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Remember, Remember, the 5th of November

I have a new favorite holiday and it is Bonfire Night. Or, for those Stateside, Guy Fawkes Day. Forget Christmas with it’s dinky little tree that sheds pine needles all over the floor. Forget Easter with it’s bunny that doesn’t make any sense. Forget Labor Day and Earth Day and even Halloween. Bonfire Night is where it’s at.

The town of Lewes in East Sussex has one of the largest Bonfire Night celebrations in all of England. Approximately 60,000 people show up each year. And this time around, I was one of them. There are multiple bonfires all over the city. The pyre I ended up crowding around was easily 30 feet tall. There are parades throughout the picturesque streets. There is fire everywhere. You’ll think I’m exaggerating, but I can assure you that I’m not. I stood on a lit torch. I picked a still-lit torch up off the street. One of my companion’s hair and scarf caught on fire. This is no joke.

And it’s not just fire. Oh, no. Tons and tons of fireworks. Not just the pretty kind that light up the sky for you to “ooh” and “ahh” at either. The explosive kind that leave your ears ringing and make you think you’re about to go deaf. These were a particular favorite of the young men marching in the parades. They’d pull a firecracker from their pocket, light it on their torch, and drop that sucker. You’d think gunshots were going off. Some of the delinquents were kind enough to put their foot over the top of the thing so it would detonate as a kind of controlled explosion, if you will. Others didn’t. As a result, a lot of people’s pant legs got singed.

But my dad taught me to not shy away from a photographic opportunity. So while everyone else was cowering from the flames and the noise, I took jumped into action, getting as close to the parade as possible to take pictures. I’m not sure what, exactly, contributed to my immunity to the firecrackers (I blame it on the four years of high school in which I sat directly in front of the drumline), but I got some good pictures out of the deal while my friends were taking cover. Shell-shocked, I was not.

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Are You Ten Years Ago

Give or take a fortnight I’ve lived through exactly two decades. With the aughts winding down, I thought I’d take a look at the advancements, publications,  and occurrences of the decade* that were most influential in my life.

Music: iTunes, dub-step, auto-tune

  • Radiohead
  • The Decemberists
  • The Killers
  • Tegan & Sara
  • Kings of Leon

Television: HD, on Demand

  • West Wing
  • Stargate SG-1
  • Veronica Mars
  • LOST
  • The Daily Show

Movies: 3D (for this one I’m doing directors, it’s just easier)

  • Joe Wright
  • Quentin Tarantino
  • David Yates
  • Jason Reitman
  • Lee Unkrich

Books:

  • The Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling
  • Partly Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell
  • Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
  • The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
  • Summerland by Michael Chabon

Fashion:

  • leggings
  • “vintage” t-shirts
  • skinny jeans, or, conversely, jeans that are too baggy
  • Vera Bradley bags
  • North Face fleece jackets

Technology:

  • GPS
  • iPods
  • Smart Phones
  • Internet (modems => cable => broadband => wifi)
  • social networking (Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, blogs)

Current Events:

  • 9/11 terrorist attacks
  • medical scares: SARS, Avian Flu, Swine Flu
  • America invades Iraq & Afghanistan
  • financial crisis
  • hipsters

*This entire list is made up of my opinions, and the things that were the most influential to myself. Given that, I figured it’d be easiest to limit every category to five items. Keep in mind that, to me, the decade started in 2001 and lasted until the last moment of 2010. The next decade will be 2011-2020.

Fourth of July Fanaticism

Okay, town, I get it, you’re weird. Shooting off fireworks on the fifth of July is all well and good with me, albeit a little strange. The park’s closed on Sunday – yadda yadda, blah blah blah. I get it, whatever. No matter what, there are a few things about the Fourth of July, and our subsequent celebration of it, that strike me as odd.

– why shoot off devices of Chinese (read: foreign) invention when we are celebrating our individuality and freedom of expression and from tyranny?

– why celebrate on the fourth of July when most of the signatories of the Declaration of Independence didn’t occur until the 2nd of August?

– why don’t we shoot off fireworks for more occasions? The pyro in me loves it! But lets face it, I love fires and explosions of most kinds. (Well, strictly speaking, that’s not true. I’m opposed to forest- and house-fires as well as explosions resulting from bombs, mines, RPGs, etc.)

– the fireworks aren’t as cool when you’re watching them by yourself

– really, we can’t just have one fake finale? we have to have three?

– wow! the sky kind of looked like that of the battle of Bastogne in Band of Brothers

In the end, I suppose that Independence Day is fine by me because it got me two hugs from my congressman. But next time, guys, do you think we could aim for it to be a little cooler outside?

Side note: You know what is something that would be an internet sensation that surprisingly hasn’t happened yet? Lady Gaga / Goo Goo Dolls crossover. That gem is courtesy of my big brother. I smell success.

Tuesdays with Maury, Wednesdays with John

A long time ago I came to terms with a simple fact: I am a geek.  Not only do I read like it’s my job (in actuality, I probably read with more diligence for fun than I would if I were at work), but I have for as long as I can remember always plod through summer with sheer excitement for school to restart. I like to learn. I have a reading list this summer that I compiled for myself. It has sixty-nine books on it, all of them either non-fiction or literature. I’ve been out of school for 17 days and I’ve already read ten books – none of them on my list.

And, for as much TV as I watch (which, believe me, is a lot), it actually helped me, come college! Even the non-educational, completely fictional, escapist shows that I watch helped me ace quizzes and classes in college. And parents say TV rots your brain. Honestly, ten seasons of Stargate SG-1 and seven of the West Wing helped me pass Astronomy and PoliSci, respectively.

The first few books on my reading list: Faiths of the Founding Fathers, The Oxford Companion to World Mythologies, and Generation Kill. I was looking forward to reading Anne’s book about quantum physics, but I forgot to borrow it from her before we parted ways for the summer.

But, seriously, even some of my favorite cartoons  are geeky. Regardless, I can’t wait for Futurama to come back to TV this summer. Also, is it just me, or does the theme song for Futurama sound reminiscent of the chime-y intro to 17? Decide for yourself:

But the geeky thing about me that really seems to take the cake: I love over-the-phone political surveys. Always have. I think they’re fun. Sometimes I bond with the pollsters. Like yesterday, for example. I bonded with the guy interviewing me over the fact that we were both too young to vote in the 2008 election. Apparently, we’re the same age, and even have the same birth month! Go figure. See, politics can be fun. (Speaking of, you go John Sides!)

War Came with a Curse and a Caterwaul

Why am I such a war junkie?  I mean, I love reading about war and watching war miniseries and movies.  To prove it to you: over my spring break, I am simultaneoulsy: 1) reading Generation Kill by Evan Wright; 2) watching the premiere episode of The Pacific; and 3) re-watching Stargate SG-1.

This fascination that I have with war has been forming since I was a wee lass.  When I was young, all the kids on my block would band together to build extensive forts and have water wars.  In the 8th grade when we were assigned a book report that had to do with the Holocaust, I read Band of Brothers (and, yes, I’m aware that the Holocaust is only obliquely mentioned).  I think I’ve seen that series seven or so times, the first time when I was just 11.  I love to delve into Catch-22 and Slaughterhouse-5 on a free afternoon (the latter of which my mom made me wait until I was in high school to read).  In the 6th grade I breezed through When My Name was Keoko as well as Virtual War (sorry for screwing up your lesson plan, teach). My favorite book to read for AP Euro was The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, but Machiavelli wasn’t bad, either.  My favorite tv show is Stargate SG-1, and while it’s sci-fi, it’s based on a faction of the US Air Force (whose wars just happen to be intergalactic).  I can watch Saving Private Ryan or The Patriot any day of the week.  My most recent find is HBO’s recently premiered The Pacific. Last year my obsession was Generation Kill – an HBO adapted miniseries about a humvee recon marine division serving in the invasion of the Iraq war in 2003.  I can’t sing enough praises for it – Alexander Skarsgard’s in it! They sing Avril Lavigne (in a sarcastic yet endearing way)! It’s on HBO!

As I said, this education of war began when I was young – from stories of my grandpa’s experience as part of the Army Corps of Engineers serving in the Pacific Theatre during WWII to my dad’s Civil War obsession. There’s been many a car trip during which we would stop at a battlefield.  Jeesh, on our trip to visit DC colleges my dad and I hit Harper’s Ferry, Antietem, and Gettysburg within the span of 4 days. But don’t think that I’m complaining – I love it. The picture in my header is one that I took with a pinhole camera overlooking Gettysburg during that trip last summer.  I love all kinds of war situations:  the Civil War, the French Revolution, WWII, WWI to an extent, the Spanish American War (here’s looking at you TR), the Revolutionary War, 100 Years War, 7 Years War, our most recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, etc.  Even the Falklands’ War is interesting, when you hear Ricky Gervais spin it. And now I’m thinking that maybe I’ll have even more interaction with war when I’m older. I don’t think I’ll be enlisting, but if I continue with Arabic and can put those skills to use, I’ll be proud to help – even with all of Anne’s comments that war, real war, is nothing like what I’m used to being exposed to. I’m smart enough to know that a lot of what I’ve been introduced to is fictionalized, aggrandized and largely Hollywood-esque. But that doesn’t stop my fascination with war. And besides, I’ve got plenty of time to decide what will happen with my future.

Here’s one of my favorite bands playing a song about the Civil War:

Throw Away Your Television (aka Network)

I will admit that I spend way too much time prowling my favorite website, Television Without Pity.  It has witty and sometimes scathing reviews and recaps of a lot of different television shows and movies.  One of my favorite features is the weekday postings of the recent news.  I got some good news today: Allison Janney has been cast as a recurring character on a new Showtime show (too bad I don’t get that channel at home, only in the dorms).  The other good news was that The Pacific finally got a release date.  It will start airing the 24th of March and then weekly after that.  I can’t tell you how excited I am for that miniseries to air.  Here’s a preview: