Friday, September 04, 2009

The byzantine Byzantine

I like to make quick judgments. I resolved after 3 hours that Bishkek is the worst city I've ever been to, and resolved after 10 hours in Istanbul that it's one of the two or three best cities I've ever been to. I made that quick judgment sitting in the Sultanahmet square by the eponymous mosque, watching some kind of free concert of Turkish music, oriental and Byzantine to the nines, but also tied in with Ramadan and some form of religious expression. It's sad to travel across much of the Muslim world during Ramadan, taking in the wonderful iftar culture and wake up to azans from a dozen mosques at the same time, and yet not be able to participate because I chose this time of year to travel.

Since I haven't really done much here so far but admire the beauty from afar, I'd like to list all the books I've read on this trip.

Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell
The World is Flat, by Thomas Friedman
Getting Rich First: A Modern Social History, by Duncan Hewitt
Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
The Travels of Marco Polo, actually by some other guy whose name I forget

Currently, I am labouring through Jean Jacques Rousseau's Confessions (Andrew Fisher, are you reading this?). It's alternatingly creepy and illuminating, and overall it's dull to read a 600-page book that's the biography of a philosohper, a man who is famous for thoughts more than actions. It's a bit like reading a 600-page book about the thoughts of a man who doesn't have any, such as Joe the Plumber or most athletes or actors.

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