Posts tagged China

Food Beyond Borders

Here’s a great article by Clarissa Wei, which appeared a while back over at the CNN Travel website. I read it a couple months ago, thanks to a share and some great commentary by Anthony Gregory.

Clarissa Wei: American-Chinese food is real Chinese food

Yes, I’m actually going to defend orange chicken (陈皮鸡).

Fundamentally fried chicken with sauce — the perfect late-night snack and, quite frankly, great drinking food — orange chicken is beloved by millions of people of all ethnic groups (including many Chinese) in the United States.

As with most American-Chinese food, however, there’s a stigma attached to orange chicken.

Chinese food snobs call the dish, as well as the restaurants that serve it, “fake” or “not authentic.”

Superior foodies love nothing more than bashing the chefs and restaurant owners for their alleged perversion of the sacred culinary genre — as if only they know what real Chinese food is, as if someone died and made them arbiter of all Chinese cuisine.

How sad.

Orange chicken, egg foo young (芙蓉蛋) and General Tso’s chicken (左宗堂鸡) have fallen victim to a lot of hatemongers since their introduction to the U.S. culinary scene back in the 19th century.

Those who unapologetically enjoy orange chicken (and many other American-Chinese dishes) and who actually know a little bit about the history of Chinese people outside of China are left to ponder a simple question: What is authenticity?

There’s nothing inauthentic about American-Chinese dishes. The bulk of them were created by Chinese people for Chinese people.

These Chinese people just happened to be living outside of the mother country.

. . . [D]uring the 1840s Gold Rush in California, early Chinese immigrants (most were railroad builders) had no or extremely limited access to traditional Chinese ingredients. So they used what they could find in their new homes to create then-contemporary Chinese dishes, such as the now much-derided chop suey (杂碎), one of the first Chinese dishes invented in the United States. . . . They were made to satisfy the cravings of “real” Chinese people. When railroad work was no longer available, many Chinese laborers resorted to opening restaurants.

. . . “American-Chinese food is Chinese food,” says Julie Lau, owner of Suzie’s on Bleecker Street in New York City. . . . American-Chinese dishes have evolutionarily similarities with Chinese staples. . . . “It’s just the American take on ethnic food.”

So why all the fuss? Why not consider American-Chinese food just another style of Chinese cooking?

— Clarissa Wei, American-Chinese food is real Chinese food
CNN Travel, 7 May 2012.

Well, of course it is real Chinese food. And of course it’s real American food, too.[1] The only reason that it seems like it couldn’t be both is the deeply-engrained, but ultimately completely silly notion that human cultures can be fit into to the same confining borders, the same carved-up exclusivity, and the same nationalized monopolies on allegiance and social support that are currently imposed on people’s political identities in a world of bordered nation-states.

And when you add that completely silly notion to the need for superior foodies to invent new forms of carefully curated expert knowledge, and add in the snobbish and exoticizing notion that the foods eaten by immigrants, by people on the periphery, or by people in the diaspora, somehow count as less really, authentically, or properly part of the national cuisine as the food eaten by people in the capital or the interior, you get exactly this sad and confining sort of stigma. This is as true of immigrant Chinese food as it is of northern Mexican food and of every other kind of so-called inauthentic borderland cuisine that is routinely ranked down by those who imagine that the food cultures of the world somehow map out like the pavillions in Epcot Center, not like the line-crossing, tradition-reworking, living, expanding, adapting, borrowing, overflowing, constantly mutating and constantly interacting and experimenting, profoundly human messes that they really are.

Also.

  1. [1] Thanks to Anthony Gregory for pointing this out on Facebook.

On placing the blame

From Richard Bejtlich, TaoSecurity (2011-04-12):

Bill Sweetman wrote a good article on the new Air Force bomber program titled USAF Bomber Gets Tight Numbers. I found the following paragraph interesting:

One factor will drive up the cost of the bomber’s R&D: its status as a SAP [Special Access Program]. SAP status — whether the program is an acknowledged SAP, as the bomber is likely to be, or completely black — incurs large costs. All personnel have to be vetted before they are read into the program. Information within the program is compartmentalized, reducing efficiency. SAP status has been estimated to add 20% to a program’s cost.

Security for SAP isn’t cheap! Sweetman elaborates:

The most likely reason for this measure is the sensitivity of ELO [extreme low-observable] technology, combined with the fact that the U.S. is the target of what may be the most extensive and successful espionage program in history — China’s Advanced Persistent Threat.

… That means, for this program alone, the APT costs the US taxpayer $8 billion.

Well, no. Taxes cost the U.S. taxpayer $8,000,000,000. And those taxes are collected by the IRS, on behalf of the Department of Defense and the United States Air Force.

The reason that these guys keep extorting billions of dollars from innocent taxpayers is because they insist on building ultra-secret, ultra-high-tech robot bomber death machines, which serve no conceivable defensive purpose[1] but are extensively fitted out for dropping high explosives or thermonuclear weapons on cities full of innocent men, women and children, and to rain devastation on any country in the world without the least threat of retaliation. There is an easy, no-cost way for the Air Force to stop costing the U.S. taxpayer billions of dollars to cope with electronic spying and APT: they can stop building new high-tech bombers. If you don’t have ultra-high tech robot bomber death machines to build, then you don’t have something valuable for the Chinese government, or anyone else, to try to find, and you don’t have to expropriate funds to keep secrets when there is no secret to keep.

You might think that a problem with this plan is that it would impair the United States government’s ability to carry on multiple air and ground wars world-wide. Well, maybe it would. If so, then I think that’s a problem for the United States government, but not a problem for the plan — in fact it would be one of its best features.

  1. [1] At least, if defense is intended to mean defending actual people, rather than the global power of U.S. politicians, or vital national security interests.

Friday Lazy Linking

Wednesday Lazy Linking

  • … but the streets belong to the people! Jesse Walker, Hit & Run (2009-06-10): The People’s Stop Sign. In which people in an Ottawa neighborhood take nonviolent direct action to slow down the traffic flying down their neighborhood streets — by putting up their own stop signs at a key intersection. The city government, of course, is now busy with a Criminal Investigation of the public’s heinous contribution to public safety.

  • Abolitionism is the radical notion that other people are not your property. Darian Worden (2009-06-09): The New Abolitionists The point is that the principles of abolitionism, which held that regardless of popular justifications no human is worthy to be master and no human can be owned by another, when carried to their logical conclusion require this: that no human is worthy of authority over another, and that no person is owed allegiance simply because of political status. When reason disassembles the popular justifications of statism, as advances in political philosophy since the 1850’s have assisted in doing, the consistent abolitionist cannot oppose the voluntaryist principles of the Keene radicals.

  • Mr. Obama, Speak For Yourself. Thomas L. Knapp, Center for a Stateless Society (2009-09-09): Speaking of the State

  • A campaign of isolated incidents. Ellen Goodman, Houston Chronicle (2009-06-08): Sorry, but the doctor’s killer did not act alone

  • Let’s screw all the little guys. Just to be fair. (Or, pay me to advertise my product on your station.) Jesse Walker, Reason (2009-06-09): The Man Can’t Tax Our Music: The music industry wants to impose an onerous new fee on broadcasters.

  • Some dare call it torture. Just not the cops. Or the judges. Wendy McElroy, WendyMcElroy.com (2009-06-08): N.Y. Judge Rules that Police Can Taser Torture in order to coerce compliance with any arbitrary court order. I think that Wendy is right to call pain compliance for what it is — torture (as I have called it here before) — and that it is important to insist on this point as much as possible whenever the topic comes up.

  • On criminalizing compassion. Macon D., stuff white people do (2009-06-05), on the conviction of Walt Staton for knowingly littering water jugs in a wildlife refuge, in order to keep undocumented immigrants from dying in the desert.

  • Freed markets vs. deforesters. Keith Goetzman, Utne Reader Environment (2009-06-04): Do You Know Where Your Shoes Have Been?, on the leather industry and the destruction of the Amazon rainforest. Utne does a good job of pointing out (by quoting Grist’s Tom Philpott) that the problem is deeply rooted in multi-statist neoliberalism: because of the way in which the Brazilian government and the World Bank act together to subsidize the cattle barons and ‘roid up Brazilian cattle ranching, the report is really about the perils of using state policy to prop up global, corporate-dominated trade.

  • Well, Thank God. (Cont’d.) Thanks to the Lord Justice, we now know that Pringles are, in fact, officially potato chips, not mere savory snacks, in spite of the fact that only about 40% of a Pringles crisp is actually potato flour. Language Log takes this case to demonstrate the quasi-Wittgensteinian point that, fundamentalist legal philosophy to one side, there’s actually no such thing as a self-applying law. (Quoting Adam Cohen’s New York Times Op-Ed, Conservatives like to insist that their judges are strict constructionists, giving the Constitution and statutes their precise meaning and no more [linguists groan here], while judges like [Sonia] Sotermayor are activists. But there is no magic way to interpret terms like free speech or due process — or potato chip.) I think the main moral of the story has to do with the absurdity of a political system in which whether or not you can keep $160,000,000 of your own damn money rides on whether or not you can prove to a judge that your savory snack hasn’t got the requisite potatoness to count as a potato crisp for the purposes of law and justice.

  • Small riots will get small attention, no riots get no attention, make a big riot, and it will be handled immediately. Loretta Chao, Wall Street Journal (2009-05-30): In China, a New Breed of Dissidents. The story makes it seem as though the most remarkable thing about the emerging dissident movement is that they are safe enough for the State to tolerate them, rather than launching all out assaults as they did against the Tienanmen dissidents in 1989. Actually, I think that that misses the point entirely; and that the most interesting thing is that they have adopted such flexible and adaptive networking, both tactically and strategically, and that they now so often rise up from the very social classes that the Chinese Communist Party claims to speak for (not just easily-demonized students and intelligentsia, but ordinary farmers, factory workers, and retirees) — that the regime isn’t tolerating them; it just no longer knows what to do with them.

  • Counter-Cooking and Mutual Meals. Julia Levitt, Worldchanging: Bright Green (2009-06-03): Community Kitchens (Via Kevin Carson’s Shared Items.) If I may recommend, if you’re going to work on any kind of community cooking like this, particularly if you’re interested in it partly for reasons of resiliency and building community alternatives, you should do what you can to make sure that it is strongly connected with the local grey-market solidarity economy, through close cooperation with your local Food Not Bombs (as both a source and a destination for food) and other local alternatives to the state-subsidized corporate-consumer model for food distribution.

  • Looking Forward. Shawn Wilbur, In the Libertarian Labyrinth (009-06-06): Clement M. Hammond on Police Insurance. An excerpt on policing in a freed society, from individualist anarchist Clement M. Hammond’s futurist utopian novel, Then and Now which originally appeared in serialized form in Tucker’s Liberty in 1884 and 1885. (Thus predating Bellamy’s dreary Nationalist potboiler by 4 years.) Hammond’s novel is now available in print through Shawn’s Corvus Distribution. The good news is that, while Bellamy’s date of 2000 has already mercifully passed us by without any such society emerging, we still have almost 80 years to get it together in time for Hammond’s future.

  • Here at Reason we never pass up a chance to have some fun at the expense of Pete Seeger. Jesse Walker, Hit & Run (2009-06-09): They Wanna Hear Some American Music. On brilliant fakery, the invention of Country and Western music, the cult of authenticity, and the manufacture of Americana. For the long, full treatment see Barry Mazor, No Depression (2009-02-23): Americana, by any other name…

  • Anarchy on the Big Screen. Colin Firth and Kevin Spacey have signed on for a big-screen film adaptation of Homage to Catalonia. The film is supposed to enter production during the first half of 2010.

Technological civilization is awesome. (Cont’d.)

Communications

Counter-Economic optimism

Several months ago, Bill Patry created quite a stir when he shuttered his blog, where he’d spent four years promoting copyright law reform. One of his two chief reasons for the shut-down was despair at the state of copyright law:

2. The Current State of Copyright Law is too depressing

This leads me to my final reason for closing the blog which is independent of the first reason: my fear that the blog was becoming too negative in tone. I regard myself as a centrist. I believe very much that in proper doses copyright is essential for certain classes of works, especially commercial movies, commercial sound recordings, and commercial books, the core copyright industries. I accept that the level of proper doses will vary from person to person and that my recommended dose may be lower (or higher) than others. But in my view, and that of my cherished brother Sir Hugh Laddie, we are well past the healthy dose stage and into the serious illness stage. Much like the U.S. economy, things are getting worse, not better. Copyright law has abandoned its reason for being: to encourage learning and the creation of new works. Instead, its principal functions now are to preserve existing failed business models, to suppress new business models and technologies, and to obtain, if possible, enormous windfall profits from activity that not only causes no harm, but which is beneficial to copyright owners. Like Humpty-Dumpty, the copyright law we used to know can never be put back together again: multilateral and trade agreements have ensured that, and quite deliberately.

It is profoundly depressing, after 26 years full-time in a field I love, to be a constant voice of dissent. I have tried various ways to leaven this state of affairs with positive postings, much like television news shows that experiment with happy features. I have blogged about great articles others have written, or highlighted scholars who have not gotten the attention they deserve; I tried to find cases, even inconsequential ones, that I can fawn over. But after awhile, this wore thin, because the most important stories are too often ones that involve initiatives that are, in my opinion, seriously harmful to the public interest. I cannot continue to be so negative, so often. Being so negative, while deserved on the merits, gives a distorted perspective of my centrist views, and is emotionally a downer.

— Bill Patry, The Patry Copyright Blog (2008-08-01): End of the Blog

In one sense, it’s hard not to sympathize. Existing copyright law has been more or less fully transformed into an openly wielded tool of perpetual corporate monopoly. The horizons of allowable debate over copyright policy, within the Beltway, stretch from one end of Disney’s boardroom to the other. Neither political party questions that the primary purpose of copyright law is to protect copyright-holders’ monopoly profit margins, and no serious politician would ever consider spending a dime of political capital on a suggestion that perhaps we should contain — let alone roll back — the hyperaggressive efforts of copyright monopolists to protect their broken business models, by using litigation and legal coercion to cripple every advance in digital technology, and locking down every last decibel of free speech in a corporate copyright containment field. Even if a politician did choose to stand up for the freedom to peacefully exchange, adapt, and redistribute ideas, it could hardly matter; she would be immediately drowned out by a chorus of Endangered Capitalist preservationists on both sides of the aisle. And even if she could be heard, any attempt she might make at a run towards reform would be promptly tripped up by the knotted tangle of multilateral trade agreements (NAFTA, CAFTA, the WTO), which (in the name of free trade and private property rights—ha, ha) actually lock all the participating governments into a relentless commitment to granting and defending effectively perpetual government-granted monopolies, as part of their treaty obligations. There is no real hope of extricating U.S. government copyright law from this situation in any significant way; the pols and the Intellectual Protectionist lobby crossed that bridge a long time ago, and they made sure to burn it once they got to the other side.

Like I said: it’s hard not to sympathize. In fact, since my own views about copyright restrictions are far more radical than the ones Patry advances — I want them abolished immediately and completely; I think that any dose of intellectual monopoly is a dose of poison — you think I’d be far more depressed than he is about the state of affairs. But the truth is that I’m not pessimistic at all about copyright. One of the main things that struck me, back when I first read Patry’s farewell post, is how much of a disconnect I felt between his picture of the legal scene, and the actual situation on the ground when it comes to copyright restrictions. In fact, even though everything Patry says about the legal situation is true, there’s never been a better time for being able to freely access the art and literature of the world. As a recent New York Times feature points out:

On the day last July when The Dark Knight arrived in theaters, Warner Brothers was ready with an ambitious antipiracy campaign that involved months of planning and steps to monitor each physical copy of the film.

The campaign failed miserably. By the end of the year, illegal copies of the Batman movie had been downloaded more than seven million times around the world, according to the media measurement firm BigChampagne, turning it into a visible symbol of Hollywood’s helplessness against the growing problem of online video piracy.

The culprits, in this case, are the anonymous pirates who put the film online and enabled millions of Internet users to view it. Because of widely available broadband access and a new wave of streaming sites, it has become surprisingly easy to watch pirated video online — a troubling development for entertainment executives and copyright lawyers.

Hollywood may at last be having its Napster moment — struggling against the video version of the digital looting that capsized the music business. Media companies say that piracy — some prefer to call it digital theft to emphasize the criminal nature of the act — is an increasingly mainstream pursuit. At the same time, DVD sales, a huge source of revenue for film studios, are sagging. In 2008, DVD shipments dropped to their lowest levels in five years. Executives worry that the economic downturn will persuade more users to watch stolen shows and movies.

Young people, in particular, conclude that if it’s so easy, it can’t be wrong, said Richard Cotton, the general counsel for NBC Universal.

People have swapped illegal copies of songs, television shows and movies on the Internet for years. The slow download process, often using a peer-to-peer technology called BitTorrent, required patience and a modicum of sophistication by users. Now, users do not even have to download. Using a search engine, anyone can find free copies of movies, still in theaters, in a matter of minutes. Classic TV, like every Seinfeld episode ever produced, is also free for the streaming. Some of these digital copies are derived from bootlegs, while others are replicas of the advance review videos that studios send out before a release.

TorrentFreak.com, a Web site based in Germany that tracks which shows are most downloaded, estimates that each episode of Heroes, a series on NBC, is downloaded five million times, representing a substantial loss for the network. (On TV, Heroes averages 10 million American viewers each week).

A wave of streaming sites, which allow people to start watching video immediately without transferring a full copy of the movie or show to their hard drive, are making it easier than ever to watch free Hollywood content online. Many of these sites are located in countries with lackluster piracy enforcement efforts, like China, and are hard to monitor, so media companies do not have a clear sense of how much content is being stolen.

— Brian Stelter and Brad Stone, New York Times (2009-02-04): Digital Pirates Winning Battle With Studios

Of course, the New York Times has mistaken this for a problem; but if you recognize that the Intellectual Protectionists’ restrictive business model is the real problem, what we’re now seeing is the solution. Not because the copyright laws have become even a little more liberal, but rather because they have become irrelevant to people’s daily lives. Even though everything Patry says about the legal situation is true, it becomes easier every day for me to find freely-shared copies of just about any song I could care to hear, or to find any number of supposedly copyrighted essays, available for free on the web, or to find any movie I could care to watch, whether it’s an old classic from the film-monopolist’s vaults, or a new release that just hit theaters. And because so much is so freely available, even officially-sanctified copies of copyrighted material are being dropped in price (typically below US $1.00 a pop) and DRM user-control schemes are being dropped one after another. Even though everything Patry says about the legal situation is true, the practical situation on the ground is remarkably good, and it’s getting better every day. Of course, things are far from perfect. Of course, lots of copyright-holders are still looking for a fight with people trying to exchange ideas without paying a premium for a license. And of course, the legal situation is such that they can get pretty nasty, if they scout you out come after you on the legal battlefield. But first they have to scout you out. First, they have to get you to fight them on the open ground. And every day, they are finding their efforts more and more impossible. No matter how many big guns they may bring to bear, when they try to fight us, they find that they are fighting a Myrmidon army that renders those weapons increasingly useless.

So why Bill Patry’s despair? If you want to see copyright restrictions liberalized, then it may be true that the words on a page in Washington are worse than they’ve ever been; but the facts on the ground are perhaps better than they’ve been at any other time in the history of the United States. And while there is no hope for revising those words for the better any time soon, the facts are changing for the better every day, all their lawyers and their lobbyists and their intergovernmental treaties notwithstanding — they are improving daily as technical problems are solved, as new sharing networks emerge, and as the problem of even identifying the competition, let alone shutting them down, becomes more and more overwhelming for the copyrightists’ rear-guard legal strategy.

Why despair, or even care about the legal situation at all, if the practical situation makes the law irrelevant? A law that cannot be enforced is as good as a a law that has been repealed, and that is where we’re headed, faster and faster every day, when it comes to the intellectual monopolists and their jealously guarded legal privileges.

Statists constantly accuse anarchists of being naive, or utopian, or infantile, because we so often question the value of playing the game and working within the system. But if this is supposed to be a strategy based on the empirical prospects for success — and not just on some kind of felt need to come off as properly Serious and Grown Up to the right sort of people — then let’s look at the facts, and let’s see what kind of activity actually offers proven results, and realistic hope for success in the future.

If you put all your hope for social change in legal reform, and if you put all your faith for legal reform in maneuvering within the political system, then to be sure you will find yourself outmaneuvered at every turn by those who have the deepest pockets and the best media access and the tightest connections. There is no hope for turning this system against them; because, after all, the system was made for them and the system was made by them. Reformist political campaigns inevitably turn out to suck a lot of time and money into the politics—with just about none of the reform coming out on the other end. But if you put your faith for social change in methods that ignore or ridicule their parliamentary rules, and push forward through grassroots direct action — if your hopes for social change don’t depend on reforming tyrannical laws, and can just as easily be fulfilled by widespread success at bypassing those laws and making them irrelevant to your life — then there is every reason to hope that you will see more freedom and less coercion in your own lifetime. There is every reason to expect that you will see more freedom and less coercion tomorrow than you did today, no matter what the law-books may say.

Counter-economics gets the goods.

See also: