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Peppers

Burn Notice, Now Starring Claude Rains

Two days after my return to Taiwan I accompanied some friends in frolicking around the beach at Fulong where, in a master stroke, I managed to put on too little sunscreen and ended up getting pretty severely sunburnt, a fun treat I hadn’t previously managed since I was in the third grade. (Cathy: “You always make fun of how I say ‘lobster’ and now you are one! Karma’s a bitch!”) The burns were extensive enough that I went to a local clinic to mitigate the pain a bit. This turned out be a local place specializing in burns and other skin ailments. I’m not sure of the full extent of their services because they seemed to respond to just about every patient (yours truly included) by slathering them in a kind of greasy, hot pink medicinal pâté and wrapping the offended tissue in layer after layer of gauze. Their waiting room looked like an open casting call for The Invisible Man. At any rate, the magic health slurry did the trick after several days and I stand now before you a little pinker, a little wiser, but –– gloriously –– alive.

It was a great relief to get back to work on Monday since the previous week had been oozingly spent at home huddled beneath the air conditioner (doctor’s orders). This week’s selection from Gujin is number six, 葛令公生遣弄珠儿 (“Lord Ge Gives Away Pearl Maiden”), in which the titular Lord Ge gives away a beloved concubine to an underling who really likes her and has shown good hustle on the field of battle. This comes as something of a surprise to the Pearl Maiden in question, who thought things were going quite well with Ge, and whom Ge has not bothered to consult with ahead of time. Happily, she and her new husband (who was previously given to staring at her, flies collecting in his open mouth, while he ought to be paying attention to goings on in the court) promptly fall in love and live happily ever. This is just one of the ways in which Gujin is an extremely disjointed collection, in that part of the time women are portrayed with great sympathy and nuance and the other part of the time (as here) they are essentially warm chess pieces with delicate eyebrows. (This is not even attributable to different authorship as GJ 6 and, for example, the much more sympathetic GJ 1 were evidently both written by Feng Menglong himself).

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Peppers

May 2012

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