I’m posting this in time for the publicity bandwagon surrounding Indiana Jones and the Blah of Blah, because Angkor Wat is everything that an India Jones setting should be: a giant, alien looking ruin in the middle of the Jungle, encased in slithering tree roots. Except, of course, that Angkor Wat is real.
Stephen Fry is a supreme technophile with the aura of a bookish technophobe. There is nobody better to present a documentary about early printing technology and how it changed the world. Great stuff – this is the first of six chunks.
This video, a State finalist, in National History Day looks at the history of massive scale government sanctioned drug dealing by the British in China, that created Hong Kong. I’m posting it after spotting the first, of what I think will be many, hand wringing pieces in newspapers about how China doesn’t share “Western Values” and is taking over the world. These articles will be trotted out as people get terrified by how modern China looks in Olympic TV coverage and continue to get worked up about Tibet while being bored by Iraq.
The Daily Mail, a UK national newspaper, is best described to an American audience a the kind of paper Lou Dobbs would read. Its a tabloid without the humor and a broadsheet without the brains. A couple of days ago, this Daily Mail fear piece on China became a minor Internet meme, hitting the front page on Digg etc. I’ll summarize: it suggests that an evil China that doesn’t share Western values, will inevitably take over the world and that American hegemony was preferable, if not as good as Britain’s.
Here is my summary of why this point of view is moronic and dangerous, based on the history that follows the video:
Britain’s obsession with cups of tea made its trade deficit with China a problem, rather like the US obsession with consuming Chinese made, injection molded, plastic crap from Walmart is currently doing the same. To solve this they grew Opium in India, shipped it East and pushed it illegally to the Chinese who bought it in exchange for the tea, thus eliminating the deficit.
The Chinese government went to war with the British to prevent them from drug dealing, and the British took control of Hong Kong, making it a modern capitalist outpost, when the Chinese disappeared into the productive black hole of the communist cultural revolution.
When the British lease on Hong Kong expired, the communist Chinese could not afford to lose its revenue, so they let it remain capitalist, with a buffer zone. Capitalism spread through the buffer zone and beyond. Chinese cities became like British industrial cities at the time when the British were pushing drugs on the Chinese.
While the communist Soviet Union had destroyed itself from within and communist China was rebuilding itself from without, the Americans and British were fighting against the people in Afghanistan that they supported against the communists – who were now funded by Opium which they sold illegally to places like Britain and America – how ironic.
In the US, t-shirts and lawnmowers and electric can openers and the Apple computer that I am writing this on, cost less than they did when the people that bought them were children. People were encouraged to buy some things that they didn’t need, and they became addicted to consumerism itself, which became the opiate of the masses. Since this drug was capitalism itself, it didn’t seem as threatening to society as black tar heroin. Americans borrowed money from banks who repackaged the debt and sold it to other banks as an asset. Banks became addicted to the money to be made from bundling up more and more packaged assets and shaving off a commission, without really knowing what was inside the package.
The money that was loaned to people to buy injection molded crap from China, was made with the same thing that you put in your tank to drive to Walmart to buy it, and was secured on the value of your home and mortgage based on other homes in a package that the bank hadn’t opened. So when the value of your home collapses for one of the first times in history, because of mortgage commitments that were worth nothing but people hadn’t checked, when the gas in your tank goes up, while you are at war with the people in the region where the gas comes from, when the cost of the injection molded crap goes up because inflation and wages increase in China and when the Chinese rub our faces in it with gleaming new airports and stadia and high speed trains, as we watch the Olympics – newspapers like the Daily Mail will bleat “but they don’t share our values”.
Because of our own history, we are not always in a position to complain about China’s values in the West, but we don’t need to sell the Chinese Opium to stop the bleeding this time. If the US economy stumbles badly, so does China’s. The globalization that the zenophobic Daily Mail is a right-wing opponent of, consists of the shared economic values that hold us together.
Robert Newman combines comedy and history in fantastically entertaining monologues such as his ‘History of Oil’ theater production.
In this new 6 part series, Newman looks at history as if time flowed backwards. The opening scene, for example, comments on the ethnic cleansing by Cherokee and Apache in the 1800s that lead to the eradication of all white people from the North American continent by the mid 15th Century.
The most startling result of this process is that many things can be seen as progress when played backwards. Our destruction of the Earth’s environment becomes our understanding of how to fix it.
29 min 1 sec Oct 30, 2007
Part 1 of what looks like a great documentary series about the Balkanized version of online existence before the Internet took hold. As one of the interviewees points out, people seem to think the Internet came out of nowhere rather than being evolutionary. In the same way, people think that the web created the explosive growth in the Internet, but actually things picked up a year or so before, opening up the evolutionary niche for something like the web to thrive. For that reason, understanding the history of Bulletin Board Systems, through a documentary like this, is the only way to understand the history of the Internet in its proper context.
As an aside, the Altair 8800, pictured, was the computer I used (or rather avoided using) at high school.
jason scott 38 min 19 sec Jan 13, 2007 www.bbsdocumentary.com
An amateur pop promo made by people working at CERN in the 90s. The people in this video were the subject of the first ever photo on the web.
According to band member, Silvano de Gennaro:
“Back in 1992, after their show at the CERN Hardronic Festival, my colleague Tim Berners-Lee asked me for a few scanned photos of “the CERN girls” to publish them on some sort of information system he had just invented, called the “World Wide Web”. I had only a vague idea of what that was, but I scanned some photos on my Mac and FTPed them to Tim’s now famous “info.cern.ch”.”
If America had been continuously fighting the Iraq War from before the Mayflower landed, the US death toll would be less than the fatalities in this single battle.
If there was a specific date for the beginning of American hegemony and the death of Imperialist Europe, it would be the first day of the Somme. The Somme was the most brutal of WWI battles with over a million casualties, part of a pointless conflict fought between one country whose ruler had known the others’ as his ‘grandma’.
The Commander in Chief of the British Army at the time, was Douglas Haig, an antiquated buffoon who refused to prepare for modern methods of warfare, calling the machine gun a ‘vastly overrated weapon’. Countless tens of thousands of people died as a result, yet Haig is the name embossed at the center of every poppy worn in Britain in commemoration of both world wars, every year, to this date. This is what one might politely call – a fucking disgrace.
1 hr 19 min 7 sec Jan 2, 2008
A film about the murder of former Italian Prime Minister, Aldo Moro, by the Red Brigades in 1978. This was a seminal moment in Italy’s history, comparable to the assassination of JFK. Its also been the subject of so much fiction that its good to watch a documentary on the subject.
45 min 0 sec Dec 15, 2007