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Monday, December 29, 2014

China’s Mandarins Shanghai The Pun

I’m appalled. China has banned puns. This is a crying shang. It has me seeing red. And almost as offensive is that, in reporting this news, many writers (clearly those not practiced at the fine art) have dubbed punning “the lowest form of humor.” 
Foo-ey, I say.
The Forbidden City
Those critics are simply noodles. Nonetheless, today I am opting to focus my ire on the Chinese mandarins who made the pun a forbidden ditty. Deng it, how could 1.357 billion people not like puns? Well, it turns out they do, and that has created a sticky pun problem.
Puns are actually considered an important feature of Chinese culture. Puns are ubiquitous in Chinese, because the language is not wonton for homophones. It’s all in the way the Chinese write words from characters. Substituting one character for another can alter the meaning of a phrase while hardly changing the sound.

IMO, China's Next Generation
is being pun-ished by this new ruling
At any rate, China’s State Administration for Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television issued an order in November saying wordplay has no place in broadcasting and advertising.  While spearing a chopstick through the heart of punditry, the order conceded that “idioms are one of the great features of the Chinese language and contain profound cultural heritage and historical resources and great aesthetic, ideological and moral values.” Nonetheless, the statement says improper exploitation of words may lead to cultural and linguistic chaos. and could harm the nation’s young people. Certainly, the government doesn't want to have a han in that happening.

Here’s my slant. Clearly, the Chinese government is not panda’ing to its pun-crazed public here. In fact, yuan-a bet that this great wall has been erected as a form of censorship? Indeed, puns and wordplay are just one mao way the Chinese work around censorship in the Internet age. The Chinese use puns and wordplay to duck censorship software, designed to catch and embargo obscene or politically sensitive words. So, an entirely new lexicon of puns has been developed for online discussion of sensitive topics. As a result, the amount of online punning is one way to gauge the tempura-ture of public opinion.
I am just glad I do not have to wok a mile in the shoes of a Chinese writer. For if I were not able to employ the venerable pun, I might have to be peking into another line of work.

But No Puns Allowed

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Holiday Gifts for Travelers

It's that time of year when the Travel Elves drop off all sorts of sample goodies upon my doorstep for me to test. Here are a few of the products which pass gift-giving muster in my book. For more, you can watch my show-and- tell on Let's Talk Live: 


A Heys Ecotex 5 Piece Packing Cube Set is like a Russian Matryoshka doll. Unzip the biggest one and a smaller one appears...and so on and so on. The colorful quintet costs about $44 and a three-pack runs around $27. Both come with nifty little stick-on labels to identify what's in the bag. Available at http://shop.heys.ca/

It's not a foot rest. It's not a computer case. It's both. This Leggage laptop case has a nifty design that allows you to safely stow your computer and then use the case as a foot rest on the airplane. While the company claims that the wedges on the hard side serve to massage the tootsies...well, that may be stretching it just a bit. But especially for those with shorter legs, having a on-board foot rest will definitely add to comfort and better posture.
It's $79.99 at www.leggage.com.

LiteGear's Hybrid Rolling Tote is the perfect alternative to being weighed down by a heavy purse or tote bag. The fashionable roller, is just the right size for a change of clothing, an iPad, and many other small odds and ends, including your purse..With dimensions of 13.5″ x 8.5″ x 14.5″, it can either replace your carry-on or supplement it.  The LiteGear Hybrid Rolling Tote is available at Travelsmith, Amazon and other on-line retailers. The price ranges from $79.00 to $99.00.

Finally, from Shoes on the Fly, we have washable cotton bags in which to pack footwear. Sure, one can always use a plastic bag to separate shoes from clothing...but that's exactly why this is the perfect gift. It's one of those things that your favorite travelers might not buy for themselves, but they'll absolutely be happy 'soles' when they receive it.  The bags are adorned with various slogans and an embroidered bug matching the theme, They cost between $27.00 and $29.00 at www.shoesonthefly.com.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Nine Images of Georgia (Okay, 11)

One of my most adventurous journeys of the year took place in October, when I headed to Georgia (the country). Take a listen to my perspective while looking at the pictures below.

Mother Georgia Stands Over Tbilisi 

Tbilisi's architecture is a mix of ancient and modern.
The white spaceship is the Tbilisi Public Service Hall,
affectionately known as The Mushroom.

Monks at the Alaverdi Monastery in the Khakheti
region has been making wines in qvervi for
more than 1000 years.
Georgia has been producing wine longer
 than any other place in the world....
8000 years!
The Sixth Century Jvari Monastery near Mtskheta is
a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Stalin was born here.
The Stalin Museum in his hometown of
Gori (appropriately-named) is a throwback
to Soviet times.

The Tskaltubo Health Resort is
where members of the Soviet Ministry
of Defense took the waters
back in the day.

While considered luxury during its heyday,
most would consider the rooms and facilities
rather spartan now.

The Caucasus Mountain Range
contains Europe's highest peak. 

The www.georgia.travel website isn't up and running, yet. If you can read Georgian (good luck with that), click here. Although what I am saying on the live stream doesn't always match the images, more pictures can be seen  here.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Holiday Gifts for Travelers: Part II

Looking for a holiday list a frequent traveler?  Ho-ho-ho, here are some ideas!

For years, I've traveled with two tennis balls in my suitcase. No, I'm not looking for a pick-up game. Instead, I roll my back along the balls in the comfort of my hotel room. I place balls on either side of my spine and then press downward as I slide along pressure points and crack my tired bones. The choreography is a bit complicated--the challenge is keeping the balls parallel while rolling along. Well, now the RAD Roller is making my version of an everywhere massage tool easier. The company has developed a functional, lightweight and durable massage and release tool that looks like two fused balls. You can easily roll your back over it, and it's small enough to target other aching muscles and sore fascial tissue. $24.99

Worried you might bust a zipper thanks to all of those holiday gifts you are packing? Maybe you just want to distinguish your blah black or blue bags from all the others on the luggage carousel. ORB Luggage Straps come in a variety of snazzy designs, and they're only $9.95. Or you can buy a coordinated accessories pack containing a matching lock and luggage tag for $24.95 at various on-line retailers.

Speaking of straps, as I type this post, I am experimenting with the BackJoy Posture Band. While it took me a few minutes to figure out the way to set it up, I managed to tie it together and throw it around my arms. The comfortable elastic tension band gently pulls your shoulders back as you are sitting at a computer...or sitting on an airplane. Granted, if you walk around the airport wearing it, some people may think you are into S & M. Little do they know that your goal is solely to get your posture on the up and up. $19.99

Finally, for the uber-organized, Eagle Creek presents its Pack-It system. The smart, methodical and slightly OCD-prone traveler on your gift list will love it.  The PACK-IT line has everything from Folders, in which you can pack clothing to be wrinkle-free, to Cubes, perfect for compressing pants, Tees, or PJs.. You can buy them as stand-alones or as sets. For example, a starter set contains a mediim folder and a large and a small cube for $35.  Other pricing is available at http://shop.eaglecreek.com/.

Ideas for larger items can be found here.