Friday, March 19, 2004

The Taiwanese president got shot today, unfortunately, he didn't die. I frankly tune out most news about Taiwanese politics, but I ended up absorbing a lot of the happenings just by sitting across from newspaper-reading Chinese passengers on the 7 train. My theory is he hired someone to do it to him, so as to appear sympathetic to the voters -- it seems so incredible he would be only moderately wounded...and with everything coinciding on the eve of the election. If this were a movie, he would be dead, because the assassin he hired would be a double agent working for his opponent.

Speaking of politics, I was at the Chinese consulate today for some bureaucratic procedures. I heard the building used to be a Navy club house. The American military's reputation in China is that of a lazy and whoring bunch, so the image of a staid Chinese government outpost occupying an ex-wanton pleasure palace is very ironic to me.

As I was walking along 42nd street toward the pier, where the consulate was located, there were a group of quietly standing and posturing Falungong cult members on the same block, facing the consulate, all dressed in bright yellow raincoats. Supposedly it's part of an ongoing silent protest they've been doing for months. I know a few people who've gotten enmeshed in this group and they've now given up health insurance and doctors, though one has a chronic health condition. This cult seems to attract bright, artistic, and I think, misunderstood people. They believe their faith will cure them of anything, and maybe a few does manage, but I'd be careful of any group that asks you to believe them above all others.

Chinese history is full of such cults, some have contributed to progress, many others have perished, there was one group, the Boxers (named because they had some martial arts skills, not because they wore boxers), they fought foreign invaders ingeniously and had elaborate rituals for iniation. There was at least one movie showing them slicing a cock's neck in front of an altar and dripping the blood into a bowl. The initiated would then all drink from the bowl, one by one, sealing their bond as cult brothers or sisters.

Now I've contributed to the stereotype of Chinese as gang members, but this came from a movie, so it must be true!

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Fun with Euphemisms

I kept having these tension headaches recently, as an employee benefit, Dr. Zhou mixed up some herbal remedy for me. With these regimens, it takes a week to show any effect, as the goal of the medicine is to make the body heal itself, rather than the attack-and -destroy mechanism of most Western medicine. But as I'm onto my fourth day of treatment with no effects, I had to ask Dr. Zhou; it turned out my dosage wasn't enough since I lied about my weight. These are not one-size-fits-all drugs. Back to the measuring scale...

One medicine could hardly be kept in stock, the label only describes it as "kidney-enhancing." A lot of men are prescribed this herb -- cordyceps. Just today, a man in his 30s came in and got $50 worth. The drug is sometimes mixed with others in a combination pack, but is often given alone. Out of curiosity, I asked Zhou what exactly it does, she just laughed and said "Look it up." I researched the ingredient online -- you might have guessed by now, it functions partly as a "kidney-stimulant." Not unlike a libido-booster. In Chinese medicine, anything kidney-enhancing, more often than not, helps regulate the sex drive. Cordyceps are originally grown and harvested in Tibet, the ones grown there are rumored to be the best there is. But demand has made this widely available everywhere now. Just ask for a kidney-enhancing drug at a Chinese pharmacy, they'll know what you mean...