scruta

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

Friday, January 29, 2010

Li and Zhou: Inevitability

[Li walks in on Friday morning and sees Zhou reading the newspaper and smoking a cigarette, sitting on top of Roy, who's transformed into a toilet.]

Li

What the hell?

Zhou

I couldn’t wait. This really is nice porcelain.

Roy

Thanks, Zhou.

Li

You shouldn’t have done it, Zhou. Nobody has gotten back to me yet. We could be in a lot of trouble.

Zhou

Li, I think that this is what they wanted us to do all along.

Li

You mean we weren’t supposed to teach this thing Maoist thought? We were only supposed to shit inside of it?! You think that that’s what the Propaganda Committee had us pegged for when they gave us this walking toilet?!

Zhou

Calm down, Li. Don’t be so crass. It’s comfortable, and very good for the environment. We should consider ourselves lucky that we were the ones who got to try this out first.

Li

Anhui! The peasant life! I long for it a lot these days.

Zhou

You won’t when you feel how great this porcelain feels.

Li

Roy?

Roy

Yes, Li?

Li

How do you… you know… clean yourself?

Roy

I go to the bathroom like everyone else, silly!

Li

So. We shit inside of you, then you go and shit in a normal toilet?

Roy

Yes!

Li

Kill me. Just kill me, Zhou.

posted by ferret at 5:59 pm  

Monday, January 25, 2010

False Start #33

I no longer worry about the ending of the sun.

When the solar system’s radiator blows a gasket, if there still are people on this rock of ours, I’m sure that they will be all to ready for it, having chosen from long ago to remain for the cosmic fireworks.

They will accept their fates with a kind of nobility, savoring those few seconds of brightness before a shockwave sends them to oblivion.

I know this feeling all to well. This is what its like to be a poet, witnessing the beauty of the universe from afar, even as it comes at you with tremendous speed to remove you from it.

posted by ferret at 9:47 pm  

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Li and Zhou: Roy Takes A Bathroom Break

[Li and Zhou continue to try and indoctrinate Roy.]

Li

So, have we cleared up the issue on our official relationship with America?

Roy

Our friends. But-

Li

But?

Roy

Our friends, who are still rooted in the misguided politics of Western imperialism, who we court so we can gain their secrets and build China into the great world power it once was.

Li

Very good. He’s doing well, Zhou. Don’t you think?

Zhou

Very well. I need to go to the bathroom.

Roy

Did you say bathroom?

Zhou

Yeah. Why?

Roy

Are you familiar with the Siu Feng Corporation’s employment of the newest revolution in water saving technologies for your home bathroom?

Zhou

Umm – Li, what the hell is this?

Li

I have no idea.

Zhou

Is this your idea of a joke?

Li

What? Do you think I fed him info about toilets?

[At the sound of the word "toilets," Roy begins to transform.]

Li

Oh my god! What’s going on? Zhou, get the engineers!

[Zhou runs out of the office to get the engineers who have been housed next door. He comes back a minute later, heaving and short of breath.]

Zhou

Li! Those damned German sons of bitches! Li! They just laughed at me, and the one who speaks Chinese said something about shit, and that made them laugh even more. I yelled at them. But it didn’t help. Wait! What the hell?

Li

What?

Zhou

He’s turned into a toilet, Li.

Li

I know, Zhou. I know.

Zhou

Wow. Do we talk to it?

Roy

Gentlemen! I’m happy that you’ve shown an interest in learning more about the latest revolution for this year’s World Expo in Shanghai! Better city, better life! Why don’t you sit down and have a try?

Zhou

Well, actually -

Li

Don’t you dare, Zhou. I’m going to call up somebody, and get to the bottom of this. Until then, you can go shit in some other toilet.

Roy

But let me assure you! Those toilets are not as comfortable, nor as good for the environment -

Li

You can turn off now, Roy.

ENDNOTE:

The following is from Roy’s official website (be sure to check it out for the sweet pictures of toilets!) Unfortunately, the website is all in Chinese, and Roy’s English website isn’t functional as of the date of this post. As a result, I’ve translated the following tidbits from which I created this most recent episode of Li and Zhou. I’d also like to hand it to the Siu Feng Company’s PR guys. A robot who sells revolutionary new bathroom ceramics? You guys have got balls.

我国是水资源高度贫乏的国家之一。虽然我国的水资源总量占世界第6位,与加拿大接近。但由于人口众多,人均占水量不到世界平均水平的1/4,居世界第88位,而且仅为加拿大的2.3%。我国现有300多个城市面临缺水危机,饮水困难的人口达7500万。北京更是严重缺水的城市。早在国家大力推行“节能环保”倡导全社会“节约每一滴水”之初;兆峰企业就已经开始了产品的技术研发,展开了一场卫浴领域的“节水革命”,使乐伊成为目前国内唯一一家所有产品均达到节水标准的卫浴品牌。用实实在在的行动充分响应了国家 “构建节约型社会”的号召,体现了一家企业强烈的社会责任感和历史责任感。

Our country [China] is a country beset by great water shortages. Although our country’s total water supply is the world’s sixth largest (about the same as Canada), due our large population the supply of water per capita is not even a quarter of the world’s average, ranked number 88 in the world, and only 2.3% of Canada’s. Our country currently has over 300 cities facing a water shortage crisis, and poor drinking water effects upwards of 75 million people. Beijing is experiencing severe water shortages. Earlier, our country wholeheartedly implemented the “Save Energy, Protect the Environment” Program which caused the entire nation to begin to “save water one drop at a time.” The Siu Feng Corporation has already begun to develop a product technology and opened up the field for a “Water Saving Revolution” in bathroom equipment through the use of the ROY ceramic technology [乐伊], becoming at present the only bathroom ceramics brand to achieve the water saving standards. This concerted effort to answer answered the our nation’s call to “Establish Conservation Society” embodies our company’s intense sense of responsibility to society and history.

“ROY是谁?”

重大解密是的,他是明星,是卫浴界的新星。他是领袖,是卫浴界的国王。他是一个超前卫的流行名词,是将引领卫浴时尚的名词。“城市让生活更美好,乐伊让卫浴更舒适”。

Who is Roy?

It’s a big secret. He is a bright star, the bathroom world’s newest star. He is a leader, the king of the world’s bathrooms. He is the name of overwhelming fashion in hygiene, the name of the newest head turning fad in bathrooms. “City! Let our lives be better!” ["Better city, better life."] “Roy! Let our bathrooms be comfortable!”

posted by ferret at 11:57 pm  

Thursday, January 21, 2010

New Words: Inchoate and Vitrine

Inchoate

Vitrine

posted by ferret at 2:09 am  

Monday, January 18, 2010

Li and Zhou: Roy Learns About Google

[Li and Zhou are sitting with Roy, attempting to indoctrinate the robot as best as they can.]

Li

Okay. So now we’re talking about Google.

Roy

Yes. Google, the influential internet search engine made by our good friends in America.

Zhou

America’s not our friend.

Roy

America is not our friend.

Li

No, Roy. America is our friend.

Roy

[Lights flash]

Contradiction! Shall we work on a contingency basis? Or am I to reboot?

Li

Contingency basis, Roy. It’s a contingency, Roy.

Zhou

I don’t understand. America is not our friend. They are our partner.

Li

Look. If someone is your partner, you have to at least act like they are friend, don’t you? Just be quiet, Zhou. Let’s not screw this up like last time when we had to reboot him.

Zhou

Why are you saying that it was my fault?

Li

You were the one who told him flat out that people from Xinjiang both were and were not Chinese, and refused to justify it. He’s a machine. He can’t handle contradictions like that. You’ve got to explain it to him.

Zhou

That’s just the way it is!

Li

No, Zhou. There is historical precedent. It has traditionally been a part of China.

Zhou

It has?

Li

God dammit, Zhou. Weren’t you paying attention?

Zhou

You actually believed all that? I mean, have you seen what people from Xinjiang look like?

Li

You know as well as I do that people from Xinjiang are part of this country, okay?

Zhou

But they’re not Chinese.

Li

Can we just agree that it’s complicated? There are reasons to consider them Chinese.

Roy

Shall we return to the contingency of how the people from Xinjiang both are and are not part of China? How the minority ethnic groups are bound to the Han through a common bond of membership in the Chinese enterprise, going back thousands of years?

Li

No, Roy. Let’s just stick with this: We always say America is our friend -

Zhou

You’re just going to lie to him?

Li

No. I’m trying to explain how the propaganda works to him, Zhou. And what does it matter? He’s a machine! It’s not a lie! It’s just not the truth!

Roy

When do I say America is my friend?

Li

Always, but you do not always act like America is your friend. Do you understand?

Roy

Yes. What one says is different than what one does. I am friendly to our partners in America; they are my friends, so I can obtain the best results from my dealings with them.

Li

Brilliantly said, Roy.

Zhou

That’s very nice.

Li

Might put us out of a job…

Zhou

I wonder.

Li

Now. Google is a foreign guest that entered into an arrangement with the Chinese people.

Roy

They are our friends.

Li

Exactly, Roy. Exactly. But they may break this agreement.

Roy

How could a guest do that to us?

Li

Exactly, Roy. We can now act as we choose.

Roy

So shall I advocate a course of action for our American friends?

Li

No, Roy. We can’t act as we choose. We must wait for the -

Roy

Contradiction! Shall I reboot or shall we arrange for contingencies?

Zhou

Who’s messing up now?

Li

[glares at Zhou, then responds to Roy]

Contingencies, Roy. There are always contingencies…

posted by ferret at 11:08 pm  

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Swingin’ Chinese

I recently learned the word for “swing” (i.e. the one you find in a playground) in modern, simplified Chinese:

秋千, qiūqiān

The word baffled me since 秋 (qiū) means “fall” or “autumn”, and 千 (qiān) means “one thousand”. I thought: What the hell kind of etymology does that entail? Do Chinese people look at swings this poetically? Like sitting on a swing is like becoming a lone leaf capable of experiencing the exhilaration of a thousand falls in autumn? For anyone out there who might have mistakenly tattooed this on his or her body for this or some other very romantic reason, I’m sorry to disappoint you. It just looks like the usual mischief we find in the difference between simplified Chinese and traditional Chinese.

The traditional characters for “swing” look like this:

鞦韆 (still pronounced, qiūqiān)

Notice the conspicuous use of radical 革 (gé) for leather in each character, as the (simplified: 迁, qiān, “move”) in the second character. Now the characters relate more clearly to what a swing actually is: a moving piece of cloth, leather hung from a tree or high pole.

You can get the whole story in all of it’s geeked out detail (including images from ancient seals and oracle bones!) at Chinese Etymology.

posted by ferret at 11:50 pm  

Saturday, January 16, 2010

New Words: Internecine and Baleful

Internecine

Baleful

posted by ferret at 3:05 pm  

Friday, January 15, 2010

Li and Zhou: … and Roy?

[Zhou sits in his office at the start of the day, staring at something with his back to the door. Li rushes in late, and addresses Zhou:]

Li

I’m sorry I’m late today, Zhou. My bus broke down and I had to wait for another.

[Zhou doesn't respond.]

Li

Look it. I’m sorry, Zhou. Really. What is it?

[Li looks over at what Zhou is looking at. He sees a humanoid robot over in the corner, surrounded by a team of foreign engineers chattering away in German.]

Li

What is it? What’s going on?

Zhou

Haven’t you seen all those ads at the bus stations?

Li

What? For the robot? Ray?

Zhou

Roy.

Li

Oh, right. Roy.

Zhou

That’s him.

Li

Well, what is he doing here?

Zhou

A bunch of government officials and military guys showed up earlier and said we were supposed to look after him.

Li

Us? Why the hell would we look after it? Him? I guess it is pretty manish.

Zhou

Yeah, no boobs.

Li

But Zhou! We work in propaganda! What do we know about robotics? What if it breaks down?

Zhou

That’s what the Germans are for.

Li

We don’t speak German, Zhou! We can’t even speak English.

Zhou

Don’t worry. They speak Chinese… kind of.

[A GERMAN ENGINEER sees that LI has arrived, comes over and greets him:]

German Engineer

HELLO! Very happy!

Li

[not amused]

Hello.

[The GERMAN ENGINEER smiles foolishly and walks back to dote on the robot.]

Li

I should have stayed in Anhui with the peasants.

Zhou

Don’t say that, Li. This will be fun.

Li

Fun? What are we supposed to do? Teach it Marxist theory?

Zhou

How did you know?

Li

Are you out of your mind?

Zhou

I’m serious! The military and government guys told me that’s what we were supposed to do. Apparently they want the robot to be well cultured in the ways of Communism in order to deal with any potential conflicts during the Expo.

Li

We’re doing propaganda for a robot.

Zhou

Not just any robot, Li. A Chinese, communist robot. The first of many, no doubt.

[ROY walks over to them with the GERMAN ENGINEERS hovering around him like satellites. He begins to speak to LI and ZHOU in robotic Chinese:]

ROY

Hello. Please tell me about the rise of the proletariat, and the defense of our homeland from the capitalist imperialists from the West!

posted by ferret at 11:55 am  

Thursday, January 14, 2010

False Start #32

You do not change; the world does not change; it is always as it is.

At best, it unfolds like an endless origami puzzle, and you delight as each section becomes part of the larger whole, dazzling you with what lay before you the entire time, but you never knew.

posted by ferret at 2:32 am  

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

False Start #31

Last night I had a dream. I dreamed that I saw two acquaintances of mine from high school walking through the crowds of a strange city that was the combination of two places: Shanghai and a high school in Orlando that I played at during a band trip in my freshman year of high school. There were sprawling complexes with towers reaching 40 or 50 stories, giving way to sunny courtyards amongst one floored buildings interconnected with covered walkways. I caught sight of my acquaintances in one of these covered walkways.

I’d like to say that these two people were my friends, but as time as shown, they stand only as acquaintances. Whenever I’m at home I never make an effort to contact them, and they never seem to inquire about my whereabouts. Still we are always happy to see each other when we cross paths, and might spend a few hours doing something if it’s convenient. You seek out your friends; acquaintances find you.

They told me that they were heading home, and that they would like to show me something if I had time. I said okay. We walked through the meandering city – half-Shanghai, half-Orlando – and it quickly petered out into the sparse suburbia of my youth, as if the city had never been there. We entered a small, but pleasant house situated on a hill, isolated from the rest of the community. Inside, one of them took out something and presented it to me.

It was a musical instrument with three sets of two strings each, the way you see strings on a mandolin. However, the fingerboard was fretless and curved slightly, much like that of a violin. As I picked it up, two more sets of strings appeared around what suddenly became a larger fingerboard. It was at this point that I was sure I was dreaming. I tried my hand at playing it, wielding it like a strange guitar and found myself enchanted.

Time passed as I doted on the instrument, and we discussed its merits. Then one of them suddenly became frenzied, as if there were an emergency. I tried to get him to articulate what it was, but he said we had no time and that the two of them had to go. The other one seemed to understand the urgency of the situation without question, and they began to walk out the door. I asked them if I could tag along, and they said yes, albeit with a kind of reluctance that disconcerted me.

We left, walking at such a pace that I couldn’t make sense of my surroundings until I found that we were at the edge of a barren expanse surrounded by an officious looking corner of fence complete with barbed wire and stern warning signs. The two of them approached the fence and began to dig, and I did too. Soon we had dug underneath the fence and found our way to the other side, standing in the great expanse. I could see nothing on the horizon except mountains far off in the distance, nor could I see an end to the fence in either direction I looked. It seemed to radiate from that corner off into infinity, like imaginary 90 degree angles from geometry class.

Suddenly we heard noises far off from the other side of the fence, threatening, undeniably human and approaching. I said to my acquaintances that we should go back and they just looked at me and said, “We can’t go back. It’s too late.”

Then I woke up.

posted by ferret at 11:50 pm  
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