Happy Birthday, Clearing Customs


On March 18, 2012, here’s what I wrote in my first post for Clearing Customs:

During our 10 years as missionaries in Taipei, Taiwan, we wrote about 120 newsletters. In each one, we included a small section on some news coming out of Taiwan, a fact about the country, or an insight on Chinese culture. When we came back to the States in 2011, we switched the topic from Taiwan to globalization. Globalization means different things to different people, but the aspect we focused on is how the world is shrinking and cultures are more and more interacting with and affecting each other.

Soon, we’ll write our last newsletter, but I wanted to continue gathering and sharing information on the aspects of globalization that interest me. The first few posts come from our newsletter, so some go back a little while, but I’ll be catching up soon. Thanks for joining me.

Since the beginning, I’ve written 415 posts here, and I do appreciate all who’ve joined in, with your views, likes, share, and comments.

And over the years I’ve enjoyed seeing links to my posts popping up in interesting places. For example, Syracuse University, George Washington University, and the University of South Wales have linked to this blog in their online courses. The Physician Assistant Education Association referred to a post in an article on cultural competence. And just last week, a writer for the Atlantic linked to a post in his review of a new album by the former lead singer of the Talking Heads.

It’s been fun for me, and I’ve learned some things along the way. I hope the same can be said for you.

[photo: “Happy Birthday Austin,” by kathryn, used under a Creative Commons licence]


“Clearing Customs,” the Album


Ever heard of Fred Frith? No? Then prepare to have your horizons expanded.

I Google-stumbled across Frith while looking for other instances of clearing customs on the internet. He’s a world-renowned experimental musician and college professor who, in 2011, released Clearing Customs, the album.

Born in Sussex, England, Frith has traveled the globe composing, performing, and teaching. He now lives in the US with his wife, German photographer Heike Liss, where he teaches at Mills College in Oakland, California.

Clearing Customs is an hour-long improvisational performance by Frith and other musicians using several instruments, including a Chinese gu zheng and an Indian mridangam and tabla.

To give you a taste of Frith’s kind of music, here’s a clip of him performing at a Mozg festival in Bydgoszcz, Poland. In it, he plays a guitar using a drum stick and a thin strap. As I watched it the first time, I thought, Hey, I could play a guitar with a drum stick. But I’m pretty sure Firth has more musical talent in his little finger than I have in my whole body. And I’m pretty sure he uses his little finger to play, as well.

Frith is also in the 2009 Canadian documentary Act of God, about people who’ve been struck by lightning. In the film, his brother, neuroscientist and author Chris Frith, measures the electrical impulses in Fred’s brain while he improvises on a guitar. In this way, the documentary compares the electrical activity of a storm to the electrical activity of the brain.

I wonder if Fred Frith will ever Google clearing customs, find my site, and blog about me. There’s probably about as much chance of that happening as the chance of me being struck by lightning (which, by the way, the National Weather Service says is 1 in 10,000, during my lifetime).

[photo: “Record Player,” by Ralf Heß, used under a Creative Commons license]