Sabbatical

New York summers.

Melissa’s parent’s apartment.

Sitting on the hot, brick steps of Low Library

The smell of empty Lehman Library.

New York winters.

Running in Riverside Park at dusk in the summer, guided by fireflies.

Drinks at Grand Central.

Bus to the guitar shop on Staten Island.

Brooklyn Cyclones and beers on the Coney Island shorefront at the bar at the end of the world

Loose leaf tea at the Hungarian Pastry Shop

The Columbia Marching Band.

VH1 Classics.

Udon West on rainy nights.

Blue mist around the Empire State Building

NFL

Geek conversations with Jay

Graduation

North Korean escapees

Santa Monica pier.

The East Village

Ferry from Hoboken

Laughter over a Reuben at Artie’s.

The Olive Tree.

Risk 2210AD accompanied by Ninja Tunes and tea.

Carl Von Clausewitz

View of Manhattan from the Amtrak

The 1

The Bangladeshi Economist vendor on 86th and Broadway.

Ollie’s

Salad bars.

14th Street Guitar World

18th Street City Bakery

IPI Event.

Dinner with the “Old Men”

TAs.

Browsing the PoliSci section at Labyrinth/Book Culture

Tea time on the 6th floor.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s in French

Walking home from 116th

Rachel, Stephanie, Maybel, Jing Lei, Seth, Shehab, Felix, Peter, Emily, Sacha, Emily, Dave, Alexandra, Marcy, Jennifer, Carne.

Soundtrack: Korn – Untitled. Radiohead – In Rainbows, Seal – System,  Ethnic Heritage Ensemble, the last three Iron Maiden albums, Death Magnetic, Unleashed – Black Horizon, Valgeir Sigurðsson, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan – Allah, Mohammed, Char, Yaar.

TV: BSG (Original Series), Cowboy Bebop, Buck Rogers (S1), Seinfeld, ST:TNG, ST:DS9, Scrubs.

Culture

“The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself.”

– Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Edge

Danny O’Brien has been blogging about what I think is an important and revolutionary idea for a while. This is an awfully shot video of him trying to explain it. Bear with it. Not only are there important social issues here but also the kernel of some awesome business ideas. If only I could see what they were.

NIN

Trent Reznor seems to be becoming a Linus Torvalds. By offering his latest album on the web for free and then inviting people to remix it and send him back their efforts, which he then releases as ‘official’ albums, the parallels with Linux kernel development seem clear. A creative commons license rather than a GPL but the methodology is identical.

Camp

Due to my protestant work ethic, when not in class, I spend most of my time in the library studying. Last term this meant I did not attend many of the lunch time talks from famous politicians, visiting academics or NGOs that occur almost every day on campus. I tried to rectify this somewhat this term, which has been made easier by my doing fewer classes. I’ve attended talks or conferences on the status of Middle Eastern studies, the state of Just War legal theories, Iranian politics and theories of Chinese International Relations but unfortunately missed Brahimi, Brzezinski and various ambassadors.

However today, I went to a lunch time talk with boy called Shin Dong-Hyuk. Shin was born in a concentration camp in North Korea and lived in this camp until the age of 23. He knew nothing of the outside world until he managed to escape and make his way into China and then onto South Korea 3 years ago. He has just written a book and is touring the US currently with an organisation called LINK. Listening to him describe his experiences and having the chance to ask him a few question was extraordinary. Without being facetious, it was as close as one gets to meeting someone from a different planet. Until he left the camp, he had no idea of anything beyond the walls of the camp. He had barely heard of Kim Jong-Il to say nothing of countries outside of Korea. The life he described was a combination of Orwell and Auschwitz. I was horrified to hear that he was kept under supervision by the government of South Korea for 6 months, while they confirmed that he was indeed from North Korea, but that they barely provided any transitional support at all. The centre they have for the (re-?) patriotation of North Koreans has 1 psychiatrist for 500 occupants. Meeting him today was truly a humbling and affecting experience.

If you want to read more about his life, there is a brief excerpt from this book here.

Alphabets

So I worked out why I have found it hard to get enthusiastic about Mexico.

My previous travels have almost all been in Europe, America, Asia, North Africa and the Middle East. What these areas have in common is their cultures and civilisations have left a mark. They created alphabets, discovered knowledge and propagated themselves in books. They are all profoundly written cultures and as such, their impact can be observed and felt in our contemporary society. I find them interesting because to understand them, is to understand myself and the world about me that little bit better.

Conspicuous by their absence from my travels have been Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa (with the exception of South Africa). Whilst pre-Colombian cultures did discover knowledge, writing and were relatively advanced for their time, I cannot see or feel their effect in my own, Western, Judeo-Christian cultural life at all. Wandering around a museum of artifacts spanning two thousand years, not one aspect of Latin American history had any resonance with me other than to impress upon me the fact that it no longer exists in any recognisable form. It pretty much failed absolutely.

I can understand why Latin American, and perhaps even Africa, appeal to people who enjoy carnival, partying and a multi-coloured good life. But, I need intellectual stimulation from my travels. I need to feel a connection with the location and these two continents have yet to make one for me.

The one exception to this is in regards to poverty. We passed by some slum areas on the bus yesterday, and I am appalled, fascinated and impressed by the ability of human beings to survive in extreme, basic conditions. Seeing the corrugated steel roofs over tiny boxes reminded me of how lucky I am to live in the West. I have felt the same thing when travelling in North Africa and wish I could have spent more time looking around the poorer areas of town here in Mexico City, but I have been wary of the crime rate. I am not a poverty tourist, but wish I could meet the people who live in these areas and learn more about their lives. To only experience the history of a city without seeing its present makes a trip incomplete.