China’s Messy Apartment, Eyes on Prize, and Top Scrabble Country

We’re a sucker for an immigrant story. We can’t think of a movie about immigrants we don’t love. We’re probably the only person who thought The Namesake was the best movie of 2006. We’re also a Bruce Springsteen fan. So we feel like director Gurinder Chadha made the new movie Blinded By the Light specifically for us. And given its low box office receipts that apparently is the case. There are not enough Springsteen fans and unfortunately not enough immigrant fans to financially sustain such a movie. But never confuse popularity with quality. Blinded By the Light, although corny in spots, wonderfully tells the classic immigrant tale of trying to fit in while being discriminated against, the beauty of discovering music and the importance of dreaming. Perhaps paradoxically for a film that wears its heart on its sleeves, many of the main characters are more complicated than one would expect, neither merely good or bad but deeply human. So as we thank Chadha for making a movie for us, we direct you to China’s messy apartment, produce a list of the most spied upon cities, and act surprised on which country is number one in Scrabble. It is this week’s International Need to Know, refusing to meet with Indonesian leaders until they agree to sell us Bali.
BLINDED BY THE LIGHT – Official International Trailer
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Without further ado, here’s what you need to know.

China’s Messy Apartment

Many years ago when we first moved into our own place sans roommates for the first time, we discovered something. It wasn’t just our roommates who forgot to take out the garbage, wipe down the kitchen counters or clean up after themselves. It was us. We were the guilty party!—at least in part. We thought of this listening to people blame China’s slowing economy on the trade war. As we have noted before, China is not returning to high single digit/double digit GDP growth, and this is mainly due to demographic trends. China’s working age population has already peaked and will fall by 100 million people over the next 20 years. That’s a large reason for China’s slowing GDP the last five years. But even in the last year, it is unlikely the trade war is causing the current slow down. U.S. trade has not fallen overall, it’s just shifted some out of China. On the other hand, China’s overall trade has fallen. In looking at China’s economic condition, the one current driver increasing is investment in the real estate sector. As you see in the graph below, investments in infrastructure and equipment are way down. China’s economy is slowing but it’s not due to the trade war. And also remember, absent catastrophe, even a slower growing China is still hugely important. That’s the other mistake people make. Yes, China won’t be growing as fast but they will still be hugely important in the world.

Eyes On Our Prize

You ever get the feeling someone is watching you? Well, nowadays, they probably are thanks to surveillance technology. Comparitech recently set out to determine which are the most surveilled cities in the world. They did this by “collating a number of data resources and reports, including government reports and police websites, to get some idea of the number of CCTV cameras in use in 120 major cities across the globe.” Comparitech focused “primarily on public CCTV—cameras used by government entities such as law enforcement.” So what did they find? Not surprisingly, eight out of the 10 most surveilled cities in the world are in China with Chongqing, Shenzhen and Shanghai ranked first, second and third. You’ll guess one of the only two non-Chinese cities in the top ten: London. But, I bet you had no idea Atlanta is the 10th-most surveilled city in the world. Interestingly for those that somehow think surveillance and giving up our privacy and rights makes us safer, Comparitech found “little correlation between the number of public CCTV cameras and crime or safety.

The World’s Top Scrabble Country

We’ve probably played Scrabble only twice in our lives. So when we picture Scrabble players in our mind we see older women librarians’ friendly faces furrowed in concentration. Like most pre-conceived notions, ours is utterly wrong as we learned this week when reading that Nigeria is the Scrabble capital of the world. “The country is top-ranked in the world.” They are Scrabble mad in Nigeria and not just the librarians as this description of a recent tournament in Lagos testifies, “At one table sat Wellington Jighere, the 2015 World English Language Scrabble Players Association Champion, known for his quiet demeanor, fedoras, and Cheshire cat–like grin. At another, Olawale Fashina, nicknamed the Champion of Ten Continents, who won the African title, the Nigerian title, and the British title in the span of seven years — a rarity in the game — prepared to play. Bukunmi Afolayan, a Scrabble coach for Ogun state and one of the best female players in the league, sat nearby. Then there was Enoch Nwali, a university student studying human kinetics and health education, who at 22 is the youngest Nigerian in the masters category.” Our stereotypes of Scrabble players is matched by most people’s errant stereotypes of Africa in general, where a lot more is happening than people realize.

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