Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Tina Kim - Korean American comedienne

Just heard about this new stand-up comedienne who's getting quite a lot of attention in the States. I like her laid-back style of comedy and how it isn't purely about 'being Asian'. And the fact she isn't afraid to be a little risqué every now and then.

Introducing, Tina Kim:

(BTW the 3rd clip is of a mildly adult nature, in case you're easily offended!)

Check out Youtube for a ton of clips.

Friday, August 24, 2007

10 years in prison for sending an email.

These days it's quite common to read articles about how modern China has become and the dramatic way the country has changed in recent years.

But every now and then, you read something that makes you realise how differently society is run over there compared to what we are used to either here or in Hong Kong, despite the huge economic strides China has taken. It can be quite a shock:

[Journalist and poet Shi Tao] is three years into a ten-year prison sentence, after being arrested in 2004 in connection with an email sent from his Yahoo! email account. This email, to a Chinese pro-democracy website based in the United States, contained an article revealing the Chinese government's instructions to Chinese journalists on how to spin the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown.

Yahoo! gave his account information to the Chinese authorities, which helped them to identify Shi and led to his arrest on charges of "illegally providing state secrets to foreign entities".

It's not just the long prison sentence that's shocking (for something that seems to happen regularly in the UK media) but also the involvement of a high-tech, western corporation in helping to put this guy behind bars.

Furthermore, there are reports that Shi Tao's family is also being harassed and intimidated even though they had nothing to do with the original offence:

According to Amnesty, Shi has been doing forced labour in Chishan Prison even as the authorities are extending the punishment to his family. Shi's wife was questioned daily by Public Security Bureau officials and was persistently pressured by her work unit to divorce him, which she eventually did.

His brother and uncle have also been under surveillance and harassed at home and at work; and his mother, Gao Qinsheng, is closely monitored and harassed as she continues to petition for her son's release.

Gao is a brave woman: two months ago she accepted on his behalf from the World Association of Newspapers the award of the 2007 Golden Pen of Freedom. With tears in her eyes, she waved her fist at the Chinese state and raged against her son's shackles.

It raises an interesting question: What does more harm to the image of China? A forwarded email that confirms what most people might have guessed anyway, or imprisoning someone for 10 years (and allegedly harassing their relatives too) for sending that email?

You can read more in the original article in The New Statesman.

And the case of Shi Tao is profiled by Amnesty here.

Above: Journalist Shi Tao

9 yr-old boy applies to H.K. universities [Update]

An Indonesian-born Chinese maths prodigy who was raised in Hong Kong has submitted applications to a number of Hong Kong universities - at the age of just 9.

March Boedihardjo has received his British A-level results (he got two As and a B) and is reported to be waiting to hear back from several universities including HKU and Baptist University.

[The boy's father] Tony Boedihardjo declined to disclose which university is his son's first choice. But he insisted going to university was his son's only option. "He is not old enough to go to work and he has already passed his A-levels," he said. "Studying at a university is his only choice."

It's a fair point. Uni does seem to be the next logical step. Although if he plans to take a gap year, he'll have to do it aged 11 or 12, which might limit his traveling options!

Update: March has now been accepted at Honk Kong Baptist University and gave this unexpectedly cutesy press conference in Hong Kong. Cheeky little maths prodigy, isn't he?

Original story here.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Would you like a cup of tea to go with that?

Yes, it's a mooncake. This 13 ton cake is over 8 metres wide and on display in a market in Shenyang, Liaoning Province, China, as part of the Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations.

Workers are currently working on the other 3 mooncakes and a giant metal tin. Ironically, the miniature plastic knife that comes with the cake will actually be 10ft long. :)

The '15th day of the 8th month', as we say in Chinese, falls on September 25th this year.

Source: China Daily

Friday, August 17, 2007

'My Father' - A new Asian-American film

Thought I'd share this trailer for 'My Father' I saw on The movie stars Asian-American model-turned-actor Daniel Henny and is about a Korean child adopted by an American family who returns to Korea to find his natural father, only to discover that he is in jail for murder. Looks pretty good.

Source: AsianPopcorn.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Gayle Chong Kwan - British Chinese artist

'Cockaigne' is the name of a mythical kingdom, first thought up in the 14th century, where all the inhabitants lead lives of total leisure and food and drink are abundant and endless.

It is also the name of a new exhibition of photographs by Scottish-born, London-based artist Gayle Chong Kwan. Using a variety of foodstuffs, from crab sticks to rice grains to cheese puffs, Kwan has created images that seem picturesque and appealing at first glance but sinister and repellent on closer inspection.

... in Eldorado (2004), the land of gold is in fact cheese puffs and snacks on sticks, with jacket-spud terrain and fluffy mashed potato mountains. Set on its dramatic, electricity-charged sky, it looks fabulous. Hansel and Gretel would have had a field day.

What is most appetising is the precision of the compositions. Lotosland (2004) consists mainly of plain, white rice, with a couple of puffed rice drystone walls and rice cake pillars. The texture and shadows of the foreground, however, are so well defined they appear to have been as painstakingly applied as any paint layered on to a canvas.

Her exhibition is on at the Manchester Chinese Arts Centre until September 14th.

Related: The 'bbc' causing a stir on the contemporary art scene

Monday, August 13, 2007

A couple of Chinese radio shows available on the net

You may already know that Spectrum Radio broadcasts a Cantonese radio programme every day at 6pm, but here's another (more China-based) show you may not have heard of before:

"Chinese in Cambridge" is a weekly programme broadcast in both the Chinese and English languages...

This hour long programme will have a magazine format featuring "Weekly News Review", "Modern Chinese", "Best of British", "Chinese Culture and Traditions" and "Chinese Music". The programme aims at providing current news relating to the Chinese community world-wide, introducing life in modern China and promoting cultural exchange between Chinese and English people by offering insight into Chinese philosophy, traditional values, literature and other arts.

Get the details here.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Mahjong can cause epileptic fits, according to report

Photo: Lam10D

A new medical report from Hong Kong suggests playing mahjong (and in some cases even just watching) can trigger epileptic fits amongst some players, under certain conditions.

Whilst the report by Queen Mary Hospital doesn't give a definitive set of conditions, it seems to link seizures with prolonged or especially intense games of mahjong and draws attention to the rapid movement of tiles on the table and the high level of concentration needed during a game.

"Mahjong is cognitively demanding, drawing on memory, fast calculations, concentration, reasoning and sequencing.

The distinctive design of mahjong tiles, and the sound of the tiles crashing onto the table, may contribute to the syndrome.

The propensity of Chinese people to play mahjong also deserves further study, the doctors say."

Mahjong is often recommended as a pastime for elderly people as it helps to keep the mind active as well as providing social benefits, so the idea that it may be detrimental to health is a cause for concern.

As with other activities that are reported in the press to be good for you one day and bad for you the next, it seems the sensible option is "do it in moderation".

BBC News report.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Random Picture of the Day (or So)

It's not just the South of England that's currently enjoying nice weather.

Hong Kongers have been seeing unusually blue skies above the SAR this summer. Unusual because Hong Kong is usually enveloped in a light grey haze that never seems to lift.

There is now discussion in Hong Kong about why the skies are clearer: Whether it is down to seasonal climate variations or the government's new, stricter anti-pollution laws. Photo and story from Yahoo News.

Monday, August 06, 2007

'Sweet Mandarin' becomes a worldwide phenomenon

Little did I know when I first mentioned the bbc-themed novel 'Sweet Mandarin' back in February that it would go on to become a worldwide literary phenomenon.

It's a success story that has taken author Helen Tse around the world and introduced the 'bbc' story (albeit a quite remarkable one) to a whole new audience.

If you're in Edinburgh this month, you can catch Helen discussing her book at the Edinburgh International Book Festival on August 24th.

And here's a compilation of news clips about 'Sweet Mandarin' and some of the plaudits it has received:

Related: Helen Tse talks about her bbc-themed book, 'Sweet Mandarin'

Friday, August 03, 2007

Hong Kong's OAP graffiti artist dies aged 86

An elderly Hong Kong graffiti artist whose work has been shown at the Venice Biennial and auctioned at Sotherby's has passed away at the age of 86.

Tsang Tsou-choi aka 'The King of Kowloon' was something of a local celebrity and his writings - often incoherent, obscenity-strewn rants and ramblings about his own, supposed royal status - were a recognised part of the city's cultural landscape.

Now there are calls for the remaining examples of his unique graffiti to be preserved as part of Hong Kong's heritage.

A grubby man who looked like a tramp and who many thought barking mad, Tsang spent five decades roaming the metropolis -- often shirtless and on crutches -- scrawling his idiosyncratic calligraphy on lamp-posts, walls, phone boxes, pedestrian underpasses and electrical boxes.

"To some extent he's quite cuckoo," said leading Hong Kong fashion designer William Tang, a longtime admirer of Tsang who used the graffiti as a motif for several clothing ranges.

"I started to look at the calligraphy carefully and found it's not just a joke. It has some kind of power, which is very raw, very original," Tang added.

The police pitted themselves against the graffiti artist in a cat and mouse game for years, effacing his work wherever they found it and detaining him several times.

Tsang stubbornly kept at his task -- even on crutches in his 80s -- but was forced to retire when his legs finally gave way.

Article from Reuters.

Related: Tsang Tsou-choi at the Venice Biennial 2003

Thursday, August 02, 2007

New China movies to screen at Edinburgh International Film Festival

There's a chance to catch a couple of new movies from mainland China at the Edinburgh International Film Festival this month.

'Western Trunk Line' (Xi Gan Dao) is screening on Aug 20th and 23rd and is described as a 'striking, melancholic study of family displacement and coming-of-age.'

Pictured above, 'Blind Mountain' (Mang Shan) screened at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival and is a 'Riveting, unpredictable psychological drama from the director of the brilliant 'Blind Shaft''. You can catch it on Aug 22nd and 25th.

Source: The Scotland-China Association website.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Writing clichéd articles about China: A step-by-step guide.

Here's an article from what seems to be a China expats' blog,, that pokes fun at the 'modern China' type news articles that seem to be quite common these days.

Kind of a 'How To...' guide for lazy journalists:

Nobody really understands China. Especially you, because you hadn’t even heard of the country until last week when you failed to be chosen as a New York correspondent.

So get around the whole problem of writing difficult conclusions by just presenting a series of contrasting images. Here are some easy ones to start you off:

  • A statue of Mao with an advert for Coca-Cola in the background.
  • An elderly Chinese man, with a long wispy beard, sat on a bench next to a fibreglass model of Ronald McDonald.
  • A sign saying “Promote Environmental Awareness” stuck in a field full of nuclear waste and dead babies.
  • A girl with a mobile phone walking past a tramp.
  • A description of a fashionable Shanghai socialite who hangs out at Starbucks and likes KFC, quickly followed in the next paragraph by a description of a former prostitute who works 5 million hours a day in a condom factory for just two grains of rice a year.

Read the full article here.