Inclusivity and Identity by Jack Viere

The readings for this week made me think back to my undergraduate focus on a sociopolitical philosophy approach to race and racism. One of the books I read was Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum's Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria: And Other Conversations About Race.  (Check out the chapters/reviews--they're as revealing as the title!) In terms of addressing implicit biases and identity in the classroom, I think that this is a must-read.

One of the overarching themes in Tatum's book is narratives. Narratives are also present in the Heinemann Podcast on Dismantling Racism Racism on Education. Heinemann Fellow Sonja Cherry-Paul says, "When we teach kids these sort of canned narratives that race doesn't matter, we're all the same, we're all equal, there really needs to be a paradigm shift where we're teaching our children race does matter in this society." Narratives shape identity. I think that canned narratives coincide with the growing acceptance that race is socially constructed. Unfortunately, socially constructed attitudes like race and racism are thought of as "not real" if they aren't biologically real. (But thanks post-positivism!) However, people's identity are shaped by these attitudes, sometimes willingly or unwillingly, despite not being real in a biological sense. Consequently, a socially constructed concept of race seems to be erasing the opportunity for students to share their narratives of identity. 

Shankar Vedantam offers advice to this dilemma between a socially constructed idea as not real and identity formation. "Our hidden brains will always recognize people's races, and they will do so from a very, very young age," Vedantam says. "The far better approach is to put race on the table, to ask [children] to unpack the associations that they are learning, to help us shape those associations in more effective ways." In other words, putting race on the table allows for students to recognize that a socially constructed racism is quite influential in shaping people's identity narratives. I think Dr. Kwame Harrison embodied what this looks like when done well in a classroom setting a few weeks ago.


Visual Creativity in Academia by Jack Viere

Tepper's and Kuh's Biography in Context piece on creativity caused me to reflect on how my own educational experiences have been impacted by creativity. Right now, social science in grad school hasn't presented me with any obvious opportunities to explore my creative side. I think that comes with certain pressures and expectations.

But before grad school, there was the open-ended, explorative four years of undergrad. I had the opportunity to study abroad in Ireland. I was really into shooting photography at the time and was looking to make some sort of connection between art and academics. Visual Sociology--an emerging field I was completely unfamiliar with--was a crude combination of "visual" and "sociology." Go figure. After reflecting on similar fields, like photojournalism, the course culminated in a visual essay. The slideshow is my visual essay (that actually connects back to my name tag origin story from the first day of class).

Tepper and Kuh give unsurprising numbers to describe how students in science feel like they lack a sense of creativity. This seems to be a reoccurring theme in our class discussions. (And perhaps there's not only the omnipresent fear of not meeting expectations, but also a complicity in that problem). On the flip side, I think that the authors give lofty attributes of what it means to be an art major. I think there's a happy medium to be found.

 Check out the full gallery  here

Check out the full gallery here

With the academic buzzword "transdisciplinary" flying around, there's hope for creativity to actually thrive in all types of educational settings. For the scientists who think that their work doesn't allow for traditional art media, I think that these might be the same scientists who fail at communicating their work to non-scientists. The subsequent discourse that responds to that problem is actively being shaped by innovative, creative means of communicating complex topics in visually effective ways. Does that mean "transdisciplinarian" looks like the crude combination of "visual" and "biology?" I'm not sure. But today's world does have a strong emphasis on the visual. With students' time spans decreasing, visual + [insert field here] might be a start at creating a space for creativity and capturing students' attention. 

Visual Sociology is a good example of social sciences getting in touch with their creative side. I can't remember the exact name for the example of creativity in "hard science," but it's roughly known as microscopic cell art. I don't have any background in biology, but I do think that creating these images takes a lot more than textbook-defined "science." I'd imagine that the instrumentation and engineering involved could invoke non-science types who feel left out to also be creative...

Monetization of Mindfulness? by Jack Viere

“Throughout the twentieth century, particularly after the Second World War, we had a slow-moving river. Stability, continuity, and maintaining the status quo defined our culture, and progress was carefully controlled. This environment influenced both education and technology” (Thomas and Brown, 39).

I don’t agree with this claim.

I think that the lack of stability, continuity, and maintaining the status quo continually influences education and technology.

I do agree that there’s more to education than teaching someone how to fish, so to speak.

Relevantly adapting to change in an education setting takes mindfulness, a broader awareness, of “what will come next” (Thomas and Brown, 43).

But thinking about teaching someone how to fish brings up a common discussion: what is the purpose of education? Is education a way to learn a new trade, a means to an end, so to speak? Or is education valuable on its own?

“To most people, [reading Harry Potter] doesn’t sound very much like ‘real’ learning” (Thomas and Brown, 44). Langer’s seven pervasive myths of education portrays what “real” learning might look like.

Yes. If the purpose of education is to eventually get a job, then it’s harder to explain how Harry Potter is going to help achieve that goal.

Yes. If the purpose of education is to do education (whatever that means), then reading Harry Potter instead of the “classics” seems more like “fake” than “real” learning.

If the problem is educating more effectively in a “constantly changing world,” and the answer is play and imagination, then the trouble is convincing students, parents, and policymakers to buy into this alternative learning style (Thomas and Brown, 48).

The college student has to weigh whether or not a course that fosters play and imagination is going to be worth her tuition. (And in an ideal world, if she adopts the purpose of education to mean that education is valuable in its own right, then she has to weigh whether or not this course visibly increases her education).

The parents have to either pay tuition (at any age level), accept the value in play and imagination (if this was integrated in the public school system), or both. That may be difficult to sell if parents want “the best” for their children, especially if that means well-being, i.e., job security. Showing the connection between Harry Potter and a job opportunity might be difficult.

The policymakers have to be convinced and convince politicians (and decision makers at every level) that play and imagination is worth funding. Quantifying a mode of education that minimizes the use of tests could also be difficult.

I think that quantifying how play and imagination lead to problem solving skills in a workplace setting is a viable option that fits in “education as a means to an end” purpose. “Mindfulness creates a rich awareness of discriminatory detail” (Langer, 23). Perhaps this discriminatory detail is a visible problem solving skill that finds worth in a workplace setting.

But what is mindfulness’ purpose?

If the purpose of mindfulness is to teach sideways learning, then mindfulness is just another means to an end.

If the purpose of mindfulness is to just increase awareness of discriminatory detail, then mindfulness might have an invaluable quality that teachers and employers may find useful.  



(At the end of the day, the increase in use of “mindfulness” is just one example of cultural appropriation that exists in a larger West meets East phenomenon, c.f. yoga. Mindfulness, like education, will never be non-teleological).

Correlation, No Causation, in Observed Changes in Education by Jack Viere

Thomas and Brown write as though there were a self-apparent change in the 20th and 21st centuries, specifically in the context of education. “What happens to learning when we move form the stable infrastructure of the twentieth century to the fluid infrastructure of the twenty-first century, where technology is constantly creating and responding to change? The answer is  surprisingly simple.” Well, I simply disagree. Not only is this question self-fulfilling in that obviously, a fluid infrastructure is preferable and effective to the assumed stability found in the 20th century, but what other assumptions are Thomas and Brown operating under? Their subsection called “Sam’s Story” epitomizes the early 2000s ubiquitous techno-optimism I ranted about last week. Where is the data that shows a connection between effectiveness in learning and new forms of media like Scratch?


Carnes writes, “Last fall [of 2010], President Obama warned that the United States could not succeed in a global economy so long as it ranks as low as 12th in the percentage of young adults with college degrees. ‘We've done OK in terms of college-enrollment rates,’ he explained, but ‘more than a third of America's college students’ fail to earn degrees.” In other words, if adults with college degrees is an acceptable proxy to measure effective in learning for Carnes, then how have new cultures of learning positively impacted this conceivably measurable change? I admit that new types of media require new ways of learning in some instances. But does that translate into a paradigmatic shift in how we learn? I don’t think so.

Out of the “Four things lecture is good for,” I agree with Talbert that “sharing cognitive structures” is soundly dependent on the lecture style of education. But the successes of modeling thought processes, giving context, and telling stories are not solely dependent on the lecture style. That’s just my opinion, but in any case, these three styles (and even sharing cognitive structures) presumably work well in other alternative, non-lecture styles of education. The uses and abuses of technology are just one of these alternatives.

The general assumption of this week’s readings posits that technology somehow unprecedentedly changes education in ways that non-lecture styles of education were not able. I disagree with this assumption, primarily because the “somehow” is widely left unexplained. Moreover, the assumption operates in the limited realm of “new technology requires new ways of learning.” This is different than arguing that new technology causes a paradigmatic shift in how we learn. I would accept the former assumption as true--returning to what Thomas and Brown call surprisingly simple--of course you need a new learning manual to operate your new iPhone for the first time. But just because everyone has an iPhone now does not mean that the change in the United States’ ranking in the global economy, nor college graduation rates, can be attributed to the wide-sweeping social phenomenon of “new media.” Assuming that these rates are proxies of education, regardless of whether or not they go up or down, there can only be a loose correlation made on a macro level between tech’s effectiveness on education.

Look, another way of understanding my skepticism is to consider the “tragic” scene of walking into an undergraduate classroom where all the students are on their laptops and phones (as Allia Griffin puts it). I have discussed this pre-class scene several times before. While I did not live during the pre-internet/pre-smartphone era, I have been told by plenty of professors who did live during that lost “Golden Age” when students still had newspapers, books, and other forms of distraction that kept them from talking to one another. (Or perhaps people were always just unfriendly and the sinister, nefarious consequences of digesting social media only make that social truth more plain than it was before). Yes, there will always be an anecdotal life experience that contradicts this perspective, but this doesn’t seem to be any different than people who claim that on an individual level, there are serious changes taking place when we consume digital media. Other than the simple fact that change is in fact taking place, there isn’t some sort of new culture of learning in this century that polarizes us from the previous one.

We’re not somehow smarter or more effective at learning just because we all have access to iPhones....


Eschatological Expectations in Education by Jack Viere

All of my writings here should be taken with a grain of salt. So let Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall wash over you as I take a hypercritical approach to this week’s authors’ myopic problematization of education.

Education is a loaded word, but I think we get some kind of consensus on its meaning from Michael Wesch and Tim Hitchcock: self-improvement. But for me, the three words that come to mind when I think of education are eschatology, meritocracy, and techno-optimism. This is especially the case after watching and reading Wesch and Hitchcock because they ascribe to the impact of blogging without regard for how these three biases might negatively shape education.

Eschatology brings to mind doom and gloom, judgment--the end of the line of what philosophers might call teleology. Think of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “motivational” quote, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” Yea, well, Romanticism is perhaps the opposite of teleology (at least in this instance). Eschatology is really concerned about the destination: the future really doesn’t look to good. In fact, life’s journey should be so fixated on preparing for the destination that you need to find some sort of salvation before getting there. If you’re not scared enough to come to Jesus, than you’re not aptly anticipating the destination’s severity.

For most people, life itself presents people with any variety of doom and gloom destinations. We can call these societal pressures, self-imposed challenges, or familial expectations. Most people might agree that some combination of financial stability, job security, and relationship satisfaction makes up what we might call “the meaning of life.” #eudamonia To achieve the optimal rankings in those categories (as well as others not listed here), you need to have been dealt a good hand in phenotypic, physical, and ideological identities. That is, if you weren’t born a White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant, Heteronormative, Abled-bodied, “Middle”-classed individual, then you are starting life’s rat race from a deficit. In an “ideal” world, if you are born a WASP-HAM, then all you need to do is just play the the game of life “straight up.” Go to school, get educated, and reap the benefits of “working hard.”

That expectation of playing the game well by education and the consequent employment is textbook meritocracy. But I want to discuss a more insidious type of meritocracy. When you’re not born a WASP-HAM, how do you approach the game of life? Is playing a matter of looking past how the game is rigged against you? Is it sticking it to “the man?” Is playing the game a way to defy stereotypes? (Should we try to find our inner hero, like Dr. Wesch suggests, in these pursuits?) Assuming that everyone wants financial stability, job security, and relationship satisfaction, what’s so wrong for non-WASP-HAMs to buy into the promises of meritocracy, to play the game, to buy into education?

Perhaps the problem is making the assumption that meritocracy is a one-size-fits-all solution to self-improvement. Meritocracy works really well if you’re a WASP-HAM; just work hard and climb life’s social ladder. But if you’re not a WASP-HAM, how high can you truly rank in social hierarchies--even when you buy into meritocracy? Glass ceiling much? In other words, can education ever be free from meritocracy? If education is self-improvement (to one degree or another), is that improvement ever free from social realities like racism, sexism, genderism, ableism, classism? Is the education process itself free from biases? Is the end result of education free from biases? Education is something that you quite literally buy into, philosophically and monetarily. There’s the expectation that the doom and gloom destination can be altogether avoided (for WASP-HAMs) if you just work hard enough. Education is a part of that process; pay for that piece of paper and everything will be fine. But for everyone else, the everyday doom and gloom like sexism, racism, and ableism isn’t simply earned by getting educated. Nor are the long term doom and gloom destinations improved through education.

Unfortunately, this salvational characteristic of education is exacerbated by techno-optimism. While I want to add the (obvious) caveat that there are certain technologies that can be of great use to some populations, there shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all approach to any type of technology. Nor should there be an expectation that technology unilaterally improves, or saves, us from the impending doom and gloom of life. While I don’t think that Seth Godin and Tom Peters should be accused of suggesting that blogging is a universal good for self-improvement, highlighting the fact that two white men who have played the game of life very successfully are telling us to buy into blogging should warrant some skepticism. We shouldn’t be skeptical of blogging itself. Rather, I find it difficult to view blogging as something outside of the scheme of self-improvement masked as self-expression.

I can hear someone saying that blogging is “about the journey, not the destination.” While this may be true, the Internet as a whole has evolved from its “simple” beginning. Take Ben Schmidt’s blog, Sapping Attention, as an example of skepticism. Hitchcock claims, “[Schmidt] has crafted one of the most successful academic careers of his generation – not to mention the television consultation business, and world-wide intellectual network.” Well, allegorically, we might say that the internet no longer remains as innocent and simplistic as Blogger’s interface--the template that Schmidt still uses today. That is to say, the list of -isms that exist IRL unsurprisingly exist on Reddit, Facebook, and Twitter alike. (Anonymity may lead to an increase in the severity of -isms, but anonymity isn’t mutually exclusive to social media). Nothing published on the web goes unnoticed...

Hitchcock writes, “By forcing students to write ‘publicly’, their writing rapidly improves.” This blind, naive optimism placed on technology’s educational (and social) impact might have been appropriate during Blogger’s heyday over a decade ago. But Hitchcock’s 2014 publication date mirrors the blind trust that’s placed in meritocracy: there’s no regard for the people who don’t fit into WASP-HAMs one-size-fits-all online. Despite the internet’s invitation for faux-sense of individuality and accessibility on social media sites, we’re never really free from the social biases that tell us to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. I mean, what’s the point? #slacktivism

So, maybe we should listen to Pink Floyd’s lyrics: we don’t need education. But on the other hand, if education is self-improvement, then look no further than Socrates: “Know thyself!”

(And yes, I know that ironically, I have to be in a position in education to name drop Socrates…and write everything above).

cliché galore






Shooting Connemara with Peter Skelton by Jack Viere

Early in the day, it was hard to get some good light.
Early in the day, it was hard to get some good light.

There are many instances where I think too much devotion and credit is given to social media. One of my biggest pet peeves is seeing “activist” groups on Facebook try to get “likes” to change the world. That’s nice, I guess, in terms of raising awareness. But there is a difference between the social capital found in the virtual world and IRL…

What does it really mean for an amateur photoblogger to have x amount of followers? It’s easy to answer that in light of a professional photography: money plays. But none of my artwork is for sale; I’m not in it for the money. So what is to be gained from networking online? Facebook friends, Twitter and Instagram followers, and whoever reads this on Wordpress -only a few of these individuals engage with me face to face. I don’t find these types of relationships to be as gratifying as real-world relationships. I hope that doesn’t offend anyone, but in terms of a healthy lifestyle, I think that physical contacts are superior. But in the instance where those superficial followers can become real-world acquaintances, I think social media can be incredibly valuable.

I wanted to see how much temperature editing I could get away with; definitely over did it.
I wanted to see how much temperature editing I could get away with; definitely over did it.

In the months leading up to my departure for Ireland, I was going through different online social mediums to find local photographers to follow. I stalked their photos and got some destinations in mind. There are plenty of photo opportunities throughout the Irish countryside and that became more apparent the more I got out and shot. But while researching, I noticed that most photographers were based somewhere and not in Galway. Then I found “Galway Pete,” whose work I fell in love with the moment I checked out his online portfolio. Maybe I’m still a newbie in terms of photography, but when I see someone’s work that I admire, I really do think, “Wow! I’d love to shoot around with this guy, see how they work, what equipment they use etc.” Again, despite how much I’ve learned online, I think there is something valuable about a hands-on approach to photography.


For anyone not familiar with Ireland, it’s not the easiest country to get around with a limited and expensive bus system. Apparently, in the past few years, the major motorways that were constructed amount to small roads back in America. These “improvements” don’t really do much in terms of increasing accessibility, but I guess they reduce the time between major urban areas, which are basically Dublin, Galway, and Cork. So finding a local “fixer” was a priority upon arriving here. After some re-tweeting, liking, and generic Twitter conversations, I had contacted Peter and set a date to go out and shoot Connemara. It might strike Americans as odd at how easy and familiar that process seems. But Ireland is such a small country that people really are who they say they are. That “have your guard up” mentality is quite unnecessary here; I guess it’s because communities are so tightly knit.

I didn't truly know what macro photography was until I got a chance to use Peter's 100mm macro lens!
I didn't truly know what macro photography was until I got a chance to use Peter's 100mm macro lens!

We headed out of Galway into some pretty relentless rain. There are many attitudes that photographers can have when they interact. In some circles, unfortunately, I detect a lot of condescension, probably due to competition. But Peter was really comfortable with how he shot and was completely open to sharing his opinions on equipment, techniques, and his general philosophy when it comes to photography. I think it’s the last part that comes through in a face-to-face relationship. Sure, online you can view someone’s portfolio, and I guess ultimately, this is what matters if you want pictures. But it’d be pretty miserable if a bride’s wedding photographer was a jerk and ruined her day.

The money shot from the day. I knew these were the exact edits I wanted as I snapped away.
The money shot from the day. I knew these were the exact edits I wanted as I snapped away.

I really got the best of both worlds: great photographer and Irishman. Having a local show you around is something I’ve recently learned to treasure after some extensive traveling. I’ve been reading up on art and photography and relationships are what the more keen artists denote as important in their process. Two pieces of advice that Peter shared with me, (and I hope he doesn’t mind me repeating!) really stuck out to me. The first was to never shoot what another photographer dictates as the right way. His wording didn’t really make this tip as much of an absolute that I am making it out to be. But if you’re motivated by someone else’s mindset, or anything other than your own internal drive, then are you really an artist? This is definitely different from motivation or a passive type of influence. But it brings me to his second point: amateurs have the potential to create better work than the pros. I thought this was an interesting tidbit, just because so many people incorrectly assume that the most expensive equipment, which presumably pros have better access to with their photo-related income, churn out the best shots. The relationships that many pros make are, well, professional. And that basically means the motivation is profession driven –ahem, money. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. But it’s definitely in this category of online, virtual, and financial.


Despite the poor weather, I think Peter and I got a few good shots. I went a little crazy with the edits, just because Connemara itself is a really wild landscape. I want to give a huge (virtual) thank you to Peter for the nearly perfect day! Be sure to check out his website and to follow him on Twitter! If your work is great, you're bound to get a re-tweet at the very least.

¡Madrid! by Jack Viere

(Had this post sitting as a draft. Thought I should go ahead and post it. Written on Monday, March 10th, 2014).
So I have to write this from my iPhone since Internet isn't as easily accessible in Madrid as it is throughout Ireland--free wifi that is. But oh well, I have time to kill while I wait for my flight.
There is something to be said about traveling alone. I think there's a bit of a stigma from a young American's perspective, or at least I get the vibe that there is one. I don't think that's the case for other backpackers from Europe, Asia, and Australia.
Flying into Madrid was kind of like passing through the Pearly Gates. I had my face glued against the window as we flew over mountains and circled back to the city. Once inside the airport, it felt like I was going to the beach. The way people dressed was certainly geared for warm weather but there was a kind of touristy air to everyone's arrival. And yet again, another European country outdoes America in terms of security and passport lines!
image (16)
There's a bit of a constant theme in my posts lately about wanting to get lost. Well I didn't have to get physically lost in Madrid (though at one point I did circle around one area). The language barrier was enough of a challenge. Though to my surprise, I could understand this Spanish accent well compared to Mexican, or my Venezuelan room mates's, accents. And un/fortunately, everyone speaks English to some degree. But with the beard and carefully planned outfit, I wouldn't attract any attention to myself so that on several occasions, I was addressed in Spanish and was able to get away with simple "si" or "no" responses. But then there were other instances where my background in French and Latin actually hindered my pronunciation with generic Romantic rooted words like "chocolate;" I sounded like an idiot at la creperie, ironically, in Spain, with a French accent. Oh well! In many instances, people were understanding and just spoke back in English.
I got into the city by a crowded bus. I was assuming Madrid would be the same size like Dublin and Amsterdam. I don't know the populations of any of the cities, but Madrid was noticeably larger with high rises and extended city limits. The spotty internet can only take you so far when you're in a foreign country. In trying to figure out where my hostel was in this astetically pleasing city, I just kind of winged it. A good sense of direction is better than reliance on the internet. So I wandered the streets with a general direction in my mind and eventually found where I was staying.
 image (15)
The hostel was pretty cool. It had this open roof atrium, a rooftop bar, and a neat lock system that was better than anything I've seen so far. (I was so much happier with this than my time in Belfast. And write as I typed this, some survey person was asking me about my trip here in Madrid. "Uh yea overall definitely a 9 or 10 out of 10," I just told her).
Anyways, I was in a small but nice room. I met some awkward Aussie that came across as though there was a language barrier between us. We went for Indian food at his recommendation. Luckily I was able to find some other people that wanted to more Spanish-esque things later that night. Two guys from LA were backpacking throughout Europe and were spending their last night out in the Spanish fashion. We went for some delicious sandwiches with some sort of toasted cheese ball. The Spanish, regardless of age, go out no earlier than 22:30. So at midnight, this little sandwich place was packed full with 30 year olds. Throughout the weekend I noticed that the lighting in most establishments was quite bright compared to Irish pubs. I thought that related to the pace of nightlife: Irish go out earlier and the pubs close at 2 am. Spaniards start late and go out longer but consume alcohol at a slower rate. That first night, I didn't drink because Saturday was going to be a busy day. Plus the hostel room mates were catching an early train the next morning.
Saturday was spent in Retiro Park and El Prado Museo. I saw a lot of famous artwork-I get carried away in some of those galleries, particularly the rooms with Romanticism and Naturalism. The prior seemed to be dominated by Spanish painters. I spent somewhere near four hours in there until my feet ached and I had seen ever room.
I was tired and feeling quite lonely while walking through the park. I had no idea Madrid was the new Paris: everyone was kissing, embracing, sitting on each other. All age groups too, which was just  a matter of culture rather than teenage hormones. Tapas was the cure! I wanted to find a good place to experience this cuisine. I parked it at some restaurant where the young bartender gave me some free plate of jamon y queso. I think the Irish came out in me as I drained another beer; the alcohol isn't the main attraction at what would seem like an equivalent to America's happy hour. It's not like more beer meant more tapas as you might find with America and wings. But as I was sitting there, I was able to figure this all out. Europeans  definitely use their smartphones more reservedly than Americans. Like the Irish, Spanish people noticeably enjoy physical companionship in social settings. It's no surprise that me as the American happen to be sitting alone ad writing this on my smartphone...The smartphone epidemic really doesn't pervade into cultures that are rooted in such a way, much to my delight.
Saturday night, I had two new roommates who were teaching English in northern Spain. One was a Texan, the other an Irishman. We went for those crepes I mentioned earlier at around midnight. They proceeded to invite me to their friends apartment somewhere outside of the city center. It may sound really wild for me to go out with random people. But if you're thinking that, you're coming at it from your biased American perspective. People aren't dangerous in Europe as they might be back in the States. Backpacking kids in the similar position as I was aren't some how predisposed to my prejudice that they're going to pose a threat. Plus, there were more Americans teaching English in Madrid who were at the apartment and locals who were getting degrees in higher education. So I had a blast meeting new faces aside from how crazy you might think I am 😛
The night somehow continued until the sun started to rise at 7:30. My day didn't start until I was figuring out how to get to a Real Madrid futbol match with one of my new Japanese room mates. I'm glad I got to experience that. Again, probably against the American train of thought, I found it pretty cool to see a sport that is played throughout the world exhibited at the highest level. Cristiano Ronaldo-no idea how much he makes but the fans were about to murder the poor bum that tripped him-scored right in front of me. The fans were wild to no one's surprise but the coordinate cheers and chants were really cool to listen to; there was only one or two that were repeated but for the most part, it was a symphony that went along with the match. The kid coordinating it all down near the goal was very much the maestro as he waved his hands around as he sang into the microphone. It was all in good taste until a lot of tripping occurred and no calls were made. I know there's that American view of soccer players as a bunch of pretty boy actors, and there was a degree of that, but this particular game saw I think somewhere near 10 yellow cards and 1 red card, a fight almost break out after some slapped another player, and the security guards number double as a result of it all. It was definitely more entertaining than watching it on TV and though I'm no a huge fan of the sport in America, it was clear that there was a well executed style of play by Real Madrid as they won 3-0. One of those points was scored accidentally by one Levante's players and good lord, the fans had to let him know he messed up!
(I don't feel like typing any more since my flight is leaving. Sorry for only two panoramas. Looking to post some more normal photo-posts!)

Dust Spots, Self-Portraits, and More Posts by Jack Viere

Well, my time here in Ireland has flown by and I am staring down the last month I have left abroad. In retrospect, my workflow didn't translate all too well when I started traveling, hence, I didn't have too many posts. What posts I did have were compromised of low-res iPhone shots. That's nice to an extent, but now I have a lot of work to catch up on, starting with the insane amount of RAW files I have sitting on a hard drive. Dust spots. I am incredibly angry at how many dust spots there are on my sensor. I was treating this used Canon 5D like a baby and was even using one of those nasal spray devices to clean the sensor with air and gravity...I know for a fact the dust wasn't from my lenses. So even after today's cleaning, I was still disappointed to find the usual suspects in the same spots. Any photographers out there know what I should do? I don't have any sufficient cleaning supplies, besides what I'd use on my lens.


I have been alone a whole lot on this trip, something I did not anticipate valuing as much as I do now. But in most cases, I didn't bring my bulky tripod. So in order to shoot these self-portraits, a new sub-genre I've become found of after visiting so many art museums throughout Europe, I had to prop my camera on whatever I could. Then, with the 10 second timer counting down, I'd have to dart to my desired position, with the focus locked on wherever my butt would be. For the above shot, I slipped into the lake a few times; even though the image was shot with a 50mm (close to what our eyes see), I think I was further away from the camera than it seems. So I really had to rush out before the timer went off and compose myself quickly.


Family members wanted me to be in some of the photos I was taking, but the awkwardly spaced iPhone selfie was not appropriate for what I wanted to capture. In both instances, these images were intended to portray the feeling got while being there instead of what the viewer him/herself sees when viewing the photograph.

With that being said, I'm looking forward to getting back to posting more routinely!

Easter Crowds in Prague by Jack Viere

Prague has been the complete opposite from Vienna. I fell asleep on the bus and when I woke up, we had just crossed into the Czech Republic. I immediately noticed the different alphabet and constant advertisements for strip clubs, which inevitably allude to prostitution in this country. I thought the latter would be an inescapable issue as it had been in Amsterdam (and in Madrid). But I still haven't found myself in an area in downton Prague where there is that kind of smut. So in addition to the districting of Prague, I really liked the architecture and number of churches on almost every corner. Churches in Germany and Spain were beautiful and I always think that cathedrals and basilicas are extravagant to instill awe from the believer/visitor. But here in Prague, the churches are packed full of tourists who gape and take pictures of all the artwork. Even though America is plagued by technology and a subsequent need to be visually stimulated by a smartphone, I am very surprised and pleased to find that the visual beauty in churches, which were undoubtedly and initially intended to invoke certain emotions, still have that effect today! One of the churches, the Loreta, is thought to be a replica or some sort of mystical duplicate of the Santa Casa, the Virgin Mother's birth place. (I didn't go into this church because its staff was on its lunch break). But the folklore from the past still draws crowds which I think says something about a certain post modern view of religion. In this present age of science ad technology, which is almost inextricably (and erroneously, if I might add) associated to a condemnation of faith, believers or just simple tourists still marvel at the views. I think the same could be said about people in the past; they may have just wanted to look at the artwork, or even some relics, just simply because they existed in order that one might look at them. Churches aren't made for salvation, but they certainly have the power to move believers and tourists alike to experience something extraordinary. Even though people were improperly using DSLRs and camera phones to get pictures of the artwork, which annoys me to no end, I thought that the new technology of today distinguishes more clearly now than before that human beings have always been drawn to visual beauty, despite what post modern thinking says. The streets were packed in Prague. It was hard to get some shots without a huge crowd in the foreground. I did aim up above people a few times, so we will see how those shots come out on a bigger screen. A Brazilian from the hostel deduced from her travels that there are usually two cities, when situated closely to one another, juxtaposed and compared to each other. Sometimes it's a capital city and the artsy city, other times it could be a variety of characteristics that distinguish a region's culture. Madrid to Barcelona, Galway to Dublin, Interlaken to Bern/Zurich, and Prague to Vienna. Aside from Madrid, I prefer the non-capital cities. I know Prague and Vienna are from different countries, but most people are heading from one to the other if they're touring Europe. Vienna falls into the category that I've preferred: not the huge party scene, quieter, less of a tourist trap. Yet I really liked Prague, despite a lot of chain companies and a constant debauchery in the streets outside my hostel. I got out of the touristy area and liked it there even more! But the tourist attractions at the palace were really enjoyable and I didn't have to go very far to out walk the heavy crowds. I guess my only complaint was arriving right before Easter because the narrow, maze-like streets were fairly packed. Oh well! Had a great time there! (I don't have a lot of images in my iPhone, which is a good thing because it means I took a lot with my 5D! So I'll post those at some point...)





Vienna, Not My Favorite Stop by Jack Viere

My time in Vienna seemed very transitional; arriving there awkwardly early in the morning from a night train, I had to wait to be checked into my hostel. The train ride was nice but I was still exhausted. There was a huge marathon in the city as well, so in addition to the bad weather, I wasn't really getting the most out of the place. I quickly got the vibe that Austrians are not the friendliest of people, at least in comparison to the Irish, Germans, and Swiss. In Germany (and somewhat in Spain as well), the locals can quickly figure out you're a traveller. Even if you're trying to use some bits and phrases in their native tongue, they're not very patient as you mispronounce everything. But they don't really hold it against you that your accent sucks. They just switch to English and roll their eyes. Austrians, on the other hand, came across as disgusted or annoyed by my presence as a foreigner (probably because I scream "American"). I didn't really say much to anyone while there, yet somehow I felt pretty unwelcome. Despite there being a marathon, I felt like I was the first foreigner they laid eyes on...or maybe the locals were just annoyed at the large crowds for the race. In any case, the best part of Austria was finding an Irishman in my hostel. I heard his accent, introduced myself as a student from Galway, and we then proceeded to go a bar and grab a few pints. I'd like to give Austria another chance because I had some high expectations before getting there. The true colors of a city are most evident when you are visiting between the touristic seasons. It's the early part of spring in some places more so than others, but Vienna was definitely not beyond its winter.I went for a hike outside the city in the hopes of getting some good shots of the skyline. The weather was overcast but I went ahead with no jacket (oops). I enjoyed the easy incline but the view was hazy, to no surprise, and the clouds were rolling in quickly overhead. I walked back down, past the numerous bus stops that take you up this hill for sight seeing. Then it poured. Still, it's nice to be able to ride public transportation and get away with not paying. Dishonest yes, but no one else seemed to pay for the metro.  I went to the Albertina Museum, and that made the city as a whole, worth I visiting. I really can't stand Picasso's work, especially when Monet is in the next gallery. A lot of the pieces on display had me reflecting on what it means to create art. The process, the studying, the critiquing--all of it seemed familiar to me even though my medium is different. I'd just like to reflect what photography has unfortunately become, in contrast to these artistic legends I was reading about in the museum. It cracks me up that people go into museums with hefty DSLRs to take pictures of pictures...what do they after they take them? Process a RAW file and do touch ups on a masterpiece? I can understand taking a photo of something that might catch your attention and you want to send it to someone or use it as a phone background or something. But you could easily just type in the photo's name and most likely find the artist's work online. It was just silly to have to wait in this procession of people focusing their lenses to get the perfect shot of a still image. (ie why do you have a DSLR in the first place?!)














My Only Regret in Interlaken by Jack Viere

...was leaving. And not having a cool pair of sunglasses. Everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY, had a wild pair of shades. But I loved it here, if that much wasn't made obvious in the previous posts. It's just so expensive. I met a kid for Hong Kong last night in my hostel room and he said that their dollar is roughly 1:1 with the Swiss franc; why is the USD hurting so bad?!A few nights ago, I met some guys at the Three Tells Irish Pub. The only other places nearby were hotel restaurants or I could've walked to a Hooters in the downtown area. Of all the restaurants to have a chain in Interlaken, I'm surprised they have that...But I was later told that the main tourists that come to Switzerland are noticeably from more conservative, eastern countries. Not to make any assumptions, but I got the feelin that the ill-placed Hooters and it's neighboring casino remained in business by attracting somebody. So it made sense to me to park it at the Irish pub, go figure. The guy wearing shorts, flip flops, and a pink sports coat turned out to be the owner. As the night progressed with the beer seeming to flow freely, Shebby, the owner, started discussing business theories with me. In terms of capitalism, I could think of a few pros and cons on my own, but this native Kiwi had a really bizarre concept. I was complaining that the conversion rate from the USD to both EUR and CHF was absurdly high, despite the noticeable difference in the cost of living in Interlaken. Shebby suggested that products, particularly in the service industry-which I have a background in-are visibly more expensive to an American because the US doesn't charge enough. It was a pretty broad slap in the face to the free market concept, but I wasn't sure if he meant how they tax here or how there are government funded programs that are made more accessible via higher prices. Apparently, the waiters/bartenders have an insane amount of vacation time as well as a 13 month of salary paid. So it kind of equates to not paying taxes, according to Shebby. However that system works out, it obviously draws a lot of foreign workers. I didn't know that EU members can just travel between countries and work as long as they have their EU card. But somehow, Interlaken remains particularly Swiss; it didn't lose it's identity to migrant workers or from the impact of the tourist industry. Then again, I was there between the main tourist seasons, which I thoroughly enjoyed! So I didn't run into as many tour groups as I could've, but there were quite a few people packed into several areas with their cameras. I liked that dichotomy between the viewers and the doers. It's expensive here so why not actively do something rather than pay more to photograph it from a distance? Interlaken is dubbed the adventure capital of Europe (or something like that). So I will certainly hope to find myself here again at some point while I'm still young! I was in such a poor state last night; limited wifi and expensive exits from this town was not convenient to say the least. I'm training back to Zurich because northern Italy's train system is on strike. That made getting into France more expensive as well. Going directly east was over 100chf, and hearing that Vienna is also expensive, I thought that getting to a main travel hub might be the wisest idea. I'm going to look to bus into Germany or maybe into France. I don't think I'm doing the train traveling correctly because there are different passes for different countries that have different restrictions in different currencies. That might be easier for someone that can speak Deutsch, French, or Suisse-Deutsch, or all the above plus English...But I'm not timing things correctly. I saw on some travel forum that in Switzerland, there's some sort of saying that goes something like "the smart person travels by train." So maybe I'm an idiot for not coordinating efficiently. But Ireland, Spain, and Holland allowed for more spontaneity in travel plans, specifically when going shorter distances. I'm almost half tempted to look at what renting a car is like if the bus system is deficient out of Zurich...Until then, I'm enjoying the views from the train!







Der Perfekte Tag by Jack Viere

I don't even know where to begin when it comes to today. I was referred to a ski shop by a Kiwi bartender at an Irish pub in Switzerland. Went in, got a great deal in terms of skis and transportation. Basically, I crossed the street, caught a bus that brought me to a train station. From there, you train up into the mountains. So combining my favorite mode of traveling with my favorite landform (mountains) along with some skiing, I knew is gave a good time no matter what. But these Swiss Alps really are something else. The views are incredible to say the least. The slopes were pretty good as far as spring skiing goes. So what else can you ask for in terms of der perfekte tag? You walk off the train, buckle up, ski down. I think the pictures can tell a better story than I can, but I did meet some kids from Cambridge.  I thought I skied fast but apparently everybody here does! The last stop I got off of was Kleine Scheidegg at 6,762 ft. You can get considerably higher with the chairlifts but most of the bowls were closed. (That didn't stop me from dropping into one with the Brits). I don't really know where else to visit after a day like today. My friends at the pub didn't think too highly of Milan, which was the next largest city south of Interlaken. I'm considering this Cinqe Terra walk I've been told about on several occasions...












Dachau Reflections by Jack Viere

20140408-163007.jpgNothing screams voyeuristic existentialism like listening to the extended intro of "I Will Possess Your Heart" on a cloudy day on a train in Munich. Hokey, I know but heading to Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial is a little sobering. On another note, I'd say I can comprehend some simple phrases (written) In German. It's making traveling outside Munich's city center less difficult. Picking out other Americans is pretty easy; as I write this on a bus, I already detected two college-aged girls on the metro heading to the same memorial. Those Northface jackets are such a giveaway... ------ I feel like I've been to a concentration camp before, even though that's not true. I must've dreamt being at one and everything about it matched today; the drizzly weather, the scenery, and the feeling I'd get while walking around the place of the deaths of thousands of people. Two things that struck me as I wandered around for a few hours. First, the role Dachau played in the concentration camp system. As early as 1933, prisoners were delivered there, like cattle. That's six whole years before Germany's invasion of Poland. Many of the prisoners that went to Dachau were Soviets, Polish clergy, and various "political prisoners." political prisoners at a concentration camp added with some photographs in the museum had me wondering if the people there knew what was occurring, the prisoners and the small town right outside of it. Today, especially as an American, history is retold as if the mass extermination of people had been taking place and any and everybody knew that it was happening. I think the prisoners themselves might have had an idea that their living conditions were clearly leading them to their deaths. But the more modern view of the SS's ingenuity of mass murdering wasn't on the prisoners' mind.

That brings me to point number two: the awesome extent that human beings can systematically and efficiently kill themselves. Dachau was actually a work camp that was taken over by the SS (from the local authorities running it), which then instilled this "new model" of running concentration camps. The networking that took place between camps proves just that; there was a schematic manner to control the non-Aryan population. Mass executions didn't take place at Dachau. Prisoners would be shipped elsewhere to subcamps. But there was still a crematorium that was later replaced by a larger one for disposing the dead. So yes, thousands of people died there but my mentality really changed when I realized that there was a cunningness to the SS and their means for running Dachau that placed it as the new standard for concentration camps. 20140408-163016.jpg (The prison within the concentration camp. I found this to be quite bizarre and it consequently formed this notion I have that prisoners didn't recognize their status as we now do. A prison within a prison...what sort of implications does that give?)

20140408-163026.jpg (The bunk beds that were initially suppose to house around a hundred men. I can remember the specific numbers but at some point, these long buildings had nearly 2,000 persons living in each structure). 20140408-163036.jpg (The Jewish memorial among the other varying sects of Christianity's churches).

Again, this was written from the iPhone so forgive me for any typos or grammatical errors!

Munich, Munich Take Me In by Jack Viere

(I'm just waiting for my phone to charge before I go to Dachau so I apologize for the typos and misspellings, I'm on my iPhone). Yesterday the couch surfing guy never got back to me and I was literally on his door step but with no wifi I had no idea how to get in touch with him. So I had to train back into the city and ended up doing this maybe 4 mile loop trying to find a hostel. I didn't have wifi so I used some instincts like locating the nearest Starbucks. But my phone was dying and I was about 2 miles outside of the city center at that point. I know hostels don't book the day of, or it's difficult to do that, so I wandered through the city center again. I found a large group of kids with an older leader of sorts, and again, using some instincts I've picked up from traveling, a group like that must be heading towards a hostel. I stalked the youth group 😛 about a half a block behind them as to not seem crazy. They lead me right to this hostel that looked really crowded but fortunately, they had a room for me! I met a French Canadian named Xavier and shortly thereafter we went out for some German food. I had Munich schnitzel and a liter of dark beer (putting the Irish pint to shame). It's nice to see a city on a weekday just because most European cities have a crazy night life on the weekends.








Yehaw! Giant's Causeway by Jack Viere

I know I was suppose to write a part 2 for my trek this past weekend. (I am getting around to it). But I got distracted with having Lightroom and 10 gigs worth of RAW files to edit. iPhoneography is certainly nice to experiment with, but it's way past time for me to be dealing with RAW files. There's just something to be said when you're out with the DSLR, working away to get that shot. Then you bring it back home, work on it, and make it perfect.

It took me about 10 minutes to slip and slide over rocks to get to this point in a low tide. I knew what I wanted to capture, premeditated how I would get it, and then plugged in the settings and just waited. The tide was coming in, so my heart was racing. The 50mm is not accurately showing how close I felt, even though 50mm lenses are typically considered to portray what the human eye sees.


How to Really Experience Ireland by Jack Viere

I can't ever forgive myself for missing out on days with good weather here in Galway. The plan was for me to wake up early and hike with the university's group out in Connemara. But at 7:30, the downpour wasn't all too inviting, especially with a minor cold that I want gone before Madrid this upcoming weekend. The weather had a sudden change of plans, though. So by noon it was nothing but blue skies, puffy clouds, and green grass. I had to get out. But with the day seemingly halfway gone, I couldn't bus anywhere. While here studying abroad, I've had a strong interest in getting lost. So I got the backpack and photo equipment together and headed east with no destination in mind. No cellphone service is a godsend, especially with an urban area as your point of departure. (Doesn't matter for a foreigner, though. No internet + no Irish phone = I'm cut off!) Walking beyond the docks for the first time, I got to see the innermost part of the bay. A residential area lay on the other side of the water, something that "center city" living has deprived me from, even though it was only a 20 minute walk to get there. As I kept walking, one trail led to another, seamlessly. When you wander aimlessly, it's ironic that a path becomes more clear to you. (Or maybe there's something existentially more to that that I pondered over and don't feel like sharing).

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Passing some sort of military base led me to a high vantage point where I could see a sand beach. Well-gated train tracks kept me from descending directly to that foreseeable destination. So I meandered some more until I found a car tunnel to cross underneath, opening up to this beautiful recreational area. Lots of off-leash dogs and several mounted horses took advantage of the low tide. Three dogs anxiously pulled their leashes, anticipating the freedom that lay ahead. A gravel path led me out to a peninsula. From there, I could see up and down the coast; low hanging clouds were rolling in at their freakish pace. I don't know why, but I considered it better to remain by the water as the potential storm chased after me. Every time it rains, if you're not surrounded by buildings, you can see distant sheets of rain and figure if you're in their path or not. I guessed right and received only a drizzle's worth of dampness as I stumbled along the beach's pebbles, departing from the locals and their park.

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I could tell my coastline was running out and that I would need to cut inland. By chance, I found a muddy driveway leading me to the same pair of tracks I crossed underneath earlier. But for some reason, the Irish have gates at the majority of their crossings. I'm not sure what purpose that serves, maybe these intersections weren't used regularly. Yet there was no way I could get around the gates to hop the tracks. This run down structure lay to my left with NO TRESPASSING, a field to my right. A black cat eyed me as I leaned over some barbed wire to snap a shot that I thought would look good for some heavy HDR editing. The three dogs that passed me earlier by the beach came up the muddy path with two men, one close to my age, the other nearing 50. I said, "Howdy. Where do y'all reckon I go from here?" (Southern accent goes a long way outside of Galway-don't ask why, it just does).

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Before coming here, I was told about the Irish people's forwardness, friendliness, and wanting to share stories. And to varying degrees thus far, I've experienced those attributes separately. But in this instance, I had no idea that I'd be getting all three for the next five hours. Just when I thought I was getting comfortable with the generic Irish accent, I was taken aback by the older man's response. From a distance, I couldn't understand a word he was saying. But his forwardness led to his welcoming me on his walk with his adopted son. Apparently, there was no direction to head but through the fields. What I could understand from this man's face-paced talking was that the six or seven horses in the field were wild. The other option was going through some psychopath's property; there was a camera that I had not seen that my new acquaintances pointed out to me. So that wasn't much of an option at all. Wild horses it was.

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We leashed up the pit-bull, mid-sized black lab, and larger puppy that just had surgery on its hind leg. Pathetically, there was some fourth dog, a Jack Russel mix, that wasn't anyone's dog. No one had a leash for it; so if it made the mistake of following us, it was on its own. I didn't fully realize what the term "wild" meant for the wild horses until all of them charged us as soon as we hopped the fence into their field. People think I'm ridiculous for having some sort of fear/respect for domestic horses. Yes, I know they're trained, but those animals are massive and muscular. It's no different (in my mind) than a tame lion at the circus. All of these thoughts came rushing into my head as our little party edged around the pack. The dogs were instinctively smarter than I was; their herd mentality versus the horses' herd mentality meant everything as one wrong step could've had me left behind my herd of humans. They kept bucking at us, to which my new friend threw his hands up, yelled, and bucked back at them! The fences we  kept close to were technically working against us, covered from overgrowth and barbed wire. On the other side of them, elevated on gravel, were the train tracks. The only direction we could head was forward as the horses' front line took up our rear. I had to walk backwards to keep them from chasing us, one of the dog's leashes in my hand.

Midway through the field, I looked back to see the crazed property owner come to the gate. His camera must've picked me up. I couldn't tell what he had in his hand, but at present, the horses posed a more immediate concern. We descended further away from the cleared portion of the field, which slowed the horses until they judged that we were no longer encroaching on their land. Badgers and foxes were the next thing we might encounter, according to my friends, but we didn't see any of those. We had to hop a low point in the fence, making sure that the dogs didn't get cut. Just then, a train zipped by overhead. "Well," I thought to myself, "At least that means there won't be another one for a few minutes."

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The terrain changed significantly once we crossed the tracks. Another path picked up, winding through a forest. Those renowned Irish stonewalls even exist in the woods, creating that fairytale-esque feel which could not be accompanied by a story of the little people. As Eamonn (the older man) talked about the tricky nature of these little people, I couldn't help think how such a fable continues for so long. But that light-hearted talk ended abruptly as we came upon a glen. On the other side of this field lay Old Dublin Road. Here, the IRA executed two men. I began to realize that I was hearing an Irishman's opinion about a topic that seems to have many sides. To me, there doesn't appear to be any unilateral understanding of the violence that occurred on the Emerald Isle. To hear this man's point of view was rare, even considering how open the Irish can be with their stories. Plainly put, violence was never a valued entity. But foreign control truly resulted in the maltreatment of the people, something that doesn't seem forgiveable, regardless of the current legal status of the Northern Counties.

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To be continued. And yes, I will do a part 2. I just have to be somewhere now...

Belfast to Giant's Causeway by Jack Viere

Quick disclaimer: If anyone wants a more up to date feed of my travelling, feel free to follow me on both Twitter and Instagram (same username) @jvierephoto. My workflow and travelling habits are dis/allowing me to use certain forms of social media... Anyways! Belfast. It took an arm and a leg to get here from Galway. The journey took me to Dublin Airport, which was close to three hours, and then a second bus that took another two. So I got into Belfast later than I wanted. I won't lie, the parts that I wandered around were not the prettiest. I'm not sure what I was expecting. Well, actually, on the bus I was wondering whether or not there was going to be border control. As an American, you hear about the recently subsided violence between Northern Ireland and the Republic. But I couldn't conceive what it would look like in actuality. I sort of had a DMZ scene in mind, but that wasn't the case. I guess you need your passport if you were to cross a body of water, which, if you think about it, is quite fascinating. Consider that all the violence that occurred took place between two "nations," according to one side, yet no one really cares enough to establish border control. (Maybe that's my American take on it; there aren't always huge walls between countries). But then again, when I went through Heathrow Airport, there was a good deal of security.

Here's me making an ugly face in a really strong wind. Giant's Causeway is right behind/below me. I kind of walked around a "trail's closed" sign and ascended several hundred meters.

Without any border control, people obviously come and go as they please. For work, tourism, family. Yet, it becomes quite apparent that you're no longer in the Republic of Ireland as soon as you get into Belfast. For one thing, the accent is different. Full-Brits (that's what I'll call those from mainland England) are not friendly. Northern Irish are somewhat friendly, yet I think I rubbed one of them wrong when I mentioned I was studying in Galway. Neither party is as friendly as West Coast Irish. Throw Dublin into the mix; from what I've heard, they're not entirely friendly (towards Americans at least). But that is my vantage point as an American. It fascinated me to hear my Northern Irish coach (bus) driver think that the Northern Irish are a friendly community. Whoa-me saying that sounds like I'm accusing them not to be! Well, to be honest, I didn't quite know what to expect because the violence was so recent. I don't know if there is still an unspoken animosity. But the scars of the violence are evident in the façade of Belfast. (Definitely check out the Instagram feed. I'm getting some good shots with the iPhone and 5D).

But another indicator that you're out of the Republic of Ireland is the currency. The UK's pound is something like 1.8 to the USD, which is absurd and makes me furious (to the point that I'm including it in this post). The Euro equally disgruntles me, but the pound really sends me over the cliff. I have no clue what I'm talking about in terms of economics or business, but the quality of living here is a) not higher than Galway and b) not higher than America. The fact that consumable goods that are cheaper in quality here are almost double the cost than they would be in America is beyond my comprehension. But the Irish and English banks offer no-charge on withdrawing from ATMs, another indication that there is a strong attempt to revitalize the city. I've heard from West Coast Irishmen that as a result of the Troubles, Belfast economically suffered from the spite it received from the Republic. In other words, it's visibly evident that the Republic spurned the Northern Counties to the point where a lot of streets are empty with abandoned shops. It's an eerie feeling which I have not felt since the summer of 2011, when I first drove through some hardened areas of West Philadelphia.

But check out the architecture; definitely affluent in some areas. Listen to the driver's accent too.

Enough about money and my ranting about the state of Belfast! (I hope to find some better spots to get another impression tomorrow). The countryside of County Antrim is beautiful. According to my awesome coach driver Pat, the scenic Coastal Route is globally ranked among the top 10 of some list of coastal roads. Even with the February weather, that was self-evident. Contrasted with Ireland's other coastal region, this land was more in line with what I preconceived Ireland to look like; the grassy rolling hills and sheep. (Sheep are any and everywhere. But this land is richer with volcanic sediment, which historically caused it to be contested among Gaelic and Anglo rulers. The English Pale, that is Ireland's east coast, is better for crops. You could see that in the shade of the grass. It wasn't like Connemara's, West Ireland's, harsh countryside, which is littered with rocks).

This was a really cool trail that I wasn't suppose to be on. Oh well--yolo right? Yet there was a point where I was setting up my tripod and both it and me almost got blown off. Maybe I should've followed the rules?

Because the Game of Thrones set was filmed throughout this area, I couldn't help think of another sci-fi book, the Lord of the Rings. And then I had myself thinking that this area kind of looked like New Zealand. Maybe not the same (haha) but the land experienced some volcanoes and glaciers to form a really unique terrain! There were a bunch of Brazilian kids on the bus who also seemed to love Game of Thrones. It's a very big deal here in Northern Ireland, particularly because the crew works out of Belfast. (They're coming back here in June/July to start filming for Season 5 already...)

But let's jump to the Giant's Causeway. I have seen pictures and I have heard stories. It's best to just visit the scene and experience it yourself. I had no idea Scotland was so close by, so that was a surprise for starters. The actual landmass is indeed uniquely shaped like stairs or a footpath. I scoped out the area pretty quickly and initially set up my tripod in an area away from other people. Then I got bold and went right for the money shot. There are jetties of the "causeway" that have massive waves crashing into them, causing the water to have a spray and nice visual effect over the rocks. I had to have the shot. There I was, edging out further on the slippery rocks in front of the other tourists who thought that their zoom lenses would suffice for this scene. I love what my 50mm makes me do! I started snapping away, fearing for the 5D as it got some ocean spray. I'm  not sure if I got the shot at this point, but I kept recomposing until I heard a really loud whistle. Startled from my laser-like focus on the waves crashing, I turned to see some type of authority figure. I picked up my tripod and headed over to him as he joked, "They (the waves) are coming in too big and too frequently!" Then it hit me that yes, in fact, they were. And if it wasn't for this man, I probably would've just squatted there as water surrounded my small patch of dry rock.

I love this panorama! This IS the Giant's Causeway, from a high vantage point. The tourists congregate in the center left. Those are the "steps."

So we backed away as I chatted him some more, seeking where to plant the tripod again. It took me a good 15 minutes to go about 15 meters into another, smaller jetty that was displacing the water in a visually captivating manner. The rocks were so slippery that I had to use my Manfrotto as a cane as I ventured out into the quickly ceasing low tide. Once positioned, I realized that yes, again, I was surrounded by water. But this time, since I was away from the tourists, there was no one to blow a whistle at me. My heart started pounding as 10 foot waves broke in front of the lens. I was just far enough away from the spray but I didn't want to lower the tripod any more than it was already at for fear of getting washed away. A wave broke in front of me and judging from the current, another was going to break to my right. I turned the tripod head and got the shot of the day. (Sorry I don't have it uploaded yet...such a tease).

Follow me on Instagram for more photos of the trip. I hope to have some edited-RAW files up soon...

Amsterdam by Jack Viere

I know I said I'd have a part two for my hike last week, but time is really flying by over here. (Ask me in person if you were dying to hear the end of that story). I'll just start by saying that it's interesting to compare the sharp contrast between the advertised facade of a city and its actual likeness. There's no point of me delving into what Amsterdam is depicted as, especially when targeted to a younger population. But I will say a few things on those topics; legal prostitution and legal drugs. One thing is done more casually (or subtly) than the other. From what I could tell after eating in a local cafe outside of the tourist traps, marijuana is a part of the Dutch lifestyle. It's hard for an American (maybe not so much now with Colorado's legalization) to see drug use aside from fringe behaviour.  But try, if you can, imagining yourself as Dutch. You're fairly well-educated, multi-lingual, and have an awareness that your Amsterdam home attracts a large tourist population because certain activities are legal. You don't live near any of the touristy spots of town. You don't binge on substances (like other cultures typically do without hesitation).

Here is Central Station sitting across from the equivalent of NYC's Time Square. Behind it is the IJ. Beautiful architecture was certainly the theme this weekend.

While eating in a crammed sandwich shop, my friend and I listened to the outgoing owner going back and forth between English and Dutch. His shop was tiny, but within the 30 minutes I was there, you could get a sense of a more genuine Dutch culture from his interactions with his patrons. He knew everyone that was in his shop, except for me and my friend. But that didn't stop him from joking with us in his well-polished English. As well as being outwardly educated, Holland is noticeably ethnic;  "Asians" and "blacks" gathered in this luncheonette and were also regularly interchanging between Dutch and English.  One of the younger patrons asked what the owner was doing later to which he replied, "Smoking some weed and staying in." I wasn't surprised at this, but the scene certainly presented me with a foreign culture that was different from Ireland and America. Lax laws and small, intercity businesses make for a brighter population.


But Amsterdam didn't end up like that by chance. I went to the Rijksmuseum and saw Holland through its historically rich art. For anyone that doesn't remember their European history, the Netherlands dominated the trade scene throughout the colonial period. As a result of being progressive then, combined with struggles with Spain and the Holy Roman Empire, the country continues to be forward-thinking. Yes, this means legal drugs and prostitution, but the locals in Amsterdam were really into venerating the art. The museum was beautiful and packed full of Dutch and foreigners. (Dutch is distinctly audible; something like a cross between French and German. So I could quickly tell who I was standing next to, if their height or garb didn't give them away. There were some tall individuals in that town...)


But that still brings us to the fact that prostitution exists there. I feel like there is a bit of yin yang thing going on. If Holland is able to thrive so well culturally, it has to be fueled by something. I think that any town would benefit from tourism's added spending. So combine that generic business mentality with the aforementioned, distinctly Dutch progressivism, and you end up with legal prostitution. However, whilst walking through the Red Light District, you can quickly tell that the whole prostitution shtick is a tourist trap. The way things are advertised and presented in those couple of blocks was very different than a couple streets away.  As amoral as it may sound, my hat is off to Amsterdam in the strictest economic sense. There was visibly a huge population of males, ages 16-30 that walked through that section and Holland prospers from it. (But not exclusively). The last thing I'll say about this is that it was odd to see locals living above or across from the rooms with "red lights" over them. I guess I didn't personally internalize how that would work out on a daily basis. But for the most part, that area was a tourist destination, not a residential area. I still think the local Dutch were distanced from that.


I went on a canal tour and saw the city from a unique perspective. The Dutch really dominate water; traversing it, controlling it, utilizing it. The Dutch East/West Indies Companies traversed oceans for trade. Amsterdam was built by damming and dredging the Amstel River (hence the city's name). And to this day, there are certain parts of the city that are below sea level, which is an incredible feat considering the IJ Lake, canals, and river all have to be monitored to avoid flooding. The IJ (pronounced kind of like 'ay') was originally a bay. I can't remember how much of the city now sits on dammed, artificial land but it's more than half. Another fun fact is that there is an estimated 1.6 million bikes in the city. That's more bikes than people. (I don't know how that compares to Portland, Oregon, but there are separate road/paths for bikes and mopeds. It was wild to cross a street because you never remember to check for bikes, only for cars).

Here I am with the bikes, canals, and beautiful architecture!

If anyone wants to hear more about my time here (or in Ireland), please feel free to comment below. I can email anyone if they're interested. I would also love to hear any travel suggestions or photo destinations as Cork, Ireland is on my itinerary for this upcoming weekend.

Best Day Ever?! by Jack Viere

(Written yesterday): My day started with me not going out last night; probably the best decision I made before embarking on an intense, five+ hour trek in the Irish back country. Let's get one thing straight, there are no trails in Ireland. In the few instances where there are footpaths, they are nothing compared to the US National Parks' neatly kept (and subsequently crowded) trails.

Ended at Point A (Kylemore Abbey)

I've admittedly been a bum here in terms of waking up and assimilating to the five hour time difference. (I worked out a class schedule that doesn't have me waking up any earlier than nine). In waking up at 7:45 was a huge commitment for me to make; it was more than worth it.


NUI Galway Mountaineering Club is probably the greatest thing since sliced bread. First come, first serve; you pay 10e for a full twelve hour day of adventure. I was the fourth person to arrive for a spot on the would be full bus. The sunrise was beautiful to witness as I waited; the day was looking formidable. Once we departed, I learned there was a short, medium, and long/expert only variation that we could choose from in terms of trek paces. I looked at the contour map and saw that the only way to bag a few peaks was to go advanced. I wanted the challenge; I live for exploring. Out of the bus of 50 some odd students, alums, and older folks, only eight of the latter category chose for the long route. Thank God my beard is full because newcomers aren't typically allowed on this variation of difficulty.

The mountains are the destination. We walk around this fairly large lake after ascending several hundred meters. (I like to keep some people in frame in order to give some perspective on how big the area is).

My perspective of space and distance is always off; regardless if it's in the city or in the wilderness, I fail at measuring. I couldn't tell how far we went by bus, but it wasn't even a full hour before we reached our destination, still in Galway County. Apparently, I had entered into Connemara from a different direction earlier last week. My sense of direction isn't bad like my sense of distance. But the landscape makes me think this country is much larger than it really is. Ireland is truly an island, for we had not gone so far and eventually saw the Atlantic Ocean.

Looking back the way we had come. The grade was incredibly steep; hand over hand at some points. My heart rate was really high from the intense pace as well as the constant danger. Wet boots, wet ground, wet rocks, steep grade, fast pace--all recipes for an injury.

Garda (the police) shut down the road that we were suppose to be dropped off due to a murder (?) or flooding. So being the advanced group, there was no questioning that we could just "hoof it" to our trail head. While Ireland saw some considerably hard times in its past, there was no Works Projects Administration established at any point to create a network of roads. Our walking didn't take place on a road; we traversed a field that could only be summarized as squishy. From a distance, you'd believe the ground to be no different the American prairies. Yet it only was ten minutes off the bus until my feet completely soaked, despite the beautiful weather we experienced else wise.

I got carried away with the panoramas obviously. It's hard not to; I'm obsessed with wide-angled shots of landscapes like this. So I was in heaven with the weather, terrain, and good company.


Something that a Southerner would think is worth noting is property laws. "I've got my gun so get off my property" is somewhat of the unspoken norm in Virginia. You stay in the National Parks' boundaries because immediately outside of them are descendants of families that were pushed off their land by FDR's New Deal projects. Fascinating maybe only to me, our leader asked a young kid at a gas station whether or not the owners of the land would be bothered with our potential "trespassing" on his land. Apparently, contrary to culture precedence, there was no issue. Earlier on the bus, even the university students seemed to know who lived where and who owned what; I forget that the country is small in population.

I misjudged the distance between the Garda blockade and the foot of our mountain. To my surprise, time didn't seem to pass by too quickly as we trudged through spongy reeds. I thoroughly enjoyed the pace this group moved at; I must have looked like an idiot because I was constantly smiling and sticking out my tongue. I skipped -"gracefully" as a group member said- as I forded a river to begin our ascent.

Great weather, a new terrain; a new adventure unfolding before me with each step into cold mud.

To be continued!

Pano's and a Long Rant by Jack Viere

Well, I haven’t posted in awhile because I have been getting into the swing of things here. Since I have been gradually accepting Galway as my new home, I’ve decided that I would choose to live here, regardless of studying or not. I haven’t been to Seattle, but I am assuming that the rainy weather here is similar to that northwest climate. Ireland is more European than it is American, as obvious as that may seem due to its place in the EU. Maybe I was misled by the study abroad advisors or rather, my subconscious made generalizations. But I thought that the English language would bridge the cultural gap between countries. This isn’t the case. Galway is urban for the Irish, but it functions like a village. I write this as I look out into the docks. I’ve watched cargo ships unload and then take on new shipments; it makes me think of a small, fairytale port city. (Maybe ___ from recently watching the Hobbit?) America is too young to have any fairytale, archaic aspects to its culture. Well, it did. But Europeans killed that off (or confined them to reservations) and none of that is preserved mainstream. In any case, Irish culture has been historically practiced and is evident in the daily rituals of the locals. The same could be said (maybe) for the US, but Wal-mart doesn’t have a castle inside of it. (Apparently, inside a shopping mall, the structure of a castle wall is part of the building’s foundation).


Taking some classes that focus on Irish history, politics, and culture, it’s becoming more apparent that the Irish are a fighting people. They’re hungry for some positive freedom in the new global age. I’ve come to that conclusion based on several observations at my university. First of all, basic liberties that Americans take for granted are still a novelty. (I guess Americans recently have been challenging their freedoms in the past decade, which is coincidentally the opposite direction Ireland is headed). By that, I mean America is redefining various interpretations of the Bill of Rights/Constitution whereas the Irish are just now experiencing some seemingly basic liberties for the first time. Regardless of anyone’s stance on these liberties, I personally think it’s quite fascinating to know that a developed country like Ireland has finally gotten around to legalizing divorce. I’m not blind to the historical, constitutional connection between the Church and State here, which recently (as many of y’all know) has been under the magnifying glass to say the least. And I don’t consider the implications of Ireland’s past as not relevant to why this country is so far behind America in terms of these liberties. But all of this made me recognize that the US truly was innovative in terms of rights and liberties given to its citizens. This brings me to my second point: because Ireland is just now experiencing something like the American Civil Rights era crossed with the Second Constitutional Congress in 1776, the citizens are hungrier than Americans.

Eyre Square-This is about a three minute walk from my apartment. It's the city centre (for the most part).

I used that term twice because it captures the extent to which the Irish folk get after it in this world. This competitive, global job market is no place for the American anymore. (I will  surely write a piece on that at some point as much of the structure of the education system here is on mind. So anyone that is offended by that, or would like to hear the extent of my position, anticipate a nice manifesto soon). In short, Ireland does not have much of a national job market. University students have a more globally conscious outlook on their futures. Consequently, they are more competitive in their academics. Or more simply, they are just brighter students. I’ve heard variations of this throughout all the levels of my American education: “I haven’t read a full textbook before.” Whether or not that is true in every student’s instance, American education is certainly becoming more about the “cutting edge”, or should I say “cutting corners” curriculum. In other words, we’re just lazy. Look at the combination of the current status of the US national job market, immigration reform, and obesity epidemic. (We’re toast!) Obviously, there are jobs availabe in the US for hungry immigrants that aren’t afraid of working hard. The Irish were never afraid of hard work; that is as historically true as it is now evident in today’s society.

photo 3

I think that’s enough of a rant today. This is my photoblog! So I apologize for anyone that came here just to view the photos...If that is the case, you can follow my daily posts on Instagram/Twitter; both handles @jvierephoto.

I did some urban exploring (urbex) and found some grungy, abandoned area, slid through a chain-linked fence, jumped over some broken glass, scaled a gravel mountain all to get this shot.