Posts Tagged ‘modern’

Neo Jones

22 October 2009

Dear J-

There’s a Honda Civic which magically appeared in the park’n’ride lot we use as vanpool staging; though I see a lot of the same cars every time I go I call this one magical because it’s clearly been towed and dumped.  Somehow, it’s come to grief, with the front passenger’s side nearly obliterated, and yet it’s neatly tucked in to a parking spot, slick as anything — cleverly positioned with its back facing the freeway off-ramp, so that none might suspect it’s inoperable and therefore towing it to the junkyard prematurely.  Someone put some money into the car at some point; the headlights are some custom reflector assembly, and it looks recently washed.

Unknown Grief 5082 -sm

I like to build back-stories and speculations in my head based on what I see; part of this is undoubtedly the seemingly millions of shipwreck discovery articles I read in National Geographic — it’s like the crew depicted in The Perfect Storm (if there were no survivors, all we know is that the ship was presumed lost, not all the drama surrounding their personal chemistry).  When my parents wanted me to go see a lot out in Moreno Valley, I went to document a bare, trash-strewn lot with the crowning achievement of a burned-out S12 Silvia; my brain worked overtime to come up with some high school bacchanal, echoing silently in the hot, still air.

We’re sliding through the fog again; somehow we’ve co-opted harvest festivals into prime time for ghosts and costumes, just over a week from now.  If we went by sea instead of freeway, we’d stand watch and regale each other with sea tales of derelict ships and unrestful spirits.  Simple physics would tell me how much and how fast, but not why that Civic came to rest; was it some foggy night, and why would it just be abandoned to fate in some Sargasso lot?  It’s neo-archaeology:  finding (or inventing) stories in the artifacts of today.



China’s Games

8 August 2008

Dear J-

The Olympics start today — it’s now twenty-four years since I started watching the Olympics in earnest, as the Lake Placid games meant little to me besides collecting the Chiquita banana stickers, and the Moscow games later that year were boycotted.  Nope, LA was the first ones I can remember well, particularly the American heroes Mary Lou Retton and Carl Lewis.  Although there’s always a ton of events, our summer viewing always seems to revolve around gymnastics, track, swimming, and diving.

This summer seems to have brought a slightly abbreviated fill-in season of shows:  short runs, smaller build-up; folks know enough to get out of the way of watching the Olympics.  Much has been made of Chinese politics and atmosphere lately, too.  There are those who’ve called for a boycott of the games on the basis of high moral principles, but I believe those views are rooted in perceiving China through 19th century lenses.

Setting the stage, for roughly 100 years, 1840-1949, China descended into ever-growing chaos with the ending of the Qing dynasty and the rise of treaty ports and concessions.  The government was unable to exert any sort of force over the country; industrialization was a farce, and so the modern perception of China as a decadent backwards society was set.  Now, it seems as though the Western societies have promised much (“Look, if you just followed our example, you could be just as modern as us”) and delivered little (“Don’t copy us — and you can’t pollute like we did.”)  Small wonder that there’s frustration over the direction China may take; no one yet considers the momentum — consumer, intellectual, innovation — of a country with over four times the population of the United States.

I’m not going to defend China’s involvement in human rights violatons except to note that they are not the first, they are not the only, and they will not be the last.  We’ve laid down an example of how strong countries act, and we need to accept the consequences of that.  But it’s not to say that they’re blameless for following that precedent.  The Olympics are a chance for China to flex its muscles on the world’s stage and demonstrate that 2042 will be nothing like 1842.  There’s a sort of unintended patronizing tone here:  gee, China, you sure are doing great; at some point all kingdoms rise and fall.