Diagnoses

Bromhidrosis.

That’s the medical diagnosis for foul underarm odor. I learned that today at the doctor’s office.

It wasn’t my diagnosis, mind you. But the doctor did point it out, among the list of hundreds of ailments and diseases that lined the computer printout he has been compiling for years.

“I once had a patient with it, and I couldn’t remember what it was called,” he said, as he scanned the list for the insurance codes for my own diagnoses. “Now I know I have it right here, along with all the others I put in the database.”

His arthritic fingers glided over the wide, green and white paper with the perforated sides, the kind with guide holes to lead it through an old dot matrix printer (the ones that were around before computers became personal, and knowing how to use one meant writing code). New discoveries were marked in red ink.

I don’t have Brohmidrosis (at least not often) but I do have, as the good doctor noted on my prescription for a chest x-ray, a “musical noise with respiration.” As well as “pain over sternum… dyspnea.”

He took my blood pressure four times on his little machine. He listened to my breathing with his stethoscope. “You’ve got a pretty serious lung problem,” he said, as he looked at me through smudged reading glasses, the price sticker ($3.50) still covering the upper third of the left lens.

The doctor was the closest one to the University on the list of doctors who accept my new health insurance. I went today because the cough and chest pain have been so persistent, and I’m tired of hacking and clutching my chest.

The closest available doctor is a very old man and, bless his heart, he suffers from elderly ailments. The arthritis pain makes him rest between writing prescriptions, and jotting down insurance codes. He takes aspirin and calcium supplements by the handful.

Now I have four carefully, and painfully, written prescriptions, only one for drugs (a refill on a drug I regularly take). The rest are referrals. I need to see other people before I’ll know what my chest is really singing as it makes all that musical noise.

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Stories from the Global Grassroots

indypendent screen shotIn the latest edition of The Indypendent, the online newspaper of the NYC Independent Media Center, reporter Amy Wolf wrote a story about our recent New York premiere of the documentaries by students I taught at the American University in Cairo last year.

The story features an interview with Alaa Al Dajani, one of the filmmakers, who came to the U.S. for the screening and has spent that last two weeks traveling across America checking out MFA programs in film.

A few of the films will be screened again on March 3, at George Washington University in DC.  For more info on that screening, go here.

Amy also spoke to Michelle Garcia, who was in my “class” of Knight International Journalism Fellows. Michelle went to El Salvador for five months last year, training journalists in radio and other media. She’s now working at CUNY’s Graduate School of Journalism, where she reports for a new show called Independent Sources on CUNY TV.

Budget Travel Magazine: Ancient Petra

Ancient Petra 1In this month’s edition of Budget Travel (available on newsstands now), I reported a piece for the magazine’s Dream Trips issue, about the stunning ruins of Petra in Jordan.

You may remember hearing about my trip there last year.

The story is less narrative, more service journalism — a site by site description of what to see and do and how to see and do it. I also produced a video feature to accompany the written story.

The article describes the park’s more spectacular monuments and natural features, beginning with the Siq, the sliver of canyon that winds down to the ancient city.

Petra at night 5It also features Petra by Night, when thousands of paper bag luminarias light up the canyon walkway, leading to Al-Khazneh, the Treasury, with its brilliant facade glowing orange in the cumulative blaze of candles.

The photo of Petra by Night in the magazine is one I took as we neared the Treasury. J, K, B and I hung back to avoid the chattering masses, and we got some nice time exposures along the way. Jack used a tripod to get some great shots. I borrowed K’s little mini-tripod to get this one.

petra video windowAs devoted readers of this blog may recall, I took my video camera to Petra, and hauled it in a backpack on a couple of the longer hikes I took. Some of my footage appears in the narrated video tour of Petra on Budget Travel’s site. The tour video appeared online about the same time the video from Cairo (to complement a Michael Slackman story on Islamic youth) went up on the New York Times site.

I was all over the Middle East last week. Online at least.

As one Times colleague remarked the other day: “You do get around.”

Egypt: Marriage Beyond Reach

Eid in Cairo

On today’s nytimes.com site, a video I produced with Michael Slackmanand Mona El-Naggar accompanies Michael’s thoughtful and well-told story about how across the Middle East, many young people are forced to put off marriage, the gateway to independence. In their frustration they turn to religion for solace.

We meet a young man named Eid, who has fallen into despair about the unliklihood of affording the life he wants – with a house, a wife and kids.

There’s also a great slide show of photos by Cairo-based photographer Shawn Baldwin.

mosque in Beirut framegrab

AUC Films Screened in Tribeca… and Live Blogged!

First Person

Tonight, we screened seven of the films from my documentary courses in Egypt at a special event sponsored by the American University in Cairo and the International Center for Journalists. It was a posh event at the fancy screening room of the Tribeca Grand Hotel.

The audience was set to be a sellout, until the weather turned nasty, so we had a slightly smaller, but very receptive and appreciative audience, and some really good food.

ResonanceOne of the student filmmakers — Alaa Al Dajani, who did a short film called Resonance, about a blind player of the oud, a Middle Eastern lute (Mustafa, pictured at right) — came to the event, from Cairo, and will explore graduate programs for the next week or so.

And I’m roping him into talking to my students at Princeton tomorrow.

Annie’s blogThe event tonight was live-blogged by Annie Shreffler, a student at the Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY, who made real time comments about the films as she watched from the projection booth, and got guest comments at the reception afterward.

Annie also interviewed Alaa.

Shaving Cream and Champagne

There were white patches on the campus sidewalks today.

I noticed them as I walked from my office to go check out the gymnasium fitness center and sign up for a membership. I still haven’t worked off my “Cairo 10,” the flab that glommed onto me during my year of rich food and poor exercise habits in Egypt.

The white patches seemed to be everywhere – on doorways and walls. They looked sticky, and I avoided contact, stepping carefully on the walkways.

“What the heck is that stuff?” I wondered to myself.

As I made my way toward Dillon Hall, I saw a young man in a Princeton sweatshirt, walking backward in front of a group of 20 or so young Asians. He was apparently their guide for a campus tour.

“I smell like champagne and shaving cream,” he said as he sniffed his own sweatshirt. “I just got accepted into the eating club I wanted to get into.”

So today was the day of the process called “bicker,” a kind of hazing when Princeton’s famous eating clubs choose new members. In celebration, newly accepted members are dowsed in champagne and smeared with shaving cream.

The eating clubs are particular to Princeton. Though they are private clubs, they are where the majority of upperclass students (both men and women) take their meals. They aren’t fraternities, but the row of houses serves a similar function, and most of them are on Prospect Avenue, better known as “The Street.”

Strangely enough, I had just heard about this thing called bicker earlier this morning when I read a writing sample from one of my students. He profiled a young man who was not selected for his favored eating club (about 250 sophomores a year are “hosed,” according to the student’s article), and was truly bummed about it. The parade around campus, snagging selected members, is a public snub to the unchosen, and I imagine it’s quite humiliating for the “hosed”.

I’m told that as students get to know me better, I may get an invitation to dinner at one of the clubs. In the meantime, I’ll have to take a stroll down to The Street some evening and see what all the fuss is about.

Change of Address

Door light in PrincetonMy first move was to open up a Netflix account.

That shows you where my priorities are.

Top of the queue: films that didn’t make it to Cairo — Pan’s Labyrinth; Eastern Promises; Knocked Up.

Since this is the first time in a year and a half that I’ve had a U.S. address where I’ll stay for more than a few weeks — and it’s an apartment with a flat screen High Definition television — I got a little excited. Joseph Henry House door

I ordered DVDs before I unpacked.

This weekend I moved to Princeton, New Jersey, where I will be a Ferris Professor of Journalism and Lecturer in the Council for the Humanities at Princeton University for the spring semester. Highfalutin for this kid from Ohio, but it’s going to be a blast. I’m teaching multi-platform journalism (call it convergence, call it multi-media, or whatever buzz word that fits). My students and I will explore the landscape of online news, and report and produce stories using all the media tools available: text, audio, video and animated graphics.

lion statue from frontI couldn’t be more thrilled about the opportunity.

My new pad is on a lovely square a five minute walk from Joseph Henry House, where my office is on campus. I live above a storefront in Palmer Square, a cluster of colonial-style buildings that are now shops, restaurants and boutiques (including a fancy pet food “pawtisserie”).

The square’s namesake is honored with a tiger statue in a small park with a walkway made of bricks sponsored by and named for donors, many of whom are Princeton alums.

Rumsfeld brickOne particular brick (pictured at right) stood out from the others. I wonder when someone will etch an “06” in it? Though there doesn’t seem to be any room for it. Perhaps he assumed he’d be SECTY DE-FENSE for life?

I doubt I’ll tire of taking photos of the Princeton campus. It’s such a beautiful place (so many buildings like the one below, with the requisite ivy that gives the league its name), and the town is quite lovely, quiet and quaint.

A big change of pace from the other places I’ve lived in the past several months.

princeton ivy building