find the champagne waiting, which was a delight as champagne so rarely waits for anyone. Anyway, when the critical hour struck I was mildly drunk, drunk enough to stick my head out the door to observe the jolly display (no one bothers with countdowns in China).

Fireworks don’t drive me quite as mad as they do some people, but they are irritating to me because they provide such little value: the same pop, bang or fizzle repeated ad nauseam, like a kids’ TV theme. I don't even mind listening to them outside all week, though it’s much less fun when you’re actually on the ground (cycling this morning, two giant crackers in the middle of the road went off just by my face, placed there by a group of adult men outside a restaurant). Still, five minutes was more than enough: through the smoke, I glimpsed a staggering drunk waving a lit roman candle, a mobile phone clamped to his earmuffs. Two other men dressed like security in black were unspooling firecracker rolls like soldiers solemnly preparing a Gatling ammunition belt.

The air was thick with smoke, singed with cordite and tasted worse than napalm in the very early morning. We beat a retreat upstairs, where the bar was now heaving with the city’s cheapest skinflint drinkers, mostly exceedingly young American students and Nigerian men in sportswear and sunglasses. It was either one of these two demographics possibly responsible for what happened next: my pal got his wallet lifted from his back pocket as I ordered drinks at the bar. That left us pleading with management to view footage from the camera trained on the crime scene, while I aggressively eyed disco-goers for suspicious behavior (slurred voice, strange gestures, short skirts, wearing sunglasses at night) while the womenfolk left behind on the VIP sofas got thoroughly drunk.

Indeed, on our return L__ had gone from sparky, independent 21st century Chinese woman to tearful wreck requiring full-time reassurance from the other two about the dull Scottish teacher who dumped her suddenly after returning from their beach holiday. “This is why I don’t like hanging out with girls,” A__, one of her comfort women, confided. “Half an hour ago, she wanted a threesome. Now...”

I pictured C__ down in his rain-battered barn, surrounded by farm birds, possibly watching Chunwan, probably trying to sleep. He’d mentioned having “two Advil I might drop now, or might save till later. I completely forgot to bring any books…” So, one thing in common for New Year tomorrow morning: we’d both be popping Advil.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

An economics-heavy links edition, except for the one about the zombies... and Ai Weiwei


In case you'd forgotten that Ai Weiwei is the most beloved Chinese person in the West: Alison Klayman's documentary about him, Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, got a standing ovation at Sundance. [LA Times's 24 Frames]

The race toward the Zombie Apocalypse: virus vs. bacteria -- who will win? "The WHO says the effectiveness of antibiotics is under threat from overuse in China, as diseases mutate to develop immunity. It estimates that 6.8 per cent of Tuberculosis cases in China are multi-drug resistant, compared just 2 per cent in developed countries. Experts believe that diseases as diverse as syphilis and the hospital super-bug MRSA are thriving as they adapt to China's antibiotic-heavy environment. 'We are now on the brink of losing this precious arsenal of medicines,' Dr Michael O'Leary, the World Health Organization's China representative said in a 2011 statement calling for more responsible use of antibiotics. 'The speed with which these drugs are being lost far outpaces the development of replacement drugs.'" [Time]

This Global Times (Chinese edition, translated to China Digital Times) editorial makes a couple of interesting points -- if only the author could have done it without stroking his woody: "As far as the issue of speech is concerned, in recent years there are two groups that felt the effects most deeply. One group comprises hundreds of millions of Internet users, and the Internet has opened a completely new environment for speech and a new platform for expressing opinions. There is a world of difference between their freedom of speech on the Internet and in Chinese society of yesteryear. While occasionally their online speech may be subject to keyword restrictions, nevertheless, they have all kinds of means of skirting them. // It may not be the government’s desire to provide these freedoms, but the overall facts are taking shape: it is inevitable that the Internet will bring about open speech for China." [China Digital Times]

The Beijinger wasted an entire blog post on Dashan, asking questions such as "Is it time to stop hating him already?" and "Or is it just jealousy?" They completely miss the point. Most mammals feel a natural aversion to Dashan because he looks like this:


Chinese Grammar Wiki via Sinosplice founder: John Pasden introduces this new tool in this blog post.

A Rabble-Rouser's Trip to Linyi. "'If [only] there should come a day when we are ready to die and can tell our children’s children that when we were young in 2011, we once did a little something for a fat, blind man, and we did it without the intention of changing much, but only because we wanted inner peace and to prove that in a land rife with injustice, the blossom of morality is ever opening in our hearts.' Yes, no matter how dark the skies, the flowering of justice is within us." [China Digital Times]

Deborah Brautigam, Africa expert, takes down Economist story. "The Economist still doesn't get it on China's foreign aid. They merrily mix apples and lychees in a new special report..." [China in Africa: The Real Story]

The China Growth Story. [Naked Capitalism]

Corollary: Two comments from the above link to highlight. The first is the graph that appears at the top of this post. The second is from commenter YankeeFrank, something worth remembering: "Let’s be clear: GDP, as Robert Kennedy made clear over 40 years ago, measures everything except what is important to a happy life."

If GDP is really your thing though, check this out: A debate about Chinese economics. (What, you were expecting?) [China Debate]

Because you absolutely did not ask for this, here was the musical playlist to this year's Hong Kong Chinese New Year fireworks extravaganza:

1.
财伸到 Caishen Dao
Money God is Here (translations are mine, completely unofficial)

2.
家大欢喜 Jiada Huanxi
Everyone is Happy

3.
春天的故事 Chuntian de Gushi
Spring Story

4.
龙的傳人 Long de Chuanren
Dragon Ancestor

5.
和兰花一起 He Lanhua Yiqi
Together with Orchids

6.
功夫熊猫 Gongfu Xiongmao
Kung-fu Panda

7.
马照跑 Ma Zhao Pao
Horse Races Continue

8.
Theme (all the segments had a theme, but only the last one was worth noting): 炮声“龙龙” The Sound of Fireworks is Very Loud ("Double Dragon")

大峡谷 Da Xiagu
Big Canyon

NON-CHINA READ: "'I can’t make that movie,' Lucas recalled thinking when he read the scripts. 'I’m going to have make this kind of . . . entertainment movie.' So Lucas focused on the middle chapter: the dogfights and the Nazi-hunting black pilots who shout, 'How you like that, Mr. Hitler!'" About George Lucas's new film, Red Tails, about the Tuskegee Airmen. [NY Times Magazine]

Couple things: I'm fully aware Star Wars was revolutionary for its era. But it's a bad series of films. There's a ridiculous plot and hicks in white metallic suits who can't hit the broadside of Jabba the Hutt. The dialogue was also written by a 14-year-old.

Second: There's already been a movie about Tuskegee Airmen, a version for adults as opposed to teenagers, and you can see all of it starting here. It's good.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Because we dislike Foxconn, should we relieve 900,000 people of their jobs?

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Fear Factory
www.thedailyshow.com
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This is a tricky issue. Because on one hand, America needs jobs. But on the other, as this NY Times article currently making the rounds reported, "the iPhone in the United States would demand much more than hiring Americans -- it would require transforming the national and global economies."

The above video -- however funny -- is also yet another example of the always dumb "China Narrative," wherein Western press (in this case, CNN and the Telegraph, the two sources selectively quoted by Jon Stewart's comedy writers) seek to present stories in an "objective" fashion that happens to only cite facts (which are sometimes not facts) that make China look bad while ignoring anything that might suggest the Chinese government isn't all-bad. And it's a narrative that Evan Osnos deftly picks apart:

iPhone suicides, believe it or not, are not news to the Chinese. Nobody has done more aggressive reporting on the factory conditions at Foxconn than the Chinese press. Before foreigners noticed, newspapers in eastern and southern China were investigating the deaths of workers and Chinese bloggers were documenting more details about their daily lives than foreign visitors could hope to obtain. It’s one of those examples of how erratic the Chinese world of information is these days: the Chinese press is throttled on many issues, but when it concerns workplace conditions -- or, better yet, a factory with a boss in Taiwan -- the issue resonates with enough notes from old socialist hymns that it gets reported in astonishing detail.

Osnos quotes Nicholas Kristof in his post, and you should go to this link -- a transcript of a recent show from the excellent This American Life -- to read in full what Kristof has to say about sweatshops. Excerpt:

It's a very awkward thing to defend sweatshops, if you will. I mean, I think it's useful to be reminded about how grim the conditions are. But again, I just think that if you try to think how you can fight poverty most effectively, and what has fought it within China, then I think sweatshops are a key part of that answer.

Unfortunately, Kristof wasn't given as much time as Mike Daisey, one-man proprietor of the radio show The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs. As a follow-up to Kristof's comment, Daisey basically implies he wants American corporations to change Chinese laws. Anyone who's tried to do business in China is probably snorting right now.

By the way, here's what Daisey had to say about Foxconn's suicides:

And the biggest problem is that it isn't the quantity, it's the cluster. If there was any company in America where a sizable chunk of your workforce went up over a period of time, especially close to one another, and killed themselves in the same way very publicly, it would be an enormous news story because it's far outside the norm.

Problem No. 1: The comparison with an American company... huh? Shenzhen --> Houston?? There are no comparables except within the same country. As This American Life host Ira Glass notes, "Some people have pointed out that 12 suicides for 400,000 workers is actually much lower than China's suicide rate as a whole, as China has an unusually high suicide rate of 22 suicides per year per 100,000 people."

Problem No. 2: Daisey is simply wrong. See: Osnos excerpt, above.

But, again, the China Narrative demands that we acknowledge China is worse than the U.S. and that all the faults rest with the Chinese system. Something tells me it's Daisey's show and his sentiments that will get much wider play in America, and that a vast majority of people who listen to his show will think, Yeah, burn down Foxconn!

To those people, I have this to say: unfortunately, the world is the way it is. It's not the way bleeding hearts want it, and for that, we should all be sorry, we really should, but -- at the risk of repeating myself -- the world is the way it is, so that a 12-year-old child of an Anhui farmer who works 18 hours a day on the paddies might choose to seek employment in the big city to make four times as much as her parents at a company that draws the ire of the developed world. And what has the developed world ever given her? Never mind that American politicians don't give a shit about her, they only complain about their own country's jobs and the dollar-yuan exchange rate. That girl has a great story, and I applaud Mike Daisey for getting it and the hundred-plus other stories from Foxconn. I just fear that the China Narrative being the way it is -- much like the world is the way it is -- people will see the girl as merely a symbol of a "Communist regime."

Hong Kong's fireworks extravaganza

Every year on the second night of the 15-day Spring Festival (which is today), Hong Kong puts together a prodigious fireworks display at Victoria Harbor. The bombardment of the night sky is an attempt to slug melancholy back into its corner, to bury the blues in its earthy burrow and exterminate all that is not right in the world.

I was there last February and blogged the day after: "I have more to say about this soon." After a much belated "soon"...



It's impossible to convey through a video, but there's a palpable sense of joy. "Palpable sense of joy" is a bad, bad, un-writerly phrase, like "jolt of electricity," but it's the right choice of words here. Light, fire and thunder maraude the parts of our brain able to perform higher-level functions, and left with a husk of ourselves, we are children again with our heads raised in pure bliss. For just an hour or so, our worries are blasted into a million shards to the accompaniment of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture. There's certainly no room for our very adult cynicism.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Possibly the greatest commercial featuring a cat licking itself you'll see today

I uploaded this before discovering that at least two others on YouTube have already uploaded it. My apologies to those people. The licking happens at the :26 mark.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The New York Times on Apple, Foxconn

Here's your read of the day from the New York Times:

In 2007, a little over a month before the iPhone was scheduled to appear in stores, Mr. Jobs beckoned a handful of lieutenants into an office. For weeks, he had been carrying a prototype of the device in his pocket.

Mr. Jobs angrily held up his iPhone, angling it so everyone could see the dozens of tiny scratches marring its plastic screen, according to someone who attended the meeting. He then pulled his keys from his jeans.

People will carry this phone in their pocket, he said. People also carry their keys in their pocket. “I won’t sell a product that gets scratched,” he said tensely. The only solution was using unscratchable glass instead. “I want a glass screen, and I want it perfect in six weeks.”

After one executive left that meeting, he booked a flight to Shenzhen, China. If Mr. Jobs wanted perfect, there was nowhere else to go.

And we can frown upon guanxi -- it's technically a term that refers to interpersonal relationships among those doing business, but often it could be a way of saying "greasing the palm" -- but here's proof that it works:

For years, cellphone makers had avoided using glass because it required precision in cutting and grinding that was extremely difficult to achieve. Apple had already selected an American company, Corning Inc., to manufacture large panes of strengthened glass. But figuring out how to cut those panes into millions of iPhone screens required finding an empty cutting plant, hundreds of pieces of glass to use in experiments and an army of midlevel engineers. It would cost a fortune simply to prepare.

Then a bid for the work arrived from a Chinese factory.

When an Apple team visited, the Chinese plant’s owners were already constructing a new wing. “This is in case you give us the contract,” the manager said, according to a former Apple executive. The Chinese government had agreed to underwrite costs for numerous industries, and those subsidies had trickled down to the glass-cutting factory. It had a warehouse filled with glass samples available to Apple, free of charge. The owners made engineers available at almost no cost. They had built on-site dormitories so employees would be available 24 hours a day.

The Chinese plant got the job.

An all-around fascinating read.

And now, an unrelated anecdote:

I'm in a bathroom at Hong Kong International Airport (Chek Lap Kok) earlier this evening when I go to wash my hands. There are two nozzles, both with sensors: out of one comes water; out the other comes a sticky, cummy colloid.

Now, obviously the latter is soap. Right? But trust me when I tell you: when you're expecting water and get the alternative, your only inclination is to think, What the fuck?

Choose wisely.

On this eve of a new lunar year

We revisit a fireworks display from two years ago:


Have a safe one, kids in Beijing. I'll check in from Hong Kong.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Cantonese is the most annoying sound in the world. Apologies to Cantonese people


Bengali white tiger cubs [International Business Times]

Puerile shit: This video's been making its rounds. Quick background: mainland bitch eats on subway, Hong Kong bitch be like, "Hey, no eating on subway," then official subway shows up to mediate. Whatever. It's stupid, inconsequential, and stupid. But after watching, I do want to say: HOLY SHIT does Cantonese suck. I'm sure the people are first-rate and all, but how can anyone trust human beings who have acclimated to such vulgar racket as the spoken Cantonese word? Are we sure Hong Kongers aren't a subspecies evolving into Gears of War-like Grubs? I've noted before that Cantonese sounds worse than "leather-clad S&M kooks with mohawks descending upon elderly women with chain-saws," but let me amend. Cantonese is a geyser of head-on car crashes. It is the incendiary bomb of our ear canals. Hong Kong's poets could start a world war by publishing a podcast. It's naaaasty, like Big Nasty Kevin Nash nasty if you happened to picture him romantically sexing a seal elephant. If someone used a Cantonese accent to tell me to stop eating when I was hungry, I'd probably flip my shit as well. You literally could not attach ten thousand vuvuzelas end to end next to a speaker spewing microphone feedback at a Nickelback concert attended by braying donkeys and produce a series of sounds worse than a Cantonese sentence. Hey, wanna hear the most annoying sound in the world? Go to Hong Kong.

Actually, Superflak Liu Weimin of the Foreign Ministry might be more annoying than Cantonese. He commented on Christian Bale like the Superflak he is. Now he's at it in reply to Gary Locke: "As for some individuals that have been punished by law, I don't think it means their freedom of speech or religion is suppressed, but because they violated Chinese laws." I don't wish for your death, Liu Weimin, I really don't. I am simply saddened by your existence. [Global Times]

Taiwanese film -- not mainland Chinese -- gets shortlisted for Oscar. Out: The Flowers of War. In: Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale (賽德克‧巴萊). I said in my Flowers review that it had no shot at an Oscar, but to not even make the shortlisted top 9? I'm reminded of Harvey Weingard leaning over to tell Ari Gold after Medellin's flop at Cannes: "It ain't easy making a movie." [WSJ]

Corollary: This is a very telling quote from director Zhang Yimou:

Asked why he chose to film “Flowers”–based on a novel by Yan Geling–when so many films had already been made about the Japanese occupation of Nanjing, Mr. Zhang said it was because good stories have become difficult to find in China. “Good writers have all been signed away by the big companies,” he said, citing the rapid growth and industrialization of Chinese film.”

"Freedom." Below is a blog post by Eric Abrahamsen of Paper Republic reproduced in toto:

How to feel like a complete noob at the Chinese internet:

Step One: Browse weibo. Notice heated discussions about something called 目田, which apparently means "eye field". Have the vague feeling that you're not getting the joke.

Step Two: Finally catch on that 目田 (eye field) is just 自由 (freedom), with bits missing.

If only the internet censors were this slow…

Now click over to Paper Republic to give that excellent site its deserved pageview.

Headline says it all (not really). "Fake petitioners offered free rides home." [China Daily Show]

And the original Daily Show: On Foxconn. [dGenerate Films]

A Spring Festival Story. "I’m amused by the annual Ayi exodus. Since it’s rare to see a Beijing expat lift anything heavier than money, this seasonal retreat of our nannies, waitresses, cooks, cleaners, drivers, dry cleaners, convenience store owners, and jianbing purveyors is a useful exercise in deprivation and self-reliance…like an outward bound experience for the neo-colonialist in all of us." [Jottings from the Granite Studio]

New to the blogroll: Ministry of Tofu (really no excuse for this not being on the blogroll earlier); Hexie Farm, a Chinese blog of political cartoons (via McClatchy's China Rises blog); and ChinaB.

NON-CHINA READ: "Are we sick? Are we all sick?" The Tommy Craggs era is well on its way, and you'll rue not following it from the beginning if you don't start now. [Deadspin]

POSTSCRIPT: Welcome, readers of the Viva Vince Hamilton Yahoo! fantasy basketball league.

Here's Shaquille O'Neal having a lot more fun in China than Yao Ming

So, first Shaq breaks news of Yao Ming's retirement on Twitter, and now this...

Here is Yao Ming trying to stay awake at a government meeting in Shanghai:

"'Poor Yao, he probably regrets being that tall and not being able to sleep!' wrote one commentator on China’s twitter-like service, Weibo." [Behind the Wall]

And here is Shaquille O'Neal on Hunan TV, doing something akin to kung fu with kids:


Someone is clearing winning this retirement. I wonder if Shaq's offer for Yao to "vacation together" is still good.

Friday, January 20, 2012

What, are businessmen NOT smuttier than porn stars?


The above pictured is Sora Aoi (also known as "Sola Aoi"). You'd hug her if she offered, right?

Because she recently elicited controversy by attending a VANCL year-end party and hugging businessmen, real salt of the earth, those people. Best I can tell from this Global Times story, people are equally upset at the people who hugged her and at Aoi herself for simply existing.

One web user said, "For such a person to become so popular is a social tragedy. It displays that social morality has slipped off the edge of an abyss."

It's time to get off your perch, you.

For you see, this was a year-end party, a nianhui, and VANCL held it for the express purpose of one-upping its competitors in profligacy. Some netizens said Aoi's appearance was a "commercial stunt." OH REALLY? The woman has 9.14 million followers on Sina Weibo. She's a porn star (or "former porn star," if you had to get technical, but like syphilis, I don't think "porn star" is something someone ever shakes). She's not hugging shady old men (and Han Han) out of the goodness of her god-blessed and bountiful bosom.

Anyway, "one-upping competitors in profligacy" is the nice way of describing nianhuis, these year-end galas. You might be familiar with CCTV's Spring Festival gala, which is like America's New Year's Eve special crossed with the Super Bowl; company nianhuis follow the same concept: people perform individually or in groups, usually a song or dance or some other hidden talent, often in a banquet setting. And why? For the express purpose of jerking off the company's bosses. One boss will then say something about keeping up the good work and we hope next year you'll make even more money, blah blah blah. Then one or more of them pull down their pants and get blown on stage by the prettiest woman in the office with any real power -- with no one watching, because no one actually watches any performance at these things (or they're polite and pretend not to notice) -- then everyone engages in an orgy of drinking distilled liquor. It's fantastic. Remind me to tell you about the one I attended yesterday (I will upload a video soon).

The GT article goes on:

"If a company promotes itself in such a way, it smears its customers as well and won't go far. This challenges Chinese traditional culture out of the desire for profit," said another Weibo user.

VANCL employees defended the decision to invite Aoi, saying it was made based on the opinion of all members of staff and the move displayed the company's inclusive attitude rather than tarnishing its brand.

"I think inviting Aoi to the party was a splendid plan. It has fully displayed the company's courage, boldness, and tolerance. All criticism afterward is nonsense," a female employee from VANCL, who refused to be named, told the Global Times yesterday.

God, I don't know where to begin. Chinese traditional culture -- the one that miraculously survived the Cultural Revolution, or the one that died when Starbucks moved into the Forbidden City? Which are you talking about?

Desire for profit. As opposed to a publicly listed company's desire for...?

And oh hey, look at that, VANCL decided to do something because its members of staff wanted it. Wonderful company to work for, that. What a COURAGEOUS and BOLD company. And so TOLERANT, too. Except for criticism. Criticism, of course, is NONSENSE.

I leave you with this excerpt. Unravel it however you will:

Some have voiced concern that the phenomenon has shown young people's morality has been corrupted. However, Zhou Xiaozheng, a professor of sociology at Renmin University, disagrees with this.

"These conclusions are baseless. It's fine as long as what they do does not violate the law or go against the main stream of economic development and social stability."

Wait, we can't end on that social stability bullshit. I'll leave you with this:

You can write "shit fuck cunt cocksucker" to your Congressman about SOPA, but here's one word they don't allow


Click to expand the above. Notice that it's the word DELETE (de_leted) that gets flagged by the bot.

Derrick Sobodash, a work colleague, was trying to explain in a very rational letter to his Congressman in Michigan that the proposed anti-piracy bill SOPA would end up hurting the one industry in Detroit that's still hiring, IT. In addition, American companies like YouTube would have to hire people to self-censor, expurgating content that could potentially draw the attention of the RIAA and MPAA, and naturally companies would outsource those jobs to India and Vietnam. Derrick very reasonably explained that China keeps untold thousands employed as censors, but no such employment benefit would come to the U.S. because surely no one would want those jobs.

He wrote all this and then hit send, and an error message popped up: "We're sorry, we have found the word 'delete' in this field."

Personally, I'm sad he didn't just send "Shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker and tits" on the first go.

***

Derrick, who is more tech-savvy than I'll ever be, described SOPA in terms that made me shudder:

The American Internet will become like the Chinese Internet.

Think about it: self-censorship will become necessary, as mentioned above, as preemptive measures against lawsuits (in China, self-censorship is necessary as preemptive measures against government rebukes).

Larger companies could use SOPA to bury their competitors. They could hire their version of 50-cent armies to direct attention to potential SOPA violations. Vimeo, we'll see you later.

The amount of content that could potentially become unavailable except to subscribers is staggering. It would be as if a wall were erected. A virtual wall. A... Great Firewall. And that whole paying for content? It'd be like paying for a VPN in China.

So, yeah, contact your representative. Whether you choose to curse is entirely up to you.

UPDATE: Evan Osnos of the The New Yorker has a great post about Chinese reactions to SOPA.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

J.R. Smith did this last night in Beijing

Stephon Marbury may have had one of the best games of his CBA career in a winning effort, but it was J.R. Smith who expressed what the Chinese might call suzhi (素质) -- character.



The first player he crossed over, Wang Xiaohui, actually hurt himself (24:43 mark in this video).


Keep your head up, young fella.

Starbury had the best game of his CBA career last night

Stephon Marbury scored 45 points. Grabbed 12 rebounds. Decided to pass a few times and get 10 assists. Swiped three (felt like more).

The Beijing Ducks should have gotten blown out by J.R. Smith's team (Zhejiang CyclonesGolden Bulls, if you're wondering, though "J.R. Smith's team" is more accurate). Instead, they came back from seven down with 7 minutes to play to win 102-93.

Smith, who took the lockout gambit and lost (his contract with the CBA has no opt-out clause, so he's stuck till the season ends in March), is currently leading the league in scoring with 33.8 points per game, so I thought I'd chart all his shots. The last time these teams played, in Zhejiang, Beijing head coach Min Lulei said, "Our strategy was to let Smith get his points and stop everyone else." I figured he could've been good for 50 (also, this). But midway through the third quarter I realized it was Marbury I should've been tracking.

The former Shanxi Brave Dragon and Foshan Dralion drained a three at the end of the 3rd quarter to bring the Beijing Ducks to within five, 79-74. WIth just under seven to play in the game, with his team trailing by seven, he drove the lane and drew a foul, prompting a Beijing TV commentator to note, "Marbury is the Beijing offense right now." A couple possessions later, on defense, he poked a ball away from a CycloneGolden Bull, then drained another three to pull the Ducks to within 88-86. Soon after, he stole the ball, dished to a teammate, then rebounded his teammate's miss and put it back to tie the game at 88.

From there, Smith -- who finished with a healthy 39 on 14-of-25 shooting -- went cold, and the Ducks begin to pull away (also thanks to Beijing's other foreign player [each team can have two], Randolph Morris).

Watch the entire game here.

The Ducks are now back alone in second place.

POSTSCRIPT 1: There's a video featuring J.R. Smith that's currently uploading onto YouTube that you'll want to come back for. ETA couple hours. UPDATE: Here.

POSTSCRIPT 2: JR Smith vs. Beijing Ducks, January 18, 2012:

1st quarter
8:40 remaining: long jumper from top of key, 2 pts
5:54: a couple crossovers and a silky jump shot, 4 pts
5:24: drive to basket, fouled on dunk attempt; 2-2 FT, 6 pts
4:02: crossover blow-by, bumped on way to basket, converts layup; 1-1 FT, 9 pts
3:00: Fouled while dribbling beyond three-point line, Beijing over limit; 1-2 FT (he front-rims the first, and the crowd goes, "Oooh"), 10 pts
2:05: Fouled again, by different defender; 2-2 FT, 12 pts
1:39: Ahead of pack, fast-break layup, 14 pts
:57: Step-back long J nothing but net. Commentator says something that I'll translate as, "He's got mad skills." 16 pts

2nd quarter
9:21: 2v1 fast-break (the 1 is Marbury): Smith passes behind his back, but his teammate doesn't make the layup; Smith taps in put-back, 18 pts
8:35: Hard into lane, 20 pts

7:49: Smith takes his first break of the game as the commentator talks about how much he's exerting himself and how fast his stamina has been drained. Because the CBA only allows foreigners to play a combined six quarters -- and because Zhejiang's other foreigner, Josh Boone (yes, the one from UCONN), needs some PT as well -- Smith doesn't return to the game until the second half.

3rd quarter
10:05: Smith drains a three to put Zhejiang up 53-49, 23 pts
6:59: Drains another three, Zhejiang up 61-56. "It's raining," one of the commentators says. "His shot is too accurate." The other commentator notes Smith has 28 points, but that's not right - I have him pegged for 26.
5:52: His third trey of the quarter, 29 pts: (the commentator confirms this)
In Beijing's team huddle, coach tells his team to guard Smith's jump shot.
1:23: Smith slices into lane, breezes by or through four defenders, gets fouled and converts layup. "Pretty," commentator says. "That's what we call ability." 1-1 FT, 32 pts
:48: Plows into lane again and puts in a floater. "He's playing crazy," commentator says (translation is literal). 34 pts

4th quarter
4:28: Smith knocks down a three with the shot clock winding down, 37 pts

He scores two more at some point, but my focus has shifted by then.