Posts Tagged ‘China’
The Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin has recently digitized ten scrapbooks belonging to Harry Houdini. The books are divided into three groups: volumes compiled by other magicians about their careers; scrapbooks holding Houdini’s clippings on the practice of magic in general; and books that chart Houdini’s investigations of fakes, frauds, and conjurers. (Later in his life, Houdini became fascinated with the post-WWI fad for spiritualism—mediums, séances, and psychics—and took on a role as skeptical debunker of spiritualist performers.)…
* Tom Robbins
As we reach for the paste, we might recall that it was on this date in 1957 that Chairman Mao delivered his speech, “On the Correct handling of Contradictions Among the People,” to the Eleventh Session (Enlarged) of the Supreme State Conference in China. Calling for the free expression of criticisms of the Communist regime, Mao instigated what he called the “Hundred Flowers era” (as in “let a hundred flowers bloom…”).
It was a short-lived era. Some historians suggest that the outpouring of criticism that resulted spooked the powers-that-be; others believe that Mao’s invitation was from the outset a calculated move to draw out critics. (Mao later said that he was trying to coax snakes out of their dens so he could chop off their heads… but he may well have been saving face.) Either way, within months, the Hundred Flowers campaign had given way to the Anti-Rightest Campaign: 300-600,000 intellectuals were labeled as rightists, stripped of their jobs, and sent to labor camps, most on the evidence of their Hundred Flowers comments.
It’s not just the assembly-line worker who’s being replaced by automatons, it’s tough all over:
In the face of rising labor costs, Chinese restaurateur Cui Runguan is selling thousands of robots that can hand slice noodles into a pot of boiling water called the Chef Cui. Runguan says in the report below that just like robots replacing workers in factories, “it is certainly going to happen in sliced noodle restaurants.” The robots costs $2,000 each, as compared to a chef, who would cost $4,700 a year. According to one chef, “The robot chef can slice noodles better than human chefs.” News of Runguan’s invention hit the internet in March of 2011, but they’ve since gone into production and are starting to catch on: 3,000 of them have already been sold. But why do their eyes glow, and why do they look so angry?…
As we admire the precise proportions of our pasta, we might send well-insulated birthday greetings to Ray McIntire; he was born on this date in 1918. While working at Dow Chemical during World War II in search of a substitute for rubber (which was in short supply during the conflict), McIntire combined styrene with isobutylene and created polystyrene, a unique material that was solid yet light and flexible (due to the tiny bubbles formed by the isobutylene within the styrene). Dow patented the serendipitous invention in 1944 as STYROFOAM™. In 2008, McIntire was inducted into the U.S. National Inventors Hall of Fame.
…a Scottish born, San Francisco based artist. He keeps notebooks filled with scraps of paper, scribbled phrases, and other ephemera that he incorporates into his artwork. These elements represent the often overlooked stuff of daily life, which is the root of Fullarton’s inspiration. He sees beauty in the ways people manage to find joy and meaning in the minutiae. The artist paints vibrantly complex canvases whose elements jumble and mix together in a facsimile of modern life. Fullarton compliments these with smaller mixed media drawings on paper. These paper works are sometimes the genesis of the finished paintings, but are more often stand-alone vignettes featuring forlorn characters who find themselves in compromising situations.
Indeed. Consider his most recent Behance portfolio, “I Can’t Apologize Enough“– a calculated violation of Ben Franklin’s injunction, “Never ruin an apology with an excuse”– from which the image above and the one immediately below are drawn.
[TotH to Laughing Squid]
As we concentrate on contrition, we might recall that it was on this date in 1997 that the United Kingdom surrendered sovereignty over Hong Kong to the People’s Republic of China, and the island enclave became the first PRC’s first “Special Administrative Region.” (The second, Macau, was created two years later.)
This body of work explores a simple question. What is the poverty line in a country?
We decided to generally calculate a per-person, per-day rate of a national poverty line, and to create a visual portrayal of items found in that country that could be bought by a person living at the poverty line.This is not an emotional analysis of what it means to be poor. It is an examination of the choices one would face being poor. This is an ongoing project, with the first series understanding China, Japan, Nepal and Thailand. We have since expanded this project and have gone to five continents. We are not trying to compare different countries’ poverty, but rather to have a starting point to understand poverty within a country’s context.
Everything else is left up to interpretation.
… though the viewer notes that the local newspapers that provide the background for each shot (and their enticing advertisements) offer an ironic counterpoint to the sparse reality of life on the poverty line.
[TotH to GOOD]
As we count our
pennies blessings, we might recall that it was on this date in 1972 that Richard M. Nixon arrived in China to begin the historic 8-day visit that ended 25 years of separation between the two countries; it was the first time a U.S. president had visited the PRC.
Mao Zedong and Nixon (source)
Is it any wonder that older friends and relatives abroad still ask, when learning that one is from the Western U.S.: do you know any cowboys? Anyone with a sense of America formed from the movies that have been this nation’s leading cultural ambassador for most of the last century might well assume that we are a nation of wranglers, gangsters, reporters, and lawyers.
The invaluable Moira Finnie, blogger for TCM, moderator of the online forum Silver Screen Oasis and proprietor of the blog Skeins of Thought, strikes a blow for the unsung, singling out the librarian:
This rumination on work in the movies began while I was reading the new memoir, Quiet Please, (Da Capo Press). The author offers a look at the experiences of a young, male, very contemporary librarian named Scott Douglas from the other side of the reference desk… One amusing section of the book concerned the fact that Douglas felt that there was a serious dearth of librarians as role models in the movies. Sure, to the average person, “Marian the Librarian” in The Music Man (1964) may be the quintessential movie librarian. You know the type, frosty on the outside, potentially a molten hottie and closet romantic on the inside, all the while that “Prof. Harold Hill” is hoping she’s really that “sadder but wiser girl” he’s hoping to find in the hinterlands of Iowa during his travels…
Except for Noah Wyle’s three made-for-tv excursions as…(dramatic pause)…the nebbishy but dashing “Flynn Carsen” in The Librarian movies, there do seem to be paltry few positive images of librarians in the movies, especially for males…
So begins a delightful survey of librarians on screen: “One of the Invisible Professions.”
As we refrain from unnecessary noises, we might recall that it was on this date in 1271 that Kublai Khan renamed his empire “Yuan,” officially marking the end of the Song Dynasty (though Southern Song wasn’t fully conquered until 1276) and the start of the Yuan Dynasty of (Mongolia and) China. The Yuan Dynasty was a period of consolidation and centralization, and encouragement of science, technology, and trade, creating the China that Marco Polo found at the end of the Silk Road. It was also the period during which China developed drama and the novel, and saw a marked increased in the use of the written vernacular.
Kublai Khan (source)