Archive for November, 2010

Egg Foo Blonde

November 24, 2010

Many pros in publishing say that the hardest work of an investigative journalist is to find connections. Sometimes we can back up assertions for these perceived connections with facts, and sometimes we use more complex techniques involving intuition and guessing. This is one of those times.

In the international news we learn that poor Russian women earn money by selling their hair in the global market for hair extensions. If a woman is blonde, their hair is worth more money than other colors, like blue. According to an article in the New York Times, Russian women can receive $50 for a 16-inch braid of blonde hair, in a region where the average monthly wage is $500.

In a seemingly unrelated article, we learn that China is hungry for coal. Everyone thinks that the coal is to be used to fuel China’s meteoric economy. However, the Chinese are sitting on a gold mine worth more than coal, but they want to keep it a secret. This intrepid reporter has unearthed the dark secret, or is it a light secret?

The big secret – and grab onto something, because it is going to shock you – is that Chinese are actually naturally blonde.

That’s right: Chinese hair is not naturally black. Because they so revile and distrust the Western World – while coveting Western luxury goods like French Bordeaux wine, Italian clothes and German cars – they hide their golden tresses from the round eyes of the West. The coal is not used for energy; it’s used to dye the hair of billions of Chinese.

In more recent years Chinese coal mines yielded billions of tons of coal, which was diverted either to “top industries,” which produced hair dyes sold through government controlled drug store chains; or to “bottom industries,” those that burned the coal in furnaces to generate electricity. But as the years went by, and the Chinese population exploded, domestic coal production could not keep pace. As technology evolved and allowed other types of power generation to develop, such as nuclear and solar, a higher proportion of the coal mined went to the top industries.

Before coal was used to dye hair, ink was used. Evidence of the Chinese ink industry dates back to the 12th century BC; other countries such as India came to the party later.  While other cultures used ink to produce written documents, drawings, maps and so much more, the Chinese used ink for cosmetic purposes, such as dyeing hair.

As any seasoned observer of China will tell you, the Peoples Bullying Party only reluctantly allows Chinese nationals to leave the country, fearing that the secret of their honey hair will be let out of the bag. Just about everybody has seen young Chinese in the United States and Europe, with hair a strange copper color.  Many observers reckoned that this was the result of attempting to dye their hair a lighter color, but what is really taking place is that the black dye is wearing out, allowing the true color to show through.  When Chinese hair dye fades, the hair begins to turn a reddish hue, and then turns blonde.

Since the hair dyes found outside China are inferior, young Chinese people, usually college students going to Western universities to learn advanced fast food technologies, are at risk of having their hair revert to blonde. This is what Chinese leaders fear. On the surface, it seems benign at worst to dye one’s hair, but over a lifetime of prolonged exposure, American health experts theorize that hair dye toxicity could build up, affect the brain, and cause a diminution of ratiocination powers.

Could this be why the Central Committee of the Chinese Peoples Bullying Party makes such unreasonable decisions, such as preventing Liu Xiaobo from accepting the Nobel Peace Prize at ceremonies next month in Norway?  Come back next week and we’ll answer this question and many more.


Bostonius and Trafficus

November 20, 2010

Imagine a different history for New England.  What if Athens was never overthrown by Sparta or the Ottoman Empire, and then what if the Greeks eventually took over Europe and then North America, spreading civilization and democracy? In this new world, Boston today looks a little different, and its citizens dress differently, but some things stay the same.

The main characters in our play are Bostonius and Trafficus. They are men of a mature age, and are fashionably dressed in upscale tunics and sandals.  Bostonius pulls up in front of the house of Trafficus in his vehicle.  Trafficus gets in and they drive off.

Trafficus: Is this new, Bostonius?

Bostonius: Yeah, it’s a new GM Colossus.

Trafficus:   It’s the biggest GUV I’ve ever seen.

Bostonius: She’s a beaut, all right.

Trafficus:   They make even bigger ones, you know.  This thing must be twenty cubits long — what’s that? At least thirty feet?  I hear that Retiarius down at the coffee shop has a new Ford Trojan.  From what I’ve read in ‘Chariot and Driver’ you could park your car inside his.

Bostonius: Very funny.

Trafficus:   It’s very smooth and quiet.  Wait, Bostonius, is that speedometer right?

Bostonius: Yeah, why?

Trafficus:   Why are you going so fast?  The speed limit here on the MassPike is 55 mph.

Bostonius: Only losers go the speed limit, Trafficus.  Nobody does 55, so why should I?  Besides, this baby can go three times the speed limit.

Trafficus:   Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do it, Bostonius.  Socrates rejects the “everybody does it” argument, declaring that it carries no intellectual weight.  And Aristotle says that thinking like that can lead to lawlessness and chaos.  You are doing more than 20 mph over the speed limit; do you really think you can go as fast as you want?

Bostonius: Of course.  And besides, there are never any cops around.

Trafficus:   Watch out!

Bostonius: What’s the matter now?

Trafficus:   Why are you driving so close to that car in front of you?  Why do you hate him so much?

Bostonius: What do you mean?

Trafficus:   Don’t you remember what you were taught back in high school, Bostonius?  That you should allow one car length in front of you for every 10 mph you’re going?  So here we are in a 55 mph zone, doing 70-75, so you should be at least seven car lengths back, instead of the two or three you’re doing now.

Bostonius: That’s crap.  I’m a good driver.

Trafficus:   I cannot agree, Bostonius.  Granted, on the golf course you can out-drive me and some of the other guys, but what if the guy in front of you has to stop suddenly?  As Archimedes pointed out in his calculus book for children stopping distance is a function of the square of the speed of the car.  So at 75 it would take about 165 feet longer, about 75% further, to stop than at 55 mph. And since this huge vehicle must weigh as much as the Parthenon, you’d have to add on an additional chunk. Don’t forget, Bostonius, it will take quite a bit longer in time, as well as distance. Besides, don’t you think you make that other guy nervous being on his tail like that?

Bostonius: Who cares?  He should get out of my way.

Trafficus:   But there is heavy traffic in front of him; there’s no place to go, and he has the right to drive in whichever lane he wants.

Bostonius: C’mon, Trafficus, I’m in a hurry, and if I follow this guy close I’ll get there sooner.

Trafficus:   Has Dr Bacchus been prescribing his home-made remedies again? You’re talking nonsense.

Bostonius: I drive like this all the time and I’ve never had an accident.

Trafficus:   You’ve been lucky.  Pythagorus generated statistics telling us that you’re going to have an accident sooner or later if you continue to drive like this.  Honestly, you’re going too fast, you’re too close to the car in front of you, and you’re driving recklessly.  By the way, Aristophanes wants us to use the word “collision” since “accident” implies that no one is at fault.

Bostonius: Look!  There’s just enough room to change lanes, zoom up ahead and then swerve real fast back into my lane!  I’ll be one or two cars ahead!

Trafficus:   Really, Bostonius, you’re driving like a teenager who has been kicked in the head by a horse.  Hey, why are you lifting your digit at that driver?

Bostonius: The guy cut me off!

Trafficus:   Didn’t Plato teach you anything about virtue behind the wheel?

(They arrive at their destination.)

Trafficus:   Thank Zeus we got here alive.

Come back next week, when Trafficus teaches Bostonius about the use of a clever device called a “turn signal.”

Boeuf Bourguignon

November 19, 2010

When I first met Michelle at the University of St Andrews, in the post-Prince William/Kate Middleton days, her cooking skills ranged from tea to toast. She has come quite a long way since.

(Coincidentally, just as William gave Kate a sapphire engagement ring, I gave Michelle a sapphire ring, but our on-bended-knee ceremony took place at Edinburgh Castle.)

In 2007 we moved from our post-graduate student housing in St Andrews to a flat in Edinburgh, after a search that tasted like “Alice in Wonderland” with a dash of “Catch-22”.  The kitchen was one of our favorite rooms, with lots of light and a view of the park. I did 99% of the cooking, but there in Edinburgh she felt a bit more adventurous, and showed some culinary courage.  One night she cooked a marvelous meal of Indian food that she claimed she had made before back in Boston; it was hard to believe. Astounded, I watched her prepare the dishes: one was a chickpea extravaganza featuring 877 ingredients and exotic spices, and requiring 422 steps; the other was a chicken and cashew dish that featured 1038 ingredients and required 612 steps.  It was all very surreal to think that this tiny toast maven could prepare such impressive and delicious food.

But mostly, in the roughly three years since, she has proven to be a microwave girl.  Her kitchen skills include popping in a Lean Cuisine bag, and opening individual containers of cottage cheese. If she opens a container, pours a cup of coffee, or puts a slice of delivery pizza on a plate, she shouts, “I cooked!”  We disagree on what constitutes ‘cooking’ but I am a lenient kitchen policeman.

We bought the “Julie & Julia” movie that came out last year, about the young New York blogger who cooked her way through Julia Child’s seminal “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” of 1961, and have watched it several hundred times.  (Trust me, I have it memorized.)  In addition, we bought Julia Child’s memoirs, “My Life in France”, which also seasoned the movie.

Recently, something inside Michelle snapped.  She has cooked difficult and demanding items from “Mastering” and she keeps on plugging. She sits on the couch and flips through recipes, proud that many of the pages now look well-used. Then in a flash she jabs a page with an épée thrust and shouts “Ah HAH!”  It’s my job to encourage her, so when she says that she wants to try a new recipe, I grab a wine glass and my monogrammed Swiss cutlery. Friends who have been to my house for dinner will tell you that I’m pretty comfortable in the kitchen, but my most important kitchen implement is still the corkscrew. “Sweetheart, you want to try what?  OK, I better go buy a bottle of wine.”

A few months ago she cooked the roast chicken with mushrooms in cream and port wine recipe featured in the movie (Poulet au Porto), which was fantastic, along with potatoes sautéed in butter (Pommes de Terre Sautées), which is just like it sounds, only more so.   For our anniversary dinner a few weeks ago, she cooked Lobster Thermidor, and she needed me to perform just one function, crustacean execution.  Like with Michelle’s counterpart from the movie, the Julie character, plunging a live lobster into a boiling pot was a problem. Someone with a hairy chest had to kill them first, which somehow seemed more humane.  After I dispatched the unlucky lobsters with a knife, Michelle still needed to hold my hand when she picked up a lobster and plopped it into the pot.  The result was delicious, a prize winner.

Last week she cooked the classic French chicken in wine dish, Coq au Vin, which was very yummy.  This week, she has set her mind on mastering the art of cooking Boeuf Bourguignon, a beef stew made with bacon, onions, mushrooms, and two and a half gallons of wine, half of which goes into the chef, again as featured in the movie.  To make this demanded the proper cooking equipment, a casserole dish constructed of enameled cast iron, which can be used to sauté on the stove, and then transfer seamlessly into the oven.  Last night the man of the house brought home one marketed by Mario Batali, and this savior was treated to much jubilant, giggly dancing and squealing by the female chef of the house.

In her cookbook, Julia Child refers to Boeuf Bourguignon as “one of the most delicious beef dishes ever concocted by man.”  We’ll find out soon.

“If the women don’t find you handsome, they should at least find you handy with a corkscrew.”

A Unified Message

November 17, 2010

The other day I overheard a teenaged girl telling a friend excitedly about Facebook’s new Messages service, and what Mark Zuckerberg is calling a “social in-box.”   She was an attractive, normal-looking girl, and she told her friend, “Like, it’s, like, a, like, social in-box, and like, I’ll be able to, like, get all sorts of, like, messages, from all my, like, friends!  It’s, like, fabulous!”

I think she liked it.

There were so many social and technological issues bumping and grinding here I had to go for a walk to think about it.  We really have quite a few communication options nowadays.  For example, two people can have a face-to-face conversation, which is one of my favorite techniques.  There are some costs, I suppose, since two people have to be roughly at arm’s distance away.  But there are also advantages, in that you can see their facial expressions and body language, you can smell their cologne, and even the distance one person prefers to stand from another is a part of the message.  It’s a rich mode of correspondence, with a lot of information conveyed.

A phone call boasts some of those same advantages, such as hearing the voice volumes and inflections, but clearly something is lost, while a gain in convenience is achieved.  There is also the historical, low-tech version of a face-to-face conversation, which is a letter or card, in which one uses a pen to write the intended message.  (“Hey, grandpa, what’s that?”  “It’s a pen.”)  That’s a good one, since the handwriting, font sizes and other graphical cues, and even the paper used, all become part of the message.  There are downsides, such as obtaining the pen, paper, envelope and stamp, and then you’ve got to find a mailbox, which is getting harder.  And part of the nuance of a written letter is the very fact that the sender went to the trouble of writing and mailing it.

Email was a cool advance, in that it allowed the speed and editing convenience of a word processor, so no eraser is needed, and the immediacy of instant message delivery.  Facebook, as a communication tool, has become both a crutch and a crucible.  People communicate with it not only with written broadcasts but also with photos, video, and links to news articles and more.  The idea of integrating all my social inputs into one amalgamated inbox was compelling.

A few days later I had signed on to Facebook Messages, loaded all the apps onto my smart phone, and had directed all possible social inputs into one place, what I called my Windshield.  I could drive down Connected Avenue and take it all in.  It was a nice day so I was out on a walk, when I ran into a buddy of mine, so we started a conversation on one of our favorite topics, food and wine.  Moments into our talk, there was an incoming text message, which took just a few moments to read.  Then an email popped in, which was good, because it confirmed a dinner date.

My friend’s smile had flattened a bit, but we carried on.  A Twitter tweet arrived, but took only a blink to read, because they’re so short.  Then my phone started beeping, which I recognized as Morse code, which an old ham radio buddy of mine uses.  I was rusty, but still got the gist.  My friend was looking down at his shoes, never a good sign.

At that point I noticed puffs of smoke coming from Bunker Hill, a short distance from here in East Boston, and understood that they were smoke signals.  Luckily I had downloaded Google’s Goggles onto my phone, so I photographed the smoke puffs, and my phone’s app translated the message for me.  It was from an old Indian chief I had met while camping in the Berkshires, and my smoked salmon was ready to pick up.  Over my friend’s shoulder I saw a guy standing on a distant tower, using semaphore flags.  He was an employee of Tower Wines, informing me that a case of wine I had ordered had just come in.  Suddenly I sensed a low frequency pounding, but instead of a headache from all this social networking, it was the sound of drums coming from a good distance.  A colleague had lost his tongue and vocal chords after a lifetime of smoking, so he beat on drums to send messages.  It was one of those lame messages that people still insist on sending out to all their contacts – he was telling everyone that he had eaten a tuna salad sandwich for lunch.

At that moment I looked up to admire some sky-writing.  It took a few seconds to get over the shock, but it was my food and wine buddy up there piloting his Cessna.  What he was writing in the clouds was his displeasure at me being so distracted by all these social inputs.  He had become so impatient – and I have to say I sympathized with him – that he had left me standing there, and I hadn’t even noticed.  He had walked away, had driven to Logan Airport just a few hundred yards from where we had been standing, and had taken off.  He wrote that it would be easier for him to get a word in this way, instead of competing with all the other signals.

It has all become too much.  I have to get out of here.  The only solution is to buy a canoe and set out for a simpler life in the country, and get away from all this social networking technology.  But don’t call me; I’ll call you.  Just listen for a guy pounding on a log with a big stick.

A Husky Diplomacy

November 15, 2010

I just got back from Yokohama, Japan, where this intrepid reporter attended the APEC forum of Asian and Pacific nations.

As you might expect, a gathering of this sort usually devolves into arguing, lapel-stabbing and slap-fights.  At last tally, there were no fatalities, but the phrase “you scabrous cur” was used fourteen times, “you lying scoundrel” was used seven times and this correspondent heard “why you dirty…” at least nineteen times.  Good thing swords had to be checked at the door.

While the main thrust of the forum was the discussion of economic and trade issues, some concerns burning on the diplomatic stove were a bunch of tiny islands disputed by multiple sides, with China claiming all of them, and going so far as to claim all territories between San Francisco and Paris.

The Russians are quarreling over some of these islands with the Chinese, the Japanese are quarreling over some even smaller islands with the Chinese, the Koreans are… hmm, might as well save my breath and say that everybody is ticked at China.  Recent trade success combined with higher military spending has led to the dragon on the continent to throw its weight around more lately.  Everyone agreed but no one wanted to go on record as saying that they would like to see the leaders of the Chinese Peoples Bullying Party get doused with a big bucket of ice water.

(Perhaps the Chinese leaders ought to read Sir John Floyer’s timeless 18th Century classic, “The History of Cold Bathing: Both Ancient & Modern”.)

When I pointed out to Chinese officials that these tiny islands — more desolate rocks than anything of real interest – aren’t worth all this fuss, they responded with Stony Face #3.  If you had studied Chinese movies as long as I have, you would know that this is a classic Chinese bargaining visage, meant to convey a complete disregard for human life, especially if that is a Western life.

Then I suggested that China is expressing interest in these islands just to annoy its neighbors, and the Chinese contingent then responded with Stony Face #7, a clear escalation.  It was time to push my chips into the pot, so I said the only reason why Beijing was pressing the territorial claim is because they want to see how much they can get away with, like a playground bully, and that if Japan or some other country doesn’t blink, China would have to realize that a different approach would be needed.

At that point I was surrounded by large Asian men in dark suits, who manhandled me into a limousine and drove me to the airport.  On the flight home, Chinese President Hu Jintao announced that he regretted having only one face to lose for his country.

I will return soon with a longer, deeper analysis of the forum, and you had better get out your dictionaries, because I’m going to use big words like “economics” and “diplomacy,” and will explore such complex topics as “marking one’s territory like a Alaskan husky.”

Books, old and new!

November 14, 2010

Some of the coolest things we saw at the Boston Antiquarian Book Fair yesterday:

Jane Collier’s “Essay on the Art of Ingeniously Tormenting”, 1757.  Considered one of the earliest examples of satire by a female, she describes in hilarious fashion how to torment servants, friends and family, even children, in the hopes that they will grow up to become tormenters.  I’m sure that Ray Romano’s mother has a 1st edition.

A 1754 book with a sub-title that overlaps into over-confident advertising, Hannah Glasse’s “The Art of Cookery, made Plain and Easy, which far exceeds anything of the kind yet published”.  Much bacon is involved.  Much.

Perhaps the greatest golf writer of all time was Bernard Darwin, a grandson of Charles Darwin’s and a champion amateur golfer as well as Walker Cup captain.  Saw his “Golf Tees and Others” of 1911, and left a wishful note for Santa.

The oldest book seen was a religious tract published in 1488.  Most ancient volumes are of the religious carrot-and-stick variety, as dogmatic as they are beautifully illustrated.

The most expensive thing I saw, at $350,000, was a slender volume by Maximilianus Transylvanus (1523) describing the accomplishments and the death of explorer Ferdinand Magellan.  He might have discovered much more had not his ego gotten the better of him.

Two cool artifacts were: spectacles owned by Abraham Lincoln, selling for $200,000; and a document with the signature of Francisco Pizarro, the Spanish conquistador who in 1532 defeated the Incas in an important battle described in Jared Diamond’s 1997 book, “Guns, Germs and Steel”.

The funniest book title was spotted early on by my eagle-eyed wife, “The History of Cold Bathing, Both Ancient and Modern” by Sir John Floyer, 1715.  Don’t know why that one is not on the Kindle’s Top-10 list.

Phones According to Microsoft

November 12, 2010

What is it with young people and their phones?  They walk around with eyes glued to their phones as they text hugely important messages such as “I’m bored” to equally boring friends.  They no longer seem capable of walking upright, eyes focused on the middle distance, taking in the hues of sunsets and listening to birdsong.

OK, I’ll admit, I wish the implications of this phenomenon had been more apparent to me as I walked upright, eyes focused on the middle distance, since I would have purchased huge blocks of stock in the companies that make smart phones and the other companies that do mysterious electronic stuff that allows them to work.

Some years ago, I noticed that the first thing a student did upon exiting a classroom or a building on the college campus where I taught, was to produce a cell phone and call someone.  When I scooped up discourse with my very big ears, I heard fascinating conversations involving the speaker’s location, the fact that they had just finished class, and that, oh yeah, they were bored.  (When we were kids, my parents used to tell us that if we were bored, we weren’t trying hard enough to find anything interesting to do, or to read, etc; the message that stuck was not that we were bored, but that we were boring.)  The lesson learned by this observer was that the phones were in constant use.

Also interesting is that a theoretically average student didn’t carry their phone in their pocket, purse, back-pack or briefcase – no, the phone was always in their hand.  The phone was so important to them that to keep it elsewhere would amount to milliseconds lost of precious time getting it out!  “Take it out of my pocket?  Are you kidding?  Why would I put it in my pocket?”  Since then, talking to someone on the phone is no longer critical; it’s texting that counts.  When the latest text comes in, they have to look at it right away, no matter how banal or dull.  The message itself is not what is important; it is the connectedness that counts.

After lurking hungrily in the shadows, Microsoft has finally come to the party – wanting to be the main guest, of course – with their take on what smart phone software should be.

Microsoft’s commercials emphasize this, but I’m not so sure they are as effective as they intend, and these commercials still strike me as creepy.  For example, for those who have not yet seen the “Really” commercial, people go about their business, eyes glued to phones and walking heedlessly like technically advanced zombies.  Inevitably, like billiard balls put into play, these people collide, crashing into one another like dominos, if dominos could wear sweat suits, cocktail dresses or business apparel.  Many phoners are so distracted they miss out on important things: the guy in bed who misses the vision of his lovely wife presenting herself in a little negligee; the surgeon who doesn’t notice his patient; the diver oblivious to the shark approaching yummy dangling feet.

One guy is in a bathroom, using a cell phone while standing at a urinal — I have actually seen this happen — and he drops his phone you-know-where.  The guy standing next to him looks at the guy with disgust and says, “Really?”

As related to me by a friend who attended the Microsoft product introduction at a Boston hotel this week, Microsoft’s intention is to tell us that their phone software is so much more intuitive, and so much better than the competition’s, that you’ll be in and out more quickly, allowing you to come back up to the real world’s surface, where you’ll be able to resume a life.  But aren’t they still just encouraging us to use their phones?  So users are still going to be walking along, eyes glued to their phones, until they hit a phone pole, disappear down a manhole, or crash into me.

My money is on a much-rumored new application for smart phones, the “killer app” that shows you on your phone, with crystal clarity, what is in front of you.

Mystery Missile Launch Explained

November 10, 2010

Yesterday the coastal California sky-watching community was abuzz with rumors of a mysterious missile firing, apparently from underwater.  This exhausted and waterlogged reporter has gone deep, literally, to bring you this amazing story.

Contrary to official reports claiming that the contrail came from an ordinary jet plane, I have discovered that it was an actual missile launch from a privately owned, used US Navy submarine.  Coincidentally, I was in the San Francisco Bay practicing ski-boat acrobatics, and so was conveniently close to the action.

Before I reveal the truth, however, I must set the scene, which involves connecting some seemingly disparate dots.  According to a Wall Street Journal law blog, a multi-billion dollar dispute between rival software behemoths Oracle and SAP is being called the “Tech Trial of the Century”.  The German enterprise resource management software firm SAP stole software – top executives have admitted this – from Oracle, a US firm.  Oracle is in court to force SAP to cough up $2 billion, which is what they claim the stolen software was worth.

SAP, on the other hand, figures that a slap on the wrist is more justifiable, something more in the paltry $40 million range.  The personalities in this boxing ring of business are as out-sized as the dollar amounts, and the relationship between the two men is acrimonious at best.  Oracle’s chief, Lawrence Ellison, has the 6th biggest ego in the world, and is worth roughly $27 billion; Léo Apotheker, the head of SAP at the time of the alleged transgression (but now the head of Hewlett-Packard), and the owner of a German castle stuffed with Euros, wrote ‘olive branch’ letters a year ago that threw gasoline on Ellison’s competitive fires.

Much of Ellison’s fortunes have been spent on exotic sailing vessels to race in the America’s Cup, a 160-year old international sailing regatta.  At one point Mr. Ellison attempted to buy the Atlantic Ocean, but Cup officials judged that it would give the United States too much of an advantage.  Ellison owns many yachts and exotic oceangoing craft, including a used US Navy submarine.

Mr. Apotheker, or rather Herr Apotheker, boasts a great-grandfather who was an admiral in the Nazi German navy, the Kriegsmarine.  My investigative sleuthing revealed that Apotheker traveled to the San Francisco Bay area via his U-boat, since the federal court case is being held in nearby Oakland.

When Ellison, performing maneuvers in his SS Smasher, discovered that Apotheker was in nearby waters in his Type-212 submarine, the Sauerkraut, Ellison went ballistic and fired, well, a ballistic missile at him.  It turns out that he had intended to fire a torpedo, but had hit the wrong button, since the operator’s manual for his submarine had been stolen from a German website, and was of course in German.  When the Smasher surfaced, I swam over and had a little chat with Larry, who agreed that it was a bit of a public relations gaff.  I suggested he call Charlie Sheen’s firm, and he thanked me as he slammed shut the hatch and began to submerge.

There is no way to explain human cravings, but when I got back to Fisherman’s Wharf, I found a deli and ordered a sub.  The Italian kind.

Playing Cat and Mouse

November 9, 2010

The wizened, paranoid guys who run China are pushing huge advances in the Chinese digital animation industry.  But to what end?

According to documents obtained by this intrepid reporter, the continual problem of controlling its citizens is pushing the Peoples Bullying Party to new extremes.  Just recently two prominent Chinese advocates and legal scholars were prevented from attending a conference in London, because Chinese leaders feared that they might go to Norway for the Nobel Prize award ceremonies.  (Oh no!)  These documents, which were smuggled out of China in the mouth of a yak and are known as the Michi Moss Papers, reveal a stunning scheme:

The Central Committee plans to replace more than a billion of its people with animations.

In this way, the movements of Chinese citizens can be manipulated by a run-of-the-mill Microsoft mouse, and any words desired can be “played” through the on-screen characters.  Record-breaking unit sales of the Wyle-E-Kai-Yo-Tee 5000, a state-of-the-art Chinese 3D animation computer, bears this out.

Like in the movie “The Matrix”, China plans to harvest the heat and electricity from the bodies of its billion-plus population from a warehouse in Sichuan.  This power generating plant, which would make the output of the Three Gorges Dam look like a AAA battery, is to be built by the same contractors who build schools, and should be online by 2015.

According to government official Duk Deez Nee, the mammoth facility under construction on the site of a collapsed school is to be a Peoples Ping Pong Academy.

As stated in the Michi Moss papers, top level government executives have become angry, frustrated and tired of the efforts required to repress its citizens and squash their desires for more freedom, human rights and access to Conan O’Brien.  With ever increasing access to the Internet, the Peoples Bullying Party is finding it more difficult than ever to keep Chinese people from learning how bad they have it, and keeping the trouble makers quiet.  In the interest of promoting “stability and harmony,” transforming its citizenry into computer animations will ameliorate the situation.

This will probably work beautifully, until one day a giant cartoon safe drops on the Central Committee.