Long time no posts. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been busy. I’ve had some journalism projects that kept me busy in January and working on ways to raise my profile as a freelance reporter and photojournalist.
After a photojournalist friend explained the importance of branding, I have created RemsReports. I have also created a WordPress RemsReports to showcase my news stories and photojournalism. Finally I have joined the world of Twitter to mention upcoming events I will be covering or mention something behind the scenes that happened and that won’t be written into a future story. I promise not to mention what I’ve had for breakfast or link to a cat video. You can follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/RemsReports.
I thank you for following my adventures here and I look forward to seeing you at my new home.
The Quad Dipsea runs on the historic Dipsea running trail in Marin County, California. Runners soon climb 700 steps in Mill Valley and run up and down hills before a steep descent at Stinson Beach. Runners then repeat this three times where they finish back in Mill Valley after a hard 28 miles.
Bubbles in San Rafael
In San Rafael’s Albert Park was Ray J. Doubleday of San Rafael having childlike fun. Doubleday has been making bubbles for two years and now makes complex bubbles. Some bubbles had three bubbles inside them. Here are some of the bubbles he created on Thursday.
This story is the fourth in a four part series about the Make-A-Wish event for Batkid in San Francisco.
In the previous part of this Batkid feature, some spectators shared their thoughts on attending the Make-A-Wish event for 5-year-old cancer patient Miles. In this last chapter more spectators and the Mayor of San Francisco share their thoughts.
In the spirit of the event dressed as Catwoman and posing for photos was Renee Collins who volunteers for Make-A-Wish and for various dog groups. Talking about Miles and the thousands coming out to cheer him on, she gets choked up. “It’s a story that touched me, the kid is only 5-years-old and he’s had enough chemicals in him for four years, that’s really sad.“
Standing in Union Square she was wowed by the turnout and proud of San Francisco. “I think it’s outstanding. San Francisco does this really well and they’re not just one group of people here, there is just everyone here enjoying Batkid. We accept everyone and I think that is outstanding. You can see everyone here and they took the time out of their day to come here and celebrate him,” Collins said.
Also in Union Square was Julie Ferriot wearing a Batman shirt and holding a “Batkid you are my hero” sign. With a big smile, she was happy to be showing her support. “We talk about Miles being a true superhero. It’s exciting to play it out to kind of play it out as Batman here in San Francisco and the way the city has embraced this. It’s like nothing that I’ve ever seen. This is phenomenal and really exciting,” Ferriot said.
Ami Arad is the owner of the men’s clothing store Wingtip at 550 Montgomery. His store is in a 105 year old building and was used as the location where Batkid would catch The Riddler breaking into a bank vault. Arad’s store has a bank vault as the building was the home of the first Bank of Italy which later became Bank of America.
Arad explained how it came about having Make-A-Wish use his store. “One of our vendors knows the president of the bay area chapter of Make-A-Wish. She’d been through the store and knew we had a vault downstairs. So when today started to come together she asked if they could use our vault and of course we said yes.”
Asking about the crime Batkid and Batman stopped he said, “The Riddler was down in our vault downstairs behind a bunch of old, original safety deposit boxes and Batkid apprehended him,” Arad said.
Asked if he knew how The Riddler broke in, “we don’t (know). We’re just thankful Batkid was here to stop him from taking our money and diamonds.”
Arad was asked if there was a scuffle between the superheroes and criminal, “I cannot confirm nor deny if there was any violence. I’m sure Batkid did it as mercifully as possible,” he said.
After the two Batmobiles and the dozens of police motorcycles left he was still smiling. “It was awesome, the crowd was way beyond what we ever thought. There must have been thousands of people out here this morning. We’re happy to be a part of it, thrilled,my eyes watered when he came in,” Arad said.
The final venue for Batkid was Civic Center Plaza, across the street from city hall where Mayor Ed Lee would give a speech and give Batkid the key to the city. “On behalf of San Francisco and Gotham City I want to thank the Batkid for saving our city. What would we do without you? The streets of the city are safer because of you,” Mayor Lee said.
During the speech thousands would cheer and interrupt his speech occasionally chanting, “Batkid, Batkid, Batkid.” Mayor Lee continued, “We are truly inspired by what you have done. Today November 15, 2013 will be Batkid Day forever.”
Mayor Lee presented Miles the key to the city of San Francisco and gave Miles the great news that any 5-year-old would love to hear, chocolate. It was announced that TCHO Chocolate in San Francisco would be giving Miles a chocolate key to the city.
Mayor Lee continued his speech peppered with cheers from the Batkid adoring crowd. “We’re living in an extraordinary time in an extraordinary place and we are a city that knows how and we know how to come together to fulfill a wish for a young boy. …While we wish we can extinguish the pain that your family has experienced, we hope this is the day, the magic, that you’ll remember this forever.”
That Friday not only San Francisco and the Bay Area united but also the world. News about Miles’ being Batkid was broadcast around the globe in multiple languages. That day Miles was an international superhero and did the incredible feat of lifting hearts of people around the world.
Update – In a November 20, 2013 tweet by Patricia Wilson, the Executive Director of the Greater Bay Area Make-A-Wish Foundation revised the total estimated attendance for the Batkid event – “BTW, final RSVP for #SFBatKid was 16,077 but crowd estimates were over 20k. Caring and compassion ruled the day. Love you SF.”
This story is the three in a four part series about the Make-A-Wish event for Batkid in San Francisco.
Batkid was the word on everyone’s lips Friday as thousands came to cheer him on and watch him fight crime in San Francisco. Street by street, block by block, sirens from police motorcycles announced the arrival of Batkid and Batman in their Batman emblazoned Lamborghini Batmobiles. For those not on the street, it was still hard not to learn of him with all of the coverage in newspaper, radio and TV.
When staff from the children’s hospital asked Miles what he would like for a wish, the 5-year-old boy with Leukemia answered Batman. A series of phone calls proceeded and the Greater Bay Area Make-A-Wish Foundation got things rolling.
People came to support Miles and help make his day as he rescued a damsel in distress on cable car tracks, busted The Riddler inside a former bank and caught the Penguin at AT&T Park. Huge crowds gathered both at Union Square and Civic Center Plaza had the largest crowd with attendance estimated to be over 10,000 enthusiastic fans.
Outside of men’s clothing store Wingtip which was the original Bank of Italy was Sacha Kowalewski and Ashley Wang who drove down from UC Davis for the day. “I took the day off class, I knew it was going to be really exciting, I had to come see this once in a lifetime thing,” Kowalewski said.
Also outside of Wingtip where Batkid caught The Riddler was a thrilled Logan DeMott, 7 of San Francisco. “Batman is one of my favorite superheroes and he is really cool, awesome.”
Manika Caterline came from across the bay in Fremont. “I thought it was really cool to see this kind of sea of humanity and love coming out for a kid that not everybody knows. So it was really cool to make a wish come true. I figured it was going to be big but not world series parade big,” she said.
Some took a late lunch and joined the masses at Union Square to show their thanks to Batkid. Lizzie Yarbrough and Margaret Farrell who had support from their bosses. “They moved a company-wide meeting back so we could come see it. I think this is the most wonderful thing in the world, it’s such a great act of humanity in the fact that people flew in from all over the country just to be a part of making this day special for this little boy. My mid is blown, really,” Yarbrough said.
Robert Plate was in Union Square holding one of the special edition Chronicles announcing Batman saves city. Plate was on vacation from Paraguay. He found out about the event from his uncle Roberto in San Francisco. “I was amazed and surprised by this beautiful show of support,” he said.
At the biggest gathering at Civic Center Plaza Denise Aptekar watched with nine other workers from oDesk during a team building day. “We planted trees this morning with Urban Forest, now we’re here to celebrate Miles and his victory after three years of fighting Leukemia and then we’re going to get foot massages,” Aptekar said.
“There’s a lot of bad things that happen in the world and when something good happens, it’s important to celebrate it,” she said. Something good definitely happened in San Francisco Friday and people around the world smiled.
This story is the second in a four part series about the Make-A-Wish event for Batkid in San Francisco.
The story of Miles, a 5-year-old boy with cancer who wanted to be Batman and a sea of people in San Francisco who made it a reality has swept the internet and spanned the globe.
It was a feel good story that brought a smile to many and a tear in the eye to some. A number of spectators interviewed at the 550 Montgomery bank vault location, Union Square and Civic Center Plaza Make-A-Wish venues were personally affected by cancer which drove the day’s event closer to home for them.
Renee Collins is from the city of Los Altos in the South Bay. She volunteers with Make-A-Wish helping other children’s wishes come true as well. Standing in front of Macy’s dressed as Catwoman, she held a sign saying, “Miles you are my hero.”
Showing up to support Miles was important to her and she was also honoring her mother. “My mom died of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, she was an adult and she didn’t make it. So when I read about this little kid and that he made it through to the other side I was impressed, I was very impressed,” Collins said.
Another person doing a super job cheering on Miles and dressed as a superhero was Napoleon D. Aparicio. Dressed as Robin, the father brought his 4-year-old boy wonder Napoleon II with him.
Standing on the steps of city hall he explained his father passed away two years ago. “My dad died of cancer. When the doctors told me about it they told me he had six months to live and my dad survived another three years from the day they told me,” he said.
Having had his father die of cancer added another dimension to this event. He was choked up saying that Miles could be anyone’s child and it could have been his son.
Ashley Wang took the day off from her classes at UC Davis to support Miles. “I have family that has been affected by cancer, my grandma, it’s kind of prevalent on my dad’s side,” she said.
Julie Ferriot of San Francisco has been a Make-A-Wish volunteer for the last 5-6 years and like some of the others that day, she has had someone with cancer in her life. For her she said, “this wish is particularly inspiring.”
Margaret Farrell from San Francisco had watched her mom go through cancer.
“My mom is a cancer survivor, she had cancer a couple of years ago and she’s in remission and is a cancer survivor.”
Waiting for Batman and Batkid across the street from the 550 Montgomery building where The Riddler would be caught by Batkid was Pam McGlinchey of San Mateo.
“I came out because my daughter’s best friend died from cancer when she was 11 and Make-A-Wish was wonderful in making her wish come true. So I wanted help Miles make his wish come true,” she said.
For the boy who wanted to be Batman for a day and was only told he was being taken to get a Batman suit that morning, his day got bigger and bigger. He captured The Riddler and The Penguin, had a flash mob appear in Union Square and ended his day being given the key to the city by the Mayor. People from around the country came together to make his day bigger than life and his dream come true.
This story is the first in a four part series about the Make-A-Wish event for Batkid in San Francisco.
Over 10,000 people came to downtown San Francisco on Friday to cheer on a little boy who beat cancer and was fighting crime as a caped crusader.
Miles, age 5 from Tulelake, in Lake County had Leukemia from 20 months old until last June when doctors said he was in remission. For three years he endured chemotherapy. When people asked if he had a wish, he made a super sized request, to be his favorite superhero, Batman t
That’s when Patricia Wilson, Executive Director of the Greater Bay Area Make-A-Wish Foundation was called. Her office had been organizing this since March. “Miles was referred to us through his medical team. We do outreach through children’s hospitals,” Wilson said.
Earlier in the week before the event, the story and request for people to come and be citizens of Gotham City and cheer Batkid on seemed to be all over the internet, Reddit, Facebook, Yahoo and plenty of other websites. She said a person in her office was so moved by the wish that they posted it on a social media website. From there it snowballed and spread across the internet. “It went nuts, it went viral and then the news got involved and here we are,” Wilson said.
Asking why the organization chose The Riddler and The Penguin for baddies she said, “We knew he was afraid of The Joker after speaking with his parents. So The Penguin was a nifty mashup with kidnapping the seal,” (The San Francisco Giants baseball team’s mascot Lou Seal).
Speaking with her during a phone interview on a Wednesday afternoon, two days before the event she was clearly stunned. “We’ve never had anything like this honestly, it is humbling to have people so taken with it, I’m honored. I hope it helps as there are 350 other wishes I have to plan this year,” she said.
Such was the response from media that she said that she had 134 requests for interviews with either herself or Miles’ family. On the website Mashable.com, there was a page to sign up if people were going to attend. A week prior, she made a tweet mentioning 6,000 people signed up to attend the event. Wednesday the total was in the upper 10,000 range. During the interview she was looking at the numbers and was surprised, saying 11,136 signed up. Because of the huge numbers she said the final event where Batkid would get the key to the city was being moved from City Hall across the street to Civic Center Plaza.
She acknowledged what a huge role that social media websites played in promoting Miles’ wish. “This is something special going on that has a lot to do with social media and people who want to make positive change and a child battling an illness, also San Francisco as I don’t think any other city would have this response,” Wilson said.
People flock to the Canal neighborhood for Dia De Los Muertos
By Rem O’Donnelley
Hundreds of people gathered Saturday night in San Rafael’s Canal neighborhood for the 25th annual Dia De Los Muertos celebration where colorful altars were on display to honor departed loved ones.
Known in English as Day of the Dead, the festive event not only focuses on the lives of those celebrated through personal photographs and mementos but also the inevitability of death, in a non-sombre way.
Saturday night’s event was filled with traditional artwork, music, dancing and traditional foods. It was held at the Albert J. Boro Community Center in Pickleweed Park. In the gymnasium there were altars dedicated to deceased friends and family that were set up and adorned with photos, personal possessions, traditional marigolds, candies and fruits and artwork. Many of the whimsical skeleton figures that are most commonly associated with the event could be seen at each altar.
Douglas Mundo is the executive director of the Canal Welcome Center, which has been leading the celebration for the last eight years. He explained how they came about to choose what parts of the event to display. “We went through the tradition of different countries, the individual experiences and we were able to come out with the main stages of the celebration. The altar is where people make their offrendas or offerings (favorite foods and drinks of loved ones on the altar) at home, after that we wanted to create what we call the procession, so after that it is the cemetery where everything ends,” he said.
The round trip procession in the Canal neighborhood is led by a group of Aztec dancers entertaining the spectators, followed by the public and then a San Rafael fire truck at the rear.
“In Mexico and other Latin American countries, the Day of the Dead is a celebration like what we are experiencing today. It’s spiritual but it’s a celebration with music, food and dance in a very happy way. It’s not Halloween, it’s not the Mexican Halloween or anything. This is a traditional Day of the Dead celebration in a place to gather to celebrate life in the community,” Mundo explained.
Steve Mason is the supervisor of the community center. This was his fifth year working on the event that is his favorite on the center’s calendar. “For me, one of the most impactful aspects is the procession. Everyone marches together following the Aztec dancers down Canal Street. If you look up, you see families watching from their balconies before coming down and joining the procession back to the community center,” he said.
” hope that those that attend leave with an overall better understanding of this cultural event and those that honor their deceased loved ones by creating an altar will experience a positive connection with the dead,” Mason said.
New for this year was a raised stage which made it easier for the larger crowds to view performers. There was also an appearance by Mariachi Femenil Orgullo Mexicano,the only female mariachi band in Northern California.
There were some people who had not attended a Day of the Dead event before. Mary Tsolakis from San Rafael said, “This Is my first time. I thought it was fabulous, very multi cultural, very entertaining, I learned a lot, a lot of great images and I’m really happy I came.”
Also visiting for the first time was Judy Wilson and her husband Lawrence from San Rafael. “I belong to a Spanish conversation group that meets at the Tiburon library every week and we’ve been talking about Die De Los Muertos.” Wilson said.
Walking around the altars, husband Lawrence said, “It’s interesting because I’ve seen a program on it. Watching it on television it’s not as emotional as actually being here and seeing the pictures people. It seems real, much more real, so it’s kind of interesting.”
Amy Bingamon was volunteering at the event. “I lived in Marin county for 22 years and three of those years I lived in the Canal right across the street (from the community center).”
She explained why she came from Alameda to volunteer. “I just love this community and I love this event. This one for me has so much more heart and soul and it is so much more down to earth. It’s so much closer to tradition that I just love this event,” Bingamon said.
“We made a real effort to reach outside of the canal to bring people in, to welcome in and we can bridge some of the gaps and give people a reason to come to the canal and see that it’s a safe place, that it’s family oriented, that it’s a loving place and it’s beautiful. To bring people here is really important to us,” she said.
A series of large, colorful murals commemorating the 25th anniversary was displayed at the celebration. The murals depict various Latin American countries’ take on Dia Day Los Muertos. “It is really nice to work for the community because you have to give something and we have to give it to the community,” Isidoro Angeles, one of the mural artists said.
The murals will be on display at the community center for the next month and then there are plans for them to travel around the Bay Area. “Hopefully the idea is to put them in non-profit places, schools, universities, museums, any place wherever they want to put this,” Angeles said.
Speaking with Douglas Mundo after the crowds had left the gymnasium, he reflected on the celebration. “I feel the event went very well. We had a wonderful crowd today with the procession, the mariachis and the other musical groups. Seeing people happy, honoring their ancestors and loved ones who passed away but also enjoying in having a deeper understanding about death. It’s more positive and I love that.”
Locals haven’t forgotten the heroes
By Rem O’Donnelley
Two months ago on August 17, the Rim Fire started. This devastating fire in the California section of the Sierra Nevada mountain range was so enormous that it could be seen from the International Space Station. Now, two months on it is 95 percent contained because of the tireless work of those battling it.
The fire has burned 402 square miles of land in Tuolumne and Mariposa counties. It is the largest wildfire to date in the country. It has cost $127 million dollars to fight and has taken over 5,000 firefighters from 44 states to fight it. In addition to the assault from land the fire was also being attacked from the air. Over 1,540 aviation hours were flown working to contain the fire and a whopping two million gallons of water dropped on it. Looking at both burnt groves of trees and in other areas treeless landscapes, there is the news that almost 40 percent of the burnt areas are “nothing but charred land.”
Firefighters did an excellent job protecting lives and no one was killed. These professionals took on an a gigantic fire and worked long hours to reduce it, area by area. These firefighters were thanked in the small towns near the affected areas. They were offered free showers, free food and the gratitude of everyone. Driving around small towns outside of Yosemite, there were many thank you signs for these heroes. Here is a collection of them.
Downtown Fourth street feels French on a Friday night
Streetgoers in San Rafael were entertained Friday night as the Art Works Downtown organization held their Almost Midnight in Paris event.
The event produced by the Downtown Business Improvement District not only brought artists at the Art Works Downtown studios visitors but also to shops and restaurants as people walked up and down Fourth street. At the downtown plaza and at Fourth and E street there were food vendors, music and performers. A stiltwalker who made balloon animals and hats, entertained children and adults alike.
To add to the French theme for the night there was a poodle parade down Fourth street. The parade was a fundraiser for Guide Dogs For The Blind that brought both small and large poodles, poodles wearing shirts and berets.
Participating in the parade was San Rafael resident Cindy Wookey who brought her two poodles Otis and Chewie. “I think it is great for San Rafael and to participate. We love our dogs and we want to see more poodles.”
This was the last night of the featured exhibit Memento Mori (Latin for Remember Death) by artists D Young V and Eddie Colla at the Art Works Downtown main gallery. Colla who has a studio in Oakland explained this exhibition is about impermanence. His mixed media artwork for the exhibit consists of photography, image transfer and stenciling. Amongst the images and spray painted items were old shoes on the floor with broken bottles holding candles around an altar of a woman. Colla hopes visitors to the exhibit will “think a little bit about the temporary nature of things.”
Greeting visitors at the downtown plaza and handing out cards for his reelection was city councilman Greg Brockbank, who said he enjoys the downtown events. Also at the plaza, Julia Aux Fleurs sang French songs passionately to a crowd and received loud cheers.
Back at the gallery Art Works Downtown Executive Director Elizabeth Setten was pleased at how the event was going. “This has been a terrific conversation that the Marin Community has been exposed to,” she said.
The ArtWorks Downtown studios are at 1337 Fourth Street in San Rafael. More information on their upcoming shows and events are at http://www.artworksdowntown.org