Monday, August 18, 2008

Dragonfly

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Baku Sky

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Whoa

Not only did the Olympic Record fall, but Usain Bolt set a new World Record...and he gave up with 15 metres to go.

Maybe the Beijing track is only 99 metres long?

Olympic Saturday

If one person can win 8 gold medals in swimming, doesn't that mean there are too many swimming events?

Is there are more exciting 10 seconds in world sport than the Men's 100 Final at the Olympics?

Did the Beijing pool constructors make the pool length 49 metres or are human beings becoming more like fish?

North Korea has more medals than Canada (even after we won 3 today). Does that strike anyone as odd?

Will Donovan Bailey's Olympic Record of 9.84 seconds in the 100m fall in about 1 minute?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Two Distinctly Different Perspectives

I think this is the first time I've been in a region where a conflict has escalated to the brink of war. What this has meant is that I hear two very different sides of the story.

First, you have the western media: CNN, BBC, Euronews. As "neutral" as they pretend to be, are usually pro-Georgian (well, more likely anti-Russian). CNN, for example, is calling it "Georgia Crisis." BBC hasn't really interrupted its normal programming to carry increased coverage of events.

Flip over to the Russian news channel "Vesti" and you see the slogan "War in South Ossetia" flashing all over the screen. Since Thursday, the channel has had 24 hour coverage of the "war." Vladimir Putin's every word and movement is tracked. Georgian actions in South Ossetia have been dubbed "genocide." And, of course, the most intense footage of buildings burning, women and children crying, and, in general, complete and utter destruction can be found on this channel.

I'm sure many of the same comparisons can be made between the Western media and German media when Hitler marched into Czechoslovakia in 1939.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Top 5 - Museums

1. Warsaw Uprising Museum - this museum was simply spectacular. There was a pitch-black sewer you could walk through, endless videos, and a very fitting last hall (it was very red and the last exhibit was a big Soviet flag). Above all, though, was the "beating" wall in the middle of the first hall. It has a bass line playing that simulates a heart beat. You can put your ear up to it and feel the heart beating and other miscellaneous war sounds. Then the air raid comes... I swear I was running for cover it was so loud and intense.

2. Beijing Military History Museum - I probably could've spent six hours in this museum. It is nothing short of a brilliant display of exorbitant Communist propaganda. Everything before about 1917 is less about Communism and more about China, but everything after 1917, particularly after 1953, is something you just have to see. There were life-size paintings and dioramas everywhere along with stories about the horrors of the Kuomintang. In spite of that, you have to appreciate the effort put into the place.

3. Mongolian National History Museum - I learned more about Mongolia during two extremely hungover hours in this museum than I did my whole time in the country. Who knew that Mongolia sent an astronaut to space or about how the country become communist? I certainly do now.

4. Estonian Occupation Museum - albeit small, this museum in Tallinn explains all about the Soviet, then Nazi, then Soviet occupations of Estonia. Each time period has a thirty minute video dedicated to it, so be sure to watch them all if you have time. You can also play with some rusty guns and helmets.

5. Abdeen Palace Museum - this museum is fascinating for one reason, and one reason only: the letter room. It's hard to believe that so much technology and care is put into preserving pieces of paper for years and years. The pride and joy in the small dark room is a letter from Hitler to the King of Egypt offering condolences for the loss of the previous king (I think that's how it goes). On that note, there is also a dagger carried by Rommel himself. 

 

Note that this does not include the National War Museum in London, which I want to when I was 11. It was incredibly fascinating then, so I would like to see it again.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Top 5 - Cities

1. Qingdao - a little piece of Germany on the Chinese coast. Despite its 7 million inhabitants, you feel like you're in a small town when you're down by the sea. I got out off the train early in the morning and couldn't believe how close I was to the water. The food is fantastic, the Tsingtao brewery means cheap beer, there is some 60 kms of coastal walkways, and the architecture never gets boring.

2. Tbilisi - a small, mountainous Caucasian hamlet. When you think "Caucasian Capital," Tbilisi most likely represents the images running through your head. It's a great place to go to relax in the comfortable street cafes, to drink the best wine in the region, and eat some amazing pork kebab. The icing on the cake is the hostel run by this incredibly kind Georgian woman.

3. Kolkata - a giant metropolis on the Ganges delta. I fell in love the second I got off the train. From the human train in the Howrah station, to the dilapidated ferries carrying people across the Hooghly River, to the delectable Bengali cuisine, to the immaculately restored 18th and 19th century buildings, Kolkata has it all.   

4. Krakow - Warsaw's attractive and fun cousin. Perhaps it was the drinking culture, or maybe it was the succulent grilled meats in the Christmas market, but there's just something about Krakow that makes you want to keep coming back. It's a great place to have fun in a short period of time.

5. Ulaanbaatar - Mongolia's gateway to the world. It's not the prettiest or the most developed or the cleanest, but Ulaanbaatar as an exoticness that is lacking in most of the cities I've been to. It's truly in the middle of nowhere, but I think that's what makes it so fascinating. What puts it on this list, though, is the delicious foreign food (especially Chinese) and surprisingly exciting nightlife.