Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Readings 6-11-08

Diary: Sierra Leone slum clinic

I am Abdul. I clean the clinic, get water, watch the clinic and collect anything they send me to get. I am a volunteer...

At the end of the month, the clinic manager gives me some money for me and my family. It is not much money, but it is difficult to find a job.

Kind of a bummer, but this is the way it is. This is our world.

via Information Junk

The Rise of the Mega-Region

When people talk about economic competitiveness, the focus tends to be on nation states. In the 1980s, many were obsessed with the rise of Japan. Today, our gaze has shifted to the phenomenal growth of Brazil, Russia, India and China. But this focus on nations is off the mark.

The real driving force of the world economy is a new and incredibly powerful economic unit: the mega-region.

Extending far beyond a single core city and its surrounding suburbs, a mega-region is an area that hosts business and economic activity on a massive scale, generating a large share of the world's economic activity and an even larger share of its scientific discoveries and technological innovations.

While there are 191 nations in the world, just 40 significant mega-regions power the global economy. Home to more than one-fifth of the world's population, these 40 megas account for two-thirds of global economic output and more than 85% of all global innovation.

I've thought for a long time that nationalism was defunct and was only sustained in deference to convenience. When it's economically feasible, or even necessary to make the adjustment, regionalism seems to be the next logical step. Regions are established by economic, geographic and demographic realities, not arbitrary lines drawn on a map in the late-19th Century. They are already forming and functioning. Globalization is only a tenuous consensus in comparison.

Update: see this rather interesting paper from the Army War College.

via (+)


Monkey Business
For all his knowledge, Dr. Zaius (human/orangutan villain of Planet of the Apes) simply couldn’t learn to have compassion for humans. The students of Helping Hands’ Monkey College, by contrast, learn to be caring above all else. Since 1979, the Boston-based nonprofit organization has been breeding and training monkeys to care for quadriplegics and others with immobilizing spinal-cord injuries.

I had no idea. They can even pop in a CD and fix you a drink.

1984 J.G. Ballard Interview
BALLARD: Writing a novel is one of those modern rites of passage, I think, that lead us from an innocent world of contentment, drunkenness, and good humor, to a state of chronic edginess and the perpetual scanning of bank statements. By the eighteenth book, one has a sense of having bricked oneself into a niche, a roosting place for other people's pigeons. I wouldn't recommend it.

via rodcorp

Funky Chinatown and the Asian riff
We've all heard it and know it has a name. Some of us have heard it and don't know it has a name. At worst, it can be interpreted as a musical parody, a musical construct of the 'Orient' or 'Asia.' At best, it covers too much area to mean very much at all.

The melodic phrase goes by several names: 'The Asian Riff', 'The Chinese Melody', 'The Stereotypical Oriental Tune', 'The Asian Jingle.' It was around long before 'Kungfu Fighting' and 'Turning Japanese' appeared, but the huge success of 'Kungfu Fighting' in 1974 definitely put it on the map. Its associations are so powerful that we only need to hear the riff to instantly convey an 'Asian' context.

This post made my head swim, but it's a great breakdown of the Asian Riff, known in recent western pop-culture from the songs Kung Fu Fighting and Turning Japanese. Before that it was a sonic meme; nine notes of formulaic musical device that represented oriental exoticism and had little to do with anything real.



john salisbury said...

Nothing to do with the Asian Riff, but very listenable sort-of Asian self-parody and full-on hiphop parody

John M. said...

Excellent. Very funny.

They're still playing off the same kind of thing, just more like hop-and-chop and gun movie cliches.

Their beat-writer is really good. I noticed he scrupulously avoids the Asian Riff, though there were a few moments he could have dropped it.