Popweekly: Digest for 05.24.10

Daily life in Kagbeni, Nepal
Daily life in Kagbeni, Nepal. Kagbeni (2810 m) is Tibetan-influenced settelment located in the valley of the Kali Gandaki River. Daily life seems to be a part of the silence and space which surrounds it. The river is older than the Himalayas and is one of the major rivers of Nepal.

Tourist Turbulence

Turbulence resulting from grave waves, wind shear, cloudiness, and engine failure due to volcanic ash are the least of your worries this summer.
A wave of social turbulence threatens vacation perfection, while visits to genocide sites, the European human right to a holiday, and cruises to post-disaster Haiti indicate that vacations and volatility are being packaged together. But what’s the extent of the threat, and where might you get hung for photographing butterflies?
In Bangkok, the government declared part of the capital a live-fire zone to deter protestors. One journalist described the chaos as a “21st century Sarajevo.” Throughout the turmoil the government claimed no civilians were being killed, only “armed terrorists,” but video footage disagrees, and an Italian photojournalist was among the dead as troops stormed the barricades. But this was no Tiananmen.
For now, tourists don’t seem fazed. Around 80 percent of vacationers are expected to maintain bookings, surely more now that the fighting has stopped and protestors are being bussed back to their homes largely in the north of the country. Hotels who feared loss of business blocked access to international news, leaving some guests unaware they were lodging within the live-fire zone. You said you were looking for an adventure. Here’s a bullet.

How a decade of discontent finally blew up in Bangkok

But the unrest that has consumed the popular vacation destination since the first spark of violence on April 10 is less surprising to the Thais themselves. Thailand’s idyllic image has overshadowed serious tensions that have been building for nearly a decade and finally exploded this month. Thailand’s rapid, globalization-driven economic growth in the 1980s and 1990s left out a large portion of the population, primarily those living in the rural north and northeast. By some measures the country actually suffers from worse income inequality than the neighboring Philippines, even though the former is generally thought of as a modernized country and the latter is often viewed as a semi-feudal, Latin American-style economy. But the emerging anger was as much about regional cliquishness as it was about class. Resentment built among Thais who might have been poor, but more importantly felt increasingly alienated from the country’s traditionally powerful institutions: the palace, the army, and the civil service, which tended to favor established networks of people from Bangkok schools, Bangkok companies, and Bangkok army training.

Two-wheel triumph

Armed with a netbook, medical supplies and a bicycle, Bangladesh’s InfoLadies are giving millions of poor people access to crucial information on their doorsteps that will improve their chances in life
Barefooted, some even stark naked, the kids follow her as if she were the Pied Piper of Hamelin. As boisterous cheers announce her arrival the women abandon their chores and elders jostle for attention. The men are on their best behaviour, teeming with a welter of anxious faces.
In the impoverished hinterlands of Gaibandha district in northern Bangladesh, a frail young woman on her bike is having a dramatic effect. And Luich Akhter seems to perpetuate her spell with perfection. In the sweltering post-monsoon heat that transforms the flooded nation into an open-air sauna, the 24-year-old looks immaculate as she negotiates her way through paddy fields, cows and mosquito-breeding ponds on a weekly visit into Panchpeer village.

13-year-old scales Mount Everest

A 13-year-old American has become the youngest climber to reach the top of Mount Everest.
A spokesman for Jordan Romero says the teen’s team called him by satellite phone from the summit of the world’s highest mountain 8,850 metres above sea level.
“Their dreams have now come true. Everyone sounded unbelievably happy,” a new statement on Romero’s blog said Saturday morning.
The teenager with long curly hair — who climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa when he was 10 years old — says he was inspired by a painting in his school of the seven continents’ highest summits.

The Death of the Open Web

The app. store is curated data. You pay to rid yourself of the noise so inherent in the browser, in a format that can be highly designed and enjoyable. If you fancy a taste of information noise the browser is just a finger away. The iPhone has forced more to design minimally for the screen.
The Web is a teeming commercial city. It’s haphazardly planned. Its public spaces are mobbed, and signs of urban decay abound in broken links and abandoned projects. Malware and spam have turned living conditions in many quarters unsafe and unsanitary. Bullies and hucksters roam the streets. An entrenched population of rowdy, polyglot rabble seems to dominate major sites.
People who find the Web distasteful — ugly, uncivilized — have nonetheless been forced to live there: it’s the place to go for jobs, resources, services, social life, the future. But now, with the purchase of an iPhone or an iPad, there’s a way out, an orderly suburb that lets you sample the Web’s opportunities without having to mix with the riffraff. This suburb is defined by apps from the glittering App Store: neat, cute homes far from the Web city center, out in pristine Applecrest Estates. In the migration of dissenters from the “open” Web to pricey and secluded apps, we’re witnessing urban decentralization, suburbanization and the online equivalent of white flight.