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I didn’t know you at all. But when you spoke of The Dream, I understood that I must have seen you before. I understood that the lifelong feeling I had that I was standing on the outer circumference of what was a large snow globe, an observatory, filled with sponge cakes and Christmas was in fact, not just my own isolated illusion. We are all standing around the edges, pressing our faces against the glass; maybe if we are close enough, we can see what The Dream is all about. Maybe I can be a part of it.

The globe is round, and I can see you watching The Dream too, through the glass, on the other side of the globe.

There is a whole world between you and me, but I can see you.

 

 

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Merry Christmas everyone!

I find it almost impossible to do work without a little bit of background noise these days, and one of my favourite forms is to replay a series I have already watched (no need to engage in the plotline, but something nonetheless pleasant to hear). In anticipation of the coming winter, I’ve been playing Game of Thrones a lot.  During one of the many requisite swordfights each episode, my mother, unable to ignore the clanging coming from my monitor (I’m supposed to be doing work at this point), remarks, “What is THAT?? Sounds like a lot of people dying.”

Hehe, if only she knew.

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Then, it didn’t seem like such a farfetched idea that my mother would be into Game of Thrones.  She does love period pieces!  It may be a tad darker than anything else I’ve suggested, but what the hell?

“Mom, it’s Game of Thrones, you would probably like it.  It’s the most expensive tv show ever made.  Every episode is like a movie”

“What’s it about?”

“Oh, you know, warring families each claim their right to rule the throne, their fall from grace, duty, marrying for obligation or love, blah blah blah.  And magic and weird demons and stuff.  It’s like 三国演义**”.

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And then it dawned on me. George RR Martin’s most relevant epic literary reference came from 14th century China in the form of a book about three family’s struggle for the throne (and the mythical supernatural stuff).  The Romance of the Three Kingdoms is pretty much the most widely known classics in East Asia and rival Shakespeare in the number of modern film and tv interpretations.  This is Illiad grade shit we are talking about.  Why was he citing inspiration from lameness like Lord of the Dance Flies Rings?

Obviously because George RR Martin has never heard of such books.  Why would he?  He’s American.

The first thing you learn as a biology student is that cells don’t explode because of semipermeable membranes.  Sometimes, the skin around cells allows things to travel freely, like water.  Sometimes (oh God, I hope I get this right), ions like potassium are only allowed to pass freely through in one direction.  The other direction is a barrier, they become part of the cell, or they have to be rounded up and forced out.  There is an unequal movement of stuff in both directions.  

Knowledge between the East and the West has long been the semi-permeable membrane of knowledge transfer.  My mother grew up knowing about the works of Dickens and Shakespeare, much like most children who grew up in the non-West.  Her favourite book as a teenager was Jane Eyre.  However, few people in the West know about the great works and knowledge that were never permitted to transfer in the other direction, including myself; if you asked me to name ten books written by dead, non-Western authors, I’d be in trouble.

I can’t help but wonder if this has contributed to beliefs in the literary/intellectual uniqueness of the West.  After all, if Western schools influence reading lists, then they are inherently legitimizing some forms knowledge  and illegitimizing other forms.  I had a very great social studies teacher in high school, who aware of this, made a conscious effort to avoid American/European authors and historians for the entire year.  Not one mention of Austen or Dickens or Fitzgerald or Steinbeck, can you imagine??  Had I gone through my entire education with lesser teachers, I might have come out believing that no other society had produced anything valuable, interesting, or of great importance.  I might end up believing that those who don’t live in the West are not worthy of all of the qualities that literature lends its characters: license to have unique identities, dreams, feelings, and flaws.

In the absence of knowledge about the East from Eastern voices, we have often gotten our knowledge of the East through a Western interpretation.  One of the great parts of auditing the Space and Race class this year was being asked such astoundingly simple questions as; when knowledge is produced, who was it produced for?  Who produced it?  Who is it true to?

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These become one-dimensional interpretations created to serve some fantasy, and sometimes really reflect our own ignorance.  For example, The Snake Charmer, criticized for the fact that it would never happen (naked child + hookah + charming a python – you don’t charm pythons, and that happened in India, not the Middle East, inside a mosque? credits to Dr. Sanyal for pointing out everything).  It isn’t the last time someone has failed to distinguish between India and the Middle East.

I think the big takeaway I’m trying to get at here is that the stuff we know, we only know because someone decided it was important.  In the process, these people also decide what isn’t important for us to know.  When it comes to what we know about the East, a lot of the pride and joy, is lost because those in control of what is and isn’t knowledge decided that it was easier, and maybe lazier, to replace real stories and real knowledge with second-hand recounts or with nothing at all.  We just need to be aware of what we think we know and where it is coming from.  Information and knowledge and truth are often decided by whoever can be heard, and we forget that not everyone gets a fair share of the microphone.

** Rebecca copied that in from Wikipedia.  Bad Rebecca!**

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Historic Gifts

 

 

 

 

 

I am in London now.  The things that I have learned are that:

1) Food in London isn’t really that expensive.  I mean, it is, but you can get set lunches and meals for around 6 pounds.  There are signs for this all around the city, which is about the same or less than a $10 lunch in Yaletown (which has an additional tax and tip on it). The grocery store in the area is pretty cheap. and cost me only marginally more than what I would pay for the same things in Vancouver. 

2) Phone plans are ridiculously cheap in London, and are going to cost me the same as what I paid in Canada except NOW I GET DATA 😀

3) Museums are free.  I almost refused to go to any but yesterday an American told me that she’s been going to all the museums because they are free, and you can imagine the cartwheels my heart did.

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Today I went and visited the British Museum, which has a whackload of artifacts from ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, China, Japan, you name it.  This is one of the statues from the Egypt Wing, it was a “gift” from the Egypt Exploration Fund” in 1905, which is in the middle of British occupation.  This has gotta make you wonder; who has the right to “own” historic artifacts in a period of foreign influence or occupation?

When I was in Tanzania, there was a museum on the island of Zanzibar which housed some very old artifacts from a slave-trading time, items that showed the island while it was used as a port between Africa and the Middle East.  They were kept out in the open (some of them were paper) with no control for the intense heat or humidity or light (it is Zanzibar . . . ) and I did think about what kind of decay this could potentially cause over time.  Or about the turbulence in places like Afghanistan which have seen the destruction of huge Buddha statues by the Taliban.  Are the Taliban an occupational force?  Are they domestic?  What if domestic groups are fighting over the right to own a piece of historical significance?  

 

Would you rather have something decay in the hands of a “rightful” owner or let a “false” one preserve it?  

 

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A couple of things I learned in the month of March:

1) My high opinion of games like Scrabble have been marred by the understanding that it is less about creating lofty and impressive words out of the tiles on the board (which, I thought was the point?), and more about strategically placing J’s, Q’s and Z’s over double word tiles.  Of course after I learned this my performance shot up but my levels of happiness shot way way down. Leave it to people to play only to the rules that are given and not to a “higher calling”

 

2) The Canadian Penny is being phased out next year, meaning that if I stay in the restaurant industry, I will be muchos confused on how to handle cash change on bills.  Also, I learned that the biggest difference between why strippers in Canada cannot earn as much as their American counterparts is because of our currency system.  Dollar bills don’t exist here, making lapdances a necessity.  Can you imagine how a possible move to a five dollar coin would affect the industry?

 

3) I did not get into grad school next year, and life will go on.  Possibly the most terrifying lesson I’ve learned so far, is that regardless of how many you can get accepted into one year, things can change dramatically the next.

 

Everything is up in the air now . . .

 

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Because American elections make me sooooo insane.  Here’s a video in layman’s terms.

Women’s Health Experts Speak Out

Also, on a related note, remember that post I made about The Bechdel Test last year? Someone applied it to the Academy Awards and here’s the result:

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OH MY GAWWWWD!!!!

 

http://fosslien.com/heart/

 

Just, check it out.

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This week I’ve been feeling super frustrated with some of the feedback I’ve been getting on our Youtube videos, mainly because people are so irrationally stubborn and ideological in their statements, on top of being kind of an offensive opinion to me.  I’m not an expert on anything, but for some reason, internet forums turn your everyday Joe into some kind of a foreign policy, economics, and sociology wiz.

On that note, I’m a strong believer that you need to hold your opinions strongly, but be flexible to hearing the validity on opposing arguments.  I mean, that’s how progress is achieved, right?  I believe certain things, but over time, my opinions change based on incoming information.  There’s no core value of mine that I’d hold steadfastly in the face of overwhelming opposing evidence.   On that note, a great article came up in the economist.  I’m all for it because my opinions on abortion, death penalty, weed, gay marriage, match those of the author, but the exercise is neat regardless.  As yourself, “what would it take, information or statistics wise, to make me change my mind about something?”

 

Empiricism in Politics: On Opinions Beyond the Reach of Data

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