Tag Archives: Christine Bell

Osama Bin Laden is gone: 9/11 Thoughts from a New Yorker in Chicago

As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, Osama Bin Laden is dead. To many, the events of 5/1/11 stir up a lot of memories and feelings of relief, joy, anger or sadness. I was living in Brooklyn at the time of the 9/11 attacks and the post that follows is a recount of my 9/11 experience which I wrote 5 years ago that I thought would be an interesting read today.
Before I get to that I’d like to share some of the best insight I’ve seen on yesterday’s events from Facebook:

“I am not certain human beings will know world peace until we can equate justice with reconciliation instead of retaliation.”
-Jenn Kloc

“So it took 10 years for mankind’s largest and most technologically advanced military to take out one guy and we’re actually PLEASED with the results, huh?”
-Tobias Jeg

“Osama Bin Laden existed as a symbol of hate, evil, and horrifying destruction. Let the world celebrate not the death of a man, but triumph over darkness, pain, and fear.”
-Ashley Sather

“Relief looks a lot like joy, don’t judge those that are out celebrating together, they need this.”
-Melissa Pierce

I feel that all these years later I can relate to all of these but Melissa’s hits home the most.
I watched on TV last night the scene in NY and despite all the cynicism, misplaced joy and other feelings I wished I there with those people. I’m not into celebrating the death of anyone but the symbolism of this is big but the feelings in this article still hold true.
Thanks and I hope you find it interesting.
I’ve got the scars to remind me…

9/11/2006

…I’ve watch the clocks go ’round.
Walked myself through some days
that have put me where I am.
In another time, In another place
all things might have been in place
But for now I’m finding myself up here standing on a rooftop screaming.
Hey world are you listening… listening to me?
I’m here and I’m hurting to begin again.
It’s another time, it’s another place.
We are making more old days.
But for now I’m finding myself out and standing on my doorstep screaming.
Hey world are you listening… listening to me?
I’m here and I’m hurting to begin again.
Hey world I’m ready to listen… and learn something new.
I’m here and I’m willing to get myself through.
– Hot Water Music “Rooftops”



I wasn’t going to do this but Zeldman’s post stirred up a lot in me.
Has it really been five years? I really don’t know what to do… it still seems so unbelievable. I feel like I have spent the last 5 years living in a bad dream just waiting to wake up. I still sorta lie to myself about things. I let the media corrupt me and my memories of what happened that day. I feel cheap and used. Until recently I had almost completely forgotten parts of it. As if they were blocked out of my memory.
The endless smoke. The smell of burning and ash. The jumpers. The smoldering holes that were once buildings. How they didn’t stop burning for weeks.
A few weeks back I went upstate with Christine and her family and found papers from 9/12. I looked though them and every article was in somehow related to the towers. It was like everything else in the world just froze. Like someone put the rest of history on pause for a moment. I had forgotten that baseball went on hiatus, or how long it was before planes were flying again. And how weird it was to hear fighter jets overhead rather than the commercial planes that you were so used to you barely even noticed them anymore.
I was living in Brooklyn at the time, attending the Pratt Institute. I remember everything like it was yesterday. My roommate Dan and I were on our way to class when the guys across the hall from us yelled, stopping us from getting on the elevator.

“Some idiot flew a plane into one of the Twin Towers.”

We ran into his room where his roommate was videotaping it from his window. Although it disgusts me to admit now, honestly… at the time…. we laughed. We laughed recounting the famous story of the plane that hit the state building back in the 40’s. Thinking this to be the same: a very public accident of small scale.
What you have to realize is that we had no idea of scale, we figured it was some private plane and honestly didn’t even think about size or injury. It seemed impossible that anything could even damage the towers, so we didn’t even think anything of it. The longer we stood there, the more smoke I saw, the more serious it felt. But we also figured we were late for class, so we’d better get a move on.
When I got to class most of my classmates hadn’t even heard about it. About 10 minutes in someone comes running into our room and yells:

“A plane just flew and hit both Trade Towers!”

Half of our class went running into the other room to go look out from their window. Once again: the issue of scale. You never really realized how big those things were until a plane flew into them. It seemed reasonable to many to believe that they were close enough together that one plane’s wingspan could hit both towers. As I looked from the window and watched the North and South towers billowing out black smoke it hit me. I was the first one to say it aloud:

“The one tower was already smoking when I left my room this morning, the second one just happened. This is no accident, someone planned this.”

It just seemed inconceivable at the time to everyone in the room and honestly I forget sometimes how carefree we all were before that day. The teacher rushed us back to our respective room where we continued class for a bit. Time passed and he called for a break. I started walking to the on campus cafeteria and attempted to phone my parents back home… strangely I couldn’t get a signal out at first.

“Turn off your phone @$$hole! Other people need to use the networks.”

Confused and completely caught off guard, I looked up at the upperclassmen had just yelled this at me and I didn’t know what to make of it. The phone was useless anyhow so I shut it off. When I got into the cafeteria it was like nothing I had ever seen before. A massive amount of people were crowded around the TVs that were mounted on the ceiling. Someone had changed the channel from the usual corporate marketing bullshit CTN (college television network) and put on the news. I stood there frozen in shock with my peers as we watched the first tower fall. When I managed to regain thought I then rushed myself to my room and put on CNN. Dan had just arrived as well and we sat and watched in astonishment as the second tower fell.
Neither of us knew what to do, we both agreed that we weren’t going back to class. Fuck class. We spent the rest of the day just in a fog sitting there dumbstruck. I remember trying to load up CNN and it crawling. Going even to a white page with headlines briefly announcing countries that were wishing their sympathies. Horribly enough Afghanistan was the first to issue a statement of sympathy. It wasn’t for a few days before we would realize the grim irony in that.
The first thing on everyone’s mind was war. And honestly the first nation people thought of was Iraq. It was no secret even back in 2001, BEFORE 9/11 that Bush wanted to invade Iraq. There were still our enemy, the media had conditioned us to think that way so it seemed to make sense that they might would perpetrate such an evil. All I could scrounge up from the news though was something about an unmanned US spy plane being shot down over Iraq that morning. Something I’ve never seen or heard mentioned since.
At some point I made it to the rooftop of my building and snapped the photograph you see above. The door to the roof was normally locked at threat of expulsion, but somehow none of that really mattered anymore.
My biggest regret, the one thing that gets me to this very day is that I was so close and yet, all I did was sit there and watch TV, like everyone else. I should have taken off and gone into the city and found a way to help but I sat there and did nothing like a zombie.
I can’t explain exactly why I’m writing this or what conclusion I am hoping to come to, the fact is I don’t think I have one. I’m writing this just to write it, just to put it out there. I can’t explain what this is better than Zeldman did so I won’t try:

“These mini-essays are not art. They are not reportage, either (but what is?), and may not even be accurate. We were all a bit dazed–although not so dulled as now. The shock and sorrow were fresh. The events of September 11th had not yet been branded, nor turned into tools of partisan rancor, nor made into a mini-series, nor used to justify atrocity.”

So much of our world changed on that day and for once people really came together. Now I look at where we are today and I am concerned that we haven’t learned a thing. In fact we’ve let ourselves and our feelings be used and manipulated in the name of this atrocity to commit others.
Have we learned the right lesson? Have we done the right thing? Is the world a better place today? I hope dearly we can say yes, but my gut seems to tell me otherwise.

Always an Adventure – Thailand Part 9

Yesterday was relatively low key, Christine had some errands to run and I was desperately crazing cheese and gross American foods so we split up. I wound up hanging out at Pizza Hut eating mediocre pizza and drinking unlimited free refills of Pepsi and Christine wound up meeting me there. Word of Saturday’s violence in Bangkok started to trickle in and people started to be a bit concerned. The prime minister was on TV issuing a statement but people’s opinions are mixed. The situation actually seems to get more tense by the day, both sides want something without a compromise, it would appear the only way it’s going to end is with further bloodshed. Thankfully in Nakhon Sawan it was of little local concern.

After pizza Christine took me out to the park on her motorcycle. We relaxed for a bit and she taught me how to drive it, I found it to be surprisingly simple and very fun. I’m definitely going to look into it further when I return to the states. After that we went and relaxed by the pond, we bought a bag of rice balls and fed the GIANT fish who live in the pond, watching and laughing as the jumped and splashed over each other for each piece.

After that we went to a small bar simply named “Cups” to meet her friends Jon and Tom. It was Jon’s last night in town for a while so we kicked back and had a few beers. A few locals that the group knew joined us and we discussed the political situation in more depth and the general consensus seemed to be that both sides of the argument have a ton of merit but are equally wrong in their actions. Unfortunately there isn’t a third active side, the average Thai citizen would rather just ignore it and live their lives. Jon and Christine pumped me for information about the recently passed American health care reform bill, they both are deeply concerned that they may be expected to purchase American health care while living abroad or face steep fines. I admitted that I honestly don’t know how it will affect them if at all.

After hearing about my first drive of a cycle Jon offered to let me try out his. While Christine has a cute little Honda Wave, Jon has something a little more akin to a Harley. Christine had a good laugh when Jon made me get off the cycle when I asked what a “clutch” was and he refused to let me try again. Apparently I’m a freak because I never learned to drive a manual transmission car. How was I to know?

Anyway from there we called it an early night so I could wake early in the morning for Bangkok to fly to Kuala Lumpur and then Tokyo.

We got up the next morning, I showered, packed up and Christine gave me directions to get back to Bangkok, what to say to Taxi drivers etc. News reports on BBC International seemed to convey even more tension in Bangkok, making me glad I was heading down to the city early for my 4pm flight.

We said our goodbyes and soon from there I caught a motorbike to a bus station, only problem… Wrong one. The language barrier soon became unsurmountable as I tried over and over to explain to my driver where we were supposed to go, eventually I was forced to give up and call for Christine’s assistance, she came and met me at the station as she also had to head south, we luckily found one bus that was going to hit both of our stops and caught it together. It was a 3 hour ride down to Rangsit and traffic was heavy, as we got closer to Bangkok you could see military road blocks where they were randomly pulling people out of cars for interrogation. Not a pleasant sight. Christine got out at Ahuttaya to pick up her Kindle which she had left in the hostel a few days before and I had another 30 min until I arrived at Rangsit. From there I caught a Taxi and head back to Bangkok airport completely avoiding the downtown area and boarding my flight out of the country.

I had a great stay in Thailand but now I’m on to my next adventure: 27 hours in Tokyo! Dear readers my agenda is pretty open. Ever been to Tokyo? Hit me up on Twitter and let me know what I should do.

"F#¢k Thomas Edison. Seriously." OR Death, Humor and Subism

Lightbulb on Flickr

This got me thinking last night, especially when contrasted with this. Tesla’s letterhead is striking, artistic and thought provoking. Edison however goes for a more distinguished look that I think is boring, unoriginal and uncreative even for the time.

Those who know me will tell you, in additon to being a design nerd, that I’ve got a quirky sense of humor. This is often misinterpreted and rubs people the wrong way because I tend to appear like an opinionated jerk. In reality, I like to challenge people’s ways of thinking, I enjoy arguing strange or absurd points and do so with a passion. I don’t always agree with the point I’m making but I enjoy provoking someone sure of their beliefs out of their comfort zone.

I’ve been known to joke about the concept of death and I am fascinated by people’s seriousness around the topic. Whether you’re religious or not, (I’m not) death to me has always seemed like just another phase of life. I’ve lost people I love and in some pretty tragic ways, and I don’t make light of that. However, when I talk of my own death I want people to chuckle, I don’t want to be mourned, I’d much rather there be a big party in my honor than a grieving. I want my sense of humor to be reflected, normal is boring.

I’m very fortunate to have made some amazing friends who, thankfully, appreciate my antagonistic behavior and sense of humor. In the event of my death I’ve made two of them, Dan and Christine, responsible for certain things.  Dan, I’ve asked to eulogize me but only if he leads off with the following:

“John was not a great man, he wasn’t even a good man, but he did have a really sweet setup for his Sega Dreamcast

Thing is, I’m not kidding, he thinks I am but I’m not. I’ve made him promise to say that under penalty of haunting. IE: If he doesn’t say it, and there is a way for me to do it, I will haunt him from the afterlife. And believe me, I will, he knows it too, and assuming he outlives me, Dan has reluctantly agreed.

The other ritual in the event if my death is my headstone inscription, for which Christine is responsible. To explain that, you need to understand something else.

I hate Thomas Edison.

Yeah, I know, pretty random. That statement has a tendency to piss off or confuse people. Especially coming from someone who works in technology, claims to be a Buddhist (it’s called “practicing” for a reason) and really tries not to use the word “hate” anymore.

But seriously, fuck Thomas Edison.

I’m not discounting his impact on the world at large, I just think the man was an asshole. We grow up being taught a lot of things in elementary school that we accept as truths that later in life we often learn the horrible reality about. Need an example? Christopher Columbus was a brutal murder who discovered nothing, Gandhi beat his wife and Sylvester Stallone is not that tall in person.

People tend not to know the truth about Edison. The more I learn about him, the more respect I have for him as a businessman and the less respect I have for him as an actual human being. It doesn’t take much research to learn that Edison is a thief who ripped off the bulk of the work he is credited for and employed thugs to do his dirty work.

However, when I tell this to people (especially those from New Jersey) they often don’t believe me, “How could you seriously speak ill of ‘The father of invention?!'”

Then I show them this:

They usually get it then.

Yes, Thomas Edison electrocuted an elephant in an effort to show the superiority of his direct current vs. Nikola Tesla’s alternating current. Edison’s rivalry with Tesla is extremely well documented and the man went to outlandish lengths to prove himself right, to discredit Tesla and to destroy his life.

In the end, Edison was wrong but he managed to nearly erase Tesla from the popular vernacular. To this day most in our society while most have no clue who Tesla was and think of Edison when they think of electricity.

Learning of this made me rethink much of what I thought I knew. I love occurances like that, stuff that subvert and disrupt the status quo and evoke thought. That, to me, is what subism is about.

It’s because of my beliefs as a subist and these enlightening truths that I want my death to not be taken seriously, I’d rather make someone laugh at society or think than cry for me. This is why I’ve also made Christine responsible inscription on my headstone, which will read exactly as follows:

“Fuck Thomas Edison. Seriously.”

If that offends you, good. If it makes you smile, even better.

I’ve got the scars to remind me…

…I’ve watch the clocks go ’round.
Walked myself through some days
that have put me where I am.
In another time, In another place
all things might have been in place
But for now I’m finding myself up here standing on a rooftop screaming.

Hey world are you listening… listening to me?
I’m here and I’m hurting to begin again.

It’s another time, it’s another place.
We are making more old days.
But for now I’m finding myself out and standing on my doorstep screaming.

Hey world are you listening… listening to me?
I’m here and I’m hurting to begin again.
Hey world I’m ready to listen… and learn something new.
I’m here and I’m willing to get myself through.

Hot Water Music “Rooftops”

View from rooftop on 9/11

I wasn’t going to do this, but Zeldman’s post stirred up a lot in me.

Has it really been five years? I really don’t know what to do… it still seems so unbelievable. I feel like I have spent the last 5 years living in a bad dream, just waiting to wake up. I still sorta lie to myself about things. I let the media corrupt me and my memories of what happened that day. I feel cheap and used. Until recently I had almost completely forgotten parts of it. As if they were blocked out of my memory.

The endless smoke. The smell of burning and ash. The jumpers. The smoldering holes that were once buildings. How they didn’t stop burning for weeks.

A few weeks back I went upstate with Christine and her family and found papers from 9/12. I looked though them and every article was in somehow related to the towers. It was like everything else in the world just froze. Like someone put the rest of history on pause for a moment. I had forgotten that baseball went on hiatus, or how long it was before planes were flying again. And how weird it was to hear fighter jets overhead, rather than the commercial planes, that you were so used to that you barely even noticed them anymore.

I was living in Brooklyn at the time, attending the Pratt Institute. I remember that morning like it was yesterday. My roommate Dan and I were on our way to class when the guy across the hall from us yelled, stopping us from getting on the elevator.

“Some idiot flew a plane into one of the Twin Towers.”

We ran into his room where his roommate was videotaping it from his window. Although it disgusts me to admit now, honestly… at the time…. we laughed. We laughed recounting the famous story of the plane that hit the state building back in the 40’s. Thinking this to be the same: a very public accident of small proportions.

What you have to realize is that we had no concept of scale. Despite being nearby, the towers were too massive to comprehend. We figured it was some private plane and honestly didn’t even think about size or injury. It seemed impossible that anything could even damage the towers, so we didn’t even think anything of it. The longer we stood there, the more smoke we saw, the more serious it felt. But we also figured we were late for class, so we had better get a move on.

When I got to class most of my classmates hadn’t even heard about it. About 10 minutes in someone comes running into our room and yells:

“A plane just flew and hit both Trade Towers!”

Half of our class went running into the other room to go look out from their window. Once again: the issue of scale. You never really realized how big those things were until a plane flew into them. It seemed reasonable to many to believe that they were close enough together that one plane’s wingspan could hit both towers. As I looked from the window and watched the North and South towers billowing out black smoke it hit me. I was the first one to say it aloud:

“The one tower was already smoking when I left my room this morning, the second one just happened. This is no accident, someone planned this.”

It just seemed inconceivable at the time to everyone in the room; and honestly I forget sometimes how carefree we all were before that day. The teacher rushed us back to our respective room where we continued class for a bit. Time passed and he called for a break. I started walking across campus to the cafeteria and attempted to phone my parents at home — baffled that I couldn’t get a signal out.

“Turn off your phone asshole! Other people need to use the networks.”

Confused and completely caught off guard, I looked up at the upperclassmen had just yelled this at me and I didn’t know what to make of it. The phone was useless anyhow so I shut it off. When I got into the cafeteria it was like nothing I had ever seen before. A massive amount of people were crowded around the TVs that were mounted on the ceiling. Someone had changed the channel from the usual corporate marketing bullshit CTN (college television network) and put on the news. I stood there frozen in shock with my peers as we watched the first tower fall. When I managed to regain thought I then rushed myself to my room and put on CNN. Dan had just arrived as well and we sat and watched in astonishment as the second tower fell.

Neither of us knew what to do, we both agreed that we weren’t going back to class. Fuck class. We spent the rest of the day in a fog, dumbstruck from what happened. I remember trying to load up CNN.com and it just crawling. Going even to a white page with headlines briefly announcing countries that were wishing their sympathies. Horribly enough Afghanistan was the first to issue a statement of sympathy. It wasn’t for a few days before we would realize the grim irony in that.

The first thing on everyone’s mind was war. And honestly the first nation people thought of was Iraq. It was no secret even back in 2001, BEFORE 9/11 that Bush wanted to invade Iraq. They were still our “enemy.” The media had conditioned us to think that way, so it seemed to make sense that they might perpetrate such an evil. All I could scrounge up from the news though was something about an unmanned US spy plane being shot down over Iraq that morning. Something I’ve never seen or heard mentioned since.

At some point I made it to the rooftop of my building and snapped the photograph you see above. The door to the roof was normally locked at threat of expulsion, but somehow none of that really mattered anymore.

My biggest regret, the one thing that gets me to this very day, is that I was so close and yet, all I did was sit there and watch TV. Like everyone else. I should have taken off and gone into the city and found a way to help but I sat there and did nothing like a zombie.

I can’t explain exactly why I’m writing this or what conclusion I am hoping to come to. The fact is I don’t think I have one. I’m writing this just to write it, just to put it out there. I can’t explain what this is better than Zeldman did so I won’t try:

“These mini-essays are not art. They are not reportage, either (but what is?), and may not even be accurate. We were all a bit dazed—although not so dulled as now. The shock and sorrow were fresh. The events of September 11th had not yet been branded, nor turned into tools of partisan rancor, nor made into a mini-series, nor used to justify atrocity.”

So much of our world changed on that day and for once people really came together. Now I look at where we are today and I am concerned that we haven’t learned a thing. In fact we’ve let ourselves and our feelings be used and manipulated in the name of this atrocity to commit others.

Have we learned the right lesson? Have we done the right thing? Is the world a better place today? I hope dearly we can say yes, but my gut seems to tell me otherwise.