Monthly Archives: September 2011

Other Obscura / ,

One Politician You Can Count On

We haven’t set foot in Bangkok in far too long. Months. But fortunately, AsiaObscura eyes are growing more populous, and reader Matt Smith wrote in with this great pair of electoral campaign posters.

What a smile! What a dog! (Pity about that shit kid he had to deal with.)

You can surely find more Obscurata in Matt’s Thai Diary, from Amazon.

Jim S., one of our favorite resources for Chinese and Thai scoops, writes that the poster translates to “When you need honesty”. He continued that, “Chuvit is not a member of any party, and was elected MP as a protest. He attacks everyone. Interesting person. Lots of educated young Thais in Bangkok voted for him.”

May S. writes that the second poster reads “something about politics being a diaper that needs to be changed when it’s full of shit. Most Thais think of him as a funny straight-forward politician and he finally got his seat this time, although his first day at the parliament was not that good.”

/ by Dean Pickles / Leave a comment
Historical Wonders /

Pages from an Amazing English Textbook

Back in the cultural revolution, China was in turmoil. Almost anything could get you in trouble. Han Xin, a blacklisted artist, told me that painting the sun the wrong shade of red would mean jail time. Absolutely everything had to be in unquestionable service to Mao and a Maoist China.

The only plays were revolutionary operas and ballets. The movies were all incredible revolutionary melodramas.

And the English books? Well, they were few. But they, too, were one hundred percent revolutionary.

My good friend Ginger recently gave me this incredible English language textbook printed in June 1971, the height of the cultural revolution. It sold for 2 cents, and has 81 pages of Maoist lessons on learning English.

But why would closed-off in-focused China want to study English in 1971? I’d thought it would even be illegal. But no. “With English as a tool,” Lesson Six’s dialogue reads defensively, “we propagate Mao Tsetung Thought among the people of the world. With English as a weapon, we fight against the imperialists, revisionists and all reactionaries.”

It’s absolutely fantastic. Simple grammar is explained with military furor. “I ___ a Red Guard. She ___ a Little Red Soldier. We ___ Chairman Mao’s Red Guards.” (The appropriate forms of the verb “to be” are hand-written in.)

Class discussions are focused along themes such as “Who are our enemies?” and “How many militiamen are there in your company?”

Vocab samples include “re-educate,” “oppress,” “put [as in ‘put proletarian ideology in first place’],” and “running dog [as in ‘Defeat the U.S. Aggressors and All Their Running Dogs’].”

My favorite part of the book is the notes made by the original owner. Some of them are simple — the pronunciation of “construction” (“kan’straksan”), underlined words, lots of marks my linguist friends would probably recognize.

But then, in the middle of Lesson Eight (“The Happiest Day in My Life”), he strikes out several lines. It appears as below:

“At 10 a.m., the happiest moment came! Chairman Mao and his close comrade-in-arms Vice-Chairman Lin Piao walked up the Tien An Men rostrum. In excellent health and high spirits, Chairman Mao warmly waved to the revolutionary masses. Millions of red hearts turned to the red sun. We cheered again and again.”

Lin Biao’s Chinese name, 林彪, is scribbled out. It’s almost unreadable.

In September 1971, a few months after this book was printed, Lin Piao/Biao died in a mysterious plane crash. He was Mao’s planned successor, but Mao was a jealous and paranoid man at this time. Lin Biao may have been fleeing for fear of his life, or perhaps — as is recorded in China — fleeing from a failed coup against Mao. Perhaps he was murdered. Perhaps he died in error. It’s all very unclear. But overnight he went from national hero to national traitor. His name was struck from books like these, his deeds struck from history. I’m sure every version of this book has the same line struck out.

See below for more pictures from this curious and crazy textbook. And don’t miss a similar book I recently picked up in North Korea.

/ by Dean Pickles / 4 Comments
Holy Curiosities, Theme Parks / ,

15 More Pictures from weirdoid Tiger Balm Park

AsiaObscura friend Dawn Xiana Moon ( sent over a pile more pix from the absolutely incredible statues and terrifying dioramas at Tiger Balm Park aka Har Paw Villa. See our original story here, or click on her pix below for full-sized versions….

/ by Dean Pickles / Leave a comment
Holy Curiosities, Theme Parks /

The Creepiest Amusement Park of All Time?

Singapore is bland. It’s a high-priced row of shopping malls and fine eateries, with a few hawker markets thrown in. “It’s soooooo boring,” warned my hairdresser Miss P.

But then you stumble on something like this. The Tiger Balm Gardens: The most disturbing theme park of all time.

There’s sex, violence, bear-maulings and scabies. Statues of slutty immoral crotch-grabbing wenches, and creepy animals dressed as humans. Down a dark musty cave, a terrifying tableaux displays every vengeance that awaits you in the hell you’ll surely meet.

Continue reading »»

/ by Dean Pickles / 11 Comments
Chinglish / ,

Possibly the Best Menu of All Time

Beijing’s Cultural Revolution Restaurant has one of the most bizarre stage shows (video here) and some entirely inappropriate fashion statements, too, but it also has one of the worst best menus I’ve yet seen. Here are some of my favorite dishes…

Classic, eh?

/ by Dean Pickles / 3 Comments
Extraordinary Eats / , ,

On Horse Meat Sashimi

It finally happened. We ordered the horse sashimi.

“You want what?” said the waiter, unsure.

“Horse meat,” I slurred in Chinese, that last bottle of sake harming my already-poor pronunciation. “Raw horse meat.”

The waiter looked at WooLand, who wasn’t listening, and then at me, and he finally shrugged and wrote it down. Clearly this wasn’t a dish foreigners often ordered.

马肉刺身 (Mǎròu cìshēn) is apparently a delicacy in Japan, and I’d long been dreaming of ordering it here. It’s served up sliced thin like carpaccio, with mashed ginger and scallions and onions and soy sauce. There, it’s called basashi (馬刺し).

Back home in the States, however, it’s completely illegal. Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Senator, has been working with The Humane Society to make sure no-one enjoys a nice plate of mare. His latest bill, pushing it further, will see that no more “children’s ponies are inhumanely transported and slaughtered, their meat shipped to places like France, Italy, and Japan for human consumption.”

Good thing I wasn’t in France, Italy or Japan!

Here in Beijing, the plate arrived an hour later, the steed gorgeously laid out with thin slices of garlic riding it like little sashimi cowboys.

“No horsin’ around here,” WooLand cried, as she carefully lifted a slice. It was a full, deep red. This is the color of meat. In Japan, the meat is called Sakura (桜), or Sakura Meat (桜肉), because it reminds people of cherry blossoms.

It was also chewy. And dripping, almost as if it had been injected with water.

“All the farmers do this,” my friend Little Yellow had told me, a few days earlier. “They inject their animals with water, so they can sell the meat for more money.” Steaks from our local grocery are heavy, but so bloated they can be ripped apart with your hands.

“I don’t think this is done to horse meat, though,” she told me later. “Beef, and pork, but not horse.”

This sliced stallion maybe was a frozen ride. That hour we waited, an hour of defrosting. I didn’t get the feeling this was a dish many people ordered.

We rolled it up tight around the garlic and scallions, and dipped it in soy sauce. Wrapped in so many flavors, like a burrito, the meat was reduced to a delivery mechanism. A thick and chewy tortilla of spicy glory. Maybe Lindsey has it right. Perhaps this is an inhumane use of a healthy children’s pony.

Next time I’ll try the donkey, and see if that’s any better.

Izaka-Ya, 4 Gongti Beilu (across from Rock and Roll Club, in the alley behind the Bookworm), Chaoyang District, Beijing, China

/ by Dean Pickles / 6 Comments