For all the money…

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My Biggest Baddest Bucket List Entry – My Destination is Nashville

Nashville is the home of America’s music and so much more. For My Destination’s Biggest Baddest Bucket List, I take you around Music City, USA in just a day’s time and show you the landmarks, the local favorites and flavor, and why I love it all. Hopefully, you’ll fall in love as well and send me packing. Thanks for watching!

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My Blog Entry for the Contest:
The Experience That Shaped How & Why I Travel

In 2006, my best friend who had moved to teach in St. Petersburg, Russia invited me to visit over the winter holidays. For a month, I’d have a free place to stay in the heart of the city with a friend to translate. I’d get to experience “real” Russia.

Upon arriving, St. Petersburg was electrifying to a boy who grew up in Mississippi. Not simply in that it was a foreign city–I had been to other places in Europe before–but here I felt I was seeing with a new lens. I felt vulnerable and awake. I was curious, not just in the sights, but in the people. Like how, on the streets, they could be so distant and their demeanor seem to match the winter’s chill, but the moment you connected, they warmed and treated you like family. There was little sarcasm, and pleasantness was never worn as a mask.

I became fast mates with a few of my friend’s students at the university where he taught. We’d grab a drink at night, cook dinner together and bat questions to each other in our own little cultural exchange. I wanted to know everything.

I felt the strongest connection to Anton, a fun-loving, soft-spoken, kind and curious computer science student by day and prize boxer by night.

One evening we were outside of the city in the Soviet blocks where Anton took us to a massive billiards hall. It was a few days before Christmas, and I had thought of a new question–a funny, little question that I thought might connect us further. I asked, “Hey Anton, when I was a kid, I used to have these little toy planes. One side was the U.S. and the other side, the U.S.S.R., and I’d stage battles with the F16’s and Migs…Did you…Did you do the same?”

Anton, quietly yet intently, told me a story: “One Christmas, my mother gave my brother and me a pineapple and some bananas, and we were really happy because tropical fruit was hard to get.”

My heart sank. I was ashamed.

He didn’t say anything else, but graciously changed the subject and bought me a beer.

I forgot there were a million different experiences that shaped and separated us. I forgot he had been conscripted into the military at 18. I forgot he fought with his hands each week to pay for school. I forgot that the transition from the Soviet Union to modern Russia was a costly one on families like his.

Mark Twain famously wrote that, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness…Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

Recognizing our disconnect was not a discouragement, but rather it galvanized my understanding of the necessity of travel. I realized the only way to get to know the world and yourself is to vulnerably step into it with your whole heart and open eyes. So here I am.

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Why we quit…

“What nobody tells people who are beginners — and I really wish someone had told this to me . . . is that all of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, and it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase. They quit.

Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

– Ira Glass (host of This American Life)
full video:

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I’m old enough that I can start recalling decades. Good god.

A Decade in Music and Films. My Favorites.

Top 50 Albums of the past decade:

  1. Radiohead – Kid A
  2. Sufjan Stevens – Age of Adz (w/ADP)
  3. Radiohead – Hail to the Thief
  4. Sufjan Stevens – Illinois
  5. Arcade Fire – Funeral
  6. Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
  7. Sufjan Stevens – Seven Swans
  8. Neko Case – Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
  9. Modest Mouse – The Moon & Antarctica
  10. Bright Eyes – I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning
  11. Fun – Aim & Ignite
  12. MGMT – Oracular Spectacular
  13. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
  14. Radiohead – In Rainbows
  15. The Cardigans – Long Gone Before Daylight
  16. White Stripes – Elephant
  17. Sigur Ros – Takk
  18. Sufjan Stevens  – Michigan
  19. Brandi Carlile – Give Up the Ghost
  20. M. Ward – Post War
  21. Patty Griffin – Children Running Through
  22. Of Montreal – Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?
  23. Over the Rhine – Ohio
  24. Steven Delopoulos – Me Died Blue
  25. Bright Eyes – Cassadega
  26. Coldplay – A Rush of Blood to the Head
  27. Rufus Wainwright – Poses
  28. Patty Griffin – 1000 Kisses
  29. Ryan Adams – Cold Roses
  30. LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver
  31. The Shins – Chutes Too Narrow
  32. Switchfoot – Nothing is Sound
  33. The Format – Dog Problems
  34. The Arcade Fire – Neon Bible
  35. Radiohead – Amnesiac
  36. My Morning Jacket – Z
  37. Jónsi – Go
  38. Matthew Perryman Jones – Throwing Punches in the Dark
  39. The Jayhawks – Rainy Day Music
  40. Björk – Medulla
  41. Derek Webb – She Must and Shall Go Free
  42. Damien Rice – O
  43. The Flaming Lips – Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots
  44. Animal Collective – Meriwhether Post Pavilion
  45. The Postal Service – Give Up
  46. Vampire Weekend – Contra
  47. Jars of Clay – The Long Fall Back to Earth
  48. Beck – Sea Change
  49. The National – Boxer
  50. Rufus Wainwright – Want One

HM’s: Spoon – Kill the Moonlight, Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, Daft Punk – Discovery, The Avett Brothers – I and Love and You, Josh Ritter – The Animal Years, Björk – Vespertine, U2 – HTDAAB, Interpol – Turn On The Bright Lights, Death Cab For Cutie – Transatlanticism, G. Hansard & M. Irglová – Once

Top 50 Films of the past decade:

  1. Junebug – dir. Phil Morrison
  2. Lord of the Rings – Peter Jackson
  3. I Heart Huckabees – David O. Russell
  4. There Will Be Blood – Paul Thomas Anderson
  5. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – Michel Gondry
  6. Diving Bell and the Butterfly – Julian Schnabel
  7. Tape – Richard Linklater
  8. Dogville – Lars von Trier
  9. Synecdoche, New York – Charlie Kaufman
  10. Into the Wild – Sean Penn
  11. The New World – Terrence Malick
  12. Before Sunset – Richard Linklater
  13. Magnolia – Paul Thomas Anderson
  14. The Reader – Stephen Daldry
  15. Children of Men – Alfonso Cuarón
  16. Revolutionary Road – Sam Mendes
  17. The Dark Knight – Christopher Nolan
  18. City of God – F. Mierelles & K. Lund
  19. Pan’s Labyrinth – Guillermo del Toro
  20. Wall-E – Andrew Stanton
  21. No End in Sight – Charles Ferguson
  22. Almost Famous – Cameron Crowe
  23. King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters – Seth Gordon
  24. Mulholland Drive – David Lynch
  25. Darwin’s Nightmare – Hubert Sauper
  26. Punch Drunk Love – Paul Thomas Anderson
  27. The Corporation – M. Achbar & J. Abbott
  28. No Country for Old Men – Joel & Ethan Cohen
  29. Inglorious Basterds – Quentin Tarantino
  30. The Motorcycle Diaries – Walter Salles
  31. Memento – Christopher Nolan
  32. Brokeback Mountain – Ang Lee
  33. Fog of War – Errol Morris
  34. Wet Hot American Summer – David Wain
  35. Inception – Christopher Nolan
  36. The Squid & The Whale – Noah Baumbach
  37. Shortbus – John Cameron Mitchell
  38. Grizzly Man – Werner Herzog
  39. The Royal Tennenbaums – Wes Anderson
  40. Me and You and Everyone We Know – Miranda July
  41. Sophie Scholl: The Final Days – Marc Rothemund
  42. Manderlay – Lars von Trier
  43. Persepolis – V. Paronnaud & M. Satrapi
  44. Waking Life – Richard Linklater
  45. Oh Brother Where Art Thou? – Joel & Ethan Coen
  46. Adaptation – Charlie Kaufmann
  47. Goodnight & Good Luck – George Clooney
  48. Lost In Translation – Sofia Coppola
  49. Shaun of the Dead – Edgar Wright
  50. In Bruges – Martin McDonagh

HM’s: Mystic River – Clint Eastwood, The Fall – Tarsem Singh, Moulin Rouge – Baz Luhrmann, Talk to Her – Pedro Almodóvar, Zodiac – David Fincher, The 25th Hour – Spike Lee, Anchorman – Adam McKay The Hours – Stephen Daldry, Capote – Bennett Miller, Before Night Falls – Julian Schnabel

*Note: The decade spans 2001-2010. 2000 was technically the end of the 90’s. I’m sensitive to this fact since I graduated high school in ’01, the first class of the new millenium, and we took some pride in this. The past ten years have naturally been the most significant in making me who I am, here at 27-years-old, so I think this list probably says a lot about what’s shaped me, moved me, and sent me.

So….What’s missing? What’s in your top 5? Leave your list. Critique mine.

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What you give up in 140 Characters or Less: Reflections on the Tucson Shooting and the Compromised Immune System of our Democracy

Early on the day of the shooting in Tucson in which 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner shot 19 people, wounding Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and killing Federal Judge Judge John McCarthy Roll and five others, including a young girl, I posted two tweets in response.

Celebrated ignorance in the party, pundits & media culture responsible –Palin got 1 of 20 in shooting:

RT @aurosan: Guess what tweet @SarahPalinUSA just deleted? Here’s your answer:

This blog exists because sometimes 140 characters “can’t handle the truth.” I’m writing this to provide context and nuance, something that is hard to come by on Facebook & Twitter. I am also writing this as an apology for not providing those very things in the wake of a complex, heated and deeply sensitive matter. In sending out messages that could fit on a bumper sticker, I’m implicated in the “culture responsible” that I was criticizing in the first place.  I hope that this will aid in explaining and expounding upon and retreating from in some ways my words.

In a press conference held hours after the massacre in Arizona, Pima County Sheriff Clarence W. Dupnick targeted vitriolic speech as a factor in Saturday’s shooting. Reflecting further on the “horrendous, horrendous senseless unbelievable crime,” Dupnik aimed his ire:

“And today I want to tell you that I hope that all Americans are saddened and as shocked as we are. And I hope that some of them or most of them are as angry as I am and as a lot of us are. And I think it’s time as a country that we need to do a little soul searching. Because it’s the vitriolic rhetoric that we hear day in and day out from people in the radio business and some people in the tv business, and what we see on tv and how our youngsters are being raised. And I think it’s time that we do a little soul searching.

When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government. The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous. And, unfortunately, Arizona I think has become sort of the capital. We have become the Mecca for prejudice and bigotry. It’s not unusual for all public officials to get threats constantly, myself included. And that‘s the sad thing of what’s going on in America. Pretty soon, we’re not going to be able to find reasonable, decent people who are willing to subject themselves to serve in public office… Let me say one thing, because people tend to pooh-pooh this business about all the vitriol that we hear inflaming the American public by people who make a living off of doing that. That may be free speech, but it’s not without consequences.”

Giffords’s fellow Arizona congressman, Republican Jeff Flake, recalled that she was unfazed after her Tucson office had been targeted by vandals who broke a window on the eve of last year’s health care vote. And it had been reported that in 2009, Judge Roll and his wife received 24-hour protection for at least a month after receiving death threats after certifying a multimillion-dollar lawsuit illegal immigrants had filed against an Arizona rancher.

During an interview with MSNBC after her office was vandalized, Giffords noted that her district was on Sarah Palin’s “crosshairs” list of targeted congressional races. Giffords was quoted saying:

“I think it’s important for all leaders – not just leaders of the Republican Party or the Democratic Party – to say, look, we can’t stand for this – we’re on Sarah Palin’s targeted list, but the thing is that the way that she has it depicted has the cross-hairs of a gun sight over our district. When people do that, they’ve got to realize there’s consequences to that action.”-Rep. Giffords, Mar. 25, 2010

This was the context for my words. This is what I had received and processed and this is what I spoke from when I should have presented and allowed their words to stand on their own.  That’s where I was coming from at the time; here’s where I am and am going…

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