Thursday, January 10, 2002
02 Jan 2002. I sat at the Science and Technology Library, typing on a borrowed laptop, the desire for a cigarette pervading all my humors. By Scott Rahin.
yo, the glow
Their new, reserved demeanor and orchestral feel allow Unwound to open up sides of their music previously only hinted at or altogether hidden from sight. Or to put it another way, if you like tripping on cough syrup, you'll love this album. --Camilo Arturo Leslie
Wednesday, January 9, 2002
i'm not a talentless clown :]
Tuesday, January 8, 2002
F L O W (via blogdex)
animated GIF (update: more! via boing boing :)
Monday, January 7, 2002
janusz kaminski, ASC
Kaminski and his crew shot many feet of film with the camera shutter set at 45 or 90 degrees, a technique that was especially effective in filming explosions. Every particle of blasted sand seems to be visible. The idea, which was born in pre-production testing, helped to create a sense of reality and urgency.
Okay all you vegan and vegetarian bashers, most of the people who don't eat meat do it not because they think it is bad to eat meat, but because of the horrid way meat products are produced around the world. It truly is nasty.
note: i am not a vegan or a vegetarian, in fact i just finished a nice meal of home-cooked tacos. I can't help it meat just tastes so good :
Sunday, January 6, 2002
But you see I killed a man. I never thought I'd be able to do that. I mean, when you've done something unimaginable, when you've done it before you've ever even thought about it... when you see how easy it is, well then everything is put into this new perspective. Suddenly things you thought were the most important things in the world are no more significant than anything else because you've done the unimaginable. You've done what you thought was impossible, and then you see... well you see you can do anything.
josh hutton, the unbelievable truth
Movies are so lifelike. That's why we love them.
Ting-Ting: Then who needs movies? Just stay home and live life!
My uncle says, "We live three times as long since man invented movies."
Ting-Ting: How can that be?
It means movies give us twice what we get from daily life. For example, murder. We never killed anyone, but we all know what it's like to kill. That's what we get from the movies.
fatty, yi yi
And the first thing you notice about having a girlfriend, you know like right off the bat when you start staying over at her house and everything, is you start cleaning yourself a lot better.
Josh Hutton: Really?
Yeah, no shit. Like you just start paying more attention to everything. Like, I dunno, cleaning your teeth before you go to bed and worrying about washing your back.
mike, the unbelievable truth
Saturday, January 5, 2002
john maynard keynes
During the course of the war, Keynes was [at] the Treasury and set himself to think about the post-war economic order, in particular the monetary order. In 1938, he had warmed up to Benjamin Graham's proposals for an international "commodity-reserve" currency to replace the Gold Standard. In 1943, Keynes forged his ideas for "Bancor", a proposal for an international clearing union. In consultation with the Americans, Keynes eventually relented on his idea and accepted the American "White Plan" for an international equalization "fund" held in the currencies of the participating nations.
interview with doug henwood
I'm very critical of Hilferding in Wall Street for many reasons, most relevantly to this exchange, for arguing that the German-style model of capitalism, with a handful of big banks owning big industrial concerns, was the future of the system, and that the Anglo-American stock-market system was on the way out. He couldn't have been more wrong; as the gloomy Wall Street economist Henry Kaufmann put it a few years ago, we're seeing the Americanization of global finance. Even development finance for the poor countries is coming more and more from bond and stock markets, with less from commercial banks and official development banks.
Friday, January 4, 2002
"This is the most exciting moment in the history of News."
"The first paternity suit made [me] feel like a man."
Thursday, January 3, 2002
latest from andrew and patrick
pictures via metafilter
yo, it snowed today. hooray!
Wednesday, January 2, 2002
two from the wsj today
Madagascar's Textile Sector Draws
Fresh Life From U.S. Trade Move
By HELENE COOPER
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
ANTSIRABE, Madagascar -- Standing at the site of his next factory,
Mathias Ismail sees his underwear dreams coming true.
Mr. Ismail lays out his plans to manufacture cotton camisoles for
Victoria's Secret and boxer shorts for Gap Inc.
"This is our big chance," says the 35-year-old manager of Columbia Clothing
Co., a local textile company. "The biggest market in the world -- the
United States -- has opened for us."
Thanks to an American trade bill, the textile business has taken off on
this impoverished island, firing up the dreams of entrepreneurs and
housemaids alike. While Mr. Ismail envisions planeloads of lingerie winging
toward Manhattan, 18-year-old Voahirana Ravololonirina stands with 30 other
women outside a sweater factory in the hope of a job better than sweeping
floors. Textile exports have surged in recent months, and the initial boom
has spread to other industries and boosted tax receipts. For many college
grads, a business career now looks more attractive than the nation's
traditional plum job of civil servant.
After decades of watching as Asian countries used textile factories to
galvanize their economies, Africa is finally getting a chance to stitch
together its own success story. In June 2000, the U.S. Congress passed the
Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, which gives 23 sub-Saharan countries the
opportunity to ship a range of textile products to the U.S. duty-free. This
was good news to an industry always seeking the next low-wage country with
good market access. Foreign investment has already risen sharply in
Madagascar and the 11 other countries that have qualified for the trade
benefits by setting up safeguards on customs and child labor.
Whether any of the African countries can turn short-term gains into
sustained economic development is unclear. In this region, poverty, war and
corruption make it hard for anything to take root and grow. Bad roads alone
can hobble export efforts. Local businesses bridle at the competitive
threat that free trade brings, and the U.S. retains more than a tinge of
protectionism: The trade bill withholds benefits on high-end sweaters, one
of the most lucrative textile products. As Madagascar shows, all of this
makes for many unanswered questions and much unquestioning optimism.
The Africa trade bill wasn't an easy sell in Congress. For one thing,
America's powerful textile lobby fought the bill, fearing it would siphon
away textile jobs in North Carolina and South Carolina. Critics said that
it wouldn't do much to help a continent as troubled as Africa. They said it
would foster only sweatshop jobs. Labor activists pointed to poor wages --
less than 40 cents an hour in Madagascar -- and the prevalence of forced
overtime, arguing that such low-paying jobs break up rural families and
force young women to live in urban slums so they can work 60 hours a week
in dreary, low-paying factory jobs.
Yet in Madagascar, one of the first countries to qualify for benefits
under the trade legislation, such jobs and wages beat what many had before.
Women worked in rice fields or as maids or selling produce at roadside
stands. The pay was less and unpredictable. Women did their marketing with
street vendors. Now they plunk down their regular factory paychecks at
On payday, workers head straight for the sparkling Cora Supermarket, in
the sole shopping mall of the capital, Antananarivo. Next door, Courts, the
British equivalent of Sears, has moved in, offering layaway terms for
refrigerators and stoves.
Women take most of the textile-factory jobs, which require slim, nimble
fingers to work sewing machines, but other areas are picking up. Building
permits have soared, spreading the textile boom to industries such as
construction and engineering. Formal employment, under which workers pay
taxes, has risen by 10%, an indication of the rise in steady employment and
regular paychecks. Shipping companies are adding routes to the
once-isolated island. Exports to the U.S. in the first half of this year
totaled $132.8 million, up 115% from $62.7 million the year before,
according to U.S. trade officials.
The change has given the former French colony a chance to build a
broader and sturdier economy. With a few exceptions, the life span of the
textile industry in any one country is only 25 to 30 years. During that
time, wages rise as workers gain experience and move from making, say,
Kmart T-shirts to Banana Republic jackets. By the time the high-end
retailers roll in, wages are too steep for the mass-market retailers, who
start looking for the next cheap country.
For a country to benefit from the textile industry, it must use the two
to three decades to diversify its economy, investing in the kinds of
infrastructure and education that will attract higher-tech companies.
Indonesia and Malaysia accomplished this economic evolution in the 1970s,
as did Madagascar neighbor Mauritius recently. It is what proponents of
free trade hold out as the real promise of economic globalization.
Madagascar has more than a few hurdles to negotiate. The road from
Antananarivo, where most industry is located, to the port at Tamatave is in
such disrepair that a journey of 186 miles takes most cargo trucks 15
hours. Scarce flights -- only two Air France 747s leave Antananarivo's
Ivato Airport every week -- cause shipments to back up on the tarmac.
Government corruption scares away many foreign investors, and diverts
needed money for education and health services from the national
The Sweater Exclusion
In addition, textile exports aren't growing as fast as they should be,
owing to the trade bill's exclusion of high-end sweaters. Bush officials
say they intend to fix the glitch, but they haven't yet. They're afraid of
alienating lawmakers from North Carolina and South Carolina. The result:
About 20% of Madagascar's potential textile trade with the U.S. --
amounting to an estimated 5,000 jobs for the island -- is cut off.
"Those sweaters are the most labor-intensive things to make," says John
Hargreaves, director general of Floreal Madagascar SA, a sweater
Still, textiles have expanded sharply from a small base in the 18 months
since the trade bill was passed. In the 1990s, local companies made clothes
for a few U.S. companies such as San Francisco-based Gap, but the American
business never really took off. Madagascar's economy was stagnant from the
1970s on, aside from a steady stream of tourists who came to enjoy the
island's unique ecosystem. The country's long experimentation with
so-called Christian Marxism translated into closed borders, nationalized
industries and high tariffs. About 75% of the population lived below the
poverty line, 85% of urban children were undernourished, and 55% of the
total population was illiterate.
"From 1972 to 1996 were the blackest years," says Hassanein R. Hiridjee,
whose construction company, First Immo, builds textile factories in
Antananarivo. "We were following our big brother, North Korea."
By contrast, the economy of nearby Mauritius was taking off with
textiles. Instead of protectionist walls, it set up an export-processing
zone in 1972 to attract foreign textile companies. They came, from Hong
Kong, Indonesia and China, to take advantage of privileged access that
Mauritius enjoyed both to markets in Europe, as a former European colony,
and to the U.S., under the Generalized System of Preferences for poor
By 1998, Mauritius had pulled away from Madagascar in many areas:
per-capita income was $3,690 compared with $250 in Madagascar; 22% of the
population had phones, compared with 6%; the literacy rate was 100%,
compared with 45%.
Now, Mauritius is just about done with textiles, focusing instead on
wooing the likes of Microsoft Corp. and AT&T Corp. And the textile
industry is almost done with Mauritius. Workers there aren't cheap anymore.
"At $1.47 an hour, you can't compete," says Laurent Koenig, administrative
director of Aquarelle Clothing Ltd., another local textile factory.
But you can at the 37 cents an hour that Madagascar textile workers
averaged last year. And some much-needed government action helped the
country prepare the ground for the trade bill.
In the mid-1990s, the Madagascar government took several leaves from the
Mauritius book and began opening the country to foreign investors. It set
up an export-processing zone, with reduced corporate-tax rates for
exporting companies, and it eliminated local-ownership and local-content
requirements for international companies. And just as in Mauritius, the
government began privatizing state-run industries, adding another form of
reassurance for foreign investors.
Now the Africa trade bill brings the chance for a real breakthrough for
many of the continent's nations. Officials in tiny Lesotho say the bill has
prompted plans for more than $120 million in new investment, mostly from
foreign firms, and mostly involving textiles. Kenyan officials say the bill
will create 50,000 jobs directly and a further 150,000 jobs indirectly.
In Madagascar, there hasn't been a wholesale conversion to the new
order. "Many people here don't see the advantage of trade," says Jocelyn
Rafidinarivo, minister of budget and of development of the autonomous
provinces. Some local industries, fearing competition, are squeamish about
the idea of opening up their borders to foreign commerce. Soft-drinks
magnate Marc Ravalomanana fears imports of Coca-Cola and other American
products could hurt his own locally made soft drinks and yogurt.
"Most of our businessmen are really scared of the American market and
American competition," says Eric Randrasana, general manager of Novel
Garments SA, another factory.
Mr. Ismail of Columbia Clothing is one of the less fearful
entrepreneurs. Tall and burly, he is the son of a wealthy family that
immigrated from India to Madagascar 100 years ago. The family started out
farming cotton, and then diversified to shrimp and fish farms. In 1970,
they opened a sewing mill, making clothes for the local market. The
operation began making garments for foreign companies in the 1990s.
Mr. Ismail and other business people are striving to reshape the way
business and development are done in this country. Not content just to sew
together piecework, he wants to have a hand in every step of textile
production, every layer of value added to the clothing he sends to America.
From the cotton he has contracted farmers to grow out in the fields of
Mahjunga up north, to the yarn spun on his new state-of-the-art spinning
machines in Antsiarabe, to the shirts, lingerie and trousers his workers
then sew, Mr. Ismail's vision is simple: "We're going to make that link
between [our] countryside guy and the New York City consumer."
Mr. Ismail also has set up training classes for textile workers. His
flagship factory includes firetrucks that serve the surrounding suburbs.
Perhaps most important for Madagascar's economic growth, he offers the
chance for job mobility. Mechanics he hired to repair machines hope to use
their experience to get into other industries.
One day at Cotona, one of Mr. Ismail's factories, he spent part of his
time bantering with a buyer representing Levi Strauss & Co. of San
Francisco. Nearby, Voahangimalala Norina Olga, 33, peered fiercely at a
piece of cloth she was cutting. It was her first day on the job, and her
first job with a regular paycheck. She was nervous but determined.
"My two sisters both got jobs in factories like this six months ago,"
she said. "Now they have TV sets and bicycles, and I want that, too."
Mr. Ismail moved on to the spinning room to show off his new looms.
Strands of cotton flew through the air, and the looms made such a din that
workers were wearing earplugs. "We call this the AGOA room," Mr. Ismail
said, referring to the acronym for the Africa Growth and Opportunity
The textile jobs appear dreary. Hundreds of women sit in the massive
factories, side by side, stitching sweaters that they could never afford to
buy themselves, or placing labels for stores that they will never visit. In
many of the factories, temperature regulation is nonexistent. During
Madagascar's cooler months, workers keep their coats on; when it is hot,
they fan themselves.
Poor Pay, Little Leverage
Critics argue that the Africa trade bill does little to raise living
standards in poor countries. They note that factory workers in countries
like Madagascar are poorly paid -- last year's 37 cents an hour compared
with $14.24 an hour in the U.S. -- and don't have the heft of U.S.-style
labor laws to protect them from management demands such as forced overtime.
Much of the improvements in workers' rights in recent years have come
because of complaints from the antiglobalization forces, who pressured U.S.
buyers like Gap to adopt business codes of conduct.
But in a part of the world where 98% of the population doesn't have a
working toilet and 15% will die before their first birthday, the arguments
of the free-trade foes who complain about sweatshops don't carry much
water. A job in one of these factories, making about $50 a month plus
health care, vacation and lunch, is considerably more lucrative than the
$20 a month, with no benefits, taken home by the average worker in
"If I wasn't here, I would be in the rice fields," says Fanjanirina
Razanadrasoa, 21. Barefoot, as are many others on a line of jobseekers, Ms.
Razanadrasoa has been standing outside the Floreal sweater factory, which
stitches together sweaters for Limited Inc. of Columbus, Ohio. She says she
isn't leaving until she gets a job. She wants to go into business for
herself one day, and she reckons that a steady check from a textile job can
get her going. First on her list of things to buy when she starts getting
Write to Helene Cooper at
In a Nation of Strictest Islamic Law,
Female Entrepreneurs Gain Ground
By HUGH POPE
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
JIDDA, Saudi Arabia -- Siham Abu Rashid isn't allowed to drive a car.
Outside her home, she is required to cover her face, head and body in black
cloth. When she recently went to register her cellphone, the clerk, in a
gesture dating back to when most Saudi women were illiterate, insisted on
taking her fingerprint, rather than her signature.
Yet none of this has stopped her from becoming what was once a
contradiction in terms: a Saudi businesswoman.
The 30-year-old interior designer is among the thousands of Saudi women
who now operate their own businesses, including computing companies,
boutiques and other small, mostly retail, outfits. That's no small feat in
a desert kingdom where ultraconservative social custom and Islamic
religious law prohibit most mingling of the sexes. With the defeat of the
Taliban in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia is once again the world's strictest
But lately, the Saudi regime has shown just a little more tolerance;
women are now being issued their own IDs. Perhaps more important, about
200,000, or 54%, of the country's university students are women today,
compared with only 70 female students in 1965. In the past seven years, the
number of female students in technical schools has risen tenfold to
Education has led to careers. In the capital, Riyadh, the number of
women members of the local chamber of commerce has risen fourfold, to about
2,400. Here in Jidda, a busy port city, women own about a quarter of the
True, many of these women are merely stand-ins for their civil-servant
relatives, who aren't allowed to own or operate private businesses. Or they
are heiresses divorced from day-to-day management of their operations. But
many others, like Ms. Abu Rashid, are willing to navigate the tortuous
paths of Saudi rules and regulations to indulge an entrepreneurial
"There are restrictions, and you work round them," says Mayan Kurdi, who
formed a Web-site design company, Netpeople, in 1999. "Discretion," she
adds, "is the name of the game."
For example, she explains, women don't advertise for fear of attracting
unwanted official attention to their activities. "We get all our business
by word of mouth," says the 30-year-old Ms. Kurdi, who attended University
College in London and then worked for a management consulting firm in that
city for two years before moving back to Saudi Arabia to start her
To launch Netpeople, she had to find a company willing to rent her
office space and act as her "big brother" by handling interactions with the
Saudi bureaucracy. In routine transactions, she says, her male driver
fronts for the company, which now has 10 women employees and a busy order
book. The voice on the company's answering machine is that of a man.
Nonetheless, Ms. Kurdi dismisses the Western stereotype of the Saudi
woman: "It's rubbish that we're oppressed," she says. "I've lived both here
and in the West, so I should know."
Ms. Abu Rashid, the interior designer, concurs, though the going hasn't
always been easy. After finishing secondary school, she started a women's
clothing store in a local mall in 1991. Her mother, a housewife, gave her
moral support, but her father, a civil servant-turned-businessman, worried
that his daughter would get into trouble.
The shop, called Mona Lisa, failed after four years, partly because it
was located in a women-only section of the mall that didn't attract many
shoppers. That's when Ms. Abu Rashid, who was by then married and a mother
of four children, decided to turn her favorite hobby -- interior decoration
-- into a business.
She took a correspondence course in interior design from a company in
Florida. In 1996, Ms. Abu Rashid, who goes by the nickname Sam, launched
Sam Designs. She won't disclose sales figures, but says she can now live
off her earnings. Divorced by her first husband, she remarried this
Her Web site, which also serves as her firm's showroom, includes a
sultry stamp-size portrait of Ms. Abu Rashid and samples of her designs.
She specializes, she says, in the wild and the exotic. "That reflects my
personality," she says.
Since her business doesn't require a lot of space, Ms. Abu Rashid is
able to work out of her home. Still, she has been forced to find ways to
work around the taboos against women doing business with men. "I deal with
people in their houses, at restaurants," she says, "or we go together to
the shops to choose fabrics."
One client did make her nervous: a member of Saudi Arabia's religious
police force, whose public presence helps enforce the country's strict
religious rules. She says she didn't know he was a member of the mutawwa
until she arrived to meet the man and his wife at their home. Mixed-sex
meetings like that are still a bit of a novelty in Saudi Arabia.
"I thought, Mama! I was a bit afraid," she says. In the end, "they
didn't give me the commission -- maybe they didn't like the price -- but he
was cool about me doing the work."
More typical was a recent trip Ms. Abu Rashid took across town by car to
meet a client at the office of one of her furniture suppliers. She is
permitted to ride with her family's Sudanese driver, but a man from outside
the family isn't allowed to sit beside her. To prepare for the outing, she
donned two veils, one that covered her hair and another that covered her
mouth and nose. Her eyes, framed in black eyeliner and mascara, were the
only parts of her body visible.
The supplier custom-builds furniture for Ms. Abu Rashid and then
discreetly pays her a cut of the money it makes from selling the furniture
to her customers. "Four or five years ago, we couldn't even conceive of
women working," says Ibrahim Takla, chief executive of the supplier. "But
for that matter, 10 or 15 years ago in Saudi Arabia, there wasn't even a
concept of design."
When the client arrived, Ms. Abu Rashid ushered the woman into a meeting
room at the rear of the building. The client, a woman, was clearly
embarrassed at the prospect of discussing anything in the company of a
"I keep telling my friends, I'm going to do something to liberate us
all. There are so many little things. You need a man to do anything --
anything official, that is," Ms. Abu Rashid says. "Don't get me wrong: the
way things are going is fine with me. But if God wills, in the future we
will get the chance to drive and travel without permission."
Islamic law doesn't forbid women to drive cars. But many Islamists still
defend Saudi Arabia's law against women driving. Being able to use a car on
her own, they say, might tempt a Saudi woman into sinful contact with -- or
abuse by -- a man from outside her family.
Driving aside, getting around is getting easier. Until last month, when
the government began giving women identity cards, a woman was lumped
together with the rest of her family on a single identity document held and
controlled by the male head of household. To hold an individual passport,
as Ms. Abu Rashid does, women are required to have a male relative's
permission to travel abroad.
Ms. Abu Rashid is eagerly awaiting her identity card, which will give
her a fully independent legal identity for the first time. For now, in case
she needs to prove her identity at a store or a bank, "I have to go around
with a passport, in my own country!"
Write to Hugh Pope at
Tuesday, January 1, 2002
i am thou and thou art i
gnosticism and hermeticism