Monday, March 30, 2009

Applied Conspiracy Theory

The Plot

Conspiracies abound throughout the world and cover a plethora of events and trends. To assist in the conspiracy against the Gap Guys, I developed what I call the Conspiracy Setup Matrix or CSM. This matrix consists of the following elements:

decoys and smokescreens
disinformation, lies, revisions and coverups
“bait and switch”
plots within plots
problem, reaction, solution (thesis, antithesis, synthesis)

By using part or all of these techniques, one can successfully pull off a “sting” or “set up” for fun and/or profit. We apply these techniques to set up our very own Gap Guys - Dave and John.

Because the Gap Guys were scheduled to go to Chengdu last Monday, I had enough time to develop and implement this setup with my Sophomore Class 1 using the upcoming Presentation and Debate on Eastern and Western Medicine. The debate would center on whether or not one could mix Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) with Western medicine. We decided to develop a "plot within a plot" where some selected students would argue for and against TCM rather than for and against the mixing of the two. Of course, our plans had to be kept secret.

The Secret

The plans were kept secret and everyone involved swore an oath to this secrecy. This secret plan was devised, developed and then recorded on this special edible paper in case a leak of the plan occurred.

The Victims

Of course, our victims were the Gap Guys and we all figured they would be easy targets for this conspiracy. This would also be payback for their missing class the previous Monday to attend some dumb wedding with Dr. Robert Liu.

Gap Guy #1 Code Name - John

Gap Guy #2 Code Name - Dave

The Manipulation

In order to pull this setup off, we all had to act natural and conduct ourselves as if everything was in order.

Here the students arrive and sit in their normal places, chatting and visiting with each other and greeting our victims and me with their usual friendly insolence. So far, our victims are unaware of their coming demise.

Once more the class presentation begins with Dave introducing the topic and saying a few words about his presentation. He then gets a count of who believes TCM can supplement Western medicine or Western medicine can supplement TCM. The final count showed a class pretty evenly divided between the positive and the negative. Dave continues his portion of the lecture.

John follows and presents his half of the presentation, emphasizing that the debate will be on the ability to mix the two medical philosophies or not.

The conspiracy develops as the students listen intently to the two victims and what they had to say.

The two victims become more animated as it appears the class has become very enthusiastic about what they have to say. They are clueless about the ongoing setup.

Students and teachers interact in what appears to be a dynamic and interesting interactive session with a great presentation. What more would teachers ask for?

The Decoys

All successful conspiracies and set ups have a few well-placed decoys to insure the victims follow along to the trap.

Here, Craig uses his English skills to entice the victims into thinking that they are beyond successful in their presentation about the two philosophies of medicine. It is obvious that both Dave and John have bought into the idea that this class is heavily involved in the lesson. They are becoming more and more excited about how well they must be doing.

Lory, too, continues with the theme of discussing the two sides by asking pertinent questions to string the victims along.

The Crossover To Build Anxiety

Every successful setup has to build anxiety with its intended victims, where the victims are then easily "hooked" and are pretty well sold on the deal. When asked to change sides if they have changed their minds, the students all move to the left side - "against the mixing of the two medicines." In utter disbelief, the two victims watch as their debate dwindles to a probable one-sided affair. Anxious for a successful completion of their class, they are now ready for the hook.

All the students are now sitting on the side against mixing the two medical philosophies. The two victims are now in anxiety mode as what to do next.

The Hook

Mr. Daniel is our "hook." Here he proposes the "buy in" debate of West versus East Medicine instead of the proposed TCM/Western Medicine supplementary arguments. A brilliant and classical "bait and switch" operation where Mr. Daniel proposes that we must first delineate between the two philosophies of medicine before we can go further. He brings up statistics to show that 67% of all Western trained doctors have studied or have a working knowledge of TCM while no TCM doctor has a working knowledge of Western medicine. He further shows that TCM has lost favor in the minds of the educated Chinese who want something more scientific. He then challenges anyone to show him this concept in TCM call "qi."

Mr. Sabrina, red-faced and angry, attacks Mr. Daniel personally and philosophically. How dare he say such things about TCM! It is one of the bedrocks of Chinese culture. How dare he casually put 5000 years of Chinese medicine in the trash and throw it away. Her arguments are tinged with disgust and hatred forcing the Gap Guys to try to calm her down. Their anxiety is now controlling their actions as they are on the verge of losing the class to these internal arguments.

The Buy In

The students, having seen the two victims begin to buy into the internal arguments as genuine, show their smugness at their obvious success.

To finalize the buy-in of the victims, Mr. Winter tries to calm her classmates down and then tries to infiltrate and sympathize with the victims anxiety and let them know it is ok to have this argument.

Mr. Rio, however, pushes the idea of a problem, reaction and solution to ease the storm now gathering between the various factions of the class. His efforts further erode the confidence of the two victims now in full panic mode.

Once more Mr. Daniel is attacked for his outrageous beliefs concerning TCM. Ms. Shirley is adamant and relentless in her attacks on Mr. Daniel and his philosophy.

Mr. Daniel continues to defend himself against the attacks of both Ms. Shirley and Ms. Sabrina. He even begins to call them superstitious and uneducated and ask them why they waste their time in college. Tempers begin to flare.

It is time for some disinformation to further confuse the victims. Here Amelia confounds the universe with her statements of facts about TCM. She uses several ploys to convince the victims that she is sincere in her statements. The victims are duped into believing her stories.

Ms. Lory again, working as a decoy, tries to obviously calm things down to make the victims believe that the students are now involved in this heated discussion.

The two victims buy into the discussion and the events totally. They are both convinced that the argument was East versus West and that an air of hostility now exists among the students over this issue.

Not until the class ended, did I tell them that they had been had by a classical "GOTCHA."

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Farm House Fun With Freshmen Class 2

Received a call Sunday Morning at around 1000 from Mr. Taunis. The Freshmen Class 2 was having a group activity for the Gap Guys and they wanted Sunee and I to attend. They had tried to contact us on Saturday but, of course, we were in Chengdu.

It took us about fifteen minutes to get ready and as we walked toward the West Gate, we met Mr. Taunis and Ms. Sophie who guided us the rest of the way.

The group was meeting at what was translated from the Chinese to mean "Farm House Fun." This was a local farm which the owners had converted to offer the public a place to visit, relax and enjoy the farm atmosphere. It was about a twenty or thirty minute walk from our apartment.

The Way To Farm House Fun

This is the introduction/direction sign that told what the farm house offered and it was at the start of the farm house road.

Instead of farm animals, we found this beat up farm tractor to take pictures on the way to the farm house.

The Farm House

The farm house had been converted to an area which offered several different kinds of activities. Of course, there was Mahjong. This IS China, you know!

The Farm Work

When we arrived, all the students were involved with their farm work. Here, THE CROCCODILE shows why he is call "Croc." Lovely teeth, don't you agree?

Vincent does grilling. Several of the students were grilling the vegetables in preparation for the upcoming farm lunch

Too many chefs spoil the soup. Ok, ok, so this is not soup and these students are not chefs. The grilled veggies were not spoiled either.

Working quickly and in tandem with the supervising eyes of Mr. Taunis, the students efficiently turned out some really great grilled products.

The Farm Training Program

The Farm House offered extensive training in the art of jaodz making. Everyone gathered round to learn this ancient and secret art of China.

Sydney became the designated jaodz instructor

Jaodz training instructor Sydney gives us a lesson in the secret art of making jaodz.

Here Dave destroys another jaodz. He tried to make at least 100 jaodz without too much success. I actually counted three successful jaodz during his training period. Bet he cannot sing either.

Giselle continues to impress all with her elegant method of making jaodz. Notice the stylized use of the famous but difficult to use tool called chopsticks. Elegant indeed!

The finished product. Only about half the students were considered to be successful and only a few of them actually received certificates in jaodz making. The ones who did get their certificates were very proud of their accomplishment.

The Certificate of Training awarded to those students who successfully completed their training. Less than ten percent received this coveted award certificate.

The Farm Food Testing

Prior to the start of the official Farm House Lunch, special students were selected to do the testing of the food. Here Tracy gives us the OK TO EAT sign. She did not show any ill effects from the food so we carried on with the preparations.

Of course, Lemon volunteered to be one of the testers. She was not very good as each veggie took at least four or five tests before she would approve them. She had no ill effects from her tastings so she gave us the green light.

The Farm Lunch

We are all called to lunch at the Farm House. And, I might add, not a minute too soon as Dave was beginning to get on everyone's nerves with his I AM A HUNGRY BRIT renditions. They went on and on until the call to lunch. Several students admitted later that they had discussed plans for Dave's demise prior to us all being called to lunch.

A Farm House Lunch is served. We had three tables and each had a grand feast specially prepared for us by the Farm House staff. They also included our own specially made jaodz. No doubt many of the less successful jaodz makers would easily recognize their handiwork.

The lunch was great and the highlight was the consumption of the jaodz that we had made (or at least tried to make in the case many of the students).

Ms. Yoyo requested her picture be included in this blog. Unfortunately, she was playing the role of host and was popping in and out when I was taking pictures. This is the only picture i was able to take of her. Yoyo stands for: Your only young once. Is that why you have all the energy going all the time?

The Farm Fun

After the brilliant (Dave's word on mine) lunch we were commanded to involve ourselves in the art of Farm House Fun.

Here we have the two Gap Guys having fun with two of the freshmen. They were told they were having fun.

Mahjong is actually fun even though one must work hard to do it right.

John was caught cheating so many times during the afternoon that many of the freshmen were secretly planning his demise. Fortunately, John got tired of cheating after a few hours and went on to the next Farm House Fun - ping pong.

Ms. Sophie's slams were too much for most of the other freshmen. She eventually had to play with herself which turned out not to be much fun for her. Many of her fellow students began to plan her demise but she quickly dispatched all of them with her relentless slams.

Ms. Cherry was much more considerate of other student's feelings, allowing all of them to trounce her easily and often. Here she tries to smack the ball in the Chinese penholder fashion. Of course, she was kind enough not to hit the ball back. There were never plans calling for Ms. Cherry's demise.

Dave's fame as a ping ponger grew with each ball he hit. Not only did he hit the ball with authority but he did not allow himself to be overcome with pity for his frail and weak freshmen opponents. Many of the freshmen began to secretly plan for his demise. These plans fell through as most of those making the plans could not understand Dave's weird British accent.

The true spirit of ping pong as demonstrated by the unrelenting style of Mr. Taunis. His ability to keep the ball in the air astounded us all. Dave and John began to plan for his ultimate demise but Mr. Taunis would have nothing to do with such plans and they eventually failed due to their lack of logical cohesion.

Demonstrating the art of good!

They took pity upon my frailty
Giving them a chance to see
An old man attempting to play
Ping pong in a big, big way.

Nope the large paddle did not help much. Something to do with hand/eye coordination, stoutness and an inability to see the ping pong ball.

Mr. Yao's demise was caused by too many balls and not enough time as we close out this blog and the Farm House Fun time. We all had fun. No one went home disappointed and no one met their ultimate demise.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The International Artists Village, Chengdu

After spending two days in the Luodai/Longquan area, we returned to Southwest Jiaotong University area and checked into a hotel near the north gate where we had taken a taxi from where the Luodai bus had deposited us.

We decided to walk to the business hotel we usually stayed, near the east gate. As we walked along toward the intersection, a student asked if he could help with our one bag. We politely refused his help and he immediately struck up a conversation. His English was really very good and he was interested to visit with us when he found I was a teacher at the Emei Branch of Jiaoda.

It was he who suggested we stay at a hotel that was just up the street. To be honest, I had seen the flashing neon signs and thought the place was a night club. As it turned out, it was a very nice hotel just a few hundred meters from the north gate.

The hotel was in back of the main row of stores and shops which one saw as one approached the north gate of Jiaoda. It was a beautiful hotel and in such a convenient location.

The inside of the hotel was decked out in Ancient Roman Grotesque with this beautiful statue next to the elevators. It had a very Roman feel to it so I took her picture.

Here Mr. Lucas helps us get checked in to the hotel. His English was great and we really appreciated his efforts in finding us this really convenient hotel.

Saturday, we coordinated with Weiyan and Bogdan to meet them as they got off the bus from Jiaoda. Ms. Weiyan got an old friend to drop by and pick us up to the rendezvous point. He came by around 0915. He was a doctor who had spent many years in Tibet.

We picked up Bogdan and Weiyan at the first Jiaoda bus stop and then for the next two hours we tried to find the International Chengdu Artist Village. As it turned out, it was tucked deep inside a residential area somewhere in Chengdu. We finally found it with much effort from the driver and Weiyan asking directions.

The entrance to the village is well-marked but the location was down a backstreet through the furniture section of Chengdu. No one will ever find this place by accident. It is a true artist village, secluded from the surrounding residential area via a huge tract of land. Very impressive piece of property.

Weiyan called her friend who was waiting for us and she immediately came to fetch us and show us where she lived. She is an artist who spends her time living and painting at the village.

Bogdan checks out some of her works with an eye to modernity.

Sunee found the grasshoppers on the flowers very interesting and appealing.

Here Sunee points out the painting she liked the most. The grasshoppers eyes were very big and realistic.

The artist explains the meaning behind the curious form of the lady floating in the air next to a strange-looking man. Never did quite understand its meaning.

Sunee takes a deeper look at the strange painting of the floating woman. Something to do with feminism or something she said.

Modern art. Not sure what to write about it. Is this Chinese?

Another piece that is supposed to be a view of the vast universe above us. Sunee sees a black hole!

After visiting with Weiyan's friend we take a tour of some of the other artists in the area. Here Sunee checks out a bunch of fish pictures. Yep, these are all fish that are looking directly at you as you gaze into their eyes. Actually, both Sunee and I liked these paintings very much.

More fish paintings. It took some time, but one actually did see the fish starring back and this with little or no effort in using one's imagination. Sunee like them.

This is the map of the Artist Village. The place is huge and well hidden.

More signs advertising the village where different shows have been scheduled throughout the year.

Living and working quarters of the residence. We were told that several Germans were actively supporting the village and its artisans.

Some of the artist residence were very nice with normal entrances to their studios.

We shared lunch with Wieyan's friend and then returned to Jiaoda to catch the 5 PM bus. Weiyan remained behind in Chengdu as Bogdan joined us on the return trip.

It is springtime in Chengdu as shown by the many flowers now blooming on the trees inside the campus area. A great trip and a great ending to another China adventure.