After 13 years with Blogspot, I've shifted blogging platform. So (drumroll, please), you can find my new blog here . Ari on the Web will stay online, so you can scroll through the archives for all sorts of embarrassing tidbits. To make it easier to find some of my writing on particular themes, I've grouped some pieces together under a few labels: Cancer Fatherhood Indonesia travels North Korea travels United States travels Undergraduate days So as they say here in my new home of Japan, so long, and thanks for the all the fish.
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North Korea is a place that is shrouded in mystery and conjecture, much of it of its own creation. For so long it has chosen to close itself off from the rest of the world that little information flows in or out of the place. In the absense of hard facts, rumour and speculation run rife. I plead guilty as one who has engaged in plenty of rumour-mongering in the past (and, let's be honest, will probably try my hand at it in the future), but to really come to grips with the place it is necessary to see it first hand. Much of the speculation is not meant in a harsh, negative way - although there are elements of that - but is instead meant in the same way that people watch the bearded lady at the circus. Curious, but not necessarily critical. Perhaps they could but those on the number plates - DPRK: The Bearded Lady of Asia. Since there are so few who have seen the place but so many who speculate, I think it is worth publishing a few thoughts after my trip. It's important
I dream one day of visiting Pyongyang and staying in the wonderfully pyramidic Ryugyong Hotel. The outer shell of this hotel which dominates the Pyongyang skyline was built in the 1980s, and the interior was, well, never built. It seems possible that the project was commenced in a pique of optimism as North Korea put in a claim to share the 1988 Olympic Games with its southern brothers, but just as the offer was rejected - just like the bid to share the 2002 Soccer World Cup failed on the basis of North Korea's request to host the Opening Ceremony, Semi Finals and Final - the hotel was never completed. Nowadays, in stands pointing to the sky much the way that Kim Il Sung's statue does, both perhaps as a symbol of the excesses of North Korean enthusiasm. Instead of the Ryugyong, like most foriegn visitors to Pyongyang I found myself staying at the Yanggakdo Hotel. The Yanggakdo Hotel is a slice of Cold War Bondesque paranoia writ large. The hotel is located on an isla