Popweekly: Digest for 06.21.10

shanghai bike
Living in Shanghai by cuellar

New Taipei-Shanghai air route begins operation

Great news for the legions of people living in Shanghai who return to Taiwan on a regular basis. Unfortunately the flights originate from Taipei’s redundant Songshan Airport which is unable to handle international flights. Many want the airport turned into a park but politics hold sway over the needs of the people.
Taipei and Shanghai have moved another step closer, thanks to a new air route between the city’s Songshan Airport and Shanghai’s Hongqiao Airport.
With the new link cutting travelling time between the two sides, Taiwanese officials said it could boost Taipei City’s connection with other major Asian cities.
And the new direct flight, which began service on Monday, may be the symbol of hope for Taiwan’s stagnant aviation industry.
See also: It’s a Shanghai-Taipei short cut.

Bangkok parties on surface, but unease hides below

Tycoons and streetside vendors scrabble to recoup crushing losses. Bangkok’s pampered, golden set is again partying like there’s no tomorrow. And in the sprawling slums, among the poorest of the poor, there is an uncommon mingling of pride, hope — and fear.
Just a month after thousands of poor rural protesters ignited bloody street battles with soldiers and the night sky glowed with flames of burning buildings, the Thai capital has regained much of its around-the-clock vitality and self-indulgence. Even the charred hulk of CentralWorld, once one of Asia’s glitziest malls, has become a bizarre tourist attraction and photo opportunity.
But below the seemingly unruffled surface churns an anxiety stoked by hard political realities, individual traumas and even the predictions by some astrologers, widely trusted in Thai society, of more violence on Bangkok’s horizon.

Deepwater spills and short attention spans

Within a week of the explosion of Mexico’s Ixtoc offshore oil well in June, 1979, Misterveel Rodriguez and other village fishermen were pulling up nets choked with tarballs instead of red snapper.
Ixtoc’s blowout caused the world’s worst ever oil spill. More than 140 million gallons of crude poured into the Gulf of Mexico, eventually washing up on beaches in Texas, hundreds of miles away. That is roughly three times more than what has so far spewed into the Gulf of Mexico from the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
That disaster made plain what could go wrong in deepwater drilling. After all, it took Mexico’s state oil company Pemex PEMX.UL 297 days and the drilling of two special relief wells — the industry’s slow moving but only certain fix for blowouts — to intersect and cap the raging Ixtoc well, located in 150 feet of water.
But a review of hundreds of pages of U.S. government documents related to the Ixtoc spill, as well as interviews with many experts, shows that regulators for years downplayed the possibility of a similar disaster occurring in the United States.

Sometimes a Bag Is Not Just a Bag

The mania for bags — an irrational passion if ever there was one — defines our acquisition-mad cultural moment as surely as the tulip fever that raged through 17th-century Holland defined the burghers of Amsterdam. Put it another way: we may have lost our moral bearings in these centerless and often incoherent times, but we know what bag we want to carry them in should we ever find them again. Where shoes once reigned supreme as the dominant wardrobe accessory, bags now lead the way as the top fashion signifier. Bags also serve as the portable manifestation of a woman’s sense of self, a detailed and remarkably revealing map of her interior, an omnium-gatherum of myriad aspects of her life — the crucial Filofaxed information as well as the frivolous, lipsticky stuff. Last fall, as if to underscore the point, the Rebecca Hossack Gallery in London staged “I Want to Be a Bag,” by Alessandra Vesi, featuring sewn, crocheted and glued constructions that were like visual puns made delightfully concrete. As Anna Johnson suggests in her witty introduction to “Handbags: The Power of the Purse,” ‘a good bag becomes an intimate extension of the body,’ which is why an astute female reader will realize that Anna Karenina is about to end it all when she tosses aside her red handbag. “A woman who is sick of her handbag,² Johnson observes, ³surely, is absolutely sick of living.” (This explains, as well, why Diana Vreeland’s unappeasable dislike of this accessory and her dictum to “ban the bag” was wisely ignored by designers and why, when Tom Ford suggested in a recent interview that the hippest thing a girl can do is carry no bag at all, he instantly revealed the limits of his understanding of what makes women tick.) “The only way I know I exist is if I have my stuff with me,” explains Elizabeth Wurtzel, the author of “Prozac Nation” and “Bitch” and the possessor of a portfolio of bags ranging from a LeSportsac to a “slab of brown buttery leather” measured to the size of a September Vogue and handmade for her by Jutta Neumann.

Not believing what they read in the papers, China’s leaders commission their own

In a country where independent information-gathering is kept in check, what China’s leaders know and how they know it matters hugely. A recently leaked speech by Xia Lin, a senior editor at Xinhua, China’s government-run news agency, suggests that even though press controls have been somewhat loosened in recent years, leaders still rely heavily on secret reports filed by Xinhua journalists. Other evidence indicates this fault-prone system is actually gaining in importance.
In the speech last month Mr Xia revealed that the news agency’s public reports about an eruption of ethnic rioting in the far-western region of Xinjiang last July had played down revenge attacks by Han Chinese against members of the region’s biggest ethnic group, the Uighurs. Mr Xia said it was only after reading a classified “internal reference” report on the reprisals that China’s president, Hu Jintao, cut short an overseas tour. A summary of Mr Xia’s remarks was posted online by one of the audience. Censors removed it and tried to stop it circulating elsewhere.
The summary has not been verified. But filing secret bulletins to the leadership is one of Xinhua’s crucial roles. Many of China’s main newspapers also have classified versions covering news considered too sensitive for public consumption. They do not rely on secret intelligence, but merely report on issues that in most other countries would be the staple of journalism: public complaints; official wrongdoing; bad economic news; and foreign criticism.

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  1. I always find the way fashion reflect upon culture so interesting. From totes made of recycled fibers to the classic Berkin, every bag makes a statements. Even among the not-so-fashion-savvy, women are able to decipher a little about each other’s personalities by observing which bag a woman chooses to carry around with her. When I think about what I carry around in my purse on a daily basis – pretty much my entire life – I shudder when I think about the idea of it ever getting lost or stolen. Someone else having my purse feels like a complete violation. It makes me anxious. I know, I know, it seems petty, but I understand and agree entirely with the NY Times article. As mentioned, my purse is an extension of myself. It is how I protect my most important things, and it is represents how I want to present myself to the world. So silly, but so true. I loved this article. It made me feel a little less ashamed for believing in the power of the purse so strongly.