On Politeness Part 1: Where is the Love?

Liu Qi of the Southern Weekend wrote a very interesting article on societal politeness called the "Seventeen Hates" that has been translated into English and posted on Danwei (the original Chinese can be found here). It is well worth checking out and reading in its entirety. I especially like 2, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, and 13. Of course, there is also the last one, 17, in which the author states:
Giving a report at a work meeting, I say that China is a society of acquaintances, a society that fears causing trouble, still somewhat removed from a society of modern citizens and strangers. Apart from one's own home, one's own office, what's in front of one's own door, callous indifference used to be the norm - whatever, who cares. Now we know how to care, how to hate. This is progress, no question, but it is far from enough. In comparison, the people of western developed countries have a widespread sense of civic awareness and a fairly high level of public morality. Those foreigners over there are really strange - it's like everyone is really nosy. No matter who you are, if you harm the public interest, whether the matter is small or large, everyone is responsible and can voluntarily bother into your business. Us - it seems that only at crucial junctures involving the fate of the nation will we shout, "everyone has the obligation." Ask the heavens, how long does it take to awaken the public to civic action? At this point, the whole audience erupts into thunderous applause. After the meeting, the throng of presenters and audience members exit, only to come across a man plastering ads onto a wall. Everyone turns a blind eye, and we scatter like sand to the winds.
This is a point that has been made in general on a number of blogs in the past, most notably James Fallows blog (and article) about how China is making him a worse person. Its also true that so many of these annoyances are of a "minor" nature and become acceptable. To use an example that for whatever reason is still very clear in my head, I was in line for a subway ticket, about to step up and buy mine, when somebody jumped the queue and went straight to the window. Not only that, but to make matters worse, they were buying 3 or 4 tickets and paying with a 100 RMB note (4 tickets cost 12 RMB at the time). The ticket sellers are quick with the 1 yuan coins or 2 yuan notes as change, but when somebody gives them a 100 RMB note, it then becomes a total hassle. Despite the fact I wanted to punch the guy, did I do anything? No...Even with my typically very Chinese ways of adapting to this lack of politeness, something in me said it just wasn't worth it to make a big deal out of this with the provincial bumpkin (yeah, it was at the train station subway stop, I believe), but why? Why is it that we are so likely to stew and "accept" these acts which we shouldn't just let pass over us so easily. It is that some of us have higher aspirations for China to become a civil society where people follow the rules and yet for our efforts, we get stamped down by those who openly ignore them.

Or what about the guys at the bike parking lot at the subway station who, for whatever reason, tries to trick me out of an extra 2 fen by "accidentally" giving me a ticket from the day before? If I notice it, of course I bring it up with them, but if I don't, when I get home at night, is it worth taking the time to argue with them over this tiny amount?

Once again, I feel like I have to come out and state it, I love China, but this sort of crap is just so frustrating. Most of it is still brushed off with "callous indifference" and for those that "hate" these actions, they usually swallow the bitterness. There is a lack of human compassion that leads to a loss of innocence and makes one keep their guard up at every instant throughout the day. It's not that the bad eggs outnumber the good, but the good, in their attempt to maintain civil society in the face of these hordes, has yet to stand up, the majority is cowering at the hands of a minority, and its time for that to stop.


Sunday Photo Thread: Live From T.O. Edition

more from Wangfujing, as parents wait for their kids after school...

Beida, Beijing - November 2006

Will be back from Toronto tomorrow and will actually have some photos (and reflections) on that city for you in the coming week. There are a lot of topics I want to touch on and will do my best to post, but I must plead for a bit more patience, blogging on the road is not easy and I still have 2 more trips in the next 2 weeks. That said, all the traveling should offer at least some interesting content when I get back to blogging...First things first, Tuesday is the 2nd Annual Blogging Against Disablism Day and I intend on taking part. Other things to look forward to? More on Chinese soccer, politeness in society, and getting back to mp3 posts...


Saturday Photo Thread: Love is All Around Edition

Hefei city sceneHefei - November 2006

Pudong sceneFrom Waitan looking toward Pudong, Shanghai - November 2006

Wangfujing Street SceneWangfujing, Beijing - November 2006
I love taking pictures at Wangfujing. When I'm in Beijing I'm there on almost a daily basis and its the perfect place. There is so much going on there, people from all over the world, people from all over China, every kind of person you can imagine, people going through every emotion you can think of. Unfortunately, most of my better shots from there were lost in the "great computer crash of Aught Five" (thanks for that, Beijing Apple Store, no wonder you are now out of business (and hopefully all jobless!), bitter? who? me?). This is a great image (at least to me), all the people are just shadows, with the one couple right in the middle...


Sunday Photo Thread: Earth Day Edition

B-dot is headed to the T-dot, so either the other half of this blog will need to pick things up or there will be a week long vacation for our dear readers...In any case, I'm leaving you wiht some more recent pictures of Chicago...


Sweet Home Chicago

First off, let's take a minute to admire that logo. Is that not one of the coolest logos you've ever seen? Anyways, last Saturday afternoon I was spending "quality time" with my father, sitting at my parent's house (mainly for the huge tv with HD picture) watching Sid the Kid and the Pens battle Ottawa in the NHL playoffs when the game was interrupted around 3 pm for the US Olympic announcement. After a lot of babbling, when it came down that Chicago would be the US' candidate city, I must admit my dad and I let out a little cheer and a high five. My dad, a lifelong Chicagoan, was excited about the possibility of the Olympics in Chicago and I must say I am, too. Though right now there are still a few big hurdles and we're more than two years away from the IOC announcement, but its an exciting time.

Despite being America's 3rd largest city, Chicago is regularly disrespected and overlooked, but Chicagoans are used to it and have an attitude befitting our status as the "Second City", unlike those in NYC, we have adopted a midwestern modesty and people in the city tend to have far more civility than you'll find in other large cities. Yet the Second City tag no longer is fitting for Chicago. Chicago has an extremely vibrant art community and 2 excellent art musems. Right now, there is no hotter food city in the United States with some absolutely amazing chefs holding court in Chicago. It has a great music scene and is arguably the home of blues in the north. Also, the city is well known for its architecture, both modern and classic.

Chicago has made 3 previous attempts at hosting the Olympics and came up short 2 times and then losing out to St. Louis (what?). While Chicago was the unanimous choice to host the 1904 Olympics, the games were ultimately moved to St. Louis to be held along with the 1904 World's Fair.

My fear was that the backing of major companies would tilt things in LA's favor, but Chicago corporations came through and it seems the USOC also wants to go with something new (many of LA's venues were used in the 1984 Olympics, some even were used in the 1932 Olympics). There is sure to be an abundance of energy behind the Chicago bid.

Chicago has an excellent plan in place for the Olympics focusing on some of the things the IOC looks at most. The majority of events will take place along Chicago's lake front and will make it very convenient to get from venue to venue while also offering a very scenic area. Further, the Chicago plan is heavy on urban redevelopment and longterm sustainability. The South Loop has undergone a lot of urban renewal (read gentrification) in the past few years, but the plan for the Olympics will focus some much needed resources on the South Side, but won't solely be gentrification, instead offering a lot of new housing to low and middle income individuals.

Despite all these positives, many around the world are unfamiliar with the many positives that Chicago has. The Olympics would be the perfect opportunity for the world to discover the beauty of Chicago. I have high hopes for the Chicago bid, there isn't a city I would more like to see host the Olympics, here's to Chicago 2016!!

Surviving China Becomes a TV Show

"Laowai" around the world who have come to China know about the difficulties of dealing with and surviving time in China, now the "world" will learn about thosee trials and trivails. The American version of the tv hit show, "Survivor", which is in its 14th season (already???) and has tackled a number of locations in southeast Asia, the south Pacific, and Central America will now be coming to you from China. No word yet on where in China it will be located, but its quickly becoming great fun amongst bloggers to guess where it will be held.

Personally, I think it will either be somewhere in Hainan, in the Xinjiang/Qinghai area, or in the great laowai tourist trap known as Sichuan/Yunnan. Interestingly enough, there was a Chinese version of the show "Survivor" (which seems to be more like Amazing Race) took place in Canada. I have never been a fan of the show. During its first season when it became a runaway hit in the US, I was away in China for much of it and only came back in time to catch the finale and couldn't understand why it was so popular. I must admit, though, I did check it out when they did the "battle of the races" season and was happy an Asian came out on top.

CBS must have some really good connections in China. For the past few years they've been allowed to film parts of the "Amazing Race" in China, but this is the first time a foreign tv outlet will be filming an entire series in China. As I said, I've never been a fan of the show, but I'm definitely going to tune in (though it may have to be via iTunes) to the new season.


And Hu's on First...

A much lighter post (sorry for that title choice, but I couldn't pass it up), while Premier Wen Jiabao was in Japan, he took the time to travel to a university campus and while there, met with the baseball team, donned a jersey, and played some ball.
Wen plays baseballIt appears that Wen has game, but why the batting glove on the right hand? And somebody should have told him the wind breaker under the jersey look isn't a good one...

The above is exactly why this isn't a serious blog. With all the stories or possible topics that could be discussed about Wen's visit to Japan, this is all I have to offer. Its more fun this way...

Lying for God

I really respect Tim Johnson's writing and enjoyed his book, when I saw this entry on his blog about missionaries in China, I took notice. Despite my own religious leanings, I'm totally against a large portion of the missionary work that goes on in China. Often the work is done under false pretenses or just outright lying and is really disappointing. I've known a few people who've gone over as missionaries, and while some of them are really good, honest people who did positive work while there, the majority of them, quite simply, are none of those things.

As Johnson points out, these groups often target minority and/or Muslim or Buddhist communities. What some of these US Christians are doing, as foreigners in another country, is utterly despicable. Imagine the battles that would erupt if Christians started hanging around synagogues and mosques and, on a daily basis, as people were walking out of worship these Christians would approach them, tell them they are living in sin and try handing them Christian literature. How would people view that? How long until the first riots began? Yet for whatever reason, some Christians believe it is okay to behave like this in other countries, I just don't get it. This is exhibit A in why the world hates Americans.

In his entry, Johnson states, "what’s interesting is that some of these Christians use denial and deception about what they are doing, employing 'tradecraft' more commonly associated with spying."

Is it just me or would it seem denial and deception run counter to Christian "values"? There are ways of spreading God's word that don't include these tactics, unfortunately it seems these groups will continue to get bolder and bolder until the government deports one or two of the most egregious offenders.


Sunday Photo Thread: Chicago 2016/Honoring Jackie Robinson Edition

Since I was downtown yesterday for the Herve This seminar so I figured I'd take a few pictures while I was there.

3 Chicago landmarks3 Chicago Landmarks: The Marshall Field Clock, Chicago Theatre sign, and Marina City in the background.

street sceneThis was before the announcement (more on that this week), but thought to get the poster (I LOVE that logo) and the flags in the background

under the El tracksUnder the El tracks


Corrupting the Minds of the Youth...

A few years back, when I was young and open minded, I was visiting a female friend in her dorm room at university when we heard some strange sounds coming from next door. I was sort of curious as to what was going on, but she just said it was a group of guys watching a "huang si" movie (ie porn). My young and impressionable mind was confused, I was under the impression that more than anything else, porn was banned from China. I believed those fellow defenders of China that would say that said the great firewall was more likely to block porn sites than it would block CNN, BBC, or other famous news sites. Well, I'm no longer so young and impressionable, so get ready for another rant (quite possibly the most controversial ever on this site)...

I was very surprised to come across the headlines yesterday, China Battles Online Porn. The article starts out:
The Chinese government is launching a new crackdown on online pornography, complaining it has "perverted China's young minds," a state news agency said Friday.
Perverting the minds of China's young? Come on now! On the front page of Sina's sports website there is a section called "Sexy Lace" which includes some very racey images to say the least (curiously, the site is prominently sponsored by Nike). Granted, young kids shouldn't be able to access porn, but much like yesterday's rant, this move is ignoring the main target. Porn is everywhere on the internet and I'm all for preventing young kids from seeing it. At the same time, when a kid goes onto sina to check his favorite NBA or soccer team's score, he's going to come across pictures like this and this. It isn't even like these are hidden at the very bottom, its right in the middle of the page, next to the domestic soccer news (perhaps they put it there for a reason though, who the hell is going to look at the latest CSL news anyways?). There are plenty of similar websites out there, but the example of Sina is interesting because of its popularity, a website that has 38 million subscribers, has reached 300 million unique visitors a day, and is publicly traded in the US.

This campaign bothers me because of the whole idea that people in China are "traditional" and those in the US are "open" (kaifang). Sex is treated as one of the ultimate taboos in China, something that nobody talks openly about and no real education exists. Yet the reality is that the same stuff goes down in the US as in China, its just in the US it is more public and hopefully thus more open to scrutiny, whereas in China it is kept completely hidden. I'm not a fan of stereotypes, but I do believe they often have some degree of truth in them, yet the open vs. conservative stereotype has little, if any, truth to it. In China, you regularly see young couples kissing and holding hands on the street, far more than you do in the US (possibly because in the US young people have more privacy) and in general public displays of affection are far more common in China.

Most of all, underage pregnancies go ignored in China and yet is a common problem. Accompanying a friend to an abortion in China is hard enough as it is, seeing a hallway full of pregnant 12-15 year olds and then also 30 somethings who are getting an abortion because they already have 1 child would make one almost suicidal. It is an utterly depressing scene.

Perhaps if the focus wasn't so much on cutting down on pornography (especially when it ignores so much) but instead on actually opening up and discussing things like sex ed, premarital sex, and abstinence, then some of these problems can be dealt with. The desire to be a "traditional" society and putting blinders on to the fact that you aren't any less "kaifang" than anywhere else will be of huge benefit to society. These campaigns are like putting a band- aid on a broken leg, on the surface it may help a little, but internally the problems abound.


The Imus Thing...

Its not something I was going to bring up as it has little if anything to do with this blog, it is not at all China related and his 2 week suspension seemed like it would be the end of things, but now the guy, who is truly a legend, has been fired and will probably never work in radio again. I can understand people being angry about what he said, but I don't understand why the racial rabblerouser preachers Jackson and Sharpton had to step in, both of them have their own extremely checkered past, which for whatever reason the black community (and basically everyone else) ignores. That sort of thing is what I expect from Jackson, but I like Rev Al and feel bad that he'd do this just to get his name in the papers (what other motivation could he have?). He's never going to be president, but his brand of "straight talk" made McCain look like any other politician in 2004. The Rev really could be a leader in the Democratic party if he gave up this kind of shit.

Imus has been in the radio game forever and can probably be credited, more than anyone else, with making William Jefferson Clinton the President of the United States in '92, again, the man's a legend. What he said was wrong, there's no getting around that, though a lot of the whole debate is lost on people. His statements mirror prejudices/fears/insecurities that have long existed among African American women and are understandably offensive to the black community as a whole.

Off Wing Opinion, one of my favorite hockey blogs, had an interesting offering from Jason Whitlock that almost led me to blog on the topic. Witlock had this to say:
While we’re fixated on a bad joke cracked by an irrelevant, bad shock jock, I’m sure at least one of the marvelous young women on the Rutgers basketball team is somewhere snapping her fingers to the beat of 50 Cent’s or Snoop Dogg’s or Young Jeezy’s latest ode glorifying nappy-headed pimps and hos.

I ain’t saying Jesse, Al and Vivian are gold-diggas, but they don’t have the heart to mount a legitimate campaign against the real black-folk killas.

The entire article is well worth your time and can be found here. As I said, I was going to sit out this discussion, but then I saw a quote from Snoop Dogg on the fat, pink haired freak's website. Snoop, who regularly raps about "bitches" and ho's" had this to say:
"It's a completely different scenario. (Rappers) are not talking about no collegiate basketball girls who have made it to the next level in education and sports. We're talking about hoes that's in the 'hood that ain't doing shit, that's trying to get a nigga for his money. These are two separate things. First of all, we ain't no old-ass white men that sit up on MSNBC going hard on black girls. We are rappers that have these songs coming from our minds and our souls that are relevant to what we feel. I will not let them muthafuckas say we are in the same league as him. Kick him off the air forever."
Are. You. Serious? I love hip hop and will defend it to my death (or its death if you don't believe Nas that its already dead). There are a lot of really good, positive rappers out there who have a message that society should be hearing. Hip hop still serves as "Black people's CNN" like Chuck D said, but there is so much crap out there that, as Whitlock points out, is so much more insulting to black women. Snoop, I'm not putting you in the same league as Imus, you and your brethren are clearly in a league of your own. If you, being a black man, are able to make your living by "going hard" on black girls record after record, why can't Imus make one statement, especially because he at least makes a distinction, one that is never clear in Snoop's songs.

This is the definition of a double standard, but nobody cares. The white a&r's and presidents of record labels don't care because its bringing in the money, the rappers don't care because its bringing in the money, but why is it okay? Why is it wrong for Imus to say this on the am dial when you can here so many worse insults against black women on the fm side of the dial?


I Told Ya So/Another China moment...

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about guide dogs in China and the reasons why the program would not work. However when I wrote that I never expected my concerns would become problems so quickly, yet that appears to be exactly what happened. A recent article from China Daily shows that Shanghai's plans on training guide dogs has hit a major stumbling block.

One of the main problems are the laws, which don't have a clause in them like in the US and Europe allowing guide dogs access to all public places. The article states that "city laws that ban dogs from streets, parks and public transport could prevent the guide dogs from carrying out their duties." Hmm, didn't anybody think of this ahead of time? The Shanghai Association for the Disabled representative is confident those laws can be amended to allow guide dogs public access, but I wouldn't be so sure. Even if they do change the laws, without enforcement in every case, the law is meaningless.

What you need more than anything is to promote knowledge. At the end the article talks about free white canes, but the problem is so few people actually know that those mean the user is blind. There is also the need to promote safe usage of canes and getting around amongst the blind. Oh well, like a lot of things in China, what is seen as most important is racing to catch up, in this case by having guide dogs like the rest of the world, instead of having a solid plan that is people-centric.


The Things You Find When Cleaning...

Ahead of my "possible impending move," my mother's been bugging me to come by and help her clean the basement a bit. The basement at my parent's house is a big, huge black hole of assorted crap, it was going to be daunting going through my (and some of my brother's) stuff, though it was certainly interesting. Stacks and stacks of old books, letters from loves long since forgotten, the odd school assignment, tchotchkes from trips, and the type of things most commonly cherished by any red blooded Midwestern male, sports related items: sports cards, old ticket stubs, programs, and magazines. Amongst all that stuff was this:
old issue of Sports IllustratedIf you can't see it clearly enough, this issue was from August 15, 1988, which will mean the opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympics will be held almost 20 years to the date that this issue came out (as previously discussed here and here). Most likely my brother saved this issue not because of the China content, but because it also includes an article on the Cub's first ever night game. In any case, the issue offers over 50 pages specifically on China.

Kaiser Kuo's great blog (Ich Bin Ein Beijinger) recently included an entry based on a diplomat's prediction of where China will be in 2025. At the end of that blog, Kaiser states:
"Cynical as I can be, nothing here strikes me as preposterous. 2025 is 18 years out still, and when I look back 18 years--funny what year that lands you at--only a complete nutcase would have foreseen the China I live in today."
As true as that is for China as a whole, its even truer when talking about sporting China. When the authors who wrote the articles for Sports Illustrated in 1988 imagined China 20 years on, the idea that the same city they were based in then (Beijing) would be hosting the Olympics in 20 years, or that in newsstands throughout the city a Chinese version of Sports Illustrated could be found, or that Chinese athletes would be playing and excelling in the United States (Yao) and throughout Europe (a handful of soccer players, namely Zheng Zhi and Sun Xiang), the authors would have been laughing hysterically. Even from the first page what shocked me was the 2 captions to the 3 pictures featured on those pages, the first:
"Two truths about sports in China: Most citizens get their exercise on the job, as this bicycling bicycle man does, and there are few indigenous athletic activities."

and the second:
"there are outdoor hoops wherever one looks in China, but the author saw none of them in use."
The pictures that went with the first caption showed a guy riding a bike near Tiananmen Square on a 3 wheeled cart piled up with kids bikes and a kid doing a headstand against a wall. The second caption showed a makeshift hoop over a grass court in what seemed like a rural setting.

Today, none of those things that were true in '88 are still true, sporting activities abound, very few people actually bike to work anymore, and there can't be enough public hoops in China. The amazing changes that have taken place in the Chinese sports world, the development of domestic basketball and soccer leagues that have a high level of competitiveness and a baseball league that is slowly coming along, domestic heroes in "big ball" sports and even a domestic track star. This year the Women's World Cup will come to Guangzhou and I'd be willing to lay down some money that men's version in 2018 will be in China. Oh yeah, did I mention that little thing with the 5 rings that's going to happen in Beijing next year?

Yet despite all these great successes, the articles do hit at a problem that, 20 years on, still exists. The focus is still on the elite few who are talented enough that they can make a career out of sports, have the money to, and receive their parent's support. Of course in a culture that so highly values educational achievement and where kids are pushed to study every waking moment of the day, parental support for athletics is hard to come by. For China to truly grow as a sporting nation, there needs to be a real revolution in youth sporting programs where people are allowed to develop and won't get discouraged if they aren't showing promise by the age of 5-7.

We'll just have to see what the next 20 years have in store for China...

Argh, Matey! On Chinese Brands...

Quick quiz, who is the more dangerous pirate?
pirate picture
guy selling DVDs on the streetLong long ago, on a planet far, far away (otherwise known as Xanga), I wrote about a Fortune article which talked about China's counterfeiters and the famous Italian clothing brand, Zegna. Through the magic that is Google, I can find the title, but have yet to be able to find a version, that said the title is, "China's Cheap Fakes Driving West Up the Wall." The article discussed one member of the Zegna family's surprise when he saw clothing with his family's name on them in China. The surprise wasn't that counterfeiters would fake Zegna clothing, it was at the quality of the fakes. While the fake Zegna pants couldn't be sold for US$250 or so like a real pair, the fabric, stitching, etc was of good quality and could garner a high price if branded properly (ie not as a fake product).

Anyways, thoughts of that long ago article and post came back to me when I saw Saturday's NY Times article that spells out an upcoming attack on piracy in China. When it comes to pirated goods, I'm more of a cd/dvd guy, I love clothes, but its more about the quality than anything, something you just aren't getting when buying the fake stuff. I can't understand the fairer sex's obsession with buying Vuitton,Gucci, Burberry etc purses, either you lay out a whole lotta cash to have a bag that looks the same as everyone elses (who got a fake that was 100 times cheaper) or you buy the fake which only fools people from a distance and ends up falling apart after a month or two (why am I humming Kanye's "All Falls Down" as I write this?).

I guess I'm ruining my own argument with the above discussion, but still, back on topic. The reality is that when it comes to the fake clothing you see at the new Xiushui (ie "Silk Alley") or Hongqiao (ie the "Pearl Market") or Xiangyan (though I guess it doesn't exist anymore, so where do Shanghainese and foreigners go to buy their fakes?) are, like the Zegnas, of pretty decent quality. If instead of slapping a Zegna tag on the clothing and instead throwing on some Chinese name, spending some money on marketing, and selling them in decent department stores across China, that person could make considerably more money than they would on those fake goods.

Trying to stop piracy in China is nearly impossible, period. Its funny to walk around Xiushui
and see a copy of a court order (can't remember what court it was) declaring that fake goods couldn't be sold and would be punishable by law in the upper corner of every stall and still see the stalls packed with fake goods. When Giorgio Armani was in China, he bought a fake Armani watch and took it as a "compliment" that they would make such good fakes of his goods. He didn't see it as a threat, at least he didn't say so publicly. More brands should take a nod from Armani and let everyone do their own thing. At the same time, if some in China stopped wasting their time on counterfeiting Western brands and started working on building their own domestic brands, it might be possible to make a lot of money and kill 2 birds with 1 stone.

Then again, when it comes to Armani and his watches, the damage is far less than for a Burberry or Vuitton where everyone carrying the bag has thus "cheapened" it and taken away the "status symbol" aspect of it. When the high paid woman worker walks into her office with a (real) Burberry purse, she doesn't want to see every secretary walk in with a similar looking (fake) Burberry purse. Ahh, the problem that just won't go away...

ps: If you made it this far, sorry for the bad pirate jokes!


Of Interest to Chicago Foodies...

I used to really love the Movable Feast blog when it was updated on a regular basis, now posting our sporadic, but still can get my attention. Today, there was an announcement for a molecular gastronomy seminar led by Herve This. Its to take place this Saturday, check out Movable Feast for more information.


Sunday Photo Thread: Happy Easter/Go Leafs Go-Go Devils-Depression Edition

view from the PeakHong Kong - May 2002

HKSB buildingHong Kong - May 2002

around Liu Shaoqi's houseShaoshan, Hunan - June 2002


Modern Man, Modern Theater 21st Century Style

I have "come out" (if you want to say it like that) and admitted having a "man crush" on Xia Yu. Now, everyone who knows me knows that I'm your average red blooded American (Chinese) and that I am, most definitely, straight, but for whatever reason, in this day and age, these "crushes" are considered acceptable. Even GQ told me so!

Well, Xia's performing in a play at the (Modern?) Poly Plaza, called "Glamerous Encounters." He's costarring in this performance with the actress Gao Yuanyuan and it should be a very interesting show examining relationships in today's urban China. Like a lot of modern Chinese theater, this show is going to have an extremely short run, only going from April 5-15.

This topic also brings up the interesting question of the state of theater today. Unlike going to the movies, going to the theater is seen by most as a very cultural experience and a rare thing. However, in reality, things haven't always been this way, the theater was a place for culture, but it was also about entertainment in an era before tv and movies. So while the impression of the theater is about "getting culture," today it tends to go to the opposite extreme. It has become less about the show and more about celebrity actors and musicians. Much like what's going on in Hollywood, the theater seems bereft of any new ideas. There are those few shining, hidden gems, but for the most part, what's coming from Broadway and the West End is pure tosh.


Starbucks in Beijing - A Look at the Different Locations

Those that know me or are regular readers of this blog know that I have a terribly cheesy and also very sarcastic sense of humor. This post is probably going to be another example of that, but hopefully it can elicit one or two smiles. Wang Jian Shuo, one of my great influences, once did a Starbucks tour around Beijing, visiting a number of the outlets in one day, I've done a similar tour, but I drove myself crazy trying to figure out how to use the wirless internet at Starbucks in Beijing, going from Starbucks to China Telecom back to a different Starbucks trying to get answers as to how the hell ot do it, until I eventually found a brochure and realized how insane it was (not sure what the prices are today). He also does a good job taking a look at the best of Shanghai's Starbucks without the same sarcasm that I apply when looking at those in Beijing.

I like Starbucks from time to time, for one, its sort of comforting to know the drink I'm getting in Beijing is the same as what I'd get in Paris or Chicago or anywhere else. I know some hate this and me being all about locally sourced ingredients and sustaining communities should hate this, but it is comforting at times. In China, it also serves as a really great place to meet for almost any purpose or a place to stop and right, or just sit down and relax for awhile.

According to Starbucks' website, there are outlets in 20 different cities in China, with the 2nd most (54) in Beijing (Shanghai has the most with 89, and I swear, from almost any point in Shanghai, if you walk 10 minutes in any direction, its damn near impossible not to end up coming across a Starbucks). While I haven't been to all of the Beijing Starbucks, I've been to many of them, and these are my observations (feel free to offer your own suggestions on nicknames):
-The "Most Controversial Starbucks Ever" Starbucks - Forbidden City

-The "secret" Starbucks - basement of Grand Pacific Plaza, Xidan

-The "always packed, only good for carryout 1" Starbucks - Zhongyou, Xidan

-The "BIG" Starbucks - Parksons, Fuxingmen

-The "only because there are no good seats at RBT" Starbucks - New World, Chongwenmen

-The "I Hate Starbucks because I blame it for closing down my beloved Cosmo" Starbucks - Lotus Lane, Shichahai

-The "tiny" Starbucks 1 - JianGuoMen, Scitech Office Building

-The "foreign businessman's" Starbucks - Guomao

-The "I'm so sad it closed down/Starbucks with the best view" otherwise known as the "heavenly" Starbucks - across from East Church, Wangfujing

-The "why the hell am I here?" Starbucks - basement of XinDongAn, Wangfujing

-The "free wireless internet" otherwise known as the "always packed, only good for carryout 2" Starbucks - DongFang GuangChang, Wangfujing

-The "tiny" Starbucks 2 - Kerry Center

-The "tourists" Starbucks - Friendship Store

-The "how does it stay in business?" Starbucks - Time Square, Xidan

-The "Chinese diplomat's" Starbucks - Full Link Plaza, Chaoyangmen

-The "ESL teaching center" Starbucks otherwise known as the "student's" Starbucks - Modern Plaza, across from Renda

-The "before/after drinking at Sanlitun" Starbucks - Pacific Century, Gongti Bei Lu

-The "empty" Starbucks otherwise known as "Chinese only" Starbucks 1 - Sogo, Xuanwumen

-The "empty" Starbucks otherwise known as "Chinese only" Starbucks 2 - Guiyou Mansion, Fangzhuang

-The "I went to Beijing and all I got you is this stupid Starbucks Cup" Starbucks - International Terminal, Capital Airport

-The "I got here on time but as usual the flight is delayed by 3 hours but I don't want to get hammered" Starbucks - Terminal 1, Capital Airport

-The "foreign wives club" Starbucks - Lido Hotel

-The "I came up from the subway and want coffee" Starbucks - Guiyou, Jianguomenwai

-The "new Starbucks on the block" Starbucks - China Resourses Center, Jianguomen

Sunday Photo Thread: Champions League Quarterfinal/2 Day's Late Edition

courtyard restaurantCourtyard Restaurant, Beijing : April 2006

inside the courtyard galleryCourtyard Gallery, Beijing - April 2006

fangtaiFengtai District, Beijing - April 2006