Thursday, December 31, 2009

Girls of Cancer: Miss New Year's


In a glaring sign of this blog's popularity, no female cancer patient or survivor took up my offer to publish her photo, bio, and cancer story (scroll to the bottom of Girls of Cancer: Miss November for details). So, I have decided to dedicate the final month of my Girls of Cancer calendar to all you beautiful babies who have cancer, or had cancer.

Though cancer may run you down and make you whitish-pink like a piglet, and force you to implant bumpy plastic called a "port" below your collarbone, and make you never want to do your hair or makeup again, assuming you still have some follicles, we know you are gorgeous on the inside.

And when you complain about the pain, or hunger, or lack of McDonald's in the hospital cafeteria, we know that is part of the process.

And when you nag about asking too many questions, and then not enough, we understand that, too.

And when you ask others to fetch your water or TV remote when you're off chemo and not neutropenic (i.e. relatively healthy), we know that you've earned it and we may or may not force you to watch college bowl games.

Here's to you, Girls of Cancer, for a happy and healthy 2010.

And here's to T-Woods, Bron Bron and myself for a happy December 30th birthday. Hopefully, T-Woods will have a less dramatic 2010. However, something tells me he received more birthday "wishes" than me and LeBron combined.

Happy New Year, ladies!

Leia Mais…

Monday, December 28, 2009

'Avatar' Transports You to New Worlds

Avatar movie posterThe “Technology Quarterly” edition of The Economist, which publishes four times a year, displays new technology that most people aren’t aware of. I first learned about wireless mobile phone recharging (Palm Pre), completely electric cars (Nissan Leaf), and virtual autopsies (likely to appear on CSI soon) in Technology Quarterly. That’s also where I learned about 3-D computer monitors and televisions. I still can’t wrap my mind around that.

James Cameron’s blockbuster, Avatar, exhibits 3-D like moviegoers have never seen before. You still must wear glasses, but not those nauseating red and green ones. You forget you’re wearing them as soon as you see the alien moon, Pandora.

We watch movies to share culture, and for something to talk about, and just for something to do. The good ones trigger an emotional response like happiness or inspiration. The great ones sweep us to a new reality and make us forget that we exist as we live through the characters, and see what they see. Avatar, which is estimated to have cost $300-400 million including marketing, succeeds with this in two ways.

The three-dimensional world of Pandora comes to life like Planet Earth only wished it could. You can almost feel the creatures’ snarling breath, and the rain dripping off the huge leaves of the forest. Halfway through the movie the person behind me dripped soda on me, and for a second I actually thought it was from one of Pandora’s broadleaf evergreens.

And without a single dull second in its 160 minutes, Avatar allows you to live through the hero and heroine. Though considered a science fiction/action/adventure flick, Avatar is much more of a love story (even Cameron’s The Terminator was a love story masked by a sci-fi action classic starring Lord Schwarzenegger) with its typical storyline: guy fools girl to get something he needs, falls in love with her, and then wishes he hadn’t fooled her. Most movies, books, and songs revolve around a guy trying to find a girl, or vice versa. Avatar succeeds because it is so creative, and you feel the characters’ pain and adversity.

My family was supposed to see Avatar with all the other Jews and Chinese on Christmas, but it was sold out by 11:00 a.m. for the entire day. When I checked times later that day for IMAX showings on December 26, Avatar was already sold out, so I settled on non-IMAX (but still 3-D). The movie is truly revolutionary, and if you do not see it in the theaters in 3-D then you are the fool.

I have attempted to be objective in my ranking, and even tried separating the movie from the 3-D, which is probably impossible since they are intertwined. Assuming I can mentally remove the 3-D, the standalone movie is still the best of the year, followed by Transformers 2 and Zombieland. Including the 3-D, it was one of the most enjoyable cinematic experiences of my life. That is a bold statement, one in which I try hard not to make, but I cannot stop thinking about it and wishing I was re-watching it right this moment. “Just remarkable,” my dad said upon exiting the packed theater.

James Cameron surely made many millions of dollars for this project that he’s been working on for some 15 years, but the aggregate value that we consumers receive far exceeds his payment. There is rumored to be one or two sequels, and so long as Aquaman is not simply an Entourage creation, Cameron best get cracking.

Leia Mais…

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Aloha: A Picture Story

I slurped water from the fountain, and then headed to the bathroom. After all, we can reduce the airline's fuel consumption if everybody emptied their bladders before flights, and then airfare would be cheaper.

I entered and saw someone standing at a sink to my right. I halted and did a double take—my eyes met hers bouncing off the mirror.

That was the second time in my life I stepped into the wrong gender's bathroom. It was also the first "stupid thing" registered on our trip. Greek, JD, and I were headed to Hawaii to meet our other friend, NoCommonSense, for a week-long vacation back in August. It was assumed that the most stupid things and voice cracks would boil down to me and NoCommonSense. I ran away with the voice crack battle within the first day, but surprisingly Greek performed the most stupid things.

NoCommonSense is an Army doctor who lives in Kailua, on the island of Oahu. Despite its high cost, when my brother, JD, invited me on the trip, I couldn't turn down this "life experience."

NoCommonSense had a forest in back of his apartment, which we heard come alive every morning through the open screen, as we lost gallons of sweat since he never turned on air conditioning.Forest in Hawaii
I wanted to broaden my horizons on the trip, so at Dukes—a popular restaurant—the first night, I ordered white fish and ate raw ahi tuna, both unprecedented. I would later try sake (Japanese wine), Thai food, and complete a bet to eat a bowl of ginger. I ate without first washing my hands (psychotic by my not-quite-OCD standards). At a sushi restaurant, I couldn't bring myself to try sushi, and instead ate duck (delicious).

Three of us were shirtless when we hiked a trail near the coast. "We're not gay...really," we were prepared to say if we passed by pretty girls. Not that there's anything wrong with that.Beautiful landscape in Hawaii
The three of them kayaked to two very small islands. NoCommonSense tried to help a married couple get their vessel through the break and into the water. He got a running start and pushed their kayak forward, when a wave threw him back on his ass, the kayak toppling him. I had a bird's eye view from my beach chair. Looking back, that should have counted for about 100 "stupid things."Clear ocean in Waikiki, Hawaii
We checked out the nightlife in Waikiki. NoCommonSense saw a very well-maintained bar called Hula's and brought us there. He thought Hula's flag and tiki torches were cool. Before entering, we looked closer at the flag and saw the clearly defined rainbow—Hula's was a gay bar. That should have counted for 1,000 "stupid things." (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)

Hawaii interstate road signOn one of the interstates, which don't even connect the islands, we headed to the North Shore, a legendary surfing hot spot where Forgetting Sarah Marshall was filmed at the resort, Turtle Bay. On that day, the waves were peaceful and caused little disruption while we threw the football. I felt a rush playing quarterback in our two-on-two game as I was brought back to the old days when I'd bomb it out for NoCommonSense. However, I nearly led him to his death as he dove for my poorly thrown pass near a rock down a small hill.

A random, sandy dog named Kona moseyed to our location and lay in our shade. He was about as ugly as non-infant mammals get. Kona stayed with us until we reached our car when we left for the afternoon. Sadly, I'm not surprised that nobody claimed Kona. I was a little afraid to touch him.Ugly dog on North Shore beach
We rented a military boat on a bay.
Cloudy Hawaii
Some bastard buzzed us.
Goose: No. No, Mav, this is not a good idea.
Maverick: Sorry, Goose, but it's time to buzz a tower. (Top Gun)Naval base exercise in Hawaii
We anchored in the shallow and played a game to see how many volleys we could get without the ball hitting the water. They couldn't reach 100, but after I joined we got 295 in a row. It should be noted that Greek probably volleyed about 80 of them to himself.

This is what rain looks like from a distance.Rain pouring from clouds in Hawaii
JD vehemently refused to hike "Stairway to Heaven."Stairway to Heaven in Hawaii
Instead, we hiked "3 Peaks." NoCommonSense claimed that all three peaks wouldn't take very long or be difficult. We quickly learned to add several hours to NoCommonSense's time estimates. I turned back after two-thirds of the way through the first peak because huge clouds from tropical storm Felicia freaked me out. What if it pours and the water rushes down the mountain and takes us with it and drowns us? Greek turned back before completing the first peak because he was more out of shape than I thought a Navy captain could possibly be.Three Peaks hike in Hawaii
The soil decomposed too quickly for roots to take hold underground, so buttressed roots formed. In my not-even-close to expert opinion, this is a the definition of a rain forest.Bamboo forest near three peaks in Hawaii
Bamboo forests are noisy when windy tropical storms arrive.Bamboo forest near three peaks in Hawaii
The three fools tried surfing in Waikiki. I snapped many photos to test my camera's quality at the full 10x optical zoom. I couldn't tell who was who that far out. I had thought maybe this was NoCommonSense below. When I reviewed my photograph, I saw that it was not.Surfing on Waikiki beach
This was more like them.Surfing on Waikiki beach
The birds (and bikini-clad girls) were much more captivating.Birds on Waikiki beach
Hilton Waikiki Prince Kuhio: one of the nicer hotels I've stayed at.Hilton Waikiki Prince KuhioHilton Waikiki Prince Kuhio
Here is the yacht JD will purchase after his bar takes off.Yacht near Waikiki
NoCommonSense wanted to take us to restaurants we'd never tried. "There's a really good place called Gordon Biersch."

"There's one of those at Tysons Corner two seconds from my house, you fool!" JD responded.

NoCommonSense also thought that Cheeseburger in Paradise was indigenous to Hawaii.

We went to karaoke night (or what NoCommonSense's Asian girlfriend pronounces "kah-rah-oh-keh"). Greek and NoCommonSense sung a few songs, which amounted to Greek (left below) kicking ass and NoCommonSense (right below) standing there and pretending to sing. Nice job, NoCommonSense.Karaoke in Hawaii
We visited the USS Missouri at Pearl Harbor. I may be able to fit in the 50 caliber gun barrels.USS Missouri at Pearl Harbor
We couldn't resist going to Buffalo Wild Wings (BW3s), which even NoCommonSense knew was a favorite destination in the continental U.S. We packed so many activities into our trip, that just chilling was a pleasant reprieve. Actually, we wished we could stay at BW3s for the remainder of the afternoon. That's something we'll keep in mind during future vacations.Buffalo Wild Wings in Hawaii displaying Hawaiian football players
Because of Felicia, we didn't get a chance to swim with sharks. However, we had to visit Kilauea Volcano on the Big Island, likely the only time we'll ever see an active volcano. We flew to the Big Island, slept for a couple hours, and then met "Keith Lava," the boat tour operator, at around 3:30 a.m.

NoCommonSense guaranteed he'd get seasick because he always does. He told us a disturbing story of puking on his sister during a car ride when they were kids. Not even Dramamine prevents his motion sickness. I'd never gotten seasick, so I felt comfortable laughing at his misfortunes.

To get through the break, the boat had to gun it. Within the first 20 seconds I wanted to puke. It took 45 minutes through very choppy waters to reach the volcano, then 45 minutes at the site, and then the trip back to shore. It was bar none the most miserable $300 experience of my life. It was worse than getting chemo without Zofran. The increased swaying when we stopped to see the volcano was actually worse than the trip there.

I took some 50 pictures of the lava, but most are blurry because I was nauseous and shaking. We had great tour guides who hammered into the molten rock, and even let us hold it. JD and Greek were smiling widely in the pictures of them holding the rock. NoCommonSense and I were greenish and wishing we could stand on the volcano because it moved less than the boat.Kilauea Volcano lava on the Big IslandKilauea Volcano molten rock on the Big IslandKilauea Volcano molten rock on the Big IslandKilauea Volcano lava on the Big Island
It took some time after reaching stable land before I felt better. This view of the ocean helped.Sunrise near Kilauea Volcano on the Big Island
We had gone straight from the Hilton to the airport before the lava trip, so I had stuffed my wet clothing in a bag and left it in NoCommonSense's car. When I opened the bag after we re-checked into the Hilton, the odor was nearly as nauseating as the boat ride. JD left a couple articles of his next to mine outside, and they absorbed the scent. He considered just throwing them away on the spot.Wet, smelly clothes in Hawaii
We spent some more time at BW3s, Waikiki beach, and a Mexican joint which to NoCommonSense's delight cannot be found in Virginia. One of us who will not be named fell asleep at a bar standing up because he woke up at 2-something a.m. that morning.

Special thanks to NoCommonSense for housing us, hauling our asses around, finding activities, and ultimately having to take precious time off work. With the exception of being so isolated and far away, I could see myself living in Hawaii. It is quite spectacular, like a different world at times, and yet more "Americanized" than you'd expect.



Inside jokes, including acronyms:

PEDs: Performance-Enhancing Drugs

CB: Cold Beer

GCB: Good Cold Beer

HB: Hot Beer

Boats and hoes! (Step Brothers)

I'm on a boat! (Andy Samberg)

I would give $50 to see JD try to surf again and scrape himself so much that it looks like a living organism is growing inside him

I would give $300 to see a certain somebody "Hulk Up" again

Somebody may owe somebody something for "Hulking Up," though the latter person may not remember after having "Hulked Up" two or three times

Somebody may have the most hilarious photo of somebody lifting his shirt up and looking like a fool after having "Hulked Up" two or three times

Shuffleboard is incredible

Despite my small stature, I out-ate everybody

Apple pancakes and pumpkin muffins are heavenly

Super special thanks to Greek for forgetting to send me a CD containing all his photos, like he was supposed to, which is the reason it took me four months to publish this story. I still don't have that CD which would contain a photo of NoCommonSense puking a little bit after the lava tour. I somehow managed to contain my chunks.

Keep reading:
Aloha: The Lost Stories and Photos

Leia Mais…