Saturday, December 29, 2012

Week In Closing XVII

So this week was much better! I actually kept up with my posts. I'll keep the wrap up brief.

Joseph Quisol sent in a new Letter to The Column about his trip and views on Cambodia. Definitely worth checking out! You can find an ongoing list of all Letters to The Column here. You may have noticed the globalization project link disappeared from the main page - if you are still interested in viewing the post just check out the post archive on the left sidebar and you can find it as a post. The links will change occasionally but all of the original material will still be accessible via posts in the archive. 

There was a new essay uploaded which can be found here if you are interested in reading about Turkey and air pollution. I'm sure I'll have plenty of takers. There was another, much lighter, country study on Suriname. Be sure to check it out if you are dying to know some fast facts about the country. 

The two opinion pieces of the week were "Why Minorities Count" and "Wired." Be sure to check them out and watch/listen to the video included in in the wired post, it's a great song.

Finally, voters decided that going to the park was their favorite outing in this week's poll. A new poll will be up shortly, so be sure to check it out.

As always, thanks for stopping by, and hopefully the coming week will also have some new material.  

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Cambodia - Letters to The Column

The Letter

To The Column,

Ever since I travelled to Cambodia in July of 2011, I’ve been fascinated with the country and its history, but what continues to shock me is the fact that hardly anyone I come into contact with now knows where to find the country on the map, let alone that genocide occurred in Cambodia in the late 1970s. For this reason, I wanted to write to The Column – so that more people could understand a bit of Cambodia’s history and current situation. 

It started in 1975. After years of French colonial rule and a reconstruction period facilitated by the United Nations, Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge Regime captured the capital city of Phnom Penh and renamed the country “Democratic Kampuchea.” This was a coup d’état led by a radical communist regime whose leader desired to restart Cambodian society in what he called “Year Zero.” Pol Pot wanted to shape Cambodia into an agrarian utopia, but the methods by which he carried out his plan were brutal. 

Thousands of people were removed from Phnom Penh and the surrounding urban areas with little warning. Leaving all belongings behind, they were forced to march into the countryside where they were placed in work camps. They were forced to farm day and night and thousands died from malnutrition, untreated medical issues, and sheer exhaustion. Those who resisted were detained in military prisons. Prison S-21 or Toul Sleng in Phnom Penh was the most famous of these. In this prison and many others across the country, prisoners were tortured and faced intense questioning from military officers. Ultimately, the prisoners and those forced to work were killed. Outside of Phnom Penh and in former pockets of Khmer Rouge control across the country, there are ‘killing fields’ where thousands of people were murdered and buried in mass graves. 

The effects of this genocide can still be felt today, notably in the demographics of the country. The Cambodian population is comprised largely of youths, whose parents and grandparents were killed during the genocide. Secondly, the genocide has effects on current Cambodian education and government because Pol Pot targeted the elites of society. Professionals such as doctors, lawyers, professors, and government officials were killed in the genocide in order to ‘purify’ the people, and as an effect, Cambodian society today lacks the strong educators and professionals who could have helped pave the way to reconstruction. 

Despite the profound effect the Pol Pot Regime had on Cambodian society, the country is developing. It is important to understand that there’s so much more to Cambodia than the popularized Killing Fields. Cambodia has a rich history as the former Khmer Empire, which was once the largest in Southeast Asia. Cambodia is also home to Angkor Wat, the largest religious structure in the world. The capital city of Phnom Penh is a vibrant place to explore and the countryside and beaches are absolutely breathtaking. As a destination for travel, Cambodia is certainly a hidden gem. 

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I hope that you were made aware of a part of history that for the most part goes untold and you were able to get a glimpse into a part of the world that they you may have never considered before. 


Joseph Samuel Quisol 

My Response

I really enjoyed this letter. It was very different from the other letters sent in so far, and for that I am excited (that sounded like an insult, definitely wasn't an insult to the other letters - I'm just saying it's great to get a variety of writing on the page, that's all!) I think it is awesome that you used your space on The Column to raise awareness about an important issue to not only you, but to the world. You did an excellent job sparking an interest in the reader and you also gave a very brief version of a very complicated issue, but you did it effectively.

I enjoyed reading it, and I apologize about not being able to include the pictures. If you do want to include pictures in your letters, just make sure you provide the link where you found them! I don't want to steal anybody else's work!

Again, thank you, and hopefully you've inspired others to look further into the issue and also to write in on topics that they feel passionately about. Great addition to the site!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Suriname [Country Study 2]
As per request, Suriname is the next country that I'll do a little tiny bit of research on from super official sources so I can share some baseline knowledge with my readers! 

Suriname is in northern South America. It's not a very large country, a meager 63,251 square feet. Suriname is of interest mainly becuase of it's vast ethnic diversity. The majority of Surinamese are of African and Indonesian decent, but there are also a large number of ethnic groups within the nation, including: Hindustani, Maroon, Javanese, and Amerindian ethnic groups. The country was once a Dutch colony, and used to be known and Dutch Guiana, making the official language Dutch. Below you can find some quick demographic facts!

Capital City - Paramaribo
Other Major Cities - Lelydorp, Nieuw Nickerie, & Moengo
Border Nations - French Guiana, Guyana, & Brazil
Nationality - Surinamese
Population - 447,000
Most Prevalent Religions - Hinduism, Protestantism, Catholicism, & Islam
Government Type - Constitutional Democratically Represented Republic
Major Languages - Dutch (official), English, Sranang-Tongo, Hindustani, Javanese
I don't have a whole lot more information, so I'll just fill up the rest of the post with some pictures. If you have any questions, want more information, or have a request for a country study, let me know! Typically I'd try to be a little bit more detailed in my research, but Suriname seems like a complicated place with complicated languages and ethnicities. It would be hard to get too many more fun facts without quickly getting involved in a very complex culture. Know anyone from Suriname? Have them read this and correct me. I'd love to learn more from a native!

If you're looking for more information I pulled my info from a National Geographic link and a good old trustworthy Wikipedia page. Feel free to do some deeper digging yourself. Sorry for the brief post and surface level information, but that's all I got for today. Enjoy the pictures.

Monday, December 24, 2012


So this post does unfortunately have the potential to rub some of my readers the wrong way. Oops. It wouldn't be an opinion based blog, however, if no one ever disagreed. Before I get into everything, I'll give you a little preview so you can decide whether or not you have any interest whatsoever in reading on. I've always been annoyed by the friend in the group who is glued to their cell phone. And so is everybody, but normally everyone chooses to express their disgust after checking their phones for a text message first. It's a generational phenomenon that's not so generational anymore, and to be quite frank, it is genuinely starting to drive me insane. Now, don't get me wrong. I am an owner of a cell phone, a smart phone with a data plan at that, I do feel relatively lost when my phone isn't operational (as it isn't right now), and I use my phone for a variety of things. Before you get to calling me a hypocrite, know that I am only speaking out of frustration, and I even find myself frustrated by my own cell phone usage. However, I know my usage is far less than many of my friends' just by observation, so I'm not completely pulling all of this out of my ass. So, let's begin. 

The video below is a song called Rewind by Faded Paper Figures. It is a great song (I don't know if it is to your taste or not) and it speaks directly to the issue that I am talking about. At first I didn't really understand what the song was about, and there is certainly a level of artistic license let free in the lyrics, but it gets a point across:

I'm on my way back to a time before we were wired
I'm on my way back from the light of switch boards and dials
Back from chaos, rewind
I'm on my way back from the time of main frames and lines
I'm on my way back from the bright and neon design
Back from cell phones, back before we were moving

Summers open the curtains
Mornings I can recall
One string linking our houses
Tin cans taking the calls
Sunlight snapping the picture
Clotheslines carry the sound
Augusts making the fiction
Your voice always around

Analog dreams, recording the scene
We're wiring the trees
Stringing the sky to play off the light
These wild frequencies
And dreams of defiance, the follies of science
Can make you feel

Summers open the curtains
Mornings I can recall
One string linking our houses
Tin cans taking the calls
Sunlight snapping the picture
Clotheslines carry the sound
Augusts making the fiction
Your voice always around

Onward. Two things finally inspired me to write this post: Snapchat and a trip to Valvoline. Let's start with Snapchat. This new little app on smartphones that lets you send pictures to your friends. Most of the pictures that I've seen sent, at least, are pictures taken of the phone-owner. It's kind of silly. Now, Snapchat at it's core is not terrible and it's surely a great way to waste time when you're bored. But it's become something more. When I was home for Thanksgiving I got together with some friends, and everyone there was sitting at the kitchen table, talking to no one, Snapchatting each other. Those not Snapchatting whipped out the phone to check Facebook or what not. It was an immediate phenomenon. I was so irritated I almost left, yet no one else even seemed affected by what was going on. This has been a phenomenon I've seen among my friends for quite some time. Whether it be Snapchat, Facebook, e-mail, or just texting, cell phones have allowed and even encouraged people to disconnect. To be completely honest, I think all this hype about cell phones and data plans and Facebook being the catalyst for connection is utter bullshit. Sure, if you're home alone, you haven't talked to a friend in a while, and you chat them up, it's a perfect way to communicate. Sure, technology has allowed us to communicate across national borders free of charge. That's all fantastic and I take advantage of these services frequently; however, when you are with a group of people who are all so busy "connecting" to people from somewhere else they are actively disconnecting from the people they are with. It's disrespectful, annoying, and plain stupid. If we're all going to pay money to drive to see one another to only talk to other people, or "snap" with other people at that, we should all just sit in our rooms alone so we can fully maximize our "connectivity."

It's a phenomenon I've noticed less in college. Since I've been in Charleston I've been forced to communicate with strangers, and believe it or not, some of them have flip phones. Remember those things from way back in 2007? Unbelievable, right? And even more shocking, these people are SO MUCH BETTER at communicating then everyone glued to their smartphone. Coming back home to Charlotte, I've noticed that everyone is still glued to their phones. I don't know if it's a city to city thing, a college thing, or a people thing. I know people who go to the College of Charleston have just as intimate relationships with their iPhones as anyone else does, but it seems more in my face here. For example, the other afternoon I spent a lovely 2 hours in a Valvoline waiting room after my car failed inspection for the second year in a row. For about 25 minutes I shared the room with 2 other people. The woman next to me was entirely fixated on her iPhone for the full time she was in the room. This is not a figure of speech. She literally never broke eye contact with the screen for the entire time. This isn't to say that I was dying to strike up conversation with these strangers, but the sheer amount of time that someone can stay so utterly engrossed in a piece of plastic the size of your palm is alarming to me. Just food for thought.

And it's not just my generation. Everyone likes to say that it's the young people who are glued to the phones. It's not just the youngsters anymore, it's our parents too. It's everyone. And we're starting it out young. My friends love to look at the 9 year old with the iPhone in disdain, but that's only after having cardiac arrest when they aren't able to access Tumblr on their phones for more than 5 hours. Now, I know good and well that I am probably a minority here. Everyone loves to say it's a problem but who do you know that is actually fixing anything? I've gotten to the point where I choose to spend my time differently depending on how I feel my time will be respected by particular people. I am no longer going to attempt to spend time with someone who is more interested in the meme on their cell phone than what I have to say to them. I'm done repeating myself because someone was too busy sending a text message to hear me the first time. Feel free to disagree with me, feel free to feel offended, but it's gotten to a point where I simply cannot handle it anymore.

Yes, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and even Snapchat have an engrained and even well-earned place in our culture. They certainly hold value and can serve as excellent entertainment. But as the number of my friends with iPhones grows and the number of advertisements on television pertaining to apps increase, the further I feel from the people around me. Social media does a good job creating the illusion of connectivity - in reality it fuels an addiction to feel wanted, to feel like you're apart of something, and as one social media loses its charm you move to the next, and before you know if you'll be lonelier than you were when you started. When you have to send a picture of your face to someone who is sitting across from you to feel connected and social, you've lost sight of the meaning of connectivity.

As we are in high Christmas season I'd hope that you all spend some time away from your phones and computers unless you are truly involved in meaningful interaction. Go talk face to face with someone about something totally obscure. Enjoy conversation and turn your background data off.

I promise, no one liking your Facebook photo or sending you a picture of their face with a mustache pasted on from cheap editing programs on a cell phone is more important or fulfilling than the person sitting across the room from you.

**Edit: A reader suggested this link to just escape from the world of cell phones and social media for a few minutes. It's a really cool site. Probably takes 5 minutes total to go through. The music is also from some movie that I can't seem to place in my memory. Bonus point to anyone who can figure it out!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Why Minorities Count

This little post was started a few weeks back and wound up getting lost in the shuffle of it all; however, all is not lost, and it is still and interesting piece. Seeing as I've hardly been around The Column lately I need a nice warm up piece anyway. Originally, I had planned to give a little bit of my own analysis on the situation but I'll keep it brief. This piece was inspired by and article from New York Times that you can find (and I advise you find it to get a better understanding of the following comments) here.

Throughout the election, and every election past, there seems to be this inherent divide between issues perceived as "social" and "economic." I think that we are just starting to see the divide from this quasi-imagined divide, and I think that the article gets this point across. I think the article speaks for itself pretty well, and essentially sends the message that "minority issues" are no longer just small "social issues" that can be brushed under the rug. As minority groups, and namely the LGBT movement as this article discusses  grow and find a louder voice, once insignificantly perceived issues will become issues that candidates have to deal with and morph at least fringe policy around. But that's another conversation. You can find all of the comments that NYT provided on the link that I provided above, but I'm going to shut up and just share some of the comments that I found powerful and well said. Feel free to disagree. There isn't a huge point to this post other than to get people thinking about the potential (or lack thereof, depending on how you see things) of the next four years. 

My vote for Obama was my way of trying to ensure that young GLBT people know that there is a place for them in this country, in this society, and that the coded hate message of Romney's allies is nothing more than the death rattle of the GOP. I'm proud to be a gay man who voted for Obama.
For me, it's simple. Why would gays and lesbians vote for Republicans after so many years of being harrassed by them? And how can Republicans ever be trusted to actually represent the interests of gays and lesbians? The truth be told, Republicans have miserably failed to demonstrate that they would live up to one central principle of legitimate government: protect our citizens.Someone should also take a look at the number of straight people who voted to support us.
I actually convinced my father, a lifelong republican, to abstain from voting for President this year (he doesn't like Obama) based on what a Romney presidency would mean for me and my husband.Based on my talk with him about my marriage and his son-in-law, for the first time ever, my parents' votes didn't cancel each other out.
As a gay man born in 1953 into a miltary family, I don't resent Pres. Obama's "evolution" -- my parents needed several years to evolve after I came out to them in the early 1980's and, heck, I myself had to evolve to the point of coming out to them. I do resent, maybe "despise" is a better word, how Republicans and others have fought any and all fights for any and every aspect of LGBT equality. The 2012 Obama presidential campaign was the first in which I've directly made multiple contributions to the candidate I would vote for. I'm immensely proud of the coming generations in this country who seem intent on making sexual orientation a non-issue. In a few centuries, maybe Republicans, Catholic bishops, and religious fundamentalists of all stripes and religions, will somehow also evolve to that same point. Too bad I won't be around. Though I never felt certain that an African American would win four years ago, let alone win reelection, this struggle is going to take longer. Nonetheless, we shall overcome.
I am a gay man and also a registered Republican but am not a right-winger. I adhere to the classic values of the party, which support individuality and fiscal responsibility, whereas my interpretation of the Democratic party is that of intrusion- with all due respect to my friends on the Left. I cannot understand why more Republicans are not supportive of gay marriage, which protects the rights and private property attained in a community. For the time being, I will maintain an "R" next to my name, but if the party continues it's slide toward religious extremism as it currently has done, there will soon be an "I" instead. Its time to sever the unholy alliance between the Republican party and the Religious Right.
I see that a lot of people find it incomprehensible that an LGBT could ever vote for Romney. Well, I'm gay and voted for Romney, and I find the idea of "Gay? Vote Obama" a huge oversimplification. Being gay is part of who I am, but it is not all of who I am. A candidate's view on gay rights is one factor that I weigh equally with other issues that are important to me. Mr. Obama would have impressed me more if he had finished "evolving" years ago, when it was riskier for him to do so. Supporting marriage equality months before the election came across (to me) as an opportunistic means to get his base to the polls.I think it's wonderful that we now live in a time in which it is no longer political suicide to support LGBT rights, but I was disappointed that the President chose not to lead on this front, and instead decided to follow the scant majority of Americans who now rightly vote for equality.

Week In Closing XV/XVI

The world didn't end....and neither did The Column! There have been no posts on the blog for about two weeks now and for that I apologize. After finals week I came home to grandparents and then I was hosting a friend (Roberto!) for a few days. His visit got cut short when I got a mystery throat virus which was nothing short of terrible. I've finally recovered and I'm back in action. I believe my last Week In Closing post promised more activity and we see how well that went. I have two posts in the workings for the upcoming week so hopefully I follow through. I haven't given up on The Column quite yet so hang in there. Thanks for sticking with me. I have a new poll up this week (so much fun). The last poll was one by WWI & WWII. There was little interest expressed for the other quasi-historial periods. This week's poll is a little weak, but hey, it's there. 

So keep checking the blog and be sure to take the poll. I promise that we'll eventually see some more posts online sooner or later!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Week in Closing XIV

So The Column has been pretty slow, partly due to tons of maintenance. If you click around, you might notice that you're sent to pages that you weren't sent to previously. I maxed out on pages, so I've had to consolidate. You might have noticed the globalization project being moved to its own separate post...just stay on the lookout for that sort of stuff. I know there are some inactive links along the top of the page; things will be up eventually!! It seems that the Weeks in Closing are my only posts. I apologize. I promise I'll be getting better. 

We did have a new Letter to The Column this week and I have another lined up for the next few days. Check out The Suitcase and be sure to read about how to send in your own Letter to The Column!

The poll winner this week was Christmas cookies. Be sure to take the weekly poll which will be up shortly! 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Global Awareness at the College of Charleston

An Introduction to Charleston on the Global Stage

Before reading on, it is important to have an understanding of Charleston's historical role on the international level.

Soon after the city of Charleston was founded in 1670, international trade became the most important part of the city’s economy. The flourishing trade in Charleston made it one of the most active ports and one of the wealthiest places in America. With the bustling international trade came many immigrants who came to call Charleston home. Most of the immigrants to the Carolina low country were from the English and French mainlands and the islands in the Caribbean, which were the colonies' main trade partners. Other, smaller, communities of immigrants came from other places in Western Europe. Of particular historical influence are the immigrants from Barbados (then an English colony in the Caribbean). They brought with them their ruthless-yet-economically-productive methods of slave-handling and trading, which set the foundation for South Carolina’s slave-labor-fueled economy (1). By the American Revolution, 70% of the population in the colony was of African descent (with the majority held as slaves), by far the largest percentage in the thirteen colonies (2). 

For its time, the colony gave its citizens many freedoms (as long as they were white), and for this reason many people who were looking for a nicer life came to live in Charleston. Even among the other thirteen colonies, South Carolina’s religious tolerance stood out, and for this reason peoples who would not have been accepted in other colonies (such as the French Huguenots and the Jewish) flocked to the colony of South Carolina. In 1800 South Carolina had the largest population of Jewish people in the United States, and Charleston was their cultural hub (3). Charleston has earned itself the nickname “The Holy City” for its religious diversity and concentration of places of worship (1).

For more information you can follow link (1)link (2), or link (3)

The Control & Introduction 

This article will investigate the knowledge and perception of world affairs by Charleston locals. Each of the following sections provides a brief background on a particular current world affair that was asked about in the form of a multiple choice question. Our control question asked participants to identify the current US Secretary of State:

Who is our current US Secretary of State?
A. Hillary Clinton
B. Condoleezza Rice
C. Rick Santorum 

73.2% of participants answered this question correctly. 

After quizzing the participants about current events, there was a follow up map quiz. Participants were asked to identity a control (Ohio), Iran, Portugal, Argentina, & North Korea. Results can be found at the bottom of the article.

Egypt in Crisis

Hosni Mubarak was the fourth President of Egypt, holding power from 1981 to February 11, 2011, when he resigned and handed power to the army led by Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi. Mubarak´s resignation came after 18 days of popular protests in which millions of people from a variety of socio-economic and religious backgrounds demanded his overthrow. In major cities across Egypt such as Cairo and Alexandria, people campaigned with civil resistance, demonstrations, marches, civil disobedience and labor strikes. The people’s main grievances consisted of legal and political issues including police brutality, state of emergency laws, lack of free elections and freedom of speech, and uncontrollable corruption. Economic issues including high unemployment, food price inflation, and low minimum wages were reasons for the protests too. The primary demands from protest organizers were the end of the Hosni Mubarak regime and the end of emergency law, freedom, justice, a responsive non-military government, and a say in the management of Egypt's resources.

Question Posed: What was the name of the Egyptian president who resigned following the "Arab Spring?
A. Hosni Mubarak
B. Anwar Sadat
C. Muammar Gaddafi 

65.9% of participants answered this question correctly. 

If you would like to learn more about this, please follow this link.

Syrian Disputes Shape an Unlikely Alliance

Despite a long running competition for position as regional power in the Middle East, Turkey and Egypt have recently formed a new alliance. Turkey's close international partner, Syria, has been consumed with domestic turmoil causing Turkish eyes to look elsewhere. Turkish prime minister Erdogan has aligned with Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood president Morsi. There are several ideas circulating about the cause and spark of the newfound relation. Some believe that withering conditions in Syria influenced a Turkish rapidity in new relations forming. Others think that Erdogan's more conservative and Islamic political aspirations fall in line with the Muslim Brotherhood's. Regardless, the alliance serves as an interesting case study - currently the Egyptian economy is shattered. Perhaps Turkey has stepped in to help strengthen the economy. However, despite current sentiments, both Turkey and Egypt aspire to be regional powers. If Egypt is able to regain strength, this alliance could prove faulty. Regardless of potential outcomes and criticism, both nations felt it necessary to carry out these measures. 

Question Posed: Which two nations have recently aligned due to a variety of factors dealing with regional instability, but in particular, the weakening of Syrian international relations?
A. Saudi Arabia & Jordan
B. Iran & Algeria 
C. Turkey & Egypt 

39.0% of participants answered this question correctly. 

If you are interested in learning more about the Turkish-Egyptian alliance, please click on the link.

European Economic Crisis 

After joining the Eurozone in 1986, Spain enjoyed an economic boom. For some time, it even had the world’s highest rate of home ownership. In 2008, however, the financial crisis and recession changed Spain’s economic success, resulting in high rates of unemployment and deficit. Because of its large economy and weak banks, Spain has become a major source of anxiety for the European Union. In 2010, Spain began enacting a chain of austerity measures to retain the deficit. However, these measures have not been well received by Spanish citizens, resulting in government protests. In June 2012, Spain agreed to accept a bailout for its banks, and in September, the European Central Bank pledged to buy an unlimited number of bonds to lower interest rates for the EU’s most troubled countries, including Spain. Ever since April, Spain has had the highest unemployment rate in Europe, currently about 25%.

Question Posed: Which country has the highest unemployment rate in Europe?
A. Greece
B. Spain
C. Portugal 

9.8% of participants answered this question correctly.

If you are interested in learning more about Spain's role in the European Union and Spain's history, please follow the link.

Interviews from Participants

Q1 - How often due you follow the news? Due you follow international, national, or local news the most?
  1. Daily - national
  2. Rarely - local
  3. Daily - international
  4. Daily - international
Q2 - What kinds of sources do you use to keep up with the news?
  1. Reading online
  2. Online reading
  3. Online reading and videos
  4. Online reading and videos 
Q3 - On a scale of 1-10, how important is it to you to be knowledgable of global affairs? Why?
  1. 8 - Everything is connected; what happens in other parts of the world affects what happens here
  2. 8 - Everything is connected
  3. 10 - We live in a global society; everything is connected
  4. 9 - We are connected; we can try to predict what will happen by following the news (Participant is from Israel - focused on Israeli conflicts)

Map of the World 

Map Used for World Map Quiz
Map Used for US Map Quiz 
Ohio - 76.5% of participants successfully identified Ohio
Argentina - 47.1% of participants successfully identified Argentina
Iran - 76.5% of participants successfully identified Iran
Portugal - 94.1% of participants successfully identified Portugal 
North Korea - 64.7% of participants successfully identified North Korea 

Conclusion and Global Connection 

Based on our surveys, most people have a baseline knowledge of current global events; however, when asked about specifics, many people had a difficult time answering the question. In the instance of the European economic crisis, many people answered Greece. This suggests that most people are at least aware of the economic crisis, and are also aware of Greece being one of the EU member countries most effected. However, the fact that most participants were unable to correctly identify Spain as having the highest unemployment rate suggests that most people were not avidly following world news. 

The map quiz revealed that knowledge of world geography is severely lacking in the Charleston area. Every participant was able to correctly identify the continent in which the nation was located, but oftentimes were completely wrong in identifying the correct location for the specific country (ie - one participant thought Borneo was North Korea; another thought Estonia was Portugal).

In terms of world scope, this page received 141 views in time that it was up over the past week. Viewers from the US, Canada, France, UK, Turkey, Cambodia, Germany, Russia, Ukraine, and Venezuela came across the page. There were a total of 41 votes cast in the weekly poll, and the majority of voters revealed that they read international news about once a week. 

In closing, many of us like to believe that we are well informed about the current events of the world; however, often times we are only able to identity large scale generalizations about a particular region.


Aragano, Tim. "Turkey and Egypt Seek Alliance Amid Region's Upheaval." The New York Times 18 October 2012. Web. Accessed on 29 October 2012. <>

Brown, Nell P. "A "portion of the People"" Harvard Magazine. N.p., Jan.-Feb. 2003. Web. 31 Oct. 2012.

“Egypt: timeline of the Arab Spring since Hosni Mubarak's ouster.” The Telegraph, n.p. 24 June 2012. Web. 27 October 2012.<>

"Growth of the English Colonies, 18th-Century Slavery." Countries Quest. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Oct. 2012.

"Spain News." The New York Times 26 Oct. 2012. Web.

"The Barbados Connection." South Carolina National Heritage Corridor. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Oct. 2012.


The Suitcase - Letters to The Column

The Letter

To The Column,

This originally started as a "free write" warm up for my sophomore English class. That was everything before "10 years later." Then I finished the story for Scholastic Art & Writing, where it won a Gold Key:

It was just before dawn. The sun still hid behind the horizon as the moon prepared to take its bow. The night was filled with sounds of hushed secrets being exchanged: whispered into strained ears or passed along in hurriedly written text. The man, sporting a long black trench coat that sharply contrasted with his pale skin, as well as a perfectly creased fedora, made his way slowly, but confidently, down the dim streets. Tendrils of fog accompanied his feet as he flitted into and out of the light cast by the glow of alarm clocks and sentient porch lamps. In his hand was a heavy suitcase, Italian and hand crafted – the best of the best. He soon arrived at the riverbank. Here, the lights of the city’s low slung buildings reflected off the mirror-like surface of the water. Suddenly, the man heaved the suitcase up, up, up, past the rocky shoreline, over the moored sailboats, and into the water’s icy embrace. He watched mournfully as the ripples moved outward, eventually disappearing. The man turned back toward the direction from which he came, and after one last long gaze, stalked off into the dark. 

Ten Years Later 

Never had so strange a sight been seen on the shores of the Lena River. Dozens of men and women, all dressed in navy blue police windbreakers, stood ringed in a circle on a bright September morning. The gusting wind was all that was left of the storm of the century, a tempest so strong that debris – furniture, cars, road signs - filled the river water as if it were a bowl of multicolored cereal. But the Lena Police Department was not concerned with any of those things, for the wind brought to the surface something much more intriguing, and much more sinister: a heavy suitcase. Its only contents: one human heart. 

There it lay, still wrapped in protective plastic that had preserved it for an entire decade. The red flesh seemed to pulse under the brassy glare of the early autumn sun. “In thirty years, I’ve never seen anything like this,” the Detective said to no one in particular, shuddering and emitting a Hail Mary under his breath, followed by a string of words unfit for any holy setting. He bent down and ran his fingers over the grooves of the cowhide on the outside of the suitcase, as if he knew them all too well. 

“Maybe a medical examiner misplaced the suitcase,” said a voice over his shoulder. The Detective jumped, glancing upward to see his assistant, Lucy, looking anywhere but the organ. “Are you alright?” she asked, noting the sheen of sweat that had taken up residence on his forehead. “Just fine. And you must be joking – no way this is an accident.” At that moment, the head of the Police Department walked over to speak to his most senior detective. 

“We’re going to need to take this to the crime lab in Volga,” he told him. The lab in Lena was being renovated, making it currently unusable. “Sure thing, I’ll take it over right now,” the Detective replied quickly. “Lucy, take the day off – I know you’re dying to have lunch with that crush of yours.” A huge grin filled her face, and after thanking him profusely, she ran off toward her car, dialing a number on her cell phone with rapid speed. 

The Detective didn’t take the suitcase and its contents to the Volga crime lab. Instead, he went to the petite carriage house he had called home for eleven years. Key still in the ignition, he thought back to that desolate night one decade ago when we had done the unthinkable. All of it, the feeling of the fedora on his head, the condensation of the fog against his skin, came back in a rush of color and sound. Police officers are not supposed to kill people. It’s as simple as that. But all those years ago, the act of snuffing out a life, like blowing out a bright candle in a dark room, gave him deep pleasure in the dimmest corner of his heart. But one of his murderous acts stood out in particular. 

She was a beautiful girl. Her long golden tresses were brighter than the sun. Her personality shined even more. He was hers to have. But she would not have him. She was just too much. Too beautiful, too wealthy, too this, too that. So, on another dark night a decade ago, he took her life in return for her having already stolen his. But the Detective could not bear to part with her heart, the essence of her beauty. And so he kept it. That is, until a minuscule portion of his own heart began eating away at his conscience. Eventually, every thought, from the first that crossed his mind in the morning to the last he thought at night, was consumed by the suitcase and what lay inside. The Detective dreamt of arteries, veins, pumping: ceased. When the pain was too much to bear, he completed the task of that evening. 

Opening the heavy red door into his home, the Detective entered and began to pack. All of the essentials, every important piece of his existence, was stuffed into a couple of fraying black duffel bags. Putting them into the car, he drove out of town. He followed the asphalt past Volga, past the state lines, past everything familiar. This time, he did not look back. 


Azeezat Adeleke

My Response

Firstly, thanks so much for sending in a letter. I love to read a good piece of fiction every now and then so thanks for that as well. I'd like to say congratulations on winning a gold key; that is quite an accomplishment  I also applied for a Scholastic Award and only managed to bring home a Silver Key. I'm not here to critique your writing, but I found it to be excellent. I loved the mystery that surrounds the entire story. Had a very Tell-Tale Heart sort of feel to it. I hope you keep up with your writing because it is a great piece. Thank you so much for sharing. Hopefully others will be encouraged to write in! 

Monday, December 3, 2012

A Week in Closing XII/XIII

WOW has it been a while since I've posted something. My apologies...we all went on Thanksgiving break and the little slacker inside of me never moved out. But I'm back. And hopefully with nearly nothing to do over finals week I'll find some time to post something! Anyway, I'll give you the usual little recap of the week (in this case, two weeks).

First, the feature piece of the month probably goes to my "article" on South Korea's "identity crisis." It took a very long time to write and it's relatively long, and I definitely fizzle out towards the end, but if you haven't checked it out you definitely should. You can read it here.

I posted an essay of mine along the top of the page. It's not too fascinated and I threw the paper together pretty quickly. It is somewhat of a continuation of my Economics from a Philosopher post. If you found that interesting, you might be interested in what the paper has to say. Without further ado, the paper can be found here. I'll most likely continue posting essays along the top of the page. Don't fret, I won't be posting every essay I write; probably just the essays that I find most relavant to my current studies. We'll see how long it takes to fill the top of the page.

There have been two recent photos added to The Column's photo gallery: Mood 3 & Transformation - 변홤. Be sure to check them out if you haven't already. They both belong to 3 part series. I'll be completing the S. Korea series this week.

You might have noticed there was no weekly poll. Simply because I presented the project on globalization  so I wanted to clear up the page. The poll pertaining to reading the news will stay up until the end of my semester in case the professor needs to reference anything! Last week's poll was won by Charleston! Woo! The new poll will be up soon! Be sure to take it.

Finally, you might have noticed that the blog has changed a bit. I think I'm finally satisfied with the current look, so it should stay the same for a while. Thanks for bearing with me. 

Keep stopping by, love to see when I have page views. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Identity Crisis: The Narrative of South Korea


In August 2011, I spent two weeks in South Korea participating on a fully funded trip sponsored by CIEE/US-Korea Youth Network. The Korea Foundation generously puts on and funds the trip. I believe this coming August is the last trip that is going to be put on, so you guys who are still in high school or current high school seniors should definitely check it out. Just Google CIEE South Korea scholarship and you'll be sure to find it fairly quickly! 

Before I delve into this so called "identity crisis" that I witnessed while in South Korea, it'd probably be a good idea for me to give a bit of an abstract. This piece will be relatively long and relatively heavy. It'll be more of an academic piece, but I'll do my best to keep it interesting. I traveled to South Korea with 99 other students, so it would be really awesome to hear some feedback from some of you who read the blog. The post will have some pictures to keep things aesthetically pleasing. All of the pictures except for maps are shots that I took while on my trip. With all that said, I hope you enjoy. For those of you who love history and international relations, you'll probably find this post interesting. For those of you who just like taking the weekly poll, this might not be your number one post. Regardless, hopefully you all can get the most out of it. Rather than breaking this up into multiple parts, I think it'd be best to have this all in one large chunk. Bear with me, and we can all learn a thing or two!

South Korea Basics - History and Geography

Source 1
South Korea is located in a potentially problematic place. South Korea is a part of the Korean peninsula, and borders only one other country. You guessed it - North Korea. With air and boat travel the only two outlets for international migration, South Korea is, in a sense, isolated. When I was there, I definitely felt a sense of isolation. With nowhere to go but south, and south ending in roughly 4 hours by car maximum, you get a bit of "rock fever." Or at least I did.

To the left, you can see an image of the Korean peninsula. North and South Korea are split at the "38th parallel." This terminology is frequently referred to in N/S Korean conversation. The 38th parallel is simply a line of latitude. In reality, the border doesn't run even near to perfectly straight across. The border has a curve to it that runs north from west to east.
Source 2

To the right, you can see where South Korea lies in relation to the rest of Asia. Prior to traveling to SK, I often visualized it as being directly beside the SE Asian block. It wasn't until a friend traveled to Cambodia that I realized that the SE Asian block is a pretty far distance from S Korea. Now that we have a better idea of where South Korea is, it'll be somewhat easier to get a visual hold on the historical aspects of the nation.

Before the Korean War, North and South Korea did not exist - Korea simply existed as one united nation. Despite this unity, Korea's history is scattered with conquest. To keep things simple, from roughly 1910 to 1945, Korea was under Japanese colonial rule. Koreans were subjugated to the whims of the Japanese, fed Japanese culture, and taught the Japanese language. It takes no expert in the Japanese occupation of Korea to know that colonization of a nation does severe damage to national identity and national narrative. 

Source 3
After WWII, which ceased Japanese occupation, Korea was left fragmented. North and South Korean ideologies were conflicting, and war was eminent  In 1950, the Korean War broke out. The Korean War was essentially a civil war between the north and south. A very simplified version of the story puts the north in a communist sphere of influence and the south in a Western, democratic sphere of influence. 

As seen in the image on the left, Korea was split almost down the middle at the 38th parallel, with red coloring representing the communist sphere of influence (Soviet Union) and the green representing the democratic, free market influence (USA). It is important to note that at the time, China was not the communist influence in North Korea. China was undergoing domestic turmoil as well, and this period encompasses the Soviet influence in China as well. In closing, in 1953 Korea was left split; North and South Korea would now be two sovereign states, with the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) serving as a border. Another important note to consider is the fact that the Korean War never technically ended - to this day, the DMZ is on edge waiting for one side to end the cease fire of 1953. South Korea was left to pick up the pieces, and reverberations from this broken past can still be felt today, which creates, in my opinion, the identity crisis that presented itself to me during my travels in South Korea.

The Issue of Unification - A Lost Sister 

Yonsei University 
Upon sitting down in one of the classes put on by Yonsei University (연세대학교) on North Korean-South Korean relations, I was immediately surprised by the lack of taboo surrounding the words North Korea. Born and bred in the US of A, it is the easy assumption to clump North Korea, Nazis Germany, and the Soviet Union into the same mass of evil. Furthermore, it is also incredibly easy to forget about the individuals living in North Korea. I have found that many US citizens view North Koreans as dark and communist human beings. Seeing as I have never spent any extended time speaking with North Koreans, it's hard for me to speak objectively and accurately; however, many North Koreans would give the world to defect to South Korea. Unless you are favored with a spot in the North Korean capital of Pyeongyang, life as a North Korean is pretty rough Many people are unaware of just how rough being a North Korean can get. North Korea is littered with concentration camps. Work camps. We're talking about flashback to the concentration camps of Hitler in all his Nazis pride. Let's get back on track.

With all that said, it was a shock to me when I heard the professor speak of North Korea as a "lost sister." There was an overarching sentiment of pity towards the northern partner; a sense that somehow along the way the Korean resolution failed, and that modern South Korea was left longing for a sister that is only engraved in the memories of the eldest South Korean generation. It was sobering. The United States breeds a hate for North Koreans. And maybe not so much a hate, as a growing fear that manifests itself in highly personal conversation - conversations you have with your grandfather who fought against the "commies" in WWII, Vietnam, and Korea. It feels unnatural to pity North Korea. It feels like treason; it feels as if by showing even the slightest hope for domestic North Korean improvement is throwing yourself into the pits of everything it is to be "anit-American." Enough with the drama. 
My hosts - The Baek Family 

Despite this sense of North Korean longing, there was certainly a mix of sentiment among the Koreans that I spoke to. Keep in mind that all of this may seem like a diversion from the original identity crisis - it's not, we'll get there, eventually. When I walked the campus, there were student protests which I later learned demonstrated support for the unification effort. Based on the enthusiasm and immediacy that the protesters demonstrated, a foreigner could easily be tricked into thinking that unification was just around the corner. Words from the same professor that conveyed sadness for North Korea suggested that unification was a long way out, that maybe it was not possible despite desire. (Did I mention he met Kim Jung Il?) My host sister, Ji Eun, showed disinterest. North-South Korean unification didn't rival in importance with her various tests, examinations, and school requirements. Though I never met a Korean with a strong anit-unification sentiment, I am sure there are Koreans who would be opposed to a unified Korea.

An anecdote - before arriving in Korea it was my job to figure out a gift for my host family. Among other gifts, I brought a collection of mixed CD's and titled them (romanized versions to follow) Namhan. The name for Korea is Hanguk. Hanguk technically refers to a potentially unified Korea; however, when speaking of South Korea, most Koreans use Hanguk. When I looked up how to say South Korea, I came across the translation of Namhan. Yes, this does mean South Korea. But when the gift was presented to my host family, they looked surprised, confused, perplexed. Terrified that I had done something awful, I asked about the confusion. The family was honestly taken aback by seeing the written words of Namhan - South Korea. Though Namhan accurately describes the nation in which they live, Hanguk is the default name for the country. Though I would have been met with plenty of surprise by other families if I had given the same gift, as an outsider, it seemed odd that Namhan was so inaccurate. Why would Hanguk be the country's name if it refers to an entity that simply does not exist. After all, the North Korean word for a unified Korea doesn't add up - Choson. 

**Now would be a great time for an intermission. We're about halfway through and I know you're probably tired of reading at this point. Go take a snack break, eat a cookie. Just make sure you come back to read the rest of the article! Simply clink the link below to open the rest of the post! Thank goodness for pictures, right?**

Saturday, November 17, 2012

A Week In Closing XI

This week was a fairly busy week for The Column...nothing too exciting, though. I'll keep the notes brief:

Earlier this week I provided some much wanted political commentary (yeah, sarcasm). It was a utter failure in terms of popularity, so I am sorry if it was offensive or just awful to read. Bad timing, on my part, probably. Either way, you can find the article here.

In addition, there was a new feature on The Column. I interviewed a friend about her Spanish learning endeavors. Yup, the one that reads "Una entrevista..." That's it! I will probably continue doing some sort of weekly or bi-weekly interview sort of thing. Not sure if it'll involve language or not. You can find the interview here.

Some notes of photography:

Yes, it would appear that all of the photos listed under the gallery about a week ago have disappeared. There is reasoning behind the maddness - the link list was simply growing too long, and I didn't want it to take over the right half of the page. ALL of the past photos are archived on a single blog post, along with an ongoing list of all of the photo essays that have been posted on the blog as well. You can find this new archived this here, or you can simply follow the link along the top of the page that says "Photo Archive." There were two new photos added in the gallery section. They are parts of a three part photo piece. They have the enthralling names of Mood 1 and Mood 2. Mood 3 will surely go up this week! Finally, this week presented a brand new photo essay, Snapshots of Arizona. Please, let me know what you think if you have any thoughts. 

This week's ultra cerebral poll was won by fall! Go fall! The new poll will be up shortly so be sure to take it!

Make sure to keep writing to The Column. I don't want it to become a dead feature.

Hope you are still enjoying the material and as always, thanks so much for stopping by. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Snapshots of Arizona

In April 2011 I took a family trip out to Arizona with the original purpose of visiting the University of Arizona (which I didn't even wind up applying to despite loving the school). My mom, dad, sister and I started our trip in Tucson and visited my grandparents at their house. We toured the city a bit and I spent a great deal of time gazing out at the magnificent view. We then took a road trip north to Flagstaff, took a train to the Grand Canyon, then drove south again and made a pitstop in Sedona to do a Pink Jeep tour. We concluded the trip back in Tucson with my grandparents. It was a beautiful trip and I cannot wait to go back out West. Here is another photo essay, but this time, not of people!


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Elections, Meacham, and the Narrative of Change

I've been telling myself that I would not write a post concerning the 2012 Presidential elections. We all hear enough all the time, and I doubt any of you out there reading this will really care about who I am voting for and why. And honestly, I don't need to justify that to anyone but myself. Despite intentions, I couldn't completely ignore the current political spectrum. After hearing so much about politics over the past few weeks, I decided that it might be a good idea to get some of my ideas down. I started writing this post about a week before the election, and I'm sitting down to finish it a few days after. For various reasons I never got around to finishing it, so here it is now. With a bit of a new shape. 

The other night I went to a lecture put on by the College of Charleston. They had Jon Meacham come and speak to a large group of students, faculty, and "VIP guests" (whatever that means?) Joh Meacham is a Pulitzer winner and is the current executive editor at Random House. He was also the previous editor for Newsweek. To say the least, he is a decorated individual. Since I forgot to bring a note pad to the lecture, I will do my best to quote him accurately (and it's a stretch - I'm going for ideas, not verbatim). I am going to give a 2 quotes he said that I found to be captivating and interesting, then provide some of my own commentary, and we'll call it a day. Deal? Deal.

  • Many people want the media to be left leaning. We want the media to be liberal. I remember I saw a sticker in the stall in a bathroom during the Bush election and it said...'Want to annoy the media? Vote for Bush.' However, what I have learned is that the media just likes conflict. Whenever there is conflict the media is interested. The media also wants to see a change in motion. The media is drawn to a conflict that has a shift in direction. However, this does not mean that the media is concerned with an overarching narrative of change. That would be too complicated.
  • If we want serious and meaningful change to occur in this country we have to have enough courage to give our incumbents the reassurance that by carrying out change they will not be carrying out their final terms as well. We cannot expect any significant change without giving out politicians some room. 
So with that said, I think that we can all learn a few things. The bipartisan nature of our political system simply does not allow any politician to do anything other than seek reelection. The media, no matter how liberal they appear to be, is essentially concerned with a reaction. For a president who is so concerned with the will of the people, and a nation founded on democracy, no one other than the people seem to feel the frustrations of social and economic stagnation.  

So here's my two cents on the political system:

Having two parties has become entirely ineffective. I've heard many of my liberal friends poke fun at the Republican party, mocking their efforts to come across as "one of the guys." Many Democrats and far left liberals like to hate on the conservative side for being filthy rich. News flash - President Obama spent more money than any other incubent in history on his election campaign. For a party who is supposed to defend the lower classes, it doesn't seem too concerned with how much money is being dished out in campaigning. The president also earns a salary that is not to be ashamed of. This is not to say that it is undeserving, but it also cannot possibly be used to equate the president with the common man. (New York Times Article for more info!)

I'm not just picking on the Democratic party either. I voted for President Obama. But this does not erase the gross amount of hypocrisy on both sides of the government. We live in a society in which moderation does not exist. Moderate liberals are considered to be conservative by the far left and socialist by the far right. When most of the country is absolutely split, moderation is the only answer in attempts to satisfy everyone. When majority rules comes down to just a few percentage points, majority really becomes half. And half isn't too much in the grand scheme of things. We would never look at a group of 100 people and say "well good thing only half of them died." The concept of majority rules in the US is inane. Majority does not rule. 

Also, when a country is so evenly divided and so polar on top of that, there is clear evidence that both sides have something right. Seeing as I am a college student, I hear a lot of doomsday speech surrounding the Republican party. It's silly. This bipartisan nature of politics breeds the same ignorance in Democrats that they so hate in Republicans. It is a common assumption by far left voters that all Republicans are "fag-haters," "Bible-huggers," and "tree-killers." Though there are certainly reasons for stereotypes, this attitude is the same attitude that many liberals hate in conservative mindsets. Ignorance bred on either side is detrimental to the system, and I think many people miss this. Likewise, far right conservatives love to throw around the term communism when talking about the left. Clearly, anyone who supports abortion or gay rights is "morally bankrupt" (yes, I have heard this term used in context) and anyone who supports an improved healthcare system is a socialist. And the list goes on. Those who don't support the current welfare system are considered heartless conservatives by the left, and those on welfare are considered bums who won't get off their asses to work by the far right. By constantly defining and archetype-ing the policies in place and those who support them, this country will never move forward. Both sides (yes, this includes both!) need to equally come to the middle. Citizens of this nation love to throw around their own interpretations of what the US was founded on, what we stand for. But no one does anything but bitch. And to be frank, I am sick of it. (And I'm sure many others are too). 

I respect the President, and I surely could not do the job. And much of the issue in US politics doesn't have to do with the president. It lies on the voters. It lies on the voice of the people. Members of both political parties in the US are responsible for reading up and educating themselves. Both sides. Liberals, this means you need to understand that not all Republicans are evil human beings, and that sometimes conservative economic policy is in fact better in the long run. Conservatives, this means you need to let go of some of the social-backwardness that your party's platform hangs onto and be willing to acknowledge that the free enterprise system does have it's downfalls. With moderation comes health and happiness. Too much of any one thing is a bad thing. 

Much of this lies in the deep seeded split among voters. I could go on and on about the follies of the US political system, but I'll most likely just work myself up into a frenzy. There is simply a problem when someone refuses to vote for a candidate solely because he/she is endorsed by the "other party." When people become more concerned by definitions than reality, we have a problem. We call this racism. We call this fanaticism. We call this obsession. But in politics, we call this the rule.

Please, let's break the rule for once. Maybe we won't regret it.