Senin, 30 November 2009

0 Cities Gone Wild

[Image: Photo by Lauren Greenfield for The New York Times].

There are two photo-essays circulating that benefit from juxtaposed browsing. On the one hand, you've got a series of images taken by Lauren Greenfield for The New York Times of Dubai in decline. This, of course, comes as Dubai's debt obligations have become so unmanageable that the city-state is actually causing trembles in the entire global economy.

[Image: Ad hoc infrastructure: "A convoy of sewage trucks removing solid waste from the city center. The current sewer system cannot handle the demand." Photo by Lauren Greenfield for The New York Times].

Indeed, financial historians are living through an extraordinarily interesting time, I have to say; the complex instrumentation of money has never been so Baroque or histrionic. Calculations are made so fast now that the physical location of buildings, vis-a-vis the speed of the data signals they receive, can actually impact urban geography. Call it nanofinance. More to the point, earlier this week the Guardian had this to say:
    The Dubai crisis has also thrown a new name into the lexicon of toxic instruments. Just as credit derivatives helped to exacerbate the sub-prime crisis by obscuring who was ultimately exposed to losses, the use of Islamic finance has complicated the reckoning. "Sukuk bonds" are designed to get around religious laws banning the payment of interest for money lending. But one of the most volatile debts in the Dubai World standstill is a $3.5bn Islamic bond due to be repaid in December.
It's not just comparative religion, in other words, it's comparative religious finance.

But view Greenfield's images alongside an equally memorable group of photos, this time documenting drug wars in Rio de Janeiro, that future Olympic city plagued—like New York City—by the occasional blackout.

[Images: (top) "A BOPE unit, the elite special forces of the military police stands guard during the operation in Favela da Grota. BOPE is a small group of well-trained officers infamous for their brutality. They are renowned for not carrying handcuffs." (bottom) "A BOPE officer takes a defensive position to cover his unit as they pull out of the Grota slum." Photos by João Pina for the Guardian].

The article that accompanies these images is less compelling, even for its descriptions of "the favela—a mess of slapped-up houses of corrugated tin and unpainted brick, dreadlocked tangles of pilfered electrical wiring, and graffiti-covered walls and alleyways where little shops and rudimentary bars selling beer and cachaça jostled for space with storefront evangelical churches."

But these contrasting images of cities gone wild—one lost in a kind of financial syncope, a rococo without reference to manageable interest or ground plane, the other made politically incomprehensible by the overlapping invisibilities of heavily armed, microsovereign warlords, whether under government control or not—show us global urbanism as it steps into a surprisingly dark maturity in this second decade of the 21st-century.

(Article about "Sukuk bonds" found via @nicolatwilley).

0 The Migratory Forest

[Image: Christmas trees for sale outside St. Mark's Church in New York City; a video-still taken November 30th, 2009].

"The most surreal part of Christmas," architect and blogger Sam Jacob wrote two years ago, "is the migratory forest that pops up all around us for three weeks."
    It's a long forgotten middle European folk-rite that has become buried deep in our seasonal behaviour. Now, thousands of years later, we re-enact this midwinter over and over again in a thoroughly contemporary manner. Christmas trees now may well be entirely and unashamedly artificial objects: pink, fibre optic, colour-changing nylon. Real organic trees appear in the most surreal of locations: strapped to the cab of a crane high above the city, in arrays over the facades of department stores, in the sterile shiny lobbies of corporate institutions, and in the front rooms of homes sitting on carpets which, if you think hard enough, become the mossy floor of a forest...
It's an image that has stuck with me: Christmas and its ubiquitous tree treated as a kind of vernacular landscape practice—or folk forestry—more than a religious event with Rapturous implications.

"Perhaps Christmas trees are a ghostly return of the mysterious ancient forest," Jacob suggests, "a rolling back of the mechanisms and constructs of civilisation that addresses the Big Bad Wolf or Little Red Riding Hood inside us all."

0 Twelve Surprising Uses for Vicks VapoRub


There are two scents that remind me being a sick kid: brandy and Vicks VapoRub. Whenever I had a cold, those were my mom’s go-to remedies. She would make me a glass of hot water, honey, and brandy and then rub Vicks on my chest. I always felt instantly better (and slightly tipsy).

Vicks is an age-old mentholated topical cream intended to relieve head, throat, and chest stuffiness. It uses menthol to elicit a response from receptors in the nose and chest and can work wonders on children with colds or chronic bronchitis. Vicks has been around for over one hundred years and is one of the most widely used over-the-counter decongestants. Lately, there’s been a lot of buzz about unique and unconventional ways to use this odoriferous ointment. You’ll be surprised to learn that Vicks VapoRub is a supposed treatment for so much more than just a congested chest.
  1. Decongest Your Chest
    The most common use of Vicks is to decongest your chest and throat area. When applied to the upper chest, it provides excellent relief of cough and congestion symptoms.

  2. On Your Tootsies
    Applying Vicks to your feet provides nighttime cough relief. Generously rub VapoRub all over your feet and cover them with socks. Within moments your cough will subside—in the morning you’ll wake up a new, hacking free woman.

  3. Achy Breaky Muscles
    Vicks relieves sore, overworked muscles. It increases circulation and provides almost instant aid. Use a generous portion and apply it all over the aching area. (Be sure to warn your bed-mate.)

  4. Get Rid of Nasty Nail Fungus
    Rub VapoRub on your toenails if you suspect you have a fungus. Within days, the nail will turn dark—this means the Vicks is killing the fungus. As your toenail grows out, the dark part will grow off and you will have fungus-free feet. Keep applying the ointment over a period of two weeks to fully cleanse nail beds of any remaining bacteria.

  5. Stop Your Cat from Scratching
    Cats are notorious for scratching every hard surface they get their claws on. To prevent Miss Kitty from ruining your doors, walls, and windows, apply a small amount of VapoRub to these areas. Cats detest the smell and will steer clear. Vicks can also be applied to your arms and legs if your kitty is prone to scratching you.

  6. Pet Pee-Pee Deterrent
    If your dog or cat is not yet potty trained, put an open bottle of Vicks on the area he or she likes to mark as their territory. The smell will discourage them from lifting their legs and wetting your rug.

  7. Headaches Be Gone
    Rub a small amount of Vicks VapoRub on your temples and forehead to help relieve headaches. The mentholated scent will release pressure in your head and instantly relieve pain.

  8. Humidify Your Sleep
    Vicks VapoRub can be used in special types of humidifiers and vaporizers. Ensure your humidifier has an aromatherapy compartment before using. The humidifier will circulate Vicks throughout the air and keep you breathing easy all night long.

  9. Paper Cuts and Splinters
    To prevent infection and speed up healing time, dab a small amount of Vicks on any small cut or splinter.

  10. Ticks and Bugs
    If you get bitten by a tick, apply Vicks immediately. The strong odor might help get the critter to release itself and stop bugging you.

  11. Reek-free Racehorses
    Professional racers smother VapoRub under the nostrils of racehorses on race day. The strong stench deters the stallions from the alluring odor of the female pony and keeps them focused on the race.

  12. Go Away Mosquitoes
    Vicks wards off mosquitoes. Apply small dabs of Vicks VapoRub to your skin and clothes and mosquitoes will steer clear. If you do get bitten, apply Vicks to the area and cover it with a Band-Aid to relieve itching.
According to WebMD, there have been a few complications in children when Vicks is used inappropriately. A few children reacted negatively and ended up hospitalized when Vicks was applied directly under the nose. Though this is extremely rare and only happens to those who are sensitive to Vicks, consumers should use caution when applying it to the face or on young children.

Even though its strong stench may cost me a few friendships, I am definitely heading to the nearest drugstore to stock up on this little blue smelly bottle. After all, I never know the next time I’ll have a headache, or am heading to the racetrack.

Written on 11/30/2009 by DivineCaroline. DivineCaroline a place where people come together to learn from experts in the fields of health, spending, and parenting. Come discover, read, learn, laugh, and connect at DivineCaroline.com.Photo Credit: WorthPoint

0 How to Discover Your Life’s Purpose – 7 Questions to Ask



“Everything created solves a problem.” – Mike Murdock

Your eyes see, your ears hear, your nose smells. Doctors solve medical problems, lawyers solve legal problems. Your shirt keeps you warm; your watch tells you the time. Everything created solves a problem.

I believe you were created to solve a problem and your success is dependent on your ability to discover that problem and solve it. Finding this problem is discovering your purpose, solving this problem is accomplishing your purpose.

Today I want to discuss 7 questions that will help you discover your purpose.

7 Questions to Help You Discover Your Purpose:
  1. What do you love to do?
    Your purpose is directly related to what you love. The most purposeful people in the world spend their time doing what they love. Bill Gates loves computers, Oprah loves helping, and Edison loved to invent. What do you love? Is it reading, writing, playing sports, singing, painting, business, selling, talking, listening, cooking, fixing broken things. Whatever you love, it’s directly related to your purpose.

  2. What do you do in your free time?
    Whatever you do in your free time is a sign of your purpose. If you like to paint in your free time, then that’s a “sign.” If you like to cook, then that’s a sign, if you like to talk, then that’s a sign. Follow the signs.

    I love to learn in my free time, I have an obsession with learning. Of course, this is a sign of my purpose …which is to teach.

    What do you do in your free time? What would you like to do if you had more free time? Would you teach dance a class or a business course?

  3. What do you notice?
    A salesman notices an uninspiring sales pitch, a hairdresser notices someone’s hair is out of place, a designer notices a awkward outfit, a mechanic hears something wrong with your car, a singer notices when someone’s voice is out of pitch, a speaker notices an uninspiring speech.

    What do you notice? What annoys you?

    I notice when information is not presented in a clear, practical, and simplistic form. This is a sign of my purpose. I’m obsessed with practicality and simplicity. When I teach, I try to teach in a very practical and simple way.

  4. What do you love to learn about?
    What kinds of books or magazines do you like to read? Do you read about cooking, business, or fishing, whatever it is, it’s a sign. I’m always reading about self development, particularly as it relates to successful living. Of course this is also related to my purpose, which is to teach people how to succeed.

    What do you love to learn about? If you have a library, what books do you have in that library?

  5. What sparks your creativity?
    Is it painting, designing, building, speaking, or selling?

    Writing sparks my creativity. I often feel like a sculptor or painter when I write. I carefully sculpt ideas on paper, ideas that impacts people’s lives; it’s a very creative process. Each word must be crafted for maximum impact.

    What sparks your creativity, do you have ideas for new food recipes, or a new creative automotive Web site?

  6. What do people compliment you on?
    What “fans” do you have? If no one likes your cooking, then you probably won’t make a good chef.

    Do people compliment your writing, or your singing, or your amazing ability to sell? Once again, this is a sign of your purpose.

    People always compliment me on my speaking ability, something I was too frightened to do for most of my life. I find it intriguing that my purpose was hidden in something that I was frightened to do.

  7. What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?
    Would you start a salon, go on American Idol, start your own business? What would you do if success was guaranteed? It’s a sign to your purpose.

    I’d do what I’m doing right now, which is teaching. Nothing is more important to me, what about you?
In Closing
These questions are signs to your purpose. They’re pointing you in the direction of a specific purpose. One question alone doesn’t tell the whole story; you must look at all of your answers collectively. Each answer is a piece of the “purpose” puzzle.

Study these questions, and your answers, and you will be well on your way to discovering your purpose. Thank you for reading!

Written on 11/30/2009 by Mr. Self Development who is a motivational author that offers a practical guide to success and wealth; support him by visiting his blog at mrselfdevelopment.com. .Photo Credit: Sainshafei

Minggu, 29 November 2009

0 Booked

It's been a fantastic holiday week for The BLDGBLOG Book. I was thrilled to see, for instance, that the Wall Street Journal chose the book—amidst only 36 books—for their 2009 "Holiday Book Guide." For good or for bad, The BLDGBLOG Book pops up as one of six titles that the newspaper specifically recommends for "a young artist who enjoys science fiction and high brow fantasy" (!), alongside books by Jonathan Lethem, Margaret Atwood, Jeff VanderMeer, R. Crumb, and Geoff Dyer. So thanks, Wall Street Journal! That was genuinely awesome news.

Check out the rest of their picks here.

However, Planetizen also picked up on the book for their list of the Top 10 Books to read in 2010. "The Planetizen editorial staff based its 2010 edition list on a number of criteria," we read, "including editorial reviews, popularity, Planetizen reader nominations, number of references, sales figures, recommendations from experts and the book's potential impact on the urban planning, development and design professions." Again, it's great company to be in, including David Byrne's Bicycle Diaries, Eric Sanderson's Mannahatta, Green Metropolis by David Owen, Paul Goldberger's Building Up and Tearing Down: Reflections on the Age of Architecture, and many more.

Planetizen itself is also an extremely useful and interesting website in its own right, with a strong editorial team, so definitely spend some time clicking around there in the new year.

In any case, it's more than obvious that not everyone thinks the book—or this website—deserves these sorts of appearances, but I'm still excited to see it popping up out there in the world. Go, little book, go!

And, to be honest, whether or not you like the topics I cover here, to see a book about architecture in something like the Wall Street Journal's top 36 picks for the entire year should be good news for anyone who thinks that people don't want to read about the built environment. There is an intense and very widespread interest in architecture out there, and so I'm very happy to see that audience being recognized.

Sabtu, 28 November 2009

0 Crystal's Best Friend

Today I got one of the weirdest FB message from one of the weirdest people I've ever heard from:





Because you are obviously bonkers.

And you don't use 's correctly.


I don't understand why she has to keep asking me how Disneyland was. Is it that important? It's all on my fucking blog wtf.


p/s: No, I don't know Crystal Siew at all, ok? That's why it's funny, coz she (Miu) is so random!

p/p/s: What's all this about me being MEAN?? I mosaic-ed her face and name what! Not like anyone knows who this is... WTF. State opinion about an unknown person also cannot??


UPDATE: OMG! So many of your moralistic fucksticks reading me! Yabbering this and that about how old this chick and is all... Listen: WHO GIVES A FUCK WHETHER SHE IS 6 or 60??

The point is I didn't state her name or post her photo!


For all you know she could be a fictional character I created... Then you'd feel really stupid now, won't you??

And besides, when I posted this, I didn't even click on her profile. I didn't know how old she was, but even if I did, I doubt it would have changed a single thing.

It beats the hell out of me how so many of you saints managed to find her fb profile.

Fucking ironic too, if you ask me.

If this annoys you, if you think that I'm abusing my 'power' and that I'm mean-spirited, you know what to do don't you?

STOP FUCKING READING MY BLOG!

But instead, there you are, reading, commenting, and even going on fb to search for this chick's fb profile and nitpicking shit. Ridiculous.

And some of you are pitying this supposedly poor girl. Save your condescending sympathy. There are much sadder beings out there than a girl who was called bonkers by a blogger she pestered, ok?? And since when did you care so much? Go channel your energies to consoling people whose families died in natural disasters can?

There are over 3 billion blogs out there... Surely there are a few that are up to your high moralistic standards. So go read those, and stop trying to change me or tell me what to do. It's not gonna work.

0 What Are You Putting Off? How to Get On With It in 3 Steps


Most of us put things off. Sometimes, we put off getting started or making progress on big projects... and other times, we put off small tasks that sound simple on paper but seem like a big effort to do.

The problem is, the more we put something off, the harder it is to get going on it. Our resistance to doing it gets greater and greater ... and often, the task becomes more difficult or more unpleasant the longer we put it off.

Maybe we’re putting off a trip to the dentist because we’d rather not have to pay for any treatment (but the longer we leave it, the more it’s likely to cost). Maybe we’re putting off phoning that disgruntled customer (but the longer we leave it, the more likely they are to get even more annoyed ... and get in touch with our boss).

Whatever you’re putting off today, here’s a three-step process to getting on with it.
  1. Figure Out Why
    Firstly, there’s always a reason why you’re putting something off. Don’t dismiss your reluctance or resistance to something as being “stupid” or inexplicable. It might not seem logical, but there’s often a good reason behind it.

    Get honest here. What’s the benefit of not getting that task done?
    • If you don’t start your diet, you can keep on eating whatever you want, whenever you want

    • If you don’t read that book for school, you’ll have more time to play computer games

    • If you don’t make that phone call, you won’t have to face possible rejection

    • If you don’t start writing your novel, you’ll never have to face up to the fact that you might not be as good a writer as you want to be (yet)

    • If you don’t quit smoking, you won’t have to go through withdrawal symptoms and you’ll still have your stress-relief
    Just figuring out the reason why can help you break down your resistance to the task. If you admit that you’re putting off that phone call because it’s scary (not because it’s going to take five hours or cost you a fortune in call charges or something), it’s easier to rise above your fear.

  2. Break It Down
    The next step is to break your task down. A lot of the tasks we put off are difficult because we’re not clear about what we actually need to do to complete them. We’re not just putting off acting – we’re putting off the hard thinking work that needs to go in.

    By breaking a task into bite-sized chunks, it’s much easier to cut down the resistance. If you have “write my resume” on your task list for today, you’ll almost instantly start feeling reluctant to do it. You’ve got no idea how much work needs to go in, and you don’t know where to begin.

    Instead, break that task into chunks, perhaps like this:
    • List all my qualifications

    • Find the dates and details for my work history

    • Email two potential referees to ensure they’re happy to provide a reference

    • Brainstorm about the skills I’ve gained from volunteering
    ... and so on.

    It doesn’t look so daunting now, does it?

  3. Take the First Action
    The third step is to simply do the first task on that broken-down list. Don’t think too hard about it: the more you think about how much work it’ll be or how much you dislike it, the more difficult it will be to get started.

    Just take the plunge! Jump right in and get going – and you’ll find that your resistance to the task vanishes almost straight away.
Bonus Step: Get Over Yourself
If you still feel stuck, this might be why: In a lot of cases, your reason for resisting a task might simply be that it seems, well, boring or hard or not much fun at all.

Sometimes, you just have to get over yourself and accept that you do have to do some hard things in order to reach your goals. In fact, most goals worth achieving will not be easy 100% of the time.

Naomi Dunford (from the must-read small business marketing blog IttyBiz) puts this way better than I could:

Every time you don’t want to do something, think you shouldn’t have too, or find yourself using words like “uncomfortable” or “nervous”, run your excuses through the Fourth Grade BS Detector.

Would an entrepreneurial 10-year-old agree with your logic or would they hear, “But I don’t waaaaaaaaaaaaaaanna”?

Choose your next actions accordingly.

(Naomi Dunford, Introducing the Incredible Business-Building Bullshit Detector, IttyBiz)

What are you putting off today? Why? How does it break down? What’s the first step? Tell us about it in the comments!


Written on 11/28/2009 by Ali Hale. Ali is a professional writer and blogger, and a part-time postgraduate student of creative writing. If you need a hand with any sort of written project, drop her a line (ali) or check out her website at Aliventures.Photo Credit: SuperFantastic

Jumat, 27 November 2009

0 Vardzia

[Image: The Georgian cave monastery of Vardzia, via Wikipedia].

Vardzia is a ruined honeycomb of arched passageways and artificially enlarged caves on a steep mountainside in Georgia. It is on a "tentative list" for UNESCO World Heritage status.

[Image: Vardzia, via Wikipedia].

Quoting from Wikipedia:
    The monastery was constructed as protection from the Mongols, and consisted of over six thousand apartments in a thirteen-story complex. The city included a church, a throne room, and a complex irrigation system watering terraced farmlands. The only access to the complex was through some well hidden tunnels near the Mtkvari river.
Nearby are the ruins of another cave monastery, called Vanis Kvabebi.

[Images: Vardzia, via Wikipedia].

In the formal application sent to UNESCO for consideration of the site, we read that the architecture of this region can be seen as spatially punctuating the landscape, supplying moments of almost grammatical emphasis:
    Fortresses and churches erected on high mountains and hills are perceived as distinguished vertical accents in such a horizontally developed setting. They terminate and emphasise natural verticals, being in perfect harmony with the latter. They introduce great emotional impulse imparting specific grandeur to the whole environment. The same artistic affect is created by rock-cut monasteries and villages arranged in several tiers on high rocky mountain slopes.
Originally constructed in the 12th century—in a region inhabited by humans since at least neolithic times—and very much resembling one of the cave-cities of Cappadocia, Vardzia is a spatially fantastic site (and, I'd assume, a videogame level waiting to happen).

[Images: Vardzia, via Wikipedia].

It is also located in one of the most geologically interesting places on earth—at least from a subterranean standpoint—as the nation of Georgia also contains the world's deepest known cave.

As National Geographic explained in an article several years ago, Krubera Cave—also known as Voronya—is still incompletely explored, despite its record-breaking, abyssal depths; expeditions have spent more than three weeks underground there, mapping windows and chambers, sleeping in tents, and using colored dyes to trace rivers and streams locked in the rock walls around them.

Check out this sequence of images, for instance, documenting an organized descent into the planet—or this article about caving in Abkhazia, or even this summary of the "Call of the Abyss" exploration project that sought to find the true depths of Voronya Cave.

[Images: Vardzia, as seen in some stunning photos by cosh_to_jest].

In any case, there's absolutely no geological connection between Vardzia and Krubera Cave—there is no secret tunnel system linking the two across the vast Georgian landscape (after all, they are extremely far apart)—but how exciting would it be to discover that Vardzia had, in fact, been constructed as a kind of architectural filter above the stovepipe-like opening of a titanic cave system, and that, 800 years ago, monks alone in the mountains reading books about the end of the world might have sat there, surrounded by fading frescoes of saints and dragons, looking into the mouth of the abyss, perhaps even in their own local twist on millennial Christianity standing guard over something they believed to be hiding far below.

[Images: Vardzia, via Wikipedia].

In fact, I don't mean to belabor the point here, but I've always been fascinated by the fact that the CIA has satellite photos that have been used as scouting documents for the rumored location of Noah's Ark—it is "satellite archaeology," one researcher claims. That is, there being quite a few religious members of the U.S. government, things like Noah's Ark are considered more objective and archaeological than they are superstitious or theological.

But how absolutely mind-boggling would it be to find out someday that there is, operating within the U.S. intelligence services, a small group of especially religious analysts who have been scouring the Caucausus region, funded by tax dollars, and armed with geoscanning equipment and several miles of rope, looking for the entrance to Hell?

You can see further images of Vardzia here.

Kamis, 26 November 2009

0 Political Buffer Space and Chinese "Black Jails"

According to the New York Times, there is, in Beijing, "a secret network of detention centers used to prevent aggrieved citizens from lodging complaints against the Chinese government."

[Image: "Bunk beds are seen in a room in a black jail in Beijing in August 2009," the New York Times explains. Apparently, "more than a dozen illegal detention centers known as black jails exist in Beijing." Photo by Greg Baker for the AP].

It is part of a "Byzantine network of interceptors, guards and holding pens," the article continues, "used to put off the petitioners who flock to Beijing in the hope that the authorities will resolve longstanding grievances, many of them involving official corruption in their hometowns."

Like a deleted scene—or alternate ending—from Zhang Yimou's film The Story of Qiu Ju, we read that "those grabbed off the street often have their cellphones and identification confiscated before being locked away in guesthouses or dank basements. After being held for days or weeks, inadequately fed and sometimes beaten, they are shipped back to their home provinces with the admonition that they stay away from the capital."

It's The Trial all over again. From The New York Times:
    Although the right to petition the authorities is enshrined in the Constitution, that right is frequently swallowed up by the reality of contemporary China’s system of governance: local officials, facing pressure to maintain social stability, are penalized for allowing too many complainants to find their way to the offices of the central government.
This need to prevent "too many complainants" from finding their way to the center necessitates the construction and maintenance of counter-spaces—"dank basements" and other makeshift jails—as a kind of architectural buffer held up against political reform. In fact, it's more like an exact inversion of Kafka's "Great Wall of China" story, in which an imperial messenger is lost and indefinitely dislocated on a fruitless attempt to find exit from the governmental architecture all around him.

[Image: The Great Wall of China, via Wikipedia].

In that story, we see a messenger whispered something of great importance by the emperor himself; now that messenger simply has to relay his words to the proper authorities elsewhere. However, "how futile are all his efforts," Kafka writes.
    He is still forcing his way through the private rooms of the innermost palace—but he will never win his way through. And if he did manage that, nothing would be achieved. He would still have to fight his way down the steps, and, if he managed to do that, nothing would be achieved. He would still have to stride through the courtyards, and after the courtyards the second palace encircling the first, and, then again, through stairs and courtyards, and then, once again, a palace, and so on for thousands of years. And if he finally did burst through the outermost door—but that can never, never happen—then the royal capital city, the centre of the world, is still there in front of him, piled high and full of sediment.
It is buffer space, in other words: space in the way of political communication.

By comparing the incarceration of Chinese citizens to a Kafka story, however, I don't mean to diminish the very real sense of political alarm one should feel at the existence of these "black jails" in Beijing; I do mean, on the other hand, to point out how different political philosophies spatialize themselves, enlisting architecture—here, an off-the-books architecture forming unofficial spaces of detainment—as a realization of their own sovereign philosophies. That is, certain building types befit certain political philosophies—and unacknowledged prisons are a particularly alarming example of this. Geographer Trevor Paglen's work becomes especially disturbing in this regard, as he takes us through places like Camp Delta or the unregulated networks of CIA rendition, and so on.

But I want to go back to the less than reassuring political message of The Story of Qiu Ju, mentioned earlier. The bulk of that film presents viewers with a self-possessed heroine who has stood up, once and for all, for her and her husband's rights in the face of locally corrupted bureaucrats; but her chain of unaddressed complaints leads her to pursue higher and higher levels of governmental authority, including physical trips outward through more and more distant urban spaces. She soon finds herself emotionally alone in a strange city she cannot navigate, tracking down officials by way of nonsensically over-formalized channels of communication.

And, at the end, she seems to go nowhere. It doesn't work. She lodges her complaint—and returns home.

[Image: A scene of citizenry and its government, from The Story of Qiu Ju].

But when things suddenly seem to go her way—spoiler alert—it's at exactly the wrong moment, as if she never should have started the complaint process in the first place. It's as if, the film ambiguously suggests, the very act of petitioning her government has resulted in these previously unseen layers of government coming into being, materializing out of the haze of invisible sovereignty in order to respond to her call.

She brings the government into existence, in other words, by turning to it for guidance and complaint.

This is a morally unconvincing position to take, especially in a nation like China—but it comes with architectural implications, and these are also relevant here. For instance, would these "black jails" and political holding-rooms need to exist, we might ask in this highly specific context, if rural petitioners would simply stop coming to the city in protest? Perhaps not—but 1) this is all the more reason for such petitioners to visit the capital in record numbers, thus forcing, through sheer spatial absurdity, political change and requiring that their grievances be heard, and 2) it says volumes about any political system if its government would hold the very people who come to it for guidance inside an addressless world of dorm rooms, "dank basements," secret detention centers, and cots, officially unrecognized except for the time it takes to overlook them.

It would make for a fantastic study: how do governments spatially realize themselves? Is democracy possibility in a nation built for authoritarian control—and vice versa: can true authoritarianism ever be achieved in a space designed against these sorts of peripheral—and easily denied—incarcerations?

Could we reverse-Haussmannize entire nations to make repression a spatial impossibility?

0 City of Gold

Gold—the price of which has nearly quadrupled over the past decade—is now being purchased (and hoarded) on such a massive scale that the vaults of New York City have run out of space to store it all in.

[Image: Stackin' it at the Federal Reserve Bank in New York City].

The Wall Street Journal reports this week that "fleets of armored trucks piled with gold bars and coins have been streaming out of midtown Manhattan" in a mass movement, perhaps geologically comparable to a landslide, of financialized minerals.

HSBC has apparently "issued an edict that it wanted retail investors to remove their bullion to make space for big institutional customers," The First Post adds, and so "owners of vaults and warehouses across the United States have had to jump to action." However, removing gold from the basements of New York City is "easier said than done," they add—especially as it requires "something approaching a military operation" to get these huge quantities of extraordinarily valuable metal off the island.

The headline sums it up: "Armored trucks leave NYC 'loaded with gold'."

"I have never seen any relocation like this," says the managing director of FideliTrade. Except, of course, in Die Hard with a Vengeance...

[Image: The solid gold walls of the U.S. Bullion Depository at Ft. Knox].

In fact, some massive new gold heist film should now be forced into production, set in the over-securitized labyrinth of vaults beneath a skyscraper in midtown, a kind of post-Italian-Job-remake example of urban super-thievery, complete with glimpses of the complicated overlapping spatial histories of an earlier island geography, from New York's forgotten underground rivers (which our criminals could perhaps scuba-dive through) to inexplicable brick walls (bumped up against where the robbers' maps only show mud). A small baroque pavilion in Central Park could be involved, or perhaps huge rooms of subsurface shelving deep beneath the New York Public Library where CGI-friendly radar equipment could be tested by our future perpetrators.

(Original gold story spotted by Steve Silberman).

0 How to Survive Black Friday


It may be the biggest shopping day of the year, but it’s also the most dangerous. Black Friday shopping isn’t just the start of the Holiday Shopping season—it’s also the start of the most stressful, anxiety producing, budget draining, injurious time of the season.

But take heart—surviving and emerging successful from a Black Friday shopping excursion isn’t as hard as it looks if you are prepared, you don’t panic, and you have a plan. It’s like heading into any hostile environment—with the right tools and attitude, you will survive.

Here's how.
  • Be prepared.
    Make a plan of attack for your day and be sure to use websites like www.bfads.net, www.blackfridayads.com, or the many available smartphone apps from the major retailers to locate the items you want.

  • Arrive early, and divide and conquer.
    In order to get the most desirable items you should consider arriving as early as 4am (as many shoppers will do) at the store you plan to visit. Also consider joining forces with other shoppers and splitting up your list—for example, you head to the electronics store to buy items for yourself and your friend, while they head to the toy store.

    If you encounter a stampede of shoppers, stay focused and visualize your goal.
 Do not freeze in front of the pack; do not wait for the crowd of shoppers to get close before you make your move. Reacting early and decisively in crowds offers your best shot at survival.

  • Avoid herd mentality.
    
Animals travel in herds because there is safety in numbers, and the safest place is at the center of the pack, insulated from predators. Avoid the temptation to join the herd—you cannot shop if you cannot see the merchandise.

    Do not move toward the oncoming herd. 
You risk being trampled if you try to thread your way through a stampede. If you are unable to get out of the way of a fast-moving crowd, bring your arms in tightly around any packages you are carrying, turn your body in the direction of the crowd, and let yourself be carried along as you work your way to the outside of the herd.

  • Maximize your movement options. 

    If you need to negotiate a crowd, stay on the edge. Use the space near the walls to gain a few extra yards of room. Most shoppers will leave at least several feet between themselves and surrounding walls. This will give you room to maneuver.

  • Move slowly and decisively toward the front without appearing too aggressive.
 Shoving or cutting people off will provoke flying elbows and closed ranks.

  • Keep your eyes on the other shoppers, so you can anticipate their movements.

  • Do not panic.
    Maintain a calm demeanor as you close in on the target item. Breathe evenly and slowly. Avoid signaling your urgency, which might alert the crowd to the desirability of the toy or other target. Avoid stepping on toes or panicking other shoppers, which may cause a stampede.

  • Smile.
Written on 11/26/2009 by Dave Borgenicht. Dave is the coauthor of the wildly successful Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook, which has spawned numerous sequels, games, t-shirts, a TV show and more. A tech-focused edition of Worst-Case is pending for 2010. To find out more about the Worst-Case Scenario series, head over to ChronicleBooks.com, or follow the Worst-Case Twitter feed @WorstCaseBooks.Photo Credit: Soon.

0 Disneyland Hongkong Part 1!

Thanks to Disneyland Hong Kong for sponsoring this super fun trip for us bloggers!

Well, they are not vetting or paying for this so I guess this is a normal post and not an advert! :D


To start with... THIS TRIP WAS SUPER FUN!!!!!!!!!!!

Like everyone said it was so enjoyable!


In fact, I don't remember the last time I went to Disneyland, in LA, as being even CLOSE to this fun! (Post here)


DEFINITELY one of my best holidays...



I guess it's coz of the company... Everyone was nice, funny, and I especially LOVE the girl bloggers coz they are all so vain, camwhorish and bimbotic! Like me!! HAHAHA

Ok lah I guess Estee, Ming's girlfriend, is the mature one but the rest of the girls are all decidedly childish (I mean that in a good way), even Redmummy who is a mother of 2!! LOL

Us girls were being so frivolous wearing Disney merchandise and shopping and snapping like SHITLOADS of photos...

We went to Hongkong for 2.5 days and Day 1 and 2 were for exploring Disneyland... Day 2's night and Day 3 were for SHOPPING!

It was mad awesome.

About 200 photos so I'm splitting the post into 2 days...




Touch down at Hongkong's airport... Can you spot my luggage?



Mike panicking while waiting for his



With the SG bloggers Ming and Estee


In the cab

I snapped this shot and I told everyone I'm going to caption it "In the cab". They all agreed it's a snappy caption and that I put loads of effort into blogging.



Reached Disneyland Hotel!!!

LOVE IT! The place is decorated rather old-school Victorian style... Classy and grand but not too stuffy. And you know... With cartoons!

Put down our luggage and went for lunch with the Msian bloggers...



Ketchup Mickey kinda looks like boobs



There they are, already snapping shots!!


From left: Redmummy, Cheesie, Audrey and Tim (holding cam).


Bloggers very competitive one ok everything also must snap photos of!



Ming and Estee pondering over what to eat



Cute kids are everywhere!



Here are the girls' food





I just ordered fries with what looks like freshly whipped homemade mayo! Yums



Cheesie and Audrey camwhoring with my camera!





Decorations in Xmas themes



Our receptionist



And here's our room!!

There's two queen sized beds lah! Perfect for families but one bed was completely unused in my case...

NO WAIT IT WAS USED! To pile all my shopping on! MUAHAHA



Guess what the telly was showing?



Even the sheets are Alice in Wonderland themed!




Castled headboard


Me being silly while Mike showers... :)



So cute! All these can be brought back home if you wished to!







The various dwarves are so useful!



Here are the bedroom slippers in Baby, Mama and Papa sizes! Middle one's missing coz I was wearing it! Same thing for bathrobes.



In case you didn't know what it was.



That's it for the rooms!

We adjoin downstairs to meet the Disney Reps for a meeting!

They were oh-so-generous and ordered shitloads of High Tea-ish stuff for us! Sorry lah I dunno what these are called...









Tray after tray arrived... Totally cannot finish lor!



Me with ribbon hair! I thought it could perhaps pass off as Mickey-ish ears??





And here's our map for later!


It's huge! I know a lot of you say that the Disneyland in Hongkong is tiny, and it is, in comparison to the ones in Florida or LA... But so what?

I still think it's bloody big!



And I'm not just saying that coz I went on a sponsored trip.


It's big enough to occupy you for 1 whole day, that's for sure... Which is more than enough for me lor.

Doesn't mean smaller = not enjoyable what!




Here's a group pic of us + Disney reps (in black, back row)!



We were all given this little spectacles, which is actually called a Hologram Viewer (according to Cheesie, wrong blame her)!


IT IS SUPER MAGICAL I TELL YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


See the little heart at the bottom?

When you look thru the 'lens', all the lights around you will magically form a HEART SHAPE OMGWTFBBQ!!


It's true!



Here's the best picture I could take via my camera, but when you look through it, it is VERY distinct!

It makes everything around look SO GORGEOUS!

And the reason why we were given this is coz the park is very well lit up at night, and when you see FIREWORKS through the hologram viewer, it's a completely surreal experience!

Comes in Snowflake, Heart and Snowmen patterns! And can only get this from DISNEY!




Redmummy dangerously camwhoring on the road...
Bus almost knocked her down lor



Mike and I



With the cute Malaysian girls... Why are they so cute omg!



With Redmummy too! She looks damn young but is 34!



And we arrive in DISNEYLAND!!!!!!






So excited must camwhore





Here's Mickey riding what looks like the Twitter fail whale



Tickets!



The dudes checking our bags...

SERIOUSLY OK... This guy's name is JOKER.

I saw his name tag said Joker, so I asked him if his name is really Joker and he said yes!!!!!!!!

It's not only funny but terribly ironic for a security guard whose job is really kinda nothing like a joke. LOL!!!!!!!




MICKEY!




Part of what makes Disneyland so magical is that there is music EVERYWHERE you go!!!!!

(AND NO SMOKERS HAHAHAHA!)

Like no matter which part of the park you are at, happy music is always piping and lifting your mood!



This choral group was singing underneath the crazy tall Xmas tree!





Audrey hologramming



Awwww so cute!!

I had to FORCE him to let me take a pic of him with Stitch on his head...



And it was time for the Xmas parade!!!!



One of the pretty parade girls...



And the Xmas tree flashes different sets of lights!! Very breath-taking...



Nicely sets the mood for Xmas





Mike's hood flew up!!



KISS KISS!!





With the girls!


And we enter Small World or whatever it's called lah...







So pretty omg



Figurines gliding out of the castle...



Chio backdrop!



Us on the ride... We got a pink car! So lucky!

The ride was very peaceful and "It's a Small World" kept playing over and over again in many different languages!

We went from continent to continent... Quite fun to spot the different nationalities!











O hai! Didn't know you worked in Disneyland...



Me to Mike: "BABY! It's Texas!"



The special Xmas theme with Lil Bo Peep and her... Duck?










And done! After this we go on the Tea Cups!





Spinning round and round!

Once the guards let our batch in everyone started to RUN for their favourite tea cup...

It was ridiculous... I tried to get in two different tea cups but each time was cut off by some rude kid rushing in first!

Some other kid and I were then running for the last cup so I ran damn fast and elbowed the bitch out of the way!

That's for disrespecting your elders stupid girl! Hmpf! Anyway Cheesie saw this disgraceful scene and laughed at me.

WHAT?

I got snatched TWICE of what was rightfully mine ok! I came first and they robbed me of my cups!

Nasty rude kids. Ahem.


And finally, it's time for the FIREWORKS!!!

Everyone was so excited...



Ridiculously chio castle...





AND BOOM!!!!!!



So pretty!!




My favourite was to watch the colourful fireworks (such as the above) with the hologram viewer!!!!!!!

Cheesie managed to snap a really good shot of how it will look like so I stole a piccie from her blog:


Credits Cheeserland


Here's how it looks like on a colourful Xmas tree so imagine how the fireworks would look like! MAD MAD MAD MAD MAD CHIO!






After many failed shots of the fireworks (obviously not posted up since FAIL), I decided to just enjoy it instead of frantically snapping photos with the blasted (punny hahaha) Fireworks mode on my Lumix which kinda sucks...


It was SOOOOOOOOOOOOOO AWESOME.


Of ALL the fireworks shows I've EVER seen in my entire this, this Disney one is BY FAR THE BEST!!!!!!!


Not only is it shooting off aside a gorgeous castle, there was also beautiful music...

Music from all our favourite cartoons that filled us with wonder and hope and whatever good feelings there are when we were kids...

And the HOLOGRAM VIEWER OMG!

Disney oughta pay the inventor like a zillion dollars coz watching fireworks with the hologram viewer just makes it SO MUCH MORE FUN!!!!!


For a long moment you just forget about all the nasty stuff in the world like that weird itch or your balding problem... It's just beauty and magic and glitter and hologram chioness!!!!!


It was nice...................

So nice............



I'm actually still having Disney withdrawal symptoms.

Oh well I'd go back there soon!


Part 2 will be coming up shortly!! It's even longer than this entry -_-


:D :D :D :D


I had a really fun time so anyone who didn't are either grumpy prudes or just didn't go with the right company/in the right weather. I love Disneyland (any Disneyland in the world for that matter) and will delete spoilsport comments which say it's not fun!


Stop spoiling shit for others goddamn it!


Linkies for my travel buddies:

CHEESIE - REDMUMMY - AUDREY - TIM - MING - ESTEE


Mike is the most shiok of all coz he went on free trip and doesn't need to blog about it!
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