Saturday, November 24, 2012

Ten Commandments Hike - An Illustrated Adventure


So yesterday I had the pleasure of visiting 10 houses of worship along Laurel Highland Council's Jewish Committee on Scouting's Ten Commandments Hike. The basic premise was to travel around Oakland visiting the different churches and learn three things: 1) about the architecture of the building 2) about the commandment they were assigned* and 3) about the denomination that the church/house housed. I did this back in 2010 in this post here, and I decided that I wanted to do it over again. I enjoyed learning about the denominations, and where I fit, and the whole idea of "duty to G-d"**

Rodef Shalom
Holy Spirit Byzantine Catholic
That brings up an interesting. The first stop was the Jewish temple of Rodef Shalom, and we began from there with a talk from the Scout Exec for our council, Mr. Mike Surbaugh. He asked for life scouts to raise there hand. Me being a life scout, I raised my hand, and along with another gentleman was summoned to the front of the room. He prefaced his question with "Whether you knew it or not, I'm about to prepare you for your Eagle Board of Review." He then asked us what "duty to G-d"** means. (Sidenote: it's in the Scout Law... if you don't know that, I will not be taking the time to explain it... google it.)

The whole hike's mission was to answer that, and I think I may have an answer. I'll wait until the end to answer, though.

Trinity Evangelical Lutheran
Nevertheless, I'll spare you the details of the eight hour journey, but I will give enough room for pictures that I took along the way. We then made our way to Holy Spirit Byzantine Catholic Church, adjacent to Rodef Shalom. From there, we went to Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church. After each of the stops, we had time for a question and answer session. My favorite questions were the ones that were either "How is [insert religion here] different from Catholics?" or "What's the difference between [insert religion here] and Christian?" My favourite answer was given at the Lutheran church with the latter question. The campus pastor looked confused for a second and the responded "Nothing! Lutherans are Christian" and went on to explain the formation of the Lutheran church and the church doctines versus that of the Catholic faith.

(Sidenote: roughly 40% of Pittsburgh is Catholic. It's certainly not the case everywhere, but whatever)

From there, we went to Saint Paul's Roman Catholic Cathedral. I won't include a picture simply because of that figure above. This is about the same idea that the pastor there had, and didn't bother to explain Catholicism.
The Crew at The Christian Science Church

My personal thought is that if you want to learn about yourself, have someone else of the same quality or better explain your position and allow you to examine it through a microscope. Granted, I'm not Catholic but I kind of want to hear from a semi-expert what it's all about.

Saint Nick's Greek Orthodox
From there we went to a Baptist church that was reminiscent of a Gothic Cathedral complete with scary-looking organ in the front. Then we moved to the Christian Science Church. I'll again point you towards my last post on this topic, and my explanation of Christian Science. The Same holds true.

From there we visited Saint Nicholas (Greek) Orthodox Church. I put Greek in parenthesis because I am of the opinion that we should become a Holy, Catholic[in the universal sense] and Apostolic Church again and create an American Orthodox Church with all the ethnicities  Hopefully this could happen in my lifetime, but that is another post for another time.

Heinz Chapel Exterior
Remember what I said about through a microscope? The gentleman from the Orthodox Church did exactly that, and explained my faith for the other people in the room. It was interesting. I plan on writing on that in the future in and of itself.

We then visited my all-time favorite stop, Heinz Chapel. Heinz Chapel is this cool little non-denominational chapel on the grounds of the University of Pittsburgh. I say all-time favourite because it has beautiful stained-glass windows, high ceilings, the whole thing is Gothic-style awesomeness.

Heinz Chapel Interior
The whole building has a built in 4,000 something pipe organ into the walls. Hearing this thing played is AMAZING! We were lucky enough to have an organist follow us on this trek, and everywhere there was an organ, he played for us. Heinz Chapel was the last organ stop, it was indescribable to hear it.

Islamic Center of Pittsburgh
If you ever travel to Pittsburgh, Heinz Chapel is one of those places that if you're lucky enough to visit, DO IT. The stained-glass windows are 68 feet high continuously, with brilliant colours and because it is on a University Campus and nondenominational, there are philosophers and the sort in the artistry. Again, a must-see. There we had a Buddhist gentleman talk about meditation* and Buddism.

We finally went to the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh. This was not a stop in the previous year that I had gone, but it was something I wanted to see. I wanted to hear what Islam was about simply out of curiosity.

Let me get this across clearly: the media paints one picture. I wanted to see another.

The Imam was a nice gentleman who explained the Islamic faith to a room full of Christians, Jews, and the sort. He gave the side of his faith, and dispelled some things. He also talked about his faith and the Five Pillars of Islam* and the duties of those of the Islamic faith. I tread carefully here, but I feel that he represented well, and gave me much to think about.

So again I present the original question: "What does Duty to G-d** Mean?" I'll answer with this: It's first recognizing that there is a higher power (the proverbial Something-bigger-than-Phil) and having a relationship with that higher power. It's understanding and respecting ("tolerance") other religions, as well as your own views. Take, for example, I am an Orthodox Christian. I don't identify fully with those of the, say, Lutheran faith, but I can respect their beliefs as theirs, and can fully say with an open mind that this is my stance. These are my views. Having a duty to this higher power comes with the territory. It's knowing right from wrong in my case, may be different in others.

*The BSA isn't a Christian Organization, and the BSA has only the requirement to believe in a higher power. Some, such as Buddism and Islam, fit this criteria yet do not recognise the Ten Commandments. They instead talked about their faith.

**This isn't a typo. In the Jewish faith, they don't type out the full word with the "o" as a sign of respect. The idea is that the name is sacred, and if something is printed out and then thrown away, it's like throwing away the name of G-d. I did this for this post because I thought it was a pretty cool idea

Note: I feel the hate mail coming already. It's good to learn about other faiths, my mission was awareness and education, NOT CONVERTING YOU OR I!!!! - AP

Thursday, November 22, 2012

This Crazy Thing We Call Life

So today Facebook asked the following question of its users:
What Are You Thankful For?
The usual placeholder text reads "What's on your mind?" as a friendly demand to get more content. Nevertheless, here in the United States we celebrated the holiday of Thanksgiving. I'm going to try and answer two bits here: What is Thanksgiving and What am I Thankful For?

What is Thanksgiving?
Thanksgiving is a holiday in the United States, and Canada that is traditionally associated with the landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth. The story goes, they landed there accidentally and many died when they tried getting civilization off the ground there. Enter Squanto and his band of the Friendly Indians who help save the Englishmen by teaching them how to farm (because they obviously weren't scouts) and cause the most plentiful harvest the Englishmen had ever seen. Thus ensued a party, and that party is repeated yearly.

Thanksgiving is the giving of thanks to someone or a higher power, normally for something good.

But wait, aren't Pilgrims on a religious journey by definition? YES. They were fleeing the Church of England and its insanity, in their opinion. This is the part we kind of ignore because of Political Correctness, but nevertheless, the party thanked the Indians and God.

Squanto? If you don't know him, stop reading this nonsense and grab a history book, Open it. Click this link:

The Friendly Indians? There's a brilliant documentary about them on Youtube.

What am I Thankful For?
I've realized that over the past few years I have been extremely lucky. I've been able to take advantage of the ability to meet people, and the fact that I'm not in control. I'm thankful above all for my family and the other amazing people who make my version of this crazy thing we call life mine.

I am thankful for my many families; my actual family, my parish family, my WYEP family, and those friends who you think you could get away with calling them family.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Nature, Death, and Us

I title this post what it is because that's what my English Teacher was talking about regarding themes within an essay we're working on. But it doesn't have much to do with anything.

This past week was interesting. Saturday brought yet another episode of WYEP. The mission was the aforementioned election piece. I teamed up with fellow Re(imaginers) Mark Marino and Neil McGuire to work out some form of a piece. We came up with a plan of creating two separate pieces.

So our focus became the "perspective" option. I volunteered my script writing while Neil worked his wizardry on editing. We eventually finished save for the recording of the actual narration to tie the random interviews together.

Where did I pull my inspiration from? Oh yeah, I posted a blog post the previous day about the topic we were working. I essentially verbally reblogged... and you can hear the final product here:

I find it truly amazing that in roughly 45 minutes, between  Mark, Neil, Matt (running the studio for the still incompetent Popichak) and I we were able to create this thing... and make it a real thing.

Again, I am forever indebted to the WYEP people for letting us use a professional radio studio as a personal sandbox for the five or so of us...

I've been reading up on the life and times of Walter Cronkite (I promise it's relevant) as of late. I've noticed a few parallels between my crazy little life here and his. I have finally decided (in case you haven't noticed, I'm quite indecisive) that I wish to become a journalist of some sort. I love radio, and I love writing little essays like this.

I think that doing what you like is much more important than anything else. The way things are going (and I notice this as a reality) it looks like there isn't a possibility of retiring in my lifetime, so why not at least do something you like? My point? I don't have one.

But what is the point of doing something if you don't at least enjoy it, or its result?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Education, the Election, and a Third Thing

Update: I Helped Write And Narrate An Audio Piece Using This Blog Post. Wanna Hear The Final Product? Check it out here:

I've been mulling around my mind as to how to write this post, but I decided this is the way to do it. One of the things that I've been passionately involved in is the education system. I rant about certain things just because I am lazy sometimes for things I just don't want to do. However, I also tend to do this thing where I challenge the line of the realities of things, and usually end up getting in trouble for it.

What am I talking about? I am a victim of the education system in the United States in 2012. I say victim because I believe that the system is broken and flawed. I mentioned about a year ago this video featuring a discussion by Sir Ken Robinson pertaining to the particular issues of the whole system (

The only issue I see is that this, much like my rants, just challenge the system. It doesn't propose any obvious solution except for changing the line of thinking and/or stop medicating the children for standardized tests. However, I've found a gentleman from England (CGPGrey) who proposed a solution after a conference on education in California attended by the likes of Sir Robinson, Hank Green (jayscribble's brother) and many other YouTubers including ViHart. Anyway, Grey put together a brilliant video discussing the topic which you can see here:

So why am I ranting about education without giving specifics? Probably because I've mentioned specifics before. Nevertheless, I bring to mind the recent election. I was on the ground on the South Side interviewing people under the banner of Re(imagine) about the election process. You can quote me on my findings if you want, but basically I learned two things:
  1. The People are afraid of The Media (Come on, I'm not partisan media, I'm 15 and just a guy with a field recorder) [I can understand shyness, just not the disgust]
  2. The people I was able to talk to were very set in their ways and were proud of their side.
The twitter reactions were interesting to say the least. I follow people for one of two reasons: 1) I know them and/or 2)their tweets are interesting. I saw a bunch of "why does it matter" tweets which I wasn't surprised. It's just a commentary on the state of contemporary thinking.

I'll answer why it matters: In three or so years, you are going to be plunged into the real world. This real world doesn't care whether you're drunk, high, or cute. You'll inherit a cruel world that you'll be expected to take care of, and understand. It matters because before you know it, you will be electing someone to lead you.

I grouped these things together for a few reasons. The first is that this education system is being driven by the current world with the knowledge of the outside distractions we have now, yet we are amazed with the results it produces? We shouldn't be. They aren't as unrelated as they're made out to be. The older generation has a grasp on reality, and I want to call on my own generation to take the iPod earbuds out and listen.

On a lighter note, this election was the first election I've ever covered, and when R(i) completes the piece on the election, I'll add a link to the "noted works" page (I've been keeping that as a clearing house for a portfolio until I can get a site set up for it), and probably post it to their blog. I'm thrilled to be starting off a journalism career here in Pittsburgh, and with such an awesome group. 

Over the past year, I've gotten a chance to experience the real world and the ability to work with like-minded media makers. Thanks to Alexa from WYEP and Mrs. Veri for showing me this in the first place.

Monday, November 5, 2012

A Natural Disaster, Safe In A Pouch

This Post Is Dedicated to All Of Those Affected By Hurricane Sandy in any Capacity. -AP

Today my English teacher put a quote up on the board, as she does everyday on her dry erase board of wisdom. It read:
"Sometimes it takes a natural disaster to reveal a social disaster"
It was attributed to Jim Wallis, and related to a story we are reading in English class about a journalist who goes on assignment to disaster-stricken Colombia and is touched by the story of a thirteen year old girl trapped in the rubble.

The built in irony is the correlation between reading this story and the events of this past week. I reproduce the quote for this reason. It's as my mother said, how petty this election seems after what we've seen in New York and New Jersey.

It's interesting because it's so blatantly true of such a simple statement. Tomorrow (or today, or on the 6th November 2012 according to when you read this) those who are able to (being 15 I cannot) can pick the next president of the United States.

They interviewed David McCollough on 60 Minutes this past Sunday. He made an interesting statement on how grotesque amounts of money have been thrown around during this election, and what has resulted from it? A Bad Show.

It takes a natural disaster to throw into focus the realities around us.

And as for Camp Pouch? [BACKGROUND!] Camp Pouch is a tiny boy scout camp on Staten Island---seemingly the only patch of wilderness on the New Jersey Island---that I stayed at in 2009 on my adventure to New York.

Staten Island was hit especially hard by Sandy, and many are still without power at the time of publishing, however Camp Pouch had "no significant damage to the cabins, lodge, or structures" according to the Wall Street Journal. Scouts have been very helpful in the cleanup efforts, they add.

If you're curious about the story I'm quoting HERE:
Curious about Camp Pouch:

So what is the point I am making here? I'm not too sure really. I think it's worth noting that as Robert Frost wrote "if there's one thing I've learned about life: It. Goes. On." People are moving on in New Jersey, New York (my concrete Jungle), and Bethany Beach. I think the rest of us not affected can take a lesson or two from this. Things that are beyond our control can be lived with if we work together, and just care.