we don't have a lot of time

posted by tom / December 06, 2005 /

On Saturday Charles and I elected to flee our freezing apartment, and headed for the toasty confines of the Chinatown Express. Along the way through Chinatown I noticed this restaurant:

Tai Shan restaurant

"Huh!" I thought, "Tai Shan — that's the same name as the one the zoo gave to the new panda cub. 'Peaceful Mountain' must be a pretty common phrase in Chinese culture. But wait, what's that photo in the right window..."

the grisly code

"Oh god. It's a panda. A photo of a panda in the window of a Chinese restaurant bearing the same name as the cub and they say it was chosen by a vote but really how long have they been planning this and where can I look up the restaurant's lease and this can't be happening and OH LORD CAN WE GET A MOB TOGETHER AND STORM THE ZOO TONIGHT!? HE CAN SLEEP IN MY BATHTUB!#!@&%"

But look, people: we can't panic. It's easy enough to see through this grisly code, but we have to THINK. Butterstick is being sent back to China in just under three years. Clearly his communist proprietors are waiting for him to become nice and plump on American zoo food (paid for by Uncle Sam, no doubt) before tucking into their gruesome repast. We have some time, but none to waste. We need to organize.

Toward that end, the owner of the Butterstick Cafepress store (still shrouded in mystery, but his legend grows by the day) seems to have put together a new t-shirt design. It looks kind of like this:

new butterstick tee design

...and you can buy it here. The design's a little busy, I agree. But it's tough to compress a sophisticated political statement into a few square inches of cotton. I assume.

So: spread the word, my brothers and sisters. Godspeed. We'll save the stick yet.

UPDATE: In comments, Sommer points out that the t-shirt's slogan appears to make no sense — whether the Stick is eaten or simply dies at the zoo, he's gone either way. Now don't get me wrong, I love the little guy. But I'd rather he meet the same sad but noble fate as that lion, giraffe, pygmy hippo, red panda, etc (patriots all) who gave their lives so that the zoo's employees can maintain their quintessentially American level of excellence. I will be sad if Butterstick ends up getting into the rat poison, but I will be god damned if he ends up getting into some Marxist's belly.

UPDATE 2: If you're too stupid to understand satire, I can understand that you might take offense at this post. Suffice it to say that I mean no slur on the Chinese people or culture (the Chinese government is pretty evil, although maybe not panda-eating evil). And of course I don't mean to impugn the reputation of the Tai Shan restaurant (if you read carefully you'll notice that I didn't). For more hand-waving, please see my response in DCist's comment thread.

Man. Don't you hate it when dopes ruin jokes?


I agree we need to act fast, but I'm not sure I see the connection with the "better dead than red" slogan. Isn't the idea that we want to save the Stick from being served up in a bowl with spicy green beans and noodles? If there was a scenario where we could get China to promise not to eat him, I think I would prefer that to having the panda be dead. You seem to be arguing that Butterstick would be better off dead here in the United States than being lunch in China -- though, naturally, he would be dead in that scenario as well. While I suppose a dignified burial here would be preferred to a slow marinade, isn't the objective really to keep the adorable panda alive? I just think we need to keep focused, especially considering our only means of attack so far are slogans on T-shirts for $17.99. The graphic you've got works ... but the words ...

Posted by: Sommer on December 6, 2005 09:47 AM

you're right, the shirt and the photos were conceived independently and perhaps don't make a lot of sense when put together. but since when does jingoism make sense? The important thing is that we register our opposition to this blatantly illegal transfer of panda sovereignty.

Posted by: tom on December 6, 2005 09:53 AM

Tai Shan is the region of China from which virtually all pre-1950 Chinese immigrants to the United States came from. Consequently it is a commonly heard term, especially in the United States.

Posted by: Chandavkl on December 6, 2005 12:54 PM

i bought one of the butterstick mugs from cafe press. i showed it to someone who asked "who is buttersticki?" perhaps a different font next time...

Posted by: patricia on December 6, 2005 01:13 PM

ummm, ok, Tai Shan is one of the well-known mountains in China, I guess you can call it the Rockies of China.

Chinese do eat practically everything, but not panda. One reason is that it's a capital offense if you are caught carrying a dead animal skin with black and white stripes, let along Sweet and Sour Panda. Every once a year you hear some poor poachers get the bullets for killing/smuggling panda, I guess their lives worth less than Pandas'. But hey, if the poaches look THAT cute, maybe they would be spared.

Posted by: noxzema on December 6, 2005 02:45 PM

I read your post in the broader context of the ongoing and amusing campaign (a) to call Butterstick by Butterstick's rightful monicker (viz., Butterstick) and (b) to thwart the impending return of the 'stick to the People's Republic of China. Understanding this article in this context, I immediately recognized it as funny and non-offenseive.

It seems those who were offended were either (a) unaware of that broader context or (b) part of the cadre of naysayers who complain that the aforementioned campaign is tired and/or boring.

If it's (a), they're clearly out-of-touch non-hipsters and don't even deserve a middle-school-style head nod when passed on the street.

If it's (b), they're ipso facto lame-oids.

Now, turning our attention to the mission at hand -- preventing the tragic loss of Butterstick -- I've got a plan:

After the National Zoo "inadvertently" sends the stick to the Republic of China (i.e., Taiwan), the Taiwanese refuse to turn the 'stick over to the mainland. The US is forced to step in and mediate, settling the imbroglio by sending the now-politicized Butterstick back to the neutral confines of the Smithsonian National Zoological Park.


We get the 'stick. The US plays up its diplomatic success, firms up its role as arbitrator for the region, and simultaneously strengthens its alliances with both mainland China and Taiwan.

One China? Maybe someday?

One panda? Just make mine Butterstick?

Posted by: Ray on December 6, 2005 04:50 PM

Thanks for the vindication, Ray.

And I like your proposal (suggested titled: "The Butterstick Gambit"). You know, Kanishka works at the State Department -- and is headed to Asia, no less. I'll see what he can do to get this going.

Posted by: tom on December 6, 2005 05:01 PM

This is the funniest thing I have read in a long blog time.

Posted by: Mari on December 6, 2005 07:17 PM

It's a fake butterstick!

The name of this Chinese restaurant doesn't mean peaceful mountain in Chinese. The character "Tai" of this restaurant is different from the "Tai" of the famous mountain. Even the pronunciation is different - they don't have the same intonation.

The name of this restaurant "Tai Shan" is just a small town situated in Guangzhou province (southern China, near Hong Kong).

It's not the first time someone wanna steal butterstick schtick : http://www.wonkette.com/politics/butterstick/someone-steals-butterstick-schtick-139731.php

Posted by: Greenland on December 7, 2005 03:47 PM

You've clearly alerted butterstick, he's already posted it on his Myspace account. I've already ordered my shirt.


Posted by: Sam on December 7, 2005 06:21 PM

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