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Speaking of cities

Somebody cut a square out of a shopping bag just so that they could smuggle this footage out of China in 1990. It depicts the Kowloon Walled City. The Walled City was an act of spontaneous, collaborative architecture in response to political and social upheaval — a spatial harbinger of what the internet would eventually look like.

Naturally, China destroyed it.

To get an idea of what the coverage of the City’s destruction was like, watch this:

Sidebar: The cheery tone of the news coverage might be unfamiliar or disconcerting to North Americans used to saturation levels of gravitas. But Japanese news is the same — almost soporifically cheery, as though you won’t notice the tragedy of a given situation if the broadcaster’s voice is high enough or the font curvy enough. (Kamiyama Kenji and Kon Satoshi have both done their best to lambast this tradition, and to great effect. But it’s hard to understand the commentary without some example of the source text.)

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  1. There’s an amazing book out there, expensive, hard to find, called City of Darkness,
    with extraordinary pictures of Kowloon Walled City (KWC):
    http://www.amazon.com/City-Darkness-Life-Kowloon/dp/1873200137

    Here’s a blog post I found about it:
    http://www.doobybrain.com/2007/08/22/kowloon-walled-city-city-of-darkness/

    There’s also a feature film shot inside KWC, called Bloodsport, and there’s a little clip on YouTube that gives an eerie flavour of the interior:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KEo6ogAnoZ8

    (tip of the hat to Eric Malboeuf for pointing various KWC resources out to me).

    • Thanks, Mark! I remember Bloodsport as “that movie my cousins always wanted to watch but which we could never tell my mom about.” I wonder what the filmmakers had to do in terms of getting permits.

  • Madeline Ashby…

    ...is a science fiction writer, futurist, speaker, and immigrant living in Toronto. She writes a column for the Ottawa Citizen. She is represented by Anne McDermid & Associates, and Jason Richman at UTA. You can buy her books here.

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