Monday, July 18, 2016

A Monday "Hello" in Taiyuan

While I waited for a crossing signal to change at a street intersection in Taiyuan, Shanxi, today, a little girl noticed my presence and immediately shouted, "Hello!"

Her adult appeared surprised by the excited outburst. I have had many similar experiences in the past, though this girl was especially enthusiastic. I replied with an upbeat "hello", admittedly toned down compared to the girl's. The girl then had a suggestion: I should take of photo of her and her friend. After I expressed willingness, the two adults with them, who still appeared a bit surprised by everything, helped position the girls while making sure they weren't in the photo themselves.

Then this happened:

two little girls posing for a photo in Taiyuan, Shanxi
"Hello" from Taiyuan

Once the photoshoot was complete, in Chinese I asked the more outgoing girl (the one holding the flowers) whether she wanted to go to America. She said "yes", so I said "OK, let's go" and started walking away. Without hesitation she happily joined me. Not wanting to spark an international incident, I quickly turned toward the two adults to make it absolutely clear I was only joking.

As we parted, it was evident the interaction had launched the two girls into an extra-high level of activity. And it left me in higher spirits as well.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

An Unexpected Fix for a Possessed Laptop in Shanxi

Large Turned-Off Screen at a riverside park in Gujiao, Shanxi
This large screen wasn't displaying anything when I recently visited a riverside park in Gujiao, Shanxi.

Things have been quiet on this blog the past several days. This was not intended.

The long story . . . ah, I won't bother with the long story.

The relatively short story . . . not long after the previous post, my laptop became possessed by a demon — or something like that — which wasn't so intelligent but was determined to cause chaos and heartburn. Sometimes all I could do was watch as my screen flipped through multiple modes as I was unable to stop it. One especially worrisome moment was when the cursor moved to a a file and then deleted it. Strange stuff.

The troubleshooting was a slow, frustrating process. At one point, I assumed I would need to make a long journey with significant expenses at the end to address the problem. Yesterday, the problematic symptom subsided enough for a period of time that I could try some other fixes. One involved changing a setting. So I did that, although it only required reverting something I had changed since I had initially discovered the problem. And then I considered another piece of advice I had just discovered which seemed potentially relevant.

But slapping the trackpad hard with the palm of your hand? It didn't seem entirely wise.

Of course, I did it.

I'm not 100% sure what did the trick, but my computer is no longer possessed. Since achieving that state, I have taken the time to address other potential issues just to be safe. Fortunately, I didn't blow things up in the process. In fact, I might have fixed an unrelated nagging issue. The verdict is still out on that though.

So, hopefully things are back on.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Cleaning Crayfish in Taiyuan

Tonight at a famous food street in Taiyuan, Shanxi, I saw a man cleaning live crayfish one at a time with soap, water, and a toothbrush.

Man cleaning a live crayfish with soap, water, and a toothbrush.

Because who wants to eat a dirty barbecued crayfish?

I share this because there are so many perspectives from which to view it. Choose one. Choose them all. I lean towards the latter.

Mickey Mouse Spirit at a Wholesale Clothing Market in Beijing

Over half a year ago "a Chinese government agency singled out the Walt Disney Company as the focus of a new nationwide 'special action' aimed at stamping out imitation goods that infringe on Disney’s trademarks."

About a month ago at the large Shiji Tianle wholesale clothing market in Beijing, I noticed a lot of clothing with Western brands, including Disney. I don't know the story for all of the clothing sold at Tianle. But there were plenty of examples which made it easy to question how much of it was genuine, including a Donald Duck shirt with a creative spelling.

Shirt with face of Donal Duck and "LOVE DONPLD!"
Does "LOVE DONPLD!" have Disney's approval?

Below are some examples of Mickey Mouse shirts I saw for sale at the market. The last photo includes a shirt that would have been a more clearcut example to use in an earlier post about Disney and American influence. Based on what I have seen elsewhere, they are representative of the popularity of Disney-themed clothing in China. And like a "Mockey" mouse shirt I saw in Xiamen, they may represent the challenges Disney still faces with regard to imitation products in China.

Mickey Mouse shirt for sale at Shiji Tianle in Beijing

American flag lips shirt and Mickey Mouse shirt for sale at Shiji Tianle in Beijing

Mickey Mouse shirt for sale at Shiji Tianle in Beijing

Mickey Mouse shirts for sale at Shiji Tianle in Beijing

Mickey Mouse shirt for sale at Shiji Tianle in Beijing

"Mickey and Friends" shirt for sale at Shiji Tianle in Beijing

Mickey Mouse shirt for sale at Shiji Tianle in Beijing

Mickey Mouse "FRANCE" shirt for sale at Shiji Tianle in Beijing

Mickey-Mouse-like shirt for sale at Shiji Tianle in Beijing

Mickey Mouse with American flag shirt for sale at Shiji Tianle in Beijing

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

A Dash of News for Today

I am not an expert on the South China Sea territorial disputes, but I feel safe saying this is big:
An international tribunal in The Hague delivered a sweeping rebuke on Tuesday of China’s behavior in the South China Sea, from the construction of artificial islands to interference with fishing, and ruled that its expansive claim to sovereignty over the waters had no legal basis.

The tribunal also said that Beijing had violated international law by “causing severe harm to the coral reef environment” and by failing to prevent Chinese fishermen from harvesting endangered sea turtles and other species “on a substantial scale.”
The website for the Permanent Court of Arbitration is down at the moment. Andrew S. Erikson has helpfully posted links to download the full award and the more compact 11-page press release.

There are now many questions about what happens next. Given some of the rhetoric currently coming out of China, I wonder if I will soon be sharing more experiences like the one four years ago of a Japanese mother living in Shanghai during a time when another territorial dispute stirred up China.

I am going to digest this all more before possibly saying anything further. For now, here are some relevant tweets (possibly not fully viewable in an RSS reader and better to view on the blog) made after the announcement:

Monday, July 11, 2016

From Beijing to Taiyuan

One early and dreary morning not long ago in Beijing I raced out of my hotel, in part due to an unexpected delay. I considered taking a taxi but given rush hour traffic I suspected the subway was a better option. So I headed to the nearest station.

After my bags went through a X-ray machine at the subway station, I heard security request a check. The security worker near me said there was no need since I was a foreigner. This was met with a less-than-approving expression. I figured the issue would be best discussed without me, so I gathered my belongings and headed off while recalling a similar experience I had four years ago in Shenzhen.

I raced down to the platform level where a packed metro train waited, though not for long. I headed toward a semi-random door and fortunately there was enough space to barely squeeze in. A number of stops later, I changed lines and caught another train just as it arrived. A number of more stops later, I was at the Beijing West Railway Station. I boarded my train minutes before departure sweaty but successful.

Hours later the train slowly passed through Taiyuan Railway Station without stopping. It would have been a far more convenient place for me to disembark, but high-speed trains from Beijing don't stop there. Instead, I disembarked at the less-conveniently located Taiyuan South Railway Station. None of the lines for Taiyuan's under-construction metro system are finished. And a bus adventure would include multiple buses and a lot of walking. So I headed to the taxi pickup area where there were two different lines which functioned almost completely like lines.

When I opened the door to my taxi, the driver shouted to a man assisting people boarding the taxis. The assistant asked me in English where I was going. I told him the address in Chinese. He shouted back to the taxi driver "He speaks Chinese!". This brought amusement to many people still waiting in line.

As we left the station the driver used his mobile phone to send a voice message in Chinese — "I have a foreigner with me!" Soon there was as apparent reply. After I heard "Foreigners have a lot of money!" I made a sound somewhat between a sigh and grunt.

The taxi driver soon sent another message, this one rather brief — "He's speaks Chinese." He didn't listen to later voice messages.

After passing the main railway station, it wasn't long before the quiet ride was over. The route and price were all within expectations, so all was good.

As the photo in the previous post hinted, I am now in Taiyuan, the capital of Shanxi province. More from Beijing is still on the way though. And of course Taiyuan . . .

Friday, July 8, 2016

Mickey Mouse or HIPANDA?: A Possible Example of Multiple Trademark Infringement in China

In a post about how Disney's new resort in Shanghai and what it says about both American and Chinese influence, I shared a photo of a shirt I saw two years ago in Hengyang, Hunan:

shirt with a mouse/panda-like head shape filled with an American-flag themed design

I chose the photo because the Mickey-Mouse-like shape on the shirt appears to incorporate the design of the national flag of the U.S. However the shape isn't a perfect match to the standard Disney's Mouse Ears Mark; for example, the ears aren't the same shape and proportion.

Disney's Mouse Ears Mark
Image source
Perhaps the designer failed to execute the design or deliberately made the difference in the hope to avoid violating trademark laws.

There was another possibility, though, which seemed at least as likely and caused me to hesitate before using the photo in a post about Disney. The shape on the shirt is also similar to a head shape used by HIPANDA — a Chinese fashion brand which has received international attention.

HIPANDA's online store at Tmall currently sells a shirt with a similar American spirit and sparkly design:

HIPANDA shirt with American flag design

Other HIPANDA shirts with a Stars and Stripes design are available as well, including this one:

HIPANDA shirt with flag of the U.S. design

The silhouette of the head on the Hengyang shirt doesn't perfectly match the standard HIPANDA head either, though I would argue it is a closer match than with Disney's Mouse Ears Mark. Presumably it isn't an official HIPANDA shirt.

So was the designer of the Hengyang shirt trying to imitate Mickey Mouse or HIPANDA? Or was the designer aiming for something which could be interpreted as either? I am not aware of any trademark disputes between Disney and HIPANDA, yet both might take issue with the shirt's design which fits into a space between Disney's Mouse Ears Mark and the HIPANDA head silhouette.

Whatever the designer's intent, the Hengyang shirt's design could be interpreted as "Disney". And other aspects of its design suggest American influence. It was the most compelling example I could find in my photos without great effort. So I went ahead and used it in the Disney post, although I wondered if I would receive any critical response (I did not).

Since then, I have seen shirts with more clearcut examples combining Disney and American influence themes. And shirts with designs reminiscent of the American flag, like the HIPANDA examples, have been a common sight in China. I have also recently seen many people wearing shirts with Mickey Mouse designs — a number of Donald Duck sightings as well. I am willing to bet at least some of the shirts don't have Disney's official blessing. More about all of these shirts later.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

More Questions Related to Disney's New Park in Shanghai

Advertisement for the Shanghai Disney Resort near an entrance to Guomao Station in Beijing
Advertisement for the Shanghai Disney Resort near an entrance to Guomao Station in Beijing

A few weeks ago I posted about how Disney's new resort in Shanghai isn't only a sign of American influence but of Chinese influence as well.

Since then I have been thinking about questions such as:
  • How much of the resort's "distinctly Chinese" aspects are a result of appeasing government officials' worries about American cultural imperialism versus tailoring the park to best meet visitors' needs and desires versus creating a unique park?
  • To what degree were Chinese officials more or less concerned about American cultural imperialism compared to having a park distinct from Disney's parks elsewhere in the world?
  • Do the localizations conflict with visitors' desires to have a Western / American experience?
  • Exactly how much of an effort has China made to reduce piracy specifically affecting Disney and how effective has it been?
  • Will Disney open a Beijing roast duck restaurant with Character Dining including Donald Duck?
In future posts, possibly scattered among others, I will touch on some of these questions and related issues. I will also say more about the shirt in the earlier post's photo. I nearly didn't use it and was careful with how I described it (or didn't describe it). Notice why?

Monday, July 4, 2016

A Game of Xiangqi in Beijing

Along Gongmenkou West Fork off of Fuchengmen Inner Street in Beijing, yet another game of xiangqi:

Men discussing a xiangqi game in Beijing

Men looking at a xiangqi game in Beijing

Man making a move in a xiangqi game in Beijing

Contemporary Art on Display Outside the Parkview Green in Beijing

The Parkview Green in Beijing has much contemporary art on display not only inside but outside as well. I will share one or three examples depending on how you count them by artist Gianni Dessi (Italy, born 1955). Dessi titled the set created in 2015 Three For You. Individually, they are titled Red Sculpture, Black Sculpture, and Yellow Sculpture. In addition to brief information about the artist and the pieces, a poem is provided. I will share it below in all caps since that it is how it is displayed.

This raises the question: "Why not four?"

OK, the photos. In addition to capturing the art, they also capture a bit of life in Beijing.

"Red Sculpture" from "Three For You" by Gianni Dessi in front of the Parkview Green in Beijing
Red Sculpture

"Black Sculpture" from "Three For You" by Gianni Dessi in front of the Parkview Green in Beijing
Black Sculpture

"Yellow Sculpture" from "Three For You" by Gianni Dessi in front of the Parkview Green in Beijing
Yellow Sculpture

As a bonus, I will also share a photo of one of the several small marching soldier sculptures displayed outside. I didn't find any identification, but they look like works of Chinese artist Qin Fengling, whose piece Report inside the Parkview Green has apparently caught the attention of at least a few readers.

small sculpture of a marching soldier outside the Parkview Green in Beijing

Just something else to ponder . . .

Friday, July 1, 2016

A Beijing Sculpture Mystery Somewhat Solved

In the previous post with examples of contemporary art currently displayed at the Parkview Green shopping mall in Beijing, I was not able to identify the artist of one of the sculptures.

Salvador Dali's "The Michelin Slave" sculpture at Parkview Green in Beijing

One reader had a thoughtful suggestion for the possible artist, but I couldn't find match. After a variety of online searches, including using different versions of the photo, proved fruitless, I took another look at what appeared to be a signature on the sculpture's base.

Salvador Dali's signature on "The Michelin Slave" sculpture at Parkview Green in Beijing

If the signature used a creative style of Chinese characters, I was clueless, but it appeared to use letters from the Latin alphabet. My first guess was "X-something Li". I had found some artists with similar names but, again, no matches.

This time, though, I stopped thinking of the first symbol as an "X" and eventually a familiar name jumped out at me. It didn't take long after that for me to find several matching examples of "The Michelin Slave" (1967) by Salvador Dali. I also see similar examples named "Michelin's Slave — Can Be Used as a Car". In reference to a smaller version of the sculpture, LiveAuctioneers wrote:
For Dali, the slave imprisoned by tires symbolized the slaves who construct the Cadillac automoblie [sic] in the plants of General Motors. This piece is also known as Venus de los neumaticos.
So it seems to be yet another intriguing choice for a piece of art displayed at a shopping mall.

I am not sure of the meaning of the letters below the signature and wonder whether they indicate the sculpture is a reproduction of some type. According to a fascinating in-depth article on Artnews, "The Dalí Sculpture Mess", the status of this sculpture might not be a simple issue. The lead paragraph:
A flood of posthumous sculpture by Salvador Dalí­ generates millions of dollars in annual revenue—but the artist’s connection with much of the work is unclear. The market is rife with unreliable information, disputed ownership claims, unauthorized editions, and legal conflict. At least two European police investigations are under way.
From one question to another . . .