The Price Is Wrong, Bitch!

So another morning in Shenzhen, it went from being a very bareable day temperature wise to a torrental downpour in 10 minutes or so and now I'm stranded at Starbucks instead of in the office...

Anyways...We've talked about problems with customer service in China before and I believe everyone, Chinese or not, are familiar with these issues. We've also previously discussed some of the cultural stereotypes about Chinese people and how they are often inaccurate. The other day dealing with the minority nightmare that is Topway, these 2 points were brought home to me in a very obvious way.

Anyone who has spent an extended period in China (or just a brief amount of time in areas like Wangfujing or Nanjing Dong Lu) is aware of the phenomenon of the public fight and the tendency of people to hover towards "re nao" or the commotion. There is the occassional late night fight between drunken men, but typically these "fights" involve a middle age woman and her boyfriend/husband, but can occur anywhere you find middle age women (35-65?). This includes on the street, on buses, in stores, and most commonly in service centers. I started to think about this when, on one of my many trips to Topway, I witnessed just such a spat. A woman, probably in her late 50s, was bitching out the staff, if it was a street setting, she would have been surronded by people who would have been watching, offering comments to friends, and generally commentating on the scenario. However in this sort of office setting, everyone had to pretend like they were ignoring it and busying themselves with other things while at the same time straining (not that one really had to strain to hear the shouting) to hear the argument.

I don't know what about Chinese women makes them so succeptible to these sort of outburts, but they are surprisingly common. Has anybody else witnessed such tiffs or have similar observations or am I just crazy? The title from this is an homage from a great movie, something I was reminded of in an interview with Bob Barker in Esquire, a classic clip from that classic scene follows:


Where in the World Is A Modern Lei Feng?

A wise blogger once said there are two things a blogger should never post about, whenever he updates his blog and excuses for why he hasn't been blogging. I'm going to break that rule here though...I'm now half way around the world, leaving the comforts of my US home and in the middle of the daily grind to return to the motherland, though I'm far away from what I know, stuck in Shenzhen. From this new vantage point, I will be able to offer plenty of insight and an examination of a new city, as I discover Shenzhen, perhaps my readers, who at this point can probably be counted on 1 hand, will discover it with me. Unfortunately, at the present time, Topway still hasn't deemed it necessary to follow through and actually come and hook up my internet, so things will be infrequent and I'll be coming to you live from the nearest Starbucks, hopefully this will be rectified soon and I'll be back to more regular entries. Thank you to all who've stayed patient and I hope you'll continue checking back despite the total lack of new content in recent weeks, thanks!!!

-Modern Lei Feng


Girl Power

There has been no mp3 post in awhile, so I was going to make this one about the excellent girl's rock band, Hang on the Box. However, like a lot of "underground" (if you want to call it that) rock music in China, the web doesn't exactly have a ton of their songs and I felt too lazy to upload them to a server. Hehe, it would also allow me to include their great opus, "For Some Stupid Cunt on a BBS," but at this point I can honestly say I'm no longer bitter, isn't it amazing??? Me? Not bitter? What is going on with the world?

So then what is the exact opposite of these punk girls: Hang on the Box
these pop tarts: S.H.E.
So here's the music:

S.H.E. - Superstar

This is one of the few Chinese songs that I listen to and it kind of gets me pumped up, the sort of thing I'll play before a game. Makes me want to play and be someone's superstar. It is the one song of S.H.E.'s that I actually really like.

S.H.E. - 我爱你 : S.H.E. - I Love You

This is a decent song and it has a similar feeling as Superstar, kind of gives the feeling it isn't written by someone who is heavily influence by the traditional pop music of the Chinese market (I know Superstar was written by a German producer, not sure about this song, but it wouldn't surprise me).

S.H.E. - 他还是不懂 : S.H.E. - He Still Doesn't Understand
This has the maddening trend in Taiwanese songs of starting out with a Japanese (Korean?) speaking voice at the very start. This is a decent, typical Chinese pop song.

S.H.E. - 不想长大 : S.H.E. - Don't Want To Grow Up
This is the nightmare that occurs when pop music goes wrong, a disaster....

China's Hottest New Restaurants?

This month saw the release of 2 magazines with lists on top restaurants, the Conde Nast Traveller's Hot List (which only includes new restaurants) and Food and Wine's Go List. Well, let's go straight to the lists:

Food and Wine:
Beijing - Han Cang, Lan Club, Mei Mansion, Qu Nar, Shan Zhai, S'Silk Road, Hazara
Shanghai - Chuan, Guyi Hunan, Laris, Lost Heaven, T8 Restuarant, Whampoa Club, Indalo, Sun with Aqua

Conde Nast:
Beijing - Lan Club, Green T. House Living, Jaan, JiuMen XiaoChi
Shanghai - Ai Mei

There are a number of Hong Kong restaurants on both lists, but since I am not familiar with that city, don't want to go into it too much. However, both HK lists feature outposts of top restaurants, both include Nobu while one goes with Joel Robuchon, the other goes with Pierre Gagniare. Also, Conde Nast lists Il Teatro, one of the restaurants in Steve Wynn's new Macau casino.

The first thing that is noticable about the Conde Nast list is the lack of Shanghai restaurants. Don't know what it looked like last year, but I'm wondering if this Beijing-centric list has anything to do with the leadup to the Olympics and a (temporary?) switch from Shanghai to Beijing as China's hottest city. Continuing with Conde Nast's traditional preference for hotel restaurants (why is this the case anyways?), it includes 2 of them (Ai Mei and Jaan). There is also the shock pick of JiuMen Xiaochi, a tiny place that doesn't sound 1. very new or 2. unique from any of the other small, hidden places around Beijing. And then there's the inclusion of the newest branch of the Green T. House, which, like the original, is far more about show and interior design than the most important thing when it comes to a restaurant, the FOOD! It is fusion that has gone out of hand.

Both lists include Lan Club and I think with good reason. It is the first real "bigtime" restaurant in Beijing, a huge Phillipe Starck design where it seems more about the design than the food, though the food is still pretty good. Plus, it is one of the few top restaurants with such an impressive room that has a Chinese chef in the kitchen. Note to Green T. House, this is how you do fusion!

As for the Food and Wine list, it struck me that it was a little focused on "On the Bund" and Xintiandi locations in Shanghai, however I was appreciative for the choice of Laris over the far more hyped (and not as tasty) Jean Georges. It's also interesting to note that the lists are heavily focused on minority (or foreign) cuisine.

Qu Nar is a decent choice, it has the appropriate buzz in that its owned by the famous artist Ai Weiwei. S'Silk Road was actually on Conde Nast's list the year it opened (2003?) and its remained a popular place (and a constant fall back when I'm in need of a good choice). Shan Zhai left me a little disappointed. True, it is a "Go List" and Shan Zhai definitely fits the bill as THE hot place in Beijing right now, with all the Chinese and expat scenesters lining up and hoping to catch a glimpse of the famed owner (who I'm not a fan of) Zhang Ziyi. While I hate Zhang Ziyi, the food was pretty good, especially for the price. Plus, its one of the only restaurants I know in China where all the produce is certified organic, a trend that will hopefully grow.

So has anyone out there dined at any of these places? Any complaints? I'd be especially curious about reactions to the Conde Nast list, are there any new restaurants that deserved to be on the list instead of their choices? Are they just filling a quota of Chinese restaurants or do they really match up to the top restaurants in major cities around the world that got on the list?


Sunday Photo Thread: Little Brother to the North Edition

Finally getting around to posting some photos from Toronto. Since I wasn't able to post yesterday, today's will be a "double feature," with lots of pics. Reflections from time spent up north are still in the works.

Toronto Dominion CentreToronto Dominion Centre
I was really surprised by this because it looks exactly like Chicago's Federal Plaza crammed together a bit more (I wanted to post a picture of Chicago, but for some reason it kept coming up on its side). Even the font on the signs are identical. Both are designs by Mies van der Rohe and are based on his design for the Seagram Building in NYC.

unbelievable mealI spent the entire week in Toronto eating Chinese food (I'm not complaining, everything was wonderful), but this meal truly stood out and I'd take it over a dinner at Susur any day of the week!

maple leaf gardensMaple Leaf Gardens
This temple to hockey's glorious past is still standing, though has been empty for many years, awaiting a new fate...

Eaton CentreDundas Square
I read in one guidebook that this is Toronto's version of Time Square or Piccadilly Circus. Eaton Centre is to the right and is HUGE and while this is a nice open space, it can hardly compete with those two "competitors."

BCE PlaceBCE Place
An office building, food court, and home of the Hockey Hall of Fame. This atrium is architectually very interesting.

Sitting on the rocks looking outCouple
While the weather was iffy for much of the trip, Sunday was absolutely beautiful and a good time was had walking around Scarborough Bluffs.

the bluffsanother shot at the Bluffs, I have been promised that next time I com, it will be just in season to see the leafs changing colors and the classic Canadian red maple leafs, I look forward to it!


On Politeness Part 2: Accessibility? Are. You Kidding. Me?

blog against disablism logoI signed up for the 2nd Annual Blogging Against Disablism Day and so here is my entry. Unlike most participants, this one is coming really late (its already May 2nd here in the midwest), but it does allow me to take a look at some of the other bloggers. Exactly which category this entry fits into is up in the air, perhaps like often happens, I'm unique and deserving of a category of my own. I've written a lot already on the topic of disability and will probably write a lot more, but I hope this entry will be somewhat unique.

The fact that this is happening (or supposed to happen) on May 1st is important. Though it isn't celebrated in America, May 1st is International Labor Day and celebrated all over the world. Over the years, it has been turned into a day to memoralize much more than the workers of the world, its become a day to put forth a number of Leftist causes (most recently, in the US its been used for immigration rights). To use this day to attack discrimination against the disabled is a great thing.

Yet, while posters right a lot about conditions in the US, the reality is that the problems that exist are more like "mole hills" in the face of conditions in other country. While I admit that the situation for the disabled in the US (and from recent experience Canada, and you could probably through the UK in there, too) are far from perfect, those nations are much closer to the goal of 100% accessibility than in most places. The "mole hills" I talk about may be small, but they certainly aren't insignificant, however in the greater scheme of things, how significant are they really? The focus of this post is going to be one of those other places, the main focus of this blog, China.

A rough estimate would put accessibility in most large US cities at a minimum of 60%, and in most cases much higher. That is a drastic difference from China where, best case scenario, it might be close to 25%. Let's break it down:
  • Transportation: in China there are very few (if any) accessible bus stops and its the same with subways. There is no special transportation for disabled users. Anyone with a disability (including deafness) is barred from getting a driver's license. For the mobility impaired, there are special scooter/motorcycles that they can drive. Accessibility - (a liberal) 2%
  • Education: so you found a way to get out of your house and you want to attend school, well, unless you can find a way to get in through the "back door" or have amazing test scores, the chances are minimal that you'll be able to attend a regular college (or high school for that matter). If you can't get in that way, then you're stuck going to a "special" university where you'll be forced into choosing between a very small number of majors. Accessibility - 25%
  • Work: Okay, so you got out of the house and you got an education, now you want a job. The difficulty is that even though you have an education, there are so many other people who have an education and don't have the same "problems" as the disabled. Employers will discriminate against you, but there is no law to protect you. There are certain fields or easy ins for the deaf and blind, but everyone else is basically screwed. Accessibility - 10%
  • Government Protection: Whether the Disabled Federation isn't willing to help or isn't able to help is an interesting question, but it really doesn't matter because at the end of the day, they can't help. The few laws that are in place to help the disabled are ignored, enforcement is non-existant, and nobody bothers to push or promote new laws.
So that's just a breakdown of a few of the main areas. I try to write on these matters not because I dislike China, its the exact opposite, I love the country so much, but these things are just so disheartening. The fact I finally have a job in the motherland and yet the person closest to me has no desire to go back because what they may face there really hurts. But the reality is I totally understand that thinking, I'm even worried about myself, how I will be treated when I get there.

As with what I said yesterday, the biggest problem is a total lack of compassion. Blame it on the age of the cities, blame it on the fact the cities are "poor," blame it on the fact there aren't that many disabled people to use the services (no doubt not becaue they don't exist, but because they can't get out of their homes), blame it on the Cultural Revolution; all of these things are important factors, but all of these things (with the exception of the last one) are things that other countries face and have gotten past. The "17 Hates" that I shared yesterday could probably be doubled when talking about the disabled, just some examples:
  • an arm amputee somehow was able to get the doctor to lie on the physical exam necessary before students start college, after 3 months of studying, the dean found out about the amputee, who by all accounts was thriving, but was kicked out of school because of their physical condition.
  • a national athlete, who happened to be blind, but was otherwise in perfect physical health was denied the insurance they needed to travel abroad because of their blindness, while many people who could see, but were in horrible physical shape are given insurance without even thinking.
  • as mentioned above, a deaf person cannot get a driver's license solely because of their lack of hearing.
  • those with mobility impairments often cannot get into "regular" universities and are forced to attend the "special" universities for the disabled, despite the fact that they require no accomodations other than possibly an elevator and a ramp.
But a few of the many, many examples that can be offered. So how does China change? It's through more and more interaction. NGOs that represent the disabled need to meet with the Chinese Disabled Federation, however they need to do so in a respectful, but firm manner. The ultimate example of what not to do is the NFB, who fail to do a lot in pushing the US government where 70% of blind people are unemployed or underemployed, but talk down to the Chinese disabled groups, where probably 70% of blind people are employed (but only have 2 or 3 career choices). Which is better? It takes those who are disabled and gone abroad to at least make an attempt at returning and working. It takes those who are non-disabled and seen how things work abroad to implement those foreign practices. It also takes those in China pushing the Disabled Federation more and more. Most of all, it takes a compassionate society, one that is willing to look beyond disability and look at what a person can do. One that is willing to help all people and isn't leaving millions of their fellow citizens behind. Modernization isn't only about big, fancy buildings and getting richer, its about implementing modern thinking.

While it is important to push for improved conditions in your own country, American (and Canada, and again, probably the UK) are heaven for the disabled, while many other countries are hellish. So take this day to complain (or I guess I should say, "highlight the conditions that need improvement where you are"), but also think about people everywhere else in the world and try to do something for the disabled elsewhere, too.