The new symbol of protests

Pro-Democracy advocates in Hong Kong are protesting China’s rule that says any candidate for office in the city has to be approved by Beijing.

(Your eyes glaze over)

OK, it probably doesn’t mean much to you because if you have the average American sense of geography, China is “out there” somewhere around Africa or Brazil, for all you know. I won’t try to bore you with why that matters.

But authorities are teargassing the protesters. And all the protesters are doing is this:

HONGKONG-CHINA-POLITICS-DEMOCRACYDoes that remind you of anything?

handsYes, these are the people of Ferguson, Missouri, protesting the shooting of an unarmed black teen by a cop. And in response, they were teargassed by the authorities. So authoritarian oppression is being met with the same response in different cultures on opposite sides of the globe, right down to the masks on the faces.

And now that I have your attention, here’s why the protests in Hong Kong matter:

The Earth, and its wealth, at night

dnb_land_ocean_ice.2012.3600x1800.0

If it were night everywhere at the same time, this is what the Earth would look like (click to enlarge). But that strange statement doesn’t explain the importance of this view. What this image shows us is a representation of global wealth. As Vox puts it:

What you see is that in rich countries, light is largely a proxy for population density. Observe the thick cluster of the US Northeastern Megalopolis and the even bigger cluster in northwestern Europe. In poorer regions, however, the map represents not just population density but also the actual availability of electrical lighting. Huge swathes of Africa are barely illuminated at night, and densely populated India looks rather dim.

But of course, if it were night everywhere, that would mean the sun would be gone and we’d all be dead. Money can’t fix that.

Football vs. football: What do people really want to watch?

Every year, the Super Bowl comes around and the mavens in the sports media tell us that it’s the biggest sporting event in the world.

Then every four years, the World Cup comes around and mavens in the sports media tell us that it’s the biggest sporting event in the world.

So which one is it? (Via Beutlerink):

World-Cup-viewersBut (the NFL fans whine) you’re comparing something that happens every four years to something that happens every year.

Really, are you going to make me do the math?

Multiply the Super Bowl number by four, and you’re still short by the entire population of North America, where the only people who care about the Super Bowl live.  And when you think about it, lots of people in the world don’t have televisions. So the World Cup is a community event where villages gather in front of a lone TV to see what’s going on.

And unlike the Super Bowl, they’re not tuning in just to watch the commercials.

I was in Belgium during the 2006 World Cup, and the city put a huge monitor in the middle of the street near the Bourse (the stock exchange building) downtown and closed off the area to automobile traffic. We roamed the streets with an Italian flag and joined all the Italians after Italy beat France in the final. That year in Paris, they put a big screen on the Eiffel Tower which allowed everyone to see Zidane’s headbutt heard around the world.

In 2010, we were in a restaurant/pub in London watching Spain beat the Netherlands in the final, although the highlight of that tournament was when the U.S. tied England because goalie Robert Green let this get by him. We were watching that match with a bunch of Brits who were ragging us on how badly American asses were going to be kicked. Let’s just say, the Americans were the ones gloating at the end.

Check out this photo gallery at the Washington Post to see how people are watching the World Cup around the globe. This is not how we watch the Super Bow.

The ‘R’ word

We have a professional football team in Washington, D.C., that’s drawing a lot of anger because of its name.

How much anger?

Watch this:

That ad was scheduled to run during the NBA Finals last night, but given the buildup, the California-based Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation could have saved its money, because the ad already had two million hits on YouTube.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen an ad like this before. A group saying that a team name that has been used for decades is racist. But we’ve seen this change in attitude over the years. In case you don’t know it, look up the name of the St. John’s University basketball team before it became the Red Storm.

One thing that is intriguing, though, is that the tribe is OK with the use of the word “Indian.” Here’s what I mean:

And it’s a confusing term. Whenever I the the news and there’s a reference to an Indian, I have to work out in my mind … well, does that mean someone from Southwest Asia or the native population of North America?

And Louis is right. The name is a mistake. The Europeans were looking for a western trade route to India, spent an ungodly amount of time on the water, realized they’d screwed up and when they spotted land, they said, “Oh, yeah. Right. We’ve found India.”

Here’s what Christopher Columbus wrote in a journal about to his first voyage to America in 1492 (via Britannica)

…and I saw the Moorish king come out of the gates of the city and kiss the royal hands of Your Highnesses…and Your Highnesses, as Catholic Christians…took thought to send me, Christopher Columbus, to the said parts of India, to see those princes and peoples and lands…and the manner which should be used to bring about their conversion to our holy faith, and ordained that I should not go by land to the eastward, by which way it was the custom to go, but by way of the west, by which down to this day we do not know certainly that anyone has passed; therefore, having driven out all the Jews from your realms and lordships in the same month of January, Your Highnesses commanded me that, with a sufficient fleet, I should go to the said parts of India, and for this accorded me great rewards and ennobled me so that from that time henceforth I might style myself “Don” and be high admiral of the Ocean Sea and viceroy and perpetual Governor of the islands and continent which I should discover…and that my eldest son should succeed to the same position, and so on from generation to generation forever.

Yep. He’s looking for India. Along with insulting Muslims and Jews. So when he finally gets to America and figures, we’ll maybe this isn’t India, I guess the first thing on his mind isn’t to go back to Spain and tell the king and queen: … Look, your highnesses. About that voyage you funded to get to India? Well, I ended up God knows where. …

Guess he just went back and said: … Yeah … Sure … India … Nice place!!!

And get this! According to the Library of Congress, a map of the new world with the name America didn’t appear until 1507. Columbus died in 1506. Could he have been calling the place India up until he died?

Of course, none of this has anything to do with football.

‘My Love from the Star': A Korean hit in China

According to a major news outlets, the following Korean soap opera is the most popular show in China, much to the chagrin of Chinese officials:

The show’s called “My Love from the Star.” If I have this straight, a guy from outer space who’s 400 years old is hanging out with a pop star. And that’s putting half the world in a frenzy.

Chinese officials are upset because, it seems, China can’t put together entertainment that’s popular enough to keep its citizens enthralled. For example, the Washington Post says:

It’s not the first time popular foreign entertainment has led to hand-wringing in China. In 2008, when Dreamworks’ “Kung Fu Panda” became a runaway hit in China, it led to similar soul-searching. Why did it take American producers to find the drama and humor in a fat panda learning kung fu in China, many asked.

I didn’t know “Kung Fu Panda” had created an international incident.

Oh, for the full first episode of “My Love from the Star,” click here.