Monday, July 4, 2011

Time Traveling and Time Capsule

Saturday night, I watched Woody Allen's toothache-inducing bonbon Midnight in Paris, whose protagonist took us back to Paris of 1920s and Belle Époque.  The time-traveling of the modern-day writer and his encounters with the like of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Salvador Dalí, Gertrude Stein, and Pablo Picasso were as delicious as it was insane.

The musing of the characters over the best period of the history cast somewhat serious and melancholic shadow over the fun.  I was struck by the fact that the so-called high points of history came in an alarmingly accelerated speed.  The durations between the peaks of civilizations grew shorter and shorter and this crashing velocity seems to me only means the compression of our time and eventually, any new period would only be a tiny dot and would not leave any long-lasting mark.  That's the saddest fact of our information-saturated present and future time.  The time-capsule of our epoch was just a speck of dirty on a long scroll, which had recorded the Babylonian, Egyptian, Roman civilizations, and the great period of Renaissance, Industrial Revolution, Belle Époque, and then Information Explosion.

Time traveling, fun it must have been, also is very disorienting.  As a matter of fact, I am experiencing some time-traveling while working on my computer.  My neighbors are playing snappy patriotic American songs (it is Fourth of July after all) and I constantly try to understand the lyrics and what periods they represent.

Casting our eyes farther afield, say to eastern Asia.  If I landed in North Korea now, I would have thought that I just traveled back to China in 1960, when the rule reigned as capricious and severe god.

On the other hand, if one wants to experience Mao's China - calmer period instead of the height of the Great Culture Revolution - one can taste it easily nowadays there, particularly around the time they celebrated the 90th birthday of their ruling party - Chinese Communist Party on 1 July 2011.  "Red Songs" made a dramatic comeback in China and everywhere one can encounter choruses, large or small, scream at the top of their lungs, singing the paeans to the Party, to Mao, to the Great Benefactor, a rerun of the mass-hysteria of the era begone.  The participants in various locations include Henry Kissinger and Buddhist nuns. 

Quite disorienting.

100,000 people sang Red Songs in Chongqing (slide to 1:00 for Kissinger's participation)

Buddhist Nuns Sang Paens to Party's Benefactory (slide to 21:34 for the best segment: nuns shouting slogans: Ten-Thousands Years, Chinese Communist Party! Amitabha! Amitabha! Amitabha!)

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