Friday, February 29, 2008

Chasers reveal the truth about Mt Rushmore

Last month on 22 January I posted a comment about how parochial the American media was (“USA Today . . . and only USA”) and how this was contributing to Americans lack of knowledge about the rest of the world.

If you want to see something really funny, have a look at this clip from ‘Chasers War on Everything’ (my favourite Australian TV show) on YouTube in which a reporter questions people on the street of a town in the US about their knowledge of the rest of the world. It is very funny. (Pause the Sonific song spot on the right hand side of the blog by clicking the pause button, and then click twice on the play button in the middle of the YouTube screen).

The second one below is also quite funny. In it the ‘reporter’ tries to convince Americans that landmarks like Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower, the Taj Mahal, the Leaning Tower of ‘Pizza’ and the Great Wall of China are in Australia – and most of them believe him (although one woman seemed a little skeptical when told that China was “a place just outside Darwin”). The funniest part is when he tells a woman that the Mt Rushmore in the US is only a replica of the ‘real’ Mt Rushmore in Brisbane, Australia. “Nobody knows all these things are in Australia,” she says. “Here I am thinking Mt Rushmore is in America but it’s not!”

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Chinese lanterns and a China doll

Today is the third day of the Chinese New Year. I dropped into the Thean Hou temple during the afternoon, which is just down the road from where I live. I went to the temple intending to grab a few pictures of the Chinese lanterns on display. I got my lantern shots, but I wasn’t very happy with them because the sky was quite overcast, so I couldn’t get the contrast between the lanterns and the sky that I was looking for.

So I hung around the temple for a while hoping to find some more interesting subjects, and my patience was rewarded when a couple of the female performers from a Chinese Opera group that was performing in a small theatre under the temple, came outside to help the ticket sellers attract customers.

One of them was very pretty, and kept smiling at me. I shot off a few frames of her, and there was one shot that I liked very much, but when I blew it up on my computer screen at home, I discovered there was a face right over her left shoulder (somebody who had walked behind) that completely spoiled the shot. So I had to heavily crop the shot down to this composition which is only 8 per cent of the original image area.

The image is a little soft because of the heavy cropping and the fact it was handheld at 1/60 at a focal length of 90mm, but I think the softness suits her beautiful porcelain-like skin. She looked almost like a doll.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The Great Firewall of China

Last September I posted an item on my blog pondering why access to my blog had been blocked in China - because I didn’t recall saying anything about China that was remotely political or subversive. The answer was on the front page of today’s Herald Tribune which carried a story about the ‘Great Firewall of China’ – the nickname given to China’s pervasive online censorship system.

Apparently the Chinese government has blocked access to all Blogspot pages – along with Wikipedia, YouTube and Flickr.

The story said that most people in China don’t realise that these mostly innocuous sites have been blocked – because they have never seen them. But there is a growing number that find out when they travel and realise that the Chinese Internet universe is much smaller than the rest of the world.

One Chinese website operator was quoted in the story as saying: “Many people don’t know that 300 years after Emperor Kangzi ordered an end to construction of the Great Wall, our great republic has built an invisible great wall.”

It would be understandable if China blocked access to pornographic websites (although hardly much point given the proliferation of pornographic DVDs that you can buy on almost any street corner in China) but I wonder what they hope to achieve by blocking access to websites like Wikipedia and Flickr?