February 2006

I had trouble falling asleep last night and resorted to flipping through the CCTV channels until 1 A.M. What I saw both amused and alarmed me. Not the shows, but the infomercials. To my recollection, infomercials hadn’t made it to China yet as of 2000, but last night I saw oodles.

Most alarming: they’re not only cheesy, but undoubtedly reek of “false advertising.”

Two stood out the most: one for bustier bustlines, another for a baldness cure.

The one for breast enlargement showed numerous “before” pictures of Chinese women wearing very loose-fitting, unflattering blouses with their shoulders all slumped over, wearing no make-up, frowning like off-off-Broadway has-beens. The “after” interviews showed them all dolled up with low-cut shirts and–hello?!–obviously wearing push-up bras.

The price per box of the miracle formula: about $6 U.S. dollars.

The baldness cure commercial was hilarious. A variety of foreign men, all overdubbed in Chinese, were talking about how their lives had improved–of course surrounded by supposedly attractive foreign women (at least the best among foreign teachers that they could find, I figure). But the before and after pictures were criminal. In some of the “before” pictures, you could see that a “bald spot” had been shaved onto the fellow’s head. Their “after” pictures were undoubtedly taken before they went under the razor. For others, the “before” picture showed them with obvious natural hair loss, but in the “after” pictures, they were wearing the worst rugs I’ve seen in awhile, making Sam Donaldson look like the old (er, young) Fabio. Even funnier were the “names” they showed on the screen of these men. The worst: One man, identified as “a lawyer,” was given the name “Ashley Judd.”

Oh, but the “cure” itself: it’s a corny space-age looking helmet–think “Red Dwarf,” not “Star Wars”–that supposedly helps stimulate hair growth hormones, so that dormant follicles spring back to life, giving you both a full head of luxuriant hair and an entourage of female English teachers who have been given Chinese make-up makeovers.

The price: about $150 U.S. dollars.

In related news, by chance I noticed a link to a story about crackdowns on false advertising in China today at Shanghaiist.com.

The NBA is popular here in China; CCTV rebroadcasts lots of U.S. basketball games, complete with Chinese announcers.

But the CBA–Chinese Basketball Association–has been picking up steam here now too.

There are 16 teams in the CBA–my Wife’s Younger Brother tells me that the best team and the worst team are both in Guangzhou, the only city to have two teams.

Fujian Province here also has a team, but I was amazed to discover last night that the team’s home is actually here in the Jinjiang area, not in Fuzhou, the capital city, or Xiamen, the large more “cultural” city not far away.

Why Jinjiang, I asked?

Money–there’s a lot of it in Jinjiang–and interest. Jinjiang locals for some reason are basketball maniacs.

I somehow wonder if it has something to do with all the shoes made here being hawked by NBA stars and former stars. Who knows, maybe Michael Jordan was grand marshal of a parade here at one point and I just haven’t heard about it.

Anyway, one evening not long ago we watched the Jinjiang team play the team from Yunnan province. Jinjiang trounced them something like 106-59.

Most interesting of all, though, was finding that both teams have a couple players from America on them, and the Jinjiang team even has an American coach.

I just had to take some video: try to watch it. (It’s in Windows Media format (.wmv). If it doesn’t play, sorry, I’ll try to fix it when I’m back in the States.)

You can also read an interesting article about the CBA draft of American players on Henry Abbott’s site.

One night not long ago, my Wife was looking through a stack of magazines here at the family home in Anhai for some bedtime reading and happened upon this particular publication:

The cover photos–alluring forbidden women in bedroom attire mixed with police detentions, guns, and SWAT team photos–and the main stories in the rag are sort of “True Crime…with Chinese Characteristics.”

The typical story: a public official or businessman has a mistress on the side, and in order to keep her sufficiently in fur and diamonds (or risk losing her to a bigger fish, one assumes), he turns to a life of crime–bribery, embezzlement, graft, theft, overcharging foreigners for airlines tickets, or whatever. In some cases, he turns to kidnapping or murder to cover his trail. But in the end, he is caught and sentenced to jail or death.

Some of the stories are actually as “boring” as a shipment of DVDs arriving in Xiamen and–gasp!!–its procurers trying to sneak it through customs without paying the appropriate taxes. But even these ho-hum type stories are accompanied by photos of models in lingerie or the like with “come hither” expressions on their faces, and it’s obvious that most of these have been lifted from Japanese magazines or advertisements–in one, you can even see that they didn’t completely crop the advertising copy for some line of cosmetics.

A few of the police pictures look brutal–some of the folks being arrested look a bit roughed up–but I’m not sure that some of these weren’t also lifted from movies or the like. A police officer in one of the pictures looks suspiciously like a minor character actor I’ve seen in some Zhang Yimou and Chen Kaige films.

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