Should you take the red pill or the blue pill?
The problem with this question is, what if the intelligence behind the illusions of the blue pill is just making you think you’re taking the red pill? Is your new reality just another layer of illusion?
I saw this on The Online Photographer today:
“The Plight of Umida Akhmedova”
Uzbek photographer Umida Akhmedova is facing either prison time or forced labor for a photo essay consisting of little more than pics of ordinary people.
Some of the pics can be accessed here.
The charges? “Defamation and insulting Uzbek traditions,” which seems especially ridiculous given that “Uzbek traditions” are the subject of the photos.
One can only speculate on the reason. The photos include lots of pics of wrinkly-faced elderly people and at least one of unhappy looking children. I suppose what it probably boils down to is that the pics were felt to be insufficiently flattering to the glory of the Uzbek homeland, or something like that. Perhaps if Akhmedova had done a photo essay on posh gambling casinos, fancy resorts, and new infrastructure projects, she would have fared better with the authorities? Who knows.
Whatever the motivation, it’s a cowardly and despicable action.
Is there anything that can be done? It seems doubtful. One commenter on TOP noted that the Uzbek regime has been known to machine-gun thousands of protesters, and has a secret police known for literally boiling people alive. In light of that, I am guessing a few politely worded letters of concern would have little effect. Attempts to shame foreign investors into pulling out also seem unlikely to succeed, considering that this incident is far less serious than others that have already happened, meaning if a particular company is still doing business in Uzbekistan, they are hardly going to care about one specific photographer getting stuck on a chain gang.
Prices on Nikon lenses and camera equipment took a big jump earlier this year, much to the dismay of myself and other Nikon customers. The change was due to a long-term increase in the value of the Japanese Yen compared to other currencies. Rumor has it that more changes are coming, due to even more appreciation of the Yen. This is bad news.
So, I got curious and did a little looking at the exchange rate between the Japanese Yen and the American dollar at various times.
Today, October 1, 2009, the rate is 89.74 Yen for 1 US dollar.
A year ago the rate was 106.05 Yen per dollar, and two years ago, the rate was 115.92 Yen per dollar. Looking farther back, October 1 each year going back to 1998, the rate was always between 105 and 135 Yen per dollar. So the current exchange rate is clearly out of the ordinary compared to what we’ve been accustomed to.
I’ve also heard that Nikon is aware of this problem and is considering ways to alleviate it. This might mean moving more of their manufacturing and/or assembly to other countries. That might be a good thing from a price standpoint, but would they be able to maintain the level of quality on their higher-end items? Who knows. (On the other hand, none of the Nikon equipment that I own was made in Japan anyway, so would it even matter for me? I guess a more relevant question is how it would affect prices and quality on equipment that I want to buy, not on what I already have.)
Of course, another solution would be for the value of the dollar to increase. It wouldn’t have to go up all that much, either. About 20 Yen is all it would take, and that’s not all that much. The catch is that it would have to stay there for a while, giving no hint of going back down to its current level. The other problem with this idea is that it doesn’t seem likely that the US government would want it to happen, because I’m guessing they are wanting to stimulate exports, and for that, a weak dollar is advantageous.
(All exchange rates were obtained from free services on xe.com.)