Sunday, May 27, 2012

On the Rank of Life...

So I came to the realization today that the Scoutmaster Conference that I just passed for the rank of Life is the last regular Scoutmaster Conference, well, ever.

Let me explain a few things. First off, a Scoutmaster Conference is the scout-equivalent to a military performance review. Essentially, your boss (Scoutmaster) goes over your accomplishments, or lack thereof, and then decides if you can be promoted to the next rank.

The ranks are posted in a picture next to these words... Essentially you start as a newbie and get to life (Where I am about to be at) and then Eagle.

So why do I say regular? For Eagle, a scoutmaster conference is essentially the troop's main representative's parting words to you. Let's be totally honest here, most Eagles don't stay hugely active within the troop. (I am planning on sticking around until I can instill wisdom and the sort... but who knows?). A Board of Review is essentially a panel interview version of a Scoutmaster Conference with other troop leaders. The aim is to satisfy a panel of troop leaders that you have the right stuff---character, work ethic, personality, et cetera---to represent a troop, and get on the right path yourself.

For the rank of Eagle, one hand-selects his board. If you have a group of leaders whom you feel would represent you well, or at least know you well enough to put their name on an application (Did I mention only 2.1 Million Scouts have ever made Eagle).

So back to what it all means. In order to rank-up, you must prove yourself worthy to get it.

This past Sunday we had a Memorial Day Parade. Every group who was anyone---Civil War Re-enactors, Local TV crews, Military personnel---shows up to this parade. We had a grand total of five scouts show up. Now I understand that there are people who have plans and whatnot... but seriously, only five?

This reminds me of two things. Number one, today's youth doesn't value citizenship nor doing what's good for others (our membership is down to like 15, so about 1/3 of a showing is pretty good in my eyes).

Number two, the trail to Eagle is very much a personal journey. It is kind of like religion in the sense of getting closer to a greater good, yet at the same time, it focuses on self-improvement.

No group gets you Eagle. You make those connections and create the group yourself. You meet fantastic people, and gain connections and references otherwise unattainable.This, my dear readers, is how you EARN an Eagle. You get as much out of this as you put in...

On a side note, without scouts I probably wouldn't have gotten into blogging, and this wouldn't exist...

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Becoming Attached to Being Detached

So I spent this weekend (or at least the part that went from Thursday until Saturday) up at my grandparents' camp. They have this neat little trailer in a campground {it's called a CAMPING RESORT} off of I-80 where on occasion I will make my way to spend a weekend.

The cool part about camp is that it has all of the comforts of a home and the welcomed inconveniences of a camp... Let me explain that.

You see, because it is a trailer and not in a tent that could collapse due to your poor plan, and therefore not scout camping (Did I mention off of I-80... not exactly out of civilization either) it isn't exactly "camping" per sey. However, you spend 90% of your day outside either chilling around a fire (CAMPS!) or on a golf cart (preferred method of transportation), so is somewhere in the middle...

The inconveniences are quite minute. You don't have internet connection, or care too much about getting back to phone calls/texts (unless it is something important). The loss of internet is actually a tad welcome. I don't need to answer emails or worry about keeping up-to-date with a friend at school or whatever.

It is kind of addicting... just relaxing being care-free. You certainly aren't home, but sometimes it feels like one.

Sorry for the brevity of this post... With finals coming up and all, it is getting crazy here. I may post again before the weekend is out...

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Stories, and Projects, and Some Cemeteries

I recently posted a thing on my Facebook account along the lines of complaining that I can't use the same name for all of my projects. Writress Lana Meyer commented that I should just begin calling everything "The Projects." Lana, this is for you.

So Wednesday I spent a few hours at our Scout Group's chartered organization's Cemetery somewhere in Collierish Township. There were like 8 of us painting this fence with a stain that now stains my work jeans.

Friday I spent on an island in the middle of the Parkway West right outside of the Fort Pitt Tunnels planting flowers. Our honor society has this strange tradition of doing this... as well as dragging along all 80 of us. Later that day I worked lighting and stage for a production at school.

Saturday morning I spent with my scout troop out at Chartiers Cemetery at the GAR Plot. For those keeping score at home, I have been working with the local Civil War reenactor group for about a year and a half now, and last year we started this annual Memorial Day project of cleaning up the GAR plot as well as shining up the monument and planting flowers.

The reenactor group had raised money to have the headstones that had sunk into the ground re-set, and as a result, the bottoms of the headstones were dirty. A few of us scrubbed off the dirt and generally made the headstones easier to read.

We also planted flowers at the graves of all of the veterans, as well as generically cleaned up stuff.

I took on the long task of placing a flag at each of the 120-something veterans' graves. I thought this was cool---a Boy Scout laying flags at the graves of the Union soldiers who after the war fought to get an American flag in every public classroom. I also (being my egotistical self) thought... now what would they think? Then it donned on me---a lot of the veterans died before the Scouting Movement started in the US. So, in a strange way, it came full circle.

I also took a pilgrimage around the cemetery containing a PA governor, Myron Cope, a monument to a fatality of the Titanic, and a fatality of a Flood in either California or Florida. Looking around at all of the graves brought me back to John Green video (which can be found here) about going to see a cemetery.

In short, it is amazing to look around and admire those who had gone before you, and to those you don't know... just imagining their stories.

Cemeteries fascinate me just as much as they disturb me. I love to look at the names and imagine the stories, but when you look at the permanence of it all, and the thought that you too will become one of those lost stories... it's unnerving.

But at the same time, in the end, it fascinates me. The least I can do for these people whom I never met nor will ever meet is to place a flag at his grave, or maybe plant a flower, or even read their name aloud.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Brief Bonus Blog Post Fun Time!

So this past week, shortly before I wrote the post of the week, I wrote a little reflection of sorts on Bishop Daniel coming to Slickville. They published it on the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of America's homepage. I am an internationally published author. This is kind of awesome.

Read the Original Here:

Or, Read the Text Version Here:




Archpastoral Visit to Slickville, PA!
By Alexander Popichak

I am the teenage son of an Orthodox priest serving the quiet village of Slickville, Pennsylvania. Not many things come in the way of excitement to the mining town of less than three hundred, so when His Grace Bishop Daniel visited Holy Ghost Ukrainian Orthodox Church on May the 6th, he was welcomed as only Slickville could, with a buzz of excitement and open arms. When our parish president greeted His Grace with the traditional gifts of bread and salt, Bishop Daniel had said that he had never visited Slickville, but was glad to finally be visiting for the first time.

Shortly after, Divine Liturgy was served with four students of St. Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary in South Bound Brook, NJ, Subdeacons Vasyl and Andriy, seminarians Yuri, and Ivan, who Bishop Daniel brought along with him, as well as two altar boys and parish pastor Father Robert Popichak.

The average age of our Slickville parish is around over 50, and the youth and energy demonstrated by four seminarians gave those in attendance a sense of hope for the present and future of the Orthodox Church as a whole.

I included this because I took
This picture myself...
After giving a brief talk about his personal history in the church, His Grace took a picture with our entire church family. We welcomed him, as well as his seminarians downstairs for a coffee social hour. Bishop Daniel was touched by the outpouring of hospitality our humble parish gave, and in response made it his mission to hug everyone there. The bishop and the seminarians were sent on their way eastward with bags of goodies, and muffins galore. Our parish family is extremely grateful for the visit, and can’t wait for His Grace Bishop Daniel to stop by again!

Originally Posted on May 12, 2012 at The Article was written by Alexander Popichak for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the United States of America.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Re(ImagiNATION) (a Two-Parter)

This part two of a two part post... see the one right before this to know what you missed (I doubt you missed much)

SO I wanted to reserve a separate post for my final thoughts on the first Re(ImagiNATION).

For those of you who don't know what that was, it was a high school band competition that my group at WYEP (Re(Imagine) Media) held back on May 5th 2012 at Schenley Plaza. I, as well as Neil, Mark, Ally, Alyssa, Sammie, Molly, Gabriela, Meg, and the rest of Re(Imagine) Media crew emceed the event introducing bands as well as putting into words what we do every other Saturday. Now you should be able to follow the rest.

Packing the Plaza
I got there about two hours before the start, and I am immediately handed this V-Neck t-shirt to wear as uniform for the event. Armed with this new-found (rather low-cut tshirt for my taste) uniform and some energy, I teamed up with one my friends to help publicize the event on the street with Frisbees. It was interesting, to say the least, explaining our event to people, however we packed the little gazebo-esque thing that is Schenley Plaza and began a freaking-awesome band competition.

T-B: Ripe For Theft,
Samj ft. Chuck Deze
Mos Lov, Jordan Montgomery, and
Jupiter Sampson
Hat Co.
Mount Royal
We kicked off with this group called Ripe For Theft with member Alex Zukoff (A friend of mine from WYEP as well as other places) and just like that all five acts flew by. We were entertained by a duo Samj ft. Chuck Deze whom I got to meet beforehand backstage. Chuck was a really nice guy, who gave me insight into his stage name. He had told me that in football, his nickname was "Chuck Diesel." One day, the gentleman who started it shortened it to just "Deze" and Chuck Deze was born.

We also met a group called Mount Royal (also quite nice) as well as rappers Jupiter Sampson and Jordan Montgomery and DJ MosLov. We met a school group called Hat Co from Hope Academy.

As all of this band awesomeness was going on, there were activities such as sidewalk chalk drawing, spray-painting a community canvas (Shoutout to Sammie for coming up with that one!) oh and there was a green room.

WYEP is a place that instead of being built of like bricks and stuff, is built of pure awesome. They built us a little WYEP tent to use at the plaza as a freaking GREEN ROOM! Essentially, us emcees got to hang out with the bands performing (did I mention these were bands that our group picked as a top 5 to play at this event to start with‽‽‽). To say the least, I was psyched.

The event's actual winnings was judged by professionals, and the winner receives a press kit, studio time to record a three song ep, and the title of first winner of the first-ever Re(ImagiNATION).

Mount Royal came out on top. However, each of the bands received a mentorship with a local artist.

I took turns co-emceeing with the fabulous Gabriela Latta as well as the always-bubbly and uplifting Ally Bair and overall, the event went very well.

The only way we were able to do this was through the generosity of WYEP, its listeners, and the amazing staff we have worked with since October-ish. I can't wait to see what's next from this group of people.
L-R: Alexa Belejac, Brett Bridges, Matt Spangler
Photo Taken By: Alex Popichak

Curious about the Bands? Check out the event page here.
To See more pictures of the event, click here.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

My Weekend and Re(ImagiNATION) (a Two-Parter)

Warning: This may be hard to follow.

So my weekend began when I walked off of my bus and packed for the Camporee. I began texting a friend, and before I knew it, I was standing among tents that I helped put up (Note to the reader - Our Scoutmaster was last on the site. I was playing SPL and scoutmaster at original setup.). So I attended an SPL meeting where I learned that everything I knew as far as timing goes was a lie, and we had to wake up earlier.

I woke up Saturday morning to the sound of my troop surrounding my tent screaming "WAKE UP ALEX!" For the record, the only reason they wanted me up was because I was supposed to help making food for them.

We plugged through half of the day doing events such as lumberjack, this crazy memory game (more on that in a second) and a legit discus competition.

So there was this crazy memory game where there were 100 items on a tarp and we had to remember as much as we could after looking for 5 minutes. I was amazed at not only my own memory, but my troop's. They remembered close to 70 of the things.

Lunch rolled around, I had some ramen, and we had a shotput competition.

At this point, I had to leave my troop to join my WYEP group at our band competition in Schenley Plaza. My next post will be on my thoughts on that event.

I made it back to camp just in time for my father's interfaith service at camp, and got to listen to his sermon. Most people in general hate sermons but I kind of enjoy them. It gives me the chance to hear other people's perspective on things, and most of the time they are semi-profound. I like the profound ones... anyway, next topic!

So we went to the campfire in the parade field where troops sang songs, and we gave the best skit ever and other troop stole said skit and bottom line it was this amazing brotherhood-ish thing that is hard to explain fully but bottom line bonds scouts in general together.

I left the campfire at the end to attend yet another SPL meeting where they offered dutch-oven deserts and announced the winner of the patch design contest. I am proud to say that I am the designer of said patch. However, said patch hasn't come in yet from the patch makers as of 5/6/12 when I wrote this. When said patch comes in, I'll post a picture of it next to this rant.

We left camp that night, my father, brother and I for home. The next day we were to be in Slickville to greet the Bishop.

Slickville can be summed up in these sentences from a previous post:
"...Being the son of an Orthodox Priest kind of puts you in this alienated bubble. You see, my geographical church is in downtown Carnegie, Pa., but in reality I end up going to my appointed church in the center of the Universe Slickville, Pa. The median age in Slickville is 75ish, ergo I am the only highschooler other than my brother. But nevertheless I love it."

After church in Carnegie on the day that I posted about (link here) I invited Bishop Daniel (If you didn't click the link you are lost now) to come to Slickville. That was back in January. This past Tuesday we receive word that Bishop Daniel is coming to Slickville - because of my invitation. 

Slickville is this amazingly stark contrast from my hometown in the sense that it is a very simple town, where everyone knows everyone and greets anyone who walks through the doors. In the city if you did that, odds are that you would get mugged or something. 

So we are driving out to Slickville and we hit the half-way point of Export, Pa and my father turns around (Slickville is about 45 minute drive) and asks if his red bag which contains, like, everything involved with a church service minus the building is in the back. It wasn't. So he turns the car around and drives us back home, I get the bag and toss it in the back with lightning speed.

There is a lovely ending to this story in the sense that we were able to be back and ready before our regular start time of 10:30. We proceeded with a service in Slickville with a bishop for the first time in about 13 years. 

The neat part about the whole ordeal is that we didn't have enough time to call the presses, fix up some elaborate service, but rather gave the Bishop a truly Slickville Service. He recieved the raw un-rehearsed group of singers (We don't have a choir), the hospitality, and welcomed him as a visitor. And, I think to him he welcomed it as a change. 

In his words, "You guys didn't put on a show, you gave me a service."

That was my weekend, minus Re(ImagiNATION). That is my next post when I can get to it.