Archive for October, 2006

Who Reads This Blog?

31 October 06

Whoa. I almost had a heart attack. See, I was reading Foreign Policy’s blog when I came across an entry from yesterday called “What we’re reading.” James Forsyth reported that he is reading Going Native. And I just flipped. Until I realized that the Going Native he was talking about is actually the title of a New Republic Magazine article about Lou Dobbs.

Oh well. At least I know for sure that my parents readsthis blog.


And Now For Something Completely Different

31 October 06

That is my last Monty Python reference, I promise, and besides, I have something serious I want to talk about right now.

Web censorship. I encountered this everyday in China. For instance, I could never access any blogspot blogs, many news sites, and most especially, Reporters Without Borders. (An organization which teaches journalists and bloggers how to stay out of jail, fights for the rights of journalists to do their jobs, and alerts the world to censorship and incidences of imprisonment, persecution or death of journalists around the world.)

The government of Bahrain has blocked access to Mahmood’s Den, one of the Arab world’s most read blogs, due to his coverage of an election scandal within Bahrain. If this at all bothers you (and it should, because the world needs more bloggers like Mahmood, especially within the Middle East.) go to the Unblock Mahmood’s Den site and sign the petition.

Then, if you like, visit the Den and find out what all the fuss is about. If you are in Bahrain or another country where access is blocked, try this mirror site.

Join the Blue Ribbon Online Free Speech Campaign
Join the Blue Ribbon Online Free Speech Campaign!


31 October 06

So how do I feel about Halloween? I can’t help it, I love it. I love the fall air, the leaves crunching, the carved jack o’ lanterns, the toasted pumpkin seeds. I love trick or treating and seeing people in the streets. I love the costumes, the more original and creative the better, and all the candles. Okay, maybe what I love is Halloween as portrayed in all feel-good Hollywood movies and television series.

Halloween appeals to my inner drama queen. I never miss an opportunity to get dressed up. Some of my finer costumes: (And if I had access to my childhood photos I would definitely be posting photos of these!)

  • Tube of crest toothpaste (That was a difficult one to walk in.)
  • Clown (But not just any clown, a miniature version of my mother’s clown costume.)
  • Bag of jelly beans (Actually, I think that was my sister’s)
  • Witch (Not that original but I loved it anyway because I rearranged it and spent the rest of the year wearing it as a nun’s habit. I watched too much Sound of Music.)
  • Pippi Longstockings (A classic that works well with my hair and freckles. Always a crowd pleaser, too.)

The costume Ivan and I would wear this year if we had a reason to put on a costume:

Well, us and some third person. Because no one expects the Spanish Inquisition! (Ha ha. I bet no one expected me to be a Monty Python nerd, either.)

So how do expats spend their Halloweens?

Last year in China was forgettable. No costumes, no smoking punch bowl. Just me trying to explain what Halloween is to a bunch of Chinese. Turns out they have their own version, not exactly of Halloween, but of All Saint’s Day (which is tomorrow). Theirs is in April and is called “Tomb Sweeping Day.” Similar to the West’s All Saint’s Day, they visit their ancestor’s graves or the local Buddhist temple to clean up, leave food offerings and give paper money which the ancestors can use in the afterlife. (This was explained to me by a few of my students. Please forgive me if anything is incorrect, as they weren’t so sure of it themselves. Here is a site where you can read more.)

In Vienna, Austria we had a lot of fun although we didn’t dress up. Instead, we went bar hopping in the city center and drank lots of pünch in the streets. I really admired the Viennese creativity. (Or maybe they were American tourists?) While I saw lots of prostitutes, (and I am pretty sure those were costumes), I was most impressed by a pumpkin-head wearing an actual carved out pumpkin on his head and a group of very authentic Klingons.

My Halloweens spent in Kuwait revolved around school, as did every major holiday except the AWL Christmas bazaar, which strangely holds a spell over me some 13 years later. We wore costumes to school which broke up the monotony of navy blue and white. Of course I pulled out the Pippi for that, but I can recall another rather cringe-worthy one where I attempted to pull off a “Louisiana Swamp Mama” which just didn’t really translate internationally.

Looks like Halloween in Avilés is going to pass quietly and without much fanfare. A columnist in the local newspaper was pretty disgusted by Halloween, calling it a tacky Yankee holiday that is threatening local culture. He called for a renewed respect for the dead by celebrating Todos Los Santos day quietly and respectfully (I hope he has never been to Mexico.) and ignoring the Halloween marketing.

While I think Mr. grumpy columnist needs a good dunk in the apple bobbing tank so he will lighten up, I can’t help but agree with him about the marketing and commercialization. This is a problem pervasive to all the great American holidays and I do get fed up with it all. Do we really need Halloween beer bottles and Halloween toilet paper? Is all the commercialization necessary? (Except for this. This I love! What child of the 80s doesn’t love My Little Pony. The DH even knows their theme song.)

I guess now that Halloween has passed, we can get ready for the onslaught of Christmas decorations.

How’s Your Dining Etiquette?

30 October 06

Find out if you do by taking this quiz

after the jump

I Love, Love, Love This!

30 October 06

You must go to this website and watch this video. I wish I had thought of this.

Where the hell is Matt? He is dancing. Across the world.

Seriously, happy dancing Matt made me smile. I hope you enjoy it, too.

Be Water, My Friend

29 October 06

Okay, I have to know. Is the entire world being bombarded with Bruce Lee’s sage advice to just “Be Water, My Friend” or is it just Spain?

BMW recently released a commercial featuring an interview with deceased martial arts star Bruce Lee in which he tells the camera to “be like water” in a really intense way. He speaks in English with Spanish subtitles. The effects of this commercial are being heard everywhere, because everywhere I go I hear everyone saying, in English, “Be water, my friend.” I loved the commercial the first few times I saw it. I still do, actually, I think it is a great commercial. But the novelty of “Be water, my friend” is wearing thin.

The commercial ends with BMW telling us not to adapt to the road, but to be the road.

The Great Wall Revisited

28 October 06

Breaking News!

Tourist Blown Off Great Wall? No!  (It was really windy that day!)

China has no idea how long the Great Wall is.

Pretty long, I’d say!! Look at how it stretches away towards the horizon!

Speculation says between 5,000 and 7,000 kilometers, but the Chinese government wants a definitive answer before the Beijing Olympics.

A little olympics marketing at the rebuilt Wall site close to Beijing.

At almost 2500 years old, you think someone would have measured the thing by now.

The rebuilt wall site packed with tourists – actually a light tourist day!

And here’s another shocker from the UK’s Times Online:

“This week the China approved for the first time laws to protect the Great Wall. It has banned the carving of names, digging out of bricks or building of unauthorised structures. However, a survey in June found that 20 per cent of the wall’s 6,300 kilometres was in reasonable shape, 30 per cent was in ruins and the rest had disappeared.”

Sign posted on Great Wall. Nobody cares about anything anymore.

That is sad. They just passed laws regarding the protection of the wall NOW? In 2006? Let’s hope that 20 – 30% can be maintained. The article discusses a runner, William Lindesay, who was the first foreigner to run the entire length of the Wall. He has been working on a photographic exhibit of the Wall over it’s photographable history – documenting the changes the Wall has taken, natural and man-made. His photographs will be on exhibit at Beijing Capital Museum in January, and will be titled Great Wall Revisited. I wish I could see it. If you are in Beijing, check it out!

Part of the Wall in ruins.

And part of the Wall rebuilt.

Practically deserted! Actually, the package tourists usually climb the wall in the other direction, so we were blissfully free to explore.

The reason the package tourists go the other way – this way is steep!

Here is one of my gratuitous “I was there” shots:


Contrast these photos, taken in June 2006 at the rebuilt, rehabilitated Great Wall site located near Beijing to these photos, taken in March 2006 at a ruined portion of the Great Wall.

Global Voices – Are You Listening?

26 October 06

Because I’m a blogger and because right now I have the time, I read a TON of blogs. It actually becomes somewhat addictive!

Anyway, my new favorite website is an aggregator of blogs from all over the world.

Global Voices Online - The world is talking. Are you listening?

Global Voices is an ambitious little project started by the Berkmen Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School. They envisioned it as a global review of what local bloggers are experiencing in their countries or regions. It is meant to be an alternative to traditional media, which often ignores pretty much the whole world except Iraq and North Korea.

If you have some time on your hands and you are wondering what bloggers are saying in Zambia Nigeria or Tahiti Indonesia, this is the website for you!

A Red Yellow River?

25 October 06

Ever since I posted about the most polluted city in China and Guilin’s Li river, I have been considering a post about the mighty Yangtze river and the Three Gorges Dam project – a topic that I am very interested in. (That will be coming soon!)

I’ve been reading a lot of web pages about the river and today I came across this article about a different, but also very important river in China, the Yellow river. It seems that the Yellow river mysteriously turned red! Turns out it was dye that was flushed into the river from a heating company.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t surprise me one bit. During my time in China I heard many stories about the seriously polluted state of the Yellow river, which flows from Western China across the heart of the country to the China Sea, passing countless chemical factories, farmlands and cities, all of which regularly dump untreated water into the river. And of course, you must have heard about the benzene spill into the Songhua River in northeastern China, forcing the city of Harbin to shut off its water for several days. MMMM. Benzene.

It’s like what they say about the Nile – Drink from the Nile and you’ll always return to Egypt. (Drink from the Nile and you’ll never leave Egypt!)

ESPN?! Let’s See Some Fact-Checking

23 October 06

Okay, I have to complain. I just went to the ESPN website to see what they had to say about the F1 race. First of all, it was virtually impossible for me to locate the link that led to ONE story about the race. Then I read the story. HORRIBLE! Who is this writer? They made all sorts of mistakes in their reporting.


“In Spain, tens of thousands of jubilant Spaniards waved banners in honor of Alonso. A crowd of 6,000 poured into the streets of Oviedo, his hometown. People danced in the Plaza de America square and splashed in a fountain, Oviedo’s traditional gathering place for triumphant sports moments. Many fans, wearing the blue-and-yellow colors of Renault, chanted, ‘Champion Alonso.'”

Fact-checking, please! Blue and yellow are the colors of ASTURIAS!


Believe me, all those crazy Spaniards in Oviedo (20 KM from Aviles) are not running around in Renault’s colors. They could care less about Renault. They are wearing Asturias’ colors, celebrating Alonso, the Asturian’s victory! (They were doing the same thing in Aviles!)


“‘Thank you, thank you,’ said Alonso, who waved a Brazilian flag before his fans. “Both championships again. It’s been a pleasure for me. I wish you the best.'”

Again, fact-checking please! Why would Alonso wave a Brazilian flag!? Nonsense! It was Felipe Massa who was waving the flag, deliriously happy with his victory. Although, those are the comments of Alonso .

Associated Press – Let’s see if you can get your act together!