Friday, August 31, 2007

Hu's on 1st?

Found another funny video on YouTube about President Bush trying to find out who the president of China is (based on the Abbott & Costello classic Who's on 1st? comedy sketch). In order to understand the clip, you need to actually kow that China's current president is Hu_Jintao.

I remember watching the Abbott & Costello show reruns when I was a kid and even now, over 50 years after they originally aired, these shows are still hysterical. For those of you too young to remember, Abbott & Costello were a comedy duo who appeared first in live theater performances, then radio, film and television. Their famous Who's on 1st? routine involves Bud Abbott (the straight man) telling Lou Costello who the players in a baseball team are. The only problem is that each players name is easily misinterpreted (e.g., first baseman "Who").

Thursday, August 30, 2007

China's "Virtual Police"

Beijing police announced that they will start patrolling the Internet using animated "beat officers" that pop up on a user's browser and walk, bike or drive across the screen warning them to stay away from illegal Internet content. China takes elaborate steps to police the Internet for content that the government believes unsuitable, including profanity, nudity, illegal gambling, and of course pirated music and movies. Beginning September 1st, these animated cartoon cybercops will appear on many of China's top Web portals, including Sohu and Sina, and by the end of the year will appear on all websites registered with Beijing servers.

The cartoon cops are intended to get Web surfers attention and remind them that authorities can and do monitor Internet activity. The male and female cartoon officers (shown above) will give a text warning to abide by the law and tips on Internet security as they move across the screen in a virtual car, motorcycle or on foot ( guess they aren't yet equipped to give e-tickets and make arrests).

For more info., see this news story from USA Today. If you're interested in how China monitors the Internet, see a report on Internet Filtering in China for 2004-2005 (probably a bit out-of-date already).
According to a friend in Beijing, this blog is not readily viewable in China probably as a result of the Chinese government's filtering technology. They may be blocking access to all blogs since its hard to enforce regulations against anyone with a computer, especially if they're not even in China.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

America is Doomed

I guess a lot of people are already aware of this video, but I just saw it for the first time last night on the David Letterman show. I've had my doubts about the future of the United States in recent years, but if the children are our future, this is conclusive proof than a once great nation is doomed. When I was a kid, Americans feared the Soviet Union might supplant U.S. superpower status. In later years, we feared Japan might buy up the U.S. & now many believe China will overtake us economically with a few decades. However, I think our own ignorance is our greatest threat & if you doubt it, this Miss Teen USA contestant from South Carolina is living proof that the "U.S. Americans" education system is in serious trouble.

Although Miss Teen South Carolina has received a lot of negative attention as a result of her response, not everyone thinks she's that ignorant. In fact, she received a call from President Bush, who told her that he understood her response perfectly and offered her a job such as like Attorney General of the U.S. Americans.

For those of you that still don't understand Miss Teen SC's answer, here's a map that sums it up succintly.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

China's Oscars

Most Americans are unaware of Chinese movies other than the rare crossover such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, the Chinese film industry is pretty significant (including films produced in Hong Kong & Taiwan as well as mainland China) and will likely continue to grow. China’s version of the Oscars (The Huabiao Film Awards) took place in Beijing, Aug. 26, 2007 and was attended by Chinese movie stars such as Jet Li and Zhang Ziyi as well as many others most Westerners have never heard of.

Romantic blockbuster
The Knot (Yun Shui Yao) was the big winner with awards for Best Feature Film, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Playwright, and Best Film Technology. It is also the first joint blockbuster film production between Mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. There were co-winners for best actor and best actress - Chen Kun (The Knot) and Fu Dalong (The Forest Ranger) for Best Actor & Li Bingbing (The Knot) (shown in photo) and Ding Jiali (The Lane Premier) for Best Actress.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Mandarin for Business

I just read this article about the increasing importance of learning Mandarin to do business in China. According to the article:

In China, the era when overseas executives could rely on translators is ending. Authorities now require top executives at securities firms to pass written and oral exams in Mandarin, the national tongue, and Chinese managers expect meetings to be conducted in their own language."An executive can probably get by without speaking Mandarin, but the one who does will have a much better chance of succeeding," says Helen Cheung, a director at Executive Mandarin, the language school where Image studies. "It makes you seem more intelligent, more involved than the foreigner who just sits
there and smiles."

Congratulations on getting rich

Saturday, August 25, 2007

See Hong Kong Video

Another gloomy day here in HK. It rained on and off all day so I stayed in most of the day since I'm feeling slightly sick. I did get a new refrigerator delivered to my flat today the old one died a few days after my arrival). So the highlight of my day was getting a few things at the grocery store, including another one of those dragonfruits since I've decided I like them. Hope I'll something more interesting to post soon.

Friday, August 24, 2007

One Country, Two Systems

One of the interesting things about Hong Kong is that, although its part of the Peoples Republic of China (PRC), it operates largely independent of the Chinese government. This is due to an agreement (the Sino-British Joint Declaration) reached between China and Great Britain under which Britain agreed to give Hong Kong back to China (it had been acquired in 1842 as a result of the Opium Wars). Under the one country, two systems policy, the PRC has authority over defence and foreign affairs, while Hong Kong has its own laws and is mostly self-governing. As a result, Hong Kong is a unique mixture of Eastern & Western cultures. I found this video containing part of the turnover ceremony as well as some scenic footage of Hong Kong on YouTube.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Hong Kong Photos

Here's a couple photos of Hong Kong harbor I took from a hotel window. I'll have to try taking some from Victoria_Peak sometime.

Here's another shot.

Learning Chinese in Hong Kong

I'm sitting here listening to the news in Chinese. I don't understand much of it, but I can pick out a few words and phrases at least due to my taking 2 semesters of Chinese back at Belmont University. You might think that living in Hong Kong would help me learn Chinese, but its not as simple as that. Most of the Chinese people in Hong Kong speak Cantonese (common in southern China) rather than Mandarin which is the official language and common in northern China. Although the written language is the same, they sound very different. Plus the written Chinese language consists of characters and you have to memorize about 5000 of them to be fairly literate from what I've been told. At this point, it seems like I'll need a lot of luck (the characters above) to become anywhere close to literate.

I need to find a tutor (maybe a Mandarin-fluent Lingnan student) to work with while I'm here in Hong Kong or I think I'll forget most of the little I've already learned.

Zaijian (Goodbye) for now!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Jet Li & Chinese Censorship

I came across this news story today about Chinese action movie star Jet Li, who is upset about his Hollywood-made movies being unavailable in China due to Chinese censors. The Chinese government still exerts very strict censorship on entertainment content (movies, music, books) made available in China. China also has market access restrictions on foreign movies (only 20 are allowed in Chinese theaters each year) and has recently instituted a pre-approval requirement for music offered online by foreign companies.

Of course, none of this means you can't find most of the banned movies, CDs, etc. in China - its just that you can't find legal versions. These regulations have the indirect effect of giving pirates a huge advantage over companies that want to sell their products legally in China. For example, a website illegally offering music downloads isn't going to bother with getting approval just as the vendoes of pirated CDs and DVDs all over China aren't concerned with which titles have been censored by the Chinese government (some of them are probably their best sellers). The article states that censors cut scenes from "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End," claiming the portrayal of Chow Yun-fat as a "bald, scarred pirate" insulted Chinese people. However, I'm sure many Chinese people purchased pirate DVD copies of the film which were probably available even before the film's offical release.

China certainly has the right to implement its own laws & regulations, even if they differ from Western legal norms. However, these censorship and market-access restrictions operate as a huge barrier to companies wanting to do business in China legitimately while giving pirating operations a big advantage and making pirate copies the only purchase option for Chinese consumers. Maybe if enough well-known Chinese actors such as Jet Li as well as popular musicians, etc. voice their concern, some type of compromise can be figured out.

Day 4 at Lingnan

August 17 - I got my Lingnan ID card today which gives me access to the library where I can check e-mail (haven't been able to get access in my flat yet). I checked my 4 days worth of e-mail messages & also checked out 2 books - China: A New History by John Fairbank & a book about Zheng He.

I hope to do some sightseeing soon, but the weather is a bit of disincentive. Its been raining a lot since I got here (remnants of the typhoon that's been hitting southeast Asia) and its extremely hot & humid. Hopefully, it'll start to cool off a bit before too long and be a bit more comfortable for exploring. There's a bunch of places I want to visit, but one that wasn't on my to-do list until someone here suggested it to me today was MongKok - known, among other things, for having the highest population density in the world. I'm not a big fan of crowds, but I guess its worth cehcking out just for the spectacle.

Day 2 in Hong Kong

August 15 - Went to the Administration office at Lingnan to have photo for ID card taken. As I was sitting waiting, 4 young Westerners came in (also there for ID card photo taking). Asked one where she was from and it turned out they were recent U.S. college graduates working as English tutors for a semester. When she asked me where I was from and I answered Tennessee, another young lady said "Are you Dr. Moser?" I was a bit taken aback since I apparently didn’t realize the extent of my worldwide fame, but it turned out she’s a Belmont grad & I had talked to her father at Spring graduation. We chatted for a few minutes and then went to lunch which was fortunate since I had no food and was going to venture out on my own in search of sustenance anyway. We took a bus to Tuen Mun Centre (about 5 minutes from Lingnan) where there’s a large shopping mall complex. Found a restaurant there, ate lunch, took bus back to another mall closer to Lingnan with a grocery store, then walked back to campus. Among other things, I bought a dragon fruit (native to southern China), lychee fruit (I love these), Chinese Oolong tea (the best tea according to many sources) and honey (to put in tea & relieve my slightly sore throat).

After putting away groceries, I headed over to the business college building. Being an Asia veteran, I’ve learned to take an umbrella whenever I go out in the summer and my training proved valuable as rain began almost immediately after I left the apartment. The business college here is in the Ho Sin Hang Building. I’m guessing Mr. Ho put up some money (the Jack Massey or Mike Curb of Lingnan?). Since classes don't start til 9/3, Mr. Ho’s building & the rest of campus is fairly deserted right now. Wandered around campus a bit in the rain (thank God for that umbrella) then went back to apartment.

So now I sit here writing this while sipping my tea. I wonder if putting honey in premium Oolong tea makes me a foreign devil in Chinese eyes, but regardless it does help my throat a bit. Besides, in some Hong Kong restaurants, when you order hot tea, you get tea with milk in it & a Lipton bag. I wonder if this is one of the imports resulting from British colonialization? Opium and Lipton tea with milk -what a proud legacy. OK, I'm sure I'll find some more positive British influences as well.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Arrival in Hong Kong

August 14 -I arrived back in Hong Kong on 8/14 from Manila since I spent a few weeks there visiting friends, relaxing & doing a little scuba diving at beach resorts in Bohol and Subic Bay. Unfortunately, a typhoon hit during the last 5 days (almost constant heavy rain & wind). The good side is that it cooled things off a little bit from the normal oppressive heat & humidity, but the bad side is it limits beach & diving activity plus it made me sick (sore throat & cough).

I took a taxi from the airport to Lingnan University rather than try to navigate the buses since I had 2 large pieces of luggage. I had no problem finding a taxi, but the driver only spoke Cantonese (fortunately I had written out the Chinese characters for Lingnan University & Tuen Mun where Lingnan is located). No problem getting to Lingnan although since I couldn’t communicate with the taxi driver, the best I could do was have him drop me off at the university entrance. I said xiexie (thanks) and he responded with a look of surprise & a litany of what I assume were Cantonese words. I said "Wo bu dong, wo hui shua yidiar Putonghua (I don’t understand, I speak a little Mandarin). He seemed pleased with this and grinned so I uttered another xiexie & ventured off to the Security office & got the access code for the building & apartment I'm staying in.

The apartment ("flat" as its referred to here) is pretty nice - living room, small dining area, small kitchen, 2 bathrooms, one main bedroom with a small adjoining room with desk & huge closet room & 2 small bedrooms (probably for visitors with kids). The apartment has wireless Internet, but I’m not able to connect since I don’t have a password from Lingnan yet (will check on this tomorrow). TV gets 4 channels, but 3 are in Chinese (too bad I don’t know enough to understand much of it yet). Went to bed early (around 10) since tired and still a bit sick (sore throat a cough) from typhoon weather in Philippines.