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Podcast 2019
Middle Kingdom Podcasts (2005-2017)

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Entries in graft (3)


article 301

“In summation your honor,” said a defensive attorney from the Land of Smirking Tomatoes, “my client is innocent of all responsibility. We rest our case.”

“Your discovery evidence in Article 301 is weak and inconclusive,” said the Turkish judge hiding Graft behind his back. “Your motion for acquittal and adjudication is forthwith dead and denied.”

“May I change my plea your honor? May I resume my please bargaining and negotiating hardball tactics on behalf of free speech? May I speak without fear of insulting the state, dead hee-haw headless horsemen heroes, fundamentalism in the form of religious heroin addiction and so forth?”

“File a brief, size small with elasticity.”

"Turkey has imprisoned more journalists than Iran and China,” said Zeynep, a five-year old historian. “Free speech here is a theory." 

“Do you need twenty-eight vanities of olives? Maybe a broom?" said a wage slave on his knees in Trabzon.

NYT article here.


blind music

Once upon a story lived a tribe of kids. They laughed and played all day.

Poor ones collected cardboard and plastic water bottles along a red dirt road.

Kids with money went to school.

A blind man played his flute on the street. Memory answered as notes disppeared into the void.

A bird whistled. Poetic interpretation. 

A man without hands, a landmine survivor, blind in one eye stood near a cafe. His one eye smiled, he nodded his head, thank you after a well dressed man gave him money.

The rich man smoked a cigarette as friends discussed new business opportunities. They invested drug and prostitution profits in new glass and brass tourist hotels.

We have to put the money somewhere, said the rich man.

Yeah, said another man, we can't put it where our mouth is.

You can say that again, said his friend, giving a beggar child old notes.


Small paper gifts open doors

Settling into the flow of the street, city, parks, lakes, and people. It's a joy.

Irony of remembering arriving about a year ago in Jakarta from Turkey. How, during the long flight I studied packaging, how plastic wrap and tin foiled meals are air tight and require a degree in engineering to open them without spilling the contents everywhere.

Miles of tourists waited to have their passports stamped so they could get to Balinese temples, massage parlors and blue-green waves of laughter along some forgotten coast. Where palm oil plantation owners destroy the rain forest so women have sweet facial cosmetics. Where poor farmers kill elephants with poison laced pineapples for the black market ivory trade. Where people spend more time looking back than forward.

How the young immigration man asked me, "Do you have a return ticket?"


"Come with me." He led me to a desk where he talked to another man. My school employer had failed to tell me I needed a return ticket - they assumed I would be stopping in Singapore for a visa but this was never explained. Clearly.

They talked. The man returned. "You need a ticket out." I took my passport from him, opened it and put a $100 note inside. "Will this help?" His eyes brightened, meaning yes. Money talks.

He returned to the box office, whispered to a colleague stamping tired expectant tourist faces and led me down the hall toward immigration officials. We passed rows of people waiting for their final turn at Stamp Entry Verification Headquarters. He went to an important man sitting in his cubicle staring at a computer. Mr. Big.

"Go through and wait there," he said, pointing to the free zone. He handed my passport to the man, they talked, the official stamped my document and returned it to him. He walked over, handed it to me, smiled and said, "Welcome to Indonesia."

"Thank you for your help. Goodbye."

When I shared this memory with the woman in charge of administration for foreign teachers she smiled, "Yes, that's the way things are done here."

So it goes.