Archive for May, 2012

In the beginning of the new story I just started, you meet the main character just as she’s going out into an arena – a modern rendition of the colosseum. So, it seems only fitting that today’s trip would take us to Italy, and that we would focus on the historical place that has such a long and tragic tale.

(P.S. Click on the pictures to see them REALLY BIG.)

First, let’s delve into a little backstory. It’s an amphitheatre smack-dab in the middle of Rome and is actually the largest one ever built in the Roman Empire. Work began in 72AD and didn’t finish for about another eight years. It can hold 50,000 people – which (to me at least) seems like A LOT considering the population of the world back then compared to now. But this is a modern estimation. Ancient estimations put the numbers at almost 90,000 people.

Not currently full of 50,000 people, but it seems like it could definitely hold that many, doesn’t it?

Most people know that it was used for gladiatorial fights – which is true – but it was also used for mock sea battles, animal hunts, executions, re-enactments of famous battles, and theatre productions (think Oedipus).

What might be even more interesting is that during the Middle Ages, these things stopped and it was turned into a place for workshops, as well as housing for a religious order. It also doubled as a fortress and a Christian shrine.

This is one of the crosses to remember the fallen. Also, you can see the pock marks in the background where the bronze beams used to be.

The typical shape of the colosseum (as seen below) is a result of earthquakes and people who have taken both stone and bronze (part of the structure) out in order to use it elsewhere. The arena floor was simply made out of wood and was covered in sand. The two-story passageways underneath were where both gladiators and animals were kept before the contests.

Here’s a shot of the arena floor, minus the…uh…arena floor. This is the part that would’ve been covered in wooden floorboards and sand.

Here’s the same shot, but from the opposite end.

Here’s a a close-up of the passageways found underneath the arena floor.

Interesting (if somewhat disgusting) facts:

  • 9,000 wild animals were killed during the inaugural games
  • The arena was eventually converted into a cemetery
  • It has been used over the years as a symbol in the international campaign against capital punishment

    These are the vomitoria, and how people got in and out of the structure so quickly. Each arch is its own entranceway.

  • Tickets given during events were in the form of shards of pottery with numbers on them
  • People reached their seat via the vomitoria – a series of passageways that allowed the building to be filled up and cleared out within a matter of minutes
  • Vomitoria comes from the Latin word for “rapid discharge” – and yes, that’s where we get our word “vomit” from
  • Animals used in the arena weren’t just limited to lions and leopards, but included rhinos, elephants, hippos, crocodiles, giraffes, bears, and even ostriches
  • Although it’s debated by historians, there are accounts that the colosseum could be flooded to provide an arena for the mock sea battles

I really enjoyed being at the colosseum because it has such a well-known history that you can’t help but be in awe by the fact that you’re standing in the same place literally billions of people have passed through over the course of the years.

And that’s actually one of my favorite things about Italy: you walk down the road and see modern buildings and modern technology and modern people, then BAM. You have this 2,000 year old structure right there in front of you. Italy is a great example of the modern and the ancient colliding every day and yet still surviving.

20th century lamp post and 2,000-year-old arena of death? No biggie.

Have you been to Italy? Seen the colosseum? Have you ever been in a place where “our” world was so clearly juxtaposed next to the ancient world?

(After re-reading this post, I just have to warn you that I may have gotten a little carried away… But hopefully all the videos are entertaining enough to make up for that, and you’ll be patient enough to stick with me till the end!)

If you’ve been subscribed to this blog for awhile, you’ll know that I really enjoy dancing. I might not be the best dancer in the world (though I’m convinced that if I had some training I’d be pretty good), but I love watching other people dance. I don’t watch a lot of dancing shows like So You Think You Can Dance or Dancing with the Stars, but one show that I’ve been with since the beginning is America’s Best Dance Crew.

This show takes various dance crews from all around the nation (and sometimes from other countries) and challenges them to complete various tests – dancing in new styles, using props, creating a story, etc. The show is currently in its seventh season, and even though it’s not what it once was, I can’t bring myself to not watch it.

Why I Like It

This show focuses mostly on hip-hop styles, which I think are vastly underrated. I have respect for anyone who dances – ballet, tap, ballroom, b-boy, etc. But I don’t think it’s a two-way mirror. A lot of people don’t respect street dancing like they do “regular” dancing. This show helps showcase this type of dancing and exposes a lot more people to it. It’s a beautiful thing.

This show also brings various crews from around the country right into your living room. Some of these crews have been through a lot – homelessness, car accidents, death of family members. You feel for these people and you want to see them succeed. All they want to do is live their dream – and can we blame them for that? If you’re a writer, I’m sure you know exactly how they feel.

I also really love the hosts. Judges can make or break a reality TV show, much as has been done by American Idol for me. There’s a panel of three of them and JC Chasez (from N*Sync) and Lil’ Mama (a rapper, singer, dancer) have been there since day one. The first four seasons started out with Shane Sparks (whom I loved) but he was naughty and got in trouble. He was replaced with Omarion, but I think he was naughty and got in trouble too. Finally, ABDC seems to have scored with D-trix, who was a member of the season 3 winning group Quest Crew. JC is like the Simon of the show, since he’s probably the most honest. BUT he’s not mean, he just says it like it is. He’s about the only one who gets booed at, but I think what he says is the most constructive advice the crews get. He’s definitely my favorite.

And lastly, let’s state the obvious: the dancing. These people are incredible. I have so much appreciation for what they do, and it’s just insane how good some of them are. I’ve learned so much about different styles and terminology from watching this show. Everyone, from the champions to the crew that may have been kicked off in the first season, are all so, so talented.

My Favorite Crews

Like I said before, I’ve been watching this show for seven years. The first season is still my favorite, but I’ve since fallen in love with various crews throughout the whole series. Here’s a few videos of some of my favorite performances. If you’re interested, I’ve provided a link to compilation videos so you can see all of the routines from that crew.

JabbaWockeeZ – “Ayo Technology” (These guys are the season 1 winners and are generally considered to be the best crew to ever have graced the ABDC stage.)
Compilation Video


Kaba Modern – “Sensual Seduction” (Although it’s really, REALLY hard to pick, these guys are probably my favorite crew (season 1 runner-ups) and this is probably my all time favorite performance overall. I’ve probably watched it a hundred times.)
Compilation Video


Fanny Pak – “Get Your Freak On” (This one was absolutely incredible and definitely one of the best performances I’ve ever seen. They were season 3 third place winners.)
Compilation Video


Vogue Evolution – “Calabria 2008″ (I love this crew because they are so proud of who they are. And voguing is just awesome in general. They came in fifth place on season 4.)
Compilation Video


We Are Heroes – “Vogue” (This crew was the first ever all-girl group to win (season 4) and there were all sorts of emotions when I saw them take that trophy. These girls are fierce, and they can do anything a guy can do!)
Compilation Video


I aM Me – “S&M” (This crew won season 6 and are by far the most creative crew I’ve ever seen.)
Compilation Video


 
(Okay, that was A LOT harder than I thought it would be. Some of them have SO many good performances.)

ABDC Season 7

Season 7 has so far been much better than some of the previous ones. I’m invested in a lot more crews, instead of just one or two, and I’m actually wowed by performances each week. There were a few seasons there right in the middle that I just didn’t care about.

So, here’s a quick rundown on my favorite crews. Let’s see if I can correctly guess the winner, too. ;)

  1. Fanny Pak – They decided to return for a second chance but were just kicked off last week. I’m really on the fence about that because they’re one of my all-time favorite crews. However, I’m not sure they should’ve come back in the first place. They had their chance, you know? It was nice seeing them again, but their previous routines have stuck with me a lot more than these recent ones.
  2. 8 Flavahz – There was a group on last year called ICONic Boyz. They were a crew of very young (like, maybe 12-year-old?) boys. They were good, but they weren’t great. However, they did happen to come in second place. Their dancing was on point, but the routines were just lackluster to me and I don’t think they should’ve made it that far. 8 Flavahz is like the girl version of ICONic Boyz, but they. are. amazing. Seriously. I’m just blown away each and every week by how incredible their routines are. I honestly hope they win. Here’s a clip of my favorite one so far:  
  3. Most Wanted Crew – This is a crew made up of dance teachers, and I love everything that they represent. They’re an incredible crew, but they’re hit and miss with me sometimes. They need to be amazing every week to win, but I think they probably have the best chances of doing it. I guess time will only tell!

Have you seen this show before? Did you like any of the videos above? Which one was your favorite?

ROW80 – R2C8

Posted: May 27, 2012 in ROW80
Tags: , , ,

I’m going to apologize now for the fact that you’ll be getting three blog posts in a row from me. (This is because I was too lazy busy to put one up on Friday.) I have been trying out a new schedule, though, and I think I like it so far.  I always have tons of ideas for posts, but I tend to write them at the last minute because I never know what I want to do first. This new schedule definitely keeps me on track, and I’m able to spread my content more evenly. Mondays are for entertainment – TV shows, movie reviews, music. Wednesdays are all about art, which includes the Wandering Bard posts. And Fridays are freebie days where I delve into some random and fun things, like my Featured Videos. And of course Sundays are always for ROW80.

This week was better than the last few I had, but I’m still feeling overwhelmed. It’s funny because I don’t feel like I’m doing a lot. But I think I have two sides of myself warring with each other. The creative side wants to write! And write a lot! She wants to keep writing and it doesn’t matter what it is – it doesn’t matter that I have nearly 3 projects “complete,” she wants to start new things. And the other side of me (the practical one, which doesn’t hold as much power but might be able to yell just a little louder) keeps prodding me in the back, telling me I need to finish editing, look for agents, get myself out there.

It’s exhausting.

I gave into my creative side this week, and I think I’m going to do the same for next week. Hopefully it’ll allow me to relax a little bit and maybe get back on track with some of the other things my practical side wants me to do.

  1. Exercise for half an hour each day, five days a week. Incomplete. I did this three of the five days and even though I feel guilty, I’m not going to worry about it. Three is better than none. It’s been hot here lately, so I kind of wimped out on Thursday and Saturday (since I was busy Friday). Hopefully this week will be better.
  2. Each Sunday, visit Writer’s Market for at least half an hour. Incomplete. I knew I wasn’t going to do this one this week, so I don’t feel bad.
  3. Write Every Day. Incomplete. I missed Thursday and Friday, but I’ve been fairly pro-active on this new WIP I’m working on. It’s funny though, because I feel so into this story…but it’s just not coming out. I think I need a change in scenery. I hate being in the open and hearing cars driving down the road. Stick me in the middle of the woods and I could probably write all day.
  4. Read every day. Incomplete. I’ve been actively trying to do better with this, but it definitely got the better of me for a few days.
  5. Finish writing “Found” and then decide which stories definitely make the cut. Incomplete. Oops. I may have forgotten about this one…

So, even though technically I didn’t complete any of my goals, there’s still progress there. This coming week is a new one and I’m ready to get started on it! (Plus, three day weekend…hello!)

I love mushrooms. Like, a lot. I mean, I really, really love them. This is ironic because I never used to. When I was younger, I wouldn’t touch the things. Not in a million years! Then, one day (or so it seemed), I suddenly craved them. I remember being at the salad bar in college, eyeing them. Should I or shouldn’t I? It’d been a while since I tried them and I was feeling brave. Plus, I wanted to eat healthier (hence, the salad). Sure, why not?

Okay, so they weren’t amazing. But I actually didn’t mind them. The next day I tried more. And then I started looking forward to eating them (yes, I’m one of those weird types of people that gets excited about food and wakes up thinking, Yay! Breakfast time!). Then I suddenly wanted them on everything – salads and burgers and steaks, oh my! And in every which way – raw and cooked and in piles of onions.

Long story short, I really, really like mushrooms now. So much so, that I get a little sentimental when someone brings me pizza or salad that has mushrooms on it. I tend to profess my undying love to said person in situations like these. (And no, I’m not exaggerating here. This really does happen.)

So, what do you think my answer was when I found out that we had a mushroom society and that they were going on a foray in mid-May?

I answered that question with three of my own: when, where, and CAN WE EAT THEM???

I found out that it was on May 19, that it was about 20 minutes away, and that YES, WE CAN EAT THEM!!!

I was sold.

So, my dad and I piled into the car and drove into the sunrise (okay, it wasn’t that early, but I hate mornings) and toward the Susquehanna Valley Mycological Society’s meeting place. When we got there, I was a little intimidated. It seemed like a lot of people already knew each other, and we were newbies. Luckily, someone nice (who was also a newbie) came over and started talking to us. Yay, friends!

When the ball finally got rolling, we got a lesson in what we were looking for: morels. They were the biggies, the diamonds in the rough, the oasis in the middle of the desert, the…well, you get the idea.

(ALL pictures come from SVMS’s website and ALL credit goes to them! Also, these are all from previous years.)

Morels look like this:

Weird, right? These things are hard to find. We found them under ash trees and apple trees, but there are some other spots where they pop up. In all the places we found them, there was typically only a group of two or three. We spent a couple of hours in the woods and only came back with 16 of them. It was worth it though! (Even if I didn’t find any myself :(.)

Next up, we have Dryad’s Saddle.

These are definitely way too big to eat.

These are typically found on dying elms. (Note to self: learn different kinds of trees, will make finding edible mushrooms easier.) They can get HUGE. They are edible, but you really only want to eat the smaller ones, as they’re much more tender than the big ones. We could just barely tear off a chunk on a big one, so imagine what it’d be like to try to eat it – yuck! (And I found a group of these all by myself, whoo!!)

Oh – and we found a few oyster mushrooms too. They threw them in with the Dryad’s Saddle.

The last main type that we stumbled across were called rubber cups. I found some of these too! Dad picked one and handed it to me to hold onto for a minute. And then I threw it. On purpose. In my defense, there was a nice sized spider sitting on my hand and I wasn’t thinking clearly. Luckily, there were enough that we could pick another one.

I lied. This is actually from the Wiki article because the pictures from my foray aren’t online yet.

These are generally considered inedible around here, but apparently they eat them pretty regularly in Malaysia.

So, I had tons of fun! The people were all fantastic – very welcoming and knowledgeable. I doubted anyone felt out of place once we all bonded over the hunting process. Looking for mushrooms in the forest is like going on a treasure hunt, and I can tell that this is quickly going to become an obsession for me. Also, the food there was incredible. This isn’t your typical get-together. These people can cook. And of course pretty much everyone made something with mushrooms in it. (I brought chocolate chip cookies – lame.)

If that year was anything like this year, there would be another table laden down with food in addition to this one.

But I know what you’re thinking right – what about those mushrooms? Those mushrooms that you pulled from the forest and ate. What did they taste like? Well…nothing, really. They weren’t slimy or chewy or weird in consistency (and more so than your typical mushroom). They had a slight taste to them, but it wasn’t anything overwhelming. They would be better suited for putting into other dishes than just eating them on their own. Either that or they could’ve used some serious seasoning. But, in the end, I liked them and I would definitely keep trying new varieties.

Here are some lessons I learned:

  1. I know nothing about mushrooms, except that I like them.
  2. Bring a basket. Plastic bags aren’t good (they don’t spread the spores so more mushrooms can grow).
  3. I definitely ate a wider array of mushrooms on this day than I have in my entire life.
  4. Wearing my Hunger Games t-shirt made me feel invincible, even if no one knew what it was.
  5. Plan all other events around the weekends of the forays, because this is going to become a regular thing.

So, there you have it! That’s what a mushroom foray is like. Next time – oh, there will be a next time – I’ll be more prepared. And I’ll take my own pictures. And I’ll have another post for you guys.

Do you like mushrooms? If not, how come? If you do, what’s the weirdest looking one you’ve eaten?

(P.S. Please do your civic duty and add one more page view to their website. It’s totally worth it. Check out all the pictures, and the great commentary the photographer has on just about every single one. You’ll get a good laugh, I promise.)

The other day, Jessica O’Neal posted about the Greek Titans and it reminded me of one of my favorite paintings of all time: Saturn Devouring his Children (also known as Saturn Devouring his Son, but I was taught the first title in school, so that’s what I’m stick with here!) by Francisco de Goya. For those of you who are unfamiliar, here is a nice picture of it. (Warning: It isn’t for the faint of heart.)

Saturn Devouring his Children by Francisco de Goya

Isn’t that…interesting? Gruesome would probably be a better word for it. Goya was a Spanish painter who lived from 1746 to 1828. Most of his paintings were beautiful pieces of work, but there was a time near the end of his life that the subject matter became much, much darker. This may have been due to declining health and a sense of paranoia that could have been a result of dementia or some sort of brain damage. A series of paintings that include the one above have come to be known as his “black” paintings for their dark nature – both in style/color and content.

Portrait of Francisco Goya by Vicente López y Portaña

These paintings were first done on the walls of his home between 1819 and 1823. They were later taken from the walls and transferred to canvas (I’m not totally sure how that works, but I won’t argue). They now hang in the Museo del Prado in Spain. Most of them have had to be restored, and in the process they may have been painted a wee bit darker than the original. Saturn is probably the one with the least amount of damage.

So, what is this painting about? Well, I highly recommend reading Jess’ post, as that gives a great rundown on the story of the Titans. In particular, this painting focuses on Cronus (which is just the Greek name for Saturn, and I’m a traditionalist, so I prefer the Greek names…) eating his children. Why did he do this you ask? Well, he heard a prophecy that said he would be overthrown by one of his kids. He swallowed his children in order to avoid the prophecy, but he was tricked into thinking he had gotten them all. In reality, Zeus was kept safe until the day he overthrew his father and forced him to regurgitate the other kids.

I love this painting, despite the disgusting nature of it. I was lucky enough to see it when I went to the Prado Museum and boy is it bigger than I thought it would be! It stands about 5 feet tall, which definitely lends itself to the painting. It makes it feel bigger and scarier than it already is. I was also physically affected by the painting – being that close to such a rendering of this myth actually made me a little queasy (and I don’t have a weak stomach). It was…pretty awesome! To be physically affected by anything – art, music, writing – means that the artist has done their job well.

The only qualm I have is that Cronus doesn’t actually eat his children. He swallows them whole and is then forced into throwing up each one. But the painting makes a statement nonetheless, and there are many theories as to what the meaning behind it was: the conflict between age and youth, that time conquers all (Cronus basically = father time), or even as an allegory for what was going on in Spain. Like most paintings, there are several interpretations and you should always go with the one that speaks most to you, which might not be the one that you were told is “right.”

(As an interesting side note, Goya had six sons and only one survived to adulthood. Maybe this myth particularly hit home for him, as Zeus was the sixth born of Cronus and Rhea.)

So, what do you think? Do you like or dislike the painting? Did it make you feel anything in particular when you first saw it? Are you familiar with anything else done by Goya?

If you recognize any other works by Goya, it’s probably this one – The Nude Maja

Bottom Line:

Watch it.

Details:

[No spoilers]

So, last week I shared my thoughts on the TV show Firefly. This week, I’m here to talk about Serenity, the follow-up movie that was made in 2005. As I mentioned before, Firefly only made it through the first season before it was taken from the air. Joss Whedon decided to make a movie to tie up loose ends and give loyal fans of the show some closure.

Whereas Firefly was a show about Mal and his crew, Serenity was very much a movie about Simon and River. River was the driving force behind the plot in Firefly in a lot of ways. It was because of her that the crew had to keep running from the Alliance – more than usual, anyway. But in the movie, River is the plot. She begins to act out, sometimes in dangerous ways, and Simon has to find a way to control her before Mal is forced to kick her off the ship. All this goes down while they have an intelligent and deadly assassin right on their heels.

So, how did this movie shape up against the show? Fairly well, actually. I watched it a few days after I saw the season finale of Firefly and I didn’t notice any major discrepancies. It felt exactly the same – just like an extra long episode. There were some things that threw me off a little bit, but I wasn’t sure if that was because I wasn’t paying attention, or because the movie didn’t do a good job of explaining it.

I definitely liked knowing a bit more about River and what it was like to be inside her head. She’s an incredible character with such a rich and complex personality. Summer Glau had a lot of time to shine in this movie, and she definitely delivered. Simon was also a bit more fleshed out, which was nice to see. I especially liked seeing some of the more lighthearted moments that they both brought to the table this time around.

I also liked some of the development with the other characters. Certain relationships came to a close. I’m happy with all of them, even if they all didn’t get a happy ending (and that’s as much as I’m going to say about that).  I’ve come to terms with it, and regardless of my personal feelings, it was good storytelling.

Also? Best tagline ever.

I also want to point out that River is not someone I’d want to mess with. She had some pretty action-packed fight sequences in the movie, and I was so, so happy to see that. Again, Summer Glau was just incredible and there was some beautiful choreography here.

So, what didn’t I like? Well, I didn’t like that it was over. These characters are so realistic and well thought out that you end up investing a lot of time and emotion into them. It’s sad to think that we might never get something new from this world.

It also left a few questions open. One in particular was Book’s backstory. It wasn’t a necessary thing to know, and maybe it was Joss’ way of leaving room open for a sequel of some sort, but I would’ve liked to have known who he really was.

Have you watched Firefly yet? What about Serenity?  What did you think of them? Was there anything in Serenity that didn’t sit well with you?

Please note that the comments section is NOT a spoiler-free zone. Feel free to talk about anything to do with Firefly and Serenity, as I’d really like to have a good discussion with other fans of the show. If you haven’t seen either one yet, proceed into the comments with caution!

ROW80 – R2C7

Posted: May 20, 2012 in ROW80
Tags: , , ,

This was a great week – much better than the last few that I’ve had to suffer through. Let’s get right into it:

  1. Exercise for half an hour each day, five days a week. Done! I ran on the treadmill for four of the days. Then on Friday I ran around with a 10 week old puppy. I’m not really counting that toward my goal, but it definitely got my heart pumping (he is fast!!). But yesterday, I walked around in the woods looking for mushrooms (more on that later this week), and that was DEFINITELY a workout.
  2. Each Sunday, visit Writer’s Market for at least half an hour. Incomplete. This is the first time in a few weeks that I haven’t gotten this done. And I’m not sure I’m going to get around to it today either. I feel more motivated to write lately, and that’s what I want to concentrate on. I just don’t need the added stress of WM right now.
  3. Write every day. Done. The first few days were a little spotty. I only wrote about a paragraph or two in the beginning of the week. But by the time I hit Wednesday or Thursday, I started in on a new story. It’s not something I really wanted to do (as in have another project to concentrate on), but this story has been “speaking” to me for quite awhile. When I can’t get something out of my head, I take that as a sign. The other stories aren’t moving along very well at the moment, so I decided to concentrate on this new one to see if it helps pick up the pace on the other ones too. Writing is writing!
  4. Read every day. Done. I’m not reading as much as I want to (about a page a day, which is horrible), but I’m making other things a priority. I’m hoping to concentrate on this goal a little bit more in this coming week.
  5. Finish writing “Found” and then decide which stories DEFINITELY make the cut. Incomplete. I wrote a little bit more in this story, but it’s far from done. I also didn’t even think about which stories I definitely want in my collection (though I have a pretty solid mental list). I’ll do it this week.

How are you guys doing? Tell me one fabulous thing that happened to you this week – big or small! (Mine is that this is my 100th post!!)