Archive for October, 2009

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Halloween Activities

2009/10/30

I have always loved Halloween, because I love costumes. From my very first costume as a clown made by my mother and the lady across the street when I was 18 months old, through to my closet full of costumes on a monthly rotation at the Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum. I am a costumer and I am proud of it.

But more than that, I am also a Star Wars fan. I am a card carrying member of that proud group of lunatics who dress up in costumes from those movies, buy toys, read books and gobble up any new media that follows that universe created by George Lucas. Most of all, I am honored to have the privilege of working with the folks at Lucasfilm to manage and maintain the X-Wing Fighter replica they send all over the country for various promotional spots and events.  It lives here in Colorado at WOTR, but it has seen a lot of miles, and today was no exception.

I got to see all of my hard work live in Rockefeller Plaza this morning as the hosts and staff of the Today Show debuted their annual Halloween Show. And it looked fantastic!

Please check out the whole thing on their website, and enjoy some of what I do in the name of sharing my love of Star Wars and Costuming with others.

And for anyone in the Denver area tomorrow, come on out to Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum for the annual Hauntings at the Hangar Halloween Party. Stormtroopers, Jedi, and a whole host of other costumed folks will be there to help your little ones enjoy a safe and Happy Halloween!

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Social Networking: Friend or Foe?

2009/10/29

Long ago, social networking consisted of who you would let climb up the ladder of the slide behind you and who you were willing to let go ahead of you. It was who you shared your mud pies with, and which kid you didn’t throw the “special” snowballs at during a neighborhood war. And as we got older, it was who you sat with at lunch, and who would walk home with you after basketball practice. But all of that has changed now.

With websites like Facebook, Twitter and more blog sites and message boards than you could ever dream of counting, the world in which we live today has grown infinitely large, but also incredibly small.

::cue “It’s A Small World”::

As a child, I could never have imagined in my wildest dreams that I could be carrying on a simultaneous conversation, coordinating for a single event, with people from three continents and five countries. And for what? For where and when a special delivery of Jello Shots would arrive for the group mixer being held at a hotel in Atlanta during a major convention. This is where technology has brought us; coordinating drunken parties for costumed geeks around the world.

The largeness of it all is shown to me when I see these people, from so many places, of varying ages, socio-economic and political backgrounds able to communicate freely and openly, exchanging ideas and cultures without boundaries. I have created friendships on every continent of this globe, from the Arctic to the Antarctic, from North America to Australia and everywhere in between. I have friends in Rwanda and Sierra Leone, in Japan and South Korea, in New South Wales and the Outback, in Germany and Italy, Ontario and British Colombia, Venezuela and Brasil, St. Thomas and Puerto Rico, and in nearly every single state of the Union. And I am only one person. The size and scope of it all is breathtaking.

The smallness comes in other forms. It comes when an artist in Virginia does work for a charity project started by a friend in Philadelphia, who asks you to edit some website copy and help with his project’s literature, ends up being the same person you played basketball with in high school in a suburb of Denver twenty plus years earlier. Or you hear a story from a new friend about something you did many years before you ever even heard of each other, as it was told to them by someone you used to know. Or finding out that one of the boys in your class for several years was actually your cousin, after his daughter and yours start communicating about the family through an online message board. Or how a single piece of information can be passed around to tens of thousands of people in mere minutes, insuring that hotels in a single city will be booked solid for an event in under six hours.

So, what are the downsides of social networking? Well, for lack of a better explanation, it’s the people. Some people just are not that interesting to listen to as they go on and on about the proper way to butter their toast, or how many times they’ve washed their hair. But more than that, you learn about some of the inanities occupying their thoughts at any given moment. Did I really need to know this guy likes to wait until the hairs are sticking out of his nose to pluck them one at a time? Am I at all interested in how many times her precious little darling has gone to the bathroom today (let alone a description of what each diaper contained)? Sometimes, too much information really is too much. Also, how many times do I have to see that crazy cat video pop up on my screen because someone else wants to share it with everyone they know?

I guess, as with everything else, we have to take the good and measure it against the bad. If I have to listen to an over zealous new mother prattle on about her darling child in order to see one man rally his friends and acquaintances to help a homeless family find meals, then it’s all worth it in the end.

Besides, I can always hide/ignore all that baby talk if I have to.

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It’s not my fault!

2009/10/22

Talking over some serious issues with a friend recently, I was reminded of the key reason why sexuality was never an issue for me; my parents. My parents never played the gender role game with us kids. I mowed the lawn and played football, while my brothers learned to cook and sew. They treated us equally, regardless of our sex, and as a kid, it was the best of all possible scenarios. As a teenager, it was a slightly different perspective. Not understanding gender roles when I hit Junior High School in a whole new place was daunting, to say the least. But as an adult, I can truly appreciate the gift our parents gave to us.

As for the way we dealt with the sexuality of other people, we can also lay the blame on our parents. They taught us by example how to accept people for who and what are, and not some warped view of what was supposed to be normal.

My Dad’s best friend from his childhood was a girl. Dad & this girl were inseparable for years, traipsing through the woods of Southern MD together, getting into trouble at every turn, and generally making things tough on my grandparents as an unbeatable team of mayhem. She was teased a lot because she was one of those strange little girls who just didn’t quite fit in their world (1950’s MD). But that never mattered to my Dad, she was just his friend, and he liked the fact she wasn’t freaked out by his carport menagerie like the other girls. Their close friendship endured until Dad moved away, but the two stayed in touch for years.

Now, my mother is still not really comfortable about homosexuality, but it never dawned on me that Mom had any qualms about the whole thing until a friend of mine in Junior High came out and I tried to defend her. Mom told me that I should be careful about how I defended my friend. I was too filled with teenage indignation to really listen to her. Not until the rumors started about me.

When I finally told Mom about it, she told me that kids were often cruel with that which they don’t understand. The uncertainty messed with their ideas of reality and they had to make it wrong in order to avoid asking those questions of themselves. Mom was speaking from experience. She had fallen into the same traps when she was younger. It was her relationship with my Dad that changed her perspective. Three of Dad’s cousins were gay, in addition to his best friend. Dad was a man before his time, because he never found himself questioning a person’s character based on sexuality. My Mom has since learned this trait, from him, and from her children.

My parents’ example of treating everyone equally has given me an incredible yard stick by which to measure my own behavior.  They showed me a world of common sense and reason I hope one day to spread out beyond the realm of my own family. And I’ve seen glimpses of that world in other families. Maybe one day, when enough parents have shown their children that everyone is equal, regardless of sexuality or gender, regardless of race, regardless of economic standing, we can truly appreciate one another as human beings first, and accept the rest as just another part of the human condition. I know I do, and I will always blame my parents for that.

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The Maddening Crowd

2009/10/11

I wonder sometimes about the way people choose to communicate with the rest of the world. The internet has been an amazing thing, bringing access and knowledge the world over, in ways I never could have dreamed of as a kid. But it’s also given people a voice without the benefit of having earned it.

It used to be that you had to do something important, make some sacrifice, change the world, something…to get a voice in this world. Rev. Desmond Tutu, Dr. Jonas Saulk, Mahatma Ghandi, Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandella, Golda Meir, Russell Means, Anne Frank, Gen. Colin Powell (Ret), Pres. Jimmy Carter… The list of people who have contributed to this world, making it a better place, whose words I have carefully listened to or read over the years is truly breathtaking.

The gifts and sacrifices those people have made lead us to the world we live in today. A world that is filled with billions of screaming voices, each with something to say, with no one listening. The assault of shouts and declarations I am faced with every day is maddening. There is no discourse, no real debate, just people shouting back and forth, without anyone really willing to hear the other, except to berate them for what they have to say.

I have found myself, many times in the last couple years, jumping eagerly into heated debates with people, simply because they gave me the opportunity to speak and be heard. And that has been unfair to those people. I am so starved for true conversation, real discussion that I simply cannot let go of any opportunity to feel like I can actually communicate with another person. I am eternally grateful for my friends for not beating me into the ground for this, and for still sticking around. Better yet, for the ones who hold the mirror up to me so that I can see what I am doing.

My father has been telling me since I can remember that I was born to argue. I always respond that it is my mother’s I am this way. She will immediately try to deny it, but it is the truth. She raised me to be respectful, yes, but she also taught me not to accept the company line, not go along with the flow simply because that was how it had always been done. She taught me to question things, and to find the answers to satisfy those questions. But she also encouraged me to express my opinions and beliefs, if I so chose, and to defend them, if need be.

So yeah, I was born to argue, but I was also taught to listen and to get all of the facts before I form my position. Is it too much to think other people should do the same thing? I think that’s why those people from the past who were given the opportunity to speak their minds had to prove they had earned it. They were educated and experienced, and they formed their opinions after careful scrutiny and consideration. In a world of instant information gratification, why are there so many willfully ignorant voices screaming to the rafters in order to be heard? With the facts literally at your fingertips, why would you shout half truths and falsehoods simply to support a cause or an issue for no other reason than color of the buttons, or the version of Holy texts, or the financial position, or the color of your costume?

If you want an opinion worthy of listening to, learn how to express it without bellowing it in my face, come to me with facts, support your position with your own words and not some collection of sound bytes from a talking head, speak intelligently and with respect for my opinions & positions, even if you cannot agree with them. Cheap shots, screaming matches, and half truths do not a debate make.

If you truly want to be heard, speak softly, and get your facts straight.

-written by someone honestly trying to understand how to make the world a better place, one person at a time, and starting with themselves.

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