Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Flames Alive and Dead

China is attempting to keep the Olympic flame alive in its trek around the world. In France, the flame was extinguished by protesters five times along the route through Paris. The beleaguered torch was finally put on a bus for the final leg of its trip, while in San Francisco the route was shortened when things turned ugly. London was no better, nor does it appear the rest of this usually peaceful trip will be different. It would appear that the Himalayas going up in flames has had the decided effect of trying to put this symbol of peace out.

Have you noticed the blue-uniformed men in a phalanx surrounding the torch? Their official name is the "29th Olympic Games Torch Relay Flame Protection Unit." Turns out these are top cops from China chosen from The People's Armed Police. The job requirements? According to the state run China News Service, these guys had "to be tall, handsome, mighty, in exceptional physical condition similar to that of professional athletes." Training included "daily mountain runs of at least six miles and lessons in protocol. They also learned basic commands in English, French, German, Spanish and Japanese."

Apparently, commands are the only words they learned in these languages, and these elite troops have been described by the Olympic organizers as thugs and robotic. In their defense, the reception in the various countries may have exceeded their expectations and training and thus put them at a strategic disadvantage--especially when they speak only Chinese.

Ironically, as this Olympic flame makes its way on a tortuous path around the world, the Chinese have ordered other national flames extinguished before the games. On May 1st, a ban on smoking will go into effect for most public places in Beijing, which will then join 150 already smoke-free cities in this previously smoke-filled nation. What's more, on May 31st smoking will be banned at all schools--kindergarten through high school. China is the home to a third of the world's smokers at 350 million, who consume 2 trillion cigarettes a year. That's a lot of inhaling.

Speaking of inhaling--one morning as I was inhaling my daily ration of oats, I had a novel, potentially enlightening idea that could
foster a feeling of unity that is woefully lacking in the world today. To wit: if everyone on Earth lived in one Time Zone, the feeling of being separated might disappear. Time is an artificial, separating construct anyway, so why not? Greenwich could be the official time--so, if it was 5:00 there, it would be 5:00 everywhere. Military time would work even better.

OK, I can hear you say, "But, but, but that wouldn't work." Well, play with it, and you might find that it actually could. If nothing else, think of it like an exercise in jumping way out of the box or stepping into a future that hasn't happened. Stay tuned, because in the next few blogs, other ideas will be put forth that could prove to be as revolutionary.

Of Note: Marie spotted this en-flamed sky at her house one March evening and beautifully captured the essence of burning. The photo symbolizes China's schizophrenic problems at the moment with fire.

Today's Weather Report: Lower forties and cloudy, but not nearly as oppressive as yesterday for some unknown reason. One day of sun would do in the rest of the lingering snow. We can only hope!

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