Friday, March 30, 2007

Melissa is Weird

Cool Hair
Originally uploaded by squonkblog.

This is Melissa. She builds our stretch-a-belly puppets. She is weird. Today was weird hat and hair day here at One Way Street. Melissa took the prize.

(I told her she has to use this photo on her MySpace page)

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Barbie Loves Elmo

Over the years, Barbie has been lots of model, mom, career woman, astronaut...I think she was even a Baywatch lifeguard once. Well, now you can add "Muppet Fan" to the list. Behold the new "Barbie Loves Elmo" doll.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Talking Vegetables & Spider-Man 2

On my recent trip to San Diego I received an interesting Biblical message from two unusual sources. I was in California for the Children's Pastor's Conference. One of the speakers at the conference was Phil Vischer. Mr. Vischer is an interesting guy, besides being the creator of VeggieTales, he's also been involved in puppet ministry (me too) and he's from my hometown...the Holy Land of Wheaton, IL.

Vischer has a new book called Me, Myself, & Bob which I'm currently working on. The speech he gave I'm sure is the abbreviated version of the book. I had heard him give this speech before (on a CD from another conference), but it's still a great speech.

To shorten a long story, Vischer started VeggieTales and it became huge. The most successful direct-to-video series ever. However, for various reasons, the company was heading toward bankruptcy. The day after the premiere party for their first theatrical film, "Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie," many of the folks who were cheering the night before were laid off. Vischer talks about how he couldn't understand how God could allow this ministry that was reaching millions of people around the world to fall apart. After the dust started to clear from bankruptcy, lawsuits, and all sorts of other unpleasant things, Vischer began to see that the important thing is to put God first in everything. Sometimes that means even giving up our dreams.

A few days before I saw Vischer speak, I heard this same message from an even more unlikely source than a man who creates videos about talking vegetables...the movie "Spider-Man 2"

In "Spider-Man 2," Peter Parker (aka Spider-Man) is struggling with trying to be a regular guy. He's failing his college classes, he keeps loosing job after job, his best friend is mad at him, and he feels guilty over being responsible for the death of his uncle (from the first film). Worst of all, he can't be with the girl he loves. Being with Mary Jane is his dream, the thing he wants the most. These things are such a struggle for him because every time he hears a police siren he's compelled to jump into the red and blue jammies and save the day. Remember "With great power comes great responsibility" and all that jazz.

As the movie progresses, Peter even finds his super powers beginning to disappear. The way I see it, he's so worked up about all the things going wrong that he's no longer effective at using his gift. Eventually he decides that he doesn't have to be Spider-Man anymore. He gives it up to try and be normal. The scene where he makes this decision is pretty amazing. He imagines himself talking to his dead uncle, who's death he feels responsible for. As I watched the scene I imagined Uncle Ben as being the voice of God as he tries to encourage Peter to do the right thing. "Take my hand, son" he even says just before Peter tells him that he doesn't want to follow his Uncle's dreams for him anymore. Of course, at the end of the film he realizes that even though his dream is to be just plain old Peter Parker, normal guy and boyfriend of Mary Jane, he has to lay down that dream to do the right thing. His Aunt Mae gets him thinking about this when she tells him "Sometimes to do what's right we need to be steady and give up the things we want the most, even our dreams."

This same dilemma presents itself in the story of the film's villain, Doctor Octopus. When we first meet Doc Ock he's not a bad guy. He's a brilliant scientist working on an invention that will benefit all mankind, a inexhaustible power source. Seeing his work succeed is Ock's dream. However, his experiment goes horribly wrong, resulting in the death of his wife and having four tentacle-like mechanical arms permanently fused into his spinal column. Deciding to see his experiment succeed at any cost, Ock turns to a life of crime in order to get the resources he needs for his work. It is during the final confrontation between hero and villain that Spidey passes on to Ock the lesson that his Aunt passed on to him.

"Sometimes to do what's right, we must give up the things we want the most, even our dreams."

We all have dreams, but God's dreams for us are always better. Sometimes our dreams match up with His, many times they don't. Sometimes God takes away our dreams, that's what happened to Phil Vischer, but when we're willing to give up our dreams, and put God's dreams for us first, then He can start to use us.

Friday, March 16, 2007

"What message? The one you're carrying inside your rusty innards!"

The postal service is doing a promotion along with the 30th anniversary of Star Wars. There will be mailboxes all over the country made up to look like R2-D2! Check out this link over to to see a picture of one.

R2-D2 Mailbox

Monday, March 05, 2007

My Wife the Sports Fan

I don't follow sports much. I like sports, but it just doesn't take up much of my brain waves. Baseball is the only sport I really follow closely. With most games, whatever the sport, I could care less who wins and who looses. I grew up a Cub fan...I've learned not to get my hopes up. Now I'm in the Denver area, where they bleed orange and many an infant's first word is "Elway." I've often said that even if someone took a shot at the President on Sunday night, the top story in The Rocky Mountain News on Monday morning would still be how the Broncos did. I've had to become a little more knowledgeable on sports just to acclimate properly...but I'm still pretty much a dope on the subject.

My wife says that I first caught her eye when she spotted me walking across the college campus carrying my laundry on Super Bowl Sunday. Hey, there was no line that way! She follows sports even less than I do...until now. For the last several years my wife has become somewhat of a fanatic for one particular sporting event around this time of year...the Iditarod. It started a few years back because our pastor mentioned that his brother was a professional dog musher. I thought I got weird reactions when I told people that I was a puppeteer...but that one I couldn't imagine. I thought that sounded really interesting, but I have to admit to being a bit more intrigued that the professional dog mushing brother of my pastor, Kevin Lee, was named Bruce (Bruce Lee, Kung Fu Musher). So, my wife started following our pastor's brother in the Iditarod. He's not involved in the race anymore, but she still follows the event. So for the next week or so, many of my wife's conversations with me with be sports talk. Every year she chooses a musher and follows his progress on the internet. At least she doesn't want to go watch the thing live...not yet anyway.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

White & Nerdy - Take 1

I've always been a fan of "Weird Al" Yankovic. I've got vinyl copies of his first two albums...that's how old I am. I have to admit when his song "White & Nerdy" came out last fall...well...I didn't know the original tune, but I still loved his version. Al just recently posted this video footage of the first complete take from the video featuring Donny Osmond. This raw footage is almost as funny as the final video.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

America Bless God

Last night I was on the way to the light rail station when I noticed a bumper sticker on the car next to me that caught my eye. We're all used to the phrase "God Bless America," but here was a sticker proclaiming "America Bless God." I stopped to think about what that meant for a moment. Eventually I thought, "that's pretty cool." It made me think about the idea of blessing God with the way we live and how we treat other people. I am a Christian, but whether or not you subscribe to the beliefs put forth in The Bible, I think most people would agree that it does present some good pointers on being an all-around swell person. I mean "love your neighbor as yourself"...that's something good to do whether or not you're a Christian. I think just about everybody struggles with the way we treat others from time to time. This has been on my mind a lot lately. As I've surfed around the Internet it's crossed my mind that in many ways it's become a place where people go to complain about things and in some cases to be really mean to others. It becomes so easy for people (myself included) to do that when we have the voice that the Internet grants us...without the face. We do and say things we would never do if face-to-face with someone. So anyway, I saw this bumper sticker as a great challenge to all of us to think about our behavior toward others.

Cali & Snuffie

Now I'm convinced GeekBrief's Cali Lewis is a closet Muppet fan. Recently she sported a Kermit the Frog T-Shirt on an episode of GeekBrief, now we have another episode in which she wears a Snuffleupagus T-Shirt. Besides having the inside scoop on all sorts of gadgets, looks like she's the expert on finding Muppet-wear too. Where do you do your shopping Cali?

Thursday, March 01, 2007

And the Oscar goes to...Happy Feet?!?!?!

Well, I stand corrected. Hey, I'm man enough to admit when I was wrong. In a previous post I said that there was no contest in the Best Animated Feature Oscar contest. I thought "Cars" would win. It's far and away the best film that was nominated. Yet the award went to "Happy Feet," a movie I did not care for at all. All the politics aside...I just didn't enjoy "Happy Feet." Everything from the animation to the voices just seemed really flat to me.

Penguins are even my favorite animal...while automobiles are only of interest to me as a way to get from point A to point B. But "Cars" was still the better film.

Children's Pastor's Conference - San Diego

Well, I've been a bad blogger lately. Things have been crazy and I haven't had the chance to blog. But, now I've got something cool to blog about...having just returned from the Children's Pastor's Conference in San Diego. CPC is an amazing event! If you are involved in ministry to children then you really should try to get there. Here's a few photo highlights from my trip:

Here are three of my favorite cool people...Gospel illusionists Teesha and David Laflin, and songwriter extraordinaire Alan Root One of the things I enjoy most about going to CPC is getting to visit with friends. These are three friends I always look forward to seeing.

The folks from Speed Stacks are always a blast! Sport stacking is an awesome activity for kids and adults. We see the Speed Stacks folks quite a lot here at One Way Street. Their office is close t ours, we sell some of their products, and they often use our facility to practice their teams. Lately they've been practicing for an NBA half-time show after hours here at One Way Street.

Will the real Squonk please stand-up? On the first day of the conference Alan Root saw me approaching from a distance and said "Hi Ryan!" He mistook me for Ryan Frank, one of the board members of INCM (the organization that puts on the conference). I suggested that Ryan and I switch nametags one day. That would mean I would get to sit up front with the board members at dinner!! He didn't go for that suggestion.

Here's Karl Bastian, the man behind the Kidology web site. That's our new Merle the Mule puppet he's posing with. Didn't know mules had a taste for duck, did ya.

Here's Jerry Storz at the Kids at Heart booth. Jerry's a cool guy because he loves children's ministry and besides he took me out for cheesecake and gave me a can of Pringles. Such a groovy guy!

Argh! That scallywag be Dave Privett from PlaySoup.

Another good friend, Norm Hewitt, was at CPC with his new Believer's Bayou products. Norm's going to be at I-Fest this summer!

Here's the finest ventriloquist in the world (IMHO)...not me...the guy on left, Dennis Lee from Nana Puddin' Productions. Dennis is another one of our features guests at I-Fest this summer.