Saturday, May 31, 2014

A Reason to Support Beijing's Winter Olympics Bid

I can't say I have felt much enthusiasm over Beijing's bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics. In fact, I had hoped another location would be chosen. I will refrain from detailing the reasons, because I might have had a change of heart after seeing a potential logo for the games if they take place in Beijing. The image conveys with great clarity the feelings of its creator and evoked such strong emotions from myself that tears nearly poured out of my eyes.

Without further hesitation, I present Anthony Tao's transcendent piece of art:

I look forward with great anticipation to seeing Tao's design for the mascot.

Children and Dogs on Huiyan Peak

Just because, here are a few photos of two girls, a boy, and two pet dogs I briefly met on Huiyan Peak (回雁峰) in Hengyang, Hunan:

two girls and a boy with two dogs sitting on a rock in Hengyang, Hunan, China

a dog in Hunan

two dogs in Hengyang

two girls and a boy with two dogs sitting on a rock in Hengyang, Hunan, China

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Power of Paper and Censorship in Thailand

One reason to read George Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty-Four" in paperback:

person holding a copy of George Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty-Four"

The silent reading protest against the military coup in Thailand occurred in a country which has seen a sharp recent increase in censorship. For one overview of the censorship now occurring in Thailand's traditional media and online social media see Aim Sinpeng's guest post on The Washington Post. A number of Thai companies have readily accommodated the military's requests, but foreign companies with online services popular in Thailand are proving to be more of a challenge. For example, Facebook and Google so far haven't displayed any eagerness to meet with Thai officials and "discuss online anticoup dissent".

Perhaps most telling about what the military has in mind for the long term are plans for a new system to monitor online expression in Thailand:
The director of the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology’s IT crime prevention bureau, Thanit Prapatanan, tells VOA it will likely be several months before the plan for the new control system is worked out.

Thanit cites the example of China, where he argues that filtering does not have a significant impact on society, rather it just blocks some websites deemed dangerous, but all Internet ports are not closed.
Thanit's use of China as a positive example says much.

I won't try to guess what steps Thai's military will take next. But if Thailand follows China's lead in restricting online expression, it's hard to imagine that the censorship won't significantly impact Thailand's society in Twenty Fourteen.

Ads With Feline and British Touches for a Photography Studio in Hengyang

After two posts about American ads, I will bring things back to China while sticking with the ad theme.

One of the first sights after entering through the northeast gate of the locally popular Yueping Park (岳屏公园) in Hengyang, China, is a helpful map. Below the map is something perhaps less expected.

map for Yueping Park above an ad with a woman wearing a cat outfit

It is not an ad for the nearby Hengyang Zoo. Instead, it is an ad for a photography studio which might have a penchant for cats. Fate or blind luck later brought me to the studio's location. The two signs on the pedestrian street in front of it were hard to miss, if for no other reason than that they were directly in my path.

advertisements for a photography studio--one a photo of a wedding couple and the other a woman wear boxing gloves and a bra with a British flag design

I don't have any strong opinions about the ads like I did for the Apple or ESPN ads. But I will note that the British flag design on the one woman's top fits a fashion trend I have noticed in China. More on that topic in a later post.

Pink boxing gloves are a far less common sight.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

(I Believe That) I Like "Esa-Pekka's Verse" by Apple

ESPN's "I believe that we will win!" ad left me me a bit surprised and asking a few questions. Another ad I recently saw also left me surprised but did so in a rather positive manner.

The ad by Apple is remarkable for featuring Esa-Pekka Salonen, a conductor and composer of "contemporary classical" music. As Alex Ross notes, despite their incredible talents, artists like Salonen usually doesn't garner much mass-market attention. I would say more except that I don't need to, because Ross already wrote a great piece about the ad on The New Yorker.

(I Believe That) I Would Change This Sports Chant

Thanks to the glories of online social networking and VPNs, I recently saw this ESPN advertisement for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil:

I appreciate ESPN wants to get Americans excited about the World Cup, but the chant "I believe that we will win!" leaves something to be desired. Not only does it call into question the claim that the U.S. is a leader in creativity, but its potential effect is weakened by the phrase "I believe that". Instead of detailing my thoughts in a three thousand word essay, I will instead simply share three other videos along with a few questions to ponder.

First, what if the refrain in this song by Queen were "I believe that we will rock you"?

It doesn't quite have the same kick, does it?

Second, after the rocking is over, what if the refrain in this other song by Queen were "I believe that we are the champions?

It raises the question of whether they are really the champions, no?

And finally, the ESPN ad sounds more like a daily affirmation than a rousing or intimidating sports chant. But even if that is its purpose, why add "I believe that"? Stuart Smalley didn't:

I could go on, but (I believe that) I will stop here.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

People, Fishing Rods, and Kites Next to the Xiang River

After the recent flooding, today a pedestrian area next to the Xiang River in Hengyang seemed relatively back to normal for a weekday afternoon with people sitting, walking, fishing ...

pedestrian area next to Xiang River in Hengyang

flying kites, ...

man flying a bird kite next to the Xiang River in Hengyang

and selling kites.

kites for sale next to the Xiang River in Hengyang

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Flooding and Cleanup Along the Xiang River in Hengyang

Flooding caused by recent heavy rains has led to at least 37 deaths in southern China. The Wall Street Journal posted a slide show showing some of the rain's impact in Hunan, Jiangxi, Guangdong, and Fujian provinces.

The rain has been heavy at times in Hengyang, Hunan province, but I haven't noticed anything calamitous in the central urban area where I have spent most of my time. Flooding has been easy to see, though, along the Xiang River (also called the Xiangjiang River).

partially submerged trash container near a partially submerge stone railing
The stone railing was completely submerged at one point.

The river never came close to overflowing the nearby streets in this part of Hengyang, but it did rise high enough to submerge at least one adjacent lower-level pedestrian area. The water has been receding, but this area remains underwater. So instead of this:

people one a stone railing next to the Xiang River in Hengyang
Signs of earlier flooding are evident.

... today cleanup operations were underway to remove silt and other debris.

workers sweeping silt away from a submerged pedestrian area
Didn't look easy

I briefly met part of the cleanup team, and many of them appeared to be proud of their work. One person even asked me to take a group photograph.

Ten workers, some with brooms made from tree branches, posing for a photograph
The second woman from the right made the request.

They probably don't get as much positive attention as they should. But their work will mean the flooding's effects here will soon be forgotten, and people will be able to once again enjoy not working next to the river.

people sitting on a stone railing next to the Xiang River at night
A more typical scene at the riverside pedestrian area

Monday, May 26, 2014

More Reaction to the "Taiwan Coup" and a Metro Vancouver Correction

Metro Vancouver mistakenly identifying Taiwan as the location of a coup has led to a variety of responses. In the Taipei Times, Shelley Shan reported reactions which highlight that, for some, Metro Vancouver's error was a familiar one:
[Canadian Joel Charron, an English teacher in Taiwan,] added that the editor of Metro was probably not the only person in Canada who confuses Taiwan with Thailand.

“When I first got here [Taiwan], some people back in Canada thought I was in Thailand. I got concerned e-mails after the tsunami in 2004, asking if I was safe,” he said. . . .

Tourism Bureau Deputy Director-General Wayne Liu (劉喜臨) said the incident has served to remind the bureau to work harder to promote Taiwan abroad so foreigners will not keep confusing it with Thailand.
As Shan also notes, additional reaction included the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in Vancouver formally requesting a correction.

Not surprisingly, Metro Vancouver has agreed that there was not a military coup in Taiwan. In its Monday, May 26, print edition a correction was provided. Here is a screen shot from the online version of a portion of page 3:

Metro Vancouver correction reading "In our May 23 edition, a headline incorrectly stated there was a military coup in Taiwan. The coup was in Thailand. We are sorry and wish to express our sincerest apologies to anyone who was offended by the error." And headline about a Gastown bar brawl follows.

So I believe that ties things up regarding Metro Vancouver's eye-catching headline. But as Taiwan's Tourism Bureau Deputy Director-General's comment indicated, challenges lie ahead if Taiwan desires to reduce the number of people confusing it with Thailand.

Finally, even though I am already familiar with both Taiwan and Thailand, in the process of writing these posts I still learned a few things, including, based on the information below the correction, that Vancouver has a Gastown.

Hopefully nobody confuses it with Gassville.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

A Very Short "Taiwanese or Thai" Beer Quiz

In response to my post about Metro Vancouver incorrectly claiming there was a coup in Taiwan, I have seen many people comment elsewhere that, like me, this wasn't their first time seeing or hearing someone confuse Taiwan with Thailand. So I will now present a brief beer quiz that may be useful for helping raise further awareness of the Taiwan / Thailand distinction.

Question 1 (no time limit): Is Mystery Beer #1 a Taiwanese beer or a Thai beer?

can of Taiwan Beer
Mystery Beer #1

Question #2 (no time limit): Is Mystery Beer #2 a Taiwanese beer or a Thai beer?

small Chang Beer glass next to a Chang Beer bottle with "Product of Thailand" on the label
Mystery Beer #2

I will refrain from providing the correct answers. If you need, ask a friend familiar with Taiwan and Thailand to score your responses. I can't offer any prizes for acing the quiz but, if they are available where you live, feel free to treat yourself to a Taiwan Beer or a Chang Beer to celebrate. You are also welcome to provide your answers in the comments section. Perhaps of more interest, though, would be your answer to a deeper question:

Which beer would you choose?

And this concludes today's (and possibly this year's) tests here.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Taiwan's Government Not Overthrown By Military Coup

One time in the U.S. when I mentioned I had been to Taiwan, a person I was speaking to replied, "Oh, I LOVE Thai food!"

After a brief brain freeze, I explained that Thai food is Thailand's cuisine and Taiwan's cuisine would be described as Taiwanese. The person was clearly embarrassed, although I explained I thought it was understandable and suspected many others could make a similar mistake.

Despite my familiarity with this potential confusion in English between Taiwan and Thailand, I was still rather surprised to see several recent tweets including this photo of a newspaper page (earliest source I found):

newspaper with article headline "Government overthrown in Taiwan as military stages bloodless coup"

The article headline "Government overthrown in Taiwan as military stages bloodless coup" contains a not-so-minor mistake. As the AP article below correctly states, the coup was actually in Thailand.

Text indicates the newspaper page is from Metro. According to Metro, it is "Canada’s most read national daily newspaper brand". The error is not a photoshop trick and appears to be specific to Metro's Vancouver edition (HT to Chou Peifen for this point--article in Chinese). Here is a recent screenshot I took from the Metro Vancouver weekend May 23-25 print edition currently available online:

screenshot of Vancouver Metro with article title "Government overthrown in Taiwan as military stages bloodless coup"

Other Canadian Metro editions I have seen do not contain the error. For example, here is a screenshot from Metro Toronto of a page with the same AP article :

screen capture of Toronto Metro print edition page with article title "Thai army stages bloodless coup"

So, to be clear, Taiwan is not the home of pad thai or tom yam goong, and the Taiwanese military has kindly refrained from overthrowing its democratically elected government. I recommend the Vancouver Metro staff take a visit to Taiwan. If I am there at the same time, I would be happy to treat them to some of Taiwan's many delicious local specialities. Afterwards, they should be less likely to ever confuse it with Thailand.

UPDATE: See the new post with more reaction and a correction from Metro Vancouver.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Taking the Dog for a Ride in Hengyang

In contrast to a man I saw taking a dog for a run while he rode a motorbike, a woman I saw today with a non-motorized vehicle expended more energy than her dog as they moved about Hengyang.

woman pulling a two-wheeled wheelbarrow with various items and a poodle on it

The scene made me think of a story I had heard decades ago about someone using poodles in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. A quick online search led me to an AP article from 1990:
John Suter will drive his black standard poodles up the Iditarod Trail for the last time in 1991.

The three-time Iditarod finisher has been trying for 14 years to raise an all-poodle team to run in the 1,200-mile sled dog race from Anchorage to Nome. He's spent an estimated $150,000 on the project and weeded through 80 poodles, a span of six generations, he said.

"It just didn't sell," he said recently by telephone from his home in Chugiak. "You can score on the news with poodles but you can't get a cup of coffee or a bag of peanuts with them."
I don't know if the woman I saw today has gotten any bags of peanuts with her dog. At least it appears she has a furry companion though.