So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
Ethnicity. that of my father and his father before him
Location Altadena, CA
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The Link To Zanzibar's Past
This is my page in the beloved art community that my sister got me into:
Extra points for people who know what Samarinda is.
The Phases of the Moon Module
The Tree and the Telephone Pole
I Do Not Know Their Names
Today I am Young
A Night Poem
Siren of the Sea
If I Were a Dragon
To the Dreamers Leave the Sky
The Honor of the Oyster
Return From San Diego
A Late Summer's Night
Of Dragons and Men
The Edge of the World
The Snake's Terror
Metaphysics and the Middaymoon
Of Adventures in Foreign Lands
The Rogue Wave: The Unedited Version
Adventures in the PRC
Voyage of Discovery
Drinking the Blood of Goats
Ticket for a Phantom Bus
Os peixes nadam o mar
Three Villages Far Away
The River Weser
Children I Should Have Kidnapped, Part I
Let's Get You Out of Those Clothes
If Underwear Could Speak
Croc Hunter/Combat Wombat
Only My Favorite Baseball Player EVER
Aw, Larry Walker, how I loved thee.
M: Science and Exploration
T: Cook a nice dinner
Th: Parties, movies, dinners
F: Picnics, the Louvre
S: Read books, go for walks, PARKOUR
Su: Philosophy, Religion
The Reading List
This list starts Summer 2006
A Crocodile on the Sandbank
Tales of the Alhambra (in progress)
Dark Lord of Derkholm
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
The Lost Years of Merlin
Harry Potter a l'ecole des sorciers (in progress)
Atlas Shrugged (in progress)
A Long Way Gone (story of a boy soldier in Sierra Leone- met the author! w00t!)
The Eye of the World: Book One of the Wheel of Time
From Magma to Tephra (in progress)
Lady Chatterley's Lover
Harry Potter 7
The No. 1 Lady's Detective Agency
Introduction to Planetary Volcanism
A Child Called "It"
Is Multi-Culturalism Bad for Women?
Americans in Southeast Asia: Roots of Commitment (in progress)
What's So Great About Christianity?
Aeolian Dust and Dust Deposits
The City of Ember
The People of Sparks
When I was in Cuba, I was a German Shepard
The Golden Compass
Clan of the Cave Bear
The 9/11 Commission Report (2nd time through, graphic novel format this time, ip)
The Incredible Shrinking Man
The Elves of Cintra
The Gypsy Morph
Animorphs #23: The Pretender
Animorphs #25: The Extreme
Animorphs #26: The Attack
A Journey to the Center of the Earth
A Great and Terrible Beauty
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
To Sir, With Love
Alice in Wonderland
Through the Looking Glass
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
The Hunger Games
Shadows and Strongholds
The Jungle Book
Beatrice and Virgil
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
No One Ever Told Us We Were Defeated
The Name of the Wind
Tao Te Ching
What Paul Meant
Lao Tzu and Taoism
Sand and Sandstones
Lost Christianites: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew
The Science of God
Great Contemporaries, by Winston Churchill
City of Bones
Around the World in 80 Days, by Jules Verne
Stranger in a Strange Land
The Old Man and the Sea
Flowers for Algernon
Au Bonheur des Ogres
The Road to Serfdom
De La Terre ï¿½ la Lune (ip)
In the Light of What We Know
Devil in the White City
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August
How to Be a Good Wife
A Mote in God's Eye
A Gentleman in Russia
The Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism
Seneca: Letters from a Stoic
Day 10: Americans
Sunday. 2.10.13 4:20 pm
I went for a run today. Almost three miles (!). I stopped for a little while to watch the pigeons at Saint Sulpice. It was snowing.
After cleaning my entire apartment, I went to church. After church I hooked up with my church buddies at coffee hour. I ran into my bud J and she invited me to go to an avant-garde dance performance next Saturday. Awesome!
I ran into SL, too, and he gave me a great big random American hug. Exactly what I needed. Apparently he might move to Washington DC later this year. Quelle coincidence ! Moi aussi ! He wants to join the Foreign Service, as if that wasn't the coolest thing that anyone has ever wanted to do this side of NASA. A bunch of us went to a Chinese restaurant in honor of Chinese New Year. SL was ahead of me in line, and his total came to around 14 euros. "Wow, expensive Chinese food," he said. "Which one was so expensive?" I asked. "The beef and onions," he said. He looked at the receipt again.
<3 Americans <3
Day 9: Happiness Therapy
Saturday. 2.9.13 5:26 pm
I saw Happiness Therapy. For those of you not in the know, this is Silver Linings Playbook. In France they like to rename American movies... they don't give them French names, no, they just give them different English names. Like Step Up Revolution, which became "Sexy Dance 4". Sure, French people, just keep doing your thing.
Before I saw it I couldn't fathom how a movie with Bradley Cooper and the Hunger Games girl could be nominated for so many Oscars, but I really enjoyed it. And it made me really homesick.... which might be the first time I've been actually homesick. Ever. The lights came up in the theater and I looked around and I was surrounded by French people... French people that had just been watching a movie in English about America, French people laughing at our fat people and our American football rituals.... French people who you have to funnel out a different door at the end of a movie because otherwise they'll sneak into another movie because French people are dishonest. I just wanted to be back home and surrounded by my countrymen, dig?
I took a walk through Paris to clear my mind. The Seine's roiling waters mount ever higher. I went to my writing club today and for the second time in three months, nobody else came. As I crossed the Seine onto the Île de la Cité, I noticed a giant, beautifully ornamented clock decorating the random, otherwise blank wall of a building.
Paris always comes out of nowhere and does things like that.
All right, Paris, I won't leave you yet.
Friday. 2.8.13 5:15 pm
There is a woman in our writing club from Soviet Russia. She doesn't speak English very well but she says she comes because she "loves to hear free women speaking freely". Tonight her daughter, a concert pianist, had a show in the suburbs somewhere. So I went. C'était la galère to get there... one of the most important trains had stopped circulating so the rest of the network was totally jammed. When we finally got to the suburbs, it was sleeting madly. I eventually made it to the theatre, wet and under-dressed.
This woman's daughter is beautiful, and the finest pianist I have ever seen perform. She started by playing a technically difficult piece by Chopin ("is there a non-technically difficult piece by Chopin?", you ask), but then, partway into a second piece, she stopped. She said that she wanted to tell her story. She told about how she grew up in Tajikistan, the daughter of a single mother who was Tajikistan's first female pilot (somehow this does not surprise me about my friend from writing club). As a little girl she was enrolled in a conservatory. Her mother was soon removed from being a pilot and forced to work in a factory due to her criticism of the regime. The young girl was essentially locked in the conservatory and forced to play the piano all the time. Scales, scales, scales, over and over and over. She used to pretend that each note of the piano corresponded to a color of the rainbow, and by playing she could bring rainbows into the room and into her gray life. One day she came home and there were two police officers in her house. Her mother was once again in trouble for criticizing the regime. She was forced to change schools.
When she was fifteen she started to dream of falling in love some day. She thought about a Prince Charming coming along and sweeping her off her feet. Instead she was called into the director's office where he tried to molest her. She fought back against him and threatened to report him to the Party. She got to stay in school, but instead of playing the piano she was forced to scrub the floor.
Finally her mother devised a way to escape, and she left bright Tajikistan for cloudy Paris. In Paris there was freedom, but no escape from hardship. They lived in tiny maid's room after tiny maid's room, always searching for a piano so that she could continue to play.
Now she is a celebrated concert pianist, and for this show she worked with a lighting artist to connect all of the famous pieces that symbolized different parts of her life to a fantastic colored light show, so that her piano music could finally become a rainbow.
Then she played this piece, and I think everyone cried. I don't know, I was too busy crying. And hanging over the balcony because I had a terrible seat, crying on all of the people below. But I love Chopin. Love. If he were alive I would marry his mind.
Her hair wasn't as complicated this time.
I would love to collect the stories that have come out of the Soviet Union. The one man I met who walked for thousands of miles across Europe to be free, the formerly eminent scientists who barely get by in tiny Moscovian apartments, people like Nathalia's mother, who had to start all over again. At the end of the show she hobbles up to the stage to give her daughter a bouquet of white roses. She has become an old woman well before her time. Her daughter thanks a long list of people but she is not among them. Sometimes beauty is hard to see until tragedy throws it so starkly into contrast.
Day 7: French Mimes
Thursday. 2.7.13 4:40 pm
Today I was hanging out with the other cute guy in my office. Yeah, I know. There are a lot of them.
OCG: "Yeah, there is this really great duo, they are Australian. They do miming... one guy does the miming and the other guy does the sounds."
Me: "So do you do any miming? On the streets of Paris for example?"
OCG: "Um... no... [smiling] ....just in my house when I'm by myself."
Thing to do in Paris 574: Meet a French mime. CHECK.
6.5: Philosophy Club
Wednesday. 2.6.13 5:19 pm
So philosophy club was tonight. The subject turned out to be: How does technology change the way we think?
We started out by talking about the revolution of the printing press, and how the long oral traditions of the past (and the incredible ability for memorization that went with them) diminished, but the availability of information increased. Similarly, in our internet era, the amount of information that we have available to us is increasing, but the depth of our knowledge about it could be said to be decreasing (along with our already diminished capacity for memory). People of all ages were present, and the older generation tended to focus on the idea that given the sheer amount of information available, the skill that was needed was discernment, the ability to place this information into context and to tell good information from rubbish. They argued that our current young people did not have this discernment, and tended to give similar weights to information of vastly different quality. They also felt that young people, being so wrapped up in their technology, were becoming insular and disconnected from reality and other people. Thirdly, they argued that young people had incredibly short attention spans, that they were used to everything coming easily, and that they had no space for stillness, memorization, and deep contemplation in their lives. One example was that it used to take perhaps a year to understand a particular mathematical equation, but that now nobody seemed to want to take a year to understand anything.
The younger generation (who didn't talk too much in the wider group discussion, but which had a much more in-depth discussion afterwards) seemed to think that while it might be true that our cadence of changing subjects was faster, and that we had a huge amount of information at hand, this did not necessarily foretell the end of human thought. It many ways our thought is just the same. Our emotions and needs our similar, our biology is pretty much unchanged. Information is more democratized--- while, as the older generation expressed, nothing replaces physically going to the Louvre and gazing at the paintings, people that never in their lives would have been able to go to the Louvre can now wander its hallways on the internet. The older generation seemed to think that the fact that information and travel was easy somehow cheapened it. I was reading about the adventures of Ralph A. Bagnold and his explorations of the desert, and he noted how it only took him a few weeks to travel by motor-car from Cairo to Petra, when it would have taken months by camel. He said that maybe the people who came by camel would think that it cheapened the experience to come by motor car, but that maybe in the future people could come by even quicker forms of transportation and that he would, in turn, feel that their experience was cheapened with respect to his journey by motor-car. So we young people thought that this nostalgia for when things were harder and fewer people could have them was on the one hand a universal feeling of older people in the face of advancing technology and access, and on the other hand a little bit elitist... they think that things are precious only when few people have done them, while we would prefer that the opportunity would be open to everyone, rich and poor, lazy and hardworking alike. But we did feel that in lieu of having a society where people no longer attempted difficult things, that we just had to attempt and conquer even more difficult and exotic things.... if the whole map has been filled in, if a grandma can circumnavigate the globe in a cruise ship.... instead of mourning the terra incognita that is now known, let's explore the bottoms of the sea, the depths of space! Since a mathematical equation that would have taken a year to understand can now be understood in a day using Wikipedia, let's press on to invent even more complicated math problems! Our generation also felt that the internet was just the opposite of isolating... as my Dad actually said recently, instead of a geographical village populated by our neighbors, we have a global village, populated with friends that we would have never have had the opportunity to meet, organized instead of by state or geography into communities of interest. These people share things with us that they might never have shared with anyone face-to-face. These communities free shy people who never speak up at philosophy meetings to become active members of forums or blog rings where people could hear and respond to their ideas. I don't think that the fact that I'm hanging out on Nutang at 11:24 pm instead of at a bar with my friends means that I'm insular or isolated. I don't think that my Nutang internet friends are less valuable than my IRL friends... in many cases I've known you longer and know more about you than those people that I just met face-to-face. It was just interesting.... my generation was much more hopeful and optimistic about the future. I completely understand what the older generation was saying... that we don't want to lose the old ways and that we want to keep knowledge of techniques and customs and think on things meaningfully and deeply instead of just tweeting them, but my generation sees the internet as a platform from which they can leap much higher into the stars than anyone ever would have been able to in the past.
Wednesday. 2.6.13 11:00 am
Day 5: Après moi le déluge
Tuesday. 2.5.13 6:09 pm
The Canadian and I dressed up and went to High Tea at one of the finest hotels in Paris. It was fun, but I probably wouldn't do it again (€€€€). It was fun to be treated so well by Parisian waiters, though... that never happens. After that we went out to an American restaurant that makes REAL American food. Like... nachos. We hung out with some good buds and drank a lot of beer and french shots, which are like American shots only less strong. I still almost choked on a caramel shot all the same. J told me that his girlfriend said that I am the "Frenchest" American she had ever met. Apparently this was a compliment. The Italian said "You are dating a French guy though, right?" I said that I wasn't, and she said, "Sorry, I guess it is a stereotype. Usually only people who are dating someone learn to speak the language so well." HA. I HAVE A FRENCH BOYFRIEND IT'S CALLED MY RADIO. The Canadian officially left work last week, but tomorrow is when she actually leaves the city. I'm going to try to visit her, of course. She will live one hour south of Berlin, in Leipzig. The rent is about half that of Paris for three times the space. N and I decided to go skiing on Mont Blanc, that would be something.
The Seine is approaching flood levels at the moment. All of the walkways along the river are flooded out and some of the roads and tunnels near the Seine are flooded, too. The lower section of one of the bridges is flooded out, too. I'll put up some pictures at some point. Man, it's after midnight now. Good thing nobody ever really expects me to show up at work before 11. #ihaveagreatjob
Day 4, Life is Sheet
Monday. 2.4.13 1:13 pm
So on the last entry, rj was talking about how other cultures might see depression, and how it was weird that they were in a sense "celebrating" depression instead of curing it.
This event is definitely a bit quirky, but I do think that the French have an interesting view of "depression". I mean, these are a people known for producing famous existentialists. For the uninitiated, this philosophy is predicated on the idea that life is completely meaningless. The world isn't fair, bad things can happen at any time to anyone, regardless of what kind of person he is. Life has meaning only insofar as each of us thinks it does. Albert Camus once said that "there is only one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide".
The stereotypical Frenchman should be sitting in a café, drinking wine, smoking a cigarette and saying, "Life is shit." Only he's French, so it will come out like "Life is sheet," or "La vie... c'est la merde."
And I will finish this later because I must go to dinner. adieu.
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