China's anti-porn crackdown -- its latest, I mean, in a long line of many -- isn't going as well as planned, because apparently porn is hard to block and everyone watches it, so the propaganda spinners have gone into overdrive to frame the story in a new light. If you want to see Chinese state media at its best / worst, these are the moments you cherish, when it completely jumps the shark.
As in many Islamic societies around the world, Uyghurs listen to cassettes and MP3s of sermons, poetry, and essays as a way to tune in to the sensibilities of the rapidly changing social world and to find their place within larger communities. Those who listen to these forms of media are ordinary Uyghurs, people who work as farmers and seamstresses, small-scale traders, and handymen. They send their children to schools with red scarves tied around their necks and worry that their kids won’t be able to find their way in the new world. Many of the most popular recordings focus on ethical action, on living right, and on what the world “out there” is like. They are both entertaining and instructive.
HBO's Game of Thrones arrived in China last week, but the fit-for-CCTV broadcast was so rigorously edited to conform to some "public morality" that one netizen hilariously called it "a medieval European castle documentary." But amid all the articles about this development, we may have lost sight of a more amazing fact: Game of Thrones -- a show about political wrangling, skulduggery, sabotage, dissolution, sex, etc. -- was allowed to air on Chinese TV. It took two whole days before we got this Ishaan Tharoor post on the Washington Post, titled:
Six people were injured by knife-wielding attackers around 11:30 am today on the plaza in front of Guangzhou Railway Station. They've been sent to the hospital, but their conditions are unknown. A People's Daily tweet from 12:54 pm claims there were four attackers. State media reports that police fired shots at the attackers, hitting at least one of them.
There really isn't much to say about these pictures, which were taken on May 3 on a beach in Sanya, Hainan province and tweeted out by China Daily Show just now ("Who says China lacks innovation?"). Excerpt, perhaps, "Why?" A couple more pictures follow. They might not be appropriate for office gawking.
On April 16, Alec Ash of the Anthill gathered eight writers (technically nine) to read stories at Cu Ju, a rum bar in the hutongs owned by the somewhat legendary Badr Benjelloun, who paired each writer with a rum. The result was glorious. Alec graciously allowed us to record the entirety of that event, which we now present to you as an episode of The Creamcast.
Although the use of hashish has been a part of the Uyghur pharmacopeia for centuries, drugs appear to have become a widespread problem for Uyghurs in the early 1990s. It was only then that young men in their twenties began dying of overdoses and needle-borne disease. As Ilham Tohti mentioned in 2011, in the intervening decades drugs, along with theft, pickpocketing, trafficking, and prostitution, “have gotten so bad that our entire ethnic group is suddenly perceived as a crime-prone community.” These are issues which Uyghurs discuss among themselves and feel embarrassed about when they are raised among outsiders.
The Guardian recently published a series of photos by Ami Vitale, who was given exclusive access to the Wolong National Nature Reserve in Chengdu to photograph the giant panda, a creature that you and I and the general public knows as comely and cute. Vitale, however, reveals a darker, sinister side, a world of paraphilia, cages, and kinkplay in which China's national symbol is transformed into an object of flesh that -- willingly or unwillingly -- engages in deviant sex and/or some sort of atavistic fetishism. Prepare to never look at pandas the same way -- or the bipeds who love them.
People's Daily, the gift that keeps on giving, did a most glorious thing at 1:39 am today by "publicly condemn[ing]" a parody Twitter account, The Relevant Organs. "We have noticed that a Twitter account has been misleading people by stealing People's Daily 's web address and National emblem of China to make false impression that the account is related to China officials or People's Daily," reads PD's tweeted statement.
On April 13, 2014, Abdulbasit Ablimit, a 17-year-old from a small town near Aqsu, was shot twice. It appears he had run a red light on an electric scooter and, rather than stop and pay a fine, he had fled. According to his friends, he was gunned down three kilometers later. The official state narrative, posted a few days after the incident, says he attacked the police officers with stones, tried to grab their guns, and so on.
Regardless of how, Abdulbasit died within hours. His body was given to his family for burial. But he was not buried.
On a crisp September 1st morning in Beijing, I stood before a locked iron door. On the other side was a hutong that led to the streets and eventually my university dorm. On my side was a scruffy courtyard home, a room with no couch and only one big bed – on which slept my Chinese boyfriend. It was dawn, and the hutong roofs were limned by a light morning mist, releasing the heat of the night into a new day. Inside, I was trapped, faced with an undesirable decision: to take a hammer to the door, or to return to the bed and have sex with a person I no longer respected.
The fourth Beijing International Film Festival opened on Wednesday, and it looks like it's already less boring than last year's. For that we have the Oscar-winning director Oliver Stone to thank, who on Thursday in a panel discussion spoke provocatively on Mao Zedong and urged the Chinese to confront their history. As The Hollywood Reporter reports:
Beginning today, we'll be posting, piecemeal, the entirety of our March 16 event Poetry Night in Beijing, co-hosted by Pathlight Magazine for the Bookworm Literary Festival. (A big shout-out to Patrick Lozada for filming.) Up first was physics teacher / poet Stephen Nashef, introduced by Pathlight poetry editor Canaan Morse.
DC rappers Pacman and Peso, who made waves in January after releasing a music video filmed in Pyongyang, North Korea (a trip that their friend and colleague, Ramsey Aburdene, documented for this site), are back with another video, this one set in Beijing. There's a lot to love about this, including:
First published in November 2008 on the old Danwei under the headline "RMB 3 million foreign douche bag in Shanghai" -- aged mp3 link newly restored! -- this tape is a genuine recording from Sherpa’s from a freewheeling customer who really likes comped hamburgers and isn’t afraid to show it. At one point the brutal laowai -- use of the term here meant as pejoratively as possible -- tells the Sherpa's operator, who gives her name as Sunny, that she doesn't have a "sunny disposition" and chastises her on lacking a "sunny attitude."