Tag Archives: China

Size matters

Life has some inescapable objective truths. A much-vaunted lie-in on a Saturday morning will always be interrupted by something irritatingly unnecessary. Public transport will work perfectly until the moment that you’re in a real rush. And everything in America is larger than its equivalent on any other country.

I think the fact that things are huge in the United States was probably the first fact that I ever found out about America. Actually that’s a lie – I think the first fact I discovered, after watching the opening ceremony of the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, was that people flew around in jetpacs. Life doesn’t get much more exciting than that when you’re ten. Boston Tea Parties can wait.

But when you’re a kid in Britain, it’s instilled in you from an early age that everything – and by ‘everything’, I think I essentially mean ‘vegetables’ for some reason – is enormous. With brussel sprouts that are bigger than cabbages, and cabbages the size of snowballs that have been rolled through crisp and even white stuff for three months, America is truly supposed to be the land of plenty. The fact that cars and houses are bigger too is presumably as a result of a desperate need to transport and store these aforementioned vegetables once you’ve bought them from supermarketsgrocery stores the size of, say, Yorkshire.

Of course, while a few things are bigger than you’d get at home (I really don’t want to think about the genetic engineering that took place to create the aubergineeggplant I saw yesterday), most things are the same size as anywhere else in the world. Unless you’re eating a pastrami sandwich in Katz’s Deli, obviously.

But there’s one area where the United States really does believe that size matters. Forget your giant hot dogs, superking beds or 100 storey skyscrapers. After all, when it comes to all those things, there will always be somebody who’ll go one inch, foot or floor further.

But when it comes to the size of your flag, only the very biggest will really do for Americans.

Wherever you go in the US, you are confronted by the stars and stripes. I swear it’s easier to find purple squirrels than a street in Brooklyn that doesn’t have a single American flag hanging in it somewhere. Such pride in belonging to America is in direct contrast to being in the UK. Hanging a Union Jack outside your house there would be tantamount to an admission that you are either a) a card-carrying racistmember of the BNP, or b) the Queen. (*waves to the Queen, just in case she’s reading*)

But when it comes to public organiszations or commercial outfits flying the flag, clearly some kind of memo went out making it clear that any bonus payable to the boss of the enterprise would be in direct correlation to the size of flag flying outside the establishment. The entrance to the Midtown Tunnel in Manhattan has a flag that could conceivably be used to provide clothes for every child in Indonesia, and still have material left over for a couple of normal size flags for every man, woman and child in America. A flag flying on what appeared to be a 300ft flagpole somewhere between Atlanta and Chattanooga last weekend could have been used to cover up the hole in the ozone layer. And even your standard everyday City Hall-type flag seems to be bigger than most British villages.

Most of these flags appear to be made from one single piece of material, which is a pretty astonishing piece of engineering. A symbol of might, and a rallying call to Americans everywhere to unite as one under a single gigantic banner.

The irony is, of course, that most of these flags are probably manufactured in China.

Still, with the rapid expansion of that country and the equally speedy economic collapse of the US, that should at least make it easier from a logistics point of view when the red five starred flag of the People’s Republic is flying above civic establishments from California to Maine.

A small world

Waiting for The Special One in a bar on Friday night, I sat on a leather sofa reading the New York Times. Whatever people’s opinions of the NYT (and I meet a lot of people who don’t really like it), I kind of enjoy reading it. Don’t get me wrong I prefer The Guardian in the UK, but in the absence of a more progressive newspaper, the New York Times keeps me relatively interested.

USA Today aside, the Times is I guess the closest that the US has to a national newspaper. And as a result, you’d expect its coverage of world affairs to be thorough and comprehensive. But being honest, I think ‘Newsboard’ (the school newspaper that I helped to set up when I was about seven) had more in-depth coverage of foreign affairs.

In the ‘international’ section were 16 stories. Three of them concerned China, reflecting the concern of many Americans that China is going to become the big kid that bullies the USA in the schoolyard in a few more years. Six of the international stories mentioned the United States, as if nobody would be particularly interested in them unless the stories were linked to the US at some point.

Indeed three of the 16 foreign news stories mentioned the US in the headline. I know America’s a big place, but come on, surely there are other countries to write about??

I’m probably just bitter when it comes down to it. There was only article on the UK, and even that was written from Australia.