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Emails From My 2 Year Old

6 Mar

A couple of times in the past I have used this site to write letters to my boys for them to read when they’re older.  Now, they are writing to me.  Max (4) is starting to read and can write his name as well as a few other words while Dodge (2) thinks my name is “Dada Butt.”  Both boys are amazed by anything with buttons and the flock jukeboxes and ATMs whenever we are out to eat.  What else has buttons?  Phones.  Dodge has taken to emailing me while I’m at work where (I recently found out) Max thinks I go to play video games on my computer all day and “get stuff.”  Understandable since the only time he has ever used a computer was to play a game and whenever we swing by my office on weekends I tell him I need to run inside to “get some stuff.”  Makes sense.  I play games and get stuff.  Pay is pretty good too.  Anywho, I don’t know if it is through my wife’s phone, tablet or laptop but I love getting emails from Dodge.  Here is what he has to say:


kkl./kmkjkl;;;;from doDg e////;pkjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjj”/// .;.,n nm,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,…

gfffffg.jjjlkjjjjgvfff]TOTALjjkjhjjjl,,,.//  ? nlkjbvvbbbcc    m,,,;/.,njffjj’njjjjjjjjjklll
,p,nnm  

k,jj     ,,,,,,,,,,,[[[,,

..  ;jjj..mhmjl.//ikj./

mk                 jl/.,m     njyu\/ k k  i mn ;;…….;;           hhhhhhhhj                ggggiiii m,uiyyc 

  cc   ,./   

mnn….    n    umgb               [[. 

Ha

/7yyyy7g


Thanks buddy…I love you too.  -Dada Butt

Dodge's Christmas Piano

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Dodge’s 2nd Birthday

2 Mar

IMG_5687It was a week in which my youngest, Dodge, grew up in many ways culminating to his 2nd birthday on Sunday.  Dodge is a soft-spoken little boy with soft straw blonde hair and piercingly blue eyes.  He can melt your heart with a smile, he squeezes hard when he hugs, and when he wants something like candy he turns into a screaming devil.  He sleeps stomach down in his bed with his feet on his pillow and his face towards the foot of the bed with his tiny rump protruding into the air.  He spends a good majority of the day pretending he’s a dog with his tongue hanging out, panting, woofing, and occasionally licking things like household objects that shouldn’t be licked.  He’s spent the last two years fending off his older brother, Max, who is almost a foot taller than him and thunderously affectionate to the point of smothering.  He’s shorter, stockier, and has sharp elbows.  We call him “Big D” or “Dodgeball” depending on the situation.  He’s a fantastic little boy on the verge of passing through toddlerhood into boyhood.

Dodge’s 2 year coronation began midweek when he decided to casually toss the F-bomb into conversation at about 7:15 AM to see if he was using it correctly.  “Time to put your shoes on Dodge,” my wife Kate told him.  Dodge smiled wide and happily replied, “Fuck that!”  The look on his face after can only be called sheer joy.  He awaited applause from us as if we were going to say, “Good job!  You used that correctly!”  In his defense…the context was perfect.  He didn’t want to put on his shoes.  However, he’s 2 and gets timeouts for arguing…this got him grounded and there were multiple conversations to follow.

20150301_154547On Saturday Dodge and Max (who is 4) were cooped up inside after snow and sleet covered the land.  They were running back and forth through the living room and slamming into the chairs…trying to knock them over…as boys do.  After successfully knocking a few things over I sent them upstairs to play.  They share a room, there are tons of toys up there, and they can bounce off the walls for all I care…and they did.  They had a great time and played together fantastically.  Then I heard Dodge scream…I mean screeeeeeam!  I ran to the bottom of the stairs to find Max and Dodge standing at the top of the stairs fighting over a toy that Dodge had and Max wanted back.  Max tried to take it away and Dodge hit him.  Max, stunned for a second, hit him back.  Then it happened.  They stood toe-to-toe and started trading punches back and forth.  Tiny fists!  Tiny smacks!  Both had their eyes closed and their arms extended as their little heads popped back every now and then as the other landed a blow.  I was not prepared for this, this is too soon for fist fights!  “Hey!”  I shouted from the bottom of the stairs as I made my way up.  They stopped hitting, and Dodge took this opportunity to hit Max in the side of the head with the toy in what you could call either a cheap shot, a winning move, or a reminder that though he is smaller…he’s not to be trifled with.  Whatever you call it, the toy now belongs to me and both boys ended up grounded.  The fun part was watching how fast they went from enemies to friends working together to get out of being grounded.  I remember it well from days past with my sister.

Then Sunday came.  The big day.  Dodge was 2.  We started off by going to the YMCA to swim in the kid pool where Dodge invented a game where all the adults were crocodiles and he was coming to get us.  It was hysterically fun and the look on his face as he said, “I’m gonna get you!” was priceless.  As always, I slipped away to the deep pool with Max to honor my agreement with him.  Plain and simple: I take Max swimming in the shallow kid pool so long as each time he lets me work with him on real swimming in the deep pool.  We did our usual with the swim board, worked on getting his feet up while kicking, and dunking our head under water.  Then we put the swim board aside and I held Max as he swam with my help.  Then it happened…on Dodge’s 2nd birthday in the YMCA pool.  I felt Max drifting away from my hand…he was swimming.  So I let go.  At first he panicked…then he started kicking and wham!  Swimming.  No vest.  No help needed.  Swimming.  He swam about 10 feet, pretty awesome for his first time.  He did it a few times.  Each time he swam better than before.  It was awesome.

20150301_154554After the Y the boys were wiped and went down for a nap which gave us the time to set up for Dodge’s “Uptown Funk Dance Party” themed birthday.  We had disco lights, balloons, Uptown Funk on the TV, cool sunglasses, cake, cupcakes, and more.  Kate’s parents got Dodge a fedora like the one Bruno Mars wears in the music video and he excitedly donned it as he showed off his sweet dance moves.  He and Max danced, they shouted out their favorite part (“Call the police and the Fireman!”), and it was awesome.  Dodge wore his fedora all day and was keenly aware that it was HIS birthday.  He wore the fedora in the car, he wore it at dinner that night, and he would have gone to bed with it had we not told him it would get smooshed.

As I stroked his straw blonde hair and watched his piercingly blue eyes drift off to La La Land that night I asked him, “Dodge…how old are you.”  He smiled at me and said, “I’m two!”  Then he held up eight fingers.  Close enough.  I told him about the day he was born and how excited I was to meet him.  I told him about how Max held him when he was one day old and kissed his forehead.  I told him how stubborn he was even back then.  I told him about the first time I held him.  Then I told him what I tell both my boys every night:

Dada loves you no matter what.  There is nothing you can do to make me stop loving you or love you less.  Every day I love you more, my love is a tree that grows and grows.  You are special, there isn’t another person like you anywhere in the world.  You are the only you and I love you.

Dodge cuddling Luna, our cat.

Dodge cuddling Luna, our cat.

Then Dodge squeezed me extra hard and kissed my cheek.  “Love you Dada.”  He replied.  I tucked Max in and congratulated him on his swimming accomplishments, sang them their favorite song, blew kisses, and said the same thing I say every night, “Night, night.  Sleep tight.  Don’t let the bed bugs bite.  I’ll see you in my dreams tonight.  I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living, my babies you’ll be.”  Both boys rolled over and yawned.  “I love you!”  I said.  “LOVE YOOOOUU!!!”  They shout back together.  “See you for breakfast,” I said as I closed the door to their room, “Happy Birthday Dodge.”  Then…silence.  Then, “I’m two!”  I imagine 8 fingers were held up victoriously in the air.

It’s good to be the Dada.

20150301_194130

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Video

From Wichita With Love

5 Feb

Today I released online my 2014 short film, “From Wichita With Love.”  The film was 1 of 31 submissions to the 2014 CreativeRush Down To The Wire 24 Hour Film Race. It received “Honorable Mention” at the Top 10 Showcase and was 1 of 6 films selected to the Tallgrass Film Festival where it was the audience favorite in its showcase.  The piece was shot entirely on black and white 8mm film, processed & developed by hand, then edited for post in under 21 hours.

The 24 hour film race started at 6:30 AM on Saturday June, 21st when teams were given 3 required elements for their films:

  • CHARACTER: Short-haired Cat Rancher
  • ACTION: Walk Like An Egyptian
  • LOCATION: 1 of 3 Wichita, KS Downtown Bridges

As well, each team was given 2 required elements for their film specifically. Ours were:

  • GENRE: Spy Film
  • PROP: 1970 Red Chevelle

The Chevelle was provided to us by title sponsor Blacktop Nationals. The film had to incorporate all of these five elements, be under 6 minutes, and was due 24 hours later at 7 AM the following morning.

I chose to take a major risk by shooting black and white film, not video. My process involved meeting with my team to discuss our genre and requirements and how that would work schedule-wise with shooting/processing film. I then wrote the monologue VO for the piece and edited the copy with my team. Next I translated the monologue into a screenplay and storyboard, we did a read-through, and went to our first location: The 1st Street Bridge.

I shot on an antique Sankyo ES-44XL Super 8 camera using Tri-X Reversal Black and White film. We shot 100 feet of film at 18 fps and wrapped principal shooting around 4 PM. Next I used a light-tight room to transfer the film by hand into a double 35mm still photography canister (minus the spools) and developed the rolls one at a time using a D-76 1:1 solution at 68 degrees. Instead of bleaching and reversing the film, I fixed (also 1:1) and stopped it (distilled water) to develop to negative. This decision was made to cut down on developing time due to the race, reduce possibilities for errors in the development process, and reduce the amount of stress placed on the actual film itself since it was being handled by hand and developed in a small canister. Following developing and rinsing we strung the film out to dry from the floorboards of the basement where I used a squeegie to remove excess water and a common blow dryer to dry the sprockets. The film was spooled and then transferred to HDV via telecine using a variable speed ELMO Super 8 projector and a Cannon Vixia HV30 capturing at 24 fps. The footage was then edited (still as a negative) to an assembly cut and then a working cut before being digitally processed to a positive when exporting to H.264 per the festival submission requirements. This means, we didn’t know what the final film looked like till it had been submitted!

The results are beautiful (in my opinion) consisting of powder blue emulsion errors, scratches, and grain that can’t be achieved through video filters. There are no digital filters, the film was left untouched to let it and all its imperfections stand alone. Post production wrapped at 3:55 AM; from Director’s meeting to digitized submission on flash drive in under 21 hours.

CREW
Ryan W. Gates (Director/DP/Executive Producer/Writer/Film Developer/Editor)
Wade Davis (Producer)
Kate Van Steenhuyse (Producer/Film Developer)
Jim Siebert (Lighting/Film Developer)
Conan Fugit (Film Technical Adviser/Telecine Operator)
Jonathan Dennill (Post Production Intern)

CAST
Luna (Steve)
Chris DeVries (The Rancher)
Ryan W. Gates (Voice of The Rancher)
Cindy Hand (Kathy)
Wade Davis (Standard Government Issue Cat)
David Thompson (El Gato Gordo)
Melissa Gerlach (New Girlfriend)

Special Thanks to Nick Brown, Moler’s Camera, Tamara Winfrey, Myra DeGrandmont, Tallgrass Film Festival, CreativeRUSH, Blacktop Nationals, CreativeRHINO, and The City of Wichita.

Turning 4 Years Old

26 Jan

birthday4Since about late August Max has asked almost every day when he will turn 4 years old.  “Is it today Dada?”  He asks in that sweet voice of his.  I reply, “No Max, today is Halloween.”  He nods in agreement, “Right Dada because my birthday is January 26 and today is Halloween which is…”  He leaves the sentence open-ended for me to finish, “October 31.”  “Right Dada…so January 26 is…?”  “3 months away.”  Max nods in agreement and starts counting on his fingers as if he’s calculating how much fuel Apollo 13 needed for a safe return trip to Earth…or as he calls it, “Urf.”

Thanksgiving came around and we again had to explain that his birthday was still 2 months away.  It was about this time that Max stopped referring to himself as a three-year old and starting calling himself “Almost 4.”  It reminded me of when my wife Kate and I moved to Wichita and would then travel.  People would ask where we were from and we’d reply, “Wichita, Kansas…but we just moved there from New York.”  It was our little qualifier (like Max’s) that the answer was more complicated than a single word.

Three?  No…oh no.  “Almost 4.”  “Almost Wichita.”

Max's Christmas Croup

Max spent Christmas in the E.R. with a bad case of croup that gave us all a scare.  Turned out a little steroids and some lollipops were all he needed to ask if his birthday was coming soon.  “Well Max,” I replied, “Today is Christmas and you have plenty of toys…I wouldn’t worry about presents for a while.”  Putting on his serious face he answered, “Well, Dada…today is December 25 and my birthday is January 26 so is next month January?”  It was a good question.  “Yes, next month is January.”  Max smiled.  “Almost 4.”

IMG_5124Since New Years it has been a daily part of our family routine to take Max to the calendar and show him how many days and/or weeks are left till his birthday.  He has asked his grandparents, his teachers, and even the servers when we dine out.  Turning 4 has consumed him.  Finally Kate and I asked, “Max what do you want to do for your birthday?”  There was no pregnant pause.  There was no air between our question and his answer.  Max had planned his fourth birthday down to the minute…and it was an exact repeat of his third birthday.  “I want to go to the airplane museum, play inside the airplane cockpits, eat cake and open presents in the big room, then we’ll go see the big airplanes inside, then we’ll go up to the control tower, and then we’ll go outside and race on the tarmac and the first one to touch the nose of the big airplane wins.”  This was very clear direction.  Kate replied, “Well, Max…that’s exactly what you did last year. Don’t you want to do something different?”  He did not.  Kate looked to me and shrugged.  I shrugged back.  Airplane museum ahoy!  Max was about to run off he turned and told us the 2 things he wanted different this year: (1) He wanted his friend Kellen to be there and (2) he wanted a “Dusty Crophopper Birthday Cake with pontoons (not wheels) when he’s painted red for Planes Fire and Rescue the movie.”  Kate and I nodded in amazement when Max added, “Strawberry…I want it to be strawberry inside.”  This was a three-year old kid (“Almost 4″) who knew what he wanted.

Birthday4_02We made the reservation at the Kansas Aviation Museum, Kate made the cake, I picked up snacks, and on Saturday Max orchestrated the repeat of last year’s birthday with a slight change of cake and a new friend.  His friend Edie showed up and I said, “Wow! Edie, you’ve gotten so tall! How old are you?”  Very matter-of-factly she replied, “Five and a half.”  That half was very important.  (“Almost 4″)  The kids had cake, played in the flight simulators, opened presents, and then Max said, “This is the part where we go to the control tower.”  So we went to the control tower.  The kids laughed and played while looking down at the planes on the tarmac as the adults marveled at the 360 degree views.  Then Max said, “This is the part where we go race on the tarmac!”  So we went down 4 flights of stairs to the tarmac where the kids ran back and forth racing while the adults mingled around a 747 with an open fuselage.  Then Max said, “This is when we go back inside to play!”  So we went back inside to play while one by one the guests said their goodbyes and went home till it was just family.  Then I said, “This is when we go home and take a nap!”  Turns out he forgot that part from last year.

Birthday4_04

 

Birthday4_01

Birthday4_03

Over the weekend Max played with his friends, was showered with affection from his grandparents, played with his little brother Dodge, and was adorned with love from Kate and I.  It was a fantastic birthday weekend…but today (Monday the 26th) is the actual day.  Max is enjoying snacks with his classmates right now that Kate made as they all sing him “Happy Birthday.”  Not too shabby.  For his birthday I got him two books, “The Gruffalo” and “The Gruffalo’s Child.”  They are his two favorite short films so I thought it would be fun to remind him that they were books first.

In hopes that someday this is all still out there online or in print…here is a birthday note to you Max:

Everyday you impress me and frustrate me.  The things that frustrate me are petty and my own issues to work through as a father.  The things that impress me are vast, seemingly more vast than what the normal four-year old comprehends.  You are sweet.  You are thoughtful and caring.  You think of others.  You are imaginative.  You are expressive.  You are so well spoken that I feel guilty when correcting you when you misuse past tenses in sentences, but I know you soak up this knowledge like a sponge.  You look like me…you look so much like me sometimes is scares me.  You wear your emotions on your sleeve (like me) which can sometimes lead to tantrums but more often than not is the birthplace of some of the sweetest things I’ve ever heard another human being say.  You are full of love.  You have so many questions and I love answering them…or trying to answer them.  You are growing into such an amazing little boy and as I celebrate your progress I can’t help but miss the past.  You were my little snuggly nugget…my “snugget.”  I remember the first time I held you, the first time you smiled, your first sounds, the first time you called me “Dada,” when you learned to do things on your own, and how much you have grown in just 4 years.  4 years!  Its happening so fast!  Yesterday you were crawling and today you gave me a high-five on your way out the door and said, “See you later dude!”  Thank you for being my son and teaching me how to be a dad.  Because of you I have found new perspective on life and discovered my place in the world.  Because of you I am able to be a father to your little brother Dodge and not repeat “mistakes” I may have made on you.  Because of you I feel a sense of accomplishment no matter what happens with my day, because if I get to be your and Dodge’s dad I know I’m doing something right.  Yesterday I tucked you both in to bed.  Per the current routine there was much snuggling, hugs, kisses, and your favorite: “Back scratchies!”  As I closed the door to your room (after ensuring there were no monsters under the bed) I spoke out load to myself and said, “I know I’m not perfect…but I think I’m pretty good at being a dad.”  That is thanks to you and Dodge making me feel loved, and me making sure you know how loved you are as well.  You’re my angel Max.  You’re my buddy.  You told me that even though I’m your Dada we could still be best friends…forever.  I agree.  I’ve got your back and you’ve got mine.  Happy Birthday sweetheart.  Only 365 days till you turn 5!  :)  Let’s slow down and enjoy 4, it only happens once.  I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.

Birthday4_05

 

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Email Exclamation Point Usage

19 Jan

Email-imageWhile I am not the most grammatically correct writer, I have respect for the English language and the nuances of its unique punctuation.  My style of writing is that of a first person storyteller, and I write like I talk.  This is done to envelop the reader (you) in the story.  My wife is an abstract painter, but she didn’t start that way.  She had to learn techniques and the “correct” way to paint before understanding why she was creating abstractions.  You learn the rules to understand why we break them.  Same goes for writing, I went to writing school to learn how not to write.  (You’re welcome Mom and Dad)  Many people write like they talk, and from reading emails these days…maybe more people need to learn how to talk first.  I can’t get over how much the exclamation point is overused, misused, and abused in email.  Not everything in email needs an exclamation point.  Not everything is “LOL!!!”  Not everything is being shouted.  Not everything is an interjection.

Let’s start with defining what an exclamation point is:

The exclamation mark or exclamation point is a punctuation mark usually used after an interjection or exclamation to indicate strong feelings or high volume (shouting), and often marks the end of a sentence. Example: “Watch out!” Similarly, a bare exclamation mark (with nothing before or after) is often used in warning signs.

 

Seems pretty straight forward.  However, this definition goes out the window in email most likely to our old familiar friend and persistent pet peeve of mine: The Online Disinhibition Effect.  People say and do things online they would not do in person because they are lacking the face-to-face time required for true social contact.  While I have found this to be most prevalent in the comment sections of online sports articles, it shows its ugly head in everyday email through the overuse of the exclamation point.  Here is an example from a recent email conversation at work:

Me: When you get a moment, could you please send over the files from this morning’s meeting?

Them: OK!!!

Me: Are you okay?

Them: Yes!

Me: Okay, let me know if you need anything.

Them: OK!!!!!

Following this conversation I went to the person I was emailing with to see why they were shouting and if they were upset.  They were not.  From their perspective they were just replying casually.  From my perspective it seemed like the person was agitated.  This is classic.

When you add exclamation points to sentences…it makes them read differently!  Understand?!!!  That was an emphatic interrobang by the way.  Its a fun party word.  Look it up.  While you’re at it, make sure you’re not one of the people adding to the email exclamation point epidemic.  Type how you talk by talking out what you type, i.e. read your email aloud as you’ve written it and amend before sending.  If something really requires 3+ exclamation points, perhaps the phone would be a better option.

punctuation-marks-exclamation-mark

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