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Unzipped: Doing my part to end poverty in China

myfirstinfomercial2.jpgI starred in my first infomercial yesterday. (Photos from the shoot)

I’m very proud of this.

Actually, no I’m not.

The advertisement was for a electric device that exercises your facial muscles by using “hi tech ti-golden prods” and an “internal intelligent chip” that emits “organism waves” and causes “facial musicales aerobics.”

I saw people using it. It looked dangerous.

I played the device’s inventor, Dr. James.

It was a funny day. And I took many notes. I kept the notepad in a zippered pocket of my backpack.

I also got paid 3,500 RMB. In cash, of course. Not bad for a day’s work. It wouldn’t fit in my wallet, so I placed it in the pocket with my notepad and my iPod and zipped it up. I would be taking a taxi home.

The filming was in an empty office building in Pudong. Pudong seems to have a lot of empty office buildings.

My taxi driver couldn’t go to Puxi. Traffic had been halted, during rush hour, on the Friday before one of the biggest Chinese holidays of the year. That makes sense.

So he dropped me off at the nearest subway station. I was wearing a tie. I never wear ties. Some of the cars were packed, but I walked to the front, where it was pretty empty.

People’s Square station was not empty. It was the opposite of empty. And people got pretty bunched up while I was transferring from Line 2 to LIne 1.

That’s probably when someone stole my money. All 3,500 of it.

And my notepad.

But not my iPod.

I said bad words when I discovered this.

Several of them.


My stomach tightened.

And I started to sweat.

Why did you steal my fucking notepad!

I met Johnson and Matthew Bell for much-needed drink. Johnson told me I never should have had my money in my backpack.

Thank you, Johnson.

I told them that it was ironic that I held my new phone in my hand, because I didn’t want to to get stolen.

“You could have bought two new phones with the money in the bag!” Johnson pointed out.

Thanks again.

None of this would have happened if my taxi could have made the trip to Puxi. And he couldn’t make the trip because of National Day.

So, I blame Mao.

Of course, maybe I should have read this more closely.

Perhaps this is my punishment for being a bad blogger recently. And I’m sorry for that. I’ve been very busy. With some projects you are aware of. And some that you aren’t. I plan to pay more attention to this website very soon. Some big changes are in store. I promise.

It is my National Day resolution.

But it will have to wait until after my trip to Xiamen, which begins in a few hours. I’ll get back on Wednesday.

Right now, I need to go shave. The director of the infomercial wanted me to be unshaven.

He said it made me look like a “power man.”

And we all know pickpockets love those.

10.01.2005, 3:05 PM · Observations


  1. That sucks. How much is 3,500 RMB in US dollars?

  2. Enoch,

    About $425.

    I blame a society that still pays people for stuff with cash. Plastic people, plastic!

  3. John B, the money was probably not accounted for…that’s a good reason for not using plastic.

  4. Dan,
    Have you read this book: china’s global reach: markets, multinationals, and globalization by george zhibin gu? I am reading it. It is overpowering, yet simple and straightforward in presentation and argument. The book has vast scope on global politics, economy and business, focusing on factors that will shape future global development, china included. It is the very best book I have read on these topics. Very, very interesting read.

    The key points:

    1. A closed society has no future; even for an advanced nation like Japan, being closed is causing backfire. For the developed nations like US and Europe, walking toward a close society as now could backfire. For this, China has plenty of lessons to offer.

    2. All humans are basically the same, but different environments create different behavior. In China, a bureaucratic domination has created endless disasters. But under a globalization, progress is possible.

    3. Mankind is entering a new era, the era of convergence of global civilizations, what could be the best ways to move ahead for all nations?

    4. Multinationals now have record-making opportunities. Their activities will impact global life like never before. But there are both opportunities and drawbacks.

    5. The changing relations between the West and East — great challenges ahead.

    and several other fresh insights — that demands my further study. Better yet, let more intelligent readers do the job — that is much better for sure!

    here is the link


  5. That is the worst story I’ve heard today. I feel for you…

  6. Hmm, I could go for some ‘organism waves’ right now, Mr. Power man. Your experience in China sounds fascinating.

  7. It is autumn in Washington, D.C. The trees are beginning to glow. The sky is sapphire, and the baby panda is growing at the National Zoo.

    Washington Cube Was Here. #37

  8. If I remember correctly, this is your SECOND informercial. You were in some commercial about some gheri curl soul glow spray, if I am not mistaken.

  9. you are lucky. if you were in guangdong, you would have lost your money and your life most likely.


Shanghai Diaries is a website about Shanghai, China ... and lots of other stuff. Voted Best Mainland China Blog in the 2004 Asia Blog Awards.

Editor: Dan Washburn

Related: Shanghaiist and Mudan Boutique

Dan is a freelance writer living in Shanghai. More about Dan.

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