Anyway, if Harry was a proper younger son of a monarch, he’d be in Helmand carving out a kingdom for himself in fire and blood with his trusty scimitar accompanied by a loyal band of Pathan rogues and an enigmatic beauty with huge knockers in a leopardskin bikini.
Because that’s what international relations theory really needs in the dawning of this, the Age of Obama – policy that looks exactly like the covers from old Conan the Barbarian paperbacks.
On reflection, maybe we already had that. But soon Harry will be back in London, taking up the traditional role of a man third in line to the throne, namely falling out of nightclubs. What a waste.
Mancunians were privileged to have a royal visitor this week, just as though we were Afghans or something.
THE Queen and Prince Philip were greeted by warm applause from crowds of well-wishers as they arrived at Manchester Victoria today.
Her Majesty, wearing a dusty pink hat and coat, stepped off the royal train on Platform 3 just after 10am and was met by Manchester's Lord Lieutenant Warren J Smith.
Our family house once lay athwart a Royal route. Shortly before the queen turned up, a couple of Special Branch men went from door to door up and down the street asking if “anyone with an Irish accent” had tried to rent a room. In those innocent days these and other such security precautions were kept out of the papers as being a bummer for the loyal subjects. But now the security is reported as part of the ceremonial attending the royal event:
There was a large security presence as hundreds of well wishers turned out to welcome the Royal couple….
…During the visit police kept a high-profile presence in the city centre with restricted access to some roads, including Gartside Street. A full security search of many city centre areas was conducted.
Her majesty’s sniffer dogs. Cavity searches, by appointment. Bearer of the Heckler and Koch. We do these things so well in Britain.
The anti-maglev protests in Shanghai in January depended heavily on the civic infrastructure provided by weiyuanhui, the resident’s associations that have mushroomed in China’s new private urban housing estates in Shanghai and other cities, The protest itself was slotted into a narrative of a growing middle class uprising against the government. As ever, it’s a bit more complicated than that.
To the extent that these Shanghai protests were fueled by homeowners, it constitutes a new departure in that the great majority of the time when homeowners undertake collective action it’s one neighborhood at a time and inward-focused, not about public policy. Usually the spur to action will be something like high management fees, control over neighborhood assets or shoddy construction. To the extent that homeowners contact and lobby the government in these cases, they are trying to win support from the authorities against the developers, not protesting against something the government is doing. The maglev extension plan is unusual in that it’s something the government is directly responsible for, affecting a large number of neighborhoods (one report said nearly 40) in the same way all at once.
So I think we should guard against reading too much into this event. Howard W. French, in his New York Times story makes a rather bold claim that the protests are “the strongest sign yet of rising resentment among China’s fast-growing middle class over a lack of say in decision making.” Social classes rarely act in unified ways politically, and it’s questionable at best whether the middle class in China is generally characterized by resentment.
But I think homeowners are also motivated by a sense that when they acquire their piece of what we might call the “Chinese dream,” there’s an implicit social contract going with it. The system in China now encourages people to devote their energy to getting ahead in the new economy, and once they “make it” by acquiring a nice, modern home, once of the ultimate markers of success, they feel entitled to certain things: fair treatment in matters concerning their home, veto power over unreasonable arrangements, some control over the neighborhood environment, peace and quiet, privacy, and freedom from certain kinds of impositions.
“Suburban politics” then, which I guess is pretty much the same everywhere. In a Chinese context, the weiyuanhui is an expression of a large social class explicitly and intentionally created by government economic policy. Yet Chinese municipal government, in the absence of democratic mechanisms, tends to be closely allied the developer class with which the weiyuanhui are often in dispute. I’m a big sceptic of the middle classes will bring democracy thesis, but this does point towards the introduction of some form of electoral mechanism in Chinese cities as a means of resolving this institutional conflict. From Beijing’s point of view, after all, the urban middle classes are both indispensable and generally reliable.
The place is plastered with posters from the medical students' Islamic Society inviting us to celebrate the "collapse of the evolution theory" with a lecture by a creationist in "the very building dedicated to Charles Darwin, on the spot he once lived".
UCL, the Godless College of Gower Street, insists (just as all religions do) on freedom of speech, so they are welcome to their meeting. We biologists choke, though, on the idea of such buffoonery in the Darwin Building; instead, it has been moved to a theatre used to teach medieval history.
But medieval history has facts too, along with falsehoods told about it. If superstition is unacceptable in a place just because that place is named after Darwin, why is it acceptable in a venue in which, presumably, the truth about the past is told, or at least in a place where genuine attempts are made to distinguish this truth from falsehood.
And also, what’s this idea of sacralizing Darwin all about? Surely we’re not saying that because evolution is truthful, places named after its founder are hallowed ground?
Beijing by Foot chronicles various byways of the old capital as the place gets erased for the Olympics. Places like the Milk Palace for instance:
Every three months, twenty new girls were brought in – proper Manchurians only, typically between the ages of 15 and 20, who had given birth in the past three months (their own children were left behind). They picked ten women who'd borne sons and ten women who'd borne daughters; the milk of the former was given to palace women, the milk of the latter was given to the emperor and the princes.
The selection process was rigorous – the women had to be from excellent households, in perfect health, and beautiful to boot. Their children, moreover, had to be perfect specimens. Cixi was particularly demanding when it came to her wet nurses.
It's hard to say whether this is wonderful or creepy.
Danwei reprints a review of Bruce Dover’s book on Murdoch in China, commissioned and then spiked by the Far Eastern Economic Review, now owned by a certain Rupert Murdoch. There’s the usual fun and games, but also this:
Evans lasted a year, resigning in high dudgeon over the editorial independence the man Britons call “The Dirty Digger” - pace his Australian antecedents - supposedly guaranteed to secure the purchase.
Evans’ splenetic book “Good Times, Bad Times” became a best seller and his joust with Murdoch did his career no harm – he later ran Random House, edited some worthy U.S magazines and penned magisterial histories. Like Murdoch, he became a naturalized American. Unlike Murdoch, he was knighted by the British establishment in 2004 for “services to journalism.” There are other tomes posing as Murdoch insiders like ex-Sunday Times editor Andrew Neil’s ‘Full Disclosure’ and the hugely funny ‘Stick It Up Your Punter: The Uncut Story of the Sun Newspaper’ but they are better assessed as snapshot newspaper biographies.
Well, Stick it up Your Punter is the best book on British journalism ever written (and that’s official, folks!). Good Times, Bad Times, though…I can’t be the only person who came out of reading that sympathizing with Murdoch at putting up with Evans - an endlessly self-regarding, pompous jackass - for as long as he did,.
There’s a very revealing bit in Good Times, Bad Times where Evans agonises long and hard about voting Tory in 1979, before taking the fateful step. Margaret Thatcher’s historic mission, it seems, was to chasten the Labour Party into being the kind of party that Harold would be pleased and proud to vote for again. Yes, Harold’s Party had been taken away from him, and Margaret’s job was to get it back for him and then depart.
Well it turned out that Thatcher had a few ideas of her own about what it was she intended to do, and these involved handing the Times to Murdoch. Poor Harold: he put his personal trust in Margaret and she shamelessly betrayed him. Couldn’t she see that the path of duty compelled her to enthrone Harold as the conscience of the nation?
With opponents that clueless, it’s hardly a surprise that Murdoch succeeded as he did in Britain. Over in Beijing, the hard men recognized Murdoch as a kind of clownish, aspirant version of themselves. They kept a firm grip on the clue stick and beat him with it, savagely and unmercifully.
A Chinese hip hop (fuck off, I’m 43) outfit, Dragon Tongue Squad, participate in a pre-Olympic cultural exchange programme at the Royal Opera House.
Mostly, they sang in Mandarin, although even they have admitted the language doesn't lend itself well to flowing rhymes. Handily, translated lyrics were circulated, so we knew that Dragon Tongue-ism contained the couplet “Learn how to be good at learning skills/ Learn how to communicate smoothly”. Only once did they shine, and for all the wrong reasons. Chinese Food was a comic masterpiece - “Thai, Thai! Why, why?” went the chorus, possibly, while the verses listed authentic takeaway dishes.
Via. Ah, yes. Chinese government sponsored rap. We’ve been here before. And then there’s this.
State-controlled television features public-service announcements in rap about caring for the environment and respecting elders, leading one local academic to suggest that hip-hop has become the unofficial music of the Communist government. Such rah-rah rap is far removed from the screeds made in the US by some artists whose art reflects their criminal records. Shanghai rapper Blakk Bubble, who cut his teeth on the likes of Naughty by Nature, said he regards American lyrics as "research" into the "low life of some poor black men."
… Rap is now heard on commercials and public-service announcements aired over the government-controlled television network. And talk about a cultural revolution: For the commemoration of Mao Tse-tung's 110th birthday last year, one firm released an album based on the dead leader's writings.
Anyway, here’s the Dragon Tongue Squad, showing respect to special needs basketball in the name of cross cultural understanding.
I’m crapping myself just looking at them. They got the Nike contract though.