Thursday, March 31, 2011

Circus Night With "The Girls"

My Circus Companions On Our "Night Out"
 Last Friday night, March 25, I had the pleasure of spending an evening in the company of 3 of my favorite ladies. My wife; my 2 daughters in law, Heather and Brandi; and I went to the circus.

The 2011 edition of Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Circus came to the arena at WKU.Because my sons got to have a "guy's day out" in January (we went to Lexington to see "Spamalot") I promised the girls that I'd take them out some place special as well. They seemed to be excited about my choice of events.

We got into Diddle arena early enough to see the special "all access" preshow. This show allowed spectators to stand around the ring that would serve as the show's performance area and watch some of the acts up close. You could get autographs and pictures taken with the performers as well.  A clown served as the MC for the preshow. He was dressed and made up as a typical circus clown. The only one of the 4 clowns in the show who was.

The preshow was entertaining. It had jugglers, some acrobats and an appearance by the elephants. The humongous animals really filled the ring and were the real highlight of the preshow.

The show was very entertaining and well worth the price of admission. There were quite a few typical circus acts. But it was not 3-ring show that you usually think of when it comes to Ringling Brothers. The owners of this edition of the show also owns the "Siegfried & Roy" show out in Las Vegas. This circus had a Vegas style presentation. It was a combination of a circus and a magic act. The "star" of the show was a magician who performed some good but typical illusions. The most impressive one was when his assistant went through a series of instant wardrobe changes behind small curtians right before our eyes.

Some of the more interesting acts in the show were a guy riding a motorcycle on a tightrope while a pair of lady acrobats did tricks on a bar hanging from the cycle but below the tightrope.

There was a really good trained dog act with several really cute canines. Of course the elephants made a couple of appearances during the show. Seeing such large creatures sit on pedestals and stand up on their hind legs was a sight.

There was a group of about 1/2 a dozen of acrobats who did some tricks on a flexible beam and later did some more complicated tricks using see saw like boards to launch themselves into the air and onto the shoulders of their fellow performers stacked 2 and 3 high. One little girl missed a really high jump but went back and did it successfully a 2nd time.

A pair of Asian guys did tricks with knives and swords including jumping through hoops lined with sharp knives and a ring of fire.

Earlier I mentioned clowns. The clown in make up from the preshow did very little during the main show. There were 3 clowns who did though. The main clown was a young guy with a spiked hair do. The other 2 were clowns/musicians. The funniest routine they did was a when two clowns played Jazz songs on the sax and trumpet and the spike haired guy interrupted them with techno dance music coming from an over sized IPod.

There were a couple of acts that didn't work and they were at the start of the 2nd act. During the intermisson the stagehands constructed a cage for a group of 6 lions. A series of small cages (2 lions per cage) were lined up and connected to the gate of the cage.

As we sat in our seats during the intermission we noticed that one of the lions was a bit upset with something she saw outside her cage. She stared it down and would try to charge it but was of course stopped by the bars of her small cage. Not sure what it was but her fury seemed to be directed toward seats on the floor area in front of us. It made us a bit nervous.

When the 2nd act started the magician had his assistant put him in a straight jacket and hooked him to a wire. He then hung upside down by his feet above the lion's cage. He vowed to escape the jacket. As he was hoisted in the air he hollered, "Release the lions." The gate was opened and out from the small cages came the lions. But it wasn't the least bit dramatic. The lions just kind of lumbered out, stretched and yawned as if they had just been awakend from a nap. They didn't start running around the cage or even look the least bit interested in the man hanging over them.

While the crowd was busy watching the not so impressive lions come into the ring the magician escaped from the straight jacket. It was anti climatic to say the least.

When he was back on the ground the magician introduced the lion tamer. He came into the cage but the lions weren't very attentive to him. They just didn't want to seem to be bothered. The lion that was upset in his cage during the intermission was the only one that would listen to him. She only did that after being offered several pieces of meat on the end of the trainers stick.

The trainer got the lions to do a couple of rather lame tricks. I don't even remember any applause during the act. About halfway through the trainer brought out a male lion with an all white coat and mane. At first glance you said to yourself, "Aww what a pretty lion." But after a few minutes of looking at the white lion and the way he acted you realized something. The male lion was old. I mean really really old. He had the feline equivilant of grey hair. He didn't want to do anything but lie around. The whole act was lame.

There were a couple of acts that I'd never seen at a circus before that really impressed me. There were trained house cats who did some impressive tricks. Then there was a pair of young ladies who did tricks from a wire above the arena floor. What was unusual about them though was that they did all their tricks hanging by their hair. We couldn't figure out how they did it without pulling their hair out by the roots. We surmised that there was some kind of trick to it. When they first started hanging by their hair I leaned over to Paula and said, "You've got to find out what shampoo they use."

The last act was one of the best. It featured a pair of motorcycles driving at high speeds inside a metal sphere. Not only did they speed around the inside of the sphere. They did it with a young lady suspended by a wire hanging in the middle of it. It was very impressive.

The magician's last illusion was putting his assistant in a cage and "changing" her into a lion. The show ended with a grand finale that included all the circus acts coming out for a bow and then leave the ring waving "good-bye".

After the circus we went to Cheddars restaurant for dinner. It was fun sitting and talking about all kinds of things. Mostly we talked about our sons but not just about them.

It was wonderful night with my 3 favorite ladies. Now that there's been a "guys' day out" and a "girls' night out" the next is probably a family event. That's something I'm looking forward to. I love spending time with my family.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Paula's In The Kitchen

Like most men the way to my heart is through my stomach. Even though in my case it's a "pouch" serving me something delicious to eat definitely wins my gratitude.

While on medical leave earlier this year Paula used her free time at home to get back to doing something she's always enjoyed: cooking.

My wife is an excellent cook and really enjoys it. Ever since our weight loss surgery finding alternative recipes for some of our favorite dishes has been real challenge for her. So far she's been pretty good at meeting that challenge. 

If either of us, mostly me, get an craving for something that wouldn't be good for us to eat as it's commonly made, my wife does her best to find the WLS friendly recipe or comes up with one herself. Even if she does find someone else's recipe she customizes so I'll like it.

This past weekend was the first opportunity she'd had to really do some serious cooking since she went back to work 2 weeks ago. In this case "serious cooking" means making some new dishes she's wanted to try for a while.

On Saturday she made " Chicago deep dish pizza quiche. She used cheese and eggs to make the crust and turkey sausage, turkey peperoni, mushrooms and mozzarella cheese for the toppings. She also made her own low carb pizza sauce using tomato paste and spices. It was very good.

On Sunday she made a chicken stroganoff dish in our new Crockpot. She mixed the ingredients in the slow cooker early in the morning before we went to church. It cooked and simmered all day long. Later that evening she served it for dinner on a bed of blanched zucchini. It was delicious, low carb, and good for us.

During the afternoon she made a no sugar added pineapple upside down cake. She used a sugar free yellow cake mix, no sugar added pineapple and brown sugar Splenda. This was my favorite thing she made all weekend. She knows I've been wanting Pineapple upside down cake for a long time.

She made two 8-inch cakes from one cake mix. We cut one of them into 16 slices. We each had one of those pieces. It was perfectly scrumptious. By the way Paula's sister, Theresa, got the other 8 inch cake.

 Paula still has ingredients to make something called "Pizza Soup". It's also cooked in the Crockpot. She plans on making it one day in the near future. Given her performance in the kitchen this past weekend, I can't wait for her to make it.  

What a culinary treat this weekend was. You know me, I'm all about the food. My wife really knows how to make me smile come meal time. As TV's Mr. Food would say "Ooo it was so good!   

Monday, March 28, 2011

"Orchestra"Post Gets A Quick Response

Last week (actually 2 posts ago) I wrote about the terrific time I had at the Disney music concert presented by Orchestra Kentucky at Van Meter Hall.

I mentioned that I was disappointed that the song "When You Wish Upon A Star" was not played. I also mentioned the name of the orchestra's conductor, Jeff Reed.

Only a few minutes after I published that post, while I was still sitting at my computer, I received an email from Mr. Reed.

I don't know how he knew that I published the post. I can only guess that he has something set up on his computer that alerts him to anything that's put on the Internet which mentions him or Orchestra Kentucky.

He wrote to me to explain the reason the concert did not include the Disney theme song. It was not an artistic decision. Like most things in the arts business it came down to money.

Mr. Reed explained:

 "Like you, I believe that “When You Wish Upon a Star” is the quintessential Disney song. When I planned the concert, I wanted to use it. When I inquired about the song, I was told by Disney that it is not available. Disney told me that they don’t own the copyright to the song. Apparently, it was sold, preventing them from licensing its use. In order to use it, I would have had to get a separate license from another company, adding to the $5,000 we were already paying for the music and video from Disney. We just couldn’t afford it.

I wrote back to Mr. Reed thanking him for reading my blog and sending an explanation. I told him that I understood how finances can effect what you want to do as an artist. I also suggested he read my January post I wrote about the Leroy Anderson concert.

Mr. Reed is the most "famous" person to ever repond to this blog. I was impressed. The other thing that impressed me was the immediacy of his response.

It reminded me of just how instantanously and permanent things posted to the internet can be and how they can effect others. It's something that I try to always keep in mind when I decide to write a post. It doesn't hurt to be reminded every once in a while. Thank You Mr. Reed.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Alternatives In Exercise

Here's a post on something I haven't written about in quite a while: losing weight and becoming healthier. As I work toward my goal of finally losing 65 pounds and reach my personal weight loss goal. I'd like to do it by Thanksgiving. I have been focusing on 2 elements. Eating the right foods, in the correct portions, with a limited number of calories, and exercise.

The nutritional  is very important. I mean it's true that you are what you eat. I'm trying to limit my daily caloric intake to under 1000 as my doctor recommends. The majority of those calories should come from protein (at least 60 grams a day) and very few carbs (under 20 a day). Also drinking at least 64 ounces of water each day is very important. Most days I drink more. Taking my vitamins and nutritional supplements is also vital.

Those are my personal daily nutritional goals. I must remind all my readers that I am a weight loss surgery patient and the diet I am on was set for me by my surgeon and nutritionist. If  you want to know what diet is best for you consult your personal medical professional. That's a good recommendation for anyone who is considering starting a diet or exercise program.

The 2nd part of my weight loss focus is exercise. In the 20 months since my surgery my means of exercising has been walking. Specifically, walking my dogs through the streets of our quiet little grove.

 Late last summer right before I went to Disney World I got a little "bored" with walking. I should have looked for an alternative way of getting exercise but I didn't. Once the clocks were turned back to standard time and I had to start walking my dogs after work in the dark I just stopped walking completely. 

At the start of 2011 I set a goal to begin exercising again. Because of the bad weather we had over the winter, the shorter days, and lack of motivation I didn't start walking again on a regular basis until the beginning of March. I never realized how much I missed it or how not moving had effected my energy level and attitude. I feel much better now. My weight is down and my dogs are very happy.

Also at the start of the year I decided that I needed at least one or two alternative means of exercising so I wouldn't get bored with walking again too soon. I decided on two things. One was to try roller skating again. I even found out what the operating hours were for the local skating rink. But after thinking it over I decided that because of the limited movement I have with my left foot and the balance problems it creates perhaps roller skating would only be a means of getting injured and not a good alternative exercise.

I was still looking for alternative exercise in late January my wife suggested we get an exercise bike. I was all for it. We made it our Valentine's Day gift to each other. Pretty romantic huh? Its taken me a while to start using but as of last week, I have. I'm using it to prepare myself for another exercise alternative.

I've always enjoyed bike riding. One of the first things I bought when I got my first full time job was a 10 speed bike. I used to ride to and from work on nice days in the summer.

More than 30 years later, I was reminded of how much I liked riding when I took my sister-in-law's bike for a trip one day last summer. Although it wasn't very long but it was enough to make me want to get a bike of my own again. Last week I bought one.

I had to special order it so I won't get it until April 20. But I'm excited about being able to ride around town and on some of the back roads in our area.

My third choice for exercise is what I call a "guilty pleasure". It's not something that we do and hide purposely hid from others because we know it's wrong. That's called "Sin."

Usually there's nothing wrong with something that's a "guilty pleasure." It's just something you enjoy but generally don't want most people to know you do. They exist in all areas of our lives. We all have guilty pleasures.

One of my "guilty pleasures" involves aerobic exercise. To be more specific aerobic exercise videos. I have a collection of Richard Simmons exercise DVDs. I've always found Richard Simmons products and encouragement to be helpful whenever I've seriously tried to lose weight.

Ever since I read his first book, "Never Say Diet" in my late teens, I have used his weight loss programs including "Deal A Meal" and " The Food Mover" to lose weight. At one time I subscribed to his website. I even met one of my best friends, who lives in California, in his chat room. I've actually met him in person.

So I guess you can say I am a Richard Simmons fan. I believe that he's been sincerely interested in helping people lose weight and get healthy for almost 3 decades and is still doing it today.

I own all the "Sweatin To The Oldies" DVDs and a dozen more of his exercise videos. I've collected them over the last 20 years. My sisters and I used to exercise together to these videos when I lived in Pennsylvania.

Recently I started exercising to them again. Over the last month I've worked out to "Sweatin 2" and "Sweatin 3"; my favorites. A still shot from "Sweatin 3" is at the top of this post.

Since I started doing them again I've discovered that I really don't have as much coordination and flexibility as I used to. I guess the wear and tear on my body from having weighed over 400 pounds and now being over 50 is responsible for that. 

Nevertheless I do enjoy the music and the moves of the "Sweatin DVDs." I will continue to use them as one of my exercise alternatives.

If I use exercise and diet as tools to continue to live my life as a weight loss surgery patient they will be effective. They will help me continue to get healthier, enjoy spending time with my wife and family, and most importantly find and do God's will for my life. And more specifically they will help me achieve my goal weight by Thanksgiving.  

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Orchestra Kentucky: The 2nd Concert

This past Saturday night, March 19, Paula and I attended our 2nd concert presented by Orchestra Kentucky.

The first one was back in January and featured the music of composer/arranger Leroy Anderson. You can read the details of that concert in January 14 post.

While I really enjoyed the that concert the audience that evening only filled about 1/2 of Van Meter Hall on the campus of Western Kentucky University. Last Saturday's concert filled the hall to capacity or close to it. The reason for this increase in attendance was, of course, the selections to be performed: Disney Music.

The show was entitled "Tale As Old As Time," a line from the academy award winning song from"Beauty & The Beast, featured songs from the long and rich history of music from Disney movies and theme parks. It was a completely different type of production than the  January concert.

The first major difference was the location of our seats. At Paula's request we decided to sit in the balcony this time. We were in the very last section of the hall's 2nd floor, which gave us the best overview of the entire orchestra and the video screen as well. The videos played on the screen throughout the performance were a key part of the program. The picture above was taken from our vantage point.

The next major difference was the featured vocalists. Not just any vocalists but 5 singers who have actually recorded for Disney records.  Publicity articles for the concert referred to these vocalists and some of the guest musicians as "Disney Talent". There was also a chorale of singers who provided back round vocals. This group of a dozen or so very talented singers also sang unique arrangements of some of the songs including: "That's What Friends Are For" as part of a medley from the "Jungle Book".

The program featured medleys of songs about Disney heroes, dreams, villains, and climatic moment of classic Disney movies. Of course interwoven throughout the concert were the songs of Richard and Robert Sherman.  

The only flaw in the entire concert was the fact that the quintessential Disney song, "When You Wish Upon A Star" was not played. Or at least it wasn't featured. It could have been part of the opening medley but I don't remember hearing it.  I thought for sure it would be played as the encore selection.

At the end of the concert I waited in anticipation when, amid the applause and standing ovation, the vocalists reemerged from the wings to offer the encore. But when conductor, Jeffery Reed, described the "one last selection" to be played as "a song that will get stuck in your head", I realized it was going to be "It's A Small World", not the signature song from "Pinocchio". It was the only disappointment of the evening.

 I couldn't figure out why the song was not played. The only other reason I can think of is that it was included in the orchestra's first Disney music concert last year.

It goes without saying that I really enjoyed this concert very very much. I mean it's Disney music. It has universal appeal. I won't go into a discussion of that subject here but look for and expanded exploration of the universal appeal and "magic" of Disney music check out my "Disney specific" blog: There should be post on this subject published soon.

What I want to do in this post is point out the contrast between the 2 Orchestra Kentucky concerts I've been to this year. The "Leroy Anderson" concert had a very specific target audience. As I've pointed out the attendance at that concert was evidence of that fact. 

But the 1000 who attended the orchestra's 2nd Disney concert in the last 2 seasons included children and adults of all ages. The demographics for each concert couldn't have been more different.

Still I can safely say that I really enjoyed both of them. Based on the announced concert schedule I don't believe I'll be going to any more of the orchestra's concerts the rest of this season.

But based on my first two concerts, the next time there's an Orchestra Kentucky concert that appeals to me I won't hesitate to go again. It's one of the few local entertainment options that I can be sure to enjoy. The cost is not much more than the price of an evening at the movies. That makes it a real "value" to me.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Return To The Opera House

Last Friday my wife and I went on an overnight trip to Lexington. The main reason for this quick one night getaway was to go see the road company production of the play "Cats" at the Lexington Opera House.

We were excited about going back to this theater because between us we'd been there twice in the last year. We saw "Beauty & The Beast" together last May. In January I went with my sons to see "Spamalot". Both very enjoyable and memorable experiences.

We left home about 1PM with plenty of time to check into our hotel and get to the theater by 7PM. We stopped at the Cracker Barrel in the town just a few north on I-65 for a quick lunch before starting toward Lexington.  

As with any road trip I take with my wife it was a very enjoyable ride. This in spite of having to drive on my least favorite stretch of road in Kentucky, the Bluegrass Parkway. It's a long and boring stretch of highway that has virtually nothing interesting anywhere near it. But that's a subject for a different post.

We got to our hotel, a Sheraton, with about 90 minutes before we had to be at the theater. It was just a 10 minute drive to West Short street in the downtown area.

We arrived at the door about 6:20. That's when the ticket taker told us that the "house" would open for seating about 7PM.  I realized that the curtain went up at 7:30 not 7PM. We had an hour and ten minutes to wait for the show to start.

I apologized to Paula for my mistake and we took a seat in the lobby to wait. We talked with several of the other patrons as we waited. The conversation included: past theater experiences; visiting New York City; and, the ultimate subject for me, Walt Disney World.

When it came time to be seated I discovered my 2nd mistake of the night. I thought I'd purchased seats in a lodge box on the side of the theater. Instead our seats were in the front row of the left side of the balcony. I was really embarrassed about this mistake. I'd been bragging about the locations of our seats for months.

We passed the time before the play started by chatting with a very friendly older woman sitting next to us. She enjoyed telling us about her experiences as a horse owner. At about 7:30 the 3rd mistake of the evening would come to our attention...the play started.

Now let me step back and state that our experience with "Cats" may very well be mostly our own fault. We decided on seeing the play based on the fact that it's so well known.

Its 18 year run was the 2nd longest run in the history of Broadway when it closed in the year, 2000. We didn't do any research about the plot or the nature of the production. That was our mistake. We had no idea what to expect. We assumed (always a bad thing) that this would be a typical Broadway style play. It wasn't.

As soon as the lights went down we realized there was one big production problem. There was no live orchestra, so the music was played back from a recording. The volume level of the music was much louder than the level of the actors' microphones. You couldn't understand what they were saying, or should I say what they were singing.

The "cats" came on stage and began to sing. There was nothing unusual about a show opening with singing. After the first song, they continued to sing. For the entire first act they sang. There was no dialogue whatsoever. The story was told through the music and the lyrics, which we couldn't hear well enough to understand. When the characters weren't singing they were dancing. Why were they dancing? I had no idea.

From what I was able to surmise from the printed program, and what I was seeing on stage, the show was based on a collection of poems by T.S. Elliot. It was a series of stories of about different types of cats. Out of the cats, whose stories were being told through song and ballet style dance, one would be "chosen" to be reincarnated into a new life.

The first act was a style of theater that's was not what I expected or could possibly enjoy. It was unpleasant and confusing. I was miserable until the first act was over.

Paula was confused as well but understood what was going on a bit better than I did. This helped her get a little more out of it but she still found it difficult to follow.

At intermission we stood in the lobby and discussed how "lost" we were in regard to the story and what an awful time we were having. The couple who sat next to us (the "horse lady" and her husband) left as soon as the house lights came up.

In the 2nd act the story continued in the same style as the first. But the audio levels had been adjusted so the words were a bit easier to hear. My bewilderment continued as I watched actors dressed like cats dressed as pirates and singing operatic style arias.

But after that scene was over the play changed. There was actually some dialogue. It was in the style of poetic recitation but for all intents and purposes it was spoken, not sung.

Next the cast started singing "Magical Mr. Mistoffelees" a song that extols the feats of a cat who is a master magician. Some special effects, purposeful dancing and "tricks" were taking place on stage. Just that quickly the play had changed and became rather entertaining in a way that could be identified as your typical Broadway style.

From then on the show was good. It ended in marvelous way with some drama, a signature ballad ("Memory", which is considered modern musical standard), a transformation of the set, and some special effects.

At the end I was more than willing to stand up and applaud with the rest of the audience. The play had redeemed itself in the last half of the 2nd act. We left the theater with a good feeling.
I didn't completely hate it. I wouldn't want to sit though the first act ever again. But all's well that ends well. "Cats" ended well.

In an effort to try and understand "Cats" a bit better I did do some research about the show online and confirmed its plot. But even after reading the detailed story on Wikipedia I'm still a bit confused.

In a slow drizzle Paula and I drove back to our hotel. There was a Cracker Barrel at the end of the road. We decided to go there and have some breakfast for dinner. As we ate our meal through the windows we saw the drizzle turn into a downpour. We were glad we were inside. Even though it was our 2nd Cracker Barrel meal of the day it was good.

We spent the night in Lexington and drove home the next morning. We were back at our house by 1:30 in the afternoon.

It was a fun trip because we got to spend some time together relaxing and enjoying ourselves; for the most part anyway.

And even though we were back home, the best event of our weekend was still to come. But I'm saving that for the next post. Come back next time to find out what we did on Saturday night. Here's a hint: it was a "magical" evening.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Extended Spring Break

Well it's that time of year again. For the 2nd straight year I've been "laid off" from my job. Now because of the company's strict and restrictive Internet policy regarding what employees post on any and all social media I can't go into details. Just let me say that starting March 20 through April 30 I am not working. I will be eligible for unemployment during this time though; so that's good. 

What am I going to do with my time off? Well I haven't decided yet. I have been planning to go to Wrigley Field to see a Cubs game this year. But going to Wrigley Field in April doesn't seem like it would be a good idea. The weather will be cold and I won't enjoy it. I'll wait until summer.

I guess I'll just be doing things around the house and working on some of my personal projects. I have a Rewind show that I'm about ready to start recording. I'll be working on that for sure.

With Spring arriving today I'm sure the weather is going to improve. I've had my eye on buying a bike this year so that may be a possibility as well.

One thing I'm sure that I'll be doing is going to church on Sunday mornings. I've been asking to have my schedule changed so that I'll have Sundays off for a while. But that hasn't happened. This time off gives me at least 6 Sundays to go to church with Paula. I'm going to take advantage of that for sure. I may even try and help out a little bit in children's church.

This time off is a major event in my life and I just wanted to let my readers know what's going on. I'm sure I'll be posting about what I do and what happens to me over the next 6 weeks; so you'll find out what I've done on my extended Spring break then.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Pop Century Discovery

Now from the title and picture above you may think that this post should be on my Goofy Guy Off World Disney blog. But this post is a supplement to my March 8th, Show N' Tell Programs post.

While looking through the pictures I took on my Disney World vacation last September I discovered a shot I didn't realize I'd taken.

The lobby of the Pop Century resort, where we stayed, has on it's walls a lot of shadow boxes filled with pop culture items from the 50's through the 90's. Each box has a theme like television, top 40 music, hobbies and more.

The shadow box dedicated to a combination of the Mickey Mouse Club and Disneyland contains a copy of a Disney's Cinderella Show N' Tell program. It's at the bottom left hand side of the display.

Now I didn't own a Cinderella program but I do remember having one about Disney's Lady & The Tramp. I knew the popular dog tale from watching it on the Show N' Tell before I ever saw the movie.

It was a pleasant surprise to find two of my favorite things, Disney and the Show N' Tell, intersecting in the display that pays homage to a part of the era of pop culture I love.

Just thought I'd show you my Pop Century Discovery.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Instant Entertainment

Every once in a while a technology comes along that changes the way you enjoy things in life. The GPS changed the way I navigate on a long road trip. Facebook changed the way I communicate with family and friends. The DVR in our cable box changed the way we watched TV. The latest technological discovery in my house is instant video streaming of movies directly to our TV. This is done through NetFlix.

This is not Netflix first game changing service. The idea of choosing DVDs to rent over the Internet and having them delivered through the mail revolutionized the video rental industry. The "no late fee" aspect of the relatively inexpensive service also set a new standard in home movie rentals. 

A couple of weeks ago we downloaded Netflix software to our Wii game system. It gives us instant access to movies and TV shows. We've watched several movies but have really taken advantage of the availability of TV shows.

I've caught up on the show American Dad. I watched the entire 4th season. But my use of streaming video pales in comparison to Paula's.

Because she's at home on medical leave my wife has alot of time to watch TV. She's discovered the Fox TV series, Bones starring David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel. Over the last month she's watched 5 seasons. All by streaming them to our TV through Netflix. She really likes the show. I've enjoyed myself. We also have a lot of other movies and shows in our instant queue as well.

Netflix instant access technology has changed the way we watch TV shows and  movies at our house. I'm sure as more of the movies we never got to see at the theater come out on DVD we'll watch them instantly. It will save us lots of $$ in rentals. Sometimes technology is wonderful. Thanks Netflix.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Show N Tell Programs

A little over a year a go I posted about one of my favorite toys growing up, the General Electric Show N' Tell. I won't go into a detailed description of the record player/ slide projector and how it worked. You can read about that in the February 19, 2010 post.

Over the last year I thought about the Show N' Tell and how much I enjoyed it. Primary in memory is the music and narrations on the records that came with the film strip in the Show N' Tell program pack. I decided that I really wanted a copy of some of my favorite Show N' Tell records.

I searched Ebay and found a lot of programs were for sale by auction.But they were bundled with together in groups of anywhere from 4 to 40 titles. But I wanted specific programs and didn't want to have to pay for others that I never owned and didn't want. 

Throughout 2010 I continued to search for the programs I wanted to be offered by themselves or in a group small enough to make it worth buying. Finally last month I found what I was looking for.

The 2 programs you see pictured above are the 2 that I remember the most from all those I owned. These were my favorites to the degree that I can recite the narration and sing their songs that I haven't heard in over 45 years.

The program entitled "Clocks" taught me a lot about how time is measured in different ways and methods of timekeeping throughout history. But to me the "Time" program is the most valuable of all the Show N' Tell programs. That's because it was the one that came with my came with the projector when I opened it on my 5th birthday.

Also on the flip side of the "Time" record is a story about a little boy named "Bumpy Brown". In the story he helps the town band participate in the annual Bing Town parade. I knew the story about Bing Town was on the "B" side of one of the program records I had owned. But I didn't know which one it was.

When I found out that this story was on the back of the record I was twice as excited to have the "Time" program.

Now I have to convert the program records to a digital file so I can put them on my Ipod. Having these will provide me with tangible means of sharing some of my best memories childhood memories with Paula and other members of my family.

I know you can't go back in time but these records and filmstrips will serve as the catalyst to unlocking the recollections of the hours of fun I had in my bedroom watching that little TV screen on my Show N' Tell. 

Friday, March 4, 2011

The $600 Baseball Tickets

It's March and Major League Baseball spring training is in full swing in both Florida and Arizona. The season starts in less than a month. Late last year when this season's schedule for the Cincinnati Reds was released I discovered a series of games that are of great interest to me.  For the first time since 2003 the New York Yankees are scheduled to play 3 games at Great American Ballpark this June.

I haven't seen my favorite baseball team play in person since the last time they were in Cincinnati. I waited anxiously for the day single game tickets to go on sale. That happened on February 26th.

It was a Saturday and I had to work. But when I got home I went online to get my tickets. I quickly discovered that I'm being blackmailed by the Reds. Well maybe "blackmail" is too harsh a word but my options are very very limited. Let me explain. 

The Yankees are the most popular team in major league baseball. They sell out games not only at their home stadium in the Bronx but on the road as well. They are the goose that lays the golden eggs for all the other 29 teams.

So it only makes business sense that when the Yankees come to town the marketing departments of the teams they visit get the most revenue as they can from their Yankees dates. That's good for the club's bottom line but not for the fans whose pockets are the source of that extra cash. 

Now back to my online ticket buying experience. As I said I called up the Red's website and looked for the availability of tickets for the Yankees games in June. Much to my dismay the Yankees tickets could only be purchased as part of a season ticket package. The smallest of them are 4 games. 

If I wanted Yankee game tickets I'd have to commit buying tickets for 3 other Reds games. The least expensive tickets for the packages were $75 per ticket. That means to get tickets for my wife and me to a Yankees game at Great American Ballpark would cost me $600 ($300 per plan). 

Now you could say that it's not $600 for one game it's for 4. But if I don't buy at least 4 tickets I can't get the ticket I want. My alternative is to go to a place that resells tickets. Stub Hub is my website of choice. But the price of the tickets for the June games are extremely inflated. You can't get a ticket in the lower deck for less than $90. That's a lot less than the season ticket package but still more than I'm willing to pay for a ticket to one game. The highest upper deck "nosebleed" seats are $46. Too much for too little.

Let's put this in perspective. At it's most expensive the price for one day at a Disney Park (a one day non-park hopper pass) is $82. That's good for admission for the entire day to one of the 4 parks. Even with the shortest of operation hours you'd get at least 8 hours of entertainment for that price. A theater ticket for a live performance may cost $75 or more but that's for a seat that's very close to the stage in a venue where the actors don't look like "blips".

A baseball game, with only a few exceptions, usually lasts 4 hours at the most. That means at $75 a ticket to the games in question are twice as expensive as a day at Walt Disney World.

If I had to sum what I'm trying to say in a single phrase it would be "price point." That's a marketing term I learned from watching the current season of the cable show "Pitchmen". Now this is not an "official" definition but here's what I've come to understand "Price Point" means. Its the maximum at which the price of a product or service can be sold and still be considered of high value to the buyer.  

Now I would really love to go see the Yankees play in Cincinnati in June. But I am not going to be forced to spend $90 for a ticket or $300 for 4-game season ticket package. It's very a poor value to me. I won't be going to a Yankees/Reds game this year.

That's a decision the Reds have forced me into. That really makes me mad. I'm tempted to boycott all of their games this season. But I've promised Paula I'd take her to her first major league game this year. The closeness of the Red's ballpark makes it the obvious choice. Perhaps alternatives would be St. Louis or Wrigley Field in Chicago.

So now that I've complained this much I must admit that I realize that nobody cares about my dilemma. But this is my blog and I"ll cry if I want to. I'll also have to face the fact that if I want to see the Yankees play the Reds this year it's going to have to be at home sitting on my couch watching on my TV.     

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Bedtime Story Book

If you go back through this blog you’ll come to understand that I’m all about finding and reacquiring toys I had when I was a kid. Having these things remind me of my childhood helps bring back memories that make me feel closer to a time; a place; and, most importantly; people that are now gone.

The picture above shows my latest acquisition. Something I hold dear from my childhood: The Golden Book of 365 Stories.

My original copy of the book was a Christmas present from my mom & dad when I was 5 years old. I remember my dad reading it to me before I went to bed at night. The book has a story or poem for each day of the year.

Nearly 45 years later I still remember a couple of stories from this book. I’ve never forgotten them. One of them about lion who moves from Africa to New York City and another about a boy that loses his golden coin in the snow. The memories of these stories are so engrained in my mind that I can picture in my mind’s eye the illustrations that went with them.

I’ve been telling those stories to people for years and even used the one about the little boy and the coin in a ventriloquist show at a local library.

But as often as I’d mentioned these stories to people there would be an accompanying lament about not remembering the title of the book. The omission of this important fact from my memory has, over the years, limited my ability to find another copy. You can’t find something when you don’t know the name of what you’re looking for.

A couple of weeks ago I was telling the 365 storybook stories to my friend, Brent, and his children. Again I expressed my frustration about finding the original book. He suggested that I look on Ebay using the words “365 stories” as search criteria. For some reason I had never thought of that before.

One night soon after that I was searching Ebay as Brent had suggested. Several different results came up. But not knowing what I was looking for I had to do some investigation. This meant reading the item description and looking closely at the pictures.

The details focused mainly on the name of the book, year it was published, and its condition. There weren’t any details about the stories. If I bought one I’d only be guessing that it was the right one.

But then I clicked on the pictures for “The Golden Book of 365 Stories.” The first one was the cover; which didn’t seem familiar at all. The second one (pictured above) was a cartoon landscape of a tree, a cave, and a barn. The setting was at night and you could see animals inside their habitats in their pajamas reading a bedtime story.

As soon as I saw that picture it triggered a very vivid memory. There was a reason I didn’t recognize the cover of the book was because I remember it without the cover. At some point the cover came off the book, or I pulled it off. The cartoon landscape with the animals ready for bed was the “cover’ I remembered.

I felt an excitement that a person in psychiatric therapy must get when they’ve had a “break- through.” I was 90% sure that this was the book I had wanted for so long. I purchased it at the “Buy Now” price, under $20. It was a bit of a gamble but if it paid off it would be worth it.

A week later on what I refer to as “Terrific Tuesday” (see February 22 post) I received the book in the mail. I was extremely excited to open the package, flip through the pages, and find out that it was the book I wanted it to be. I can’t explain the feeling. It felt like I’d reached back into my past and pulled into the present a symbol of my childhood.

I called Brent and shared my excitement with him. I thanked him for his search suggestion. I promised I’d bring the book to show him next time I came to visit; so I could share it with his kids.

So now I will enjoy reading these stories. As I said, there’s a story or a poem for each day of the year. As I skimmed through them I realize they are rather simple stories; written for children about kindergarten age.
The same age I was when I first owned the book. After all these years I still treasure this book. I will enjoy having it again.