Monday, April 27, 2009

Drunk History

Being a political science major, I'm a little too acquainted with the Founding Fathers.

I have been lectured on the structure and functions of the Federal government. I have read about election of 1801, Continental Congress and branches of government until my eyes have burned.

I was delighted with the John Adams series from last summer, seeing the stories I had so long read and heard about come to life on-screen.

I stumbled upon this small YouTube series this evening and thought it could be enjoyed my the Adam series' fans as well as anyone looking to hear some "alternative" stories of colonial America.

There's five webisodes in all, many that feature stars from recent blockbuster comedies.

Check them all out here. They're all relatively short, and are good for a few laughs.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Oo that smell

It's that smell that escapes your room, as if you had just opened it for the first time after a long summer break. It is not a bad scent, perhaps it's the best smelling musk possible, while still being categorized as one.

Had it been the end of fall or mid-February, I might be weary that I had waited too long to clean my apartment or that the air had grown far too stale and I needed a fan.

But it's nearing the end of college. And I purposely breathe in deep.

This smell is sweet; if nostalgia was a perfume, this would be the college edition. This is the smell of moving into your freshman dorm room and all the accompanying excitement and glory of beginning a new chapter in life.

I am not sure my exact motivation for my celebration for the return of that smell. Maybe I hope that my freshman feelings of full-fledged ambition will once again flow through my veins and envelop my mood. Maybe I have been waiting since the first snow of the year for it to be warm again and spend my days comfortably outside. Maybe I know that this smell means change.

I should not be so surprised that I find myself once again greeted with this smell at the end of my time at Syracuse University.

I feel like these last few weeks are, and will be, very strange.

None of us seniors are living in the present. We are either reflecting on our past-- the last four years on the Hill-- or anticipating the future--packing and planning respectfully. Majority of our plans or meetings are made to either celebrate the achievements we have made in undergrad or to make closure to places or people that might not be here when we visit again in 10 years.

I do not think I will wake up once on the next fourteen days and live it as an ordinary one. People will ask what my plans are for post-grad, or invite me to their last party. Friends will invite me to get dinner downtown for the last time or insist we go to Chuck's because we only have so much time.

Nostalgia is defined as "a wistful or excessively sentimental yearning for return to or of some past period or irrecoverable condition," which is inherently backwards-looking. But I think it can be something relating to the present, but only within a unique, unparalleled span of time: two weeks leading up to graduation. It is now that we have that foresight to know that these moments are the ones we are going to remember vividly and wish we could go back to; nostalgia is in our presence.

So for the next 14 days, let's stop thinking about the past and stop worrying the future; let's live in the now. We are going to wish we had.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Unfathomable & unforgetable

"If you were to take 10 seconds of what I actually saw, you would not be able to sleep. You'd be scarred for life."

Brian, a SU grad student, came to answer our questions about the genocide in Rwanda. He had escaped death barely as a mixed 13-year-old in the south of Rwanda. Most of his aunts and uncles, as well as other family members, had been murdered, exterminated because of their Tutsi status.

Brian explained that Hutus profiled Tutsis as being tall with thin noses, even though there were many Tutsis, and Hutus, that challenged the mold.

"During school, we thought that if you could fit your three fingers up one nostril, you could pass, or be, Hutu. You'd see all the kids with their fingers up their noses during breaks," he laughed.

I was awe-struck by all of his experiences.

Most of all, I was most surprised by his summary of the whole Rwanda situation.

"People ask me every time what went on in Rwanda," he said. "To be honest, I still do not know. It is that complicated. It does not make sense to me."

Brian appeared to be an intelligent man. He had lived through the civil war and massacres. He had seen the bodies, the rampages, the sights no human being should ever be forced to witness.

And in the end, he still did not know why the whole thing happened.

I think that's a testament to genocide. It doesn't make sense. To think a people can wipe out a whole group of people, as if they were animals, is not a rational thought.

I asked Brian if he had seen Hotel Rwanda, which we had just watched in class, and what he thought of it. He said he saw it when he was in Georgia with his girlfriend at time, and he could not stop laughing.

"The whole theater was crying and I was just laughing," he said.

He said that it was not that it was a funny portrayal, but that it was clearly a mixture of a bunch of different narratives, plus some exaggeration to make it "Hollywood" and profitable.

The violence was on par for what it could be, he said. The producers probably only embodied about 10 percent of the reality of the situation and massacre; understandable, since not many viewers would be able to handle it or would want to, he said.

I feel like there's so many levels of understanding in anything you come across. You can read a book and gain a little more understand on a situation, maybe gaining some internal perspective or scene setting. You can watch a movie based on that book and see what you had envisioned come to life, maybe in a more realistic way or just different--for better or worse--portrayal. You can hear someone share their story, who lived through that situation portrayed in the movie and in the book, putting a face, a person, a human connection to that story.

I feel like it is so hard to truly understand, feel, the horrors Brian encountered. I know I do not want to experience them or even be involved in some kind of re-enactment scenario, but I wonder if it takes that, or some similar or equally traumatizing situation, to feel the full weight of an issue like Brian's.

Do you think common ground has to be shared for you to fully understand something? Isn't that the whole reason why experience is so much more important than education in some instances?

Thanks Brian for coming to class today.

R.I.P. for all those whom lost their lives in the Rwandan genocide.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

FIfty People, One Question

I just came across this project this afternoon on ModernFeed, where I watch all my television programs online.

Benjamin Reece's idea is really charming: ask 50 random people the same question and record their answers, all on camera.

It's amazing how one question can tell so much about a person.

If one thing could happen by the end of the day, what would that be?

Fifty People, One Question: New Orleans from Fifty People, One Question on Vimeo.

My answer: to feel completely comfortable in my own skin once again.

Where would you like to wake up tomorrow morning?

Fifty People, One Question: New York from Fifty People, One Question on Vimeo.

Fifty People, One Question: Brooklyn from Fifty People, One Question on Vimeo.

Fifty People, One Question: London from Fifty People, One Question on Vimeo.

My answer: well-rested to the smell of fresh-brewed coffee in a German cottage with my family on a warm summer morning

Some of the answers really make you appreciate your life, health and love. The one girl's answer about waking up in a world where you can travel via closets and have breakfast with their owner's made me smile. The stories about colon cancer and wanting to wake up in the graveyard at his father's tombstone really tugged at my heartstrings.

How would you answer? Which answers did you enjoy the most? Comment your responses.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

"Sorry, not tonight dear. I am on deadline."

"Feels like your pilgrimage to Mecca, huh?" my dad asked.

I am not Muslim. But he was on to something.

This past weekend I went home. It was not my Spring Break, nor did I have a job interview.

I went home to take care of some long overdue work. I went home to finally go to the Newseum.

I have known since I was 13 that I wanted to be a journalist. The details were hazy, but I knew I loved to write. The Newseum opened in Rosslyn, Va. around that same time (1997) but for whatever reason I never managed to head downtown and visit it. (note: The Newseum moved to its current location on Pennsylvania Avenue a year ago.)

So my trip Sunday was a long-time coming.

I went with my parents and sister Chelsea, whom have a basic interest in news. Nothing extraordinary. They read the news, each with a varying interest and publication loyalty.

I should have known that I would be holding up the group.

I seriously felt as if I was a child in a candy store. Granted, I had learned the basic history of communication in a few of my Newhouse courses (COM107, COM505), but some of the coverage and artifacts the museum had were incredible.

One section had actual pieces of the Berlin wall. One section had the radio antennae that was on the top of the World Trade Center and was recovered from ground zero. One section had a various newspaper A1s from important world events.

I felt most inspired the the individual stories of fearless or accomplished journalists. Their documentary videos or exhibits illustrated their passion for reporting and championship of journalism--real reality checks and reminders of why I love journalism so much.

The fam and I also got to hear Newsweek editor Evan Thomas' involvement in campaign coverage, specifically his time spent on Obama. Three things I came away with? If you do not want to ask hard questions, journalism is not and will never be for you. Competence is not sexy. Reporters were not the ones with a huge crush on Obama; it was their editors.

I am going to have to go back and spend literally the entire day. I probably was able to really take in about 40% of the entire place. Luckily, I only live a hop, skip and a jump from it. I could even move in to the apartments attached to it. That might be a little too much..

Fun things I bought: a t-shirt that says, "Sorry, not tonight dear. I am on deadline." and a pen that says, "Trust me. I am a reporter."

Josh said that there will only be about 20 people who will appreciate them. And those are the handful of people I want to meet and befriend.