Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Another Outdoor Game in Changsha

Some may have wondered why a common Chinese game didn't appear in my post "Riverside Games in Changsha". The answer is simple: I didn't happen to see anyone playing it at that park.

However, I did see people playing mahjong elsewhere in Changsha.

people playing mahjong outside in Changsha, China

Like in many other Chinese cities, there are numerous places in Changsha where people can rent mahjong tables and play for hours. The above table was set up outside on the sidewalk, but I am not sure whether the players had rented it. Nevertheless, as is common for such outdoor games, a few spectators had gathered around.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Useful and Trendy iPads for Selling Memories

Sometimes what matters most about technology is what it enables you to do.

Two employees holding Apple iPads with sample photos for a marriage photography studio in Changsha, China

Sometimes what matters most about technology is being fashionable.

A Smart Photographic Opportunity with Kobe in Changsha

At one of the newest shopping centers in Changsha, Hunan province, Smart has a promotion where you can have your photograph taken with one of their automobiles.

And joining you could be a bear, a cat, and of course Smart's "brand ambassador" Kobe Bryant.

For more on Kobe Bryant's foray into China for Smart cars see a post from last year here on chinaSmack. It includes a video of an advertisement with Kobe--no cat in a pink dress though.

Capturing New Moments in the Past

Modeling as part of a photography studio's promotion, a young woman wearing traditional-style Chinese clothing received the attention of many passersby in Changsha, China.

Pundits and Teepees

I typically only post about U.S. politics here if it relates to China or one of my other "big" interests. Like many other people, the topic has attracted an unusually large amount of my online attention over the past few days due to the upcoming presidential election. My mind has been flooded with news reports, analyses, polls, pundits, polls of pundits, pundits on polls, pundits on pundits, and so on. I have also been occasionally distracted by other topics friends send my way such as $88 cat teepees. Although I have no plans to buy a cat teepee, it made me more aware of the benefits brief diversions can have in the midst of an information overload.

So in that spirit, during the next day or two I will do a series of very brief but more frequent China-related posts. They can serve as moments for some readers to flex their eyes on something different while allowing me to share with everyone more of what I have seen in China.

Soon, I will return to earlier themes here, such as college dormitories, and also reply to some readers' questions. In the meantime, though, I will keep things relatively simple.

More soon.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Riverside Games in Changsha

Whether playing Chinese chess (xiangqi),

men playing Chinese chess (xiangqi) in Changsha, China

Chinese dominoes,

men playing a dominoes game in Changsha, China

or card games,

men playing a card game in Changsha, China

a number of men took it easy at a riverside park on a typical Sunday in Changsha, Hunan province.

And in spirit of taking it easy, that's all for this post.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

An Afternoon with a Balloon in Changsha

The other day I saw a balloon seller in Changsha, Hunan province.

man selling balloons in Changsha, China

One of his balloons caught my eye. After some negotiation I bought it, and we then had a brief chat. I was surprised to learn he is from Luoyang, Henan province, which is about 510 miles (820 km) away (map). And he was surprised to learn I had been there before. He asked if the balloon was for my kid. I told him I didn't have any kids, but I planned to give the balloon to someone else. He bid me farewell as his friend, and I did the same in return.

I didn't pay much attention to the balloon as I walked around Changsha that afternoon. However, I did notice other people paying attention to it, whether with a puzzled or humored expression. And in a few cases it opened up opportunities to meet new people like the man from Luoyang.

Towards the end of the day I stopped by a large convenience store that I have been frequenting during my time in Changsha. I always have at least a brief chat with the staff there so I know most of them. I asked a young male worker if he was dating anyone. He said he wasn't and asked if I could introduce him to an American woman. I told him I'd keep an eye out and advised him to start saving up for an engagement ring. He expressed confidence that would not be a problem.

I had planned to give the balloon to a kid on the street or whichever receptionist happened to be working at my hotel when I returned. But the shirt of a young worker who was cleaning some containers made me smile. So I decided to give her the balloon.

young worker at a store holding a cat balloon in Changsha, China

I think I found it a good home.

That balloon had led to several moments which may not have happened otherwise. I wasn't out to make any grand discoveries, although you never know what can happen. Just meeting a few more people was enough to make it a good investment.

Plus, it was a pretty nifty balloon.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Product Placement, Dyslexia, and Censorship

Now seems to be a good time to share a variety of links to stories that touch on subjects found in previous posts here. In no particular order...

1. Earlier this year I shared the story of a young man who traveled from his home in mainland China to Macau so he could purchase New Zealand baby formula. Due to past formula scandals in China, he and his family did not trust locally produced formula. If he could have purchased imports in mainland China from trustworthy sources at a reasonable price he would not have needed to make the journey to Macau. In addition to high tariffs, as Wang Shanshan reported on Caixin there is another reason for the inflated prices of imported formula (H/T C. Maoxian):
One reason is supermarkets force dealers to pay large commissions to put their products on shelves, Yao Wenhua, senior executive of a Beijing-based trade company, said. This has forced dealers to raise retail prices to make a profit.
Read the article here for more about the commissions and how they are driving grey market online sales of imported formula through sources such as Taobao.

2. I recently posted about China blocking The New York Times in reaction to a story about the wealth of Prime Minister of China Wen Jiabao's family. Similar to my comments last year about an example involving YouTube, Evan Osnos in The New Yorker mentions that the blocking is not only an issue of censorship:
China has now blocked two major American news organizations (Bloomberg has been blacked out for four months, after a similar story on the incoming President, Xi Jinping), without official explanation. They are large American businesses, with substantial financial investments associated with their operations in China. At a certain point, the United States Embassy will have to weigh in, which will only ratchet up the pressure.
See here for more from Osnos about the "fallout from Wen Jiaobao's family fortune".

3. In a non-China-related post I considered whether tennis player Andy Murray's dislike for reading could be connected to a cognitive deficit. I pointed out that having such a deficit would not necessarily prevent a person from being successful. Kate Rix on Open Culture shared an interview revealing how a long unidentified reading deficit not only did not prevent director Steven Spielberg from achieving success, it may have helped lead him to his passion:
What no one, including the DreamWorks co-founder himself, knew until recently is that all those 8 mm shorts were more than just a pastime. In a recent interview Spielberg revealed that he is dyslexic and that he was only diagnosed five years ago. “It explained a lot of things,” Spielberg told Quinn Bradlee. “It was like the last puzzle part in a tremendous mystery that I’ve kept to myself all these years."

Always two years behind the class in reading, Spielberg was teased by other kids in school. He dreaded having to read in front of the class. He never lacked for friends, though looking back on it several of his friends were probably also dyslexic.

“Even my own friends who were just like me, we didn’t have the skills to talk about it,” he recalled in the interview for Friends of Quinn, a site for people with learning differences. “I got bullied. I dealt with it by making movies. That was my cover up.”
See the post here to watch a video of the interview and read Rix's summary of it.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

College Dormitories in China: Zhaotong Teacher's College

Before moving on to some broader dormitory-related issues, I want to share a look inside one more dorm room to provide a comparison with the previous examples from Dalian, Longzhou, and Changsha.

This male dorm room holds eight beds.

male dormitory room at the Zhaotong Teacher's College in Zhaotong, Yunnan, China

male dormitory room at the Zhaotong Teacher's College in Zhaotong, Yunnan, China

I visited it at the Zhaotong Teacher's College in Zhaotong, Yunnan province. Zhaotong is about 20 hours by car from either Changsha or Longzhou, but it is 227 miles (366 km) closer to Longzhou (map of the route from Longzhou to Zhaotong to Changsha).

Like the dorm examples from Dalian and Changsha, it did not have its own bathroom. A closer look at the photos will reveal signs of issues related to storage space, mosquitos, and so on. One feature of this room that I have seen in some others is its lack of desks. This can be one of the reasons why it is not uncommon to find students studying in college classrooms when they are not otherwise in use.

That's all for this dorm room. Again, I will touch on some broader issues soon. In the meantime, you may want to take a look at an example of a dorm room in Zhaotong at a less common type of school. It can be found amongst the photos in the post "Islam in China: Some Scenes from Zhaotong, Yunnan".

More Halloween in Changsha, China

On Sunday morning I posted about my Halloween weekend experiences in Changsha, Hunan province, which were minimal compared to my experiences during the same weekend last year in Taipei. But of course, Halloween day had yet to arrive. During the next few days I saw far more signs of the holiday around a popular central shopping district. To provide an example of American culture's growing impact even in China's interior regions, I will share some of what I saw.

Several shopping centers at or near the popular Huangxing Road Commercial Pedestrian Street were in the Halloween spirit. For example, the New World Department Store had some typical Halloween decorations.

Halloween decorations in Changsha, China

The Fashion Time mall was spruced up for the holiday as well.

Halloween decorations at a mall in Changsha, China

In addition to the decorations, the female staff wore eye masks.

shopping mall staff wearing face masks for Halloween in Changsha, China

And some of the staff in individual stores dressed in other styles.

person wearing a skeleton costume at a shop in Changsha, China

Yesterday, one shopping center even had a Halloween Cosplay Party. During my few minutes there, I saw a couple of dance routines.

dancing and card playing at a Halloween Cosplay party in Changsha, China

Although I saw no examples of kids trick-or-treating, I did see two kids dressed up.

two kids wearing wigs for Halloween in Changsha, China

Despite the fact they were not seeking candy, I felt guilty I had none to give them. Fortunately, they had no eggs.

Halloween night was rather busy at the clubs and bars near the pedestrian street. For those who did not come equipped, there were a number of people opportunistically selling Halloween supplies.

two young women selling Halloween items in Changsha, China

Of the people who dressed up, most seemed to be wearing the face masks or other items that could be purchased on the street. But not all...

two people wearing Halloween costumes in Changsha, China

several people drinking while dressed up for Halloween in Changsha, China

dressed up in a nurse and fairy costume for Halloween in Changsha, China

Several of the larger clubs were decorated for the holiday and packed with people dancing and drinking. Although the staff typically wore costumes, most of the customers did not. None of the clubs I saw charged a cover fee (making it easy to take a quick look), and the song Gangnam Style was playing when I entered several of them.

Although many of the bars on a popular bar street were decorated for Halloween, the one I like to call "Kobe Bar" did not.

Sign for the Base area Bar with an image of Kobe Bryant in Changsha, China

Instead, it appeared to be decorated for another holiday.

Christmas decorations at a bar in Changsha, China

I don't know, ask Kobe.

Finally, although the above may provide a feeling that much of Changsha was in the Halloween spirit, it certainly didn't feel that way to me. Even around the pedestrian street many stores had no Halloween decorations. And farther away I did not notice a single sign of Halloween.

Or Christmas.

That's all. At least until next year, this likely concludes the Halloween theme. I likely won't be here to observe it, but I expect the Halloween spirit will be found in even more Changsha places next year.

A Smoking Break in Changsha

I could imagine that the previous post about the Middle-Earth-themed Air New Zealand flight safety video might have felt like a jolt for some readers given possible expectations for China-related topics here. It's likely to happen again (note the text in this blog's header), but if you're feeling a little disoriented and looking for something to rekindle the China mood, I'm happy to help.

four men smoking while sitting on a small sofa in Changsha, China

Just four guys I saw today taking a break from their jobs at a shopping center in Changsha, Hunan province.

More non-hobbit-related topics soon.

Middle Earth Air Safety

I have done more than my fair share of being a passenger in commercial aircraft. I think it is safe to say that I have long ago stopped paying much attention to the pre-flight safety instructions.

Well, I just spent four minutes watching a new safety video produced by Air New Zealand and WETA Workshop. Not only did I pay close attention, but I am about to watch it again.

If you ever doubted that hobbits could fly, then watch this video: