Bells and brakes

A good opening sentence should be like a vodka shot:  clear, quick, strong, and with a sharp finish that gets you reved up for what comes next — i.e. it shouldn’t ramble on like this Aabservation does with no intention of stopping, completely unrelated to the main topic:  in this case, the question “bells or brakes?”, a with-us-or-against-us type of question which came up last night, when I was biking to a party and panicked for a moment when I realized my brakes were worn out — but quickly regained confidence (and speed) as I realized that my bicycle bell at least was working, meaning that instead of slowing down, I could just announce my arrival and others would get out of my way, which I did, often, and in so doing realized that I would rather have a fully functional bell than fully functional brakes — perhaps a revelation about a change in my attitude toward risk-taking since moving to China (or perhaps the attitude that brought me here in the first place?) — and beyond just me, I started to wonder whether China itself is a country that values bells or brakes more — a question which, after a considerable period of high-speed contemplation (and pedaling), I came to conclude:  yes, China is indeed a country that would rather be able to slow down safely than charge forward bells a-ringing (think of China’s slow unwind of capital controls, its patient and quiet emergence as an international power, and the truly measured pace of its transition from a centrally planned economy to an open one), while the US is the country with the largest bells in the world, and which loves ringing them (think of the US’s strong attitude to foreign relations and its love of global media attention)… though I’d love to hear back from you whether you agree with this assessment and (perhaps more interestingly) whether you would rather have working bells or working brakes, with only one requirement for your reply:  that you, like me in this Aabservation, try writing using as many punctuation bells & whistles as possible (bonus if you can incorporate Chinese backward commas and <<>> quotes), but that you strictly forbid yourself from using a period to brake your train of thought (a ridiculous challenge — I know — inspired by a hilarious and geeky late night conversation on punctuation in a rooftop bar with a handful of copy-editors, writers, researchers and blumblum friends):  a gimmick which is (outside of Victorian literature and legal documents) only sustainable for so long, and eventually (as you can see) must at some point come to an end.

Cheers, Liz