Writing according to E.B. White



Another quote worth considering when you are considering writing (though it may not work for all):


I never listen to music when I’m working. I haven’t that kind of attentiveness, and I wouldn’t like it at all. On the other hand, I’m able to work fairly well among ordinary distractions. My house has a living room that is at the core of everything that goes on: it is a passageway to the cellar, to the kitchen, to the closet where the phone lives. There’s a lot of traffic. But it’s a bright, cheerful room, and I often use it as a room to write in, despite the carnival that is going on all around me. A girl pushing a carpet sweeper under my typewriter table has never annoyed me particularly, nor has it taken my mind off my work, unless the girl was unusually pretty or unusually clumsy. My wife, thank God, has never been protective of me, as, I am told, the wives of some writers are. In consequence, the members of my household never pay the slightest attention to my being a writing man — they make all the noise and fuss they want to. If I get sick of it, I have places I can go. A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.


You can find out more about this author in Brain Pickings.

A Paradise of Untouchable Assets



Rarotonga, the main island in Cook Islands. Source: Japan Focus


The story about a semi-sovereign state, populated in a number barely exceeding 20,000, and hugely dependent on New Zealand, which also serves as an influential, and mostly lawsuit-free, international tax haven.

Read the full story in The New York Times.




Win a malpractice suit against your doctor? To collect, you will have to go to the other side of the globe to plead your case again before a Cooks court and under Cooks law. That is a big selling point for those who market Cook trusts to a broad swath of wealthy Americans fearful of getting sued, and some who have been.

“You can have your cake and eat it too,” says Howard D. Rosen, a lawyer in Coral Gables, Fla., who has set up Cook trusts for more than 20 years, in a video on his website. Anyone with more than $1 million in assets, his firm’s site suggests, should consider Cook trusts for self-preservation, but especially real estate developers, health care providers, accountants, architects, corporate directors and parents of teenage drivers.

International regulators have become more aggressive in efforts to clamp down on tax haven countries, offshore banks and their customers, but they have paid scant attention to the Cooks. Yet Americans are the biggest customers of the trusts, which may be held only by foreigners, not Cook Islanders. The islands’ official website calls the Cooks a “prime choice” for “discerning wealthy clients.” There are 2,619 trusts, according to the Cooks’ Financial Supervisory Commission, offering anonymity as well as legal protections. The value of the assets is not disclosed and it is against the law in the Cooks to identify who owns the trusts or to provide any information about them.

Pitcairn: Paradise Lost



Source: Visit Pitcairn 


Pitcairn Islands is an isolated archipelago scattered in the Pacific Ocean, thousands of kilometers away even from its nearest neighboring countries, French Polynesia and Eastern Islands. As one of the the 14 last remaining British colonies, it is also the least populated entity: no more than 70 people inhabit its main island, with a volcano at its epicenter.

Given its isolation, however, a dirty secret has remained floating among the populace for decades: mass rape and incest that has penetrated most of the populace in this tiny outpost for decades.

A November 2009 article by Reader’s Digest explored what became the colony’s main skeleton in the closet.




Pitcairn had, by then, been a British colony for about 150 years, although Britain had left the place largely alone. Governors visited occasionally, but the island ran itself, appointing its own policemen and magistrates.

There had been warning signs that the island was no Utopia: schoolgirls falling pregnant to adult men, reports of rapes and abortions, incest, even murder. However, Britain had ignored them, and it was not until 1997 that the first English police officer was posted to Pitcairn.

Gail Cox, a community constable, was sent out to conduct training, and on her first visit was captivated by the place. Although somewhat rough-hewn, the islanders were extremely friendly, and the men performed impressive feats at sea.

It was all very different when Cox returned in 1999. She found the islanders engaged in bitter feuds, and sensed a dark undercurrent in the community. A few weeks later, Belinda and another teenager confided in Cox, saying they had been assaulted by Steve Christian’s son, Randy. Belinda said that, when she was ten, Randy and his younger brother, Shawn, together attacked her, cornering her in a banana grove and taking turns to hold her down and rape her.

Cox, who had never dealt with anything more serious than traffic offences, felt devastated by the grim secrets she had unearthed. Detectives were assigned to the case, and they came across another Pitcairn woman, Catherine*, in Auckland, New Zealand. Catherine told them, “I can’t help you with what you’re investigating, but I was raped myself, when I was ten, by [Belinda’s] father.” She said this was “a common thing on Pitcairn,” observing that “you won’t get a girl reaching the age of 12 that’s still a virgin.”


Bonus: read another article on Wikipedia about the following trial of its defendants.

Freedom, Fried

taiwan media


Another article about Taiwan, this time focusing on the country’s increasingly sensationalist, ridiculous, and no-holds-barred media industry.

Read the full story on Tea Leaf Nation.




Andy Hong, a reporter for Taiwanese newspaper Want Daily and a journalist in Taiwan for 20 years, said that Taiwan’s post-martial law media did not originally run “bloody” or “gossipy” news stories, adding that “newspapers were like those published in the early days of China’s Republican era,” after China had toppled two millennia of imperial rule. Instead, Hong said, they thought they had an obligation “to promote cultural literacy.” Hong’s colleague Yongfu Lin, who became a reporter with the China Times in 1985 and is now deputy director of Want Daily’s cross-strait news division, said that in the years after martial law, “news reports were very diverse,” and the public had “fewer misgivings about the media,” partly because journalists were for the first time targeting political figures who were “once considered off-limits.” But Hong claimed things changed around 2003, when Hong Kong-based Apple Daily, a web site and broadsheet with a tabloid flair known for publishing color photos of grisly crime scenes and scantily-clad women, entered Taiwan and “immediately attracted readers.”

China, we fear you.



A Taiwanese attorney explains in brief summary how the Cross Straits Service Trade Agreement (CSSTA) between Taiwan and China will increasingly put the former in political jeopardy – an increasing dependence on the latter that, many fear, will eventually end up with a ‘complete Chinese reunification’.

The original essay is available on the attorney’s Facebook account (only in Mandarin). The translation itself, meanwhile, can also be read on Tea Leaf Nation. And here I’ve copied the essay’s translation below.


China, We Fear You

An uneasy life in Omaha




You realize reaching The American Dream ain’t easy, this time with a story about the plight of Sudanese and South Sudanese communities, already ravaged by poverty, unemployment, and gang violence, in Omaha, Nebraska.

Read the whole story in The Huffington Post.




For over 50 years, Sudan — a political invention of British colonizers in East Africa, covering an area nearly three times the size of Western Europe — was wracked by civil war between the ethnically Arab and Muslim north and the black, Christian and animist south.

A 2005 peace settlement, brokered in part by the U.S., finally halted the conflict between north and south, which had claimed more than 2 million lives. By that time, millions of Sudanese had fled the south to live in sprawling camps in neighboring Ethiopia, Chad and Kenya.

The United Nations ultimately resettled nearly 31,000 refugees from these camps in the U.S. with the help of religious groups such as the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.

In the 1990s, Omaha emerged as an unlikely hub for the Sudanese, both for primary resettlement from camps in Africa, and for secondary resettlement, as refugees placed in other cities migrated there in search of jobs, cheap housing and a sense of community.

Many Sudanese arrived in the U.S. with next to nothing. “You would see a family of six with not one bag,” Goak said.

Ghosts of the Tsunami

tsunami 2011



A look back at the devastating disaster that ravaged Japan three years ago, and the ghosts it had left behind.

Read the full article in London Review of Books.




A young man complained of pressure on his chest at night, as if some creature was straddling him as he slept. A teenage girl spoke of a fearful figure who squatted in her house. A middle-aged man hated to go out in the rain, because the eyes of the dead stared out at him from puddles.

A civil servant in Soma visited a devastated stretch of coast, and saw a solitary woman in a scarlet dress far from the nearest road or house, with no means of transport in sight. When he looked for her again she had disappeared.

A fire station in Tagajo received calls to places where all the houses had been destroyed by the tsunami. The crews went out to the ruins anyway and prayed for the spirits of those who had died – and the ghostly calls ceased.

A cab driver in the city of Sendai picked up a sad-faced man who asked to be taken to an address that no longer existed. Halfway through the journey, he looked into his mirror to see that the rear seat was empty. He drove on anyway, stopped in front of the levelled foundations of a destroyed house, and politely opened the door to allow the invisible passenger out at his former home.

At a refugee community in Onagawa, an old neighbour would appear in the living rooms of the temporary houses, and sit down for a cup of tea with their startled occupants. No one had the heart to tell her that she was dead; the cushion on which she had sat was wet with seawater.

Priests – Christian and Shinto, as well as Buddhist – found themselves called on repeatedly to quell unhappy spirits. A Buddhist monk wrote an article in a learned journal about ‘the ghost problem’, and academics at Tohoku University began to catalogue the stories. ‘So many people are having these experiences,’ Kaneda told me. ‘It’s impossible to identify who and where they all are. But there are countless such people, and I think that their number is going to increase. And all we do is treat the symptoms.’