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

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Shanghai as a Stallion

I imagined that Shanghai was a colt on the verge of becoming a stallion.

Yes, there was much talk in the past about leaving him as a gelding, a workhorse and nothing more. But this idea was soon dropped. We were all too well aware of Shanghai’s potential.

Many had tried to tame him, but nobody could do it. It’s not because he was too vicious, well, at least not at first. That was the thing that made Shanghai impossible to tame. To the rider who had never known him, he would appear to be tamed at first, calm and placid, civil in the utmost, or as civil as a stallion can be. He wore a saddle comfortably, and did not fight when his handlers threw it on his back. At the most, he would let out a casual snort; he would drag an idle hoof in the dirt, but that was all.

The most courageous of men would approach him, and hop into his saddle, wondering what the fuss was all about. They would set out at an even trot into the middle of the large pen where he was kept, grinning and stinking with an air of confidence. It was at this moment that Shanghai turned wild, as if possessed by a demon.

The powerful animal would heave his entire frame forward and backward, lurching, kicking, twisting, doing everything in its power to heave the rider from his back. Most of the time, this sudden change in behavior was so unexpected that the rider was instantly thrown from the horse, leaving his life in the hands of fate. Even if he did walk away from the pen, the rider’s confidence would be shaken, and chances were that he would refuse to ride Shanghai again.

They would mutter: “Shanghai you bastard, you beast, you hellspawn, you horse of the apocalypse. Curse the mare who gave you life. Curse these handlers who tend to you. May your hooves crack and rot. May you break your leg and fall lame with no one to put you out of your misery, except the bands of ravenous wolves already feasting on your flesh.”

Yet if you followed these men, years later when they found themselves in different pastures, at the mention of the great animal, they would only smile, look towards the sky and exhale: “Shanghai. Shanghai. Shanghai…”

posted by ferret at 5:50 pm  

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

False Start #40

When faced with two clear courses of action – the right one which will make me happy, and the wrong one which I know will make me unhappy – why do I choose the one which will make me unhappy?

For me, it is a fear of the unknown, the horror of Happiness and Risk.

Happiness is a woman. She is earnest, but her memory is poor. She forgets the details of anything that happens to her almost immediately. She lives life in the present, but unbeknown to herself, her impact on the future is greater than she realizes.

Her lover is Risk. He’s her soul mate, her male opposite. He is also earnest, but his memory is also poor. He sees things only in the moment, but his actions impact the future profoundly.

Sometimes these two are incredibly happy, strolling through the halls of my mind, greeting the residents of its various chambers as they come out to admire the stately couple. Risk is treating Happiness well.

Other times these two fight, throwing chairs and bellowing at the top of their lungs. The residents of my mind barricade themselves in their chambers, refusing to come out even during the greatest of emergencies. Risk has betrayed happiness.

For a long time, I shut both of them from my mind, not wishing that they should disturb my thoughts. But my mind became a dark and dreary place, and all of its residents were sluggish and unsmiling.

I knew before long I must let these two wander the halls again.

And now I am ready to let them. I’m filled with new hope.

Why you ask?

I remember the forgetfulness of Happiness and Risk. Even if times are hard, neither of them will remember these trials, these betrayals of the past. And just like them, neither should I.

posted by ferret at 11:20 pm  

Monday, April 12, 2010

New Words: Donnybrook and Ophiophagy



posted by ferret at 6:33 pm  

Saturday, April 10, 2010


Schizoforeignic – adj. acting as if afflicted by an acute psychosis due to being a foreigner in a strange land, unsure of where one belongs

[Ferret walks outside of a music bar. He’s upset. He just played a set of his original music, and the crowd remained nonplussed. In fact, so much so that you could hear the cute bartender at the back of the room rapping her nails on the bar it was so quiet. They had all expected AC/DC and Guns ‘n’ Roses, and all they got was quirky indie folk. He sighs. A Beggar working the door of the bar comes up to him begging.]


[shoving a cup in Ferret‘s direction]

The money. Hey, the money. Money-a.

[Ferret ignores him, but the Beggar continues:]


好朋友阿! The money! 老朋友!

Hey buddy! The money! Old pal!


You know, man, I just don’t get it sometimes. I feel like it’s just crazy being here. Like for the kind of music I play I should be back in America or something. I don’t know why I stay here. I get so lonely, you know?


哎? 一块. 朋友, 给我一块吧!

Huh? One kuai. Give me one kuai!


It’s like… I don’t know why I came to China sometimes, you know? It doesn’t make any sense to me, but still I stay. It keeps giving me reasons to stay, and I keep taking them because I don’t see any better option. But how long can I keep this up? How long? I’ll never be Chinese, you know?



Are you going to another bar?


我不知道. 我这个酒吧的人不喜欢我.

I don’t know. The people here don’t like me.


你会去. 你们外国人喜欢去酒吧, 对吗?

You’ll go. All you foreigners like to go to bars, don’t you?


I don’t know, man. I just don’t know.


哎, 朋友, 你给我一块钱吗?

Hey, buddy, you’ll give me a kuai, right?


Man, do you know what I should do? If I should stay in China or not? This is driving me crazy.

[The Beggar gets tired of dealing with Ferret and waits for another bargoer to come out. Ferret waits for a moment, sighs, walks to the street and hails a cab.]

posted by ferret at 10:49 pm  

Friday, April 9, 2010

Shanghai in a White Dress

I dreamed that Shanghai was a woman in a white dress, and I took her out for dinner. She wasn’t a pretty girl, but she had style, and was well built in all the right places. Sometimes she would smile strangely with a kind of tentative haughtiness as if she knew the world looked to her, but she didn’t have anything prepared to say. The dinner went well, and we laughed over a bottle of wine. I talked about my old girlfriends, women etched on the back of my brain in a giant mural, all of them holding hands and dancing in the park of an immense city that holographically defied perspective, depicting all the places I’d loved them and all the dreams that came floating out of our heads as we made love. Shanghai spoke about the one boyfriend she’d had briefly, elusively. I had the feeling the breakup was not mutual, or perhaps they hadn’t broken up officially and she was still dating him. She must have defied a great deal of expectations to come out on this dinner of seared steaks and finely boiled pastas.

Later that night we made love, and afterward I found myself immensely satisfied and suddenly thrown deep into a dream in a dream. Shanghai was a pretty girl now, and she was haughty in a way that indicated she wanted to say something. She spoke, “I don’t need you.”

posted by ferret at 8:05 pm  

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The 4-2-1 Model

[Ferret is sitting at a bar, talking shit with Hummingbird. She is at least six drinks in on the night, and as usual, engages in manic, frenetic conversation:]


Do you know about the 4-2-1 model?


The what?


The 4-2-1 model. It’s an idea about China and shit, man.


What is it?


[gesticulating wildly with her hands as she speaks]

Okay, so you’ve got the Chinese grandparents here, and there’s four of them. And then they can only have one kid each, so there’s two, and they put all their money into them, getting them a good education and nice living standards and stuff. And they’re all Chinese so they save lots, you know? So then these two parents now only have one kid, and they benefit from all this wealth and stuff, you know?


So each generation is exponentially richer than the last because all of their resources can only be poured into one kid?


Yeah, basically. You see, and that’s why there’s a huge market for anything in China. There’s just such a wealth of money here. Especially in Shanghai. You can sell anything you want here. You know?


Yeah, I guess so.


I wonder about this model for a society in a state where negative population growth results in a sharp rise in per capita incomes. Books like A Farewell to Alms suggest that the Black Death in 14th century Europe was a contributing factor to the advent of the Renaissance.

What? Will the policies of China’s authoritarian regime accomplish what a lethal bacterium did centuries ago? Are we at the beginning of a Chinese Renaissance?

posted by ferret at 2:08 am  

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

And If You Go Chasing Rabbits…

… there’s a movie for you.

I just saw Tim Burton’s most recent movie, Alice in Wonderland. The movie has received mixed reviews, and most of the praise came for Tim Burton’s trademark art direction. The movie looks fantastic. However, a number of reviewers pointed out that this newest envisioning lacks the playful, wandering nature of Lewis Carol’s classic, relying more on a straightforward, conflict-driven narrative. I would agree with this point of view. This newest Alice in Wonderland is no longer a commentary on the absurdities in existence, but instead a bildungsroman chronicling the reconciliation of youthful fantasies and desires with the adult world. As a result, a story that once had cosmic and universal appeal now appeals to only a small section of the population concerned with the prolonged struggle of growing up, i.e. my generation, the “failure to launch” generation.

It seems to me that this is the essence of this newest Alice installment: an address to the young, capable, affluent people of my generation, still wandering the globe in the latest years of their twenties, walking into the absurdities of distant lands and strange cultures abroad, battling the absurdities of corporate, cog-in-the-wheel lifestyles at home, holding in their hearts powerful passions that they look at from afar, thinking them just long off dreams. There is a kind of quiet resignation that flows over all of us, often still stuck at home with our parents or drifting in faraway lands, that these two worlds – our passions, the world – are separate, irreconcilable. We become desperate. We find ourselves haunted by questions, as if spoken out loud: Where are you going? What are you doing? Who are you? Who… are… you?

There are, in fact, answers to these questions.

However, the resolution to them is difficult, and as the White Queens makes clear to Alice when discussing her battle with the Jabberwocky: “When you go there to do battle, you go alone.”


posted by ferret at 5:09 pm  

Monday, April 5, 2010

New Words: Semaphore and Vermillion



posted by ferret at 11:29 am  

Saturday, April 3, 2010


Misinogist – n. a person who hates China

[Ferret is walking home from a bar in the French Concession near the American Consulate. As he walks by the Consulate, he notices that at the entrance there is a white guy flailing his arms around strangely, directly in front of the Guards from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) on duty near the entrance. Ferret walks up closer to get a better look. He sees that the white guy, a Drunken Misinogist is doing kungfu in front of the very confused PLA guards. There is a Policeman looking at the Drunken Misinogist and talking on his walkie-talkie. The Drunken Misinogist remains unphased. Ferret walks up to a PLA Guard to ask him if he knows what is going on.]


[pointing on the Drunken Misinogist]


What is he doing?

PLA Guard

Good evening, sir. Please don’t be waiting here.



Okay, but what is he doing? How long has he been here?

PLA Guard

[realizing that Ferret is speaking to him in Chinese:]


Oh, I- I really don’t know. He’s been here about ten minutes.

[The Drunken Misinogist realizes that Ferret and the PLA Guard are talking about him. The Drunken Misinogist points at Ferret and shouts:]

Drunken Misinogist

Traitor! Traitor! I know you can speak English!

[Ferret looks at the Drunken Misinogist with amusement. The Drunken Misinogist begins to do his strange kungfu in front of the PLA Guards again.]

PLA Guard


I’m sorry, but can you help us make him go?


[really not wanting to get involved]


Sorry, but he’s drunk. There’s nothing I can do.

[Ferret shrugs, turns around and walks home.]

posted by ferret at 3:20 am  

Friday, April 2, 2010

False Start #39

A lesson to aspiring artists:

You know about the golden goose?

The story is only half true. Yes, it did lay golden eggs, but they looked just like regular eggs on the outside, only the insides were made of gold.  In order to get at the gold, you had to crack the outer shell on a pan, just in case it was a normal egg.  Most of the time it turned out that the eggs were regular old eggs, which were never made for being put on a pedestal, only scrambling and frying.

Further, the farmer who killed his golden-egg-laying goose was foolish enough to think that after laying one – just one! – golden egg, the goose was just chalk full of golden eggs. He never thought about all the normal eggs that came before…

posted by ferret at 3:13 am  
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