Wednesday, February 27, 2008


I've been tagged by Dan to play this game:


“the mandate: pick up a book on the top of your book stack, turn to page 123, read the first five sentences, then post the next three sentences”.

I've been reading 'Shantaram' by Gregory David Roberts.

"They sat on the ground around my low bed, Prabaker and his parents and his neighbours, keeping me company in the warm, dark, cinnamon-scented night, and forming a ring of protection around me. I thought that it would be impossible to sleep within a circle of spectators, but in minutes I began to float and drift on the murmuring tide of their voices; soft and rhythmic waves that swirled beneath a fathomless night of bright, whispering stars.
At one point, Prabakers father reached out from his place at my left side to rest his hand on my shoulder."

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Photoshop Fun (or Phun)

Yours truly:


Friday, February 22, 2008

Just wrong

Surely only in China can you buy a children's pencil fashioned to look like a hypodermic syringe... efficient: training tomorrow's drug addicts today.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

No good deed goes unpunished

As a child in Catholic school, we had the parable of the Good Samaritan drummed into us repeatedly. We were always told to 'love thy neighbour', and as far as I am concerned this has nothing to do with Christianity and everything to do with basic human morality.

However, the following article is from the China Daily:

A case of bad judgement by a good Samaritan.
Ask yourself this: If you saw a person in distress of injured on the street, would you go to their aid?
If you answered "yes", you had better hope the local judge shares your sense of community spirit. If he doesn't you could
find yourself facing some rather unpleasant
Such was the case for Peng Yu, a 26-year-old man from Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, recently, whose efforts to help and elderly woman who had fallen at a bus station landed him in court.
The injured woman, however, told a different story.
Rather than hailing Peng for his (allegedly) kindly act, she instead claimed he was responsible for her fall and sued him.
And in court, the judge believed her.
According to Peng, as he was disembarking from his bus, he say the 65-year-old, surnamed Xu, fall to the ground.
He said he went to her aid and, in the absence of any of her family, took her to a nearby hospital, where doctors determined she had broken her hip.
Peng said he also gave the woman 200 yuan (US$27) when he discovered she had very little money with her.
However Xu later said that rather than being her savior, Peng was actually the person who knocked her over in the first place. She took him to court seeking 136,000 yuan to cover her medical expences and emotional suffering.
The judge found Peng guilty and ordered him to pay 46,000 yuan. He reasoned that Peng must have been guilty or he would not have acted in such a charitable manner.
(.... )The court's decision has sparked much debate, mostly concerning whether or not it s ever wise to go to the aid of a fellow citizen in distress.
A recent survey conducted by asked the questions: "Would you go to the aid of a person in need?"
Of the respondents, more than 53 percent said they would avoid getting involved in other people's business as it could land them in trouble.
Just 20 percent said they would offer a helping hand, regardless of the possible risk.

Now, I am not saying that, as a foreigner, that all foreigners would help any injured person they saw on the street, and in fact there have been many documented cases of the opposite of that occuring (one of the most well known being when 38 witnesses ignored Kitty Genovese's screams for help when she was fatally stabbed in New York city in 1964). However the real clincher for me is the Judges response: "...Peng must have been guilty or he would not have acted in such a charitable manner."

I am absolutely disgusted by that attitude.

I cannot count the number of times I have seen people knocked off their bicycles by a vehicle (but not badly hurt), and rather than brushing themselves off and apologising to each other, the person on the bike will lie down in the street for the minutes or even hours it takes for the police to arrive and see the 'evidence' of the accident. In the meantime a huge crowd will gather, all shouting their own opinions regarding who they believe to be responsible. In the cases where the person on the ground is injured, no-one will help them, as they must lie there until the police can come and assess the situation.

I know myself when I fell over in the street and tore a tendon in my foot last year that nobody helped me- in fact people stood around and laughed at me.

In some countries 'anti-good Samaritan' laws exist ranging in effect from protecting people from blame if they help a stranger, to punishing people for failing to help a fellow-human being need. (read more)

"Whosoever does not render help in cases of accident, common danger, or necessity although help is needed and can be provided in the circumstances without danger of serious injury to the person and without violation of other important duties, will be punished by imprisonment up to one year or by fine."

Article 323c of the German Criminal Code.
cited by Criminal Law And Its Processes

However obviously nothing like that exists here in China.

Something has to change- If helping a stranger in need is a moral obligation (not a legal choice), then as far as I am concerned, this system is immoral.

The painting is 'The Good Samaritan' by (ironically) Chinese artist He Qi;
The article comes from the China Daily, November 14, 2007;
The photo was posted by Joseph Constanty, on the Facebook group Shanghai's Funniest Moments- all about events you only ever see here in China;

And thanks to Phil for finding the China Daily article and passing it on to me.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Fun and Stupidity on Chinese New Year

Names have been withheld to protect the guilty.

(Please excuse the poor quality of the video- it was shot almost in the dark.)


I suspect I have Labrynthitis again, and will be visiting the doctor in an hour to confirm it. I had a case of it a few years ago, and while not particularly serious, it is a mean illness. Labrynthitis is a virus of the vestibular system in the inner ear that controls your bablance, disrupting or confusing the messages that are sent to your brain. The result is an extreme sense of vertigo, and an inability to stand or sit without swaying as the brain tries desperately to figure out where you are in space.

It means that you can fall over to the floor while simply making coffee (as I did this morning) or slip over sideways onto the couch while watching tv (done last night).

It means that you feel constantly nauseous, sea-sickness without stepping foot off land, and that you cannot drive.

It means that you worry about taking a shower in case you fall over and crack your head open, and end up showering sitting down.

It means that you get so "sea-sick" just walking to the kitchen for a glass of water that you crawl on your hands and knees like a baby.

It means that you cannot hail a taxi without stumbling into the street, looking like a midday drunk.

It means that you constantly feel like you have had a few too many drinks, even when lying in bed at night, watching the room spin.

It means that you can actually 'see' the ground rise and fall in front of you, and you are constantly questioning your sanity.

It means that you are in for a miserable few weeks.

Like I said- its a mean illness, but thankfully it won't last forever.

Saturday, February 16, 2008


Some random photos* I took on my phone in the Shanghai MoCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) today:

*Please note that as an artist myself I abhor the fact that when you go to any exhibition, at least here in Shanghai, each piece is surrounded by dozens of people taking photos of it. None of the photos I took at the MoCA show any of the work on display.

As an aside it does remind me of the time I was at the MoCA and there was an installation piece involving a laptop and a projector screen... and one of the security guards was using it to check his email.

Faux duck faux pas

While we were in Australia mum was telling me about a green grocer who suggested she use corriander to cook with duck, and how, as a vegetarian, she lost interest in what she was saying.

Thinking of Tofu Turkey-aka Tofurkey- I innocently suggested:

"Maybe you should have asked him for 'Tofuck'."

The silence in the car once everyone had realised what I had said to my very anti-swearing mother was nothing more than deafening.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Chinese New Year Fireworks

After a liiiiitle bit too much mulled wine, I left my camera at Daniela and Gerald's place after their Chinese New Year party, so I am only just able to post this:

This is not an isolated event- these kind of fireworks are displayed- nay detonated- outside almost every building and free space in Shanghai during the new year celebrations, and can go on for days or even a week. And it's not just at midnight- it goes on for hours!

At Daniela and Gerald's place we were on the 24th floor, so they are somewhat above many of the explosions, however you can just imagine the barrage from our place on the 7th floor.

It doesn't exactly make for a peaceful holiday.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

'Nian Nian Yo Yu'- 'Have plenty'

"Nian Nian Yo Yu!"

This common greeting during the Chinese New Year season explains why the fish is a symbol of prosperity commonly seen during this time. 'Yo' means 'to have', and 'yu' means 'plenty', however the pronunciation of 'yu' also sounds like the word for 'fish'. 'Nian nian' means something like 'yearly', or 'year after year', and thus you are saying (paraphrased) 'year after year I hope you have plenty!' (symbolised by the fish most families will cook on the eve of the New Year, but not eat entirely until the next day- thus having 'plenty' 'year after year')

However, Phil and I took the whole fish thing a little too literally this year. We have just finished setting up a new room-divider of sorts to give a little more privacy to his office, which is located at one end of our long livingroom.

I know it's not exactly what the proverb meant, but as a vegetarian I like this version much better!
SET UP for those interested:
We planned the set-up to be much more Ikea based, using the large Bladet vases, though we ending up finding vases cheaper in our local flower market. The black stones (Parlor) and black sand (Florera) at the bottom of the tanks are also Ikea products.

We decorated the tanks with replica Cultural Revolution era statues from our local antiques market here in Shanghai, aquatic plants and of course goldfish. One thing that somewhat spoils the look of the "tanks" are the air pump hoses- but we wanted happy fish. We did manage to get one strong pump, with three hose connections to cut down on the clutter, and the pump is hidden behind the canvas room-divider on the left of desk.

Voila! Nian Nian yo yu!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

My Chinese New Year Checklist

Here is my Chinese New Year checklist, in preparation for the onslaught of fireworks that will be descending upon us this evening:

(click for larger size)

Monday, February 04, 2008

Not Nice Ice

An incredible photo from the Shanghai Daily today:

"One big icy mess: Soldiers plow through ice-covered trees to clear a way into Jinlian Village, Longnan County in Jiangxi Province. As of yesterday afternoon, 1,761 villagers in Longnan had been rescued. Snowstorms, the worst in 50 years, have created havoc in central, southern and eastern China for 20 days, claiming at least 60 lives and causing estimated losses of 53.8 billion yuan (US$7.5 billion)."
- source.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Chicken conversations.

Am I imagining it, or is Phil's chicken talking to me?

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Snow- more than just a pretty face.

Ok, more about the snow. We just had another large fall yesterday, and yet another is scheduled for next week. The thing many people would not realise outside of China is that the worst snow to hit the country in 50 years has fallen right at the time of year when two-thirds of the population travels to their hometowns for the Chinese New Year. However due to the snow, most flights, trains and busses are cancelled (and very few people have private cars, and for those that do, a lot of the roads are closed anyway), leaving people literally stranded on the street:

Stranded travellers at the railway station in Guanzhou
(Shanghai Daily)

Yet this is really a trivial problem in the larger scheme of things. Many people have no power, heat or water in sub-zero temperatures, and the crisis is forecast to continue for at least another week, and in some area for another month.

According to the Shanghai Daily, "Experts said that the snow disaster had displaced the 1998 Yangtze River flood as the largest natural disaster in decades. The 1998 flood affected 2.3 million people." (read article)

I received today an email from an organisation called Half The Sky who provide care for orphans throughout China. The update is about the nearing desperate conditions in their orphanages during this extremely cold winter. Many of the orphanages are without power, heat, or water, and many are having trouble buying food for the children due to the inflated prices from road and transport closures.

The updates from the orphanages and family centers go on and on like this:

Chenzhou, Hunan – still facing the most difficulties of the orphanages
we've reached. They've had no electricity or running water for 8 days and
there is almost no possibility that power will be restored before New
Year's Eve (the 6th of February.) Because of the blackout, the hospital
is closed. 20 children are ill and being cared for by institution staff
as well as they can. The banks are closed so staff is contributing
personal funds to buy food, coal and diapers. Prices are skyrocketing as
all roads to Chenzhou remain impassable.
It really is a disaster unfolding almost unseen, and makes grumbling about slushy footpaths seem very selfish indeed.

For more information about Half The Sky's orphanages during these times click here.
To donate money for the crisis click here (ignore the fact that many of the donations say there are "0 in stock"- you are not buying anything, just donating money, but I assume it was set up in a hurry as part of their online shop, and the quirks are not quite ironed out).