Friday, October 27, 2006

German Quiz

Does anyone want to do a short quiz/survey on their knowledge of certain German words? A friend of mine in Germany is doing her master's on the usage of German vocabulary in America and forwarded me a survey to fill out.

It only took about 5 minutes. It's actually kind of fun those online quizzes we all love to do. And it would be a great help to her in gathering data.

If you are interested, leave a comment, or send me an

Monday, October 23, 2006

Alabama vs. the Urban Fishbowls

When I was living in Europe, and for that matter, traveled around the world, I often heard the complaint or criticism, that while the rest of the world knew a lot about the US, the US seemed to be sorely ignorant about the rest of the world.

I often defended the American public, and would counter that it was easy to know something about America, since America had a lot of exposure on television, in movies, etc. It is relatively easy for someone to passively acquire knowledge about how America’s government works, school systems, how cities look, etc, just by watching episodes of the West Wing, CSI, and even Beverly Hills 90210. These shows are of course not perfect reflections of reality in the US, but they give people a ballpark idea.

And because we in the US are not exposed to television shows etc. from Sweden, it is hard for us to acquire passive knowledge about that culture. A Dane might complain that we know nothing of their government, while they understand how Congress works, etc. And a Nigerian might have the same complaint to America: that we can’t offer them reciprocal knowledge of their cultures, while they have a relatively good understanding of ours. But you can easily turn the tables on them by asking the Dane if he has a good understanding of Nigerian culture, and vice-versa.

We are living in a fishbowl, and the rest of the world looks in.

Last week I visited my boyfriend at his new station. He is living in Alabama. I was very excited to visit the South, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. I was literally squealing with delight at what I perceived as its quaintness.

Alabama seemed like the anti-Los Angeles. People were more relaxed, friendlier, and seemed more sincere. I started teasing my boyfriend that he lived on a movie set, as I rarely saw anyone drive up and down his street. However in the afternoons, families were on the lawns of their houses, playing with the children. Kids were riding bikes, parents pulling younger children in Radio Flyer red wagons. I thought I was in a Norman Rockwell painting.

The radio commercials for political candidates made me laugh at how conservative they were. Here in Los Angeles most candidates are chided for their conservative values, for example, a huge minus point here would be someone who was pro-life. This stance would be often repeated at how a candidate was against women’s right to choose. But in Alabama it seemed like “liberal” was a dirty word. In one advertisement in support of a conservative candidate, they mentioned how “liberal” his opponent was, and *gasp*shock* how he supported an openly gay candidate.

There were many roadside stands selling among other produce “boiled peanuts”. And along the highway there were signs indicating that people had cakes for sale from their house. It was really like some parallel universe. Almost like traveling back in time to how I imagine the 1950s, but at the same time with most of life’s modern conveniences.

And then it struck me: most of metropolitan America doesn’t really even know about this part of America because they are rarely exposed to it. But this part of America is pretty informed about the rest of America.

I can remember the shock that many urbanites had after the 2004 elections, and the discovery of Red America. They had assumed that the rest of America was like them, since media outlets are based in the cities, and mostly ignored non-urban areas. They were being ethnocentric, and thinking that their way of thinking was shared by most Americans.

And when I was in Alabama and surprised at all I was seeing and hearing, I realized that once again, those in the fishbowl have difficulty seeing out.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Stoned* in Afghanistan

(*meaning high not pelted with stones)

Favorite quote from the article:
"Sir, three years ago before I joined the army, I never thought I'd say 'That damn marijuana'."

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Medal of Honor Candidate

The Los Angeles Times (*gasp*shock*) has a Column One article about Chris Adlesperger, a Marine who has been recommended for the Medal of Honor for his actions one day in November 2004 in Fallujah. He died a month later in combat.

It's hard to read the article and not get a lump in your throat...I actually had to wipe away a tear. It's a great piece, and I commend the Los Angeles Times for making it their spotlight front page story.

Muslim Outrage

I just read the headlines in Yahoo this morning: Turks hijack jet to protest pope's visit.

Yeah…it reminded me of a great editorial by Thomas Friedman I read this morning. And a great cartoon accompanying it. It is called: “Islam and the Pope.” Because I don’t have a New York Times account, I can’t paste parts of the article here, but I will type up the part that struck me most:

On the first day of Ramadan last year, a Sunni Muslim suicide bomber blew up a Shiite mosque in Hilla, Iraq, killing 25 worshippers. This year on the first day of Ramadan, a Sunni suicide bomber in Baghdad killed 35 people, who were lining up in a Shiite neighborhood to buy fuel. The same day, the severed heads of nine murdered Iraqi police officers were found north of Baghdad.

I don’t get it. How can Muslims blow up other Muslims on their most holy day of the year – in mosques! – and there is barely a peep of protest in the Muslim world, let alone a million Muslim march?
Yes Danish cartoons or a papal speech lead to violent protests. If Muslims butchering Muslims produces little communal reaction, while cartoons and papal remarks produce mass protests, what does Islam stand for today? It is not an insult to ask that question.

Muslims might say: “Well, what about Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo or Palestine? Let’s talk about all your violent behavior.”

To which I have to say: Let’s talk about it! But you’ll have to get in line behind us,
because we are constantly talking about where we’ve gone wrong.”

So let me get this straight. There is a civil unrest in Palestine, civil war brewing in Iraq, and I am not even going to bother continuing with the civil unrest in other Muslim countries...and Muslims are focusing their outrage on the Pope's quoting a comment about Islam being a violent religion or some fringe Danish cartoonist's works? Not such a great sense of self-preservation.