The dutiful minions at the Times' Opinion blog know one way to keep the boss, Andrés Martinez, happy: they posted his observations from China, where I assume he is on hand to attend the paper's gathering of foreign correspondents. Martinez writes:
On my first day in China, I stumbled upon pirated DVDs of "Mission Impossible 3" at the sprawling Xiangyang Fashion and Gift Market. Fake Lakers jerseys are also popular, though not as hot as the faux Nike Barcelona Ronaldinho jerseys. My favorite items at the market were the huge Cultural Revolutionish bilingual banners at the entrance of this piracy haven. In English they read: "Assert intellectual properties is our common duty." But who knows about the accuracy of the translation? As far as I know, the Chinese characters could actually read "Who would pay full price for Versace?" Some folks in Shanghai do pony up for the real deal, whether it's Versace or Ferragamo or Zegna.... Shanghai isn't just the most bourgeois communist city I have ever been in, it may be the most bourgeois city I've ever been in, period. Within a five block radius of my hotel, I count four Beverly Center-sized malls...
Speaking of China, I've been meaning to post this photo that city planning commissioner and USC prof Michael Woo snapped recently near Beijing of a billboard for a suburban housing project with an improbably Los Angeles-centric name. He got the pic from a moving car, so excuse the sharpness:
* Not so improbable: Cindy Bernard sends along this comment by historian Mike Davis in an interview about his blook, Planet of Slums:
So the nouveau riche in Beijing can commute by freeway to gated subdivisions with names like Orange County and Beverly Hills -- there's a Beverly hills in Cairo too, and a whole neighborhood themed by Walt Disney. Jakarta has the same thing -- compounds where people live in imaginary Americas. These proliferate, emphasizing the rootlessness of the new urban middle class across the world. With this goes an obsessiveness about getting things as they are in the TV image. So you have actual Orange County architects designing "Orange County" outside Beijing. You have tremendous fidelity to the things the global middle class sees on television or in the movies.
Photo: Michael Woo