Saturday, May 30, 2009

Does It Sound...

...Greek, Chinese or Hebrew To You?

And because the previous post didn’t have enough maps to look at I will give you another one.
Not technically a map (more like a cartogram) but anyhow an interesting mapping of how different nationalities use different languages to express their incomprehension of a word.

When an English speaker doesn’t understand a word of what someone says, he or she states that it’s ‘Greek to me’.

In France we apparently have trouble with a lot of languages since we can refer to Chinese (like most people), Hebrew or Javanese (we are the only one using this language as reference) but we don’t find (like a lot of other country) Greek to be a difficult one (maybe because we study it at school just like Latin – we like “Langues Mortes”*… at least nobody can correct our accent like that). Also I can believe Turks think French is a difficult language… pleeeease!!!!

But the palm goes to the Chinese because the only language they find hard to speak is “Heavenly script” (well at least they are well aware that Chinese is one of the most difficult language!). I’m also surprised that Arabic is not a big point of reference as a difficult language.

The use of Greek as a diffult language comes from the Middle Ages when the monks’ knowledge of Greek was waning, they would write in the margin of texts they could not translate, in Latin: “Graecum est, non legitur” (”This is Greek to me, I can’t read it”).

* “Langues mortes”, “Dead” language is used as a reference to language not spoken anymore such as old Latin, Greek. We also use “Langues Vivantes” (“living” language) as an opposition. So for example when in school you can have a period of “Langues Vivantes” in your schedule where students will go to the class according to the language chosen (English, Spanish, Italian, German…) and a period of “Langues Mortes” (which is usually Latin or Greek)

It's Really Just...

...A Question Of Perspective

How China sees the world:
That's one way...

How the USA sees the world:
... and that's another!

When I received our magazine the Economist and saw the cover with “How China sees the world” it reminded me of another cover so I went on a search and I came upon this really interesting website with all kind of different maps. There’s also a version of how the French sees the World and if you are confused about the kissing thing in France a map also exist

There are a few that are really interesting like the map that compares the population of China’s province (+ Taiwan), autonomous regions and municipalities with those of whole countries. Beijing has the same population of Angola!

Another one I found interesting is a satellite view at night of Korea. With the contrast of lights between North Korea and South Korea you can really see how far apart the two countries are.

A few months ago I talked about how puzzled I was by the way the world maps looked in the States… well I’m not the only one!

And I also ponder about getting this one. I will of course change the city!

But my favorite is definitely this one. Beijing to Grenoble on the same subway line!

Take the red line and it's direct!

Friday, May 29, 2009

One Step Forward...

...Two Steps Back

Well since it was too late to come for a last visit, you can always blame it on visa issue!

Conspiracy theory

Once again the season of visa renewal anxiety is upon us.

It would appear that the Chinese government is even more antsy this year than last about the possibility of us troublesome foreigners making some embarrassing public show of our namby-pamby liberal-democratic political stance. Last year, the Olympics was the main focus of concern; this year, it is any one of a number of "sensitive" anniversaries.

Yet, curiously enough, there doesn't seem to be a big push to drive the foreigners out of the country right away - prior to 6/4.. No, it would appear that the celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the PRC in the first week of October are the thing they're really worried about us spoiling. I heard recently that 'F' Visas (for "business travellers" - although that's what the majority of people are on, because it's so damned difficult to get any other kind), in addition to being difficult or impossible to get within the country (or even in Hong Kong, long the traditional 'last resort' of the visa-challenged, since the visa issuing regime there is usually much more lax than on the mainland [and technically it counts as "overseas"!!]; lately, many people, it seems, have been forced to go properly abroad, often back to their home countries, to obtain a new visa), are no longer being issued for periods extending beyond mid-September; and new visas thereafter are unlikely to be issued until at least mid-October. It seems likely that it will be very difficult to get tourist visas during that period either

No foreigners here (or as few as possible) around the great national celebration?? It's even worse than last year's Olympic crackdown.

Is it just because we might "shame" China in front of the international media by unfurling a "Free Tibet!" banner? Probably. It seems a bit of an excessive response, though.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Our Last Chinese Festival...

Dragon Boat Festival

Celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month of every year, the Dragon Boat Festival (端午节-DuanWu Jie) is one of the country’s oldest festivals, dating back some 2300 years. According to legend, the festival celebrates the patriot, poet and exiled minister Qu Yuan, who drowned himself in grief when his home state of Chu was invaded.
Thousands of years later, people continue to celebrate the holiday by racing dragon boats and eating zongzi, which are a type of rice dumpling originally thrown into the river to keep fish away from Qu’s body.

Won't miss that too much!

So for the second year, Dragon Boat Festival is a national day off. This year it falls on a Thursday and in order for people to have a 3-day off vacation they will have to work on Sunday (to recuperate the lost day of work on Friday) hence working the following week 6 days in a row (Sunday to Friday)… better get some beauty sleep on your vacation.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


...Back In Style

China is the land of bicycles but also more and more of the Electric bikes. Well it seems like France is trying to revive a quirky old French Bike, Le Solex.

The Solex was a funny little motorized cycle that enjoyed immense popularity as cheap transport. Its quirkiest feature was the little petrol engine perched above the front wheel. When it was engaged, a disk on the motor rubbed against the bike wheel, giving it power. They made a noisy buzz while proceeding at a few miles per hour. The Solex was a symbol of the post-war era like the 2CV Citroen or the bulbous Orangina bottle. To use the usual cliché, it was a true Gallic icon. It was ridden by rural shop-keepers and Paris students and it featured in films with Brigitte Bardot, Catherine Deneuve and Jacques Tati. Steve McQueen rode one when he was in France making Le Mans in 1971. Between 1946 and 1988 Solex sold more than eight million of the "bicycle that goes by itself," as its 1960s adverts called it."

The new version and the classic old version

Monday, May 25, 2009

D/J -40...

...It's Too Late For A Visit

First of all in a little over a month we’ll be out of here and second for those of you who were planning to finally come see us while on your way to China’s First Adult Theme Park I have to report that’s too late!

China's first adult theme park never able to open

The first sexually explicit theme park to be erected in China will never welcome its first guest. The park was torn down because of criticism from public officials. In particular, the artwork was a bit much for the politicians' sensibilities.

Love Land, as the park was to be called, was scheduled to open in Chongqin in October.

The park would have offered exhibits on sexual history and workshops for guests on how to improve their love lives.

The lack of subtlety, I suspect, made things difficult for Love Land. The sign at the front had a woman's legs – with a red thong just above – straddling the park's name. Over the weekend, city officials ordered the park's destruction, calling it "vulgar, ill-minded and misleading."

Too late

Well at least Auchan (another French supermarket much like Carrefour/Jialefu) is not shy about sexy lingerie

Sexy is back

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The French Lead The World...

...In Eating And Sleeping!

Really crucial piece of information I read a couple of weeks ago. (It has nothing to do with China but with a title like that I couldn’t not report!)

Here's a stereotype that is backed up by hard data.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has released a report detailing sleeping and eating habits of 18 of the world's developed countries.

Its conclusion: The French sleep and eat more than any other people in the developed world.

Specifically, the study found that the French sleep an average of nine hours every night, which is about 30 minutes longer than the average American does. The Japanese and Koreans average less than eight hours of sleep a night.

As far as eating goes, the French spend more than two hours per day, on average, eating -- roughly twice the time Americans spend eating.

The French are also world leaders for taking vacation, an average of 35 days a year -- but the OECD study didn't address that.

Go France

On a side note (because I love side notes) French women have one of the longest life expectancy in the world (84.1 years). Maybe this explains that!

Friday, May 22, 2009



An interesting article about Propaganda posters. While in China you see them at almost every corner of the streets but us foreigner (or at least the ones who don’t master the Chinese language!) don’t pay too much attention.

Propaganda Posters: Do They Really Have an Effect?

If you live in China, you’ve seen them. Even if you can’t read Chinese, you can probably guess what they’re saying. They’re the red and yellow banners fluttering from official buildings everywhere, the tackily illustrated posters telling you not to spit on the street, and the collages of hundreds of smiling Chinese faces with big characters telling you: “A Harmonious Society Comes From the Heart.” They’re commonly called propaganda, though they might just as aptly be labeled public service announcements of a sort. Few countries have them in the abundance China does, so one can’t help but wonder, are they actually doing anything?
Most foreigners tune them out, and many Chinese people would report the same. But that might not matter. While (as far as we can tell), there aren’t any studies of these posters and banners specifically, studies of advertisements generally have shown that ads can and do have an effect on the viewer — even when the viewer’s focus is elsewhere. [A] Study found that banner ads on websites are effective even when viewers don’t notice them or click on them. If public service ads work the same way (and why wouldn’t they), all those messages about harmonious and civilized society might well be working their way into your brains.
But wait, it gets creepier! According to [another] study, subliminal advertising and more subtle product placement is actually more effective, apparently “because people don’t have time to raise their anti-ad defenses.” […]
[Still,] there is no clear evidence to demonstrate that propaganda posters have been either effective or ineffective in inculcating thought and behavior.
There’s “no clear evidence”, yet the posters remain. One wonders if perhaps the government knows something about them we don’t. Certainly, effort goes into making these things and keeping them posted all over the country. Is it all a wasted effort? Tough to say. Obviously someone thinks it isn’t.(chinageeks)

Check out this website for some great posters.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Movies:...

...A Thrilling Experience In China

There is nothing better than spending a quiet night in front of the TV with a good DVD. And it’s even better when the movie you are about to watch was just released in the theater. Because you see when you live in China you get to see a huge amount of the latest releases (the good, the bad and the one you wish you didn’t spend even 5 minutes watching) and you start to get demanding when the movies take more than a few days (a week top) after their opening day at the theater to hit the local shelves.

It all starts with the selection of the movie (because they are so many blockbusters being released, you need from time to time to dig a little deeper into the choice of movies available!). The whole experience starts with the DVD’s jacket, then the movie itself.

Most of the jackets are pretty good. Well the front (the picture corresponds to the movie) but when you check on the back that’s another story. When the film summary is actually corresponding to the movie, the credits are often from another one and if you decide to check on the film website you might end up onto another website.
Three movies for the price of one!

Then comes the film synopsis and sometimes it makes you really want to pick up the film and see if the commentary is true. Note: cut and paste in a language you don’t speak fluently is never a good idea!

Here’s an example
From “The Contract” (with Morgan Freeman and John Cusack)
With such horrible screenplay, not good actors could have salvaged it even with Freeman and Cusack, the dialog is bad, the supporting actors were also very lame, watching it after 10 to 15 minutes, you were beginning to get a bad feeling about it, like checking into a dentist clinic, lying on the chair, hearing and watching the dentist and the assistants preparing you root canal operation. Bas so bad; lot of unnecessary scenes and dialog kept and dialog kept coming up but didn’t delete wisely. Why after “shoot to kill”, ‘cliff hanger’ and some of the other better suspenseful movies, did this lame-duck like movie have to be produced. The reason why the father and son would go hiking in the mountain was quite vague, to think back, almost all the scenario and plot is this movie were vague and could have cared less by you; so you caught a criminal fugitive, allowing him to ask you son’s name and you wimpy son would answer the question dutifully, then answer your name to that criminal, are you nuts? What kind of stupid dialog is this? Writing a review to this movie is actually wasting time on earth. So I better stop right here.
Of course you want to buy it. A whopping 8 kuais (€/$1) and prove them wrong (or not!)

Then (and that’s my favorite part) you get to spot the silhouette.
some are more obvious than others !

Because most of the movies are being recorded in theaters, you get to see people arriving late. If only the TV set was bigger you could almost feel like you were really at the movie theater.

I won’t even comment on how many time the movie switch to Russian at the exact time you are finally finding out 1/ if she loves him or 2/who kills him or 3/why what happened happened! It will of course switch back to the appropriate language (mostly English for us) right after the climax. Then you’ll have to find a friend who might have a different copy and who might have been lucky to not have the language switch at the same moment so they can tell you what crucial part in the dialog you’ve missed and in exchange you get to tell her the part she missed. OR you go back to the store and find another copy hoping it’s a better one.

FYI: All these rules are not applicable around Movie Awards’ seasons because you get a proper copy which bears the mention “Property of XYZ for Oscar review only”… and that my friend makes you feel very special!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

You'd Better Be Careful...

...Who You Kiss

Or it can have devastating consequences!

Never kiss the pigs!

As swine flu spreads around the world, China has acted with an aggressiveness that can only come from unpleasant firsthand experience with epidemics. Official cover-ups allowed SARS to spread in 2002 and 2003, eventually killing 349 on the mainland and leading to the sacking of both the Health Minister and the mayor of Beijing. In recent years, the country has waged a steady battle against avian influenza, which has killed two dozen people in China and prompted fears that it could mutate into a deadlier plague.
So when swine flu finally arrived on Chinese soil last week, the country's response was forceful, but also tinged with panic. And it has prompted complaints that the aggressive precautionary measures have unfairly singled out Mexicans. (Time)

Don't take enough measures, you’re criticized. Take too much and you’re also criticized. Can one wins?

Monday, May 18, 2009

And The Winner Is...


Apart from the privilege of having C&J² Suiter takes up residence there, I wasn’t sure what Norway produced beside oil.

Ah, the Eurovision Song Contest -- a huge thing in Europe, a non-event for the rest of the world.

Last night marked the finals, which were held in Moscow and broadcast in nearly 50 countries.

Norway's baby-faced Alexander Rybak won the event, beating out 24 other countries and earning a record-breaking 387 points for his song "Fairytale." Iceland came in second place and Azerbaijan came in third.

The contest is held between active members of the European Broadcasting Union. Voting is a little complicated. Some 42 countries are eligible to vote, but cannot vote for their own entry in the song contest. Through both public voting and a jury, each country awards a set of points from 1 to 8, and then 10 and 12, with 12 being for the song they liked best.

This was the first year in some time that juries were let back into the voting process; following complaints from some that public voting essentially guaranteed that each country would vote for its closest neighbors.

There is still a lot of that kind of bloc-voting, though. The Balkans tended to throw their votes to other Balkan countries; ditto Scandinavian countries. But one of the big differences was that no matter what, most countries were giving their top points to Norway.

Of course, you might not know the name of Alexander Rybak. But you know some other former Eurovision Song Contest winners: LuLu (UK), ABBA (Sweden) and Celine Dion, who won the contest in 1988 singing for...Switzerland.

I remember watching it when I was young with my parents and there was always a competition in our home about whom between the French or the Italians would win (at least beat each other!).
Since the country winner gets to host the following competition, the Eurovision will be host in Oslo (from the Olympics to the Eurovision, can my life be more thrilling?!). Well at least it gives us a glimpse of what to expect from the music (and dance but not from the language since he sang in English!) from our future host country (and that’s saying a lot!)

And to save you a google search for the song, click here!

By the way Google’s Eurovision Predictor (didn’t know such thing existed!) picked him as the winner with a potential total point of 388 (He won with a record score of 387). The Google Eurovision Predictor took Google search volumes for all the performers and translated these into Eurovision points.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

In 2008, Beijing Hosted the Olympics...

...In 2009, China Celebrates China...
(Good and Bad)

...In 2010, It’s Shanghai’s Turn.

From May 1st to October 31st 2010 Shanghai will host the Expo 2010. 185 countries and 46 international organizations have confirmed their participation.

After “One World, One Dream” for the Beijing 2008 Olympics it’s “Better City, Better Life” for the Shanghai 2010 Expo, and let’s not forget the emblem and the mascot!
The emblem, depicting image of three people (you, me, him/he) holding hands together symbolizes the big family of mankind:
Created from a Chinese character meaning people (人- ren), the mascot "Haibao" embodies the character of Chinese culture:
France was the first country to respond positively to China’s invitation and was allocated a prime 6,000m² riverbank location alongside the other European pavilions. The French government has allocated a record 50 million euros (552 million yuan) budget for the national pavilion (Half from the government and half from private businesses). "As far as I know, it is the highest among all participants," said Xu Bo, director of the International Participation Department of the Bureau of World Expo. Skeptics will say that they are trying to redeem themselves and it’s an opportunity to reinforce France's image in China. Thanks to the generosity of the Orsay Museum, 7 great masterpieces of French art will be exhibited in the French Pavilion: “L'Angelus” by Millet, “Le Balcon” by Manet, “La salle de danse à Arles” by Van Gogh, “la Femme à la cafetière” by Cézanne, “La loge” de Bonnard, also said “Le Repas” by Gauguin and “L'age de bronze” by Rodin. It is the first time that France offer to China these masterpieces which have never been displayed together abroad.

About the US pavilion now:
If Expo 2010 were being held anywhere else – say, Amsterdam – there wouldn’t be any pressing need for a U.S presence. But just as the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair signaled the ascendance of the U.S. as a major industrial power, and the 1964 New York World’s Fair suggested U.S. technological superiority, 2010 seems primed to represent the rise of Chinese economic and political power in the 21st century. A no-show by the U.S. would convey as much about America’s diminished place in this new geopolitical order as does its ongoing run-up of Chinese-owned debt. The Chinese government, meanwhile, has indicated that a no-show might be taken as a snub. Though few Americans are paying attention now, come May 1, 2010, when the expo opens, surely many would wonder why the U.S. is not represented among the gleaming, architecturally significant pavilions on the Shanghai riverbanks. (The Atlantic)

To see the different pavilions… check here.
China that’s a given

France of course. Italy is one of my favorite. Poland is kind of funky. Switzerland took it to the next level. I like the simplicity of Israel, Denmark and Finland.
On the other hand I’m not feeling the apple from Romania or the funky “Happy Street” from the Netherlands. Even Norway participates!

Most of the pavilions will be dismantle

And now a little background check on World Fair (so you don’t have to!)
Universal Expositions are also known as World Fair and World's Fair? World's Fairs originated in the French tradition of national exhibitions, a tradition that culminated with the French Industrial Exposition of 1844 held in Paris. It was soon followed by other national exhibitions in continental Europe, and finally came to London where the first real international exhibition was held.

The first Expo was held in The Crystal Palace in Hyde Park, London in 1851 under the title “Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations. The main attractions at World’s fairs are the national pavilions, created by participating countries. They usually last between three and six months

The world fair gave Paris its Eiffel Tower which was built for Exposition Universelle of 1889 (it served as the entrance arch of the fair and the fair was built on the Champs de Mars) and the first line of the Paris Metro also began operation to coincide with the Exposition of 1900 which also gave us Gare de Lyon, the Gare d’Orsay (now the Musée d’Orsay), the Pont Alexandre III, the Grand Palais, La Ruche and the Petit Palais.

Paris hosted the Fairs in 1855, 1867, 1878, 1889, 1900, in 1914 it was in Lyon, and the last one in France was in 1937.
The United States had them 18 times between 1876 and 1984 (twice in NY 1939 & 1964; twice in SF 1915 & 1940, twice in New Orleans 1884 & 1984, Chicago 1893 & 1933, and even in Omaha in 1898!). The last fair held in the US was the 1984 Louisiana World Exposition which was plagued with attendance problems and has the dubious distinction of being the only exposition to declare bankruptcy during its run

The next ones will be in South Korea (Yeosu) in 2012 and in Italy (Milan) in 2015.

Friday, May 15, 2009

D/J -50...

...Getting to know Norway

So as you know by now we are moving to Norway (see D/J -100 post!). Norway land of Ericsson, ah no they are Swedish, H&M no Swedish also…

I know that they have oil but what other big name industries do they have?

Ericsson (communication), Electrolux (appliances), Ikea (furniture), H&M (clothing), Volvo (car), Brio (wooden toys), AGA (cooker), Tele2 (telecommunication operator), Husqvarna (chainsaw), MySQL (database management) are all Swedish. Even Nokia is Finnish (and Fiskars too!)

So I guess it all comes down to oil, fishing and hosting the 1997 winter Olympics (Lillehammer, remember).

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Who Knew Chinese...

...Were Trend Setters?!

Reading an article in the French Elle Magazine published in the February 28th issue (I’m just a tad behind on my “fashion” reading but the French magazines have to do the round among the girls and I must be at the bottom of the list!), I was intrigued by the following article (in French sorry!)…

“Les jours les plus lounge”:
The lounge (pun with the word long) day!

This is a picture I took 2 years ago of a Chinese man strolling down a street in his pajamas. This is not a rare sight. Ahead of the Olympics, the city government actually handed out booklet to 4 million household giving advise on not to wear too many colors (no more than 3 color groups in clothing to be exact), white socks with black shoes and parading in pajamas!

Dressed to the thirteen!
(While in English we says “Dress to the Nines”
in Chinese we say “shi san fen” (to the thirteen)

Since wearing pj’s (or lounge clothing!) was already a trend in China, let see if we can predict what the future trends will be by looking around us in Beijing. Maybe I should write to Elle/Vogue fashion editors and let them know what’s the next IT thing in fashion. Call me Anna Wintour!!

1 - Boyfriend carrying their girlfriend’s handbag (the habits tend to disappear once married!)

2 - Matching outfit (I seemed to remember it was a trend in the USA a while back!)

Historically the habits of Public Displays of Pajamas (PDoP for short) may have arisen out of class consciousness. Wearing pajamas to bed meant that you had enough money to buy clothes for sleeping. Somewhere along the way, someone decided it was high time to show off sleeping clothes to the neighbors…and PDoP was born!

I have not find anything about carrying your girlfriend’s bag or wearing matching clothes but if I had to extrapolate, I would say that with the largest bank note being 100 Yuan (€10-$13), boys got tired of having big budge in their back pants pocket so they started to put their money in their girlfriends bag, the girlfriend complained about how heavy it was and the boyfriend said fine I’ll carry it. As for wearing matching clothes, it makes it easier to find your partner in a crowd (and there is a lot of Chinese in China may I remind you!); you just have to point at your clothes and asked around if anybody seen a man (or woman) wearing the exact same outfit. That’s just one (mine!) explanation. Another point for the Chinese!!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

I'm Unblocked...

...So I'm Back!

Note to the 4-500 (hi, hi!) readers who receive my posts through RSS or Email: Since Blogspot seems to be off the censored website list for now, I going to finally be able to publish my long awaited posts (from March, and April, and May!!!).

Read the latest posted articles below...

Back to work... no more excuses

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

My Social Life...

...Summarized By A Potato!

Click on the picture to enlarge
(Click on the "Back" button of your browser to come back to this page)
Find the original here

In case you’ve been living under a rock:

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

I’ve already talked about Mother's Day around the world so this year I will only share with you this little email, I’m sure most of you have already received, which made me laugh… because everyone have been to puzzled one day or another when our dear husband, after a hard day at the office, asked us what you've done today


Six married men will be dropped on an island with one car and 3 kids each for six weeks.

Each kid will play two sports and either take music or dance classes. They will also attend cubs, brownies, sea cadets or similar.

There is no fast food.

Each man must: take care of his 3 children, keep his assigned house clean, correct all homework, and complete science projects, also, cook, do laundry, and pay a list of 'pretend' bills with not enough money.

In addition, each man will have to budget in money for groceries each week.

Each man must remember the birthdays of all their friends and relatives, and send cards out on time--no emailing.

Each man must also take each child to a doctor's appointment, a dentist appointment and a haircut appointment. He must make one unscheduled and inconvenient visit per child to A & E

He must also make gingerbread men or choc chip cakes for a social function.

Each man will be responsible for decorating his own assigned house, planting flowers outside and keeping it presentable at all times.

The men will only have access to television when the kids are asleep and all chores are done

The men must shave their legs, wear makeup daily, adorn themselves with jewelry, wear uncomfortable yet stylish shoes, keep fingernails polished and eyebrows groomed.

During one of the six weeks, the men will have to endure severe abdominal pain, persistent lower back aches, and have extreme, unexplained mood swings, but never once complain or slow down from other duties.

They must attend weekly school meetings, concerts & plays, church, and find time at least once a week, to spend the afternoon in the park or a similar setting.

They will need to read a book to the kids each night and in the morning, feed them, dress them, brush their teeth and comb their hair by 7:00 am.

A test will be given at the end of the six weeks, and each father will be required to know all of the following information: each child's birthday, height, weight, shoe size, clothes size, teachers name, best friends name and doctor's name. Also the child's weight at birth, time of birth, and length of labor, each child's favorite color, middle name, favorite snack, favorite song, favorite drink, favorite toy, biggest fear and what they want to be when they grow up.

The kids vote them off the island based on performance. The last man wins only if... he still has enough energy to be intimate with his spouse at a moment's notice.

If the last man does win, he can play the game over and over and over again for the next 18-25 years eventually earning the right to be called Mother!

And The Award for Mother of the Year Goes To...

AND I was the hot thing in Cannes too

What a week!

Thursday, May 7, 2009


...DO Smoke

Surprising China…

Chinese ordered to smoke more to boost economy

Local government officials in China have been ordered to smoke nearly a quarter of a million packs of cigarettes in a move to boost the local economy during the global financial crisis.

The edict, issued by officials in Hubei province in central China, threatens to fine officials who "fail to meet their targets" or are caught smoking rival brands manufactured in neighboring provinces.

Even local schools have been issued with a smoking quota for teachers, while one village was ordered to purchase 400 cartons of cigarettes a year for its officials, according to the local government's website.

The move, which flies in the face of national anti-smoking policies set in Beijing, is aimed at boosting tax revenues and protecting local manufacturers from outside competition from China's 100 cigarette makers.

In total, officials have been ordered to puff their way through 230,000 packs of Hubei-branded cigarettes worth £400,000. […]

China has 350 million smokers, about a million of whom die each year from smoking-related illnesses. Despite anti-smoking campaigns, cigarette taxes form a major component of China's annual tax-take at local level.

Local authorities in Gong'an county are taking the cigarette quota seriously and have established a "special taskforce" to enforce it. […] (Telegraph)

…Came to its senses

A local government in central China has backed down on an order which asked civil servants to smoke more to help boost the regional economy. […]

The order made headlines in major newspapers around the world after being made public, triggering waves of criticism that it was a complete waste of public money.

Local officials defended their decision, saying the directive was misinterpreted.

The original aim, they say, was not to encourage officials to smoke more, but to give more support to the local tobacco industry. The county government can impose duty on sales of cigarettes produced locally. […] (ANI)

And the devilish marketing:
Is it a cigarette pack or is it a phone?

They do start them young. Check out this disturbing video

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

You Can Take Them Out Of China

...But You Cannot Take China Out Of Them

I went to the Opera tonight at the National Grand Theatre (also known as NCPA - National Centre for the Performing Art) or GuoJia Da JuYuan (国家大剧院- National/Big/Theater) to see Puccini’s La Boheme with a Chinese twist as the advert mentioned.

It was the first time I actually got to get into the Egg as it is familiarly nicknamed. The architecture already impressive from the outside doesn't disappoint once you enter (through a hallway that goes underneath the lake that surround the titanium accented glass dome). Cameras are not allowed inside so I couldn't take any pictures but here are some courtesy of the official website

The National Center of Performing Art is home to 3 major performance halls; the “Opera Hall” is used for operas, ballet and dances and seats 2,416, the “Music Hall” for Music concert seats 2,017 and the “Theater Hall” (where “La Bohème” was performed) is used for plays and the Beijing opera and has 1,040 seats.

The play started awkwardly with a small movie. The narrator (speaking Italian) in an airplane (thank you GrandChinaAir!) arrives in Beijing and is being driven in a Mercedes (ketching!) to 798, the Art district.(to explain the setting of the Opera since the decor was not the Parisian streets!) The play was in Italian with Chinese and English subtitles.

Two things happened that reminded us that we were indeed in China and not anywhere else in the world. First as we were waiting for the play to start (we were there 30 minutes early, thanks to a very non traffic jam ride by taxi), a couple of seat in front of us this Chinese guy had his feet (shoeless) up on the seat in front of him until one of the usher reminded him where he was (i.e. not in his living room!!) than in the middle of the first scene, first act... the orchestra had to stop because someone was speaking loudly (almost screaming) in the hallway for everyone to hear. He actually had to yell back at them to Sh@$! up!

About The National Grand Theater
The National Center for the Performing Arts is located in the central part of Beijing, adjacent to the Great Hall of the People and Tian'anmen Square. It was designed by French architect Paul Andreu. Construction started in December 2001 and the inaugural concert was held in December 2007.

The exterior of the theater is a titanium accented glass dome that is completely surrounded by a man-made lake (16,000m3 of water – enough to fill 42 Olympic swimming pools). The titanium shell is broken by a glass curtain in north-south direction that gradually widens from top to bottom.

The dome measures 212 meters in east-west direction, 144 meters in north-south direction, and is 46 meters high and reached a depth of 32.5 m under the ground. The artificial lake surrounding the ellipsoid shell covers an area of 35,500 m2.. The total construction area is 217,500m2

The initial planned cost of the theatre was 2.688 billion Renminbi.[2] When the construction had completed, the total cost rose to more than ¥ 3.2 billion CNY

About “La Boheme”
La Bohème, is a classical four-act opera of the Italian opera master Puccini. Since its appearance in 1896, La Bohème has been famous for its magnificent musical ballad, its delicate emotion and its eternal true love, and has become an everlasting classic on the opera stage.

Puccini's opera La Bohème of NCPA's version is another original opera treasure after Turandot, Le Roi d'Ys and Madama Butterfly that the NCPA has composed with all its might. Chen Xinyi, the director, and Lv Jia, the famous oversea Chinese conductor, once more jointly perform Puccini's classic opera in a Chinese style. Chen Xinyi makes a bold conception and sets the story in contemporary artists' collecting center — Beijing 798 Art Zone, well known among Chinese people, and decodes this classic under a brand new concept. The famous foreign Chinese conductor Lv Jia will once more hold his baton. Chinese and Italian opera artists will jointly perform the classic of contemporary times.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Summer is...

...Finally Here

How do you know it is summer? When you can find your favorite ice cream flavor at the local shop:
I hesitate: corn or pea?

Well if you have been following the Blog you will know that the Chinese do not calculate the seasons the same way we do in the West. Summer do actually starts May 5th.

And to refresh your memory this is another way of knowing it’s summer and how I realize it’s spring or winter

Friday, May 1, 2009

Can One Celebrates Labor Day...

...If One doesn't Work?

It’s Labor Day in China and in most countries of the world. What use to be one of the three Golden weeks in China allowing millions of Chinese people to travel during this period have been reduced down to 1 day since last year. In exchange Dragon Boat Festival (端午节) and Tomb-Seeping day (清明节) have been added as a non-work day.

On May 1st it is the custom in France to offer loved ones little bouquets of Muguet (Lily of the valley) in a gesture of friendship and in celebration of spring.
Un brin de Muguet