Why you shouldn’t think about jokes


Seth McFarlane may be a sexist, racist, ****ist whatever, but here’s an observation I have about comedy:

Too many people laugh at the jokes, then go home, think about it, and decide they were offended. That suggests the joke isn’t the problem, the analysis is.

I say comedy is contained in the moment; if you laughed at the time, the joke was good.

Feeling offended later corrupts the entire process. Comedy is not designed to be considered or evaluated. It’s a momentary, ephemeral connection, between comedian, audience and subject.

So yeh, you may have hated McFarlane’s Oscar performance in hindsight, you may be swayed by the newspaper critics who need to come up with an opinion quickly, but probably, if you’re not a total curmudgeon, you laughed, you tittered, you guffawed at his gags while they were happening – and that’s the important time.

White man survives Chinese New Year. But only just


Baijiu. China’s answer to meth.

Two 15-hour train rides; baijiu slams; wrecking Michael Jackson on karaoke; some more baijiu slams; more food than some cities eat in a week; more baijiu slams.

That about sums up my three days in Jiujiang, a city in China, home to my Chinese girlfriend and host to me during Chinese New Year.

I had met her parents already. Now I had to meet the rest of the family.

There was “Bob” (my substituted name), cousin 1, a huge, barrel-chested ox of a man, with a constitution to match.

There was “Paul McCartney,” cousin 2, floppy-haired and quiet, except when he was REALLY REALLY LOUD.

There was uncle 1, skinny, constantly taking photos and obsessed with pouring baijiu down my neck.

There were other cousins, other uncles, aunts and of course mum and dad.

There were serious meals every day. Plates upon plates of food arrived, were eaten, were removed. Toasts were made. Most of which were directed at me, and all of which involved slamming a glass of baijiu.

Except when they involved slamming three glasses of baijiu. Yep, one evening Bob decided he would show me “the ultimate respect” by toasting me and then forcing me to slam three glasses of this pungent, nasal-cavity-searing liquid, possibly used elsewhere to clean exhausts.

The first night we ended up in a karaoke den. Perhaps afflicted by the bottle-and-a-half of baijiu I had consumed at dinner, perhaps also due to my inability to make good decisions when being force-fed cigarettes and blatantly robbed of cash in a game of liar’s dice, I decided Michael Jackson’s “Ben” would make a good choice.

It was not.

But no one cared. I certainly sounded no worse that “Paul,” who appeared to make the rookie mistake of confusing volume with tunefulness.

More dinners. More baijiu. More wondering how long a three-day holiday could last.

One morning R’s mother bursts into our hotel room. I just have time to slide into the bathrobe. She pretends not to notice my red, weeping eyes and stinking, sweaty underwear hanging on the door handle, and proceeds to feed me breakfast.

Another day we are out climbing the local mountain. I came back with 130 pictures of me and R in front of valley-fuls of mist. Luckily there were photo touts around with their displays of previous customers, to show us the resplendent views that we were missing.

Going home we took the train – 15 hours of comparative comfort. Uneventful, except for when I spilt a full can of Fanta over the head, pillow, bed and Mac Air of our sleeping compartment buddy.

He didn’t wake, so no harm done.

I don’t want to sound snobbish or ungrateful. It was an amazing experience.

But it was intense. It felt as if the last 20 years of my drinking life had all been in preparation for these three days of alco-overdose.

Perhaps it was.

Love you babe.  x

There is a new “world’s cutest thing” and it lives in Hong Kong


There is a new “cutest thing in the world.”

Laughing babies in the tub, you had your time.

Charlie of “Charlie bit me” fame, you’ve been usurped.

Cats playing with iPads, you’re so 2010.

The cutest thing in the world from now on and forever, is and must be, Chinese grandmas.

There is no cuter thing than a Chinese grandma.

Their wizened faces scream with old-fashioned wisdom – the kind of wisdom that entails putting a piece of jade under your pillow before a big exam.

Their smiles, pushing dimple upon soft, wrinkly dimple into their cheeks, project an irresistible softness – the kind of softness that makes you wonder why you were so upset when HE dumped YOU.

Their homes smell of powder and incense and the best stomach-settling congee you ever knew – the kinds of powder and incense and congee that you search to rediscover for the rest of your life.

Above all, their demeanor – aura, if you like – projects a kind of worldly love that, if you were never to visit China or Hong Kong, you might mistake for being a Hollywood invention.

I was walking in Central last week, and I passed an old Chinese grandma, sitting on her stool as she always is, selling bananas as she always does.

I’ve passed her many times, wondering how she makes a living selling small bunches of bananas every day.

But this day she noticed me too, she looked up, she smiled, and I was transported into her world.

I saw her sitting at home, grandkids at her feet, giving firm but kindly admonitions for unruly behavior.

I saw her grandkids sulking, but loving her all the same.

I saw her own children, the mother and father of her grandchildren, being subconsciously thankful they had such a rock to fall back on.

And when I bought her bananas she touched my hand, and her leathery skin, hard bone and soft, supple flesh, in just her fingers, suggested more life to me than I had seen or felt in many other physical interactions in Hong Kong.

But she’ll be dead soon. She was 90 years old, at least.

But I’ll always remember her, as the cutest thing in the world.

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