so I guess bread is back in; but juice is now out?

There’s a neat little statement as Edward Gibbon compares the doomed Romans to their future steppe tribe conquerors.  Gibbon makes the point that the tribes are composed of folks who had likely never tasted bread.

Granted, this is a pretty blatant stereotype.  Not every Hun or Vandal spent their lives drinking only goat milk and eating fire roasted meat right off the bone.  Gibbon is only using the idea to make a point about how a hard living martial culture can destroy a weak culture, even one as old as the Romans.

I think this is roughly what the paleo goons are going for.  It’s more a hardcore thing than a nutrition thing.  It’s a fad, a selling point to display generally how folks choose to live their lives.  The concept of living one’s life and food intake in the hard living martial culture category.  Rather than reaching for a box in the cereal aisle.

But I’d always found it weird when the paleo goons adopted the Gibbon model and shut down bread or grains or glucose in their diets.  Now the news reports that bread has been in the human diet for over 10K years and the headlines question whether the paleo folks can now eat bread again?

Well, sure, why not.  I guess?  But really, whatever, who cares?  Because honestly, please keep in mind the key thing the paleo folks should remember is that cars are only about a 100 years old.  So since humans weren’t using cars in 3746 BC, the paleo crowd should probably stop driving cars.

I’ve also begun seeing more and more ‘advice’ from ‘experts’ that humans beings have no business drinking straight juice.  The summary of this wisdom is that take an orange.  You can eat an orange or two and that’s a pretty decent sized snack.  But a glass of orange juice comes from like seven oranges.  The idea is that no human would ever be able to eat the natural sugars of seven oranges in one sitting.  So a person has no business drinking juice, at least in any large quantity whatsoever.

This is all well and good except that like bread, humans have been drinking juice for thousands of years and somehow we all haven’t burst into flames.  Hey I’m all for progress in culture and our diets, after all, life saving surgery is a pretty cool thing.

But I guess all this paleo or anti-juice stuff just kind of rubs me the wrong way.  Our lives and modern culture is pretty cool, but to think that all of a sudden we’ve got all the answers is pretty darn arrogant.  That somehow after say 5K years of food and drink, that we’re the first generation to be wise enough to forgo bread and juice.

If folks want to eat, drink, or not bread and juice then whatever.  That’s a personal choice.  I just can’t stand the self righteousness of it.  Or the need to redefine arbitrary standards when they’re confronted with reality.

Eat what they want.  Drink what they want.  Or not.  It’s all good.  Just don’t wear it on the sleeve, shove it in other folks faces, and think they’re better than others (and all of human history).

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Alexander Part II: The journey aboard the Memnon

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Years later, we would often debate on who had made such a grave mistake.  With the remains of the previous night’s raki still fogging our brains every memory was clouded by nonsense.  And so each version of events was as different as the personalities in our party.  But I for one, regardless of whose mistake it was, am always reminded of a tenant of life: Never ask a thief to buy something for you.

And so after an expert, hearty breakfast prepared by one of Zeki’s men, we prepared to depart Istanbul bound for our adventure.  Stelios met us at the central terminal having bought the tickets that (somebody) had volunteered him to procure.  With glee, and a slap upon his packet of papers did Stelios state with a flourish, “Granicus.  Let’s go!”

All of us stared at Stelios without comprehension.  Until Mut offered, simply, “Granicus is Ottoman.”

“Yes!” Stelios lit a cigarette and dragged with pleasure.

“We’re going to Greece,” said George wearily.

Stelios waved his lit cigarette, “Why would we…”

“Greece is where Alexander started…”, George implored.

“…but to find Alexander,” Stelios clapped his palms together, “we must of course venture to his first great victory against the Persians!”

Mut shook his head, “Greece first.”

“No, Granicus,” Stelios stabbed his cigarette, “We will let you guide us through the oh so many Moslem worlds that await us, but for the moment, this is my part.  My part, and to Granicus we go.”

Mut again, deadpan, “Granicus is Moslem.”

Either out of frustration or sheer drive, Alianna stepped forward and ripped the tickets from the packet, and with the slightest of whispers did state into Stelios’ ear, “Idiot.”  And she was off toward the ticket office.  The rest of us meekly and with resignation followed.  She returned shortly afterwards with the steamer tickets for Chalcis.

Alexander was born in Pella, in theory.  But at that time he was just a baby, a human, and a reasonable calculation would have termed his political future (and his very life) doomed.  We were bound for Chalcis, and then through the dusty background of the Greek countryside we would edge the outskirts of Attica and then cross over the borders into Boeotia.  Finally we would stumble upon a little hamlet, the place where Alexander was born.  Chaeronea.  Granicus would come, but only later.

We bade goodbye to Istanbul, a place we would remain inexplicably linked to throughout our adventures but would not see for a very long time.  Zeki had left me with a great deal of letters and contacts for our forthcoming journeys.

The docks were a mass of humanity.  Shoulder to shoulder we pushed through the crowds for the steamship piers.  All of Istanbul seemed primed to dispense with most of the day’s business before the afternoon, before the heat returned.  Yet surrounded by traders, hackers, herders, moneymen, longshoremen, one quickly heats up anyways.

As always I was glad for my loose traveling clothes which equally fit a sun scorched mountain as a busy dockside.  George’s apparel quite agreed with my style.  I didn’t know how Mut and Stelios did it, with their tailored and pristine suits, saved from a bath only by the handkerchiefs they repeatedly bore.  Or Alianna, who wore her styled intoxicating garb with grace, but seemed to carry no handkerchief nor any sweat upon her brow.

We plowed our way to the jetty and our ride in Memnon, a coastal steamship whose material condition seemed perfectly suited to safely take us the seven-hundred yards across the Bosporus without incident, but not much further.  I made a note to thank my Uncle for teaching me how to swim the next time I found myself compelled to pray at some point in the forthcoming month.

I observed with pleasure the timetables and that our journey south would likely mirror the routes in which the triremes had sailed these waters.  We would hug Ottoman Europe and the Greek coast until we met Chalcis.  We would stop for passengers by choice.  The Ancient Greeks had to stop most nights and pull their vessels ashore just to remain afloat.  Our journey would take two days, theirs took weeks.  We would eat comfortably amongst our fellow passengers.  They would cook along beaches by the fireside.  Despite Memnon’s condition, I felt safe enough to enjoy the forthcoming ride.  They praised the gods every time their journey ended without them consigned to the deep.

As we pulled from the shore we left behind the heat that emanated from the city like a bird fleeing a warm desert rock.  The cool sea breeze dried the moisture from our faces and we drank it in as energy more powerful than the best of coffee.  Though Alianna had already found a mug of that too, and I began to wonder if she would always have some attached to her hand.

Memnon’s captain helmed her with the skill of a man who has done something thousands of times, effortless and with art.  The Bosporus certainly had all the charm of history, but could have done without the filth that clouded its historic waters.  After five thousand years, civilization had taken its toll on the cliffs, the stark beaches, the fishing settlements, and suburbs of the great Ottoman city.

I found my forearms planted upon the rail until the sun reddened the back of my neck.  Mothers dumped buckets of waste across the shore as children played behind them.  Fisherman plied their trade in thumb sized boats unchanged in their design since Alexander.  Bland villages found their way atop bluffs, astride cliffs, all competing pell-mell for access to the sea.

It was difficult, impossible even, to accurately imagine a time with most of this land as barren countryside between the oasis of villages that dotted the desolate landscape like stars in the night sky.  Much to my sickness, I allowed my mind to wander too far, too beyond usefulness.  And my thoughts turned to the reality that all our ship passed as it strode south was now in service to the maw of one singular man in The Sultan.

So much history, so much progress, and yet a poor fisherman still conducted his life driven by base needs, equipped with the minimalist of technology, and still bound by fate of the same kind of ruler as had been in charge for longer than it took the wind to smooth jagged rocks.

Were my adventures, my efforts any different?  I began to regret ever coming upon this journey.  I suddenly found myself wondering what in God’s name I was thinking.  I felt the need to escape.  My Browning, expertly tucked inside my belt at the small of my back, round chambered, began to feel three times as heavy.  I wanted the adventure, but I felt as if I didn’t want to go through the effort to get it.

Only shame kept me from doing anything other than gutting it out.  And the hope that once we really got started, things would begin to feel better.  Though my companions were all volunteers, and certainly knew the danger, I wondered if they understood just how many of those I’d traveled with in the past were by now but dust and bones.

George seemed much the same, only more so.  It seemed Allah’s sight did not progress beyond the brow of the Ottoman ship, and given the large number of Greek passengers, alcohol was served with abandon.  It wasn’t long before George was drunk, and stayed drunk.

Mut gambled, and gambled.  Then he gambled some more.  Cards, dice, dominoes, what bird would get the next fish, what time we’d make our next port, the fate of his daughter (I don’t believe he had one), and whatever else struck his moment.

Stelios seemed glued to the stern, where he had somehow procured the finest of deck chairs.  There he planted his liberated bare feet upon the rail, his jacket off and sleeves rolled, leaned back and read almost anything he could find.  I did not inquire where he got the chair, one that seemed fit for a king, or perhaps a steamboat captain.

I tried, quite hard, to make myself useful in what became an expedition for Alianna to talk to just about anybody who seemed capable of conversation.  It quickly dawned on me that she either relished it or needed it, constantly, it was her alcohol, her gambling, her reading material.

She seemed to select candidates from among the other passengers.  Once she found her mark, whoever was the most interesting, they became her focus to the exclusion of all others.  The Sultan’s detective from Gallipoli who was on the case but bound for the wrong port, the accountant from Alexandroupoli who had just made his fortune, the graceless Thessalonian grandmother who Mut couldn’t beat at anything, and the Albanian child who wrote poetry in pencil on the margins of discarded newspapers.

I couldn’t keep up with her, much to my disappointment.  I didn’t know yet if I wanted her, but any man in the presence of any such woman would be inhuman not to desire at least some attention.  As it was never forthcoming, I found myself retiring to my meager cabin more and more.  Often with the kicker required to relax and sleep with ease, though not nearly at the levels George seemed to require.

Somewhere along our brief time at sea I once again had that feeling of being watched.  But my mood, the drink, or the benign nature of riding a derelict steamship all combined to force my aspect into one of complete disengagement.  If we were watched, I didn’t care.  It didn’t matter to me.  The adventure had just begun, but perhaps had already lost its edge.

It had never been that way for Alexander.  His adventure took half a decade to lose its steam.  Mine lasted three days.

But as with all things, life can turn at any moment.

And in the dark of my cabin, well into the dead of a silent night, was broken by pounding, a sharply opened door, and a wide-eyed-bare-shirted Stelios who scraped, “George went over the side!”

I was out the door in a blink and darting with Stelios towards the stern.  Our bare feet patted the deck in slaps.  “Why didn’t you go in after him?” I fiercely shouted.

Between breaths, “I can’t swim, by God.”

As we made it to the stern and Stelios’ deck chair I nearly vaulted over the rail but found it nearly impossible to see anything other than the whitewash of the wake against black water and a cloudy night sky.  Within a second I came to the overwhelming calculation that a drunk George was a dead man the second he departed the boat and well before he ever hit the water.

And then my eyes caught up with my nerves, and I realized that Stelios’ deck chair hadn’t been vacant, but very much occupied.  I snapped around and behind me, very much seated, was George.  I then received the unbridled laughter of them both.

Out of relief, and remembering things I had done in my past, I began to smile and chuckle, but fueled by anger I grabbed for Stelios’ collar, but got his neck instead forgetting he was without a shirt, “In God’s name are you insane!”

“His face,” Stelios spit to George, “His face was the payoff.”  More laughter.

George, his eyes barely open but hopeful, “We’re out of fuel, have you got any money?”

I turned about, my palms on my head.  Then came about again and rammed a crunch of bills from my pocket into George’s chest.  He was on his feet and headed forward far faster than he should have been able in his condition.  And I suddenly knew I needed a huge pull of whatever he returned with.

Unconsciously, I began to smile, widely.  Then I laughed, and felt alive, so very alive.  Stelios, now clearly intoxicated to my calmed eyes, clapped me on the shoulder and leaned in, “Just so you know, I really can’t swim.  Not a bit.”

having had some time to think on it

I probably first discovered Bourdain in about 2007.  This was during his time at No Reservations back when I still had cable.  It was well before anybody really knew who he was.  At this point he was just another obscure cable television host.

Sure, those in the food scene knew him and he’d written a relatively famous book.  But most average folks had no idea who he was.  I got immediately hooked on No Reservations and ended up watching most episodes.

It was also at this point that Bourdain began to become a wider part of the food / travel scene and also our wider modern culture.  I remember he gave some interview online and I forwarded it to my brothers.  I think they thought this was weird, and were like, who’s this random guy?

But years after that I remember my brother forwarding me a radio interview he’d done.  Bourdain in a few short years had gone from relative obscurity to being well known across a variety of circles.

I kind of kept in touch with what Bourdain was doing over the years but never really got into Parts Unknown.  Whenever I was at the airport or entirely bored in a hotel, if it was on, I’d watch it.  But I never sought it out.

Part of my issue with Parts Unknown is it had a poor food to travel ratio.  This was also the case with later episodes of No Reservations.  I could be entirely mistaken but it seems as time went on, more and more of each episode was just Tony eating.  Whereas in say 2007 most of the episode was travel focused.

Again I could be wrong, that’s just my impression.  I like food too, but the most compelling parts of No Reservations to me was never the food, but always Bourdain traveling and giving his thoughts on life and the local areas.

Ultimately what drew folks to Bourdain was his ability to to put himself into the shoes of anybody on the planet, understand them, capture that, and then explain it to somebody else not there.

This is not an easy skill to master and employ.  And one that if you spend eight seconds on social media and the news, that most folks don’t even care to learn.  Today’s culture seems to be about conquest, not understanding.

And that was never Bourdain.  And that’s why people like me who are just not into celebrities or modern culture sort of worshiped this guy’s message.

One of the most compelling episodes is where Bourdain spends time with Ted Nugent.  A guy who even his most fervent supporters could not deny is a total lunatic.  Bourdain had his politics too, but he always wore it with a light touch, something other entertainers could learn a lot from.

I forget the line, I’m summarizing, but Bourdain essentially says something like: I don’t have to agree with you, to like you.  If I’m remembering this right, then that line should be tattooed onto everybody’s skull cavity today.

I’ve avoided thus far writing about his death, so I could think on it.  In the end, sadly I believe he’ll be known to many as just another celebrity who killed themselves.  I don’t know why he did it.  Nobody ever will I suppose.  It doesn’t matter though.  Life is sacred, but suicide is all too easy.

My coworkers and I found another coworker at a gas station with a whiskey bottle and a loaded pistol in his lap.  I still get the shakes wondering what if we’d been a half-hour late.  Like most people who’ve been to the darkest of places, once or twice I was probably at very serious risk of suicide.  My family, my friends, my dogs, my coworkers helped me back.  But essentially, suicide is no joke, and it’s everywhere.  Even when somebody seems like they’re okay, you should always be there to help, always be there for somebody, because you never know what’s going on inside somebody’s head.  Nobody can do life alone.

I suppose in the end, all I can say is that there are many, many voices in today’s world.  Most of them are simply not worth listening to.  Anthony Bourdain was a voice to absorb, and to pass on.

We need more people like him.

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Kamakura – Engaku-ji

Lost amidst the fervent nationalism that’s now the norm in the Western Pacific is how longstanding and deep the ties are between peoples.  From 1274 to 1281 the Mongols, alongside their Chinese and Korean vassals, conducted a series of invasions against Japan.  All failed for a variety of reasons, not least of which was a series of typhoons and the emergence of what would become the samurai warrior class.

In 1282 to commemorate the victories, honor the dead on all sides, and to push forward Zen Buddhism in Japan, the then shōgun Hōjō Tokimune ordered the construction of Engaku-ji.  He enlisted the help of a Chinese monk in Mugaku Sogen.  Zen became a huge part of the ruling culture’s psyche and was integral in the emergence of the samurai and what they were.

In the sense, Hōjō got exactly what he’d wanted.  He’s buried there.  And while the days of the Kamakura Shōgunate long passed it remained a key feature in Japanese Buddhism throughout history.  It’s a must see if you’re anywhere near Kamakura and it couldn’t be easier to get to via JR East’s Yokosuka Line which essentially drops you right at the temple entrance.

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The Sanmon, two story main gate, looking from it’s back towards the entrance.  As is typical for just about any ancient Japanese structure, fire constantly requires rebuilding.  The current version was reconstructed in 1785.

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Now walking up from the front of the Sanmon.

Engaku-ji

Engaku-ji is still a functioning temple.  I didn’t get too close but there were folks practicing archery.  Note the target in the distance.

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Note the guy on the right with a typical Japanese longbow, as tall as a man (he is kneeling).  Despite the reputation of the katana, I suspect the real killers on most Japanese battlefields were the archers.

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I love the contrast in light on this shot.

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Find the fishy.

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The monk’s quarters.

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The Great Bell, Ogane, cast in 1301.  The largest temple bell in the wider Tokyo area.

Hostiles & Fort Apache – and how to properly capture misery on screen

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Misery seems to be the trend lately with just about anything you can watch on screen.  We’ve written about this a lot lately, including just a few days ago.  It’s everywhere.

Take two movies I watched on my last plane flight.  First off, The Last Jedi.  I remember Star Wars growing up, I loved it.  What fun.  So did we really need a Star Wars movie where Luke was sad, tired, and depressed?  Where Solo is a corpse?  Where all the other main characters are confused, angry, etc, etc?  Forget all the plot controversy, it was just an unhappy movie to watch.

The other airplane flick I caught was Hostiles.  This Western had a reputation as violent and covered with despair.  It was certainly that, the opening scene involves the murder of three children including an infant.

Overall, I didn’t hate Hostiles, I kind of enjoyed it.  But it’s not a great movie.  Why?  Because other than the awfulness, I’m not really sure what the movie was trying to do.  At the end of the movie I was asking myself: “What was the point of all that?”

Instead of running my mouth and complaining about all this malaise and darkness in our entertainment again, I’m instead going to contrast Hostiles with another dark movie in Fort Apache.

Granted, this is unfair.  Hostiles has some top name actors but they’re not legendary.  It’s directed by some random guy.  Fort Apache has two screen legends and probably the guy in the top three of directors all time.  It’s like comparing a rabid panther against a duck in a cage match.  But bear with me, because there are a lot of similarities between these movies.

They’re both traditional Westerns that focus upon the Army, specifically the cavalry.  Both have humanized and sympathetic portrayals of the American Indians.  Each has a substantial number of the main cast die on screen.  And they end with an intent that you reflect upon the misery you’ve just watched.

I’m going to focus on the endings of these movies because otherwise this post would be sixteen pages long.

Hostiles ends with Christian Bale’s character burying Wes Studi in his native land.  Then a stereotypical gang of racists comes up and demands Bale dig up Studi’s corpse.  A gunfight ensues in which everybody dies except Rosamund Pike, Studi’s grandson, and Bale.  Pike and her now adopted son go to Chicago, Bale is going to walk away, but ultimately gets on the train with them as it pulls out.  Roll credits.

Fort Apache ends with Henry Fonda getting most of his regiment wiped out in a foolhardy battle worthy of Custer.  John Wayne actually wants to duel his regimental commander at one point to stop it.  Then Wayne and Miguel Inclan (playing the Apache warlord Cochise) have a poignant conversation about the situation.  Cochise lets Wayne and his remaining soldiers live.  We end with Wayne now the regimental commander and when confronted with the myth of Fonda’s last stand by reporters, Wayne lets the myth live.  As in, Wayne lies.  Roll credits.

So what was the point of Hostiles?  Well, I think what they were going for is at the beginning of the movie Bale hates Studi and only his orders are keeping him from murdering Studi straight up.  Yet by the end of the movie Bale is willing to shoot his own kind to defend Studi’s grave.

Okay, got it.  But the problem is that’s all there is going on.  In the meantime there is the aforementioned on screen murder of three children, three women are raped (off screen), numerous very bloody battles, and the final scene in which pretty much everybody dies horribly.

So if all Hostiles has is Bale simply learns not to hate at least one Indian and his family, then what exactly was the point of all the murder, rape, violence, gore, etc?  Was it to set the scene and mood?  Was it to provide the action and shock that the writers and director seem to think a modern movie demands?  You could have told the story of Hostiles with maybe only one or two people gunned down.

That they didn’t do this means that any character progression in Bale, that he ends up a better person, is simply just lost amidst the gore, the awfulness, the constant death.  It’s why as the viewer I had to actually think about what the point of the movie was afterwards.  Because in the moment all you can feel is the violence shoved right in your face for two hours.

Contrast all of this with Fort Apache.  At it’s heart this movie is a study of Fonda’s character.  It’s about how an otherwise decent, hardworking man can be consumed by arrogance, racism, and narcissism that leads to the unforgivable sin where a military commander loses most of his men in a battle that need not ever have been fought.

It gets even worse with Wayne.  Wayne ends the movie by perpetuating the myth that Fonda’s actions were right, just, and glorious.  Then Wayne takes his regiment and leads them on the attack against the Apache.  All the moments Wayne had where he conversed with Cochise, where he knew Fonda was wrong are blown away by the simple act: Wayne is going to do his duty.

And thus you see the point of Fort Apache is the great wheel that was the Indian wars of the American West.  Everybody gets ground down in what in the end was a series of savage endless wars that lasted decades.  Decent guys in Wayne, Fonda, and Cochise trying to do the right thing, their duty, leads to death where alternatives were still available.  It’s brutal to consider.

Fort Apache accomplishes all of this without a single gory murder, rape, or scene where Wayne and/or Fonda are shown in some kind of vicious traumatic rage, or hatred, or crying or screaming like crazy people, all things in Hostiles repeatedly.  Yeah, this is a movie made in 1948 so of course it’s tamer, but the point remains valid.

I think television and movies are going down two trends.  The idea is that a tale must be an adventure theme park ride or it must shock you.  In both cases, the plot is a side concern.

The Jurassic movie recently came out.  I’m sure that film will make over $1B.  It has a plot that probably makes no sense, but that doesn’t matter.  People see this movie because it’s a theme park ride where dinosaurs eat people.

Where Hostiles could have really taken it’s time with a thick plot full of thought and motives, it instead spends most of its on screen time in the shock category.  And thus, its message gets lost in the darkness.

I don’t need all my entertainment to make me happy.  Dark movies have their important place.  But give me the Fort Apache kind any day.  That’s the way to do it.

video games are hazardous to your health; ebola is not

We’re back!  After an unexplained 17 week absence.  We got a little turned around lately.  But we’re here again and ready to go.  Did you miss us?  No?  Oh.  We, ah, we thought folks missed us.  [cricket; cricket; cricket]

But you have to understand that even for the most jaded degenerate blog author, life has to take priority and can get out of hand.  We finally got divorced (there is a God) and I lost one of my dog buddies.  He will be missed, and is currently barking in Valhalla where he belongs.  Eh, it’s been a long few weeks.

So we’re here to write about what important topic to all humanity today?

– The World Cup (aka Uncle Vlad’s Guide to Effective Bribery of International Organizations 101)?

– The fact that immigration policies, procedures, and methods employed during the Obama administration are suddenly beyond the pale?

– The creation of Space Force (aka that thing that will never actually happen)?

– Chronic forthcoming global instability created by manic squirrels?

Wrong.

We’re here instead to briefly rant about the World Health Organization’s decision to state that playing video games is a classifiable addiction disorder.  Long term readers of this blog will be aware of two key facts:

1) I play a lot of video games.

2) I have a very low opinion of the WHO.

Granted, the WHO’s response to the recent ebola outbreak in Congo has been pretty good.  It seems they learned their lessons from the outbreak in West Africa a few years ago.  What could easily have turned into an even bigger nightmare if ebola had made its way down the river to Kinshasa (aka one of the biggest cities on Earth) seems to have been stopped in its tracks.  Good on them.

But then every once and a while the WHO reminds people how much money they burn on stupidity that could be spent vaccinating people against [insert anything here].  Hell, if video games are now an addictive disorder (as in the same category as nicotine) then we might as well classify drinking water as addictive.

Ever hear the term ‘everything in moderation’?  This is a pretty good term to live by.  Just about anything can be bad if you go at it too often.  You can even drink so much water that it kills you.  And your body is made up mostly of water.  But does that mean something is so powerful it can literally alter your body?

For example, I’m pretty sure if you play video games for a year your physical brain chemistry isn’t going to change.  If however, you decide to smoke crack for a year, I’m pretty sure you come out the back end of that year an entirely different person.

If you still don’t get where I’m going with this, just go ahead and put a crack addict and stand them next to even the most extreme South Korean player of StarCraft II.  I’m pretty sure you’ll see what I’m getting it.

Focus on ebola WHO, stop wasting my time.

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“Hey there kiddies.  Wanna get high?”

Chasing the Chinese pink dragon

Great news everybody!  Chairman Xi’s new tome is out.  Entitled “The Governance of China II” it supposedly lays out all the answers you’ve been looking for in life, including:

1) How to interpret your place in a materialistic, existential world when your true calling is to become one with Xi Jinping Thought.

2) What happens to you when you assume your bleached skeleton status.

3) How Capitalism with Chinese Characteristics is the new Master Plan for Eternal Global One Man Rule.

4) Why The Walking Dead remains an active television show.

5) How thirteen year old Chinese girls who profess their love for K-Pop will be liquidated for crimes against the Party.

6) Why folks care about celebrities who they will never meet and who will never give them a single moment’s thought.

7) Obey.

8) Why royal weddings are a thing, even for people who are not British.  As a coworker said to us the other say, this is downright creepy.

And so on.

Please hold your applause at the awesomeness of all this.

xi clapping

[perfunctory clapping from crowd ensues, clapping continues incessantly until permission to stop clapping is given by a ringing bell]

But it’s all good, because estimates state that Xi has sold less than 100 copies of the hardcover version (the soul infused version is offered free) in Britain.  This means there are more people in Britain who are attempting to brew their own homemade Celtic barley wine in bathtubs than bought this book.

But don’t fret!  For a few weeks ago a big London shindig involved several hundred honored guests with the keynote address from Prince Andrew himself.  His Highness (not Highness) called Xi’s piece a “milestone”.  Oh my, what praise!

Now I’ve briefly met folks who have directly worked with Andrew and did not have a very high opinion of him to say the least.  So it could be that Andrew simply sold out.  Xi gave him straight cash to make a guest appearance at this event.  Kind of like how celebrities endorse deodorant.

But, let’s go ahead and give Andrew some credit and say that didn’t happen (cue laugh track).  What I think is happening is Andrew is either a complete idiot and actually likes Xi’s book (possible).  Or, he is sucking up to Xi in order to further Britain’s goal to get a post Brexit free trade deal with China.

Which brings us to the real point (cue laugh track) of this post.  Everybody is chasing the Chinese pink dragon.

For the uninitiated, the pink dragon is a reference to the use of narcotics in the 60’s.  As I was not alive then, I was first introduced to this concept by South Park where Stan literally chases a pink dragon in the video game Heroin Hero.

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Everybody wants in on that sweet, sweet Chinese heroin.  Oh, I mean gold, yeah, gold.  Not heroin.  Or fentanyl.  [cricket; cricket; cricket]  So what you’re seeing more and more in the modern world is people losing their minds over a market of 1B people essentially commanded by one man.  Folks drool over it.  So much freaking money.

This is why Britain rolled out the gilded carpet last year when Xi visited and the world’s second true liberal democracy was left to shame itself by placing the flags of a dictatorship outside it’s royal palace.  Thus Andrew is just continuing the theme.

One of the video games I play is Gwent, which is an online card game published by CD Projekt Red.  It’s based on The Witcher 3 which many folks (myself included) consider the greatest video game of all time.  Gwent (to abbreviate) is your standard warriors and spells kind of card game.

Anyways, Marcin Iwiński is the co-founder and CEO of CD Projekt.  When interviewed in a documentary for Noclip, what did Iwiński say his number one priority was for Gwent?   What was his goal?  Wait for it: He wants Gwent to be a success in China.

I literally had to rewind the interview to make sure I’d heard him right.  Man, to be blunt:

– There are no Asians, let alone Chinese, in Gwent or The Witcher

Andrzej Sapkowsk wrote The Witcher series with a background of Polish culture, this culture is relatable even to dumb Americans like me because it’s still a part of our shared Western culture

– China has it’s own unique and special culture which does not easily translate to the Western mindset, and when you really try it hurts your head, trust me

And yet, Iwiński seems to think Gwent can win in China?  Iwiński even went to live in China for six months so he could learn the language and generally live there and get the culture.  He’s now back in Poland, I think because his family rebelled.

Iwiński is just like Andrew though, he’s chasing that dragon.  Even if it doesn’t make sense.  Other folks have tried chasing the dragon too.  How has that worked out for Uber, academic apologists, Google, Hollywood, Facebook, and so on.  Not so good.

I’m not saying folks in the West can’t influence or pull gold from China, I’m just saying it’s really, really hard.  My take is that certain people in the West might be interested in Xi and China, but that Xi and China aren’t interested in them.  China’s on it’s own very carefully crated plan and agenda, like it or hate it.  And Xi and China don’t give a shit what anybody thinks about it.

Good luck to Andrew and Britain, but they’re not getting a post Brexit deal out of China.  Good luck to Iwiński, but I don’t see Gwent working in China.

You never catch the dragon.  Even Stan eventually figured this out, even after Randy Marsh is caught playing Heroin Hero too.  Stan: “You don’t ever catch the dragon, Dad!”