Chunjie in Phnom Penh

… is pretty quiet so far (10pm). Phnom Penh, however, is an amazing city, and evidently going places. The funky affluence in some parts far exceeded expectations, and the river-confluence geography is an extraordinary treasure (reminiscent of Chongqing). The whole family even got their feet nibbled by gently carnivorous fish, but that’s another story …

If fireworks start exploding later, I’ll let you know.

Have a productive Year of the Horse everyone.


Goodbye to the Snake

UF has been especially quiet recently, because I’m in Cambodia, drifting through flaky connectivity. Trying to maintain Internet activity through a tablet — which seems to disdain even elementary cursor control (no links, no cut-and-paste, nightmare editing) — exacerbates the problem. Right now I’m hogging a real computer at the lodge where I’m staying, and it’s possible to appreciate how wired Cambodia has already become.

Cambodia is an extraordinarily attractive country, and the perfect place to say goodbye to the year of the snake. It has an abundance of (highly venomous) reptiles, although they are unlikely to be encountered outside the rainy season (late summer). Also, and no doubt to some considerable extent consequentially, it has a remarkably rich serpent mythology, organized around the naga. Nagas saturate the glorious ruins of the ancient Angkor Kingdom, as temple guardians, narrative elements of bas reliefs, and hoods for (more recent) meditating Buddhas. The subtle but multifarious evocations of hooding suggest that cobras and nagas are involved in a complex exchange of associations. This is incontestably snake country.

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Quotable (#3)

Evgeny Morozov on the ‘maker’ movement (and more):

Inevitably, hacking itself had to get hacked. When, in November, [Stewart] Brand was asked about who carries the flag of counterculture today, he pointed to the maker movement. The makers, Brand said, “take whatever we’re not supposed to take the back off of, rip the back off and get our fingers in there and mess around. That’s the old impulse of basically defying authority and of doing it your way.” Makers, in other words, are the new hackers.


Quick Links (#3)

Bill Callahan asks Chinese intellectuals what they make of the ‘China Dream’ (video).

Taobao bans Bicoin.

Turning buildings into screens. (The Pudong skyline notwithstanding, there’s still much to come, apparently.)

Joseph Chamie, a former director of the United Nations Population Division, doesn’t expect Chinese demographic trends to bounce back much from the relaxation of the ‘one child’ policy. His article concludes: “Finally, irrespective of China’s decisions to relax its one-child policy, fertility is not likely to increase markedly in the foreseeable future. Major forces pointing to continuation of low Chinese fertility include increasing urbanization, smaller and costly housing, expanding higher education and career opportunities for women, high financial costs and time pressures for childrearing, and changing attitudes and lifestyles. China may soon discover, as many countries have concluded, raising low fertility rates is more challenging than reducing high fertility.”

Tempers fray across the East China Sea. (Is this the scariest place in the world?)

‘Spengler’ reflects on affinities between Chinese and Jews.

A profile of Edge-editor John Brockman.

Urbanatomy Electronic

Urbanatomy‘s venture into e-publishing, through the Amazon Kindle Store, begins with a series of Urban Future Pamphlets, threaded upon the theme of time. Each of these volumes is something over 7,000 words in length, with material drawn from the period prior to the present — and hopefully mature — version of the Urban Future blog. They have been selected as pilots for future e-books (of the same length, and longer).

Once Amazon stops dithering about the first volume (in suspension, I believe, because of changes to the product specifications) the release of these editions will be seized as an opportunity to revisit their topics here. More on all of this over forthcoming weeks.

#1 Shanghai Times (pending)
#2 Calendric Dominion (US$0.99, here)
#3 Suspended Animation (US$0.99, here)