Oh Say, Can You See?

Copyright © Paramount Studios

Copyright © Paramount Studios

Today’s Daily Post prompt asks us if we’d consider ourselves patriotic or not. I’ve never cared for this question, mostly because I’d rather just skip ahead to a time when our world isn’t defined by borders, but rather the lack of them. I’m one of those people who loves Star Trek not (just) because of the cool costumes, but because in it, Earth stands as a united front, a small part of a much larger federation of planets that coexist in peace. Now that is a flag I’d gladly fly! Sadly, peace and patriotism often seem mutually exclusive these days. Will the world survive long enough to get along?

I love lots of things about living in the USA. In comparison to most of my friends, I grew up poor. Still, I had a roof over my head, plenty to eat, and got to go to junior high and high school for free. I didn’t have to walk to school every day, or worry about invading armies raping and pillaging. I didn’t have to worry that saying one thing wrong or being in the wrong place at the wrong time might end with me being burned at the stake as a witch. I wasn’t sold into slavery or given away for marriage, and now that I’m grown up, I’m allowed to do whatever the hell I want to. Sure, I grew up among bible beaters, racists and homophobes, but (sadly) none of those problems are confined to American soil. Now here I am at 31, having been given a leg up and the opportunity to study, travel, and grow to understand the shortcomings of my environment. So it’s definitely not all bad. It’s not even half bad if we consider some of the atrocities that are considered part of the every day in other parts of the world.

But the thing is, no matter how good Americans have it, these so-called freedoms come at the expense of a great many people, animals, and natural resources. And waving a flag and proclaiming my love of this land isn’t going to get me (or anyone else for that matter) anywhere. We are killing the world with our insane love of oil. We could be running on solar power, like Germany, or garbage, like Sweden. We could be avoiding these constant engagements in the Middle East, or at least abstaining from bankrolling half of the political machinations that go on there. We could be preserving our landscape, animals, and climate. But instead we’re jumping head-on into all of this bullshit, just so the corporations that pay to keep our politicians fat and happy can get what they want. Oil. Plastics. Weapons & Building Contracts. Not saying that we shouldn’t be doing our part to encourage world peace, but our interest should be solely that of the peacekeeper, not of the profiteer.

So no. I’m not patriotic. I’m ashamed that my country is defined by greedy politicians, corrupt corporations, and media outlets that care more about one spoiled pop star than genocide in the Middle East. I’m ashamed that we as a people can’t seem to stop fighting about the small stuff long enough to grasp the big picture.

But I refuse to give up on the world, or my fellow creatures, human and non. I want to be a world citizen, and I will. If my difference is only getting to understand and empathize with the world I meet through my travels and on this blog, so be it.

Hopefully, I’ll get to do more.

Photography Friday! Week 4 – Iron Man, Star Trek & A Sand Mandala

Home on Friday night, fighting off a horrible hacking cough and nursing a migraine while my friends are out at a pub crawl/going away party. I won’t bother to pretend that I was looking forward to bouncing from bar to bar tonight, but I was psyched for a chance to go to the only male strip club in town, just for shits and giggles. I’m 99% sure I would have been grossed out (after all, what’s attractive about guys in man panties?) but still. Anyway, I’m going to keep this short, since the bright white light of the WordPress backend is making my face want to split in two right now.

Saturday, May 11th was a very busy day. I went running, got a great massage that has kept my back pain at bay for almost a week now (!!!), ate a great sushi lunch, then met up with my coworkers for an event called the Champagne Stroll on Magazine Street. Afterwards, we all went bar hopping, and then my friend Gary and I went to see The Essentials play at this club called The Maison.

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Sunday, May 12th was low key. I woke up to a lovely bath from Murph (really a reminder that his food bowl was almost empty – he only “loves” me when he needs something), then later walked through the CBD to the movie theater to see Iron Man 3. I’m one of the minority who happen to not hate Gwyneth Paltrow, so for me, Pepper Pots is one of the best things about the Iron Man series. There was one particular scene in this last installment that made me cry for happiness. I won’t ruin it for you if you haven’t seen it, but it’s a small part of a pivotal action scene, where you see that even though Tony has been consumed by his work as of late, he didn’t neglect to take every precaution to make sure his most precious asset, Pepper, would be safe. Yes, I’m a total sap. Sue me.

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The remainder of an old building facade in the CBD.

Monday, May 13th I watched workmen putting some of the finishing touches on the building that houses Peche, the new Donald Link restaurant at the corner of Magazine & Julia Streets. I also discovered that you can revive wilted asparagus by snipping off the ends and putting the stalks in water overnight! It’s a miracle! I was also in a short video about the nature of sanity.

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Watch "You Are Insane" here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A-Y-fADJJm0

Watch You Are Insane. It’s weird, and smart. 

On Tuesday, May 14th I was in a bad mood most of the day. I was in a bad mood most of the week, but I was also very tired, which later I found out was because I was getting sick. Sick sucks. Anyway, I walked around in the CBD in search of the elusive UPS Store (which I guess is hidden inside the Roosevelt Hotel, but I never found it). On my journey, I found this lovely sign that reminded me to chill the eff out.

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Wednesday, May 15th was all about going to see Star Trek Into Darkness – whoot! I went with Gary and Nathan from work, plus six or seven of Nathan’s friends from Mississippi. We saw it at the IMAX in 3D, and even got a free commemorative poster that glows in the dark. So cool. True to form, I forgot to take photos at the event, but I did take some cute snapshots of Nathan’s two dogs, Otis and Nola, beforehand.

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Sweet and ever-happy Nola.

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Otis is honestly one of the cutest dogs I’ve ever met. He’s such an optimist – he thinks that everyone has ham for him. Maybe because most people do 🙂

Last night, (Thursday, May 16th) my friend Caroline and I went to watch the Tibetan Buddhist monks construct a portion of the sand mandala. It was gorgeous, and my photos do it no justice. I’ll have to write more about it in another post, because the coughing is back and I kind of want to wrap this up.

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The sands & tools used by the monks.

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They worked in silence, with such confidence.

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The item in the monk’s left hand is a long funnel-like tool, full of colored sand. It has ridges along the top, and the monk is holding a wand-like tool in his right hand that he rubs over the ridges. The vibrations make the sand flow out of the end of the funnel almost like water. It’s a very precise, calculated set of movements, but the monks are so skilled that they make it seem easy.

I spent most of last night awake, coughing up a lung (or so it seemed). Today I made some changes on my blog – sorry to keep messing about with the template, but the old one was malfunctioning – then Gary and I went down to the convention center to meet up with Caroline and watch the monks destroy the mandala. Unfortunately, the crowd was so thick that I couldn’t really see much, but I did get to hear them chanting and playing instruments. They sound like giant bullfrogs when they chant, and the instruments sounded like 2nd grade music appreciation, but I know that’s just my Western ear. I loved it! Afterward, I bought an altar cloth and a book of the Dalai Lama’s sayings. Tomorrow morning I’ll get to hear him speak in person!

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Documentary Days: “Get a Life” & “Le Cirque: A Table in Heaven”

I’ve really been slacking off in the documentary department, but I’ve watched a couple more since last checking in. So far, I’ve watched 11 this month, which leaves me waaaay behind (I wanted to do five per week, or 25 total). Instead, I found this new series on Netflix called Lost Girl, and have been wasting incredible amounts of time drooling over one of the main characters. Seriously, how can you go wrong with this:

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Kris Holden-Ried as Dyson the werewolf, from the series “Lost Girl”

Last week I ended up watching William Shatner’s documentary about Star Trek conventioneers, Get A Life. It was entertaining, though certainly nothing earth-shattering. I grew up in a very sci-fi oriented household, with a Trek-loving mom and a dad who would gladly plop down to watch the newest space-invader flick any time. I personally turned to Star Wars early in life, but Star Trek wasn’t ever far from my radar. I wasn’t a super fan, though, so there’s still much to learn from watching die-hard Trekkies (Trekkers?) do their thing.

The costumes in this film are especially inspiring – check out the winner of the costume contest. I won’t ruin it for you, but OH MAN is that outfit awesome! Watching this movie definitely made me want to get more involved and more active with fandom – I love costuming, and have always wanted to get dressed up to go to comic book conventions, but somehow never make it around to it. Since I’m already a member of the Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus, with an invitation to march in our annual Mardi Gras parade, I made the decision to go the Star Trek route this year. I’ll post pics later – the parade is this Saturday.

The other movie I ended up watching was Le Cirque: A Table in Heaven, about the famous New York eatery Le Cirque, its owner Sirio Maccioni, and his three sons. It was another of those rather mindless documentaries where you’re more or less along for the ride, rather than plopping down to learn something important. The movie follows Maccioni and family as they close down the original Le Cirque location and build the restaurant again in a new location. Throughout the film, you learn snippets of the restaurant’s history, Maccioni’s childhood, how the boys feel about their lives in the family business, and how each of the family members feels about the others. It’s not too heavy, though, and I really would have liked to have seen something with a bit more meat on its bones.

Overall, the movie feels like it’s just going through the motions rather than taking a stab at genuine exploration, though maybe that’s a result of watching this family run their business with much less passion than one would expect from a family of Italian restauranteurs. Now that I’m thinking back on it, I wonder if the director was a fan of Fellini. There’s a lot of bittersweet happening in the scenes, just underneath the (boring?) placid surface. Meh. I don’t have it in me to critique fully. Watch it yourself and tell me what you think.