personal


12

Jun 2006

China: Alternative Film Showcase

You know what the cool thing about buying DVDs in China is? I mean besides them only costing US$1. You may get stuck with bad copies if you buy from unscrupulous vendors (or if you’re too impatient), and not every mindless comedy makes it to the streets of China, but I am continuously amazed at the obscure stuff that does make it here. Any China expat can tell you stories of finding some really random old movie from his childhood on DVD in the unlikeliest corners of China.

Just recently I found The Ewok Adventure (1984) on DVD bundled with Ewoks: the Battle for Endor (1985). I grew up in the 80s, so ewoks were an important part of my childhood. I picked up the two-disc set. I was disappointed to discover that the contents of the DVDs did not match the DVD covers; it was the short-lived ewok animated series I had actually bought. Laaaame. (I may have a soft spot for certain 80s nostalgia, but I do have my limits.)

Bad 80s made-for-TV movies aside, all the exposure to less mainstream films is great. Some DVD shops seem to specialize in obscure movies. I’m not sure if the selection is intentional or if they somehow get stuck with the “dregs” of the DVD shipment. I see quite a few French films, but stuff from all over as well.

Two movies I watched over the weekend:

Les Revenants, AKA They Came Back (France, 2004). I was intrigued because this was a zombie movie with very different zombies. French zombies. And they didn’t attack people or eat brains–they just came back… only they were a little odd. This had serious psychological consequences on the loved ones to whom they returned. Pretty interesting movie, but it dragged a bit in the second half and didn’t have a very satisfying ending. Also, I kept waiting for a zombie to flip out and chomp on someone’s living flesh, and it never happened. At least this movie had good English subtitles, so it was only weird French cinematic metaphors for life and death and acceptance (or whatever) that were confusing me, and not language as well.

Tsotsi (South Africa, 2005). I picked this one up because I really know very little about South Africa (ignorance is bad), and I kind of wanted to hear the African hip hop mentioned on the back. I also had the foolish hope that the movie would be in English, so I didn’t check for English subtitles. Instead I was treated to 94 minutes of Afrikaans, with no English subtitles. Actually there was very little dialogue in the movie, though, so the Chinese subtitles gave me more than enough to follow the story. I definitely enjoyed this one.


09

Jun 2006

Lazy Friday Links

I’ve written a few articles elsewhere lately (mostly for ChinesePod), so rather than write real new content this Friday, I will take the lazy way out and link to some things I’ve already written.

1.
When to Learn Hanzi?
(on CPod)
Could it possibly be that studying Chinese characters full-on from the very beginning is not the best way to go?

2. Talking to Oneself Productively (on CPod Praxis)
It’s not exactly a revolutionary new method, but talking to myself has helped me to learn Chinese.

3. On Google’s Evilness (on iDrone)
Light-hearted speculation on Google’s current and hypothetical migration toward evil (with regards to China).


05

Jun 2006

Pepe

For the two years of classes I must take for my masters program at ECNU, I have the same 11 classmates for almost every class. All of them are Chinese, and only one of them is male. My one male classmate distinguishes himself by far more than his gender, however, so I’d like to introduce him here. I’ll call him Pepe.

Like most of my classmates, Pepe is not from Shanghai. After finishing his undergraduate studies, he came directly to Shanghai to study applied linguistics. Faced with a difficult job market, more and more Chinese college grads are electing to go to graduate school before joining the rat race. In that respect he is not very special.

I first observed something about Pepe in our initial semester, when I had only one specialized linguistics class. I noticed that in a room full of students furiously scribbling the teacher’s every word–and I doing my darnedest to keep up–Pepe never wrote more than a few lines of notes down. And yet no one was more engaged than he, no one impressed the professor more with insightful comments than he, and no one got away with more good-natured irreverent remarks than he. There were times when the professor would make a statement in all seriousness, and Pepe would laugh at it out loud, all alone, earning him a dirty look from the professor. He obviously understood a lot that the other students didn’t.

I would later learn that one of Pepe’s favorite pastimes was combing through Hong Kong and Taiwanese news. He loves the idea of a government under the scrutiny of a Chinese free press. He’s a realist, so he dares not dream of the impossible, but he devours the outsiders’ analysis of the CCP’s power struggles, past and present. What interests Pepe most of all, however, is Taiwanese politics. It’s like politics in bizarro China, and it fascinates him.

I have also learned about Pepe’s struggles within the academic machine. He wants to do real scientific research, to make a creative contribution to the field of linguistics. But his advisor repeatedly swats down his aspirations because “that’s not the kind of thesis that gets approved in this department” or because of the limitations of his advisor’s expertise.

Pepe is the sort of student I always hoped for more of when I taught English to Chinese students, and he’s the sort of student China would benefit greatly from if it could only recognize the importance. I’m fortunate to have at least one classmate who thinks critically and shares my grievances with the system, discontent with the role of academic atomaton (although to be sure, this burden weighs far heavier on him than on me).

You will hear more about Pepe from me in the future.


03

Jun 2006

Chinese Girl Pop Stars du jour

And now for something completely vapid: Chinese girl pop stars!

I was bored, surfing around on Baidu, as I sometimes do, and I stumbled across this Baidu ranking of female pop stars. The ranking is assigned by searches, and each star is linked to photos, discussions, and “星闻” (a pun on and 新闻, meaning “star news”). It even keeps track of changes in the rankings.

I immediately noted two things about the list. First, I knew a whole lot fewer of the stars than I expected to. I mean, I don’t exactly immerse myself in Chinese pop culture, but I thought I would know most of the top ten. I found that I only knew four of them by name. Second, the list is quite different from the recent list of China’s 50 Most Beautiful People. This is to be expected; the lists had different standards, after all. Or, one actually had standards, I should say. But it’s interesting to compare anyway.

First, though, for purely educational purposes, I present you with Baidu’s top ten:

Liu_Yifei

刘亦菲. I had seen this girl everywhere in advertising around Shanghai, and had no idea who she was. Apparently this 20-year-old is pretty popular these days (#1 on Baidu, anyway). She has a movie called 五月之恋 (“Love of May”) which you can watch in its entirety on YouTube (Chinese only).

Cai_Yilin

蔡依林 is a Taiwanese pop star I’ve written about before. She’s managed to stay popular for quite a while. There are karaoke-style videos of hers on YouTube as well, such as the video for Love, Love, Love. (I hope you have a strong stomach if you’re thinking of clicking on that link.) She was so much cooler when she was dating Jay Chou (周杰伦).

Li_Yuchun

李宇春. Anyone living in China should know this face. She won the “Supergirl” singing contest last year. I’m not going to say anything bad about her ever again because her fans are crazy. They will crush me. You can find her on YouTube as well.

Tang_Jiali

汤加丽. I don’t know anything about this woman and I’m too lazy to search. She’s only #4, after all. Judging by her photos on Baidu, though, I’m guessing she’s popular because she does nudes. (Sorry, guys, she’s not on YouTube.)

S.H.E

S.H.E. #5 is a trick, because it’s actually three girls. (No one ever said Baidu was smart.) This is a girl band you’re likely to know if you’ve lived in China any length of time. They’re well known for that Superstar song, and currently annoying everyone on the Shanghai subway as their cutesy girl antics are played on the video screens ad nauseum. Surprise, surprise… there are tons of their videos on YouTube.

Zhang_Nala

张娜拉. I have no idea who this girl is, but I did just enough research to discover that she’s Korean, her “real name” is Jang Nara, and she’s on YouTube.

Lin_Zhiling

林志玲, who goes by the crazy moniker of Lin Chih Ling in Taiwan, seems to be unable to wear a bikini and stand up, causing her to just roll around on the ground in a giddy delirium. Those so inclined can do more research on this intriguing woman on YouTube.

Zhang_Hanyun

张含韵. I once posted a video of hers on ChinesePod without even knowing her name for sure. Now I know her name, but still find myself distinctly apathetic about the details of this young woman’s life. She is #8. Run along to YouTube, lads. If her video for “ai ya ya” is any indication, she wants to cute you to death.

Lin_Xinru

林心如. This Taiwanese actress has been popular for a while, it seems. I know she’s been trying to steal my roommate’s heart back away from Zhang Ziyi for some time, anyway. You can find her on TubeYou, or whatever that site was called.

Zhang_Yunhan

张韶涵 is our #10. Knowing absolutely nothing about this girl, I can still tell you two things: (1) she is annoying, and (2) she is on YouTube.

OK, that’s Baidu’s top 10. The full list has 50. Some major differences between it and the women of the “50 most beautiful people list”:

1. Zhang Ziyi, #4 on “Most Beautiful” is #36 on Baidu’s list. OK, so Chinese guys like her a lot less than American guys, but they don’t hate her (unless maybe their girlfriends are around).
2. Zhang Manyu (Maggie Cheung), #1 on the “Most Beautiful” list, is #46 on Baidu’s list. (I’m guessing that’s because she’s old.)
3. Neither Li Bingbing nor Zhou Xun, placing #17 and #23 on “Most Beautiful,” respectively, place on Baidu. I found that kind of strange, because I thought they’re both somewhat popular still. (Too last year?)
4. Liu Yifei, #1 on Baidu’s list, placed 13 on the “Most Beautiful” list.
5. Lin Zhiling, Baidu’s #7, is #26 on the “Most Beautiful” list.
6. Shu Qi is #15 on the “Most Beautiful” list and #21 on Baidu’s list.
7. Wang Fei (Faye Wong) is #18 on both lists.
8. Zhang Baizhi (Cecilia Cheung), always popular, placed #13 on Baidu and #25 on the other.

I could go on and find some more overlap, but there’s not much point. A handful of stars aside, the lists are significantly different. It’s almost as if the young male crowd thronging to China’s internet cafes and using Baidu prefers young, pretty girls, regardless of talent!

Shocking.


30

May 2006

Three Guns

sanqiang

Three Guns

What would you expect a store called “Three Guns” (三枪) to sell? If you guessed clothing, you guessed right! Just in case there’s any confusion as to what the name of the shop refers to (could it be some kind of literary reference or something?), the logo clears that up.

Still unsatisfied, I went inside and talked to one of the employees. “Why would a clothing store call itself ‘Three Guns?'” I asked. The employee kindly told me that the brand had a long history dating all the way back to before the Communist Revolution, and that the original founder had liked guns. So he named his clothing store “Three Guns.” The end.

Charming.


27

May 2006

The Myth of Round-eye

We English speakers have at our disposal an astounding variety of racial slurs. I don’t need to give a list here; we all know it to be true. I think one of the most interesting slurs is “round-eye” because it seems to be invented by the very group of people to whom it refers.

If you’re not familiar with the term, it frequently shows up on racist websites or websites that play up the East/West divide (but not on certain ones–more on this below). It is also used seemingly innocuously at times. It’s supposed to be a term that Asians use for non-Asians.

It may be obvious to many Asians, but as a white American, I didn’t notice anything strange about the way the term is used until after living in China for some time. The truth is, I’ve never heard any Chinese (or Japanese) refer to whites or any non-Asians as “round-eyes,” in Chinese or any other language. At times non-Asians in China might get called hairy, simian, uncivilized, or even evil, but never round-eyed.

not-slanted

Asian eyes: not slanted

The reason for this is simple. While non-Asians often see Asian eyes as “slanted,” Asians do not see themselves that way. If you ask a Chinese person about the difference between Chinese and white people’s eyes, for instance, they will tell you that white people’s eyes are often blue, but Chinese eyes are “black.” In addition, white people’s eyes are usually much deeper set, and all seem to have the “double eyelids” that the Chinese find attractive. What they don’t say is that “their eyes are rounder than ours.”

I think it’s pretty obvious where this racial slur came from. The logic went something like this:

> Asians have slanted eyes, but we don’t. Asians’ most readily identifiable feature, to us, is their slanted eyes. So our most readily identifiable feature to them must be our non-slanted, or round, eyes. We can’t understand what they call us in their languages, but it’s gotta be round-eye!

The fact is that the Asians themselves just don’t see it that way. I’ll admit that I’m basing most of what I’m saying on my own personal experience in China, and to a lesser extent my experience in Japan. It’s possible that some groups of Asians use this term, maybe as a reaction to being called “slanty-eyed” by racists. However, I suspect that it is a wholly non-Asian invention, and that the most likely Asian groups to use it would be ones living as minorities in the West.


Related: Making the Chinese Face, Center of Civilization


26

May 2006

GigShanghai has launched

GigShanghai is a new website created to share the Shanghai music scene with the world. Created by Brad of ShanghaiStreets and Aric of ChinesePod, it provides regular audio content via podcast to give you an actual earful of what Shanghai live music venues have to offer. You can also stream the podcasts directly from the site.

I know both Brad and Aric personally, so I can tell you that this teamup has a lot of promise. Maybe they’ll even mention this website someday, when someone asks about when the Shanghai music scene started gathering steam for its eventual eclipse of Beijing’s. Check it out.


25

May 2006

Earning Love

> “How do you say 赚钱 in English?”

> “‘Earn money.’ You could also say ‘make money.'”

> “‘Earn money’ is the same as ‘make money?'”

> “That’s right.”

> She thought about it for a second, and then: “so then can you also say ‘earn love?'”

Simple logic, when applied to language, can lead to very frightening conclusions.


23

May 2006

The Importance of a Name

When the China Blog List got a redesign and its own domain, I added a list to the front page called “10 Best Blogs.” This name was somewhat misleading, because it was based on clicks to those blogs through the China Blog List. Later the name was changed to “10 Hottest Blogs,” which is much more accurate.

It soon became clear that the blog in the #1 “hottest blog” position was hard to dislodge. The #1 “hottest blog” gets the most clicks because it’s #1, which keeps it at #1. John B and I tried some ideas to make it fairer, and they have worked pretty well. Since then, several blogs have come and gone from the #1 position. I have noticed that the most influential factor as to what puts a blog in the #1 position is clearly the name.

The blog that started at #1 was the Shanghai Streets photo blog. It was there for a while while we tweaked the ranking algorithm. Pretty soon after a new blog called My Chinese Life rose quickly to the top. Apparently people liked the name. When John changed the name of his site, however, he quickly fell from #1 and was replaced by Chinese Chic. Ah, we all love alliteration.

Chinese Chic was #1 for a long time, but has finally been displaced. The new victor? Sex and Shanghai, the tales of a sex-hungry foreign guy. It rose to the top of the “hottest” list a mere two days after being added to the CBL. I have a feeling this one is going to be hard to dislodge.

The moral here? If you’re looking for traffic for your blog (from the CBL, at least), the name matters a lot.


21

May 2006

Volunteering to Teach in China

Do you know anyone who has “volunteered” in China? Volunteers are often good, selfless people, but I can’t help but see most volunteers in China as suckers. I’ve just seen a little too much about the way it usually works here.

There are tons of “programs” that, for a fee, help you find work teaching English in China. These programs make deals with schools–either directly or through intermediaries–to provide English teachers. They charge both the teachers and the schools as much as they can get away with, pay the teachers an extremely modest salary, and end up making a very nice little profit on the deal. If their teachers are volunteers, it’s just all the more profit for them.

Too often, the teachers are new to China and very naive. They realize their pay is very low, but they explain it with, “China is very poor.” After living in China for about a year, they often learn that the local director for their program drives a BMW, that other English teachers make about three times what they do for the same work, and that their students are no more disadvantaged than most kids in China.

Now obviously, the respectability of different programs will vary. I’m sure some of them have admirable goals. But if the organization uses any kind of local “middle man” to find its schools, some kind of funny business is almost a sure thing. The English teaching business attracts quite a few unscrupulous individuals.

I shouldn’t pretend to know too much about how these organizations work, but I do know enough to recommend this: if you’re looking into any kind of volunteering program in China, be very, very wary. The primary beneficiaries of your good heart and hard work might not be who you think.


19

May 2006

Sci-Fi Titles in Chinese

Busy with work and classes, I don’t have a lot of time for pleasure reading, but I manage to read a bit here and there. Lately I’ve been on this extended classic sci-fi novel kick. I’m almost through the entire Foundation series by Isaac Asimov, and I’m currently reading Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein (1961). Since these are classics, they have all been translated into Chinese already, as our friend Joel Martinsen reminds us on Danwei.

I’m not really very interested in reading these novels in Chinese, but I’d be interested in discussing them with Chinese people, so I thought it would be a good idea to learn these books’ titles in Chinese so that I at least would have a starting point for my nerdy wild goose chase of trying to find Chinese people who have read them. Some of the titles are interesting.

First is Stranger in a Strange Land. I think this is a cool title in English, and interesting that it comes from the Bible:

> And she bare him a son, and he called his name Gershom: for he said, I have been a stranger in a strange land. (Exodus 2:22)

The Chinese name of Stranger in a Strange Land is 《异乡异客》. When I first saw this name I parsed it as four parts, literally meaning “strange country, strange guest.” But it can be taken as two parts, meaning “alien land, stranger” (Wenlin’s translation). This strikes me as a very nice translation. But does it keep any of that Biblical reference? I was curious.

The original “stranger in a strange land” quote comes from the King James Version. In the New American Standard Bible, for example, the quote becomes:

> Then she gave birth to a son, and he named him Gershom, for he said, “I have been a sojourner in a foreign land.” (Exodus 2:22)

(Yeah, not quite as catchy.) So I didn’t think there was much hope of the Chinese book title matching the Chinese Bible verse, but I thought I’d check anyway. I checked two different online Bible versions. Results:

> 西坡拉生了一个儿子,摩西给他起名叫革舜,意思说,因我在外邦作了寄居的。 (出埃及记 2:22, source)

> 她生了一个儿子,梅瑟给他起名叫革尔熊,因为他说:「我在外方作了旅客。」 (出谷纪 2:22, source)

Not even close. That satisfied my curiosity. I still like the name 《异乡异客》 anyway.

The other translation I was interested in was the name of the Foundation series. I kind of suspected what it would be, but I hoped it would surprise me with something cleverer. Nope. The Chinese translation is 《基地》 (literally, “base”).

Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems to me that this translation falls a bit short. The whole premise of the “Foundation” is that it is an organization that will become the foundation of the new galactic empire. Yes, the Foundation starts out as a base on a planet, but by giving the Foundation the Chinese name 基地, you’re just calling it “base,” and without the abstract, far-reaching implications. (The abstract meaning of “base” is a separate word in Chinese–基础–which can also be translated as “foundation” but would never work as a book/series title… It would be like calling the series “Basis.”)

OK, so I can’t think of anything better, but “Base” is just lame. Boo, translators. Hiss.

Also, what’s up with translating Brave New World as 《美丽新世界》 (literally, “Beautiful New World”)?

At least no one tried any funny business with the translation of 1984 (《一九八四》).


18

May 2006

Center of Civilization

“The back of your head is so round. Ours aren’t, you know. Ours are usually pretty flat in back. You foreigners have sort of a weird bulge back there.”

“Yeah, I know. That’s where we keep our abilities to form lines, obey traffic rules, and not spit everywhere.”

She promptly socked me.


16

May 2006

Violet Eclipse

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.

So check out Violet Eclipse, the best of its kind since Shutty.net.*

* You know you’re old skool if you get that reference.


14

May 2006

Craisins for China

If you’ve never had to buy presents in the USA to bring back to Chinese friends, you probably don’t understand how hard it is. Nearly everything is made in China these days, and quite often those same products are sold in China as well. Quite a few times I’ve bought presents in the USA thinking, “you can’t buy this in China,” only to discover upon presentation of the gift that it is, in fact, available in China. In Shanghai, the issue is even worse. Furthermore, a lot of things that you can’t buy in China the Chinese don’t want (think: most American candy).

Since bringing back gifts is a non-negligible part of Chinese culture, this creates a major problem: what presents do you buy for the Chinese when visiting the USA?

I recently mentioned that I had found a good present to bring back from the USA and give to Chinese friends. Don’t expect it to revolutionize West-East gift-giving; it’s only a minor item. But it seems to have gone over well. I brought back packs of Craisins.

Craisins make a good present for several reasons:

1. If you can even get them in China, they’re certainly not widely available. I’ve never seen them here.

2. The Chinese typically don’t know what cranberries are, and often have never heard their Chinese name before (蔓越莓), giving them a sort of exotic quality. Some Chinese have heard about them (particularly in association with American Thanksgiving), but few have tried them.

3. You can’t bring fresh fruit through customs, but no one wants to eat fresh cranberries anyway. So dried, sweetened, and packaged is good.

4. The dried, sweetened fruit thing is very similar to a lot of Chinese snacks, so they’re easier for the typical Chinese person to accept. (Many foreign foods aren’t.)

Craisins have a special meaning for me as a linguistics student as well:

1. The name “Craisins” is a good example of a blend (cranberry + raisin).

2. Leonard Bloomfield, key contributor to structural linguistics, uses the “cran-” in “cranberry” in discussions of morphology as a (now classic) example of a bound morpheme that exists in only one lexeme (although this status is possibly changing, thanks to modern marketing). The “cranberry” example is often cited by Chinese linguistics professors (I have heard it many times already) even though most of them are not exactly sure what a cranberry is.

Thus I was able to present Craisins to my linguistics professors and classmates as a “souvenir with linguistic characteristics.”

Most importantly, they ate them all up. Nothing says “I’m not just being polite” like devouring the entire bag.


11

May 2006

Spammers, You Flatter Me

Some of what I write attracts criticism, and even the occasional hateful comment. It’s nice to see compliments every now and then. What’s not nice is that these days the vast majority of my admirers are spammers. Scrolling through my blog’s collected spam I see the following:

– Excellent site, added to favorites!!
– This is a great site. Not everyone has to agree but I sure do. Can’t wait for some more posts.Keep it real.
– Best site I see. Thanks.
– Your site is very cognitive. I think you will have good future.:)
– So interesting site, thanks!
– HI! I love this place!
– I’m really impressed!
– Your home page its great
– Great website! Bookmarked! I am impressed at your work!
– I like your site

So if you’ve got a blog, my advice to you is: beware the flatterers.


09

May 2006

Looking back on the visit

I have just returned from yet another visit home. I no longer have many reverse culture shock experiences (e.g. the cliché “Americans are so fat” one), but I notice lots of little things. This is how I measure the growing disconnect between modern American culture and me. Here are some of my observations from my last visit:

– Having lived in China for so long, I no longer like sweets as much as I used to. I find myself somewhat repulsed by the ubiquitous sugary goodies, and I have to carefully space the ones I want to enjoy if I want to stomach them.

– I no longer want pizza when I go home. Between Papa John’s, Hello Pizza, and New York Pizza (Jing An Temple), I’ve got all my pizza needs covered in Shanghai, with a satisfactory array of styles and prices. The same goes for pretty much all fast food.

– I have zero interest in American TV anymore. Anything that’s good will come to China on DVD. (Same goes for movies, unless there’s something really new that I want to see.)

– My parents’ ADSL connection was often slower than my connection in Shanghai. I know it’s partly because my parents’ connection isn’t very good, but still… how sad.

– White girls get hotter every time I go home. (Also Hispanic girls, black girls, etc.)

– Life is hard without an ayi. (Oh, China, you have spoiled me rotten.)

– Americans complain about the cost of real estate, but many homes in Florida are actually cheaper than homes in Shanghai.

– The last couple days of my visits are always characterized by frantic shopping trips for friends in China. I’m getting better at remembering all the people I should shop for, and even getting better at figuring out good presents to buy. (More on this soon.)

While I was home, I pretty much only heard mainstream music. Two songs stood out: Ridin’ by Chamillionaire (what a stupid name, but I can’t help loving this song) and SOS by Rihanna (good use of the Tainted Love beat). And what do you know… both can be found through Baidu (here’s how).


07

May 2006

Zhang Ziyi in TV Commericals

Zhang Ziyi on Flickr

Zhang Ziyi

If you do search for Zhang Ziyi on Youtube, you’ll find quite a few commercials. As I see it, this is good for Ziyi fans as well as those interested in either learning Chinese or seeing Chinese commercials. (Unfortunately, some have no audio.)

Here are some of the commercials featuring Zhang Ziyi to be found on Youtube:

Coca-Cola (1)
Coca-Cola (2)
Lenovo computers (1)
Lenovo computers (2)
Maybelline (1)
Maybelline (2)
Pantene (1)
Pantene (2)
Visa (feat. furious kung fu action)
Visa (feat. Pierce Brosnan)
Bottled water (Korean)
Asience (hair care)

I’m not a huge fan of Zhang Ziyi, but while looking through YouTube for a ChinesePod blog post I found so many commercials featuring her that I thought it was worth mentioning.


05

May 2006

The Experts

An entry on The 88s entitled America’s China “Experts” has asked:

> 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.

I’ll never be a sinologist.


03

May 2006

Stand Up Comedy

While home my sister took me to see some stand up comedy here in Tampa. Two of the comedians were John Heffron and Tracy Ashley. We had a good time. The next day I was talking to my girlfriend on the phone, telling her what I’d been doing, and I wanted to tell her that I went to see stand up comedy. But I completely did not know how to say “stand up comedy!” I went into a long-winded description of the event which left me completely convinced: I need to know how to say stand up comedy in Chinese!

Shortly thereafter, I was chatting with Brendan online, and I asked him if he knew. Big xiangsheng fan that he is, his response was “单口相声” (one-man xiangsheng). That was a clever way of putting it, and probably pretty easily understood by the Chinese.

I later did a proper Google search and turned up 现场喜剧 (live comedy), which often had 表演 (performance) tacked onto the end. You can find such a usage on the Chinese version of the Wikipedia entry for David Letterman. (That source strikes me as a particularly good example of the surreal beauty of the internet.) I have my doubts as to whether 现场喜剧 can be readily understood by most Chinese as “stand up” without further elaboration, though.

I was actually reminded of China a bit as I listened to Tracy Ashley’s act. She was talking about her experience being black in Minnesota. (Apparently there are not many black people there.) Her description of the awkwardly enthusiastic greetings between black people in Minnesota that don’t even know each other made me think of foreigners in small-town China. (OK, the parallel doesn’t go too far, and then there’s also Marco Polo Syndrome, whose likelihood is directly proportional to the size of the Chinese city….)

All this entry illustrates–if anything–is that when you bring stand up comedy together with Chinese culture, it’s a little awkward.

This is dedicated to my commenters that hate my professor because he discusses his quirky off-topic theories in class.


01

May 2006

History as the Final Judge

This is part three of my professor’s lecture on speech acts. This part is even more of a digression than the thoughts on race and “the weak,” but it’s related to the Confucian quote, and, more specifically, ideas about history.

My professor was saying that he thought that social order required there to be a “final judge” (最后审判者). For the West, that “final judge” has been the Judeo-Christian God and the accompanying system of morality. However, China’s “final judge,” my professor argued, was certainly not religious in nature. So what was it?

According to him, through the ages the Chinese have feared not the judgment of some god or moral system, but rather history. He felt that for China, history is the final judge.

What did China’s emperors have to fear? Certainly not the wrath of anything divine. The only thing they feared was how historians recorded them.

Similarly, parents toil their entire lifetimes because their vision is firmly locked on the future. Their children will have better lives, and they are willing to accept a role in the history of that better future.

I’m not going to write too much about this… This is the kind of thing that doesn’t get written down in my notebook (since it’s almost completely irrelevant to speech acts), but it certainly captures my attention and imagination a bit more.



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