Uber

Why Uber Will Never Reach The Moon

By Andrej Mrevlje |

I got myself a $70 haircut across the street at Immortal Beloved, where Michelle Obama used to get hers. As it should be, the men’s barber is in the basement, and at first, I did not like the place. Then my splendid wife, who occasionally uses the upper floor of the salon, told me to try them out. I went across the street and inside, but had to come back a couple of hours later, because in every uppity hair salon there is no such a thing as a walk-in. You’ve got to make an appointment.

My hairdresser was young. He didn’t talk much but, robust as he was, with a baseball hat, long black beard, army pants, he somehow did not fit the place. He said he’d wanted to do something more peaceful after being in Fallujah. We said a few more words, about his daughter, the divorce, how he gave all his money from the army to his daughter. He is clean now, learned this new job. It was the first time in my life that I almost fall asleep while seated for a haircut. It was unusually relaxing, practically moving. What miracles humankind can produce. He went to kill when he was 17, and now, as my wife told me, he cut my hair perfectly. Washington D.C. is a thrilling city.

So the hair was done. Then I put a new shirt on, a blazer and my favorite boots. I was ready. Finally, I went to clean our car a bit more. It was a ritual, my way of saying goodbye to Uber.

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New World Order

The New Opium War : 5G

By Andrej Mrevlje |
On August 29, 1842, after the defeat in the First Opium War, China was forced to sign the Treaty of Nanking.

How long you must live, how strong your memory must be, to turn back and say, damn it, this world has really changed a lot. Look at the millennials, they seem to be better educated than the boomers, but they are sui generis in their thinking, seemingly inspired and shaped by memes rather than historical experience. The X generation that preceded the millennials was instead suffocated by the boomers, who hold their positions for too long, blocking the regular and continuous passage of power between the generations. Generation Y–the millennials–are equipped with technology and capable of multitasking, and have only recently started to make more decisive steps forward, penetrating the control rooms. The future of the world, therefore, seems dependant on the dialogue between them and technology.  

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Decline of America

Trump Wags the Dog

By Andrej Mrevlje |

We can all go to bed now. Or, as I wrote last week, we can turn our TV sets off.  When it happens, we will hear it. People will talk about it. Perhaps even, on that particular day, we may go out to buy a newspaper. They will write about it. As in the old days, the headlines will read in cubical letters: “President Trump resigns,” and “ Congress Impeaches the President.” Maybe even, “Former President Trump took into custody.” The latter, of course, may only occur if Trump is impeached and stripped of the presidential immunities that protect him from criminal prosecution.

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America

Dark Side of the Moon

By Andrej Mrevlje |
The Congress's new power

When, two weeks ago, 78-year-old Nancy Pelosi triumphantly lifted the gavel that empowers the new House majority to initiate the process of presidential impeachment, the Assembly exploded with joy. On the same day and the other side of the planet, the Chinese people were silently celebrating their conquering of the dark side of the Moon.

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Travel

Captive at Charles de Gaulle

By Andrej Mrevlje |
One of the three buses I travel with around CDG. Photo: Andrej Mrevlje

If you ever want to fly to America from Charles de Gaulle Airport, be sure that you are not landing in terminal 2F, as you might miss your flight, or even get arrested before reaching your point of departure, the Terminal 1.  But if you are starting your journey towards the U.S. from Charles de Gaulle, then you should be safe. However, my humble advice is to avoid the French capital airport whenever possible.

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China

Chopsticks for the 21st Century

By Andrej Mrevlje |
Chopsticks negotiations, Zhou Enlai and Richard Nixon, Beijing 1972

My first encounter with China was, oddly, at the top of the Empire State Building. I was a young student, and climbing to the top of the Manhattan landmark was the last thing I did before returning home from my first visit to the U.S., where I now live. I was not particularly thrilled, but was happy that I did it; still, I never went back. Anyway, just as I was preparing to descend, the Empire State opened another horizon to me. I was standing in line for the elevator when a large group of Asian tourists joined the line next to me. I took notice, stepping from the line to watch them interacting. From the little I knew about China, the badges of Mao on their blue uniforms told me this group of people, wearing cotton shoes, some of them silently holding hands, came from the other side of the world. When the elevator arrived, something unexpected happened: the Chinese group refused to step into it. With extreme politeness, they invited the crowd standing behind them to step up and fill the elevator to its full capacity. After the door closed, the Chinese group retook the front position, now holding it firmly, waiting for a new elevator. I don’t remember if I asked them why on earth had they refused to get into the elevator, but the only explanation for what they did was that they did not want to split the group; they wanted to wait until there was enough space for all of them in the elevator. They wanted to travel together.  

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Gig Economy

Amazon in the Mailbox, fine. But in my Backyard?

By Andrej Mrevlje |
Jeff Bezos opening Amazon Head Quarters in Washington DC and New York

I loved Amazon when it first appeared. It was the nineties, and I was living in Italy and then China, two countries that are strongly monolingual and therefore have a scarce number of foreign language bookstores. Rome for instance, with three and a half million inhabitants at the time, had a couple of English bookstores and one French, with a modest selection. Foreign books were rare and expensive objects; Italy, to protect its cultural heritage, had a high tax on them despite promoting the translation of texts into Italian, and dubbing all foreign movies. Besides being expensive, ordering different books from bookshops came by unpredictable mail service, labyrinthine customs control and, therefore, extended delivery delays. All this, of course, was before the existence of the world wide web and the installment of the common continental currency, the Euro. When those shifts occurred, the obstacles evaporated almost immediately.

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Trump Era

Can The Blue Wave Wash Away Trumpism?

By Andrej Mrevlje |
The moment Jim Acosta, CNN reporter, got expelled from the White House.

On the night of the midterm elections, my wife and I organized an open house, inviting friends and people from all walks of life to watch the results. The TV ran, but instead of staring at the screen and following the constant predictions of electoral victories and losses, people were interacting and getting to know each other. There was practically no politics mentioned, as the people in the room were evidently oversaturated with political debate. Around midnight, I think, one person announced that the Democrats had won the House, but — he opined — Trump won the elections.

A few minutes later, Nancy Pelosi, former Speaker of the House and Minority Leader since 2011, appeared on the screen declaring a Democratic victory, announcing a new day in America. It was somewhat grotesque. There is nothing new about the 78-years-old Pelosi. With ballots still being counted, the minority leader rushed on stage, surrounded by her colorful staff and two underage grandsons, and claimed her place as next speaker of the House, declaring that her leadership will restore democracy in the United States. Two days later, to ensure her position, she gave an exclusive TV interview on CNN, underscoring without a doubt that she will hold the gavel in the House again.

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Trump Era

Where Will Trump Land on China?

By Andrej Mrevlje |
Manufacturing in China. Photo: AFP/Getty

“China feels cheated by Trump many times — I think many countries that trade with the U.S. would understand,” said Wang Wen, a professor at Renmin University, in Beijing, who advises Chinese policymakers. “If he really wants conflict, then we’re not scared of conflict with the United States. We’re scared of not having channels to talk to the United States.”

This Washington Post article, reports on some cases that illustrate the difficulty Chinese officialdom is having trying to understand in which direction the U.S. political wind blows. “They do not seem to want to talk,” said Wang Yi, the Chinese Foreign Minister, complaining to a group of American business executives about how Beijing feels betrayed by an oscillating White House. “We don’t know if they’re uncoordinated, or if they’re negotiating in bad faith,” said Wang in September.

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Ubering

A Day at Uber University

By Andrej Mrevlje |
Uber view; 14th Street, NW, Washington DC,

“My son has very dark skin and unusual grey eyes. They are so intense that you first see his eyes and then the rest of his body,” said Mona, who I picked up for an Uber ride at nearby Howard University, located at northwest of D.C. Our conversation began when she asked about my name and how it was pronounced. It’s a question I’m often asked and, instead of the usual courtesies, I usually cut short the exchange by saying that my name was not meant to be pronounced. It’s my signal that I am ready to chat and put the interlocutors in a comfortable position. They giggle.

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