Monday, September 25, 2006

Anime Weekend Atlanta

My friend Curt invited me to a local anime convention this weekend. Anime (pronounced ani-may) is a specific type of animation that comes from Japan, and sometimes is even referred to as Japanime. This style of animation has found quite a following in America over the last few decades to the point that many American animators have begun to imitate it.

I grew up with several cartoon series that have their roots in Japan such as Voltron, Tranzor-Z, and yes, even the popular Transformers were originally from Japan. I had no clue what the origins of the cartoons were at the time, but what ten year old boy could resist super-detailed animation, big robots, and big storylines.

Sure, the storylines seem rather simplistic when I go back and watch them now, but anime has grown up just as all of us kids did. You see, in Japan, animation is a mainstream form of entertainment, with storylines for kids, teenagers, and adults. Some are very kid-friendly, and some deal with more adult themes such as sci-fi, and horror. Some are even more akin to soap operas. As we, the children of the 80's grew up, the distributors began putting out these more grown-up-minded series and they quickly caught on. Today these distributors showcase the latest series to arrive in America at anime conventions to show us what's on the horizon.

Going to this convention was a real treat. I got to see many people pay tribute to their favorite shows and characters. The lengths these fans take to duplicate the appearance of their favorite characters are amazing. Check out the photo attached to this entry. It's a picture of a fan dressed up as Speed Racer, yet another classic anime character.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Top of the dog pile

I just discovered that my site ranks number one on Google when I search for my name. I know that probably a little narcissistic, but hey, it's a little exciting for me.

Sorry I haven't posted recently. I've been busy with several projects, one of which is updating my design portfolio site. It should be complete in a day or two. I'm really excited about how it has turned out so far. Can't wait to share it with you.

Monday, September 11, 2006

9/11 Remembered

Five years ago I was being sued for a car accident that I was involved in while I was off at college in south Georgia. We had already attempted the trial once, but my lawyer said something during the examination of a witness that the judge believed had tainted the jury, so he declared a mistrial. We had to start all over again several months later in September of 2001.

At the time I was living in Long Branch, NJ and had to fly to Atlanta, where the trial was being held. In some sense it was great because I got to see my family at the insurance company's expense.

I remember we spent almost all of Monday, September 10th selecting a jury. We got through some questioning by the afternoon, but dispersed shortly thereafter, deciding collectively to start fresh the next morning.

I remember getting to the courtroom to continue the trial at 8:45am. The plaintiff and her lawyers sat and waited with me and my lawyer. We waited and sat, sat and waited for the judge to enter the courtroom. My nerves were already in a tizzy from being accused of something I didn't do. Butterflies were in abundance in my stomach in anticipation of the judge and the jury.

The clock on the wall behind the judge's chair ticked and tocked until it was nine o'clock, and then 9:10. Where is the judge? Let's get this show on the road!

Then I remember the judge, a sturdy man, dressed in long, open, black robes entering the room; his shiny, bald head reflecting the flourescent light from above. He rather unceremoniuously mentioned that the World Trade Center had been hit by a plane. I think my initial thought was exactly what everyone else's was: some small plane, probably a cessna, had gotten off course and run into one of the buildings.

The judge and the lawyers discussed how they intended the trial to proceed that day, and polished up some loose ends and paperwork before getting down to business. The judge left the room once more, intending to come right back to begin the trial, but returned a few minutes later to tell us that a second plane had hit the other tower AND another had hit the Pentagon. I think we all silently hunched forward slightly in our seats at that point, suddenly listening more intently, realizing for the first time that this thing might be bigger than we thought.

The plaintiff's lawyer slammed his fist down on the table and screamed, "This is an act of WAR!!!" to which the plaintiff burst out into tears presumably because her husband was in the military. She stormed out of the room.

After a few minutes they brought the plaintiff back in the courtroom and she seemed to have collected herself. We discussed whether we should inform the jury, because of course, they didn't have any contact with the outside world at that point. We agreed that we should in case they had any family members in New York or D.C. As it turned out, none of them had any relations in either place and seemed willing to continue with the trial.

We began the day's work and went through about two hours of testimony before the judge said we needed to take a break. That's when things really hit home. I remember milling about in the food court where many people had gathered around a wall-mounted television set. I wasn't supposed to speak to any jury members, but how could you not when you're gathered around the same TV set watching that kind of news? That's when we found out the towers had collapsed. Awestruck, we watched our first glimpses of the horrible events of that day.

Our fifteen minute break ended and we gathered back in the courtroom where the judge told us that more important things were going on that day, and we needed to go home and be with our families. He declared another mistrial and sent us home.

My mother, who had been kind enough to join me that day, drove me home. I remember feeling numb. The sun was shining brightly and cars were calmly driving around town; seemingly a normal day. The cheery sun and the calm traffic seemed surreal in light of the tragic events.

When we got home I sat down on the couch and watched CNN all afternoon. I took it all in. At some point in the day I learned of United 93, which crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. I couldn't stop watching. Who knew how much more was going to happen? Since the airports were shut down, I couldn't just pop back up to New Jersey for work, so I just sat there on the couch for the next few days and watched and watched.

The airports finally opened back up, and it was time for me to go. My mom had gathered some extended family to see me off. I remember looking at my mother that day and saw fear in her eyes. With false enthusiasm she asked, "Why don't we all just pack up the car and drive you back?" No, I assured her. This day of all days will be the safest day to fly. As I left my parent's house that day, waving at my family members through the window of my dad's truck, the thought did cross my mind that I might never see them again.

My flight was one of the first planes out of Atlanta's Hartsfield International Airport after it reopened, and it flew into Newark International Airport, which is just across the river from Manhattan. There were probably fifteen people on that plane. All thrity eyes stared out the right side, fixed on the gigantic plume of smoke billowing up from the southern tip of the famous island. I returned to NJ and heard stories from by bosses who had lost neighbors that worked in the WTC, and a co-worker whose uncle was an engineer at one of the buildings and had escaped the tragedy.

That's my "where were you when" story.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

National Parks Passport

Oh, and one more thing... I got this really nifty guide to the national parks of the U.S. at the national park on Saint Simon's Island. It includes a U.S. map with all of the national parks marked. Also, each national park has a cancellation stamp, so you can stamp your "passport" at each location. Pretty cool. If any of you are up for some trips to any national parks, let me know. These places are fascinating!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Saint Simon's Island

Before I even left Egypt my mother contacted me and told me that she wanted to plan a family "vacation" after my return to the States, so that we could unwind together. She couldn't have planned a better place to relax than St. Simon's Island, just on the Georgia coast.

We stayed at my great uncle's condo and took little jaunts to scenic sites such as the lighthouse, a ruined colonial-era fort, a historic church with an ancient (by American standards) cemetery.

One of my favorite parts was taking advantage of the condo complex's swimming pool. I can't tell you how long it has been since I truly went swimming, but I took advantage of the pool every day I was there... sometimes mutiple times in a day.

I think the highlight of my time there though was my and my mother's early morning trip to the beach. We arrived at the fishing dock at about 5:45am and then watched the sun rise from behind the lighthouse. I don't think I had ever seen a lighthouse actually performing its duty. There was a very distinct beam of light projecting through the humid, sea air.

We met and talked with several fishermen. One of them caught, not one, but two hammerhead sharks while we watched. Pretty creepy little critters. I expect they don't tase very good because he tossed them back into the water.