There are so many ads for cosmetic surgery in Shanghai taxis these days. Ken reports this grim discovery:
> Now, it can be annoying when you’re sitting in a taxi and you cannot turn off the TV screen 18 inches from your face, but I can live with it. However, what I saw in the taxi today today was perhaps a new low. There was a print ad, mounted on the back of the head rest in front of me, advertising a plastic surgery clinic that obviously churns out operations. Part of the ad was a reflective plastic thing (it looked like tin foil) in the shape of a mirror that invited you to look into it and consider if you didn’t need to do something about your looks. (I answered in the affirmative.)
> So there you are stuck in traffic, on a Monday morning for an hour and all you see is your own, crumpled, ugly mug looking back at you with, a doctor holding a scalpel smiling at you. (I wept profusely.) I almost told the taxi driver to head over to the clinic and get it done before lunch.
Man, I was just in Beijing Tuesday and Wednesday, so missed out on the free physical affection and its fallout. What I didn’t miss is the sociopolitical and cultural implications, thanks to Greg’s brilliant editorial on the incident: China Says “No” to Half-assed Attempt at Affection.
Hank at Network Sense introduced me to TagCrowd, a site which takes a chunk of text and displays the highest frequency words as a tag cloud. He tried it out by copying all the text on the main page of several blogs. Interesting results. Here are two of his results and two that I did:
People’s Daily has an article on the changing Chinese language entitled 49 obsolete Chinese words (part 1, part 2, part 3). The really annoying thing about the article, though, is that it tells you the English translation of the obsolete words without telling you what the actual Chinese words are. (The second most annoying thing about the article is that some of the words are definitely still in use.)
After Ken of ChinesePod blogged about the article, Olivia of the Academic Team provided a list of the Chinese words referred to in the article in parts 1 and 2. I reproduce that list here, adding the missing ones, and deleting some obvious ones (like VCD):
– neighbor 邻居 [I don’t really get this one; I still hear this word all the time]
– danwei (work unit) 单位 [this word is also not gone yet]
– poet 诗人
– reformer 改革家
– special zone 特区
– conductor (on buses) 公交售票员
– radio cassette player 收录机
– wanyuanhu (10,000+ yuan household) 万元户
– daoye (profiteer) 倒爷
– Chongqing of Sichuan Province 四川省重庆
– Royal Hong Kong Police Force 香港皇家警察
– welfare-oriented public housing 福利公房
– State Planning Commission 国家计划委员会
– Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications 国家邮电部
– Ministry of Electronics 国家电子工业部
– Hainan Development Bank 海南发展银行
– miandi (taxi van) 面的
– Idall (electronics brand) 爱多
– Millennium Bug 千年虫
– Fenhuang Cola 汾湟可乐
– mao (lit. “cat,” slang for “modem”) 猫
– family letter 家书，家信
– Blue Seal Household Register 蓝印户口
– fenbi (0.01 yuan coins) 分币
– dageda (big clunky mobile phones) 大哥大
– tianzhijiaozi (a name for university students) 天之骄子
– Yaxiya Department Store 亚细亚百货
– Old Fengjie Town 奉节古城 [picture on Flickr]
– jiefang shoes (“liberation” shoes) 解放鞋
– Super Variety Show 综艺大观 [official CCTV page]
– marital status certification 婚姻状况证明
If you have any revisions for this list, please leave a comment.
Notes: Kevin of Wefang Radish also discusses the People’s Daily article, as does Shanghaiist, where Micah points out in the comments that Danwei.org has published something similar before (but shorter, and also without the Chinese characters), citing New Weekly as the source.
Hank from ChinesePod has written a Language Podcast Survey, presenting the biggest players in the world of language learning by podcast. ChinesePod is #1 in terms of total number of podcasts (300+), but JapanesePod101 is not far behind. There are also four other podcasts for learning Chinese in his list, as well as one for Tibetan!
If you’re interested in language learning, be sure to check it out.
A while back I mentioned a blog called Sex in Shanghai in which a Western guy tells about all his exploits with Chinese women here in Shanghai. (That blog is still #1 on the “hottest blogs” list on the CBL, but it now seems to be inaccessible.) Since then, the Chinese have found out about the blog, and they are (understandably) pissed.
> From time to time, Chinabounder uses his own experiences as a springboard to make sweeping generalisations on, among other things, the sexual frustrations in Chinese marriages, the failings of Chinese men, and the overly tradition-bound upbringing of Chinese girls which makes them rebellious and sexually adventurous. Chinese netizens have routinely been posting venomous messages on his blog in response to his pop-social commentaries — and his occasional outpourings on the Cultural Revolution and Mao Zedong’s womanising ways.
> But last week, a professor of psychology at the prestigious Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences gave new direction to this hyperventilating when he called for an Internet manhunt “to find this foreign trash until we kick him out of China.” In a posting on his own blog, Prof. Zhang Jiehai said that Chinabounder, “an immoral foreigner”, had routinely used “obscene and filthy language to record how he used his status as a teacher to dally with Chinese women… At the same time, he did everything that he could to insult the Chinese government and men.”
> Giving sparse details about Chinabounder’s identity (he’s probably a 34-year-old Briton) Zhang called on “Chinese netizens and compatriots” to join this “Internet hunt for the immoral foreigner”. That message has found echo in numerous Chinese websites and blogs, which have resonated with calls for lynching Chinabounder.
Yikes! Real life consequences for licentious behavior in Shanghai? What is this world coming to?
I watched the much “celebrated” Snakes on a Plane with John B and our wives last night. I picked up the DVD on the way over to his place. The DVD guy outside of the 好得 (AKA “All Days”) convenience store had it. Here’s what the cover looks like:
A very evil-looking Jackson on the pirated Snakes on a Plane DVD
Thanks to Matt at No-Sword I knew what to expect in terms of the movie’s Chinese title, but I certainly didn’t expect the French title, or this camcorder edition’s laughtrack (yes, a French laughtrack). Really, though, when you’re expecting ridiculous, I guess it only adds to the experience.
The main and secondary titles on this cover confirm two of the mainland Chinese titles that Matt dug up:
– 空中蛇灾 — “Midair snake disaster”
– 航班蛇患 — “Snake woes on a flight”
Last Thursday I met up with Dr. Lyn Jeffery, Research Director of the Institute of the Future and co-author of the excellent blog Virtual China. I invited her to stop by ChinesePod HQ to see what it was all about. Since what we’re doing over there is the “education of the future,” Dr. Jeffery was very interested in ChinesePod.
At lunch we chatted about internet usage, Chinese BBSes vs. American blogs, the China Blog List, our blogs, and other things. You know… the future. (The future is clearly very nerdy.)
At the time I opined that the Chinese probably prefer BBSes in general because blogging is very much an individual activity, putting one person in the spotlight, whereas BBSes offer a sense of collective security. Sure, BBSes can get shut down too, but no one person is likely to be targeted for action if the BBS members keep the scope of their comments within certain limits. Bloggers, on the other hand, are taking more of a risk. I admitted, though, that I’m no expert on Chinese BBSes, nor do I even read them often at all. I’m no Sam Flemming.
I later talked about this issue with a Chinese friend whose job in Shanghai is intimately related to the internet. He had a less political take on the issue. He felt the Chinese prefer BBSes because blogs are seen as private. BBSes are public forums, places where you can post something that can be read by thousands if you write something worth reading. Sure, blogs can be read by thousands too, but a lot of time and hard work is required to build up that kind of readership, and many just aren’t interested.
I consider myself very priveleged to be in a time and place where I can do work that appeals to me and just really stimulates me creatively and intellectually. It’s all part of the crazy exciting China feeling. Next week there will be a new editor to help me out with some of the day-to-day academic work at ChinesePod, so that will free me up for more creative and progressive work.
Frank Yu set up the meeting, and I thank him for that. It was good to see him when he visited from Beijing for ChinaJoy recently.
I have not read a blog entry as funny as “In-Lawed” in a long time. The author describes the various ways that his Chinese in-laws–under normal circumstances “generally reasonable and open people”–are gradually driving him insane during their visit to the US. Just two examples of these “small things”:
> – Dad, I got you the chicken McNuggets. I got you the little cup of ketchup for them. I got you a hot fudge sundae. I then watched in amazement as you dipped each of your ten McNuggets into your hot fudge sundae. I explained that the ketchup was for dipping, the sundae was desert. You slathered each McNugget in hot fudge and ice cream anyway. Dad, you rock.
> – Mom can’t be in the sun. Apparently she is a vampire and the sun melts vampires. Mom can’t be in the car. She gets car sick after 10 minutes. Mom doesn’t like to walk. It is too tiring. Mom doesn’t like to fly. It is too expensive. Mom wants to know where we are going today.
There are 14 more of these, and the above were not the funniest ones. Just read it.
I think part of the reason I am so amused by this story is that I know that in a year or two I will be in the exact same situation. I am pretty sure my in-laws will be a lot more “international” in their behavior, but I could be dead wrong. Hilarity could very well ensue for me as well.
P.S. The 88s is a great blog, and I should read it more often, but I’ve been so busy with work lately that I’ve been reading only about three blogs. So I must admit that I found this article through the Hao Hao Report.
For many, Brendan O’Kane is one of the most beloved China bloggers. It was distressing, then, to see his blog go for months unupdated. It looks like those days are over. The site is looking a bit plainer than it used to, and it’s not even blue and orange, but I think maybe that’s just temporary.
I’m going to steal from Talk Talk China‘s comments section again. This time it’s a comment from Kimmor in a hilarious (but apparently earnest) description of the Chinese city of Lanzhou. I found this interesting because I was just talking with a Chinese co-worker from Gansu about Lanzhou (and yes, its noodles) the other day.
> Lanzhou, Lanzhou, Lanzhou. Was there for two weeks. When I returned to Guangzhou I deposited the suitcase (contents included) that I had taken with me into the dumpster before I even put the key into my apartment door. I remember thinking the day I arrived, “Wow, people here really like brown clothes.” Two days later I had joined the ranks of those sporting the brown from head to toe look. Imagine the duststorm we had this April in BJ. Now imagine it every day. Now imagine it an even more flourescent shade of yellow. Welcome to Lanzhou. Nothing redeeming about this city at all. No need to bring up the obvious, “What about the famous Lanzhou beef noodles???” They are great, ANYWHERE but Lanzhou. To eat beef noodles in Lanzhou involves opening your mouth. Opening your mouth in Lanzhou involves inhaling even more ochre-tinted-sulfuric kryptonite dust. Believe me, the Lanzhou beef noodles in your town are much better, even if your town is Wuhan. Wuhan is just like the Pittsburgh (US) of China. Lanzhou is like the…well, like the inside of your hepa-filter vacuum cleaner of China. I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing extended stays in many of China’s “second tier” cities. I do really like China and always manage to find interesting things to see, do, buy or eat wherever I go, but Lanzhou gets the big N-O.
I might have to visit Lanzhou now just to verify this account…
Related: a similarly enthusaistic account of Zhuhai
I have been asked to help spread word about some Chinese blog awards. I have to admit I don’t pay much attention to these myself, but I do think they’re a good thing. And in one case, you can actually win real money! (Well, real monopoly money, anyway.)
Best China Blogs is the China blog awards event giving away close to 10,000 RMB (over US$1000!). “The Admiral” of China Moon is organizing it. (Some of you might know him as a regular commenter on TalkTalkChina.)
I noticed on Danwei that there’s another Asia Blog Awards going. AsiaPundit is a great blog (I wish I had time to read it more often), so I’m sure it’ll do a good job.
> Danwei probably does not count as a blog any more: there are too many contributors, and we are trying very hard indeed to sell out, by accepting advertising. If you are interested in this type of award, please vote for another website.
First let me say that I love Danwei, and it’s a truly excellent site. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better group of dedicated people putting out original, quality content for an independent website (ESWN is only one person, and arguably superhuman). But I don’t think that saying “we’re not a blog anymore” works.
The reasons Jeremy gave as to why Danwei is not a blog don’t stand up to even mild scrutiny: many blogs are group blogs, and many blogs sell advertising. (No, I don’t mean just Google Ads; there are plenty of blogs that sell real advertising.) So what’s the deal?
Well, I think it’s clear that Danwei very much wants to be seen as a news source. Danwei TV has taken a big step in that direction. The Danwei team obviously works very hard and puts out excellent researched content. Blogs are often seen as childish or faddish, and Danwei perhaps aims to rise above the label because it quite clearly offers content superior to 99% of the blogs out there. If any blog ever deserved to transcend the blog label, it is certainly Danwei.org.
But can you cease being a blog simply because you don’t want to be seen as one anymore? I’m not sure what it would take for me to see Danwei.org as something other than an excellent blog with some non-blog features, but for me, at least, it’s not there yet.
It’s the end of the semester. You might expect me to be busy with schoolwork, but I’m really not especially busy because all three of my graduate-level courses are based on essays which don’t need to be turned in until the beginning of next semester. So I have all summer to work on those. The one undergrad class I’m taking to make up credit, Modern Chinese (现代汉语), does have an exam. So that’s probably the only traditional exam I’ll have to take at ECNU.
Despite the lack of exams, I find myself very busy. I’m busy with ChinesePod as well as with a variety of other things. Most of all, my mind has been extremely busy lately, mulling over all kinds of developments. Maybe at a later date I’ll write about some of those things, but for now the time spent on personal reflection is usurping the time I might spend on quality blog writing.
I must say, though, that Joel Martinsen at Danwei.org has been writing some really great stuff lately. It’s great to have him combing the Chinese web for us. His latest gem is the translation of a story he calls Disability Certificate (scroll down to the story, at least, if you’re not interested in the analysis). Whether or not the story is true, I think it really captures some truths about China.
I remember when writing a blog about teaching English in China was a new idea. Blogging itself was new back then. We felt that people in the States needed to know about the Chinese hellos and the crazy food and the linguistic torture. Nowadays, though, there is no shortage of this type of blog. As lone administrator of the China Blog List, I see quite a few. I certainly have nothing against them, but after seeing so many, I start to lose interest.
Until now! One of the newest additions to the CBL has me rediscovering China all over again from Shandong, and starting all over with the language as well. Meg at Violet Eclipse writes with enough charm and good humor to make me ashamed of the dry, linguisticky discourse that passes for blog entries these days on Sinosplice.
She shares lots of the everyday:
> Fresca and I wandered in to a Qingdao street market as part of our ongoing quest to try all the barbarqued tofu in Shandong. We bought scallion bread and rice dumplings and strawberries, which was a lot harder than in sounds. First, because we can’t understand what they’re saying with Qingdao accents. Even when we use the Chinese handsigns for what we want and how many we want, the vendors seem to interpret “2 dumplings” as “Please call the rest of your family over to see the Americans. Really. And touch my hair, I love that.”
And even the occasional “romantic” story:
> The shopkeeper called over an interpreter from another shop, a younger man who said he speaks English. He speaks English the way some of us can remember a bit of bit of our high-school French or Spanish, only his high-school English teacher was not only not a native speaker, but had probably never met a native speaker. Anyway, he was able to ask us questions as long as we wrote down the answers in block letters. The two men were shocked to find out how old we are, and then the interpreter started to practice his next question.
> “Marry. Marry? Marriaige? Marring? Marry?” he says to himself. Just when we think he’s going to propose, he asks us if we’re married.
This time John has attacked the theory that Chinese is hard. The chief reason that full (or even half-ass) mastery of Chinese is difficult is those darned Chinese characters, so that’s the focus of John’s analysis.
He provides stroke count statistics for groups of the most commonly used Chinese characters. The result is somewhat heartening. Check it out.
This kind of statistical work has certainly been done before by Chinese scholars, but it’s not very easy information to find online. I made a half-hearted attempt and didn’t find it. (Yes, that’s a challenge to you readers to prove that you’re better than me.) Plus, John offers it in English.
What I did find was some software that could be interesting: 汉字经 and HanziStatics [sic] (汉字统计程序). If anyone has some free time to check those out, let me know what you think (Chinese ability almost certainly required).
> Just who are America’s China “experts?” And the question we all really want answered: do any of them actually speak Chinese?
To my dismay, the second question (emphasis mine) was not answered, but it’s an interesting list nonetheless. Well, interesting to me personally in that after some consideration I found that I really didn’t care who most of those people were. But maybe I should? Maybe you could convince me to care? Maybe.
The other video podcasts I discovered recently are by Ron Sims, a guy from Cleveland currently living in Fuzhou, China. His podcast series is up to three official episodes, and they’re not bad. So far there’s “the haircut” (can Chinese barbers cut black hair?), “street food” (he even eats stinky tofu on camera!), and the “breakdance show” (Ron was not impressed). Ron speaks Chinese, but the podcasts are mostly in English. I think he does a good job of providing a glimpse into life in China.
Ron’s videos are MP4s, so you may need either iTunes (which I hate) or a recent version of Quicktime to play them.
I had to laugh when I stumbled across this the other day:
It’s an important tone difference which I learned a while ago but didn’t actually personally encounter much until this past semester as a grad student, when suddenly the word “dabian” kept popping up everywhere.
Just imagine (mis)hearing your professor tell the class: “I have to cancel class this Thursday because I have to take a dump.” The silly schoolboy in me inwardly giggled every time.
The internet has been really slow for me in Shanghai lately. These periods of sluggishness come and go, but it seems that they often coincide with new sites being blocked.
Those who follow current events in China know that Google has recently set up Google.cn, which will comply with the PRC’s filtering desires. I agree with Jeremy that this, in itself, does not amount to some betrayal of the internet on the part of Google, but Rebecca MacKinnon got to the crux of the matter when she asked:
> …what happens if the Chinese netnannies use the existence of Google.cn as an excuse to block the U.S.-hosted Google entirely? That would be very bad. And if that happens, how will Google respond? Will they shrug their shoulders and sigh? Or will they push back?
Personally, I don’t think Google will do a whole lot. Hopefuly the public outcry will be enough to have some effect.
I’m hoping it’s just a temporary glitch (these things do happen), but Google is not loading for me at all right now.
Update: Google was accessible again by the following morning.
When was the last time you heard that a blog is an “online diary?” The inaccuracy of such a narrow definition is becoming more and more apparent. Blogs are getting so specialized it’s sometimes surprising. Recently the China Blog List received a submission for a blog called USA and Chinese Nurses. In the first post is a description of the purpose of the blog:
> My name is Mary Jane Evans and I am a Nursing author and instructor in the US who has travelled extensively in China. While in China on a lecture tour, I met many nurses at Universities who wanted information on the realities of emigrating to the US for employment. My experiences left me to wonder how I might help .
> My answer is one nurse at a time, through blogging and direct communication with as many nurses as possible. A former Assistant Director of a 900 bed Hospital in the US, it is my wish to repay the kindness of so many Chinese nurses toward me by devoting some of my time each day to you.
Now the question I have to answer is: is this blog a candidate for the CBL? I’m leaning towards no, because as stated on the CBL help page, blogs listed must be “mainly about China.” This one is about nursing, with a Chinese audience.