Assorted Fun

At our Halloween Party last night, since most of our friends seem also to have daughters, the younger set’s costume stats read this way: Eight Disney Princesses (girls ages 3-6) and one Little Lamb (a four-month old boy).

Running through the post-Halloween list of China Blog entries this morning, though, the name “jellicle cat” caught my eye from the “Eye of Modok” feed and I just had to click on through.

Very cool: There are Modok’s daughters, ages six and nine, one done up as a Jellicle Cat from ALW’s “CATS” and the other in a disturbingly authentic-looking (meaning “Good job!”) “Corpse Bride” get-up. Great make-up work by Modok’s wife, Salomae. Seriously. I had to click through to their family photo gallery just for visual confirmation that there really is a cute and happy little girl in there behind the fangs and blood and dark sunken eyes. (There is).

I don’t want to steal that thunder, so go to the entry Happy Halloween 2006! yourself for the photos.

This gives me hope that next year one or both of my daughters will want to dress up as someone besides Cinderella. Or Belle. Or Sleeping Beauty. Or Ariel. Or Snow White.

At the very least, I think I’ll start to keep an eye out for Mulan costumes, but I’m really wondering how a pair of little matching Red Guard uniforms would go over….

I turned 40 this year.

If that sounds “really old” to you, then I laugh in your general direction, because it’s not old–just ask my elders Mick Jagger, Brad Pitt, and Weird Al Yankovic–and because you’ll be here far sooner than you can possibly imagine.

But if turning 40 is something you too have been saddled with already, or will be soon, but neither wanted nor somehow even expected it, like a bout of mononucleosis on your honeymoon or a painfully ingrown toenail just before the big game, then this post is for you.

Turning 40 has brought with it some of those strange effects I’d heard about: Eyeing the Volvo in the garage and thinking, “You know, a Harley would fit there just as well. Maybe better.”; meeting other parents at the PTA meetings and thinking, “That nice lady in charge of the bake sale, Billy’s Mommy, I’ll bet she was quite the hellraiser back at the U.”; realizing that a number of the washed up “has been” Playboy Playmates are younger than oneself (which is even more shocking than years ago realizing some of the new ones were); and so on.

But anyway…a blog post written recently by a “young whippersnapper” living in China has just set the world right for me.

I keep a few “China Blog” aggregator feeds in my RSS reader, checking out all the entries by some authors and other posts here and there if the titles and first paragraphs draw me in. Lots of these blogs are written by twenty-something and early thirty-something chaps living it up in China, and sometimes I enjoy their thrills vicariously, occasionally harking back to my own “Good Old Days” in the P.R.C. with a tinge of envy. “Oh, to be 27, single, young, wild and free on the other side of the planet again…when everything in the world was perfect.”


But this latest post from China Blogger Meursault, a 25-year old professional translator from Britain with a BA in Chinese, now living in China, has flushed all the cells of mid-life crisis out of my system before they’ve had a chance to take root, reminding me of everything I do not miss about life at that age, with his post called “Yellow Wings Vs My girlfriend’s flatmate,” which would be better titled, as 花崗齋之愚公 suggests, “The Roommate from Hell.”

Do read it yourself, but here are a few choice kernels regarding his Greek girlfriend’s Chinese flatmate who’s gone with the English name “Nile”:

  • Blasts her music too loud while others are still sleeping
  • Hands Meursault a note calling him “Guest in our house” and asking him not to use her favorite cup (Hands him a note!?!?!)
  • Just barges without knocking in while Meursault and his girlfriend are, mmm, well, you know
  • Criticizes his “Western” food…but then claims “Chinese bread is better” when he catches her eating some
  • Nearly refuses to believe he can actually read the Chinese in a magazine that he is, uh, actually reading out loud to her

There’s more; you need to read the whole post.

But while this post reminds me of some of the particularly odd “undesirable social traits” that some Chinese people exhibit (every culture has some), even more it reveals to me why being a 40-year old Married with Children-White and Nerdy Guy in the ‘Burbs in many ways trumps (though I enjoyed it too) being an Adventure-Seeking Globe-Trotting Single Young Buck.

And that is, speaking in terms of my own experience: Young, single, twenty-something years old, ambitious, underpaid, probably just meager social connections at best in a place far from home: You are at the mercy of a random (sometimes nearly chaotic) social fabric, where even your very nice girlfriend can have a roommate who is as annoying as a festering boil on one’s bum. And that can color your entire world puke green.

But good luck to you, Meursault. I’m sure you’ll figure out a solution you can look back proudly on soon, though I suggest it needs to be one that involves this “Nile” person not being in the picture, whether that means you and the girlfriend only hang out at your pad, she kicks Nile to the curb, or she moves to a different flat altogether. Your 20’s are far too short to have many days colored puke green by the likes of Nile.

And on the topic of White and Nerdy:

Which, uh, is of course a parody of:

This story has more twists and turns than back-to-back American Bandstand and Soul Train classic rebroadcasts.

First there’s the risable “Sex and Shanghai” blog itself (foreigner writes about alleged sexual trysts with ex-students).

Then the indignant Chinese backlash (Chinese professor’s call to unmask and expel the author ‘Chinabounder’).

Then the ‘Sex and Shanghai’ blog goes limp, taken offline “except by invitation only.”

Yesterday I suggested my skepticism over Chinabounder being who he claimed, and necessarily doing what he claimed, or even being where he claimed (back home in Denver, I suggested, which a commentor further speculated to “pimple-faced geek in Denver”.)

And now, reported via, an AP story headlined “Chinese Internet users hunt author of racy blog, but alleged authors claim a hoax” takes this a step further:

…a person responding to an e-mail to a contact address on the site said the authors were a group of performance artists who had fabricated its content as an investigation into online vigilante behavior.

“We did not anticipate quite the level of anger this would raise,” said the message, which said the authors behind the cyber name “Chinabounder” included a British man, an Australian woman, two Chinese men and a Japanese woman.

Already being skeptical of whomever is behind ‘Sex and Shanghai’, I don’t know if I buy that this was started as “an investigation into online vigilante behavior.”

If it is a serious investigation, and not a mere attempt at juvenile provocation–like reports of a young foreigner scattering change at a Beijing bus stop hoping to get Chinese people to chase the coins like hungry beggars–then there had better be a formal publication of findings in the pipeline.

Otherwise, here are a few observations and predictions:

First, Chinabounder, or someone claiming to be Chinabounder, has posted comments on at least one other blog. I noticed them on this post at John Pasden’s Sinosplice from back in May. If Chinabounder has commented elsewhere, then John and the owners of those other blogs could compare notes and report back to us whether Chinabounder’s posting IP is in Shanghai or not. (Or in Denver, perhaps.)

Second, Chinabounder is obviously in touch with the China Blog-osphere. He (or they) were reading Pasden’s Sinosplice Life blog at least as far back as May, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Chinabounder (or at least one of the “performance artists”) has posted there before under a different name.

Third–this enters further into the realm of pure speculation–I have noticed echoes of Chinabounder’s criticisms of China on other blogs under different user names. Chinabounder’s blog is offline now and I can’t find the exact reference, but one day I read a Chinabounder gripe about China that used many of the exact same phrases used by someone who comments regularly at Richard TPD’s blog. I’m not going to say who that poster is, and though it’s possible, I don’t mean to imply that they’re necessarily the same person, only that this “performance artist” group has perhaps sometimes “borrowed” from commentators elsewhere to create the fictional Chinabounder’s rants.

But my overall hunch at this point: Someone knows. Someone in the China Blog-osphere not currently known to be associated with this whole ‘Sex and Shanghai’ thing knows. I am by no means suggesting it’s John Pasden or Richard TPD just because I’ve mentioned their blogs in this post, but Someone Established in This China-Blogosphere Knows. Maybe it’s a friend, maybe it’s a blog author we know by a different name, maybe it’s someone who overheard something at the Shanghaiist 80’s Happy Hour. Who knows. Could be anyone.

But someone knows and isn’t telling.

And with a virtual lynch mob at the IP gate, that is perhaps not a bad thing.

Because if there’s anything Chinese hate worse than reading about some of their “wayward girls” doing the nasty with “ugly foreigners,” it’s being baited by foreigners who are trying to elicit their “arrogant” and vitriolic responses in order to ridicule them.

Related: ‘Sex and Shanghai’ Backlash in Machine Translation

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