Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Embracing change

If I embrace change, right now I'm the worst I'll ever be.
But if I don't, right now I'm the best I'll ever be.
-Jeff Seagrave

Take massive action now!
Nothing changes unless i change.

illustrated Tim Keller quote

Monday, July 29, 2013

Chuck vs Les Mis

Theme song: Short Skirt, Long Jacket

No flash nor training nor all of GBeck's resources could have made both possible. When the CIA figures out how to give us more TIME, I want in on it!

Not enough time for a Chuckathon today, but we used what time we had to enjoy Chuck vs the Push Mix, grape soda (ok, Purple Cows), and cheese balls.

A real Chuckathon would of course have included Subway, but olives are verboten.

Then we went to the show.

And later, Toby's posted a cool Interview with Toby.
Tangentially, I found that in their free time, Neil Patrick Harris and Jason Segel both love Les Mis and sing Confrontation to each other. Here they mention it to Megan Mulally on her short-lived talk show, and they are completely willing to burst into song impromptu.
I just wish the audience had let them finish it out. Can you imagine? And they were into it enough to leap to their feet -- I bet if they'd continued, they'd have been circling each other and jumping up on furniture.

The difference between "in the round" and "proscenium stage"

Things you never think of when you go to a show (until now):
Gosh, I'm glad to be on this side of the barricade.

SPOILERS THROUGHOUT! I am assuming you know the story of Les Mis. My intention in this post is to marvel at the execution of the show.

(Show photos from Toby's Dinner Theater Les Mis FB photo set)

This is why I love tech theater.

Even though the "same two questions"1 are 1) If you had the ability and the inclination to, who would you want to play in this show? and 2) Why?, as much as I watch the actors, I really do watch the techs. But that's on the back end of, "Wow, I love how they did this," not the creative end of "so, the dude jumps off a bridge, which rises behind him as he lands in a river. So how are we doing this without actually offing our leads every night but Monday?"

I was wondering how they'd build a barricade at Toby's Columbia for Les Misérables, seeing as it's in the round. And they certainly pulled it off to astonishing effect.

Prior the show, I figured they'd create the kids-in-a-snow-fort effect, with dense low stuff, tables and barrels, surrounding the stage, and they'd hole themselves "safely"2 inside. I am so glad they did not because, watching the show, what struck me was:

I am glad to be on the behind-the barricade side. (50-50 shot!)
If I were on the "outside" of the barricade, I would be very defensive.
Rifles pointing at me?
I would be using my fingers as guns to defend my table.
And, knowing me, I would mime along with the offstage voice as though it were an onstage voice played by me: "You at the barricade listen to this!"3

1 Oops. The "same two questions" are 1) What was most impactful? and 2) What are you going to do about it? I guess that makes these the "different two questions...?"
2 Have you seen the show? Yeah. "Safely" is kind of a relative term. Plot-wise, of course. This is no Spider-Man: Turning off the Dark. All due tech safety precautions have been taken.
3 This is when it's good that I have the ASL of the show pretty well internalized from terping it at CVHS. When I sing along it's not auditory, and if the theater is dark enough, no one can see me.

Loved loved loved the show shirts: Keep calm and build a barricade.

The barricade set was rather industrial but visually open the whole width across the center of the stage. Scaffolding and trapdoors and ladders and stockroom-style rolling stairs, relying on the audience's mind's eye. I was surprised at how much verticality the show used, with permanent-for-this-show balconies on each of the four aisles. If the actors were any taller, people at center stage would have been braining themselves on lighting elements. This in addition to all the ladders and posts I was constantly watching people to jump off of safely and not spin someone else (or themselves) into, especially when carrying a corpse4. And massive set pieces coming in and out all the aisles, at high speeds, in the dark.

4 Mad props to Dan Felton (Valjean) for hefting and carrying Jeff Shankle (Marius) through the sewer set. Some serious weight training there, as well as sense of placement to not take Jeff's head off on a vertical post during a pivot.

The most dramatic bit of all was what I am deeming "Best. Death. Ever." was Larry Munsey (Javert) stalking the full width of the theater on a scaffolding bridge. Then, tethered to the ceiling, a thin cord holding him from a straight-up plummet, Larry jumped as the techs pulled the bridge out from under his feet. That, plus the lighting, plus the musical cue... W-O-W.

So. Guess I gotta see it again.

P.S. Kudos also to the pit orchestra -- all FOUR of them in a given performance -- who pull off the whole score as though they were each a dozen musicians. And to the conductor/keyboardist, who is also the ~Valjean~ understudy!

Saturday, July 27, 2013


(No, not this bug. Bug Bug, in her bug boots, will be turning four next month! Stop growing, small frogs!)

Four of the small frogs I adore have birthdays in quick succession: 7/2, 7/26, 8/20, 9/27. December's pretty birthday-laden too. And February... I have a lot of small frogs in my life.

But I was stumped on how to celebrate D's 3rd. Until this bit of adorableness found its way to me. That, plus a few recent roadtrips with the yarn bag yield one happy preschooler. (Preschool! Starting preschool in TWO WEEKS! Stop growing!)

I think she likes it.

When I grow up...

... I'm pretty sure I *don't* want to be a pilot. But I sure am glad there are pilots, and ground crew, etc, because I sure do love to travel!

HIA (Harrisburg International Airport)'s open house today had 2500 people looking at and climbing around in:
  • Hershey's Kissmobile. One time it was behind me on the highway -- let me tell you, it was kind of disconcerting a shape to see in the rearview! It wasn't until I pulled onto the exit ramp and it passed me that I saw what it really was. Even now, it, like the Turkey Hill cow car, reminds me of Richard Scarry's Cars and Trucks and Things that Go.
  • A UPS plane, the 2nd *smallest* of the planes UPS uses to deliver packages. At Christmastime, UPS alone sends the volume equivalent of five of them to HIA daily. They pack containers full of packages, load them on skids, slide them on rollers to the right place in the plane, and lock them down.
  • A replica of the plane from Tora Tora Tora, complete with bomb. Near the cockpit you can see two cruisers and three air-to-air battles noted.
  • A FedEx Boeing 757, M's favorite of all the planes we were in, I suspect because they gave him stickers and a trading card.
  • The lifeline medical helicopter, which I did not realize loads the gurney thru a door/hatch under the tail!
  • This awesome blue tunnel for running down!
  • Personal aircraft, with seats for 4.
  • A cop car (we taught him the sign for cop). M got to use the radio to report "10-4" and run the siren. D wanted to drive off with the cop car, and Officer Steve said since she had the wheel, he could give her the keys. She immediately looked below-next-to the steering wheel and sadly reported, "No keys."
  • A United Express plane (why is an "h" sound preceeded by "an" and a "u" sound by "a"?), seats approx 60.

    We ongoingly work on "buckled up thumbs up?" with these two. And plane seatbelts are a lot easier to buckle (and unbuckle) than car seatbelts!

    But the cockpits are tougher in a commercial plane than a personal plane.

    That's a look of "Not so sure about this copilot," I'm sure.
  • And more!
Fun facts:
  • HIA's airport code is MDT, which is short for its location, MiDdleTown.
  • This entire event was located at the "old terminal", which is separated from the active terminal by parking lot barriers. Not the 2-foot-high K-rails, the curb-height ones kids practice balance beam on.
  • We love flying out of HIA because once you get thru security (where the line is usually shorter than that of our local library), you're basically at either gate A, B, or C.
But the best part was that Big Frog came with us. All the small frogs love Big Frog.

Mary Poppins says "Well begun is half done". Maybe I should work on my whistling and snapping? (12-Star Throw)

Red Heart 12-Star Throw

God has a sense of humor. I actually started this one, by which I mean I have two spokes of one square done so far. Then I set it aside because of another, more time-sensitive project, working out of the same yarn bag. And I managed to LOSE THIS PATTERN!

So I am throwing it onto the blog in hopes that redundancy in ways to find it will result it my actually making progress on it. Don't hold your breath.

Friday, July 19, 2013

That's key! Philly Regional Leadership Conference, keynote John Addison, Dick Walker

Tom Safford
  • In the beginning, it will take lots of energy to get going -- it's a marathon but it starts off with a sprint.
  • If you don't deliberately form good habits you will unconsciously form bad habits.
  • Our business is doing 2 things: find out what people want and helping them get it.
Are you on course for what you want?
Quickest way to RVP is have great management exchange.
One guy went from rep to RVP in ONE MONTH!
How? Brought 100 people in 1st month.
Repetition is the thing that makes all goals achievable.

  • It's exciting to be excited - Dick Walker, ostensibly quoting Jackie Ashford
  • My success in the future depends on what looks back at me when I look at in the mirror -- nobody and nothing else. -Dick Walker
  • Where would my life have been if...? Life turns on small decisions. -John Addison
  • "God, who can we bless today?" -Julie Fisher, new RVP partner

Our Granville in Middletown PA

Playing with the Interpreters

I always try to arrive early and make sure the pastor knows to expect me terping away down in his peripheral field of vision.1 And maybe2 even get any available outlines, key points, or possibly even full-text printouts I can get my hands on. It's especially important when there's a guest speaker who's may not be used to having an interpreter.

1 Of course, those weeks when I teach 2nd/3rd immediately before worship, occasionally running over, the timing is a little more "interesting", but that's beside the point.
2 Hopefully. Blessedly. OK, I never expect it. But I'm delighted when I get it.

ASL is a conceptual language and interpreting is not a word-for-word deal. But you have to work within "contact sign", which is to say, know your audience. The Deafies I interpret for in church now grew up oral deaf (lipreading and voicing), and in a church context. So they know both the English language and the language of the church.3 I don't have to explain concepts near as much as if I were working with new believers. But they think in English, so I use English word order far more than ASL grammar.

3 It does put me at a disadvantage when I interpret theater, however. The vocabulary I use the most is sermon vocabulary, not scat singing nor British poetry, to name a few.

But they understand metaphoric thinking and the visual nature of ASL. Like the song "His Eye is on the Sparrow". It's based on part of Matthew 6, part of Jesus' the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus encourages his followers not to worry.
"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."
So when my then-co-terp did the song in rehearsal, it was concept for concept. She signed about God watching over and caring for and knowing and loving his people even more than he did the tiny birds.

But when it came right down to it, her audience wasn't who we expected. That morning we had one deafie who was very much a word-for-word gal. All English all the time. Contact sign, right? Know your audience. OK, how to turn this around, on the fly, signing live...

There were eyeballs all over. There were birds everywhere. There were eyeballs on birds. (Remember, "His eye is on the sparrow.") It was kind of like a bloody horror story, too gruesome to watch, but too captivating to look away. And I was there in the pew, ready to feed the terp in the hot seat if she needed it.4

4 Not really ready. I was ready with the concept for concept watching, keeping, caring, knowing, loving. No one could be ready for that melee.

But that individual, having grown up in the church, knew the song and probably had sung it when she was a kid, back when she had more hearing. And she understood eyes and birds and probably even sang along in her heart because the words on my co-terp's hands matched the words to the song that deaf woman remembered.

Here's another example from the world of wordplay. When the Bug Man and his wife speak, the story can be from anywhere in the entire world, but one thing that is guaranteed is a twist ending. Like the time they brought an intricately carved wooden stool that a particular people group used as a pillow. I signed CHAIR (Vanna5) BED P-I-L-L-O-W.

The Bug Man loved the stool-pillows and asked if they could get some more samples. The tribe knew that the Bug Man was a collector of many things and dutifully set about collecting "stool samples" from not the pillow end.

5 Flourish at the stage, meaning "lookit".

The pastor of the church I grew up with was big on memorable mneumonics. Sometimes rhyming, sometimes alliterative... Not so much in ASL.

If I had actually done any interpreting there, I would have better examples. But I can tell you from growing up there that the Abrahamic covenant is "Seed and Deed" and Ephesians is "Sit-Kneel-Walk-Stand". That concept would take to ASL better, although a given week in that sermon series was only on one posture of a disciple. BTW, if your hearing child isn't paying attention to the worship service, rest assured, their ears don't turn off, it goes in regardless. Not so with a deaf person. Think about it.

I suspect my current pastor receives a "word of the day" and tries to use it in that day's conversations. It makes for fun interpreting, especially when he says, "Anthropomorphic! Glad I don't have to spell it but..."

I stopped cold, turned around, and interrupted the sermon with voice and sign, "But I have to!"6


Honestly, if he hadn't said "spell", I would have explained "anthropomorphic" as "CHARACTER PERSON GOD APPLY"7

7 Applying the characteristics of a person to God.

Which of course falls into this heading:

source: Becki's Book Blog

It's always good for speakers/performers to interact with the friendly neighborhood interpreters, but it's really funny when you play with their heads.

Of course, in such situations, a professional will soldier on boldly... but the speaker offering a nice drink afterwards is often appropriate.

P.S. Today I learned how to make dividing lines in html! And lines come in different sizes, too. Also, I remembered how to make block quotes without having to look it up. I'm growing as a person.

(just keeping track)

Six dances is definitely too many. Backstage, the costume changes were insane. Feathers were flying (and occasionally missing), hair and hairspray, fringe and sequins... But it was so much fun!

During the year it was fine, taking two different classes back to back.  Granted, I the newest steps we learned in the first class I had to work really hard to retain after a second, different class, but as long as I've been tapping, my mantra has been "another 100 reps, and we'll have it down cold".

And it didn't even start that way. I was so inordinately pleased that Vicki moved me up this year.1 I took the same Intermediate class at two different times all fall, until I ended up with some extra makeup classes and picked up a B3 class. And they were doing Rockin' Robin in B3. I loved it. I wanted to do it. Immediately after class, I emailed Vicki and asked what it would take to pick up that dance as well for the show. Could I supplement with some B3 classes?

1 Right before the spring show, Vicki told me that she wasn't even sure whether I should move up but she gave me the option and figured I'd either step up or move myself back down, no harm no fowl. And then over the course of the year, the work I put into it justified the move. How cool is that!

See, my very first Spring Show2, the show opener was the All-Stars dancing to Rockin' Robin, in front of the curtain. Then the curtain opened behind the dozen All-Stars in satin jackets and there were 200 tappers in teal polos who came out and did slaps and irishes all together. Powerful. And while this was a completely reworked choreography of Rockin' Robin; it's not scaled down to B3s. In fact, it's a better dance now. And if the B3s are doing what was an All-Star dance, you can extrapolate the skill level it takes to be an All-Star4!

2 This is my fifth show with Tap Pups, and before Vicki, I never made a tap sound and was never in a recital of any kind. Not piano3, not dance, not nothing. Never took any dance classes as a kid either, although I always wanted to tap, not dance in general, but tap.
3 Mom taught me piano, but mom taught "music as a social instrument", towards sing-alongs and how to do multi-hand Chopsticks, Down at Papa Joe's, Heart & Soul, etc. And since every song in the 50's had four chords in it: C-Am-F-G, our Heart & Soul extravaganzas could go on for ages.
4 All-Star is still a goal. It's less unobtainable than it was my first show. But it's still gonna take a lot of work.
I want to point out that at my first show, the culmination of my first year with Tap Pups, Vicki gave out her last set of "most improved" awards at each level. I got one! From never tapping before, ever, there was no where to go but up, but it still hit my "make me feel special" buttons. Why did Vicki discontinue the awards? That also was the year the studio opened and the group went from 50 to 200+.

Well, if you tell God your plans, God laughs.
God has a sense of humor. And God is not in any way obliged to let us in on God's plans.

My schedule changed all around with the new year. And that's ok, but taking two Intermediate classes didn't fit in it anymore. But that B3 class that I'd pulled as a makeup? That I could work in. And hey, I could learn Rockin' Robin now for sure!

So in addition to Me and My Shadow5, the fall Intermediate dance, I had Rockin' Robin to learn. Then Vicki started dangling bear bait. One. One. One!!!!! I've already blogged about that. But I'm getting worked up about it with the mere mention of it. That's some powerful emotional recall.

5 Vicki has also previously done Me & My Shadow with the Advanced, featuring herself as "Me" and the whole Advanced level as "My Shadow". It brought the house down. Everyone loves seeing Vicki dance. So do we.

In the spring the B3s learned about 20 different Assorted 50's and 60's Dances, less than half of which made it into the show version, and the Int learned We Got the Beat, which with adjusted tempo, I always referred to as "Chipmunks got the Beat".

Then it was showtime.

2009 show: "Happiness thru Tap" - B1: Stagger Lee, New York, New York (with so many of us, we needed three pinwheels!), Boot Scootin' Boogie
2010 show: "Finding our Rhythm" - B2: Lollipop, All Shook Up; B3: Take Me Out To the Ballgame, Material Girl
2011 show: "Let Me Dance" - B3: Shake, Rattle, and Roll, Pretty Woman
2012 show: "Encore Performance: The Show" - B3: Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, Shake, Rattle, and Roll, Material Girl

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Beyond looking to seeing, beyond hearing to listening

The Day I Stopped Saying Hurry Up
[G]rasp what matters in life. Living at a slower pace still takes concerted effort.
I chose to live in today.
Big Frog and I borrowed two small frogs to go to the HIA open house.

I remember going to see the Blue Angels at Andrews Air Force Base with my dad when I was little, some special daddy-daughter time.1 And once the space shuttle flew in once on a 747, and we got to see the Concorde at that event as well.2 Also, crab cakes.

1 I called dad before writing this post to inquire whether it was really daddy-daughter time or if the whole family had gone. The recollections of a 4yo, after all, tend towards fuzzy. Evidently Murg came too? Maybe I was subconsciously trying to leave him behind?
2 Fuzzy memories again. The way I remember it, the shuttle flew in atop the Concorde. But dad assures me that it was attached to a modified 7473 and that the Concorde was nearby for care and maintenance. Even so.
3 Did you know that the shuttle launches as a rocket, does most of its travel as an orbiter, and lands as a glider? No engine, just gravity at work.
BTW, how cool a movie was SpaceCamp?

Dad used to make silver dollar pancakes with me on Saturday mornings. With mom, it was always full-sized ones, but dad put in the time and care (and precision -- once an engineer, always an engineer) to make them kid-sized.

So after the airport adventure with the small frogs, I asked Big Frog if he'd have gone without them, and if it was a better experience with or without small frogs. He said definitively that it was better with.

When prodded as to why?
"We got to play with the siren. If I had done that as an adult without kids..."

Next crochet project? Add it to the list... Spring Fling pillow

Spring Fling pillow, pattern by Red Heart

Lambchop slippers -- to make

Vicki encourages us to wear socks over our taps backstage because 1) it's quieter, and 2) marble floors are awfully slippery. Haven't made these yet but "in my free time"...
Sheepy Slippers pattern, by Red Heart.

I'm sure the word "lambchop" is copyrighted, or trademarked, or patented, so I'll include a photo of some lamb chops, just to hedge my bets.

source: Food Network

Maybe I'll make some of those, too.

Slouchy Beanie -- add it to the list of projects

Slouchy Beanie


Go Down Death, by James Weldon Joyce, read by Wintley Phipps

There are few things more glad-sad than a homegoing. A friend's mom was laid to rest today, but we know she was greeted with, "Well done, good and faithful servant." And when the service1 tells of a life lived to love and serve Jesus, and points others to the same, that's legacy.

1 Wintley Phipps didn't actually do the reading at the service. But there were at least three different Gaither Homecoming pieces. That's legacy, too.

source: ILikeToQuote

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Happy Independence Day!

May I make a confession?
And this is a bit sacriligious as a Murlander.
If I got to choose our national anthem, it sure wouldn't be The Star Spangled Banner.

There are so many great patriotic songs out there to choose from!

Don't just listen, sing along. Yes, you! I don't care if you think you can't sing well. Crank up the volume, and belt it out with as much enthusiasm as you can muster. Great attitude is contagious. Sing as long as you know the words and hum or harmonize those you don't. And listen thru. See how much depth there is to the later verses.

I have so many favorites. How to choose? But if I were forced to pick one for national anthem, I think I'd go with O Beautiful.

Although Ray Charles sings verse 4 first, I think he has the best version. And hey, learn verse 4! It's a good one!

I've always loved Irving Berlin. What an immigrant success story! What an incredible volume of work1, and did you know he only played on the black notes? He devised this under-piano modulation lever, no midi in those days, to accomodate different vocal ranges.

So his God Bless America is a very close runner-up for me. And when Kate Smith was looking for something appropriate to sing in this setting, he pulled it out of a drawer where it'd been abandoned by him years ago. And Irving Berlin has never claimed a cent of royalties off it; they all go to a particular nonprofit that, back then, was much less controversial than it has been of late. (Don't comment on it. Just enjoy the song.)

1 Arrivals at Ellis Island are greeted by Lady Liberty, who bears a plaque engraved with The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus. "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free..." Irving Berlin wrote a song for that one, too, but although the words are stunning, the music's pretty terrible. Oh well. Not everything's a Blue Skies kind of a hit.

Then there's The Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing The Battle Hymn of the Republic
I think part of why I like this version is because there are such strong harmonies. Once an alto...

And that great Woodie Guthrie classic, This Land is Your Land, sung here by Peter, Paul, and Mary.

Ah, patriotism swells in the heart of the American bear.

And, although lyrically lacking, Stars and Stripes Forever remains the most singalongable of all of Sousa's marches. In this particular version, watch and see how the backdrop changes to reflect the varied interests of the lead singers.

So, how about you? What would you choose for the national anthem?

Monday, July 1, 2013

Happy Canada Day!

O Canada, our home and native land...

Happy Canada Day to my Canadian cousins and friends!

I love that Canadians sing along with the national anthem without being prompted. I love that! I'm a big proponent of singing along with the national anthem, but in the States, people look at me as though I'm weird for singing along. Really?

And to wrap up, a Muppet's Salute to Canada. Bet you didn't know any of these new facts that Sam the Eagle vetted!

Now have some Poutine with the Swedish Chef.