A spinoff in proper "Rhoda" style of my patented e-mail blastograms, this blog was created with the intention of keeping friends and family updated on and amused by my life.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

More on Myanmar

Some various responses to my last post:

It's weird--the Denver Post (an AP outlet) has nothing about Myanmar on their front page, but I noticed some headlines about it on their news ticker when I was downtown. If you go to the World news page, 2 stories about Myanmar are in the "Top News Stories" box, which makes the absence from the front page even weirder. It looks like the AP is covering the events there, just not...making any attempt to draw peoples' notice to them? Very strange. Article here.

I've been trying to keep up with the news about what's happening in Myanmar (formerly Burma, I believe), and can report that the Corvallis Gazette-Times has had articles regarding the riots, etc, almost every day, although the articles are back on the 4th or 5th page of the main section.

Apparently, you missed that George Bush made extensive comments on your blog issue today.

Just wanted to pipe in that the top story on the NYT website last night when I looked at it hoping for a Myanmar update was a YANKEES GAME. Yes, the coverage has been terrible over here.

Thanks for the references, Jeff. You’ll be relieved to know that NPR (Morning Edition and All Things Considered) is covering the activity. Unfortunately, the news coming out of Myanmar is suddenly being clamped down. Sending prayers for those within…

CNN? USA Today? Those of us who live in the US and are savvy listen to NPR - and let me tell you, Myanmar/Burma is the top story at every news break. It is also a top story at the New York Times. It just depends on where you go for news.

In general it sounds like coverage of what's happening in Burma is out there, but it requires a little digging. While I am reassured that it is at least out there, I continue to be frustrated with the fact that it is not more prominently located. The only way to put international pressure on the junta in Myanmar is to build awareness.

Of course, as one of my readers notices, after the government crackdowns started last Thursday, news and images from the inside has slowed somewhat. Which is why an article on Discovery News caught my attention: Satellite Images Show Myanmar Abuses.

Howard French has also offered an interesting view of the conflict from China in: Letter from China: Myanmar crackdown sheds light on Beijing's aspirations. To quote selectively:
Myanmar is a highly repressive state that has been run into the ground by incompetent leaders who have been partially enabled by China. It is, moreover, a country whose people are now risking their lives peacefully for freedom. This must very nearly be something like a bad dream for Beijing's foreign policy establishment.

Indeed, as French also points out, the Chinese government is between a rock and a hard place. It will be interesting to see how much longer their policy of non-interference with the internal affairs of other states will be a stragtegy they will be able to maintain.

Because of this, French hints, coverage of what is going on in Burma is limited at best in China, and so I would like to re-pose the same question as before to my readers in China (I konw you're out there!). It seems like there is never much of the important stuff that can be found in the media, but what's the word on the street, especially in nearby Kunming? Is there an awareness or reaction to what is happening there?

Rather ironically, I just saw an article on the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television's (SARFT) recent drive to clean up Chinese media before the 17th Party Congress. Sexy sounds and ads for push-up bras are out, good wholesome socialist fun is in. The Deputy Head of SARFT, Tian Jin said, "Every television advertisement management bureau and television station must strengthen their political consciousness and responsibility toward society." Funny, it seems to me that the responsible thing for society would be to report about the atrocities happening right next door...

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Friday, September 28, 2007

OK, Seriously Folks

For whatever foolish reason, I went to check the CNN webpage to see what it had to say about what's happening in Burma. For fun I selected the 'US Edition' and had to scroll more than half way down the page to see a mention of Myanmar. Is this actually not big news in the US?! Then I went to the USAToday just to see if I could give myself a coronary, and only found reference to Myanmar with regards to new US sanctions thereon. What's the big news at MSNBC.com? The 10 dying businesses. And not surprisingly, FoxNews wasn't any better.

Um, hello? Is anyone home in there?

Even in the UK Myanmar has managed to surpass stories about Madeline sightings in Morocco (though only barely). Seriously, any of you in the US, what is the coverage like? The fact of the matter is that what is happening now in Burma has the potential to be one of the defining moments of this decade. If you don't know what's going on, learn!

You can start with my personal fav, the IHT. And even the BBC has had some interesting and in-depth coverage of what's going on there. And if you're still want for information, guess what the feature story is in this week'sThe Economist.


Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Diegogarcity and an Excuse to Procrastinate

It's amazing how productive one can be when trying to avoid other tasks (ie, writing a dissertation...). Or maybe reading the IHT isn't that productive, but I saw several fascinating articles that were worth mentioning.

First, in a fit of diegogarcity (alright, a slightly hijacked usage of the term, expanding its meaning from a word that we suddenly see everywhere to a concept we suddenly see everywhere), I noticed several interesting articles about a renaissance of sorts in Northern Africa. Ancient writings bring new interest to Timbuktu was a fascinating article that explored the 're-discovery' of ancient texts that have been stored in what was once a cultural centre but is now synonymous with the middle-of-nowhere. Perhaps that's a small part of what is causing European governments to ask: Will North Africa gain from closer ties to Europe? And vice versa, of course. This article mentions specifically Sarko's and Prodi's plans to develop North Africa as a way of deterring immigration to their respective countries (France and Italy). I had not heard of a desire to create a Mediterranean Union before, but I like the idea (as long as it's not a second class substitute to allowing these countries into the EU).

And somewhat related to that story is one I just found about Chinese foreign policy in Africa: Is China Changing Africa or is Africa Changing China?, written by an LSE professor, Dr Chris Alden. This unique perspective offers that:

Ironically, deepening Chinese engagement has caused China to drift away from its once rock-solid principle of domestic non-intervention to support for internationally-sanctioned intervention in selected conflicts or post-conflict areas like Sudan and Liberia. One has the sense that Beijing is feeling the hot breadth of Africa's worst governing practices and is in the midst of absorbing a swiftly applied series of lessons meted out by petro-elites and pariah regimes.

And with regards to globalization, I thought this article about locally produced food, Homegrown isn't always best, was interesting. While there is still a lot to be said for eating seasonally and supporting local communities, I suppose we really do have to take a macro systems view when it comes to food production/distribution. In order to reduce our carbon footprint, we can't just look at transport, but also all the factors that go into production. Consider this tidbit from the article:

[Scientists] found that lamb raised on New Zealand's clover-choked pastures and shipped 11,000 miles by boat to Britain produced 1,520 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per ton while British lamb produced 6,280 pounds of carbon dioxide per ton, in part because poorer British pastures force farmers to use feed.

I should note that this study was done in New Zealand and we might want to question the political motives of the scientists, but an interesting thought nevertheless!

And on the Asia front, I was disconcerted to see the Thai police resorting to punishments based on really puerile gender stereotypes. The idea: Less-than-purr-fect Thai police to sport Hello Kitty armbands as punishment. Give me a break!

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Friday, August 03, 2007

Immigration. For real this time!

Two posts ago I threatened to talk about immigration policy, which was actually very relevant to the ideas of global cities and even terrorism, but the post was running long so I cut it out. But I just read yet another article that got me riled up about US immigration policy, so I thought I'd do a quick post to share my disgust at current American policy towards immigrants. It's a globalizing world people! Putting up walls and creating childish policies that create tit-for-tat responses with our allies is NOT the solution!

My list of immigration articles/issues that have frustrated me (and I'm being nice here) over the last month or so:

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

On Global Cities, Nation-States, and the Threats of Terrorism

“On July 27, 2005, Mumbai experienced the highest recorded rainfall in its history: 37 inches of rain in one day. The torrent showed the best and the worst about the city. Hundreds of people drowned. But unlike New Orleans after Katrina hit, there was no widespread breakdown of civic order; though police were absent, the crime rate did not go up.

“That was because Mumbaikars were busy helping one another. Slum dwellers went to the highway and took stranded motorists into their homes and made room for one more person in shacks where the average occupancy is seven adults to a room.

“Volunteers waded through waist-deep water to bring food to the 150,000 people stranded in train stations. Human chains formed to get people out of the floodwaters. Most of the government machinery was absent, but nobody expected otherwise. Mumbaikars helped one another, because they had lost faith in the government helping them.”

Suketu Mehta thus described Mumbai in an article recently republished in the IHT entitled ‘Dirty, crowded, rich and wonderful’. It’s an impressive attempt at describing the indescribable: a city swelling and surging, dynamic and rigid, sometimes appalling yet somehow appealing. A city where "discomfort is an investment.” A city where, despite all the troubles and setbacks, the human spirit thrives.

And cities, it seems, are a recurring theme at the moment. Indeed, Mumbai is one of ten cities currently highlighted in the Tate Modern’s exhibit: Global Cities, which is on show until 27 August 2007. The installations present interesting facts and statistics presented in a variety of ways mixed with artwork, photos, and videos to help bring each of the cities to life. And since this blog is called Fun Facts for whenever, I thought I’d share a few of those stats:

  • In 2007, for the first time, more than 50% of people on Earth live in an urban environment.

  • By 2050, it is predicted that around 75% of the global population will live in cities.

  • Mumbai will overtake Tokyo as the world’s largest city by population by 2050 with an expected population of over 40 million people.

  • In Los Angeles 7% of the population use public transport for their daily commute. In Tokyo, 78% of the population uses public transport.

  • Commutes of up to four hours a day are normal for those in the outlying areas of Sao Paolo.

  • Shanghai adds an average of 29.4 new residents each hour.

  • The GDP of the City of London is equivalent to that of Switzerland/

  • The population densities of four of the cities: Cario- 36,500 people per square kilometer; Mumbai- 34,000 ppl/km2, Mexico City- 5,800 ppl/km2, London- 4,500 ppl/km2

  • 95% of those moving to London since 1995 were born outside the UK

For more stats and facts, check out the Global Cities exhibit’s webpage.

Now consider that last fact: almost all newcomers to London come from outside the UK. And really, it’s the diversity of this place that I love so much although it causes its own problems.

Consider my thoughts from a blog entry I was intending to post the other week but never got around to:

“Drip, drop, gush. Frustration and anger crept into my esprit with every drop of rain.

“Il pleut. And on this 下雨天 dominated by grey skies and gusty winds, the last thing that I wanted to do was leave the house. Alas, I had agreed to a double shift (that’s 10 hours!) at the ‘chocolate factory’, and so I grudgingly trudged out the door. Which isn’t when my problems began, to be sure, but was certainly when they were exacerbated.

“As I’m sure most of you know by this point, on Thursday evening/Friday early morning (29 June 2007), a car loaded with petrol, nails, and a detonator was found outside a London nightclub near Picadilly Circus. A second was also reportedly found later that morning. Luckily police worked to diffuse the bomb before anybody was seriously injured (and it appears that it would have caused a significant number of casualties). Later that weekend, another set of bombers tried to attack at the Glasgow airport.

“‘Insouciance’ was the word the IHT used to describe the general reaction of Londoners, and I couldn’t think of a more apt description. Sure it was a talking point for the last couple of days, but since the bomb didn’t actually explode, it’s almost too hypothetical to feel strongly about. Sure, I was at a nightclub in Leicester Square at the time, but that’s a good 500 meters away from the explosive device, and therefore I was well out of harms way. And anyway, the Valentine’s Day bombings in Manila a couple of years ago was a much closer call for me.”

And yet, that rainy weekend day, after much frustration, it all melted away at the sight of the London Eye on my evening commute home. It was the day of the Gay Pride Parade in London and as such, London was trying to be in a celebratory mood. I, on the other hand, was in a dour mood. It was raining. I had to work. My Internet at home still wasn’t working. Traffic was a nightmare between parts blocked off for investigation into the bombings and the parade wending its way through London’s streets. But on the bus ride home, I turned my head to the left as we crossed over the river to see the London Eye lit up in rainbow colours.

To see that through such crap London could still band together, put a finger up to the world, and celebrate its diversity made me proud to be a Londoner. My incessant internal grumblings simply evaporated at the sight. The weight of an overbearing London ceased, sublimating into the cool night.

My parents were concerned about the almost bombings, but the fact of the matter is that in London we had it lucky.

The following Tuesday, several ‘al-Qaeda’ (supposedly) members attacked a convoy of Spanish tourists in Yemen. For a short IHT article describing what happened, see Survivors describe bombing attack in Yemen as 'an absolute nightmare'.

One of my Dutch friends here in London was engaged to the owner of the travel company that was taking the Spanish tourists to an ancient temple in the region of Marib. He lost two of his friends and colleagues who were driving the cars in the convoy. He lost seven tourists. He was dragged in for questioning by Yemeni police (though ultimately cleared of any wrongdoing).

The families of the Yemeni victims, though, lost not only husbands/sons/brothers but also the main breadwinners in the family, not to mention the cars they drove which were the family’s main source of income.

It is these people and their families about whom we should be concerned—innocent victims of a political crime. Not a focus on the potentiality of the ‘almost’ that is most certainly exaggerated in the media. For example, both free evening London papers lead with a headline like: ‘1700 threatened in terrorist attack’ that Friday, with 1700 the capacity of the club that was targeted. Certainly the club was not at full capacity on a Thursday evening! But what’s the bigger number? What’s the better story?

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

And since I've started

I saw this article and it made me feel a little better about the US. This is what America should be: In a changed New York neighborhood, a hardy few take up Mandarin.

The article is about older residents in Flushing, a NY neighborhood that has become increasingly Chinese in character, taking Chinese classes to help them interact better with their new neighbors. Brilliantly written.

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Monday, May 28, 2007

Developing America

Every once in a while, I see something so outrageous happening in the US that it makes me cringe. Mind you, I've been busy studying for my upcoming exams, so I might be riled and stressed in general, but I stumbled across this article and just couldn't believe my eyes: Challenging Washington's ban on needle-exchange funds.

To summarize: this article explains the history behind a bill that bans federally funded needle exchange program within Washington DC. Because DC is not located in any state, the federal government has control over its budget (even though the elected representative from the district is still not allowed a vote in Congress--unless her most recent attempt to gain one passed, I can't remember. It would be a recent change though). Back in 1988, Congress added a clause that refused funding for needle exchange programs in the city with the caveat that the President could effectively overturn this decision if the Surgeon General proved that needle exchange programs didn't lead to increased drug use. Although there have been many of these studies, Bill Clinton, for whom I have much admiration, never removed this clause. In 1998, the clause was then removed from the appropriations bill. And here I was, ready to launch into a scathing attack on Bush and his support for abstinence-only sex education for USAid-funded projects, and his approach to HIV/AIDS prevention in general. Then I find out it's not his fault (in this very limited instance).

Well, Bill Clinton, you should be ashamed of yourself for not trying harder to reverse this decision while you had the chance. And Bush, don't get complacent, absitenence-only sex education equals worst idea ever!

Consider the situation of DC now: "In Washington, with just over half a million residents, 1 in 20 are HIV positive. Its rate of new AIDS cases is 128.4 per 100,000 people, compared with a national average of 13.7 per 100,000, according to 2005 data, the most recent available from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."

But now, some members of congress have finally recognized the completely inappropriate nature of this outmoded/uneducated provision and are trying to change it. I encourage you to contact your Representative and urge them to support Rep. José Serrano's effort to remove this ban!

You can find out how to contact your representative at http://www.house.gov/writerep/.

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Clinton Forces Pharma's Hands

Well, it has been far too long since I posted to my blog, and I just saw this article in the IHT (Clinton arranges cheaper AIDS drugs) about work that BILL Clinton and his Foundation has been doing to get low-cost AIDS drugs to developing countries. He has negotiated new prices ($695 per annum down from $2000 two years ago, and $1000 this year) by encouraging countries to go generic. Those pharmaceutical companies can complain about breaking international patents all they want--as Clinton said: "No company will live or die because of high price premiums for AIDS drugs in middle-income countries, but patients may."

For more information on the work that the Clinton Foundation is doing, check out their website. Also, you can see a great speech by Clinton accepting an award at the 2007 TEDTalks and talking about the world's current AIDS situation over at their website.


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Soilent Green?

I have to admit, that when I saw this article, Why is Chinese Mountain Painted Green?, I was baffled by Chinese logic. In Fumin, a county in the Yunnan Province (read, one of my homes away from home) a local leader decided that an old rock quarry on a mountain behind his village was unsightly and messing with his fengshui (this part I understand). His solution was less explicable: he decided to hire workers to paint the old quarry green (please see the pictures of the newly re-decorated mountain for your viewing pleasure/horror below).

When asked in a Chinese news website why he decided to do this, Du said:

Which in English would be: "Originally, I contracted for the stone quarry and earned some money. Then I decided to build a house and settle here, the entrance looking out onto the barren red rock. Later, my life and career were really unlucky. The fengshui master (geomancer?) said that the barrenness of the quarry's red rock was interrupting my fengshui, so I hired some workers to paint the red rock green right away."

Right, obvious answer. Let's forget about the huge environmental impact that covering a mountain in synthetic paint has, and paint it an iridescent color that looks horribly unnatural. That makes things better. In the IHT article, they claim that over 470,000RMB was spent on the painting, though the man in the Chinese article says he only paid about 10,000RMB (about UD$1,250). In either case, for that amount of money, this guy could have made a real postive impact on the environment by working to reclaim the area with plants etc.

No, I'm just not following the logic there. But then, I don't think the Chinese are either, which is why it's in the news there. The international press has taken it up as some kind of a look-how-weird-the-Chinese-are kind of an article, which I can't say I approve of either.

Well, happy Valentine's Day anyway. Anybody want to paint something red to profess their love for me?

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Blogging Backlog

Oh my my my, I've been a bad blogger these past couple of weeks. I suppose it's partly because I've recently gained two new outlets for my world wide webbing pleasure: Facebook, and an online discussion forum for one of my classes.

Facebook is simply one of my new sins, and I'm probably on it much too much. I can update my 'current status', which is a great way to share little thoughts without bothering the blogosphere. I can share random music videos of some of my favorite artists from around the world so that everybody can share in the fun, and I can do all this while keeping tabs on what other people are up to. How fun is that?! So, if you're on Facebook and you haven't already, you should friend me!

As for all of my global frustrations, I'm taking them out on the online discussion forum for my Media and Globalisation class. I'm sure they don't really appreciate my rants either, and I noticed that as one person in a class of at least 50, I had about 10% of the content posts on the forum, so I've decided to try to curtail that for a while. We'll see how long I last.

But in the honour of the good ole' blog, I thought I'd share some randomness with all you non-Facebook folk.

First, I must mention this article that I just saw on the IHT. Apparently Harvard researchers have linked an afternoon nap to lower risk of heart disease. I think I'm going to have to move back to Kunming so I can take me a siesta every lunch, it makes so much more sense than the American system!!

Though speaking of heart disease, I did finally get up the nerve to register with the National Health Service (NHS, the nationalised healthcare system over here in Britain) yesterday. Yes, I made an appointment last week to register (that's how bureaucratic the system is), and finally had an appointment after months of a terribly hurting foot. I went in, and they told me I had excellent blood pressure, and that I had Morton's neuroma on my foot. In other words, my nerve has been pinched between two bones at the joint that connects my middle toe to the rest of my foot. This has caused the nerve ending to become irritated and inflamed, and thus painful. The solution in the US is a simple surgery to cut out the nerve ending, but the doctor here suggested that by the time I got done with all my paperwork etc., that the swelling would probably go down. The doctor instead suggested I try new shoes with an air cushion and not walk as much. Thank you doc, that's very helpful.

And in other health related news, I've now gone 8 days since last ingesting or in any way consuming a chocolate digestive biscuit (cookie). I knew I had a problem when I realised I was spending roughly US$20 a week on the biscuits. More than a week, it's a step in the right direction, innit!

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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Jaipur in the News

Last year at this time, I was in India. I might be in dreary ole' London (which actually hasn't been that dreary of late), but that doesn't mean that I've stopped thinking about India. Indeed, I was just talking about a movie I saw there, Rang de Basanti, the other week.

Which is why, when I saw a combination of 'India', 'art', and 'festival' in a headline in the IHT that I immediately thought of Jaipur, the capital of Rajhistan. Chesa and I went there last year to see another friend, Bethani, who was participating in a festival there (you can read about it in my post One Week Down, Almost).

For a review of the festival this year, and its importance for Rajhistan, check out the IHT article Entre'acte.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Inebriated Foreigners Beware

I just saw this article in The People's Daily Online and the same story from a foreigner's point of view on Go Kunming about a brand new and exciting service offered by the local authorities in Kunming: a drunk tank for foreigners. The drunk tank is administered out of the ICU of the People's First Provincial Hospital and is a unique way of foreigner gouging in Kunming. I have personally spent WAY too much time in that hospital's ICU (not because I was drunk) and think that being taken there would not have the calming effect the Chinese authorities seem to be hoping for. Also, that there will be English speaking staff on-hand to deal with these drunk foreigners I find laughable. The English spoken at that hospital is beyond pathetic--hell, half the time we couldn't convince the doctors to speak in standard Mandarin instead of the local Kunming dialect. These nurses don't have any clue what they're in for!

Last year, there were rumors going around that two body builders in town (speculation is that they were also taking steroids, which probably didn't help the situation) went on a drunken rampage, causing a lot of property damage on their way home. They were caught by a bank security camera, and were fined heavily. Imagining these two in the drunk tank is going to be my new favorite past time.

It's also an interesting case of perception--both articles mention that of the 50,000 foreign visitors to Kunming last year, they had roughly 19 alcohol-related incidents. And while there are certainly some foreigners with drinking problems in Kunming (note the incident above), I can't imagine that it is any more so than the local population. Where's their drunk tank, huh? Well, maybe I shouldn't complain, it's probably a dank cell in their local police station.

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Layin' Down the Law

Alright, I have tons of writing left to do before Friday, and I'm in a mad rush to do so, but I just saw this article and it really made me angry, so I just had to share.

It is entitled Drowning the Tiger Leaping Gorge, and is about plans by the local Chinese governments to build dams high along the Yangtze river in the Yunnan province.

These dams would effectively flood portions of the Tiger Leaping Gorge, a canyon deeper than the Grand Canyon in Arizona in places. The local government there must realize that the tourism industry in that location is enormous, especially with visits to Tiger Leaping Rock, where a tiger was said to have bounded across the river to avoid capture which is already covered during seasonal highs in the water level.

And the kicker is, according to this article, the energy isn't even required for China. They are looking at exporting their excess energy from hydroelectric dams down into other SE Asian countries (which they already do some of), especially a growing electricity market in Thailand.

The Chinese government should be ashamed at itself for its dedication to blind development without consideration of environmental consequences. This pristine land is part of the world's heritage, and to flood it is absolutely reprehensible. I hate that there is basically nothing that anybody can do about it either, except to just get angrier at the Chinese government, which doesn't really solve anything...

My message to China: think about the overall consequences of your actions, for pete's sake. After 20+ years of unconstrained development, isn't it time for some glasnost and reflection on how to develop BETTER?

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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Kites over Kashgar

I was sitting in a semi-public bath house in LiTang, China (follow link for my previous blog entry about LiTang) when the book first enthralled me. At a mere (ha!) 5,000 meters (16,500 around feet), despite it being the middle of summer, my childhood friend, Robin, and I needed to find some way to warm ourselves up. Hot springs sounded like the perfect solution. We hopped a taxi that took us the 10km outside the city through open skies and windswept fields sparsely populated with yak and yurt.

The hot springs turned out to be a newly developed bathing complex, complete with white tiles but with fairly large 'windows' (well, holes in the wall at least) that let the light shine in. The assistant opened a large valve and steaming, sulfur-laced water poured into the tub.

Desperate for warmth, I sank into the tub, and picked up the book Robin had brought from the US: The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. Poor Robin was reading a physiology text book if I'm not mistaken, and so it was with a little guilt that I lost myself in the story of Afghanistan for several hours before I noticed my raisin toes.

Such a vivid and enticing epic, my mind kept wandering to the closest I'd ever been to Afghanistan--Kashgar, XinJiang, China (follow link for blog entries from my time there, or see some of my photos here.).

Kashgar is a city of traders, and is considered to be the city the furthest west in China (and there is a big Mao statue to prove it, of course). It's roughly north of Delhi and lies next to China's borders with India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Kyrgyzstan (and not too far from Kazakhstan, thank you Borat). It also used to be the capital of Chinese Turkmenistan (from before XinJiang was an actual part of China) and so I stayed in the former Russian Embassy which has since been turned into a fairly decrepit hotel. The city actually played a large role during the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, and as Hosseini was walking through Afghan history, I felt connected to it through my experiences in Kashgar.

What prompted this post, actually, was an IHT article (what else) entitled Gambling on China for an Afghan Epic. Turns out they are now filming the movie version of the book in Kashgar, which creates yet another link between Kashgar and the novel for me. I must admit that I'm really excited to see the movie now, not just because they've filmed it in Kashgar, but also because it is a good book AND they are actually filming it in appropriate languages, with for example, and Iranian-born actor who has even bothered to learn Afghan dialect. The waiting begins!!

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Friday, December 22, 2006

Turkmenbashi. Dead?!

I can't believe it. The famed "President for Life" of Turkmenistan just died. I'm strangely crushed, and I can't help wondering who the western media will be able to turn to in order to find crazy dictators. Oh wait, that shouldn't be hard (actually, I was just noting an article about crazy old Ahmadinejad in the IHT today as well).

But really, Turkmenbashi (Saparmurat Miyazov) was in a league of his own, and shall be missed (with the exception of the oppressive dictatory parts). In honor of his passing, I direct you to his Wikipedia biography, and share some important Turkmenbashi facts:

-"He banned video games, gold teeth, opera and ballet, and once encouraged his people to chew on bones — good, he said, for their dental health." (IHT)

-"He forbade independent news media and opposition parties, jailed rivals or drove them to exile, and imposed his name, words and image on all manner of public discourse and life." (IHT)

-"Global Witness, a private organization in London that campaigns against corruption, expressed concern about money held in Deutsche Bank that had been under Niyazov's control. It said that $2 billion to $3 billion were in an account used to accept payments from Turkmenistan's gas customers, but that Niyazov routinely used the account for personal expenses and vanity projects." (IHT)

-"Claiming Turkmenistan to be a nation devoid of a national identity, he attempted to rebuild the country to his own vision. He renamed the town of Krasnovodsk, on the Caspian Sea, Türkmenbaşy after himself, in addition to renaming several schools, airports and even a meteorite after himself and his immediate family. He even named the months, and days of the week after himself and his family; January becoming Turkmenbashi.[4] Niyazov's face appears on Manat banknotes and large portraits of the president hang all over the country, especially on major public buildings and avenues. Statues of himself and his mother are scattered all over Turkmenistan, including one in the middle of the Karakum Desert as well as a gold-plated statue atop Aşgabat's largest building, the Neutrality Arch, that rotates so it will always face into the sun and shine light onto the capital city." (Wikipedia)

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Holy Random, Batman!

I'm in a random mood, and I'm listening to Nat King Cole sing Spanish ballads, so I thought I'd post...cause why not really?

Saw two articles that I found uber interesting and did have to share about China. As a student of culture, I found China establishes initial database for intangible cultural heritage an interesting discussion of culture in China. And also, from the IHT, we have a great article about free cabbage. Seriously, check it out.

Other random thoughts: I'm now addicted to mince pies. Damn you England! Also, Casino Royale, thumbs down!! Bond like barely even has an English accent, and what good is Bond sans suaveness?!?!?! Facebook is fun, even if I am just a recent convert.

Oh, and happy holidays!

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Indonesian HuaQiao

So now that I posted my blog entry, I decided to head over to the IHT to see what's up in the world. And like I often do, I found a fascinating article that I just had to share, this one is about overseas Chinese in Indonesia.

Now, I don't know much about the situation of Chinese in Indonesia, with the exception of the fact that tensions between Chinese and "indigenous" populations run high. In 1998, for example, in Jakarta, there was a huge massacre of the Chinese population.

But things are apparently getting better, or at least that's what this article claims. The quote that really struck me though is as follows:

"As late as last year, a U.S. court of appeal ruled that the threat of violence was enough to justify a Chinese Indonesian to seek asylum."

I had no notion.

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Monday, December 04, 2006

Wikiwiki, what?

I'm not even sure what I clicked to get to this article, but I thought it was really quite funny and vaguely useful. There are diagrams and everything. Still don't think it'd work on the top story of a double-decker...but then you're not really supposed to stand up there anyway...

How to Remain Standing While Riding a Bus

Really, what would we do without wikihow?


Thursday, November 30, 2006

Oh France

I'm like Zorro, you rarely see him, but you know he's there."

- Jean-Marie Le Pen, leader of France's far-right, xenophobic, send-the-immigrants-back-home party, the National Front


Friday, August 11, 2006

Here's a tip

In my most recent assignment, I've been busy looking up reporters from various news sources throughout the US. The fun part about this job is that I get to see what news is important in different parts of the US. For example, yesterday had a main feature from pretty much every airport talking about people throwing out their make-up.

Today's top story from the Indianapolis Star? Terrorism? Bombings? Lebanon? Of course not.

Nope, today's top story: Having a Cow- Bovine birthing tent a big hit with fairgoers

Now, I've seen cows giving birth before, I mean I grew up in Colorado. It's an interesting thing to watch, I'm sure, but front page news? Come on. Although, maybe Indiana is just trying to justify why it should be the state with the most terrorist targets in the US by pointing them out.

If you've never seen a cow give birth before, I would recommend checking out the "Cow Cam" link on the left of the page.