February 15th, 2020

mom walk

turning the screws

So, our lockdown has gotten worse.

About two weeks ago when the checkpoint was first introduced, indignant 大爷 and 大妈 (older men and women) raged at the cops and the most persistent were allowed through despite the regulations. I played the role of dumb foreigner and was able to blag my way through too.

Since then - contrary to the propaganda implying that things are improving - the checks have only gotten stricter. Today when i was coming back from the supermarket (which, to be clear, is literally a few steps outside the checkpoint), i was bustled into a different line, even after i told the cop i lived here. He said "i know you live here, but if you don't have 通行证 (a pass), you cannot enter". The other line was full of angry people, several of whom tried to argue their way in, but the police were resolute. I had to show my passport and sign up on a form that included time of entry and departure.

The 1点点 bubble tea franchise inside my village is closed now. I guess with the checkpoint in place they have lost walk-in trade from people going to the supermarket. Or perhaps the employees can't come in to work because they don't have residence in this village. Several other stores that previously were open have also closed.

On the flip side, one of the fruit shops has opened back up, but they only had about a dozen oranges and two bunches of bananas so i'm not sure how open that is. Also reopened: one of the halal eateries. I am not a big fan of Chinese Muslim food because it tends to be full of beef, lamb and gristle (think Central Asia), but one thing they do bring to the table is bread. Glorious, glorious bread. I bought some 馍 (pitas).

Then i grumbled to my building management about not having a 通行证 and how ridiculous things have gotten. (Now the police stationed along the barricade who were previously checking that noone jumped the fence are also stopping everyone to take their temperature.) He filled out some forms and made me take a photo of them, which apparently i can show together with my ID to be granted entry.

But really now i am just afraid to go out again. Even it's the weekend, the stress of crossing these checkpoints and knowing i will be "stop and frisked" randomly to have my temperature taken... this is a fucked up way to live.

shenzhen_noted mused about how the techniques they are using to control the public here are similar to the "anti-terrorist" measures that were put into place to control movement in Xinjiang province. I guess now the whole country is getting a taste.

We aren't (yet) being forced to install apps on our phones to track our movements, but there is a service that has been set up together with the phone companies that - given a phone number - can identify all of the cities and provinces the person has visited in the past 14 days. I tried it, just for fun, and happily i am approved 100% Shenzhener.

Meanwhile the internet is fucked. Yesterday the most reliable VPN service got clobbered. That means i can't access most western media any more. For a while there i thought the government was going to take it easy on the internet blocks given so many people are working from home, but i guess that didn't last long. The Communist Party of China is absolutely terrified of the people having access to a free press.

I mean, the VPN companies will find a workaround eventually, but in the mean time i am back in the dark with regard to what's happening in this country. God knows you can't trust the local media.

Anyway, good times.
mom walk

The Friday Five for 14 February 2020: On Saturday!

1. What is your favorite game?

It's definitely Deus Ex. There are other games i have played that had such a memorable aesthetic or emotional impact that they stuck with me years later (Mirror's Edge, NORTH and more), but Deus Ex is a game that i keep going back to play again and again. It just does so many things right.

Deus Ex came out pre-9/11, but it predicted the war on terror and how it would be used to expand the surveillance state and militarize the police force. You play a counter-terrorism agent who starts questioning the value of the oligarchy he is employed to protect. Being a cyberpunk game, it also turns the conspiracy up to 11, so every wacky shit from Robert Anton Wilson to the X-Files is part of the neon-drenched soup. The protagonist is doggedly earnest, and the exchange about why he wears sunglasses at night remains one of the most hilarious in any media.

Subsequent games got a new protagonist who was a more traditional "tough guy" and were far less interesting for it.

Deus Ex is frequently mentioned in "Greatest Of All Time" lists, so i suppose this isn't a very interesting choice. On Kotaku UK you can read you can read someone else pontificating about the presience of the game: https://www.kotaku.co.uk/2014/08/05/deus-ex-predicted-future

2. What is your earliest memory?

Being on the beach in Folkestone, while my father and his army colleagues piled up sandbags to defend against a storm. It must have been the early 1980s, around the time of the Falklands War.

3. If you could have one wish fulfilled, what would it be?

Freedom of movement for all people, anywhere in the world.

4. Have you ever lost something that is important to you? Were you able to find it?

I am sure i have lost things that seemed important to me at the time, but apparently none were important enough that i remember them now.

5. Would you rather go scuba diving or rock climbing? Why?

Rock climbing. I am not particularly interested in hanging off the side of a mountain, but i think i'd feel more comfortable in an environment where i can see for miles and don't have a gauge counting down the minutes of life i have left.