Dinner in Beijing

I took notes at the conference, which I’ll put up here later after I clean them up. I took notes so fast that there are many typos. During the panel on digital rights, 10 panelists spoke, outlining many different points of view on intellectual property. I especially enjoyed Wend’s and Ahti’s talks. Anyway, I’ll summarize all that later. There was simultaneous translation with headsets which made me think even more of Lessing’s book The Summer Before the Dark and its upper class international conference circuit – the main character of that book began as an interpreter.

We skipped the concert of children playing symphonic music. If they had been children who had formed their own punk rock bands, I would have been into it.

Afterwards we hung out with Wang Chunyan, a professor of intellectual property law, and her students and friends. They showed us their Creative Commons posters in Chinese and English. After a bit of discussion they stuffed us into cabs and took us off to dinner with Peter and Ingrid, to the Gold Mountain City restaurant. Oh, man, what a feast! That was the best Peking Duck I’ve ever eaten in my life. I didn’t talk with the artist very much because he was across the table, but I heard that he had an exhibit or performance in Shanghai this summer with a burned computer frozen into a block of ice. I talked with Nicolas a bit about classics of Chinese literature. It was funny when he said “You don’t look like one of those literature girls.” (I pictured a prissy librarian stereotype with a bun in her hair… but did not ask him to describe what a literature girl would look like.) I tried to get Chunyan to talk about her work, but she didn’t really go into it. We did talk about Meraki and “Free the Net”, though. Mostly during dinner Peter talked about music and software tools, Last.fm, and things like that. I maintained that radical decentralization was best, and also, was inevitable, unstoppable. Peter argued that would not happen for 20 to 30 years, but instead we would first end up with more collectives to replace the “music industry”. I still think not. We don’t need middlemen to suck our blood and can aggregate and filter and pay each other for culture without at least a few of the extra layers of people who siphon off profit. Flashy businessmen can claim to represent whole nations or peoples and their rights and music or culture, but as soon as those musicians get access to media tools and the net it will be an out of date question.

We opted out of going to a jazz club, still zonked from jet lag. Instead we got foot massages at our hotel, reclining in lounge chairs, passing the remote control for the TV back and forth. The people massaging us seemed vaguely amused at our oddness and at our choice of channel flipping. I like Beijing commercials best, with their intense symphonic overlay and melodrama. Toothpaste, snack food, everything gets the same sort of dramatic violins. We watched a long chunk of some kind of documentary about two old people who had been on the Long March (and maybe had found each other after a lifetime of separation, but it was hard to tell). There were dance troupes and performances and a historical soap opera, and finally, we hit the jackpot: a turkish science fiction movie!

The foot massage was awesome, a bit mechanical and according to a system, but super effective. I appreciated it. It cost 400 RMB for the both of us for at least an hour, and I am so ignorant about money that I don’t even know what that comes out to or whether it was cheap or not. I suspect it was cheap compared to the U.S. but expensive for here.

I woke up this morning at 5am bright eyed and exhausted. The wireless internet is out, which I assume is because someone shut off the power to it during the depth of the night. Maybe at 8am I can post this. Anyway, when I realized there was no way I could sleep, I read Nancy Farmer’s The Mark of the Scorpion, which absolutely rocked. I recommend it to everyone. It was a bit like the Scott Westerfield books, but actually good. Its political subtext took me for a bit of a ride, as we went from the horrors of opium and transplant-clones and brain-wiped slaves, to grim socialism, to… I won’t reveal the ending here, but it got me thinking about leftist politics and Latin America. The book is too intense and depressing for most little kids. I’d say over 10 should be okay. Nancy Farmer is a genius and a fabulous writer.

Up here on the 11th floor there is in theory a business lounge. Or a club. Or both. In practice that means there is a “Sun and Moon Lounge” open till 2am but its doors are always locked; and a fax machine in our room with no paper in it. The hotel room has a desk, mirror, lamps, some plugs (but not enough, somehow), a pants press, a “mini bar” which we had to leave a deposit for but which contains only 4 cans of soda and 2 beers; coffee and a coffeepot; tea and an electric teakettle. There are 2 couches and a big TV, then the bed with night tables. There is nothing to unpack our clothes in, which is fine but just a little bit funny. The main thing is that it is a huge room, bigger than most apartments I’ve lived in. It feels like we should throw a party in here!

Zond-7 is still sleeping; I am very happy he has not really been ill for the last couple of days. Also, even though I was in a lot of pain from the long plane flight, I’m still walking very well.

I suspect the Internet will come back on at 8am. I hope so!

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