Archive for April, 2007

NYT Covers Fixie Culture

Since this is essentially a blog about travel, it seems fitting that I should have at least a blurb about my personal favorite mode of transport: the fixed-gear bicycle (or track bike). Fortunately, The New York Times put together a great package yesterday about the bicycles themselves and the culture that surrounds them. Includes photosets and audio, too!

Link here: ‘Unstoppable.’ Enjoy!

[photo credit: oldskooltrack.com]

TDT’s Why We Travel: Reason #2

Reason #2: To escape.

The author Stephanie Elizondo Griest wrote in the opening lines of Around the Bloc about having nighmares of being “at a washed-up twenty-five, roaming Mary Carrol High’s halls in my letterman jacket and getting plastered in the Taco Bell parking lot for fun.” From that moment she knew she had to get the hell out – it was an impulse led her to a four-year journey through 12 nations, and to an entirely different life.

Having been raised in suburbia myself, I identified immediately with Griests fears (I shamefully remember reading her memoir while sitting outside a Starbucks across from the mall). Similar nightmares drove me out of the country for nearly a year; a sense of not wanting to settle brought me across the country, and it continues to stir my wanderlust.

Without condescension, I have to admit that I sort of shake my head when I see people I used to know who never made it out and never had the desire to – I feel so glad to have traveled beyond that place and time.

But escape in this sense is more than just physically traversing space. It’s about breaking out of your natural habitat and escaping a comfortable frame of mind. Traveling in a foreign country for an extended period of time can challenge everything you previously thought about yourself, your values or the world; it is this transformation that allows us true escape.

(Edited: 04/30/2007)

SF Photos: Final Installment

Update: Finally finished up sifting and editing – enjoy!

View entire set on flickr.

This Week’s Wandering News

Here’s a wrap-up of some of this week’s travel-related news:

[who is the next passenger?, originally uploaded by swallowtail.]

For those of you who are skitchy about plane rides or catching random diseases while abroad, The Seattle Times reports that motor vehicles are the biggest killer of travelers outside the country – with a tragic anecdote involving some yaks.

How reliable is the web as a travel resource? Tim Wu explores rock climbing in Thailand sans guidebook over at Slate, relying only on WikiTravel and other sites for his planning, and his trip nearly becomes a disaster.

Be careful where you protest – via China Digital Times, four Americans were arrested at Everest’s base camp after calling for Tibetan independence and protesting the Beijing Olympics (includes YouTube video).

In the Pacific Northwest this weekend? Road trip it to Bellingham, WA for April Brews Day and enjoy beers from 11 different breweries [Seattlest].

While The New York Times travel pieces generally give little consideration to cost, their new Affordable Europe package lists less pricey options in Amsterdam, Budapest, Paris, etc.; includes a clickable map and “Where to stay under 125 euros.”

Happy Travels!

A Tour of Seoul’s Western Architecture

Robert J. Koehler over at The Marmot’s Hole has a really amazing 3-day series of photos and history in a series he’s called ‘Buildings Built by Dead White Guys,’ or more simply, ‘The Coming of the West.’

Today’s photos of Yakhyeon Catholic Church are especially astounding and serene, but make sure to check out all three entries (I, II, III).

25 Years of Asian-American Film

Jeff Yang writes an interesting history of the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM, formerly NAATA) for the SF Chronicle today, roughly a month after the end of the 25th annual Asian-American Film Festival in the Bay Area. His narrative gets at some great points about the direction of media, as well as film’s importance in representing the shifting nature of Asian-American identity.

Excerpt:

I’ll admit it: Two years after its name change, I still find myself referring to the Center for Asian American Media by the organization’s original acronym, NAATA. I’m just so used to the nickname’s catchy two-syllable rhythm (though the jury was always out on whether the correct pronunciation was “Natta” or “Notta” — tomayto, tomahto). Also, whenever I mention “CAAM’s film festival,” people think I’m talking about the South of France.

So yeah, there are downsides.

But there are upsides, too. The new name reflects CAAM’s ambitious plans to expand its mission and audience as never before. And ultimately, as staffers point out, the change was more or less inevitable. [...]

[Read the full article on SF Chronicle]

Shari’ah: Divine Law or Gender Oppression?

A harsh campaign to step-up enforcement of Iran’s strict dress code is creating another example of the potential for Islamic law (or Shari’ah) to stifle personal freedoms.

Today, the BBC reports on the situation in Iran:

Police say they stopped more than 1,300 women for dressing immodestly on the first day of the campaign in Tehran.

More than 100 women were arrested on Saturday; half of them had to sign statements promising to improve their clothing, the other half are being referred to court.

The focus of the new campaign is to stop women wearing tight overcoats that reveal the shape of their bodies or showing too much hair from beneath their headscarves.

However, young men have also been arrested for sporting wild hair styles or T-shirts considered immodest. [...]

[Read the rest on BBC]

While I’ll concede that my Western rearing may have imbued in me values decidedly different from those held in Iran and the rest of the Middle East, what is undeniable here is that the Iranian government is wasting vast amounts of resources enforcing a superficial morality, and punishing those who obviously do not internally adhere to the doctrine – this seems inherently backwards.

But while being arrested for improper dress may be ludicrous, it is perhaps the most benign abuse of human rights to date supposedly mandated by the Shari’ah.

In a high-profile case in 2002, a woman raped in Pakistan was originally convicted of adultery and sentenced to be stoned to death. By her own account and medical evidence, Zafran Bibi had been raped – but according to Pakistan’s archaic laws blended with the Shari’ah, the asbsence of four male witnesses to the rape was enough evidence for an adultery conviction. Thankfully, the verdict was overturned – but I would argue that this was largely due to the international community’s attention to the case, not to a sudden government moral epiphany.

Human rights Watch has also written about gender oppression in North Africa and the Middle East being legitimized by the Shari’ah – state and religious laws in these countries allow women no agency, even over their own bodies. In some countries, domestic abuse cases are non-existent simply because there are no laws against rape or beating within wedlock; women’s interactions with the state (in simple actions such as voting) are only allowed through male members of the family.

While this post can certainly do little justice to this complex topic, I wanted to express my feeling that dialogue over Islam-legitimized gender oppression is getting stifled under the guise of religious tolerance – and I would argue that it is this mechanism, this “dare you defy the word of God?” attitude, that has allowed this gender oppression to be perpetuated.

We ought to examine and challenge moral codes critically, despite whatever claims to legitimacy, in order to create humane societies.

Please feel free to comment – I’d be interested in hearing others’ opinions.

(Recommended reading: Nawal El Saadawi – Woman at Point Zero)


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