Challenging your ideas about the Red Dragon

I wrote this on Friday:

We hear a lot of rumors, and rumors of rumors, about China in the US.  Some of them are true, some of them are half-truths, and some of them aren’t valid at all.

1888 Itcho Hanabuso wood print: blind monks examining an elephant

China isn’t everything the mainstream media in the US cracks it up to be.  I said the other day that trying to describe China is like asking “What’s the weather like in the United States?”  Perhaps a more accurate version of that question is the classic story of the blind men describing an elephant.  If I’m in China, how do I know what mainstream media is saying about the Middle Kingdom?  1) When I’m tuned into it during a visit to the States, 2) When I read online news, 3) The biases/assumptions that come through when people ask me questions/make comments about China.

Coming off my comments above, which weren’t the main point of my thoughts the other day, I hit a gold mine in this article from the Columbia Journalism Review.  This paragraph made my head go up and down like the bobble-head doll it talks about.

We’d just note that once a meta-press-narrative gets rolling, it tends to take on a life of its own, for a lot of reasons. Intra-newsroom dynamics play a role. It’s just easier to get a story in the paper that fits the meta-narrative than one that pushes against it. The former are the kinds of stories that, once pitched, make an editor’s head nod up and down like a bobble-head doll. Continue reading

Celebrate family. Celebrate life.

“Celebrate family.  Celebrate life.” This was the title of the Focus on the Family commercial with Tim Tebow and his mom that aired tonight during the first quarter of the Super Bowl.  I saw it and after all the hullabaloo and ruckus in the days leading up to it, I was left thinking, “That’s it?  Where’s the offense in that?”

Yahoo Sports had an interesting article commenting on the commercial itself, as well as the ramifications and precedent it sets for future Super Bowl ads.  Here’s an excerpt.

On a larger scale, though, the Tebow ad has the potential to change the landscape of the Super Bowl advertising, and, in turn, the national post-Super Bowl conversation.  Advocacy groups tend to follow the approach of siblings appealing to their parents : they did it, so why can’t we?  The Tebow ad now serves as precedent; from now on, a network that turns down an advocacy ad is inviting a lawsuit, or at the very least wide-scale protests.  The result could be that networks give equal time to opposing points of view, leading to a can-you-top-this cycle of advocacy messaging.

The writer then goes on to ask these questions.

  • What about the millions who look at the Super Bowl as an escape from the thorny political and moral issues of the day, who want nothing more than to watch some football and laugh at a few amusing ads along the way?
  • Should money and political ambition trump the original purpose of the game?
  • Do we need to have moral and ethical discussions involved in every area of our lives?
  • Or is that exactly what we need?

Well, yeah, we do need to have moral and ethical discussions involved in every area of our lives.  Focus on the Family did a great job of positively supporting and upholding life.  The verdict after all the brouhaha: much ado about nothing.

The Yahoo Sports article is here (and you can also view the ad there if you missed it):

The rest of the Tebow family story is on the Focus website here:

Photo submission to BBC news “In Pictures”

BBC News has a page called In Pictures and they publish reader’s submissions at the bottom of the page under the appropriately-named Your Pictures.  Each week they publish a gallery of submissions based around a different theme.  This week’s theme is “Comfort”:

During the week of February 16 the theme is “water” and I have submitted this picture, taken in Laos on my backpacking trip last winter:

Who: Julie K. Hull
What: Mekong River Sunset
Where: Mekong River – Vientiane, Laos (Lao/Thai border)
When: January 11, 2009

With a population of just half a million people, Vientiane is the capital of Laos, Southeast Asia’s most sparsely populated country and the most bombed nation on earth.  Many people die each year from unexploded ordnance (UXO) left over from the Indochina War.  Located on the banks of the Mekong River, Vientiane is full of rich contrast which hints at the country’s troubled past: noodles and baguettes, Buddhist monasteries and French architecture, rice paddies and tree-lined streets.  Life is decidedly slower in this skyscraper-less corner of the world that has been called ‘Southeast Asia’s biggest village,’ but steer clear of the Mekong River’s Lao-Thai border at night because Lao militia have been known to shoot at boats after dark!

If you see it up there, let me know!  🙂

Beijing is cold.

It’s cold in a I’m-sleeping-in-my-long-underwear, I-don’t-want-to-wash-my-face-or-bathe, I-haven’t-done-the-dishes-in-three-days, I-understand-why-Medieval-people-only-showered-once-a-year, I’m-only-warm-when-I’m-asleep-under-my-six-blankets kind of way.  It’s cold outside: it got up to about 18 degrees today and it felt like Indian summer after earlier this week.  It’s cold inside: we don’t have running hot water and the radiators heat the bedrooms to about 60 degrees, but the living room, bathroom, and kitchen are probably 5-7 degrees cooler.  It’s the global warming.  It causes those record snowfalls and record lows in desert cities all the time.

This week saw record low temperatures in Beijing. Global warming, where are you?

I was doing some reading over at the People’s Daily today.  Here’s a self description:

Launched in January 1998, People’s Daily Online is a website built by People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of China.

That alone should lead you to guess that perusing the website would be informational and educational if you find yourself with some free time.  This article is especially interesting.  Anyway, while I love many things about living in China (and the good definitely outnumbers the bad), one of the bad things that ranks high on the list is inefficiency.  However, the People’s Daily Online impressed me when I read this at the bottom of their web page:

efficiency at the People's Daily

Pleasantly surprised at the efficiency with which the People's Daily is battling the Chinglish war.

If the blue type is too small to read, here’s what it says.

Attention: If you find mistakes in our website, please select the incorrect dates and press “CTRL + ENTER.”

I see poor English and Chinglish all the time, especially on English-language sites where the main site is in Chinese, and it brings two thoughts to mind.  1) If they go through the trouble of having an English site, why not make sure it’s good English?  2) I could make a lot of money proofreading stuff like this.  But props to the People’s Daily for striving to publish good English.

Also in the news, it seems that Yao Ming and his wife Ye Li, who played basketball on China’s women’s team, are reportedly expecting their first child.  Congrats to them, but I hope they have a boy if the baby is a Chinese citizen!  Ye is not a short woman at 6’3″ and Yao is the NBA’s tallest player at 7’6″.  I learned today that Yao Ming (b. 1980) was practically a creation of Chinese government officials who wanted some tall basketball-playing athletes in a bad way.  They played matchmaker to get his [tall] parents together.  Here’s one estimate of the height of their child-to-be from the People’s Daily Online:

(This post is brought to you by hot water bottles and wool socks.)

E-waste: from China to North Korea

I wrote a post on this blog last December which was titled “Desperate people will do desperate things: should people have to choose between poverty and poison?”  I followed it up with “Pictures from Guiyu, the most toxic place on earth.”  So when Shanghai Scrap recently wrote a post about e-waste, it caught my eye.  Read the post about some of China’s e-waste going to North Korea here.

Dave Barry’s year in review: 2009

Dave Barry begins his year in review by saying that 2009 was

a year of Change, especially in Washington, where the tired old hacks of yesteryear finally yielded the reins of power to a group of fresh, young, idealistic, new-idea outsiders such as Nancy Pelosi. As a result Washington, rejecting “business as usual,” finally stopped trying to solve every problem by throwing billions of taxpayer dollars at it and instead started trying to solve every problem by throwing trillions of taxpayer dollars at it.

He then proceeds to reflect upon each month of 2009.  Here are my favorites:

  • [The federal stimulus package] will stimulate the economy by creating millions of jobs, according to estimates provided by the Congressional Estimating Office’s Magical Estimating 8-Ball.
  • California goes bankrupt and is forced to raise $800 million by pawning Angelina Jolie.
  • The annual observance of Earth Hour is observed with one hour of symbolic energy conservation as hundreds of millions of non-essential lights and appliances are turned off. And that’s just in Al Gore’s house.
  • The United States swiftly pledges to issue a strongly worded condemnation [to North Korea over its missile tests] containing “even stronger words than last time.”
  • To replace Souter, President Obama nominates Sonia Sotomayor, setting off the traditional Washington performance of Konfirmation Kabuki, in which the Democrats portray the nominee as basically a cross between Abraham Lincoln and the Virgin Mary, and the Republicans portray her more as Ursula the Sea Witch with a law degree.
  • [In June] pop superstar Michael Jackson dies, setting off an orgy of frowny-face TV-newsperson fake somberness the likes of which has not been seen since the Princess Diana Grief-a-Palooza.
  • Meanwhile the governor of South Carolina, Mark Sanford, goes missing for six days; his spokesperson tells the press that the governor is “hiking the Appalachian trail,” which turns out to be a slang term meaning “engaging in acts of an explicitly non-gubernatorial nature with a woman in Argentina.”
  • Elsewhere in state politics, the FBI arrests pretty much every elected official in New Jersey on suspicion of being New Jersey elected officials.
  • In foreign affairs, former president Bill Clinton goes to North Korea to secure the release of two detained American journalists who purely by coincidence happen to be women.
  • California, in a move apparently intended to evade creditors, has its name legally changed to “South Oregon.”
  • The president…delivers a back-to-school speech to the nation’s students, telling them to work hard and get a good education. Fortunately, thanks to the vigilance of the talk-radio community, many parents realize that this is some kind of secret socialist code message and are able to prevent their children from being exposed to it.
  • In international news, Iran shocks the world by revealing the existence of a previously secret uranium enrichment facility. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad insists that the uranium will be used only for “parties.” United Nations nuclear inspectors note, however, that “Mahmoud Ahmadinejad” can be rearranged to spell “Had Jammed a Humanoid” and “Hounded a Jihad Mamma.”
  • The [2016 Olympic] committee — in an unexpected decision — votes to hold the games in Pyongyang, North Korea. The head of the IOC insists that the decision was “made freely and without coercion,” adding, “for the love of God please abort the launch.”
  • On the celebrity front, a remorseful David Letterman confesses to his stunned audience that he has been hiking the Appalachian Trail with female staff members.
  • A Washington couple, Tareq and Michaele Salahi, penetrate heavy security and enter the White House, a feat that Joe Biden has yet to manage.
  • In sports, the New York Yankees, after an eight-year drought, purchase the World Series. But the month’s big sports story involves Tiger Woods, who, plagued by tabloid reports that he has been hiking the Appalachian trail with a nightclub hostess, is injured in a bizarre late-night incident near his Florida home when his SUV is attacked by golf-club-wielding Somali pirates.
  • President Obama, after weeks of pondering what to do about the pesky war situation he inherited, announces a decision — widely viewed as a compromise — in which he will send 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, but will name their mission “Operation Gentle Butterfly.”
  • On the environmental front, Copenhagen hosts a massive international conference aimed at halting manmade global warming, attended by thousands of delegates who flew to Denmark on magical carbon-free unicorns.
  • In sports, roughly 40 percent of the U.S. bimbo population announces that it has at one time or another hiked the Appalachian Trail with Tiger Woods.

Actually, I had a hard time deciding which ones were my favorite, but I promise you this isn’t half of what Barry lists.  Go read the rest of Dave Barry’s year in review: 2009 here.

Of nine nations, non-censorship, free books & an Obama of hair

I’ve come across a few interesting things online in the past week or so and I thought I’d share them with you.

1 First up is an article by Patrick Chovanec in The Atlantic breaking down the 1.3 billion people in China into “a mosaic of several distinct regions, each with its own resources, dynamics, and historical character.” It’s called The Nine Nations of China. As the article and sweet interactive map point out, all of China’s population doesn’t actually share the same language, history, and culture as we tend to think. I’ve added The Nine Nations of North America to my “to read” list, which is where Chovanec says he got some of the inspiration for his Nine Nations of China.

2 President Obama visited China as part of his four-stop Asian tour, which also included visits to Singapore, South Korea, and Japan. While in Shanghai he conducted a town hall-style meeting, of sorts. I don’t think I need to say too much about it because commentary on his now-infamous quote where he refers to himself as “a big supporter of non-censorship” can be found all over the net. Of particular note, here are two posts about it at Shanghai Scrap and Granite Studio.

Obama’s performance reminded Shanghai Scrap of “an overly coached American businessman on his first trip to China, so concerned about what he should or should not say that he forgets what he wants to say in the first place, and ends up going home with nothing but a hotel bill and empty promises.”

And Granite Studio says, “Well, that’s just great, Barack. Thanks! I personally oppose not getting ice cream for my birthday and I am firmly in support of not-drunk airline pilots.”

In the end, the President ultimately got censored in the Chinese news media anyway. This blog is also denied access in China.

3 Next is the discovery of Gary Thomas’ new book, Pure Pleasure, as a free eBook over at his homepage. Also, John Piper’s bestselling book Desiring G0d is Xtian Audio’s free audio download of the month, so go download it before November is over!

4 And lastly, to return to our President again, check out a Chinese hairdresser’s replica of Obama made from human hair, as well as proof of some other weird Obama mania in China.