David Weinberger's Weblog. Let's just see how it goes.
Tuesday, April 30, 2002
NY Times Book Review on Blogging
The back page of the NY Times Book Review for May 5 is an article by Judith Shulevitz on blogging. I haven't read it. All I know is that it makes a passing reference to Small Pieces as a "smart book," so I am confident that it is the finest analysis of blogging ever published.
4/30/2002 11:06:19 AM | PermaLink
Making Fun of POMO
Chris Chanson writes:
This is an amusing personal sociology of Post-Modern criticism.
Ah, let's deconstruct that sentence! "Amusing" is a gutless word, commitment-free. That's because I have mixed feelings about the article. First, it is genuinely amusing in the sense of being humorous and interesting. But it focuses its fury on the excesses of POMOism, an easy target. And yet, Chip also genuinely struggles with it, trying to find what's of value and where it goes off the rails. His explanation of why academics have developed a remarkably hermetic vocabulary strikes me as right. And he writes:
This is exactly right, but it — I hesitate to say it — needs to be deconstructed. POMO at its best challenges the comfortable notion of "reasonable." Buried in that term is an appeal to a privileged standpoint that is usually deeply conservative: facts, rationality or common sense.
Believe me, I am deeply sympathetic to Chip's reaction to POMO. His description of what it's like to swim among these fish mirrors my own experiences. But an appeal to the "reasonable" ignores what's most important about POMO analysis. POMO tells us that all understanding is interpretive, that other interpretations are possible, and that our interpretation seems right not because it is right but because it's our interpretation.
It seems like we have two choices: we fall into an indecisive relativism that says that all views are equally valid or we sprain our brains trying to see how there could be a way to tell the good stuff from the bad stuff. To say that there's a "reasonable way" to do so seems to me to miss the point because it assumes the very thing that we should be stubbing our toes trying to think through.
On the other foot (er, hand), I personally think it's a mistake to assume that we have to choose among fundamental interpretations. We don't get to fly above all interpretations, including our own, picking and choosing among them. We are our stance in the world, a stance given to us by history, culture, language and accident. So, the lesson I take from POMO is that absolutism is a mistake, that humility is warranted, and that we always have to decide among uncertain choices that are themselves delivered by the accident of history.
So, how do we decide whether the post-feminist-meta-Marx-pre-Freudian interpretation of the Book of Job is worth our time? I don't think POMO actually helps us. It's better at freeing up creative interpretations that challenge the status quo than at enabling us to choose among those interpretations. My guess is that such decisions actually come after the fact: we're inspired/energized/heartened by the critique we just read and only afterwards do we try to "justify" why that critique is worthy of belief. Belief is the last in the series. And it's the least interesting. More important: Does it excite you? Does it reveal the world in a way that matters? Does it set the hairs on your neck on edge? Does it give you a chill?
Could any lesson of the Web be clearer? Belief is nice, but it's not why 500 million of us are here dishing the dirt.
4/30/2002 11:01:10 AM | PermaLink
Welcome New Blogs
So has the always-inventive Stowe Boyd. The fact that he posted a glowing, thoughtful review of Small Pieces doesn't influence my recommendation, although the fact that he's an old pal certainly does...as is only proper.
4/30/2002 10:08:58 AM | PermaLink
Monday, April 29, 2002
Gillmor in China
Still catching up on the blogworld. I just read Dan Gillmor's entries about his trip to China. (We almost met up in Beijing.) The bit about demo-ing live weblogging at a journalism conference is another "Aha!" moment from Dan.
4/29/2002 05:07:48 PM | PermaLink
What type of blogger are you?
That's the question Jacob Shwirtz light-heartedly poses with his brief and witty self-test.
It turns out, that I am a David Weinberger-ish blogger.
4/29/2002 04:58:46 PM | PermaLink
Return to Normalcy
We arrived Friday night, literally one minute before the sabbath deadline. Ann was there with open arms as well as hot soup and a loaf of Cheryl-Ann's best-in-the-world challah.
It's Monday and in some ways the jetlag has gotten worse. Last night, Nathan woke up at 2AM and read in bed until 3:30 when I woke up. We came downstairs, read some Hornblower, watched a little TV, and at 5:20 went to the Pig and Whistle diner in Brighton, a tradition from other jetlagged mornings. He went off to school and I went back to sleep until a 9:30 appointment.
How odd time is, transforming presence into memory and experience into stories. We will remember this trip very fondly, I'm sure. Forgetting for the moment the Lessons We Learned, it was just plain fun. For all of the sleep-deprived difficulties, it was a series of good days. And, frankly, much of the joy of the trip for me came simply from getting to be with Nathan non-stop for 12 days. I've worked at home for almost all of Nathan's life, so it's not like I never get to see him and need to get "reacquainted." He's just fun to be with: sunny, funny, deeply sympathetic, and wicked smart. Good combo. We're lucky parents.
As far as getting to see China (well, the bits we saw) through the eyes of an 11-year-old, what I saw mainly was that the similarities run neck-and-neck with the differences. Granting that we were only in cities, so much of life seems the same if only because its landscape is identical: roads, cars, buildings, bridges, sidewalks. It is only within this world of similarity that the differences appear.
Not to scant the differences. But they often cannot be read from the experience itself: you might not notice that parents are rarely seen with more than one child and you would never be able to see directly that their children work harder at school than ours do. The world can seem less foreign than it is.
But that's my job as an adult, helping Nathan to see what isn't on the surface of experience. It's also what makes adults so damn annoying.
We're back amongst the familiar now. Not everything has to be interesting any more. Although, learning how to be interested in everything — how everything is interesting — is our real work, isn't it?
Can I go to sleep now?
4/29/2002 10:52:47 AM | PermaLink
Thursday, April 25, 2002
Trust and Lies
Kevin Marks points us to a lecture by Onora O'Neil on whether the openness and transparency of the Web is increasing or decreasing trust.
(We leave Hong Kong in a couple of hours for our long ride home. It's been an amazing trip.)
4/25/2002 08:03:55 PM | PermaLink
Wednesday, April 24, 2002
Hugh McKellar: The Finest Person Ever Created
Hugh McKellar, editor of KMWorld, has reviewed Small Pieces, saying, "It’s the best thing ever written about the Web." He also uses the adjective "side-splitting" in a positive sense.
(BTW, my return to blogging in my own blog is directly related to the fact that for the 18 hours we're in this hotel in Guangzhou, we have broadband access within our room, rather than having to make a daily trip to an Internet cafe.)
4/24/2002 06:11:22 PM | PermaLink
We're in Guangzhou (nee Canton) for the day. It was hard on us leaving Beijing. I can't really describe why the city touches me so much. It's drab, dreary, poor, regimented, and characterized by bureaucratic, over-size architecture. Yet it's so full of life and a sense of its own future, its own becoming. New York City, Lor' bless it, is a great city but it already is what it is. Beijing isn't. Beijing is becoming. And it's doing so from a past that reaches back immeasurably and to times so radically different than its present that it took a revolution to get here.
Then there's the people. There's every reason not to trust my tourist's perceptions of them. I don't speak the language. I met a very limited swath of them. They recognize me as a Western tourist from a mile away. But I nevertheless do trust that something that I've seen in them is in fact there: elan, openness, friendliness, confidence. Sure, this type of generalization is ridiculous. And yet...
We come back to the US on Friday.
4/24/2002 09:54:42 AM | PermaLink
Saturday, April 20, 2002
Confessions of an American
I did it. I ate in a Mr. Donut in Shanghai. And I may well go to Starbuck's here in Beijing. This has me so upset that I've already blogged about it over at the Boston Globe travelblogue (Steve Yost's term, I think) but I haven't expiated the sin yet. (AKMA undoubtedly will explain to me all the ways that sins aren't/can't be expiated. And sorry to be missing out on the POMO blogthread - it's just too hard to focus on it while so far away. No that makes no sense and yet it is The Truth.) I will undoubtedly blog about it again.
But beyond the brand name globalism, what do we do about the fact that all large cities share the same international semantics: sidewalks, streets, traffic lights, tall buildings, smog, noise while you're trying to sleep, crowds, lines, corner kiosks, hydrants, cars cars cars cars cars? You want your globalism? I gotcha globalism right here...
4/20/2002 07:36:10 AM | PermaLink
Tuesday, April 16, 2002
I'm too jetlagged to respond to AKMA and Tom Matrullo's latest entries in the Post-Modern AKMA blogthread. In fact, I'm too tired to copy and paste the links; they're both in my blogrolodex to the left. Both are excellent.
I'm in Shanghai with my 11-year-old son. We slept about 4 hours on the plane and about 4 hours last night, which is not nearly enough. We spent the morning walking to the Yu Yuan Gardens on the other side of the river. I can't tell the real Chinese from the preserved Chinese to the re-created Chinese. (I'm talking about the buildings, not the people, you wise-acres.) One part of town struck me like a Chinese Chinatown, that is, an attempt to build a place that would meet the expectation of tourists. But, lacking language, I can't tell.
Anyway, Shanghai at first glance is complex, vital and amazing. So far, Hong Kong seems like the place most like it. But it's amazing how empowering lack of sleep and knowledge are when it comes to making sweeping generalizations.
4/16/2002 12:06:56 AM | PermaLink
Saturday, April 13, 2002
Joe Mahoney writes in response to my comment that "a community is a group of people who know one another and care about one another," which was in response to Clay Shirky's article on whether communities scale:
4/13/2002 03:06:10 PM | PermaLink
Small Pieces Nicely Reviewed
4/13/2002 12:41:12 PM | PermaLink
Friday, April 12, 2002
We drop letters into a box
And spring happens.
4/12/2002 05:56:07 PM | PermaLink
Hallmark for a Realist
If you can dream it, then it can be
["Women" just didn't scan. Neither did "potential love interests." And the equating of women with banks and money is offensive. In fact, I withdraw the whole thing.]
4/12/2002 05:51:54 PM | PermaLink
To which I respond: Well done! My only quibble is with the word "choose" since our starting point is not a matter of choice. I am an American, 20-21st Century, English-speaking Jewish man, and I can never escape that starting point. Even if I rebel, I do so as an American, 20-21st Century yada yada. And while it's possible to transcend and transform one's situation to some degree as Newton and Picasso did, it still occurs within the situation: Socrates' pal Alcibiades couldn't have been Newton or Picasso. So, not all starting points are equal because only one of them is mine. (And, of course, I am that starting point's more than it is mine.)
Tom has also replied to my question for AKMA. He wonders whether I'm too focused on "hermeneutics," i.e., the study of the act of interpretation:
Great point. I need to think about it more. My initial reaction is to clarify what I mean by "interpretation." I don't mean in the way in which a translator interprets. Rather, I take it as "taking something one way and not another." The "taking" absolutely doesn't have to be intellectual or linguistic. That's why hermeneutics (in my understanding) applies not only to texts but also to things — I take the twig as a way to scratch my back although tomorrow I might take it as kindling. (The Deconstructors have proposed — haven't they? — that the entire world is a text; I'd lean the other way.) But Tom's comment is deeper than that and this is a hook I don't want to squirm off of.
Tom also questions whether I'm dismissing the folks worth reading (Walter Benjamin and Derrida are Tom's examples) by equating them with the nattering "neener neener"s. And this is one hook I think I can clear safely: I wrote my 1,600 question to AKMA precisely because I don't dismiss those others. Sorry if I implied otherwise...
4/12/2002 02:53:09 PM | PermaLink
I was going to write a review of AKMA's book, What Is Post-Modern Biblical Criticism?, but he's blogged a review of my book, so running a review of his book would look a little too hand-washy. Instead, I'll just say that this is the clearest introduction to post-modernism and deconstructionism that I've read. Yes, it happens to use biblical interpretation as its topical area, but it applies far more widely. AKMA is a clear, entertaining and generous writer, but you knew that already because you're reading his blog, aren't you?
So, allow me to expose the depths of my inability to understand post-modernism ("POMO"). Perhaps AKMA can be enticed to help pull me out of my hole...
4/12/2002 08:26:29 AM | PermaLink
4/12/2002 08:24:37 AM | PermaLink
Thursday, April 11, 2002
New Security Problems with IIS
Other security problems with IIS that have been recently discovered:
Flattery gets you root access.
It can be bribed with hockey tickets.
Say "I'm going to tell on you!" and it will run away and leave all its passwords on the ground.
4/11/2002 05:31:18 PM | PermaLink
Even as I type this, I'm chatting with Brent Ashley and Tim Aiello. Chatting in the Internet sense. They've developed a very cool chat capability you can stick right on your blog page. Open source, of course. If you're interested in trying it out or finding out how you can participate in the beta, go to Brent's site.
Gotta get back to chatting...
4/11/2002 04:19:49 PM | PermaLink
Shirky, AKMA and Scaling Care
I was going to respond to Clay Shirky's welcome article on communities and audiences. He's one of my favorite thinker guys. But another of my favorite thinker guys, AKMA, beat me to it. And AKMA's piece is just superb.
I've long been suspicious of the term "community" when applied to the Internet, for in the real world, a community is a group of people who know one another and care about one another (not, as Clay says, "groups whose members actively communicate with one another" — there's not enough juice in that phrase). The Internet is letting us form groups of members who know one another in some sense and care about one another in some sense, but we don't yet know which senses. The fact that "lurking" has a positive sense on the Net is new. Even the intermittency of Net groups is new. So, the tokens by which a RW community constitutes itself — the howdies on the street, the pot roast dinners supplied when a member is in mourning — aren't the same as on the Web. Thus, the limits to scaling aren't yet known. Online groups whose members care about one another are neither communities nor audiences. We don't yet know what they are. We thus don't yet know how they'll scale. And, the single most exciting aspect of the Web is, for me, that it's letting us find out what human caring is possible of when the constraints of space, time and — most important — remembering people's names are removed.
4/11/2002 08:55:07 AM | PermaLink
Who's an anti-semite?
Several people have taken exception to parts of my list of beliefs that do not make you an anti-semite. For example, Chip writes:
I'll admit that it's no fun to be regarded by someone — or by an entire denomination — as believing in an incomplete religion that dooms me to a life of eternal damnation. But "anti-Semite" is a strong word that has a political effect when uttered. The point of my piece was that we should reserve it for the real enemies of Jews. A Christian who believes I am damned may well still support my right to hold my false beliefs, support my right to equal consideration under the law, and may even personally like me. I need a way to differentiate that person from the one who thinks I'm responsible for AIDS, 9/11, world poverty and the early death of his Messiah.
I'm not trying let off the hook those who say that only believers in Jesus get into heaven. On the contrary, I want to engage people in dialogue about beliefs such as these. But once you call someone an anti-semite, you've poisoned the well and conversation becomes much much harder, if not impossible — and likewise for conversations about race, gender, sexual preference, etc. etc. etc.
4/11/2002 08:42:45 AM | PermaLink
From a mailing list comes a link to an article in Newsday that rips the lid off a new European war that somehow has escaped mainstream notice. It seems that the Danes are feuding with themselves about the use and abuse of commas:
That explains why, if you read them carefully, Danish translators' resumes, such as that of Sten Hedegård Nielsen, say things such as: "...and I am one of the very few who master both Danish comma systems."
The Danes could certainly learn a little something from us Americans who have proudly replaced those messy commas, semicolons, colons, periods, parentheses and the occasional question mark with the always-correct em dash —
4/11/2002 08:23:28 AM | PermaLink
Wednesday, April 10, 2002
Jens Winther expands on an unexpressed argument in my over-titled "Web as Utopia." I wrote: "I can't defend the following so I'll just state it: we humans are at our best when we are involved with others." Jens writes:
He continues by asking what's special and formative about this special place, and concludes by raising the question of reliability, which I think is actually a variation on the question of authenticity that has launched a whole bunch o' blogthreads.
Me, too. And I'm merry to have run into Jens' blog.
Jacob Shwirz sent me an email to see if I was bothered by his comments on my book. He integrates some of the book's ideas into his own way of thinking. Bothered?? How could I be anything but delighted?
Just got a pretty good review in Wired, and a wonderful mention by James Fallows in The Atlantic online.
Jacob Shwirz over at FuzzyBlogic is looking for someone to commit to translating his father's blog from Hebrew to English. His father is the main NY correspondent for Ha'Aretz, the Israeli newspaper. Sounds like it'd be a voice worth hearing. (Unfortunately, my Hebrew is limited to "Hag shameach" and "Lo ani.")
4/10/2002 12:01:01 AM | PermaLink
Tuesday, April 09, 2002
Blameless as daylight I stood looking
Steadily rooted though they were all flowing
Outlandish as double-humped camels or unicorns,
Neither tears nor the easing flush
What I want back is what I was
4/9/2002 03:12:03 PM | PermaLink
Gary Unblinking Stock reminds us that the new mnftiu is out. The last panel is as close to the truth as we're ever going to hear. This is the Oedipal complex that may end the world. (And beyond the Bushes' little Greek tragedy, there's the mythic Oedipal struggle among the world's three religions. Oy veh, don't get me started!)
Gary also sends us to a lightly amusing site that will transform your wimpy email messages and blog entries into rip-roarin', flame-breathing flames.
4/9/2002 02:52:54 PM | PermaLink
Who's Not an Anti-Semite
Here are some people who are not necessarily anti-Semites. Someone who...
... criticizes Israel
... thinks that Jews are especially smart
... thinks that Jews aren't going to heaven because they don't accept Jesus as their savior
... believes that the Jewish belief that we're the "chosen people" tends to make us smug and self-righteous
... thinks that Jews are good with money
... thinks that Jews are clannish
... is uncomfortable talking about religion with a Jew
... thinks orthodox Judaism is sexist
... thinks orthodox Jews in their black coats and funny hats are just plain weird
... thinks the Palestinians have been oppressed
... on Yom Kippur asks us how our seder was
... thinks that Paul Newman doesn't look Jewish
Some of those beliefs are wrong (IMO) and some are hurtful. So what? Jew haters are my enemies but lots of people who hold to some of those beliefs may be my strongest allies or my best friends. If we can't tell the difference, we're never going to get anywhere. Calling someone an anti-Semite (or a racist, or a sexist, etc.) poisons the well of conversation. We should — IMO — save it for our actual enemies.
That's how it seems to me, anyway.
4/9/2002 02:27:04 PM | PermaLink
Monday, April 08, 2002
We're with you, HalleyTop Ten Reasons To Witness Your Dad's Demise.
4/8/2002 10:11:58 AM | PermaLink
Too Many Small Pieces?
Chris Pirillo mentions my book right at the top of his massively circulated Lockergnome newsletter. Thanks, Chris.
By the way, I enjoyed Eric Norlin's spirited defense (I think that's what it's called) of Chris' deciding to offer collections of tips and so forth for electronic download for $5 per tome. Some creeps have been calling Chris names for this, including someone who posted a parody of Lockergnome. I'd give you the link but it's just not funny (unlike the insanely clever "Gluetrain" parody a couple of years ago). It also paints orthodox Jewish sideburns on Chris' caricature. Yeah, that's real funny.
CIO Insight has a positive, brief review of the book. It begins: "The foremost problem with books about technology is that they are deadly dull. Not this one..."
Programming guru Ed Yourdon "highly recommends" "Small Pieces." In return, Small Pieces issued a press release highly recommending Ed Yourdon. Because there's no permalink to Ed's writeup, I quote it here in full:
If I were capable of shame and/or modesty, I'd be blushing right now.
Burning Bird, on the other hand, writes:
Sorry, Burning, but the first person to go online not giving a shit about Small Pieces was a Ms. Madeline McMurray who has yet to mention it at all.
My favorite comment in the discussion thread on Burning's site comes from Karl who writes "But as for the book...well the relentless hype has beaten me." Relentless hype? Karl, I sent review copies to the people on my blogroll and maybe five or six of them have written something. Someone quick reinforce Karl's Hype Annoyance Filter!
4/8/2002 09:39:11 AM | PermaLink
David Wasser points us to an interesting article on blogs in The Forward.
Gary Lawrence Murphy sends along some coverage of a new HBO reality show...
4/8/2002 09:21:08 AM | PermaLink
Sunday, April 07, 2002
Sleep, Must Sleeeeeeeep....
Did I say I'd be back blogging on Sunday? I meant I'd be back on Saturday night and would spend almost all of Sunday sleeping.
By the way, adding to my distinction as the only person at the original Woodstock who couldn't find anyone willing to get him high, I am now the only tourist to Bangkok who couldn't find the red light district. Or, possibly I found it and am too naive to have recognized it. In any case, frankly, I'm just as glad...
4/7/2002 05:08:07 PM | PermaLink
Friday, April 05, 2002
Small Bangkoks Loosely joined
I'm a mess at the moment. I'm post-jetlagged the way post-modern is post modern. I am deconstructed, non-totalized and without grounding.
In the most quotidian terms: I'm in a combination laundry and internet cafe in Bangkok. I was going to be spending a "leisurely" 1.5 days seeing the city, but that got pared down to .5 when a family emergency cropped up. (Hint: Email from a relative entitled "Everyone is all right" means most definitely that at least one person is not all right.)
I got to this cafe by leaping out of a tricycle taxi at a red light after remembering that tourists shouldn't take up any offers to be transported somewhere. And there was this cafe: 5 machines, air conditioning enough to cool my sweat but not to stop it, and actually not any laundry in evidence. I'm 75% through a can of Singha beer which may be the best thing I have ever tasted. Also, I haven't eaten in many many hours. Got a little buzz on, actually. Whoops, 90% through.
100% through. Ok, Halley, yes, we love one another. The whole blogging linkified group of us. And I'm not saying that just because AKMA wrote positively about my book. although I certainly would have said so if it would have gotten him to write positively about my book. It's true. But let's just acknowledge it in a manly way and move on.
Speaking of manly moving on's, my next stop is Bangkok's red light district. You know me: an insatiable swinger. Oh yes. Then, Saturday night, I'll be home for a week before heading back to China for two weeks. So. no blogging until Sunday. Try to carry on without me...
4/5/2002 06:38:11 AM | PermaLink
Thursday, April 04, 2002
Driving from the Phuket Airport
Notice: Reading the following constitutes accepting the PEULA (Poetic End User License Agreement) that reads in its entirety: "We must forgive one another's bad poetry."
While driving from the Phuket airport in Thailand, having not slept in way too long.:
I've seen so little of Thailand so far, but I love it already.
PS: Basically the same presentation at yesterday's in Beijing, but this time the audience laughed all the way through. Go figure. (No translators this time.)
4/4/2002 03:20:13 AM | PermaLink
Wednesday, April 03, 2002
Suppose they gave a speech...
...and no one laughed? I just spoke to 1,200 IT and business managers in Beijing at a bigtime IBM event here. I ranted, I chanted, I preached, I testified. No visible response. Of course, I did all this mediated by simultaneous translators. Afterwards my hosts assured me that the presentation was in fact well received. The evidence? No one left. Apparently Chinese audiences aren't shy about heading for the safety of the hallways when they don't like a speaker.
But of course, it isn't all about me. The important question is what sense this Chinese audience is making of the Net revolution. Hard to tell when you can't speak their language. But IBM certainly is stressing the effect e-ness will have on the way business is conducted. (The only English word used in their overview pump-up-the-crowd video was "linux," complete with animated penguin.) And, they apparently like Cluetrain enough to invite one of its authors here.
I have to run to catch a plane. Tomorrow it's another IBM conference, in Thailand.
Can I please sleep soon? Thank you.
4/3/2002 01:52:16 AM | PermaLink
More Small Pieces stuff
There's also a notice/review at TechDirections.
4/3/2002 01:47:10 AM | PermaLink
Tuesday, April 02, 2002
Small Reviews Loosely Joined
By the way, I've been hearing from a bunch of you that you like the (free) children's version of my book. thanks! Spread the word...
4/2/2002 08:36:06 AM | PermaLink
I'll admit it. I was cranky last night. That 23-hour plane ride seems to have soured me just a tad. That and the fact that between my vegetarianism and half-hearted Passover observance, I basically couldn't eat anything except the mints. So, please forgive my lack of graciousness. The hotel is in fact fabulous. Sumptuous. The people are courteous and seemingly friendly. (I always assume hotel staffers are in fact highly resentful of their "guests.") Yes, it's faux Western, and hearing Chopin and Mozart in the lobby still does strike me as just plain weird, but most American hotels are faux luxurious, imitating a British version of upper class life as surely as Ralph Lauren clothing does.
This morning I got to walk around Beijing for a couple of hours. I can't tell you why I feel so at home here. Now I have to head in to a rehearsal of my speech tomorrow. I've already flagged about five slides that could be culturally obnoxious - a 9/11 reference, some mocking of kenmore.com, the casual use of a ying-yang symbol, etc. The real worries are the ones that you never thought might poke 'em in the eye. And for sure none of the jokes will work.
I'm back in the Internet cafe again. By accident, I typed ^V and found the following bit of text pasted into my text:
By thy copies and pastes shall ye know them. Sort of.
4/2/2002 08:11:38 AM | PermaLink
Monday, April 01, 2002
After 23 hours on planes, I am in Beijing. Sort of. I'm in the ultra-swank, ultra-faux-Western China World Hotel. Actually, I'm in the itnernet cafe next door. Maybe tomorrow I'll see something other than bellboys in their 'Thirties bellboy caps and computer screens ("How a bellboy got into my computer screen I'll never know"). But probably not: tomorrow is rehearsal day in the ultra-modern conference hall. Off in the distance some red neon beckons. Sigh. (I've been here once before and I'm coming back in the middle of April for an actual tourist visit with my 11-year-old son. More later.)
So what can I tell you about Beijing? Clean internet cafe. It costs either 8 or 80 yuan per hour - roughly a buck or ten bucks. Good connection. Gator pops up every time you log in anywhere, offering to remember your password (yeah, right, in a public cafe) and sending reports on your demographically-crucial browsing activity back to the mothership...just in case no one at the cafe is tracking your browsing paths.
I don't expect to be blogging regularly over the next week. We'll see how it goes. But here's one from the plane:
Voice of Authority
"Private Forecast Rosy: State urge to clear barriers hindering sector"
This is the headline of The Business Weekly (which is confusingly subtitled: "China Daily"). I'm reading it on the plane ride from LA to Beijing, after having flown Boston to LA. While the flight attendants — all women, all young — have a basic command of English, I've been nodding vigorously and smiling like a baboon in response to every question. I've even given up on "tsieh tsieh" since rather than being a charmingly inept attempt to be polite in Chinese, it's apparently coming across as an American speaking gibberish.
Here's the lead of the article:
The article refers to a July 2001 speech by Jiang Zemin encouraging "eligible private entrepreneurs" to join the Party. It also says that all sectors due to be opened to foreign investment after China's admission to the World Trade Organization will first be opened to domestic private investors. And, it says, the private sector was 13% of China's GDP in 1999.
This is rhetoric I don't understand, a code I can't crack. I've gotten as far as it translating into: "Private sector good." Does the rest of it mean that it's good so long as it's part and parcel of the ruling party? Probably. Does the comment about opening sectors first to domestic investors indicate a throttling back or a racing forward? Or something else? I read it, grinning like a baboon.
What's most remarkable to me is how similar this totalitarian language is to the verbiage found in the typical quarterly report from any corporation.
4/1/2002 08:04:46 AM | PermaLink
Blog Reviews of Small Pieces