Space Ramblings

Tag Archives: Dictators

Gene Roddenberry Would Be So Proud

So let’s say your country has high unemployment, poverty and a king/dictator who is facing major popular protests. What do you do?

A. Give away free stuff to everyone

B. Send in the tanks

C. Build a 1.5 billion dollar Star Trek theme park

Guess which one a Middle Eastern dictator/king who appeared on an episode of Star Trek Voyager picked? That’s right, Jordan is getting a 1.5 billion dollar Star Trek theme park. Because when food prices are high, you don’t give out bread, you give out Star Trek themed circuses.

We used to think Libya’s head nut was the looniest dictator in the region, but the Jordanian royals are trying to give him a run for his money.

“In the overall picture of things it’s not a huge investment,” she said. “If you want to do a Disney or a Universal, that amount would be just for the licence fees.

“The whole resort for profitability requires 480,000 people a year. Typical theme parks require millions of people to pass through in a year to start breaking even.

Yeah. Except 480,000 people is like 10 percent of the population of the country. And most of the tourists are coming for archeology or Saudis who want to kick back in a country with looser morals. How many of them are into Star Trek?

Star Trek is almost dead. It only lives on as a video game license and a series of action movies that use some of the characters from the original series. Does being used as a prop in a dictator’s circus to avoid reforms mean the end?

The 13 Women of Nanjing

The Nanjing massacre was one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century, so why then do I have an uncomfortable feeling about this movie? Maybe it’s because the whole project feels like Chinese national propaganda. As bad as the Nanjing massacre was, Mao’s crimes were even worse. A movie about Japanese war crimes in WW2 is oddly timed with a territorial dispute between Japan and China.

China has been making nationalistic movies for a long time now. Western audiences mindlessly consuming Jackie Chan movies like Drunken Master or splashy exports like Hero don’t have a good understanding of the underlying politics of the narrative. It’s doubtful that they would be as approving of American movies with the same underlying historical narrative. But that is China’s right.

And China keeps most Western movies out. Studios have to run a gamut of restrictions to export a movie to China. No such restrictions keep Chinese movies out of America.

“Hollywood stars are expensive, but they are worth it because they can influence the whole world,” 13 Women of Nanjing producer Zhang Weiping explains the casting of Christian Bale in the movie.

But should we be influenced?

Should we be getting dragged into cinematic quarrels between China and Japan at all. You can’t make a movie in China about the Tiananmen Square Massacre, but a movie denouncing Japan for its actions during WW2 is cool. American movies can be critical of our own government, and that gives us moral standing to make movies about Nazi atrocities. Without that it would be propaganda.

Zhang Yimou directed the Beijing Olympics opening ceremonies, which had more than a little in common with Hitler’s Berlin games. A spectacle to show off the power of the regime to the world. Zhang Yimou has been accused of becoming the artist in residence to the regime.

Context is always important.

Director ZhangYimou made his successful film debut nearly 20 years ago with a breathtaking love story placed in the sorghum fields of rural Shandong Province.1 But he attracted a great deal of criticism with his more recent blockbuster, Hero, eulogizing China’s tyrannical Qin Emperor. Never one to respond to criticism, ZhangYimou transferred his energies to his next big project—preparing the grand opening ceremony for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

As a reanimated corpse full of symbolic historical significance, the Qin Emperor, who ruled more than 2,000 years ago, remains a sensitive subject, not only because his ruthless despotism unfailingly brings Mao Zedong to mind, but also because the intractable connection between China’s thousands of years of autocratic rule and the popular obsession with unifying China inevitably brings to mind the possibility of forceful reunification with Taiwan. Having become China’s first official director, ZhangYimou reveals his cultural propensities and political standpoint through his return to this subject. Compared with Hero, which depicted the Qin Emperor in a
shamelessly flattering light, Zhang’s operatic depiction of The First Emperor is relatively restrained. After all, it is staged in New York City, in the United States, and although the U.S. does not impose official censorship as China does, the American audience would have difficulty accepting a production that openly and shamelessly advocates despotism and eulogizes a tyrant; even the American media have their moral bottom line.

No Law is Enough

In New York, a bill is pending in the legislature’s transportation committee that would ban the use of mobile phones, iPods or other electronic devices while crossing streets — runners and other exercisers included.

I’m trying to get a grip on how crazy this is and coming up short. How would you even enforce this beast? Arrest and ticket anyone wearing a bluetooth device or earphones? Require people to remove them when crossing the street.

The New York bill was proposed by State Senator Carl Kruger, a Brooklyn Democrat who has grown alarmed by the amount of distraction he sees on the streets in his neighborhood and across New York City. Since September, Mr. Kruger wrote in the bill, three pedestrians have been killed and one was critically injured while crossing streets and listening to music through headphones.

“We’re taught from knee-high to look in both directions, wait, listen and then cross,” he said. “You can perform none of those functions if you are engaged in some kind of wired activity.”

Actually you can. Kruger may not be able to. People today routinely listen to music while walking. Being hit by a car while listening to music is not proof of anything, except the laws of probability. This bill will probably go nowhere, but Kruger will show that he’s actively engaged or whatever he’s trying to show. Penalizing drivers for talking and driving might be a thing, because they’re in control of huge masses of metal moving at high speeds. No pedestrian has ever run into a car.

Violators would be required to appear in court, and revenue from the $100 fines would go to a fund to educate people on the dangers of device distractions, the senator said.

I have a better idea. How about a 100 dollar fine for Senators who propose nuisance legislation. The revenue from the fines would go into a fund to educate on how to do their jobs.

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