the smaller i was, the larger but more ordinary the bookshelf seemed. like a piece of furniture — because it was — i didn’t know our family’s home without it. but i’ve always noticed bookshelves because of it. hopefully every family has one (at least) and it creates some sort of stability for a child.

the older i get and the more infrequently i come back to what was once childhood’s home, the more aged, coffee-stained magic seems to be nestled in the two-columned, five-rowed chunk of amber oak. it doesn’t have a room of its own anymore, so the many worlds and windows mostly just sit there in the open and gaze in their free time at our world illuminated by the lamp on the side table and the giant window to its right that overlooks the mountains during the day and the stars at night.

just looking at it, the worn bindings that fill it and the shadows cast on the floor, is like time traveling inside a flurry of moments. all at once, it’s like it’s so vivid how much i used to not know, now do, and still don’t.

chaucer. elements of style. my antonía. homer. harper lee. miami: then and now. florida gardening. art of the ancient world. louis l’amour. atlas shrugged (tyler, texas – 1957, 1980). 125 years of the atlantic. hymns for the living church. the writings of ralph waldo emerson. economics in one lesson. 

es devlin talks about the designer’s impossible task to create entire, compelling worlds in tiny spaces… funny how the bookshelf and the books on it all originate from the same thing.

so yeah, i guess i’m thankful for trees and for a family that used them to grow many different kinds of roots well.

Platon, photographer

One of the most iconic photographers in the world I never knew much about until now. Was just watching a documentary about him (in Abstract, on Netflix). His key philosophies stem from wanting to dignify people.

“I don’t ask myself how I can take a good photo, I ask myself what can I learn from this person?”

His family is from Greece. His mother an art historian, father an architect. He continues to see ways that his understanding of art history, graphic design, and architecture deeply influences his work. He describes at one point how in taking Bill Clinton’s portrait, he thought of the angles and proportions seen in the Acropolis.–television/ethanhawke/

Despite his father’s mentoring, he wouldn’t spend his future in architectural practice. ‘I wasn’t good enough at mathematics to be an architect, or so I thought.’ What his father certainly had helped him develop was an understanding of form and texture, and a sensitivity to the principles of Modernism. ‘The idea of being truthful to your materials was embedded in my brain. I still think of what I do not really as photography but as a continuing journey of those principles, showing truth in your finished work. If someone’s character is suspicious or meditative or even aggressive, that’s the truth – the soul and spirit of the project. You’ve got to find it and bring it out.’

Platon (born Platon Antoniou), studied graphic design at London’s Central St Martin’s (now UAL Central Saint Martins). He rubbed shoulders with the emerging talents of the time – Jonathan Barnbrook, Peter Anderson and future Tomato partner Graham Wood. He pored over the poster designs of Fletcher, Saul Bass and Paul Rand. And then he picked up a camera. ‘I photographed a friend of mine as part of an assignment. There was this rush of energy between us and I thought, “This is an event.” All I did was pick up a camera. But it created a hyper-magnified version of what life is.’ He immediately fell in love with the process. ‘Although I wasn’t a great designer, I could create great imagery which still had a sense of balance and order, tone, contrast, colour.’

—eye magazine, ‘truth to photographic materials (article)

“If I can tap into someone’s spirit, it’s the same feeling as when you walk into a Frank Lloyd Wright room. It opens you up. It does something.”

“All my heroes are people who teach me about pushing buttons and pushing myself to a point where I can make you feel something.”

He’s severely dyslexic. “Design for me was a way out of confusion, because great design simplifies a very complex world.”

He takes photos like an art director, always aware of space and layout and potential for the beauty of negative space to help tell a story.

He talks about growing up around old churches in Greece. Always noticing the designs of religious icons, and how religious icons inspire a lot in his love for portraiture.

‘university miss list’

A text file on my laptop from this time last year, March 2018, titled “university miss list” –

Things I will miss:
Latin classes with the coolest group of people
Meeting new people everyday
Trying to learn something so hard that my brain hurts
Feeling overwhelmed and crying and totally not in control
The various worlds of possibilities
The camaraderie
Sore hands and tired eyes
Coffee-stained Latin texts
Disorganized stacks of papers
Tangled headphones and cold hands on the way to class
Foggy glasses when I’m trying to read and drink steaming coffee at the same time
Feeling part of movements greater than myself
Constantly being reminded of all that I’ll never really know

Thoughts on PBS’ new “Little Women”

As a story, “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott characterizes family, thoughtfulness, resilience, grace, passion, loyalty and feminism. The 1994 version with Winona Ryder as Jo March and the 1949 version with June Allyson are two of the best renditions of this classic, beloved story that has inspired young women for ages. There are a couple of others, but those two in particular effectively emphasize both the dignity and the strength that comes with being a woman confident in herself and in her identity as sister, daughter, mother, friend, lover and human. In no way is being a woman a bad thing, even though early on in the story Jo rejects this mentality. I would argue, however, that as her character develops, she comes to understand what being a woman really means, and that it is a beautiful thing.

Today’s conception of femininity as overly delicate and meek contradicts the biblical definition of womanhood, especially in Proverbs 31. But also in Ruth, Esther, Joshua and Exodus. These are just the few that first come to mind. The hallmark women of the Bible are strong and courageous in the face of trials and uncertainty. They are empathetic, they work hard, and they are skilled with their hands and strong in their hearts. They are not harsh, they are gracious and kind.

But they also don’t settle for injustice.

They — along with other male figures in the Bible, such as David — recognize that physical size is not always what makes someone powerful. It’s character and determination to do the right thing.

PBS Masterpiece Classic has released a new miniseries of “Little Women.” I’ve watched the first episode and, I’m disappointed to say, I’m disappointed.

The cinematography is respectable and clever, too, at times. The casting, with Angela Lansbury and Aunt March and Emily Watson as Marmee, is a strong mix. Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman’s 19-year-old daughter, Maya Thurman, makes her debut as tomboy writer Jo March. Unfortunately, Thurman falls short of portraying the part in an appealing fashion not necessarily because her acting skills are subpar, but perhaps because the director’s or screenwriter’s approach to Jo’s character, as well as the others, lacks the depth and nuance that the book and other movie versions communicate.

Throughout the 59 minutes of Episode 1, the character of Jo — true, young — is obnoxious and unresourceful. She has a temper, yes, but the book and other versions account for this. What I don’t recall from past experience with the story is Jo being ditzy, foolish and detached from reality. In fact, in the other renditions, it seems that her thoughtfulness and moral convictions are key components of her attractive character.

In this new version, there numerous scenes where Jo is writing at her desk, with Laurie, the neighbor guy, on the floor or sofa across the room. In an unfortunately politically correct tone challenging “gender norms,” Laurie’s demeanor is wussy and relatively immature. He’s a nice boy, but I don’t understand why his distaste for sports and his love for music, art and the delicate aspects of nature and the human condition have to point toward oppression of man’s ability to be “unmanly.” Maybe it’s because I have a father who loves all of those things but is also strong and committed to providing and protecting his family. I’ve had other male friends who are similar. But nothing about those Greek-like loves has to be linked to improper enjoyment of “traditionally female interests.”Real men can love art, music and think. But that can be a discussion for another time.

Beyond the portrayal of the characters’ personas, the acting feels forced. The characters don’t play out as organic, natural, real people. They become overdramatized archetypes of the roles our contemporary society has decided they fit in. I’m happy to explain why I’ve come to this conclusion, but for the sake of interest in time I’ll not include it here.

I started the show excited because the story is near and dear to my heart. I was looking for the best in it, not skeptical or prepared to be critical at all. What you’re reading here is a contemplation on my legitimate gut reaction.

Jo rolls her eyes every 5 minutes, in some scene every 5 seconds (hint: Aunt March and comments regarding a parrot and the concept of duty are involved).

PBS attempts to make loud, whiney, untactful and ungracious behavior characteristic of “feminism.” It misses the mark.

For a story so intertwined with the Christian elements of Truth, Goodness and Beauty, it’s too bad that in what I expect are three+ hours (there are three episodes in season 1 and others on their way, about an hour each), this Masterpiece rendition has failed to accomplish what the 1994 version does in two.

Maybe I’m wrong and this an entirely unjust reading. It’d like it to be. But the articles I’ve read from USA Today and the LA Times don’t encourage, though the LA Times’ does help the execution seem like a fluke.

I appreciated Variety’s but thought the writer could have said more about the roles tone and delivery play in the performances. Same with the Atlantic’s. The concepts are good, the costumes are great and the sets and scenery are beautiful, but I don’t know if they’re enough.

People watch movies because they’re entertaining. They find pieces of themselves and of those they know and love (and sometimes hate) in the characters portrayed. Movies communicate messages and feelings that transcend time and words through imagery, music and story, and I love them for that. Nothing beats an empowering protagonist.

But a good heroine — or hero, maybe, if I’m to be pc — can be independent, defiant, strong and loving without being unsavory, which is what I feel this post may be becoming, so I’ll stop here.

Some brief thoughts on UNC

Crown Tapestry, embroidered. Corrie ten Boom House Museum.

8 February 2018

As a senior in high school, trying to decide where to go to college, it seemed like everyone had the same comment: “You’ll just know when it’s the right school. You’ll feel it.” I remember thinking that seemed like a sort of a funny, irrational way to make a decision on a) where to spend four years of your life, b) which “Kool-aid” to “drink” (aka which historic catechesis of school loyalty to be indoctrinated into), and c) where to encounter people who would either build you up or tear you down.

If there’s one main thing my experience at UNC has taught me it’s that I am not in control.

There are too many moments from these past four years where, looking back (and because I believe in Providence), I can see clearly now how the Lord had me in the right place at the right time, even when it might have been hard to be there.

The people I have met through this university are probably, by far, what I will always remember and perhaps cherish more dearly than any other aspect of my coursework or extracurriculars per se.

In The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis writes:

“In friendship… we think we have chosen our peers. In reality a few years’ difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another… the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting — any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking no chances. A secret master of ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,” can truly say to every group of Christian friends, “Ye have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.” The friendship is not a reward for our discriminating and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others.”

I love this passage because it reminds me that somehow there is a sanctifying reason behind every interaction or encounter I have with everyone I meet or know.

I’ve heard skeptics say that Christianity is just an illusion that people believe because it makes them feel better about life, that there’s a reason for everything even when there’s not.

But I would ask why wouldn’t there be a reason for everything? Too much about the universe is intricately ordered, beautifully structured and detailed for that not to be the case. To believe that things like life, nature, humanity or morality, even when there is horror and pain — maybe especially when there is horror and pain, are products of chaos or chance, to me, demonstrates a profoundly sad blindness.

Every morning we wake up, we should think about (and be encouraged by) Psalm 8 where it’s written:

When I consider your heavens,
    the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
    which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
    human beings that you care for them?
 You have made them a little lower than the angels
and crowned them with glory and honor.
You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
you put everything under their feet:

Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Whatever hardships or joys we experience have meaning because they have shaped us toward becoming who, at the core, the Lord desires us to be. It feels difficult for some reason to tell this to someone who has just lost a dear friend or whose body or mind is constantly ill or in pain without coming across as insensitive.

But I truly believe that life and death do not exist without purpose, and that we are not merely pawns or random occurrences floating meaninglessly through an overwhelmingly expansive void. That seems more illogical than the converse.

I don’t know where this is going anymore, I guess, but what I’ll end with here is a reminder — to myself and to whomever, if anyone, else is reading this right now — that your life, your relationships, your doubts, your gifts, your living situation, your loves and your losses have been and are being orchestrated by Someone who cares for you and loves you and wants the best for you, even when it feels like things may be falling apart. The backside of the tapestry typically looks ridiculously awful before it’s finished and the weaver has revealed the carefully crafted story on the other side.

My undergraduate years at UNC have definitely been, to quote Charles Dickens, “the best of times” and “the worst of times” in many ways for me. But I’m thankful for each day of them (because each day is a gift, even when it might not be the gift I’d prefer in the moment), and I know that this is where I was meant to be.

I feel it.

That’s all for now.

“My life is but a weaving
Between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colors
He weaveth steadily.

Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow;
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I the underside.

Not ’til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas
And reveal the reason why.

The dark threads are as needful
In the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned

He knows, He loves, He cares;
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
Who leave the choice to Him.”

– Corrie ten Boom, the Tapestry Poem

P.S. We beat Duke tonight. Also, lol at “brief” — I wrote the title before writing the post.

3 ways that studying latin can make you a better journalist

One of my courses this semester requires each student to write a guest post for the professor’s blog. Mine is below, adapted to fit this platform.

Students in MEJO 557, Advanced Editing, are writing guest posts for the blog, The Editor’s Deskthis semester. This is the first of these posts. MaryRachel Bulkeley is a senior double majoring in Journalism (Editing & Graphic Design) and Latin, and minoring in PPE. In addition to being involved with a variety of campus organizations, such as TEDxUNC and the North Carolina Study Center, she works as a freelance photographer and designer.

Editors are known for having dependable news judgement and the ability to write and edit well. They are critical thinkers who play close attention to detail. Journalism professors strive to equip their students with the skills to excel in a world now dominated by a 24/7 news cycle and audiences with short attention spans. These changes in news cycle and audience makeup add extra layers of challenge to the task.

Majoring in Latin alongside journalism has enriched my college experience in many ways. I still get surprised sometimes, though, when people ask me and my fellow classicists questions like: “Latin, huh? What can you do with that these days?” The Society for Classical Studies offers a thorough response to this question, noting that students who study Classics go on to be lawyers, doctors, CEOs and – wait for it – journalists.

That said, here are three ways that studying Latin – and any second language, really – can make you a better journalist.

  1. Studying Latin teaches you to love grammar.

Latin is considered a “dead language,” but students who study it learn more than just how to decline nouns, conjugate verbs and translate ancient texts. They learn how to love grammar.

Knowing how and when to use active and passive voice, the indicative and the subjunctive, or an ablative absolute can make all the difference in your writing.

Some Latinists care so much about grammar that they post and comment regularly on Facebook pages such as the one titled “Dank Latin Memes.”

As is the case with learning any second language, starting with the basics affects the way we view our own language. It teaches us to think carefully about why we use the words or phrases we use as well as how to decipher problems in the writings of others.

  1. Studying Latin makes you better at solving problems.

When you’re translating a Latin sentence, you have to approach it much in the same way that an expert editor might approach a news story.

In Latin, you have to identify the sentence’s main verb and determine its impact on the sentence as a whole. In editing, you have to identify your writer’s main point in order to clarify how the rest of the story relates to it. Sometimes the different pieces of the puzzle are difficult to find, so you have to ask your Latin professor for guidance. Sometimes, as an editor, you have to ask your journalist if she really meant to write “affect” rather than “effect” or “lion hunting” rather than “lion-hunting.”

In 2008, Peter Cole, a professor of journalism and former news editor of The Guardian, shared his tips for how to write better news stories. He reminds the journalist, and consequently the editor, that she is responsible for deciding what is most important in a story and how to arrange that information appropriately and effectively. Cole’s tips are relevant today and apply to scholar and journalist alike.

  1. Studying Latin deepens your appreciation for language, literature and learning.

The writers, historians and storytellers that came out of the Roman tradition have profoundly shaped the way that our society and government functions. Learning their language and reading their literature can illustrate how core elements of a good news story – timeliness, proximity, significance, conflict, drama and interest – enable work to endure generations. The reality that people still read Livy’s histories, Cicero’s political speeches and Augustine of Hippo’s theological writings signals that well-written content about issues that matter have a lasting impact.


more on humility

The Enemy wants him, in the end, to be so free from any bias in his own favor that he can rejoice in his own talents as frankly and gratefully as in his neighbor’s talents—or in a sunrise, an elephant, or a waterfall. He wants each man, in the long run, to be able to recognize all creatures (even himself) as glorious and excellent things. He wants to kill their animal self-love as soon as possible; but it is His long- term policy, I fear, to restore to them a new kind of self-love—a charity and gratitude for all selves, including their own; when they have really learned to love their neighbors as themselves, they will be allowed to love themselves as their neighbors. For we must never forget what is the most repellent and inexplicable trait in our Enemy; He really loves the hairless bipeds He has created and always gives back to them with His right hand what He has taken away with His left.

–C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, Letter XIV: The Mystery of Genuine Humility

August 5, 2015: Beware humility & remember a promise

summer songs

Mates of State, “Staring Contest”

This suprising and quirky visual take on the song is not what you might envision while listening to the lyrics, but its character vibrantly reflects the fun flavor of the American indie pop husband-and-wife team, Kori Gardner and Jason Hamme. They started making music in 1997.

The Gray Havens, “Silver”

(song starts ~01:50 in this video) Dave and Licia Radford from Illinois started their recording careers in 2012. Over the past few years, they have produced three albums under the band name, The Gray Havens (inspired by the Elvish port city of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series). Their resonant harmonies – both instrumentally and vocally – makes their music a joy to listen to. With life-long loves for the literary, the Radford’s lyrics herald elegantly clever and symbolic imagery.

Last semester, a friend organized a benefit house concert for our university’s IJM chapter and arranged for TGH to be main show. The music that filled the room echoed off the walls, creating a frozen-in-time atmosphere of vivid sound. It was like swimming in a pool of musical beauty and joy.

The Northern Empty, “Suzie”

With their narrative lyrics and warm, immersive pop-folk sound, The Northern Empty has a growing musical repertoire of familiar-sounding poetry. The Colorado-based band has a style reminiscent of The Oh Hello’s, The Head and the Heart, and Of Monsters and Men. In “Suzie,” there is painted a nostalgic story of maybe even a coming-of-age genre.

I can hear the sound of the pouring rain
While we read our books leaned up against your old bedframe.

Scala & Kolacny Brothers, “Enjoy the Silence” (Depeche Mode)

In the 9th or 10th grade, my mom showed me and my sister “Someone New,” Scala & Kolacny Brothers‘ choral interpretation of a song by Eskobar (a Swedish indie/pop band formed in 1996), from their very first album made in 2002 titled On the Rocks. Scala’s chilling rendition of English electronic Depeche Mode’s song from 1990 here beautifully highlights the haunting vocal timbres of the Belgian girls’ choir. The ensemble is conducted by Stijn Kolacny, and its music arranged and accompanied by pianist Steven Kolacny.

Seals & Crofts, “Unborn Child”

Seals & Crofts have become one of my favorites. Their rhythmic and soulful major-key melody here pairs with tender and thought-provoking words to bring a lump to the throat… Their most famous song is perhaps “Summer Breeze” (1972), but the lesser-known “Unborn Child” is a rare anthem of a poignant truth. It was released in 1974, one year after the passing of Roe v. Wade. (lyrics)

Sheppard, “The Best is Yet to Come

Best known for their song, “Geronimo,” the Australian indie pop band formed in 2009 and spearheaded by the Sheppard siblings of  inspires optimistic vibes with their song, “The Best is Yet to Come.” Whether intentionally or unintentionally, the lyrics are interlaced with the unavoidably biblical themes of faith, hope, Truth, and Grace.

Take me to a different place
Where love is not illusion based
Fear is just a word they can’t define…

four frames from paris, b&w

FullSizeRender (1)FullSizeRender (5)FullSizeRender (2)FullSizeRender (4)

iphone photos from early july, 2017

“The common denominator in art and religion is the perception of a formal unity that points beyond itself. It is the goal of the artist to discover and express this unity in specific and concrete forms. Yet in confronting the highest art we are often left with a lingering sense of estrangement. We delight in a great gift, but there is a feeling of incompleteness. This relates, I suggest, to the highest purpose of art, and it is only the greatest works that fully achieve it. Paradoxically, at its most sublime, art achieves a unity that reveals its own radical insufficiency. It can now only point beyond itself; it can only hint at the glory of its origin…”

–Ron Austin, “The Spiritual Frontiers of Film.” Image Journal, Issue 93.


israel land, little church


photos sooc / 5 june 2017, early evening

i am a little church(no great cathedral) – i do not worry if briefer days grow briefest,
i am not sorry when sun and rain make april

my life is the life of the reaper and the sower;
my prayers are prayers of earth’s own clumsily striving (finding and losing and laughing and crying)children whose any sadness or joy is my grief or my gladness

around me surges a miracle of unceasing
birth and glory and death and resurrection:
over my sleeping self float flaming symbols
of hope, and i wake to a perfect patience of mountains

i am a little church(far from the frantic
world with its rapture and anguish)at peace with nature – i do not worry if longer nights grow longest;
i am not sorry when silence becomes singing

winter by spring, i lift my diminutive spire to
merciful Him Whose only now is forever:
standing erect in the deathless truth of His presence (welcoming humbly His light and proudly His darkness)

– e.e. cummings, “i am a little church”