Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Korean Kwandry

I came home from work today with my wife watching a South Korean soap opera online. South Korean movies and TV are big here. Many Chinese prefer them to the homegrown stuff. I can see why, especially the TV, which the Chinese film with video cameras and just isn’t as racy or creative. You also see more than a few Kias and Hyundais on the road. Which brings me to the great Korean conundrum which China faces.
Hillary Clinton and 200 diplomatic minions just finished their big talk fest with the bigwigs here. One of the big topics of discussion was the sinking of the South Korean warship by the North Koreans. The US and everybody in the world want to penalize the North for this murderous act of war, and they want China onboard. China is being a bit dodgy about this. The reason is basically that North Korea has been China’s ally and little buffer buddy against the capitalists in the South and the thousands of US troops stationed there for 60 years. That’s the old school reasoning. That and face.
However in the last 20 years China has blossomed into a growing capitalist nation with lots of trading partners, like the US and South Korea, while North Korea remains stuck in a kind of dysfunctional Stalinist dictatorship which would have collapsed a long time ago if it didn’t get aid from China. I would venture to say that China has much more in common with South Korea these days, and they definitely have a more beneficial relationship. There is lots of South Korean manufacturing done in China, lots of Chinese stuff is sold in South Korea, and there's those cool cars and TV shows that the Chinese like.
It’s a lot like keeping a psychotic attack dog to guard your meth lab, only you stopped making meth, and you have greatly changed. You and your neighbors are friends now and you like doing business with them, but your stupid dog keeps biting them. Maybe it’s time to get rid of the dog.
China has a lot of scary neighbors, Afghanistan and Pakistan come to mind, and the reality is that a border with a less crazy North Korea, or even a unified Korea could be a much nicer thing than that nuclear armed loose cannon they keep now.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Real Chicken

This must be the place.
Chicken plucking is exhausting work.
Slow chickens taste the best!
Mixing the stuffing.
Heating the oven.

Click the pix for larger picture.

Chicken here is different than in the U.S. They are not those big, mutant white things that are genetically modified to grow in six weeks in a cage with the help of modern chemistry. American chickens are very tender and big. Chinese chickens run around a lot. You see them on the sidewalks in the city, and we have neighbors that keep some around. Around holidays you can hear a damn rooster or two crowing because you know how they love a big cock at the holidays.
You can buy them whole in the supermarket and they always come with head and feet attached, and with giblets. You can also get them with undeveloped eggs included, which is great in soup. You can get a live bird at the open market and do it yourself, but there are professionals who are much better at it, and the bird is still fresh.
My favorite chicken dish is a local specialty that you can get at our Forest Park. The park is on the outskirts of town and has a small amusement park and a big open dining area. The best place is further into the wilds of the park, where there is a cluster of houses where the locals serve the best chicken ever.
It's best to call ahead so your bird is ready when you get there, but if you don't mind waiting a couple of hours, they'll catch, kill and cook one for you on the spot. They stuff the birds with garlic, onion, ginger and spices, wrap it in banana leaves and foil and slow bake in little rock ovens. They serve it with sweet potatoes, corn on the cob and sweet potato greens. Oh yeah and cold beer. It is my favorite ever!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Swift Justice

A man who attacked a kindergarten last month has been sentenced to death.   I'm sure the trial of our local nut will be just as swift.  There has been a lot of speculation about why this keeps happening, with one of the theories being that the swiftly changing society is putting a lot of strain on people.  I think it may be more a lack of mental health care, and a culture that stoically endures whatever is thrown at it.  Occasionally someone snaps.  It's sad that the trend seems to be to take it out on the most vulnerable.
Our middle school has stepped up security somewhat.  The security guys no longer just lounge around, but are patrolling the grounds throughout the day, and they all carry police batons.

Iron Mann Zwei

Some of you may think that all is wonderful here is video pirate land, but it is often fraught with peril.  The other evening, just as "Iron Man II" was premiering in cinemas across the USA, I came home to the family gathered around the teevee getting ready to watch it.  Yarrrrr!  We be sticking it to the man now, all for about 75 cents!  But thar be trouble on the horizon.  This baint wot we was hoping to lay eyes on!  It had the usual Chinese subtitles and substandard picture quality, but it was dubbed in German!  Not a problem for the Chinese viewer, but it was Schei├če for the Americans.  
We can generally trace the path that the pirated videos take to our TV.  Most have  a message that occasionally flashes on the screen, "For your consideration" along with some lawyer weasel words, which means some reviewer or member of the Academy has made some extra dough selling this to a video Jack Sparrow.  They frequently have some Russian Cyrillic writing in the titles, meaning it came through Russia first.  However, some damn German got hold of this first,  dubbed their barbaric tongue onto it,   then placed a non functioning language option menu into the works just to make mock of us.  The Hun pirate has no scruples and no honor, and feels that it is fine to spread their foul product about to spread uncertainty among   discriminating  connoisseurs of ill gotten video art.  No honor among thieves. 

Monday, May 10, 2010

China News

OK, I'm not sure why I put this picture in. I came across it while surfing for photos to use in my power point idiom lessons. And it allows me to segue into this first news item:
Mad weasel gulag leader, Kim Jong Il paid a surreptitious visit to Beijing last week to seek some love. The visit was kept quiet by the Chinese media, and he left sooner than expected, possibly picking a few teeth out of his butt, but at least getting a little allowance for his sorry assed experiment in government depravity.
It's been raining a bunch where the drought has been, as much as a meter in some places. We have had nicely moderate stuff ourselves, the usual sub tropical downpours, although today was a nice steady showering for most of the day. Wet is good.
The government has announced that it will ban smoking in public places in 2011, which will be largely ignored by anyone outside of Beijing. Remember that 60% of doctors smoke here, including in the hospitals. I don't think the sidewalks are large enough to accommodate the massive number of guys needing to get their fixes.
China may start levying a carbon tax!! No, really! Could this happen before the US gets their poop in group to do the same thing? Of course there are lots of actions that could be taken here that would go a long way to achieve a cleaner environment, such as banning smoking in public places.
The Expo in Shanghai is going on now. I went to a World's Fair in Montreal in 1967 and my strongest memory of it is waiting in lines. Since everything in China is big, I expect some serious queues.
One of my early lessons of living here, is that if you try to politely wait in line for things like getting on the bus you will be the last person to get on every time. I don't think the phrase "After you," exists. Since I have a long ride to and from work, I want a seat, so I have become very Chinese in my efforts to get on, and can do it as rudely as anybody, with only a small twinge of guilt.
Some efforts have been made in some businesses, such as McDonald's and supermarkets to stop the pushy old bags (they are the worst) from cutting in front of others, so maybe the Expo bosses have some proper queue control. It will help that you can still smoke in line.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Eatin' Rat!

80's Hair Band Ratt

There is a saying in China that the people of Guangdong Province will eat anything. I read this today in the China Daily about restaurants in Guangzhou that specialize in rat. I know there are folks in our fair city who enjoy the prolific rodents, but I have yet to see a dining establishment with a color poster of a rat, like the ones with the German Shepherd that serve dog. By the way, dog restaurants are supposed to be outlawed now, but the one down the street has yet to be shuttered. Anyone with the stomach for it can Google the subject and see all sorts of lovely pictures of what you have been missing all these years. Or not.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Better School Security

The government is calling for better school security. Even though the schools have gates, the guards tend to be pudgy, lazy looking guys that seem better suited to be Wal Mart greeters. It will be interesting to see what comes of it. The news article said that they are instructing local police to increase their presence during arrival and departure times. That would be some kind of first for our local guys, who spend most of their time avoiding actual police work.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

More Bad Craziness

They just can't help themselves. Another madman attacked a kindergarten class with a hammer, then doused himself with petrol and set himself alight. He died, but fortunately all the kids survived.
The government is calling for better security. The schools around here are already gated, with security guards, but their training and abilities to stop an armed nut may be lacking. The deeper problem is the lack of mental health care in this country. Like the US, people who should be institutionalized are wandering the streets, left to their own devices. There is also a tremendous lack of any psychological counseling of any sort. It's as much a cultural issue as anything.
The Chinese are tough. They are self reliant and tend to internalize in order to present to the world a good face. Face is the all important thing, and it would be a terrible loss of face to admit to emotional or psychological issues, let alone to seek help. As far as I know, there are only a handful of practicing mental health professionals in our city, and all are employed by hospitals. The media have been discussing this issue lately, especially with the rash of school attacks. 50 years ago in the US a person would be stigmatized for seeking help for psychological issues, now it is much more accepted. I think that China will see a growth in this field, too.
In the meantime we will all be more vigilant at school, watching for the next maniac.