July 27, 2007

Cold War Kid

Growing up in the 80's I never realized what kind of TV I was used to watching. Or I should say I never realized the themes which were typically present. Being that we, as a country, had been stuck in a Cold Ward with other non-Democratic nations (must subversively Russia, then known as the USSR) that had apparently affected all the entertainment brought to us children. This was something I had never considered until my brother, years later in the 'groovy 90's' told me that watching shows like GI Joe and Transformers were all about pushing the Cold War propaganda of Us vs. Them.

Being a different kind of kid throughout those later years I do remember reading the Communist Mannifesto to understand what all the hoopla was about over Communism. Even the phrase "What are you a communist" is used, not as much, but used nonetheless to describe someone who doesn't conform to a certain standard or ideal. Regardless of what my parents were thinking at the time or what the Prez was talking about (although the Berlin Wall being torn down is one of my favorite moments not in the mode of democracy winning out, but that families and a divided country were finally reunited) I never realized how much that theme of 'Good Guys vs. Bad Guys' has affected my creative writing so much.

I started writing in 3rd grade and most of my stories were similar themed but more so in a romantic comedy vein. Although I'm still a big fan of the romantic comedy I really start to jones for a quality Good vs. Evil tale. Upon seeing Transformers (which in my mind was clearly superior to the 80's feature length cartoon) I was reminded of those characters growing up and even got a little misty-eyed over the whole concept of the good guys winning in the end.

I never realized how embedded it was watching Duke from GI Joe work with his fellow good guys to vanquish guys who were out to cause strife in the rest of the world. Or even the slightly more lighthearted Danger Mouse try to take foil Baron Greenback's plans every week. Reading Harry Potter, which often blurs the line between good and bad, still sparks a strong emotional hope for the good guys to win.

That's probably why I still watch wrestling and get excited when a good wrestler (often known as a 'face') comes in to save another wrestler who's getting ganged up on. Or feel a sense of triumph when a bad wrestler (known as a 'heel') turns good unexpectedly. Likewise, the disappointment and heartbreak of seeing a good wrestler turn on his friend in a tag match.

How much of that also affects leadership. You get so hopeful when you see a leader with Optimus Prime like qualities. Someone who practices self sacrifice, compassion, and even a sense of humor (our most humanistic trait). As I got older and started to fully understand the concepts of storytelling including the exaggeration which often follows a tale of heroism, I thankfully not too ignorant to know that all leaders aren't perfect. But I'm also happy to still look at a leader, or even a friend, and say "that person's a good person, I'd follow them anywhere."


PS I do find it interesting that despite the obvious good vs. evil struggle in those cartoons there was also never death. For some reason the Joes and Cobra were really good at missing each other directly but being able to blow up a tank with one laser shot. In Transformers, they did get shot a lot but they were robots who could be fixed. Amazing that my generation had the good vs. bad struggle but not concern over heroes/villains passing away.

PPS I know that the last column was England Thoughts Part 1, suggesting a part 2 coming soon. It will, I needed to share this thought while it was on my head.

July 20, 2007

England Thoughts Part 1

Much apologies for this not being more in a daily blog form, but we had limited internet access in England. The trip was one of the best learning experiences of my life and I'm happy to be able to share these thoughts:

Getting your bearings in a new city or place is never easy. And it's a fearful experience. What happens if you get lost? What happens if you walk into a potentially scary situation? All of that is answered by just going out and hitting the trail. There is always risk, there is always a chance of something bad coming along your path. There is always the unknown.

I give a lot of credit to Jen who found out about the original bus company, which is one of those topless double decker busses you often seen in movies when a superhero or rando crashes surprisingly into a group of tourists. It was a great deal where the bus toured us around most of London and then we had the oppurtunity to get on and off at certain stops. This certainly added to our experience of expanding our path, and eventually we felt very comfortable with our surroundings despite even a slow going in our morning.

Learning a New Skill
The joy of learning something new is always a comforting feeling reinforced when you get a chance to show what you know and have it pay off. Again, trying to learn it for the first time is equally scary. There's that fear that you're going to screw up. There's that chance that you'll give up learning more if something goes wrong after you've started. For us, leanring the Underground in London was exactly like this.

If you've ever traveled the subway in Washington DC it is a similar experience. Of course, you'd have to travel back in time a few decades as the Tube has been around for a while and is much larger. A convenience way to travel, our first experience on the tube was a shotgun, 1 way trip from Heathrow Airport to St. James Park near where we were staying. After that, and with some friendly assistance by the gent at the ticket booth, we soon became 'masters' of the underground, feeling confident to travel to and fro. We did have our missteps but soon figured out our mistakes and moved on.

Sense of History
Have you ever scrapbooked or kept a journal? Have you ever looked back over it and thought "wow that really happened in my life..." and felt a sense of depth to everything? Even as you get older, wiser, and add the new experience of life, you start to appreciate the perspectives of your current history with your older one.

One of the things I loved about London was its history. Modern buildings, new age archictecture, even funky ferris wheel like contraptions (British Airways' Eye) dance beautifully with historic, gothic, traditional cathedrals, buildings, bridges. It's like walking through a history book while enjoying a cosmopolitan feel. I do wonder if being a Londoner, you grow up thinking "hey, we've been around for a long time, through a lot of historical highs and lows."

With the first blog, a lot of the themes which tie together for this trip really is that of exploration. Striking out and doing something you've never done before. I'm happy for the oppurtunity to have done something like this. My grandmother always said if you do one thing in life, travel, the world opens up to you, as does your eyes.


July 07, 2007

England Blog Day 1: Packing & Travel

For the first time in my life I'm headed off to jolly old England (heavy cliche, I apologize). This will be my first overseas travel, my first trip in a foreign country (not counting Mexico or Canada), and, I'm sure, my first few times heavily out of my comfort zone. More about that later.

As Jen and I have started this journey, I realized a couple of correlations (natch) between traveling and life.

It takes me the better part of four hours to pack. I'm not lying. I have a system. First I will make a short list of everything I need to bring +1, for emergencies (like getting attacked by a mountain lion on the underground). Then I start the process of putting everything together: undershirts, underwear, t-shirts, button downs, collars, shorts, khaki shorts, pants, jeans, jean shorts, nice shoes, sandals, decent belt, fancy belt, white socks, colored socks, nice socks, and of course, stuff to sleep in.

If you ever played the videogame "blue print," it's lot like that...I move from room to room in my apartment gathering items and putting them altogether in an overly large suitcase (which I will inevitably drag around London at 12am). I wish I could be as dilligent as when I leave. That mess is just throwing it all the suitcase, and somehow it doesn't fit as nicely.

In sort, you're preparing for a trip. Short, long, whatever, you're preparing to do what you can to enjoy a vacation, or business trip. We do that in life, for both short term and long term moments. For those short term moments it's exactly like this. Gathering the needed items to aid you in your journey. For longer term events, it's a slow gathering, taking tools here and there from shorter experiences.

And, as for slow goings, there's definitely something to be said for traveling. Traveling is the most amount of motion in a short confined spice with the least amount of motion on your part. Kinda like if a hamster figured out how to make his little hamster ball motorized. He's just sittin' back, and moving, but sittin' there nonetheless. When you get done traveling you don't know if you should walk some more or if you should just pass out in bed.

The traveling is all about patience. You know you're stuck in your plane or car or rickshaw. You know you have to make the most of it (doing some more packing at that point obviously).

Between being patient and being prepared, it's lot to learn. If you over prepare yourself you can run yourself ragged and end up carrying around a lot of extra worry you don't want (kinda like my carry on bag today). If you under prepare then when you're waiting for something to happen the time goes on forever. The goal is to find a zen calm to your packing...feeling confident you brought what you needed and then realizing that stuff's gonna come up no matter what, waiting out the storm to make sure things turn out.

Aside from the lessons learned, here are some shorties about the trip:
-Airport security, not bad. Flying out of Chicago, not bad. Flight itself, not bad. Traveling on the underground with about 40lbs. of crap...yeah, that gets tiresome.
-The underground reminds me a lot of the DC Metro. Just as clean, just as simple to understand.
-Nice to know that no matter what the country, kids still go out and enjoy themselves, parents still get dolled up and enjoy themselves, and some folks still work late at night.
-I love the accents here. I grew up loving British TV and always tyring to mimic the accent. Not as easy or practical when you're jetlagged.
-I love the streets here too. We haven't had time to walk, and poor Jen has had to put up with my current physical annoyances (stuffed eardrum, headache, stuffed nose). But I'm looking forward to walking around and just getting lost.

So that's all we got for now, more later. I'll do what I can to update this but if my brain is too tired from taking it all in, it may come in shorter chunks!