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Our topic for today is: "The Mexican Peso Crisis -- An Ominous Harbinger of Global Monetary Instability, or What?"

In evaluating the implications of any significant currency fluctuation, it is essential to consider fully the numerous ramifications of the incipient transmogrification and consequent decollateralization that inevitably ensue insofar as such phenomena impact upon the question of whether any newspaper editor is still reading this column.

I sincerely doubt it. Modern editors spend the bulk of their days attending mandatory workshops on how to halt the decline in newspaper readership; this leaves them with very little time to read what they put in the actual newspaper. So I began this column with a disguise layer of dense prose, assuming that editors would get just far enough to write a standard unintelligible Tonto-style headline like "Big Peso Ramifications Seen" and slap the whole package in the paper without ever discovering the real topic, which is how much weight a guy in Hong Kong can lift, and what body part he lifts it with.

I'm hiding this topic because I've learned, over the years, that some newspapers tend to censor this column when it deals with sensitive issues. To cite one of many examples, back in 1990 I wrote a column about politics, and the Portland, Ore., Oregonian cut out a crucial section in which I explained how snails have sex. Thus, because of one newspaper's squeamishness, Oregon's voters were deprived of information that would have helped them make informed decisions, which probably explains

why Oregon is the only state in history ever to have elected Bob Packwood.

Which brings us to this guy in Hong Kong, whom I found out about thanks to alert reader Jeffrey Hantover, who sent me an article written by Alex Lo for the Feb. 8, 1995, issue of a Hong Kong newspaper, the Eastern Express. The article concerns an amazing physical feat that this guy performed, using an explicit part of his anatomy that, in the interest of decency, I will refer to by a randomly selected alias instead of its real name. Here's the first sentence of the Eastern Express article, with just that one word changed:

"A Daoist philosopher and martial art expert who has spent a lifetime mastering the art of lifting weights with his Packwood showed his prowess yesterday by lifting 159 kilograms of metal discs in one burst of masculine strength."

Above the article is a large and -- if you are a male -- very scary photograph showing this guy squatting over a pile of weights. The story (again, I am making tasteful word substitutions) goes on to state:

"Chan Tze-tan, 49, attached a total of 159kg of weights to several red ropes which he tied tightly around his Packwood and Newts. He then lifted the metal discs 12 centimetres off the floor and held on for 10 seconds before letting go."

The article states that the audience, a dozen men, "applauded after a long silence."

And well they should applaud. Do you have any idea how much weight 159 kilograms is? Neither do I. But it's definitely a lot of weight, and we know this feat was not a hoax, because the article states that "a television personality, Anthony Tang, inspected Chan's underwear to make sure there was no wiring around his body."

At last: a practical use for television personalities.

The article states that Chan credits his ability to the "breakthrough insights" he had into Daoist philosophy.

I don't know about you, but this story makes me want to know more about the Daoist philosophy. I took a philosophy course in college, but all we studied were guys like Aristotle and Socrates, who droned on endlessly about the meaning of life and other useless topics. Whereas with your Daoism, you apparently can develop this useful skill that has countless practical applications. For example, you could use it to ward off armed street criminals:

First street criminal: Hand over your money!

Daoist philosopher: Oh yeah? (He drops his pants.)

Second street criminal: What the heck is he . . . Wow!

First street criminal: He's lifting a manhole cover without using his hands!

(The criminals flee.)

I believe that top Daoist philosophers would be in real demand as paid entertainers for weddings, bar mitzvahs, White House dinners, etc. Thus we see that Daoism, practiced wisely, could provide a vital economic counterweight to the ramifications of this darned Mexican peso crisis. Although if you think I'm going to practice it, you're Newts.

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