Wednesday, March 24, 2010

So Long To Our Samsung

This afternoon I said "goodbye" to a "friend". I watched as our Samsung 50 inch DLP big screen TV was carried out of our house and loaded onto a pick up truck. The local TV repairman is going to use it for parts. The color wheel had gone out on it and the cost to fix it was going to be about 40% of what a new comparable TV will cost.

Watching that TV going out the door was a bit of an emotional experience for me. I felt a sadness inside. Now don't start thinking that I am too emotionally attached to an electronic device. Over the past 7 years a countless number of hours have been spent in front of that 50 inch TV watching game shows, dramas, comedy specials, classic sit coms, Disney animated features, movies, baseball and more. But the thing that tapped the well spring of emotion was not the loss of the TV (after all we're upgrading to a better one within the next couple of days). It was an era in my life that the TV symbolized coming to an end.

When we bought the TV in 2003 Paula and I were in the early days of our marriage. We had made it through 3 years of wanting to be together but our life situations not allowing it to happen. The family that lived in our house in August '03 was very different from the one that lived there even a year earlier. The 3 senior members of the family (Paula's grandmother, father, and sister) were no longer living in the 3 bedroom ranch. It was just the 4 of us: Paula, Michael, James and me.

James was in middle school. Michael was a young adult with a job but no immediate plans to move out on his own. We were in a place where we needed to establish a home and structure a family that was unique to us. We had to grow together and become a family. One of the keys to doing that was redesigning our living room.

The living room had long been the place where Paula's grandmother spent most of her waking hours. The house's main TV was in that room but most of the other family members didn't spend time there. Because of the different circumstances the only time spent they spent time together as a family was usually at the dinner table. So Paula and I made plans to redesign our living room and turn it into a room that the boys would be drawn to and where we could spend time as a family.

Given our "new family's" tendency to gravitate toward the television during our free time, whether it was watching commercial TV; movies; or playing video games, Paula and I knew that the keystone to establishing our living room was a good quality television.

We shopped around for a bit and decided on the Samsung. It was also Paula's idea to get a Bose home theater system. This way we could the room would be a great place to sit and watch movies. We added in some storage cabinets, some new furniture including some recliners, and the new family room was complete.

The TV and newly designed living room did exactly what we wanted it to do. Over the last remaining months of 2003 and for the next few years our living room was the focus point of our home. We watched movies together. James and Michael had their friends come over to play video games.

There were countless number of nights into the wee small hours of the morning when James and his high school buddies, usually 6 or more at a time, would be playing the latest multiple player video game on a split screen. Michael's late night activities usually only included 1 or 2 friends, mostly his friend Chad.

Paula and I have spent time together watching our favorite TV shows and movies over the years. I watched the more than 60 Disney animated features in my collection 1 by 1 on our big screen TV.

The living room and TV even served as a place to make memories for my extended family. When my sisters and their families would come from Pennsylvania to visit we spent time in the living room visiting and watching our favorite movies. I can remember watching the Disney movies "Finding Nemo" and "Holes" when they came to visit in 2004.

For me one of the best things about having the TV happened when HDTV service became available. That's when I really started to enjoy watching baseball in my living room. I have watched hundreds of games, playoffs and World Series over the last 7 years.

Since James joined the National Guard in the summer of 2007 and May of 2008 when Michael moved out the living room is no longer the focus point for us as a family. It serves the same purpose when the boys and our daughters-in-law come over to visit but it's different now.

Still during the past few years when it's been just Paula and I in the room together watching whatever we're watching the TV served as a symbolic reminder, of the memories of the times spent together as a that 4 member family.

Now that symbol is gone. Carried away to be used for parts. I guess I shouldn't really focus on the object. I should be expressing thanks to God. He's the won who blessed us enough that it allowed us to the means to create a place like our living room and own something so useful as the Samsung. He's the one that cultivated the love between us as a family.

I guess it's easy to focus on objects because of how visible they are in our lives. But as the Bible says God is the one who blesses us,establishes relationships and directs our path. The Samsung TV may be gone but God's spirit which has blessed and established this family and grown us as individuals over the past 7 years still remains. He not only abides in our living room and inhabits our homes; He continues to live in our lives and our hearts. God's everlasting love and guidance for me and my family is something that will never ever go away.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

What's The Issue With "Song Of The South"?

The subject discussed in this post may be of little if any interest to those of you who are not Disney enthusiasts. But as a fan and collector of Disney movies on DVD the subject is one I'm very interested in.

Last week at the Walt Disney Corporation's annual shareholder's meeting in San Antonio, Texas, CEO, Bob Iger, answered a question that comes up almost every year. During a Q&A session one shareholder asked if and when the classic Disney movie, "Song of the South", would be released on DVD.

Iger referred to the movie as "antiquated" and "fairly offensive" then with a rather certain tone affirmed that the company has not plans to release the film in the foreseeable future. I find this decision extremely hypocritical of the Disney corporation. I don't understand all the super sensitivity and fear of offending that seems to have attached itself to "SOTS".

It's not like Disney is afraid of other depictions of social stereotypes in other films being available on DVD. If it were would Dumbo be on store shelves right now? Remember those crows and their song?

As a matter of fact just look at the contents of many Disney animated and live action features from the 40's & 50's. You'll find some sort of what is now "politically incorrect" stereotype in almost every one of them.

I just finished watching the 2 Disney movies about Davy Crockett for the first time. That series was a pop cultural phenomenon that put coonskin caps and frontier adventures on the map. Yes as I watched it I saw many stereotypes and "offensive" portrayals of all sorts of people and nationalities; especially native American Indians. When it comes to finding films offensive why does Disney draw the line of political correctness at "Song of the South"?

In regard to Iger's comment that the movie is "antiquated" that flies in the face of the fact that classic Disney films like "Old Yeller" and "Swiss Family Robinson" are sold and even promoted by Disney Entertainment as "classics." But they are steeped in antiquity because their is no hint of those film's culture in existence today.

Swiss Family Robinson is even part of the Disney theme parks in Florida and California. The recreation of the movie's tree house is a long time and still popular attraction.

The climactic moment of "Old Yeller" is still referenced in an iconic manner right alongside of the emotionally stirring fate of the mother in Bambi.

Speaking of movies transcending to Disney theme parks; Disney's effort to ignore "Song of the South" by keeping the celluloid locked away in it's vaults is blatantly countered by it's identification with the film through Splash Mountain; one of it's most popular roller coasters in both it's US theme parks. "SOTS" characters appear from time to time for "meet and greets" with guests in the parks as well.
I'm not exactly sure what Disney is afraid of in regard to the release of "Song of The South"on DVD. The movie is very much part of the Disney history and culture. Perhaps the corporation is afraid of the potential negative backlash from African American leaders and those in the media.

I mean Bob Iger doesn't want to turn on the TV and see Oprah devoting an hour to discussing the prejudice conveyed in the stereotype of Uncle Remus. But aren't there really things on TV and in movies today that are much more offensive to African Americans than the things in "Song of the South"?

In my opinion, Disney is holding back on releasing the movie on DVD because it can't come up with a way to present it's content in a mostly positive manner. For hardcore Disney fans and collectors the novelty of having SOTS on DVD, after all these years, represents a huge amount of profit for the company. That's a "golden carrot" that dangles in front of Disney's nose but it's afraid that it just might still be a "poison apple".

Once it finds a way to release "Song of the South" and get mostly positive public reaction it will happen. Right now the way the economy is anything that may cause any large group of any type to boycott Disney and their products (especially the theme parks) is something from which to stay far away.

But my best guess is that "Song of the South" will be release sometime within the next 5-10 years. When and if it does happen for the many fans in the Disney community who have fond memories of the film from their childhood, it will be a Zippidy Do Da Day!.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Back To Blogging...For A While Anyway

Hello RH Factor Friends. As you may have noticed this is not a " Weekly Review" post. That's because things in my life have changed again. Due to a cut back in hours at my job I find myself with more time during the day. I am only working 4 hours a day for the next 5 weeks. So I have some time to post again, at least for a little while.

Believe me, I have missed writing to you more than once a week. There are so many thing I've been tempted to post but kept to my commitment of one review a week. So for now expect to see more frequent posts. After my work hours go back to full time again I may go back to posting once a week but that will be decided at the end of April.

Check back again soon. There will probably be several posts this week. I've got the time so you'll get the posts.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Weekly Review #3 March 8-14, 2010

Sometimes when you work for a company things happen that are a complete surprise to the general work force. Management puts on a false bravado and never gives a clue as to what's about to happen. That's because it usually means the loss or elimination of some jobs and people usually get upset about that. Although it has never directly effected her, Paula's been through that a lot over the years at "Fruit". I have only experienced the "surprise" thing a couple of times when I was at Perot. But there are somethings in business that can't be hidden and anyone with their eyes open can see it coming.

The announcement of the reduction of work hours in the call center this week was not much of a surprise at all. Ever since the holiday shopping season ended the call center management has been offering to allow workers leave their shift early (without pay of course) due to a lack of calls coming in.

While only offered occasionally at first, over the last month "Early Out", as it's called, has been offered on a daily basis for both the morning and evening shifts.

On Monday, the 8th, the work hours reduction was announced. At least it's not a layoff just a cut back; although there was an option to voluntarily take a 6 week layoff with unemployment benefits. I will probably have my hours cut back but I can get partial unemployment for the balance of the hours I miss.

The only optimistic aspect of this whole thing is that once the 6 week period is over my schedule may change. Perhaps I'll finally get Sundays off. I've been praying for that for a while.

The announcement at work was not the best way to start off the week. Tuesday showed me that God does supply our needs at just the right time. The blessings of Paula's bonus and our income tax refunds was a double financial "shot in the arm" from and a testimony to the faithfulness of God. We now have some extra money to pay, on our credit card balances, for car repairs, and, use for our vacation.

Speaking of car repairs, I took Paula's Oldsmobile to get the brakes fixed on Friday. In addition to needing rotors and brake pads on the back it needed an intake manifold gasket replaced, 2 new front tires, a front end alignment, a new fuel filter, and an oil change. Overall it was a rather costly trip to Midas. But praise be to God we had the money to cover it.

Last week I mentioned that both Paula and I came down with colds. By the end of the week I was feeling better. This week Paula's cold got worse. She stayed home from work Wednesday and Thursday. She decided to go see her doctor on Wednesday afternoon. She got an antibiotic to help her get better. She was feeling a much better by the end of the weekend.

Three months after I bought it I finally set up and used the turntable that converts record albums to MP3 files. I spent Thursday recording an album of Disney songs by Mary Martin and the Do-Re-Mi children's choir.

This album is a special to me because it 's the first album of Disney music I ever owned. I used to play it on my Show N' Tell. (see February 19 post). Although the original album was long gone I managed to get a copy last year. One side of the album features songs from the movie Mary Poppins. That was the first Disney movie I ever saw in the theater. I think I was about 5. Thanks for taking me Uncle Gene.

Also on the album are (the B side) are other songs from other films popular in the early 60's. Having those songs to listen to brings back memories of all the time I spent in my room listening to and memorizing them. Who says you can't go home again? With these songs I made it all the way back to to the days I was in first least in my mind, anyway.

I also recorded to MP3 a 4-album set of Christmas songs by Lawrence Welk. The 1969 collection from Reader's Digest Records was played in the Havens' household during many a holiday season for nearly 3 decades (the 70's, 80's & 90's). My sister Peggy played these albums until they were worn out. I was excited to get a copy of them a couple of years ago and now I have them as MP3 files. I look forward to sharing these songs with my sisters this coming December.

As easy as recording the albums with my new turntable was I began to think about what other albums I might want to find and record to an MP3 file. The first one I thought of was a comedy album by Alan Sherman: My Son the Nut. It was the very first comedy album I "fell in love" with. I googled the title and found out that, much to my surprise, I could get the album from the ITunes store. I downloaded it immediately. Just another little piece of my childhood recovered.

While a lot of the plans are still up in the air I continue to do research and make some initial plans for our June vacation trip to Pennsylvania and Washington D.C. This week I received maps and information about the DC Metro Subway system. It's the only efficient way to get around that city, especially the area of the National Mall. I've also determined that if we drive (we're still looking into flying) the first night we're going to stop halfway there in Charleston, WV.

In my continuing education and effort to improve in the world of ventriloquism this week, I finished writing the first sketch for the Schnozz character I'm going to introduce at AWANA at the end of this month. I've also ordered a toy saxophone which I'm going to use with Schnozz.

In one of the first steps to making more contacts for VBS performances I ordered business cards promoting my ventriloquism. I've contacted a local Baptist missions director, our local librarian, and my associate pastor asking them for a letter of reference to include in the VBS packet I'm going to send out later this month.

I also decided to take the big step and buy a camcorder to make some promotional videos for future contact packets. I've been looking to buy one from ShopNBC for a while but couldn't find one that fit into my budget. I did find one within my price range on QVC though. Ironically I paid for it with my ShopNBC Mastercard.

On the weight loss front I am losing a a pace a bit better than last month. I've gotten into the bad habit of not exercising every day. But on a more positive note I did something this week I haven't done in a long time, if ever. I know I write that line every week but I never get tired of being able to tell you about my steps into new "territory". I went to Walmart and bought shorts right off the rack. What's even better is that the size I got was too big. I had to return them. So I no longer have to buy the biggest size Walmart sells, at least in athletic shorts.

To go along with that exciting (at least to me) event is the good news that I have now officially dropped 6 pants sizes since my surgery. That's good news with the exception of the fact that I am at the end of my clothes reserves. What I mean is that over the years I've stored away clothes that I planned on fitting back into someday. Well it's now "someday" and beyond. Nearly all the clothes I had stored away either fit me or are too big. That's a good problem to have.

The television show celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour Michael and I went to see taped in Nashville back in January (see January 13 post) aired on CMT this past Saturday night. I watched it and saw myself on camera for a few brief seconds near the end of the show. Michael wasn't on camera at all even though he was sitting to my right and should have been. He thinks they might have digitally edited him out because he had a Metallica hat on. So once again I have a small claim to fame. Technically I appeared on a TV special with Foxworthy, Engval, Larry the cable guy and most importantly Jamie Presley.

Speaking of this past Saturday night, I would like to thank my lovely wife for a good old fashioned "date night". We went to see a local youth theater group's production of the stage play "The Jungle Book". It wasn't the Disney version though. The two daughters of our friends (Ben & Debbie) played a wolf and a monkey in the show. I was nice to spend some time visiting with the family including Kaitlyn and Mayme after their excellent performances.

For dinner we went to my favorite downtown Bowling Green restaurant, Mariah's. We got dinner for each of us for under $20 thanks to their 30th anniversary celebration. There was 30% off the prices of selected dishes on their menu.

It was a little late when we got home (considering we lost an hour due to the start of daylight savings time) but it was a very very nice date night.

That's it for this week's review. I'll catch you up on what's going on with my job and other things God is doing in my life next week. Until then I'll keep praying for y'all.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Weekly Review #2 March 1-7, 2010

Let's begin with the news of my continuing weight loss effort. February saw a slow down in the amount of weight I lost. I lost 8.2 pounds over the 4 weeks. That's a 37% decrease compared to 13 pounds I lost in January but it's still a significant weight loss. I know I am eating more carbs and calories than I have in the months right after surgery but I'm also trying to be more active. I missed my goal of getting under 260 by March 1st but only by a pound. I'm not discouraged by this slow down I'm just going to adjust my expectations. I may have to settle for reaching my goal by Christmas instead of my 50th birthday in September.

March came in like a lion for both Paula and I in regard to our health. At the start of the week we both came down with a cold. Mine started, as usual, with a sore throat then quickly turned into the classic cold symptoms but traded off sneezing for coughing. . I lived on a steady diet of liquid cold medicines (both day and night versions) for the rest of the week.

It was the first time since our surgeries that we had to take cold medicine of any kind. We both have learned just how much and how often to take and how the ingredients and the sugar content effected us.

By the end of the week both of us were on the back end of the cold and feeling a little bit better. Paula even went with Michael & Heather to see the new Alice in Wonderland movie at the IMAX in Nashville on Saturday.

I started reading the next 7 chapters in the gospel of John this week. I'm now reading chapters 8-14 each day for this month. Chapter 14 is probably one of the best known chapters in all the 4 gospels. The section starts with the Pharisees bringing the woman caught in adultery to Jesus in the temple and ends with the conclusion of the Last Supper. With the Easter season coming up in a couple of weeks it's a great time to be reading this part of the gospel. I'm really enjoying reading and becoming familiar with it.

One of my recurring issues over the last couple of months has been my frustration over the lack of consistent ventriloquism performance opportunities. I have blamed this mostly on my work schedule having no weekend days off. Well after a talk with my friend, Brent, I've realized that there's a pool of potential performance opportunities waiting out there through churches having VBS this summer.

I'm going to create a publicity packet and sent them to the area churches offering my ministry at their VBS ministries on either of the days I'm off of work. Not many performers are available at that time of the week. My availability may result in an opportunity.

In my packet I'm going to include a business card, an introduction letter and a list of references. I'm excited about this idea and am optimistic that if I work hard at making the contacts the doors of opportunity will open.

The weather here in south central Kentucky improved a bit this week. The sunshine returned and the temperatures got into the mid 50's. On my day off, rather than taking the car to run some errands in town I walked.

Stops at at the local pharmacy, post office and library made for a relaxing and invigorating walk. It was also unique because I didn't have the dogs with my like I usually do. I could enjoy the scenery and take my time. It reminded me of just how much I love walking through my little town.

I did some DVD watching this past week. I finished watching the first 3 seasons of "My Name is Earl" that I got for Christmas and also the final season of "Taxi". That's the 70's series that featured Judd Hirsh, Danny Divito, Andy Kaufman, and of course, Marilu Henner. The episode where cabbie Alex Riger cares for his terminally ill dog is sad and gets to me every time I watch it. (Excuse me while I brush a tear from my eye).

I also watched what is probably my favorite Disney live action animal movie, Charlie the Lonesome Cougar. The 1967 movie is a scripted adventure of a mountain lion and his life in the timber country of the Northwest USA. I was this movie in the theater when I was a kid and now have it in my Disney collection.

I have finished reading the Washington DC guidebook and am now in the 2nd phase of the planning of our mini-vacation there. The good news is that most of the national museums and parks we want to visit are free admission. That's good because the hotel rooms are priced at nearly double what we usually want to pay for one and that's on the low end of the market. We'll probably stay in the Alexandria, Virgina area and take the Metro (DC's subway system) into the National Mall area.

Finally, I want to announce the addition of 3 new team shirts to my major league baseball t-shirt collection. Thanks to a catalog clearance sale I was able to add a tie dye shirt for the Detroit Tigers, Los Angles Dodgers, and Seattle Mariners to my closet. I now have shirts for 17 out of the 30 major league teams. I'm more than halfway to my goal.

That's about all I have for this week's review. For daily glimpses into the RH Factor world add me as a friend on Facebook and watch for my status updates. Catch you again in 7 days with another RH Factors Weekly Review. God Bless.