Category Archives: Uncategorized

Repeat

Have you ever wanted to listen to a YouTube video multiple times with having to keep pressing the replay button? Well, you can.

Simply type “repeat” into a YouTube URL before the “.com” to watch it on repeat.

Don’t you love when things are simple?

Example

 


Color & Fire

“We should like to have some towering geniuses, to reveal us to ourselves in color and fire, but of course they would have to fit into the pattern of our society and be able to take orders from sound administrative types.”

-Joseph Priestley

 



Oops . . . Nothing Happened

I do not so much write a book as sit up with it, as with a dying friend. -Annie Dillard

So, there I was with a two-year-old on my hip, standing in horror at the backdoor of my employer’s house. How was I supposed to know the door would lock behind me? The kid just needed air. I didn’t have my house key or wallet. I had my phone, but I sure as heck wasn’t going to call the paranoid parents to alert them that I had their waif and a problem my first day on the job. The other option was to ransack my mom’s PT Cruiser for a solution. I don’t think I’d ever seen her car so clean—all I found was a CD case. Well, I thought to myself, it’s worth a try. I sat the child in the driver’s seat and snapped the hard plastic until I had a sizable shard. Peeling back the doorjamb near the handle while balancing the kid on my hip again, I maneuvered my new weapon past the latch. Viola! The struggle never happened, and I was awash with relief.

Today, I venture to propose that writing itself can be like breaking into a house. It requires creativity, deniability, and epiphany.

No one really means to get locked outside of a house, any more than he means to serve the cruel master of writer’s block for eternity. It just . . . happens, and the sudden resolution to gain entry must be married with ingenuity. Blinking cursors are deadbolts. The only way around them is creativity because in writing, the master key is never an option. Master keys are copiable farces in publication. Credit cards, too—they may be effective in gaining access to some houses, but purchased essays are but another circle in uncreative hell. Possession (as they say) is ninth-tenths of the law. With brilliant ideas, bobby pins, and CD shards, suddenly life becomes a lot less frustrating—even with a proverbial baby in tow.

But no matter how laudable victory may be, it can never be known by the outside world, lest  the inquisitive discover the scandal of sweat behind laurel leaves. The challenge of writing is a deniable venture, much as is breaking into a house. Nevertheless, a lurking fear will haunt he who passes through fire. Perhaps someone (oh, rue the day!) will ask, “How did you manage to get in the house after all?” or worse, “How long does it take you to write, exactly?” Soon, one must contemplate the art of breaking out, for words are wretched forensics; the best ones are birthed in the throes of desperation, in the final moments before success. Was not Whitman’s barbaric yawp far indeed from his song’s beginning?

Finishing a bit of writing is a “praise God” moment—the kind where a spotlight shines and the Hallelujah Chorus rings out. My, can you imagine Handel’s moment of epiphany? Observing an impenetrable door swing inward—invitingly—without use of a battering ram—is to conquer the world, if only for a moment. The words slip on paper like the toddler does down my leg to crawl on the carpet he knows and loves, happily unaware of his recent peril, comforted by familiarity. He’s home.

Doors are meant to be opened, yet so many pass them by without even trying to test them. Ought they be forced? The cause is worthy, no matter the frustration—no matter the naysayers who say it cannot be done, the naysayers who give up and feign disappointment after pronouncing judgment against CDs and hairpins. They do not know that the rules of convention are not the law of pen-strokes. Break into your house, if you dare! Deny the difficulty, and usher in the infant. Nothing ever happened.


Bribery & The Zombie Apocalypse

“Just because the Zombie Apocalypse hasn’t happened yet, that doesn’t mean it won’t!” exclaims Steve Kamb in his fitness article on the Zombie Apocalypse. Kamb is currently on an “Epic Quest of Awesome”: a 35,000 mile travel-ganza for a mere $418. Inspirational travel story? Perhaps. But I believe Kamb is preparing his mind and body for the possibility of future evacuation to international zombie-free zones. Who can blame him for keeping matters on the DL? Following is my first installment of international travel advice for those who can’t take nine months to globe-trot but nevertheless have no intention of becoming living dead. Ladies and gentlemen: bribery in the third world.

  • Transportation

Whether you’re attempting to lose a ghoulish tail or simply learn the ropes in a new uninfected zone, finding transportation under pressure is often a key concern. Although many handbooks advise cardio, rudimentary parkour training, and armored buses, sometimes a simple taxi will do. But how to secure a ride and save valuable cash?
We all know the economics of crisis; when times are hard, prices are high. If your driver is uninfected, taking him out is unethical. He deserves your business, but negotiations are up to you (he may need Italian spinterella—a little push). If the taxi is metered, no problem; just make sure said meter doesn’t tick unnaturally fast. If it is, just get out, or, if mobility is key, guess at a fair amount at the end and make a run for it. More often than not that meter is going to be conveniently “broken” (the driver may blame zombies, but the problem is more likely to be humanoid).
If you are headed to a new destination, negotiate prices before getting into a car. If you forget or have a sudden change of plans, exit the vehicle and toss a fair amount on the seat or through the window, with due regard to number of passengers, cigarettes you accepted from him (please don’t) and traffic (if your driver outmaneuvered several rogue uglies, don’t be stingy with a brother).

  • Cops

Obviously if zombies have commandeered a screechy police car, you are under no obligation to pull over. But in normal conditions, stay on your very-much-alive toes!
You’re more likely to get pulled over in some regions for looking western; south asia comes to mind. Foreigners, after all, must all have money like Oprah and Justin Bieber; maybe you’ll pay whatever they tell you to pay. Of course, if you are asked “to come to an understanding” and have a lot of time to kill, you can take the matter to police superiors and see what happens. Chances are good you’ll see a power display in favor of official moral policy.
But—if you’re on the run (i.e., ninja zombie hordes twenty feet and closing) and absolutely cannot stop, try dropping coins outside your car window. Heck, at fifty feet give a cop five ringgit for tea to calm his nerves (that’s the chaquin concept in Chinese, or ashaan ash-shay in Arabic). Not everyone comes to an agreement, but the same goes with border officials; grease some palms and procedures may suddenly accelerate.

  • Shopping and Entertainment

Once I went to a zoo to get a picture of me holding a baby lion. After much fanfare and transparent discussion of just how one man plans on feeding his family, I was able to slide the equivalent of five dollars under the proverbial table (Slovak pod stolom) and gain a furtive but fleeting minute in a dimly lit cage area. The Apocalypse should never prevent you from making memories, however contrived. The hopeful survive.
Money opens more than lion cage doors, however. Are you looking for someone? Need a particular good or service? A small tip to a shopkeeper or a few pieces of candy to some street kids playing ball may yield quick results (unless the kids are foaming at the mouth, in which case your candy probably won’t go as far as the arm that holds it). You might also offer more cash up front in a restaurant to accommodate your haste (perfect for those emergency night curfews).
When ready to purchase goods, remember that bartering is probably best described as a shifty form of bribery; make control of situations your priority and don’t waste your money! It will go a long way if you treat it like gold instead of sand. If something can be repaired with duct tape or sewn with floss, you needn’t replace it yet. Paying to make things faster and less painless is a way of life in many places; in the Apocalypse, it could save your life.

  • Stay Alert!

As a dedicated member of the Zombie Apocalypse Awareness Party, I know the how to’s of survival are fairly well archived. People can no longer plead lack of information should the undead begin gnawing at their doors. Move fast, make arrangements, and remember to enjoy the little things without becoming complacent! If your Plan B, C, or D involves extended time abroad, be sure to stay tuned to additional travel tips and—for the love of all things good!—please remain human.

(Creative Commons photo credit: Hryck on Flickr)

 


China 中国

After much deliberation and prayer, I am making plans to return to China this summer to teach English. To go, I raise all my own funds. If you are interested in learning more about this, or if you wish to contribute to the effort, please contact me or reply to this post.


Letter to the Editor

I realize I’ve yet to give much detailed explanation or thought on recent events in Egypt. I hardly knew what to think or expect. Recently, I was given the opportunity to write a letter to the editor for the University newspaper, The Skyliner. To that article I do forward you:

http://nguskyliner.net/wordpress/2011/02/16/letter-to-the-editor-protests-bring-freedom/

 


Cairo in Pictures

Egypt is often remembered for her ancient tombs. But recent events have brought Egypt into a new new light for many Westerners as the Egyptian people clamor for progress.

 

A few months ago, I was at a soccer game between the famous Egyptian Ahly soccer team and the country of Tunisia. As the Tunisians began to lose, they began to fling chairs at the field and set things on fire, despite riot guards surrounding them. Who knew that the passionate Tunisians would challenge their corrupt government in a few short months, and that the Egyptians would follow?

 

A Cairene cityscape, from 2007.

The entrance to the Cairo Museum in Medan Tahrir. The Museum holds many important ancient Egyptian artifacts and mummies; reports indicate that during recent protests, several artifacts and two mummies were significantly damaged by looters (inspiring more outrage from many Egyptians).

 

Cairo streets as usual outside Al-Azhar Mosque, not far from the popular Khan el-Khalili, a souk (or market) popular with tourists. The Egyptian economy relies heavily on tourism.

Egyptian Tamer El-Sahhar writes, "Along the past few days Egypt has been going through some of the toughest and the most glorious times in it's entire modern history . . . moments that will not only define path of a nation, but also moments that re-define an entire generation. My generation. Today I am proud to say that I am between them."

Now that Mubarak has resigned from the Egyptian Presidency, the future remains uncertain.

Arab League: Students at the Arab League in Cairo, near Medan Tahrir. The League is an organization to promote unity among many Arab countries, promote independence, and address concerns and interests of its members.

Me in Luxor.

 


Small Adventures

 I think over again my small adventures

 My fears, 
 Those small ones that seemed so big, 
 For all the vital things 
 I had to get and to reach. 
 And yet there is only one great thing, 
 The only thing, 
 To live to see the great day that dawns 
 And the light that fills the world.  Old Inuit song  
 

Memories of Matter

I noticed an Egyptian pound in my pocket today. I am not sure how it got there. I did not move it. Egypt has methods of reminding me of herself.

My caf serves pita. I dream of aish.

Striding along cold concrete University sidewalks, I cannot but think, these are the shoes that walked Tahrir.

I watch videos from the warm chrysalis of my room, and I wonder, where is the woman to whom I gave alms? Where are the mischievous youth with their games in the streets? Who hangs out on the bridges with brightly colored scarves?

The henna from the khan al-khalili faded away in the weeks after my arrival home, the one visible mark that cried “I was there, but now I am not!”

The nail polish is gone from one foot, but holds resiliently to the nails of the other. My Egyptian polish is red, bright red, the color of spirit, the color of vivacity, the color of crimson blood. It is the clash of worlds.

My Arabic numeral timepiece hangs around my neck, close. And I wait.


Of Names, Witchhunts, & Dances

On New Year’s Eve, Midnight bides his time in coming. I attempted a variety of methods to amuse myself, Facebook notwithstanding. I even held a book in my hand, with every intention of beginning it, but somehow I ended up scanning Netflix. So I did the logical thing. I watched Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible.”

I must confess (a regular habit here, it seems). I’ve never read or seen “The Crucible.” I just knew it took place during the Salem Witch Trials. I did a lot of reading on the trials when I was younger (even watched a documentary on it). I was always particularly struck by George Burroughs, who recited the Lord’s Prayer perfectly before his execution, something it was said no witch could do. I thought it appropriate, then, when I watched “The Crucible,” that during the final three executions portrayed, the two women and John Proctor recite the Lord’s Prayer as they are hanged one by one. Proctor is last, and ends with “forever and ever . . .” The “Amen” hangs in the air, as if it is the audiences choice if it “may be so.”

The movie is striking, one of the best I’ve seen in a while, and is also the inspiration of the day. Towards the end of the film, John Proctor is told his life will be spared if he signs a confession that declares he is a witch. He resolves to sign it, but then snatches the paper away from his judges:

Danforth: Do you mean to deny this confession when you are free?
Proctor: I mean to deny nothing!
Danforth: Then explain to me, Mr. Proctor, why you will not let —
Proctor: [With the cry of his whole soul] Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies! Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang! How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name!

(You can watch this clip here; it has a lengthy intro, so you can watch it or cut to the chase at 2:39. Sorry; it is literally the only clip of the scene I could find online that wasn’t some cheesy high school rendition or horrendously executed satire. Daniel Day-Lewis knows what he’s doing, per usual)

A name is an important thing, indeed. These days, I would not be surprised to discover that the phrase a “good name” is interpreted as a name that is fitting, or unique (because, you know, being unique is, like, what it’s all about). Case in point: The other day, for apparent lack of other amusements, I read the entire following site with some incredulity. Someone took the time to scan forums and copy names people were thinking or had given their child, and then added their own sarcastic commentary. I read them for an evening’s laughter; the ridiculousness of some of it is astounding:

http://www.notwithoutmyhandbag.com/babynames/

I found that link from Jincy Willett’s website (subtitled “I Would Not Burn the Library of Alexandria for You,” so of course I was reading it). She put the link for the brilliantly titled baby names site under the category “You Might Learn Something.” And so I did. People are nuts. And they’ve, to some degree, forgotten the importance of a name. When Juliet says, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose/ By any other name would smell as sweet,” she’s wrong. Young, foolish. Dead wrong. Names may not always dictate actions, but they do kill people.

A good name isn’t simply alliterative. It isn’t there just to evoke thoughts of Celtic goddesses, golf clubs, sports cars, and foreign cities. The only men that hang on account of those names are the ones condemned by ridiculous spellings.

Socrates, I am told, said, “Regard your good name as the richest jewel you can possibly be possessed of – for credit is like fire; when once you have kindled it you may easily preserve it, but if you once extinguish it, you will find it an arduous task to rekindle it again. The way to gain a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear.”

So I need a better signature. John Proctor’s pwns right now.

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In related news, I currently hold the record for this song in “Just Dance.” (Eat that, Abigail).