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Archive for December, 2006

Daytime TV

A while ago I remember seeing an insurance ad in a magazine. It depicted a heavily made-up couple surrounded by a hint of plastic surgery, facing the camera and looking like they’d just stepped from the set of Days of Our Lives. The caption ran, ‘We can protect you from everything except daytime television’.

Today I was reminded of that ad while waiting for my friend for lunch. A tv in the corner of the local greasy spoon was playing a suspect daytime Asian soapie. It seems there’s nothing new under the sun. Not under the elaborately costumed (I suspect) Korean sun, by the looks of things.

The script was familiar. Picture two older guys in traditional costume, conversing and stroking their beards thoughtfully while looking into the mid-distance, before flicking to a shot of our rugged hero flourishing his sword (to himself) in the setting sun. And yes, its rays caught the edge a few times.

You don’t have to read the Chinese subtitles when the beautiful, extremely white-faced heroine is flanked by two unattractive but well-dressed henchmen, one of whom has just drawn his sword 3 inches out of its scabbard menacingly and is looking to the leader for direction, while the heroine continues to charmingly yet defiantly undertake linguistic variations on, ‘You’ll never get away with this!’. All the while the dastardly arch-villain looks at her proudly yet covetously.

I ruminated that acting, at the base level, has one main purpose: to illustrate the words. In that way, it is quite successful. Guys flourishing swords should look like guys flourishing swords. That’s the whole point, when you get down to it.

I guess daytime tv really is the same the whole world over - even down to the acting.

Deja Vu

It seems like it’s been a week for discovering that people have referenced/used material from our blog. Someone from the University of British Columbia has created a Power Point presentation on Seminar Skills. On slide 9 (page 5) of their presentation the title is ‘Balance specialists and non-specialists’. The photo on this page is of yours truly, walking along a balance beam whilst on a staff team building exercise in southern China! They had the decency to provide the full link to the original image, unlike ‘mr myspace’. If you do a Google Image search then the image below comes up on about page 6 of the results.

Click here for a link to the pdf of the presentation.

Balance Beam

Off to the Kang

Andrew, Nancy and Jason

The other evening I took my team out to dinner. One of my guys, who’s quite a dab hand at picking the eyes out of Shenzhen’s culinary diversity, proposed a few different restaurants close to work, so I chose something from the far north east of China. This was quite appropriate as two of my team members are from that area of China. All bar one of my team members managed to make it along for the night. To compensate, my Swiss colleague managed to pull a fellow countryman out of his hat for the evening.

The floor area around the table at the restaurant was raised in typical north eastern Chinese style. To get in and seated we first put our shoes into little cubby holes at the front, under the floor. We then slid/walked around the table, finally dropping our legs in and under the table. In a traditional setting the area that we were sitting on would be made of brick or fired clay and would be hollow, called a Kang. The smoke and heat from the fireplace in the home would be channelled through this structure warming it up. At night time this would be where the family would sleep, kept from freezing by the warmth retained in the structure.

Toffeed something or other! Emergency Light Jason and OuYang

What’s wrong with the middle picture? It’s not plugged in! Oh, and the small detail that someone has felt the need to cover this emergency light with bright colours typical of the north eastern provinces of China! They probably felt that it complemented the green chopsticks!

The Chinese really do enjoy their meal times. The whole mood during the evening was loud, jovial and fun. There were lots of toasts and ‘gan bei’ moments, meaning ‘bottoms up!’ Literally translated it means to “dry the glass”. Fortunately the Tsing Tao, one of the Chinese beers, is quite good. One thing, however, that I’ve never quite figured out is why the Chinese feel the need to do the peace sign every time their photo is being taken!

The evening banter was predominantly in Chinese however it would break into English every once in a while, particularly if one of the three foreigners (ahem!) kicked off the current thread of conversation. I would catch a word here or there. At other times those sitting nearby would translate for me if something that had been said was worth repeating.

Partway through the meal the doors to our private room were drawn back and one of the restaurant staff, surrounded by some others, started to recite a poem or song. The other restaurant staff all joined in, cheering and clapping and finally a new dish arrived. All that fanfare for a plate of food! One of the guys took a video (4.23 MB). It turned out to be a very delicious toffee-covered something or other. I was unable to get a straight answer as to what it actually was. The best I could determine was that it was a white style of sweet potato. Still, most of my questions of ‘What’s this?’ were usually responded to with ‘I don’t know how to say it in English but…’

The Aftermath

Here’s the table at the end of the meal. It’s in a pretty typical state for the end of a Chinese meal, definitely in a mess but far from being a disaster zone. The remaining dishes in the centre represent about half the number of plates that were brought to the table during the evening. It was a wonderful Chinese experience.

Team Photo

When I grow up

Close in hover

Near our apartment complex is a Police station, complete with dual heli-pads on it’s roof. The other day there seemed to be a bit of a formal bash on over at the station. Police on the ground performed drills whilst a Police helicopter did laps of the Police building interspersed with hovering over the performers below. A few times the helicopter flew off over other parts of Shenzhen before returning to lap and hover around the Police station. The most unusual part of the whole thing was having to look down at the flying helicopter. This thing was flying at lower altitudes than we can take a shower!

I took a short video of the chopper doing a lap of the Police building. You can click here to watch it, but be warned - it’s a 3.47 MB file so it’s for broad-banders or the very patient only.

View from Diwang Hovering over performance

I could hear my own little indoor electric helicopter whispering, ‘I want to grow up to be like that!’


For those who missed seeing the myspace page of the kid who “borrowed” one of our photos here’s the before and after pictures.

The weary traveller

Torn Travel Bag

My poor, poor bag. It’s been my travelling companion over the past 10 years. Sadly, it’s travelling days are over. Last week I travelled to Guangzhou with work for 2 days and my bag finally gave way, tearing where the material was worn the thinnest. It’s very close to wearing through in a number of other spots too, so this is the end. Maintenance has been limited to a few pieces of sticky tape to hold the ends of the pull cords together.

It is an Australian Caribee brand backpack. I bought it for AU$35 or so when I started my university studies and it’s been with me ever since, so it’s fair to say that I’ve had my money’s worth. It’s laboured through lectures, borne bottles, carried clothes, bulged with books, transported tools, looked upon love, prevailed pick-pockets, conquered camping, roamed rivers, hiked hills and crossed continents. It’s been spilled on, sat on, trodden on and rained on. It’s been on bikes, in cars, on lawns, in planes, on roofs, in taxis, on boats and in the mud.

I’ve done a quick summation of the regular and significant journeys that this bag has been on and the total distance covered is about 180,000 km, not including odds and sods. That’s equivalent to travelling around the earth 4.5 times! An even scarier thought is that I’ve travelled a lot further than my bag has.

The stories my old bag could tell…

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