The Good Side of Shanghai

Though it should be common knowledge that nobody around A Modern Lei Feng is a big fan of Shanghai, we've all had to spend more time than we wish in that Whore of the East. Therefore, despite all the negative aspects the city drums up in our minds, there are some positives and they almost all revolve around the food.

After a recent weekend in Shanghai, there was much to celebrate, especially because the city isn't experiencing the same hazy hangover that exists in Beijing. We're a big lover of Fomo for their spicy crawfish (and from the lines, it seems like much of Shanghai is as well), but now its made even better because we are in CRAB SEASON! Despite the New York Times less than positive review of Shanghai's famous hairy crabs, but its almost impossible to screw them up and they are almost always delicious.

Alongside the crabs, Shanghai's xiaolongbao are always a major treat. In Beijing, its an unfortunate choice between Ding Tai Fung, totally overpriced and overrated, and the only good when absolutely desperate for a fix Yi Pin Xiaolong, but Shanghai is overflowing with options. Of course it has its own branch of Ding Tai Fung, but who goes to Shanghai to eat dumplings from a Taiwanese chain restaurant that aren't that good?

For my money, the 8 kuai steamer of xiaolongbao at Wang Jia Sha top what you can get at Ding Tai Fung and you save over RMB30. Nanxiang is ever famous, mainly for its Yu Garden location and is by far the best option for dumplings, though the line is always long (and no other Nanxiang serves the crab xiaolong, an absolute must!). Crystal Jade is another entry in the high-end xiaolongbao sweepstakes, but having eaten there twice, I'm left with no impression of them, not a good thing. And while Jia Jia Tang Bao receives high praise from our Shanghai correspondent, I've yet to stop in there, perhaps (shudder!) on the next Shanghai sojourn, a trip will be made.


Thanks For Nothing...

While watching the Paralympics, either in the venues or on tv, something very odd occurred to me. Thanks to my journalist credentials, I was sitting in the media area during the Opening Ceremonies and so could watch the tv footage as well as seeing it live right in front of me. On tv and in the stadium there was a sign language interpreter for anyone who was deaf. During the rest of the Games, there was sign language interpretation during all Paralympic broadcasts on Chinese television. Perhaps this may not seem unusual to you, but let me clue you in to 2 things:

1. There was none of this during these same Chinese stations broadcasts during the Olympics
2. Deaf athletes do not take part in the Paralympics

CCTV must have thought that deaf people wouldn't be interested in watching the Olympic Opening Ceremonies and so therefore didn't offer sign language interpretation or subtitles. While I applaud the efforts of inclusion during the Paralympics, the whole concept just seems strange. It seems to imply the deaf, and to expand it, the disabled, would only be interested in disabled sports. The whole thing just seemed kind of stupid...


The Empty Nest

So the Olympics and Paralympics are now over and the amazingly beautiful (and expensive) Bird's Nest, known officially as the Naitonal Stadium, sits empty. It is sure to be a major tourist attraction during the upcoming National Day holiday and will certainly be visited by Chinese and foreigners for years to come. Even after the Paralympics, tourist buses were pulling up to the perimeter and letting people off to get photos of the over $420 million entrancing architecture.

That's all well and good, but what about inside the stadium? The talk was originally that Beijing's Chinese Super League team, Beijing Guoan could use the stadium after the Games. Guoan, which has used Worker's Stadium (Gongti) since its inception in the 90s, was moved to Fengtai Stadium last year as minor renovations prevented them from using Gongti. The thing is, even at the height of their popularity, Guoan never sold out Gongti and in recent years is lucky to get over 20,000 per game. This was bad enough in Gongti, which holds 70,000, but would look a lot worse in the Bird's Nest, which can hold an additional 20,000.

Therefore, despite all the talk that Guoan would move into the Bird's Nest after the Olympics, it should come as no surprise when it was announced today that it is unlikely that the move will take place. It appears that for any event to come close to making money at the Bird's Nest, it needs to have an attendance of over 30,000. Anything under that and it's unlikely that the Bird's Nest will be considered as a venue. Also, there is still the (stupid) feeling that the Bird's Nest should only be used for large and unique sporting and cultural events.

While tickets will be sold to the Olympic Green during National Day and expectations are for over 80,000 visitors per day to get up close to the Nest, they won't be going inside. The Bird's Nest should not sit empty waiting to host another "large" event, hopefully it won't become an albatross along the lines of the Olympic Stadium in Montreal.


What Happens When Face is No Longer Important?

The Paralympics ended last week with another huge fireworks display, the London bus, and great (but less) fanfare. A lot of preparations were made for the Paralympics to guarantee that Beijing, a city that is far from accessible, would be improved. Ramps were put up outside of many large buildings that were previously inaccessible, wheelchair lifts were added to older subway stations on Line 1 and 2, and even new taxis that brought a flavor of London to Beijing streets could be seen riding the roads. The Paralympics Opening Ceremony included the most inspiring and unbelievable athletic display of the past month, more than the Redeem Team, more than Phelps swimming, more than Bolt's running, Hou Bin pulling himself up to the top of the Bird's Nest WHILE IN A WHEELCHAIR was truly amazing.

The torchbearer before Hou Bin was Ping Yali, a visually impaired Beijinger who has been discussed on this blog before. She is one of China's first guide dog users, but has faced a lot of problems in her desire to use the dog in public over the past year. During the Olympics/Paralympics period from July 20-September 20, public regulations allowed guide dogs to go around freely, however now that September 20 has passed, the rules are dropped and the unclear regulations leave her and her guide dog's fate in limbo. The law that is supposed to protect guide dog users is unclear and has regularly been enforced against her, forcing her guide dog to be kept away from the public.

The story of Ping Yali is just one of the many stories about ignored opportunities. Before the Games, Sir Philip Craven, head of the IPC, kept mentioning that it wasn't so much that Beijing had to get ready for the Paralympics, but it was about the lasting impression the Games left on the people of the city. While foreigners (and paying customers) might grumble about the unbelievable number of free tickets distributed to employees of Chinese companies and schools and others may just say that filling the stands was an issue of face, there is a positive to it. Sure, it was shocking to see that the goalball venue was more full during the Paralympics than it was for women's volleyball during the Olympics, though it was entirely full of students decked out in military garb, taking a break from their pre-freshman year military training. This can be seen as a good thing and used as a positive PR move by the government. The government, by encouraging these people to attend, gave able bodied people the chance to see the disabled as more than pitiful individuals, instead as regular people who can achieve great athletic success. Hopefully, it was a positive step in understanding of the disabled in China.

As much as one would like to believe that, the fact that Ping Yali's guide dog is unlikely to see the streets of Beijing again makes one think negatively. Many of the temporary ramps that were put in place have already been taken away. Brand new wheelchairs that were provided to Chinese team members ahead of the Paralympics Opening Ceremonies were going to be taken away from them by the Chinese Disabled Persons Federation, until a last minute decision was reached to allow them to keep the chairs.

China prepared itself for the Paralympics, it made itself ready to impress foreign visitors and to leave a lasting, positive impression in their minds. Now that they are all headed back to their home countries, China has saved face, it appears now things will return to the way they were, unfortunately.

The Insanity of the Palin Pick, Redux

From the Editors:

When an entry on Sarah Palin, McCain's VP pick, was originally proposed, we figured "what the hell", we'll go with it. We are all varying degrees of liberal here and none of us like Palin, so despite this blog generally being focused on China, we figured it was time to join in on the Palin pile-on.

The "correspondent" who wrote the entry may not have been wholly clear in what she said, but we still support the gist of her argument. The Palin pick feels like a bad reality TV show, "Who Wants to Be America's Next Vice President." What makes it even scarier is the fact that John McCain's health is what you'd expect of a septuagenarian, that is to say, it's day to day. If elected, one wonders if his health will keep him in good enough shape to make it through four years in the White House, making his Vice Presidential choice absolutely important.

We respect and appreciate everyone who comments and emails us, both in support of an entry and opposing the views of an entry. The "Insanity of the Palin Pick" entry has caused a bit of an uproar, perhaps mainly due to the writer not being clear enough.

We have nothing against people from small towns, people who attended community/junior colleges, mediocrity, graduates of the University of Idaho, or hockey moms (we definitely have nothing against hockey moms, one of us is a proud product of a great hockey moms and hockey families sacrifice a lot for their children). We don't even have anything against people who'd name their kids Track, Piper, and Trig.

Sarah Palin was mayor of a tiny town in Alaska for 6 years and has been Governor of Alaska for less than 2 years. This, to us, is not enough experience for someone who would literally be a heartbeat away from sitting in the Oval Office. Her previous career was as a sports reporter for a TV station. Is this the person you want staring down Putin or Hu Jintao? Is this the person you want in charge of a nuclear arsenal? While Obama doesn't have overwhelming "experience", he has spent many years being a servant of his community, in one way or another. Yes, Joe Biden is from Delaware, hardly considered an important state, but his career in public service has lasted almost as long as Palin has been on this earth.

The Bush years brought the nation down to a new low, it showed that we would accept mediocrity in the White House if it was packaged right. We don't think the qualities we listed above (ie being from a small town, being a hockey mom, even being a graduate of the University of Idaho) disqualify anyone from being Vice President (or even President). As we said, one of our mothers was a wonderful hockey mom, but that doesn't make us think she'd be a good pick for VP. Looking at Sarah Palin and her pitiful credentials for the job, it makes it obvious there is one reason John McCain picked her, because she is a woman. It seems Palin was one of the few, if not the only, young female Republicans around, and so McCain, weary of picking a Libby Dole or Kay Bailey and thus being identified as the AARP ticket, chose the only young female, even though she was completely unqualified.


Never Forget 9/18...

Since we started to blog, on blogspot, on sina, or before that on wordpress, there are a few annual posts that are included every year and while this year circumstances prevented it from going up on the right day, it isn't because we forgot. The invasion of China and the brutality of the Japanese is something that is often overlooked overseas. Even with the release of movies like "Nanjing", it is still not an issue that gets enough play and too often foreigners don't understand why Chinese are so sensitive when it comes to issues of Japan, yet there are large swaths of the Japanese population that deny (or don't even know) the atrocities their nation committed during World War II. What makes it worse is that this policy is often one that has the support of the government. We must never forget the Holocaust, we must also never forget the slaughter that Japan perpetrated on China, that all began on 9/18/1931.


The Insanity of the Palin Pick

Two weeks have passed since John McCain made his wacky choice for the Vice Presidential candidacy and I still feel the same as I did when I first heard about it. Sarah Palin, the former mayor of a tiny town of Alaska and current governor of that state, is so totally unqualified for the position of Vice President that it's almost laughable, if not for the fact it could become a reality.

I think its safe to say that the lads at A Modern Lei Feng are bigtime Obama fans and have showed it through our time and our money (one of our former editors even gave up working overseas to return to the US for a campaign staff position). However, McCain is highly respected in these parts for his "straight talk", his common sense approach to policy, and for his generally moderate (and definitely not religiously influenced) beliefs. His views on Iraq differ with mine (and the others), but he's a soldier himself and wouldn't mindlessly risk American lives like the current President. I would never vote for John McCain, but I wouldn't have minded seeing him become President, until that is, I found out who his VP pick was.

Sarah Palin is a running joke. The governor of the least important state in the Union and a politician that nobody ever heard of. She has family issues that would be suitable for an episode of Jerry Springer and to steal a line from Tommy Boy:
Tommy: "a lot of peole take 7 years to graduate college"
Richard: "yeah, moron, they're called doctors"
Not to mention the fact that a number of those years were spent at community colleges. McCain has a degree from the Naval Academy, Obama was editor of Harvard's Law Journal and Biden also has a law degree. Palin? She has a degree from the University of Idaho. Oh yeah, there's also her current ethical problems and her "I was for it before I was against it" stance on the bridge to nowhere.

Palin would like us to leave her family out of it, McCain is going to incredible lengths to push the media to stop talking ab out her pregnant daughter yet Palin is more than happy to trot out her handicapped son or the fact her oldest is shipping off to Iraq.

There is nothing wrong with the family issues that Palin is dealing with or her education or the fact that she is just so absolutely average. She is the nation's first ever White Trash VP choice. She's more suited for a white trailer park than the White House. It seems obvious that the sole factor that influenced McCain's decision is the fact she is a woman (though Kay Bailey Hutchinson is a woman and a hell of a lot more impressive) and really the only GOP woman kicking. Perhaps it is elitist of me and exactly what would be expected of us "liberal Democrats", but Palin's commonness is what scares me the most. She is truly a hockey mom who looks, acts, and talks like she was plucked out of the stands. She isn't intelligent, she doesn't have any legitimate experience, and she definitely isn't the one I want to be a heartbeat away from the Oval Office, especially when considering McCain's age and health. This isn't "America's Next Top Vice President", not everyone should be (or should have the opportunity) to be so, so close to being leader of the free world. Hopefully, the American people will recognize this and McCain will get crushed in November.

Waking Up From a Hangover

From July 13, 2001 until August 8, 2008, the entire focus of the Chinese was on one singular event, the Olympics. With the close of those Games, and then the Paralympics, Beijing seems lost. Its a little like the college student who graduates with a degree in English. A lot of work went into getting the degree, then the final preparations, the partying, the graduation ceremony, more parties, and now....He's left with his degree and his hangover facing the rest of his life. Beijing feels the same way right now. The mission has been accomplished, but nobody knows what comes next. As the city eases into fall, by far the most beautiful season, the cutting chill of the early morning breeze suddenly wakes you up, but you have nowhere to go.

The World Expo in Shanghai in 2010 is being pushed as a big event, but it pails in comparison to the Olympics. China is certain to go after the 2018 World Cup, but that's still 10 years away. With a chill in the air will the fall bring with it a depression that there's nothing to look forward to or will it be a relieved sense of joy that Beijing is now the host of the previous Olympic Games, a Games that was, overall, incredibly successful.