Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Sunday, December 27, 2009
Friday, December 18, 2009
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Monday, December 14, 2009
Friday, December 11, 2009
Monday, December 7, 2009
Please click on the photo above to watch the next installment in the "Cat Clips" series. In this episode, Tipi and Tuck find a giant package of toilet paper, and decide to tear through it.
Friday, December 4, 2009
Please click on the photo above to watch the next installment in the "Cat Clips" series. In this episode, the cats discuss fashion, while Tipi plays with a string and Tuck investigates a box.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Monday, November 16, 2009
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Monday, November 2, 2009
Monday, October 26, 2009
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Friday, October 9, 2009
Friday, October 2, 2009
Monday, September 28, 2009
Monday, September 21, 2009
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Sunday, September 6, 2009
Please click on the photo above to watch the next episode in the "Cat Clips" series. In this episode, Honey receives another oversized birthday present, but not the kind she expected. This video is the fourth in a mini-series of five videos covering Honey's birthday.
Monday, August 31, 2009
Friday, August 28, 2009
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Thursday, July 30, 2009
So, after about ten minutes of staking out the old neighborhood, I continued my journey to Cleveland, which would be the halfway point and my rest stop for the evening. As a child, I remember countless trips to Cleveland every Christmas to visit the Twigbee Shop at the Terminal Tower Higbees, and then seeing all the touring companies of Broadway shows when they played at the Hanna theater downtown. So though Cleveland had always been somewhat of a joke among comedians when I was growing up, especially after the Cuyahoga River caught on fire, it would always hold a special place for me.
But again, like my old neighborhood, Cleveland almost seemed like a foreign country to me. The downtown area, which was usually busy on a normal weekday, seemed all but deserted when I arrived on a Wednesday afternoon. There were numerous stores that had been boarded up or were out of business, and the streets were pretty empty. There wasn’t a hustle or a bustle to be found anywhere. Even at five o’clock when most people would be hurrying to get home from a long day at work, there didn’t seem to be much action on the streets.
The next day, on my way to Michigan, I passed by a giant Uncle Sam on the highway. It reminded me of traveling across the country as a kid, and stopping at every tourist attraction that claimed to have the “world’s largest ball of string” or the “fattest chicken on record.” Finally, something from my youth that I could hold onto. I immediately pulled over and took some pictures.
Later the same day, I saw a “Big Boy” restaurant and stopped in for another possible trip down memory lane. As a youth, I’d always loved the Big Boy burgers and shakes, and all the comic books and toys you could get by going there. It became one of my family’s favorite haunts when we were on road trips. (Well, that and Stuckey’s, whose billboard signs along the roadway were notorious for enticing the tired traveler with their “world famous pecan logs” or souvenirs and novelties for the kids.) And though the Big Boy burger didn’t taste as great as I’d remembered, and there weren’t any comic books to be seen, it was nice to spend a little time in an atmosphere that reeked of good old-fashioned kitsch.
But the most memorable piece of the trip came when I happened to notice a sign along the Michigan highway that read “Prison Area. Please do not pick up any hitchhikers.” The very fact that they had to post such a sign was rather disturbing, as it obviously meant they’d not only had a huge problem with such occurrences in the past, but that it continued to be a touchy issue in the present. It also made me feel like there must be a preponderance of prison riots and breakouts in the area that would allow such hitchhikers to suddenly emerge on the highway at all. And if that wasn’t bad enough, there was a similar sign posted about two miles down the road, which meant the problem area must be growing. Whatever the reason for the signs, I didn’t stop or pull over for food for the next fifty miles, let alone pick up a hitchhiker (which I would never do anyway.)
So those are the highlights of my little road trip to the Midwest. Have you had any trips this summer that took you down your own memory lanes?
Monday, July 27, 2009
Monday, July 20, 2009
It all began one morning when I went downstairs to feed the cats. It is our morning ritual—They wait at the top of the stairs for me to wake up, and then as soon as I make even the slightest movement toward the stairs, they fly down in leaps and bounds to be the first in the kitchen. And even though I didn’t see Trey among them that morning, I figured he might be sleeping somewhere and would certainly get aroused as soon as he heard the familiar sounds of food preparation.
But when Trey didn’t come running after all the other cats began gorging, I began to search his familiar hiding spots to see if he was just lazy, or perhaps even sick. After a very thorough half hour of searching, I began to panic. Where the heck could he be? Even his hiding places were empty.
And then it hit me. I had gone out late the night before to empty the trash, and perhaps he slipped out the door without me seeing him. As he is an all-black cat (except for a small patch of white on his neck), he can easily blend in with the dark areas of our backyard. And because he’s so fast, you don’t even notice him flying out underneath you until later when you happened to be glancing out the window and suddenly notice a familiar black cat happily prancing about outside.
In the past when this has happened, Trey usually stays in the backyard until I open the door to let him back in. The backyard is fenced in, and there are plenty of plants, trees, birds, bugs and catnip to amuse him while he’s out there, but I never let him out (intentionally) unless I’m back there to watch him. So on the few occasions when he has slipped out without me noticing, it’s always been somewhat of a shock, since I usually credit myself with having a keen sense of my surroundings. (Though perhaps since moving to the suburbs, my NYC skill set has become somewhat lax.)
So after searching through the many bushes and plants in the backyard, as well as the garage, I nervously began expanding my search through the front yard (which is not fenced in) and the neighbors yards. I brought along a bag of his favorite food and began shaking it, and after that didn’t work, I plugged the electric can opener into the outlet in the backyard, and began cranking it’s familiar “whirring” sound through a megaphone, in hopes this would bring Trey running. (The sound of the can opener always signals the opening of a tuna can. And no matter how asleep the cats are, or how far away, they always come running to the sound of the “whirring.”) Only this time, Trey did not come.
Nor did he show up that evening, or any of the following day. I called all the local shelters and the police station and the animal control center to let them know my cat was missing. And I also flooded the neighborhood with flyers offering a reward for the missing cat, and told all my neighbors to be on the lookout. But though I kept convincing myself that he would come back and all would be well, the fear of the unknown kept getting the better of me. What if he got hurt? What if he was picked up by someone? Or hit by a car and was laying on the road somewhere?
As my mind began to move to these darker thoughts, something inside kept telling me to stop putting those negative images out there. If I really wanted Trey to come back, I needed to believe that he would. That he was just off having an adventure somewhere and as soon as he got tired or hungry, he would find his way back to his happy little home.
That night, as I went to bed, my head was filled with thoughts of Trey. I tried mentally calling to him, hoping that there was some kind of telepathic connection I could forge with him, to help guide him home. I fell asleep, calling his name and turning on and off the can opener (in my mind, of course).
The next morning, I woke up at six am for some reason. The cats were all very happy to see my early rise, and scampered downstairs ahead of me to wait for their reward. But before laying out their food, I decided to glance out the back door just to see if any of the food I had put out the previous night had been eaten. The back door is constructed of a glass design that distorts anything you see through it, but that morning there was no mistaking the movement of a familiar black tail wagging on the other side.
As I tripped over myself to get the door open as fast as I could, my eyes started watering with the sheer joy of his return. I quickly unlocked the screen door and then opened it slowly as not to frighten him. And in he came, perky and peppy, as if he’d only been gone for five minutes.
But did I scold him or get mad? NO! I must have spent the next hour making sure he was all right, and petting him, and brushing him, and giving him so much attention, the other cats were probably considering their own temporary escape for a while. After all, if this is the kind of pampering you get when you return, it might be worth it to leave for a day or two. (That’s THEIR reasoning, by the way, not MINE.)
Anyway, Trey is back in the fold and everything is right with the world. (Well, not everything, but at least here in Plainfield.) So maybe if we all willed the world to be a better place, and went to sleep every night believing it to be so, then things might begin to look better. Considering the alternative, it’s a much healthier way to live.
But that’s just me. Have you ever had a similar experience?
Saturday, July 11, 2009
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
In the play, Ms. Lansbury plays a somewhat questionable medium, who somehow manages to conjure up the dead wife (Ms. Ebersole) of Mr. Everett, much to the chagrin of his current wife (Ms. Atkinson). I’m sure you can imagine what ensues from there, complete with clever, witty dialogue provided by Mr. Coward. All in all, it was a great day at the theater, and a nice reminder of what a great actress Ms. Lansbury still remains, even in her eighties. (I’d actually seen her a couple years ago on Broadway, when she was in the tennis comedy “Deuce”…but that was not a great play, and she seemed to struggle with her lines in that one.) But with Noel Coward’s hilarious storyline as a backdrop, Ms. Lansbury shined brighter than ever.
The only thing I found a little odd is that Ms. Lansbury appeared to be wearing the exact same wig she’d worn as Mrs. Lovett in the original Broadway production of “Sweeney Todd.” Even had the same accent. Not sure if there was an intentional reference or whether it was pure coincidence, but the similarities were rather obvious. Other than that, the entire show was “like butter.”
The play closes later this month, so if you’ve been thinking of going to see it, you’d better hurry. Ms. Lansbury waits for no one.
Thursday, July 2, 2009
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Friday, June 26, 2009
Today, the world is a little sadder and a little less colorful without these three among us. But like most icons, they will live on in our imaginations, in our televisions and in our music for decades to come.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Cat Clips--Parent Trap
In the first video, entitled "Parent Trap," Honey and the male cat discuss Tuck's future in the household. To watch this video, please click on the photo above.
Cat Clips--Father Figure
In the second video, entitled "Father Figure," the male cat and Tuck have their first mentoring session. To watch the video, please click on the photo above.
Friday, June 19, 2009
And that is coming from someone who hated having to sit through Ballets and Dance Concerts when I was growing up. Not that I didn’t like to dance myself, but I didn’t really have an appreciation for the kind of control and strength a real dancer must have to perform such feats. In fact, it wasn’t until I started seriously working out and lifting weights in my twenties that I began to realize that dancers were sometimes more athletic in their movements than the more macho football and baseball players.
And that is what I find so fascinating about “So You Think You Can Dance.” The dancers are constantly thrown curveballs and new dance styles, and difficult choreographers (like Mia Michaels), and to see them succeed against unimaginable odds is like watching a really good Olympic competition. And some of the dance pieces are quite awe-inspiring. (And again, this from someone who never really appreciated the art of dance until a few years ago.)
Which brings us back to Mary Murphy. When I first caught the show while flipping channels several years ago, I thought it was just another pointless talent competition without much merit or credibility. Then, the next year I happened to catch another episode during the audition process, and was suddenly sucked into the behind-the-scenes stories of the dancers—their tragedies, hopes, dreams, etc. What can I say? I was hooked after that. And yet I still found one of the judges, Mary Murphy, to be quite obnoxious with all her yelling and cheering and constant use of catch phrases.
But as I began watching the show on a more regular basis, I began to warm up to Ms. Murphy because I realized how much she really cares about the people she is judging. Unlike some of the other guest judges on the show, who seem to get off on putting people down or showing off their arrogant intelligence, Mary has compassion and empathy for the dancers. She cries when she is emotionally touched by a dance number, or cheers when she is excited about a dancer’s progress. And you can see from the dancer’s faces how much they value her opinion and favor. She is like a big Mother Hen who coaches and cajoles her little offspring so they can eventually fly off on their own, as prepared as they can be for the cruel reality of a career in the arts.
And just when you think you can’t be shocked any more by the things that come out of her mouth, she suddenly blurted out a few weeks ago that “I can’t look surprised any more because the botox took care of that.” It was such an honest and revealing statement that I think it even caught her by surprise…as evidenced by how hard she laughed for the next few minutes (As did everyone else in the audience). But that’s how Mary is. She can be a tough critic when she thinks a dancer isn’t trying hard enough, or living up to their potential. But when someone succeeds with a genre they’ve never done before, or makes incredible progress as a dancer from week to week, she is the first to offer her praise and congratulations. And that’s why I love Mary Murphy. She’s a cheerleader for the underdog as well as the professional. As long as someone steps up to the plate, she is there to cheer you on. And don’t we all need a little more of that these days?
But that’s just me. What’s your take on Mary Murphy or “So You Think You Can Dance”?
Monday, June 15, 2009
A special thanks to Debbie Lane of WisdomHypnosis.com for allowing me to use her great Stress Relief audio for this video. To hear the entire audio and experience your own free relaxation exercise, please visit Debbie's site at www.wisdomhypnosis.com
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
And then there were the endless musical numbers from shows that are out on tour, that we’ve already seen a million times. I mean, did the “Dancing Queen” number inspire anyone to get up off their butts and boogie? No.
I thought Neil Patrick Harris did a great job of holding it all together. His personality is very likeable, although I’m sure there’s a lot of stuff going on under that perfectly honed façade that’s probably pretty scary. No one is THAT nice.
The most disappointing moment for me was the choice of number from the musical “Billy Elliot.” This number DOES NOT do the show justice. Not that it isn’t impressive to watch someone that young take such command of the stage. But out of context, I don’t think Middle America will really make much of that number. In fact, the people who were initially turned off by the idea of a musical about a boy who wants to dance will probably not be swayed by what they saw on Sunday night. It was so poorly edited and presented that it didn’t make me want to spend the money to go see it. And that’s from someone who has already seen the show three times. (And believe me, it is well worth the investment and it rightfully deserved the title of "Best Musical." So don’t let the Tony number influence you negatively against this show---if it did. It is possibly one of the most grounded and emotionally charged musicals I’ve ever seen.)
Which brings me to the musical number from “Next to Normal,” which actually made me want to go see the show. I’d already heard good things about the show from friends, but was never really motivated yet to plunk down the money to get a ticket. I mean, a show about an emotionally disturbed woman and the toll it takes on her family is not exactly fodder for a fun evening out. But then I heard their voices, and I saw the commitment coming from the actors, and all of a sudden I was excited see this show. Finally, something that doesn’t run around in a costume or come pre-packaged from a movie or TV show. And that’s what the Tonys are supposed to do. Get you excited about going to see a live show, an experience unlike anything else in the world.
So, before I close, let’s not forget Liza Minelli, whose overzealous and perpetually bubbly personality makes me nervous every time I see her. In her heydey, she was spunky and funny and had a quirky personality that made her the life of the party. But now the party has run its course, and the band has gone home, and she’s still out there plugging away. I say retire from singing, because the voice just ain’t what it used to be. As for acting, there will always be roles for over-the-top people with bizarre affectations, so her career prospects are good. But come on, there’s only so many songs I want to hear that are sung with that many strained and missed notes. Even Stockard Channing sounded more on point, and I heard she was horrible in “Pal Joey.”
So though I’m glad they put a lot of money and effort into the production, I think they maybe strived to do too much with what they had. And yet, the show pulled in it’s best ratings since 2006, so who am I to judge? I’m just glad the Tonys are televised at all.
But that’s just me. What did you think of the Tony Awards?
Friday, June 5, 2009
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Okay, moving on. The screening I saw was in 3D, which was pretty cool, although after a while you completely forget about it. (Unless, of course, you find the special glasses particularly uncomfortable.) The theater was packed with adults and kids and lots of teenagers. I was actually surprised at how many packs of teenage boys came together to see this film. When I was a kid, teenage boys would not be caught dead at a Disney film, but I guess Pixar has more of a “cool factor.”
I guess what I liked most about “Up” is how involved I got with the characters, and how much it mattered to me that they succeeded in their quest. I think this movie taps into a lot of emotional and thought-provoking ideas, and I applaud the creators at Pixar for making such a beautiful piece of art.
But that’s just me. What did you think of “Up”?
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Saturday, May 23, 2009
The neighborhood schoolchildren, however, seem to feel my front yard is their personal property to play on, climb over and tear up. During the winter, I don’t pay much attention to them, but come the Spring, when all the new growth is just starting to happen, I keep my eyes peeled every day at 2:30 to watch for the oncoming slaughter. And sure enough, the kids climb on my rock wall (potentially dangerous), cut through my yard, pull on my trees and pick through my flowers. I got so fed up one day that I opened the second story office window and screamed at them to get off my property.
Yes, I became “THAT GUY”---the guy you remember from your childhood who used to yell at you when you stepped on his grass. The annoying older neighbor who seemed to value his precious rose bushes more than your ability to have fun picking through them. And now I completely understand where “that guy” was coming from. After all, the neighborhood kids didn’t pay for all the mulch, and sod, and flowers and plants and trees and fertilizer and irrigation and watering and general upkeep. They just look at my yard as a fun place to play.
Naturally, I was going to do everything in my power can to put a stop to that. So I began sitting outside on my front stoop every day from 2:30 to 3:00 to make sure no one laid a foot on my stone wall or tore a branch from one of my newly blossoming trees. And for a few days, everything seemed to be fine. Then I began to get so bogged down by work, I couldn’t monitor the kids on a daily basis any more. Some time went by, and then one day I happened to be glancing out my office window, when I noticed that the local children had slipped into their usual bad habits. So once again, the window flew open and my screaming voice could be heard echoing throughout the land to “please stay off the grass, and stop pulling on the flowers.”
The kids, for the most part, listened to my pathetic pleading and stuck to the sidewalk for the next few weeks. But there were still a few who would try to sneak up on the wall, or cut through the yard. So for those few occasions, I tried to ignore it. Until one day, when I saw a little boy pick up one of the rocks on our stone wall and throw it on the pavement below him. Meanwhile, his much older sister, who was standing not three feet away, didn’t even try to stop him. (And he was even throwing the stone in her direction.) And when I came running out of the house to reprimand him for it, they both looked at me as if I was crazy.
That’s when I decided to take further action. I began taking pictures of the daily offenders from my office window. I figured I could send them to the Principal of the school, believing that if anyone had influence on these kids, it would be him. And one day, thankfully, I actually got a picture of a kid tearing up an entire bush of flowers. (Well, not thankfully for me, but thankfully for the necessary “evidence” of my complaint.) I sent the group of pictures, along with a well-written diatribe to the Principle, whose only response was “I’ll talk to the children.”
The next day, sure enough, I observed the principle standing in front of my house, waiting for the children to arrive. He spoke to them for about ten minutes on respecting other people’s property and how they shouldn’t cross the lawn. I heard many of the children answer that they never crossed the yard and didn’t know why I complained so much. One girl even began snapping her fingers in a triangle motion, no doubt berating me for having a yard at all.
The talk helped for a few days, perhaps even a week or two. Then the climbing and defacing began all over again. So now I sit on my front stoop again every day with my cell phone and a magazine, daring anyone to touch anything that even looks like foliage. I can’t wait until June when school is out, so I don’t have to constantly disrupt my day in order to defend the integrity of my property. But such is my life in the suburbs.
But that’s just me. Do you have any issues with little prowlers on your property? (And I’m not talking about the squirrel or raccoon kind.)