Nov 5, 2011

Smoggy Beijing

The Wall Street Journal had this article today called "Smog, Bureaucratic Waffling Add to Beijing’s Murk". I would be the last person to defend the CCP and the horrible damage they've inflicted on the Chinese people over the past sixty years, but I did have to comment on this photo and accompanying caption from the article:

My comment about this photo and caption is that in Beijing, and in China, people like this bicyclist wear cotton masks like some people wear scarves, that is, as a way to feel better in the cold. That bicyclist would wear the same mask even on a day with an AQI (air quality index) of 50 (which would be wonderful for Beijing).

Cotton face masks like that are so porous that they do essentially nothing to keep out pollution. To keep the pollution out, you really need to wear an N95 face mask.

Here's the real time AQI for Beijing, if you're interested.

Nov 2, 2011

Replay: Lee Kai-Fu totally looks like...

I came across an article on Kai-Fu Lee presenting on something this week in Beijing, and I just had to re-post something that I still find hilarious. Whenever I see Kai-Fu Lee's picture, I can't stop thinking of my creative post.

The re-edited post, for your re-reading pleasure:

I had a few yuks recently from an email forward that came from this site, about celebrities that resemble animals, cartoons, and other stuff. Here are a couple good ones:

Lee Kai-Fu, a former exec at Google China, totally looks like...

... Droopy dog!

I think it's the slacky, hanging cheeks and the big round cartoon eyes that seal the deal here. If someone on that web site wants to use my material, go for it, just give me the credit.

Jul 21, 2011

WSJ video: living like cooped up rats in a Hong Kong apartment

The Wall Street Journal has some great stories usually. However, this article and video showing four people living like rats cooped up in 150 square food apartment in Hong Kong is a little off.

Have a look:

The first thing that tipped me off that this article is a bit sensationalized is the tentant's name, "Yang Lianchun". This is not a Hong Kong Cantonese transliteration, it's a Mainland Chinese name spelled using pinyin. The article does mention briefly that she moved to Hong Kong from Mainland China, but they don't mention much more. She's moved away from a bad life in the Mainland to try and make it in one of the most expensive cities with a meager income, and now she's got an even worse life.

In the US, it would be like a fry cook from Big Boy packing up and trying to make it in New York City on $500 a month. It would be the same story: a tiny, cramped apartment, and an unpleasant standard of living. You'd be stuck there until you hit on something where you could start pulling in more income.

I've visited apartments of normal Hong Kong folks in Hong Kong, and yes, they are small, but they don't live live rats cooped up in a cage like this lady. This is the background they don't give you in the article. Normal Hong Kong people live like people, although much less square footage than in the US. With good interior design, you can do a lot with a small apartment.

My view of this lady is, hey, give it a go in Hong Kong, but if you can't hack it, suck it up and move to the New Territories, or just go back to the Mainland and get a government "iron rice bowl" type job.

Jul 11, 2011

The stupidest, or funniest, Chinese waidiren alive

On a recent United Airlines flight to California from Beijing, I had the pleasure or displeasure, not sure which, of sitting directly in front of a 40 something Chinese man with a waidi accent in Mandarin (to be specific, a central China, chicken sounding accent). I got a nice earful of his chicken accent as I sat in front of him and he yakked loudly on his cell phone prior to departure.

Throughout the coach section where I sat (Economy Plus, nonetheless — it's like an upgrade from McDonalds to Burger King) there were two dozen college sophomore students, dressed identically with the same t-shirt bearing the name of their English language school. They were presumably headed to the US for a cultural tour including the wonders of California, I suppose things like 215 cards and In-n-Out Burger.

To my left sat two of these college sophomores, both female. They were quite well behaved, and didn't speak, snore, or bump me throughout the entire flight. These are my ideal seatmate for a trans Pacific flight. The the left of the waidi gentleman behind me sat two college sophomore boys.

The waidi fellow behind me, by comparison, would cross and uncross his legs, jostling my seat back. After one such jostle, I turned and stared at him through the gap between the seats. "What?", he asked in an irritated, defiant tone. I stared at him a few more uncomfortable seconds and turned around. As we neared the end of the flight in the US, the waidi gentleman loudly gurgled phlegm in his throat. It was not quite the full out Mainland loogie-hawk, of course, but the stage right before, kind of like a warm up loogie-hawk.

This is not my ideal seatmate on a plane.

To return to the story, at some point after the first meal during the flight, the show began. Mr. Waidi started his conversation with the college boy next to him. The dialog, in Mandarin originally, was something like this:
Mr. Waidi: So are you part of a educational tour to America?

College boy: [Describes the tour and where they are going]

Mr. Waidi: [Changes the topic] You know, they tip in restaurants in America. The restaurants aren't that great to eat at, but they are expensive.

College boy: Really?

Mr. Waidi: Oh, yes. You generally need to start at 10% for the tip, and if they do a really great job, you can go up to 20%.

[I bet the waitstaff loves this guy. The 10% tipper.]

College boy: I see

Mr. Waidi: [New topic] Luxury goods are a good deal in America compared to in Beijing. You should buy a Louis Vuitton bag while you're there.

[Yes, college students have the budget for Louis Vuitton. Good call, waidiren.]

College boy: Really?

Mr. Waidi: Of course. In America, a Louis Vuitton bag will cost only $1,000 or $2,000. In China it would be $3,000-$4,500.

College boy: I don't think I'll need to buy a designer bag.

[At this point I start to chuckle to myself as I picture this waidi ren with a shovel of pig manure in one hand and a $2,000 Louis Vuitton man purse in the other, traipsing around his hometown sludge pit in Henan or Hunan or Wuhan or wherever.]

Mr. Waidi:
You should consider getting one for your father then. How's your father?

College boy: Oh, he's good.

Mr. Waidi: Yes, you should certainly get something for you parents.

College boy: Ok.

[Ha! I can picture this one even better. The father's sauntering around the village in a straw hat and flip flops, yellowed and moth eaten t-shirt rolled up to his nipples and exposing his belly fat, and under his left arm he has a Louis Vuitton bag. "My son made it in the big city, he sent me this fancy bag." This is great material. I love it.]

Mr. Waidi: High end golf clubs are another good thing to get.

College boy: Oh?

Mr. Waidi: Yes, in Beijing, the high end golf clubs are much more expensive. The golf stores charge a lot for them. America is a great place to get some good clubs if you play the game.

[At this point, I picture the gentleman at the edge of a farm near his hometown, sewage ditch right nearby, hitting Titleists with his $500 driver off into dried dirt.]
At this point my drugs (just kidding, only over the counter stuff for me, no Ambien or downers here, I'm 100% natural) began to take hold and I fell asleep.

After the final meal before landing, the pristine headlands of northern California were visible. We passed over the usual suburban scenery, and I got treated to this concluding dialog:
Mr. Waidi: [Speaking to the college boy] Look over there, I see a golf course. I don't remember there being a golf course in that area before.
College boy: Hmm.
Mr. Waidi: Yes, I really need to get over to that course.

My conclusion after hearing all these amusing stories and comments, spoken with an accent in Mandarin even worse than that of Mao Tse-tung or Hu Jiantao, is:
  • I get much more amusement sitting in front of a waidi clown for 11 hours than I have had sitting in front of a screaming baby or a barking Shih Tzu.
  • I occurred to me that this man was demonstrating his social status and value to a young college boy. Knowing that as single men, we will often demonstrate our social value to women, although not in such a pompous way, I can understand what he's doing. I can only assume that this was a drawn out pick up attempt, and at some point, phone numbers were exchanged. If I'm correct and this was a pick up attempt, I commend the waidi man and hope he does well. His game was pretty sloppy, but he was rather confident with himself.
  • If this was not a pickup attempt, then I must say that we need to really tighten up our visa interviews in whatever consulate issued this fellow a visa to visit our fine country.
If you're at a California golf course, and you're behind a twosome with a Chinese gentleman who drives fifty yards and carries a $3,000 Louis Vuitton man purse, you may have met my airplane seatmate buddy.

[Note: the Chinese term waidiren (外地人, "outside person") refers to anyone not from Beijing, Shanghai, or whatever big city you are in. In Beijing, the folks throwing litter on the street, spitting as they walk, and letting their children urinate in the gutter are more often than not waidiren. The easiest way to check is to verify the first three digits of a persons ID card, or shenfenzheng. This number is issued at birth based on the city of residence at that time, and does change if one moves in the future.]

Jul 5, 2011

People writing about being a john in China vs. in Canada

The occurrence of the two similar stories, one in China and one in Canada, had good timing:
Check out the teeth on this Guangxi fellow. Did the VD make his gums get like that? Yikes!

May 4, 2011

White wine is not "baijiu"

As I was browsing through the different varieties of Two Buck Chuck wine available at a Trader Joe's grocery store in California, I noticed a mainland Chinese mother pushing her toddler around in a shopping cart. As she walked past a display area with many bottles of white wine, she pointed to it and said to her child very clearly, "bai jiu" (白酒, literally "white alcohol"). The mother repeated the word a couple times so the kid could learn it.

This bothers me, because in Mandarin, white wine is not baijiu. White wine is "bai putaojiu" (白葡萄酒, literally "white grape alcohol"). She could have just said "putaojiu" (葡萄酒) to the kid to keep it short. Baijiu is a foul-tasting spirit distilled from sorghum and fermented horse manure, and usually comes in around 112 proof. Baijiu not even in the same family as wine. I use baijiu to dissolve the yellow, caked on urine drippings from the outside of my toilet bowl.

Many people in California are well educated about wine. The wine culture is not at the level as in Italy, but Californians tend to understand wine pretty well. Me on the other hand, I mix my Cabernet with Sprite, I put ice cubes in my chardonnay, and I drink pinot from a Solo cup like it's beer at a frat party, so I'm not one to talk.

But anyone should know that white wine is not sorghum-based baijiu. I disapprove of bad parenting, but it's not my place to get involved and correct how this lady wanted to educate her kid, so I said nothing.

May 3, 2011

Expat jokes about Singapore

I've heard a number of Singapore-related jokes, which I thought I'd share. Although, in my opinion, making fun of Singapore is sort of like picking on the kids that ride the short bus to school. Singapore is a country (sort of) with an extremely short history, and a very small population, of course it's going to have some major issues.

Anyway, as I recall hearing it, the running joke about Singapore among expats goes something like this:
Q: What's the difference between Singapore and a petri dish?
A: A petri dish has more culture.
Joke number two was something about how on the sixth day, the Lord resteth, and then he picked up the Malaysian peninsula, shook it around like a sock, and all the garbage and human filth fell down to the southern tip of the peninsula, and called itself Singapore.

I found this second joke a bit mean spirited. I'm sure there are some good people in Singapore, after all.

And don't forget that Singapore has a great many wonderful food vendors and restaurants, which makes it a great place to visit in my book, racial discrimination and other issues aside.

Does anyone else have any good Singapore jokes they've heard?

May 1, 2011

Grammar at Sears

Seen at Sears:

Apr 29, 2011

Chinese characters favored by yokels

I saw these characters, "柔術", on the back window of an import pickup truck in California. I was trying to parse these mentally. I was thinking, ok, so 柔 (róu) is "tender" or "soft", then 術 (shù) is like "technique" or "skill". What exactly is "tender skill"? What's this Toyota pickup driving yokel trying to say exactly? I seemed at first like it must be something kind of pervy.

It turns out, though, that "tender skill" is how the Japanese write "jujutsu", which is like a type of karate. How cute is that? I think he needs a Hello Kitty to go next to the 柔術 characters. Tender kitty, tender skill.

The Toyota brand should have tipped me off that the characters should be parsed using Japanese and not Chinese.

Apr 27, 2011

Don't leave mass right after communion

Having observed the tight religious restrictions in China, you come to appreciate some of the basic things that we take for granted, or even sometimes complain about in America.

This article, "China Detains Church Members at Easter Services", caught my interest:
The authorities stepped up a three-week campaign against an underground Christian church on Sunday, detaining hundreds of congregants in their homes and taking at least 36 others into custody after they tried to hold Easter services in a public square, church members and officials said.
It makes me downright embarrassed when I think of pretty much any mass I've ever been to in the US, including this past Sunday, where numerous folks up and scurried out of church right after they get their Communion.

These unfortunate Chinese Christians are getting persecuted and arrested for their beliefs, and we take it for granted that we have the ability to do whatever we want here in America.

The Chinese Catholics I've seen (in China, at least) are really into their religion. If the church is over packed and they have to listen to mass out in the courtyard with no kneelers, they'll spread out newspapers on the ground and kneel right on there.

I've seen too many spoiled Californians and other Americans who got it so good these days with their Hummer H2s and BMWs that they don't feel like they have to kneel during mass. I even saw one grown man going to Easter mass wearing flip flips into church. This man had young kids, nonetheless. I hope he scheduled a confession for later in the week.

Apr 25, 2011

Shanghai food — barf!

I could never live in Shanghai. The food is just terrible. Terrible beyond belief. Add that to the fact that they speak a strange dialect that sounds more like Japanese people imitating angry chickens, and you have a city that's very hard to tolerate.

Let me give you a little overview of the food offerings of Shanghai, which I was able to learn about through Safeway, purveyor of authentic gourmet foods:

Below: A Shanghai dinner for two, at a great price. Sounds like a good deal.

Below: What is this Shanghainese swill they're serving up here? Looks like something I saw in a latrine when I was in Henan province.

Below: No wonder Shanghainese people are so darn skinny, this food would give anyone the runs!

Apr 20, 2011

College girl conversation snippet

After eating some fish tacos at a California strip mall, I walked past an outdoor table where three college-age girls were talking loudly. As I passed by, I heard this this snippet of their conversation. It was so unique that I can recall it exactly word for word:

"...It's like she was trying to suck my entire face inside of her mouth. It's so gross..."

I didn't get to catch what came before or after this sentence, but I'm very curious.

Must be something like this: