Sunday, May 31, 2009

Take a Look

Yes everyone, today is an important anniversary. It was just a week ago that I did that post about it being a year since I graduated. Let's spend some time looking back on...

OK seriously, I just want to post this awesome music video that I did most of the shooting work on. It's directed by BlueSky's Tukaine, who learned just about everything he knows about videomaking from YouTube. Joey, my boss, explains as follows:

Four guys made quite a stir in the MacConnell Dowell rock quarry this past weekend while taping scenes for a new music video. And I sure had a blast! The story starts 18 months ago when I wrote and recorded a track called Monkey On My Back which I sent to my friend and fellow musician Tulaga "Tukaine" Whitcombe. He remixed it with a hip-hop flavor and added lots of his own personality to the song. We're both busy guys, so we haven't done any other projects together but we always talked about shooting a music video for Monkey.
Saturday was the day. I got 93KHJ morning show host John Raynar, our friend Tusi, Tulaga and myself down to a rock quarry for the shoot. We tapped TV guy Adam Leonard to run the camera for us. Tulaga had a concept for the video. Work. Dirt. Another Place. You see, all the other local music videos invariably have an island theme. Beaches. Palms. Green stuff. We, on the other hand, had rocks, dirt and grease. It was a ton of fun. Tulaga did all the editing and post-production work. He just sent me the first cut.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

More Anniversial Brooding! Horray!

Well everyone, it has now been a year since a very monumental event in my life. On that beautiful, fateful spring day in 2008, something that I will remember as long as I live took place.

I had my best Facebook status ever:

"Adam Leonard beat college. The end boss was hard."

Oh, and the "end boss" was hard. My last day of finals involved both a major presentation and a final project for animation class, both of which turned out pretty well in the end. Probably because I got about two hours of sleep that night.

Yes, it was 365 days ago today that my world was turned upside-down and I was no longer a college student. I took my first steps in to the adult world, to be followed with five months of being unemployed and living in my parents' house.¹ Finally, I left what I had dubbed the "Parallel Universe" (being stuck somewhere between college and the real world), and came to the Surreal World, as the tagline of this blog calls it. Eventually, I'll get around to joining the real world. Maybe.

You know, if you had told me a year ago that I was going to be spending more than six of the next 12 months on an island, I would have thought it was a metaphor of some sort.

Anyway, I'd go over what's happened to me in such a wacky year, but I already blogged about that in my wrapup of 2008, and last week. Instead, let's look at where a few of my friends are now. There's a special focus on those that graduated (or were originally intended to graduate) as part of the Class of '08, but I'm going to be pretty loose with that. I won't name any names, as some of them may not want the great rush of fame and media pressure that comes with being mentioned on such a wildly popular blog.

So, as of now, what I know from the top of my head and Facebooka is:

At least seven of my friends are living and working in Hollywood.

One is also living and working in the Outer Rim Terriories (At a newspaper in Guam).

One climbed mountains all summer before going to grad school during the winter before he starts climbing again.

At least eight are going to grad school somewhere.

At least five have gotten married or are about to be, one of whom happens to also be in Hollywood.

At least five appear to have bounced around Europe for at least a few weeks or are currently doing so.

At least two graduated early.

At least six are just now graduating.

At least two um..hope to graduate next year.

Nearly all of my friends that wanted to work in media are getting to. We're talking about at least 15, going by what I know alone. Only two are working elsewhere. Awesome!

However, the majority of my friends didn't fill out their work info on their Facebook pages, which might mean that they're not working at all. Or that they're lazy. Probably both.

Six talked to me on Skype just today.

One has a party to go to now and can't keep blogging forever without missing more of it. I'll try and refine these numbers a bit later.

¹It's worth noting that just within the last few weeks, I had finally spent more post-graduation days being employed than unemployed.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Special Six-Month Anniversary Superpost!

NOTE: Sorry for the font inconsistencies. Blogger's fault. Will try to fix later.

Well, it seems that I have now been here for a full six months. Time for some reflecting, observations, and whatnot of my experiences thus far. I don't know why, but I wanted to break everything down into categories of Things I've Gotten Used to, Things I'm Gradually Getting Used to, and Things that No Sane American Can Ever Fully Adjust to.

Things I've Gotten Used to
- Random crazy things happening all the time. Cars driving down the street with two flat tires. Going on a hike and happening upon a large abandoned WWII-era cannon. Learning that my friends like to compete to see who has gained the most weight while living here (yes, I play). Edible Beef Blood and Canned Bamboo in grocery stores. Grocery store employees asking me which competing store I'm spying for when they see me taking pictures of the weird stuff they have. You know, LOLWUT-isms. I've learned to keep my camera with me at all times, because those things tend to show up at all times. I just hope that they never get old, like some of the crazy things in college did.¹

- The climate. Not very hard to adjust to beach weather year round, though I find that I miss having four seasons after a while. Not to be confused with the day-to-day weather.

- Natural beauty of the island. Like that's hard.

- Essentially starting a new life. A lot of thanks goes to the Internet, but I was able to leave everyone and everything behind. Not that I don't miss everyone tremendously, but in general, I've been able to take starting over pretty well. Outside of my immediate family and a few of my closest friends, I was keeping in touch with most people via Facebook anyhow.

- Not being able to get everything locally. After my iPod Nano was stolen, I had to order the new one on eBay. The only place on the island that sold them had them in a wide assortment of the three ugliest colors that they come in for $90 more than what I ended up paying. If you want a specific book or DVD, that usually has to come from the Internet as well. Most of the DVDs for sale here are leftovers from the rental places. A couple of things, like Lectric Shave shaving lotion, I have yet to find. But I'm certainly getting by and the annoyance has passed. There's also a lot of things that barely anyone sells. So far I've found only three places that sell contact lens solution and one that sells dental floss.

- Being on the opposite side of the tourist-local relationship. But what I really like doing when there is a cruise ship in town is getting the souvenir-sellers to think I'm a tourist, then surprising them by knowing all kinds of things that only people that live here would know. Did some of that today, actually.

Things I am Gradually Getting Used to
- Being a minority. Definitely not something I've been before. The white or "palangi" population of the island is something like 10%, tops. But it's not hard to adjust to, seeing as just about everyone treats me the same as everyone else.

- The Samoan language. One thing I liked about Spanish in high shool was that it was a Latin-based language, and a lot of the words sounded almost exactly like their English counterparts. Not so much with Samoan. After about ten weekly night classes of Samoan, I can, on a really good day, understand a handful of words from a Samoan radio ad and maybe be able to tell you what it's for. It took some getting used to to not be able to understand half of what it said in the office. But at least I stay out of the gossip this way.

- This wacky "keep it in a glass case" system. In every store I can think of, almost everything remotely medically-related is kept in a locked glass case or behind a counter so that you have to ask someone to get it for you, and then they bring it directly to a cabinet by the register for you to forget about until you've paid for everything else and driven home.
And this doesn't only apply to things that they have a reason for locking up, like things that are even remotely dangerous or expensive. They lock up everything, including contact lens solution, toothpaste, and band-aids. And of course, this is The Island, so there is rarely anyone there to open it for you. They've actually lost a lot of business from me for that reason.² I have to wonder if this is all due to a badly-written law or something. I'll get used to it eventually.

- The weight gain inherent with living here. This only makes it into this category because so many of my friends have adjusted to it (see the aforementioned game), that I can't say I will never adjust to it.

Things No Sane American Can Ever Fully Adjust to

- The Traffic. Speed limits that never go above 25. People that never go above 20. Drivers, especially of the bus variety, that peel out right in front of you even if you're going the breakneck speed of 30. (Someone once did this to me on the mainland and I thought it was one of the worst drivers I had ever seen. Except that was in a 45 MPH zone and right after a traffic light, neither of which exist here). People that pass on curves. And my personal favorite, a ridiculously high number of drivers who have to slow down to one mile inch per hour when driving over a metal plate in the road put there to cover potholes so that people don't slow down while driving over them. This literally backs up traffic for miles about one day a week (even though the plates are there for seven) and has made me late on at least three occasions.³

- The Weather.
Who knew that a tropical rain forest area could have so much rain? Both my plans and backup plans last weekend were ruined due to it. This week has been the second one since I've been here with almost no sun. The good news is that on most weeks, if you don't like the weather, wait a few minutes and it will change. Oftentimes it will go from a torrential downpour to completely sunny while I'm in the bathroom.

¹Freshman Year: "Get this: I woke up in the middle of the night because it was freezing, even though it's September. Turns out that one of my suitemates got DRUNK and thought it was a good idea to turn the thermostat down to 55 DEGREES! Haha, isn't that CRAZY?
Senior Year: Dammit, someone got drunk and turned the thermostat all the way down. Now it's freezing so badly that I woke up!

²And even then, it's no guarantee. I was looking in one store to see if they had any muscle rub which I totally needed for my bulging paddler's biceps and not something lame like carpal tunnel-like pain in my wrist. I asked the Asian woman by the case if they had any "Bengay." She unlocked the case and gave me Band-Aids. After a lot of explaining and trying to think of other ways to explain what I was looking for, I asked if they had any "Icy Hot." I guess she thought I said "Can I see that?" because she opened up the case again and handed me whatever we were in front of at the time. Eventually I found what I was looking for.

³People here have a really irrational fear of those things. Almost everyone will drive into the other lane just to get around them so often that the lines in the road next to them have worn away completly. I often see giant SUVs drive off the road and onto sidewalks just to avoid that metal plate with the thickness of a quarter. The one that causes the traffic to really back up actually has people stop entirely and wait for the other lane of traffic to clear just so they can avoid driving on the demon plate. I feel like such a badass when I drive over them WITHOUT EVEN SLOWING DOWN! :o

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Vewy Intewesting

Sooo, during the recent Swine Flu scare, I happened to learn that during the legendary 1919 Spanish Flu pandemic, Western Samoa, then newly under New Zealand military administration, suffered a 90% infection rate, the highest in the world, resulting in the death of 22% of the population. A lot of this was due to the general in charge of the island actually didn't allow any vaccines to be imported to the island (Sorry, don't know why). Also, the first case was brought there by infected monkeys.

Meanwhile, American Samoa avoided getting a single case by SHUTTTING. DOWN. EVERYTHING. And by that, I mean that the Governor at the time, Navy Commander John M. Poyer, closed the one seaport on the island.

It's true! I read it on Wikipedia! Except for that part about Western Samoa not allowing any imports of the vaccine, I heard that from Monica. And the part about the monkeys, which I just made up.

Longer post soon. With pictures!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mothers' Day!

...and who could show appreciation for mothers everywhere better than...Mr. T?

No one, that's who.

I like how he doesn't care that the kids are being so rude to one another until the subject of moms is brought up.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Flag Day Parade and Some Less Depressing Things

OK, picking up where I left off with Flag Day: There really isn't much more to tell besides what I saw on TV. I saw the rest of the fautasi races on the TV that was running in the background while I was working, and um, a boat won. A fast one. Full of Samoans. From a village around here somewhere. Yeah. You know which one I'm talking about.

After that, KVZK-TV switched to coverage of the Flag Day Parade, which is sort of like the Christmas Parade back in Mooresville, but celebrating Flag Day instead of Christmas, with a lot more marching and dancing instead of floats, and with most of the floats groups of people representing government departments instead of local independent businesses, because that's who the main employers here are. I didn't watch most of it, because it was just on in the background while I was working, and as soon as one of my Samoan coworkers asked me "Are you really watching that?" I knew that it wasn't a big deal to anyone who wasn't already there and realized that I no longer had any reason to watch. Also, she told me that the last fautasi race ended a few hours ago.

But what I saw was...awkward at best. The parade looked like it was going around the track at one of the high school football stadiums. The cameras were mostly situated around the home grandstands, with the Governor and his wife sitting front and center. Each governmental department went by or did a brief show based on there theme, which lead to some really awkward things like a Department of Agriculture show.

At one point, I turned back to the TV and saw the unun-watchable. (That is, there are things that you cannot "un-see" no matter how hard you try. This was one of those things.) A large group was doing a big song-and-dance number about domestic abuse. A line of about ten men sat in chairs, chugged beers in unison, spun around, and pretended to smack their wives, who fell back in agony, all in a perfectly synced chorus line.




Obviously, they were trying to raise awareness of the very serious and important issue of domestic abuse that probably goes on all the time here. They just decided to do it via an awkward dance number in the middle of a happy, celebratory parade with lots of little kids watching. I was originally going to describe such an astounding display of accidental bad taste as "indescribable." Then I remembered a quote from, of all people, Harry Shearer, on the notorious unreleased Jerry Lewis holocaust film The Day the Clown Cried that described this pretty well:

"The closest I can come to describing the effect is if you flew down to Tijuana and suddenly saw a painting on black velvet of Auschwitz. You'd just think, 'My God, wait a minute! It's not funny (or in this case, entertaining), and it's not good, and somebody's trying too hard in the wrong direction to convey this strongly held feeling."

I realize now that not everyone is going to think this was as messed-up as I did, but oh well.

After this, the Sunshine Happiness Parade did a tribute to the territory's war dead, complete with a cardboard tombstone, mourners dressed in black placing flowers, and someone playing "Taps" on a really cheap keyboard that sounded like the one I had when I was about six that ran on four AA batteries. But I still don't think this was as bad as the domestic abuse thing.

Then they went back to things like people parading by in nurses' uniforms and waving cheerily at the onlookers. Then came the part where someone asked me why I was watching. For the record, the war memorial thing was probably done by the Veterans and Military Affairs Office, and the domestic abuse thing could have been done by any of at least three different governmental departments on this list.

So that's all for Flag Day 2009. But of course, just for me. That sort of thing is the staple of KVZK's daytime programming that will most likely continue to run for decades, if not longer.

But more importantly, the next day, a Saturday, I had to come back to the office to finish up a project. While the DVD was burning, I drove my car over to Fagasā Bay (yes, I figured out how to type all those special characters) and took some great pictures. I actually thought it was Massacre Bay, but it wasn't. So forget I ever said that.

The view from the top of the mountain road. I took a lot more when I went up there a different time (but turned around due to my gas light coming on). I'll post those to Facebook at some point. Or maybe even here sometime.

Ah yes, THESE kids. I have a couple dozen pictures of them because they kept yelling "One more! One more!" Pretty soon I was just pretending to take them as I drove by. It was a lot less entertaining after a local girl told me that those kids were drunk.

There are actually quite a bit more that I'd like to post, but I'm hella tired and I haven't quite figured out this "real world sleep schedule" thing yet, so I'ma gonna sleep now.