personal


01

Aug 2005

Shanghainese Rap CD Release Party

I may have posted about Shanghainese rap once before, but I normally only listen to rap or hip hop occasionally. Still, the one time I went to a hip hop show at Caesar’s Pub (since closed) with my girlfriend, Brad, and a few other friends, we had a really good time. So when Brad mentioned to me that ShanghaiNing was throwing a CD release party, I was happy to go.

ShanghaiHiphop2

I don’t have a lot to say about the actual event… Obviously, the fact that you can get a record deal (with Sony BMG) doesn’t really mean your music is better. I heard a few songs I liked, and also got an earful of awful “hip hop English.” Some of the songs on the CD are not bad, however.

Here’s what the CD cover and track listing look like (click for full size):

Shanghai Rap CD: Cover Shanghai Rap CD: Tracks

Check out Brad’s photos of the event:

Shanghai Rap Cd Release Party Shanghai Rap Cd Release Party Shanghai Rap Cd Release Party

Check out Dan’s blog entry and photos of the event:

Shanghai Rap Cd Release Party Shanghai Rap Cd Release Party Shanghai Rap Cd Release Party

Shanghaiist also has a report on the event.

This is just the beginning of China’s rap/hip hop scene….


30

Jul 2005

Why can't Asia just get along?

I don’t read a lot of blogs these days, and the topics I write on tend to come from my own experiences rather than the internet. Here’s one blog entry on Harvard’s Global Voices Online that I have to point out, though (via Peking Duck):

Inside the Japanese Blogosphere – The Anti-Korea Wave

Also interesting:

News from Chinese Blogosphere

P.S. Scheduled posting, it would seem, refers to the minimum quantity of posts you’ll see. So there might be extras, from time to time, like this one.


29

Jul 2005

Buying a PS2 in Shanghai

I went to my local video game shop last weekend. I took a look at the PlayStation 2 prices. I’m pretty sure this is what they were:

– Imported PS2 with mod chip installed + 1 locally manufactured controller + 10 free games: 1399 RMB
– Imported PS2 with mod chip installed + 1 imported controller + 10 free games: 1499 RMB
– Locally manufactured PS2 with mod chip installed + 1 locally manufactured controller + 10 free games: 1599 RMB
– Locally manufactured PS2 with mod chip installed + 1 imported controller + 10 free games: 1699 RMB
– imported 8 MB memory cards: 149 RMB
– imported controllers: 149 rmb

That’s right, the PS2’s manufactured in China cost more, and according to the owner the quality isn’t as good. I asked the owner why. The conversation went something like this:

> Me: Why are the ones made in China more expensive? Shouldn’t they be cheaper?

> Owner: Sony is Japanese! The Japanese always do this! They make good stuff and sell it to the USA, then they sell all the crappy electronics in China, for higher prices than the good stuff sells for in the USA! Why do you think we hate the Japanese?

> Me: Ummm, I thought that had something to do with historical events…

> Owner: No, this is why!

A very “Shanghai moment,” that.

The imported controllers are more expensive than locally manufactured ones, though. The owner highly recommends them, as the locally manufactured ones break/wear out too easily.

In that shop, pirated PS2 games go for 5 RMB each! I remember when I was a teenager I had to mow quite a few lawns to earn the money I needed to buy the NES cartridges I was dying to have. Nowadays, kids in Shanghai can get the newest video games for pocket change. The cost of the system itself is a bit prohibitive, though.

While I was in the shop, there was a high school boy in there seeking out the owner with all the anxiety of a parent going to visit a sick child in the hospital. It seems his mom got so fed up with his excessive game playing that she picked up his PS2 and smashed it against the ground. The owner said he could actually fix it! Meanwhile, the kid, in desperate need of his video game fix, was returning to the shop every few hours to inquire about the status of his precious PS2.

One of the games the owner was recommending was God of War. Now, I pretty much outgrew video games in college (except for the occasional game of StarCraft or original Alien Hominid), but this game had the magic to draw me completely back in. At least for a little while. There’s just one word for this game: stunning. (Also shockingly violent — not for the kiddies!) Greek mythology has never been so fun (even if it is a bit off).

If you know me, you surely know about my staunch anti-piracy stance. All this rampant piracy in China should not be supported.

But yeah, I’ve been playing quite a bit of PS2 lately.


28

Jul 2005

Cricket Man

I’ve been told they exist here too, but I haven’t yet seen an ice cream truck here in China. What I have seen, as of last Saturday, is a cricket bicycle. No circus music tunes coming from this bicycle. Instead, incessant cricket chirping is what alerts you of its presence. It drew me right over.

Below, Cricket Man is showing me his goods. 3 rmb for the little crickets, 5 rmb for the big ones. You have to cut the little baskets open if you want to get them out.

crickets 01

Look at that bike… Loaded up, with crickety goodness! (Each of the spherical baskets on the back of the bike has a cricket inside it.)

crickets 02

At my request, Cricket Man is transferring a cricket to one of the nicer cages (which sell for 5 rmb each). He says they do bite, but it doesn’t hurt much. I noticed he didn’t want to touch the cricket, though.

crickets 03

Imprisoned again… more attractively, this time.

crickets 04

“Freeee meeee…”

crickets 05

I didn’t buy a cricket. I gave Cricket Man a tip for going to the trouble of tranferring a cricket so I could get some pictures. He said the crickets he sold will fight each other. I guess these are the crickets I heard about, so long ago…

P.S. It strikes me that maybe these are locusts, not crickets. But so what? This is Sinosplice, not Entomosplice!


27

Jul 2005

Et tu, Flickr?

I’ve been having a lot of trouble accessing Flickr from Shanghai this past week, and it was going on even before I made my trip to the U.S. on July 3rd. This is especially annoying because I had started to use Flickr to host the images I use in my blog, and I was planning to move all my photo albums onto Flickr too. I already upgraded to a pro acount on Flickr and everything. ::sigh::

I wish the major web powers would be more vigilant about monitoring their sites’ accessibility in China. Yahoo owns Flickr, and Yahoo is supposedly buddy-buddy with the Chinese government. You’d think they would have the weight to keep their sites from being slowed to a crawl in China.

I’d love to hear how Flickr is loading in other parts of China.


26

Jul 2005

Courage and Fear

Over the weekend I watched the movie Donnie Darko for the first time. I loved it. It reminded me a lot of a Murakami Haruki book, and a little bit of Slaughterhouse Five. It’s one of those pleasantly confusing stories, at once entertaining you and enriching your for the mental struggle it puts you through.

Completely by coincidence, I ended up reading The Courage to Live Consciously later the same night. I found the advice there vaguely reminiscent of Jim Cunningham‘s philosophy, only much more useful.

I found the two sources’ takes on courage and fear to be equally valid.

The Courage to Live Consciously–and this quote in particular–got me thinking about the decision to come live and work in China:

>Everyone has talent. What is rare is the courage to follow the talent to the dark place where it leads.

–Erica Jong

When I was visiting the States I got to thinking about how easy and comfortable it would be to just stay in Tampa, where my friends and family are close, and just find some job to do. But that would be totally betraying my passions and my potential.

Some say moving to China to work takes a lot of courage. Numerous times, Americans from back home have told me that they admire my courage for doing what I do. But does what I do take any courage, really? I don’t see it that way.

To me, learning foreign languages and coming to China is simply a matter of doing what I like to do. I really enjoy studying Chinese, and helping other foreigners learn Chinese is something I genuinely like doing. I don’t think I deserve any special credit for doing what I like doing. If I’m hungry and I have a hamburger in front of me, am I courageous for eating it? No. That’s the way I see it.

That said, I do know that some people are living out what they feel are boring lives in the USA, Canada, or elsewhere, and they’d love to be able to move overseas and try out a new life. They see the hamburger, but they have a million reasons why they can’t eat it. Or maybe they’re afraid of what the hamburger has in it. I can’t be sure, because I’m not one of those people. I just eat the damn hamburger. I don’t think it’s courage.

Related? Those Who Dare.


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.



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