scruta

Either you are sorting it out, or you are full of it.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Lane 222, Fanyu Lu (番禺路222弄)

There was a child playing unattended,

Balancing precariously on a rickety, rusty public trash can,

Using a low hanging high-voltage electric cord for balast,

In the rain.

***

A man screamed suddenly next to my ear,

Abrasive, unrelenting, stern.

The entire street of vegetable sellers looked up.

I shuddered for a couple seconds,

As my mind sorted out what the hell he was saying.

Chinese often feels like that,

Like a parallel universe suddenly opens up before you,

And you need to process, to sift, to lay yourself open

And see the world as it could have been.

Up ahead there was a shopkeep quickly stepping away from a cart.

She was trying to steal his umbrella.

He was telling her to back off.

***

When I got home, my neighbor was howling,

Screaming to someone on the phone,

Wailing incomprehensibly in Chinese.

I didn’t want to get involved.

The next day the police came.

Her entire flat had been robbed,

Even the furniture,

I’m still not sure if it was hers.

***

Today someone new is moving into the woman’s flat.

Their new belongings lay strewn before my door,

Like a new furniture store, full of promise.

I saw the same little kid munching idly on some fresh dumplings,

Even as he goes to throw away an empty cola bottle, there is no mischief in his eyes.

The sun is shining. The vegetable sellers have no need for umbrellas.

***

This is the way that life wags on,

Never speaking.

As if the entirety of its creation was a secret,

Where one doesn’t know the risks, the trials or the sufferings

That moved to create it.

posted by ferret at 7:13 pm  

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Li and Zhou: Song of the Mud-Grass Horse (草泥马)

Li

So have you seen it yet?

Zhou

Seen what?

Li

Song of the Mud-Grass Horse.

[There is a strange pause. If we were to put "Mud-Grass Horse" into Mandarin it would be 草泥马, cǎo ní mǎ, which sounds far too much like 操你妈, cào nǐ mā, a classic curse meaning "F*&% your mother."]

Zhou

Excuse me!?!

Li

Song of the Mud-Grass Horse.

Zhou

Oh, song of the Mud-Grass Horse. I thought you were saying…

Li

You thought I was saying, well, you know, what it sounded like. You thought I was saying that, didn’t you?

Zhou

Yes. And no I haven’t heard the song of the… that song.

Li

It’s pretty funny. Some young people made a video of it. Hold on, let me show it to you.

Zhou

[curious, but cautious, looking around strangely as he goes over to Li's desk.]

Okay.

[Li attempts to log on to www.youtube.com, but finds himself thwarted.]

Li

Looks like Youtube is blocked.

Zhou

Why?

Li

I don’t know. Let’s give Censor Wang a call. [Li picks up the phone and dials Censor Wang.] Wang, it’s Print Advertising Censor Li… You know, I handle advertising censoring for Shanghai with Censor Zhou. We met one time last summer… Your wife knows my wife through her cousin’s husband’s brother… Yes! Yes, his surname is Kang… Well, I don’t know how your wife knows my wife’s cousin’s husband’s brother, but… Oh… Oh, really? I didn’t know that. I’m sorry to hear that… No… No, please believe me… No, as far as I know my wife didn’t introduce your wife to her cousin’s husband’s brother… Yes, I’ll be careful, Censor Wang… Really, I’m very sorry Censor Wang… No that’s not why I’m calling… I realize you must be having a bad day…  Well, I had a question about youtube.com… Oh it is?… Why?… Hey, wait a minute! Listen, I know you are having a bad day, but please don’t curse at me… Haha! Oh, right, you mean it’s because of the Mud-Grass Horse?… But it’s still okay for print media to mention it… Oh no?… Oh, you are putting it back up soon?… Oh, okay… I’m sorry to hear that… I am… Okay… Okay… Okay… Okay…

Zhou

Wow. So this must be a pretty kinky video.

Li

Not really it’s just a horse that dances to a song that sounds like… well, you know.

Zhou

Yeah. Well, it’s good that they did that.

Li

Man, I wish I could show it to you.

Zhou

All for the better. We don’t need everyone watching a video where they say that.

Li

Is it all that important?

Zhou

Look, if we didn’t block that video, you’d have little kids everywhere saying that to each other, to their parents, to their grandparents. There’s no way we can allow that to happen.

Li

I’m not so sure. Children are smart. They’ll find out about those words anyway. Why do we have to protect them? Besdies even if they knew those words, they still shouldn’t say them, nor would most of them. You and I know these words, but we don’t say them. Do we?

Zhou

Yes, but we’re grown. Children aren’t.

Li

Yeah, but how old were you when you first heard those words?

Zhou

I was a child. I was walking home from school, and there were two men who got into a fight outside of a snack shop. They were both drunkards, and smelled of beer and piss. They’d been drinking all day. I don’t know what they were fighting about, but I remember them screaming things like that at each other.

Li

And did you know what they meant?

Zhou

Not exactly, but I asked my friends. Someone knew.

Li

And did you go around saying those things to your parents or your grandparents?

Zhou

No.

Li

So what’s the problem?

Zhou

But it’s so readily available now. A kid could look at that video 10 times a day if he wanted. Plus it’s a song! If the melody is nice, he’ll want to sing it to himself, and where will that put us? Karaoke song for the mud-grass horse! It’s abominable!

Li

Hmm…

Zhou

Deep down, you know you agree with me.

Li

Maybe I do. There’s a reason why I’m a censor, and it’s more than just because it’s my rice bowl. But there’s still something I think about.

Zhou

What is it?

Li

I think there’s a proper way to enjoy things like that. It doesn’t harm anyone in itself, but it certainly has the potential to. In addition, if the argument comes down to us trying to influence the development of children, won’t they have to be exposed to those things at some point? Otherwise, the idea of them acting properly or not acting properly has no relevance.

Zhou

So we need to figure out how to expose them to these things properly?

Li

Yeah.

Zhou

But people do that on their own already.

Li

Exactly my point.

[There's an awkward pause.]

Zhou

Be careful, Li. You may soon find yourself out of a rice bowl.

posted by ferret at 2:05 pm  

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Superman Approximated

[Ferret has dinner with The Fongs, Super-Hero, and Pigeon. The dinner is winding down, and there is a lull in the conversation.]

Ferret

So, I have an important question.

The Fongs

Okay.

Ferret

Do you think Superman will still be a superhero if…

The Fongs

If what?

Ferret

If he was retarded?

The Fongs

Yeah, sure.

Super-Hero

You mean, like really retarded? Or what?

Ferret

I mean, with all due respect, that sometimes he poops his pants.

The Fongs

But he still has all the same powers?

Ferret

Sure, except he can’t tie his shoes very well, and he has a strange affinity for soft things, you know… mentally deficient.

Pigeon

This is wrong.

Super-Hero

I don’t think he’d be a superhero.

The Fongs

Why not?

Super-Hero

I mean, can he still save people?

Ferret

Sure, but people have to tell him so that he can save them.

Super-Hero

If he needs people to tell him, then he’s not a superhero.

Ferret

But he doesn’t always need people to tell him. He’s trained – like a dog or something.

Super-Hero

I don’t know.

Ferret

I think he’d still be super, but all the other superheroes would make fun of him. It would make Superman a lot more interesting, other than that whole kryptonite thing. Superman saves the world from an asteroid, and learns to spell his name in the same story! Eh? Anyone with me?

posted by ferret at 1:37 am  

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A Bicuspid Dream, Translated from the Chinese

[Ferret is dreaming. He sits in a classroom filled mostly with young Korean and Japanese students with several Caucasians dotted here and there like dandruff. Ferret's Teacher calls out the new vocab words from the book, and the Class mechanically responds in a strange unison that seems to trail off, as several students in the Class begin to early or start to late. There is a sudden, earnest knocking on the door, so direct and forceful, you'd think that whoever was knocking had mistaken the flimsy classroom door of particle board for the giant oak gate of a warlord's stronghold. The Teacher looks at the Class nervously as they titter with laughter, then she cautiously walks towards the door and opens it up.

As the Teacher opens the door, the Beggar knocking on the door is mid-strike, and almost falls over as his momentum carries him beyond where the door was just a second ago. He stumbles past the teacher fist first into the classroom like a lame superhero attempting to miraculously gain his lost powers of flight. The Class now falls into roars of laughter. The Beggar straightens out his ragged ensemble with a misplaced, self-satisfied grin. The Teacher begins her interrogations:]

Teacher

Who are you?

Beggar

[pointing at Ferret]

I’m his landlord.

Ferret

[adamant]

No, you aren’t.

Beggar

I know I look different, but I’ve lost a tooth.

[The Beggar takes a tooth from his pocket while bearing his teeth to reveal a single, prominent gap from the loss of a bicuspid. He places the tooth back into this mouth and instantly changes appearance the way you would see in an old gag movie where a man takes off his hat, or a woman lets down her hair and is suddenly replaced by an entirely different actor. With the return of his tooth, his facial features, the build of his body, and even his tattered garments all change instantaneously. Ferret exclaims:]

Ferret

Holy shit!

Class

[a la Greek chorus, in the same vein as they were repeating characters a moment earlier]

Who is this man who changes his face?

What kind of body grows at this pace?

Can we believe the testament shown?

That from this tooth, this monster has grown?

Ferret

It looks like he has.

Teacher

He needs to leave. He’s disrupting class.

Ferret

Let’s hear him out.

Class

Yes, hear him out! All need a voice!

Hear him well, then make a choice!

Teacher

Go ahead, sir.

Beggar

[looking like the landlord]

I don’t know how this happened. Ever since I lost my tooth, my whole life has changed. My wife won’t let me in the house. I try to show her how it’s just my tooth, but when I show her, she thinks I’m some kind of spirit that has come back to haunt her. A Japanese solider from World War Two or something. I’m suffering badly. Nobody recognizes me. I’m no longer the locksmith who owns your apartment. I’m now just a lowly bottle collector begging on the streets.  Can you help me, Ferret?

Ferret

What do you want?

Beggar

Money to get the tooth fixed!

Teacher

This is a trick! Don’t trust him Ferret!

Beggar

I assure you that it’s not.

Teacher

How much?

Beggar

200RMB.

Teacher

No way. You could get that fixed for 150RMB, tops.

Beggar

[after glaring at the Teacher, turns to Ferret]

Please. I want my life back. I’d give anything to get it back.

Ferret

Even your two front teeth?

Beggar

That’s just cruel. Even as a joke.

Teacher

I agree. It was also a terrible pun.

Class

Wide eyed dreamer, this is no time for puns,

Just stay the course, stick to your guns.

Will you help this man into shape?

Decide now. There is no escape.

Ferret

I beg to differ.

Beggar

What?

[Ferret wakes up.]

posted by ferret at 6:54 pm  

Powered by WordPress