News & opinion on Greater China and the even Greater Beyond: by Biff Cappuccino.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Howdy H: That dating article works for me completely. You should be scoring more often.
My advice would be to be less sticky-sweet nice and more frank about what you're offering and what they're offering. All relationships are negotiated. Those which aren't, are accidents waiting to happen. Be less patient, have more to say. (I literally won't go out the door without knowing I've got fresh stuff to talk about.) Speak your mind. Treat women just like you treat men, but don't talk about sex until after you've fucked. Don't spend idle hours with chicks. Consider ending the conversation first. When you value your time appropriately, they'll value it too. Blabbermouth would rather have me on the phone 24 hours a day. But she ought to be careful what she wishes for. After all, like anyone else, I'd run out of stuff to say. So when we speak, I'm almost always the one who ends the conversation, with her flustered and floundering for excuses to get me to stay on the line. And its usually this way with local girls. They don't know how to say no and they don't know when to say stop. And they don't respect men who share this problem with them. Ain't fair, but then again, nothing's fair in love and war.
Hope I said something useful,
Hi Lewis: I wrote the following to a friend in the business world who supports the US democrats, a party whose platform is blatantly inimical to his own best interests. My theory is that my friend flatters himself that the dems are more enlightened and thus fashionably correct. Rather than be true to himself, he prefers going through the motions of being true to others. Sounds like pious crap to me... This is what I wrote to him...
Rich: you'll be familiar with most of this stuff already, so you mightwant to skim through it...
Hi: to continue our phone discussion from yesterday, George Bush is far from the worst president when it comes to bending the Constitution and blasting cannonball sized holes in the Bill of Rights. He's done this, but then again so has every other president that I'm aware of. There's plenty about the George Bush administration in particular that I do not care for. I'm an atheist for Christ-sakes! I agree with you that Guantánamo Bay seems a bad idea at this point. I too was opposed to the Iraq war before it started. But now that it's ongoing, I naturally support the effort to install some form of democracy, not that I'm terribly optimistic.

But to try to put things in a little perspective, the present hatred of George Bush is much like the blue-nose hatred for Abe Lincoln in 1859 and 1860. The Boston Brahmins loathed this bumpkin backwoods lawyer. And, as I remember, the left-wing peaceniks of congress were calling the Civil War a quagmire (which it often was) and unwinnable (which it never was) right from the beginning right through until the spring of 1864.

Hatred of bin Bush is also akin to the rabid rightwing of Clinton haters. When Clinton ordered Tomahawk missiles to hit a factory in the Sudan, the moronic claim was made that he was doing it to draw attention away from Monica Lewinsky. That seemed dubious if only because United States president is not a King. Sure enough, it turns out that the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the vice president, and perhaps even the head of the Supreme Court and others had to sign off on the attack. Keep in mind that Osama bin Laden considers Clinton to be America's worst ever president. In 2003 bin Laden stated that the White House blowjob condemned Clinton to eternal hell-fires... Hatred brings out the stupid in all of us.

Recently people have been complaining that Dick Cheney did his interview at Fox television. But if you actually watch Fox, as I've tried to do now and again, then you know that Fox does not give the present administration a free ride. I've watched O'Reilly intimidate Rumsfeld and essentially accuse him of lying to his face on camera. Brit Hume essentially told Dick Cheney that he was an idiot, in so many words, for not handling the press better in the recent shooting of his friend. If you watch the interview you can see that Cheney was not amused by Hume's charge. (Cheney's friend by the way apologized for "inconveniencing" Cheney. He said that hunting was, by its very nature, dangerous. They're all adults, he said. They all knew the risk.)

And who did Bill Clinton go to for his first interview after being exposed as having intimate relations with Monica Lewinsky? He went to PBS to get Jim Lehrer to do the job. My point is not that one softball interview deserves another. Simply that politicians are politicians. Would do you expect them to do? Why hate people for doing the inevitable? You might as well pop a blood vessel over the sun giving you a sunburn. Why not get in a tizzy because tree leaves are green? Where's the fairness to the other colors of the rainbow coalition in that?

Politicians lie and dissemble because they're put into office by an electorate which lies and dissembles on a regular basis. (I don't know if I've ever met a chronically honest person in my life. And I think we all know how honest people are first mocked, then feared, and then run out of polite society if not out of town. This, essentially, is my first-hand experience in Eastern Canada... haha... ) When the electorate grows up, we'll get grown-ups in the office of president. Until then, it ain't going to happen.

George Bush will be out of office in a couple of years and then there'll be a new imbecile bungling things. Clinton was better educated, but still profoundly ignorant and credulous. He had little useful life experience for making decisions concerning the common man. His background lay in ivory-tower and bureaucratic ladder-climbing and in talking the talk. He was, in his own way, the equivalent of a Ching Dynasty litteratus spouting ideology and pieties while driving the nation to ruin by holding back progress via the claim that the present moral/ethical scheme is immoral (in the Ching Dynasty, western thinking was immoral; to Clinton, capitalism and the greed ethic are immoral. I.e. both parties are ideological lunatics incapable of penetrating and understanding, let alone embracing, a change for the better as society evolves via technological and social progress. Both are/were vastly out of sync with the age in which they live in and represent, to me anyway, patriotic forces for preserving or returning to a golden age of traditional ignorance and incompetence)

George Bush is patently ignorant and miserably tongue-tied in front of hostile audiences. As a professional politician he's obviously inferior to Clinton who can produce water-works on command. But they are both clowns. And fortunately, as president, they're not in a position to make that big a mess of things. I think most people vastly, vastly overestimate the power that the president wields. This was perhaps most evident in the hysterical reaction to Katrina. A centuries old problem bungled by generations of residents, mayors, governors and presidents was laid at the feet of a wartime president. Unbelievable... It was perhaps the best example of Bush-derangement syndrome I've seen. (For that matter, Houston is suffering a huge crimewave due to the presence of some of the former Big Easy residents. Imagine the chaos if the criminal element was back in New Orleans. It would be like KMT troops in Taiwan in 1946, stealing everything not nailed down... haha...)

As I was saying about Lincoln's record on human rights, he's probably the worst US president. Even his hagiographers refer to him as the "Benevolent Dictator". He arrested hundreds of newspaper editors and okayed Sherman's march to Georgia which essentially resulted in a 60 mile wide swath of destruction through a couple of states in the South and ended with the torching of Atlanta. This was terrorism pure and simple. Army deserters were shot on the spot without military tribunal. Lincoln proactively started the war rather than engage in continued negotiations with the South. And for that matter, the union was presumed to be a voluntary one until Lincoln used force to keep the states together. Talk about an unconstitutional usurpation of power. Prior to Lincoln, newspapers wrote "The United States are..." Today, newspapers write "The United States is..." If you're serious in your opposition to despotic presidents, then I suggest you whip out the Confederate stars and bars. As you know I'm sure, Robert E. Lee was opposed to slavery, as were many other Southerners who fought against the North. Both northerners and southerners detested blacks. Expansion of slavery was the fuse, but the bomb exploded in my view (and I'm no expert) over the issue of 'increasing the size of the empire' vs. 'states rights'. Many northerners were pro-war because they wanted to reinstate democracy in the south. That was a major talking point of the day (They saw some southern elections as corrupt). And, as I've mentioned before, the last slaves to be freed in the US that I'm aware of were held by the Cherokee nation. It took the threat of federal troops to get them released in 1866. Cherokees as a rule were strongly racist and despised blacks. The nation held an equal ratio of slaves (around 10% of the Cherokees owned slaves) in comparison with the local white community.

History is much more interesting than it's made out to be. As you're fond of bringing up, many Japanese kamikaze pilots were actually Taiwanese aborigines proud to die for the Emperor. A Taipei County politician was just in the news recently for who poo-poohing the flying of Japanese flags by aborigines in Wulai. It takes a peculiar form of blinkered jackass, wedded to ideology rather than free thought, to make the claim that Taiwan's aborigines misplaced their loyalties given the vast change in local identity and sovereignty that Taiwan's residents have endured the past 500 years. But this is just the sort of ahistorical brainless sloganeering that the left (and often the right too) engages in back in the United States.

To continue comparing other presidents with W. Andrew Jackson engaged in ethnic cleansing of Indians in the South. Woodrow Wilson established apartheid in the federal bureaucracy when he became president. He only did this because he was unable legally to fire every black employee from the federal government which was what he initially wanted to do. We now know that he actively connived to get the United States into the first world war and that the ocean liner Lusitania was carrying munitions for England and that the Germans were in their legal rights to sink it. Wilson knew all of this and was satisfied with the results. His plan for the League of Nations was pure politics and he abandoned the effort as soon as the political winds were blowing the other way. Not to mention that he refused to see Ho Chi-minh, was pro-empire, etc. We now know the Roosevelt II tried to get the Japanese to attack United States assets for months prior to Pearl Harbor through an 8 point plan drawn up by Harry Dexter White. (And let me state that I have little problem with Roosevelt's scheming. He had to get the US into the war while 80% of the US electorate was opposed.) In 1995, documents were declassified revealing that Roosevelt had a secret 113 page war plan to get Japanese battle cruisers to attack phony US assets. In involved deputizing foreign nationals as Americans and putting them in Japanese sea lanes on phony US warships. The operation was scheduled to begin on December 8, 1941. In other words, Tojo beat Roosevelt at his own game. And how about Roosevelt's spiriting of ethnic Japanese into camps? (George W. Bush's reaction to US Muslims after 9-11 was to visit mosques and embrace solidarity with them.)

How about Harry Truman? He established the CIA which I presume has no constitutional backing. It's an organization lacking transparency and thoroughly opposed to the checks-and-balances spirit of the United States Constitution. Truman was not reelected because he fought a very unpopular war: the Korean War.

Anyway, my point is that George Bush is just following the lead of his predecessors. Not to mention which, he is not half as bad as his war-president predecessors when it comes to human rights because the Congress and the Senate gives far less leeway to presidential authority these days. Further, these days we have smart bombs, robot spy planes, embedded reporters and a variety of other ways and means which help ensure that casualties are kept to a minimum. Keep in mind the old way of dealing with insurgencies: Lincoln and the Confederate insurgency resulting in 600,000 deaths; Roosevelt and the campaign to subdue the Philippines resulting in 200,000 deaths; Lyndon Baines Johnson in Vietnam resulting in more than one million deaths; Nixon and Cambodia resulting in who knows how many deaths. If we were still living in the bad old days of vast collateral damage, the number of civilian deaths in Iraq would be far, far greater than it has been. (And before you agree with the Lancet study claiming 100,000 civilian deaths I recommend you go to the Lancet website and download and read the various caveats. The Lancet, like any other major academic publication prints studies proving and disproving the very same claim on a regular basis. Keep in mind that an estimated 50% of all formal medical research becomes invalidated at some point due to revelations of honest bungling, dishonest fiddling with statistics to make them prettier, suborned researchers, and so forth.)

I'm presuming that you're mostly reading left-wing web sites or that most of what you hear when you go out to bars is from the left-wing perspective. I was formerly a paid subscriber to Salon Magazine. I'm fully aware of what Zmag, Mother Goose, Democracy Now!, and the rest of these hysterical folk have to say because I used to take them seriously. Not anymore. Would you be surprised to learn that Amy Goodman at Democracy Now! makes US $400,000 per year as radio host. Al Franken is making something on the order of US$2,000,000 a year over at Air America. So I hope you don't think that left-wing doomsday prophesies don't pay well and that these scoundrels are out there due to the pious goodness of their hearts. Jimmy Massey, who claims to have been shooting up Iraqis in Mai Lai style massacres is making a mint out on the lecture circuit. Unfortunately, the embedded reporter who was with him says that none of these massacres took place. Not that this is stopping his financial juggernaut. Nor is it stopping Ward Churchill, a Celt posing as a Cherokee Indian. As mentioned before, he makes US$120,000 as a professor at the University of Colorado despite not having a Ph.D. or even a degree of any kind on anything related to Indian studies. He makes US$5000 a lecture during which he brags about his service as a special forces sniper in Vietnam (he was actually an audiovisual technician). A list of these fraudulent performers would take up pages. The chief witness for the No Gun Ri massacre during the Korean War turns out not to have even been there. He claimed that he was behind a machine gun, slaughtering Korean civilians. But his medical records place him in hospital for an injured foot on the day of the alleged massacre.

I know I've mentioned this kind of stuff before, but it bears repeating.

Again, I've read my fill of Marx and Chomsky and Edward Said etc. These and many other left-wing illuminati are con artists, plain and simple. And of course there are plenty of right-wing frauds as well. There's certainly no preponderance of frauds as far as I can tell on one side or the other. And when reading right-wing or libertarian web sites, you have to sift the grain from the chaff as always. But at least some of the conservative web sites try to be historically-minded without being ideological. The secular left wing is essentially neo-Christian and pushing the tired old meme of the meek shall inherit the earth. Along with the Jesus Freaks, secular leftists share a similar love of conspiracy theories (blameless workers vs. evil corporations), glib historically unsound slogans ("no blood for oil" - well then what where Rommel and Montgomery fighting over in their WWII North African campaign?), and false pride based on moral pieties. Likewise, lefties (and most on the right too) virtually shun libraries (preferring a diet of dumbed-down mass media, often followed by know-it-all grousing about dumbed-down mass media, following by more wolfing down of dumbed-down mass media), have a mad preference for ideology over experience, and, like Christians, view morality as if it came down from heaven and was engraved in stone as opposed to looking to anthropology for materialistic explanations of the great diversity of human morals and ethics over the ages.

Here’s something Mencken wrote in 1920:

“When a candidate for public office faces the voters he does not face men of sense; he faces a mob of men whose chief distinguishing mark is the fact that they are quite incapable of weighing ideas, or even of comprehending any save the most elemental — men whose whole thinking is done in terms of emotion, and whose dominant emotion is dread of what they cannot understand. So confronted, the candidate must either bark with the pack or be lost... All the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre — the man who can most adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum. The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”

What has changed? The mob is still with us just as described above. I know this from years of debating ideas with people, particularly during my pre-betamethasone days. Are Clinton and Bush better? In the 1920s, presidents didn’t invoke God. It was way too passé. Today, we’re right back to the days when Lincoln, an avowed atheist, is best remembered for his Gettysburg speech and his cynical blather about the “better angels of our nature”. Haha… If we’ve got morons in office that’s because we’ve got morons voting them in there. And when I look for a moron, the first place I look is in the mirror. I always seem to find one there… Somehow methinks this experience is a universal one…

Anyway, more than enuff said.

Have a good one…


Friday, February 17, 2006

Harried (incomplete) 2006-02-18

"Chinese girls just don't understand men," Jerry moaned wistfully, his mouth creaking into a slow smile under teddy-bear eyes. It seemed a bold conclusion from someone who, after all these years in China, was still peeved about the scandalous absence of fortune cookies. I never figured that one out but I didn't prod or pry. Or pester. I didn't want to be a pestiferous prying prick and prod him into a bad mood. Personal questions made him awkward, infecting me with a case of nerves and a fumbling stammer. A pal is a pal. You give him his space and respectfully let him drop the ball on his own time.

So just who didn't understand whom? And what was it about Chinese girls that got in their way of understanding men? But wait a minute! Who did 'men' refer to? Who was a man? What was manly? But before I could delicately sniff for answers, my ears pricked and I realized his moan was still wheezing out, a sure sign that he wasn't on a boneman's slide into depression. A shriveled moan in his experienced hands could become a warm and sunny exhalation, a lemony pale sort of bitter-sweet angst that pulled at your sympathies and warmed your guts.

We were on the second floor of a socialite bar called Goggles. When we guessed it was a contraction of 'Beer Goggles' the English owner got huffy and began ranting about local incompetence at spelling 'Google'. Either way, though Jerry's shelf life was waning, he dared to love the product on display on the dance floor. Loved it too much: jauntily calling them "little darlings" in private and "sweetheart" to their pretty timeless Chinese faces. To his credit, I never heard him bark "long-haired dictionary" followed by that evil withering laugh which is common camouflage for foreign self-doubt. Then again he didn't speak Mandarin. Never got to the root that one out either.

But he was facing the music tonight, telling me that that his "young carefree lusty days of being the new kid on the block are over," and he coughed sadly. The sun had set on the palmy days of tropical southern China, when girls were dropping their traditional gear of knee stockings, Mao jackets, and kungfu slippers for romps in their birthday suits with fashionable Westerners.

But fashions come and go. "Our due-date's expired, buddy! These ladies are wanting fresh meat," I guffawed in self-mockery. Sex was fun but, when all was said and done, no better an abuse of time than smoking meth. But that was easy for me to say, which was why mum was the word right now as I watched a ripple of sadness meander through Jerry's worry lines, shoving aside warts and wens like a stadium wave coming through. Was he going to cry into the glass of Old English he was cuddling? Or was it a move in his cherished choreography of complaint?

I glanced around the busy bar: the efficiency bulbs impaled in the ceiling were bleaching the patrons into a VHS video paleness and sucking the color out of the bruised redwood tables holding our drinks. But the place was jamming. Hopping and happening. We checked out the action, lust and hormones giving Jerry the sweats in the canned heat; me woozy, wobbling and toppling in the thick recycled air. I swiveled my head: not an empty seat for miles.

To keep it real, I focused on my bottle of Piraat, the sweet Dutch ale with the decal featuring a Levantine Norseman with his merry band of medieval rowers paddling against a sail full of wind. It was a niche beer that bragged 'global brand' but it was strong, rich and sticky sweet. I needed the calories just to think.

The day before, Jerry'd invited me out to a coffee shop. I'd pictured something quiet in tanned leather, dark and intimate, but I trotted to booming rock music compounded by a chatter of university student voices overcoming the sound barrier. Jerry was hunching over an Ikea table opposite the light-skinned late-twenties woman he was keen on. He was so into the moment that he didn't follow her auburn eyes, which settled on me when I shuffled up beside their pale-wood table. When I nudged him, he swung out an elbow, fobbing off the anonymous competition pushing greedily into his space. But when I belted out, "Hey Jerry! Helloooo?" I realized his concentration was the fear of being trapped in her headlights. Things weren't going well.

Yet on the phone he'd been effusive, "She's a hottie. Yeah, I really like her. Got some attitude you know? Not one of these run of the mill Simple Simon chicks. There's nothing Mickey Mao about her."

"Is she smart?"


"I dunno. It might make it easier to talk to her. She might actually have something to say."

"What do I care she has something to say. Its not her verbal ability I'm interested in," he winked pedantically.

But now, seeing it was me in the coffee shop, he was suddenly frantic, like a pooch happy to see its owner. Not because he was bored, but because he was afraid she was.

He'd met her at a trade show, a good sign I thought. She’d know how to deal with foreigners. In other words, she might know how to deal with him. She might be decisive even, heaven forbid. This was a country where people didn't like decisions; sharp edges got bumped off and you didn't square the circle but instead circled the square. Women most of all, where men were concerned. Picking up a woman was a man's job. Inside, to kick start the conversation, I made a face of disapproval and whispered: "So why is that couple in weird hatwear?"

I knew Jerry would think this frivolous but the young duffer was in a grey gangbanger's wool cap plunged tight over his forehead and getting in his eyes. He was getting his groove on with his slouching moll, herself in a lamb-white oversized woolen Mac. They were conspicuously into themselves, declaring to all admirers that they were above them.

In the direction of the couple, I poked a finger behind the flat of my other hand, explaining, "I mean, those hats, do they mean something in particular around here?"

She replied blankly, her body motionless, her pulse steady as clockwork, "Don't know. I don't think they mean anything."

Silence. She smiled. Waiting. Biding her time. Thinking about what to say wasn't her problem. It was mine. I was the man. I was the one in pursuit. She was the catcher, I the pitcher.

I was starting to sweat. I hated being seated across the table from strangers as I always felt responsible for carrying the conversation. And I resented Jerry putting me in this position and now leaving me out to dry. He was taking a breather, like I was in reserve, a second-string player thrust into the game to hold down the ship while the champ caught his breath.

I could feel my face reddening as I wanted someone to blame. Why hadn't he screened her through a phone call, the dumb fuck? Then I remembered he'd already spoken to her and despite her cadaverous first performance, still asked her out. Given that doing nothing had worked for her the first time round, why should she change a thing this time out? Aargh...

I ventured, hope against hope, "Everything means something. Clothes are a giveaway, a window into one's..." My shoulders were rising and the information pipe in my brain was being squeezed by my tension making it hard to remember words. But I managed to say, "...a window into one's fashion soul."

Jerry added, "Yeah. Right."

I mentioned the gangbanger association with the guy's hat. She smiled but said nothing. She looked at me blankly. Jerry said nothing either. They didn't see the point. What the hell was I talking about this shit for? They started talking shop. Business deals. Commodity prices. After half an hour of this, I excused myself and went home.

When I'd spoken to Jerry earlier this evening in the bar, he'd sung her praises. "Yeah, she's got more personality than most. You know, she's like more westernized. She's not silly or ditzy. She knows how to deal with men."

It was rude to ask but after the previous evening I was in no mood to be conciliatory, "Did you bang her?"

"What kind of question is that?"

"Don't give me that shit. You're the one eager to fuck her, not me."

"No," he'd shrugged bashfully but quickly added, "But she had to go home, you know? She can't stay out too late. She lives with her folks."

But then he told me she went back home at five o'clock in the morning. He reassured me saying, "But we talked about sex. I mean, she can deal with it. She's into it. She's mature about it."

Aren't they all, I thought to myself.

It was a mistake to talk about sex. Every woman knows a man's out to fuck her. Women, like men, are bored by the obvious. She was just somebody who spoke English and used the language barrier like a hunter using a duck blind. Instead of blurting something silly or gauche, by know she'd learned to hold her cards close to her chest. Rather than take a risk she let Harry, her admirer, lovingly fill in the blanks for her. When she said nothing, he filled in the space with something appropriate, something sprung from the whole cloth of wishful thinking. From my perspective, she was a two-legged blank, the laziest of predators. And I'm even a fan of predators, as long as they're proactive. He was making two fundamental errors: chasing pretty girls, one at a time. You won't find many pretty girls making that mistake.

Here in the bar, we'd just tied up a discussion on the state of the union. The Chinese union. Vivisecting the cold war between China and Taiwan; we'd rehashed our bits about China fooling the West into believing it was a disagreement between kith and kin, an internal family matter: like it was the golden olden days when a husband could blacken the wifey's eyes and you called it a marriage and kept your damn nose out of it because you weren't no busybody. But Jerry's heart wasn't in the mood for politics. He was in the mood for love.

I sneaked a peek at the old boy. Like me, early forties. Unlike me, weathered. Tongued and grooved beyond his years by his manly refusal to use skin products, keep the weight off, dress in dapper fashion. A man's home is his castle and his was on an island in international waters surrounded by a comfort zone. He was a pal, but I had to remind myself that conversations could be about anything but himself. Nothing that cut to close to the quick. Playing the role of a man was one thing; being a man altogether another challenge.

I was scoping for a clue in his shifting baby blues. I peaked for a downturn in the creases squaring his mouth, for an awkward fidget, his arms weirdly akimbo as they sometimes were wont to do. Or for a scuffing foot, fish-tailing across the floor, his shoulder heading up while a hand tried to reach down. Some disturbance in the matrix, some helpful hint transmitted through ragged sweatshirt and threadbare chinos; or through loafers sunburnt and squashed by over-heavy feet, black rubber waffle-batter spilling from the fleshy iron.

"Can we blow this place and get some fresh air? I know I don't get out much, but I never understood the idea of picking up chicks in bars." I shouted for effect. "It's too loud! Too many distractions!! Too much competition!!!"

"Alright already! I get the picture."

I reminded him of what I could never persuade him: "The internet or shop stalls work way better. This bar's claustrophobic, man. Wall to wall patrons. And they all look just like us. Sheesh! We got no brand appeal." He was smiling now, trying to help, his lips parting ready to inject a positive note into my complaint. He pitied my phobia of public places and people I couldn't and wouldn't relate to. I hurried the pace. "And everyone's watching. The place is full of witnesses. Gives me the creeps. There's so much more privacy on a Chinese sidewalk."

He laughed.

"No really. I'm serious. They don't see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. At least not to your face. If you play it right, you're out there all alone in the crowd. It's a beautiful thing."