Listening to radio coverage of the implications of the current health care row, specifically government’s ability to negotiate prices with PhRMA, this article came to mind. I had first read it in the Best American series Science and Nature Writing 2005. Within, Charles C. Mann deftly navigates the long-term prospects for American health, economy, and culture when advancements in life-extending medical technology are available, and not, to the multifarious and interrelated social groups across the country. Enjoy.
Message Machine is piece of in-depth investigative reportage from the Times regarding some unsettling but rather unsurprising links between the media-political-military-industrial machine that is the War against Iraq.
The Theory.org.uk Trading Cards are a pack of 32 online cards featuring theorists and concepts close to the hearts of people interested in social and cultural theory, gender and identity, and media studies.
Youth! Joyce Carol Oates reviews Keith Gessen’s Fitzgerald-referencing “All The Sad Young Literary Men” in the New York Review of Books
Apathy ’08 America’s becoming indifferent. I blame the Presidential primary calendaring horse race for creating the monotony of hope.
“Fiction Saved My Life” Salman Rushdie talks with The Independent about his newest novel, featuring Mughal emperor Akbar as protagonist.
Spring Music Wish List NPR’s All Songs Considered compiles a list of their most wanted Spring releases.
The Big Ideas of Science Explained The Independent, a perennial favorite, introduces an amazing project to enlighten the public to complex scientific ideas. “Produced by leading experts in their fields, the series is designed as a reference collection for non-specialists who want to understand the world they live in.”
Junot Diaz v. Tom McCarthy The Championship Round of The Morning News’ glorious “Tournament of Books” has come.
13 Things to Avoid When Changing Habits “Habit is habit, and not to be flung out of the window by any man, but coaxed downstairs a step at a time.” – Mark Twain
White Smoke and the Mechanics of Getting Unstuck Stuck on something? Fix it.
Delaycast I’m flying to Portland on Friday, and there’s a 44% chance that it will be delayed. That delay is, on average, 23 minutes long.
In an effort to give people greater information about and control over their energy usage, The Greener Grass brings us an energy visualization system called Current State which, in concert with some in-home hardware and your iPhone, lets you monitor and control your at-home energy consumption wherever you might find yourself.
Those who have viewed my facebook profile recently may have noted that one of my two interests listed is reflection. To elaborate, I have become, in the last four or so months, completely convinced that the only way for me (or anyone else, for that matter) to become more like the person I (they) would like to be is to be consistently and critically reflective of the choices we make and the actions we take. To hyper-simplify, we have to learn from our mistakes. Only Human seeks to enable us to learn from the mistakes of others by providing a forum in which users can publicly or anonymously share the mistakes they’ve made and the lessons they’ve learned from them. While I remain unsure how much a person (read: I) can learn from others’ mistakes without first making the same mistakes themselves, I must say I am intrigued by the idea.
Creative Generalists are polymaths in the modern tradition of the “Renaissance Man”. They spread their interest and their work wide, and dig deep when necessary, but excel owing to an ability to synthesize information, concepts, and models from a variety of fields. Reading through Steve from Montreal’s introduction entitled “What Specifically Do Creative Generalists Do?” reminded me of the interdisciplinary nature of the academic field of International Political Economy in which I was trained. For me, the approach to intellectual endeavors is a great fit, but I can’t quite explain why. Which is your preferred mode of thinking, generality or specificity?
When can I take a pill and experience a three-course meal? A question that came up, although not exactly in those words, in discussion with three of my 12th graders this week. The Wall Street Journal examines the question and many others as it posits the future of our tech-enhanced lives in Thinking About Tomorrow. While not as rigorous in its thought as I would prefer, the article provides a brief overview of a number of current trends in consumer life in the modern world. Least surprising idea? GPS will transform everything. Most surprising? Nothing.
When, in 1994, Chinese Communist officials broke ground on the Three Gorges Dam, they “promised that China could build the world’s biggest dam, manage the world’s biggest human resettlement and also protect the environment”. I don’t think that anybody doubted that the country that brought us the Great Wall and the Long March could manage to build the thing, but I certainly would have guessed that they would have trouble successfully doing the other two. Having traveled the river, and toured the dam, I’m particularly interested in the subject, as with China in general.
In part four of their ongoing China expose “Choking on Growth”, the Times examines “the human toll, global impact, and political challenge of China’s epic pollution crisis.” Thought you knew all about it? So did I. But when a single country builds one major dam every day for 50 years, it’s hard to even comprehend the magnitude of this project and of this country itself.
Still, what else can you do? The world depends on China for its low-cost production capabilities, and, although that production could be shifted to other low-per-capita-income countries without too much difficulty, it’s not happening, and China remains a monster when it comes to energy consumption, human rights, and environmental stewardship. What’s the solution?
Pro: Hydroelectric power is, generally, considered renewable.
Con: Massive human and environmental costs, “hydropower development is disorderly and uncontrolled, and it has reached a crazy scale.”
Greg and I arrived in Chongqing and took a Harry-Potter style bus ride to Wanzhou, traveling by boat from there to the dam proper. Shaded area represents resettlement areas along the river, resettlement being forced both by government forces and by the inevitable 175 meter rise of the surface of the river.
How do you solve a problem like China? No idea. Coal? No thanks, no way. Nuclear? I can’t say I trust it (given Chinese construction and regulation standards). Oil? They’re already on that one; biggest oil company in the world is Chinese. But they still need the power.
I think, given all of the options, I lean toward nuclear as my preferred fuel for a growing China. Less Human displacement, environmental impact less immediate and potentially less serious (potentially). But then, water usage and waste is pretty grand, and the potential for environmental damage is far greater, given the potentialities that could arise within a poorly managed nuclear power grid.
Bottom line, I have no idea. But, I do know that the river itself is becoming a sad, sad place, entire villages and beautifully sculpted ancient terraces being buried under the dark, polluted waters of the Yangtze as 1.13 million Chinese are relocated to new cement-block cities and placed on welfare after losing their lives to Chinese energy security. While the Communist government stomps the rights of its citizens, and as those people wonder “Am I Not Alive?“, I have to ask (and I do so without the slightest hint of cynicism), does it matter?
The home at the top of this hill will be completely under water when the river completes its projected 175 meter rise.
We didn’t quite enjoy our visit to the soul-crushing Three Gorges Dam.
From a recently rediscovered issue of Harper’s (Aug. ’07), I give you this:
And also these:
Number of Bush appointees who regulate industries they used to represent as lobbyists: 85
Number of the 5 directors of a No Child Left Behind reading program who had financial ties to curricula they developed: 4
Average amount each of these directors has received from the publishers of reading materials they sold to schools: $727,000.00
Weight, in ounces, of all the information that passed through the Internet last year: 0.00004
From Foreign Policy comes this bounty of intriguing articles:
The War We Deserve
“There’s an uncomplicated tale many Americans like to tell themselves about recent U.S. foreign policy. As the story has it, the nation was led astray by a powerful clique of political appointees and their fellow travelers in Washington think tanks, who were determined even before the 9/11 attacks to effect a radical shift in America’s role in the world. he members of this cabal were known as neoconservatives. They believed the world was a dangerous place, that American power should be applied firmly to protect American interests, and that, for too long, U.S. policy had consisted of diplomatic excess and mincing half measures. After 9/11, this group gave us the ill-conceived Global War on Terror and its bloody centerpiece, the war in Iraq.
This narrative is disturbing. It implies that a small cadre of officials, holding allegiance to ideas alien to mainstream political life, succeeded in hijacking the foreign-policy apparatus of the entire U.S. government and managed to skirt the checks and balances of the U.S. Constitution. Perversely, though, this interpretation of events is also comforting. It offers the possibility of correcting course. If the fault simply lies in the predispositions of a few key players in the policy game, then those players can eventually be replaced, and policies repaired.
Unfortunately, though, this convenient story is fiction, and it’s peddling a dangerously misguided view of history. The American public at large is more deeply implicated in the design and execution of the war on terror than it is comfortable to admit. In the six years of the war, through an invasion of Afghanistan, a wave of anthrax attacks, and an occupation of Iraq, Americans have remained largely unshaken in their commitment to a political philosophy that demands much from its government but asks little of its citizens. And there is no reason to believe that the weight of that responsibility will shift after the next attack.”
Read more (subscription may be required).
The Battle of Beijing
“…various “hostile forces” will test China’s mettle. In Prague, an organization called Olympic Watch was established in 2001 with the explicit mission of using the Beijing games as an occasion to challenge China’s policies on freedom of speech, the death penalty, Tibet, religious freedom, and forced labor camps. Darfur campaigners are calling the Beijing games the “Genocide Olympics” and are demanding that China stop supporting the Sudanese government. The Washington Post dubbed the games the “Saffron Olympics” to denounce China’s support for Burma’s murderous regime and the massacre of its saffron-clad monks.
This pressure is already on, a little less than a year before the games. What will happen when the games start and thousands of foreigners travel to Beijing not to watch the games but to try to change China? How will the authorities know that the old lady from Denmark is actually coming with her church group to protest China’s abortion policies, or that the young Australian couple is actually part of a militant environmental organization? In short, what if the $40 billion the government is spending to showcase modern China yields the ugly global image of a thuggish regime?”
It’s a Hip Hop World
“As hip-hop grows ever more popular, it becomes squeezed in the uneasy space between commercial and economic globalization from above and borderless, cultural grassroots globalization from below. Commercial rap made in the United States—with its ethic of “get rich or die tryin’”—is displacing local rappers and musicians on the radio and television airwaves in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, and South America, while serving as the soundtrack for aggressive, youth-oriented consumer goods marketing.
This rampant commercialism is often at odds with hip-hop’s outsider ethos. In Kenya, for instance, two differing visions—one as a resistance culture oriented toward social justice, the other as a popular culture focused on commodity capitalism—may be increasingly headed toward a reckoning. For some Kenyans, hip-hop has allowed a new generation of postcolonial Africans to speak out. Young Kenyan rappers’ lyrics—in sheng, a creolized language that includes English, Swahili, and Kikuyu words—tackle the themes of joblessness, poverty, and the older generation’s failures. Indeed, young artists are building communities that actively support the development of cultural politics unique to the continent. One Kenyan NGO, Words and Pictures, has been traveling to Ghana, Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania to promote networking among local hip-hop pioneers. The recent arrival of MTV Base Africa may accelerate these trends. The network was launched in South Africa at the beginning of 2005 with a playlist that was roughly one third African. Since then, the proportion of artists from the continent has risen, and the network says it hopes to reach 50 percent African programming in the next year. But on the radio, hip-hop from overseas is increasingly becoming the norm. Stations such as Britain’s Capital FM and locally owned KISS FM sell advertising to multinational corporations like Motorola and Nokia. They prefer to program American artists such as 50 Cent because such rap helps corporations sell consumer goods. But local rappers, whose music critiques government and poverty, dub American rap, ironically, “white-boy oppressor music,” even though the artists are predominantly African American.
Nairobi native Michael Wanguhu, who created the documentary film Hip-Hop Colony, says this kind of cultural homogenization and commercial sponsorship are becoming major worries. “It’s creating opportunities where there were none before,” he says, “but there’s no room for music that is enlightened and empowers people.”
Read more to appreciate my creative editing.
So, we report back to school tomorrow, stepping into the vortex that will be the next ten months of my life. Presently, I’m part of a scene that would be familiar to anybody unlucky enough to know me Spring of senior year, when I was most often hunkered down in my room struggling with and toiling away working on my thesis. I maxed out my library card, and kept those 100 books relatively organized on every horizontal surface in my room. It went so far that I actually imported a table form upstairs to increase my workable space, and I think Greg once took a picture of me sleeping under a blanket of media-crit books. End digression. Before I get so far away from this that I don’t ever post about it (as if would matter at all?), I wanted to mention a few things I’ve done recently.
Most notably, Dan took up my cousin on her culinary challenge and prepared two Lebanese dishes. The dolmas I didn’t get much of a chance to enjoy because I was on my way out the door, but I can say that those grape leaves were a real hassle to work with. It took about a week to actually get around to cooking the lamb-stuffed zucchini, but they were delicious, and just what I needed that day, a hearty, but not overfilling dish that remained a little out-of-bounds. Perfect.
And I suppose the only other thing to mention right now is that the other night Cody and I went to my second benefit event for 826 NYC and the Superhero Supply Store, a literary mentoring program founded by Dave Eggers and loved by social-welfare-minded bookish hipsters everywhere. Last time I went, comedians and the sort told personal stories accompanied by Powerpoint presentations; one of the guys described to us the trials and tribulations he had faced in pursuit of a local youth trivia championship, complete with his old television footage. This event, “Revenge of the Bookeaters”, was pretty much just a concert periodically interrupted by 826s standard benefit show shtick. Although the entire first balcony was empty, ushers confined us and pretty much the rest of the entire audience to the upper balcony we had been ticketed for, but once we got over that frustration things were pretty great. Outstanding bands or parts of bands doing solo sets, in a beautiful theatre. Grizzly Bear and Jim James stole the show, perhaps because I’ve never loved A.C. Newman live, and Feist only did one song after reading two children’s stories. Britt Daniel wasn’t bad, either. Here’s more on it at co-sponsor Stereogum, and a ton of photos at BrooklynVegan.
Had free passes to an advance screening of the new film The Kingdom, in which U.S. State officials (or something similar?) go to Saudi Arabia to investigate a bomb attack against U.S. soldiers. Starring Jamie Fox and Jeremy Piven, who is one of the best actors on television and a semi-campy favorite for his late-80’s/early-90s film work, both my roommates and I have been looking forward to it, but just couldn’t get it together. Is school tearing us apart already?
Man, I just keep remembering things I wanted to mention. This is it, I promise. And I wish I had put up a photo or something, make this a little more visually appealing. I saw new movie Superbad the other night, and it was surprisingly very good. That’s all I’m going to say.