For whatever reason, Astrill was not working for many people this morning. I would love to tell you why, but using the specifically “Chinese internet” for that sort of thing is like trying to put on shoes made of cake. That hyperlink above is to My Little Pony fan fiction, which is, I’m sure you’re aching to know, one of the sites not blocked in China. It feels like being chained inside a hazmat suit at an orgy. But, due to peculiarities of the law, you’re not allowed to hunt the intellectual troll bastards responsible like dogs in the street and then execute them in front of their weeping family members as you laugh maniacally. The law can be fickle. So, here are some tips for dealing with those moments when you are forced to live in Sino-cyberspace through no fault of your own.

Accept LinkedIn requests that have been building up

LinkedIn is pretty much the only major international social networking site that hasn’t been shuttered by the Chinese authorities. Unknown to outsiders, pictures of people’s kids and cats might damage the social structure of the Middle Kingdom or hurt the feelings of the Chinese people. In fact, LinkedIn are quite keen to block content themselves to get some of that sweet, sweet RMB. Go ahead, it’s not like the people on LinkedIn are of any use. Still, you can collect them all—like Pokemon. Why am I doing this for what is basically a glorified rolodex? Because it’s kind of social media? I don’t even know anymore.

Blocked newspaper roulette

Is that newspaper blocked in China yet? There’s only one way to find out: stretch your internet legs (your fingers) and type the name of newspapers you know into the address bar. If it works, shout ‘hooray’. Lean back. Set to simmer. Stew.

Look at cached images of Facebook on your phone

The internet authorities in China can ruin a lot of things; they are the Nicolas Cage of information. But not even they can ruin the past. No, cyberspace sovereignty TARDISes (TARDI?) are thankfully not that advanced yet, so sit and look at all the things your friends did yesterday.

Look at maps of places that don’t block Twitter, Facebook, et al.

Hint: It’s a globe. It’s just a globe.

Decide whether Yahoo or Bing is a better option for searches

Oh god, the humanity. This is degrading.

Send hate-mail to Bing

So, Google isn’t working, and you’re forced to use Bing like some sort of elderly peasant who doesn’t know any better. Find a way to annoy them. I’d say you could do that for Baidu, but I honestly feel bad for them.

Use English-language image searches in Baidu to see what weird stuff pops up

It’s getting better, but it ain’t geared toward English. I once tried searching for “Ferrari” and got an image of a skeleton with a sword as a top-ten entry. Try some Baidu image roulette. I know we already talked about roulette, but once your VPN is gone, everythingonline is now roulette.

Call your VPN provider incessantly weeping until they fix the problem

Chances are, this isn’t your VPN’s fault. They do a difficult and demanding job that lets you get onto the Amnesty International website when you need to. Still, though. Please, please, please help. I used Bing, people. Bing. Think about what you could have done to make this happen. Did you change some settings? Are they targeting you? Did you get cursed by a gypsy? All of these are possibilities.

Is Weibo still a thing?

If Weibo is still a thing, do some, I don’t know, Weibo-ing.

Drink heavily until your VPN comes back on

Whdju meen I cin’t get on ma gmail. yur tha one can’t git on gmail. jerk. Whut’re ya evn talckin bout? M sorry. I love you guise. hangonasec. U heer tht? Uhear tht? THat’s ma JAM!


In conclusion, My Little Pony fan fiction isn’t very good.

The grammatical case for gun control

The carrion call of every mass shooting seems to be, “America needs less guns.” As woeful pictures of wild-haired psychopaths appear next to live video of children’s blood running into the sewers and being sprayed from concrete with hoses, one’s heart strings are tugged and sick rises in the throat. Surely, it is: “America needs fewer guns.”

But, is that the case? America has so many guns that speaking of them collectively may call for the use of the “less” rather than “fewer.” We, for example, say we want less sugar, not fewer sugar. Well in the case of American guns, there are more than 300,000,000 of them in private hands, however, there are only around 1,000,000 granules of sugar in a two pound bag.

Now, according to a quick search on, there are more people named “Brian” in the United States than sugar granules in a two pound bag of sugar, presumably all armed. These Brians all have identities, but if one were to call on the death of those called Brian, one might say, “We need fewer Brians taking our jobs,” or “There need to be less Brians clogging up the immigration system.” Both, in their own way, are correct, though obviously “fewer” sounds more pleasing to the ear.

On the one arm that has the right to bear, I am a West Virginian by birth and casually sported human murdering machines as an act of willful, childish joy in my moonshine-drinking youth. On the other arm that does not have the right to bear, I don’t live in America and you all look very silly indeed.

I tire of my nationally diverse group of friends turning to me for answers when large mass shootings take place. Their countries, which don’t have any delicious freedom because they don’t have many guns in the hands of people named Brian, for whatever reason, don’t have regular mass shootings. Many of them, some not native English speakers, are appalled by the use of “less” rather than “fewer.” And also all of those dead kids, but I think mainly it’s the grammar thing.

Currently, I make my home in the totalitarian pseudo-communist state of China that, for all of its disgusting air and buggering of human rights, has the singular benefit of a complete lack in odds of getting shot. If the mood suited me to be perforated by even the police, I would have to commit some sort of act of domestic terrorism—or be a Uighur Muslim, or a Tibetan, or, frankly, just some guy who has an opinion. My chances of being shot by an armed civilian are practically zero. I posit, therefore, that the reason there are so few gun deaths in China is because their use of fewer, or少, is interchangeable with less, which in its adverb form is also 少 and is otherwise 减. Without this confusion, we can all live in peace.

The ultimate question regarding how to describe children who are gunned down in the street by any one of the million people named Brian is whether or not we view the actions happening from the weapons to be essentially individual or uniform. For individual, we must use fewer; for uniform, we must use less. Perhaps, someday, America will rise to the call of having fewer guns—guns that can be identified individually and by name due to their rarity. But, today, we must hang our heads and declare with one voice, no matter how awkward it sounds, “America needs less guns.”



Smack the Pain Away

After discovering the practices and sins of one Xiao Hongchi (Christened Xiao Hongcai) on a seven month old death of a seven year old, I penned this piece for my magazine, The World of Chinese.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015 | BY:

Traditional Chinese Medicine—which for the sake of balance we’ll say may or may not be a rank collection of superstitions perpetrated by occasionally well-meaning fatuous egotists—has many quirks, from eating pangolins to urine drinking. And, TWOC has hereto been happy to share some of the more uncommon eccentricities of this kindergarten art of healing with its readers, based as they are on the original medical advice of people who didn’t know the earth goes around the sun. However, even in the strange annals of TCM, there are some standouts, and such is the case of Xiao Hongchi and his slapping therapy.

Xiao Hongchi bases his practice of TCM on Paida and Lajin (slapping and stretching) in which a person is slapped to relieve them of their “sha”, which I can only deduce from context clues means “money”. You might have seen a form of mild paida; old dama on the street lightly tapping their shoulders and thighs. But Xiao’s therapy leaves bruises. The BBC had a rather interesting piece on slap therapy, in which Pamela Koh went to some slapping/beating treatment where she was caned with bamboo in the knee to relieve her of likely nonexistent clots (note: bruises on the knee cause blood clots) until she begged her “healer” to stop.

In fact, if you’re not bruised, you’re not doing it right. A patient, or rather client, is slapped and smacked to bring out bruises on their skin in a tradition not that far from cupping and scraping—which, once again for balance, are both either a valid form of medication or a load of old bollocks. The bruises show that toxins are being removed from the body. And it’s all funny and strange, and everyone, including Xinhua (who called Xiao a “quack” in 2012), had a good chuckle. That is, until a kid died.

In April of 2015, a child with Type 1 diabetes, Aidan Fenton, in Sydney’s Hurstville area died at Xiao Hongchi’s week-long slap therapy seminar ($1,800). To be fair, Xiao’s real-and-not-at-all-made-up therapy wasn’t necessarily directly to blame; he was, however, questioned by police, and, before he left Australia, it was suggested that his advice may have included the cessation of the child’s insulin or Xiao’s oft-recommended three days of fasting. All that can truly be said is that a seven-year-old child with diabetes was at a seminar where he was told to hit himself and starve.

Xiao released a statement on his Facebook page regarding the incident: “Even before the police have concluded their investigation, the media has used inflammatory terms such as ‘killer’ or ‘con man’.” In this, Xiao is right. He can not be called a killer. But con man? Certainly.

For the sake of clarity, Xiao readily states on his website and everywhere else that he is not a doctor. No, no one thought that. Doctors don’t wear changshan to work. Of course, you might presume he is a wise old man who has studied TCM for a lifetime—if by lifetime you mean the past couple of years. He only stopped being an investment banker at the ripe old age of 44, a profession known for being entirely spiritual in nature. Two years after giving up his far more respectable day job (note: sarcasm), he wrote a book which became a best-seller. The book, The World of Medicine: The Paida Lajin Self-Healing Method, became a best-seller because the world is a horrible place.

The currently un-incarcerated Xiao Hongchi, is still the world-leading expert in slap therapy, and the website comes complete with his number in Beijing and the 11 other countries in which his organization does business. It must be said, Xiao Hongchi is certainly the world’s leading expert in paida. He kind of has to be. He made it up.

After the death of Aidan Fenton, Australia’s The Daily Telegraph contacted TCM experts for their opinion on Xiao’s methods: Judy James of the Asian Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Association (which I won’t get into right now) said, “Hitting a person all over their body until they are bruised is something that I have never heard of”; the Australian Traditional Medicine Society director commented: “It’s not a real therapy”; in the previously mentioned article from Xinhua, Ma Kejian, director of the research institute of traditional Chinese medicine in Yunnan Province had heard of it, but said, “Although TCM includes slap therapy, the healing effects are limited, and it isn’t suitable for anybody.” Even in a world of demented rubbish, this theory strikes many as implausible.

In 2011, Xiao was found in violation of certain folk remedy laws in Taiwan, attempting to pass off his brand of voodoo/abuse as real medicine—specifically that slapping oneself could cure diabetes in seven days—for which he was fined around $1,600 and given seven days to leave the country. He also told two people on Taiwan TV that they should “shut up” if they hadn’t tried paida in a fierce debate about his objectively rubbish healing techniques.

Xiao is always quick to point out that his methods are not medicine, rather a self-healing exercise. It’s neither. He has said several times in several countries that his practices heal everything from diabetes to liver cancer. Relatives of a liver cancer patient in Beijing in 2011 reported Xiao to the authorities after their relative spent more than 20,000 RMB on Xiao’s therapy and died three months later. Xiao also (and this is not a sentence I ever thought I’d write) recommends that children with autism have group slapping games, and his website abounds with stories of parents slapping their children (including infants) to cure their stomach flu and fevers.

So, why him? Why dredge up the death of a child seven months ago to rage at one con artist? Because he’s winning.

He’s traveled the world with this shtick—Scotland, Germany, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Chinese talk shows, India, Malaysia, Switzerland—assaulting the globe with his odd brand of complete hokum. He has several publications, best-selling books, gets invited to speak at alternative medicine galas, sells special stretching benches, and his clinics are often sold out. Hell, you can even go to his Tmall shop to buy bendable sticks shaped like hands to slap yourself (note: the arm is already a bendable stick with a hand on it with which you can slap yourself). And, what’s more, it has staying power for the gullible. Even after the death of Aidan Fenton, one Australian man spoke highly of the practice, saying that it worked for his back pain even though he didn’t understand the science behind it (none, just, no science—no science is how much science is behind it).

My blood pressure is pleased to report that Xiao Hongchi could not be reached for comment, as he is busy plying his claptrap to the people of Hong Kong this week (10,800HKD for a seven-day seminar).

One might be expected at this point to recommend the services of only professionally-accredited TCM doctors. I won’t. They’re charlatans. But, they’re well-meaning charlatans…probably. In the case of Xiao, reason suggests that there are three distinct possibilities: he is painfully deluded, he is a monster, or I have entered a Twilight Zonesci-fi realm in which one might literally beat Alzheimer’s disease out of someone.

Open-minded as I am, though, I’m perfectly happy to give it a go. Not on the receiving end, obviously. Like Mr. Xiao, I also live in Beijing and would be perfectly happy to cure his delusions with paida for a very reasonable hourly rate in a session filled with all the slapping he can handle. After all, I have just as many qualifications.

A Hate Opus to the iPhone Cord

Cords conduct electricity, information, or, I don’t know, milk from one electronic device to another without breaking for years, possibly decades. Apple calls it the “lightning cable,” which it is not—either in the case of coming from the sky or conducting electricity.

While I may not know much about electronics, or design, or electricity, or why everyone who loves me keeps dying and leaving me, I do know about cords. I know about cords because, like everyone, there is a box in my house full of the bastards. And, though I don’t know what most of them do, if I do indeed locate the plug-in dildo or whiskey soiled laptop to which they belong, they will work. Thus, it is no longer the iPhone cord (and certainly not a lightning cable).

It frays, it stops working, and experiences death throes in which you must bend it into a Gordian knot, just so that you can poop and read the news on your phone while you cry in the office toilet. I shall therefore be calling the iPhone lightning cable a non-lightning rope.

My problem goes even further. In China, I can easily buy a knock-off iPun or IPhern cord, but the problem is that the Chinese have copied it exactly, convinced somehow that Westerners enjoy being electrocuted by subpar, shoddily-made, widow-maker cords. It’s retro.

That said, I could go to the iPhone store to the “Genius Bar” (a term I’m not going to get into right now). If my phone were still under warranty, they would replace it. That would, however, entail me having to put up with them in their smug little shirts and walk past grinning, mewling Apple lovers fawning over the company’s most recent internet rectangle without putting my hand inside them up to the shoulder and tugging on their rib cage like a chimp reaching behind a sofa for a remote.

Given the state of these horrible non-lightning ropes, one should be able to walk into an Apple store and grab a handful from a tray like mints.

So, this brings me to what to do with your broken non-lightning ropes. Even as rope goes, it’s pretty crap. With a tensile strength of pasta al dente, you certainly can’t use it for sailing or…other rope things. BDSM, I suppose, but do you really want to trust your sexual ecstasy to Apple? They’d only figure out a way to charge you for it. You could go all third world chic and fashion a necklace out of it, but again, it would break after a week or two.

I suggest thusly the only use for the non-lightning rope is to gather all of the broken ones together, braid them for strength, put them around Tim Cook’s throat, and strangle him. As he looks up at you, his silver fox hair quivering as blood floods his eyes, begging you not to end his tenure as an observer of our beautiful universe, you can comment how “cool” it looks before tightening your fingers and squishing out the oxygen to his head just long enough for him to go brain dead.

Or, Samsung. You could get a Samsung.

Welcome to SpaceBook: The Pitch

Jonah Bumgardner’s discovery of a social network linking all sentient life in the cosmos is ruining his entire week. Teaming up with a gun-toting hillbilly and a sex-mad spy, Jonah fights Earth’s superpowers to spread the combined scientific knowledge of the cosmos to the human race—along with a frankly disconcerting amount of selfies and extraterrestrial pornography.

Their greatest ally is the immortal zombie lizard creature Dasha, a SpaceBook Customer Service Representative who can operate a subatomic particle at near the speed of light, which, it turns out, is really not that useful. Driven by greed and a shared passion for not being shot in the head by government agents, Jonah’s crew embark on an around-the-world journey to finish the log-in and open earth up to the universe. Are we ready for their science? Are they ready for our pictures of food?

Welcome to SpaceBook is aggressive, innovative fiction for readers who want more than pastiche in their sci-fi comedy, an attempt to marry the absurd emotional complexities of Christopher Moore with the rakish humor of David Wong in a mature, stimulating environment. The novel skews away from time-specific satire to keep the content current for years to come. As science fiction moves away from space operas and alien invasions, readers find themselves asking, “Yes, teleporters are interesting, but can I look at pictures of cats on them?”

Writing Platform: Because Literary Agents are Lazy

Ill-advised as it may logically be, various literary advice websites—or, as I like to call them, shite-hawk feeding frenzies—suggest that all writers have a platform before they publish their books. Now, you may be thinking, “Isn’t that the job of a literary agent?” No, you fool. It definitely sounds like it should be their job, but the ivy-league, self-important, work-shy gits have outsourced their singular responsibility to those who, by all rights, should hate doing this sort of thing.

So, as I wander around the internet trying to flog my new novel Welcome to SpaceBook to spoiled 28-year-olds with names like Mimsy Flortibute-Yamberplottom IV, it has become necessary for me to pay $150 of hard-won currency to create a website. The website has been created. I hope you’re happy. Nothing says creative writer like choosing a predetermined website format from a list.

Let’s face it, if I liked talking and interacting with people, I wouldn’t have written a book. I would be gallivanting about on Reddit or, god help me, Twitter, sharing pictures of cats stuck in boxes with a miniature pig. I don’t have anything against that. No, that would be adorable. However, in the wide litany of personality traits, someone who sits down and writes 100,000 words for fun might not enjoy the tedious boob-minded boobery that goes along with sharing, posting, tweeting, and, I don’t know, excreting that sort of vacuous, time-wasting bollocks in the hope that some passing commenter might give them a smiley face or a kind word.

This brings me inexorably, dear reader, to the point at hand. I want to flog a book. I finished it about a week ago, and now I guess I will pour my problems of publishing it out on the internet like a woman who can’t find anything in her purse (only the purse is full of bees). This is the internet. I could literally, literally, type anything here. Writing on the internet requires no qualifications. I could be a Nazi. Hell, I could be a time-traveling horse archer from Ghengis Khan’s hordes. But I’m not. Just trying to publish a book in an industry filled with toffee-nosed posh twits who are really into Young Adult Romance – like, to the point I think someone should be notified. Seriously, some of these guys are 40 and their clients write books about cheer-leading practice.