Monday, March 31, 2014

TWIL #5

Hello, everyone. It's Monday and that means it's time for "This Week In Lego." 

This time I've got reports on: progress in school, completing a Creator 3- in-1 build, and give you a better idea of what (or should I say "who"?) I'll be collecting this May. 

Last Wednesday and Friday mornings I went to the local elementary school once again to help out with the Gifted and Talented class for 5th and 6th graders. 

After nearly a month of introduction and preparation, this week the students, in groups of 3, began to build the 12 models they will later be putting in motion using computer technology. 

I am having them build each of the models that can be made from the parts in the kit, so they can decide which one they would like to see move the most. 

Both of the classes did well and the children learned team work and a bit of the "R" and "D" part of industry. 

Because this week is Spring Break, I won't be going back to those classes until April 9. 

This week I built the other two motorcycles from Creator kit 31018: The Dirt Bike



And my favorite of the three, the Highway Cruiser.




While building this one, I realized that my preferences for Lego models are: 
helicopters, robots, and then motorcycles. 

The Highway Cruiser is an example of why "hogs" are third on my Lego list. They are cool even when they are miniatures. 

Another Creator 3-in-1 set that includes a really awesome helicopter is next on my "to build" list. 



The last thing I have to report this week is information I've been waiting for since the beginning of February. 

Lego has released pictures of the next mini-figure set. The worst kept Lego secret of the year so far has been confirmed. They are all licensed characters from "The Simpsons" TV show. 



They are all great representations of TV's longest running animated series. The only characters I wouldn't have included are Itchy and Scratchy. I would have rather had Comic Book Guy and Mrs. Krabappel. 

Comic Book Guy deserves to be included because he is probably the one adult character who would own and build Lego sets. 

The inclusion of Bart's school teacher would have been a wonderful tribute to actress, Marcia Wallace, who voiced the character. 

I know it would be one of the most nerdiest discussions in the history of Lego but there could be arguments made for many of the dozens of characters that have been part of "The Simpsons" 

But the set has been announced. When it comes to who was included, that ship has sailed. It's only a month until they become available. I can't wait but am going have to. 

There you have "This Week In Lego" for the last week of March, 2014. 







  

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Finally...An Opponent

Back at the beginning of February, I was pleasantly surprised when I found out that the gym at our church had a ping pong table. 

Throughout the month, I went to the church and practiced on the half folded ping pong table. 

I haven't been able to do that since hurting my knee at the end of February. It was just recently that it felt strong enough to even consider any kind of exercise at all.

Tonight my church held a special event that included sharing a pot luck meal with picnic food and watching the Kentucky Wildcats play in the NCAA Elite Eight. 

As is common during events like this the gym was open for anyone to use. I decided to take advantage of the situation and got the ping pong table out of the equipment closet. 

Zac, the pastor's son came over to play with me. A church member named Mark, his daughter, Allie, and his wife Jennifer all came over to play as well. 

We played a few doubles games. Mark's family shared their side of the table. Zac and I were doubles partners the entire time. 

I was very happy just to finally get some live opponents for the first time since I found out about the table. 

At one point Mark and I had the chance to play just against each other. He's a really good player. It was fun and challenging playing against him. It's great when you have to sharpen your game to compete with the skills of others. 

I'm sure there are others in the church who would like to play table tennis too. In the weeks to come I will make an attempt to get them all in one place and have a lot of ping pong fun. 





   

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Seeing Slinkys

Last fall I introduced my granddaughter, Aria, to one of the most enduring toys ever invented, a Slinky. 

In early November of last year I gave her a Slinky Jr, the smaller version. She loved it. I gave her the full size model and she played with that too. 

Knowing that she likes the Slinky so much I got a joke version of the coil spring toy. When she came to visit I sprung it on her. 



Surprisingly she didn't like me in these joke spring glasses. In fact she wanted nothing to do me when I had them on. 

Fearing I scared her I decided to convince her to try them on. It took some doing but she finally did put them on. 



She looked so funny in them but only kept them on for a minute or two. 

I bought them for her to play with. So in hope that she may want to get silly with them again sometime, I kept them in the box with her other toys. 

Today, Aria Nicole came to visit us. We brought out the toy box with the springy specks in it. 

As usual she proceeded to get each and every toy out and play with it for a few minutes. She got out the glasses and briefly considered putting them on. Finally she decided she didn't want to and tossed them aside. 

In a moment of quick thinking I decided to try one last way of getting Aria to smile at the glasses. Here's how I did it. 



Seeing Angel like this made Aria smile. In fact she wanted the dog to keep them on. Angel, on the other hand disagreed. 

Still, now I know that the next time Aria gets the joke glasses out of her toy box she'll want to see Angle put them on. I'm sure we can manage that for just a few seconds. 

Movie Recommendations


Because Paula took the day off today, we had the opportunity to do something we haven't in a while. We had a Friday night date. 

With the whole area caught up in watching the NCAA tournament match up between Kentucky and Louisville tonight, we figured there wouldn't be much of a crowd at the movie theater. 

We went to see "Non-Stop" a film that's been around for a month. Liam Nesson is the star and Julianne Moore co-stars. He plays a flawed U.S. Air Marshall on a non-stop trans-Atlantic flight to London, being blackmailed by an anonymous terrorist who is murdering passengers every twenty minutes. 

The plot has so many twists and turns that it gets rather "messy" around the start of the 3rd act. It's a bit confusing because so many "dots" are presented that it's hard to connect them. 

Nesson's and Moore's, characters have enough depth that you don't mind the fact that the others are generic and not very threatening. 

But in spite of all of that the movie is a "roller coaster ride" of excitement. The isolation and vulnerability that comes with air travel is the driving force behind it's intensity. 

If you can go see this "popcorn movie" in the theater. It's a lot of fun. But if you don't get the chance, the blu-ray will make a great rental. 

Speaking of a great rental... Last Saturday night Paula and I rented the 2013 movie, "You're Next."  This is a "home invasion/slasher type film that's a bit graphic and not for those who can't handle such content. 

For those who enjoy these types of movies, "You're Next" is a twisted and unique offering. The "fly in the ointment" aspect makes it extremely entertaining. 

Now there are a lot of major releases out in the theaters and on home video right now. If you have seen the ones you are interested in seeing you may want to see them first.    

But "Non-Stop" and "You're Next" are my two "low profile" offerings that I think you may enjoy. 






Thursday, March 27, 2014

A Rewind With Reluctance

It seems only appropriate that on the day of the week that has somehow gained the nickname "Throwback Thursday" that I am beginning a project that requires a look back at my recent past. 

Today I am compiling the music list, looking through my resources, and searching my memory for material to use to write the script for my Soundtrack 2013 program.

If you're not sure what I'm referring to go back to my January 19 post from this year to find out. 

While I have a long list of songs, writing about the details of the year is going to be a challenge. Don't get me wrong there were some very good things that happened in 2013. 

Watching my granddaughter go from infant to toddler and become the light of my life was amazing and wonderful. Going to the theater with my family and Dollywood for the first time with our friends were great memories. 

But on a personal level, it was a year of many things I'd like to put behind me. Because of that I won't go into details about them either here on in my script. 

This is going to make my 4th soundtrack program a bit different from it's predecessors. I will do my best to put a positive spin on things. The final recording just very well may align with the others.

However, unlike any of the other 3 with my 2013 Rewind Soundtrack programs, I will be omitting more events about the year than I will be including. That's because it was just that kind of year.   

This script writing process will take about a month or so. And then I'll record it as soon as I have my in home digital recording set up complete. So by the end of the year the research and writing I'm beginning on this "Throwback Thursday." will be complete. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Another Change Of Venue

I have been working at my current part time job for 7 weeks. I started out at a county district school about 20 miles from my house. 

After a week there, I voluntarily changed to a city district school close to the college campus; 3 miles closer to home. I've really enjoyed my 5 1/2 weeks there. 

But today I found out that there's an opening for a group leader (my job title) at the school that's just down the street from my house. I start there tomorrow. 

I can now walk or ride my bike to work. That will save me about $120 a month in gas. It's a very good thing. 

Not only that, the school where I will work in the after school program is the same one where I've been helping the 5th & 6th graders with their Lego models.

I know a lot of the teachers and students at the school. I am excited about this change. It's the place I wanted to work since the day I got hired. 

 I will work for 2 days at my new location and then have next week off for Spring break. But then it's back to work for the next 7 weeks at the school whose class bell and PA announcements I can hear from my front yard. 

   

  

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Hobby Or More?

A week from now will be the anniversary of the night I went to Zanies Comedy Club in Nashville to see Jeff Dunham perform his soon to be world famous ventriloquist act. 

As I wrote in my March 13 post, it was after that show that I decided to try to be a ventriloquist again. It had been 40 years since I had originally tried it. But I was going to try it again. 

Using instructions I found on the internet I learned to perform the art of ventriloquism. It quickly became my hobby and then it became my ministry to the children at my church. That was 8 years ago.

Over that time I have about half a dozen of performances for which I've gotten paid. But most of my gigs have been as part of church ministry or on a volunteer basis. 

As a fan of the show Shark Tank I have heard one of the "sharks", Kevin O'Leary (aka Mr. Wonderful) consistently tell the entrepreneurs one thing. He always says if after 3 years a business or product is not make money it's just a hobby. 

After 8 years, ventriloquism is still just a hobby for me. But I know it can be more. 

I know I have been down this road of resolve several times over the last 8 years. Some of those trips are chronicled on this blog. 

In a time in my life when I can't seem to be able to get hired for even a part time minimum wage job perhaps it's time to look beyond conventional methods of employment. 

Maybe I should finally get serious about becoming a working ventriloquist and create my own job? 

I have a perfect example of the success story in this kind of effort in my own family. My daughter-in-law, Heather, has turned her desire to be an author into a blossoming career. She's now published 5 books and is making money at her dream job. 

Maybe it's time for me to take the road less traveled and create my own job that will be the one I've always dreamed I'd have.  At this point in my life what have I got to lose? 




Monday, March 24, 2014

TWIL #4

Lego once again played a big part in my week. I went to the elementary school to last Wednesday and Friday to help with the classes for 5th and 6th graders. 

Wednesday, I had the 5th graders inventory their kits to become familiar with the specific bricks and specialty parts they will be working with. Friday's class with the 6th graders was a little rushed due to some special activities going on that day. 

I spent the 30 minutes we did have showing them the videos I took at the Brick World expo I went to on March 8th. Next week both classes will begin actually building their models from their kits. 

When it comes to my building from my Lego kits, this week took on an international flavor. 

One of the Lego series I collect is the Architecture series. It began a couple of years ago when I bought the Willis Tower kit while in Chicago on vacation. Since then I have gotten the Seattle Space Needle, Empire State Building, The White House (Paula and I built that one together), and Rockerfeller Center. 

According to their website, Lego.com, the series celebrates the past, present, and future of architecture; exploring the worlds of engineering and construction.  

The company's aim is to inspire the minds of all ages as they learn about the iconic structures of the world. 

I decided to collect just the kits of the domestic buildings. But then last year I saw two new landmarks that were added to the series.  I have bought them and will add them to my display. 

This past week I built one of them. The world famous landmark in London, England, Big Ben. 



Now the name "Big Ben" is actually the name of the bell that is part of the clock housed inside the tower. The tower is known as the "Elizabeth Tower"; named in honor of the queen in 2012. But the structure as a whole can also be called "Big Ben". 

The other kit I worked on this week is the motorbike that's the first of 3 models that can be built with Creator kit, 31018. 



Also this week, I started working on my Volkswagen Bus Camper again. I'm going to take it slow like the last time. Once it is finished I will post pictures and blog about the experience. 

Every since I've started building with Lego bricks back in 2012, the most common comment I've gotten from adults has been a negative one. It is a story about the pain of stepping on one that was left on the floor with their bare foot. 
  
With that in mind I have tried my best to make sure that this never happens at my house. But this past weekend, Paula stepped on a 1X4 black brick on the living room rug. 


Sorry Honey. That's the first time it's happened in two years.  I'll do my best to make sure it doesn't happen again. 

And that's "This Week In Lego" for this time. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Sick On A Sunday

Over night my sinuses really started giving me trouble and I'm really feeling badly. Woke up earlier than I wanted to this morning because I couldn't breathe due to congestion. The OTC sinus headache medicine I've been taking really makes me sleepy. Thought for sure I was going to have to "call in sick" for today. 

But then I found some new Aria pictures online. They are "unofficially" her first 2014 Easter shots. With apologies to my daughter-in-law for downloading them from Facebook I present them to you now. 




A big "thank you" to Brandi for taking such great pictures. I'm always ready to share my granddaughter with my blog readers. 

Come back tomorrow for the next edition of "This Week In Lego". 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Muppet Movie Review


Last Fall while we were at the movies with our friends, Mark and Patty, we saw the first trailer for the new Muppets movie. Then and there Mark and I agreed that when it was released in March 2014 we would go to see it together. That's what we did this afternoon. 

This post is my review of the movie. I promise that it's spoiler free. 

Now I wasn't going into this movie with the most optimistic of expectations. From all the publicity and previews I'd seen I wasn't expecting much. 

The plot seemed too close to "The Great Muppet Caper." The Muppets were once again going to be pawns in a plot to steal valuable jewels. Only this time is was the infamous crown jewels of England instead of the "Baseball Diamond."  

The other story line that had an "evil" frog who looks just like Kermit and takes the head frogs place is something right out of TV of the 60's. Just look through the episodes of Gilligan's Island, The Addams Family, or I Dream Of Jeannie, you'll find shows with evil lookalikes. Nothing original about it at all. 

The third element that convinced me that I was not going to enjoy this new Muppet movie were the human co-stars. Ricky Gervais, Tina Fey, and Ty Burrell are among the most popular comedic actors today but I don't think they are the least bit funny. I don't like them and don't think they are funny at all. 

So to say I was a skeptic about "The Muppets Most Wanted" would be an understatement. 

The opening of the film got my attention in a surprising way. I settled in thinking, "maybe I will enjoy this after all." 

But then then came the rest of the movie and the outrageous plots kicked in. There were funny moments and gags that made me laugh or smile along the way.

There is one funny celebrity cameo moment in this movie but otherwise the rest are just gratuitous. Some are even unnecessary. Also, there was one very important thing missing in this movie: The Muppets. 

There is no doubt that this is Kermit's movie. He has a lot of screen time. Miss Piggy, Walter, and Fozzie Bear, and Animal have important roles. But the rest of the gang really lack screen time and are just sort of along for the ride. 

The ending of the film also lacks the originality and outrageous antics we've come to expect from The Muppets.    

I can't write anything else without giving away spoilers. The last Muppet movie was a sentimental favorite. Their return to the screen was so compelling that I went to see it 3 times in the theater. 

For the purpose of keeping my Muppets movie collection intact I will probably buy the home video when it comes out. For me this movie was a "once and done" experience.

If you consider yourself a Muppet fan you should go see Muppets Most Wanted. Anytime you have the opportunity to see Kermit and friends on the big screen you should but don't expect it to be the best Muppet movie ever. It's just the latest. 



   










Friday, March 21, 2014

Imagination and Audacity

Time travel is one of the most illusive dreams of the human species. Everyone at least once in their life dreams about being able to go back or forward in their lives. 

Well other than in movies, TV and other vehicles of the imagination that isn't possible. You can't go into the past but sometimes the past can come to you. 

This week a couple of things have come together that have given me my own little episode of time travel. 

The first is a person. He's a 5 year old kindergarten boy who comes to the after school program where I work. Whenever the group goes outside to play "Billy" (not his real name) usually comes over to me and asks me if I want to play "super heroes" with him. He's such a charming little guy that I just can't refuse. 

This kid has an energy and an imagination that is seemingly limitless. The superhero he "turned" himself into during the first couple of weeks we played together was "The Flash." 

While I sit on the picnic table bench, he runs himself all over the basketball court making a "whooshing" sound and pretending to be moving at super human speed. 

Not only that but he made me a super hero too. After my insistence, he turned me into "Rewind Guy." Someone who, with the flick of his left forearm can turn back time. But at his discrection he can block my powers with a different kind of "whoosh" while punching the air with his fists in my direction.

This boy's imagination at one time or another over the last couple of weeks has made the picnic benches both our super hero cars and the headquarters where all the superheroes go for their "official" assembly meeting. While there they stay in their own private rooms. 

(By the way you can order room service there. Their specialty is pizza with chicken that tastes like sausage.)

He even made up a little super hero romance. Whispering to me that he is loves the girl with "big white feathers" named "Hawk Girl" because she "wears the prettiest dresses to the meetings."

Then yesterday he advises me that he's no longer The Flash but is now "Fast Shock" a totally new super hero that's even faster than the guy with the lightening bolt on his red suit. I don't know if it is but I believe this is an original creation. 

Those are just a few examples of the stories and situations this 5 year old entertains me with each day. He has an seemingly limitless imagination. He looses himself in play and totally commits himself to a "role."

He chooses the currently very popular universe of super heroes. Something he probably sees a lot on TV or on video.  

I have to say that he really reminds me  a lot of myself at that age. I used imagine myself as other characters in amazing adventures too. 

My choices of characters and worlds to identify with and mentally transfer myself into were different. I put myself into the worlds of the TV shows I watched as a kid. I impersonated the afternoon kids show hosts and the characters they performed or the puppets they interacted with. I also committed to my performances.

I mean at his age I had one of my neighbors convinced that my name was "Will Robinson." I was pretending to be the character played by Billy Mummy in the si-fi TV show, "Lost In Space."

So my friend, Billy sends me back in time to the carefree days of my childhood when all I had to do was imagine what adventures I could go on. 

The other factor that brings time travel to my door is the recording project I wrote about a month ago. It wasn't until this week that I actually sat down and started transferring the albums I wrote about in my March 16 post. 

I'm using the computer program Audacity to make the recordings. Making digital copies of the songs and stories I listened to almost 50 years ago really does take me back. 

I just completed copying the original 1961 album of "The Alvin Show." It was the first record I ever remember owning. I also digitalized (is that a word?) the record that came with the General Electric Show N Tell entertainment system I got for my 5th birthday. 

One of the sides of the record has a song that I could still sing word for word even before I found a copy of it. 

I have others to record that take me back to other times in my life but those are the two things that take me back in time the farthest. 

So this week I am experiencing my own personal bit of time travel. Of course I have a tendency to make everyday "throw back Thursday." I just love to reminisce about the times of my life (at least the good ones) the way I remember them.

But sometimes the experience becomes more than just remembering it's on a different level. It's almost tactile. 

That's kind of what I've been going through this week. It's kind of like I've been going through my own scene like the one in "The Lion King". The one where Mufasa appears to his son in the night sky and says Simba, you have forgotten who you are." 

Perhaps "going back in time" in such a palpable way is reminding me of the qualities I once used without reservation. And also a realization that those qualities are still there ready to be used again. 

And I owe it all to a 5 year old boy's imagination and the computer program Audacity. 

Billy doesn't care who is around or who is or isn't buying into the adventures of his imagination. When he's running around the playground "at the speed of light." believing in the experience heart and soul. 

Maybe that's the another (and more positive) lesson I am supposed to be learning this week. 

Hmmm....will have to think about that and use it to get back to my future.  




Thursday, March 20, 2014

Laptop Down

You really can't tell but today I am writing this blog from a different location. Usually, when I write I am sitting in my love seat recliner in my living room watching TV. Today I am sitting at the monitor connected to my desktop computer in the room next to our carport. 

I cannot use my laptop because it is out of a battery power and I cannot charge it. Here's why. 





This is our new love seat where Paula and I sit most of the time. My seat is closest to the TV. At the risk of sounding like Sheldon Cooper, it's been "my spot" for a long time. 

In order to charge my laptop while reclining in the love seat I plug the AC adapter from into the outlet in the back and feed it up from in between the sections of the love seat. Without going into even longer and more boring details that's the best way to get it plugged into my laptop. 

Yesterday, as I pushed the bench down to get out of the recliner I heard an alarming "buzzing" sound, saw a small cloud of smoke and smelled an odor that accompanies a short in a live electrical circuit. 

Totally surprised, I quickly jumped up and cautiously looked around and in back of the area to see what had happened. My first instinct was to look to see if the spark had come from either of the power strips or the outlet that's in back of the love seat.  

There was no visible evidence that the problem came from either of those two sources. That's when I realized the problem had originated from under the love seat where the laptop's AC adapter and it's cord was snaked in between the sections. 

When I had closed the bench, the cord of the adapter, which had bunched up, got caught between the scissored parts of the workings of the love seat and was severed by the pressure of it's closing. That's where the short happened. 

I was lucky I hadn't accidentally electrocuted myself. I had never even given thought to the possibility before. Once it did I had a "duh" moment. Why hadn't I considered that ever happening? I'm usually very paranoid about things that could cause a fire. Thank God he kept me safe in spite of myself. 

After I had evaluated what had happened, I inspected the AC adapter and realized that it was ruined. I had to order a new one. It is going to take a couple of days to be delivered.

So as I write this post I have less than 30 minutes of battery power left on my laptop. I will soon unable to use it until my new adapter arrives.

Once it does I will look at plugging it in and placing it in a place with safety as THE top priority. Lesson learned.   

Like I wrote earlier that doesn't mean anything to you as a reader but it changes the posting dynamic for me over the next couple of days. 

Finally, I want to cheer the arrival of Spring. The "official" start of my 2nd favorite season of the four is arriving as I write this post. 

The cold weather here in south central Kentucky has been lasted farther into the new calendar year than it has in any of the 15 winters I've lived here. 

Usually, by the end of February, the daytime high temperatures are, on average, range between the mid 40's to mid 60's and the flowers have started to sprout up from the ground. That has not been the case this year. 

I know that some of you live in a places that have had a much more harsh winter than I have here. That probably means you are a lot happier to see the change of seasons. 

That's about all I have for today's post. Just had to share my nearly "shocking" experience with my laptop cord and acknowledge the changing of the seasons. 

Thanks for visiting my blog. I'll be back again tomorrow. 











Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Crichton's Last Novel

A couple of Fridays ago I went to our local library to get an audio book to listen to on my trip to Indianapolis. 

I chose a 12-CD audio edition of author Michael Crichton's last book, Micro. 


The book was published in November 2011; Three years after Crichton's death.

The book's manuscript was found among the author's computer files. It was just a third of the way complete. "The Hot Zone" author, Richard Preston was chosen to finish it. 

The story has elements of Jurassic Park and the 1968 Irwin Allen TV show, Land of the Giants; with a bit of the dark side of "Honey I Shrunk The Kids" thrown in.

A group of 8 biology graduate students from Cambridge, Massachusetts are invited to Hawaii on an employment recruiting excursion by, the executives of Nanogen. The company is developing very secret ground-breaking discoveries in the bio technology field. 

The mysterious death's of one of Nanogen's executive officers who is also the brother of one of the recruits, sparks a series of events that results in students being forced into a world that is normally unseen by human beings. 

Add into that a mysterious triple homicide being investigated by the Hawaiian police and a shady CEO and you've got a compelling story that goes beyond today's technology but remains in the realm of the "what if" possibilities.

I enjoyed listening to this audio book but about halfway into it something happens that disappointed me to the point of distraction. My enthusiasm for the protagonists waned a bit after the turn in the story. I don't want to give any spoilers. But the plot twist is one of the elements in storytelling that upsets me the most. 

Again, without giving away any details, if you are the least bit squeamish about spiders or bugs this book just might make your skin crawl.  

Overall I would recommend listening or reading "Micro" if for no other reason than to be part of the world of Michael Crichton one more time. 

   

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Muppets Pipes

For the past couple of weeks the Muppets have been everywhere on TV: talk shows, commercials, and network morning news programs.It's all to promote their latest movie, Muppets Most Wanted, that's being released this coming Friday. 

Being a very avid Muppets fan I made sure I caught Kermit the Frog on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon last night. Kermit's discussion with Fallon brought up something that is a genuine vintage Muppets creation. 

I found out about this piece of hidden art back in 1984 while was watching Late Night with David Letterman on NBC. Letterman's guest that night was former Tonight Show host, Jack Parr. 

That night Parr revealed to the audience a secret that had been hidden away for 20 years. Below is a link to a website that shows the video from that 1984 Late Night program. It starts out with a short interview with Parr explaining how Henson and company came to be on the Tonight Show in the mid Fifties and the 3 minute sketch they did on TV that night.


While searching for that video I found the one I've linked to below. I had never seen it before. It's from 2010. NBC news anchor man, Brian Wilson, shows Frank Oz the steps that have been taken to preserve the Muppets gift to NBC. 


There's one last video link I would like to share with you. Because this link takes you to a sight that features "Daily" video I'm not sure how long it will be there. If you click on the link and don't see Kermit and Jimmy Fallon I apologize. 

Here's what you're supposed to see. It's a composite video of Kermit's appearance on last night's Tonight Show. He gives Fallon a gift that's directly related to the Muppet pipes. Also included is a St. Patrick's Day rendition of one of Kermit's signature songs. 


When it comes to personal heroes, for me, Jim Henson is right up there with Walt Disney and Casey Kasem. The pipes in that TV studio closet are a legacy left directly by Jim Henson and his fellow puppeteers. One day when I finally get back to the Big Apple, I'm going to take the NBC studio tour so I can see this piece of Muppet history.


Monday, March 17, 2014

TWIL #3

This 3rd edition of "This Week In Lego" features some of my favorite pictures from the Brick World Expo and my latest Creator Kit model. Hope you enjoy seeing them.


The AT-AT Walker. My all time favorite
 Star Wars thing as a Lego Model
An Exhibit that recreated the city of
Bricksburg in The Lego Movie
The Mico Managers on left side of this shot 
were among the many cool things in The Lego Movie

These final 3 pictures are from my favorite exhibit of the expo. It was a very long Rube Goldberg like contraption made totally of Lego pieces. It was motorized and moved miniature soccer balls (about the size of an M&M Candy) around the 4 tables. 




Finally here's a couple shots of the Emerald Express Train Creator kit. 


The next Lego kit I am going to build is a model of Big Ben in London, England. Look for that in the next edition of TWIL.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Meeting David Brenner

When I heard the news that comedian David Brenner died yesterday a couple of things came to mind immediately. 

A unique trip to New York City; and that it's likely that anyone who is under 40 years old is probably asking "Who's David Brenner?"

The simple answer  to that question is David Brenner was a stand up comedian who was Johnny Carson's most frequent guest on the Tonight show during the 70's and early 80's. He was among the group of a dozen or so comedians who served as guest hosts for Johnny. You can find out more about David Brenner on the internet.

In 1995 I stuffed the entry box for a contest being held by a talk radio station, WKAP in Allentown, PA. It was no surprise that I won a two day/ one night trip to New York City. The trip included: one night hotel accommodations; two tickets to a Broadway show, the opportunity to meet 2 celebrities who each hosted their own syndicated talk show that the station carried, and limousine transportation to and from New York City. It was the first time I ever rode in a limousine. It was also the first and only time I've been to a Broadway show.

I made the trip over Thursday and Friday May 25 and 26 just before the Memorial Day weekend of 1995.  

Thursday night I walked from our hotel, down Broadway to the Virginia Theater on West 52nd street (not all Broadway theaters are actually on Broadway) to see that night's performance of "Smokey Joe's Cafe". It was a musical review of the songs composed by the team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. I really liked the show and still listen to the soundtrack. 

The next day, Friday, along with our chaperon from the radio station and a PR person from the syndication company (I don't remember the name of the company) I rode the New York City subway to the broadcast facilities of AM radio station WFAN.  

That's where I met morning talk show host, Don Imus. At the time Imus was still just a New York City radio celebrity. He had just gone national with his "Imus In The Morning" show. 

He was a real...well I can't use the expletive I want to because but it's part of the anatomy. He gave me a signed copy of his newly released book, "God's Other Son". It was nothing but printed blasphemy. I never even opened past the title page where he had signed it. Once I got home, I just gave it to the Goodwill store the next week. 

I have a picture of Imus and me but I'm not going to post it. I The jerk put his two fingers up over my head. I wasn't aware of it at the time. My encounter with Imus was something I'd like to forget. 

After lunch with the producer of David Brenner's radio show in a small midtown restaurant, I went to the broadcast studios in Manhattan to meet the comedian turned talk show host in person. 

I remember having to wait about 20 minutes in the lobby before we were taken back to the studio. I don't remember anything specific about the meeting in regard to the conversation. Brenner had just had a child with his girlfriend so I took him a personalized baby gift. 

Here's the picture that was taken. It is proof that I met David Brenner. 


As a side note his radio show didn't last past that summer. It was off the air by September 1995. 

I remember a lot more of the details and have some unique stories about that trip to New York City in 95. If you're interested ask me about it sometime. You know how I love to share personal stories. 

Although I had not seen or heard anything about him in a long time I was sad to hear about David Brenner losing his battle with cancer at the age of 78. 

I always liked his style of comedy. I don't have any of his recordings in my stand up collection. I'm going to have to get some and include it in this year's Ron Havens Rewind Soundtrack show for this year. 

The thing I will always remember about David Brenner is that on one of his 158 appearances on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson he told one of may top 10 all time favorite jokes. It's about the army. I tried to find video of Brenner telling it himself but I couldn't. Here's a text version that's as close to Brenner's version as I remember him telling. 
David Brenner's Army Joke

Thanks for the laughs, David Brenner

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Disney Deal Breaker

After the time and effort that writing my "15 Adventures" series took I'm a bit burnt out from writing and lost for a subject for today's post. 

I haven't written anything about my trip to the Brick World Lego expo last weekend yet but I'm still deciding which of the 200+ pictures I'm going to use in my post. So it's coming but it will be later. 

Today I'm going to be writing about something that I've been thinking about lately: vacation. For me when the "V" word comes up I think first thing of only one place: Walt Disney World. But that may change. Here's why. 

A couple of weeks ago Walt Disney World announced an increase in the single day ticket price for the Magic Kingdom park. If you want to go to see Cinderella's Castle or eat lunch at the Be Our Guest restaurant it will now cost you $105 for one day. Admission to other parks will cost you about $100 per day. Both prices are after taxes. 

Now if you buy mulit-day tickets it will cost you less per day the more days you buy. 

The reason I mention this is because this increase is significant to me. It's makes the cost of admission to a Disney theme park a "deal breaker." 

Since my first trip to see "the mouse" with my family a decade ago the price of staying on Disney property and visiting their parks has increased at an accelerating rate. It is now to the point where a typical week long family vacation (5 days) at the Walt Disney Resort requires more and more planning and a major financial investment.   

Allow me to use $35,000 as a mean for the income for a middle class family of 4. I'll also use a very conservative estimate of $5000 for the cost of a 5 day stay at Walt Disney World. This would include at least $2500 for 5 nights at a single hotel room with two beds in value resort on Disney property, 5 four-day park hopper passes. Add the other $2500 for travel costs, food, souvenirs and other incidentals. 

Now there are options and ways to save on that cost. Staying "off property" is one and there are multiple ways of saving in other ways. 

One of my favorite Disney podcasters, Lou Mongello, has just published a book with 102 ways to save for and on a Disney vacation. You can find it on Amazon or any other major book purchasing outlet if you are interested in reading it.  

But for the sake of argument going with the $5000 figure means that middle class family would have to save over $400 a month for a year. That's equivalent to 12 car payments or 6 mortgage payments. Is that not a major investment? And those expenses are beneficial. You get daily benefits from them. 

If you spread that cost over 4 years of saving that is still $100 a month. Isn't that a lot just to go on vacation once every four years?

While you do get memories and family bonding from a Disney vacation (always a major focus in any Disney Parks advertising campaign) there's a lot less expensive places to go for vacation. 

For Paula and I the cost would be a little less because we are only 2 people but the cost reduction would not be proportionate. Our minimum cost would conservatively be just under $4000. That's with us driving to Florida.

Disney doesn't seem the least bit apologetic about the cost to visit their parks and resorts. Instead they are trying to "Plus" what they offer with convenience through new technology, personalization options for guests, and the ability to plan your in-park activities well in advance aimed at reducing your wait times in the parks. 

But those options are still in the testing stage and it is unclear if they will be of more benefit to the guest or just a more efficient way for Disney to operate their parks in a more profitable manner. That's a debate that I'll leave to the experts on the blogs and podcasts.  

I consider myself a Walt Disney World fanatic of the highest degree but the cost to go there has just become too much.   

So now if I'm going to ever go back to Walt Disney World again it will have to be for a very very special occasion. The only one on the horizon right now is taking my granddaughter to meet her favorite characters or a way to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary. Those occasions are a couple of years away. 


But I guess if Disney can thrive by having the average family spend a few thousand dollars with them once every four years then I guess that's what they're going to do. They'll make as much money as they can get. I mean the parks are part of an entertainment conglomerate that has an obligation to its stock holders. 

But if they continue to raise prices at the pace they have been; no matter what you get for your money the price point will eventually become prohibitive. 

With the high prices and all the competition for the tourists dollars that's starting to show up in Orlando, attendance at the Disney parks in Florida may start to go down over the next few years. That's yet to be seen. 

I could name at least 10 other vacation destinations that are other more cost efficient that would prove just as, if not, more relaxing and enjoyable than a Disney vacation. 

So for now, the cost of a Walt Disney World vacation is a deal breaker for me.