Aug 17.08.d229/w33
State of affairs
My new travel blog!

My new travel blog!

Just a few announcements to make concerning the state of Open-Orbit.com! First, I’m pleased with the new direction I’ve taken with this site. I enjoy writing posts and it’s fun to brainstorm ideas to fill out each category. :-)

Second, I’ve added a new category called “Resources.” It will contain goodies that I offer for download and/or links to helpful sites and services.

Thirdly, I’ve added a new site to the projects section! It’s called “Michelle in Kobenhaven” and it will serve as the primary blog for my upcoming semester abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark! I hope to post in it several times a week, but that’s only an estimate at this point because I have no idea what my schedule will be like until I’m actually there! While I’m in Denmark, I’ll continue to post entries here, at least once a week, but maybe more. Once again, it depends on my schedule.

In the future I will revamp the Projects section and make it a little more colorful. Also, I’m going to start planning out version 14 of this site. It will be major design overhaul to better reflect Open-Orbit.com’s new mission of exploration, learning and discovery. I’m going to spend many months on the new layout however, so it probably won’t be up until sometime next year! :-)

Aug 14.08.d226/w33
Kidsongs

Kidsongs Sing Out America!

So far, every category on this site has at least one entry — except for “In Retrospect.” As stated on the About page, “In Retrospect” takes a look back at toys, games and other fads from my childhood. I have plenty of ideas for this section, the first being Kidsongs!

If you grew up in the ’80s and early- to mid-’90s, you may remember the Kidsongs videos! I believe there was a television show as well. Each Kidsongs video told a little story around central theme — A Day at Camp, I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing; Cars, Trains and Planes, etc., and the kids in the video would “tell” the story by singing and acting out familiar songs. For example, in the Day at Camp Video, they sang “The More We Get Together” on the bus ride to camp, and “On top of Spaghetti” while they were eating dinner, and so forth. The videos were never overly silly or goofy, and they didn’t look down upon their audience (something I can’t say for a lot of the kids’ stuff coming out today, but maybe I am biased). Plus, each video came with a sing-along card that contained the lyrics for all of the songs featured in the video. The only thing I didn’t like about Kid Songs is that they had a tendency to rewrite lyrics for well-known songs to make them shorter or to fit with the video’s storyline.

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Aug 12.08.d224/w33
In a nutshell — the Neolithic Revolution

It was around the 3rd millennium BC that prominent changes began to occur in the lifestyles of ancient peoples living in what is now known as the Middle East. This climax of change is commonly called the Neolithic Revolution. The revolution started around 3000 BC and lasted until 1000 BC approximately.

Prior to the third millennium BC, people led a primarily nomadic lifestyle. They hunted and gathered and did not lead a stable life in one location. But around 3000 BC they slowly became more settled. Animals were domesticated and crops were cultivated. Not surprisingly, this development took place quickest in a region known as the Fertile Crescent. The Fertile Crescent (also called Mesopotamia — “between rivers”), is located between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

The Tigris and Euphrates regularly flooded after sowing season, so it provided natural irrigation for crops. In fact, irrigation and levees were a big focus of the region in order to maintain potent crops. In Egypt, development occurred in an area known as the Nile Valley. The Nile was very important because it flooded northward into the lands now known as Sudan and Ethiopia every mid-summer. The flood waters eventually hit Egypt.

Neolithic Revolution, Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Neolithic Revolution, Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The Neolithic Revolution brought about new materials in addition to crops. Pottery, weaving and metal working became commonplace. Metals were especially important to production. In 3000 BC, the emergence of Bronze came in handy for making tools and weapons. Iron succeeded Bronze, but it did receive widespread usage until much later. Aside from metals, civilizations also saw specialization in crops, a stronger social hierarchy and even organized communities. These communities grew from quaint villages to larger cities. Cities became centers of activities—commercial, administrative and religious. Speaking of religion, the third millennium BC marked the beginnings of temples with priests.

Aug 08.08.d220/w32
Games of the XXIX Olympiad
This image is Copyright 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics.
(c) International Olympic Committee for 2008 Summer Olympics

The opening ceremony for the 2008 Summer Olympics is set to begin today in Beijing. The exact start of the ceremony is 8/8/08 at 8:08:08 p.m. Why all the 8′s? Well, the number 8 is considered lucky in China! Let’s hope that this luck is granted and the ceremonies are successful…as well as bring the world some much-needed peace, even if it’s only for a moment. There were (and still are) some rough spots as far as politics and government goes, but overall, it seems to be coming together quite nicely. I love watching all of the athletes from all over the world march in during the opening parade because it shows that we can put our differences aside for once and celebrate the joys of sport and friendly competition. This year there will be over 10,000 athletes competing competing in 302 events and 28 sports. In 2004, there were 301 events.

During the opening parade, the teams will march in the order of the number of strokes in their country’s name when written in Simplified Chinese. This means Guinea will march second (after Greece, who hosted the previous the summer games and by tradition marches first) and Zambia will march 203rd. China will march last, as is tradition.

As host, China has outdone itself to prepare for the Olympics. They have spent a record-breaking $40.9 billion on venue renovation, construction and expanding Beijing’s subway system.

Now, the designer in me loves graphics and looking at graphics. I thought it would be fun to take a look at logos from previous summer Olympic games. Are you ready?

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Aug 06.08.d218/w32
Ten; Not Without My Daughter — a Comparative Review

Today I’m going to discuss two films that deal with women’s issues in the Muslim world, specifically Iran.  The first film, Ten, was directed by Amas Kiarostami (2002). Shot from only two camera angles, this film centers on Mania Akbari, a newly divorced woman who has a job giving people rides in Tehran. Through out the film, Mania has ten separate conversations with her passengers, including her own son. Eventually—through the conversations—the film gives a clear idea of the hardships that come from being female in Iran.  The second film, Not Without My Daughter, is a true story, based on Betty Mahmoody’s book of the same name. Directed by Brian Gilbert (1991), the movie also attempts to make a comment on female oppression by showing how Betty Mahmoody, a white American woman, struggled against male authority while visiting her Iranian husband’s family in Tehran with her daughter.

Not Without My Daughter

Not Without My Daughter

Actually, I saw Not Without My Daughter before I saw Ten. I saw it quite early in my undergraduate years—before I took a semester-long course about the history of Islam and learned enough about the Islamic community to see just how narrow minded Americans are when it comes to understanding and depicting Muslims. My first reaction after watching Not Without My Daughter was—oh my God, I’m so glad that I live in America. After all, I could never live in such a place like Iran, where husbands beat their wives at will; where women do not have custody over their children—even if these children aren’t Iranian citizens—instead, custody belongs to husbands entirely. No, I could not live in Iran, where sure, I as an American woman could leave the country whenever I wish, but my child could not unless my husband gave his permission. I could not live in Iran, where I must dress like all the other Iranian women by covering my face completely. Oh and I must make sure to watch that veil—if it falls a tiny fraction of an inch, I could get arrested. I could not live in Iran, the country in which the only way to escape the country—with my child—as a woman is by a long journey marked by me hiding my identity and doing everything I can to outsmart the guards at the checkpoints. It is only when I see the American flag at the end of this journey that I can sigh with relief. Ah, I am in America. I am home baby. I am home.

Ten

Ten

That’s the basic message that I got after watching Not Without My Daughter. Those are the things that happened to Betty Mahmoody during her visit to Iran, and while it is clear that the filmmaker wanted to use her struggles to show what life is like for women in Iran, it is also clear that the filmmaker chose to depict the streets and culture of Iran as so hostile and primitive that nobody could possibly want to live there.

Ten, in contrast, takes viewers directly to those streets and gives the voices of the diverse group of people who walk them a chance to be heard. After watching Ten, I felt enlightened. I realized that Iran is not the bad place it is often made out to be, despite its history of oppression against women. For one thing, neither Mania nor most of the women she picked up had their veils completely covering their faces. Secondly, Ten gives us hope that one day women will be able to break out of their oppression. Even though Mania had to prove that her husband was a drug addict in order to divorce him, the fact that she was able to get a divorce in order to free herself and live her own life signifies shows that women do have some rights.

In all, Not Without my Daughter is a film to assure Americans that there is no better place for women to live than in the land of free and the home of the brave. Ten tells it like it is and, as aforementioned, does not let go of the hope for women in Iran.

Aug 05.08.d217/w32
Giraffe test for professionals

I received this as an email forward from a friend of mine. I am not the original author of what you are about to read. You may have received this in your email at some point as well, or came across it on the internets. Enjoy!

1. How do you put a giraffe into a refrigerator?

Stop and think about it and decide on your answer before you scroll down.

Courtesy of DailyClipart.net

Courtesy of DailyClipart.net

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Jul 30.08.d211/w31
Arguments of Tanner & Darrell: The Grandma War
Tanner & Darrell, by Michelle Langston of Pondersphere.com

Tanner & Darrell, by Michelle Langston of Pondersphere.com

Note: I wrote the following story in 1997 at the age of 14.

As you know (or will know), Tanner and Darrell are two boys. Tanner is a year older, so he’s taller, leaner and a bit bossier. His hair is perfectly straight and fine, the color of dandelions.

Darrell is a year younger, so he’s shorter, fatter, faster and a teensy bit weaker. His hair is curly and feels like cotton, brown as the Earth upon which he walked.

Now, Tanner and Darrell weren’t enemies, but they weren’t friends either. They lived right across the street from each other, on the same block. One thing Tanner and Darrell did together was compete. This time, it was over whose grandma was better.

It all started one bright spring morning, when Darrell’s mother told him his Gran-Gran was coming to visit. He was so excited he ran to Tanner’s house, knowing he’d be jealous.

But it just so happened that Tanner’s Granny was also coming to visit, and he ran over to Darrell’s house to tell him the news.

They ran smack into each other when each was halfway to the other’s house.

“My Gran-Gran’s coming!” exclaimed Darrell.

“So’s mine!” replied Tanner.

They glared at one another, each realizing that the other wasn’t jealous of him.

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Jul 24.08.d205/w30
Drawing from the mind’s eye: Stephen Wiltshire
Stephen Wiltshire

Stephen Wiltshire

Stephen Wiltshire’s unique artistic talents have fascinated many people worldwide. He has the ability to view a city’s skyline from up in a helicopter or by just walking through the streets, and then creating panoramic drawings of that city entirely from memory. His drawings are precise, often accurate to the smallest detail. Currently, many of his drawings and paintings have sold for thousands of dollars.

Stephen Wiltshire was born in London in 1974 to Geneva and Colvin Wiltshire. When he was 3, he was diagnosed as autistic. His father, Colvin, died in a motorcycle accident shortly after the family received young Stephen’s diagnosis.

At age 5, Stephen attended a primary school for special needs children, the Queensmill School in London. It was there that he expressed an interest in drawing. In fact, drawing became his primary means of communication until he learned to speak around age 9 (his teachers would take away his art supplies so that he would be forced to verbally ask for them back).

Wiltshire’s teachers began to take special interest in him and encouraged him to keep drawing. Among his early projects was a group of drawings depicting London landscapes, one landscape for each letter. He was also very interested in drawing animals, automobiles, buildings and cityscapes devastated by earthquakes.

As the years went on, more people learned of the boy’s extraordinary talents. He appeared on a television show (“The Foolish Wise Ones”) and was introduced to a literary agent interested publishing in some of his drawings in a book. To date, he has published 5 books: Drawings (1987); Cities (1989); Floating Cities (1991); American Dream (1993); and Stephen Wiltshire 2008 Catalog (2008).

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Jul 22.08.d203/w30
All for the love of stir-fry

I wanted to see The Dark Knight. So did everyone in my family. One of my uncles was visiting, and he and my brother made arrangements for us to see the movie in the largest city to the west of us, Greensboro. No one thought that was odd at all. My uncle said that he arranged for us to see the film at this club owned by an Asian man.

“Is it a private screening?” my mom wanted to know.

“No, it’s just a club,” my uncle replied.

So all of us — my mom, brother, Grandmother, uncle and myself (I don’t recall seeing anyone else from the family in the dream) piled up into the car and drove to this club. I don’t remember much about the drive out there…

When we arrived, we were amazed by the quality of the food. Yes, food. Apparently we were having dinner first, before the movie. The interior looked a little like a church fellowship hall, but the food was amazing. It was all Chinese, Japanese and Thai inspired. They brought the food out onto the tables, and people could come and help themselves. I ate some and then I went for seconds.

As I sat down to eat my seconds, I began to wonder if there was a stir-fry station. I am a stir-fry fanatic, and so I imagined that there had to be a stir-fry station somewhere. No sooner did I think that when my uncle sat down with a nice little ruby-colored bowl filled to the brim with — you guessed it — stir-fry. I asked where the stir-fry station was.

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Jul 20.08.d201/w29
The Magic Pot
Italian Farmhouse by *mountainlegend

Italian Farmhouse by *mountainlegend

The story of the Magic Pot begins in a small village long ago, in a valley deep in the mountains of Italy. The folks living in this valley make a living by farming and trading. It is the only way to earn a salary. The bottom line is — you got no crops, you got no cash.

One family has no crops. They have no farmers. It is a major rule in this village that men do the farming; women the cooking and children the housework. Well, this particular family consists of Fiona, the mother, and her two children — beautiful little Vanna and tiny baby Phonsi. Fiona must take care of Vanna and Phonsi all by her lonesome — last month her husband Slyvester died of terrible cholera. When will they ever cure that sucker?

Fiona is faced with a serious problem: she cannot farm. Even if she is able to, she isn’t allowed to. A woman in those days did not have the same rights as a man. “What shall I do?” Fiona thinks. “We will not be able to make money enough to keep us from starvation.”

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