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