Rokerthon Caps Off Tour at Oswego

Did you happen to catch the familiar green and gold while sipping on your morning coffee? No, your 8 a.m. eyes didn’t deceive you, SUNY Oswego was on the Today Show. In fact, we were pretty busy breaking a world record. Rome may not have been built in a day, but we broke a world record in 5 minutes. Okay, that’s only technically true, but it isn’t the whole story…

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We managed to get 593 skaters to show up at the Marano Campus Center Arena at 4:45 a.m. in preparation for the national broadcast. Who knew you could get 593 to conga across ice to Gloria Estefan so early in the morning? The celebration was splendid, but more than what meets the eye went into putting on an event that sometimes felt like the circus- “The Greatest Show on Earth!”

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Aside from mandatory rehearsals for skaters, it was all hands on deck from virtually all departments on campus. If if wasn’t ice skating recruitment calls which took place in the dining and residence halls, it was working on the broadcast itself. The theatre department set up the lights and came up with the idea of snow machines for Al Roker’s zamboni entrance!

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(He rode in on a bigger zamboni. Team Mini still looked great!)

It would be misleading to say the event was easy. The amount of coordination and organization was Hurculean. It was exhausting, but man, if it wasn’t pretty darn cool. Some were there for Al, some were there for the fun of it, some (like me) got to geek out over the process of national TV (live-to-broadcast drones anyone?!?!). Our student media organizations were able to get interviews with Mr. Roker and develop great material. Del Sarte, the student dance club, brought signs that were cleverly themed to incorporate their recital and NBC. Everyone got to have a unique stamp on the day. Al even visited all of his old haunts around Oswego and campus on Friday!

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(If you go back and watch the recording, you can catch me darting through crowds to run the social media beat!)

The effort on behalf of the student body, administration, and community was incredible. Oswego absolutely has its moments and is a unique place. Why would we get selected out of so many large universities across the nation and Al Roker come back if it wasn’t?

The Best of Brussels and Ghent

Brussels is a city that is extremely underrated! I mean how can you go wrong with a city thriving off of beer, waffles and fry’s! A statue of a peeing baby is their most famous tourist attraction and it has over 300 outfits… what’s not to love?

To know before you go!

  • Euros are used here (YAY!)
  • You will never feel like a foreigner, the city is made up of foreigners (half the people are Dutch and half are French!)
  • Everyone speaks either French or Dutch, English is a little harder to find!
  • **WARNING** don’t call the fries French fries! Just don’t do it, very sensitive topic.
  • 2go4 hostel has a free walking tour I totally recommend. We saw all of Brussels in 3 hours then we got to go back and explore what we wanted!
  • There is a legend for everything!
  • Never try the same beer twice!
  • Waffles are meant to be eaten plain! Maybe with sugar, but everyone will know you’re a tourist if you get the one with 10000 toppings (though they are tempting.)
  • There is a certain type of glass for every beer. All the tourist tries and steal them (I wish I did) but you will get in trouble if caught.

Hostel

2go4- Very nice! I stayed in a room with 3 twin beds and our own bathroom, which is perfect! The location was walking distance from the Grand palace and also the train station. The lobby was very vintage looking and included free coffee in the morning! Again free walking tour that I recommend!

The Sites

Grand palace

  • Beautiful old buildings in a square with city hall towering over you is deff a site to see! Each street has it original market name for example cheese street, coal street, meat street. One of the buildings is where Karl Marx lived and wrote the communist manifesto during his exile. This is a quick thing can be done in 30 mins or so.

Manneken Pis

  • Biggest (and lamest) tourist attraction in Brussels. It literally is a little baby peeing into the fountain. Legend has it that when Brussels was under attack a baby saw a piece of dynamite in the city, so he peed on it so it would not explode. Thus the manneken pis was born. In the 80s two college students stole it and the city went into chaos! Eventually the police located the statue and thieves and as a punishment they had to make hand-sewn outfits for the baby. There’s a schedule of when the baby is wearing an outfit and everything.

The Atomium

  • Think giant steel balls in the sky. Literally that’s all this is. They say its brussels version of the Effile tower, not as grand in my opinion. We went at night and saw them lit up which was pretty cool but did not do a tour or anything. Type of attraction you take a pic and then call it a day.

St Michael’s Church

  • Beautiful from the outside but I wish we did a tour of the inside.

Museum row

  • Really cool buildings from the outside but each building was a different museum. There was the modern museum and the fin-de-siècle which we went to for 3 euros… these were pretty boring to be honest but if you’re a fan of fine art this is the place for you! There is the museum of music which I was told was really cool plus there is a restaurant at the top that had a view of all of Brussels!

Jeanneke pis

  • Manneken pis sister… or girlfriends, depends who you ask. This is located right near the Delirium café and was put there to simply attract tourists to that area…. Smart.

Ghent or Bruggs

  • Both these city’s are close to Brussels and are a must if you are staying in Brussels for long. We went to Ghent and it was awesome, filed with young people and a beautiful river that went through the city. We took a boat ride (not worth it) but the streets are so cute and old! You can get to these cities from the north station for cheap!

To Eat/ Drink

Tonton Garby

  • MUST GO! I cannot rave about this place enough. At first glance it is a little hole in the wall deli-looking store with a big display counter and 2 tables. But the second you get to talk to Garby you’ll see that place is a gem. They serve sandwiches specializing in cheese! Don’t be afraid to order wrong because Garby will explain the whole menu to you, if you like sweet, salty ,or spicy he will come up with a sandwich that will blow you away. He was the warmest most genuine person I have met so far in Europe… definitely what we all needed from being away from home for so long. You will miss out if you don’t give this place a try, it is truly spectacular.

Delirium café

  • Guinness world record for having the best and most variety (over 3000) of beers. Such a tourist attraction but worth it! My friends and I shared 3 different types of beer that were all very different and amazing! If you don’t like beer you have never tried a strawberry flavored one before.

Flores Bar

  • Absinth bar…. I repeat,  Absinth BAR! Deadly…. Worth a try… but deadly (right across the street from Delirium.)

Dulle Griet (Ghent)

  • This bar is so much fun. When you go you have to get a Kwak, which is a giant glass that is held in a wooden stand. They make you pay the price (your shoe) so that you can’t steal the cup! The boot goes in a bucket that’s attached to the ceiling and a bell is rung once you get your boot back! So much fun!!!img_7385

Do as the Ozians Do!

This is part two of a two-part blog. The first entry is “When in Oz…”

Here’s a helpful image I made to show what my life was like in September and October.

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This seems like a lot, and I wouldn’t be honest if I said it wasn’t. However, I came to college to challenge myself and see what I could do. The payoff of all this hard work was truly incredible. I was able to work with alumnus and professional dancer/choreographer Dexter Jones whose talent and personality can’t be put into this blog post. The energy of the shows was awesome. The reception of the crowds and their comments really show that this effort is not for nothing. One of the most awesome comments I got were that professionals thought I had prior dance training before this show. I was fortunate enough that I was in the show-stopping dance number, the Winkie Celebration dance. The crowd interaction in that number is why performing is such a rush and privilege.

Right before the Celebration. I'm the General (in black)!

Right before the Celebration. I’m the General (in black)!

You would not believe the amount of adrenaline pumping through my veins during and after that scene.

The dance crew became a very tight group, and I was able to meet so many wonderful people that were a part of the cast and crew in general. We got to make a lot of memories together, not just rehearsing with each other, but getting pizza or late night together (We love food!). I still get breakfast with them and hang out with them.

The moral of the story is that college is a fantastic time to explore. I made it a personal goal to leave my comfort zone and try something that I haven’t done here. Just look how much magic happened! We were able to open up Waterman Theatre with a bang, learn so many new things, and create awesome relationships. The arts community here is unique and leads to unrepeatable experiences. If someone is even thinking about trying something in the arts or just something new, here’s my advice: go for it!

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When in Oz…

 

*This is part one of a two part blog post.

Before coming back in August, I had a lot on my mind. WTOP-10 was upgrading to HD, and I really wanted to try something new. I knew Oswego would be putting on a production, but that was the extent of my knowledge. Classes started and it turned out that one of my professors, Jonel Langenfeld, was the director. She informed everyone of the show, “The Wizard of Oz,” and auditions, and I knew I had to make a decision. I plucked up enough courage to seek out the audition sheet and sign up. I had no idea at the time, but my life was about to get a lot more interesting.

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The initial audition process was two days, broken up into singing and acting on the first day, and dancing on the second. I performed and went to celebrate Labor Day with my friends, not expecting anything. That night, I received a call saying I got a callback. Needless to say, I was virtually prancing with all the excitement brimming within me.  My friends were incredibly supportive, which made it even better.

Callbacks were intensive. We went over the allotted time, dancing for many hours, which many of us weren’t used to. Multiple different dance styles were taught, and then those with special skills were asked to stay and show them. I stayed and demonstrated my gymnastic ability, praying it would seal the deal.

When my stage manager, Nicole, called to tell me I was cast as a principle dancer, I was over the moon. I also didn’t realize how much my life would change.

The Big Picture

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See that picture? It’s a still from a personal video that I filmed for an assignment. I was challenged to find a spot on campus that I wanted to capture and that had great composition. This mobile sculpture is found between Shineman and Park Hall.

Why did I start this post with this picture? It encapsulates more about Oswego than you would think. Even in the smallest or seemingly quieter parts of campus you can find beauty. Anywhere you look has potential to be a feature in your next project or a place to relax and contemplate. It shows the attention to detail while also promoting student artists. The arts community in Oswego is standout, with innovative theatre, music, and more constantly being produced and showcased. You don’t have to look hard to find artistic opportunities.

This picture also demonstrates that fact that I was immediately hands-on in my first year. As a current sophomore broadcasting and mass communication major, I had the ability to dive straight into my major, which was critical for me. I’m an avid participant in the campus station, WTOP, which has proved to be one of the smartest things I have done. I met my best friends and learned so much about equipment and other elements required to run a television station.

It also shows that there is a method to the madness, so to speak. Your professors will assign work, work with you, and try to make you the best you can be. So much is involved when creating your favorite movie or TV show, and the professors want to make sure you understand every element in order to be successful in the future. Trust me, if you put in the effort, you will know far more than when you first start a class.

There is more opportunity in Oswego than people often realize. Beautifully backdropped by Lake Ontario, students have the tools to develop rich relationships and make connections in order to be successful at the next level. The college experience is what you make it, and I’m happy to be creating mine at Oswego.

#LakerTakeover: 24-Hour Theatre Festival

Our most recent #LakerTakeover on Instagram featured Spencer Ventresca showcasing the theatre department’s 24-Hour Play Festival, which saw writers, cast and crew hastily create, assemble and stage a new production.

New Page: Humans of SUNY Oswego

Modeled after the very popular Humans of New York page, SUNY Oswego has a new page that’s getting some major attention.

Humans of SUNY Oswego is a photography post project on Facebook that aims to photograph students and briefly interview them for a photo caption to tell a story. The goal of the project is to raise awareness of the age old saying “everyone has a story to tell”.

I’ve been a fan of the HoNY page fan for a while and enjoy viewing the interesting photos that the photographer posts.  Even better than the photos, are the short stories that the brief interviews tell. Regular people have spectacular stories of love, loss, dreams, war and everything in between.

I love the idea behind the project; to showcase that everyday passers-by on the street are all dealing with something or have been through something. It’s so easy to get caught up in our lives and problems and forget that the world is so much bigger than just yourself and your own daily struggles. These simple photos and brief interviews are often inspiring and thought provoking.

Being a Social Media intern with a love of photography, I wanted to take this idea and bring it to SUNY Oswego. There are over eight thousand students on campus and undoubtedly a lot of interesting stories to be told and heard. I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes I get lost in my own little world when I’m walking across campus with my headphones in and music turned up loud. But imagine, if you truly looked around at everyone and thought about their lives, what they’ve been through or what they are currently dealing with. These thoughts make the world (or the campus) seem a lot bigger than just ourselves and our daily lives.

As one of the photojournalists for the Humans of SUNY Oswego project, I aim to take photos of interesting students and share a line or so that they have shared with me about themselves or their life. I will be posting these photos on the Facebook page.

If you, or someone you know has a story to tell and would like to be featured on the site, please contact me by sending the page a message or emailing me at kburke2@oswego.edu

 

My Journey In Japan, Part One

(NOTE: This is one of those blog entries that I probably should’ve started working on much, much sooner. Perhaps one could consider this a testament to the amount of adventures I’ve been having as of late?)

As I write this, I’m not currently in Oswego. Or in New York State. Or even on the North American continent.

Nope, right now I’m in the middle of a semester abroad at Kansai Gaidai University in Hirakata-shi, Osaka, Japan. I’m only halfway through the semester, and I already have found it to be the most worthwhile experience of my entire life. This is the realization of a dream I’ve had since I was in middle school (and probably even before that), and is the culmination of over a year and a half of diligence, hard work, and perseverance.

Eleven years in the making, and I'm finally here...

Eleven years in the making, and I’m finally here…

 

 

I’ve got so many stories to tell about my adventures thus far in Japan that I’ll need more than one post to talk about them. But first, let’s talk about two things that have been fundamental in making this even possible in the first place: choice and responsibility.

This is my senior year. I plan to graduate in May, which means I have a little over a semester and a half before I’m expected to go out into the “real world” so I can “make something out of myself.”

As a Creative Writing major, I get a lot of comments from people asking me what I plan on doing after undergrad with that kind of degree. These comments often have a somewhat derogatory tone to them, as if I’ve somehow wasted all my money on something completely worthless.

Now, this is the part where you’d probably expect me to say something along the lines of, “The Creative Writing major is actually super-versatile, thank you very much,” and then drone on and on about how I could be a technical writer or a PR manager, both of which are rather profitable jobs.

Fortunately, that’s not what I’m gonna do. Instead, I’ll tell you the absolute truth.

The truth is, I don’t know what I plan to do outside in “the real world.” I sure as hell don’t want to spend my life rotting away inside a cubicle at a job I hate just because somebody else told me to. That’s not me; it’s not my kind of environment. Sure, it’s secure, but it’s also boring as hell. As Joseph Campbell (whom I’ll probably get to talking about in a later post) once said, “There is no security in answering the Call to Adventure. Nothing is exciting if you already know what the outcome is going to be.”

Now, where does Japan come into all of this?

Well, it’s simple: I’ve wanted to go to Japan since I was a little kid. Over the years I’ve heard a variety of people say a variety of things about the variety of reasons why it would be impossible and/or stupid to go to Japan.

“It’s too expensive.” (Nah, it wasn’t really.)

“Someone like you wouldn’t survive a week over there.” (Try eight. And counting.)

“You’re too stupid to get into a university over there.” (Honors Program with a 3.3 GPA.)

“What’s the point? You’ll just end up owing boatloads of money over nothing.” (See below.)

“Stop being irresponsible, Tom. Just graduate and get a job like everyone else. Worry about Japan later.” (Again, see below.)

Well, if this post is any indication, in the end I didn’t listen to them, and I’m so glad I chose not to. The truth is, this semester abroad wasn’t just the best decision I’ve ever made, but the most NECESSARY, as well. I’d been exposed to too much cynicism to that point, and I needed to break free.

[*cue minor tangent*]

You see, I hate cynicism. It’s probably one of the worst qualities to find in a person, as it more or less translates as a sign of laziness and apathy (which are two equally terrible character traits). I especially hate when I hear my fellow classmates back home (many of whom are juniors and seniors) whine and moan about how “the last four years have been worthless” and “I still don’t know what I want to do with my life” and “[Insert name here]’s got a degree in [Insert Liberal Arts major here], so he’s gonna be flipping burgers when he gets out of here.”

Here’s the thing: people who say that kind of stuff seem to have missed the point of college; they act like all they need to do is attend class during the week and party during the weekend and they’ll somehow magically figure out who they are and what they want to do. They neglect opportunities like study abroad or clubs and organizations, saying that they’re just a waste of time. School is work, and to them, work should always be separate from play.

And then when they realize they were wrong, they blame it on their parents and other adults who told them that getting a degree was the only important part of their college education.

They couldn’t be more wrong.

See, the thing that so many of those cynical students seem to forget is that college is about learning to make your own decisions, as opposed to following the will of someone else. Thus, whining about how you gained nothing from college is a sign that you didn’t learn how to think for yourself. That’s a skill you often can’t fully learn how to use in a classroom setting; you can only apply it there. You have to learn about yourself and the world around you by actually getting out and being there.

[*end minor tangent*]

Which is where I turn once again to my experiences in Japan. I’ve known for a while that I probably won’t become a full-time writer; for one thing, it’s been hard to come up with something original, and for another, I have a rather short attention span that makes writing for significant length of time somewhat difficult. (Which is why it’s actually kind of weird that this post is as long as it is…)

[*cue another minor tangent; don’t worry, kids, it’s all relevant in the end*]

But I do know one thing: I love stories. I love telling them, I love reading them, and I love learning about how they work. And I also love games; playing games, talking about games, and learning the science behind games.

And I know that I can take these two bits of knowledge and tie them together. And I know that by tying them together I can see the world from an entirely different perspective. And from that perspective I can find things to do and make that can change the world as we know it. Things that take my creative writing and cognitive science backgrounds and turn them into the impetus behind a force of good.

Knowing that, I feel there’s only one choice I can make, because I have a responsibility to myself (rather than to the people around me) to do something extraordinary with my life.

And the best way I can think of is to pursue cognitive video game studies in graduate school.

[*end minor tangent*]

Now, I know what you’re thinking: Man, does that Tom Kline likes his tangents. But trust me when I say that this all ties together rather nicely.

Because when I first came to Oswego as a freshman, my parents and high school teachers had already told me that I had a responsibility to study what interested me, because in doing so I’d learn to appreciate the gift of choice that came with that opportunity. And so I became a Creative Writing major and Cognitive Science minor, and somehow ended up in Japan.

There, we’re back on track.

Now, having finally come to Japan, I’ve been rewarded for my self-faith and conviction by being granted so many other opportunities while being here. My birthday, September 19th, was the day of the Jugoya full-moon festival in Kyoto, and I got to go to a celebration at Shimogumo Shrine. That night, the full moon was said to be the prettiest full moon of the year (in contrast to a similar festival in May, which is said to be the most powerful full moon of the year).

It was a great night.

 

What’s more, I spent the next four days in Tokyo for the Tokyo Game Show 2013, which was an industry expo similar to E3 (the Electronic Entertainment Expo, held every summer in LA). Unlike E3, however, the last two days of TGS are open to the public.

The ticket for TGS 2013

 

While I was there, I got to play a bunch of crazy games that might not even come out in America.

 

This guy was from a Sega game for the Nintendo 3DS that had something to do with fighting using Japanese yen. I barely understood what was going on. At the end of the demo they gave me a box of tissues that looked like a 10,000 yen bill. Japan, people. Video games.

And my favorite part of the trip was getting to meet a bunch of independent game developers. These are two-and-three-man studios who come together to make games on their own terms, free from any corporate meddling. They often make more avant-garde games with interesting mechanics that in turn can influence the rest of the games industry.

Here’s me with the guys at VisionTrick, who are working on a game called Pavilion for the PS4 and PS Vita. There’s an interview with them that I’ll post soon. They were pretty awesome.

Rickard Westman(left) and Henrik Flink (right) of VisionTrick Media. Talking to these guys was really, really cool.

 

And here’s me with Henry Fernandez and his brother, who are working on FluffEaters, a mobile game for Android and iOS devices. An interview with them should also be going up in the near future:

Me with Henry Fernandez (aka Henry Kun), left, and his brother (whose name sadly escapes me at the moment…), right. These guys were also really cool to talk to.

It’s great to talk to these developers because they operate on a more easily-approachable level; they make games, but they’re not Shigeru Miyamoto or Cliff Blezinski (from Nintendo and Epic Games, respectively). You can go up to them and talk about game design and playing games without feeling like you’re speaking to a suit (or, in the cases of Miyamoto and Blezinski, a legend). In a way, these guys are artists who are making their dreams come true by creating something unique for others to experience and interpret and learn from. They could’ve gone and become businessmen, rotting away at a job they hate, but instead they decided to do something awesome with their lives.

Thus, we’re not really different at all: I love games, they love games. I’m in Japan at the Tokyo Game Show experiencing the insanity that occurs within, and so are they. And most importantly, I’m here because I never gave up on my dream, and neither did they.

That week alone was one of the greatest and most life-changing periods of my entire life. And none of it could’ve happened (or at least, not to the extent that it had) outside of Japan. If I hadn’t made the choice of going to Japan now while I’m still an undergrad, I’d be letting down so many of the people who got to where I am today.

But that, friends, is a story for another time. Until next time, stay tuned for more coverage from the Land of the Rising Sun!