Thursday, August 30, 2012

2012: Week 35

2012: Week 34 by MAStapleton
2012: Week 34, a photo by MAStapleton on Flickr.
Getting engulfed by the waves on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. What a day.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

2012: Week 34

2012: Week 34 by MAStapleton
2012: Week 34, a photo by MAStapleton on Flickr.
The thing about the 52 Weeks project is that it is designed to capture your life in 2012, both happy and sad. Week 34 was definitely sad for me, as this was the week of my brother's funeral. He fought hard to beat cancer, but cancer is a Son Of A Bitch and it won.

I didn't think I would have any picture of Week 34 given that it felt (and feels) like there's a big hole in my body where my heart used to be. But lo and behold something strange happened that I wanted to capture on film to remember the week.

File under strange but true: on the night of my brother's funeral, we were gathered in the hotel for an Irish wake. On the bookshelf of the hotel in Virginia, hundreds of miles away from where we grew up, I found this book about Boonton, our TINY hometown in NJ. Its population is only 8,500, so it is utterly amazing to me that this book appeared on the shelf. Like I said, file it under strange but true.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

2012: Week 33

2012: Week 32 by MAStapleton
2012: Week 32, a photo by MAStapleton on Flickr.
Making some light music at the Tate Modern in the new "Vaults" underneath.

I also love this picture because it reminds me of an unexpectedly fantastic day with the boys. As we walked along the Thames on this day, Thing One turned to me and said, "I'm so just happy today." I wish I had said, "So am I." But I probably said, "Oh, that's nice" In retrospect, I wish I had said the former.

Monday, August 06, 2012

OLYMPIC DAY: Part VI, Subsection (a) - Men's Basketball at the Olympic Park

First of all, the posts for Monday are being divided into subsections as we had spent 13.5 hours in the Olympic park. We won a gold medal for endurance and fun. It's easier for me to divide it up, so I shall.

Men's basketball - I love it. I earned the love through the university I attended, which can feature in the NCAA Tournament, otherwise known as March Madness. When I told people we had Olympic basketball tickets, the very first thing they inevitably asked was, "Will you see the US team?"

No. We did not see The Dream Team, the sequel. Actually, I wasn't bothered that we didn't get to see them, given that all of their victories have been so lopsided. Better to see other teams, where the games will be closer, which is exactly what we got.
Australia is in yellow and green. Russia is in red. Russia, incidentally, wins hands down for the ugliest uniforms in these Olympics. They are hideous.

The first game was Australia playing Russia. Naturally we rooted for Australia. First, because our friends Clint and Gaynor live there. Second, as children living in the US in the 1970s and 1980s, it is nigh-on-impossible to root for the Russians. It's just impossible for us to do it, no matter how friendly (NOT!) Vladimir Putin may seem to be.

The atmosphere seemed much like any other basketball game I've been to in recent years. There was the Mexican wave, the Kiss Cam (I couldn't believe the Brits would go for this, but maybe they found some Americans in the audience), dance contests and cheerleaders.

We had great seats in the lower section, which enabled us to fly our "Go Bam Bam" flag and also for my mom to find us in the US via live streaming. We were all pretty psyched that she could watch us watching the game after I sent her an e-mail describing where we were. Yet again, another gold medal goes to the wonders of the Interweb.

Here's the men in my life, watching the game under our Olympic flag. We were about 10 rows up from the floor. Result.

Australia beat Russia at the buzzer, which could not have been more exciting. Hooray for them! It was great basketball and a great show of athleticism.

The next game we saw was Lithuania versus Tunisia. Again, we have friends from Lithuania, so that's who we chose to root for. That was a good thing, too, because it seemed that the arena was filled with Lithuanian fans. By the end of the game, we were even chanting in Lithuanian. I can assure you that's never happened to me at either an NCAA game or an NBA game.

Yet another gratuitous shot of the boys at an Olympic venue. This one has been our favourite so far.

In the end, Lithuania pulled out a win, but they were losing for most of the game. But all in all, it was an unforgettable morning.

OLYMPIC DAY: Part VI, Subsection (b) - Getting my brother Mike on to the Today Show at the Olympic Park

Flush from the success of my mom being able to watch us watch the Lithuanian basketball game, we headed next door to the area where they were filming The Today Show. I thought this could be our chance for fame and fortune.

The Script, an Irish band, was warming up. Hilariously, the people around me were more excited to see The Script than they were to see The Today Show. More than one person asked me, "What is this?" I'm guessing the show runners put all of the excited Americans in the front row.

More than wanting to get myself on TV, I wanted to get my brother Mike's photo on the television. He is currently fighting leukemia in the U.S. I thought if I could get him on the Today show, that might cheer him up. I've just learned from my parents that he did see it and it did make him smile. Mission accomplished.

Thing One worked his way up to the front row. Meanwhile, I sent out a Facebook status message telling my friends that we were going to be on the show and to look for us behind the Script. I'm glad I did because my friend Susan not only managed to find Thing One, but got this awesome screen grab off her TV. (Even better than the one I just tried to get.) This is all the more impressive because at first she didn't know quite where we were standing, and also because she's never even MET IN PERSON Thing One, only seen pictures. In this instance, Susan wins the gold medal for friendship.

A gold star also has to go to Thing One, who worked his way up to the front of the crowd, but also made sure that Uncle Mike got on TV. Not only that, but he had him moving along to the music.

I also intermittently held up our Go Bam Bam Olympic flag. Here's another screen grab from Susan:

Meanwhile, my cousin Taylor in California was watching the Today show. Not seeing my Facebook status, she saw the picture of Mike and then saw Thing One holding him. "Holy crap!" she said. "They're on TV." Holy crap indeed. She said it made her happy seeing her cousin on TV, halfway around the world. It made me happy that she got to see it by chance. Once again, another gold medal is awarded to the wonders of the Interweb.

If you're wondering why Thing Two wasn't there, the reason is this: he was too tired and wanted to eat his lunch. So that's where he and Mr. MarathonMum are, off screen, sitting on a bench. I'm trying to figure out where I failed as a mother.

You may also be wondering how it is that I happened to have a large picture of my brother's face mounted on a ruler. As a matter of fact, it was one of the first things I always packed when I put together my Olympic event supplies. The reason is I've been taking pictures of "Flat Bam Bam" doing all sorts of Olympic things and putting it in a blog. You can see the blog, "Flat Bam Bam (Like Flat Stanley only way, way cooler)" for yourself here.

Another thing that would cheer up my brother to no end is to register as a bone marrow donor. You can do it in the United Kingdom through either the NHS Give Blood site or the Anthony Nolan Trust. You can register in the U.S. through National Marrow Donor Program. Please register. You could save a life.

If you'd like to see the whole performance for yourself, here's the video. I don't know how long NBC will be keeping it up, so enjoy it while you can. I feel obliged to say that I don't think it's the best use of The Script's talents to have Danny rapping. They are, after all, a band of nice Irish blokes and rapping isn't playing to their strengths. But some of their other songs aren't bad.

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Sunday, August 05, 2012

2012: Week 31

...Where we attempt to recreate the Sistine Chapel using foam fingers.

Given the rules of the 52 weeks projects regarding any Olympic trademarked things or locations, this is the best picture I could use for Week 1 of the Olympics. They were giving these out free during the dressage portion of the equestrian events of the Olympics. I can faithfully report that the foam fingers also soaked up the rain quite well.

We love a foam finger. We love a foam finger even more when we can use it to recreate the creation narrative from the Sistine Chapel. I'm sure Michelangelo would have approved.

This is actually the photo I liked better, but I couldn't post it to the Guardian group, given the Olympics rules.

Where we recreate the Sistine Chapel with foam fingers....

2012: Week 31

2012: Week 31 by MAStapleton
2012: Week 31, a photo by MAStapleton on Flickr.
The Cutty Sark, as viewed through a port hole of a tall ship sailing the Thames.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

OLYMPIC DAY: Part V - Men's Football and Wembley Stadium

After a morning cycling at the track-- Chris Hoy and Bradley Wiggins didn't get their gold medals just for showing up-- we headed to north London and Wembley Stadium to see some men's football. We got to see Mexico play Senegal.

Originally, I thought I'd like to see Mexico win. I considered my own special NAFTA agreement to root for North American teams when Team USA or Team GB are unavailable. But as I sat there, I thought that Senegal probably doesn't have much going for it, so I switched my allegiances. I'm fickle that way.

We suspected that going to an Olympic football match at Wembley wouldn't be much different than any other football match at Wembley. We were partially right. During regular football matches, I'm certain that you wouldn't see hundreds of people gathered around the televisions waiting to see if Andy Murray and Laura Robson won their mixed singles match. There was also a great deal of London 2012 branding going on throughout the stadium, so you could never forget what was happening. And don't forget the flags. Just like in every other venue, there were loads of them.

I'm a sucker for a bunch of flags and the Olympic rings. Love 'em.

Once the action got started, it did feel like a regular football game. We got to see a fantastic game though. It went into extra time and looked as though it might even go into penalties, but Mexico got their act together before that happened and won the game.
Here's Mexico celebrating one of their goals. 

Here's Thing One and Thing Two posing for a picture. Is Thing Two wearing a rain poncho? Indeed he is, making us 4-for4 for rain during our outdoor Olympic events.

Finally, it was time to head home. If you're wondering how 81,000 leave Wembley at the same time, I'm here to tell you that they do so in an orderly fashion. Again, this is Great Britian. If there's anything that my fellow countrymen know how to do, it's form an orderly queue and leave in an orderly fashion. The police had to stop the crowd every so often as the Wembley Stadium tube station became full.  But people stopped when they were told to and didn't complain about it. It was impressive. I have to say.

Would you like to see what 80,000 people leaving at the same time looks like? Of course you do. Here it is, with bonus Mexican hats AND stormy skies!

Friday, August 03, 2012

OLYMPIC DAY: Park IV - Beach Volleyball at Horse Guards Parade

The Olympics have done an utterly fab job at using iconic London settings. Here in Greenwich, we really moaned about them taking over the park, but it definitely paid off because the venue looks beautiful. The same might also be said of Horse Guards Parade, right behind Downing Street. I don't know if the bureaucrats complained about the beach volleyball being there, but it looked great when we were there.

Here's the band warming up the crowd before the party-- I mean athletic contest-- began.

Beach volleyball has proven to be one of the most popular events at these Olympic games. It's not hard to figure out why-- athletic women wearing bikinis and jumping around. As we scanned the crowd, we saw A LOT of gentlemen who were enjoying the action before they headed off to the office. At least, that's what we deduced since so many of them were wearing suits. 

Here's a funny fact for the day: for each session, they have both a women's and a men's game, because they were worried that the men's games wouldn't sell but they knew the women's would. As a feminist, I can't quite figure out if this is progress or not.

Olympic beach volleyball proved to be one of the more unusual athletic contests I've been to, and as one who once started the Alaskan Pig Racing Contest, that's saying something. It felt more like a party than an Olympic competition. Along with the Mexican wave and popular music, which are linchpins of nearly all (not Equestrian!) the venues, beach volleyball also had a conga line, the Big Brother announcer and dancers in bikinis. (I'm wondering how the dancers will list this experience on their CV. Olympic dancer? I'd love to have that on my CV.)

Here's a snap of the women's game we saw. It was Germany (red) versus Germany (blue). We weren't sure if Germany would win, but they pulled through in the end. This is not unlike the Gold Medal Game, which will see the USA play the USA. Good luck USA!

It was quite a day. Even better, my friend Ellie and I saw two different sets of friends while we were waiting to see the game. See? London really is like one big village? (Not really.) But it added to the fun that we saw friends there. 

Finally, here's another panoramic picture of the venue. I took this after all the fun was over, unfortunately. But you still get a sense of how beautiful it was there.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

OLYMPIC DAY: Part III - Equestrian Dressage at Greenwich Park

This was one we were looking forward to, especially since we've given up our beautiful Greenwich Park bit by bit since April. I also liked it from a logistical point of view, because it was only going to take us five minutes from our front door to get to an Olympic venue. Result.

We decided to go with our Team USA t-shirts today. It wasn't a political decision to support Ann Romney's horse, but rather, it was because they were the only Olympic shirts that were clean. A big bonus of this venue is that they were giving out foam fingers for free. RESULT. Apparently, the nice American woman explained to me, Stephen Colbert has been having a go at dressage and they wanted to prove to him that dressage was cool. Hey, any time they're giving away foam fingers, I'm in. So of course we had to recreate our now iconic foam finger picture:

On to the dressage, of which we knew nothing. Luckily, we were literally surrounded by subscribers to "Horse and Hound" who proved to be very helpful. They also shushed us for cheering on the British rider when he first appeared, but I now understand that shouts of support are not good at the beginning of dressage because it could spook the horse. The things I've learned in this Olympics.

The stadium, which was VERY controversial in SE10, proved to be as beautiful as they said it would be. The people around me kept saying what a great venue it was, and I couldn't help feeling very proud that it was our local park that they were talking about. I also made sure to point out that our school's sports day was usually held where the stadium was, which the people around me seemed impressed by.

Here's a panoramic of the arena:

I have to say (whisper it) that it all got a bit boring. But I tweeted throughout, which at least kept me awake. Much like diving, it only got interesting when it all went wrong.

Surprise, surprise, we got rained on on Olympic Day, Part III. This made us three-for-three on rain and the Olympics. Want to see another threatening cloud picture? Sure you do.

Oh my goodness did it rain. The heavens opened and it came bucketing down. We all got SOAKED, even with our wet-weather gear. Now there was some progress on the wet weather gear front for us, because while we did remember our jackets, we left our rain ponchos at home. EPIC FAIL.

Another good thing about an Olympic venue being so close to home was that when it was all over, we could defy the foam fingers by taking a back way and getting out of our soaked clothes pretty quickly.

We finished the day off in dry clothes on the comfort of our sofa eating Pringles while watching action in the Pringle. Needless to say, it was another great Olympic Day.