Tag Archives: cultured

Step 1, Find Wings. Step 2, FLY!!

28 Jan

I can’t remember really hating winter until recently, but at the present moment I am sick of it, fed up, through, soooo over it (omg, sooo sorry to go “valley girl” on you guys!). It probably has something to do with the fact that last winter was the snowiest one we’ve had on the east coast (USA) in several years and this winter itself has (probably) broken some records — not to mention the fact that the majority of the winters in my life were spent as a schoolboy, who reveled in the wonder of a snowy forest behind my house and the joy of a day off school (Virginia schools are pretty notorious for shutting down if there’s snow accumulation of more than 1/8″) — but I won’t bore you guys with my ranting and complaining about forces beyond my control BECAUSE:

I have great news for our readers that will warm you right up! (1) I am headed places warm and wonderful in the very near future, and (2) I am about to regain my title as World Traveler Extraordinaire. I’m sure it’s well-known by now that anyone bearing  a World Traveler title must leave his homeland at regular intervals to maintain it, and for an Extraordinaire-level traveler, this obligation must be fulfilled at least once a year (OK, that sounds dumb, but hopefully in an entertaining kind of way?). I almost didn’t make it last year — and my brief, business-related trip to Toronto in the autumn only barely counted as international travel (don’t get me wrong, I absolutely LOVED the city — but I was only there two days, and there wasn’t much of a cultural contrast or linguistic challenge for me).

So, without further ado (adue, adieu? These “set phrases” are annoying; if I were a more dedicated linguist I would probably do the research and find out where that even comes from…), sans further delay, I shall unveil my plans:

Paso uno: Mini-vacation in West Palm Beach, mid-February. I’m just taking a few days off to chill by the water, hang out with a really good friend who’s working at a baseball stadium down there, and maybe even scuba dive (no steps have yet been taken to ascertain whether this third pursuit is even remotely possible in the month of February — don’t all the cool-looking fish migrate to the Caribbean, or hibernate in an abyss somewhere during winter? — but it definitely sounds cool and tropical to mention (and might make a few of you envious?). Yet while therapeutic and relaxing and extremely awesome, this trip, of course, does nothing to further my reputation as a World Traveler, which is why I just recently decided to take:

Passo dois (lit. paso dos, “step two”. Guess the language, and you’ll have narrowed down the places I might be going to two — or three if you’re informed enough to know the official language of Angola): 10-day vacation to the great city of Rio de Janeiro! I have a good friend there who’s been inviting me to come visit for a couple years now, and I actually had it in the back of my mind that this would be the year — if I could find the right price, of course. Well, I was talking to my amigo Marcos on Tuesday night — remembering our adventures together in Europe, catching up on recent happenings in our lives, comparing how miserable the weather is here and how absolutely gorgeous it is there, etc. — and I started thinking about how much I really want to go visit, and how I’d hate to look back in a few years and wonder why I let silly things like money and time be used as excuses for never taking the adventure — and, prob. more than anything, I was thinking about what an absolute blast Marcos and I used to have together when we were studying in Madrid, whether it was touring Andalucía, booking a last-minute trip to Brussels for a day because the price was right, or playing soccer in a Metro station where I kicked the ball into a lamp, which sent us into a frantic flight to the other side of the city to avoid transportation authorities [Author’s Note: Yes, I realize what an incredibly ridiculous run-on sentence this is, but I hope it’s serving its purpose in conveying my building excitement] — and so I took another look at flights for the end of March, using all the cheesy travel discount websites that are out there, and I found a round-trip flight that would be covered by the tax refund I’ll be receiving later this month [I wish I could insert a <hyperlink> here to a blog entry about filing my taxes this year…], so I made sure Marcos was going to be in town that week and bought it within the hour!

After making the purchase, I must admit that I had a little “Oh no, what have I done??!!!” moment — Was this an impulse buy? Had I really considered fully the risks of traveling to such a crime-ridden city as a white American tourist with little knowledge of the Portuguese language? Who does something like this, and is there a reason that most people don’t? Why hadn’t I researched the requirements for visiting the country before buying the ticket? (I found out later that night that US citizens are required to have a Tourist Visa to even enter Brazil, which I should have expected… But it should be no biggie if I get started on the application process this weekend, because I can get it within a month, and the price will almost be covered by the dinero I’ll be getting back from my state taxes…) — but then I realized that I was being smarter than I realized: I had made sure I had the money for it first, I had paid a little extra for a light travel insurance plan to cover me if I get stranded in an airport on one of my connecting flights or lose my job right before the trip and need to cancel it last-minute, and I have a really great friend waiting for me there who “has my back”, and it sounds like his family won’t let me starve, with the feast they’re already planning in my honor!

Really, I think it’s just the kind of adventure I need, after a year landlocked in central VA and tied down to a full time job. I’m looking forward to good times, learning a lot of Portuguese, enjoying new foods and drinks, hearing some authentic Bossa Nova, Samba and Choro played by Brazilians… I may decide not to come back! (Except for the fact that the only way I can take this trip in the first place is because of this full-time job that’s tying me down… A job which I really do enjoy most days!)

OK, so now we’re reaching the end of the post, and you’re probably asking yourself, why did he say this is “good news” for me the reader? Simply put, you benefit because you will be the ones that will be able to read the awesome posts about my trips — perhaps even while they’re going on, depending on internet availability — without ever having to leave your house! FOR FREE! What’s not to like? 😉


Nataly Dawn and Pomplamoose

16 Oct

When we talked about Sufjan Stevens a few months ago, perhaps you gathered a sense of our collective taste in music here at tCP (acronyms make everything cooler). Undoubtedly, you gathered that Intern Derrick and I have fantastic, unassailable taste in music. You gathered that our musical tastes are is eclectic, elitist, and simply better than yours. Don’t be ashamed. You aren’t the only imaginary person with inferior musical taste.

About a week ago, while prowling youtube, I came across a new artist and I thought, people should be aware of this goodness. So I present, “A Happy Song”:

There is something so raw, unfurnished, and starkly beautiful in the lyrics and chords of this song. And sure, that is impressive, and well done on her part. I like it, and really, I think you should like it too.

Which led me to think about what might be done with this song, how the artist might transform it to something I could listen to on my Zune (no, I’m not an Apple/Ipod user like the rest of you; Itunes is one of the worst programs I have ever used; when you turn on Itunes, the rest of your computer stops working; don’t judge me; unnecessary semicolon). She would have to take a song, simple and austere, and flower it up with percussion, synthesizer, and maybe even a piano, plunking chords off in the background. Really, though, I don’t want that. I would just like to listen to it in this form, because that’s the way it was conceived and that is the way it was meant to be played.

High horse dismount.

Anyway, Nataly Dawn has a decent spread of good material on her youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/natalydawn

Also, Nataly Dawn and Jack Conte (another great musician) have joined forces to form Pomplamoose. A few of their better videos are below. Enjoy!

“Mrs. Robinson”

“My Favorite Things”

“Beat the Horse”

Terry Tate, Condense the Nonsense.

12 Oct

I realize that this blog has started to become just a haphazard collection of youtube videos, and that is certainly not the intent of the authors. The authors, in fact, wholly lack any intention. The reality is that law school is a bit mundane. While there are interesting cases and such, I don’t want to bore you with rewrites of my case briefs. It’s bad enough that I have to write them once. So, I’m busy. Youtube isn’t. Go talk to him.

The only excuse I can offer for Intern Derrick is that he is busy grooming his Col. Sanders mustache and pretending he is an English expert in a place where nobody knows better. That is only a slight burn because I couldn’t pull off the majestic mustache. But then again, I’m not sure whether he can pull it off either (nice, a follow-up burn that mitigates my mitigation of the original burn).

Your mom.

(that was a pre-emptive burn for the anticipated burn which Intern Derrick will be thinking of posting but will undoubtedly decide is too anemic and sickly to ever stand up to the might and strength of my incendiary greatness)

(I feel comfortable using this space as a locale for petty insults and jibe because I am quite certain that the only other person that reads this blog is, in fact, Intern Derrick. And it is quite possible that he doesn’t even bother with that)

(Self-burn, I’m even good at that)


So Terry Tate, office linebacker is one of my personal favorite bits. It came out a few years ago, and was unadulterated awesomeness. Now it seems that there are a few sequels to the initial greatness, so that gives me an opportunity to post the videos and still maintain an illusory appearance of relevance and modernity.

The Original

“I’m a firm proponent of paradigm breaking”

Sensitivity Training

“As I’ve always said, if it ain’t something that is broken, then there is no need to repair it.”


“Oh, we were aware that Mr. Tate was a discerning guest, but, it seems were weren’t aware just how discerning he really was.”

Draft Day

“You got mailed baby! Woo!”


Cultural Competency

13 Aug

So law school orientation for your’s truly started this week. So far I have been doing very little learning about the law and a lot of learning about how hard it is to learn about the law. Mostly a fair bit of backhanded intimidation mixed with cleverly disguised assurances of hardship. I suppose that I did sign up for it.

Today I oriented myself to something which I found particularly difficult to conceptualize. I thought I might share it with you. Apparently, there is a popular movement in soft-skill circles called “cultural competency”. Here and here are examples and explanations. I don’t necessarily have problems with the ideas presented, but the title does baffle me. Cultural competency? How could you possibly become competent in culture? Doesn’t one gain competence at a particular skill or trade or ability? Culture surely isn’t something you can be competent in. Surely pseudo-bloggers know not to end their sentences with prepositions!

Am I so arrogant to think that I could learn to be “competent” in all of “culture” (including those things therin enclosed, contained, and encapsulated) in a two-hour period? Assuming that I am that arrogant (I am), what could becoming culturally competent possibly entail?

Well, to sum up the presentation from the wonderful PhD presenters from Kennesaw State University (who have achieved cultural competence): cultural competency is the realization that everybody is different, but that those differences do not mean we should treat each other differently. But (!) it is of utmost important that you do not deny those cultural differences. However, it is of equal importance that everybody is considered equally important. So everybody is different, but everybody should be treated the same.


Maybe our cultured (and undoubtedly culturally competent) Intern Derrick can enlighten us to the ways of competence which I sorely lack and fail to understand.

Helping you get your RSS fix

4 Aug

I’m not sure how many of our loyal imaginary readers use RSS feeds, but I am quite fond of them, and I know that intern Derrick is pretty fond of his too (he likes to subscribe to all those Spanish newspaper feeds, it makes him feel international). This post is mostly so our readers can get a few awesome blogs into their RSS universe, in whatever form it may take.

If you aren’t familiar with RSS feeds, dude, get with it. First step, find a RSS aggregator. Google Reader is my personal favorite, but I hear Yahoo has a decent one as well. Next, start finding RSS symbols on pages you like and clicking them. The symbol looks like this:

RSS icon

Except smaller.

Okay, so I will leave it to you to figure out from there. Here are a few awesome blogs that I follow, if you have some that you follow and think are cool, leave a comment so we can benefit from your blogal trappings.

The Constitutional Pheasant (the best blog ever written*)

XKCD (possibly the funniest series of comic strips ever concocted, and very nerdy to boot!)

Joe Posnanski (the best writer in all of baseball)

Sunday Morning Breakfast Cereal (another webcomic, definitely a bit edgier)

2 Birds 1 Blog (quirky and pretty funny)

Freakonomics (awesome book, ergo, awesome blog)

Fail Blog (you’ll like this one)

Okay, that’s all I’ve found that are of interest. I hope you have some to round out the list?

*We cannot substantiate that assertion.

Come Back Sufjan!

1 Jul

We here at the Constitutional Phesant happen to love Sufjan Stevens. His work is awesome. It trancends any genre of music we have heard of, even if most people call it folk music. The reality is that it is simply too dynamic to be characterized by any kind of tradition, yet, at the same time it firmly takes roots in those very same regional traditions which it defies. This paragraph smells like contradiction. Let’s try a different one.

Sufjan’s music astounds me because he combines his composing chops with a rich, healthy sound. Not too classical, not to popular. Most musicians today don’t really provide an all-around musical experience like Sufjan does. He sings, composes, plays most of the instruments he features, writes all the lyrics, and is a creative/passionate performer on stage. Rihanna, Katy Perry, and Kenny Chesney don’t have that kind of talent. Sufjan is a classically trained musician who makes his work, as his website terms it, autobiographical.

Ruminating on his early songwriting efforts, Sufjan wrote this:

“My older self, glancing back over simple chords and hazardous poetry, likes to think I’m older, wiser, more mature, more eloquent, more artful, more poignant, more contemporary. But that’s unfair. The concept has changed but the approach has always been the same: to become so completely entrenched in something that it becomes a great big clumsy mummy outfit wrapped around all arms and legs: a metaphysical form of suffocation. Sure, back then, I was young, naïve, unenlightened, untraveled, virtuous, good-natured, and always on time. But the world of youth was where I tried on new ideas, new outfits, new names, and new rhyme schemes—-a world where the banjo was my journal, where Sofia Coppola was my imaginary confidant, and where singing out of tune was perfectly OK!”

Just for a little taste of Sufjan’s raw talent, I give you “Come On! Feel The Illinoise!“.

If you want something a little more emotive: “Casimir Pulaski Day“.

Anyway, this post wasn’t for me to blast on about Sufjan’s awesomeness. This post was to ask Sufjan, “Dude, where is the next CD?”

Two of Sufjan Steven’s CDs have been part of (what has been dubbed) the 50 States Project, which is an effort by Sufjan to create music about each state based on regional folklore and location-oriented themes. Michigan and Illinois were the obvious choices because those were Sufjan’s stomping grounds. The thought of 50 cds from this guy makes me pretty excited, but, let’s keep it real, I realize the infeasibility of this approach. Frankly, I am just ready for the next one. I don’t care what state is chosen, be it New York (as rumored) or New Jersey (as loathed) or Rhode Island or Oregon or California. We haven’t heard from Sufjan since 2006 (excluding Christmas songs and here-and-there singles), and that stinks.

“Rock and roll is kind of like a progression of folk music, music of the people. It’s very primitive and rebellious in nature, and that’s what’s exciting about it—it’s music based on instinct. But then I’m also like torn between that and the prestige and performance and sophistication of high art, classical music, of composition and arrangements for string quartets and woodwind quartet. And I find that I’m always trying to reconcile the two together, and I’m always disappointed when I see pop music, independent bands, and I’m disappointed when I don’t experience the level of sophistication that is inherent in classical music.”

Bring back the goodness Sufjan.

(not to rush you or anything)

The June Post

28 Jun

It has occurred to me that my Atlantic amigo (I assume an inhabitant of the city of Atlanta would share the name of the second largest ocean in the world… but I could be wrong) and I have almost completely neglected our blog during the month of June.  I apologize sincerely for this oversight. Rest assured that we have not forgotten that a blog is like a fragile plant that needs to be watered regularly from the springs of knowledge that pour out from our keyboards…

And what a busy month this has been for the world! WARNING: For those of you using this blog interactively as part of the Derrick Game (the rules are simple: drink every time Derrick says something cultured or international, while groaning in an attempt to cover up your jealousy), this entry will likely leave you with a headache…

Not only has the US soccer team beaten Spain and been beaten by Brazil in the World Cup games in South Africa, but I just found out that (1) one of my good friends in Spain, Malte (originally from Germany) is getting married shortly to a Argentine woman he met at a Christmas party in Madrid that I had attended with him back in December, and (2) another of my friends that I met in Madrid, Marcos, and with whom I travelled much of Europe just left Friday to return to his homeland of Brazil. I just found out about both events through another friend who is the brother of the Argentine bride-to-be in a casual conversation on Facebook Chat. [Update: Marcos had told me about his return to Brazil, I had just misread “26 de junio” as “26 de julio” in a recent e-mail. What a dummy, haha.]

It was a shock to realize just how “out of the loop” I’ve become in the month of June; with my return to my rural home in the woods outside of a tiny town in Virginia, I have been separated from my greatest means of contact with the outside world: reliable internet. At my parents’ house I have access only to dial-up internet, which means I cannot use Skype to call friends abroad, I cannot use Google Chat, I cannot load more than one web page at a time… I guess it’s better than no internet at all (I believe Joe knows someone who can personally attest to that horror, we’ll see if he can get an exclusive interview with her and publish his shocking findings here), it just compounds the feeling of disconnectedness that has resulted from recent transitions in my life–leaving the largest university in the largest city in Spain to return to a small college in a small city in the United States, then leaving that small college and city to return to the microscopic town where I was raised–simultaneously leaving the communities of scholars, decent-sized libraries which participated in InterLibrary Loans, and limitless internet networks that characterized my college years… With each step I feel like I’ve become more and more isolated from the huge, exciting, boundless conception of the world that I had developed while studying and living in Madrid in the fall of 2008…

But thank the Lord that in less than a month I will become an international traveller once again! On July 23, 2009, I will venture to a new corner of this planet, Chile, to begin a job teaching English as part of a teaching certification program in a university there. Look out world, you’re not rid of me just yet!