Sunday, January 30, 2011

Censorship in China

I don't know what's going on, but for some reason I am having trouble accessing the NYT website. My access to the website is intermittent. In effort to try the old reach around method, i.e. trying to access the website through a google search, which completely failed, meaning that google just went blank, I tried doing a yahoo search and when I did the yahoo search obviously the NYT website didn't show in the top five web hits (or whatever they are called), it actually didn't show up at all. Instead the top two entries were from the China Daily and the People's Daily bashing the website. I mean, its pretty clear the NYT wants to take down the Chinese regime, thus, it makes sense for China to be hostile against the website, and when I say hostile, I mean speak the absolute truth about the website. I mean if you look at the front page of the NYT website right now (which is why i think the website is having some blockage in China), which is talking about the protest in Egypt, it is pretty clear that the NYT is just using code for China. And when NYT writes Egypt, it really means China, Mubarak means Hu, and Muslims means Hans. Its so obvious. I just hope the NYT comes around and starts reporting on China's greatness so I can have access to the news again; I was hoping to access the NYT website so I could read about Berlusconi and Sarah Palin's new sex tape ( you know real news), but unfortunately, the NYT is actively campaign against China now, so I have to settle for the reliable China Daily.

On another note, yesterday, I saw David Sedaris read some excerpts from his new book and from his Diary and past books. He gave an interesting perspective on Beijing, and that he thought it was full of turds (in that the turd are everywhere), I would explain that more, but I am too lazy. Anyway, watching him made me feel like I was watching a This American Life episode, instead of listening to it on my ipod. It made me want to give to public radio, but then I thought, hey, I can't even download This American Life on itunes anymore, because its blocked (which I am not sure is true, I just know I can't download it for some reason, and when something doesn't work on the internet, I blame it on censorship), so whats the point in giving, screw that. And thinking about watching David Sedaris, made me think, he is probably the exact opposite of Chinese censorship, because he seems not to censor anything he says, which I find highly entertaining. And if I continue on that train of thought, maybe I find China less and less entertaining because everything is censored.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Whose wife?

Where is she?

Are the tabloids too preoccupied with Sandra/Ryan and Kate/William to take a deeper look into this?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

My last adventure in the great white north

On my second-to-last weekend in China, thanks Joy's uncharacteristic planning ahead, a group of friends and I took a trip up to the frozen northeast to go skiing. I decided to tack on a trip to Harbin as well to see the oft-described ice festival. In short, it was fun and cold. Full gallery of pictures here.

The ice festival

Riding ice bicycles in Harbin

I spent only about six hours in Harbin. I basically got in, bought my train ticket back to Changchun, then wandered around the city for a while trying to figure out how to get to the ice festival. I eventually took a cab, which is not easy to find when it's freezing cold during rush hour, and arrived at the ice festival on the edge of the city. Tickets were heart-stoppingly expensive; it cost more to see the ice festival than to get into Zhangjiajie. The ice buildings were pretty cool, but honestly I feel like you get a pretty good sense of what it's like from pictures. So even though I'm happy I finally went, I would say it's probably not worth going to see on it's own.

The next part of the trip was quite the adventure. I took a three hour train to Changchun, capital of Jilin Province, where I had to hang out for about four hours in the middle of the night (spent sleeping in the train station and in a KFC) before catching a two hour bus to Jilin City. From there I had to take a cab to meet Joy, Jeff and Will who had got into town a bit earlier that morning so we could all take the resort bus out to the ski hill.

Beidahu, the resort we were at, was surprisingly awesome. It was snowing when we got there on Saturday morning, so the snow was really fresh and actually quite deep in places. Also, it's not just some bunny hill will ancient lifts. The resort hosted the Asian Winter Games in 2007, so they have real high speed chairs and steep long runs. In fact, most of the mountain was fairly difficult. The place was busy-there were lots of Russians on vacation for the Orthodox New Year-but there were barely any lines at the lifts. Most of the Chinese people there were decent technical skiers, but unlike at resorts in the States there were no crazy extreme skiers. But still people were really into it. Often on the lifts I'd hear people talking about places they'd been skiing in North America, comparing Snowbird to Whistler and saying how they really wanted to go to Jackson Hole.

Prepping our first run at Beidahu


Will bombing it down an advanced run on Saturday

All in all it was a fantastic trip and a great way to get a fill of winter before Australia.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

If Ben really understood China...

... he'd know about the pesky, oft-forgot 2 RMB note. You see, I have aspirations, as well: to thwart Ben's attempts to achieve his own life's goals, including visits to all the places portrayed on the back of Chinese currency.

Now, according to Wikipedia (which we know never lies), the Chinese Central Bank stopped issuing 2 RMB notes in 2004. And this note -- dated 1980 (however printed between 1987 and 1997) -- is truly a keeper. So maybe Ben gets off on a technicality here. But I thought I'd give him a fair chance to put to bed any asterisks in the record books. I'm not even sure where that image on the back of the 2 RMB note is located. It appears the old 10 RMB note displays Mt. Everest, and I'd be willing to accept just base camp.

Another interesting "bucket list" item would be pictures alongside the ethnic minorities on current notes (less than 1 RMB), as well as all Fourth Series notes (which is the series preceding the current Fifth Series notes). Ethnic dress would be required, of course.

1-jiao note has Gaoshan and Manchu men ;
2-jiao note has Buyei and Korean girls;
5-jiao note has Miao and Zhuang girls in red.
Old 1-yuan (i.e. "1 RMB") note has Dong and Yao girls in red;
Old 2-yuan note has Uyghur and Yi (Nuosu) girls in green;
Old 5-yuan note has Tibetan girl and a Hui elder;
Old 10-yuan note has Han and Mongol men.

This pecuniary journey would be most appropriate for our study-abroad buddy Tyler, who is now a cultural anthropologist and spent his one-on-one course learning the many wonders of China's 56 officially-recognized ethnic minorities.

This time wasted on Wikipedia also alerted to me that at several moments in recent Chinese history the central bank issued special commemorative notes. Has anyone else come across these? I would pay (more than face value) for any of these. Well, less than face value, too, for that matter.

Commemorative designs

In 1999, a commemorative red ¥50 note was issued in honor of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the People's Republic of China. This note features Mao Zedong on the front and various animals on the back.

An orange polymer note, and so far, China's only polymer note, commemorating the new millennium was issued in 2000 with a face value of ¥100. This features a dragon on the obverse and the reverse has a sundial.

For the 2008 Beijing Olympics, a green ¥10 note was issued featuring the Bird's Nest on the front with the back showing a classical Olympic discus thrower and various other athletes.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Voting in China

Today was one of the first times I have had the opportunity to practice democracy in China and it was almost taken away from me. Every six months or so at work we get to vote for people in exciting categories like "Best Dressed Male and Female Professional" and "Best Support Staff." Normally, I would just abstain, because I don't really believe in democracy, I am more of a fan of dictatorships (its just easier, but China is close enough, which is why I stay here). Anyway, this time I chose to vote because they were offering cash incentives if you were one of the first 50 to have voted. I just picked random names that I could think of and sent the ballot sheet in. A few hours later, our team assistant comes by and says our boss wants us to vote a certain way and we need to choose XX department (I think I just chose the first department from the drop down to be in the first 50 in time). This taught me a valuable lesson about China, which I think is always make sure you ask who to vote for before you vote (like I said, it is close enough to a dictatorship, well, at least in my department anyway).

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Hats off to you, Hangzhou!

You did it. You finally did it. After so many years of hard work and dejection, you finally accomplished what most second-tier Chinese cities can only dream of; make the New York Times list of "The 41 Places to Go in 2011."

33. Hangzhou, China
An hour from Shanghai, a historic jewel goes five-star.

Although Hangzhou is only now coming into the global spotlight, its gorgeous pagodas, historic temples and lush gardens have been inspiring Chinese poets and painters for centuries. Recently, the feverish growth of Shanghai has sparked the rediscovery of Hangzhou as a peaceful retreat and a cultural masterpiece. And with it, a new generation of luxury hotels has arrived: Shangri-la overlooking West Lake; the Banyan Tree set within China’s first wetland reserve; the Aman, close to some of the area’s most spectacular ancient Buddhist temples up in the hills; and most recently, the Four Seasons with a destination spa and two swimming pools set up along the lagoons. Next up is an Angsana, the Banyan Tree’s design-chic sister hotel. And with the debut of a high-speed train from Shanghai, it’s now — unbelievably — less than a one-hour journey from central Shanghai. Once there, rent a bike and step into sights like Lingyin Temple, one of the world’s most important Buddhist temples. — ONDINE COHANE

Enjoy. You earned it.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

How I learned to stop worrying and love Chinese TV

I don't watch a lot of Chinese television, but the past couple weeks I've flipped it on for entertainment when I have a few minutes to kill here and there. One show I keep coming across is this game show that pits teams divided by nationality against each other on colorful obstacle courses that generally lead to hilarious pratfalls. But recently the producers of the show decided to turn it up a notch by throwing an angry bull into the mix! I recorded one round where contenstants have to tangle with the bull while trying to pop balloons in a ball pit. Apologies to those outside of China; this video might load a bit slow.

(If the video doesn't show up you can watch it here)
Only in China! (commentary by me and my roommate Joy)

In other news, I'm gearing up to leave China for a while. As most family and friends know, I'm (fingers crossed) going to architecture school back across the Pacific in the fall. In the meantime the plan is to head down to Australia, where I'll do some traveling, take some classes and work a bit, but mostly just hang out and enjoy the southern hemisphere summer and fall. It's definitely bittersweet leaving Beijing, but I feel like over these three years I've done about as much as I'm going to do this time around, and I'm hugely excited about discovering somewhere completely new. And I'm sure I'll be back in China in no time. It is the new land of opportunity after all.

I still have one more adventure before I leave China: this coming weekend a bunch of us are going to go skiing in Jilin Province in the northeast, and I'm going to head to Harbin the day before to check out the famed ice festival, something I've been wanting to do for years. Basically, it's a quest to get my fill of winter weather before I escape to the southern hemisphere. Keep an eye out for tweets and a post on the trip next week.

And don't worry: I'll keep blogging from Australia.

Monday, January 03, 2011

I've seen fire, and I've seen rain, but I'm not sure what to make of this.

BTW, it's ok to like a little JT.