Monday, October 24, 2005

The Future Ahead

It’s 10 am in the morning and I’m listening to KQED (the San Francisco public TV/radio station) streaming online and doing my part-time job. Directly ahead outside the window of my study, two construction cranes are waltzing away on the site where two business towers will stand one day. Behind them is the soaring Beijing TV Tower in construction, its empty metal frames glistening in the morning sunlight.

NPR is doing a show on obesity and dieting. First they interview the director of Supersize Me. The director summarize his 1.5 hr documentary in 30 seconds – he ate three meals a day at McDonald’s for 30 days; he supersized everytime he was asked; he gained weight and suffered headaches, trouble with breathing, high cholesterol, and many other health problems. “McDonald has the responsibility to inform its customers of the danger of its food”, he exclaims.

Next the program talks to an obese woman who, inspired by Supersize Me, did a similar documentary by eating three meals a day at McD, but lost 10 or 20 pounds in the end. Unlike the Supersize Me director who didn’t exercise, this women worked out.

Neither is your average McD customer. But hey, if it’s any more scientific, it wouldn’t be art.

The program then moves on to an expert of something, who lambastes the diet industry for conspiring in fanning the hysteria on weight loss. He claims that there is no clear-cut scientific evidence supporting the position that obesity by itself causes health problems. Getting on and off dieting does more damage, he says.

Lastly a female writer comes on. She’s fat, she struggled with dieting all her life, now she’s resigned to be fat and be proud of and positive about it. She hates her friends and relatives who constantly pester her with suggestions of the latest fad diet.

Nobody talks about public health, statistics, or any sort of data. It’s very personal, subjective and, to many, engaging.

Right by my laptop on the desk sits the latest Time Out Beijing magazine. It opens to the article I was reading on the modern architecture Beijing is ferociously building. A Western architect laments that Beijing is in danger of becoming, like New York, an ultra-modern wasteland of architectural mediocrity.

Outside of my windows, the cranes continue their languid dance in their conspiracy to transform Beijing into this mediocrity (Come to think of it, New York is really not that bad, is it?). The radio show is now interviewing an American sumo wrestler who’s huge in size.

I have a sudden attack of where-am-I-now confusion, which I guess is common to bourgeoisie intellectuals with no much time on their hands. On the other end of the Internet (does the Internet have ends?) is America, a future that Beijing is sprinting towards. It’s a future in which Beijingers will have more modern buildings, eat more McD hamburgers, become more obese, and have talk shows discussing the personal opinions on dieting.

Based on the number of fat businessmen and government bureaucrats roaming the streets everyday, it seems we are already half way there.

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