Friday, January 21, 2011

Rachel Was Here

For the past three days, my sister Rachel has been staying with me in Guangzhou. Some things:

  1. She met Gristle. It was a difficult for them to relate, because Rachel only speaks English and Gristle only speaks crazy. During our dinner, this happened:

    Gristle (in Chinese): You and your brother have the same hands!
    Me (to Rachel): He says that our hands look the same.
    Gristle (in English): Like spiders.

  2. She met Serena. Serena did her game best to speak English to Rachel the whole time, and it actually worked pretty well. Serena, Rachel, and I went to a part of the city called Shamian Island yesterday and met up with my friend Reid for coffee and dinner. It’s lovely when friends meet friends. After our dinner, this happened:

    Serena: You know what’s miraculous? You and your sister look so much alike, but you are so handsome for a man and she’s so beautiful for a woman. Do you guys talk about this often?
    Me: Not tons, no.

  3. I went to get my haircut, and Rachel got a 洗吹, a wash and blow. As we were sitting next to each other in the salon, this happened:

    Hairdresser: This girl sitting next to you: is she your girlfriend, or your wife?

And that’s all that happened. Today we’re leaving for Vietnam, so enjoy yourselves while I’m away. Year of the Rabbit’s on its way: get excited.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Bonus: at one point, she looks like she’s masturbating a team of giants

OK, I know this is the second post in a row that’s just a video, but this one, possibly unlike the last one, is really, really worth it. Especially if your favorite American subcultures are “people who like Cee-Lo Green” and “the deaf”.

Ok really, to tell you the truth, I’m just really into deaf people. Watch the video.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Is there anything we can’t do?

A mid-week surprise from the Gentlemen in Flannel:

Democracy in America

This afternoon a student asked me after class, “Jon, how do you know the American system of democracy won’t suddenly turn to chaos?”

And I turned to him, put my hand on his shoulder, and said, “Johnson, as long as we believe in the power of the ballot box, the power of argument, the power of reason, and the power of the people, America will persevere. As long as I have the ability to vote, for whatever party I choose, we, as a nation, are still ok.”

And then, this evening I checked my mail and my heart swelled with pride to see a working example of the democratic spirit in action: waiting for me was an absentee ballot, a palpable symbol of my involvement in that greatest of American institutions.

Of course, it was the second absentee ballot I received for the November election which, to recap, happened three months ago. CHAOS SCHMAOS.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Name Recognition

On Saturday, my film studies students took their final exam. Part of one of the questions asked them to name a film we had studied this semester in class. And this, dear reader, is how they responded. (Real title of the movie above, student variants below.)

Back to the Future:

  • Go Back to Tomorrow


  • Prasto’s Hat
  • Prestoe
  • Prestor
  • Puresto
  • Pasto
  • Preston
  • Presto Bunny
  • Pesto


  • Shark

Battleship Potemkin

  • The Bottle Ship Potemkin

Die Hard

  • Did Hard

Modern Times

  • The Modern Time
  • John Chaplin


  • Corps
  • Crops
  • Rops

There Will Be Blood

  • There Will No Blood

Unclear what film they were referencing

  • New Jeff

Friday, January 7, 2011

This is a post about toilets.

Our apartment adopts what I would generously call a minimalist approach to bathrooms. Minimalist in the sense that there are some things usually considered essential to the nature of bathrooms — toilets, for instance — which simply do not exist in some bathrooms in our house.

I have documented my feelings about my apartment’s bathrooms before on this blog. In fact, I mentioned my toilet in the very first post I wrote in China. In that post, I note that one of our bathrooms, in place of a toilet, has only a ghastly enameled red hole which you flush with hose and a large bucket of water placed next to the hole at all times. This, I feel, is insufficient.

Later, last February, I told you about my shower. The designers of my apartment, presumably in an attempt to ape the voguish open floor plans of contemporary American homes, did away with the customary distinction between “inside the shower” and “outside the shower” and decided to just turn the bathroom into a shower by affixing a nozzle to the wall and drilling a hole in the floor.

shower (not

Now, I know it may seem surprising, but things have taken a marked turn for the worse.

As you can see from the above photo, there is a real toilet in this bathroom. And even though it is temperamental and requires very gentle treatment, it usually does exactly what I ask of it: to carry my waste products away from me in a way that does not require my squatting over a hole in my floor.

Well, no longer! No longer does it perform this function in an acceptable manner. It continues to function as a receptacle for waste products. And, strangely enough, it still carries them away to the sewers of Guangzhou and then straight into the sea. The problem is the middle part: when I flush, the water does not flow down the pipes, but instead flows out the back of the toilet and on to the floor. But luckily, my shower is my bathroom! So then the waste water just goes down the shower drain! And everything’s fine. Except for the fact that the contents of my toilet are now all over my shower floor. Which, to recap, is also my bathroom.

As much as I enjoy this — not to put too fine a point on it — Rube Goldberg shit sandwich, I would prefer that things no longer happen this way. My guy says, since it’s Friday, it probably won’t be fixed until Monday. This really isn’t great news for me, but it is great news for my squat toilet, which, Cinderella to our normal toilet’s Ugly Stepsister, will finally get to shine at the palace ball after being neglected for all these years. “Shine”, here, meaning “be defecated into.”

All My Friends

  1. My friend, Jason O. Gilbert, is a blogging menace. Not only does he continue to post funny content on our sketch comedy website, Business Flannel, but he’s also now a featured writer on a comedy site that we’ve partnered with, Evil Chili. Check him before you wreck yourself.

  2. My friend, Clayton Raithel, has started a daily dolla billz bonanza in the form of a triva giveaway. Since I live in China, I am not eligible to participate. Since you presumably do not, you are. So go. Win your money.

  3. My friend, Andrew Wells, was reading my blog the other day, and he read a post where I may have mentioned, apropos of nothing, that I was colder than the prepuce of a warlock. And you know what? He went out and bought us a new heater. So now I’m not cold anymore. And — what luck! — he unknowingly heeded the advice of my mother, who, after the aforementioned post went live, emailed me to say that I should buy a heater but:

    Please don’t buy an inexpensive dangerous type of heater[…]nothing with fumes please.

    Andrew Wells and my mother: always looking out for me.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


It’s January in China (hey, for you guys too? Cool!), which means that my students are knee deep in final exam preparations. (Though knee deep for Chinese student is, like, ankle deep or even instep deep, for most of the rest of the world. A short people. Short but proud.) In practice this means less fun for me. During the rest of the semester, my students are full of quips and funny observations, many of which have appeared in Reader’s Digest’s monthly “Foreigners Say the Darndest Things” column. These days, though, I spend each period explaining the final exam to my students, and they spend each period softly crying.

So thank the lord of non-native English speakers that I am still reading dozens and dozens of college application essays, which are, on the whole, so painfully earnest that I cannot bear to quote them here and invite the jeers of Reader’s Digest’s literate, worldly subscriber base. Today, though, I thought that I’d give myself a mid-week gift and let you in on my favorite typo of the year, so far. I know it’s January 5th. The bar is low. Whatever, I have a cold. I’ll take what I can get.

Today a student sent me an essay she is preparing to send to Brandeis University. In it, she discussed her interest in Brandeis, the research she’s done into Brandeis, how excited she is to experience Brandeis for herself.

Unfortunately, she persistently misspelled “Brandeis” and “Brandies”. My student managed to write a 500 word essay expressing her affection not for a liberal arts school named after one of our greatest Supreme Court Justices but instead for an after dinner spirit known for its caramel color and smooth, fruity taste.

Also, perhaps unrelatedly, she showed up for her last meeting with me in a smoking jacket. Jury’s still out, on that one.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Ladies’ Night

Here’s an opening question for you all to think about while we wait for our tea to cool and for Jeanine to take the coconut squares out of the oven: what do you do to make yourself feel better on glum days? No wrong answers, now, no wrong answers.

I’ll share something, I say.

As you know, I live in Guangzhou, China. Recently, I’ve been having some glum days. For one thing, I have a cold. I am sneezing like an sneezlepuss, which as should be clear from its name is an animal that sneezes a lot, more often, even, than pandas, meercats, dogs, or monkeys: the first four animals in this 41-video youtube playlist of sneezing animals which I just found and which you ladies are welcome to look at on my iPad after the meeting. Because the animals on display there are cute and frankly terrific. I sneezed while writing that sentence.

Not only do I have a cold, I am cold, because it is cold outside and my apartment is not significantly warmer than the outside. I do not have a space heater. Last year I had a space heater, but I gave it to Andy and am subsisting on my wall-mounted air blower. The air blower claims to have a heater setting. Based on the fact that I am sitting at my desk in a coat, wearing long underwear, I trust my wall-mounted air blower about as far as I can throw it. For reference, in sixth grade I was the only person who could long jump farther than he could shot put. I could not throw my wall-mounted air blower very far.

The truth is things can sometimes get glum around here. But what to do when you’re feeling blue?

Yes, yes, says Lynette, please, get to the point.

The truth is, all of us can sometimes be glum. And all of us try the same things to feel better. For instance, while I was in Hong Kong last week, I bought a pair of jeans with a button fly. A button fly! No longer will I find myself needing to “Examine [My] Zipper, Pretty Darn Quick”, because it will be not be possible for me to leave the restroom without having joined the two sides of my pants together, since the joining-and-unjoining operation one must perform when one needs to go see a man about a horse (which involves four very tight buttons), is approximately as difficult and time consuming as bridling a horse, or securing it safely to its post in your horse trailer, or hitching that trailer to your SUV so you can drive your horse to its pasture.

(The pasture is a penis, in this metaphor.)

So that’s something worth feeling not glum about.

Sometimes even that’s not enough, though. This week, I thought I had exhausted all my glum-weather, I’ve-got-a-cold tips. I washed my hair with natural shampoo, I doodled a mouse with a mohawk on a note from a student, my roommate and I watched Home Alone, and I even rubbed my face to encourage hair growth so I might someday be able to grow a respectable beard.

Long story short, I thought everything was topsy-turvy and glum city until I was looking through the very old bookshelves in my apartment and found a photograph in one of the books, which I was kind enough to scan at the local print shop so you all could see it tonight. It looks like this:

Funny face

And when I looked at that photo, I said to myself, wow. You think you’re glum? You are not glum. Until you are sitting in that car, holding that black object, with that expression on your face, with purple blemishes on your arm and forehead (likely from poor photo storage, I suppose), but with what looks like a real-life burn on your arm and a real-life rash around your mouth, I say to you: you are not glum.

And then I look at the picture again and I laugh, and laugh, and laugh.

(TL;DR: It’s cold here. I found a funny picture in my apartment. My new jeans have a button fly.)

Monday, January 3, 2011


  1. It’s really cold inside my apartment, and so I wearing my coat indoors. The collar of my coat smells like tacos. Recent smell tests, conducted by me, reveal that only the right side of the collar smells like tacos. The left side smells like what I expect my coat to smell like, which is nothing.

    Breaking news update: a supplementary smell test has discovered more specific results, namely that my collar smells not like tacos, but rather taquitos.

    That’s all the news on that front.

  2. There’s a new Business Flannel video. I wouldn’t watch it unless you’re interested in hearing Barack Obama yell the f-word.

    I can’t embed it properly because of its width (I’ve said that before! In a sexual way!), but you can watch it on youtube here.

Happy 2011, my pretties.