Brain Circulation

At the same Gracenet dinner that I met Paul, I learned a thing or two from the visiting speaker, AnnaLee Saxenian. The brain-drain of high-skill technology graduates from China and India to Silicon Valley is only half the story. The brains also go back home, taking their newfound ideas with them. Saxenian writes of “brain circulation”, the trans-Pacific process of cross-fertilization, through which Silicon Valley gets socially networked to urban centres throughout Asia.

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Found on a scrap of paper in a University of Cape Town filing cabinet, ca 1998

There have been many painful things happening at UCT. One of the most painful was the destruction of the jobs of hundreds of workers. When it wrote about this, the University Paper agreed that there was pain. But the only pain it mentioned was the pain of the Vice Chancellor [Mamphela Ramphele – partner of the late Steve Biko, key figure in the Black Consciousness movement, now a director at the World Bank], the person who insisted on that destruction. Showing that she was a ruthless manager won her some admirers and created new opportunities for her. But the Paper also told us about the workers who were being retrenched.

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Red Guard on the Microphone

The past couple of days have been fairly musical. I’ve long noticed that the one place that I can reliably hear morose music is my local Albertson’s. The musical loop goes something like this: Annie Lennox’s Why slows things down, and is followed by Nora Jones’ Don’t Know Why, which cools things down a bit more, and then hands over to 10cc’s I’m Not in Love, which brings us inevitably to Mike and the Mechanic’s The Living Years and then back to Annie Lennox. This onslaught of low-grade Weltschmerz makes grocery shopping miserable. Of course, as with every facet of the corporate retail experience, one person’s misery is another’s pile of cash. The music is designed to create a solitary and self-indulgent sensory bubble. It’s a bubble in which you’re encouraged to wallow. Inside the bubble, it smells of donuts, and it has Annie Lennox reminding you of that crappy breakup/tragic moment/melodramatic appeal to the heavens that you thought you’d long forgotten. The solution to all this is at hand, of course – make your choice of anything from the chilled plenitude of the supermarket shelves.

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