How most trips start.
Last Sunday I flew on a trip to Palo Alto primarily to visit my youngest brother who works in the post-doctorate program at Stanford University. I packed the night before, filling up my old duffle bag with a bunch of clothes and putting together what I called my “go bag”. The flight was leaving at 7:30 in the morning and would arrive in San Francisco at 10:30 in the morning. Sort of like time travel. I got a call from my mom and she told me she would pick me up which surprised me because I had been planning to drive myself. I am extremely nervous about making flights on time and I knew that I would have trouble getting to sleep. I was right. I fell asleep at 4 am and I was woken up at 5:15 by the sound of my mom’s little car. We were off to San Francisco.
Our western destination. It rained almost the whole time we were there.
I actually love most of the plane ride experience. I hate security but we randomly got Pre-TSA which made things a little simpler. After that, we were in an airport. While airports are expensive, I find them interesting little pockets of culture you cannot find anywhere else. The food is usually pretty good and the people who work there are super friendly. Once we were on the plane, I enjoyed it even more. I had time to sit where I was not at work and not connected to the internet. I watched two movies and an episode of The Librarians. I also listened to some podcasts while I tried to rest my eyes and I worked on the Bron story that posted this past Saturday. By the time we landed, I was fried.
The site of the blue jeans store that Wiseau owned while making The Room.
The rest of Sunday is kind of a blur because I was so fried from only sleeping about an hour. I remember visiting a farmer’s market, playing video games with my brother and crashing at the hotel. The next day, we got up and decided to go into San Francisco. It was my third trip into the city but it was still awesome. I got to eat Dim Sum for the first time at a place called Tom Kiang. It was absolutely delicious. I do not eat much Asian food in general but I was glad to eat with my family walking me through it. We went to Fisherman’s Wharf which is where I was stunned to find the above tribute to the legendary Tommy Wiseau. It was the highlight of the trip for me. Ice Cream at the original Ghiradelli shop was a very close second.
Classy as all heck.
The next day we went and saw my brother’s lab and a lot of Stanford stuff. It was very impressive but not my story to tell since it involves his workplace. Of course, I am very proud of what he has accomplished and I know my folks are very proud as well. I knew him when he was just getting his start and now he’s at the top. Stanford is pretty cool. I went to school on the East Coast (which is technically still happening) so I never really experienced the laid back California attitude. A lot of scruffy dudes walking around in shorts and sandals and a huge bike culture. It is very different from what I am used to but I am sure I would have enjoyed it if I went to school out there.
This was at Google.
The final day of our trip was a weird mishmash of things to do. We had planned on making a second trip into San Francisco but instead, we stuck around Palo Alto. We ate a great Mexican place called Palo Alto Sol where I ate a spicy burrito drenched in sauce. It reminded me how different the West approaches Mexican food. We decided to go visit Google since we were kind of in the neighborhood. We did not get a tour but we did visit their campus and their brand store. I almost bought a YouTube shirt because I am such a big fan. We went to the Computer History Museum which was pretty crazy. Seeing all the technology from start to present is pretty humbling. Also, my brothers and I got to walk our mother through the history of video games and software. Also, there was a huge exhibit on World of Warcraft of all things.
We also found this on Day 3. It’s California. Drink it in, maaaan.
Finally, we climbed into our plane at 10:30 pm for a red eye flight that would arrive at 6 am. Once again, I spent a sleepless night. After a long, tiring week and a peaceful red eye flight, I crashed at 8 am in the morning and slept a good chunk of Thursday so I could rest for work on Friday.
Bron had traveled quite a distance by then. The rage at his clan still burned deep in his heart and he never hesitated to unleash that anger. Creatures died as he swung his great ax. He used every part of them but more out of necessity than saving the environment. He thrilled at the new challenges each animal presented. His blood surged with each kill and sometimes he lost a day or two pursuing a target that temporarily got away. He did not care, the Witch had sent him in a direction. There was no true time limit.
Prey beasts became boring. There are only so many ways to skin a deer. Bears were more fun. Sometimes he would drop his great ax and just wrestle one of them. Finishing a bear off with his bare hands was difficult but satisfying. It felt like more of a fair fight, not that it mattered. He even got the drop on an owlbear once. The battle had been a close one but Bron had been victorious and he had consumed the beast as he healed the next two days.
By chance, he stumbled onto a robbery one day. He had not expected it. Neither had the robbers or the young woman standing on the roof of the carriage that was getting robbed. She had clearly noticed Bron first and her expression confused the robbers for the moment.
“Monster!” The woman shouted. Her eyes went wide as she turned completely away from the robbers.
She fired a bolt from her crossbow and Bron barely managed to get his arm up to block the shot. The sting of the bolt pissed Bron off. He lunged for the carriage in a blind rage but the robbers were already there in the way with their swords. They were actually defending the carriage they were trying to rob. The robbers put up a good fight. It was three against one but Bron barely felt their blows. The last robber died as Bron brought his ax down onto her neck. He thought about taking the head as a trophy but she just was not good enough to keep.
He looked up at the woman whose hands were shaking as she tried to load the crossbow. Bron slapped the crossbow aside and started to climb the carriage. She did not even run. In some ways, Bron respected that. It did not stop him from putting his hands around her neck. She made a little noise as he started to squeeze.
As he strangled her, he heard nothing but silence at first. Then he heard whimpering from inside. He looked to the woman’s right and saw the body of a slain ranger. The girl he was strangling was dressed as nobility. A mistake had been made. There were no warriors left here. He let go of her neck with a grunt. She gasped and turned a little less blue.
“No challenge,” Bron grumbled and jumped down from the carriage.
“You certainly get messy,” The witch said as she stepped from behind the carriage. Bron could still not see her face.
“None of this blood is mine,” Bron said. The remark was matter of fact and brief as ever.
“I imagine that’s true,” She said. “You have carved yourself a little path. How are you feeling?”
“I want more challenge,” Bron said. He stared hard at the dark shadow beneath the Witch’s hood.
“Patience,” The witch said. The word brought a growl from Bron’s throat. “Head to Neverwinter. The challenge you seek want starts there.”
“What do I want with a city?” Bron asked. He had born in the wild. He had never even been in a city before.
“Go and find out. Unless you think I am just smoke and mirrors,” The Witch said with a smile.
“What’s a mirror?” Bron said without a hint of humor in his voice.
The Witch laughed and slowly faded away.
I was only fourteen when Princess Diana died in Paris, France. Officially, the cause of death was a car accident but the paparazzi were the cause. I am an American citizen so I was not really in touch with the British monarchy. However, as Princess Diana rose to prominence, even us Americans started to take notice. From all appearances, she was a woman of the people and a huge celebrity. She did a lot for charity which won her all sorts of praise. She continued to spread goodwill even after she “escaped” the stuffy, old royals. In a world where we need there to be good guys and bad guys, Diana became the good guy and the royals the villains. When Diana died, the whole world mourned her and that is the starting point of this movie. The movie follows Elizabeth II, Prince Charles and the rest of the family as they deal with the death of a former princess. Additionally, newly elected prime minister Tony Blair tries to deal with the Queen and the public relations and logistics of the upcoming funeral. It is the story of old protocol conflicting with modernization. Also, it is a story about how one person can be seen in many different ways. Helen Mirren is excellent as Elizabeth II. She is really good at portraying the burden of a duty she believes was handed down by God. Dealing with Diana’s death is not only personal but it has to do with centuries of tradition. I cannot recommend this enough.
After watching The Queen and a short film on the abdication of Edward VIII, I became intensely interested in the Royal Family of England. The show covers the early life of Elizbeth II who was forced to take the throne when her father, George VI, died of cancer. Much like The Queen, it also follows in parallel the inner workings of the Prime Minister’s office especially as Churchill dealt with the new Queen. As the show begins, Churchill has just been elected as prime minister for the second time. George is riddled with cancer but nobody is aware of how bad it is. Elizabeth has just married Phillip who is eager to get back to serving as a naval officer while his wife is asked to take on more responsibilities for her sick father. The show is absolutely beautiful and the acting is great. I was absolutely surprised to see Matt Smith as Phillip and he has an interesting story of a man who must stand behind his wife in her time of need. John Lithgow plays an older Churchill, an old war hero who is still sharp but may be past his prime. Claire Foy is great as Elizabeth II as we watch how vulnerable she is in private and strong she is in public. It is an amazing show to watch paired with The Queen as it dovetails really nicely with that movie. A lot of what I said about the crown above goes double for this show. The weight of the crown is really a huge focus here. I recommend it either before or after watching The Queen.
The King’s Speech
It was only natural that I would be interested in watching a movie about Elizabeth II’s father. George VI had a very similar situation to his daughter. He never wanted to be King but his brother was a nazi sympathizer who was engaged to a nazi spy. The English government used the fear of public relations and the rules of the Church of England to make Edward VIII abdicate the throne. This was good for the country but George VI was put into a position he never wanted to be in. He was happy being a prince where he could be out of the public eye. One of his biggest problems was a speech impediment, a stammer that apparently hounded him all of his life. I can definitely understand some of this. While I never stammered, I did see a speech therapist at one point because I was so shy about speaking in public. The very first scene is George making an appearance at a public function and having to deliver a speech and the utter hopelessness on his face brings up similar memories in my own life. Even today I hate speaking in public. The movie stars Colin Firth as George VI who is excellent as a vulnerable man who is trying to be better not only for his family but for his country. He interacts with a speech therapist played by Geoffrey Rush who is so entertaining to watch. The King’s wife Elizabeth (who will become Queen Mother) is played by Helena Bonham Carter who is refreshingly subtle compared to the work she usually does. Finally, King Edward VIII is played by Guy Pierce and he is such an asshole that you want to hate him immediately.
Music of the Week:
Hollywood Undead – Bullet
– This week’s theme is “British Monarchy in the 20th Century”
– I started watching the final season of Parks and Recreation
– I started Season 2 of Blue Bloods
– I am still watching The Librarians out of order
– I watched a whole lot of Youtube
– I just got back from the West Coast this morning
– Boy are my arms and my whole body tired from the red-eye flight
There was a fire around the corner the other day. It was a four-alarm fire on Union Avenue, the major thoroughfare in my neighborhood. It is the street I take to work and just about everywhere I need to or want to go. The thing is, I had no idea that it happened. I was asleep at the time and apparently upwind so I did not smell any smoke. The idea that something happened so close to me without my knowledge is kind of spooky but a credit to this city’s firefighters. They took care of the blaze without any collateral damage to surrounding neighborhoods.
One thing that is also interesting is that I also did not hear the fire trucks or I did and they simply did not wake me up. I was born in Baltimore City and I was raised in that city as well. For most of my life, I have been a city slicker and that comes with accepting certain things. I used to live very close to University Parkway (and at one point on University Parkway) which brought with it certain realities. University Parkway is a major passage for emergency vehicles in that part of Baltimore. It is a wide, multi-lane road that is easy to navigate in a hurry. So we grew up hearing sirens more often than not. So it makes sense that I would not even notice extra sirens nearby.
Usually, when a fire happens it is a horrible tragedy. If you remember, Baltimore had a huge fire during the riots nearly two years ago. In that fire, senior housing was burned down. Thankfully, nobody had moved in yet because construction was not quite done. Still, housing for seniors is a very important thing to have burned down. The building that burned on Thursday night was not being used for anything at the time. It was an old brick building nearby that I had taken pictures of last year because I found the graffiti on it interesting. The building was slated for development which I imagine will be dramatically delayed but at least nobody was killed.
This also brought to mind how easy it is to get news, photographs and video of an event so soon after it happened. My brother asked me about the fire the morning after it happened and I had pictures of it on fire pulled up. I had the exact account of how it happened in minutes. It is extraordinary in this day and age that we get simple facts as wrong as we do when the real story is so close at hand. I suppose the problem comes in when so many people are seeing and saying different things. The truth should not be so complicated, should it?