Sunday, December 14, 2008

On Tourists and History

Frommers just came out with a book about the 500 places you should visit before its too late. The list includes some places that are under threat from global warming and development, and places that are under threat from tourism. I havent read the book but have read articles about it and have noticed an interesting situation developing. Places like the Taj Mahal and the Pyramids are under threat from tourists and could be damaged due to the sheer number of visitors. Thats ironic because the tourists would be destroying the very thing they traveled all that way for. Its also even more ironic that Frommers would try to send even more people to these locations by claiming they will not be around for as long as we think.

I decided a long time ago I am not a tourist type, and I dont really like tourists much either. While I appreciate history and the places where history happened I never liked standing in a group of 50 people listening to a tour guide while he tells some story about why this room is important. A places looses its power when filled to the brim with screaming kids, guys with fanny packs, and women with sun hats all snapping pictures. You have your souvener shops oftentimes with an arctitecture that mimics the local history, you have your visitor booths, and ticket counters and lines and places for buses to park. I dont care who signed what in that building, its over and nothing important is ever going to happen in that building again now that its just there for the tourists. Historical perspective is lost in the groups of people, and its hard to even get a sense of what the feeling must have been like in that spot when the person next to you is yaking on their cell phone. All to often the pop culture feel of the major tourist attractions distract from the history, and it becomes a race for everyone to see how many sites they can collect, how many pictures they can take of themselves with something that all of their friends all ready took a picture of themselves with.

I also think it is crazy when something that is considered historic because people want to see it, but doesnt have much value beyond that is put behind closed doors to protect it. We hear about egyptian artifacts that are kept in London basements, or paintings kept at art museum storage units because the curators want to protect it. These things have no meaning if they are not seen, their significance lies in the fact that people want to see them, if you take them out of circulation I think that makes them meaningless. Its also very interesting to see when rooms in historic locations are blocked off, or like at the State House where you can not walk up the front steps! Yeah I know that last one is a "security" measure, but those steps are so nice, its such a shame to just waste them like that.

With that all being said I do like to visit places with old architecture. I like history and have been lucky enough to see a full piece of the Berlin Wall almost by myself, the Capitol Building with one other person late at night without millions of people around (walking through those domes without tourists is pretty spooky but cool) and have seen a bunch of other sites in a semi private manner. Thats why I prefer to visit places off season, or for special events. I also like to visit places that are historic in some way but are not in the popular culture so they tend to be quiet. Im not a snob by any means, but I just dont see the use in visiting a place where Benjamin Franklin , for instance, did something great and now Im expected to stand in this little crowded room hearing about it from a tour guide who would rather be on stage acting then down here showing off for us.

Monday, December 08, 2008

On Fears and Recessions

I was reading a story in the Boston Globe called Doom Boom, which was about the feelings and thoughts of random people the reporter came across. They were asked what their greatest fears were. The article itself was obviously a little on the sensationalistic side, I mean seriously how do you chronicle a sense of doom and who says its booming? With that aside some of the answers were obvious, others were pretty deep, but its always interesting to see that one comment or thought that pierces your own point of view:

Inside the wilds of Harvard Yard, I ran into Jason McCoy, a Campus Life Fellow,
and Paul McLoughlin, chief of staff to the dean of the college. I asked McCoy
what scares him most and he said loneliness.

Ive actually met Jason McCoy through my day job and he comes across as anything but lonely, but I think that is whats intriguing about this answer. Its the sense that here is someone who is a Campus Life Fellow, his less formal name around town is the Fun Czar, and his biggest fear is loneliness. Some would feel that that fear would be akin to a child playing on a Revere Beach and worrying that he will run out of sand.
It made me wonder about my own life, and the lives of people like me. I have very social jobs, essentially it is my job to reach out to people, to go to meetings, to make phone calls etc. I do Facebook, Myspace, and Linked in. I go to local events, meetings, gatherings. I was at three places over the course of Thanksgiving Day. I'm not a lonely person, but it is one of my fears. I spent a good deal of my childhood feeling lonely, I just didn't know it at the time. More recently Ive felt quite lonely at work, and the funny thing is the more people I talk to, the more people that are around, the lonelier I can feel. I feel very isolated at both of my jobs, but the more uncomfortable I am the more I try to do, its an interesting cycle.
I think the article is rather silly, but I guess it was pretty good if it made me step aside from my life for a while and think.
After a five year hiatus from blogging I decided to bring my blogger account back to life. Lucky you, you get to read my very first post, this my friends is called Living History ;)

I feel obliged to offer a few words about the restarting of my blog, an obligation to myself as my readership base (the whole five or so of them) have already moved on to bigger and better things. I have always been an early adopter of new ideas/people/concepts/technology and then I always seem to drop them just as they get popular. I was on Blogger back before people knew what a blog was, I had a digital camera before anyone else even realized you could take pictures without film, and I had an LCD TV back when that was really weird. Flash forward to 2008 and here I am trying to get my blog groove on after a 5 year absence, I am sans digital camera (luckily I am getting a new camera for Christmas,) and I still have that TV, which is beginning to look quite old now. I tend to be quite verbose, so I am hoping that carries over well to this format.

I plan on writing allot about myself and my thoughts, but also hope to include some information about the place I call home, Chelsea, as well. When I get my new camera I will toss in a few pictures of things that I find interesting, and if you are reading this then you find what I like to be interesting as well.

Thank you for reading my inaugural post!