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Podcast 2019
Middle Kingdom Podcasts (2005-2017)

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A Room in Shanghai


In Chinese cities a local foreigner is surrounded by millions of curious people in crowded living situations, a relic in a poorly maintained zoo. 

Animals are abused and neglected, but that’s beside the point of the doors on family compounds in big Chinese cities made of thick heavy metal. They close at night with a clang on old worn hinges. An adult voice is heard admonishing a child.  

“Get in, the night is here. It is late. You have to fold the clothes. You have your work for school. You have to clean up after dinner. You must study harder. Harder! If you fail your exams we will lose face. You will be an unemployed migrant child wandering lost cities looking for your future.”

The demanding accusatory tone of voice is always an admonishing attitude of voice in the way things exist. Shanghai commands are simple and direct. 

Outside the window heels strike cold hard pavement in darkness. The sharpness belongs to a girl escaping from family going out for the night. Muted voices of an old couple walking through narrow concrete canyons echo as her heels fade.

The elevator door opened on the 11th floor of a five—star business hotel in Shanghai. 

A beautiful young Chinese girl, maybe 20, in a white dress clutching a small black purse stared at a scuffed marble floor. Small puddles of rain water gathered around her shoes.

The American stopped talking to the Indian accountant and looked past him. 

She raised her face from the ground. 

Deep dark brown rings circled old, tired, fearful eyes hiding her heart's knowledge, revealing her soul. There was no place to hide, no magical cosmetic to conceal the truth of everything she knew. The woman and man instinctivily understood each other. She was passing toward another temporary hope, another ethereal reality.

She was on the wrong floor and pressed another number. Doors closed. She was going up. Up to the room of a foreign businessman who would take her through night into morning.

Everyone in town was making money. 

Billboards shouted, “Making Money in China is Glorious!

She carefully folded hard earned hard currency into her black purse after a long hot shower and took the elevator back down. Gliding through a revolving glass and brass door, she passed a deserted dark empty Japanese restaurant and negotiated gray stained industrial steps to Nanjing Xi Lu.  

Serious adults in blue industrial clothing practiced Tai Chi with controlled balanced concentration. Every methodical movement had meaning. Dawn's collective breath formed a mist crashing around her well worn heels as she skipped over cracked city stones through their shadows. 

A neighbor cried out to a neighbor asking for something at high decibels.  

A motorcycle roared past followed by a bike bell ringing a sharp corner warning. Two old women wearing thick clothing talked about the price of vegetables, cool days and the fate of their children. Their words adjusted to musical volumes and surreptitious encounters in careful dark corners where sexual repressed couples groped for meaning. 

This is a small corner of the world. This is a small corner of the sky. This is all there is and it is enough for now.

Days, weeks and months later the foreigner finally exploded in anger and frustration. His bitterness understands locals don't know it's OK to lock the door. There are bars on his windows and he feels like a prisoner. 

Boredom, his enemy, has carved out a niche, a river in the soul.  

He declined offers to eat with the family. He needs distance. He is a dream they had, an intrusion on their language acquisition and their personal desire for growth caught up in unknown varieties of kindness. 

How many words will it take to explain this to them as anger grows from giving in? Listening to the wild wife talk on and on as her husband tries to wheel and deal. Nothing but endless questions. 

Interrogations during the Cultural Revolution.

His imagination engine kicks in. It's a ghost. A predator eating living beings, flesh. Tearing them apart as they sit and rest and doze off after playing cards. 

They shout at the deaf man in a small room with bars on the window.  Help us! they scream. 

His last week is the longest. The finest. 




Magnitude 6.4


People down on the ground report being able to see my lost tool bag through 10 x 50 binoculars at a magnitude of 6.4.

It's too far away to see with the naked eye. This raises perplexing questions. Why are eyes naked? How do they see through their nakedness? Does being naked affect their ability to interact with other naked eyes? Do they avert their gaze when meeting another naked eye? How does their nakedness affect social interaction, mutual nakedness and so forth?


Like everything in the universe, it is floating.

I am now allowed, by international space law procedural nemesis, to reveal the contents. My bag holds two grease guns, a scraper tool, a large trash bag and a small debris bag. My bag is valued at $100,000. Ok, so this means that the contents are very expensive. Do a financial analysis. 

Grease gun (2) =______

Scraper tool= ______

Large trash bag= _____

Small debris bag= _____

Big bag (30 pounds, 20" by 12")

Total= $100,000

May I file a lost luggage claim?

Grounded humans predict my wandering bag will eventually burn up depending on solar activity. Poof!



MK 61


The Middle Kingdom podcast numero 61 is up at an altitude of 225 miles floating with my lost tool bag. Reward.

And, as if that meditation isn't enough bliss, liberty and mindfulness, the urine-drinking water machine is still down.  

Fly me to the moon.


MK 61


A $154 million dollar toilet


The space saga continues. As I reported in my last greasy message, I lost my tool kit while trying to fix a bad joint. Ze bag is (was) worth $100,000. I am offering a reward for it's return. No questions asked. It was last reported to be floating approximately 212 miles above Earth.

Meanwhile I have been installing a new toilet recycling machine on the ISS

It cost a cool $154 million bucks. Now I know in these turbulent economic times when the average planetary inhabitant is living in a shack with an outhouse, riding a bike, using candles for light, eating baloney and afraid to get sick because they have absolutely ZERO heath care insurance the cost of my toilet may seem slightly extreme.

I can justify it. Watch and listen closely. It is a miracle of technology.

It converts urine into drinking water!

Yes, that's correct. It turns urine into H2O (when it's working)...Astonishing! Amazing! Delicious! Urine on the rocks, straight up.

Why is this necessary? The ISS currently can support three living creatures. Brains on the ground would like to increase the population by three to six, requiring, according to their math genius, the necessity of having a $154 million dollar machine to expedite the conversion of urine into drinking water. Kinda like reverse osmosis.  

Their rationale is that, with six homo sapiens on board, it will be too expensive in the long haul to transport drinking water to the ISS, so they concocted this elaborate urine-water machine. Wow!

To support their never ending research and development NASAL will be offering, for a limited time only, just in time for the holiday season, a heavily discounted stripped down modified version of their urine-water convertor to JQ public. Initial design mockups with corresponding price categories will be available by Thanksgiving.




Grease Monkey


On my space walk to fix a joint while smoking a joint having a look at the joint my grease gun exploded.

It went off in my backpack. Whoosh! 

When you are connected to your module by a thin thread of hose fed air and electronic gizmos wearing a pack and floating in deep dark infinite space, an exploding grease gun sounds like a watermelon being flattened by a truck traveling at the speed of light.


So the grease gun exploded spraying grease all over my goggles. I was blinded by grease. Am I a grease monkey?

Oh on, not another ancient simian tale. Spare me the details. Just get to the verb. 

My goggles covered in grease, I attempted to wipe off the gunk. Loose space grease acts weird. It congeals in millions of small miracles, losing it's viscosity. I began wiping and swiping with my handy-dandy gloves. I cried for my mother. She'd know what do but she wasn't here with me floating outside the capsule.

Then, the grease played a trick on me. My greasy gloves couldn't hold my tool bag and it slipped out of my greasy grip. Whoops! Off it went, curling slowly, doing a space ballet. Bye-bye tool bag. 

The dudes down in Houston are not going to be happy about this. Believe you me.

Have bag will travel.

What's a poor space walking scientist to do?