Jun 11, 2006

Fashion misfits

Spring is usually a time of new things in the fashion world. To provide an insight on what this means in China, I'll attempt to put together a series on the latest in Beijing fashion. Here's the first in the series.

In the photo above we have one of the latest styles in mainland China summer fashion, a new take on the classic "German tourist with sandals and black socks" pairing. These two gentlemen are decked out in their finest elastic waistband coolats. They've paired the shorts with sexy faux-leather sandals (left) and dirty vinyl dress shoes stolen from a tricycle-driving garbage collector (right). Note how the models' cleanly shaven Greg LeMond legs effectively accentuate the contrast between the dark colored nylon socks and shorts.

The hunk on the right has an outfit that leans towards business casual. He has tucked his t-shirt into his elastic waistband to show that he's a bit dressier. It's the perfect style to accompany the dress loafers. Combined with the pants that stop 8 inches above the ankle, the look says, "I'm smart casual, but I know how to have fun on the weekend."

The man to the left is the Beijing equivalent of the upwardly mobile New Yorker who busts his hump at a hedge fund all week and trots off to the Hamptons for the weekend to sip mojitos and talk about golf. The shorts paired with the sandals say, "I'm having fun, but I'm upwardly mobile and sophisticated." The shirt draped over the cell phone on his waist says, "I'm socially connected and work hard, but I let it all hang out when I can."

More fashion to come later.

Jun 5, 2006


Above: a group of gentlemen squatting in the shade of a lamp post in Tiananmen Square

Why squat and not just sit? Because they realize that the ground is filthy, filthy, filthy due to the incessant spitting and hacking of phlegm, as well as the fluids of the many diaperless babies.

You think squatting like that is easy? It's not. Try it out for yourself, and take note that their heels are flat on the ground. Squatting flat-footed like they are is quite challenging, and you'll probably fall over backwards the first time you try it. It requires exquisite balance and precision to achieve the ideal squatting posture.

Just imagine how hard it is to do that over a squat toilet while reading a newspaper and smoking without having your cellphone and wallet fall into the bowl, or better yet, without making a mess into your trousers pulled down around your ankles.

Once you get the hang of it, however, you'll be showing off your mad squatting skills at bus stops, waiting in the cafeteria lunch line, or anytime you can't find a bench to sit on and you're tired of standing.

Jun 3, 2006

Strict visa laws

One of the things many of us take for granted is that we can come and go as we please to America. Apparently the process for foreigners to come to the US is quite strict, and especially so for those from tightly-ruled countries like China. I was surfing around the website of the US Embassy in Beijing and found this little tidbit that puts it in perspective.
Why does the U.S. have such strict visa laws?
The United States is an open society. Unlike many other countries, the United States does not impose internal controls on visitors, such as registration with local authorities. In order to enjoy the privilege of unencumbered travel in the United States, foreigners have a responsibility to prove they are going to return abroad before a visitor or student visa is issued. Our immigration law requires consular officers to view every visa applicant as an intending immigrant until the applicant proves otherwise.
The strict controls make complete sense to me. Not just in China, but all over Europe too, as a tourist you need to register with the police wherever you go. Usually the hotel you're staying at will do it for you. In America, as long as you're money is green you can stay wherever you'd like and even register as "Mickey Mouse" at the hotel if you want. We're not being overly strict at all. Foreigners that want to come to America for tourism should be greatful that we're devoting taxpayer resources to review their applications. Rather than complaining about the safeguards we use to maintain our democratic society, they should be thanking us for the very opportunity to apply. Is the amount of money they'll contribute to the tourist economy in America enough to make up for the expense of the application review process? I think it's a safe assumption to treat all visa applicants as potential immigrants until proven otherwise, especially those from countries where emigrating to America is a hope for so many people.