Thursday, December 28, 2006

Rocky Balboa Christian Resources?

Last year I put together an event at my church to go see "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe." I found all kinds of materials off the web and through the mail. For the last year I've received materials related to some other movies. I expected the stuff for "Charlotte's Web" since it was put out by Walden Media (same folks that did Narnia). But I wasn't expecting what I received in the mail yesterday, a DVD of resources for Christian leaders related to the new movie "Rocky Balboa." I was interested to see this latest Rocky film, but figured I'd wait for the DVD (I don't get to go to the movies much anyway). Now, I'm really curious. I hadn't heard about Christian angles in this film yet. I had heard good things about it, but this is a new one to me. I really enjoy looking for Christian angles in films. Over the last year I felt that both "Cars" and "Superman Returns" had some great potential for messages. During our regular devotional time here at One Way Street, some of our staff have been sharing Christian messages they've gotten from movies. We've had everything from "The Nightmare Before Christmas" to "Babette's Feast" used. If anyone has seen "Rocky Balboa" I'd be interested to hear your thoughts.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Blizzard of '06

I have the longest driveway in Highlands Ranch, CO. No joke! It's weird, there are some absolutely mammoth houses in Highlands Ranch, mine is not one of them. In fact, mine is pretty much on the opposite end of the spectrum. Yet my driveway is probably 3 times longer than some of the mansions across town. It's because my house is right on a rounded corner, so we have a long lot. It's actually pretty cool because it means my backyard is larger too. But when you get over 2 feet of snow, having a long driveway is no fun.

Denver got socked by a massive snow storm on Wednesday. We had to shut down the offices here at One Way Street. It's only the 2nd time in the last 12 years that we've had to do that. I managed to get into the office today (Friday), but my driveway is still not completely shoveled. And I wasn't even able to make it all the way in to the office. I had to park at the Wal-Mart down the street since our parking lot is still pretty much snowed in.

We're going to have a white Christmas for sure. Not to mention huge piles of snow and an ice skating rink where my street used to be. It's funny to watch my neighbors sometimes when it snows like this. They get so anxious to get out, they pull out their four-wheel drive vehicles and start cruising up and down the street as early as they can. Trying to cut a path so people can drive on the street, they zoom around with the windows open shouting "Yee-Ha" like their auditioning for the direct-to-video sequel to "The Dukes of Hazzard."

Well, at least we're back up and running at One Way Street. There's just 5 of us here so far, but that's a start.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

I-Fest Blog

One Way Street has sponsored I-Fest (The International Festival of Christian Puppetry and Ventriloquism) since it began in 1996. I've been at every I-Fest except kids were both born within weeks of an I-Fest, sorry but child birth takes priority over puppetry. Anyway, I have just started up the I-Fest Blog ( This is the place to go to find out all the latest news on what's going to be happening at I-Fest 2007, July 9-14, 2007 at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, IL. Bourbonnais is right outside of Kankakee, about 50 miles south of Chicago. The blog will feature news, announcements and "I-Fest Flashbacks" featuring highlights from past years.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The Good, The Bad, and the Hairy

Well, a new year is approaching. Of course, that means the new Chick-Fil-A calendar is out! At our office we have a lot of fans of Chick-Fil-A. In fact, several years ago on a trip to Atlanta several of us made a pilgrimage of sorts to The Dwarf House, which is the original Chick-Fil-A restaurant. Oddly enough, you can actually buy a hamburger at that location. The Chick-Fil-A ad campaign featuring the cows who try to convince folks to "Eat Mor Chikn" is a great one and the yearly calendar is well worth the $5 for the coupons you get and a lot of laughs looking at the pictures. This year it's cows in the old west!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

December 7, 1941

Today is an important day which I think doesn't often receives the recognition it deserves. Today is the 65th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. My Grandpa was serving in the US Navy in 1941, and he served for a time on USS Arizona, which now sits at the bottom of Pearl Harbor. It is my understanding, that he was transferred off the Arizona shortly before the attack on Pearl Harbor.

My Grandpa died when I was in the 6th grade. I never understood then much about what he did in World War II. I knew he was in the navy, I knew he had some interesting tattoos, but I just wasn't old enough to really understand the significance of the war. Now that I'm older, I wish I had been a bit older then and been able to understand. I know from my mother that he didn't like talking about the war and that even the fireworks at the fourth of July were too difficult for him to be around because the sounds were too similar to the sounds of war. Even though I know it would've been difficult for him, I wish I had been old enough for him to share what he went through with me. It is important for us not to loose the history these brave men experienced.

One of the most amazing experiences for me in recent years was when I spent all of about five minutes on a bus at the airport with a man and his wife who were returning from a reunion of WWII Navy Veterans. He was wearing military medals and such, so I knew they had just come from something significant. When I asked the significance of the items they had, the wife responded "Are you familiar with the story of the Indianapolis?" I was pretty sure I did, in the back of my mind I thought "that's the boat Quint tells a story about in "Jaws", right?" I didn't tell her that for fear of embarrassing myself if I was wrong, but I was right. The Indianapolis was sunk right at the end of the war. A very small number of men survived. Many died because the rescue just didn't come soon enough and the waters were shark infested. As this man told me his story for just the few minutes I was with him, I thought "this is a true hero." I will never forget that bus ride.

So, on this Dec 7 I say thanks to all those who served so bravely then, like my Grandpa Key, and now, like my Cousin Eric. We are in your debt.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Zod '08

Looks like Kryptonian bad guy General Zod is making a run for the White House in 2008, rather than just tearing the roof off and announcing himself ruler. Check out the very funny Zod 2008 website.

I have to admit having a special place for the Superman movies in my movie geek heart. Richard Donner's 1978 film "Superman" is still the standard by which all other comic book adaptations are judged. "Superman II," featuring his royal Zod-ness, was also a lot of fun. I'm really looking forward to seeing the new Richard Donner cut of the movie, which was just released on DVD. Get the whole story behind the two versions on "Superman II" here. Off course, "Superman III" and "Superman IV: The Quest were Peace" were terrible. So was the spin-off "Supergirl," but that film has a lovable campiness, and a great Jerry Goldsmith music score. I also really enjoyed this year's "Superman Returns."

Anyway, start preparing yourselves to "Kneel before Zod" in '08.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Muppet Christmas Tree Ornament 1982

I have a very special Aunt, my Aunt Jan, who has given me a Christmas tree ornament every year for as long as I can remember. A good portion of my family's tree is covered with the ornaments she's given me. One of my favorites is one featuring the Muppets that she gave me way back in 1982. I thought I'd share some pictures with all the other Muppet fans out there. I'm sure it's pretty hard to find one of these out there today. It features Kermit, Piggy, Fozzie, Gonzo, Rowlf, Dr. Teeth, Floyd, Zoot and Animal. It's hard enough to find Muppet ornaments in general now days, so to have one that features so many characters is just plain cool.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Genesis Reunion!

Don't know how I missed this one but apparently a few weeks ago it was announced that my all-time favorite band, Genesis, would be reuniting for a tour this year. Now, it looks like the US isn't on the schedule that I can see, but it's still cool news.

I think I first became really aware of Genesis in 1986, when the "Invisible Touch" album came out. Most of the songs on that album were hit singles. At this same time Peter Gabriel's album "So" came out. I liked both albums, then I found out that Peter Gabriel was once a part of Genesis, so I was intrigued to look into their earlier work. This led me into the strange world or progressive rock. Since then I've been quite a fan of was Genesis that took me there. I've always enjoyed their work and, as I've said before, my online name "Squonk" comes from one of their songs.

The version of Genesis that's reuniting is the three-man version- Phil Collins, Michael Rutherford, and Tony Banks. It would've been great to see Peter Gabriel and Steve Hackett on board again, perhaps in the future.

You can check out the video of the press conference at the band's website - Genesis

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Tit Willow

"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:18

Great words there, but what does it have to do with puppets you might ask. Well, if you're involved in any sort of ministry, whether it's puppetry or underwater basket weaving, hopefully you understand the true meaning of this passage. But I highlight it here because I want to talk about the "unseen" in our puppet performances.

There are many aspects of a puppet performance which are unseen to the audience. For example, the puppet's legs. If we're really trying to achieve the illusion of life with our puppets, then we should try to make our puppets look as if they have real legs they are walking around on, even though we don't see them. Remembering that there is an unseen elements to our puppet programs can help create a bigger and more real world for our puppets to inhabit. A great example of this is Rowlf the Dog and Sam the Eagle's performance of Gilbert & Sullivan's "Tit Willow" from Season 1 of The Muppet Show.

I love Sam the Eagle, a key element of his character is that he just plain doesn't want to be there. You have to wonder why on earth he even hangs around with the Muppets at times. In "Tit Willow" Rowlf has given Sam the job of playing the part of the bird, which means that all he has to do his recite the line "Willow, Tit Willow, Tit Willow" at the appropriate times. As the song moves on Rowlf remains as enthusiastic as ever, while Sam becomes less and less thrilled with his role.

As Sam grows more self conscious about this whole thing, he looks over his shoulder several times. You can also see him make gestures and mumble things as if he is talking to someone standing offstage. We don't see who he's talking to, but it's clear that someone is there. I picture Fozzie, Gonzo and the other Muppets doing a lousy job of holding back laughter and making sure that Sam can see them.

At one point, Same even says to whoever is watching him, "You wanna do this?" To me these little touches just help to make the audience forget that they are watching puppets. These are real characters. They live in a real world and they have real emotions. These are the things that are unseen to us in the audience, but when the puppets direct our attention that way it helps to create that "illusion of life."

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Gabby Hayes

A few weeks ago our One Way Street Construction Zone got an order for something really unique. The Roy Rogers Museum was looking for some puppet versions of a few of Roy's old buddies. The first was Gabby Hayes. Here you see the Gabby puppet alongside a photo of the actual Gabby Hayes. Keann, the head of the CZ, did an awesome job with him.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Royal Book of Oz

Another book I just finished is The Royal Book of Oz, the 15th book in the Oz series.

It was about a year and a half ago that I re-read L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. I read it when I was a child and knew there were other Oz books, but I never got past the first. Like I've said before, I've never been a good reader. This time, however, I had such a great time reading it I decided to continue on. My wife just happened to have a copy of the 2nd book, The Marvelous Land of Oz, buried in a box in the basement. So to make a long story short, here we are at book 15.

The Royal Book of Oz is actually the first in the series not written by L. Frank Baum, even though many copies credit him as the writer. It was actually written by the 2nd Royal Historian of Oz, Ruth Plumly Thompson.

The story concerns the Scarecrow's search for his family. This leads him on an adventure which sends him deep underground to a place called the Silver Island, where he finds out he is actually the current incarnation of an emperor called Chang Wang Woe.

I've really enjoyed the Oz books. They aren't without their flaws, but I find myself getting more and more intrigued with this amazing world with every book. If you read through the Oz books you will definitely find some inconsistencies. It's clear that Baum was making it up as he went. The world isn't as well laid out as say Tolkien's middle earth, but I think that's one of the things I enjoy about Oz.

Of course, I love the 1939 film "The Wizard of Oz." It's one of the best films ever made. But there's a part of me that would love to see Oz brought to the screen again, in a style more like what we've seen recently with Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings films and last year's version of "The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe." It'll never happen, of course. Can you imagine the fuss people would make about a new version of "The Wizard of Oz."

Monday, November 13, 2006

Donkey Sneak Peak

Here's a sneak preview of something new the One Way Street Construction Zone has been working on, a brand new Donkey puppet.

Now this is not the final version. Eventually this guy will be gray. We used the tan because it's what we use for our Cameron Camel puppet, so we had a bunch on hand. The nostrils of the final version are also a bit more well-defined. I'll show you all the final version soon. But for now, enjoy the prototype!


I am a horribly slow reader. My wife, she'll go through a book a day, but I'm just not wired for reading. I'm a couch potato...I admit it. But I do enjoy reading, especially non-fiction. This weekend I finally finished a great book I've been working on for awhile, Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer by James L. Swanson. It took me longer to read than I had hoped, thanks in part to the fact that my copy was in my briefcase when it was stolen out of my car a few weeks ago. Take my word, nothing spoils a night of going to see a screening of "Star Trek III: The Search for Spock" quite like coming out to the parking lot to find the window of your car broken and your briefcase stolen. I'm sure the perp thought he was getting a laptop or something, but about all they got was this book and a copy of "Will the Circle be Unbroken" I had from the library.

Anyway, this is a great book! It explores a part of an important historic event that is ignored by many today. I already knew John Wilkes Booth was an intriguing character in American history, but so are so many others who he encountered during the days following Lincoln's assassination. The man who killed Booth, Boston Corbett, has to be one of the oddest people I've ever read about.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Ever watch a drummer perform? I mean really watch them? Their hands are the key to their performance, but that's not what I find myself paying attention to. From Buddy Rich to Keith Moon, I find I'm zeroing in on their facial expressions and body movements. It's no different when watching Animal. I think puppeteer Frank Oz realized that. "Fever" with Rita Moreno, from the first season of The Muppet Show, is perhaps one of the best examples of puppet drumming in action.

When "Fever" begins, we're not expecting it to turn into a comedy bit. The camera begins by focusing in on Floyd as he plucks the bass line. It doesn't take long for the camera to tilt up and focus on Moreno with Animal in the background. That's the last we see of Floyd. He's just there to establish the mood, once his job is done, he's outta there. Otherwise, he'd just clutter up the scene.

As the song progresses, Animal keeps the beat as Moreno sings. His head is down, his eyes are closed, and he gently bops his head up and down. When the time is right Animal inserts his own drum fill, which startles Moreno. Take note of how Oz illustrates this, he doesn't focus on Animal's hands, but on his head movement. We hardly even see the drum sticks hit the skins.

After being startled, and probably upstaged twice, Moreno goes back to have a word with her Spanish.

Animal looks up at her, but halfway through her speech he turns and looks at the audience, as if to say "Is she serious?" The Muppet performers have always been great at seizing on moments like this to draw their audience in. However, it's Moreno who wins out by grabbing Animal by the nose and turning his attention back to her.

As Moreno heads back to her place, Animals mocks her. When she turns to glare at him, he quickly turns his attention away. Oz really goes to the extreme here, turning Animal's nose to the air and twisting his body into an uncomfortable looking shape. It's great! Animal isn't even trying not to get caught. In fact, he's rubbing Moreno's face in the mud.

As the song continues, we see Animal slowly building up towards another big drum moment. Moreno catches him, and he freezes for a moment, but really it just makes things worse. When he finally let's it rip there's no stopping him. He begins playing wildly. Again, what makes it believable is Animal's head and body movements. It's not wild and uncontrolled. The movements compliment the actual drumming and make you really believe this foam and feather creation is actually playing these instruments. Again, note the hands. At times they are nowhere close to the drums they are supposed to be striking. We either don't notice or don't care because of the character that's coming through the body movements.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Would You Like to Buy an O?

“Would You Like to buy and O” is a classic Sesame Street song that debuted in the third season of the show. It is available as one of the Season 3 Highlights on the new “Sesame Street Old School” DVD. Grab your own copy of the DVD to get a good look at the puppetry techniques for yourself.
Jim Henson plays Ernie, who is minding his own business when he’s suddenly approached by another character. This character played by Frank Oz, wears and trench coat and hat and acts very secretive about trying to sell Ernie a letter O. Henson and Oz were a fantastic team. This particular piece is a great example of how Henson knew when to just sit back and let Oz run with it.

Check out the way that Oz completely sells you on the idea of his character being a somewhat shifty guy. Where did this guy get this letter O he’s selling? We don’t know, and by the way he’s acting, we probably don’t want to know. When he first speaks to Ernie, “Hey bud,” he leans in with the bottom half of the puppets head. It’s like he’s trying to talk out of the corner of his mouth.

Oz takes advantage of little breaks in the music to add little touches that make you wonder if this guy is legit or what. When there’s a break in the lyrics, the character will often look off behind himself, or behind Ernie, to make sure the fuzz isn’t on to him yet. It’s also interesting to note that Oz is only manipulating one of the puppet’s arms, the one holding the O. The other one is attached to the puppet’s side. It kind of looks like he’s got his hand in his pocket, which totally fits the character. What’s he hiding in his other pocket, whatever it is it can’t be good. Maybe a Q or something dangerous like that. It’s important for puppeteers to learn how to do an effective job of manipulating two arm-rods, but it’s also important to realize when you don’t need to use both arm-rods. The subtle movements are part of what sells this character; so having two arms flapping around all the time wasn’t necessary.

What I've Learned from the Muppets

I'm a puppeteer. I love performing with puppets and I love getting to teach others about puppets. So much of what I've learned about puppetry comes from watching other performers, especially the Muppets. The Muppets were a huge part of my childhood. From "Sesame Street" to "The Muppet Show" to "Fraggle Rock," I love them all!

I decided it might be fun to do some articles where we analyze some classic Muppet clips to see why these performances are such great examples of puppetry techniques. I hope all the puppet teams out there will find these helpful and I encourage all of you to pick up the DVD's I refer to so you can get the full picture.

Thursday, October 26, 2006


It snowed in Denver a few days ago, but that was just a little one. Today we got the first real snow. Some were using the word "blizzard" but it really wasn't that bad. It was good snowman snow though, so two of our employees here at One Way Street took it upon themselves build a couple of snowmen out front. They were even equipped with puppet arm rods.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Puppet Festival - Columbus, OH

This weekend I got to go to the One Way Street puppet festival in the Columbus, OH area. It's been several years since I've been to this festival, so it was great to get back. It seemed we had a lot of new puppet teams this year, but it was an energetic group and we had a lot of fun!

Never thought I'd see the glowing disembodied head of Regis Philbin show up at a puppet festival, but here it is. This prop was a part of a blacklight performance in the song competition.

Gene Cordova is a great ventriloquist and Gospel magician. He was a part of our teaching staff for the Columbus festival.
These three young ladies were the finalists for the lip synch challenge.

Grove City Nazarene has been our hosts for this festival for many many years. They have an amazing facility! Every time I go back something is new! The awesome pre-school area was new since my last visit.

And to top it all off...right outside my hotel was a White Castle! I grew up in the Midwest and miss these slimy little square buggers.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Greetings from the Czech Republic

One Way Street was paid a visit today by Petr Gruber from the Czech Republic. Petr has been in communication with one of our puppet builders for awhile, and came by for a visit on his current trip to the US. It's always exciting for us to see what God is doing with puppet ministries around the world. Petr showed me a video of their group performing in a school. He provided live translation for me as we watched the program. Hopefully we'll get to see him and his group again sometime in the future!

First Snow

Well, after 12 years in Denver I've gotten used to the October snow. We got our first yesterday. It wasn't that big of a snow, no need to bring out the plows (not that officials around here do that sort of thing...even when they should).

Monday, October 16, 2006

My Old Illinois Home

A very strange thing happened yesterday when I was just surfing the internet. I was at just randomly searching photos. You know, typing in names of people I know and seeing what popped up. I decided to search for photos of my hometown, Wheaton, IL. I was surprised to see that one of the photos that popped up was of a house that looked very familiar. I followed the link and it led me to the website for a reality company (Schulenberg Reality). Investigating further I found that the photo was of the house I lived in from age 1 to 7, and it turns out it was up for rent. I have a lot of fun memories of that house, it was weird to suddenly see it pop up on my computer screen.

The Beast Raban

I did some drawing this weekend and was really pleased with the way this one came out. This is my take on The Beast Raban, one of the chief baddies of House Harkonnen from the book Dune. I've been slowly working my way through reading the Dune novels (in this case the word "reading" means "listening to the tapes in my car"). I have to admit, there are many times I end up saying "Huh" and having to rewind. They are pretty complex, mixing sci-fi, religion and politics. I've been enjoying them, however. It's probably been close to a year since I finished the last one, though. Time to get at it again. I'm a slow reader, even when I'm listening to a tape.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Rare Muppet Skits Available on DVD

It's just been announced that the complete first season of Saturday Night Live wil be available on an eight disc DVD set on December 5th. Here's the story over at DVDActive. The episodes will be presented in their complete form. This is of note to puppeteers like myself because one of the regular segments from the first season of the show were skits involving a group of strange Muppet characters, created by Jim Henson for SNL. The skits are rarely seen today, and they were definitely more adult in their themes. However, the puppets were a design that was kind half way between the Muppets of Henson's previous work (The Muppet Show had not debuted yet at this point) and the creatures he would create later for films like The Dark Crystal. It'll be interesting to check these DVD's out.


Last night I was thrilled to get to go back to one of my favorite restaurant's in Denver, Gregorio's (1910 Wadsworth in Lakewood). The food is great anytime, but the time to go is Thursday nights. Starting around 7:00 they have a great Mariachi band. My son went nuts dancing around to the music. We had a great time!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Lego Ice Cubes

This is genius, just plain genius. The folks at Lego present an ice cube tray that makes ice cubes in the shape of legos! The ice cube maker in my freezer has been broken for months, now I don't want to fix it!

Hat tip to Cali over at Geek Brief on this one.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Hammer Heads of Oz

I don't claim to be a great artist, but I'm working on it. I've always loved to draw but have never been much more than a doodler. So I've been trying to improve my skills lateley. This picture is a character from the original book "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" known as a hammerhead.

Monday, October 09, 2006

No No's

If you're in the Denver area, or may be soon, you may want to check out a great scarfing establishment called NoNo's. My family and I ate there Saturday night. I'd been several years since my last visit, and first to their new location just off of County Line Road, about a block East of Santa Fe. This is one of the best restaurants in the Denver area folks. The menu has a Southern/Cajun flavor to it. Plus it's a rotating menu, so there's always something new. We had a great time there. Just feast your eyes on the shrimp creole I devoured shortly after this photo was taken.

Goin' to the Zoo

I love going to the zoo! Always have. When I look at the exhibits at a zoo I just think, "Wow, look what God did!" It amazes me to read about each animal and learn how God made each one in a special way, to be able to live and thrive in their own environments. It also reminds me that God is the father of all creativity. Looking at animals you can see God's eye for beauty, his skill at functional design, and sometimes even his sense of humor.

Saturday we headed over to the Denver Zoo. Denver has a great zoo! My family and I have been members for several years. In the last couple of years, the zoo have made some fantastic improvements like Predator Ridge and Primate Panorama.

Here are a few highlights from our visit

Remember what I said about God's sense of humor? The penguins will always be my favorites!

I have to admit it's a wee bit intimidating to realize that fellows like this bear are native to this state I live in.

These have to be the two strangest creatures I saw at the zoo all day! They even followed me home.

Rocky Mountain FCM

This weekend was the annual training conference sponsored by the Rocky Mountain chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Magicians (FCM). I was able to participate in the Friday evening performance. We performed "Stand" with some Stretch-A-Belly Puppets. It was also fun to get to see some of my favorite people in the world of Gospel magic.

David and Teesha Laflin were a part of the program as well. I've worked with the Laflin's at many of our One Way Street Puppet Festivals. No joke, I count them among the best Gospel magicians in the world.

It was also good to see Mel LaMar. Mel never ceases to amaze me. He is a skilled illusionist, ventriloquist and juggler, but his main passion is spreading God's word. I've known Mel for over 12 years, but he surprised me with something I've never seen him do before... balancing a tennis racket, a can of tennis balls and a giant tennis ball on his chin, while juggling three more tennis rackets!