Archive – July 2006

My Illustrious Neighbors [ edit ]

July 31 2006 (20:05:00) US/Pacific ( 1 view )

My residential complex has two illustrious neighbors, both within a three minute walk. The first is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, pictured below. It sits overlooking the Second Ring Road.

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People have commented that it looks like a crematorium – or at least a storage space for ashes. On the inside of the Second Ring Road is the brand new headquarters of China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), China’s third largest oil company.

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CNOOC gained fame for bidding on Unocal, a US oil company, and later losing to Chevron.

CNOOC building’s form is intended to evoke “images of offshore oil production: the prow-like shape recalls an oil tanker’s bow and the tower elevated, above the ground on piloti, suggests an offshore oil derrick”.

You can read more about this new building at: http://www.danwei.org/architecture/cnooc_building_beijing.php

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Atkins out, Starvation in [ edit ]

July 31 2006 (09:22:00) US/Pacific ( 1 view )

A sweet, very thin, boy from Socal informed me that the cycling of fashions in weight-loss remedies has reached a logical point: starvation. This should never have been in doubt. No carbs? Give me a break. I follow it, but I’m often behind the times. This makes sense. The no carbs look makes you beefy and irritable. If you can’t go the whole way to death defying anorexia, this article offers an interesting perspective on how culture shapes our stomachs:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060730/ap_on_he_me/diet_eating_cue

It seems like another plot by the multinationals.

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China Daily, Valentine’s Day One Selections [ edit ]

July 31 2006 (05:45:00) US/Pacific ( 1 view )

The China Daily wins my heart like no other publication. They continually offer stories that break beyond the usual “policy entangled by rising price of oil” and “slumping sales take big toll” and, of course, they never ask“is China a threat?”

With a government that backs content like the following articles, how can China be a threat?

http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/citylife/2006-07/28/content_651743.htm

“Hu Deng, a psychologist from Renmin University of China, explains two reasons why such a phenomenon has become popular in recent years. The first is a psychological factor. Men usually have Oedipus complex when they are under the age of puberty, but it would become abnormal when they still hold such feelings in their twenties. Some of them are unwilling to take up their social responsibilities, and tend to rely on people older than themselves. The other factor is from the media. TV series advocate that husband is the first child of his wife, which deeply affect men’s psychological feelings.”

The new man will rely on a wife to ease him through the pangs of entering adulthood. He needs this because the growing-up process protracts further with each passing year. A thirty year old man in the developed world is still a child. The comforts of childhood ill prepare him for the life of responsibilities lying ahead. The materialistic, hedonistic life of early adulthood also does little to set the stage for the obligations and hardship that exist. The twin prisons of career and money, the, albeit still distant, risk of fatherhood, and the rest are unpleasant shocks that generally inspire in him a desire to scamper back into the womb. The protective female can help the new man negotiate this unpleasant process.

The following article shows why in a nation where over half the adult males smoke, women would be wise to grab the men while they’re young:

http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/english/doc/2006-02/17/content_521308.htm

The China Daily selects the best articles from the foreign press as well. The next article highlights a situation that I have long expected to be problematic. Prostitutes are just too expensive for the ordinary worker. So how do poor migrant workers find satisfaction? Some solutions are laid-out here as well, but this is a challenge demanding creativity. I recommend that my readers join in brainstorming solutions. The openness with which the China Daily discusses this reveal the more constructive, less repressed, attitude that Chinese society has toward sexual issues. This is a hopeful sign. I think their society will avoid many of the hang-ups and problems that we have in the West. My read on the situation is far too simple though. I’ll go into this at a later time.

http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2006-07/31/content_653070.htm

The following article also shows the conflict between traditional sexual mores and the new realities:

http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/english/doc/2006-02/15/content_520598.htm

And here is a piece on modesty or lack there of in Chinese women’s style of dress:

http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/citylife/2006-07/27/content_650863.htm

Today is Chinese Valentine’s Day. I have a conference call tonight and will not be able to do much to celebrate. Luckily there are two Chinese Valentine’s Days this year due to the lunar calendar, and one still remains. Read the following article to get an idea of the background of this holiday:

http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2006-07/31/content_653069.htm

Perhaps I belong at the China Daily. The pay must stink and the management is probably unreasonable, but at least I would handle and present interesting information. Or my site can offer running commentary on the most interesting articles appearing in the paper. If I worked for them, I believe I could present all of these issues in a way that better draws in Western audiences. It already seems to succeed in drawing me in, though.

I must work hard to find the position in life that best suits me, though, living in China, I feel too old to be saying this. Many Chinese are thinking of for retirement at fifty and feel that you should be well on your way by twenty-three. It’s always funny to visit a factory or meet the heads of a company and find a sixty-year old man being treated like some kind of elder. With a father who is approaching ninety and still active in his field, it is hard to take this sort of thing seriously. He is an encouraging figure.

But anyway, I must not succumb to the belief that I am too old, even if it seems that to be so lost in life is excessively immature. There must be some advantages that I possess. I must find a way to relocate to an industry with content that entertains me. Rather than just complaining about working and the necessity of being professional, I must identify those irritating features of this job that can actually be changed. It comes down to content. Only drones can sustain long-term interest in highly industry-specific subject matter or financial analysis. These things are gray and made of cement and glass. Though the subjects I investigate in this job can seem interesting at first, long-term involvement in any project is stifling. I fear that my unwillingness to go in-depth prevents me from succeeding.

On the positive side, the overall picture of the Chinese and global economies gained in this job is beneficial – more as general knowledge that as something I would want to pursue over the long term. It is useful to know about as a backdrop to other, more intriguing, happenings, rather than as a focus in itself. For those who would succeed in business here, those more intriguing happenings might involve a specific industry. For me, the examining the specific industry or an individual company is the really stultifying thing.

My challenges are identical to those of so many frustrated desk-workers around the developed world (in the developing world, the young are happy to land a white-collar position). The usual result must be realizing some time in the late twenties or early thirties that such is life and then bending down to accept the grind, and working hard to advance. The challenge confronting the multitude is the amount of effort and confidence required to make a jump into something less humdrum, dealing with interesting content. I only became aware of this challenge recently. My defiance toward the future may have stemmed from an implicit belief that my glamour, body, and style gave me a natural advantage in this struggle.

The fields that seem more interesting to me are the same ones that everyone wants to pursue due to their perceived glamour. They probably require even more effort, due to the competition, and with my thorough lack of a background in anything, it would be hard to enter them. Naturally, it is probably only an illusion that these other fields are more stimulating. Maybe the hope that there is something better out there is all that I need. A happy childhood crippled me. If only I could be designing Lego sets. A glance over my selections from the China Daily might also suggest that I am now becoming a sex-crazed teenager.

Maybe I’m just not a very unusual person and the only thing that distinguishes me is my refusal to accept a tedious life – a refusal that blocks the success of many others too. So it comes down to this same boring problem facing the suburbanites of the Western world. They either have to really strive to do something interesting or accept that they will live a life much like their parents. The problem for me is that I came from a background and grew up in an unconventional way. I never wanted to be a regular person in a job, concerned with economics, personal and global. It seemed to be assumed that I wouldn’t have to face this vexing future, the fate of normalcy.

This is punishment for all those years of not actively seeking something better and feeling that I was among the anointed. Now, I will have to break my head along with the suburban and bourgeois kids to think of some way to liberate myself from the grind. Those kids knew early on that they had to work hard to escape being a lawyer or corporate android, so they used their imaginations and applied themselves. Seclusion from the real world shielded me from the knowledge of the teleconference, memos, and overtime. My non-action plunged me into it, and now, too late, I must follow the tedious course that they followed. I even have to write pieces like this. Life for the last five years has brought one humiliation after another. Every Monday offers a new realization bringing me to my knees.

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Fetid Longings [ edit ]

July 30 2006 (03:38:00) US/Pacific ( 1 view )

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Grand and vague expectations bring miserable lives for mediocre human beings. Compromise brings happiness, but emotionally spoiled little boys reject it. Unbearable to myself and others, I stare out the window during my long exile. At nine, I concluded that life was useless, blaming my parents for bringing me into the world. For those who wouldn’t accept the meaninglessness, I felt disdain. In the fifteen or so years since I have not grown up. Over the last five years, I have achieved what I set my heart upon as a boy. My life has next to no reason for being, and I rarely enjoy it. I am simple, juvenile, and perpetually discontent. I scowl at the practical world around me, wishing for a foolish life. My fetid longings never evolve.

Longing for complexity, I make the most boring statements. Longing for interesting people and beauty, I live in the land of concrete, physical and spiritual. Longing for color, I am surrounded by gray. Longing to be an artiste in charming Europe, I write reports in a purgatory between corporate America and economically booming China.

I must achieve a life guided by competence and efficiency to achieve happiness.

They don’t teach how tedious life will be in school. There should be some kind of warning. It would have been so helpful to meet the 25 year old me back when I was 15.

Comments

You have accomplished what you set your heart on as a boy?
Posted by dalcibiades4 on 07/31/2006 10:41:03 PM

What of existentialism class with the illustrious Thomas Hodsdon. I think we got a bit into the dullness of existence in that class.
Posted by Pescatore on 08/04/2006 06:46:31 AM

The problem is that back then it seemed life was meaningless for everyone. I now know life is particularly boring and empty for me. Others are out achieving their dreams – or at least enjoying their youth.
Posted by stylites on 08/20/2006 02:15:39 AM

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Stall [ edit ]

July 28 2006 (23:23:00) US/Pacific ( 1 view )

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Note the urgency of the previous user.

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What are some potential private uses for the “public sanitizing kettle”?

Comments

On the private use of “public sanitizing kettle”, what about eliminating baby fleas hidden under that corporate hair do? I mean those powerfully blown dry ones, the equivalent of skyscrapers for hairstyles. In other words, a capitalistic version of Kim Jong Il… Far more sleek than Donald Trump’s tornado swept style, undoubtedly… 隐藏在“摩天头发”里的小跳蚤,听起来很像我们自己,不是吗?
Posted by Y Y on 07/31/2006 04:18:04 AM

Note the urgency of the previous user, my ass? Are you a Texas redneck? Like it never happens in the US
Posted by Shang on 08/02/2006 07:31:06 AM

@Shang: This is rather odd. What made you think I was suggesting that such scenes don’t occur in the US? I simply took a rather boring photo, put an innocent caption underneath, and aroused your anger. I sometimes leave the toilet paper roll looking like that myself. But maybe it is “Texas Redneck” of me to be so interested in toilets and such things. I’m 100 percent vulgar. My dear old fellow, you might have a point! I hope people will be able to forget George W. Bush and give the poor Texans some peace. @YY: I’m more partial to this comment, which reveals a greater sense of humor as well imagination. This is more what I had in mind. References to the appearance of our dear leader always bring a smile to my face. If only he were my uncle. Eradicating fleas (and dandruff) from that windswept or towering corporate hairdo is a fine use for the public sanitizing kettle, which is really not so public.
Posted by stylites on 08/02/2006 12:07:00 PM

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US Growth [ edit ]

July 28 2006 (23:10:00) US/Pacific ( 1 view )

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Growth is fastest in the West. Nevada grew faster than some provinces in China.

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Urinal Update [ edit ]

July 28 2006 (03:58:00) US/Pacific ( 1 view )

Older and lower class Chinese men prize a spotless member. Half of men wash their hands after voiding and half do it before. A small percentage of those who wash before also do after, thus washing their hands twice. Pudgy middle-aged fellows will rush in, wash their hands, and pee. I often wait at the urinal, feigning pissing, to see whether these fellows actually wash afterwards. Most of the time, they don’t bother.

After peeing, wealthier middle-aged men push open the stall with a shoulder and grab a wad of toilet paper to use while touching the door handle. These men fear the germs on the sink lever and door handle – probably with good reason.

The lower their class, as determined by clothing and demeanor, the more urgently men piss. Drivers really hurry in and shake with strong movements.

“不过为什么男人喜欢观察别的男人的弟弟?”

Yesterday I didn’t push myself far enough into the urinal, and a young worker, after washing his hands, took a minute to stand and stare directly at what was in my hand. He had a satisfied smile on his face. Maybe it was because he had discovered something new – that the two of us have a thing or three in common. Perhaps I should be less satisfied because he was satisfied.

Comments

“The lower their class . . . the more urgently men piss.” That’s genius.
Posted by dalcibiades4 on 07/28/2006 02:45:28 PM

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Americans Misunderstood [ edit ]

July 26 2006 (09:40:00) US/Pacific ( 1 view )

But I must say more on the issue of the Europeans. Their continent may be the only pleasant one, but their attitude toward the US is irresponsible. As juvenile and undiplomatic as the neo-cons are, they did not create these problems. They just aren’t handling them well.

The Continentals slaughtered the Jews and the British drew the borders in the Middle East. Before Europeans cast stones at the United States, they must consider that they laid the groundwork for all of these problems. As the current big empire, we must face these challenges, and it would be more responsible of the Europeans to refrain from further blackening the name of our country, and being snotty about everything when entering a conversation with an American.

I would like to say that to everyone actually. The image of Americans as a bunch of bible-thumping rednecks who overuse “like” is too widespread. Europeans and others don’t realize that Americais the intellectual center of Western Civilization. We are an experiment that carries on the torch of all of the great thinkers. We live and advance Western thought and beauty every day. At least I do. And it’s tough – such mental anguish. So many headaches and sleepless nights. This is being American. We write the new mores with our lives.

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I hate to be overly nationalistic, but allow me this once. Being a pretentious, Europhilic pomo should give me the right.

Comments

–and others don’t realize that Americais the intellectual center of Western Civilization.– You fucking yankee bastard! You are the center of war, death, garbage, corruption and stupidity. root less, culture less, a disgusting mixture of all races of the world. 9/11 was great! They brought you just a LITTLE of what YOU are bringing to other people since decades. Europe and USA: We have NOTHING in common with elements like you! by the way: Why you call yourself “American”, you asshole. America includes Middle and -South america as well. You are a north american USA citizen, NOT an american. The continent america is not your property, so use the proper term!
Posted by European Nationalist on 07/27/2006 02:15:03 AM

The comment above would seem to confirm Stylites’s hunch that Europeans aren’t quite as charming & beguiling as they used to be. But how astute our dear European comrade is about the etymology of “American”! Many thanks for the refreshing clarification!
Posted by dalcibiades4 on 07/27/2006 03:06:01 PM

I refuse to believe someone as rude as “European Nationalist” is from the only continent with beautiful cities. Main Entry: 1Amer·i·can Pronunciation: &-‘mer-&-k&n, -‘m&r-, -‘me-r&- Function: noun 3 : a citizen of the United States Merriam-Webster But both North America and South America are our property. In fact, I welcome citizens of China, France, Germany and other countries to describe themselves as American also – or at least USian or “Citizens of the United States.” We are a global empire. Isn’t that obvious?
Posted by stylites on 07/28/2006 02:06:15 AM

I know it’s vulgar of me to have even acknowledged European Nationalist’s comment, but this is my first time to really start running a blog. I must learn the hard way that you can’t give those with foul mouths and coarse sentiments a podium. Sadly, this site doesn’t seem to allow for monitoring of comments. It may be that I will have to switch blog sites again. Or finally just start my own website.
Posted by stylites on 07/28/2006 02:26:24 AM

Allo, actually, in today´s time, europeans feel in fact as Europeans and not a member of a specific country within the European Union. The european constitution will be realized as well as the european passport in the future and more which is going on in the schools and education. I think you should study the current political situation and the feeling in europe firstly before talking like that. An European. (france)
Posted by sdsdsd on 07/28/2006 02:50:39 AM

Perhaps you could recommend some online resources that would help us in better understanding the current Europe. It would be much appreciated. The American has historically wanted in education regarding the intricate system of politics and the delicacies of culture across the pond. This is an opportunity for me as well, since Europe is largely a construct of my imagination. It exists only as an oasis in a vast desert of pollution, brandnames, and generally uniform ugliness. I have spent my life living in places dereft of the culture and sophistication that I always believe exists in Europe. It is this belief in Europe’s superiority that keeps me going. Maybe some day I will finally make it to the continent that does not devour its own history. I would be so honored if on that day, I was welcomed with an embrace.
Posted by stylites on 07/28/2006 07:56:47 AM

Firstly – ‘European Nationalist’ – an a-hole with a keyboard. Secondly – sdsds, sorry, not all Europeans feel more European that they do Nationalistic, in fact I’d bet very few do. No way the Brits, French, German, Italians, Spanish,…etc, will tell you they are European first. Nels – good of you not to delete that post of EN’s – when I get posts like that I always leave them as well so the whole world, or at least the small part that is watching, gets to see the fuits of an a-holes labours. 😉
Posted by sunnysideup on 08/02/2006 07:34:05 AM

Yes, perhaps it was best to leave that comment up. It defeats itself and strengthens my side of the argument, whatever side that might be.
Posted by stylites on 08/02/2006 11:48:09 AM

Nice post nels! Don’t worry about the national-less bastard.
Posted by chinamoon on 08/03/2006 05:30:34 AM

well I really appreciate your support, Admiral. Recently, I’ve been thinking that Americans abroad should really try to develop a coherent PR plan. Our country badly needs (and deserves) one. Our country’s image has deteriorated, but there is no good reason for this to continue. We need to work hard and think carefully about how to present the country.
Posted by stylites on 08/03/2006 06:55:28 AM

Oddly enough your comments here basically were the same as those of Chris Patten the former HK governor, who gave a large amount of credit to the Pax Americana for a fairly large amount of good things that have happened in the world in the last 60 years or so.
Posted by Pescatore on 08/04/2006 06:43:33 AM

Tell me one thing…u really believe in what u write????? hope not…otherwise u’re in serious need of help… take it easy and open your mind a little more cheers
Posted by ahaha…that’s really good…who writes your jokes? on 08/17/2006 08:48:35 PM

u…u…u…u just don’t understand me, but u’re right. Can u help me?
Posted by stylites on 08/18/2006 06:11:56 AM

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Quagmire of the West, Rise of the East [ edit ]

July 26 2006 (02:26:00) US/Pacific ( 1 view )

This article mainly assesses the likelihood for Indian involvement in WWIII:

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Front_Page/HG26Aa01.html

The tone seems a bit shrill, but I agree with the following sentence:

“I predict that future generations of Indians and Chinese will literally worship George W Bush and Osama bin Laden for having pushed the West into a disastrous conflict with Islam.”

Knowing grins already appear here when the topic of conflict between Islam and the West arises. If only we could wash our hands of the whole situation and focus on the real problems. It’s too late of course. It will be interesting to document the Asian perspective, while watching this frustrating history unfold and the West shoot itself in the foot through a useless conflict with barbarians.

The demise of Christendom will be in Israel. The Germans and, to a lesser extent, the French caused our guilt and must shoulder much greater responsibility in forestalling this sorry decline, rather than just bitching about America.

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Suicide Bombers in China [ edit ]

July 26 2006 (01:30:00) US/Pacific ( 1 view )

Spiritual and mental issues are on the rise in this country. Being godless isn’t always easy.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20060725/wl_nm/china_explosion_dc_1;_ylt=AhP0T3ySMHeeRM5Q._ksy.NPzWQA;_ylu=X3oDMTBiMW04NW9mBHNlYwMlJVRPUCUl

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Spiritual Disease, Part III [ edit ]

July 25 2006 (16:28:00) US/Pacific ( 1 view )

The present state of Socrates is unknown – even the Chinese have no information. We all speculate. He could be burning eternally or basking in the rays of the absolute good. Theologians and prelates wrangled over this question in the forth century and let’s pray they will still in the twenty-forth. Surprisingly, the future of the debate could be in the East. Ms. Xu, the minister, gave the ugly thinker his due, exempting him from certain damnation. His fate is unknown, she conceded. In the midst of all those definitively in hell for their unbelief, Socrates may be alright. He may have seen ahead in a way that the Buddha, Zoroaster, and others did not.

I was happy to hear the old boy mentioned at all, here in the land of Burberry plaid and coin-operated abortions. It had been a long time since we had crossed paths. Church seemed like the place to be even if meant worrying constantly about Satan’s wiles. That Ms. Xu knew of Socrates’ multifaceted connection with Christianity heartened me.

She had just spent an hour railing against those who place the body before the spirit, prophesying their damnation. Now came initiation for the new converts. Obviously, I was the only foreigner at this church. Some little women ushered me and the other two new comers into a side area, behind one of those office-style partitions. Momentarily, I was face to face with Ms. Xu. Here I noticed for the first time the narrow scars running across her face – there were about three of them. They gave her not-unattractive face some definite character.

The initiation process involved much repetition and holding hands. Ms. Xu took pains to express the importance of faith over good deeds. Obviously I didn’t understand everything that was transpiring with the utmost ease. My progress in this language has been pathetic. But, the opportunity allowed to pick up a good deal of new vocabulary related to religion, which was a nice thing, no doubt. One fellow initiate hailed from the mighty Qinghua university, China’s MIT, where he was working toward a doctorate in physics. His knowledge of Christianity, or at least his ability to express it in his mother tongue, impressed me. He proved that scientists respecting religion do exist and can articulate their complex relationship with faith.

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Plenis, East and West [ edit ]

July 25 2006 (08:59:00) US/Pacific ( 1 view )

East:

NF: Plenis

Chinese: 干什么呀?(What are you doing?)

NF: 没什么 (Nothing)

NF: 该工作但太无聊 (I should work, but it’s too boring)

Chinese: 不行不行,要努力哦~ (That’s not acceptable, you need to work hard.)

Chinese: 你看我这么努力,你也要 (Look how hardworking I am, you should be too.)

West:

NF: Plenis

American: Hmmm

American: Are you on drugs?

American: You should have opium.

NF: I would like to.

American: It would make work interesting.

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A Must-Read [ edit ]

July 25 2006 (02:45:00) US/Pacific ( 1 view )

The China Daily is one of my favorite publications. It shapes my view of China and the world. My understanding of global popular culture comes from this source. I urge all foreigners living outside China to check its website frequently:

www.chinadaily.com.cn

It will help you understand the Chinese culture and economy during this period of epic transformation. Glancing through the websites and blogs of other foreigners, I have noticed that my positive view of the China Daily is not widely shared. People speak of it in ironic and disdainful terms. They say it is a window into China, controlled by the Communist Party, and thus filling the minds of foreigners with rosy propaganda about the country. This is a naïve (and passé) view, based on some religious adherence to “reality”. Hahaha! The most important lesson I learned in college is that Thucydides is nothing next to Herodotus. The exaggerations and myths of Herodotus tell more about how people of the day felt and what they valued than the anal recitations of “fact” Thucydides gives. It is for the same reason that I prefer the China Daily to the BBC. By now, we should know to look beyond vain attempts at providing the truth. At least we know the origin of the China Daily’s views. It offers an straightforward look at the things that the Chinese government-controlled media believes matter, with the packaging they think works best. This is highly instructive material. In terms of material deemed worthy of coverage, I share many preferences with the government-controlled media. No boring schlock commentary on world events like you find in Western media. The China Daily is the sort of publication future historians will study to understand the broad emotive thrust of events and trends in the early 21st century.

Forget the Economist and the New York Times. In the China Daily, you find interesting stuff. The following article is required reading for understanding our times:

http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/citylife/2006-07/24/content_647961.htm

If you have to read one article over next two decades, let this be it.

Also, on the subject of Shanghai men that I raised earlier:

http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/citylife/2006-07/24/content_647664.htm

I think they have the correct idea. They are the most progressive men in the world. There are many other fascinating questions here, but I don’t have time to go into all of them at this point.

(While I snicker at “reality”, the drummers and runners focused on it sprint ahead. Tediously jumping through the imaginary hurdles erected by like fools, striving to erect higher and higher smokestacks. If it weren’t for the annoying fact of disease, I could vanquish these frenetic robots)

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Spiritual Disease, Part II [ edit ]

July 24 2006 (15:59:00) US/Pacific ( 1 view )

The Protestants of China speak as much of Satan as they do of Christ. Satan and his demons are awaiting all those who worshipp idols, all the virtuous but irreligious Chinese of history, all the intellectuals, even all of the Catholics. Confucius, Sakyamuni, Lei Feng, revered perfect communist hero of the 1950s and 60s, are burning in hell. She uttered the last name with subversive pride. How brilliant a man is, how good a man is, how kind and faultless a life he lives – none of this matters when judgement comes. The worst sinners will be forgiven if they embrace Christ. The minister noted that many intellectuals had brought up the logical problems with faith. They had declared their doubt to the world, seeking to end the hold of Christianity. But what had happened to the man who declared god dead? This is what this scar-faced, middle-aged, Chinese woman asked. He lived alone and died in an insane asylum.

Maybe divine intervention brought me to this dull office building and this little room. The church was on the forth floor of an office building right to the south of the Third Ring Road. It is a barren and utilitarian section of the city, high rises and roads like everywhere else. The office building is right next to a Gome, the leading home appliance chain in China. The room functioning as the church was about five by ten meters. There was a white board and upright indoor air conditioner at the front of the room. Folding chairs served as pews.

My friend, the rockstar who I had met briefly once before, provided music with his guitar. He is about 1.95 meters and weighs much less than me.

Around forty people filled the room. There were perhaps slightly more women than men, but the difference was not substantial. About sixty percent of the people were under thirty. The others were in their fifties, with three or four very old people hobbling around.

The preacher with long scars running along her face was named Xu Chen. She made reference to these scars at one point.

Her sermon, long and delivered with feeling, kept me rapt. It related to the life of the spirit versus a life that values only corporeal existence. She mentioned the difficulties in China today where people think only of material things, and also commented on the problems in the West where people find a spiritual vacuum. The most interesting point she made was about Japan. Japan is a country where every single person has mental disease. Her main comments were on the men whose work obsessed life leads them to the most peculiar practices.

Japanese men are known to avoid returning home if at all possible, since their home life is so bereft of spirituality. They sleep in the park, or their office, or hotels just to avoid facing the discomfort of home. Far stranger are the things they eat, which include both dirt and feces, drawn directly from the toilet bowl. These practices are, purportedly, just the tip of the iceberg. This manifestation of the Chinese hatred of Japan even in a Christian setting was notable.

More later…

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Oil’s Mr. Big [ edit ]

July 24 2006 (15:42:00) US/Pacific ( 1 view )

You have to love Hugo Chavez. Mr. and Mrs. Big (look at photos of the pair) are in Ukraine and they will visit Iran soon. No stop in Zimbabwe is planned for this trip. Ukraine is a loyal ally of Venezuela. It’s an important geopolitical economic relationship; bilateral trade stood at a whopping $16 million in 2005. On this world tour, Mr. Chavez is also swinging by Russia, where he will pick up 100,000 AK-47s, expected to tip the balance in the struggle against the Great Satan.

Mr. Chavez’s brother is discussing still closer military cooperation with Cuba, and Bolivia might supplement this formidable alliance.

Sadly, considering the rate that the US sheds friends, these foes have to be taken seriously.

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interesting things happen [ edit ]

July 24 2006 (12:18:00) US/Pacific ( 1 view )

Our Scandinavian religion is still strong:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060723/ap_on_re_us/pagans_in_prison

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Sissified Shanghai [ edit ]

July 21 2006 (07:01:00) US/Pacific ( 1 view )

From the People’s Daily Online:

“A survey in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen shows that 22 percent, 73 percent, 34 percent and 32 percent of white-collar male workers, aged between 28 and 33, would be prepared to do the housekeeping if the conditions were right.”

Things are changing. The full article: http://english.people.com.cn/200607/21/eng20060721_285379.html

More on the weird dichotomy of Chinese men later. What some are willing to say and hack up in the earshot of young women continues to shock me. It is a question of differing habits between classes and generations, but the bums and muggers on Chicago’s Southside have a better idea of how to conduct themselves in the presence of ladies than many businessmen in China.

All the same, I’m starting to see that the men are the ones faced with the real challenge posed by rapid development. I admire the women who appreciate this fact.

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Sino-American Murk and the Fantasy of Europe [ edit ]

July 20 2006 (07:44:00) US/Pacific ( 1 view )

Beijing sunny days can be vile. Visibility is no higher than on a rainy day. There is no illusion of gloom, just pure pollution, with the sun’s rays illuminating. I growled out the following nearly a year ago, but unfortunately it matches this month’s weather:

Snobbic fools, like me, steal the word “Europe” to symbolize their dilemma. I seek comfort from the notion of the old continent, unwilling to abandon their mess of unfortunate attitudes barring success in the Sino-American capitalist murk. To survive, I assume the false smile and “attitude is everything” by day. When night falls, the cherished nihilism, that self-defeating system, beckons. I reflect snootily on the ugly men in shapeless suits encountered during the day.

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Must a definition of self have to be rejected if it is meaningless? That seems the only way to get by, but then what is there to embrace? Without mental war with ugly surroundings and a worthless future, what remains but the artificial work personality and a vague fight to feel ambition? It’s so difficult to embrace the neon grey modern world without smugly despising it.

The fantasy of Europe powers and saps me, as I venomously peer around this aesthetically cursed terrain: choking rather than breathing, ugly cinderblocks covered with billboards, their rooftops lost in the fumes, and youths craving bills with a portrait of a fat mass-murderer, so that they can buy an auto-crazed, luxury branded lifestyle.

Be careful, what you set your heart upon, for it shall be yours to endure.

I’ve despised what is practical, but the choice that determined my current surroundings seems the most practical one of my life, though that was not the intention. Studying the language had nothing to do with the engine of the world’s “growth”. Now the limitless growth figures involve me everyday.

Nascent at university, the fantasy of Europe fuels all my defiance. Now I fear the Sino-American hunger for profit, and pursuit of expansion.

Wretchedness consumes me as I watch the cranes and welding guns, and polyurethane and sulfur fill my lungs. The present is damned by the unattainable dream of old buildings, green trees, fresh air, little cars, intellectual scarves, and fatalistic defiance against the future.

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A thin and gorgeous youth walks the empty street, breathing crisp, cool air. The sun shines bright and the sky is blue. He wears a long scarf, an Edwardian velvet coat, tight jeans, and Milanese shoes. His hair is a mess. He grasps an old book – it has been so long since I’ve read one that I don’t even remember the name. Oil is so expensive, environmentalism so strong, that only tiny electric vehicles drive the streets, and few at that, since mass transit is so good. He is heading to a concert, with a flask in his hand.

He doesn’t have a wife. He can take any one he wants and kiss their lips. Life is long and uncertain.

After walking the clean streets, unclear on what he should have been doing, he returns to his tiny cell, in the spire of a monastery. With his oil lamp for light, he tries to write, but there is not so much subject matter.

Comments

You look cracked out in that picture, lay off the ice!
Posted by Pescatore on 08/04/2006 06:58:09 AM

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Beijing, Dongcheng District, 8 pm [ edit ]

July 19 2006 (01:19:00) US/Pacific ( 1 view )

This is one of the first males I’ve seen in China who has a really natural sense of style:

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Those shopping in the luxury emporiums may not be seeking this look. The style ideas they do arrive at seem contrived compared to what this man is doing. Sadly, the picture does not capture his shoes, which looked like vintage Reeboks – very hipsterish. This gorgeous man was reluctant to have his photo taken, and he didn’t want to chat. I told him that he was handsome and had good taste, which made him finally budge. This is on Changan Avenue, the main street in Beijing, and maybe the world.

If you aren’t in China with all of the plasticy outfits and general “utter spanking newness”, you may not appreciate what this fellow has achieved.

At the intersection of Dongsishitiao and the Second Ring Road. Here is a guy off from work, heading home for the night, or maybe out for some lamb on a stick.

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Broad Beans and Poly-Blend [ edit ]

July 17 2006 (04:22:00) US/Pacific ( 1 view )

Last night, my tiny flat was a swank bar, Gallic lounge music seeping out like honey, the singer’s husky voice sultry enough to melt the iron door shut before me. I couldn’t help wondering what my dainty flatmate was up to, playing such inflaming music at so late an hour.
She had borrowed my key that morning, so I hoped she would hear me knock. She didn’t, so I banged. In the end, modern technology offered a solution. I contacted her by cell phone: “Princess, open the gate”. Three or four more minutes and the door opened. Wavy hair falling over her flushed face, bathrobe carelessly tossed on, and in the background, a man’s suit jacket neatly placed on the sofa in the dimly lit living room…she’s on an adventure. She tried to tie up her bathrobe, only to find it was inside out.
I cleared my throat and said, “Well, sorry, didn’t know you were busy”. She bit her lower lip, squeezing out an angelic smile, “I’ve brought my friend over…”. “Hmm… you may want to give my key back since I’m leaving in a bit. I would hate to disturb you and your guest again.” She giggled softly and returned to her room. With the faint light coming through her door, I could see her duvet all ruffled, but no sign of her friend. Glancing nervously back into her room, my flatmate handed me the key. Before I could say thanks, she fled back to her room and shut the door tight as a young lady of her tiny build could.
This Mongolian princess was not one to bring home strange men. I had to find out what breed of prince drove her to so giddy and uncivilized a state.
Under cover of the crooning ballads, I inspect the living room for clues. First, of course, one can’t miss the suit jacket. Some say you can tell everything about a man from the suit he wears. If that’s true, I hope this man at least has a tender heart. Navy with a blend of gray – corporate drone, tick! Wool mixed with loads of synthetic fibers – stiflingly sensible, tick! No label for the brand or fabric used, just two spare buttons sewn underneath the inside breast pocket, and the lapel is ironed flat – made at a local tailor shop catering to bargain-seeking expatriates, tick! Lying next to the suit jacket is Mr. Man’s loyal Samsonite computer case. Recently accused of being picky about everything, I still can’t resist commenting that, despite Samsonite’s latest efforts, including hiring Isabella Rossellini to promote its chic new suitcases, most of us still know the brand for its quality and dull style. Would it be too daring to suggest that Mr. Man’s choice of suits and bags might reflect his personality? Let’s not be so arbitrary… or at least not yet.
I thought the investigation was ending, but the victorious little smile developing on the right corner of my mouth instantly disappeared when I was struck by two dark objects sitting calmly by my flatmate’s door, next to her rose leather peep-toe pumps. Innocuous enough: a pair of black leather lace-ups – plain, matte, large, nearly Dr. Marten style. I don’t mean those ornate ones for rockers. The Sex Pistols and The Damned would not have donned these clunkers. I feel bad saying this, since my own beau hails from the Mighty Stripy Nation, but do consider the kind of shoes an average American dude wears to match his synthetic suit and hard computer case, and you may just be able to picture what I saw. I hold no grudge against these shoes. They are comfortable, economical, and will be loyal companions for years and years to come. Compared to stilettos with heels sharp enough to kill an army of sumos and price high enough to give the most notorious brute a heart attack, these black leather lace-ups give me such an earthy feeling. What I adore the most about this kind of shoe is that they look pretty much the same from purchase till the day you abandon them. Maybe it’s the durable leather, maybe it’s the matte finish. I adore them so much that I even gave them a nickname – Broad Bean Shoes. These shoes resemble those lovely little plump beans.
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As I was giving a tender last look at those black lace-ups, the French sweetheart finished her last song and some vague sounds came from the love nest. Even the most romantic nation had to close its show for the night. I sat down next to the synthetic suit and started looking through the CDs on the coffee table. The soundtrack of The Tango Lesson caught my eye. On the cover, a lady in a flaming red dress and a man in a white shirt and black trousers were holding a highly professional dance position, both with left legs bent, right legs stretched to the back and backs erect. Their hands clasp with such intensity that, even without watching the movie, it’s easy to experience the bursting passion and entangled emotions.
I changed the CD and turned up the volume. The night was young for my emancipated princess and her earthy new lover. What drew these two individuals together, I lack a clear answer. But I hoped that since the Francophone honey had retired, at least the Latino passion would get the pair through the steamy night.
Today, I heard our man works as Executive Solutions Wizard at a leading IT consulting firm. I smiled knowingly, thinking of broad beans, and rejoiced for my little triumph.

Comments

Broad Bean Shoes- how classic.
Posted by Mr. B.Y. Jia on 08/04/2006 07:04:56 AM

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Globalization [ edit ]

July 14 2006 (08:56:00) US/Pacific ( 1 view )

My simplistic fears:

The West can never rest again. Leisure, our reward for advancement, was fleeting. To maintain our current standards, we must run ever faster. We must remain vigilant, guarding our advantages. Now the West pours funds into China, so its talented, industrious labor force can suck down our wages.

The China cost advantage will remain for another half-century. The profit margins of our multi-nationals will continue to grow, and they will reinvest this money in China. Soon, their ranks will be filled with Chinese girls.

Globalization benefits the few on both sides of the Pacific. But at least the Chinese masses, particularly females, have the potential for advancement. Most Westerners, especially males, will only see their position erode.

The pressure from China harms me specifically. The female Chinese white collars run hard all the time, mastering English, adopting professionalism, and adapting to socializing on Western terms. How can a lazy half Middle Easterner like me be expected to keep up?

I don’t really understand any of this of course. My position is influenced by the sound of high heels banging on a wood floor and an omnipresent smile. Let’s leave analysis of globalization to the experts. In some ways, it is only worthwhile for some one of my stature to only say silly things on such vast subjects.

This is an excellent source of articles on globalization from a wide range of perspectives:

http://yaleglobal.yale.edu/ap/

You can look up articles by region.

I recommend this site.

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Turtle Stele [ edit ]

July 14 2006 (06:47:00) US/Pacific ( 1 view )

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I am standing by a turtle stele at the Marco Polo Bridge.

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This is an interesting shot.

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Boring Things [ edit ]

July 13 2006 (06:36:00) US/Pacific ( 1 view )

The challenge of being independent – starting a business or freelancing – is gladly doing boring deeds. Without pressure from a supervisor, to do boring tasks or write on boring topics demands real effort. Even in a job, success comes from self-motivation, eagerness to do boring things.

Society only pays for boredom, or at least what spoiled boys see as boredom – others have different ideas. Rambling young dilettantes could write for days on things no one else finds useful, enjoying themselves thoroughly, but profits would not flow in.

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Boring reports on ugly products generate revenue. Only one or two interns read these reports. The top dogs want to chomp two or three bullet points and an investment target. The full report is too boring for them. The middle guys read reports, but only if they are composed entirely of bullet points and charts. They can devour hundreds of bullet points. They are all pacmen.

Without fear driving, producing those small dots would be tough. For fear of superiors, parents, and lacking a mate, we devote ourselves to boring things. Even with these fears, starvation can seem more desirable than boredom.

To be self-reliant – liberated from the grind – we must create boring things, without outside pressure. That means we must be either very disciplined or very fascinated by boring things. People from the developing world exhibit both of these characteristics. Now they also have initiative. Westerners should worry.

Lovers of boredom will dominate the future. The victors will be able to endure boring things and channel what they’ve learned from them into creation. The vanquished will write on blog websites designed by the victors.

The boring thing is really me. Or, at best, I am just too boring to navigate my way out of boring things.

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We know of heroes and artists, but cannot become them. We possess the intellect and the emotional education, while lacking control of our lives and understanding of a world that grows more homogeneous but more complex. Several books and movies suggest escape is to appreciate the small things. The answer is apparently to delight in the silliness that nature and man inadvertently create. Only by savoring the small, can we banish vague dreams of the grand.

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Subway Playboy [ edit ]

July 12 2006 (07:32:00) US/Pacific ( 1 view )

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This polyester shirt has playboy logos and the word “playboy” all over the back and front. The middle-aged man wearing the shirt showed a notable absence of haughtiness. He didn’t seem to think wearing the shirt meant that he was a playboy himself. He also had on plastic sandals and khakis, and his face could have even had a mole with hairs coming out of it. I’ve been trying to locate a nice shirt with the playboy bunny on the chest. It’s a logo I would wear. Irony of this kind never gets old. I could take it to a tailor to be slimmed down, since, like other polo-type shirts, Playboy ones are cut to fit sumo-wrestlers. The problem is all of the Playboy shirts have disasterous colors and stripes like this one.

Supposedly, the playboy brand in China is licensed by the original magazine company. It is a high status brand and is freqently pirated. Determining whether or not this shirt is an original is challenging because genuine playboy products are also very tacky. The majority of Chinese recognize only the clothing brand and have not heard of the gentleman’s magazine or Mr. Hugh Hefner. Mr. Giorgio Armani commented that in China his company’s most direct competitor is Playboy. Western luxury brands like Armani must struggle to differentiate themselves from quasi-local competitors of this type. Shanghai Eastern Crocodile Apparel Co., Ltd. (Crocodile) is another key domestic luxury goods company. The ubiquitous (and frequently copied) Crocodile belt buckle can be considered a symbol of China’s rising middle class. The Crocodile logo bears a striking resemblance to that of Lacoste.

Whenever I write on something more concrete or China-oriented, I find that someone else has already done it better. Taking the photo was still a good idea. This article tells the whole story of Playboy in China:

http://www.thestandard.com.hk/weekend_news_detail.asp?pp_cat=30&art_id=3949&sid=5000850&con_type=3&d_str=20051022
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Nightclubbing [ edit ]

July 12 2006 (01:07:00) US/Pacific ( 1 view )

Should you stay home playing bridge on a Friday night?

A horde of Korean black wannabes poured from the maw of Dic’s. Their youth or crudeness denied them entry. Perhaps better luck lay ahead for them at Pix. They shoved through, bellowing about rap, booze and hot chicks, three vulgarisms abounding on the dance floor below.

My dearest friend, who once passed through Beijing, suggested I examine Dic’s and Pix. He described them as the city’s loci of expatriate activity. Had he ever been to these two dens of sin, my friendh, a fine and delicate dilettante, would not have recommended a trip. But curiosity killed me, and my companions, a corporate prince and a bevy of golden temptresses, felt no site could better enliven a Friday night.

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Lights were low. Sweat poured. Groins pumped. Hip-hop beats deafened, preaching Gucci and disobedience. The thoughtlessly young, the menacingly horny, even the deliciously plump vied for the favor of squadrons of oriental fawns preening on a stage. These braves clutched beer bottles, tensed their muscles, boogied, and feigned cocky smiles. Their hair was gelled to erection. No one could speak and expect to be heard, so communication was limited to tense glances between adversaries and backslaps between allies. Like in the world outside, status mattered most. But here no conversation tempered the brutal gazes and fashionable outfits of rivals.

Identical rituals occurred that night in London, Milan, New Delhi, and Lanzhou. The glamour of the coming dark beckoned throughout Friday. In all cities outside the Axis of Evil and a few Arab countries, urban youths awaited the same melody-less songs, revealing tube tops, and overpriced beer. The objectives and outcomes were the same also: victors would drag home a stud or writhing beauty.

Mothers in Boston, Mumbai and Chongqing wondered why this, of all mating rituals, had gained currency in the four corners of the globe. They lay sleepless, weeping for their daughter’s abbreviated maidenhood and womanhood devoid of charm. They recalled their own days of lovely flirtation and elicit paramours, feeling a certain schadenfreude toward the modern girls.

The mothers failed to grasp that songs about expensive cars and polygamy express universal truths. The new cycle of pelvic thrusts and dollars unites the most primitive with the most modern. The effect is base. Music made like a product, glorifies products. Serfs mass produce clothing that encourages status envy and lust.

Our culture of convenience and the splintering of family and community mean there are few better cures for loneliness on a Friday night. The young boy who rejects the beauties of the club turns to the ones on the internet. Maybe I’m just envious, unable to relate to all this. I missed a cultural step somewhere and feel out of place in a club.

Sunflower seeds slow my typing.

Comments

This catches the nostalgia for a past understood but not experienced and a fright of a present little understood. Cross generational stuff is hard but love creates emphathy.
Posted by Golpashan on 07/14/2006 03:36:43 PM

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