Telefon Weirtkart

        I'm wrapping up the night sitting in an Irish pub in Salzburg, Austria listening to American music with Americans, Canadians, Austrians, and Germans in the crowd; the proportions are in this descending order. The Guinness coasters are in German with English subtitles and there's a local beer called "Stiegl" on tap, but that's about all that distinguishes this put from the "Irish" bars in London, Philadelphia, or even Dublin. It seems like places are becoming amalgamations of the world, picking and choosing that which pleases consumers' free-market, advertising-molded demands. If I were blindfolded and led to an inner-city corner of any one of the hundred largest cities in the world, there's a strong likelihood I'd be a short stone's throw away from a Big Mac and very real chance that I'd take quite a while to discern just what metropolis I had been placed in. It's not national boundaries that breed differences, not even as much First- / Third-World division and decreasingly urban / rural but instead something new: connectivity.
        Friedman refers to the "electronic herd" of investors in his "The Lexus and the Olive Tree" as referring to investors capable of moving massive amounts of capital to anywhere in the world instantaneously, but more important may be the electronic flow of culture that's let me hear "Sweet Home Alabama" in Austria, England, and Ireland (but never Alabama). Like pizza, Chinese food, and Budweiser, it appears that American pop music has risen to the top of the global cultural crop, deemed the cream by free markets' aggregations of demands.
        What you say in response to this phenomenon is important. For one thing, it indicates whether you're likely to hang out in Irish pubs across the world (=you answer "the more McDonald's the happier the meals") or if you lean more towards Neighbors Against McPenntrification ("the material improvements of gentrification/suburbanization brought about by the University of Pennsylvania's expansion throughout west Philadelphia are not worth the displacement of traditional inhabitants and destruction of unique culture that they cause"). Like most, I'm somewhere in between. I love being able to get a curry in West Philadelphia, but this bar strikes me as wrong. Going abroad should entail not hearing 'N Sync for at least a few weeks at a time, yet I really appreciate when someone speaks English in a foreign land and have no desire to learn the language of every place I visit.
        Pragmatically, your opinion on globalization is largely a moot question: even if I did see "Capitalism = War Smash It" in graffiti, most of Salzburg seems devoted to pleasing tourists (yes, there's a McDonald's here). My opinion: fight the heterogeneous fight. Instead of simply railing against globalization, let's make sure that, whatever this market-mandated dominant culture ends up being, it includes substantial non-American elements. From Austrian beer to yoga, the diversity of consumption options can be increased by the marked instead of limited. Given modern shipping technology, consumer desires, and advanced beer serving science, I should be able to pick up a Stiegl in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania just as easily as in Salzburg, Austria so long as enough other people want the same brand. Similarly, I like being able to pick up a "Telefon Weirtkart" to phone home from Austria, but this achievement probably is inevitably linked with Austrians being able to listen to as much (only?) American music as the aggregated market demand dictates. Basically, all my rambling boils down to a deeply felt ambivalence towards globalization: let me have my curry in Philly, but keep "Sweet Home Alabama" concentrated within a few thousand miles of Alabama.
        Vague resentment of this bar aside, my first day in Salzburg was great but is certainly my last. To be blunt, it's a little shit town notable only for its breweries, castle of mediocre size, and the fact that it used to be important because it produced a lot of salt (=preservative) during the Middle Ages. You can walk across the whole place in under 15 minutes, so we're definitely down with this little town today.
        One more note about the night: I met one of the reasons Americans are seen as self-centered, arrogant war-mongers abroad. This kid from George Washington University made me seem the model of polite reservedness. Quick summary of his feats for the evening: got bitched at by the hostel's night desk worker for being too loud while baring his ass during "truth or dare," walked up to an attractive girl alone with some guy and told here she's the most beautiful woman ever and is this her boyfriend, and nearly got in a fight with a Canadian about whether it was unacceptable for him to literally pick up an Australian girl and run around with her in the air as she intermingled giggles with protests. When I last saw him around 5 in the morning, he'd convinced some half asleep and fully intoxicated Bostonian to trade him a bottle of rum for a few beers and was starting with a Brit who was somehow fully lucid after probably 20-odd pints. I guess there are a lot of different approaches to life...

<links> <pictures> <writings> <me>