Christopher Lydon: What 2019 Tells Us About 2020

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Christopher Lydon: What 2019 Tells Us About 2020

Somehow the end of a year (and a decade this time) doesn’t feel right if I don’t find myself at the dinner table in Boston sitting across from Christopher Lydon. The voice of the world’s first podcast, he’s been my north star ever since I started this thing long before itunes had podcasts or NPR knew what to do with the internet. As luck- or perhaps fate– would have it, Chris and I have become close friends over the years and the annual “where are we, what happened, where are we going” podcast conversation are among my most favorite rituals. (right after oatmeal, working on an episode of ROS with Mary and the team, and a historical walk around a neighborhood of Boston).
This year we can’t help but talk about the socio-policial state of the world, as well as the environmental crisis we continue to march towards. Then there’s music, books, conversations that have been important to us which may shed some light on why all this is happening and what there is to appreciate or condemn when all is said and done. Lastly, as good friends surely will, we take time to appreciate one another, as we both arrive at landmark decades when it comes to age and wisdom.
Listen in and stay for the whole ride for what is an honest and heartfelt conversation… to end one year and welcome in another.

Live from Shanghai: In the Land of China

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Live from Shanghai: In the Land of China

“Fate also plays a role, ” says the middle aged head of an investment group in the sky lobby of the world financial center as we look out over Shanghai, “just imagine the odds that you and I would be here in this building in this city at the same time and have this conversation.”  — Whether it is the result of fate or some of the most genius moves in recent history, I find myself in the world’s largest city, seemingly in the epicenter of the most important place in the world. “If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere” has long been New York City’s motto, but while they were busy singing the same ol tune in the empire state, Shanghai kept chugging right along and one day the world awoke to find that it is now Shanghai where if you make it here, you can definitely make it anywhere. Sorry Frank, somewhere along the way Mao stole your thunder.

The following is a podcast of my reflections and things I have learned during my educational visit to Shanghai this week.  Have a listen!

Zambians in China

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The Dubai to Shanghai Emirates flight is jam packed with people eager to get to the people’s republic. I’m in the aisle seat with two jovial middle aged men to my right. They’re joking about the food or the flight attendant who always ignores their requests for food or drink, they speak with different accents yet they seem to know each other fairly well. The jokes are funny and kind hearted- it is going to be a nice flight.

Along the way more jokes mixed with pearls of wisdom about travel, airplanes, doing business in China as well as life in Zambia. These two gentlemen live in Zambia. One is a native son of Zambia with a fantastic sense of humor and a kindness you rarely see on a long haul flight. The other, to my surprise, is Portuguese, working the last decade or so for a Portuguese construction company based in Zambia. Their destination, a construction vehicle exposition in Shanghai. Because as you should already know and these two gentlemen remind me, down in Africa, it is the Chinese that go for every contract and manufacture some of the most budget friendly vehicles for those big infrastructure projects.

Welcome to the Future, China

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photo by freshwater2006 / flickr

photo by freshwater2006 / flickr

During a presentation today, somewhere in Shanghai in a tall shiny building, a slide went up showing Shanghai’s PuDong skyline in 1990; green, flat, open space; and Pudong in 2014; packed with skyscaper after skyscraper, the new avatar of this megacity.  In 24 years it is almost unfathomable how much a place can change. It is pretty. It is cool. Is it good? Surely for somebody. Is it bad? Oh, surely in a few ways as well. But is it real – at this point I can tell you it is very real.

I feel like I grew up in the era where people said China would be an economic powerhouse, and now I live as an adult in that world. But somehow it is always a media story, always filtered through the internet and second hand stories, when you see it up close, that is when the world as you know it looks very different. That is when predictions and forecasts become reality.

“They don’t speak much english,” my fellow travelers often remark about people in Shanghai. — Why should they? It is their world. This one and the big one out there. And the way this powerful wind blows, it is for us to learn about them far less then it is for them to learn about us. Even if both of those would be beneficial to all and fun.

I can’t yet tell you about Shanghai. After seven days I probably still won’t be qualified or capable. But here on the ground in South Shanghai where buildings are low and the streets are empty at night, it is above all an interesting and intricate world. I’m only in the beginning phases of getting to know it.