Sunday, January 24, 2010

Walled Off (DS)

We had a dream……and in that dream we took our need to know to a new level when we initiated a Google internet search on the subject of ‘CHINA’. Given the recent rumblings relative to China’s economic seduction of the international investor heavyweights, it seemed a little prudence and due diligence might be in order before taking our currency on a cruise up the ¥angtze River with the big boys.
Accustomed to receiving an uninhibited flow of information at the speed of now, we were predictably confounded when our Google search yielded nothing but a blank white page. And no matter how many times we hit the ‘refresh’ button and blinked our eyes in disbelief, it was undeniable - a blank page was all we were going to get.
Clearly we’d hit a wall and this raised a big red flag .

What we already knew (without the benefit of a Google search) was that the world at large has long considered the Great Wall of China to be one of the wonders of the world, yet our dreamtime search results drove us straight into what many are now calling the Great Firewall of China. Erected upon an onerous and non-negotiable platform of cyberspace censorship, evidently this Great Firewall is so towering that China’s own Olympic hurdle jumper, Liu Xiang, isn't even able to make the great leap forward and over the top.

For centuries the old proverb “knowledge is power” has historically encouraged those in the know to wisely acquire (and share) vast knowledge with the promise of power as a dangled payoff. While this belief system may still prove viable, or perhaps produce the necessary credentials for some spheres of influence, the 21st century adaptation of this old philosophy seems to be more akin to “money is power”.

So as we sit back and watch China overtake Japan as the world’s 2nd biggest economy, we can only remind ourselves that information imperialism not only owns our debt, but someone has to keep Wal-Mart in business.

We couldn’t sit back and watch for long, however, because something was rotten in the state of our world close to home. And the stench was so foul, even pinching our nostrils shut proved futile against the pungent sulfuric fumes that reeked of rotten eggs and threatened to overtake us. Frankly we weren’t sure what smelled worse - the corrosive gases seeping from the toxic drywall lining the walls of our home, or the doggie doo in the backyard laced with remnants of the plastic fillers that had been covertly baked into the dog’s food.

As if the assault on our nose wasn’t bad enough, this dream-now-nightmare directed our eyes to the innumerable infants who were innocently consuming formula mixed from tainted milk powder while snuggled warmly in their highly flammable jumpers. Then on to the toddlers and children who were adorned in dainty jewelry cast out of cadmium while playing in a trance on the floor with toys painted in the vibrant colors only a lead palette can produce. The colors of those toys were almost as brilliant as the countless tubes of lipstick and eye shadow compacts we saw filling bathroom drawers everywhere.

We briefly considered taking a couple of Tylenols for the headache we'd gotten from the toxic drywall fumes, but figured it too was probably made in China.

And then we woke up with a headache and wondered if Confucius ever said, “Don’t be evil”.

As China continues to shroud its Great Wall in smoke and mirrors while agressively maximizing short term profits with cheap knock offs and actions that harm humanity and kill healthy competition, we are wont to ask who’s keeping it in busness?

Show the world your best side with our ‘In The Rear View Mirror’ January 12, 2009 posting "Looking The Part”.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Looking The Part

2009’s last call had us optimistically humming Auld Lang Syne right along with the other merrymakers who also couldn’t afford to attend Tavern on the Green’s last supper. When the clock chimed in at midnight, we briskly donned our 3-D glasses looking for an exclusive preview of the year 2010 from the land of the beautiful people.

Those first impressions overpowered our senses with panoramic images so vibrant and aesthetically alluring, we were momentarily convinced that perfection was attainable. Although the sweeping images were specifically designed to entice on the surface, we realized upon second glance that they were in fact highly flawed, for they were either flush with gaping holes formerly plumped up with body parts, or sprouting extra parts like Lakshmi with add-ons.

Nothing was as it seemed, and evidently nothing can make the unattainable attainable faster than the magic wand of photoshop.

Peering in the rear view mirror allowed us to reflect upon a time when skilled artisans offered up credible representations of life in the real world. Whether these representations were designed with fabric to be worn as fashion, or masterfully painted on canvas as a depiction of emerging social modulations, or memorialized through the lens of a camera; the imagery was authentic and the camera never lied.

In the process of immortalizing the life and times around them, artistic historians have oftentimes been called visionary, even ahead of their time. And while Salvador Dali may’ve been considered ahead of his time during the 1930’s, we’re pretty sure he never expected one modern day interpretation of his “Soft Construction with Boiled Beans (Premonition of Civil War)” to include the place where body parts become art after they’ve been photoshop cropped in the hasty pursuit of manipulated perfection.

Civilization overall has gleaned innumerable advantages from the technological advancements of the last decade, and nothing quenches the inherent human need for instant gratification faster than output with a keystroke. Unfortunately something is lost in this pursuit of instant outcome, and the experienced would call it quality.

There are those who maintain “life is a journey, not a destination”. This philosophical expression seems to suggest that life’s greatest value is realized through an accumulation of experiences that stimulate internal growth and development, and not in the concluding moments at final breath. The scientific community apparently concurs with a comparable axiom of its own in “the joy of physics isn’t in the results, but in the search itself”.

We call this process vs. product, or perhaps just another way to extol the virtues of learning long division.

Today’s technology has made readily available the tools necessary to efficiently manipulate our external mask to conform in a click with the fickle and fleeting version of what is considered desirable in the eyes of advertisers. Whether it be unrealistic or physically unattainable is irrelevant because within a smartphone lies the power to virtually redefine reality and create an alternate world of our own design that is inhabited by fantastic representations of our alter ego.

Yet no matter how much we virtually alter our reality, certain truths remain self evident, namely "where ever you go, there you are".

As instant product output continues to override the patient investment true quality demands, can it be that quality too is in the process of being virtually redefined?

Extra parts for sale in our ‘Dream Sequence’ August 7, 2009 posting "Ticker Trade”.