Thursday, November 27, 2008

The 20-Year Plan

Getting an education came as a calling late in life. It has been a joy and a reward. It has also been a challenge with some sacrifices along the way.

At age 32 I decided to go back to college I have been going for 12 years now, and I’ve learned quite a bit.

Part of the problem is that I bought into my father’s philosophy that education was worthless; that it was hard work not schooling that bought you success. I never really balanced the fact that this perspective was coming from a man that never completed second grade.

My career in Hollywood took all of my time and I never got a chance to complete my education in that the time required for the jobs and the tasks were round the clock. But it also led me to believe that you didn’t need one and in some cases the prevailing attitude often held education in disdain. I saw people at the time that were going to school having trouble trying to make ends meet. I was determined to not be a starving student and make as much money as I could through working.

The Army helped me to establish a work ethic of being hard driven and determined. But the drive and determination was often interpreted as compulsive, and I was seen as being rough around the edges. Furthermore I was essentially told that I was stupid – that my Army experience turned me into a brainless cretin. This was a turning point for me. It was an epiphany and a major turning point in my life.

Making matters worse, I had up to that point convinced myself that I was a poor student and incapable of going back to school. My grades in high school and elementary further solidified that point in my mind.

Even though I did not believe in education as a whole at the time I did know that it was important for me to continually improve my knowledge in my career. Upon leaving the military I had taken the money I had saved and entered a couple of classes in videotape editing and television signal theory. Both of those classes served to be foundational for me to become a post production supervisor at Mark Freedman productions.

As my Hollywood career waned I decided to continue my training and I ended up taking a Panavision certification class that was offered through the UCLA Extension program. I did very well in the class and ended up getting an A. It was at that moment that I had another realization. If I could get an A at a university that I could go on and get a degree at just about any college if I applied myself.

I initially started out as a communications major. I wanted to quantify all of the experiences that I had so far in that I had a pretty diverse experience in the media with my background in television and some motion pictures. Around that same time I ended up getting published in a couple of different magazines and really wanted to continue with that success on the side, so I changed my focus and my major to journalism.

Part of what keeps me going is spite, the fact that my father did not want me to go to college; the fact that Hollywood didn’t care about education. The fact that there were several people in my life made me to feel stupid. Perhaps these are the wrong reasons, but they were motivators nonetheless.

That may have been the initial motivating factors for getting an education but since that time I have encountered others that have kept me going:

• The sheer joy of learning
• Meeting fantastic teachers – having meaningful dialectics with professors
• Meeting students and friends at school
• Going to school has changed my life. I no longer think the same I no longer look at the world, space and the universe with the same set of eyes.
• I now know that I don’t know everything but that I have more questions and seek to gain more answers.
• An example to my daughter – School is important, education is important. It all starts at the kitchen table when you do your homework.
• Getting a degree shouldn’t necessarily serve as a springboard as a trade. Education should be broad scoped and widely encompassing. The more foundational the longer lasting it will be. -

I’m not getting an education to hide from a goal or from success but rather to prepare for it. I enjoy school in that it has served as a canvas to create works and has often pushed me to try different mediums.

Re-entering school as an older adult has been an interesting experience to say the least. Watching the kids fritter time and opportunity has put my need to apply myself into perspective. Often the instructors appreciate the older students who can bring meaningful dialog and insight to a conversation, turn in papers and assignments on time and often drive the class in a positive direction.

In my career as I have moved up in responsibility continuing my education has become even more challenging. In order to maintain life balance I’ve had to cut back on my classes in order to ensure sanity and a survivable stress level.

The 20 Year plan has come at a price – I’ve worked 8 of the last 12 years during the evening shift. I’ve missed a lot of events and family dinners and time with my daughter in order to chase the sheepskin.

All of this leads me to the questions:

Am I wasting my time?

Am I too late trying to get an education?

We’ll see.

Ultimately it was my mom that raised the point by saying I didn’t need Oz to tell me that I was intelligent or for that matter to give me a degree. I know that to an extent I was autodidactic, but having an education only went to solidify what I knew.

Now that I have a new job at a company that I have always wanted to work for, I am going to back off the schooling for now. Eventually I’ll get back to it, but for now I just need a little bit of time to spend with my wife and kid. If I time it right, I could try to graduate from college in the same class with my daughter

Ed Flores is currently a student at Mesa Community College. He has been accepted to Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society for 2-year colleges. He currently holds an Associate of Arts from Consumnes River College in Northern California and is 6 credit hours from a second associates degree in Arizona. At his current rate of academic progress he is set to graduate in 2015.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

A Thing of Quality

Aimee and I have been pining for armor for some time now. As father and daughter we have been secretly wanting our own set of armor. Now that we have been training in kendo for nearly six months that time is coming that we will be told to get armor for kendo. At the first stage of kendo the practitioner is instructed on the basics and is primarily focused on types of strikes, footwork and form.

There is a couple of problems here, the bogu or kendo armor does not come cheaply and we need two sets. We’re talking between $300 and $1000 here per set. And with Aimee continuing to grow she is going to need more than on set in her life.
In the past Jill has been set against getting anything to do with getting anything that could be construed as a weapon as a gift. When I asked for a new pocket knife or set of kitchen knives she was dead set against it. Whether it be superstition, false premonition or otherwise she did was against giving anything of the sort as a gift. After all Santa did bring Peter, Susan and Lucy weapons and armor in "the Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe," why can't he do the same for us? This scene alone sets precedent showing that Santa historically packs heat to give out to good little children.
Despite the money and false omens both Aimee and I will keep hoping and researching until our time comes.

On Youtube I found a cool video on how bogu is made. Much like a “How it’s Made” program the video takes you step by step through the process, only in Japanese.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

You know it's hot in Phoenix...

When the restaurants...

have to put pot holders on the door handles to keep you from burning your hands.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Family that Slays Together Stays Together

On the weekend after my birthday I wanted to go and watch a local Kendo class. Over the course of my life since I was 16 I have made it a point on occasion to go and watch the classes at the various dojos located throughout Southern California as part of the Japanese Cultural Institute program in California. Just after high school I attended sever different dojos depending where I was living at the time. Costa Mesa, West Covina and Pasadena were just a few of the cultural centers that I practiced Kendo at.
Kendo is an interesting art. More practical sport than art it encompasses more of the true spirit of bushido than many of the other Japanese arts that are currently practiced*

Due to my highly mobile nature during my late teens and my lack of stick-to-itiveness I never progressed to any level in Kendo. In Kendo one is considered to be in the introductory state until notified by the instructor at which point the student is allowed to acquire the armor or bogu necessary to truly engage in the art. Of the previous three attempts to practice the art I never mad it to that point.

On our visit I didn’t have any intention of getting my daughter involved in the sport. I thought that she was already too involved in martial activities with her participation in Aikido for the last 5 years and archery in the Junior Olympic Development program for the last year and a half. Kendo would just be another thing that could be construed as violent. But during our visit the instructor and his wife took an immediate interest with Aimee and began sizing her up for Kendo and Naganiata. The week following we returned and have been going steadily since.

Over the years there have been many anecdotal comments about what I am trying to do to my daughter and my parenting style.

I wasn't trying to raise boy
but rather
I wanted a strong daughter,
for her to grow up to be an empowered young woman....

“Edward has a hands-off parenting style,” a family member stated.

“You’re training her to grow up to be a CIA operative,” an employee remarked (that one is my favorite).

“He really wanted a boy” one parent from school had commented.

I had a reflective moment and did some soul searching about it to see if there was some truth about the last comment. After much reflection I came to the conclusion that this comment was not true and I did not have any deep feelings or resentment about having a daughter. In retrospect I felt the opposite. Before having a child I had the hope that it would be a girl, that I wanted a daughter. In this case with what classes she has gone through and what I have taught her from martial arts to drown-proofing to rock climbing and what I have exposed her to I reached a conclusion.

I wasn't trying to raise boy but rather I wanted a strong daughter, for her to grow up to be an empowered young woman....

We’ve been going to class a little over a month now and the workouts have proven to challenging, even harder than Aikido. The workouts are harder in Kendo but do not have the resounding after effects of the full body aches that are acquired after an hour of ukemi from Aikido. After the last session of Aikido I decided it best to take a little break after breaking my middle finger on the sensei’s gi while practicing an escape technique. After she spun out of my grip that I had on her left lapel there was an ungodly muffled snap and a moment of uncomfortable silence with a small gasp from the audience of mothers in the room. “I’m okay” I stated and returned to seiza at the end of the mat. I could hear my heartbeat in my ears as the blood rushed to my finger. At that point I decided to retire from joining my daughter on the mat in Aikido, she understood.

Last month during our trip to Los Angeles Aimee’s and I made a quick trip to e-Bogu in Torrance. We walked into the warehouse and were greeted by the employees who constantly bowed as they fetched various keikogis and hakamas for us to try on. It was amazing to see the amount of gear that they had on hand.

On our last class Jill came with us to watch and relax as she did some reading and needlepoint on the sidelines. After the class I asked Jill if she would be interested in joining us. “Not my thing,” was her response. She said that she was just not into the sword swinging, running around and shouting thing. Still, it was nice to have all of the family there. Even though she is not on the mat with Aimee during aikido or wearing bogu during kendo she has been an enabler by letting Aimee participate and over all the years driving Aimee to her sessions. So in a small way, she is always there with us.

* I realize that this is just an opinion.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Summer Movies

Now that Aimee is 10 she is able to handle movies that have action and that are somewhat suspenseful without having nightmares as a result. So this summer has been a blockbuster as far as movies are concerned. We've been able to see all of the summer hits and every weekend it's been a different movie.

When Indiana Jones came out last month we made it a point to go an see it on the largest screen here in Phoenix. I bought tickets ahead of time and I parked on the back side of the lot away from other cars. When we returned we found that 4 other Mini Coopers had parked next to us creating an impromptu car show.

With us seeing movies every weekend we have become regulars at the local theater. We greet the same ticket taker every weekend. He is an elder gentleman. Outspoken, yet polite with a good sense of humor.

Please note the name tag. I asked him what his real name was and he insisted that it was what is on the name tag, "Karate."

Every time I see him I get to say, "Hi Karate."

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

I've Never Been a Cop But I've Played One on TV

Because I worked in Hollywood there were a couple of occasions that I got to work in front of the camera instead of the darkened rooms of the telecine and editing bays. Once I got a call from my mom saying that she saw me on MTV backstage on a Winger video. Producer Joseph Sassone was kind enough to put me in as a cop for a Compton's Mosts Wanted music video. I have about 2.5 seconds of glory and if you time your sneeze right, you'll miss my part entirely.

As a supervisor at Pasadena Camera Rental (Pasadena Production Studios) I ran into quite a few film majors from the prestigious Art Center College of design. A couple of times I was asked to appear in front of the camera for their student films. The imagery in the film "Screamers" looked great for a student film. Shot on Ektachrome there was very little lattitude for error on the exposure. As a student film there was no money for negative film, color adjustment or multiple takes. Shot in very low light the film came out great, unlike my acting.

So long before CSI, with flashlight in hand Lt. Detective Ed was already on the murder case.

Monday, May 05, 2008

I Dig Watches

Ever since I was a kid I have always liked wristwatches. I purchased my first wristwatch from my piggy bank funds when I was 4. My mom still has the watch in her jewelry box. I am not sure if it still runs, but Timex has always been known to make inexpensive yet robust watches.

People think that I am a watch snob. This is simply not the case. I like watches of all shapes sizes and functions, I just happen to like automatic handmade watches.

About 24 years ago I plunked down $1100 for a Rolex Submariner and have pretty much not taken it of since that time.

After burning through several watches through Basic Training, Advanced Individual Training at the Infantry School, Jump School and the first couple of months at my permanent duty station at Ft Bragg with the 82nd Airborne division I decided to make the investment of a tougher, more professional timepiece. I wanted a watch that could withstand the rigors of being out in the field without looking like it was run through a rock tumbler. I just wanted to buy one last watch that I would never have to worry about again.

The last straw came when I was walking up the stairs fully loaded wearing two duffel bags of clothes and equipment that I was moving into my new room. Several soldiers came running up the stairs after having been released from formation, eager to begin their weekend of alcohol poisoning shoving me against the wall as they made their way past. The extra weight of all my gear amplified the impact to my left wrist shearing the crystal and hands off the newly purchased plastic jungle issue Timex.

That weekend I went to the Fayetteville mall to kill time and just happened to walk in to Leeds Jewelers. “Looking for a watch?” the salesman asked. “I want a watch that’s waterproof, shock resistant and impervious to scratches.” I responded thinking that there was no such product on the market. He then plopped down a green leather box with the distinctive gold crown foil stamped on it. “That’s exactly what I thought that you were going to say,” I replied. After some haggling I cut him a check for $200 and a contract to pay the reminder of the $800 in monthly installments. I walked out with a new stainless steel Submariner Date. It was the first year that the watch was fitted with the sapphire crystal. After visiting 22 countries and more that two dozen jumps out of airplanes, it still looks good and still holds time. I guess it was worth it.

I really dig diver’s watches. For all of the reasons listed above a diver’s watch is just something that you can always have with you and no matter what you put yourself through or where you find yourself a diver’s watch is pretty much going to survive the endeavor.

Very early on in our relationship I gave Jill a diver’s watch for Christmas. Earlier that year she had taken a trip to Mexico and ended up staying a day extra so that she could complete the diver’s certification course at the resort that she was staying at. She wore the Chronosport diver’s watch for 8 years until she wore the numbers off the bezel and scratched the crystal until it was opaque. She still has that watch in a drawer somewhere.

Rolex is an expensive proposition and these days not necessarily the right one. There are so many companies that fill the gap between Seiko and Rolex that are highly durable and reliable and that won’t set you back the current list price of $5000 for a Rolex.

Seeing as the Submariner was one of the first diver’s watches (but not the first, that claim can go to BlancPain and their Fifty Fathoms, which was just re released last year) many watches that followed fell into that almost identical format. Every time I show my daughter a watch I get the response, “but daddy, that looks like the watch you already have.” This prompted me to be on the lookout for diver’s watches looked different than the form factor of the Submariner. If you happen to win the lottery here are a few that I would suggest.

The design and colors harkens back to the heyday of the ‘70s but the bottom line is, have you ever tried to read a watch underwater? Anything under 30 ft is difficult so while on land the orange looks a bit much, but they are highly functional.

Panerai would have to be the grand daddy of all dive watches. Formed in 1936 the company supplied timepieces and compasses to the Italian torpedo suicide squads know as Decima Flottglia. In the ‘90s Stallone saw them in Italy and has become their ambassador. Bloody expensive watch, but man oh man is it worth it. Wearing one of these makes you larger than life. Jason Statham would tell you, but then he’d have to kick you in the head

The next two are unheard of watches for the most part but what I feel are going to be worth more that what you paid for them when you bought them. Both are German timepieces. The Swiss having made their name in watch making the Germans have been a very over looked source for timepieces. After all they are known for their precision in so many industries, why not watches?

Simple and clean lined, yet rugged and elegant at the same time.

A Very different look depending on the line (they make several different diver’s models) that can range from modernistic to avionic.

Back down to earth with a very dependable, rugged and not a bad looking watch, the classic Seiko diver’s watch. It can be had for less tht $200 and there are several companies out there that can do modifications to the face and hands.

Ed Flores is a freelance writer who lives in Chandler, AZ and currently owns three watches, a Rolex Submariner, a Hamilton Jazzmaster Viewmatic and a first generation Timex Ironman INDIGLO. His wife Jill at the moment sports a lady Invicta diver’s and daughter Aimee has a Timex Ironman INDIGLO.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Paging Dr. Ed

Earlier this year I was asked to participate in a school event. Jill usually attends these but because she was busy she asked that I attend instead. Turns out that they needed parents to run various stations for health day at the school. So I donned lab coat and stethoscope for the event. All in all it was a fun morning.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Unavoidable

There are many reasons to tell your kid not to be in a rush to grow up. Traffic jams, root canals, tax audits and colonoscopies are just a few good reasons why children should be encouraged to live in the moment. Eventually as we grow older some of these things are just unavoidable.

A colonoscopy is one of those things.

"...all at once the feeling of pain is sharp and full-bodied, with a hint of razor blades. It is like having an errant raccoon with sharpened claws stuffed up ones innards."

I am not all that unfamiliar with the scope, a few years back I had a run in with one before. Several years ago I was experiencing severe gastro-intestinal disorders and the doctors defaulted to the scope to eliminate all possibilities such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, or diverticulitus. After suffering a round of torture with the scope I was sent on my way with an invitation to come back in five years. Eight years has elapsed since my last procedure.

Late last fall my mother was having some health issues, she was constantly tired, weak and she had lost some weight. After multiple blood tests the doctors ordered that she get a colonoscopy. The results were not good. They discovered a massive tumor that had ruptured the intestinal wall. She was going to need surgery to remove the mass, and a CT scan to determine if the cancer had spread to any other parts of the body. As a passing comment the doctor performing the colonoscopy had guessed that she had the cancer or growth for about 5 years.

My mom had the surgery, her colon was resected, reattached and she began the regimen of chemotherapy. The biopsy of the tumor was conclusive; she was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer. She is on her 5th of week of chemo and so far she has managed to keep all of her hair.

All of this prompted pressure from all of my family to go and get checked out. As it turns out the doctor agreed. As soon as you have a direct relative that has a type of cancer, in this case colon cancer your chances of getting it yourself increase exponentially.

I was given a Speedpass to go to the head of the line for the magical mystery tour.

Needless to say I was scared and nervous. My first scoping several years back did not go so well. I was given enough Versed, a conscious sedative, but not enough of the painkiller Demerol. As a result I suffered excruciating pain but didn’t have the ability to say anything about it. The doctor and driver on the scope was very heavy handed with the scope and was overly generous with the gas that is used to inflate the colon. The result, pure misery. All I can say is that all at once the feeling of pain is sharp and full-bodied, with a hint of razor blades. It is like having an errant raccoon with sharpened claws stuffed up ones innards.

If the procedure is difficult the preparation is no better. You are instructed to not eat any solid foods for a day and you have to clear the plumbing. I had to take 24 doses of laxatives in a 4 hour timeframe. At first you think, “hey this is no problem.” Then you hear the muffled sound of a bed sheet tearing in half in your gut and you have to sprint to the toilet all the time hoping that you don’t explode in the process. You continue this whole routine for the next 10 hours or so.

This time the doctor was much better about the procedure. The attending nurse and anesthesiologist heard my concerns and gave me enough painkillers to take down a water buffalo. I didn’t remember or feel a thing.

It was a good thing I went too. The doctor found a precancerous 10mm polyp near the cecum, the joint where the small intestine joins the colon. He used a hot snare to resect it and sent it to the lab for biopsy. I am still waiting on the results, which should be good, but because they found polyps I get to do this all over again in 3 years.

It beats the alternative.

Please eat your fiber, cancer sucks.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Run Fatty Run

Another year another ½ marathon done. Once again I participated in the PF Chang’s ½ marathon here in Phoenix. I didn’t train as much this year. I had a mishap back in November. I fell on the final mile of a 4-mile run. I was doing a 9-minute mile and I hit the asphalt – hard. I immediately could tell that I contused the bones in my hand. Later I noticed a searing pain in my rib cage – I had probably broken a rib.
I backed off my training regimen immediately. Consequently when I could train again it was only weeks before the race.

I went into the race knowing that I would only run a portion of it, and then walk the rest. I did okay on the walk/run plan. Despite the aches and pains I crossed the finish line and earned the finishers medal.

Yesterday was the Arizona Distance Classic. I opted not to go this year. I would like to do at least on more ½ marathon this year, the training keeps me honest. Perhaps I’ll sign up for the Disneyland ½ marathon in September.

Despite all of the marathon business I just enjoy running despite the lack of talent for it.

Although I was not born on Mt. Olympus nor under its shadow of it I rise everyday to the heroes task:

Drink the eggs
Punch the meat
Run, run, run, up the stairs
Lather, rinse, repeat

Monday, March 10, 2008

Hollywood Memories

Going through some files this weekend I found a couple of photos that were taken from the sets of music videos.

The first photo is with David Negron from Los Lobos and Dwight Yokam from the set of "Hey Good Lookin" by Buckwheat Zydeco. I was the first assistant director for Oley Sassone on the set.

The second photo was from the set of a music video that was directed by Blair Underwood.