Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The Amagasaki Derailment

I wanted to just say something quickly about the recent derailment in Japan, which has apparently killed more than 100 people.

Japan has probably the most modern, technologically advanced and efficient train system in the world. Japan itself is an advanced society and culture with a rich history and great people - people who have made some mistakes in the past, yes, but by and large these days it is a peaceful country that has a sense of innocence about it that's long gone from America. I love it there; I love the country and the people.

I've ridden Japan's trains. I've ridden the shinkansen (colloquially known as "bullet trains" in the west), I've ridden the subways, and I've ridden commuter trains like the one that derailed in Amagasaki, near Osaka. I've ridden them with my wife (who is Japanese), I've ridden them with friends, and I've ridden them alone.

So I feel maybe unusually affected by this event for somebody who is an American, with no direct ties to any of the victims. It still hurts me to read some of the things I've read (and unsurprisingly, Japanese news sites have a lot more info about this accident than American ones), and to see some of the images I've seen - especially images like this one or this one, which are often censored from public consumption in the west. (Mainichi has an English-language photo site with some larger photos here.) The Japanese place more importance on seeing the human cost of tragedies like this than we do. This was not simply a tangle of metal and statistics - these are real people with families and friends and lives to live. People who just minutes before were quietly chatting on cell phones (with their mouths covered, as the Japanese do), talking with their buddies about the upcoming school day, or catching one last nap before work.

I think what really sort of gets to me is just how random something like this is. You can live in one of the safest and most technologically advanced countries in the world, doing something you do every single day, that billions of people do every year, and bam!
You're dead. No warning. Nothing you could have done differently.

Of course, this is certainly not the first random act of God (or man) to befall innocent people throughout the world, and I'm certainly aware of that, as someone who watched 9/11 happen from my balcony window before escaping as fast as I could run towards Long Island. I made it through that, but many people didn't.

It's sometimes hard to accept that death can strike at any time, and all we can do is mourn for those who fall prey when it does.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Mother of All Monster Posts Coming...

I've got a good reason for my absence lately - I've been messing around with Windows Media Center 2005. I've learned so much useful info through the experience that it's taking me several weeks to write a post worthy of my newfound knowledge. When it comes, it will be a monster. Check back in a few days, if all goes well. (If you don't see it by then, you will know that my very written words have tumbled down from above in a massive cascade of death, burying me forever under the weight of my own thoughts.)

About This Blog

This is increasingly not a blog about Alphabet City, New York. I used to live in the East Village and work on Avenue B, but I no longer do. Why don't I change the name if I'm writing about Japan and video games and guitars? Because New Yorkers are well-rounded people with varied interests, and mine have gone increasingly off the rails over the years. And I don't feel like changing the name. I do still write about New York City sometimes.


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