Monthly Archives: July 2011

Monday’s Inner Peace – The Light Fantastic

Light – the natural agent that stimulates sight and makes things visible.

This is one definition for the word. As I go through the pictures from my trip I notice the light in my photos, literally and metaphorically. Here are some of my favorites.

Beautiful Brugge, BelgiumLight playing at the Louvre, Paris
 San Sebastian, Spain Sunset at Ponte Vecchio, Florence, ItalyThe Pantheon Dome, Rome, ItalyLight inside a church in Lisbon, PortugalRome, Italy at night via taxi.
Chalk heart drawn between two windows out my 3rd floor hotel window, Rome, Italy. Simultaneously baffling and inspiring.Trevi Fountain, Rome, ItalyInside Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, SpainTV tower in East Berlin, Germany. Built by the GDR as a symbol of their power, it was meant to be a non-religious symbol. It really pissed them off when the sun hit the sphere, causing a cross to appear. Oh, irony!
Alternate view at sunset, Berlin, Germany

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Winehouse vs The Norway Tragedy- Fair Mourning? – By Nick Van Ruiten

Since I am flying under the radar these days, it’s my pleasure to have my little brother, Nick Van Ruiten, contribute to my blog.

Nick is currently living in Minneapolis, MN. He’s an incredible artist and interesting intellectual. Oh, he’s also a stellar pinball champion. So, ladies and gents please give him a warm welcome to Depth in a Shot Glass…

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On Friday July 22, I was taken back by the news I heard of the deadly bombing in Oslo and horrific shooting in Utoya island, the capital of Norway. Initially the reports I was reading said 14 dead and more missing, personally I hold a special place in my heart for Norway considering my love for Lefse (Norwegian flatbread), Black Metal!, and their gorgeous women. Aside from those superficial reasons I had always considered Norway an ultimately peaceful country, so to hear of random attacks on innocent civilians was very disturbing and my heart went out to those who lost loved ones in this tragedy.

The next day while getting my morning coffee I saw the newspaper headline and it read “90 plus dead in Norway tragedy, more missing”, I thought to my self  “Wow, this is some serious shit right here”. When I got home I looked up some news websites again hoping to hear exactly what had transpired or any new developments, but to my dismay I was bombarded with “Amy Winehouse found dead at London home”. Now don’t get me wrong, death really does sucks, but how in the fuck is one (talented?) musicians death more news worthy than 100 or so normal everyday working class civilian murders? 100 or so people that we most likely have way more in common with than Ms. Winehouse? Could it be because we are a society so easily seduced by pop culture and celebrity worship? I think so.

You might be thinking I am a bit coldhearted, however my condolences do go out to the family and loved ones of Amy Winehouse, and I am sorry for their loss. Whatever cause of death they find I would just like to take an excerpt from one of her songs, “They tried to make me go to rehab but I said ‘no, no, no‘”, Rehab isn’t a joke, and obviously if people are trying to get you to go, most likely they are worried and really care about you. It was obvious she had problems with substance abuse from the get go, so honestly it really wasn’t shocking for me to hear of her death. the frenzy around her death was eclipsing a nations tragedy, everything from special reports on the news, to everyone and their uncles Facebook status, and to pub/coffee shop banter. Was it really so important? Was this fair to the 100 or so families of the dead in Norway?

The point is that, we live in a society that screams for universal peace and compassion, yet when we could practice it ourselves, we fall into the same shallow traps harder every time we could prove to ourselves that it is all getting better. Personally I was having a rough couple weeks(break up then job loss), I was wallowing in self-pity, until this came about and realized “Shit man, compassion is key!”. We are all inherently awesome, and no one person deity, saint, criminal, celebrity, psychopath, or average everyday you is more important than anyone else. So shouldn’t we show compassion and give our hearts equally to all? 100(Norway) will always be greater than 1(Winehouse). We either have or will experience great loss at some point, you can’t avoid it, but we shouldn’t regulate levels of our compassion and mourning based on anything other than what we personally actually feel. Don’t believe the hype. Love equally. Cheers!

Thoughts from a not so idle mind about itself

When I first got home from my amazing time in Europe, I took off right away for the house in Truckee that my sister and I own, and spent some lovely mountain time there with friends and family. Then it was back to San Francisco where I was catching up with friends and trying to sort out my life.  Then down to Hollywood to celebrate the 30th birthday of one of my best friends, and then to Newport Beach to visit more family.  Finally, this past week I have sunk into major lay low mode.

This is what I have been doing for the most of the week: I watched 44 episodes of Glee until I was all caught up (just finished today actually). I have been making spritzers out of boxed white wine and 7-up. I’ve been reading Vogue and The Atlantic, and spending too much time on Facebook. I’ve also taken walks with the dogs, and been planning how I am going to decorate my new apartment which I am moving into the beginning of August. Sounds pretty rough, right?

Of course not but, me being me, there is usually always a lurking nagging feeling that I should be doing something. And WHY? For the next couple of weeks I don’t have a job or school, and I need downtime right now because law school is going to be tough. I’m going to be plenty busy soon. So some of my time this week was also spent thinking about this fact, and trying to make myself relax just a little bit more, or trying to get excited about doing something productive (like perhaps, organizing my pictures from the trip and posting about Berlin).

Finally it has sunk in. Or maybe I have finally accepted (is that not the same thing) the somewhat extreme duality of my personality. I am not bipolar or anything like that. I am not saying I am especially unique in this either.  I am simply talking about the confusion I have always felt by my desire to be on the go, working on a project, going out and being really social all the time versus the equally strong feeling that I want to seclude myself on an island, or forest retreat, and not have communication with anyone for at least a month. Maybe it’s a vicious cycle of burnout, and I need to find more balance. But that’s just it. I don’t like, nor want, to balance it. I also don’t necessarily think that, for me, one results from the other. It’s just how I normally feel, and at times I lean more one way than the other. Consciously realizing this puts me more at peace with it.

So now that I have worked that out (perhaps sounding a little crazy in the process), I am going back to reveling in being a major bum for the rest of this Saturday night. And if you have made it to the end of this neurotic post here’s a little Glee clip for your enjoyment (hehe, no really, it’s really good):

Monday’s Inner Peace

Ah, Monday!  I’m bringing back my Monday’s Inner Peace posts now that I’m back in the States. Although I do not have a job nor school to attend yet (still a month to go), I do have a lot to do today.  Serious stuff like: bills, apartment hunting, meeting my friend’s new cat Ernest, and uploading and organizing all the photos from my trip. So that brings me to today’s inner peace inspiration…Paul Simon (remixed).

The Precious Past

One of the greatest discoveries on my trip was during a visit to my Uncle David and Aunt Pet’s house in England. My Uncle David is really my great-uncle since he’s my grandmother’s brother on my mom’s side. His wife, my Aunt Pet, makes gorgeous handmade greeting cards.  As I was going through them I came across one with this picture on it:

I was instantly attracted to it.  And for good reason.  It’s my Great-Great Grandma!  I was so excited I could barely contain myself. I had never seen a picture of her before, nor even really thought about my great-great grandparents. I know a little about my great grandparents, but that’s as far as it ever went.

I think she is so beautiful and the look on her face makes me want to give her a hug and ask her a million questions.

Happy Independence Day!

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In honor of this day of BBQs, beer, fireworks and patriotism I asked some of the friends that I met on my travels to give their unedited impression, opinion and/or experience of the United States, whether positive or negative.

Happy 4th of July!

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Greetings from Sweden!

In Sweden the general view of America is a bit mixed. We are impressed, envious, a little scared and mostly interested in all things American.  We love the TV-shows, we want the stuff and we want to be able to say that we’ve been there.

 In Sweden we have no real reason to celebrate our own national holiday, (I think some people may not even know when it is and NO ONE knows why it is on the 6th of June (some king did something I guess…)), we haven’t been in a war for over 200 years and even though that should be a reason to celebrate in and of itself, we just don’t do it. In a way I think the 4th of July is more special here than the 6th of June, it’s on our news and we interview the American ambassador on prime time TV. And the star spangled banner is a greater symbol than our own blue and yellow colors.

 When our prime minister met with the president two years ago, there were dozens of articles written by people who wished they had been in his shoes shaking hands with the most famous man in the world. Barack Obama is more popular in Sweden than any other president has been since Kennedy. The impact it has had on the world, to have a black president, well, it sort of sums up what I think is the gist of America: the land of opportunity, where anyone can be successful if they’re willing to work for it. I choose, especially on a day like today to see only those good things, the land of the free and the home of the brave. Happy 4th of July!

Linda Lindberg, Stockholm/Sweden, met at a London pub, at a pub, but we were staying at the same hostel around the corner.

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Well, i’ve never been anywhere else but Hungary and a small Croatian town (namely Beli Manastir) twice, so all i know about other places are based on second-hand info or on movies, PC games, etc.

My opinion about the USA is complex because of its size and what I hear, and think that West and East coasts both have more European, liberal leftist etc., influence, where people are more “Europer” by mentality (eg. no guns, no religion, no conservative views about things, and things like these… especially cause here in the EU (European Union) members can not have death penalty, it’s one of the basic directives required to become a member state.

One of the few things that we learn about the US at history class, is about the independence war in 1775/76 and the US. Constitution, which were revolutionary back then alongside with the 1790 French one, and the Civil War, where many Europeans, even Hungarians fought on side of the North… those soldiers of Germans, French, Austrians, Hungarians, etc. who had revolutions in 1848, deserted after they lost their national revolution, escaped to the USA, and joined the North when Civil War begun in 1861, and also, we were learning about that the USA bought Alaska from the Russian Tzar.

I think I can’t survive in the USA more than 2 days, I bet since there people run around with guns and the public transport isn’t as developed as in Europe… here, bycycle and walking are common if you only go to the nearby retail store, for let’s say… to buy some soft drink, or beer, wine, cigarettes, etc. Here, in Europe a car isn’t a must, but something which helps your life and cause many troubles by the fund… here, cars have “prestige” in ways, i mean, driving a cheap East European car, or an old wreck is acceptable, makes the driver to have a bad reputation from others…

The only places I think I could get used to after a while are San Francisco and New York, they are soooo Europeanized, and there people tolerate leftists, gays, migrants, idiots, alcoholists, even druggies.

Peter Kaba, Hungary, met on the train from Croatia to Hungary.
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As an Australian, I guess our view of the US is mainly as an ally and a friend. Australians have fought side by side with Americans for nearly a century in many wars, and share similar ideals and values about democracy, freedom and a safe and peaceful world for all. Australians have also found themselves inspired by the achievements of many Americans, sending the first man to the moon being a fine example. In recent years however, I have found in my own country and many others, an anti-American sentiment that is gaining momentum. In part, I feel that this has originated from decisions made by past administrations, especially those of George W. Bush ie. sending American soldiers to a pointless war for what the vast majority of the world saw as a money-hungry grab for oil). Added to this, there is a feeling from some in Australia that the US has interfered for far too long in the affairs of other countries and has wrongly attempted to stamp it’s brand of America on to the cultures of other nations. It is decisions like these that have tainted the US’s reputation around the world in recent years. Always important to remember however, is that without the US taking the lead in many conflicts, battles and negotiations, the world in the 21st century would likely be in a worse state. It would be upsetting if Australia was to ever loosen these strong ties to the US in the future.

Jake Fenton, Austrailia, met at Aborignial Hostel, Budapest

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As an Quebeker (French Canadian) I share the same point of view than Jake. I think that we find in the US the Best and the worst. I was really happy to see Obama as president but when I see how the people reacted about the free health care system that Obama try to instaure In the US I’m afraid about the extreme reaction that a lot of “american” Us citizen have! I’ve seen nazi symbol with Obama and stuff like that. An another thing that I fear the most is the rising of extreme right ( religious things, nazi thing, racist thing scientologist ?! ) I think that we have to be aware about it, and the white power mouvement and others getting bigger. So I hope that US will find a way to be good stop the war things, be nice with cuba also…. And think about future ! The future is Green! ;) ( sorry I wrote with my iPhone and I Have So much to say ! ) Have a great 4th of July!

Fred, Quebec, met at the Aboriginal Hostel, Budapest

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Hello all,My name is Tamim. I’m half English and half Saudi Arabian and have lived in England since the age of 8 (24 years).

My only visit to the U.S was to Orlando for the Disney attractions and shopping.

I was asked for I.D at an off license (liqueur store) a second time by the same clerk after having had a long and fun conversation and with him only the day before when I showed him I.D for my purchase. I didn’t have it the second time as I figured the clerk knows me now so I won’t be needing it. He told me that even though he knew me and that he’d seen my I.D the law required him to see it each time. Is this true? If so it’s a silly law!

I met some red-necks by the pool one evening at the Vistana resort we were staying at. That was fun!!! Wow, they really are as backward as they are made out to be on the TV huh? They were nice enough but pretty dumb. Couldn’t work me and my Saudi cousin out for love nor money but we all got on well and had fun.

I drove whilst over there which was a painless experience. Got beeped at for not turning right when I could a few times. I eventually worked out that you can ignore certain red lights in the states huh? Not in the U.K!

Did lots of shopping (with my Saudi stepmother… THEY LIKE TO SHOP). Wow those malls are big! Also I experienced a hospital visit where I was impressed by the level of service and treatment. Way better than the crappy NHS (National Health Service)!!!

The theme parks were amazing I had a really good time (probably more than my kid brother and sisters).

One time, at a theme park it started to rain really heavily while it was sill very hot. We don’t really get hot or heavy rain like that in the UK. We took shelter under a canopy and waited around like idiots for a while getting bored before I decided to go out and enjoy it. I figured its not going to kill us. I went out from under the canopy and embraced the heavy hot rain. The kids soon followed and we ended up dancing around having a lot of fun.

I can remember being overwhelmed by the large choice of food that was on offer everywhere and the huge portion sizes. I couldn’t claim to have seen or learned too much about American culture while I was there. I do however watch plenty of American TV + film (which is great by the way) and have a healthy interest in global; human rights, anthropology and politics.

Saudi is very Americanized in many ways. The roads are American style, there are American fast food and normal restaurants, American cars, American coffee shops, American TV, the education system is American (amongst others) and worst of all… The English language that is spoken.. IS AMERICAN!!! This annoys me A LOT as when I’m there and spending time with my cousins etc (when we’re speaking in English due my Arabic not being 100 % and most of their English being perfect) they often make comments and tell me I SPEAK FUNNY??? I regularly have to remind them that I live in the country that gave the U.S its language (amongst many other things) and that English-English… Well… English-English is……. Ummmmm…… It’s just bloody better, OK? (he he)

I don’t think the world hated the states as much before G.W.Bush was ‘elected’,  as it does now but I’m afraid to say that, for a substantial percentage of ‘the world’, it’s certainly not the most popular place on earth right now! I think this is largely due to the massive manipulation of the Geneva Convention, the ideals of democracy, international law and international human rights law, leading the invasion of Iraq, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and its massive support to the awful government of Israel are three things I personally find all very disturbing and makes me very angry.

The people: I think the average British person finds the stereotypical American quite loud and over opinionated but I guess the fact that the British are quite reserved and over polite might have something to do with it!

Happy independence day my American brothers and sisters! Well done for kicking our English butts 330 ish years ago.

I look forward to seeing your country again and experiencing your culture properly some day.

Tamim Bakhsh, Britian, met at Hostel Janson in Amsterdam.