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  • Jeff Marker

    husband, dad, teacher, filmmaker, writer, film geek, musician, DIYer, vegetarian, Bulldog, Buckeye, Nighthawk

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Saddest Arcade in the World 

On the road today we stopped at a Pizza Hut for some quick dinner. It ended up being a terrible restaurant in what seemed to be a weird, depressing town. Haven’t gotten such blatant, rude “you ain’t from around here” looks in many years. The televisions were playing a crime doc show all about murder and sexual assault cases; meanwhile the only diners were two families with small children. And a young couple was sleeping in a corner booth. They both appeared to be battling meth withdrawal. 

While the kid and I were waiting, we noticed they had a game room. Cool! We checked it out, partly because I would rather he not be exposed to the American nightmare in the dining area any longer. 

It was like stepping into a time machine. The games were all made by Sega, Midway, or Atari! Most dated back to the late 90s or early 00s. But half didn’t work. It was more like a game graveyard than arcade. The pics are of poor quality, which is fitting. Behold the saddest arcade in the world. 

Didn’t work

Turkey Shoot

California Speed – sorry for the awful exposure

Mortal Kombat is flatlining

Crazy Taxi!!

They had two of these cycle racing games. Both had functional sound but no image


Juno’s Stunning Video of Jupiter

NASA‘s Juno spacecraft launched from Cape Canaveral on August 5, 2011, and my family was there to see it! It was a memorable vacation. We explored the amazing Kennedy Space Center and fulfilled our collective dream of seeing a NASA launch. (I blogged about it back in 2012.) We thus have felt invested in the Juno mission for all the years it’s been in flight, even though not much has happened during most of the past five-ish years. But now things are getting exciting! Take a look at the beautiful video NASA cut together from the thousands of still images Juno has captured.

I think watching Jupiter’s largest moons in orbit is lovely. It’s also quite a technical accomplishment. Each still image is actually a composite of separate red, green, and blue images. Juno captured an image every 15 minutes over a 17-day period, for a total of 1,300 images. All that just to make this little animated sequence. NASA is making all 1,300 images available for anyone to download, too. Then in August we’re supposed to get more sophisticated images from Juno.

It’s silly, I know, but we feel like we’ve participated in this great adventure. Can’t wait to see what Juno sends next.

Anna Ruby Falls Pics

My family and I recently hiked up Anna Ruby Falls near Helen, Georgia. It’s a little half-mile hike through a landscape that captures some of what makes the northeast Georgia foothills and mountain region so beautiful. I managed to extend the time it took to make the hike because I was playing around with a camera I bought secondhand from a filmmaker friend, a Panasonic Lumix FZ1000. This was the first time I got to really play around with it in these conditions, so I’m afraid I slowed our pace considerably. Here are some of the better photos.

Anna Ruby 1

Always comforting to see a sign like this

Always comforting to see a sign like this

Anna Ruby 3

Anna Ruby 4

Anna Ruby 5

Have to give my son credit – this pic was his idea

Anna Ruby 7

Anna Ruby 6

Anna Ruby 8

I had in mind a print when I took this

Anna Ruby 9

Anna Ruby 10

Anna Ruby 11

A personal favorite

Anna Ruby 12



China Diary Day 1

I recently taught at Zhejiang Normal University (ZJNU) in Jinhua, China for three weeks and tried my best to keep a diary of my time there. My writing became more sporadic the longer I was there, but I did take loads of pictures. I’ll share everything worth sharing over the next few weeks. Below is the first entry.

Today was my first full day in Jinhua, and thanks to the professor with whom I will be teaching, I got to see some of the campus and surrounding community. The professor’s name is Tao, but like most Chinese people I have met, he has an English name, which is Chris. I first met him during a very brief visit to the university back in March, and it took about an hour for us both to realize we were going to be fast friends.

Chris earned his PhD from Beijing Film Academy, which any film studies academic can tell you is terribly impressive. It’s on par with an American engineer with a degree from MIT. I mean, the period of film history called the Chinese Fifth Generation, the defining period in all of Chinese cinema, is so named after the fifth class of graduates to come out of Beijing Film Academy, and it is notoriously difficult to get into. Yet he is totally unassuming and one of the most generous people I have met. Quite a person.

Chris took me for coffee and we discussed the lectures I would give. It was very helpful and made me feel much less nervous about teaching the next day. When he heard that no one from ZJNU had set me up with a meal card or shown me around, he seemed a little miffed. He called someone from the international office and made sure they’d set me up with a card tomorrow. They had already requested it, but the place isn’t open on Sundays. So he took me to the North Gate area and explained a few things.

Béimen, or the North Gate

Béimen, or the North Gate

North Gate (or Béimen in pinyin) is one of four gates that border the campus. (Bet you can guess what the others are called.) But when people use the phrase Béimen they are usually referring to the neighborhood surrounding the actual gate. Half of it, on one side of the gate, is on university property, but the rest of it is Jinhua property. Altogether, though, this area is the lifeblood of the non-academic ZJNU experience.

The Jinhua side of North Gate

The Jinhua side of North Gate

If you swivel around the other way, you get the view on the left. The fruit vendors were out in force that day, and we tried litchi and yangmei. I liked them both, so Chris bought me some. They became my breakfast for the next few days.

North Gate is constantly busy, teeming with life, loud, and chaotic. I loved it. The energy there is amazing. And you can buy just about anything in these little shops. I’m not a fan of mysterious meat served on sticks, but if that’s your thing, you’d love it here, too.

Here is a view of the ZJNU side of the North Gate neighborhood.

A view of the campus side of North Gate

A view of the campus side of North Gate

A view of North Gate from the second story of the row of shops.

Middle of North Gate looking northward

Middle of North Gate looking northward

Another view of North Gate from the second story. Notice the big tree at the end of the row in the middle of the street. Everybody calls this “the big tree” (I didn’t learn that phrase in Mandarin, sorry.) If you want to meet up with someone, you usually say you’ll meet at the big tree. It didn’t strike me until I started writing this post that I didn’t get a good picture of the tree.

North Gate looking southward

North Gate looking southward

One last view of North Gate. Note all of the scooters. Most of them are electric, and they are everywhere on the ZJNU campus. I took this photo in the middle of the day, which is why there aren’t many people. It gets very hot in the middle of the day, and campus usually clears out. It’s a shame, because on a busier day this whole street would be filled with students – and all of the female students would be shading themselves with parasols. Umbrellas/parasols are not just functional here, they are a very important fashion accessory. It always makes for a charming view.


After we had wandered around for a while, Chris took me to one of the campus canteens where faculty, staff, and students can use their university cards to pay for meals, and he bought me lunch since I didn’t have mine yet. Then he gave me his card to use until I got my own card. The following day, he gave me one of his old phones to use while I’m in China. Like I said, quite a person.

Oh, and if you’re wondering what yangmei, the fruit I mentioned, looks like, here is a photo. They are delicious. Both these and litchis are native to the region and fairly important to their agricultural industry and daily diet. I will always associate my time at ZJNU with the taste of these gorgeous little fruits.




A Layover in Incheon

During a recent, very brief trip to China, a colleague and I had two layovers in Incheon, one on the way there and the other on the way back. The first night, we were exhausted after a 15-hour flight, the usual airport madness, and a shuttle ride. We went out seeking a quick bite to eat, and it turns out most things in that neighborhood in Incheon close by 11:30. Luckily – and oddly – there are 3 Mini-Stops within a 4-block area. That little convenience store saved us, but my dinner that night was a Hite beer and these chips:

I think they were sweet onion? Regardless, they hit the spot. We were so tired we did no sight-seeing, and these are the only photos I took that night:

For the record, I rarely stand in the middle of the street in foreign countries to take pictures. In the morning I discovered our hotel is very serious about shower sponges.

Then off we went to China the following day. During the second layover, on the way back a couple of days later, we had more time and energy but it was 40-degrees and raining. So again, not much sight-seeing. If I’m being honest, this neighborhood in Incheon didn’t have much to offer anyway. Its entire economy is driven by airport traffic, so the only businesses are hotels, restaurants, and an amazing number of coffee houses. Sadly, though, most of those coffee shops don’t open until 9:30 AM. Strange, from an American perspective. But the city does begin to come alive around dusk, and I snapped a few more photos that night.

Our hotel was not nice at all. The best I can say about it is there was plenty of very hot water for my shower (which allowed me to feel the satisfaction with refreshing, thank goodness). Given the sad state of affairs inside the hotel, this advertisement on the outside of it seemed pretty funny.

But maybe you had to be there.

Random Act of Fandom

There I was in the Incheon Airport near Seoul, Korea, waiting in line to get my boarding pass, when I noticed a large group of young women pointing cameras at a kid getting his boarding pass in a lane to my left.

Oops, there is at least one young man in there, isn’t there. As you can see, some of those cameras are rather expensive, so it appears to be a mixture of fans and paparazzi. (Ironic sidenote: some of the girls acted pissed that I took this picture!) This little gaggle continued to grow, so obviously the kid further down to my left was a celebrity. I wish I had gotten a good picture of him, because he looked like an average kid to me. I would never have pegged him as a celebrity if all these photographers hadn’t been hounding him. He wore skinny black jeans, a black cap with the bill popped up, and sunglasses.

When he got his boarding pass and tried to make it to security, the real spectacle began. See if you can even spot the celebrity kid in this little moving scrum.


I asked the ticketing agent if she recognized him, and she just waved it off. “Happens all the time,” she said. It was a first for me, though.

Kennedy Space Center Trip

Last summer we took a family vacation to the Kennedy Space Center, and I’ve been meaning to post pics ever since. It was a GREAT vacation. We toured the whole place, of course. The launch pads were quite spectacular, and it was magical to be there for a launch – something my wife, son, and I had always wanted to do. But the Apollo/Saturn V Center left probably the biggest impression on me. They have a full-scale Saturn V hanging from the ceiling, after all. These were the spacecraft that first captured my imagination when I was a kid, and they still have the greatest impact. Here are some of the pics we took of that part of KSC. These are all from a phone (didn’t fully charge the camera batteries before that day).

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