Tag: observations


Mar 2005

Closer Subtitle Surrealism

Everyone knows that in China piracy of American movies runs rampant. The USA acts all angry, and every now and then Beijing makes an attempt to do something about it in order to placate the WTO. Nothing new. I really couldn’t care less about Hollywood’s lost revenues. China’s pirated DVDs do affect my life in other less expected ways, however.

New American releases are obtained as early as possible and mass-produced in China quickly and cheaply. The earlier an eagerly awaited Hollywood title hits the streets in DVD form, the quicker it will be snatched up by movie fans. It should come as no surprise, then, that the quality of translation of the Chinese subtitles for these DVDs can be less than reliable. I’d say that the translations for Chinese subtitles on DVDs fit into three categories:

  1. Professional. These are usually obtained from an official source and are quite trustworthy. The Chinese is often natural and idiomatic.
  2. Hit and Miss. Whoever did the translation could understand a lot of the English dialogue and translate it with a degree of accuracy, but there are clearly some mistakes. Sometimes you can even tell what English word or phrase the translator thought he heard, based on the Chinese. This category can cause some confusion for Chinese viewers, but it’s usually good enough overall to tell the story.
  3. WTF?! For some movies (often the earliest, fuzzy camcorder pirated editions) the “translator” clearly did nothing more than guess at what the people are saying based on visual clues. This can be pretty hilarious if you can understand the original dialogue as well as the Chinese, but it must be very frustrating for the average viewer relying on the Chinese subtitles.

OK, so this whole situation is kind of funny… except for the fact that it can ruin my movie experiences. Why? Because if I’m watching an American movie with my girlfriend, she reads the subtitles. Conscientious boyfriend that I am, I can’t help but do periodic translation checks to ensure that my girlfriend is getting a decent idea of what’s going on. The more mistakes I notice, the more I pay attention to the subtitles so that I can clue her in on important dialogue. Often, before long I’m finding myself explaining the movie in Chinese instead of enjoying it. I guess I can live with that, though, since the movies cost $1 each.

But back to the absurdity of the whole thing. Can you imagine it? A Hollywood movie. The original dialogue has been chucked out the window, save for a few sturdy globs here and there. The rest of the dialogue has just been… made up. Fabricated. By some Chinese guy who’s undoubtedly poorly paid and under a lot of pressure to get the subtitles done now. And I don’t think I have to say that he’s unlikely to have a strong education in Western culture. That’s OK, he can still do subtitles for Western movies with themes ranging from terrorism to Catholic traditions to abnormal psychology. No problem.

The scary thing is that if he’s any good, some Chinese viewers might not realize they’ve been swindled. They may have gotten an alternate version of the story — which shared the same visuals as the original — that was convincing enough that they think they understood it as it was meant to be understood. “I thought the reviews said something about brilliant social commentary,” they reflect for just a few moments after finishing the movie. “Those silly Americans….”

Well, I can do more than just make suppositions, in this case. I actually transcribed a scene from a Chinese DVD copy of the Oscar-nominated film Closer. I transcribed the original English dialogue, but I also translated the Chinese subtitles into English for comparison.


Dan’s lines are in a rich blue. Alice’s lines are in a dark pink. Since the Chinese subtitles are only a shadow of their English counterparts, Dan’s lines translated from Chinese are in a lighter blue under the original, and Alice’s lines translated from Chinese are in a lighter pink under the original. I have added a at the beginning of the translated-from-Chinese lines just to keep it as clear as possible. You’ll find that it can be a little difficult keeping the parallel (occasionally intersecting) dialogues in your head at once.

(On the bus.)

A: How did you end up writing obituaries?
A: What kinds of things do you like?

D: Well, I had dreams of being a writer…
D: I like drinking beer.

D: But I had no voice — what am I saying??
D: But I don’t drink often. Also…

D: …I had no talent. So I ended up in obituaries, which is…
D: I love singing. I can sing many songs.

D: …the Siberia of journalism.
D: …including German folk songs.

A: Tell me what you do. I wanna imagine you in Siberia.
A: I hope I’ll have a chance to hear you sing.

D: Really?
D: Really?

A: Mm.
A: Mm.

D: Well… we call it “the obits page.”
D: Well… we don’t often sing.

D: There’s three of us. Me, Graham, and Harry.
D: Because everyone is really busy.

D: When I get to work, without fail — are you sure you wanna know?
D: Especially when I’m working. Extremely busy.

(She nods.)

D: Well, if someone important died, we go to the “deep freeze.”
D: If someone died, we would sing the funeral hymn.

D: Which is, um, a computer file with all the obituaries, and we find that person’s life.
D: Although I rarely sing, singing is something I can’t do without in my life.

A: People’s obituaries are written while they’re still alive?
A: Do people like your singing?

D: Some people’s. Then Harry — he’s the editor — he decides who we’re going to lead with…
D: Some people. Sometimes we get invitations [to sing].

D: We make calls, we check facts…
D: Some are favors, some paid…

D: At six we stand around at the computer and look at the next day’s page…
D: We’re all happy to do it; the money doesn’t matter. It’s great.

D: …make final changes, add a few euphemisms for our own amusement…
D: It’s a kind of addiction. But it’s not like alcoholism.

A: Such as?

D: “He was a convivial fellow.” …meaning he was an alcoholic.
D: I have a really strange friend. A homosexual.

D: “He valued his privacy.” …gay. “Enjoyed his privacy” …raging queen.
D: But he’s content with his lot in life.

A: What would my euphemism be?
A: Guess what kind of person I am.

D: “She was disarming.”
D: You’re a cute girl.

A: That’s not a euphemism.
A: I’m not cute at all.

D: Yes it is.
D: Yes, you are.

(Some time passes…)

D: What were you doing in New York?
D: What were you doing in New York?

A: You know.
A: You know.

D: Well, no, I don’t… What, were you… studying?
D: No, I don’t know. Are you… studying?

A: Stripping.
A: Struggling.

A: Look at your little eyes.
A: Your eyes are so pretty.

D: I can’t see my little eyes.
D: Your eyes are even prettier.

Impressive, no? For my own amusement, I have graphed the two dialogues below:

Closer - Graph

I should note that the whole movie was not this bad. This is a particularly WTF scene subtitle-wise. The subtitles of my copy of Closer are probably halfway between the WTF and Hit and Miss categories overall. Love stories are not so hard to figure out, but a relatively inconsequential bus ride with few context clues just unleashes the imagination of the “translator,” it would seem.

This example, I’m afraid, is by no means unrepresentative of the subtitle work provided by the hard-working DVD pirates. What are the ramifications of this? Well, it means every time I talk to a Chinese person about a movie we’ve seen separately, I feel a gap. Sure, we watched the same movie, but we may very well have experienced a somewhat different story. Exaggeration? Perhaps. But then again, maybe every scene of that movie was translated similarly to the scene above. You just don’t know. Furthermore, until this situation changes, the average Chinese citizen’s efforts at foreign film appreciation have been thoroughly sabotaged.


Mar 2005

The Developing

I started my existence in China in Hangzhou, a very pleasant city as Chinese cities go. Now I live in Shanghai, China’s model modern city and an economic monster. I think it’s good to keep in mind that these cities are not representative of China as a whole. It’s good to keep in mind that China is still a developing nation. It can be remarkably easy to forget… that “developing” means a whole lot more than the public’s stubborn spitting habit. Pictures can be a good reminder.

Pictures of Zhuzhou, Hunan, China. Some of it looks very familiar. Some of it, thankfully, does not.

Don’t miss the comparison of Zhuzhou (China), Kochi (Japan), and Piscataway, New Jersey (USA). This is pretty old stuff, but I thought I’d post it now anyway.


Feb 2005

Look out, Taiwanese women!

Apparently there are evil smirking foreigners around every corner in Taipei, just waiting to pounce on unsuspecting Taiwanese girls who have just withdrawn money from an ATM.

Wilson pointed this poster out to me. It’s posted all over Taipei right now.


Feb 2005

One jiao — what is it good for?

[Image removed because of this China Daily article.]

This is a one jiao note. A jiao (AKA mao) is a tenth of a yuan (AKA RMB). If, for the sake of convenience, we put RMB at 8 to the American dollar, that makes a jiao worth $0.0125. That’s slightly more than a penny. Jiao are necessary for making change (much like pennies), but you can’t really buy much with one jiao unless you’re in the vegetable market.

I certainly don’t like a pocket full of jiao, but I tolerate keeping coins to make change. One of the advantages (in my book) to living in Southern China is the predominance of coins over paper bills for the lower denominations (1 jiao, 5 jiao, 1 yuan). I get really annoyed, then, when I get handed paper jiao (pictured above). Paper jiao are for Beijingers!

So what do you do when you get handed paper jiao and you know you’re not going to be using it right away? I know some foreigners that don’t take their change if it’s paper jiao. You can try to give it to beggars, but some of them turn up their noses at anything less than 1 yuan. (The blind erhu players are usually less picky.) I once handed out paper jiao to kindergarteners as “prizes.” I got some funny looks for that. Even kindergarteners don’t like them.

My roommate Lenny gave me the best answer I’ve heard yet: use them for bookmarks. Genius. Any other ideas?


Jan 2005


I’ve been pretty active in January, but I’ve finally let this blog gather a little dust. Not much, but a little.

The reason for my recent computer problems was dust. Well, sort of. I opened up my computer because the fan was getting super noisy. That could have been because the ball bearings in the fan were going bad, but it also could have been just due to a huge dust buildup. You see, life in China comes with more than the recommended daily dosage of dust.

So I was cleaning the dust out of my computer’s innards. I used compressed air. (I didn’t know how to say that in Chinese, so I went around the computer market asking for “air in a can” (Ìý×°µÄ¿ÕÆø). I’m pretty sure I sounded like a moron, but it eventually yielded the desired result.) Even compressed air proved insufficient, though. I ended up cleaning a lot of the dust out with q-tips. Big chunks of it.

While cleaning out the dust I carelessly knocked my wireless network card loose (which I’m not even using, ironically), causing my computer woes.

I ended up getting a new power source anyway. The bearings really were going bad on the fan, and the inside was just dusty beyond help. Dust takes its toll.

* * * * *

Shortly after I arrived in China, I went on a trip to a park with some Chinese friends. It had been a while since I had seen grass, so I was happy to sprawl out on it, which promptly resulted in my Chinese friends’ disapproval. “It’s dirty!” they told me. I just shook my head. In a corner of the world where there’s so little nature left to enjoy, they regard what little is left as “dirty”? That’s so sad! Then, as an afterthought, I ran my hand across the grass. My palm was turned gray. Dust. From the grass.

That little incident drove home that I really didn’t know how everything worked here, even when I was so sure I had it all figured out.

* * * * *

I’ve learned to watch out for dust in China. It can choke your computer’s internal fans. It makes daily sweeping almost essential. Dust is even on the grass, and gets into everything if you let it. You don’t realize how much dust there really is in the air here until you experience it.

As with the rest of the dust around me, the dust on these pages will soon be dislodged and released to afflict the less diligent.


Jan 2005

Holiday Thievery

You hear it every year from your Chinese friends at about this time: “Be careful with your wallet and your bag. It’s almost Chinese New Year, and the thieves are out in force so they can take home something extra for the holiday.”

I’ve only ever had one crappy cell phone stolen from me in China, but I’m extremely paranoid. The possibility of getting pickpocketed is on my mind constantly when I use public transportation or walk in crowds. I guess that’s a good thing, because it keeps me from getting victimized. On the other hand, it makes trekking through town a lot more taxing.

I thought my wallet was lifted on a bus recently as I was distracted by the snow. I even reported my credit card stolen. Carl found my wallet for me under my bed (d’oh!).

When the credit card company sent my replacement card, I got a notice in my mailbox to go pick it up at the post office (for security reasons). It looked exactly like a regular package notice, though, and Carl is expecting a package, so he went to claim it, with his passport as proof of identity. Despite not being me and showing them the wrong passport (i.e. not mine), they still gave it to him! Unbelievable.

Then when I called in to activate my replacement Visa card, I also had to unfreeze my Mastercard card with that bank because it was frozen when my Visa was reported stolen. Hoping it would be quicker, I used the English language service. As proof of identity, they required such difficult information as my home address, home phone number, and cell phone number. I had to make them wait a few seconds while I looked up my new home phone number because I haven’t memorized it yet. (Not fishy at all, right?) They asked my current credit limit, and I got it wrong. They still re-activated my card! Unbelievable.

If this country really gets into credit cards, credit card scamming is going to be huge. Back to the thieving, though.

Micah’s bag just got stolen. It’s really stupid, because all it had in it was kindergarten English teaching materials. The bag itself was probably worth the most from that take. Bastards!

What can you do when surrounded by all this holiday thievery? Well, just be careful. And if you still fall victim? Curse the waidiren! (外地人 are Chinese people that come from out of town. The stereotype is that they all come from poor rural areas and have little or no morals. The Shanghainese are pretty bad about blaming waidiren for all the city’s evils. I enjoy the irony of pretending to join in on the scapegoatery.)

Inspiration for this post: ShenzhenRen’s post on the same topic. (Well, that and my real life experiences.)


Jan 2005

Real Estate Companies

How do you spot a tiny Chinese real estate (房产) company? First, you should be on a street with lots of little shops. Then you just look for the shop with papers plastered all over the storefront window. That’s it. In Shanghai they are everywhere.

chinese real estate company

This is the way these little companies advertise their real estate, and the system seems pretty universal. Each paper is marked with either a (for sale) or a (for rent). The 售s tend to be on one side, the 租s on another. There also tend to be a lot more 售s. It’s a handy system because it means you can casually check out the company’s offerings without going in and being hassled by some salesperson.

One of these days I’ll get around to typing up the story of how I found my new apartment. It involves one of these little companies.


Dec 2004

Chinese Three-Dot Tattoos

Tian over at Hanzismatter is doing a good job showcasing bad tattoo choices Westerners make. This post has nothing to do with that kind of tattoo. I’m talking about a kind of tattoo that Chinese people themselves get. I’ve seen it on multiple occasions. It’s a small tattoo consisting of three dots (usually, I think) on the back of the hand near the base of the thumb. I keep meaning to ask people about the meaning of their tattoo when I see it, but somehow it’s never convenient.

Chinese 3-dot tattooI looked for a picture of this kind of tattoo on the web, and I only turned up this one small picture. It came from a Shanghai hospital’s website offering plastic surgery and tattoo removal services.

I asked Tian about it, thinking he may know something about it, but he was only able to offer this link, which is about quite adifferent kind of tattoo. Does anyone know anything about this?


Nov 2004

The Veteran Sensation

Last Friday I went with Brad to a bar called Mural. It’s really popular on Friday nights, especially among the expat community. It has a comfy loungey interior, and, perhaps more importantly, it has a 100rmb ($12.50 US) deal for open bar until 2am.

The bar was probably something like 80% expats. Most of them were looking to kick off the weekend in drunken splendor. It had been a while since I’d been in that kind of atmosphere.

I’ve been in Shanghai for close to a year now, and I’ve got exactly two expat friends in Shanghai. One of them is my co-worker and one of them I knew before the move. I’m long overdue to make a few more expat friends here. It’s no secret that I have no love for Shanghai’s high-rolling China-oblivious expat crowd, but it would be ridiculous to prejudge or label such a large group of diverse people, and there’s no sense in rejecting one form of prejudice in favor of its flipside. It was time to get to know some new people.

I soon discovered a pattern, though. Most of the expats at Mural were young English teachers fresh out of college who had been in China for less than a year. Many were almost ready to go home. When they learned that I had been in China for over four years, the tone of the conversation would shift. I was “experienced,” I “knew Chinese,” I “understood China.” I didn’t make any of these claims. The people I talked to projected this impression.

I suddenly felt like a high school senior at a freshman party. I wore my four years in China like a letter jacket.

I’m not sure how I feel about all that. It was just an odd sensation.


Nov 2004

Asking the Wrong Person

I get a fair amount of e-mail from strangers with questions about China. I don’t answer all of it because, to be honest, sometimes I’m busy and just don’t get around to it. Still, I like to help people, so I do my best to answer e-mails if the questions fall within my realm of experience.

Recently I got this e-mail:

> I am starting a business in Beijing and would appreciate some advice from you regarding the following:

> 1. How do you conduct business in Beijing?
> 2. Do you take a lease out on a premises or can you purchase a premises?
> 3. Are business contacts made through networking or by way of introductions?
> 4. Given the government of the day am I subject to scrutiny by the police, government officials, etc.?
> 5. How receptive is the government to a foreigner investor by way of starting up a business, money being transferred to another country, local compatibility?

> I greatly appreciate your help in this regard.

Uhhhh… yeah….

I responded:

> Judging by your questions, you are very, very far from ready to start a business in Beijing. I’m not at all qualified to answer your questions, either.

> I recommend that you:

> 1. Do some (non-blog) research on China.
> 2. Pose your questions to someone who might know the answers.

> Good luck.

I’m not sure where people might get the idea that it’s easy to start a business here. It’s pretty complicated.

However, I have wondered about some of this myself (particularly matters related to #4 and #5), so if anyone can offer appropriate links (no one still reads actual books, right?) in the comments, that would be cool.

UPDATE: Maybe I was wrong about it being complicated. Jeremy from Danwei.org left a very helpful link in the comments. Thanks, Jeremy!


Nov 2004

Window Washers

Saturday morning I stepped out of the shower to be suddenly acutely aware that a man’s form was dropping into view right outside my 12th floor bathroom window. Needless to say, that kinda freaked me out.

It wasn’t some peeping tom going to great lengths to peep me (no, I don’t think that would ever happen); it was a window washer. After I got dressed I snapped a shot of the guy from my bathroom window.

window washer

These guys have been painting window frames (an ugly orange color) and washing the windows of my apartment building for something like a month already.

window washers

While completing all the necessary work, they’ve assembled this bamboo construct around the base of the building for safety. It’s quite an eyesore.

bamboo safety construct


Nov 2004

10 Things the Chinese Do Better

Tian brought this article to my attention, and I had to share it: “From cells to bells, 10 things the Chinese do far better than we do,” from a Canadian job site.

You can’t take the article too seriously, because it cites some pretty atypical “things” in its list, and I feel that living in Shanghai I should probably be aware of them if they’re widespread. Still, it’s an interesting read.

(For those from outside of China that are interested, the ones in the official list of 10 that I have not personally experienced in my four years in China are #7 and #10. #5, #8, and #9 I’ve seen, but they are not very common.)


Nov 2004

Justified Cruelty

In September I went to Yinchuan, capital of Ningxia. During that time, my host took me on a few trips, and I hung out with these two kids a bit. These two pictures were taken near the Western Xia Tombs (Î÷ÏÄÁê), which are basically out in the middle of nowhere.

I found it cute how the kids were so into catching the grasshoppers. Presumably they, like many Chinese children, don’t get many chances to play outside in a natural environment. And by “natural,” I don’t mean some dinky park in the middle of the city where you’re not allowed on the grass.

What wasn’t so cute, though, was when I found the boy pulling off the wings of the grasshoppers so they couldn’t fly away.

I told him not to do that, that it was cruel — how would he like it if a big bug pulled off his legs so he couldn’t run away? He responded that it didn’t matter because a grasshopper is a º¦³æ — a pest. I pointed out that in the middle of nowhere a grasshopper couldn’t be much of a pest, could it? Then he ran off with the grasshopper and drowned it in a puddle.

I didn’t have a rebuttal for that.


Sep 2004

Telling Anecdotes


Overheard in the office:


> Girl A: 索性的索是…?

> Girl B: 索尼的索。

> Girl A: 哦,知道了。

> Girl A: Which character is the 索 in 索性? [索性 is a not uncommon Chinese adverb meaning “simply.”]

> Girl B: The same as in “Sony”.
[索尼 is the Chinese transliteration for “Sony.” Its characters are meaningless, chosen for phonetic value only.]

> Girl A: Oh, got it!


I recently had the 抽油烟机 in my apartment fixed. I’m not sure what it is in English. Literally translated, it would be “oil smoke sucking machine.” It’s more than just a hood and exhaust fan for the cooking range. Because Chinese cooking uses so much oil and the oil goes into the air during the cooking process, this appliance helps suck in that oil and collect it. As I have discovered, if you don’t have a “oil smoke sucking machine” or it doesn’t work properly, the area around the cooking range gets covered with a thin layer of sticky oil residue every time you cook. Nasty.

So yesterday my landlord showed up to collect the rent, and he brought a repairman with him. Some valve in the exhaust duct had gotten stuck shut. Easily remedied.

What amused me was the way the repairman checked to see if the exhaust fan was drawing in the air. In the past I had used a piece of tissue. He just lit up right in my kitchen and used the cigarette smoke to test it. Of course, after testing the fan he also finished the cigarette.


A Chinese friend of mine made this comparison recently:

America’s September 11th is like China’s 1989 incident. When the anniversary rolls around, security gets tightened big time.

I know it’s an innocent (and true) comment about security, but I felt emotional spasms of revulsion inside when I heard a comparison being made between the two incidents. I don’t think I have to go into why.

(Linguistically, there’s another similarity. As with several holidays and other historical anniversaries in China, the 1989 tragedy is referred to in Chinese by the numbers corresponding to its date. It’s called 6-4 — for June 4th — in Chinese. In the same way, the American tragedy is referred to as 9-1-1 in Chinese.)

P.S. Happy Moon Festival!


Sep 2004


Anti-Washington Monument

The city of Qingdao is clearly making a strong statement against one of America’s most beloved forefathers, George Washington. Curious as to what could fuel such anti-Washington sentiment, I did a bit of research. Here is what I found:

  1. The Anti-Washington Monument is the exact same shape as America’s Washington Monument.
  2. The patented shape of the original Washington Monument was named an “obelisk” by American designer Joe Obeliskovich in 1884.
  3. The Anti-Washington Monument is a hateful greenish black color. The original Washington Monument is a beautiful white color, symbolizing purity, freedom, and unchecked corporate interests.
  4. The Chinese call the Anti-Washington Monument by an entirely different name which I didn’t bother to write down. (We know the truth.)

Related: Evil PSB Headquarters

Personal Update: I’m now back in Shanghai. I’d like to post some accounts of my recent trips, but I’d like to upload pictures, and unfortunately my current hosting situation prevents me from using FTP. I think another host switch may be in my near future. In the meantime, I was able to upload this one photo.


Aug 2004

A Few Photos

The day I took the photos for my Solar Visor entry I also took some other pictures. I’ll share a few of them here.


It’s a popular custom in China for people to take a nap after lunch. I really don’t understand how the laborers can sleep in such searing heat, but they do it all the time. (Although not always so cuddly-like.)

You know that dinner you had last night…?

What, did you think everything was prepared in a nice big clean kitchen somewhere?

Bus Advertising

Some ads are definitely less annoying than others.

I’m leaving on another business trip today. This time it’s Hubei province, to the cities of Shiyan (Ê®Ñß) and Xiangfan (Ïå·®). I’ll be gone for about a week. (And I’m still looking for someone to do my awesome job with me!)

In the meantime, if you’re looking for more China photos, I recommend you check out Patrick’s blog. (Scroll down and keep scrolling; there are some great pictures in there.) Wayne in Taiwan is getting all fancy-pantsy with his new camera too.


Jul 2004

Being a Good Citizen Online

Recently I signed up with a Chinese Flash-centered site called Flash8.net. Just like with American websites, when you go through the free registration process you have to choose a username and a password, supply an e-mail address, etc. And then there are the terms of use. I was almost too lazy to read them before clicking on ÎÒͬÒâ, but something made me go ahead and read it through.

There was nothing in it that I wouldn’t agree with, but some of the terms would never appear on an American website, and the terms are indicative of the current state of the internet in China.

My slap-dash translation:

In order to uphold online public order and social stability, please conscientiously abide by the following terms:

I. You must not use this website to harm national security or to divulge national secrets. You must not violate national collective social rights or citizens’ legal rights. You must not use this website to create, duplicate, or propagate information that has the following effects:

  1. Incites resistance to or destruction of the consitution and law or administrative regulations in effect;
  2. Incites subversion of the state or overturn of the socialist system;
  3. Incites secession or destruction of national unity;
  4. Incites ethnic hatred or prejudices, or destroys ethnic unity;
  5. Concocts or distorts facts, spreads rumors, or disturbs social order;
  6. Propagates feudal superstition, obscenity, pornography, gambling, violence, murder, terror, or abetment of criminals;
  7. Blatantly humiliates others, slanders others, or carries out other malicious personal attacks;
  8. Hurts the nation’s reputation;
  9. Otherwise violates the consitution, law, and administrative regulations;
  10. Conducts commerical advertising.

II. Respect others, and be responsible for your own speech and actions.

Anyway, that gives you an idea. I don’t want to give the impression that internet discussions here are bogged down in an oppressive 1984-esque atmosphere because they really don’t seem to be, but clearly people have to be more careful about what they say.

This article also made me think: even though it’s kind of disturbing for a Westerner to see so many limitations on freedom of speech written out in black and white, how different is the USA, really?? Especially considering the events surrounding the current “war on terrorism,” the American government would probably take notice and respond pretty quickly to a lot of that kind of online behavior as well. But they don’t warn you beforehand.

Don’t get me wrong, though. Freedom of speech is good. It’s a good thing I hate writing about politics or I might have more to say on this.

(Also, if anyone wants to take a look at the original and suggest improvements to my clumsy translation, feel free.)

* * * * *

Speaking of “being a good citizen,” Edward Abbey once said, “A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government.” Pablo Casals said, “The love of one’s country is a splendid thing. But why should love stop at the border?” Take a look, then, at how Richard of Peking Duck has recently been pronounced beyond splendid by the China Daily.


Jun 2004

Field Chickens and Bleached Buns

I had lunch with some clients today. One of my co-workers, a teacher for my company, was there with me. She’s a Dongbei-ren recently arrived in Shanghai, so she’s still not used to the south in many ways.

One of the dishes we ate was called tianji, which literally translates as something like “field chicken” (“field” in the sense of “rice paddy” here). I had forgotten what this dish really is, so I was kinda glad when she asked, “what kind of bird is it?” Our hosts laughed. In China, a “field chicken” is actually a frog! I ate it, though. It’s pretty good, it just has a lot of annoying little bones. And it does taste kind of like chicken.

Another dish we had with which my Dongbei-ren co-worker was unfamiliar was suji. Literally, I guess it could be translated as “vegetarian chicken.” It’s a kind of tofu. It doesn’t really taste (or feel) much like chicken.

The clients were surprised that the south had so many dishes with which a northerner would be unfamiliar. They asked her what dishes the north had that the south doesn’t. She listed a few, but then mentioned that one should be wary of the mantou in Liaoning province. She said a good mantou should be a bit yellowish. A mantou that is too white may have had laundry detergent added to make it look whiter and thus more attractive to the consumer!


Jun 2004

Qipao Parade


I’m still getting over jetlag and don’t feel like writing much. Instead, I’ll share this little qipao gallery of some of China’s famous female stars. (Note that there are 4 pages in all; the links to the other pages are at the bottom of the pages.) Notably absent is Gong Li. Also, page one is not the best of the lot.

I don’t explore these Chinese portals very much, but I was kinda surprised by some of the content put online when the media are “controlled” and the government tries to always keep a wholesome image. Some of the ones I’m talking about are the “leisure” section’s Christy Chung feature (quite bizarre, and revealing), the creative bust cover-up feature, and the Maxim gallery (gee, I wonder if Maxim’s getting those royalties…).

What’s the strategy here? Give people just enough of what they’re looking for on Chinese sites so they don’t go elsewhere and discover the immense wealth of information (AKA “porn”) out there on non-Chinese sites?

Seems to be.

Update: Micah in the comments has pointed out a similar gallery which has better, higher res images. Very nice.

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