Simon & Garfunkel – America

 

United States, for all its imminent problems – worsening income gap, violent crime rates, persistent economic stagnation, and other countless things you may have to compile a list – remains a dream place not only for its young generation, but also for people across the whole world. Nearly 50 million people born worldwide have been residing in this country, excluding hundreds of millions of people still going after the dreams they relentlessly chase. At one point, this song by Simon & Garfunkel was an ironic statement about how reality slowly crushes away their dreams, forcing them to ‘wake up’, finding out all the promises made about America are no more than illusions. And this seemingly explains again about the waning power of this country, one that has been embattled by so many troubles of its own, excluding the world’s problems that many of the countries desperately need America to protect them. Its soul is becoming increasingly empty, and many people are slowly losing their life directions as reality intrudes and grinds their dreams further. That the America they are looking for is increasingly distant from their expectations.

Nonetheless, people still never stop chasing America. And they will never stop.

A lesson seriously learned from this song. We need to do our self-contemplation, a soul-searching journey again, on what our dreams really are.

 

Bonus: the song is covered again by Passenger (a vivid fan of Paul Simon), The Once, and Stu Larsen.

 

 

 

 

Infographic: America’s richest universities vs countries’ GDP

america richest universities

 

It’s the reason why these universities have never ceased to be exceedingly, globally prestigious, compared to their nation-state counterparts. Inequality in status, I suppose? (not much correlation, somehow)

 

Source: New Republic

The Ambivalent Superpower

america superpower

 

People hate America as much as they need it – albeit reluctantly – to deter their enemies and rogue states from imposing threats towards their sovereignty. And enter the 21st century, the superpower’s influence is waning. And it really weakens to the point that its reemergence – especially faced with the aggressive rise of China as a possible successor – is becoming slowly unlikely. The world despises it, but it has much more to fear of a ‘global post-American order’. It may be more chaotic, more multipolar, and obviously, more dangerous to imagine within.

Read Robert Kagan’s full essay in Politico.

 

Excerpt:

 

Over the past year, the World Economic Forum—the same folks who run the annual gathering in the Swiss resort town of Davos—organized a unique set of discussions around the world with dozens of international leaders, from Saudi bankers to Singaporean academics, African entrepreneurs to Latin American economists, seeking unvarnished opinions about the United States and its role in the world. Their ambivalence was palpable. Whether it is arrogance or incompetence, incoherence or insincerity, the critiques of the United States heard in these conversations are extensive—and often justified. There are old complaints about American “unilateralism” and hypocrisy, and new complaints about drones and eavesdropping. There are regions, like the Middle East, where U.S. policy is regarded as having produced only disasters, and others, like Latin America, where the United States is faulted for its failure to pay enough attention (except when its strategic or economic interests are threatened). American motives are often suspect and regarded cynically. Some see the United States pursuing only selfish interests. Others see confusion, an inability to explain what America wants and doesn’t, and perhaps even to understand what it wants.

Anxiety about American isolationism is once again matching anxiety about American imperialism.

Yet what’s striking is not the litany of complaint, but the lament about disengagement one also frequently hears, not the expected good riddance but the surprisingly common plea for more U.S. involvement. Africa wants more U.S. investment. Latin America wants more U.S. trade. The Middle East and Asia just want more: more diplomacy, more security, more commerce. This may come as a surprise to those Americans who are convinced the world not only hates them but also welcomes their decline. But the world, or at least much of it, has moved beyond this post-Iraq narrative, even if we haven’t. These days, many foreign governments fret less about an overbearing America and more about a disappearing America. One way or another, it seems, every region in the world feels neglected by the United States. Setting aside whatever this might say about the effectiveness of Barack Obama’s foreign policy, it says a great deal about America’s role in the world. The problem others see these days is not too much of the United States, but too little.

 

Why America’s decline is dangerous for global security

america's allies

 

As I’ve said before in previous posts, no superpowers are absolute sages. Either their good deeds – providing aid packages and investment worth billions of dollars – or bad deeds – overthrowing other countries’ regimes by force, everything is done under the context of ‘global interest’, actually referring back to the superpowers’ own sake. Nonetheless, when the ‘big brother’ grows frail, what will happen to its key allies, or at the least, those leaning towards them? Will the rise of another global hegemony ensure that their countries will maintain their ‘business-as-usual’ approach? In politics, the answer is uncertain.

In regard to America’s influence, we can see both the positive and negative sides it has spread across the globe. We see democracies flourishing, global trading increasingly interdependent, and globalization itself more intense, but at the same time, we still see Western-backed plutocrats in power, Western-waged geopolitical wars, and international rivalry with a few competing emerging regional powers, say Russia and China. None of these countries, despite being US allies, is completely reluctant to surrender all its rights to the Globocop as well. However, the most fretful question – in early 21st century context – is: when American influence increasingly declines, especially as seen from Obama’s increasingly timid, hyper-cautious, and anti-military stance in his approach towards global problem-solving, what will happen to those which are depending on its global might?

A lot of fretful things, indeed, have happened. Russia, led by Putin, has led the pivot by firstly annexing Crimea, the geopolitical point of contention between Ukraine and the latter. Baltic states, Poland, and other NATO members, are being scared of a possibility of Putin leading another ‘conquest’ towards their countries. Japan is afraid of China, especially when it comes to the ownership of a chain of uninhabitable rocks known as Senkaku (in Japanese) or Diaoyutai (in Mandarin). South Korea is apprehensive about its aggressive North, and any probability of China leading another military intervention should North Korea collapse (which is an imminent risk many experts concern). Taiwanese people are particularly afraid of such prospect, as Taiwanese economy is becoming increasingly dependent on China’s, leading to their greater fears about ‘future reunification’. Southeast Asian states, particularly Vietnam and Philippines (and most recently, Indonesia), are in deep uncertainties in regard to the ownership of South China Seas, which, by its entirety, is claimed by Beijing. India doesn’t want to provoke a nuclear war with China, but it also doesn’t want to let go some of its territories in Himalaya. Gulf states, and Saudi Arabia in particular, do not want to see a nuclear-powered Iran leading any future invasion (but which threats are being calmed down after Hassan Rowhani’s charismatic leadership).

 

Still, despite some animosity, support of American global influence remains a Hobson’s choice.

 

Read a complete analysis on The Economist.

Before the Columbus

zhenghe

 

 

Far before Christopher Columbus discovered America in 1492, a Ming-era Chinese naval commander had led a fleet of full-fledged armada, stretching from Southeast Asia, India, Middle-East, and further into the long-stretching coasts of Africa, and unexpectedly, created a whole new Afro-Chinese tribe in an isolated island in Kenya. This was the story of Zheng He.

Released in June 1999, this long-form article was written by one of the world’s best journalists: the New York Times’ award-winning Nicholas D. Kristof.  Read the full story here.

 

Excerpt:

 

Pate is off in its own world, without electricity or roads or vehicles. Mostly jungle, it has been shielded from the 20th century largely because it is accessible from the Kenyan mainland only by taking a boat through a narrow tidal channel that is passable only at high tide. Initially I was disappointed by what I found there. In the first villages I visited, I saw people who were light-skinned and had hair that was not tightly curled, but they could have been part Arab or European rather than part Chinese. The remote villages of Chundwa and Faza were more promising, for there I found people whose eyes, hair and complexion hinted at Asian ancestry, though their background was ambiguous.

And then on a still and sweltering afternoon I strolled through the coconut palms into the village of Siyu, where I met a fisherman in his 40’s named Abdullah Mohammed Badui. I stopped and stared at the man in astonishment, for he had light skin and narrow eyes. Fortunately, he was as rude as I was, and we stared at each other in mutual surprise before venturing a word. Eventually I asked him about his background and appearance.

”I am in the Famao clan,” he said. ”There are 50 or 100 of us Famao left here. Legend has it that we are descended from Chinese and others.

”A Chinese ship was coming along and it hit rocks and wrecked,” Badui continued. ”The sailors swam ashore to the village that we now call Shanga, and they married the local women, and that is why we Famao look so different.”

Inside Jennifer Lawrence

cover-story-jennifer-lawrence-01_164604967405.jpg_guides_hero

 

 

Inside the very ‘ordinary human’, and ‘deeply insecure’, side of America’s most beloved, BFF superstar.

Note: this picture was taken for Vogue’s September edition this year, long before her world-shattering pixie cut.

Read the full article here.

 

Excerpt:

 

You can learn a lot about a person in seven hours. Little things, like the kinds of food they don’t like—arugula, eggplant, goat cheese (“I have the taste buds of a five-year-old”), which TV show they’re obsessed with (Homeland), the strange stuff they’re afraid of (“I don’t have nightmares about clowns or burglars or murderers. I have nightmares about thirteen-year-olds. They terrify me”). But you can also learn things that are superspecific. For example, she got the nickname J.Law in seventh grade, but it was only this spring that she met J.Lo while hanging out at a party one night with Jimmy Fallon. “We planned out this whole thing, where we were going to spin around and over to her and go, ‘Please dance with us!’ But at the last minute, Jimmy pooped out, and all of a sudden I spun around by myself and said, ‘Dance with . . . me?’ And she was like, ‘Thanks, I’m just gonna watch.’ ”

And therein lies the biggest surprise about Jennifer Lawrence: She has the soul of a comedian and can riff on just about anything that crosses her path. She did a 20-minute monologue about sponges: “I wake up earlier in the morning when I have new sponges. That counter doesn’t even see it coming.” She segued into her incomprehension at people who don’t share her “faith in sponges” and then finally landed on her relationship with ex-boyfriend Nicholas Hoult, with whom she’s still very close (they’re shooting X-Men: Days of Future Past together). “He would never wring them out. We were in the kitchen once, and I picked up the sponge, and it was soapy and wet, and I was like, ‘See?’ These are the kinds of things that make me think we are never going to work.”

 

 

Inside America’s dildo industry

american dildo

 

 

Published on Buzzfeed in May 2013, a journalist entered what is dubbed ‘America’s largest dildo factory’, to get in-depth insight about the current situation of the industry that has also sustained porn, and other related industries, as it is increasingly facing an intense competition from China. Read the full article here.

Excerpt:

It is here, in this cavernous warehouse vibrating with the hums and murmurs of a bustling 500-person workforce, that one of the last bastions of old-fashioned American manufacturing labors on, using 2.5 million pounds of rubber per year to churn out a staggering 15,000 sex toys per eight-hour day, which amounts to 5 million a year. Dongs, cock rings, dick pumps, pocket pussies, strokers, suckers, strap-ons, ticklers, teasers, vibrators, ropes, whips, ball gags, anal invaders, pussy trainers, and “love spit ” lubricant pour out of here at a rate that would wow Henry Ford.

But if you look at almost any rubber vagina or string of anal beads today, they will be embossed with the epitaph that decimated much of American manufacturing: “MADE IN CHINA.” According to a 2010 estimate, 70% of sex toys produced in the world are made there; 50% of those were imported to four U.S. companies — California Exotics Novelties, Pipedream, Doc Johnson, and to a lesser extent, Topco — that dominate American sex toy sales. While the others do the bulk of their manufacturing overseas, Doc Johnson is the only one manufacturing most of its products here in the U.S. of A.