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August 5, 2011 10:52 PM   Subscribe

"No way! Thieves are in the open, and a moral person must sneak around, this is turning things upside down! I don't care what others do, I must correct the meter. Please help me find a way." (via reddit)
posted by Ritchie (56 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
Things turned out better than I thought they would.
posted by Splunge at 11:23 PM on August 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well nobody was zipped into a body bag and tortured so
posted by silby at 11:24 PM on August 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


The obstinance of bureaucracy is mind-numbing. It's strange how people allow themselves to be subsumed as slaves to the "system" or "process", with no human element exposed. It'd be sad if it didn't occur absolutely everywhere. At least the ending wasn't horrifying.
posted by disillusioned at 11:38 PM on August 5, 2011 [5 favorites]


This is the kind of story that makes me completely terrified of going to China at all. Things just seem so arbitrary, it feels like this kind of "moral confusion" (as I see it, I recognize that is a biased perspective but it is one that it is hard for me to shake) extends throughout the society and especially government. I have no idea how to navigate that and can't imagine what the correct strategy would be: it seems like you are damned if you do, damned if you don't, and that fills me with such anxiety that I would surely go crazy there in a month. And it sounds like even the person who originally wrote this, who I assume is a native, finds it confusing.

I should add, I know things aren't rosy in the States, where I'm from, but...well, this is where the bias comes in: it seems like there are consistent ways of dealing with these kinds of utility and government organizations, which are more or less "fair" or consistent much of the time (yah, I know, this is problematic too...but at least it's problematic in a way I understand...).

I'd love to have someone with a lot of knowledge of both cultures shed some light for me.

Obviously, this was a very compelling story, thanks for posting!
posted by dubitable at 11:39 PM on August 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm glad I won't be on the lease in my apartment while staying in Xiamen.
posted by lumensimus at 11:50 PM on August 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I visited Beijing for a week in 2009, to attend an academic conference. It was intensely surreal, and mostly not in a good way. I can't even imagine living there. This story just amplifies that reaction.
posted by Alterscape at 12:06 AM on August 6, 2011


Comrade electric thief, in America the fine can be 5000$ plus cost of the meter, cut the end runs and get to the chase. As party members, your theft is lazy and you needlessly upset the peoples harmony. Get on board comrade, your honesty could get you in trouble and re-education is expensive.
posted by clavdivs at 12:13 AM on August 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've heard of people stealing cable in the US. I wonder how the cable companies handle it if you report a dubious connection.
posted by bystander at 12:51 AM on August 6, 2011


I've heard of people stealing cable in the US. I wonder how the cable companies handle it if you report a dubious connection.

That's exactly what I thought of. I don't know what's changed with the advent of HDTV and the proliferation of cable companies as ISPs, but it used to be ridiculously easy to steal cable, or you could slide the cable guy $20 and he'd hook you up with HBO and all the sports channels.

Ahem. I'm told.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:05 AM on August 6, 2011


A real Harry Tuttle situation if ever there was one.
posted by anazgnos at 1:10 AM on August 6, 2011 [18 favorites]


Harry Tuttle, at your service!
posted by Kinbote at 1:17 AM on August 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's really striking how much this translated Chinese (I presume) reads like the translated Kafka I have read - not just content, obviously, but very much sentence patterns and word choice as well. Is this a quality of the two languages, or just this writing?
posted by piato at 1:33 AM on August 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Is it translated Chinese or is it fiction? I vote fiction.

In some parts of the US there used to be a way to cut the seal and turn the meter upside-down which made it run backwards. Those people, ahem, who did this had to be very careful: if the meter reader came and found it running backwards, or if the meter reading put the bill in the negative, who knows what might have transpired. Fortunately, not one of the electricity thieves of my acquaintance was ever caught- they were all good with numbers and subterfuge.

Some of these electricity subversives, years later, built solar panels and convinced the same electric companies to buy the excess power they generated.
posted by mareli at 3:06 AM on August 6, 2011


My first ever apartment had electrical "issues". About two weeks after we were living there, we got a bill in somebody else's name for $600 plus dollars. We showed it to the super and he told us not to worry about it.

A few weeks later we came home to a dark apartment. I got out my flashlight and noticed that the electric meter was inside the apt., over the kitchen sink. The top part was gone. So I'm guessing that Mr. Don't-Worry-About-It had let the Con-Ed guy in to take it. Upon further inspection I saw that there were two thick wires sticking out of the top of the box that was left. So I very carefully twisted them together and the power was back on.

We lived there for a few years and never got a bill again.
posted by Splunge at 3:40 AM on August 6, 2011 [7 favorites]


The moral of this story is: "keep your mouth shut".
posted by Renoroc at 4:19 AM on August 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


This guy is like the Eddard Stark of electricity.
posted by kbanas at 4:20 AM on August 6, 2011 [20 favorites]


While I see no reason this couldn't have been a real story, I read it as a parable about societal incentives and corruption.

In this case, there's just no way being honest can benefit you (other than granting you restful nights); and, perhaps more importantly, there are many ways in which being honest can hurt you.
posted by treepour at 4:25 AM on August 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


We don't care.

We don't have to.

We're the phone company Electricity Bureau.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:46 AM on August 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


And how much is that fine without an official receipt?
posted by Ahab at 4:56 AM on August 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Power to the people! Free the electricity!
posted by mareli at 4:57 AM on August 6, 2011


mareli: Is it translated Chinese or is it fiction? I vote fiction.

I'm not sure why anyone thinks this is fiction, and if it is why anyone thinks this is uniquely Chinese. My contractor, who was dodgy as fuck, offered to splice some part of our electrical supply to our neighbour's. I said no, emphatically and with some alarm, but I have absolutely no way of knowing if he paid any attention to that.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:01 AM on August 6, 2011


About 20 years ago I came home one day to find a cable TV van parked in front of my duplex and the cable guy snooping around my services feed area. "Can I help you?" I offered, knowing there was some kind of mistake since I don't pay for services that show me commercials. Never have, never will.

"Just checking out your service. Routine," he said.

"I don't get cable."

"Well yes, it came to our attention that you're not paying for our service."

"I'm not paying for it because I don't use your service."

He pointed to the rolled-up cable feed which was taped off and clearly not connected to any wires leading into the house. "Yes, I'd just about figured that out. Very unusual. Most people who aren't paying for it are stealing it."

"So you just assumed that if I'm not paying for it I'm stealing it. Because nobody could possibly live without cable TV."

He shrugged. "It's the case more often than not, and after getting hit with the five hundred dollar fine once or twice most people figure out it's better to pay the bill. Anyway, enjoy your antenna."
posted by localroger at 5:02 AM on August 6, 2011 [11 favorites]


This is the kind of story that makes me completely terrified of going to China at all.

Are you serious? Not even for a holiday? Maybe stay there for a year?

I don't understand why you wrote that. Corruption exists everywhere. To lesser or greater degrees. If you go to China for a holiday you won't notice it - you'll have one of the most intense and wonderful experiences of your life. If you live there for a year, it will be even better. But all you can say is you're "terrified" of going to China. "Terrified" is a strong word. Do you really mean that?
posted by awfurby at 6:05 AM on August 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


The locks (the NYC equivalent of seals) on our electric meters have been unlocked for the past 15 years, when the new wiring was installed. The meter readers just read it any way and don't care. Once I asked about it and the reader said--you'll have to call and make an appointment if you want them locked. I never bothered.
posted by Obscure Reference at 6:07 AM on August 6, 2011


The blogger herself says she writes fiction.
posted by mareli at 6:08 AM on August 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's really striking how much this translated Chinese (I presume) reads like the translated Kafka I have read - not just content, obviously, but very much sentence patterns and word choice as well. Is this a quality of the two languages, or just this writing?

I'd say it's just the natural way to describe this kind of bizarre and fucked up situation.
posted by Meatbomb at 6:11 AM on August 6, 2011


Never even considered it might be fiction, although this stood out (my emphasis):
On a hot day last month, the power went off at noon. I called the Electricity Bureau, and a worker arrived in 5 minutes.
Moral of the story: corruption results in breathtakingly awesome customer service.
posted by Ritchie at 6:32 AM on August 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


"The blogger herself says she writes fiction."

Though I write both fiction and nonfiction, I never posted fiction on my blog. This is a real-life true story from a friend in China. I only did the translation.

Thanks for reading!
posted by Xujun at 6:38 AM on August 6, 2011 [46 favorites]


I don't understand why you wrote that. Corruption exists everywhere. To lesser or greater degrees. If you go to China for a holiday you won't notice it - you'll have one of the most intense and wonderful experiences of your life. If you live there for a year, it will be even better. But all you can say is you're "terrified" of going to China. "Terrified" is a strong word. Do you really mean that?

Yes, I meant that. I thought the rest of my comment would provide more context: I don't understand China. I also stated clearly I understood I was biased and I was hoping someone could give me some context. But I don't understand the context, and this story presents a situation where going to the organization in charge of a situation, trying to be honest, got this person in more trouble. Regardless of the fact that corruption exists everywhere in the world, I know that if I went to the power company in the U.S. with this situation it wouldn't get me in this kind of trouble. I certainly wouldn't be heading to the farmer's market to find an underground electrician who may or may not have actually been an official electric company employee for his day job. In the U.S. I may have been stuck in a bureaucratic hellhole, in the worst case scenario, but I wouldn't be afraid for my safety, which this paragraphs suggests is a concern:

Manager Zhou laughed in surprise: "My God! Are you from an alien planet? China's electricity is a monopoly trade, they are the boss, who do they fear? What's there to reason with them? They don't care to figure out who's right or wrong; it is the most convenient to just grab you. You want to live in this house? Then you have no way to escape. Even going to the court it is 100% your fault. Believe it!"

So how do I have any idea if I'd have to deal with that as a foreigner on vacation, or if I stayed there for a year? What do you expect me to feel but terror when, for example, dealing honestly with the electric company can apparently get one abducted—if that's the case, what else could happen if I just try to deal with things in an honest and straightforward fashion?
posted by dubitable at 6:41 AM on August 6, 2011


About 15 years ago, I was renting a place in Tallahassee, FL, where I went to college. Our landlord never charged us for long distance; I once asked about it and she said "don't worry about it." I later found out that the caller ID came up with something strange when I called someone (but not everyone had it back then, so it took a while to figure that out). Every once in a while, I would pick up the phone, and there'd be a fax machine sound.

I decided to get to the bottom of the whole mess, and so I looked up the business listed under our caller ID in the phone book. Sure enough, they were located just through the woods from the house. I called them up and told them the situation, but surprisingly, they didn't care, and they weren't going to do anything about it. Probably the person on the line felt it wasn't their responsibility, and didn't want to talk to me further. I ended up redoing the wiring (this was quite a bit of work; I knew next to nothing about phone wiring) and calling the phone company to set up a proper account.

I understand the author's exasperation at trying to do the honest thing when no one else cares.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 6:43 AM on August 6, 2011


Welcome to Metafilter, Xujun.
posted by Ritchie at 6:43 AM on August 6, 2011


If you go to China for a holiday you won't notice it - you'll have one of the most intense and wonderful experiences of your life. If you live there for a year, it will be even better. But all you can say is you're "terrified" of going to China. "Terrified" is a strong word. Do you really mean that?

You'll have a great time if nothing goes badly wrong. But if something goes badly wrong and you end up ensnared in the legal system of a foreign country, the difference between a country with largely written procedures, and a country with largely corrupt procedures, strikes me as, yes, terrifying.

It suits the locals - it's much easier to get out of a crime when it's just a simple matter of under the table negotiation, of getting the right bribe to the right person. But when you don't know the system, don't understand who the right person is, or how to access the unwritten underworld of the system, and the official written procedures that are your only anchor bear no relationship to what actually happens or what you need to be doing, you're fucked.
posted by -harlequin- at 6:44 AM on August 6, 2011 [9 favorites]


Also, welcome to Metafilter, Xujun. I enjoyed the story.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 6:45 AM on August 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


See, when people in MetaFilter say that the US (or UK or whatever) no longer enjoys the rule of law, this is the kind of stuff I want to point out. In the US, you don't need to bribe anyone to get your drivers' license, to get your utilities hooked up, to avoid a traffic or parking ticket, or whatever. Sure, there may be a fee, but it's not $750, and the threat of the fee is never used to extort lesser payments for the official. Anyone who tried to operate this kind of racket would be out of a job almost instantly.

By contrast, in most of the rest of the world, even in some parts of Europe, public corruption is rife. Just getting public officials to do their jobs can require significant sums of money. It's so bad that the federal anti-corruption statute has an exception for getting people to perform "functionary" duties* where the official is required to do whatever it is you're asking. Otherwise it would be almost impossible to do business in many parts of the world.

This kind of story is also why I and many others are not terribly sympathetic to most charges of corruption in the US. Occasionally you'll run across a situation like this one, where a judge was actually taking kickbacks to send kids to a particular prison. But he's going to jail for a long time, and that kind of over-the-top behavior is fairly uncommon and largely limited to local government. Federal employees (and state employees to a lesser extent) are almost entirely free from this sort of corruption.

The kind of corruption most MeFites are concerned about is the nefarious effect of campaign contributions on legislative behavior. While that's a problem, it's in many ways a lot less problematic than systemic executive corruption. The legislature may or may not be bought and paid for, but the executive almost uniformly isn't. Even "regulatory capture" is a lot more attenuated than this sort of thing.

*As opposed to "discretionary" duties, i.e. where the request requires the official to make some official choice. That's still illegal.
posted by valkyryn at 6:56 AM on August 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


when people in MetaFilter say that the US (or UK or whatever) no longer enjoys the rule of law

I've never said that. What worries me about moving to the US is what happens if I get ill and get caught up in the perfectly legal, yet to the outside observer, completely fucked up health care system.
posted by biffa at 7:16 AM on August 6, 2011 [8 favorites]


when people in MetaFilter say that the US (or UK or whatever) no longer enjoys the rule of law

Do people say that? I guess my hyperbole filter is more effective than I'd realized.

The kind of corruption most MeFites are concerned about is the nefarious effect of campaign contributions on legislative behavior. While that's a problem, it's in many ways a lot less problematic than systemic executive corruption. The legislature may or may not be bought and paid for, but the executive almost uniformly isn't. Even "regulatory capture" is a lot more attenuated than this sort of thing.

That distinction between legislative and executive corruption sound very useful, and applicable to the U.S.. Though I think it misses out on the "regulatory capture" we've suffered from.

I also think it's worth raising a big old fucking stink over the corruption we do have, as "better than China" seems a miserably low standard in that area.
posted by benito.strauss at 7:38 AM on August 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


valkyryn, I think you are taking these charges literally as opposed to the way I take them - as warnings that things are moving in the wrong direction. China is an example of fascism where corporate and government power become one in the same - in your opinion, is American moving in a direction where the two institutions are becoming more separate or more one?

Look at a company like AT&T, it's entirely feasible that within a decade they can be acting in much the same way as the electric company in China. They have already been caught spying on Americans for the government and are very slowly forming back into the monopoly they once were. I can easily envision a time when they become the sole provider of broadband in America and those caught pirating will need to pay amoral technicians under the table fees to rehook them to the web without paying a hefty reconnection fee. "Hey but I wasn't the pirate, it was the guy who lived here before me." "Sorry sir, your house is on the list and until the fee is paid we cannot reconnect." It doesn't take much for a society to devolve into fascism so I for one welcome all the harbingers screaming fire because if for nothing else because it brings a light to possible corruption before it becomes endemic.
posted by any major dude at 7:43 AM on August 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


This kind of story is also why I and many others are not terribly sympathetic to most charges of corruption in the US.

That seems like self-satisfied lunacy to me. Corruption is human nature and a constant tide against society - the only way to hold it back is to be continually nipping it in the bud while it's weak and vulnerable. If the roots are allowed to grow too deep, it takes generations just to get back to square one. These charges that you're not terribly sympathetic to may seem trivial, but they really are all that stands between the country you know, and the paralysed failures you despise.

While that's a problem, it's in many ways a lot less problematic than systemic executive corruption.

But in many other ways it's also more problematic. Regardless, the corruption in the US system is bad enough to cause enough paralysis and drag on the US economy that I don't see the USA being able to maintain its wealth and power over the next 30 years, even without the upcoming serious global economic problems.

Sure, countries like the Ukraine or south Italy may be economically maimed before they even start anything because no-one can do business easily or assuredly, but the parasitic drag in the US is still a lot larger than other countries I've been too, and taking a very noticeable and severe toll on the economy. The USA has a lot of assets that can help tide things along, but I think its situation in the world economy is more precarious than you think, and corruption has a lot to do with that.

Hell, the US credit rating just got downgraded for the first time yesterday, and corruption played a role in even that.
posted by -harlequin- at 7:46 AM on August 6, 2011 [11 favorites]


Can Xujun (welcome to Metafilter, by the way), or other Chinese speakers, elucidate something for me?

A few places in her translation she felt compelled to include the original Chinese. For instance, "Are you forcing an innocent girl to prostitute herself (逼良为娼)", and "the thief who steal what they are guarding (监守自盗)". I had an American friend who had taken Chinese once explain to me that Chinese has "phrases of four characters", expressions that everyone knew, and that were (usually) four characters long.

Are these instances of that? So a direct translation might look a little stilted, but a native speaker coming across the phrase in Chinese would immediately recognize it as an allusion? Are they sort of like a frequently used metaphor or literary image?
posted by benito.strauss at 7:47 AM on August 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


What worries me about moving to the US is what happens if I get ill and get caught up in the perfectly legal, yet to the outside observer, completely fucked up health care system.

Yes, a big part of (what I see as) the corruption problem in the USA is that the regulatory systems themselves are corrupt, so many visible examples of corruption manifest as legalized racketeering - protected by the full force of the (bought-and-paid-for) law!
posted by -harlequin- at 7:55 AM on August 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


I was really struck by the phrase "we are only taking money to remove ill fortune (拿人钱财替人消灾)." It reminds me of the "lucky money" Chinese-American businesses in San Francisco pay around New Year's. If you pay the lucky money you get a lucky tree to display in your window. If you don't, why, sometimes your window gets smashed in with a firebomb. See how lucky that money is?

Google Translate's literal translation is "Helenians money meant to help people ward off evil". I wonder what the Helenians is a reference to.
posted by Nelson at 8:52 AM on August 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am also very interested in that. I searched for the symbols of "the thief who steal what they are guarding" and it gave me a lot of links to the film "Inside Job" and embezzlement
posted by rebent at 10:05 AM on August 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


And just to provoke someone to respond just for the sake of correcting me, I'll point out that "we are only taking money to remove ill fortune (拿人钱财替人消灾)" is two sets of four characters.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:15 AM on August 6, 2011


"two sets of four characters" ... and it rhymes.
posted by msittig at 10:26 AM on August 6, 2011


benito.strauss, I'm not an expert in Chinese -- and there are a few on Metafilter, so consider my answer a stand-in in the meantime -- but I think you area basically on the right track. The four phrases often carry rich connotations or are taken from broader contexts that an educated Chinese person would be familiar with. A fluent/native Chinese speaker would feel strange translating them into English literally or briefly, so the original Chinese is included to let people understand or look up the phrase for a fuller definition.

Also, four character phrases give a text a classical tone that is hard to capture in the translation. If the translator is lucky to find a turn of phrase that matches the tone, then great; otherwise it's a shame to lose the original "phrasing".
posted by msittig at 10:34 AM on August 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


The four character phrases are cheng2 yu3, which means something along the lines of a proverb or aphorism. See here. Unfortunately I can't read Chinese worth crap these days and I don't have the time right now to look up the 4 character phrases here to see if they're in fact chengyu, but they very well could be.
posted by kmz at 11:33 AM on August 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Cheng yu? Thank yu!
posted by benito.strauss at 12:00 PM on August 6, 2011


when people in MetaFilter say that the US (or UK or whatever) no longer enjoys the rule of law
If you've ever seen a living place completely wrecked by mold and water damage, that should make you much more worried about a small roof leak, not less. The development of such problems is continuous, not binary or trinary. A small leak can cause moisture to accumulate, which causes supporting wood underneath to warp and rot, which creates a bigger leak and spreads the moisture, which is how those other human habitations turned into stachybotrys habitats in the first place.

Similarly: apathetic populations enable corrupt government, which evokes apathy in its victims. Just recently there was a study showing that such effects can persist for generations. That doesn't mean that developments in the wrong direction need to be exaggerated (which would ironically exacerbate the problem) but neither should they be ignored. If blacks see far more jail time than whites for the same prohibited substances, that's not as bad as slavery, but it's still a weakening of the rule of law that deserves attention and correction. If "when the president does it, that means it's not illegal", that's not as bad as a dictatorship, but it's still not the rule of law.

I'd also be wary about diagnosing the extent of government corruption based on the single metric of bribery extent. There are more varieties of toxic memes than there are of toxic molds, and different varieties may have different effects.
posted by roystgnr at 12:49 PM on August 6, 2011 [7 favorites]


In the US, you don't need to bribe anyone to get [basic stuff done]

In most places, yes, but I have met people who've moved to my part of the country from another (usually from Florida) and expressed surprise that city- and county-level officials weren't taking bribes. Though I get the impression that even there, you could get by without paying bribes, it would just be really hard to get some things done.

Some of these electricity subversives, years later, built solar panels and convinced the same electric companies to buy the excess power they generated.

In the US, these days, the electric company is actually required to let you do that (though sometimes they grumble), which is pretty cool.
posted by hattifattener at 12:58 PM on August 6, 2011


Oh, China.
posted by kafziel at 1:24 PM on August 6, 2011


I know almost nothing about the greasing of the palm in China. Except for what I might have heard anecdotally from friends that were there, or perhaps from books. But from living in Mexico, the USA and hearing stories, I think the difference is the way you go about it. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but there is a system in each country, known by the people that live there. And it must be learned as a visitor.

For instance, in the USA, you want free cable channels. Not free cable. They're pretty good about tracking that down, at least in a high volume area. They know how many people in an apartment building should have a cable. If they come to fix one guy's problem they'll check all the connections. Eventually you'll get caught.

OTOH in the "old days" you could buy a RAM/DAC box and get all of the channels unscrambled. I'm pretty sure that doesn't work anymore. When a friend of mine had one, occasionally they would send a "bullet" through the system. Then your cable would be turned off. So my friend would disconnect the box, call the cable company and complain. They would tell him, we saw an unauthorized signal. He would tell them to try again. They would argue. He would tell them to turn off his cable and he was rather upset that he was being annoyed like that.

Cable back on, RAM/DAC back in place, until the next time.

But that does not speak to the here's my cable guy, I'll offer him $50 for the full package. And that's the thing. No cable guy that I ever dealt with would ask for the "tip". But they would gladly do it if presented with it. When a cable guy unblocks you shit, it stays unblocked.

These days it's a card in the DVR, at least for me. I'm sure that you can get a bogus card. But my friend isn't interested. He's older and wiser.

See?
posted by Splunge at 2:19 PM on August 6, 2011


I only wish my electric utility Pepco worked a tenth as quickly as the Chinese. It took me over two years to get them to install an electric meter, meanwhile I payed outrageous "estimated" bills.
posted by exogenous at 3:27 PM on August 6, 2011


Dubitable's comment about "moral confusion" strikes me about right. Been here in China a year and there is a lot of under the table stuff going on. The processes are so arcane that people just decided it was easier to circumvent rather than try to change.

You see some weird shit though. I was in Chengdu last week and whilst waiting for a client in their lobby saw a spontaneous fight break out between about 7 porters at the hotel next door and 2 guys. Kicking and punching for a couple of minutes before the manager broke it up. Then everyone just stands smoking and talking on their cell phones like nothing had happened. There is a lot of pent up anger here as the vast majority see themselves being left behind, and little care for the individual, life certainly feels as though it's cheaper here than other countries.
posted by arcticseal at 6:19 PM on August 6, 2011


There a pretty good documentary (that gets shown on PBS occasionally) about the electricity company in Georgia (the Caucasian one, not the peanut one). (info) There are some shots showing how people have spliced themselves into the grid that are frightening. (In one scene the electrical engineer refuses to enter a substation for fear of being electrocuted).
posted by benito.strauss at 8:37 PM on August 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Comrade electric thief, in America the fine can be 5000$ plus cost of the meter, cut the end runs and get to the chase. As party members, your theft is lazy and you needlessly upset the peoples harmony. Get on board comrade, your honesty could get you in trouble and re-education is expensive.

In Soviet Russia, jokes recycle you!
posted by krinklyfig at 12:26 AM on August 7, 2011


@benito.strauss: I assume kmz and the Wiki page he gave have pretty much answered your questions about "chengyu." I just want to add one thing: yes they are often metaphors or literary images. It's interesting that you would mention "a direct translation might look a little stilted" – you are not alone in saying this. Though for many Chinese idioms one could find a corresponding English idiom with more or less the same meaning expressed differently, I usually prefer a literal translation for cultural flavor and anti-cliché-ness (yes you can say chengyu are Chinese clichés). If you are interested, I have two blog posts discussing this in more detail: On Chineseness and On "Translationese".
posted by Xujun at 10:38 AM on August 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


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