Save the Eclipse: An Open Letter to the Honorable Han Zheng, Mayor of Shanghai

Dear Mr. Mayor:

As you are no doubt aware, the longest eclipse of the century will pass over your city on Wednesday morning. This singular event is not exclusive to Shanghai, of course: the narrow path will wind over much of Asia, into the Pacific. But, needless to say, international media organziations with an interest in covering this singular event aren’t going to station their cameras in, say, backwater Chongqing. No, they want to cover the century’s longest eclipse from the Century’s City; they want to cover it from Shanghai. Thus, whether you planned for it or not, you and your colleagues at City Hall are now faced with an unprecedented opportunity to promote Shanghai’s image to the world.

Unfortunately, it has come to my atttention that forces outside of China are conspiring to spoil this eclipse and Shanghai’s opportunity to shine on the world stage. I am, of course, referring to the jet stream. According to a briefing prepared by your city’s dilligent and devoted metereologists, and posted to the official Shanghai website: “Dense cloud threatens to keep eclipse watchers in the dark.

[UPDATED July 20: The City of Shanghai website appears to have resigned itself to clouds and rain.]

Sir, this is a PR disaster in the making. Do you really want camera crews broadcasting darkening rain clouds over, say, the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, when viewers in, say – Minneapolis – expect to see the moon’s disc obscuring the sun’s? Are you willing to tolerate the national humiliation of watching CNN resort to, say, footage of the eclipse taken in Japan (where “maximum eclipse” will actually last longer than in Shanghai), rather than at the Yangshan Deep Water Port? Me. Neither.

So, with humility, I offer a solution.

Please, with haste, request the services of Beijing’s heroic Rain Dispersal Corps. As you may recall, these humble servants of the people fired 1000 “rain dispersal rockets” into the skies over Beijing in advance of last year’s Olympic Opening Ceremonies, thus ensuring a rainfree spectacle that enhanced China’s image, worldwide (images of the corps available here). Surely, they are ready and willing to fire another 1000 “rain dispersal rockets” to ensure that Shanghai’s eclipse (and, let’s face it, this is Shanghai’s eclipse) is broadcast – without hitch – to the world. 

Now, on the off-chance that Beijing and national authorities scoff at this request, you might point out that the Olympics come every two years (let’s not forget those winter ones), while the next eclipse of similar duration won’t arrive until 2132. By that time, China will have hosted the Olympics another four or five times, at least. But an eclipse? For better or worse, July 22, 2009, is going to be China’s one chance in 123 years to prove to the world that it’s capable of getting one of those right. So let’s not dilly-dally.

If you would like to discuss this proposal further, please feel free to have a member of your staff contact me via Shanghai Scrap’s convenient Contact Form. I am at your service.

Respectfully,

The Editor