Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Random thoughts….

Sometimes there is just not enough meat to make a whole essay, but those pesky random thoughts tend to pile up on my mental plate of possibilities (wow, am I on an alliterative role or what!!) and I need to dish them out to make room for more.

While on the topic of food, sort of, why do people take pictures of and then post on FB, the plate of food they are about to eat? I find that weird. Do you say grace and then whip the phone or camera and shoot the soufflé? My grandmother would have come up over the table like Satan on a slingshot if we had done that. 

Earrings…really really big dangly earrings. Those annoy me, especially if sitting next to them at a concert on other venue where the sound of wind chimes is not welcome. Every time a lady with chandelier earrings moves her head, I look around for the rest of the new wave band. Don’t those things ever get caught in your hair? The one time I watched a baby rip the pierced earring out of her mom’s ear, I vowed never to poke holes in my head. 

Automobile inserts in the newspapers. Do I really need 8 or more pages with pictures of cars and tires and more cars to decide if I want a car and which one? The pictures are black and white. I only buy red cars. Stop cluttering up my newspaper although I suspect the extra paper is there to justify the cost and make me think I am getting some quality news. 

Coupons. I know that there are real fanatics out there who live and die by coupons, they even have several reality shows about such things, but like the car inserts, cut it out! Why not sell a whole stack of coupon inserts in its own little packet which can be purchased separately? The ones in there now are smaller and fall out all over my table when I am trying to look for red cars. 

The ATM....okay, we can put satellites past Jupiter and pick tiny items off the ocean floor, how come we can’t make the ATM stop asking me what language I want to use? One would think that after the same code number has selected the same language every time for however many years, the computer chip would be smart enough to recognize a trend. Does the bank think I am suddenly going to go rogue and want to proceed in French just to practice? And aren’t they being a bit limiting? My GPS will allow me to choose from  about 30 languages and accents, maybe I want to do my banking in Swahili for once, just to see if I can do it.  

People who think tights are just as good as pants. Guys, you may want to skip this one as I need to pass along some fashion facts. Ladies…..tights do not function like spanx (or as we used to call them, girdles). Don’t kid yourself, that body “shaper” is really just a girdle repackaged. Tights are for wearing under stuff instead of wearing panty hose. Dancers and acrobats and such wore tights so the muscles showed while keeping the legs warm, uniform and safely protected from chafing. A leotard went over the tights…leotards begin like tights for the torso. Leggings are about as close as one can come to wearing no pants if one insists. Leggings are just thicker tights but the rear view does not change much, the fabric still stretches (or in some cases, sstttrreeeetttchhhhessssssssss). I think the designers intended for a longer top or dress to go over the leggings. Notice the word is “leg”-ings which one would think that means the legs are the only part to be showing.  If one still insists on going gaga…then yoga pants are now considered pants.  I am guilty of wearing those on occasion although I have never done yoga. Yoga is too close to yogurt.   (This must be my entrée paragraph.)

I have an inability to throw away pens. Think I can get my own reality show segment? 

Okay….I made it to the bottom of the page. Perhaps I should go see a local art show and write about it.

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Devil Lurks in the Details

No one that I am aware of would ever intentionally hurt a child either physically or emotionally.  Unfortunately adults can and do hurt children quite often by not paying attention to details. Yes, we are all busy and in this hyper information age, keeping track of everything can be overwhelming, but growing up, I recall doing something called “proofreading”.  Long before spell-check and grammar-check and basic laziness, we were required to reread not once, but twice, all of our written materials. Often the help of another person was sought to look over a paper or a presentation before it was submitted for a grade. To this day, I still proofread with pencil in hand, all of my son’s philosophy and history papers. I may not always understand the content, but I am a force of nature if the rhythm, alliteration or direct object references are even a mere bit off balance.

Before I move to my main beef, an all too common incident happened again last week. I review packets of information submitted to me by youth who wish to become the best of the best in my volunteer organization of choice. If you know me, you know what that is. If you don’t, then it does not matter. If handwritten (nowadays a headache unto itself as kids cannot seem to write out the alphabet anymore) the mistakes are horrendous. If typewritten, and a computer check is used, kids don’t seem to understand that many of the words in our English language have multiple spellings and usage, and the machine is not programmed to notice the difference. Asking for help must be an ancient event now too as a parent is usually nearby whom has not looked over the packet either. I try and be nice and use a blue pen rather than a red one and must ask if it is okay to write on their paper because many have already gotten original signatures on these same pages. Which makes me wonder…how did three people before me not notice these glaring mistakes?

Anyway, back to the issue of hurting a child. Last night, at the big award ceremony for the kids who did achieve this highest honor, quite a few of them were left off the list and out of the elaborately printed booklet. This is a once in a lifetime event for these young men and their families, the booklet being a souvenir to commemorate speeches by dignitaries and honors bestowed upon those who have served for a long time before them.  How shameful it is that adults cannot take the time to cross reference names to be sure no one is left out. Imagine attending your high school graduation and finding that your name was accidentally omitted so after everyone has crossed the stage; there you sit in cap and gown all alone. Embarrassing yes, but the lifetime scar on your memory will be deep.  Yes, this situation was purely by accident no doubt. But to the ones who are victimized by it, no apology can make up for the hurt and embarrassment. Parents left stunned at tables while their children sit uncalled. If it had been my child, I would not have been as quiet as you all were.  I commend the restraint you showed and understand your anger. On behalf of our organization, I apologize to you.

The butchering of names being read should not happen either. My older son had to submit the phonetic pronunciation of his name to the university for graduation this spring…only four syllables in three names but you never know.  My younger son had his name mispronounced at his high school graduation and though it remains a running joke I was not happy at the time and he shall never be about such an easily correctable error.

Point being, how hard is it to take the time to be sure the details are correct? Yes, we are all busy, but busy doing what? If the job is to be putting together a program, shouldn’t the checking of details be part of what is making one busy? I do believe for all the time saving convenience of modern day machines, the pencil and paper still outrank them. We made fewer mistakes when it took more time to prepare a document. There was care in our creative process. The manual typewriter and even the electric typewriter with our little bottle of liquid paper beside it forced us to think and focus and be careful. Every mistake meant starting over with a new piece of paper and trying again.  Our writings may have been shorter, but they were correct and to the point. Imagine the Gettysburg Address if Lincoln had had a computer handy.

Again, I apologize on behalf of those who wear the uniform and congratulate your sons on reaching a milestone along the trail. May we all learn from our mistakes and make an effort to do better next time so no other child will be hurt.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Scared Scriptless …four dollar an hour funny on a Saturday night.

This empty nest thing is good for forcing one to expand horizons lest weekends be spent lounging around in a huggie-snuggie with cocktail in hand before the 6 o’clock news even gets to the local weather report. Hubbie and I decided to venture back downtown to watch a Scared Scriptless show that has been right under my own mushroom for several years now (aka the Kathleen Howland Theater at 2nd April). I don’t like to go to a movie or a show to cry, watch explosions or get flashed, I want to be entertained. Make me laugh, allow me to leave a theater feeling good and also feel like what I got was worth every penny, the entertainment has to have value rather than a long list of credit for hundreds of nobodies who make 5 actors look good. Eureka Watson! I have found my funny. 

Yes, I have been aware of the Scared Scriptless troupe for quite some time. Being a fan of the old “Whose Line is it Anyway” and various reincarnations of such, getting monthly updates about my cousin in the improve biz at 2nd City Chicago (and now in feeder classes at SNL in NYC), plus my own propensity to put into paint what I cannot say in words, it is only natural that I would at some point actually watch what these talented people have to “say” because funny is by far my favorite. 

Many of you are probably aware of them as well if you ever got accosted by a keystone cop on Cleveland Ave during a First Friday, or perhaps attended other local venues featuring comedy troupes, or perhaps took in a Christmas show at the KHT these past few years. These men and women, like most artists I would assume, have day jobs to fund the fun, so faces may look familiar…until they become distorted in some elastic expression that only actors can do effortlessly.  (I really wish I could capture some of those fascinating faces for a pastel drawing!)

So back to the show…. these monthly performances are held the first Saturday of each month (except for May this year) at 8pm in the KHT for $8 a ticket. Two hours will fly by as you watch (and contribute) to the antics of these 7 personalities. Judging by the size of the audience, word is getting out. About half were newbies like us and I bet half of them will return next month if not more.  The other half were the friends, co workers (not that coworkers can’t be friends), and perhaps family and groupies of the performers. At some point, I thought I had read that the shows were limited to 18 and over, but that is not printed in the handout. Nothing in the show seemed too offensive for teens or worse than anything done by an adolescent boy in a campfire skit before leaders could intervene, but if one is not happy about four letter words, bathroom humor or totally political incorrect-ness, then yes, stay home.  As for me, the less PC the better because somebody has to say out loud what many people probably really think anyway. Under the cloak of comedy and satire, rules do not apply. 

An opening act featured the Walsh University group Improve ‘n’ Cheese. They will be performing on Friday Feb 10 at Betzler Auditorium on the Walsh Campus with Scared Scriptless returning the favor of opening the show. (8pm and it is free).  

The troupe has two natural leaders, David Sponhour and Kevin Pond, who guide the show along introducing skits and gathering audience input. The other five performers, Mandy Altimus Pond, Matt Linek, Kaylene Williams, Andy Knode and Aaron Lee Jones, by virtue of their body build, vocal quality and/or personality, fill various character roles. Mandy could not pull off the offended terrorist role nor could Aaron be the whiny little girl. By playing to type, the show is all that much funnier because they are not fighting against visual association. Geeze…listen to me, I know diddly squat about theater outside of set design work, soooo……..speaking as a Missouri seat sitter (that would be the  “Show Me” state), make my four dollars an hour worth it or I shall smite thee.  But alas it is me who is smitten; I shall return when possible and bring friends. And next time I will be prepared.

Being a boy scout, one would figure that I should always be prepared, but there was no need for knots or fires or water purification, so not being quick enough of wit to out shout the locals with our suggestions, we shall be Obamanian and use a prompter (or cheat sheet) next time. If you attend a Scared Scriptless show, have a list of places, objects, quotes, items and occupations ready to go as these are the elements which drive the show. Improv only works when nobody knows what to expect and the actors have to think fast and funny on their feet.  Anything goes so be prepared to expect nothing sacred. 

The troupe has a website, a facebook page, a café press merchandise site and t-shirts for sale during the shows.  They also teach classes and workshops, raise thousands of dollars for non-profits and are as professional as any actors one would find in Toronto or Chicago or any number of other cities where I have attending improv comedy clubs. So why did it take so long for us to discover a gem in our own backyard? For the same reason many local artists are still “here” as well…the unfortunate reality that many people falsely believe that what is nearby is not really as good, as important or as professional as what (or who) is someplace else. For some reason, “here” is never as good as “there”. Scared Scriptless is just one example of an arts group that proves this line of thinking to be wrong, wrong, wrong. So snatch off the snuggie and venture downtown (parking is free on nights and weekends!) to take advantage of what lies within our own locale.

The next Scared Scriptless performance is Saturday Feb 25 to benefit the Friends of Stark County Library. I will venture that details about this and other shows is on their website…