Yang Wei #18: Crossover

What happens when a show runs out of ideas? Why, they feature a crossover of course! The Simpsons officially ran out of ideas in 2005 but it hasn’t stopped them from pumping out more episodes. Since it stopped being funny, The Simpsons has had crossover episodes with Futurama, Family Guy and even fucking Lego. 

So, just as that cartoon featuring bright yellow people has resorted to crossovers, so too shall this one. Last week saw the appearance of Mr. 9-Dash Line: the first ever kid’s cartoon character that combines cuteness and rabid Han nationalism. Let’s take a look what happens when he meets everybody’s favourite minor government official, Yang Wei. 

Book Review: The Exact Unknown by Isham Cook

The Exact Unknown, appropriately pictured next to bottle of baby oil.

(DISCLAIMER: As mentioned in previous book reviews, we try to tone down the humour and sarcasm for book review posts here at http://www.arthurmeursault.com. Some jokes may slip in, but I can assure you that they are mostly coincidental.)

The short story is a much maligned artform in recent years. Once the vehicle for many a fine author to express themselves in (Edgar Allan Poe, HP Lovecraft, Arthur Conan Doyle, HG Wells… hell, even Charles Dickens), the short story has fallen out of favour in the 21st century. Publishing styles were to blame for both the rise and the fall of the short story. Back in the 19th century, authors looking to establish themselves would submit their stories to magazines and journals, thus stories would have to be short and concise to fit within the magazine’s word count. It is easy to forget that one of the greatest literary creations of all time – Sherlock Holmes – was a regular appearance in short story form within the pages of The Strand Magazine; only four novel-length Sherlock stories were ever written. Even those famous stories which have entered our cultural consciousness as “proper books” began their life as weekly or monthly submissions to literary journals. American readers stormed New York’s wharf when the final instalment of Dickens’ The Old Curiosity Shop finally made it to their shores, though later the entire saga was re-published in book format.

Readers in the Victorian and Edwardian eras wanted short stories that they could follow over time and discuss with friends – they were the fin de siècle equivalent of devouring a HBO series box-set and dissecting it over the water cooler with colleagues. This trend continued with the rise of science fiction magazines during the 1930s to the 1950s which gave legends like HP Lovecraft and Raymond Bradbury a platform for their works. However, just as publishing demands gave rise to the short story, it also killed it. TV all but killed off the weekly and monthly literary journals – only the stodgy old New Yorker magazine pretentiously stands alone. Today, the big publishing houses won’t touch a short story collection unless you are Neil Gaiman. Typically, unless an author is already very well established, there seems to be little demand for short story collections and getting one published can be nigh on impossible. With the decline of story reading, big publishing houses have to bank on the big novel-writing names to generate profits meaning fewer and fewer chances are taken on short stories by unknown authors.

This is of course a terrible shame, as some of the best books I have ever read have been collections of short stories. This brings me onto Isham Cook and his collection entitled The Exact Unknown.

Isham Cook is a mysterious figure who has been writing about China and other interests for quite some time now. In his photograph he appears like Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now, emerging from the shadows to tell us about “The horror, the horror” of the lives we lead.

ishamcook
Isham Cook

The first thing to understand about Isham Cook is that he does not shy away from writing about somewhat taboo subjects like sex and prostitution. He also does not like the term “short story”. In the introduction to The Exact Unknown – which is actually superbly written and probably the best part of the book (I normally skip author introductions but this one is worth making an exception for) – he reveals his distaste for the term and explains why he prefers the word “tale”.

I adopt the word tale rather than the short story as my literary medium for a number of reasons. Words undergo semantic change. The “short story” means something quite different to younger people these days than it does to the dwindling genteel readership familiar with the term that is now dying off and will be replaced in due time. The younger generation is liable to think short story is a short news story. The distinction between fiction and nonfiction too is blurring, increasingly tripping up even well known writers, who confuse rhetoric with veracity when it’s all rhetoric anyway and are then accused of plagiarism.

So this collection of tales is a fun and breezy read; the tales are normally no more than eight or ten pages in length, though there are a handful of exceptions. You could quite happily read one or two on the bus or train during the daily commute which is how I tend to read short stories (my Kindle is stacked with short stories for this very purpose).

True to his introductory words, the tales seem to blend fiction and non-fiction. Some of the tales are told in the third-person, while some are told in the first-person: it is these tales that seem to draw on elements of Isham’s own personal experiences of life and love in China. And there is a lot of life and love in this book. I have never met the author, but I would guess that Isham is your classic open-minded liberal of the 1960s and 70s. He has an open-minded attitude towards sex, massage and prostitution. To Isham, as long as nobody is getting hurt then adults are adult enough to make their own choices in life and have the liberty to follow their heart to reach their chosen destination. This attitude seems to be gradually becoming extinct as today’s liberals become ever more puritan and seek in sexual matters to become even more conservative than the traditional establishment that they replaced. It is refreshing to read Isham’s honesty and openness when it comes to matters of the bedroom. Others will of course disagree. As Isham himself points out, any writer describing situations where foreign men and Chinese women have sexual relations is opening himself up to an avalanche of criticism from many different angles.

We have no such hang-ups about sex here. I thoroughly enjoyed the twenty tales contained within The Exact Unknown. Isham writes well and is a clean writer too. I would guess that he is a Professor of English or some such equivalent as his grammatical structure and story arcs are all well crafted. Many of the tales feature sex and sexual relations between Chinese girls and their English teachers. One of my few complaints of this book is that I wish Isham had diversified the backgrounds of his protagonists a bit more as the figure of the wandering English Professor on the Chinese campus does get a little repetitive.

There are some gems within this collection and Isham mixes up the narrative styles just enough to keep it interesting. He obviously prefers writing dialogue as many of the tales are dialogue heavy, but when he does describe the world around his characters he does it with an eye for accuracy and the interesting detail. For example, here is Isham on those angry individuals often encountered on public transportation:

There are those who congregate at the subway door even when there are few passengers and there is ample room in the car. Some do this heedlessly, but I have noticed more and more of the angry doing this on purpose. So with some passengers blocking the entrance because they need to get off soon, others doing so absentmindedly, and still others doing so deliberately, it can be quite an ordeal nowadays to get on, and not just during rush hour. The curious thing is that most are barely aware of your exertions in pushing past them and no feathers get ruffled, though caution is advised when forcing yourself past the angry.

One sympathizes with their need to maintain a veneer of dignity and their poignant desire, in the absence of any actual power in their life, to command a small patch of territory. It’s more difficult to do this out on the street than down in the subway, where by blocking the door they can control and regulate the flow people on and off the train. They remind me of those quixotic homeboys in imaginary bearskins and epaulets stationed at elevators in Chicago housing projects, deciding who can enter or not and exacting fees at will. Still, force yourself on you must, not that one wants to cross them, as difficult as they’re going to make it for you.

As well as sex, the other dominant theme within The Exact Unknown is the blurring between fiction and reality. Already covered in his introduction, Isham believes that the best stories are deliberately vague on what is real or not. I tend to agree. My favourite tales within the book were those that featured a situation where it was difficult to distinguish who was telling the truth or who was playing whom. A tale about customers getting cheated at Beijing Zoo’s Clothing Market leaves us unsure who exactly was the one doing the cheating. A casual affair with a student may or may not have been recorded. A one-night stand with a Shandong woman raises questions on whether the expat narrator was really the one doing the game-playing. Anybody who has lived in China – that land of endless ambiguity – will appreciate the infinite shades of grey that Isham paints his tales with.

Not every story is a winner. A couple of the tales seem a little rushed in their conclusion and I was left wondering if there was more of the story to come later in the book. The main culprits for this flaw are the tales Let the Sunshine In and The Hickey. Both feature incidents that occur during the courtship of an American teacher and his young student, though I felt both left the reader hanging at the end. The final tale in the collection – Injaculation – a bizarre tale featuring temple gods and what I assumed to be tantric fertility rites left me completely baffled.

However, apart from one or two stumbles, I enjoyed every minute of The Exact Unknown and I take my hat off to Isham Cook. Not many authors, certainly not those with an eye to future publication from a HarperCollins or a Penguin or those who concern themselves overly with how they are perceived by the public, write with such truth, wit and honesty – certainly when it comes to writing about China at least. To quote Isham’s introduction again: “Literature on China as well is bounded by the parameters of the tragic and the exotic and the sentimental in between, packaging a people as likeable as us if not quite like us.” Finally with The Exact Unknown there is a voice outside the stereotypes.

Isham Cook blogs at http://www.ishamcook.com and The Exact Unknown is available on Amazon.

***

If you enjoyed this post you may also enjoy my book Party Members – a dark comic fantasy that exposes the corrupt underbelly of modern China.

How to order food in a Chinese restaurant

There are two basic ways of ordering food in China. Try and guess which one I normally opt for.

Method One:

1. Enter restaurant. Listen to 16 waitresses shout “欢迎光临” down your ear.
2. Despite the fact that you have entered the restaurant by yourself, and there is nobody else near the establishment for another 15 miles, the waitress asks if you want a table for one.
3. Follow waitress to table. Wait five minutes while the waitress clears the mass of bones, spit, foetuses, lost scrolls, blood, and monkey claws from the table with an oily rag.
4. Place tissue paper on chair and sit down. Of the 27 waitresses who gather round your table, tell 26 of them to go away.
5. Within 0.00000000001 millisecond of sitting down, the waitress is hovering behind impatiently.
6. In impeccable Mandarin, ask for a menu. Repeat angrily when waitress giggles, looks away, and shouts to her colleagues that she doesn’t understand English.
7. Tell waitress you don’t want the most expensive items she is pointing to on the menu.
8. Tell the waitress to bring you a beer while waiting. When it arrives, send it back and ask for a cold one.
9. Send back the second bottle of warm beer that arrives, as well as the bucket of grey dubious ice that accompanies it. Ask for a different brand of beer that is refrigerated.
10. When the waitress asks if you would like to drink the beer opened or unopened, ask her to open it.
11. Choose meal.
12. Choose different meal when told they don’t have it.
13. Repeat stages 10 and 11 about three times.
14. Finally choose something they have and ask them not to put any egg in it.
15. Relax. All the time, a million million eyes are staring at you, spitting, and muttering: “laowailaowailaowailaowailaowai”.
16. When the waitress brings a knife and fork, shock her by saying that you can use chopsticks.
17. After 20 minutes ask what is happening with your meal.
18. After another 20 minutes receive meal, then send it back because it has egg in it.
19. Seven days after you entered the place, finally receive meal.
20. Pick out the stones and pubic hair.
21. Eat.
22. Halfway through your food, have your meal disturbed by the manager insisting on sitting down next to you and asking where you are from and if foreigners eat pork as well.
23. Laduzi break.
24. Ask 7 times for that last remaining dish  that never arrives.
25. Get told that they don’t stock, have never stocked and will never stock the missing last dish that you ordered.
26. Ask to pay the bill, then tell them to check again after they give you the wrong bill.
27. Try to pay for meal by credit card because the sign in the window says that they accept credit card. Get told they don’t accept card.
28. Shout at the cashier till they accept your credit card. Watch as they dig out a dusty old machine from the 1990s, swipe your card through it the wrong way four times, then tell you it is broken. Out of the corner of your eye notice that it isn’t even plugged in.
29. Give up and agree to pay by cash. However, you have no cash. Naturally there is no ATM nearby either so you have to leave your iPhone as a deposit while you walk 30 minutes to the nearest ATM and back.
30. Present cash.
31. Waitress asks if you have the correct change which you do not. Wait another 15 minutes while she goes down the street to find change.
32. Leave when 16 waitresses shout “谢谢光临” at you. Waitress 17 will shout “Bye bye!” instead and everybody will find it hilarious.
33. Realise later that all the change given to you is counterfeit.
34. Burn the place down. Then shit through the eye of a needle for two days afterwards.
35. Point 35? There is none. Just like this article.

OR

Method Two:

1. Walk into McDonalds/KFC.
2. Point at what you want.
3. Eat and get the hell out.

HOWEVER!!! The times they are a changin’. Due to the most unharmonious decision by the UN against China in the South China Sea ruling, KFC is no longer the safe place to eat that it once was.

boycott

Hence, I am forced to add a fourth bullet point to Method Two which is:

  • Bring a weapon.

These gentlemen below have followed Meursault’s guide to eating in Chinese restaurants and they’re safe, happy, and most importantly, well fed.

The Further Erotic Adventures of Xi Jinping

If you enjoyed our previous instalment of erotic mishaps featuring the lovable Xi Jinping, then I have a treat for you: here’s another one. This one is entitled “The Chairman and The Tailor”.

xifist
Reporters without borders… and country leaders without SEXUAL borders! Phwoar!

 

Xi Jinping, leader of the world’s largest (and some say – best) Communist Party had a little known secret: he always felt uncomfortable unless he was wearing a windbreaker jacket or just stark bollock naked. Hence, it was with some trepidation when he walked into the Wangfujing branch of Uniqlo. He needed a new jacket for a global meeting on carbon emissions he was speaking at and he wanted to make sure that he looked the fucking shit. Last time, the Prime Minister of Japan had upstaged him with a strapless manbag and Lacoste belt. It would not happen again.

“If you could slip out of your jacket, Mr Xiaoping” entoned the fay shop assistant. “We’ll let you try some of the new stock on” “It’s Jinping” said Xi Jinping as his laugh filled the cluttered shop like an arsehole on creampie.com.

Xi Jinping threw aside the windbreaker and unbuckled his $$$888RICHBOSS888$$$ brand belt letting his trousers fall. The fabric rushed past his polished four-incher leaving him standing naked. The rarefied air of the clothes shop brushed against his black and curlies like a fart in a spacesuit and for a moment he felt like a yellow Messiah.

“Miss Rainy will measure you up” said the shop assistant as he disappeared out back to masturbate and cry.

Rainy strolled into the room and immediately Xi Jinping felt a twinge in his government organ. She was wearing a little black dress which he knew concealed a fantastic pair of tits and almost certainly a cunt so tight it ate at Dicos.

“Just relax, Sir, while I measure your inside leg” she said with a Hunanese accent richer than a Guinness fuelled laduzi session. As Xi Jinping felt the cold metal of the tape measure climb up his leg, he could feel his Party Member fill with blood quicker than a tampon on the first day.

Before he knew it, Miss Rainy was rubbing his growing concern like a FOB Tim swiping his CoolPad and wondering why he can’t find any Pokemon Go in Hohhot. She pulled apart her dress to expose her smooth white skin, epic boobs and a fanny more hairy than the floor of a busy barber shop at closing time. She had a 5/8 manjaw. “What a shame she isn’t flatter,” sighed Xi.

He ploughed into her like a K Train and plunged his now diamond hard cock into her like he was staking Dracula. Within hours it was over, Miss Rainy a useless pile of tit, minge and spunk and Xi Jinping panting and sweating like a multiple rapist.

Xi Jinping rolled up his massive cock and pulled on his windbreaker. “What about the new jacket, Mr President?” breathed Rainy.

“Fuck it. I’ll wear me old windbreaker. Do you know the President of the US is a black man?” roared Xi as he bent down over her bloodless torso, whispered “Harmony” in her ear and patted her on the fanny.

The End

***

If you enjoyed this post you may also enjoy my book Party Members – a dark comic fantasy that exposes the corrupt underbelly of modern China.

Party Members now available for pre-order!

(Cue patriotic music and images of fluttering red flags…)

Arise! All who refuse to be slaves!

Let our flesh and blood become our new Great Wall!

As the nation faces its greatest peril,

The release of Arthur Meursault’s Party Members!

Yes! Just one week after the UN’s ruling against China’s actions in the South China Sea, I am dealing Zhongnanhai a second blow by announcing that the ebook of Party Members is finally available for pre-order. It is now featured on Amazon and during the pre-order stage is available for the special “God Bless Manila” pre-order price of $2.99.

The normal ebook price will be $5.99, so hurry hurry hurry to get that delicious three dollar discount. Just think what you could do with the savings. Three dollars in China could buy you:

  • TWO bottles of Erguotou!
  • A Big Mac from American imperialist dogs McDonalds!
  • Entrance to a recently renovated Daoist temple in a tier-3 city!
  • Twenty bus rides!
  • Three bottles of Tsingtao beer!
  • Three packets of deadly iron-laced local brand cigarettes!
  • A handjob from a 40+ woman (Ningxia and Guizhou ONLY)!
  • Cancer!

Thanks, and Mao bless.

***

If you enjoyed this post you may also enjoy my book Party Members – a dark comic fantasy that exposes the corrupt underbelly of modern China.

A look at Badiucao’s art for Party Members

As I’m sure you’re all very excited about, my book Party Members will be released in a few weeks time. It promises to be the best China-related book since Xi Jinping’s blockbuster On The Governance of China.

During the publication process, both myself and my publisher Camphor Press toyed around with a few ideas for the book to make it as eye-grabbing as possible. The end product is done by the extremely talented dissident Chinese artist Badiucao who is a virtual one-man factory of fantastic anti-CCP  artwork. However, before we got to the final cover, we had a few interesting ideas that I’m going to share with you now.

One important thing to note about Party Members before looking at these covers, is that penises play a large part of the story. That’s right: penises. Without giving too much away, the main character Yang Wei goes through some interesting adventures with his penis and so the covers are meant to reflect that.

The first cover attempt – which was a photoshop knock-up done by myself – is still my personal favourite because of its subtlety. It features the seal of the People’s Republic of China but with one cheeky alteration done to the Tiananmen Gate.

Yang Wei Cover Idea Tiananmen

If you look carefully, the middle entrance of the Tiananmen Gate has been made to look like a cock. I loved the simple red and yellow motif of this cover, but we ultimately rejected it because it made the book look too political rather than a work of fiction. The cover made it look more like Richard McGregor’s The Party rather than Arthur Meursault’s Party Members.

It was then that I tried my hand at drawing a draft of a cover design by hand. I’m a mediocre artist at best as evidenced by my attempts on this very blog, and heavily influenced by the British comics I read as a kid like The Beano and (in later life) Viz. This effort was done with a thin marker pen and contains a lot of the themes found within Party Members. You’ll also notice that the penis shadow behind Yang Wei is a total rip-off from the famous Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vadar shadow from The Phantom Menace.

YW cartoon cover

anakin

 

The above cover was fun and was actually my first attempt at drawing Yang Wei. By his feet is a bucket of KFC and a crate of F-Max which are both common motifs within the book.

I had a couple of more attempts along this line. I thought of having Yang Wei sat in front of a dystopian polluted cityscape with his cock-like shadow hanging over the ruined skyscrapers behind him. However, that proved too much for my drawing ability so I used photos instead for the background. Here are three attempts I did with paper cut outs of Yang Wei imposed over photos of urban decay. The buildings in the first photo are actually made from mouldy bread believe it or not.

YW Bread 1YW Bread 2YW Bread 3

After taking a look at some of my drawing efforts, mercifully my publisher decided to get a proper artist on board. Badiucao was given a brief of what we were looking for. After discussion, we decided to go for images that hinted at the content of the book rather than showing it explicitly. We asked Badiucao to come up with some ideas that highlighted the greed and corruption so prevalent within the Chinese Communist Party. Badiucao came back with these images of 1989 Tiananmen Square style tanks but with the turrets removed and replaced with rubber stamps, cash and sexy legs to demonstrate the abuse of power, money and sex. We played around with these images a lot too, trying them out in different volumes.

Stamp TankMoney TankLegs Tank

The rubber stamp tank was a little unclear to readers unfamiliar with Asia in my opinion. I love the “Tank Man” in the pictures below. I suggested to try one where the Tank Man could be bent over and a tank with a huge dildo on its turret could be about to ram him from behind, but thankfully I was overuled.

3 tanksMany tanks coverMany many tanks cover

That last one is just so monstrous. I love it.

We didn’t go for these pictures in the end, though the legs tank is going to be used still on the back cover. After the tanks we tossed around the idea of combining the image of Chairman Mao and a trouser zipper. This was the result. It still gives me nightmares.

Mao Fly Face

We all agreed that the fly-Mao was a bit too creepy, which is when we finalised on instead having the good Chairman perhaps pop out of a trouser zipper instead (the reasons for this will become clear if you read the book). Badiucao was on the case and here was his first attempt. In case you are wondering what the object in Mao’s left hand is, it’s a drumstick of KFC chicken.

KFC cover real Mao face

There was something not quite right though. Mao looked too formal, too statesmanlike for what I was wanting to achieve. We wanted Mao to look more crazed and terrifying than his standard portrait. Voila!

Non KFC cover

We were almost there: we all loved the image of Mao poking out of the trousers, and the use of seal script to display the book’s title. All that was missing was to put the KFC back in.

img_3069

Badiucao is a truly talented artist and I do recommend anyone reading this to  check out some of his artwork. He also writes on Twitter and is well worth following.

***

If you enjoyed this post you may also enjoy my book Party Members – a dark comic fantasy that exposes the corrupt underbelly of modern China.

 

Yang Wei #17: The Adventures of Mr 9-Dash Line!

Hi kids!

Sometimes I’m accused of being too crude on this blog, so it’s time to address that outrageous lie.

As China concentrates all efforts on asserting its ancient rights over the entire Eastern hemisphere, they need to combine soft power with hard power. Tanks and missiles can set Manila aflame, but only love and humour can win hearts and minds. That’s why I want to help China to make their 9-Dash Line more personable during these troubled times. To thank China for everything it has given me (namely, two letters of the hepatitis alphabet and a drinking problem), I wish to give something back. I will do my bit to push China’s case forward.

So, without further ado, one for the kids. Gather your children around the screen and let’s zoom in on China’s new lovable cartoon character – Mr 9-Dash Line! Yay!

(Yang Wei can’t make it for today’s instalment of his cartoon as he’s busy smashing up a KFC. He sends his apologies.)

img_3130img_3131

Fantastic.

Here’s another little sketch I did when I was doodling at work whilst pretending to hit my Q3 sales targets…

Mr 9 Dash Line