Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Vegas: Summertime Fireworks

 What could possibly be a more American way to celebrate our independence and the creation of our nation-state than to get irresponsibly intoxicated and set off explosives in the street? Often there's a ceremonial barbeque involved as well, where slabs of pork, beef or tubular meat-forms are seared and slathered for consumption, though this particular Fourth's festivities were devoid of such sustenance and socializing around carcasses. It was a rather impromptu thing, at least from my perspective, as I kind of crashed the housemate's party while Antho was at work. While there's no shortage of places from whence you can purchase boom-booms in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and configurations, we hadn't gone out and done so due to limited funds. These things, they happen. I wasn't particularly upset about this lack of combustive arsenal, partly due to the fact I'm not exactly 100% comfortable with the combination of booze and explosives in residential areas. I mean, Japan does fireworks, and they do them big and beautiful, so it's not exactly like celebrating with fire flowers is an entirely new phenomenon...  but those shows were generally situated around rivers or water, even in the case of Tokyo Disney's firework shows...

Anyway, when I was able to get over my trepidation at having things exploding several feet away from my vehicle (full of combustible gasoline and such), I was able to capture some pretty fun photos of the fire-flowers in blossom. I know, they're technically called fireworks in English, but I find the Japanese term of "hanabi", or fire-flowers, far more poetic and in-tune with the ephemeral beauty of the bursts. As brilliant and stunning as they are, they only light up the sky for these brief blasts of intense beauty. I'm not familiar with the chemistry involved behind achieving the different colors, or the different shapes, though I know the shape of the tubes themselves can provide some degree of variation in the bursts. That's one of the cool things about life, though, I suppose... you don't have to completely understand the mechanics behind something to appreciate it's beauty. Sometime's it's best to just stop and take it in for what it is before it's gone.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Vegas: Early summer garden

One of the things I was most excited about when we moved into our micro-apartment near downtown Las Vegas was the garden growing out back! While the intense heat doesn't exactly make the area an ideal climate for growing, especially when combined with the often sandy or exceptionally rocky soil, it is possible to grow things.  There's rarely a shortage of sunlight due to the sparse cloud cover and even rarer rainfall, so you'll need to supplement with lots of water and make use of a raised bed (such as this one), a climate controlled green house, or some other method of sheltering the plants from some of the intense sunlight. Believe it or not, plants can sunburn, too! As "too much of a good thing" is true-ism for humans, it's also true for many plants. That first summer upon moving in, the raised beds were doing quite well. There were squash, who's happy blossom is shown above, along with eggplants, green beans and peppers! We planted some green onions and pumpkins, but the pumpkins got dug up by our roommates to prevent them from taking over the garden...after that, we stopped trying to do anything with the garden and left it be. They had their system, and we figured it's best we stay out of their way!

Overall, the garden was pretty productive throughout the summer and a portion of the fall, though it grew a bit wild and the fruits were growing more sparse or over-ripe. There was enough bounty that we were all able to enjoy some of it, though I barely touched it since it was their garden. It was fascinating watching as it flourished and then began to recoil for the cooler months, productivity and vitality waning. There was a patch of wildflowers who's lifecycles similarly evolved as the months passed.  It's important to have these natural cues around us, to be exposed to a world beyond screens. Not only is it good for your health to eat your fruits and vegetables, but you get health benefits simply by being around them, too! So go on, get out there and check out your nearest public garden if you don't have your own! You might be surprised at what can grow in your area.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Vegas: Drunkachu and so long to Stan The Man

We live in strange, unpredictable times where anything is possible, no matter how incredible or how awful it may seem. Some of our greatest heroes have left us behind as they venture off to traverse the Rainbow Bridge, leaving a gap that many fans of superheroes and comic books will sorely and deeply feel. So long, Stan the Man. It's been an incredible ride, and your empire of creative work will undoubtedly continue to inspire and strike awe into the hearts of young and old for decades to come. Sigh. Not only did we lose Stan the Man, but then we got the trailer for Detective Pikachu. A live action Pokemon film in and of itself doesn't necessarily bode of impending cinematic craptitude, though previous anime adaptations to the third dimension have generally struggled to bring their subjects to satisfying reality, but we get a wise-cracking Ryan Reynolds as the voice of the typically linguistically limited character of Pikachu. To be fair, anthropomorphizing the little squeak isn't exactly new terrain as speaking animals have always been a favorite in films for Disney, but when it comes to Pikachu the last time he(she?) spoke people lost their minds.  

I guess, if I were a real-life Pikachu, I might want to run away to Vegas for a weekend of debauchery in a futile effort to escape my situation or the reality of losing another architect of my childhood. The world can be a dark and disturbing place, and we need people like Stan Lee to help us reimagine things, to look for the good, the heroic in people. While sometimes the stories of Good Versus Evil can feel trite, it's because they've been built upon an archetype established by the imaginations of men like Stan early in the advent of widely accessible comics. The premise of this escape from the difficulties of life was a huge part of what inspired the founder of Critical Care Comics to establish his non-profit organization! It may be only 28 pages of fantasy, but when you're stuck in the hospital it can be an absolute lifesaver to have a distraction from the endless beeping of machines or unsettling nature of hospitals themselves. Due to my location, I'm no longer able to volunteer my services to the group, but it makes me so happy to see them out there still doing their good work for the community of Las Vegas and any nearby hospitals they get called to. They're a seriously wonderful group of human beings, and I know that they'll be mourning the loss of Stan over the last week and into the future. I guess we all kind of need an escape these days, huh?

Photos in this post were taken by Antho!

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Driving: Portland, Oregon, to Seattle, Washington

If I had to summarise the city of Portland, Oregon, with one phrase, I think it would have to be; 
"Does this city have enough freaking bridges?!"

This isn't necessarily a negative thing! I'm not saying it's a bad thing Portland has 12 different bridges over the Willamette River, it's just a very noticeable aspect of the city as you drive into it. Reno has a bunch of bridges, too, though I guess they're considered some of Nevada's worst, so take from that what you want.  Portland is a cool town, full of hipsters, good food, tasty beer, giant bookstores, mild climate, and all sorts of other aspects that make it a popular destination for my peers when visiting the Pacific Northwest. It's hip, it's happening, and supposedly it's a lot friendlier than Seattle! My experience in either place is too limited to really make a judgment call there, but people in Seattle have generally seemed quite a bit nicer than those in Vegas, so if they're even nicer in Portland I'm not sure I'd know how to handle it. Maybe I've been lucky, or maybe I'm such a hermit by nature that the lack of external invites for socialization hasn't phased me. Whatever the case, this visit through Portland didn't even see us come to a full stop. We weren't here for sightseeing, I'm afraid (and Antho was disappointed), we had places to be. 

Still, we definitely intend to make a trek back down to spend some time in Portland, proper like. After all, I've had the luxury of visiting the city before, even dipping into Powell's bookstore and sipping on some locally brewed coffee, but Antho has yet to enjoy the pleasures Portland has to offer. We will, and I'm excited for that time, but it's not today. Not this trip. Sorry!


Friday, November 16, 2018

Oregon: Upper Klamath Lake

Believe it or not, there's a lot of water out on this part of the country! Coming from a drought-stricken desert where the better part of my lifespan has been spent conserving water and watching our most precious resource dwindle and wither away, it's kind of mind-blowing to drive for hours and pass one body of water after the next. From one river to a boat launch at the end of a neighborhood street, to endless lakes, there's so much water in this area! This, of course, facilitates the explosion of greenery that you'll see as you drive along. Coincidentally, there's quite a lot of farmland proliferating throughout the region, perhaps due to this abundant foliage and potential grazing lands. Like I said, coming from a desert, this all seems a bit weird. Everything is so green, and there's so much life springing from every nook and cranny, any location where a fortuitous foothold might be struck and dug into. The tracts of mankind's interjections can be seen stripping the land in bland, blase streaks of nudity, but even with our tireless efforts nature, uhh...finds a way... 

Upper Klamath Lake is one of these bodies of water you may find yourself driving by, should you follow a similar path to ours. There's something poetic in the blue sky touching the tippy-tops of purple mountains before a horizon of pallid water stretches out below. It's majestic, one could say. Inspiring. It can be difficult at times to quantify just how large these United States actually are...in the span of three days we'd driven over 1,000 miles (1,609 Km)! And we still had some miles yet to traverse before reaching our destination, too. We drove more than the entire length of the country of Italy (1,185Km or 736 miles)! We'd safely traversed the Extra-terrestrial highway in South-Central Nevada, visited Reno without getting divorced, spent the night and troubleshot some vehicular difficulties in the town of Merrill, in Southern Oregon...and now? Now we'd made it here, to Upper Klamath Lake, a beautiful expanse of blue where the earth and the sky blow kisses at each other. I recommend pulling over to take a moment and appreciate all the beauty surrounding you because if there's one thing you can say about nature it's that she's an absolutely inimitable genius. I mean, humans do some cool stuff- like the Cavendish banana is tasty enough, though it's potentially going to go extinct in our lifetime due it's simplistic genetics. Again, leave it to nature, she'll, uh, find a way.