Thursday, May 23, 2013


It's occurred to me that most of one's life as an expat in a radically different culture to your own is spent floating. Unless you're totally assimilated, and fluent in the language, you float around - in my case a bit like a happy toddler - not really knowing what's going on: constantly understanding about 50 per cent of the conversations you're having or hearing, mostly now knowing what that place does or what that sign means.

Sometimes the signs are in English, and you still don't have much of a clue ...

A new one in my residential compound.
They've spent some time on this, but what
the hell is it supposed to mean?
Previously, if a worker was going to throw
his pliers and hammer at you, at least you
could count on it coming at you in a
graceful arc. But, sadly, not any more.

Our compound can be a lively place.

Come to think of it, I did hear a bit of a bang the other night.

Speaking of angles and arcs in our compound, I came across this advertisement in the lift. It's for plastic surgery, which in newly moneyed urban China is a growth industry like loony ranting is a growth industry in North Korea.

They used to say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Thank heavens some Chinese plastic surgeons have taken that nonsense out of the equation, to tell us finally what beautiful is. Now, it's all a matter of degrees.

Sisters gotta learn to play the angles.
I like the one under the eye the most.
This is to give the client those hotly
desired little eye-bags, touched on
here previously. Warning: Anything
outside of this seven millimetre
range and it could all end in tears.

My feminist sensibilities duly offended, I hastened back home where my latest copy of Women Of China, had arrived, featuring on its cover the powerful and inspirational Peng Liyuan, wife of President Xi Jinping.

But then on opening up on page two, I was hit with another advertisement targeted at modern, powerful women, again from our friends at the carpentry shop ...

For all those women out there whose jawlines do not
achieve the optimum beauty angle of 116 degrees,
kindly hide your hideously shaped faces indoors
until you sort that shit out. It's just not fair on we men
that we should have to look at you.

This place has also worked out what the divine ratio
for a woman's face should be. It's a complicated thing,
beauty, but in China at least there's a good understanding
of maths, so it should all be clear now. We're left to
assume it's something to do with how the wider bits
of the face relate to the narrower bits, the eyes to the
nose and so forth. It's, oooh, fairly precise, if you're
getting down to numbers like 0.819. This is good, for
many women don't have enough to worry about
concerning their looks.  The writing refers to
the "golden proportion", which should be a very
effective marketing tool in China as it combines precious
metal with maths, two things highly valued in the
Middle Kingdom. That is if you believe we really need
canny marketing tools for women who would buy into
this sort of thing anyway.

Where does it all get to if we are able to blueprint beauty and graph gorgeousness to such an extent? Do we actually still need skin?

Look at this bunch of good sorts.
If I were gay I'd take little Ralf Hutter.
Check the hypotenuse on that guy!

Meanwhile ...

What the hell is this?! It's at Shanghai
International Airport. Can't we men have
a wee while waiting for a flight without
getting a creeping feeling we're about to be
accosted by some casual slipper-wearing lurker?

Are they taking the piss?

They call it public (toilet) art. I just thought it was this guy again ...

A sort of "Flat Stanley the Pervert"?

For toilet installations, you just can't beat these, which I found at Beijing's new Great Leap beer house in San Li Tun ...

They're something redolent of Beijing - bicycle seats.

Need more explanation? Remember it's a pub, where men can get a little tired over the course of a night ...

Eat your heart out, Sliced Bread.

Speaking of perverts, who's this guy getting around with a bra cup over his mouth and nose?

He would have us believe it's a home-made
pollution mask. But maybe, this being
China, it's main function is as padding
to protect him from facial injury in
subway collisions.

There was another art installation on the streets of Chongqing, lifesize statues of people going about their business. Then of course someone had to go and do this and get on the internet.

Better still were these real-life women on the streets outside the Forbidden City.

Usually, photos of young women outside
the Forbidden City look like this.
And even then the guards look on

But they didn't know quite what to do with these two ...

The guard's been thrown for a loop. He'd thought lesbianism
had been banned with all other forms of fun in 1949.

"Shall we stop them, Sarge?"

"Aaaah ... no Li. Let's just ... let's just wait a bit."

Also seen, literally, on the streets of Beijing ...

He just wants to be alone.

Amid some warmer weather, the swimmers have come back to our neighborhood canal.

As has the green slime.

And the T-shirts keep coming ...

I think the problem here is simple.
One thing you notice about the
Chinese people is that by gee they
can get tired. Whether it's low-energy
diets or an insistence on buying beds
composed of solid granite, you do
see them dropping off a bit. Look
at most crowded buses going by and
you'd swear they're headed to the
morgue. My theory is translators
get halfway through a trick T-shirt
like this, start to get a little sleepy
and lose the thread.

Then there's been more of this - domestic helpers, or ayis, posting notices in expat shops looking for work. Here's one I showed earlier ...

It's in line with the theory that you should start with something positive, some praise or honorific for your potential employer, for example.

This one's aiming high.
Has this Michelle Obama adulation even reached China?

And this ayi (which means 'aunt' in Chinese) appears to be dangling the carrot of bringing her boss happiness as often as every 30 minutes, though she admits later she can be frustrating at times.

Back on the street ...

This is the way to transport a huge bus windscreen ...

... provided you don't want to pay money to
do it properly.

Then again, there's little you can't achieve with
a small car, willpower and sticky-tape.

Thanks for clicking, clickers. We'll be all aboard for another instalment on Monday!

1 comment:

  1. This is a true story of imagination. This is what we are. We see what we think and we can only get success if we think beyond the boundaries.