Kristie Lu Stout


Forced exorcism in Hong Kong shopping mall

You don't need to be demon-possessed to experience an exorcism. Just walk into the wrong shopping mall in Hong Kong.

A Taoist master is accused of trying to extort nearly $5,000 for an unsolicited exorcism. From CNNGo:

We're strolling through a shopping mall, minding our own business, when we're suddenly pounced on by a Taoist priest telling us that we're possessed by an evil ghost who is hell-bent on killing us within three days. Temple workers proceed to grab hold of us and an exorcism is performed despite our protests. After an hour of struggle, the evil ghost is purged and we're asked to cough up HK$36,000 for the Taoist priest's good deed.

At least that's the picture that a 23-year-old woman surnamed Tang presented to the police. The priest's disciples even filmed the entire process of the exorcism and put it on Youtube. The woman was held down by five people while the priest covered her head with a red cloth. While she struggled, she was told to keep silent as the priest and his disciples were talking to the ghost.

The forced exorcism is captured on video (see above), and produced -- along with animated dramatization -- by Hong Kong's Next Media. (This is the same group made famous worldwide for the Tiger Woods car crash animation.)

Not quite Linda Blair. But definitely worse than that unsolicited cologne spritz at the mall.

Thanks Zoe!

"There are no dissidents in China."

MOFAbeijing.jpg "There are no dissidents in China."

That's a direct quote from China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman.

Ma Zhaoxu was asked earlier today about a Beijing court upholding an 11 year jail term for Liu Xiaobo, one of China's most high-profile activists.

According to him, they simply don't exist.

And with the Lunar New Year around the corner, China's foreign ministry spokesman also wished reporters at the press conference a "Happy New Year." But that wish came with a warning.

Ma said, "I just want to remind all journalists that next year is the Year of the Tiger and to be very careful when asking questions, to be cautious at our pressers. Otherwise the tiger here might not be very happy with you."

China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs then proceeded to give a toy tiger to each reporter in the room.

多谢 Emily, Jo and Remko!

Chinese netizens stage virtual protest

It's a direct challenge to China's Internet filtering regime... shot entirely within World of Warcraft.

"War of Internet Addiction" is an hour-long protest machinima. It satirizes Beijing's attempt to "harmonize" China's Internet with forced installations of the Green Dam censorware.

Bit of background. "Harmonize" (和谐) is popular China Net-speak for being censored (as it's done under the slogan of "constructing a harmonious society.")

"War of Internet Addiction" was directed by Twitter user CorndogCN, and made with dozens of volunteers on no budget (other than WoW fees).

According to Youku.com, more than 10 million Chinese netizens have seen the movie.

To navigate the language barriers and cultural in-jokes, read the in-depth analysis by DigiCha and Youku Buzz.

Check it out while you can. It hasn't been harmonized... yet.

(Thanks, Bill!)

1980s "China retro" shop opens in Shanghai

retro80schinastore.jpg In America, the 80s brought us Max Headroom and power shoulder pads.

While in China, it was poly-fiber track suits and the omnipresent black handbag.

The "romance and energy of 1980s China" is now captured in Shanghai's new Nengmao store (the original closed last year). The name comes from a misspelling from storeowner Xixi's youth.

He says,"Neng Mao was a tiny misspelling of the word "panda" in pinyin Chinese, that I made in elementary school. For some reason, this mistake always reminds me how silly but sweet childhood is. Now I've made this little misspelled creature come to life and hope to remind everyone of the happiness of our childhood."

The new Nengmao store is in Shanghai's French Concession: Shanxi Nan Lu, Lane 38, No. 96, close to Xinle Lu.

Nengmao products also available online (Chinese only).

多谢 NeochaEDGE!

Valentine's Day... with ventricles

ventriclevalentine.jpg Given my nerd-love for all things literal, I am quite taken by this silver Anatomical Heart Locket spotted on Etsy.

It opens up to reveal the four chambers of the heart, and is held shut by the trunk of the aorta. And yes, the chain is attached via the superior vena cava and the left pulmonary vein.

No detail has gone ignored... (save actual blood).

Thanks Coolhunting!

My own private... hydrogen power station?

hydrofillpic.jpg

For years, it's been called the fuel of the future. But I wasn't expecting THIS vision just yet.

Hydrogen fuel cell technology was first embraced a few years back by carmakers eager to go green. The big obstacle? Hydrogen at the pump wasn't available, and was expensive to produce.

But one inventor hope to change that.

Hubbing through Hong Kong, Taras Wankewycz showed me a table-top hydrogen power station that can extract hydrogen from water to be used in fuel cells.

The Hydrofill uses electricity from the outlet (as well as solar panels if you're particularly green), and produces hydrogen that can then be stored in refillable cartridges. The system can pump out 2.5 watts of power.

(And brushing Hindenburg nightmares aside, the company insists the technology is safe.)

Read the rest

Pen spinning gets competitive in Hong Kong

They fight with felt tips, and do battle with ball points.

They... are Hong Kong's competitive pen spinners.

I had no idea this subculture existed beyond the brio-spinning guy who sat in the back of my high school Trig class. But, yup, they're out there.

My pals at CNN Go recently attended a pen spinning rumble, put together to determine the Hong Kong representative for the Pen Spinning World Tournament.

About 100 contestants were judged on the style, difficulty, creativity, and fluidity of their pen spinning... and they twirled their way though a mind-boggling range of pen tricks with names like "Infinity" and "Sonic."

Big congrats and best of luck to 14-year old Eugene Wong. The Hong Kong 2010 champ will represent the territory for the world title next year.

But the Hong Kong Pen Spinning Association Chairman keeps it all in perspective. "I don't think we should put too much emphasis on ranking," he says. "The most important thing is we are working towards our dream."

And why not? It is the only weapon on earth (dramatic pause)... mightier than the sword.

Shanghai's Crackdown on... Pajamas

pajamasshanghai.JPG As Beijing restricts online dissent and Urumqi clamps down on separatists, Shanghai is cracking down on... (wait for it)... pajama-wearing in public.

The wearing of colorful, boldly-printed pajamas in public has been popular in the city for years, and well-documented on Flickr as well as National Geographic.

But with the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai just three months away, city officials have launched a public etiquette clampdown targeting the unseemly practice.

The South China Morning Post reports that the city's Qiba neigborhood "has mobilized neighborhood committee officials and volunteers since July to talk people out of the habit of wearing pajamas in public."

The article also consults Chinese sociologist Zhang Jiehai, who says pajama-wearing in public began "as a matter of practicality because people lived in cramped conditions with no clear line between public space and private place."

Private pajama parties, anyone?

SUMO'S BAD BOY RETIRES

Asashoryupose.jpg The big story out of Japan today isn't fallout from Toyota's global recall, but the exit of sumo bad boy Asashoryu.

The grand champion wrestler announced his retirement today, after allegations he attacked a man in Tokyo last month (and broke his nose).

In a press conference, a teary Asashoryu said, "I am taking responsibility for having caused so much trouble."

Asashoryu (whose real name is Dolgorsuren Dagvadorj) is a 330 pound Mongolian who rose to the top of Japan's national sport.

And he's no stranger to controversy. In 2003, he was disqualified for pulling the top-knot of an opponent -- a big no-no in sumo.

And in 2007, he was suspended after skipping a regional tour due to a claimed injury... and later filmed playing soccer in Mongolia. (Busted.)

Eyeing the Tiger: Feng Shui Index

clsafinaltiger.JPG Here in Hong Kong, investors can "feng shui" their finances.

The Year of the Tiger starts February 14th. But the Feng Shui Index, produced by Asian investment bank CLSA, marks the start of the year today -- February 4 -- as it's the first day of spring according to the solar calendar.

Solar/lunar issues aside, it's gonna be a bumpy year.

Tiger years are usually marked by dramatic changes. According to the guide, "Markets (in Hong Kong) will be volatile with a surge in the first month followed by a decline that turns upwards in June, dips and then swings up again in September."

The Feng Shui Index identifies the year's big winners by analyzing the elemental sign that they're aligned with. For example, companies associated with metal elements will have a great run, and the index predicts that gold will break $2000 an ounce this year.

But water-related industries -- like shipping, logistics and transport -- could see their positions weaken.

The popular index made its debut in 1992. Despite its tongue-in-cheek tone, some of their past forecasts have been on the money -- like gold breaking $1,000 an ounce and the resurgence of the China property markets during the last year, the Year of the Ox.

In terms of the Zodiac, a great year is in store for those born in the year of the Dragon, Sheep and especially the Horse. A relatively good year is ahead for Rats, Cows, Rabbits, Roosters, Dogs and Pigs. But for the Tigers, Snakes and Monkeys out there -- it will be a rough one.

I'm a Tiger.

Thankfully, there are Feng Shui measures to bring a bit of good luck in a bad year like the wearing of red underwear (I'm not making this up).

That to be continued... in another post.

Back to the Moon... in Lego

moonlegocool.jpg President Obama's proposed budget may have put the brakes on NASA's return trip to the moon. But a girl can still dream...

In Lego.

The image is a new addition to the Vintage Ad Browser, a German Lego ad from 1983.

Rough translation? "Base to space cruiser, we're prepared for your landing."

China's Chuck Taylors

WarriorShoesGirl.jpg WarriorShoesGroup.jpg

"Warrior" is a 75 year old shoe brand from Shanghai. Its original mission? To outfit China's athletes with a simple and lightweight canvas trainer.

Known in Chinese as "Hui Li" (回力), the brand was a footwear favorite in China from the 60s to the early 80s. Today, not so much. Most Chinese youth prefer to be seen in Nike or Adidas.

But these days, "Warrior" is out to score a new audience in the West by positioning itself as a sort of hipster trainer with a story to tell.

And let it be known, these are award-winning shoes. According to its China-based website, "Warrior" shoes have "successively won the State Silver Medal for Quality, the prize of the Chemical industry Ministry for high-quality products and the prize of Shanghai for products."

Booyah. Or, as they say in China, 加油!