Nov 29, 2005

Ostrich pizza

Above: "Pizza with double ostrich, anyone?"

The new special at Pizza Hut in Beijing is a regular pizza sprinkled with ostrich meat and spices. In Chinese it's called the "Unparalleled Big Bird Christmas Pizza" (无比大鸟圣诞比萨).

The name of it makes me think of this cartoon:

Screenshot of the website, which also has some Flash animation:

Nov 27, 2005

Thanksgiving in Bejiing - 在北京过感恩节

I celebrated Thanksgiving in Beijing at an American-style buffet organized by a local restaurant. Complete with an adolescent chef carving all parts of the turkey into microscopic pieces in slow-motion, it was an experience not to be missed.

Thanksgiving in China makes me think of this movie scene, where the family's kitchen is previously raided by the neighbor's dogs and they go to the Chop Suey Palace to eat instead:

Mr. Parker: "Oh, yes! It's a beautiful duck! Yes, it really is. It's ah, ah, but you see, ah..."
Chop Suey Palace Owner: "What?"

Mr. Parker: "It... it's smiling at me."

Chop Suey Palace Owner: "Ahhhh... ha"

[Owner chops off duck's head with meat cleaver, and the family screams in shock]
Chop Suey Palace Owner: "Ok? Beautiful? Ok?"

[Everyone claps and laughs]
Mr. Parker: "Yes!"

Nov 24, 2005

More on the Beijing Olympic mascots

Related to my recent post with the Beijing Olympic cartoon mascots is this recent article in the New York Times. The article discusses, among other things, how Chinese bloggers are able to criticize authority without being overtly political:

A fresh example was served up last week with the announcement by China of five cartoonlike mascot figures for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. They were lavishly praised in the press - and widely ridiculed in blogs that seemed to accurately express public sentiment toward them.

"It's not difficult to create a mascot that's silly and ugly," wrote one blogger. "The difficulty is in creating five mascots, each sillier and uglier than the one before it."

Nov 20, 2005

Some Beijing photos

Above: mascots for the 2008 Olympics on a subway advertisement.

Above: Model doing a photo shoot

Nov 15, 2005

Beijing, the Los Angeles of China - 北京像中国的洛杉矶

Beijing's closest parallel in the US is Los Angeles. Currently, Beijing's sister cities in the US are Washington and New York. That was a poor match-up, and you'll see below why LA would have been a better choice.

Slangin' cane
In LA, all manner of drugs can be scored in numerous locations. The local musicians and actors need a wide selection to maintain their edge. The street-level trade seems to be controlled by gangs.

In Beijing's Sanlitun bar district, heavily accented African men loiter at street corners. They seem to be doing a brisk trade, in the words of Ice Cube, “breakin' off rocks like Barney Rubble”. Maybe they're not selling crack, but it's something illegal. The Beijing dealers seem to operate without fear of the jakes. It's apparent they must have some sort of agreement worked out with law enforcement because they've not been executed yet. I suppose the LA dealers could have the same type of arrangement.

Hookers for hire
In LA, South Central, Hollywood, and other run-down areas are ripe with hookers. Beijing has Sanlitun (again), plus seedy hair salons, karaoke parlors, hostess bars, and door-to-door service massage girls. On the outer edge of the main drag of Sanlitun, women stroll through idling BMWs and Benzs, trying to catch the attention of prospective johns.

LA has a neighborhood called Koreatown. Beijing has a neighborhood called Wudaokou (五道口) which is a Koreatown, and is often referred to as such by locals (韩国村).

Horrible pollution
Beijing and LA are both surrounded by mountains and have some sort of “temperature inversion” thing that occurs to trap in the pollutants and smog. LA cleaned up its act over the last decade, but Beijing is still many years behind solving its problem.

The traffic is horrendous in both LA and Beijing. There are traffic jams everywhere and it often takes more time to cover distance in a car than by foot. Beijing doesn't yet have carpool lanes.

Movie studios
Beijing has some respectable movie studios. Edward Norton wrapped a movie shoot in Beijing a couple months ago.

Nov 14, 2005

Plagiarism in Chinese music videos - 王蓉那个抄袭狂

If you've watched MTV at any point in the 90's you must have seen the video for “No Rain” by Blind Melon (1992), with the minor celebrity Bee Girl. In that video, she performs a shoddy tap dance, is booed offstage, and then runs around the city until she encounters the band, toked-up out of their minds and playing in a green pasture, where finally everyone is happy.

By pure chance, I saw the video for a song entitled “I am not Huang Rong” (我不是黄蓉)by the Chinese female singer Wang Rong (王蓉). It is a video in which a girl (Chinese instead of white this time) is dressed as a bee and does the same sort of thing, although she's not booed offstage. Nonetheless, she runs around a similar setting. The level of plagiarism was amusing, and it was especially funny that in the Chinese knock-off, the girl and the bee costume have nothing to do with the song and there is no plot to what the girl is doing. In comparison, Blind Melon's video tied into the theme of their song and the progression of the girl presented the viewer with a coherent story.

These are some stills I took from the two videos, with the Chinese one on the left, Blind Melon on the right.

Above: The bee girl dancing on stage is the same.

Above: Bee girl running or walking, depending on the version.

Above: Even the thick-rimmed eyeglasses are the same. What a coincidence!

Bonus rant
As a side point, the song by the Chinese “artist” is over-produced and lame. Does this Wang Rong have any entertainment skills at all? In the video, she's not shown dancing, but rather bobbing back and forth in a chair while making a Dubya-Bush-esque dimwitted grimace. Occasionally she'll make a serious face and point at the camera with her index finger. Is she imitating Eminem? At least Eminem has street credibility from living as an ethnic minority in Detroit. Her penguin-bobbing dance style is like that of the fat protagonist Albert in the movie Hitch, when Will Smith tries to teach him to groove in a civilized way.

“Look at me, I can make a face like a smirking donkey and pump my fists up and down. This is artistic.”

I want to throw up when I see this video. Maybe the Chinese police will use it as a new interrogation aid to force spies and dissidents into confessing crimes.