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Posts tagged asia

from "Little India, Singapore," by williamcho, 1 September 2008 :: via the Intelligent Travel flickr pool
excerpt Tokyo vintage

The story about vintage clothes in Tokyo goes like this: A Hollywood actress, after a successful crash diet, sold her size 6 wardrobe to a thrift shop in Santa Monica. Three months later she came to Tokyo to promote her latest movie and one afternoon wandered into one of the city’s landmark vintage clothing shops, called Santa Monica. What should she find there but her own shorts and several party dresses, unobtrusively displayed under a sign that read: “Santa Monica Style.”

The story is credible for the simple reason that Tokyo has now reached a point where it’s safe to call it Planet Vintage. Among the 400-plus shops scattered over the city, myths like this abound.

The good news is that it’s not all rumor and folklore - according to a fashion stylist, Keiko Okura, “the quality of Tokyo vintage products are unmatched.”

from "In praise of doubles table tennis," by Robert Weintraub, Slate, 18 August 2008

Doubles table tennis is so entertaining because it defies the laws of geometry. As anyone who’s played in a rec room fully understands, a Ping-Pong table simply isn’t big enough to accommodate four people. The key skill that every doubles team must master has nothing to do with shot-making or defense. Rather, it’s having the agility to get the hell out of the way of your partner.

In doubles table tennis, partners must alternate shots. That means the goal of any team is to sow confusion in the enemy—to make it so the player whose turn it is to hit has to get through his or her partner to do so. The highlight of a doubles match is when partners kick, trip, or smash into one another. I once saw a Malaysian duo knock heads so hard the match was delayed nearly half an hour. Also fun: when one player swings for the ball and hits his or her partner instead.

Sadly, at the Olympic level, the players are too accomplished for this to happen. Maybe it’s just as well, then, that doubles has been eliminated as an Olympic event.

"Chand Baori (stepwell), Abhaneri, Rajasthan, India," by Doron, September 2003 :: via Dark Roasted Blend
"Children practicing gymnastics at a special school for athletes in Hubei province" (2004), by Qiu Yan, from China: Portrait of a Country, edited by Liu Heung Shing :: via Freakonomics blog
repost ah-SEE-sh?
a post, 10 August 2008

I’m not going to get into the politics of the mess in the north Caucasus except to say that there are no good guys, but I have to get a minor linguistic gripe off my chest: all the news broadcasts are talking about “ah-SET-ee-?” and the “ah-SET-ee-?nz.”  What’s next, cro-AT-ee-?? ve-NET-ee-?n art?  I realize none of the broadcasters and reporters have ever heard of Ossetia before, but you’d think the patterns of English spelling would clue them in to its proper pronunciation, ah-SEE-sh?.  I suppose it’s another case of hyperforeignification, like “bei-ZHING.”

Incidentally, Ossetian (as every schoolboy knows) is an Iranian language, and the Ossetian name for Ossetia is Iryston, based on Ir, the self-designation meaning ‘an Ossetian’ (well, actually it specifically refers to the majority group of Ossetians, and the minority Digors resent the use of that name for the whole people, causing some Ossetes to identify with the medieval Alans and call Ossetia “Alania,” but let’s set that aside—if you’re interested in the messy politics of Caucasian ethnic nomenclature and the Alans, read “The Politics of a Name: Between Consolidation and Separation in the Northern Caucasus” [pdf, html] by Victor Shnirelman); it used to be thought that Ir was derived from *arya- ‘Aryan’ and thus related to Iran, but Ronald Kim denies this in “On the Historical Phonology of Ossetic: The Origin of the Oblique Case Suffix,” Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 123 (Jan. - Mar. 2003), pp. 43-72 (2.0.CO;2-5”>JSTOR); the relevant discussion is on p. 60, fn. 42.  Kim says it may be from a Caucasian language, or it may be descended from PIE *wiro- ‘man.’  (The word Ossetian is based on a Russian borrowing of the Georgian term Oseti.)

excerpt Oops
from "The Louvain Consultation on China," Pro Mundi Vita 54 (1975) : : via Lamin Sanneh, Disciples of All Nations, p. 253–254

“Love your neighbour to the point of denying yourself” is the ethical core of the Gospel. “Fight selfishness; serve the people” is the ethical core of Mao Tse-Tung Thought. “By their fruits you shall know them” is the decisive criterion of the Gospel. Marxism has sworn by the same test of “fruits” or “practice,” and in the case of China at least has both preached and practiced “continuing revolution” in its name. . . .

The social and political transformations brought about in China through the application of the Thought of Mao Tse-Tung have unified and consolidated a quarter of the world population into a form of society and life-style at once pointing to some of the basic characteristics of the kingdom of God. . . .

Christians . . . have to free themselves from the parochial Western context in which many of their Churches have developed and realize that the Gospel might be more powerfully expressed and fulfilled in the new type of society which is promoted in China.

from "The moment of truth," The Economist, 24 July 2008

Sometimes conversion is gradual, but quite commonly things come to a head in a single instant, which can be triggered by a text, an image, a ceremony or some private realisation. A religious person would call such a moment a summons from God; a psychologist might speak of an instant when the walls between the conscious and unconscious break down, perhaps because an external stimulus—words, a picture, a rite—connects with something very deep inside.

For people of an artistic bent, the catalyst is often a religious image which serves as a window into a new reality. One recurring theme in conversion stories is that cultural forms which are, on the face of it, foreign to the convert somehow feel familiar, like a homecoming. That, the convert feels, “is what I have always believed without being fully aware of it.”

Take Jennie Baker, an ethnic Chinese nurse who moved from Malaysia to England. She was an evangelical, practising but not quite satisfied with a Christianity that eschews aids to worship such as pictures, incense or elaborate rites. When she first walked into an Orthodox church, and took in the icons that occupied every inch of wall-space, everything in this “new” world made sense to her, and some teachings, like the idea that every home should have a corner for icons and prayer, resonated with her Asian heritage. Soon she and her English husband helped establish a Greek Orthodox parish in Lancashire.

KRCW's Morning Becomes Eclectic

Google Street View, Ginza, Tokyo and Cairns, Queensland
from "Cambodian Sports," by Daniel Milder, GOOD Magazine, 30 July 2008

Decades of war and internal strife have left Cambodia with one of the highest proportions of people disabled by land mines in the world. The country’s only professional sports league is the Cambodian National Volleyball League (Disabled), a network of volleyball teams whose players once fought against each other in times of civil war and now face each other on the court. They also sponsor a wheelchair racing program which empowers women who would traditionally be confined to their homes. Currently, the national volleyball team is ranked number three in the world, and regularly defeats non-disabled teams including an Australian navy squad which has tasted defeat three years running. These national heroes may have lost limbs to land mines, but they’ll still whoop you in volleyball.

"The World as Reported by the New York Times", very small array, 21 July 2008 :: via
from ”Re-reading the best of the Booker”, by James Walton,, 7 May 2008 :: via 3quarksdaily

As things stand, though, it’s not easy to see anything beating the far more famous Indian novel on the list - which might be more of an injustice if Midnight’s Children (1981) by Salman Rushdie weren’t also the best book of the lot. Nearly 30 years - and at least three more classic Rushdies - later, Midnight’s Children should, in theory, have lost its power to astonish. In practice, rereading it instantly returned me to that original state of awed disbelief that so much exhilarating stuff can be packed into a single novel. (Rushdie, you feel, could have knocked off the entire plot of Oscar and Lucinda in one chapter here.) At times, the unstoppable commitment to storytelling seems almost pathological. Yet, in the end, the book is so thrilling that wishing Rushdie had trimmed it into something less wild would be as futile as asking a hurricane to tone it down a bit.

excerpt Room to Read

For our readers who are unfamiliar with Room to Read, can you explain what it is?
We do three things: We build schools. We establish multilingual libraries and fill them with thousands of books. And we provide long term scholarships for girls because girls are often left out of the education system. Basically, we’re a group that is committed to reaching 10 million kids across the world with the life-long gift of education. In education lies the key to self sufficiency—and the best long term ticket out of poverty.

What does a $20 Donation do for Room to Read?
This is a perfect price point. Twenty dollars is sufficient to sponsor a girl’s scholarship for one month. We can also print 20 local-language children books in languages that have never really had children’s books before. It’s one of the reasons there’s such an illiteracy problem in the developing world—there’s just no children’s book industry.

excerpt Currying favor
from "Cosmic Cuisine", a review of Lizzie Collingham's Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerers, by Robert Eric Frykenberg, Books & Culture, May/June 2008

Curry’s conquest of the world began with the conquest of India by the East India Company. Madras curry in its various forms (the word deriving from the Tamil kari and the Telugu kara, as also from similar sounding terms in Kannada and Malayalam), became the most hybrid and ubiquitous of all India’s spicy (masala) sauces and stews. Normally this was served with rice in the south and with soft wheat breads such as chapattis, parathas, puris, or simple nan in the north. The author is not quite correct when she says that the British invented curry: there is not a respectable household anywhere in the countryside that does not produce its own unique curries, with secrets handed down from mother to daughter. But it is true that, starting in Madras, a hybrid Anglo-Indian cuisine spread and became ubiquitous, not only throughout all of the subcontinent (including Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka), but gradually throughout the rest of Asia and Africa, and finally to Europe and the Americas.

via Boing Boing