Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The One Where He (finally) Buys a Bike

I've been saying it since last summer, but today I finally purchased a bike. Fresh from a fun-filled weekend in Boston, I arrived back in Philly today bright and early and went out to find a bike. I went five blocks down to this amazingly-hipster-filled bike shop that had hordes of bikes of all shapes and sizes. After taking one for a test drive around the neighborhood, I settled on this lovely piece of metal:

(note the Where's Waldo dog in the background)

Thinking of naming my bike 'Jeremiah' - thoughts?

However, I did not purchase a helmet, and riding in Philly seems to really require it. Nevertheless, hours after my long-awaited purchase I took the bike out for a spin around West Philly. At first I was really nervous, because I had never really ridden a "bend over bike" as I like to call them. But after a few minutes and a couple of backpack adjustments, I was off riding beside traffic and feeling comfortable (even sans helmet). Aside from a (now) sore butt and a baby blister on my palm, all went well!

I wasn't really sure where my destination would be, but I headed down to the river, and on my way passed the UPenn Museum of Archaeology - a location I've been meaning to visit also since the summer. Admission is free for Penn students so I locked up the bike and took a personal stroll around the museum. 

What I found inside was completely amazing! Not only was the museum gorgeously decorated, but the whole place maybe had about ten guests roaming around, leaving full wings of the museum empty to all but me! It was so relaxing to stroll around the museum at my own pace, hear nothing but the silence, and take in the artifacts. The museum had an immense collection of Egyptian artifacts, mummies, and architecture that piqued my interest, as well as some of the usual suspects from the Ancient Roman and Greek worlds. But again, the best part was the ability to be alone in the museum browsing the objects in complete and relaxing silence.


(completely, utterly, empty)

It was a bit eerie at times, especially in the mummy room. I recall standing above a glass case of this curled up little mummy, all alone, and in complete silence. My mind instantly thought 'what if this mummy moved!?' I felt as though I were in a scene from some horror/sci-fi movie. Of course, in the end (sadly) the mummy remained still.

Aside from being a rather productive day, it was also relaxing. Back to work tomorrow, sadly, but there are only fifteen school days left until it's all over, and my first year of teaching is behind me! 

I'm excited to see where my bike and I will visit next!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

To Boldly Go...

In recent weeks I have become increasingly interested in the space program, particularly since Endeavor's final takeoff last week. This is interesting for two reasons: first, I used to be obsessed with the solar system and the universe when I was younger. Growing up I had numerous solar system maps on my bedroom wall, those glow in the dark stars on my ceiling, and I was obsessed with books about aliens and UFOs. I even did my sixth grade science fair project about star gazing.

However, since my younger days my mind has developed into fearing the unknown, particularly space. What's out there? Is there other life somewhere in the galaxy? What is the universe: is it really "unlimited" space? And then these topics draw my mind into the death/dying/'what happens after?' scenarios. Let's move on...


I've been reading up a lot about the American Space Program (NASA) recently. It blows my mind to read about some of the innovations and changes in space flight and colonization. The BBC recently ran an article detailing a new spaceplane being developed in the UK. The vehicle looks exactly like something out of Star Wars, and it would be fascinating to see something of that sort rolling out within my lifetime. 

I also read two articles about NASA's goals to extend our reach outside of Earth. For example, NASA plans to have a permanently manned lab set up on the Moon by 2024 with astronauts rotating throughout the facility. However, President Obama cut funding to Moon exploration last year to focus on deep space exploration, and the status of this project is still up in the air. However, by doing so NASA will thereby create their first stepping stone to move astronauts further around our inner solar system. There is also a plan to see astronauts landing on Mars by the year 2030. 

The International Space Station (ISS) is also a stunning feat of man's power. It blows my mind to think that there is a huge structure orbiting our planet which was built in space module by module. I can't even imagine spending months at a time on the ISS and all of the luxuries of Earth one must have to give up. This chart on the use/reuse of resources aboard the ISS is fascinating. I already know that I would never be able to do that. And if you have the right conditions, the space station can even be seen from Earth with the naked eye! This reminds me, that I wish I lived in an apartment with a porch so I could purchase a telescope...

NASA has quite the history of space exploration. From the troubled Apollo 13 mission, to the Columbia and Challenger disasters, it's clear that being an astronaut is a dangerous and risk-taking field to be in. That being said, as a nation America needs to stand by it's space program and put faith in the challenges astronauts and scientists take, and the huge steps they make in space exploration. 

That being said, the movie "Apollo 18" coming out this summer does not look like it will shed positive light on the US Space Program. For one thing, the movie is wildly fictional, focusing on the canceled mission and imagining that the mission had made it to the moon, found alien life, and the footage was covered up. It just seems ridiculous and perpetuating or creating an urban legend.

Part of me almost wishes I had moved into a science field in college. I had taken an intro level astronomy course but found the physics and analytical equations to be too much, so god only knows how long I would have lasted. I would never want to explore space as an astronaut (claustrophobia), but it would be amazing to see some of the innovations and technology behind the doors of NASA.

Watching the shuttle launch, even on the computer, is breathtaking:
Launch of Discovery (March): found here
Launch of Endeavor (May): found here

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Moving to Japan

Read an article on BBC News this morning that Japan tops pupil behaviour league table. Japan apparently has the best behaved students in the world. And the United States is nowhere near the top ten list, in which seven Asian countries make the list. However, the article does say that overall, student behavior has been improving since the year 2000. Now if only this could be true about classrooms in Philadelphia...

Monday, May 23, 2011

Ebb and Flow

Life seems to move like the tides; one day you're feeling good and the next you're bummed out. Teaching seems to follow the same pattern, and while I had heard it before, I never foresaw how tedious or monotonous teaching would become by the end of the year. The kids seem to have had enough of it too. In the detention room today, one little boy said to me "I'd rather get in trouble for talking in the line and being normal than standing straight up with my finger over my mouth like some idiot." I just looked at him and realized that the rigid structures and military-like expectations of this school system have penetrated the minds of elementary children, and even they are starting to question the expectations.

Putting that aside, it seems that even with the end of the year fast approaching, I'm continuing to make strides connecting with my students. Sadly, most of these gains are made when students are either in the detention room during my shift or when they are sent to me by other third grade teachers for a "time out." On Friday two of my third grade boys were sent to my room last period and I grilled them both about why they always seem miserable in school and why they seem to get in trouble most days. They explained that they feel that they aren't always treated fair and find that the lessons sometimes move too quickly. We left that little "time out" only to find out while they were getting their book bags that they both had a Saturday detention the following day, prompting an emotional meltdown. One step forward, two steps back.

Saturday was a day that helped to bring up my mood. I took a personal day - meaning a day to spend on my own - and went into Center City to buy some books, fresh foods, and a few plants. The day was extremely resourceful and I wound up with a semi-stocked fridge, three new plants, and three new books that I'm excited to read. (although I did purchase Chelsea Handler's new book "Lies that Chelsea Handler Told Me" without realizing it was a collection of stories about Chelsea written by her co-workers, family, and friends - not nearly as good as books written by her)

I'm road-tripping to Boston Thursday night with a friend, and all I want to do this weekend (five days) is eat good food, see my friends and family, and relax. A vacation from Philadelphia.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Take a Pause

Yesterday I was waiting for the trolley on the corner of Baltimore Avenue and 45th Street, and I took a life pause. I was surrounded by a handful of other people waiting for the trolley and I stopped to sit on the curb. I took a look up at the sky and noticed the large, fluffy white clouds over my head. And I just sat there and watched them; really watching them. I go about my day and never even notice the clouds above my head: how they move, the shape of them, the texture, and the outer-worldly sense behind them. And no, I was not on any drugs or medications.

And then today I stumbled upon this photo that apparently went viral on the internet last week and it brought my cloud-watching break into perspective. Apparently some woman on a flight had the quick reflexes to snap Endeavor as it flew through the clouds last week:

Friday, May 20, 2011

Save the Date

I arrived at work this morning and quickly checked my phone before heading to the copy machine. I saw that I had a missed call from my mother at 6:40AM. Her voicemail urged me to come home tonight because she's nervous that tomorrow is the end of the world.

No, my mother is not insane and is not a follower of whatever sect/cult/following believes that tomorrow is indeed the "rapture" of those loyal to God to be allowed to Heaven. But of course, she's always easily swept up in the media, so I'm not surprised. To me this little "save the date" rapture event is more startling than all the 2012 fuss because maybe I hadn't been paying attention, but to me it seems like this one just sprung up from nowhere.


A little blurb from BBC:
Harold Camping, 89, predicts that Jesus Christ will return to earth on Saturday and true believers will be swept up, or "raptured", to heaven. He says biblical texts indicate that a giant earthquake on Saturday will mark the start of the world's destruction, and that by 21 October all non-believers will be dead.

"We learn from the Bible that Holy God plans to rescue about 200 million people," says a text on the website of Mr Camping's network, Family Radio Worldwide. "On the first day of the Day of Judgment (May 21, 2011) they will be caught up (raptured) into Heaven because God had great mercy for them."


Basically, if I'm not swallowed up in some giant earthquake on Saturday, then I can believe that I'm not in God's plan to be rescued and I get to live on earth another few months until October rolls around and I somehow die. At least I can still enjoy my summer!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Working Nine to Five

It's a little past eight in the morning and I still have groggy eyes and feel as though I'm in a sleep daze. But this may be the best time for a blog post about ... WORKING. I had two epiphanies recently concerning working in America, and specifically the work ethnic in our nation and how it's changed over the years and how it affects the youth. Hopefully I can coherently explain my opinions without falling asleep here in my classroom.

Sadly, if anyone has seen the new movie Scream 4 you may already know where this blog is heading. Not to give away the ending, but the young killer at the end of the movie angrily explains that she chose to commit these horrible killings because she craved fame. She says that in today's world, fame is all you need and it's what inspired her to record herself brutally killing her friends. While that whole plot line at the end had a rather ridiculous feel to it (as it was probably intended), I couldn't help but realize that what she was speaking (while outrageously exaggerated, perhaps) had a lot of truth behind it. Here are some of the striking points she made in her monologue:

"What am I supposed to do? Go to college? Grad school? Work?!' ... You don't have to achieve anything - you just need to have fucked-up shit happen to you."
"What world are you living in?! I don't need friends. I need fans!"

Even though I believe that there are many people out there who realize that you do need to go to college and grad school to obtain a solid career, with the devaluation of a bachelor's degree, it does seem that it's becoming increasingly difficult to make it to the workplace (and that's a blog post for another day!). But putting college degrees and careers aside for a second, teens who obtain part-time jobs in high school are becoming increasingly lazy and apathetic. I read an article in the Globe a while back (ugh, couldn't find it now) about how many teens scoff at the amount of hours, and strict policies (no cell phones) of the workplace. And even college grads get careers only to complain about little holiday time.

I guess what I'm trying to articulate is what happened to work ethic, America?

So you can't be "connected" at your work place, huh? Does it matter if you must put down your cell phone for nine hours? If everyone is working at the same time, who are you waiting for to call? The cell phone argument is one I find most egregious. I don't see the harm in employers demanding that cell phones be out of sight during work hours. Boston's MBTA has had several incidents in the past year concerning cell phones and public transit operators. Bay Staters (love this official term) - recall that idiot who was texting while driving a trolley and crashed it into another trolley ahead of him, injuring dozens and causing large amounts of damage that the T already struggles to pay. Just put the phones away - as a teacher, would it be kosher for me to be texting my friend while I'm in the front of the room teaching a lesson and student hands are up asking for help?

My second moment of realization came last week as I was walking home. I saw the local mailman grudgingly putting mail into my neighbor's mailbox and then walk grumpily away. I wondered, 'why don't people take pride in their jobs anymore?' Instantly my mind went back to the era of the 1920s and 1940s (highly romanticized, I know) when Americans took pride in their jobs. I know that most of this pride in the later years came from helping out with the wartime effort, but even post office clerks and bank tellers would smile and wear a neatly pressed uniform. And the boom of the 1920s seems to have fostered a strong work ethic in America, as white-collar jobs became more commonplace. Where have the fleets of uniform flight attendants happy to assist you gone? Today you walk into a bank and no one even looks up to help you. And I'm personally afraid to go into a post office because a few months ago I filled out the package slip incorrectly and the woman got angry with me as though helping me ruined her entire day.

I think modern China is a good example of work force pride. Perhaps it's because of China's development and the modernization and introduction of many jobs, but it seems that public servants in China take extreme pride in what they do and always dress to look their best and represent their employer. Let's bring this back, America! I'm all for casual Fridays, but we need to give the American workforce a face lift. If you represent our nation by holding a career as a public servant, or because you choose to work in an American corporation or private company, take pride in the work you do to improve this great nation.

Of course I complain how basically the rest of my life amounts to working long hours and paying off incredible amounts of debt racked up from college and grad school. And sure, there are many days (like today!) where I shuffle into work and wish I were at home in bed, or basically doing ANYTHING else but be here at work. But there are even more times when I take pride that I am a teacher and hold my head high. And I think it's that spirit that we as a nation need to find again that may help pull us out of this slump.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Friday Five

Friday the 13th. Taking a break from my normal repertoire of blog posts to answer the Friday Five – something I haven’t done since way back in my LiveJournal days!

1. What’s your favorite pickled food?
I would have to say that my favorite pickled food is Korean kimchi. I know that Kimchi consists of a bunch of different pickled veggies (mainly cabbage), but it is just so delicious!

2. What’s your favorite dehydrated food?
I don’t think I eat any dehydrated foods.

3. What’s your favorite covered-in-chocolate food?
Chocolate-covered strawberries!

4. What’s your favorite sautéed-in-garlic-and-butter food?
I can’t think of anything off the top of my head, but I would have to say some sort of fish (maybe salmon?). I love fish cooked with butter.

5. What’s your favorite order-at-the-drive-through food?
Depends on the time of day. If it’s during the day, then a cheeseburger and fries. But if it’s at night, say a late night Wendy’s run (oh how I miss high school) then I would choose a Frostie with fries!

PS. I just logged into my old LiveJournal (sad that I still have it, right?) and I was thinking I would post some of my old entries here to reflect back on, but after reading a bunch of them I am WAY too embarrassed to do that. My writing from high school was so melodramatic and uneducated! I can’t believe some of the things I had the audacity to write back then!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Brave New World (remade)

I finished re-reading Brave New World last weekend, and while I was cautious to do so, I downloaded the 1998 Brave New World television film. I vaguely remember watching this "film" after I first read the novel back during my senior year of high school, and even though I couldn't remember specific scenes, I recall it being poorly made and loosely based on the novel's events. And after re-watching it, I was correct.

Some of my thoughts:

First of all, the characterization in the movie is poorly based off the characters of the novel. For one thing, Bernard Marx in the film is far from his outcast personality of the novel. Without this stigma on his character, the whole plot takes on a different twist. And from th start of the movie, Bernard and Lenina are seeing each other, unlike the Bernard in the novel who pines over a monogamous affair with Lenina.

One of my other big problems is the portrayal of John the Savage. In the novel he is portrayed as being a white boy living amongst "savages" - or Native Americans. However in the movie John is this disgusting-looking guy with tattoos all over his body. And the Savage Reservation is not a Native American pueblo compound, but a trailer park filled with hicks.

Similarly, with the Reservation events, in the novel Lenina is disgusted by everything she sees and hears in the Reservation - but this is not so in the movie. In the movie Lenina is not repulsed by Linda, John's mother. Furthermore, Linda in the movie is not part of the BNW civilization at all. In the book she was taken to the Reservation on a date, got lost, and was left there to suffer by the severe differences between "savage" life and life in civilization.

Civilization in the film is also portrayed as being a glorified consumer-driven United State. But when reading the book, one can't help to instead envision a clean, stable, and sterile environment where order reigns. The movie's society is still based on consumerism, but it appears too lavish and similar to our modern world. And the conditioning used in the movie is very unlike the conditioning portrayed in the novel. In the movie, conditioning is very psychedelic and bizarre, while in the book it is very structured through language and sleep hynopaedia, not through words and images shown on a screen (as in the movie).

The movie also threw many references to terms and lingo used in the book that a viewer who may not have read the book would not understand, given no context was given behind some of the terms thrown out.

And need I mention Leonard Nemoy's ridiculous outfits?

Overall, the movie is a huge flop. But, last week I also discovered a 1980 movie version of Brave New World which is three hours long, and from what I checked out so far, it seems a lot more spot on than the 1998 version. AND, I also heard there may be a new version coming out in the coming years. Surprisingly (or not), Leonardo Dicaprio has his name pegged to it...

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

"Hide ya Kids, Hide ya Wife"

Seriously. Hide your kids if you're poor and living in China!

Correspondents say the one-child policy is not always strictly enforced and the worst that violators normally expect is a fine. However, Caixin reported that when some families in poorer parts of Hunan were unable to pay their fines, authorities would tear down their houses. Then - about 10 years ago - officials started confiscating their children, it is claimed. (Chinese babies 'confiscated for overseas adoption')

As this article mentions, local governments have been cracking down on the one-child policy in the past decade, and there are reports of government agencies confiscating children, sending them to orphanages, and then the children become adopted by families in the United States and countries around Europe.

Just another example of how the poor are continuously trampled on in modern China, and that China is still far from achieving a strong record of human rights.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Wasting Away in Education-ville

I am very thankful for one of my friends and co-workers who always posts the most informative news articles and social commentaries on her Facebook. Thanks to her I am constantly up-to-date. Today she posted this article from The Nation.

Some great passages:
Nearly all involve technology to drive efficiency. Online courses, distance learning, do-it-yourself instruction: this is the future we’re being offered. Why teach a required art history course to twenty students at a time when you can march them through a self-guided online textbook followed by a multiple-choice exam? Why have professors or even graduate students grade papers when you can outsource them to BAs around the country, even the world? Why waste time with office hours when students can interact with their professors via e-mail?

***

Our system of public higher education is one of the great achievements of American civilization. In its breadth and excellence, it has no peer. It embodies some of our nation’s highest ideals: democracy, equality, opportunity, self-improvement, useful knowledge and collective public purpose. 

Now the system is in danger of falling into ruin. Public higher education was essential to creating the mass middle class of the postwar decades—and with it, a new birth of political empowerment and human flourishing. The defunding of public higher education has been essential to its slow destruction.  Social mobility is now lower in the United States than it is in Northern Europe, Australia, Canada and even France and Spain, a fact that ought to be tattooed on the foreheads of every member of Congress, so directly does it strike at America’s identity as the land of opportunity.

***

Yet the liberal arts, as we know, are dying. All the political and parental pressure is pushing in the other direction, toward the “practical,” narrowly conceived: the instrumental, the utilitarian, the immediately negotiable. Colleges and universities are moving away from the liberal arts toward professional, technical and vocational training. Last year, the State University of New York at Albany announced plans to close its departments of French, Italian, Russian, classics and theater—a wholesale slaughter of the humanities. When Garland enumerates the fields a state legislature might want to encourage its young people to enter, he lists “engineering, agriculture, nursing, math and science education, or any other area of state importance.” Apparently political science, philosophy, history and anthropology, among others, are not areas of state importance. Zemsky wants to consider reducing college to three years—meaning less time for young people to figure out what to study, to take courses in a wide range of disciplines, to explore, to mature, to think.

When politicians, from Barack Obama all the way down, talk about higher education, they talk almost exclusively about math and science. Indeed, technology creates the future. But it is not enough to create the future. We also need to organize it, as the social sciences enable us to do. We need to make sense of it, as the humanities enable us to do. A system of higher education that ignores the liberal arts, as Jonathan Cole points out in The Great American University (2009), is what they have in China, where they don’t want people to think about other ways to arrange society or other meanings than the authorized ones. A scientific education creates technologists. A liberal arts education creates citizens: people who can think broadly and critically about themselves and the world.

Yet of course it is precisely China—and Singapore, another great democracy—that the Obama administration holds up as the model to emulate in our new Sputnik moment. It’s funny; after the original Sputnik, we didn’t decide to become more like the Soviet Union. But we don’t possess that kind of confidence anymore.

***

Perhaps I'm a little biased, having been a history major with a Chinese language minor, but I cannot stress how importance the humanities are to our nation. I wholeheartedly agree with "a liberal arts education creates citizens" because having spent a year in China, I saw firsthand how Chinese people far and wide could spew facts about their nation's history and culture, but had no deeper knowledge of what that meant. They have an ideal, blind worship for the party that rules them, but have little knowledge of the humanities which would help them to see different ways of life outside their borders, and thus possibly, challenge unfavorable constraints imposed by the party. Furthermore, Chinese can argue why Taiwan historically should be a part of China, but they cannot think critically about the impacts and circumstances behind it.

Two months ago I wrote a blog post about China's imminent takeover of international research output, and the need for the United States to step up in terms of research and innovation. However, I do not support this move by slashing humanities or de-emphasizing their place in our society.

I believe that many of these technical and scientific fields should be held in great importance for the future of our nation, but I also think that they are quick fixes to our nation, while a humanities education and background can also help to improve our nation, but not as quickly or as visible as technology.

What's more is I see the beginnings of these beliefs already at the elementary school I'm working at. While the students are (for the most part) a grade level or two behind their peers, they should not be granting additional wealth on certain subjects. In the upper grades, there are benchmark prizes for students with high scores and improvement on these exams for math and reading. The school is placing more emphasis on studying for these tests, because there are tangible rewards, than say, a science or social studies exam. Furthermore, in order to get students to do well on their state and benchmark assessments, the students have longer school days and activities and classes that do not focus on "immediate, next steps" skills are slashed - for example, the students have no recess, and creative outputs are very minimal. Students excel at bubble tests, but have no opportunity to excel in music, sports, or art. Student development is also stunted with the lack of recess and lack of opportunities to socialize and work in groups. All throughout the city these remedial steps are taken to bring students up and onto grade-level, but from what I've seen this year, at least half the students I teach are either on or above their appropriate grade-levels.

Seems like I'm stuck with my history degree in a country that doesn't value it.

Friday, May 6, 2011

O Brave New World

This week I've begun re-reading Huxley's Brave New World and I must say, while I loved the book when I first read it back in twelfth grade, all I could remember were vague themes and events of the book. Reading it again (and for pleasure and not school) I'm able to fully grasp the book's dystopian contexts and relation to our current society. The novel is just so wonderfully written and eerily ahead of it's time. The futuristic system of genetics and innovation closely resembles systems in use today, and yet Huxley wrote this in 1932.


The ingenious caste system, the social conditioning, and a society based on the whole and not the individual are ingenious literary inventions. The breakdown and taboo of familial life and monogamy are two trends which seem to be forthcoming in our own world. 

In terms of a caste system, it's evident that in most countries today, social order is relative and movement between classes is allowed. While class movement is mobile, there are still many in America who find themselves on the lower wrungs of society, unable to dig themselves out of poverty. Can a society today ever fully incorporate all citizens into equal positions in said society? Cultural Revolution China seems to have been trying to aim for this, however it turned out disastrous and the country walked out of that period with large gaps between rich and poor. 

The novel uses social conditioning called "hypnopaedia" which uses phrases and sayings repeated out of a small radio near your head as you sleep, placing these thoughts firmly into your head (after years of each phrase). It seems a frighteningly ingenious system, but sadly has been psychologically proven to be impossible. 

I think the book's sexual promiscuity is very relevant to our society today. The World Order in the novel urges that everyone belongs to everyone else, and that citizens should "have" each other often and with as many partners as possible. I believe this is an idea that is perpetuated in our media today! Sleeping around (for men at least) is hailed as making you more of a man, and there are movies and TV shows that highlight and glorify friend with benefits or one-night stands. 

The idea of a "soma holiday" given by taking a capsule-like drug to make you transcend into a dream-like state is very much similar to drug use in our society today; most commonly with the growing use of marijuana over the past decades. The effects of soma strongly mirror the effects of marijuana. 

Overall I love this book. While I don't strongly engage with the characters, they remain well-written nonetheless. And the book falls within one of my favorite genres of novels: dystopian fiction. In the future I want to check out Huxley's "Island" which appears to be similar to Brave New World.

I'll be finishing this book tonight; always sad to finish a good book...

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Soma Holiday

"All the advantages of Christianity and alcohol; none of their defects. Take a holiday from reality whenever you like, and come back without so much as a headache or a mythology." (about soma - Brave New World)

I wish that I could take a soma holiday from LIFE right about now. The wheels of change are in motion all around me, and surprisingly I am not feeling dysfunctional about it. However, I attribute this to the fact that I'm trying my best not to confront the changes yet. Since last week was "final papers" week for my classes at UPenn, I'm taking this week as my self-prescribed "soma holiday" where I'm just spending my time after work relaxing, winding down, and not confronting the big decisions and choices that I'm going to have to make coming up.

Part of my really wants to travel and live abroad again. I think it's because a bunch of people I know/work with are going overseas to either teach English or teach children and right now in my life, that seems generally appealing. The only thing holding me back from applying to foreign programs or schools is the fact that I crave a place to just settle down for a bit. Having my own place in Philadelphia this year was everything I hoped and expected it to be, and I do not want to pack up all my junk and put it back into a basement/storage while I romp around the planet. I enjoy having my photos around me, enjoy having my mementos displayed, even if I'm the only one looking at them.

Kami is coming to Philly this weekend with the hopes of the two of us fleshing out our trip to Europe this summer. Hopefully all this planning and excitement will help quell my feelings of packing up and sprinting around the globe. I'm frightened, yet excited, for the trip which is only 62 days away - where has time gone!?

And on that note: "Orgy-porgy, Ford and fun, Kiss the girls and make them One. Boys at one with girls at peace, orgy-porgy gives release." (Brave New World)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Is It Friday Yet?

I did a terribly horrible thing last night. It was something I had vowed never to do; something that NO ONE should ever do: I added Rebecca Black's "Friday" song to my iTunes...


I know what you must be thinking: "Vinny, what the hell is wrong with you?! Are you sick in the head? She can't sing, the lyrics are trash, etc.!" While I agree with what you have to tell me, it was something that just had to happen. I found myself numerous times going to YouTube to listen to the song and laugh at the music video. After a while, the beat and horrible singing started to get catchy to me. The catalyst for the download and addition to my iTunes came after I was driving in the car last night with my friend and Friday came onto her iPod shuffle. At first I was embarrassed that she had the song at all, but after we sang it loud and proud I realized, why don't I have it on my iTunes? 

And so, with a heavy heart, I downloaded it and put it onto my iTunes. It's already up to about five plays in just one evening. Not surprisingly, as I was playing the song last night a big silverfish ran out from a crack in the wall (only to be smashed to death by my sneaker), proving that even bugs run from Rebecca Black...

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Great Gatsby

I just re-read one of my favorite books of all time - The Great Gatsby. I know what you may be thinking: an American classic, how cliche that this would be a favorite, boring. But not so! This book is the epitome of everything I look for in a novel. The setting is magical, the characters are well-written, and it takes place in my favorite era of American history: the 1920s.

I first read this book for English class back in the eleventh grade. After finally re-reading it now, I wonder how I ever understood it back then. Regardless of what I may or may not have taken from it, the book grabbed my interest back then and the setting excited me, and it instantly became one of my favorite books.


Even the book's cover sends chills down my spine each time I view it. To me the image is so haunting. The bright lights blurred in the distance, showing the innovation of the times yet still so desolate and unimportant. 

When I read this book I long to be able to travel to Long Island Sound and party along Jay Gatsby. I can imagine the hot summer evenings mentioned, the steamy commute by train into old New York City, and the dusty, hot drive down the ashelands where Wilson's garage and the Eckleburg billboard are located.

The book brings me back to memories growing up of carefree summers spent with friends. Of course, my summers were not so lavish and wildly spent, but they were still magical, and lasted well into the late summer evenings. Two summers come to mind: the first being the summer of 2005 directly following my high school graduation. I spent the summer nearly every day with my friends, exploring Boston and spending much of our time at pools and at the beach. This was the summer I really got comfortable with all that Boston has to offer. The other summer is Summer 2006 where my two best friends and I would get out of work each night around 10PM and head to my friend's house, relax and make a quick meal, and listen to Magic 106.7 until all hours of the night. Most nights ended with me walking home alone, at 2AM towards the beach.

Those are the feelings the book revokes from me. I long to return to these carefree and enjoyable summers spent with the ones I love. Life is changing so fast, just as it does in the book, and I feel pulled along at a sickening pace. In a life where everyone is competing for success, I just want to return to former eras of my life which seemed so simple and enjoyable, just as I long to return to an era of carefree behaviors and simplicity such as the 1920s.

Next book on my list: Brave New World.

You're a Grand 'ol Flag


Today is a great day for America - proving once again our intelligence, military might, and determination. The struggle against those who stand against us is far from over, but at least some sort of closure was attained last night with the death of Osama bin Laden. And this milestone definitely served as a rally point and boost of patriotism for Americans everywhere.

A few 'lil comments of mine:
- Obama's speech last night alone will get him re-elected for president
- I'm finding the "buried at sea" information a little strange, though I'm sure if something was fishy Osama would have made a quick televised appearance by now...
- And of course, there was a riot in Southwest at UMass last night (typical)