The Null Device
The recent Beijing Olympics have been acclaimed as a spectacular success; though what they really demonstrated is the power of totalitarianism to get things done, a point which has been lost on a lot of naïve Western commentators:
The road home from Beijing is lined with wide-eyed converts who've seen the light on totalitarianism. “China has set the bar very high,” Jacques Rogge, the president of the International Olympic Committee, said. “There are some things that London will not be able to compare to, or equal - such as the ability to bring hundreds of thousands of volunteers to different sites.” Yes, Jacques, it is amazing what people can achieve once they appreciate there is no alternative.
Of course the Beijing Games went without a hitch. Give anyone total, terrifying control over a population, with force, and they will make them march in unison, drum, smile, dance, mime, jump through hoops if necessary. “They don't look very oppressed,” wrote one observer. No, pal, and neither would you if you knew the consequences of complaint.
Those performing the three-minute umbrella dance at the opening ceremony trained for six months for 14-15 hours each day, while the 900 soldiers unrolling the scroll that was the centrepiece of the production wore nappies because they had to stay hidden for seven hours, with not even a trip to the toilet allowed. And this is the event that our Olympics Minister called wondrous? That Rogge thinks will be hard to beat?And the biggest threat, the article says, is that Britain's politicians, starstruck by Beijing 2008, will take home the lesson that totalitarianism can be so awesome:
This is the most worrying legacy of the Beijing Games. It has shown our ministers, civil servants and sports administrators what could be achieved, if we could only suspend personal freedom. Change is afoot.Not that suspending civil liberties for the duration of the Olympics so that everyone can have fun without being brought down by protesters or other troublemakers is without precedent; it happened during the Sydney Olympics of 2000, when locals were prohibited from letting friends park in their houses (as not to compete with the official parking sponsors) and wearing clothing with political slogans or non-sponsoring brand names on it in the streets. Which is fairly mild compared to mass levelling of neighbourhoods, though it does make one wonder what innovations in the management of civil liberties the Blairite/Brownites will be tempted to bring to London 2012.
A serendipitous visual juxtaposition from the front page of WIRED today:
In his WIRED column, Lore Sjöberg savours his last days without an iPhone:
Right now, I can have a thought like, "I wonder who had a hit first, Chuck Berry or Little Richard?" and allow that question to wander around in my head. Maybe I'll remember it and look it up when I get the chance; maybe I'll just let it go. I suspect that this time next month I'll be pulling over to the side of the road -- I hope I'll pull over to the side of the road -- to get the answer immediately.
Right now, my friends are not subjected to photos of every "witty" stop sign annotation I encounter. In fact, they can actually hang out with me with no fear of showing up in my Flickr stream with basil in their teeth.
Right now, I do not post to Twitter every time I see a dachshund.
Right now, I am capable of referring to my cellphone without actually telling people what brand it is.
The Chinese, it seems, don't get British self-deprecation:
The Titan Sports Daily contrasted the "neatness" of the Chinese performers with the "outrageous outfits" worn by the Britons. Unlike the Chinese custom which tends not to reveal their weakness to the outsiders, "the British seem to like to laugh about their stupidity in a funny way", it said.
"During the performance, when the London bus pulled over, all the passengers waiting for the bus rushed into the door at the same time, which truly damaged the British image," it added.On the other hand, the Titan Sports Daily also raised the point that some of the entertainers chosen (Jimmy Page and Leona Lewis) weren't famous enough to be recognised by millions of Chinese spectators. Which is a valid point; I couldn't tell you who Leona Lewis is either. (I'm guessing she's a reality-TV veteran of some sort, or possibly a footballer's wife/girlfriend.) Jimmy Page seems like a different matter, though given that China wasn't open to Western influences when Led Zeppelin were in their heyday, one could expect him to draw a blank there.
There is a tradition of restaurants serving meat having happy anthropomorphic cartoons of the animals whose meat they serve as their mascots. Of these mascots, there is a subset in which the animals actually slaughter or eat their own kind, usually with great gusto. There's a set of such logos here:
(via Boing Boing)