Sunday, September 30, 2007

Hoho, we're in California. Be back in Shangers on Tuesday the 9th.

Friday, September 28, 2007

We're getting on an airplane in 4 hours. Turning off the computer now.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Metafilter: Do you know jokes which presuppose obscure knowledge?

What do you get when you cross an elephant with a grape?
Elephant Grape Sin(theta).

What do you get when you cross a mountain climber and a billy goat?
You can't cross a mountain climber and a billy goat, silly, they're scalars!

And one about not being able to cross a mountain climber with a mosquito (a scalar with a vector). Also:

Q: Why do Marxists only drink herbal tea?
A: Because proper tea is theft.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Inspired by lunch today, a little bit of internet research:

Hello Pizza

Lessons of a China Pizza Chain: Frenchman Shuns Premium Market, Slashing Prices and Adding Choices, By Leslie Chang/The Wall Street Journal

Picolo, Hello Pizza founder 's side business

Paper placemats at the Pudong Airport KFC plug the chain's Baidu Zhidao page.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Marc writes about the approaching typhoon. SMIC has asked students to stay home tomorrow, but teachers will be working as usual. The newspaper said that 200,000 residents were being evacuated from their homes to weather the storm in sturdier lodging; sure enough, this evening construction workers living in the makeshift concrete dorms across the street were sighted from our balcony carrying their bedding and walking down the street. Maybe they're being housed at the local elementary school?

The top search result on Google for the search term 女足球世界杯 (Women's Soccer World Cup) is a link to a Bittorrent download page for the China vs Denmark game.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The 城管 "city police" just made a lightning raid on the street market outside our apartment complex, thuggishly rolling in with about four trucks and vans to kick in styrofoam boxes and take some dude's electronic scale. I grabbed the camera and started taking flash pictures, and when a couple of them noticed me I pretended like I was filming them. Citizen journalism, heh.

Actually, Jodi caught a scuffle between some women sellers and the 城管 in broad daylight the other day. Pretty graphic, I've been intending to put it on

Went to Yiwu last weekend with Jodi, Charlotte and some of Jodi's friends. Impressions: scenic train station located in the hills outside the city; very clean, well-organized and moneyed city; the new wholesale market is full of low-quality mass-produced goods marketed at developing countries, only available for wholesale; and lots of authentic Middle Eastern (not Xinjiang) restaurants and Chinese-looking women wearing head scarves. When looking for dinner, we asked the lady outside the Yiwu Market from whom I bought a city map what the local specialty was: she said, KFC. The others thought this was hilarious, but I think she was just under the very common -- outside of Shanghai -- false(!) impression that foreigners only eat western food. We stayed at a very impressive Motel 168, next to a "Caucasus Restaurant" and a hotel with a Russian name. Pictures forthcoming. (UPDATE: Pics on Flickr.)

Next time, if there is a next time, we will go to the old 中国小商品城 wholesale market because I suspect it will have a little more "flavor". Then we will walk around the city for a bit and eat dinner at a Middle Eastern place, followed by lots of kebabs at the night market.

We applied for Charlotte's 通行证 to exit the country today, which was cause for a surprise because the papers were actually processed at the Chinese side of the Immigration Bureau. So she will exit the country as a Chinese and re-enter as an American.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

At this moment, Blogspot is unblocked in China.

We got our tickets for the Women's World Cup match next Tuesday, USA vs Nigeria. We're going on an overnight trip to Yiwu, the world's manufacturing capital and giant bazaar, on Saturday/Sunday. We received Charlotte's airplane ticket in the mail today, thanks mom!

Prominently splayed across the top of the Metrofans BBS:

谦虚谨慎 不谈政治 礼貌回帖 公平公正

Cautiously restrain
Political speech,
Post respectfully,
Judge fairly.

Of course my translation doesn't do it justice, but you get the idea. The BBS has also started an MSN Spaces to make official announcements, I suppose just in case the forum gets shut down for hosting politically objectionable content. When you publicly discuss an industry where eminent domain evictions are routine, that kind of stuff can happen.

Monday, September 10, 2007

This was a good weekend.

Friday night we hung around at home, made spicy Japanese curry for dinner, installed new graphics drivers on the computer to finally get 卡丁车 (Popkart: Crazyracing) working, and went to bed at a decent time.

On Saturday I spent the morning at barCamp Shanghai, at the Tudou offices on the Suzhou Creek: Luyi Chen's China Web 2.0 talk, Mountain's Wikipedia talk, Eric Eldred's Creative Commons talk, chatting with the Yupoo marketing guy, dropping in on KK's photography session, skipping out on what surely a delicious lunch for "repast" with Joon at Steak And Eggs, dodging Zola's camera, touching bases with Alex, David, Aether, and some new acquaintances... Left energized and met Jodi at the Super Brand Mall for a Macanese dinner at the Lisboa, one of my current favorites. Back home, we put Charlotte to bed, then stayed up till 2am watching Disturbia.

(I'm watching Modulations as I type this and Mixmaster Morris is wearing an Astroboy T-shirt. Rock.)

This morning we slept in a little, cleaned up the house, and had warmed up curry with fruit for lunch. After lunch, we set out on some errands: while Jodi window-shopped in the People's Square subway station I took Charlotte to the pet market to pick up some chinchilla food for Poopy and take a tour of all the pet shops: rabbits, chinchillas, lizards, flying squirrels, turtles, dogs, cats and pigs! I met Jodi back near the subway station and we cut through People's Square, where we witnessed the oft-referenced 相亲 corner, where parents come to try to hook up their too-busy-for-dating offspring with a suitable a boyfriend or girlfriend -- by the looks of it, though, the problem often isn't a lack of time but incredibly specific and exacting standards regarding prospective mates. Ah, Shanghainese parents...

Having exited the park near Raffles City, snacked on a BBQed squid skewer, and payed off our credit card bill one day late at the China Merchant's Bank, we walked down Fuzhou Road looking for dinner. We happened to wander past the second-hand English bookstore (the only one in Shanghai?) on Shanxi Rd near Fuzhou Rd, so picked up some recent Newsweeks and a couple of kids' books. We were despairing of finding a fresh, quality place for dinner, but managed to luck into a great place, which reminds me that I have a few to recommend and since I now realize that no matter how good my intentions are I'll never write these up for Shanghaiist, I'll put them here:

Chanko: a sumo-cuisine place, owned by a Shanghainese who spent 13 years in Japan training to be a sumo wrestler. I recommend sitting at the bar, ordering a hot pot, and supplementing it with deep-fried skewers made before your eyes by the old Japanese guy behind the bar.

Prince of Persia: Iranian food, this place has a dinner buffet, nightly live music, and will put mini-flags of your home country and Iran on your table while you dine. You'd better like eggplant, but if you do it's pretty good.

Xinwang Teahouse: an endless menu of Hong Kong/Cantonese dishes and dim-sum, in a colonial era office building whose interior cleverly mixes classical and modern design elements. Also, the overall best restaurant bathroom I've used in Shanghai: urinals not visible from outside, foamy soap from a wall dispenser, a motion-sensing faucet that works, and paper towels for drying hands.

Xinwang is where we ended up tonight, completely on a whim. The waiting staff was attentive and showered Charlotte with pleasantries; the food came quickly and was delicious, especially the beef-wrapped enoki mushroom hotpot and milk tea. We're definitely going back to this place.

Jodi was beat by the time we reached home, so we just vegged eating popsicles and looking at dogs for sale on auction site, then she snoozed while I put Charlotte to bed, do some prep work for school tomorrow, clean up a few things around the house, write this weblog entry and play a few games of 卡丁车 before hitting the sack.

Friday, September 07, 2007

The Shanghai Contemporary art fair opened a few days ago at the Shanghai Exhibition Center (that's the big "palace" across from the Portman"). The Shanghai Eye has some coverage. In today's Shanghai Morning Post, the exhibition garnered a front-page headline and a full spread on page 3 of three articles. The front page headline:

Performance Art, So Profound It's Impossible To Understand


First article title and subtitle:

For Floating-Basin "Performance", Suzhou Creek Closed To Traffic For Three Hours

Exhibitors: Art was a public service with a ecological theme, claim to promote "society being open-minded to art" • Spectators largely clueless

The article goes on to say that many people fished the basins out of the water and took them home for clothes-washing and planting flowers.

Second article:

Apples In Exhibit Rot And Stink, Eaten By Audience

The sections in that article are titled "Artist doesn't appear nor explain his art" and "Audience reckons that eating the apples is reasonable"

Third article:

Many Exhibits Depend On Viewer's Imagination

The article goes on to describe "a pile" of "amusing and hard-to-understand" exhibits and asks WTF they mean, noting that most exhibits give no explanations and are simply labeled with the artist's name and a title, some even lacking a title.

Could the Shanghai Morning Post be of the opinion that artists are out of touch with the common man?

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

[14:30] Ani Sittig: so charlotte is laughing now huh?
[14:31] Ani Sittig: she can lol?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

I ran across a statement the other day that whose source I can't remember but whose content I don't want to forget. It said that great music died in the 80s, and justified this by saying that period music reflects the attitudes of the times' youth. Then something like, 60s music was about protest, 70s music was about experimentation, the 80s was about hedonism and greed, and that every since the 90s, since the fall of the Evil Empire, we've been in a period of stability and non-change that is marked by apathy and mediocrity (and I would add empty irony and absurdity; cf too many examples to count, but starting with Napoleon Dynamite and Facebook groups like I go out of my way to step on an exceptionally crunchy leaf).

I was reminded of that quote the other day shopping in Carrefour and seeing the same Fisher Price toys that I played with (and my mom played with) as a kid, which for the Chinese customers are completely new. Change is the name of the game in China, so much is new and nobody has all the answers.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Anybody know where Jodi and I can get a good ol' apple fritter here in Shanghai?


The plane landing is cool, but the Icelandic narration is cooler.

Hoho, all the articles in today's Shanghai Morning Post about An Li's new film "Lust, Caution" read like they were written by junior highers: ooh, that movie has naked people in it! The only article that amused me at all was the editorial by Liu Yiwei called "Lust, Caution, Embarrassment" (which I'll loosely and hurriedly translate below):

The Cannes Film Festival has opened, Li An's new Film "Lust, Caution" is getting good reviews, and audiences are waiting expectantly. However, the wait is pregnant with a sort of awkward embarrassment that's not easy to shake off.

First and foremost, this embarrassment is located within certain "related departments". Even though I have never worked for the government, I can imagine their manner of operation. Because "Lust, Caution" got an R rating in the US, it has qualified in Hong Kong as a third-level, pornographic, film. Reports are saying that not only do lead actors Tony Leung and Tang Wei get naked, they get naked to the "third degree", and the excitement lasts for a total of 25 minutes.

Pornographic films are nothing to be afraid of if you have a ratings system in place. But we don't. If a movie is shown in China, it must be watchable by everybody or it can't be shown publicly. It's going to be hard to justify not showing this one though. It's every Chinese director's film to win an Oscar. In this case, the director won both an Oscar and Hollywood's heart, returned to the motherland, and gave his next movie to the Chinese film world; no matter by reason nor by emotion, this film has got to make it to the Chinese audience.

So, if it's gotta be seen, how are we going to see it? It'll probably be the usual snip-snip, cutting out the parts that need to be cut. The rational will be that, anyways, the movie is 2 and a half hours long, if you cut out the exciting parts it'll still be long enough.

Making us watch a sanitized version of "Lust, Caution", though, would be pretty unfair. As adults in full possession of adult judgment, we'd resent being sent back to the teeny-bopper maturity level. What's more, an eminent movie director like An Li surely wouldn't throw sex into a movie just for kicks. There's gotta be a good reason for having those scenes, and it's too bad that in China An Li won't be able to share those reasons with us.

So movie ratings are still a pretty important thing. From the example of "Lust, Caution" we can see that a ratings system wouldn't allow sex in film to run rampant over the screen, rather it would allow for a more principled management of the topic.

(Ugh, that sounds really disjointed. No time to go back and smooth it over. Just trust me, it flows better in the original.)

You do your best to publicize public transportation and get more people to drop their cars for the bus and metro, and what do people want? Graffiti. Yes, they do. (Traffic to all of the ShanghaiExpat weblogs shot up from an average of 40 hits per day to nearly 400 hits per day when those sites linked to the graffiti post.)

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Stuffed Jodi's hard drive into my computer and sewed up all the seams. Windows XP and Debian GNU/Linux in one box, baby!

Went to the Shenhua vs Shenzhen game tonight. 0-1 at halftime, 4-1 by the three whistles.

Five 黄桃 peaches for RMB 7. And Jodi brought home KFC 蛋挞 egg tarts, so... 黄桃蛋挞.

Charlotte was in a bubbly mood tonight and laughed several times. We tried to catch it on video but she was cute'd-out by then.