Monday, November 16, 2009

Political Campaigning in Abrud

So I woke up today a little earlier than usual thanks to another dose of repetitive folk music that the politicians use for their campaign. I don't know when this got started or who thought it was a good idea but it seems you aren't really running for president if your not blasting music out of some vehicle with your picture on it. I guess the theory is if you get a lot of people to hear this one song over and over again then during election day all you need to do is play that one song and some Pavlovian response kicks in and your vote is assured. It seemed to have worked for Basescu who is the current president running for re-election so he has a huge semi-truck packed with speakers outside the city hall which plays just this one song non stop for a good four hours straight. Mircea Geoana is not the president but wants to be, so of course he also needs to have someone drive around and play some music, but unfortunately he doesn't have a large Semi-truck crammed with speakers like Basescu and therefor isn't as loud, though you can still hear both at the same time. Fortunately my apartment is right next to the city hall so every day or so I get to enjoy some free folk music and occasionally a recorded message from the actual candidate. This morning I decided to give you a personal look into the presidential campaign here in Abrud that makes politics so fun and aesthetic.

Have a great week!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Catalin and Internet, the original odd couple

Here is how much we got done with no practice and two hours. First read the script than see what we managed to do…Their native language is Romanian by the way.


Scene opens with main character Catalin (17) hunched over his desk working on difficult math equations. He appears frustrated and a bit worried. We first see a shot of his math homework then zoom out to both Catalin and his work. A large hand appears and taps Catalin on the left shoulder. This hand is connected to the large personification of the Internet, known simply as ‘Internet’. He is tall and bulky wearing a red shirt which reads ‘INTERNET’ in large white letters. He has a friendly but absentminded look to his face.

Hey Catalin, you have a new message
on your hotmail account

Catalin puts down his pen and looks up at Internet half

Ahh...ok what is it?

Its from a Mr. Hung Lo asking
whether you are getting the most
from your love life, he says he has
a new male enhancing...

Internet gets cut off by Catalin who is understandably

Internet, I thought I told you I
don’t know a Mr. Hung lo. Please
can’t you see that I am busy here?

Catalin rubs his eyes, takes glasses off


Catallin, you should check
Facebook, three of your friends did
stuff since you last logged on, one
became a fan of something...

Who became a fan of what?

George Popescu became a fan of

Catalin slowly shakes head in annoyance


I forgot to mention


That last conversation was brought
to you by Derby. ‘If you don’t know
Derby then you don’t know Mamaliga’

Uh huh...And?

And this conversation is brought to
you by Timisoariana, the beer that
withstood 2 revolutions and 44
years of communism

Ok, thanks...back to work now!

Catlin, you have just been selected
as the grand prize recipient of
200,000,000 dollars. I just need
you to tell me a bank account that
the money can be deposited into...

Catalin gets up frusterated walking out of the room

Just getting two minutes is a lot of work, wow can't wait for more....

Sunday, November 8, 2009

PEACE CORPS SPA GRANT - Anyone want to help?

Well, spent all day writing for my first Peace Corps SPA Grant, about half finished. Please let me know what doesn't sound right...I can't tell anymore for I have been typing and erasing for 12 hours straight. More creative blog vlogs will appear soon after I am done with this, but until then...I give you

Project Proposal
a. This project intends to create, develop, and put into action new forms of self-expression while relating important technical skills that will open opportunities in media, journalism, and other creative fields. Participants will learn the art of using digital video as a new medium for self-expression and the methodology employed in the five steps to film making. Participants will work together in a team of mixed gender and social backgrounds to help explore and express aspects of their culture and their lives culminating in the development, production, and distribution of a short film or documentary of their choice made entirely by them. There is considerable support for such a project as it gives participants access to education and materials for new forms of expression that have not been available. It also empowers and builds relevant marketable skills for everyone involved as well as instilling confidence and a sense of social inclusion. My counterpart, school director, students in classes beyond of my own, and fellow faculty members are excited and willing to take an active part in this project. Since this project will involve other teachers participation in its implementation and fallow-through it will be a sustainable project as the teachers take over my roll as director and the first year participants move on to more leadership roles. This project also contains all elements of the Peace Corps mission from training to fostering a better understanding of Romanians through the distribution of the end product through film festivals, websites, and other forms of media.

b. The expression of ones feelings, thoughts, and ideas is an important, even fundamental, aspect in what it is to be a social being. Without access to the right tools or guidance necessary to imagine, create, and produce the mind is limited to whatever medium is available, which here in my town of Abrud is not much. The education system in place has no room for lessons that encourage creative thinking and expression, especially in the arts, nor the money to help supply necessary equipment for even the most fundamental mediums i.e. paint brushes, colored pencils, drawing pads. This directly effects the youngest generation, my students, who have all been born after such developments as the computer and the Internet but are not given creative guidance or resources that use said technologies expressively. Lack of knowledge in this field of creativity delimits the possibilities of self-expression and technical competence, closing paths to self-actualization that students never knew were available. Being able to think creatively is of the highest priority for any nation and its expressions and applications are limitless, yet the opposite seems true in terms of its importance in education, as if we are educating out the ability to think and create in exchange for rote learning. This project will allow all students from all types of backgrounds and experiences to work together, learn together, and create something new and expressive that will increase the knowledge and appreciation of their culture while providing new directions of inspiration and personal development.

c. The project is located in a disadvantaged region and all participants face a combination of geographic, economic and social challenges. We have a small Roma community, Gura Rosia, bordering Abrud and a very high rate of unemployment. The initial group involved for this project will come mostly from my current afterschool Film Club that consists of 10 students interested in media, a fellow colleague, and myself, after which we will form a panel for selecting more participants. The purpose of the Film Club is to help broaden the understanding and uses of film for creative expression through observing and critiquing professional films and documentaries then producing original films of our own. I work as the facilitator of relevant materials and steward of topics and equipment along with my colleague; the students bring their own movies, ideas, and directions and could easily manage the club with little help on my part.

d. This project seeks to give the community of Abrud greater control over the conditions that affect their lives by providing education and resources in ways facilitating self-expression and creativity that are currently absent in this community. Media has now become a popular form of expression that can be shared with anyone around the world and an effective platform for cross-cultural communication and understanding. This project will deliver the necessary skills and equipment needed to allow for full participation in this modern and increasingly vital form of communication. It combats feelings of powerlessness and disadvantage and opens not only a persuasive medium that can be used to tackle issues that are important and relevant but also a gives a far-reaching voice to such pursuits through its ease of transference over the Internet. Marketable skills will be developed through the application of creativity and vision, teamwork, and problem solving. This project becomes naturally self-reliant once the education and resources have been properly transferred to those involved, it then requires nothing more than motivation and a desire to express ones idea to the world. First year supporters will become second year leaders, empowering everyone involved and promoting self-confidence.

From the moment of inception to the longer-term goal of self-actualization lie many measurable and achievable goals in between. Each participant will pick which piece of the filmmaking puzzle he or she feels most drawn to i.e. directing, script writing, film editing, etc, and specific lessons and micro-projects will be given for each part. Each part will be connected with the other parts and the team will build together as a group and individually as artists. Simple short 5 min films will be first constructed from existing storylines in the beginning then the development of original script and cinematic style will later take place as knowledge of each field becomes more extensive. Each lesson last for one week and results can be assessed through the quality of each completed project. Participants will advance in knowledge and confidence until the final project of a full film or documentary is realized and deemed feasible.

The students of H.C.C will benefit the most from this project but anyone with a desire to learn is more than welcome. The benefits include but not limited to improvement in team building, communication skills, self-expression, confidence, social inclusion, critical thinking and problem solving, technical skills training, leadership, creativity, storytelling, and self-empowerment.

Beyond the reasons stated above this project will instill a sense of action and immediacy among its participants, which will directly benefit the community since it will be the location of all the projects. Knowledge in this field can lead toward short projects for local tourism, political campaigns, first hand accounts of communism, appeals for government support for historical landmark preservation, etc. Businesses can be created and skills learned transferable to many types of trades, all benefiting the local community in short term publicity and long term creative visions. The community’s assets are its youngest generation who will leave and never look back if there are no resources with which to make a difference.

e. As acting Director I will oversee the logistics and make sure the process is following the schedule as best as possible from day to day, with help from a chosen colleague who will act as co-director and take over after I have finished my service. I will also help with the structuring of lesson plans and teach the editing portion of Final Cut Pro since I believe I am the only one with that specific skill set. The rest of the duties will be given to the teachers/ Community members who express interest and are committed to the project. My counterpart will help with the language barriers in communication between guest speaker and professional trainers in Romania. The list of tasks required to carry out the project are as follows:

1. Consolidating those who will help administer and follow through with the educational side of the project.
A) This will consist of three to five teachers each choosing a particular field they would like to learn more about and help teach, one additional teacher who will serve as co-director, and active contact with professional on-line help with a couple film schools I will be working with back in America including the North West Film School in conjunction with Western Washington University.
B) The creation of weekly lessons and projects for each topic that coincide with the other parts of the film making process as well as activities for the weekly meetings i.e. movie and documentary observations and creative exercises.
C) Set up initial contacts and potential times for guest speakers and professional trainers to coincide with the second half of the project. Also set up room dedicated to project which will have electricity, computers, a projector borrowed from the English room, and time schedules for students.
D) Prepare for publication of event, plan motivational first day with expectations, goals, visions, commitments, including refreshments and film with team building exercises. Include hand outs of what benefits such a project will provide plus written commitments from participants.
2. Purchasing of necessary equipment including: A camera that can render in broadcast quality, sound equipment, a tripod, an external hard drive with at least 1 terabyte of memory, plus all cables and burnable DVD’s for networking and final project distribution. Then set available room with all necessary equipment. All labor will be provided from within the community through students and teachers. The materials must be purchased from outside the community because no electronics store exists for the simple parts and the sound and camera equipment must be ordered from Bucharest.
3. A) Initial class with everyone who wishes to participate including a meeting held weekly to check on progress, watch movies, turn in weekly projects, and discuss the good, the bad, and the ugly…
B) Next we will break into groups of essential parts; film theory/ story telling, script writing, story boarding, camera and sound navigation, and film editing. All in such an order that one could attend all five classes or which ever one he or she has most interest in. Each class falls on a specific day and time each week. Each class is taught by one teacher who will focus exclusively on the topic of choice through out the project.
C) These preliminary lessons will be given over a period of 4 to 5 weeks for initial understanding of each component. (Lesson Plans will be available soon).
D) The guest speakers in specific areas and professional trainers will come to visit around this time (mid March) in preparation for the second and final phase of the project: implementation of an original documentary or film developed and produced be the students.
4. The final project will begin with brain storming of the central themes that could include Identity, community, Past, Present, and Future, then the delegating of parts and responsibilities that will fallow through the five phases of the film making process. The first phase will involve the development of the script, its viability, and the gathering of resources. The second phase includes the pre-production elements. The third phase is just the production and execution of film with camera. The forth phase involves the post-production including editing, sound design, any visual effects, and mastering. The fifth and final phase is the distribution of the film over the Internet and delivery at the school assembly on the first of May, 2010.
The potential problems of participants quitting prematurely can be limited by keeping the participants excited and committed to the project from the beginning and putting this commitment in writing. Staying involved and listening to everyone’s input and ideas will also help bridge any problems before they get too big.

Weekly timeline:
Week one: Consolidation and lesson Prep
Week two: Set up room, purchase equipment, set up potential training, lesson Prep
Week Three: Lesson Prep, announce first meeting, set up and work with equipment
Weeks 4-8: Begin the first of four preliminary lessons for each topic, have weekly meetings to discuss what’s working and what’s not.
Week 9: Guest and professional trainers come for visit, first phase of development begins
Week 10: Second phase of Pre-Production
Week 11: Third Phase of Production
Week 12: Fourth Phase of Post-Production
Week 13: Distribution and enjoyment of end product.

Friday, November 6, 2009

I am like a cloud: a puff of an ever morphing image blown by currents beyond my control, then I rain and become alive in everything!

Something extraordinary happened to me about 9 days ago, I returned home from a full days worth of entertaining my students to find my computers power cord dead, fried to a crisp right on top of my favorite blue sock, both now rendered useless including my computer until I can find a replacement Mac power cord. I guess I have been over working the poor power cord, whom I will call ‘Jim’, since I had internet installed a couple months ago, supplying the necessary energy for continuous day and night downloading, but why on my blue sock… I have now only two pairs left.

I can remember myself before that point feeling very stressed and in a rut. School was moving along just fine and there was nothing really to complain about, except for maybe the large white van blaring traditional Romanian music outside my apartment for the up coming elections. It was this daily routine I somehow found myself in which involved mostly me and my computer which I hadn’t recognized until ‘Jim’ decided to burn out before his time, ending my dependence on this ‘tool’ and thereby pulling myself out of my rut. Of course initially I cursed who ever was the author of my misfortune and spent a brief period in morning hunched over my cold powerless device, but then maybe somethings happen for a reason, or perhaps, we attach reason for somethings that happen. I couldn’t watch the new episode of ‘The Office’ or listen to my German audio books of Heidegger, or find out about the newest catastrophe on, I had no internet, no FinalCut, no movies…no problem! I needed some ‘me’ time anyway. I figured if I can no longer use my computer this might be an opportunity to try to go without other things I have been depending on so I tapped all of the light switches to the ‘off’ position and bought 8 candles for the equivalent of 3 dollars which have lasted for now almost a week and a half. Just light a candle and watch as shadows dance and mingle with everyone else appearing as if there was always some lively party going on behind the scenes rendered insensible by the cold bright light from above that I had always used without thinking before. I spent one night with my candle just focusing on Van Goughs painting ‘The Potato Eaters’. The more I contemplated this picture the more I appreciated life, the artist, history, the senses, and I felt relieved. I just gained time because I had less places to spend it. I don’t need a computer to see this painting on my kitchen wall; I can connect to it without one. With my computer and the internet I am lost on an infinite road leading everywhere, I shot myself into space with galaxies of information, my ship can take me anywhere and I am on a search for new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before, but new knowledge doesn’t satisfy, being just a hitch hiker on the road to everywhere. Just arriving and staying seems to be more Zen and purposeful, if there is such a thing. I am forced to deal with time and have been using the struggle and boredom to my advantage, directing it toward observations and ideas, lots of reading and writing with good ol’ fashioned pen and paper. Anyway I could speak of this forever, and my school will be closing soon, so I will move on.

So much has happened since I had stopped updating this blog and its because my focus has changed and so must this blog if I am to be able to keep using it as a means of connection and self expression. I am shifting toward turning my ‘Blog’ into a ‘Vlog’, yes a video log, which I have already written several scripts for but without my computer I can’t do anything yet but enjoy the time until my power cord arrives. Soon big things will be happening and I hope to be ready for them. I have my secondary project lined up and once in place with the necessary funding and participation, which hopefully shouldn’t be to difficult, I will have produced with my kids a full length documentary film about Abrud, the town that I live in, dealing with issues that lay behind the surface of this once prosperous town and what a sense of ‘community’ means and how it might have changed since Romania moved from a communist to a capitalist mindset. I am in contact with the director of the NorthWest Film School who will be providing some much needed advice as to the steps required in script based production. Now it’s just spending the time in writing grants and NGO’s for some funding, and time is all I have back home.

The next update will come with a video accompaniment, please check these two quick videos I made before I lost my computer. One is me just going through the process of fire making and the other is a series I am doing with my advanced students which we plan on submitting to our Pen Pals at Stadium, Tacoma Washington. Let me know what you think.