Friday, April 27, 2012

And you may ask yourself: Well, how did I get here?

This morning at approximately 8:30 I walked out of my last college class ever. Around eleven I turned in my last college assignment ever. And that's that.

It's hard to believe that four and a half years ago––in January of 2008––I was nervously trying to find my seat in my first college class ever: Intro to Microcomputers in Elliot Hall at Mansfield University of Pennsylvania. I remember that day vividly.

It's been a long four and a half years. Full of twists and turns and ups and downs. I feel like the downs were probably a little longer than the ups, but then, some of them were valuable in some way I suppose.

For how ambivalent I was about starting college, it truly amazes me how many intense and crazy things I ended up doing. In fact, for how much I hated school before college (and often during), it has occasionally puzzled me how I ended up in it.

I always did my best I guess, but it was always without any real sense of direction or calling. It occurred to me just now that maybe that's the reason I ended up doing so many crazy and intense things. Lot's of determination and very little direction to apply it to.

Here's a brief history of my college experience:

Spring of 2008 - Fall of 2008 - Started at Mansfield University majoring in Anthropology.

Spring of 2009 - Dropped everything and went to Saints Bible Institute, San Lorenzo, Italy.

Fall of 2010 - Back at Mansfield University.

Spring of 2010 - Spring 2011 - Transferred to Bryan College, Dayton, Tennessee majoring in Communication Studies with a political option.

Summer of 2011 - Interned with an NGO in Beirut, Lebanon.

Fall of 2011 - Spring of 2012 - Continued at Bryan.

That's really a gross simplification. If I were to list out the connections between those things, the reasons one may or may not have led to another, what I thought my ultimate goal was in doing them, and what the reasons I attribute to having done them in retrospect are, it would be more of a book than a blog post.

At any rate, if I could have a song played when I walk across the stage to get my diploma next Saturday, it would be Once In a Lifetime by the Talking Heads.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Great Vampires of History

I just finished Bram Stoker's 1897 thriller Dracula. Was quite a good read. 

While I had always heard that the book (probably on Focus On the Family or something) was evil and a metaphor about sex, the introduction by Brooke Allen said that while most people in the 20th and 21st centuries look at it that way, it probably wasn't. If anything, aside from some Eastern European mysticism and a probable overemphasis of Satan's power, I think the book had an overwhelmingly Christian take on the world. At any rate, it was interesting. I especially enjoyed how atmospheric Stoker's writing is when it comes to describing places. Between that and reading most of the footnotes, I almost feel like I've been to 19th century England/Czechoslovakia.  

So now that I have a solid historical foundation in vampire literature, perhaps my next book should be in the realm of contemporary undead lore. Twilight anyone? 


Note: the, the photo above is not actually Dracula, rather a statue of Joseph Stalin at a Castle in Latvia. I took it while I was traveling in Cesǐs on my day off about a year ago.  

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Dance Yrself Clean

I start to worry when things seem like they're going well. It means at some point they have to stop going well, at which time I'll almost wish that they hadn't been going well in the first place.

I know I'm not the only one who feels like this, because it once got brought up in the guy's Bible study I used to have during summers off with Patrick and Josh back home. We'd talk for hours about just about anything but the Bible (eventually we'd get to that) and when somebody brought up the subject of good fortune or success or what-have-you, we all agreed that we felt the same way about it––grateful, but very uneasy.

That's kind of how I feel now.

The last couple weeks have been some of the best in at least a couple years. School has been relatively easy. I've been able to do a lot of things I enjoy. People have appreciated things that I've done and told me they will miss me when I'm gone. And the reason I'll be gone is because I'm finally going to be done with school... this thing that I have only recently started to enjoy at all.

About a month ago I submitted one of the films I shot for my internship over the summer to a regional college film festival in Chattanooga; the Broad Street Film Festival. Thursday night this past week was the screening, and it was weird, one, to see something I had spent so much effort on and watched so many times played on a huge screen, and two, to get so many compliments and positive remarks about it. I mean, I felt like it was pretty good (or else I wouldn't have submitted it), but I really wasn't prepared for what happened.

Last night was the awards ceremony at the Tivoli Theater (pictured below in this photo I stole from the Facebook page) and I won Best Documentary. I was kind of expecting that actually, as out of the 19 films that were entered, mine was the only one that really qualified as complete non-fiction. What I didn't expect was also getting nominated for best editing––which I didn't win in, but it was still a surprise, especially considering how awesome the two films it was up against in that category were.

Then came the after-party, which was fun. Soooooooooooooooooo much dubstep. I haven't danced that hard in years, but it was good to blow off some steam after the evening––which included finding out half an hour before the show started that I would have to give an acceptance speech. It's a rare situation in which two hours of jerking myself around to the pulsating grind that is for-better-or-worse is the music of my generation will actually calm my nerves, but it did last night.

So that was that. Won an award in a film festival. Who'd a' thunk?

And it's all far from over. I have just a few assignments to wrap up this week, and then it's off to the Bahamian islands for what may be either a week of well earned relaxation, or mayhem and misadventure, depending on how the spirit leads. Then it's back up here for the graduation ceremony and all that goes along with that.

So, it's times like this that I start to get uneasy that something is about to go terribly wrong. Maybe that's just to help me keep it in perspective. Everything we do is really so insignificant in the grand scheme of things.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Security Concerns

What a great weekend.

GPG was absolutely fantastic, the group that I went with was a blast, DC was as cool as usual, and I even got to meet up with a friend from my SBI days; Stephanie, who I hadn't seen in about two years.

The conference was amazing. The thought of even recounting a little bit of it is exhausting. On top of that, we were asked not to tweet, blog or otherwise share online about specific parts of the conference due to the dangerous political and criminal situations that much of the organization's international staff work in. So, if you're interesting in learning about what happened, the safest and easiest thing I can do its just refer you here. 

For the same security concerns, I wasn't allowed to take any photos of the event itself, and about the second day, I hadn't used my camera once, and was regretting that I had packed it. Then one of  the people in my group––and that person shall remain nameless for numerous reasons––had the uncontrollable urge to climb to the top of a tower crane next to our hotel.

He told me he was planning on it, so I lent him my camera, a sweater (it was the middle of the night) and had him write my number on his arm in the real possibility that he got arrested (a precaution I learned from some of my Occupy friends).

And here is a picture from the top:
The only shots I took myself were a couple on the Mall minutes before Steph met me there. After that it was just catching up on everything (or a lot of it) that's happened to us in the last couple years, which is quite a bit. A lot of adventures. And I can't talk about much of it either.... also mostly because of security concerns....  

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The District

Tomorrow at 4:45am I'm headed off to DC with a group to attend International Justice Mission's Global Prayer Gathering. 

I went last year as part of my preparation for being part of the Acts Project and enjoyed it so much that I decided to do it again this year. I also needed one more CLF credit for my minor and an event for Political Seminar for my major, and this is working to fulfill both of them. 

There have been a few interesting developments since my last post... being randomly invited to Easter Dinner at the house of one of my former professors' parents, getting invited by her father to go to a Rhea County Council meeting, not going because it had been rescheduled for the day before and he didn't realize it, running five miles barefoot in the dark... but I really am feeling too tired to go into any detail about it right now. 4:00am will be here fast. 

Also, I decided not to take my Mac to DC, so unless something amazing enough happens (or I get board enough) for me to feel like blogging from my BB, I probably won't be doing so. 

The event will be viewable online and if you have any interesting in human trafficking, law or transnational issues, I would recommend giving it a watch for a few minutes. You might even see me (although it's unlikely). 

I'm also looking forward to hopefully meeting up with an old friend from my SBI days back in Italy who I haven't seen in a couple years. We have a rather sorry record of missing each other whenever we're in the same city at the same time, but just maybe that will change this weekend. 

Anyhow, in the event that you don't hear from me until after the weekend, have a good one!

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Too at home to see what home is

As a former anthropology/sociology major, I think it's interesting how bound people are to their own culture.

One area in particularly is perception of political bias.

Our perception of bias is something that is so socially and nationalistically constructed that it is hard to even see for anyone who did not grow up with cultural norms and understandings associated with the worldview or party that the bias is associated with.

I hear people (American people) again and again talk about how much they love the BBC for the fact that it is "unbiased." But is it really unbiased? Or is it just that the fact that BBC journalists didn't grow up in American culture, and thus don't care about it enough to be biased, and Americans who watch/read it as a supposedly unbiased news source don't know or care enough about the politics that matters to the BBC to think that it's biased?

I direct you to this article click here.

Friday, April 06, 2012

An Apparent Victory

The "issue" that I mentioned in my last post regarding the newspaper ended so agreeably that it was almost anti-climactic. Easy battles are good, but they make for less interesting blog posts.
The original problem that I wrote "consumed the lion's share of my time and effort today, doing things that I hate doing, because they involved interpersonal communication" was a change in the college's social media policy. This had started last semester when the Bryan Web Communications Department started trying to reign in the Facebook fan pages, twitter profiles, blogs and other methods of online publication that students had created to represent clubs, organizations and sports teams on campus. 
The new policy required anyone with a social media account that used the name of the school or any organization officially affiliated with it to surrender login information and top-level administrative rights to the WCD. It also required users to accept an agreement that gave the WCD the right to remove or edit content that fell under a certain set of criteria. 
While I can understand the reasoning behind the policy, it created a number of concerns for the newspaper. 
First of all, it meant that a department we might conceivably have the desire to write about would now be controlling our content, which brings up some serious issues of journalistic integrity in general. 
More specifically, Triangle has not always gotten along well with some departments within the college––particularly those that have reason to be concerned with the school's image. The WCD, as evident in the very nature of the policy, is concerned about the schools image, and while the agreement ostensibly only gave them the right to remove content that was offensive or inaccurate, it's easy to imagine how the temptation might exist to remove stories reflecting badly on the college even if they were truthful and tastefully handled. 
Finally, the policy was relatively redundant, as the newspaper's faculty advisor within the journalism department already has administrative access to all of its social media accounts, and he is fully capable of monitoring the content himself. 
For all these reasons, we refused to give up the login information when asked last semester and left for Christmas vacation with the request that the WCD speak to the board and approve an exemption for Triangle for the policy. I had assumed that that is what happened. 
Unfortunately that isn't what happened.... only they never told us that that isn't what happened (I suspect intentionally). So last Thursday, when we were informed that we had hit the deadline for surrendering the login information, we didn't have time to appeal it in any official way. 
Instead, we spent the next two business days running around trying to get faculty to sign a petition to the Academic Vice President for Triangle to be given an exemption––for real this time. This was hard to explain because the WCD had played it (intentionally or not) so that it looked like we had procrastinated or been too lazy to appeal at the committee level. That's not true, but that's what it looked like. 
I only met with a few of the faculty myself, but it was discouraging because they all said no to signing (if I were in their place, I probably wouldn't have signed it either though... it's hard to bite the hand). It was also awkward because I got assigned to speak with the biology department, in which I only actually know one professor. 
On Friday, the Academic VP canceled a meeting to see the petition with our Editor and Chief and Assistant Online Editor, which in the past has been a sign that nothing is going to happen. So things weren't looking good over the weekend. 
Then, beginning of this week, the meeting happened, and... he completely agreed with our concerns. While the new social media policy will still go into place, Triangle will have an exemption written into it, and we will even get to help write it. 
So, as long as all of that actually happens, we should be in good shape, and those of us who are graduating this semester will be leaving future staffs with a newspaper, not just the college's second PR department.