2 comments Tuesday, February 26, 2008

I am so glad that Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova won the Oscar for "Original Song." Hear their live performance below and their acceptance speech.

0 comments Sunday, February 24, 2008

Lately I've noticed that my undertakings haven't driven my motivation as much. As I continue to struggle with this, I can't help but wonder when the fire will burn enough underneath me to move me.

This semester's coals haven't enkindled much of anything. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I realize my drive has less to do with graduate school and more to do with my personal state of being this semester. Unfortunately, though, I can't figure out what will ignite the latter to set fire to the former.

For now, though, I am continuing my studies, albeit somewhat begrudgingly. Until I can find the reason—the spark to the match—I won't be able to feel burn that pushes me forward.

2 comments Thursday, February 21, 2008

I am in a giving mood, I guess. Or perhaps it is the news I read (ABC News reports that [the American Leadership Project] is seeking 100 Clinton supporters to each give $100,000 to fund its $10 million effort to promote Senator Clinton and "contrast" her positions with Barack Obama's.)?

Either way, I am for Obama all the way. Another donation, double the amount this time, is totally worth it.

Yes. We. Can.

3 comments Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Lately I've been reading more about globalization due largely in part to a course I am taking this semester. Still, globalization has always intrigued me. Ever since I read "World on Fire" by Amy Chua, I've often thought about my personal role in globalization, our nation's role in globalization, and how fast and quickly the world is changing.

As I sat down over the weekend to read my assigned readings, I wasn't surprised by most of the information. I have to admit that Chua's amazing book prepared me for a great deal of the discussion within my chapters from the Globalization and Development Reader. At the same time, though, I found myself wanting to know more than I knew. I found myself reading the information presented to me--not skimming it. I was fascinated! I felt, to put it to the words of Flyleaf (yes, a real reputable and eloquent source, I might add), that I "could feel [it] all around me."

I felt that the world was moving faster than I ever thought it was before.

Now, I have often taken time to reflect on the world around me, questioning where I was going and what I was doing in it; but this was entirely selfish and personal. I honestly haven't taken enough time to think about my role in it and my contributions for a better (or worse) world. As I finished my readings this week, I thought heavily about the future of our world. I thought about the pulse of the world, now beating ever faster. I felt the connections, the gaps of time and space closing. Resources dwindling. Environments changing. Cultures and identities disappearing. Technological advancements bringing (and binding) nations together. I saw the people, each pressing on and struggling to survive what life they had been dealt. I sensed the extremes, the ends uncertain by increasing integration, and their anger and passion to fight the fold. I felt connected, but distant. I felt affected and afflicted, yet fortunate and blessed. I felt helpless, yet hopeful.

Ultimately I felt like the problem and the solution.

Earlier tonight, while searching for resources to aid my in-class discussion for tomorrow, I found a video I knew I had to share. Regardless of what side of the issue you subscribe to, I think this video provides adequate insight into where our world has been and where it is going. It illuminates the cresting conundrum we are facing more and more everyday. It opens the dialogue and asks for you to contribute to the discourse--even in the slightest. Although it is not a lot, it is a simple way to engage people in the discussion.

What are your thoughts? Do you even care?

As for me, I plan on donating not only money, but my time, energy, and future scholarship to working towards a world where people have a say on the changes that are occurring. I want the future to be full of hope, not dictated by the standards that have determined the direction for centuries.


My friend and co-worker, Stephanie, sent me a link about the world's happiest nation. Any guess which nation is the happiest in the world?

It certainly isn't America. We're too busy worrying about violence, Heath Ledger, and Britney Spears.

Japan? Are you kidding me! The suicide rate is one of the highest in the world!

It's not Great Britain, but you are getting warmer.

Check it out here!

2 comments Monday, February 18, 2008

Last week I rented "Once" from Netflix. The movie had been recommended to me since November, but I never got around to adding it to my list. I think the movie synopsis initially made me uncertain about renting it. The summary said it was a "modern day musical," which, as many of you know, I do not like. Musicals are generally too joyous and, therefore, too annoying for me to watch (I honestly can't stand the crazy hand gestures and arm movements, okay!). However, I decided to give "Once" a chance because I had read that the movie included "subtle acoustic music rich with emotion and a story of simple, yet powerful depth."

Indeed, "Once" is an amazingly simple yet powerful story about how a chance encounter can change lives. The movie stars Glen Hansard, Irish rocker from "The Frames," as Guy and Markéta Irglová, a Czech musician, as Girl. Guy is a heartbroken shop worker who performs amazing guitar solos on the street for extra cash. He lives with his father and, as a result of his heartbreak over the loss of his lover, is uninspired to move beyond his current place in life. Girl is a recent immigrant to the Irish city. She is poor, but works multiple jobs to obtain cash. One night she encounters guy and changes his life thereafter. She motivates him to win his girlfriend back and he helps her see the strength and beauty in her struggles. The two come together in an inspired connection, performing music together to overcome the mental obstacles that haunt them. In the end, they are empowered by one another and go on to live the lives they were meant to.

At the heart of the movie, though, is the music. While some critics would call this movie a musical, I would call it a subtle romance. Unlike a musical, the music does not facilitate action nor describe a scene. Instead, the music of "Once" is about deep thought and emotion. It's about where each character has been, what they have experienced and felt, and where they want to be. The music characterizes the individuals, guiding and eventually concluding the story. In the end, the movie is a pseudo-documentary local color slice of life. It's a story that transcends what is depicted within and translates to the lives of those who watch it. For, as the title suggests, each one of us has had that moment in our lives "Once."

If you haven't seen this movie and you like romance movies, check it out. If you like the music of Glen Hansard, check it out. If you like the music of Damien Rice or any variants thereof, check it out. If your like me and you like adorable Czech women with talent (Markéta Irglová), check it out! All in all, this movie is the underdog hit of the year. It is amazingly simple, emotional, and powerful. "Once" is worth more than one passing glance.

Also, if you are interested in hearing their music, I recommend you watch the Oscars as Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová will be performing "Falling Slowly" from the movie. Of course, if you can't wait, check out the official movie website or their myspace page.


The NIU shooting is still heavy on my thoughts, just as it is on the minds of many other college students:

"If a shooter came into some of the biggest classrooms at the University of California-Berkeley, recent graduate Scott Alto wonders whether students would be able to protect themselves..."

I wonder if my university or any others will actually take progressive action to at least deter and prevent someone from trying to kill someone else on campus.


  • On Wednesday I had a talk with my amazing advisor. We talked about turning in the conference paper to another conference and my lack of motivation and uncertainty about being a scholar and entering the world of academics (largely due to the department). My advisor reminded me that our department is "in transit," even though it seems in disarray. At the same time, she was able to provide me with renewed insight about my studies. She even challenged me to do more with my studies because she knows I am capable of it. I needed that reassurance. Honestly, I don't think I could survive graduate school without her advice and guidance.
  • Singles Awareness Day came and went. I received a few valentines from close friends and I was thankful for them. I also received the wonderful valentine of 56 papers to grade while eating said valentines from close friends. All in all, it wasn't too bad.
  • Friday and Saturday were research and reading days at the library. I learned I am surprisingly able to accomplish much more at my study carrel than I am at my house. According to my estimate, with a cogent mathematical equation, I am at least 5.3483 times more productive at the library than I am at home. Coffee, on estimate, adds 1.78 to my productivity initially, lasting for two and a half hours; but detracts 2.487 thereafter.
  • Also on Friday and Saturday night I was invited to two parties that I declined to attend. While I knew the people that were at the parties, I felt like I didn't belong. It's weird. I have been around most of these people before, but I do not trust them just yet. As strange as it sounds, I feel old when I am around some of the people I know. I know this feeling of "oldness" is actually maturity, but, in these gatherings, it comes off as the plight of the wallflower. I guess I either need to relax more or find other friends to hang out with on a more consistent basis.
  • After much research, I decide, today, that detoxing the body of toxins might be a good idea. I have wanted to do this for a while, but I didn't think I could dedicate to it. I am not fasting, but I have only drank detox tea for the last 6 hours. It tastes great, but I can honestly say I don't feel different. Perhaps, tomorrow, after noon, I'll feel different. My guess is: weaker.
  • Tomorrow begins anew. I plan on reading and writing and enjoying some of my day off at the gym.
    I am also thankful we don't have class, especially in light of the NIU shootings. I feel safe on campus here, but it does scare me to think (and know) that there are people that come to my campus who are crazy enough to do the same thing. After all, one of my students last semester talked about Virginia Tech more than usual, wanting to bring a gun on campus, and having a concealed weapons license. Suffice to say, I reported him. How far that goes and if it does anything, though, remains to be seen. I mean, what if my student turns out to be like one of these shooters?
    This shooting also makes me feel uneasy about the academy as a site of liberal thought. If people cannot practice patience and tolerance in addition to open thought and expression, how will the academy continue to espouse education? How long will it be before there are metal detectors at every entrance to every building? It certainly makes you wonder.

6 comments Tuesday, February 12, 2008

March is, without a doubt, one of my favorite months. Not only is my birthday early in the month, but the weather is usually starting to change. The snow is melting or gone as the soft sounds of rain hit the windows. The surroundings seem to come alive. The local environment is in bloom and everything seems green. It's serene.

This March will be no exception to that! I recently found a sweet concert to go to and I'll be able to go with friends. I know, that seems odd at first glance. However, when you listen to the indie music that I listen to, it is hard to find a friend to go to concerts with. Fortunately, though, I will be able to see Joshua Radin and Ingrid Michaelson with friends. Even if they aren't as enthusiastic as I am, it will be nice to be in the company of others.

Of course, even if I didn't have friends to go with, I wouldn't have missed this concert. It is something to look forward to after the dreary days of winter.


I always love to hear talent like this. Check out the top three string pieces for the "My Grammy Moment" with the Foo Fighters.

Here's the link. Enjoy!

I especially liked the second and third video. The first one wasn't bad, but it didn't have as much of the action as the other two.

2 comments Monday, February 11, 2008

I spent most of the day at my office. I've come to find that I enjoy going in on the weekends when no one else is around. Not only is the office silent, but the whole building is noiseless. . .except for the minor creaks of the floor. It is muted bliss. It is a simple escape in a comfortable and familiar place. Strangely, it has become a sort of solitude. A surreal departure from the distractions that seem to plague me at home.

While I love being home, I've come to find that I simply cannot concentrate within the confines of these whitewashed cinderblock walls. Perhaps it is too confining. Perhaps I feel like I need to have the TV on all the time. Whatever the case may be, I simply cannot work as well I used to be able to in the apartment.

Suffice to say, I was able to accomplish a great deal in my time away from home. I read. I graded. I e-mailed. I wrote. I found some sort of "peace" in the chaos that is my life as a graduate student, a teacher, and club president. Though I feel behind the curve on some of my studies (especially when it comes to writing my conference paper), I honestly don't feel bad. For once, while I was sitting in the office today, I didn't feel hurried or rushed. I didn't feel bothered. I didn't feel empty or alone. Instead, I felt relaxed. I felt like I was working at my own pace in my own time with no one over my shoulder. It was a relief.

I only hope I will be able to continue dropping by when no one else is around. The solace the space provides is slim at best, but it is enough to revivify my waning motivation for the coursework ahead and all around me. And right now, it is something I need to keep me moving along.

0 comments Sunday, February 10, 2008

I donated money to fund the progression of hope. I donated to support Barack Obama!

0 comments Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Now that I have had time to refocus my energies, I feel better. While I cannot say I am back to 100%, I can say that I have been able to get over some the mental hurdles that appeared over the last two weeks. Most of the confusion has dissipated, leaving me time to recollect my thoughts and refine my actions. In the end, as always, I am marking it down to learning.

I still haven't become fully motivated, but I feel better knowing that I have found something to latch onto to keep me moving. It isn't much right now, but it is all I need to get by. Of course, some of you may think that Prozak would help; but I am not depressed (at least not clinically).

The morose and mundane aside, I have found some amazing music for fans of "Something Corporate" or "Jack's Mannequin". I highly recommend you check out "Making April" and their album "Runaway World." The album is a well-woven symphony of melodic piano rock with various high-note, low-beats, and everything in between. The songs flow together, each, though the vivid, precise, and intelligent lyrics, depict dramatic scenes and stories. I especially enjoy "Jump In," "I Wrote This Song," and "Roses and Butterflies" (don't knock it until you hear them)!

Now, if only I could see them in concert.

1 comments Tuesday, February 05, 2008

I've been meaning to sit down and compose my thoughts here. I've been meaning to return and voice the thoughts that seem to plague my mind. It has been difficult, though. I've been distracted. I've been short on time. I've been up and I've been down. Though writing typically helps me focus, I avoided it by not making time for myself.

Graduate school has made this easy. I feel like I have been consumed by my studies. . .and I have been. Still, it is no excuse for putting my thoughts down.

Upon returning, I want to rid my mind of this apathy I've been feeling lately. I have felt so unmotivated since I returned from Germany. Usually I would chalk this up to my "seasonal affect disorder" (you know, the disorder I don't have), but I feel like I have lost my motivating focus. In my darkest moments I have felt empty.

As I think back on everything, I feel that last semester shook me up. It was so hellaciously strenuous that, when it ended, I felt liberated. Returning home to Germany allowed me to relax and to be with family. In many ways it was the cure for my pain. But now that I am back in Idaho--now that I am back trying to continue on in graduate school--I am starting to believe that my remedy may have been more illusory than I thought. I know I needed the time to be with family and to be away, but I feel like it spoiled me. For the first time since I entered college, I felt so relaxed and so at ease that I didn't do anything. I was at my most apathetic and I loved it.

I guess that's why it has been so difficult to readjust to this semester. I don't want to return to the engaging, but demanding work that lies ahead. While I know this semester will be of great benefit to me, especially if I get a paper finished for a conference, I can't get motivated. I have been trying to find my focus, to find my reason; but I can't.

Voicing this concern has helped, though. Although I do not feel fully reenergized, I feel better. The sense of urgency hasn't hit me, but I know it will. I know I'll feel revivified in time. The question is, how much time will I need?