Thursday, December 4, 2008

Political Style


For a minute, it seemed like politics had regained some popularity in the United States. Electoral pre-amble seems to reignite some sort of flame under the American people, yet when push comes to shove, the voter turnout is always the same. It seems every electoral year, politics falls out of style faster than FUBU. Why?

I’m not sure that I have the answer to this question in entirety, but perhaps delving into a discussion on the matter will enlighten us in some respects.

In fact, this incipit is not entirely true. We quite enjoy politics… just in a different way.
Our fascination extends beyond our brief courting of it pre-election: think Jacqueline Onassis Kennedy, Che Guevara’s face, Churchill’s cigar, Mao’s Mole, Ben Franklin’s glasses… you chose the icon. We are obsessed with the grand images of leaders of old. The politics of today are what bores us.

Why do we remember them?

In one superhero movie, the following is said “People need dramatic examples to shake them out of apathy and I can't do that as Bruce Wayne. As a man I'm flesh and blood, I can be ignored, I can be destroyed; but as a symbol, as a symbol I can be incorruptible, I can be everlasting.” Another prevalent scholar noted “Returning to the question of being feared or loved, I come to the conclusion that, men loving according to their own will and fearing according to that of the prince, a wise prince should establish himself on that which is in his own control and not in that of others; he must endeavour only to avoid hatred, as is noted.”

The point is that image is everything if you want to “live forever” in the minds of the people. Batman realized that by using a costume he allowed himself to approach some form of immortality. Machiavelli’s The Prince is a manual describing which tactics to employ so that the prince might retain power. He dwells on the Prince’s image in the eyes of his people … and how to make the longest-lasting impression on them. It can be seen as a way for the prince to achieve immortality.

It seems that the image of the statesmen goes through a couple stages. The intention, as prescribed by Machiavelli, is to create a long-lasting reputation. Some do this with policy, others with physical image. However, time dictates how one appears in the annals of history. Therefore, despite their efforts, statesmen (and stateswomen) have a tendency to have a different legacy from the one they had imagined. To quote Gladiator, “How will the world speak my name in years to come? Will I be known as the philosopher? The warrior? The tyrant...? Or will I be the emperor who gave Rome back her true self?”

The stages:

First, there is an attempt to establish one’s self as an icon, that is a figure that is timeless, that will be remembered. (essentially the above-outlined ideas) The purpose of this is to create some type of legacy, a way to be remembered past one’s tenure as leader. Just look at the final terms of many past presidents or any King or Queen. Remember Qin Shi Huang’s Terra Cotta warriors? Or King Tut’s tomb?

Secondly, the “icon” image becomes something comparable to a costume. Consider Churchill’s cigar, Lincoln’s beard or Napoleon’s style. Were these accessories really necessary?

Lastly, as historical distance separates the present from these past characters, there is a branding stage. Yes, like marketing branding. Look at Che’s face… look at what Obama’s profile is becoming. The artist who created the now famous red white and blue Andy Warholesque pop-art campaign poster is selling his pieces for thousands of dollars. The idea is that an icon achieves something approximating logo status. Consequently, important figures are distilled into trademarks rather than ideas.

From our present vantage point, we can identify most of these historical characters. Unfortunately, they remain just iconic faces in our memories. Was Churchill a conservative or a liberal? Did you know that Napoleon was one of the first heads of state to provide Europe with a legal code? It is one of the most influential documents in the history of law. Did you know that John Fitzgerald Kennedy, America’s darling president, increased American forces in Vietnam from 800 to 16, 300 in what some historians consider the point of no-return culminating in the Vietnam war? Why then is he so popular? Because his wife was one of the most influential figures in style in the last 100 years?

In essence, my fear is that we forget what truly made these figures important. Though we undoubtedly will remember Barrack Obama as America’s first African American President, it is my fear that his promises (and presumably, or rather hopefully, his policies) will be equally recalled: multilateralism, universal healthcare, separation of state and interest groups etc. Somehow I sense that a hundred years from now, his photogenic looks and oratory skills will overshadow his actions.

"I will give you a talisman. Whenever you are in doubt, or when the self becomes too much with you, apply the following test. Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man [woman] whom you may have seen, and ask yourself, if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him [her]. Will he [she] gain anything by it? Will it restore him [her] to a control over his [her] own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to swaraj [freedom] for the hungry and spiritually starving millions? Then you will find your doubts and your self melt away."

Like Ghandi’s talisman, we should remember icons for what they represent, political persons for what they stood for.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Mos Def go and vote...



Though the elections are over in one country, they seem to be nearing the brink in another. With talk of coalition governments and confidence votes, it might soon be time for us (Canadians) to rekindle our democratic spirit (if there was one in the first place...).

Though the recent American elections were supposed to boast record turnouts, it seems that what resulted was the "same same but different"... that is almost the exact same percentage of eligible voters actually went to vote. In the spirit of my upcoming entry (stay tuned! its called political style!)... I will continue to post electoral matter whether topical or not. In fact, I believe it always is. We are never further than 2 years from an election and as one learned individual once said: "government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

Well lets keep it alive...

Friday, November 28, 2008

When the pants need to come off...

...Why make it complicated??

Velcro shoes, tear-away pants, button up shirts, easy release belt. Amazing. Christmas? anyone?? yes??

from engineered garments


And who said Chanel was soft??

Gangster Chic. As Lil Wayne might say: I got a 9 milli a milli a milli etc.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Bears, Beets, BATTLESTAR GALLACTICA!


This is a Question that has been bothering me for some time. Thanks to Gizmodo.com, I now have some sense of where the international space station stands in comparison to other important space-going vessels. Nerdy I know... just deal with it.

Monday, November 24, 2008

You CAN'T stand under my Umbrella ella ella ehh ehhh


Note: it is illegal to own an "Umbuster" in the state of Victoria, Australia.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Un(sarto)real


I recently traveled through Asia. It has become somewhat common knowledge that knock-offs are easy to come by there. This is true, but their quality is often suspect, and many of us have made fun of "Roleks" or "louis Buitton" if you know what I mean. Anyways, Asia also heralds some of the best tailors in the world. And though you can get "Hugo Boss" stitched into whatever it is you're getting made, I would not consider their craftmanship second rate. In fact, in my experience even the cheapest tailors in Asia rival the large "businesswear" establishments in North America.

When in Vietnam, I was in a town called Hoi An. Simple put, it was beautiful, a shining beacon in a country rought with a terrible history. The town has become famous for the number of tailors it boasts. Perhaps not as well-established is the number of cobblers. As with the suit cuts you can get that copy Canali or Armani etc. one can get shoes that are knock offs of Air Force One's (a personal favorite) etc.

Unlike the suits, however, the shoes are a little ghetto. The materials are just not up to par with real versions. The advantage of the fake tailored shoes, of course, is that they are fully customizable. The gap has been bridged and Nike has seen the light. New York's Soho distric boasts the NikeiD Bespoke 21 Mercer store, where 31 parts of the iconic Air Force one are fully customizable. Sick.

Check it: (click the pictures)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

At last, Premium Rye - (rī)1


There's Grey Goose, Chivas Regal, Moet et Chandon and Patron. Now there's a little something for Rye drinkers: (rī)1

Monday, November 17, 2008

Viva La Hova


Remember the Grey Album? Dj Danger Mouse's mix of the black album (by Jay-z) with the Beatle's White album? Now another DJ has taken Jigga's rhymes and thrown them over another artist's. Vival La Hova mixes Coldplay's most recent album, Viva La Vida, with Hova's smooth lines. (click the picture to check it out)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Friday, November 14, 2008

Kew


Something posted on Kanye West's blog...

One last election related thing...

This video made me chuckle...


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

yes we can


We learn throughout our lives of the great speeches delivered by the likes of Henry V, President Lincoln, Sir Winston Churchill and Martin Luther King Jr. It is, however, rare that we witness one first hand. Here is the transcript of President Barack Obama's victory speech. 

Hello, Chicago.

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

It's the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen, by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different, that their voices could be that difference.

It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled. Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of red states and blue states.

We are, and always will be, the United States of America.

It's the answer that led those who've been told for so long by so many to be cynical and fearful and doubtful about what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.

It's been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this date in this election at this defining moment change has come to America.

A little bit earlier this evening, I received an extraordinarily gracious call from Sen. McCain.

Sen. McCain fought long and hard in this campaign. And he's fought even longer and harder for the country that he loves. He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine. We are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader.

I congratulate him; I congratulate Gov. Palin for all that they've achieved. And I look forward to working with them to renew this nation's promise in the months ahead.

I want to thank my partner in this journey, a man who campaigned from his heart, and spoke for the men and women he grew up with on the streets of Scranton and rode with on the train home to Delaware, the vice president-elect of the United States, Joe Biden.

And I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last 16 years the rock of our family, the love of my life, the nation's next first lady Michelle Obama.

Sasha and Malia I love you both more than you can imagine. And you have earned the new puppy that's coming with us to the new White House.

And while she's no longer with us, I know my grandmother's watching, along with the family that made me who I am. I miss them tonight. I know that my debt to them is beyond measure.

To my sister Maya, my sister Alma, all my other brothers and sisters, thank you so much for all the support that you've given me. I am grateful to them.

And to my campaign manager, David Plouffe, the unsung hero of this campaign, who built the best -- the best political campaign, I think, in the history of the United States of America.

To my chief strategist David Axelrod who's been a partner with me every step of the way.

To the best campaign team ever assembled in the history of politics you made this happen, and I am forever grateful for what you've sacrificed to get it done.

But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to. It belongs to you. It belongs to you.

I was never the likeliest candidate for this office. We didn't start with much money or many endorsements. Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington. It began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and the front porches of Charleston. It was built by working men and women who dug into what little savings they had to give $5 and $10 and $20 to the cause.

It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generation's apathy who left their homes and their families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep.

It drew strength from the not-so-young people who braved the bitter cold and scorching heat to knock on doors of perfect strangers, and from the millions of Americans who volunteered and organized and proved that more than two centuries later a government of the people, by the people, and for the people has not perished from the Earth.

This is your victory.

And I know you didn't do this just to win an election. And I know you didn't do it for me.

You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead. For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime -- two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century.

Even as we stand here tonight, we know there are brave Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us.

There are mothers and fathers who will lie awake after the children fall asleep and wonder how they'll make the mortgage or pay their doctors' bills or save enough for their child's college education.

There's new energy to harness, new jobs to be created, new schools to build, and threats to meet, alliances to repair.

The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even in one term. But, America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there.

I promise you, we as a people will get there.

There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won't agree with every decision or policy I make as president. And we know the government can't solve every problem.

But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And, above all, I will ask you to join in the work of remaking this nation, the only way it's been done in America for 221 years -- block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.

What began 21 months ago in the depths of winter cannot end on this autumn night.

This victory alone is not the change we seek. It is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were.

It can't happen without you, without a new spirit of service, a new spirit of sacrifice.

So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility, where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves but each other.

Let us remember that, if this financial crisis taught us anything, it's that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers.

In this country, we rise or fall as one nation, as one people. Let's resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long.

Let's remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House, a party founded on the values of self-reliance and individual liberty and national unity.

Those are values that we all share. And while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress.

As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, we are not enemies but friends. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.

And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn, I may not have won your vote tonight, but I hear your voices. I need your help. And I will be your president, too.

And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces, to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of the world, our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand.

To those -- to those who would tear the world down: We will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security: We support you. And to all those who have wondered if America's beacon still burns as bright: Tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope.

That's the true genius of America: that America can change. Our union can be perfected. What we've already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that's on my mind tonight's about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She's a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing: Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn't vote for two reasons -- because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.

And tonight, I think about all that she's seen throughout her century in America -- the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can't, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.

At a time when women's voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.

When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs, a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.

When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.

She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that "We Shall Overcome." Yes we can.

A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination.

And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change.

Yes we can.

America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves -- if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?

This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment.

This is our time, to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth, that, out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope. And where we are met with cynicism and doubts and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can.

Thank you. God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America.


(note the usage of repetition, of building momentum within his audience, the humility, the honesty...) only time will determine his success, but until then, a world of possibilities has been opened and a wave of hope has swelled.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Remember, Remember....the 4th of November?

(From AP)

"Let us keep our heads. But let us not numb our hearts. Somewhere in a Burkean idyll, countless Americans who lived before us, the souls of so many black folk and white folk across the centuries, are watching. What would Washington have said? How could Lincoln believe it? How amazed would Martin Luther King be?

We are indeed on the verge of something that seems even more incredible the closer it gets, something more than a mere election. This is America, after all. It is a place that has seen great cruelty and hardship in its time. But it is also a place that yearns to believe naively in mornings rather than evenings, that cherishes dawns over dusks, that is not embarrassed by its own sense of destiny. In this unlikely mixed-race figure of Barack Obama, we will for a brief moment perhaps see a nation reimagined and a world of possibilities open up. For a brief moment at least.

As they have learnt to say in some of the most blighted parts of the world at some of the most desperate times: know hope."


From: Obama: I am the chosen one, by Andrew Sullivan

(...and I have a thing for stencil graffiti...)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Blueprint III???

Here I've been out of the country for a few months, and suddenly there are new albums getting released in November/December Or that have dropped by Jay-z, Common, Kanye, Eminem and the Game.


BLUEPRINT 3 from kwest on Vimeo.

And if that wasn't enough, apparently Lupe is re-releasing "The Cool" in a version remixed by J.U.S.T.I.C.E.

Is it just me? or are the CRS crew (Kanye, Lupe and Pharrell) really bridging the musical gap between hip hop and house/techno and rock?

whatever is happening with the genre, its a good thing... I'm tired of that Young Joc, Young this, lil that BS.

Designer Duds for Obama

Check it, the likes of Pharrell Williams, Jay-Z, Marc Jacobs have designed garb for Obama supporters available from the official Obama website. 
Click to check it out


In other news, we will be returning shortly with bi-weekly updates. November 7th. Mark it, write it, tattoo it to yourself. 

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The World as you've never seen it before...

The world as we know it:

Worldmapper is a collection of world maps, where territories are re-sized on each map according to the subject of interest.

This map shows the world's population at Year 1 CE

This map shows Oil depletion.

It is incredible how such a visualization helps one cope with the comprehension of information. Ie. the above oil map pretty clearly shows which country has consumed the greatest amount of oil...

The following topical quote is included: "My father rode a camel. I drive a car. My son flies a jet-plane. His son will ride a camel." - Saudi Arabian saying

Click either of the maps to check it out.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

When it comes to the most important meal of the day...

...you might as well keep it gangster.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

BMW - pushing design boundaries

Codename: GINA

Though this blog post was straight-up copped from the BBC's blog, I couldn't help it...this is some pretty sick design.





BMW has designed a car that uses fabric rather than carbon fiber, aluminum or some other material most cars are made of. In what can be called a shout-out to the Zeppelins of the 1920s and 30s, this design brings to light some interesting ideas. The flexibility and opacity of the material creating new possibilities. Though merely a concept car, I cannot avoid thinking of the Hindenburg disaster. Fabric has little structural strength to it, I am curious as to how this aspect will be approached.

The future is bright


Sometimes, they just do it right.

This poster reminds me of the trailer for the original Psycho move. The trailer was totally different from the normal. Starting with his classic "good afternoon", It involved Mr. Hitchcock touring the set of the movie, pointing to where major things occur noting how unlikely a location it seems to be in the day. He carefully draws you in, without in fact revealing any critical part of the movie. It is the most blatant of sales-pitches, yet succeeds in being-so. Whether its the cheekiness, or Hitchcock's quirkiness, it is one of the best trailers of all time. Not that the poster is a blatant sales-pitch (besides being a movie poster), it just evokes a similar cheekiness (this time by the joker) and draws us in with something that is in fact, quite simple.



Hitchcock at his finest

In other news, "Kanye West has teamed up with fashion brand Louis Vuitton to design a men’s shoe line, and will even venture into women’s wear this fall." is cheeky a theme for this blog? i guess so.

Kanye West, aka The Louis Vuitton Don: one Dapper Rapper

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Hot American Summer

The following is from an article in the NY times:

The Fourth of July is approaching and with it the promise, or threat, of another long, hot summer...

"It was now the third week in September; the dry, dust-laden air vibrated steadily to the rapid beat of the engine, though so close were the steam and the air in temperature that no exhaust was visible but merely a thin feverish shimmer of mirage. The very hot, vivid air, which seemed to be filled with the slow laborious plaint of laden wagons, smelled of lint; wisps of it clung among the dust-stiffened roadside weeds and small gouts of cotton lay imprinted by hoof- and wheel-marks into the trodden dust."— “The Hamlet,” by William Faulkner

...It serves as a reminder, as if there were any danger of forgetting, that of all the seasons, summer can be the cruelest.

Winter’s punishments fall with blunt directness: short days, frigid nights, the blizzard that brings our activities to a halt. Summer bewitches and betrays. It seduces with gentle breezes and bursts of color, with languorous days and with the lure of freedom and idle hours. But daylight can yield to the forces of what Walt Whitman once called the “mad naked summer night.” Inhibition melts away, like so many protective layers, and our darker selves emerge. The days and nights of unrelenting heat put people on edge. Tempers grow short, nerves fray, pent-up frustrations suddenly erupt...


Please read the rest...

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Hip-Hop : is the medium the message? or are message and medium independent?





The above discussion analyzes whether political messages in hip-hop are useful. John McWhorter has published a new book entitled All About the Beat: Why Hip-Hop Can't Save Black America.

Having not read the book, my comments are purely based on the full-length video available here.

This discussion, and likely this book, delves into an interesting debate: the value of hip-hop. There is a broad range of opinion. Many approach it at the distance Rock and Roll was approached by previous generations, that is to say with disgust. Such people do not like its sound, its messages and its style. The converse would be those who embrace every aspect of it. Yet there is a middle-ground: appreciation of pure aural aesthetics, verse whit, lyricism, flow etc. and a combination of all of the above. John McWhorter questions the potential of political messages in hip-hop. He notes the repetitive rhetoric hip-hop music contains such as "f*ck the police" and "I sell crack". Missing, McWhorter notes, are some of the crucial issues affecting black people - HIV/AIDS - . Yet hip-hop as an art form is not race-specific. Further, when hip-hop is employed in its common context of the 'hood, it is often used in the form of a reaction rather than for the purpose of making a positive point. In other words, it is an outlet rather than a platform. But then again, it can also be used as a platform... In essence, McWhorter's efforts to distill this artform to such a specific generalization fails to appreciate the overbearing purposes behind the artform. That is that it is multifaceted. His optimistic reverence for activism further filutes his understanding of hip-hop that does focus on the issues he wishes they focused on. He underestimates the impact of media on peoples' opinion and understanding; that to many, our only glimpse into several grave matters is hip-hop.

Does the medium overpower the message? McWhorter thinks so. He believes in the musical merit it contains, but that the message is muffled.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

What's in a name?


Cathay Pacific is known for being one of the world’s top airlines. Unlike many national carriers that sacrifice everything from the peanuts they serve you to free checked baggage, Cathay has always been known for its great level of service. OK, enough tooting their horn.

At first I thought the name Cathay was just something that sounded somewhat sleek, something like a cross between café and Cathy. Because this is Hong Kong’s airline, I thought that maybe the name was intended to be neutral, so as not to stir Asia’s spider’s nest of geopolitical positioning.

Was I ever wrong.

Cathay is, in fact, what Medieval Europe called China. This name was created courtesy of Marco Polo, the man who brought spaghetti to Italy, who westernized the word Khitan, the name of a ruling Northern-Chines tribe.


The world’s greatest encyclopedia outlines the etymological progression.


Mongolian/Classical Mongolian: Khyatad (Хятад) / Kitad
Uyghur (Western China): خىتاي, Xitay
Kazakh: قىتاي, Қытай, Qıtay
Kazan Tatar (Central Russia): Qıtay
Russian: Kitay (Китай)
Medieval Latin: Cataya, Kitai
Spanish: Catay
Italian: Catai
Portuguese: Cataio
English: Cathay


It also notes that the word China is almost as old as Cathay, it is just that the popularization has changed over time.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The United States of Cuba?


In perhaps one of the biggest “we’l see” moments of the 21st century, Raul Castro has implemented his first socialist-challenging reform in Cuba. Since coming to power in February of this year, Raul has implemented several reforms, mostly involving the lifting of restrictions. For instance, in April, Cubans were allowed, for the first time, to own mobile phones. He has lifted several other restrictions allow Cubans to rent cars, stay in hotels and buy DVDs.

The most recent reform, however, involves abolishing equal pay for all citizens. Raul has proposed a system in which workers would receive bonuses for meeting and exceeding targets. To say the least, this challenges the fundamental socialist framework Cuba has utilized since the beginning of the revolution in 1959.

The world economic system, especially in the period between 1940s and 1990s, was divided between two primary ideologies, capitalism and communism. To be fair, both contained reasonable ideas. On the one hand, communism embraced equality, whereas capitalism encouraged workers, rewarding them the harder and longer they worked. At the end of the day (well actually… of the war), communism did not work, whether due to the inherent selfishness of humans, the incomplete and improper implementation of the system or poor leadership, amongst many other possible reasons.

Consequently, in the aftermath of the fall of the Soviet Union, the world witnessed a massive shift towards liberal economies. From the breakaway states of Russia to South America to South East Asia, new markets were opening everywhere. Even China, the only real communist power left, was showing major cracks with its Special Economic Zones, and booming manufacturing centers. It no longer was a bipolarized world, with few exceptions; capitalism was the world’s economic system.

Yet one state had always held out, a seemingly perpetual thorn in the side of capitalist America. Unlike other communist states, formed out of revolution with clear communist ambitions, Cuba’s revolution is (yes, it is still considered to be ongoing) one that was founded on the premise of ousting a corrupt government that had more or less sold the country to America. It wasn't until the educated leaders of the revolution, namely Che and Fidel, reacted to American hostility (caused by the losses its companies suffered stemming from the revolution) by implementing a Marxist socialist system. (Some have suggested that Fidel and especially Che always had socialist designs for Cuba, however, it is unproven).

Is this newest reform going to end 49 years of revolution? Can a socialist country that has survived the fall of communism, boast higher literacy rates than the United States, have total universal health care and one of the most self-sufficient Agriculture systems in the world continue to survive with economic liberalization pressures coming from every angle?

…“We’l see”


More on Cuba

Monday, June 9, 2008

An Assault on Hockey



CTV, owner of TSN has bought the rights to the CBC’s (Canada’s national broadcaster) Hockey Night in Canada theme song. Their winning bid, the product more of emotion than actual fair competition, has given them exclusive rights to playing the classic song in their coverage.

This is the second aggressive attempt by CTV to oust CBC from broadcasting hockey. Their other move was to win exclusive broadcast rights to hockey during the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. Unfortunately for TSN, the song has no bearing on the quality of a hockey broadcast.It is also unfortunate that viewers widely perceive TSN’s hockey coverage to be vastly inferior to that of CBC. Perhaps it is the incoherent ramblings of TSN’s Pierre McGuire, his abilities to choose the most random players as his Monster of the Game (read player of the game). The incredibly lackluster analysis, that utilizes “experts” who have themselves had little actual hockey experience, unlike CBC’s veteran team of coaches and players. Whether one considers production value, whit, color commentary or play-by-play, TSNs subordination is evident. When one thinks hockey commentary, do they think Don Cherry? Or Pierre McGuire… Hockey is Canada’s national sport, it needs to remain nationally broadcast by our nation’s broadcasting corporation.

(for more, click here)

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Best Show on Television

"In March 2008, Presidential hopeful Barack Obama was quoted in US Weekly Magazine as saying that The Wire is the best show on television"

Obama was interviewed as saying the same thing here. He notes his favorite character as being Omar. Omar is a rogue gangster, who robs drug dealers to earn his living. He is a tough yet three dimensional character, being one of the most feared thugs on the street, and a homosexual.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

The $100 Laptop

I have always been somewhat skeptical of the idea of one laptop per child. Creating a cheap enough laptop so that every child in the world might “join the 21st century” and profit from the benefits from having a laptop. MY skepticism I think stemmed from grade 8 high school, when the School Board provided out school with brand new computers, complete with DVD players, high-end computer processors and large displays. A rough estimation at the time led us to conclude they cost upwards of $2000 (for a non-government consumer). Though the idea of using such computers was conceived for the purpose of improving education, they were never used, and so went to waste $2000 (multiplied by around 100, for the number bought).

My second level of criticism arose from the notion that the laptop would use wireless Internet. But where would a child in remote Cambodia have access to wireless internet?

Well, I was pretty wrong… my first time seeing one in use (on the bus) really led me to reconsider my previous held opinion. Not only did it look pretty cool (the guy was reading documents on it like one would with a $2000 tablet computer) it helped underscore the ideas it represents.


In fact, the $100 computer represents perhaps the embodiment of a new era in technology as a whole. It is an amalgamation of some of the newest ideas in technology, especially with regards to such things as peer-to-peer networking and open source programming.

Open source represents something approaching a democratization of software development. It is the idea that a program is created “open” so that anyone might be able to view the code, and create their own off-shoot programs, or improve on the existing program. The advantage of this is that rather than spending millions on a giant team of engineers, the entire world becomes your team…for free. Windows would be an example of a non-open-source program, whereas Firefox would be an open-source product. Windows Vista has been considered one of the greatest technological regressions of the 21st century, as noted by www.cnet.com. This perhaps a reflection of their inability to compete with programs such as Apple OS/X with regards to its open-source core, allowing its flaws to be dissected and then fixed in real-time, rather than by one team of engineers, releasing service packs etc. several months later. Another example of open-source, is Wikipedia, in that it provides articles that can be edited by anyone. Though this sounds sketchy, in that any unqualified person might write their own article, this platform ensure that these articles are in a sense, peer-reviewed. On an analysis of Wikipedia compared with the Encyclopedia Britannica, it was discovered that the accuracy of Wikipedia is the same or better. (An article on the study)

The brilliance of open-source is that it does not limit knowledge to one single origin. One might distill open-source to technological democracy, rather than its old oligarchic dominance by a small set of giant companies (ahem, Microsoft).

Peer to peer networking embraces a similar idea of sharing something for an overall improvement. Rather than ideas, a peer-to-peer network enables computers to benefit from the cumulated bandwidth of a group, rather than the limits of one central server. An example of this is the SETI at home (search for extra-terrestrial intelligence) which capitalizes on the leftover bandwidth of member computers (those who signed up to their website) rather than rely on one super computer to crunch data. Check it out HERE.
The $100 computer uses an idea stemming from this, called mesh networking, to enable Internet for students even in the most remote regions of a country.

The rising market-shares of Firefox, linux based programs, Wiki applications etc. underscore the future of open-source. Bit torrent, SETI at home, the importance of Peer-to-peer networking. In sum, Social Production (as open-source and other similar ideas are called, vs. Market Production) is the future.

However, there is one speed bump. Intellectual Property laws and the monopolizing corporations etc. are limiting this innovation. Not that law is bad, it is just that the evolution of technology is moving at a faster-pace than jurisprudence. It is, however, more likely these corporations and laws that will be required to mold themselves to the new wave of decentralized social production, as this new methodology proves its capability to compete with the biggest companies in the business.

And the $100 laptop? To say the least, it is an investment in the future.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Bonowned

Another year

For 12 of the last 18 years she has been under house arrest...and despite the junta's relaxation of policies against humanitarian agencies wishing to provide aid for cyclone victims, she will be there for another year.



Aung San Suu Kyi

Read this and this

The Thomas Crown Affair

What do the Mona Lisa, the Scream, and a gold box by Bill Reid have in common?


They have all been stolen (and, with the exception of this last, returned).




The Scream has been stolen twice, once in 1994, and once in 2004, when it was held for ransom.





In 1911, the Mona Lisa was stolen by Italian workman Vincenzo Peruggia. "Annoyed by how many Italian works were in the French collection, Peruggia took the Mona Lisa from the wall of the Louvre while he was alone in the room and walked out with it under his smock.

It was missing for two years - but the French public queued in their thousands to see the blank space on the wall and the Mona Lisa's fame was guaranteed."

Now there is a bullet-proof casing surrounding the artwork, preventing other walk-by pilferings.



On Saturday, May 24th, 2 million dollars worth of artwork was stolen from the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia. Most notably stolen were several pieces in gold made by renown native artist Bill Reid, maker of this:


(NOTE: this was NOT stolen)

Though the Thomas Crown Affair is highly fictional, there are elements that are not.

In the still pending case of the missing gold pieces from the Museum of Anthropology, INTERPOL has been called to provide assistance. The FBI also has its own "Art Crime Team" consisting of "12 special agents." Don't believe me? check it out here They even have their own sweet badge:



"Bust-ed"

"Frieze! or I'l shoot!"

"He was caught using a semi-monochromatic"

Fine I'l stop with the art-cop jokes.

Check out the top heists of all time.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

They Say Lil Wayne is the Best Rapper Alive...


Please reconsider.




It ain't hard to tell...



Nas is like...



Half man, half amazing

Friday, May 23, 2008

American news blank.

HAH!

watch this video. I HOPE not to be stuck in this world.





I must bring out this quote again:

"To those who say people wouldn't look; they wouldn't be interested; they're too complacent, indifferent and insulated, I can only reply: There is, in one reporter's opinion, considerable evidence against that contention. But even if they are right, what have they got to lose? Because if they are right, and this instrument is good for nothing but to entertain, amuse and insulate, then the tube is flickering now and we will soon see that the whole struggle is lost. This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box… "

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Myanmar - random facts.


Myanmar is a state of some 55 million inhabitants. In 1988, the country was taken over by a military dictatorship, which remains in power despite free elections in 1990, resulting in the election of Aung San Suu Kyi (see here). Though it is presently named Myanmar, many countries, including Canada, the United States and Australia have refused to adopt this title in official policy, in an effort to undermine the authority of the ruling junta. Though this is wonderful solidarity, it seems to pale in comparison to the continued human rights violations perpetrated by the ruling dictatorship, and the lack of freedoms the citizens of Burma continue to experience, including the continued detainment of their democratically elected leader. Though western countries hold few strings when it comes to influencing Burma’s domestic policies, China does. It is also another country that has refused to adopt the modern, dictatorial “Myanmar”.

Also...junta is a word stemming from Spanish and Portuguese signifying “a military or political group that rules a country after taking power by force” – I did not know this, and thought I would share the discovery.

In 2005, the capital of Burma was moved from the coastal city of Yangon (Rangoon) to the brand new city of Naypyidaw, located in a more strategic, central inland region. In fact, the city was founded this same year. Despite the problems associated with moving and entire government into a brand new city (no stores, no schools, no hospitals, no police, no telephones etc.) things have ironed themselves out, as the shiny new capital is now home to some 900 000 people, complete with working phones, hospitals, schools and even its own vast slums.

Some have called this new mountain-top capital a fortress in which the ruling General Than Shwe might maintain his military power. It is said that the chosen date of inauguration of the city was suggested from his astrologist, as this day would give General Shwe unending military power.

Others, however, see this mountainous citadel as a way for the General to hide from his own people...

"People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people." - V for Vandetta

Or as one philosopher put it...

"the prince who has more to fear from the people than from foreigners ought to build fortresses, but he who has more to fear from foreigners than from the people ought to leave them alone."

(check this out)

Sunday, May 11, 2008

“The Question should not just be why is there war, but also, why is there peace.”


The response to violence is often reactionary. The word vendetta, originally from Italian, describes a situation in which the family of a murdered person seeks vengeance. In law, one is legally allowed to use violence in self-defense. “it is the right for civilians acting on their own behalf to engage in violence for the sake of self-defense of one's own life or the lives of others, including the use of deadly force.” In international law, jus ad bellum describes the circumstances under which a country might legally go to war. This includes the right to react violently to aggression, preemptive war etc. An increase in violent crime is treated with increased police enforcement. The language of violence at every level focuses more on the act itself than the desired state of its resolution. In conflict resolution, one tends to analyze what causes violence, rather than what leads to peace.

There is no fault in focusing primarily on the violent aspects of conflict. In approaching such conflicts as the Rwandan genocide, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or the Palestine-Israel dispute, it is critical that the origins of the violence are understood. Any given resolution will be required to deal with the causes as well as the consequences of the wars. There is, however, a void in analysis of the aftermath. Why is there peace?


Despite the prevalence of violence in today’s news coverage, the last 100 years have been the most peaceful in human history. Why is this? Steven Pinker proposes four reasons:


Firstly he says Thomas Hobbes was right, the state of nature is solitary, nasty, brutish and short, and as a result, one is tempted to engage in conflict so as not to have it inflicted upon them by another actor. His solution to this is the Leviathan, one overbearing agent with a monopoly on the use of violence, capable of punishing perpetrators, thus reducing the temptation for smaller actors to engage in such savagery as in the state of nature. This would stem the usage of preemptive invasions and revenge acts. Pinker sites the rise of strong central governments in Europe, which coincided with a decline in violence. Today, he notes, violence is often the product of anarchic circumstances, he sees this as further supporting Hobbes’ logic.

Secondly, Pinker sites political scientist James Pain’s arguments. Pain opines that life is cheap, but with technology, civilization, life-spans have become much longer, resulting in individuals placing more value on their lives. Consequently, one is less likely to inflict violence on someone else, the more they perceive their own life as valuable.

Thirdly, Pinker cites journalist Robert Wright’s insight into game theory. Wright has proposed the accepted benefits of the non zero-sum game. Co-operation is more likely to benefit both parties in a greater way. Trade, globalization, and the interconnection resultant of increased technological means for positive interactions most often exemplify this.

Lastly, Pinker notes Peter Singer’s expanding circle theory. This contends, “Evolution has bequeathed humans with a sense of empathy.” That is, we inherently treat people in a manner comparable to the way we ourselves wish to be treated. (Think golden rule). This empathy is firstly applied to the smaller circle comprising of family and friends. Singer, however, suggests that over time, this has expanded to include the village, city, province, state etc. It is said that this is likely the product of cosmopolitanism, education and the logic of the golden rule.


Steven Pinker asks us not only to think about what we have done wrong, but also what we have done right….

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Top 5s explained.

Somewhat of a deviation from previous discussions, I shall now “dabble” into the realm of top 5s.

What are they? They are the listing of what one considers their top 5 choices in any given subject matter. At the most rudimentary level, they are a form of entertainment, yet they offer incredible insight. Five strikes the perfect balance between a detailed list and a small sampling. It allows one to selectively chose their favorites without creating a massive exhaustive tome. It is a chance at seriously delving into someone’s interests:

Top 5 movies:
1) The Godfather
2) Apocalypse now
3) Good Night and Good Luck
4) O Brother Where Art Thou
5) The Gods Must be crazy

or swim in the completely random,

Top 5 “YE”’s:
1) KanYE
2) YEmen
3) they be like ludah, and I belike YEEEEAEAAAHHH
4) YEast
5) YEltsin


On that note,

Top 5s… go.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Aung San Suu Kyi


(her name in Burmese)


Sorry for the crudeness of the following, but no matter what, I probably couldn't do it justice anyways.

When one thinks of top 5 best human beings ever, names like Nelson Mandela come to mind. There are others flying under the radar.

Her commitment to the peaceful democratization of her country is humbling.
Aung San Suu Kyi is the rightfully elected Prime Minister of Burma, aka. Myanmar. Instead, she has been under house arrest for the better part of the years between her election in 1990 and the present day. She is also the only Nobel Peace Prize winner to be living under house arrest. On April 25th, 2008, the US Congress Awarded Mrs. Suu Kyi the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award in the US. Though meaningless in light of the continuation of the military dictatorship within Burma, when one considers the other non-American recipients of the Congressional Gold Medal, (Sir Winston Churchill, Pope John Paul II, Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama and Mother Theresa ) one sees her place in the abovementioned top 5…

In his book entitled “Courage: Eight Portraits”, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown accurately describes Mrs. Suu Kyi.

"Suu Kyi's courage is the courage to sacrifice her own happiness and a comfortable life so that, through her struggle, she might win the right of an entire nation to seek happy and comfortable lives. It is the absolute expression of selflessness. Paradoxically, in sacrificing her own liberty, she strengthens its cry and bolsters its claim for the people she represents."


Despite their attempts to bring Burma to the forefront of Human Rights awareness, I feel like it comes across like a PSA... whatever, the cause is important.
New York Times Article on US campaign for Burma.

What the article is talking about.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

And that’s how I started using post-its…

Like a carrot, the green leafy bit is only the beginning.


She told me her grandfather was a decorated war hero in World War One, for the Germans, not for the allies. It wasn’t until the Second World War that these accomplishments really proved their worth. As Hitler rose to power in the 1930s, being a Jew living in Berlin, her grandfather was aware of the present possible need to vacate Germany. Perhaps it was that fervent desire to stay at home, or the political connections and respect he had gained as a war veteran, but the family decided to stay. When the raids started, they were fine, the political connections held, and the soldiers didn’t arrest them, they had a coded knock which cued the occupants to quiet-down, pretending no one lived there. There became a point during which it became harder and harder for this ruse to continue until a point at which the soldiers told them they should probably leave. This advice was taken, and they made their way to Florence, where they set out to find a country still accepting Jewish refugees. During the war, countries created a refugee quota system, only accepting a certain number of refugees from each European country. This has has been considered to be an extremely controversial policy, as few refugees were accepted, making some question the appropriateness of the allied response to the massacre that was taking place in Europe. (Though the extent of western knowledge of the holocaust is disputed, in that the goings on in the death-camps may or may not have been known, it was pretty clear that genocide was occurring, and that people needed to be saved). But I digress…

One of the few countries still letting in Jews was Israel, but upon attempting entry, the family was turned back at Suez. There was another country accepting refugees…China. In fact moving here was not the intense cultural experience it might have been at another time, as there was a growing community of Jewish people in Shanghai, the result of a world of closed doors.

In fact many such communities have impacted China. At the turn of the century, the town of Qingdao was ceded to Germany, after its strategic importance was deemed valuable to the European state. Physical occupation lasted until World War One, but with longer lasting effects. In 1903, German settlers founded the Tsingtao brewery, whose beer is probably the most famous of China. Equally, in Shanghai, there are still signs of the Jewish settlement in the form of Museums a thriving Jewish community and Synagogues.

She then told me how her grandfather, holding a PhD in Philosophy was always told that he had achieved a degree in nothing. (Though I must personally contest the importance of philosophy, I happen to hold it in very high regard, I must admit, especially at wartime; the demand for such trained individuals is not as high as for others with training in more practical applications). Coming to terms with this reality, he employed his skills as an orthopedic shoemaker instead. Something he was able to rely on throughout his 12 years in China.

It was her father that was in a tougher position. Having been too young to have achieved substantial schooling before the war, he had little to fall back on in their new home of Shanghai. After the Japanese invaded in 1937, however, he was given an opportunity. Her father was a boxer with some experience under his belt, and the Japanese, seeking entertainment for their troops, employed him. The Japanese, though, with propagandistic interests in mind, placed her father in bouts with boxers in much heavier weight classes. The result was quite punishing, not only in terms of temporary physical damage, but long-term memory effects as well.

While growing up, she told me how her family had developed the practice of constantly helping her father with his memory. This entailed exercises to help stimulate memory, such as remembering number sequences etc. In fact, her father was only able to remember certain things when written in list-form. Though this was targeted to help the dad, it also helped the children. She explained to me how IQ testing was still a general practice at that time. Though it doesn’t speak volumes for IQ tests, the at-home memory practice had paid off. To her mother’s dismay and contention, her teacher considered her a genius and brilliant student based on her off-the-chart scores. The teacher explained that she was capable of memorizing number sequences and reciting them forwards and backwards etc. Her mother’s response was simply “well, that’s what we do at home every day”. … “and that’s why I use tons of post-it notes”…explained my boss. I don’t really understand the connection, wouldn’t memorization abilities render post-its useless? I suppose she was emphasizing the writing of lists (to then be memorized), in any case, just another day at the office.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

HS, SS... and no we are not talking about ships.



Human Security has been defined as the following by the UN Development Program (UNDP):

• Economic security (assurance of basic income)
• Food security (physical/economic access to basic food)
• Health security (minimum protection from disease and unhealthy lifestyles)
• Environmental security (protection from short and long-term ravages of nature/ protection from man-made threats/ protection from deterioration of natural environment)
• Personal security (protection from physical violence: from state/external state/individuals etc.)
• Community security (protection from loss of traditional relationships and values and from sectarian/ethnic violence)
• Political security (whether people live in a society that honors their basic human rights)

Stemming from this, there are two methods for achieving the above ends.

First there is what is called Freedom from Fear. This is considered to be the most pragmatic approach to HS, as it seeks to achieve protection from physical violence while still acknowledging the linkages of this form of security to the above listed areas. It is this approach that Canada has taken as its foreign policy initiative (check the links on the right, under Places to go, things to see).

The other approach is called Freedom from Want. This method contends that the elements defining Human Security (above) are inseparable. This strategy has a strong emphasis on development, where Freedom from Fear might emphasize peacekeeping, disarmament and treaties banning weapons systems, such as land mines. The fact that this approach aims to alleviate threats in so many areas has led it to be considered less feasible in the current state of affairs.

However, at present, we see the linkage between the seven elements defining Human Security. The passage quoted on April 22nd, from the New York Times, outlined how rising food costs have led to widespread demonstrations and violence in Haiti. In other regions of the world, the food crisis has meant force dietary changes. In Liberia, the high price of rice has seen an increase in the consumption of pasta. (see this) Some have taken it lightly: "Liberians traditionally only eat rice with sauce. This might be an opportunity for us to diversify our diets," but perhaps more caution would be advisable.

As the Ebola virus, the West Nile virus, SARS, Bird Flu, Bovine spongiform encephalopathy and HIV/AIDS have so morbidly confirmed, the linkages between animal disease and human disease are not negligible. The present food crisis notwithstanding, Africans have been diversifying their diets for decades, turning more and more towards animal-consumption. In 2006, 600 million wild animals and 2 billion kilograms of bush meat were consumed on this continent.

In essence, the case for Human Security over traditional State Security (the type of security currently practiced by most states in what they perceive is a semi-anarchical international system. This is characterized by State-centred decision making, deterrence, the building of national power, large defense budgets, NATO, preemptive strikes etc.) is a strong one. With 85% unemployment rates, desertification, AIDS, drought, famine etc, the number of civil wars and genocides on one continent cannot be attributed to coincidence. There is a correlation here, and the solutions do no lie one state pitted out against another.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A little preview to the remix.

"In Haiti, where three-quarters of the population earns less than $2 a day and one in five children is chronically malnourished, the one business booming amid all the gloom is the selling of patties made of mud, oil and sugar, typically consumed only by the most destitute.

“It’s salty and it has butter and you don’t know you’re eating dirt,” said Olwich Louis Jeune, 24, who has taken to eating them more often in recent months. “It makes your stomach quiet down.”"

Social Unrest
and the failure to provide human security.

The notion of Human Security opines that by guaranteeing protection from seven fundamental vulnerabilities, one can establish security not only for a state as a whole but for every individual within. This paradigm is in contrast to that of state-security, an approach that places the state front and centre as the primary actor with regards to furnishing, discussing and breeching security. This last is what we most commonly see in International Relations; the UN Security Council, NATO, realism, the prisoner’s dilemma etc. being exemplifications of State Security in actual application…

The above excerpt is an example of the issues at hand, I shall delve further presently.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

food for thought... in light of current crises.

"An armed conflict between nations horrifies us. But the economic war is no better than an armed conflict. This is like a surgical operation. An economic war is prolonged torture. And its ravages are no less terrible than those depicted in the literature on war properly so called. We think nothing of the other because we are used to its deadly effects...The movement against war is sound. I pray for its success. But I cannot help the gnawing fear that the movement will fail if it does not touch the root of all evil - human greed."

-M.K. Gandhi

Thursday, April 17, 2008

"It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves" -Edmund Hillary

(Cotopaxi 5897 meters viewed from Illiniza 5248 meters, near Quito, Ecuador)

Having grown up near mountains, I had accepted the local examples as epitomes of the geological/geographical feature. It wasn’t until I traveled to South America that I was put in my place. It is difficult to appreciate the majesty of a mountain without it being placed next to a familiar reference point. Generally, this is difficult, as a mountain range is constituted of similarly shaped mountains. It is no coincidence that all of the worlds’ 8000+ meter mountains are found in the Himalayas.

(this is K2, 8611 meters)



(This is Mauna Loa, Largest Volcano on Earth, and one of the primary constituent of the largest of the Hawaiian Islands. What looks like no more than a hill with a touch of snow on the top is in fact a 4169 meter beast, that if measured from the ocean bottom is actually the second largest mountain on earth. (second only to its neighboring peak Mauna Kea, which when measured from its real base, at the bottom of the ocean, is around 10 000 meters high) )


Perhaps one of the best ways to appreciate the grandeur of a mountain is actually being there on one rather than gazing from afar. Hiking in the Andes, an endeavor that despite its general failure to evoke much excitement at its utterance, is probably what really opened my eyes to the sheer massiveness of the range. Like how Ron Burgundy described jogging as “apparently you just run…” hiking is just walking, but at an altitude where something so simple becomes more like a struggle between life and death. Though my description sounds extreme, I can assure you that this is little exaggeration when at 5000 meters above sea level. In fact, altitude-sickness is deadly, causing cerebral and pulmonary edema, which can lead to death in young, healthy, fit individuals. The point is that the body’s need for oxygen becomes terribly evident when the air is thin. What would normally be a simple stroll becomes a battle requiring every ounce of strength in your body. The first 100 meters of ascent may take 30 seconds, the last 100 meters towards the summit of a 5000+ meter mountain may take an hour.


video
(trying to breathe at 5200 meters)

It was upon seeing the Big Mountain Skiing documentary “Steep” that my admiration for such landforms really flourished. This movie sketches the history of Big Mountain Skiing, the extreme sport of getting to the top of the biggest, steepest mountains and skiing down. Before it was popular, and skidoos and helicopters common, this would entail scaling a mountain covered in snow and ice in your ski boots with an ice pick in each hand and your skis strapped to your back. They said that the first location that really saw the rise in Big Mountain Skiing was Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, located in the French Alps, where France shares a border with Italy. The location of the 1924 Winter Olympic Games, Mont-Blanc massif towers over the valley below at a height of 4808 meters. Though the region is home to several different ski-hills, it is most notable for the hors-piste skiing it offers. With a glacier extending into the valley from Mont-Blanc, the vast amount of out-of-bounds skiable terrain is evident, and it still remains one of the primary hot-spots for trek-Big Mountain skiing (climbing up a mountain in ski boots, and then skiing down). Though inviting, the region has been nicknamed “death-sport capital of the world”, it’s enticing glacier, home to hidden crevasses, the peaks hiding potential avalanches. Many of the Big Mountain pioneers remain buried here.

(Whistler is 2181 meters)

Despite this morbidity, I cannot but let my mind wander, imagining staring down a 100 foot couloir, and the potential rush of adrenaline that might accompany it. It has also led me to reconsider my perception of skiing…and the mountains I grew up admiring. Is Whistler child’s play next to Mont-Blanc? Perhaps one day I will find out.

The Inca people regarded the Andes as Sacred; the citadel of Machu Picchu was a way for them to sanctity. The Sherpa people of Tibet and Nepal believe the mountains to be the dwellings of gods, making an offering before climbing, as a preemptive apology for intruding. To some extent, I think I see where they’re coming from…

Though a picture is said to speak a thousand words… indulge yourselves in the following knowing that they fail to really capture the grandeur of the featured mountains.

(Machu Picchu, Peru, 2400 meters)