Louisiana Trip

Hezakiah's Hands - Lake Charles Trip

I’m back at my parents’ home after having spent the week with my dad doing volunteer work in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

Dad is a member of a local organization called Hezakiah’s Hands (it’s associated with his church).  He’s done several projects with the group, so I figured, it being important to Dad, I’d volunteer.  It was a great experience.  The group of people traveling down country (there were 18 of us) was a blast during the long ride.  We had a great time. I was amazed by Lake Charles.  It’s been a few years now since the devisitation of Hurricane Ike, but the ramifications persist.  Of course, living in the places where I’ve lived, where hurricanes don’t really exist, I felt kinda ignorant having been surprised that yes, it does take a long time to rebuild a community.  We would drive along the main thoroughfairs and all looked fine.  Once we ventured off the main drag, though, we’d see empty lots, boarded houses, and houses that shouldn’t be inhabited.

The first day’s shock was seeing the conditions of some of these places.  The habit, in Louisiana, is to raise houses from the ground, sometimes on pylons, but most of the stuff we saw was raised in a few blocks.  One house was perched precariously over a veritable pool of grey water that had gathered beneath it.  Its blocks were cockeyed in every direction from the force of wind and water.  Some room’s floors dropped half a foot or more over the length of 12 feet.  The shock the next day was when it sank in that a contractor had caused the pool.  The homeowners had sunk their lifesavings into saving their home, part of that project was building earth under their house to keep out water.  The contractor, instead, heaped earth around the perimeter of the house making it appear to have been filled in.  The perimeter just created walls for the collecting pool.  The underside of the house was rot and mold that had permeated all the way to the laminate flooring of their living room.

 

The people we met were wonderful.  We were treated to homecooked meals (smothered quail? – I’ll show you the photos later).  As I left one site, the lady of the house hugged me.

 

During the course of the trip, I took a few hours of footage on my D300s.  I will get it uploaded sometime soon.  I need to get to my equipment in my apartment first.  Too much footage to hack on my laptop:)  Meanwhile, I’m posting a photo of the group.  We were working in cooperation with the Presbyterian Disaster Assitance (hence, the shirts).  As always, I try to avoid religion in any of my discussions.  My beliefs are very personal, but universal in nature, and I’ll just leave it at that.

“All it takes to keep a man alive is…”

“… a positive attitude.” That’s what my friend said sitting next to me on the bench. I know we can all quibble about what it takes to keep a man alive and maybe come up with something else more poetic, but it wouldn’t be true, because the man who spoke this knows about staying alive in ways you and I don’t. My friend, William, spends his days in Rittenhouse Park, and his evenings, often times, at a train station. He has no formal residence. He has diabetes and has illnesses that come and go. This has been one of the harshest winters in Philadelphia history. Yet the man spends more time during our conversations talking about how to help other people, than talking about himself.

“All it takes to keep a man alive is a positive attitude. I could be lying on my back, dying somewhere, but I’m not.” There are other people in his situation who have gone over the edge. William offered one of them a sandwich yesterday, but the man declined preferring to “eat out of trashcans because his mind is so messed up.” William is not in that state and he’s thankful for that. He’s looking forward to the weekend, when we might see the mid 40s or possibly the bottom 50s. He’s looking forward to be able to take off his gnit hat and loosening his coat. He always asks me how my project is going and “how’s your girlfriend?”

Before I moved to Philly, I came to visit from LA, of all places, sometime around August. That’s the first time I saw that guy sitting there on the bench. I’m not kidding: 7 out of 10 people seemed to know him. Every 3rd person stopped to say hi. There’s a reason. He exudes optimism. He exudes joy. At that time, I actually said “hi” and we talked a bit. He introduced himself. I introduced myself. The funny thing was, I thought about him when I flew back to California. Two months later, when I moved to Philly, and I saw him, he recognized me “It’s Seth, isn’t it?”

I don’t know where I’m going with this, other than to iterate what we all should already know, and maybe too often deny. It’s not cheesy. It’s not oversimplifying, but it should never be considered profound. It should be obvious. “All it takes to keep a man alive is a positive attitude.”

A Moment at LAX

A little over a month ago, I saw something at LAX that I really should put down here for you to read.

I arrived on an evening Delta flight from JFK.  The plane was packed.  I was seated in the very back, left side, window seat.  Obviously, it took a long time before I could even stand up.  I sat there, staring out into the dark cut with floodlights from the terminal.  About 50 meters away was another Delta jet with two firetrucks to its left and right.  Lights on.  I was concerned.  You see firetrucks once in a while, running excercises, but not too often arranged like this.  But then I understood.  An honor guard of what I’m confident were marines processed to the plane.  I saw a family begin to assemble.  The woman next to me asked what I found so interesting.  I told her I think a fallen soldier is being returned home.  She looked out the window and said, “I feel so bad for those people waiting to get off that jet.”  (there was a beat or two of silence)  I couldn’t believe I heard that.  I like to believe she just didn’t understand what was transpiring.

I disembarked, with the last of the passengers.  As I walked the jetway, my heart was in my throat.  You hear about this, but you don’t see it with your eyes.  In the terminal, the windows facing the scene were obscured.  Everyone here was oblivious.  I walked toward baggage claim and saw a single pane of glass where a gentleman stood in silence, watching.  Here, one could see that beyond the luggage equipment, beyond the dark, floodlights shown on a family.  Some hugging.  Some crying.  A white box coming down from the plane and a hearse waiting below.  I had never seen this.  I had tried to imagine a few times what this was like for these families, but I saw them there and saw their faces.  At one moment at LAX, I felt I was intruding on something extremely private, and at the same time, seeing something maybe we all should understand, because in one way or another, we’re a part of it.  The casket was loaded and the hearse drove off into the dark.  

I turned slowly to baggage claim.  My legs moved and my body followed.

Change in the sand

There was a time when I feared change, but somewhere between then and the present, something induced me to crave it.  The question as to what caused that reversal is not of my concern and better left to students of the psyche.  What does matter to me are the ramifications of change and the progression of experience.  A few years ago, I had never even been to the west coast.  I was 24 before I left Eastern Standard Time on my way to France.  There was a time when I would only order the same foods, go to the same restaurants, listen to the same music.  Maybe it wasn’t all fear of change, but maybe I just didn’t need it.

As I write this entry, I’m actually using my sketchbook and sitting on the sand at Marina Del Rey in Los Angeles.  I decided to take the day off and enjoy some time in LA.  This experience feels so different to me: the sounds, the people, suntime and “warmth” in winter. Everything about me feels like change.  Everyone around me feels like change.  The times of the world feel like change: for good or ill.  Sometimes, I wonder where it is all going. 

 

Lack of Entries – – BouncyCzech.wordpress.com

So, it’s late.  Been a busy week thus far, and, well, been a busy time of late.  I really should make an entry a day a habit, I just wish I had more time to spend on prepping photos and video so these entries would be a bit more visually stimulating:)  Oh well.  I’ll borrow from my friends as I need to get to sleep.  Tomorrow is going to be a long day made longer by travel.

My friends, the Daures, very recently had an addition to the family show up.  His name is Toby.  He is just about the most perfect child out there (there are some others in his league… ie Maxwell McClain).  His mom has a blog here: bouncyczech.wordpress.com.  Stop by when you have a chance.  This photo credit goes to Danielle Daure.

 

 

Amsterdam – International Broadcast Convention – Travel

Flying to AmsterdamIt’s half past midnight Amsterdam time.  Going to sleep.  I flew out of JFK at 6:30 pm yesterday en route to the International Broadcast Convention (aka IBC).  I’m not good at sleeping on planes.  The only time I wish I was short is when I’m looking at the 5 foot tall person next to me and understanding that”ample legroom” does exist for some.

In this case, the couple next to me wasn’t five feet tall.  They were in the same situation: cramped, but we made the most of it.  We couldn’t talk much as I don’t know Dutch, but we still managed to have some laughs, especially trying to work the remote control for the inflight entertainment (which gave me a chance to finally see KungFu Panda and revisit Batman Begins)

Well, I intend on putting down some observations from Amsterdam over the next few days.  I’m here through Tuesday, so I’ll have some time.

All I’ll really say now is, as I was flying out, Neil Young kept playing over and over in my head with “Old Man”.  I don’t know, maybe it’s my version of “Sounds of Silence” from The Graduate when Ben is at the airport in the beginning.  What I do know, is as I was flying out, I looked out the window, just about sunset, and saw Cape Cod receding behind me.  I thought about the first time I crossed the Atlantic on the way to the Cannes Film Festival.  It’s been just over 4 years since that first adventure, and since then, I’ve been a few places.  

This is my third trip to Amsterdam.  I grew up in my small, quiet valley back home, and now, as I write, I’m looking out the 19th floor window of my room onto the night time sky of Amsterdam.  I know for many, it’s not such a big deal, for me, it is.  I’m 6 hours away from the place where I grew up; a stranger who doesn’t know the language and many of the customs.  It’s a very different way to wake up in the morning.  It’s a very different way to go about finding a restaurant to eat, especially when you’re alone.

Well, I intend on taking some photos in my spare time.  So, I hope to have some additions here soon.  Meanwhile, I should get some sleep.  Goodnight.

Videogame Design

Well, most people who know me post undergrad believe my time for videogames is non-existent: it is, except when it comes to something that’s really good.  There are some games out there many of us will just play for fun or as part of the social atmosphere, but there are a handful of games that I play just because I really really need to see them through: beginning to end like a good book.  What makes the Best Video Game in my mind?  Well, graphics, gameplay, music, sound all have to be well crafted, but before any of this stuff can come to fruition, what I want first is story.  What kind of stories grab me?  Anything involving zombies, mystery, and adventure.  It’s got to have solid characters and a plot that pulls you.

What fits that criteria?

The Silent Hill Series (Playstation 1 – 2)

Hands down one of the best pieces of video game “art” out there.  

I’ve got a screenshot to the left from Silent Hill 2 and one of its famous cinematics.  This game has it all : characters you believe in, a plot that grabs your attention, antongonists who make you jump (not laugh).  Moreover, the crafting of this game was just as finely and completely executed as some of the best movie directors yielding a complete, unbroken dream in which the player can lose his or herself for hours.

 

The Fear Effect Series (Playstation 1)

I was upset when this series was discontinued.  It had those classic elements of story, and moreover, it had some flairs that just made Fear Effect something unto itself.  The creators drew on chinese mythology and aesthetics in their settings.  Kronos coupled this with their own brand of technology for creating immersive environments called Motion FX.  The results were gorgeous.  The distinct feel merged so tightly with the plot, music and overall experience that one can look at a screeshot and easily identify, just from the cell shading and colors, that it’s a Fear Effect screenshot.

 

 

Resident Evil Series (Playstation 1 – 2)

 Everyone who plays video games knows the “Resident Evil” name, and even those who don’t play know the Resident Evil movies.  I was in highschool when my little brother and I saw the cover of this game with the crazed charicature of some guy, a gun, and a spider.  It just looked nuts!  For all intents and purposes, at the time, the first Resident Evil was nuts!  It was something new and, as most authorities tend to agree : the real beginning of a genre (alongside Silent Hill) of what’s become known as “Survival Horror”.  

Resident Evil has that plot which just latches on.  As time has progressed the environments, graphics and gameplay (Resident Evil 4) have evolved immensley, and underneath all that is still the continuation of plots that I, as a player, really want to see unraveled.

 


Haunting Ground (Playstation 2)

 My brother got me this game for Christmas.  I’m embarrassed to say, I hadn’t even heard of it until I played for the first time.  Reviews on this game  are fairly polarized.  I’m among the group that considers this an incredible play and a great piece of work.  The story has a similar element to Silent Hill 2 in that it revolves around revealing the forgotten history of the main character.  Sometimes selective amnesia can be a cliche, but in this case, it just works well.  The quantity of antagonists is significantly less than Silent Hill or Resident Evil, so the focus is more on the quality of the individual characters and the dramatics inherent.  

 

 

 

 

 

 Phantasmagoria (PC)

This was the game in my library for a long time.  I had a 486SX, upgraded it to a DX4-100 and tacked on a whole 8 Megs of RAM to run this!  7 CDs!!  It was amazing.  Live actors in a gorgeously rendered 3D setting.  The story was incredible.  In retrospect, the acting might’ve been “B” but it WORKED!  It scared the heck out of me!  I just couldn’t stop playing.  I think I flew through this in two days or so of nonstop enjoyment.  That’s how I often like a game : being sucked in and not being let go until I’ve seen it through, saved the day, turned the last page.  This game is a classic and Roberta Williams is one of my favorite game designers.  By the way, she is also known for her King’s Quest Series which was another jewel of the adventure games genre.  

Reach out and make a friend