Friday, December 30, 2011

Finding the Real Tintin

Photo Credit
This past Monday my family and I went to see The Adventures of Tintin by Spielberg and Jackson. I don't frequently post media reviews on this blog, but I feel like writing one about this movie for a number of reasons.

After reading a number of scathingly negative reviews about the film adaptation of the comic book hero that I had loved as a child when I first read them in installments in the long-since defunct children's magazine, EXPLORE, I was uneasy about the film. That, combined with the fact that Spielberg has been the mastermind behind a lot of monstrosities in recent years that it seems I was always dragged to by guy friends and then regretted it afterword––think Transformers––I wasn't at all sure that I even wanted to see The Adventures of Tintin. Thus, when my family decided to take me to see it with them, I didn't say no, but was not too excited about it all the same.

My main fear was that they would end up changing Tintin's character into something awful. American movies tend to follow a very strict formula in which the protagonist starts out thinking or doing one thing, and then at some point makes a decision to change. This formula ensures that the protagonist is what English professors would call a "dynamic" character, that is, a character who changes. This tends to work well. The problem is, when Hollywood tries to adapt a story with a "flat" character who doesn't go through flux, they don't usually know what to do with it. Rather than venturing from the dynamic character mold, they often change the character. This is what ruined the Chronicles of Narnia for me, when they changed Peter, who C.S. Lewis created as a relatively flat character to make him seem more "human." Tintin, as Hergé created him, is an extremely flat character; always the impeccably good guy, which is something that set the Tintin series apart from most of the rest of the morally convoluted world of comics. So there was a myriad of ways in which I could imagine Spielberg changing him.

I ended up being pleasantly surprised. The Tintin in the movie was at least close to what I had imagined from the books, and importantly, stayed remarkably consistent. That's not to say that other characters weren't altered to fit the Hollywood formula––just that Tintin for the most part was not one of them. I'm not enough of an expert on the stories, or literature in general to say for sure what happened, but my feeling was that they ended up altering Captain Haddock's character instead, making him a more "dynamic" character who drinks because he has low self-esteem––not just because he's a swaggering sea captain, and ultimately has to make moral choices to be a better person. While this may or may not be true of what Captain Haddock was supposed to be, I feel like it's a small tragedy compared to Tintin being drastically changed to fit the mold of a normal movie plot. 

As far as the technical side of the movie goes, it was beautifully done (and being produced by Jackson, I wouldn't have expected any less). It's the first fully CGI movie with realistic human characters that I've seen in which I wasn't left with the unsettling feeling that something about them "wasn't quite right." In fact, I often forgot that it was even an animation. The comedic use of simple things like people running into each other felt just the same as Hergé used it, most obviously with the bumbling detectives Thompson and Thompson, but more subtly throughout the rest of the film as well. The locations in the film are also beautifully rendered, and the quick change from one to another was a page right out of the books.

As to the gratuitous action sequences that some critics have claimed are alien to the books and called "Indiana Jones-esque," I don't really have anything to say. I've become resigned to the fact that they are just a sign of the times, as it were. All movies seem to have them, and I think they will just be something people in 20 or 30 years look back on and say "that's so early 2000s" just like excessive use of fade-through transitions in the mid 20th century or slow motion fight scenes in the late 90s tend to date movies from that time. They may not be in the books exactly, but if a few explosions or a drawn out motorcycle chase are the worst thing to complain about, then I think we have escaped rather well (and contrary to what I've read some critics insinuate, the books do actually have motorcycle chases, like the one in King Ottokar's Sceptre, even if it didn't last nearly as long or end nearly as well).

While the movie has its flaws, I felt like it captured at least some of the spirit of the books, and managed to be intriguing without turning Tintin himself into some kind of psychologically confused star. And Tintin being Tintin is I think what made the books what they are. While his guesses weren't always right, his motives were. While he appeared to be worldly-wise, he was at the same time innocent, which made his ventures out into the crazy, convoluted, and at times evil world the real adventures that they are.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The meek shall inherit the Earth, but....

Yesterday I bought a game that I had been considering for a while, Sid Meier's Civilization V.

Having quite a bit of free time, I've been in the mood for some kind of slower, deeper, more thoughtful strategy game. This one seemed to fit the ballot. The only thing I wasn't sure about was whether or not it would run on my computer, and in the reviews and forums, it seemed like a lot of people had had trouble with it. I finally found a forum post that was a quote of another forum post in which a German user said he ran the game on the same model Macbook Pro with the same AMD Radeon HD 6490M graphics card as mine. The way he worded it though was so ambiguous that it was difficult to tell whether or not he was saying that it worked or not. The download, however, was only $15 on Amazon and because of gift cards that I had from trading in text books it ended up not costing anything, so I decided to chance it. After waiting seven hours for it to download, I was not disappointed, as it installed and has been running so far without any trouble.

In between phases, the game gives quotes by famous influentials throughout history, and I found this one to be quite true in light of my families struggle over maintaining mineral rights on our land in the past five years and current situation in which the drilling company involved has been delaying payment or royalties for five months over technicalities:

"The meek shall inherit the Earth, but not its mineral rights." - Jean Paul Getty, American industrialist.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

I don't have anything profound, insightful, or humorous to say this morning––which is not to imply that I usually do. I just wanted, however, to wish everyone within and without the blog world and a very merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Sun Never Sets

This evening I started getting birthday wishes from friends where it's already tomorrow, and it made me think about how blessed I've been this year to somehow make friends in so many hemispheres.

Last march, as I was in Latvia for a mission trip kind of thing over spring break that I decided to participate in on a sort of whim. I was also in the process of ending my membership in an online game I'd been playing, Travian. The server was closing, and to avoid losing contact with one of my teammates, I messaged him my email address. It turns out he was from Iran, and I ended up having some very deep and interesting conversations with him and one or two of his friends that I connected with online. This was all while I was in Latvia, not sleeping because of jet-lag, and meeting lot's of Latvian high school students, a few of whom I've managed to keep in touch with. That week feels like a blur in my memory––but I think part of the reason is how much happened and how much I learned.

Over the summer came the journey that I had actually planned for: my internship in Beirut. Not only did I find myself in another foreign country, but I was also living and working with people who had come there from places far beyond the Middle East. Between visiting friends in Jordan and meeting new people there, traveling around Lebanon just talking with people, and hiking in the Lebanese mountains with people from Canada, Korea, and just about everywhere in between, I got to know and learn about the lives of more people with more diverse stories than I had ever imagined I would in my life.

On the way home I got to visit SBI back in San Lorenzo, Italy, where I was able to see people whom I hadn't in almost three years––back when I went to school there. I guess that was where it all started in a lot of ways. It was a little strange being there without my classmates from that semester, but looking at where they all are now, I realize how lucky, and wonderfully improbable it was that I got to meet all of them back then.

So looking back on this year, for someone who isn't very social or good with people, I feel like I've been really blessed to get to know so many from so far––and for the technology that gives the means for us to keep in touch. There's an old saying from back when Britain was still very much an imperial power that "the sun never sets on the British Empire," which was referring to Britain having colonies in nearly every time zone. The British Empire may be long gone (and that may be a good thing) but I think it's amazing that we live in a world today where it can be said that the sun never sets on our friends.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Best Ever

I spent this morning finishing up my last four assignments for Intro to Teaching English as a Second Language, the rather horrible online course I've had this semester. After preparing each of them in .pages documents, I quickly cut and pasted them all into the submission fields on the class website and hit submit. And I was like, "Well, glad I'm done with that." It took me a couple minutes to realize that those were the last thing I had to do this semester. That's always a good realization––when you have it.

It was a crazy semester, with it's share of excitement, depression, and downright weirdness. Before Thanksgiving break, I was tempted to say, for the first time in my college career, that time flew by. But somehow, after Thanksgiving, I started looking back and thinking "Did that really happen this semester?" And suddenly, it seemed like a long period of time again. Still I feel like it went faster than ever before. In fact, despite all of the ways in which it was a horrible semester, I think I have to say that it was probably my best experience yet (not counting SBI). I'm not sure if that's a happy thing or a sad thing. The standard for being my best semester ever has not exactly been set high by my previous experiences.

Half way through, I raised some eyebrows here and at home with my recap of the first half, and I remember wondering then if the second half would be as crazy. I guess I'm glad to say that it was not––at least for me personally. I think over fall break I kind of gave into the emotional exhaustion and didn't feel like fighting anymore... and have pretty much been in that state since then. So it will be good to have some time to (hopefully) recover here.

I'm heading back north tomorrow. Without my car, which may make it an interesting Christmas vacation. My car is in need of a couple thousand dollars of replacements before it's really in condition to drive 800 miles non-stop, and just the gas alone is over $100. So I'm riding back with Jana and Meagan all the way to Penn State, and then hopefully having my parents pick me up there.

So it's back into the howling hills of northern Pennsylvania for Christmas. I hope it will be a better one than last year. Of course, considering that I spent last Christmas Eve packing up sales kiosks at a Mall in Lynchburg Virginia for free, it shouldn't be hard to beat. But even beyond that, I do hope, and intend for it to be a good time, even if that just means seeing people I haven't seen in awhile.

But first I have to get there.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

What 90s?

I'm feeling a little bit nostalgic about the 90s. I've always rather resented people who borrowed nostalgia from times that they don't even remember, but the fact is, I lived through all of the 90s, and, culturally speaking, I may as well have not lived through them. Between being dyslexic, homeschooled, and Mennonite, my cultural knowledge of the decade during which I was a child is very, very limited.

I guess this feeling was spurred on by listening to The Cranberries. I know their song Dreams, but as a cover done by Passion Pit. When I originally heard the song by the people who wrote it, I thought it was like an acoustic version of the one that I know. It was in fact, the original though, and after some research, I found out that it was released in 1993... when I was three years old. That's so weird––to think that a song that I really like now was popular way back then. It leads me to wonder what else I may have missed.

On the other hand, there is probably a lot of stuff it's good that I missed. But it still feels strange. I often hear people who are my age talking about how they remember music and movies and such in the 90s as being "their time" and everything now as being something new and strange. While I have a lot of memories from the time period, they are entirely confined to myself, my family, and perhaps my churches. My earliest memories of the world as far as the outside culture are concerned date to the early 00's at best.

Again, that may be a good thing, but it's also something I wonder about sometimes.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

A Reflection on Portfolios

Back in the dark old days––which are separated from the dark new days by only a few years and a few thousand miles––I had to compile a lot of portfolios. In order to get a diploma, Pennsylvania requires homeschool students to turn in a portfolio at the end of every academic year showing evidence of all the courses they have taken, field trips they have gone on, books they have read and reports of general activities and such ilk. I was a homeschool student in PA. Thus, come April every year, there was this frenzied scramble to find, categorize, and assemble the massive amount material for the damned things so that they could be scrutinized by our evaluator, and then delivered to the office of the superintendent of the local high school. I suspect that this person––who generally hated us––never actually looked at them, but that's neither here nor there.

Entering college, one of the few things that I really enjoyed the first year was the fact that I did not have to turn in a portfolio. I got home every May to find my five younger siblings busily at work on theirs, while I myself had not even had to think the word portfolio except perhaps in some dark subconscious dream-state in which everything that bothered me as a young teenager still bothered me now––which it generally does, come to think of it, but back to the issue at hand.

So I felt almost something akin to nostalgia when I found out that one of my classes this semester would require the compilation of a portfolio. While I put off working on it till half way through the class, when I did, I conjured up all my years of portfolio experience and created a sleek, narcissistic monument to myself that bedazzled everyone who beheld it and was even deemed by the student worker girl who actually grades the things (when she isn't making snide remarks about my considering that I may be called a life of celibacy in the margins of my "Where do I want to be in five years" papers) to be the most "interesting one" out of the class of 20 or so.

That was due on Wednesday, and yesterday I found out that I will have to do another portfolio for the Long-Term Campaign (upper level comm class jargon for "group project from hell") in my persuasive comm class due on Monday. Then I remembered that I have another portfolio to compile for my internship over the summer, which is also due Monday. So by the end of the semester, which is mercifully close-at-hand, I will have assembled three portfolios. Basically one for every year that I didn't do one since I was no longer homeschooled. It's amazing how life comes around and bites you when you think you've escaped.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Thnxgiving in Tally

It's been raining amazingly hard all day and all of last night. In fact, it started yesterday afternoon as I was driving back from Tallahassee.

I had spent Thanksgiving break in Florida with my cousins––just like last year––and it was a good time. Between running in the Tallahassee Turkey Trot (my 3rd time doing that... the first was long before last year), going to sporting events, and eating an obscene amount of food, I somehow had some downtime and was able to relax.

The race went well. I got a 21.13, which is my fastest for the event, and also for any 5k in general. So that was cool, although I still think the most enjoyable part of it may be going to east Krispy Kremes afterword, which is part of the tradition.We took our annual photo in front of the Krispy Kreme sign, but I don't have it yet, so that will have to wait. Here is one from the race though.

I once again went Black Friday shopping with my cousins, and once again, hardly bought anything. This year though we didn't go out nearly as early (8am as opposed to 4) which was really fine with me.

It was weird saying goodbye to everyone. It's not like I won't see them again or anything––I just probably won't be back for another Thanksgiving anytime soon. You never know though. It was a great and unexpected opportunity to be able to spend the last couple with them, and who knows what will happen in the next year.

The drive back, as I said was rainy, and also quite long due to ridiculous traffic south of Chattanooga. I somehow picked up a couple Bryan students in Tallahassee for the ride back though, so it was at least more interesting than doing it by myself.

They are saying it could snow tomorrow, which is kind of crazy.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Always running from time

Drafting my research paper for intro to teaching English as a second language and finishing the video story about National Gaming Day that had started last Saturday pretty well consumed the last three days of the week. There was also preparing for the last official class meeting of Senior Seminar, which meant having my portfolio––something supposedly supposed to represent the last 3 and 1/2 years of my life finished, dressing up, and having a mock interview at 8am Friday morning.

Saturday I woke up early-ish again and ran in the 5k for Kenya run that SIFE holds as an annual fundraiser for Gethsemane International to help AIDS orphans or something like that. I learned this year that it's technically only 2.9 miles, not quite a 5k, but the hills and the fact that it's largely off-road make up for it. I finished in 22.13, which is better than I did last year if I recall.

I unfortunately had a class/brunch that I was supposed to be at in Dayton at the same time as the race was happening, so after stopping for a few minutes at the finish line, I just kept on running the half mile or so to the house where the event was. It was the final meeting for the Chicago Story Conference group, which was more interesting than most of my classes, and I also ended up eating a much more substantial breakfast than I otherwise would have, which was probably good after the run.

I spent the rest of yesterday chilling out and today haven't done much but go shopping quickly this morning and then doing a take-home exam for Law of Criminal Justice, which was much more straightforward than the first one and I finished in just a little over an hour.  

I'm starting to feel like I'm really over the hill with this semester. There's still some work to be done for sure, but several of my classes are over already, and of those that aren't, the projects that I was kind of dreading all semester (dreading is probably too strong a word––more like 'not looking forward to) are mostly finished. 

So much has happened this semester. I think it's the first one during which time kind of got away from me. The beginning doesn't seem like it was that long ago, but if I think of everything that's gone on, it starts to seem like it was.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Productive... or not

I was rather down last week for some reason. Also came down with a bit of a cold of some sort that's been going around campus. Have generally been keeping up with assignments a little better than I was during the first half of the semester though. I guess those woe-is-me times can sometimes help me focus, or at least feel guilty enough about vaguely defined but terrible shortcomings that I perceive in my life to not want to add to them by squandering my education and money by not actually doing "productive" things. This weekend I finished up production on the latest video for Triangle, and started filming interviews for another. The one that just got posted, is––if not the most profound––easily the most entertaining of the year to date. Most of this is thanks to Alex Green, and his amazingness. But then, I did spend about 8 hours getting it to look the way that it does in post, so I guess I can take a little credit for it. Enjoy:

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Cognitive Dissonance

It's been a long time since I was actually inspired enough by something that I learned in school to post about it. I think Cognitive Dissonance, a term coined by Leon Festinger, which is the idea of conflict existing in your mind between either ideas, or an idea and your current lifestyle is worthy of mention though.

If you know that not sleeping is bad for you, but you make the choice to not sleep, that is cognitive dissonance. That's just one example. You can apply it to almost any subject.

Some people can apparently tolerate rather high levels of cognitive dissonance while others can tolerate less. I like to think that I can tolerate very little of it, but that may be inaccurate.

Here is some from my own mind. I kind of agree with both of these articles:

In Praise of Capitalist Inequality


Fix Education, Restore Social Mobility

This is an issue––or rather set of issues––is one I've been struggling with for a while. I've even interviewed people from both sides of the issue about it. But I can't decide.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Forums & Foliage

This past Thursday I went to the Free Market Forum. It was a valuable experience. I intended to post about that. Unfortunately, I couldn't come up with a post to express it well, so I will just have to say that it was good.

Friday was all the conference from dawn to well after dusk. The next morning Andrew and Lee, the two other students who went to the conference, drove back without our professor who found a ride with someone else. By the time we got back, I was pretty tired and planned on not doing much for the rest of the day.

Kevin, one of my housemates though, asked if I wanted to go rock climbing in the Pocket wilderness area. I've had a lot of opportunities to climb over the last few years, but always turned them down for one reason or another. Yesterday was beautiful though, so I finally decided to take him up on it.

As it turned out, I was about as bad at the climbing as I figured I would be. After that we went repelling though, which was a lot more enjoyable, especially considering that we were doing it during peak leaf season.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Different Worlds

I'm beginning to think that I may be one of the most bipolar people in the entire world as far as my political views and affiliation are concerned.

Just an hour ago, I was forced to make a choice as to how I would spend my week: Would I go to Chattanooga and cover Occupy as they crash a campaign fundraiser by Congressmen Chuck Fleischmann and Speaker of the House John Boehner, or would I go to Atlanta for three days (expenses paid) and attend the Hillsdale forum on Markets, Government and the Common Good?

When one of my professors told me he had a vacancy and that he'd like me to go to Atlanta with him after class today, I was torn, not because I had to do either, but because I found them both to be very attractive opportunities. But how different could the possibly be? You probably couldn't ask for events from a more divergent ends of the political continuum.

I the end, I said yes, to my prof's invitation, but I still plan on attending one of the Occupy events. In fact, I found out that there is a group even closer than Chattanooga, which makes more sense if I cover it in the campus paper, because it's supposed to be local.

So hopefully I'll get the best of both worlds. But what different worlds they are.

Friday, October 21, 2011


It's kind of unfortunate that fall break is already over. I feel like I just got here. I didn't get to see several of the people I was hoping to, but then, I saw a few people that I wasn't expecting to see at all. I did absolutely no school work, but I read quite a bit––for me at least––both of which things are good in my opinion. For better or worse though, I'll be heading back to Tennessee at 4:30am tomorrow morning.

Part of the reason it seemed like a shorter break is probably because it was. Because of hitching a ride up with someone else to save money and miles on my car, I left a day later than I probably would have, and now, because I'm riding back down with my family, I'm leaving a day earlier than I would otherwise. At least I don't have to drive the whole way by myself though.

While any kind of break is nice, I usually feel like these little week long ones are difficult. It probably takes me more than I week to really emotionally adjust to being anywhere, so spending just a week is always kind of discombobulating, and I don't know if it will necessarily be easier or harder to continue with school work now.

Monday, October 17, 2011

And that's when I saw it....

Over the last few days I've been inspired to write a number of posts for this blog and have actually gotten as far as completing two of them. Unfortunately, they were both rather inflammatory in nature, and I realized that I just don't want to deal with that now that I'm back home for a week. So, I haven't posted them.

In the meantime, I decided to do an experiment to see if I could combine an animated model that I created in blender with real footage to make a video. This was the result:

So, I got a little carried away with it. But it was at least a good proof of concept.

My trip back from Bryan with Jana went well, at least until we hit West Virginia's "Bridge Day" celebration. That's probably a post in itself, but I'm unfortunately a bit tired right now.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Oh, Controversy - A Somewhat Inside Perspective

The semester, hard to believe, is nearly at its halfway point, and if I had to pick one word to describe it, that word would be Controversy, with a capital C. Thus, I thought it might be interesting to list some of the major disputes and events that were not approved of by many on campus.

On September 2, just as the school was recovering from the unexpected death of a student, my editor and chief at Triangle, Cat, published our first opinion piece, objecting to perceived abuses of authority by RAs, using a specific example that she had witnessed regarding a heated exchange between two RAs and a commuter. While the parties involved were kept anonymous, it still generated a large amount of controversy and judgment (which was more against the editorial than the RAs judging by letters to the editor) on campus that continues even to the present with the RAs being forbbiden to comment on the piece, several of them forming a pact to not speak to Triangle about anything, ever again, letters to the editor pouring in, and more letters attacking previous letters pouring in atop those.

The night of the day that that editorial was posted, an event occurred that was so shocking (at least for Bryan College) that it took more than a week for us to figure out what actually happened. I first heard about the incident in which a group of Bryan Students were flashed by an obese women in the back of a van driven by men wearing clown masks from another student while sitting down for lunch during one of my very infrequent visits to the cafeteria. While it was second hand, and seemed too ridiculous to be true, I decided that it had to be a story, and started following up on it that very afternoon. I found one of the few people whom I had been told was in the group of students and asked him if he would be willing to give me an interview and put me in touch with some of the other students. He confirmed he was there, agreed, rather enthusiastically, and gave me his number. When I sent him a text a few hours later though to set up a time, he backed out, and said that furthermore, he didn't think we should even publish a story about it because of "negative connotations" that might arise from it. I told him I felt we were obligated to publish it, if only to inform students of what had happened so that they could know how to respond (or not respond) if it happened to them. He was adamant though, and I moved on to look for other sources.

The same thing happened over and over. I would talk to one person who would confirm they were there, agree to an interview, and then text me back an hour or so later saying that they had changed their mind about the whole thing. It got to be pretty frustrating, and a little bit creepy after a while, and I almost thought I'd have to drop the whole thing.

Then one person who refused in the manner mentioned above, tipped me off to two people they thought might be willing to talk. I found them, and they were. In fact, they were a little more willing than I had anticipated. I learned with a certain amount of chagrin, (and I have all of this audio recorded, which I had asked permission to do, making it especially ironic later when both of the sources claimed that they hadn't known they were being interviewed or that I had any intention of quoting them directly) that the students had been on make-out patrol––a somewhat institutionalized prank in which students walk or occasionally drive around at night with flashlights and "preach the Word" to couples who they find becoming physically affectionate in the darkness––at the time when the event occurred. Furthermore, rather than being stalked by the clowns driving the van with the flasher as the original rumor that I heard said, they had actually been in communication with the clowns for at least a minute or so before the flashing occurred.

By the time I was done with the first interview, I knew the article was going to be a lot more controversial than I had previously thought (or hoped) and by the time of the second one, I was genuinely somewhat perplexed at what I knew I would now be obligated to write if I were to tell the whole story. In the end though, I decided I had to, and brought my paper to our weekly meeting that night. When my editors and adviser read it, they were as shocked as I was, but were even more intrigued by the concept of "make-out patrol" which many of them had never heard of before. The idea came up that I should make it into more of an editorial piece about make-out patrol. I said I wouldn't be comfortable with this, so it was decided that I would keep mine, if not as an unopinionated news story, then at least as a less opinionated news feature. An editorial, however, would be written, by Shane Vicry, to accompany my piece in our first print edition that very week.

The print edition came out, and all hell pretty much broke loose. I, for better or worse, happened to be in Chicago at the time for a conference, but was forwarded some of the ensuing letters to the editor that came in almost immediately from everyone from concerned freshman to the people I had interviewed claiming they didn't know they were being interviewed––which is nonsense on stilts––to people I had named claiming that I had promised not to name them––which, were it even permissible in a news feature, is an outright lie. 

While I managed to be out of town for the peak of it, the controversy has continued to simmer, with people still bringing it up to me on occasion (almost a month later!) and a recent letter to the editor being published in which the concerned writer calls my story "half-accurate" without ever saying how it was so, states that the parties interviewed were "completely unaware of the fact that they were being interviewed" (which I find to be quite puzzling since I clearly said I was with Triangle and asked them if I could tape-record their answers––and they agreed) and finally refers to the action of driving around campus with the windows rolled down shining flashlights and yelling at people as a "private area of our student body" which should not be talked about in public. 

As if all this wasn't enough to happen before fall break, the student body just found out, by means of the trickle-down effect, that the administration is considering cutting fall break down to two days (starting next year obviously). What is upsetting many people (meaning the majority of campus) isn't so much the proposal (which would mean that going home for break would be impossible for anyone who lives more than ten hours away––and there are many of us here) but the borderline conspiratorial way in which they have tried to ram it through.

They never officially announced this to the student body, or even many of the faculty for that matter. Then is the timing. They will make the final decision on it the day before break, so anyone who is upset about it will have to wait until after break to voice their concerns. Then there is the coincidence that this is the week when both of the faculty who represent the student government happen to be out of the country on prearranged trips for the school. Then there is the issue that when SGA finally found out about it through the grape vine and scheduled a meeting with the president, he postponed it until after the deadline, ensuring that they would have no direct voice and reducing them to getting signatures on a petition.... something that historically hasn't been too effective around here. We just got an article out about it, which I hear is quite good, but I actually haven't read myself, because it was posted as I was writing this.

So, that is a brief chronicle of the controversies surrounding the first half of the semester. I won't speak for anyone else, but I am rather ready for fall break––even if it's the last full fall break that Bryan has. 

Saturday, October 08, 2011

A generation goes and a generation comes

Here are a couple videos I did this week for Triangle this week. Was interesting, although a lot of work.

It's homecoming weekend here. Kind of interesting because I actually know a number of people who are coming back this year, as opposed to only a couple people last year, and absolutely no one the year before. It's kind of strange to see people back here, and hear about what they're doing now. I'm honestly not sure that I like it entirely, although it's nice to see them again. I don't think I can ever see myself coming back for one... but who knows, maybe that will change.

This evening I went out to Jacob Myers with some friends... first time I've gone to a regular restaurant in weeks, and the first time I've been to Jacob Myers since they moved to their new location and became an actual restaurant. It was good, and after that we went and played Halo for a few hours, which was kind of nostalgic. It's only the second time all semester that I've played Halo. Which is funny, now that I actually have a 360 here, I have almost no desire to use it. I also have a bunch of computer games, but hardly touch them either. I can remember a time well when I thought video games were like the best thing next to I don't know what, but now I'm just not that interested by them. Which I didn't think would ever happen. Funny how we change.

There's only one more week of school until fall break, which will be nice. There hasn't been anything too terrible about this semester as far as classes go, but there are a few things that are starting to wear on me a bit, so it will be nice to get away for a while. 

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Some random events

It's been a good bit since my last post. Nothing extraordinary has happened, but that isn't to say that nothing has happened.

I created my first video story for of the semester for Triangle. It was about this Genesis Symposium that the Bryan Institute is hosting in Chattanooga. I was able to interview to of the profs. behind it and make what was at least a technically decent video about it. Maybe I was still seeing red some of the controversy earlier this semester, but they got the impression that I was being negative in how I portrayed it, which wasn't my goal, but it may have come across that way... so I had to put that fire out. It all ended well, and I had a good talk with both of them, but it was stressful while it was happening.

I got invited to go to England over spring break to attend the L'Abri retreat that Spiritual Formation does annually. While I was kind of honored that they thought of me, there was a significant caveat––it costs $1500. There are also the issues that I don't really like being around people that much, and I tend to get morbidly depressed when I think about philosophical/theological questions, both of which I would have been doing on the trip. So I had to say no.

Classes have been going alright. I keep getting behind in my two comm courses. It isn't that they're particularly difficult, or even that I don't have time. I'm just still not particularly motivated to do the assignments, or even remember that I have the assignments to do, which isn't really good. But then, I haven't been too worried about it, which is a plus. One of the classes is Senior Seminar, which is about getting ready for life after college or something like that. The annoying thing is, I already, by some fluke of the registrar, had to take a similar course as a sophomore (makes so much sense right?) at Mansfield. So I feel like I've already sat through a lot of this before.

When I didn't sign up for the meal plan this semester, it was because I didn't want to pay for it. After the first week of cooking for myself however, I was afraid I might end up spending more money than if I had gone with the plan. I finally added up my receipts from the last six weeks of school though, and it worked out that I've been spending only $30 a week on food, which I was somewhat impressed by honestly, and is definitely cheaper than if I was eating at the cafeteria. 

I haven't been back to the farm since my last post, and it was nice to finally have a weekend with pretty much nothing to do after over a month of not having a free weekend. Unfortunately, I may need to cover homecoming this Saturday, which means I may not be able to go back this weekend either.

Last week I was assigned two video stories for Triangle, working with writers this time to interview the subjects. So it's still a lot of work filming and editing them, but at least a little leg work is cut out of it by having someone else to make the appointments and ask the questions. I finished one of them tonight, and after it's posted tomorrow, I may embed it on here (I was planning on doing that with the first one about the symposium, but then I got so upset about the whole thing that I didn't feel like it).

I guess that's all for now.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Spinach Symposium

I can't remember if I mentioned before, but I started working at a farm on the weekends. At any rate, I worked there yesterday evening, this morning, and the better part of the afternoon.

It's relatively hard work, but it's kind of relaxing in a paradoxical  sort of way. I used to hate doing stuff like it, but after spending ten hours a day for the last three years either in front of the computer or reading, it's kind of nice to go and do something with your hands.

Last night we were harvesting peppers, and today spinach. The spinach takes forever, and I can't imagine that there are enough people who eat spinach to consume all that we harvested....

Aside from being relaxing, it also pays more than any other jobs around here would, which is a plus. The only drawback is it's about 30 miles away, which means that somewhere between 10 and 20 percent of what I earn goes into gas.

I'm done with that for the weekend now though, and amazingly, the one paper that I had to work on got postponed, meaning the only thing I need to do is finish a video I'm working on for Triangle about the Genesis Symposium the school is holding in Chattanooga. I got the interviews for it done on Thursday though, so the rest of it will be mainly editing.

So it looks like it will be a remarkably chill weekend, which I can't say I mind after the last couple weeks.

Monday, September 19, 2011

People are fantastic liars

 The rest of the story conference, that is, since my last post, went really well. The last day included all kinds of fabulous food from deep dish pizza to urban mix to fruit to Costa Rican food.

We also had the chance to explore some of the city, which was fun. Left is a photo of Chicago showing train tracks leading past the Salvation Army Headquarters and toward the downtown area.

Ian Cron spoke on the last day of the conference, and he was easily my favorite speaker. He read a bit from his personal memoir, and it reminded me a lot of Roald Dahl, one of my favorite authors.

On the morning of the last day before departing for Tennessee, we went out on Navy Pier––a beautiful place.

The ride home was interesting. We created a mix CD to which everyone contributed two songs. I introduced everyone to Miike Snow, and then, to LCD Soundsystem, which was much better received than I had expected it would be.
On getting back, I was greeted with the controversy surrounding my latest article.... People are fantastic liars. As an adherent to reformed theology, I believed this before, but it has now been confirmed yet again by my experience.

The people that I interviewed for the story are now claiming that they didn't know that I intended to directly quote them. I told them it was an interview for Triangle, the campus newspaper. What the hell did they think I was going to do? Transliterate their remarks into an interpretive water ballet?

And of the three people who refused interviews but confirmed their involvement, one or two wrote my editor in chief that I had told them that I would not publish their names. I did nothing of the sort. And yet they say that I did.

I had a pretty good conversation with one of them today, and it turns out this person was more upset with the accompanying editorial than with my story itself. As for the others, I can only say that their response has actually made me glad that I published their names.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Stories In Chicago

Chicago has been good so far. We started out last night at a sort of adult story-hour/potluck/open mic, which was in a bar and ended up being a little on the far out side (okay, more than a little, but I will spare you the details). This morning we headed into the city from the house we rented and attended the conference, which was great. I got to see, among other people, John Mark McMillan, Ted Dekker, and Sean Astin, who wasn't even on the program, but turned out to be one of the highlights for me. It's also like the Mecca of hipsters, which I guess I'm okay with. 

Over lunch break we went into the city center, and after a somewhat stressful experience parking, were able to walk around whatever the park area that is there, which was beautiful.

Left is the "Bean" or something like that, which was fun. The photo at top is actually our groups reflection in it.

Below is the auditorium in which the conference takes place. John Mark and his warm up band, All The Bright Lights have been doing most of the music, along with some other group that is a little strange but still interesting. There has been lots of cool free stuff too, which is always fun.

This evening we went to a show at a theater that is owned by someone who spoke at the somewhat questionable story-hour from the first night. It was  excellent. So today was good, if tiring, and hopefully tomorrow will be good as well.

Oh... and that article, along with the accompanying editorial came out today in Triangle's first print edition of the semester. Apparently it is causing quite a stir on campus. I started getting the blow=back from it on my black-berry this afternoon. Interestingly, I was standing in the lobby right in front of Ted Dekker, who was talking about the importance of writing accurately about darkness, even if it's controversial. So even if my piece was only about clowns, it seemed strangely reassuring at the moment. If you're interesting in reading it, here is the link to Triangle, although, it is somewhat graphic in the quotations... so consider yourself warned.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Maybe it was something I ate in Lebanon

It's been a crazy week, and it's almost over, even though it was only two days long.

I'm going to Chicago tomorrow for Story Conference which is a meeting of Christian media and creative professionals. I'm stoked about the trip, but it meant that I had to compress all of my school for the week into the past 48 hours and the weekend. On top of that, I was working on the biggest, most ridiculous, and potentially controversial news story for Triangle that I've ever done. I obviously can't go into specifics, but it involved talking with like 20 people before I found anyone who was even willing to talk about it, and the interviews weren't even nailed down until two hours before my deadline for the entire article. Safe to say, ridiculous as it is, it may actually be a good thing that I'll be 500 miles away when the print edition hits the mail boxes on Thursday or Friday.

I've never really felt the motivation to chase a story this hard or this far. I'm usually preoccupied with other things, and besides, I tend to be a pushover, and pressuring people at all for information they don't want to give up usually makes me want to throw up. Heck, writing stories isn't even one of my job requirements as MM editor. I guess I was just frustrated with enough of the underlying issues that ended up surfacing in the story itself––or more accurately the underlying reasons that people wanted to suppress it, that I suddenly had this desire to blow the whole thing up whether people would help me or not and name names whether people wanted to be named or not... and that feeling stayed with me consistently until I submitted the final draft to my editor.

Now I'm hoping I didn't go too far, but I guess I won't know that until I get back from Chicago, or possibly when the chatter starts on fb. I really don't know what that feeling I had was from though. Maybe it was something I ate in Lebanon.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Black Light

Today was a crazy day. This morning was international opportunities chapel, and because of my experience this summer I was asked to speak for a couple minutes, which ended up being kind of fun, but still took some planning. Much more planning though went into the event that my persuasive comm group and I have been working on for the last week or so.
The class consists of two marketing campaigns, short-term and long-term. In the short-term you promote an event, which would be pretty straight forward except that you also have to envision, plan, organize, and create the event from the ground up. We chose to do a black light ping pong party, which sounded like a really strange idea, but was something that we felt would draw people from across multiple social groups (a difficult thing to do). After a promotional video, announcements, and a facebook page, we had generated a lot of excitement, but it wasn't until we actually had everything together about an hour before crunch time that we actually knew it would work at all. It ended up being beautiful though. We were able to transform the room above into the room below (only it looked a lot cooler in real life) and had over 300 recorded participants, which on a campus of only 700 or so is no small feat.
While there were a ton of problems getting everything that we needed today, and we over spent our budget by about 15%, it seemed like everyone who attended really enjoyed it, which I think is the important thing....

Thursday, September 01, 2011

So On It Goes

It's been a strange week. There was the usual chaos of a new school year starting up; getting an idea of what classes will be like, running around with add/drop forms, trying to figure out what I absolutely need to take this semester if I want to graduate in the Spring, petitioning for substitutions to that end. Basically the usual routine. Then early Tuesday morning I woke up to my alarm, turned it off and stood up. Jonathan, who had been awakened by my alarm looked over at me and said something to the effect of "Hey, I'm really sorry to tell you this right now, but Meaghan Jones died last night." 

Still dazed, my first thought was something like, "which Meaghan," which sounds weird, but I know several, and there were actually two Meaghan Jones on campus, which is a bit odd for a school of less than 1,000 students. I only really knew one of them, not remarkably closely, but we had gone to DC a couple times on the same conferences, first CPAC and then GPG, and had talked about politics occasionally (we were both poli-comm majors). She knew a lot about DC. Just as I was recalling all this, I checked my phone and found a voicemail from my editor at 1:22AM informing me of the same thing and asking for logins to pages I had been managing so we could start covering it, which sounded kind of surreal to me. In fact, really everything that day seemed kind of surreal, and I had a hard time giving a [expletive of your choice] about add/drop forms, substitutions, the paper I was supposed to submit that morning, or plans in general.

There was a big memorial service that night––which is not to say that the service itself was big––just the amount of people that attended. It was definitely the most emotional gathering I've seen since I've been here and it brought a lot of people in the community together that normally wouldn't have been.

So it has been a very strange feeling week since then. Despite the strangeness, and all of my suddenly strengthened inability to care about add/drop forms, papers, and such ilk, the registrar's deadline for me having my semester in order is still Friday, and my professors will still fail me if I don't turn in my papers. So on it goes.

This evening I went to the Norquist's house for dinner, and to meet the other members of a group that will be going to Chicago in a few weeks for a conference. It was a good time, and I think it will be a fun trip.

On the way back my car started smoking. Greatly disturbed, I pulled over in downtown Dayton and started frantically inspecting it. It's a 2000 Audi A6 with 216,000 miles on it, so I wasn't entirely surprised that something went wrong. The fact that it appeared to be on fire was a bit disconcerting though. The smoke fortunately seemed contained to one of the wheel-wells, and after explaining the symptoms to my Dad on the phone, decided it was probably just the brake caliper, and decided to attempt the trip back to campus, I made it, and parked safely away from any other cars or buildings, in case the unthinkable happened and the entire thing burned up––it happened to a friend of mine once. It continued to smolder for a half hour or so, but last time I checked it had stopped. My Dad told me a test I can do tomorrow after it cools down to see if the brakes are locked, but it appears that the A6 lives to die another day. So on it goes.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Out of [into] the wilderness

First week of classes went rather well. It wasn't a full week of course, so it's probably too early to come to conclusions, but I think this is going to be an easier semester than the last couple have been.

On class that hasn't started yet and that may make things a lot busier than they have been is newspaper production. I'm working for the Triangle again, only now as the multimedia editor. While on the surface that sounds like a lot of work––which it probably will be––I don't think it will be too stressful, because while I'll be working on a couple web/video projects every week, I won't be required to write anything unless I really want to.

One of my first tasks has been to create an animated version of the Triangle logo to go at the beginning and the end of video stories. I've been having some trouble with that, because I haven't yet been able to get a version of the logo in the right format to allow for a transparent background (or at least the software that I have isn't reading the one my editor... or I guess I should say boss now that I'm an editor too... gave me).

After being foiled for a while, I decided it was high-time I learned how to create images with transparent alpha zones in photoshop.... so I did. In the end though, I still couldn't get FCE to read the files with the transparent zones... which was really the entire point. I exported the image from CS3 in every single format and combination of settings within formats I could think of, and even followed the very explicit steps that I had for doing it in a tutorial by Izzy Video... and it still wouldn't work. So the next step I guess is to try it out on some of the school's machines, using CS4 and Final Cut Studio. Until then I'm dead in the water, as it were.

One thing that did come out of the whole chaotic little adventure was the above image though... and even though it does nothing to help me, I thought it was interesting enough to post here.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Flare

I'm back at Bryan as of this afternoon and moved into my townhouse. One of the nice aspects of being here is that the internet upload speed is close to 20x faster than ours at home. Thus, I have spent the last hour or so uploading lot's of things that I've wanted to all summer. One of them is this video of I shot of the gas flare in our field:

It's difficult to get an idea of how intense the sound is from the video, but just imagine it being as loud as you possibly can, and then make it louder, and you probably have a good idea.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Looking Up

After packing until about 2am last night, I woke up early, said goodbye to some of my family, drove to Canton Mennonite Church, gave a presentation, got my neck adjusted by my friend Nick (a chiropractor... my neck had been screwed up for the last couple days) and then set off on the trip back to Tennessee in the pouring rain.

While this all could have very easily turned into a very bad day, I was blessed with everything going extraordinarily well. I got packed, my presentation went well and it looks like I'm going to get some serious help paying the deficit that I had in my support (which is both a big and unexpected relief). The drive down so far to where I'm staying in Virginia has gone smoothly, and even my hotel room is awesome. It's definitely a lot easier to do it this way than driving 14 and half hours all at once.

So anyhow, things have been looking up a bit, which is good. I don't know if this post has much of a point, but I feel like my last few have been kind of depressing, so maybe this is just to keep it balanced.... like Fox News... only not, but I won't get into that. Speaking of news though, there's some interesting stuff happening in Tripoli right now... so you should check that out.


(has a couple rated R-ish parts.... so consider yourself advised)

Monday, August 15, 2011

40 Foot Flame

This morning at 3am I was awakened by my cell phone, got up to turn it off, and realized that it was light outside. Then I looked at the clock, saw the time, and knew that something different was happening. Then I looked out the window, and discovered that there was a forty-foot flame shooting out of our field illuminating the entire western sky in red.

So it's finally happening. After weeks of hydro-fracking, months of drilling, two years of prepping, and half a decade of speculation, there is gas flowing out of a pipe––or rather four pipes––in our field. Good news indeed. Could have used it sooner, but hopefully it isn't too late.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Back In the [Other] Real World

It's been up and down since I got back. On the up, it's good to relax again, see my family, and not fight with taxi drivers every other day. On the down, I'm bankrupt, and I'm afraid my asthma which I have not had a problem with since I was eight or nine may be mysteriously returning. Of course I can't find out for sure, because I got dropped from my family's health insurance policy. More dire than that, I am technically not allowed back on campus until I have health insurance. So it seems the logical thing would be to buy health insurance, but as I just said, I'm bankrupt. Actually I do have enough money, but the problem is I still owe money from this summer's little adventure, and I had slated the bit of money that I had left to pay for that in case I couldn't raise all my support––which I couldn't. So now new developments have put me between a bit of a rock and a hard place, as it were. So that isn't fun, but there is a chance a couple things could work out that will make it work, so hopefully they will.

Other than worry about that stuff I haven't really done too much since I got back. I've been dabbling with selling some of my photos on stock image sites, but I'm afraid I don't have too much of a chance at that, since most of it qualifies more as travel or art photography than stock photography, so even if it were good, which I'm not saying it is, it probably wouldn't get accepted.

Assuming that I actually can go back to school, which isn't really certain right now, I think I'm actually looking forward to it, which is unusual for me. So I guess it's good that that is coming up soon. Although, it could just be because there is now the possibility that it won't happen that I actually want it... seems that that's how my mind works often, which is too bad if you're trying to be happy.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Marco Polo

It's hard to believe that my week in Italy is almost at an end. Tomorrow I go to Marco Polo International at like 3:30am (my flight isn't till 7:00 or so, but other people are earlier) and begin the journey back.

It's been a good week. It was a surreal feeling, getting back to the SBI campus after a couple years away. While it felt a little weird being here without the people I was with back then, it was still a great time meeting back up with the other interns and swapping stories about our summers working in different countries.

This afternoon we went to Venice, which is definitely one of my favorite places in the world to hang out. It hadn't changed––aside from a few billboards that is.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Where, oh where, oh where....

It's been a couple weeks since I posted from Bcharre, the halfway-point of the LMT. I've been unimaginably busy, and, as has been the dilemma on so many occasions this summer, I'm faced with memories of far too many amazing events and experiences to possibly cover on my blog. So rather than going through the day by day details of the hike, I'm afraid I will be reduced to posting a few photos, which will hopefully communicate something of what I would like to:

After finishing the hike, I completed my final video (which was about the hike) went to the emergency room (I had become progressively more and more ill during the hike) went out and experienced some of Beirut's night life, burned dozens of DVD's, and got flew to Italy, where I am now. So that was the last week. Sorry for the lack of details and/or eloquence, but I hope you enjoyed the photos, and also that I'll have a chance to tell many of you the stories behind them in person.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

On The LMT

Warning, I've not had time to proof read this at all, so please ignore any embarrassing type errors. 

Well, I'm currently sitting at an internet cafe in the town of Bsharri overlooking the Kadisha Valley, a World Heritage Site, and among the more beautiful places I've ever been. The entire group is here, taking a well deserved break from the first week of trekking the LMT. And let me tell you, it has been a crazy experience.

The trail turned out for the most part to be not really a trail, but rather scrambling up cliff faces, over jagged rocks, camping in fields full of scorpions, and drinking questionable water. Everyone (except for our former Lebanese Army guide, Joseph, whom we have affectionately named "The Chuck Norris of Lebanon") has been sick at least to some degree, and exhausted beyond belief. So that's the negative... or the stuff that has made it such an epic adventure, depending on your perspective.

Every night we have stopped at a place that was seemingly more beautiful than the last, and while I may have been too tired to completely appreciate it at some points, I have tons of photos, which I will look forward to sharing, perhaps in this post, or perhaps when I'm in a place that I don't have to pay for internet by the hour. 

I've never met so many hospitable people, been invited into so many homes, or drank so many cups of tea or Arabic coffee. It's interesting how the more remote and primitive the village, the more welcoming and interested the people are, so in some ways the times that have been the hardest have also been the best.

Got to sign off now,

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Take A Hike

It's been a good week back in Beirut. Tomorrow, however, I'll be leaving again––this time for a two week hike.

I've spent the last couple says shopping and figuring out how I would pack my backpack. I apparently have the smallest backpack of anyone in the group, which could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on how you look at it. I mainly just didn't feel like spending a couple hundred bucks on regular backpacking pack back in the States, and besides, I've lived out of my little North Face Recon one for more than a week before, and that was carrying a computer too, so I think I'll be fine.

Yesterday I spent most of the afternoon shopping for a wide brim hat, only to be disappointed several times. Everything was either cheesy looking, or about four times what I was willing to pay for it. In the end I bought this biker headband thing that I will probably use in conjunction with the desert scarf that I bought in Jordan... so I will look like a Bedouin... but then that's probably appropriate.

So I think this will be a fun couple weeks. There are a lot of variables... like the people I'm going with, many of whom I haven't met yet, and whether or not my now overstuffed little backpack will be adequate, but I think it will work out.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

With Lawrence

Yes, in the below picture I am sitting with two Bedouins in Wadi Araba holding a gazelle's head. How I got into this situation is a rather long story, however.

Yesterday, two friends and I decided to take a trip out into the Jordanian desert––in the car pictured below:

After visiting Mt. Nebo, the place where––according to tradition––Moses looked out on the promised land he would not be permitted to enter, we drove down to the dead sea, something I had always wanted to see. Since we were planning on camping out in the desert that night, and it is almost mandatory that you take a shower afterwards, we decided not to go swimming. So that will have to be for another trip. After that we headed south along the sea and made the 200-some kilometer journey to Aqaba. Along the way we made two stops; several to pick of hitchhikers, and one to run out and frolic in the sand... and discover that our Honda Compact was not the greatest off-road vehicle:

Another was to walk with wild camels:

When we finally reached Aqaba, I had the strange sensation that I had seen the place before... and then I realized that I had––in Lawrence of Arabia. We then went down to the beach and rented a paddle-boat. The Gulf of Aqaba isn't exactly the kind of place I ever pictured myself using a paddle-boat, but it was fun in a hilarious kind of way. It was also a cool experience because from the Gulf of Aqaba it's possible to see four countries at the same time: Jordan to the North-East, Israel to the North-West, Saudi Arabia to the South-East, and Egypt to the South-West.

By the time we finished it was getting dark and we headed back out into the desert. After traveling into Wadi Araba we left the highway and drove along dirt (or sand, rather) roads until we found an abandoned hut-kind-of building with no roof and a walled in courtyard in back. The stars were just coming out when the first Bedouins came.

They spoke with Brett for about fifteen minutes and kept repeating that it was very strange for us to be there and that they had never seen anything like it before. They finally left and we went back to taking care of the fire. Just a few minutes later though, another one showed up, talking on his cell phone. He was followed by two more, and they were all adamant that it was not safe for us to stay there, telling us we would probably get shot or robbed or something along those lines. So it was evident that at this point the entire valley knew we were there––and wasn't particularly pleased about it. The also added that if any of these things happened it would reflect badly on them, since it was their territory. Thus, they insisted that it was their duty to take us to their home. We in turn insisted that we would leave and return to Aqaba and camp on the beach instead. They however, would not hear of this, and twenty minutes later we were following their white Toyota pickup back to their house.

So I spent the evening drinking large amounts of tea, sitting on cushions, and listening to Brett converse with them in Arabic for several hours. It was a surreal experience, and I'm tempted to write another post just about it.

They woke us up at six-thirty that morning with more tea, and flat-bread, which gave us more than enough time to get to Petra where I had arranged to meet my friends and professor from Bryan for the day.

Petra is something I had dreamed of seeing since I was nine or ten, and so coming to Jordan it was the main thing I was looking forward to seeing. In the end though, and even though it exceeded my expectations thoroughly, it seemed more like icing on the cake.

Late that afternoon, I parted ways with Brett and Jonny and took the bus back to Amman. I had some work to do there, and also wanted to spend some time catching up with my friends. I was still a little sad to see the previous two days come to an end, as they were definitely some of the craziest and best ever.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Original Philadelphia

I arrived in Amman Jordan yesterday afternoon after a quick flight from Beirut, took a bus, took a taxi, walked a few blocks, and made it to the flat where I'm staying. It's in a really fun part of town, so even though I was more or less on my own the first night, I definitely haven't been bored.

 I got up around 8:30 this morning and went down to this little plaza overlooking the city where there had been guys playing flamenco guitar music and smoking argyle the night before and saw a placard indicating the significance of different buildings that could be seen from that place. One in the distance was labeled as "Umayyad Palace." Having no pressing obligations, I decided to walk there. While it was probably only half a mile away as the crow flies, it was on another hill, which meant I had to cross the expanse in between. Complicating matters further is the fact that few of the roads here go in a straight line. So all said and done, it turned out to be more like a two mile hike, and that was with a good bit of shortcuts through private property and up near-cliff faces... on the way I ran into this little guy, who insisted on me taking photos of him posing....

It was well worth the trek though, as the place that I ended up is basically the historical and archaeological center of Amman Known as "The Citadel," it has ruins dating back to the bronze age and coming up through Bible times, Greek rule, Roman Rule, Byzantine Rule, Umayyad Rule... etc. I ended up getting a private walking tour of the place for about 45 minutes by a guide who was there... I got a sunburn, but it was worth it I think. Interestingly, Amman was once called Philadelphia. Below is stone head that I saw in the museum––I can't quite place it, but I'm almost sure I've seen her in a book before.

This afternoon I met up with two friends from school. It was really weird––surreal almost to see them here in Amman after not seeing anyone that I've known previously in over a month. But there they were, walking toward me on the sidewalk. We definitely had some serious stories to exchange over pizza from the past month and a half since we left Bryan for the summer.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Cedars of the North

 While I had gone to see the cedars in the South about three weeks ago, a number of people told me that the cedars in the North were much more impressive. Yesterday I got the chance to see them, and they did not disappoint. What I enjoyed just as much as the cedars, some of which were 1200 years old and bigger than any tree I've seen in real life, was the drive up.

The northern cedars are in the mountains more than two hours of winding roads and switch-backs out of Beirut. By the time we arrived there we had risen several thousand feet in elevation, and you could actually see snow on some of the higher peaks. It was also extremely cool and clear, which was a wonderful departure from the hot smoggyness of Beirut and the coastal areas.

The mountains on the way up reminded me very much of the mountains in the Greek Isles, which is interesting. I know nothing about the geology of the area, but it wouldn't surprise me if they were once part of the same land mass. They are just a few hundred miles away, after all.

 On the way up we stopped at a restaurant along the side of the road and had a delicious Lebanese meal with hommos, tabbouleh, fattoush, flat bread, and fries (oddly enough). I honestly think I may miss the food here more than anything else. I suppose there is always the Mediterranean section at Wegmans, but I'm not sure it will cut it for me anymore.

Monday, June 20, 2011

all the kings of Tyre, all the kings of Sidon

This weekend I did many things that I had always wanted to do, and several that I had never wanted to. I swam in the Mediterranean Sea, visited the city of Sidon, got lost in Sidon, stayed with a friend in Tyre, road around the ruins of a Roman Hippodrome (the same one where the chariot race in Ben Herr was filmed) on the back of a moped––without a helmet, laid eyes on Occupied Palestine, or The Zionist Entity, or Israel, depending on your political views from a distance, played Texas Hold 'Em with a group of Druze, had my foot partially run over by a taxi, and did a number of other things that my insurance company must never find out about.

Above is what I believe is a crusader castle in Sidon or Saida. I was rather rushed there trying to make a connection and got rather disoriented in the Souk or market that reminded me a bit of Venice without the water, and thus didn't have time to take many shots. Things got better when I finally made it to Tyre or Sour, as the locals call it. I promptly went to the beach and spent most of the next day getting a tour of the city from the back of a moped driven by my new friend, Jonny.

Tyre is full of Roman ruins––the most I've seen since I was in... well... Rome. Parts of a number of major movies have been filmed here, and I thought these below were particularly beautiful. If you look at the hill just visible on the horizon directly to the right of the palm tree in the center, you are looking at the Holy Land. That's how close we were to the border.

That evening on the Corniche we met this elderly woman and her grandson. I had a very long one-sided conversation with her. One-sided because it was entirely in Arabic... not really my strong suite. Jonny had borrowed my camera just before and was kind enough to capture the moment.

oh, where to begin?

Yes, the name of my blog did in fact change. It became Where Soul Meets Body after I deemed the previous name, Just Like A Real Boy, to be too depressing, and the one that preceded that, The Floating World, was appropriated by an adult entertainment company (a discovery made––much to my chagrin––by my grandpa when he tried to find my blog by googling it... awkward). At any rate Where Soul Meets Body was intended to be a temporary title until I could come up with something more creative and that didn't immediately label me as a DCFC fan. After about a year now, I finally have come up with something that I fancy a bit better, and that I think pretty generally expresses my life right now... which is what it's supposed to do I suppose. I don't even know where to begin when describing this past weekend which I spent in Tyre... but I'll give it a shot in my next post, which should be up presently.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Jesus-Mobile & Other Discoveries

I spent a lot of time in the Borj Hammoud neighborhood this week wandering and taking photos. I've found that people are starting to recognize me there now––which is kind of cool and kind of intimidating at the same time. One women even remembered me from when I was there with a friend almost two weeks ago, just after I arrived in the country. She told me I should come to her shop if I came back. Just after I ran into her I passed these two women sitting in front of a house. I thought the colors were rather striking and asked if I could take a picture of them, while the colors turned out better than I expected, what really makes it, I think, is the expression of the woman on the right.

That day I also stumbled upon this vehicle, which I have since dubbed "the Jesus-Mobile." Borj Hammoud is populated mainly by Armenians, who are, culturally at least, very Christian––and they wear their religion with a swagger. Cross tattoos on muscular arms, images of Mary above the cigarette counter, rosaries hanging from mirrors, and of course, the Jesus-Mobile.

This next day I found myself not too far from Borj Hammoud photographing/playing soccer with a group of Turkmen children. The Turkmens, from what I gather, are kind of like gypsies with a semi-refugee status who migrate around the Levant working and begging. These little guys spoke about zero English, and I still speak about zero Arabic, but somehow it didn't matter too much once we started playing. It was a blast.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Clouds Over Beirut

It's been delightfully cool and breezy the last few days. Sunday we went to a forest (the Lebanese definition of forest is quite liberal) a few minutes out of town and went for a hike. It was quite hot and I got my first sunburn since I've been here. That night though it cooled off and has been nice since. We even had rain last night, which looked quite dramatic over the city.

In other news, it appears that a new government has been formed after being without one since February or March if I remember. It collapsed last time because Hezbollah withdrew forcing a shutdown when things didn't go their way, and now the new government is composed even more so of them and their allies. The government hasn't been given the vote of confidence yet, but it will be interesting to see what the response from the West is if that happens.

According to one local news website there was some rioting yesterday with some major highways being blocked, but I didn't see anything like that (although I did think I noticed more security forces than normal while I was out walking the corniche yesterday afternoon.)

While on the corniche I met an interesting (and somewhat inebriated) man sitting on the railing overlooking Pigeon Rock. I ended up talking with him for almost an hour before he tried to get me to pay someone $50 to take a photo of the sea rocks from under a nearby restaurant, at which point I made an excuse to leave. I walked all the way back to downtown, which is a good hike. It was beautiful weather for it though, and I saw some rather interesting things, like people deep sea fishing, and workers accidentally spilling a bag of sand from the 15th story of a high-rise under construction.