Monday, February 25, 2008

Et Tu, Macarius?

It's about new discoveries and new beginnings for all. Set up your town hall, let the citizens come. Build an academy and put scientist to work learning new techniques and discovering things like paper, ink, warfare, seafare and even how to fly. Train your armies and build new ships with the supplies you reap from the forest or the quarry, then make your alliances and either battle and pillage or explore and colonize. It's the new browsergame called Ikariam .

Set in the "ancient world" it allows you to make your own city and, hopefully, make her prosper through discovery, expansion and alliance. Introduced to the game through one of my favorite blogs, The Gimcrack Miscellany , about a week ago, I decided to give it a go yesterday and am already getting impatient at having to wait for things to be build and discoveries to be made in my academy. It's an interesting game with great graphics (for a browsergame interface) and I hope to continue building wealth and making treaties and building colonies and palaces soon. So here's to you Gimcracker, thanks for the new time-waster!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Crawfordsville on the National Map

Is it sad that I'm a 23 year-old male who enjoys doing manly things like chopping wood and drinking Stroh's (alright, I don't ENJOY Stroh's but because everybody's doing it...) and I'm going to do a post now about American Idol? Doesn't really matter because I'm going to do it anyway. We all know what American Idol is and most of us, by now at least, have an opinion of the show overall. Some watch it for the embarrassment that ensues in the first few shows of the original auditions by our nation's tone-deaf singers, with a dash of the excellent and pretty darn good intermixed. Some really enjoy the actual singing and spend money on texting their votes in for their favorite singers. Some stand in line for hours to get tickets to be in the studio audience. I wouldn't really consider myself an avid fan of the show, but I respect those who try out and I do enjoy watching the few people who really capture the stage and can perform well and can actually sing as well. Last year I really enjoyed watching the beat-boxing Blake Lewis when I could, and I've youtubed a couple of his songs from last year, and I really do enjoy this dude's stage presence. He hasn't made it in the big-time yet, and I doubt he will, but for awhile, he was a star. It's guys like him that make you want to audition for the show and possibly see if there's something you can contribute as well.

This year will be different for my viewing schedule. I'm going to watch every single episode this year. A Crawfordsville, Indiana native, Luke Menard, is in the top 24 of the show and since he was a role model for me growing up (PRIDE and just in general as a cool dude) and since his years in the a cappella group Chapter 6, I've always been a fan. He's simply a nice guy, he's got his head on straight, he's good looking and he's just a fun person to be around. The town of Crawfordsville will be mentioned several times on national television in the coming weeks, and it's pretty cool to know where he comes from and who his parents are and who the music teacher is that he will mention when he's interviewed about when he first started singing (cause they all do that interview). I just figured I'd give a little congrats to Luke on my piddly online journal guy thingie, and if you read this and watch and enjoy Luke performing, then I'll have done my part. Good luck, Luke! And for the fun of it, here's a good performance last year by Blake Lewis, courtesy of American Idol.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Good Wednesday

It's a good day. England has been warm lately, so warm in fact that I've been able to lay down and look at the sky. I was reading through some of Art's old Shadows and read one about how he never takes time to lay down and look at the sky. I took his advice and did that yesterday. It's not as fun without clouds, but still to have your eyes saturated with blue is always a good salve after weeks of gray. Today is the same way, although, it's Wednesday and even though it's only 1pm, it's been a good day. I'm getting along with the boss (for the most part), which has become rare since my patience level is now nil. I did a manly thing and took apart the shredder that's been driving me CRAZY and got out the paper that's been blocking it. This thing shreds like five pieces of paper at once now when it was having trouble with one. My shift will be over in two hours and I can go have a pint and walk in the fields some more today. Overall, it's just a good day, it seems to me. I ordered a movie I've wanted to see since early this summer and I HAVEN'T been able to rent it, buy it, download it, anything. So I finally found it on and bought it for £5. It should be here before the weekend so this weekend will then be deemed "The Wind that Shakes the Barley" Weekend. I'll celebrate by trying and failing to buy some barley wine, and maybe I'll make myself a shake. Ok, that's a dumb weekend, but I won't have too much time because I'm getting to work a lot, which is definitely needed because I've got a lot to save for. 2008 is pretty cool so far.

Monday, December 31, 2007

2007 - The Year

2007 started off like most years do. Another semester of school was about to start and of course, I was working New Year's Day. My how things have changed. I still have another class to take, and I am working New Year's Day, but this time, it's in England. So no, 2008 doesn't look to be your normal year. I've got some pretty wild things planned, and hopefully it will be even more successful than 2007. I can decide that a year from now.

As everybody is always making New Year's resolutions, I do 10. For the last few years, I've made a Top 10 list of things I want to do. It always includes reading a certain amount of books, learning something new and doing something crazy like sky-diving. Last year I wanted to read 12 books, a book a month. I did that, so in 2007, I wanted to read 16 books, just to up the number. I didn't get that number, I think I got to 10, so now I'll most likely go back to 12 for 2008. I wanted to master 5 meals this year. I got 2, so maybe that was a little far fetched. I wanted to skydive, bullride or go bungee jumping. I didn't do that. That's still on the list. But the big one that I can successfully write off is this one: "Go on a vacation somewhere OUT OF HERE! (3 weeks to 3 months)"

My original plan was to spend a month by myself in a cabin in Montana, just unwinding from half of my life spent working AND going to school, both full time. I've always been going full-force, as most of you know, so I really wanted to relax. Well, I'm certainly relaxed now! I'm half way through my working here in England, then I get to start my actual traveling time and get to really see the world. But as for 2007, getting out of Indiana, and the USA has truly been an awesome opportunity. I've seen a few great places, met some nice people and learned a lot about the world, but most importantly, I'm gaining confidence in myself. I usually am a pretty confident person, but to be able to say that I up and moved halfway across the world simply because I could, and was able to live and live well at the same time, well, that gives me an extra boost.

I'm thankful for 2007, and I'm looking to make 2008 the best year yet. So here's to the year past, to the year ahead and for the auld lang syne. Cheers!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Why I Don't Blog As Much

I don't blog, at least not on my dear ol' weary wednesdays, as much as I'd like to. This would be bad if I wasn't writing or getting thoughts out some other way. The fact that I'm traveling abroad by myself is reason enough to write, but since I came here with the plan of "alone time" and I'm getting just that, means that I should write even more. I'm writing plenty on my travels in my traveling blog , and writing still more on my travels and a few subsequent thoughts in another medium, yet I still feel that there is more to be said. I think a reason for this is my constant realization to the world around me that being abroad is bringing. I usually don't think about the world or its problems or its inhabitants or its future or past, but being out and about has me thinking now. It's got me thinking about America and her role in the world, her education system (or seemingly lackthereof), her economy and especially, why I'm proud to be an American.

I'm not a politician, an advocate for war or peace, a civil/gay/feminine/whatever else rights movement follower or a part of a union. I'm a normal American guy who is getting the chance to see some of the world and because of this opportunity, I'm seeing things that I like and don't like about my beloved country. I will preface all this by saying that I am more proud to be American than when I left home. I haven't given much to my country, but she's given plenty to me and for that I'm grateful. So here's the brass tacks.

America needs to up our education requirements. Indiana's foreign language requirement in high school is 3 years of one language or 2 years of 2. What will 3 years get you? If you take Latin like I did, nothing. If you take Spanish like a lot of my friends did, it will get you conversational at best by the time you've finished college. If you actually apply yourself and go beyond the requirement because you enjoy it, you might actually become fluent and after four years of extensive study and several semesters abroad, you may even be able to consider yourself bilingual. If you take 2 years of 2 languages, at best you will be able to remember a few words from your first two years and be able to order food and ask where the bathroom is after the next two. It's sad. I met a couple of Finnish guys in London during my first week in England. They had just turned 18 and were seeing a little bit of the world before doing their mandatory 6 months of military police service or two years of reserve duty. They both spoke Finnish, English, German, conversational French and conversational Swedish (Swedish is very different from Finnish and comes from the same base as Estonian and Hungarian). Finland requires English and German from grade 2 on and in middle school through high school you get to choose between French, Spanish, Italian or Swedish. By the time these guys get out of school they know at least three languages fluently and are conversational in at least one more. How many do I know? English. That's it. And from my test scores, I'm an above average student. That's sad. And who the heck is Finland? This is why America will have a tough time continuing to be a world power in the next generation. We have manhandled the world into speaking our languages and doing things on our terms, but I doubt it will last for much longer.

America needs new books and new classes about world societies. England doesn't have bad food, bad teeth and people saying "Ol' Chap" and "cheerio" every two seconds. They've got great food, great teeth, and you get laughed at if you try to say "cheerio" around here. It has become what some people will call Americanized, but I'll call it multi-cultured. As Americans, we realize that our culture is a melting pot. Americans can't claim one culture because we have so many. England used to be able to claim an "English" culture of great beer, steak and kidney pies and football, but with the recent rise of immigration from Eastern Europe and Muslims, it's become a melting pot as well. The world is changing, England is changing, and America still has the idea that the "Redcoats" are still over here mad that we beat them 200 years ago and haven't moved on since. England has continued to change and America's view of Britain needs to catch up. HOWEVER...

America has surpassed the Britons in the beer category according to this America's palate. By the small sample rate of Oxford and London pubs that I've been to and the beers that I've had, American microbrews are better. The Stout category is reserved for Guinness, and I'm sure the pinnacle will be found upon my trip to Dublin, and for cask and real ales, Britain can have it. But as for Pale Ales, India Pale Ales and ESPECIALLY Porters, Bell's alone beats England, and that's not to mention the other 50 breweries in America that I've come to love. England, where the best beer has always come from, where Porters were made, hasn't come up with a porter that can beat a Bell's Porter, a Bad Elmer's Porter, or even a Sierra Nevada Porter, and that depresses me. It's December, porter time in England, and I went looking for a good one the other night. I went to a few pubs trying to find one, and I found one. It was a porter, no doubt, but nothing in flavor, fullness, aftertaste, and certainly not robustness as any of America's finest. Somebody please send me some porter.

Other than that, America is still my home. We have all the landscapes that Europe offers, all the foods and beverages and most of the cultures, better roads, nicer people, and best of all, we're cheaper. You think New York is expensive? That's average living to a Brit, Austrian, or Belgian. You want cheap, go to Bratislava, where the McDonald's Big Mac meal costs 100 Slovakian Korunas. Wait... That's $5.00, and it's only $4.00 in America. Yeah, I'm glad my fast food costs less and my gas is 5 times cheaper. Is it fair? Probably not, but I didn't make the deals. Our nations shrewd leaders have gotten us to where we are, and the world would be a different place if America was different. Would it be better? Maybe. Worse? Maybe. Either way, I'm still proud to be an American. Now somebody find me the basic franchising costs to build a Taco Bell over here. I'm dying!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

I Love the Colts, Not the Patriots... Or Brady... At All

I enjoy embedding videos and pictures into my posts, so I'm going to do some more. While I enjoy doing those things, I enjoy watching my Colts win more. Now when I say "watch," I mean look at a play-by-play on and wait for each play to be blurbed into a single sentence so I can know what happened. This was my Thanksgiving Day football game:

So right now, as you can see from the picture, the score is 31-13 with the Colts in the lead, and I'm knocking on wood and saying my Thanksgived's for the game. Now to the business at hand.

I wanted to apologize to my readers for any confusion that I may have caused with my last post. I seem to have been in a rather odd mood the other night when I wrote my little post about Brady having a good season, and I realize after reading through it, that I kind of sound like I like Tom Brady. Well.... I don't. So to clear up any confusion, Peyton is the essence of class, as are the Colts, and Brady is a superstar through and through and acts like one. If Randy Moss had come to the Patriots during his first few years in the league, I would blame it on him for constant smirk on Brady's face. I mean, look at these guys!

While Peyton is making commercials that are funny and good for all people everywhere, Brady models as a side job and spends the rest of his time hanging around supermodels. Don't get me wrong, what he wants to do in the postseason is his choice, but don't tell me that he's helping the world with what he is doing. Peyton now has a children's hospital. Brady doesn't. 'Nuff said.

As for "gangsta" Moss, I'll give it to him, he has grown up since his days of "mooning" people as a rookie in Minnesota. However, people still are comparing him with Terrell Owens , so obviously he's not doing enough to steer away from the cocky, I-care-only-for-my-stats persona off the field. If you want to act like Ron Artest, by all means, please, play basketball. Nobody cares for basketball anymore, so please, head to courts.

As for the Patriots as an organization and Belichick himself, I enjoyed the way Jim Rome put it. I'm usually not a fan of Jim Rome and I know some people CAN'T STAND him, but I was watching these as I was waiting for the next play to show up on my play-by-play, and I was cracking up at his thoughts on "The Hoody" as he calls Belichick and the reasons he believes the Patriots are running up the score. I think he has a good point in that they are pounding teams mercilessly just to prove that they can and that they don't need to cheat to win . They screwed themselves earlier this year, and I think it's great that they go caught. It nearly nullifies the previous Super Bowl rings. So in lieu of fessing up to it, they are trying to prove it by beating the absolute begeeeezus out of everybody. You'll have to listen to his thoughts on A-Rod (which are pretty funny too), Joe Torre and Joe Girardi, or just click to the end where he talks about Belichick. Enjoy! GO COLTS!

Oh yeah, and since I really don't know anything about football and I just like to put my completely unwarranted, unfounded and worthless two cents into these subjects, I probably won't be doing anymore football posts unless it's a "GO COLTS" message or a congratulations or an I-feel-great-because-the-Colts-won message. Alright. Peace.

Monday, November 19, 2007

A Never-Ending Argument

So there's no fluffy flying dog in the Never-Ending Argument of who is the better quarterback between Peyton Manning and Tom Brady . It's pretty clear to the rest of the world that by the time this era of football is finished, a new "greatest quarterback to ever play the game" will be crowned, and hopefully the next one will start playing for the Colts after Peyton. This said, the argument is one that can't, and shouldn't, be truly ended until they both put up the pads and hit the couches to watch their former teams battle it out.

As far as this year goes, it's a little obvious who is the better quarterback, statistically. Tom Brady with the 38 TD's, 4 interception, 3,059 yards, and rating of 134.0 are phenomenal after week 11. Peyton's numbers so far are 16 TD's, 11 interceptions, 2,549 yards, and 87.2 rating are more like the average quarterback. In a season when dudes like Romo , Favre , Brady and Roethlisberger are putting up ridiculous numbers, Peyton is just gliding along. Unusual for Peyton, who is usually leading the pack with his numbers. Let's look at some hard data, and just do a little comparing. I apologize if this post seems partial towards Peyton, but I'm a Colts fan.

Tom Brady is in his 8th season as an NFL quarterback, and it's definitely his best. Look at the success he's having. Peyton's best season, his 7th, looked like this:
--49 TD's (NFL Record) - Definitely going to be taken by Brady this year
--4,557 passing yards, with a percentage of 67.7%
--10 Interceptions
--Passer rating of 121.1, which I believe is the NFL record, but if it's not, fine.

In 2004, Peyton's "Best Year," we'll dub it, he had three games with five or more touchdowns. This has only been accomplished by Dante Culpepper, and now Tom Brady as of last night's game. Brady will most likely have another game with five touchdowns, maybe even all five games remaining, with the way he's going.

It is often said that without Marvin Harrison , Peyton wouldn't be as good as he is today. That's obviously false because Reggie Wayne is now a Pro-Bowler and one of the top three in receiving this year. Dallas Clark was one of the league leaders in receiving AS A TIGHT END before his injury. Without Peyton's arm, none of these guys would be the receivers they are today. Patriots and Tom Brady fans always point out that Tom Brady has never had a receiver that's any good to throw to, and therefore never had anyway to show how good he is with the football. Now I'll give it to them mostly. He hasn't had a receiver with 1000 yards in a season since Troy Brown in 2001. Deion Branch had 998 in 2005. Well, now he has Randy Moss and, if you look at the stats, he is certainly being utilized. Moss has 1052 yards (34.4% of Brady's passing yards) and 16 TD's (42% of Brady's passing TD's). Is Randy Moss good? Yeah. He could possibly be the greatest receiver of our time. Do I believe that the Brady/Moss duo is the best ever? No. They won't play long enough together to become that. Now, as for the legitimacy of Brady's success with Moss, I wish that Moss was 5'10 like the rest of the receivers and just be good. It's a little ridiculous that I've only seen a few catches that Moss has made this year, and every one of them is Brady throwing into double, triple, or even quadruple coverage and Moss just outjumps the rest. I'm sorry but that's not the sign of a good quarterback, but the sign of a quality receiver who is tall and can jump high. Peyton on the other hand has amazed and astounded with his precision throws that could thread the eye of a needle. Brady has a bombing arm and can throw HARD, but Peyton can throw where he wants to every single time. Oh, and as for the single-season TD record, Peyton threw the majority to three guys: Harrison for 14, Wayne for 12 and Stokley for 10. Good luck getting two more Patriots receivers this year to have 10 touchdowns.

As for Super Bowls, Brady has two MVP's and Peyton has one. I'm a pretty firm believer that without kicker Adam Vinatieri , however, the Patriots would have one Super Bowl under their belt, and maybe not even that. They won all three Super Bowls under Brady by three points. Let's look at those Bowl games.

XXXVI Rams - Patriots
Final Score 20-17 Patriots
MVP Tom Brady
145 yards, 1 TD, game winning drive in last possession (sound like last years MVP at all?)
Winning play - 48 yard field goal by Vinatieri as time expired

XXXVIII Panthers - Patriots
Final Score 32-29 Patriots
MVP Tom Brady
354 passing yards, 3 TD's, 1 Int, Super Bowl record for completed passes (32)
Winning play - 41 yard field goal by Vinatieri with 0:04 remaining

XXXIX Patriots - Eagles
Final Score 24-21 Patriots
MVP Deion Branch
Brady stats - 236 yards, 2 TD's
Final score for Patriots - V
Pats go ahead by a rushing TD from Dillon in 4th quarter, Vinatieri field goal to go up by 10, McNabb touchdown to cut lead to 3

Looking at these stats, and if you want to look at the box scores of the games (which dictate fairly even games throughout, each team returning scores the entire game), Tom Brady knows how to control a playoff game. Looking at his stats now, he knows how to control a postseason. If you ask me, the only warranted MVP was the second one, and that was obvious. Super Bowl XXXVI MVP was Adam Vinatieri. The guy had two field goals, and one was an almost impossible winning field goal that put him in the books forever as the greatest "clutch" kicker of our time. So, naturally, I'm glad we have him. Heck, he beat the Ravens for us last year. Literally, he was the only one to score!

If we look at best teams of all time, the '72 Dolphins are the only ones to go perfect in a season, so no matter how many points they scored or didn't score, they are the best. So far, the 2005 Colts and their record of 13-0 during a phenomenal season are the next. The 2007 Patriots are looking to be the best of all time. Personally, I don't see anyway for them to be stopped, that is until the AFC Championship if they play the Colts, the only team so far to keep them under 30 points this season. Other than that, I strongly believe the 2007 Patriots will be the best of all time. I foresee Tom Brady absolutely crushing the single-season touchdown record, and if he and Moss replicate this season for a couple more, they could be breaking some records of their own.

I'm a Colts fan through and through when it comes to the best team, I'll always pick the Colts. Tom Brady is a good quarterback, and if he has two or three more seasons like this, he could contend for the best quarterback to ever play the game. But truthfully, until he has a consistent run of leading quarterbacking like Peyton has had, I don't think he will be as good as Peyton. Peyton has two MVP trophies on his shelf, Brady none, probably one after this year. They both have played with injured teams and still ended victorious. They have similar lifetime ratings, Brady 92.2-Manning 94.7. Overall though, if you look at lifetime achievements, you have to give it to Peyton. Brady owns the postseason. Last year, Peyton owned the postseason and this year Brady owns the season. We'll see how it plays out in the end.

To end this really long, clustered and seemingly pointless post, I think Peyton is better. Brady is good in the postseason, and now with Moss, he's become a god among mere mortals. But this is one season. Peyton has been the Zeus of football since his rookie year, breaking records nearly every year he's played. Give him one more ring, the argument is tough. Give him two more, it's over. Give Brady a few more rings and it'd be settled. Either way, I think Peyton is still better, but damn... in the words of Jermaine to Bret of the Flight of the Conchords, "Brady, you got it goin' on."

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Jesus Prayer

I've been thinking, and therefore trying, about the ceaseless prayer that Paul calls us to partake in. One of the ways that we might attain such a gift is through the Jesus Prayer.
"Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner."
I've heard of church fathers who "mastered" this prayer or have become ones who ceaselessly pray, but I want to know how you can "master" this prayer, or really, how you go about saying it with effect and without just losing it after six or seven recitations. When I start praying this, I find my mind wandering and I have to just call it back to the prayer and concentrate on the words. "What am I saying? What do these words mean in reality? What is the physical manifestation of this prayer?" I know that when we are praying, our minds will wander, and we must constantly be calling them back. Monks I have read about have gone so far as to wear giant iron rings on their necks so as to keep them from looking out the window while the Gospel is being read during services, although I certainly don't feel as convicted as that, nor do I necessarily agree with such practices that punish one for not being perfect (penitent self-flogging, starvation, etc.), that one will read about occassionally.

But as to the prayer - What is the end we are seeking? Is it merely to have our minds focused on words that eventually, after constant recitation and concentration and deliberation, bring us closer to Christ? I say merely, when in fact that is one of the goals of our entire lives is it not? To become, not only closer to, but to become like Christ? Is there something else we should be thinking about, pondering, to some other end when we are saying this prayer?

You may wonder how I came upon these thoughts, but they basically just dawned on me today at the bus stop while I waited in the cold for my bus to take me to the job for which I was already 30 minutes late. I started praying, and after a few, I had to call my mind back, and I thought, is there something I'm supposed to be concentrating on? Do I think of an icon of Christ? Do I ponder heaven and my earthly purpose? What!?

I also thought, once the bus dropped me off and I started walking, that I want to learn some prayers. I really want to learn to pray with earnest and sincerity, and I would like to learn some prayers. Hey, J, maybe I'll buy a Philokalia now, yeah? I'm glad that I'm finally pondering prayer more and actually wanting to pray, but now I'm getting into it. Maybe life would just be easier without prayer... hehe... Not a chance.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Dostoevsky's a Genius

So I'm reading the Brothers Karamozov, and while I didn't think I'd be able to get into such an extraordinary read, I find this an intriguing and thought-provoking exercise in mental stamina. I do have to force myself to pay attention, but basically any time Father Zossima opens his mouth, Dostoevsky pours forth wisdom that really could only come from an inspired and blessed monk and church father. Discussing "lack of faith," Fr. Zossima dispells the thought of being able to prove faith.

"No doubt. But there's no proving it, though you can be convinced of it."


"By the experience of active love. Strive to love your neighbour actively and indefatigably. In as far as you advance in love you will grow surer of the reality of God and of the immortality of your soul. If you attain to perfect self-forgetfulness in the love of your neighbour, then you will believe without doubt, and no doubt can possibly enter your soul. This has been tried. This is certain."

Reading this, I was struck by my own lack of faith, not in God as a divine being or of His existence (my travels of late would dispel any of those thoughts if I had them), but in my own faith and ability to procure my own salvation, due to my own sins. I find myself forgiving when it comes to others trespasses, but difficult for me to bear my own. But then again, only a few pages before, Fr. Zossima addresses this as well:

Fear nothing and never be afraid; and don't fret. If only your penitence fail not, God will forgive all... Can there be a sin so great as to exhaust the infinite love of God? Think only of repentance, continual repentance, but dismiss fear altogether... If you are penitent, you love. And if you love you are of God. All things are atoned for, all things are saved by love...Love is such a priceless treasure that you can redeem the whole world by it, and expiate not only your own sins but the sins of others.

The whole thing that really sucks about all this is that we can try to be academic and learn and discuss and wish and pray for the people that need to be loved and helped, but when it comes down to us choosing, help or not, we choose, and usually gladly and to great relief, the latter. Only very rarely do we choose the former and engage in true love and sacrifice. I really like what St. John the Merciful used to pray when he became the Patriarch of Constantinople. He was so richly blessed and gave so much to the poor from the wealth of the church that he would challenge God and say "We will see Lord, who will win this contest: You who constantly give me good gifts, or I who will never stop giving them to away to the poor, for I have nothing that does not come to me by Thy mercy, which upholds my life." The thing is, the more he gave, the more that was given, and neither the Church NOR the poor ever went lacking. This is the measure of God's resolve. If we are to give our blessings away, He will never stop giving us more. Oh, how do we let go of our petty visions of what we "want" or "need." God will provide. And like Lewis says, "...but there is no hope in the end of getting where you want to go except by going God’s way..." Hopefully, the two can join, and we can enjoy the life God truly has for us, the one we cannot see with closed eyes and ears.

Friday, November 09, 2007

A Hobby of Mine

Well as I have been busy posting to my other blog and traveling about, I've neglected this blog. I certainly have been writing and recording my thoughts and views a lot onto various journals, letters and my other blog, so it's now time to do a little updating here.

If you know me, you know I love movies. I love music and how it touches people, but movies do it more so, I believe. I find it amusing that most of my friends will play online games, blog or learn to hack, like my brother, during the slow times of the work day. Mine are spent watching movie previews. If I had a dream job, other than acting, it would be to put together the previews that the masses get to see before their feature film. I remember going to the movies as a kid and hating the previews because I just wanted to get to the movie I paid money to watch. I find now that the previews are sometime the best part of the whole movie experience, depending on the film of course. So my time, when I'm not planning a trip, reading, or watching the latest episode of The Office, is spent watching the latest previews on I've come across a couple of movies that I think I would like to see in the theatre, even though it is £6 for a showing here.

The first is Music Within. It doesn't have anything to do with music, but it does have a great deal to do with the "within" aspect of life. It's a true story, based on the life of the man who came up with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, Richard Pimentel. He was in Vietnam when a shell went off near his head rendering him deaf. He goes back home to Oregon and becomes friends with a fellow who has cerebral palsy. Through their friendship and time together, and with a new disability for Pimentel, the 1990 ADA act was put into law. I like the look of the relationship between Pimentel and the palsy patient, mainly because one of my good friends has cerebral palsy. J has had it all his life, and I never really took notice as a kid, so I never really notice now. Seeing his struggles and crushing defeats and timely victories, I'm always inspired. Sometimes it takes a lot for me to finally get together with J, but when I do, we always have a great time. So this movie is one I'm wanting to see now.

Another one doesn't have the word "music" in the title, but it's most certainly about music. It's about how music brings people together, even if it does exaggerate the bond that it brings, but nevertheless, a good story with quality acting. The main character in August Rush is Freddie Highmore of such fame as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (the Johnny Depp one), A Good Year , and one of my all-time favorites, Finding Neverland. This kid really is an amazing actor, and his best scene, and one of the best I've seen from anyone in any movie, is where he is reading a play he wrote for his mom and Johnny Depp in Finding Neverland. His mom goes into a coughing fit and he is abruptly jerked back into reality. He then remembers his anger and takes it out on Johnny Depp by ripping up the play - the significance being that Depp had inspired and pushed him to write it, and with the tearing of the pages of the script, he was showing Depp how much he cared about the inspiration and encouragement. But about the movie at hand... A wandering Irish guitar player and a sheltered cello player have a "night of fun" after falling in love and get pregnant. Her father won't let her see the Irishman and wants her to have an abortion. She doesn't, yet gives the kid up to an institution. He leaves at 11 years old and meets Robin Williams' character, who shows him what music is really about. This kid is incredibly talented, with Mozart qualities at several instruments. Basically he's trying to find his parents and he believes that they will hear his music, and find him. So probably a cheesy plot, but nonetheless a great kid acting in a touching and certainly daring role.

So now you have knowledge of my movie picks for this fall, and I will be sure to let you know of what I think of them after I've seen them.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Wow, Fellas. This is Where I Live...and This is Where.....

I'm just gonna throw these pictures up here for your enjoyment and to help convince myself that I made the right decision by coming to Oxford and not going somewhere else. As an avid fan of C.S. Lewis, like so many of my brothers, these maps should prove some good points.

This first one is a map. The red dot is where I live. The green dot is where C.S. Lewis lived. Hmmmm... 1.3 miles

This one is a map. The green dot is where I live. The red dot is where Mrs. Moore, Jack's friend that he would visit frequently as a young man (as noted in All My Years Before Me) lived. 0.8 miles I actually walked past it twice today on my way to work and didn't even know it.

Dang fellas. I've got my first two days off tomorrow. I'll definitely be walking around Headington, the home of C.S. Lewis.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Lord of the Rings Strikes Again

I’m watching The Lord of the Rings again. And again, it hits me in all the right spots. Quote time:

“I would have followed you my brother. My captain. My king.” – Boromir
I wish I had a feeling of allegiance to something like a captain. If I joined the army or something like that, I’m sure I would. It would be a lot different if I were fighting alongside somebody like Aragorn or Boromir though. But, yeah, I would love to have that sort of allegiance.

“So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All you have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to you.” – Gandalf
We all love this quote. Too often has it been discussed, but I have to do it one more time, mainly because I’m actually living this quote right now. It’s neat to change one’s life so drastically, with no desired end or expected return. I wanted to do something great with “the time that has been given to me,” and this little excursion is part of that. I read T’s blog today and I’m blown away (again), and he is doing amazingly great things with his time. Man, I love that kid. Where would the world be without people like him?

“If you trust nothing else, trust this. Trust us.” – Arwyn

I don’t want to be thinking about it while I’m here, and I don’t want to try to meet someone here, and I don’t really want to care about it for awhile, but damn it, where’s my Arwyn? Where’s the woman I’m supposed to fight for? Don’t get me wrong, I love my guy friends and they give the ultimate support and encouragement in life, but when a man is down, nothing soothes like a woman’s smile, or touch of hand. I know you married men know what I’m talking about and also that I haven’t a clue of how actually true and probably inexplicably far from the real experience my piddly mind can imagine. I want my Arwyn. I want my wife. Is it God’s Will? I certainly hope so…

“Who am I, Gamling? – Theoden
A king, asking about his identity. If a king doesn’t know his identity or who he is, how do we? I realize that it’s not real, but still, it’s a good analogy. Who am I? What is my purpose? How am I to discern this? It’s nice that I have a lifetime to figure it out, right? Man, I love this movie.

“So much death. What can Men do against such reckless hate?” – Theoden
“Ride out with me. Ride out and meet them.” – Aragorn
What can men do against such reckless hate? What could the Protestants do against the Catholics in Ireland? What can we do against radical Islamists who are feeling “called” to kill Christians? I don’t understand how people, Americans, all around the world as I am realizing as I meet them, can hate President Bush for the war. How in the world can we not “ride out and meet them?” What else can we do? If I were to fight, here’s why:
“By rights, we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories; the ones that really mattered; full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end, because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines, it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you; that meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think I do understand; I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going; because they were holding on to something…That there’s some good in this world. And it’s worth fighting for.” - Samwise Gamgee
Definitely one of my favorite monologues in movie history. It makes me want to fight for world peace and for the good in this world to prevail, and evil to end. But, in the end, I think it has to be my personal battle; the battle for the good in myself to prevail over the evil. A daily choice, a life’s choice.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Well, Mates...

London is certainly growing on me, especially once I learn where I'm actually going. Last night was quite a fun night. I went to a "pub meet" with some other people from my program and had some great conversation with some Canadians (you wouldn't believe how many there are here, every other person who isn't French is Canadian), a Brit, and a Norwegian. After a Guinness and my first bitter - London's Famous Ale, which ended up being a cask ale, so I'll have to get used to that - I headed home to go to bed. Before I had left I was talking with some Fins in my room and I came home to them drinking small bottles of Absolut with some Aussie's, just having a fun time. We all started talking and really, this world is small. Just the fact that we all hear of the same actors, the same music, same movies. One of the Fins was making fun of Elijah Wood in one of my favorite movies, Green Street Hooligans, saying he couldn't take him seriously in the fight scenes because, "seriously, who's going be scared of Frodo?" I was cracking up. Getting the Australian girls to talk like California girls (Oh my gawsh! That sweater is so hot! I need a cig - a - rot!), and having them all tell me they hate George Bush. Finland has mandatory army regulations, so once you turn 18 as a male, you have to serve for at least a year, do civil service "like work in a library, and who the f%$# wants to do that?," or go to prison for six months. Interesting laws. However, they can go to university for free. Joel (yo-ehl) and Timo (teem-o) were pretty amazed at how we had to pay to go to school if we wanted more after high school. They both spoke a little German, were fluent in Sweden (and therefore, in Norwegian, since it's basically the same apparently), and English. All are basically mandatory. Danielle, an Aussie, spoke a little Greek and German, and Tahnee didn't speak anything besides English. I sat there and felt like an ignorant American who didn't know anything about them, and they knew quite a bit about America. They all called me America and I made fun of Finland's President for looking like Conan O'Brien. That made for interesting conversation.

So all in all, thanks for the encouragment, fellas. You're all great mates and I can't wait to come home and share all my stories. I can't wait for the day when airfare is free and we'll all come over and have some Guinness and bitters and fish and chips and bangers and mash and talk and have men's group at a pub in London, or Oxford, or wherever. I miss you guys, but not enough to come home until four days before P. runs off and marries my sister.

Today I go to Oxford for an interview at a hotel. J. made a good point in the fact that I might meet some pretty sweet people checking in and out of Oxford. And I'm sure it would be neat because this hotel has an average stay of £125 a night, in the off season, so it seems like a pretty nice place. The other place I had interviewed for was near Buckingham Palace and paid £14/hr. This one pays £6.75/hr, which would be great if accommodation was included, but it's not. So I'm still hanging on for the AmEx job near B. Palace, bu soon I'll be taking whatever I can get.

Right now, I'm homeless, but I just (LUCKILY!!) scored a place tonight-Sunday night for less than I was paying at my current hostel. So hopefully that goes well, and I can find a job and a place next week.

Is this crazy? Am I really blogging out of the biggest city in the world? Not to mention the most expensive? It's starting to sink in to my brain, but I don't think it really will until today when I finally leave the city. I haven't left yet, so today will be a great experience. My first trip into Scotland or Ireland (hopefully soon) will be even more exciting. But, again, I have to live in the now, because in no time at all, I'm going to be sitting at my sister's wedding thinking, "Where the hell am I? Am I back home? Already?!?" So here's to the now fellas, Timios!! I'll have a pint for you in Oxford, and hopefully I can take some great pics, and be able to find C.S. Lewis' place and everything. Whoo hoo! Cheers, Mates!

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Britain's Pretty Cool I Guess...

There certainly isn’t a lack of beautiful women in England. From all nationalities, most programmed with British accents, the plethora of available women is overwhelming. I’ve also never seen so many that aren’t married. At home, I’d say that at least half if not more of the women you encounter on the street or see at the store or out at a bar are married. And that doesn’t mention the ones that are nearly married or are dating. Here, if you see a girl with a guy, that’s pretty common. But if you see a wedding ring on the finger, you’re witnessing the unusual. Maybe they just don’t wear wedding rings. Either way, it doesn’t help being lonely in a new city. Haha, Ron Burgundy. I’m not saying that I can’t have a good time by myself, but if it was difficult at home, it’s definitely going to be more so here.

The other thing I don’t like about this place is that since all the buildings are tall, you can’t see past two blocks at a time, erasing any possibility of giving yourself a center point or point of reference from which to derive north, south, east and west. I tried going to vespers tonight at a Russian cathedral in Kensington. I got to the station, and of course, as soon as I walk outside, I can’t tell where the hell I’m going. So I ask directions. He is a French man who can’t give directions or speak so I can understand him. This has happened every time I ask for directions. It’s not a British person I get, and I can’t understand what they are saying. I start walking a while in the direction he told me. I eventually came to the next underground station. I check the map, find where I want to go, walk to the street I think will take me there, and turn the direction it said on the map. I walk and eventually I’ve gone full circle back to where I got off the tube, and decided I went the wrong way. Great. Whatever, I’ll just try again tomorrow for Liturgy, and this time, I’ll go the other way. Hopefully, I’ll find it. The only map I’ve picked up only gives you major streets and will only give you half of the city. So somehow, I need to find a map. If I don’t, I’m going to continue getting lost and unable to find my way around. If I could walk out of a station, and know which way I’m walking, I’d be fine. Oh well, I’ll figure it out later.

We live for the weekend at home. Here, I just want the weekend to be over. Half the shops and stores close during the weekends, and all I want to buy right now is a mobile phone. The only other thing I really want to do is find my job and a place to live so I can get out of the hostel. As nice as it is, psyche, I can’t wait to get my own place. A place where I can lay down and not be scared that my laptop, which is charging, will get stolen. A place where I can actually keep some food so I don’t have to pay £10 for every meal. A place where I can leave my clothes out so they can unwrinkle!!! A place that doesn’t have people coming in every 10 minutes turning on the lights, saying “Sorry, lads!,” and being loud while I’m trying to sleep. Oh, boy, I’m hungry. I’m now going to attempt to go to a pub, buy some food and a beer, and sit down and eat it, by myself! That probably won’t work because I have never been able to do that. I wonder if that’s the real me; being insecure and whatnot. I do know that I’m not really as confident as I come off being. I think people at home would think that I wouldn’t have any problem meeting new people on my own and just having fun. I can have fun, but I’d rather do it with good friends that I know and love. If I’m going to be by myself, which I don’t mind, I’d rather not do it around other people. You know? I’d much rather be by myself in the mountains or in the country than in the middle of a pub. Either way, I hope everything changes. Mostly just for the sake of change, but also for my own benefit in this large city.

Ok, still hungry, so I’ll see you all later. Cheers!

And by the way, right now it’s 7:17, and it’s pitch black outside. Right now, you all still have at least six hours, if not more