Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Would You Really Buy an Appliance from This Guy?

First, it was the Sham Wow; now, it's the Slap Chop. Aside from pure entertainment value (I'll interject here that I LOVE to watch the Magic Bullet infomercial with Berman, the hungover party animal, the lady with the six-inch cigarette ash dangling out of her mouth who complains about dinner always being a production, and the perky blonde who wants to grind coffee), this new product advertisement frightens me.

First, what's with the microphone? He's in a kitchen! Unless he's got it hooked up to his house's home entertainment system and is talking to some mysterious guests out on the patio, I don't think he needs it - we hear you, Vince!! Second, do you really want a guy saying that things are unreliable as he throws them over his shoulder into your sink (although I'm sure earlier takes had him hitting the wall, breaking dishes, or smashing the guy operating the boom mike in the face)?

And most importantly, how ominous is the saying for the product: "We're making American healthy, one slap at a time!" Sounds like he's beating good health into the product's buyers and anyone else within range of his Slap Chop, Sham Wow, or whatever the heck else he's peddling.

So how do I wrap up this brief diatribe? With the commercial!! Enjoy!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Dark Shadows - Classic Soap Opera or Legendary Comedy Show?

One of my all-time favorite shows was "Dark Shadows," the hokey but somehow enthralling Gothic soap opera of the '60s and '70s. For someone as young as I was, who saw the show in syndication in the afternoons after school, the storylines were enthralling. Now that I'm older and can watch them on DVD, I see them in an entirely new light - a show that, because of the incessant technical errors, flubbed lines, and mismatched sound effects, borders on slapstick. For your enjoyment, here is a set of four videos compiling some of the funniest bloopers from the entire series. By the time I got halfway through part three, my side hurt...

And if someone can tell me at the 3:59 mark of part three who he is very good friends with, I'll come up with some sort of prize!

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Archbishop, the Talk Show Host, and a Remarkable Event

A wonderful conversation between Archbishop Tutu and Craig Ferguson on the March 4 episode of "The Late, Late Show." It's in three parts, each better than the last.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Deep Thought for the Day

"If you are a poet, you will see that there is a cloud on this sheet of paper. Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow; and without trees, we cannot make paper."

- Thich Nhat Hanh

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Dharamsala at My Front Door

I love collecting autographs - signed books by my favorite authors, politicians, actors. It's a hobby that I've enjoyed for quite a few years (as A. can attest), and I'm always intrigued by who will respond to a request and who will not. Over the years, I've managed to obtain quite a few from some pretty amazing men and women.

Yesterday, I received one that ranks as one of the most remarkable yet.

A. sent me an email yesterday afternoon with the subject line, "You got something in the mail from the Dalai Lama." That was it; nothing else. I was stunned; I had sent a request to his office over a year ago, and even after having received a response from a member of his staff in mid-December I wasn't necessarily sure I would ever get anything back.

But I was - happily - wrong. Anytime anyone has responded to a request for an autograph in the past, I have viewed it both as a gift and as a sign of their generosity. In this case, to say that the picture is a gift from a generous man somehow doesn't seem to go far enough...

Monday, March 09, 2009

The True Impact of Daylight Savings

Since we were forced - not asked; when we will be asked for once?? - to move our clocks ahead one hour yesterday morning, the great daylight savings leap forward has played havoc on just about everyone I know. I, for one, am not used to getting up before dawn for the drive in to work, nor am I ready for the arguments with the children over why they need to go to bed despite the fact it is still light outside.

One of the funniest things I got was this email, which has been posted here with the permission of its author. I've taken the official approach of the CIA and redacted the names to protect the innocent (or, in this case, amusingly guilty), but it's still good for a laugh.

"Saturday night before I went to bed I set my clock ahead one hour. No problem- didn’t set the alarm for Sunday. This morning my clock went off at 5:20 as usual. I got up at 5:30 and wondered why the cat wasn’t swirling around my feet, meowing for her morning snack, but figured her system was off because of DST. I took my shower, did my hair and makeup. Still no cat. Fixed my coffee. Looked at my clock – 6 a.m. Didn’t hear X's alarm. Went upstairs, turned her light on, noticed her clock said 5 a.m. and I thought I remembered setting it ahead. Re-set her alarm to go off in 5 minutes. Went back downstairs and looked at the microwave. 5 a.m. I do remember setting it one hour ahead. Uh-oh. Went in the living room and turned on the tv. It was 5 a.m. My clock had automatically kicked in DST on top of my manual DST, so I got up at 4:30. Went back upstairs and re-re-set X’s clock to go off at 6. Went back downstairs and drank coffee. 6 a.m. came for real and I went upstairs to get X (she asked me if I had tried to get her up at 5. I confessed.) 6:30 came and no Y. I went upstairs (have worn a path in the carpet by now) and checked her clock. Yes – it’s 6:30, the alarm is on but it’s not ringing. Crap! Her alarm is set for 6:30 p.m. Everyone got where they needed to be on time, and now I’m so tired I’m ready to go face down on my desk."

God bless Arizona, the one state that doesn't to go through daylight savings. And God curse Benjamin Franklin - this was all HIS idea!!

Sunday, March 08, 2009

President Lincoln, Me and a Night at the Theater

Last night was a very surreal moment for me. In fact, any moment would be surreal where you walk into a hall that was the site of man's murder - and then look onto the stage and see that man standing there.

No, A. and I didn't see a ghost, but last night's performance of a new play, "The Heavens are Hung in Black," at Ford's Theatre was so remarkable that you felt like you were in the presence of President Lincoln himself and had the opportunity to accompany him on a few days of his life. The play, commissioned by the Theatre in honor of Lincoln's 200th birthday and penned by playwright James Still, started its run in February and closes with a final performance this afternoon. In the title role of Lincoln is David Selby, who many (including the lady sitting behind us, who would not stop talking about this fact) will remember from his turn as Quentin Collins on "Dark Shadows" in the late 1960s and early 1970s, along with "Falcon Crest" and many other roles.

The story takes place in Washington over the span of several days in August 1862, where Lincoln is in a struggle over how and when to remove General George McClellan from command of the Army of the Potomac (a very intriguing political story if you ever care to read about it), and even more importantly over how to address the issue of the emancipation of the slaves. At an even more emotional level, however, Lincoln is battling some internal demons - his sense of helplessness over the death of so many young men in the war, and his deep grief over the loss of his son Willie. Rather than just being a play where you see the actions of Lincoln and his cabinet, however, much of the story occurs in his dreams on those rare occasions that he allows himself to sleep. In these dreams, he has riveting conversations with John Brown, Jefferson Davis, Stephen Douglas, Dred Scott, a close friend from his days in Springfield, and even the Uncle Tom character from the Stowe novel, all of which center on the issue of slavery.

He is also haunted by visions of the men from both the North and the South who have lost their lives in battle, portrayed in a very dark and dreamlike state by actors dressed in the costumes of each army and walking past and around Lincoln in a dreary, gray light. There is even a remarkable scene where Lincoln visits a theater where Edwin Booth (brother of John Wilkes) and his ensemble are rehearsing "Hamlet," and through the course of their interaction he gradually takes center stage and movingly recites a soliloquy from that play (it is a well-known fact that Lincoln was an avid reader of the works of Shakespeare).

In each of these dream sequences, the audience hears the faint whispers of voices layered one upon another, but it's not at all clear what they are saying. At the end of the play, however, the voices become clear, and what you find is that they are in fact key phrases from conversations Lincoln has held throughout the play which - individually - mean nothing, but when put together suddenly give him the answers he is seeking.

The play was extremely - and at alternate times - moving, humorous and tragic, the music was superb (written in a slow sort of dirge) and I can't say enough about the performances of the entire cast (with particular kudos to Selby and his outstanding portrayal of Lincoln; we don't know for certain how he spoke or how he acted, but Selby makes you believe that what you are seeing is the real deal). I had never before been to Ford's Theatre, so I can't really judge how much of a change there was during the recent 20-plus million dollar renovation; however, there are no bad seats (except for those four or five unfortunate folks who end up behind a column), and the intimacy of the theater is such that you get an excellent view of the stage and some outstanding acoustics. (Camera phone pictures in a darkened space are notoriously bad, but I've added a few here of the interior and exterior of the building in case you have never visited. I've also added some of Selby as Lincoln, which came from a slideshow posted by the theater.)

I have no idea where the play will go from here, and whether there will be other productions in theaters around the country. If you see that it is coming, I strongly encourage you to attend; while it won't capture the sense of mystique and awe that I felt seeing Lincoln on the stage just below the box where he was shot, it will leave a powerful impression.

I'll close here with the teaser trailer of the play posted on YouTube and on the theater's website; if nothing else, the music alone will give you a sense of what to expect.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Unrepeatable Moments

Recently, I found out that Bishop Jack Spong has a new book due to be released later this year entitled Eternal Life: Pious Dream or Realistic Hope? which I am really looking forward to reading. Have read several of Jack's previous works, I'm sure that he'll be expounding on several ideas and themes that have been covered in various forms in the past.

He actually used the debate over the title of his book - a debate held with his editors and publishers at Harper, no less - as the crux of his weekly column issue today, and provided a very interesting look at the way something as simple as the selection of a few words could cause so much disagreement. I don't know what I was expecting when I read the column, other than an outline of the debate, a brief recap of what the book will be covering, and a few other key themes.

As always, though, someone else had a different idea and decided to throw me a curve ball.

That curve came in the form of an otherwise obscure sentence on page two of the column, which read, "Death gives passion to life by making every moment unrepeatable and calls me to live life to its fullest."

Death gives passion to life by making every moment unrepeatable.

For whatever reason, that small sentence tucked in the middle of a huge paragraph reached out and tripped me as I went running by that portion of the article. I read it two, three, even four times.

Making every moment unrepeatable.

Everyone knows the saying about living life to the fullest, and to make the most of every moment. However, I've never seen it put in such an intriguing way - using a word like "passion" in explaining how to savor each moment. People think of passion in some pretty obvious ways: passion for a job, passion for a hobby, passion for a favorite sports team, passion in romance.

But passion being given to life because of death - that's something entirely new and different.

Being passionate about a moment, and death being a gift. Now I really can't wait to read what else he has in this book. I have a feeling I'll be tripping often.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

A New Blog in the Works

Regular readers of this blog know a bit about my political background and my current political leanings. This same group also knows that I've tended to blog a bit more about politics in recent months. As I got to thinking about it I realized that those sorts of posts are really not in keeping with the purpose of this blog: to discuss my family, my evolving faith, and finding my way as a father and husband.

So as not to mix one goal with another, today I started a side blog strictly to discuss government, politics, and where our country is headed. While I am a conservative and will tend to focus a bit more on that side of the aisle, I'm really hoping it will turn into a place for spirited - but polite - debate by folks from all political stripes. If you go there and agree, let me know - and if you disagree, let me know. The only way to strengthen my position on issues is to learn the positions of others.

Feel free to visit One Man's Politics and join the conversation. I will continue to keep this blog going as well, but will also do more to keep the stated purpose of the two blogs independent of each other.