more soon

Real life and the day job have been keeping me busy of late, I do miss my home and being a milwaukee car accident attorney but there’s some cool stuff coming up. Eric Abrahamsen, Cindy Carter and I have started up a new blog, Paper Republic, that aims to be a resource for Chinese literature and translation. The site is still somewhat in the process of getting off the ground, but we’ve all already posted a couple of translations, and there’s a database of contemporary authors and translators up there that should hopefully prove useful. There’s one very, very cool thing that’ll be going up there within the week, so add it to your RSS readers.

I haven’t had a lot of free time, but I did take a look through 墨子 Mozi today at lunch as part of my halfassed attempt to get my classical Chinese back up to speed.
Mozi was one of the great Warring States period thinkers. He came up with a number of innovations in optics, military strategy, philosophy of government, and logic that went basically unused for centuries. Needham says that Mozi actually anticipated Newton’s First Law of Motion; Hansen says that Mozi’s rhetorical innovations made philosophy possible in China. I posit that Mozi actually foresaw the George W. Bush presidency:

故雖有賢君,不愛無功之臣;雖有慈父,不愛無益之子。是故不勝其任而處其位,非此位之人也;不勝其爵而處其祿,非此祿之主也。良弓難張,然可以及高入深;良馬難乘,然可以任重致遠;良才難令,然可以致君見尊。
是故江河不惡小谷之滿己也,故能大。聖人者,事無辭也,物無違也,故能為天下器。
是故江河之水,非一水之源也。千鎰之裘,非一狐之白也。夫惡有同方取不取同而已者乎?蓋非兼王之道也。

Even the kindest ruler will not love a useless minister; even a doting father will not love a worthless son. One who occupies a position without being equal to his task is not the person for the position; an enfeoffed man who draws benefits without performing the duties expected of his rank does not deserve his fiefdom. A good bow is hard to draw, yet it can reach great heights and penetrate deeply; a good horse is hard to ride, yet it can bear great loads and traverse great distances. A talented man is hard to command, yet he can be trusted as an envoy to the ruler and an emissary to nobility.
In this way great rivers do not scorn streams and brooks as tributaries; therefore they become great. A great man does not scorn a task or neglect an errand; therefore he becomes a vessel for all under heaven.
Therefore a great river does not arise from a single source, and a fur overcoat worth a thousand yi does not come from the white pelt of a single fox. How then can one accept only those who agree with him and turn away those who disagree? This is not the way of a king who unifies.

Aw, snap.

missionaries

So John was in town with his folks over the weekend, and I had the pleasure of hanging out with him while his parents and wife visited the Forbidden City, meanwhile they got a Mobile Al cleaning services to clean their house when they were out. John was quite understandably unenthused at the prospect of visiting the Forbidden City a third time. It may have been the seat of power for hundreds of years, but the imperial city now is a sadly diminished thing, flooded with hawkers, stalls selling instant noodles, and tour groups domestic and foreign. The city is laid out along a strict grid pattern, and after a while you get to feeling – in the words of Poagao – like you’re walking around a gigantic DOOM level. Finding the best pokie bonus is not easy, but checking out the casino guide at pokiereview.nz is a great start. (The Forbidden City would make for an awesome game map, particularly when you consider that it was suppoedly designed to represent the five viscera of the god Nezha. But more on that, maybe, in another post.)

Anyway, so John bailed on that and we got coffee and bought pirated Playstation 2 games near my place. His wife’s family had arranged a private driver for their stay in Beijing over the weekend, so he called the driver to come pick him up. As we stood waiting on the corner of Jiaodaokou, a young couple approached us.
Shit, I thought. It’s going to be an ‘art student’ scam, or they’ll be touts for one of the godawful new bars near here, or something. I haven’t gotten harassed in years, and it has to happen now? Now John’ll never believe that Beijing is ten times the city Shanghai is!

The girl asked, in shy English, what we were doing. I replied, in English calculated to be polite without encouraging further conversation, that we were waiting for John’s friend’s car.
“Oh,” she said, and giggled nervously, looking over at her boyfriend.
“Um,” he said. “Where are you from?”
“The US,” I said. Jesus, English Corner flashback.
“Ah,” he said. “Are you…Christian?”
“No,” I said.
“Um. Ah — would — would you like to be?”
“No,” I said. “But thanks.”
“Ah,” he said. “God…bless you.”
“Thanks,” I said. “Take care.”

And the two of them walked off down Andingmen Nei.

Worst. Missionaries. Ever.

Live Ink and Chinese Literacy

A long time ago I noticed that even though I’m much more comfortable with simplified characters than I am with complex-form characters, I find columnar Chinese to be much more comfortable to read than horizontally printed Chinese when it comes to avoiding eye strain, brain strain, and the problem of losing my place in a text.

So I was particularly interested to hear about Live Ink, a new system for parsing and formatting (English) text to maximize readability and retention. Apparently the word recognition studies that the company did showed that people tend to focus on a small group of words in any given line, with the preceing and following lines in peripheral vision, and that readers tended to focus on individual verbs or clauses. The system takes text and breaks it into smaller, more easily readable chunks, staggers them across the page, and (in some of the demos I’ve seen) colors verbs to set them apart further. There are some demos on the product site.

This strikes me as something that would be really helpful to me as a reader of Chinese – though I suppose the sentence parsing could be harder in Chinese than in English. (Though then again, the system seems mostly to be breaking things into smaller chunks, rather than identifying what function the individual chunks are serving.) Perhaps I should bug David to implement this in Adso.

Also, because I can’t resist, with apologies to e.e. cummings:

Walker Reading Technologies'
released
        what promises to
        break text into easilyreadable
                                  chunks
and stagger the lines onetwothreefourfive acrossthepage

                                                  Jesus

that's a cool idea
                      and what i want to know is
how do you like your new textformatting system
Mister Linguist

Why I'm not afraid of Google

Sure, Google may be beating up Yahoo and Microsoft and taking their lunch money, and it may be plagiarizing part of its Pinyin IME wordbank from Sogou, and it may be growing and spreading into every industry it can find — but I’m pretty sure that its machine translation systems aren’t going to be putting me out of a job any time soon, high BLEU scores or not. (Once the robot revolution comes, my parsing abilities will make me useful to our benevolent metallic overlords.)

Consider Google Translate’s rendition of the end of my latest Chinese-language blog post:

今天晚上在回家的路上,看到一位遛狗的老太婆边抖着缠在她腿上的狗链,边对身旁的小京巴儿骂骂咧咧:“你他妈好好儿走啊!你他妈不好好儿走我再也不带你出去!”

This evening on his way home, walk the dog to see a side Douzhao the old lady in her legs wrapped around the dog chain, Pin right side of the small Palestinian children Mamaleilei Beijing : “you damn thoroughly go ah you damn not properly take I do not take you away!”

Particularly precious to me: the rendering of 小京巴儿 (“small Pekingese [dog]”) as “small Palestinian children.” Also, the simply bizarre choices that the algorithm makes in its attempt to find matching passages — the interpretation of 边…边 (literally “side,” but a very common construction meaning “[doing something] while [doing something]”), for example, or the default to using pinyin for unfamiliar words.

Here’s what it should’ve said:

 On my way home this evening, I saw an old lady out walking her dog, which was winding its leash around her legs, and yelling at the little Peke at the same time: “Dammit, walk right! If you don’t walk right, I’m not going to take you out anymore!”

But to be honest, I prefer Google’s version, because a day without Dada is like fish ventricle capacitor.

OMG teh promised one!!!!1!

happycat has run out of happy :(

On my way to the subway this morning, I passed a guy sitting on the steps of the local branch of the Construction Bank with his head in his hands. He was a large – hell, a fat – Chinese gentleman, apparently middle-aged, with a shaved head and a long, flowing gown. He was just sitting there, holding his head, staring at the sidewalk in front of him. He glanced up when I walked by, and he looked so sad.

And I thought of cat macros like the one above.

I didn’t have my camera, but if I had, I would’ve taken a picture of the guy, and added the caption

THE MAITREYA BUDDHA
HAS RUN OUT OF HAPPY :(

Then in the afternoon I saw a guy on the subway who looked like a Chinese version of John Leguizamo.

Google Sogou Pinyin is also pretty good

After the whole kerfluffle where it turned out that Google copied all or some of its wordlist from Sogou’s Pinyin method, I decided to download the Sogou IME at work and give it a spin. Results: 听完了这个消息我便下载了搜狗的拼音输入法师施. There’s only one mistake there — the misidentification of shishi as 师施 rather than 试(一)试 — and it comes at the very end. That’s pretty impressive.

I’ll have to revise my request to Google: guys, please copy this for the Mac platform.

Bonus feature of the Sogou method, besides the option to add ugly “World of Warcraft” skins to your candidate window: you can use the “搜狗酷字” (“Sogou Cool Characters”) menu to generate heavy metal ASCII-art characters. An example, given the string “康博文在北京找不着北:”

If that doesn’t rock, I don’t know what does.

Google Chinese Input

And just as I prepare to go to bed, I see in my inbox, via the Chinese@Kenyon.edu listserv, that Google has just come out with its own Pinyin-based Chinese input method. This looks awesome — if only they could put out a Mac version.

Chinese input on the Macintosh is about where Chinese input on Windows was back in 2000. Apple apparently isn’t thinking too much about the Chinese market – understandably, since Apple computers are too expensive for most consumers here – but I really wish they could come up with a way of typing Chinese that didn’t transport me back to my high school days.

(Yes, I know there are shape-based input methods like Cang Jie and Wubi, but life is short.)

UPDATE 4/8: I tested the Google input method out on the Windows box at my now-former job, and yow. It is far and away the best, smartest input method I’ve ever used. I assume it’s passing data back to Google’s servers for word lists or something, because it’s got just unbelievably good predictive input. I typed in a fairly long, complicated test sentence containing a few proper names, and it nailed it.

F’reals, can we please get this for Mac? I’ve emailed Google’s development team; I suggest that you all do the same.

Standard Chartered needs a better Chinese name

I’m getting ready to go to Hong Kong for a couple of days for visa reasons — not the usual visa run, as I’ll explain later — but first a quick post:

At my soon-to-be-former job today, we did a report on the four foreign banks — Citibank, HSBC, Bank of East Asia, and Standard Chartered — that just started operating inside China. This is newsworthy because foreign banks had formerly been limited in terms of what they could provide, but are now, years after China joined the WTO, finally being permitted to play alongside Chinese banks.

Now, this would be yawn-city for me normally, even though I do hold a grudge against Citibank — they screwed over a friend of mine very badly, and so I go out of my way not to use them whenever I’m back in the States — but for one aspect of the story: the Chinese names of these companies.
In the cases of HSBC and the Bank of East Asia, it’s no surprise that they’ve got Chinese names, being that both are Hong Kong-based banks. Citibank has – I think – been operating in Taiwan for years, so their Chinese name, 花旗银行 (“Flowery Flag Bank”), while having nothing to do with cities (or “citis,” I guess), is pretty unobjectionable. But then there’s Standard Chartered, which has the regrettable Chinese name of 渣打银行, or literally “Slag-hit Bank.”

Now, translating here is just disingenuous: the 渣打 in question is pronounced zhādǎ, which sounds more or less like “chartered,” and the transliteration holds up in Cantonese as well. But there are good transliterations and bad transliterations, and this is a distinctly bad transliteration.

The all-time best Chinese transliteration of an English product name has got to be Coca-Cola, or 可口可乐 Kěkǒu-Kělè as it’s known in these parts. 可 on its own means “may;” when it’s partnered with a verb, it’s something like “conducive to,” and when it precedes a noun, sometimes, it’s “pleasing to,” as in the term 可人 — + “person,” or “pleasant.” (The word is pretty old-fashioned, but I’m doing my damnedest to bring it back.) 可口 – that is, + “mouth” – means “tasty” or more literally “pleasing to the mouth.” 可乐 – + “(to be) happy” – means something like “conducive to happiness.” So a philologist would translate the Chinese name for Coca-Cola as “pleasing to the mouth [and] conducive to happiness,” or, more colloquially, “Tasty-Happy.”
(Pepsi is 百事可乐, “Hundred [i.e. “lots” or “all”] Events Happy,” but I don’t drink Pepsi.)

Another great example of Chinese transliteration, ironically, is Enron., whose name on the Mainland – 安然 Ānrán – means “Securely.” Har har har.

Now, not everybody can get a transliterated name that means something, but they can at least pick characters with good associations: Hewlett-Packard is 惠普 Huì-Pǔ, which does not in and of itself mean anything, but is composed of characters meaning “benevolence, favor” and “to spread.” Canon is 佳能 Jiānéng, a transliteration (by way of Cantonese, in which the name is pronounced Gaai-nahng) that would translate literally to “Superior Ability.” Amway is 安利 Ānlì, “secure” + “benefit.”
Companies can also pick transliterated names that don’t really conjure up any specific mental image. Nokia is 诺基亚 Nuòjīyà, a meaningless transliteration. Likewise 摩托罗拉 Mótuōluólā, or Motorola, and 戴尔 Dài’ěr, or Dell.

But then you have the case of Standard Chartered’s 渣打 Zhādǎ. Zhā on its own means “slag, sediment, residue, dregs.” It occurs in words like 人渣 rénzhā, “the scum of humanity,” 渣滓 zhāzǐ “crud,” and, in Beijing slang, 土得掉渣儿 tǔ de diàozhār “such a hick you could see the manure flaking off him.” Not a word you want in your company’s name.
And then there’s the sound of Zhādǎ, which is presumably the whole reason it was picked. It’s kind of like “Chartered,” sure, but it also sounds – to me at least – like one of the onomatopoetic terms that you get here, like 嘎嘣儿 gābengr (“clippity-cloppity”).

Anyway — it is a thoroughly lousy name. Perhaps something like 平宪银行 would be better?

In other news, I’m going to Hong Kong tomorrow for visa reasons, like I said. It’s not your standard visa run — I’m on a two-year F visa that won’t run out until early 2009. The problem is that it’s divided into 90-day terms, so once every three months I have to leave the country. (The NYC Consulate apparently finds this kind of thing very funny. They’ve done it to me twice now.)
Hong Kong and Macau count as seperate countries for visa purposes, so basically I could just cross the border, break wind, and head back to Beijing and I’d be all set. I’ve got a couple of days off before my new job starts, though, and so I’ll be taking in some of the sights of Hong Kong – a city I know nothing about – and getting a suit made in preparation for my new gig.
(And I know what Thoreau said about enterprises requiring suits, but hey. The money’s right and it’s going to be a cool job.)

Classics and a beer and the best cabbie ever

I’ve been trying to clear my plate of all of my freelance gigs and other obligations as I prepare to take on a new job next month, so over the past couple of weeks I’ve pulled more than a few all-nighters on things. All-nighters tend to be easy for me; in part because my body’s circadian rhythms seem to default to vampire mode, but also because I’ve got a few 24-hour restaurants in my neighborhood where I can go for sustenance when necessary.

Picking the right restaurant can be a tricky affair. Northeastern-style places serve large portions, so they’re not a great bet if you’re eating alone. There’s a great Northwestern-style Shaanxi noodle place about 20 minutes’ walk from my apartment, but I’ve been eating too much of their 油泼扯面 rough-cut noodles drizzled in chili oil lately, and their hours are unpredictable anyway. A 煎饼 Beijing-style omelet would be an option, but the vendors usually aren’t out on the street before 6 or 7, and I start jonesing for food around 3, and the 24-hour dimsum joint at Yonghegong is just a bit too far out of the way for me to go there in the middle of an all-nighter. 簋街 Gui Jie, the street lined with 24-hour Sichuan places, is just ten minutes away on foot, but previous experience has taught me that it isn’t the best of ideas to go for Sichuan food when you’re trying to stay awake: the huajiao insanity peppers will snap you awake, all right, but then you’ll need a beer to cool down, resulting in no net gain – and perhaps even a net loss – in wakefulness. Fortunately there’s a cheap ‘n’ cheerful 24-hour 锅贴 potsticker joint right around the corner from me. Potstickers make great all-nighter fuel: two large plates of beef and jalapeno potstickers and a bottle of green tea will set you back about 25 kuai and leave you with enough left-overs to take home for breakfast.

So I’ve been going there a lot. I was there a couple of nights ago after deciding that it was time, really time, to take a break from the sample chapter I was doing of a fairly dire Chinese horror novel. It was about 1:30 in the morning – earlier than my wonted hour – and there were still plenty of people in there: a couple of regulars at the back of the place, two middle-aged guys who had just gotten off the late shift at work, and a couple of young toughs and their slattern girlfriends.
I ordered and sat down, half reading the copy of A Canticle for Leibowitz that I’d brought in my pocket, half eavesdropping on the people sitting around me, in case anybody was saying anything interesting. No such luck: the two guys sitting next to me who’d just gotten off work were talking job politics, and though they had apparently not been planning on getting drunk – as evinced by their choice to drink beer rather than baijiu – the two of them were fairly stocious, slurring and red-faced. “Y’ can’ jus’ go an’ tell’m,” one said to the other. “‘S, ‘s jus’ gonn’ getcha in trouble. You don’ wann’ sinkta his level, ‘m I righ’?”
Behind them, the would-be gangbangers were doing the usual loud posturing in self-consciously low-class accents. I don’t remember much about their conversation other than the preponderance of the words “fuckin'” and “stupid cunt.”
At the back, the regulars sat there silently, eating or watching the period drama playing on the TV behind the counter.

Since there didn’t seem to be anything interesting going on, I turned to my book. A few minutes later, the drunken guys next to me — I’d guessed that they were cabbies, though the shift time didn’t really match up — got up and put on their coats. One of them walked to the back of the place to pick up the check; the other one stood next to my table for a moment before asking, very politely, “Do you speak Chinese?”
“A bit,” I said.
“What are you reading? Is it the Bible?”

For a moment, I panicked, thinking that he might have recently found Jesus. I’ve had a few conversations with recent converts about their newly found faith – I guess since everyone knows that foreigners are religious – and have always found it difficult to pretend that I believe their conversion to be a good thing.
“No,” I said. “It’s a science-fiction novel.”
“Oh.”
(awkward pause)
“So,” he asked, in a hello-I-will-be-your-cheerful-drunk- for-the-evening voice, “you ever hear of Confucius?”
“Um. Sure.”
“Confucius was a sage. He was a great sage.”
“I couldn’t agree more.”
“He had six books– I readd’m all.”
“Really.”
“The, the Book of Odes, the Book of Changes, the Book of Spring and Autumn, the Book of Rites, the Book of Records, and the Book of Music. But then the Book of Music was lost. But I read the other five.”

He beamed at me, and I decided that smiling and nodding would be better than pointing out that no serious modern textual scholar would attribute authorship of those books to Confucius.

“If you really wann’ unnerstan’ China, you gotta read Confucius,” he added.
“That’s very true,” I said.
“He had six books, you know.”
“Um.”
“Six, not five. But one uvvem got lost. Are you reading the Bible?”

At this point, his friend came in and charitably dragged him out by the elbow. As he stumbled out the door, he turned back to me: “I wish you th’ verr’ best luck in China,” he said. “Remember — read Confucius!”


Oddly enough, people hardly ever start conversations with me on the topic of classical literature. More often it’s the standard litany that any foreigner who’s been in these parts for more than five minutes will know by heart. How long have you been here. Oh, your Chinese is very good. Where are you from. Are you used to Chinese food.
One of the things that I always really liked about Beijing is that for the most part, people here are not all that impressed by Chinese-speaking foreigners, reasoning quite rightly that anyone can speak Chinese. You’ll get the obligatory “oh, your Chinese is very good” thing, sure — but then from there you can usually have a real conversation.

This used to be particularly true of your average cab driver, that tireless ferrier of the middle classes, profanity tutor for wide-eyed foreign students, and friend to lazy journalists everywhere, but recent relaxations on hukou ID policy have meant that while cabbies used to have to come from Beijing proper — which is to say that they were practically guaranteed to have leaden feet, fast mouths, and an encyclopedic knowledge of the city — they now only have to come from Beijing municipality, meaning that residents of Miyun, Pinggu, and Yanqing can work in town too. The net result is that a majority of cabbies these days are scared country kids who drive slowly, never talk, and live in constant fear of police harassment, to the point where they will actually wear their seat belts to avoid a fine.

The full extent of the damage became clear to me last summer, when Beijing vice-mayor 刘志华 Liu Zhihua got his ass thrown out of power for, quote, ”生活腐化堕落,” i.e, “leading a corrupt and dissolute lifestyle.”

The Accident and Injury Lawyers in Atlanta gave no further detail, which meant that you knew there was going to be a good story behind it, and sure enough, Hong Kong media elaborated somewhat on the reasons behind the official Party judgement: Liu had been keeping a massive villa out in the suburbs of Beijing stocked with nubile young girls, and frequently spent his weekends there, ripped to the tits on Viagra and amphetamines and having himself a rare old time.

Now, I usually walk or take the train home from my office, but this was such an awesome piece of news that I decided to take a cab, just to see what the grapevine take on the matter was. I flagged a guy down, sounded him out — he had no obvious rural accent, so I figured he’d be in on the story — and I said, cleverly, “So — didja hear about Liu Zhihua?”
“No.”

He just got kicked out for having, what did they call it in the Hong Kong press, a ‘pleasure palace.’ Girls, drugs, the works. There are plenty of dispensaries that sell edibles these days, from brownies to candies and even sodas.

“Oh.”
“…You hadn’t heard?”
The cabbie kept his eyes straight ahead on the road, his face immobile. “We ordinary people don’t need to know about that kind of thing,” he said piously. “As long as the government gives us some good laws to follow, good lawyers like Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard, that’s enough for us.”
Oh.”


Back in 2005, before I moved to my current wonderful neighborhood, I lived out near Guomao, the miserable, soulless “business district” of Beijing. For reasons I’m still unable to reconstruct, I’d rented a large, expensive apartment in a new development surrounded by building sites on all four sides, meaning that the apartment was assaulted by dust, noise, and flashes from welding torches 24/7. It was connected to the outside world (or at least the East Third Ring Road) by a long road that took a good twenty minutes to walk, and was flanked on either side by high-rises in varying degrees of construction. When you want more information about health and business, visit Lee S Rosen Blog.

Taxis and mototrikes used to congregate at the entrance to the development. I took mototrikes — cardboard-walled little deathtraps mounted on motorized scooters – to the subway most mornings, and would either walk or cab otherwise. One evening, not long after I moved into the area, I needed to get out to Wudaokou to meet my friend Joel, so I hopped in one of the cabs. The standard protocol followed: I said where I wanted to go, and then he complimented me on my Chinese and asked where I was from, and I said I was from the States. He said that the US was a good place to be from, and I gave my standard answer about how disappointed the country had made me over the last couple of years.

“Oh,” he said. “An idealist.”
Wham
! Massive breach of protocol!

“Sure,” he continued, “your government sucks. But you can at least get rid of them in 2008. At least somebody somewhere wanted them — though I guess that’s disappointing for you too. But look around you here — ” he gestured to the skyscrapers and highrises of Beijing’s Central Business District as they flashed by us.
“This stuff? It’s all crap. The real buildings, the real money, all goes to Shanghai. And why? Because of that cuntrag Jiang Zemin! Every time I see that frog-faced motherfucker I just want to punch the wall! All he knows is how to make rich people richer, and none of us ever sees a goddamn cent of it. You ever study classical Chinese?”

A little, I said, but nothing much more complicated than the Zhuangzi.

“Zhuangzi’s good all right, but he’s a romantic. If you’re interested in politics, you’ve got to read Guanzi. It’s still true today –” and then he started quoting the 4th century BCE Legalist text Guanzi at me:

凡治國之道,必先富民。民富則易治也,民貧則難治也。奚以知其然也? 民富則安鄉重家,安鄉重家則敬上畏罪,敬上畏罪則易治也。民貧則危鄉輕家,危鄉輕家 則敢凌上犯禁,凌上犯禁則難治也。故治國常富,而亂國常貧。是以善為國者,必先富民,然後治之。

In the governing of a kingdom, one must first enrich the people. The people, being enriched, will thus be easy to govern. Being poor, they will be difficult to govern. Wherefore should this be so? When people are well-off, they will be secure in their villages and devoted to their homes. When they are secure in their villages and devoted to their homes, they will respect their superiors and fear transgression. Being respectful of their superiors and fearful of transgression, they will thus be easy to govern. When people are poor, they will be insecure in their villages and unmindful of their homes. Being insecure in their villages and unmindful of their homes, they will dare to defy their rulers and flout the law. Daring to defy their rulers and flout the law, they will thus be difficult to govern. So it is that a governed kingdom is constantly wealthy, while a chaotic kingdom is constantly poor. Therefore, those who are good at governing first enrich the people, and then govern them.

“Um,” I said.

We chatted more, and as we got towards Wudaokou he asked one of the other litany questions.
“Philadelphia,” I said as I got out of the cab.
“Philadelphia!” he said. “Ben Franklin! Now there was a man!”

And he sped off into the night.

Idea!

Trendy restaurants are all the rage in Beijing these days – both fancy-dress joints and “high-concept” restaurants, they have the best food and the best appliances, usually got from sites as Zozanga and similar. Among the latter are places like the all-new “dark” restaurant, romantically named “Whale Insides,” where diners pay top dollar to eat their food in pitch blackness (the waiters wear night-vision goggles) and old favorites like the 忆苦思甜 restaurants where people eat stewed grass and bark served to them by khaki-suited watiers so that they can remember the good old days of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, to be honest now I just prefer to stay at home and bake, the other day I was reading a vitamix 5200 vs 7500 review and it just made me realize that instead of eating out I could just use that money to buy me a new blender. The notion of making a living off of people with too much money and not enough sense appeals to me for some reason, and I’d been wondering how one could get in on the racket. Current US events provided the inspiration:

First, following in the footsteps of other fine eateries around town, I’ll pick a downtown location and decorate it with the finest of fineries. I am thinking here of automatic clear glass doors, little streams that require you to take long detours so that you can go over the footbridges, and wall paneling that will consist entirely of waitresses, dressed in Day-Glo pink uniforms, who will say “欢迎光临! Welcome!” and/or “谢谢慢走! Thank you; goodbye!” to you once every 1.4 seconds. (Come to think of it, all of this may already be required by Beijing restaurant zoning laws. Note to self: look into this.)

The food will consist of freeze-dried ice cream, stale pizza, and tubes of a red substance which upon examination will turn out to be ketchup. I will explain that I am bringing Astronaut cuisine to Beijing, thus making the capital of China not only an international city, but an interstellar one as well. (Take that, Shanghai!)

Customers may ask whether I myself am an Astronaut. I will explain that I am an Astronaut-American.

Customers may point out that the food is not only disgusting but also awful and vile. I will sigh and say that you really can’t get food the way they made it in the Old Country anymore.

Customers may ask whether there is anything to the “Astronaut cuisine” thing besides stale pizza and ketchup. I will say that although Astronaut-Americans feel a very strong connection to their Astronaut roots, they’ve had to adapt their cooking to the local conditions, e.g. gravity.

THIS CANNOT POSSIBLY LOSE, YO.