personal


25

Jul 2005

Scheduled Sinosplice

I’ve been writing this blog for over three years. It has become my hobby of choice. A lot of bloggers burn out or get bored, but I find it easier than ever. Most days, there are about ten potential entries I could write if I felt like it. Granted, a lot of those entries would be “filler” entries. The other type of entry, which I like to think of as the “quality” entry, requires inspiration and more time to write. I haven’t written a good “quality” entry for a while, but there will be more. (This is another “filler” entry.)

The point of this post is to announce that, starting today, I’m following a blogging schedule. There will be a new entry every weekday morning. This is pretty easy to do, because I’ll have the entries written ahead of time and scheduled in WordPress to be posted at a certain time. I haven’t decided what exact time is best to post, but I’m starting with 7am (China time).

There was a time when I would have thought that a “blogging schedule” was ridiculous. However, I no longer feel there will be any problems thinking of topics, I still like writing, and writing entries to be posted at a later date helps me manage my time better. While I was visiting home, I loved being able to neglect my blog for a whole week while new posts continued to appear every day. It’s a better way to blog.

So that’s the news. Sinosplice Weblog: Monday through Friday, one new entry a day.


23

Jul 2005

On American Food

From July 4th to July 16th, my girlfriend stayed with my family in a suburb of Tampa, Florida called Brandon. We had a great time, and they all loved her (of course). I’ll probably be writing about that visit a few times, but first I just want to talk about her reaction to American food.

She has to travel to other countries for her job, so my girlfriend is no stranger to Western food. She likes cheese and pizza — she’s not one of those Chinese people that can’t get used to a lot of Western foods. (She’s a Shanghainese girl!) She was excited to be able to discover what kind of food my family ate, as the American homes she had eaten in before had all been families of Chinese immigrants in L.A., and they ate mostly Chinese food. In the end, there were a few things she couldn’t get used to in two weeks’ time.

The first day, my mom gave us beef and barley soup with cold cuts sandwiches for lunch. She loved that stuff. She didn’t know Americans could make such a good soup (good job, mom!).

One night we had a make-up Thanksgiving Dinner, with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry orange relish (a family specialty)… the whole thing. I don’t think my girlfriend is too crazy about turkey, and she didn’t get into the gravy much (mmm, gravy…), but she enjoyed that meal. She just felt like it was so much food. She told me my appetite seemed to increase when I got home. Damn right it did!

She liked the chilli my mom made. And she definitely liked my sister Amy’s Asian fusion stir fry. Those two nights, though, when the dinner consisted of mainly one big dish, gave her a mistaken impression about American food. She thought that was the norm because we really didn’t have that many dinners at home. I had to explain to her that (in my family, at least) there are usually at least three or four dishes, but occasionally one dish will dominate the meal.

She enjoyed the meals less on the nights we ate out. The food she got at the Akershus “Princess Palace” at Norway in Disney’s EPCOT Center wasn’t that great. My food was good, though. What made that place amusing was the five Disney princesses that came out and chatted with you and took pictures while you ate. The five princesses of the day were Cinderella, Ariel, Jasmine, Sleeping Beauty, and Belle. Sitting there, I realized that the dining epxerience was meant for five-year-old girls. Whatever, though — Jasmine was hot!

We learned from our experience at Busch Gardens that meal portions at the fast food-type restaurants are way too big, and we were better off sharing one entree and getting a few side dishes. That worked well for lunch at SeaWorld. The pasta dish she ordered at Sharks Underwater Grill was a little rich, and the immensity of the appetizer shocked her. The jumbo shrimp I had there were the best shrimp I’ve had in a looong time, though. Chinese restaurants take great pride in having only the freshest seafood, but why is it so rare for me to eat such tasty and succulent shrimp in China for a reasonable price? OK, rambling.

The night we made dumplings (饺子) dinner was good, of course. We made so many we had to freeze half of them. (You guys better remember to eat those!) Unfortunately I earned extreme contempt from my girlfriend for my creative ing efforts. I tried all kinds of cool new 包 techniques. No one was impressed. Oh well, they still taste the same when they look ugly.

Oh, and fresh, crisp American corn on the cob was well appreciated. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get her to smother it with butter (the way it should be eaten).

12 nights of dinners, and I’m having trouble recalling many of them. Anyway, my girlfriend wasn’t crazy about stuff with rich creamy or buttery sauces, but she liked most stuff. The one meal she really couldn’t stomach, though, was one of my favorite meals of the entire visit. It was the bagel brunch.

The morning of the 16th my mom went and bought fresh-basked New York-style bagels at Brandon Bagel. According to my neighbor, it is the only source for delicious authentic bagels in Brandon. So, with my neighbor, my mom got the everything bagels, the pumpernickel bagels, the salt bagels, the honey wheat bagels, etc. They got cream cheese with chives, veggie cream cheese, cream cheese with lox, and some kind of cinnamon cream cheese. We also had fresh sliced tomatoes and onions for additional toppings. I was in heaven. Normally I have little appetitite in the morning so I eat only one bagel for breakfast, but I had three bagels (six different halves) that morning.

But my poor girlfriend didn’t like them. She felt the bagel bread was too dense and the cream cheese was just too much for a breakfast item. I pity her. Thinking back, though, I used to be unable to stomach a lot of fried Chinese breakfast items, like 煎饺.

So that’s the end of that report. I imagine my family will be a little surprised to realize that the bagel brunch was my girlfriend’s least favorite meal, as she was very polite and ate an entire half bagel before begging off. Oh well. That just left more for the bagel lovers. (And I did eat her second bagel: everything bagel with chives cream cheese, tomato, and onion! Yummm…)


21

Jul 2005

Grades, finally

I finally found out today what my scores were on my entrance exams to grad school at 华师大. They were what I predicted: two B’s. I got an 81 on the 汉语基础 exam and an 85 on the writing exam. (In China the scale is typically A: 90-100, B: 80-89, C: 70-79, D: 60-69, F: below 60.)

I’ll be paying my tuition soon, and the process for obtaining my student visa is already in motion. What was holding everything up was that 刘大为, the professor who was to be my advisor, has decided to leave Hua Shi Da for Fudan University. So they weren’t sure if I still wanted to do my Masters with them because he was leaving, and they weren’t able to get in touch with me because I was in the States. Kinda strange… is it normal to have one’s degree with a university in China dependent on having one particular professor as an advisor? 刘大为 is pretty famous, I hear, but still…

Anyway, everything is on track.


21

Jul 2005

Thwarted!

I was in a blogging mood today, and then out of nowhere the internet here in Shanghai decided not to let me access my site all day. Well, something like 9am to 11pm, anyway. I hate it when that happens. I can never be sure if it’ll be permanent condition or not.

I was going to put up a bunch of posts, as my recent trip home taught me that I rather like blogging in advance. Forgetful soul that I am, I ended up checking my website every day, never knowing what new entry will appear there (even though I just wrote it a few days prior).


19

Jul 2005

Nuking America

On the flight back to Shanghai I was looking at an English language Korean newspaper. The article that caught my eye was the one about General Zhu Chenghu of the PLA stating that China was prepared to nuke America over the Taiwan issue if it came to that. Later it was emphasized that the general’s remarks were his personal opinions, and not indicative of official policy.

Richard at Peking Duck wrote about this already, but the story he quoted left out the best line (which I have bolded):

> “If the Americans draw their missiles and position-guided ammunition on to the target zone on China’s territory, I think we will have to respond with nuclear weapons,” he told an official briefing for foreign journalists.

> Zhu said the reason was the inability of China to wage a conventional war against Washington.

> “If the Americans are determined to interfere … we will be determined to respond,” he said.

> “We Chinese will prepare ourselves for the destruction of all of the cities east of Xi’an. Of course the Americans will have to be prepared that hundreds … of cities will be destroyed by the Chinese,” he added. [source]

Ummm… did he say “the destruction of all of the cities east of Xi’an?!” Yes, I believe he did. That’s basically all of China’s major cities. That’s what Taiwan is worth to him. Absolutely ridiculous. After public comments like that, I certainly hope that the head honchos in Beijing were saying, “OK, he doesn’t get to talk to the press anymore.”

So after reading that on the plane, my girlfriend and I were met at the airport by her parents. On the ride home, my girlfriend mentioned to her mom what I had read in the newspaper on the airplane.

Her reaction? “What? No, that never happened. That never happened.”

I’ve got to say, I’m a bit disappointed. She’s a smart lady. But then, it was a really outlandish statement.

Update: Also on Peking Duck, Bingfeng offers some scary examples of a similar focus on war on America’s side: Planning War.


18

Jul 2005

Seoul to Shanghai and stuff

I am finally back in Shanghai today. It has been a very full past two weeks.

I like the Seoul airport. It has good food, and a nice internet cafe (or “Internet Plaza,” as they call it) for US$3 per hour. I used that one on the way to the USA, but this time on the way back my girlfriend and I found the transit lounge (it’s up one floor), which offers free internet access. Nice computers, too.

I also experienced Korea’s most beloved of televised competitions: the Starcraft competition. Pretty crazy. I remember when I first arrived in China in 2000 Starcraft was still pretty popular, but I don’t see it on many screens in the wangba these days (although, admittedly, I don’t find myself in Chinese wangba much anymore). China has moved onto other games, like WoW (speaking of which, check this ad out). Korea is not nearly as fickle as China; it has remained steadfast in its obsession despite the fact that Starcraft is already 7 years old.

I have always liked Starcraft, and I still play a round from time to time. I think it’s my favorite computer game ever. But I still don’t think I would cry on national television if I lost a Starcraft competition. I guess I just don’t understand Korea.


14

Jul 2005

Reactions to War of the Worlds

Last week I went with my girlfriend and my sister to see War of the Worlds here in Tampa. Overall, we were not impressed.

I think my girlfriend was one of the few people in the theater who didn’t know how the movie was going to end. She said when the movie was almost over, she was thinking, Tom Cruise still hasn’t figured out a way to defeat the aliens? This must be a really long movie!


13

Jul 2005

Briefs and Guns

Wearing Guns...

I found this image by chance when looking for something on Baidu image search. I’m not sure whether I should be disturbed or just amused.


12

Jul 2005

Pei Sei

My girlfriend and I have been staying with my parents here in Tampa since the 4th of July. My family has been very generous and hospitable to her during that time. Naturally, her response was, “我觉得不好意思.” Then she asked me how to say 不好意思 in English.

I usually find 不好意思 pretty easy to translate, as it can often correspond to “sorry” or “excuse me” in English. When you’re a little late to a meeting, you can say 不好意思 (sorry). When you eat the last cookie and then somone else wants one, you can say 不好意思 (sorry). When you bump someone on the subway, you can say 不好意思 (sorry).

But in this case, my girlfriend’s usage was meant to express something like, “your kindness is too much,” or “you’re being so nice that it makes me feel too indebted.” And she wanted me to come up with one easy word or phrase to translate. When I couldn’t, and I asked for help from my sister, and she couldn’t either, my girlfriend just laughed: “you Americans never feel 不好意思!”

Pei sei is apparently a Taiwanese coinage also meaning 不好意思. According to my source, by speaking fast, the Taiwanese ran the 4 syllables together so much that they became two: pei sei. I thought that was kinda of interesting.


11

Jul 2005

Mini Spring Rolls

Mini Spring Rolls

The picture on the back has it served with a mug of beer. Nice.

This product seems to be part of a larger trend of miniaturizing foods to turns them into snack foods. Another example is the “mini ramen” snack food. It comes in a bag, and each piece is a tiny version of the solid chunk of dry noodles of an uncooked bowl of instant ramen. (Anyone have a picture of that?)

Lianhua (联华) is a supermarket chain.


08

Jul 2005

Me and a Baby

Me and a Chinese baby

Yup, that’s pretty much what that picture is. This baby was ridiculously happy all the time. He liked me too!


07

Jul 2005

Talk Talk

Since I personally verify every blog that is added to the China Blog List, I see a lot of blogs. Unfortunately, I have very little time these days to read blogs, and I’m not really looking for new ones to add to my reading list. One that nevertheless caught my attention, though, was Talk Talk China. I especially like DD’s entries.

There are not a lot of entries up yet, but these are the ones I liked:

Language Rapists. Another variation of a familiar theme. Worth reading. It has a great closing line. (Here’s my version of this rant.)

No, You’re Not Really Tone Deaf. Sometimes I feel this way, but I’d never write something like this. …but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy it when someone else does!

Beijing Cab Driver Excuses. Pretty funny. Read the comments… I found the comparison between Shanghai and Beijing cabbies to be kinda interesting.


06

Jul 2005

Pudong Skyline and Globalization

Shanghai skyline

Patrick at Ape Rifle is working on his dissertation, and the topic relates to Pudong’s skyline and globalization. The focus is pretty abstract. Here’s a quote:

> In my dissertation, I’m going to explore how much the lived reality/built form of Lu Jia Zui actually conforms to its commonly imagined ‘global’ skyline. Much discussion of globalization in the relevant literature talks as if there are some intangible forces floating around the world, homogenizing cities and transforming cultures. However, what is not so often discussed is that the whole idea of ‘globalization’ is nothing but a theoretical abstraction; it can hardly come knock at your door anymore than it can build a skyscraper. ‘Globalization’ , on the ground, is nothing more than the built form produced by belief in it. The production of ‘global’ spaces thus has little to do with abstract forces, and a lot to do with real possibilites/constraints.

As for specifics…

> In this dissertation, I want to use Lu Jia Zui to critique the notion that ‘globalization’ somehow produces homogenous landscapes in ‘global’ cities, especially when dealing with financial districts. As an image, perhaps, Lu Jia Zui is similar to New York or Canary Wharf here in London, but in reality it is a place that defies simplistic description as abstract ‘global landscape’ and ends up being strangely Chinese.

This sort of discussion is not exactly my cup of tea, but I know that more than a few China watching philosopher-types read this blog, and many of them even have intimate knowledge of Shanghai. If that’s you, please read the original entry and give Patrick some input.


05

Jul 2005

Three Kingdoms Comic

A comment on my Origin of Koi entry led me to the Three Kingdoms Comic. Wow! Impressive. I’m not sure whether to be more impressed by the concept* or by the fact that it’s available in English, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Thai! I haven’t gotten a chance to read them all yet, but I definitely will.

Since last year I’ve been a big fan of webcomics. My favorites:

Dinosaur Comics. Ryan North’s sense of humor is the greatest. It amazes me how he can reuse the same panels over and over and still manage to crack me up every damn time.
Perry Bible Fellowship. Reminds me of the Far Side, but it’s anything but derivitive.
Nine Planets Without Intelligent Life. Good concept, good (but slow-moving) story.
Beaver and Steve. Weird humor, cute style.
Questionable Content. Indie rock post-Friends twenty-something sitcom comic.
A Softer World. Reminds me of SNL’s old “Deep Thoughts,” with accompanying photography.

* I know that the story of War of the Three Kingdoms has been done in comic form before, but this is a webcomic. Difference.


04

Jul 2005

Reason for Celebration

I should be arriving in Tampa when it’s this time there. 5:30am Eastern Standard Time, not 5:30am China Time, that is. (Sorry you have to come pick me up so early, dad!)

It’s the 4th of July. Ever since living in China (and especially since having stayed at ZUCC, unofficial random meaningless fireworks capital of Zhejiang), fireworks are about as special to me as chopsticks. They’re really no big deal at all for me. And I’m normally not one to reflect much upon the meaning of “freedom” or independence from colonial rule on this day.

Still, it’s so nice to be back in a country where I can access any website I wish. Right before leaving China, there was a surge in blockings — TypePad blogs were reblocked, Blogsome (which I had recommended to potential China bloggers before) blogs were blocked, and I was having a lot of trouble accessing Micah’s blog. It seems like the shadow of the Great Firewall is getting longer and darker. (I’ll update the CBL to reflect these new blockings soon.)

The good news in these dark times is that the new Adopt a Blog is coming along. So is the new China Blog List. More news on that soon.

Happy Fourth of July.

Related: More details at Peking Duck


03

Jul 2005

Over the Pacific

As you read this, I am already onboard an airplane with my girlfriend bound for the USA. We left Pudong International Airport around 1pm today, flew to Seoul, and are currently bound for L.A.

Now, I’m not blogging from first class or anything so fancy-pants bourgeoise as all that. I’m using WordPress’s scheduled posting feature. It’s pretty cool! I decided I didn’t want to waste precious time at home blogging, so I put up some posts ahead of time so that my site doesn’t go un-updated for all that time.

In L.A. we have a five-hour layover before flying to Tampa, so I’m meeting up for dinner with two friends I know from China who live in L.A. One of them is none other than the infamous “Da Xiangchang.” He posts a lot of over-the-top comments here (and a lot of good ones as well), but before any of that we were friends in China. I haven’t seen him for a while.

While I’m in the States I won’t be working on my website much, but I hopefully will be doing some work on Adopt a Blog. My original page for it is being combined with the work that some other people have contributed this year and it will all soon be online at a new location. I finally found an overseas sponsor! I’ll have to save the official announcement for when it’s actually done, though.

I’ll be back in Shanghai July 18th.


01

Jul 2005

It's About to Get Hotter…

…in my apartment. No more free power. They came and fixed the power meter on Wednesday.

China giveth, and China taketh away…

But having almost seven months of free power is pretty cool.

Also, Carl moves out this weekend, so I’ll be down to just one roommate. We’ll miss him, but we’re glad to see him find a good job and move forward. We’re not looking to find a new roommate… we’ll see if we can afford to have a guest room.


30

Jun 2005

Origin of Koi

So many inventions and customs originated in China that it’s not uncommon for me to learn one that I never knew about before. Sometimes, however, the claims get a little ridiculous.

My favorite is the claim that the Japanese are actually a lost tribe of Chinese from southern Zhejiang, and that the Japanese language has evolved out of the dialect of Wenzhou. I think the first part is simply a creative attempt to explain Japan’s financial success while holding onto Chinese pride. The second part is undoubtedly rooted in the fact that a lot of Chinese people think that Wenzhou’s dialect–a dialect reknowned for being totally unintelligible to speakers of virtually any other dialect in China–sounds like Japanese. The people that say it sounds like Japanese usually understand no actual Japanese. As someone that understands Japanese, I can assure you that Wenzhou-hua sounds nothing like Japanese.

Recently I ran into another possible example of a far-fetched claim related to Japan. The claim is that the practice of keeping koi (colorful carp) originated in China. I immediately found this suspect, but then figured it was probably largely because my time spent in Japan was my first significant contact with the tradition, and the word koi has been imported into the English language from Japanese (not Chinese) recently. Obviously, neither of these reasons are real evidence that the practice of raising koi really originated in Japan.

I checked my favorite reference, Wikipedia. The koi entry had this to say on the matter:

While a Chinese book of the Western Jin Dynasty (4th century) mentions carp with various colors, Koi breeding is generally thought to have begun during the 19th century in the Niigata prefecture of Japan.

This doesn’t prove anything conclusively, so I thought maybe it would be wise to ask an actual domesticated carp where the practice originated:

koi

Yeah, I thought so.


29

Jun 2005

Going Cold and Warming Up

When was the last time you felt infatuated? You met a new person, and there was just chemistry and excitement, and you couldn’t wait to see them again. But pretty soon, the spark was gone. You start to wonder what happened. Were you out of your mind before, or are you in a funk now? Pretty soon it doesn’t matter… the infatuation is over.

I have to admit: that’s how I feel about the Shanghai band Cold Fairyland (冷酷仙境).

Don’t get me wrong — Cold Fairyland is an awesome band, and I respect them a lot. They do an amazing and artistic mix of traditional and modern sounds. I also like how they almost never use English, no matter how many foreigners are at their shows.

The first show of theirs I saw at the Ark left me reeling. It was a truly amazing set, paced and executed expertly, driving the whole place into a dizzying climax. I was totally infatuated after that show. The two shows I have seen since then–one at the Ark again and one at the Creek Art Center–have led to me falling out of the infatuation.

I realized that they only have two songs that I really like. Those are their two rockingest songs. The others are cool, but when it comes to music, I have pretty simple tastes. For me, going to a Cold Fairyland show is kind of like going to an art museum to see an exhibit where I only end up liking one or two paintings. It’s sort of interesting, in that artsy “I’m appreciating culture” way, but it’s not exactly fun for me.

After the show on Saturday Brad and I headed over to Tang Hui (唐会). Ever since I first caught the live performances there, Tang Hui has been the only bar in Shanghai that I can say I really like. The shows I liked were put on by the owner, 张笃, a Chinese guy from Xinjiang who goes by the nickname of 竹马 (get it? 笃 = 竹马). He’s also the front man in his own band. He does a wicked cover of “No Woman No Cry” (who would have thought a Chinese guy could do such an authentic-sounding Jamaican accent??), some classic rock, and some cool ska Elvis covers. He and his friend from Xinjiang (who does a great “Nothing Else Matters” cover) also do some amazing rock versions of Xinjiang folk songs. I have no idea what they’re singing, but it sounds great. I thought Shanghai entertainment didn’t get much better.

Well, it gets a little better. Recently Tang Hui started giving this one Chinese woman a lot of time on stage, and she is amazing. She’s got a low, throaty voice, and the way she belts out songs makes for top-notch entertainment. Her songs are covers, and on Saturday night she did a bunch of Nirvana covers. Holy crap, I never thought a woman could do such awesome Nirvana covers. They weren’t even all the ones you’d expect, either — she did a few not on Nevermind like “Stain.” I was enthralled.

I was never really into cover bands before, but damn… that’s entertainment.

P.S. If you go to Tang Hui for the live music, don’t sit in the outer “hallway section.” It reduces the experience by approximately 60%.


Related:

Micah’s opinions of Saturday’s Cold Fairyland show (he liked it)
Dan’s review of Tang Hui, with address (this review was written pre-kickass singer chick, btw)


28

Jun 2005

Burger King failed me

Burger King has come to Shanghai! Today was its first day open. Having no better lunch plans, I decided to make the 10 minute walk down there on my lunch break for a Whopper. It was pretty packed. I couldn’t tell how crowded it was at first, because they made the odd decision of putting the ordering counters on the second floor.

After waiting in line for about 10 minutes and getting no closer to the cashier (numerous pseudo-lines were forming around me, merging into my line), I decided to leave rather than getting angry. The line had grown quite a bit in the ten minutes I had been standing in line, so I had quite a few people to push my way through. The new arrivals were all murmuring, “it’s the same price as McDonalds.” Yup. Big surprise. About 18 rmb for a combo meal.

I’ll have my Shanghai Whopper one of these days. In the meantime I guess I’ll have to keep eating delicious nutritious Chinese food. Dammit.

Related: Shanghaiist on Burger King



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