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Archive for December, 2012

The Biggest Deal Of All – 31 December 2012

Today is the final day of 2012, and this has been a great year for me. I’ve seen things and done things I never thought I’d do, been places I’d never thought I’d go, and met people I wouldn’t have otherwise. And for that, I feel blessed and grateful. However, this is the perfect time for personal introspection, and for looking toward the future, as cliche and trite as that all sounds.

The new year is an important time, a time where we reflect on what we’ve learned about ourselves in the past year – generally while drinking copious amounts of alcohol with those closest to us. For me, this new year is a special one, as I’m celebrating in Japan this go round, with some of the greatest people I’ve ever met. And that’s a big deal. But whoever reads this, wherever you may be, this is a special new year for you too, because you’re still breathing – the same as last year and next year’s will be.

And that’s an even bigger deal.

We’ve all had to deal with shitty things this past year – late mortgage payments and parking tickets and family members that have passed on; and of course, Sandy Hook and the poor woman in India that was brutally gang-raped and murdered… But never forget that, though living may be difficult at times, living is what we are meant to do, no matter how evil those of us may choose to live. Those people don’t define all of humanity, only the worst of it. And even the small things, the parking tickets and stuff like that – you’ll survive the tiny things because you are destined to do so.

2012 has been an important year for myriad reasons, but what has it meant to you? What has (or hasn’t) happened to you that makes this new year a special one? Only you can answer that one for yourselves. But I’m sure that whatever answer you come up with will be a valid one, and hopefully will lead you down the path of happiness and prosperity in the future.

And that’s the biggest deal of all.

So as you head out to celebrate and rabble-rouse and destroy your neighbor’s mailboxes remember that this is a special night in your lives, one that will never come again. Every new year is an important time, a division between what has already been and what is yet to come. So go out there and fulfill you’re destiny. Do what it is that you were put here to do – live.

Just try to keep the collateral damage to a minimum, okay people? Okay.

あけましておめでとうございます!  Happy New Year!

 

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All I Want For Christmas is to Sightsee-Smash Seoul Something Proper – 25 December 2012

Well friends, we’ve all survived the end of the world as we know it, so pat your bad-ass selves on the back as you apparently are deserving of one. 

Merry Christmas to you all, as well.

Today, I’m embarking on an odyssey of sorts, to Seoul with a friend of mine from school. Yes people, the reservations have been made, the flight has been booked, and it’s off to Seoul for three frigid days without an overcoat, in -8 degree weather (about 18 degrees Fahrenheit for those so inclined to know). 

Fun times ahoy, right? Damn straight.

This is the first time I’ve ever planned anything like this, so I don’t really know what to expect – which I’m sure is a good thing. Okay, I planned this trip to Japan – you got me. But I’m living here, so the search for an affordable place to stay wasn’t really an issue. Planning this trip was one of the most adult things I’ve ever done in my short adult life. Accomplishment achieved.

What do I plan to do? Well, there’s N Seoul Tower, gotta get a few pics from up there. There’s also the Five Grand Palaces, I’ll visit as many of them as possible. Oh, and there’s a humongous music store, so large it’s built on stilts to allow the traffic to flow like quicksilver beneath it. There’s a huge expat community here, and American servicemen stationed in Itaewon, so that’s another op for a photo right there. There’s the New Songdo International Business District, newly built as the center of business for the satelite city of Incheon, third largest city in South Korea.

Don’t even get me started on the damn subway, purported to be the best on earth. Really, I could go on for hours, solid hours.

All I want for Christmas is to sightsee-smash Seoul something proper, and dare I say I’ll have three days in which to try. Try. I’ll definitely get my money’s worth, believe that.

Oh, one more cool thing – my effing hotel is actually in Gangnam. Seriously. Don’t expect to see any photos of me ‘Gangnam Style’-ing it up though.

Okay, maybe one or two. And if I happen to spot PSY, I’ll tell him you said hello.

 

 


In The Realm Of The Novel – 3 December 2012

I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of novelty for a few days now, tossing it around, trying to wrap my head around what makes an idea, an object, a person, novel at some basic sense. Certainly, to refer to some one or some thing as ‘novel’ could have pejorative connotations, but the very idea of taking some idea or object and appropriating it in some unforeseen or unheard of way – what’s so bad about that? I suppose much of what’s perceived as negatively novel is seen as being of little importance to anyone, but only that which has a much wider reach and immediate use is what’s seen as positively novel – regardless of how outlandish or downright strange said idea or object may be.

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Ignore the ‘MADE IN PAKISTAN’ at the bottom. That’s not the focal point here.

In other words, novelty shouldn’t be relegated to the realm of the goofy accessory or the erotic bakery.

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Boy, this show used to be funny. But this pic makes a point more central to the post, I think.

Take mass transit, for instance. In the US, between the World Wars, the advent of the automobile became the cornerstone of American culture, American economy, American wealth. Having a car made you an important person, to a massive degree, so everybody had to have one. Of course this led to massive overcrowding and urban sprawl in cities, and a huge spike in the level of airborne pollutants, and of course the automobile conglomerates and gasoline companies wanted to keep their finger in the honeypot. So when people began asking for their city governments to consider installing mass transit projects these conglomerates sent lobbyists into cities like Los Angeles and Cleveland and St. Louis to kill those projects immediately, citing them as being “novel” and “passing fads.” It is precisely this sort of thinking that killed the trolley car in Los Angeles and led to a colossal overdependence on car ownership in America in general, and why many people would rather hitchhike with Satan himself than rely on Amtrak to get them where they need to be in a reasonable amount of time.

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Just one example of how totally dismissing a ‘novel’ idea may bite us in the ass one day.

I suppose what I’m getting at is, though most people in power – political, artistic, or otherwise –  are horrifically shortsighted, why do we rely on them to decide what is or isn’t positively novel? Is it because we really believe they know what’s best, or are we apprehensive at taking that first step ourselves because we think we don’t? Perhaps this answer lies in the gray area between novelty and creativity. To be sure, novelty and creativity are two sides of the same coin but because people tend to lump the two together ‘mere’ novelty is seen as the weaker of the two – although I believe innovation bridges the gap between them. Creative things seem to overflow with innovation, while novel things do not. Novelty is the work of the weirdo in his mother’s basement, the tinkerer that doesn’t really seem to get anywhere. It’s the maverick fashion student who decides to cut a few holes in a shirt, glue it back together again, and term it haute couture. It’s the artist who covers the canvas in black paint, then throws pig’s blood on top of it and says he’s taken the next logical step in the history of high art. While these may not agree with a wide range of people’s accepted notions of the standard in particular areas, what’s to say they’re any less valid than the accepted ‘standard?’ Why do we have to be told what’s innovative and what isn’t? Until someone comes along with the right kind of pull and says “this has it”, what’s novel remains that way – merely novel.

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This is what a novel idea could produce – a city-defining landmark. Even if it is a bit… eclectic.

Still, that’s what the fringe is for, I think. There are some who would prefer that their own ideas remain cutting edge and new, away from the influence of those that would shape it to meet their own ends and means. It’s here where positive novelty reigns, where it’s allowed to flourish, and why a city like London allows a skyscraper shaped like a striped pickle to dominate its skyline. Outside of creative endeavors, the only place where something novel is seen as positive is where said novelty stands a chance to make someone lots and lots of money. While I agree that money indeed has a hand in world affairs from the highest of governmental echelons to the bottom of the nearest gutter, why is it that what is perceived as ‘different’ automatically has little to no inherent cultural value, at least where those with power are concerned? Why is positive novelty restricted to art galleries and automobile developers, while the emo kid with the garage band who’s trying to develop a place for himself is termed weird?

I suppose that one reason novelty is seen as such a negative thing is because human beings are horrified by change, and are unwilling to accept it until someone tells them it’s okay to do so. And even then, it’s only when novelty amasses the potential to disrupt the status quo profoundly that those with sway convert the novel into the standard, assimilate and acclimatize it into mainstream thought – and no one ever seems (or cares) to remember that the latter was once the former.

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That’s right, people – the first cell phone was a NOVEL idea. They weren’t all N-th G capable from the get-go.

As I write this post, I’m reminded of something a favorite teacher of mine in high school once told me. He said, Everyone wants to break the rules. But before you can break them, you have to be able to bend them first. Perhaps this very statement is at the core of why novelty is seen as such a bad thing, because we’re inundated with so many ideas from so many people who think that coming up with something weird is the same as being novel. And so what if it is? Novel things may be out of the ordinary, sure, but they aren’t odd for odd’s sake. They may not be up to the ‘standard’ that has been set by others, but never forget that what has become standard had its genesis in the realm of the novel. Someone bent those rules of what was expected, and broke them – accidentally, or otherwise – and they became something suddenly of use to all of us.

Merely novel? Not by a long shot.