Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Puppets With Papa

Back in April 2006, my son, Michael, and I went to Zanies Comedy Club in Nashville to catch a rising star. Jeff Dunham was gaining popularity due to a popular Comedy Central special. Although he had not yet jettisoned into the world wide stardom he has now; the club was packed.   

It was on that night that I decided to seriously consider doing something I hadn't done in over 30 years: be a ventriloquist. 

I dabbled in ventriloquism when I was a teenager and was really fascinated by it. But then I discovered that there was a segment of the population not very interested in a 15 year old guy publicly pretending to hold a conversation with an overgrown stuffed animal. That would be teenage girls. Thus my interest in becoming the next Edgar Bergen or Paul Winchell ended almost before it got started.   

Then in July 2006, I attended the Vent Haven ventriloquist convention in Fort Mitchell, KY. I actually met Jeff Duham

along with some other very talented entertainers. After spending time with them, I was hooked once again on being a "vent."

The day after I got home from the convention I performed my first ventriloquist skit in church as part of the weekly Children's Sermon. 

And that's how I started ventrilquism again after 40 years. 

For the next decade or so I would grow my galaxy of puppet stars and ventriloquist props. I would use them to teach and entertain the kids at my church and in my community.  

Six years later, April 2012, I became a grandfather. Among the many things I looked forward to with my grand daughter was introducing her to my many puppet characters.

Ever since my Aria was a toddler, I've been trying to entertain her with my puppets. I even bought her puppets of her own. Including a turtle and a rabbit. She just never seemed to be interested.

She has loved and carried around many stuffed animal friends but puppets just never seemed to connect with her. 

But within the last month or so that has changed and it came about in a most unusual way. 

Back in May, I collected the first series of Lego's Disney mini-figures. 

While Aria has always enjoyed playing with the mini-figures I collect this Disney series was especially compelling for her. Among her favorites were these two. 
 She is familiar with these characters from both Disney's 1953 classic, Peter Pan and one of her favorite Disney kids shows, Jake & The Neverland Pirates. 

While playing with her in her imaginary world made up of Lego houses, Scooby Doo & Disney mini-figures, and Play Doh, I started talking about the crocodile from the film. I knew I had a crocodile among my puppet menagerie, so I got it out to include it in our play. 

I gave the puppet a voice and the Aria's friend "Tick Tock Crock" was born. 

My grand daughter and Tick-Tock quickly became the best of friends. She wanted him around nearly every second she was playing. Of course her Papa had to be around too. 
Realizing that Aria had changed her feelings about puppets (at least the crock) I figured it was about time to reintroduce her to my turtle friend, Cecil. And now the four of us are play time buddies. 
 Recently, I have been selling off some of my ventriloquist puppets and props with the idea of really cutting back on or giving up ventriloquism all together.

But now that I have made a connection with Aria this way, I may have to rethink that. I'll just have to see how things work out. 

Anyway, having a voice in my grand daughter's new pretend friendships makes me very happy. 

As Tick Tock Crock or Cecil, she lets me into her world in a way she never has before. I can't tell you how thrilled that makes me. 

I'm sure she's in on the "joke" of pretending too. Although she enjoys having fun the puppets; I'd like to think it's cause it includes her Papa. 

If nothing else, I'm counting on our little land of make believe creating memories that last a lifetime, her lifetime. 

Papa & Puppets
Yankees & Baseball

Monday, July 4, 2016

RH Factors Digest Vol. 1

Blogger's Note: It's been a while since I've written a post that's a collection of different unrelated subjects. I plan on doing more of them in the future so I'm starting a series called "RH Factors Digest."  

A Birthday Dinner
Friday, July 1, was my wife's birthday.
I think it's rather appropriate that someone who likes symmetry and balance as much as I do has a spouse whose birthday is exactly in the middle of the year. 

I'm usually pretty good at making her birthday feel special; but this year, I wasn't. With all we had to deal with over the last 6 weeks I just hadn't made any preparations at all. 

On Friday morning, I decided, rather quickly, that I was going to make up for my lack of efforts try to put together something that would make her day memorable. 

I invited Michael, Heather, James, Brandi, Aria and Theresa to our house for dinner. I cooked my special steaks and fresh locally grown corn on the cob on the grill. 

Brandi brought a delicious birthday cake from Sweet Temptations bakery. Aria insisted that we sing "Happy Birthday" to her Nana. So we sang and Aria and Nana blew out the candle together. 

It was a nice quite evening at home with the family. 

Game Show Reboots

For nearly all of my life I've been a fan of the TV game show. 

This summer, the ABC network, has brought back a few of the classics from the 1970s, a great decade for game shows. 

Celebrity Family Feud with Steve Harvey as the host Steve Harvey is not a reboot. It's still making first run episodes for syndication and is very popular on the Game Show Network. So I'm excluding it from my comments. 

The 3 reboots are: To Tell The Truth, $100,000 pyramid, and Match Game. 
In my opinion, ABC got it right with 2 of the 3.

The "To Tell The Truth" game is played the same but the set has been changed. That makes those of us who remember the "original" set a little disconnected. Here's the 2016 set. 
It has a bit of a "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" vibe to it. The contestants are supposed to have a secret but their seats leave them wide open.

The celebrity panel are all too relaxed as well. The set is just not congruent with the "investigative" spirit of the game. The host isn't right either. More on that later. 
Here's what the set from the late 70's/early 80's looked like.  
On a side note, I built my own interpretation of the "To Tell The Truth" set from back when I was a kid. It was one of the first things I built when I first got into Lego back in 2012. It has a retro kind of look to it and I like it.

Now back to the new game shows. 

Both Match Game and Pyramid have sets that recreate those from back in the 70's. The games themselves are still pretty much the same too. They hold up well even after all this time which explains the longevity of their popularity. That's why if you are a game show fan like I am you'll enjoy them.

As far as hosts are concerned, Pyramid's Michael Strahan is the best. He is likable and understands that the game is the star of the show, not him. 

Match Game's Alec Baldwin, and To Tell The Truth's Anthony Anderson try a bit to much to make themselves the center of attention. Everyone knows it's the game that keeps viewers coming back. Just ask some of the all time best game show hosts: Wink Martindale, Bill Cullen, Tom Kennedy, Alex Trebeck and Pat Sajak to name a few.  

You can see the 2016 editions of these classic game shows Sunday nights on ABC or through "On Demand".  

 Netflix Binges
Over this 4th of July weekend Paula and I binged on two different series on Netflix. 

We finished up the 8th season of the Showtime series, Dexter. Although, for me, the show "jumped the shark" at the end of season 6, I still had to watch the last couple to see how it all turned out. 

Like most long running series, the finale really wasn't all that great and a little disappointing. But at least now I know how it ended. 

With Dexter finished and a little more than half of our 3 day weekend left, we had to find a new show to watch. There's a Netflix original series that I'd been reading and hearing a lot about called "Bloodline." It stars Kyle Chandler best known for the NBC show Friday Night Lights and Linda Cardellini, who I know from ER. 

There are only 2 seasons available but we decided to give it a try. The series starts out very very slow, but we stuck with it and in episode 6 it started getting interesting. 

We are now in the middle of season 2 and it's a very compelling story line. I recommend it.

As I write this post the 4th of July weekend is coming to an end. Tuesday starts another work week. Happily this one is only 4 days. 

Hope you enjoyed this first edition of RH Factors Digest.