Thursday, February 08, 2007

Why Becky doesn't post, "Slippery Are Very Crafty"

Ever since I started writing this blog when we moved to Beijing in August 2005, people have piped up asking about Becky... wWy doesn’t she write here? Why don’t I talk about her more? Why am I so full of myself? (In so many words, anyhow)

The answer is pretty simple – to the first queries anyhow, you’re on your own for the latter. Becky doesn’t want to be up here. This is a public forum. People can Google something or another and show up here. I forget that myself sometimes and then I am getting hostile posts about a six-year-old Spencer Haywood story from a U-Kentucky hoops fanatic because Spencer bashed Adolph Rupp. Or suddenly a host of German Clapton fanatics are emailing about my write-up of the Shanghai show.

Becky is the China Bureau Chief for the Wall Street Journal. Her opinions, thoughts, experiences don’t need to be posted in a public forum. Now, having said all that, there is a very easy to keep up with what she is doing.. subscribe to the Wall Street Journal Online! It costs $99 a year and that seems like a lot. I think they absolutely need to vary their pricing structure and introduce daily, weekly, monthly passes, which will lead to a very high sell through rate. But think of it as what it is – for 99 bucks you are getting the Journal, everything in the paper, plus archives plus some incredibly fantastic online-only content (cough, cough).

You will not find Becky’s name on a lot of stories.. er, I mean, Rebecca’s name. She does not have many bylines these days, but she is all over every single story coming out of China, from beginning to end. Put them all together and you will start to get a pretty good idea of where she’s coming from, I think.

Now I would obviously never claim to be anything but biased, but I think the WSJ has the best China coverage of anyone. It is a fact that they have the most people and the most volume of material. It’s all really, really fascinating and it goes way deeper than day-to-day business coverage. I would hope you all know this by no, but I still run into many, many people who call the Journal a business paper.. which it is, obviously, but it is much, much more.

Becky doesn’t know I’m writing this and there’s a 40-percent chance she’ll make me take it down, but come on now. Support the home team. Gregg Allman once told me that he walked into a John Lee Hooker concert and was in line to buy a ticket. Hook’s manager saw him, ran over and said, “Mr. Allman, why are you in line? You should have just called us if you wanted a ticket?” And he shrugged and said, “I can afford a ticket. I’m supporting the home team.”

He said he learned that from his mother. When the Allmans would play Florida, tons of relatives would call her asking for tickets and she would say, ”If you won’t pay to see them, who will?” I think she was a wise woman.

Here’s a little taste of a story from last Saturday, which has remained one of the most popular stories on WSJ.com for days. I actually wanted to do a column on this but I got scooped by my wife.

This is just the top of the story.

PAGE ONE

Beijing Gets Rid
Of Bad Translations

Many Expats Regret Loss
Of Wacky English in Signs;
'Slippery Are Very Crafty'

By MEI FONG
February 5, 2007; Page A1

BEIJING --
For years, foreigners in China have delighted in the loopy English translations that appear on the nation's signs. They range from the offensive ("Deformed Man," outside toilets for the handicapped) to the sublime (on park lawns, "Show Mercy to the Slender Grass").
[go to slide show]

Last week, Beijing city officials unveiled a plan to stop the laughter. With hordes of foreign visitors expected in town for the 2008 Summer Olympics, Beijing wants to cleanse its signs of translation nonsense. For the next eight months, 10 teams of linguistic monitors will patrol the city's parks, museums, subway stations and other public places searching for gaffes to fix.

Already, fans of the genre are mourning the end of an era, and some Web sites dedicated to it have seen traffic spike. The bewildering signs were "one of the great things we want to show people visiting us," says financial-services consultant Josh Kurtzig, a Washington native who lives in Beijing. Correcting them is "really taking away one of the joys of China."

Stuck in Beijing traffic recently, Mr. Kurtzig noticed workers replacing one of the classics: "Dongda Hospital for Anus and Intestine Disease Beijing." The new sign: "Hospital of Proctology." He grabbed his BlackBerry and emailed the news to friends around the globe. Their reactions, he says, were swift, and mostly unfavorable. "Nooooooooooo," read an email from one friend.

Not many locals share this sense of loss. "We cannot leave [these signs] up just for the amusement of foreigners," says Olive Wang, marketing manager for a major sportswear company.