Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Links of the month

I'm able to do this because I'm so far behind on my RSS that I'm encountering posts from earlier this month just now.

  • Evan Osnos on a social experiment: "Would China respond differently to criticism from abroad than it would to criticism from home?"
    As Wang sees it, people gave more credence to “Zuckerberg”’s appraisal than to “Wang”’s because China spends too much of its time on the hunt for prejudice, only to “find out what this prejudice is based on and give one’s own response or counterattack.” They “feel some kind of invisible threat—that a foreigner might understand China more deeply than ourselves.”

  • Oh traditional media... ["The Stink of Misreporting," by Jim Gourley of Absurdity, Allegory and China, among the better China blogs out there (be sure to click on the Shanghaiist link at the bottom)]
    I don’t need to remind anyone who has been in China for longer than it takes to clear customs that sloppy and/or false reporting can do a lot of damage. Today I read the blog post of a man in Shanghai, who was “quoted” by AFP concerning the most recent blocking of Youtube here in China. I am purposely not passing on either link, since I do not think the man in Shanghai needs any more attention, and the AFP needs a slap to the head rather than anymore traffic. The reporter “quoted” a blog entry from October 2007, called it “yesterday” and attributed it in an article dated today, March 25, 2009. The man who was quoted was neither contacted, nor was he even in China. He was very gracious in his follow-up blog post by entitling it Lazy Journalists. I may have taken a bit harsher title and tone. I have a particular dislike for this sort of thing. I have no idea if the ‘journalist’ who wrote the story is in China either, though it would not surprise me if he were not. This has become the nature of the biz.

  • Via Danwei: Layouts of People's Daily's coverage of the National People's Congress's opening day from the last five years. [Fang Kecheng]

  • The evolution of man in different cultures. [Shanghaiist]

  • Yet another victim of the global economic climate: the yellow fevered (accurate use of term?). [Shanghaiist]

  • Verboten: VIIIIXVIIV. [Tim Johnson, McClatchy]

  • In observance of International Women's Day (March 8), Crossroads posted about China's xiaojies.

  • Beijing Boyce wonders how Beijing's LAN got on the list of "world's 100 best bars."

  • China and Barbie; who isn't saying this these days? [L.A. Times]
    "There's no reason why in five to 10 years, China shouldn't be the biggest market in the world for us," said Richard Dickson, Barbie's general manager, sitting on a lattice boudoir bench on the store's fourth floor, where girls can design their own dolls.

  • Introducing: Insiders Out, written by Immersion Guides's Gabe Monroe (with his girlfriend, Shelley Jiang), about all the places in China you wish you could see but can't because it's out in Nowhere.

  • And finally, Earth Day 2009, via Boston Globe (check out the Water Cube). (Also: the Beijinger blog.)

POSTSCRIPT: No, wait -- one last link, courtesy of Kevin Reitz and his complementary Beijing blog, Kevin's Dim Summary: a post all about me.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Radiating cold

In Beijing, central heating is turned off in every building -- every apartment, every supermarket, every office -- in mid-March, as decreed by the government, so when a cold front moves in, as it did earlier this week, there is an awful sort of cold that seeps into your bones and settles there like the worst type of house guest, refusing to leave. This is not the place for those with poor circulation.

I am chilled to my innermost core, unable to shake this nippiness, and none too pleased. Of course, as with all aspects of life here in the big, noisy, rambunctious, oft-confused city, neither temper nor happiness is something you can afford to lose. Perhaps I should start wearing gloves more often.

POSTSCRIPT: The final word on last week's blocking of YouTube, from Time's Austin Ramzy.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Picture of the Day: Gangsta

GANGSTA was etched into the front plate of this car. This was on the back:

The driver, best as I could tell through the tinted windows, was a young woman.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Picture of the Day: An Elizabeth Bishop poem could accompany this, perhaps

In China they are all about serving fish whole, bones and all. This one was from my grandma.

This poem.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

My hours of browsing the Beijinger's reprehensible forum/discussion board finally pays off

I have no idea who posts on the Beijinger's forum and probably never, ever want to know, but I came across something that was -- though slightly racist and definitely 100% not PC -- amusing, even funny. I reprint (full credit belongs to chinaryan):

dating chinese girls...u should know,,,

Chinese WOMEN
First Date: You get to buy her an expensive dinner but nothing happens.
Second Date: You buy her an even more expensive dinner. Nothing happens again.
Third Date: You don't even get to the third date and you've already realized nothing Is ever going to happen.


First date: You get to kiss her goodnight.
Second date: You get to grope all over and make out a bit.
Third date: You get to have sex but only in the missionary position.

First Date: You both get blind drunk and have sex.
Second Date: You both get blind drunk and have sex.
20th Anniversary: You both get blind drunk and have sex.

First Date: You take her to a play and an expensive restaurant.
Second Date: You meet her parents and her Mom makes spaghetti & meatballs.
Third Date: You have sex, she wants to marry you & insists on a 3-carat ring.
5th Anniversary: You already have 5 kids together & hate the thought of having sex.
6th Anniversary: You find yourself a Mistress.

First Date: Meet her parents.
Second Date: Set the date of the wedding.
Third Date: Wedding night.


First Date: You get to buy her a real expensive dinner.
Second Date: You get to buy her and her girlfriends a real expensive dinner.
Third Date: You get to pay her rent.
Tenth Date: She's pregnant by someone other than you.


First Date: You buy her an expensive dinner, get drunk on Tequila, and have sex in The back of her car.
Second Date: She's pregnant.
Third Date: She moves in. One week later, her mother, father, his girlfriend, her Two sisters, her brother, all of their kids, her grandma,

her father's Girlfriend's' mother, her two cousins, her sister's boyfriend and his Three kids move in

and you live on rice and beans for the rest of your Life in your home that used to be nice,

but now looks like a home along The Tijuana strip.

fun! don get serious...

And this first comment from the_remedy:

Chinese women:

First date: You meet in Propaganda 20 minutes before it closes and take her home and have sex.
Second date: You call her at 2:30 after striking out with all the cuter girls and take her home and have sex.
Third date: You go to the clinic and buy azithromycin because it burns when you piss.

I'm gonna guess that when you drop "azithromycin" on an Internet forum, it's because you know something from experience.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Latest from China's Great Firewall

YouTube's blocked again, which is rather inconvenient for one who needs to access video to, say, the recently concluded World Baseball Classic final between Korea and Japan to post on his Kansas City Royals blog...


Why? It seems like nobody knows right now. We can't think of any particularly pressing anniversaries - the type of thing that has warranted a Youtube block in the past. Our best guess is that this might have something to do with the recent unrest in Tibet? It's not too out there to think that someone might have loaded a couple Chinese censor angering vids of the allegedly hundreds-strong protest.

Danwei commenter:

Is this possibly because the US Navy posted videos of Chinese harassment in the South China Sea?


Also, the censors seem to have finally caught up with my favorite proxy, Outlaw Proxy (www.outlawproxy.com). This is what comes up when you type in the URL.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Picture of the day: Chaoyangmen roundabout

An often overlooked "gate" within Second Ring Road...

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Picture of the day: mirror, mirror

For a couple weeks now I've been fascinated with the mirrors at the 13-line Zichunlu subway stop, which has a slight curvature that enables it to reflect a wide swathe of the other side of the platform. Also, in a city that can't manage to keep clean, these mirrors are always nearly spotless.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

"An interesting thing to see from the taxi"

That's what Shen wrote in his email that included this attachment:

At Chaoyangmen tonight, St. Patty's Day.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Burning cigarettes as anti-something statement

From today's China Daily, everybody's favorite newspaper:

Those are fake cigarettes they're burning in Henan, and not because cigarettes are, you know, harmful to your health. (This reminds me of a sign I saw in a Chengdu garden once: "Please consider not smoking due to harmful to your health." Yes, please consider indeed.) They're burning fake cigarettes -- operative word here being "fake" -- because it's World Consumers Rights Day, and heavens forbid one buys fake nicotine that isn't addictive...

POSTSCRIPT: Did I really write, "Arise, meadowlark at dawn, arise all you kin in my journey through this God-given gift" in my last post? I mean, really... usually these sort of sentences don't make it past my censors. In any case, please note that I used an excessive amount of exclamation marks, and that there's a reason.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Spring - here at last to stay?

As Kevin points out in his post here, the weather's looking up in Beijing: 53 degrees Fahrenheit today, 64 degrees Sunday, 60 degrees Monday, 75 on Tuesday (take these with a grain of salt: American forecasts of Beijing are always wrong, though the spirit is generally in the right place).

All I have to say is: goddamn fucking 'bout time! Pardon the language, but today, like yesterday, was uncharacteristically cold, windy, and generally miserable. You know what they say about Old Man Winter though: he's a bitch cause he's lonely. And we're about to store him away for nine more months -- more, God willing -- so maybe this is his last hurrah, a final huff, the tempestuous bang before he slings his bag of coldness and infertility and sadness across his shoulder and slides into hibernation with nary a whimper.

Awake, spring! Awake, furry animals in the land of Nod! Awake, all you who have need to blink and say hello to the new-risen realm of possibility, of hope, light, and life! Arise, meadowlark at dawn, arise all you kin in my journey through this God-given gift! Qilai, qilai, qilai! OH THE TRUMPETS!

Three backdated posts

I was ill this past week, so these just got posted:

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Picture of the day: (suggestive?) graffiti at Sihui

I think this location is the underpass just east of Sihui Bridge (way out west):

Here it is from a different angle:

And from across the street:

I was fascinated by the different ways this drawing could be interpreted. I'll leave my thoughts alone for now, lest I follow them off a bridge -- (below) -- but let me know what you see and we can compare notes.

The starkness of Sihui

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


An ad on City Weekend's website (my bold):

WANTED: Part-Time translator

I am looking for an under-graduate/fresh graduate (female 18-21) to do business translation and available after-office hours or weekends. It will be mainly from english-chinese and versa-vice on presentation materials.

Knowledge of IT terminology is perferred. Please provide simple resume with photograph.

Contributed by richierichpoor

If this makes you queasy, try reading some of the Beijinger's forum discussions. Here, I'll even point you to one:

If You've Never Seen an Adult Film

Then you're probably sub-par in bed. Optimal positions and techniques are learned.

And another:

I have friend who think EF is good place to learn english so I go there and I meet one American man who is teacher there. He say he can give me private english lesson and I no need pay the prices of EF. But when I give him my email address he say many sex things to me and want to meet me for sex. I send email to his boss and they say sorry, but my friend say he is still working there. Why they not care they teachers try to teach private lessons and then have sex with student. Can they have sex with all the student they wish?

James Fallows on Chas Freeman


But very recently I met with a friend who had worked years ago with Freeman -- on China, not the Middle East -- and was upset about what he called the "self-lobotimization" of US foreign policy that the campaign to discredit Freeman represented.

Two Fallows follow-ups: here and here.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Forbidden City

The Forbidden City's a treasure, at least until you get inside and put your face against the grimy windows or try to elbow your way through the unruly crowds to peek at unkempt rugs and dusty thrones. For all the revenue the place brings in (tickets are 40 kuai during winter months and 60 during the summer, though the two gals I was with on Sunday got in at 20 kuai because it was International Women's Day), you'd expect Gugong -- one of the must-sees for every tourist -- to be a little better maintained.

As is, the best parts of the Forbidden City -- rebuilt so many times it retains little of its ancient luster (whatever that might imply) -- might be the large, expansive plazas where one can imagine the ghosts of centuries-old eunuchs and soldiers standing guard for the emperor, and the green mini-park-like section at the north end, full of natural stone formations, mighty cypresses, intriguing junipers manipulated into shapes (mostly the upside-down shape of the Chinese character for "person," 人) and the colors of budding blossoms. I don't remember seeing these parts of the old imperial palace when I last visited as a kid, but I enjoyed the refresher course.

Also enjoyed the translations "made possible by the American Express company." Seriously, this ain't Chinglish:

More pictures:

The ladies of the day, Daisy and Amy.

Touching the tree: these two started it, and soon everyone was doing it; for good reason: it was glossy and smooth, as if the sap had repackaged itself as silk, and stark vertical ravines ran down the sides of the bark as if carved out by hundreds (more!) of years of steady waterfall.

This is what happens when you're not careful with a bag of sunflower seeds: they scatter!

The Forbidden City's back (north) door, from the outside; for pictures of the front door, go here.

POSTSCRIPT: For an insightful read, I recommend Geremie R. Barme's concise volume, The Forbidden City, published last year. Barme, it so happens, is in Beijing for the Bookworm's International Literary Festival.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Poet Xi Chuan and musician Bruce Gremo at the Bookworm

At the first night of the Beijing Bookworm International Literary Festival:

The instrument Gremo is playing is called the celia and is apparently the only of its kind in existence in the world. I believe it.

Xi Chuan had his Chinese poems translated into English, which he read with slight difficulty. He paused during one poem to ask Bruce how to pronounce "infinitum," which he pronounced as "in-finy-i-tum." He also had a weird way of pronouncing "mosquito" as "moss-guy-to," but we understood. The mispronunciations actually enhanced the overall esthetic effect, I thought. They were going after a certain mood characterized by unfamiliarity and otherworldliness, and I think it was better that the poet read in an alien tongue (Xi did read one poem in Chinese, however, and that was an enjoyable experience).

I'd like to point out that Xi Chuan's poems were quite dark -- literally, from bats in the night to a poem called "The Darkroom" to lying down at dusk and monsters in the dark -- and that I, despite my illness, was entranced. Will have to buy his books when they come out in English.

Backdated on March 13.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Beijing Bookworm's International Literary Festival

Backdated from March 13

The Nivens, Jenny (daughter, left) and Liz (mother, right)

Opening night tonight and I was sick as a dog. Just horrible timing, but I'm looking forward to attending more events as the festival goes on.

But seriously: terrible timing. I didn't get to talk to the lovely hostesses, Alex Pearson and Jenny Niven, or any of the readers -- Blake Morrison, Liz Niven, Justin Hill -- or the blogger I recognized, Lijia Zhang, or Pallavi Aiyar and Zachary Mexico and, well, you get the drift... anyone. My friends had fun though.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Picture of the day: more evidence of New China

A mural on the ground floor of the shopping complex at Sanlitun, in a lonely hallway leading to the bathrooms.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A reason for optimism?

CNN on the China National People's Congress:

The delegates will represent China's central leadership, the military, every province, including minority groups such as Tibetans, and overseas Chinese.

Landmark social security legislation will be considered that would make health care, unemployment and retirement benefits universal. If implemented, it would mark a major change in the nation's social welfare system.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Science and Technology Museum

Through a family connection, a department head in the space and aeronautics division of the Science and Technology Museum (he's a researcher, not curator) gave us a brief tour of the space exhibit, with real satellites hanging from the ceiling and other gadgets that are fully operational (we were told they're the backups, making this place the sideline of China's space program, I suppose).

I bring this up in light of Time's article last week about China's space program. The country has already helped countries like Brazil put satellites in space, and now it wants to be bigger player on this front. For $40 million -- half the price the Americans, Europeans and Russians charge -- China can put a commercial satellite in space, and if the country's latest venture is successful, it would indeed be, as Time puts it, "a major leap forward."

Of course, you can't have a story without your stock Chicken Little quote from Yet Another Concerned Congressman:

Not everyone sees it that way. Addressing the House of Representatives Science and Technology Full Committee on Wednesday, Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher stressed that any rule revision must ensure "nations who proliferate weapons of mass destruction and rogue nations are barred from receiving our high-tech systems."

Chief among "such places is the People's Republic of China," Rohrabacher continued, issuing a warning against firms seeking to sidestep restrictions in order to do business with Beijing. "Eutelsat sells tens of millions of dollars' worth of satellite services to the U.S. government through DISA [Defense Information Systems Agency] contracts. Clearly, this is the beginning of a game of chicken between Eutelsat and the Obama Administration."