Katrina

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I’m writing from the Czech Republic. Came back here after the going-home-at-the-beginning-of-September thing proved too expensive; Ema’s parents have been nice enough to offer to host me again.

I’ve been somewhat obsessively reading news on Katrina on the internet today. What an awful, Biblical-scale disaster: no food and drinking water, overflowing toilets at the Superdome, bodies floating in the streets, no coordination of response. I’m feeling sad for all the people abandoned there. The British press has been very hard on Bush and the federal government; the American press, though unusually tough on Bush, seems quite a bit less critical. My view is that the press should always go for the jugular of those in power; and in this case, it seems like quite a lot went very wrong. I’ve been hearing about New Orleans’s pending death-by-flooding for years now–at least since I went there for my spring break senior year at Cornell–and now it’s come.

As we might expect, the left behind are the poor and the powerless. It sort of makes the good time I’ve been having seem kind of hollow; I find this all more disheartening than the bombings earlier in the summer. They were bad, but this feels worse.

Prick

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A couple days ago, at around 11 pm, Ema and I were waiting at a bus stop in downtown London. When we sat down on the bench a sketchy-looking man sitting to Ema’s left turned to us rubbed his fingers together and mumbled something that indicated that he probably would have liked it if we had given him some money. We ignored him, and continued waiting for the bus. Eventually, he stood up from the bench, stepped in front of me and asked in a perfectly civilized fashion, “I’d like to ask you a question. Were you born looking like a prick or did you become one gradually as you grew up?” I kind of sat there a little bit stunned and then eventually said, “I become one gradually as I was growing up.” The guy kind of stood there and didn’t quite know what to say. He eventually went to stand someplace else. I think he may have been high on something.

Soduku

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So has anyone over on the other side of the Atlantic heard of “Soduku” this Japanese puzzle game which involves creating rows and columns of numbers ranging from 1-9 in a 9×9 grid? It’s everywhere in London–every book store has cheap pulp booklets full of the puzzles–and I’ve started to get somewhat enthralled with the premise of the game, although I have dutifully avoided addiction. But knowing me that might be around the corner.

Marx’s Head and Kafka’s Dick

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A couple days ago I saw both. The first at a cemetary near Hampstead Heath, a giant bronze statue of Marx’s head on his grave site, which if life-sized would have made Marx 30 feet tall. The second at a theater above a pub in the same neighborhood. Granted, in the play I saw, said member was only alluded to; it was said to be small. The play itself was sort of small, metaphorically speaking. Anyway, I just wanted to share that tid-bit.

Also wanted to share that, thanks to Iceland Air’s shady transfer policies, I am presently a prisoner in Europe for much of the month of September. I had originally planned to return to the East Coast on or around Sept 1. All I had to do was transfer my ticket from its original Sept. 20 arrival date to Sept. 1. Right on. So, naturally, I procrastinate and only get around to the Iceland Air office on Tottenham Court Road yesterday afteroon. I am informed by a very polite Icelandic girl working there that I would have to pay something close to £580 if I wanted to transfer my ticket to Sept 2. Something close to £260 if I wanted to transfer it to Sept 12. One word: Ugh. So I either have to find some other way back to the US or have to find some cheap way to live in Europe for an additional 20 days. Perhaps I can try my hand at living like a Tramp in the Paris Metro.

In yet other news, I have, with the help of certain not-to-be-named friends of mine, found a way around the firewall of a-certain-also-nameless Library where I have been working. This means, instead of paying £30 a month for access to their wireless, I am effectively getting through for free. Is this an unethical thing for me to be doing? Discuss amongst yourselves.

Cheers.

Long Time No Blog

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I am quite surpised at my own lack of blogging during this trip, but I suppose it is a testiment to my limited internet access, although it hasn’t quite been that limited. Mostly, I think, my summer has turned out to be less exciting and exotic than one might expect. My dorm at the Metropolitan University of London is quite nice (and, actually, quite close to the corner of Hollaway Road and Seven Sisters, the putative location of Rob’s record shop in High Fidelity, which I’m reading and loving now), and close to the British Library, the British Library is excellent, and I’ve been reading at a pretty steady pace through a lot of philosophy and literature that might get into my colloquium paper. I am still pretty much on track to write about post-ironic fiction, and I’ve discovered a lot of debates in philosophy that will be relevant to my interests, which as exciting as it is isn’t exactly super-cool blogging material, especially for what promised to be a travel blog. I’ll see what I can do to spice up my life. No, really.

Still OK

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Hope this doesn’t become a pattern, my feeling compelled to blog only when bombs go off here, but I’m still A-OK. Heard about the incident while reading Alex Shakar’s cool novel, The Savage Girl, here at the British Library. I will post more, and more general ruminations on these bombings, as time allows.

Double Decker

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Hi from London. All right over here. Ema and I decided to take the bus today from our dorm to near King’s Cross where the British Library is located. We hopped on, and climbed to the top of the double-decker–actually, my first time on the top of one of these buses. It seemed strangely magical to be on the second level, as if there were a whole world of people living on the second deck of these double-deckers. Then the bus stopped in the road–we thought it was some kind of normal accident–and we got out to walk the rest of the way to the British Library. Well, we got here, and I’m now in the Starbucks across the street–decided to sign up for a one-month T-Mobile thing for my email needs–and am now reading reports of blown-up double-decker buses flipping through the air. Don’t quite know what to say to that one. In any event, we’re both fine, which is the important thing. I’m afraid a number of other people are not.

… And a Coffee Shop, Too!

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I am now officially in paradise. No, really. I’m in London. It’s damp, darkish, cold, over-crowded, great.

I’ve gotten myself a mobile phone. I’m now a card-carrying reader at the British Library. The place is massive and very very cool–and has a coffee shop built right into it. I may never leave.

My accomodations at the Metropolitan University of London are very comfy, and only two tube stops from the British Library. I just made a raid at the Border’s by Tottenham Court Road (AZ London Guide and Dan Simmons’s Olympos if you’re wondering [ the latter is, hm, seemingly unironically dedicated to Harold Bloom for resisting the onset of the Age of Resentment, or something of the sort {kind of ponderous, but Simmons has always been one of my favorite SF authors, so who knows what it means}]). I really am quite perfectly happy, and it’s only my second day here. I will be in London for eight weeks: so anyone out there in blogland with the time and the means should make an effort to come out here and visit.

Vienna: Or, Oh No, Not Another European Capital

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So yes, we went to Vienna yesterday for a day trip. I am sure there are many interesting and wonderful things to say about Vienna, and it was pretty impressive, but in some ways it seemed like just another European capital city. Certainly, it was different from any that I had visited before, but I am, in a way, beginning to get the idea. Oh, sure, great public transit, a vibrant commercial center, more great art than you can shake a stick at, cheap and delicious kebaps around every corner, and a general sense of actually being in a civilized part of the world (vs., say, Palo Alto). What else have you got for me?

One thing that stuck out was the auction that was going on when we got off the train from Brno to Vienna. Items from the lost and found were being auctioned off to the general public: calculators, phones, and any number of other item. Somehow that seemed strange to me.

Today, we go to Prague, were we’ll be staying until July 4, then off to London. Whee.

The Sex Lives of Peafowl

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Haven’t posted much of anything here the last couple days. After leaving Iceland, we stopped over in London, then hopped over to the Czech Republic where we’ve been the last few days. You can read about my original trip to Hradec Kralove in last year’s blog entries. Not much new or different has happened since then. Generally, we’ve been meeting up with Ema’s and her brother’s friends. Yesterday, we went to a castle in a neighboring town which had a group of peacocks and -hens. We spend most of the time watching the peacocks spread their tails and the -hens strategically ignore them. Got to love such blatent sexual selection. There was one peacock with a tiny tail who always seemed to be trying to elbow in on the -hens who were hanging around the -cocks with bigger tails. I suppose he may be employing a, eh, different mate-slection strategy. Anyway, there isn’t much more to report here, but I’ll jot down some more about my trip and my plans later.