Monday, April 30, 2007

I Love This Guy

If only you could see this locally produced commercial advertising a discount furniture store in New Orleans. The ad is well over 20 years old and probably hasn’t aired since then. I’ve searched and searched on the Internet and YouTube, trying to find it somewhere, to no avail. It is some seriously awesome stuff.

Here is the dialog from The Best Worst Locally Produced Commercial of All Time.

A distraught older woman enters the discount furniture store. A guy who looks and acts JUST LIKE a fidgety, loud 1975 Jimmy Walker from Good Times approaches her.

Jimmy Walker: "Now what can I be helping you with today?"

Distraught Woman: "Oh, I don’t got a car, I don’t got a job, I don’t got good credit and I don’t got no furniture (but with that great New Orleans accent it sounds like “foinacha”)."

Jimmy Walker swings his arms around in these crazy circles in front of his body, then suddenly stops and points right in the lady’s face when he says: "I say, I say, I say…you need to see the SPECIAL MAN!"

Distraught Woman: "The Special Man?"

Jimmy Walker: "The Special Man! He grants the store credit."

POOF! A homemade looking explosion happens next to them, complete with a firecracker pop and lots of billowing smoke. And from the smoke steps out THE SPECIAL MAN who looks just exactly like Shaft.

Jimmy Walker: "Hey Special Man! This lady don’t have a car, she don’t have a job and she don’t have any foinacha. Can you give her store credit?"

A long pause as the camera moves slowly pans to the face of The Special Man while some awesomely cheesy Shaft-type music begins playing in the background. And then silence, just before The Special Man speaks in his deep Barry White voice as his eyes cut over to the camera…


Then the Distraught Woman claps her hands and she and Jimmy Walker start doing this crazy-ass dance of joy while the voice over gives the store location and details and invites everyone to come in and meet The Special Man so he can give them store credit, too.

It is a beautiful piece of television and I love The Special Man.

Friday, April 27, 2007

That's Right


Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Opposite of LivingStrong

Through a strange series of events that would be boring to relay, I found myself in an Oklahoma City Public Schools 10th grade biology class this morning monitoring their state exams. I hadn’t been in a high school in over 20 years, so that alone was interesting enough.

You remember the role of the class monitor on standardized test day – reading the instructions from the booklet exactly as they are written, authorizing the exact moment when answer booklets could be opened, blurting out the time remaining every five minutes, telling people who had questions to “just do the best you can”, they only answer the monitor is legally able to give, and forever handing out the hall pass.

As I was walking up and down between the desks I saw one kid wearing the yellow LiveStrong bracelet I was talking about a few days ago. But as I walked by his desk I saw that it was actually this bracelet.

I had to laugh, because THAT is funny. Pretty much the OPPOSITE of what one likes to think the Lance Armstrong campaign is all about...but there have been those pesky allogations of doping early in his career...I'm just choosing not to believe them.

I found the picture of the bracelet on The Onion’s web site. Figures. I hadn't read The Onion in awhile but now I'm adding it to my "to do" list because I forget how great it is.

Have a good day everyone. Keep your eyes on your own work and just do the best you can.


Monday, April 23, 2007

Mungojerry and Rumpleteaser Were A Notorious Couple of Cats

Yikes! Seeing this ad in Sunday's paper for Cats coming to OKC in May made me feel as freaking OLD as Gus the Theater Cat. How is it possible that this show is celebrating its 25th year?

I saw first saw Cats in New York in 1985 with my mom. The show was at the Winter Garden Theater and it was all the rage. We had great seats, fairly close to the stage, although the stage wasn’t traditional at all – it jutted out into the audience all over the place.

When the lights dimmed and the orchestra began playing I was almost breathless. And then it was ON… cats were jumping and playing and dancing and singing and shouting and crying and being nice and mean and sweet and sad and it T.S. Elliot’s poems were coming to life.

It was unlike anything I had ever seen, and I loved it. But at one point I looked over at mom and she looked totally perplexed. And sort of annoyed. A look that said she wasn’t sure what to make of this musical melee with its no-dialogue-having plot being nothing but a loosely tied together string of songs sung by bulge-showing leotard-clad actors who were jumping and hissing around like banchees, with crazy lighting effects, and a giant descending spaceship. This was the closest thing to “performance art” either of us had ever seen and it pushed the limits of our Helena, Montana sensibilities.

The day before, we had seen the incredible musical 42nd Street at the Schubert Theater, which was right up our alley. Now that’s how musicals were SUPPOSED to be, right? A simple, straight-forward plot that involved a sweet love story and “saving the day”, fabulous songs, big tap dance numbers and lots of high-kicking Bob Fosse feather and sequin costume-wearing chorus line choreography. THAT was a musical.

Cats was much more “out there” than we were used to at that time. And it’s funny to think now that I actually thought Cats was “out there”, then. But I digress…

Mom was a really good sport and she hung out with me afterwards at the stage door so I could see Laurie Beechman who had played Grizabella (and sadly, has since died of ovarian cancer when she was not much older than I am now!) and that foxy Terrance “Rum Tug Tugger” Mann. Meow…

From that point on, I was pretty much eaten up with Cats. I thought it was awesome. I got the soundtrack on audio cassette and listened to it so much the tape warped. I bought the score and tried to learn to play some songs on the piano, but sounded fairly atrocious.

On that note, I have a funny memory of my wonderful grandmother, Mom Jo. As I’ve said before, Mom Jo was an extraordinary pianist and a musician of some renown in the gospel music world. Mom Jo had a VERY distinct style of playing that I don’t even know how to describe in words. It’s the sound that I will forever attach to old-school gospel quartet music, if that means anything to anyone. She would play songs in a real boogie-woogie style with a double-time bass line. Anyway, it’s hard to explain, but Mom Jo was visiting one summer and I was upstairs doing something and she was downstairs playing the piano and I could tell she had found the Cats music because I heard her playing the beautiful, haunting song “Memory” in that boogied-up, double bass beat gospel style. It was hilarious.

Fast forward some period of time, I really don’t remember how long, and the Broadway production of Cats was touring through Denver. My buddy Steve and I were pretty pumped and we had fun seeing the show together. Steve had seen the show in New York before I did, AND he had sent a Laurie Beechman a fan letter, to which she responded with a personal letter and picture, so he was a bigger Cats nerd than me.

Steve and I share a totally ridiculous Cats memory, but we thought it was hysterical at the time. There was a fairly small Cats promotional poster hanging inside the theater that I really wanted. And while I am completely embarrassed to admit this, we concocted this elaborate scheme to take the poster that involved waiting until everyone was gone. So we lurked and hid in dark shadows until the theater was clear. Then Steve held the door open and I quickly untacked and grabbed the posted and put it in my coat and once outside the doors we “walked/ran” as fast as we could to the car, laughing the whole way, thinking we were pretty Oceans 2 clever for getting away with stealing the Hope diamond. Never mind the fact that the theater had 100 copies of that same poster in their office and probably would have just given me one if I'd have asked, this was a treasure and it was MINE. I had it mounted and framed and it hung on my wall for years. Classy.

I had eagerly anticipated seeing Cats on PBS when they aired the show some years ago as part of Great Performances, but alas, I was disappointed. To me, Cats isn’t something you can watch on TV; it’s something you have to experience, and that only comes across to its fullest in the theater.

So now Cats is 25 years old and not so avant-garde, anymore. It’s one of those musicals that I don’t think I can ever see again because I over dosed on it years ago. I know it too well. I would want to fast-forward over certain parts. It would be a little bit tedious. It wouldn’t be the same as it was low those many years ago when I was a wide-eyed teenager being exposed to a little NYC culture.

Oh, what the heck…in the spirit of feeling really old as Cats celebrates its 25th:

All alone in the moonlight
I can smile at the old days
I was beautiful then
I remember the time I knew what happiness was
Let the memory live again

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Friday, April 20, 2007

Grump and Her Squirrel

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Philanthropy - Give and Take

Somewhere in me I have something BIG to say about philanthropy and nonprofit organizations and fundraising, but it just hasn’t found its voice yet.

I know that I am constantly amazed by people’s generosity and the variety of good and important causes that exist to make our world a better place. And I am forever impressed by successful, creative fundraisers. To be a great development professional you have to have so many different skills.

But also churning around in this gray area of my thinking on this subject is the impact of “the great idea”. That ground-breaking philanthropic idea that creates a shift and changes the entire fundraising enterprise. Like Easter Seals did years ago when it was the first organization to send free address labels with their solicitations, or the original organization that decided to offer a premium, or thank-you gift, for certain giving levels, or the dawn of the mega-gifts like Warren Buffet’s staggering donation of 30 billion to the Gates Foundation. These are only a few of the many great ideas of philanthropy that have had enormous and lasting impact on giving decisions and fundraising activities.

I’m thinking about this today as I’m tripping down memory lane after reading the article, “A Time to Thrive” from the April 5 edition of The Chronicle of Philanthropy. This detailed article reveals how many charities are setting new fundraising records through traditional and not-so-traditional means (7 in 10 charities raised more money last year than in 2005, and nearly a quarter of organizations said they achieved gains of almost 50 percent or higher.)

A big section of the article told about Lance Armstrong and his Armstrong Foundation in Austin that raises money for cancer research. It just so happens that every part of Lance Armstrong’s personal story fascinates me, not the least of which is the impact and success of his foundation. Talk about the right time, right place thing working out to its perfect manifestation – this guy has been able to leverage his cancer survival, phenomenal sports success, celebrity and personal passion into an amazing organization.

But the part of the story that made me feel good today was when I read that the sale of the yellow Livestrong bracelets has grossed $65 million since 2004. That is truly amazing.

Lance Armstrong’s management firm that handles his business dealings was also our partner at the public television station where I worked, helping us produce Austin City Limits for PBS. As a result of that partnership, I had the amazing good fortune to be part of different ACL projects and meetings and got to know these people a little bit.

We were in a meeting one day preparing for our big ACL Gala and a friend from this firm handed me a little plastic bag containing one of the Livestrong bracelets. She said that this was a new thing that they had developed in conjunction with Lance’s foundation and the bracelets had just arrived that day. She explained to me its symbolism and how they were hoping to get people to show their support for cancer awareness, research and treatment by wearing them.

Little did I know when I put that bracelet on that day that I was one of the first to be wearing the next great idea in philanthropy. I thought the bracelet with its simple, yet powerful, message was cool and the idea had meaning, and I could certainly see Austinites getting into them since Lance was one of their favorite sons, but I had no idea (and neither did they!) that the yellow bracelets would quickly become an international phenomenon and would touch people’s psyches in the way that they did.

And to think that the Livestrong bracelets went on to spur an entire philanthropic (and commercial) industry where almost every “cause” jumped on the band wagon and produced their own bracelet for their constituents to show their support. We certainly did at public television – our bracelet is blue and says “Support public television”. A couple of the programs that we air during pledge drive created a bracelet for their show and offered it as a premium. For awhile, these different bracelets were everywhere.

The fad has certainly quieted down since its inception, but I still see people every now and then wearing the yellow Livestrong bracelets and I am reminded of the importance and impact philanthropy has in our world and how the next great idea might be right around the corner.

And how any one of us can play a part in its success.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Sweetest Little Cupcakes

Macy and her Papa lick the bowl after Grammy made birthday cupcakes.

Licking the Bowl

Macy asked for strawberry cupcakes for her fourth birthday.

Little Cakes

Macy sneaking little tastes of frosting.

The Sweetest Cupcake

Ruby would rather have yogurt!

Open Up!

The cutest cupcakes of all.


Finished little cakes.

Macy's Birthday Cupcakes

Ruby went right for the cupcake because it was way better than lunch.

Getting Right to the Good Stuff

Ruby's SECOND cupcake of the day. Sweet Macy looking on.

Ruby's Second Cupcake

All done.

What Cupcake?


Tuesday, April 17, 2007


My heart is aching for all of those involved in the Virginia Tech massacre.

When I heard the news my immediate concern was for the students – those who died, those who were injured and those who were traumatized – and for their families. How awful. At the exact same time my heart instantly went out to those who are now working behind the scenes.

Especially that one person.

That one person who is ultimately going to be in charge of the logistics and fallout that will result from this catastrophe. That one person whose life is forever going to be changed and whose professional responsibilities and priorities have been violently shuffled and are now completely different than they were on Monday. That one person who has to immediately rise to the top of their game and lead hordes of people through a disastrous situation that they never in their wildest dreams thought they would be a part. That one person who is going to have to direct every detail of every team involved from communications to coordinating with law enforcement, unflinchingly answer the really hard questions, comfort the families, eventually deal with the families’ anger and its many manifestations, dissect the response effort, develop an immediate plan for future response efforts, deal with the relentless media onslaught that will pick and prod and accuse, quickly plan and execute a high-profile national public memorial service and later a permanent memorial, and handle the finger pointing and public outcry that will surely result from the actions of one crazy person.

In this case, I’m guessing that that one person will be the Virginia Tech President, and I have the deepest respect and a special empathy for him and for the teams of people who support him. Some careers are going to be made during this time and some careers are going to be broken. The strong will get stronger and the weak will wilt. All will be personally affected.

I know that person because that person was my dad when the Columbine High School shootings happened eight years ago, almost to the day.

As Jefferson County Manager, dad was at the hub of that disaster and had to manage every aspect of it from top to bottom. This was before 9/11 when things like this just didn’t happen. Or maybe it just seemed like disasters of this magnitude didn’t happen with the frequency they seem to do now. The stories I could tell about Columbine would take up weeks and weeks worth of blog space. I’m thankful that dad has written his memoirs on the subject because they provide a unique glimpse into an unexpected national tragedy.

So my hope is that all of us will take just a second to think of and bless everyone involved in the Virginia Tech massacre. They say there are 31 victims in this shooting rampage, but we all know that through the ripple effect there are hundreds and thousands of victims, all working hard to make sense of a completely senseless situation.

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Monday, April 16, 2007

Adding Another Personal Issue to a Very Long List

I have total ringxiety. I hear my cell phone ringing all of the time.

The phenomenon of phantom ring tones has been in the news for awhile now, but my problem seems to be getting steadily worse. I have an old-school ring – “brrrring, brrring” – no fancy ringtone, no cool song, no cartoon catch phrase (mainly because I have an inability to figure out how to download anything new as my ringer).

But I hear my phone ringing when I’m watching TV, listening to the radio, driving down the street, blow drying my hair, in the shower…all the time. Even when a commercial comes on that I already know is going to trigger this response in me, I still fall for it and for one split second wonder if my phone is ringing. It’s SO ANNOYING.

I’ve read all of the articles that this has something to do with the pitch frequency of my phone in relation to my hearing range in relation to my growing dependency on a cell phone (this would be the PERFECT time to illustrate my point with a Venn Diagram, but I’ll spare you the charts and graphs!) yet instinct to answer wins out over reason every time.

Last night I was flying home from a weekend in Beautiful Colorado celebrating Macy’s FOURTH birthday and I watched the poor woman next to me get her phone out of her purse about six times. You could see the “ohmygosh I’m crazy” fear appearing in her face each time because she KNEW her phone was turned off, but she kept hearing it anyway. As I was silently empathizing with her, I had to laugh because we’ve become a society of cell phone lunatics.

But when the day comes that I finally muster up the gumption to figure out how it’s done, I’m going to download my nieces’ laughter as my ring tone. There is no sound better in the world, so IF I have to suffer from ringxiety, at least it would be to the giggles and belly laughs of Ruby and Mason. There are certainly worse things.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Knowing the Difference


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Good Luck Charm

You may have heard yesterday that a crowd of over 10,000 people were waiting to buy magic amulets in Bangkok, Thailand, and a stampede to get to the front of the line erupted killing one woman and injuring dozens of others.

10,000 people…in line…to buy MAGIC AMULETS…a STAMPEDE…and someone died. And it’s 2007. But someone died in a crush to get a magic amulet. I just can’t wrap my mind around it.

I googled the magical amulet, called a Jatukam Ramethep, and found out that they are round, ranging in size from a penny to a silver dollar and they come in a variety of colors. They’re named after a Brahmin deity, the skilled warrior prince of an ancient Southern Thai kingdom. Believers feel that the amulet can bring good luck and protect them from evil and violent attacks including gunshots and knife wounds.

You can buy an authentic Jatukam Ramethep amulet on Ebay for $15.50. But a woman DIED yesterday because 10,000 people crushed her in their effort to get one of these things. A magic amulet.

A MAGIC AMULET. Really? Like magic, magic? Call me a skeptic, but REALLY? Because if so, SIGN ME UP.

It’s reported that the deity won’t help the owner if they ask for things that they can’t afford or things that aren’t moral, but hey, I can think of plenty of other ways that good luck could find me that are squeaky clean and completely moral.

On second thought, maybe I should reserve judgement on these kooks obsessed with a little charm…

Years ago my friend Beth became friends with Kramer. Kramer is an astrologist of some renown in Austin, Texas, and you can always count on a good time if you have Kramer read your cards or your astrological chart. I’ve never been a big believer in the dark arts, but Kramer had a real disdain for Pisces (me!) and was convinced that Pisces were those in the Zodiak that had the biggest problems…big, big problems (me!). Most notably, that we weren’t grounded in reality (me!). His solution? Wear a hematite ankle bracelet on your left ankle every day for a year. The energy from the hematite stone was supposed to keep me grounded and focused and it would overpower any indecision or insecurity.

Just IN CASE Kramer MIGHT have had some insight into the Pisces condition I decided to go with the flow, so when the next woo-woo astrology fair came through Austin, I went from one patchouli scented booth to the other until I found just the right hematite ankle bracelet.

And I’ll be damned if I didn’t wear that thing for, like, three years straight.

Now, there are three things that I’ve always thought make a woman look mighty trashy – long fake fingernails, bleached blonde hair, and ankle bracelets. And yep, I’ve pretty much had all three - many at the same time - many times during my life. But for those years, the ankle bracelet kind of became my thing and it was fun to tell people that it was grounding me in reality.

The fact that I received many promotions and raises during this time, lost quite a bit of weight, and seemed to be dating on a regular basis was just coincidence, right? Perhaps. Perhaps not. The ankle bracelet finally broke one day and I took this as a sign that it had fulfilled its mission and its grounding properties were no longer needed in my life. And things have been pretty much downhill since.

Okay, maybe I’m just kidding. But maybe there really is something else to consider. If 10,000 people were willing to wait in a line and ultimately kill another person for a charm, maybe I could fork over the $15.50 to Ebay, forgo the drama and reap the good rewards. Perhaps?

Perhaps not.

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

To Make a Long Story Short

Ernest Hemingway once said his best work was a story he wrote in just six words:

“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

Here’s my six word story for today.

“New job? Exciting! And possibly deadly.”

I am pleased to be transitioning into a new job within my organization. The more I think about it - and I spent a lot of time thinking about it yesterday - I’m feeling those excited jitters in my stomach that give me a rush and make me nauseous at the same time. New frontiers. New possibilities. New chapters. It’s good to know that we will be able to bring some focus to our educational services, something I feel strongly is important.

I am grateful for this opportunity, and for those who have supported me in this decision.

Here's to shaking it up and keeping it new!

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