Friday, March 30, 2007

oh man--major awesome hardcore--studying

April 11th 2007 will be the official one year anniversary of my second arrival in China. To celebrate this vainglorious achievement I will, beginning Monday, devote every waking hour of my day to studying Chinese and, since I dream in Chinese a lot, I will also try to devote every sleeping hour to this pursuit.

Why am I doing this? The main reason is because goddamnit my Chinese just isn't good enough. And, even though I study pretty regularly and am improving at a reasonable pace, I'm just not improving fast enough--sometimes I need binge-studying periods to rapidly increase my level, or at least my knowledge-base.

So how am I going to study?

1. Listen to lots of chinesepod podcasts over and over again (I won't do the exercises because I'm too poor/cheap to pay for the service).
2. Speak all in Chinese with my girlfriend, and not use any fun-but-ultimately-useless pidgin Chinese.
3. Read comic books and use the new vocab to create lots of vocab lists from the comics. Do the same with some books I bought intended for young teenagers.
4. Watch lots and lots of television and Chinese movies.
5. Find my long lost brother, Higaldo.

That's my plan, anyway. That's also how I tend to study--just throw myself at everything I can, pick up what I can, move on, and throw myself at something new. It's an ugly, messy system, but it seems to work.

I'll be doing this again around June 11th, which will mark roughly two years total that I've lived in China. At that point I'd best be damned well conversant on most every topic, excluding impossibly difficult ones such as Curling, or Bananarama.

If you would like to support me in my efforts to learn the Chinese language, you can send me money.

Thank you.

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

news from the wire--by bill clinton--"we have invented the invention"

CHINA DISCOVERS DEMOCRACY ACTUALLY INVENTED IN CHINA

BY BILL CLINTON

BEIJING, CHINA—Long lost records found in the Chinese state archives here have given irrefutable evidence that Democracy was in fact invented in Northern China—more than two hundred years before the Athenians adopted it as their form of government. The document, dated 720BC, is from the Spring and Autumn period and describes five villagers near the Yellow River voting on an important matter of social status: "And Lao Wang, along with Lao Kang and their three friends, voted to decide who could eat the dog first."

The documents were discovered by Professor Wang Dong at the state archives in Beijing. Professor Wang was researching ancient pornography when he stumbled upon the papers, an early survey of peasants and peasant customs in the state of Chu.

As with their invention of the modern game of soccer, the probability that two different civilizations could separately invent such dauntingly complex things as voting or kicking a ball around is so small as to be almost impossible. "The only likely conclusion," says Professor Wang, "is that these things, like pretty much everything in the world, were invented in China, and spread to the West through trade routes or magic."

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

vomit--diarrhea--also, vomit

From the American Heritage dictionary, a wonderful definition for a wonderful thing:

food poisoning
n.
  1. An acute, often severe gastrointestinal disorder characterized by vomiting and diarrhea and caused by eating food contaminated with bacteria, especially bacteria of the genus Salmonella, or the toxins they produce.
  2. Poisoning caused by ingesting substances, such as certain mushrooms, that contain natural toxins.

Of course, the definition fails to give a most necessary warning, that is: "if the meat's funky, don't eat the meat." If only I had read this simple warning before I ate some funky pork Sunday evening, I would have avoided approximately twelve hours of an acute, sever, gastrointestinal disorder characterized by vomiting and diarrhea.

I should also add that, although this definition sure is grand, it is unnecessarily vague in certain places. For instance, when it says "vomiting" it means muscle convulsions so intense they squeeze tears out of your eyes; when it says "characterized by" it means "your body will not stop doing either of the following for twelve hours."

The plus side of this adventure was that I got to cancel my classes on Monday. Rad. The other advantage is that I now know the distinctive odor and taste of funky pork, and knowing funky pork may help me identify funky versions of other meats, such as chicken, beef, or toffuti.

In other news, this website and all of blogspot.com are now blocked in China, so if you are in China and somehow reading this website, you are breaking the law, and should stop immediately.

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

news from the wire--by pablo--"man defeats china, sets sights on tiddlywinks"

MAN WINS "BEST AT CHINA AWARD," USES AWARD MONEY TO BUY DIRTY TWO PIECE SUIT

BY PABLO

BEIJING, CHINA—Lewis Snodgrass last night bested two other competitors to win the annual “Best at China Award.” The award, first established in 2003 by China ex-patriot Lewis Snodgrass, was created in order to honor those who “live in the real China, speak Chinese, and just generally kick China’s ass, all the time, and with verve.” Past winners have included Lewis Snodgrass (three times) and Bill Cosby (once).

The goal of the award is to help distinguish the valuable Chinese ex-patriots from the valueless, “long term tourist types” who, Mr. Snodgrass explains, have been steadily polluting Chinese culture over the past 20-30 years.

“Basically, most people suck at China,” Mr. Snodgrass says. “First you have the tourists, who by their very nature are retarded and valueless. Then you have the temporary residents, who live a year or two and then leave. Their understanding of this country is about equal to a bug’s understanding of my gargantuan brain.

“The long term residents maybe have some value, but they’re usually too stupid to understand the complex aspects of Chinese society, such as massive industrial dumping, or pooing on the sidewalk”

This year’s winner, Mr. Snodgrass, has been living in China for eight years, speaks Chinese fluently, has a Chinese wife, and only eats Chinese food. He works in the administrative unit of a large Chinese electronics company, where he uses a set of five hundred stamps to stamp anything put in front of him—a position almost impossible for most other foreigners to get.

“We decided to award Mr. Snodgrass with the award this year because of his continuing efforts to know and experience everything about the real China” explained Mr. Snodgrass. “If you make the analogy that China is like a giant country of 1.3 billion people, then you could continue it and say that Mr. Snodgrass is totally the best at that country, which is actually China, if you remember. So you can say Mr. Snodgrass is the best at China, a country of 1.3 billion people, in East Asia, in which lives Mr. Snodgrass, formerly of Dryden, NY, and who is the best at it—China, that is.”

Mr. Snodgrass also established an organization, “The Best at China Awards Group,” which operates out of the bedroom of his fifth floor apartment. The group accepts anonymous nominations for the award but, Mr. Snodgrass warns, the competition is fierce. “Mr. Snodgrass wins every year because China bows before the might of his intellect. I recommend that you not apply next year, because he’s sure you suck at China, and he hates you, asshole.”

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

letters from peru--i put on pants!--gastronomical adventures

Ever since I arrived in China I have been receiving email after email from family and friends inquiring feverishly into my progress on eating rabbit's head. Take this letter from my mom for example, sent just last week:

"Dear Bob,
Did you eat rabbit's head yet, or what?
Love,
Eleanor Roosevelt"

Or this letter from Guillermo, some guy in Peru who I've never met:

"Dear Jose,
The rabbit's head is not mine, and I don't know what to do with it.
Love,
Mom"

Naturally when you're under this kind of pressure from your mother and Peruvians, you've got to do something about it. So, needing to make my parents and really the whole world proud of me, I finally put on some pants, went outside, and searched for rabbit head. It being the middle of the day, the only place to go was the Chinese Wal-Mart, which sells many body parts as well as tooth-paste and children's books. Looking at the rabbit heads, with their skin burned to a nice brown crisp, and their teeth jutting out like rabbit teeth jutting out of a decapitated, crispy brown head, I decided that eating rabbit's head was really gross.

I bought two of them and also a roast chicken because it is delicious. Then I went home and ate them with my girlfriend. She showed me how to rip apart the head by pulling it apart violently at the jaw. It was fun. Then we ate it by sucking off the thin strips of meat along the head. It definitely tasted like meat. I let her go for the brains and the eyeball, cause it's just not my thing.

Overall, it was a disgusting, yet somehow primal, experience--I don't recommend it unless you haven't eaten eyeball or brains for a long time.

Also, please stop sending me emails about rabbit's heads, and just about heads in general.

Oh, and here is a picture of a rabbit. It is a small animal in the horse family, and is related to the Quark:



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Friday, March 16, 2007

common mistakes--incumbency--potato touching

Due to common misunderstandings and mistakes among the general populace, I have found it incumbent upon myself to use this website to clarify one of the major issues of my life--that is, how best to compliment me on any one of my numerous achievements or natural talents. This is something people or always asking me about and something that I'm getting pretty tired of explaining on a daily basis. So, here we go.

Generally speaking the best way to compliment me is by commenting on the reflecting qualities of my recently shampooed hair. I like my hair, and I especially like flourishing it after I have received a compliment. I am particular partial to the words "luminous," "shimmering," and "dimpled"-- although, if you do choose that last one, make sure you use it properly (remember: it's an adjective, not a comma).

Of course, there are other things you can say that will elicit a favorable response from me, and might even cause me to shake violently. Among these are: "you truly are covered in hair," "when I think about you, I touch a potato," "you have splendid taste in cheese," "habikonobidadidmaas" and, of course, "I like pants, too."

I hope this helps. Complimenting me really is a fun and rewarding experience and sometimes results in me patting you on the head or me licking myself.

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Saturday, March 10, 2007

spitting and communication--stages of learning mandarin--bill cosby

Many people have recently asked me: what is Mandarin? Is it fun to learn? How many years do I need to devote to learning it?

Of course, the answer to all of these questions is "no." Why? Well, let me explain each one separately.

What is Mandarin?

Mandarin is a complex language in the Sino-Tibetan language family. It is composed of sounds, grunts, and spitting and mastery of all three takes persistence, patience, and intelligence (indeed, if you are stupid, or an idiot, I do not recommend trying to learn Mandarin). It is spoken or understood by roughly one quarter of the world's population and is not at all related to Slovenian.

Is it fun to learn?

As any well trained EFL professional will tell you, learning languages is fun. This is a great big lie. Learning languages is hard and it hurts both your brain and your spleen. If somebody honestly believes learning languages is fun then they're obviously not aiming for fluency and are instead learning all the swear words they can.

How many years does it take?

Many people have compared learning Mandarin Chinese to climbing a mountain. This is a very accurate comparison, as in both instances, if you are inexperienced or stupid, you will probably die before reaching your goal. That being said, my answer to this question is at least one, but probably ninety years.

The Boisen-Hegelbauminen Stages of Learning Mandarin Chinese

For those of you smart enough to be able to tackle Mandarin and dumb enough to actually try it, let me give you an introduction to something known as the "Boisen-Hegelbauminen Stages of Learning Mandarin Chinese." The six stages were thought up one hundred years ago by Boisen-Hegelbauminen, a German watch manufacturer fluent in German, Italian, and Dutch.

1. East-Asian Fetishist Stage: Everything about Asia is mystical and cool and gives you funny feelings in your toes that you can't understand. You determine that you have to learn an East Asian language. You choose Chinese because you are a total fucking nerd, but you don't like anime, and Korea has always bored you.

2. College Chinese: You learn a lot of things that are totally useless. Your Chinese sucks. Snobs like me hate it when you talk because it sounds so awful. We put you down whenever we can. Everyone would be happier if you just gave up.

3. Move to China: You either get accepted into a language program or pretend to be an English teacher, like me. Now you think your Chinese is good solely because you're living here, while, in fact, it has gotten worse. This is because you believe in the myth that "language immersion" without hardcore studying somehow results in rapid acquisition of a language and moreover, that you are actually immersed in Chinese in China. You are not. You are immersed in bad English and your own wretched vocabulary, which is good for pointing at things and then adding an adjective or two.

4. Nine: Suddenly you realize that actual mastery of the language is an exhausting, labor intensive process that will absorb many of the remaining years of your life. Either you give up or you go full steam ahead. If you don't give up and instead keep pushing yourself, you will suddenly start making actual progress, but will also realize that each step forward does not get you observably closer to your ultimate goal.

5. Yellow-Green: You can have conversations. People like talking to you and you like talking to them. Learning the language actually is fun now, because you can actually use it to talk about things. Fluency is just around the corner, by which I mean fluency is still two or three years of endless toil away.

6. Bill Cosby: You can finally speak Chinese fluently. Everyone applauds your perseverance, intelligence, and good looks. You turn on Chinese television and watch it for four hours straight, understanding everything. You realize you have just wasted 5-6 years of your life. Realizing this makes you hungry, so you go eat some twice cooked pork. You reflect on the meaning of the word "barnacle."

So, that's what you can expect while learning Mandarin Chinese. I hope it makes you despondent and contemplate giving up before you begin. Currently I am at stage 4.5. I am eagerly awaiting my ascendancy to stage five. If you would like to help me in my goal of reaching the yellow-green stage, please send me money. Thank you.

Addendum: I should also note that there is another outline of the stages to learning Mandarin here, but it's not as good as the Boisen-Hegelbauminen system, as it clearly lacks a Bill Cosby stage.

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Sunday, March 04, 2007

updates

I haven't updated in a long time. This is partially because all I could think of writing down my incredibly cynical and negative observations of what tourism is like in the third world (observations that were quite obviously the source of my cynical and negative fake news article below).

Of course, beginning to write these observations, I was made immediately aware of my own hypocrisy in the situation, and decided to just continue grumbling and moaning about it in private. Therefore, I have written nothing recently. However, in the future, if you would like me to write more, please send me money.

In other news, I start teaching tomorrow. If you feel sorry for me, you are of course welcome to send me money, or beef jerky. Thank you.

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