"____________ is a strange animal. You never know how people are going to react to it. So I think it throws a wrench."
Fill in the blank, and also note who said it and where, as in this sample: A drunken monkey, said Jane Goodall at some disreputable monkey repair shop.
Send your answer by 6 p.m. ET Thursday to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Monday's Question (No. 428)—"Best Stressed List":
Like other liberal intellectual activities in China, Princeton's prestigious language program is in jeopardy, and its director, Professor C.P. Chou, knows why: "I think it definitely has something to do with President Jiang's Three Stresses campaign." Name the three stresses.
"Being compared to Harvard, being compared to Yale, Peter Singer."—Daniel Radosh
"This is Calista Flockhart's pet name for breakfast, lunch, and dinner."—Pete Miesel
"Nancy Pelosi, Pat Buchanan, and Tom DeLay. (One of each party—and gender!)"—Greg Diamond
"Prostate cancer, prostate cancer, prostate cancer. 'Is a bitch,' Mr. Jiang did not add at a press conference he did not hold."—Beth Sherman
"I know I know the answer but I'm too anxious to focus. At least that's what my therapist says."—Katha Pollitt
Click for more answers.
The most frequent unrun responses played with Chinese food. (Insert joke about not playing with your food.) A few made reference to the dubious military record of Gen. Tso and his famous chicken. (Insert joke about possible carnal relationship between the two and how this might impair Gen. Tso's battlefield performance. And that of the chicken.) Some found fortune cookies an amusing culinary development. (Irish joke? Potato with a note inside warning of an impending explosion?) Others observed an unusual style of menu where, for a fixed price, one might select entrees from a list arranged in columns delineated by the letters A and B. (Insert joke about this restaurant's being in a time-warp where it's perpetually 1961.) I recall a nice twist on this sort of thing in Mad magazine circa 1961 (same year as the previous parenthetical!): "Two Chinese Guys in an American Restaurant." (How they struggled over the pronunciation of bay-gone and a ay-guh-zuh! The waiters found it difficult to conceal their amusement, and yet they hoped for a decent tip.) A more recent, and more caustic, version of the Chinese-food gag runs through Timothy Mo's wonderful novel Sour Sweet, where a family of Chinese immigrants, newly arrived in London, opens a restaurant selling "lup sup—garbage food for pink-faced foreign devils." It's nice to see the joke told from the other point of view for a change. You know: the POV of Gen. Tso's former chicken. (Insert funny concluding remark. Funnier than the chicken thing.)
Modern Mao Answer
President Jiang's "three stresses" are politics, study, probity.
He seems to mean "stress" in the sense of emphasis, not in the sense of emotional pressures that send a guy running to his therapist pleading for a renewed prescription for Prozac. For a friend.
The 9-year-old language program has recently been criticized for "infiltrating American ideology into Chinese language teaching" by using materials that sometimes present China in a less than ideal light. Class readings had mentioned the rude behavior of Chinese soccer fans and Chinese drivers' reluctance to yield to pedestrians.
"I was caught totally by surprise," said Professor Chou. "When I got the news, I was just teaching the students to say, 'Politics, study, and probity suck!' but I guess that's off the syllabus now," he did not add.
Charley Glassenberg's Correction Extra
"A minion to satisfy Philip Weiss—and—Judith Shulevitz."—Adam Bonin, in answer to Friday's quiz question.
I am almost certain that my friend Adam Bonin wrote "minyan" and not "minion," although frankly neither one makes a hell of a lot of sense. As printed, it seems vaguely lewd, but perhaps it does the other way as well. The usage would vary as follows:
"We're short a minyan. Someone go get Fischl Lowenstein so that we might have a quorum for Jewish worship."
"We're short a minion. Someone go get Fischl Lowenstein so that we might have a lackey to do our bidding."
"Yes, indeed, I said 'minyan.' Must've been that 'virus' thing to mess it up or something."—Adam Bonin
The blame goes to me, that damn Protestant spell-checker.—Ed.
Andy Aaron's Ecology Extra
Lynn Scarlett, a Bush fan, wrote on yesterday's New York Times op-ed page: "[C]ritics have attacked Mr. Bush's record, too, brandishing air quality statistics which show that Texas ranks worst among states in total tons of air pollution. ... There are two reasons why emissions in Texas are high. First, the state is large ..."
That's it. I'm moving to Rhode Island.
This intriguing announcement appears right on the envelope of a letter I received Monday, May 8: "A special message from Cardinal O'Connor …" Special, indeed.
There was no postmark. Where do you suppose he mailed it?
Simply Selena Extra
With her bottomless bag of metaphors and her imperviousness to shame, Selena Roberts, who covers the Knicks for the New York Times, has become the top practitioner of whatever it is she practices. If only Rick Bragg were alive to read her. Consider:
"As the leading men flinched under the hovering Heat, Charlie Ward's skin seemed made of steel fibers more than flesh each time he drove fearlessly into the concrete physique of Alonzo Mourning."
And the Heat center's hovering is even more impressive when you consider that he's made of all that heavy concrete.—Ed.
Bowling Ongoing Extra
In our decadent era, technological changes have inflated bowling scores as badly as Harvard report cards. Participants are invited to devise changes to the game that will restore bowling's challenge, for instance:
- Competing bowlers stand at each end of a single lane, simultaneously roll balls toward pins in the middle.
- Body of New York's late Cardinal John O'Connor lies in state in middle of lane. If you hit it, 10-point penalty and you burn in hell for all eternity.
Responses to run Friday.