Monday, April 30, 2007

She's pretty, but...

Jessica Alba has perfect face and is stunningly beautiful, but she smells bad. Also, her teeth are too white and her hair color is too close to being poop brown.

Check out this article for some information on Chinese actresses who you might THINK are beautiful, but CCTV knows better.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Beautiful Day in Brooklyn

The family and I went to the see the Cherry Blossoms at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden today:

Don't they look beautiful?! After spending many hours in the Garden, we then walked around Park Slope, had an early dinner and drove over to Brooklyn Heights, where we walked around some more. It was sooo cute. If you have read this far, you deserve a real picture of all of us:

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Glorious Day

I may have FINALLY solved my problems with uploading photos to Picasa Web Albums. I'll keep everyone (all three of you) posted on when my pictures from China will all be online.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Resturant Guide Revision?

It has been suggested that I add a rating system to my restaurant guide. Is this a good idea? Probably...but it would also be a lot of work for me, so here's how it might work. Five categories: 1. Food Quality, 2. Decor, 3. Quality of Service, 4. Value, 5. Approximate Price. Each of the first four categories would be scored from 1 to 10.

10 = A special treat. As close to perfection as possible.
8-9 = Excellent. A place that you always feel up to eating at.
6-7 = Very good. You're happy to eat here, but you know you could do a little better.
4-5 = Serviceable. You would eat here, but not be that happy about it.
1-3 = Very bad. You do not want to eat here.

These are just some ideas I have. I would love reader feedback and I have not committed yet to anything that I have written here.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

It's an honest job

Why are there NO female doormen (doorwomen)? Have you ever seen one? Is it a union thing?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Blending In

Why do the soldiers in Grand Central Station wear full camouflage gear? If they really want to camouflage themselves, shouldn't they be wearing suits and taking pictures of the ceiling?

Monday, April 23, 2007

I've been saying this for years!

How does Radio Shack stay in business?

The Art of the Meal

"Chicken Lo Mein no vegetables with Egg Drop Soup please."

That was my (boring) order for lunch a couple of days ago at a Chinese restaurant near my house. And before I had broken my chopsticks, a bowl of piping-hot Egg Drop Soup was sitting directly in front of me. Wonderful. But wait, before I could take a second spoonful, a plate of steaming Chicken Lo Mein was sitting right behind my soup. A little troubling. Now I couldn't believe it, as I was half-way done with the soup, I saw the check (with fortune cookie) on the table just beyond my reach. Efficient yes, but proper?

On the plus side, of course, it reminded me of what eating at a restaurant had been like in China! Believe it or not, this experience was a step up in some ways (they left me alone once everything had arrived; on the other hand the food was far worse). Here's a list of some typical experiences/observations:

1. Sit down at a table and get handed a book-like (20 pages) menu. Hope that there are pictures. Have waiter hover over you while you look through every page and debate different options with your friends or yourself. This may take up to five minutes, but the waiter will NOT move. Order.

2. Whichever dish is ready first will come out first. At one (delicious) Peking Duck restaurant, we ordered something like two ducks, two other meat dishes, three vegetable dishes, and one dessert plate. What do you think came first? But if this happens, just tell them to put the dessert aside and they will leave the plate on the bar behind you so you can keep a close eye on it throughout your meal.

3. When it's time to pay, it's really time to pay. Because when that waiter comes over with the check, he's not going anywhere until it's all paid up. There's no leaving the money and saying "xiexie" on your way out the door. And yes, he will wait for you to discuss exactly how to split the check for as long as it takes. And no, he will not receive a tip.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

You want some MSG?

At least make sure that you get some of the good stuff. I'm talkin' 99+% Pure. None of that junk you get in America. Hong Kong baby. I'll put you down for 6 pounds Tom.

Dropped to the D-List

The truth hurts. On the plus side I'm still a Blogebrity.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


My main man Nostra recently bought me a wonderful birthday present: he made Not About Marquis Grissom the official sponsor of Marquis Grissom's Baseball-Reference page. And even more recently, five different people visited my blog because of this. Good stuff.

Someone also stumbled on Marquis when searching for the phrase "husband looking for internet porn"...I was proud to be the first result, but I just wish that I could have been of more help to the poor wife who is clearly worried about her husband spending too much time alone in the computer room at 3 AM. Although I suppose if she clicked on my link instead of the one right below it that might actually have been relevant, she might not be so hard up after all.

Goal of the Season

Check this shit out from Lionel Messi (and make sure you listen to the announcer). Maradona-esque.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Old and New in Shanghai

I like the composition of this photo. Old Shanghai crumbling in the foreground. New Shanghai rising in the background.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

He's Back

This time I'm talking about my father.

I will say nothing other than that I agree with pops.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

In case you're curious

Some of you might be interested to know which American brands are big in China. From what I saw, Starbucks is EVERYWHERE. It's almost as widespread in China as it is in America. And of course McDonald's is huge. But the big chain that surprised me most with its overwhelming presence was KFC. It was omnipresent. The Colonel must have Chinese citizenship by this point.

But I don't understand why people would go there for fried chicken, when they could just as easily head out on the streets of Shanghai and get some fresh chicken.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Almost Lost in Translation

One day in Shanghai was completely rainy and miserable, so I decided to try and go to the movies. My options were limited to some Chinese movies that I never heard of, a British movie that I never heard of, and Babel. So after thinking about it for a few minutes, and figuring out that Babel was being shown in its original version, I decided to give it a try. I asked for one ticket...

Ticket Woman: Just so you know, the subtitles are only in Chinese.
Me: Um, ok...isn't this movie in English?
(Which is when I remembered that a lot Babel is in Spanish and Japanese!)
Ticket Woman: Parts of it are not, and there will not be English subtitles.

At this point I thanked her profusely for saving me from sitting in a movie theater in Shanghai for over 2 hours watching people speak Japanese in an American movie with me just hoping that they were saying "North south east west big person gate heaven sea capital central country" so that I could have a chance of understanding anything.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

No Going Dark

For better or worse, there is excellent mobile phone service on all of the subway systems in Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong. Do you guys think that this would be a good thing to have in New York? I guess it probably would be...although I often like the idea that I am unreachable in the subway...(I know that I could always turn my phone off, but if service is available, people always expect to be able to reach you)

Too Soon?

Spotted in Shanghai:

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

I'm Back

After my long sojourn to the Middle Kingdom, I have returned to New York. I had a great time over there and much thanks to all the people who gave me such warm hospitality during my journey, especially Connie, Nick A., Nick Z., and Lu.

Fittingly, my last night in Hong Kong, Nick Z. and I went to a Chinese sauna (they have some of the hottest saunas and steam rooms around, almost on a par with the Russians...) and got massages, a relaxing way to wrap things up.

Also, you all can finally see Lu, among other things, as there are now pictures up for all previous China posts.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Fire up the grill

The Stonegrill that is. It's a slab of black rock heated to 400 degrees and brought to your table so that you can cook your own steak (and the name of a chain of Hong Kong steakhouses). If it sounds like Korean BBQ, well...that's because it's sort of pretty similar...BUT this is for American-style steak, chicken, and fish dishes, so it is different. Furthermore, everything is personalized, because each person gets his own grill. Which leads me to the Killer App of The Stonegrill: Every bite of steak that you eat will be cooked freshly, EXACTLY to your liking. This is especially critical for someone like me who eats slowly. My final piece of steak is almost never as good as the earlier pieces because it has been sitting out for so long. But here, I can cook it for the first time even though it's the final piece!

Basically, the concept is simple. You start out with a piece of meat on the grill. You cook it a little bit and take it off the grill. Then you cut it up and put it back on piece by piece to cook it and eat it. And of course, crucially, they serve good meat here as well. My piece had enough natural flavors that I didn't even put any sauce on it (and that was a lower-end cut of meat).

All in all, a place definitely worth a visit, especially for the HK$98 lunch set special.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Meet Me In Macau

In my opinion, the only thing that Macau and Las Vegas have in common is a lot of casinos. Las Vegas is a place to visit in order to gamble, party, and pretend that any printed money that you don't spend will be taken away from you when you leave. Macau is actually a city, and a fascinating one at that. Depending on where you are, you can feel like you are in Europe (at the beautiful Largo do Senado), China (most of the narrow alleys and apartment buildings), or Las Vegas (inside any casino). And amazingly all of these different parts of Macau are extremely close to each other. So there's plenty to do besides gamble, but of course I have to admit that one of the big reasons I came to Macau was to gamble...or at least to survey the gambling scene.

At this moment, the Wynn Macau is by far the class of the casino field. The recently opened Grand Lisboa has potential (although they might want to fix their blackjack tables that say "Delaer must hit on 16..."), but until all of the construction is done, it will be hard to judge it completely. The Grand Lisboa is looking to replace its neighbor and predecessor, the Casino Lisboa, which has seen better days interior-wise. Meanwhile, construction is continuing on other mega-casinos as well, including an MGM Grand Macau and a Venetian Macau. Obviously these will significantly change the scene, as will the inevitable introduction of poker (and I don't mean Caribbean Stud). Right now, the massively dominant table game is Baccarat. Maybe the Chinese really like James Bond? People also play a decent amount of Sic Bo. I played both those games, but mostly stuck to boring old Blackjack.

The casinos are all situated in an area right on the water, and the big three right now are all very close together (the Sands is actually probably up there as well, but it's a little farther away from the central axis). No 30-minute walks from one casino to the next through massive parking lots like in Las Vegas. The other casinos are of varying quality and mostly resemble those in downtown Las Vegas. Amazingly, one of these that I went into had a "massage" parlor inside! And this wasn't even a really low-level one...

On the whole, I'd like to visit Macau again more as a tourist (especially to see the other islands, Taipa and Coloane) than as a gambler right now, but the simple addition of poker rooms would change my tune. Seeing as Macau has already passed Las Vegas in gambling revenues, it appears as if the sky's the limit...although I hope that they manage to maintain some of the local flavor in the transition from regional gambling hub to worldwide destination.

For the record: After going down big early, I rallied to finish up $150 Hong Kong dollars, which is a shade under $20 U.S.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Little Richie in Hong Kong Land

Hong Kong is like San Francisco on steroids meets the Hollywood Hills with skyscrapers meets tropical island meets the future of civilization. It's complicated...and fascinating especially from an urban planning perspective Daniel. Check out this view of Central:

The world's longest escalator (it's not continuous, there are breaks between streets) is endlessly fascinating to me and completely unique. Imagine if Midtown Manhattan was at the bottom of a hill and you could ride an escalator up to the Upper East Side if you want a flawed New York analogy.

Also, the money here is not printed by the government! It comes from three different banks (HSBC, Bank of China, Standard Chartered) and each one prints bills that look slightly different. Imagine if U.S. currency was printed by Citibank, Chase, and Bank of America. Pretty weird, right?

I have a dream

The Iraq border was next to China and it was located in a museum and marked by a yellow line on the floor (Iraq written on the floor of one side, China on the other). I thought that this was hilarious and joked about it a lot. Soldiers were constantly marching from China into Iraq and vice-versa. So I decided to cross the border too. Then I went back into China and said, "Isn't it amazing that I can say that I was in Iraq recently? Dan, Dan, take a photo of me!" And so it was.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Not even the MagLev could save me

I pulled an Ariel today and missed my flight to Hong Kong. Even though the MagLev train went up to 431 km/h and was amazing (you haven't felt a rush until you've been passed by a MagLev while riding a MagLev), I reached the check-in counter for my 3:00 PM flight at 2:30 PM. Whoops.

But because I am one lucky guy and China Eastern Airlines runs a lot of flights from Shanghai to Hong Kong, I was able to switch right away to the 3:30 PM flight. And for free no less! The flight ended up being delayed, but I was just happy to be on it and make to Hong Kong.

The buildings here in Central are huge, and there are tons of them. The tallest one (Two International Financial Centre) looks even taller because it appears to be isolated, at least on first glance. Also, in taking the train from the airport to Hong Kong Island, I was amazed at how much I had gotten used to hearing Mandarin. Cantonese sounded terrible!

Home in Hangzhou

Xi Hu (West Lake) was beautiful.

And after much discussion, I agreed to meet Lu at 3:30 PM in the city. But 3:30 rolled around and I was still on the boat back to shore (West Lake is pretty large). So I texted Lu that I would be a few minutes late, and he texted back: "I ate you". Uh-oh.

What did he mean to write? I didn't really know him that well, maybe my lateness set something off in him and he just decided to hate me? It was a tense ride back to shore, but when I finally arrived, Lu was there to greet me with a smile and a nice word about Hangzhou. All was right in the world again; he had meant to write that he was waiting for me. We took a walk around the lake, took a cab to his house, and I met his entire family, including his wife, parents, and very cute 12-year-old son.

I tried some nuts that were tasty but too hard to open, so they weren't worth the hassle. And then when I went into the kitchen for a second, I saw a slippery fish writhing around on a plate. Lu's wife laughed and shooed my prying Meiguoren face away, but I knew that my main course for dinner was as fresh as could be. Thanks to the Lu family for their food and hospitality. Much obliged.

Off to Hong Kong today.

(Kingspawn got me on the typo)

Tuesday, April 03, 2007


1. Despite the fact that I have been seeing military men (and a moderate number of cops) everywhere in China, until yesterday, I had yet to see any of them interact with the general public. Then I stumbled upon an arugment between a man in a yellow sweater and motorcycle policeman. I'm not sure what it was about and I couldn't exactly ask anyone, but it was still fascinating to watch (everyone in the vicinity either watched the entire thing intently or at least took a peek on their way elsewhere). For about 5 minutes, the two men were alternating between yelling in each other's faces and pretending to walk away. And most interestingly the civilian actually bumped the cop and pushed him a little, but the cop did not do anything in response! In New York, that guy would have been fucked. In the end, the civilian walked away (with a ticket maybe?) and the cop drove away smiling. Impressive restraint.

2. I know that I keep writing about Chinese people trying to rip me and other Westerners off, and it's true (although they are just as happy to rip off other Chinese people). However, I've now realized that once they know that they are not going to make a sale, these people have actually been very friendly to me. In fact, last night alone, I spent an hour talking some guys who originally tried to sell me fake crystal versions of the Oriental Pearl TV Tower (coincidentally Nick was an hour late to meet me...but still, these guys were friendly). Communication was pretty flawed with my minimal Chinese skills and their minimal English skills, but the effort was there. And this has been a consistent thing I've found. In a similar vein, I'm visiting Lu in Hangzhou tomorrow. Should be fun.

3. A guy tried to sell me and Nick some watches and DVDs yesterday. When we said, "Bu yao" for the millionth time, he tried another trick. He offered us sex DVDs, complete with full Borat "sexytime" hand motions. Can't say I wasn't tempted.

Arlene's Band

An example of globalization at close to its best at the JZ Club in Shanghai last night. The band had a Japanese pianist, a white bassist from Cleveland, a black drummer from Brooklyn, a Jewish saxophonist (from America?), and a lead singer from the Philippines. But most importantly, they had an awesome sound! Each musician had wonderful "lines" (Nick told me this term) and they worked very well together. Coupled with Arlene's incredibly full and clean voice, it all made for fantastic show.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Overheard in Shanghai

Both quotes were in the Old Town area of Shanghai, which has been re-created to look like Old Shanghai, but it's sort of tacky with tons of shops trying to sell you kitschy Chinese stuff. However, it's also home to the beautiful Yu Yuan (gardens), which draws lots of tourists, including myself.

1. Outside the best xiaolongbao (Shanghai soup dumplings) place in the city. There is consistently a 45-minute line, but the dumplings are delicious.

American tourist (while looking at the dumpling restaurant): Are we close to the McDonald's yet?

2. Walking in the heart of the Old Town shopping area.

American mom (gesturing at Chinese-style sloping roof that is EVERYWHERE in this area): Wow, look up there kids, that is so Chinesey. You're not gonna find anything much more Chinesey than that. We better take a picture.
American kid: Mom, what's Chinesey?

Sunday, April 01, 2007


-On the internet here I cannot access Wikipedia or any blogs (on Blogger) directly. However, I can blog (obviously) and I can view blog posts through Google Reader. Fascinating.

-In Beijing, I used nothing but 1 kuai notes, but in Shanghai I was confronted by the 1 kuai coin. Smart move Shanghai, you're ahead of the curve. Coins stay in circulation a lot longer and are actually easier to deal with in the long run.

-Tonight I saw Nick perform in a Chinese punk rock Battle of the Bands. Suffice it to say that these kids love cross-dressing and throwing panties around on stage (and wearing panties outside of their pants like Superman). Nick is the one with the hooded sweatshirt. Also, note the MAN in the blue wig.


While I was strolling along the Bund today, an overcast and gloomy sky quickly became a pouring rainstorm. But, silly me, I had forgotten my umbrella! Luckily, an umbrella salesman quickly ran up to me and shoved a couple of options in my face.

Me (showing off my minimal Chinese skills): Duoshao (How much)?
Him: Ershi (20) kuai.
At this point I gave him a quizzical expression and started to walk away, knowing full well that I would not get drenched because...
Him: Shi (10) kuai.

And that, my friends, is why I am dry AND using the internet essentially for free.

Strange Flavors

I finally broke down and bought some Lay's Stax Crispy Roasted Chicken Flavor potato chips. And they're actually sort of good. Not, I'll go out of my way to get them good, but they are I will eat them and not throw them away good. However, the Crispy Roasted Chicken Flavor only begins to scratch the surface of the flavored chips market here. There's Fried Prawn (which might be tasty...), Mexican Tomato Chicken, and many more. I'll let you know if I try them. The Chinese have some weird tastes.