At Home with Tech

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How my Mother Influenced my Parenting Style

My mom was always there for me. It’s a high bar to match as a parent today. And one might ask if it’s actually too much. Here’s my parenting story for the day. You decide…

I have this memory from when I was a child. I don’t know why it’s lasted. I was twelve years old, and I needed to finish a seemingly insurmountable school project. It was a research paper, and I had left way too much of it to the last night. I was overwhelmed, and I guess I didn’t have the skills to plan it out better.

My Mom Saved the Day
What I remember from this sliver of my past is that my mother stayed up with me past midnight to help me get it all done. She sat at my desk while I did my work on my bed with numerous books surrounding me.

I think my mom was there mostly for moral support, but I do retain whisps of a moment of her going through a particular book, looking for some key information for me to use, and then writing it down on a yellow note pad.

I think I successfully turned in my project the next day, but that’s not what I really remember. It’s my mom helping me out in the middle of the night, when I couldn’t help myself.

Was that good parenting? Was it the right move to create a study group fueled by the organizational power of an adult? Wouldn’t the lesson of failure due to poor time management taught me more at that early age?

But that’s not how my mom was wired. And for better or worse, my wiring is based on that.

Role Reversal
This memory is particularly present, because I recently found myself in a similar situation with our twelve-year-old son. And now I’m the parent.

Our son had a history research project to complete. It was a group video project that he was working on with two other students. And yes, they fell behind. (And I knew with my own understanding of video production what technical challenges they might encounter.)

Fast forward to the night of the deadline… Their video needed to be finished and uploaded by midnight. The three were furiously working together virtually, and they were completely focused. There’s nothing like a looming deadline to keep you going.

Learning Visual Storytelling at an Early Age
A quick aside… I’d like to call out the fact that these seventh graders were editing a 10-minute video, complete with a script, b-roll, VO and music. They had collaborated mostly virtually and built their video project using an online platform.

This blows my mind, because these kids had to figure out how to line up all of the necessary workflows and proper collaboration to get a complex video finished by a challenging deadline. Plus, they needed to lock a narrative and find collective creative alignment.

That’s what I do for a living!!

So yes, I think this was a particularly big lift. These boys were still building their plane as they flew towards midnight.

Finding the Right Level of Parental Support
When our son announced at dinner six hours before the deadline that he would have to work through the night to try to get it all done with his schoolmates, it prompted my flashback to my own homework gauntlet when my mother came to my rescue.

So I told my son that I would stay up with him to help as I could. (No, I didn’t take over the video edit, though a part of me really wanted to offer!) He had his own team to work with. He wasn’t alone, like I was all those years ago.

I was simply there for moral support, and I prepared some late night snacks to help him feel fueled as he burned the midnight oil.

Perfection not Required
I’m happy to report that the team did complete their video, and I was pleased to see my son celebrate their accomplishment, bleary-eyed as he was.

Yes, it was an entirely imperfect process, and the sprint to the finish line contributed to that hard reality. I hope it was a good lesson that will contribute to future improvements in how he tackles these types of challenges.

Flexing a Growing Skillset
The next morning, he premiered his video for me and my wife, and he separately displayed his complex video editing timeline with pride.
His ability to align appropriate imagery and photos to his VO track seemed almost effortless and entirely organic.

I can claim some genetic talent that I’ve passed down, but it’s just my son getting it done using his own talents. Plus, I think it’s an example of his generation growing up with digital technologies. It’s simply second nature to them. Amazing.

No Need to Come to the Rescue
Our son didn’t require our last-minute help. He just needed our support. And I think someone to stay up late in a nearby room.

I camped out on the couch in the family room. And after I brought him his snacks, I actually may have dozed off for a bit. (I had set the alarm on my Apple Watch to ensure I didn’t miss his deadline.)

Remembering my Mother
Sorry, Mom. I know I didn’t have your endurance in this moment. But your grandson, who you never met, didn’t need it. He was just fine as he approached his own finish line.

Thank you for being there for me all of those years ago, because that’s what I needed.

Though I’m thinking a lot about Dad these days, I’ve been thinking about you too.

I miss you.

How to Prevent your Family’s Identity from Being Washed Away by Time

As I’ve attempted to curate my father’s photos, I’ve realized I’ve also taken on the much larger burden of organizing undated photos of my ancestors. It’s like putting together a puzzle with many of the pieces permanently missing.

I’ve continued to review and digitize the photo archive that I found in my father’s apartment after he passed away three months ago. I use the word ‘archive’ loosely.

Beyond the several large photo albums my mom curated for the three of us as I grew up, my extended family’s photo history was scattered about in various envelopes and small boxes. There was almost no organization, other than some photos being grouped together.

Some were still in envelopes with their matching old-time negatives. Other negative strips were unaligned and stuffed elsewhere. Almost none of it had any identifying information or key dates.

Please Do your Homework
The good news is this wasn’t the first time I had seen any of the pictures, like this photo of my father and grandfather on their trip to visit Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts.
I did previously know where some of the family treasure lived. I had talked with my father about a fair number of these photos, and I had made copies of the old prints with my iPhone. So, I had some information, but not the whole picture.

But across these recent weeks, it’s still been like a puzzle, trying to figure so much out. The most frustrating part of this massive exercise is simply date stamping the pictures and putting them into a chronological order.

Many of my decisions have been based on how old people look in the shots. That’s been easiest when reviewing photos of my father and his brother as children. But it’s still guess work.

It would be so much easier if someone had simply written the who, when and where on the back of the photo. Even just the year would be gold.

Find the Family Historian
Photos of my grandmother Rae and her familyThrough the clouds that mask many of the details of my family’s visual history before I was born, there is one sunny spot that offers stunning clarity.

It’s owned by my father’s mother Rae.

My grandmother’s life was tragically cut short in her 30’s when my father was just a young child. So, I don’t really know much about Rae other than she was a teacher. But I’ve found photos of her that reveal other pieces of her life, ranging from her teenage years up until the time she died. And she dated many of her photos along with where she was.
Wow. I have to give a huge shout out to my grandmother for the important breadcrumbs she left behind for me.
Thank you, Rae. I can only imagine the visual story of our family you would have curated had you lived longer.

Dust off the Negatives
I’ve been using my Wolverine F2D Titan Film to Digital Converter to bring back to life the images buried in the old negatives I found. My efforts have revealed remarkable scenes I’ve never seen before.

Even though you’d think there would be matching photos for these negatives, I’ve only uncovered a few. Perhaps back then, people printed out just a couple of photos from a group of negatives. Or maybe the photos and their albums are simply long gone.

But the negatives survived. Though ignored, they were somehow passed down for almost a century. Now, I’ve got them, and I feel like I’ve accessed a time machine. I’ve opened a portal into the past.
Here’s a converted negative of my father’s family in the mid 1930s… my grandmother Rae with my grandfather along with my uncle and my father as children. (My dad’s the tiny one!)

Something tells me that Rae orchestrated this family portrait. She understood the importance of it all. (I think she would have really liked Instagram.)

Fill in the Gaps
As you might imagine, I immediately printed out and framed Rae’s family portrait. I placed the frame on a shelf next to our fireplace. And then I stepped back and took it in.

It was a bright spot in the storm of the past few months.

But something still bothered me.

Time to Start Leaving Breadcrumbs
Later in the week as I worked on digitizing other photos, it finally came to me. I had printed out and popped Rae’s family portrait into its frame, but I had made the same mistake as most all of my ancestors had… save Rae.

I didn’t write anything on the back of the photo!

I spend so much time curating my own digital family archive. Who knows how well it will survive the ravages of time, especially after I’m gone. But what about that photo I just threw in the frame?

Of course, that’s going to be the picture that somehow survives into the 22nd century. And perhaps my great grandchild will open up the frame looking for information on the back of the photo regarding these strangers.

I really hope that’s not the story, and somehow I can do better to ensure my family’s visual history gets properly passed forward.


Create a Letter in a Bottle
I walked back to our fireplace and picked up the frame… I mean I picked up my little time machine. I opened it up, flipped the photo over and wrote in the critical details.

I put the frame back together and returned it to its spot. This extra step took only 15 seconds, but it tethered the image to its past and prevents the identities of these precious people from being washed away by time.

I stepped back again, but now I saw something else.

I could see Rae’s family photo in a glass bottle, floating away in a vast ocean. It was properly provisioned for its long journey into the future.

Bon voyage.

Why Does it Take 40 Minutes for the Movie to Start?

Are you also puzzled why you have to sit in your movie theater seat for so long before your flick actually begins? Is it to give you time to eat more popcorn?

Watching movie previews used to be a really fun part of going out to the films. Remember when there was even a surprise factor? Of course, today you can find all movie trailers online. So you’ve probably already seen every preview the movie theater is going to throw at you.

But these days, that’s not the half of it. There’s all of that bland Noovie programming with Maria Menounos that runs before the film is scheduled to begin. (It also drifts 5-7 minutes into what used to be the ‘coming soon’ zone.) And then, there are promos for TV shows. And for the final insult, there are all of the commercials.


Limiting my Exposure
I intentionally avoid most commercials, now that I can pay more for a commercial-less streaming experience at home. (The major exception is the commercial line up for the Super Bowl. It’s always fun grading the most expensive 30-second spots on TV.)

Yes, I pay more for our streaming subscriptions to minimize my family’s commercial exposure. I think it’s really worth it. Our twelve-year-old son has grown up consuming his media mostly without commercial interruption.

Sure, I still carry about a fair amount of parental guilt regarding how much screen time he consumes (a much more complex equation than when the debate was just over ‘TV’ time). But at least I can say that commercials don’t bathe his being nearly as much as my own experience growing up.

With this accomplishment, I am especially displeased that movie theaters have become a new Wild West for commercials.

I simply don’t want us to watch commercials before a movie.

I feel inundated, and it’s painful.

By the time we get to Nicole Kidman telling us what a great experience it’s going to be at the movie theater, I want to run away.

Talk about a terrible warm-up act.

A 3-Hour Tour?
No, the preshow isn’t all commercial content, but it bloats the entire block to an unwatchable length. Getting through it all feels like an endurance test.

When I went to see “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” with my son, I lost literally forty minutes of my life squirming in my movie theater seat waiting for the MCU to start.

That creates an almost 3-hour viewing experience. Who’s got 3 hours anymore? It’s too much time. Way too much.

Post-Pandemic Reality
I know this is not a new phenomenon, but it feels like it’s getting worse. That’s probably because I haven’t returned to an actual movie theater that many times since Covid closed them all down.

If movie theater owners want all of their customers back, punishing them with content they don’t want to watch is not an especially great plan.

I understand that the business model of movie distribution needs to work, but this is out of control.

How Long Will You Wait for your Entertainment?
Consuming commercials used to be the way people watched television for free. Then we were taught that we could pay for premium movie channels on cable. And that evolved to paying for commercial-free streaming services like Disney+ and Netflix. Sometimes, you can play less per month with ‘limited’ commercials. But for me…that pure experience without any commercial interruption is worth the extra few bucks a month.

So I pay for the programming I watch on TV, and it’s usually commercial free.

And that’s always been the business model for movies theaters. When movie ticket prices go up, you can grumble, but that’s how it works.

But then when you throw in obligatory commercials at the movie theater on top of that, it’s crossing the line.

Today, it’s hard enough to wait 5 seconds to click out of a YouTube spot before you get to watch your video. Waiting 40 minutes for your movie is ludicrous.

Times have changed. When we are offered the option to ‘skip the open’ on our favorite streaming shows, today’s movie-going experience feels entirely out of sync with reality.

Add Back 38 Minutes into your Life
Clearly, the solution is to show up at your movie theater seat about 38 minutes late (as long as you’ve got reserved seats.)

This just takes a little reset in how you schedule your time. Trying to miss the movie previews has now evolved to how to avoid the preshow entirely.

Movie theater owners need to redesign their customer experience and offer something more worthwhile during the preshow.

Or just simply play the movie. That would be quite the innovation.

New Movie Theater Business Model
Okay, here’s a scary question: Would I pay even more for my movie ticket to ensure I don’t have to watch any commercials?

I would.

If cinema 1 is playing the movie with commercials and a 40-minute preshow, and cinema 2 right next to it has the same movie that simply starts at the posted time, yes I would pay more for a ticket to cinema 2.

And if that’s been the plan all along, then I have to tip my hat to some really smart marketers who are playing the long game.

For now, I’ll just try to be that guy who shows up a half-hour late.

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