Wednesday, August 27, 2008

working for the man

Just got a job at the new journalism school at ASU. It's actually pretty cool; I sit behind a desk and organize equipment for the entire building. The job isn't too busy, providing plenty of time to goof off (like this post right now!).

So I'm learning the value of a hard-earned dollar and all that shit—as if I didn't already understand. I live in the cheapest dorms on campus and try never to spend money frivolously. It's true, I don't really worry about money much. My parents make sure I have everything I need but don't spoil me. However, in a way, that is being spoiled. Never having to worry about money is a luxury.

No doubt, there are plenty of people at ASU who worry about whether their next pay check will come in time to keep the roof over their head, but not many. Even a cursory glance around campus reveals egregious displays of wealth. Aren't these people supposed to be college students? College brings the stereotype of debilitating poverty, working long, odd hours and rooming with seven of your friends to get by with the rent. No longer. Now students commute to school with their parent's corvette convertible, flawnting the latest labels from stores like Urban Outfitter—trendy abode of the Mill Ave. fashion conscious.

Mabye that's stereotyping. Mabye I should get a fuller story before judging others. Maybe I'm right. Impressions can be a dangerous tool, but sometimes they're the most important one we have.

Speeking of impresions, I have to explain camera opperation to a tan, glitter-doused blonde now. The evils of working continue...

Saturday, August 9, 2008

first musings

Many people have asked: why Russia? The original answer is somewhat egocentric. When I selected the trip, I wanted something so exotic, so amazing that it would provide that wow factor from everyone. As I thought more about it, though, I realized the huge implications of my visit to Russia. This country has been through so much. Positioned precariously between Europe and Asia, Russia blends elements of both in a delicate, love/hate relationship; its history shaped by the pulls between East and West.

However, recent history provides the most interesting points. Just 15 years ago, Russia was controlled by the infamous Soviet Union--to some saviors, to others unquestionable enemies. All over Russia, dilapidated buildings, enduring monuments, and ongoing protests give glimpses of Soviet influence even now. Certainly, no other force has done so much to shape the events of the past century than the USSR.

I find it very sad. The people of Russia still feel great pride for their efforts to transform society using communist ideals; many still value Soviet ideals and reject "corrupt" western influences. However, capitalism has arrived. Clear signs of American influence show up everywhere: malls, American chains like Ikea, English music and culture, gigantic billboards covering whole apartments.

While Russian capitalism isn't as omnipresent as American capitalism, it is growing rapidly. You can see it in the dichotomy between Russian-style shops and Western-style shops. Western shops feature expensive, homogeneous goods in hermetically sealed packages while Russian shops serve cheaper goods of greater variety and varying quality. It could be argued that Western shops symbolize progress, but I disagree. I don't want franchised shops with quality controlled goods and regulated floor plans. I want unique goods and the experience of interacting with new people and places.

While Russia shows signs of Americanization, it's unlikely they will be subverted by American enterprise. Russians share fierce national pride and ingenuity. They will carve out their own path.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

there and back again

I'm back stateside after five weeks in Russia (so jet lagged right now so this one's short). I plan on writing a lot about what I saw and felt during the trip. I kept I journal during the trip to refer back to. For now, I make photo:
View from my hotel window. That's Moscow State University in the background.

One of the churches inside the Kremlin.

St. Basil's Cathedral = the quint-essential Russian landmark

View of the Kremlin overlooking the Moscow River

Christ the Savior Cathedral (after closing time so I wasn't able to go inside)