Sunday, May 5, 2013

London, so far

1. Urban youth acting like punks with British accents are hilarious.

2. London is amazingly global. A tiny fraction of the people/languages/accents I've encountered have been British. Slight selection bias admitted.

3. Nonetheless, some foreign students I was talking to last night confirm my suspicion that foreigners in London feel more permanently like foreigners than in, say, New York. The American identity is based on diversity and everyone being an immigrant. Anyone can be American, but not anyone can be British.

4. If I pay 10 pounds per night to stay in a dormitory hostel room, do you really think I'm going to pay a pound per hour to connect to wifi? Price discrimination fail. (Phone tethering setup complete.)

5. Upon visiting Westerminster Abbey, I'm reminded (since living in Germany in middle school) how strangely integrated religion is in official business in Europe. Then I realize that by global standards, I'm actually the weird one for taking separation of church and state for granted. Then I experience a wave of patriotism.

6. We say that celebrities are American royalty. That's not true. Royalty exist on a higher plane who are supposed to deserve their status due to some endowed intrinsic quality, perhaps literally by God, whereas we fundamentally realize that celebrities are normal people who earned or stumbled into their position. We ultimately recognize the perverse fetishism that perpetuates celebrity, but no such undercurrent applies to royalty.

7. Again, it's strange to think that I'm globally the weird one for so thoroughly internalizing the mantra that all men are created equal.

8. Norms and expectations matter far more than legality. (Well ok, duh, but all the subtle differences remind me, and it's a point worth remaking indefinitely.) How on earth else could this modern, peaceful, inclusive society have evolved from such a weird mix of government, the royal family, and state religion? While meanwhile elsewhere, all the proper legalese and institutional setup in the world can't end long-brewing religious wars?

9. The best and worst thing about being a social scientist is that it's so hard to focus on the experience rather than the meta-experience.

10. The best thing about going to church (I went to Westminster Abbey's Evensong, for the sake of the nice choir music, despite feeling approximately like how I imagine a sheltered religious boy must feel in the Castro for the first time: very out of place and a little dirty, and afraid to attract attention) is the funny outdated words. "Holpen" = "helped". "Abode" is in fact the past tense of "abide". "Endue" is another form of "endow". If I'd had a smartphone to look this stuff up on on the fly as a kid I probably would've been much more interested in the Bible.

11. The Indian food here really does taste different. I don't know whether I like it better or worse; it was excellent, but distinctly different. (Further experimentation necessary :)

12. The world is small. Had dinner with a friend who randomly saw my facebook post about going to London, where she lives. Turns out she goes to the school that is hosting my conference. Went to a party with a bunch of people who will be there next week.

13. Why haven't döner kebabs caught on in the U.S.?

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