Monthly Archives: April 2005

European Digital Library

Political leaders are pushing for the creation of a "European digital library," which would make the holdings of the region’s libraries accessible online.

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Amsterdam Bicycle

Amsterdam_Bicycle

Empire: Impressions from China

My review of James Whitlow Delano‘s photo collection Empire: Impressions of China appears in The Asian Review of Books.

Such technique does not obscure, however, but instead heigtens: hands flutter over a veiled toddler; a peasant toils to carry a load of bricks on his back; an army of mannequins, fashionably dressed except for their bare legs, stare at a peddler moving her sugarcane down a street.

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Roadway Painters

The Los Angeles Times profiles a group of self-taught painters who now have been accepted by the Florida art mainstream.

From the mid-1950s to the ’70s, along a stretch of the Atlantic seaboard 120 miles north of Miami, more than two dozen black Floridians including Gibson worked as landscape artists, together churning out at least 200,000 gaudily hued images of Florida’s coastline, lush interior, royal poinciana trees and fiery sunsets. They frequently sold the hurriedly painted scenes, sometimes with the paint still wet, out of their cars along U.S. Highway 1 and other roads, hence the name later given them: the Highwaymen. It was a good business and a good life.

Literary Map

Randy Cohen of The New York Times is creating a literary map of Manhattan showing where various fictional characters might have ‘lived.’

New Media Article Wrapup

 Although I watched some Bloomberg TV when I was in Johannesburg, I largely avoided reading the news. On the way back, though, I enjoyed flipping through a stack of newspapers and magazines, and I caught an article about wikis, "The Advent of the Online Whiteboard," in the Financial Times (4/22/05, p. 11).

One difficulty is that typically they lack a clear structure. […] This is why wikis tend to work well alongside other various technologies, such as blogs, and within frameworks where the scope and rules of discussion have been formally agreed.

And an article about blogging and other alternative forms of journalism in The Economist, "Yesterday’s Newspapers," (4/23-4/29 Issue–the same issue had an article about South African race relations).

Talking at times more like a pony-tailed, newage technophile than a septuagenarian old-media god-like figure, [Rupert] Murdoch said that news "providers" such as his own organisation had better get web-savvy, stop lecturing their audiences, "become places for conversation" and "destinations" where "bloggers and podcasters" congregate to "engage our reporters and editors in more extended discussions." He also criticised editors and reporters who often "think their readers are stupid."

It was also good to come back and see some interesting articles in the New York Times, including "A Hundred Cellphones Bloom, and Chinese Take to the Streets" (4/25/05, an article about how cellphones are being used as alternative press and a way to organize mass protests):

Nondemocratic governments elsewhere are already learning that lesson. Cellphone messaging is an important communications channel in nascent democracy movements in Lebanon and elsewhere in the Middle East. Ukraine’s Orange Revolution used online forums and messaging to help topple a corrupt regime. Few countries censor information and communications as tightly as China, which has as many as 50,000 people policing the Internet. Yet China is also now the largest cellphone market, with nearly 350 million users, while the number of Internet users is roughly 100 million and growing at 30 percent a year. The result is a constant tension between a population hungry for freer communication and a government that regards information control as essential to its power.

"More Ham, Less Wry,"; (4/24/05) about poetry and fiction readings in New York city…

One factor that draws people to readings is the chance to see the writer in person. It’s one thing to read Ian McEwan’s "Saturday" and another to actually hear him read it. I remember listening to T. S. Eliot’s voice on tape and realizing how namby-pamby he sounded, which shouldn’t really have shocked me, but did. For when we listen to a piece of fiction or a poem in our own mind, the "voice" of the writer becomes, in a sense, a stylized version of our own, suddenly made sonorous as it booms out this gorgeous language written by someone else. But when we attend a reading, we essentially give the writing back to the writer and let him or her tell it to us.

Out of South Africa

Leopard_webE and I just got back from a trip to Johannesburg, where I was speaking at a conference on globalization and democratization. We had some good conversations with the political activists, think tank writers, diplomats and academics who attended, although we all divided firmly on whether democracy is "inevitable" and whether economic development is "a" precondition or "the" precondition to demoracy. The locals we spoke to were justifiably proud of the political and social changes that South Africa has seen, but the country remains racked by economic challenges. South Africa currently is saddled with a staggering unemployment rate that hovers around 50%. Violent crime is high, and many of the places we visited in "Jo-burg" felt like hardened compounds. Yet the people we spoke to were largely optimistic, recognizing that the huge shift in ownership of resources was bound to be a challenge (one they consider surmountable). We were struck by the parallels between Taiwan and South Africa, especially how they both transitioned from minority-ruled to more majority-based government in "relatively" bloodless ways.

E and I also made a sidetrip to Sabi Sand, a 153,000 acre "private reserve" adjacent to the Kruger National Park. There is surprisingly little written in the guidebooks and web sites about the different lodges you can visit (apart from the high end lodges like Singita), so we ended up going through Adventours, a travel agency recommended by our Jo’burg hotel concierge. We stayed at a lodge called Idube, which turned out to surpass our expectations, helped by the gregariousness of lodge manager Andy. Our ranger Rob (who patiently answered each inane question of city slickers like us) and tracker Titus were adept at tracking down game, and we saw more on each drive than I would have expected to have seen in weeks in the brush.

It is amazing how close you often get to the animals. (I have posted some of my photos on pBase.) On one of our drives through some thicker
brush, we ended up surrounded by about 14 elephants.
(We later learned that there were about 20 in total in
the herd we saw; another jeep reported being down by
the river, on the lowerside of the ridge where we
were, with another half dozen or so elephants.) Parts
of the group blocked both sides of the road, and there
was a young bull that kept nearing us (about 3 feet
away from us and the jeep at one point). Rob
kept saying to him, calmly but firmly: "Don’t touch my
jeep." And the young bull backed away. A young calf approached us
from the other end of the road, which was fine at
first, but then from behind him came his mother. She
crossed her legs and laced her trunk on her tusks,
which we were told are signs that she was unhappy. Rob claims she was unhappy because her calf was
complaining about being fed, but Euching will happily
tell you that we were "ambushed." Needless to say, we
tried backing up, but then found ourselves backing up
into another elephant. At one point, it looked like we
were going to have to exit through the underbrush, but
the elephants finally gave way.