Cityweekend has good intentions for its advertisers!

I know Cityweekend is not exactly the bastion of wonderful journalism here, but it was still funny to read a recent article titled “10 Ways to Detox the Body in Shanghai,” which packaged a list of some no-brainer health tips in some not-so-subtle whore-wrap. Some particularly egregious product placement snippets:

Watch what you eat: Eat plenty of fiber, including brown rice and organically-grown fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s hard to eat healthily when out. M on the Bund has a super healthy and super tasty lunch set menu at the moment. For RMB 98 you get a fresh organic carrot and ginger juice, healthy arugula salad, poached chicken with walnuts and a dessert of fresh pineapple and mint. Eating healthy has never been more decadent.

De-stress: Eliminate stress from your life by emphasizing positive emotions. Positive emotions seem to come about more easily when your feeling good about yourself. Treat yourself to a day of pampering at Quan Spa. Let the friendly staff work their magic hands and be transformed from a state of stress to a state of bliss.

And my personal favorite:

Drink more water: Drink at least eight glasses of water daily to help flush out toxins in the body. Beijing based Dr. Melissa Rodriguez says that drinking fluids such as water and tea is one of the easiest ways to detoxify the body. Don’t just drink any water, jump online and order some “premium water” from vosswater.com.

Yes, that’s right folks, don’t just drink ANY water, drink insanely overpriced Voss water, or else you won’t be able to counter those toxins! I had no idea that in all those years of drinking non-premium water, I was forgoing a chance to really cleanse my body. Lunching at M on Bund, taking yoga classes, drinking orange juice at Element fresh, ordering Voss water and supplements online — with all that action and money, who has any time to go drinking?

Cityweekend Contest results: I lost

A few weeks ago Cityweekend.com posted an online contest for its readers. The commenter who gave the most creative response to this question would win a 1,000 RMB voucher for Mr. and Mrs. Bund, one of my favorite restaurants in Shanghai: “What would you order for your last meal?” After some online shadiness that saw the website keep pushing back the end date for the contest and delay its announcement of the winner, they finally announced that the winning post was this:

As I have for much too long (almost 3 months…) been cursed with a medical condition that makes it difficult for me to chew, I could almost kill for a really crunchy sandwich with salmon, fresh crispy salad, tomatoes, cucumber, onions, perhaps a bit of fresh basil, some homemade pesto and well, did I mention the really crispy scorp of the bread? Well, of course killing someone for a sandwich like that would probably render me in the situation of choosing my last meal. As I had just eaten a crispy sandwich, I would now instead go for a juicy steak with just slightly fried, garlic broccoli, some really crunchy fresh and mixed salad leaves and maybe just with some added freshly garden-picked asparagus with a wee bit of vinegar-lime dressing and a big loaf of whole grain bread to go with that (could we make that with a big fat slice of brie, just because we can?!). To finish off I would go for caramelized bananas, chewing away as the caramel crust would get even harder. No fancy gourmet needed, when all you really want is to chew!

Here was my submission, written at about 2 AM in the morning before my trip to Qiandao Lake:

So it’s my last meal. Ever. How seriously depressing.

I don’t want my last meal to be some glorious gastronomic gorge of epic proportions; the last thing I want is to leave this world suffering from stomach acid. Yes, there are so many things in this world that I have to eat with my eyes closed because they taste so damn good, but why spend my last moments being reminded of all that I’m never going to experience again? Instead, I’d like my last meal to be a journey through my own relatively short life. I want every bite, every taste to be a memory that I can grasp and hold tightly. I want the meal to last a generation in my dreams.

Let’s start off with a bowl of pink cereal milk. You know, the sugary milk that remains after you’ve eaten all the dried marshmallows and artificially colored corn puffs. This was the food of my childhood, lifted up by both hands and poured down my throat as my mother was packing my school lunch.

Next, how about salty, buttery popcorn and a small plate of nachos drenched in watery, processed cheese sauce. The cheese, not so great. The profuse sweating, not so great either. But the girl reaching over to hold my hand during the middle of that movie made the butter on that popcorn taste like ecstasy.

After that, let’s go with some albacore nigiri and some ikura (salmon roe) on a small bed or vinegary sushi rice. Each taste will remind me of those times my bone-tired dad would take my brother and I down to Japantown for our monthly sushi ritual. He always said the best sashimi he ever tasted was in California and not in Japan. I always said the best I ever tasted was with him.

How can I not have one thick slice of pizza from the pizzeria down the street from my dorm? The place was called Fat Slice for a reason. A greasy, oily, delightfully large slice of cheese-covered dough for $1.50 at 3 AM in the morning during Finals week…and midterm week…and any other day of the week. Man, I sure was productive in college. And fat, too.

Now we’re getting a bit more…mature. How about the lobster ravioli from that first ever visit to a fancy French restaurant? The one I took that very special person to after my first paycheck after graduation. Who knew that a simple pasta dish could taste so rewarding, so hard-earned. I’ve since had ravioli that tasted better on the tongue, but never one that felt so good going down.

There is no question what dessert is. What sums up my years in Shanghai better than the local treat than the warm and sweet fermented rice (酒酿)? For a city drenched in alcoholic decadence, there is something fitting about a wined Chinese rice porridge that is a testament to the unique Shanghai mix of tradition and partying. Leaving the Earth with the taste of sweet rice wine on my tongue doesn’t sound half bad at all.

So there’s my last meal. And if the fates are cruel enough to allow only one dish, may it be a dry and flavorless pizza from Melrose. I’d want to kill myself after that anyway.

Sigh. I guess I’ll have to save up for another taste of that fabulous tartare.

Citic Bank marketing dude should get head examined

One commercial that has been playing over and over again in that detestable FocusMedia screen inside the elevator of my apartment building is for China Citic Bank’s new line of “fragrant” bank cards. Yes, folks, after doing some quick Baidu research, I have confirmed that these cards really do give off some sort of scent. And from the ad, it seems like Citic is basing an entire campaign off of that one attribute. And boy, do they smother on the cheese for such a ridiculous product:

Shot 2: Shot of a young girl getting nose-kissed by her mother. V.O.: “小时候, 离不开她 – When young, I could never leave her behind,”
Shot 4: A young woman, embracing some dude in front of a carousel. V.O.: “长大了, 离不开他 – When an adult, and I can’t leave him behind”
Shot 6: I guess the same woman, now a bit holder, holding her debit card up to her nose and taking a deep sniff. V.O.: “现在, 离不开它 – Now, I can’t leave it behind.”

Yes, she’s talking about her bank card. Her ridiculously stupid, smelly bank card. The marketing team at Citic and whichever creative director at Citic’s ad agency should all be dragged outside and caned.