Sunday, December 20, 2009

See you in 2010!

Photo: flowergem

Photo: luuluu

Photo: gp3301

Wishing all bbc blog readers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Keep your emails and comments coming and I'll see you in 2010 for more bbc-related blogging!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Quietly, nine Xinjiang protesters are executed in China

Report from the Guardian:

"The worst ethnic unrest in decades began on 5 July when minority Uighurs attacked Han people, who make up China's dominant ethnicity, only to face retaliatory attacks two days later. Many Uighurs resent Beijing's heavy-handed rule in Xinjiang, the traditional homeland of their Turkic Muslim ethnicity.

Four months later Xinjiang remains smothered in heavy security, with internet access cut and direct overseas phone calls blocked.

The official China News Service has reported that the nine were executed after a final review of the verdicts by the supreme people's court as required by law. It gave no specific date or other details. Earlier reports had identified those condemned as eight Uighurs and one Han.

The executions did not come especially quickly for China, which puts more people to death than any other country. Politically sensitive cases are often decided in weeks, especially when they involve major unrest.

The nine had been convicted of murder and other crimes committed during the riots in Urumqi, Xinjiang's capital. China blames the rioting on overseas-based groups agitating for broader rights for Uighurs in Xinjiang."

However, I wanted to see the story from the China side, so I went to the China Daily international website. Surprisingly, I could find no mention of the executions.

Personally I am opposed to the death penalty anyway, so any report of state executions in any country make unpleasant reading but there is something especially disturbing about this story, specifically how little information is released.

You would think that for a court to convict these people and sentence them to death there must be some pretty damning evidence against them. For example, if a murderer is sentenced to death in the United States, the minute details of the case will have been reported for weeks or even months previously. Anyone following the case will be usually well informed on precisely what the alleged offender is meant to have done and what evidence there was to support the charges.

In the case of these executed prisoners, the Guardian says hardly details of what they did, how they did it, or when they did it have been released. Earlier government statements had said some of the accused had been charged with murder but besides the accusation, virtually nothing else is known. Apparently even the date they were executed has not been disclosed.

Every country has a right to maintain law and order but this amount of darkness and secrecy surrounding executions is wrong, in my opinion. Letting the public know what these people did and the evidence against them would only add legitimacy to China's actions. So why the secrecy?

Story: The Guardian
Story: The Himalayan Times

Thursday, November 05, 2009

The Changing Sound of Chinatown

I read an interesting report in the New York Times that could equally apply to the UK Chinese community.

Most bbcs are descended from a generation that migrated from Hong Kong in the 1960s and 70s, and many Chinatowns around the world were founded by migrants from Cantonese-speaking regions of South China as well as Hong Kong. Cantonese can therefore be regarded as the main language of the world's dispersed Chinese population.

But all that could be about to change as Chinese migration is now predominantly made up of Mandarin speakers and they naturally gravitate towards existing Chinese community hubs rather than generating their own. So bit by bit, Chinatowns around the world are becoming Mandarin-ized. This effect is already well under way in London's Chinatown as I'm sure many readers will have noticed.

For those of us who are Cantonese Chinese, there is a real and strange prospect of going to Chinatown one day and not understanding what half the Chinese people there are saying! Weird, huh?

Immigration reform in 1965 opened the door to a huge influx of Cantonese speakers from Hong Kong, and Cantonese became the dominant tongue. But since the 1990s, the vast majority of new Chinese immigrants have come from mainland China, especially Fujian Province, and tend to speak Mandarin along with their regional dialects.

“I can’t even order food on East Broadway,” said Jan Lee, 44, a furniture designer who has lived all his life in Chinatown and speaks Cantonese. “They don’t speak English; I don’t speak Mandarin. I’m just as lost as everyone else.”

Story: New York Times

Related: Memories fading, places changing

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Only Won - 'Cantonese Boy'

One of the better Asian music spoofs out there, I think. This guy is apparently releasing an album called 'Lyrical Engineer'!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Barrio Chino - Peru's Chinatown

It won't be a surprise to any bbc that Chinese communities can be found in some pretty far flung corners of the world. But how about Lima, Peru?

It turns out that Peru has a large Chinese-descended population and the capital even has its own Chinatown. In fact, the Chinatowns of Lima and Havana, Cuba, were the first to be established in the Western hemisphere thanks to the influx of Chinese workers who accompanied the Spanish colonists who settled in the region.

Check out this intriguing profile of San Joy Lao, one of the most popular restaurants on the 'barrio chino'. How strange is it to see Cantonese being spoken on a street in Peru? :)

Related:, Chinatowns in Latin America

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Chinese Idioms sketch

A funny little sketch performed by members of the Cantonese Students Association of the University of California.

'Light bulb'? That's a new one for me!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

American News - China-style!

So this is what happens when a major American news outlet is taken over by a company from China :)

Link: The Onion

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Random Photo of the Day (or so) - Typhoon Koppu

A very atmospheric shot taken by Mochachocolata-Rita of Typhoon Koppu about to hit HK.

The Signal 8 storm (10 is a hurricane) damaged some buildings and cars.

Related: BBC footage

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

80% of earthquake disaster donations went to Chinese government

A recent study by Beijing's Tsinghua University has discovered that the vast majority of money donated by people for earthquake disaster relief actually went to the government, who then spent the money as though it were part of normal state income.

Unlike in the other countries where charitable donations usually go directly to charities or non-governmental organizations which then use the money to fund their activities, NGOs in China are not, it is reported, capable of carrying out activities such as delivering aid, building shelters and so on. As a result, the money raised is held by the government instead and they decide what to spend it on.

This means that the many relief appeals that happened after the Sichuan earthquake were, in effect, fundraising for the Chinese government itself.

I suppose if China eventually spends all of the donated money on disaster relief, then technically there isn't a problem but it does mix things up a bit. For example, how do you know if aid money isn't being spent on things the government should be paying for out of its own pocket? Realistically, there is no way of keeping track of donations once they go into the government coffers. Earlier this year there was a scandal over government officials using earthquake aid money to buy expensive luxury cars.

I prefer a system where you donate to a charity and the money kept and used by the charity but it looks like that is not possible in China.

In May of this year, the People's Daily reported that China received about 76.7 billion yuan in donations and that "Most of the donations have been or will be spent on the construction of new houses, schools, medical institutions, welfare and cultural facilities for local people." That article doesn't say how much the government is spending of its own money on the disaster.

This article from the Telegraph suggests that official government aid amounts to 1 to 2 billion yuan, a small amount in comparison, and even that is generated from a public lottery.

Story: Danwei

Related: Sichuan Earthquake: Red Cross Appeal Info

Monday, August 17, 2009

"Nice shot, Mr. Yang."

37 year-old South Korean Yang Yong-eun beat Tiger Woods to win the USPGA golf championship and becomes the first Asian golfer to win a major.

And his caddy looks like Mr. Bean apparently!

Story: Daily Telegraph
Story: New York Times
Related: Yang Yong-eun profile

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Big Brother pushes the boundries: Heterosexual Chinese male in the house!

They've had a one-armed, lesbian Cockney, a Portugese transsexual and a black albino American rapper. But surely Big Brother has gone too far this time? For the first time in 10 years of the show, they have put a straight, Chinese man in the house.

Yes, you read that correctly: New housemate Kenneth Tong (a millionaire who divides his time between Hong Kong, Scotland and New York) is Chinese, is not mixed race, isn't gay and he is on national television. Whatever next?

Link: Channel 4

EDIT: Oh dear. Some comments about Kenneth's, erm, interesting character are springing up already.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Eat your heart out, Las Vegas

China gets in on the outrageously themed architecture game with this, erm, interesting novelty hotel.

via Gizmodo

Related: Chinese folk religion

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

When Michael Jackson came to Hong Kong

As the memorial service for Michael Jackson approaches, I found this interesting video online.

In 1987, during preparations for his worldwide 'Bad' tour, Michael Jackson visited Hong Kong and is reported to have stayed for 3 weeks although he didn't actually perform a concert during that time.

I'm not sure about his attempts to blend in with the locals with traditional dress, but it's an interesting bit of archive footage:

Friday, July 03, 2009

Singer/songwriter 'Emmy the Great'

Just discovered this on Youtube. Hong Kong born singer/songwriter Emmy the Great (real name Emma Lee-Ross, daughter of a Chinese mother and English father) talks about her album and video released earlier this year:

And here's the full video. Cool song.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Article about cheese by reporter with appropriate name

HK Magazine presents a rare round-up of places in Hong Kong where you can sample that very un-Chinese gourmet treat, high quality cheese.

And the name of the author? Johannes Pong, of course! :)

Article: HK Magazine

Saturday, June 27, 2009

'No Farmers Allowed'

Truly a sign of the times from modern China (Changchun). Well, it's either farmers or workman's attire they don't like.

They have a point, though: Every farmer I know is always wanting to pop into the local Emporio Armani!

via Danwei

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Two videos for 6/4

Former Communist Party official Bao Tong has been exiled by the Chinese authorities for the part he played in smuggling out the secret memoirs of ousted Party General Secretary Zhao Ziyang.

Zhao was a reformer on the side of the student protesters who was in favour of democracy for China. His smuggled memoirs have just been published in a book, 'Prisoner of the State', which lifts the lid on the inner workings of the Communist Party. It certainly looks like an interesting read. The Telegraph as published some extracts.

Secondly, a profile of Chai Ling, a Tiananmen Square student activist now forging a career in the West:

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Did you know the next Pixar film stars an Asian character?

You may have already seen the trailers for 'Up', the latest wonderful-looking film from the makers of Finding Nemo and Toy Story.

What I hadn't realised until now was that 'Russell', the funny little kid who stars in the film (alongside the grumpy old man) is actually an Asian American boy.

As reported by Slashfilm, the character of the boy was based on by an Asian animator who works for Pixar but his ethnicity has not been made a big deal of. He's just a cute, funny little kid who happens to be Asian.

I often post about depictions of East Asian people in the media but do think it's an important issue (in particular for younger generations). I know that were I a 10-year-old boy going to see Up, knowing that the main character was Asian would simply have made my day.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

If Uncle Ben's made an advert for Chinese people...

Those of you in the UK will know that for the last few years the American company Uncle Ben's has been running some really lame TV commercials for its ethnic food range.

The idea is always the same: A white, middle-class household sits down to dinner. Someone takes out some Uncle Ben's convenience food and starts heating it up.

The food is meant to smell so great that people in the country where the food hails from (in the case of sweet and sour sauce, China) drop what they're doing and rush over en masse to England and end up at the family's house where they enjoy the Uncle Ben's dinner.

Yes, Uncle Ben's are so amazing that apparently Chinese people would actually leave China and travel across the world to eat their reheated sweet and sour sauce!

If you don't know the ads, you can view them here:

Uncle Ben's commercial 1

Uncle Ben's commercial 2

Apart from the whole concept being ridiculous, the ads are made even more super-patronising by showing the ethnic characters as mute, grinning and dressed in stereotypical national dress (sombreros for the Mexicans, kung fu outfits for the Chinese etc.).

These stupid ads caught the attention of designer Lisa Lam, who has penned 'An Open Letter to Uncle Ben' on her blog.

They also got me thinking: I wondered what if Uncle Ben's made a 'Western' convenience food and used the same marketing strategy in China?

I imagine the commercial would go something like this....

In a tiny, cramped Hong Kong apartment kitchen, a pretty Chinese housewife tries to decide what to make for dinner (because it's so hard to get a decent meal in Hong Kong). She opens her cupboard and picks a jar of new Uncle Ben's Roast Beef, Yorkshire Pudding and Gravy in a jar! Yummy! With a big smile she open the jar and pours out some brown sludge into a frying pan.

We then jump to London, England:

Inside Number 10 Downing Street, two men who look remarkably like Gordon Brown and Tony Blair suddenly stop what they're doing and sniff the air. Mmm, the unmistakable aroma of roast beef, their favourite food! Let's go!

Meanwhile in a traditional thatched cottage, a farmer is shearing his sheep on the kitchen table. Suddenly he stops what he's doing and sniffs the air. Mmmm, Yorkshire puddings! I must have some of that!

Meanwhile at Wembley stadium, someone who looks remarkably like David Beckham suddenly stops practising free kicks and sniffs the air! Mmm, that gravy smells delicious! I must go to where it's coming from!

Gordon Brown, Tony Blair, the farmer and Becks all jump aboard a red London bus and head for Hong Kong.

The bus arrives at Nathan Road, everyone gets out and runs up to the apartment.

The Hong Kong housewife opens the door, looks surprised and lets them all in (except for Gordon Brown who has to stand outside because the apartment is too small). Everyone sits down to dinner and they enjoy Uncle Ben's Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding together! Mmm. Uncle Ben's.

I think it would work, don't you? :)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Jackie Chan's awkward position, and the controversy within a controversy

This is the video of Jackie Chan's recent comments about Chinese people needing to be 'controlled' that sparked such an angry response from many Chinese commentators. His comments were made during an interview about mainland media regulation.

In case you hadn't heard, Yahoo News (and others) have reported that:
A group of mainland Chinese academics and media professionals wrote an open letter calling Chan the "spoiled brat" of the Chinese race.

"You are born in Hong Kong, a free Hong Kong which provides you with excellent conditions to become an internationally renowned martial arts star," the letter said.

"You are now the cream of the crop, and yet you don't know the importance of freedom."

There have even been calls for boycotts of Chan's movies and concerts. The main part of what Chan said that caused such anger was:
In these ten years -I grew up in Hong Kong- I slowly felt, I don't know how much freedom we should have. Too much freedom and we'll be like Hong Kong right now, very chaotic. Or become like Taiwan, also very chaotic. I slowly feel like we Chinese needs to controlled. If we're not being controlled, we'll just do what we want.

If we don't control things, we'll do things as we wish. Why can't I eat gum in Singapore? You would think that not being allowed to eat gum is correct. If I give you gum, some people might take the gum and stick it on tables, put it on chairs without self-respect."

It is hard to read such comments and not see them as being critical of Hong Kong, so I think the anger of people in the SAR is understandable.

But that initial controversy has spawned its own controversies with Chinese bloggers claiming Chan's words have been misinterpreted, with some even claiming that it is an evil Western conspiracy.

CN Reviews claims the furore is the fault of the evil 'Western media'
"Westerners look like they’re frothing at the bits to use anything they can to paint China in a negative political light: “Oh look, even lovable kung-fu funny-man Jackie Chan has betrayed his own, selling out both himself and his kind to the evil Communist regime!” To which the Western masses reply in unison: “Gasp!”"

That's an extreme reaction, I think. Chan's comments were indeed critical of Hong Kong, or 'his own', the place that made him a star. And I think most people would accept that Chinese entertainment figures are indeed very careful not to upset Chinese authorities in the interests of their career. I don't think that's a crazy invention of the Western media.

EastSouthWestNorth chose to interpret Chan's words differently, coming up with a translation that doesn't use the inflammatory word 'control':
If there is too much freedom, it becomes like Hong Kong today ... very chaotic ... furthermore, it becomes like Taiwan ... it is also very chaotic ... eh ... I have slowly come to realize that we the Chinese people need regulation ... If there is no regulation and we suddenly opened up, we can do whatever we want.

Even if that is a grammatically correct translation (and I'm not the one to judge that), I'm not sure if the meaning is exactly right as Chan actually talks about personal freedoms and behaviour before and after the quote in question - not the sort of things usually referred to in English as 'regulation'.

cfensi blog also chose to translate the line differently as:
"I slowly feel like we Chinese needs to control. If we don't control things, we'll do things as we wish."

i.e. not 'be controlled', but to do the controlling.

What seems to have been missed in all the analysis is that however you translate the comments, the point he is making is basically the same when you look at the entire speech.

I would suggest that what Chan actually meant in his off-the-cuff remark was that Chinese people need rule of law. If we don't have rule of law, we'll do things as we wish. I base that on the fact that he talks about freedoms in Hong Kong immediately before, and laws in Singapore immediately after the comment in question. Is that simple statement something many of us would dispute?

My take on this whole thing is that for Chan, being asked about Chinese media regulation put him in an uncomfortable spot because he recently had a movie banned in China for being too violent. The journalist may have been hoping the actor would make a comment about his own movie being denied a release but Chan chose (perhaps diplomatically) not to do that and instead broadened his answer to make a generalised statement that ended up being in favour of control (or regulation).

To me, it seems he was just performing a difficult balancing act whilst in an awkward position - something Jackie Chan is very used to doing!

Related: The journalist who asked the original question responds

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Sort out this Gurkha veterans mess

It's shocking and baffling how the British government can dither, delay and prevent granting older Gurkha veterans the right to resettle in Britain. There ought to be no question that these Nepalese soldiers who were prepared to put their lives on the line fighting in the British Army, not in defence of their own homeland but in British military campaigns, should be granted the right to live here if they so choose.

Gurkhas who retired after 1997 do have the right to resettle the UK but Gurkhas who stopped serving before that date do not. This is what the current campaign is fighting for.

Some interesting figures:

Maximum number of Gurkhas that might want to be resettled in the UK (includes every Gurkha claiming a pension plus 2 dependents each): 75,000

Estimated number of illegal immigrants in the UK: 725,000.

The disputed, worst-case scenario cost of resettling Gurkhas cited by Gordon Brown: £1.4billion.

Cost of war in Iraq in one year: £2 billion.

It should be simple and quick to sort this out: Grant older veterans the right to live here now. Many of them won't even take up the offer, they just want the dignity of having that right. Take the cost from the defence budget. And if the government feels it can no longer afford to grant Gurkha veterans this right, then just stop using them in the British Army. Simple, isn't it?

Story: Ministers in disarray as Gurkhas strike again

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Red face syndrome more serious than first thought?

You know how it is: You're out with a bunch of friends (of varying ethnicity). You down a couple of drinks and someone looks at you asks "Have you been out in the sun?"

Yes, the dreaded Asian Red Face strikes again. But on a more serious note, the New York Times reports that Red Face Syndrome isn't just a cause of embarrassing photos, in some cases it might be related to an increase risk of oesophageal cancer:

The flushing response, which may be accompanied by nausea and a rapid heartbeat, is caused mainly by an inherited deficiency in an enzyme called ALDH2, a trait shared by more than a third of people of East Asian ancestry — Japanese, Chinese or Koreans. As little as half a bottle of beer can trigger the reaction.

The deficiency results in problems in metabolizing alcohol, leading to an accumulation in the body of a toxin called acetaldehyde.

People with two copies of the gene responsible have such unpleasant reactions that they are unable to consume large amounts of alcohol. This aversion actually protects them against the increased risk for cancer.

But those with only one copy can develop a tolerance to acetaldehyde and become heavy drinkers.

It seems that the most at risk group are those who used to go red very easily early in their lives but who now don't - as this suggests they have lost the 'early warning system' of going red.

As ever, the safest response for Asian drinkers would seem to be 'everything in moderation'. Keep your alcohol consumption down overall (less than 16 drinks a week) and you'll reduce the risk of cancer significantly.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The BBC Blog Diet: Hong Kong Fast Food

No doubt everyone has their favourite memories of HK fast food. My personal favourites are the char chan tengs (glass table tops, tea served in cloudy plastic beakers and vast pots of steaming beef brisket in the windows) and those ubiquitous chain cafes like Fairwood and Maxims - all fast, cheap and with varied menus.

The UK's Guardian newspaper has just published a list of some fast food outlets you may not be familiar with but which seem to be worth checking out:

Hong Kong is one of the most vibrant food capitals in the world, with a staggering 12,000 restaurants to choose from. The Michelin Guide launched here at the end of last year- a foreboding green light for celebrity chefs to open expensive gourmet restaurants. They would be missing the point: Hong Kong certainly isn't somewhere you have to spend a fortune for fabulous Chinese food.

So here is an alternative guide for budget eating out, where the quality and freshness of the food is what counts, not the decor and service.

Article: Street eats and cafe cuisine in Hong Kong

Friday, March 27, 2009

Asian-American male's annoyed message to Asian female on Craigslist

Photo: joyce_l

This Asian American male obviously got hacked off by the behaviour of an Asian girl and made his feelings known on the classified ads site Craigslist. It starts like this...

You: Asian, young(ish), cute, petite, left-of-center, cosmopolitan.

Me: The Asian guy you would never dream of giving a second glance.

Hi! I’m so sad that you were offended by my very presence at your favorite boutique coffee shop...

The full post continues here.

via Look At This

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Bruce Lee vs Iron Man

This is a really well made bit of animation. I love how they have even captured Lee's trademark hand flick. Enjoy!

via Slashfilm

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Frozen in Time (#4)

I found this one on Flickr. I love the wild, clashing colour scheme and the old fashioned typefaces used in the sign.

Not only does the shopfront look untouched in decades, it also seems to have been very well maintained. A sign of a careful and devoted business owner. Note the selection of carefully tended potted plants in the window too.

The classic touch is of course the net curtains, which discreetly shield Sun Hong's customers from the prying eyes of passers by. Truly Frozen in Time.

'Frozen in Time' is a bbc blog celebration of Chinese establishments that have stood the test of time and kept their original look in an age of constant revamping and updating. If you see any other 'frozen in time' Chinese establishments, drop me a line!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Campaign against bad behaviour seems to be aimed mainly at Chinese people!

Together for London is a so-called 'passenger engagement campaign' that aims to stamp out annoying, anti-social behaviour on public transport such as playing loud music, talking loudly on mobile phones, being inconsiderate other passengers and so on.

It's hard to avoid the cutesy, Sanrio-inspired posters that are plastered all over London. Whether the campaign is effective or a waste of money is debatable but every time I see one I can't help thinking - Is that character meant to be Chinese? Check out the campaign website to see more:

Together for London

Trying to tell us something, Transport for London?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Extra fast internet inspires extra weird commercials in HK

I like it when HK commercials take the humourous approach. These ads are for Hong Kong Broadband Network who recently built their own fibre optic network to provide Hong Kongers with superfast broadband. There are 18 ads in total, each dedicated to a district of Hong Kong (they wanted to show that their network was available in every part of the territory):

You can view all the ads at HKBN's Youtube channel

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The bbc blog diet: Cha Cha Moon

Don't believe the (bad) hype. Cha Cha Moon is actually quite good.

When this Alan Yau 'casual dining' restaurant opened, there was a special offer of any dish for £3.50 which is no longer available but it's still worth paying a visit. My duck noodle soup with plump goji beans was very nice and the Hong Kong style milk tea was fine although it didn't seem as strong as the real thing. They even do warm Vitasoy in bottles just like in HK.

Could this be further evidence that Western food critics don't really know how to assess Chinese or Asian restaurants?

Related: Cha Cha Moon, Alan Yau's new restaurant getting mixed reviews
Link: ThisisLondon review
Link: London Eating reviews

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Life of Rural Chinese Children

I caught this interesting video on Shanghaiist. It depicts the life of young children who are left at home in the countryside by parents who go off to find work in the cities.

With an estimated total migrant workforce of 130 million, these situations are not uncommon in rural China.

The video starts out like a bland, 'National Geographic' type of documentary but the more you watch, the more engrossed you become in the children's stories and - for me - the more sympathy you have for their situation.

What I don't understand is why the parents don't return home, say, once a year to see their children. The first girl featured has not seen her mother in five years and tells the interviewer she can barely remember what she looks like. So sad.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Asian girl suffers from 'White Fever'

Poor girl. Can nothing be done about this condition? :)

AOMORI, JAPAN—At first glance, 17-year-old Misaki Nakajima seems like any other shy and submissive Japanese schoolgirl. She loves shopping, text messaging, and the color pink. But beneath her wholesome exterior lies a wicked secret: Misaki Nakajima is consumed by ... fantasies involving sweaty, middle-aged American men.

Article: The Onion
Related: Wanted: Chinese Women

Friday, February 06, 2009

The bbc blog diet: Egg with tomato

This dish is an old favourite that I remember from childhood (although it seems to be made with a slightly more complicated recipe in this video than I remember).

The bbc blog diet is an assortment of dishes that may or may not cause you to lose weight but at least they taste nice!

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

OMG Miley Cyrus and friends in Asian Racism 'Scandal'!

Caption, anyone?

Some of you probably saw the headline and are thinking, 'Who?' and some of you are probably thinking 'Who cares?'

The young star's actions were strongly criticised by the Organization of Chinese Americans and the photo may upset the clean-cut celebrity's Asian fanbase.

As for me, I'm going to reserve judgment and say it depends on the context of the photo.

There is an Asian guy posing with them and whilst that doesn't automatically prove the people aren't being racist it does make it highly plausible that this was an intentional joke between friends. I think it's an open verdict.

Article: 'Miley has insulted her Asian fans'
Related: Worst Olympics ad ever?

Monday, February 02, 2009

"This is a scandal!" (not sandal)

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao today joined the short list of world leaders who have had shoes thrown at them by angry protesters. You can see the immediate aftermath of the incident in this clip:

'Shame on you!' shout some observers in the crowd.

On the other hand, should we consider ourselves fortunate to live in a free society where such protests - shameful or not - can at least happen without the protesters being shipped off to a labour camp and never seen again?

Article: The Times

It would be an ironic twist if the shoe turned out to be made in China, wouldn't it?

Friday, January 30, 2009

Traditional Chinese art, animated

Here's a bit of nice, chill-out viewing for your weekend (Sound recommended).

via Drawn

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Stupid takeaway customers #751

Photo: crashx7

A ridiculous story from the US. Funny but I can imagine this happening in parts of the UK too:

[Takeaway owner...] Paul Chen was waiting on a customer when three men came through the back and robbed him and his family.

According to Chen, the customer out front saw all of this and walked out the front door, but didn't call the police.

Instead, after the robbers were gone the customer actually returned and wanted to know where his food was.

Chen gave the man back his money and told him to leave.

Yeah. Thanks, buddy.

via Angry Asian Man

Monday, January 26, 2009

Saturday, January 24, 2009

CCTV: "Can we censor Obama's live speech? Yes, we can!"

This is the moment China's state-controlled TV channel CCTV decided part of Barack Obama's inaugural speech was a little, shall we say, unacceptable and hurriedly cut to a newsreader in their studio who seemed a bit surprised to be suddenly on camera.

The clip below shows what millions of viewers in China would have seen and gives an interesting insight into how an event we all watched freely in the UK would have been modified for us, had we been in China.

The line that triggered the cut-off was:
"Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions."

I wonder if viewers realised what was happening?

Bloggers have also posted that another part of the speech that contained the line
"To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist"
has been left out of transcripts on some Chinese websites such as

I wonder if in this case, attempts to censor the speech have backfired and simply focussed attention on those sections that were 'interrupted'? At least those in China with internet access can now view his entire speech with subtitles, thanks to video sharing site

Edit: Out of curiosity I've been searching for reports of similar censorship in Russia or Cuba. So far, I haven't found any.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Why do we make V signs in photographs?

Photo: tutyluv

Don't say "Cheese", make a V!

Ever wondered it is popular for Asian people to make a V sign with their fingers when posing for photographs?

It might not be as universal as it used to be, but it's a common sight in informal, 'fun' photos of Asian people. The sign denotes positivity, it's a gesture that says "I feel happy. Things are okay. Life is good."

Generally, the V sign is made close to the face for females, whilst more to the side and away from the face for males. Why is that? I have no idea. That's just the way it is.

Not quite right?. Photo: Fobspot

Photo: cashboy017

Theses days, the conventional happy V sign has evolved into a gangster-ised form, palm inwards, fingers held sideways like scissors. This V sign doesn't so much say "I feel happy" as "Don't mess with me. I am just too cool."

Photo: PhokingCho

The trend never really took off amongst bbc's which is perhaps why I started to think about why people is Asia do it, and how it all started.

A V sign made with the palm facing inwards is said to have originated in England and is an insult rather than a positive gesture. You've probably heard the story: The sign was used by English longbowmen at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415 to insult the French army who had threatened to cut off the bowmens' arrow-holding fingers. It's a legend that has never really been proven or disproven.

In the West, the V sign with the palm facing outwards has two major associations; Winston Churchill and the 1960s anti-war movement. Churchill wanted the sign to stand for 'Victory' but initially made it palm-inwards. Oops. Being a wealthy member of the upper class, he didn't know the negative meaning of the gesture and had to be told by his aides to reverse his hand when making the gesture thus giving us the iconic pose that is now known all around the world.

In the 1960s, the American anti-war movement used the sign to signify 'Vietnam' and would call for peace whilst making the gesture. Gradually the gesture itself came to mean 'peace' and was popularised by the flower power movement and luminaries such as John Lennon. This was the beginning of the association of the V sign with happiness and positivity.

In Asia, the V sign first became popular in Japan in the 1970s and 80s and quickly spread to the rest of Asia. But what triggered its popularity? Japan's fondness for the Beatles and the flower power culture goes some way to explaining why they took to the V sign but there are two predominant theories as to why it became so popular.

The first concerns a little known (outside of America) ice skater named Janet Lynn.

Lynn competed at the 1972 Winter Olympics at Sapporo and was a huge hit with the Japanese viewers. Her skill as a skater, cute appearance, positive spirit and likeable attitude (she suffered an embarrassing fall during one of her crucial routines yet remained smiling throughout) made her immensely popular in a country in the grip of Olympic fever.

Off the rink, Lynn was a peace activist and often flashed the 'peace' V sign to photographers. It's thought that Lynn's popularity at this time sparked the Japanese love of the V sign.

The second theory, and the one that sounds most convincing to me, was put forward by Japanese entertainment show Downtown DX which discovered that a popular actor named Jun Inoue starred in a series of commercials for Konica cameras, also in 1972. These commercials all featured people making the V sign. He reportedly chose to do this, ironically, because he thought the sign was popular in the West.

In doing so, it is believed Jun Inoue started the trend of making the V sign when posing for photographs in Japan.

So there you have it, that's how the whole V sign thing started. Interestingly, try as I might, I've not been able to find a single picture online of either Janet Lynn's or Jun Inoue's V signs so for me there is still as slight mystery to it.

But at least now we know that whenever we make a V sign for a photo, it's all down to ice skater who fell on her butt. Or a 1970s camera commercial. Probably.

Monday, January 19, 2009

What the year of the Ox holds in store for you (if you believe in that sort of thing)

There's not long to go until Chinese New Year and for those of us who believe in such things, Hong Kong's BC magazine has commissioned an expert astrologer to predict what the coming Year of the Ox has in store, based on your Chinese zodiac sign.

One interesting thing about the article is that it talks about being born either the hot or cold parts of the year as a factor in your horoscope which I hadn't heard of before.

I remain a skeptic but I guess people will always find horoscopes entertaining - whether they are of the Eastern or Western variety. Over to you, Russell:

Related: Did 2008 disprove the luckiness of the number 8?
Related: Feng Shui Foolishness

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Clint Eastwood caught up in Asian gang violence

in the movie 'Gran Torino'.

I would the love the climax of the film to be a high speed car chase with Clint in a modded Nissan Skyline GT-R but that probably isn't going to happen.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Cantonese - The Movie continues apace

The inventiveness in these little movies, as well as the effort that goes into them never ceases to amaze. If Ah-Mok and friends aren't nominated for an Oscar, it will be an outrage (Best Foreign Moustache, maybe?)!

The last part of this vid is funny. I think if you asked that question in real life, a lot of Hong Kongers would give you a non-verbal response! ;)

Remember, all the installments of this epic production can be viewed on Cecilie Gamst Berg's blog Chinadroll

Related: 'Cantonese - The Movie' (cont'd)
Related: Learning Canto with Ah-Mok and ah-Wai

Monday, January 05, 2009

Did 2008 disprove the luckiness of the number 8?

I'm sure I wasn't the only bbc who back in January had high hopes for the auspicious-sounding year 2008. And look what happened! The credit crunch has certainly proved one thing: Chinese number superstitions mean diddly-squat when you're in the West.

But surely it's a different story in China, the home of blessed and cursed numerals? Well, not exactly. Economically, China - the country with the world's biggest foreign currency reserves - does look set to suffer less than the West during these tough economic times. But in an age where nations' economies are intertwined and interdependent, who knows what will happen? China is seeing an increase in civil unrest due to factory closures and unpaid wages as export orders shrink and competition amongst fellow Chinese companies intensifies.

Article: Chinese manufacturing shrinks in December
Article: Growing signs of workers’ unrest in China

However, the country as a whole is probably more resilient, economically, than many countries in the West. In that sense, the number 8 could be said to be still working its old feng shui magic, just about.

Apart from the economy, though, it has been a rocky year for China. On 25/1/08 massive snowstorms paralyzed China's rail system stranding thousands of migrant workers at the height of the Chinese New Year holiday period. Lucky number fans pointed out that the numbers that make up that date (2+5+1) added up to 8.

That event was superseded by China's worst natural disaster of recent times when the Sichuan earthquake resulted is over 80,000 fatalities, including over three thousand children. The earthquake occurred on 12/05/08 and coincidentally 1+2+5=8

Surely, then, no sane person could ever attach any good fortune to this simple digit? Surely we all agree now that the concept of lucky and unlucky numbers is pure hokum?

Well, not exactly. As Asia Times reports, feng shui experts have an explanation for all the bad stuff that happened during this so-called lucky year:

"According to the philosophy in Yi Jing (The book of Change) and that of ancient philosopher Laozi (Laocius), things will take a reverse course when developing to an extreme. A situation with all yin or all yang is very unstable and risky.

By this doctrine, the Beijing Summer Olympic Games may have exploited the luck of the number 8 to the extreme: the event is set to open at 8 pm, on August 8, in the year 2008 - or 08.08.08. It may be too perfect, and something too perfect needs to be complemented by some imperfections."

Article: The curse of a perfect eight

So there you have it. 2008 wasn't a lucky year because, basically, we milked it too much! Ah well, there's a lesson for us all.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

A Cantopop parody from 'Squirrelpoop'

I've only just seen this video but it's actually a year old. Hope we see more from this Squirrelpoop. 'Dim gai lei mo da deen wah...' :)

Friday, January 02, 2009

Random Photo of the Day (or so)

A wintry view of Kung Foo takeaway, Cheadle Heath, Cheshire, found on Flickr.

Photo: phojus