Sunday, January 31, 2010

5th Grade History Songs

During the 1970-71 school year I was 10 years old and in the 5th grade. I was in the beginning stages of finding interests and passions that I'd keep for the rest of my life: puppetry, baseball and American History.

The reason for the last one on the list has a lot to do with a learning tool that my 5th grade teacher, Miss Dietz, used to help her students understand the revolutionary war. It was a record album.

As a 5th grade student at Brensinger School I was not very interested in anything to do with classroom work. I was interested in anything but the subjects being taught.

When we started learning about the revolutionary war during our "free time" to work on projects the teacher started playing a record with songs about the heroes of the Continental Army.

The tunes were not only catchy and memorable but the lyrics told the stories of the individuals who helped the patriots win the war. It featured songs about General George Washington, German General Friedrich Wilhelm Ludolf Gerhard Augustin Von Steuben, Henry Knox (Fort Knox is named after him) and Timothy Murphy.

These songs were so entertaining and conveyed the story of those initial American heroes so effectively that even at age 49 I still think of them from time to time. I even sing them from time to time. Of course I sing them to myself because no one else would know them.

The chorus of the song about George Washington says:
He was more than a picture on a postage stamp.
He was more than a face on a dollar bill.
He was more than the subject of a Gilbert Stuart portrait.
Not a man standing stiff, not a man standing still,
But a man of action with a job that must be done.
General George, General George Washington.

That was my favorite song of the entire album. In honor of that song I have put the portrait of Washington mentioned in the lyrics at the top of this post.

This brings me to yet another portion of my childhood I've recovered from the Internet. With just the lyrics to the chorus written above I did a search for the album. I didn't find a copy of the record but I did find a down loadable version of a concert by the Texas Boys Choir featuring the songs of the album called "The Continental Soldier". They are the exact same songs I listened to as a 5th grader. You can listen to them yourself at:

So now I have those songs saved on my computer and can listen to them whenever I want a refresher course on the heroes of the Revolution. They will always take me back to the days when I was an impressionable young 5th grade boy whose interest in history was sparked by simple thing like a teacher playing a record album. After
40 years later I've finally come to appreciate it. Thanks Miss Dietz.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Snow Day

Today was the first time since I've lived in South Central Kentucky that I didn't go to work because of snow. That's right. It snowed about 7 inches of snow here in my tiny little village. That made getting to work this morning very dangerous.

The picture above was taken with a yard stick in the snow on top of the railing of our backyard deck. Getting that much snow at one time is a big deal around here. It's probably the most snow we've had at one time since I moved to Kentucky in March of 1999. Areas to the south of us got even more.

When I called into my job at about 5:45AM the security desk told me that the call center's 3rd shift had been sent home and there was no one there. I didn't know if the day shift had been cancelled or not. I just decided that I wouldn't be the only one "crazy" enough to travel through the slick streets to get there; so I called off.

Spent part of the morning cleaning off our sidewalk, driveway and our cars. By the afternoon the sun had come out and melted some of the snow but not much.

Since we could get there on the main roads that had been plowed, at least a little bit, we decided to go to the 50th anniversary celebration at our church. Tommy & Sandy Walters renewed their vows on the exact date of their anniversary.

The rest of my snow day was spent at home napping and just relaxing. Tomorrow it's up and out in the snow to work. But now it's only a 4 day work week. I guess everyone deserves a snow day every 10 years or so.

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Country Music Hall Of Fame

This past Wednesday (January 27) when I went to Nashville to go to open mic night at Zanies. I got into town sooner than I had expected. I actually got there a couple of hours early . I needed something to do until 6:30 when the doors opened at the comedy club.

I decided to do something I've wanted to do for a while; visit the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Located on 5th Avenue just behind the Sommet Center in the heart of downtown Nashville the Country Music Hall of Fame is an impressive building with a unique design. It kind of reminds me of the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green.

It was close to closing time at the musuem. It was 4:15 when I bought my ticket; giving me less than an hour to walk through and see the exhibits.

I started on the 3rd floor as recommended by the woman at the ticket counter. There were several kiosks and video screens that showed the roots and history of country music in America. Most of displays were costumes and instruments worn and used by country performers over the years. I saw some stage clothes and guitars of my favorite performers, Jim Reeves, Eddy Arnold, Bill Anderson and Loretta Lynn to name a few.

There were some unique items on display as well like one of Elvis Presley's favorite Cadillacs and his gold painted piano. There were some sound boards used in Nashville recording studios to record some of country music's most famous songs.

The second floor was mostly a special exhibit dedicated to the Hank Williams family history. Not being a fan of either Hank Williams Sr. or Jr. I didn't spend much time looking at that exhibit. I did sit in a little theater area and watch a video display of some of TVs most popular shows featuring country music.

That's where I saw the one thing I was most impressed with throughout the entire museum. It was a recreation of the cornfield set from the TV show Hee Haw. Having been in the same studio where Hee Haw had been taped just a couple of weeks ago (see my January 13 post) I really liked seeing the Hee Haw tribute. It even had some of the costumes and clothes worn by some of the show's most popular stars. There was a dress worn by Lulu Roman, bib overalls belonging to Grandpa Jones, and the scarecrow costume worn by David "String bean" Akeman.

The visit to the museum was totally spontaneous so I didn't have my camera with me to take any pictures. I tried to take some with my camera I can't get them to my computer. If I do manage to get them to download I'll post them on Facebook.

After walking through the 3 floors of displays my last stop was in the rotunda that displays plaques of all the people officially inducted into the HOF. I saw a lot of people I knew and listened to while growing up. I also learned about a lot of the songwriters and "behind the scene" people who helped make country music popular throughout its history. The HOF rotunda is a nice place to appreciate all the talented people who have shared their talents, music and lives with us over the years.

Of course the last stop on the museum tour was the gift shop. I didn't really want any type of souvenir but I did find a relatively inexpensive T-shirt that I liked. I'll take a picture of myself when I wear it and post it here.

Now I can say that I've been to the Country Music Hall of Fame. I don't know if I'll ever go back again. I may so I can spend a little more time and look at what I missed. The only people I can think of who might ever want to go with me are my sister-in-law, Theresa, and my brother-in-law Bob. Perhaps in 2011 when the Pennsylvania family come to visit again we can make a day trip to Nashville and visit. That will be fun.

While I was by myself I wasn't alone as I walked through the museum. With every display I saw and every exhibit one thought kept going through my mind. I kept thinking how much much my mom & dad would have loved to have been there. It makes me sad sometimes that I never got the chance to bring them here to Nashville for a visit. They would have been overjoyed to see all the country music places and history. But I'm sure they don't regret it after all they're in heaven. I'll bet there's lots of country music there and, at least, some former country music stars to tell them all about it.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

My Future In Comedy

Like all other performing arts performing, ventriloquism takes both talent and skill. One of those skills is the ability to be funny. I don't mean funny like meatloaf that's been in the fridge for a month. I mean the ability to tell jokes and stories to make people laugh.

I have been known to make up a joke every now and then. So if you divide people into the categories of "funny" on "not funny" I consider myself in the former. But to be funny in front of people takes more than natural ability. There are necessary skills that must be learned and practiced.

I have been looking for opportunities to learn those skills and develop them to performance level. Being funny is very important to a ventriloquist.

I've been listening to some teaching on the skills of comedy from a couple of CDs I purchased by Darren LaCroix. He's an award winning public speaker who started out as a stand up comic.

One CD was a recording of LaCroix's Internet program, Humor 101, in which he interviews comedy teacher and author, Judy Carter. Carter teaches comedy classes in the Los Angeles California area. She's also written 2 very good books on learning to be funny: "Stand Up Comedy: the Book" and "The Comedy Bible".

The tips and pointers about writing jokes are very valuable things for me to learn. There's the "Magic of 3" rule. That's where you use 2 things that are similar to set up a 3rd thing which is not, as a punchline. Then there's the rule, it takes 10 to get 2. You have to write 10 jokes to get 2 good ones.

It was at the recommendation of LaCroix that I went to the open mic night at Zanies the other night. He said that you shouldn't look at the established comedians, like those on Comedy Central and such, and compare yourself. You should see those who are also, just starting out are like, to see how you compare.

At the open mic night I saw some pretty good comics and some not so good ones. I paid attention to their joke presentation and their set ups. I tried to picture myself up on stage.
I've always wanted to try stand up comedy and I will probably try it. My dream is to do an open mic night set at Zanies at least once. But I'm going to have to do some writing and practicing before I even think about it.

One thing I know for sure. I don't want a career in stand up comedy. The atmosphere and the culture that exists in places it's performed is not what I believe God wants for me. I'm not very comfortable in that environment at all. It's just like the night club scene when I was a party DJ.

I could have made more money playing at local bars and clubs but that just wasn't something I felt comfortable doing. It wasn't my niche. Instead, weddings and birthday parties was where I found I was most comfortable and successful.

I'm not sure exactly where God wants me to be performing in my ventriloquist career right now. Other than the occasional library performance and the Awana music ministry at my church, my opportunities to perform just aren't there. But that doesn't discourage me.

I believe that I need to continue to get better at writing and performing comedy and advance my ventriloquist skills. For one day soon God is going to open the door for my ministry and I want to be ready to walk through.

As far as stand up comedy is concerned. I may just do my "just once" wish of getting up on Zanies stage in front of that crowd. Just to say that I did it.

But learning to be the best and funniest ventriloquist I can be and being ready to go and minister where God shows me to go are the two most important things I need to do. That's how I see my future in comedy.

Monday, January 25, 2010

NBC's Late Night Troubles

Why do TV executives continue to mess with success? Don't they understand that if something works, on the air, you don't mess with it? Those in charge at NBC sure don't.

Before I get into my opinions on the ridiculous problems over the last few months at NBC, let me just say that I am a fan of both Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien. If forced to choose sides I'd pick Leno. He's better at stand-up and has a "likeablity" factor. But this isn't about taking sides. It's about the tradition of "The Tonight Show", it's place and contribution in the history of the media of television, and how it's caretakers have messed it up almost beyond repair.

The trouble all started about 5 years ago when NBC arranged through contracts and agreements, to switch Tonight Show hosts from Leno to O'Brien in 2009. It seemed like a long way off at the time. It was probably set up by NBC executives as a means of keeping both of their late night stars. They were counting on Leno being ready to retire in '09 but that didn't turn out to be true.

When it came time to pull the trigger on the prearranged change, The "Tonight Show" was at the top of the ratings. Leno, the perpetual workaholic, was no where ready to leave the gig he had worked so diligently to build up. Nevertheless the deal was, literally, signed. Leno was out. Conan was in at the late night program.
In an unprecedented move to keep one of its few stars and save money on production costs the network moved Jay to a 10PM time slot. Instead of a drama or news magazine NBC decided to launch it's late night schedule while it was still prime time.

The idea might have been brilliant . It was the biggest gamble on TV in a long time; an experiment that if it worked might very well change the face of network television. But it allso had a high potential for disaster. The new "Jay Leno Show" was drastically different from The Tonight Show. I won't go into details but you can read my September 19,2009 post for my initial reaction and criticism. Let's just simply say the show was awful and very difficult to watch. I couldn't stand it. I quit watching.

Conan's switch didn't involve much change as far as his format was concerned. But his comedy style was wrong for the Tonight Show audience. It just didn't work either. Once the novelty of seeing the latest successor to TV's most influential talk show chair and desk wore off the ratings dropped. Of course some would contend that the ratings suffered because of the poor lead in from Leno's show but that's arguable.

So all the problems that having 2 stars on 2 shows that weren't working forced NBC executive's' hand. The first axe to fall was on the neck of The Jay Leno Show at 10PM. It's cancellation set off a chain of speculation about program shifting, media gossip, verbal barbs, jokes, and press releases the world of late night TV hadn't seen since the days following the announcement of Johnny Carson's retirement.

The rumored resolution to the problem (giving Leno a 30 minute 11:35 show and shifting The Tonight Show and Late Night program) was touted as yet another potential disastrous move by the inept NBC execs.

NBC was saved a lot of embarrassment and a lot of money when Conan O'Brien did the most honorable thing of the entire fiasco. He quit. While he might have had many reasons for doing so the main reason he sighted was a respect for the institution of "The Tonight Show" itself.

The negotiations and ultimate settlement O'Brien received (he walked away with $32 million) is not all that outrageous by today's standards. Have you seen what the top movie stars and baseball players are being paid these days?

I also admire both O'Brien and Leno for doing what they had to do to make sure their staffs had jobs or some financial compensation. Leno will take his entire 10PM staff with him back to "Tonight". O'Brien's settlement also included $12 million severance for his employees.

The controversy will have it's closing chapter when Leno airs his last show later this month. Conan's last Tonight Show was January 22. Now after NBC's coverage of the Olympic Games Leno will be back in the place he never should have left; as the host of "The Tonight Show". It's kind of like he went to television "OZ" except the wicked old witch (NBC executives) are the ones who will bring him back to "Kansas".

One final thing I need to address before I conclude this extremely lengthy post: the audacity of David Lettermen through this whole thing. Almost daily I would see banners on AOL's home page extolling, or at least announcing as news, the CBS Late Show host's latest comments about and insults directed toward Jay Leno. Given the moral perversion Letterman has admitted to over the last several months he has no room to judge.

How can he criticize any one's behavior and be expected to remain credible? He lives in a house with paper thin glass and he's catapulting boulders. Even if he's trying to be ironically funny it's very sad and self degrading. There's not even the slightest foothold at all that makes it possible for him to establish even a momentary place of moral high ground. SHUT UP LETTERMAN!

Maybe he should start looking at himself for comedy material and behavior to judge. There's plenty of jokes about sexual harassing bosses and adulterers.

That's all I have to say about that and NBC's Late Night Troubles. I'm glad they're over and look toward seeing The Tonight Show rebound to the pop culture icon Carson and his predecessors made it in the first place.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

2010 Catch-Up Post 1

It's been a week since I've published a post. As busy as the week before was, last week was just the opposite; virtually uneventful. But since I've promised to keep y'all posted (no pun intended) on what's going on in my life; here's a summary of what's happened since my last post.

Adventures In Ventriloquism

In an effort to be true to my "all in" commitment to ventriloquism I've been writing and practicing more often. This has resulted in what I'll call a "crisis of faith" in my abilities. Without going into details let me just say that being focused has shown me close up some of my flaws. The things I need to work on and improve have become painfully obvious. I need to be more natural and better. It's very humbling and frustrating at the same time.

Don't worry I'm just going through a time of transition that will require some determination and prayer to work through. I've no doubt that I will grow through this and will become the ventriloquist God wants me to be.

January Weight Loss Goals

Both my wife and I continue to work toward our weight lost goals. I'm sure we're going to reach the goals we've set for January. Paula has started exercising on a daily basis again and is close to a significant milestone in her progress.

I have just set up a room in our house that will enable us to use the treadmill and do aerobics videos whenever we want. That should help us keep moving.

Plans for Vacation

Although we haven't made any certain determinations we have begun to talk with the Pennsylvania family about the time frame for our trip to see them this year. We're talking about sometime in June. There are some special events going on around that time and it would be nice if we could be there to help celebrate them.

Paula and I also want to do some type of 1 or 2 day stop along the way either on the way to or from PA as well. We want to do something special together, just the two of us. Not sure what's involved in that but we're talking about it. More about our plans as they become more certain.

Awana Music

This past Wednesday night I led the music portion of our AWANA group at church. I taught them the scripture song for 1st John 4: 7&8. I learned it when I was their age and it still sticks with me. I also sang the song "The Bible Is For You" to the tune "I wanna Be Like You" from Disney's The Jungle Book. During the musical bridges I let the kids who raised their hands say Bible verses they have memorized. I plan on doing both of those things again next month.

Climbing The Electronics Mountain

Since before Christmas I have had a stack of new electronics sitting in my computer room waiting for me to use or install them. After Christmas there were 4 of them to be exact: a new wireless computer printer, a device for copying VHS tapes to the computer to make DVDs, a turntable to convert records into MP3 files for the computer, and my new IPOD.

This past Friday I took the first step toward climbing that mountain. I installed the new printer to my desktop computer. I still have to set it up so Paula can access it from her laptop but at least it's no longer in the box and it's usable. I plan on having the other devices up and working by the end of February.

So there you have what's been going on with me this past week. I told you it wasn't that exciting. There's one other thing that I've been doing but writing about it will require an entire separate post. That's all for this first "Catch-Up" post of the new year. thanks for your interest in my blog even when it's dull. I'll try and be more entertaining next time.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Heading Toward A Birthday Goal

Back in 2004 after I returned from our vacation in Walt Disney World there was nothing I wanted more than to be able to, one day, go back. I was obsessed with the desire to make it bigger and better than the first one.

I calculated a savings plan that would have me saving over $7000 saved by September 2010 so I could go back to "the world" for my 50th birthday. It was more than a savings plan. It was a campaign. I called it "Disney @ 50. I even created my own logo; an outline of Mickey's head and ears with a "50" inside it. It was a long range goal that I was determined would happen. I was well on my way just a year later with $1500 saved.

A little over 3 years later, September 2007, I set another goal for my 50th birthday. That was a weight loss plan. I figured out if I lost 6 pounds a month until September 2010 I would reach my goal weight of 175 pounds. This was 2 years before the thought of having gastric bypass surgery ever came into my mind. I was still determined to lose my weight with conventional dieting methods.

So there I has 2 big goals set for my 50th Birthday: going back to Disney World and weighing 175 pounds.

As I said, my "Disney @ 50" plans were well underway when God changed my heart and my priorities changed. I walked away from my plans for going to Disney World and ended up transferring my designated savings to our general bank account.

In 2008, my plans to lose 6 pounds a month turned out to be a dismal failure. In fact, my poor eating habits (aka gluttony) were so out of control I was gaining at that rate not losing. Once again God worked in my life and led me down the path to weight loss surgery.

As of today, 7 months and 23 days before my 50th birthday I am 100 pounds away from reaching my goal weight for my 50th birthday.

This means I have to lose 12.5 pounds a month until then. But that's about the pace I've been losing so far. I can't assume that I will meet my goal but I am well on my way there. Much closer than I thought I would ever be 3 years ago when I first set the mark.

It's not going to be easy and I'll have to work hard at getting there. But its nice to know that at leas one of my goals for my 50th birthday is within reach.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Friday Night Comedy

The best week of the year so far ( I know we're only 15 days into 2010 but it's still true) came to a conclusion with Friday night at Zanies Comedy Club in Nashville.
My wife and I left town about 4:15. We slowly navigated Friday afternoon rush hour in Nashville waiting in traffic on I-65/I-40 to finally get to the club about 10 minutes before the doors opened at 6PM.

We got some decent seats near the stage but not right in front of it. Most of the tables are small and cramped. Ours was in a place that had a little more room. It was the most comfortable place I've sat to watch a show there.

We each found an item on the very limited menu that we could enjoy but still stay on our diets. Paula ordered a roast beef sandwich and I got a grilled chicken breast sandwich with cheese. Neither of us ate the bread and we peeled the coating off of the mozzarella sticks we got and only ate the cheese.

The show started at 7:30. The first comic was a woman named Patti Vasquez. I knew her from the Bob & Tom radio show and has seen her before on the TV version of the show on WGN out of Chicago. I liked her and knew Paula would too. We laughed at her jokes about being a mother, ethnic background and having to deal with other mother's sharing their unsolicited opinions about her children.

She did about 30 minutes on stage then introduced the headliner; the guy we came to see, John Pinette. It was the 2nd time I'd seen him at Zanies. He was funny but seemed to be a bit distracted and uncomfortable throughout his act. There were times when it looked like he had lost his place and couldn't remember what was next. He repeated the same lines over and over almost to a fault. Paula and I think something was wrong with him. Perhaps he was sick but went on with the show anyway. Nevertheless we enjoyed him.

After he did about an hour the show was over. Patti Vasquez came back on to close the show and draw a winner from the comment cards audience members had filled out and turned in. My name was picked and I won a $25 gift certificate for Zanies. This means I'm going back again. LOL.

As we left we bought one of Ms. Vasquez's t-shirts that says "Just because you can talk doesn't mean you should".

It was a wonderful evening with my wife and a great way to conclude this eventful week. Only thing now is what am I going to do the rest of the year to beat it?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Another Basketball Game

Last night I went back to the same sports arena where I saw the Harlem Globetrotters on Monday night, the indoor sports arena of Western Kentucky University.

I went to see the college's women's basketball team play Florida Atlantic University. I went with my sister-in-law, Theresa. I had promised I'd go with her to a game this season and last night was the perfect night to do so.

"T" is a Lady Hilltoppers basketball fanatic. She's had season tickets for several years and goes to as many games as she can every season. She really enjoys being at the game. I was impressed with the number of friends she has in the area where she sits. They're like a little family.
I'm not really a basketball fan but I do like watching the game in person. I guess that stems back to the season I was a team equipment manager for my high school basketball team during my freshmen year back in 1975.

It was a great evening. Due to the kindness of some of Theresa's friends I was able to sit next to her without having to buy a ticket. If you look at the picture of E. A. Diddle arena at the top of this post (taken 2 years ago the last time I went to a game) you can see our seats. They were 2 rows to the right of the 30 second clock that's on top of the basket in the foreground. We were right behind the Lady Toppers bench. It was a great place to watch a game.

The Lady Toppers won rather easily leading by 9 points at half time and winning by a score of 76-57.

So although it was the first event I had made plans for this week the basketball game was the 3rd fun event in as many nights. I've gotten to spend some 1-on-1 time with 3 of my Kentucky family members so far this week. As mentioned in my last post, Friday will be my date night with my wife. It should be a lot of fun.

By the way, I've not forgotten about my daughters in law. I've already promised them on Facebook that I'd work at finding something special to take them to as well. I've just asked for the rest of the year to do it.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Blue Comedy Tour Special

The second event of a fun-filled week happened on Tuesday night. My son, Michael and I drove to Nashville to be part of the audience for the taping of the CMT special, Blue Collar Comedy: 10 years of Funny. It featured 3 of the 4 popular stand up comedians from the Blue Collar Comedy films and TV show and CDs: Jeff Foxworthy, Bill Engvall, Larry The Cable Guy.

The programs was staged in Studio A of the Grand Ole Opry House just across from the Opry Mills Mall. That's the mall where our family went to the IMax movie on New Year's Day.
I had been in Studio A 9 years ago when I went on the tour of the Grand Ole Opry House with my Pennsylvania family. The show Hee Haw was filmed the last 15 seasons of it's run.

I got the tickets for free from the website of Zanies Comedy Club. I was on the site to purchase tickets to another show (more about that later in the week) when I saw the tickets were being offered for free through email. I snatched a pair up as quickly as I could.

I was really excited knowing I'd not only get to sit and watch 3 of my favorite comedians talk about their success but I would get to see how a TV show is made at the same time.

We stood outside in the cold evening temperatures for a few minutes. The most memorable thing about the wait was seeing a picture on the Opryland electronic billboard that I thought was Rosie O'Donnell but it turned out to be Ronnie Milsap. As Michael the resemblance was uncanny. We had to wait outside while a woman, who was professional audience specialist, was inside seating everyone in the arrangement most compatible with the production standards.

We ended up sitting in the back row of the sections of seats to the right hand side of the stage. Not the best seats in the house in fact they were some of the worst. The metal folding chairs were rather small, flimsy and uncomfortable. Also, they fastened together so you couldn't move them to get more elbow room. I guess you get what you pay for.

As she was finishing seating the audience the woman expert asked everyone with open chairs in their rows to spread out so that it looked full. She suggested we take up 2 seats if we had to. I told Michael that I had spent $3000 and worked for 6 months so that I wouldn't have to take up two seats I was just fine sitting on one.

I knew from the email that taping was scheduled to last for 2 hours from 7-9. I was looking forward being entertained by stories, jokes, and personal recollections by this trio of redneck funny men. But the best thing about the night came as a complete surprise.

Just before the taping started I found out that one of the stars of my current favorite sitcom, My Name Is Earl, was going to be hosting the show. I was going to be in the same room for 2 hours with Jaime Presley. She's the actress that plays Earl's ex-wife, Joy, in the show. Although she had cut her long blond hair really short getting to see her in person was icing on the cake for me.

Once the show started there were lights, cameras, and teleprompters everywhere. The comics were terrific.They were very friendly and funny as they talked about 10 years of working with each other and being friends both on and off stage.
I'm not sure if Michael and I got on camera but we had a great time. I don't know when the show will be on CMT. I'll have to let you know when I find out.

Even if we didn't make on the show I just want to document the fact that we were there. So that when it airs and I tell people about it I can prove it by the fact that I wrote this post long before it came on TV.

So far 2010 has been pretty good year year for special event with my family members. Going to the movies on New Year's Day with the whole family, seeing the Globetrotters with James, and Michael and me being part of the Blue Collar Comedy anniversary special audience is a relatively good start for the year. I hope the trend continues. I know it will. Later this week Paula and I are going to Zanies in Nashville a comedy show. I'll tell you more about that on Saturday.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Comedy & Basketball

Last night my son, James, and I enjoyed an evening of classic American family fun. We went to WKU's sports arena and saw the World Famous Harlem Globetrotters.

The show is a combination of hoops and smile as everyone gets into the act. Even a sportscaster from our local station, WBKO, who played in the game.

There were dunks, slams, jokes and audience participation. The Trotters star player, Special K, was a the center of most of the routines, jokes, and laughs. In this picture, Special K searches for some comic relief on the internet with a laptop computer provided by Globie, the team mascot.

It was the first of three nights of family and fun for me this week. Come back tomorrow for the details on the next one.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Moving Forward with "All In"Ventriloquism

In the game of poker when a player is sure he can win the game he pushes all his chips to the center of the table and goes "all in". He's committing all he has at stake. He's either victorious or he's broke. There's no two ways about it. He's putting all his faith in the cards he's been dealt.
Over the past couple of days I've watched DVDs featuring 2 of my favorite ventriloquists: Taylor Mason and Terry Fator. As much as I love both music and ventriloquism, I believe my niche on stage falls very close to Terry Fator's style.Taylor Mason is a very unique entertainer as well. His approach to his act is "off the beaten path" from main stream ventriloquism.
Watching them both and the success of their acts compels me to work harder and get better at performing. I really need to be fully committed to my ventriloquism.

Now I know I've been "singing this same song" on this blog for a while but it only means that my desires are true and I am struggling with doing it. It's very similar to how I used to be with losing weight and exercising.

So today while the year is still relatively new I'm going to put my life focus on ventriloquism. I'm going "all in". It's not going to be just one of my hobbies it's going to be my passion.

In the past I've diligently pursued and accomplished projects that took effort, focus, and commitment. Converting my Rewind programs to CD, creating yearbooks for 4 years of my life, planning a trip to Disney World and then documenting it, are just a couple.

It is with that passion and focus I now push all my chips to the center of the table. I have faith that the hand that God has dealt me will be enough to be successful in the way He wants me to be. He has given me the skills to have a successful ventriloquist ministry now all I have to do is the work to take advantage of the talents and opportunities He's given me.

So with the publication of this post I'm publicly putting myself on the line. I'm going to be a better ventriloquist. I know when it comes down to being one or not being one I already am; but I'm going to be better. I'm going to hone my craft. I don't want to be just known as Ron the guy who happens to be a ventriloquist. I want to be known as Ron the ventriloquist. There's a difference and I'm going to do my part to make it happen.

I'm committing to God and myself. In the poker game of ventriloquism I'm "All In".

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

186 Days Later

Today marks 6 months since my weight loss surgery. In that time I have lost 111 pounds; a total of 126 since March 20 of last year.

Over the past 1/2 year I've written a lot about how losing weight has changed my life. There's not a whole lot more to write today that I haven't already. I do want to say that I am thankful that God has been with me through this entire journey. Without the motivation of knowing that what I am doing is an obedience to Him and His will for my life I would have started struggling with my food and exercise issues a long time ago.

He also has given me the blessing of having Paula as my partner in this life changing effort. She has helped me get through everything from my actual surgery to learning what and how to eat correctly. She is truly a gift from God.

Until now the duration of my most successful weight loss effort (78 pounds on the LA Weight Loss diet back in 2006) only lasted about 4 months. That took extraordinary effort. That makes this 6 month mark the longest sustained weight loss effort of my life. But because of the surgery it's going to be for the rest of my life.

I still have a significant amount of weight to lose. I know that my continuing efforts will be rewarded. I thought about doing something "special" for my 6 month anniversary today but couldn't think of anything in particular. But God took care of that for me.

While I was at work today about several people gave me compliments about my weight loss. I heard phrases like " You've lost a lot of weight haven't you?" and "It's good to see that you're able to get around without your cane now."

At lunch today a co-worker and fellow weight loss surgery patient asked me if I attended a support group. She confided in me that she's having some trouble and shared other concerns related to gaining and losing weight.

I told her the support group's meeting schedule and gave her some advice about her problems. I told her if there was anything I could do to help her I would be more than happy to do so. It was an honor to know that she trusted me enough confide in me.

So now it's on down the road to my 1 year anniversary and a new calendar year. My prayer is that in the next 6 months I can strive to continue to be obedient to God and just as successful in my weight loss effort as I was the last half of 2009.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Cane Mutiniy

As 2010 begins I've made a decision. It's not a big decision. It only effects me but it's a decision nonetheless. It has to do with the simple task of walking.

Ever since the summer of 2007 when I fell and hurt my right knee I've been using a metal walking cane to help me get around. Eventually my knee got better but the weight I had gained in the interim combined with my drop foot condition in my left food made my balance very unstable. It seemed as though, to keep from tripping and falling, the cane was going to be a permanent part of my life.

With my weight loss, my balance has gotten a bit better but I've still been using the cane while walking the dogs and when going through the warehouse to the call center where I work. Other than those 2 occasions I've stopped using it.

With the start of the new year I've decided to give up using the cane all together. Well that is except when I walk the dogs. The uneven pavement throughout my walking route makes using the cane a matter of safety in that situation.

Otherwise I've given my cane it's "walking papers." For the most part I am now "cane free". It's just another in my list of many NSVs (Non-Scale Victories).

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year's Day In Nashville

The first day of 2010 was the kind of day I really like. It involved 3 things I really enjoy: time with my family, seeing a movie, and going out to eat. With the Christmas gift we received from our family in Pennsylvania ( a generous check) thel 7 members of my family who live in Kentucky (Paula, my sister in law, my sons, their wives, and me) decided to go to Nashville for the day. We went to the Imax theater in the Opry Mills Mall to see the movie "Avitar" then went to a restaurant for an early afternoon dinner.

We left home at 10:30 in the morning for a 12:20PM show. It only takes an hour to get there but we knew it would be crowded. Turns out we were right. The show was sold out. It was a good thing I ordered the ticket online and printed them out at home. Five of us went to the Imax movie. My 2 daughters in law went to see the new Meril Streep movie.

It was another "non-scale victory" for me as I sat in the Imax theater seat. The last time I was there I couldn't fit. I was extremely uncomfortatble. This time I had no problems getting comfortable even with the movable arms down at my side.

All my family members liked the 2 1/2 hour movie. I thought the story and the digital film making were unique but I didn't like the fact that it ended with a big battle scene. Why do all adventure/ fantasy movies have to end up being about war? The concept of the world of "Avitar" was new and interesting. It was like watching a computer game but once again the war aspect of the ending I didn't like.

After the movie we all went to the Rain Forest Cafe at the opposite end of the mall for dinner. It to was crowded so we had to wait an hour for a table. We all did some browsing in the nearby stores while we waited. I took the opportunity to do something I've been wanting to do for a while.

In the mall,near the food court, there is a Karaoke recording booth. For about $20 you can go into a recording studio and sing as on to musical accompaniment and have it recorded on CD. Knowing that we were going to the mall I took with me a copy of the lyrics to the "Roux En Y" song. It's a parody I wrote about my weight loss surgery written to the tune of the Beatles song "Yesterday".

I walked from the Rain Forrest Cafe to the Karaoke booth, paid my $20, sang my song, and walked away with the CD. I now have the Roux En Y Song recorded.

After an hour of waiting we were seated in the Rain Forrest Cafe dining room area. I had never been there before. It's decorated and themed to resemble an actual rain forest. There's a canopy of "trees" above you, a waterfall, and animatronic animals all around you. These include gorillas and monkeys. There's also fake animals who don't move. There was a zebra from the neck up mounted above the table where we were seated. Next to our table was a set of 3 animatronic gorillas and there was a baby gorilla swinging from a tree above our heads about 5 feet from where we sat.

Every 10 minutes the anamatronic animals would move and make noise as though they were alive and you are actually in a rain forest. It's a nice effect but it actually scared a lot of the little kids who were in the restaurant. Every 30 minutes there's thunder and lightening accompanied by the sound of a rainstorm.

This is the most entertaining aspect of the experience but it's also a built in timing device for patrons to gauge how long they've been waiting for their food. For instance the rainstorm happened as the waitress was taking our order. The animals came to "life" a couple of times while we were waiting. They didn't bring our meals until the next rainstorm came up. That tells me it took 30 minutes to get our food. The effects are essential to the restaurant's atmosphere and theme but I'll bet the wait staff has to deal with the time awareness a lot. It probably effects their tips too.

When the food was finally served everyone seemed to enjoy it. Theresa got a steak. Michael and James got burgers with some kind of fancy toppings. I got roasted chicken. Paula got half a turkey wrap and some tomato soup. Brandi got chicken fingers and fries, as usual. I don't remember exactly what Heather got but she had some awesome onion rings with it. By the time we finished eating we were so full no one even considered getting dessert.

After dinner we said our "good bye"s and headed for Kentucky. It was a very nice day and a good start to 2010.

On the way home I called my sister's in Pennsylvania and thanked them for allowing us to have such a good family day together.