The Olympics finale: A great big Beijing inspired hugfest and might

Hugs all around. If you’re near someone give him or her a hug. If you’re by yourself, just wrap your arms around yourself and squeeze. MMMMmmmm.

By the end of the closing ceremony of the Olympics in Beijing, when the credits rolled in the U.S.’s broadcast version, I was once more feeling warm and fuzzy, just like I did at the end of the opening of the games. Again, I’m a real Pollyanna sometimes.

The shots of athletes hugging each other, even if they were not on the same team, (like this photo posted on AOL) or with their hands thrown upwards in triumph–or in tears–either from joy or abject disappointment, revved up emotions–at least mine. As one of the commentators said during the closing, the games do give a sense that there is hope. Yes, we can all get along. The hugs seem to prove it.

Hugs, if you noticed, were given out by EVERYBODY–it didn’t matter the nationality of the hugger or hugee, whether it was for a feeling of triumph or in comfort. If not a hug, at least a pat on the back or a rub on the shoulders was offered and accepted.

While I watched the closing, I also thought about how the performance arts of a country can reflect the cultural values of the people who live there and influence the emphasis on how the art is used.

Once again, China demonstrated the inspiration and sense of wonder that happens when people work together. The Memory Tower, the 5-story metal sculpture that scads of dancers performed on and around just like a swarm of precision bees, replicate the look of the Olympic flame and other visual wonders. Surely this was a great showing of the umph and creativity of China’s people. Get people in China organized, and there’s nothing they can’t do.

The cultural value of such performances seems to be precision and working closely together. Each performer’s moves tied to the other performers, although the performances around the sculpture, like the pop culture singers and the rock music drummers, also showed an openness to change. Women dressed in western style clothes while playing traditional Chinese instruments is an example of what I mean.

The British, from my observations, reflect something else. Britain emphasized the individuality and diversity of the people who are British citizens. The dancers around the double-decker bus were of different backgrounds. I noticed both black and white people straight off. Also, instead of the precision of the Chinese performers, the British performers took a more modern dance angle. Dancers each did their own movements, not in sync with each other, but in relationship to each other.

The result was interesting, but not fluid. The British offering was clever, like when the bus turned into the London skyline, but it looked like it was designed to illustrate what represents Britain, like soccer (football) and Mary Poppins, (the umbrellas made me think of Burt, Mary and the chimney sweeps) , more than show off Britain’s might. Although, the precision performances of the Chinese must be easier to capture on camera. The shots of the British performances were from a variety of angles and only a few dancers were captured in any particular frame. I kept thinking that seeing it live would have had a much different impact.

Britain showed off its might the most during the shots of London where Micheal Phelps was introduced to the cheering crowd there. The finale of this clip was when precision fighter planes streamed across the sky in a V-formation leaving a trail of red, white and blue smoke. People may dance to their own beat, but airplanes are synchronized. (Of course, go to Buckingham Palace during the changing of the guards and you’ll see precision.)

If the Olympics does give the host country a chance to show off its finest, I’m hoping that Monty Python and other British humor gets worked into the summer games’ broadcast in 2012.

As for the broadcasts over the last two weeks, I’ll miss the trips to China through my television screen and think that I want to go back there soon. Until then, there’s the Travel Channel, books, the Chinese grocery stores I go to from time to time, and my Chinese friends to tide me over. Fireworks will never look as good though. The Chinese know their fireworks. They invented them and have certainly perfected the art over the years.

And for the next two years, until the hugfest at the Olympics’ winter games in Canada begins, give people hugs or a comforting, or congratulatory pat on the back whenever you can. From the looks of what’s on TV, they work wonders.

For an analysis of the impact on the Olympics in Beijing, check out Time magazine’s article, “The Lessons of the Beijing Olympics.”

By the way, I am aware that the polo team guys are not actually hugging each other, but are competing. Do you know how hard it is to find an image to use of people hugging at the Olympics, even though they did it constantly?

Time posts their 25 “must have” high-tech travel gadgets

Time has published a list of 25 “must have” travel gadgets. The list contains some of the usual suspects, like the Apple 3G iPhone, the Amazon Kindle and a Canon digital camera.

Then there are several “gadgets” you wouldn’t immediately think of, like this UV water sanitizing pen or a wine “skin”, which is nothing more than a piece of bubble wrap for carrying wine bottles in your luggage (I find using a sock and a plastic bag to be a cheaper solution).

The list covers everything from an ultra thin notebook (the Apple Macbook Air) to the Kensington battery pack for).iPod and iPhone, (reviewed here on Gadling last week.

All in all, it isn’t a bad list, but it might be a little too rich for some travelers. Some of the items missing from the list (in my opinion), are the Asus Eee PC or a similar $400 ultra portable laptop and a real handheld GPS unit, like one of the many Garmin handheld mapping devices which allow you to navigate while walking through an unknown city, or off the beaten path.

Of course, different travelers will have different needs, so let me ask you; what are you missing from this list? Do you own a “must have” product you’ll never leave home without? Leave a comment, and in the coming weeks I’ll put together a list of the Gadling top 25 high-tech travel gadgets.

Escaping down an airplane slide: Handy tips

Sliding down an airplane slide looks a bit to me like sliding down one of those inflatable slide rides you see at a fair, amusement park or a carnival. Apparently, it’s not the easiest way to depart an airplane, even if it’s a more common occurrence than one thinks. According the this article, every 11 days in the U.S. people yell, “Whee!” or “Bombs away!” or “@#$%##$!” as they swing onto the inflated rubber for a ride to the ground. I jazzed it up with the dialog, but those are the statistics reported by the National Transportation Safety Board in 2000.

If the accident rate of the carnival rides was the same as an airplane slide, I’d say that ride would be shut down–or maybe kids and adolescents are just better at sliding than adults. When airplanes are tested, escape drills are part of the process. When the Airbus A 380 was tested, 33 out of 873 people got hurt. Only one person actually broke something–an arm. The others got a slide burn. If you’ve ever had someone drag you across a carpet with your skin making contact, you’ll know what that’s like.

To prevent injuries, know what to do in case you have a trip down an inflatable airplane slide in your future. Here are the tips in summary, although, for some reason, I’ve ended up with more numbered points and added some embellishment. For more detailed instructions, read the article.

1. Figure out your escape route when you first sit down. Exactly how many rows are you away from an exit?

2. Read the emergency card, even if you’ve flown five billion times.

3. Leave the luggage behind.

4. Help others get the airplane door open if they are in a panic and fumbling.

5. If you can’t get out one exit, look for another

6. Jump onto the slide, don’t try to sit down. Yell, “Whee!” for extra fun. (I added that just in case jumping makes you nervous. The whee might distract you.)

7. Cross your hands over your chest and put your heels up to avoid “unintentional cartwheels” as Amanda Ripley, the article’s author writes. She says this also helps control the impact when you meet the ground.

8. Women should not fly wearing spiked heels and pantyhose. Pantyhose can melt right on you. Gad!

9. When you reach the ground, hustle out of the way so there’s not some pile up at the bottom and someones foot doesn’t whack you in the head.

10 tips for smarter flying