Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Geographical Art Garfunkels

Pity poor Art Garfunkel. Next to the guy who wrote all the songs, played an instrument nd went on to have an illustrious solo career, Art Garfunkel was 'the guy with awesome hair'. Not much to build a reputation on. John Oates and Meg White know more than a little about this too.

There are places in the world that might take on Mr. Garfukel as their president, knowing a thing or two about being the overshadowed junior partner in a duo themselves. Here are three:

1. Tobago: The Caribbean Sea is filled with tiny islands that, alone or in groups, constitute tiny countries. A few countries, like Antigua and Barbuda, are more or less equal partnerships, a married couple braving the seas of international protocol. Trinidad and Tobago, on the other hand, is a distinctly unequal partnership, with the 1,250,000-person Trinidad being a world-famous island with a unique culture influenced in equal parts by India and by Africa, and with esteemed musical and culinary traditions. Its junior partner Tobago, on the other hand, has a population of 54,000, is internationally renowned for nothing at all, and perhaps annoyed by its role as a paranthetical afterthought, has a seperatist movement. Because after all there aren't enough independent countries in the Caribbean already.

2. Jammu: The highly controversial Indian-administered region known as Jammu and Kashmir actually consists of three parts: Jammu, the Kashmir valley and Ladakh, so the people of unloved Ladakh might actually resent the high profile enjoyed by their neighbour in Jammu. But by the standards of the rest of the world, Hindu-majority Jammu is clearly the insignificant adjunct of Muslim-majority Kashmir, known to the world for potentially-nuclear border skirmishes, for woolly sweaters and for Led Zeppelin songs. A pity, though, that the world doesn't know more about this place, also called 'Duggar' in tribute to the American family famous for excessive breeding. Its famed dessert dish is called Chocolate Barfi. Mmmm, yum.

3. Herzegovina: There's a reason that the word for a the subdividing ad infinitum of a region into smaller and smaller subregions is called 'Balkanisation' as opposed to, say, 'Caribeanisation'. Looking at a map of the Balkans can be a bewildering experience, especially looking at the area that just a generation ago constituted the single country of Yugoslavia. Today that area is seven seperate countries, and that only tells half the story as, for example, the country of Bosnia and Herzegovina is less a distinct country than a loose federation of two entirely seperate entities: not the ones reflected in their double-barrelled name, mind you, which reflects a historical and cultural division between the northern two-thirds of the country and the southern third with its confusing and overlooked name. The division is an entirely different one, drawn during the Dayton Accord, dividing the country into a Serbian area and a joint Muslim-Croat area. Herzegovina, on the other hand, is an annoyance: an unneccessary lengthening of the name of a country that everyone thinks of as 'Bosnia' anyway, making the country hard to pronounce and spell and more 'exotic' than it needs to be.

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