Friday, July 29, 2011

Personality Test
Although it is hard for a Southern Californian to believe there are people who have never visited Disneyland, there may indeed be some.  For those who have not been to Disney's money factory or do not remember one of the most famous rides, here is a picture of the Tea Cups at Fantasyland.  I am sitting with my niece Jackie in the pink cup because she got to pick. Pink is her favorite color and an indication of her personality.  You can learn a lot about a person by attending Disneyland together.  The Tea Cup ride may be the most personally revealing experience at the theme park or perhaps in the world.
Let me explain. Basically the Tea Cups is a spinning ride, based on the idea that centrifugal force is fun. The faster you spin around the more fun you have, fun of course being directly proportional to complete and utter disorientation.  Hopefully you will reach the point of dizzy ecstasy before you reach the point of throwing up.  Unfortunately the human body is not equipped with idiot lights to indicate when your swirling head has reached critical mass.  It becomes a matter of gastro-intestinal Russian roulette. One rotation too many turns fun into a messy embarrassment.  Not to mention a complete waste of money on expensive Disneyland food purchased just before the ride.
The Tea Cups are fixed to a rotating base that spins within a larger base which also spins.  The cups themselves spin independently of the other rotations and can be controlled by turning a steering wheel device in the center.  It all seems quite complicated when you try to explain it and the physics of multiple rotations acting on each other with a combined velocity could make Issac Newton hate math.  Not that any of the science needs to be explained to a child. It is a simple equation to a kid, "Turn wheel- go fast." 
The moment the ride begins the Tea Cup personality test reveals itself. You never know what demons will take control of your family or companion until this moment and by then it is too late.  A loving person with only roses in their heart can become a whirling devil with no redeeming qualities.  This devil causes a normal person to attack the spin wheel with the strength of an army.  There is no amount of pleading that can exorcise this demon who's only goal is to spin the cup as fast as possible.  This unsettling possession persists until the ride operator turns the switch off. Sometimes the devil has even overtaken me and I become Captain Vomit... king of double vision.
All of this comes back to me at this defining moment, when I realize I am alone with my teenage niece in the pink tea cup of truth. My life with her flashes before my eyes. I remember how I have teased and joked with her since she was a baby. I have always tried to be the fun uncle while realizing that my humor and my immaturity toward children is an acquired taste.  I remember clearly every joke that inadvertently caused her to momentarily panic or led her to a cry.  If I remember, certainly she does as well. We are only moments away from the opening spin, the time of her revenge.  My thoughts turn to the Mexican food we had in Frontierland.
To my surprise she is resistant to demon possession and we spin the wheel with only enough gusto to enjoy a staggering walk to the exit afterwards.  She is an angel and although I assumed as much she passed the Tea Cup Test personality test with a 4.0.  I will not be so lucky next time. Note to self: avoid Fantasyland with Brandon and Taylor.
As you were,

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Writers Block -
I sometimes get a mini-block as a writer.  It is not that I can't think of something to write about, it  just seems that writing what is on my mind at the time is boring... even to me.  Like this morning.  I want to enter a blog, but the only thing on my mind is the current "tournament of bull-headed idiots" going on in Washington, DC.  I sometimes think Washington politicians are being paid a kick back by John Stuart writers just to provide them with stupid material.  A human is the only animal that laughs.  Freud says it is a form of relieving aggression.  We bare our teeth in a smile and laugh rather than fight when we find a situation offensive, or threatening.  Perhaps it is time to take some things seriously and rip the veins of some lawmakers just for being stupid.  The gene pool of politicians has currently reached the stage of regression. At the current rate of attrition a politician in 2020 will have an IQ of less than a turtle and will need to be institutionalized.  I say thin the herd now and allow helicopter hunting. The greatest threat to Americans is not a group terrorist on an airplane... it is a group of idiots in congress.
My Dad was an investment banker specializing in finance for political subdivisions of the State of Texas before he retired a couple of decades ago. He dealt in municipal Bonds and did very well in that career. Just to brag about him, at one time his company  ranked number two in the nation for his specialty of bonds.  Number one was a New York company with several thousand employees.  My Dad's company had three employees, the vice president was my Mom.
Dad was particularly skillful in investing his own personal portfolio.  My talents ran toward performing, but I did pick up a few empirical tips along the way.  One of the things Dad liked most, at the time, was Treasury Bonds.  He liked Treasury's because they were backed by the United States of America.  He used to say, "No investment is a hundred percent safe, but if the Government can't pay its bills, then it means the whole economy is going down and everyone will lose their money."  He did really well with Treasury's and other government bonds. He did not double his money over night, but he did not lose it back over a week. During his career the possibility of the government defaulting on loans was unthinkable.
Yet here we are five days away from the United States defaulting on debt because congress can't come together and see the forest for the trees. And there are some in Congress who think that it would be the perfect punishment for this administration.  I guess sinking the boat in the middle of the ocean would teach the captain a lesson, but we are all going to drown with him.
The problem is that the "tea party -poopers" think they have a mandate but have no idea what they are fooling with.  If our credit rating drops we are in a world of trouble.  It is the only case in which "trickle down" economics actually works.  The more interest paid on the top of the pyramid means an exponential increase all the way down.  Think it is hard to get a loan now?  How about 13% mortgage rates,  20% car loans and credit cards in the low forty percent range? And we are not talking about the rate changing back in a few months when we learn our lesson.  It will stay that way for a long time.  Think that can't happen? Just for reference check the prime loan interest rate in the mid-seventies. And that was with the AAA credit rating we have now.
The rule of comedy used to be, think of something that irritates you and write about that... The rant will become funny.  It doesn't seem to work this time for me.  I'm just irritated.  Just for clarification... Ronald Regan raised the debt ceiling 18 times in his eight years in office, and George W. Bush 7 times in his two terms.  There was never a threat nor even talk of a threat from "tea heads" to default and spoil our credit rating.  Yeah, government needs to spend less, Americans need to eat less as well, both are too fat.  Perhaps this is the way to adjust both.  Default, become a third rate country where a loaf of bread is $20 dollars and perhaps America will lose weight.  Oh, but remember the sinking ship metaphor?  It is really going to be hard to tread water while you are starving.
As you were,

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Outside of a Dog....
"Outside of a dog a book is man's best friend.... inside of a dog it is too dark to read" - Groucho Marks.

Just after my off Broadway run some years ago we had to put our dog Smooch to sleep because she had developed a tumor on her spine and was in great pain.  It was a terrible event and I was the one elected to be the last one to hold Smooch as she went to sleep for the final time.  It was a traumatic experience for the whole family.  I think I was the last to get over the event.
Smooch toward the end
We had gotten Smooch from my Brother in Law who trained her from a pup and taught her all she needed to know to be a great house dog. He had to give her up when he moved back to New York.  Sandi loved that dog and before we got her she used to say to her brother, "Give me that dog...I want that dog," over and over.  She finally got her wish.
We doubted that we would ever find a dog like Smooch and we were not ready to jump right in and try to train a puppy in hopes it would turn out as great as Smooch.  Well, you never know how things will work out.
A couple of weeks ago at a poker game with some actors who are involved in Actors and Others for animals, Mary Willard casually mentioned that a friend needed to find a good home for a dog because it was not getting along with their young children.  I mentioned this to Sandi and Taylor and they decided they wanted to at least meet the dog.  So I pursued the matter with Mary.
Turned out that the dog was a 2 year old cockapoo, like Smooch and I was amazed that the dog looked exactly like Smooch. I guess it was already a done deal, but we had to meet the dog to see if it was going to like us.
Meet Bambu on the right. She is a clone of Smooch, and even limps a little on the same leg as Smooch. She is the a great dog, smart, knows all the tricks that Smooch knew. It was like Smooch had come back to us.  And for some reason Boo has become my shadow. She follows me to every room in the house and sits under my desk as I write. I have such a connection to this dog it is a little spooky. I have never had a pet that immediately took to me over the others in the family.
She loves to chase a tennis ball.  Last night when I was getting ready for a show at the Comedy and Magic Club, I got Spaulding ready. Spaulding of course is my tennis ball character. Although Boo has several tennis balls to play with, Spaulding became the one she wanted. No other toy or tennis ball interested her. Taylor finally had to make a magic switch with one of her tennis balls to get her to stop stalking Spaulding.
The funniest part of the whole adoption is that the dog belonged to Suzanne and Weird Al Yankovic. The joke will be that we rescued Boo from Weird Al, the fact is Al and Suzanne found the perfect dog  and trained her for the Johnson house. Things work out in Weird ways sometimes. Marry the lady that first mentioned the dog saw me walking Boo the other day.  She said to Boo, "Well, you just went from one weird person to another... didn't you?"
Maybe so....
As you were,

Friday, July 22, 2011

Comedy at the Bowl
We attended Eddie Izzard's concert at the Hollywood Bowl on Wednesday night. (Mr Izzard once gave me a Tony Award at the Radio City Music Hall - but he is even more famous for other things).  He is the first comedian to headline the bowl and he drew 12,000 people. It was really a wonderful performance, and to fill the bowl is a monumental accomplishment as a performer. At the beginning of the show he stated what a big place it was and proceeded to run to the back of the bowl giving high fives.  After he got back he said, "That might not have been the best idea."  He was breathless for just a moment but hit a pace that was hysterical and relentless.  He is such an intellectual performer. At one point he was talking about the Internet and stated that we all lie.  He said we always click the box that says, "Have you read and agree with the terms of service."  He said no on reads those documents...."Some where in the contract you agree to have your buttocks removed and sold to China."
Tonight I will go to the Comedy Magic Club and perform for their anniversary.  I know this is perhaps the third decade that they have been in business. I was one of the first headliners to perform there. Gees that makes me sound ancient.  The idea is to fill the show with every comic they can squeeze in and we all do 4 minutes.  I can barely introduce myself in four minutes but it will be fun to hang with the guys I rarely get to see anymore.
As you were,

Monday, July 18, 2011

Back from VENT Haven

I think I got it this time. I think I got what the Vent Haven Museum is all about this trip. It is the posterity of the art form. The complete repository of information and in most cases the instruments of ventriloquism. It really is more important than just a rare collection of puppets and pictures. I more clearly understand the separation and distinction between the convention and the museum trust. It was a perfect celebration of the 70 years of Jimmy Nelson. To the first Dean of American Ventriloquist jimmy Nelson, congratulations. I will still think of you as the Godfather of Ventriloquism my friend.
It took me three connections to fly back on Saturday to the Burbank Airport. This was, of course, done because of Carmegaddon occurring on this very week end. It turned out to be a non-event and caused less trouble than normal work on any freeway can create. They finished 15 hours a head of schedule and had the freeway opened back up by mid Sunday. I could have taken a direct flight to LAX and not had a problem in hindsight.
I was drawing on my iPad for most of the time spent on my three airplanes. On one of my flight segments there was a really nice flight Attendant. She made a couple of comments on the stuff I was drawing. I was flattered, and she was bubbly and funny. I guess the attention made me work that much harder at my art.
I will admit to becoming totally focused on my drawing. It was almost hypnotic, or more likely AADS. But at one moment I became aware that the funny Attendant was looking over my shoulder and may have even said something. I looked up at her and she said, "That is really wonderful. I love that picture.... What a shame it is electronic". That didn't seem to connect in my mind. Earlier I mentioned to her that these drawings printed out very nicely and emailed perfectly. There was no slight in it being electronic as far as I could comprehend. I wanted to understand, so I said,
"What do you mean, it's a shame it's electronic."
She moved into the aisle an looked me squarely in the face, as if I needed to read her lips. I thought she spoke to me in a little slower and more precise than necessary tone. She made i sound so important that it woke me from my drawing trance.
"It's electronic," she said, "you have to turn it off... we're landing!"
As you were,

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Vent Convention

I am off to the Vent Convention in Kentucky. They are honoring my hero, mentor and friend Jimmy Nelson and I want to be there when they do.  The host of the evening asked that my presence be a secret, so I have not talked about going here in the blog.  Several people have asked me if I was going and I had to either pretend to ignore or give a silly answer.  Since it started yesterday I guess I am okay in tipping the surprise.    I am not staying long, only long enough to visit with Jimmy and see the permanent Jay Johnson display at Vent Haven.
So, depending on the Ft Mitchell wifi connections I will blog when I can for the next few days. Check back in and I will do what I can to document the experience without the use of the words odd or weird.
As you were,

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


I don't know if it is playing in the rest off the country, but Los Angeles is just two days away from what the media is calling Car-meggdon. It is an event born totally of the Southern California love affair between the car and their evil partner the freeway. The traffic in Los Angeles is legendary and local journeys are expressed as a formula of distance multiplied by time of day. From my house to LAX Airport at 4:00AM it takes 20 minutes, at 4:00PM it averages an hour. Either way you have to take the 405, not just 405, THE 405. Freeways in Los Angeles are so important their number must be proceeded by an article of speech. It is also acceptable to refer to them by their proper name like THE Santa Monica freeway, the San Diego Freeway or the Harbor Freeway. You get the idea that the freeways here are necessary monsters that demand the respect of the locals.
The 405 or, the name we use to confuse the tourist, the San Diego Freeway, is one of the most used, most crowded and most necessary arteries from the valley to the westside and the link to the airport. It is so important and such a problem at times that the city has decided to widen it and add carpool lanes due to be finished by 2013.
For the most part the construction has been done at night when several lanes can be closed with the least interruption of service. But there is a bridge over the freeway at Mulholland Drive that must be completely demolished because its span is not wide enough. The time has come to complete that step of the project. It will require complete closure of the 405 for ten miles, both ways cutting the expanse of the LA sprawl in half for 52 hours this weekend. The resulting traffic problems has been dubbed Car-meggdon.
Unfortunately I can not just stay at home and lounge in the pool like the media is telling us to do during the closure. I must travel by air. I was scheduled to leave out of LAX and return during Car-meggdon. The only solution was to change my routing and fly through the Burbank Airport which is on my side of town. It will require me to take two planes to get to my gig and three planes to get back. Ah the glamor of show biz.
As you were,

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Birthday Cards
I received some wonderful birthday cards yesterday, both virtual and visceral. It was a wonderful day and not in the least depressing or disappointing.  We were all sad to see Brandon leave for Germany but the sadness was not related to the birth day itself.  So, I would say my birthday tallied on the positive side for 2011.  
King of Spades, Queen of Diamonds, Seven of Diamonds,
Joker and Credit Card
My friend Harry sent me a beautiful deck of playing cards for my birthday.  It is a Bicycle poker deck completely redesigned by a group of artists called,  Alchemy 1977 England. These graphic novel artists have created a deck of playing cards that is stunning.  
I understand it might not be every one's taste in art, but anyone who knows me knows why I would find the art of this deck of cards alluring.  I scanned a sampling because I did not think I could describe them properly. 
Every King in the deck is a grim reaper. There are four distinct renderings of Reapers. The corners of all the hearts are blood stained. If some people believe cards are evil, this would be the deck to prove it. 
It is not just the Gothic nature of the subject matter, but the execution of the concept that is compelling to me. I would love to know what medium these drawings were finally rendered in. 
I have decided not to shuffle them but keep  them arranged in their original order of major arcana. Although it is a legal deck in all specifications,  I'm not sure I will ever use the deck for any game, for no other reason than it would require them to be shuffled. These are art cards that need to be appreciated for their images and not just used as a scoring device.  It would be a shame not to appreciate their beauty because they were involved in a game. 
Thank you to everyone who took the time to acknowledge the anniversary of my Birth.  I am very blessed with wonderful friends and family.
As you were,

Monday, July 11, 2011

JULY 11-
It was pointed out to me just a few days ago that we only have one Birthday, the rest are anniversaries of that day. I don't care what you call it as long as I get cake and ice cream and a lot of toys. 
This year it is true for everyone: If you take the last two numbers of the year you were born and add them to your age you are this year, you will come up with the number "111". It just works out that way this year. Take it for whatever omen you wish.  For me, I choose to give it great significance and see it as an indication of great happiness now and to come. 
It has been my experience that the majority of Birthdays, over my span of years, have brought disappointment and depression. That trend has waned in the last few years and as been hit or miss as to how the day will progress.  Over the span of the last five years only two anniversaries of my birth have been the harbinger of disappointment. Although my oldest son returns to Germany today, I plan to make this day fare on the positive side in spite of that emotional event. No bad news today..... I will spend the time at home with minimal effort and maximum self indulgence. I have always felt younger than my age, but as that number climbs, even subtracting a few years makes me an old codger by most standards.
I have always believed in the absolute existence of NOW which has no room for the past or the future. Living in the moment has always given me the most happiness. It is however, very hard to hang onto that way of living as the pressure of time is all around me.  I am as I have always been, right here, right now and always. The great thing about Now is that it is ever the same while constantly changing. You can't hold on to now or bank it for later... it just is. I am, the present tense of the verb to be which is I am, and I am that I am.
As we all are,

Sunday, July 10, 2011

One of my personal Zombies
The Haunting of Johnson House
I know that most of  you are weary of the constant dialogue about my iPad.  You would think I was a Mac Evangelistand probably would become one if asked. Enough is enough. However, this is a tale of a different nature and only involves the iPad as the facilitator of the event.
Brandon has been here for a few weeks and the house has been filled with his friends most every weekend and some week days.  Brandon has always been a very inclusive person and his embrace widens our extended family when he is here.  Some of the friends who have come by to see him I have known since they were kids, and rarely get to see them in their adulthood. 
I am glad to say that the kids feel comfortable enough to spend the night here when they have partied to much.  It makes everyone feel better that they are not driving home under less than safe conditions.
This said Sandi and I are never sure who will be here sleeping on one of the couches when we wake up on a weekend.  Such was the case this morning. We had not seen Dylan for several years as he was away  to college in Colorado and then moved to Spain for a few years.  So it was great to have coffee with him and catch up before anyone else was awake. So that is how it all started.... just a nice morning chat over coffee.
Eventually the talk turned to my art work and I showed Dylan some of my drawings on the iPad.  He had never played with an iPad before so I was showing him all the bells and whistles.
Sandi went to our bedroom at the back of the house to get out of her pajamas as I continued to dwell on the multitude of apps available for my new toy.  One of the apps I was showing Dylan is called Zombie Booth. You up load any picture, define the mouth and eyes and the app twists and distorts the face with horrifying reality and just as horrifying sound.
I pulled up one of my best renditions of a Zombie and let it go crazy for Dylan. As part of the program if you touch the screen near its mouth it will bite at you.  It is scary because it is so startling. And Dylan and I were having fun watching the Zombie take virtual bites out of our fingers.  I said, "Now the sound it really cool, but I'm not sure why we can't hear it."  I turned the sound up a bit but still nothing.
After only a couple more bites of the Zombie,Sandi comes running back into the kitchen a little out of breath and she looks a little pale.  If she had the energy in that moment she would have probably yelled at us, but her voice was calm and measured. She said, "Oh My God, you scared me nearly to death." Now I know that my wife's tastes do not run as Gothic as mine and that is why I waited until she was out of the room to show Dylan the Zombies.  But I didn't understand how she could be scared on the other side of the house. She continued...
"I am in the bedroom looking in the closet when I heard this weird breathing and growling,  I turned around to see what it was and although nothing was there I heard something snap at me as if trying to take a bite out of my leg."
It was then I remembered falling asleep the night before listening to the radio app on my iPad.  I   adjusted it to play the sound wirelessly through my bedroom speakers. I love that feature. I can have great music or radio on good speakers in my bedroom, controlled by my portable device.  That connection was still working quite well as Dylan and I were playing, tease the snapping Zombie.  Unknown to us at the time, the reason we are not hearing the gruesome sound is because it was blasting away in the back bedroom for the benefit of my unsuspecting wife.  When we put the haunting experience in perspective we laughed a lot, and I immediately changed the delivery of the sound.
Some in my family will contend  this is just another example of my continuing damage to the nerves and psyche of those around me.  Ask my sister, both my nieces, my sons and Elaine (the little girl in our Abernathy neighborhood).  I contend that it is just a matter of bad timing and questionable judgement as a kid with no intent to warp my family and my loved ones.  However, I am sure that no jury would acquit me on charges of "gas lighting" those around me. 
But really, your Honor, this haunting was just an accidental speaker connection.
As you were,

Friday, July 08, 2011

Ducks are keeping me from writing...
Deadlines and ducks have kept my blog empty this week. I will return from the pond this weekend and will continue to fling cyber words at the masses.  As they say a picture is worth a thousand words. So here are two thousand words which is about how many I write in a week.  I know this is a cheap way to keep to catch up, but I will be BACK this next week.  Thanks for checking in and I promise more tales from the fragmented mind soon.
Oh and by the way, now that the Casey Anthony Trial is over can we fire Nancy Grace? Send her home and take her holier than thou ass off television. She has become more irritating than Judge Judy, but without the charm.  If I were to cast the Snow White, Nancy  Grace would be the evil queen.  If I wanted a poster girl for what is wrong with the legal system in this country, I would hire "helmet hair Nancy".  There is nothing more irritating than an aging cheerleader who has become a know it all.

As you were,