tasty bytes from China

February 2014
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I want to thank the Academy
Filed under: Bootleg
Posted by: @ 12:07 am

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The academy awards are this weekend and thanks to the proliferation of bootleg movies, I have seen all of the films up for the big categories.

Sorry Captain Phillips, slaves, hustlers, stranded astronauts, walls street wolves, and rodeo loving HIV victims, I loved Philomena.

Of course, I have a few categories of my own:

Best Vendor of Bootleg Videos: goes to guy near Viagra Park (where you can purchase bootleg Cialis, questionable sex aids and false teeth). Just 7 RMB or a buck a piece.

Best Studio Piracy: happens to go to the weasel inside of Weinstein. Just like the Goodhousekeeping Seal, seeing “PROPERTY OF THE WEINSTEIN GROUP” scroll across the screen assures me that the film is a winner.

Worse Sound: Russian bootlegs. They are usually taped in a theatre by a chronic cougher. 

New Category: Best Online Bootlegged Film Supplier:

Thanks to this little black box, something with a brand name of  xiaomi, we are able to watch all kinds of hot releases without ever leaving our mud hut. It’s a rip off of apple tv and only forty American bucks.

However, some of the movies won’t download, like Nebraska or Saving Mr. Banks. You just get this error message that says the system is busy. (I can’t read chinese: I took a picture and showed it to a friend who can).

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So I guess the little black box is losing its magic.

It is also useful for watching  “Netflix Only” releases, such as House of Cards.

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You can also watch loads of Chinese opera, if you’re into that sorta thing.

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You say tomato, I say Tā mā de
Filed under: Chenglish
Posted by: @ 8:08 am


So when I ask my nephews what Chinese words they want to learn, of course, their educated brains go right in the gutter.

“So what are the swear words, Aunt Ginger?”

And since you’re reading this post, you’re no better.
While there are many expletives in China, many originating thousands of years before road rage on the Silk Road, the verbal equivalent of flipping one off is tāmāde. It’s pronounced the way Ella Fitzgerald made famous, tomahta. Listen here

But my nephews aren’t the only ones whose mouths should be washed out with soap. Swearing makes up 3 percent of all adult conversation at work , 13 percent of all adult leisure conversation, and according to my ESL students, it makes up 99 percent of the words they dump into Google Translate.

While swear words vary in pronunciation in the world’s 6000 plus languages, verbal sewer falls in one of two buckets.


Either, it relates to body functions or a heavenly deity damning you for mentioning that body function.
Other insults relate to the family treel. Take for instance, Cào nǐ zǔ zōng shí bā dài. While you may think it’s something on the Panda Express menu, it’s actually the Chinese insult that could get you deported. It means “f-bomb your ancestors to the 18th generation.”  So bite your tongue before saying that one.


Then there are nice words sound like bad words and you don’t know until it’s too late. Thank you or xie xie, is dangerously close to shǐ shǐ, which means what you think it means.

That reminds me way back when I started out in advertising and was recording a jingle for the now defunct brand, Fruity Marshmallow Krispies. This short lived brand was deemed by Andy Rooney as one of the worse cereals of all time. Maybe he was disappointed there was a free decoder ring inside of the box instead of eyebrow trimmers.

But the jingle went like this:

 Fruity Marshmallow Krispies
 Lots of Fruity Marshmallow Shapes
 Snap! Crackle! Poppin!
 With lots of fruit taste!

Anyway, we got so focused on the bongos and other islandy instruments in the music track that we failed to realize that the word shapes got garbled in the mix. The word shapes turned into well, tā māde.

 Our ad agency discovered this mistake when Kellogg’s mailbox got flooded with thousands of letters from kids who didn’t want profanity as part of their complete breakfast.


But if you are wondering how to say Tomato as in what to put on your BLT, you’ll say xīhóngshì Tomatoes literally translate into the red thing from the west, xi meaning west and hong meaning red.
And this word?

It’s amoxicillin. I bring it to the Chinese pharmacy when I needed some medicine.

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The Year of the Horse: a Speed Course
Filed under: Culture
Posted by: @ 9:58 pm

If Christmas is supposed to be Jesus’ birthday and our calendar year is based on his birth, why aren’t the two celebrated on same day?

It’s probably a marketing ploy to get us to buy more crap.

Well, the Chinese New Year actually does have a reason for the season. It’s actually better known to the billion people who live here as Spring festival or Chunjie (春节).


Chunjie  kicks off a two week long celebration sponsored by the Bell-tone Hearing Aids guys.
It’s loud, colorful and full of ear-drum puncturing tradition.

Let me cram thousands of years of noisy tradition into one short peaceful post.

Anyway, Chunjie is one of those holidays that day changes each year, since it revolves around a new lunar moon. This year, it was January 31st.

The country of China literally shut down. Guang Fu Lu is usally flooded with busses, the sidewalks overtaken with cars.


Hundreds of millions clog train and bus stations. The internet gets sluggish due to the other half a billion purchasing their tickets on

And everyone else? They head to the parks.

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Each Chinese New Year is based on one of the animals of their zodiac. Last year, it was the snake. But the slithering creature was replaced by the speedy and strong horse, unlike the one on display at the Old Kunming, who looks about a day away from the glue factory.

Fireworks were popped all night long, the sounds and like that are never seen in the USA.
This heart was made of a 7,000 finger sized firecrackers, each containing enough gun powder to blow my pinky all the way to Toledo. It took about five minutes to blow up.


This roll of 7,000 firecrackers, bigger than a bike tire, set me back about $40, more than the cost of this classic “flying pigeon” Chinese bicycle.


So what’s the reason for the season?

The firework tradition started with Nian (年兽), a legendary Chinese monster. He wasn’t born in a manger  and doesn’t deliver toys down a chimney. The loud noises and the color red supposedly scare Nian and his evil spirits away.

BoomBoomDay 079

Along with fireworks, the releasing of turtles, goldfish and birds is supposed to bring good luck. Cages like this are seen everywhere.


Dinner is a traditional meal called a nianyefan (年夜饭), literally meaning the first meal of the year. Some dine on long noodles for longevity. Others devour a Chinese Turkey, AKA a pig, and enjoy the leftovers for days after. They also indulge in traditional desserts like this “Good Luck” rice cake, which really means, good luck eating it.

It tastes like honey topped Styrofoam.


Finally, about two weeks and two billion firecrackers later, the holiday ends with the Lantern Festival on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month.


The lanterns are actually floats.

I went to the festival during the day to avoid the crowd. Ya know, lanterns just aren’t as cool in the daylight.

No Horsing Around.

If you were born in is that of the horse, you got to be on your hooves or toes. It’s important to wear red underwear, red socks or a red stringed pendant for the next 365 days to bring you good luck.

But if your luck is in the dirty clothes pile, you could find yourself in a real bind worse than a day-old wedgie.

Also, you’re supposed sto avoid getting married, having babies and changing jobs during this “your lunar year”. Things will likely go wrong, like Murphy’s law.

A little bad luck gift from the Irish.

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Bootleg Bootie Call
Filed under: Fashion, Bootleg
Posted by: @ 4:57 pm


So, while walking thru a park yesterday, I came across a bootleg vender of Viagra. At first I imagined what kind of side effects could it have. If you experience an erection lasting more than four dynasties, please consult your physician.

 But then I start thinking, in a country where the population is exploding, why aren’t they bootlegging a pill to “Keeping it down”?
Maybe Chinese women need to be more picky about with whom they choose for their bootleg bootie call.

Take for instance, Mr. Somebody Stole My Six Pack.


Or, his cousin, Mr. Somebody Stole by Comb.


This guy needs a wake-up call, not a bootie call.


So does this guy.


Next, there’s the extra from Macklemore’s Thrift Shop video.

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Sorry, but you’re not Prince Charming.


And Mr. Pimp My Ride? Good luck getting a girl in your back seat.


You think in a country with over a billion people, finding a Chinese Fabio would be as easy as finding a Chinese prophylactic…


 …flower flavored, yet.


The good news is,  there’s always American imports.


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Nose Tampons and Other Cures for Colds on the Flipside
Filed under: General, Culture
Posted by: @ 5:28 pm


What do you say when someone sneezes in Chinese? That’s easy. It’s Yi Bai sui (pronounced “you bye see”). It means may you live to be a hundred years.
But what do you say to the Chinese pharmacist when you need your fix of VICKS? That’s when it gets tricky.
The Chinese have their own ways of dealing with the common cold, which are anything but common in the land of Pepto-Bismol.


Let’s Start With The Nose Tampon

(only slightly less ridiculous looking than this outfit.)
It’s customary for Chinese to roll a small piece of tissue into a plug and shove it up a runny nostril on those heavy flow days. Actually, the “Notex” is a lot less distracting than wiping one’s nose all of the time, keeping the germs inside where they can’t be spread. So if you see Kleenex clogging a snot faucet, don’t stare. You might even give it a try.


Cough Syrup and Chicken Soup

If you got a cough, take a swig of Nin Jiom Pei Pa Koa. This Chinese style Robitussin is made from a blend funky herbs including milkwort root, pomelo root, and bitter apricot peel. It actually sorta tastes good…not good enough to drizzle on your pancakes, but a whole lot better than the stuff you swigged in middle school to get a little buzz.
Ji Tang or  chicken soup, is a universal remedy. Just forego the face and toes.


Local Honey

Did you know that most honey in the states  doesn’t even qualify as honey by FDA standards? In China, honey is definitely the real deal. You don’t buy it in a bear shaped bottles but from a specialized shop. The varieties vary from a golden lard to a thin amber liquid. And when you sip a spoonful, you can actually taste pollen. The Chinese value honey for its medicinal qualities, curing everything from allergies to the squirts.


Freshly Squeezed Michigan Orange Juice

Yeah, I doubt if it’s really made from oranges grown on the Great Lakes, but a glass a day will keep the sore throat away.
The Chinese are big on OJ, especially around New Years. The shelves at Carrefour were depleted of the premiere bootleg brands. You can also get aloe juice, walnut juice, banana juice and mango juice.


This cure came up at a message board at when I was searching for remedies for local allergies. Amaroli isn’t a dish from an Italian restaurant, it’s an ancient Eastern practice of drinking your own pee. I’d rather gag on the chicken  foot.

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