Archive for April, 2011


In my art appreciation class we are studying architecture, and as one of our final assignments we had to drive around town to various addresses and describe the buildings. I have lived in Kearney for almost four years not, and I was seeing many of these homes for the first time. There are a variety of houses that do not fit the cookie cutter mold I expected. I will not go into detail and describe the architecture, because I’m no expert. Instead take a look for yourself. I took pictures of most of the homes with my phone on my tour.

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Video Commentary: Bike tricks

I couldn’t get the videos of the reenactments into the commentary. There’s one pic from our attempt. Enjoy.

[Warning: this post recounts brutal acts of violence that some readers may find disturbing. I did. All names have been changed to protect the innocent.]

In my political science class, human rights and democracy in Colombia, we discussed this quote, “One must always try to be as radical as reality itself.” I did not give it much thought at the time, but on my way home from the class trip to Bogota I began to understand, and realize I had not lived up to the ideal set by Lenin. While in Colombia I heard some gruesome and appalling real life stories and could not bring myself to write about them. I plan to fix that here.

Maria with a picture of her murdered daughter Ana.

Maria spent the day wearing her daughter’s picture like a necklace. It was the only way she could keep Ana close, and keep her memory alive. Maria walked to Villavicencio that day to share her daughter’s story, which was cut short by the Colombian military.

Ana wanted to be a doctor, and she was smart enough to do it. She left her home in a rural area of Colombia to attend medical school, and after she finished, Ana returned to provide care for members of her community. They were some of the tens of millions of Colombians who live on less than $2 a day, and as such were subject to physical and sexual abuse at the hands of members of the military.

Despite her vulnerable position, Ana would not keep quiet. She traveled around Colombia to voice her concerns. In a country that has been fighting an insurgency group since the 1960s, and a variety of armed groups have emerged travel can be difficult, and it was not made easier when Ana became pregnant. Despite the human rights abuses by paramilitaries, the military, and the insurgency groups Ana continued to voice her concerns until she met the abuses she was fighting first hand at a military checkpoint.

Maria recounted the event from her investigation. Pregnant Ana was pulled from the car and gang raped by the soldiers. A knife was plunged into her stomach and her unborn baby was removed and killed. The soldiers proceeded to cut Ana into pieces before finally decapitating her. When they finished, they played a game of soccer with her severed head.

Listening to Maria’s story, in the hot humid upstairs room with a circle of people, it seemed unbelievable. But person after person stood up to share their tear filled stories. Victims were often selected at random, with much less provocation than in Ana’s story. Many lost family members who were tortured and killed, simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

At the Colombian equivalent of the FBI these stories were confirmed for our group. Colombia passed a peace and justice law that allows paramilitary members to lay down their guns and confess to all their crimes, in exchange for a maximum jail sentence of around 7 years. At one point in our tour we were able to step into a back room where a law officer was watching a paramilitary member’s confession on closed circuit television.

The confession was translated to me by one of our Spanish speaking students. Paramilitary members were sent to convince the population of a small village to move, and used violent force. They rounded up the villagers and forced them all away from the village into the forest. Because the Colombian Navy had a group in the area the paramilitary group had to be quite and couldn’t use guns. Instead they got metal pipes and beat the villagers to death to make less noise. The particular paramilitary leader this person was describing was called ‘the German.’ He earned the nickname for his use of ovens to burn the remains of his victims, as was done in Nazi Germany.

Bike tricks, Dutch style

Everything you have in Nebraska, we have in the Netherlands. That is what my advisor told me when my plane landed in Amsterdam. I guess he was right, somewhat. I did eat at a Burger King in the airport. Of course, I had King Wings a fast food take on chicken wings, with a side of curly fries. The Burger King in Kearney doesn’t have those, but they were amazing.

Fast food was not the only thing I found with a European twist. Outside the airport was a giant, multi-level parking garage filled with more bicycles than I had ever seen in my life. Stationary bikes are pretty exciting, and after a semester studying in the Netherlands I found the Dutch can do way more with two wheels than just park them.

Over the approximately four months I spent in Middleburg the bike culture caught my attention. Dutch bikes are more of a city cruiser style, as opposed to the more familiar mountain or racing bikes. Passengers can ride on a small rack over the back wheel that is a more suitable spot for a case of beer, and is often used for just that. Despite the humble appearance, the Dutch bikers I saw were flashy in their own way. The ease my hosts displayed on two wheels left a constant impression, but three events stuck out from all the others.

The earliest, and in hindsight most mundane, of these events happened in my first weeks in the country, only a block from my house. I was walking to the school down a skinny brick alley with several of my housemates. We were lost in discussion, walking shoulder to shoulder and unknowingly blocking the entire path. He must have approached silently because the biker’s hand on my shoulder was my first clue he was there. With one hand he guided my out of the way like a small child and peddled away, only looking back to deliver a ‘pardon me.’ That someone had the balance it must have taken to slide me out of the way was shocking.

A romantic reunion at Middleburg’s train station set up the next feat. A college-age guy came to the train station to pick up his girlfriend, of course on his bike, but his girlfriend was rolling a giant suitcase with her. No problem. His girlfriend hopped on the back of the bike and he took off, turning through a busy intersection while rolling the suitcase behind him with one hand.

Middleburg’s market square provided the setting for the final display of Dutch bike riding skill, and combined the activity with another local pastime—smoking. In the most impressive demonstration of my visit, two Dutch girls balanced on a bike, one driving and the other on the back seat, with cigarettes between their lips. Without a toe on the ground and barely creeping forward, the two ladies proceeded to light their cigarettes simultaneously before wobbling out of the square.

My advisor was right. There are plenty of bikes in Holland and Kearney has some of its own. Despite the similarity, I have never seen anyone here light up a cigarette on two wheels.

Rick and Ilsa’s WWII love story made Casablanca an all time great movie, but younger audiences have trouble adjusting to the dated dialogue and black and white filming. To modernize the classic love story, Casablanca went the way of so many Disney creations and put the show on ice. The result was the 2001 fan favorite (5.9/10 stars on imbd.com) snowboarding classic Out Cold that turned the 1942 wartime romance into a lighthearted comedy and gave one now famous actor his first major part on the silver screen.

Rick, played by Jason London from Dazed and Confused, and Anna, played by Caroline Dhavernas, are the movie’s ex-lovers who spent a vacation in Cancun, Mexico before Anna split and Rick returned to his job at Bull Mountain, a ski resort in Alaska. Anna reenters Rick’s life when her dad shows up to buy the mountain and turn it into a five-star ski resort, firing all Rick’s friends in the process.

Bull Mountain is full of crazy and lovable characters but Zach Galifianakis was a riot as Rick’s friend Luke. Luke is known for his over the top antics which he happily puts on display throughout the movie. In one sequence Luke snowboards off a roof to steal the attention of the voluptuous Inga, played by the 2002 Maxim Women of the Year Victoria Silvstedt. Eventually he takes her to a hot tub where he ends up spending a cold and painful night alone that earns him the nickname ‘Jacuzzi Casanova’ . Galifainakis is at his best as the victim of pranks, which are primarily orchestrated by his burnout brother Pig Pen. Luke is forced to endure the sexual advances of a polar bar and put at the wheel of a spinning car while asleep thanks to Pig Pen’s schemes.

On one moonlit mountain night, the Bull Mountain staff set out to crown the annual ‘King of the Mountain.’ To earn the title the group competes in a rule free race, where cheating is encouraged and the winner must reach the bottom of the mountain first, with beer in his glass. Rick fittingly wins the challenge and walks off with his local crush Jenny, while Luke is left getting humped by Pig Pen, until the affection escalates into a humorous brawl.

Galifianakis may have been left rough housing in the snow with his brother, while Rick got the girl, but in real life he was Out Cold’s biggest winner. In action scenes, love scenes, and even bar scenes he showed his comedic exploits could translate to a variety of situations. With his high energy mix of crude and witty humor the role of Luke was an ideal stepping stone in Galifainakis’ career.

Luke from Out Cold was an early glimpse at the comedic film star Galifainakis would become. He has taken similar characters to box office success in The Hangover, Dinner for Schmucks, and Due Date. Given his performance in Out Cold it’s no surprise Galifainakis has moved on to bigger and better movies, or that Out Cold turned out to be a pretty entertaining and frosty twist on one of cinema’s all time great classic love stories.

Villavicencio: False positive

[A version of this article appeared on a blog for the Kearney Hub. The meeting discussed below was part of a political science class titled Human Rights and Democracy in Colombia. The class of roughly 12 listened to testimonies from various Colombians for more than 5 hours, which was both physically grueling, on account of the hot and humid atmosphere, and emotionally grueling, thanks to the stories shared that were all similar to the one below.]

Mothers are lucky in Nebraska. When their sons go out for the evening, they come back. Mothers in Colombia are not always so lucky.

After hours of driving, our delegation met in Villavicencio with union leaders, human rights lawyers and victims of the violence from the country’s ongoing conflict. Victims gave personal testimonies of the atrocities each suffered, all with one thing in common­-the ones responsible for the murder, disappearance and even torture of the victims’ relatives were members of the Colombian military.

“Unfortunately in this country, the Colombian state is the greatest violator of human rights,” human rights attorney Carolina Hoyos-Villamil said.

One woman shared the story of her son, 22, who was in the middle of his term of obligatory military service with the Colombian army. While visiting his home, a friend invited him to go downtown for a beer.

He never came home that night.

Days later, a friend of the woman told her that her son had been at a restaurant, between two men in Military outfits, and could not control his arms or posture in the chair, as if he had been drugged.

Without this knowledge she was growing worried and began to look for her son all over town. After days of repeated assurances not to worry from the DAS, an organization similar to our FBI, they claimed that her son was a guerrilla­­­, a member of an insurgency group.

It would cost 100,000 pesos for the return of her son’s body, but a proper burial was extremely important. The wake was attended by friends and family, as well as two strangers. These men questioned many of the guests and eventually called the boy’s uncle away from the crowd. They told him that if the family tried to sue, the first person to be killed would be the victim’s mom.

From the channel that got you to watch The 650-Pound Virgin, Addicted, and Little People, Big Word, comes a whole new season of reality based cultural delights. Where you see the pain and struggle of Addiction, gluttony and birth defects we see a healthy business model.

Have you ever slowed down to ogle a car wreck on the side of the road? Thanks to TLC, you can now stare at wreckage all day long, and you don’t even need a car. Summer is going to be a scorcher at TLC, due in no small part to the smoking hot new show set in the snow-covered wilderness, Sarah Palin’s Alaska. If you like to see politicians and celebrities out of water, check out how entertaining putting one in the snow can be.

Completely unrelated to the Palins is our next hit show, I didn’t know I was pregnant. Have you ever wondered how a woman could carry a baby to term without noticing she was pregnant? So did we, so we decided to put it on film. Unfortunately, we had trouble finding pregnant women who did not know they were pregnant before delivery, and we had to settle for dramatic reenactments.

Finally, the show with a following so dedicated it’s a doctor’s note away from obsessive, My Strange Addiction. Better than the time you accidentally walked into a narcotics anonymous meeting and the time sat through an alcoholics anonymous meeting combined, plus it still meets every week. It’s like a 12 step program for anybody with half an hour to kill.

While you’re sitting on your couch this summer, let us into your living room, and we’ll give TLC a whole new meaning.

Video commentaries

I was trolling around the internet today, searching for some good video commentaries, and I came home with four. Now, some people might think this search was fruitless, but I encourage you to watch all four videos in their entirety.

First up is a youtube video from the world renowned sigafoo. His video takes a how to angle and aims to pass on the golden rules of creating a successful video blog on to you. I assume this is pretty much what was discussed in class Thursday.

Given my obvious struggles to find a video commentary worth posting, I decided to show a hometown hero next. The Kearney Hub’s Cody Riedel writes Casual Sports Fan, which includes some video commentary. In the first video Cody wears a wrestling singlet and if you can fight through the Scottish accent, the second video has a best of clip at the end.

http://hubvideo.kearneyhub.com/?p=4261

http://hubvideo.kearneyhub.com/?p=4389

Finally I wanted to add a parody commercial about GM. The commercial address the bailout money spend on the company. I’ve been writing a parody commercial of my own, so hopefully this gets us in the right mindset.

Johnny Colorado standing tall

With a smile on his face, just under the uniquely southern mustache, and a distinct smell Johnny Colorado walked into our lives. All Brett Stover, Will Gregg and I had to do was drive him fifteen minutes to get Johnny home, but his trip was much longer.

Given that the topic of my recent blog posts—homelessness—was overwhelming my trip to Denver as the dominant theme, it was nice to find a success story. Johnny Colorado had one, along with a dozen other colorful stories.

One of Johnny’s tales was about being robbed—of five inches in height. He claims he used to stand 5’9’’ but now only reaches 5’4’’ and the culprit is a chiropractor. With all the poking and prodding his spine was bending in all new directions, but he kept going back. The chiropractor was the only thing covered after a car accident. Even though Johnny was shrinking in the passenger seat the chiropractor was not the wildest part of the story.

The doctor and his prescribed treatment, which Johnny swears by, added a heavy dose of the zany. Now, I am sure my memory is not exact, but if memory serves Johnny’s remedy involved lying on his back with one leg in the air, and massaging his thigh while blowing up a balloon. Supposedly, this ‘exercise’ was the only way he could straighten his spine. Despite the absurdity of his task, this was probably one of the easiest obstacles he has overcome.

Just meeting Johnny in Denver speaks to his life’s hurdles. He is originally from Louisiana. About the time hurricane Katrina showed up Johnny decided life would be easier in Colorado. Now, he works selling steaks and lives just outside Denver.

Johnny is a constant entertainer with many a story to tell. Discussing his job selling steaks or life around Denver he laughs and jokes while sharing life lessons gleaned from 26 years of experience. But one topic shifted his tone from lighthearted to serious.

Homelessness was more than a talking point for Johnny. He remembers when he was 15 far from his family and without a place to spend the night. His mom’s advice was to find the nearest homeless shelter, and that is exactly what he did.

Johnny started his comeback at a homeless shelter. It provided the teen with a warm meal and a bed for the night. The shelter gave Johnny the time and security to turn his life around, find work, and get a place of his own. But the shelter was not perfect.

Once Johnny found work the shelter became harder to visit. Adhering to check in times was a requirement to get a bed and Johnny’s two jobs did not mesh with the shelter’s schedule. He recalls spending nights underneath a bridge and heading to work the next morning in a suit and tie, and he was not the only one. There were a shocking number of his coworkers doing exactly the same thing. Such a statement would be hard to believe if I had not seen nearly 50 homeless people before taking 100 steps into town.

Most shocking about Johnny Colorado’s story is how quickly he fell into homelessness at such a young age. Johnny found himself homeless when most are learning to drive and tackling challenges like freshman English class. In a flash Johnny became homeless and freeing himself took years and forced him into plenty of unpleasant situations. It was a struggle to break habits he built on the streets, and to form new ones.

Rick and Ilsa’s WWII love story made Casablanca an all time great movie, but younger audiences have trouble adjusting to the dated dialogue and black and white filming. To modernize the classic love story, Casablanca went the way of so many Disney creations and put the show on ice. The result was the 2001 fan favorite (5.9/10 stars on imbd.com) snowboarding classic Out Cold that turned the 1942 wartime romance into lighthearted comedy and gave one now famous actor his first major part on the silver screen.

Rick and Anna are the movie’s ex-lovers who spent a vacation in Cancun, Mexico before Anna split and Rick returned to his job at Bull Mountain, a ski resort in Alaska. Anna reenters Rick’s life when her dad shows up to buy the mountain and turn it into a five-star ski resort, firing all Rick’s friends in the process.

Zach Galifianakis

Bull Mountain is full of crazy and lovable characters but Zach Galifianakis was a riot as Rick’s friend Luke. Luke is known for his over the top antics which he displays throughout the movie. In one sequence Luke snowboards off a roof to steal the attention of the voluptuous Inga, played by Victoria Silvstedt, and takes her to a hot tub where he ends up spending a cold and painful night alone. Galifainakis is at his best as the victim of pranks, which are primarily orchestrated by his burnout brother Pig Pen. Luke is forced to endure the sexual advances of a polar bar and put at the wheel of a spinning car while asleep thanks to Pig Pen’s schemes.

Luke from Out Cold was an early glimpse at the comedic film star Galifainakis would become. He has taken similar characters to box office success in The Hangover, Dinner for Schmucks, and Due Date. Given his performance in Out Cold it’s no surprise Galifainakis has moved on to bigger and better movies, or that Out Cold turned out to be a pretty entertaining spin on a classic movie.

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