Shutdown: Timeless

SundialToday we had a bit of a chat here about that odious headcrusher, the forward spring of the clock that accompanies Daylight Saving Time. As a hideous troglodyte northern-dweller, I for one appreciate the sudden appearance of the sun after dinner caused by this artificial construct because it makes me feel like I can stay up past 6pm.

We basically mess about with time changes and zones to maximize our use of daylight while trying also to ensure we all know if our neighbours in the next state or province are up yet. But one of the largest nations on earth, China, has no time zones at all – are they onto something here? Theoretically, for one thing, this would eliminate the scourge of jetlag, which I know some of us complain about when there’s so much as an hour’s difference. However, China is pretty much the same size as the US and really could use five time zones. In fact, it had five time zones until 1949. But then the wisdom of the centralized communist government took hold and they decreed that everyone from the Pacific coast in the east to the border with a bunch of ‘stans in the west march to Beijing time.

In reality, if everyone followed this rule, farmers in the far west of the country would still be harvesting their crops at midnight. So in most outlying regions, folks pretty much operate on an unofficial local time that follows the rising and setting sun. This makes it extra interesting when you’re travelling and you can’t really tell if the bus you need to take (the only one that day, of course) is leaving on Beijing time or local time. Don’t believe the wikipedia entry that seems to make out like this all works swimmingly – it can often be a nightmare for outsiders to discover exactly how things work in the particular town they’re trying to get the hell away from leave. Maybe we’re not so horologically hard-done-by after all.

  • CaptianNemo2001

    Outsiders learn a lot about "how things are done in China". Cough… Erm…

    China has it's issues…

  • Do you know how many time zones there are in the Soviet Union? It's about power? It's ridiculous. It's not even funny.

    [youtube mhXOrCoSnLs youtube]

    I'm pretty sure that's Art Bell, late night radio host of Coast to Coast AM from "The kingdom of Nye" sometime in the 1990s, when I was working as a dispatcher all night long and grooving on broadcast radio.

    It was a bit of a time dilation to have heard the Negativland recordings back in Boston in the early '90s and then move to the Bay Area in the later part of the decade. Hearing Art Bell live over the airwaves was at once a trip back and a current event. Going to Nye County, Nevada for the burny thingie guy and realizing it was Art Bell's world and I just lived there… I moved back to Eastern Tim; let's just leave it at that.

  • Er, I might be overposting but I've been away from the keyboard all day (hooray for me!) and am just catching up.

    DST is an adjustment of the overlying scheme of time zones. Time zones as a thing arose out of the sudden capacity of humans to move across continents faster than the sun did, or nearly enough. Our old friend the steam locomotive was the agent provocateur of a big kerfuffle over what time it was where and when it was going to be that time, goddammit!

    Hellzapoppin did the boosters and political machinators (I made that up) of old wrangle and spit about whose position on the continent was going to say when noon time was. It sounds like an intriguing democratic experiment but I can tell you from reading books like the one below it's really just a bunch of idiots in a pissing contest; their adversary is our old enemy Astronomical Fact.

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    "The Industrialization of Time and Space in the 19th Century"… ain't that loaded with juicy words? I think I bought this book, or one like it. Not in my collection anymore, as it is now.

    • B72

      I was just thinking about how nice it is to get out of work and have a little daylight, and was ready to go to bat for daylight savings time all the time, and you had to go and mention astrological fact. I guess what really want is to have the expectations around when we work shifted forward in the day, so there's daylight left when we get out. Either that or independent wealth such that I set my own hours.

  • toxicavenger1

    In the words of the Rolling Stones Time is on my side.