Roundup for Week 10

Monday 14 March 2011, 6.05am HKT


Roundup for the week of 07-13 March 2011.

* * *

That was the week that was

Japan, shaken and stirred like a dry Martini by the worst earthquake in its history, sends tsunamis across the Pacific and busts nuclear reactions in two power stations … and Tokyo girls take to hardhats for the first time. (12/3)

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Novelist Stephen King slams the Tea Party and suggests he’d put Florida governor in his next horror novel. And that is the long and short of how horrifying politicians are in reality if they could be inspirational fodder like that.

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The year’s first quarter isn’t even out yet and trouble’s everywhere. Yup, the Year of the Robot Rabbit sure is peaceful and peaceable. Mideast trouble continues and seems to be intensifying. Persian Gulf countries seem to be heading into revolt. Civil war is in the offing in the Ivory Coast. Angola is on standby for protests. Sporadic demos against rising food prices in India. Class warfare (which is what it is) is spreading across the city halls of the USA. And idiot radio talking heads in the USA like Larry Kudlow says the wrong thing about the Japanese earthquake.

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A new technique is now available to determine the authorship of anonymous emails, based on techniques already used in speech recognition and data mining. That could be a way to provide admissible evidence in cybercrime prosecutions. [via Science Daily]

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Ditch corporate-controlled agriculture and chemical-intensive farming, says the UN in a report on how to feed the world’s hungry. The report indicates that ‘agroecology’ is the way forward to achieving sufficient crop yields as well as several other economic benefits. Don’t quite think the industrialised agricultural sector will let that happen, since it learnt all the lobbying tricks from the oil industry.

* * *

Someone has come up with a step-by-step way to launch criminal indictments against bank executives for real-estate securities fraud. The method is geared for USA, but could easily be adjusted for other jurisdictions since most real-estate securities tend to operate in similar ways around the world. Circulate widely. Don’t get mad; get even.

* * *

Business startup rate in the USA is at its highest in 15 years, but most entrepreneurs are choosing to go by the sole proprietorship route rather than starting a business that employs people. In other words, you have more and more entrepreneurs, but more and more remain jobless.

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In the racially tense world of high fashion, couture house Christian Dior very publicly sacked John Galliano, its chief designer, for making anti-Semitic slurs. All very odd, since the fashion world considers itself so cosmopolitan and sophisticated that it can fast and loose with racial stereotypes — witness the incongruous and hackneyed images of high couture culturally juxtaposed in Third World locales in fashion advertisements. Isn’t Galliano a Mediterranean name? Well I never!

* * *

Hackers infiltrated and crippled the members-only Linux Security mailing list. [via eWeek]

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NASA provides Superfocus glasses to older astronauts designed to help them see better in space. The average age of American spacemen is 48, so most will have trouble focusing on close objects. Why wait? Get a pair for for US$1,000 at Superfocus.com. A real bargain, I’d say.

No, they don’t make you look like a nerd (or a geek).

—♦—

Only I can see this

Thoughts and recollections from the past and present, sometimes even the future

Next time, wear something normal

OMFG, they’ve got to be kidding me! Did you see the colour of the Chinese rescue team’s uniform when they arrived in Japan? Did we fuck! Normally, red is okay — it means emergency and rescue and words to that effect. But the (spanking brand new) red uniforms are in wedding red. Pretty sure the Japs are silently resenting this.

(The colour doesn’t show up accurately in this photo, but on TV it’s really, really bad, what with the moving images, the sound and the garish colour.)

* * *

Everyone in the UK is getting nastier. No one ever has a nice night out anymore or play tennis on a weekend. Instead, a fun time now for most Britons is blowing up someone’s front door with IEDs, smashing someone’s head through shop windows while waiting for their flippin’ kebabs, and wearing all-white clothes for easy soiling by blood spurting from people they stab with two-inch knives. British people are getting angrier and more aggressive by the day — just like the Yanks.

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Still recollecting on those quixotic Old China Hand memoirs and their characterisations of the Chinese in their locale:

Every single book that I’ve read written by an Old China Hand sooner or later has to describe the Chinese in their locale, whichever the province. And it’s nearly always in one or two standard ways.

I

The first flavour sticks out like a sore thumb and it’s along the lines of “the Hokkien (or Hunanese or Teochew or Cantonese or name the group that pleases you) are quiet, unassuming people.” Every local people are a quiet, unassuming people to these Old China Hands. People who churn out this crap are obviously stone-cold deaf and clueless. Let’s have a super-short, fun, thinly veiled racist rundown of some regional Chinese people (from north to south) to give us an idea of what’s what on the ground:

The Pekinese (Beijing people, not the dogs, thank you very much) are like any capital-dwellers in any country: they believe they are first among equals, i.e. morally and especially intellectually superior to the rest. Could be. But most Pekinese tend to be disorganised and also make fair-weather friends. Quiet and unassuming, eh wot? Pekinese usually have pencil-thin eyebrows, slender bodies, skinny arms and long legs.

The Tianjinese (ex-Tientsin) are capable of very deep intellectual thought. It must be said, though, the Chinese education system of the last 50 years has pretty much seen to it that no one has half a brain left anymore. Any residual regional characteristics of the population are pretty much homogenised into one uniform ‘Chinese race’ that bears no resemblance to historical or ethnic reality. Yeah, but this lot IS honestly the only quiet and unassuming bunch. Pencil-thin eyebrows, small noses with nostrils in the shape of kidney beans, skinny arms, and bloody long legs.

The Shanghainese are bonkers, racist and megalomaniacal. They love the French, but hate and despise the British. But they do have a practical and pragmatic bent generally, and have better organisational skills than most other Chinese (perhaps with the exception of Hankow and Ningbo people), which is why Shanghainese people tend to excel in bigger businesses and entrepreneurial activities. Sorry, did you just say quiet and assuming? Sorry I can’t hear you from the din around us. Shame that Shanghainese is actually a hard-to-pronounce dialect/language, so these folks are forced to yell out the words all the time. Which is why they’re so good at picking up the quieter Mandarin/Putonghua. Sparsely populated eyebrows, with one or two longish hairs sticking out. True Shanghainese have high nose ridges.

The Hunanese are rabid liars (amply attested by at least one younger Old China Hand: more in a separate post in due course; can’t let this off the hook so easily). Yes, sir, they’re quiet, unassuming people. Check. Short, fully horizontal eyebrows and pug noses. Thickset face and stature.

The Cantonese are kind of the Texans of China: hardworking but hotheads with an “I’ll take you down with me if I’m going down” attitude. The Cantonese also have a penchant for the occult. Cantonese culture is somewhat different from the mainstream Han Chinese culture by reason of geography (Guangdong/Kwantung province being bounded by a mountain range on its northern border from the rest of the country). Cantonese men over 50 usually have thickish or even bushy eyebrows (like those of Chou Enlai, who was from Zhejiang/Chekiang province) and heftier bodies. Round, flat noses with fully circular nostrils.

A subset of the Cantonese is the Teochew (Chiuchow/Chaozhou) are a loud, brash lot. They’re wild gamblers are heart, which habit doesn’t quite make them a particularly friendly or sociable bunch — which also explains why the Teochew are heavy into what sociologists describe as ‘insider guanxi’ (social networking with their own kind). Although a part of the Cantonese people, the Teochew aren’t usually regarded as such (especially by the older generation of Cantonese people) — which explains why you sometimes still hear odd expressions like “the Cantonese and Teochew are…” in the same breadth, as if the two are almost separate peoples. Yes, sah, thay’re quiet, unassuming pip’l, sah. Cheeeck. Thay must be ‘cos I’ve gone deaf anyways.

Another subset of the Cantonese is the Hoisan/Taishanese (Toishan/Taishan 台山) people. They’re Cantonese people, and they are seen as Cantonese. They are right bunch of cocky fothermuckers. They’re nearly as racist as the Shanghainese, but they don’t hide it so well. About 150 years ago, a genocidal war broke out between the Hoisan and the Hakka people whose disastrous results for both sides pushed the two to emigrate overseas — but that’s another story. Most Chinese-Americans who emigrated to the USA before the 1950s are Hoishan. As a whole, the Hoisan think they can do just about anything. But credit where credit is due, they do indeed deliver results — just that the way they go about it isn’t very appealing. Which leads to the slur in the USA that most Chinese people behave like arseholes (which isn’t half wrong, actually). Regardless of how the Hoishan appear to others, at least they’re soft-spoken. Quiet, right. Unassuming, probably ain’t. The Hoisan dominate the entertainment industry in Hong Kong. Of all the Cantonese, the Hoisan also tends to look most like a northerner. A Hoisan guy kind of resembles Chou Enlai in physical appearance.

The Hokkien (now Fujianese) are a raucous, highly strung bunch of people who can’t seem to like anything about their native place — hence their high emigration numbers overseas. When they speak, they’re so loud that it’s deafening. Yessiree, they’re suuuuure quiet and unassuming people. Arched eyebrows or rising at the outer ends. Flat nose, perfectly triangular when looking dead on from the front.

N.B. No bullshitting you here. You just have to have lived with pre-First World War folks to appreciate the value of those insights, be they biased or otherwise.

Disclaimer: They’re stereotypes. They are just imaginary images created by one group as against another because of sociocultural assumptions arising out of north-south geographies and the academic and political artifice called ‘Han Chinese.’ But there is an element of truth in any stereotype (albeit very small), so let’s not go overboard with it. Please.

II

The second flavour is along the lines of how wonderfully idyllic/bucolic life was in the once-great metropolises of China, parasols in hand or garden parties to attend, with “quiet and unassuming” Chinese servants (‘foh-kee’) waiting on them hand and foot. Could be true.

Also true was that these Old China Hands lived in fenced-off precincts where Chinese could not even set foot in, so these Old China Hands never quite knew the sordid squalor their local “quiet and unassuming” Chinese lived under.

III

Then there’s the third flavour. Oh, yes, the third flavour, the Third Force, the Unique Perspective. The third whatchamacallit is often favoured by younger, more hardboiled writers with fantasies of walking in Hemmingway’s footsteps. So ghey, even without the balls touching.

To cut a long story short, the Third Shiz homes in like a napalm-laden clusterf**k bomb on the opium, the ostentatious ‘colonial’ lifestyle of the rich and famous, the internecine political sparring of foreign-educated Chinese, the shifty Chinese and/or European businessmen trading with whichever enemy alien was nearest to them geographically, the imperious Chinese and/or European traders out to gouge the Chinese, and the general helter-skelter brought on by the everlasting news of “the Reds are coming.” True enough, but there’s a helluva lot more going on too, sonny boy.

The truth is, the Old China Hands who have the gall to write memoirs are outsiders. They lived the lives of outsiders in China and among the Chinese, regardless of their Chinese-speaking talents or their fondness for their locals. I’ve had it with this lot, really.

* * *

Any dry-up in government subsidies in childcare, social service providers, non-profit employees and the humanities in the academic world (as well as the teaching profession in general) will hit women hardest because these are areas where women concentrate.

* * *

Do you want to know more about Chinese regional stereotypes? Then stay tuned for a post coming here soon!

—♦—

Images (pilfered and used without permission):

© The Naked Listener’s Weblog, 2011.

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