Sunday, November 27, 2005

Reshuffling Iran

Another earthquake, though this time relatively mild, has hit Iran today. Measuring from 5.9-6.1 on der Richter scale (according to various sources), the quake in southern Iran destroyed 7 villages but amazingly resulted in no more than ten deaths. Iran is officially the most earthquake-ridden and prone country in the world. Following this quake, calls were again made by experts to relocate the capital city of Tehran to another city (which might also help to disperse the brimming population of 12 million residents). Esfahan, the former capital from 1598-1722, has been put forward as a serious contender.

The thing about Iran is not that it lies on so many known fault lines and that epicenters of human life exist on these fault lines but that with thousands of years of earthquake history behind it, the country has still not bothered to impose strict anti-tremor construction codes for all infrastructure. For anyone who's ever entered a building in San Francisco only to be faced with a solid steel diagonal bar blocking the way in 3 parts of the room, you will know what I'm talking about. Requirements like diagonal support structures, especially on older buildings, are simply unheard of in Iran where most buildings are constructed with brick -- the most earthquake-happy building material available, if you don't count a deck of cards.


Tennessee Tattoo Removal

"Authorities" at aTennessee high school in the U.S. have taken the trouble to remove all 1,800 copies of the school's student newspaper from classrooms, teacher's mailboxes and desks after it was discovered that there were two highly contentious issues covered in the paper: birth control and tattoos. Now, if this were a newsletter at an old-age home, I might see the sense in keeping unnecessary and potentially stimulating information from the patrons, but it seems only logical that significant issues pertaining to personal relationships and body art -- two activities that teenagers are known to engage in -- might actually be useful for the readership. It is noteworthy, a mon avis, that the faculty adviser and the editor in chief for the student paper are both women. The number of times in history when women took the step toward progressive change are worth acknowledging. By the way, how is the U.S. any different than, say, Zimbabwe in terms of press freedom? Less and less people know the answer to that.

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Saturday, November 26, 2005

Bronze Bruce Lee

The world's first statue of Bruce Lee has been built -- in Bosnia. It seems the town of Mostar, still reeling from the conflict and hatred that erupted between the Muslims and the Croats, has been able to agree on one thing: that they adore the martial arts superstar who (under suspicious circumstances) died 32 years ago. "This does not mean that Bruce Lee will unite us, because people are different," says Veselin Gatalo, one of the statues backers, "but one thing we all have in common is Bruce Lee." Um, I guess this is a start, though if the majority of the population thinks as Mr. Gatalo does, that region has long way to go before they even come close to their Tito-era conviviality. Can Bruce Lee save the day? Entertainment icons do have a way of bringing people together -- you know all those conversations that start off with your disagreeing with absolutely everything someone says but all-out physical conflict is avoided once the mere mention of the genius of Tommy Boy creeps in? Perhaps that's what we have here, a concept I like to call "superficial mediated hatred delay", a post-post-modern peacemaking tool.


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Women on Top

Margaret Thatcher............................Angela Merkel


Gloria Arroyo...........................Benazir Bhutto

It has now been confirmed that Germany has elected its first ever female Head of State. Angela (pronounced with a hard 'g') Merkel is the first ever Kanzlerin (note the female suffix on Chancellor, aka. Kanzler) in German history. I find the rise of women to power as very interesting, especially in my lifetime. There seems to be a pretty clear pattern here, so far, anyway. Western female leaders tend to be unattractive and extremely conservative (see Margaret Thatcher, for instance) -- Merkel certainly being no exception to this. Eastern female leaders tend to be attractive, or at least not unattractive, from powerful political families and, at least in the beginning, before they are hauled off or killed in negligible political and financial scandals, more willing to be a progressive voice for positive change in their societies (see Indira Gandhi, Benazir Bhutto, Gloria Arroyo, etc.).

Does this mean that in order to achieve success in the Western world, a woman must be unattractive and mean? This is not a good sign. Even Hilary Clinton (who by all accounts fits the unattractive mold) is becoming publicly meaner and more conservative -- is she headed for powerful glory, then? Let's wait and see how this theory pans out. In the meantime, does this mean Madonna is on her way to worldwide political dominance? She is getting ever more unattractive and conservative by the day. It's a worrying pattern, indeed.