America had The Dress, China has duang!

America had The Dress, China has duang!
While the rest of the world was debating the colors of The Dress, people in China were busy popularizing a new word: duang. Jackie Chan may have been the first to coin the word, but he used it as a sound effect, like “Boing!” in English. Chan used it during a commercial for a shampoo he endorses, saying it “Duang! Made my hair thick and fluffy!” The word has gained a new meaning that’s gone quickly viral in the last few days. It now means something like “digital effects,” i.e., not real. There’s even a viral video spoofing the original commercial by editing it to seem as if Chan is rapping lyrics. Tóu fa 头发, by the way, means “hair.” Why the sudden popularity? It’s hard to say, but it’s probably because of duang’s association with Chan. His son, Jaycee, recently served time for drug offenses. And the “all natural” shampoo Chan extols in the ad is alleged to contain artificial ingredients and chemicals. Plus, Chan, a Hong Kong native, has publicly criticized his birthplace for being too wild and free. Many of his critics believe Chan dissed Hong Kong so he could make movies more easily on the more ...

Filipina domestic worker wins prestigious prize for Hong Kong photos

Filipina domestic worker wins prestigious prize for Hong Kong photos
CHANGSHA, HUNAN — Xyza Cruz Bacani, 27, a domestic worker in Hong Kong, has won a 2015 Human Rights Fellowship with the Magnum Foundation, which will allow her to study for six weeks at New York University, Petapixel.com reports. Another winner is Xiao Muyi, 23, a photographer for Tencent News. She’s worked for Reuters, as well. Bacani works for a wealthy Chinese family in Hong Kong. She borrowed money from her employers to buy a Nikon D90 (good choice, Xyza!), and on her off hours, captures stunning black and white images of HK street life. She hopes to use the fellowship to further human rights in her home country, the Philippines. For more details about Bacani, check out this New York Times Lens Blog profile of her. Here’s one of her photos. More can be seen at Petapixel and the NY Times Lens Blog.

As promised, here’s my Chinese movie debut

As promised, here's my Chinese movie debut
JISHOU, HUNAN — Back in September, I was recruited to play a part in a Chinese web movie, Fall in Love at First Sight 2 (一次性爱上2 yī cì xìng aì shàng 2). The romantic comedy was released to VIP (paying) web users last month, and as of today, is free for anyone to watch online. For various reasons, I cannot embed the movie here. So, I’m hoping that you’ll be able to watch it by clicking on this link www.iqiyi.com. There will probably be some commercials at the beginning. They’ll be in Chinese, but the movie is subtitled in Mandarin and English. In it, I play a famous American music producer, Mr Jason, who has come to Xiangxi Prefecture in order to find the Drum Queen, whom he had seen a decade earlier. (The subtitles refer to her throughout as the Drum King, a mistake in translation.) He has come back in hopes of signing her to a record deal. By chance, he runs into a young couple, who manage to unite him with the Drum Queen while also cultivating their own budding romance. It’s a sequel to a 2013 web movie, Fall Love at First Sight (一次性爱上). In the ...

Changsha anesthesiologist uses cartoons to talk to deaf mother

[Via Shanghaiist.com.] A Changsha, Hunan, anesthesiologist has become something of an Internet hero after cartoons he drew to communicate with a deaf patient circulated in social media. Yao Xiang, 25, of the Hunan Disabled Soldier’s Hospital 湖南省荣军医院 (Hunan Sheng RongJun YiYuan) , doesn’t know sign language, but he needed to communicate with the patient, an expectant mother undergoing a C-section. So, he drew cartoons like the one below. Yao said he began drawing when he was a kid.

North Koreans liken Obama to ‘monkey in rainforest’

JISHOU, HUNAN — Pissed that American officials, including President Barack Obama, accused it of hacking Sony’s computer systems, North Korean struck back this week, calling Obama “a monkey in a rainforest.” Another blogger, the infamous Chuck C. Johnson of GotNews.com, claims that the slur was not a slur, but a compliment. because reasons. He claims the remark as reported by the official North Korean news agency, KCNA, refers to an idiom, “Even monkeys fall from trees.” 심지어 원숭이는 나무에서 가을 The idiom means even experts can be wrong, or humans are infallible. I’m calling bullshit on this revisionism. The actual words as reported in Korean media are 열대수림 속에 서식하는 원숭이 which translates as “monkey that lives in a tropical forest,” which as far as I can tell is not an idiom. English reports of the North Korean remark have interpreted it correctly, as we might expect. I should confess that I don’t speak or understand Korean. Neither does Chuck Johnson. But I went to Korean language news agencies to find the original remark and their use of it. None referenced an idiomatic meaning, but quoted it verbatim. To me, this suggests it was intended a racial slur, or an ...

He is a most peculiar man

JISHOU, HUNAN — In the strange virtual society that is the Internet, there are celebrities, both major and minor. Some are famous people in the “meat world” — George Takei, for instance — and others have carved out a niche mostly in the virtual world. Take for example, the blogger, Charles C. “Chuck” Johnson, proprietor and main instigator of a “news” website and a seemingly never-ending stream of tweets that range from self-congratulatory paeans to his many godlike attributes to cheap antagonistic slams of victims of various crimes like rape or murder. To get a taste of Johnson’s prodigious output, take a look at my Tweet-based Dossier on him. I started the dossier mostly to record his assertions of Supreme Godhood, but it’s nearly become obsolete, as several other websites, including The New York Times, have picked up on the infamous Mr Johnson and some of the more, um, colorful escapades of his 26 years on this Earth. The storm surge that breached the levee was Johnson’s attempt to besmirch “Jackie,” the pseudonymous subject of a Rolling Stone article about her rape while a student at the University of Virginia. Johnson’s apparent raison d’etre is to ruin the credibility of ...

A peek at a Chinese couple in Zhangjiajie

A peek at a Chinese couple in Zhangjiajie
JISHOU, HUNAN — Many couples in China choose scenic spots for their wedding photos. Few, however, choose to pose nude while doing it. This couple, who may or may not be participating in a publicity stunt for the Zhangjiajie tourism industry, has got tongues wagging here in China. They’re blue as a nod to the movie Avatar. Director James Cameron supposedly saw the rugged terrain in the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park and was inspired to recreate the terrain for the movie’s planet, Pandora. Whether that’s true or not, the Zhangjiajie tourist board is running with it. One of the peaks in the park was renamed “Hallelujah Mountain” shortly after the movie came out. You can see more photos here (Chinese language) and here (English language). The photos are SFW, because the couples’ “naughty bits” have been pixelated or concealed to satisfy strict censorship regulations in China. On the other hand, saturation levels have been Photoshopped. Zhangjiajie is beautiful, but the colors there are not that vivid.

Cool SF short features Rosetta comet mission

Sometime in the far future, humans develop the power to build worlds. Game of Thrones fans will recognize Aiden Gillen as the teacher. His apprentice is played by Aisling Franciosi. The Rosetta orbiter is still following Comet 67P on its way around the Sun. The Philae lander has an electrical starvation problem. It successfully landed on the sunny spot chosen as its best location, but it bounced off the surface of the comet twice and landed in a shady area that gets only 1.5 hours of sunlight every Earth day. That’s not enough sunlight to recharge Philae’s batteries, so the washing-machine-sized probe ran through its primary scientific tasks as quickly as possible before it went dark. Philae was able to drill into the surface and analyze the composition of the sample. It relayed that data to Rosetta, which then forwarded it to Earth. Planetary scientists are intensely interested in the results, as it could provide clues about the formation of the solar system and Earth. For its part, Rosetta has discovered that comets stink. Literally.

The first trailer of my ‘big’ movie debut 2

The first trailer of my 'big' movie debut
JISHOU, HUNAN — Back in September, I was called upon to play the part of a foreign visitor to Xiangxi Prefecture in a movie, 《一次性爱上2》 (Yi Ci Xing Ai Shang 2 — Love at First Sight 2)*. The first trailer for this “micro-movie,” a 45-minute web-only production, has just been released. Unfortunately, there’s no embedding options, so here’s the LINK. The link will take you a Chinese video sharing site. Hopefully, you’ll be able to see it with no troubles. Meanwhile, I’ll try to download it and see if I can host from my own site or post it on YouTube. There are no English subtitles yet, but there’s not much dialogue in the trailer, anyway. It’s a movie about romance, drama, spectacular scenery and the love of music. ——— * Interestingly enough, the Chinese phrase 一次性爱上 can be translated as “Love at First Sight,” but it can also be used to describe a one-night stand or a sexual escapade. This second possibility led to some interesting comments from my Chinese Internet friends. I had to assure them I was not acting in a porn movie, which, by the way, are illegal in China. So, I figure they were not ...

In which Chuck C. Johnson discovers my “tweet-sourced dossier” on him

JISHOU, HUNAN — Some explanation is needed here, if you’re to understand the following exchange. Charles C. “Chuck” Johnson is a self-described “award-winning journalist,” who has been burning up Twitter and his own “news” website (gotnews.com) recently with ebola hysteria. He has published the home addresses of American ebola victims — and their relatives — and waged a one-man smear campaign against nurses Nina Pham and Kaci Hickox. Over at Little Green Footballs, which is run by another Charles Johnson (absolutely no relation!), Chuck C. Johnson is alternately a subject of horror and ridicule. Since CCJ’s self-referential tweets are so amusing, I took it upon myself to use them to compile a “tweet-sourced dossier” on the prolific blogger. You can view it by clicking the preceding link, or finding in my Pages index at right. Anyway, Chuck found the dossier and tweeted about it yesterday. I’ve captured the exchange using Storify. [View the story “Obsessed and wrong? You be the judge.” on ] At this point, the conversation ended. [NOTE: It’s quite long. If you just see a handful of tweets, you’ll need to visit the Storify link.

I have Western TV again!

I have Western TV again!
JISHOU, HUNAN — China would not be at the top of anyone’s list of entertaining television. The Chinese government strictly limits consumer access to Chinese cable and satellite TV channels, which offer a staid variety of historical dramas, reality shows, moralistic soapies and news programs — all of which must pass inspection by government censors. Foreign channels, like the BBC, CNN or HBO, are usually only available at big-city hotels that cater to foreigners. Police patrol residential areas to ensure no one has an illegal satellite dish pointing in the wrong direction. For an expat, this situation meant your only access to Western TV was through the computer, either by downloading programs or catching the rare streaming website that doesn’t black out China. (I’m looking at you, Hulu!) But, as of last month, this expat now has access to more than 200 international TV channels, because I bought an Internet settop box marketed by A2SATV. The provider also offers several hundred free TV channels from all over the world. The box with a year’s subscription to the premium package cost about $145, and subscription renewals are about $50 a year. The box runs Android, and comes with two USB ports, ...

It’s a wrap (for me, at least) 1

It's a wrap (for me, at least)
JISHOU, HUNAN — My first brush with Chinese film making has ended. Now I’m waiting to see the results, like everyone else. My services were needed for only three days. I’ve already related the first two days’ events. The last day was Tuesday, coincidentally the last day before a week-long break for the National Holiday. First off, consider that my schedule that day began with four hours of classes, and ended with four hours of classes. Sandwiched between these sessions of Oral English was that day’s filming in Aizhai and Dehang and a very late lunch at 3 pm. A really long day. Along the way, I got a better idea of my role in the movie. One scene on Tuesday had me in hiking clothes in Dehang, coming across a local woman drumming in the local Miao style in a canyon. This scene happened some years in the past. At the time, my character, Jason, was moved to the point of tears and wanted to meet this woman, but she refused to see me. I left disheartened. My other scene filmed on Tuesday was in the Ford used earlier. Jason is in the back seat looking at the video ...
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