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Talking Out The Other Side of Your Mouth

January 16, 2020

My first act in front of an audience was as a ventriloquist. I learned from an album produced by Paul Winchell and spoke for my friends Charlie McCarthy and Mickey Mouse. I was a 5th grader then and Jr. High took me away from such childish endeavors.

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Man of a thousand voices
Paul Winchell

Yet it must not be so childish because, despite going in and out of favor over the years, it has made many people rich and famous. Nor are they all for children. Remember Madame with Wayland Flowers? Some of Jeff Dunham’s act is definitely for older folks.

Yet people like Edgar Bergen, Paul Winchell, Shari Lewis, and many more kept it at least kid-friendly.

Ventriloquists are always comedians, and they fall into a couple different flavors:

  • “I can’t believe you said that!” – The ventriloquist allows his dummy (really called “figures”) to say all the brazen things he couldn’t get away with saying himself. Typically, the ventriloquist apologies for and admonishes his dummy.
  • The Dummy or Genius – Figures first were dubbed dummies because they were ill-informed, naïve, or innocents needing correction from their speaker, such as Lewis’ Lambchop and Bergen’s Mortimer Snerd. The flipside was the genius, sophisticated, know-it-alls, such as Bergen’s Charlie McCarthy (snobby sophisticate), Flower’s Madame (wise to the ways of the horrifying world), and Dunham’s Walter (wise but cranky) and Achmed the Dead Terrorist (evil for laughs)
  • Who’s the Dummy? – More a theatrical trope, the ventriloquist believes the dummy to be real like Chuck in Soap, or in control and evil as in Anthony Perkins in Magic,  or the only one who can talk – I don’t remember the name and can’t find it online, but there was a “mute” ventriloquist who’s dummy spoke for him. Typically, the dummy trends toward evil because they serve as the ventriloquist’s Id.
  • A Friend Indeed – Neither smart nor dumb, brazen or innocent, just a couple guys talking, one flesh, one wood or plastic.

It’s a strange art form. A lot of people find dolls to be creepy; talking dolls even worse. But ventriloquism can be an introvert’s best friend. And it works. We saw a ventriloquist on a cruise ship and she was the best thing that trip (other than the food).

To keep it fresh and sustaining, ventriloquists are taking “throwing your voice” to new levels. The one who uses audience members as her dummies; the one who casts his voice into bottles and boxes, and today’s artists who are taking things to a whole new level

It seems we have only one or two ventriloquists on the national stage at a time, and normally a decade or more apart. They are often topical for a time. Burgen and McCarthy for the war years; Lewis and Lambchop for a more innocent time; Flower’s Madame for the turbulent 70s, the Muppets seemed to suck up the 80s, and Dunham’s Achmed the Dead Terrorist brought us into the new decade. There are dozens of ventriloquists at any given time, but it’s the superior, topical act that gets the spotlight. Dunham is working hard to keep his career going.

Most people I’ve talked to have had encounters with ventriloquists that have been highlights of their life. What are yours?

Andrew Yang

December 21, 2019

I’ve spoken before of Tulsi Gabbard, who is a solid prospect despite 50% of her ideas being… not great.

Andrew Yang is another Democrat with promise. The media is trying to sink him (under-reporting despite his popularity; getting his name wrong when they do report on him). The DNC and other swampers loathe him, so he must be doing something right.

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Yang with an outside shot at the candidacy

Yang’s Positive Traits

  • He genuinely wants to fix things (refreshing in a politician)
  • He isn’t a career politician
  • He is a problem-solver (not a ton of success at it, but good efforts)
  • Is championing Thorium nuclear power (clean and safe – radioactive only when you force it to be)
  • He’s a decent human being
  • Not the best speaker, but he makes his words count and isn’t afraid to hit the Democrat tactics when they deserve it (which is all the time). Often says things worth hearing

Negative Traits

  • His “Freedom Dividend” or $1000 a month guaranteed income to all adult citizens is a bad idea. He wants to pay for with VAT taxes (1) throughout the production cycle, which will be added to Cost of Goods Sold, meaning prices will go up, quality will go down, and people will be giving the $1000 a month back to fund next month’s payment.
  • Believes people will do the right thing if allowed to. That’s a nice sentiment, but no, they won’t.
  • Medicare for All – Again a nice sentiment, but unworkable. We need a better solution for broken healthcare.

Though he doesn’t use the words, he’s a proponent of Technological Communism, which is inevitable, but not yet. The idea is that automation and technology will take the place of humans in the workforce and people will require an income they don’t work for. This is going to happen, but he’s decades early.

He and Gabbard could probably beat Trump, which is a plus, but be deadlocked in office (one would hope on the wild ideas, not on everything).

He’s worth looking at, despite drawbacks.

You’ll note he sometimes wears a MATH lapel pin. It stands for Make America Think Harder, which is a good policy.

(1) People will recall that I am a proponent of the FAIR TAX, which has a VAT tax AND a monthly income element. The VAT Tax, however, replaces the income tax is only at the sales end of the process. No corporate taxes (who pass them on anyway), not income tax, just a sales tax. The monthly income is just to cover taxes up the poverty line so no tax is paid on just surviving.

Giving by Getting

December 14, 2019

A friend was in a panel discussion a couple years ago as a person of color. The host said, “There’s no way around it, the first thing people see when they look at you is your black skin…” It sounds bad, but it wasn’t. I’ve taken it out of context here to say that it it simply wasn’t true. The first thing you saw when you saw Craig Stafford was his smile and the radiant joy that always enveloped him.

Craig Stafford – Man of God

You may think I’m exaggerating, but I’m not. Craig was the most instantly likable man I’d ever met. He was amazing and I miss him terribly still. Craig passed away more than a year ago, to our devastating loss.

Craig changed lives just be being.

He left behind a wife and some amazing children. As you can imagine, it’s difficult for them in every way imaginable.

Another friend, Rebeka Grier, took it upon herself to collect stories and memories from Craig’s friends and assemble it into a book. Stories of Love and Faithfulness: Cherishing the Life of Craig Stafford.

You may not know Craig, or you may have been so blessed to have him too briefly in your life. If you wonder what kind of impact a godly man can have, buy this book and see. Every penny of royalties goes to the family.

You’ll find memories, letters, photos, and most of all love in these pages.

Do the family a solid. Buy the book!

Share this post, please. Let everyone know this great man!

My Pick This Year

December 13, 2019

Every once in a while, you meet a magnificent human being and have the advantage to learn at their feet. I’ve been fortunate enough to know many such people, but an enduring relationship that has been a blessing to me since I’ve met him is Bill Hufford.

I met Bill as my employer when he hired me 21 years ago. I learned about leadership and decency for the next 6 years. I’ve kept up that relationship and continue to learn and be challenged by his wisdom.

Short and Powerful!

Now you can learn from him, too. Bill has written a guidebook to his favorite subject: Biblical Worldview as a driver of culture change.

The short, powerful book is called Against the Current: Biblical Worldview, a Guide to Culture Change. Click in at 100 pages, it’s a quick, yet amazingly deep read about how today’s culture has been shaped and how we can shape culture right back. He presents the four-point Gospel and shows why the three-point Gospel is only part of the story (albeit an important part). He guides you through the early shapers of our cultural thought by philosophers of the past, and how even in small ways, we can effect change in our culture.

There’s a lot packed into the book, yet still, it’s reasonably priced, just $3.97 for the Kindle and $6.97 for the paperback.

Get it. You will be changed!

SPAM The Other Red Meet

December 3, 2019

I with rather eat the meat product than suffer through the meet call.

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Because less salt makes it so much more appetizing…

Email spam is not nearly as annoying as spam calls. I get between 10 and 40 a day (no exaggeration).

Why do they bother?

Even if I wanted what they were selling, there’s no way I’d buy over the phone. I have no way of knowing if it’s really Google or not. I know it isn’t the IRS, and why all those people want to loan me money with my current debt load, I have no idea.

Yes, I checked the Do Not Call Registry. Sometimes I think that’s where spammers get my number.

If I don’t recognize the number, I will not answer. For the few friends who do call me, leave a message and give me your name because I clearly don’t have it as a contact.

OK, I admit, if I’m alone in the car, I will answer through the Bluetooth. As annoyed as I am by spammers, I recognize the poor slob with the impenetrable accent is just a schlub, trying to earn a living clearly by any means necessary. Thus, I try not to get irate, string them along, or others abuse them. I have been known to inquire about their spiritual health, but that isn’t the same thing.

I’ll make the exception if it’s a call from the IRS. I get those regularly. I know the IRS will only snail-mail their concerns and never call, so the evil caller does get messed with, normally with overblown panic and usually accompanied by a simulate crash.

Every now and then a bogus collection agency will call. I pay what I owe, so I know it’s not real, but it is true that I have a certain former friend’s social security number which may slip out during such calls. Followed by shaming of the caller. Do your children know what you do? Does your mother? What’s their phone number? What’s yours? You are a debit to your race (like I know what their race is). Oddly that one gets the most heated response.

You remember when telephones were meant for calling people? I prefer texts and social media, though. Smartphones came along just as my hearing degenerated. I can never hear well through my phone. I thought I had a bad phone, but I’ve been through a couple phones and I know it’s me. What amuses me are the people who speak their texts to their phone. I think you’re missing the point.

While we’re talking about texting, it’s important to point out that millennials have evolved with extra gimbals on their finger and thumb joints. My daughter grinds her teeth waiting for me to text or email someone on my phone. It takes forever. Hunting and pecking with thumbs is antithetical to a Boomer’s life.

Batwoman Review

October 14, 2019

Let me be up front here. I don’t care about an actor’s personal life, just what I see on the screen. All you Brie Larsen haters and Ruby Rose haters, bleh.

Batwoman premiered recently and I watched it because I like comics. Yes, I knew Kate Kane is gay, again, don’t care, I have a fast-forward button for the stuff I don’t want to see.

Overall, I’m pleasantly surprised. The concept is close to the comics, the story interesting (although Alice really pales to the comics version), most of the actors are OK to good.

Set’s were strong, loved the costumes (and by that I mean what people wore, not just superhero garb). I liked that the suit wasn’t the red and black one yet. Just cutting down Batman’s into a female version would have been time consuming. I have to admit, the fact that this suit is rubber is off-putting. Talk about sweltering!

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She did not wear this. And even though the hair is fake, am I the only one who thinks obscuring your vision is a bad idea in a fight?

The flaw (other than the moral stuff that’s my problem, not yours)? Ruby Rose was pretty bad. And by that I mean, she’s pretty, looks the part, but is so wooden as to elevate stoic to unheard-of levels. A little nuance would help.

This is the first costume, and when I say “Hot” I mean blazingly sweaty hot, not that horrid term for pretty women.

Then I remember Mighty Joe Young, which may have been Charlize Theron’s first film. She was beautifully awful, and by that I mean gorgeous but simply horrible. I mean she was bad. Worse than an untalented middle-schooler performing Hamlet. Bad, bad, bad. (I still wanted to see her as Supergirl, though, so sue me.)

And yet look at her now. She took some acting lessons somewhere from someone who knew what he/she was doing! Theron is one of Hollywood’s best actors now.

I also remember the first season of Barney Miller, where Hal Linden laid the Jewish accent on way too thick, but he relaxed into the role and headed one of the best comedies on TV.

All that to say, give Rose a chance. She’ll get better. And keep the fast-forward button handy for the icky parts (note to those easily offended, I include straight stuff in the icky category. Don’t wanna see smooching or more of any kind).

The Bill of Responsibility

September 1, 2019

In America, we have the joy of freedom codified in the Constitution. The Bill of Rights refers to the first 10 of 27 amendments. What is left to our own morality is what I refer to as the Bill of Responsibility, for without them, the Rights are heartless.  Here they are.

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Don’t let them be pie in the sky.

Amendment 1: Right to religion, speech, and the press.
Corresponding Responsibility: Show grace in your religion. Be kind and thoughtful in your speech, and always verify before going to press.

Amendment 2: Right to bear arms.
Corresponding Responsibility: Don’t shoot people you shouldn’t! Don’t let anyone access your firearms who might! Lock ’em tight and use ’em sober! These are just common sense, people!

Amendment 3: The Housing of Soldier only by Consent.
Corresponding Responsibility: Be hospitable; it’s your house, be nice about it.

Amendment 4: Protection from Unreasonable Searches and Seizures.
Corresponding Responsibility: Don’t have unreasonable things in your car, house, or possession.

Amendment 5: Protection of Rights to Life, Liberty, and Property.
Corresponding Responsibility: Make your life worth it; don’t deprive others of it (including gestating life), take care of it; be kind in your liberty and generous with your property.

Amendment 6: Rights of Accused Person in Criminal Cases.
Corresponding Responsibility: Wait for conviction before condemning someone; don’t be a gossip.

Amendment 7: Rights in Civil Cases.
Corresponding Responsibility: Make litigation a last resort; if necessary, be honest, fair, and humble.

Amendment 8: Excessive Bail, Fines and Punishments Forbidden.
Corresponding Responsibility: Take this to heart in daily interaction. Be quick to forgive, slow to anger, and don’t make decisions while angry.

Amendment 9: Other Rights Kept to the People.
Corresponding Responsibility: Don’t use your rights as a weapon. Your rights stop where other’s begin.

Amendment 10: Undelegated Powers Kept by the State and the People/
Corresponding Responsibility: Recognize that we as a people have an awesome responsibility to wield our rights with wisdom, grace, and kindness. That without these things, our society is heartless, unfair, hostile, and unworthy of the rights given by our creator.