Fast Light featured 20 or so art projects focusing on light last weekend, a part of the MIT 150 celebrations and also the finale of a series of art events focusing on art & science. Absolutely gorgeous! (Click any picture for full Flickr album)
UPDATE (Feb 22, 2011) – There’s movement in China, though no traction (yet): Jasmine protests in China fall flat
I was struck looking through Boston Globe’s Big Picture coverage of the riots in Egypt by the Chinese comments left by readers. There aren’t many, just a handful or so (out of 176 total at current count), but the “standing with our oppressed brothers” battle cry was clear.
Take, for example, comment #80: 埃及人民加油！中国的问候、你们是我们的榜样 (Go, the people of Egypt! Greetings from China. You serve as our role models).
Or comment #93: 像男人一样去维护自由，兵马俑问候木乃伊 (Protect freedom like a man. The terra cotta warriors send greetings to the mummies).
The parallel I drew from the very beginning was between Tahrir Square 2011 and Tiananmen Square 1989. Both uprisings stem from discontent intellectual youth demanding governmental reform. The blogosphere, however, will have me believe that this particular comparison is futile, that the more important (and relevant) comparison is Tahrir Square of 2011 and a potential Tiananmen Square of 201x. These Big Picture reader comments would support that idea – the germs of a new Chinese revolution have been planted. Furthermore, the Great Firewall censorship of the terms “Egypt” and “Cairo” in Chinese demonstrates the CCP’s own paranoia for citizen uprisings.
I still, however, maintain my original parallel. Instead of waving around hypotheticals of a Tiananmen 201x Incident, we’ve actually had time to reflect and analyze the events leading up to June 4, 1989. I would argue that the momentum of liberalization and intellectualism that drove students to protest in 1989, and the thorough discontent with the governing body that led to Tahrir 2011, is largely absent in China today.
It’s difficult to pin down a particular “level of discontent” amongst a citizen population, but we can take a look at what the original student protesters in 1989 are doing today. They’re bankers, consultants, high-ranking business(wo)men. Essentially, the energy that the intellectuals of the 1980s invested into activism got transfered to capitalism and personal professional pursuits. On the whole, these students became jaded and more like intellectuals everywhere else in the developed world: secularizing intellectualism from politics. With the backing of the Chinese government, this generation of intellectuals drove the phenomenal economic growth in China for the last 20 years, and not governmental reform.
So are they now politically apathetic? That might be too cynical. Their intentions for reform in 1989 were real and have no doubt stayed a big part of their characters since then. My more cynical view is that in light of economic progress and governmental resistance, they’ve gravitated away from politics and into personal economic advancements, the latter being more of a meritocracy and less of banging their heads against walls.
That leaves protest organization to today’s generation of youth and new intellectuals, the post-80s and post-90s population: the generation of little emperors and empresses, the generation that grew up in the age of economic prosperity, the generation with questionable senses of responsibility. Cast in that light, Tiananmen 201x seems less and less likely.
So what about the individuals leaving comments on Western media sites cheering on their Egyptian compatriots? Who are they and would they spearhead something? It’s hard to say. There are 1.3 billion Chinese; a handful of stray commenters are unlikely to start a revolution.
Addendum: One big consideration is the large population of rural and relatively uneducated Chinese (up to 75% of the 1.3 billion, depending on sources). Living in squalid conditions and certainly aware of the enormous separation of wealth, an organized uprising by farmers and migrant workers would actually be rather ironic: the proletariats demand more equality and economic socialism in a supposedly Communist regime.
Looking to buy some antibodies today, I was reminded of something I noticed a couple of years ago.
One of my favorite antibody companies is Cell Signaling Technologies. They have quality products for equal or better pricing. Best of all, they are local and sometimes deliver same-day if the order is placed early enough. I’ve consistently gotten packages by the end of the day when I place online orders before noon with no special rush delivery option checked. (How they actually make that happen would be interesting in and of itself).
Today, starting my antibodies search, I typed “www.cellsignaling.com” into my browser. The URL redirected me to Millipore, a big company that makes a lot of bio- and chem- lab supplies, products, reagents, and assays. My first thought was, “oh wow! I don’t buy antibodies for a while, and Cell Signaling gets acquired by Millipore???”
But I quickly realized that Cell Signaling is still Cell Signaling (not Millipore), but their website is actually at cellsignals.com, not cellsignaling.com. This made me wonder which came first: Millipore with the domain name or Cell Signaling with the company name?
The latter would be a big company bullying a small biotech. The former still feels a bit like Millipore bullying the smaller players. I don’t automatically associate Millipore with cell signaling products–it’s a much more diversified company than that–and it feels a little shady and presumptuous that cellsignaling.com would redirect to Millipore as if Millipore were the king of signaling research supplies.
I wonder if Cell Signaling ever approached Millipore to buy the domain name, or if Millipore would even be willing to sell it, and for how much?
Or if this little domain name inconvenience affects Cell Signaling at all?
The Cell Signaling brand is strong enough that I know I am on the wrong website and want to find the real one. It’s definitely an annoyance because I forget almost every time that Cell Signaling’s domain name does not match its company name. But when I see the redirect to Millipore, I don’t start looking for antibodies on the Millipore website “just for kicks” (perhaps what Millipore is hoping for?). Instead, I google for the real Cell Signaling website and go there still.
Would most others who look for Cell Signaling by name, and domain name, be like me? Temporarily annoyed but quickly finds the right website? How many people look for antibody vendors by typing in “cellsignaling.com” and hope to get lucky?
I think most people are loyal like me, so the domain name is just a minor frustration moment. But I’m still curious to the history behind the URL.
Some news links for background:
NYT article announcing the prize: http://nyti.ms/cveoxL
NYT article with more analysis: http://nyti.ms/d1W5sQ
A western expat’s analysis of NYT analysis: http://bit.ly/bYxC1o
I don’t usually follow Chinese politics (for better or for worse), opting instead for cultural and gossipy news aka ChinaSMACK. But the Nobel Peace Prize is big news, and it’s hard not to hear about it. When rumors ran high in the weeks leading up to the prize announcement, I had wondered if the prize committee would really stick one to China and give Liu Xiaobo the Peace Prize.
On the one hand, it seemed like both sides should know that it would result in a stalemate. The West has seen that China doesn’t like to have its arms twisted and prefers to do things at its own pace. China knows that it is walking on eggshells when it comes to issues of human rights and political reform but is unable to let go of its pride and lose face by giving any ground on its otherwise hardline view of “human rights is a domestic issue.”
On the other hand, I didn’t really think the Nobel committee would be able to swallow their pride and step aside on this issue and hand China a “get out of jail free” card. That would be allowing politics to dictate their actions, and that runs entirely counter to the whole spirit of the Peace Prize. But I would be lying if I said I wasn’t surprised that the committee actually went through with the decision.
A week later, we’ve still got a stalemate. China doesn’t want a precedent of international accolades interfering with “domestic” affairs, but they also can’t take any drastic measures either, so they’ve essentially done nothing. How long will this stalemate last? The two previous Nobel Peace Laureates imprisoned at the time of their prize announcements stayed imprisoned. Andrei Sakharo (1975) continued to be monitored by the Soviet Union well into the 80s, and Aung San Suu Kyi (1991) is still under house arrest in Burma.
This doesn’t bode well for Liu Xiaobo. But the counter argument is that the prize accomplished the purpose of highlighting Liu’s work and thrust China’s human rights issues into an even bigger spotlight.
Knowing that I would need to play through some knee pain* at this weekend’s tournament, my awesome PT wrapped me up with Kinesio Tape this afternoon. Now, not only am I tournament-ready, I feel like an athletic superstar.
*I generally just take some ibuprofen and leave my recurring left knee pain alone… that is, until the same injury/pain showed up in my right knee at a tournament last month (we did win the chumpionship, though). Wanting to fix the root of the problem, I went back to orthopedics, who confirmed that patellofemoral syndrome was now attacking my right knee in addition to my left. He ordered more physical therapy, and the PT diagnosed the cause of all my problems to be overly tight leg muscles that put excessive tension on my kneecaps. My prescribed regiment includes stretching, more stretching, and regular doses of yoga for lengthening, loosening, and strengthening.
Luke came to Boston for a short weekend visit. While walking all around the city, we kept seeing huge posters of adorable baby penguins advertising the New England Aquarium. When baby penguins talk to you showcasing their personalities all over the city, how can you not go to the Aquarium?
Of course we loved the penguins, even saw them eat some fish, but also got to check out tons of other phenomenal animals like these fish and stingray. Click on the picture for more photos on Flickr of the Aquarium and even Fenway Park.
Spent 4th of July weekend up near Lake Sebago in Maine with great friends. We swam, read books, played cards, and generally indulged. Maine is beautiful (full Flickr set).
I’d been hearing good things for a while about the bars and restaurants at the ironically named Liberty Hotel, located inside a renovated old city jail.
The space is undeniably breathtaking. The crowd? Typical: late 20s/early 30s professionals, dressed to impress. Also typical: the occasional d-bag or two mixed in with the beautiful people, the former and latter not necessarily being mutually exclusive.
Block party on the street in front of Cambridge City Hall last night.