The Larks Still Bravely Singing Fly

This article was originally published on Five Thôt.

We found Choeung Ek more or less by accident. It was on the way.

I love Southeast Asia, I always have. I am treating my mother to a road-trip from Saigon to Bangkok as a 70th-birthday present but also because I want her to love it the way I do. The trip is going well. She grew up in the tropics, and this place, with its mangoes and palm trees and firecracker sun, brings her back to her childhood.

The ten-mile tuk-tuk ride to the memorial costs us five dollars round-trip. Everything here is priced in American money. Admission is five dollars per person and includes rental of a high-tech headset that serves as an audio guide for the tour. Dante had Virgil, I get this gizmo. Headsets are available in English, German, Spanish — almost in any language other than Khmer. Choeung Ek is for foreigners now.

It isn’t what I expected.  Continue reading


Dreams of children

I had a vivid dream last night. Strangely, many of my dreams have the same setting, the way different movies from the same studio reuse the same backlot sets. In my dream, I am an employee of a large and nameless company, and I work at a desk facing out the window of the 21st floor of an office tower. Continue reading

The future: better than it used to be

In 1998, then-Enron adviser and future Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman wrote article for Red Herring magazine, titled, apparently without irony, “Why most economists’ predictions are wrong.”  After mocking the already-late Herman Kahn’s book The Year 2000 for only getting most things right (cell-phones, VCRs, satellite dishes) but not everything, Krugman then went on to make a string of utterly risible predictions of his own, concluding with, and I quote:Paul, you scarcely knew us.

  • The growth of the Internet will slow drastically, as the flaw in “Metcalfe’s law”–which states that the number of potential connections in a network is proportional to the square of the number of participants–becomes apparent: most people have nothing to say to each other! By 2005 or so, it will become clear that the Internet’s impact on the economy has been no greater than the fax machine’s.
  • As the rate of technological change in computing slows, the number of jobs for IT specialists will decelerate, then actually turn down; ten years from now, the phrase information economy will sound silly.
  • Sometime in the next 20 years, maybe sooner, there will be another ’70s-style raw-material crunch: a disruption of oil supplies, a sharp run-up in agricultural prices, or both. And suddenly people will remember that we are still living in the material world and that natural resources matter.

Read the whole thing.  And laugh and laugh and laugh.