Monday, August 25, 2014

Puppet Stories

For a man who is in his mid 50s I've got a lot of puppets. Actually I've got a lot of puppets for anyone at any age. 

As I've mentioned recently, I have collected these puppets because ever since I've gotten back into performing ventriloquism I've wanted to be the "Jim Henson" of this type of art. But I've come to realize that's not going to work. 

I've been trying to part with some of my puppets and just haven't managed to pull the trigger on getting rid of any of them. 

For me, they all have a story attached to them. I can look at all 3 dozen+ of them and tell you how, when, and where I got them.  

Some of them are more interesting to tell than others. Here are some of my favorites along with a new chapter story of the puppet who is "King" among my little menagerie. 

Cecil The Turtle

During the summer of 2006 a puppet troupe called "Down Home Friends" came to my church to minister in the Sunday evening service. My pastor had invited them and kept telling me about the quality of their performance and the puppets they had. I was just getting back into ventriloquism and very anxious to meet and talk with them. 

While helping them set up, in one of their boxes I found a turtle puppet. Carol, one of the puppeteers, told me that they had just gotten the latex puppet from Axtell Expressions and they hadn't even used him in a show yet. 

I asked if I could pick him up and try him out. She said "yes." I really loved him and dreamed of one day having one just like him. But a brand new Axtell turtle cost $300 and would have to wait for a while.  
Flash forward to April 2008. I found out through the "Down Home Friends"website that the puppeteers were no longer able to participate in this ministry. They were selling some of their puppets. The turtle puppet was one of them. 

I was able to purchase the exact turtle puppet I had held in my hands and admired 2 years earlier for about half the price of a new one. It's like God kept the puppet put away until I was in a place where I could afford it. 

That turtle puppet became my pal, Cecil. Here's a picture of his public debut at the Smiths Grove Library in June 2008. 

To this day Cecil the turtle continues to be my "main man" when it comes to my ventriloquist act. He's even in the picture I have on my business card with me. 

Ruben Nathaniel Young

Most of the time when someone mentions puppets that are associated with ventriloquism most people think of the traditional "wooden figure" commonly referred to as a "dummy". 

Every kid who aspired to be a ventriloquist and grew up watching ventriloquists on the variety shows of the 60s and 70s wanted one of those classic puppets. I was among them.  

When I came back to ventriloquism in 2006, initially I only wanted cloth or "soft" puppets. Mainly because I knew that the quality vent figures used by the TV performers were very expensive. 

But as I became more and more involved with the ventriloquist community I realized that there were figure makers out there who made some relatively affordable products. 

Finally in 2008 I found some figures that liked and thought I could afford. They were made by Clinton Detweiler. I contacted Clinton through his website. He told me that the cost for the kind of figure I wanted would be $300. 

While the price was not out of hand it was a stretch. I would have to ask for it as a birthday or Christmas gift. 

In July 2009 I had my gastric bypass surgery. It was a major event. I was making a new start in life. In my mind I thought that was a good enough reason to take the step and order my classic vent figure. 

These days they are made with materials that are light weight alternatives to wood. They are fiberglass and plastics which can be easily molded but still be durable and easy to work with. 

When I got the figure, about the middle of August 09, I was very excited. Here's what he looked like when I took him out of the box for the first time. 

I decided that I was going to give him a name that would be a reminder of the reason why I got him. 

I gave him the name Ruben Nathaniel Young using the same initials as an alternative name for the procedure I had, a "Roux-en-Y".

Later I developed a short act that served as a testimony about the changes God had brought me through both before and after my surgery. I used Ruben to help me in that act. 

It concluded with the two of us singing a song about "Roux-en-Y" sung to the tune of the Beatles hit "Yesterday." 

For Halloween 2010 Ruben and I dressed as pirates. Here's what we looked like. 

While Ruben was my buddy from the start because of what he represented in my life over time I felt he didn't stand out as a character enough. 

My classic vent figure needed a new identity that would make him funny and memorable to an audience. 

After finding some really funny looking fake glasses in the bargain bin at Target I came up with the right one. Taking advantage of the rising popularity of the "geek culture" in this country I have now tranformed my vent figure into "Gary the Geek". 

I'm anxious to write material and work with him as part of my act in the future. 

This brings me to my last puppet story and the main reason for this post.

Leopold The Lion

This puppet story begins back in July 2006 in Fort Mitchell, KY at the Vent Haven ventriloquist convention. That's when and where I held the Axtell Expressions lion puppet for the first time. 

From just looking at the Axtell catalog I was sure I wanted a lion puppet. Once I actually held one I was hooked. This was even before I held my Cecil puppet for the first time. 

But in April 2011, a windfall of "prize money" from a Monday night bowling league left me with some spendable cash. I decided that I was going to buy the lion puppet. 

Here's the link to a video on my RHFactors You Tube channel from when I opened the package for the first time. 
Lion Puppet Debut

I had a pair of names picked out for my new lion. I went with the one that was easier for me to pronounce when talking for the character: Leopold. 

The first big event I was a part of using Leopold was in early December 2011. I entered our town's Christmas parade with my own little private "float".
I decorated a shopping cart to look like a present and set it up with a PA system. I dressed up as an elf and Leopold was dressed as Santa. 

Over the PA system I played the song "Jungle Bells" from the Four Seasons Christmas Album. Its lyrics are about gifts Santa brings to the animals.  

I also had Leopold talk to the spectators while I distributed candy to the kids. 

It was an interesting experience and gave me some good publicity as an entertainer. 

Since that event I haven't done a whole lot of things with Leopold. There is a character I want him to develop into but haven't had the work to be able to do it. 

I love the puppet but have come to regret a choice I made when I ordered him from Steve Axtell. I chose to have the puppet's mane be black and not brown. 

The black main is a lightweight feather like material that sheds all over the place. I just don't like the way it looks or works. 

Leopold doesn't like it either. That's why I've decided to give him his wish and send him for a puppet make over. Here's a link to a You Tube video that I recorded just before I sent Leopold off to California for his change. 

Leopold's Puppet Makeover Part 1

So right now Leopold is on his way to Ventura, CA. He should be there in a couple of days. 

It will take a few weeks to complete his makeover. Once he comes back I will make a video of his new look and ask him about his adventures. 

The stories of these three puppets were unique in their beginning. I want to make them part of the core of my new vent act. Once I do that I will let you in on (as Paul Harvey used to say) the rest of the story. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Latest In Lego 3

Time once again to present the pictures and videos showing the Lego models I've built over the past 11 days. 

This edition of "Latest In Lego" will include a miniature version of an internationally recognized icon, a model Don Quixote would pursue, and something that will help you get "the scoop." 

Let's start with the model I previewed for you at the end of my last "Lego" post.

This is the latest addition to my Lego Architecture Landmark series. The Sydney Opera House is as associated with the country of Australia as the Statue of Liberty is with the USA. This model is the second non-domestic landmark model in my collection. 

It's unusual appearance and elements made its construction a bit out of the ordinary. As you can see, the results is a model as unique as the real life building itself.  

This windmill is the first of 3 models I am going to build from the Lego Creator Small Cottage 31009 kit. There is more to this model than can be shown in one picture. More on that later in the post. 

This power digger from the small but cool sixty-four piece 31014 Creator Power Digger set has amazing detail for a model that fits in the palm of your hand. It also has a working arm which you will be able to see in what I present to you next. 

This link will take you to a video that I've posted on my RHFactors You Tube channel. This video is different from the others I've posted. This is a 3 in 1 deal. 
Lego Opera House, Windmill, Power Digger Demo

The last item for this post is a link to another video. It gives a brief history of the Lego and the family who created them. It was posted on You Tube back in 2012, the 80th anniversary of the company. I really enjoyed it both times I've watched it. If you are a Lego enthusiast or just like a good success story watch this one. The Lego Story

That's the "Latest In Lego" for this time. I'll be back in a few days with what I've put together and any other news about on of my favorite hobbies. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Olaf-ful Advice

If you read the book of Proverbs in the Bible you'll take in 31 chapters of Holy Spirit inspired wisdom from the pen of King Solomon. Absolutely words to live by. 

There are also common adages that we hear in everyday life that prove to be true and beneficial when followed. 
(btw I believe that if you were to do the research you'd find that the essence of any adage that works can be found in one way or another in God's Word) 

A few of those that mean a lot to me are: Happy wife, Happy Life; in your closest relationships don't do anything for the first time you wouldn't want to do consistently going forward; if something's different, something's changed. 

The adage that has had the most impact on my life over the last 6 months or so has been this: Loving someone means putting their needs above yours. 

I know this is nothing new. But if you look at this through the lens of our natural human instinct to be selfish, loving someone is a choice. A choice that has to be made everyday. 

Now I didn't remember where I heard this adage simply stated earlier this year but it continues to resonate within me even today. I feel like it has made a difference in my life. I am a little more sacrificial when it comes to giving of my time and deciding what to do on a daily basis. 

Now I have written all of this to bring to light a most humbling realization I experienced last night. 

Watching TV on some weeknights during the summer can be very frustrating. Last night was one of them. We've got hundreds of channels to choose from and there was nothing we wanted to watch on any of them. 

I was flipping through the channels, cause I am the king of the remote at my house, and I came across the Disney's "Frozen"just as it was beginning on the Starz movie channel.

As we watched this instant classic that's been a juggernaut for nearly a year now we sang along with the songs: Do You Want To Build A Snowman, For The First Time In Forever, In Summer, and of course, the infamous  Let It Go. 

I was amazed that I knew things about this move as well as I do. I've only seen it a few times. But as a Disney geek I guess I've been exposed to it more than I realize. 

But the scene that surprised me came near the end of the movie. Princess Anna and Olaf the snowman are in a palace room by themselves. They are standing near a fireplace that has a roaring fire. 

That's when I heard Olaf say the line took me by surprised. He tells Anna that "Love is when you put someone else's needs before yours." 

When I realized what he had said I was taken back a bit. "What?" "You mean the adage I've been using as my personal guideline came from a Disney film?" "From a snowman in a  Disney movie?" 

And he's not even a Disney character I really like. He just doesn't seem to "hit the mark" for me when it comes to likable Disney sidekicks. His behavior and humor seems just a little too contrived and forced for me. 

I shouldn't be surprised that such a profound observation packaged into a memorable "catch phrase" comes from a Disney movie. I mean the Disney universe is full of them and has been from the beginning. 

"A dream is a wish your heart makes", "When you wish upon a star", "Hakuna Matada", are just a few. I'll bet if I tried I could list 100 or so. 

Of course among my personal favorite are: "If you dream it you can do it" (a quote credited to Walt Disney, but was written by a Disney imagineer for the Horizons attraction at Walt Disney World) and one that Walt did actually say, "I hope that we don't lose sight of one thing-that it all began with a mouse".

I guess advice that makes you a better and wiser person is valuable no matter who, what, or where it comes from. But a least I now know who to credit for saying it. 

So even though I'm a little humbled by the source I will continue to remember that when I want to show someone that I love them I will put their needs ahead of mine. 
That's Olaf-ful advice. 



Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A Sad But Special Song

Today is a significant day of remembrance for me and my family. Over the history of this blog I've only written about what this day means to me just once. Today, it's time to write about it again. 

Fifteen years ago today, August 20, 1999, I was working as an office assistant/inventory clerk at Pete's Fabrications on Blue Level Road in Bowling Green. It was my first job since moving to Kentucky and I was still learning just exactly what that job was about. 

I was my desk on a Friday morning, reviewing the parts inventory and looking forward to the weekend when the phone rang. 

I answered with the usual greeting I'd been using since I started working there in  a few months.  "Pete's Fabrications, this is Ron, how can I help you?"

On the other end of the phone was my mother. Between her sobs in a heart broken voice she told me that my father "was gone." He had lost his battle with cancer. 

Dad had been diagnosed with malignant tumors in his lung and brain 10 months earlier. He fought as bravely as he could but eventually scummed to the awful disease that has taken so many from all of us. 

I don't remember exactly what I said to my mother during that call but I'm pretty sure I told her I loved her and that I would be home as soon as I could.   

I had been home just a few weeks earlier because Dad's condition had gotten worse. It was the opinion of the Hospice nurse who was taking care of him that medically "the end" was eminent. 

I flew back to New Jersey for the weekend and said "good-bye" to my dad. I don't even know if he knew I was there. He was basically unresponsive due to the toll the disease had taken on both his body and his mind. 

There wasn't anything dramatic about seeing him for the last time. I know I told him I loved him. But there wasn't any moment of closure that I remember and that's okay with me. It's not an "unfinished business" issue with me. 

Over the last decade and a half I've done things and grown in ways that I know would have made my dad proud of me. I have no doubt that he loved me and still does.  

Although I wanted to breakdown in grief when I hung up the phone, I did my best to keep my composure. My boss and the guys who worked in the auto body shop weren't exactly the kind of guys you wanted to see you cry. 

As a means of catching my breath I sat back in my office chair and turned up the radio. The country music station I had on was at the tail end of a commercial break. The station jingle played and segued into a song. 

That song was "Love Me" by Colin Raye. Its about a young man's memories of being with his grandfather on the day the boy's grandmother dies. The words of a note that applied to the grandparents' long life and love together made up the chorus of the song. 

If you get there before I do, don't give up on me.
I'll meet you when my chores are through;
I don't know how long I'll be.

But I'm not gonna let you down, darling wait and see. 
And between now and then til I see you again. 
I'll be loving you. Love me. 

The song was the catalyst that made it impossible for me to hold back the tears of sadness at the loss of my father and my empathy for the grief of my mother. 

In those initial moments after my father's last breath I knew there was nothing my mother was feeling more than the void of being separated from the man she loved most.  She wanted nothing more than to be reunited with him. Just a short 4 years later she would be.

Over the last 15 years, for me, that song has come to serve as a reminder and a symbol of 40 years my parents shared together. Their love and dedication to each other through thick and thin, good and bad, and making the best of the hand that life dealt them is the best example of a strong marriage I've ever known.

Although it was far from perfect, their marriage serves as a model for me when it comes to my relationship with the Love of my Life, my wife, Paula.  

So on this anniversary of the day my father's life in this world ended and his "eternity" began I want to share with you the video of the song that still, after all this time, means so much to me. I can't hear it without tearing up. 

Love Me by Colin Raye

One final thing before I end this post. Just yesterday I took a step toward preserving yet another special memory about my dad. 

For about 10 years I've had a few of the model railroad cars that my dad customized himself. Yesterday I took those cars along with a shadow box to the young lady who made my giant blue Lego storage box for me, last year. She's going to set them up in a display for me. 

In a few weeks I will have another reminder of my dad's life on my wall. I'll have more on that when it happens.

It's been 15 years but on this special day I want to tell my dad and my mom how much I miss them. Although I hope it's not for quite a while, I look forward to one day being reunited with both my parents in our eternal home. 

I Love You Both.  

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Mundane & The Magnificent

Haven't had much of anything new to write about since Friday. Over the weekend, I spent most of the time working on sorting my collectibles (Disney figures and plush characters, commemorative or signed baseballs, Pez Dispensers, and, of course, Lego sets, among other things).

My objective was to get rid of some of those things and to make space in the room that will eventually be my "man cave".

Also, part of Saturday, Paula and I spent an hour or so in the the room we cleared out last weekend. We're scraping off the dark green paint that's currently coating the wood work that runs around the floor. At this point we are about halfway done. 

Both of those things are part of the process of our home improvement project that I've written about before. But I want to write something new for you.

So today, I'm going to write about a pair of entertainment programs that have come across my TV screen over the last couple of days. One is very mundane and the other is absolutely magnificent. Both of them involve puppets. 

The sequel to the successful Muppets return to the big screen a couple of years ago arrived in theaters back in March. It wasn't very successful, It made less than $28 million worldwide. Unimpressive by today's standards.  

I am not surprised that it didn't do well. I did not like this movie at all. You can read my review in the March 22, 2014 post. 

As I speculated in that post, I only bought the blu-ray edition of this movie to keep my Muppet film collection intact. 

I wrote about my lifelong fascination with and effort to emulate the Muppets in my July 27 post. The Muppets as a group have been a great creative influence on me. I have come to expect so much from them. It's really disappointing when they fall short. Nevertheless I'm going to give "Muppets Most Wanted" another try.  

I will probably find something new to enjoy or laugh about but at the very best I can only seeing myself changing from calling it "awful" to "mundane" at best. 

The "Marvelous" portion of this post is a show I've wanted to see ever since I heard about it winning a Tony Award 7 years ago. What's best about it is that it stars a ventriloquist. 

Ventriloquist Jay Johnson (best known since his role as "Chuck & Bob" on the 70's sitcom "Soap) has been performing this show since 2006.

After his Broadway run, Johnson took his show on a national tour. I watched the tour's website four a couple of years but the show never came close enough for me to go see it. 

 That's why I was very excited when I found about the show's most recent incarnation: a recorded live performance was now available for digital download, or pay-per-view rental. The latter is the way I experienced it last week.

Watching this 2 hour show was fun and entertaining. After not seeing him perform for a long long time I had forgotten what a top notch ventriloquist Jay Johnson is. 

Actually, in the show he did things I had never seen him do before. He even used two of the Axtell Expressions gimmicks I actually own: the bird arm and the magic drawing board. Through his performance, technique, and biographical story he reminded me why I love the art of ventriloquism. 

"The Two and Only" has as it's foundation the true essence of ventriloquism. With a little hard work and practice the average every day ventriloquist can emulate the style and learn the skills Jay Johnson utilizes in his show.

The biographical story Johnson tells throughout the show about his experience and friendship with ventriloquist and puppet maker, Art Selving, is inspiring. All though it happened in the America of the 50s & 60s; it is a timeless testimony to being dedicated to pursuing your dreams and importance of finding a mentor.  

The use of such a wide variety of puppets, from simple to complex, served as an example to me that use of multiple characters is important to show that last's more than just a few minutes. The introduction of each puppet helps reset the audience's curiosity and excitement keeping their attention longer. 

As I stated earlier I thought this show was magnificent. Anyone who is not familiar the history of ventriloquism will be educated as well as entertained. If you are a vent, like me, you will be in awe of Jay Johnson's talent. 

I was fortunate enough to discover how to record this PPV to my DVR. So as of this post I have watched the show twice. 

I will watch it again a third and even a fourth time. The reason for this is that the first two times as I watched it, my mind was flooded with ideas for my own act. 

No, I will not be copying Jay's jokes, that's called "stealing." But I will use his performance methods and joke formulas. I believe that's called "inspiration."

I can safely say that, if I had managed to go see this show live when it was touring I would have absolutely lost my mind. While it's not your typical Broadway style show, I consider it the perfect ventriloquist show. I'll say it a third time: It's MAGNIFICENT.

The DVD comes out in December. I will absolutely own it when it does.

There you have what I call "The Mundane and the Magnificent". Guess which one I recommend? Check out "The Two And Only" on PPV. I guarantee you'll enjoy it. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

My Day At The Ballpark

This past Wednesday I did something I haven't done in quite a while. I went to see the Cincinnati Reds play at Great American Ballpark. 

I hadn't planned on going to a Reds game this year but last weekend I heard the Red's announcers on TV mention that the Red Sox were going to be in town for a two-game series.

I checked the schedule and found out that second game on Wednesday was a day game with a 12:35 PM start time. That early start would make it possible for me to drive to Cincinnati and back in the same day. I decided to go for it. 

I went alone but that's not unusual for me. I enjoy doing a "road trip" by myself every once in a while. My last one was in May when I went to Atlanta to meet Lou Mongello. 

I left my house at 6:30 AM central time. Having been to the "Queen City" at least 10 times since I've been living in Kentucky I knew how to get there. It's easy. Just drive 200 miles on four different highways and you're at the stadium. 

I enjoyed the trip snacking on cheese filled Combo pretzel snacks and drinking diet Dr. Pepper. I listened to several of the podcasts on my IPod and part of my Rewind 2011 soundtrack program. 
It took me a little over 3 1/2 hours to get there with a couple of restroom stops. Cincinnati is in the eastern time zone so I got to the city's riverfront area about 11AM. 

After finding the public parking garage with the handicapped parking spaces; it was just an elevator ride and a short walk to enter the ballpark's plaza area. 

I had ordered my ticket online the day before so I went to the "Will Call" window, got my ticket, and headed for the front gate. 

My seat was in the back of section 134 about halfway down the right field line. Because of the limited tickets available, to get a decent seat, not in the upper deck, I had to buy a handicapped seat. As it turned out the game was not a sell out but there were nearly 33,000 people there. 

Once my ticket was scanned I headed into the concourse on the field box level. I found my seat which wasn't really a seat at all. It was a folding chair in between a pair of regular stadium seats. Given the price I paid for the ticket I was very disappointed that I only got a folding chair. But I was paying for the privilege of seeing the game not for the seat. 

Here's a selfie showing the view from my seat. 

I have posted a short video I took before the game on my RHFactors You Tube channel. Here's the link:
GAB video

As I sat in my seat eating a hot dog I noticed that the were about half of those coming in were wearing something that indicated they were Red Sox fans. 

As you will see later in this post I was wearing my brand new "Reds" t-shirt. 

One of the reason I decided to make the trip to GAB was the pitcher who was scheduled to start. Homer Bailey is the Reds' #2 starting pitcher and has pitched 2 no hitters each of the last two season (2012 & 13). I thought the odds of seeing something special, or at least a well pitched game, were good.   

But while listening to sports radio on my way to Ohio I found out that Bailey had been scratched from his start (he would be put on the 15-day disabled list two days later). 

Mike Leake would be the starter for the Reds, instead. The Red Sox starter was someone I'd never heard of before. I think he's a rookie. 

Now if you would have told me at the start of the baseball season that I would go to Great American Ballpark in August and neither Dustin Pedroia or David Ortiz would be in the starting line up for the Red Sox but not because they were not injured, I would have been surprised. But that's what happened. 

I didn't care though because they are two of the MLB players at the top of my MLB "enemies" list. I don't like them in the least little bit. I wasn't the least bit disappointed about not seeing them play. 

Pedroia would pinch hit in 7th and play the last 3 innings in the field as part of a double switch when the Red Sox brought in a new pitcher. At least he didn't get a hit. 

I knew that Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips would not be playing for the Reds because they are on the DL. But I was disappointed when my favorite Cincinnati player, Jay Bruce, was not in the lineup either. Oh well that's the chance you take when you go to see a game. 

After 3 1/2 innings the Reds were trailing 3-2. With the bottom third of the Reds batting order scheduled to come to bat in the last half of the 4th I decided to go to the concession stand to get a snack and a drink. 

While standing in line to get my snack I heard the crowd erupt with excitement; not once but twice. 

Skip Schumaker, a Reds outfielder, and pitcher Mike Leake each hit solo homers to give the Reds the lead. Two home runs hit (one by a pitcher, which doesn't happen very often) and I missed them. 

But there is a silver lining to that cloud. On my way to get my snack I saw one of the Reds mascots standing around taking pictures with fans. 

Now I have been to at least half a dozen Reds games and had never even been close to any of the mascots. In case you are not familiar with them, here's a pic of what they look like.

Left To Right: Rosie Red, Gapper, Mr. Red, Mr. Redlegs (in back)
I got in line to get my picture taken with the mascot. The character's "handler" was a nice young lady who gladly took the picture for me. Here's me & Mr. Redlegs. I'm on the right. 

Leake would go on to give up the lead in the top of the 5th when he gave up a 2 run homer to Boston first baseman, Mike Napoli. 

The last 4 innings went quickly as the Red Sox didn't get a hit after the 5th. The Reds' offense was just as ineffective.

The pitching highlight of the game came in the top of the 9th when Aroldis Chapman, the Reds' closer came out of the bullpen to strike out all 3 Red Sox. 

It was amazing because, according to the radar gun reading displayed on the scoreboard, Chapman reached 3 digit speed at least 4 times; topping off with a pitch at 102 MPH. 

The Reds got their first two hitters on base in the bottom of the ninth. But second baseman Ramon Santiago failed to move the runners over with 3 bunt attempts. The next two hitters flied out to end the game. 

I enjoyed the game but, of course was a little bit disappointed that I didn't see a walk off win by the Reds. They did came back that way, on the Yankees in the first game I ever saw at GBP. I was kind of hoping they would do it to the Red Sox. 

Other than Jay Bruce, a couple of things I didn't see during this game, that I wanted to see, were a replay challenge and an extreme defensive shift. 

There were no controversial calls that were close enough for either team to request a review. With Jay Bruce and David Ortiz not in the game the teams never used the extreme defensive shifts that have become so popular this season. 

One final note from my time at the ballpark. When a player comes to bat during the game, the big centerfield scoreboard displays a lot of stats and info about that player. 

It was from that info I discovered that Red Sox 3rd baseman, Will Middlebrooks, and Reds Outfielder, Billy Hamilton, share my birthday.

After the game, I headed to the nearest exit which spilled out into the plaza where I first came in. I took the stairs down into the parking garage on the way back to the car because there was a long line for the elevator. 

It took a while to get out of the parking structure, through the downtown area and back onto I71. But soon I was headed back to Kentucky on my way back home. 

I made good time driving back home. I stopped at my favorite Pilot truck stop along I-65 at Lebanon Junction. 

It's the place I bought my first fish puppet on my way back from the Vent Haven convention back in 2008. This time I found another puppet that I liked. It's an alligator. 
I know in past posts I've mentioned that I wanted to reduce my puppet collection. But I have been wanting an alligator for a long time. In addition, I plan on using it to play with Aria and her turtle puppet in the future. 

So there you have my day at the Great American Ballpark. I had a great time and the trip really was great way to relax.  

The next couple of days are going to be a bit emotionally stressful as Paula and I try to provide the love and support Brandi and James through their difficult time. So I'm glad I got a "breather" and a chance to enjoy a major league baseball game, in person for the first time in 3 or 4 years.  

Thursday, August 14, 2014

In Memory Of Linda

Today's post is one that I'm writing with a heavy heart. Early yesterday morning, Wednesday August 13, 2014,Linda, my daughter-in-law, Brandi's mother, passed away. She was only 50 years old and had endured a long hard battle with cancer. 

But I would like to take today's post as my tribute to her life and celebrate the legacy of her daughters and 8 grandchildren. 

I didn't spend much time with Linda even though our children have been together for more than 10 years. But I do remember the last day I spent with her. In May of 2013, Linda went with Brandi, James, Aria, Paula, and me to the Louisville Zoo. 

Because she was in the midst of her fight at that time seeing her spend time with Aria that day will always be special to me. I know Aria will not remember it but I'm sure Linda made some special memories for herself that day. 

Here is a picture of Brandi, James, & Aria with Linda taken as we left the zoo that day. 

Ironically, I find it difficult to come up with the right words to express sorrow and empathy when someone loses a loved one. I can remember how sad and lost I felt when my parents. 

Brandi and her family's loss is especially sad to me because it is very close to the 15th anniversary of losing my dad. 
He had cancer as well. 

I want this post to be a comfort to James & Brandi or at the very least express how much I am hurting because they are hurting and I can't make that go away. But I'm not sure how much comfort this will bring them. 

Since music is a way I use to express myself a lot of the time, I want to end this post with the mention of a couple of songs I think are fitting for the moment. The first one is a link to a song by Patty Loveless that I thought of when I heard that Linda was in her final hours. 

How Can I Help You Say "Good-bye"?

I like this song because I can connect the first two verses to events of my life. From now, when I hear the 3rd verse I will think of Brandi and how hard it was to lose her mom. 

Lastly, I want to close this post with the lyrics to a Vince Gill song that was part of Paula's dad's funeral. Given the struggle she so bravely fought over the last years of her life, it is my tribute to Linda as well.

                 "Go Rest High On That Mountain"

I know your life
On earth was troubled
And only you could know the pain
You weren't afraid to face the devil
You were no stranger to the rain

Go rest high on that mountain
Because your work on earth is done
Go to heaven a shoutin'
Love for the Father and Son

Oh, how we cried the day you left us
We gathered round your grave to grieve
I wish I could see the angels faces
When they hear your sweet voice sing

Go rest high on that mountain
Because your work on earth is done
Go to heaven a shoutin'
Love for the Father and Son

Good-bye Linda. Thank you for raising Brandi to be the fine young wife, mother, and daughter-in-law she is. Paula and I promise to watch over her for you.  

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Tuesday Afternoon Post

I'm sitting here relaxing a bit in the middle of the afternoon so I thought I'd write about a mix of random things today. 

First of all, I think that DVRs or TV networks should develop some kind of system to automatically delay the start of the recording of a program if it starts late due to a sports or news event. 

Last Sunday night I tried to DVR "Unforgettable" on CBS and got "60 Minutes." 

I intended to watch a drama about a detective, who has a highly superior memory, solving a crime. But instead I got Morley Safer interviewing a guy telling how he injected PEDs into Alex Rodriguez's buttocks. Not exactly an equal trade off.  

So anyone who reads this that has a connection in the TV industry either on the service provider or production sides get to work on that, okay?

And while you're at it how about something to make a DVR keep recording if a program goes over it's scheduled time slot, even if it's not set up that way. That's for all the sports fans. 

I'm currently reading a book called "The Traveler's Gift" by Andy Andrews. It's about a desperate man's spiritual journey through time encountering historical figures. These infamous people each give him advice on principal for living successfully. 

I'm having a little bit of difficulty buying into the complete message the book is trying to convey. I do agree with parts of it though. Maybe it will take me some time to digest it all and apply it to my life. 

However one of the principals has already struck a chord with me: "I am a person of action." Let me explain why. 

A good portion of the way I measure success in my life is through accomplishments. I can't stand the feeling of disappointment at the end of the day when I realize that I have gotten nothing done. On the other side of the same coin is the sense of satisfaction I get when I can see the results of something I've put effort into. This explains my enjoyment of building Lego models and recording my "Rewind" programs. 

Because I don't have a job to go to everyday, right now, I don't have that steady source of satisfaction of putting in 8 hours each day. Whether you are happy at your job or not, if you go and put in your time every day you have something to be proud of. I don't have that right now. 

Because of that it's been very easy to get into a rut, distracted by TV or the internet or a variety of other things and let time get away from you on a daily basis. 

That's what was happening to me over the last couple of months. I have routinely stayed up until the wee hours of the morning and slept late the next day. I would not develop any ambition until the later part of the afternoon. At the end of each day I would find myself frustrated over the feeling that I've wasted the day away. As you might guess it's a very stagnating routine.

When my wife would come home from her 12 hour day at the office, and simply ask "What did you do today?" I was embarrassed when I struggled to respond with something I was proud of.

I went through a bout of depression stemming from my realization that I was accomplishing nothing in my life right now. Recently I decided to pull myself out of my emotional hole and realized that it was time to take some action. 

Over the last couple of weeks I've been setting a daily goal for accomplishments each day. Since my favorite number is 9 that's where I set the bar for taking actions. 

I include daily tasks such as doing the dishes, feeding my dog, Angel, or making dinner for my wife, as part of my accomplishments after all they are things that need to be done. I include anything I do that accomplishes something or is progressive. 

So far this seems to be working. In the past just having things listed on my "to do" list was enough to motivate me to get them done. But now I find myself needing my "actions list" every day to keep me focused. 

I still have my "to do" list but the action of moving the task from the list for that day to the "9" list, because I've finished it, gives me that sense of accomplishment.

I guess because of the way my mind works I need to do this "9 things" list. It's not the solution to all the problems in my life. In many ways I am not the man God wants me to be. Nor am I the person I aspire to be. But having a goal each day up gives me a direct sense of purpose. 

My faith as a Christian makes me certain of where I will ultimately be one day but what I'm having trouble with is finding the path to the end of the journey. 

Keeping track of the things I accomplish every day helps me to expand my vision and gives me the confidence that I can achieve my long term goals.  So far the "Daily 9" is working for me. 

My prayer is that it will be one of the tools that will help me reach the things that have, up to now, been just beyond my grasp.  

Before I wrap up this post I need to mention how sad I was to hear about the death of Robin Williams. 

For more than 4 decades he was an important a part of the American entertainment scene. He touched millions of lives in throughout the many facets of his career.

For me personally, his movie, Patch Adams, was the first film Paula and I ever saw together at the theater. We were watching "Bicentennial Man" when the clock struck midnight at the turn of the century; our first New Year's Eve together. 

His performance as the genie in Disney's Aladdin makes the character one my all time favorites. 
Williams ran the gambit of show business success. He went from stand up comic, to TV star, to Oscar winning film actor. 

I was one of the few people who really enjoyed his TV series from last season, "The Crazy Ones." It had potential. Unfortunately in today's market shows have to be successful out of the gate. They aren't given time to find their stride. I can't help but wonder how much the cancellation of that show played in Williams battle with depression and his ultimate decision. 

He was a show business superstar. His wit and improv skills were as quick and sharp as anyone I've ever seen. He was a dream guest for a talk show host. All the host had to do was ask one question and, like a wound top, Williams would spin out quips and improvisations that would get the audience howling with laughter.  

Williams is probably the iconic representative of the stars that were born out of the great comedy universe created in the late 1970's (think of Saturday Night Live as it's "Big Bang). The only other performers who comes close to William's degree of success and longevity would be Steve Martin and Bill Murray.

I'm more a fan of Martin than Murray or Williams. But nonetheless there is no denying that Robin Williams, even though troubled on a personal level, was an entertainment icon spawned from the first generation of Americans to grow up with TV. 

I could go on but my accolades pale in comparison to the millions already sent out on social media.

So let me take one last opportunity not to say "good-bye" to Robin Williams; but like his infamous character, Mork from Ork would do each week on his show, I'll simply say "Nanoo Nanoo."  

Monday, August 11, 2014

Latest In Lego 2

Time for the second edition of my newest version of reports of my activity in the Lego universe. 

Let's start off with the purchase I made at the 2nd hand store here in "the grove" a couple of weeks ago. 

This is a plastic drawer full of random Lego bricks, connectors and specialty pieces (mostly from "Star Wars" sets). Quite a few of the parts are those I've been wanting to help me build my own models with my brick collection. 

Now granted this purchase was kind of spontaneous. I'm not going to try and get an accurate count of just how many pieces are in this drawer. But I can assure you that I paid no more than 1 or 2 cents per piece, at the most, probably less. As anyone who buys the "pick a brick" containers at the Lego store would tell you at that price this was a bargain. 

I also purchased this lot with the idea of dividing some of it up and selling them as bags of random pieces. That's going to take some time and some work. 

The first step is transferring the pieces into a pair of containers that would make going through them easier. 

 Paula and I have already started the work by spending a Saturday morning sorting out the mini-figures and pieces of mini-figures and all the "non-Lego" objects from the other stuff. A couple of the things we found Paula wanted to keep: Mario and a cool looking bead. 

This transfer reduced the bricks & pieces down to just one container. Not only was what we did a step in the right direction; it was fun discovering things together. 

I will continue to keep you updated on how I take this mess and make it manageable. 

On Friday August 8, I finished building the third model that could be built with the Lego Creator Aviation Adventure kit. It was the type of model I like building the most, a helicopter. 

I really like this model. That's why I decided to build it from the kit last. However now that it's done I'm not sure I like it more than the plane. But of course, if I decide I want to I can always built the plane again.  

I made a short video on my You Tube channel showing the details of the helicopter. 
Aviation Adventures Helicopter Demo Video

That's all I have to report about what I've done with Lego over the last two weeks. However I am looking forward to doing some major changes and adjustments to my collection over the next week or so. I will report about that when it gets done.

Also my next build is going to be another in the Lego Architecture Landmark series. It's world famous building that everyone will recognize almost immediately. 
 I'll have pictures of the one I build in my next Lego blog report. Until then, stay creative and watch your step in the dark.