Tuesday, October 31, 2017

A Fitting Farewell To An Amazing "Seance" Season...

For the past three years I have worked at Lagoon Amusement Park's Frightmares, their season-ending ode to Halloween. The first two years were fun, but this year was beyond fun, beyond anything I could have imagined. Simply put, I had a blast!

I've done my fair share of shows over the years. Almost all come with bittersweet endings. It's amazing how friendships can form in such a short period of time. You get used to doing the show and seeing each other and when you close the door to the theater you know you'll see everyone soon.

Until the show ends, then all bets are off.

Last night we prepped the stage like we've done each time before. We welcomed in the guests, sat them in their seats, then proceeded to scare the crap out of them. I'd feel bad, except the people have come willingly--even paid extra for the opportunity--to get the crap scared out of them.

I've blogged about the show before, but I've not said much about it. It seems others who have seen the show have kept quiet, too. I had the pleasure of greeting the patrons, getting to know them a little bit. Hardly anyone knew what they were in for--it's one of the reasons the show's been so successful. 

I also got to thank everyone for coming. When they came in before the show I saw smiles, apprehension, nervousness. When they left, their faces told different stories. I saw shock, terror, relief, and in many case, complete and utter awe at what they had just experienced. Sometimes I ran into those on the park who saw the show. We spoke as if we were included in some secret club, knowing things others don't. 

I looked at the crowds before they entered and if they hadn't seen the show, there's just no way they can possibly understand what they're in for. When I told them the show is like nothing they've ever experienced before, I meant it. I was confident is saying it. Because it was true.

Those with whom I performed the show were the absolute best! From the men and women who built the space, to the genius behind its conception, to those of us lucky enough to be chosen to put it on, all created something special, something well done, something memorable. And, with the exception of our first show, we couldn't have asked for better crowds to end this year's run--they were fantastic!

Hopefully, the show will return next September. They'll need a greeter, of course. I may or may not be that person. If not, I'll always remember the past eight weeks because the show was great and we all had a blast doing it.

Monday, October 30, 2017

More Work Creativity...For Halloween!

Last Halloween I was blown away with the way my building looked. The employees went out of their minds decorating their cubicles, their walls, their ceilings--everything.

Apparently, they went a little too far.

This year, we were told to tone it down. And being good employees, we obeyed. Today I walked around the building and took some photos of the various departments. There's a contest for the best decorated space. I'm not sure who I would pick, but it's a visual treat to just walk up and down the cubicle rows to see what people will do if you give them a theme and a chance to win something.

Like last year, I won't be at work for the festivities. I'm sure they added more to their creations after I left. Still, even though I enjoy what they do, I'll be glad to be home with the family doing our own decorating. They won't be as elaborate, or possibly creative, but I'll enjoy them more because I'll be with my family. Happy Halloween, everyone!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Power Tools And Pumpkin Carving...

My wife saw something the other day on the internet--a new way to help carve a pumpkin.

I'm sure it's not revolutionary, but it was new to us.

I imagine people have been carving out pumpkins as long as there have been humans and pumpkins. Though, I'm sure our forefathers would think us crazy to hollow out the inside of a perfectly good gourd and basically not use what's inside. My guess would be that in olden days they used the entire pumpkin, both the inside and the outside. Even though we bake the pumpkin seeds from our Halloween jack-o-lanterns, we throw most of what's inside away.

My Wife saw someone using a power drill to help get rid of what's inside the pumpkin. We decided to try it. For her, scooping out the insides is one of the things she dislikes about carving pumpkins. 

We tried it and the verdict--

Basically, it helped. It didn't change our lives, or make the process effortless, but it did help. I spent much less time getting all the insides out. Next year I'm sure we'll hook up a blender beater to our cordless drill and go to town. And if you think it would help you, give it a try!

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Who Needs A Cart...When You're Shopping At A Thrift Store?

I picked out the shoes first. I needed shoes that wouldn't slide all over the floor for my upcoming show (it only takes a director to tell you--in the middle of the number, mind you--that you're being singled out for causing traffic problems in a dance number...). I put them on; they felt pretty good so I decided to walk around the thrift store to see how they felt after a few minutes.

From there, with my own shoes in hand, I meandered to the handbag/backpack section. My current backpack is a tad on the small side. I found a nice Ogio bag that was in fantastic condition, so I picked that one up as well. Since I opened up all the backpack pockets to see the overall condition, I decided to just slip my shoes into the backpack.

Fast forward a few minutes and my backpack was full of knick knacks (I swapped my shoes for those I was buying...) and I brought the whole thing to the checkout counter. As I left, I glanced at all those thrift store shopping carts waiting for people to taken then on yet another journey around the building. My shopping adventure didn't require four potentially squeaky wheels that may or may not careen into other shoppers and/or merchandise. All I needed was a slightly-used backpack.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Happy Birthday, Mom...Happy 86th!

Tonight, after doing six shows at Frightmares, I drove my little car into a cemetery and placed a carved pumpkin on an headstone. 

It's something I've done on this day every year.

Of course, sometimes I arrive earlier in the day. This time, I couldn't make it until the day, October 27th, was almost over.

This time I chose a simple design, a ghost forming in the word "BOO." In the past, I've been more creative. But this year, I wanted something different. And I placed one of the rechargeable yard lights that broke inside the pumpkin so that it can shine at night without needing to light a candle.

For as long as I can remember, I've carved a pumpkin for my mother on her birthday. I'm just continuing the tradition. This time, I just barely made it before October 27th became October 28th.

Happy 86th, Mom! Sure wish we could have celebrated together. But, in a way, we did.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

It Worked...And Now...Not So Much

I was looking for a prop for an upcoming show. Truth be told, I'm not really sure if I have the prop--probably not, but that didn't stop me from looking. We don't have a lot of places to stow things, so I was looking in a chest of drawers. That's when I came upon a little plastic bag full of old non-battery powered watches. One caught my eye--a beautiful Seiko Automatic 17 Jewels, blue-on-blue with an oval face.

I decided to see if I could open it up and clean it a little to see if I could get it to go. I took out my make-shift tools and tried to unscrew the back. It didn't budge. It didn't surprise me--many times they don't. No big deal. I set it aside thinking I would put it back when I noticed something.

It was running.

I couldn't believe it. I don't know the watches history--I'm sure I bought it at a thrift store years ago. But there is was...running. It made me happy. And the original band even fit. That was very cool.

I should have left it alone. But I didn't. I noticed after a few days the watch ran a few minutes slow each day. I've had several wind-up watches in my day and many of them have a small adjustment on the back that allows a person to either speed it up or slow it down. I thought if I could just open it up and fiddle with it, I could set the time and not only would it keep running like it was, but it would be a more accurate timepiece.

Today I took it apart.

And it stopped working.


And the worst part was, after I took it apart, I was unable to reach the adjustment movement. The mechanism was encased in metal. Bummer, again!

Then I had an idea--maybe the pressure of it being all in one piece caused it to work before. I quickly put everything back together and...nothing. I could not get it to work. I suppose it's fitting. I had no idea why it suddenly started working and I have no idea why it stopped, other than it needs servicing. 

I suppose I could take it to my sister-in-law's brother. He's a watch/clock repairman. Maybe one day. Then again, maybe I could hide it in my drawer for another decade and see if it suddenly works.

It could happen...

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

"A Man Called Ove"...A Film Review

Earlier this month I blogged about a book I just finished, Fredrik Backman's A Man Called Ove. In short, I loved the book. It's witty, charming, thoughtful, and a delight. I was talking to someone about it and I told them how much I liked the book. They told me they enjoyed the movie as well.

I had no idea they made a movie. Then again, I had no idea the book existed until this month.

It's available right now on Amazon Prime, and I must say, it's a fine tribute to a fine book. I took all these pictures from the trailer, which does a good job at letting you know what you're in for.

The film's in Swedish with English subtitles. I hope you won't let that distract you from enjoying the film. I watched part of it on my iPad and didn't understand much, but when I watched it on TV with my wife, I understood more of the native language. Swedish is basically the same language as Danish, but the accent is much different, especially to a non-native Danish speaker.

The film (like the story that proceeds it...) tells the story of Ove. A curmudgeon and recent widower who must face a his future alone. The man operates in a world where everything works, all rules must be followed--at least, that's the way it should work. What he experiences is much different. People drive where they shouldn't, they park their bikes in non-allowed areas, dogs go to the bathroom wherever they want, and more and more people seem to want to live in a manner different than Ove would have them live.

It's also a wonderful, yet tragic love story (I'm not giving away any spoilers since we find out from the first scenes that Ove recently lost his wife...). As a young man, Ove is shy, but when he finds his true love, they stay together. It was the favorite part of the movie for me.

Surrounding Ove is a cast of misfits (idiots, Ove calls them...) who at first make Ove's life a living hell, but then become his family, a family he's never had with children and even long-estranged friends.

Once in a while a film comes along that surprises you. I loved Millions for that reason, as well as The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. I count A Man Called Ove as one of these as well. If you get a chance, watch it. It's as delightful as the book...almost.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Ever Have A Long Weekend...Or Do Your Weekends Fly By?

It's happened before. I come into work on a Monday and am asked by co-workers how was my weekend.

And I say, it was a very long weekend.

On more than one occasion, after I've told others that my weekend was long, I stop and think about that. Aren't weekends supposed to be short? Aren't they supposed to fly by?

I think they're supposed to, but many times mine don't.

Take my last weekend for example. In addition to my full-time gig, I've been working a show at our local amusement park for Halloween. Normally we only work Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings. Because local schools were out last week, we were also open on Thursday. So, last Thursday I worked my 10-hour shift, and sixty minutes after I clocked out at my old job, I clocked in at the weekend job.

Because of the success of the Halloween show, we've been doing more shows than were originally scheduled. This is a great thing! I love seeing the show sold out and doing more shows so more people can see it. But, it makes for long days.

The weekend would have been even more crazy if we had rehearsals for the Christmas show my daughter and I are in. Normally, we rehearse every weeknight and Saturday mornings. The reason we did shows Thursday night was the same reason they canceled rehearsals this past weekend.

Then came yesterday. I worked my 10-hour shift, took the train home, picked up my daughter at 6pm, came home, hurried and ate, and was at rehearsal at 7pm. We stayed until 10:15pm and seven hours later, I woke up to catch the bus to do it all over again.

I'm not complaining and I hope it doesn't sound like I am. I enjoy each activity I'm doing--it's just when they all come together, this 51-year old gets a little tired.

This next weekend is our last for the Halloween gig. I'll miss it, but I'll enjoy spending more time with the family, too. Here's to another long weekend!

Monday, October 23, 2017

Sherrilyn Kenyon's "Infinity"...A Book Review


When you discover an author--especially an insanely successful author--it can be exciting, but it can also be daunting. There's just so much to read. And insanely successful authors get insanely successful because they're usually fantastic authors.

Of course, I'm talking about Sherrilyn Kenyon and she fits the above description. I just finished the first book in the Chronicles of Nick series called Infinity.

In Infinity, we meet Nick Gautier, fourteen, smart, funny, and about to enter a world of supernatural beings where vampires roam the streets and zombies are taking over his classmates. Kenyon creates in Nick a person who, even though he comes from very humble beginnings, a strong personal code drives him to face nightmares that could bring stronger, older non-teenagers to their knees where they flee in fear. 

Nick is smart, but not too snarky as to become annoying, which happens a lot when I read many YA novels. Some YA books (even middle-grade...) have such annoyingly smart protagonists that it can distract from the story. Nick has a great blend of knowing when to say very funny things at the right time. I laughed several times as the story unfolded.

The Chronicles of Nick series is an off-shoot of Kenyon's Dark-Hunter world. In including Nick's adventures into a world she created for adults, she's engaged the off-ignored male-reading YA audience, something I applaud. There's eight books in the Chronicles of Nick. Eight more chances to get to know the young man as he fights more evil, escapes more traps, and learns how to survive in both worlds. After that, I've only got several dozen Dark-Hunter books to occupy my time.

Like I said, exciting, but daunting.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Blowin' In The Wind...

We live in a seasonal climate, which means we have all the seasons, spring, summer, autumn, and winter. We also live in in a desert. Because of ingenious and hard-working settlers (and those who've come after...), irrigation waters our lawns, gardens, and trees. Many of those trees shed their leaves in the fall and the scene is beautiful.

But, there's always a downside. Many of my friends think cold temperatures and snow are the downsides of autumn. For me, the downside of fall is the beauty of the season is fleeting--one big storm can wipe it out.

In fact, last Friday my wife and I were driving around town and I said to her that just as the leaves appear to become their most colorful, a big storm blows in and robs the trees of their leaves.

A few hours after our conversation, it happened.

And I got some videos.

The storm wasn't all that big, but big enough to take down a lot of leaves. The weather is turning, getting colder, and we'll most likely have snow and wind and more wind. But then, the world will be covered with a blanket of virgin snow and the world will be beautiful again. 

I can't wait!

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Looks Like The Wall Street Journal Knows What We've Known For A Long Time...

Back when I worked with a computer developer, my friend told me about the Wall Street Journal. Of course, I'd heard of the newspaper (it was only a paper back then, there was no "on-line" anything...). He told me that I could get so much of what was really going on in not only the business world, and in the world in general by just reading the front page of the journal.

It's been almost thirty years since he told me that and I haven't forgotten it. For a while I would read the first page of the journal because the business subscribed. It's been a long time since I picked up the newspaper and read that front page. And, honestly, it's been a long time since I've even checked out the digital version, but I did check it out this past week. It's because they spotlighted a comedy troupe from Utah, BYUtv's Studio C

It's something those of us around here have known about for a long time.

The WSJ article is interesting. It's main point is that the comedians are succeeding even without using vulgarity or off-color jokes to do it, Maybe in their world that is newsworthy. Those of us who seek out and watch "clean" comedy know it can not only be successful, but good, as in quality as well. The article goes on to say even Conan O'Brian has been impressed with what they do.

If you've not heard of Studio C, or if you've followed them for years, check out the article. You can read it by clicking: HERE. Hopefully, because of the Wall Street Journal, more and more people will find out what we've known for a long time, that Studio C is dang funny!

Friday, October 20, 2017

Congratulations Betsy!

The other day at our Christmas show rehearsal I sat next to my friend Betsy. We were not in that particular scene so we were both on our phones (and no, Jim, we didn't have all our lines, choreography and blocking down cold--I apologize...). Casually, she showed me her phone.

"Look," she said and I saw an announcement for the 2017 KSL Voter's Choice winners. "I won."

She explained that she had won Best Wedding Gown in KSL's contest. If you know Betsy at all, it really came as no surprise.

I first me Betsy when we did Beauty and the Beast at Rodger's Memorial Theatre in the mid-2000s. We got to know each other a little. A lot of time passed before we did another show together. I've always enjoyed her spirit--she's fun, but fierce, and she's a woman that would do anything for her family.

When I first met Betsy, I didn't know she made wedding gowns. I asked her about it a few years ago. Back when we first met, she didn't make wedding dresses, at least that's how I remember the conversation going. She went from not making them to being one of the best around.

Having done several shows in the past almost twenty years, you meet a lot of people. The theater community isn't very big in reality. You'll see them at auditions--some you just did a show with a few months ago, others you haven't seen in years. Betsy's the kind of person that when you see her at auditions, or at a first cast meeting, you know the show's automatically going to be better because she's in it.

If you're not familiar with Betsy's work, you can go to her website: HERE, or you can check out her Facebook site: HERE. If you're in the market for a beautiful dress, or even if you're not and you just want to check out incredible works of art, you'll find something wonderful that she's made.

No, it doesn't surprise me she won. It's what she's been doing all her life. And I'm proud to call her my friend.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Thanks Salt Lake Magazine For The Beautiful Edition, But...

It arrived in the mail last week--it was one of the more surprising things to show up in our mailbox in some time. Was it junk mail? Hardly. This thing was beautiful and full of information.

But was it needed?

That's a much tougher question to answer.

Growing up we had no internet or even computers. Our substitutes to obtain information was newspapers, TV, and radio for "up to date" information, and we checked out magazines to get our specialized and in depth fix on various topics. I'm reminded of scenes showing a crusty old store owner yelling at kids to not hang out by the magazines. And, though my memory is a little fuzzy, at the local drug store in my hometown, there were signs by the magazines that discouraged--if not all out banned--kids from loitering around the magazines.

That was over forty years ago. The drugstore, including the lunch counter, ice cream bar with barstools, and the magazine rack are long gone.

And so, I thought, were magazines.

I know they're still there. At Barnes and Noble and at our local grocery store, there's still magazines you can buy. Since I haven't been around the magazine stands lately, I wonder if any signs discouraging loitering anymore. I wouldn't know because I no longer hang out there. That's why receiving the Salt Lake magazine in our mail was interesting to me.

Just thumbing through the pages, I felt the magazine wasn't something for me. I'm not planning on visiting St. Petersburg anytime soon. I don't find myself in Park City either to sample some of the best food and drinks in the state. Sure, I suppose doing either of those things sounds fun (in moderation, of course...), but it's just not me. It surprised me that they'd send this to me.

I admit, I have not read through the entire thing. But as I snapped these pictures I found myself on the last page, a commentary penned by John Shuff called Miracles at Work. The author didn't write about miracles we experience while working, but how miracles work in our l ives. It's a short article, a heart-felt collection of thoughts about how the hand of God affects us, changes us, makes us who we are.

After reading John's thoughts I looked at the collection of beautiful pictures and glossy ads differently. And I'm glad they sent it. I still won't be booking my plane ticket to St. Petersburg (either Florida or Russia...) and we probably won't be heading up to Park City, either. But I will take take the time and check out the whole magazine--something I used to do decades ago.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Evolution Of A Halloween Display...

We all have different cultures. There's cultures we have at home, at church, on our down time, and especially at work. And each of these cultures can be further broken down into sub-cultures. Case in point, the way my co-workers decorate our building at Halloween.

Last year was my first Halloween in this building. I had no idea how these people celebrated the holiday--it never entered my mind, but as October 31st drew near, it became abundantly clear that the sub-Halloween culture here was "go big, or go home." I blogged about last year's decorations and you can visit that site by clicking: HERE.

This year things are a little subdued as compared to last year. Then again, we're fourteen days out until the big day. A year ago, at this time I didn't think things could get much bigger than they were, but as the holiday approached, things got crazier and crazier. And, I was told since I wasn't there, more and more things were added Halloween day.

When people have the opportunity to get creative, it's amazing what they will do. This is just one section of the building. Everything that's been made and put up was done on their own time--either on breaks or before/after work.

I won't show my Halloween display--it's not very impressive. And our section of the building doesn't go all out as others do. Still, I'm glad others do. It makes for awesome things to see!