Sunday, September 28, 2008

Leaving for Guilin

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

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

Still... excited.

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

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

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Picture of the day: subway madness

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

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

An interesting approach to the milk scandal

BBC's James Reynolds recently recalled this anecdote:

Right now, China might want to remember Cordelia Gummer.

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

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

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

None did. This, however, is close:

Via China Daily.

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

China's first spacewalk

China Daily

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

POSTSCRIPT: Video via Danwei.

White rabbit candy contaminated? No!!!!!

Yup, it's true. Via BBC:

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 26, 2008

On the eve of the American presidential debate...

A few things to read:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Pictures and video from the beach Ultimate tournament

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

But it was worth it, I think.

Video of championship point:


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

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

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A topic we haven't broached in a while

From Time's China Blog

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

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

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

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

America's financial crisis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

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

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

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

Paralympic Murderball video

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

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

Monday, September 22, 2008

The awful ordeal of China's milk

Is absolutely awful.

AP: "Out of control" dairy system.

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

Time: Is sorry enough?

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

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Beach Ultimate Frisbee tournament in Beijing

Saturday at City Seaview

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then we drank beer.

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

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

Did I mention beer?

Like I said... a great day.

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

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

What happens when you're not careful around baijiu

As previously mentioned, Boehner had a leaving-Beijing party Friday night, a small dinner attended by a few friends followed by a little foosball at a bar near Gulou (Drum Tower) and a trip to Sanlitun's Q Bar (which sucks when the patio's closed). I never would have come out if I knew he'd be sporting a handlebar mustache. Just kidding. No, seriously. Or just kidding.

Nothing too ridiculous happened, except this one thing that was worth posting on YouTube. Let me just give you a hint: it involves baijiu, and features a man whose name rhymes with Khevin.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Preview to a party

It's this man's going-away party tonight, and last time we had one of these it got... interesting.

That's Chris Boehner, leaving for a two-month tour of Southeast Asia on Sunday (Kunming, Laos, Pakistan, Tibet, Darjeerling, etc... you can read about it here). It's our duty to make sure he's hung over for the train ride down at least.

Picture of the week

Via Shanghaiist, the world's smallest man, He Pingping from Inner Mongolia, and the world's leggiest woman, Svetlana Pankratova of Russia:

Runner-up, via Black and White Cat: "Teacher Hu's English can spread AIDS." You're just gonna have to click on the link.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

What people are saying about the Paralympic Closing Ceremony

"These are the greatest Paralympic Games ever.''

That's Philip Craven, president of the International Paralympic Committee, saying what IOC president Jacques Rogge for whatever reason would not: the greatest ever.

The Paralympic Closing Ceremony was last night, bringing all this Olympic craziness to an end. Expect three backdated entries later about the three events I attended. For now, here's what people are saying about the show (and this is a short list because most of my China blogging compadres (i.e. the many on my RSS) haven't written a word about these games; thus, you, China Daily, make the cut):

  • New York Times pictures: "...a visual record of the final piece in the quartet of spectacular opening and closing performances staged with such grace and precision at the Olympics and Paralympics in Beijing." Almost as good as the Paralympics Opening Ceremony.

  • A straight news story from AFP: "The legacies of the Paralympics were "huge and far-reaching" both in terms of improved access and changed attitudes, said Wang Wei, the vice-president of organising committee BOCOG."

  • Stephen Wade, AP -- getting lots of play (SI, USA Today, Yahoo, etc.).

  • Blogging for China: "By most accounts, the Paralympics - including the events, the organization, the coordination, and of course the performances - is as successful, if not more successful, than the main Olympics event."

  • China Daily: "Foreign media and world leaders Wednesday lavished praise on the Beijing Paralympic Games and its closing ceremony."

  • A blog post from Sports N Style blog, with two videos.

  • Beijing Boyce bids goodbye to it all.

And two non-Closing Ceremony stories that are related to the Paralympics: Shanghaiist introduces us to swimmer He Junquan, and Xinhua speculates on the fate of China's guide dogs, like Lucky.

I'll be back with much more later.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Paralympic wheelchair rugby (Murderball)

Backdated entry, published 9/22 at 10:23 p.m.

Every expat was who was anyone was in attendance at the Murderball finals, probably because the event, besides being pretty cool to watch in person, was featured in a full-length documentary three years back. (Also of note: 30 RMB was all it cost for a General Admission ticket.) I went with Casey and, among friends, saw Boehner with Michelle, Joel Rosen, Mike Lu and (Robo) Gabe.

The bronze-medal game saw Canada defeat Great Britain 47-41. In the gold-medal match, the U.S. -- amid chants of U-S-A and Meiguo jiayou! -- ousted Australia 53-44, despite the efforts of Aussie Ryley Batt, who the Sydney Morning Herald calls "the most brutal murderball player in the world." If the paper's biased, no one would have argued with it tonight, as Batt scored 23 of his team's 44 goals and assisted on 12 others. Not sure "brutal" is the best adjective, however; Batt may have heft, but his game is one of pure speed and deceptive agility, as more than once he squeezed his chair between an opponet and corner cone to score.

The first video is of tipoff and the first two points; the second shows the flag-raising ceremony. [UPDATE: third video here.]



Poor USA fan in Aussie section, and vice versa

Postgame pics:

Beijing Science and Technology University Gymnasium:

Monday, September 15, 2008

Paralympic archery

Backdated post, published 9/26 at 3:29 a.m.

I bought archery tickets because of one reason: Zhang Juanjuan. If you remember, she was the Chinese archer who shocked the world -- a small world, perhaps, but shocked nonetheless -- by beating the No. 3, No. 2 and No. 1 ranked archers in the world, in succession, to win gold at this summer's Games. Nos. 3, 2 and 1 all happened to be South Korean. So I was eager to go to the archery venue to see if anyone could recreate that excitement.

Who do you think China faced in the gold medal round in both the men's and women's team recurve open?

The Chinese women won 205-177, setting a world record in the process. Video here (the female voice you hear is Casey, who went with me to all three of the Paralympic events I'd attend):

The men didn't win, but they made things interesting. The Koreans held a commanding lead for most of the match, but one of their archers made a late crucial mistake to let China back in. The crowd erupted in unison when his score of 6 went up on the board -- the last shot of the second-to-last series. China, as you can see below, took advantage, scoring an 8, 9 and 10 on consecutive shots to pull within one.

Alas, South Korea buckled down and built a 27-point lead in their final series. China's final archer, Dong Zhi, needed a perfect 10 to tie, but he managed only a 7. South Korea won a thriller 209-206.

Recaps of both matches via Xinhua here.

This was the scene before the match:

And pictures:

Team China's men finishing off Italy in the semifinals.

At the main archery range (the above was a secondary one running parallel with the main range):

The crowd before the women's gold medal match.

South Korean women speak to media, fans.

After the women, the Italian men faced the Japanese for bronze (Italy won):

A commenter named ValiantBrownBear on my YouTube video (embedded above) wrote: "what the fuck is this? i can honestly say that korea has made more noise in that game!!!" That's highly doubtful, as the Korea cheering section was pretty much limited to what you see in the above picture. Still, VBB's point is taken: Korean fans did make lots of noise and should be commended, even if none of them looked like this:

I like the horns.

China's men shooting.

These flags could use a breeze.

The women's victory ceremony: