Wednesday, March 31, 2010

My Mona Lisa  
Last week Sandi and I went to the beach with a couple of our friends to watch the sunset.  It was clear in the Valley, but over cast at the beach. I was hoping to be inspired by the sun's fall into the ocean, but it wasn't to be that day.  However,  Christine's hat caught my attention with the way  it was shaped as the wind caught it, so I sketched it. Using a photograph I took at the time as my pallet for texture and color, I created this picture with my digital airbursh.  It's not a picture of Chris or any beach I have ever been to before. I call it "Mona Lisa Sunset."  I am sure Mr. Davinci   is rolling in his grave.
As you were - Jay 

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Up date your FaceBook Status?
I thought I had heard everything when the LA Times published a story about an escaped prisoner who updated his dash to freedom on his FaceBook status.  He gave police a moment by moment, status by status, account of his run and was arrested at his mother's house after FaceBooking his intent to go and see her.  Have we found the intelligence level of a "modern day socially networked criminal"? 
This following a story about the "Bling Ring". This is a group of Calabasas teenagers who stole expensive jewelery worn by young celebrities. The gang knew which celebrities owned the bling from seeing  their "red carpet" pictures posted on the Internet.  By following their activities on Twitter, FaceBook and TMZ, the bling ring knew when a celebrity would be attending a high profile event.  That is the night they chose to rob their house, an address they got off the Internet.
It's not the fact that some people may be totally uninterested in what you post on FaceBook, the problem is... you don't know who might  *really* be interested in what you post on FaceBook.  Just so we're all clear, everyone knows these "social networking" sites are very public?  Right?  We've seen that show "To Catch a Preditor " with Chris Hanson on Dateline NBC?  Everyone agreed? These sites are being "trolled" by lots of people you wouldn't want to "friend",  Right?
Now think about this. The number of people who have access to your online information has just grown exponentially.  It was a corporate decision that didn't involve your permission. 

 As of Friday, March 26, 2010, 3:04 p.m. PDT,  FaceBook is allowing information about you to be automatically shared with other websites.  It is a major change in the way your FaceBook information is dispersed.  It wasn't voted on by the members, it was just a policy change, an executive decision. Here is an excerpt of the new policy:
Pre-Approved Third-Party Websites and Applications. In order to provide you with useful social experiences off of Facebook, we occasionally need to provide General Information about you to pre-approved third party websites and applications.....*
My friend David Sinkler found a blog about it at *Between the Lines posted by Larry Dignan.   FaceBook has grown in membership by 82% in the last two years.  The more people, the more information, the more value to FaceBook and less privacy for anyone.  It is a cautionary tale.  Don't think that any company is above using valuable information for private profit. In the words of President Obama, "Be careful what you post on FaceBook."
(Documented and fact checked by Walter Helmhurst - Ed.)

As you were,

Monday, March 29, 2010

"Let that man on the Boat"
And just as the Santo Domingo  policeman with the automatic weapon was trying to handcuff me, the cruise director ran down the gang way and handed my ticket to the officer. The cop let go of me and it was the first moment I felt I might  actually get off the island with all my stuff.  But, I'm getting ahead of myself.

In the very early days of my career, I was hired to fly to Santiago Santa Domingo, board the Marconi, a cruise ship, and sail back to New York.  It was my very first experience on a cruise ship.  On board the Marconi a New York production company was filming a movie for cable called "Don't Rock the Boat" or the "Maltese Capon,"  an ill written spoof of the Maltese Falcon mystery.  I had a small part as a night club performer. It was a troubled production, actors quit before filming, leads had to be switched and the logistics of doing a movie on a cruise ship at that time was daunting.  They were touting the fact that it was the first movie ever shot entirely on a cruise ship at sea.  I don't think the movie was actually ever sold or released.  The Marconi was dry docked in an American port a month later for "health violations" and soon after taken out of service.

JoAnne Worley was one of the actors in the film. It was on this trip that JoAnne and I met  and we have been friends ever since.  But, again, I am getting ahead of myself.

After changing planes in New York, I landed in Santo Domingo.  Unfortunately my luggage did not arrive with me.  This included my partner Bob who was to perform with me in the movie.  It was the first time I had ever had trouble with checked luggage.  It was extremely stressful made worse by the fact that I was in a foreign country.  It was after this trip that I designed a case that would allow me to carry Bob on the plane and I have never checked him since.  

From the hotel I called my manager.  He had been able to track down the luggage and it would be on the first flight from New York the next morning.  My instructions were, go the to airport to meet that flight.  If the luggage is not on that flight, catch the first flight home... don't get on the boat.  I spent the equivelint  of $40 US dollars on a toothbrush and  razor at the over priced hotel gift shop, and  a really lonely night wondering if I would ever see my stuff again.

The next morning I checked out of the hotel and made my way to the airport.  The luggage arrived (that's another chapter to this story... later), so now all I have to do is get on the boat.  A cab driver drops me off at the dock, which is empty save a few shady dock workers at the far end of the pier.  I can see the ship in the distance as it approaches.  I look very much out of place on the dock with my luggage.  In the mean time I have found some shade under the eve of a dock side shack to wait out the arrival of the Marconi. 

One worker slinks up to me, and in broken English he says, "So  you are from California, eh? You are a long way from home."  He had already sized me up and read the name tags on my luggage.  I definitely had the feeling I was being set up for some kind of scam.  He asked me if I needed help with my luggage, I politely told him I was fine. That didn't seem to be the answer he wanted from me and he left.

Soon after a police officer appeared and approached me. He looked like one of Castro's soldiers in green fatigues and an Uzi strapped around his shoulder.  He wanted to know what I was doing.  I told him that I was here to get on that boat.  It was visible on the horizon so I pointed out to it.  He said, "Let me see your ticket."  I told him I didn't have it with me, the ticket was on the boat.  He said, "How will you get on the boat to get a ticket, if you don't have a ticket to get on the boat.   Let me see your passport."  He took my passport and walked away.

After what seemed like hours the boat tied up to the dock, 20 feet from my shady spot.  It was very impressive to see this huge ship suddenly dominate the small dock.  The gangway was secured and I picked up my stuff and headed that way.  In retrospect, after boarding many ships, it seems odd  to me that no one was getting off the ship while I was trying to get on.

Although I had not seen him since he took my passport the cop appeared again and stopped me at the foot of the gang way.  "Where is your ticket?" he said. I told him again it was on the boat, and he insisted that I didn't get on the boat with out a ticket. I told him I would need my passport to get my ticket. He thought for a moment, took my passport out of his breast pocket and gave it back to me.
JoAnne was watching this exchange from the deck above and yelled to the cop, "Let that man on the Boat." I yelled back that the police wouldn't let me on the boat without my ticket.  JoAnne yelled again, "Let that man on the boat." And disappeared. 

I had my passport but the cop was right beside me and I was going nowhere.  Suddenly there was a scuffle down the way and the cop ran over to take care of business.  Everything started happening at once.  Three crew guys ran down the gangway and grabbed my luggage and hauled it up the plank.  There was only room enough on the gangway for single passage so I had to wait for the luggage  to clear a path.  I quickly started up the gangway but the cop spotted me and gave chase. He caught me and grabbed me half way up the gangway. He had my arm and was struggling to twist it behind my back to cuff me.  At the same moment the cruise director was running down the gangway with some paper work.  It was my ticket.  He handed it to the cop, who checked it carefully and let me go.  As if he had been reborn  a different person he politely said, "You have a ticket, you can get on board."  

To this day, even across a crowded room, if JoAnne Worley sees me she will yell out in her overriding voice.  "Let that Man on the boat," and we laugh.  The perspective of time often makes terrifying events quite amusing.
As you were,

Saturday, March 27, 2010

DRAGON CLOCK - (cherry wood burl) carved by artist/ventriloquist/puppet maker
Art Sieving
Circa 1962 - Currently residing in a private collection on display at the 
"The Smoking Dragon Pub"
Decatur, Texas

Friday, March 26, 2010

More Observations
Yesterday as I was wondering around the Wallgreens my attention was suddenly high-jacked by an exchange taking place at the pharmacy.  A middle aged, type A personality, male dressed in a nice sport coat and no tie was very upset with the lady behind the counter.

It was certainly none of my business ... so I casually browsed the laxative section as I walked closer to hear what they were saying.  I am one of those people who avoids conflict like it was poison, if it involves me, but when it's got nothing to do with me I'm attracted like a moth to the flame. 

Although I couldn't ask questions to verify the facts here is the jest of what I gathered.  Mr. A Personality is over heated because his prescription was not ready.  He mentioned several times that this was his third visit and there was still a problem with his pills.  The lady in the white coat is not making eye contact with him. Her eyes are glued to the computer screen in front of her.  As she speaks she types furiously, pauses, squints a disgusted face and types some more.  It went something like this:

Lady - "Yes, Yes, I see that you were due for a refill last Tuesday."

Man - "That was three days ago. I called it in and came by... you told me it would be ready that afternoon. It wasn't.  I came back.....

Lady- "Yes, I have the refill request right here....

Man- "Then why can't you give me my prescription?"

Lady - "The doctor needs to verify the higher dosage and he has not called yet....

Man - "I talked to him yesterday... he said his nurse... Beverly called it in on Tuesday."

Lady - "I just don't have a record of anyone calling and I guess he is out of the office today because he is not answering his phone."

Man - "Well of course he is out of the office it's March madness he is watching basketball at the country club.. Don't you have NCAA where you come from.... I need my prescription and I don't want to have to come back for it. I would like to be calmly watching basketball right now myself."

Lady - "Are you out of meds now?"

He is getting a little louder now... I don't have to listen quite so intently.  I stroll into the acid reflux section.

Man - "I have been out of my meds..SINCE TUESDAY... you people don't seem to get it....."

Lady - "And what is it that you take this medication for...."

The veins pop on the guys neck and he yells at her lunging at the counter


As you were,

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Drug Store Analysis
The construction at the corner of Woodley and Ventura is finally complete.  What was once a single story doctor’s office complex is now a four story multipurpose building that covers an entire block.  The top two floors are upscale residence condos with street level retail stores.   I was happy when a branch of John O’Groats, a nice west side bar and restaurant, opened up.  They even have an out door section where you can dine under a gigantic oak tree filled with blue lights in the evening.  Very Californian, set off from Ventura Blvd. to make it seem like you are a long way from Encino.

However, when a Walgreen’s drugstore put up a sign with intent to occupy the corner space, I wasn’t as thrilled.  There is a full service Ralph’s Supermarket with a drug store a block away and a Gelson’s supermarket across the street.  A new Walgreen’s didn’t seem that necessary.  However, this morning I was looking for a specific part for my electric razor so I dropped by the new Walgreen’s.

The minute I walked into the place my attitude changed noticeably.  I became aware of a feeling of excitement.  It was a thrill just being in the new store, so I decided to analyze what had brought on this new outlook.  Here is my conclusion:

The entire idea of walking through a modern drug store excites my latent AAD/ADD narcissistic tendencies.  I suspect it is a calculated marketing ploy to appeal to that level in all humans.  On the AAD/ADD level there are thousands of items lined up on dozens of shelves. The distractions seem to go on for miles. You can go from cold remedies to acid reflux treatments to shaving products without even becoming aware you have been distracted.  As long as you keep walking there is something new to occupy your attention with every step.  “Let your femurs do the watching.” (That play on the yellow pages is probably as dated as my Polaroid references.)

The drugstore retail display also works well for the narcissist in us all. Everywhere you turn there are wares to make you feel good, play better, satisfy indulgences, think younger and most important of all look better.  These products will give you the same hair, skin, eyes, color, youth and beauty as the white toothed, well groomed, hard-bodied 20 something models on the package.  Better than a room full of mirrors it is a room full of beautiful pictures of what you can become for the price of purchase.  Implied by the picture on a box of men’s hair dye I can have a beautiful blond model hanging on my arm with one treatment. 

As I looked around I began to think that if I hit the lottery tomorrow I would be a fool not to take the entire winnings in product at Walgreen’s. 

Only when I got home did the feeling began to wane.  It was then I noticed  I had purchased a great new shampoo to make my puppy’s coat shine like he was the best in show.  We don’t have a dog.
As you were,

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

From the Editor's desk:
Walter Helmhurst, Ed.

Normally this eight ball graphic would appear as a stand-alone blog entry for  this edition of "The World is a Stage".  As the editor of this publication I think an explanation to you, the readers, is necessary.

For some time now Mr. Johnson has delivered these Eight Ball graphics for publication in Wednesday’s edition of "The World is a Stage". Contractually Mr. Johnson is obligated to deliver an acceptable blog five days a week, Monday through Friday. The Better Bloggers Bureau, governing authority for  Internet publications, believes the "Jaysons Magic Eight Ball, Wednesday series” may not meet the standard legal definition of "a blog entry." This would mean Mr. Johnson could be in breach of contract.

Technically the "Jaysons Magic Eight Ball" Wednesday series is a cartoon. I understand Mr. Johnson crafts this art himself and  spends as much time creating it as he would writing a blog. But in the opinion of the BBB this so called "art" can not be considered, in the legal sense, an "acceptable blog".  By definition the "Jaysons Magic Eight Ball" Wednesday series can only be considered a cartoon log or Clog. The law firm of Capra, Copolla, Kazan and Houston who represents the Better Blogger's Bureau is looking into the matter and will have an opinion as soon as their check clears.

"The World is a Stage" will continue to accept whatever "entry" Mr. Johnson sends us to publish and work within his traveling schedule. If his writings continue to be acceptable and are within the bylaws of the BBB, we will allow an occasional drawing for publication (until such time as  the  attorneys are able to determine if these "clogs " fulfill his contractual obligation to write. )

On a personal note to Mr. Johnson: Please reconsider sending us the "Jaysons Magic Eight Ball" series as your Wednesday contribution.  Our research shows that "Jaysons Magic Eight Ball" has fewer fans than the "Jam Shade" series, which had a readership  even lower than "Medium Rare's Weakly Horoscope".  If you put the time it takes coming up with these "graphic conceptuals" into doing something useful,  no telling where you would be today. 

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sandi looked at my new headline banner and said, "The World is a stage? Looks more like the world is a planet." Instead of the quote being, "The world is a stage and everyone in it a player...."it  should in reality be,  "The world is a stage and everyone in it an art CRITIC."
Do Birds retain publishing rights?
The birds have been singing intensely and almost constantly this last week.  I don't know one bird call from another but there is one fledgling that sings a familiar tune. It makes me smile every time I hear it.  It's not a song that has a title.  I'm not sure it is even a song, perhaps more along the lines of a melodic chant.  Without the benefit of audio it is difficult to explain it but here goes.  It is the three note riff that people chant when egging someone on. As in: "Go Rick-ie... Go Rick-ie... Go Rick-ie ..Go Rick-ie".

I tried to work it out on the piano as far as steps of the scale.  First note "Go",  second note is one and a half steps down: "Rick" and third note: "ie" is one full step higher than "Rick" and a half step lower than "Go".  I just read that back and now even *I* am confused.  I guess it is one of those things where "you have to be there."

I worked with a singer at the Horn years ago named Brian Richards.  He wrote some really good songs.  I think of one of his lyrics often, especially when I hear a song bird.
"Bird sings cause he wants to sing, he doesn't get paid to sing, he just sings... the way I sing for you."
 A writer writes because he has to write....doesn't always get paid to write... he just writes... the way I write for you.
As you were,

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Trendy Tire Tie
This is a blog written several years ago on another website by Jay Johnson
Editor for "The World is a Stage
 Walter Helmhurst
At a Lutheran Brotherhood Top Club Sales Meeting where I performed recently I was reminded that this was not the first time I have worked for LB. In 1973 I did a children's fire safety movie entitled "The Friendly Fire-Fly and his Fire Fighter Friend" sponsored by Lutheran Brotherhood. Friendly Firefly was a puppet I created for the movie. I wrote the script but I did not title the film. As a ventriloquist I would never have titled the project with so many F's. To the best of my ventriloquial ability it came out "The Trendly Tire tie and his Tire Tighter Trend."
This is a picture of the Friendly FireFly puppet and poster on display at VentHaven Museum, Ft. Mitchell, KY. They also have a copy of the 16mm print of which is to my knowledge the only one still around.

Updated format for The World is a Stage - Blog.
In the words of noted sociologist Gruber Van Gairdz, "I don't mind change as long as things remain the same." 
Only a few days left to vote in the poll.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

 What's Different?-
We have changed to a new format for the Jay Johnson Blog. However it will continue with the same content. It is more difficult to upgrade a writer than a graphic design. If you have feelings either way please vote in the poll on the right.
Editor for "The World is a Stage" - Walter Helmhurst


Saturday, March 20, 2010

If you have feelings either way please vote in the poll on the right.
Editor for "The World is a Stage" - Walter Helmhurst
Keep staring at this grid...
To some it will look like a checker
cloth draped over a basketball.
For others it will tend make their eyes

Friday, March 19, 2010

Time to redecorate. This is a new format for the Jay Johnson Blog. For those like me who resist change it may be too shocking... However it will continue with the same content. You can dress up a pig but it's still a breakfast meat. This may not be permanent. If you have strong feelings either way send a comment or participate in the poll on the right, and let me know.

Editor for "The World is a Stage" - Walter Helmhurst
The explanation is difficult.

The word "doody" is not in the dictionary but it is certainly a part of my vocabulary. Is is slang for the word "doo doo", which is in the dictionary. By definition Doo Doo: a noun, is a child's word for excrement used euphemistically in other contexts like, "When the accelerator on your Toyota sticks while driving, you are in deep doo doo."

Euphemistically the word doody bestows the same context of disgust to anything associated with it, in the same deference doo doo does. Anything with doody on it should be avoided, and you would never want doody on anything you come in contact with for many reasons.

There is sometimes confusion over the word "doody" because it is an almost perfect homonym for the word "duty" which is: a moral or legal obligation or responsibility. A duty like a doody is not associated with a pleasant experience. A duty is a task. To make things even more complicated a duty is also a tax. The tax on purchased goods is called a duty. The phrase duty free goods is almost liberating. Duty free, free of tax; and Doody free, free of crap. Once again you never want duty on anything you come in contact with.

Unfortunately, Doody is also the last name of a famous string puppet who was extremely popular on Saturday morning television in the nineteen fifties, Howdy Doody. I watched the show as a kid and I am still a big Howdy Doody fan. Because of this, I have used the word Doody for most of my life. I am certain that no excrement reference was intended when they named the puppet. The word simply rhymed with Howdy. I will admit to using the word doody more often to indicate doo doo than the famous puppet. When use of the word shit is not appropriate doody will work as a polite alternative.

Now there is one occurrence where the words duty and doody are interchangeable in sound meaning and thought. It is found in the phrase Jury Duty - an obligation or responsibility to a jury and Jury Doody, - the shit you have to go through to serve on a jury.

I was on call for jury duty this week and did not want to participate. I had appealed and postponed jury duty as long as I could. As the system is now, nightly one phones in his juror number to see if he must report the next day. Last night I called and the recorded voice of a lady told me that I did not need to come in on Friday and my obligation as a juror was finished.

I was glad because it would have been doo doo to do the dirty doody duty of jury duty.

As you were,

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Missed a Step
Usually I take my Ipod to the gym and program my own sound track to physical exertion. Hint: Mozart is really great for working out. Don't know why but his repetitious phrases and quick tempos seem to be work well with jogging and counting.

Today I forgot and left my Ipod at home. I was defenseless against the human drama that is the Encino fitness club. Suddenly I am aware of everyone around me. I think the same archetypes populate every gym. There is the cougar trying to chase away age with a stair master, the young guy beefing up for the audition, the old lady that can barely pedal the stationary bike, the steroid muscle head that is irritated anyone else is trying to use the free weights. And of course the loud mouth type A personality on his cell phone yelling at a business associate as he punishes the elliptical machine.

Today there was another character added to the cast of usuals. A lady in her 30's, blond with dark cat eye glasses, purple warm-up pants and a white top paced behind the treadmills like a tiger in a cage. The instant the time on the machine next to me read 20 minutes the cat lady was all over the person on that machine to give it up. There is a 20 minute limit on cardio equipment when people are waiting. The cat lady was exacting about that rule, and that is how she ended up on the machine next to me.

At first I thought the display on her treadmill had problems because she knocked on it three times before she began to walk. I say walk but it was actually a deliberate stomping march with swinging bent arm movement making her look almost mechanical. She repeated this movement for 10 seconds, knocked on the face of the machine three times, held on to the handle bar for 10 seconds, knocked on the machine three times again, then repeated the bent arm movement.

She then stopped the treadmill, exited off the back, turned three times to the left, paced behind, knocked three times on the crunch weights and headed back to the treadmill to begin the process all over again. By the third time I had memorized her routine. At first the regimen was an irritation, but at some point I began to anticipate the three knocks and count the seconds between. Her OCD had absolutely infected my own work out. Knock, knock, knock and I would start counting one, Mississippi, two, Mississippi, and at ten Mississippi there would be another three knocks. My own pace had begun to match the rhythm cat lady had established. It was actually serving the same purpose as Mozart.

I was on automatic really forgetting about anything but finishing my work out when I was counting, five Mississippi, and KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCK. She knocked early. It threw me and I actually tripped, my hand grabbed for the handle bar but I grabbed the towel instead which slid off on the the track where I stepped on it and stumbled off the back.

Lesson learned? Keep my old ipod, the one that doesn't do video in my gym bag with the set of earphones I took from my last plane flight. Never, be without Mozart again at the gym.

At the end of my workout cat lady was knocking on the ab weights preparing to mount the tread mill again. The machines either side of her were empty.... I guess I was the last to know it is dangerous to work out next to cat lady.

As you were,

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Las Vegas
Saturday night was the one year anniversary of the Terry Fator show at the Mirage. Terry was nice enough to invite me and Sandi to attend the celebration and honor this accomplishment. I was thrilled to get the chance. Although I have met Terry and seen small clips of his act, I had never seen his complete show at the Terry Fator Theatre until last Saturday night.

It was a fabulous show. I was completely impressed. It could be one of the best ventriloquist shows I have ever seen. His musical talent and ventriloquism come together in a wonderful performance that can be enjoyed by anyone. He is charming and unassuming and his characters are distinctive. He even premiered a new character to the cast that night. A crash dummy named Wrex who sings car songs and has a German leaning accent. Wrex will become a valued part of the group. It is hard to pick a favorite cast member among the throngs. The ads say a cast of thousands... you have the feeling you have seen many more at the end of the evening.

Note to Terry: Way to go, my friend. As a fellow ventriloquist I am very proud of what you are doing. As a fellow entertainer I am inspired by your abilities. Your technique is virtually flawless and your characters are wonderfully inspired. You have given ventriloquism a legitimate seat at the table of high end legitimate entertainment.

As is the way for Los Angeles residents, the first person I ran into as I got off the elevator at the Mirage in Las Vegas was Fred Willard. Fred lives three or four doors down from me. His schedule and mine hardly ever cross so I rarely see him in the neighborhood. We had a great time and I reconnected with this wife and daughter whom I had met 25 years before in, you guessed it... Las Vegas. Fred's daughter, Hope, remembered I taught her a magic trick back then that she has never forgotten.

The best part of the trip was hanging out with my favorite ventriloquist and friend Jimmy Nelson and his beautiful wife Betty who were also personally invited to the Terry Fator Show. Pre-show we walked the red carpet together and then took pictures with Terry in his dressing room. Dan Horn and Clinton Detweiler were also there to round out the ventriloquist representation. Terry's dressing room is a cross between a fabulous lounge, green room and puppet/memorabilia museum.

After the star studded anniversary show there was a party at BB Kings. Terry sang a very long set with the band on stage at the club. I couldn't believe it. After a fabulous show he had the energy to sing with the band at BB's.

Because it was very loud at the party, Jimmy, Betty, Sandi and I soon opted for a quiet dinner at the Japion Restaurant on the other side of the casino, and sneaked away from the Fator festivities. It will be an evening I can never forget. Jimmy Nelson is a most charming, entertaining and classy man. I know now why I always looked up to him and wanted to be like him. He is matched in wit, humor and charm by his wife Betty Nelson. We traded stories and I picked their memories for jewels of real life happenings. I wish it had all been recorded, but no reproduction would do the evening justice. It is just something that happens. It is a chance to momentarily stop time and be at one with a legend, your hero and mentor. It just doesn't get any better. At times like this I realize how blessed I am to be a ventriloquist and how honored I am to be accepted into that exclusive fraternity.

Thanks for the opportunity and the experience last weekend Terry. Unforgettable.

As you were,

Saturday, March 13, 2010

As quickly as you can...
say the color of each word out loud.
Hint: Yellow is Black

Friday, March 12, 2010

Exaggerators Anonymous
It seems like a 12 step process can be applied to almost any problem. I have a friend who is a chronic exaggerator. He exaggerates all the time and it really gets in the way of any social interaction, because you never know what the truth really is. Most any statistic he quotes is made up.

Online I found an organization called Exaggerators Anonymous with meetings here in the San Fernando Valley. I suggested that my friend check it out. He said he would. I wasn 't sure if that was, yet again, another one of his exaggerations.

I ran into him yesterday. We talked for a minute and finally I got around to asking him if he had started the program. He said no. When I asked him why he told me "I was going to go to Exaggerators Anonymous... but didn't have the time... They must have a thousand meetings a week."

I made that up... it's Friday. I am trying to solve a second act problem.
As you were,

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Wrong Audience...again...
In New York as I am coming out of my hotel room a housekeeping supervisor with a clip board is finishing the inspection of a room next door. She is very pleasant as we both head to the elevator. She says to me, with business like efficiency, "How did you find your room?"

I say, "Oh, I just turned right at the hallway and there it was on the left." She looked at me with an expression I have come to know all too well when I ply my comic talents in social situations. It was the blank stare of disconnect.

"So, there were enough towels?" she said, in the same business like manner. I knew she didn't get it. Not wanting to make the same mistake I did with the desk clerk on the ship trying to explain Polaroid cameras.... I decided to come clean.

I wait until we are in the elevator and the courtesy silence settles in to say... "You know that was my attempt at a joke... You said how did you find your room and I said I found it right there around the corner on the left.... (Pause) ... how did I *find* my room... (beat)."

In a monotone voice and a dead-pan-Buster Keaton-esque-look she says, "Oh...I see... (thinking it over... but not laughing)... funny."

Without a further word, she got off the elevator at the next floor, . I continued my decent measured in more ways than just floors. By the time I reach the bottom, physically and emotionally, I have applied the comics golden rule in these situations. I convince myself it is not the fault of the joke or the way it was delivered..... it was the wrong audience.

As you were,

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Ventriloquist Documentary
Last week end I attended the showing of "I'm No Dummy" at the New York International Children's Film Festival. The DVD was in some ways a strange choice for the presenters to showcase at a children's film festival. I'm not sure that kids are the ultimate audience for this DVD. Seventy year old black and white footage of Edgar Bergen is not really a video generations fair. But the sold out audience of kids from 8 to 12 seemed to like it a lot. After the screening Lynn Trefzger, Tom Ladshaw and myself took questions and taught a quick workshop on ventriloquism. We participated in a similar event at the Seattle International Film Festival.

The kids questions were not soft balls. I was amazed by the depth of their interest. They really wanted to know the internal workings of the art form rather than just how you say the letter "B" without moving you lips.

Although I have seen various cuts of the film, the version we saw in New York is the final version that will be released on April 6th. It is a little odd to see Jeff Dunham on film talking about how much he enjoys being a ventriloquist and how he hopes it will never fade, since he is currently trying to block the release of the film with a lawsuit.

One judge has already thrown the case out of court with a summary judgement dismissal, but the Dunham team refiled. This version of the same case will probably be thrown out as well, but only after the lawyers have milked it for all they can get. In lawsuits like this it is not a matter of who is right or who is wrong, but who can out spend the other.

I don't understand the issue. Jeff looks really good in the film. He is intelligent, artistic and articulate. He is featured in the interviews and in performance bits. His success and accomplishments are acknowledged and lauded. Seems like he would want some positive image re-enforcement. I just don't get it.

As you were,

Friday, March 05, 2010

Good Deed for the Day
The first of the week I was in Labadee, Haiti. Labadee is a section of the island of Hispaniola that RCCL leases as a tropical paradise for a cruise ship passengers. Is is about 60 miles from the destruction and chaos of Port Au Prince and the devastation of the earthquake.

RCCL has taken some hits lately because tourists are on luxury vacations in Labadee while on the other side of the island the locals are struggling just to survive. I don't say this just because I work for them occasionally, but RCCL is doing much more than people know to help their hosts. First of all the cruise ship industry is the only income for this part of the Island, if the ships stopped coming it would make it even more difficult to recover. The ship provides thousands of dollars weekly to the revenue stream. Other than sunshine the passengers are not taking anything away from the island since the ship provides all the food and water for their guests. There is no negative impact on the people of Haiti as they are building back.

Every day a ship stops by tons of supplies are unloaded.
Ships can carry hundreds of times more supplies than planes. These mega ships even more so. This is a picture I took of the more than five truck loads of supplies the Liberty of The Seas brought and unloaded. Every ship that stops by brings an equal amount of supplies, and as long as a ship is coming there to bring tourists, there is no cost to the Haitian government. The supply shipment is covered by the cost of the vacationers tickets.

So although it may appear to be a case of the wealthy fiddling while Haiti burns, it really is much more complex than that. It really is a win/win situation.

Bravo to my sometimes employer for adding aid and support to their list of daily cruise activities.

As you were,

Thursday, March 04, 2010

"You kids get off my lawn."

When I was checking onto the ship there was a cute girl behind the pursers desk. We struck up a conversation about my show. She said, "Your show must be very good since they've assigned you a suite and not a crew cabin." I bragged that my show was very good but said I also had some "compomising Polaroids of the Captain in my safety deposit box."

She had no reaction except confusion. I immediately realize that, for her, a reference to Polaroid pictures is from Pluto. I haven't used that joke in 30 years and it was probably too old to use at that time.

The girl behind the desk is much to young to know about Polaroid Cameras. I momentarily forget that although I play with dolls that is probably the only thing we have in common. I'm am, after all, more than twice her age.

I tried to explain (comics never give up on a joke or a possible laugh) but it went immediately wrong: "Why....back in my day we had to wait 60 seconds to see a snap shot."

At this point my wife, if she was here, would simply look at me and say "you kids get off my lawn" and I would laugh. That is her signal that I have started sounding like the crazy old man up the street.

There is a phrase Charles R Meeker, Jr. (My first boss and show biz mentor) used to say, and I quote: "there comes a time in a man's life when temptation is easy to resist because it becomes so hard to find."

Time was when I could make a cute girl behind the desk giggle with a joke. Damn, if I will stop trying now. I refuse to believe I am ready to do command performances for the Red Hat Society.

As you were,

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Hey Nineteen

On deck three just outside "On the Air", which is a Kareoke bar on the ship, there are forty or so 8x10 photos of famous singers decorating the wall.

I am looking at these pictures when a Mother, Father and Daughter step between me and the display. I don't know how old the daughter is but she looks nineteen.

Mom is attempting to name all the singers by just looking at their pictures. There are no names to check her accuracy. She identifies Patsy Kline as "some country singer". Diana Ross is identified as Holly Berry, she insists it is Stevie Davis, Jr. who sang "Candy Man" and misses Usher totally, but she is doing fairly well otherwise.

There is a picture of a black lady on the top row. To me it is an easy one but Mom looks at the picture for a moment and says "I don't remember who that is."

I smile on the outside but inside I am laughing uncontrolablly, entertaining myself with a show written, directed and performed for an audience of one.... me. I give this moment the mental equivalent of a standing ovation.

Being a huge fan of Steely Dan's music, I suddenly find myself actually living one of their lyrics. At this moment the perfect thing to say to the young daughter is straight from the song "Hey Nineteen" on the AJA album. Had my friend Rob Dixon been here I could make him fall down with laughter by saying it out loud:

"Hey Nineteen, that's Aretha Franklin, she don't remember the queen of soul".

I suspect Dix and I might be the only ones to find the humor in it, but just because the material is only for a select few does not make it less important.

"She thinks I'm crazy but I'm just growin' old. Hey Nineteen".
AJA- music and lyrics by Donald Fagen and Walter Becker.

As you were,

Monday, March 01, 2010


My world would be science fiction to some one living just a century ago. I am trying to imagine if I could even explain it to a counterpart living in 1910.
My home is in Los Angeles, California but last week I commuted to work on a ship sailing the Caribbean.

It takes me hours to make the trip rather than the weeks or months it would take my counterpart to get there.

I fly in an airplane (larger than a train which, in 1910, is the fastest mode of transportation) The Wright Brothers have only discovered motorized flight a few years before.

The ship I work on is almost double the tonnage and triple the size of the Titanic. (Which won't sail for another two years). It accommodates almost four thousand passengers. Double the number on the Titanic.

If my counterpart were on a ship, in his time, the only form of communication would be a radio telegraph. It would be for official use only and limited in range.
On my ship I pass my time "typing" on a device the size of a deck of cards which I carry in my pocket. Although I could use the same device to speak to anyone in person, I choose to send essays instantly through the air to be published on a paper less delivery system available to people all over the world.
How will my future counterpart be conducting business in 2110? I wish I was imaginative enough to venture a guess. I would write it down and become the next Jules Verne who, by the way, died in 1905.

For now I will just try to entertain them again tomorrow night and get back home.

As you were,