Friday, 13 November 2009


A few days back I noticed Grant McCracken tweeting a bit more than usual and took notice of his observations which are always top notch given he's one of the most authoritative (and through his blog) accessible anthropologists (Chief Culture Officer) on the planet. In a subsequent recent post that taps into the his latest idea  of the Culturematic, he talked about the train journey from Chicago to Detroit where he was doing the tweeting. It resonated on so many levels and so here goes in trying to explain.

Sad to say but I was a train spotter as a youth and although I enjoyed the linear and meticulous checking off train numbers (especially the diesel locomotives) I think it was the freedom of running around the UK with a legitimate reason and a bunch of friends who were into it as well. Even Slough Train station is slightly exotic to a 12 year old. I remember well the first air skirmish for the Falklands war was announced by one friend who in admirable news-trainspotting manner, was carrying a pocket radio with him.

I guess since then I've learned that flying is not so glamorous as people might believe. The last time I was living in Hong Kong a few years back I spent so much time in the air, mostly between Chek Lap Kok and Shanghai that I was eating airline food most of the time and didn't even know that the Island I'm now living on existed. I thought Hong Kong was all about the bustling metropolis when in fact, a lot of this wonderful island is well preserved from insatiable property developers and has delightful sleepy fishing villages that I talked about in my Sok Kwu Wan post. Here's some more pics.

Sleepy Hung Shin Ye Beach

Feet firmly on the ground at Pak Kok

Time on my side.

Sand, rock and sky.

Horizon where it should be.

Kit on the beach.

City in the distance.

Trekking pony at the ready.

Whichever way we wish to 'cut the data', it's a leisurely life that proceeds slower (we can't save time, only spend it) and I've long felt that train travel is a more civilised affair than the cattle prod bullying that takes place in the air. Of course some trips aren't possible without air flight, but if there is an alternative, the train is more human and humane.

I don't know about you but I'm not in a rush to be a pensioner. I've got all the time in the world.Is it an illusion of our times, that we need to achieve more and more, faster and faster. The present is being created and destroyed at the same time isn't it?

So do we need to be smarter instead of faster? Going slower saves time is a counter intuitive truism that the Kingdom of Thailand taught me. In Siam, rushing is seen as vulgar. Though I'm still a novice at keeping a relaxed pace. Because it takes awareness and discipline.

So you can delineate for yourselves the tension between slower train travel and the fastest 'regular' train service in the world where I suspect I may well have broken the land speed record for tweets (which is awesome and ironic) but I'll just leave that thought hanging as obscurity and ambiguity challenge us to think just that bit harder than certainty. Or so the 48 Laws of Power once informed me.

And so I break another law starting a sentence with and. Warren Buffet the arch investor of our time (who has mastered the art of folksy image yet ruthless investor) just recently plowed an awful lot of bread into 'America's future'. If you're not paying attention, then don't say you weren't warned. Here's a clip of what I was trying to convey last year at 204.43112224608285 Miles per Hour

And so slower, is slowly getting better.