Thursday, July 31, 2008

A Study Of Revelation

Having finished reading the last book in Tim LaHaye's "Left Behind" Series a little over 18 months ago I have not seen or heard many new mentions about the "last days" as prophesied in the Bible. I have found very few preachers who even approach the subject of the "end times." I have never heard it preached in my church or any Southern Baptist church for that matter. The most information I've heard has been from Hank Henegraaff, who is the host of the Bible Answerman radio broadcast.

Well today on one of my favorite online websites I discovered a series of sermons about Revelation chapter 6. The website is called "Grace To You" and the preacher is John MacArthur. The series started on the website on July 21 and continues through today. I have only listened to the first in the series. However I am captured once again by Biblical prophesy. MacArthur uses various prophetic scriptures to define and coordinate the events in Revelation 6. You too can listen to the sermon series through this link:
Grace to You (John MacArthur) - Broadcast Archives.

I hope you find it as interesting as I do.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Look of Miscommunication

Here's an interesting experience I had today. I went to the local mall to get my hair cut. I went to the same place I've been going to for the last few years. It's called Master Cuts. Like a lot of places in malls around America this one has about half a dozen stylists working there at any one time. When it comes to getting my hair cut I'm not very patient. I wrote my name and services requested on the sheet on the counter hoped it wouldn't be very long until the next available hair cutter to called my name.

Today it was a woman whom I'd say was between the ages of 50 & 55. I didn't get her name but I will always remember her. As I sat down in her styling chair I told her that I wanted a buzz style cut with the 1 inch blade. I added that I didn't want it any shorter than that because I was looking for a job and wanted to present a neat but normal look to potential employers. I added that I didn't need to look like Curly from the 3 Stooges.

She said something to the effect that she would be happy to use the clippers to give me a #1 cut. I didn't realize what she had said until she finished cutting my hair.

With my back to the mirror the entire time she was using the clippers we talked about how thick my hair is and how I'm lucky to be blessed with it at my age. That's the banter I share with my hair stylist nearly every time.

When she finished cutting she turned me around to the mirror and I saw myself as you see me in the picture at the beginning of this post:completely buzzed. Instead of using the 1 inch clipper guard to cut my hair she used the #1 gauge guard which made it the shortest it could possibly be cut.

I pointed out what she had done wrong and started to get upset. I quickly realized that there was nothing that could be done about it. She couldn't glue it back on. I was stuck with this short hair but the thought that it would definitely grow back quickly came to mind. The woman apologized over and over and then said the haircut would be free.

I told her that I understood it might have been a miscommunication. I couldn't see any reason to make her feel any worse than she did. After all everyone makes mistakes. After making sure there would be no charge I wished her a good day. I told her again that I understood it was an accident.

I'm glad I exercised some self-control in the situation. I wasn't worried about being "the bad guy." This was a situation where I could have gotten angry and notified the manager, who I know well from being a long time customer, and been justified in doing so. But who would that have helped? Just me. It wouldn't have done anything to improve the stylist's day. I don't know her or what her life is like. Perhaps a little kindness and understanding was just what she needed at that point in her day or her life.

Anyway I believe I reacted like I believe Jesus would have. (No "Jesus didn't cut his hair" remarks please)I know it doesn't make sense to most people but perhaps the next time I go back to Master Cuts for a hair cut, if I see her working, I may give the same woman a second chance. After all God has given me more than my share of second chances after my mistakes. That's something I should always remember.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Franklin Drive-In is a Nostalgic Experience

Ever since I found out there was a drive in theater in Franklin, Kentucky a few years ago I've been wanting to go. Last night I got that chance.

My wife and I drove to the Exit 2 of Interstate 65 not far from the Tennessee border and found one of the 20 drive-in theaters still operating in Kentucky.

If you're over 40 chance are you remember going to the drive in sometime, if not many times, while you were growing up. Historically Drive Ins were places where families go for an inexpensive and unique movie experience. For teenagers it was a place to take your special someone to watch a movie and, hopefully, enjoy a little private romance.

In this day and age the Franklin Drive In is a very good bargain. It's about a 30 mile drive from where we live but with the admission price only $9 a car load. You can see a double feature for the price of one at an indoor theater; and that includes the cost of gas to get there and back.

Of course there are plenty of snacks to be purchased at the concession stand. But there's nothing to stop you from taking your own cooler and snacks to save money. I must say though that the prices at the Franklin Drive In are probably a little lower than a regular theater.

Although the 21st century drive in experience is very nostalgic there is some modern day technology that comes into play. Long gone are the metal tethered speakers that you hang on the edge of a partially rolled down window so you can hear sound. Now all you have to do is put your car's ignition system on the auxiliary setting and tune your FM radio to a specific frequency. Then you'll have in car sound with all the fidelity and volume of your own car stereo.

We saw two movies: "Hancock" starring Will Smith and "Wanted" starring Angelina Jolie and Morgan Freeman. I had already seen "Hancock" but enjoyed being with my wife while she watched if for the first time. It was a superhero type movie; just the kind she likes. "Wanted" was an action packed thriller with a pretty weak plot and lots of special effects and chase scenes. The presence of Jolie and Freeman along with a unique CG train wreck made the movie rather entertaining.

An added element to our evening at the outdoor theater was the ever present lightening from a cluster of thunderstorms which were passing just to our north. We didn't get any rain or hear any thunder but the sky put on a light show for us during the entire second feature.

As we exited the lot back onto Rt 31W Paula and I talked about how we hadn't been to the drive-in for a long time. It was a lot of fun and we plan on going back again later in the summer. So a return trip is definitely in our future for more than one reason. On our way back to I-65 we passed a building that advertised another American institution we've been wanting to revisit: a BINGO hall. I have a feeling we will be spending a few more evenings in Franklin, Kentucky

Friday, July 25, 2008

Materials for Creation

Yesterday I received a product in the mail called "peepers." It's a pair of puppet eyes fit into a small plastic frame. This allows you to wear it at the base of your middle finger just above the palm. The eyes rest on the knuckles on the back of your hand enabling your hand to become it's own puppet. I don't describe it very well but you can see what I mean from the picture.

The reason I got the "Peepers" is because I am going to use them along with a silicone oven mitt I bought a few months ago to create a ventriloquist puppet. This my first effort to create a character from the "ground up." I already have a name and character lined up for the puppet. It will be unique and used in specific situations.

Right now I'm still reviewing different ideas for putting these materials together and creating my first original puppet. I'll let you know how it works out.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

An Unexpected "Thank You"

As a ventriloquist I have about done about a dozen or so performances. All of them have been either at my church or as a volunteer through the local library. My next goal is to start getting paid for my performances. This past Tuesday I received and unexpected blessing that I consider a step in that direction.

I was given a gift card to Barnes & Noble book store as a "thank you" from the local library. This may not seem like a big deal to you but it is my first financial reward for something that I love doing. My relationship and experiences with the local library has been both a wonderful way to serve the community and launch my ventriloquism career. Based on the result from reaching out to that organization I am very much encouraged to look for other avenues of service. I believe performances in nursing homes will be next.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Vacation Week So Far...

Although I have been on a "forced vacation" since April my wife has not had any significant amount time off at all this year. This week she's on vacation. We aren't going to any specific destination just spending time together and relaxing.

Sunday night we spent the evening at home together and watched the movie "The Bucket List." We both enjoyed it. The most interesting thing to me in the movie was the periscope glasses that Jack Nickelson was wearing in the hospital.

On Monday we drove to town my wife met up with her sister and they went to see the new movie "Momma Mia." A trip to a local Japanese restaurant for some sushi followed. Not interested at all in either of those activities I went to see the new Disney movie WALL*E. You can read about my experience with that movie in the post before this one.

Tuesday afternoon about 2PM we left for Nashville. The movie theater at Opry Mills Mall was our initial destination. We wanted to see the new Batman movie, The Dark Knight, at the I-Max theater but it sold out as we stood in line. We did get to see it on the regular screen though.

I enjoyed the movie but knew a lot about the plot because I had read a detailed review beforehand. There was a lot of action, plenty of plot twists, and lots of character development. Heath Leger's final performance as The Joker is worthy of at least an Oscar nomination. His role would have been memorable even if he hadn't died before the film was released.

Once we were out of the movie theater we hurried to the other side of Nashville to one of our other favorite entertainment spots, Chaffin's Barn Dinner Theater. We arrived just in time to go through the buffet line before it closed.

I was disappointed to find out that after 8 years of going to Chaffin's and enjoying their wide variety of desserts on their dessert bar they have changed the way the serve dessert. There is still fresh fruit and jello desserts available on the buffet. However any of the other cakes, cookies, pies, ice creams or other desserts you now have order from a menu and pay for in addition to your theater ticket. I guess the change in the economy and food prices has hit everyone. I'm sorry that Chaffin's had to make this change. But I did order dessert. I had to have my traditional piece of Chaffin's peanut butter pie.

One good thing about the evening though was that our waiter was a guy who'd played our favorite character in the play "Smoke On the Mountain" that we'd seen last year. It was great to talk with him. I even got a new ventriloquist joke from him.

Anyway enough about the "dinner" part of our evening. The "theater" part was a play called "The Bop She Bops." It was about a trio of high school friends who made their singing debut in a high school talent show in 1962 but made awful fools of themselves. Ten years later they reunite and start practicing to perform at their high school reunion.

It was a musical and included songs by all the girl groups from the 60's including the Shirelles, The Chiffons, The Dixie Cups, and The Supremes. There were also a lot of other songs from that era. I enjoyed the music but the overall performance of the show was not among the strongest we've seen.

So that's been our vacation week so far. We'd like to do something else fun before the end of the weekend. We are thinking about going to the drive in tonight or Thursday night.

Even if we don't do anything special just being with my wife all this time without worrying about her job and just enjoying each other's company is something we've needed to do for quite a while.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Missed Message of WALL*E

Yesterday I went to see the movie Wall *E . Ironically I had not seen or heard much about this movie at all except for its basic premise. Wall*E is a machine left to clean up all the garbage on earth after the human race abandons it because it is no longer inhabitable. The movie takes place 700 years after the initial abandonment.

Prejudiced by the fact that a majority of the products coming out of Hollywood and network television recently clearly were made to promote an environmentalist agenda, I immediately decided that the premise of this movie was based on an extremist view. I put up my guard and began filtering what I saw in a defensive manner. I interpreted it with the mindset that there was a negative message about the human race attached to every aspect of the film.

As the movie plot develops Wall*E arrives on a large spaceship called “The Axiom.” It is essentially an ark housing the current generation of people descended from those who left earth centuries earlier.

The life style and habits of those aboard the intergalactic ark are depicted as self indulging, glutenous consumers. They are all over weight, have limited ability or desire to move. They spend their entire existence leaning back on a mobile lounge chair while staring at a computer screen. Robots do everything for them including personal hygiene, getting them dressed, and bringing them food and beverages. The only contact one of these people has with others is through the previously mentioned computer screen.

I immediately saw the depiction of these earthly descendants as a negative commentary on the issue of obesity. I interpreted the people's lack of energy, ambition, and deterioration of their bone structure as a consequence of their obesity. This movie was not only taking general shots at the human race it was targeting over weight people. I thought “Hey, I’m part of both of those groups!”

I felt insulted and betrayed by both Disney and Pixar. The companies whose partnership has produced some of the most original and entertaining animated movies for more than a decade has sold out to the environmentalists and the anti-human movement.

The main characters and action in the movie were both interesting and funny. I enjoyed the visual effects and the overall plot line of the film. But I couldn’t get past the aspects that offended me. I left the theater very disappointed.

After seeing the movie I went to visit with my friend Brent. I told him about the movie and what I thought of it. He showed me a magazine article that included an interview with the films writer/producer/director: Andrew Stanton.

Stanton is a Christian. In the interview he openly discusses what his intentions were in making Wall*E. He stated that he did not intend to infer any kind of environmentalist message when he decided to use the human abandonment of earth as a starting point for the movie. He just needed a reason for the main character, a machine, to be alone on the planet just doing his job.

As far as the depiction of the people and life on the spaceship is concerned Stanton stated that the message he wanted to send was not a negative one about obesity. What he was trying to do was play out the eventual consequences of man’s obsession with leisure. The ability to ultimately have the world at your finger tips, which is portrayed to the extreme in the film, has one drastic drawback: the deterioration of human relationships.

Stanton states that the reason for living is to have relationships with God and with people. The highest degree of this would be a personal relationship of Love with God and his only son, Jesus Christ, but love, friendship and companionship with others is a close second.

As I read about the intention and perspective of the man who created and produced Wall*E I began to understand what the film’s message was supposed to be. As I reviewed the movie in my mind once again I realized that it was communicated loud and clear but I missed it. I was too busy focusing on the wrong messages.

Knowing what I know now about Andrew Stanton and the story he’s trying to tell I need to watch the movie again. This time knowing the true message the filmmaker wants people understand as it's communicated through the actions of a kind, compassionate, faithful machine named Wall*E.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Two BallParks In Chicago

Last Saturday afternoon, July 12, after I-Fest was over I decided to take a quick trip north and visit Chicago. Not the whole city just a couple of selected places, namely the two baseball stadiums. This meant a trip to both the south and north side of the city.

Visiting the White Sox ballpark on the South side was going to be easy because the team was out of town and the stadium would be closed to the public so no crowd to deal with. The only problem there could be was just finding it.

The Cub's park on the other hand was going to be a little trickier to get to because an afternoon game was being played there and had started at 12 noon. It had gone into extra innings and ended just after 4 PM about 20 minutes before I headed north for the hour drive to the Windy City.

As I followed the directions I had printed off of the internet I left Rt 57 and merged onto Rt 94/Rt 90 known to Chicago natives as the "Inner Loop." As I looked out the window at the Chicago skyline I immediately picked out the Sears Tower building. It's the tallest building in the United States. I got off the highway at Exit 56 and turned left and found myself at the White Sox stadium, U.S. Cellular Field.

As I had anticipated all the gates were closed but the entrance to one parking lot was open. I parked in front of Gate 3 and got out to take pictures. I was met by a man wearing a security shirt in a Chevy Blazer with a "Ball Park Security" emblem on the side. He approached me and asked me what I was doing. I told him I was a tourist from Kentucky and wanted to look around and take some pictures.

As any good security man would he started asking me questions. I told him some specifics about where I lived. He asked me if I knew where Beaver Dam was. I told him I had been to Beaver Dam earlier in the year and mentioned the Denny's restaurant there. He said he had a cousin in Beaver Dam and that the service at that Denny's was slow. I made the obligatory "what a small world" remark. Deciding I was legitimate and posed no threat he made some suggestions of where I should go to get the best pictures of the stadium and even where I could find the display of the home plate from the previous stadium, Comsiky Park.

I took some pictures but couldn't really get any good ones. I took what I could of the outside to prove I'd been there.

Soon it was back onto "the loop." Three exits and a couple of turns later I found myself on Ashland Avenue. I knew I was in the neighborhood of Wrigley but couldn't find the turn off for West Addison Avenue. After about 20 blocks I thought I had gone too far. I decided to pull into a gas station and look at a map. As I turned into the station I realized that I was at West Addison Avenue. A couple of blocks later I found myself sitting at a stop light right in front of the famous Wrigley Field marquee.
Although it was almost 2 hours after the game had ended the area was still rather crowded with fans. Some were at a local open air watering hole across the street while others were just walking around the stadium still sight seeing.

I drove around the block and couldn't believe how close the rest of the neighborhood was to the park. Oh I've seen it on television many times but in person the intimacy of the field in relationship to the surrounding buildings is unlike any other baseball stadium I've ever been to. There are front steps that lead into brownstone houses just across the street from back of the outfield fences. Someone's porch (or stoop if you will) is 10 or 20 paces from the back gate of Wrigley Field. That was amazing to me.

As I came back around to the front of the stadium again I found a parking place in front of a McDonald's not 50 yards from the Marquee. I got out and took a picture of an Ernie Banks statue that was on display. I made my way to the marquee hoping I could get someone to take my picture taken in front of the baseball icon.

Luckily there were two young girls getting their picture taken. After they were finished I asked them if they would like to return the favor. They politely obliged. They snapped three shots and I have posted the best one.

After the picture was taken I couldn't think of anything else to do. The gates were all closed so I couldn't even get a glance at the field. It was kind of frustrating to have come all the way to Wrigley and not get to see the field; but at least I'd been there.

Soon I found myself back in my car looking around at the stadium and all the people still having a good time. It was so cool I didn't want to leave but I didn't know what else to do. Therefore put the Vue in gear and headed back toward my hotel in Waseka Illinois.

My experience made me sure of one thing. I am determined to go back to Wrigley Field to see a game and spend more time there. Next time I'm not going alone. I've got several friends who I know would enjoy the experience as much as I would.

As I drove back down the inner loop and headed toward RT 57 I could think of only one thing that would have made my trip better. Next time I'll make sure I have the soundtrack of the Blues Brothers movie with me so I can hear Jake and Elwood singing away about their favorite place "Sweet Home Chicago".

Thursday, July 17, 2008

An Evening With Taylor Mason

Tonight I went to Nashville to see one of my favorite ventriloquists, Taylor Mason, perform at Zanies comedy club. It's the second time I've seen him this year. This time I went by myself in hopes of getting to talk with him.

As I was walking from the parking lot to the back of the line waiting outside the club. Taylor was unloading his car and going into the club's back door. I stopped and talked with him a bit mentioning that I had attended I-Fest and dropping Doug Nearpass' name at the same time.
Inside I got the opportunity to sit at the table front and center next to the stage. I was by myself at a table in the front row.

Taylor's act was about 33% the same as the last time I saw him in May but the other 67% was new or different. During his act he told the crowd that he was a $100,000 winner on Star Search in the early 1980's. I didn't know that.

During the show he premiered a new puppet that he used in the audience participation part of his show. The two people he picked from the audience were very good at working the puppet. It was very funny.

After the show I stuck around and waited for the chance to talk with him again. I found out he lives in Morristown New Jersey. I told him I was originally from Phillipsburg and he said he's familiar with where that is. Finally I got my picture taken with him; something I wanted to do last time but didn't get the chance.

I think one of the reasons I like Taylor Mason's performances so much is because he breaks the so called "established rules" of ventriloquism. These include keeping the puppet alive while it's on stage and always treating the puppets as if they were real people or animals. The rules are not broken in defiance of the "brotherhood of ventriloquists" it's just what works for him. Rather I should say he really makes it work. The things he does on stage could very easily fall flat but his pleasant personality and his comfort with letting them "in on the joke" make them successful. That's why I'll always be a fan of Taylor Mason.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

I-Fest Gives Me Fellowship, Direction, & Focus

I was going to take a couple of posts to give you the details about I-fest but I believe I can sum it all up in one.

As I mentioned in my initial post about I-Fest it was held on the campus of Olivet Nazarene College. It's the same place the Chicago Bears hold their training camp each year. The festival serves mostly as a week long training opportunity for church puppetry groups and their leaders. The place was over flowing with teenagers for whom the festival served as a version of summer camp. I would say that both creatively and educationally the events and classes were focused at a 75/25 ratio toward puppetry vs ventriloquism. However that ratio did not in anyway take away from the quality of the ventrilquism educational opportunities.

Fortunately for me mostly all the ventriloquism classes and events were held in the building that normally serves as the college's school of nursing. This made it easy for me to stay in one place most of the day and attend a variety of classes. Also convenient for me was the fact that the athletic building where the main events of the festival took place (morning and evening programs and vendor exhibits) was only about 150-200 yards away from the nursing school building. This made getting around very easy.

I chose to attend the classes that focused on developing your ventriloquist character. The most memorable ones were taught by Andy Holmes, the puppeteer behind the popular children's character Gerbert; Ella Havell, a ventriloquist from England who at one time auditioned for the show Britain's Got Talent; and Liz Von Segen, a very talented ventriloquist.

I also attended the Senior and Novice ventriloquist competition performances. These really weren't competitions but evaluation sessions. Each performer was evaluated and critiqued by a panel of 4 or 5 ventriloquists with a lot of experience.

I must say that after attending one of her classes, seeing her perform at one of the evening sessions, and watching her MC a ventriloquist competition, Liz Von Segan is now one of my most favorite people in the world. She is classy, smart, charming, and very good at what she does. I can only hope to be close to her level in all areas of my performance some day.

I also met a ventriloquist named Doug Nearpass and his wife. They live in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Doug emceed the Senior Vent completion and was one of the facilitators of my favorite class of the whole festival; an improvisation class.

While I felt like a stranger when I first got there by the time Saturday afternoon came around I realized that the people at I-Fest are "my people." They are people who love puppetry and ventriloquism as much as I do. I hadn't been around anyone like that since I first met the members of the Down Home Friends puppet ministry group at my church a couple of years ago.

The improv class was the one class I knew I was going to be part of at the festival. I looked forward to it from the time I signed up for it months ago. While the class didn't involve hardly any puppetry or ventriloquism it was a good 2 hours of improvising with props and situations. It was as good as I thought it was going to be but I did enjoy it.

The last thing I want to say about I-fest is that it helped me to realize and focus on just exactly what God has called me to do. I picked up some great jokes and lines to use with my characters. I realized that I need to develop those characters to be more believeable. I also learned some new tools to use in my overall ministry to children. Throughout the entire time I was there God impressed on my heart that I should always keep in mind that I am not called to be just a "ventriloquist." I am a "gospel ventriloquist."

One of the teachers in a class that I attended about creativity in puppet presentations handed out a model to use as a guide when trying to come up with a new presentation or act. The model was a series of circles with different elements named in it. At the center of the model were the words "gospel message." The instructor explained and stressed that as a performers we should never lose sight of the fact that in the center of anything we do in our ministry should always be God's gospel message. That is our main purpose for our ministry.

That point really put a solid period at the end of the sentence I had been hearing from God all during the festival. It defines in my head and heart what my focus from here on should be. While it's true I am a ventriloquist what I really am in my heart and soul is a messenger of the gospel.

If nothing else that's the one thing I want to always remember about I-fest and take with me as I walk down the road God has for me.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Back From I-Fest

This is my first post since my return to Kentucky after 3 days at the International Puppetry and Ventriloquism Festival in Burbonais, Illinois. I had a great time, met lots of wonderful people and learned more useful ventriloquism and Children's ministry skills. I have lots of things to write about and will be posting them over the next week.

Also I made a side trip to Chicago. I visited both the White Sox and Cubs stadiums. I had two different experiences at each and I'll give you that details later on.

Let me start with some details of my arrival trip.

The Road To Watseka
I left for my trip on Thursday morning July 10 at about 7:20 AM. I had my road maps and my googel maps directions with me. Because of a mix up with the way I copied the directions I didn't think I had the right directions. I looked at the map and decided to take a different route that I thought was easier. As it turned out my new route was about 90 minutes more driving than the original directions would have been. It didn't look that far on the map.

Finally I got off Route 57 in Illinois and took Rt 24 to the town of Watseka. The drive on Rt 24 was about 25 miles. I had booked the hotel online at because the website said that it was near where I-fest was being held. I quickly realized from looking at the map I was not "close" at all.

To get to the Olivet Nazarene College campus and I-fest I would have to drive back the 25 miles to Rt 57 then drive 32 more miles north. That meant that I was nearly 60 miles from where I needed to be. The website had severely underestimated the location of my hotel for which I had prepaid.

By checking the map and asking a couple of people at the convenience store next to my hotel I found a short cut to an Rt 57 entrance ramp that would only require me to drive about 10 miles to get the festival.

Once I got to the Olivet Nazarene campus I found the building where the festival was and checked in. I got oriented with the locations, times and places of the various events I wanted to attend over the next 2 days then settled in for the evening ceremonies in the auditorium.

From 9-10:30 I went to another building to watch a ventriloquist competition and then drove back to the hotel. I was really tired on the drive back to the hotel. It was raining and I made a wrong turn. I got lost about 3 times and ended up following signs back to Rt 57, driving south to the Rt 24 exit and once again driving the 30 miles east to Watseka and my hotel.

Before calling it a day I looked at the next day's schedule for the festival and circled the classes and events I wanted to attend. The trip got off to a bit of a rocky start but once I got used to the hotel, the geography of the area and the details of the festival the stage was set for having a wonderful time over the next two days. More on that next time.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Going To I-Fest

There will be no posts the rest of this week. Tomorrow morning I am leaving for Chicago to attend a ventriloquist training festival called “I-Fest”.

It’s a week long festival but I am going for what they call “Superfest” which is Thursday through Saturday. The event is sponsored and facilitated by a company called “One Way Street.” They are a large supplier of puppets, materials, and supplies for Christian puppeteers.

The event is being held on the campus of Olivet Nazarene University about 40 miles outside of Chicago. This will be my first time and I’m not sure what to expect. However I am excited about going. I know that Steve Axtel, the man who runs the company that made my turtle and owl puppet will be there. I’m hoping I’m familiar with some other ventriloquists too. I know it’s going to be a learning experience.

Anyway I will leave my house at about 7AM on Thursday and not be back until Sunday some time. Don’t worry though I plan on taking lots of pictures and I’m sure I’ll have lots of stories to tell and pictures to share when I get back.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A Day Care Performance

After having to postpone it twice I finally got to do my ventriloquist performance at our local day care center today. Most of the children there have seen my performances at the library and are familiar with my characters.

Today I used my magic dry erase board to present for the first time a talking beach towel named "Harley". Also I had my turtle character, Cecil, debut his "mind reading" skills. That routine is not my original idea. I "borrowed" it from David Pendelton; a ventriloquist I saw perform at a youth rally earlier this year.

The little boy standing next to Cecil and me in the picture was the volunteer who let Cecil read his mind. The most important thing about the picture is the smile on the 7 year old boy's face. It's moments like that captured by my camera that make being a ventriloquist worth it.

That was the last scheduled performance I have for this summer. For me it's now on to the International Festival of Puppetry and Ventriloquism in Chicago for a few days. I'll write more about that tomorrow.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Children Give Me Homework

Today for the second week in a row I taught Children's Church at my local church. I promised the boys & girls last week that I would bring a puppet character that they hadn't met before. I have used Schnozz at the local library but not at church.

Schnozz is a black puppet kind of on the design of Elmo but he has ping pong ball size eyes with a large pupil in the center of them. He also has a pair of short green antennae on the top of his head. He's dressed in a light green shirt with a tropical print. His name comes from the big bright pink egg-sized nose in the middle of his face. He's quite an unusual looking character.

Now I had created a history for Schnozz. I decided that he was from an island in the South Pacific near French Polynesia. The island is called "Proboscus." He loves the beach and I even made up a greeting for him in the language of Proboscus. The greeting is "Ibida Yoctabay nick nick." It means "The bigger your nose the better you smell."

Anyway I took that background story and used it at the library the first time I used Schnozz. At church this morning when I brought Schnozz out to help the children review the lesson they were taught I used the same background information as part of Schnozz's introduction.

I got something I wasn't quite ready for. The children liked Schnozz so much they started asking lots of questions about him. Like what does he do on his islandand what just exactly what kind of creature is he? Of course I didn't have answers for those questions because I never thought about them.

I promised the children that I would bring Schnozz back again so I guess that means I've got some homework to do. I have to give Schnozz a complete personal history. That includes actually deciding just exactly what kind of creature he really is and how did he come to live with me.

That's the way it is with children you can never be fully prepared. Thanks kids for showing me what I needed to do to make Schnozz a complete character.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

2008 Highlights...So Far

At one minute past midnight on July 2 the year 2008 was officially half over. 183 days gone, 183 days to go. To me the completion of another half of a year is a bench mark. It’s a time to look at what has happened in my life so far this year. There's been a lot of things that have happened. My life has changed quite a bit since January 1. I can't begin to mention all of them. That would take a book not a blog post. However I am a man of lists. So here is my list of what I consider to be the top 20 most significant events for me in the first half of 2008.

They are not in any specific order of importance they are all significant to me. Although I did try to put specific events in as much of a chronological order as possible. They aren’t numbered but there are 20 of them.

1. Participating in the Crown Financial Bible study at church

2. Making contact again with my God son, Chris, through letters

3. My sisters both having surgery: one has gastric by pass surgery in February and the other had knee replacement surgery in May

4. Creating a practice area in the house to practice my ventriloquism

5. Reading the books “What is A Healthy Church” and “Personal Evangelism” both by Mark Dever

6. Getting my special “talking” dry erase board to use in my ventriloquism act.

7. Seeing my first professional hockey game in Nashville

8. Discontinued teaching Children’s Church on a weekly basis

9. Seeing ventriloquists Taylor Mason (at Zanies in Nashville) and David Pendelton (at a church in Beaver Dam, KY) perform live.

10. Losing my job at Perot Systems

11. Creating my RH Factors blog

12. James being deployed to Iraq

13. Purchasing a turtle and owl Axtel puppet from a local puppet group

14. Living in a 2 person household after Michael buys a house and starts moving out

15. Going to see the documentary “Expelled” with my friend Brent

16. Reading aloud and performing ventriloquism twice at the local public library

17. Teaching a class of 4 & 5 year olds for Vacation Bible School at church

18. Singing the song “Statue of Liberty” in church

19. Singing a “duet” as part of a ventriloquist performance at church

20. Going to a seminar for Bariatric surgery and considering a lap band

Friday, July 4, 2008

Random Independance Day Thoughts

It is the 4th of July and fireworks and picnics are the orders of the day. As our nation celebrates it's 232nd year of freedom I have these random thoughts to offer:

Q:Do they have the 4th of July in other countries?
A: Of course they do it's just not a holiday.

Q: Why did Mrs. Paul Revere buy 3000 pounds of spare ribs for her 4th of July picnic?
A: Because her husband kept saying " The British are coming, The British are Coming?

Does it bother anyone else but me that we celebrate our biggest national holiday by firing off millions of dollars worth of fireworks that were made in other countries?

Finally the best advice I can give to those of you who enjoy your holiday with mass quantities of adult beverages is this:

He who goes forth with a fifth on the 4th may not go forth on the 5th.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Return of the Wandering Dog

On Monday night I gave my dogs, Dory and Angel, a bath. You can review the typical dog bath routine by reading the May 21 posting. Yesterday morning, Tuesday, I let them out of their crates and then into the back yard without their wireless fence collars on.

We had a wireless fence installed around the perimeter of our property 3 years ago because we couldn't keep Dory from climbing under or over our chain link fence. The wireless fence did it's job; Dory stayed home.

About 3 months ago the batteries in both of the dog's collars went dead and we hadn't replaced them. Dory was so conditioned by the collar that she never even made an attempt to get near the fence let alone try and get through it. So yesterday morning I didn't see any problem with letting Dory outside without her collar on just this once.

About half an hour later I went to let them inside. Angel was there ready to come in but Dory was no where to be found. I quickly realized that she had returned to her wandering ways for the first time in about 3 years.

I got into my car and began to cruise the neighborhood looking for her. It took me about half an hour but with the help of several neighbors I tracked her down about 2 blocks from our house. While looking for her I got too close to a dog chained up in a backyard and had to hightail it out of his tethered reach.

Finally I got her into the car and back to the house. I let her outside a couple of times the rest of the day with her collar on and she stayed put. Problem solved without much action required on my part right? Wrong!

This morning I let her out in the yard just as the previous morning, only this time she had her collar on She hightailed it for the hole in the back of the fence and was gone in a flash. This time I was checking on her occasionally and got a bit of a jump on her escape. I managed to head her off before she even left our block. It had taken a couple of months but the dog had finally realized that her collar didn't work like it used to and she could go wandering. Sometimes she's too smart for her own good.

A quick trip to Walmart for a fresh supply of batteries, replacing them in each dog's collar, and a test to make sure they worked and the case of the Return of The Wandering Dog was solved.

I now have a 3 month supply of collar batteries in the house for good measure. I also have come to realize that Dory has a never ending case of wanderlust that she will never get over. I guess I'm going to have to start taking her for walks on a regular basis. Then she'll be so happy with me she'll want to stay least that's the plan.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Happy Birthday Paula

Today is my wife Paula's birthday. For the next 10 weeks we are the same age; at least in whole numbers. As a wise and considerate husband I will not reveal her age.

My wife is truly my soul mate. She is the Love of My Life. The story of our romance is one that would truly make a decent movie for the Lifetime cable channel (is putting "decent movie" and "Lifetime Channel" in the same phrase an oxymoron?)

I don't even want to think about what my life would be like without her. As a matter of fact I will forever treasure how she saved me when I really needed to be rescued. I don't discount the fact that God brought us together and that His hand was on us all the time. But if Paula hadn't been there I wouldn't be here today. I mean that emotionally, spiritually, geographically, and any other way I could mention.

I know I'm posting this message late on her special day but due to her responsibilities at work I wasn't able to make this day very special for her. So long after July 1 has come and gone I want her to be able to come back to this post and be able to read this Love Letter I leave for her now:

My Sweetest Paula,

You mean everything to me. I love you with all my heart and soul. You encourage, support, and help me to be the person God wants me to be. As we walk together into a new phase in our lives and individually struggle to make decisions that could make the days ahead better I want you to know this. I'll be holding your hand all the way; for we are "one" in the eyes of God.

I Will Love You Always & Forever,