Minding the Borderlands

Mark Koester (@markwkoester) on the art of travel and technology

Weekly Links, March 3, 2008

I’m a little behind this week on reading articles (I suppose I’ll always be behind in this category) and putting up my favorites because I’ve spent all week looking for plane tickets to go back to the States for the summer. With too many hours spent on the internet calculating, I’ve finally gotten my tickets. Now, with the dates in place, I have to start planning my road trip. Anyhow, here’s some links and articles I’ve come across in the meantime. Happy reading! 1.) Uncle Saddam. Who was Saddam Hussein and what was his role in Iraq and upon world and Middle-Eastern history? He rose to power in the 1980s as a strong leader unifying Iraq. He fought two unsuccessful wars against Iran and Kuwait, which straining ties with the U.S. We all have some sort of image of the former leader, president and dictator of Iraq, an imaged often divided between two contrasting moments, one the triumphant, charismatic dictator firing into the air and the other a disheveled, aging man emerging from his hole-in-the-ground hideout. Al Jazeera has an interesting, brief documentary on Saddam Hussein as he was seen and known by people around him. Watch Part 1 and Part 2 on YouTube.

2.) Voter Sentiment over Border issues. The New York Times has an interesting article about the history of voter feelings towards immigrants. Check out this chart:

3.) What’s a Jew? Living abroad in France has meant crossing and uncrossing borders. For example, I recently had a long conversation with an Egyptian friend of mine about Jewish identity—is Jewishness a religious, political, cultural historical or ethnic identity? Fortunately, synchronicity in the form of a recent New York Times article on Jewishness has brought new ideas to my attention…

4.) Going Jewish. New York Times writer Dana Jennings recounts his early childhood as a religious skeptic and his eventual conversion or “coming home” to Judaism. His conversion reflects a general trend in American society of religious flexibility and changeability. Americans (like most modern Westerners, I think) who grow up in one religious tradition finds themselves conflicted. Some leave their religious “birthplace” and childhood beliefs for a life of skepticism, agnosticism, or atheism, while others in their spiritual journeys find new spiritual beliefs and eventually shared spiritual homes or welcoming places. Statically-speaking: “According to a survey of religious affiliation released last week by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, more than a quarter of adult Americans have left the faith of their childhood, either choosing a new one or easing into a life of no faith.” Communally-speaking Americans (like other Westerners) look at community and identity as something understood, debated and chosen individually. Even religion, it would seem, is no different from other individualistic trends in Western, liberal society: your life is strictly yours alone and is created according to your own choices (even those choices relinquishing past choices, former identities and even previous communal responsibilities). This is Sandel’s unencumbered self at its fullest. As the story goes, religion is originally forced up children but eventually at some point in life their religious affiliation is chosen or unchosen. He writes:

“I suspect that my path to Judaism isn’t much different from other American journeys to a new faith — whether it be from megachurch to Zen monastery, or from mosque to the Cross. We Americans lust after movement: from town to town, from spouse to spouse, from religion to religion.”

5.) Internet Addiction? Since reconnecting to the Net at home a few months back, it seems that I’ve developed into a kind of internet addict. Admittedly I’ve decreased my TV time to generally pre-planned programming (meaning Envoyé special or nightly debates on French TV like Ce soir (ou jamais)). On the other hand, I watch more clips and programs on my computer (for example, videos and documentaries on Al Jazeera English, EuroNews, etc.). I read a lot more online—journals, articles, blogs and RSS feeds. I’m better informed. I do my best to organize what I come across and what I let in. But inevitably I’m rather ambitious and my GoogleReader sits permanently over 1000 . There just isn’t enough time in the day to read and scrutinize everything I would like to. But sometimes I try. I try to read everything I have bookmarked and let filter my way. I’ll never get to the end of it, the internet that is. I suppose neither will you though either. I need a Virtual Break recounts a technology addict’s attempt to celebrate a Secular Sabbath in the sense that you disconnect yourself from all technology:

*“Once I moved beyond the fear of being unavailable and what it might cost me, I experienced what, if I wasn’t such a skeptic, I would call a lightness of being. I felt connected to myself rather than my computer. I had time to think, and distance from normal demands. I got to stop.” *

Hip-Hop Inspirational of the Week:

Wax Tailor – Positively Inclined
from YouTube.com

Quote of the Week:

“Advertising is the modern substitute for argument; its function is to make the worse appear the better.”

  • George Santayana