MPR’s Mid-Morning on December 26; Offline ’til January 5, 2009

Just a quick announcement to let interested readers know that I’ll be a guest for the first hour of Minnesota Public Radio’s Midmorning with Keri Miller on December 26. That’s 9 AM to 10 AM for folks in the Central Time Zone, and 11 PM to Midnight for folks in China. We’ll be discussing the effect of the Global Economic Crisis on China (including, yes, the crash in scrap metal prices), and accepting calls from listeners. MPR’s news stream can be accessed by clicking here.

[UPDATE 12/27: There’s an archived version of the show, here. Or you can download it on itunes … just search for MPR Midmorning Hour 1.]

And, as mentioned before, Shanghai Scrap will resume its regular posting, er, schedule on January 5, 2009. In the meantime, may all your holiday specials be this trippy.

Why China’s Block of the New York Times Doesn’t Matter (As Much As It Once Did).

Earlier this week, Jim Fallows – via his blog – broke the story of the Chinese government’s block of the New York Times website in China. It’s an important story, and a really nifty piece of blogged reporting: Fallows asked his China-based readers to email whether or not they could access the NYT’s site, and by the end of the day, he had his scoop. Who says you can’t report from a desktop?

Anyway, in addition to sending in a Shanghai-based connectivity report to Fallows, I also sent along (a day later) some thoughts on the relative importance of the NYT block in 2008, as compared to the impact of such a block in 2002, when I first moved here. At his suggestion, I’m posting 99% of that email, below (with some hyperlinks and two end notes added):

[UPDATE: The NYT’s site was un-blocked on Monday, Dec. 22. However, I think this post remains relevant, regardless of the NYT’s connectivity status.]


But I have to admit, I can’t help but stand back and compare the relatively minor impact – on me, at least –  of a NYT block in 2008, to the ones that regularly occured when I first moved here in 2002. Back then, I can recall being frustrated to the point of anger at regular blocks on the NYT, LAT, and the WP – they were my primary sources of China news. Knock them out, and my knowledge of China was much less. Flash forward to 2008, and I can tell you that I still read those papers (although, I think the WSJ’s China coverage is, by far, the best of the major American papers), but they are no longer my primary sources of China news. Instead, I start the day with a scan of danwei‘s “from the web”, ESWN, China Environmental Law, and occasionally, Shanghaiist (all of which are reported – as opposed to – opinion blogs). And only then do I move to the traditional media, starting with the SCMP. In fact, at this point, I rarely look at the NYT’s coverage (compare Yardley’s 30 years piece to the SCMP’s much tougher month-long series) due to the fact that it rarely breaks anything that wasn’t on the blogs or in the Hong Kong papers, first. And I’m guessing that I’m not the only one – more and more I’ve noticed major Western papers, and the AP and Reuters, in particular, picking up stories that – in some form – were originally broken on English-language China blogs (ie, the Fallows blog scooped the NYT on news related to their website!). I guess, in a sense, this is no different than what’s happening with political blogs in the US, though the China blogs are a bit different in that they’re often written by people with a specific kind of expertise, and typically involve more reporting than opinionating. Continue reading

Mostly Offline, ’til January 5, 2009

As much as possible, Shanghai Scrap is a reported blog. That is to say, as much as possible, I try to avoid opinionating in favor of reporting and photography. Of course, reporting means getting out, traveling, seeing things, talking to real people. But over the next several weeks I won’t be doing much of that as I finish a long-term book project. My world, for better or worse, is going to be my writing desk, and that is not conducive to Scrap-style blogging.

So, with some reluctance, I’m placing Shanghai Scrap on hold for the next 3.5 weeks. It’s not so long, really, and anyway, it’s the holidays (and you, dear reader, should be out riding in a sleigh, and not reading blogs). Just to be clear: I’m not disappearing, and Shanghai Scrap will return after the New Year’s holiday, on January 5. Until then, and as always, you can reach me via the Contact Form.

In the meantime, get your China blogging fix over at danwei. Then, sit back and enjoy my friend Mara Hvistedahl‘s superbConscience of a Nationalist” over at The New Republic.

Scrap Television

I’m waist deep in a project that’s rising just as fast I as I can keep up, so posting is a bit light these last couple of days. Fortunately, in the last half hour my neighbors invited someone to jackhammer their walls, and so – while I try to find an alternative work location – I thought I’d take a quick break to mention that the UK’s Channel 4 News just posted a very good segment on the famed Ningbo scrap kidnapping and the decline in the international scrap markets (originally reported here). Despite my long-standing aversion to appearing on television (a face made for blogging), I just couldn’t help myself in this instance, and so you can see me, too – your-not-so-fair correspondent – around the 3:40 mark.

[Note: Folks arriving at this post via google searches for “scrap televisions” should click here and here for actual info on how the those pesky devices are handled in China.]

[Tip: If you happen to be dragging this morning, or in need of some help writing a fight sequence, and nobody’s jackhammering your neighbor’s walls, try this around the 3:30 mark.]

Full Bloom

I’ve been covering the design, production and installation of the new stained glass windows for Shanghai’s St. Ignatius Cathedral for nearly five years, now (this 2006 story for the LA Times Sunday Magazine is my lengthiest piece on the subject), and I’ve been witness to some very interesting moments along the way, but today – by far – was the most interesting and moving of all. Two weeks ago, designer Wo Ye, and her crew, began installing the cathedral’s twenty, third-level nave windows (roughly 60 feet above the floor); today they finished the process and thereby transformed an austere building, into a warm one bathed in yellows and golds. Below, an image of the left side of the nave, and the reflections cast by five of the seven new, six-foot windows that line it (click for an enlargement).

The white light on the vaults at the far end is unflitered sunlight coming through the last of the three windows yet to be installed. After the jump, some portraits of the completed windows, and a few extras … [note: the photos are posted at a slightly higher resolution that I typically use, so they may load sluggishly on a slower connection] Continue reading

Scrapped – at the Atlantic

The Atlantic Online has just posted “Scrapped,” a brief dispatch I wrote from an interesting, emergency pow-wow between China’s biggest scrap importers, and the world’s largest scrap exporters, back in November. It also includes a slide show – “Where America Recycles” of images that I’ve taken in various Chinese recycling facilities over the last six years.

The crash – and it’s a crash, believe me – in the world scrap recyclables market began in September, but – up until a couple of weeks ago – the story was mostly confined to financial wires and trade publications. That’s beginning to change. Today, for example, China Law Blog has a very interesting post on the subject. And my friends at the ground-breaking MinnPost in Minneapolis have an excellent piece on how the situation is hurting small, independent US scrappers. Both worth reading.

Useful Phrases for a Lost Shanghai

[updated with a few more phrases … I couldn’t help myself.]

This afternoon, while researching a topic wholly unrelated to Shanghai dialect, I somehow landed upon Useful Phrases in the Shanghai Dialect (1908), a lost treasure from a lost Shanghai (click for an enlargement).

Published in 1908 by the American Presbyterian Mission Press (which, apparently, had an office in Shanghai), and digitized by google (thank you), this marvelous 113 page phrasebook inadvertently provides a more realistic – and caustic – view into the lives of Shanghai’s early 20th century colonial expatriate community than any period-era film or novel could ever hope to capture. For those interested, you can find the entire text, for free download, at google books. For now, and after the jump, a few select pages to provide a sense of just what’s buried within … Continue reading