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April 14, 2006  |  China -- Random  |  4684 hit(s)

Various things of note.

We haven't encountered many American tourists. Germans, yes (of course), French, Englishmen, Spanish speakers, Japanese (duh), all sorts of Russians, and others whose languages I don't recognize. Not sure if Americans are here and clustered in tours, or whether they're just not here to be encountered.

There aren't many dogs, and virtually no big ones. The dogs we do see are almost always -- this makes me laugh -- Pekingese. We've seen a total of three cats. There's some history here that we can skip lightly over, but you'd think that by now the pet population might have been restocked. So perhaps there are other cultural factors at work.

I was flipping through Bob's collection of pirated DVDs and noticed something amusing. The covers often have pullquotes on them from reviews -- you know, stuff like "A must-see!" -- except that the quotes they use are, mmm, perhaps not ones you'd find on legal copies. Some examples:

Movie: Be Cool
Quote on box: "A real chore to sit through."

Movie: My Boss's Daughter
Quote on box: "... a movie so thoroughly cretinous the people who made it couldn't get even the punctuation in the title right."

Movie: The Weather Man
Quote on box: "If you liked Crocodile Dundee, you're going to love Crocodile Dundee II." (WTF?)

Theory is that these are selected by people with an imperfect understanding of English. So, "chore" and "joy", kinda the same, right? That word "cretinous," dunno, sounds like that's probably a good thing, right? Heh.

I've learned the Chinese characters for two words: entrance and exit, which I learned from the highway and which are easy. At this rate, I'll pick up the remaining 2,498 I need in, let's see, what, 25 years? Bob's been pretty patient about explaining the theory of the characters to us, and it's pretty cool. There is some method to the apparent madness. Another project for my putative retirement.

I was following a cute family unit today, parents and twin boys, maybe 15 months old. The little boys were wearing pants that were split front to back, and no underwear. Toilet training, Chinese style -- no diapers, just easy access.

Bob studied government, and has a post-grad degree in Econ, and he's lived in China for ten years or more. Wow, interesting conversations about politics. One perspective I hadn't though about is that from the POV of ex-pats, the only thing that matters is U.S. foreign policy; domestic policy does not affect them for the most part. And globalization, which affects their day-to-day lives, so they're all pretty much for it big time. Bob's take on it went something like this: so a steelworker in the U.S. used to make $15 an hour and now makes $10; a steelworker in China used to make $1, but thanks to globalization, now makes $5. Where's the problem? More, please. He notes that in the last 50 years, more people have been raised out of poverty than in all human history. Probably true, but perhaps some of the details are not as encouraging. But I guess if you're a macroeconomics dude, that's how you think.

And Mao. A truly historical figure, although undoubtedly a tyrant. Bob says that getting five Chinese to do anything together is hard enough; Mao somehow got a billion of them to work together, no mean feat. Mao is well on his way to a kind of deification that's above ideology; for commoners, he's the patron saint of the modern era. (Although I suspect that the trade in Mao t-shirts and faux historical Mao posters is strictly for the tourist trade ... those crazy Westerners will buy anything, it seems.)

Jason Looney   15 Apr 06 - 4:10 PM

Thoroughly enjoying the travelogues... thanks for posting. Have a safe trip.