Boing Boing 

Star Wars with Chinese characteristics


Jeff writes, "Chinese historian Maggie Greene has recently written about one of the strangest treasures in her collection: a Chinese comic book version of Star Wars from 1980, which she aptly describes (with scans to prove it!) as 'a fascinating document' that includes images she thinks may reveal 'a fanciful imagining' of life in a then dimly understood America or generalized West. She notes, for example, a 'dinner scene where a duck (?) is being stuck into a toaster oven (!) & the table has not only a little hot plate, but a crockpot (or rice cooker) there, too.' Whoever drew the pictures, she also points out, 'makes some amusing flubs -- Chewbacca appears in some scenes in a relatively credible way, in others looking like an outtake from Planet of the Apes. It also often looks like something out of a Cold War-era propaganda poster, at least where the details are concerned. Were the actors really garbed in Soviet looking space suits? Was Darth Vader really pacing before a map bearing the location of the Kennedy Space Center?' [For those who can't get enough of this topic, there are related tweets by both @mcgreenesd Greene herself and Chinese literary translator and now Chinese studies grad student @bokane Brendan O'Kane"

A Long Time Ago in a China Far, Far Away …

North Korean science fiction and the Maoist road to Mars


Jeff sez, "The Journal of Asian Studies has two science fiction-related essays: a full-length study that focuses on North Korean sci-fi stories of the 1950s and 1960s, which were intended for children and influenced by Soviet works of the time; it's paired with a shorter comment that explores parallels between texts Zur analyzes and SF produced in Mao era China."

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China to US over hacking charges: you are 'such a mincing rascal'

The Unit 61398 building in Shanghai that Washington says is the origin of attacks on American computer systems. Photograph: Carlos Barria/Reuters


The Unit 61398 building in Shanghai that Washington says is the origin of attacks on American computer systems. Photograph: Carlos Barria/Reuters

From the government-controlled China Daily on the recent US charges of hacking by China: "We should encourage organizations and individuals whose rights have been infringed to stand up and sue Washington. Regarding the issue of network security, the US is such a mincing rascal that we must stop developing any illusions about it."

US indictment of Chinese hackers is kinda awkward

A map of China is seen through a magnifying glass on a computer screen showing binary digits in Singapore in this January 2, 2014 photo illustration. Picture taken January 2, 2014. REUTERS/Edgar Su.


A map of China is seen through a magnifying glass on a computer screen showing binary digits in Singapore in this January 2, 2014 photo illustration. Picture taken January 2, 2014. REUTERS/Edgar Su.

The Justice Department this week indicted five hackers linked to China’s People’s Liberation Army. The hackers are accused of stealing data from six US companies, and represent a "cyberwar" escalation with China: what was a diplomatic discomfort is now a criminal matter. "But cybersecurity policy-watchers say that the arrival of the indictments in the wake of Snowden’s serial revelations could both lessen the charges’ impact and leave American officials open to parallel criminal allegations from Chinese authorities," writes Wired's Andy Greenberg.

Greenpeace: Heavy metals pollution in China makes 'Cadmium rice' a growing problem

Image: Greenpeace


Image: Greenpeace

Greenpeace this week released a report on soil and rice crops sampled in villages close to a concentration of heavy metals smelters in China's Hunan Province, "an area that ranks first in rice output and among the top five in nonferrous metals production." The results showed that both rice and soil near the industrial complex are contaminated by heavy metals, including lead. "12 out of all 13 rice samples contained excessive levels of cadmium." Read the "Cadmium rice" report at Greenpeace East Asia. Here's a related piece at the New York Times.

Chinese censor prosecuted for taking bribes to censor remarks companies and government officials disliked

Censorship invites abuse. In China, the widespread practice of Internet censorship means that lots of people are authorized to hand down censorship orders and lots more people naturally turn to censorship when something on the Internet bugs them. This week, Chinese authorities prosecuted an "Internet policeman" who took payments from companies in return for censoring unfavorable remarks about them on social media. He's accused of censoring more than 2,500 posts in return for over $300K in payments. He also collaborated with another official to censor critical remarks about government officials. It seems unlikely that Gu, the Internet policeman who was arrested, and Liu, his collaborator, were the only two censors-for-hire in the Chinese system.

Lest you think that this problem is uniquely Chinese, consider that when Wikileaks leaked the Great Firewall of Australia's blacklist, we learned that more the half the sites on the list didn't meet the censorship criteria. And when the Danish and Swedish blacklists were analyzed, it emerged that more than 98 percent of the sites blocked did not meet the official criteria for censorship. And in the UK, the national firewall once blocked all of Wikipedia.

China Prosecuted Internet Policeman In Paid Deletion Cases

NSA hacked Huawei, totally penetrated its networks and systems, stole its sourcecode


A new Snowden leak details an NSA operation called SHOTGIANT through which the US spies infiltrated Chinese electronics giant Huawei -- ironically, because Huawei is a company often accused of being a front for the Chinese Peoples' Liberation Army and an arm of the Chinese intelligence apparatus. The NSA completely took over Huawei's internal network, gaining access to the company's phone and computer networks and setting itself up to conduct "cyberwar" attacks on Huawei's systems.

The program apparently reached no conclusion about whether Huawei was involved in espionage. However, the NSA did identify many espionage opportunities in compromising Huawei, including surveillance of an undersea fiber optic cable that Huawei is involved with.

Read the rest

From Snowden to Decoded: spies in China


Jeffrey sez, "Paul French, who recently won an Edgar in the true crime category, uses the forthcoming US publication of Decoded, the first spy novel by a PRC author to be translated into English, as a jumping off point for a Los Angeles Review of Books 'China Blog' post on the ongoing allure of Asian settings for authors of fictional works of intrigue."

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Super Mario Brothers music performed on a Sheng

In this video, a young musician called Li-Jin Lee performs the Super Mario theme (complete with eerily accurate SFX on a Sheng, an ancient Chinese reed instrument) at the National Concert Hall in Taipei, as part of a lecture on the Sheng.

Taiwan Philharmonic (NSO) - "The Power of Sheng" w. Super Mario 超級瑪莉 (via Kottke)

Like a zombie, China's Jade Rabbit lunar rover hops to life again after malfunction


A photograph of the giant screen at the Beijing Aerospace Control Center shows photo of the Yutu, or "Jade Rabbit" lunar rover taken by the camera on the Chang'e 3 probe during the mutual-photograph process, in Beijing December 15, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer

Earlier this week, it looked like China's malfunctioning lunar rover might be headed for the junk pile. But the week ends with great news: "Yutu has come back to life!" spokesperson Pei Zhaoyu told a Chinese state-run news agency. The probe " went into sleep under an abnormal status," he added.

The rover isn't out of the space woods yet: While normal signal reception capabilities have reportedly been restored, the cause of the initial issues remains unclear -- as does whether they can be fixed. But Pei says Jade Rabbit "stands a chance of being saved now that it is still alive."
A well-linked roundup at the Washington Post.

Chinese-language Bing searches in the USA censored to match mainland Chinese results

Freeweibo, an anti-censorship organization that works on free speech issues in China, has discovered that the Chinese version of Microsoft's Bing search-engine censors its US version to match the censored results that would be shown within China. Search terms such as "Dalai Lama, June 4 incident (how the Chinese refer to the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989), Falun Gong and FreeGate" return results dominated by censored Chinese news outlets like Baidu Baike and Chinese state broadcaster CCTV. The same searches run on the English version of Bing return pages from Wikipedia, BBC, the New York Times, etc.

Google's Chinese-language competitor displays much more parity between the Chinese and English editions -- the Chinese Google results for controversial subjects include Chinese articles from the BBC and Wikipedia.

Microsoft will not comment on the matter.

Update: Microsoft has commented:

"Bing does not apply China's legal requirements to searches conducted outside of China," Bing Senior Director Stefan Weitz notes in a prepared statement. "Due to an error in our system, we triggered an incorrect results-removal notification for some searches noted in the report, but the results themselves are and were unaltered outside of China.

As of 10PM Pacific on 12 Feb, many of the "controversial" search terms still generate results pages dominated by Chinese state media.

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Stretchy, slinkoid sculptures made from fan-folded cut paper


Artist Li Hongbo produces gorgeous sculptures made from meticulously cut sheets of fan-folded paper, stacked tightly so that the pieces appear to be made of solid composite or stone. But when Li pulls at them, they stretch and slide most gloriously, turning into slinkoid paper-chains that are pure visual hilarity.

A special report on Arrestedmotion showcases some of the best of Li's work, which is on display at the Klein Sun Gallery in NYC.

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China's love affair with "Take Me Home Country Roads"

Jeffrey sez, "The nice responses to my essay on 'Hotel California', has emboldened me to send a follow up on the curious life in China of another American song from the 1970s. Namely, the one that finds John Denver waxing nostalgic about West Virginia."

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Stamping Chinese banknotes with censorship-busting QR codes


An anonymous anti-censorship group is stamping Chinese banknotes with a QR code and the message "Scan and download software to break the Internet firewall." The stamps encode a URL for Freegate, a firewall-busting service. The stamps are widely suspected to be the work of Falun Gong, an outlawed religious sect that has a long history of supplying anti-censorship technology inside of mainland China, both to supply access to its own censored websites and to advertise the virtues of its belief-system to Chinese Internet users who are more interested in beating censorship than religion.

The money-stamping story has been big news in China, even attracting reportage in state-run media, where the comment-sections are full of Chinese Internet users complaining that the photos of the stamped money are too low-rez to be scanned in.

This isn't the first time that anti-corruption messages have been circulated through defaced currency: Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry's fame runs the Stamp Stampede, which stamps messages condemning the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, which opened the floodgates of unlimited, anonymous political campaign spending.

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Lunar panorama stitched from Chinese Chang'e lander images

Jeffrey sez, "Our esteemed interplanetary panorama enthusiast, Andrew Bodrov, has done it again (previously, this time being the first to stitch a 360 from the new Chinese moon lander!

Lunar panorama: Chang'e 3 lander (Thanks, Jeffrey!)

Shanghai hotel provides smog-masks for guests


Redditor Mthomaseddy snapped this photo of the elegantly packaged "gas mask" (apparently an air-filter mask, not something to be used in gas-attacks) that was waiting in his room at the Shanghai Fairmont when he checked in. China's pretty damned smoggy these days.

Shanghai hotels know how to pamper you (via Super Punch)

The best business card in the world

If The New York Times were for sale, it would have an interesting billionaire bidder: Guangbiao Chen, said to be China's most influential person, most prominent philanthropist, moral leader, earthquake rescue hero, well-known and beloved Chinese role model, most charismatic philanthropist, top low carbon emission and environmental protection advocate, and foremost environmental preservation demolition expert. [via Business Insider]

Guardian blocked in China

The Guardian has been blocked in China since Tuesday, though no one (apart from China's censors) knows why.

2013 sent Chinese science fiction into orbit


In the 1950s, America's burgeoning space program goosed the science fiction writers and fans who'd already been enthusiastic and optimistic about space, sparking a frenzy of onward-and-upward-looking fiction. China's 2013 moonshot and taikonaut programs have had a similar effect on Chinese culture. Jeffrey Wasserstrom's "year in Chinese science fiction" is an eye-opening and exciting look at the way that Space Race 2.0 is creating science fictional narratives in China, and the English-language opportunities to peer in at it (like Tor Books's forthcoming translation of Liu Cixin’s bestselling "Three-Body Trilogy"):

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Chinese World of Warcraft crime-boss sentenced to two years


The leader of a clan of Chinese Warcraft fences has been sentenced to two years in prison and been fined $8,000 for buying stolen World of Warcraft logins, then logging into the accounts and selling off all their virtual gold and assets. They reportedly attacked 11,500 accounts and netted $10,800.

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Replace bank chiefs with small dogs: Chinese top economist


China's former chief economist has excoriated the nation's banking system, which charges high fees and maintains a greedy-large gap between its deposit interest and lending interest rates.

Such a business provides no value, and is merely parasitic on the people: "With this kind of operational model, banks will continue making money even if all the bank presidents go home to sleep and you replaced them by putting a small dog in their seats."

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How is China's lunar mission going? Here's a rover postcard from the moon.


"The Chang'e 3 lander took this photo of the rover Yutu on December 22, 2013. The rover had completed a semicircular tour of the lander and was departing the lander due south. This version of the image has been white-balanced and color-corrected." Image: CNSA / Gordan Ugarkovic

Planetary Society blogger Emily Lakdawalla has posted a roundup of what China's lunar rover Yutu has been up to on the Chang'e 3 unmanned space exploration mission. Lots of pictures.

Auctioning a conceptual copy of Banksy's thrifted "Banality of the Banality of Evil" to benefit 826 Valencia


A San Francisco artist commissioned a Chinese artist to make a copy of "The Banality of the Banality of Evil" -- a painting that Banksy thrifted, added a Nazi to, and shop-dropped back into the thrift store. The copy, called "The Banality Of The Banality Of The Banality Of Evil," is now being auctioned to support 826 Valencia, a literacy for kids program in San Francisco.

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Severed hand grafted to ankle, reattached to wrist a month later


When Xiao Wei's right hand was severed in an industrial accident, doctors at a hospital in Changde, China, grafted it to his ankle. The blood supply from his ankle kept the hand alive and viable on the seven-hour journey to a larger hospital with better facilities, where it was removed a month later from his ankle and reattached to his wrist. It's not clear whether he'll regain the use of his hand, but doctors are hopeful.

Severed hand saved after being attached to man’s ankle [Metro]

(via JWZ)

(Image: Rex)

Shareholder sues IBM for spying on China, wiping $12.9B off its market cap

A pension fund with a large stake in IBM is suing the company for colluding with the NSA and lobbying for the right to spy on Chinese customers. The Louisiana Sheriffs' Pension & Relief Fund claims that the company's behavior resulted in a $12.9 billion drop in its market cap.

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Bunnie Huang explains the nuts-and-bolts of getting stuff made in Shenzhen

In this talk from Maker Faire New York, Bunnie Huang of Chibitronics gives an amazing run-down of the on-the-ground reality of having electronics manufactured in Shenzhen, China. It's a wild 30 minutes, covering everything from choosing a supplier to coping with squat toilets and the special horrors awaiting vegetarians in the Pearl River Delta. There are some dropouts at the start of the video that you'll need to scroll past, but it's well worth the hassle.

Getting it Made: Stories from Shenzhen (via Make)

China air pollution from space

Speaks for itself, doesn't it? NASA:

When the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite acquired this image on December 7, 2013, thick haze stretched from Beijing to Shanghai, a distance of about 1,200 kilometers (750 miles). For comparison, that is about the distance between Boston, Massachusetts, and Raleigh, North Carolina. The brightest areas are clouds or fog. Polluted air appears gray. While northeastern China often faces outbreaks of extreme smog, it is less common for pollution to spread so far south.

China City of America coming to the Catskills?

Chinacity6n 6 web

Chinese developers are vying to build a massive China-themed retail center and casino in New York's Catskills. The 600-acre project is called "China City of America" and, surprise, it's highly controversial. I think it might do better in the hometown of hyperreality, Las Vegas! You can see the pitch at the China City of America site and read about it below:

"Developers pitch bringing a piece of China to Sullivan County" (YNN)

"Mysterious China-themed 'city' proposed in New York’s Catskills" (Fox News, thanks Bob Pescovitz!)

China launches lunar probe

The China National Space Administration has launched Chang'e 3, a plutonium-powered lunar lander on-board a 185-foot-tall Long March 3B rocket. The lander is on a four-day trajectory for the lunar surface, and will brake and enter lunar orbit on December 6th. It is scheduled to land on December 14th, in the Bay of Rainbows (Sinus Iridum). The rover masses 140kg, with nuclear heaters to keep systems alive during the two-week-long lunar nights, and will use radar to probe the lunascape as it roves during its mission. It is also outfitted with high-resolution panoramic cameras and telescopes. The Chinese space program's stated goal is to establish a space-station and autonomous landers that can return to Earth with samples.

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What is China censoring today?

According to a recent study by ProPublica, images insta-censored on China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo include pics of corrupt politician Bo Xilai yawning, archive images of the Korean war, and the lead singer of underground rock group Happy Avenue. [BBC]