Monday, September 25, 2006

She said, She said
"What's that about?" I asked, bending over C's shoulder to squint through my trifocals at the laptop screen full of Chinese text illustrated with a artsy black and white photo of a nude buff torso and butt of a (presumably) Chinese guy striding manfully up a staircase. I thought of my bloated, sagging physique briefly then snapped quickly back to more cheerful thoughts like the 1918 Influenza Pandemic.

"Ten things a man should eat for better health," she replied cheerfully.
"Like what? Beer and beef jerky?"
"Number one is dog," she said.
"Hmmm...yeah. And what else?"
She ticked through the list. Save for Lassie it was either common sense or too difficult to translate, as in "fish" and "another kind of fish, maybe white?"
"But dog. That's just wrong," I said, mindfully omitting the fact that I've eaten it twice in my life, once unwittingly and the second time because it was Boxing Day/Mao's birthday and I didn't want to offend my Chinese coworkers. "Civilized countries don't eat dog."

"Civilized countries don't invade other countries," she shot back in a not so subtle shot at my homeland. "Oh, and do you think Japan and China will go to war?"

I didn't need to ask why she'd asked that. Not only is the anniversary of the Nanjing Massacre this month -- something that automatically heats up the easily inflamed Chinese Netizens, Japanese makeup has been taking a beating here with reports that some of the best sellers in China are chock full o' toxic heavy metals. Oh, and then there's the new Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, even more of militaristic nationalist than his predecessor, Junichiro "Worship at a Class-A War Criminal Shrine Today!" Koizumi.

C is firm believer in most of what she reads on the Internet, particularly when it concerns Chinese science and Chinese medicine, (or Chinese "science" and "medicine" as I prefer to think of it). And I, except if it's e-mail from "Henry -- All Love Enhancers on One Portal!" or from "Miss Blessing Soke" whose "late father who was killed by the rebels in a recent crisis in Cote d'Ivoire in 2004" and Miss Blessing wants to give me a share of his $3.5 million bequest in exchange for my bank account particulars, well .... I'm a generally a skeptic.

I had decided to give the dog-as-male-health-food argument a pass, though, because C had shredded me earlier that week on the Japanese makeup scandal. She'd called me late on Thursday night from Shenzhen to tell me that one of her favorite Japanese creams and cleansers, made by SK-II and distributed by Procter and Gamble, was "poisonous," contaminated with heavy metals. How did she know? It was all over the Chinese Internet and news.

My Crap Detector needle hit the red zone and I sighed. "Look it's a rumor, I'm sure. A rumor because P&G has a long history of false rumors against it, like devil worshipping. And SK-II is Japanese and this is the anniversary month of the Nan..."

She cut me off. "I know what you're going to say. How come you don't believe anything Chinese news and Internet says?"

"Uh, maybe because they lie, just maybe?"

Wrong answer. As flames from her end began to erupt through my cell phone, I finally decided to submit it to arbitration. I told her I would call an aquaintance who monitors the Chinese Internet for his blog EastSouthWestNorth and translates whatever strikes his fancy. C knew of him through my mentions and occasional links I'd send her. His name is Roland Soong and he's a multi-lingual international class act and intellect, not normally a low level Love Doctor/mediator for a bubbling domestic spat over makeup and Internet rumors.

I called Roland and apologized and explained the situation. He put down whatever Susan Sontag critque of an obscure 17th century French novel he'd been reading in its Farsi translation and gracefully agreed to help.

"Your girlfriend is right," he said. "SK-II is in trouble and it's not a rumor."

"So I have to grovel?"

"Yes, grovel."

I called C back. "You were right. The Chinese Internet and news were right. Roland said I should grovel."

"You should listen to Roland more often and to me all the time," she replied. "Good night. Sleep tight."
You are not alone.

I have similar troubles sometimes.

My wife digs a lot, and I am pretty sure she is not always sceptical of the more obvious scams.

Anyway, I am sure you're getting used to say sorry a lot since the 'red gown incident'? She did finally get the 'red night gown' from the coupon, right? ;-)

If you forgot, here the story:

Could you please post that link to healthy food for men. Just want to check if my girlfriend's reaction (from beef jerky and beer to dog meat) is going to be the same...

I'll see if she can find it again. This happened over the weekend when I was in SZ. If she can locate it, I'll post it here.
No matter how healthy it is, my girlfriend would never tell me to eat anything like that. Probably the best advantage of her mom being a traditional doctor... that and the free massages and huoguan treatments.
It would be wonderful if you could find the page, the crown on your work!

Usually, middle class Chinese from HK are fuzzier than I am when it comes to exotic food. It is a lot more controversial than Chinese medicine, for example. Not to mention Cantopop.

It seems that this element of globalisation has not made it across the border yet.
Dog, like lamb, is supposed to have some thermogenic qualities in it. As for who is civilizeded, mention to C about China claiming roughly %30 of North Korea as "chinese since ancient times". If you are really in the mood, start discussing Tibet and how most of central China used to be Tibet, then move on to Inner Mongolia and Taiwan. To top it off, mention China's invasion and continued presence on Indian territory and PLA troops in Kashmir.

As for the SKII story, yep, they are at fault. If it wasn't for China's obsession with white skin (both metals in oxide form are white and thus used for "whitening") and the government letting companies skirt health and safety issues in the name of economic development, this might not have happened. SKII will now get rid of its chinese staff, adding to unemployment, as it pulls out of china. Developers will also loose money from rent.

Odd that only a Japanese company got hit, I'd like to see the metal content of chinese skin cream makers.
Funny you mention all the Chinese invasions, especially Tibet. I've gone through that territory with her before to no real avail.
But C and I initially clicked when we met and then squabbled about Tibet at a Chinese New Year Party in a Tibetan bar in SZ.
Opposites attract etc.
Are you sure the Great Roland wasn't just saying P&G were in trouble PR-wise - which is definitely true. Much as I respect the almighty polymath, if he really said the charges are justified, he appears to be wrong. You'd have to eat entire containers of SK-II products just to reach the normal levels of these trace elements you eat in your food every day. Positive Solutions blogger has a round up of the calculations I did last night, with the links for anyone to check the facts themselves.

Unfortunately, there's no permalink on that blog, so the piece "Whiter than white" will soon move down the page.
Everyday critic,

All over the world people give special uses to specific foods. Indians think that garlic and onions should be avoided if you want to be a pieceful character. And Europeans consider oysters aphrodisiacs. Lamb, like dog, is considered food that warms the body in Indonesia. And I must say that they are correct about that, it has the same effect as a glass of wine on a cloudy, windy February afternoon. In Jakarta, satay made of goat testicles are sold as aphrodisiacs under the name of "sate torpedo".

Only the Chinese seem to really measure everything in yin and yang terms. The kinds of meat considered aphrodisiacs is endless: donkey, turtle, snake, grounded ants....
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