Monday, September 10, 2007

vicar, actress, matron etc.

Thanks to TJ, who took the photo, I am proud to present some double entendre, courtesy of some maintenance going on at work at the moment. Bawdy innuendo is certainly not absent in Filipino humour (thank goodness for that, I hear you sigh, in recognition of the genre as the highest plane of comedy), though I'm not sure if this was a deliberate attempt to invoke the spirit of Benny Hill. Whatever! Just read it and titter, people.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

look at the scoreboard, baby

VERY quickly, because I need to shop at Souths and get to Joe's @ LB for Wed night dinner and bouncy mashed spud.

Reading Dawkins's comments about the direction of the global Zeitgeist (the spirit of the time, another great German word), it occurred to me that this is pretty good evidence that the progressive left (if we have to give a label, and I'd count myself as fitting in that box) IS right, and the conservative right is wrong. Why? Because the Zeitgeist moves in a progressive direction. When you compare our moral and ethical standards NOW with those of 50, 100, 1000 years ago, we are clearly more accepting, less prejudiced, less violent, less divisive, etc. Yes, there's still a lot of improvement to be made, and, no, not all the ills that were accepted in the past can be said to belong exclusively to the likes of Howard and Bush. But it can't be denied that things have moved in progressive, liberal (in the general, not Australian-politics specific, sense) direction.

The runs are on the board, people. If you think in a progressive way, you think in the way things have played out. You're right. We're right. Despite temporary setbacks (Howard, Bush), we WIN.

So there.

Monday, September 03, 2007


One major difference between China and the Philippines, which I noticed while on the work component of my trip last week: the relative lack of social hierarchy and apparent relative egalitarianism. I've dulled this statement with qualifying words (relative, apparent) because I acknowledge its based on the observations of somebody who's pretty ignorant of Chinese culture and history.

Obviously there's some social stratification in China, but it seemed on the surface that it doesn't run as deep as the very stratified Philippines. My guess is that Chinese communism has played a significant role in this, but -- having no real knowledge of contemporary China (beyond what I read in newspapers and on websites, and what I saw last week), and no knowledge of pre-cultural revolution China -- I offer grains of salt to anybody who reads this.

First, I didn't see any of the extremes of wealth and poverty that are easy to find in the Philippines. That may be because wealth in China is indeed more evenly distributed, or it could be because I just didn't happen to see it in my 9 days there, or that the Chinese government (which blocks access to blogger, by the way) is better at sweeping it under the proverbial. Having said that, there was plenty of evidence of unshared personal wealth, particularly in the form of large, new European cars (especially black Audis). No doubt plenty has been written on China's current economic phenomenon, and to what extent the country's increasing wealth is being shared around. I shall add nothing to that body of knowledge.

Second, our driver sat in the same room, at the same table as the rest of us -- scientists, local communist party officials, token foreigner (me), local agricultural businesspeople. Not only did he eat with us, he toasted and was toasted by everyone else*, and chatted with everyone (except me, because we didn't share any language beyond "cheers"). In an equivalent situation in the Philippines, the driver would almost never join the professionals at meals. More than likely, he'd get a meal allowance of a couple of dollars and head off to a much cheaper place to eat alone or with the other drivers, if there are more than one.

*Our driver also didn't touch a drop of alcohol, which -- given he was the driver and considering the effects of the local liquor -- made him my own personal hero.

And -- because I still care -- here's another photo from the Forbidden City in Beijing:

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