Pandering to the public

Sometime last week, my morning started with Shakespeare, Today it was pandas.

What is it about pandas that makes them so darned cute? They are the rock stars of the ursine world. I mean, people like polar bears, quite a lot – especially when they hear – fun fact –  about the way they camouflage themselves by covering their black noses with their paws. That is a lie, but it is true that there is a polar bear gaol in Churchill, Canada, where they lock up the polar bears who get hungry during the winter and stray too close to the town in search of food. They keep them in there and then airlift them back. They never feed them while they are locked up because otherwise, the polar bears would start getting themselves arrested deliberately to get a meal. There is a fantastic podcast about the polar bear operation and other ways the built environment rubs up against the natural one in this 99 percent invisible podcast.  I recommend it.

But Canada was not about the polar bears today, no sir. Today they had pandas. It is so nice to start the day with some nice stuff for a change instead of mayhem and destruction. And this was not just panda bears, it was panda bear cubs – super cute. Bugger kissing babies, the politicians were falling over themselves to be a part of this photo op – and why not? Everyone loves a panda. They look somewhat puzzled by the very fact of their existence and also as if they have woken up having forgotten to take off their party make up from last night. The back markings on their front legs and back rather give the impression that they have put their jacket on backwards and their general laid back attitude to life seems exemplary. No wonder they put their clothes on the wrong way around.

I watched the name unveiling with interest as I have a relatively unexciting product launch to help organize and was idly wondering how they would do the names. Well, all the most important Canadian politicians, who had won the fight to be on pandacam, lined up in front of a load of flags, then a band played a fanfare. The pollies were holding two large A 3 sized cards, one blue and one pink (because pandas are famously laid back about gender politics too, even though it is international woman’s day today) and on cue, they flipped the cards to reveal each of their names in English, with the Chinese spelling underneath and the translation beneath that. Canadian Hope and Canadian Joy.

I think they missed a trick here, because they could have called them ‘Comfort and Joy’, as in the carol, God rest ye merry gentlemen ‘Oh tidings of Comfort and Joy/ Comfort and Joy/Oh tidings of Comfort and Joy’ – that way they cold have moved from the fanfare to a sing-a-long and really made the most of the brass band they had hired. They could have customized it, replacing ‘tidings’ wth ‘Canadian’, plus they could have made a fortune at Xmas licensing them out in cute red felt hats. An opportunity missed, I think.

Perhaps it was just as well they didn’t, because the card flipping arena was abandoned with undisguised haste to go and see the Cubs, who were blissfully unaware that they (a) had names, (b) had the world’s media focused on them and (c) they were endorsing politicians, including Canada’s most recently successful one, the Prime Minister. Instead, they did what pandas do best and rolled about like tiny fat furry drunks in the hay while the cameras went mad. Pandas are definitely cute, but watching baby pandas interact like they had just spilled out of a pub..  that was definitely worth being late for work.

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