Posts Tagged ‘Baltimore’

Summer Camp Pt. 1

August 7, 2017

I have been thinking lately of my summer experiences as a kid. When I drive down the streets of Baltimore City, I see school-aged kids walking on the sidewalk and I suddenly remember that school is still out. When you reach an adult age and you have no kids of your own, you kind of forget that summer is a magical time where school is out and you get to play. Most of my play during summer was structured because my parents believed in not leaving me to my own devices and also believed in having relative adults keeping me safe. So, like a lot of kids, I went to summer camp.

The first camp I went to was called Camp Glencoe situated out in Baltimore County, not far from my home but far enough that it was my first time away from home. I had been to day camp before but this was my first shot at sleeping away from home for longer than a day or two. Glencoe’s specialty was kids with dyslexia or learning disabilities but they also prided themselves on taking care of kids with other health difficulties. At the time, I was having some difficulties with my ADD and I was definitely starting to have a lot of complications from my Double Aortic Arch which had been diagnosed as asthma. So, I do not remember doing a lot of outdoorsy stuff but I did stuff when I could.

One of the most memorable things about Glencoe was that we were told of a camp legend pretty close after arrival. There was a ninja that stalked the grounds of Glencoe. Nobody knew the identity of this ninja even though kids constantly investigated. Some swore they had found black clothing in their counselor’s room but I never believed that the real ninja would be so careless. During large public events at the camp, the ninja would run out of hiding and strike. His weapon of choice was whipped cream pies. He would run out and score direct hits and then he would run away. This was a camp tradition. The first time it happened, I was blown away and kind of scared. The second time I joined in the camp tradition of pretty much every kid in camp running after the ninja, trying to catch him. We never did.

I remember doing a lot of reading. I had daily tutoring sessions where I did math and English with teachers. It was not as bad as it sounds. I am a nerd so I never really hated the actual school aspects of being in school. This is also where I got all of my summer reading done for school. I know some kids do not enjoy summer reading, wanting to play sports, hang out with friends or do anything else. I always loved reading and having the assignments gave me an excuse to spend a lot of time reading and discussing the books with the tutor. I did not have dyslexia so math and reading were easy to me, I just had a concentration problem to work on. So, I remember spending a lot of time doing homework in between meals, swimming and occasionally doing outdoorsy activities.

I had done a few sleepovers at that age but only for a night or two. It was not until middle school when I started to stay over at friends for longer periods of time. As I said, Glencoe was the exception to that rule since it happened before my fifth-grade surgery. We lived in large dorms with rooms packed tight together. The hallways were patrolled by counselors at night, making sure we were not up to anything. I found that I was not really that homesick which was a happy discovery. The only truly bad experience I can think of is the boy’s dorm once had a huge building-wide pillow fight staged by the counselors. It was like a prison riot. I remember a younger boy dropped his pillow and opted to punch me in the face instead. I was stunned and angry and I was still chasing him when the pillow fight came to its natural end. It took me a while to cool off and that incident helps fuel my sense of fair play in a fight.

I also remember a camp-wide water gun fight we had at one point. Everybody had a full Super Soaker or two and there were buckets full of water balloons scattering the camp. Again, we had another riot but this one was a lot more fun. We happily blasted each other with water, running all over the camp to cool off. No points were scored and there was no object to the game besides pure mayhem and pretending I was a cool army of one fighting through the masses. I even remember filling up and firing from within the shallow end of the camp swimming pool, wading chest deep like I was in some eighties action movie. That is a fond memory and I do not remember getting too winded thankfully. I thought, for such a structured camp that catered to younger kids, that this unstructured, chaotic game was an amazing feat by the counselors.

Ultimately, I started to excel more at school now that new ADD medication was kicking in and I had a solid grasp on my studies. I started to enjoy learning for learning’s sake more and I never got poor grades all the way through high school (and only a few bad grades in college). Once I had my surgery, I did not need to go to Camp Glencoe and my folks started looking for other summer options for me. I did not really have any close friends at that camp so I was not really sad to leave it. I was ready for normalcy. An ‘asthma’ -free experience with no homework. I got that experience, sort of. I will talk about it next Monday!

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A Thursday Fire

February 20, 2017

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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I walked down to the building on Friday to have a look for myself, partly because I felt awkward about not knowing that the event happened. By the time I arrived in the afternoon, everything was obviously all calm. You can see the damage from smoke on the outside but if you did not know there had been a fire, you would not be able to learn that from a glance. Of course, the double doors were wide open and the shadows inside hid what must have been black scorch marks. The windows that had already been broken, looked a little more heat damaged. On Saturday, all the open windows and doors had been boarded up.

Felix’ Epilogue

January 23, 2017

Felix carefully placed the jar on a shelf in his office and fastened the plastic display case over top of it. He wanted to make sure that it could never fall and break. It might be needed sometime in the future. It was not one of the enchanted ones. During his second adventure in Japan, Felix and his new friends had used a jar just like this one to trap a god. Felix had carried a back up enchanted jar just in case but Plan A had worked. Before departing for Columbia, Felix had traded the enchanted jar for one of the decoys as a souvenir. There it stood in his office but it could be enchanted just as the others had been and there were a lot of gods out there that could go rogue.

The adventure had certainly taken its toll. Before, Felix had only been on short missions that had not taken him far from Maryland. The first mission had caught him by surprise in Osaka and he had learned a lot from his cousin and her seasoned team of Legends. This latest mission had taken him around the world several times. Baltimore, North Carolina, Haiti, Ireland and finally Japan again of all places. Felix felt proud that he had constantly run into battle but to heal, not to hurt. He felt proud of stopping a zombie crisis in Haiti, animal poaching in North Carolina and rogue weather gods around the world. They had done a lot of good together and he hoped they would work together again.

They were not without their problems. He still wished he could have resolved Bartholomew’s problems especially. Bart was addicted to every drug known to man and probably a lot of drugs that were only available to the Aware community. Time and time again, he had wondered whether he was endangering Bartholomew’s health for the sake of the mission. After all, there was no time for an intervention was there? The truth was that Felix could only help the elf if he was receptive to it and the guy never hit rock bottom. In fact, he seemed to thrive on drugs. The end was coming and Felix felt he should visit the estate soon to check in on the rock star who had saved the world. Checking in on all his new friends would probably be a good idea anyway or at least the ones still in town.

There was a knock on the door and Felix was broken from his thoughts and brought back to Columbia, Maryland. “Come in!” He called out.

The door opened and Grace stood there and smiled. “I still can’t believe you are here. Welcome back, Doctor.”

“I can hardly believe it myself,” Felix said with a smile. “You held down the fort well. The place is still standing. In fact, it kind of looks even tidier than I remember it.”

“I try my best,” Grace said. She bowed her head in a gesture that clearly meant she was glad for the praise. “You have over three thousand messages, by the way.”

Felix’ heart skipped a beat. “That few, huh?”  It served him right,  thinking he could run a private practice and still go globe hopping to save the day.

“I’m kidding, boss,” Grace said with a smirk. “There are a few messages from family and a few recent issues but Dr. Henry covered things well.”

“I need to take him out to dinner. Probably several dinners,” Felix said.

“I’m sure he’s just happy to be retired again,” Grace said.

“At least until the next crisis. I’m afraid that’s a strong possibility,” Felix said.

“I’m proud to have a Legend as my boss. You know you have plenty of support around here.”

“I’m proud to be here,” Felix said. “Thanks, Grace.”

“You’re welcome, boss,” She said and went back to her reception area.

Felix leaned back at his little desk and hit the flashing button on his phone.

The voice that came from the phone belonged to his cousin May. “It was good to see you again, Lucky. Congratulations on saving the world and thanks for inviting us along. I’m sorry we couldn’t stay. We had our own little issue with Makoto turning into a dragon. Also, I wanted to kiss my daughter before she went to bed for the night. Your niece says hello, of course. You owe her a birthday party appearance coming up. We’ll make it easier and hold it halfway between where we’re each saving the world. Rest easy, Cous, because you might not get to rest for long.”

Felix knew it did not matter whether there was a thank you or a pat on the back or not but it was nice to have the camaraderie of his cousin and other experienced Legends. He would have liked to have a moment to talk to Jun in person but they had exchanged quite a few e-mails and phone calls since Osaka. Daisuke Inoki had been happy to see Felix again when Felix personally checked him out for injuries. Considering Felix had basically seen him come back from the dead, Felix had a feeling Daisuke would make it through the battle. You cannot keep the Lion of Osaka down for long. Everybody had checked out medically but Felix had recommended plenty of bed rest for everybody who could manage it. It was hard work being the doctor but Felix would not have given it up for the world.

A Facebook Thingy Before Christmas

December 19, 2016

As I prepare for Christmas and cool down from finishing my Fall semester at CCBC, I thought I would post this Facebook thing that I beefed up.  We had snow and then freezing rain on Saturday and it was more annoying than dangerous even though there was a huge crash south of the city.  I am getting excited for Christmas as the presents I bought for people start arriving in the mail.  Posts will continue as scheduled even as I go to Shepherdstown this week.

Four names I go by:

1. Steven

My given name. It means “He who is crowned.” I love my name even though it is often used to for a random name to call lame guys in fiction. However, Eddie Izzard often uses it for a name to call characters and does not mistreat the name. I believe that spelling it with a “v” is the right way to spell it even if Stephen came about first in history.

2. Steve

I used to hate this shortened version of my name but I have learned to like it. It is so quick and casual. A lot of good friends have called me by this shortened version. However, I now have a friend/family member who goes by Steve and is in the tabletop gaming group I am in. This creates confusion but somehow we manage. I end up being Steve 2 sometimes.

3. Wolf of Words

You are reading this blog right now. It has also become my new gamer tag when I need one. If you see WolfofWords holding a gym in Pokemon Go, that is me. As I explained earlier, the wolf is a part of my family history because my family is crazy. My mom taught us to howl at the full moon because her aunt taught her to do it. I am also devoted to stories and words as a writer, an avid consumer of fiction and a student of the law.

4. KM/King

While I was in New Jersey, I created a gamer tag called Mengi around the time I created this blog. It was created for a game called StarPirates which had a great community. There was a guy in our little group playing the game who called himself LordTyrion and, to tweak his nose, I renamed myself KingMengi to outrank him. I stuck with the name through a couple games and that’s why it appears as my twitter and WordPress username.

Four places I’ve lived

1. Baltimore, Maryland

I love Baltimore. It is the city where I was born and where I have lived for 24 years (not consecutive). I love so many great places in Baltimore and I learn more and more things about it every day. If you keep reading this blog, you will find me talking about Baltimore over and over.

2. Sussex, New Jersey

Sussex is a small town in New Jersey jammed up near the borders of Pennsylvania and New York. Even though it is nearly two hours from New York City, it is still in the NYC Metropolitan area because that area is gigantic. I worked at a theater called Tri-State Actors Theater here and I lived in the back of a framing shop. The place was a little town with a two-block main street surrounded by farmland and mountains. Still, the local children were frightened of the urban dangers it might contain.

3. Matamoras, Pennsylvania

When I first moved up to work at Tri-State Actors Theater, I lived at the owner’s house just over the border in Pennsylvania. At first, I had no car and I was at the mercy of what rides were offered by the people whom I was living with. Once I had my first real car, I remember driving there really late at night. Once, I was driving over the mountain to get home and there was nearly a foot of snow on the ground and I spun out near the top. After I recovered my wits, I continued to drive. I was really stupid sometimes back then.

4. Shepherdstown, West Virginia

In the last few years, my mother moved to West Virginia along with my new stepfather. (Although, not so new anymore.) It is a great place to be as it is far from the hustle and bustle of the city and I never experienced that, even in Sussex. I worked at the house there for two years on several projects for the family business and I continue to visit for holidays.

Media Update 12/15/2016

December 15, 2016


Hairspray Live!

John Waters is a legend in Baltimore and a great filmmaker beyond my hometown. The original Hairspray is a film I remember fondly from my childhood. I grew up among diversity in a liberal school so racism was a boogeyman that I found hard to really grab a hold of. People like Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks were heroes to us but we never saw what they faced growing up. The racial issues raised in Hairspray seemed like a no-brainer to me. Looking back, the movie really represents Baltimore which has one of the highest populations per capita of black people. I had never seen the musical before but I have always wanted to. I have only seen a few of these Live events but I have liked them so far. The sets and effects were amazing for a live performance. I loved the backstage access they gave with interviews and shots of actors rushing about backstage. The singing and acting were fantastic. Harvey Fierstein was really fun. I already liked Ariana Grande and Dove Cameron who were perfect casting choices for a high profile production like this. I was really impressed with Maddie Baillio and Ephraim Sykes. Maddie played Tracy Turnblad with a bubbly energy very similar to Ricki Lake’s original performance. Sykes played Seaweed Stubbs and really was an excellent dancer and he also had a great voice. I could see how the energy of this version came directly from the original and this version definitely had Waters’ campy sense of humor. It also kept the original social message of the original. I prefer the original but I definitely recommend this version to all of you musical theater fans out there.


Sum of All Fears

I have long wanted to watch this movie because a lot of it was filmed in Baltimore. It is also the only Jack Ryan movie that I had not seen until this week. The Jack Ryan franchise is an interesting animal. There have been four different actors in the role now and, in that way, it is a little like James Bond. However, they have rebooted it twice so it is a little bit of a mess. Affleck’s star was starting to fade at this point because of his appearance in Pearl Harbor however, it was before his nosedive started with Gigli. I like Affleck a lot. He is charming and a really good actor. Some directors did not know how to use him and he probably mismanaged the huge push in popularity that Hollywood gave him. This movie is more tense political thriller than it is an action movie. So the movie is trying to be a little more Hunt for Red October than Clear and Present Danger. Much of this movie’s charm for me is the play between Morgan Freeman and Affleck and between Liev Schreiber and Affleck. All three are great actors with different strengths and weaknesses. The plot has to do with the threat of nuclear war, Neo-Nazis and using a tense political atmosphere to play countries against each other. Unfortunately, Neo-Nazis are still very relevant to our country. There is a cameo by our former football team, the Baltimore Stallions, our CFL team that we had between the Colts and the Ravens. However, we thankfully never had the hideous domed “Baltimore Forum” stadium that makes an appearance. It was nice to see the Super Bowl being held in Baltimore even if it was a fictional scenario. This movie was actually way better than I thought it would be. It got a lukewarm reception initially at best but I liked it for what it was. It plays on a lot of old wounds between the US and Russia which are cropping up again these days along with new wounds.


Step Up

Romantic dance dramas are not really my thing but I had to watch this after learning that is set in Baltimore. Not only that but a large portion of it is shot in the neighborhood right down the street from me. This is Hamden, a neighborhood famous for both drug-related crimes but also for the tight-knit and heartwarming community. For example, it is the sight of 34th street, the biggest Christmas display in Baltimore. It also has The Avenue which has over a dozen great restaurants. The movie has the Maryland School for the Arts which is a stand-in for Baltimore School for the Arts where the other half of the movie is set. My brother went to BSA and so did Tupac Shakur and Jada Pinkett-Smith just to name three alumni. Channing Tatum is a really good dancer. He obviously throws everything he has into dancing and really knows how to use his body. In this movie, he acts opposite his future wife (Jenna Dewan) who does a great job as well. It was actually really refreshing that this movie’s conflict was not exactly rich vs. poor although there is that element present. Dewan’s family is richer than Tatum’s foster family. A lot of the students at the MSA are scholarship students so it is more about putting in an effort. (The BSA is actually a public school and therefore free.) Tatum is pretty good at being a bit of a jerk, a poor Hamden kid with a chip on his shoulder. Of course, I walk and drive the streets of Hamden every day and I think it is a great neighborhood. Unfortunately, these movies always involve the main character doing really stupid stuff until he steps up (pun intended) in the end. Still, I would recommend this movie as it is actually not too bad.

Music of the Week:

Al Great – Star of The Show

Mary Prankster – Blue Skies Over Dundalk

SR-71 – Right Now

Charm City Devils – Shots

The Orioles – Baby Please Don’t Go

Weekly Updates:
– I finished Season 1 of Arrested Development
– I am almost done Luther Series 1
– I started season 4 of The Office
– I finished Season 2 of Parks and Recreation
– I am near the end of Season 2 of Dark Matter
– This week’s theme is “Good Morning, Baltimore!”
– My semester is over this week
– Looking forward to Christmas despite the difficulties that come with it

Sometimes a Dog is Just a Dog

November 28, 2016

So, something new has happened in my life recently. I’m not talking about Thanksgiving which was an adventure worth having but, if given the choice, I would have taken tradition instead. No, I am talking about a dog. My brother has started fostering dogs for the local SPCA and that I agreed to help him since I am spending much of my time at home working on schoolwork. When he goes off to the gym or meets with a tenant, I get to watch his temporary dog. (The dog is temporarily his and yet permanently a dog) I really do not mind even though it can get a little distracting. I am working on final papers for the semester so I am not really out and about.

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Here she is.  Who’s a good dog?  Rizzo is.

Of course, this is Baltimore so there is one breed of dog that is likely to be hanging out at a shelter in the city. Yes, my brother picked up a bonafide purebred pitbull. Her name is Rizzo and yes that name is based on the character from Grease even though she looks nothing like any of the actresses I have seen in the role. In fact, her coloring ends up making her look more like a cow than any dog I have ever seen. She is a sweet dog at age two and she still has a lot of energy and not a lot of focus. She will lie down on her bed next to my couch as I type away at this computer just fine. Then, the door opens or some weird sound happens from somewhere nearby and she is up on her feet. It is cute but a little distracting. I think she will grow out of that.

Unfortunately, “pit bull” is a dirty word in American society today. Pit bulls were originally created by breeding terriers with bulldogs. The idea was to combine a terrier’s agility with the bulldog’s bite strength. The reasoning for this was to create a creature bred for violence and specifically the pit bull was made for dog fighting. Unfortunately, that is what a lot of them are still used for these days. Their behavior leads to people vilifying the poor misguided things. I was always skeptical of labeling pit bulls inherently dangerous. Now that I have met Rizzo, I am sure that the reasoning is flawed.

Rizzo is strong as hell. In a lot of ways, she is much stronger and faster than I am. I have seen her savage objects with her teeth and I know how capable she is at destruction. She could destroy me and not even work up a sweat while she did it. While she is very capable, Rizzo is not interested in that. I have seen her meet a few people now and she is just excited as your average Labrador retriever or hound dog. That excitement has never translated into an attack or any indication of violent behavior. So, I don’t believe any domesticated animal is inherently dangerous. It is all in how the dog is treated. If you train a dog to be violent,  it will be violent. If you treat the dog with love and respect then it will do the same. Whoever adopts that dog will be lucky.

What I Love About Pro-Wrestling: Thanksgiving 2016

November 21, 2016

WILPW

I spent much of this weekend catching up on watching some WWE and Lucha Underground so I thought this week was a good time to focus on a few things I am thankful for. Even if things are not perfect, it is important to focus on what you are thankful for. Much like the New Day, I like to spread the power of positivity and I have been holding onto that power hard in the last year. We are going to need the power of positivity going forward so let us work on igniting the sparks that make us feel jazzed. So let us dip a little into what got me jazzed lately in the world of sports entertainment.

Rich Swann and James Ellsworth

I am from Baltimore and when I see anybody representing Baltimore in a positive way, I feel happy. A little light goes off in my brain and I get excited. When I was watching the Cruiserweight Classic on the WWE Network, I spotted Rich Swann and I thought he was awesome. I love his high energy, party guy quality. I love it even more since his character focuses up as soon as the bell rings. When he first showed up on Raw, he teamed briefly with Cedric Alexander. The pairing was a little questionable as it looked a little racially motivated but I was sad to see that short-lived team break up. Lately, he has been teaming with No Way Jose on NXT which makes a bit more sense as they are both fun-loving, party guys.

James Ellsworth just got officially signed to Smackdown Live and I am happy about it. Ellsworth became a viral sensation when he got stomped by Braun Strowman but went into that match with determination. Before then his main claim to fame was being in a local tag team called Pretty Ugly and he was not the Ugly one. He has since gotten two wins over the WWE Heavyweight Champion in two very funny matches. I am very interested to see where his character goes next. Will he remain a jobber or will he start to build to something else?  After listening to his interview on Talk is Jericho, I want to see more from this humble yet confident man.

Aztec Warfare

I love battle royales. I have been a big fan of the Royal Rumble since its inception and Aztec Warfare is actually an improvement on that concept. I like that only pins or submissions can cause eliminations which gets rid of a lot of the awkward jockeying for position and clinging to ropes. Lucha has been really good for me this season. I love the way Lucha weaves all of their storylines together and makes them collide in this one match. Everybody was gunning for Matanza but it always felt like the Cueto brothers were always ten steps ahead of the roster. That is why it was so shocking when Matanza lost the title and maybe even turned on Dario. Sexy Star leveraged the allies she made and her own fighting spirit to win the top prize in the company. I thought that Joey Ryan would at least be safe from Matanza this year but unfortunately, he ran afoul of Mil Muertes instead.

It is still shocking to me that Prince Puma and Ivelisse were not actually in the match but it just makes their stories more of a surprise going forward. As far as I know, only Mil Muertes is the only person on the roster to come back from the dead but maybe Prince Puma will be the second. A lot of people have (kayfabe) died on the show including Konnan, the Disciples of Death, Mr. Cisco and also Big Ryck. Hell, Big Ryck’s skull was part of Mil Muertes’ throne in Season 2. I love the unpredictability of Lucha Underground and how storyline threads hide for a long time before popping up again. I mean, we got a bona fide appearance of the Black Lotus Triad during Aztec Warfare. So much happened and so much can happen in the future. I’m excited.

NXT TakeOver Toronto

While I do not keep up with NXT as much as I should, I really enjoy the energy of the show and seeing both fresh faces and familiar faces from the indies and other companies. I watched a few episodes leading up to checking out the latest Takeover and I loved what I saw. The Dusty Classic Tag Team Tournament was absolute awesomeness. Every team that I saw was awesome and had good energy and good ring psychology. The final match between TM 61 and the Authors of Pain was awesome, even with the somewhat silly stipulation of Ellering dangling over the ring. It was excellent but it was overshadowed by the two out of three falls match between DIY and The Revival which pretty much stole the show.

Asuka vs. Mickey James was great. As great as it was to see Mickey back in a WWE ring, they kind of treated her like she had just been sitting on the couch the whole time. She was very over in TNA and, among other places, has been killing it in Maryland Championship Wrestling lately. Of course, Asuka has been an amazing addition since she first debuted and remains undefeated. I absolutely loved “Glorious” Bobby Roode (and his amazing entrance) going up against “Ther Perfect 10” Tye Dillinger. I remember Roode from back when I watched TNA and Tye has worked hard for this new push. Finally, Shinsuke Nakamura is a force of nature and his entrance blew Roode’s out of the water. The match between a “Kodiak bear” and a “rabid dog” was a great story and both Samoa Joe and Shinsuke would have deserved that championship.

Survivor Series

I have loved the build to this year’s Survivor Series. I know a lot of people have said that it does not make sense to see rivals having to be on the same team but I like it. Lucha Underground is the king of strange bedfellows tag teams making kidnapping victims tag with their kidnappers and other crazy teams. People have remarked how weird it was to see people who hated each other, working together. Why would they do that? Because their boss told them to. Besides, all of those rivalries paid off and became either strengths or weaknesses. AJ Styles accidentally got Dean Ambrose eliminated. There was a callback to Ellsworth’s short lived rivalry with Braun Strowman. Sasha and Charlotte could not work together and Charlotte blasted Bailey after their win. The women’s division match was great and possibly opened up at least one new storyline. The men’s division match was great and there were a lot of surprises. Most importantly, we might have seen the end of LOL Roman Wins and a reemergence of the Wyatt Family as a credible threat. Even so, my favorite match was actually the tag team match because I have never seen such a fluid 20-man tag team match. I really liked the pay per view and I am excited to see the fallout from it and the now unpaused storylines.

Walking

September 12, 2016

So I have been walking a lot more lately. I have lived in the same place for a long time now but I never walked around that much. I could probably count on one hand how many times I went on a walk starting at my front door. If I was going to walk, I would waste time before a movie in the parking lot in Columbia or go to the gym. After this, I’m not sure I can go back to walking on a treadmill after spending the last week and change walking around. It started with walking around Druid Hill Park because it’s so close but I have started to take different paths through my little corner of Baltimore City. Of course, the impetus of this walking is Pokemon Go but I also want to see something new every day. Sometimes it’s seeing a herd of deer within a few feet of me and sometimes it’s finding something in a corner I never thought existed.

I walked up the hill and started to take a path that I had taken a long time ago. I remember walking it with my mother when she lived in the area. I knew that the path went to the Baltimore Zoo eventually and I had taken it that far once with her. I decided to take a different fork in the path and ended up deep in the woods. Of course, the path was still paved so it was hard to worry too much. In the middle of Baltimore you really don’t have to worry too much about dangerous animals. The worst I’ve seen are foxes and rats the size of small dogs. People are nice in this area too. Everybody just wants to go about their business and the majority of them are jogging or walking their dogs. What I stumbled on was a lane in the woods called Three Sisters. I could not help but think of Macbeth as I stopped to rest and battle a gym.

On another day, I turned down a different path. I was looking at all the paths laid out on the Pokemon Go display and I saw an awesome circular pathway that had a ton of pokestops on it. I headed in that direction and instead of finding my destination, I found a fence. I tried to walk around the fence but too late I realized I had found the backend of the Zoo. There was no way I was getting in that way and there was no way that I would ever jump a fence at my age. Not that I couldn’t but unless you’re a kid, breaking the law like that is never going to end well. So I kept walking down the Mountain Pass even though there are no mountains in Baltimore. I did not expect the road to get so steep. By the end of it, my calves were screaming. I still got home alive, though.

Of course, one of the nicest places to walk that isn’t in the middle of the woods is Clipper Mill.  A lot of my walks include some part of it either as a jumping off point or a cool down period.  The streets are flat as hell and easy to walk down.  Everybody is friendly and everything is sunny and I just feel good walking through that little neighborhood.  I’ve always found it interesting too.  Long before I was born, the mill burned down and left only shells of buildings.  When I moved into the area they were just starting to rehabilitate the area except they didn’t tear it down.  They left most of the buildings up and just made sure they were safe.  The place is clean but it is designed to look like reclaimed architecture.  The industrial became residential.  I love the feeling of walking through the future that is made from the past.  It’s a great area.

fire-memorial

Finally, yesterday I went down a road I have only gone down once but it was when I was tired  and in a car so I could not pay attention.  So, I decided to pick that specific path to go down.  It runs particularly close to the light rail tracks so it pays to  be wary where you walk.  The first thing I noticed was how run down the building I was walking next to was.  It looked like people had thrown rocks through a lot of the windows and nobody had fixed them.  Ah, Charm City.  That is not what interested me most.  Instead, I started to stumble on graffiti.  See, when I was in high school, I was friends people who tagged and some of them were real artists.  Sure it may be illegal but it is a form of human expression and it often doesn’t really hurt anyone and I think I can back that.  The stuff I found yesterday was cool.  It was almost cute.  I’ll leave it here for you to check out and make your own decisions.

At this rate, I will probably keep walking.  It is more fun than the gym and I feel like I am having an adventure.  Of course, I am catching a lot of interesting Pokemon but I am starting to see the world around me.  I get restless in my apartment and going to class does not always fix that.  So, I will see what’s out there and maybe get a little healthier in the process.

A Brief Olympic Commentary

August 15, 2016

Everybody is big on the Olympics lately. I myself have watched some of the events because the Olympics can be a little inescapable, especially when my mother is so excited about them. I have enjoyed watching Gymnastics events, Diving, Volleyball and Football. I loved watching the US Women’s soccer team fight it out in the trenches. I loved watching Simone Biles winning along with Aly Raisman and just enjoying each other’s victory. I even loved the Williams sisters getting smoked in the first round because it meant a passing of the torch. I also loved Fu Yuanhui’s surprise at having won a medal and not knowing because of less than stellar eyesight. There have been a lot of great moments so far.

To a certain extent, I have also enjoyed watching Swimming. I especially enjoyed Simone Manuel’s genuine reaction to winning her gold medal and her comments afterward. However, there is a lot of stuff that has surrounded the sport of swimming that has annoyed me. Most of them surround one name because, unfortunately, when you discuss Olympic swimming you must eventually talk about Michael Phelps. While many might assume that because I am a proud Baltimorean that I would support Phelps. Not automatically true. As we learned with Brock Turner, being good at swimming does not guarantee that you are a good person. While I don’t actively hate him, I have come to resent several stories that have surrounded him.

First up in the Phelps round up is the stupid Chad Le Clos story. I did not see the first airing of the incident that launched a million memes. However, it was interpreted that Le Clos was messing with Phelps and Phelps was glaring at him in return. A few minutes of research told a different story. The two guys have had an off and on friendship and constant rivalry since Phelps’ return to the sport following his “dark period”. Le Clos has lashed out at Phelps a little but only in the way most athletes trash talk their opponents. Why Le Clos was jiggling in front of Phelps, we may never truly know. It looked like he was trying to be funny and Phelps was trying to concentrate and not get distracted. What we do know is that Phelps has said that after the Olympics he is visiting Le Clos in South Africa for shark cage swimming. This was such a non-story that it was kind of ridiculous.

<img src=”https://queerty-prodweb.s3.amazonaws.com/content/docs/2016/08/09033344/michael-phelps-670×377.jpg&#8221; alt=”Maybe he was just trying not to laugh?”>

However, that annoyance pales in comparison to the stupidity that I really want to discuss. Let us talk of cupping. Cupping is an ancient Chinese “therapy” that leaves Phelps and other gullible athletes looking like they lost a wrestling match with a squid. It is the act of lighting fires in cups pressed to a person’s skin. The fire causes a vacuum to be formed in the cup and skin to be sucked up into the cup. This causes the characteristic circular bruising and, on some people, also causes the skin to be burnt. The Chinese said that cupping promotes the flow of chi. Now, Chi is supposed to be energy flowing through the body but that energy has never been observed by science. When cupping took off in the Western world, they dropped the word chi and replaced it with blood. However, cupping does not promote blood flow. By bruising you, it actually disrupts blood flow by damaging blood vessels.

<img src=”http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/files/2016/08/MichaelPhelpscupping.jpg&#8221; alt=”Losing a fight to a squid would be more acceptable.”>

Somebody believing in pseudoscience is something that is regrettable and should be cured by proper scientific education. However, people look up to these athletes. They assume that since these people are amazing physical specimens with athletic skill, that they know stuff about the human body. This is not necessarily true. This problem is compounded by the media who tries for a “balanced” look at things. Instead of looking for the truth, they present both sides of the debate equally which gives undue credibility to the pseudoscience. The problem here is shortcuts. Everybody loves finding shortcuts and there is certain manic pride in finding one and sharing it with others. This also applies when you think you have found a shortcut that isn’t one. These people think that because this “therapy” has existed for thousands of years, that it is a shortcut to enhancing their bodies. Instead, they are damaging their body and they just look foolish.

So, while you’re watching the Olympics this year, remember to think for yourself. Remember to do your research before you spread myths and rumors. Enjoy the awesome moments because those are way more fun than the manufactured ones. Also, choose your heroes wisely because some of them might be really gullible.

Baltimore on Film

April 2, 2016

I love when my hometown of Baltimore is in anything. I especially love when film trucks come to town and they shoot a movie or television show here. It feels like Baltimore often gets the short end of the stick because we’re often overlooked. Maybe it’s because we’re too close to Washington DC or maybe it’s because they see us as boring. Baltimore is anything but boring and the architecture and culture are near and dear to my heart. Now, everybody knows The Wire and Homicide: Life on the Streets and, although I love them, I don’t need to discuss them. I picked a couple that may surprise you. All of them are shows and movies that I really like.


Live Free or Die Hard

I love the Die Hard franchise. My whole family loves the Die Hard franchise. People are down on Live Free or Die Hard but I feel it’s a good Die Hard movie but understandably not the best. However, it’s still a lot of fun to watch. The movie is set mostly in Washington DC but has a fairly lengthy segment in Baltimore. They travel to a Baltimore neighborhood to visit with Kevin Smith’s character which is the greatest collision of Jersey and Baltimore since me. Aside from that establishing shot, numerous locations in Baltimore stood in for DC streets. It’s pretty hilarious for a Baltimore boy who grew up disliking DC.


Hairspray

I could have put all of John Waters’ films in here as my old neighbor’s movies are pretty much all set and largely filmed in the Baltimore area. Hairspray is a great example of this as we see all sorts of areas downtown and areas out in Baltimore County. The movie is set in Baltimore at a boiling point in the civil rights movies. Baltimore is a great city for that because we have historically been caught between the north and the south. Baltimore really comes alive in the movie and it looks like a place you want to live. When the movie originally came out I was six and I frequently was near locations in the movie even if I wasn’t aware. Also, forget about the new version as only one establishing shot was filmed in Baltimore. Most of it was filmed in Toronto of all places.


X-Files – The Unusual Suspects

I watched the X-Files almost every Sunday for the first few seasons. It was a great show that mixed mystery, science and the supernatural together. I loved the characters, especially Mulder and Scully because both actors made it work so well. An early indicator of my love of conspiracy theories was probably how much I loved The Lone Gunmen, a ragtag group of informants for Mulder. In season five I was overjoyed to learn that the characters would be given their origin story. Not only do they get a well-written backstory but it’s also set in Baltimore. In fact, much of it is filmed in the Baltimore Convention Center. We also get an appearance from Detective Munch of Homicide and Law and Order: SVU fame.


Twelve Monkeys

Twelve Monkeys is a great movie but admittedly it’s a very strange movie. The science fiction elements end up being a little confusing but you tend to expect such things from a movie with time travel in it. There are great performances in the movie that cover a lot of the weak points and the movie ends up being a great Terry Gilliam movie. In particular, we get a great performance from Bruce Willis and a show stealing performance from Brad Pitt. In the movie, a man is sent back in time to Baltimore to prevent a catastrophe. Unfortunately, a lot of iconic scenes take place in Pennsylvania but there are plenty of shots in Baltimore. Specifically, there were scenes shot on Gay Street and in Mount Vernon. I have been in these neighborhoods more times than I can count.


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