Sep 13

Unit One Speech

Retrospect always tends to make things more clear.  Naturally, looking back on my Unit One Assignment, there are certain things that I would have done differently, both in writing and in delivering my speech.

When drafting my assignment, I tried to maintain a formal tone throughout.  However, with such a relatively small audience (and a very familiar one at that), it may have been better to use a more relaxed style.  Considering that I was speaking to classmates, I believe an informal approach may have allowed me to connect better to the audience and thereby convey my points more easily.

Furthermore, while I have never liked to use dramatic openings, beginning my introduction with more specific information about World War I may have garnered more interest in my speech and better held the attention of my audience.

Although practicing my speech was largely effective, I will probably do it somewhat differently next time.  To familiarize myself with my speech, I mainly performed read-throughs, rehearsing individual sections and gradually building up to the entire speech.  While this helped me remember the lines, it did not allow me to analyze how I was delivering them.  In the future, I would like to try recording my speech for review or having someone else give me feedback while I am practicing.

I also made the mistake of trying to make some last minute changes to my speech shortly before giving it, which made me less familiar with the version that I intended to deliver.  For the next speech that I have to deliver, I will probably stop editing at least one day in advance.

There are likely many more things regarding my speech that I will want to change and improve after reviewing the video of it.  While I have never been entirely satisfied with any speech that I have given (this one included), I have been able to learn something from each one.  As long as the Unit One Assignment helps me to improve, I will be glad for the experience.

Sep 13


Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The city of Rio de Janeiro (soon to host the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics) has gained international fame for the mountaintop statue of Christ the Redeemer (Cristo Redentor) that overlooks the city and for its numerous, white-sand beaches.  However, just as unique as the city’s geographical features is the singular culture of its residents that has developed throughout Rio’s history.

Rio de Janeiro


Those who live in Rio de Janeiro (known as Cariocas in Portuguese) seize every opportunity to appreciate life.  In a city known for its beaches, the culture has become greatly oriented around life at the shore.  Its residents frequent the city’s beaches and, consequently, a large portion of Rio’s social scene takes place on the sand.  Brazil is also home to many fervent soccer (futebol) fans, and naturally the game has become a favorite pastime for Brazilians (including Cariocas).

Unfortunately, when the Cariocas took their favorite sport to the beach with them, problems arose.  Stray balls and rough play began upsetting an increasing number of beach-goers, tourists and native Cariocas alike.  Eventually, the sport was banned from all public beaches, disappointing many throughout Rio de Janeiro.

For those Cariocas who still wanted to hone their soccer skills without having to leave the beach, Octavio de Moraes presented a unique solution.  In 1965, Moraes brought a new sport to one of Rio’s most famous beaches: Copacabana.  Footvolley (futevôlei), a combination of soccer (called football outside of the United States) and volleyball, gained immediate popularity.  It quickly spread throughout the city, helping soccer players avoid the strictly enforced ban by adding a twist to their favorite sport.  By 1970, footvolley was being played in multiple cities throughout Brazil and beginning to spread beyond the country’s borders.

As you may have gathered, footvolley is played with a soccer ball on a beach-volleyball court.  Its rules are relatively simple.  Playing and scoring are governed by traditional volleyball rules, but players cannot use their hands.  This requires not only speed and agility, but also skill and accuracy when striking the ball.  Traditionally, games played between greatly skilled or professional soccer players were two-on-two in order to increase difficulty.  However, casual games are often played with larger groups.


The popularity of footvolley led to the creation of a professional league.  Official events were held primarily in Brazil until 2003, when the United States hosted an international competition.  The sport has since grown in many places around the world, especially where soccer is popular and beaches are plentiful.  Although it has a diverse group of international participants, the Footvolley World Cup (Mundial de Futevôlei) is often hosted in Brazil, where the sport was born.

Official footvolley matches are often designed for more aggressive play.  With lower nets and altered rules, fast-paced professional footvolley requires even greater skill than traditional play.  Nevertheless, the sport presents a distinct challenge in any form.  It is a unique application of soccer skills that also requires overall athleticism.  While still a growing sport, it is far from likely that those who have found footvolley will ever lose their taste for its one of a kind nature.


Sep 13


Kairos, the opportune moment in rhetoric, is often an elusive element.  Very seldom do the circumstances of a situation coincide perfectly; however, certain times are certainly better suited for particular rhetorical arguments than others.  Such was the case in the months preceding the 2003 invasion of Iraq by the United States.

With the start of the twenty-first century came many changes, including changes in the nature of conflict.  Wars between well-defined nations were no longer common.  Instead, attacks on nations were originating not from other nations, but from multinational terrorist and militant groups.  These organizations had no borders; they operated in many areas, shifting constantly and evading detection.

Following the 2001 attacks on the United States homeland by the extremist group al-Qaeda, an extensive pursuit of the group’s leader (Osama bin Laden) was undertaken.  However, this manhunt embodied the new (and largely unfamiliar) nature of conflict.  Al-Qaeda operated throughout several countries, and even when its primary bases of operation throughout Afghanistan were attacked, many key leaders (including bin Laden) managed to escape.

Here is where Kairos played its part.  Americans had suffered from an unprecedented attack, and now had nowhere to turn for closure.  There was no enemy state to invade, no name on map that could be targeted; traditional warfare was innately expected, but could not be applied.  Politicians, however, would seize the Kairotic moment and use rhetoric to change the situation.

Iraq was painted as a target for Americans’ anger.  The nation and its leader, Saddam Hussein, were tied to al-Qaeda.  Iraq posed a potential threat with dangerous weapons; Hussein was known for using chemical weapons on his own people.  And a merciless dictator has never been looked on kindly by Americans.  Politicians found what the people wanted: an enemy country.  They presented a bordered nation where traditional warfare could be applied, and the people welcomed it as an alternative to the unfamiliar and unconventional war against al-Qaeda.

In retrospect, of course, opinions on the invasion of and subsequent war in Iraq vary much more widely.  Nevertheless, the situation preceding U.S. involvement there was a near-perfect Kairotic moment, a time when national attitudes and fears aligned to receive the rhetoric supporting an invasion.

Sep 13



The Swiss are perhaps best known for remaining neutral.  With an official policy of neutrality in place since 1815, the country has avoided involvement in any military conflicts (with the exception of peace-keeping and aid missions) for the better part of two centuries.  However, the Swiss stance has never been one of weakness.  On the contrary, the nation has been able to maintain neutrality (even through both World Wars) largely because of its military force.

Although a relatively small European nation, Switzerland’s military forces number approximately 200,000.  This high number is achieved through mandatory military training for all men at the age of nineteen.  Those deemed fit for service (approximately 20,000 annually) receive up to twenty-one weeks of training.  Upon completion of this instruction, each man is required to keep the weapon and equipment issued to him in his home.

While this policy may seem unusual, it allows Swiss forces to mobilize in an incredibly short time.  The active military and its reserves can be combat-ready at only 24 to 48 hours’ notice.  Nevertheless, such readiness has only been required at three times in the nation’s history (two of which were in response to the start of the World Wars).  These mobilizations were all called in order to ensure Swiss neutrality.

Naturally, the strong military tradition in Switzerland has greatly influenced its culture.  Marksmanship is a highly prized skill among the Swiss, one that many continue striving to perfect even after their time in the military or reserves has ended.  Children are often exposed to firearms and shooting during their youth, and local target ranges (where membership of all military members was once required) have become community clubs, centers of socialization over a nationally shared interest.

The Swiss shooting culture has led to the creation of a national marksmanship competition, known as the Feldschiessen (German for “field shoot”).  Once a year, the Swiss go head-to-head (at the target range) with the latest military rifles.  While the Feldschiessen is primarily a friendly contest, the Swiss government has recognized its importance in encouraging the nation’s people to continue honing their shooting skills (and thereby their military readiness).  Therefore, to draw more participants, all ammunition for the event is provided free of charge by the government.

Shooters fire eighteen rounds at targets positioned three-hundred meters downrange.  Scores are ranked nationally by the Swiss Shooting Sports Federation, with prizes awarded to the most accurate marksmen.  Of course, with so many participants (at least 130,000 last year) only a few receive an award.  For most, the real benefit of participating in the Feldschiessen is the camaraderie that it builds among neighbors; young and old alike have the opportunity to bond over a strong tradition.


Despite the large number of firearms per capita in Switzerland, or perhaps because of it, the country has a relatively low crime rate.  Nevertheless, some citizens have begun calling for more gun control in Switzerland.  Proposals are always overturned by a strong majority, but a growing number of Swiss now see its military strength as unnecessary.  More than half of a century has passed since the last mobilization of Swiss forces, and the need for another is unlikely.  But the country still holds fast to its shooting tradition and the annual Feldschiessen.  Perhaps the purpose has shifted from military to social, but its importance undoubtedly remains.

Sep 13

Las Fallas

Valencia, Spain

File:Municipal 2013.jpg


The Spanish culture is deeply intertwined with religious traditions (the Catholic Church played a prominent role throughout much of the nation’s history).  As a result, many of the most notable holidays and celebrations in Spain are held in honor of religious figures.

Valencia, a Spanish city on the Mediterranean coast, is home to an annual festival in recognition of Saint Joseph.  Residents of the city spend the entire year preparing for the celebration, which lasts for five consecutive days.  Each neighborhood’s activities are orchestrated by a chosen leader, who takes responsibility for raising the funds that will finance the most important aspect of the festival: the neighborhood’s falla.

A falla is a large monument erected with cardboard and papier-mâché.  Firecrackers and other pyrotechnics are often included in its construction.  The ultimate purpose of a falla, the name of which is derived from the Latin word for “torch,” is to be burned.  Each year, at the culmination of the festival, the neighborhoods joyfully incinerate the result of their 360 days of preparation.

The celebrations, of course, include much more than the burning of fallas.  Each morning, brass bands play throughout the streets of Valencia to awaken its residents for the festivities.  Many of the neighborhood coordinators follow the bands, igniting firecrackers along the way to ensure that no one misses La Despertá (“the awakening”).  While many take to setting off their own fireworks during Las Fallas, every day also includes a professionally coordinated show during the afternoon.

The religious purpose of the festival is never forgotten in the midst of the explosions.  Although Las Fallas is dedicated to Saint Joseph, a great deal of emphasis is also placed on the city’s patron, Virgen de los desamparados (“Our Lady of the Forsaken”).  Residents bring flowers to a large statue of their Lady (which is not burned at the end of the celebrations), ultimately leaving her adorned from head to toe in their tributes.  Masses are held periodically, both in churches and in the streets.

File:La Geperudeta.jpg


On the evening of the final day of the festival, each neighborhood parades its falla to a designated location in the city.  The monuments are ignited throughout the night, and the burning fallas are accompanied by more firework displays across the city.  Fire crews are on constant watch to prevent the fires from spreading to permanent structures.


Visitors and tourists can enjoy many culinary traditions in addition to the cultural.  Vendors cook paella, a classic Spanish dish, in large pans over open fires.  This Spanish staple, often consisting of rice, seafood, and meat or chicken, is also sold at neighborhood dinners throughout the year as a way of raising money for the festival.

Although Las Fallas is a well-established tradition in Valencia, its origins are not entirely clear.  It is believed to have originated during the Middle Ages, and slowly evolved from burning scrap materials to wax dolls before it reached its current form.  Regardless of its history, Las Fallas remains a lively and unique festival, exhibiting Spain’s strong faith in a form entirely its own.

Sep 13

Passion Blog Concepts

Blogs serve a variety of purposes; however, one of the most common and widely utilized is to inform readers.  I have benefited from informative blogs in the past, and hope to bring something useful to those who encounter my blog as well.

As I studied the Spanish language throughout high school, I often used blogs written by both native and non-native speakers to enhance my own learning.  I found a large amount of information that aided my education in the technical aspects of the language, allowing me to review tenses and irregular verbs.  However, blogs offered cultural and historical information as well, putting the language that I was learning into context.  Each writer had a distinct perspective that offered unique insights, allowing me to gain a global view of the Spanish language and its use.  In my own blog, I would seek to offer practical information and advice to those learning the language while sharing the history and culture that enriched my experience.

Alternately, I could also write an informative blog on an ongoing issue.  While I have been following the Syrian revolution, I have noticed that it is often difficult to be up-to-date on all of the events transpiring.  A blog offering summaries of recent events and their global impact on politics and economics would allow readers to remain informed on the situation and its broader implications without needing to reference multiple news sources.  In addition to removing unnecessary information, I would try to avoid sensationalism and bias in my writing, eliminating the confusion that often arises when being informed by multiple sources with conflicting views or interests.

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