Monday, July 18, 2016

Ninjago meets American Ninja Warrior-- this Sunday at Orland Park!

If your kid is age 7-12 and is excited about Legos and about America Ninja Warrior, this next post is for you!

Marrying two great Ninja ideas into one, Lego has created The LEGO® NINJAGO™ Quest2NINJAGO™ WU-CRU Team Challenge. a highly visual and interactive obstacle course competition.  This event will happen this Saturday and Sunday, July 23 and 24.
All photos and images on this page courtesy of LEGO website.

The basketball sized competition course, anchored by large-scale LEGO brick models of two popular NINJAGO characters, invites children ages 7-12 in teams of two to compete in eight timed physical and mental challenges.

Challenges include:

• Element Tumbler Puzzle: crack the code by solving four color pattern challenges
• Kai’s Laser Maze: use physical agility to navigate a tangled web of laser rays
• Jay’s Lightning Maze: guide a wand through a maze without touching the “lightning”
• Mystery Tile Puzzle: correctly place tiles on the board to reveal a secret image
• Madness Mountain: roll “boulders” down a mock mountain to knock out all the enemies
• Lloyd’s Ninja Build: use LEGO bricks to recreate a ninja sculpture
• Cole’s Table Maze: tilt the table to guide a ball through the maze
• Unlock the Chest: find the three pieces to create the key that unlocks the treasure

The top team from Chicago will be sent on an all-inclusive trip to LEGOLAND® California Resort to compete in the Finale, along with winners from other regional competitions, including places like Austin, Charlotte, Boston, and Los Angeles.

Some of the city competitions have already happened and it looks like great fun!

 WHERE: Orland Park Toys ”R” Us Parking Lot (45 Orland Square Dr., Orland Park, IL 60462) WHEN: July 23 & 24, 2016 from 10:00 AM – 5:30 PM

The event is FREE, but participants are highly encouraged to pre-register in advance on the Quest2NINJAGO tour site:  There are some limited walk-on slots.

We are going to compete on Sunday with a school friend.  Our team is THE ROCKETS!  Wish us luck!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Family Business

Publicity shot from the flea circus.
I'm performing my show The Acme Flea Circus 5 times this summer as part of the Chicago Park District Night Out In The Parks Program. (see here for all the details. )
The shows are all free, so it would be great if you came out! I've got 4 more!

My first show was today. (Not open to the public-- it was part of a camp program.)


 My son came along because of the following:

A) my wife was working, and had an appointment, so I couldn't leave him with her.
B) we're trying to save money, so he's not going to camp every day.
C) I wanted him to see what I do.

If you guessed D) ALL OF THE ABOVE you would be correct.

On the drive to the show, I realized that this is the first time that he was going to be helping me do a show. Yes, he's seen my show multiple times but he hasn't been in the business (backstage, setting up, striking, etc.)

Shows in the Chicago parks this summer.
He's never really expressed an interest in performing, other than glibly. He loves acrobatics, and he loves to do tricks, just not in front of people. If we were waiting in line, and I said, "Let's do a trick for these people in line." he would demur.

 I've never wanted to push him into performing if that's not what he wants to do.  I have a friend who is also a performer, has a son born around the same time as AA, and that kid was born wanting to perform. (he has been on a soap opera, in an opera at BAM, just booked a national commercial, and is currently in an HBO series with James Franco!)

I think he'd be good, as he loves to pretend, he's very cute and photogenic, and he can be quite funny.  But he has to want it.

Anyway, he agreed to help out today.  His big job was to be the house manager.  He had to go open the door to the room, kick down the doorstop and say "Ladies and Gentleman, the house is now open."  He confided to me that he was a little nervous about it. We went over the ground rules (watch the show quietly, he has to do what is expected of him, he can't ruin the show for other kids by saying what comes next, etc.)

Trying on the hat for size.  It could work!
He did well, opening the door perfectly, sitting quietly.  I explained to him that one of the hardest things a performer has to do is wait.  We arrived at 8:45am for an 11 am show.  (an hour to set up typically, and an hour to troubleshoot anything that might go wrong.) He was a little restless but mostly held it together.  He also asked me a bunch of questions about training the fleas. I told him that I don't tell anybody how I train them, but if he ended up wanting to perform the show after I retired, I would teach him.  He seemed pretty excited about that.

 Before I had my son, I was performing on a pretty regular basis, making an okay and occasionally decent living from it.  I was touring a lot, going to festivals a lot, driving a lot. But that all changed after the baby was born. It made sense for me to be the stay at home parent, and my wife to become the bread winner. I still perform occasionally, but not as often. And that is an itch I would like to scratch.

I have a weird fantasy of us putting together a show and going on tour together. Maybe do the Summer Fringe Festival Circuit? We'd make a good team I think; I'm so big, he's so little, he can be very bossy.   (I am not sure what my wife would do in this summer touring fantasy.  Run the box office?)

Anyway, that probably won't happen, but today was a nice start. And who knows? If I can teach him to run the sound system and do all the sound cues it could still work out!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Violence is a Disease.

Game of Thrones has it right:  

"Violence is a Disease. You don't cure it by spreading it to more people."

Of course, that's said on one of the most violent shows on television.  So there's a fair bit of irony in that.

Ian McShane plays a former soldier turned septum who has renounced violence.  He tries to take one of the most feared warriors (Sandor Cleggane, the Hound) into giving up his sword.  Sadly, things happen, and the Hound picks up a new weapon of mass destruction (the axe)

McShane is wonderful in this part, but of course is doomed.  In Game of Thrones, pacifism is not an option.

I'm hoping that in real life as we know it today, we have more of an option.

With the recent murders (cops killing suspects, terrorists killing cops) we are at a very tense point.  We need to ease the pressure down.  Nothing will be solved by amping up the weaponry and the violence.

There is no doubt that #BLACKLIVESMATTER, but violent revolution is not the answer.

Here's a link to the scene from which the quote is taken:  Watch the whole video if you want to see Ian McShane's rise (and fall) on Game of Thrones.

Friday, July 8, 2016

The More things Change, the More they Remain the Same.

In 2010, my son was a little under 2.  I found this on my Timehop from 6 years ago today.

He's rocked to sleep.  
I put dishes away on tiptoes.  
Let sleeping bears lie.

I do much the same thing now, but it's usually after 8 pm that I am putting the dishes away on tiptoes.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

(That's French for "The more things change, the more it's the same thing.")

or the slightly more prosaic:

Same Shit.  Different Day.

The point being that there are always dishes to be put away, fish to feed, laundry to be folded, milk to buy, teeth to brush, et cetera et cetera et cetera.

I could win the lottery tonight (yes, I bought a ticket, even though it's basically throwing a dollar into a deep hole from which I will never find it)  But even if lighting struck me 3 times, I'd still have a bunch of stuff to do that I'd be avoiding doing.

Occasionally all of the chores of living are overwhelming, but I need to take a deep breath and realize there is nothing I can do about it, and accept it.  Get a little Zen about it.

And let the sleeping bear lie.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Win a BFG Trip to Great Britain!

I was recently looking at Facebook, and found on my friend Jeff Bogle's of (OWTK) facebook page a cool link that he posted to win a trip to Great Britain, sponsored by VisitBritain.

Especially with Brexit having just been voted on, this struck me as a lot of fun.  And it comes with the opportunity to attend the Roald Dahl celebration in Wales.  He's one of my favorite authors(for both kids and adult books), my son loved the BFG and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (but was weirdly scared of the movie version of James and the Giant Peach)  Anyway, Dahl is a favorite in this house, and I was intrigued.

PLEASE  NOTE: This is not a sponsored post- (although, Great Britain tourism council or other councils , I'm always open for business!)

Punch and Judy show at Cardiff Castle.
Photo courtesy of
 Photo by Richard Schindler
As I started to fill out the entry form, it asked me what giant British locations I'd like to visit.  I assumed this was just a condition to prove that you and not a robot entered.  Just in case, I looked at the Terms and Conditions, and was shocked to find something out.  (Emphasis mine)

6. This is a game of skill, and chance plays no part in determining the winner. Each entry will be individually judged based on originality, creative merit and humour of the answer provided. The judging will take place on or around 3 August 2016 at the Promoter’s premises and the winner will be the entry that scored the highest in the opinion of the judges based on the judging criteria. The judges may select additional reserve entries which they determine to be the next best and record them in order of merit in case of an invalid entry or ineligible entrant.
Game of skill, eh?  Most of these kinds of contests in the US are chance based.  Challenge accepted!

I started writing a sonnet, but sonnets are hard, and getting a bunch of jokes and thoughts into it (as well as that damned iambic pentameter) was getting too hard, so after about half an hour, I saved what I could of the sonnet, and switched it to a more verse-like poem where the structure and verse is easier and I could play a little more.  (Yeah, Doggerel!)

Here's the poem I wrote:

Big Ben, photo courtesy of wikipedia.
Let’s visit Britain on  a 5 day tour
Explore all of England from shore to shore,
While we are there we’ll have loads of fun.
(Do you measure fun in stones or metric tonnes?)

Let’s go to Cardiff, the city by the sea
Watch Punch and Judy, laugh with glee.
Breathe in the salt and the fog and the fresh air
Listen to the sounds of the county fair.

Then to the middle to see the Pictish wonder
Stonehenge: ancient miracle or cosmic blunder?
As we see historic stones that have been split asunder
We might feel a chill from history (or perhaps its the thunder?)

Last stop London, cosmopolitan seat
Big Ben, Changing of the Guard, Get something to eat
Visit a museum, see the Crown Jewels.
Walk along the Thames, think of Shakespeare’s Fools.

On to the West End, to see a funny play
It’s almost time to end our trip, but that’s okay.
We’ve had a blast, checking out Eng-land.

Now all we have to do is win, wouldn’t that be grand?

Okay, so I'm not the best poet in the world, but it's got a rhyme scheme, it's got some humor,  it mostly scans, and it was quick!

So I submit it, but there's an error-- it tells me that it has to be less than 140 characters!  Yikes-- I just spent like an hour between writing the sonnet, and then changing it to this doggerel.

Undaunted, I pared it down to the size of a tweet and entered.

Please enter if you are intrigued as well.  It would be great if I inspired someone to win!  (Of course, it would be even better if I won, but you can't have everything!)

Click this link to see books by Roald Dahl on Amazon

Oh yes, and here's the BFG Trailer, if you are interested.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

LEGO Americana Roadshow in Northbrook through July 4

My family and I had the opportunity to see a great new exhibit of Master built Legos at Northbrook Court. 

Selfie with Legos. This model took 8 builders over 1700 hours to make. Scale 1/29

The exhibit, entitled  LEGO Americana Roadshow: Building Across America, features 10 giant immensely detailed American historical monuments built by some of LEGO's Master Builders. Buildings include the U.S. Capitol Building, White House, Supreme Court, Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Statue of Liberty, Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell and Old North Church.

The models are truly beautifully made by Master Builders (there are less than 10 in the world, employed by Lego) and each one took hours upon hours, most with THOUSANDS of bricks.  

In addition, there are smaller exhibits of fun and interesting Americana by Certified Builders. (You'll see one of those exhibits below, featuring the Karl Wallenda tightrope walk that happened in Chicago last year.)

The exhibit has been touring throughout the states (mostly to malls where there is a Lego Store)  After Northbrook (which ends July 5)  here is the schedule for 2016.

The Capitol Building. The dome is 10 ft tall!

Baybrook Mall   Friendswood, TX    July 30 - August 14

North Star Mall  San Antonio, TX     August 20 - September 5

Fashion Show     Las Vegas, NV        September 24 - October 9

Alderwood Mall  Lynnwood, WA      October 15-30

The White House
Here's some more info from the press release (my photos of the exhibit are sprinkled throughout)

WHAT: Northbrook Court in Northbrook, Illinois will host THE LEGO® Americana Roadshow, a highly visual, educational and free traveling installation of larger than life LEGO replicas of some of our nation’s most beloved landmarks

Ten one-of-a-kind, large scale models of American Landmarks made completely out of LEGO bricks by LEGO Master Builders – including the U.S. Capitol Building, White House, Supreme Court, Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Statue of Liberty, Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell and Old North Church – take over Northbrook Court and entertain customers with stunning visuals and fun facts.

WHERE:                Northbrook Court, 1515 Lake Cook Rd., Northbrook, IL, 60062

WHEN:                  Saturday, June 18 through Monday, July 4
                                Exhibition Hours: Monday-Saturday 10:00am-9:00pm
                                                                   Sunday 11:00am-6:00pm

Statue of Liberty is over 9 feet tall!
(But not a gift from France)

·         Behind-the-scenes: LEGO model load-in on Thursday, June 16

·         LEGO Brick Play Area: Children of all ages can build whatever their imaginations dream up

·         LEGO Building Activity: Attendees can build their own LEGO Americana Roadshow inspired model and take it home with them

·         LEGO Scavenger Hunt: Attendees can collect a special LEGO prize after completing the LEGO Americana Roadshow scavenger hunt.

This was made by a certified builder, and features a Minifig of the Wallenda tightrope walk!

Friday, June 24, 2016

DATE NIGHT IDEA: Xanadu at the American Theater Company

American Theater Company's production of "Xanadu."
Image by Michael Brosilow.
Now through July 17, the American Theater Company will be presenting the classic camp musical Xanadu

 It's the first production of its Legacy season, presented as a tribute to ATC's late Artistic Director PJ Paparelli, who was a huge fan of this camp classic, which is based on the 1980 Universal Pictures film, also called Xanadu. 

The production has music and lyrics by Jeff Lynne (of E.L.O.) and John Farrar (of British group The Shadows, and producer of Olivia Newton-John's work) and the book is by playwright Douglas Carter Beane.

Xanadu takes place in Venice, California in 1980. Struggling artist Sonny Malone seeks to create his own version of the American dream by renovating an abandoned warehouse into a venue for world-class entertainment – a roller disco!  He manages to succeed with the help (and hindrance) of some Greek deities. A hilarious and modern update of the 1980’s camp classic, Xanadu celebrates the artist’s muse, even when it comes from the most unlikely of places.

We saw this when it was on Broadway and it was a very fun (and funny) musical.  If you are a fan of the 1980's, of camp, and of roller-skating, then this will be a sure fire winner for you.

Here's the promo video for your perusing pleasure:

The Sirens in American Theater Company's production of "Xanadu."
Image by Michael Brosilow.

Single tickets for Xanadu range from $48-$58. Student tickets are available for $15 with valid student ID in-person at the Box Office. More information and tickets are available by visiting the ATC Box Office at 1909 W. Byron Street, by calling 773-409-4125 or visiting 

Xanadu Performance Schedule
Regular Run: June 7–July 17: Tuesday–Saturday evenings at 8 p.m. with matinees on Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m.