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«Translate Server Error» | Free Lunch in Gotham City


You can RSVP to the luncheon at this address: weishanzuile@hotmail.com

From the Weekly Review | Harper’s Magazine.

A line in a full-page New York Times ad offering $300 and free lunch to 1,000 homeless people at a restaurant in Central Park turned out to have been a translator’s error.

The item is sourced to Gothamist, which reports, citing the Grey Lady:

Last week, Chinese recycling tycoon Chen Guangbiao took out an ad in the NY Times promising lunch and $300 for “1,000 poor and destitute Americans” at the Loeb Boathouse restaurant in Central Park this afternoon. Except there was one little problem: the whole $300 part was a complete misunderstanding, which led to a bit of a shitshow in the Park.

I wish the reporter had provided more details of the shit on show. That is to say, so what happened next? Was their ISP overwhelmed with those of us who have long dreamed of lunch at the Union Square Café? (Disclosure: I ate there twice.)

The ad appeared on page A15.  Chen is equally known — at the very least — for offering $1 billion for a stake in the Times itself.

In a longer-form backgrounder on the stunt, the G inquires:

Did last week’s Hidden Cash experience whet your appetite for future degrading spectacles of megalomaniacal pseudo-charity? The Chinese billionaire with the magnificently grandiose business card took out an ad in the New York Times earlier this week promising lunch and $300 for “1,000 poor and destitute Americans” at the Loeb Boathouse restaurant in Central Park.

The recycling king describes his goodwill tour:

“I want to spread the message in the US that there are good philanthropists in China and not all are crazy spenders on luxury goods,” recycling tycoon Chen Guangbiao told the South China Morning Post.

The Gothamist folllows up with a satirical paraphrase:

 «If you’re going to engage in crazy spending, it’s best to rub it in the faces of people in a different country.»

Chen made his fortune in the recycling sector, says the Gothamist, citing the South China Morning Post, but does not seem to have done much checking on these sources and claims.

The RSVP form for the event:


Twitter registers the peculiar invitation as well.



China has made a point of prosecuting corruption in the public and private sector of late, and Brazil, home of the Triple Frontier, has led the way. Those familiar with the Ballad of Law Kin Chong, monarch of smuggling, the rent-a-cop industry,  and the Paraguayan counterfeit cigarette, will know what I mean.

As to Mr Chen’s idiosyncracies (Gothamist):

Chen says he still wants to buy a portion of the Times, but is aiming lower, for an Op/Ed page. “It would be a bilingual page, in Chinese and English, and the content would be my call. It would be about environmental protection and charity.”

Environment and philanthropy: the last resort of the reputationally challenged.

Under Brazilian law, foreign investors may not take more than a 30% stake in a Brazilian media company. An amendent to the applicable law is expected next year, after the elections.

Oh, and by the way: Hire qualified, experienced translators and editors.