“The object of a question is to obtain information that matters to us, and no one else.”
- Sean Connery as William Forrester in "Finding Forrester"

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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Keeping Track

I was looking at the statistics for my website recently - which has a new look as of last night, by the way (Beth, yours is next, I promise) - and saw some interesting numbers. Here's some of what I found:

  • November 2005 has had the highest amount of traffic so far at just shy of 33,000 hits and 272 unique visitors
  • I am only about 5,000 hits away from 250,000 hits this year! When it rolls over sometime next month I have to figure out how to celebrate. Ideas?
  • I've had visitors from about 18 countries this month. At the end of the year I'll compile a list of all the countries.
  • I get the most traffic between 4am and noon with a peak around 9am. Who's up at 4am looking at my website? That's just TOO early. (But thanks for stopping by!)
  • The average person stays at my site for 3.6 minutes
  • Aside from my photo gallery - which accumulates a lot of hits just from looking through pictures - my blog has been viewed most at about 532 times this month
  • I get most of my traffic through bookmarks but I get traffic through links from (in order of frequency): Beth Quick, Semester at Sea, Jockey Street, Laura in Japan, Locusts & Honey, and one or two here and there from Technorati and others.

It's nice to know that others are regularly making use of my site. I hope you are enjoying it as much as I enjoy doing it. Thanks!

Friday, November 25, 2005

Film Review: Rent

Though I had never seen the Broadway show nor heard the entire soundtrack, I was drawn to see the film version of Rent. I had sung "Seasons of Love" with my high school chorus and got to sing Tom's solo part in the bridge. When I studied abroad in college I was given a compilation tape of music that spoke of new beginnings and celebrating life. One of the first songs was, you guessed it, "Seasons of Love."

The film version of Rent is a moving story of eight people making their way through a year spent in poverty-stricken New York City while battling with a lack of money, the threat of eviction, AIDS, and the desire to find oneself in the midst of such hardships. Throughout the musical, the bricolage of voices rise with triumphant swells singing the praises of life, love and the precious nature of each and every day. Uncharacteristic of most musicals, Rent has a sound all its own. Piano and electric guitar take the place of a full orchestra or operatic melodies. It has a grittier, more true-to-life feel to it. The grungy backdrop of NYC plays it's own role in the story, illustrating the vulnerability of living in uncertain times. Visually speaking - since I always notice camera angles, being a cameraman myself - I enjoyed the almost constant motion of the camera around and up and over the action, not only providing energy to the scene but also capturing the essence of the story which is to take in as much of life as you can because there is "no day but today."

Building off of Jonathan Larson's Pulitzer and Tony award-winning book and musical, director Chris Columbus offers a wonderful portrayal of such a powerful story. Bringing back most of the original Broadway cast - including, to my surprise, Anthony Rapp from films such as A Beautiful Mind, Twister, and School Ties - along with notable performers Rosario Dawson and Taye Diggs rounding out this family of friends allowed the musical genius of the original to remain intact to make this film as strong as it could ever be.

Unless you are entirely anti-musical, or even if you are, Rent is an excellent film. Go see it!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

I'm Thankful For...

  • My loving and supportive family
  • My nephew's laughter and the way he cuddles up to me
  • My true friends - and you know who you are
  • A job that I enjoy
  • Being able to travel
  • Having the courage to follow my heart
  • Knowing myself as well as I do
  • Having hope for my future
  • Being allowed to be wacky every once in a while with the CCYM
  • Sleeping in
  • Unscheduled time
  • Those things that are more than words can express
  • ...


Tomorrow marks my 25th Thanksgiving, and in those 25 years I have spent all but one with my family. One year we went to Boston to spend it with my brother's godfather. One year we had a joint meal with my sister-in-law's family. Then there was the year when I spent the holiday in the Atlantic Ocean somewhere between Salvador, Brazil and Havana, Cuba.

This year should prove to be like most others have been since my brother got married. I'll drive down to my parents' house around 9. We'll turn on the parade and comment on how poorly the singers are lip syncing to the music as they dance in front of Macy's. We'll feast on my mom's famous cinnamon rolls - they aren't made from scratch with a secret ingredient or anything, they are just one of those simple things that make a holiday special - and sipping hot chocolate as the house fills with the aromas of the meal to come. We don't go all out with the meal. There's the usual stuff: turkey, mashed potatoes, corn, bread, stuffing, maybe some pie for desert. Then it's into the livingroom where we watch movies and rest from our busy lives. We'll occasionally play a game or two and, if we're really in the mood, we'll set up a video projector and one of our 6'x8' screens (our smallest) and convert the place into our very own personal movie theater. We'll be nibbling on leftover turkey and bread all day, maybe make a sandwich for dinner, and that will take us into the evening when I'll hop back into my car and head home.

We aren't a formal bunch. We don't get dressed up, we don't necessarily pull out the fine china, more likely than not we're gathered around the table in pajamas or sweats. In a way, one of the things we're thankful for is the opportunity to be comfortable. Growing up as a PK - "pastor's kid" - there were so many expectations about how we should dress and how we should act. Believe it or not, we would get comments from parishioners about everything from how we dressed to whether or not we ate some of Mrs. So-and-so's casserole (heaven forbid I don't like to eat green beans and my mother didn't force me to have a small portion of everyone's dish or that my dad couldn't eat something because he's diabetic!). So it's always been nice to just be us.

Our holiday routine has remained pretty much intact through the years. Other than the couple of times when we've had an extended family meal everything has pretty much stayed the same. Over the past few years the carving duties have been more shared and I've either helped or done it myself. We never have had any Christmas decorations up until, at least, the weekend after Thanksgiving. I like to take them one holiday at a time. Besides, I love the colors and the smells of autumn so much anyway that I want to enjoy them as much as I can rather than slip right into the reds and greens of Christmas. The number of people that already have Christmas lights up amazes me. I even saw one house fully lit by the weekend after Halloween! And that's just crazy.

So as the meals are prepared, the family and friends gather, and you all begin to reflect on your gratitude this season, I wish you all the Happiest of Thanksgivings! (And watch your back at the malls on Friday!)

How do you spend Thanksgiving? What are some traditions your family follows? What's changed since you've grown up?

Monday, November 21, 2005

Changing Relationships

I feel a sense of sadness, a sense of loss, when I realize that some friendships won't last for years and years beyond the season of life in which they were so important, so central to everyday life. Our lives are always changing, and some relationships don't survive change.

Beth summed it up rather well, I think. Check it out.

I've written about this topic a number of times, myself, yet I never seem to be able to make much sense out of the 'why' part. I've been reflecting a lot lately about friendship and family. Maybe it's because of how the holidays snuck up on me this year. Maybe I'm just feeling a bit depressed about things. Maybe I'm just tired from working so much over this past month. Whatever the reason, I still feel like I've lost something that was once important. Something that, if it had the chance, could have remained an extremely important part of my life even until now.

Looking back at all the friends I've had in the various towns and schools, I think the one friend I've had the longest that I still have a passing interaction with is Melanie whom I've known for about 13 years. Granted, the last time I saw her was over the summer for about 5 minutes when she was picking up her little brother from an event I was at and before that I hadn't seen her in about 6 years. My friend AJ and I have been good friends since high school but then lost touch and have recently reconnected for the second time. I still occasionally exchange emails with my friend Ryan from high school but everyone else seems to have slipped away.

I still send a few emails here and there to college friends on their birthdays and the like but they, too, have begun to fade out of my life. Only one or two have remained somewhat regular participants in my journey. I've known Beth for going on 7 years now, and while our friendship, as with all others, has had dry spells and rough patches, it has remained a source of comfort and joy during some of the hardest times over the past few years in particular. Likewise with my friend Audra. Even though she's in Texas, I know that she's just a phone call away and it will be like old times again.

I don't know why it happens that even the best of relationships can disappear leaving us feeling either guilty or somewhat resentful that one of us didn't do enough to keep it going. There are certainly many that I would like to catch up with and with whom I'd like to reestablish those once-special bonds. But, then again, maybe I just need to appreciate what we once had as a valuable part of that period of my life and move on. Either way, I want to try to make my current relationships strong and meaningful so they might withstand time's testing. And as I look ahead towards future relationships, I don't know what to expect. But I live in hope...

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Film Review: Derailed

Derailed, starring Clive Owen and Jennifer Aniston, is a worthy thriller.

After a chance meeting on the morning commute into downtown Chicago, Charles Schine (Owen) and Lucinda Harris (Aniston) begin a series of rendez-vous that ultimately leads to a night in an out of the way hotel. Their tryst is interrupted when a man barges in and demands their money. But it doesn't end there. The man continues to torment and blackmail Charles until he agrees to pay him $100K. Threatening the safety of his wife and ill daughter adds to the desperation of Schine's situation leading him to take risks that he would never imagine before.

Derailed takes standard film themes - adultery, coercion, money, betrayal - and puts an interesting spin on them. For me, the twist in the film was somewhat anticlimactic, if only because the suspicions I had from the first time I saw the trailer were proven correct. However, that's not to say the movie is predictable. Being the movie nerd that I am, always expecting the unexpected, I looked at the different scenarios that could potentially play out and I picked the one that I felt would be the most interesting to pursue given how other movies have turned out.

I'm not sure I'd go so far as to rank this film with the likes of Fatal Attraction, Disclosure, or Unfaithful, but it is certainly worth watching. I was not disappointed by the script, the story, or the performances of the cast. While it may appear to be a standard thriller, with the standard depth one would expect from such a film, I was relieved that Derailed took the story to that next level to keep your interest in a way that served the story. Definitely a good flick.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

I Won!

John over at Locusts & Honey holds an occasional caption contest. I always enjoy reading the tens of entries by his other loyal readers and will, from time to time, throw my own into the ring. To my surprise and delight, this time mine won! I must say though, he usually offers amazing prizes to the winners - like dates with other bloggers or the right to name someone's new baby - but not this time. I guess I'll let it slide!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

I'm Antonio Banderas... well, not really

I regularly watch Inside the Actor's Studio on Bravo. Being the movie nerd that I am, I enjoy learning how each performer came into their profession and why they choose the roles they do, etc.

I was looking on the show's website earlier to see if they had a clip from when Elton John was on. While explaining how he could come up with a song using any text, a student brought up a copy of Ibsen's Peer Gynt. Sure enough, he did it, and it was really good too!

Alas, I couldn't find it. But what I did find was a little personality profile game that matches your responses to James Lipton's questionnaire to those of some of the actors. For those of you who are unaware, at the end of each show Lipton asks every actor the same set of questions from Bernard Pivot's questionnaire:

  • What is your favorite word?
  • What is your least favorite word?
  • What is your favorite sound?
  • What is your least favorite sound?
  • What is your favorite curse word?
  • What turns you on?
  • What turns you off?
  • What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
  • What profession would you not like to participate in?
  • If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you reach the Pearly Gates?

According to my answers - based on multiple choice, unfortunately - I matched the closest with Antonio Banderas. Go figure...

If I were to really answer the questionnaire, I think my answers would be something like:

  • Favorite Word: Schwuptiwupts (sp? - German slang meaning "oops" - remember "w" sounds like "v")
  • Least Favorite: Anything said in hate or anger
  • Favorite Sound: Rain
  • Least Favorite: Open-mouth chewing (updated)
  • Curse: Shit
  • On: Friends who make me feel like I matter to them
  • Off: Single-mindedness
  • Profession: Travel writer/photographer (updated)
  • Profession I wouldn't want to try: Anything particularly smelly or involving serious violence or danger
  • God Says: "I love you and I'm proud of you."

How about you? Play the game. Who are you like? Do the questionnaire. What would you say?

Saturday, November 12, 2005

"Get Your War On"

Today I was listening to "To the Best of Our Knowledge" on NPR on my way home from a meeting. They were interviewing cartoonist David Rees about his comic strip "Get Your War On" - a Jon Stewart-esque look at politics and the War on Terrorism.

Rees needed some satirical release from all of the war talk back in 2001 and since he couldn't find it anywhere else he'd create it himself. The result is a strip about coworkers talking on the phone about world and national news. The art is plain to make it look unassuming, that is, until you get to the biting commentary in the bubbles. They cleaned it up a bit for the broadcast when they offered examples such as:

"Knock, Knock... Who's There?... Weapons of Mass Destruction... Oh, there you are!!!"
"Knock, Knock... Who's There?... Neo-Imperialism... Neo-Imperialism, who?... I just wanted to see if you could say it."


Friday, November 11, 2005

He's At It Again...

Pat Robertson... need I say more?

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Jason needs...

I got this from Beth:

Type in "your name needs" into Google and list your top ten results. I didn't use a couple that repeated or didn't make much sense. Here's mine:

1. Jason needs to SHUT UP...
2. Jason Needs Your Help
3. Jason needs to eat according to a controlled carbohydrate meal plan.
4. Jason needs to die already - he is the reason Smallville sucks so much. (Sorry about that...)
5. Jason needs to diet because he has become too fat. (Harsh...)
6. Jason needs to respect personal space when meeting new people. (I try to...)
7. Jason needs a real woman, not a little girl. (How true...)
8. Jason needs to carry his pitch fork and he is off for a fun filled evening. (That's what I call a good time...)
9. Jason needs 2 stop acting like he is such a P*I*M*P* (I didn't think I was...)
10. Jason needs to remain in therapy. (I may need to start after this...)

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Outside Looking In

Over the past three days, I have been working with one of our bigger clients as they met for their annual state-wide gathering. All in all, it was a successful event on our side of things. Sure, there were a few glitches but we carried on and made it all come together. (There was a series of power outages the first night which messed a few things up and the power went off again overnight last night which reset a number of things and caused some issues.) We were using the facility's projectors which, to be honest, are older and not as effective as ours would've been. C'est la vie. Those in charge were pleased with our work and we feel good that they feel good.

The organizing staff, with whom we work on a number of projects year-round, are great people. The support staff, in particular, are a group of outstanding women who do some amazing work. They are extremely friendly, hospitable, and are some of the warmest people we have the pleasure of serving. We've worked with them for a number of years now and have developed more of a partnership in many ways, as opposed to a client-vendor sort of relationship.

All that being said, this was an emotionally difficult few days. While we and the staff shared some good times joking around and relieving some of the stress a large event brings to those responsible for making things run smoothly, I had a hard time feeling at ease there. Without going into much detail, the presenters who spoke over the course of the event rubbed me the wrong way - confirming the fact that had I not been there for work, I would never attend such a meeting. It's not about them personally, really. In all truth, I found most of them to be very nice people who speak very well in front of groups - I respect this skill because I don't feel I have it and I appreciate it when those I am listening to do.

What got to me was the content of their presentations. (I know it's hard to see where I'm coming from if I won't come out with the specifics, or even the general ideas, but I think it's best to leave it a little more vague given our working relationship.) While they continued on through their talks, nearly every sentence - or, at least, every other one - seemed to be coming from a source of fear and desperation. They, themselves weren't afraid or desperate, to the contrary they were extremely confident, but they seemed to be spreading a certain amount of fear. And to hear the sounds of agreement and affirmation from the crowd made me a bit uncomfortable that what was coming out of the speaker's mouth was falling on receptive ears...

And there I was, one of only two people in the entire room of over 500 that felt the exact opposite. I must say though, one of the upsides was that the band, while a little too loud for my taste, was quite good.

As a cameraman at events such as this I am often positioned somewhere along the center aisle about 4 rows from the front almost directly in front of the podium. So basically, I am surrounded. And it was really hard to have to listen to this stuff for three days straight without any escape. Let me tell you, I was about as focussed on my camera work as I have ever been! My eyes rarely left my monitor and I was smoother than ever!

At the end, when we were finally all packed up and out the door, I felt weary. Events like this are normally tiring and physically demanding during setup and striking and my right shoulder is usually quite sore from being elevated while running camera. Usually, though, it's not as emotionally taxing. The only events that left me with a similar feeling were General Conferences. What I felt at those conferences was on a different level which was certainly much more personal and painful. This time, though, I was about as fatigued as a bystander could be.

It was tough.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Driving Home

As I pulled out of the parking lot and into the street, headed for the for the highway, I was reminded of old times.

The times aren't so old - they were really only over the past couple of years - but they harkened back to a slower, more relaxed period of time. Nights when I couldn't sleep and had a lot on my mind I would get dressed, hop in the car, and just drive. There isn't anywhere I would go, in particular, I would just hit the web of major roads around the area. There's something about the darkness and the quiet and the glow of a single set of headlights in the night...

I would take these opportunities to think out whatever was weighing on me, to consider options, to figure things out. It's an enjoyable time, all in all.

From time to time, now that I live a little farther from work, I am asked how I like the commute. Before, my drive in only took about 3-5mins depending on the lights. Now, it takes about 20 - it will be longer once the area gets attacked by all the lake-effect snow off of Lake Ontario. It's not a bad drive, really. In the mornings it gives me a chance to get up to speed before work, and in the evenings it gives me some time to decompress a bit.

Despite missing out on the peak of the leaves, driving through the somewhat wooded, rural corridor each day does offer some great views of skyscapes and forested hills. Before, I would be lucky if I saw a bird or someone walking their dog on my way in. Now that I live where I do it isn't out of the realm of possibility that I might come across a deer or two on the foggy slopes that line the way.

Even though I spend so much time in my solitary confinement, I enjoy the time I get to myself during my daily journeys. While tangentially listening to NPR and commuting to and from a place where I actually get things done, it offers something different from my lonely life. I feel like I'm doing something instead of sitting at home wondering what to do.

From right now, I have roughly 33 hours before I have to be anywhere. I can do anything, go just about anywhere. Will I drive just to drive? Will I go do something new? What comes next? More of the same? Or something else?

Film Review: Good Night, and Good Luck.

Tonight I once again ventured out to one of the environments I dread: the mall. I don't like big crowds of people and I don't like feeling invisible as people constantly brush by, when there is so much room for them to go around!

Good Night, and Good Luck. opened today. It tells the behind-the-scenes story of the media battle between Edward R. Murrow and Senator Joe McCarthy in the early 1950s. It was directed, co-written, and co-stars George Clooney and features a large cast of well-known actors including David Strathairn - who does a great job in portraying the broadcasting icon - Robert Downey Jr., Jeff Daniels, Patricia Clarkson, and Frank Langella.

Not having grown up during the time of the House Un-American Activites Committee (HUAC) - when my parents, themselves, were still learning to walk and talk - and having only a passing knowledge of the subject, I found the film to be rather informative and, as far as I could tell, was a good representation of the debate that ensued between the powerful senator and the highly respected journalist.

While, at times, it felt a touch slow and could've used a little more... something... Good Night, and Good Luck. was a well thought out, worthy-watch. The film, while set 50 years ago, is timely when considering the political situation in our own country. It calls for accountability in leadership and simply asks that those in power do not go unchecked. There is a responsibility for due process before hasty decisions, for integrity in proceedings, and for avoiding even the appearance of impropriety. McCarthy accused those with whom he disagreed of being anti-American. When he turned his sights on Murrow - a journalist of unquestionable character who earned the trust and respect of the people during his rooftop reports during the bombings of London by the Germans - it was the beginning of the end.

Good Night, and Good Luck. is certainly worth a trip to the theater. Whether you are a history buff, a fan of the period-piece, or just a film enthusiast you will find this to be quality cinema.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Under a Strange Light

One of the interesting things about autumn in Central New York is how light plays in the evening. As I left work today, the sun was still bright as it began to set behind the cloud-filled sky. It shone a fairly diffuse, indirect light evenly blanketing the neighborhood in calming tones. The centerpiece of the front lawn is a tall oak, still filled with golden leaves even as all others have shed theirs. As the light came down and made its way through the branches, it was transformed into a strange yellow glow over everything.

It was kinda cool...

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Advising the President

As regular readers know I rarely, if ever, talk politics here. As part of my normal routine, I listen to my local NPR station on the drive to/from work and I read through the headlines on CNN.com a couple of times a day. I'm not really a news junkie but I think it's important to be aware of what's going on out there.

Tonight, as I read through some of the stories on CNN.com, I came across a collection of emails sent in from people across the country as advice for President Bush on how to do a better job. Now, I'm not going to comment on whether or not I agree with any of these in particular. I found that I agree with parts and I disagree with parts and I'm not sure about others. There was one, however, that I felt was on the right track, given my observations of this administration:

He has to include Democrats in the process of governing. The "either you're with me or you're against me" attitude is one of his biggest shortcomings. I resent his attitude that because I disagree with him on something makes me somehow less of a citizen. Bernie Clemens, Indianapolis, Indiana

I am not registered with any political party, however, I tend to agree more often with the Dems. There are a lot of issues on which I am rather moderate. That said, I think what Bernie, here, is saying has some real merit. Through the judicial nomination process, through legislation that is sent through, the president seems to be totally ignoring those on the other side of the aisle from whence he came. Granted, he was elected and is going to promote his view of how to direct the course of the country. But we all live here and he should realize that he needs to make decisions that encompass more than just his own point of view. To be a responsible leader means honestly and openly looking at all sides and doing what benefits the most people. Compromise is key. He constantly talked about being a "uniter not a divider" as he campaigned and yet he continues to divide.

I didn't really want to get into a political discussion but with everything over the past month or two, especially, my confidence in his ability to lead has fallen below the low esteem I held him in before.