Thursday, November 29, 2012

THURSDAY NEWS REVIEW

It's a lazy old Thursday. For you I mean, not for me. Which is to say that today, we here at the Tiger Father have done all the legwork for you. To put it another way, we've surfed the web for a few hours over some coffee, pulled down a few photos and slapped them up here and knocked off by 3.00pm so you don't have to!

You could call it a "regional news review". I think I will.


1. Sexy Li'l Kim. On a horse.

North Korea's possibly mad infant leader Kim Jong-un has taken steps to become a thoroughly modern, popular political leader. Maybe even a heartthrob.


Mr Darcy or what?
Esteemed ruler of his domain. Lord of all he sees.
And what a marvellous place it looks like, too!


Kim told The Tiger Father exclusively that he had three sources of inspiration for the horsey portrait:

This guy ...

It's Vladimir Putin! Bareback! And on a horse.

This guy ...





And this guy ...














Pudgy little men doing horsey things is not just a South Korean thing you know!

Now the world has sat up and taken notice of the dashing dictator. One US-based website this week declared Kim "the sexiest man alive". The story was so startling it was faithfully reported on the website of the most august public journal there is in North Korea's chummy neighbouring country China - The People's Daily.

Unfortunately, that US website was one that makes up funny stuff, The Onion. But The People's Daily didn't seem to know that. It reported The Onion's spoof of People Magazine's Sexiest Man title as something of a feather in young Kim's totalitarian cap.

Here's how it looked on The People's Daily website, captured (before it was hastily taken down) by Shanghaiist.com.






The People's Daily quoted The Onion's assessment of Kim in some detail.

"With his devastatingly handsome, round face, his boyish charm, and his strong, sturdy frame, this Pyongyang-bred heartthrob is every woman's dream come true. Blessed with an air of power that masks an unmistakable cute, cuddly side, Kim made this newspaper's editorial board swoon with his impeccable fashion sense, chic short hairstyle, and, of course, that famous smile," it said.

"He has that rare ability to somehow be completely adorable and completely macho at the same time," said Marissa Blake-Zweiber, editor of The Onion Style and Entertainment.

The People's Daily then illustrated Kim's attractiveness with a 55-page slideshow of his cutest moments.

All of which proves once again that a sense of humour is a difficult thing to fling across a cultural divide.

*  *  *

2. Sorting through potential public servants by means of an exam ... on their pelvis

The provincial government of China's Hubei province has landed in hot water for making women who want a job in their civil service undergo a pelvic exam and give details of their menstrual history.

A group of university students protested against the bizarre practice outside the government's offices in the provincial capital Wuhan this week, telling the stodgy old men who do the hiring and firing inside: "Hands off our pelvises!"

"We believe that pelvic exams have little connection with the duties of civil servants," one protestor went out on a limb to say. "And they violate the privacy of citizens. Through this demonstration, we call on government departments to drop the examinations."

The Legal Daily reported such examinations were held to disagnose sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and malignant tumors. However, it has also been pointed out that STIs are not typically spread through normal civil servant duties, unless of course those duties involve having unprotected sex.

The Human Resources and Social Security Department of Hubei Province has not made any official comment on the protests. But one government official told The Tiger Father exclusively this was because the demonstrators were quite possibly having their periods and not making much sense and should not be stirred up any further.


Protestors hold signs saying "No pelvic exams" and
"No questions on menstrual history". Their paper
nappies carry the word "exam" crossed out.


3. Phunny Photo Phursday

A collection of images not just from China, but across the continent I like to call Asia.


Are you raising an imbecile?
Then buy one of these. With free
drool cloth!

At a shop in Japan ...




It seems black people are highly admired there.




We're not sure what type of condoms would be used by those allowed in the following public convenience:





Or this one ...




And since we're dealing with issues down south, here's one from India ...




Now who says the People's Liberation Army doesn't have a caring side?







 Here's a couple I spotted closer to home this week ...


The opposite of youngster is ... ?

Buy these stockings! Because we all like a
good lvoe story.

Millions have been inspired by Chinese people with a can-do spirit like this ...



Such as this truck driver ...




And finally, weirdasianews.com brings us this photo of a shocking toy in Japan which may inspire children to become their parents' worst nightmares ...






More on Monday, readers! And don't forget, Popular Posts and old less-popular posts are all available down the right hand side of this website if you have a few hours to spare. Go on! Got anything better to do?

Monday, November 26, 2012

ELTON JOHN PLAYS BEIJING, SAVES MARRIAGE


As one of the most sensitive, thoughtful and caring husbands I can think of in our apartment, I like to humbly and quietly do the little things that make my wife feel treasured and turn a marriage from merely ‘great’ to ‘fantastic’.

Be it nodding slowly and humming at regular intervals whilst she’s talking about curtains or handbags, not opposing her choice of schools for our kids, or giving her more than an hour’s notice that I’m going to the pub to watch football, I like to think I’m some sort of a perfect husband, though of course that’s not for me to say.

Take the other week when I – with about a month to spare – presented my darling wife Stef with two tickets to see the one and only Mr Elton John live in concert at his piano right here in Beijing.

Bam! What can I say? It’s what I do. That’s how I roll. All you sucker husbands out there can eat my husbandy dust.

Imagine my horror, then, when Stef met my gesture with the words: “Yay! You can come with me.”

Oh, the humanity.

“No no no,” I said, backing away. “That’s two tickets for you and the person of your choice … that is, not me!”

Nothing against Elton John personally. He’s just not my cup of tea. I’ve got far too much street cred, am far too groovy, to be going to an Elton John concert.

I take music very seriously. Its import was pounded into me - often literally if I liked the wrong bands - by two elder brothers from when I was three. Now, I get far less offended by, say, Charles Manson than I do by Robbie Williams. Our daughter Evie could steal a car and I’d tell her not to do it again and hurry up for dinner. When she came home singing Lady Ga Ga last week she got an instant time-out - and a lecture I titled Musical Substance over Gimmickry: The Disposable and the Important.

Elton John was fairly inoffensive. He had a couple of likeable songs. But to me he was always Captain Mainstream. He didn’t invent a new branch of music, was not a fantastic innovator, barely even wrote his own lyrics (Bernie Taupin did that, and John the music). What I liked about John most was that he owned an English football club, Watford. Watching the 65-year-old play his elevator music was the last thing I could want. It was also the last thing I could afford for a reputation for hipness which, as it is, gets battered when your first child is born and they hand you your first pair of dad jeans.

The last concert I’d been to was Bob Dylan, also in Beijing. Now there’s a musical god, a genius, and innovator. At that stage he was two weeks short of 70. I went with two other husbands and we sat there sympathising about how our wives just didn’t get the great man. OK, our jaws dropped ever closer to the floor as we endured one of the worst concerts ever, but never mind.

And so, with these two tickets in my possession, I went on a crusade to find someone to take my wife, please. Like all crusades, it was hard work. It was also not helped by Stef undermining my every step, telling those I asked that if I didn’t accompany her it would cause deep, lasting damage to our marriage. I assured them this was no biggy compared to me not watching Elton Bloody John. Typical of this selfish modern society, these ‘friends’ shuffled along, saying they’d rather not get involved.

A couple of other husband-dragging-wives assured me John would put on ‘a great show’ because he’s ‘a great showman’. The words just made me shudder more, for it should be about the music. The beauty and wonder of Beethoven, for example, is not so much in the performance but the fact the music was written as it was.

But finally, when the man with the tricycle who hauls rubbish away from our compound said he was busy, I resigned myself to going to the Elton John concert last night.


Elton John's first China tour was possibly a shock to the
system for authorities here, who are probably more used
to blokes getting in front of a crowd looking like this ...


... than this.


And definitely not like this. John and his partner David
Furnish with their son Zachary.


John possibly didn’t know this, but millions of people know him as Erdun Yuehan. This is because the Chinese have to come up with similar-sounding syllables, using existing Mandarin characters, to approximate the sound of western names. Otherwise they wouldn’t be able to write them in Chinese.

The results certainly contrast those “what to call your baby” books where every name means strong (for boys) and precious gift/beautiful flower (for girls). Elton John’s name here can be translated as Thou Grain Receptacle Roughly Writing Brush (Er is thou; a Dun will hold your grain; Yue is approximately, and han is a Calligraphy brush).

Similarly, Bob Dylan was Bao buo Di lun, or Salted Fish Vigorous Lead Logic to his Chinese friends.

The Beatles are the Pi Tou Shi (Unroll Head Bachelor), Michael Jackson is Mai ke Jie ke xun (Stride Gram Outstanding Gram Inferior). Arnold Schwarzenegger is a mouthful: A nuo de Shi wa xing ge, a lovely name that means Flatter Promise Moral Impose Tile Suffering Grid.

I don’t know for sure, but I imagine there’s a man in a government office in Beijing whose job it is to work out what to call foreigners in Chinese. Every time someone new comes into the limelight in the west, it will be his task to come up with some similar-sounding syllables, carve them in stone, and distribute them to the press.

“Today,” he might say, “I’ll do Mitt Romney, Justin Bieber and Serena Williams, and then have lunch.”



Madonna is Mai Dang Na, which sometimes causes the
material girl to be confused with the burger giant, for
McDonald's is Mai Dang Lao.


Prince is, well, Wangzi - the Chinese word
for the son of a king. When he was The
Artist Formerly Known as Prince, his
Chinese name went on for several minutes.


The Rolling Stones were different. They're called Gun Shi.
The words simply mean 'rolling' and 'stones'.


For Elvis Presley they got really clever.
Rather than approximate the sounds of
his name, he's known here in quite hip
style as Mao Wang - Cat King.



In the end I went to see Elton John and, ok, after a while I was ready to grudgingly concede it wasn’t that bad. In fact I had to say it was very good. Not mind-blowing, but wonderful.

He doesn’t go for the high notes any more, but his voice remains strong. And I hate to say it, but if we're comparing quite old singers, he put Dylan in a pretty poor light. Dylan’s last three songs – Ballad of a Thin Man, Like a Rolling Stone, and Forever Young made that concert worthwhile. But for the proceeding 90 minutes he had groaned and croaked through the motions.

John gave what the people had paid a lot of money to see. He played hits he has played a million times with passion and commitment, and just how the fans wanted. There was none of the self-indulgent re-working with which Dylan turned much-loved songs into barely-recognisable 12-bar blues rubbish. I credited John’s role as a football club boss. As someone who has paid footballers’ wages, he knows the importance of turning up week-in, week-out and performing for the faithful. And thus sport is again a great teacher in life.


Ladies and gentlemen - Erdun Yuehan!


And as he looked from our seats. We believe in nicely
spaced crowds here.



John also showed spine early on by dedicating his concert to “the spirit and talent” of Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei. Then he performed for a very decent two-and-a-half hours. It seemed none of his songs were vetted by Chinese authorities. The Rolling Stones weren’t allowed to sing Let’s Spend The Night Together here. But here was John singing the subversive-sounding Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting – a song banned by the BBC in Britain during the 1991 Gulf War.

And if you listen to music even a little, someone who has been big for 40-plus years will unavoidably provide soundtracks to parts of your life. Your Song got me emotional, as it always does. It has a sadness that makes it an achingly poignant reminder of time's relentless march. Again I felt its disarming power to trigger more nostalgic yearning than most other songs. I remembered hearing it in my sunny backyard at seven. It was also on when I was 14 and learned my beloved cat had died one winter night. And when John sang Daniel it made me think of a dear so-named friend in London, and how the song reminded him of his childhood.

You couldn’t help but gain respect for John the dedicated performer. He’s touched a lot of people over many years. We rarely think this of our contemporaries, but considering his popularity and longevity, we were in a room with one of the major figures of western cultural history, like him or not. Here was the guy who’d played live to a couple of billion viewers at so monumental an event as Princess Diana’s funeral, and hadn’t stuffed it up.

Alas many seats were empty for what was supposed to be a sell-out concert at a 15,000-seat arena. We can blame scalpers ambitiously over-buying. But this at least created an atmosphere of some intimacy with the man for a crowd of about 8,000, split roughly 60/40 for westerners and locals.

I left feeling glad I was dragged along, which showed this husband one thing: not everything our wives makes us do is bad for us.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

EVERY PARENT'S WORST NIGHTMARE

IT'S a story so shocking, no mother or father can afford to look away.

Not this ...







Or this ...







Or even this ...







No, the other afternoon, I came home to this ...





"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO," I said.

Just before I became a father, I saw comedian Chris Rock talk about his hopes for his own newborn daughter. He expressed his primary goal as a father thus:

"Nomatter what else happens, above all else, I've got to keep her off the pole!"

I think I can speak for all fathers in saying that whilst the pole avoidance strategy sets the bar fairly low, it's a sentiment that rings true throughout the world.

Yet here was my beloved Evie ... AGED ONLY FIVE!




Her life flashed before my eyes, from holding her as a newborn, to what she was getting up to now.

From this smiling little two-day old imp ...




To this ...





Aiyah! I started to question myself, asking where I had gone wrong.

And, of course, whether I was as bad as this guy ...




Being completely honest, I had to walk into the bathroom and point the finger of blame directly at the mirror. After all, in trying to figure out how this tool of the devil had got into our house, the answer was this: "Daddy bought it."

At least, in my defence, it's supposed to look like this ...




Phew! That's it, Your Honour - Totem tennis, aka Swing Ball, aka Tether Ball. I quickly re-attached said ball and told Evie to never ever untie it again lest she wanted to end up on the wrong side of the tracks and that I would explain what all that meant one day.


This is actually not a bad thing
for Beijing, or other places
where it's hard to get outside
because of cold weather,
pollution, or both.
Make sure, though, that the
racquet's safety cord is looped
around the wrist, thus protecting
your TV, Ming vases, etc.

This shot unfortunately appears
to combine both uses of the
apparatus.

Here she is again. I thought I'd
include this for one important
reason: she's clearly missed.
I consulted my parenting
bible, Battle Hymn of the Tiger
Mother,
but could find nothing
from Amy Chua on totem tennis
technique. However, I did tell
Evie she was 'garbage' and to
 get out of my house.


Finally, no piece on Totem Tennis would be complete without featuring this tribute, this paean, if you will, to two of the legends of the game, in T-shirt form from threadless.com.





THE LEWD AND THE BEAUTIFUL, PART II


Speaking of smut, who remembers this photo from a few weeks ago?




It seemed like 'saloon' was probably a fair word for the place, which like many such places in China, most probably deals with areas other than the feet.

It was a nice try at respectability with the sign in any case. But on passing the place in the daytime, I noticed it had another sign, at bottom right below.




Which says this ...




Now come on, guys. Some clarification please: Is your place a brothel or a hospital?







More on Monday readers!

Credits: Python baby and strip club pics from Huffington Post 'parenting fails'.

All other photos, I'm afraid to say, are the author's own work. I know, I know, I should get a decent camera, or else learn how to use one, but there's a kind of charm in the amateurishness of it all isn't there? No?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

SPECIAL NEWS FEATURE


China change 'over' says top official

By a Special Correspondent

BEIJING, Nov 26, TF News - China has officially finished changing, a government spokesman announced here today.

After decades of reform and opening up starting moments after a speech by Deng Xiaoping in 1979, the process of overhauling the country economically, politically and socially is now finally complete.

“It’s over. She’s done,” the spokesman told a packed press conference of intrigued China watchers and other pointy-headed nerds at the Great Hall of the People yesterday.

“We have reformed, modernised and opened up the country as much as we can now. Any more and it might break.”

The official said the completion of the process would at last put an end to 33 years of stories about the most dramatic change to a country seen since China’s previous one in the Cultural Revolution.

“It’s been remarkable, it really has,” the official said. “And we thought beating up landlords in the ‘70s was fun.

“It’s been wondrous to see how we’ve opened ourselves to western businesses, who have helped us with massive challenges like reforming our hulking state-owned enterprise sector.

“Along the way, we’ve seen some terrific social change too. But all those stories about how young people now wear short skirts and make-up, drive fancy cars and have other signs of new-found wealth – the kind of stories where we see an old man in a Mao suit doing tai-chi in front of a Ferrari or a construction site or something - they can stop now. We now know that’s what’s here.”

The official said that as of the end of this week, there’d be no more stories such as:

* How China’s “burgeoning middle class” – the only approved term for the band of people who’ve suddenly got all this money – all now have big TVs, drink Scotch and play golf.

* How China faces a vexing task in overhauling its health care system.

* The effects of the one-child policy, with four grandparents looking after one single spoiled little turd.

* The massive and dangerous situation of inequalities of wealth, especially between the prosperous coastal regions and the struggling interior where, we all know now, there are people living below the poverty line.

“All those Chinese who worried about what’s going to happen can stop worrying. It’s happened. This is what it looks like,” the official said.

”So everyone can stop interviewing old people who pine for the days when everyone was all poor together. As for any danger of increasing social unrest, we’ve had as much as we’re going to have.

“There’ll also be no more of this nonsense about some tiny village election in which about 50 people get to vote for some pre-selected party member, and how this might a harbinger of political change which means China will have democracy one day. It’s not and we won’t.

“To all those western businesses who came here thinking they’d get rich if they only sold every Chinese person one sock - give up. If you’ve learned one thing about Chinese people by now, it’s that we don’t buy single socks. We’re not that weird.

"And to those thinking the dinky little changes we made to get into the World Trade Organisation would trigger a so-called ‘Damascus moment’ where we realise the beauty of removing more trade barriers, I've got bad news for you. We've done what we said we'd do.

“Now bugger off.”

Stories about China’s improving infrastructure could also finally be turned off.

“All the subway lines are in, and once the current batch of buildings are finished, it’s all over. The last crane will come down on a building in Wuxi next Thursday, and that’ll do us.”



An old Beijing man looking unimpressed whilst riding
past a construction site and a sign with Chinese writing
on it. Pictures like this will soon be a thing of the past,
not the future, the official said.


Mick Jagger lets it all hang out while singing a song with
swearwords in it for mildly interested people in Shanghai.
The image was described by the official as "old hat".

Two scantily clad Chinese women next to a sports car.
When asked to comment on this image, the government
spokesman said: "Yeah yeah, whatever."

The official added “the whole rapid change story” - in which journalists could bandy about terms like “rampant growth” and “breakneck pace” - would now have to move on. “Maybe to an India, or a Russia, or one of those African ones,” he said.

“After years of taking our place on the world stage, we’re now on it. India and Russia are still climbing up at the back, behind your Britains, your Canadas and your Frances. And anyway, we know all about the world stage. It was made right here in Chongqing.”

The announcement rang alarm bells with seasoned China analysts last night.

“Well, the main ramification we can glean from this, looking at the tea leaves and reading between the lines,” said one old China hand with an air of smug superiority, “is that I’ll be out of a job.

“It’s a bloody disaster.

“I mean, who’s going to need some softly-spoken academic telling them about mystical eastern nuance, the Chinese way of doing things and where to sit at the banquet if the whole show is over? Even if I am one of three white people who know what Chinese person X really means when he’s saying this or not saying that, noone will give a shit.”


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A CUBIST WONDERLAND

Beijing expats!

Getting fed up with China's capital? Tired of its smog? Its traffic? Its ever-increasing expense? Or perhaps its lack of things to do?

Is the culture getting you down? The language, maybe?

And is another bitter winter starting to feel like a set of icy fingers wrapping round your throat, slowly squeezing the life out of you, while that overly ornate clock your landlady bought ticks away the minutes of your existence?

Then the Tiger Father has the answer for you!

Move back home.

There. Simple.

Or, if you can't, then go to the Water Cube! It's a great day out, even in winter.



Remember when it used to look like this?


And, on the inside, this?












Well now it looks more like this ...













And this ...




Yes, whereas once there was Michael Phelps, finely-tuned athletes and fierce competition, now there are giant plastic jellyfish!

That might sound silly, but the Water Cube is actually making a pretty good fist of defying the history of post-Olympic white elephants everywhere, having been turned into a water park. It's fun, especially for kids. It's relatively cheap, at 200 RMB for adults and 160 RMB for children.

Oh, but I forgot to mention, it does get a tad crowded sometimes.

Like this ...



And this ...




No, only joking. That water park is in Chongqing. Looks nice though.

There won't be crowds like that in Beijing. Especially in winter, although the water is nicely heated.


There's a splash-about space for toddlers ...

... plus medium-sized slides for older
children, and a couple of big ones for
the older still ...

... such as the Slide of Death, as the kids and
I like to call it. It's the red one.

You get in at the top, stand on a platform, and when that
disappears you drop at an alarming rate straight downwards.
The whole thing is over in a matter of seconds, but it's
great fun. If only this had been here in 2008. They could
have incorporated bits of it into the swimming program.
I mean, hats off to Michael Phelps and all, but God what
a boring sport. Up down up down ...
Something really should be done about it.


Ways to make swimming a less boring sport:

1. Two swimmers in each lane.
2. Or maybe three. Points awarded for not just finishing, but ensuring others don't.
3. Bring waterslides into it, maybe at the start like in Wipe Out.
4. Some giant plastic jellyfish wouldn't hurt either.



Anyway there's a large wave pool with,
naturally, an enormous TV screen. Patrons
can watch, err, ads mostly. And themselves.
In case you didn't get enough of them in 2004
and last year, there's a funny announcement
just before the waves start up that "a giant
tsunami is coming".


There is also food on offer, and places to sit for anyone not wanting to go on the slides. And if, as my mum used to say, parenting is all about finding ways to exhaust your kids before bedtime, the Water Cube certainly does the trick.

I should say, though, that the Olympic pool is still there, elsewhere in the large bubble building. So if you want to see the hallowed water where Phelps won his record eight gold medals, you can.



Here it is here. Special, isn't it? If only water could talk, eh?
Phelps' bit was lane five.


You're right. That could've been anywhere. So here it is
again with a bit more context. It still looks like any pool
anywhere though. I mean, it's not like your taking in
the unique charm of Wimbledon, Wrigley Field or
the Sydney Cricket Ground. What a silly sport. And
if your kid's any good you have to get up at four or
five in the morning to take them to training. Forget
about it. I'm hoping my children are good at Playstation.

At least my two look inspired by the Phelps
Pool, more so than their father. But come on
girls - at least make it look a bit 'swimmy'!

Ah yes. Much better.

Elsewhere by the Phelps Historic Site we found a series of statues. I couldn't read the labels, so I assume it was yet another tribute, depicting the great man in a series of poses.


Here's Phelps riding his bike ...

... and here, on a horse ...

... and hunting.

When he's not swimming, Phelps also likes winter sports,
and a hot beverage. Here he is reaching for a kettle.

Of course Phelps is also an avid dope smoker who may be
prone to mood swings. I think this one depicts him getting
angry at a skier once.

And here he is engaging in a little naked tomfoolery with
another lad.


And then suddenly we were in London.

Finally, after a long and tiring day, it was
time to go home. Alas the bus was just
there for show, but for a day out, I can
think of worse things to do in Beijing.  Lots
of them actually. My God.