Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas - 2017

I've been telling Cheri this every year for the last few years...

Christmas Time is magical. When I was a child, it was serious magic. As in: I believed in Santa Claus. not only did I believe that a fat man in a red suit fit rode reinder and dove down chimmneys -- I was a little crapper who wanted to trick Santa and steal his sack of toys. (I have a vague memory of feeling very distrustful of the lyric "He sees you when you're sleeping." How dare he?)

How could anyone fall asleep on Christmas Eve when you are seven years old and convinced that some omniscient Saint of the North Pole is flying around the world, headed to your house?

Eventually, of course, my views changed on the existence of Santa. But even so, Christmas was still magical -- if only for its celebration of consumerism. I got a lot of cool toys on Christmas morning, and toys made me unbelivably happy. My favorites included: A Lester Ventrilloquist Doll, the Guns of Navarone Army Men set, tns of GI Joes and Star Wars action figures, and -- of course -- an Atari 2600. Oh man, that was awesome.

Aside from toys, some of my favorite gifts were gifts of culture. It was Christmas when I recieved the cassett soundtrack to the works of John Williams (E.T. And Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.) Records such as Chipmunk Punk. Books such as Stephen King's IT, which might not seem very Christmassy, but it was one of my favorite presents, nonetheless. And, celebrating Bavarian culture: a huge baby of Gummi Bears. (God Bless you, Costco!)

When I was a kid, Family and Christmas Magic weren't in my mental mathematics. I didn't spend enough time appreciating how wonderful it was to soend time with my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins -- some of whom I would see only once a year. It wasn't until I became a teenager with a part time job at a movie theater that I understood how family time and Christmas time went hand in hand. I was seventeen the first time I had to work on Christmas. That was the first (but not the last) time I would be away from my Grandparents condo on Christmas morning when everyone else was over there socializing and exchanging gifts. At the time it seemed like a mild bummer. I liked working at the Grand Cinemas, and I was close friends with just about everybody there. But now that my Grandparents are both gone, I regret not spending more Christmasses with Grandma snd Grandpa.

Christmas memories also include recollections of illness. I think I was six years old when I had scarlet fever on Christmas. I remember looking out the window at my brothers and sisters who were outside, tossing a ball back and forth, and flying a remote control airplane. All the while, I was stuck inside, sick and contagious. As an adult, there have been a couple of Christmasses in which I have been way laid by a cold or flu virus. This year, my daughter Mackenzie is the one who is incapacitated by a bug. She is currently napping on this Dec. 25th afternoon. Hopefully she'll feel better when she wakes up. It's no fun being sick on Christmas.

But as I was saying, this tme of year is still magical for many reasons. Mainly, I have spent almost two decades as a parent, so I've been able to reexperience the sense of wonder through the eyes of my children. And I've spent twenty two years as Cheri's husband, trying to impress her with the lighting decorations adorning our house. We love the lights, the music, the festivities. The kinship. The kindness. Oh, and the coldness! The chilly temperatures of Washington state are one of my favorite aspects of the season.

By the time Christmas Day arrives, as it has done so today, I feel a little bit melancholy. Once this days ends, we've got months and months until Christmas time returns.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

I Love Star Wars

Wowee-wow-wow! I just watched The Last Jedi. I've had a dopamine rush all day. I loved the movie so much -- I'm more than a little freaking out about all the things I've seen. I might pass out like an overworked Tauntan. 

Or scream like a Rancor when his meal runs away from him. 

Don't worry, I won't give away any spoilers. In fact, I would like to write about the joys of avoiding as many spoilers as possible, including trailers, promos, and even merchandise that reveal the world of Star Wars before the film is released.

My youngest daughter and I watched The Last Jedi Friday morning, 9:30 a.m. Emily teased me, saying I wasn't a true fan because I didn't go to see the first possible showing on Thursday. I got kind of serious and said something rather pompous: "No one loves Star Wars as much as I do."

Of course, one's love for a fictional world is probably immeasurable. I don't know if there is a scientific way to prove that one fan's joy is more potent than another's. 

(I searched the internet briefly and couldn't find a graph that would quantify feelings of Star Wars love, but I did find a nifty chart that ranks bad feelings.) 

But here's the thing, so many Star Wars fans (so-called) are hyper-critical.  They bash on George Lucas. They hate the prequels. They even hate ewoks. For a movie franchise that warns of the dangers of hatred, there's a lot of hatred in the Star Wars fandom.


But for me, there's only unadulterated love. That's a good word for this situation: unadulterated... Star Wars takes away the adultness of my life. It revamps all the best feelings of childhood, but it doesn't even feel like dusty old nostalgia. In Star Wars, the stories -- the myths --  of my childhood continue to expand, in new and surprising ways.

At its core, Star Wars is about friendship. It's about good people who attempt to diminish evil, sometimes by combat, sometimes by bringing those in darkness. Ever since I was a kid, I felt like I was friends with Luke Skywalker and Han Solo... and so many other characters from Lucas' imagination. Part of it is the storytelling, part of it is the world building -- with its dazzling special effects -- but an enormous part is the performances of the actors. I hear a lot of people complain about the cheesy quality of acting in the Star Wars franchise, but I've always found that the majority of the actors, over the decades, have done an exceptional job of helping me believe in these impossible realms.

Sir Alec Guinness truly led the way in Episode IV. He even earned an Oscar nomination. Ever time I watch the original film, his speeches give me chills. Ah, Obi-Wan Kenobi!

And only the most stone-hearted of critics could resist the charms of Harrison Ford and Carrie Fischer's chemistry in Empire. As for Mark Hamill, he was the conduit for all eight-year-old kids, like me back in the 80s, to imagine that we were the heroes (sometimes scared, sometimes whiny, always naive) of the epic. And don't get me started on the amazing vocal work of Anthony Daniels and the puppetry of Frank Oz.

Now, if you look at the above paragraph, you might think that I'm about to say that the films since Return of the Jedi pale in comparison -- but I think the most amazing aspect of the new trilogy is that they somehow cast people who have equally wonderful chemistry. Daisy Riddle, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Issac, and many other new members of the franchise are all incredibly charismatic. I want to find out what happens to their characters just as much as I wanted to find out what happens to Luke, Han, Leia, and Vader. 

I could ramble on... in fact, I'm only posting a small portion of my thoughts. I wrote about this way too much last night! But let me just say that one of the reasons why I think I enjoyed The Last Jedi, The Force Awakens and the prequels so much is that I avoided watching trailers, looking up spoilers, and listening to rumors. That way, my expectations were neutral. With each movie, I had no idea what planet we would visit, what characters would pop up. Every Star Wars movie has been a fun ride because I go in blind and I come out with brand new visions.

And I also come out recharged to work on my own stuff... which I'm going to get started on right now! (Unless, of course, Cheri wants to go with me to check out a matinee.) 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Resolution Check-In: December Edition

Well, here we are, the last few weeks of 2017. It's been a wild ride, filled with mostly blessings. Let me tell you, this year was WAY better than 2016. (Knock on wood!). I hope this year has been a prosperous one for you as well, in all the ways that matter.

This is the penultimate New Years Resolution post for 2017. I'll have one more wrap up at the beginning of January to reflect upon the year overall. So, let's see how things have been going...

1) Take More Photos 

I am definitely taking a lot more photos thanks to my trusty (and a little bit rusty) iPhone. As you can tell, if you follow this blog, the photos are grainy and wracked with poor composition. But I have a good time. And next year's resolution will be about becoming a better photographer. For now, it's more about quantity instead of quality. (Which is why I challenged myself to take at least two a week.)

Here's my Mom! We're trying the new pasta place. 
Mom comes to visit every Halloween and November to celebrate
the girls' birthday. 

And here's one of the birthday girls! Celebrating in her dorm room!

This is during a photo shoot for our upcoming Christmas card. 
(It looks like it's the middle of August, right?)

This is from the Griffith Observatory... a field trip with Emily. 

This is a shot from the back of the house for Holipalooza, 
a Christmas fundraiser at the Canyon Theatre Guild.

And here's some of the Christmas lights on Main Street. 

Doggie selfie!

ACHIEVEMENT: 92% Complete

2) Write / Sell a New Picture Book

I've seen the artwork for my new picture book Papa Bear's Page Fright, which is headed to bookstores on May 1st, 2018. You can pre-order on Amazon!


3) Generate New Idea for Next Big Project (Complete 25%)

I was able to accomplish this one during the tail end of summer vacation. 


4) Work on a Creative Project with My Daughters

Hey -- good news, I'm actually making progress on this one! Emily, Cheri, and I are participating in an improv/comedy fundraiser for a wonderful family who has had an incredibly tough year.

If all goes well, this Friday the show will be a smashing success, we'll raise money for a worthy cause, and then this goal will be accomplished.


5) Show My Appreciation More Often / Strengthen Relationships and Communication

Yep. I finally finished this one last month. 


6) Lose Ten Pounds

Still at an average of 165 pounds, so still good in this category too. 


That's it for now. I'll check back in at the beginning of 2018 for the final results, and a brand new batch of resolutions!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

December is Here!

Wow -- I haven't posted since Nov. 24th, and it seems like there's a lot that's been going on. Sorry I've ignored the Blog for a whole week. A big part of it was because I was getting through school work (both for my own classes, not to mention proofreading essays and transporting daughters to and from college campuses).

So, let's catch up, shall we?

The big thing going on right now is HOLIDAY HAMS...

This is an Improv-Christmas-Comedy Show to benefit a local Santa Clarita family, the Roberts. (I'll tell you more about them in an upcoming blog post.) A bunch of theater-friends have come together to help out, and hopefully make some people laugh.

We have met twice so far, and the rehearsals are rough around the edges... but very fun!

If you live southern California and you'd like to attend, it's happening Friday, Dec. 8th... starting at 8pm. You can get tickets here! 

This was the third to last week of school (until Xmas break), and this is the time of year where the students really shine because they are presenting their research topics to the rest of the class. I've got an impressive group of students this semester -- and best of all I have yet to find a plagiarized essay. That hasn't happened in all my 16 years of teaching!

Well, that's all for now. Type to you soon.