Tuesday, January 28, 2014

always already

the days stretch out again. i wake up to lavender and periwinkle framed in the window instead of just a winter dark bedroom, radioactive orange from the streetlamp. it hasn’t rained much this winter and when i leave work, pink and blue mottles the sky above the purple stretch of mountains away to the southeast.

adam cut his hair the other day. shorn short, clippered. sometimes a sharp change delineates and emphasizes some aspect, some beauty that was always there. it surprises but also comforts. i suddenly thought, it’s still there, all this attraction. it always was.

i grew up on artforum. my friend antonio, my sister, my best friend ali. we always had an issue of artforum, stolen from the school’s studio, tucked into our bags, sandwiched between our sketchbooks and school books and journals and novels and pens and everything else, our shoulders slumped under the necessarily heavy et cetera we carted around as teenagers. sometimes we even read the articles, but we had those old issues to inspire, like unread bibles on shelves or in drawers, truth and morality radiating outward from its mere presence. those images and names and dates and history just needed to be close.

i sort of lost it after college, lost that enthusiasm for the expanded field, for art and art history. i grew tired of the endless puzzle, opaque pictures and films and performances and actions and essays. i grew tired of every new modernism, of every critique of every past critique. i grew tired of words shakespeare wouldn’t have made up and the self-referential mobius strip that contains and validates and props up of the specter of contemporary art.

i love it and hate it. but i have still subscribed to artforum for the past three years, glossy magazines the shape of records but thicker and heavier piling up on my carpet, often unread.

the other week, i read an essay by thierry de duve concerning marcel duchamp and his effect on art. clear and understandable, de duve’s writing is lovely, not over technical, not dry. i realized while reading his article that i knew so little of duchamp, this giant of art history, this figure whose history seemed so pat. engaged with de duve’s article, i wondered how i would argue against it and delighted in how convincing and refreshing i found his thesis.

at some point, duchamp stopped making art and started playing chess. i don’t make art but still consider myself an artist.

sometimes when adam and i find ourselves in a bar to which i’ve never been, i feel a flash of that same warmth and unfamiliarity and uneasiness i felt when i first moved to portland. the city feels trite now, worn out and worn in, but it wasn’t always this way.

when the drought in oregon ends, i’m sure i’ll find myself tired of the long rain again, but on some quiet afternoon, not too cold, not too rainy, i'll walk down through the neighborhood to meet a friend for a drink and wonder at how lovely this place can be, lush, green, and damp, even in winter.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

perspectives on china

Party of the Century: How China is Reorganizing the Future
Eric X. Li

super interesting perspective about what the economic reforms put in place by the most recent plenum mean for chinese government, corruption, and political agency.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

chinese aggression as diplomatic leverage

china’s territorial claims in the past year or so to several islands in the east china sea can be viewed as claims to east asian influence. china may be partially driven by the small amount of resources that lay under the east china sea, but its claims over the islands stem from a desire to exert influence in east and be viewed as a national and global power.

in recent years china’s claims to island chains such as the senkaku (diaoyu in china) have been called aggressive. japan currently administers the senkaku islands, and with the u.s. have been in control of the islands for over a century. the chinese discovered the centuries before and used them as navigational markers in sailing to the ryukyu kingdom. china has recently claimed sovereignty over the ryukyu islands. historically the ryukyuan kingdom gave tribute to both japanese and chinese empires, though quit paying tribute to the chinese empire in the 19th century. contemporarily, the people of the ryukyu islands speak a dialect of japanese and the islands have been administered by two japanese prefectures for over a century.

china has “claimed” these islands by sending patrols out into the east china sea and extending an air defense identification zone into the sea. chinese diplomats have spoken out about the threat of japan. but it not has not taken further action, action that could be described as aggressive. these policies have garnered international attention to china’s history, sovereignty, and relations with its neighbors in east asia, and its policies demands fine and subtle diplomacy from other asian nations, particularly japan and korea. china is demanding attention. and maintaining this aggressive facade may even produce some leverage diplomatically, encouraging countries to make more concessions in reaction to such aggression.

japan, under prime minister shinzo abe, has started to tap its own nationalism and plans have been announced to change its national defense force into a more active army. this change may be beneficial not for just balancing the military power dynamics in east asia, but may also allow japan to contribute more to international peacekeeping efforts (and other foreign conflicts unfortunately.) given japan’s history with china, china’s uneasiness over a military buildup in japan seems understandable, however, china must understand the uneasiness with which its asian neighbors and the world looks on its large standing army. furthermore, chinese aggression and imperialism extends back centuries toward japan and other asian neighbors. contemporary chinese and japanese governments are not those that existed a century ago. japan’s military shift seems only natural - other than china’s recently “aggressive” stance, japan’s proximity to north korea and its involvement in international diplomacy, finance, and conflict legitimize its need for a strong military.

as the u.s. professes to shifting its focus to the pacific, and the world’s third largest economy takes to building a larger, outward looking army, china understands its must further build the image of itself as an international power. it must continue to strengthen itself economically. it must build diplomatic relations and situations with other countries that will not be taken advantage of. if china maintains uneasy relations with its neighbors, if it remains slightly “aggressive,” other countries will have to act gingerly, to allow china more room to maneuver. china’s behavior is a long strategy set to provide it more room for favorable negotiation.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

lost in space

i’m dizzy and nauseated. re-entry sickness. coming in from outer space, i always get sick upon landing.

i have worked for the same company for five years and i have taken time off periodically over the years to travel, for vacation, or to stay at home sick in bed. the other week, however, was really the first time in years i’ve been in portland for a week without working. adam and i had some time off and we did hardly anything, we’ve been waking late and drinking champagne everyday. watching tv. eating out. cooking dinner. cleaning the apartment. reading.

even the small amount of space created by those seven days off work were disorienting.

it had been years since i had time off to drift around like this. i had just moved to portland from birmingham, jobless, short on money, i had no idea what to do with myself. i moved here with booth and though we had promises to ourselves to keep regular schedules and work on personal projects and find jobs and save money, we found it difficult to keep these promises. i found myself waking later and later, staying awake on the internet applying to jobs, staying awake drinking with the man i abruptly found myself dating.

i enjoyed the freedom from a schedule, the demands of a job, but the shapeless days made me sick, caused confusion. i slept more, wasted hours in bed. the apartment nearly empty of furniture, the walls bare and white, and the days void of action or agency. like days wasted in sadness, perhaps we were more depressed than i understood.

adam and i enjoyed ourselves this year during the break, grateful to have the time off. free from the gravity of work and obligation, we did not get much done but felt great about it. i have to admit, though, that at the end of the end i found myself asking, “what day of the week is it?” and repeating to adam, “what are we going to do today?”

this saturday, adam and i will wake up, pop a bottle of champagne, and enjoy a morning off. then sunday, the rain of obligation will begin again.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

short term trends in long term health care transformation

there may be a lot of problems with the affordable care act. it may be difficult for the nation to adjust to the new law. in the end, however, even if not perfect i believe the affordable care act will do a lot of good for the nation despite all the hiccups in the implementation of the law.

recently publicized findings from a study conducted here in oregon seems at first glance seems to fail expectations for expanded health care coverage. the study, published in the journal science, shows that medicaid coverage extended to thousands of low income oregon residents by lottery did not lower the frequency of visits to the emergency room. on the contrary, the study found that e.r. visits by those newly covered individuals increased 40% over those without insurance. "The pattern was so strong that it held true across most demographic groups, times of day and types of visits, including those for conditions that were treatable in primary care settings."

this study may indicate the possibility of an increased demand on emergency rooms as more affordable insurance is extended to 25 million uninsured americans through obamacare. in my opinion, this study also implies more encouraging trends. to me, the results imply that people with insurance are more likely to seek and pay of care, even the expense of an emergency room visit, than to allow any ailment to continue without care or to wait until a condition becomes an emergency. professor rosenbaum, a health researcher at george washington university, "pointed out that a lot of the recent growth in emergency department use has been among the privately insured people, not the uninsured. She said insurers often recommend going to the emergency room for quick specialty care, like for stomach pain." though another doctor commenting on the study said that many of the participants in the oregon study had a primary care physician already, heidi allen, an assistant professor involved in the study, noted that many of the non-urgent e.r. visits resulted from the inability of a patient to secure a same-day appointment with their doctor.

the object of preventative care will be to encourage long term health and health consciousness. this longer trajectory for personal health in tandem with greater affordability of health care in general would stem emergency room visits. however, the newly insured, perhaps unfamiliar with the methods and means of modern health care access, may continue (perhaps necessarily) to make visits to the emergency room. over a generation of increased access to affordable health care, the united states will see a significant change to the demands of providing health care and the cost of that care. short term studies at the beginning of a long-term transformative process should not be discouraging.