Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
The kids had Friday and Monday off, so we took a trip to Mobile for that city's annual Mardi Gras celebration. It was our second time to see it. My wife and I went four years ago. My mother watched the kids for us while we there. This time, however, we took our boys with us as we thought they would enjoy it. There are parades every day and the city bends over backwards to welcome tourists. It’s a friendly atmosphere and a wonderful time.
We have family in Mobile as two of my dad’s siblings make their home there. One of them owns a company that makes floats for the parades. The parades are sponsored by various secret societies that go by names such as the Knights of Revelry, the Mystics of Time, and the Crewe of Columbus. Each parade has umpteen number of floats. Every float carries umpteen people. The people on the floats all wear masks, raucous costumes, and throw items from the floats such as strands of beads, frisbees, footballs, stuffed animals, and moon pies. Crowds gather to watch the floats and catch items. After the parade is over, these same groups hold balls with music and dancing. The crowds watching the parades are dotted with couples dressed in tuxes and long gowns.
My family and I had a blast. My younger son, who wants to be an artist some day, is already begging to spend a summer working for my uncle, crafting floats. My wife is particularly fond of the bead strands and uses them to handcraft special items for our kids’ classes and sports teams. She also uses them to decorate the house. (I try to catch as many as I can.) My older son just soaks it all in.
Mardi Gras is definitely a special time for Mobile. The city has celebrated Mardi Gras since 1703, fifteen years prior to the founding of New Orleans in 1718. And, while Mobile doesn’t get the notoriety of New Orleans, the Mobile Mardi Gras is worth a visit. The reason for it is the people.
I learned a little bit about what goes into Mardi Gras. The beads that people catch cost money directly to whoever threw them. So, each person on a float spends several hundred dollars for the sole purpose of throwing gifts to people they’ve never met. This is in addition to the money that these people spend to join these groups, money that goes into sponsoring these parades. These parades are what bring the tourists and fill the hotels and restaurants. The people in these societies also spend money to get ready for balls that feature great food and music that continues into the wee hours, generating more business for the city.
Mardi Gras is a great time and it may look like just a party, but what it represents is numerous local citizens investing thousands of their own dollars into their community to make it a place that people want to visit and return to again and again.
I hope to do so soon.
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
My 10-year old is a Star Wars fanatic.
I admit that I enjoyed the movie growing up. I don’t remember when I first saw Star Wars. However, I do remember owning a cassette with a truncated version of the movie on it that I listened to often. I remember waiting in line a couple of hours for tickets to see Return of the Jedi. (I came from a small town. There weren’t that many people who could stand in line at the theater, which is why it was only two hours.)
My son, though, is nuts for it. He especially likes the bad guys. His Sith Master is my cousin, Kevin, who lives in Oregon. At a Super Bowl party a few years ago, Kevin nicknamed him Darth Garbage. He recently promoted him to Darth Recycle Bin. One day, if my son is lucky, he will earn the nickname Darth Trash Compactor.
Last Friday, with Star Wars I in 3-D opening in the theaters, we chose to watch it at home. Despite having seen the movie many times, he still hung on every word.
One of his fondest hopes is that George Lucas will produce more Star Wars movies, but has long contented himself with six. However, sometime this weekend, I mentioned to him that George Lucas had the idea for three more movies, Episodes VII-IX, to take place after Return of the Jedi.
He couldn’t believe it and asked what George Lucas was waiting for.
Honestly, I read this somewhere once long ago so I don’t remember where I saw it. But I told him that George Lucas got fed up with negative comments he heard about the storyline in Episodes I-III and decided he didn’t need to make any more movies.
The news devastated my son. He decided to take matters into his own hands.
He’s writing a letter to George Lucas, begging him to reconsider his decision. He wrote one letter and then decided it wasn’t good enough. He then tried again, writing a longer one. He’s still adding reasons even today. He plans to spend about a week editing, and then he’ll send it. He asked me to look it up his address on-line. I did and gave it to him.
I asked my son if I could see his letter. He refused, saying it was only meant for George Lucas. I did warn him that it was likely an assistant of Mr. Lucas’s would read the letter as Mr. Lucas gets lots of fan mail.
My son believes his letter will get through. He believes his George Lucas letter will change Mr. Lucas's mind after he reads it.
No, my son does not believe in the force.
However, he does believe that Star Wars is the greatest movie ever.
Hopefully, that will be enough.
Tuesday, February 7, 2012
"Dad, the words are misspelled."
I thought about it for second, as I considered what my teenage son was reading. "No, they're fine. That's just the way those words were spelled in Shakespeare's day. I know the grammar seems odd, too, but that's the way people talked back then."
My son nodded and went back to reading Romeo and Juliet. We'd gone over a few things about the story already. I’d explained to him who the Montagues and the Capulets were. I also explained that biting your thumb at someone back then was the Shakespearean equivalent of flipping someone the bird. He tried to pronounce things as best he could. I told him not to worry about it. I don’t think I could have pronounced the words much better than he did. Still, I was amazed. My teenage son was reading Shakespeare and it wasn't even for school.
So why the interest in the Bard from an eighth grader?
Well, my son loves theater and movies. Last semester, he saw part of West Side Story in one of his classes. Wanting to know how it ended, he used some of his Christmas money to buy it on blu-ray. He could get into the battle between the Jets and the Sharks, though he had to put up with his dad saying stupid things like "The actress who plays Maria is the little girl from the old Miracle on 34th Street movie."
But the one piece of information that was of interest to him is that West Side Story was based on the Romeo and Juliet. I explained how the characters in West Side Story matched up to Romeo and Juliet. He asked if I had a copy and I pulled it from the shelves.
He read a few pages and struggled with the words and grammar. He read it out loud and I tried to help. He said he wanted to keep reading but wanted to finish his latest Twilight novel first. I let him put the book away so he could find it easily.
Still, I was amazed we were even having the discussion.
The reason is that my son has a learning disability. He's really good in math and science but has had trouble with reading and grammar all his life, an acute problem for a kid interested in theater. I remember what it was like for me to read Shakespeare when I was his age. It was entertaining. It wasn’t easy. However, I know my struggles were small compared to problems that he will face.
May his joy be that much greater.