The Kitchens of Canton, a novel. Ch. 2: Xinluoma

广州厨房印章-02

“E tu chi sei?” the man whispered to Malmquist in the darkness. “Sei lo schiavo nuovo?”

“I don’t understand. Do you speak English?”

“Inglese? No, non parlo Inglese.”

“Are you Italian? Where am I? What happened?”

“Di dove sei? Non sapevo che voleva uno schiavo nuovo.”

“I don’t understand you. Where am I?”

“Shsh. Fa silenzio.”

“L’eunuco ha preso uno della sua eta’,” murmured another, with a laugh.

They lit an oil lamp, and the room revealed a group of startled young men wearing simple tunics, lying on thin pallets. “Di dove sei?” they asked.

“Would you please tell me what the hell is going on? I was just in Gary, Indiana, in the future. Escaping from Gary. And then I must have blacked out. Am I shot?”

In praise of concubines: Interview with Lloyd Lofthouse

imageA distinction must be made before I get off on the wrong footing with many readers (which I inevitably will) between the system of domestic sexual slavery in China that lasted up to the mid-20th century known as concubinage, and concubines. I don’t support slavery in any form, sexual or otherwise, but I would, in the right circumstances, support a concubine. For a particular concubine, the right concubine, I would pay. I think you would too. Say you encounter the woman of your dreams — one with your ideal “10” body. I mean the kind of body that would make you cheat on your wife or girlfriend for the very first time. You know what kind of body I’m talking about. There’s not a man around who doesn’t secretly fear this future catastrophe. She also happens to be smart, cultured and talented — poet, belly-dancer, Derrida fan, you name it. And here’s the clincher: she’s into you as well. But there’s a catch. In her country, where you’ve met, you are not allowed to lay a hand on her unless you buy her. No, not a one-shot gig like a prostitute, but really buy her, for good. You can have her all for your very own, provided, of course, you set her up and take care of her, ensure her welfare. On the other hand, she is affordable (credit cards accepted). By purchasing her you will be considerably improving her economic circumstances, and thus her ability to develop her talents and self-actualize to her fullest potential. That’s not such a bad thing, is it? (In fact, this scenario is not all that different from what already exists. It’s called marrying up. The terms are just not so cut and dry.)

Why Airbnb ain’t my cup of tea

 

image

Airbnb has of late been getting unfavorable news coverage. Clever property owners have discovered that by turning over their residential units to Airbnb guests, they can rake in more cash than renting them out to regular tenants, while at the same time exploiting legal loopholes to avoid paying hotel taxes. In San Francisco, disenfranchised residents have accused the company of exacerbating the affordable housing crisis. Proposition F, which would curtail Airbnb’s ability to facilitate such profiteering, has just been defeated. This legal battle recalls those recently pitting local taxi drivers in various cities around the world against Uber, Airbnb’s equivalent in the private car-for-hire business. But Airbnb and Uber have their finger on the pulse of the times, and with some tweaking of their business model I suspect they will ride out the resistance and not only survive but thrive.

I don’t take a position on the above controversy. I do, however, have a negative view of Airbnb for entirely unrelated reasons.

The Kitchens of Canton, a novel. Ch. 1: New Gary, IN

广州厨房印章-01

Jeff Malmquist is unaccountably catapulted to the year 2060. He finds himself in New Gary, a labor camp of a million Chicagoans, their identities hacked and incriminated as pedophiles through the collusion of a corrupt US Government, the Russian cybermafia, and China (which runs the USA behind the scenes). He escapes to Chicago, only to find himself in a full-scale replica of ancient Rome in China, erected for the wealthy country’s amusement and manned by a million enslaved Italians. Or did China come first? As he struggles to orient himself in these synchronized urban labyrinths, he is plunged back to real ancient Rome, before being flung yet further into the future: It’s 2115 and the Chinese Empire rules the world. The former Western hemisphere is now the American Special Administrative Region, a vast Cantonese-speaking slave colony. Malmquist will soon be shipped to the most opulent city the world has ever known for an unspeakable fate.

A dystopian satire both bleak and funny, The Kitchens of Canton distills the worst of our present and future societies into a strangely seductive maze of a story.

American Rococo

DSC_0707
American commercial architecture is defined by clean lines and open space.

There is a highly sensuous quality to the American retail experience, whether easing a toasty warm Potbellian sandwich or a Culver’s fudge pecan frozen custard sundae into your mouth, navigating the broad aisles of a Walmart (designed for people hooked up to oxygen canisters in their mobility carts), or perusing the apparel and guns at an outdoor recreation chain such as Gander Mountain. The latter’s elegant gun displays behind glass cabinets are laid out with the patient precision of a history museum curator. The hushed church-like atmosphere of the store, the combat green industrial carpeting, the wide wiggle room between the clothing carousels (reducing your risk of bumping into a customer with a concealed weapon), the durable feel of the fabrics’ weave in the fingers, the astonishing variety of pockets, the stylish camouflage patterns on everything from rifles to sunglasses, and the great deals (five dollars for a genuine Australian Akubra hat)—all conspire to make shopping intensely satisfying, even for types such as myself who don’t normally enjoy shopping.

The question of breeding (why foreign men get the “ugly” Chinese girls)

 

shutterstock_227261683

A recent article in the The Nanfang (“Answering the age old question: Why do foreigners marry ugly Chinese girls?“) gives me occasion to address a conundrum I too have long pondered—particularly as the author, Charles Liu, devotes a scant 375 words to the topic, excluding his quotations of Xu Xiliang, the Chinese female journalist who first posed the question in the magazine iFeng Beauty. Liu doesn’t moralize to the extent Xu does on the “materialism” of Chinese society that fosters superficial glamour over inner beauty, but he implies as much in his avoidance of any coherent statement of his own. The cover photo too is mystifying, featuring an attractive Chinese woman where I would expect to see a plain-faced one, perhaps with a certain sex appeal (such as the lovely lady above).

Countless interracial couples have I witnessed over my two decades in China, usually white guys and Chinese females but not a few black guys and Chinese females as well, along with your occasional Chinese guy and white female (I have yet to see a Chinese guy and a black female). The run of Chinese women I have seen with foreign men have been ordinary looking. So were the men they were with. Not terribly surprising, given that most people are ordinary looking. I mean, what are your chances of landing a beauty in any country?