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During the insurgency of 1764 in Shandong, Wang Lun's forces used an array of magical techniques, including strange incantations and women soldiers waving white fans...An old soldier came to t he rescue with this advice: "Let a prostitute go up on the wall and take off her underclothing . . . we will use yin power to counter their spells." Thegovernment side adopted additional measures of a like sort, including, as later recounted by Wang Lun himself, "women wearing red clothing but naked from the waste down, bleeding and urinating in order to destroy our power."


The story was also circulated and widely believed by the populace that a naked woman straddled each of the many cannon mounted in the foreign buildings in Zizhulin, making it impossible for the gunfire-repelling magic (bipao zhi fa) of the Boxers to work properly.

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[This photograph] represented a boy from ‘the upper or most highly educated class, the son of a distinguished civil officer of Canton.' Although 'a fine, attractive-looking little fellow, his full hazel eyes beaming with kindliness and intelligence,' the boy’s face would, Thomson argued, gradually lose its attractions as it grows to maturity. "The softness of the eye is then frequently replaced by a cold, calculating expression, the result of their peculiar training, and the countenance assumes an air of apathetic indifference which is so necessary to veil the inner feelings of a polished Chinese gentleman." Thomson classified people visually, constructing knowledge of their physical and moral character. The latter was often evaluated in terms of usefulness for British commerce and the Western traveller.

more from the same. formatting wonky because it's copy and pasted from something with wonky format. )


Jan. 10th, 2010 04:17 am
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Reading this column, my first reaction was to question the author's style. This is not just a matter of taste; anyone who calls himself "pithy" is not writing in expectation of serious disagreement--and hence, no expectation of serious discussion. The labored, self-congratulatory pileup that passes for a second paragraph confirms this. Someone who brags about how "politically incorrect" he is isn't thinking about the grace of God, but about how best to give a complacent audience their weekly sneer.

The next thing I noticed was that his source is rubbish. Note I said source: he only has one. A single, solitary biography of Mao. If that doesn't raise red flags (ha!), then here are the names of the authors: Jung Chang and Jon Halliday.

You probably don't know who they are; certainly Mr Zmirak doesn't (he cannot consistently spell Chang's name). Well, having read more than one (1) book, I do. Jung Chang is the Red Guard daughter of a VERY high level Communist cadre. She eventually she moved to the West, where she discovered that Mao-hating is a multimillion dollar industry. Her husband, Halliday, is more than willing to ride the cash train. The two have falsified and misquoted sources, flatly ignored eyewitness and other testimony, conducted hundreds of interviews nobody else has access to (hmm!), spewed so much libel their book isn't even publishable in Taiwan (that famous bastion of Mao-coddling), and just plain made shit up in order to milk ever more money out of an eagerly gullible audience.

Reception among people who know which end of China is not Tibet has been unfavorable. Particularly delicious examples can be found on the Wikipedia article; I especially like "the 'facts' in The Da Vinci Code are about as reliable as those to be found in...Mao: The Unknown Story." Translated from the academic? This book is bullshit.

Unfortunately, that means that this column is also bullshit. A brief rundown of two lies that Zmirak parrots:

George Marshall [forced] Chiang Kai-Shek [Jiang Jieshi] to stop attacking Mao's guerillas when victory was still possible.

This is libel. Marshall got there in 1947; victory was impossible for Jiang since at least 1937, when a foreign army invaded his country and HE DID NOTHING. On the other hand, the Communists engaged in a skillful takeover of the northeastern part of the country through their campaign to redistribute land and, you know, fight the giant fucking army that had conquered the place.

Oh, yeah, and far be it from me to say anything good about Jiang Jieshi, but the authors lie about him, too. Jiang did not deliberately let Mao go at the beginning of the Long March; the Communists escaped because Jiang was an incompetent. There was no evil conspiracy of Americans and Soviets (in fact the Soviets weren't too fond of him) and Nationalists to let Mao win: he won because the support of the majority of the Chinese people was behind him, period, end of story. That is the real thing that a certain school of rightist in the US cannot bear to hear, but it is true.

- Mao had already racked up most of his estimated 70 million deaths

The seventy million figure is a commonly repeated but unverifiable one. Simply put, the method we have for calculating the statistics of the deaths that happened as a result of the Great Leap Forward is screwy; some academics even contest the 20 million minimum figure. Most, though, put the figure at 30 million. Taking into account more than the GLF, I'd say it's 40 million, but the simple fact is we don't know. Someone who doesn't acknowledge that they're just pulling numbers out of their ass isn't being honest. The other thing important about this figure--which is extraordinarily high even taking into account the ass-pulling--is that those deaths were by and large not deliberately planned. Mao's communism is not like Pol Pot's or Stalin's: those millions of deaths happened because of incompetence, bad policies, and overenthusiastic red guards and cadres, not deliberate malice. This is important for a variety of reasons, in this case to emphasize that Maoism is distinct from other forms of left-wing totalitarianism.

So this column is a blindly accepting summary of an offensively inaccurate book. The only contributions Zmirak makes are how he frames it: his "politically incorrect" metaphor for God's grace and a few telling transitions.

Here's one instance of the latter. Having said that "Mao's system organized committees to micromanage the public, private, and sexual lives of millions at the point of a bayonet," he also says that Mao's "ethical core -- which could have been cribbed from the writings of the Marquis de Sade -- was precisely what the New Left was peddling, in the form of 'free love' and the Dionysian frenzies of drug-fueled musical orgies such as Woodstock."

No. No. No. No. No. No. No.

Maoism is not American leftism. Maoism is a very puritanical form of Communism. I read one account of Red Guards who beat an exhibitionist to death because they didn't know what else to do with a penis; while I doubt that this was common, repeating that anecdote is a concise way to summarize the attitudes among the 1960s Chinese youth. Not Woodstock, in other words (and anyway, on what aged planet is Woodstock still the epitome of American leftism?). Maoism is, more to the point, a very popular/democratic form of Communism--one that would NEVER take place in the US. You know how I said that Chang was the daughter of a Communist cadre? Well, the reason she got so pissed off at Mao is that he turned the masses against the party. If Mao had been more of a Soviet-style Communist, or more like the American left (which has a VERY elitist ideology), he would never have allowed the masses to criticize Party officials, particularly such high up ones as Chang's father.

But the fact he and his commenters smash the two together tells us exactly what his point is. The evilest man in history, of all people, is apparently fullheartedly endorsed by or/and the same as our political enemies in the United States. This is certainly the point the commeters take away: it isn't about Mao, but about the faceless legions of "politically correct" Americans who apparently want to implement Maoism here. Obama, queer theorists, and Mao are all exactly the same...waitwat.

While that's a common point, it is not thoughtful or intellectually honest. I could point out that spreading lies about your opponents isn't a good or intelligent political move to make, nor is it the right way to conduct academic inquiry or casual discussion. But that's irrelevant; Zmirak's not a political columnist, he's an allegedly Catholic one. The fact is, what is not true or honest cannot be Christian, and does not belong on a Catholic website. I said, initially, that his "politically incorrect" metaphor about British gunboats (which, by the way: you want to know who's to blame for Mao? Look to the Victorians!) was not about the grace of God.

It's not. This column isn't insightful commentary connecting contemporary problems to Christian teaching; it's "oh look at how evil people who disagree with me are." But the thing about Christianity--the terrifying thing--is that it's not about other people. You cannot stand before Christ on the day of judgement and say "oh but I wasn't a Democrat, I never agreed with TEH EVILIZT PEEPS ON TEH PLANETORS EVAR." In a truly frightening way, it is all about you.

How rotten you are, how vulnerable, how conceited, silly, and weak you are. How you need to challenge yourself, shake yourself out of complacency, how you need to maintain constant vigilance lest you get exactly what you deserve. You're going to hell. Unless...unless...the British gunboats come sailing up the river to save your silly native ass?

Uh, yeah, that makes no sense.

If he'd been thinking more of Catholic teaching and less of clever ways to brag about how "politically incorrect" he is (and thus cement his solidarity with and confirm the biases of his own collective), Zmirak might have chosen a metaphor thought up by a far more adequate essayist:

Christianity agrees with Dualism that this universe is at war. But it does not think this is a war between independent powers. It thinks it is a civil war, a rebellion, and that we are living in a part of the universe occupied by the rebel.

Enemy-occupied territory-that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage.

I'll take Lewis one step further. Far from being the ex-colonies at risk of corruption that Zmirak envisages, we are already fully corrupt. We are not only living in rebel territory, we are rebels. We eat, talk, and think like rebels (and yes, this "I'm so right and other people who are not like me are so wrong, nyah nyah nyah" column is an example of rebelthink). We have rebel friends and family. We have rebel interests, passions, pursuits, and careers. We are already traitors. Until we have fully and finally acknowledged the rightful king and accepted his offer to turn us into resistance fighters, it is not our place to discuss who is the mostest evilest person ever. Besides, I suspect that Christian thought would understand "successfully evil" as nonsense.
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In his dotage Mao, a bloated colossus supported by young female assistants, often looked like a grand matriarch, time having blurred his features into a fleshy, unisex mask.


[Mao's] calligraphy . . . is strikingly original, betraying a flamboyant egotism, to the point of arrogance, if not extravagance; at the same time it shows a total disregard for the formal discipline of the brush, and this contempt for technical requirements condemns his work, however powerful, to remain essentially inarticulate. His poetry, so aptly described by Arthur Waley as "not as bad as Hitler's painting, but not as good as Churchill's," was rather pedantic and pedestrian, managing to combine obscurity with vulgarity; and yet, within the framework of an obsolete form it remains, in its very awkwardness, remarkably unfettered by conventions...


Many of the MTVs produced-on videotape as well as laser disk-were risible, and some contained young male students longing for the Chairman in what I can only describe as "homoerotica with Chinese characteristics."

I lol'd. SO. HARD.
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When I was doing research on what police might have to say if a zeppelin randomly showed up in Manhattan, I came across this, which is about an NYPD helicopter that cost the city $10 million to make.

Police insist that law-abiding New Yorkers have nothing to fear.

"Obviously, we're not looking into apartments," Diaz said during a recent flight. "We don't invade the privacy of individuals. We only want to observe anything that's going on in public."

The helicopter's powers of observation come from a high-powered robotic camera mounted on a turret projecting from its nose like a periscope. The camera has infrared night-vision capabilities and a satellite navigation system that allows police to automatically zoom in on a location by typing in the address on a computer keyboard.

Which reminded me of this from China:

Over the past two years, some 200,000 surveillance cameras have been installed throughout the city. Many are in public spaces, disguised as lampposts. The closed-circuit TV cameras will soon be connected to a single, nationwide network, an all-seeing system that will be capable of tracking and identifying anyone who comes within its range — a project driven in part by U.S. technology and investment. Over the next three years, Chinese security executives predict they will install as many as 2 million CCTVs in Shenzhen, which would make it the most watched city in the world. (Security-crazy London boasts only half a million surveillance cameras.)

The security cameras are just one part of a much broader high-tech surveillance and censorship program known in China as "Golden Shield." The end goal is to use the latest people-tracking technology — thoughtfully supplied by American giants like IBM, Honeywell and General Electric — to create an airtight consumer cocoon: a place where Visa cards, Adidas sneakers, China Mobile cellphones, McDonald's Happy Meals, Tsingtao beer and UPS delivery (to name just a few of the official sponsors of the Beijing Olympics) can be enjoyed under the unblinking eye of the state, without the threat of democracy breaking out. With political unrest on the rise across China, the government hopes to use the surveillance shield to identify and counteract dissent before it explodes into a mass movement like the one that grabbed the world's attention at Tiananmen Square.

Cool! Only, you know, not...
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I've defiled myself. Man is his own fiercest enemy. My heaven, how shall I begin to revenge and retrieve all I've lost? Life has been my own toy. I've wasted enough of it away, so it is of no material importance that this new experience has lunged me into a new abyss. I don't want to stay in Beijing and I don't want to go to the Western Hills.I'm going to take the train southward where no one knows me and waste away what's left of my life. Out of the pain, my heart revives. And now I look on myself with pity and I laugh. Live and die your own way, unnoticed. Oh, how I pity you, Sophie!
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"I downloaded the third Pirates of the Caribbean."

"But POTC3 hasn't come out yet."

"This is China. We can do anything."

"I want to watch it."

It was Moby Dick.
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According to the Chinese government, "political monomania" is a mental disease entailing delusions about political issues. The government often detains people with political monomania because they are a danger to the public and the peace. Sufferers of this disease are, strangely enough, usually strongly and vociferously opposed to government policies.

Black Hole

Sep. 22nd, 2006 01:42 am
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I've finally realized that the permanent fog Beijing seems to be in isn't actually fog, it's the air.


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