Thursday, July 12, 2007

The guy who stood in front of a line of tanks

Right now, the first two hits for a google image search on "tiananmen" give you photos of this:
People seem to prefer to decontextualize this image. Dropping the context makes sense: you know immediately what the picture means anyway.

Nevertheless, the decontexutalization bothers me. My difficulty isn't just that no one knows who this guy was or what happened to him. I know that the anonymity contributes to the symbolisism and can live with that. The thing that bothers me is that you rarely even see the end of the video. Some people hustle this man away. First there is a guy on a bike, then a man in a blue shirt, and then a man in a black shirt with his hands in the air. Finally two guys in white shirts come out, but they don't even need to run all the way to Tank Man because the others are pushing him off.

As far as I can tell, no one has posted this video unedited to the web. You can watch it on Frontline, interspersed with commentary. There are plenty of versions of it on Youtube with the end missing, generally overdubbed with protest music. The video should just be put out there to speak for itself, though.

Tank man did not fight against the people who dragged him off. Why?

In a better world, Chang'an avenue would be blocked off for keeps, and they'd put up a statue of a man with a couple shopping bags standing in front of a column of tanks.

In the Frontline video, a professor at Pepperdine comments that Tank Man did not bring down the CCP, but he did help down the Soviet Union. Before the Berlin wall fell, activists in eastern Europe said, "if that kid in China stood in front of those tanks, we can do what we're doing."

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Feminism, Gays, and Porn

Every day at this institute I find myself saying “Wow, that’s interesting. I’d like to blog it,” but of course, I never have time to blog anything. So tonight I’m going to pick the one thing most blogworthy I’ve seen so far: porn. There’s an idea that has been floating around since the 90s arrival of third wave, sex positive feminism that eras in history that are good for women are also good for gays and porn. The history of China seems to bear this out. So far I’ve heard about two eras in Chinese history in which women enjoyed more rights, and in both cases, there was also more acceptance of gays and better porn.

The two examples I've heard about of times that were good for women, gays and porn, are the six dynasties period and the late Ming/early Qing. The latter, being more recent is better documented. It saw a flowering of writing by women and the novel The Golden Lotus, which is listed with Journey to the West and Dream of the Western Chamber as one of the great novels of late imperial China, and is also full of weird sex. Not all of it seems to be happy sex. Apparently towards the end [SPOILER]the main character is fucked to death by one of his concubines. I can't find a free version of the whole thing on line, but here's a sample of a scene where the lead character is trying to ingratiate himself with one of his wives, Yüeh-niang, whom he has been fighting with:
"Whether you go there or not is no concern of mine," said Yüeh-niang. "I wouldn't presume to tell such a simpleton what to do. But as long as you're shelling out the hard cash to maintain her as your mistress, if you don't even bother to visit her, you can be sure she'll manage to take on someone else. Where people in that profession are concerned:
You can tie up their bodies, but
You can't tie up their hearts.
Do you really think you can put your seal on her and make it stick?" "What you say is true enough," said Hsi-men Ch'ing.

Thereupon, he started to undress, sent the maids out of the room, and proposed to go to bed with Yüeh-niang and seek his pleasure with her.
"If I let you into the kitchen,
You'll only make a pig of yourself,"
said Yüeh-niang. "It's concession enough if I allow you into my bed tonight. If you've got anything else in mind, forget it."

Hsi-men Ch'ing responded by exposing his organ to Yüeh-niang.

"It's all your doing," he joked. "You've made him so angry he's having a dumbstruck fit."

"What do you mean 'he's having a dumbstruck fit'?" demanded Yüeh-niang.
"If he's not having a dumbstruck fit," said Hsi-men Ch'ing, "how come his eye is bulging so wide, but he can't get a word out?"

"You must be delirious," responded Yüeh-niang. "What makes you think I've got even half an eye for the likes of you?" At this point Hsi-men Ch'ing:

Without permitting any further explanation,
lifted Yüeh-niang's two fresh white legs onto his shoulders, inserted his organ into her vagina,13 and gave free rein to:
The oriole's abandon and the butterfly's pursuit.
Entranced by the clouds and intoxicated by the rain,
They are not yet willing to call a halt.14
The subsequent sex scene seems consensual, but the emotional tension is serious. The whole thing seems like a nice combination of eroticism, humor and emotional tension.

Also reported to be good: The Prayer Mat of Flesh, which features a monk getting a tool transplant from some animal (I don't remember which). John Berthrong said the book begins with a warning to the reader "A real monk who reads this will not be aroused" and ends with a similar reminder "If you are a true monk, you will not have been aroused by this." I can't find any content from it online, though.

The benefits accorded to women, homos, and porn during periods like these all come from a loosening of traditional sex roles. It is not clear, though, that a general loosening actually counts as being good for women. By the late Qing, footbinding became a serious problem. The woman who has written the most about the flowering of women's writing in the early Qing is also, weirdly, an apologist for late Qing footbinding. As far as gays go, I have nothing but the assurance of the institute leaders to go on that this was a better time. This is something I'd like to read more on.

More Y3

This is a better video for the same song.


Update: oops, I meant this

The Y3website says this from an EP coming out July 24. You know, I never really listened to Show Your Bones. Maybe I should.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


You know, at the same time I was saying to myself "I haven't felt the Kantian sublime in the face of nature since I was a teenager," I was also saying "I haven't heard music that ripped my face off since the last S-K album came off. (Actually, that isn't true, Living With War has not only ripped my face off, but reduced me to tears repeatedly. But at the time I was thinking about the paucity of aesthetic experience in my life, I was thinking back to S-K's The Woods [Also, I'm not sure I hear Living With War with the requisite detachment to count as aesthetic experience.])

In any case, this ripped my face off.

Monday, July 09, 2007

More whingeing than blegging.

AAAGGHHGG. I hit some unfortunate sequence of keystrokes, and now my laptop (A Lenovo Thinkpad T60) is displaying everything sideways. I gather switching to "portrait mode" is useful for tablet PC, but this ain't one of them. I've spent an hour and a half, and I can't figure out how to switch it back to landscape.

I swear I know just enough about computers to get myself in trouble. Molly never has these problems. [Update: Molly says she is not shielded by some special ignorance, but merely the fact that she is willing to ask for help.]

Fuckity fuckity fuck fuck fuck.

Update: Fixed. Sorta, I think. After three hours. I downloaded a bunch of updates from Lenovo, which made the "display mode" menu behave differently. There still was no function that said "switch to landscape mode." But when I switched to projector mode, instead of saying "this function is incompatible with portrait mode." It just gave me a new screen that faces the right way. I think it is also now thinks there is a projector attached to the computer. Ok, whatever.

Now if only I can fix this crick in my neck.

Friday, July 06, 2007

"Oh yes, the area right by my house has fires all summer long"

So the ridge right above my dorm is still burning, and when the wind blows the right way ash falls from the sky, yet no one seems to think this is a big deal. Last night I had put my meds and my computer and my notebook in a bag in case I had to leave in a big hurry, and everyone else was just like, "the damn helicopters kept me up all night." Roger assured me that brush fires happen here all the time, and that it really is no big deal, but I'm having trouble getting my head around this.

A story on the fire

is here.

turn around

I go back outside and the fire is all but extinguished. I can see a few glowing dots on the ridge line. All the people who were standing in the drizzle staring at the fire are gone. I can now see what must be very high powered flashlights bobbing and sweeping through the forest silhouette on the ridge line. I can still hear the helicopter, but it is no longer directly overhead. And now I notice the half moon has risen and is now comfortably over the ridge.

liveblogging a conflagration

The ridge right above my dorm at the East West Center is on fire. I can't find any news on line about it, or I'd link to something. But shit, the ridge is on fire. I asked a campus security guy if there were plans to evacuate and he gave me a very reassuring "oh no, not now." I've been watching it for an hour and a half now. I'm no good at estimating sizes, especially at this distance, but the fire takes up about a quarter of the part of the ridge that is visible from in front of the dorm. And I mean, fuck, it is a fire. A helicopter has been circling for a couple hours now. Periodically it lands in the street or the parking lot by the Korean Studies building and people get on or off. There is a fire truck here on campus. I assume there are people up on the ridge fighting the fire, but I can't see them. I've been taking pictures, but they don't look like much, and I don't have the right cable to get them on the computer.Ok, I'm going up to the 12th floor to see if I can see anything else.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Compulsive Hoarding in My Family.

Via Thomas in email comes this nice series of posts by the life hack guy at 43 Folders on decluttering. The first thing I like about it is that he takes this issue seriously. Its less Hints from Heloise, and more Therapy for People with Hoarding Spectrum Disorders. Today's post even links to support groups for full blown hoarders. I'm quite sensitive to this, actually, because for the last third of his life my Grandfather was quite a hoarder. Cleaning out his basement, I found day planners going back to 1970, thirty years worth receipts filed chronologically in a fireproof file cabinet, including things like bar tabs, as well as assorted household goods and other bric-brac that were just as old. Tellingly my first response to seeing all this was "cool!" I imagined Grandfather as Sam Pepys, and I wondered if I could reconstruct a month of his life from all of this mess. I began to scan the day planners into the computer, but didn't get very far before I realized that I was being weird. Here is the cover of March 1971.g-father march 1971_Page_01

Here is the day my brother was born. g-father march 1971_Page_04
Peyton James Loftis, 6 LB, 13 oz. It looks like he never got to "9 Ck 7/11 final plans" that day.

I took that day planner with me, and I'm sure I still have it. I think it is in the clutter of my office somewhere. I asked mom not to throw out any of the day planners, but I'm pretty sure all the receipts have gone away.

By the way, this is what Sam Pepys was up to this day in 1664
(Lord’s day). Up and ready, and all the morning in my chamber looking over and settling some Brampton businesses. At noon to dinner, where the remains of yesterday’s venison and a couple of brave green geese, which we are fain to eat alone, because they will not keepe, which troubled us. After dinner I close to my business, and before the evening did end it with great content, and my mind eased by it. Then up and spent the evening walking with my wife talking, and it thundering and lightning all the evening, and this yeare have had the most of thunder and lightning they say of any in man’s memory, and so it is, it seems, in France and everywhere else. So to prayers and to bed.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Advice from the past

From the House Judiciary Committee in 1974, after Watergate.
In the [Constitutional] convention George Mason argued that the President might use his pardoning power to "pardon crimes which were advised by himself" or, before indictment or conviction, "to stop inquiry and prevent detection." James Madison responded:

[I]f the President be connected, in any suspicious manner, with any person, and there be grounds [to] believe he will shelter him, the House of Representatives can impeach him; they can remove him if found guilty...
via, via, via,

Bush Commutes Libby's Sentence

Story here. There is only one appropriate response.