Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Shanghai Diary: Pedantic Rambling

I'm surprised that people are actually reading these entries. I'm writing them more for me and posterity but also to avoid answering the few questions that I've gotten repeatedly (thus the FAQs in the first post).

Here are a few questions I've gotten from people who have bothered to read these posts:

How's the diet going? Last week was very tough. I didn't have a lot of structure from day to day. I've managed to start getting back into a routine though it'll be easier once I start back to working in the office. I have brought quite a few food packets and some bars but the thing I need are those items I didn't manage to bring like my protein chips, other bars, and fresh veggies. I've started finding grocery stores and even found some cauliflower (one of my favorite vegetables to eat on this program). I have yet to find a scale so I can keep up on my progress. I'm hoping that some of the good habits I've adopted will keep me going here. So, no bread and starchy vegetables.

What's a "Set Lunch"? If you're familiar with the idea of a Bento boxes, or a prix fixe menu, that's the idea of "set lunch". At the Bollywood restaurant they offer a meat version or vegetable version of their "set lunch" which has several small portions of items all the way from a salad to almost an appetizer to the main course, some naan, a little dessert, and a soft drink. All of that for one price (no substitutions, please). It's either that or you can choose from the a la carte menu.

I spent the morning answering some emails, doing some AEM work, and fighting with Outlook 365.

The day ended up being pretty nice (so far) so I hopped on my scooter and just drove north on my block, looking for the closest Metro station. I found it, but first I found a little coffee shop where I got a cup. Here I am in the land of tea and I keep ordering coffee. And, I don't know the proper way to order it yet. I need to learn how to ask for hot or cold drinks and how to order a proper cup of tea. I found some helpful videos at GraspChinese.com.

The above video finally explained to me -- or I finally grasped -- the four tones. It's a lot easier to see and hear these things together.

Here's a picture from the coffee shop where I was given a purple bear to put on my table so the waiter could see what table the "lofan" with the coffee was at:

I came back and did some writing and got my work laptop onto a VPN. The VPN at the hotel just isn't as good as it should be. It's interesting to see what's blocked and what's not by the Chinese government. You can't get to Google but you can get to Gmail. Bing and Yahoo are okay. You can't get to Twitter or Facebook of course. And YouTube (a Google property) is blocked, too. And, of course, almost all VPN software / sites are blocked.

I haven't been watching too much TV on the television set while I'm here. There are a few channels in English but they're mostly news. I get HBO, Cinemax, and two other movie channels but it's always stuff I don't want to see. I ran across a movie with Chow Yun-Fat the other night which was spoken in Cantonese and subtitled in Traditional Chinese. Today I ran across an old Jackie Chan movie (Armour of God II: Operation Condor) being run off an old print as it was subtitled in both English and Chinese. This is exactly what I was hoping for from Chinese TV.

For people who aren't as film nerdly as I am, let me say that one of the reasons we know of Jackie Chan, John Woo, Jet Li, Danny Yen, etc is because of a rule from years ago. The people of HK tend to speak Cantonese while the majority of the mainland speaks incarnations of Mandarin. From what I understand, they're written the same but they're pronounced so vastly differently that they're considered different languages. It made economic sense to subtitle the films in Chinese (the written language) and when Hong Kong was under British control there was a rule put in place that movies had to have English subtitles as well. That's why you see the two sets of subtitles on older films. That English also held spread the popularity of HK films because lofan like me could go to little Chinese grocery stores and rent HK films and see them with subtitles -- albeit often poorly translated and sometimes being cut off on the left, right, and/or bottom of the screen.

These subtitles were struck from a script version of the movie meaning that action on screen would often not match things in the subtitles as movies change from screenplay to finished product. But, a rule is a rule. That's why you may see Closed Captions on US TV not match up to the actions on screen (watch "The X-Files" with the captions on and see how often David Duchovny said different lines. It's remarkable.)

HK was one of the biggest movie-making markets in the world for a while (up there with Hollywood and Bollywood. Thank goodness no one called it "HongKongyWood"). The sheer number of films coupled with English subtitles (not to mention some amazing films) helped break through into some ardent film geek circles. Another thing that helped that people don't talk about too often is that the films bore English titles. Meaning that I can say that Who's the Crook is playing on TV right now and people will know that movie by that title. It's not like a European film where a title might be translated differently in different countries (see Closely Watched Trains vs. Closely Observed Trains).

However, I always enjoyed the original translations of film titles like the original title for John Woo's Hard Boiled, 辣手神探, which translates roughly to "Hot-Handed Supercop."

As Sean Connery would say, "Here endeth the lesson."

I brought some movies with me on DVD and Blu-Ray. My room has a DVD player but it doesn't handle Blu-Rays. And, oddly, I can't seem to find a blu-ray player at the local places like the electronics store or the Carrefour which seems to have nearly everything a body could want.

I've only found a few bootleg DVD sellers so far. There's a van that hangs out just across the street that has bootleg DVDs in the back and there was a guy on the corner with a table selling some. However, these were nearly all American titles and stuff that I knew was playing on Netflix or easily accessible via other means.

The DVDs that I brought with me, however, are almost all subtitled films. This is a problem when I want to throw on something and not pay strict attention to it. It's not like I can just kick back while The Color of Pomegranates or The Fifth Horseman is Fear play out in the background.

My DVD player has a slot for a USB drive meaning that I could throw some movies on a thumb drive and watch them from there. However, I didn't bring a thumb drive. I'm hoping I can get one at my office next week.

The breaks on this channel showing these old HK movies are crazy. They're little infomercials for things like a product to reduce belly flab or little cutlets to stuff a woman's bra and they're just the same 30-60 second spots strung together and repeated for 15+ minute blocks. The same spot over and over for 15 minutes. They play like the TV is broken. At least the cutlet commercial is entertaining in a lascivious way, especially the computer simulation of a woman's breast being "activated" via some kind of medical wonder. The simulation has the nipple blurred out! It's like the belly flab one where we see a "naked" model with one of these miraculous patches on and the model is a neutered computer simulation of a body. It's like seeing a patch placed on a Ken doll.

With my limited understanding of Mandarin, I keep hearing "Bù hǎo!" "Bù hǎo!" Which means "Not good!" Probably either slagging body fat or other, more ineffective, products.

Does your building have a 13th floor? I don't got into too many tall buildings back home. I think the tallest building I've ever worked in has 10 floors and the tallest place I've ever lived had two floors (and I was on the ground floor). That said, I know it was typical for buildings in America to not have a 13th floor because it's unlucky. Here in China the number 4 is unlucky. The place where I'm living has no 4th floor. The place where I work doesn't have a 4th, 13th, 14th, or 24th. Somebody's hedging their bets.

The lift goes up to where we belong...

Currently Reading: Angelo Badalamenti's Soundtrack from Twin Peaks (33 1/3 Book) by Clare Nina Norelli

What I've Been Watching: I'm all caught up on "Project Runway", "The Orville", "Star Trek: Discovery (STD)", "Black Mirror", and about to catch up on "Great British Bake-Off".

I think back to what it was like when I was in the UK when I was 17 and though US culture is pervasive how removed I felt from it. It was a big deal when I caught "Dallas" on TV or saw an American advertisement. Now almost 30 years later the world is a much smaller place. I can click a few buttons and catch last night's "Jeopardy" with local commercials from WDIV. Or I can listen to the hourly news report from NPR or keep up on all the bullshit news (not fake news, but just bullshit) coming out of Trump's twisted brain, tragedy in Las Vegas, and the death / not death / death of Tom Petty.

Tom Petty's "You Got Lucky" was one of the first music videos I ever saw. But I can never think of him without thinking of Brooke Smith singing "American Girl" right before Buffalo Bill captured her.

1 comment:

Russell said...

I remember suggesting Color of Pomegranates about a year ago! Nice to hear you're watching it, that's one bonkers movie.

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