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9th of December, 2023



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The Yang Ming Line

I was sitting on the bank of the Elbe with friends last night, watching the huge container ships going by. It’s just down the river from the main Hamburg harbor area. There’s a steady stream of large and small vessels, carrying containers stacked high on their decks. The river’s not that wide, so when a really big ship goes by, it looks quite surreal, blotting out the other side of the river completely.

Most of the bigger ships went by after dark. I usually get a little romantic watching freighters. I think about the old Kerouac stories of his time in the Merchant Marine, of steaming across the Atlantic in the days before intercontinental air travel. I think about all those sailors saying goodbye to the stevedores they probably all know by name, and preparing themselves mentally for a weeks-long trip by sea to America, Asia, or South Africa.

But last night, a strange ship came by. It was a huge, black, covered-deck ship, looming over us like something the Galactic Empire would be driving around, like Vader’s Star Destroyer. The nose was sharp and low, not far above the water, and the body was a wedge driven into the moonlit sky. There was no sign of the unevenly stacked containers, the jutting cranes that usually mark the ships. The windows were all lit, running perfectly even along the waist-line of the vessel, flourescent white-green in color, instead of the usual incandescent yellow. The deep rumble of the engines drowned the conversations, one by one. Deep rumbles are the sign of the bad guys; there is no bass in heaven.

Everyone sat still then, watching the ship approach and eventually eclipse last night’s blue moon. In the shadow of that ship, I started thinking about the places of the world which spawned it, and the true misery which is its fuel. I could picture tortured wretches pulling the oars that drove it forward, the deep drone coming from the drums of the galley-masters.

Eventually it passed, letting the moon light up the riverbank again. It disappeared off to our right, around the riverbend. But I couldn’t get the ship out of my mind, and it invaded my dreams last night. A black shape with glowing white letters on the side: The Yang Ming Line.


Some Atrios Wannabe

Obviously, Rube is a racist. What if the ship is an American or British one? Did you still fart like this?


No I wouldn't have. The American and British economies aren't driven by collectivist taskmasters. If I'd known at the time that the ship was Taiwanese instead of Chinese, I probably wouldn't have even thought about it.

That would've been better, right? At least I wouldn't be crying a river right now because someone called me a racist.


Yang Ming is a customer of mine. I actually worked for them back in the '80's. They're crazy Oriental bastards.

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