Wednesday, December 10, 2008


My time here in Tunisia has now come to an end. I am leaving in 5 days, moving out of my house in 3 and arriving back in America in 6. Talking with people, I have been getting the same question over and over: How do you feel about coming back?

For anyone that has lived overseas, they know that this question is pretty hard to answer. It's not like being asked how you feel about graduating from college or starting a new job. Moving back to America means a complete shift. When you've lived overseas in a culture that is vastly different than America there are so many changes that one goes through that it's quite hard to put it to words. And most do not even hit culture shock until at least a month after they have returned. The best I can say is that I have mixed feelings. I'll miss things, but I'm also looking forward to being back.

Here are a few feelings I've had in the last couple weeks:

-Relief: I'm ready to go home. I'm ready to see family and friends and to eat some In N Out.

-Guilt: I feel guilty leaving all my new friends and the gallery. But I felt the same when I left the States this last January. It's just the reality of living all around the world.

-Excitement: I'm really looking forward to starting my new job and living in San Francisco.

-Stress: I'm stressed with moving, being in LA for just 3 weeks and with having to deal with the whole shift back to American life and money and consumerism and not getting to speak French ever and the list goes on.

-Fear: What if I get back and realize I was supposed to be back in Tunisia? What if I hate my new job? What if I hate SF? What if I never get to use the French I've learned again?

-Lethargy: I haven't been in the mood to do any work or do anything really but read and watch movies.

Well, I'll see some of you very shortly.


Reading: Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
Watching: Titanic, Baby Mama, and Reservation Road; also "Jizz in my Pants" SNL Digital Short
Listening: Nada Surf, Thrice, Bon Iver, Third Eye Blind

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I'm moving to San Francisco

I don't know if anyone reads my blog who doesn't also see my facebook status updates but for those that are unaware, I will be moving to San Francisco this coming January upon my return from North Africa.

I will be working for my uncle and his partner at their antique/fine art gallery. My official position is known as "gallery manager," but I will be shadowing them in all parts of the business. I will manage the galleries, the website, learn about all aspects of antiques and fine art, go to antique fairs, and do whatever else they would like me to.

I'm excited. I'll be living in the city. I'll be going to Giants games. I'll be living the dream and saving money to hopefully attend graduate school in the near future.

Check out the website:

That's all.


Listening to: Dustin Kensrue - This Good Night is Still Everywhere
Watching: How I Met Your Mother - All Seasons
Reading: The Lovely Bones and The Irresistible Revolution

Friday, November 7, 2008

5 Reasons I voted for Obama

Top 5 Reasons I Voted for Obama

5. After reading his book, "The Audacity of Hope," I truly understand what Obama means by change. He didn't do a great job of explaining what exactly he meant when he always talked about "change" in his campaign, but in his book I got a better sense of where he comes from with his political agenda.

4. Voting for Obama was a vote for the healing of some of the deep and scarring race issues present within America. It wasn't good enough that he is African-American, but it happened that he also has a clear vision for the future of America and the reshaping of American politics. He will not just be an African-American president, but he will be a GOOD American president who also happens to be African-American.

3. His policies, of course. His ideas about energy, the environment, education, help for the middle and working classes and also his plans for healthcare are what America needs. They aren't perfect, but it's better than the Republican's plan. Again, many of these ideas were not as well presented in the campaign as they were in his book. Such is American politics, right?

2. America's standing in the world. I knew that electing Obama would heal many wounds with other countries but I had no idea how extensively the world would celebrate the election of Obama. I feel the gained respect when I walk around here in Tunisia just from the election. Quite amazing.

1. Sarah Palin was on the other ticket. McCain wasn't the problem except his support of big business, drilling for oil, and his unwillingness to budge on Iraq. It was his choice of VP and the fact that he could quite easily have a heart attack and fall over dead. And guess who takes over? You get the picture.


P.S. To anyone who brings up the abortion issue (The first thing Christians always point out to me like somehow I haven't read up on his voting record) and voting for Obama, you can message me and I can give a detailed explanation of my views on the issue and what we can do to lessen the number of abortions in the country. In short: The end of abortion will not come because Roe v. Wade is overturned through the election of a Republican "pro-life" candidate who appoints conservative Supreme Court Judges, but we need to work at first lessening the number of abortions by supporting the women who have unwanted pregnancies in the first place and giving them options other than aborting their baby (instead of always playing the "moral" card on them), which is not being done to the level it is needed.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Critiquing America = UnAmerican...What the??

There has been a lot of talk lately about being a true American. Most of this has been in relation to the presidential election and the ongoing argument between the candidates of who is more "American." Let's get to the point: If you have an American passport, you are an American. You can't be more "American" no matter what you do. You can do more for your country and your neighbors than another citizen, but that doesn't make you any more "American." If anything, that just makes you a more giving and sacrificial person.

My second thought about "Americanism" concerns the accusations of people being unAmerican. Since when did critiquing America make you unAmerican? (In the same way, since when did critiquing the war in Iraq or even being against it mean you don't "support the troops?") Again, let's get to the point: America is not the "shining city on a hill" as Palin so horrendously described the country as. (This isn't even taking into account the Biblical/Christian parallel she is attempting to create with America, which is incredibly dangerous for the church.)

America's history, both centuries old and contemporary, is full of many unAmerican instances. (Slaves, stealing of entire nation from native americans, torture, espionage debacles, etc.) We are still a country trying to deal with race, our empirical/imperialistic tendencies, the wealth gap, consumerism, intolerance, and simple ignorance just to name a few. We have done many things well (Marshall Plan, The New Deal, protecting Kuwait in the early 90s, pushing for democracy, etc.). There is no doubt that the American ideal has some good and even great areas. But let's not just pat ourselves on the back, blow our American egos up and not care anymore. Let's take some time to examine ourselves and our actions and aim to improve as a nation because that is what we truly need right now. Obama (the likely winner) nor McCain are going to truly change the country without taking a long look at the country itself and its actions and critiquing the good and the ugly that we are as a nation.

But what does this look like?

I don't know. And I think most of our leaders don't know either but here are some things to start with:

-We need a re-imagining of the "American Dream" away from a dream of economic and material status. America = $. How sad is that? America should be a place where you have a greater sense of freedom and equality, where your neighbors will pick you up when you fall, where you can truly build something that you can call your own and learn to live sacrificially, just and tolerant. It shouldn't be about buying that house and new car and living comfortably (not that those things are evil or something).

-We need to look at our imperialistic tendencies with how we deal with the rest of the world. We have our hands in too many cookie jars. This includes reflecting on the answer to this question: Why were we attacked on 9/11? Our influence has not always been for the better.

-We need to look at the consumerism that has saturated the mindset of our society and the "Me Me Me" mentality.

-Race. This is still a painful area for the country because there are still many, many deep scars and embarrassing stereotypes, and the big issue of immigration is upon us as well. I don't know how we address this issue but it needs addressing.

-America is not the moral leader of the world. In fact, far from it. We need to take the plank out of our own eyes before we can do the same for others. Setting a standard against torture would be a start.

-Education needs to be revamped, made more challenging and we need to work on a solution to solve the issues within failing schools and districts. This will make America more appealing to the rest of the world and also make it competitive for the next wave of new technology.

-If America wants to consider itself a leader in the world, it needs to lead in environmental standards and renewable, clean energy production. This will require a great deal of sacrifice but has the possibility of creating a huge number of jobs and making the economy boom like never before.

That's all I've got for now.

Go ahead. Be "unAmerican" and critique away.


Reading List: The Meaning of Jesus - Two Visions by Marcus Borg and N.T. Wright (Currently reading this), Democracy Matters by Cornel West, and Introduction to Marx

Listening to: Dear Science - TV on the Radio, For Emma, Forever Ago - Bon Iver, Only by the Night - Kings of Leon, Funeral and Neon Bible - Arcade Fire, Cease to Begin - Band of Horses and Appeal to Reason - Rise Against

Watching: Dexter, Entourage, The Office, Grey's Anatomy, The Big Bang Theory, Chuck - all current seasons. And I'm catching up on 30 Rock and going to start Battlestar Galactica soon.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

2 Months from Today...

...I come home from Tunisia. Well, actually I leave Tunisia and then have to spend the night in London but the point is I leave in 2 months. It's kind of strange thinking that my time here is almost up but I guess that's to be expected. But now I move back home where I don't know what I'll be doing but will hopefully somehow become gainfully employed.



Reading list:  Introduction to Philosophy, Introduction to Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling, Children of the Mind
Watching:  The Office, Chuck, Grey's Anatomy, Entourage, Dexter and Damages
Listening:  Kings of Leon - Only by the Night and Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago

Monday, September 22, 2008

America and the Pakistan Problem

All I can say is what the hell America? Do you want to start a war with a country that has nuclear weapons?  Yes, they have terrorists in their country but you don't fight terrorists by breaking the sovereignty of another nation just because they have not been particularly cooperative with America's (not the world's) mission. The country is on the verge of civil war. That means things could be a bit tricky to negotiate with them right now, you know? Oh and haven't you learned your lesson yet about not starting civil wars in countries?

Can we please use some common sense? Quit unilaterally trying to rid the world of terrorists. You're only creating more problems. How do you fight an enemy that has no nation? Tell me that!!

Unfortunately, America forgets the wise words of Jesus:  "Put your sword back in its place...for all who draw the sword will die by the sword."


Reading:  "Xenocide" by Orson Scott Card and just finished "Myth of a Christian Nation" by Dr. Gregory Boyd
Listening to:  "Lost in the Sound of Seperation" - underOath, Russell Brand Podcasts, SoulSurvivor USA
Watching:  Chuck, Entourage, The Dark Knight

Friday, September 19, 2008

Favorite Time of Year

Starting about October and lasting until January, my favorite time of the year is officially here. It's not Christmas, it's not Thanksgiving.

It's prestige movie season!!!

I love this time of year because for the most part the quality of movies is astounding. The films offer something for the mind to chew on instead of the simple entertainment of the summer films. Generally, more than 70% of my favorite movies of any given year come out around this time of year. I will admit that I probably sink too much money into going to the movies but I love it. But here's a list of some of the movies I'm looking forward to seeing:

-Revolutionary Road
-Quantum of Solace
-The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
-Crossing Over
-Yes Man
-Seven Pounds
-The Day the Earth Stood Still
-The Brother's Bloom
-Body of Lies
-The Changeling

That's all I can think of right now. I'm sure there are others.


P.S. I think The Dark Knight is probably going to end up being my favorite movie of the year. It's pretty amazing even if it's not necessarily the most "fun" movie.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

20 Questions for Sarah Palin

This is a great article from (my favorite policy, economics and ideas site). Lately I've been feeling quite strongly that the President doesn't just need to portray a good image of America, have strong morals and convictions, but he/she also needs to be one of the smartest people in the country. Really. A "C" student from Yale doesn't cut it (sorry Mr. Bush). 

Here's why:

Though Republican campaign handlershave resisted the clamoring of "elitist," mud-slinging reporters for a press conference with Sarah Palin, the VP nominee will sit down for her first campaign-trail interview with ABC's Charlie Gibson at some point later this week. While campaign advisor Rick Davis says she's not scared to answer questions, Palin is said to be enduring some intense cram sessions with foreign policy tutors like Joe Lieberman.

Her passport stamps may be few, but Palin and her supporters remain adamant that the barracuda has what it takes to roll with the world's most formidable leaders and even its heavy-hitting bullies. Among the list of credentials cited are Palin's role as commander of Alaska's National Guard, her stint as mayor, and, infamously, Alaska's close proximity to Russia.

We've put together a list of suggested questions for Gibson that we think will reveal how aware Palin is of the issues awaiting her in Washington as well as offer a glimpse of the potential world leader that lies beneath the lipstick-wearing hockey mom. Feel free to suggest some of your own.

  1. In a broad and long-term sense, would you have responded differently to the attacks of 9/11?
  2. Is Iraq a democracy?
  3. What’s the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite?
  4. What is your preferred plan for peace between Israel and Palestine? A two state solution? What about Jerusalem?
  5. How do you feel about French President Nicolas Sarkozy's recent visit to Syria? Do you believe the United States should negotiate with leaders like President Bashar al-Assad?
  6. Nearly 40 percent of the world's population lives in China and India. Who are those countries' leaders?
  7. Do you support the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Agreement, which would lift restrictions on sales of nuclear technology and fuel to India, a country which hasn’t signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty?
  8. Other than more drilling, what steps do you suggest the U.S. take in order to move toward energy independence? Do you believe more investment is needed in alternative energy research? If so, how would you recommend this funding be allocated?
  9. How would you balance concerns over human rights and freedom in China with the United States' growing economic interdependence with that country?
  10. What's more important: securing Russia's cooperation on nuclear proliferation and Iran, or supporting Georgia's NATO bid? If Vladimir Putin called you on the phone and said, "It's one or the other," what would you tell him?
  11. Critique the foreign policy of the last administration. Name its single greatest success, and its most critical failure.
  12. What do you think will be the most defining foreign-policy issue in the next five years?
  13. What role should the United States play in the global effort to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS? Should it support contraception, or abstinence only?
  14. You've said that the federal government spends too much money. What, in your view, is the appropriate level of spending as a percentage of GDP?
  15. You're an advocate of reducing environmental restrictions on drilling. How much oil needs to be found in the United States before the country achieves energy independence?
  16. What are your picks for the three most enlightening books written on foreign policy in the last five years?
  17. Who among the world's leaders can be listed as the top three friends of the United States and why?
  18. In your opinion, which U.S. president was the most successful world leader and why?
  19. Which U.S. political thinkers, writers, and politicians would you enlist to advise you on matters of foreign policy and why?
  20. Who is the first world leader you'd like to meet with and why?

Ramadan - A Few Observations

Well, after a great 9 day trip in the UK, I arrived back to Tunisia 5 days or so into Ramadan.  I've been back now just a fews days but I have a few observations.

-First off, right when the fast breaks the streets are empty of course.  But at 7:30 pm.  I found it a bit creepy, kind of like that scene from the beginning of 28 Days Later.
-I keep seeing people drink or eat during the day.  Ha!!  I respect that if you're not going to fast, why try and hide it.
-It's funny to me that right after the fast breaks, everyone is smoking and eating a ridiculous amount of food.  

That's basically it.  I've talked to a few people about it and most of them say the first few days are hard but then it becomes normal because your eating schedule shifts.  But it is hot and I don't know if I could manage doing it for a month.  I am frustrated though that all the sandwich places are closed.  I want some Chez Joseph (my fav sandwich spot).


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The use of the word "evil"

A recent column on Al jazeera hammered both Obama, McCain, the Christian right and the U.S. in general on its misguided use of the word "evil."  

What's misguided about it?  

Neither of the candidates or most of the Bush Administration's rhetoric ever defines what specific "evil" we are battling. Or clarifies that this "evil" is only "evil" from our own perspective.  By calling something "evil," we are assuming that we ourselves are the "good." Why does it need be so black and white?  Are we incapable to think complexly about the conflicts we are engaged in throughout the world?

Not that there isn't evil in the world (poverty, hunger, and genocide are all good examples of evils that the world faces) but I think it's more important that the US moves beyond such a narrow and naive perspective that there is only "good" and "evil" in the world.

It's an interesting article and I think the author hits the issue right on.

Here's a link to it:  Evil in the US elections

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Some ideas

So, I'm going to be applying soon for a few research/language study grants so that it is possible for me to return to Tunisia in the near future if I feel that's what I'm wanting to do (not making that decision until after I've been away for a little while). I'm looking at the Fulbright program as well as another program that gives you 2 years of full-ride language study in return for 2 years of governmental work (meaning a guaranteed full paid job) after you're done.

My choice would be the language study program because of the guaranteed job in a field I actually would want to work in. Not to mention, after the 2 years I could be pretty awesome at speaking/reading/writing in Arabic.  

But what I'm really doing with this blog is asking if anybody has any ideas for proposals for the Fulbright. What kind of studies on Arabic culture would be interesting, appeal to the people who choose which grants get accepted, and also what would I enjoy doing?

Something within films works as well since my degree is that anyways.

So help me with ideas.  Please!!


Recently watched:  Dexter Season 1 (currently watching's so good), Step Brothers, and eagerly awaiting to finally see The Dark Knight on IMAX when I'm in England
Listening to:  Norma Jean - The Anti-Mother, Rise Against, random live recordings of Thrice and Brand New
Reading:  Rise to Globalism by Stephen Ambrose and ? (not remembering his name right now)

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Things I miss

Here's a list of some stuff I miss (in no particular order):

-xbox 360
-in n' out
-mexican and chinese food
-my Honda Fit
-Newcastle Brown Ale (any good beer really)
-movie theaters
-fast internet
-bookstores (with books in english)
-watching sports (specifically going to baseball games)

Saturday, August 2, 2008

I like that guy who made that micro-soft stuff

Here's a link to a great article written by Bill Gates for TIME magazine on how capitalism needs to be more creative in not just making more money but also how making money can go hand in hand with fighting poverty, curing disease and helping the billions who live on less than $1 a day. After reading "Jesus for President" I've been thinking a lot about how we as America (or simply those spending large amounts of money on material things) can help those in need within the capitalist system and Gates makes some interesting suggestions on how capitalism can actually benefit the poor and why it's important for companies to lose money on certain products to help those in need.

Check it out here.


P.S.  The heat here in Tunisia is horrific and the humidity is even worse.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Recipe for Surviving the Summer

frozen bananas
frozen strawberries
1 cup of juice (any kind will do)
1 yoghurt (any flavor works)
a few ice cubes

blend it all together and you get the only way to survive the heat in Tunisia.


Recently Read:  Jesus for President, Ender's Game and Me Talk Pretty One Day
Listening to:  Thrice - Live Myspace Transmissions
Recently Watched:  Grey's Anatomy Season 4 (Ep. 11-16), Street Kings and Point Break
Accomplishments:  got a 90% on my last French test.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Just a Game

Here's an interesting blog from (one of my new favorite world issues websites/magazines) that puts forward the idea that the United States and Israel are playing good cop, bad cop to Iran so that United States can persuade Iran into an agreement regarding their nuclear enrichment program.  

Read the short blog here.  

Definitely could be the case considering the Under Secretary of State William Burns just met in Tehran with Iranian officials this past weekend, which was one of the first diplomatic meetings between the United States and Iran in nearly 30 years. This meeting is an incredibly large change in Iranian policy by the Bush administration even if Mr. Burns is just there to listen.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Top 5 Places I Want to Visit

5.  Greece

4.  Dubai, UAE

3.  Jerusalem, Israel

2.  Tokyo, Japan

1.  Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Bashir's Charge of Genocide

Here is a quote from a BBC News article where they paraphrase a Sudanese Foreign minister speaking in regards to the War Crimes and Genocide claim made by the International Criminal Court:

"Allegations of genocide by the ICC's chief prosecutor were designed to generate hostility between tribal groups in Darfur, Mr Salaheddin said."

This statement from Sudan is ridiculous for multiple reasons:

First of all, the ICC's chief prosecutor is Luis Moreno-Ocampo. He's Argentinean. So why in the world would he be interested in creating more hostility between tribal groups? How would Argentina gain from creating conflict? How would any country gain except those that have interests specifically in Sudan (i.e. China)?  

Second, the first step towards any kind of change occurring in Sudan is when the leaders admit that they have a problem and that it's an atrocity what is going on in their country. Not to mention they are appealing to the Arab League and if the Arab League has any integrity they will put pressure on Sudan to admit its issues and accept the reality that its government has allowed genocide to take place. I find it quite strange that the country appeals to the Arab League despite the fact that only 39% of the country is Arab while 52% are Black Africans.  

Another thought is that Russia needs to get on board and actually make an attempt to do some good in the world instead of always nitpicking what the West and specifically America tries to accomplish. Yes, we make mistakes but at least we even try and do anything. Simply googling how much Russia gives in foreign aid only goes to articles about how much the U.S. has given to Russia, not how much Russia has given.

Change won't happen in Sudan until it's own country does something or at least admits its wrongdoing. But if you have any idea about an honor/shame mindset, specifically within an Arab context then their admitting wrong has nothing to do with whether they are right or wrong. It has to do with the fact that admitting guilt will bring shame to the leaders and then there will be no way for them to remove the shame because they only have themselves to blame.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Part of my life finishes

So, today at about 1:30 p.m. or so (not really sure what time but I had yet to truly get out of bed even though I had been up since 9 a.m.) part of my life finished.  

For the past 4 months I have been watching The West Wing on DVD.  I've been watching it a lot as there are 7 seasons of 22 or so episodes each (basically 4 1/3 days in length).

And today I finished. I'm quite sad/satisfied. It's the best TV show in my opinion that's ever been produced and was consistently top notch throughout its 7 seasons.

Now I have to find another show to watch. 

Any suggestions?


P.S.  "Jesus for President" is blowing my mind and I'm finishing it tonight.

Friday, July 11, 2008

A Solution to Iran

BBC News Washington D.C. correspondent Matt Frei gives a well-balanced and healthy perspective on how we should be dealing with the Iran problem.  

He writes:

"A few years ago North Korea launched its own plea for attention by test-firing the Taepodon missiles AND testing its first nukes.

After the initial shock and condemnation, America obliged Kim Jong Il by pressing on with the six-party talks and just last month President Bush hailed a deal with North Korea which involves them verifiably scrapping their nuclear programme and the US providing them with energy, food and access to international markets.

It was a rare diplomatic triumph for the Bush administration.

Why not try the same with Tehran?"

Read the rest of the article here.

I hope that more people at the State and Defense Departments take this stance and see Iran's reactions as a cry to begin talks with the EU and the US. Unfortunately, with the fossil fuel reserves that Iran has they are not in the same financial predicament that the Koreans were in so, it wouldn't be a cry for aid but instead a cry for not being shunned by the major powers of the world and countries starting to not buy their natural resources, which would eventually destroy their economy.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Iran's Missile Test Response

In the news today you can read about how Iran tested a long range (2000km) ballistics missile that is capable of reaching Israel if the U.S. or Israel were to attack their nuclear enrichment sites. You can read the story at

The State Department called it "provocative." I call it scary.  Really, it's something that should make the Middle East incredibly nervous and the rest of the world as well.  

But the real question is whether we are headed for another war. Will the U.S. invade Iran if they are not willing to comply with U.N. or EU sanctions concerning the enrichment of Uranium? For one, if we do invade Iran we have to not be the lead on the invasion and that's not just because of our troop commitments in the rest of the area. It must be EU led. Israel cannot be the lead on the invasion either because that will have enormous ramification in the region and cause incredible damage to a future peace with Palestine (and the rest of the region for that matter). Thankfully, the EU has tried to take the lead for the world's actions towards Iran and imposing sanctions of their own.

The most worrying thing to me in this entire situation is the rhetoric that has been used by both Israel and Iran. Public statements that an invasion is "inevitable" (Israeli Minister of Transportation, who apparently is a possible candidate for PM if Olmert steps down due to the scandal. Now that's a scary thought.) or Iran's continual statements about the fact that Israel is an enemy (talk about a wonderfully diplomatic term) do not particularly turn the heat down on the situation.

So what do we do? We have to keep the EU in the lead on this and we should back up what they plan on doing. Give Israel a stern warning that attacking Iran alone will not be tolerated and will drastically hurt the West's relations with them. That probably won't happen but always backing Israel in everything they do is going to get us into World War III. And we definitely need to be negotiating with Iran's leaders just as Barack Hussein Obama has suggested and been openly mocked for even thinking about.

Let's hope these nations can start acting like real countries and try to be diplomatic in some manner.  HA!!


Currently Listening to:  The new Sigur Ros - Med...whatever the hell it's called
Currently Reading:  "Jesus for President" by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw
Recently Watched:  In Bruges and West Wing Season 7

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Waking Up Sweaty

So as some of you may have noticed, it's now officially summer.  What comes with summer? Hot weather.

In America, this is generally not too big of a deal because everything is air conditioned. In Europe, it's the same. In Tunisia, it depends on where you go if it's air conditioned or not. My house is not. So when I take a nap in the afternoon (because the whole country shuts down during the hot part of the day and then you stay up til 1 a.m. and then get up early) I find myself waking up a sweaty mess.  

It's quite disgusting.


Currently Reading:  BBC,,, TIME, Newsweek, What is the What by Dave Eggers and A Short History of the Arab Peoples
Currently Listening to:  Evil Urges by My Morning Jacket
Recently Watched:  Definitely, Maybe (2 1/2 out of 4)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A Few Pictures I Took

Here's a few pictures I took recently. They were taken at a beach where there are sunken ships. I like them.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Key Issues in the Election

Here are the most important issues to me in the Election:

-The Economy
-lessen national debt
-budget deficits - $500 billion is absolutely unacceptable
-trade deficit - we need to increase our exports somehow.  Don't really have an answer for this but we can't continue to be a service oriented economy.
-strength of the $ - this benefits the entire world
-no more tax cuts or refunds until we can balance the budget and start paying down the debt.  It's our fault as much as the governments that we have such a large debt because we are so against the idea of taxes actually staying the same but only desire tax cuts which in the long run hurt the country and lead to cuts in education, defense, infrastructure, services, etc.

-more pay for teachers
-more science and math in schools
-more P.E.
-less standardized testing
-smaller classrooms
-community development with regards to their involvement with the schools

-Foreign Policy
-quit being arrogant in our policies and attitude.  Everyone already knows we're the most powerful country in the world but they also know we're starting to lose that power.  In saying this we need to work with other countries whenever we look at invasions, sanctions or anything of that nature.
-increased willingness to sit down with foreign leaders from all nations without specific requirements to even talk
-push to either strengthen the U.N. or completely revamp it
-increased aid to Africa as well as considering sending troops in to stop genocide

-The War in Iraq
-Set a time frame for withdrawal, which will push the Iraqi military to work harder.  We still need to keep probably 50,000 troops there for at least the next 5 years.
-Help in developing strong infrastructure of schools, roads, services, etc.  This should continue even after we have left.

-Social Security
-privatization is probably the only way to alleviate this issue.  Government employees already have privatized accounts, so why can't the rest of the population?

-Health Care
-we need to start making our way towards universal care.  Start with insuring all children under 18.
-push pharmaceutical companies to produce more disease fighting drugs instead of sexual dysfunction drugs

-Increased fuel and emission standards
-More nuclear plants and help educate the public about the few fears regarding this type of energy
-Develop alternative fuels/energy and move away from a reliance on oil

That's all I can think of off the top of my head.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Bathroom Lock

So this week I officially became famous by appearing in some b-roll footage shot at the gallery. I simply act like I'm interestedly looking at the art while chatting to the artist. It's going to be on Tunisian television sometime soon. This was for the current exhibition that is being shown at Kenza, which in all honesty I don't like very much.  The art is not that great.  I could probably do it.

But the best thing about this whole TV thing happened before any footage was shot.  One of the bathrooms in the gallery is primarily used for the storage of our cleaning supplies, the watering can and cleaning up after painting.  For some reason, people have been using it lately and the hostess/interviewer for the show did as well.  There is an issue with the locking mechanism. Sometimes it's difficult to unlock the thing.  Well, this lady kind of got locked in there for a while. We thought she was just doing her makeup and it was taking a really long time. But no. She was stuck. Locked in the bathroom. 

We finally realized and just sat in the office laughing to ourselves while she pulled continuously on the door trying to get the lock to unlock itself. She started to get frustrated and the cameraman came to look for her and busted up laughing at the fact that she was stuck. Unfortunately, she was eventually able to get free and she handled it in stride. 

Suffice to say, I haven't fixed the lock yet.

Oh and I've been gardening a lot lately. It's been awesome.


Thursday, June 5, 2008

J'aime beaucoup la musique!!

Considering I work at an art gallery where foot traffic is not overwhelming, I get to spend a lot of time by myself.  It's great a lot of times.  I've got a lot of reading done (or at least I've tried to get a lot of reading done) and I also listen to music a bunch.

You should definitely check out:
god is an astronaut 
minus the bear 
explosions in the sky
brand new  
sufjan stevens

They're all pretty wicked.

That's all.


Tuesday, June 3, 2008

A New Step

So, I've been thinking a lot about what I want to get out of my time while in Tunisia.  One of the reasons I came here in the first place was because of my interest in Arabic/Islamic Culture and since being here I've realized how passionate I am about helping Western Society understand this very different part of the world.  

The more I think about it, the more I see the need for a greater understanding of Arabic Culture in not just the general public but also the American government.  What a difference that would make in our foreign policy decisions and in the way we handled diplomacy.

Do Americans have any concept of the honor/shame mindset?  Do we even understand that Western society for the most part functions out of a completely different mindset, which focuses on right and wrong?  How different would the peace talks between Israel and Palestine be if this was taken in as a factor.  

Do most even realize the significance of Baghdad within Islamic history?  It used to be one of the key capitols for the eastern part of the Middle East in the 11th-15th century.  Of course the Islamic world would be quite pissed when America goes and takes the place over, especially considering the Arab world generally assumes that Westerners are all Christians (because generally if you're an Arab, you're a Muslim).  Hmmm...

But these are just a few of the things I've learned since I've been here.  We're so uninformed these days (though it's not like the rest of the world is any more informed than us) and we really need to have a greater grasp of how other cultures think and function.

So, what I've decided I want out of this time is a greater knowledge of Arabic Culture and of Islam.  I'm leaning towards starting my graduate work in the next two years within this context with an ultimate goal of working in/with the government in some capacity dealing with foreign policy in the Middle East and Maghrib.  

We'll see what happens.  It's a new direction for me.  I'm excited.  I'm reading a lot.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

1600km (993 miles)

My bro and I went on a 3 day whirlwind trip of Tunisia.  We drove a ton.  That's really what we did all 3 days.  We drove.  And drove.  We also did some of the following:

-went to the 3rd largest standing Roman coliseum, El Jem.  Scott stated that he hopes that they bring back gladiator fights for real because he wants to see one get killed.
-we stayed in a cockroach infested hotel room in the coastal town of Gabes.  I'll not be returning there anytime soon.
-drove a manual the whole time and did not get in an accident with any Tunisian psycho drivers, pedestrians or God-forsaken scooter drivers.  Scott drove too and managed to keep us alive.
-we went to multiple Star Wars filming locations.  The Lars Homestead, the Tuskan Raider canyons and the slave quarters from Phantom Menace.  Yes...I'm a geek.
-we definitely drove places that put us in a position where we totally could have been kidnapped and stolen.
-we did an overnight camel trek into the Sahara desert and spent the night under the AMAZING stars.  I saw 3 or 4 shooting stars.
-we used the line "Look at these assholes" from The Darjeeling Limited at least 100 times during the trip to describe any weird group of people we saw.

That's about all.  It was great trip except that I came back sick and had to work the next morning.

Monday, May 19, 2008

President McCain and Vice President Huckabee - A Winning Ticket?

I haven't really been able to make up my mind about the Presidential race.  So, here are a few thoughts:

  1. I really like Mike Huckabee and it's sad that he wasn't able to make more of a run.  If he had the money of Mitt Romney and had entered the race a little earlier to get his name out he may have had a chance.  He was a good social conservative but somewhat liberal economically, which I think is a good fit currently.  My only concern was the lack of foreign policy experience that could lead to him being another Jimmy Carter.
  2. I like McCain but I have no idea what he would do as the President.  I kind of feel as if right now we need an idealist who can inspire the country to change how it's always functioned and I don't see him doing that.  However, I really don't see anyone being able to change the way government works on the scale that is needed, much like FDR did during the Great Depression (our current debt situation, both trade and general, makes me depressed and is our country's priority issue.  A close second is restoring the country's reputation around the world).  His upside is without a doubt his experience, straight talking, military knowledge and his foreign policy experience.  Unfortunately, he may not be the one who can push the economy back on track.  Though that is more of Congress' problem and they're the ones who are going to have to fix spending issues.
  3. Hilary Clinton is destroying the Democratic party, much to the republican party's delight. She is pretty much making it near impossible for the democrats to win in November because of how split everything currently is.  She needs to just drop out and shut up.  
  4. Obama needs to start pushing issues instead of talking about other candidates.  He's such an inspiring guy that he needs to stay away from how most politicians campaign and only stick to the issues.  If he starts attacking the other candidates he'll make himself only look like everyone else, instead of being this radical person of "change" that he keeps talking about.  And after reading his book, I see what he means when he talks about change and a new kind of politics but he needs to vocalize it more in his campaign instead of just looking smooth in front of the camera.  
  5. If Obama picks Clinton as a running mate I will not vote for them.
  6. If McCain picks Huckabee as a running mate I most likely will vote for them, though it depends on who Obama runs with.
Well, that's basically it right now.  I've really been getting in to this whole politics thing. America needs some clear thinking right now and some willingness to compromise.  It also needs to reign in spending and most likely raise taxes a little bit.  Oh and we definitely need to focus on science and mathematics within our schools.  

I'll keep this blog better updated now that I'm back in Tunisia.  I'll post some pics of the brief time in London my brother and I had soon.

love, jack

Reading:  Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Listening To:  Atmosphere
Watching:  Lost Season 4 and The West Wing Season 4

Saturday, April 19, 2008

A Note to Brian McLaren

So, I've been reading Brian McLaren's book A Generous Orthodoxy and I would have to give it a 3/5.  My main issues with the book is the style of writing.  He's overly arrogant about what he has to say and he uses far too many meaningless footnotes and uses parentheses every paragraph.  It drives me nuts.  And half of his footnotes tell how another freaking book he's written explains what he's saying better.

But the biggest issue I have with the book is how he sees what he is writing about as truly groundbreaking.  It makes sense to a person who was born in the modern era that thinking postmodernly would be groundbreaking.  So, to him it seems groundbreaking and new and fresh because he once was a modernist. But to a postmodern such as I am (or anyone in their twenties or under, really) it just seems second nature.  What he says makes sense, but he needs to admit that he's found this himself and to him it's new and fresh and not something he somehow figured out on his own.  

Writers like Mars Hill's pastor Rob Bell or Donald Miller are much more honest in their Christian worldviews and they also don't seem forced in the presentation of their ideas.  They also are true postmoderns.  At least, McLaren is able to admit how much in common he has and all Christians have with other denominations.  These are just a few thoughts I've had lately. Living in Tunisia makes you realize how stupid all the division within the church is and how prejudiced people are towards new ideas and different ways of doing things.  I like how the emergent church is willing to step out and do something new, but I don't like that they're arrogant in the way that they do it and in the way they think they've somehow got it all right. Everyone thinks they've got it all right.

I wish more would think they're just doing their best and simply keep trying to do their best. And don't get me started on how I feel about Christians not doing their best (we could start with the Christian "music (if you could call it that)" scene).


Sunday, April 13, 2008

What goes on in my head while I'm at the gallery

At the art gallery oftentimes I am left alone. Actually everyday at the gallery for half the day I am by myself, lonely and not doing my work. While I am watching the gallery I sometimes read, work on the website, watch an episode of The West Wing or part of a movie, practice my French or whatever else I need to do. But also while I am there things go through my head.  

I think about how I wish I could speak French better.  I think about different ways to improve the gallery.  I think about how poorly I can communicate with the people who generally come to the gallery because I don't speak French well.  I think about what I'm going to do after I leave the gallery and go home.  And I also worry.

I just worry about one thing, really.  And that is that someone will come to the gallery and steal a painting from one of the rooms while I'm here and somehow I won't notice them.  Either some small child or maybe even a klepto adult who had come to one of our openings and now got the urge to rip us off.  This isn't just some one off random thought that came through my head.  It's come through multiple times.  I actually even told the director of the gallery about it. She just laughed.  But this is serious, dang it!!  What happens if I fall asleep in the gallery after a late night talking to people on the internet?  I could lose my job that doesn't pay me because someone walked in and pulled a painting off the wall and then just walked off with a nice piece of art.  It could even be something someone already bought and is just being exhibited until the show is over.  

It would suck.  Really suck.  I'd be screwed.


Listening to:  The Alchemy Index by Thrice
Watching:  The West Wing and The Office
Reading:  A Generous Orthodoxy

Friday, April 11, 2008


So, a buddy and I watched the new Rambo film a few days ago.  Big mistake. 
We  were hoping just to watch a ridiculous action movie that was overly violent to veg out for a bit.  Instead we got the most disgustingly violent film I have ever seen.  Honestly, the film is horrible.  I've never seen so many people completely mutilated by either machete, knife, machine gun, pistol or sniper rifle.  The film is sick.  When people get shot they don't just fall over and a little blood goes flying.  They get a hole blown through them, chunks of parts fly all over the place.  The last 15 minutes of the film is simply rambo on a chain gun mowing down burmese soldiers and completely tearing them to pieces while a mercenary with a sniper rifle blows people heads off (and heads are actually blown off in this one).  

Please do not watch this film.  It actually makes some good points about things but it completely uses the horrific situation of Burma and similar places around the world to have Rambo cut a guy in half with a knife.  It's gratuitous, messed up and disgusting.  Avoid it.  And Hollywood needs to quit making this kind of crap that completely desensitizes people to not just violence but also what is going on around the world.

Sickened and Disgusted,


Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Good Things A Going On

Don't you just love it when things just seem to go every way you want them to? Isn't it great? Unfortunately, it doesn't happen all the time but when it does it makes you feel good about everything.  That's how today has been for me.

First, I started French this week and was pretty worried about it being too easy and everything but it's ended up being perfect.  And the timing of the classes for the rest of the summer works great for me so I'm excited to really dig in and hopefully be at intermediate level (God willing) by September so I can go into an even more intense level of learning.

Second, I've been a little concerned with my finances for the year.  Work for me here hasn't panned out as well or as quickly as I would have liked it.  I was hired at the Tunisian American Chamber of Commerce but it takes forever for my student to get his paperwork done and then they haven't even sent me my paperwork so it's really annoying to say the least.  However, I have at least 10 hours of teaching guaranteed there but it's not that much.  But out of nowhere today a student who I was teaching over a month ago called me again to do more private lessons.  And then I was finally able to connect with the American school here to get set up to tutor elementary students and I'm being set up with a 4th grader to tutor math.  Amazing.  It's so awesome how God answers prayers almost instantly when you ask.  My roommate even bought me dinner tonight at this happenin' restaurant/nightclub in town which was surprising and a huge blessing.

Third, I made some awesome snickerdoodles tonight.  I burnt a few because the oven heats a bit unevenly but nothing too bad.  Super stoked about it.

Fourth, I've been dying to get my hands on the new Thrice album (part III and IV of the Alchemy Index).  So after getting home from the nightclub tonight I found a message from my brother on facebook with a link to a leaked copy of the album.  I feel a little bad downloading it but I'll buy it once I'm back in the states because I own all of their cds.  So, it just topped off the day and I just finished listening to it and I'll be honest...I got chills.  Absolutely awesome.  It really has blown my mind the range of music that they're able to write and at such high levels of quality.  

So I'm a really happy camper right now.  God is blessing me beyond my understanding right now.  

Be back soon.


Currently Listening To:  The Alchemy Index Volumes III & IV by Thrice
Recently Watched:  End of West Wing Season 2
Currently Reading:  A Generous Orthodoxy by Brian McClaren

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Cooking on my own

One of the things that goes with living on your own after graduating with college or moving into your own place, is cooking for oneself.  I've lived away from home now for almost 4 years. I spent two years in the dorm and eating cafeteria food and then another 2 years in an apartment and now in Tunisia.  My mother is an awesome cook, so, I've been a little spoiled throughout my life because she makes the best stuff (especially any kind of cookie or cake). Now I've had to learn how to survive.

I can honestly say I make some darn good Spaghetti Bolognese, decent teriyaki beef with steamed vegetables, most kinds of rice and a wonderful frozen pizza.  But I get tired of eating the same kinds of thing each week.  Thus, I've been trying to branch out a little, which is difficult when you're in a foreign country.  I tried making a beef dish the other day but it didn't quite come out how I hoped.  I'm having trouble keeping the beef moist and not turning into beef jerky.  I was successful at steaming cauliflower, which is exciting for me.  It's not difficult but I'd never done it, so, I was interested to see how it would turn out.  I hope it is quite obvious from this whole spiel that I don't know what I'm doing at all when I'm in the kitchen if I have never made the item before.  Once I've made it though, I can do it and I actually start to get good at it too.

If you have any good recipes that are simple and require very normal ingredients please let me know.

Photograph taken for Dramatic Purposes

Bye now.


Recently watched:  The Bucket List
Currently Listening To:  Seven Swans by Sufjan Stevens

Friday, April 4, 2008

Movie Night Disappointment

So, tonight I tried to put on another movie night at the gallery.  We tried 2 weeks earlier and got an entire 2 people to show up that weren't Tunisian.  I had the movie picked out (Mission: Impossible III because people here love anything with action in it), got the popcorn and Annette and I even set up the place really cozy and everything.  But no one showed.  The few Americans who were supposed to show were either sick or cancelled.  Oh well, this kind of thing happening is quite common in this culture so we'll see how the next one goes.  

I'm pretty sure in the summer it'll be a hit because we are going to try and do it outside and have people bring blankets and pillows and do it more often as well.  But besides that we were able to get invitations done for the next show, which we have down to a science.  We also feel pretty good about the next show after getting the prices that the painters are wanting.  The stuff is very affordable.  

I start French on Monday...finally.  I can't wait to start.  My comprehension is functional but my speaking level is terrible.  So I'm starting at the beginning and my goal is to spend an hour at least every day.  That's about it for now.



Thursday, April 3, 2008


If anyone's been wanting to know, I actually like the food in Tunisia.  It's really pretty good and it's made me start liking some foods I never quite liked before.  For example, I now like/don't mind eating tomatoes, mushrooms, and olives.  I'm also very conflicted about eating chicken and eggs.  I've "accidentally" had both a few times and I've been reaction free, which is making me wonder whether I've outgrown the original allergies I had to poultry before.  Who knows but I'm really starting to crave some Albertson's Fried Chicken.

Another nice thing about being in a foreign country is getting truly fresh fruits and vegetables. For the first 2 months I have been buying my produce in the grocery store (Monoprix if anyone wants to know the name of the store) and have been somewhat dissatisfied with the choices and quality.  But there is a produce market down a back alley in La Marsa where the Tunisians shop and the choices are fabulous and the prices are even better.  

And right now, it's strawberry season and the strawberries are amazing.  They're enormous, they taste perfect and they're cheap.  A whole 2 TD (about $1.60) a kilo.  So, I've been eating them with everything.  A perfectly healthy snack.  Great on cornflakes.  Wonderful in crepes.  I simply cannot get enough.

Til next time,


Tuesday, April 1, 2008

I need a haircut

First off, before I write anything, I'm starting this blog because I've had multiple people ask me to write one so that they can stay updated on my happenings or whatever you would like to call the menial and not so menial things that I do in Tunisia. So here you are...PEOPLE. Enjoy.

I want to start by stating that I badly badly badly need a haircut and I'm too lazy, busy, intimidated by not knowing the language, worried about looking like an ewok or someother mythical creature, and also kind of wanting to not get a haircut so I can say "I went my first 3 1/2 months in Tunisia without getting a haircut." So, I haven't  bothered to go and actually get one. My roommate has even volunteered to go along with me to translate and make sure my hair looks somewhat normal. I'm incredibly conflicted and do not know what to do. Grow it long for once or look like a dumb...(you fill in the blank with whatever expletive you'd like)?  I don't know what to do.  

Until Next Time,


Currently Reading:  A Generous Orthodoxy by Brian D. McClaren
Recently Watched:  The West Wing: Season 2, Jumper and Vantage Point
Currently Listening To A Lot Of:  Alchemy Index by Thrice