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Saturday, April 22, 2006

One life. One planet.

This project blog is soon coming to a close, seeing as summer time is almost here. Over the course of this semester, I've covered many issues - issues concerning both individual and broader cultural identities (not neccessarily saying that there's a difference between the two). What I've discovered, is that I have more obsevations, opinions to voice, and, well, just a bit more knowledge than I actually knew I had.

I've discussed issues that influence a human's "individual culture," and have have analyzed many people and occurences in the world around me; but, in comparison, I've said little about "my" individual culture, or, rather, what I see my culture becoming in the future. And, to tell the truth, It's not really something I'm sure about.

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The one aspect of my culture which is definite, is that it's constantly expanding - expanding in many many ways usually, although sometimes shrinking too. By that, I mean that I'm always learning more, and making more contacts. Yet, as time goes by, even though I incessantly gain more interests, friends, and knowledge, I also occassionally loose interests, or forget knowledge. And that, I guess, is because people have to find what suits them best, then focus on those sources from which they draw the most inspiration, or can relate to and apply to their own lives the most.

For example, when I was young I wanted to grow up to own a candy store. (But, that's not what I'm majoring in at college.) The country I wanted to see most was India (now I have about ten that could tie for first place on my top priority "list to visit"). I used to know some basic Spanish, but have quite learning it, somewhere along the way, and have forgotten much of it. (Now I'm debating whether I'll take it up again and become fluent, or start trying to learn a whole different language, or do both!)

I'm trying to think of which place, in the the U.S. or otherwise, I could see my self spending the most time in the future. If I were to ever live on the West coast, then it would be in my best interest to brush up on Spanish. If I could see myself spending substantial time in any part of Europe, then it would be best to learn a European language. It's a tough question, since I really have NO idea where I'll be after college. I'd considered teaching English in Japan for a while. And, though I have many Japanese friends, after thinking it over long and hard, Japan wouldn't quite be the right environment for me (to live in anyway - although I'd love to visit). I've been thinking that perhaps it would be more interesting to explore something a bit closer to my heritage, though, like a Czech/Slovak or Scandinavian country. Or, maybe I'll explore some new places, that I havn't yet formed an interest in, thus far.

Rather than try to define my CURRENT culture - I think It'd be more effective to list many of the things that significantly contribute to it.

First of all, is family contributions. Together, my parents are mostly Norweigan, Czechoslovakian and Polish, with a hint of German and Sweedish. Most of the heritage influenced cultural traditions I grew up with are Norweigan ones. That doesn't mean, however, that I'm uninterested in the other parts of my heritage. I'd really love to look much much further into the more Czeck/Slovak and Polish parts of my family's history, and really get to know that part better. (and learn more about those country's cultures) At Christmas my Aunt had been telling me about our Norweigan ancestors and something about their connection to the Slovakia/Russia border area. I'd like to hear more from her about that. . . Since my Mom's side is Norweigan, and my Dad's side is Slovakian, this suddenly revealealed connection highly intrigues me.

Secondly, college life influences my personal culture. I'm so fortunate to be a student and to have had the opportunity to learn all that I have. I've taken classes that expose me to knowkedge from all around the world. And, I've also made friends from all around the world. Through conversations with them, I've gained insighs into their cultures, and the issues facing their countries - and lots of other information that I otherwise never would've learned.

Lastly, my personal interests have influenced my culture - practically since the time of childhood. As a kid I was always interested in other peoples from around the world, and would dream of world travel for hours on end. I've always had a love of ancient things, and an itch to travel and explore. Maybe that's why I loved climbing trees, playing treasure hunt/buried treasure games with a hand drawn map, and why, in early middle school, I stayed up till all hours so I could watch Star Gate SG-1 and Relic Hunter. Oh yeah, and as a little little kid, I watched "Land of the Lost" (the 1991- not 1974! T.V. series) every Saturday morning.

Nowadays I. . . oh where could I start? I love tea and coffee from all over the world, am inspired by Asian philosophers like the Dalai Lama and Ghandi, absolutly love Irish music (like the Cranberries and Enya), like foreign films and historic movies, eat foreign foods, cheer for other countries in the olympics, collect post cards, listen to reggae, and that's just the beginning. Other cultures have also affected me in much deeper ways - sometimes to the point of where I begin to feel as though another culture were partially my own. The physical cultural environment that I was born into makes up but a fraction of what MY OWN culture truly is. Really, culture is something we're all free to choose. If something from one culture doesn't fulfill our needs, then we can replace it with - or add to it - something derived from another.

In conclusion, I hope everyone feels that each and every person can make a difference. We have one life, one planet, one universe, and each and every one of us needs make sure that we use all three wisely.

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No on ever gained true happiness by sustaining themselves on ideas of others alone. Our true moments of inner fulfillment com from the times when we can reach a self supplied realization, or else find our OWN meaning in the words of another. We can take an inspiring idea, apply it in a new or personalized way, and make it our own. we can take new ideas from others, combine/compare them with old ideas from others, as well as our own thoughts, and use it all to collectively heighten the clarity through which we view our world. That's what makes life so exiting. Our understanding of life is forevermore being deepened and redefined by, and through, the interaction of our mind with the world around us.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Technology - Taking a Wrong Turn.

I's hard to tell, in a world so highly connected by technology, what the future of all the world's cultures will be. I see technology as accomplishing both good and bad - though I think it's coming clear that the bad will outweigh the good.

International communication/entertainemt (especially telecision, movies and internet) have become increasingly dominated by the U.S.. There are mixed feelings about this all around the world. Some countries welcome all things U.S., but most countries are upset - and desperately trying to limit wastern influences in an attempt to preserve their own cultures. As things progress, the number of countries fighting westernization increases.

And what about Americans? Do they care whether or not other countries are becoming westernized? I do, and many others do, yet, apparently, there are many who DON'T care as well. Unfortunately, there are probably some T.V. stations that could sit back, watch the whole world become one global U.S. and not let it phase them in the least.

I, however, want to do more than just rephrase the given concerns which repeat themselves again and again in countless news reports and textbooks. I want to explore the real life side of this topic, and analyze accounts of how these changes affect people, and how people are fighting them. Thus, before you read the rest of this essay, you should first read this .

This article describes the Indian film coorporation Bollywood, which initially modeled itself after and gained inspiration from the United State's Hollywood. Said so plainly, this appears to be a first class case of westernization, but, after reading a bit further, it becomes clear that Bollywood fights westernization rather than adhere to it.

Firstly, Bollywood films have practically no resemblance to western films. The ideas, music, etc. in all of these films is distinctly Indian. And, the fact is, Bollywood puts out about 750 (which is two and a half times) more films anually than Hollywood does. As the article points out, this comes as a big surprise to many Americans.

So, how does Bollywood produce so many movies? It's very simple - they keep production costs down. And, Indian films are gaining popularity all around the world. I have some personal experience bases verification of this too. I have a friend from the country Morocco, in Africa. And, according to her, Indian films are very popular in Morocco. Thus, when we were assigned to watch an Indian film for a class, we were both very exited: me because I'd heard about Indians films but never seen them, and her because she'd seen many and loved them already.

As the article points out, many Indian things (one being Yoga) are catching on in the U.S.. So, perhaps one day the U.S. will become influened by Indian movies, much in the same way that other countries are influenced by our movies right now. Such reversal would be a nice change. It would create some balance. I did hear, though, on one news report that some Indian movies have been tested already and have failed in the United States The news report basically said that it was because their style was too distinct from our own. If that's truly the case, then all I can say is "Good for them!" It's very refreshing to see a case where another culture doesn't feel pressured to conform to westernized entertainment styles.

While this has been an example of a case in which a Eastern country has prevailed over westernization, other countries are often not nearly so successful. Many countries see such a high intake of U.S. movies and T.V. programs that they have to place restrictions on what percentage of their T.V. programs/movies are Amercian versus what percent is local.

And, while the article concludes itself with a list of positive effects that globalization has had on the U.S., it doesn't tell much (or anything really) about the overbearing unbalanced effects of the U.S. on the rest of the world.

Here is a small paragraph about one negative influence the west is having on Asia. Asian countries are adopting Americanized diets. Therefore, they are losing their culturally distinct and traditional foods, and the health of Asia's younger generations is decreasing as a result. (for those of them who choose a more westernized diet at least.)

In conclusion, the term "Westernization" is often used intercangeably with "Americanization." And, Americanization is also affecting other western countries. I'd mentioned earlier in the essay that many countries have to place restrictions on what percentage of their T.V. programs/movies are Amercian versus what percent is local. Surprisingly, as I heard in a class the other day, on such country being forced to enforce such restrictions is Canada!

Friday, April 07, 2006

City vs. Town

I've noticed, by talking to my Japanese and Malaysian friends, that they often have polar opposite views - when it comes to preference between living in a city versus living in the country. Now, before I name these apparent differences, I must clarify that they do not apply to all people I've met from either of these two countries. Not at all!!!!!! For example, I've met some Japanese who view cities in the way that I've noted many Malaysians do, and vice a versa. The distinction I'm about to make is not at all fact, but rather, just an observance I've made on multiple occassions. And really, the main object of my facination is not a perceived cultural difference, but, rather a possibe variation in the tone/urban atmosphere of these two countries' metropolitan centers.

In Summary, I've noticed this: Many Japanese students from large cities dislike rural living conditions and would prefer to live in a larger city, whereas many Malaysian students that I talk with (from large cities) would prefer to live in rural environment, closer to nature. Soon, I was asking my self the question - What is it about the city life in these two countries that makes Japanese wish to return to city life, while Malaysians wish to escape it?

I can't say that I know all too much about the cities in either country. I can only say that I know, for sure, quite a bit more about Japanese cities than I do about Malaysian cities. Quite a bit. But, I assure you, I won't get very in-depth about anything I don't know very well. Thus, about the only thing I can do is name some facts about both, and perhaps you guys can then formulate your own conclusions.

The common Japanese city, from what I've heard, is very compacted. I've heard it said by friends (ones who've either lived in a Japanese city or visited one), that you can find everything you need to live within one block - or even one subway/train station!!!!!! I've also heard that the city streets are relatively safe to walk, even for women walking solo at night! (in some cases). Overall, crime rates in Japanese cities are comparatively low to those of U.S. cities. Also, I've gathered, from looking at pictures, that interior and exterior architecture is quite appealing.

In Japan, there are also many heath and comfort related commodities readily available in cities. Japanese restaurants go to great lengths to ensure the healthyness of the food they serve their customers. Whether they do this out of genuine care or just because it brings in more customers, I could not say. I can only note that it makes healthy decisions drastically more convenient for any aspiring customers. Furthermore, Japanese cities have highly extensive, efficient, and affordable public transportation networks. You can get wherever you need to be without the hastle of parking ramps, gass stations, and traffic jams.

The use of public transportation, I'm sure, decreases overall pollution output several fold. And, even if there were more pollution, it wouldn't concentrate over Japan. Because Japan is an island, wind from the ocean blows away all the smog that'd otherwise hang around the small country. This keeps the air perpetually fresh - or at least fresher than, say, the equivalent of our. . . Chicago, Illinois.

Closeness to the ocean, of course, also grants Japan access to a seeminly endless variety of plants, vitamins, fish, and other seafoods. Thus, even in cities, I would guess that people can find fresh and varied ingredients with little effort. This variety of ingredients allows a wider range of food making options. But, I've already described and extensively praised all the varied flavors of Japanese food (in my previous blogs). So, next, now, it's on to what little I know of Malaysian cities.

Malaysian cities are, according to this web page, different than Japanese cities, yet very nice. Keep in mind, though, that this is a tourism page.

Her is an article about air pollution in Malaysia caused by deforestation. Since this is a news article, just know that it may not be there anymore when you click on it. News articles are sometimes posted but temporarily. This article though, I believe, tells something VERY important. It's extremely short, and reading it may imply a LOT about why many Malaysians highly value nature: they are losing it!

Besides, the increase of smog in cities (due to decreasiing air filtration previously provided by forests), and the smoke produced by forest fires that flourish ( especially with the lack of rain that comes from deforestation) could easily make cities fairly misserable. The forests are prized and beatiful, and they're being cut down in the process of industrialization. So, if the growth of a city you lived in was causing the forest to be cut down, and that, in turn, was making the city a miserable place to live and breath - well then. . . you probably wouldn't think too much good of cities either.

In conclusion, it is very possible that the place you live, and the factors affecting that place, can and will affect your opinion of other comparative/contrasting localities for as long as you live - and where ever you go. If you live in a highly convenient city you will possibly value any city in general for being such. Though, if you live in a city where you're choked by smog that constructions of it's like are responsible for, you may view other cities as potentially guilty of doing the same (in the future if not already). If you were surrounded by dissappearing forests you would also gain a sense of forests as having "time limits." Therefore, you would get an ingrained sense of immediacy - to enjoy the forest while you still can, being painfully all too aware of just how fragile and succeptible to exploitation they truly are.