Tuesday, November 22, 2011


My humble appeal to my (dozen?) loyal readers: as of a few months ago I've moved rather permanently to the hodge-podge hyperlink-laden commonplace book which is Tumblr. What is lost in advantage in Google search results is gained in interface ease.  I hang my head in microblog shame but sport no regrets.

Click on the spot where Hu Jintao and Barack Obama's lips meet to be rerouted to (Less) Exhausted Diligence.

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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Monday, April 11, 2011

Purchasing Power Parity

Six Million Dollar Man (1974) 

"The Six Million Dollar Man is an American television series about a former astronaut with bionic implants working for the OSI (which was usually referred to as the Office of Scientific Intelligence, the Office of Scientific Investigation or the Office of Strategic Intelligence[1])."
Sixty Million Dollar Man (1995)
"Sing offends local crime lord Fumito (Joe Cheng) by dancing with Fumito's girl in a Pulp Fiction-inspired dance contest. In a fit of rage, Fumito orders his henchman Mark (Charles Shen) to kill SingWhen Tat comes to rescue his son, both are caught by Mark and tied together in a bathroom stall, where Mark planted a bomb. Sing chops off his arm and manages to let his father escape on an ejector toilet seat, leaving Sing to apparently die in the explosion. Sing's brain and lips are recovered. There is technology to construct a new body for him at the cost of $60,000,000. However, since Sing renounced his rich father, he doesn't have the money. Tat can only provide $6,000. Chang (Elvis Tsui), offers to create a body for $6,000. After some trial and error, such as creating legs out of arms, Sing is transformed into a cyborg. "
The Six Million Rupee Man (2007 via Goodness Gracious Me)
"Sanjeev Austin..the man's barely alive. We can rebuild him. We have the power. We have the capability. We don't have the ideal exchange rate...."

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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Notes from The West Island

  •  March 21st three hour master class with Jia Zhang-ke, hosted by the Jockey Club's Cine Academy?! This one killed me. What the hell was the Jockey Club's Cine Academy, how did I miss this, I thought while reading David Bordwell's blog posts on the HKIFF launch. (I've only attended The Strange Case of Angelica so far.) Started in 2010 to "provide young people with a better understanding of film production and enhance their ability to analyse and appreciate film-making techniques." Over. Like tears. in. the. rain.
  • Kenzanburo Oe at the HK Literary Festival. He didn't end up winning the Man Asian Literary Award, but he'd been one of my idols since I stumbled into Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids at the St. Louis County Library as a freshman in high school. Therefore I both coveted and loathed the chance to meet him. Anyways, I self sabotaged on this one, delaying until the day before the panel to buy tickets despite planning to go since his nomination was announced. My face was wrenched in both relief and pain when Razor Lim of Parson's Music told me that the tickets were all long gone. I thought about the fact that I had sabotaged this while scalping tickets to a Super Junior M concert from a 17 year old the very next week. I did not feel comfortable at the thought. 
  • Giant neon phonograph in the Kowloon Walled City Park for the Arts Festival,  and a titillating staging of The Golden Lotus. The titillating 3-D release in two weeks adapting The Carnal Prayer Mat should make up for the latter, at least. 
  • The 200-something person protest in Central over Donald Tsang's ill thought out scheme to curb inflation by.... putting 6000 HKD into people's retirement funds?! And then the subsequent macing of those "protesters." Pansy riot. Pansy draconian response. [Background here.]  High expectations Asian Father via The Dark Side.
  • Someone noted glumly on a taxi ride from Stubbs Rd. that income inequality in Hong Kong was appallingly surprising. Fact:  A monthly salary of 50,000 HKD per month puts you in the top 10% of households. That's about 77K . In the US that comparatively just puts you in the top 25% or so. Hong Kong's full time employees make below 15K HKD per month (excluding all domestic workers) - that's a bit shy of 24,000 USD. Even correcting for purchasing power parity issues, pretty bad. But don't take my word for it! As of 2009 Hong Kong had the highest GINI coefficient in the world.
  • China technically should be lifting its quota on foreign films. I'm hopefully revising a paper on the political economy of Chinese film production (eh) soon but more thoughts on this later. A good article in the Guardian on the topic here.
  • Above, a postcard from 1910 that depicts the world in 2000, as imagined by in a series of French postcards. An electric train would have linked Paris and Beijing. More paleofutures (past imaginings of the future) here.
  • And below, snippets from Ming Wong's "Devo partire. Domani / I must go. Tomorrow," where he plays all characters from Pasolini's Teorema (1968). A snatch from the Singapore Biennale that condenses how I feel lately, frame for frame.

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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Immaculate Hoardes: Visual Correlatives of Swarm Fear

A quick response to a post on [The China Beat] that caught a trend I've been meaning to post on for a while. Writes one T.S. Mullaney about Foreign Policy's recent "Rise of the Hans" feature:
Whoever at Foreign Policy thought of this image—in particular, thought of using the metaphor of clones—captured the essence of Kotkin’s argument flawlessly: the Han, we are meant to believe, is a singular mass of physically, politically, ideologically, socially, culturally, and linguistically indistinguishable replicas, one that brings to mind the clone troopers of Kamino in Star Wars or, perhaps, hive-like, sci-fi adversaries, such as the “Buggers” in Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Trilogy, the Arachnids of planet Klendathu in Robert Heinlen’s Starship Troopers (who, incidentally, was writing in the aftermath of the Korean War and was also fascinated by the racist idea of an ego-less, self-less, and homogenous Asian adversary), or the Borg of Star Trek (a tendency that some commentators have explicitly used to refer to the PRC—something that one of the co-founders of China Beat criticized in a piece that appeared in Foreign Policy itself last year). Kotkin omits, or perhaps does not know, that the Han is one of the least homogenous groups history has ever known: contained within its ranks are people who literally cannot understand each other’s spoken languages and people who—let’s just be basic about this—exhibit the same sort of diversity of worldviews as one would expect to find among a group of one billion people anywhere on earth.

Let us call this discursive construct Neo-Borgian Yellow Peril, earlier images of which are exemplified by the two TIME covers below (locusts are 1950, teeming mass from 1963. From ChinaSMACK.) The mass, which in the early 20th century may have ridden very quickly on horses to invade America, but now ride very studiously on state-owned enterprises to invade world order. I am remiss in finding one particularly amazing image from the mid-1970s that depicts Mao as an aggregation of clamoring peasants and mandarins.

The Neo-Borgian Cloud has in fact been a trend in the visual representation of many Chinese events since the Olympics (see images below).The eeriness comes from a post-processing that invariably sharpens digital images, heightens color and smooths noise to convey that squeaky gleam of capitalist modernism - and a simultaneous proclivity for compositions that capture seemingly boundless duplication (ie terror of scale), immaculate repetition (ie terror of forced homogeneity) that projects the power of an authoritarian state.This is not to say that there is not a desire to project this very image of state power.
There is likely a good term for this. Perhaps it exists already in the fecund world of art criticism. I suggest militaristic hyper-modernism.

 From various sources, two shots from Olympic opening ceremonies, security exercise outside of the Bird's Nest, laborers outside of their factory and students preparing for exams. 


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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Link Party: Exchange Rates, Diamond Skulls, Jet Li

  • PICKING UR BATTLES: At the NYT, David Leonhardt argues that US should be less concerned about the RMB exchange rate and more concerned about intellectual property theft. Renault has just this week rocked France by unveiling a huge industrial espionage scandal - electric car technology was leaked, and they think Chinese spies are behind it. Matt Yglesias disagrees, saying that undervaluation of the RMB is basically a "regressive sales tax" benefiting "politically powerful Chinese exporters" - and that China's lax attitude towards intellectual property provides useful tension with the US' strict IP regime. Bradley Gardner disagrees with Yglesias' disagreement, citing RMB undervaluation as motivated by domestic public welfare concerns, and the IP issue as one that actually hampers tech. development in China itself.
  • BANNED IN PRCBaysian statistics, the term "civil society",
  • SHOWS: Damien Hirst solo show to launch at new Gagosian Gallery in Central (above Shanghai Tang on Pedder); Wang Qingsong and Others at "Photography from the New China" show at Getty in LA.
  • PHILANTHROPY: After much hubub, Jet Li's foundation finally has legal status in China and will now be registered in Shenzhen. There's optimism that this means a much more generous Charity Law will move a bit faster towards materialization. Yet the above banning of "civil society" as a term perhaps palls hope that this will lead to richer associational freedom.A great review of NGO related news in 2010 here.

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Thursday, January 6, 2011

Long Bin-Chen (陳龍斌) - Book Sculptures

Above,  a sculpture from Taiwan-based artist Long Bin-Chen, carved from New York City phonebooks with "first a band or chainsaw, then a dental sander." [via Oddity Central. Don't ask.] Apparently Long only takes materials purchased from trash collectors or directly plucked from the streets. 

Bumped due to highly circulated  NYT article today  "Selling a Book By Its Cover" - once in a while I catch whiff of a job that boggles my mind. These people. Get paid. To design other people's libraries. Almost exclusively based on the appearance of the book covers.

Some gorgeous galleries of other book-as-sculpture projects here and here. Perhaps we can use Long Bin-Chen's Boddhistava to smash Jonathan Safran Foer's Tree of Codes.

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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Patents Per Million, Retraining Ant Colonies, "Cursory" Observation of Quantum Teleportation

Quick bits on technological innovation and more importantly technological imagination:

1. Two PRC related pieces on this recently much circulated - in the NYT, a piece analyzing a document put out in November by China's State Intellectual Property Office of China,  “National Patent Development Strategy (2011-2020)."  The major question is whether high-tech "innovation" oriented industrial policy will work, having not worked so well in Japan in recent years.  (Yet, recall that the Tigers - Japan, Taiwan, S. Korea - are the celebrated cases of successful industrial policy in their early rise.) Fun quote:
The Chinese patent strategy document is filled with metrics, right down to goals for patents owned per million people.
2. In a less meaty article in FP, Vivek Wadhwa also tackles the topic, his position summarized perhaps by the title "Chinese and Indian Entrepreneurs Are Eating America's Lunch." Citing his own previous research, he posits an interesting suggestion vis-a-vis the phenom of super low wages among college grads in China (the "ant colony"): its a result of crap training rather than a crap market:
India and China now graduate three to six times more engineers than does the United States. The quality of these engineers is, however, so poor that most are not fit to join the workforce; their system of rote learning handicaps those who do get jobs, so that it takes two to three years for them to achieve the same productivity as American graduates. As a result, significant proportions of China's engineering graduates end up working on factory floors; Indian industry has to spend large sums of money on retraining its employees, as my research team at Duke and Harvard learned.
3. And since this seems to have weirdly not made it on the parts of the China blogosphere I surf, some key WikiLeaks science and tech related wires are collected here. A key quote from a wire BRS forwarded, about Hefei's University of Science and Technology:
(COMMENT: A cursory walk through their labs seemed to indicate they had already succeeded in single-particle quantum teleportation and are now trying to conduct dual-particle quantum teleportation.)

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