Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Tides of Life

I have always loved the ocean. As a boy in Hawaii, I think the Pacific ocean knew my name and called me. After all, that is where I was baptized. While I served my mission in Haiti, the hardest "rule" that we had to follow was that we couldn't go swimming. Here I was in a paradise with the Caribbean just feet away at times and we were supposed to look away. Well, needless to say, I failed that rule a few times (after all, we did baptize in the ocean there too).

One thing that I have noticed about the ocean is the tide. It is quite powerful and serves an amazing purpose. I think we have tides in our lives. At times, the tide is low and we feel it. But, it is only a matter of time when things start to change. Sometimes the change is in ways that we expect, but at other times, it changes in a way that we would have not likely imagined.

Last week, the tide in Haiti changed dramatically. I've been in a few earthquakes including a few large ones having lived in Southern California for 20 years. It is part of life. But, earthquakes are rather startling events because one moment you're at point X and the next at point AAADVDE. I've heard that the Haitian quake lasted about 24 seconds. In that time frame, thousands of lives were lost, buildings destroyed and millions of lives changed. The tide of life changed.

Watching the news after such an event is an odd experience. It seems like disasters go in these somewhat predictable patterns. There is the disaster that is at first heard about, but then the extent starts to be revealed. Then the shock of the event is felt. Then the response begins. From there, a thousand stories about the response are made. Some are good, most are critical with a lot of finger pointing. Most of the stories that come out of disasters focus on the negative, but there are some uplifting moments. For most of us on the sideline, we observe, lament, wonder, hope, and feel. We know that there is little that we can do, but we try. We pray, we hope, we give, we watch and we read. Personally, most disasters for me are frustrating because I feel like I want to be there. I want to dive in and rescue. Its the lifeguard in me (which I never was). Haiti, is so frustrating because I really believe in the heart of the people. The everyday person there (and probably everywhere) is a good, caring soul. They need hope. In Haiti, there is little hope, but perhaps, as the tide starts to ebb its way back, something amazing can happen. It will take miracles, but miracles happen. Like the ocean tide. A little miracle that we take for granted.

Here is to a miracle for Haiti and for Liken. It needs miracles too.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Dear Haiti

I had to write a quick blog about Haiti, where a part of my heart is always kept. Two days ago a massive, unthinkable earthquake hit the capitol city, Port-au-Prince. If you have ever been to Haiti, which I recognize that few in this world (as a %) ever have, you know that nothing could be worse. The country is built for deluges of water, but not for an earthquake. In fact, I can't imagine a more unthinkable event relative to the way the city is both laid out and built upon. Much of the city is built on various slopes, hills and mountains. The buildings are largely cinder block with very poor reinforcement. Concrete was considered great because they had it in abundance and because it could take a pounding from the rain and wind and not be fazed. But, throw a powerful earthquake (and those that have been around earthquakes know that 7.0 earthquakes are off the scale of scary) at that concrete and we're talking disaster. The very weight that protects now kills.

Another problem is that Haiti has very little in the way of infrastructure. They have very little heavy equipment and very little room to maneuver around. The city is packed very tightly. How you get non-existent heavy equipment in is beyond me. Then add to that the fact that there is very little advanced medicine in the country (or even much in the way of basic medicine) and we're talking a medical epidemic certainty.

Of course, for me, I think about the sweet people that live there. They are very childlike in their approach to life and I know that many of them never even dreamed of an earthquake. Kids in California know about earthquakes and many have experienced them. But, for a Haitian, I doubt that 99% even ever thought of such a thing existed. I know that the majority of the people there, who are very fearful like a child of many things, must be terrified about going into their homes. I would think it will take a long time, if ever, for the people to get over this new threat in their lives.

So, what is to be done? I actually believe that a lot and that it can be a turning point for this country. For one thing, it will bring much, much needed relief to this country. Visiting Haiti last year I saw a country that looked like an earthquake had hit it. It was ravaged by the decades of abuse. Pat Robertson says that it is because Haitian forefathers made a pact with the Devil. I would say it is because the people there are so childlike that they're easily manipulated and there has been so much abuse of the people. Through this disaster, perhaps the people get the much needed help and that they can rebuild a city that was beyond hope without a true disaster. Perhaps, this will be a chance to start again. They can rename the city Phoenix, for it will literally need to rise out of the dust. Perhaps, in some ways, this is an answer from a loving Father in Heaven who is sending help to some of his choicest sweetest children.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Liken and Weight Loss

So, it is a new year. I actually am excited about 2010. I just love the number to start off with. I have no idea what the year will bring, but that, in and of itself, is a bit exciting. I hope that we'll be successful with our next Liken. There are so many things that can go wrong, but perhaps we'll work through all of the details. Already this year Sophie has started preschool and Aria has her first Softball tournament scheduled. I would love to have the financials for the entire year mapped out, but I guess you can't have everything. Davis and Steven continue to work out at Taekwondo (can't spell that) and Nathan continues to pose intriguing questions.

Now on to my weight loss for 2010. I entered the Biggest Loser Agle contest on New Year's Eve with my wife and daughter, who feels that she needs to lose 15 pounds, which I'm not sure is wise, but I guess Christmas took a toll on her too. I plan on losing 30 pounds going from my powerful 185 down to my college weight of 155. Coppelia is aiming the highest trying to lose 32 pounds to 135, which I think is too much, but we'll see. I, of course, love a good contest, so this one should be a lot of fun. I project it will take me 12 weeks to accomplish my goal. Weigh ins are on Tuesday night in conjunction with the show, The Biggest Loser. I'll track my progress (or the lack thereof) on this blog since it is soooooo public.

At least one thing is sure, Christmas cookies are tasty and need to be eaten only around Christmas. Wow, that was a lot of good eating. Go Liken.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Action, Camera and Lights

When you set out to make a movie you really have to think about an amazing number of details. I went and saw Avatar the other day and I marveled at the spectacular visual effects in that movie. They truly are amazing. Yet that movie, and every other movie is really just a audio/visual story, the result of putting together thousands of details in a symphony of sense bombardment. When it works, wow, there is little to compare.

Liken's "Jonah and the Great Fish" is a movie because it too will be a audio/visual story. For the film to be realized, it requires working through a lot of details. My guess is that Liken's budget ratio to Avatar is about 1:2,000. So, for every individual working on Liken's Jonah James Cameron had 2,000. Probably more. So, does that mean that his film is 2,000 times more difficult. Probably yes, from a special effects POV, but definitely no most other aspects. I also think when people talk about how difficult the job of president is that how hard could a job be if you have 600 people working directly for you (not the military people, but all of your staff). I mean really.

Try making a movie by yourself or with a few individuals. That requires more than just effort, it requires amazing levels of faith. Each person involved is critical to the success of the effort. Losing even one key member means more problems to be solved. Last night, Dennis and I went at 11:00 pm to the location of our film shoot, the Scera theater. The primary focus was working out how to light the key cyc wall (a wall that you can light against) for the film. Seems that the Scera has a couple too few poles to use to accomplish the goal. The solution was bantered around, but it will come down to money and whether the Scera allows us our solution. We'll have to see.

Money is always a main concern for a Producer. I'm sure the best part of being James Cameron is that you have pretty much an unlimited budget for your productions. I suppose he has earned that with his success. We, on the other hand, are doing all we can to find the funds to finish Jonah. I have to feel that we'll find a way, because the alternative isn't acceptable. Seems that everywhere you turn there are problems to be solved. I think ultimately that is what Dennis and I have honed--our ability to solve problems through concerted action. Right now, I'd say Dennis has solved about 2,000 problems in this production. I'm probably about 1,800 problems behind him and I'll never catch up cause he just keeps solving more of them. He's good at that.

So, this blog is just me musing on Liken's Jonah and our efforts to produce it. We're about 35 days from filming, but we have the added challenge that James Cameron never had, we're also putting on a musical. Now, how about that for degree of difficulty.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Ah Christmas Eve

There is little question that Christmas Eve is one of the best days of any year. As a kid, I just loved the anticipation of Christmas. I loved Christmas. Not as much as say my sister Ruth, but I did love it. I remember one Christmas, my guess is 1973. I must have been about 10. It was a Christmas when I really, really, really, wanted a bike. You know, a bike was the creme-de la-creme of Christmas gifts as a kid. I remember getting two of them. The first was my purple Stingray--what a bike. Sadly, stolen twice living in Hawaii. In 1973, we lived in Cedar City Utah. I can remember that Christmas tree in our house on Kayenta Circle. It was a beautiful tree and that year must have been good for my folks because it seemed like there were hundreds of presents. I guess having 7 kids must do that. I don't think any of my siblings were yet married. Anyway, I was sooooo excited for Christmas.

I can remember in my mind the Christmas tree that year and counting presents under the tree with my sister Ruth, who could tell what every present was by some amazing power. However, she would refuse to tell me, which drove me crazy.

I can't remember much else about that Christmas except that I got a new bike. A 10-speed bike. It was the coolest thing ever. I can still picture seeing it. It looked spectacular. Christmas was the greatest. It's funny the presents you remember. I think my second favorite present was a GI Joe truck that carried my cool GI Joe. I remember it because that year it snowed and the snow was magical that Christmas day. It was soooo beautiful and made even more beautiful by my GI Joe truck that was awesome in the snow. I loved it.

The stocking back then was the real thing. Filled with an orange (tolerable), nuts (somewhat tolerable) and candy (AWESOME!!!). Of course, the candy would include that hard candy and some of it was good, but chocolate was amazing.

This Christmas has been rather remarkable. I can't remember ever receiving so many gifts from friends and neighbors. It has been amazing. There is no way to not gain 10 pounds. Anyway, the outpouring of love has been wonderful. I guess on this Christmas Eve I have to say that I feel good. This has been one of the more difficult years in my life in many ways, but in others it has been great. But on this Christmas Eve I feel blessed. We celebrate the birth of Christ on Christmas morning and that is a wonderful gift. I can only imagine that on that first Christmas eve that the whole universe was excited. Probably even more excited than I was back in 1973...maybe.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Diatribe on Sickness or the Lack thereof

A business partner of mine used to always comment that I was always getting sick. I would indignantly respond that I never got sick. He then would reply that I had a cold then so I was sick. But, I ask you, is a cold really being sick. I did go through a few years where it seemed I'd get a cold or two every year. Those colds were certainly doozies. But, I don't think I ever missed a day of work while being "sick." So, I personally believe that being sick means you can't go to work. Sick means that you're pretty much laid up in bed moaning and groaning and thinking that you're going to die. If you only have a sinus headache and a runny nose, that isn't sick, that's being inconvenienced.

My wife, Coppelia, is inconvenienced today. She has a cold. It is a sinus cold, which have to be the worst of the cold world. It was nice that she was able to get some extra sleep this morning because with six kids that can be a true struggle. But, the cosmos aligned and she managed to get an hour or two of extra morning sleep. Ah, morning sleep. That is the best sleep of all sleep.

Anyway, back to my record of sickness. I think in my 25 adult years that I've been sick about twice. I have to say that health has been one of my best blessings. In my patriarchal blessing it says that I would be blessed with an abundance of health. I received that blessing just before my mission to Haiti, a place where being sick isn't a possibility, but an inevitability. That blessing would prove a miracle to me. I took a bottle of Kaopectate to Haiti (you could do that back then). I remember my first week in Haiti and the other companionship was totally sick. I mean like Malaria sick. They were downing a gallon of kaopectate and the pink stuff just to survive. I vowed then to make my single bottle of K last my entire mission.

Now, here my blog gets a bit disgusting, but life is a bit disgusting at times. On my mission, we had a term for a solid stool. We called them "Statesiders" with the name coming from concept that if you were in the United States that you might expect something solid. But, in Haiti, having a statesider was a minor miracle to the point that if you had a real good statesider you would proudly declare the event to the entire house. I know, elders will be elders. In any case, having the trots wasn't an occasional thing, it was the thing. You just had to learn to deal with it. In the US, if you had those conditions, you'd probably say that you were sick, but I learned that having the hersey squirts wasn't being sick, it was simply an inconvenience.

Of course, eventually, you would eat or breath something and your stomach would begin to suffer. However, I learned eventually that having a tummy ache wasn't that sick, it was just not feeling great. So what if you tossed your cookies every now and then, you couldn't just stop preaching the gospel. If you missed an appointment in Haiti, the individual was really hurt so you tried very hard to never miss one (funny, how it didn't work the other way around). So, on my mission, I went month after month looking at that bottle of K. The contents went down every month as I would sip it from time to time when I was feeling very inconvenienced. I remember one time when my inconvenience was very difficult. Our home, which served as our chapel and had four Elders living there, was filled with Malaria. I was the only one without Malaria. We had no phone in our home and there were only four phones in the entire region of 100,000 people. So, I walked by myself (an odd experience) to call in the troops (aka, the Zone Leaders) to come and save us and take the truly "sick" to the hospital. Apparently, my blessing hadn't provided relief.

On my first attempt, I couldn't get through. When I got back to our home, I found our neighbors doing some sort of voodoo ritual to try and save my comrades. It was a ridiculous situation and I found myself starting to feel real sick. Well, I kicked out the voodooists, "thanking" them for their efforts. I then re-read my patriarchal blessing as I felt my temperature rise to amazing heights while my companion and the other two Elders just wallowed wishing for a release from their pain. I remember praying that I wouldn't need to finish of my bottle of K, or worse yet, go to the hospital with Malaria, which was about a 10 day ordeal. I remember after the prayer that I should go take a shower, which was a cold shower as that is all we had. I did so and then found myself back at the phone center in town (with clothes) and successfully making contact with the Zone Leaders who were on their way to save the day. I actually managed to escape Haiti without ever being "sick." I had a lot of inconvenience, but not sick where you spend the day in a hospital with a needle in your arm and taking lots of odd medications.

I can truly say that I feel blessed with the health that I've enjoyed my entire life. I've gone to the Doctor a few times in my life, but I think I'm on the lower side of the bell curve of sickness. I take about 20 advil a year, which is pretty good I think. In fact, come to think of it, I must have gone through most of the colds of the world, because I don't think I've had a doozy in quite a while. Watch, I'll probably get one next week and think my head is going to explode. Oh well, at least I left that bottle of K with a couple of sips left before leaving Haiti. As for my business partner, may he rest in peace. He got sick a lot. I miss him a lot this time of the year.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Life is filled with "those days" and I'm not just talking about the bad ones. The good "those days" aren't all that often, but they do happen. For me, this probably isn't one of "those days," at least as far as I know. I could be wrong as we're going to meet a guy about funding Liken's Jonah and that would certainly have to be one of "those days" or for simplicity a TD (like a touch down, but this stands for "those days"--got it?!).

I think the day your kids are born is a TD. The day you get married a TD. The day you get your first real job. Every Christmas when you're growing up, a TD. The day you go on your LDS mission, a TD and the day you come home, a TD. One of life's less remembered, but still a TD is the day you get your braces off. I didn't have braces all that long, but I do remember being grateful to have had them (at least I am now) and grateful to have them off. Today, Aria (my 17 year old daughter) gets her braces off. It is a TD for her and we know that being a senior in High School with braces isn't the greatest. She hasn't complained much and she has definitely suffered much. So, her is to Aria's TD. Only four kids left to go and the day the last kid gets braces off that will be a TD for the parents.