Monday, December 31, 2007

Baptism Cannonball

This video has probably been floating around out there for awhile now, but I just ran across it today.

Lately I've been running into a lot of blogs from angry Christians. They seem to feel that their ministry is to point out everything that's wrong with everyone else's ministry. I'm not going to link to any of their sites here because, well...I don't want to give them any more traffic. They don't deserve it. The first thing I thought when I watched this, after I stopped laughing, was how a bunch of these folks would probably think this is horribly sacrilegious. I might have even thought that a little myself. But that's wrong! We should all be so excited about showing that we stand with Christ that we would cannonball into the baptismal! It's an exciting thing, after all! This kid obviously made that whole church smile, and I think God probably smiled biggest of them all.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Dark Knight

After months of little glimpses here and there of the new Batman movie, "The Dark Knight," the first real trailer is now out. So if you haven't seen it yet, here ya go.

When it was announced that Heath Leger was playing the Joker I thought..."seriously?" It didn't seem like a good choice to me...but at least it wasn't Sean Penn (which had been rumored). But now I'm officially creeped out. This isn't the giggling buffoon portrayed by Cesar Romero, or the cocky clown of Jack Nicholson. And I have nothing against Romero or Nicholson. I love their portrayals for other reasons. But this is just plain scary. I can't wait.

I don't think we need to worry about nipples on the bat suit

Two New-ish Blogs

I wanted to announce that I have two other blogs that I've started recently that I haven't mentioned yet here.

The first is SquonkArt. I started it earlier this year to give me a place to post some of my drawings. I've always enjoyed drawing, but have never been a really good artist. I'm trying to develop my skills a bit more, and just devote more time to I figured trying to keep a blog current would help me spend more time drawing. It hasn't worked out that way yet, but I'm still trying.

The second blog is SquonkSL...which stands for Squonk's Second Life. Second Life is an online virtual world completely created by it's users. People create their own identity...or avatar (mine is called Squonk Lockjaw), create the world, interact, buy and sell name it. The blog is simply following my avatar as he explores the world. There are a lot of interesting things in Second Life...a lot of nasty things too. We're just exploring the cool stuff.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Muppets, Hockey and the Dentist

To my kids, what determines whether or not a restaurant is good or not all hinges on the answer to this question, "Do they have toys?" When I was a kid Happy Meals were not a permanent part of the menu. But now, other places have toys too. And, of course, I am very jealous because I love those toys as much as the kids do. But never have I been more envious than after my son's recent visit to the dentist. He came home with a pack of Muppet Hockey trading cards.

A few years back there was a whole NHL and the Muppets campaign in Canada. Every now and then a few items from this campaign make it stateside. I remember spotting a few Kermit in a hockey uniform dolls in one of those claw grab arcade games once. So now I want to know where the Kids Dentist Prize Surplus Store is so I can get my hands on some of these cards. My son is wise beyond his years...he knows better than to let Daddy near his.

Anyone else find it weird that the dentist is giving away hockey related stuff? I mean, I doubt hockey is a sport most dentists would encourage kids to take part in.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Bat Flake

I work with a bunch of creative people. It's kind of a tradition around the office that many of them make snowflakes out of coffee filters at Christmas time. My favorite this year, Brandon's "Bat Flake." That sounds like a title out of MAD Magazine, doesn't it?

Here's the folded up version, so you can see how it was cut out.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Viva Knievel

This evening I was driving in downtown Denver when I spotted an electronic news ticker on one of the buildings. My eyes went straight to the words "Evel Knievel Dead at 69." Being a kid in the 70's I was very familiar with Evel Knievel...daredevil and inspiration for one of the greatest toys ever created. I mean check out the video below. I had one of these when I was a kid, they were great! I want one of these for Christmas! I'm serious.

Knievel is certainly a unique figure in American pop culture history. I have to admit, as I became an adult and learned more about him (watching Biography and such), I didn't think too highly of the man. In interviews I'd see he came across as a very angry person. I mean after watching an interview with him I actually feared that he might one day spot the negative review of his movie "Viva Knievel" I posted on the web, then hunt me down and drag me back to Butte, Montana to wash his motorcycle with my face.

After hearing of his passing tonight, I began searching the web for information about him. I was surprised to find a video on YouTube from earlier this year where he stood before a crowd at the Crystal Cathedral and told how he had accepted Christ. It's a pretty amazing clip.

But "Viva Knievel" is still one of the worst movies ever made. Sorry Evel.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Boars, Monsters and Polar Bears

I'm always a couple years behind on whatever the popular TV shows are. For example, I love "24," but for me President Logan just went down. I'm a year behind! I always have to wait for the DVD's. Even with a TiVo now, my effort at watching "Bionic Woman" from the beginning fell apart quickly.

Anyhow, one series I'm catching up on is "Lost." Of course, I'm still back in the first season. One of my favorite moments in the series so far comes in episode 9 - "Solitary." In this episode, Hurley finds a set of golf clubs from the plane's wreckage and decides to build a golf course. The scene where he invites his fellow castaways to join him in a game of golf is a great example of the importance of having fun.

Hurley: Welcome to the first, and hopefully last, Island Open!

Jack: What?

Hurley: It’s two holes, for now, three par, and no waiting.

Jack: Hurley, you built a golf course?

Hurley: Rich idiots fly to tropical islands all the time to whack balls around.

Michael: All the stuff we got to deal with man, this is what you’ve been wasting your time on?

Hurley: Dudes, our lives suck. Everyone’s nerves are stretched to the max. I mean, we’re lost an an island…runnin’ from boars, and monsters…freakin’ polar bears!

Michael: Polar bears?

Charlie: You didn’t hear about the polar bear?

Hurley: Look all I’m saying is, if we’re stuck here then just surviving’s not going to cut it. We need some kind of relief, you know. We need some way that we can…you know, have fun. That’s right have fun, or else we’re just going to go crazy waiting for the next bad thing to happen.

Now let me be perfectly clear about something...having my toenails pulled out with a pair of chopsticks would be more fun to me than a round of golf, but what Hurley's getting at is still true. My life is full of boars, monsters and polar bears. I'll bet yours is too. But do we make a real effort to have play? I know I don't as much as I should. The boars, monsters and polar bears are at home, at work, at church...many times we let all those environments become so tense. Often we truly are just waiting for the next bad thing to happen. We need to make an effort to have fun!

When I tell people that I'm a puppeteer many respond by saying, "oh that must be so much fun!" Well, it is fun, and exhausting, and stressful, and everything that every other job is. Even when there are plenty of things around me that can bring me fun, I'm the kind of person who spends a lot more time focusing on the boars, monsters, and polar bears.

So here's a challenge: Christmas time is upon us, it's a festive time of the year anyway...but it's also pretty stressful. Try to approach this month with that spirit of fun that came automatically when you were a kid. Have fun! Lick the spoon when you're making Christmas cookies. Go Christmas shopping wearing a pair of antlers and a light-up nose.'s going to be a challenge for me too, my wife says I've been a real grouch the last few days. Don't try to just survive each day...Have fun!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Genesis: Live Over Europe 2007

I've mentioned before that my favorite band of all-time is Genesis, so I just had to offer up a review of their newly released live album, "Live Over Europe 2007."

I think Genesis may have released more live albums than just about anyone: Genesis Live (1973), Seconds Out (1977), Three Sides Live (1982), The Way We Walk Vol. 1: The Shorts (1992), and The Way We Walk Vol. 2: The Longs (1993). It's kind of interesting that a band with it's roots in the progressive rock genre would have so many live albums. Prog bands don't tent to have a lot of variation between the album versions and live versions of songs. But from the days when Peter Gabriel would wear fox heads and flower costumes in concert, Genesis has always been a great live band.

The new album features songs from all stages of the band's history, recorded at various venues across Europe last summer. Most of the songs have appeared in other live incarnations, still, it's great to hear new recordings of these classics. For me, the highlight of the album "Ripples," a beautiful song from the 1976 album "A Trick of the Tail" which has never made an appearance on one of the band's previous live efforts. Another favorite was "Conversations with Two Stools," which is a recording of the Phil Collins / Chester Thompson drum duet, which has been a Genesis tradition since Collins took over lead singing duties in the mid 70's. The duet flows directly into the classic instrumental piece "Los Endos," which at least features part of my namesake song, "Squonk."

It doesn't exactly break new ground, but "Live Over Europe 2007" is great chance to hear a classic band together again.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Children's Church Coolness

The last several weeks have been pretty busy for me. I had several puppet festivals to be at. They all went really well, and I got to see a bunch of great children's church facilities at the churches I visited. Here are some photos of some of the creative stuff I got to see.

First up are some shots of the children's church set at Flint River Baptist Church, which hosted the Huntsville, AL puppet festival. The set featured a boat, dock, and beach hut. The boat has a time machine on the deck and that's real sand on the ground by the hut.

The Oklahoma City area puppet festival was hosted by Crosspointe Church in Norman, OK. The entire children's church area is decorated like a castle. The theme is carried through all the rooms and hallways.

After the Oklahoma City Festival I got to stay over long enough to visit one of the LifeChurch.TV campuses in the area. These photos are from the Oklahoma City Campus (which is actually in Edmond), this is the campus that Pastor Craig Groeschel preaches from, the message then goes out via satellite to the other campuses. I made arrangements several weeks ago to get a tour of the children's church facility, so I got the grand tour.

This is the check-in area. It kind of reminded me of the self-check-in system that United Airlines uses. Parents have a card that they scan, then the computer lists all the kids on that account. They use the touch screen to check-in the kids that are present, the computer prints the name tags, and they are off to children's church.

My favorite way to get into children's church was this one. The 1st to 3rd graders enter the room via slide. Way cool! Beneath are some shots of the set.

Here's a shot of one of the pre-school rooms. All the decor was done by Wacky World Studios.

The facility for the adults ain't bad either.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Huntsville, AL Festival II

Here's a few more photos from the festival last weekend in Huntsville.

Gerbert was at the festival this year! Here he is with Pastor Norm Hewitt on Saturday morning.

We got to see a really fantastic performance by the team from The Rock Church on Saturday afternoon. Here is a shot from an interpretation of "Who Am I" using just gloved hands in blacklight to create various images.

The highlight of their performance was this blacklight robot. This has to be one of the most original puppets I've seen in a long time. Here's some video of it in action:

Friday, November 02, 2007

Huntsville, AL Puppet Festival

Here's a few pics from Friday night of the Huntsville, AL Puppet Festival.

Ventriloquist Bert Boudet is one of our instructors. He and his puppet pals MC'd the puppet song competition.

This is the Fingers of God puppet team performing "I'm Not Cool."

The van prop was featured in the performance by Kingdom Kritters of Cullman, AL

YEAH Creative Ministries Team of Sparta, TN had some cool blacklight butterflies in their presentation.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Banana Creme Peanut Butter Cups

What was Elvis' favorite food? Peanut butter and banana sandwiches, of course. So some genius over in the Reese's wing at Hershey has come up with Reese's Peanut Butter Cups with banana creme! Slap a picture of the King on there for marketing and you've got a cool new snack. My wife saw them at the store and got me one since I am a fan of just about anything with banana in it. They were quite tasty, I thought.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Chasing Lions on the Trampoline

My son made me smile in a big way the other night. My wife wasn't able to take the kids to their tumbling class, so I had to fill in. For the last five minutes the parents get to come in and watch. Everytime I take them to tumbling they are always very excited to show me what they can do. This week, my daughter went first and showed off some things she could do on the trampoline. When she was done, the teacher called my son over to the trampoline. Now my son has never liked trampolines. I've seen him stand at a distance and watch while all his friends from church have a blast on the trampoline. It's just one of those things he's very skittish about. I expected to see him go over to the teacher, shake his head, and refuse to jump on the trampoline. Imagine my surprise when he stepped on to the trampoline. Not only did he step on, but he jumped. He even did a bunch of special jumps the class had been working on. My smile was so wide my cheeks hurt. I couldn't believe what I was seeing.

I just finished reading a wonderful book called "In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day" by Mark Batterson. It focuses a lot on facing our fears and that the greatest opportunities, and our greatest victories, often come about when we face our greatest struggles. It was a book I really needed to read as I'm in a time where my life seems to be filled with great victories one day, only to be followed by great struggles and fears the next. Seeing my son jumping on the trampoline, holding this book in my hand (I had been reading it in the lobby as I waited), I thought about how God must feel when he watches us face our fears. I felt this huge my smile on my face and all I wanted to do was run over, grab my son, and tell him what a great job he did. I imagine when fear comes at us, and we keep moving forward, God can't contain his smile either.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Genius of Goelz: Gonzo's Dancing Chickien Act

The character most associated with Dave Goelz is none other than The Great Gonzo. In some ways, studying the growth of Gonzo's character is also a look into the development of the skills of his puppeteer.

Before "The Muppet Show" Gonzo was just a Frackle called Snarl who made his debut on a TV special called "The Great Santa Claus Switch." The puppet was handed over to Goelz as "The Muppet Show" began production.

During the show's first season, Gonzo was kind of a sniveling, pathetic looking guy with a nasal voice. He was more of a strange performance artist at this point, specializing in acts such as eating a tire to the music of "Flight of the Bumblebee" and demolishing a vintage automobile with a sledgehammer to the music of "The Anvil Chorus" (followed by eating the crank shaft acapella). He was an interesting character, but it wasn't until Season 2 that he really began to shine.

Between seasons 1 and 2, Goelz, who began his career with Henson as a puppet builder, redesigned the Gonzo puppet. The shape of the nose was changed a bit, and, most notably, the eyes were made larger and a surprise mechanism was added. Whereas before the eyes cold only look droopy, now they could look excited, which I think was a big key for advancing the character. A study of the changes to Gonzo's features, "Gonzo through the Years," can be found at the Muppet Wiki.

With a more expressive face, Gonzo's body language began to change as well. In season 1 Gonzo was kind of stiff, but in season 2 we began to see a calm Gonzo and an excited Gonzo. Calm Gonzo is somewhat like he was in Season 1. The eyes are droopy, head pointed down somewhat, and the arms are held in close to the body. The excited Gonzo is more...well...wide. The eyes become wider, the mouth opens wider when speaking, and the arms spread out wider. What's great is watching the transition between the two. A fantastic early example occurs in the episode hosted by Rich Little when Gonzo asks Kermit if anyone has showed up to audition for his new dancing chicken act (By the way, this is the first appearance of Gonzo's fascination with poultry). It's calm Gonzo who enters the scene, but as he starts to describe the idea for his new act the eyes open up, the arms get wide, and the voice pitches up. He's excited about this great new act and it shows. This all happens gradually over the course of two sentences.

A few minutes later we see the same thing happen again, only much quicker and to a greater extreme. When Kermit turns down his request to have the dancing chicken on the show, Gonzo goes from calm to excited x10 in just the space between Kermit's line and Gonzo's response.

"But Kermit, why!?!"

This time, Gonzo gets himself so worked up that he's left panting as Kermit responds to. Breathing is such a subtle thing to add to the manipulation of a puppet, but here it helps Gonzo to look alive and to help sell his emotions.

It's great when you have a character that can play so well at two extremes of the emotional spectrum, as Gonzo does. Gonzo can move between the extremes quickly, but Goelz always does a wonderful job of transitioning, sometimes within a split second.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Genius of Goelz

I've always had a hard time answering questions that go like this: "What's your favorite (blank)?" I mean I'm a huge movie fan, but if you ask me what my favorite flick is it might be "The Wizard of Oz" one day and "The Empire Strikes Back" the next. Favorite food...maybe a Chicago Style Hot Dog maybe a banana. Depends on the mood.

I can think of only one category I won't waver on, favorite puppeteer. Granted, "Who's your favorite puppeteer" isn't typically listed in Cosmo as a top ten ice breaker at parties, but since puppetry is my chosen profession it's understandable that I would have an opinion on this subject.

Many puppeteers have had an impact on me. Burr Tillstrom, Bil Baird, Richard Bradshaw, Roy Brown, and, of course, the Muppet Performers. I grew up in the golden age of the Muppets. I was born a year and a half after the debut of "Sesame Street." I was there for the premiere of "The Muppet Show," and returned every Saturday night after. Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson, Richard Hunt, Caroll Spinney...these performers not only taught me my ABC's, they taught me the art of puppetry. Each of them has influenced me in some way, but none more so than Dave Goelz. Zoot, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, Beauregard, Boober, Traveling Matt, and, of course, The Great Gonzo are just a few of the characters brought to life by this amazing performer.

Goelz was the junior member of the Muppet team when "The Muppet Show" premiered in 1976. He had worked as an industrial engineer before his interest in making puppets let him to Henson, first as a puppet builder and later as a performer. He learned his art on the job and over the course of the last 30 years he has earned his place as one of the finest puppeteers of all time.

For awhile I've been wanting to try and put into words some of the things that I love about Goelz's work. I'm finding it a lot harder than I thought. In a recent radio interview, Goelz himself couldn't even describe his performance style. I think what makes it so difficult for me is that even though I know there's a puppeteer bringing the characters to life, in my mind the characters of Dave Goelz, more than any of the other Muppet characters, seem to really live. Creating that illusion of life is one of the marks of a great puppeteer. Dave Goelz is the master in that department.

I have a feeling I'm going to come nowhere close to describing what makes Goelz's work so intriguing to me. I'm gonna give it a shot, though. Luckily you can always grab the DVD's and check out the real thing. Stay tuned for more.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

iPod Favorites

Last winter I finally got myself an iPod, and I've got to say I'm having a lot of fun with it. What's great is I get to take my albums, download the songs that I really enjoy, and leave the filler material sitting on the shelf. Or even better yet only purchase the songs I like from a place like iTunes and not even bother with the rest. So if I should feel a strange yearning to listen to the song "99 Luftballoons," in German I might add, I need not shell out $15 for the one track I want.

Don't get me wrong, though, there are some albums that are worth having the whole thing in your MP3 player. It's a pretty rare thing to find such an album. Even some of the greatest records of all time have their weak spots. I mean come on, you can't tell me that you haven't ever skipped over "Within You, Without You" when spinning Sgt. Peppers.

So, here are a few favorites I keep tucked away in my iPod in their entirety.

This is the final Genesis album to feature the five piece lineup of Tony Banks (Keyboard), Mike Rutherford (Bass), Phil Collins (Drums), Steve Hackett (Guitar), and Peter Gabriel (Vocals). It's a concept album that tells the story of a street kid named Rael and his adventures in subterranean New York City. The story is weird, disturbing, and you won't have a clue what is going on unless you read the synopsis in the album's jacket. Some true Genesis classics are featured here, including the title track, "The Carpet Crawlers," and "In the Cage"...a song which had an even better incarnation in the live portion of the "Three Sides Live" album. Some of the band's most unique compositions appear on this album as well, such as the instrumental piece "The Waiting Room." Even though there are some elements of the story I don't care for, I find "The Lamb" to be one of the best examples of the progressive rock genre.

Abbey Road - The Beatles

If there's any band who's entire body of work deserves a spot in your iPod, it's The Beatles, but if I had to single out one album, I'd have to go with "Abbey Road." I enjoy the entire album, but there are four songs in particular that jump out for me..."Come Together" written primarily by John, "Oh, Darling" written primarily by Paul, "Here comes the Sun" written by George, and "Octopus' Garden" written by Ringo. In these four songs, I think the listener gets and interesting picture of the personalities of the four Beatles at a time when their partnership was reaching it's end.

Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots - The Flaming Lips

I've heard that the band claims this is not a concept album, however, apparently there are plans in the works to turn this into a Broadway musical. Even if there is no story line, the more I listened to this psychedelic/alternative/prog album, the more a story began to form in my head. Favorite tracks include "Fight Test," "Do You Realize??," and the instrumental "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt. 2."

Testimony - Neal Morse

I've blogged about Neal Morse's awesome double album "Testimony" before. It is, I feel, the best Christian rock album ever, and ranks up there in the list of all-time great Prog albums as well. Morse was one of the driving forces of Spock's Beard before God moved his life in a new direction. This album tells the story of Morse's coming to the faith. It's an extremely original and moving work that is best enjoyed when listened to in it's entirety.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Across the Universe

The new movie "Across the Universe" opens in limited release next week. This film builds a story using Beatles songs as the framework. Even the character names are taken from Beatles songs: Jude, Lucy, Prudence, JoJo, etc.

I've been intrigued by this film since I first heard it announced. For one thing, it's directed by Julie Taymor, the person who brought puppetry to Broadway in a big way with the stage version of "The Lion King." I'm also intrigued because this idea of creating a movie storyline out of Beatles tunes has been tried before. It was called "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," and it ranks among the worst movies ever made. Here you have folks like Peter Frampton, The Bee Gees, and George Burns playing characters mentioned in Beatles songs...Billy Shears, The Hendersons, Mr. Kite.

I have to admit having a special place in my movie-geek heart for really bad movies. "Sgt. Pepper's" is one of those that's so bad that I highly recommend it. I mean it's got George Burns singing "Fixing a Hole," what more could you ask for?

Let's hope that Taymor's film fares better.

Friday, September 07, 2007

10,000 Miles

I get to meet so many great people as I travel to puppet ministry festivals all over the country. One of those people is Larry Baker from Germantown, OH. Larry has been a part of his church's puppet and clown ministry for many years. He's become a familiar face at I-Fest and various other puppet festivals. The "P" on the shirt Larry is wearing in the picture to the left is for "Puppeteer," even though Larry will tell you that he's primarily on propateer for his team.

Larry is an older gentleman, though he can see he is legally blind. He can't do every job on his puppet team, but he serves with all his heart and is always anxious to learn new things.

When this clipping about Larry from The Germantown Press was brought to my attention, I just had to share it. It seems that Larry walks around the paths of Germantown every day. In January of 2002 he began keeping track of how far he was walking. When he realized he was racking up the miles he set a goal to walk 10,000 miles before his 70th birthday. Well, he met his goal, with a couple weeks to spare (Larry's birthday is next week).

Larry is one of those people who reminds me of what an impact puppet ministry can have. I'm not saying that Larry walked 10,000 miles because of the puppet team, but having known Larry I've seen how important it is to him to serve on the puppet team and the impact it's had on his life. Through his puppet team, Larry has ministered to others and the team has ministered to him. "I give God the glory for being able to do this" is what the paper quoted him as saying about his 10,000 mile achievement.

So, Larry my friend, congratulations on an awesome job! Thank you for being a friend an inspiration to me!

Friday, August 31, 2007

Star Wars Simpsons Style

I'm a fan of both "The Simpsons" and "Star Wars," so I couldn't resist this video that takes place a long time ago, in a Springfield far far away.

100 Movies, 100 Quotes, 100 Numbers

I have to admit enjoying to watch those AFI countdown shows. This, though has to be the best idea for a countdown I've seen.

BTW...You know a lot about movies if you can tell me which movie the name Alonzo Mosley comes from. Took me a minute to remember, I must admit.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

What a Wonderful World

I love shadow puppetry! Most puppetry historians would agree that probably the first form of puppetry was ancient people making shadows with their hands. Check out this video and I think you'll find this technique still works quite well.

GREAT Shadow Puppetry - Watch today’s top amazing videos here

This video was so much fun for me to watch. When I saw this performer make the shape of a head and start singing it brought a huge smile to my face. I think I've been guilty of doing the same thing and trying to lip synch to the pastor's sermon on one or two Sundays.

This video really brightened my day!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

What I've Learned from the Muppets: The Original Couch Gag

Every episode of "The Simpsons" begins with what the fans refer to as "The Couch Gag." It comes at the end of the opening credits. The Simpson family members all run to the couch to sit in front of the TV. Over the course of the last 18 years, various bizarre things have happened as they reach the couch...everything from the couch eating them to being squashed by the Monty Python foot. I have seen many episodes of "The Simpsons" over and over again, but I always make sure to pay close attention to the couch gag. We're used to the opening credits of a show always being the same. I'll be a lot of TV viewers usually tune out the credits. But not Simpsons fans. There's a sense of anticipation about what will happen this time.

This past Tuesday, the DVD set for "The Simpsons Season 10" was released. On the same day, after two years of waiting, "The Muppet Show Season 2" also arrived on DVD. As I added both of these volumes to my collection, I realized that originators of the couch gag, at least in my frame of reference, were the Muppets.

From season 2 on, each episode of "The Muppet Show" featured Gonzo blowing a trumpet at the end of the credits, and getting different results each time. I remember being a kid and wondering what would happen to Gonzo this week, much like I find myself wondering about the Simpsons and their couch.

I think Gonzo's trumpet mishaps are part of what helped shape how I approach my own puppet programs. Variety is the key. People respond better when something new and unexpected is put in front of them. When people think they know what is going to happen, they tune out.

The same is true of kids. Experts say kids respond well to routine. Yes that's true, but the opening of "The Muppet Show" demonstrates how you can have routine (here come the credits again) but make it new and exciting each time (what's going to happen to Gonzo next?).

A lot of times in children's church we have the same elements each week. That's fine, but it's good to find ways to do something unexpected. Instead of just having a puppet read this week's memory verse, perhaps he could recite it while standing on his head, or tap dancing, or walking on a bed of flaming hot coals. When the audience is wondering what will happen next they will be more involved in your presentation.

Monday, August 06, 2007

VBS to Avoid

Through following some random blog links I happened upon a top ten list of worst VBS themes. David A Zimmerman, the creator of this list, explains in his post that this was inspired by the fact that the VBS used at his church was named after a "natural disaster." Being a children's ministry person I know what VBS he's talking about, and while I'm sure it's a great program, when I first saw that title earlier this year I thought it not to be the best choice of names either. These, however, are definitely Vacation Bible Schools Your Child Should Skip.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Save the Spindle Update

When I visited The Spindle a few weeks ago I was approached by another person with camera in hand who asked me, "hey man, you know where to get the 'save the spindle' t-shirts?" Apparently a real effort to save The Spindle is emerging. A new website,, is now online. While you're at it, go check out the blog of Kidology's Steve Tanner and his recent "Save the Spindle" post.