Inappropriate, Smartshanghai! (?)

I like Smartshanghai. Well written food reviews, tons of listings, funny features. But in the process of looking up an address a few minutes ago, I noticed that the first pic on their photo gallery is a bit of a line-crosser.

poor girl...

Poor girl…although she IS at Bar Rouge. I hope this was an editorial miss and not editorial misogyny. Or have I just watched too much porn in my life?

Why Do the Chinese Copy So Much?

The IHT Rendezvous blog has a post about a fake Austrian town somewhere in the outskirts of Guangdong province:

Why Do the Chinese Copy So Much? – NYTimes.com.

Perhaps the language is a reason why: you cannot learn Chinese unless you spend years memorizing thousands of characters needed to achieve literacy, unless you copy, single-mindedly, unquestioningly. Some linguists and cultural historians believe so much mental energy and brain space is taken up by rote learning of the language, that little is left over for innovative thinking.

I think this theory has some currency. Creativity needs to be nurtured and cultivated and practiced. It’s a muscle that can’t be neglected. And in a country of 1.4 billion, it’s exponentially harder than elsewhere for truly innovative ideas to bubble up to the top and gain and audience of influencers.

However, I think that’s only part of the story. The more appropriate question should be, “Why do the Chinese copy Europeans so much?” If the Chinese were a people of rote imitators and copiers, why don’t we see fake cities based off of Mumbai, Sao Paolo, or Lagos? As far as I know, Western European cultures have long been considered refined, luxurious, high-class. They represent an ideal for the status-seeking Chinese, who are clearly the target of these ballsy property developers. They copy because they want to be lathered in “European-ness.”

Ultimately, the copiers of this fake Austrian town aren’t copying because they lack creativity. They’re doing it because they ARE creative. Who else would think to send a group of incognito architects to scope out a mountainous Austrian town for the sole purpose of re-creating it thousands of miles away in a foreign land? That’s pretty innovative to me, and shows that some of these brains still do have some room to think outside of the box.

Mentally ill and their families are lost in China

The NY Times has a very sad story about the incredibly daunting situations faced by the families of the mentally ill in China. Lack of institutional infrastructure, education and understanding about mental health, and government investment have left millions without an avenue to treatment and recovery, often resulting in unfathomably bleak and violent results.

The dearth of care is most evident when it comes to individuals who commit violent crimes. For example, after Liu Yalin killed and dismembered an elderly couple cutting firewood in a Guangdong Province forest, he was judged to be schizophrenic and released to his brother. Unable to afford treatment, the brother flew Mr. Liu to the island province of Hainan, in the South China Sea, and abandoned him, a Chinese nongovernment organization, Shenzhen Hengping, said in a recent report.

Last year, Mr. Liu killed and dismembered an 8-year-old Hainan girl.

“The government doesn’t want to cough up the money to treat these people, so they just give them back to their families,” said Huang Xuetao, a mental health lawyer and one of the authors of the report.

Left to their own devices, some relatives resort to heartbreaking solutions. In 2007, He Jiyue, a government psychiatrist, discovered a 46-year-old man locked behind a metal door in a stinking room in a rural Hebei Province home. The man was mentally ill, his aged parents told Dr. He. They had locked him up after he attacked his uncle.
That was 28 years earlier. The man, a high school graduate, could no longer speak. “I said to the parents: ‘How could you do this to somebody?’ ” Dr. He recalled. They replied, “We had no choice.”

In the past three years, Chinese mental health workers have rescued 339 other people whose relatives were too poor, ignorant or ashamed to seek treatment. Some, shackled in outdoor sheds, were “treated just like animals,” said Dr. Liu Jin, of the Peking University mental health institute.

Chronic shortages of both doctors and facilities ensure that what care exists is limited. China averages just one psychiatrist for every 83,000 people — one-twelfth the ratio in the United States — and most lack a university degree in any subject, much less mental health, Dr. Ma said.

“Professional psychiatrists in China are like pandas,” said Zhang Yalin, assistant director of the mental health research institute at Central South University’s medical school. “There are only a few thousand of us.”

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?

Vimeo blocked in China again?

As of 1:37 pm local Shanghai time, Vimeo is not accessible in China without a proxy. This kind of stuff used to be news, but now it’s just met with a shrug by most people. Unfortunately for us at Republic, we use Vimeo a lot to show our work, as un-blocked Vimeo always loaded pretty fast, compared to the stuff that is viewable on our US and HK-hosted servers. Drats! 

China Unicom Jailbreaking iPhones in-store (via CW)

From CityWeekend:

As if Apple doesn’t have enough problems with iPhone and iPad piracy here, China Unicom’s latest stunt is just a little bit ridiculous. The telecoms giant is now offering an in-store jailbreaking service for iPhones, meaning that devices that are locked to a particular service provider can be used with a Unicom SIM.

According to this first hand report (Google translated), the stores are also offering to help you download the top 10 paid apps for free, and they’ll trim down your SIM card so it will fit inside the iPhone 4’s micro-SIM slot. Since the iPhone 4 isn’t available in China until next month, unless you want to buy a knock-off or a super-expensive grey market model, this service is only of any use if you’ve brought your iPhone 4 back from overseas.

Apple is yet to release a statement. We think they’ll be less than pleased.

I don’t see what Apple has much to be displeased about. Firstly, let’s clarify CW’s blog post: jailbreaking is not the same as unlocking, it just opens the phone to run 3rd party apps. Of course, jailbreaking is a requirement for unlocking, which is undoubtedly what all these phones are going through at these Unicom stores. However, jailbreaking is undoubtedly a market driver Apple and not something they should be preventing. Being locked makes an iPhone less attractive as it ties the owner to one provider. Apple is making their margin off the hardware, after all, and so it should make no difference whether the phone is unlocked or not, or whether it’s been purchased overseas or not; the gold’s in them there damn parts! Unless, of course, they’re majorly marking up their phones to China Unicom, which would have an incentive to install as many of their SIM cards into anyone’s phones. I doubt that is happening though, as Apple should know how prohibitively expensive the Unicom iPhone package already is. The smart money is that they’re happily looking the other way while this stuff happens. And yes, they’re losing a some money on the whole 10 app thing, but it’s a pittance compared to the insane margins they’re making off of Foxconn’s back. And us purchasers, of course.

JBL poster cracks me up

The lady at the JBL kiosk in the Zhongshan Park Yongle electronics store saw me looking at the following JBL marketing poster:

She started pointing at some of the celebrities on the poster. “See? That’s Michael Jackson!”

I kept staring at it.

“And Bill Clinton!”

I was focusing on the two athletes on the bottom row, semi-retired boxer Osca De La Hoya and steroid user and washed-up MLB player Miguel Tejada. I was trying to figure out how they could be connected to JBL speakers. Maybe they had their own hi-fi systems at home and wanted to lend their mugs for this 60th Anniversary marketing poster. Or maybe they were just randomly selected from an issue of 2004 GQ by some dude in Guangzhou trying to put together a decent looking fake poster.

Armless Chinese man: Inspiration up the wazoo

Ok, I have to admit, this one really got me. From ChinaHush:

May 19, 2010 at noon, an amazing scene on the pedestrian bridge walkway in front of the south entrance to Foxconn Corporation, Shenzhen captured people’s eyes. From Shandong province, an optimistic man with no arms used his feet and wrote down some inspirational words in Chinese calligraphy for the Foxconn employees, to advice them not to do any more foolish things – jumping off buildings and committing suicide.

Foxconn is in the news a lot these days (at least here in China) due to the large number of worker suicide attempts (11 so far this year, 9 of them successful). Most of the factory workers at Foxconn (and at many large electronic factories) are rural youngsters far away from home. Foxconn is a huge original-desing manufacturer run by ruthlessly efficient and oftentimes heavy-handed Taiwanese executives. The mix can be volatile, needless to say.

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.