A stunning short film shows what life is like for a centuries-old nomadic community.

"There is 3G service in even the most remote places," Brandon Li explained.

It sounds like I'm quoting a cellphone commercial, but Li's actually a filmmaker. He recently spent a month in the vast grasslands of Mongolia.


Image from "Nomads of Mongolia"/Brandon Li/Vimeo.

In his visually stunning short film "Nomads of Mongolia," he shows us what life, work, and play look like for the Kazakh shepherds who've roamed those lands for centuries — and how it's changing.

Believe it or not, "most of the nomads have cellphones," Li says.

The Diplomat wrote that it's the only way for parents to keep tabs on their children who live in cities. But the cellphone isn't the only sign of modernity entering nomadic life.

Photo by Ansley Sawyer, used with permission.

Ansley Sawyer, a producer on the film, added, "Instead of shepherding on horseback, it's sometimes easier to herd by motorcycle." She also noted that while the nomads once relied on livestock-drawn carriages to move their camps, today they use Jeeps and trucks.

"I'll never forget watching an eagle hunter climb on top of his Russian Jeep to get better reception and to update his Facebook," said Sawyer. "You can get internet literally anywhere these days."

But the ways of the old world are still alive (not the least badass of which is the aforementioned eagle hunting).


"A massive, deadly parakeet." Image from "Nomads of Mongolia"/Brandon Li/Vimeo.

"[One] thing that surprised me was the day-to-day experience of having a pet eagle," said Li. "To the nomads, it's just a part of the household — like a massive, deadly parakeet. Once the winter arrives, it gets to stretch its wings and hunt."

(You should definitely watch the video at the bottom to see one in action.)

As the modern world shapes their way of life, one thing never changes for these nomads: their love of family.

"Everyone's focus is to strengthen and support the family," said Sawyer. And amid the desolation of the Mongolian steppe, that focus is as sharp as their eagles' sight.

From family values to a reliance on the natural world, we can find reflections of ourselves even in the middle of nowhere.

Even younger family members who leave for cities like Ulaanbaatar for education and work keep strong connections to home.


Image from "Nomads of Mongolia"/Brandon Li/Vimeo.

"I think the urbanized people of Mongolia still have pretty strong ties to their nomadic history," Li told me. "Some of them told me they couldn't sleep in the city — too many noises at night. For many of them, the move to the city isn't necessarily a permanent one."

Still, the world isn't always changing for the better.

In addition to family, the only other thing the nomads can count on is nature. "The Kazakh people are totally dependent on their environment," Sawyer said. "They move the herd through the summer and settle down for the winter after harvesting a percentage of their flock."

Climate change is making it more difficult for the nomads to maintain their way of life.

Image from "Nomads of Mongolia"/Brandon Li/Vimeo.

"Mongolia is becoming drier and drier, which is making it more difficult for the nomads to find land for their animals to graze," Li explained. "This is forcing some of them to give up their lifestyle and move to cities."

Sawyer also noted that many families in the treeless region use coal to heat their homes. But the rising cost of coal has created yet another tension that divides families as young people take to cities to earn money to support their families.

Most of us will never be able to fully relate to the nomads' pastoral way of life, but Li's film shows we may actually have a lot in common.

From family values to a reliance on the natural world, we can find reflections of ourselves even in the middle of nowhere.

Watch "Nomads of Mongolia," a short film by Brandon Li:

Courtesy of Verizon
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If someone were to say "video games" to you, what are the first words that come to mind? Whatever words you thought of (fun, exciting, etc.), we're willing to guess "healthy" or "mental health tool" didn't pop into your mind.

And yet… it turns out they are. Especially for Veterans.

How? Well, for one thing, video games — and virtual reality more generally — are also more accessible and less stigmatized to veterans than mental health treatment. In fact, some psychiatrists are using virtual reality systems for this reason to treat PTSD.

Secondly, video games allow people to socialize in new ways with people who share common interests and goals. And for Veterans, many of whom leave the military feeling isolated or lonely after they lose the daily camaraderie of their regiment, that socialization is critical to their mental health. It gives them a virtual group of friends to talk with, connect to, and relate to through shared goals and interests.

In addition, according to a 2018 study, since many video games simulate real-life situations they encountered during their service, it makes socialization easier since they can relate to and find common ground with other gamers while playing.

This can help ease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even PTSD in Veterans, which affects 20% of the Veterans who have served since 9/11.

Watch here as Verizon dives into the stories of three Veteran gamers to learn how video games helped them build community, deal with trauma and have some fun.

Band of Gamers www.youtube.com

Video games have been especially beneficial to Veterans since the beginning of the pandemic when all of us — Veterans included — have been even more isolated than ever before.

And that's why Verizon launched a challenge last year, which saw $30,000 donated to four military charities.

And this year, they're going even bigger by launching a new World of Warships charity tournament in partnership with Wargaming and Wounded Warrior Project called "Verizon Warrior Series." During the tournament, gamers will be able to interact with the game's iconic ships in new and exciting ways, all while giving back.

Together with these nonprofits, the tournament will welcome teams all across the nation in order to raise money for military charities helping Veterans in need. There will be a $100,000 prize pool donated to these charities, as well as donation drives for injured Veterans at every match during the tournament to raise extra funds.

Verizon is also providing special discounts to Those Who Serve communities, including military and first responders, and they're offering a $75 in-game content military promo for World of Warships.

Tournament finals are scheduled for August 8, so be sure to tune in to the tournament and donate if you can in order to give back to Veterans in need.

Courtesy of Verizon

When the COVID-19 pandemic socially distanced the world and pushed off the 2020 Olympics, we knew the games weren't going to be the same. The fact that they're even happening this year is a miracle, but without spectators and the usual hustle and bustle surrounding the events, it definitely feels different.

But it's not just the games themselves that have changed. The coverage of the Olympics has changed as well, including the unexpected addition of un-expert, uncensored commentary from comedian Kevin Hart and rapper Snoop Dogg on NBC's Peacock.

In the topsy-turvy world we're currently living in, it's both a refreshing and hilarious addition to the Olympic lineup.

Just watch this clip of them narrating an equestrian event. (Language warning if you've got kiddos nearby. The first video is bleeped, but the others aren't.)

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