Friday, August 27, 2010

Covers, Books not judging by

A Dictionary of Cantonese Slang: The Language of Hong Kong Movies, Street Gangs and City Life may be a terrific book. It looks like the kind of reference book in which you open to find a definition then wind up browsing for half an hour. I bought it online a few years ago without being able to look beyond its cover and when I first opened it my reactions were: "What the....", "Drat", and "At least it has a cool cover".

The introduction is straightforward and interesting, essentially describing how the authors decided what to include from their sources and what they did when there were conflicts between the sources--for example when an "authentic" triad member (quotes in original) says that the comics are using triad expressions incorrectly or just making up terms. They address question of how definitive a slang dictionary can be and what would make a word authentic slang or even if the concept of authentic slang can even exist. Fun stuff.

But the guts of the dictionary, the terms defined, are in Romanized Cantonese--which makes perfect sense but pretty much eliminates is usefulness for someone (me). Occasionally flipping through the Dictionary can be fun, though. An example are the various definitions of the verb "to chop", which is just the type of term for fans of Hong Kong urban crime dramas. Here is part of that entry:

So, what is missing is the initial reason for opening the book--getting the definition for a specific word--but browsing it is a good way to waste a few minutes.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Zhang Ziyi--guilty of ??

In a comment to the post immediately below this one dleedlee, who knows much more than I about the lives of the rich and infamous in Hong Kong, wrote that it was "part of Zhang Ziyi's (successful) image rehabilitation tour." The rehabilitation necessary to Zhang Ziyi's reputation is due to the scandal around funds pledged, raised and paid for the sake of the victims of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake and even the incident in which she was the target of destructive behavior by hooded criminals where a group of hooded men splashed black ink  on an advertisement bearing Zhang's image after creating a scene at the Park Hyatt Beijing hotel.  This is a pretty good summary of it with the added bonus of casually smearing the names of Zhou Xun, Vicki Zhao and Na Ying. The reports were all based on anonymous and unofficial sources even though many of the articles used the very weighty term "fraud" in their accounts.

Viewed from the United States the controversy around the money for the earthquake victims looked like a non-issue. We expect celebrities to claim to raise money for relief of a headline grabbing disaster with no responsibility to actually come up with any money--it is part of the Hollywood hype machine which made me think Zhang Ziyi's difficulties were an internet scandal--something that didn't resonate beyond message boards and gossip sites. Based solely on reading some of the Chinese gossip press it still looks as if she was guilty of no more than poor judgment.

However there might have been some consequences for Zhang Ziyi although it has been confined to the rarefied area of high fashion endorsements it is impossible to tell. The reasons why Miss XXX is no longer the face of Brand YYY are as knowable as a correct interpretation of an answer from the Oracle at Delphi or of the riddle of Turandot but having the icon of your brand break down in tears during hostile questioning at a press conference. Either celebrities in China are held to a much higher ethical standard than in the United States or the gossip press is even more vicious than it is here. 

As reported by xiuhuanet  through dleedlee Shu Qi will now be looking out from ads, billboards and subway cards in China, Singapore and Malaysia.

Note: Fixed bad China Daily link at "break down" above.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Zhang Ziyi gets an award--what does it all mean?

Zhang Ziyi has been named an image ambassador for the China Red Ribbon Foundation (CRRF), described as a non-government organization (NGO)that organizes support to children orphaned by AIDS. I don't know how NGOs work in the People's Republic of China although this one was created by the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce whose membership is part of the ruling elite of the PRC.

In the annoying way that Chinese entertainment news is presented to English readers there are no captions that would identify those in the pictures--for example the guy handing Zhang Ziyi a plaque in the first image. The event publicized the work of the CRRF and, not coincidentally, A Tale of Magic the new film by Gu Changwei which stars Zhang Ziyi and which concerns a village that has been ravaged by AIDS.

This may say something about China's HIV/AIDS policy--or it may just be a photo op with a bunch of photogenic orphans. She was dressed like a suburban housewife and looked very sincere.

Pictures and article at CRI English.

The PRC's strategy has veered between problematic and insane within a context of telling the world and their own citizens that they didn't have a problem with HIV/AIDS. Kitting out some camera-ready kids as a backdrop for a movie star doesn't indicate a change in that policy since everyone loves orphans.

The Henan Province blood transfusion scandal, which is still causing harm to otherwise healthy people today, is mentioned briefly here  and in greater (and depressing) detail here.

Some information from academic deep thinkers, a newspaper account of harassment of activists and a report from an advocacy NGO follow:

Georgetown University's Center for Strategic and International Studies did a think tank type report in 2007 which concluded that China waslike everywhere else in the world regarding the spread of HIV/AIDS, other than the Henan Province issues:
The nature of China’s HIV epidemic complicates assessments about its future. The vast majority of Chinese persons harboring HIV are within marginalized, at-risk, and hard-to-reach populations, such as intravenous drug users (IDUs), commercial sex workers (CSWs), and increasingly within the migrant labor population. Moreover, the disease is found predominantly in more remote and poor areas of China, and it disproportionately affects ethnic minorities, especially in southwestern and western China.
As of the end of 2005, in some provinces, such as Yunnan, Henan, and
Xinjiang, HIV prevalence rates exceed 1 percent among pregnant women and among persons who receive premarital and clinical HIV testing. This meets the criteria of the UN Joint Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) for a “generalized epidemic.
The full report, a large PDF file, is here.

The Christian Science Monitor had an article on the treatment of Wan Yanhai, an AIDS expert who was hounded until he left the country:
Wan Yanhai has left China for the United States, soon after fellow AIDS activists Gao Yaojie also left and Hu Jia was sentenced to jail. Beijing is putting more pressure on nongovernment organizations. Mr. Wan, the outspoken founder of Aizhixing, which has become famous for its readiness to criticize the government, told the Associated Press in a phone interview from Philadelphia on Monday that “the attacks from the government had become very serious for my organization and for me personally. I had concerns about my personal safety and was under a lot of stress."

Wan is no stranger to trouble with the Chinese authorities. He has repeatedly been detained or taken in for questioning by the police since he took up the cause of 150,000 people in the province of Henan who were diagnosed as HIV positive after taking part in a government-sponsored blood donation drive in the 1990s.

Here are some numbers and analysis of the situation in China from Avert, a British AIDS charity that works throughout the world (although not in China) including in the midst of the AIDS cauldron in South Africa and Malawi.

This is a departure from the way I have been using this blog. It may be a one-off post or a presage of more discussion of social/political issues although the coverage of Hong Kong and Mainland actresses will continue.