Sunday, October 29, 2006


The Mandarin is back from his travels, but nothing in the news seems funny enough to make fun of these days. Maybe as we get closer to election day, things will pick up. Maybe it was the tedium of marking his mail-in ballot, looking up the records of all those judicial candidates and deciding how to vote on the various ballot propositions. Tough assignment on decaf....

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Sex, Denial, and Rain, in no particular order

The Mandarin is in Bellevue, Washington for a few days, attending the annual meetings of the American Literary Translators Association (or ALTA). Think rain. For an airplane book for the flight from beautiful downtown Burbank, the Mandarin splurged on a copy of Bob Woodward's new book, State of Denial: Bush at War, Part III. The Mandarin was hard-pressed not to think of Hot Shots, Part Deux, but managed to keep from giggling as he paid the $30.00.

Well, reaching page 180 out of 560, the Mandarin has got to say, some of us knew all along these guys were incompetent idiots, but reading it chapter and verse is kind of a vindication. If it is Mark Foley's flirtatations that are the last straw for the Republicans next month, well, whatever it takes. But compared to a pitiful middle-aged pedophile IM-ing teenaged boys about their "wood," the stuff in this book is effing dynamite.

By the way, the opening night of the ALTA conference was led off by a group in Swedish costumes singing Swedish songs in Swedish. No subtitles. The roof was leaking above my table, and the little drops hitting the tablecloth every minute or so became a kind of a bilingual version of the Chinese water torture. (Or agressive but fully legal Chinese water interrogation method, as Shrub now calls it.) But despite the Mandarin not understanding much Swedish (the Mandarin has owned eight Saabs, though), it was great fun and a good way to get into the spirit of the conference.

Tomorrow, things should liven up a bit. The Mandarin is giving a bilingual reading in Tibetan and English of some poems by the Sixth Dalai Lama of Tibet (died 1706), an extract from a much larger set of poems coming out in book form next year, if the Mandarin can get time to review the page proofs. And later that day, unless James Dobson or Jerry Falwell shut us down, the Mandarin's explicit presentation on sexual themes in Classical Chinese poetry should bring a blush to the tender cheeks of the masses.

Film at eleven.

And, way to go, Jeffrey Sebelia, winner of Project Runway and actually a really nice guy when you meet him in person.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Playing catch-up

After two weeks in Italy, the Mandarin returns to find a number of notable events took place in his absence.

Little Kim Calls Shrub's Bluff

Talking about playing catch-up, check out the photo of Shrub signing something called the North Korea Nonproliferation Act. The Mandarin assumed this photo was taken shortly after Shrub's "Axis of Evil" speech in January 2002. But, on reading the caption more carefully, the Mandarin realized the photo was taken yesterday!

[sound of Mandarin's head exploding]

So let's get this straight. Shrub nominates North Korea for Axis of Evil in 2002. North Korea threatens 4 1/2 years later, like last week, to detonate a nuclear test. Shrub declares that a noo-kyoo-lur North Korea is "unacceptable." North Korea detonates a small nuclear device (or did they?). So what does Shrub do? He gets Senator Frist to rush through a bill making the test retroactively (radioactively?) illegal. Phew. Boy does the Mandarin feel safer now. Nagging question: does Shrub know what the word "unacceptable" means? He's certainly been throwing it around a lot lately....

Did They or Didn't They?

North Korea's explosion was estimated by seismic experts to have been about 0.5 kilotons. That means you could get the same bang by exploding 500 tons of TNT. Sounds big, but keep in mind that back in 1970-71 when the Mandarin was a young artillery officer, the US Army had in its arsenal artillery shells designated "W-33" that were 8" in diameter (about the diameter of a salad plate), 37" long and weighed about 240 pounds. They came in various yields between 5 and 40 kilotons. [While classified "secret" when the Mandarin learned it, this info is readily available on the Internet now.] Compare the Hiroshima bomb, which yielded about 15 kilotons and weighed 9,000 pounds. Even the lightest yielding W-33 made a bang ten times larger than Little Kim's recent test. So, folks, as nukes go, this one was t-i-n-y.

If it was a nuke. The Mandarin's personal theory is that the North Koreans decided to call Shrub's bluff by putting a few boxcars of TNT in a tunnel along with a few ounces of radioactive material to fool our sniffer planes flying downwind of the test, lit the fuse, and ran like hell.

The Mandarin Successfully Guards First-Class Lavatories Against Terrorists

Thanks to cashing in a boatload (boatload = 100,000 miles per seat) of frequent-flyer miles, the Mandarin was able to travel to and from Europe in First Class on a Lufthansa A340-300. From his aisle seat in Row 1, the Mandarin was able to keep an eagle eye on the two lavatories for roughly twelve hours each way, ensuring than none of the seven other passengers in first class were able to sneak into the lavatory and make a bomb. The flight attendants were thoughtful enough to leave little tubes of shaving gel and moisturizing lotion in the lavatories for us to use during the flight, and the Mandarin was tempted to mix them together in the sink to see what happened, but then he remembered he was flying on a German airline.... So, instead, he followed the orders printed on the lavatory wall, wiping off the wet sink with his used paper towel as a gesture to his fellow passengers.

The Party of Family Values Finds Another Foot to Shoot Itself In

The Mandarin was pleased to learn the Republican House Leadership has a no-tolerance attitude toward perverted House Members who persistently try over a number of years to have sexual relationships with underage congressional pages. No tolerance for anyone finding out about it, that is. While the Log Cabin Republicans may feel like an endangered species as the Christian wingnut right gears up to purge gays from the party (and any gay Republican has a lot to answer for in the Mandarin's book), this isn't about gay or straight. It is about adults in positions of power trying to seduce children that have been placed in their care in loco parentis. Besides being sick, it is a crime. And knowingly concealing that crime is itself a crime. So I expect to see a few more sanctimonious family values Republican talking heads roll in the next few weeks. Starting with that lovable bear of a guy, Denny Hastert.

Countdown to Heartbreak

The 2006 mid-term elections are shaping up to be a repeat of the 1994 Republican take-over of Congress. Shrub, his handlers, and their Corps of Congressional Clowns have now alienated almost every key element of the Republican coalition: small government conservatives, fiscally responsible moderates, isolationist America-Firsters, immigrant-hating border fence advocates, radical Christian fundamentalists,... You name it, and each of them has something to shake their fists at while they stay away from the polls. Unless Karl Rove has Osama bin Laden's body stashed in a freezer in the White House kitchen for the much-expected "October Surprise," we could be witnessing a wholesale repudiation of Shrub and his administration that will make history. Call it a "November surprise."

Original photo caption: President Bush signs into law S-3728, the North Korea Nonproliferation Act of 2006, as Senate Majority Leader Senator Bill Frist (R-TN) looks on, in the Oval Office, October 13, 2006. (Eric Draper/The White House/Handout/Reuters)