Posts Tagged ‘Family’

Palo Alto and San Francisco

February 27, 2017

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Krampus (2015)

October 12, 2016

I talked last year about horror during the holidays when I reviewed the charmingly bad Jack Frost. At the time, something was pointed out by the proprietor of The Eye of the Beholder blog. She basically said that horror during the holidays gives us a break from the holiday cheer. She is so right. As far as I can tell, this proud tradition started in the 1970s. However, I always think of my first experience which was the release of Gremlins. This was also the movie that sparked the false rumor that suicides go up around the holidays. I also talked then about my theory about how something good can be turned against you. Taking something wholesome, and making it frightening is a sort of an extreme violation. For a lot of the people, Santa is a joyful man who delights in providing presents to the good children in the world. I really like this and that is why I am eager to spread his gospel because doing so only spreads good feelings. However, some use Santa as a fear tactic to keep their kids in line. They use his excellent surveillance system as a threat, a Sword of Damocles to make kids stay in line and even snitch on each other to simplify a parent’s job. This philosophy also led to the horrible Elf on a Shelf which never should have happened.

Of course, we are not really talking about Santa today. We are talking about his double from the Upside Down and brother (hopefully) from another mother: Krampus. Now, anybody who knows me well knows that I am a huge fan of mythology and folktales. However, please be advised that I definitely believe that Krampus should not be part of the story of Santa Claus. I do think that the story is a neat bit of apocrypha, though. Krampus is part of a rich history that originated in the Austro- Bavarian region of Europe. It figures that Krampus would come from Germany, the same place as the Brothers Grimm and other tales of the Black Forest. However, there is a history of people trying to unnecessarily spice up the Santa tales with dark or regrettable characters. Just ask Black Pete. While Saint Nicholas went from house to house rewarding the good boys and girls, Krampus did the opposite. Krampus beat or kidnapped the horrible kids or so the fear tactics said. Thankfully, we just opted for making kids afraid of getting coal in their stockings.

The movie starts off like many horror movies do by presenting you with horrible people that will most likely be terrorized or killed throughout the rest of the movie. I think sometimes they do this so that audiences feel less guilty about enjoying their deaths later. However, this is set at Christmas and I know how awful family can be around the holidays. You gotta put up with it and it makes zero sense. Also, there is plenty of charm and surprising depth to the characters so you cannot paint them as outright villains right away. A lot of them are dicks. Do dicks deserve to die? No. Do we want to see them suffer a bit? Probably. Of course, this movie is about having the true holiday spirit and how you should remember the reason for the season. Hint: The reason for the season is always celebrating, having fun and being nice to each other for once. Unfortunately, we do that by shoving a lot of people into one house.

The acting is really good. The movie starts out like a slightly darker version of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation so you need some comedic timing. There are quite a few characters which is a little strange for a horror movie. Usually, you have seven or less so that you can mix and match pairings and keep things simple. The biggest names are Adam Scott from Parks and Rec and David Koechner from the Anchorman movies. The writing and direction are great because they really let the characters shine and the horror slowly creeps into the proceedings. They also take a long time to really explain anything but I like that. I don’t need my hand held all the time. On top of the good acting and direction, there are really good visuals. Legendary is known, at least to me, for creating movies with great special effects. (See Hellboy, Pacific Rim, Dark Knight). The stuff they created for this movie is absolutely terrifying. At some point, most of the comedy goes right out the window and we are in full terror mode.

Overall I would say this was a great horror movie. I went in expecting a lot of finger guns and silliness and, while it started that way, it definitely shook off a lot of the comedy. However, it was like they twisted a lot of should have been funny or sweet and turned into a nightmare. It was like the Upside Down version of Christmas. Everything was dangerous and vicious instead of jolly. The writing and direction were on point and I loved pretty much every point in the movie even though I was totally creeped out. They completely connected the movie back to the German roots of the folktale without forcing it. You should definitely check this out. I think it is a little underrated.

Adventure on the River

July 11, 2016

It seems that all of my adventures start with me getting up early but this week is no different. It seems that any true adventure starts with drive time and that usually means getting up early. This is often a dilemma for me since I am definitely not a morning person. However, an adventure often has enough allure to accomplish the necromancy it takes to get me out of bed before seven in the morning. So it was that on Thursday I got up and followed the smell of bacon downstairs to grab a little breakfast with my mom and her husband’s family. Breakfast is also part of the ancient magicks needed to get me up in the morning and I could already smell it as it made its way to the table. Of course, the food was there but nobody else was.

There is something important you should probably know about me. I am terrified of being late. I actually have nightmares about it and I feel intensely guilty if I am late. I show up at events so early I am often waiting in my car for the doors to open. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I get to airports long before most rational people on the offhand chance that something will go wrong or there will be traffic. So when I saw that the rest of my adventuring party was not up yet, I decided that we were not going to make it and the trip was doomed. Eventually, everybody made it down and ate and stalled and slowly gathered their belongings and said their goodbyes to loved ones. Meanwhile, I was waiting in the car like a mental patient, mentally willing them to get in a car so we could depart. I guess this is more my issue than theirs.  Thankfully, we made it on time.

Where did we make it to? We arrived at River Riders Headquarters in Harpers Ferry at 9 am. I checked us in and was informed that, even though we were to show up at nine, the safety lecture did not start until 9:40. We all got to relax a bit before gearing up for white water rafting down the Shenandoah River and onto the Potomac River. I really love the water so I was excited but still a little sleepy and anxious that we would not walk the thirty yards to the meeting place within forty minutes. Like I said, I am crazy. Of course, we made and watched a safety video and all safety videos are both cheery and also pretty grim.

We drove to the river and my mom and I climbed on a boat with some of her recently acquired grandchildren. Our guide was immediately laid back and cool and I liked that he was not doing anything to force us to have fun. All of the guides on the river encouraged a huge splash fight and people were being pulled or pushed off their boats everywhere. It was a lot of fun and a great way to get everyone in the spirit of the trip. That was great because I was still feeling a little tired from waking up and worrying about getting there on time. We started down the river in great spirits, talking and laughing. We followed our guide’s orders on when to paddle and worked hard to match paddling rhythms.

The rapids were not overly challenging. Some of them were fun little bumps and others were a rough ride where I nearly felt like I was going to fall out. Only one of us fell out the whole way and it was kind of a fluke that came from his unlucky position in the boat. We laughed and traded stories the whole time about how we had fared on each rapid. We learned a little more about the area as we floated down the line between Virginia and West Virginia. It was a lot of fun just to be in a positive head space.

At some point, our guide let slip that any guide who fell off his boat would have to buy beers for all of the other guides. These were known as “Swim Beers” and were to be avoided at all costs. Furthermore, our guide informed us that the guide who was manning our party’s other boat had tried to take our guide out earlier. We quickly pledged our allegiance and said we would help get that guide off of his boat. We talked the whole trip about when was the best time to do it. Two grandsons on the boat volunteered to actually do the deed but we kept getting thwarted just before an attempt. At the very end of the trip, we made a beeline for them and the two guys dragged the guy into the water. We all cheered and laughed that we had finally accomplished our goal.

We took the bus back to headquarters, tired and wet but also satisfied and happy. We ate a hero’s lunch at the Clarion Hotel up the hill and drove home to dry everything out and take a nap. It was a great time and it was filled with positivity. We could all use a little more of that.

Maw Maw

March 14, 2016

I have had a some time to process things. I updated my entry from Saturday and I mentioned that I had been out of town for a funeral. I have decided that I want to post more about it because this isn’t just a blog, it’s a series of imprints of my mind at certain times in my life. I never cared much for photographs but I love memories and I love stories. What happened over this last week was sad but it was also beautiful and great too. I would like to tell you a little bit about it.

On Sunday, March 6, 2016, I got word that my grandmother had passed away after a final heart attack in the nursing home where she lived. As the funeral was planned, I tried to focus on my homework and I began to clear my academic schedule. It was actually kind of hard going to class on Tuesday night knowing where I would be going the next day. I drove down to South Carolina with my brother and my mother’s husband and it was perfectly pleasant. It hardly felt like we were going down for a funeral until we arrived. Everybody did a good job keeping things light. My mother’s side of the family is always great at keeping things happy and friendly.

It was at this point that I learned that I would be a pallbearer along with the five other grandchildren which included my two brothers and my three female cousins. I pushed that nervousness aside and, after a nice evening with my uncle, I went back to the hotel to make sure that the latest Media Update would be posted. The next morning we met with our cousins and it is always amazing to see how they have grown up. We used to see each other all the time but now there are years in between each meeting and they have grown into very intelligent and interesting people.

We went off to the funeral and it was beautiful, sad and even funny at times. It was a celebration of her life and I was suddenly hit with it all. Pallbearing was not as tough or scary as I thought it would be. I felt deeply honored and I felt a duty to my family and the woman I had known so well. We did not drop her. After a fond yet teary farewell, we went back to my uncle’s house for a huge mess of barbecue. That is when all the family stories came out, including a lot of stories I had never heard before. We talked late into the night about the family and that moved onto the present and the future. We parted ways and we returned to good old Maryland.

I did not tell any of this for sympathy. I spoke of this because I wanted to honor the woman I called Maw Maw. In that vein, let me tell you a little about her.

I love to write. When I first started to write a long time ago for fun, I was reminded that my grandmother had been a writer. She wrote prose and articles as part of her duties as church historian for decades. It inspired me to keep at it and eventually I started my first blog and then this one. I also really love crossword puzzles. One of my favorite memories about Maw Maw was sitting and doing crosswords with her. She used to do National Enquirer crosswords because you could send them in for a cash prize. She would send them in under her grandkids’ names to see if she could get them a check for a little cash. I would sit and help her since she had started to lose touch with modern pop culture. Most importantly she was the nicest person I may ever meet. She was always there with a smile and a helping hand and it would be a challenge to find somebody to say an unkind word about her.

She will be missed but she lives on inside the people she touched.

I’m Proud of My Brothers

March 23, 2015

My mind is truly blown by how amazing my family is pretty much all the time. This past weekend my brothers impressed me even more than usual and I have to share.


Doctor Caligari

My brother Alex (aka Lex) is a founding member of a theater company called Pointless Theater which specializes in puppetry and innovative storytelling. Most of the shows they’ve put out have been funny or at least somewhat lighthearted. Some of their repetoire has been for kids, some for adults and some of it was in between. They were a fixture at the Capital Fringe festival until they outgrew it and they continue to grow. They are usually running performances out of the Flashpoint Theater near Chinatown in DC. I hate DC but Pointless always makes it worth travelling to our nation’s capital.
This time around they have put together a show called Doctor Caligari and it is based on a 1920 German silent film called the Cabinet of Doctor Caligari. This time around they went for pure existential horror instead of laughter. It would be an understatement to say that this play scared me. After the curtain call I felt shaken and it took me a little while to truly collect myself. My brother plays the title character and is truly horrifying as are many other things in the show. I don’t want to reveal too much of the show since I am urging you to go see it in the next two weeks.
TED Talk
My youngest brother Abe is brilliant. He may be the only real genius that I’ve met and his intellect at once humbles and impresses me. He works a lot with computers and cameras which is a crude summary of what he does. He has studied at three different prestigious schools: Johns Hopkins, Stanford and currently MIT. He will also be the first PHD that I’ve known personally which completely blows my mind. Unfortunately that means that when he describes his work, there is a point where my understanding becomes Wile E. Coyote and falls off a cliff instead of following his train of thought.
There is now a solution to that dilemma. My brother was invited to do a TED Talk and I got to see an early screening of it before it is released to the public. It’s entertaining and intensely educational and I think you’ll enjoy it if you give it a chance. I have known that my brother is smart for a long while now but it’s always cool that other people get to see that. So check that out as well.

An Internet Recording Artist I’m Related to

April 26, 2014

Here is a repository of my brother’s music videos.  When we were growing up, my brothers and I wanted to strangle each other.  Now that we are older, we really get along.  I am proud of both of my brothers’ accomplishments and I especially enjoy when they get creative.

 
Abe’s First Video

 
Abe’s Second Video

 

 Abe’s Third Video

My Music Collection 2

July 6, 2009

My Music Collection:
Episode 2 “Going Home”

This is part of an ongoing series where I explain why certain songs that I like are important to me. Music rules my life and powers me through the toughest day. So sit down and listen to some of my favorites.

This installment is full of songs that remind me of family and always feel like home to me.

King of the Road – Roger Miller

This song reminds me of how it was my mom and I against the world at one point in the early eighties. My mom was a single mother for a little while but she took amazing care of me. The song is just a song about being on the road and living hand to mouth and just getting by. My mom used to sing this to me as a lullaby so it will always hold a place in my heart.

Give Me Three Steps – Lynyrd Skynyrd

This song always reminds me of my mom and her college days and how to perservere. The song itself is about running away if given the slightest opening. The poor main character of the song has been caught at gunpoint and is begging for a reprieve. My mom was begging for a reprieve some nights doing work toward her law degree and hearing and singing along to that song made her feel better about it.

Satisfaction – The Rolling Stones

Well, really any Stones song will do it. I just picked one of their most prolific. At a very young age my dad trained me much like Pavlov did with his dogs. As we listened to the radio in the car my dad would ask “Who’s the greatest singer in the world?”. Was my answer Sinatra, Pavarotti, Lennon? Nope. I would enthusiastically answer “Mick Jagger!” And to this day, I still believe Jagger’s in the top 5. And every time I hear him sing I think of my dad.

Dancin’ Fool – Frank Zappa

Yeah, a Zappa song reminds me of a family member. That’s how interesting a bunch we are. My brother Alex is trained in the art of performance. (Sorry, Mr. Luthor, I know you prefer to be called Lex) He’s a great dancer and actor and has seemingly boundless energy. This song’s energy and enthuisiasm for dance and the goofiness are what remind me of my brother.

Whatever this is

And that’s my brother. Dancing to a J-rap song. Yep, he’s a genius at Stanford who probably has a 4.0 and a full scholarship and teaches classes at Stanford. Yes, that Stanford. Somehow this video makes me have faith that my brother isn’t a mindless robot.


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