Thursday, August 11, 2016

Play, Chainsaws, and Smashing Ukeleles in Taiyuan

billboard advertisement for a performance by Jolin Tsai (蔡依林) in Taiyuan

In a section of Taiyuan with several newer shopping centers, over a month ago I saw the above advertisement for Taiwanese pop star Jolin Tsai's (蔡依林) concert featuring music from her most recent album "Play". A concert poster with a fuller image reveals that Tsai is destroying a disco ball.

concert poster for Jolin Tsai's "Play" performance in Taiyuan

I am guessing that Tsai didn't really put herself at risk of being cut by flying disco ball shards, no matter what her feelings towards disco balls may be.

Whatever the case, the video for the song "Play" is remarkable. So much happens that I don't even know where to begin. In the 2014 piece "Asia’s Dancing Queen May Have Given Us the Year’s Best Pop Music Video" in Time, Nolan Feeney highlighted some key parts:
Nudity, aerobics-inspired choreography and fantastical colors all play major roles in the Sims-inspired clip. Also, someone gets hit in the face with a ukelele, so there’s that, too.
The scenes with apparent nudity are appropriately blurred, so the video should be safe for work as long as a company doesn't have a strict ukelele-violence policy. The official YouTube version doesn't include English subtitles, but this video does (may need to click "CC" to turn them on):

For those in the U.S. now wishing they could see the Play World Tour live, you missed a big chance. Tsai performed in Atlantic City earlier this year.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

A Chinese Pavilion in Taiyuan

Another scene from Wenying Park in Taiyuan:

pavilion on hill at Wenying Park in Taiyuan

Although the pavilion was less secluded and didn't require as much of a climb, it reminded me of a xiangqi game under a pavilion in far-away Yangjiang.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Two Cs on One Head

Hearts aren't the only symbol I have seen on children's heads in Taiyuan. This boy's hair brought to mind the knockoff Chanel shirts I have seen in China:

hair on back of boy's head shaved into a Chanel logo

I think that is heart on the top of his head as well.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Two Hearts on One Head

While most children in China don't have their hair shaved into a recognizable pattern, I have seen numerous examples of the practice. A recent one from Wenying Park in Taiyuan:

boy with hair shaved in the shape of a heart on the front of his head

same boy with hair shaved in the shape of a heart on the back of his head

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Cleaning the Water Lily Pond

two men working together to spray water underneath a water lily in a drained pond at Wenying Park in Tiayuan
Drained pond at Wenying Park in Taiyuan

I saw the two men in the above photo working together to spray water underneath the large leaves of water lilies in the drained pond. The man with the hose also sprayed water at areas of the pond's bottom not covered by water lilies. I believe the genus of these large water lilies is Victoria but am not sure of the species. I can't find any information about caring for them that recommends draining a pond, expect for transplanting. The previous time I passed the pond, it was filled with water and contained similar, if not the same, floating water lilies. While it appears to be a cleaning of some sort, I am not sure what may have motivated it. I would welcome any insights from water lily or pond aficionados.

Most of today I was focused on non-lily matters. I welcomed the momentary diversion the water lilies provided both at the park and more recently while I learned a bit more about how to care for them.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Xiangqi for One in Taiyuan

I have seen many people in China playing xiangqi outside, and often a crowd will gather to watch the two players match wits. Onlookers aren't necessary for the game though, and this afternoon in Taiyuan I noticed that some don't even need a second player.

man playing a game of xiangqi alone next to a donuts & bread stand

I didn't try the donuts nearby. I will wait until I come across what I like to call Chinese donuts, otherwise known as xián jiānbing (咸煎饼) — something I won't miss whenever I am next in Guangzhou.

Monday, August 1, 2016

A Taiyuan Xiangqi Moment

Yesterday in Taiyuan I came across an opportunity to add to the xiangqi series of posts.

man pointing at a game piece in a xiangqi game on a board sitting on the ground surrounded by 5 men
A game of xiangxi alongside Shuangta North Road

Assorted China Tech Links: Innovation and Control Mix, a Reason to Break Through, and Uber China Sold

Some longtime readers will remember the days when there was a more explicit tech focus here, and I hope to soon return to some old themes. For now, I will keep it simple and share links to six pieces on China tech:

1. Emily Rauhala pushes back against the idea that heavy censorship by the government means tech innovation has been stifled in China:
“You go on Facebook and you can’t even buy anything, but on WeChat and Weibo you can buy anything you see,” said William Bao Bean, a Shanghai-based partner at SOS Ventures and the managing director of Chinaccelerator, a start-up accelerator.

“Facebook’s road map looks like a WeChat clone.”

2. Despite the innovation, not everything is rosy about the Chinese internet. Christina Larson captures some of how the good and the bad fit together:
These stark contrasts—an Internet that is simultaneously dynamic and lethargic, innovative and stultifying, liberating yet tightly controlled—are easier to understand when you realize they are not necessarily contradictions. Being forbidden to develop tools for stimulating free expression or transparency essentially forces Chinese entrepreneurs to concentrate their resources on services that facilitate commerce, convenience, and entertainment. And the more successful those kinds of businesses become, the more money they and their investors have at stake, possibly cementing the status quo.

3. Zheping Huang looks at a specific case where Chinese people who previously didn't see a need to access online information and services blocked in China finally felt compelled to use a VPN to break through the Great Firewall:
Recently, hundreds of Chinese investors, who may be out $6 billion in one of China’s biggest financial scams, have leaped over the Great Firewall in an organized, determined way. After being ignored by China’s regulators and lawmakers, these desperate investors are pouring into Twitter to spread news of their plight.

While their numbers are small, their actions are already inspiring other Chinese investors burned in a monumental number of recent scams, turning Twitter into a new venue for angry Chinese citizens to protest. And as they leap over the Great Firewall, some are coming to a new realization—the government has been cracking down on free speech and civil protests just like theirs for years.

4. For something fresh from today, there is big news about Uber and Didi Chuxing:
Didi Chuxing, the dominant ride-hailing service in China, said it will acquire Uber Technologies Inc.’s operations in the country, ending a battle that has cost the two companies billions as they competed for customers and drivers.

Didi will buy Uber’s brand, business and data in the country, the Chinese company said in a statement. Uber Technologies will receive 5.89 percent of the combined company with preferred equity interest equal to 17.7 percent of the economic benefits.

5. The sale of Uber China comes as no huge surprise to many. Heather Timmons highlights how the writing was on the wall:
Then things got even worse—Beijing started to openly back Didi, with an investment by China’s sovereign wealth fund into the new Chinese giant. China’s state banks rolled out billions of dollars in loans to Didi.

In August 2015, Uber reported it was being scrubbed from WeChat, a move, Quartz wrote, that was “almost certainly designed to protect and promote Didi Kuaidi” and make it hard for Uber to do business.

6. And Josh Horowitz takes a quick look at the impact of beyond China:
Didi’s $1 billion investment in Uber likely gives it only a minuscule stake in the ride-hailing giant. But it nevertheless means it has its hands in every single one of its potential major competitors.

This changes perceptions of the future of the ride-hailing industry.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Considering the Options

Signs for shop selling pig's feet and pig's brain in Taiyuan, Shanxi
Signs for shop selling pig's feet and pig's brain in Taiyuan, Shanxi

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Changing Slogans

man on ladder and men in boat covering the slogan "加快科学发展 率先转型跨越" with another sign
Slogan promoting scientific development about to be covered underneath the Yingze Bridge in Taiyuan, Shanxi

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Six Bowls of Noodles in Taiyuan

The knife-shaved noodles (刀削面) I saw cut off of dough on top of somebody's head while they balanced on a unicycle at Shanxi Huiguan are a famous style of noodles in Shanxi province. The knife, cutting style, and dough are critical components. Placing the dough on your head or having a unicycle handy is not.

Many other styles of noodles can be found in Shanxi, and trying all of them is a bit of a challenge. The Taiyuan Noodle Shop, another well-known restaurant, makes things a little easier with its set meal of six noodle styles accompanied by various sauces and meats.

set menu dish including six styles of noodles (六中面套餐) at Taiyuan Noodle Shop (太原面食店)

You can mix and match as you would like. Admittedly, the combo made by a server to help get me started was better than any of my own creations. In terms of the noodles, the cat's ear noodles (猫耳朵), named for their distinctive shape, were my favorite.