Hopping aboard another meme

I was a “gamer” in the sense of the Atari 2600, Apple // and Commodore computers, a beta tester for a few Mac game companies, and begrudgingly even X-Box. While I don’t own a modern game system or even have a clue about the major PC games out there these days, I do still have vintage game systems hooked up in the house and garage and a healthy collection of games on my iPod Touch. In that respect I guess I’m still a “gamer.”

It must be a deeply rooted trait, since I had one instinct as soon as I saw these road markings denoting new “bike lanes” in certain parts of Bismarck. Okay, one instinct besides the apparent waste of money. While there are two or three different sets of markings, concerning in that they lack consistency, this particular set looks like a set of “boost arrows”. These features, appearing in any number of driving games, cause wild acceleration once they’re driven upon. Sounds right up my alley. Sadly, they are of no effect outside the virtual world.

Interesting side note: although these things are only weeks old, many of them are badly faded. It took a while to find one worth photographing. Perhaps the City Commission could have reviewed the bids more closely or something, because the paint clearly is not holding up in areas of significant traffic.

In any case, I figured I’d hop on board a common internet meme, select “Impact” as my font, and bang out a quick little graphic. Note the historic Provident Life Weather Beacon in the background. My contribution to “teh Intarwebz” this week is complete. Have a great weekend!

Boys love flying machines

Boys love machines, period…it doesn’t matter how old. Airplanes and helicopters are particularly cool, which is why I’ve always taken the time to give my little fellas plenty of exposure to aircraft. In fact, we may be taking them to the skies for a joyride this week… and Daddy is planning a video gig with plenty of helicopter work! Doesn’t that all sound fun?

Play day

Gotta love these sunny Saturdays! Our camera club met at the coffee shop today, my wife insisted that I get out and take a motorcycle trip, and of course I decided to play with the camera. I set one camera up on a tripod with my intervalometer snapping away every ten seconds, then combined some shots for some fun. Now it’s time to go back outside and see what awaits in the backyard and Garage Majal!

Traumatic April Fool’s Day experience

I have the sweetest, most wonderful, beautiful wife…BUT yesterday she pranked me hard. I came home from lunch to find her sitting on the couch, crying. Confused, I attempted to figure out what was wrong so I could “fix” it. I am a guy, after all. She simply sobbed, “I left something on the kitchen table for you.”

Even more confused, I made my way to the kitchen to find the above: a CUTE little photography-related onesie with a little pink stick laying on it. Huh? I looked at it, saw two lines, read the writing on it, and internally FREAKED. Putting on my best calm, reassuring husband facade, I came back to the living room to assure her that everything will be okay. We’re all going through a lot of lifestyle changes right now, including her becoming a stay-at-home mom, so really this isn’t as scary as it could be. Of course, inside my head are all the flashes of guy-type panic, but I’m not going to let her know that.

That’s when, through her genuine tears, she sobbed, “April Fool’s, honey!” And started laughing. I was so shocked, I didn’t know how to react! Internally, of course, I felt enormous relief…but I was still off-balance emotionally from trying to process the idea of a Baby Number Three.

Of course, I can appreciate a good prank as much as the next guy. I wasn’t angry (again, probably due to relief) and simply gave her a hug and assured her that even if it HAD been true, I’d still have been okay and that I love her very much.

I later found that she borrowed the stick from a friend who’s expecting. You’ve got to love a girl who will go the extra mile for a little fun. Thank God that this day only comes once a year!

Valentine’s Day Special: My “Romance Survival Kit”

Any girl will tell you, it’s all about the little things. This is my contribution, a bit of friendly advice for all the fellas out there. One way I try to make my wife’s day a little brighter is with little surprises. Above is the “survival kit” I’ve assembled. Note the heart-shaped Post-It notes, guys. Those are usually found in stores right about now, in time for Valentine’s Day. Go get some!

I like to hide little heart-shaped “I Love You” notes all over the place: inside DVD cases, behind the visor in her truck, things like that. I put a date on each one because sometimes they go undiscovered for long periods of time. That makes the surprise even better!

Phase two was the purchase of little note cards with envelopes and colored stationery, complete with wedding ring postage stamps. From time to time I will write my wife a nice little love-note and mail it to our house. Then, when she gets the mail, she receives a special delivery! A little goes a long way toward making a girl feel special.

We don’t have big plans for Valentine’s Day, although we do have a date night scheduled later this week. My goal is to scatter little miniature Valentine’s days all throughout the year! Give it a try.

BMSO “Mimes and Marvels” photos…hold onto your hat!

After a lovely dinner at The Walrus Restaurant this weekend, my wife and I took in a fantastic season finale at the Bismarck-Mandan Symphony Orchestra. Naturally I’m biased because my favorite violinist plays with the BMSO, but Saturday night held a particular treat.

Performer Dan Kamin (dankamin.com) came to town last week to entertain children and adults alike, including his program “The Classical Clown” with the Symphony. The show itself is wonderfully assembled, and it was a real joy to experience firsthand!

In addition to a variety of music selections and a fun ride with the character of the Classical Clown, the evening took a very colorful tone. It ranged from dancing…

…to a menacing, mime-frightening drama, complete with a walls-closing-in routine…

…to some sweet lullaby relaxation. Mr. Kamin’s character led us through the ups and downs of the selections performed by the Symphony, giving a new context to many familiar favorites.

This is no ordinary clown, however; after a brief trip backstage, he returned with tuxedo and baton, ready to conduct the Symphony! And conduct he did…

…until our conductor, Dr. Beverly Everett, returned with a few tricks of her own! This is a challenging production in that the conductor needs to co-star and deliver a lot of dialogue. Dr. Everett performed brilliantly! She was captivating and a perfect partner for Mr. Kamin. The orchestra was able to get in on the act a few times, too, which I’m told was a real treat for them.

The “cherry on top” for the evening was a not-so-brief Q&A session with conductor and mime, where a bunch of us were allowed to ask questions to our hearts’ content and hear Mr. Kamin describe his craft.

The show’s star performers graciously took questions from the group until almost 9:45! We got to hear Mr. Kamin talk about his experiences teaching Johnny Depp how to do magic and mime routines for movies such as Benny & Joon (which I loved), including a trick he used during the Pirates of the Caribbean. He also taught Robert Downey, Jr. the skills he needed to star in the movie, “Chaplin.”

What a personable fellow! You can tell that Mr. Kamin really enjoys his work. He talked a lot about the history of his craft, relating silent movie stars with mimes and other genres of performing without words. He taught a little boy how to do the “moon walk” and explained how, while popularized by Michael Jackson, the move was actually invented by Marcel Marceau.

Like I said, he hung out with us for quite a while! In addition to talking about the history of mime, he also expounded on my comment about relating comedic timing to music timing in his work. He talked about how he runs into different and similar conventions in humor when performing in different parts of the world, as well as what it was like to perform for a deaf audience.

The art of mime couldn’t ask for a better ambassador than Mr. Kamin. He said so many things I wish I could have written down. The one I was able to type into my phone, one of the best of the evening: “I look at Mime in the greatest sense, as in it’s what happens when you stop talking.” Well said. He compared the stereotypical “mime in white face” to the silent movie stars of old, Cirque du Soleil performers of today, and other styles that have existed for decades (if not longer).

Naturally I wanted to thank Dan Kamin in person for a brilliant show, his gracious gift of time to answer questions, and his warm personality. I think I blurted part of that out as I mentioned how I liked the scenes he brainstormed for the aforementioned movies. Then it was time for a quick photo and good-bye. Now it’s time to go out and rent Benny & Joon again…

(I hope these photos aren’t too grainy. I didn’t take my camera with me, instead relying on my wife’s little point-n-shoot model. It doesn’t perform in low light like an SLR, but I know how to extract the most from it when there’s no room for my big camera.)


Time to fire up the remote control monster trucks! I got both my 4×4 and 2 wheel drive trucks running this week. 50,000 rpms of nitromethane-burning fun never sounded so good! Wheels, Wings, and Hobbies even has a killer track set up for the 4x4s. My two wheel drive truck will do 60, and burned the first set of tires off within 15 minutes of taking it out of the box, but I do like being able to catch big air with the 4×4. Zoom.

I don’t run these trucks in the winter because jetting ’em just rich enough to not melt their engines down is a constant vigil. The colder the air, the leaner the mixture. Now that it’s nice out, however, I can keep them right on the ragged edge between performance and catastrophe. And I have a spare engine in the toolbox just in case I goof.

North Dakota…I AM LEGEND. -ARY.

Sorry, I just had to play around in Photoshop. I got the idea over a year ago when North Dakota Tourism picked the slogan “I Am Legendary”. Great slogan perhaps, but it was poorly timed considering the release of the Will Smith movie “I Am Legend.” Oops.

Bummer when your new slogan bears an uncanny resemblance to the title of a Will Smith movie, ain’t it? Well, I decided to combine the two for a faux movie poster with a North Dakota theme. I played around in Photoshop a bit tonight to rig up this cheesy imitation. It ain’t my best work, but it gave me a few chuckles. Now, on to some of my other year-old projects around the house…

MHS does “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown”

My lovely wife and I had a date night last night, and attended Mandan High School’s production of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” I didn’t know much about this little musical (apparently licensed from Tams-Witmark, Inc.), but I certainly appreciate how hard it must be to portray such iconic characters! I didn’t take my camera, since this was a date, thus the poor-quality cellphone shot of Snoopy above.

I’m a big Peanuts fan, with a collection of books and memorabilia going back longer than I’ve been alive. I think some of my oldest Peanuts books are from the mid-1960s. I’ve got the cartoons on DVD, the shirts, the toys, the books ABOUT the cartoons, and even a 35 year old Snoopy jack-in-the-box that my little brother got as a kid. Uncle PJ played with it in the 70s, and now my little PJ plays with it in the 00’s. Having said all that, someone like me could be very hard to please with a musical like this…or very easy.

At first I wondered what the play was trying to accomplish. It’s obvious that they do a lot of little interstitial “strips” plucked from the annals of Peanuts history. These are performed in series between the main musical performances. On the one hand, I think they were well done; however, on the other hand, I think one might have to be a true Peanuts fan to really appreciate them. Again, I think that’s part of the mixed blessing of portraying Peanuts characters on stage. I must say, however, that I had bonded with these kids a short while into the play.

If I had to highlight a performance, it would clearly be Nick Leingang as Snoopy. Nick had the unusual task of taking the world’s most popular dog and, while NOT wearing any sort of dog costume, walking us through some of our fondest insights into Snoopy and his fertile canine imagination. He did so with energy and flair, and the best compliment I can give is that I felt like I was watching Snoopy. Tough praise to earn from a devoted Peanuts fan of over thirty years! Judging by the energetic applause at the end of the “Suppertime” scene, I get the impression that other folks agreed.

Other bright performances in this play are Jonathan Wanner as Linus and Vanessa Stumpf as Lucy. Linus has always been my favorite Peanuts character, Lucy not so much, but I really liked the way each of these actors portrayed their character. Nice work!

You can catch this performance two more times this weekend: tonight at 7:30 and Sunday afternoon at 2:30. I recommend heading over and enjoying this performance. TIckets are $7 for adults. Get there early and get a good seat!

Studio party on the fly

The fun continued at work today. My boss’s birthday is today, and he was supposed to on a golf trip as part of the celebration. Sadly, circumstances came up that prevented the trip…but his trusty crew wasn’t about to let that lessen the joy of the day! One of our studios became an indoor miniature golf course for the occasion.

In addition to making good use of our party supplies budget, a few of the guys took tubes, chairs, light stands, and even actual mini-golf supplies to make a six-hole, par six (!) course on the floor of Studio A. I don’t know who came up with that Par 1 designation…this thing was TOUGH!

The studio guys lined up the course, one of the graphic artists made flags and score cards, while another was in charge of streamers, party poppers, and other assorted party favors. Oh yes…there were kazoos. Randy from the Walrus Restaurant brought a bunch of his fine pastas and bread, and we keep a well-stocked refrigerator in back for beverage duty. I recommend the Mountain Dew, it helps wash down that sugary birthday cake very nicely! I had a little bit of salad to help make things healthy.

It was actually a little darker and more colorful than this photo implies, which means that of course I dialed up some Frank Sinatra on the iPod for the occasion. We have speakers in the back with an iPod plug-in so we can set the right ambience in the studio, and the Chairman of the Board seemed perfect for today.

So what do you do when its thirty below and the office has a bona fide reason for a party? This is how we do it! We love our boss and did our best to provide an alternative to those sunny greens. Happy Birthday!