Saturday, October 31, 2015

Same Song, Same Place, Different Performances

One of my favorite words ever is "Juxtaposition". The strange relationship between two contrasting people, places, or things based on their proximity to each other just always seems to catch my attention.

Last night, for the 6th time this year I went to a Southern Kentucky Performing Arts Center event. This time it was to see a pop music legend in concert. 

I won tickets to see Don McLean from a local radio station. Although the show was in the middle of the week, I knew I had to go just for the experience of seeing him perform "American Pie". 

The song is as much a part of the legacy of American music as (insert your choice for greatest pop song of the last 50 years here). 

Also, McLean's second best known hit, "Vincent" is one of my all-time favorite "non-love song" ballads. It was one of the first 45 records I ever bought with my own money when I was a kid. 

But let's get back to "American Pie" and the juxtaposition I mentioned earlier. 

Of course hearing McLean perform his American standard was a unique experience in and of itself. 

However, it was actually the 2nd time this year that I heard the song's iconic melody played at SkyPac. 

Both of the performances were unique and memorable but artistically polar opposites.  

The first time I heard the tune was during the encore at the conclusion of the July 7 Weird Al Yankovich concert. 

That's when Al, amidst a standing ovation from the sold-out house, returned back to the stage surrounded by a group of costumed Star Wars characters. Dressed as a Jedi warrior, he sat on a wooden stool. Much to the audience's delight he sang "The Saga Begins"; a parody of McLean's "American Pie" that humorously tells Darth Vader's origin story. 

Just like the rest of the show, this finale was an amazing on-stage production. Here's a pic of what the stage looked like.   

Having seen Weird Al in concert twice in the last 5 years, in my opinion he is a genius performer. 

Fast forward to 16 weeks later and another SkyPac audience is gathered to hear McLean, the 70 year old member of the songwriters hall of fame, play and sing his hits. 

Over the course of 90 minutes he sang "And I Love You So", "Crying", the previously mentioned "Vincent" and finally his magnum opus, "American Pie." 

But this time the melody was not witnessed by Vader & company nor was the singer in any kind costume. 

The stage was set up more like a rehearsal hall than anything else. Here's the best shot I could get with my phone's camera. 

Juxtaposed along side Weird Al's elaborate production stage it would seem that last night's concert left a little to be desired. Yet McLean's signature song made Al's tour finale possible.   

Which brings me to yet another one of my favorite words: Irony. 

So there you have my ironic experience of hearing the same song in the same place twice presented in two totally different ways. 

Just one of those things that happens once in a while that continues to make life fun and interesting. 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

December Vacation Plans

Last weekend Paula and I decided to do something we've never done before. We're going on vacation in December. 

Now that I have been at my job for close to a year, I can take a week off and Paula has vacation days she needs to use by the end of the year. 

With the week we're going being late autumn and very close to the start of winter; places we'd like to go up north would already be cold. We're going to be driving and don't want to take the chance of having to drive through or getting stranded by snow. 

Therefore we have decided to head south for our getaway; more specifically; we're going back to Central Florida. 

Now anyone who knows me, knows that Central Florida usually means just one thing to me: Walt Disney World. 

Because we have had 2 previous vacations that centered on the "most magical place on earth"; this time we are going to try to enjoy some of the other aspects of the Sunshine State. 

Already included in our plans is the fulfillment of a promise I made to Paula more than 4 years ago. I'm going to take her to spend time at a beach. She's not a swimmer so the fact that the water will be cold doesn't matter. She just wants to walk along the shore or sit in a chair and relax in the sand. Enjoying the sun and the waves. We will be visiting either Clearwater Beach or Cocoa Beach during our stay.

We have rented a house from "All Star Vacations Homes" in Kissimmie that has a screened in private pool.  

The only theme park we plan on going to for an entire day, at this point is Sea World. 

Now that doesn't mean that we won't be visiting Mickey and his friends in Walt Disney World.

Ever since December 2002, when things didn't work out for us to spend our honeymoon there, we have wanted to see how Walt Disney World celebrates, the most wonderful time of the year, Christmas. 

Our plans include exploring the resorts and shopping areas to see the decorations. 

One night we will be at the Magic Kingdom as "guests" at the Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party.  

So now that the "when" and "where" and some of the "what" of our 2015 vacation has been decided I can now start my gathering information that will help us get the most out of it. 

I am in full trip planning mode. Over the next 6 weeks I will be gathering information on some of the "non-Disney" things we might want to do.   

Of course the Florida weather is tricky at this time of the year. The average high temperature is in the lower 70s but I have seen it be much colder than that. This only means that packing the right clothes could be a challenge. One good thing is that, on average, Florida gets its least amount of rain in December than any other month of the year. 

I am looking forward to our trip. It will be our first long road trip in our new Kia. The next six weeks will be full of excitement and anticipation. 

Of course, once we get back I will be sharing all we do on my blog. 

Have you ever been to Florida in December? What did you do there? How was the weather? Any hints or suggestions to help us have a good time? Let me know.    


Sunday, October 18, 2015

On The Aisle

As we reach the halfway point in the month of October, we are smack dab in the middle of the fall movie season. 

I have seen just a few of the fall movies so far but I do have some opinions and recommendations about them. 

Everest:  If you are interested in this "based on a true story" movie I'd recommend you see the 3D version. 

The cinematography and special effects are the best things it. Overall, it looks great. 
There were only a couple of scenes where it looks obvious that it was filmed on a movie set.  

The story is very slow and doesn't have a lot of action or suspense at all. The characters are very stereotypical. 

If you're looking for an entertaining visual experience, go to the theater to see this film. Otherwise, I would wait for the home video.

Scorch Trials: This sequel to "The Maze Runner" wasn't bad for the 2nd film of a series. There's nothing original about this story set in a post  apocalyptic  world. At one point in the middle of it the movie turns in to a nearly totally different type of film. I won't provide any spoilers but I'm glad it went back to the main story rather quickly. 

If you liked "The Maze Runner" and interested in what happens to the characters you'll enjoy this film. 

Crimson Peak: We saw this one on it's opening weekend. Paula was anxious to see it because the trailer made it look so good. Plus Tom Hiddleston (Loki from the Marvel movies) was in it and he's a very good actor. 
We saw it at the Imax theater in Nashville. But even the enormous  screen couldn't save this one. 

The plot is very predictable, procedural and holds almost no surprises. There are ghosts that look great but do almost nothing. 

The characters are, at times, interesting, but fade into dullness and never get back. 

I still can't figure out how they can live in that house in the condition it's in, especially in the middle of winter. 

It was very disappointing. I'd skip it in favor of some other horror film that comes out this Halloween season.   

The Martian: Men going to Mars has been the subject of at least a dozen movies in the past. However, this one is perhaps the best of them all. 

Matt Damon puts in a performance  reminiscent of Tom Hanks, but with his distinctive personality and very amusing ironic and situational humor.   

Again, I'm not going to give away any spoilers. Let me just say that at various times,"The Martian" reminded me of "Alien", Apollo 13", "Castaway", "Gravity" and "Star Trek 4". But it is in no way a copy of any of them. 

I went by myself to see this movie but I am going to make sure I take my wife to see it. Experiencing it a second time will be well worth it.

So there you have my take on the 4 fall movies I've seen. If you want to get the most for your movie dollar, by all means, go see "The Martian".  

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Large Lego Catch Up

Thanks for coming back to the the RH Factors blog. It's been too long since my last post. (if I had a $1 for every time I've written that) 

Since it's been such a slow year for blogging I was looking for something worthy of the first post of the last quarter of 2015. Last week, the answer was literally delivered to my doorstep. I received the latest set in the Lego Ideas brand. 

I am really excited about putting this set together in the near future. 

After I posted this picture on my Facebook page I realized that I haven't shared many Lego pics on social media at all this year. 

Since I've assembled more than 2 dozen kits so far this year I'm not going to put the pictures up on this post. 

I have put them in an photo album on my Facebook page. You can see them there. 
The "Back To The Future" set, dragon, and parrot models are my favorites so far. 

Not pictured is a Technics helicopter that I've been working on for about 6 months because it's very detailed. The kit has over 1000 pieces and three instruction books; each with over 100 steps. Some of the assembly components have lots of little parts so I only work on it a little bit at a time. Thus the reason it's taking me so long to complete it. I will post pics of the chopper when it's done. 

But for now, go to my Facebook page and look at my 2015 Lego album. I'm sure you'll enjoy some of the models. 2015 Lego Album

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Introduced to "The Boss"

I heard on TV that today is the 40th anniversary of the release of Bruce Springsteen's "Born To Run" album. 

August 25, 1975 was about 2 weeks before I started my sophomore year of high school, in Phillipsburg, New Jersey. 

I had never heard of Bruce Springsteen or his music prior to 1975. But by the time the school year was over I would. Here's how I was introduced to "The Boss." 

By the time Thanksgiving break came around in the fall of 75, I had decided that my 2nd year high school wasn't all that different from the first. There wasn't much school had to offer that interested me. 

But then, one morning in homeroom, it was announced that one of the teachers was forming a "radio club." The detail in the announcement that got my attention was "anyone interested in becoming a DJ report to the meeting after school."

At that point in my life my goal was to become the next Casey Kasem. I was interested like they wouldn't believe.  

I went to the meeting and became part of the group of a dozen or so students who would go on to help create the very small radio studio in a converted storage closet in the vestibule of the school auditorium. 

There was a small soundboard and a pair of turntables (vinyl records was still the popular music format in those days. Yes, I'm old) which connected to an amplifier hooked up to the school's PA system. So in reality it was more of an "intercom" station and not "real" radio.  

When it came time for station to go "on the air," the club's faculty adviser, Mr. Tomaino (an English teacher and the boys tennis team coach) made a decision I wasn't all that thrilled with. It was the Seniors that would get to be the DJs and the underclassmen would be their assistants. 

So in January 1976, I became the studio assistant to a Senior DJ. Essentially what that meant is that 3 of my study hall periods each week were spent pulling albums from the station's collection and then putting them away after they were played. 

Like the faculty adviser, I don't remember the DJ's name but I there were a couple of significant things I do remember about him. He started each of his "radio shows" with "Hello It's Me" by Todd Rudgren as his theme song. He was also a very very big fan of Bruce Springsteen. He played at least 2 songs from the "Born To Run" album every time he was "on the air." 

Initially I wasn't a fan of Springsteen's music; but I grew to like it. My favorite BTR cut was "Tenth Avenue Freeze Out." and it still is. 

The school "radio station" only lasted for a few months. I don't remember exactly why but my best guess was that as the school year progressed, the seniors got interested in things more "important" than being a study hall DJ. I also think it got some opposition from the school administration as well.  
It's hard to believe that been so long since those afternoons in WPHS studios. But its thanks to that Senior DJ I worked with, and the longevity of the career of Bruce Springsteen, I have a musical reminder about some of my favorite times in the hallowed halls of Phillipsburg High School. 
Ahh memories. 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

"Free Groceries" Time

This past Thursday when I opened my mail I found something that makes me happy 4 times a year. It's not a surprise but makes me smile nonetheless. 
We get these checks every 3 months for using our Kroger Visa card. 

They are the results of the rewards program. The other significant benefit is getting a discount "per gallon" at Kroger gas stations. 

This time we got a total of $120 in reward checks. They can be used just like cash at any area Kroger store. So basically it's a week's worth of free groceries. 

The way the program works is that you get a "point" for each dollar you charge to the card. You get 2 points for each dollar you spend at Kroger and 3 for every dollar you spend on Kroger brand products. 

We take advantage of the program by charging all our fixed bills and a lot of other things on the card. 

Gas, groceries, household utilities, car repairs, and just about anything else we can charge, we do. The result is a rather significant accumulation of points during each rewards period. 

But here's the key to making the whole program benefit work. I pay off the balance each month; no "ifs, ands or buts" about it. 

This requires some single-minded determination. We don't want to get back into credit card debt. As anyone who has a credit card knows, it's easy to fall into the " I'll just pay the minimum payment" trap. Especially when you have several rather large expenses during a particular month.

But if you can do it and keep yourself accountable, you will really benefit from the rewards program. 

I have a "Toys R Us" credit card I maintain the same way. That helps me keep my monthly spending on Legos in check (I don't buy any more than I can afford to pay off in that month) and gets me some "free money" to spend at the store every once in a while.  

However, only you know yourself and your spending habits well enough to decide if you have the discipline to make this work for you. Some people can't or don't feel right doing it

Now I know not everyone who reads this blog lives in an area with Kroger stores. But I'm sure you can find something similar at a grocery store in your area. Everyone knows how costly it is to feed a family. Every little bit helps. 

So there you have one of our little money saving secrets. It is really fun when you can fill your grocery card with stuff you need and then pay "nothing". 

Do you have anything you do that helps make ends meet? Are you part of any rewards program with a credit card? Do you clip coupons? I'd be interested in hearing about your financial secrets. Send me a message on Facebook or Twitter. I look forward to reading them.     

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Aria Adventures

Time to update y'all on what my favorite 3 year old is up to these days. 

Over the last couple of months Paula and I have become a big part of Aria's world. She is asking to come to our house to visit more and more often. When she can't come to us, she asks us to come see her at her house. Of course we do our best to honor her request. 

By spending more time with her, we get to see how much she is growing and learning. I have a whole lot of new memories just from the last several weeks. I just want to share a few of them with you. 

Let me start with something that happened during one of her visits back in July. 

Paula's exercise tension bands were sitting out in our living room and Aria discovered them. Once she found out what they were she had to use them. 

She was counting her "reps" and Paula was recording it on her I-phone. I started to count along with her but Aria wanted me to do something a little more "important". She was definitely ready for her "close up." Check out this video. Listen carefully, the audio is very important, but not the best.  

My fascination and interest in Lego has become a common interest for Aria and me. 

A necessary part of every visit to our house is our investigation of the shelves of the bookcase in the corner of our living room. They are populated with my latest Lego creations and displays. This includes the cars, animals, and other models. But her favorite things are the mini-figures.

She must take each of them out of the display case, repeat their name, and place them on a table next to her, in an order of her choosing. 

Our time together in that corner is mostly about Lego but sometimes ends with a quick game of "this little piggy". 
 On her July 19 afternoon visit I decided it was time that we take the next step in our Lego time together. 

While she does enjoy playing with her Little Mermaid Duplo block set...
I felt it was time she be allowed to play with her Papa's Lego brick collection. 
As you can see she really likes them. We had a great time playing with them together for the first time. 

A couple of weeks later, on August 5, this cool looking Lego table came into my life. 
Now this is probably not too exciting to you. But it's really special to me. It allowed me to be Aria's hero; at least for a little while.  

You see, the table was given to Brandi. But there was no place for it at their house. When Aria found out that she was not going to be able to keep it, she became rather upset. 

When it comes to Lego she knows that I am her "go to" guy. So I was the one she thought of in her quest to possess  the table. 

She grabbed at one last straw with a final plea. "Call My Papa", she appealed to her mom.

To make a long story short, the three of them (Brandi, Aria, & the table) came to my house that night. After a big hug and a heart-felt appeal to me by my grand daughter, the table is now residing at my house. 

On Tuesday, July 28, on a warm and humid evening at the Southern Kentucky Fair Aria put on a beautiful dress, and with curled hair...

...she made her first appearance ever in, what I'll call, a "cutie" pageant. She was part of the 3-4 year old division. She didn't make it past the initial judging but, in my humble yet accurate opinion, she was the cutest. 

Here's a video of her debut. I am telling her "not to smile" because when I do, she usually does the opposite.  

In the 2nd week of August Aria experienced a couple of more "firsts" and met someone she's been waiting see for quite a while. 

On August 9th she spent the night away from her mommy & daddy for the first time ever. The next night, she stayed at our house for the first time as well.  

Paula & Aria shared our bed and I slept on the couch. A small price to pay for the joy of having Aria around for a few extra hours.  

We spent a lot of the time playing with Legos on our new table in the living room. 

The reason she spent the night with us was because Brandi was at the hospital waiting for her cousin, Jackie, to give birth. 

Aria & Jackie have a close relationship and Aria has been excited about the new baby since the day she found out she was on her way. 

On August 11, Miss Elliette Peyton Pullium was born. She is Aria's 2nd cousin. My grand daughter met her for the first time the day she was born and really adores her. She loves helping "Jack" (as Aria calls her) with baby Ellie. 

As I sit here finishing up this post on August 22, Paula & I have just spent another day with Aria.

We started off by going to breakfast with her, Brandi, and James at Theresa's Restaurant. It was the first time we'd ever been there. 

Aria came with us afterwards and we went to the local farmer's market. That's where she found her first pumpkin of the year. 

The remainder of our day was spent at our house playing together. Tonight she is, once again, spending the night. This time it was her choice. Yet another chapter in our further adventures with Aria. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Sunday August 16

It's been a while since I've written a post. I figured now would be a good time since haven't published on this blog in over a month. 

I know in my last post I promised some details about my search for a new car. While I intended to share the process with you, now that it's over I won't "bore" you with the details. Let me just state that my search ended on Monday, June 29 when I purchased a 2015 Kia Soul. 

I have added a video to my You Tube channel giving the "5 cent tour" of the vehicle when it was brand new. Here's the link:
Introducing My New Kia Soul

In the weeks since I brought it home I have put about 1900 miles on the car. But it wasn't until today (Sunday, August 16) that I took it on what could be considered a "road trip". Let me fill you in on how I spent this particular Sunday. 

After working outside on some of the things on my "to do" list on Saturday; I started this day with a bit of a backache. That painful condition changed my plans for the day. Instead of working outside again I decided to take it easy and do something relaxing. 

I was feeling better after some "hot water" therapy and my wife's massage of my lower back muscles with some essential oils. I showed her my gratitude by taking her car into "the grove" to put air in the tires and run it through the automatic car wash. 

 After that, I decided to head to Nashville to do something I haven't done in a while. 

It was a solo trip because Paula wanted to just stay home, relax, and binge watch "Being Human" on Netflix.

On the way down I-65, I initiated the Kia's cruise control and turned on the Yankees- Blue Jays baseball game on my XM radio. 

Because the game was at Roger's Field in Toronto, I listened to the Blue Jay's broadcasters describe the game. The feed from the local Toronto sports station included the local commercials. 

One of them was for a business called "Two Men & A Van". I thought it was a rather unique concept for a moving company. 

I'd never heard of them before that commercial aired. I only mention it now because I will be writing about it later. 

After about an hour, I finally reached my destination. I can't remember the last time I was there. 

I was anxious to get some new sets to add to my collection. The one I was especially looking for was sold out but I got a special code that will allow me to order it from the Lego website. I'll share exactly what that set is with you when I get it.  

What I find was a couple of cool things. 

I also got some pink & purple blocks for Aria to play with when she comes to visit. 

I picked up some lunch from the Opry Mills food court before heading home on I-65.

Just after I crossed the state line back into Kentucky I couldn't believe what passed me on the left. Here's what I saw. 

I had never ever heard of the company until just a couple of hours earlier. Now I see one of their vans on the highway beside me. I know it's hardly worth mentioning but it did seem very coincidental to me. 

I picked up a couple of dinners "to go" from a restaurant in Bowling Green and headed home.

We spent the rest of the night relaxing in our living room and watching the last 3 episodes of season 1 of Daredevil on Netflix. I like the show a lot. Marvel did a good job on it. 

It may not have been that exciting a day but I really enjoyed my road trip. It also gave me something to write about as a way of getting back to posting. How did you spend your Sunday? Weekend? Send me a comment on Facebook or Twitter. 

That's it for this time. Probably not all that interesting a post but at least I'm back. TTYL 

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Car Search Starts

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about the collision I had with my Saturn Vue. Accidents happen and this one left me without a vehicle. However there were some good things that came out of it. 

No longer did I have to deal with: 

  • Cleaning up the worn interior stained with the evidence of a decade of eating on the run in addition to being permanently coated with the seemingly magnetic dog hair from Angel.
  • Recharging the air-conditioning system that wasn't working very well. 
  • Getting the off-centered headlights adjusted (after the collision they were "adjusted" to about 3 feet in front of the rest of the car)

The most profitable aspect of the accident happened just 3 days afterwards. I sold the car for it's Kelly Blue Book value. 

Well, "sold" isn't the exactly the right world. My insurance company (the one with the gecko) declared the Vue a "total loss" and gave me a check. 

It was one of the quickest and easiest car insurance claim settlements that I have ever had. I want to give a big "thanks" to the local adjuster he was very efficient and professional.   

So at this point I am rather unexpectedly faced with shopping for a car. This is different than the last time Paula & I  had to buy a car (see September 15, 2011 post). 

Now I am a position where I can take my time to find the vehicle that meets my needs, both present and future. More on that and my shopping experience in my next post.     

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Last Day Of Summer

Yes, I know the first day of summer was last weekend, but in this post I want to write about the last day. 

No, I'm not talking about the day the in late September when the seasons change. The last day of summer I want to write about recently happened on TV.  

This post is a tribute to one of my all time favorite animated series, Disney's Phineas and Ferb. The series finale aired on the Disney XD channel on Friday, June 12.

The show premiered on August 7, 2007. Over the next 8 years there would be 222 episodes (including a Marvel and Star Wars crossover specials) and a theatrical movie. 

I got on the Phineas & Ferb band wagon a little late. I didn't watch my first episode until 2012. 

After many years of hearing about the show's popularity on Walt Disney World podcasts, I decided to check it out. 

From the moment I heard the theme song I was hooked. Here's a You Tube link to a video of the song. Be careful, you could end up with it playing in your head the rest of the day. 
Today's Gonna Be A Great Day

In addition to the theme, the unique characters, humor, stories, and musical production numbers, and catch phrases quickly made me a big fan. 

The show is set in within the "tristate area" city of Danville. The unique premise of the show is that all the episodes revolve around the adventures and inventions of Phineas & Ferb Flynn. They take place during a "104 days of summer vacation." It took creators, Dan Povenmeir and Jeff "Swampy" Marsh a long time to get the show on the air. You can read all about that on the show's Wikipedia page. Phineas & Ferb Wikipedia Page

Each episode also has two main story lines. Candice, the boy's teenage sister, strives to "bust" her brothers by showing their outrageous inventions to their mom. Of course, that never happens. 

There's also the adventures of, Perry the platypus, the family pet and #1 secret agent. 

He is an operative in a spy agency, OWCA (Organization Without a Cool Acronym)  made up of anthropomorphic animals. 

Each episode Perry is summoned to his secret lair OWCA chief, Major Monogram and or his intern assistant, Carl. 

He is briefed on the latest antics of his arch enemy, Dr. Heinz Doofenshmertz, an evil scientist who resides in his less than hidden skyscraper headquarters in the middle of downtown Danville. Perry's mission is always the same: foil Doofenshmertz's evil plan.       

 I can't even begin to mention everything I like about the many characters. Here is a picture of just a few of them.

The core cast, starting with the entire Flynn family are all funny and very likable. Many of them would make the short list of my all-time favorite cartoon characters. Dr. Heinz Doofenshmertz, voiced by Dan Povenmeir, would without a doubt sit at the top of that list. 

"Dr. Doof's" desire to "take over control of the entire tristate area" is what keeps him inventing outrageous contraptions known a "inators." All of which never quite do what the are supposed to do.  

I really like the unique aspects of some of the show's stock animation as well. From the unusual geometric shapes of Phineas & Ferb's heads, to the strange way all the character's eyes are animated.

It might just be the way I look at them but all the P&F character's eyes remind me of eggs with different colored yolks. 

Original songs in the style of  nearly every genre imaginable are a key to the series for me as well. There's at least one song in each episode except for 3. 

The writers and directors use music very effectively in their storytelling. Whether it's the background theme of "The Quirky Worky Song", the transitional stingers about the Doofenshmirtz building or Perry the Platypus, or those about a Backyard Hodge Podge" or an aglet (the plastic on the end of a shoelace); the wit and entertainment value of the songs helps to enhance the program's emphasis on artistic creativity and humor.  

I found the show at a time when I was focusing on the value of creativity in my own life. That's something that each and every episode of Phineas & Ferb encourages. 

It was one of the first programs I binge watched on Netflix thru both my TV and my Kindle Fire tablet. 

I have collected various bits of P&F memorabilia over the years; but just a few. I have a t-shirt the the color of Perry the Platypus with is face on the front, a lunch bag from Subway, and PEZ candy dispensers featuring 5 of the main characters. 

The fact that I had caught up on all the episodes about a year ago, then watched each of them again several times each, and the long time between the airing of new episodes, had caused me to push Phineas & Ferb to the back of the room of my TV viewing habits. 

Last month I found out that the show was ending with a special episode on June 14. In addition, Disney XD channel was showing the entire series in chronological order, starting the Tuesday before. 

During that week, I tuned in from time to time catching some of my favorite episodes but I set my DVR to record the series finale. 

If you really want a complete conclusion to the series you should also watch the next to last episode entitled "Act Your Age" as well. It shows the main characters as teenagers and wraps up one of the show's most popular continuous story lines.  

The last episode was a good ending. At the conclusion the producers decided to give a musical shout out to the loyal audience with one last song. It was sung and performed by a band made up of many of the key characters.  
Phineas & Ferb: Thanks For Coming Along

Although it will be available on video subscription services, digital formats, and bluray or DVD, in the future, I probably will only watch Phineas & Ferb occasionally on reruns on the Disney channels. Not that I am no longer an avid fan I always will be. But...well, summer's over. 

But I will always consider it my all-time favorite animated TV series. The era of Saturday morning cartoons I grew up watching disappeared a long time ago but thanks to Phineas & Ferb, for a few years, a little bit of it came back. 

Thanks Dan Povenmeir and Swampy Marsh for allowing me to be part of a great summer. 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Pixar's "Inside Out" Review

The following review is what I consider to be "spoiler free"; others may not. If you have not seen this movie and don't want to know anything about it come back after you've been to the theater. 

As part of my special Father's Day afternoon courtesy of my son and daughter-in-law, Michael & Heather, I went to see Pixar's first release in 2 years, "Inside Out". 

I was kind of "Meh"about this movie initally and had as much of an open mind about it as I could after seeing the trailer. But after all, it is a Pixar film and have enjoyed most of them over the last 20 years. ("Ratatouille", "Brave" and "Monster's University" being the only exceptions). Although I liked "Cars 2", I wasn't crazy about it. That means I haven't really been a fan of a Pixar movie since "Toy Story 3" in 2010. 

I was looking forward to one of my favorite comics, Lewis Black, doing the voice of one of the main characters. 

I like Black's stand up humor and "angry man" persona but have always been put off by his vulgarity. His being in "Inside Out" meant I'd most likely get his sharp humor but without the off color language. 

One of the things I look forward to with every Pixar release is the short attached to it. This time it was a cute story called "Lava". 

It's about a lonely volcano on a tropical island, who pines for love over several eons through music. I liked this short because the song was played on the ukulele. It also had a very genuine "legend of the earth"type feel to it as well. 

I couldn't help but think that the short was a bit of Disney subliminal advertising. After all, Disney's newest resort outside of their theme park areas is Aulani on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. Perhaps some who are influenced by "Lava" will look to this resort for a romantic getaway. 

Most of "Inside Out" takes place in the mind Riley, an 11 year old girl who lives in Minnesota. She loves playing hockey and spending time with her parents.

Shortly after the story begins, Riley's life takes a turn that puts her in a place she never wanted to be. 

We are witnesses to her plight by way of what goes on inside her head. Her mind is set up like a NASA mission control center and is managed by characters representing several personality traits: Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Fear and, my favorite, Anger. 

The presentation of abstract things like: "core beliefs" and both long and short term memories is very imaginative. There are other elements of the mind and soul that are cleverly utilized as well but I'm going to let them be a surprise. 

As a delightful bonus, the audience gets a peek inside the minds of other characters as well as Riley. Each have the same staff of personified emotions but with some very entertaining varieties. Whoever was responsible for getting this aspect of the film on screen is a genius. The movie would not have been the same without it. 

Director Pete Docter managed to take the spirit of other Pixar and Disney animated films and create the brand new universe of the human mind. 

Throughout the movie I could see the influence of "Monsters Inc", "Wreck It Ralph" and the "Toy Story" films. 

Speaking of "Toy Story" there is a moment during the 3rd act that is very reminiscent of the furnace scene in Toy Story 3. But don't worry, it's no where near as emotional. 

It was an unexpected pleasure to hear Richard Kind's voice as one of the most important supporting characters. 

I have always found Kind's portrayal of "Molt" (Hopper's brother in "A Bug's Life") very funny and likable. He is very likable here too.  

There are some things about the movie I didn't like. It presents all memories as visual; some of which are from Riley's POV and others that are seen as if shot with a camera. I may be wrong but I don't think memories based on any of the other senses are even mentioned.

There are a few places in the 2nd act where the plot kind of drags. There are some scenes that could have been deleted to move the story along a bit as well. However a lot of those have a comedic element to them; most of which are meant to appeal to younger audience members.  

As far as my recommendation as to who should see this movie let me say this. I would recommend it for kids no younger than 7 or 8 years old. The concepts discussed, world that's explored, and plot twists could be respectively be too complicated, confusing, and upsetting to younger children. There's just not enough there to keep their attention for the entire film.  

Without giving away too much, I must warn you that there are some moments near the end of the 2nd act that a child (no matter what age) who has issues with clowns may find disturbing. I like clowns and even found this part of the movie a bit unnerving.   

"Inside Out" has what all good animated features have; a good story and humor that appeals to both kids and adults. Some of it is specifically aimed at older viewers. 

Paula laughed out loud more than I have heard her laugh at a movie in a long time. I found myself laughing right along with her and the rest of the crowded theater. 

"Inside Out" is another Pixar hit that's highly entertaining and imaginative. It is a good family outing for those with kids above the age I've already mentioned. It's also a great date movie. On the RH Factor scale of 1-10  I give it a 7.5 

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Best Ride Of My Life

Life is full of twists and turns. Some are good; some are bad. Some of them you never see coming. One of those surprise turns happened to me last Tuesday. 

For the first time in almost 16 years I was involved in a traffic accident. It happened on Louisville road near Porter Pike in Bowling Green. Although it was considered a "fender bender" involving 3 vehicles (my car and 2 pick up trucks) damage to my vehicle was extensive. The good news is that no one was injured at all, thank God. 

As of this writing I'm not sure that all the issues with the other drivers and insurance companies have been settled so I'm not going to discuss the accident details.

One thing I can say about that afternoon is this. Just moments after the accident I realized from looking at the damage that my insurance company wouldn't pay to repair it. I knew I would never drive my silver Saturn Vue again. 

There's no way I can truly express how much I am going to miss this car. It has taken me almost everywhere for over a decade. 

I bought it back in March 2005. It had only 346 miles on the odometer. It was my first brand new car ever. 

For 15 years my Vue took me so many places I can never name them all in one post. Many of the longer trips were vacations with Paula. 

Some of the cities we traveled to together in the Vue  include: Easton and Philadelphia, PA; Nashville (too many times to even count), Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, and Chattanooga, TN; Huntsville, AL; Orlando, FL; Chicago, IL; and Washington, DC; Lexington and Louisville; just to name a few. 

It was the Vue that took us to all the road games we went to the 6 years James played football in school. 

It also took us to Columbus, GA twice to visit James during his National Guard basic training at Fort Benning. 

In 2009 the Vue transported the decorations and food Paula needed for James and Brandi's wedding reception to the cabins in the hills of the Great Smoky Mountains just above Pigeon Forge.  

A conversation between my then future daughter-in-law, Brandi, and I in the Vue on the way back from taking James to the Nashville airport on his way back from leave changed our relationship and set the foundation for becoming family a few years later. 

The Vue took me to Holiday World theme park in Santa Claus, IN 3 times. I went twice with my daughter-in-law Heather (Michael went with us on one of those trips) and once by myself.  

I made plenty of solo trips to other cities in the Vue as well. Some of them were to places or events that changed my life. 

In 2006 I drove the Vue to Fort Mitchell, Kentucky to attend the Vent Haven Museum ventriloquist convention. The next Sunday, I performed as a "vent" for the first time in my church. 

In 2006 & 2010 I drove the Vue to Burbonais, Illinois to attend the Creative Ministry puppet festival. During that first trip I drove an hour north to Chicago for the first time to visit both Wrigley and U.S. Cellular Field. 

Of the great years of reliable transportation that the Vue provided for me, 2010, the year I turned 50, was probably the single best. 

In June of that year, Paula and I went to Washington, DC and then continued on to Pennsylvania to see my family. In September we made the trip of my life, so far, to Walt Disney World in Florida. 

In August 2010, I made a two cities-two games-in-two days baseball trip in my Vue. I drove 8 hours to Milwaukee to see the Brewers play a night game against the Giants. The next day I drove back down to Chicago to see the White Sox play the California Angels in a day game. 

It was during that trip that I had the most memorable solo driving experience I ever had in my Vue. 

As I was leaving Chicago area, driving north on interstate route 294 toward Milwaukee, it began to rain. Not a slow even rain, it was a sustained mid-summer cloud-burst type thunderstorm.  
Instead of the downpour passing through and the skies subsequently clearing, its thunderheads followed me as I drove directly north, parallel with the coast of Lake Michigan. For a little over 2 hours, I cautiously crawled along with the flow of traffic in the downpour. 

My windshield wipers labored at slapping away the sheets of water obscuring my view of the only things I could see ahead of me, tail lights. 

I marveled at the amazing streak lightening around me, mostly in the distance, but at times, a bit too close for comfort. 

Listening to a Milwaukee AM sports talk radio station for entertainment I did my best to keep the Vue on the road. 

My immediate goal was to avoid the water build-up that threatened to hydroplane my silver vessel into a guardrail. It was the most nerve wracking but at the same time exciting time I ever had driving that car.   

I drove to a lot of other baseball games in the Vue. I went to MLB games in Cincinnati (about half a dozen times), Pittsburgh, and Atlanta. I went to minor league games in Louisville & Nashville a couple of times as well. 

In August 2010, my Saturn reached a milestone; 6 figures on it's odometer. 

Other than the engine and heater/air conditioning the most important part of a car to me is the entertainment system. 

When I bought the Vue it had the standard AM/FM stereo with a CD player. But what I listened to in the Vue changed when Paula got me an XM Radio for Christmas in 2007. 

With a short range FM frequency adapter XM provided me with the ability to enjoy major league baseball games (mostly the Yankees), a channel of clean comedy, and repeats of Casey Kasem Top 40 countdown shows from the 1970s. 

In 2010 I added my Ipod to the in-car entertainment menu. My entire music collection (over 10,000 songs), podcasts and audiobooks became my listening options as well. 

Two years later a new JVC stereo system with a direct auxiliary and USB inputs improved the quality and convenience of what I what I listened to while I was on the road.

I could literally write a book about the decade I drove the 2005 Saturn Vue. The miles I put on it is equal to driving 3/4 of the way to the moon. 

If I had to choose my all-time favorite memorable moment that happened in my Vue I think it would be one that happened in July 2012. 

I had picked up my 3 month old granddaughter at her babysitter's house to take her to meet Brandi when she got off of work. It was my first time alone with Aria. I was nervous, excited, and proud all at the same time.  

Having arrived early I parked in the lot behind Sheldon's pharmacy to wait for Brandi. 

While waiting Aria got a little fussy and started crying a bit. So to give her proper attention I got in the back seat. I tried to give her a pacifier but she wanted nothing to do with it. I gave her one of her toys and started talking to her. 

Her fussing eased a bit but I would tell she was on the verge of starting to cry again.  

I did what came naturally to me, I started singing to her. I sang "Everybody loves a baby that's why I'm in love with you pretty baby." That's was the first time my granddaughter ever smiled at me.   

The last picture of the Vue's odometer was taken on the day after Christmas last December. 

Now I know this looks picture looks different than the others but take my word for it, this was taken in the Vue. 

In September 2011 Paula got a new car, a Chevy Impala with 19,000 mile on it. Because it was more comfortable and in order to save putting miles on the Vue, we started taking it on our trips together. 

The last two memorable solo trips I made with the Vue were in 2014. They were day trips to major cities to the north and the south of Smiths Grove, respectively. 

On March 8 I drove 200 miles north to Indianapolis. I went to the Brick World Lego Expo. It was the first non-retail Lego event I'd ever been there. It was a lot of fun and I saw a lot of great exhibits and models.  

Two months later I drove 300 miles south to Atlanta. My reason for going there was to meet and have lunch with the host of the WDW Radio Podcast, Lou Mongello. While the weather and circumstances didn't work out exactly as I wanted them to, it was still a great day. 

Although I'm sad that they were the last long road trips in the Vue that only makes them extra special.

As I end this post I want to give a good review to the Geico insurance company. They provide coverage for both our vehicles and our house. 

Their local adjuster, Alan Tange, was extremely professional, friendly, fast, and efficient in processing my claim for the Vue. 

My accident was on Tueday afternoon. By Wednesday afternoon he had inspected the car and processed the claim. As I expected the Vue was a "total loss"

Because I had to get some last minute paperwork to finish the claim it wasn't until Friday morning that we were ablt to complete the settlement and get the check. 

I've had two other car insurance experiences like this one but they took a lot longer. Without a doubt that was quickest turn around time by an insurance company I've ever experienced. 

Last Wednesday afternoon I went to the salvage yard in Bowling Green and took everything out of the car. It was a very sad and difficult moment for me.

Because it happened so suddenly it was kind of hard to accept that after 178,500 miles, by far the most miles I've ever put on a car, I'd made my last trip in my 2005 Saturn Vue. Here are some of the last pictures I took. 

I loved that car. I could write a book about all the things that happened in my life while I owned the Vue. While that may never actually happen. I'm sure I'll be telling the stories for years to come.

I can't believe that I will never get behind that wheel again. Change isn't easy for me sometimes. 

Now I've got to turn the corner and go find me another car. It's a process that is both exciting and very stressful at the same time. 

The way I figure it I'll probably buy maybe 3 more cars over the remainder of my life. But there is no doubt that I will always consider my Silver Saturn Vue the Best Ride of My Life.