Thursday, March 31, 2005

Funny How Time Slips Away
"Well hello there. My, it's been a long, long time. And how am I doing? Well, I guess that I'm doing fine. It's been been so long now, but it seems like it was only yesterday. Gee, ain't it funny, how time slips away?"
Yes, it's been awhile since I've posted, but there's a been a dearth of blogworthy material and I've been consumed finishing a freelance piece for USA Today for a business travel section to be published April 27.
This week's Standard column is merely warmed over blogstuff and not worth recycling here again, although I just learned that an "avid fan" in Hong Kong is the 12-year-old daughter of one the paper's (American) top guns.
"Apparently, you're the only thing she reads in her daddy's paper," another editor told me. "Great," I replied. "It's nice to know that I'm huge with 12-year-old Lutheran girls." It's actually a bit ironic, too, given that early on in my Standard stint the honcho's wife had apparently made it clear that she was not especially amused by my work. The man himself seems to appreciate my efforts but we rarely talk, though he's never less than cordial when we do - just a bit squiggy. As someone else observed about him: "He's a good guy, just too tight for his skin."
On another front, it looks like I'll be going back to the States for a short visit to see my dad and sister next month in, er, Syracuse, NY and C will be with me. Amazingly and against all popular odds, she scored a 12-month business visa. Whether it was her charm with the US consulate interviewer in Guangzhou or the somewhat fictitious "invitation letter" her US employer kindly wrote up for her, or both, we'll never know; but she's in possession of what few Chinese these days are able to score.
She's extremely excited about a maiden visit to the States - though I keep trying to give her a reality check by pointing out that Syracuse isn't exactly a prime, coveted travel destination. Nonetheless, C has hopes of perhaps extended layovers in either NYC so she can "shop at Carrie's stores" as seen in Sex and the City or LA. She also mentioned Vegas, but after I showed her a US map she's downsized the expectations.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Hello in There
It happened yet again the other day.
I was walking back from the grocery near my Shenzhen flat when I spotted a fellow foreign barbarian single-mindedly striding along the same stretch of sidewalk toward me.
He was lanky, probably in his mid-50s with a pinched, pasty demeanor that suggested ``neurotic European fleeing several ex-wives and 12-year-old tax issues'' though I'll never know because, despite my attempt at eye contact and a friendly nod, he passed quickly as if I was slightly noxious vapor.
I've been in the same 22-floor dwelling complex for about 20 months and - except for another geweilo who nests irregularly five floors below depending on his girlfriend's mood and where the little men who live in his socks tell him to sleep - I think I'm the closest thing the block has to a foreign fixture. My Chinese neighbors, local merchants and I regularly exchange nei-hou's, hellos, smiles, goods and services and, yes, once in a great while a few words that aren't fit for print.
Unlike Hong Kong where black, brown and white skin is no novelty, a lot of Shenzhen, save Shekou district, is still a cheerful mostly foreigner-free zone. Hard figures are hard to come by, but most estimates put us at about 10,000 among a total population that veers between 7 and 10 million depending on who's talking and how much they've had to drink.
To our occasional irritation we're still a curiousity to many of the natives, especially the children and the elderly women in the grocery who often express stunned amazement and glee when discerning that foreigners also utilize apples, botttled water, chicken and soap.
And frankly, another alien face is usually also a welcome Shenzhen novelty to me, which is why I make an effort at at least politely acknowledging another individual of non-Asiatic origin when we happen to cross paths or share an elevator.
It's a usually fruitless effort at curing what I call, ``Marco Polo Syndrome,'' or MPS.
MPS: the silent social killer.
Symptoms: exaggerated manifestations of superiority and exclusivity fostered by the delusion that the individual was the first and only foreigner to ``discover'' China. While it's difficult to fathom how one can still engage in this egrecious self-deception while standing under a glowing neon 20-foot visage of Colonel Sanders, it's apparently not an uncommmon affliction.
Cure? Apparently none, though foreign friends in Shenzhen also confirmed my findings through their own research.
``I don't understand it either,'' a Texan named Sam confessed over some beers a group ranging from Americans, Brits, a Canadian and a Bolivian were killing in a small bar outside the Shenzhen Jusco mall. Sam was our hub, his Shenzhen-centered website and some e-mails had created a wobbly temporary wheel of expats all bemoaning the aloofness of our peers.
``Let me try something,'' I said. I had spotted a duo of other white ghosts sitting at another table outside. Wandering casually up, I smiled, gestured to Sam's club at the bar and said, ``Hey, would you guys like to join us?''
``Piss off,'' one said without looking up. His companion made brief eye contact and snickered.
``I think they're of UK, possibly Aussie-origin,'' I reported upon my return. ``Definitely Western carbon-based life forms exhibiting rudimentary, hostile social skills.''
``Another case of MPS I'm guessing,'' replied one of our gathering.
``Sad,'' said another.
The youngest member of our group, a putonghua(Mandarin)-fluent, 20something US English teacher named Patrick broke in with a confession.
``I do that sometimes,'' he blurted out. ``I might have MPS. I'll be wandering around some little lane in a remote neighborhood thinking I'm the only foreigner there and all of a sudden there's some foreign dude walking up out of nowhere and I'm irritated. `This is my turf!' I'm thinking. `Get out!'''
``Yeah, but they...'' I pointed to the Chinese waitress and Sam's Chinese wife, ``They were there first.''
``I know, man. But sometimes I can't help myself!'' Patrick said, mock-sobbing.
The next evening I was at the Lucky Number elevator area where I found a middle-aged foreigner I'd never before seen waiting with his Chinese wife or girlfriend.
We both smiled. It was suddenly promising.
``Hi,'' I said. ``Where you from?''
``Bonjour,'' he replied. ``No Anglais. Francais.''
``Nei-hou'' I said. ``Americano. Yankee. But Bush no gusto. Muy mal. Muy merde. Viva Chirac! No parlevouz Francais. No parlevouz putonghua. Hablo Espanol?''
``No,'' he said. ``Italiano?''
No, but through a bastardized scramble of pidgin Spanish, French, English, Italian and crude sign language we managed to establish our names, ages, occupations, apartment numbers and pledged to an unspecified date for a longer meet and greet involving Tsingtao ``biere.''
Just one case of MPS nipped in the bud, I thought. But sometimes that's enough.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Never Going Back to Rockville
How I Made a Thorough Ass of Myself to REM Singer Michael Stipe Today. (Or Reason Number 617 Why I Am Unfit to Ever Resume Working as a Rock/Pop Chronicler.)
REM played here last night and despite the fact that I didn't attend the show because I had to work, when I spotted Stipe wandering around at noon in a business/shopping area called Central, I made eye contact and blurted out: "Hey Peter! Great show last night!"
Michael gave me a mild 'who/what-the-fuck?' look but politely replied, "Thanks, man."
My brain fart - which continued as I madly TM'd Julian and left voice messages with a couple friends in the States about my celeb sighting of "Peter Garrett" - came, I realized, from suddenly mixing up REM guitarist Peter Buck and Stipe's increasing resemblance to chrome-domed lanky Aussie vocalist Peter Garrett of Midnight Oil.
Dylan's Idiot Wind ("I'm an idiot babe, it's a wonder I can even speak") then began ringing through my head.
That is all.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

A Change is Gonna Come
Somewhere in the airport lobby sized Hong Kong office of the People's Republic of China visa/immigration department - floor 7, booth 4 to be exact - is a real working class hero. I don't know her name, but if she weren't already married and I weren't already involved, I'd do my best to make her mine.
She turned my chicken shit of a visa search experience into glorious chicken salad. I had no idea that the office of final resort to which I'd been directed was the official PRC visa center until arriving. I almost turned around and walked away, especially after learning I had to be searched and go through a metal detector in order to gain access.
Not exactly the kind of atmosphere that inspires confidence in someone touting fake business cards and spurious reasons for why he should be allowed to gallavant regularly in the Middle Kingdom.
"No photographs!" "Mobile phones must be deactivated!" read the signs. Why anyone would want to photograph a large waiting room is beyond me, but I took a number, turned off the cell phone and filled out a form identifying me as an American import/export guy. Then I sat down to a couple of Jordanians who were hoping to get into China with an repeatedly photocopied "invitation letter" dated August 2003 typed on stationary with a Shanghai elementary school letterhead asking them to share their expertise regarding "satchel crafting technology."
Suffice to say, their scam didn't fly. They were one number in front of me at booth 4 and after their wheedling, foot stomping, hints that they could offer "more cash, now" and long sighs failed, I sucked it up and smiled at the clerk.
"I am sorry, but if you go on business you must have a business invitation letter," she said.
I pointed at my makeshift business card and at C's business address, phone number and name as a "reference."
"These aren't enough?"
"No, I am sorry. Is she your business contact?" she asked, pointing to C's name.
"Um. Yeah. It's more informal business, actually," I 'fessed up.
She flipped through my expanding passport. "Many, many Shenzhen stamps. You must have 'informal business' with her quite a lot," the clerk observed, smiling a little.
"Well...we get by."
"Perhaps you can go as a tourist instead?"
It was that easy and it got better. After I'd rewritten the application form as a "tourist" she asked me if I would like a 12-month visa, instead of the 3-month that I was banking on.
"Yeah! Yeah! Sure, but 6 or 3 is fine."
"I will see what I can do." She disappeared to consult with a superior and returned shortly.
"I am sorry. Six months is the best I can do. You may pick it up Tuesday."
"Sorry? No, that's great! Don't be sorry. Great! Thank you!" I gushed. I wanted to reach through the 4-inch thick Plexiglass barrier and hug her in gratitude. "Tell your boss to give you a raise and a promotion!" I then spotted her wedding ring, a silver band with a modest diamond.
"And tell your husband he's the luckiest man in the world!"

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

This visa situation gets curiouser and curiouser. Today I called a travel/visa company recommended by a British, Chinese-speaking coworker. She had earlier offered to help by calling them and posing as a Chinese-speaking American, thinking that the language gap might explain some of my confusion. She kindly made the call two days ago and was told that a 6-month mulitiple entry visa for a US passport was possible with the usual conditions (counterfeit business card, etc.).
I sucked it up and called them myself this morning and the instant I said I had a US passport the woman went into meltdown mode. "No visas for US citizens! No!" Despite her shrill, hysterically sharp tone - which suggested I might as well have asked her if she'd like to be featured on a live Internet broadcast having sex with a wallaby - I pressed on politely.
"Why? I was told two days ago that it was possible."
"NO! Chinese government say NO!"
"But...can you help? Please?"
Her voice inexplicably softened and she virtually whispered another phone number to me. "Maybe they can help."
"Who can help?"
"Just call."
I rang the mystery number and another woman answered who told me that a "3-month" multiple entry visa was entirely possible for a US citizen for HK$750. It was the first I'd heard of a 3-month option and made her repeat it. She did so and then gave me directions to her office, which apparently occupies an entire 7th floor, but she would not reveal the name of her employer.
So, my mission tomorrow will be to locate the mysterious visa source; that is after I straighten out paying my cable bill.
I learned today after several fruitless attempts and phone calls that one does not pay a cable bill at the cable TV office, but at a 7-Eleven.
"Well, of course. Silly me," I said to the cable company phone rep after 20-minutes on hold and her "Everyone knows that, what planet are you from" explanation. "I'll do it right after I go to the gas station to pay my library fines."
PS: If there are any Hong Kong-based Yankee bloggers and/or readers with advice/tips/names and phone numbers regarding a HK visa service that can give me some efficient, no b.s. help for a multi-entry visa, please, please, please email me at average_guy26 at yahoo dot com. (This comment link is farked...yet another brick in the proverbial wall.)Anyway, drinks and maybe more are on me if you can come through. And even if you can't, I'd love to meet'cha.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Immigration Man
My once feckless and free access to Shenzhen has suddenly ground to a halt, thanks, in part I suspect to international relations. Shortly after coming to Hong Kong, I had applied for and received a six month "multi-entry" visa which allowed the bearer to come and go from Hong Kong to the Motherland as many times and unfilled passport pages as possible.
My visa expired on Monday and I took the opportunity of a day off that included a rare visit from C to Hong Kong (ironically, even as a Chinese citizen and Party Member in Good Standing her opportunities to visit Hong Kong are even more difficult than mine going to Shenzhen) to get a new visa. I'd prepared by calling four different visa/travel agencies, all of whom gave me conflicting and increasingly confusing information.
Basically, I was told that as a US citizen my chances were slim and twice the price of the last time I'd applied. The reason? Post-9/11 US "war on terror" policies that have increasingly restricted tourist and business access for select countries, including China. In the tit-for-tat that passes for mature global diplomacy these days, the PRC has responded each time by making it harder and increasingly expensive for US citizens to penetrate its borders in order to buy its beer, its bootleg products, find clean restrooms with real toilet paper and to deflower its women.
Visa service #1: Cost HK$1,800 (US$205). Requirements: passport, one passport size photo, a business card in Chinese and English that lists HK, American and SZ addresses but does not identify me as a journalist. (American journalists are about as welcome in China as another SARS outbreak.)
Visa service #2: Cost HK$1,500. Same passport, photo requirements, "maybe" a business card but no idea on the content or language, except don't dare say that you work at a Hong Kong newspaper.
Visa service #3: Cost HK$1,600. Ditto passport, photo. Phony English-only, US address-only business card.
Visa service #4" Cost HK$1,500. Usual passport, photo stuff. One bogus English-only, US address-only and one bi-lingual fake card with HK-only information, "just in case."
I picked No. 4, partially because it seemed to cover most of the options. But also because it was the same firm that had given Julian stellar service during his December visit when we stood twice on two consecutive days on a windy street outside a subway stop for 25 minutes each time waiting for a complete stranger named "Stanley" to take my money and Julian's passport and then return the passport with a visa. Though Lou Reed's ditty, Waiting for the Man about a streetcorner wait for unauthorized pharmaceutical relief came to mind, ours had a more satisfying conclusion.
C had two different versions of "Justin Mitchell, Executive Buyer, The Standard Import and Export" printed up in Shenzhen for about US$4.
This time a fellow named "Dennis" directed me to a real building, not "outside exit C-2 Tsim Sha Tsui MTR stop," where I found him and several other slightly frazzled looking characters on floor 5, room "911" ("Not a so nice lucky room number, hee-hee, I am sorry!", explained Dennis).
"The business cards are fake," I said. "Made in Shenzhen earlier this week."
"Oh, yes! Of course! Of course! Shenzhen, usually good work. No problem," he said, thumbing through my passport and the four previous visas and pages of border stamps I'd collected since initially arriving in July '03. He assured me it was all no problem and that he'd hand deliver my passport and a new visa to my office within two days.
An hour later while my cell phone rang and a woman who called herself "Judy" rang from the visa office telling me that my application had been rejected because the visa would be for 6 months, but my Hong Kong work visa expires in five months. "You only need to get a two-entry tourist visa," she said.
I immediately saw my relationship with C shriveling to a pathetic series of increasingly remote, erratic e-mails and phone calls, punctuated by two strained visits and occasional trips to the border where we'd gaze longingly at each other from 50 yards away separated by an enormous grated steel gate amid throngs of happy visa-enabled co-mingling couples coming and going hand-in-hand.
I asked Judy if I used a two-entry visa, would it be possible to get a new one after it's used up and repeat the process as needed. Lather, rinse, repeat. And by the way, how much is it?
"It is because your Hong Kong visa expires in five months. The cost is $1,050" was the repeated reply, despite my efforts to simplify the question about getting a new two-entry visa as needed.
I handed the phone to C to ask the question in Chinese.
"She tells me the cost is only $50, not $1,050. But she still says the same thing that does not make sense about your Hong Kong visa."
A call to the Hong Kong immigration office "24-hour manned hot line" at 4:15 pm today to see if I can extend my work visa before five months met with a recording telling me to call back during business hours -- "Monday-Friday 8:30 am-4:30 pm."
To be continued.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

It's Raining Men
I had just crushed a cockroach on my table with a shotglass in a Shenzhen gay bar Saturday night and was in the restroom unzipping at the urinal when I felt two small hands tenatively rubbing my shoulders.
It was the helpful men's room attendant. He wasn't, as a Brit pal opined later, "trying to pull me," just doing his job.
Still, it's hard to answer nature's call with a 5-foot-3 inch stranger's elfin digits groping your shoulders. "Uh, no. No thanks! No thanks! Really!" I sputtered, shrugging him off, grimacing and finally completed the task at hand.
At the sink, he deftly tore off several inches of premium toilet paper for me to dry my hands and once more attempted a quickie massage, which again I literally shrugged off before throwing 2 yuan into his tip tray and fleeing back to C.
We'd gone out of curiousity. Gay bars aren't exactly plentiful in Shenzhen (four, according to "Mario" a young Chinese guy who would know, if you know what I mean) or the rest of the mainland and this one stood out for its cavernous (1,600 square meters) size and upfront access and location.
It's about two blocks from a Shenzhen landmark - a mammoth ground-level billboard lauding Deng Xiaoping, who could be roughly construed to be pointing in the direction of "Discover", if one wanted to interpret it that way. "One country, two systems," indeed.
Discover's owner, who also runs a straight, established bar in Shenzhen's primary foreign barbarian district, Shekou, told me via C's translating that he'd been open for about 3 months and that the city moral and legal guardians were basically looking, but not telling.
We had arrived early and what with the cockroch infestation, a Backstreet Boys disc continually booming and the sight of two other early patrons - a male couple avidly watching a "Tom and Jerry" (or "Cat and Mouse" as it's cleverly known here) video and giggling hysterically at their zany cross-species antics, it wasn't exactly a promising start.
But things picked up after a few more drinks, another dead cockroach and a sudden influx of mostly sharp dressed young male professionals.
"I'll have to tell my coworkers that this is where all the cute guys are in Shenzhen," C exclaimed. "Too bad they're all gay!"
By then, we were watching the second bill of a floor/variety show that began with a three guitars and drum machine playing what sounded like Chinese-inspired knockoffs of Bad Company and Foghat. Not exactly the musical mix you'd find in a US gay bar, I suspect, nor was the decor -- under rennovation from a previous incarnation, it still sported faux American frontier log cabin walls and dark knotty pine tables, booths and chairs. Log Cabin Republican, Sino-style? Or perhaps a gay barn, not gay bar? Though there were nods to the clientel with enormous Chinese beefcake posters of nude, oiled hunks deftly cupping their genitals and some other gay-related pictures/icons, including Marilyn and one drawing of a lean, mean Elvis slouching with a guitar case on a street corner apparently looking for something other than wrestling females flashing white cotton panties.
"Yeah," I said. "American women also often complain that all the good, cute guys are either married or gay." Chinese Foghat was followed by 11 very young, thin guys clad in nothing but thongs or sparkly briefs who strode somewhat shyly one by one atop the bar, faced the audience with stone faces and then turned to model their mostly-pancake butts.
"Oh, that one is cute," C. said.
"They look terrified," I replied.
The audience - it was packed by now, easily 300-plus and 99.7% male - responded neutrally. No hoots, cheers, applause or cat calls. It was mostly young business types who smoked, drank and threw dice from cups non-stop, though a few fey queens dressed in slim chest baring shirts with rabbit or cat fur collars minced around the edges.
Under a blue and white banner that proclaimed in Chinese: "Surrender to passion. Become the man-storm!" the entertainment took a cross-dressing cultural turn for Act 3; a traditional Tibetan folk dance featuring two guys in Tibetan drag and three in traditional Tibetan man clothes, one of whom sported none-traditional ethnic spiky hair and black emo glasses. No one camped it up, though. It was like watching the equivalent of an American square dance with gingham-clad transvestites. Or maybe a cross-dressing Amish barn raising.
Act 4 was a male fashion show. Again, no camping or vamping. Just cute guys modeling slightly bargain basement-looking sport coats, sweaters, slacks and shirts amid silently farting fog machines.
The emcee - no Joel Grey in Cabaret, he - then favored us with an overly long rendition of lip-synched popular songs, including one for which C translated the chorus as: "I love you like a rat loves rice. I miss you like a hooligan misses girls."
Tender words and just the thing to set the stage for the high - or low - point. It was a very loosely Bollywood-influenced temple dance with a "priestess" in a sparkly red baggy halter top and three attendants/devotees clad in black and brown vinyl wraps and old shag carpet remnants or pieces of Sonny Bono's moth-eaten fur caveman vest tied to their sunken chests. Between doing her/his best Kali-cruises-Sunset Strip moves, Her Worship submitted gracefully to the simulated hump and grinds of the devoted trio.
A hard act to follow, as the less-than-enthusastic bidding that proceeded for bottles of Chivas, Jack Daniels and Great Wall red wine hawked by the still-cheerful emcee proved. But the man-storm was still going strong, the dice rattling and Tsingtao flowing when C and I left, with another rendition of "I miss you like a hooligan misses girls" echoing in our ears.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Le Freak
Here's this weekend's Standard column in which I've recycled some Minsk World material with a fresh online discovery of what Pravda has become. The reference in the first paragraph to "blockbuster news" and "what's-his-face" concerns the big news here that Tung Chee-hwa, Hong Kong's govt. appointed leader(read: massively unpopular Beijing puppet) will resign. Unfortunately, he will undoubtedly be replaced by someone who is even more of a sychophantic stooge. I'd like to thank Dave G., a friend of my son's, for the inspiration after he posted the Pravda link to the cyclops baby on his site.
While I can't say I was particularly crushed or surprised by this week's blockbuster news, I think I see a future for an otherwise beleaguered institution. I refer, of course, not to the impending resignation of what's-his-face, a minor affair that somehow inexplicably overshadowed the announcement that Minsk World has sunk into bankruptcy.
Shenzhen's Minsk World centers around a decommissioned 1970s-era Soviet aircraft carrier, part of the former USSR's going-out-of-business sale, that was turned into perhaps the planet's strangest theme park.
As the promotional material declares: ``It perfectly combines the Southland beach life and the military atmosphere. It suits to be a fallow or a casino. Minsk Aircraft Carrier Park specializes from other Parks for its brilliance military theme.''
Indeed, where else can Mom, Dad and the kids bond by firing mock AK-47s, tossing fake hand grenades, or relax with a soft drink while sitting on 250 or 500 defuzed kilogram bombs and then catch a floor show on the flight deck featuring sinuous bandolier-wrapped, pistol-packing female contortionists dressed in skin-tight imitation Russian special forces uniforms?
While the spokespeople for the 120-yuan a pop, 10,000 meter tourist trap continue to insist that business at the former ``Peril of the Seas'' is brisk, my one visit and several other people I know who have risked their sanity and bank accounts to check it out revealed a lackluster and rather grim state of affairs. There are some rides: shaking and clanking spaceflight simulators that are oddly and creepily stenciled with ``Challenger'' on their sides, not ``Shenzhou-5'' or even ``Soyuz''.
But mostly it was dark, dank cavernous expanses of cold steel occasionally punctuated by lonely souvenir counters, flickering ancient videos playing endless loops of Chinese military propaganda and faded photographs of long forgotten Soviet naval personnel. Even the dancers and ersatz troops doing military drills for the sparse, restless tourists looked somewhat dispirited.
Yes, Minsk World needs a makeover. And it should look to another former-Soviet institution: Pravda. I only recently discovered that the once proud, strident, humorless USSR uber-propaganda organ -- English translation: ``Truth''-- has apparently taken a cue from a former employer of mine, a US publication, Weekly World News -- translation: ``Elvis and JFK are Alive''-- and has broadened its coverage to include Pulitzer-deserving material such as: ``Russian Woman Gives Birth to Cyclops Child.''
Though it pays occasional lip service to the 4-and-a-half hour long orations by former socialist comrade Fidel Castro, Pravda has pretty much discarded groundbreaking news of tractor factory quota busters in favor of lurid photos and gruesome text detailing ``the weird baby that looked at the world with its only eye, took a breath of air from the trunk that was growing on its forehead and died.''
That's not all. A perusal of a recent online Pravda edition revealed ``Jesus Christ Born in Ukraine,'' (at Weekly World News we'd merely discovered Adam and Eve's skeletons and Christ's sandals), a ``Russian Time Machine,'' a Polish anti-gravity machine and a mysterious, beguiling being discovered in the ``Vogograd region'' known as ``Boriska, Boy from Mars'' to be among the startling discoveries that the rest of the world has ignored to its collective shame.
What Minsk World needs to do, of course, is to downsize its dancers, cashier its troops and replace them with the likes of a risen Ukraine baby Jesus and an authentic Vogograd Martian.
It must take a tip from the legendary American huckster/showman PT Barnum and jettison the boring old bombs, photos, videos, wax dummies of geriatric naval officers in favor of several ``formulin'' filled glass cylinders stuffed with pitiful cyclops babies that were cursed to breathe only once through their brow-attached trunks before passing on. Maybe also throw in another unfortunate freak of nature that Pravda recently revealed: an oddly jointed child known as ``Spiderboy.''
Ditto for those phony space buggies. Out with them and in with time and flying machines -- perhaps combine them.
Face it. Would you rather be shaken around with 11 strangers inside a rusty metal cylinder watching grainy pirated NASA space footage or soar unassisted back to 1975 and help bankroll a fledgeling company called Microsoft? Or maybe save millions of future lives by lofting to 1889 and Braunau, Austria to mercifully snuff out an infant named Adolf Hitler? Or perhaps pay a similar visit to someone named Celine Dion in Charlemagne, Quebec, circa 1968?
I thought so. Your move, Minsk World. Sink or swim.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

"I walked 47 miles on barbed-wire, got a cobra-snake for a necktie. Built a house by the roadside, made outta rattlesnake hide..."
The immodest mostly non-China related post that follows was inspired by a blogger aquaintance of mine who recently posted: "OK, ten things I've done that you probably haven't" and went on to list, among other accomplishments great and small: Sailed from Maryland to Bermuda and back on a 35-foot sloop; conducted at Carnegie Hall; nearly got head blown off by a guard for sitting on a bench at the Haitian governer's palace; was a file clerk for the CIA and (my fave) performed as a dancing leper in Dido and Aeneas.
Here are my 10:
1. Clambered on and attempted to ride a rodeo bull for all of 2.8 seconds, broke tailbone.
2. Pulled 6.8 g's in an F-18 Navy Blue Angel jet and didn't blow chunks.
3. Took a porn star to a Rolling Stones concert and spent the night with her in Denver's venerable Oxford Hotel.
4. Called a 'clueless moron' by Barry Manilow.
5. Ate broiled dog with Chinese coworkers on Mao Zedong's birthday.
6. Took a Vitamin B-12 injection in the butt backstage with Ted Nugent.
7. Wrote simultaneously as columnists Ed Anger, Serena Sabak ("the world's sexiest psychic") and Dotti Primrose for the Weekly World News
8. Lived with 8 Koreans in a two-bedroom house in Lincoln, Nebraska.
9. Had lunch with Yoko Ono.
10. Bathed President Eisenhower's senile pilot in a Boulder, Colorado nursing home.

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