Friday, May 15, 2009

we wimpy westerners

Rats are an often-noted issue here in Chengdu. Especially recently--perhaps the rodents are feeling the crunch of the economic crisis as well--it seems many of my friends have been complaining about rats scurrying around their apartments.

While I've had rats in my apartment walls for quite some time, they don't seem to come inside, so I let them be. In our office, however, it's quite a different matter. They make quite regular appearances, staging late-night races with each other around the second floor, sliding up and down the Internet cables as if it's a fire station in here, and leaving presents* everywhere.

They ate a small cactus I had bought days after I brought it to the office; the other day, I arrived to find they had been nibbling on the soft foam bun-shaped (and scented) keychain my friend had given to me as a present, although I could hardly blame them as every human who passed by it also instinctively held it to his/her mouth. I confess, I also could not resist taking a bite (before the rat did).

Of the four of us who work in here on a regular basis, three of us are, to varying degrees, afraid of coming into contact withe the creatures. So far, we've managed to catch two of them, one with a glue trap (most of the glue-trap attempts failed miserably, catching only fur and feces), which we had to ask the hired cleaners to carry out, and the other after our intern spotted one scramble into the trash can and called our dear designer to come smash it with a stick.

Yesterday, we were having a coffee in a restaurant whose name I shall not mention when I swore I felt something move under the cushion I was sitting on. I decided it must have just been the cushion so I did nothing about it; but then I felt it again and again. After five or ten minutes of this, finally I stood up and proclaimed something was moving under me. One of the girls in the group chimed in, "Yeah, I hear something!"

So we turned to the waiter, who was watching the whole scene, and said, "There's a rat here!"

"有," he replied, affirming our fears.

Naturally we all jumped up and ran to another table.

Not long after, the boss, who we know quite well, came in.

"Hey, you have a rat in here!" we started yelling.

"I know. It opened the fridge the other day and nibbled on the cheese," he replied casually.

"What!? Opened the fridge?" We didn't believe it.

"Really! It did!" And then he went to the back and pulled out a piece of gnawed-on cheese to prove it.

Later I was skeptical. The boss is quite a prankster, and I wouldn't put it past him to carve out a piece of cheese to make it look like a rat had eaten it just so he could tell us that story.

The next day, we were in the office when the boss starts calling my coworker's name.

"What?" he asks.

The boss starts coming up the stairs to the second floor where we work. "Was it him you saw yesterday?" he starts asking.

Just then he comes into view. In his hand, he's got a cage, with a decent-sized rat in it. We all start yeeking and eeewwwing and heebie-jeebie-ing. "Was it him?" the boss asks again, chuckling and pointing at the rat, whose tail and claws are curling out between the bars of the cage.

I like how the boss, owner of a successful, nationwide chain of restaurants and internationally published photographer, is calmly carrying around a cage with a rat in it--even chuckling at it, or us--and planning, he says, to take it out back and drown it in a few moments while we're sitting here freaking out about the idea of a rat being in our presence.

*Thankfully, I have no idea where this photo was taken.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

link time!

Came across a number of interesting posts today that I wanted to share (or, if nobody's reading, at least preserve for myself):

TIME has a couple of stories on international and transracial adoptions, a topic I generally find interesting. China is getting more selective with just who can adopt their orphans, and apparently some Americans aren't very happy about it. Too bad for them, the article reports, more or less.

The transracial adoption report I didn't find as compelling. Didn't agree with much of the sentiment expressed by the interviewees, but at least somebody's finally acknowledging that letting white people adopt non-white babies just might impact how those babies view themselves later in life, and a whole spectrum of other things.

On a completely unrelated note, this post of 45 portraits created out of typefaces is pretty much the most awesome thing I've seen in a while--and I've been lately accused of never crediting anything as awesome.

Lastly, an enjoyable post for 80s fans, Justice fans, and typography nerds--a breakdown of the fonts and logo inspirations used for Justice's DVNO video. If you read the comments, you'll find a link to the blog of the maker of the video, who writes angrily about this post. Drama battle between the French artiste and the geeky font blogger, ha.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

forty years

The stories fade so fast, don’t they?

Over a lifetime, they’re forgotten. In three generations, they’re gone.

I vividly recall in my mother’s version of the story, she escaped to Hong Kong. The verb was always the key part.

My father, in his secondhand version of the same story, said that she smuggled out to Hong Kong, on the bottom of a boat.

I thought she got to the U.S. by plane. My sister, then an attorney fresh out of law school, in her write-up of the account said she sailed.

“Plane,” my mother scoffed when I asked her. But to Hong Kong was by boat, and to the port where they departed from Guangdong was by bicycle, a porter-boy transporting her mother and younger brother on the rear rack and my mother, then 8, on the frame in front of the seat. Four people and all their possessions in the world, on one bicycle. 1959.

1999. I ride a magenta bicycle, gloriously free from the weight of passengers. I remember, I arrived by plane. It was only five years ago, and it’s my own memory. If I forget I still have the e-mail from the e-ticket I booked to remind me, somewhere in my account. The early days were recorded on a Livejournal account and in numerous e-mails to friends and family. Later I kept a Word-document diary. I’ve always been one to write things down.

When I tell my first roommate, Ruiqi Aixinjueluo, royal descendent of Manchurian child emperor Puyi, the story of the journey, she frowns. Why do you say “escaped?” she wants to know. That’s what it was, I say.

It must be strange to hear. When Ruiqi studied in the U.K., she came back. And here I am.
That's my draft for the Joy Luck Hub/Snub contest Hyphen has posted to their blog. If anybody's reading this, let me know what you think. I think the end gets rough, so I'll probably play around with it a bit before posting it to them.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

DJ U☆HEY? feat. Nadja-LOST IN TOKYO(Original Mix)

and then we have this one, from the sound of it, i'm guessing from the 90s, and i'm guessing a european girl. she's professing her love for a "japanese boy" since "without him [she's] lost in tokyo." well. how the tables turn, although it's still pretty weak. and i can't stand this music.

Italo disco - Peter Randell - Lost in Tokyo

Lectric Funk - Shanghaied

eurasian relations, part 2: 80s pop-culture analysis

last year--er, in 2007, rather--i posted some ridiculous euro disco music videos, including this one by the confettis. today while revisiting the italodisco genre on youtube (i can spend hours--days--years, apparently checking this stuff out), i came across a few more gems that seem to indicate something less than charming about the views of european (males?) toward asian women.

peter randell's "lost in tokyo" (linked here and embedded below--sorry, don't know how to operate this blog properly) finds a traveler wandering through tokyo in the wee hours of the night, unable to find his way back to his hotel. (i'll admit, this bit resonates with me--i had a similar experience my first night in shanghai, minus the whole failed attempt to be picked up by a prostitute bit.) the longer he wanders, it seems, the more he's lost, when finally "a strange woman" beckons to him, and having nowhere to go the hapless young chap follows her. even though he can't understand what she's saying to him, he "knows what she wants." the weary sojourner just wants to sleep, but somehow she persuades him to follow her to her apartment. as soon as he informs her that he's lost his money, however, he's "back in the cold night." not too eventful, in the end.

which brings us to 'lectric funk's "shanghaied", which tells the story of a man tricked by a "dragon lady ... strolling down in chinatown." she approaches him on the street, and what do you know? takes him up to a "strange hotel." central to her image are her silken gowns. she gets the poor victim charged up, feeding him "demon potion"--and of course he wakes up in a dirty alley to find all his possessions gone. since they're in chinatown it seems this poor fool doesn't have even the excuse of the lost-in-tokyo guy, who's on foreign soil.

irreverent pop music from generations past, perhaps, but still worthy of some analysis, i think. have we come much farther, 30 years later? a gander on discussion forums for expats in asia would lead me to believe otherwise. how many threads have i seen warning other foreign men the evils of golddigging, passport-seeking chinese women. (but, of course, their sex appeal is literally irresistable.)

then again, if you ignore the unflattering portrayals of asian women communicated in the lyrics, the songs are pretty fantastic. well, personally, i quite like the 'lectric funk one; the other, not so much.

Monday, January 26, 2009

chinese new year 2009

well. it's the start of a new year. i always like the lunar new year since it comes a few weeks after the gregorian/solar/western/whatever new year, so in case you haven't stuck to your new year's resolutions, or your year just doesn't feel like it's off to a good start, there's a second chance just down the road.

tonight marks my fifth new year's day in china; the first, the change from 2004 to 2005, was spent in shanghai dodging fireworks and firecrackers all the while battling an MSG-related heart-racing episode. this year, although it was the first i've seen when fireworks are legal within the second ring road in chengdu, was much more tame. sure, fireworks were going off within a few feet of our noses, but the air wasn't entirely filled with smoke. and a couple hours later, i looked out the window and saw that it was snowing--the first snowfall of the season (and honestly, hopefully the only one).

for some reason tonight i had the craving for noodles, and given that almost every restaurant is closed at least today, tomorrow, and the next day, if not longer, i suddenly had the thought to buy some fangbianmian. "convenient noodles," if you're to translate it directly, are what are known to americans as ramen--the dried noodles that come in a styrofoam or paper cup which all you have to do to "activate" is pour water on and let sit for three minutes. so i bought some. this is the first time in years i've even thought to buy some, let alone actually buy them. i didn't know if i would even be able to find any vegetarian varities--i certainly hadn't purchased them since turning vegetarian around two years ago. but i did; they're sweet-potato noodles, actually, and i'm eating them now. and i have to say, they're not that bad. although i probably won't be eating them on a regular basis, no.

anything else of note? not really, other than the dating scene in chengdu still sucks. it's been years since i've been remotely interested in anybody, and now i feel like i've been chasing white boys all night, and for the last several months, to no avail. what's up with that. in theory, i'd date chinese guys. in theory, there'd be lots of options at my disposal. but theory doesn't seem to coincide with reality, at all, at least in this case. it's cold. i'm going to crawl into my bed, where my friendly electric blanket--my most reliable best friend for the past five years and certainly, at 30 kuai, one of my all-time best purchases--awaits my cold hands and feet.