Tuesday, February 19, 2013

This is not a still from Blade Runner....

"A new life awaits you in the off-world colonies! A chance to begin again in a golden land of opportunity and adventure!"

On January 19 (now you see how far behind I am on blog posts!) I was reading through my blog and forum feeds when I came upon this photograph on the Philip K. Dick blog Total Dick-Head. Little was said about the photo, other than "that's not a still from Blade Runner" and it's "the smog in Beijing, and some crazy building." I shared this photo on Google+, Facebook, and Twitter, with what little information I had.

Aside from a couple "likes" and such on G+ and FB, nothing came of my posts on those two sites. But, Twitter was something else altogether....

I used the #PKD hashtag on my tweet, and that really got people's attention. Retweets and comments were coming in as fast as I could read them, over the course of days. Some of the retweets were in German, Spanish, and Russian, as well as character sets I didn't recognize.

I received a tweet from @spenap (Simón P.) informing me that the original source of the photo was the Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) blog. Simón also noted that the photo had been posted to Tumbler, and then picked up by Gizmodo. As he was kind enough to include a link to the WSJ blog in his tweet, I immediately checked it out.

This photo was among the "Photos of the Day" for January 14 on the WSJ blog, and is credited to ChinaFotoPress/Zuma Press. The caption under the photograph reads:

AIR OF MYSTERY: Haze obscured the Pangu Plaza Office Building in Beijing Saturday. Beijing on Sunday issued its first-ever 'orange' fog warning, an alert to the elderly, children and people suffering from respiratory disease to stay indoors and limit exposure to the pollution.

I later received a tweet from @nntd, stating "I took this pic." I replied, hoping to get clarification and/or confirmation, but received no response. But I will assume she/he is the photographer. The name associated with @nntd is in a foreign character set and thus only shows up in my twitter feed as three square symbols.

A brief search led me to the Gizmodo blog post. There are more than 40 comments, including one from "Settings" that includes a photo of this same building, from a different perspective, taken on a clear day:

According to this and other comments, these buildings are referred to as the dragon building, which, from the air, evidently looks like a dragon.

But back to my twitter feed: Just a few of the tweets I received in response:

Kyle Baker (@kbaker): That's the Beijing I remember while there. Eery resemblance. Beijing can be quite nice on clear days, though.

@mangochutney: it [the smog] only gets this bad when they power up the coal-fired power plants outside the 3rd ring of the city.

@mangochutney: the amount of soot that accumulated over the course of 2d on my closed balcony was scary.

Richard Lai (@richardlai): I'm in Beijing right now and I can confirm that the air is still very bad. Brought a couple of N95 masks along.

This whole twitter experience was really quite fascinating. To date my tweet has been retweeted 2,470 times, and that's not counting all the dozens of personal responses I received. I remain amazed....

I'll close with one last photo -- a cityscape -- and this is a still from Blade Runner, courtesy of Dan North's Spectacular Attractions blog:

"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time... like tears in rain... Time to die."
~Roy Batty, Blade Runner

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