Monday, October 11 2004
Wherever you're standing, your sense of 'place' is largely a state of mind; it's meaning a construct of culture with connotations that change over time, because you change over time. In Mizota's case, living between two major US cities has caused an overlap in geography, a fusion of two separate cities into one that is a little of both, but not fully either place.
As the stretch limo crept along an access road to a large wall of strange shapes, my spirit died. This was what the long promised Magic Kingdom was all about? This was the Happiest Place on Earth? The Happiest Place on Earth slowly became the most miscreant marketing ploy on the planet.
Monday, October 4 2004
sterile and foreboding. Here, the modern worker goes home to a planned suburb of wide, empty sidewalks, landscaping devoid of birdsong, the soft blue glow of television sets pulsing through silent windows.
The irony of Washington, DC, repository of the nation's nostalgia, is that it is has no sense of its own past. For those who come, living here is just something that you have to do to get to where you eventually want to go. No one who stays is anyone of real power.
Las Vegas displays itself in a very calculated and contrived manner: to mark the point where over-the-top hits rock bottom; where perfect naiveté becomes indistinguishable from perfect cynicism. Every gleaming hotel tower, every simulacrum of an ancient wonder, was built not through some noble human aspiration for splendor or permanence, but for carefully harvesting the stupidity and cupidity of others.
You know the phrase, 'when hell freezes over'? Well, Saskatchewan is hot and cold as hell, for sure. It has super-heated feelings forged from the more frigid aspects of its history, but it also has its share of that bright, blue, heaven-like sky from which all manner of things may descend; be they ravishing insects -- or feelings of optimism.
In this ancient place of giant ferns and cedars, it seems the dead outnumber the living; the living fall away too quietly, too easily, taken away by stealth. There is tremendous natural beauty here, but its hold is tenuous, like moss clinging to rotting bark that will ultimately break and sink into the forest floor.
Monday, September 27 2004
In a city of millions where you are bound to rub elbows with those who rub you the wrong way, the availability of a healthy cathartic outlet is crucial. If, like Americans, Parisians could reach for a gun every time they stepped in some shit, which is as ubiquitous on the sidewalks as boulangeries, murder would reach pandemic levels. Thus, it is understandable why the government tolerates a certain level of transgression in exchange for a more sustainable peace.
In modern-day England, dedication to your locality, however creaking and crumbling that metropolis may now be, is more important than commitment to queen and country. Liverpool and Manchester, a mere 40 miles apart from one another, have always been, and most resolutely always will be, rabid rivals.
Among the most economically depressed cities in the EU, Glasgow is trying to get its citizens back on their feet, again, with a pep-talking campaign. But is this feel-good campaign just 'spit 'n shine' style over substance in a city that is firmly rooted in the manufacturing of substance?
When you live in the target zone of terrorists, the "distant future" is simply the present plus five minutes. One lesson of 9/11 was that, ultimately, real power comes with the ability to terrify. In that context, the concept of powerlessness felt by this disenfranchised population takes on fresh meaning. Staying here is one step toward manifesting the kind of strength that, as a DC resident, we aren’t normally allowed to have: a sliver of dignity in a humbled place.
Shanghai's entry into the global market is an ambivalent mixture of imitation and excess. Strolling the parks, a few old men still wear blue Maoist worker's uniforms, but they are anachronisms among scores of trendy young hipsters sporting their own sassy blend of Japanese, American, and European fashion. Shanghai is on its way up, but even in its own eyes, it hasn't quite arrived. The older housing, and the era it represents feel endangered, about to be swept away in a typhoon of construction.
In Madrid the spirit of La Movida, a liberating time comparable to Swinging London, lives on: well after the death of Franco; through the terrorist activities of the Basque separatists; and it will continue, in spite of 11 March 2004, when Al Qaeda killed civilians -- Spaniards, Moroccans, Ecuadorians, people from the Dominican Republic, Cuba and China -- during their morning commute.
Monday, September 20 2004
Since heritage tourism is Charleston's lifeblood, and the city's main attraction for heritage tourists is its status as capital of the preserved antebellum lifestyle, it might be said that Charleston still profits from slavery. Almost as soon as slavery ended, Charleston's plantations fell into disrepair. It was only in the 20th century that these dubious monuments were restored to financial viability as tourist attractions. Charleston may sell a cotton candy version of its history, but Yankees consume it as enthusiastically as southerners.
Post-apartheid South Africa is now 10 years into its new democracy. Hope and progress are evident in places like bustling Johannesburg, where daily commerce at all levels of the economic spectrum are evident from one's very doorstep. But a country so deeply torn by political and racial violence is still healing and redefining itself. While Johannesburg is not an easy place to live, one feels quite 'alive' being here.
The Real World shot a segment in Philadelphia, thereby christening this city 'cool' to those who partake of such artificial takes on 'reality', but that show can't even come close to what is really cool about this city. Leaving no stone unturned, Reynolds explores every aspect of this place deemed the 'Cradle of Liberty' -- its history, its music, its politics and people -- but it was the death of one little boy that showed him the real spirit of Philadelphia.
In Cairo nothing seems to work that well, and yet everything seems to work out. The city is rotting as much as it is growing. The dead and the living commingle. Seeming always on the verge of collapse under its own weight, Cairo is perpetually reborn.
This tiny sliver of Ecuador rocks: with the waves of the surrounding ocean; to the beats at the Saturday night discoteca; and under the teetering mass of the world its weight unrelenting as the pull of gravity and industry. This essay is presented in four parts.
Bristol's racial history is as complex as that of any other city, but in England, this city is a site of struggle over how exactly the nation's complex racial history will be managed in the future. Bristol may be picturesque, with its old stone buildings and plentiful parks, but its contemporary street names, such as 'White Lady' and 'Black Boy', proffer constant reminders of Bristol's relationship to its racial and imperial past.
December 2005 will mark the 100th anniversary of one of the fundamental principals of French republican ideology: the separation of Church and State. By way of preamble, and in conjunction with celebrations for the 60th anniversary of its liberation, Paris declared 2004 its "Year of Secularism". But one of France's paradoxes amongst its bourgeoisie seems to be that it is publicly a secular republic, but privately a Catholic state; simply professing the secularism of the Nation-State in no way guarantees religious tolerance. These are ideologically worrying times in France.