Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Dipatches from the medical front

My immersion the VA system has its bright sides. Most of the female staff with the exception of the Asian Indian staffers speak somewhat like they're out of "Fargo" typecasting and are as relentlessly cheerful.

Two incidents today gave me some grim joy. The first was an elderly cranky guy with a prostate procedure on the books who wanted reassurance that he wouldn't be immobilized for longer that 24 hours because he was in charge of NASA and the Federal Security Agnecy -- both of which he had originally "established." He was reassured that his duties would be covered before being wheeled off to lahlah land, but not before good naturedly warning a nurse who greeted him, "Hands off, toots! I'm spoken for."

The second came after I was being discharged for a test (negative) to see if my colon tumor was "communicating" with the bladder. "What are they talking about?" I asked the surgeon. "Invading Poland?" Apparently not and as the nurse was giving me my discharge orders she noted "No sex for 24 hours" No problem, I thought. A strange distant concpt anyway, this "sex."

Free Ai Weiwei and Wen Tao

Most of you outside China readers have never heard of Ai Weiwei, but he’s an “activist” of sorts and artist and cat and animal protection force who was recently detained while trying to board a flight to Hong Kong to Taiwan on April 1 for unspecified “incomplete departure procedures” and hasn’t been heard from since.

As a snide and largely incoherent editorial in my former employer Global Times tried to point out: “Ai Weiwei likes to do something "others dare not do." He has been close to the red line of Chinese law. Objectively speaking, Chinese society does not have much experience in dealing with such persons. However, as long as Ai Weiwei continuously marches forward, he will inevitably touch the red line one day.”

I guess he has, though no specifics have been revealed to date. It is troubling and mysterious in more than several ways. He is an older, large plump man with a full head of grey hair and respectable beard, easily recognizable which is why as he was being squired through the Global Times newsroom by the assistant managing editor, a rat phlegm-brained self-serving cretin with at least one in-house mistress who worships at the altar of GQ, several of us foreigners stopped to make a point of meeting and greeting Ai Weiwei, a wry wise, and pragmatic man, some to have photos taken with him.
I stuck with simple conversation, thanking him for coming and asking him what he thought of GT. “I like the youthful energy,” he said. “Many youth, but we need more experience,” I replied. And then we made a bet on which one of us is older and he was swept away by Mr GQ.

Why he was there remains a mystery and where he is now is a larger one. To further complicate the mystery, a former GT reporter fired for tweeting excerpts of a staff meeting and who has gone on to become an assistant to Ai Weiwei has also been snatched. His name is Wen Tao. For a full gist of the “official” take on Ai Weiwei check this out And if you’re googling him in China I guess you already know what my freelance journo friend D said, “everytime I input his name my computer behaves like its got a hedgehog in its innards.”