Tag: TV


07

Feb 2005

Redcoat Alf

Remember Alf? He used to keep a blog about his life in Hangzhou. Well, ever since Blogger became practically impossible to use in China, Alf has gone on hiatus. So, with his permission, I’ll share one of his recent photos.

redcoat alf

Alf and Greg recently acted as European soldiers for a Chinese TV series. Altogether, there were only six foreigners to represent a British and a French army. How did they do it? Well, only one army was shown at a time, and the six foreigners were always in the front ranks of the army. Behind them were a whole bunch of Chinese guys in wigs. Alf played the French general (who spoke English), but he and the other five foreigners wore a different coat and hat than the one in this picture. Then, for the British army, another guy played the general and Alf and gang wore the outfit pictured here. Priceless.

Unfortunately, the lead actress was wounded during the filming, so the series might never see the TV screen.


06

May 2004

Dwarfism and Chinese

I have lived in China for almost four years. This means that I have missed out on a lot of new TV shows over the years. I don’t mind at all for the most part; I’m not a big fan of TV. But occasionally I do like to pick up some TV shows on DVD. Recently I was watching an episode of CSI which dealt with dwarves.

There was one scene in particular which caught my attention. Character Nick Stokes is talking to Gil Grissom and uses the term “midget.” Grissom corrects him, telling him, “it’s dwarves or little people.” I didn’t think much of it at the time, other than a faint curiosity as to why the term “midget” is considered offensive.

Later I learned the reason from the LPA Online FAQ:

> In some circles, a midget is the term used for a proportionate dwarf. However, the term has fallen into disfavor and is considered offensive by most people of short stature. The term dates back to 1865, the height of the “freak show” era, and was generally applied only to short-statured persons who were displayed for public amusement, which is why it is considered so unacceptable today.

Later, when discussing this issue with a Chinese friend, I became very curious about the corresponding Chinese terminology. In that scene in CSI three terms were given: two acceptable, and one offensive in English. “Dwarf” seems the most scientific, as the medical condition is often referred to as “dwarfism,” although “dwarf” also has its own specific role in fantasy literature. “Little people” seems to be a rather new everyday euphemism. “Midget” is offensive for the reasons listed above. So how was this scene translated in the subtitles? For the most part, I find CSI’s Chinese subtitles to be very well done.

This is what I found:

Dwarfism (the medical condition): 矮小症 (ai xiao zheng)
Dwarf: 侏儒 (zhu ru)
Midget: 侏儒 (zhu ru)
Little person: 小人 (xiao ren)

I’m no expert on Chinese medical terminology, but the translation for “dwarfism” seems pretty solid (although it identifies it as an illness, which is not necessarily the case).

The translation runs into serious difficulty when it comes to “dwarf” and “midget,” however. Note that in the above translations, they’re the exact same word! The term 侏儒 (zhu ru) in Chinese has definite negative connotations, so it seems like a good translation for “midget,” but not dwarf.

Speaking of dwarves, the Chinese term used in the translation of The Lord of the Rings is none of these. It’s 矮人 (ai ren), an old term referring to a race of people of short stature — something like “pygmy.” That translation seems like a good translation for the fantasy world.

Back to CSI. The translation of “little person,” 小人 (xiao ren), is probably the worst. It was translated word-for-word, using the Chinese characters for “little” and “person.” The thing is, in Chinese the word 小人 (xiao ren) has a meaning all its own. It means a lowly person, a mean person, a dirty rat. [In Shanghainese and some other dialects it means “child.”]

So if you use the translations above, the scene completely falls apart. Originally it was:

> NICK: Okay. So, back to the midgets.

> (GRISSOM looks sharply at NICK.)

> GRISSOM: Nick … “Dwarves” or “Little People”.

> (NICK nods at the correction.)

With these Chinese translations, the meaning becomes:

> NICK: Okay. So, back to the midgets.

> (GRISSOM looks sharply at NICK.)

> GRISSOM: Nick … “Midgets” or “Dirty Little Rats”.

> (NICK nods at the correction.)

Evidently the translator knew something was off, though, and changed the dialogue a bit to get around the linguistic problems. (The above dialogue was not actually the one in the Chinese subtitles.)

The concept of political correctness is still evolving in China. It seems at this point, though, that the little people of China are still out of luck.


10

Dec 2003

Model Competition

I rarely watch Chinese TV (because it’s dumb and boring), but I watched it last night. I was rewarded for my bravery.

Last night I happened to catch part of CCTV 2’s Televised Model Competition (模特电视大赛). Like I said, I rarely watch Chinese TV, but if I do happen to go for a flip through the channels, if there’s anything that’s going to catch my attention, it’s a whole bunch of hot women. So this competition did the trick. I’m not sure, because I tuned in late, but apparently it has all kinds of different rounds, including formal fashion catwalks, swimsuit modeling (damn, I missed that one!), and answering various “deep” questions. Most of the model hopefuls were 18-21 years old, and close to 180cm tall (around 5’10”).

Several elements of the competition caught my attention. First, I’ll talk about the models’ hotness, since it is of primary importance. Some of them really weren’t very special. Quite a few had the “anorexic model look” that seems to fly in the New York and Paris fashion industries. Many of them had very pretty faces but stick-like bodies. I don’t really go for that type. Perhaps a few models had already been eliminated in previous rounds before I tuned in, but the one that caught my attention was #46: Jiang E (姜娥). (If you look at the picture of her on the page linked to, you might not think she’s very pretty. I don’t think it’s a very good picture, but that girl has got a body, trust me! The other girls couldn’t compare.) The show said she was from Harbin, but her online info says she’s from Dalian. [Now Derrick, don’t get too smug. I never said Dalian girls weren’t pretty.] I did notice that girls from the Shanghai/Zhejiang area were seriously underrepresented, and many of the girls I’ve seen in Shanghai could easily compete with the contestants I saw on TV.

One thing that was cool was just that day in Chinese class we had been talking about the “triumph of the superior over the inferior” (优胜劣败), “Darwin’s theories of natural selection and evolution” (达尔文的自然淘汰理论,进化理论), “the law of the jungle” (丛林法则 or 弱肉强食). So when taotai (淘汰), a word meaning “selection” in the “elimination” sense — which I might not ordinarily get right away — came up in the competition, I was all over that baby.

It was interesting hearing the girls answer various questions. One of the contestants was allowed to ask one of the judges, a famous model, any question she liked. She asked what she should do to improve her chances of succeeding as a professional model. The professional model’s answer was that she should improve her Mandarin and her English! I was shocked. I don’t know if it was just B.S. or if the model really believed it, but she said that language was extremely important in the industry for communicating with designers, photographers, etc.

Another contestant was asked how she would relax if she worked hard for an entire year and then finally got any vacation of her choice. She said the first thing she would do was go to the hospital for a checkup. When the host asked for clarification, she said she’d get her eyes checked, because vision is very important. Ah, the wisdom of models.

Another thing that startled me once it hit me was that the Chinese model judge pictured below, Jiang Peilin (姜培琳), from certain angles really looked like that girl Katie Holmes that got famous on Dawson’s Creek. It was weird. I noticed in Jiang Peilin’s pictures online she doesn’t look like Katie as much; she tries to hide her dimples and her smile.

katie-jpl

After the competition finished, I flipped through the channels a bit. A scene of a cute little black girl speaking fluent Mandarin flashed out at me. I flipped back. To my disappointment, she was dubbed. To my utter horror, it turned out to be the Teletubbies dubbed in Chinese. Disgusting.

Then I stopped on a drama. I was tuning in late, so I had to guess at what I missed, but the plot seemed to center around a woman who had contracted AIDS. She got it from her boyfriend, who apparently committed suicide (because he cheated on his girlfriend and unwittingly gave her AIDS, maybe?). The characters who knew the girl had AIDS were treating her with nothing but compassion. (The Chinese propaganda machine is going strong on this AIDS thing now that it has finally gotten its act together on the issue.) I had to stop watching after about 10 minutes, though, because another female character who was supposed to be cute was unbearably annoying.

And off went the TV.


19

Oct 2003

Craptaculars

Matt of the Nanjingren blog (one of the newest additions to the Sinosplice Network) came to Hangzhou this weekend with some of his classmates. Unfortunately I was only able to spend one meal with him because my schedule is rather full this weekend. It’s fuller than usual because I’ve been coerced into participating in Zhejiang University of Technology’s 50th Anniversary Craptacular.

Craptacular Hosts

I don’t pretend to invent the word “craptacular,” but I’ve noticed it’s already in common usage among foreigners in China for one simple reason: China loves the Craptacular. What do I mean by craptacular? Basically, it’s an onstage event containing a rather long lineup of acts, most of which fall into one of several categories. The defining features of the craptacular are:

Craptacular Song
  • Hosts. They always come in gleaming male-female pairs, overflowing with bubbly super-standard Mandarin and armed with smiles that make your eyes ache.
  • Songs. Solos, duos, or en masse. China loves live singing, be it in the classroom or onstage.
  • Dances. Minority dances, folk dances, solos, duos, it’s all here. Whoopee.
  • Comedy. Short skits and crosstalk (相声), a kind of Chinese two-person stand-up comedy. Comedy has a comparatively small role, song and dance hogging the spotlight.
  • Glitz. Everyone wears bright flashy costumes, the lighting is top-notch, and accompanying stage decorations are a big priority. Whenever possible, craptaculars are recorded on video.

Almost without exception, it’s mind-numbingly awful stuff from the foreigner’s perspective, even if he understands it.

Craptacular Skit

The most famous craptacular in China is the nationally televised Chinese New Year Party (春节联欢晚会). Pretty much every Chinese person I talk to agrees that it gets worse every year, ever reaching new depths of raw bore-power. Yet most Chinese households tune in faithfully every year. (This is one reason I’m not a big fan of Chinese New Year, but I won’t go into that now….) There are minor craptaculars going on all the time for various reasons (or no reason), and you can see them on TV in China all the time. If you have a masochistic streak (or if you just get unlucky as I did in ZhouShan) you can even go see them live. Sometimes universities — tools of the state patriotic entities that they are — put on their own craptaculars. Thus we have come back around to the topic of ZUT’s craptacular.

The students in the advanced Chinese class at ZUT that couldn’t come up with an air-tight excuse were forced to get involved in the foreign students’ event in the 50th Anniversary Craptacular. So, yeah, that means me. We have to put on nice clothes and get up on stage in front of a huge audience and speak Chinese into microphones. Some of us even have to try to be funny in Chinese doing skits onstage. Fortunately that’s not me. I’m just a host.

So I was not happy about this because it involves a big time commitment. Memorizing lines, rehearsing, and performing not once, but three times! So this weekend I’m pretty busy performing onstage for ZUT.

All that negative “craptacular” talk and whining aside, there were some good points about being in the performance:

Craptacular Crosstalk
  • I got to meet some of the other performers, some of whom are pretty cool people.
  • Some of the performances really are very good. In particular, I liked two of the songs and the crosstalk performance. Although the crosstalk comedy kind of wore on after a while, it was really easy to understand and quite entertaining.
  • There were so many hot girls involved. Now that’s entertainment!

11

Sep 2003

Double Bummer

Bummer #1

Recently the CD-RW drive on my computer quit reading CDs of any kind. That was annoying, because it’s my only CD-reading drive and I rely on it to play music CDs. Since my computer is still under its one-year warranty, I took the whole thing in, thinking I might also add a regular CD-ROM drive and possibly a hard drive. (I’m not much of a hardware guy.)

I went on a Sunday. I was really hoping they could fix it really fast and give me back my computer, because being somewhat of an internet junkie, I hate being without my computer. There was no one on duty. They let me leave my computer there, telling me I could pick it up the next day. Oh well, mei banfa

The next morning I got a call telling me to come in and they could have my computer ready for me immediately. When I showed up it was a completely different story. They told me they had to ship off the CD-RW drive elsewhere to be repaired (a 2-week process), but they could install my new CD-ROM drive. They did. But the brand-new CD-ROM drive wouldn’t read.

They concluded that it was a system problem, not a hardware problem. That would explain why neither CD drive would read, even though the CD-ROM drive was brand new. The CD-RW drive must actually be fine, and wouldn’t have to be sent off to be repaired after all. But they would have to reinstall Windows. I try to keep only Windows system files on my C: drive for this very reason. When they asked me if I had any important documents on C:, I confidently told them no. They could go ahead and wipe C: and reinstall Windows XP.

It wasn’t until much later that I remembered that one of my very important files — “outlook.pst” — was kept on C:. And it contained every e-mail and e-mail address I had.

So there you have it, folks. If you sent me e-mail before two days ago, it’s gone. I lost it all. It’s very likely I don’t have your e-mail address anymore, either, so e-mail me. This includes friends and “China Blog Listing” requests. Sorry.

In a way it’s kind of relieving, as I had waaaay too many old e-mails backed up. I’m going to try really hard to be better about replying promptly to e-mails and keeping my inbox lean, but that may be a challenge since this semester promises to be super-busy starting next Monday.

Unfortunately, the story doesn’t end there. When I went in the next day to pick up my computer, they told me it was all better, both CD drives were installed, and I could try it out if I’d like to. I said I would. I put in an MP3 CD to test the CD-RW’s reading ability. It wouldn’t read. It was exactly like before. I tried out the same CD on the new CD-ROM drive. It worked fine.

The computer guys all acted flabberghasted because “it had just been working.” Yeah, whatever. I have to wait 2 weeks for my CD-RW drive to be repaired. Fortunately my computer is now back home and I at least have a working regular CD-ROM drive so I can listen to music.

Competence. It can be a tall order in China.

Bummer #2

Last Sunday I had a meeting with a director of a TV show. He needed a foreigner to play a part. I had a busy day Sunday. I needed to take my computer in to be repaired, so I had to lug my computer to the meeting.

The director looked me over and had me stand up, talked to me a bit, and decided I would be fine for the part of French police chief. Chinese police chief, that is. But French. In China. Speaking Chinese. Yes, strange, I know. But it sounded like fun, and my coming week was pretty wide open for filming.

Well, the director isn’t ready to start filming until this coming Sunday, Sept. 14th. He wants to film for three days, straight through Tuesday. Well, it just so happens that I have a jam-packed teach/study schedule, starting Monday.

I really wanted to do it, but I just don’t have the time. Not only is the pay not great (only about 800rmb/day), but being in a stupid TV drama is just not a priority. Studying and teaching definitely is. The TV people were trying to get me to postpone/skip 2 days (14 hours’ worth) of English and Chinese classes so I could do the filming. Nope, I don’t think so.

A “famous” HK actress, Mo ShaoCong (莫少聪) is gonna be in the series, too. (Has anyone ever heard of her?) Here I thought I’d have the chance to attempt to compete with one of Wayne‘s cool China experiences, but alas, it was not meant to be….


21

May 2003

Voluntary Brain Rot

Any regular reader of my site knows that the regular commenters of my site tend to go off topic quite frequently. This slightly annoys a part of me, but how can I can mad when the off-topic stuff is often good stuff? For example, in my last post, “Da Xiangchang” stated:

> I’m not sure if this mass infantilization is uniquely American. I have seen nothing in China that would suggest the Chinese wouldn’t act the same way if they had the wealth and 24-hour-mass-media-saturated lifestyle Americans have.

I think that’s so true. Let me give an example. This semester (ours has another month to go) I’ve been doing a part time job teaching spoken English classes at night. Those classes have been indefinitely suspended due to SARS. The coordinator assured me, though, that after 3 weeks of no class, the classes would definitely resume this past Monday. So I showed up for class. Guess what? No students. Three showed up late, but only because one SMSed me and asked if there were classes. I told her yes. A trip in vain to the coordinator’s office and a few phone calls later, I learned what I pretty much already knew: classes were still suspended until further notice. Great.

Since we had all commuted a ways for the class, I suggested we just have some tea together and have an English/Chinese chat. They thought that was a good idea. All three of them had gone home to their respective hometowns in Zhejiang province just as the height of Hangzhou’s SARS hysteria had hit, and had recently returned to Hangzhou. I figured a good way to begin speaking English was with a fairly simple question: how had they spent their SARS vacation at home?

Their answers shocked me. They said they watched TV. Well, nothing surprising about that. But I pushed further: how many hours a day? The first student told me 12, and I was visibly startled. Every day? I asked for clarification, figuring she had misunderstood. Then she seemed a little embarrassed. No, that couldn’t be right. She did some recalculations, staring at that invisible but ever-so-helpful calculator on the ceiling, while her fingers helped keep track. No, the number was not 12, it should have been 18. Eighteen?!? I gaped. There are only 24 hours in a day! You’re telling me you spend 18 hours watching TV? That only leaves 6 hours for sleep, and no time for anything else! Yes, that’s correct, she verified. What else would she do? I suggested perhaps… reading? She laughed, thought a moment, and then confirmed — no, she hadn’t done any reading or studying.

One of the other students was less excessive, at only 10 hours a day. She also needed time to shop. The third student was down to an almost acceptably “normal” limit at 5 hours a day. But then she added that she spent about 10 hours a day online. Incredible.

I thought I spent a lot of time online, but the time I put in is nothing compared to these students’ “dedication.” The thing is, these students are not morons. They’re pretty smart, and seem fairly typical. I don’t want to suggest it, but I really think they might be somewhat representative about the current state of China’s youth. I do know that when I ask my students students in class what they plan to do in their vacation time, the most popular answer is “watch TV.” It’s frightening. The original “TV nation” is going to be beaten at its own game.


07

May 2003

Yang Rui and Dialogue

Some people say there are no certainties in life, but those people would probably admit that there are certainly very high likelihoods. For example, if you turn on the TV in China, there is a very likelihood that you’ll be tuning in to crap. Still, raised on television as we are, foreigners in China will at times find themselves watching anyway. Whether we do it “to get a feel for the propaganda machine,” or out of some kind of sick masochistic pleasure, or simply because we’re starving for a little mindless TV action, we do watch broadcast TV from time to time. I very rarely watch TV in China (or in the U.S.), but for some reason I turned on the TV while I was eating lunch in my apartment today. I actually saw something rather interesting.

Yang Rui, anchor of CCTV's DIALOGUE

Yang Rui

The show that caught my attention was CCTV’s Dialogue. This show is infamous among expats in China because it’s so often so bad. The show is in English, and often it’s a number of Chinese people discussing some serious issue in English (which is kind of weird). There are also foreign guests at times, and if the topic is a controversial one in which the foreigner represents an opposing viewpoint, the host, Yang Rui, can be extremely smug and downright condescending.

What was interesting about today’s show was the guest, Jing Jun, a Chinese professor of sociology from Qinghua University. That he was educated in the United States was made clear by Jing Jun’s fluent English. (The same cannot be said for Yang Rui.) The topic was, of course, SARS. This time the angle was “the sociological implications of SARS.” What impressed me was the frankness with which Jing Jun discussed Beijing’s handling of SARS, even on CCTV, the national television station. Jing Jun stated in no uncertain terms that Beijing lied to the people and tried to cover up SARS cases in the beginning, and was only forced to come out with the truth when the lies became too apparent to the people. This is certainly no secret to anyone (the Chinese people not excluded), but I found it impressive that such a view would be expressed from such an obviously well-educated Qinghua University professor on the national television station. After Jing Jun expressed this opinion, Yang Rui quickly changed the topic. During the interview, Jing Jun also expressed the realistic view that SARS could be controlled, but was not going to go away anytime soon.

A lot of these Dialogue transcripts are available online. In doing a little research, I came across this transcript, an interview with a professor named Wu Qing on political participation in China. I found the transcript amusing, but also very interesting. It’s not long, so I recommend you read it in full, but but here are are two excerpts:

> Y: We know that the people’s deputy ID card is a symbol of a deputy’s responsibility and power, have you ever used yours in a practical situation?

> W: Yes, one example is that I used my card to stop a car that belonged to a high-ranking army officer. The car was driving into the bicycle lane at the time. Seeing that, I used my bicycle to stop the car because I felt I had the responsibility to protect ordinary citizens. So I produced my deputy ID card and said to the driver that he should stop and back out of the lane because the lane is for cyclists. And then this driver, a young man, got out of the car and swore at me, “Are you asking for trouble or what, old woman?” Later I filed a formal complaint in which I noted down the plate number of the car and described what had happened. About a month after that I got a phone call from an army officer, presumably the owner of the car. He said he wanted to come over to apologize and he did. And then two weeks later I got a call from that driver. He came over and pleaded with me to remove that line of his swearing from my complaint saying that otherwise he would have to leave the army and go back to where he came from. I told him, “Well, young man, I can’t do that, it’s not right for you to ask me to remove that line for that would mean I was slandering you.” But I did write a letter to that officer saying that I hope this young man would not be demoted from the army as a punishment. Young people sometimes make mistakes and they need a chance to correct their mistakes.

….

> Y: Some people think American democracy is closest to what democracy really means. Do you agree? Do you think we should follow the American style of democracy?

> W: I don’t really think so. Ten people might have ten different definitions of democracy. Each country has its own culture and history. We Chinese have our own idea of freedom and democracy, and Americans have theirs. Each has some problems. That’s why we always have to improve.


14

Mar 2003

Friends and Pics

Wilson

Wilson

In the past I have done a little introductory mug shot page for the English-teaching foreign teachers here at ZUCC. This semester Wilson did it. It’s hosted on his site, but since his site is blocked in China and mine isn’t, it’s also mirrored on my site. Check it out! I’m sure I’ll be mentioning these people on here in the future.

During his time here, Wilson has gotten really imaginative with his photography and web design. I envy his creative eye, his Photoshop skills, his awesome camera. Even if these talents don’t rub off on me, though, at least I can enjoy his results. Don’t miss: Jade Emperor’s Hill [mirrored], Viewing Fish at Flower Pond [mirrored].

I mentioned recently that I’ll be on TV in China March 22nd. Being on TV is a pretty common occurrence for foreigners living in China. Frequent readers/commenters of this blog will be familiar with my friend Ray. He was on TV in Shanghai some months ago when he still worked there. They did a bit of a bio on him. Anyway, he sent me some vidcaps of his 10 minutes of glory, and I think they’re pretty funny, so I’m sharing them. I don’t think he’ll mind everyone having a look at his studly countenance. If he ever put up a site of his own, I’m sure he’d put these pics up.

ray1

“So I want to write a book, right? …”

ray2

(That’s mantou, a kind of Chinese bun.)

ray3

What a fascinating lesson, eh? The students are riveted!

Speaking of commenters on Sinosplice, “Prince Roy,” a rather new regular commenter here, now has his own blog too. Check it.


05

Mar 2003

Rensheng AB Ju

renshengABju

Rensheng AB Ju

Yeah, I’m not even going to try to translate this one. Rensheng AB Ju is the name of a television show here in Zhejiang. On this show the beginning of a story is told by video to the audience, then stopped, and the watchers are given two choices: A and B. Which should the person take? The three guests (usually of minor fame) are then asked by the host which choice they think is best and why. After that a few guests from the studio audience are asked their opinions. Then the story continues to the next juncture, another A/B choice is presented, and so on. (For the Chinese-inclined, here’s an introduction in Chinese.)

I bring this show up not because I like it (I’ve actually never seen it), but because I was on it. Filmed it last Tuesday. I was a little nervous about being on the show. It was all in Chinese, of course. What if I didn’t follow the story completely, or what if the discussion took a difficult turn? I’d rather not look dumb on TV, if possible. The man on my left was a psychologist (I think) and professor at Zhejiang University, and the woman on my right was an author. My sole qualification was being a foreign teacher in China. The topic was one particular woman’s extra-marital affair.

The show actually went pretty well, I think. I understood pretty much everything, and the host was very easy-going and easy to understand. The psychologist guy busted into some pretty esoteric stuff now and then, dropping all sorts of chengyu, and at those points I was always afraid they would turn to me and ask, “and what do you think about that?!” but that didn’t happen. I talked less than the other two, but that’s pretty understandable. What I did say I communicated well enough.

The show airs on the Zhejiang Satellite TV Station (Zhejiang Dianshitai Weixing Dianshi), Saturday, March 22nd, 9:45pm, and then again Sunday, March 23rd, 11:40am and 3:52pm. This is the fourth time I’ll be on TV in China, I think, and this time instead of chancing into it they came looking for me. Interesting stuff happens to you when you’re here long enough…


18

Feb 2003

Dashan

dashan

Ray posted a nice long comment to my last entry. Unfortunately, Haloscan seems to have lost it. [Update: the “lost” comments are back.] One thing he touched on, though, was “that big dork Dashan.” Dashan is pretty much completely unknown outside of China, but almost universally known within China. This man has become a real nuisance to students of Chinese everywhere.

Dashan is a big white Canadian. The thing is, he speaks Mandarin Chinese perfectly. I mean really, really well. He basically decided, “yeah, I’ll take on Chinese,” and then just competely kicked Chinese’s ass. He has done xiangsheng for years, a kind of two-person traditional Chinese standup comedy. “Dashan” means “big mountain,” which I always thought was an incredibly stupid Chinese name, but then a Chinese friend explained to me that it’s sort of a joke, and that Chinese people like the name. Ah, Dashan… you win again, with your superior understanding of Chinese “humor” (which really is unfathomable)!

According to the chronology on Dashan’s site, he majored in Chinese studies, graduated in 1988, and has been in China ever since. He was in an independent studies program at Beijing University, and he also served as a public relations advisor at the Canadian Embassy in Beijing. The hilarious conclusion to the chronology: 1995 – Founded Dashan Incorporated and began full-time career as Dashan. OK, I don’t know whether it’s just me, or it’s a foreigner-in-china thing, but I find that very funny.

OK, so you’re probably wondering what the deal with Dashan is. Why am I bringing him up? Well, there are several reasons. First, he is the bane of caucasian students of Chinese everywhere. About 60% (yes, that’s a hard statistic!) of Chinese people you know here will ask you if you know who Dashan is, as if revealing his mere existence to us might show us the path to enlightenment. On the contrary, it’s just annoying. Yeah, so another whitey could do it — it’s still annoying!

Second, I get told I look like Dashan all the time. I do not want to look like Dashan! When I deny it, they insist, asserting that I’m handsome like he is. Okayyy…

Third, his mere existence is an enigma. What can this man really do? Speak Chinese. Yes, but what can he really do?? Speak Chinese. Really well. In the USA, immigrants get no credit for speaking perfect English, unless maybe they did it in less than 48 hours solely by watching MTV. Meanwhile, Dashan is a national celebrity. Furthermore, he’s not the only foreigner to speak perfect Chinese, but he seems to be the only one recognized. He has the monopoly on Chinese skills. I think the Chinese find it amusing and touching that a foreigner can speak such perfect Chinese, but then simultaneously find his singularity somehow comforting. It goes without saying that the hard work and bitter struggle of any Asian that becomes fluent in Chinese is hardly acknowledged.

A while back a producer of a CCTV show was trying to talk me into being on their show. It’s a sort of showcase/gameshow of foreigners that can speak good Chinese. When I mentioned Dashan, she rolled her eyes. She said Dashan is old news, too perfect, no longer interesting. That’s all well and good, but the grinning spirit of Dashan is alive and well in Chinese society.

Obviously I envy this guy. He speaks amazing Chinese. He must be very disciplined and hard-working. I have yet to really “master” any foreign language, though I’m well along the way in a few. But images and accolades of this dorky guy forced down my throat do not foster affection.

But this is China. Home of Dashan. He was here first, anyway.

Related: Sinosplice’s Derisive Dashan.


26

Nov 2002

Laowai Circus

wuzhen

Things tend to happen to me in China in clumps of weird connections. Example: my first year in Hangzhou I lived with my Chinese friend from UF’s fiancee’s dad’s boss’s son. (Didja get that?) This past Saturday I went to Wuzhen, a small, scenic, historic town (guzhen in Chinese) with a small group in order to film a travel show for the Zhejiang TV station. The trip was unpaid, but I didn’t pay for anything either — transportation, lodging, food was all paid for. And it was a good opportunity to meet young Chinese people. So how did I get that hookup? My e-mail penpal (Erin)’s co-worker (Vivienne)’s date’s co-workers were looking for a foreigner who could speak Mandarin for the show. Turns out they got two from my school. Kiwi Chris can also speak it, and so he went too.

So that was my Friday and Saturday. We were a group of only 6, and it was nice. 2 foreigners, 1 Wuzhen tourguide, a camera crew of 2, and 1 show hostess. There were times when the Chinese and foreigners would detach for separate conversations, but there was plenty of friendliness and good feeling as well. I’ve gotta say, Wuzhen was just a little bit boring, but it was cool to learn how they do some of the traditional crafts like making rice wine and weaving cloth. Check out the pictures. As far as the location, I think I still prefer the first guzhen I visited: Xitang.

I’ve been told that the show airs this Saturday (Nov. 30th) at 9:55pm on Zhejiang TV-3, then again the following Saturday (Dec. 7th) at 11am and 4pm, Zhejiang TV-3.


10

Jun 2002

Recent Events

So what’s been going on with me lately? Things have been busy as the semester winds down. Here’s a quick rundown of recent events:

29 May – 02 June :: Most of the teachers from the English department went to Huang Shan (Yellow Mountain) for the semester trip. It was the second time I’d been, but we had a great time. My pics will be online soon. Until then, Wilson’s will have to suffice. 🙂

03 June :: Small surprise birthday party for Wilson as well as Japanese teacher Noriko. Not many people were there, and the whole thing was kind of thrown together at the last minute because we didn’t realize that the Huang Shan trip was going to be in the way. All things considered, though, it turned out to be an amazingly fun party. My pics are coming; some of them can be seen on Wilson’s site along with the ones he took.

05 June :: My debut on national Chinese television (CCTV4). I was a guest on a show called Travelogue. I was on the show to share my impressions (in Chinese) of a nice little town called Xitang. I got a good little bit of airtime.

06, 11, 13 June :: I’m doing English training courses for a company outside the school. The pay is decent, but 7 hours with the same people is sort of a new challenge that I’m not used to. Working on these days (which I normally have off) also means my week is much fuller.

12 June :: Sendoff party for the Australian teachers at the Shangri-La Hotel. At 98rmb (US$12.50) for a pizza dinner, we’ll be eating in style — Western style, for a change…



Page 2 of 212