Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Prophetic futurists from the past

Check this out:

Here, the workspace is no longer cluttered with any books. In their place, a screen and a telephone within reach. Over there, in an immense edifice, are all the books and information. From there, the page to be read, in order to know the answer to the question asked by telephone, is made to appear on the screen. The screen could be divided in half, by four, or even ten if multiple texts and documents had to be consulted simultaneously. There would be a loudspeaker if the image had to be complemented by oral data and this improvement could continue to the automating the call for onscreen data. Cinema, phonographs, radio, television: these instruments, taken as substitutes for the book, will in fact become the new book, the most powerful works for the diffusion of human thought. This will be the radiated library and the televised book.

Sounds kinda like computers and the internet right? Well that was one hell of a prophetic dude, from back in 1934 (check it out). Ridiculous.

What crazy idea have you heard of recently that will actually become the future?

Why I love the View

I think Barbara Walters is secretly a genius. Let's review.

Star Jones. 'nuff said.
Rosie's Trump feuds and loud radical lesbo-feminist crassness.
Barry Manilow hating Elisabeth Haselbeck (yup, he's definitely gay)
Whoopi Goldberg saying Michael Vick should be excused because black culture doesn't care about dogs.
And now, Barbara Walters has finished the latest version of the view cast.....Sherri Shepherd.

It inspires speechlessness.

And then she tries to make me feel bad for daring to think such airy thoughts as 'why does the sun rise in the east but set in the west' while she slaves away providing for her children? That's rich.

Freedom for the Burmese

I have been following with great interest and hope the ongoing events in Burma, and I still don't know what to make of it. Generally speaking, revolutions require a uniting of disparate lesser power sources with the common people. This generally involves something like radicals and moderates finding common cause (see French, Russian, or Iranian revolutions), or previously neutral parties joining in (Turkish or maybe Burmese with the monks?). There is an important distinction, however, from many overthrows of corrupt tottering regimes and superpower client states like the revolving door of Pakistani/Bangladeshi governments, the Afghanistan cold war saga, or even the Indonesian 1998 revolutions.

This is a totalitarian state. Burma isn't some carefully sown together balance of power between conflicting factions like ethnic groups (see Lebanon), sectarian parties (see Iraq), ancient political families (see Bangladesh/Indonesia), or any of the other traditional pedestrian power centers that must be carefully managed in many traditional governments. This is hard-core, orthodox totalitarianism. Kickin'-it Stalin style, if you will. Belarus and the old N Korea are close competitors for truly worst places on earth. In a vacuum, they would simply not exist, but would collapse under the weight of their own oppression. They only exist as client states of major powers-ironically more useful the more oppressive they are-because they are more annoying to the open democratic societies of the world.

In this kind of state, revolutions aren't quite simply a matter of aligning domestic power interests, but removing the external sources of power. Without Russia, Belarus would not exist the way it does today, without China, their would only be one Korea and no Myanmar-Burma. Pressure on China is the key, but where can this come from? Considering how important image is to China these days, maybe simply public pressure from its customers (us) can bring the pressure? Sign this petition.

Harmonious societies

China's current domestic social policy is oriented towards the construction of a 'harmonious society', very nice buzzwords of which even Karl Rove would likely approve ('surge' anyone?). Check out this delicious anecdote:
My neighbor Feng, a postal worker with a lazy eye and unerring sense of
humor, had consumed an inharmonious amount of baijiu, the official firebrew of
China. Late into the evening he stood up and announced: "The Beijing government
is always talking about building a harmonious society, but we already have a
harmonious society right here in this courtyard!" The assembled guests roared
their approval. A few minutes later Feng puked in the corner, and our
celebration of harmony was over for the night.


This is one of my favorite pieces of architecture that I've seen in a while.
Feels to me like the silver parts of the building are slumping up against the brick, like an idle laborer smoking a cigarette, or someone waiting on the streetcorner to meet a friend. Nice. From a nice Slate slideshow.