Yahuda Bangs: Angry American Abroad was a semi-regular mostly-satirical column I wrote in the mid-00’s for a Hong Kong publication called Canned Revolution Little Red Email. I had some fun. The highlight of my time as Yahuda Bangs came when the South China Morning Post, a fairly straight newspaper that I also wrote for occasionally, ran a couple of letters to the editor under my Yahuda Bangs byline.
The original site has dematerialized, but I had some of the images – created by the hyper-talented graphic artists at Canned Revolution – in my own archives. I haven’t edited any of the original HTML, so there might be a few weird spots. You should be able to click down through individual stories.
Disclaimer : THE YAHUDA BANGS ARCHIVE may cause any of the following: itchiness, puffy eyes, hair loss, gout, shingles, rickets, cropsy, dropsy, mumps, bird flu, the yaw, SARS, the heartbreak of psoriasis and heartbreak in general. The Yahuda Bangs Archives SHOULD NOT be read by children, pregnant or lactating women, pygmies, albinos, Star Trek fans, cat fanciers, cigar aficionados, attorneys, people with high blood pressure, low blood pressure, or any blood pressure at all. Neither Canned Revolution nor Yahuda Bangs will be held responsible for any damage (mental or otherwise) to visitors as a result of reading any part of THE YAHUDA BANGS ARCHIVE.”
• F(DUBYA) • Muslim Smoking tips with Yahuda Bangs • Bizarro World Chinese Politics •
• Bangs on Gongs • Bucky Bangs and the Canada threat • Bangs ex-Foley-ates • Yahuda Bangs’ Taiwan Erection • Cretin of the Year
• Bangs at Skull and Bones • Flipping Bird Flu the Bird • The Dubyafall •
• In New Orleans, All is Going According to Plan • Does HK Have a Sense of Humor? •Dear Turd Blossom • Propaganda Shopping • Yahuda Does Yoga • Clueless Americans Suck up Chinese Cliches •Sodomized by China Travel Service • Seig Heil Mary!
This is likely to be my final contribution to Canned Revolution’s Little Red Email. I find myself trapped like a rat in a public library just outside the Yale campus. While
I’ve managed to elude my pursuers all morning, I’ve little chance of living out the day. Since I’m a dead man anyway, I might as well do all I can to make public the
hideous, unbelievable (yet seasonally apropos) truth I’ve uncovered.
It all began this morning in the apartment of Doctor D______ , one of my oldest friends, currently a hired gun for the Yale department of Disembodied Poetics. I’d woken before
dawn. Despite having been in North America for two months, I’ve yet to shake the jet lag owing to my extreme tolerance for melatonin. As I left for an early morning jog in the bitter
cold, Doctor D________ called to me from his chambers. There’d been a bomb threat phoned in that night, some vague reference to Connecticut courthouses, and the whole of downtown New
Haven was in a virtual lockdown. “Confine your runnings to the campus, Bangs!” he yelled as I bolted out into a tit-freezing New England wind. “And for god’s sake, laddie,
stick to the main roads!.”
Few people were out as I jogged down Temple street towards Yale. Something — call it a journalist’s sixth-sense — led me to the edge of Old Campus, where few garden-variety liberal arts majors dare tread. Gasping for breath after my long run, I found myself standing in front of a low-slung windowless brownstown. The building radiated fear,
secrecy and power. I should have continued running. If I’d had any sense of self-preservation, I’d have done just that.
But something drew me closer towards the ugly and evil tomb-like structure.
I crept up to the front door, fear in my spine. My inner voice said, Leave now, Bangs! Leave while you still can!
I bitch-slapped the voice with a handful of nicotine Chiclets and tested the door. Though the temperature outside was well below freezing, the door was hot to the touch, and -to my great surprise — unlocked. I open it just enough to slip inside. From somewhere within the bowels of the tomb I could hear a deep, low chanting. As I crept down the stone stairs, I heard a second sound, this one more of a low, vicious snarl.
The stairs ended, and I stood at the end of a long hallway. From the other end radiated a ghastly light, all Halloween orange and chimney red. I crept slowly down the warm, dank hallway until I found myself at the edge of a vaulted chamber. The only light in the vault came from torches bolted to the walls.
What I witnessed inside nearly caused me to swallow my gum.
Twelve hooded figures stood in a circle chanting foul syllables in a tongue best described as torturous to hear and hopefully long dead.
In the center of the circle a fat man lay stripped naked and hog-tied,. From beneath the burlap sack covering his head came pitiful sobs, and a long white beard. The fat man was squealing like a pig.
“Release me…I have work to do!”
One of the twelve stepped forward and yanked a chain attached to the fat man’s neck.
“Shut your cake-hole, Kringle! You had your chance to cooperate.”
I recognized the voice instantly.
“I told you, my work is not political. I only deliver toys…for the children….”
“Sneaking into American homes at night, depositing tightly wrapped packages. Very suspicious, don’t you think? And what about the big beard? Who are you taking orders from, Kringle?”
Even beneath the heavy cowl I could sense Cheney’s trademark scowl.
“But…. Everyone knows that I’m Father Christmas!”
“Father Taliban is more like it!” Snarled Cheney “After Rove gets done with you, you’ll be lucky to get a job greeting at Wal-Mart. You aren’t the only one who’s been making a list and checking it twice.”
From the far side of the vault came a hideous cry, like an animal being viciously sodomized. The fat man jerked in his bonds.
“Dasher…?!” He cried, and Cheney laughed maliciously.
“Dancer and Prancer are next, Kringle, and the boys are really looking forward to Rudolph. No goats for the Bonesmen this Christmas.”
Kringle was sobbing uncontrollably as Cheney roughly pulled the burlap sack from his head.
“This Christmas Santa works for Dick,” Cheney hissed through the side of his face “Now, lets talk how your elfin magic is going to help our poll numbers.”
I stared in horror from the vault’s edge. Unconsciously, I reached into my pocket for an Altoid, but the curiously strong mint proved my undoing. I sneezed — loudly — and immediately all eyes (even those of the freshly violated reindeer) were on me.
The last thing I saw before turning to run was Senator John Kerry lunging at me, a ceremonial dagger gripped tightly in his teeth.
I ran blindly across the Yale campus, knowing as I did that I was a dead man. Skull and Bones does not fuck around. I know too much about their Christmas plans, and I’ll never get out of New Haven alive. To the comrades at Canned Revolution who warned me against returning to America, all I can say is, Thanks for the advice. But if you really cared, you’d have handcuffed me to the Lamma pier.
December 8, 2005
A Yahuda Bangs Hanukakwanzaatmas Tale.
After a cruel year of devastating tsunamis, hurricanes and war, 2005 now prepares to bid us adieu under the looming specter of a global bird-flu pandemic. If the food networks are to be
believed, then it seems appropriate that this year’s culinary darling in America is called a turducken.
This is a chicken stuffed inside a duck stuffed inside a turkey. Just as during the Roman Empire imploded under its own weight, parties become gaudier and consumption more conspicuous,
it is somehow fitting that the turducken should become the mascot for this cruel Year of our Lord. So, to celebrate the passing of the kidney stone that was 2005, I prepared this brutal and
grueling dish for my family in America.
The Bangs clan is an extended family, especially around the holidays, so I ordered a twenty pound turkey, a six pound duck, and a five pound chicken, all freshly killed and gutted. With
clean hands and sharpened scalpel — as hygiene is especially crucial when perverting nature — I set to work de-boning the birds. I attacked the chicken first, ripping out
back-and-breastbone before turning the drumsticks inside out and shoving the bones out through the now-hollow chest cavity. The wings proved more difficult; after mauling them, I wound up
just chopping them off for stock.
Then came the duck. My deboning skills honed on the chicken, I set about carefully removing Donald’s spinal column, leg bones and wings. The result resembled more a neat and square
meat packet than any creature that ever quacked or swam, let alone flew far enough to carry a highly contagious and potentially lethal strain of influenza across international borders.
My carving skills sharpened to Hannibal Lecter-like acumen, I was ready to work on the big bird; for this one, appearance was key. With loving care I carefully sliced out the spine of
the bird that in a just world would be our national symbol, then removed its breast-bone. The recipe called for removal of its thigh bones to create a hollow cavity for stuffing, but after
the results of my earlier deboning work I found myself lacking the confidence to do the job poetically. The leg bones stayed intact, along with the wings. Before me lay three de-boned birds
of varying size and resemblance to once-living creatures. If all went according to plan, in 14 hours, the Bangs family would be feasting on their neatly layered carcasses. I wrapped the
birds tightly in cellophane and placed them in a refrigerator door I’d emptied out earlier before wiping the preparation area down with a solution of bleach and water.
Again, cleanliness is next to godliness, particularly when one is mocking the gods.
But this ménage a trois of meat is but part of the turducken’s complex appeal. What makes this grueling act of holiday culinary cheer truly memorable is the trifecta of
stuffings layered between the individual birds. Included in my unholy trinity of stuffing were oysters, pecans, apricots, dried cherries, portabella mushrooms, raisins, craisins and
chestnuts. Along with these I threw in the usual suspects of holiday stuffing; onions, celery, croutons and, of course, the bloody gizzards of the three birds. When my orgy of chopping and
mixing was done I had three pans of separate stuffings, each containing a delightful and different taste combinations. It was midnight by then, and in the morning, this amalgamation of
produce, grains and corpses would be sewn into a new life form.
I entered surgery before dawn. After an hour of cramming, sewing and swearing, I had before me three birds and three layers of stuffing held together with sharp wooden spikes and hemp
string (hemp being both politically progressive and flavorful). In all the recipes I’d perused before taking on this monstrous project no message was stressed more heavily (next to
frequent hand-washing) than to pack the stuffing loose.
But in my pre-dawn mental haze I’d haphazardly crammed the space between the duck and turkey with as much oyster stuffing as physically possible.
By the time I was awake enough to register what I’d done, the Frankenbird had been in the over for two hours. I consulted my notes and discovered that the reason behind the
overstuffing prohibition was pure physics; as moist things heat, they expand — ergo, an overstuffed turducken runs the risk of exploding.
As this is a holiday tale I’ll spare the reader undue tension by revealing the fact that no explosion took place. Instead, eight hours at 300 degrees, and with frequent basting
later, the Frankenbird emerged from the oven golden brown, the meat thermometer registering a salmonella-and-hopefully-H5N1-killing internal temperature of 185 degrees.
After letting it cool down for half an hour, all eyes were on me as I sliced down the center of the mutant bird. As the guests stood in awe of this unholy trinity of meat that was my
holiday labor of love, the blade revealed six distinct layers; savory stuffing, chicken, fruit and chestnut stuffing, duck, oyster stuffing, and finally, turkey. But as always, the proof is
in the pudding. To paraphrase one diner, “the nature-defying interplay of light-and-dark meats interspersed with the mélange of stuffings has produced a dish that is at once
fragrant, delicious, and completely insulting to nature.”
And that comment alone, dear readers, made the effort worthwhile. Happy Hanukakwanzaatmas to all, and to all a good night.
December 14, 2005
From: Yahuda Bangs, Angry American Abroad.
Dear Mr. Hirschbiegel,
I’ve got a script to pitch, and because of the amazing job you did with Downfall I think you’re just the director to bring my vision to the big screen.
Like your film, my idea is also an adaptation chronicling the final days of a powerful clique of men watching everything they’ve struggled for collapsing under the combined weight of incompetence, corruption and hubris. Unlike yours, my film will be in English; but I am curious how the title — “Dubyafall” — might translate into various European languages. With the rising Euro, I’m thinking we can make big box from Lisbon to Warsaw.
Since you’re a busy man, I’ve only sent you the first scene:
We open with a quick montage, like Fahrenheit 9/11, only without any narrative. I’m thinking some CNN clips from the Enron scandal, Powell’s UN speech justifying the war, the famous mission accomplished still, early coverage of the Plame thing, the ‘Brownie’s doing a great job’ audio clip. I’m thinking three minutes, tops. We just want to bring the viewer up to speed with the many instances of Bush administration cronyism, deception and incompetence leading up to the beginning of the film. (Think of the montage as an appetizer before the actual bratwurst.)
When the credits / montage ends, we PAN IN from a HIGH ALTITUDE SHOT of the White house and slowly ZOOM IN. Then, when the viewer expects the shot to go into the White House, it actually
swerves UNDER IT.
VOICE OVER (heard as camera passes through dirt): In the very near future, a quarter mile beneath the White House, in the hermetically sealed “Under Oval Office” a presidency is disintegrating. Under attack from both left and right, a heavily medicated president remembers happier times while his inner circle falls apart…
The scene opens with DUBYA sitting at — indeed, almost dwarfed by — a large mahogany desk, (Can we get Will Ferrell for Dubya or has Bewitched made him box office poison?) His eyes are glassy. He is clearly drunk, or drugged, or perhaps both. The only other person on the set is DICK CHENEY. (This may be a stretch, but I think Philip Seymour Hoffman would really add gravitas to the role.) Cheney is busy sorting papers from a filing cabinet into two piles, as Dubya looks on dreamily. Dubya picks up a telephone.
Dubya (into receiver) : Operator? Get me Turd Blossom. Yes, T — U — R –
Cheney (stuffing fistfuls of paper into a paper shredder): Not going to connect, George. Rove’s in hiding. Witness protection program. He can’t help us now.
Dubya: Oooh, that’s nice. He’s a nice man. Don’t you think so, Dick?
Cheney: Sure thing. George. Big time. Listen, you should get yourself ready. Last helicopter and all that…
Dubya: I like helicopters.
A DISTANT EXPLOSION is heard. Moments later, SCOTT MCCLELLAN (Kevin Spacey?) runs into the room with a stack of newspapers and magazines under one arm. He is disheveled and looks completely exhausted.
Dubya: Hey, it’s Scotty! Lets have drinks!
Cheney (lurching up): McClellan! What the fuck? I told you to stay up top and hold a defensive line!
McClellan: I’m sorry, Sir. I mean, Sirs… There were too many of them! Reporters coming in from all sides! We were expecting it from the left, but not from the right. Dear Jesus, even O’Reilly is backpedaling on the Libby thing. He’s saying that you — you, Mr. Cheney, personally — called him first, but that he turned down the tip
because it seemed “too dirty.” He’s really covering his ass, Sir.
Cheney (snarling viciously): Bastard! I’ll break that asshole’s balls! And you, get back up there and keep holding them back. Sing, dance, tell them the President is considering Alan Dershowitz for O’Connor’s seat. Throwing the liberals a bone… Hah! That should buy us some time.
McClellan: I can’t sir…I can’t face them. There are just too many, sir…they’re coming from all sides.
Cheney raises his left arm and slowly clenches fist. McClellan sinks to his knees, chocking…
McClellan: I’m…sorry sir…
Cheney (coolly): Apology accepted, Mr. McClellan. (Turns to Dubya, who is fiddling with the radio.) George, don’t do that.
…NPR hourly update, this just in…according to polls the President’s approval ratings have shrunk to new lows on the heels of mass resignations by key cabinet members…
Cheney (savagely ripping cord from wall): Dammiit George, I told you not to fiddle with that thing. Now help me with this suitcase. We’ve got to get you to Kennebunkport pronto. If the press gets hold of you in this state they’ll have a fucking field day.
McClellan (rises to one knee, gasping): Sir…I think you…should see…this… (presses forward January, 2006 People Magazine.)
CAMERA ZOOMS IN on the cover showing photograph of somber looking Barbara Bush. “Where I Went Wrong: A Mother’S Confession” is splashed on the cover.
Cheney: Er…George, you’d better stay here. I’m off to Wyoming.
Dubya: Wyoming is where cowboys live, Dick.
Scene One FADES TO BLACK.
Anyway, Ollie, that’s just the first scene, and obviously the situation is still very volatile, facts on the ground still fluid and so forth. But get back to me ASAP. If we time it right, I see big box office potential for this one.
Eagerly awaiting your reply, I am yours truly,
In New Orleans, all is going according to plan, but the question is whose plan is it?
To find out, we need only recall the ironically prophetic words of Grover Norquist, one of the driving cardinals of America’s neoconservative movement. It was, after all, Norquist
who proposed making “the federal government so small that it can be drowned in a bathtub.” And so the federal government has been remade in the neoconservative image, with
socialism for the ultra wealthy and ruthless survival-of-the-fittest capitalism for everyone else. George W. Bush, clown prince figurehead of the neoconservative movement, came to us five
years ago promising to be a reformer with results. Reformed he did, and the world now can barely believe the results.
From London to Singapore, people are watching the events in the Gulf States unfold and asking collectively
“What the fuck…has the American government really lost the ability to protect its own cities, its own citizens?”
Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post reported that Dubya’s last minute cancellation of a planned state reception for Chinese leader Hu Jintao was the result of his
preoccupation with “struggling to regain control of the Gulf States.” A German television news team watched with disgust — and caught on film — the assembly
and disassembly of what they called “a Potemkin rescue village“ built specifically to provide a backdrop for a presidential photo-op. Meanwhile, in China, where a
similarly disaster-struck metropolis was evacuated with relative efficiency and a low casualty rate, people are discussing how egregious governmental incompetence in the face of natural
disasters has historically heralded dynastic collapse. Might the same might prove true in America?
Certain questions come up over and over. Why were the levees on which the city was dependent left criminally underfunded? Why were there no plans to evacuate the citizens of New Orleans
who didn’t own cars? Why did the federal government wait so long to intervene?
But the question raised most often isn’t why but what? Namely what excuse does a rich and powerful nation have for failing to protect its own city and citizens?
The answer is at once grim and obvious: the destruction of New Orleans was not merely allowed…it was planned.
Bush clan matriarch Barbara Bush recently laid bare the racist, fuck-the-poor philosophy of the First Family during a post-disaster photo-op through the Houston Astrodome.
“So many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway,” she observed, “so this is working very well for them,“
This brutally obtuse comment outlined perfectly the neoconservative view that only the ultra wealthy are truly entitled to — or fully able to appreciate — life, liberty and
the pursuit of happiness.
To the Marquise De Bush, it seems natural that any peasant would prefer life under armed guard in a sports arena to the “squalor” of home. To her way of thinking, the
hurricane was a blessing in disguise to the “lower class” denizens of New Orleans. Why should anyone be surprised at the idea that an administration that shares these neocon
ideals might allow a combination of natural disaster and planned negligence to hasten the re-shaping of an American city into one that better fits into their vision of what an American city
It was, after all, this cabal that systematically cut funding for the flood control system on which the city relied, and then retarded rescue operations while the city drowned in its own
Not since Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist troops fled Nanjing before the approaching Japanese army has a government so callously abandoned its own citizens.
And now that New Orleans’ poor, lower middle class, and largely black citizenry dispersed, the administration can get down to the real work: Handing out lucrative contracts to its
cronies to “rebuild” New Orleans its own desired image — the same bunch currently “rebuilding” Iraq.
The “New” New Orleans will rise on the waterlogged ashes of the old as a gentrified, Disney-esque parody of its former self. Bush cronies will be awarded the leases to all
the buildings in the French Quarter (to be renamed the Freedom Quarter) in exchange for their loyalty and continued support of the Republican Party. On Bourbon street, “genuine Negro
musicians” will be bussed in from out of town to provide entertainment for a new, more upscale breed of tourist.
The only silver lining — and a slim one at that — is that the damage wrought by Katrina might wake America to the fact that Bush and his cabal are intent on bleeding the
nation dry in order to turn certain parts of it into Disneylands for the super rich.
If so, New Orleans might one day be remembered as the Neocon’s Waterloo.
If not — if the nation allows itself to be hypnotized by propaganda and photo-op’d back to sleep, then more and worse is certainly on the way.
After all, as George W. Bush himself famously said, “Our enemies never stop thinking of new ways to harm our people, and neither do we.”
Americans laughed, thinking their idiot emperor was making yet another witless grammatical error when in fact he was making an earnest statement of intent.
Does Hong Kong have a Sense of Humor?
I returned from my intensive colonic cleansing in Thailand healthy, hale, and to the news that I’d been let go from my Hong Kong day job.
My British boss seemed devastated at having to deliver the news. Though utterly positive about the quantity and quality of my work, he informed me that my Hong Kong comrades of two
months simply had not taken a shine to me. Quite the opposite, in fact. For reasons best summed up as “bad chemistry,” it seemed that their feelings could best be described as
active — or, at least, extremely passive aggressive — dislike.
So as they say in China, my squid was fried.
Perhaps it did boil down to simple chemistry. Conflicts between Hong Kong locals and Gweilos are common. Personally I chalk it up to differences in sense of humor. I possess one. My
comrades did not. I noticed this early on while enthusiastically pointing out to a HK coworker an article in The Onion pertaining to the rather esoteric type of work our company was engaged
“This is not a real newspaper.” He seemed extremely puzzled at the concept of The Onion.
“Yeah, but it shows that what we do is entering the collective unconscious.“
“It is not real news. I do not want to discuss it any further.” He shot me a look that said stop wasting my time.
I spent my first few days of unemployment walking the streets of Hong Kong and noticing — not for the first time — that Hong Kong people seem to smile a lot less than their
counterparts in Beijing or Shanghai. Perhaps it’s the lingering scars of colonization, or a general feeling of malaise and loss of purpose in an era in which China no longer needs an
intermediary with the west.
Searching for answers, I found myself in front of a building housing a number of lower-level HK SAR government offices.
Scanning the directory, my eyes settled on small raised letters which read Ministry of Comedy — Suite 223.
Flabbergasted that such a ministry would even exist, I made my way to the second floor.
Entering suite 223, I was confronted by a wrinkled gentleman with outrageous tufts of gray curly hair that made him look like a wizened Chinese Shemp Howard. He was shocked by my
presence, and stood up from a desk covered with what appeared to be fake dog poo, whoopee cushions, exploding cigars, and various other items sold in the back of American comic books. A
plaque behind his desk read:
Honorable Kwok Sum Lik — Minister of Comedy
“Ah, cheerio, old chap,” he began, his English clearly rusty. “Sorry about the mess. Pork floss?” He handed me a can of peanuts.
“These are peanuts,” I replied, staring at the can dubiously.
“Ah, quite right. Have some.”
Wanting to oblige the old man, I opened the can, and wasn’t at all surprised when spring-loaded cloth snakes leapt out, much to Minister Kwok’s amusement.
“That one never gets old,” he laughed.
“Yes it does,” I answered. “That’s what I’ve come here to talk to you about, Minister. Why don’t Hong Kong people have a sense of humour?“
The old man slumped dejectedly in his chair, and I immediately felt guilty over my bluntness. I began to apologize, but he waved his hand.
“No, old chap. You are quite right. We Hong Kongers are sorely lacking when it comes to mirth of any sort. And I, Kwok Sum Lik, should know. After all, I am Hong Kong’s
first, longest-serving, and likely its last Minister of Comedy.“
Minister Kwok let out a deep sigh, and stuffed the snakes back in the can.
“But Hong Kong was a British colony for over a century! Didn’t the British ever try to instill a sense of humour in the place they called the jewel in their crown?“
“Oh, indeed they tried, old bean. Indeed they did. Sit down, and I’ll tell you the whole bloody awful story.“
Mesmerized by the old man’s words, I took a seat on the couch and was immediately rewarded with a loud burst of flatulence. Minister Kwok began laughing.
“Now that one never gets old!” he said, and launched into a truly unbelievable story which would call into question all I thought I knew about the history of Hong Kong.
“In the waning days of colonial rule, the British were very concerned with the lack of comedy in the territory. They were baffled, really. We don’t understand it, many in the
ruling body would say. All of our other colonies developed splendid, though different, senses of humor. Canada had already taken the world by storm with its Second City Television troupe.
Oh that John Candy! Such a fat, funny man! And Australia and New Zealand were both known as mirth-filled places. India had its laughing clubs and, of course, Bollywood: those chaps
couldn’t be serious even when they tried! But Hong Kong! I dare say, not only had we never developed even the most basic comedy troupe, but one could ride the metro for weeks without
hearing so much as a snicker or chuckle, let alone a guffaw.
We were a dour lot.
Though a decade away, the impending handover was still a topic of conversation. In London, it was assumed that there would be a flood of immigrants from Hong Kong to England. This was
terribly worrying, as it was felt that without a proper sense of humor, immigrants from Hong Kong would be unable to assimilate into British society. It was then that the Ministry of Comedy
— my ministry — was established.
As the colony’s first Minister of Comedy, I wanted to think big, to implement bold new initiatives! But the people… Well, lets just say that they lacked my enthusiasm for
the projects. Wacky Tie Tuesdays were a flop. And Silly Hat Saturdays… Ai-ya! A complete failure! I knew that stronger medicine was necessary. A new governor had to be chosen, one
who could inspire the people of Hong Kong to really let their hair down.
The unexpected passing of Governor Sir Edward Youde in Beijing in 1985 threw London into a tizzy. The crown, its hands tied with weightier matters, was totally unprepared to deal with
Sir Edward’s replacement. I decided that, as Minister of Comedy, I should strike while the iron was hot! Wasting no time, I telephoned Prime Minister Thatcher, the Iron Lady, herself.
“Madame Prime Minister,” I said, “this is Kwok Sum Lik, Minister of Comedy for the Crown Territory of Hong Kong. It is with deepest humility and reverence that I suggest
that the next Governor appointed be -“
Minister Kwok paused mid-sentence.
“Who, Minister Kwok?” I asked, “Who did you nominate?’
“’Madame Prime Minister!’“ Minister Kwok exclaimed, seemingly emerging from a trance, “’I suggest that the next governor of the Crown Territory of
Hong Kong be… Benny Hill!’“
For the first time since entering the office of Hong Kong’s first, only, and very likely its last Minister of Comedy, I laughed. So hard, in fact, that Wulong tea squirted out of
“You suggested to Margaret Thatcher that Benny Hill be made Governor of Hong Kong? The Benny Hill? “
“I had no choice! You think Hong Kongers are serious now? Well back then they were even worse. Drastic measures were called for.“
“Look, Minister Kwok, you’ve convinced me that you’re a funny man. But Benny Hill as governor?” I had another swallow of tea. “Come on!“
“You think I’m joking, eh? Pulling your leg? Well here’s the punch line, my friend: London agreed!“
This time tea came out both nostrils. “You can’t expect me to believe this. I mean, I’ve read a bit on the history of Hong Kong, and no mention is made of this Governor
Kwok Sum Lik looked downcast.
“Well, as for his administration…it was short-lived.“
“Even so, it would show up in the history books. What do you mean short lived? Like only a few months?“
“Like 43 minutes.“
Minister Kwok took another sip of tea, then told me the story of the disastrous reign of Governor Benny Hill.
“Out of respect for the previous Governor, it was decided that the coronation was to be a low-key affair. No fanfare, no parades, no gala balls. Instead, Mr. Hill was flown to HK
in secret, and brought to the Governor’s mansion, where he would be sworn-in before a small audience. It was my suggestion that, rather than businesspeople, this audience should be
made up of students from local universities. My reasoning was that the younger generation would be better able to accept a governor drawn from a different stratum of British society from
which previous governors. How wrong I was. How very wrong…“
Minister Kwok again fell silent.
“What went wrong?” I asked. But the Minister seemed disoriented. After a moment, he composed himself and continued his tale.
“Oh, it was such a beautiful day, the day that Benny Hill arrived to assume the governorship. The sun was shining as Mr. Hill emerged from a stretch limousine, followed by his
entourage — his half dozen beautiful, buxom women and that little old bald chap who was Mr. Hill’s loyal sidekick for all those years. As they stepped out of the limo, the HK
royal orchestra struck up the theme music from his program, and Mr. Hill went immediately into his enchanting old lecher persona, chasing his entourage around the car as the ladies screamed
in delight. When the music stopped, they paused, and Governor Hill looked ready to bask in applause.
But there was only silence.
Governor Hill looked perplexed, and approached the podium, where he began making his first — and last — speech to the people of Hong Kong.
’Ladies and Gentlemen, Citizens of Hong Kong, it is indeed an honor and privilege — ‘
But he was cut off.
’Why do you always go into the women’s W.C., shouted an unctuous student, ‘ when it is clearly marked Men?’
Governor Hill laughed. ‘Oh, well that’s the gag, innit? I mean, the bald chap is standing in front of the W and the — ‘
Again, interrupted by an angry female student: ‘Why do you always fondle the same woman’s breasts while melon shopping? Can you not discern a breast from a melon?’
The students, apparently, had already seen his television program, and they were not amused. Governor Hill hadn’t expected a reception like this, and frankly, neither had I. I
stepped to the podium and spoke to the students sternly, in Cantonese.
’As Hong Kong’s Minister of Comedy I insist that you show our new governor proper respect!’ I demanded.
’No!’ shouted a number of students in unison. ‘He is a buffoon! We do not accept his leadership!’
Not knowing what else to do, Governor Hill went into his heartwarming ‘old tramp’ pantomime. Oh, such a show he put on, prancing about the stage, making silly faces. Yet with
each passing moment, the mood of the crowd grew angrier. Mr. Hill’s longtime foil, the delightful old bald gentleman whispered in my ear:
’Oi. Well at least they’re not shoutin’ anymore, guv. That’s somethin’ innit?’
I was about to comment that, I believe the Governor is merely fueling their silent rage, when all bloody hell broke loose.
The crowd surged towards the podium, throwing bottles and shouting Kill the buffoon who mocks Hong Kong!
A bottle struck Governor Hill’s skull with a resounding thunk. The police could barely keep the crowd from tearing him apart as they hustled him and his entourage back into the
limousine and whisked him to the heliport.
I was left behind to explain to the crowd that a terrible mistake had been made, and that Governor Hill’s performance had actually been part of a marketing exercise, which seemed
to calm them slightly. That evening, the very dry Lord Wilson of Tillyorn was flown in to assume the mantle of Hong Kong governor, and peace was restored. I was moved to this office, and
have stayed here ever since…’
Minister Kwok’s voice trailed off.
“I’ll…just let myself out,” I said, getting up from the couch.
“Wait. Before you go…won’t you please take a handful of peanuts?“
Minister Kwok handed me the joke can, and out of pity for a man whose dream of bringing humor to Hong Kong had failed so miserably, I opened it, getting a face full of spring-loaded
cloth snakes. Minister Kwok began laughing.
“That one never gets old!” he said
“No, Minister,” I replied as I walked towards the door. “It never does.”
I’m off for my yearly colon cleansing, and since it’s clear that GWB is going to use the upcoming senate recess to name John Bolton as Ambassador to the United Nations, I
— in a move worthy of Philip K. Dick — have gone ahead and pre-emptively hacked into Karl Rove’s laptop — whose passwords are well known in Washington, since the man
can’t keep a secret for shit — and retrieved the gloat email that Dubya will be sending him on the week following the appointment. All nicknames are, as our Australian friends
say, fair dinkum (almost). ~ Bangs
From the Desk of George W. Bush,
President of the United States
August 15, 2005
To: Karl Rove
Gotta hand it to you, you’re slippier than owl shit on a car hood in August. What was it, three weeks ago even Big Time was telling me to cut you loose? Waltzed into the oval
office as if he lived there -like that’s going to happen! — and told me “Think about the gravity of the situation, George. Karl might galvanatize the electorate in 2006.
Think about your legacy…“ Bought up the whole thing with Kenny Boy, too, but I told him that we got through that just fine without dumping old friends when the going got rough
for ‘em. Then I told him to get out of my office. He’s been starting to get that downright hangdog look about him lately, what do you think? He is one of Poppy’s friends,
after all. But still, I was worried myself, what with the way the liberal media’s been bird-dogging you all summer. The press corpse was just refusing to give suck-up (that’s
my new name for Scott, you like it? I miss Dodgeball myself…he was slippery too. Why did he leave again?) a break about you. Hell, TB, I was worried I was actually going to have
to do something drastical, like send you out to pasture with Ballonfoot or make you ambassador to Russia or something (that’d have been a bad idea — last time you and
Pootie-poot got together the two of you cleaned out all the Vodka on Air Force One and tried to fly the damned thing). Anyway, Condi told me to sit tight, that’d you’d think of
something to take the media’s mind off, and low and behold, you came through again. Naming Bolton as UN ambassador while Senate was on summer recess was brilliant, really killed two
birds with one stone. One confirmation down, you’re yesterday’s news, and the press has Bolton to chew on. I’m going to give him a name right now — Ambassador
Kick-Ass. You like it? Did you see the look on Coffee’s face when AKA presented his credentials? It was like I’m Ambassador Bolton, and I’m here to open up a
Big-Gulp-sized can of whoop ass on your little institute.
Now all I need to think about is getting Judge Whitey in, and that should be a shoe-in. The guys got less edge to him than safety scissors. Even El Puerco won’t shut up about it
(not that he ever does, about anything. I swear the only time his mouth stop moving is when he’s eating or swallowing Percodans). One day you’ve got to bring him around to
seeing the big picture.
Anyway, another brilliant move, Turd Blossom. Just lay low for a little while, OK. Next time you want to out a CIA operative, come tell me about it first.
“I have nothing but contempt and anger for those who betray the trust by exposing the names of our [intelligence] sources. They are, in my view, the most insidious of
Former President George HW Bush
With all the recent buzz about Jung Chang’s & Jon Halliday’s new book “Mao: The Unknown Story,” I thought I’d pipe in with my two fen with by
giving credit where credit is due. Besides murderous famines, endless purges, disastrous economic policies and two decades of cheesy mainland movies starring Mao-look-alike Gu Yue, one must
acknowledge the one great achievement for which all sinophiles can indisputably thank the Great Helmsman: cheap, readily available, suitcase-stowable gift items that friends and family back
home find so very China, otherwise known as Cultural Revolution Paraphernalia.
The voluminous “retro” crap from that tortured-yet-fascinating period in modern Chinese history makes a great gift for unsuspecting friends. Thanks to the fact that for an
entire decade, nearly all of China’s industry switched gears from producing useful things to churning out revolutionary junk, you can always find something to bring home to
gift-hungry loved ones.
Such items are of great cultural interest to sinophiles, so naturally, a cottage industry has sprung up among former Red Guards, who, in an ironic twist of fate, have switched gears from
shouting anti-capitalist slogans and destroying anything that seemed foreign to making a living selling their now-useless revolutionary paraphernalia to foreigners.
But what to buy, and what did it mean back when it actually meant something? The Great Proletarian PRC produced endless posters with revolutionary slogans like “Destroy the Four
Olds,” “Bombard the Headquarters” and, towards the waning years, “The Glorious People’s Revolution is Really Out of Control Now!” And of course, there
are Mao’s “Little Red Books.” These handy books of the the quotations of Chairman Mao fit neatly into a breast pocket and come in a variety of moldering fragrances.
But most popular with the Political History Tourist are the once-ubiquitous Mao Tse-tung badges, which can be found in a variety of different styles. Some feature the Great Helmsman from
the neck up, while others show a full-body image of him exhorting the masses to great deeds. Though seemingly identical to the untrained eye, each badge delivered its own political message.
The most common Mao badge you’re likely to find presents the Chairman looking leftward. Back in the day, such badges were interpreted by the masses to mean: “Mao looks
leftward, and so too must the the masses, and persecute anyone politically to the right of Trotsky!“ You should be able to get the left-looking Mao badges cheaply, as this
particular item represented 30% of China’s gross domestic output from the late sixties and early seventies.
Slightly harder to find (and thus not quite as worthless) are badges showing Mao looking to the right. This pose was interpreted as the Great Helmsman exhorting the masses to do a kind
of political hokey-pokey maneuver; pull the left foot in, stick the right foot out. But at this point, rather than shaking anything about, the masses were meant to look to their fellow
dancers and kick the living shit out of anyone unlucky enough to be on the wrong foot.
(The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution was particularly rough on dyslexics.)
Of course, most unique among Cultural Revolution badges are those showing Mao Tse-tung looking straight ahead. Though Halliday and Chang never mention it in their book, it is very likely
these were meant to be interpreted as Mao mocking the people, as to say, “Look in front of you, you idiots! There’s absolutely nothing left. You’ve gone and fucking
Then Mao died, proving the old adage about he who laughs last, and the badges and books were stuffed away in the dresser drawers of the great proletariat masses, behind the underwear, or
where the underwear would have been if all the underwear factories hadn’t been burned down in 1969.
Now of course, with Chinese industrial output threatening to outstrip that of the rest of the world’s squared, and China increasingly a magnet for tourists and
get-rich-quick types alike, the badges, posters and little red books are relegated to that special category of item known the world over as quaintly useless tourist junk. The ability to
interpret its meaning to the recipients grants instant “China expert” cachet, disguising the fact that you actually spent most of your sojourn here bargaining down hookers in
Shanghai and smoking vast tracts of Yunnan province.
Editor’s note: In recent weeks, our correspondent Yahuda Bangs had become fixated with the yoga studio adverts covering the entire first section of the midlevels escalator. He
seemed to take particular offense with the life-sized portraits showing locally famous yogi “Master Kamal” performing some impossible feet of flexibility while large yellow
letters beneath tout the “sexiness” of yoga. When Yahuda wrote promising to “take that yoga Svengali down a notch,” we assumed he intended to write an editorial
about the cheap commercialization of Yoga. Apparently, he had something else in mind, as late last week Mr. Bangs (likely spurned on by a bad reaction to recently prescribed experimental
A.D.D. medications) burst into one of Kamal’s packed Ashtanga Yoga classes and challenged the master to a “yoga battle.” According to the accounts of horrified students,
our correspondent strutted around the classroom shouting things like “I AM THE MOST SERENE!” and “FEEL MY PRANAYAMA AND KNOW PAIN!” before running like a crazed
linebacker towards the front of the class. Before Bangs could reach Kamal, however, he slipped on a sweaty yoga mat and landed head first, putting himself into a coma from which he has yet
to recover. Thus, this week’s Angry American Abroad column — on the subject Has Yoga Become Too Commercialized? — has been guest-written by Sylvia Bangs, Yahuda’s
mother, who flew to Hong Kong to assist in her son’s recovery.
…Is this thing on? Oy! I tell you, my son… Who does he think he is trying to attack a man who by the looks of it can balance his entire body weight on his penis? Mashugga, and
you should be ashamed for encouraging him! Canned Revolution? Who every heard of such a thing? But I understand why he got upset in the first place; my Yahuda has always been a sensitive
boy. And this block-long advertisement that runs up the entire escalator? Such dreck! Using sex to sell yoga? Feh…listen bubbie, I know a thing or two. You can’t tell to look
at me today, but many years ago, before I met my darling late husband, Mordechai Bangs (God rest his soul!), I was the top-earning exotic dancer at very swank club in the meatpacking
district of New York City. I remember the first thing the manager told me the night he hired me… “Sylvia,” he said, “these men are here for two things: tits and
lap-dances. And that is what you are selling, but you must never admit it.” And so I learned the meaning of a word apparently not in this so-called “Master” Kamal’s
dictionary, namely subtlety. A suggestive wiggle here, a wink there… But this Kamal person, every six feet with his almost naked picture, posing and flexing and stretching and
prancing? What, he learned some yoga and now he thinks he’s a Mapplethorpe model? Please! Such drek. And on the other side is the advertisement for something called “Hot
Yoga“? In the old days we called this torture. Now someone is getting rich by making people exercise in a hot room? Mashugga! And that’s another thing…I understand that
behind all the spiritual mumbo-jumbo, some of these yoga people are cutthroat businesspeople, driving around in Rolls Royce Limousines and wearing million-dollar Rolex watches. Such a sham
I tell you! But I’m just an old woman with silicone implants; nobody listens to a person like me. Anyway, I have the jet lag, and I can’t find the Fox channel on my son’s
television so I’m going to stop writing now. And you should all be ashamed of yourselves for encouraging my Yahuda to be a bum! You can rot in hell for all I care!
Sifting through American media for stories about China I’m reminded of something P.J. O’ Rourke wrote nearly two decades ago about the western media’s
“discovery” of Eastern Europe shortly before the fall of the Soviet Union. In a story about Warsaw in the 1980’s, O’Rourke quotes a media savvy Pole regarding the
objectives of Western media coverage of Poland
“Your articles show that there are no polar bears walking the streets.“*
Twenty years later, although the Western Media has far more interest, and reporters on the ground, in China, most journalism about China seems concern itself with the stunning revelation
that — despite preconceived Western notions — there are no panda bears walking the streets of Shanghai and Beijing.
In other words, we thought they were different, but really they’re just like us.
With the exception of coverage of a few hard news events (the current anti-Japanese demonstrations, for example), most articles written by casual journalists traveling through China are
hopelessly clichéd, trite fluff pieces that amount to a whole lot of nothing wrapped in a word count.
Recently, renowned New York securities mogul Henry Blodget traveled to China to do a series of articles for Slate Magazine. Known best for his zealous stock recommendations during the
dotcom heyday — and subsequent discrediting when the bubble burst — Forbes once referred to Blodget as “Merrill Lynch’s Master of the Obvious.“
Blodget had apparently, in the waning months of 2004, caught wind of the fact that China might — just might — be ripe for investment. Like a bloodhound on the trail of aging
leftovers, Blodget left for China, enthusiastic after discovering that not only are foreigners now allowed to use regular money (as opposed to waihuijuan, better known as Foreign
Exchange Certificates, which foreigners in China were forced to use before the law was scrapped in 1994), but that Mao suits are now only an optional fashion accessory.
Being an avid Slate reader, I followed Blodget’s journey with great interest, hopeful that this nominally progressive online news magazine might finally break new ground in
American media coverage of China. Disappointment came quickly.
Blodget’s skill for stating the obvious had only grown sharper with age. Hitting the ground with both feet running in Hong Kong, Blodget noted that there were no longer junks in
Hong Kong harbor (not actually true, but he made this observation from the deck of the Star Ferry), and that Hong Kongers ate strange food.
After a promising piece abo how the Shanghai mag-lev is fast, not terribly convenient, and losing money hand-over-fist, Blodget regaled Slate’s readership of millions with that
most worn-out of clichéd stories in western reportage on China: the abundance of pirated DVDs. (This is the cut-and-paste template for journalists wanting to write something
“interesting” about China without going more than four blocks from their hotel.)
Finally, in his latest expose, Blodget travels outside Beijing to discover what my 11-year- old niece in America already knows: Chinese peasants are poor.
Perhaps I’m being unfair to Mr. Blodget, who is neither a professional journalist nor a seasoned China veteran. And perhaps it was foolish of me to expect anything better from
Slate; after all, this is the magazine that just a few weeks ago ran a number of editorial cartoons about Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa in a section titled “China vs.
Taiwan.“ (Slate never bothered to correct their error.)
Unfortunately, Slate’s innocent abroad approach to China is typical of most American news outlets reporting from the world’s most populated, fastest growing, and (many
argue) most economically important country: Dole out a steady diet of no-calorie pap that, with few exceptions, says nothing that hasn’t been said ad nauseum before.
This is a shame for two reasons: Few places on earth are as replete with change (both good and bad) and newsworthy stories as China in this decade. And, lacking practical knowledge about
China, only the most educated Americans will know whether Beijing, Shanghai, Taipei or Hong Kong offer the best opportunities for potential English teachers, exotic maids, or strippers when
the American economy finally collapses in the next decade.
* Excerpted from “What do they do for fun in Warsaw?” — Rolling Stone, 1986
Had you been in the office of the China Travel Service office in Tsim Sha Tsui about an hour before closing on Thursday afternoon, you may have heard something akin to an involuntary
intake of air followed by a low, squealing moan. If you thought this was the dulcet tone of a forced sodomy occurring in the back room, you would not have been far off the mark. It was in
fact the sound of your humble correspondent watching a vast sum of money evaporating from his bank account to pay for a one-year multiple-entry visa for the People’s Republic. HKD
1900, to be exact, for a visa that a few years ago cost one third, and was less restrictive to boot. Nineteen hundred Hong Kong Dollars buys a lot of squealing.
In this the Year of our Lord 2005, the first full year of the second term of the Bush Junta, Americans are finding themselves as welcome abroad as the proverbial turd in a punch
In China, the blue-backed American passport, once as universally welcome as the greenback which its bearers were assumed to carry in great quantity, increasingly brings the American
visitor not a friendly nod and quick stamp, but scorn, a raised eyebrow, and increasingly immoderate visa fees.
In April of last year the central government issued the decree that Americans were no longer to be issued business visas in Hong Kong. Rather, they were to return to their home country
and apply through official channels. This has since been relaxed somewhat, to the point where Americans can now get a one-year business visa in Hong Kong, but only if they meet the
following criteria: Their passport must already contain two or more recently issued China visas, and they should be be prepared to shell-out a whopping sum of money, two to three times that
paid by Australian, Canadian or New Zealand nationals. And even then, American business visa holders are only allowed to stay in China for a maximum of 30 days (a restriction not imposed on
aforementioned visa holders).
Last year’s visa restrictions for Americans were ostensibly in retaliation for new regulations from the US State Department requiring that Chinese visitors — along with anyone
else from outside Fortress USA — be fingerprinted.
As for the next round of restrictions and visa price hikes, it won’t be too hard for the Chinese government to find some excuse to impose collective economic punishment on
traveling subjects of our increasingly belligerent and unpopular administration. From threats to the Chinese economy to continued military expansion in Central Asia and the Pacific, the
Bush administration is doing its best to ensure that Americans in China will continue to receive Least-Favored Nation status at the visa office for years to come.
But are these restrictions really in response to anything in particular, or is China imposing them simply because it can? A weak nation needs all the friends it can get. But a strong one
can pick and chose, and China is definitely becoming stronger by the year. Furthermore, a country with clout remembers well those who tried to keep it down when it was still weak.
So for the foreseeable future, I, along with my fellow American-born sinophiles will continue to pay big bucks for the privilege of travelling in China, while Canadians, Australians, and
most European nationals are still welcome with open arms for a comparatively small tribute.
Notably absent from China’s new international embrace are the English. China has not yet forgiven Opium Wars I and II, so the British will be bent over the visa counter alongside
their erstwhile yank allies.
We received a telephone call from international Correspondent Yahuda Bangs. Having gone to Rome to cover the papal proceedings, Bangs, utilizing his patented “Naïve
Portuguese Choirboy” disguise, was able to sneak into a private Papal auditorium, where he witnessed the new pope in rehearsal for his first-ever Papal Mass.
Unfortunately, Bangs was apprehended after only a few minutes, but not before placing a call with his Nokia camera phone, which transmitted snippets of the new pope’s speech,
including grainy video footage offering fascinating insight into the character of the man once known as The Iron Cardinal.
The following is a transcript of that call:
….Guten Tag mein damen und Herren. Heil Me! Ah ha ha ha…I make eins kleine joke, no, seriously. [sounds of nervous laugher from assembled cardinals]. On the occasion of
mein first mass as zie holy fuhr, er, father, I take as mein sermon subject zat of purity. As new pope, maintaining purity of the holy church will be priority number eins! Deviation from
orthodoxy vill not be tolerated! [Pope clears throat, adjusts monocle]
As you all know, I have been for years Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which is, in mein eyes a namby-pamby eleven-syllable phrase for inquisition.
Woo, scary, Ja? Inquisition. Under my charge, the Congregation made significant headway in rolling back the heresies of liberal humanism throughout zie world, and rolling back any traces of
modernism within the Holy Church. Und zis iz zie way we shall continue. Ja, it is true. Under me, our church vill be “medieval“…but without the evil. [stifled laughter].
Vas ist, you don’t like that joke? OK, I can take it out. [scratching sounds, rustling paper]. Under mein papacy, homosexuality und buggery amongst Catholics will be VERBOTTEN!
[nervous coughing] Ach, don’t get your panties in a bunch, Law. Of course I am not referring to the American clergy. Don’t ask, don’t tell, eh? Why can’t all
American priests be like Deniro in Sleepers, eh? Now there was a real priest [nervous coughing, sounds of rustling paper]. Ja, law, you are more a Kevin Bacon man, eh? Ha ha, I joke, I
joke. OK, moving right along. [clears throat].
Mein predecessor, John Paul will always be remembered as the Pontiff who brought down Left wing communism in Europe. Not too toot mein own horn here, but I, too, helped to put a bit of
the old…what is that phrase the kids all use now? [New Pope thoughtfully runs finger along his dueling scar]: ‘smack down’? Ja, the smack down on the left-wing liberalism
in America just last year by releasing a well publicized memo to American Bishops telling them that they must refuse Holy cCommunion to pro-choice candidates. Right before the election,
too, ja? Put the holy jack-boot right into the Democrat’s humanist knickies, ja? Separation of church and state? Ha! Not on mein watch. Take that, Thomas Jefferson. [Unknown cardinal
approaches Pope, whispers. Scratching on paper]. Well, I liked that line….
[clears throat]. Und Jetzt, a subject near and dear to mein old heart, namely the subject of moral relativism. On this subject, let me be perfectly clear. MORAL RELATIVISM IST VERBOTTEN.
EINS KIRCHE! EINS GLAUBENSSYSTEM! EINS PAPST! SEIG HEIL MARY! SEIG HEIL MARY! [Assembled cardinals salute clearly agitated pope as he bangs scepter on podium. Pope takes swig from chalice.]
As a boy in Deutschland, I served in the Hitler Jungen…er Catholic Youth Club, and back then we had no need for those who questioned authority. And I say we still don’t. Do we
have any questions? Nicht? Gut. Moving along….
[at this point, International correspondent Yahuda Bang’s telephone emits a shrieking sound mysteriously reminiscent of Iron Butterfly’s In-A-Gadda Da Vida. The last shot
transmitted is that of Swiss Guards rushing towards his hiding place.]
Was ist? Devil’s music?
[A brief scuffle ensues. The final audio transmitted includes much screaming in Swiss-accented French.]
We have not heard from Bangs since, and can only assume that he would want this transcript to run unedited.
Watching the world react with naked loathing at the appointment of John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations, quickly followed by the appointment of Paul Wolfowitz to head the
World Bank, one is reminded of what Stalin said to a timid advisor who warned that his persecution of Soviet Catholics might invoke papal ire.
“Fuck the pope,” he was said to have growled. “How many divisions does the Pope have?”
Stalin had little use for subtlety in international diplomacy, and Dubya, wired to the gills on a potent cocktail of war and control, openly mocks both subtlety and diplomacy.
And why shouldn’t he? For the serious cocaine and ego fiend, half the fun is getting away with it. With each new outrage the world press react like Margaret Dumont confronted by a
crude and lascivious Groucho Marx.
“John Bolton as UN Ambassador?“ gasps a clearly insulted world “Why, sir, that’s preposterous! “Paul Wolfowitz as World Bank head? Well, we
And from the White House, the laughter just keeps rolling. A fish rots from the head down, and even in GWB isn’t calling all the shots himself, the Bush administration possesses
its titular figurehead’s cocaine fiend predilection for wanting to push shock value for all it’s worth.
Dick Cheney attends an Auschwitz memorial dressed like a Midwestern Zamboni operator; world opinion gasps petulantly.
A few weeks later Condoleeza Rice puts Old Europe in its place decked out in dominatrix regalia; the response is more huffy shock.
A disappointed Dubya must feel like a mid-90’s Marylyn Manson, asking himself ‘What do I need to do to get a rise from these gullible motherfuckers?’
So he appoints a man well known to loathe the UN to act as its American envoy. A week later, he taps a man scorned worldwide as a warmonger — albeit an unsuccessful one, whose
unbroken record of failure stretches back to the Reagan administration — to head the World Bank.
Still, the best reaction the world can muster is a collective, ice-cold “Really, Mr. Bush! We’ve never been so insulted!
The strategy being taken by the administration is clear to anyone with the guts to confront it head on. Through continual application of shock, the world becomes numb to the horror of
the big picture.
But shock value is a lot like heroin addiction: maintaining the same buzz means one must continually up the dosage, and the Bush administration has three more years to keep the world
Secret pillow talk overheard at a recent all-night Vaseline and amyl nitrate orgy attended by Jeff Gannon reveal horrible snippets of the surprises to come throughout 2005. The
faint-of-heart are advised to stop reading now.
According to Gannon, some time before August, Newt Gingrich will be named Special Envoy to China, in which capacity, he is slated to stun an assembled crowd by pissing on the Great Wall.
Later, on a state visit to Chengdu, the feisty former congressional whip will shock an assembled Chinese press corps by strangling a baby panda with his bare hands.
It only gets worse: In late autumn, newly appointed Ambassador to the Vatican Ozzy Osborne will make headlines by biting the head off a live dove and spitting blood into a communion
chalice. This will be the shock that causes Pope John Paul II to finally give up the ghost, fitting the neocons’ plans quite snugly.
Following the Pope’s demise, Dick Cheney will head to Rome, goon-squad in tow, to strong-arm the College of Cardinals into naming Antonin Scalia (recently elevated to the position
of Chief Justice) as High Pontiff. After a triumphant but violence-marred coronation ceremony, Pope Scalia will announce that he’s unable to fulfill his chief justice/pontiff role
from Europe, providing an excuse to have the entire Vatican moved to America on the aircraft carrier Nimitz. Pope/Chief Justice Scalia will deliver his first Christmas benediction from the
new Holy See (now conveniently located on the West Bank of the Potomac), declaring all nations in which birth control is legal to be terrorist states, and designating Opus Dei as
America’s official state religion.
World reaction to this latest affront will come on New Year’s Day, when UN Secretary General Kofi Anan delivers a scathing speech against the Bush administration at UN headquarters
in New York. He’ll declare that he speaks for the world when he says that the behavior of the United States is “shocking“, and that “the world has never been quite
so mortified as it is now.” This will be Anan’s strongest speech ever. It will also be his last, as he, along with most of the UN governing body, are killed when UN Headquarters
is suddenly demolished to make way for a new Manhattan casino complex — part of a backroom deal between Ambassador Bolton and newly-appointed Secretary of the Interior Donald
The world will express outrage, then go out for drinks and forget all about it.
March 19, 2005
Last week I received an alarming late night call from my mother, Sylvia Bangs. She was worried that my eccentric uncle Binyamin “Bucky” Bangs, who runs the only Kosher delicatessen and all night laundromat in Niagara Falls, New York, had finally flipped his lid. “He’s been calling everyone he knows, warning them to keep their eyes peeled to the north, talking his meshugeh talk about ultimate showdown. I tell you, Yahuda, you need to call him. This time he’s going to get himself in trouble.”
Uncle Bucky has a rare disorder called “Canada-phobia.” In a misguided attempt to overcome this fear in the mid 1980s, Uncle Bucky decided to actually move to Canada, but lost his nerve at the foot of the friendship bridge and was unable to go any further. Unable to acknowledge his own rapidly calcifying mental disorder, Bucky decided that his inability to cross the border was the result of some sort of high frequency ray being emitted from Toronto’s CN tower. Mother and I traveled upstate, where Bucky had holed up in a seedy trailer park on the outskirts of Buffalo with a spent piece of white-trash ex-stripper who called herself Shirella. We tried to get Bucky to come back to the city with us, but he refused to budge. “I’m staying here with Shirella, right by the border. Somebody needs to man the gates. Somebody not afraid to stare down danger’s door.”
Eventually Bucky and Shirella got married and opened up a gun store. This lasted until Bucky was arrested for taking potshots at passing cars with Canadian plates. He managed to keep out of jail by agreeing to sign over his share of the gun store to his wife, who promptly divorced him as soon as the ink was dry. Since then, he’s lived in a motel close to the border. I suspect he’s managed to stash away some firearms from the old shop, so naturally I shared my mother’s concern when I learned of Uncle Bucky’s ranting, and called him immediately. He answered the phone on the first ring, never a good sign.
“Uncle Bucky, it’s your nephew. Mom tells me your acting crazy. You want they should lock you up again?”
“Yahuda, thank g-d you called. I’m on the front line, and let me tell you, these bastards are preparing for something big! Did you hear about this guy they just elected?”
“What, their new Prime Minister? Harper. Sure, he’s conservative, but a conservative Canadian…come on.”
“What have I always told you, Yahuda? What have I always said?”
Uncle Bucky was referring to his decade long obsession that somehow the Canadian penchant for cleanliness, politeness and overall civility was, in fact, part of what he called a grand misinformation plot, designed to mask Canada’s true intent — a sneak attack followed by a full scale invasion. I tried to humour the old man.
“Uncle Bucky, are you skipping your meds again?”
“I flushed the pills, Yahuda. I need to be sharp. What’s the first thing that bastard Harper did? He sent icebreakers to the pole. Icebreakers, Yahuda! And what do icebreakers do…?”
“Um. Break ice?”
“Exactly! And why would the Canadian military be choosing now, this particular time, to break ice?”
I realized then that my Uncle Bucky had gone off the deep end. A few years ago, he’d caught wind of the Canadian government’s medicinal marijuana program, a government sponsored plan to grow cannabis for distribution to ill citizens. He’d heard about the plan from a copy of the Toronto Globe and Mail that had wound up in his laundromat. The paper had a picture on the front page of Canada’s minister of health surrounded by thousands of cannabis plants.
“You see, Yahuda!”, he’d raved at the time, “They have a three thousand mile border with us, plenty of cheap hydroelectric power, and now, tons of dope.”
Then as now, I tried to humour my insane uncle.
“So what your saying is that the Canucks plan to put huge fans all along the border, set tons of high grade pot on fire and smoke out every American city north of the 35 degree line?”
“Exactly!”, he answered, “From Boston to Baltimore, Chicago to Denver, Seattle to San Francisco, America will be stricken stoned! Our people will drop into a drooling, donut eating stupor, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Horde will saddle up and trample forever the light of American liberty!”
We’d figured that five years without this absolutely unlikely scenario coming to pass — combined with a handwritten (and extremely polite, considering the circumstances) letter from the Canadian Minister of Health promising that Canada had neither the stockpile of cannabis nor the intention to conquer America — would have cooled Uncle Bucky’s paranoia. But apparently it was just lying dormant, gaining strength.
“Look, Uncle Bucky. I don’t know why the Canadian Navy would send icebreakers up to the arctic. Maybe they’re planning a big cocktail party, and need a lot of ice.”
My uncle let out a maniacal chuckle, the kind that only a true maniac can plausibly make.
“That’s just what they want us to think, my boy. Those ships are breaking the ice for one reason alone. The Canucks have figured out that they don’t even need to invade America to beat us. They don’t have to send over one damned red booted Mountie.”
“I’m not following…”
“They’re going to move the North Pole, Yahuda,” my uncle raved. “Once they do that, the whole planetary axis will shift, and bam! Their cities are in the tropics, while down here in the good old US of A we’re in the deep freeze. THE DEEP FREEZE, YAHUDA.”
Although I realized then that my uncle was beyond reason, the conversation left a deep impression on me. Would it be so bad if America were to somehow be conquered by Canada, totally disarmed, paying 15% sales taxes and forced to accept socialized medicine as a way of life? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Still, there was no point in mentioning this to Uncle Bucky, who was in no state to appreciate such musings.
“The sun is going down here in Hong Kong, Uncle Bucky,” I lied, “It’s almost Shabbat, I gotta hang up.”
“You’re a good boy, Yahuda. Tell your mother I say hello.”
And with that, I hung up. Like most members of the Bangs clan, he was the authorities’ problem now.
Little red email correspondent Yahuda Bangs can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sick all week with an exciting new variant of influenza, Canned Revolution’s Yahuda Bang brings little red email readers a special radio transcript from an alternate Philip K. Dick-like historical timeline.
…We interrupt our broadcast of Louis Armstrong and his Good Negro Orchestra to go to the White House to bring you a live announcement from President Franklin Dubya Roosevelt…
My Fellow Americans, yesterday, December 7th, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.
As the President of the United States of America, I was particularly shocked by these dastardly and cowardly attacks, especially in light of my long held and close personal relationship with many of the leading industrial and government figures of the Empire of Japan.
The dastardly attacks by Japanese forces on our forces in Hawaii have caused some in our great nation to question the wisdom in continuing to do business with Japanese corporations. Some have even gone so far as to suggest that my administration cancel recently agreed upon — and perfectly legal — business agreements that will hand over the day-to-day management of the ports of Seattle, San Francisco, and San Diego to the Hirohito Port Securities Corporation of Tokyo.
To these nabobs, naysayers and other enemies of the free market I say poppycock, stuff, and nonsense. The global economy is and always must be one built on laissez-faire principals in which there is no room for prejudices based on racial or national origin. We must not allow ourselves to fall into the vicious trap that some — both in the opposition and my own party — would have us believe; namely that just because a particular nation may have been involved in attacks upon the United States of America in the recent past, that corporations with direct ties to the government of that nation should not be entrusted with tasks vital to the security of this nation.
The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian Islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. Very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu. However, my close personal friend Admiral Tojo (or “Toe-jam,” as I am fond of calling him) assured me just last night that his dual position as commander of the Imperial Japanese Navy and CEO of Tojo Munitions Incorporated in no way represents any conflict of interest whatsoever! Thus, American sailors on Tojo Munitions-equipped warships can rest assured that they are fighting with arms of the highest quality, all purchased at fair and reasonable rates from the very enemy whom they are now sworn to defeat at all costs.
As Toe-jam himself assured me last night on a trunk call from the emperor’s residence in Tokyo, “Sure Frankie, top shelf arms. A-number one for you, my friend.”
Some anti-business forces in both parties will say that it unwise to trust the Japanese government, which has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace, with defense contracts vital to the defense of our nation.
To these killjoys, I say, 23-skiddo to that notion, big time. Business is business.
The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation. As commander in chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense. The close and long-held personal ties of my family to high ranking figures within the very government now seeking to conqueror our nation in no way impedes my ability to lead the very nation that my overseas partners now seek to destroy.
I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese empire. In the same breath, I declare to my friends in Tojo Munitions and Hirohito Port Securities that all existing business contracts will not merely be honored but, in light of the upcoming horrific and no doubt protracted war between our two nations, expanded upon.
My fellow Americans, it is likely that our declaration of war on Japan will trigger a similar declaration upon the United States by Japan’s ally Nazi Germany. To the forces of Nazism intent on crushing freedom under its soulless black jackboots, I say bring it on! And to the management of German firms I assure you that, as President of the United States of America, a state of war between our two nations will in no way hinder the development of perfectly legal cross-Atlantic business alliances. The anticipated selling of this very radio network, for example, to Goebbels Media Group of Berlin is, as far as I am concerned, a done deal.
Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger. However, this does not in any way supersede my own personal business alliances, or those of my family or closest associates, with the very enemies who have sworn to destroy the nation which I now lead.
I believe I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make very certain that these international corporations are rewarded for their patronage of me, personally — regardless of their national origins or allegiances in the current struggle.
God bless us all. We have nothing to fear but fear of itself, or in my case, fear of not properly rewarding those with whose assistance I clawed my way to power in the first place.
Yahuda this week regails us with his views on “Scientology with Chinese Characteristics”. He awaits a hoarde of outraged Falun Gong members to protest outside his apartment with glee and specially-prepared marshmallows on sticks.
What I’m about to write will no doubt make me unpopular with the eternally effervescent “hooray for people power” crowd. It certainly won’t make me any friends in the “Bash China Now!” American media. But if it gets up the nose of a certain long-standing friend and political sparring buddy (who’s opinion on the matter is, in my opinion, the definition of knee-jerk), it’ll all be worth it. So here goes:
Wang Wenyi’s three minute tirade against Hu Jintao was neither a spontaneous nor courageous act. It was not a legitimate act of rebellion (like Tian’anmen Square) or even a meaningful kick against the pricks (like Cindy Sheehan’s Crawford camp-out). It was political theater designed specifically to embarrass China, processed for mass consumption by a willing media, and if not engineered by Bush’s neo-con brigade, than certainly done with their blessings.
The American media is presenting Wang’s act as justified civil disobedience, a desperate stand by a plucky, courageous Falun Gong practitioner designed to wake up a sleeping American public to the idea that Bush’s meeting with Hu is the worst knuckling under since Chamberlain met Hitler. Wang’s actions, they would have us believe, were completely spontaneous (albeit media-perfect). Not once in the mainstream American media have I seen it mentioned that whoever vetted Wang’s press pass must have known that Wang, a reporter working for the Epoch Times (widely acknowledged as being a mouthpiece for, if not wholly owned, by Falun Gong) might use her journalist’s credentials to launch just such a tirade. Except for an article in Britain’s Independent, I’ve similarly seen no mention of the fact that Wang did precisely the same thing four years ago, launching the same tirade against Jiang Zhemin on a visit to Europe.
It would be a stretch to expect the American media to connect the dots to their logical conclusion (that Wang was brought in precisely to embarrass Hu Jintao). However, they might have at least brought up the connection between Wang’s employer, Epoch Times, and Falun Gong. Wolf Blitzer’s dialogue with Wang the next day was the most kid-gloved interview since Rush Limbaugh called Donald Rumsfeld onto his radio love-in couch earlier in the week. Watching the interview on CNN, one might be forgiven for equating Wang’s act with Gandhi’s salt protest.
In the three minute interview, Blitzer called Wang’s action “a shot that was heard around the world.” He then got down to the business of serious journalism by asking Wang the most hard hitting question of the interview, namely if the organization that provided her with the credentials know of her plans, to which Wang answered “No.”
Wolf (and my disagreeable comrade) will forgive me if I now, in print, call “bullshit” on that.
I don’t have adequate space to get into my beef with Falun Gong (a philosophy that I have studied extensively enough to have come to the conclusion that its basically Scientology with Chinese Characteristics). Of the thousands of Falun Gong practitioners who have gone to jail for the right to practice their religion, I have nothing but sympathy and respect, even if I find their belief system, to put it mildly, goofy. But as far as I’m concerned, Li Hongzhi (Falun Gong’s L. Ron Hubbard) is a manipulative charlatan who sold out his Chinese base to gain global recognition. By instructing his followers to gather in Tian’anmen in 1999, he ensured that the Chinese government would respond in the most ham-fisted way. He threw his most devoted adherents to the lions in exchange for a global advertising campaign that no amount of money could buy.
Li Hongzhi — safe and sound on Manhattan bedrock — couldn’t have seen the outcome as anything but, and cynically swapped the well being of his followers in China to gain a slew of global adherents and the political leverage that he now enjoys. Don’t believe me? Ask yourself this: Had you even heard of Falun Gong before the Chinese government, stupidly, heavy-handedly, and as if following a script, began persecuting them?
My other beef with Wang’s political theater is this: By using her press credentials to make (and not, as the job description entails) to report news, she further weakened the implied protocol that should exist between those who make news and those who report it. As a journalist living in an age when journalists are increasingly under fire, this strikes me as a dangerous and particularly short-sighted move, akin to shooting an enemy under the flag of truce, or using a Red Cross vehicle to transport weapons.
Intelligence is not necessarily a bulwark against manipulation; it should, however, afford one the eyes to spot when and how they’re being manipulated. The persecution — and yes, it is persecution — of Falun Gong has long been a favorite and easy topic for the American to use to paint the picture of China as some evil, monolithic government bent on enslaving it population in the name of Wal-Mart. Wang’s actions didn’t help jailed Falun Gong practitioners in China. It just gave America’s burgeoning anti-China brigade more ammunition, and obscured even further the already blurry line between useful protest and cynical political theater. It did more harm than good.
Following a freak accident involving a linear particle accelerator, some radioactive isotopes, a stack of old DC Comics, and his fevered mind, little red email correspondent Yahuda Bangs spent the previous week on the Bizarro World, a planet at once very similar to and radically different from our own planet earth.
On the Bizarro Planet, the end of the cold war left China the dominant figure in a largely unipolar political landscape, and in their world it was Dubya who was heaped with indignity on his visit to Bizarro Beijing.
Bangs was able to meet up with his Bizarro world counterpart Bizarro Bangs (who, oddly enough, is a correspondent for Bizarro Reuters) and returns to our world with his counterpart’s recent story concerning the meeting of Bizarro world leaders.
Beijing, Bizarro People’s Republic of China, May 2, 2006: Despite strict control by Bizarro China secret service, Bizarro America President George W. Bush still not meet friendly reception in first China meeting with Bizarro China President Hu Jintao.
Outside great hall of Bizarro Chinese people am many protesters busy demonstrating against Bizarro American policy, both domestic and foreign.
“Bizarro America am have poor a human rights record,” say one protester “why President Hu am not bring up issue of Bizarro America’s continued discrimination against black minority?” Protester then yell “Free Bizarro Mumia!” before peddling away on bicycle with sticker reading ‘No Bizarro blood for oil!’
Another demonstrator am point to fact that, despite hard rhetoric from central committee just half year ago, Bizarro China government still ‘a little too friendly with Bizarro America regime.’
‘Every time Bizarro leaders want drum up support for another five-year campaign, them say ‘oppose Bizarro America hegemony’ or ‘death to the enemies of the workers’. But only campaign-speak. After, always back into bed with Bizarro America for cheap shoe imports!”
Other Bizarro Chinese protest America’s 200 year occupation of Bizarro American Southwest and subjugation of Bizarro native peoples.
Popular Bizarro Shanghai rap group Animal Boys (which am rocket onto charts with pop hit Fight Against Rightist Elements in Party in 1980’s) lead singer taunted visiting Bizarro president Bush for many minute.
“Why you oppress Bizarro Navajo, Cheyenne and Sioux people?” Yell rapper, who, since public conversion to Bizarro Native American mysticism, am become Bizarro China’s leading spokesmen for aboriginal causes.
While he spoke, other demonstrators am holding posters with images of Bizarro Sitting Bull and other Bizarro native leaders driven from homes by what Bizarro China’s trendy Tribal Freedom Movement call “Bizarro Occupation Force.”
But many protester say anger am against non-democratic government of Bizarro America, not against Bizarro Americans themselves.
“Me am like Bizarro Americans,” say one woman. “There am Bizarro Kentucky Fried Chicken on block, I eat there lots.” Woman also say she learn much about Bizarro American culture from movie Bizarro Brokeback Mountain, story of taboo heterosexual love among cowboys set in Bizarro American outback, surprise smash hit among Bizarro Chinese moviegoers.
Inside of the Great Hall of Bizarro People, discussions am cordial, but President Hu am have many disagreement with Bizarro counterpart. One disagreement am centered on small Island of Bizarro Cuba, just 90 miles off Bizarro American mainland.
“Bizarro Cuban people am have right for self-determination,” Say Hu in a statement which drew many applause, “Bizarro Cuba am have different form of government different than Bizarro America, but peaceful relations am critical!”
Bizarro President Hu not say whether Bizarro China am defend friend Bizarro Cuba if much larger neighbor Bizarro America attack; however, Hu affirm friendship with Bizarro Cuban people and say peaceful solution am in best interest for Bizarro Caribbean. (Bizarro Cuba am break away from Bizarro America dominance in 1959 and am under blockade since. Bizarro America am never renounce claims to force to resolve issue, and am still have military base on the island despite Bizarro world opinion.)
Bizarro President Hu also cite other issues am of concern to Bizarro Chinese people, like Bizarro America’s role in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Still, Bizarro President Hu say visit am “great success.” Bizarro President Hu say that he am look forward to visiting Bizarro America in future, and that Bizarro Chinese values am have much to offer Bizarro American people.”
“With the passage of time,” Say Bizarro President Hu “We believe your Bizarro country am become more open to embrace our Bizarro country’s values.”
It’s Ten PM in and I’m smoking a hookah in the pavilion of the Al-Sadds restaurant in Guangzhou. I’ve been here for an hours or so, taking down notes in my journal for a project I’m doing in my other guise as a travel writer and exhaling voluminous columns of apple scented smoke into the already thick Guangzhou air.
Guangzhou has a sizable Middle Eastern population, 20,000 souls by some counts. Indeed, unlike Beijing or Shanghai, where the dominant foreign population seems to be drawn from the west, in Guangzhou most non-Chinese faces I saw were of Arab and African, colonialism’s former victims rather than the children of the colonizers themselves.
Two dozen or so men are sitting at tables all around me doing the same, men are from various points around the Middle East and Northern Africa. Mine is the only white face, possibly for blocks around, and nowhere in the chatter of Babelic variety being spoken in the pavilion is either English or Chinese, the only two languages I understand.
All the chatter stops suddenly as one of the patrons, a heavyset businessman with thick jowls, white sleeves rolled up over his elbows, clicks a remote control and changes the channel from one showing world sports broadcast in Arabic to Al-Jazeera. The images on the screen overcome the language barrier. Corpses in what appear to be police uniforms. Men clutching small, bleeding bodies. Wailing, beating of breasts, gnashing of teeth.
The announcer, a woman wearing a light hajib, comes on the screen and says Something something something Bush something something something Iraq something something something something…
I try to fill in the massive blanks, wondering how it corresponds to the CNN report saw this morning in my hotel. In Washington, President Bush said he was confident that the situation in Iraq was stabilizing, freedom on the march nine-eleven nine-eleven. But one retired army general came out against the president, saying that Iraq was sliding deeper into civil war and escalating sectarian violence.
The businessman clicks the remote, switching back to sports. Conversation resumes, slightly more somberly than before the news broadcast.
I draw so deeply on my hookah that I nearly choke. “My kingdom for a Maple leaf,” I think, for all the good it would do me.
I wonder if the men smoking around me even suspect that there’s an American in their midst, a Hebrew no less. Chances are that they couldn’t care less. But it would only take one to raise the cry, perhaps one of the Saudis in the far corner barking orders at the disgracefully unveiled Chinese woman bringing out fresh burning coal for the pipes.
A cry would go out, about the only word of which I’d understand would be Allah!, and the next — and last — thing
I’d see would be these peaceful men preparing to rip me apart like the zealots in Kabul are going to rip apart Abdul Rahman, the poor Afghani geek who picked a bad time and place to find Jesus.
Perhaps I should start a dialogue before its too late. Find some common ground.
Like them, I enjoy smoking, though perhaps not quite as regularly. And I, too, pray daily for certain newspaper cartoonists to meet with horrible deaths. If anyone will understand my visceral loathing for Jim Davis, creator of the insipid Garfield cartoon, it will be these men.
But there are certain subjects not to be taken lightly in the Muslim world. Jihad, for one, religion, for another. And Israel / Palestine (or Israelstine, as Muammar Qaddafi, one of the rare Muslim leaders who seems to have perhaps too highly a developed sense of humor, suggested it be called)… best not to even go there.
Irreverence does not seem to be high on the virtues list among most Muslims.
In another, better world, I might be able to suggest that the Muslim world as a whole could stand to lighten up just a tad.
Perhaps massive rioting and burning the embassies of certain Scandinavian countries over a series of offensive cartoons was just a bit on the heavy side, I’d like to be able to say. How about a strongly worded letter to the editor?
Or Say, you do know that when your religious figures call for a man to be “torn to pieces” for becoming a Christian, it makes your faith seem just a tad, um, medieval. How about if merely suggesting he be barred from certain clubs?
But this isn’t a better world. It’s a world of diplomacy through air strikes and car bombs, where only the voices of extremists on all sides are heard above the clamor. And extremism is spreading around the world, like some rampant virus. No-one is immune. It might be time to leave this place, lest my fellow smokers notice that I’m making inadvertent strangling gestures with my hands, thinking about how much today’s Family Circus pissed me off.
Yahuda Bangs November 3, 2006
Deep breath, Bangs. You are ready for this, ready for your big comeback. The counsellors have all signed off on this one. You can do it!
Astute Canned Revolution readers have commented on my lengthy absence from the little red email. My readers deserve an explanation, and as difficult and humbling as providing a truthful one may prove, I know that recovery can only begin once certain frank admissions have been made. I’m writing this column from the Lord British Center for Compulsive Online Role-Playing, where I’ve been incarcerated for the past two months. My counsellors, who have worked with me through the most difficult period of withdrawal, feel that I’m ready to face the world again. Just this morning, my head case worker, Doctor Gygax, petitioned the judge for a nullification of the court order that has prohibited me legally from any contact with computers. It was Doctor Gygax who suggested that my first step on the long road to recovery should be to return to writing about current political affairs, working naturally under the stern gaze of the my beautiful but severe Dutch nurse, Fookelien, who is under orders to hit me with a taser at the first sign of relapse.
Yes, the taser. It’s come to that. Because I am powerless. Powerless, over the lure of the blinking lights, made-up reality, and cheap adrenalin rushes. This admission is the cornerstone of my recovery. I see that now, thanks to the patience of all of the counsellors here at the centre. My addiction to gaming — specifically online multi-player role-playing games — threw me into a hellish binge and purge cycle from inside of which I could see little further than my characters’ next level increase or +4 hell-blade. I lost myself, forgetting for a time to follow this unholy mess of a midterm election, an election in which obsessive behaviour like mine has taken the centre stage.
Obsession. Compulsion. The words have an ugly ring to them. Were my compulsion-driven actions of recent months — neglecting work, friends and loved ones, forgetting to stick to my rigorous self-imposed masturbation schedule — less odious than, say, those of Congressmen Mark Foley?
Of course they were. Foley is Scum. He should be ripped from the safety of the rehab center where he’s been cowering for the past month and chained to the back of his own campaign trailer and dragged naked through every red-state hamlet from Florida to Alaska. The sanctimonious little prick should be put on display like a zoo animal, subjected to jeers and occasional fondling from the same segment of America that still believes that the Republican party has even the slightest shred of morality, piety, or decency. Foley deserves this treatment not for being a queer or an alcoholic (if even the latter isn’t some cheap excuse cooked up by the GOP to keep him out of the public eye until election day); he deserves it for giving righteous queers, decent alcoholics, and even honest pederasts a bad name. Prison rape is too good for him; to scum like Foley, bad sodomy is better than no sodomy at all.
But I digress. Doctor Gygax tells me this is a symptom of my condition. He calls it “deflection,” and says I need to be looking at my own problems, namely compulsive gaming. And on that subject, the Game Show Network has just released a game in which the object is to control a digital Foley as he runs Pac-man like through a maze chasing page boys. Maybe I’ll just click over to www.gsn.com and check it out…
AAGHH! F*CK! No! IT’S RESEARCH! RESEARCH! It’s part of my god-damned work! Fook! F****CK!!
Deep breath, Bangs… deep breath.
Anyway, I’m sure it’s a fine game. With lots of nice bleeping, and the moving colours, and the high scores and the…
My nurse is glowering at me, fingering the taser. It’s time to wrap this column up. Readers should rest assured that I’m well on the road to recovery, and am looking forward to being released any day now, hopefully to face the reality of a hamstrung Bush administration and an American congress and senate in perpetual deadlock.
Actually, one of my characters on Nexus War Online was named “Deadlock” — he had almost reached “Nexus Champion,” level, and had +3 Soul Reamer…
I have to go now.
I remain your humble correspondent,
Winter is almost upon us in my temporary home in Taipei, Taiwan, and while the calendar reads December I’m sitting in my rooftop apartment on the southern side of Yaming Mountain, doors and windows open, wearing a Thai sarong and no shirt. The weather is warm, but even if it were cold I wouldn’t feel it, for I am in love, my heart writhing in the eternal sunshine of perpetual spring.
I don’t even know her full name, only her number. She’s running as a council-woman or some such thing for the Tienmu district of Taipei, and her number… her sweet, sweet number… is “19.”
19. Nine-teen. Such a simple sound, yet my mind can think of nothing else but my sweet councilwoman-to-be, her precious number, and her face, larger than life and beaming down upon me from hundreds of billboards, bus-sides, and the endless sea of campaign flags hanging from every overpass in the city. The major news outlet that sent me here for two months to cover the 2006 Taiwan election is displeased with my performance, for I’ve not been able to turn out a damned sentence of useful political copy. For obvious reasons I can’t mention the name of said outlet, but let’s just say that the Mayor of New York wants writing more politically tangible than boyish doggerel like:
If only I were a citizen of the Republic of China I would cast my vote to grant you complete dictatorial powers unfettered by even the most cursory constitutional checks and balances,
Precious number nineteen.
My editor in New York sent me an angry email the other day concerning my recent output, but I don’t care. When number 19 is swept into power in a few days’ time (and how can she not be? She’s an ANGEL! A SERAPHIM COME DOWN TO EARTH!) I’m planning to quit journalism forever and offer my services to her in perpetuity as a speech-writer, a copy editor, a personal valet, what have you, anything to be closer to sweet, sweet number nineteen.
Mind you, no relationship is perfect, and I do sense that nineteen and I will have issues to resolve. Nineteen is, after all, DPP, and as you know the Bangs clan have been stalwart Kuomintang supporters since the days when the Generalissimo was cleaning out bank-vaults from Xian to Shanghai. But why can’t our love overcome base political divides? Look at Romeo and Juliet. I never finished the story myself, but it had a happy ending, right?
But perhaps a plotline more analogous to my affection for nineteen, and to the Taiwan political situation in general, can be found in the 1991 film New Jack City. New Jack City, much like the current landscape of Taiwan politics, is basically the story of two rival criminal gangs.
In the beginning of the film, power is held firmly in the hands of the old traditional ‘heroin, gambling and hooker’ mafia. They follow a code, these gangsters; always send the wife of the man you’ve just rubbed out flowers, and offer to help with funeral expenses. Cultivate an appreciation for opera, so that even medium level bag carriers can walk in normal society unnoticed. Understand the importance of maintaining good relations with the police force, regardless of how heavily they’re breathing down your collective necks.
But as the film progresses, power in New Jack City shifts to the new ‘crack gangsters’. These are a wilder bunch of thugs, seeming to follow no code at all. They dispatch enemies with machine gun fire with no regard for locals caught in the crossfire. These gangsters openly mock high culture, and as for the police, well… these brash young upstarts don’t care much for taking into account the numerical superiority of their enemy, preferring instead to chart a business course that will almost inevitably lead to conflict (a conflict, mind you, that could be resolved to everyone’s benefit with the proper application of diplomacy).
Bling bling is replaced by betel nut… and Ma Yingjiu is kind of like Judd Nelson’s character, a good cop, clean but clueless… I don’t know where Ice-T fits in. There isn’t much gangster rap in Taiwan, though there should be.
Anyway, I can hear the drums of a campaign parade coming down Chungshan north road (they begin at breakfast-time and continue all day… the Taiwanese do love their democracy). It may well be sweet number nineteen coming out to rally the base, so I’m going to run into the street shirtless with her number painted on my chest. That should get her attention. Maybe I’ll give myself a Mohawk first.
One of the most time honored traditions in media is the year-end feature listing the superlative (or superlatives) in any particular category. The task this year has fallen upon me, and
the category on which I’ve been asked to expound by my overlords in the Canned Revolution Media Bunker (located deep inside Hong Kong’s Stonecutters Island) is that of
Cretin of the Year.
Occasional dalliances in the Far East aside, this column has primarily concerned itself with the field of American politics, and it is thus from this field that my candidates are
Looking back at the American body politic of 2006 provides a panoramic view of scumbaggery in all its myriad forms:
- From the naked hypocrisy of an ethically bankrupt ruling party wrapping itself in the sacrosanct shroud of family values and claiming moral high ground while sheltering pedophiles
within their ranks, to the dying spasms of the same party attempting to cling to power through fear, intimidation, and electoral fraud.
- From a Vice President so inured in treachery that deception was his natural strategy for dealing with a simple hunting accident, to the lapdog right wing media that attempted to spin
the incident as having been the fault of the shot rather than the shooter, only to be slapped back into line by, of all people, gun nuts.
- From the outright lies told by an American president to continue the war in Iraq, to the fraud and mismanagement committed by those whose financial interests lie in the continuation
of a pointless conflict physically destroying one country while simultaneously corroding the collective soul of another.
So you see, even the most cursory glance back at 2006 produces a bumper harvest of scumbags from which to chose, and picking one choice rose from such a vast, stinking field is indeed a
Naming a “Cretin of the Year” is a heavy responsibility indeed; after all, how can the collective pains of the world possibly be blamed, even ceremonially, on one individual? This individual would need to be one revered in some circles and despised in others. The individual would need to be someone whose fingerprints could be
found on the levers of power, even if the actual power itself were in the hands of an unseen cabal, with the prints put there only for appearance.
Though there are a number of worthy choices for Cretin of the Year, there is only one candidate who justifiably earns the award for being 2006’s ceremonial head scumbag.
Thus, without further adieu, I’d like to announce the man upon whose head little red email bestows this dubious annual honor:
Our Cretin of the Year is a man who has proven himself completely divorced from reality. He is an individual whose bumbling clownishness has forever besmirched the reputation of
American leaders in general. The damage done to America’s standing in the world by our Cretin of the Year cannot be mended by the mere passage of time. Indeed, this
individual’s performance record is so shoddy that his very name will go down in the annals of history as a stain on the reputation of the office of the presidency itself:
Though decades have passed since this buffoon was removed from power, I believe I speak for everyone at little red email when I say that that the damage done to the nation by his decision to pardon Richard Nixon, his political nurturing of both Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, not to mention his pithy ‘Whip Inflation Now’ button
campaign, can never truly be… Excuse me.
…What? No, no, the internet’s been down since the earthquake, I haven’t seen the news in days.
He what!? Shit. This changes everything. Yeah… No, I totally agree, that would be a bad move for us.
This just in. Former President Gerald Ford has passed away at the age of 93. The little red email wishes him a glorious afterlife. May death come swiftly to his enemies!
In unrelated news, for his unparalleled role in the ongoing destruction of Iraq and Afghanistan, for overseeing the collapse of the American military, for willfully ignoring impending
environmental disaster and for blindly leading his lemming-like constituency over a cliff and into a dark abyss from which return is nigh impossible, the little red email award for Cretin of the Year goes to George W. Bush.
Way to Go, Asshole.
December 28, 2006.