Saturday, April 25, 2015

not what it seems

He appeared to be nothing but a beggar.

Sitting in the shade with his requisite begging bowl and a walking stick to support his aging bones.  But Roy and I were convinced it was just a disguise.

He was undoubtedly really a wizard or a kung fu master -- just waiting for evil to cross his path before he threw aside his disguise and grabbed his wizard staff to battle those who do not deserve happy endings.

I could have used his services several times today.  After crowing that I had successfully stymied the forces of communist censorship, the empire struck back. 

My VPN simply refused to connect.  And without it, I was a naked liberty warrior just waiting to be picked off.

Then, a miracle occurred.  This evening, everything fell in place once again.  Then out of place.  And back in place.

So, here is a quick rundown of our day -- before everything shuts down again.

If yesterday was a day on the bus, today was a day on the water.  On a river cruise.

The Huangpu runs through the center of Shanghai creating the same relationship that New York City has with the Hudson, or New Orleans has with the Mississippi.  It defines the very heart of the city.

The river divides two quite distinct parts of the city: its colonial heritage represented by the European buildings of the Bund -- and its thriving financial center with its fantastical architecture on the other.

Roy and I took a cruise on the river this afternoon.  From that vantage, it is easy to see what Shanghai was, and what it is and what it is becoming.

China's odd economic system is out in the open in Shanghai.  The city hosts one of the Orient's largest stock exchanges.  The very essence of a capitalist system.  A fact that noticeably irritates some of my friends who would like to see China as the model of pure communism.

Of course, communism (or the Chinese Communist Party) now exists solely to monopolize political power -- broadly defined.  Economically the country is a bizarre mix of state control and the appearance of free market mechanisms.

When I was in college, we would refer to a system with those elements as being fascist.  But, as some of you recurringly remind me, I am prone to name-calling.  So, we will skip this one.  However, if a bird steps like a goose --.

As lovely as the city is during the day, it comes alive at night.  Roy and I went up to the roof of our hotel to witness one last night of how amazing this city is in the dark.

Admittedly, it is rather tacky -- in a Times Square sort of way.  It makes me wonder how Mao would react to such brashness.  I suspect his reconstructed body is spinning in that glass coffin in Beijing.

I will gladly return to Shanghai soon.  But not on this trip.

Tomorrow, we are boarding our ship where I can stop worry about wizards coming to my internet rescue.

We will talk to you next from there.

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