Friday, August 31, 2012

Fashion for Sale at Dongmen in Shenzhen

Earlier I shared some photos of outdoor scenes at Shenzhen's Dongmen shopping area. In this post I will share some scenes from several clothing or fashion accessory stores at Dongmen. Other than one shop, they are all targeting female shoppers.

Like my experience with "Lady Gage style" shopping in Liuzhou and another experience with shopping in Handan, Hebei province, I learned a bit more about China. There is more I could say about the sometimes maze-like paths through the thousands of shops at Dongmen, the organization of items beings sold, and the immense variety of options -- in terms of style, quality, and cost. For now I will simply suggest that understanding shopping environments & culture in the "real world" has the potential to inspire and guide design for online experiences. I will save other thoughts for a later post which will highlight similar shopping environments in other regions across China.

And now, more snapshots of Dongmen:

selling clothes at Dongmen in Shenzhen, China

clothing shops at Dongmen in Shenzhen, China

watches, bags, and other items being sold at Dongmen in Shenzhen, China

clothing stores at Dongmen in Shenzhen, China

clothing store at Dongmen in Shenzhen, China

two young women hold a sale sign in front of a store at Dongmen in Shenzhen, China

clothing and shoes stores at Dongmen in Shenzhen, China

shoe store seen from above at Dongmen in Shenzhen, China

clothing stores at Dongmen in Shenzhen, China

two young women working in a bag store at Dongmen in Shenzhen, China

In the Mood for Lunch

The other day in Hong Kong I ate lunch here:

table at the Goldfinch Cafe in Hong Kong

If the scene does not look familiar, maybe this view inside the restaurant (with a clue on the wall) will help:

inside the Goldfinch Cafe in Hong Kong

Or maybe this movie excerpt will stir some memories:

Still not finding the restaurant scene remarkable in any way? Then I highly recommend you watch all of Wong Kar Wai's mesmerizing movie In The Mood for Love. It takes place in 1962 Hong Kong and includes a scene from where I had lunch -- the Cafe de Goldfinch (also known as the Goldfinch Restaurant).

The movie is part of a loose trilogy -- the first movie is Days of Being Wild and the third is 2046 (which also includes Cafe de Goldfinch). Some recommend watching In The Mood for Love first, which is what I did, so feel free to jump right into it. The movies have a pace all their own, and I found repeated watchings are worthwhile for more fully enjoying them. And for those who may not feel compelled to watch a romantic art film, it may be worth pointing out that 2046 also has an element of science fiction.

A meal at Cafe de Goldfinch can be rather enjoyable, even if you have no strong feelings about Wong Kar Wai's movies. Walking inside takes you back to another world in another time that now stands in stark contrast to the surrounding area in Hong Kong's Causeway Bay. The restaurant also offers an opportunity to try Hong Kong's "traditional" Canto-Western style food.

And in case you are wondering, sadly I cannot say I found much romance at Cafe de Goldfinch. But it did provide something else I was in the mood for -- grilled ostrich with a black pepper sauce.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Selling Sliced Fruit on Styrofoam Boxes in Shenzhen

Inexpensive and easily portable cardboard or styrofoam boxes are not only useful for selling cucumber slicers at the Dongmen shopping area in Shenzhen. For example, they are useful for selling sliced fruit as well:

selling sliced fruit on a styrofoam box at Dongmen in Shenzhen, China

It would not seem to be a particularly sanitary way to serve fruit, but it helps keeps overhead costs low.

For about 15 or 30 cents US would you buy a slice?

Added note: The "sanitary" comment was inspired by the visible dirt on the styrofoam box lid. The lid appeared to have been previously used for non-food-serving purposes and/or stored in less-than-clean conditions. Of course, styrofoam has the potential to be sanitary for food-serving purposes.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Pragmatic Cucumber Slicer Displays at Dongmen in Shenzhen

I am exhausted after a cross border/estuary trip became a bit more adventurous than I had expected. So I will keep today's post simple and share something that earlier caught my eye at Shenzhen's Dongmen shopping area.

On several occasions when I recently visited there, people selling cucumber slicers were a common sight. I am not sure if the slicers are also effective for other vegetables, but at the very least cucumbers were the preferred vegetable for demonstrations. Here is one of the cucumber slicer sellers hard at work:

man selling cucumber slicers at Dongmen in Shenzhen, China

You may have noticed that he has some cucumber slices stuck on his face -- possibly a great way to catch people's attention and show the slicer's capabilities. I suppose it is also possible that they are targeting people who would like cucumber facials.

You may have also noticed his choice of materials for his display. Most cucumber-slicer sellers use styrofoam or cardboard boxes. Their portability is important when you regularly need to change your location. After all, these sellers are not licensed to be operating on the sidewalk in Dongmen and will shift locations to avoid any concerned authorities.

But sometimes a seller is caught or needs to abandon their display to avoid such a fate. Here is the result of one such case:

security carrying away a cucumber slicer display at Dongmen in Shenzhen, China

Fortunately for any cucumber-slicer sellers, not only are their displays portable but they are also easily replaced -- a very important feature if you are hoping to quickly get back to work and take advantage of the demand for cucumber slicers. 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Boy in Shenzhen Wearing a Popcorn Bucket Hat

I am not sure I will have time to do a fuller post today, so here is a photo that does not require significant commentary:

boy wearing a paper popcorn bucket as a hat in Shenzhen, China

I met the boy in Shenzhen at one of my favorite restaurants. Apparently he had become bored at his family's table and decided to explore while wearing his unusual hat. I do not discriminate against popcorn bucket hat wearers, so we hit it off.

As far as I know, wearing popcorn buckets as hats is not a fad for kids in Shenzhen or elsewhere in China. And when he later took off his hat it appeared not to have previously contained buttery popcorn.

I can only imagine what his next inspiration will be...

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Outside at Shenzhen's Dongmen Shopping Area

In Shenzhen's Dongmen area, department stores and thousands of tiny stores crammed into warehouse-sized buildings attract large numbers of shoppers interested in a variety of inexpensive goods. Although Dongmen may only receive a passing mention in some guidebooks, it is a place I would highly recommend to anyone visiting Shenzhen. Even if like me you are not a shopaholic, it offers a glimpse into important sides of China's diverse and evolving shopping culture and contrasts in many ways with Shenzhen's upscale modern malls or what can be found just two metro stops away at Shenzhen's border with Hong Kong (topics for another day).

In this post I will share a number of outdoor scenes from Dongmen. They provide a sense of the crowds that can often be found there. On the side, I just discovered that the McDonald's in the 5th photo was the first to open in mainland China. Had I known that when I was there, maybe I would have stopped by for a breakfast hotdog.

In later posts, I will share some other scenes from a place that offers much to discover. For now, soak in these scenes:

One end of Dongmen Pedestrian Street in Shenzhen, China

crowds at the Dongmen shopping area in Shenzhen, China

crowds at Dongmen shopping area in Shenzhen, China

Dongmen shopping area in Shenzhen, China

KFC and China's first McDonald's at the Dongmen shopping area in Shenzhen

crowds at Dongmen shopping area in Shenzhen, China

covered shopping area at Dongmen, Shenzhen, China

crowds at Dongmen shopping area in Shenzhen, China

man standing next to a tree at Dongmen shopping area in Shenzhen, China

physically disabled man sitting on the ground and writing calligraphy at Dongmen shopping area in Shenzhen, China

crowds at Dongmen shopping area in Shenzhen, China

people shopping at Dongmen in Shenzhen, China

people sitting down at Dongmen shopping area in Shenzhen, China

crowds at Dongmen shopping area in Shenzhen, China

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Youthful Directions

What matters more...

little girl on tiled ground covered with numerous arrows
 Doing what a kid does best -- Shenzhen, China

where you are or where you plan to go?

And when do we begin to ask such questions?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Video-ade: The Employment, Death By China, and A Flight Through the Universe

They say when life gives you lemons make lemonade. I like lemons, but none have recently come my way. However, life has given me several videos I would like to share. So today I will make some video-ade (sugar free).

1. As with many examples of artistic expression, I believe this first video is open to multiple interpretations, even if the director, Santiago Grasso, had a specific message in mind. In fact, the message I took from "The Employment" changed after I watched it a second time. It will get you thinking... maybe about technology, maybe about "serving others", maybe about cheap labor, or maybe something else.

[If the video does not work you can also try viewing it here.]

I believe the video can serve as sort of a Rorschach test, though like that test the interpretation of the results may not be straightforward. Whatever the case, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section or email me. If there is enough interest, I will share them together along with my own. One perpective can be found in Andrew S. Allen's piece on the site The Short of the Week. And watch the credits section in the video for a glimpse of what might be Grasso's opinion of it all.

2. Speaking of Rorschach tests, I would be curious to see the results of one taken by Peter Navarro -- the director of the next video which is a trailer for the documentary Death by China. Like the previous video it touches on the issue of employment. But what might be most memorable is author Gordon Chang stating, "China is the only major nation in the world that is preparing to kill Americans". Really, see the video for yourself:

Did that catch your attention? Well, it certainly caught Charlie Custer's attention, and he shared his thoughts on China Geeks. I would agree with him that the trailer is an example of "scaremongering". Instead of me waxing poetic about the dangers of self-fulfilling prophecies, I invite you to consider Custer's thoughts. All I will say for now is that I fear Navarro took a post of mine a bit too seriously.

3. Finally, for a sense of where employment and China's supposed thirst for American blood fits into the grander scheme of things, watch the video "A Flight Through the Universe":

This video:
was made by Miguel Aragon of Johns Hopkins University [!] with Mark Subbarao of the Adler Planetarium and Alex Szalay of Johns Hopkins. There are close to 400,000 galaxies in the animation, with images of the actual galaxies in these positions (or in some cases their near cousins in type) derived from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) Data Release 7.
To be even more boggled consider that galaxies (the smallest objects in the video) can range in size from 10 million stars to a 100 trillion stars and that the video only includes a fraction of the known universe.

It might be best to consider the title of the video to be "A Flight Through a Model of the Universe". As far as we know, the above experience would not be possible in the real universe for a variety of reasons such as a) it would require traveling faster than the speed of light, b) the images we have of these galaxies are from different ages of the universe, and c) even at theoretically possible near-light speeds visual experiences become rather funky. Regardless, this most excellent video provides a taste of what we know about the incredibly vast cosmos.

There is a lot out there, folks. Don't forget your towel. And I doubt anything out there cares if it was made in China.

Friday, August 17, 2012

A Brief Stop in Zhuhai on the Way from Macau to Shenzhen

I plan to move on from posting semi-regularly about Macau. Some earlier posts about Macau included:
More recent Macau-related posts can be found here.

Instead of Macau, several upcoming posts will focus on Shenzhen -- a large and rapidly growing city an hour away by ferry across the Pearl River Delta. To serve as a bridge of sorts between Macau and Shenzhen, I will now share a few photos from Zhuhai -- the mainland Chinese city which borders Macau. The first link above discusses the special permission mainland Chinese need to cross the Macau-Zhuhai border. But in this post I will continue a theme from a lighter post about the various types of cycles I saw in Zhuhai.

Like before, there were people who rented tandem bicycles at the "boardwalk" next to the Pearl River Delta:

two young women riding a tandem bicycle in Zhuhai, Guangdong province

Likely due to the change of seasons since my earlier visit to Zhuhai, I saw that some of the motorbike-taxis in the town of Nanping now sported a specially-designed sun/rain umbrella:

motorbike-taxi with bike-umbrella in Zhuhai, China

motorbike-taxi with bike-umbrella in Zhuhai, China

But what most caught my eye during my recent visit was what I believe to be a new bike rental option. Although I had seen a quadracycle before, this four-wheeled vehicle seems deserving of a different name:

a double-bicycle in Zhuhai, China

Two regular bicycles had been connected together to created this vehicle. Maybe it should be called a double-bicycle. Any other ideas?

More soon from Shenzhen, a city that differs from Macau and Zhuhai in many ways.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Outer Space, International Internet Regulations, and Invading North Koreans

Since I may never get around to writing the full commentary several pieces I recently read deserve, I want to at least make sure I share some of them here before they gather too much dust:

1. There have been a steady stream of stories about China's various disputed claims to islands near or not so near its undisputed borders. This combined with America's recent success of landing a large rover on Mars had me pondering a related question: Does China have plans to make any territorial claims if it places people or a piece of equipment on the Moon or Mars even though no other countries have made any such claims (at least not yet)?

I am happy to see that someone has given this question deeper analysis. Based on what he wrote in Foreign Policy, it appears that John Hickman woud agree that I am not crazy for pondering such an issue:
You might be asking: Why on God's green Earth would Beijing want to colonize the moon? The crazy thing is that, if one analyzes China's interests and the relevant international law, the Chinese moon scenario seems not only plausible but smart.
And even though there is an international treaty protecting objects such as the Moon and Mars from territorial claims, it has a rather large loophole:
Would a Chinese moon claim even be legal? At the moment, no, but international law would provide only the flimsiest of barriers. Although the 1967 space treaty asserts common ownership of the entire universe beyond Earth's atmosphere, it also permits signatory states to withdraw from its terms with only a year's notice. And there's no law governing whether you can fly a rocket to the moon and land a ship there.
Read the article for more about why China may have some hopes for expansion much farther away than any currently disputed islands.

2. Outer space is not the only place where there may be changes in international agreements. The same holds true for the Internet. Rebecca MacKinnon in Foreign Policy points out that a variety of interests are at stake in making changes to the institutions which play important international roles in regulating the Internet:
China, Russia, and many developing countries have complained for nearly two decades that the new, nongovernmental multistakeholder institutions are dominated by Americans and Western Europeans who manipulate outcomes to serve their own commercial and geopolitical advantage. These critiques converge with the interests of former and current state-owned phone companies wanting to restore revenues of yore before email and Skype wiped out the need for most international phone calls.
Read MacKinnon's article for an overview of how some countries may have reasonable gripes and how nothing less than the Internet's current openness is at stake.

3. A soon-to-be-released remake of the movie Red Dawn will include a major plot change -- North Korea, not Russia, will be invading the U.S. Max Fisher in The Atlantic details several factual mistakes in the movie. Needless to say (I hope), the idea of North Korea invading the U.S. requires a great deal of imagination. In fact, so much is required that Fisher suspects some viewers will replace North Korea with China in their minds. But even though China is far more powerful than North Korea, Fisher explains why the U.S. still has little to fear:
China has no incentive to attack America, its most important trade partner and thus the central pillar in the economic growth strategy around which its entire polity is organized, and every incentive not to. Even if China did want to attack, its military isn't nearly strong enough. And even if it were strong enough, some analysts say it is too riddled with internal problems.
Read Fisher's article in full for more details about why the U.S. is unlikely to be seeing thousands of red parachutes any time soon -- whether they may be made in mainland China or on Mars.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Wedding Photography Scene in Macau

A common ritual in China:

Wedding photography atop of Penha Hill in Macau, China

More soon...

Monday, August 13, 2012

McDonald's Hot Dogs for Breakfast in China

Previously I discussed the existence of imitators which suggests that much room remains in China for McDonald's to grow. I have also mentioned the positive impression some Chinese have of the U.S. because of their experience working at McDonald's and how McDonald's has localized some of its offerings for the Chinese market -- although it has not gone to the lengths of KFC's circumcision parties.

Today I noticed a McDonald's in China offering an item that is quite popular in the U.S.:

sign for a breakfast hot dog set meal at McDonald's in China
¥14.50 is about U.S. $2.30

This was the first time I had ever seen hot dogs for sale at a McDonald's anywhere, let alone in China. But what was even more curious to me was that they were being offered at a time I would not expect -- breakfast.

In China, hot dogs in a bun are not commonly available. They can be found at places such as Dairy Queen and 7-Eleven, but those chain stores are far from ubiquitous in China. However, hot dogs (or hot-dog-like objects) sans bun are not uncommon in many regions. For example, almost two years ago I saw this vendor selling hot dogs in Mudanjiang, Heilongjiang province:

hot dogs for sale in Mudanjiang, China
Another type of "hot dog" was also available in Mudanjiang -- a topic for another day

McDonald's has previously tried selling hotdogs in Canada, Japan, and the U.S but they never took off. McDonald's is possibly having better luck in China despite the Shanghaiist claiming last year that the hot dogs were a "travesty". The article does not provide many details and a promised future update does not seem to have ever been published. But since the hot dogs have been around for at least almost a year, there is reason to believe there has been a positive response. It would be interesting to discover why McDonald's may have found success selling hot dogs in China but not elsewhere.

Anyways, if you are looking for a food review I will have to disappoint. Maybe if the hot dog in the photo had been topped with brown mustard and relish I would have found it to be a more tempting choice for breakfast.

Update: More on hot dogs for breakfast in China (with a squid ink twist) here.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Nam Van Lake in Macau

No deep (or less than deep) thoughts today. I will simply share a photo of two people having a conversation at Macau's Nam Van Lake. The scene provides a contrast to Macau's narrow streets and alleys.

And maybe that can inspire some deep thoughts.

two people sitting at Nam Van Lake in Macau

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Baby Formula in China: Foreign Brands Coming In, Advertising Going Out

Several months ago I shared a story of a young man who occasionally makes a long trip to Macau from his home in mainland China so he can purchase baby formula produced in New Zealand. He does this because of previous milk-safety scandals in China, and he wants to be sure that his cousin's infant receives a genuine non-Chinese baby formula. He is not alone in his concerns, and foreign brands of baby formula are well aware of the demand in China for their products. In Buy Buy China, Dror Poleg reports that this combined with Chinese taxes leads to significantly higher prices for foreign baby formula:
The brands, in turn, make the most of their captive market [in China] and mark up prices up to 4 times their level in the US or Europe. A tin of foreign baby formula ranges from around RMB 200 to RMB 400. Some high end products – such as Wyeth’s Illuma, Nestle’s NAN H.A., and Mead Johnson’s Enfagrow - cost even more. China now levies a 10% tax on imported baby formula in an effort to promote domestic alternatives. But demand driven by safety concerns is inelastic, meaning Chinese consumers absorb the extra costs while foreign brands continue to grow their market share. Similar, if more moderate, dynamics can be seen in the market for other baby products.
The higher cost of some products in mainland China is yet another reason why the Macau-Zhuhai border is a key point in a grey market sales network.

Chinese brands are of course also aware of the situation and hope to improve their image. But it may seem surprising that one well-known Chinese brand is attempting to do this through advertising not only in China, but in London as well. In fact, Londoners themselves are confused. As reported by Boruo Chen in Asia Society:
Yili, a Chinese milk company based in Inner Mongolia, recently launched an ad campaign on London's iconic double-decker buses that had locals scratching their heads. The ad shows Chinese men and women, none of whom are recognizable celebrities or athletes, alongside the brand's logo, in Chinese. No Yili products are for sale in London, and few clues on the buses hint as to the significance of these people.
Is this a sign Yili has made a huge marketing blunder? Maybe not. Poleg claims in another article on Buy Buy China that Yili's main goal for its London advertising is not influencing British perceptions. Instead, Chinese consumers are the target:
On closer inspection we found the London campaign is part of a broader effort to restore Yili’s reputation back in China, following its implication in scandals involving Mercury- and Melamine-tainted milk formulas. The campaign is orchestrated by Ogilvy & Mather and includes a cooperation with Youku, China’s leading video site, and a domestic advertising campaign as well. The London ads are used to appeal to Chinese Olympic visitors and serve as fodder for a PR push in the Chinese media, trying to portray Yili as an international brand that is well accepted beyond China’s borders (here, for example, in Chinese).
Poleg is skeptical that such a campaign will be successful. However, Darren Wee in the Financial Times expresses reason for optimism (article is behind a paywall but can be read in full if you click its entry on Google, Bing, Yahoo!, etc. -- do a search on one of the sentences below to find it):
Chinese consumers love western brands, so Chinese companies have begun to advertise in the west to build a reputation at home.

Sales of Yili Shuhua milk rose 12 per cent when it featured in the 2011 Transformers  film.

This result suggests that Yili knows what it is doing, even if Londoners are baffled.
It is fascinating to consider how advertising in a far away country may prove valuable at home for Yili. And not only does it suggest some of the ways in which businesses based outside of China can profit even when a Chinese company is targeting Chinese consumers, it is also an example of how evaluating the quality of a design, whether a marketing campaign or a mystery beverage vending machine, requires understanding its purpose.

If the campaign proves to be a success for Yili, it is possible even more Chinese companies will attempt a similar strategy. Could Londoners soon find themselves regularly puzzling over Chinese ads?

At least for the short term*, London's advertising sales agents probably hope so.

*The question of whether it would be good for them in the long term raises some interesting issues I would want to further consider before commenting.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Mystery Beverage Vending Machine in Macau

soda machine with all selections only marked with a question mark
A mystery beverage vending machine in Macau -- which one would you choose?

I came across the above canned beverage vending machine a couple of years ago at the Macau Fisherman's Wharf -- a theme park that "includes over 150 stores and restaurants in buildings built in the style of different world seaports such as Cape Town, Amsterdam and Venice, six rides, a slots hall, a 72-room hotel, and a casino" (one visit was more than enough for me). Fortunately for anyone who hopes to profit from beverage sales, the machine did not appear to be common elsewhere in Macau. I would expect that in most cases people have little desire to pay for a randomly-selected drink (in this case, some may not have even realized/understood that a drink could be purchased).

But maybe such a machine is appropriate at an entertainment area in a city full of gambling and some people enjoyed the risk or surprise it offered. Maybe not profit but instead amusement was the goal -- anything sold was a bonus. Or maybe the hope was that it would catch people's attention and cause them to more closely examine the Coca-Cola products if offered.

Whatever the case, it certainly caught the attention of me and several other passersby. Though, I did not see anyone make a purchase.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Hong Kong Versus China in the Olympics

As can be apparent in sports such as keirin (a cycling event) and table tennis (ping pong), Hong Kong fields an Olympics team that is distinct from China's team. China permits Hong Kong to do this under a right detailed in Chapter VII, Article 151, of the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China:
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region may on its own, using the name ""Hong Kong, China"", maintain and develop relations and conclude and implement agreements with foreign states and regions and relevant international organizations in the appropriate fields, including the economic, trade, financial and monetary, shipping, communications, tourism, cultural and sports fields.
Not only does Hong Kong compete in the Olympics, it came close to facing off with China for the gold medal in this year's table tennis team event. However, Hong Kong lost in the semifinal and will compete for the bronze medal while China will face South Korea in the gold medal match. [Update: China won the gold medal in both the men's and women's team event. Hong Kong lost to Germany in the men's bronze medal match.]

If the idea of Hong Kong competing against the rest of China in the Olympics seems peculiar, things get only more complicated when considering who is on Hong Kong's table tennis team. According to the AP:
Hong Kong’s three players were all born in mainland China and moved to Hong Kong when they could not make China’s national team.
This may raise questions about whether the Hong Kong team provide a double opportunity for some mainland Chinese to compete in the Olympics. As reported by Reuters, the Hong Kong table tennis players tried to explain their situation:
"We are definitely loyal to Hong Kong, otherwise we would be playing for China," said Hong Kong's Chu Yan Leung.

But then his team-mate Tang Peng pointed out: "We are playing for Hong Kong but there is no difference between Hong Kong and China, we are in the same country."
Their words seem to raise more questions than answers. For example, what are the implications of Cheung's "loyalty" to Hong Kong? And the claim of "no difference" further highlights Hong Kong's unusual situation. Although Hong Kong is part of China, Hongkongers enjoy more freedoms than mainland Chinese and there are numerous other differences which exist. There is even a border between Hong Kong and mainland China which can make it easier for someone from India than someone from China to be allowed entry into Hong Kong.

One might think that a Hong Kong team could create a distraction for China that it would prefer to avoid. But I suspect China has no interest in dissolving it. The reason has nothing to do with Hong Kong's laws or providing some Chinese two opportunities to compete in the Olympics.

Instead, the reason has much to do with another team in the Olympics that China would prefer not to stand out too much and may want to send a signal.

Chinese Taipei.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Mr. & Mrs. Kidney Potatoe on a London Bus in China

I have no plans to write about the Olympics, but yesterday in China I did see something that made me think about London. At the Coco Park shopping center in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, I stumbled upon this section of a children's play area:

an England Train and a red double-decker bus ride for kids at a mall in Shenzhen, China

For a price, the small train ride would circle around and the bus ride would lightly bounce. The front of the bus listed locations in London, not unexpected given its red double-decker design and the nearby "England Train".

Seeing a London-ish scene in China added a little twist to my day. But what threw me for a loop were the images on the bus of what appear to be Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head, the toys that recently celebrated their 60th anniversary, labeled as "Kidney Potatoes" with the small print "Laugh With Amusement......" below.

Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head were designed in the U.S., so it seemed curious to me that their images would be used on a British-themed ride. Why not display an image of something more British? And why would Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head be incorrectly labeled as "Kidney Potatoes"?

Maybe someone sought an alternative name for Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head in the hope of avoiding a copyright/trademark problem. Maybe this is a promotion for a knock-off product being sold in Shenzhen. Maybe the designer believed that kidney potatoes were particularly British and then searched for potato images that would be appealing to children. Maybe the designer thought that Mr. Potato Head looked British. Maybe there was a Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head fad in London. I can think of many other possibilities as well. Some may seem more likely than others, but researching this could lead to surprising and unexpected answers.

At the risk of disappointing, I must say that I do not plan to make any investigations (nonetheless, if you have something to add I would be interested to hear about it). Instead, I will later touch on several design and research related issues raised by this example. For example, although it caught my attention, I doubt any of the kids playing there were concerned about the "Kidney Potatoes" label.

But I did hear some of them laughing in amusement.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Chinese Temples on the Macau Peninsula

Although the Portuguese influence is unmistakable, much traditional Chinese culture can still be found in Macau. To capture just a sliver of it, I will share some photos from three of the more well-known temples on the Macau Peninsula. Unlike many temples in mainland China, none of them charge an entrance fee (a topic for another day). The first four photos are from Kun Iam Temple, the next four are from A-Ma Temple, and the final two are from Lin Fung Temple. They include a variety of scenes, including monks offering their prayers as a woman (not visible) burns paper replicas of various items, such as a car, so they can be sent to her parents in the afterlife.

statue at Kun Iam Temple in Macau

coiled incense at Kun Iam Temple in Macau

monks praying at Kun Iam Temple in Macau

burning paper replicas being sent to the afterlife at Kun Iam Temple in Macau

A-Ma Temple in Macau

carved and painted figure on a wall at A-Ma Temple in Macau

bamboo at A-Ma Temple in Macau

tokens for making wishes hung at A-Ma Temple in Macau

Lin Fung Temple in Macau

Inside Lin Fung Temple in Macau