Variation on the Word Sleep

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Mourn in the New Year

The Guardian has a collection of posts from blogs in Southeast Asia here. I tried to start reading it at work, but I can't. Not without a stiff drink and some kleenex. Unfathomable:

Seen things today I never thought I'd see. Seen things I don't ever want to see. How do you ask a question of a father who saw his four-year-old child being dragged off into the sea and be sensitive about it? Do you say sorry? Does that cut it?

Two friends dead. They were on a romantic beach holiday. I like to believe they died holding each other's hands. Two more missing. Presumed dead. Find a vehicle in about an hour and head off down south to look for them, or identify their bodies.

Haven't slept the whole night. Just talking to friends who have family missing. Have never wanted to end it all as much as I did last night. Didn't want to wake up today. Didn't want to live in a world like this. A world where I've lost more than I ever have, but yet have to be strong because my friends have lost more. I cannot even imagine their pain.

But right now I'm just glad to be alive and heading off down south to look for my friend.

And I thought heartbreak hurts. What a joke.


Monday, December 20, 2004

Goodbye Chunky Rice

Last night I couldn't sleep so I re-read Goodbye Chunky Rice -- you can read the first couple pages of it here. Once again I ended up in tears -- in a sort of good way though. There's the pain of loss and movement -- the anguish of missing people whom you have left or who have left you for whatever reason, but at the same time that pain is an integral part of the beauty of the connections we make with each other. Every painful goodbye is as much about the beauty of being together as it is about a future of being apart.

There's my clicheed idea of joy and pain as inseparable. Clicheed perhaps, but it seems the only way to see life that really makes sense. C.S. Lewis (and probably a fair number of other people) have suggested that humans have a "God shaped hole" which we attempt to fill with many things, but which only God offers real relief from. I disagree -- I think that this is one of the negative ways that people use religion. I don't think we have a "God shaped hole" -- I think that the yearning we have that we can never seem to fulfill is part of what makes us human. Rather than a God shaped hole I think people tend to use a hole shaped god. More people use consumption than god these days though:
Oniochalasia (noun) - buying as a means of mental relaxation.
Now I'm just rambling off into the distance. In summation -- it seems that connecting with other people is the place where real meaning comes in life. The simultaneously tragic and beautiful reality is that inherent in every joyful connection is it's painful ending. To quote the Flaming Lips:

Love in our life is just too valuable
Oh, to feel for even a second without it
But life without death is just impossible
Oh, to realize something is ending within us
Feeling yourself disintegrate.
Life is beautiful.

p.s. Incidentally Craig Thompson who wrote Goodbye Chunky Rice has a new book called Blankets. Judging from the first couple of pages it looks fantastic -- I'll have to pick it up as soon as I have some money.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Speaking of Geography

I ran across the Geography Olympics site yesterday. It gives you a randomized quiz of 10 world countries and keeps track of which countries and states are doing the best overall. Neither Minnesota nor the United States is doing particularly well, but when you finish the test it can tell you how you affected the score. You can play it three times a day, so today getting three 9/10s I increased Minnesotas score by a total of .0489%. If I can just figure out where Nauru is on their map I'll be set. Incidentally voting is compulsory in Nauru. Have a crack at the geography olympics and drive up the scores.

Monday, December 06, 2004

What I Learned Today

On a whim today I followed a link from's Museum of Online Museums which led to Timbres Chinois which tested my French capabilities, but which I managed to wade through. Now a guide to Chinese stamps might not sound like a particularly interesting web site, but it led me to a very interesting thing.

In the stamp commemorating the Sino-Soviet treaty of 1949 the country of Tuva can be seen in the map right behind Mao's head. The thing was Tuva was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1944 and the stamp was released in 1950:

Pendant longtemps, Touva fit partie de l'empire chinois. Un ouvrage chinois publié en 1727, indique que la frontière entre la Chine et la Russie se situe au niveau des monts Seyan (au nord de Touva). En juin 1914, la Russie occupe Touva. En 1921, Touva devint un État indépendant sous protection de la Russie mais en 1944, Touva est annexée par l'URSS et n'est plus qu'une région autonome. En 1961, elle est devenue République autonome et, enfin, en 1990, Touva a retrouvé sa souveraineté nationale.

Which loosely translated says that for a long time Tuva had been part of the Chinese empire. A work published in China in 1727 indicated that the frontier between China and Russia was the Seyan mountains (North of Tuva). June of 1914, Russia Occupied Tuva. 1921, Tuvas became an independant state under the protection of Russia, but in 1944 the USSR annexed Tuva. In 1961 it became an autonomous republic and in 1990 Tuva regained it's sovreignty.

Very interesting, but Tuva only has it's sovreignty in the same way Chechnya and much of the rest of Russia has it. They are part of the Russian Federation or whatever. A country which existed from 1921 to 1944 and I hadn't even imagined. A bit of further research yielded Tuva by Stamps which is the only website I've ever seen with the option to read it in Esperanto. I opted for English myself. It turns out Tuva made some pretty cool stamps during the years that they were a country. It also turns out that it has a population of 306,000 and the typical Tuvan is a Buddhist Turk.

Throat Singing is popular there, and I ran across this diary entry. You learn something new everyday. I wonder if I'll ever get to visit?