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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Walking At Night

        Halloween can have a brighter side, but darkness is what we associate with that special day. However, darkness does not have to always refer to that which is bad, evil, or scary.  One definition is that darkness is merely the absence of light. Normally, though, the absence is not absolute. Often it is quite easy for most of us to see in the dark once our eyes adjust. We just might not see everything or see as well as we might if there were more light present. Walking in the dark can sometimes be illuminating to the mind and soul.
        I've been thinking more about my past experiences with walking at night in the mountains.  When I was in my years between about 19 and 25 I did a lot of night walking, not for any bad intent, but just because it was interesting and it was something to do. I was still living at home with my parents in Maryville, Tennessee while attending the university in Knoxville. One of my favorite places to go any time of day was the Foothills Parkway, at that time a 16.5 mile stretch transversing Chilhowee Mountain going from the town of Walland to Chilhowee Lake. Foothills Parkway is still mostly unfinished, but should one day extend a total of 71 miles all the way to Interstate 40 near Cosby, Tennessee.  Back in the early 70's the Chilhowee Mountain stretch was the part of the Parkway that was most accessable to me.  It was about 15 minutes from my parents house to the parkway entrance so it was a easy place to go for a pleasant drive, to watch the sunset, or park and enjoy the city lights at night. The views were spectacular--the Great Smoky Mountains to the south and the beautiful Tennessee Valley to the north.  If it was really clear, looking northward you could possibly see past Maryville-Alcoa to Knoxville and as far the Cumberland Mountains. No matter what the time of day the views were picture postcard perfect.
           My friends and I probably went up to Chilhowee Mountain at night almost as much as in the daytime. At about the midway point of that stretch of the parkway there is the Look Rock Observation Tower which  is a circular concrete structure easily accessible by a ramp. The view from the top is amazing and attracts many visitors throughout the year.  Most people don't go at night. That's when I usaully went.  The Look Rock Campground, which is operated by the National Park Service, is nearby.  Sometimes we would camp at this beautiful campground and walk up to the tower during the night. There were usually very few people who camped here.  Most of the time the campground was closed and when that was the case we would park across the parkway from the tower access road and walk up to the tower.  This way was much easier than the designated hiking trail which wound up from a scenic overlook area up through the woods.  The access road was not as steep, it was wider, and much easier to follow in the darkness. We never brought flashlights. We never needed them. There was plenty of starlight, moonlight if the moon was out, and whatever ambient light exists that typically lights the night.
        After reaching the top of the tower we would nearly always spend the first several minutes silently taking in the view around us-- the shadowy majesty of the Great Smoky Mountains silhouetted against the night sky, a glimmering peek of Chilhowee Lake behind the foothills, the darkness of the valleys, and the expansive spread of the constellation of lights between us and Knoxville and beyond.  We could see the lights of the Knoxville McGhee-Tyson Airport and watch the coming of going of the air traffic.  There was the continous movement of the lights of the ground traffic flowing the streets below.  The world of the night time spread out all about us as we watched in a sort of awestruck silence.
        Then after our meditation on the night, we would begin our musings on the possibilities of not only the night, but our lives, the world, the universe, or wherever our imaginations took us.  Much like conversation that is traded around the campfire we would tell eerie stories and ponder the mysteries of the unknown all the while watching the skies in hopes of seeing a U.F.O. or at the very least a streaking meteor.  It was a time of dreams and wandering thoughts.  Eventually we would make our way back to the campsite or the car with renewed spirits and unanswered questions.
          After night has come, most of us sleep and dream.  I've heard some people say that they don't have dreams. According to research, we all do dream and dreaming is essential for good mental health.  Research tells us that on the average humans spend six years of their lives dreaming.  Even animals dream according to scientific studies.  Those who say they do not dream probably just don't remember their dreams or recognize that they are dreaming. Darkness inspires the dreams of sleep as well as the dreams of wakefulness. I'm sure you have heard people say, "Close your eyes and imagine...".  What happens when you close your eyes?  You create a personal state of darkness where there are no overt visual distractions and you can focus on an inner state of peace. It's good to dream whether it be nightdreams or daydreams.  So close your eyes and dream of things as they have been, as they are, and as they could be.  All that has been accomplished was initially dreamed.  Let your dreams work for you.  And don't be afraid of the dark.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Walking In The Dark

        Halloween is associated with darkness.  The main activities of Halloween are in the evening. The events usually include some sort of "haunted" attraction that is dark or dimly lit. The mythology and imagery surrounding the occasion mostly deal with graveyards, spirits, witches, vampires and other places and creatures of the darker realms.  Halloween celebrates the night.
        I got to thinking about this last night as I walked around in darkness.  My wife usually goes to bed much earlier than I do, so when I am coming to bed I keep the lights off as much as possible so as not to disturb her sleep. I shut off the lights in my home office and prowl through the darkened house as I make my way to bed.  At first, before my eyes have been able to adjust to the change in lighting, it seems very dark. Then gradually I am able to realize that it is really not that dark at all.  Light from the outside filters through the closed blinds. There are many red, green, or amber lights from appliances and electronic devices and clocks throughout the house. I am amazed at all of the various lights that remain on always. Momentarily I recall hearing on the Southwest Radio Church program one time that the government of the "Beast" that will one day rule the entire world will be able to "watch" everyone in Big Brother fashion through the electronics that are always on in our homes. Pausing, I wonder if they could see me in this darkness.
          I enjoy walking around the house in the dark.  In a way it seems like an exercise that helps increase my visual acuity as well heightening other senses. I walk carefully so as not to hurt myself or knock anything over. A few times I have painfully banged my toe making me more careful about where I direct my steps. I pride myself on my night vision.  Walking in the dark house is like practicing for being blind or having a severe visual impairment.  I hope it never happens, but for short periods I get some sense of what it would be like.  I like being able to see well so I want my eyes to be healthy, but walking in the dark can be a challenge.
          As a matter of fact, I've always liked walking in the dark.  Back to the idea of the challenge in one part, but also the feeling of mystery and fear and sense of peacefulness and solitude walking or just being in the dark sometimes offers.  To be in a darkened room, not sleeping, but just resting, reflecting, and meditating can be immensely restoratitve to the soul.  The womb-like retreat of a dark place can feel safe and sheltering.  Usually you can see in the dark as we usually encounter darkness like as when I am walking around the house.  It's not like the demonstration of real darkness that cavern tour guides in places like Carlsbad Caverns give you when they will at one point turn off the lights. That's real darkness. Back when I was in my 20's my friends and I would sometimes engage ourselves in spelunking--cave exploration--and almost always at some point we would turn out our lights to experience the darkness.  If we would have ever lost our lights, then that would have been true terror.  True blindness.
         Once, in that same era of my life when I was still living at home with my parents back in Tennessee, my friend Fred (God rest his departed soul) and I decided to hike to the top of the Chimney Top peaks in the Smokey Mountains to see the sunrise.  Fred spent the night at my house and we got up about 3 AM and drove to the Chimney Tops trailhead.  It was a couple hour hike so most of it had to be done in the darkness in order to experience sunrise at the summit. I had attempted the hike twice before in the daylight.  The first time my friend Marvin and I somehow got off the trail and ended up on a different trail where we came upon some other hikers who had food and shared their lunch with us. We never made it to the Chimney Tops. My second visit with two other friends reached the intended destination and it was then I decided that one day I would return for the sunrise. When Fred and I made the trek we did so without flashlights. The darkness was especially intense on the trail because it was totally forested. We walked carefully.  The trail was visible enough to follow but all around us was the ambiguity of the dark, silent mountain forest. We had a goal and persisted until we reached the top.  The sky was lightening with the dawn and the cool August morning air was still with anticipation.  We found some rocks at the pinnacle and waited.  Then, as though God were speaking to us, the sun appeared along with a grand whoosh of the wind.  It was breathtaking and the two of  us watched silently.
           I like to walk in darkness, in the literal sense, as long as I can see a little bit and I'm not totally blind.  If I can see something in the darkness and have a pretty good idea of where I'm going, then I know that if I am careful I should be okay and get to my destination safely. However, often I think we all walk in darkness in the figurative sense.  We may lack spirituallity, God, love, friendship, knowledge, wisdom, or whatever makes us more enlightened or goal-oriented in our lives.  We walk with uncertaintity, loneliness, sadness, and fears that cannot seem to be assuaged.  That is not a pleasant darkness in which to walk.
            Some oft given advice for trick-or-treaters since they will be out walking in the dark is that they should carry some sort of light.  The light is not really intended for the trick-or-treaters to find their way through the streets. Normally there is enough light  for everyone to see where they are going in the streets of the neighborhood.  The light that they are advised to carry is so that people can see them.

Monday, September 28, 2009

In Honor of Great Explorers

       Halloween doesn't particularly inspire costumes depicting the great explorers of history.  For that matter, historical figures are generally excluded.  Perhaps there is the occasional president like Abe Lincoln.  And Richard Nixon probably still tops the list of most popular presidential mask. There are the American history generics like cowboys and indians. But great explorers are not typically thought of as dress-up fodder.  Then again when has there been a great explorer movie that has been a huge hit.  No licensing opportunities there so far.
       Actually a Christopher Columbus costume might be kind of cool.  And Hernando Cortez or any of the other conquistadors would make fine costuming with the metal helmets and all.  Lewis and Clark would be a bit more rustic and less exciting I suppose, but it would be a good buddy or couples costume selection-- or add Sacajawea and you got a group. Then there's Marco Polo.  Astronauts could probably fit with the explorers crowd, but I think that costume is fairly regularly represented each year. As for me, I think I might go for Cabeza de Vaca (Google him if you're curious), but maybe I'll go into that on some future post.
       So why in the world am I pontificating on famous explorers?  Well, I have spent a goodly portion of the past several days exploring the blogosphere.  It could take more than a lifetime to adequately check them all out. There is really a lot out there-- so many people, topics, styles.  What I want to do is figure out as much as I can about this whole realm of the internet.  What works?  Who reads?  Why do people come to your site?  How do you keep them coming back?  It's really a lot to deal with.  No wonder there are so many "courses" on how to do the various internet things.  I find myself going in circles in my research at times.  But I shall persist.  Please if any readers have any suggestions, recommendations, or comments toss them out to me.  I'd love to hear your thoughts.
         Oh, and by the way, don't forget:   Halloween is coming!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Mystery of Alley Oop

       Halloween costumes have become rather complex in many cases.  Costume licensing is a huge business and each new movie release requires a new envisioning of a costume that in past times had been pretty traditional.  Adding muscles, newly designed logos, or variations in colors and style design means the old costumes might be considered passe.  When I was a child you could just tie a piece of cloth-- like a towel say--around your neck and with a little imagination and your say so you were Superman.  That day is gone. Now check out costumes on the web or in the store and you will find many styles and quality variants of the Superman garb. You can be the Superman from the comic book, the cartoon, or any number of movies. The towel and the imagination are part of an impoverished past.
      A major turning point came about with the 1989 Batman movie.  The various degrees of costume quality in part heavily directed to the adult costume wearer were a hit with the dress up crowd.  The licensing entities of the motion picture industry quickly caught on and it was no longer business as it had been in the past. The license became bigger than ever and more expensive as well.  But there was and is money to be made.  Now you don't just dress up like Batman, you are Batman --"as seen in the movie!".  It's all become a little too slick and in some ways taken away some of the fun.  It's hard to compete in the local costume contest with your homemade slapped together duds when you're up against a professional outfit rented from the costume shop.
        But thinking about the topic of licensing based on popular movies, it got me to thinking about one of my favorite comic characters of my younger days.  Where the heck is Alley Oop?  Granted a lot of people don't know what you're talking about when you mention Alley Oop.  Basketball fans might say that it is a pass of the ball.  Or it's also the name of a football play. Other people might recall the song from about 40 or 50 years back called "Alley Oop".  But where did the name Alley Oop come from?  Well, he was one of the greatest comic book characters of all time as far as I'm concerned.
         For those unfamiliar with Alley Oop he was a caveman who rode around on a dinosaur named Dinny and had an adorable love interest named Ooola.  He was transported into the future by a couple of eccentric scientists who then proceded to bounce him around through hero.  Alley was a muscle-bound guy who was practically naked most of the time, but he was funny and smart.  Great movie material.  And talk about sequels -- the possibilities are endless. 
          For years the Flintstones have been among the most popular Halloween costumes.  People like cavemen and women.  With today's special effects you can really do the dinosaurs good.  The Alley Oop movie would have everything needed for huge money-making licensing opportunities -- action figures, imprinted items, and Halloween costumes.
       Back at the beginning of August I took a road trip to Houston and on the way back to L.A. stopped at Iraan, Texas-- the "birthplace" of Alley Oop.  There is a park there dedicated to his honor.   I had heard of it many years ago and decided that this time I would make a side trip to visit.  Iraan is in the rugged, arid desolation of West Texas.  The country has a stark beauty that is such a striking part of the American West.
With temperatures in the 100's I was certainly thankful for comfortable cars with good air conditioning.  We arrived in town midday.  It didn't look like the sort of place where one would want to spend much time let alone live in. Then we came to empty parking lot for the empty "Alley Oop Fantasyland" park. I saw a couple of lizard and that was about it. It was Monday, but even on weekends this was probably a pretty non-happening place.  The park was well maintained.  There was a small museum that appeared to deal more with prehistory, indigeonous people, and history than Alley Oop, but the museum was closed.  But I was glad that I was there to pay homage to a sadly neglected American icon.  We took some pictures and moved on--that was as about as much as we could do.  However the sidetrip for the scenery alone was worth the detour off of I-10 and I would highly recommend it if you have the time if ever you are passing that way.
         So in closing I want to put my emphatic vote for a big-budget, full blown special effects laden, decent and respectful big screen feature treatment of Alley Oop.  If done right I think it would be a tremendously entertaining film that would could be a franchise with legs to keep it going for years to come. And the licensing potential could be huge.  Hear that Hollywood!  You could make a lot of money.

  
Here I am at "Alley Oop Fantasyland" park in Iraan, Texas posing with the giant bust of Alley Oop himself and with Dinny the Dinosaur.




Saturday, September 26, 2009

As In Moving It Out

        Halloween is sometimes inspired by yard sales--especially this time of year as some of us start trying to decide how we or our kids are going to dress up for the festive occasion.  Just a stop at one of our local halloween retailers is sometimes enough to scare us more than any witch or monster when we see some of the costs involved with putting together a decent costume. The fact that most of the costume buying crowd is usually making a purchase for one time use means that there are a slew of people out there who have still reasonbly like new costume that they probably won't wear again. For those who don't just throw them away, pack them away, or donate them to some charity this often means Yard Sale merchandise. Thus today's topic is tossing it out as in moving it out the door so it doesn't have to take up space that can be used for other valuable junk.
       Today I had a Yard Sale.  Rather I should say I participated in a Giant Community Multi-Family Yard Sale.  Par for the course, we probably had 10 or so households participating out of a potential 113 households. This was less than we have usually have  had, but even at that participation in our accumulated junk liquidation ventures is usually less than exciting.  Nevertheless, partly in the spirit of community involvement, but mostly for the purpose of getting rid of crap (or "another man's treasure" as it is sometimes known), I try to be a part of the fun. So today I was up before dawn setting out tables and merchandise and then waited for the crush of bargain-hunters that were to come.  Except they didn't--not many at least.  By 11 AM I was packing everything after having sold about $25 worth of stuff -- worked out to less than minumum wage when I factor the time I put into it all.  At least I filled my trashcan and recycle bin with trash that I decided I could part with-- finally tossing it out.  And I did reorganize my garage so that now we can again fit one of our cars in it.  What a concept!  A car in the garage.  The morning was not in vain.
         So to what do I attribute the less than stellar outcome of our sale?  Signage was adequate.  The folks that scavenge the housecleaning of others by trolling the neighborhoods looking for yard sales found us easily by the signs.  What we lacked was effective outside advertising.  We had decided to save advertising expense and forego The PennySaver, where we had found a modicum of success in the past, and of course, at least in L.A., advertising in the classifieds of the newspaper is about as effective as attaching a message to a helium balloon and hoping that someone finds it and tells everybody they know.  To save money we posted an announcement on Craigslist.
        In the past few weeks preceding my yard sale I have been posting items to sell on Craigslists with a fairly good level of success.  Craigslist is kind of like the world's biggest yard sale except that you don't have to stand outside with your stuff.  You just put it on the site and if someone's interested you make arrangements to get together with them.  Sure there is the creepy factor, but if you're careful I think you're okay.  I have people come to my house to pick things up; I insist on cash payment; I don't let anybody come inside my house, but transact everything in my driveway out in the open; and I don't allow anyone to come after dark.  I was a bit uneasy about dealing with strangers in this manner, but actually the people who have bought stuff from me have been pretty nice and just hand me what I've asked for something with no haggling.
Very much like a yard sale by appointment only.  So advertising a Yard Sale on Craigslist is kind of like advertising a yard sale at someone else's yard sale.  Maybe some readers have had some experience with posting your yard sales on Craigslist and found it to be effective.  I'd love to hear your experiences with this and what you did that made it effective.
       As I have been dealing with Craigslist, I have been looking at some of the postings and noticing that a lot of people are selling those old Halloween costumes that they have in their closets.  And cheap when you compare them to store pricing.  For example, there seem to be a lot of the sexy Leg Avenue costumes that you find in stores for $50 to $100 or more selling used for $5 to $50.  I'm pretty sure that they are usually almost like new and if you go to buy you can check them out and you're not obgligated to take it if it's not to your liking.  Likewise, I have noticed in many of the yard sale postings at this time of year people are advertising Halloween costumes.  I know I've sold them in the past very cheaply and somebody got a heck of a deal.  And didn't sell trash either.  Those of you who are already committed thriftshoppers, Craigslist junkies, or yard sale buyers know the advantages of this kind of buying, especially for something as ephemeral as Halloween.  And it's not just limited to traditional costumes either.  Make your own costumes with some of the retro fashions, hats, cheap baubles, or other accessories that you can often find for virtually pennies.  Don't throw away a fortune on a costume for one time use.  These are tough times for many and this calls for drastic measures.  And  even if times aren't tough for you, I'm sure you can find some better ways to spend your hard earned dollars.
      As always, if any of you have any experiences to relate, or suggestions, or debate to the contrary please toss it back.  We'd love to hear from you.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Attack of the Talking Picture Box -- FlashForward

      Halloween has deterred me from watching much TV in the past 18 years.  I'll explain why in a future post, but for now my thoughts have turned to one of modern society's most dangerous "drugs"--the video beast. In my pre-college school years I was addicted.  My off-school time was determined by TV Guide as I scheduled the hours of my days according to what I needed to watch on television--and that was before "must-see TV". Oh, I had some time set aside for other activities like reading, listening to music, or even associating with friends, but this time was frequently built around what I "needed" to watch. No TIVO or VHS back then.  And for most of those years it was something like a 19" black and white television set.  God only knows what would have happened if I had had the giant screen  color television sets that we have now, not to mention the various media players and video games.  I guess I would have grown roots and become firmly planted on my parents couch until my father would have kicked me out the door.
        Then, once I started college in 1969, a more socially involved lifestyle took over thank goodness. Also the necessity to work gave me additional things to do with my time. For the next nearly four decades TV became somewhat incidental for the most part.  There were the occasional lapses.  I felt compelled to watch "The Midnight Special" every Friday night, I watched "Roots", I usually watched "Saturday Night Live", I became transfixed by MTV for awhile when it used to just show music videos.  But for the most part I only dropped in sporadically for news or small doses of whatever was on when I didn't have anything else to do. I didn't have the schedule set aside like I did back in my younger days--excepting "Quantum Leap" which was worthy.  But if I didn't see regularly scheduled TV, no big deal.  I watched movies on video, but I could do this on my schedule.  I didn't feel addicted.
        However, in the fast few years I feel the draw of TV once again.  I guess it started with "American Idol".  I resisted for the first few seasons.  But after awhile, since for many of those with whom I conversed on a regular basis the topic was the popular singing competition, I looked at the show.  Then I started watching it. Then I got hooked.  Oh, horror of horrors! Oh, despicable mediocre life!  Next it was "America's Got Talent", which appealed to the circus/vaudeville side of me.  Granted the judges seem to have a aversion toward jugglers, but no  matter.  This was like a super high tech version of "Ted Mack's Original Amateur Hour" and "The Gong Show" rolled into one (how about that for some dated references?).
        Still I have mostly avoided the weekly series.  Okay, in addition to "Quantum Leap", I also faithfully followed "Twin Peaks", "Millenium", and the first season of  "3rd Rock From The Sun", but the other shows like "Friends" or "Seinfeld" or anything else just didn't attract my time.  Then last night I watched "Flash Forward" on ABC.  They have been promoting this for months now and it looked like my cup of tea.  It hinted at some of my favorite topics--apocalyptic disaster, possible God connections, time travel, dreamscape, and the ever mysterious scenario of what the heck is going on.  So the show was on my calendar.
       And so last night, after "Wheel of Fortune",  I watched "Flash Forward".  I may get hooked.  It's a quality production with good special effects, nice balance of action and drama, fine acting, and an intriguing story line.  The basic premise is this:  On one typical day in the present everyone in the world "blacks out" for something like 2 minutes and 17 seconds causing chaos everywhere--plane and car crashes and massive death, injury and destruction.  After they revive, everyone begins to realize that while they were absent from the conciousness of the present time, they were actually seeing a simultaneous time a few months into the future.  Future episodes will be apparently unravelling the meaning of what happened as well as the point in the future they have witnessed.  There is also the promise of other mysteries as the series follows some key characters and the dramas of their interpersonal relationships. I will probably end up following this show if it maintains the quality of the opening episode.
      Although here's a worrisome aspect of this.  After "Flash Forward", I watched "Fringe" (a show that I have watched before and somewhat enjoyed) and then "Jay Leno" (I have watched several of the shows since it began, I usually was never able to stay up to watch his late night show).  I mean, that was 3 1/2 hours of straight TV viewing.  I'm going to have to be careful.  Maybe this is partially a function of my current "unemployment" and partially due to getting older with all the kids having left the nest.  No matter what, should I be a little bit concerned?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Make Target Practice, Not War

     Hold on for Halloween. I still intend to get to that topic soon. 
     Today we have what to do after firing.  Though some blogs are forums for rants and raves, I don't want to be guilty of  incendiary provocations. I don't want to be just shooting off my mouth or shooting from the hip. This ain't no cowboy blog pardner. I mean, I like cowboys and westerns and such, but I'm not intending for a gunfight at the OK Corral or anything like that. I just want to sit around the campfire and jaw a bit. I enjoy a good debate and I will follow through with that when the situation calls for it, but hopefully always in good clean fun. I ain't got nothin' against nobody in particular.  There might be some ideas, lifestyles, movements, or the like that I don't particularly like or agree with, but I'm usually happy to chat about any of it. So civil debate, yes-war no.
      In other words, using the metaphor of words or the blog as a gun, I'm just doing target practice.  I'm not out to attack anyone or hurt anybody.  Not to say I might not get careless at times, but hopefully if I do hit anyone it will only be a flesh wound.  What to do after firing?  When it's just casual target practice, after firing I would want to take a look and see if I hit my target and see  how I could improve in the future. I've never been a gun guy and have only fired a gun a few times, but I'm not against guns by any means.  One of my friends who does own guns and is pretty knowledgeable about them once told me about how he once stood a bayonet upright in the ground, fired at it to where the blade split the bullet in half to where the bullet halves broke two glass bottles standing behind the bayonet. He experimented with the shot a number of times before actually successfully breaking two bottles with one bullet, but when he finally did it I guess it was pretty impressive.  Oh, and two other friends of mine were there to witness the feat and they corroborated the story.  I have no real reason to doubt it.
        The point of all this is if you're doing target practice, after firing you fire again trying to correct any aiming errors you had the first time.  Then you keep firing to perfect your shooting skill.  When you're done you put the weapon away in a safe place.  Sometimes you will need to clean the gun again. Care and maintenance will keep the weapon in good working order.  And whenever you're ready to use it, your gun's ready.  Bang!
       I think I prefer the juggling metaphor better.  It conjures a more peaceful image.  Clowns and costumed performers or people just having fun in the park tossing their props into the air. Skill and dexterity all honed by hours of practice. And it's good exercise.  So are you ready?  Okay I'm going to toss it to you. Ready? Here it comes.  You got it?  Toss it back.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Who Am I? & Who Are You?

To-day we have naming of parts. Yesterday,
We had daily cleaning. And to-morrow morning,
We shall have what to do after firing. But to-day,
To-day we have naming of parts.

from the poem "Naming of Parts" by Henry Reed

       Halloween is still on its way, but that can still wait for a while. I am going to get to the topic eventually and further clarify "why" the topic of "Halloween". But that is yet to come. For now I want to give some further clarification about who I am and what I am doing.
        Here are some parts of who I am:    writer, speaker, entertainer, music lover, collector, husband, father, grandfather, friend, traveler, seeker of truth and wisdom.  This is just a limited view of my fields of interest and pursuits in life.  In the "Tossing It Out" blog I will be using these aspects of my background as touchstones for my topics.  Indeed, I will probably be going way beyond all this, but these "parts of who I am" are the initial things that come to my mind. And now I will break some of this down.
       I am a writer.  I am writing this blog.  I have not yet published a book but I am working on this.  I have had a few articles appear in various sources. But for all practical purposes virtually noone has heard of me, the author, yet, although I hope that this will be changing in the near future.  Writing has been a passion since childhood but it seems like I have always pushed this behind me in order to pursue other things. Have any of you had similar experiences  -- with writing or perhaps something else that you have dreamed about?  We all know in our hearts that it's never too late to pursue our dreams.
      I am a speaker.  I talk to people. I haven't presented seminars or done any circuits or anything like that.  But I have presented to smaller groups for business and educational purposes. Some of the folks who have heard me have told me that they have enjoyed my presentations and encouraged me that I should be going out and doing oral presentations for a living.  I am going to be pursuing this. Years ago, I originally attended college with the intent of becoming a teacher.  I don't know that I'll necessarily be going back to this plan, but something along this line might be good. Nothing like a captive audience. Even better would be an appreciative audience that really wants to hear what I have to say. 
      I am an entertainer. In my previous post I mentioned how I worked professionally as a juggler.  In fact I grew up in a family of jugglers.  We worked throughout the U.S. performing our juggling act and had a pretty decent reputation in our field. For many of my adult years I toured with stage productions not only juggling, but also performing magic, acting, singing, and playing the violin. Now I'm not a great violinist by any means, but I was at one time a member of the musicians union in Richmond, VA when I played a stint in a dinner theater bluegrass band.  That means I played professionally. Maybe I was mediocre, but I was getting a paycheck.
      I am a music lover.   I started playing the violin when I was about 9 or so. I started because I loved music. It's probably something I picked up from my parents. Music was always part of our home life. Later I began acquiring records of music I liked, then cassettes, and later CD's.  I like most kinds of music and give just about anything a listen. Music is the soundtrack of my life. Yours too probably.  Think about the last time you went grocery shopping.  What was playing in the background?  I'm almost positive there was a soundtrack to your shopping experience.  Unless it was in Costco or someplace like that.  Now that would require some arena style sound equipment.  Hmmm-- now appearing at Costco:  JOURNEY... or maybe the Costco Symphony Orchestra.  Maybe I'll go back to that topic someday.
     I am a collector.  Besides my collection of recordings I have stamps, postcards, books, videos, DVDs, among other things.  None of it is very organized. Not really a catalogued, well displayed collection. My wife looks at it as more of an accumulation of a lot of stuff.  So okay I'm a packrat. But it's always a challenge trying to figure out what to get rid of and I can't bring myself to just chuck it all like my wife would like to see.  After all my collection represents much of who I am and what I value.  What do you the reader collect or value?  How do you deal with your accumulations of "stuff"?
     I am a family guy.  Read husband, father, grandfather, sibling, et al. I enjoy my family as most of us, if not all of us, should.  I'll also add friend to this category.  I have a lot of people that I consider to be friends even though I don't spend much time with any of them. My people, friends and family, are scattered all over the country so I don't see them much, but when we get together it's good and none of them are ever far from my thoughts and prayers.
     I am a traveler.   Not world traveler.  I have been to Canada and Mexico, but otherwise I've never left the continental 48 states.  That's okay by me. I love the U.S. and I figure I could spend the rest of my life traveling around this great country and never get tired of it.  Too many interesting places and people. I don't travel as much as I used to, but the road keeps calling me. Must have been the bug that bit when I was growing up and that show biz lifestyle I was living when I was working on the road.
      I am seeker of Truth and Wisdom.  Am I alone in this one?  Of course not--most of you are with me in some form or fashion.  As far a my personal journey, I am a Christian and a lover of the good ol' U.S.A. I read and study the Bible regularly, but also try to stay informed through many other sources.  There's just not enough time in the day to travel this road, but every day is a new opportunity for learning and experience.
      So here you have some of the parts of who I am.  It doesn't end here of course. There are many other facets of me.  And as days come and go so I grow. Hopefully I will grow better.  And hopefully you will like who I am?   Who are you?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Mission Statement

      Halloween is going to be put on the back burner for today.  Oh man, here's this guy obsessing on Halloween again!  Be patient.  It will all come together in the future as I carry on with this blog.  I just want to get some things straight--to lay out ground rules in a sense.

        As most of you know, any business, company, organization these days likes to identify itself with a mission statement.  A mission statement is a pronouncement that seeks to clarify an entity's purpose in being, belief system, and intended course. So here I wish to proclaim my intentions and my identity as it all pertains to this blog which I have called "TOSSING IT OUT".  Firstly, keep in mind that this endeavor is a personal exercise in the disciplines of written communication and an experiment in communicating in this medium with which I am still somewhat unfamiliar.  So the first rule is that any rules that I make on this post may change in the future and in essence there are no precise and absolute rules.  The mission statement for this blog is like planning a vacation where I am not limited by time, money, boundaries, or the needs of other people.  I might start with a map, a vehicle, a tank of gas, and an idea of where I might want to go, but at any time I might take a detour, stop and stay in place that I like for a while, turn around and go back to a place that I've already been, visit a friend, meditate at a scenic overlook, or even break down by the side of the road.  I might leave my car and start walking.  I might catch a plane, a boat, or a train. And whether I've decided to listen to Bacharach, Bach, or the Beatles, you the reader are along for the ride (if we're riding) or walk or whatever. My hope is that I am good company.  I will try not to bore you. If you have something to say, I think you can leave comments.  I'll be looking for them.  Of course, I have to realize that I might be on this journey by myself.  I hope not.  Let me know you're there sometimes.

        I am looking at this blog as a business of sorts.  If you've read my previous posts you are aware that I am currently unemployed in the traditional sense of the way we look at this sort of thing. So this will be a part time job for me.  Or perhaps it will be like taking a class. It will indeed be another one of life's many learning experiences and I always enjoy learning. This will be one of my forums for disseminating my ideas, my random thoughts, and my perspectives on our wonderful world and universe and putting it all into writing and tossing it out there to you (I hope there's a you somewhere out there) and hoping that perhaps you will toss it back to me.

       Now what's with all this "tossing it out" business? A bit of background presented now for explanatory purposes.  I am a juggler.  I have worked professionally as a juggler at times in my past. I'm not a great juggler like Rastelli or Frances Brunn ("Who? you may say. Google it).  But I have been paid to juggle at times in my past so that makes me a professional.  The imagery of tossing things in the air and keeping them going and me tossing them to you and you tossing them back to me and all this juggling words and ideas just seemed so appropriate.  Thus, the title "TOSSING IT OUT".  So it's not like throwing out the trash or discarding junk I no longer want.  I'm not inviting you to my garage sale hoping to carry off what I don't want.  I am hoping to share an experience with you the reader and have us involved in a communal activity that is entertaining and stimulating. I hope to demonstrate skill and showmanship. I don't expect to become the Ringling Brothers of the Blogosphere, The Greatest Show on Earth.  No, I just want to be like a little travelling show playing one-nighters or maybe the street performer gathering the passing crowds.  Then it would be cool to have a following of fans who keep coming back to see what I'll do next.  But we shall see.
        In any case, that should suffice for background for the time being. Now to formulate that mission statemtent.  And here it is:

The "Tossing It Out" blog is here to entertain, stimulate, and inform whenever possible. The author will make every attempt to be accurate and fair at all times and will be open to the input of any readership the blog may develop. There is no set course, no absolute purpose, and the content, though at times random, will strive for cohesion and clarity.

            If you have any comments, criticisms, or suggestions I'd love to hear from you.
       
Lee
       

Monday, September 21, 2009

Halloween, The Day That Lasts for Weeks (Months?)

We have these holidays for which we spend weeks in preparation. When I was a kid it seemed like you started thinking about Halloween a couple of weeks before hand. You remembered that it was coming, decided what you were going to dress up as, stuck some cardboard decorations up on the doors and windows a few days ahead of time, maybe made a jack-o-lantern, mom bought some candy, and then the day came. It was always exciting getting up in the morning and dressing up in costume to parade around the schoolyard. There wasn't much in the way of academics on that day, just waiting for school to end and embark upon the festivities of the evening. There was a school carnival. Then when darkness came, a couple of hours of trick-or-treating. By the end of the evening we were all set for candy until at least Thanksgiving. We idled time trading and eating candy, throwing away apples and weird homemade goods, and sorting through the treasures in our goodie bags. It wasn't always candy or other edibles either. Sometimes there would be the strays coins or other unexpected items. Once I recall finding a decorative bar of soap in the bag. I kept that bar of soap for years and for all I know maybe after 40 some years I still have it somewhere. But Halloween was quite different back then.
I guess I was an adult when I first started hearing the scare stories about apples with razor blades or baked goods laced with LSD and the like. Maybe we were on the right track when we were throwing all that unpackaged stuff away. Although in my 20's the drug laced stuff sounded inviting. But the commercial bombardment was the really big change. Now Halloween generates the most money after Christmas and may be closing in to eventually surpass that benevolent holiday. Let's face it, Halloween is a self indulgent holiday. Sure we buy millions of dollars worth of candy to give away, but many people go to huge expense to show off how they decorate their houses and costume themselves. Halloween used to seem mainly for the kids. Now beaucoups dollars are laid out for adult festivities and haunted attractions that primarily are geared toward teens and young adults.
Halloween merchandise starts appearing in stores as early as July. Temporary stores, often on a gigantic scale, appear in vacated storefronts in August. Some Halloween stores even operate year round. Numerous online vendors can be found on the web and these too are year round. If you check out one of these Halloween stores, you may find lines out the door with crowd control in place and even cops controlling traffic. It's all true--I have seen it myself.
It's coming and this year it's on a Saturday. From a kid's point of view that's not so great in one way because they don't get the school activities, but on the other hand maybe they can stay out later. But as far as I'm concerned I'll be turning out my lights by 8:30. That is if I do Halloween at all. Remember I'm unemployed right now and have you seen the price of those bags of candy? I think I usually spend about $50 on goodies allowing for enough left over to keep me supplied with goodies for a few days.
So being on Saturday that means it's party central for many adults. Bars love it I'm sure. Any excuse to get out and drink and party. And party stores should do a booming business for the home parties. In the end I don't know how much it all matters. This is going to the first Halloween in many, many years I will be sitting back as an observer, but I won't go into that now. The point is this-- it's coming, it'll probably be big financially, and then it will be over. Time for diets and dentists.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Halloween is Coming!

Halloween costumes, halloween masks, halloween candy, halloween decorations, halloween cards. Halloween cards? Okay nothing new, but today I walked into the Hallmark store at the mall near where I live and I was struck by the quantity of Halloween cards on display. Total display racks devoted to nothing but this "holiday". Perhaps later I can expound upon my wonderment, but I just thought it seemed kind of weird.
Halloween is coming. So is Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year. And of course right after Christmas the Valentine's merchandise will start appearing on store shelves. Today I heard mention of EID which is something to do with Ramadan or something like that-- I don't really keep up with the ethnic (to me) deals. But I did not see any EID or Ramadan displays in the Hallmark store-- and I am happy for that. So one might look at my words here and think to themself, "this guy seems rather holiday obsessive," and I might say in reply, "Okay I've been unemployed for the last 6 months or so and, yeah, it pops into my mind now and then." And it does, but not that much. But enough of that already.
I'm just thinking about blogging. Have been for several months. I guess unemployment does that sometimes. I started this blog awhile back, but this is my first entry. It's an experiment so I'm just writing stuff. I guess that partly what a lot of blogs are, right. I'm just formulating random thoughts and ideas and tossing them out there. Maybe some of them will stick. So anyway please bear with me. This may also be my last post or it may be the beginning of a long exercise in randomness. Or this all may become organized and come together as a fruitbearing farm of thought. I used to fantasize about being a farmer someday. That seems like a lot of work though--but, hey, it is employment.
So what do you think? Obama, Michael Jackson, NFL, Armageddon, Facebook, crochet, cycling, cyclones, cyclotrons, randomness, organized thought, nihilism? I don't know right now. This is my first post and I just tossing it out, seeing if it sticks to the wall. And if it does-- well, if it does I'll figure out what comes next cause right now I don't really know exactly what is going on exactly with this blogging thing.