Personal ponderings from a natural night-owl!

Archive for the ‘Blogging’ Category

And the Winner Is…!

I had no idea it would be so fun to run a 5 year blogiversary contest!  To be honest, I thought more people would enter, but those of you who did participate did so with a gusto that brought a smile to my face many times over.

So to recap, for those of you too lazy to click back and read: in 2011, all my blog posts had one deliberate thing in common. Everyone had 5 days to email me and tell me exactly how I deliberately tied all my 2011 blog posts together. Those who answered correctly via email were entered into a random drawing for a $25 Amazon gift card! Anyone who could also tell me which post did not strictly conform to the pattern got a bonus entry into the drawing.

As each entry came in, I listed the person’s name and the date/time of the email in a Google spreadsheet (I am making the switch as much as possible to free and open source software with this new laptop). Participants got listed twice if they provided a correct answer to the bonus question (and in Kellie’s case, that came in the form of a later email!) As soon as the deadline arrived, I used the True Random Number Generator at Random.org to select the winner.

Before I show you the results, I’d like to share some of the comments that made me smile:

Kellie and I went to college together, lived in the same dorm, and have reconnected thanks to Facebook. She was the first to answer:

Debbie, I think that the answer to your blog contest is that all of the blog posts use song or movie titles as their titles.  The one I see that doesn’t strictly conform (I think) is the one for “One Week,” which is perhaps a modification of “One Day,” the movie and book. Of course, there may be a deeper hidden answer to this question; if I’m completely off base, let me know.  Congrats on reaching five years with your blog!

Ah, a deeper hidden meaning – she knows me better than I thought! I was tickled that she nailed the fact that all my posts were song titles. However, “One Week” is in fact a song title, albeit not a sing I really KNEW. It was harder than I thought to make every post a song title!

Rebecca was next to answer. She and I both attend Trinity Lutheran church and I didn’t even know she read my blog! But again, we are connected via Facebook, too, and I’m guessing that’s where she saw my post about the contest.

Kellie, however, was clearly still pondering her answer, because I received this email later:

Debbie, I’d like to amend my entry — I suspect the nonconforming blog title is actually “For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her,” which is actually “Wherever.”  I realized that last night while thinking about Simon and Garfunkel, thanks to your blog contest.

Doh! That was an unintended mistake on my part! Kudos, Kellie – and you earned yourself an extra contest entry for that astute observation!

Lyn was the next one to jump in. She and I met through a mutual acquaintance, who happens to be her husband Stephen!

All of the titles of your blog posts are song titles.  I had to look some up.  J For the bonus entry: Let’s Get Physical is the title, not Let’s Get (a) Physical  PS.  Can you confirm the email address is right.  The post has dschinker dot gmail dot com and I’m guess you meant @ gmail.

Oops! Thanks for finding that mistake, Lyn. The (a) was meant to indicate a deliberate twisting of the title, so technically no bonus entry for you, but I gave you one anyway, for catching my typo.

The last person to enter was Lyn’s husband Stephen, who was my first serious boyfriend way back in high school. Stephen earned top marks for thoroughness (which will surprise no one who knows him!):

All of your titles in 2011 were song titles, with the following anomalies, from the major to the minor:
1. Ch-ch-ch-choices (1/4) — this alludes to David Bowie’s Changes, but is not, in fact, the title of the song. There is, however, a song from a Catholic children’s music publisher called “Choices” that includes “Ch-ch-ch-choices” in the lyrics.  http://www.allelu.com/activities-resources/song-lyrics.html
2. Back to the Future is the only instrumental.
3. Let’s Get (a) Physical — obviously, the word “a” is an insertion. This post, by the way, was the one that tipped me off to the pattern, all the way back in January. Two song titles in two days were unusual for you. Let It Snow cinched it.  (BTW, this was because I was confused on the lyrics to the Bowie song!)
4. “End of the Innocence?” — the actual song title is “The End of the Innocence”.
As for “didn’t strictly conform to the pattern”, I would have to say Ch-ch-ch-choices doesn’t conform if the pattern is titles, and Back to the Future is the one that doesn’t conform is the pattern is songs.

The title “Ch-ch-ch-choices” was actually made BEFORE I decided to title ALL my blog post entries for songs, so that one was the anomaly I actually had in mind. And I must point out that my biggest blog supporter, dear husband John (who was excluded from this contest and was none too happy about it, either!) did tell me today that the title of THAT song is actually “Physical.” Now you know – and so do I!

Well, I shall keep you in suspense no longer. Here is the screen print from the random number generator:

As you can see, the winner is:

REBECCA! Congratulations!

But as a special surprise, I am sending a $5 Amazon certificate to Kellie, Lyn, and Stephen as well, just for participating. (Don’t you wish you would have entered now?! Pppppttthhhh!)

I truly appreciate everyone who reads my blog, and by extension hears my voice. I appreciate the opportunity to think and write – especially for an authentic audience – and to talk things through with you, my readers, be you friends or strangers. Happy birthday, Midnight Musings, and here’s to 5 more years!

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Happy Birthday!

I’d like to wish my blog, Midnight Musings, a very happy 5th birthday! Five is auspicious – this digital child of mine is a whole hand old now and frankly no one is more surprised at its staying power than I!  I’d like to sincerely thank my husband John Schinker for encouraging me to give this blogging thing a try way back in January of 2007. I never imagined so many people would read my words or care about what I had to say. So I’d also like to thank YOU, my readers, for breathing life into this site by reading, sharing, and commenting. I am truly flattered and honored by your attention.

Now that I’m a mother, I find curiously amusing the tradition of giving presents to the child on the day when the child did nothing and the mother did all the work. Really, its our MOTHERS who deserve presents on our birthdays! Since the only present my blog really wants is more posts and more readers, I decided long ago to give you, my readers, a gift for my blog’s birthday, but you do have to work for it just a little bit.

So here’s the deal: in 2011, all my blog posts had one deliberate thing in common. You have 5 days (until midnight my time on Sunday, January 8th) to email me at dschinker at gmail dot com and tell me exactly how I deliberately tied all my 2011 blog posts together. Anyone who answers correctly VIA EMAIL (no spoilers in the comments please – I will just delete them!) will be entered into a random drawing for a $25 Amazon gift card! You get a bonus entry into the drawing if you also tell me which post did not strictly conform to the pattern. I believe I have only 5 faithful readers, and John is exempt from winning, so your chances are pretty darn good!

Hey, you can even get your friends into the deal by telling them about this contest. Even if they aren’t a regular blog reader of mine, all my 2011 posts are there for perusal. I don’t do ads, giveaways, or product endorsements on my blog (okay, there was one a long time ago – but it was sincere!), so you know this is no gimmick to drive up readership or anything. *bats eyelashes innocently* (Hey – didn’t I tell you that the MOM deserves a present on the child’s birthday, too?)

While you are waiting for the answer and contest results to be announced here on this post in the comments on Monday, January 9th, you can check out the 2011 annual report for this blog that the WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared. Don’t those fireworks kinda look like candles? (-:

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 5,800 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Let’s Get (a) Physical!

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com inspected my blog stats for 2010.  Here’s a high level summary of my overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ says my blog is fresher than ever!

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 6,900 times in 2010. That’s about 17 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 8 new posts [really?  only 8?  I need to blog more, I think!], growing the total archive of this blog to 85 posts. There were 5 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 3mb.

The busiest day of the year was November 22nd with 94 views. The most popular post that day was Billy Elliot: Dancers Soar, Writing Falls Flat.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were playhousesquare.org, plurk.com, scrapbooktreff.plusboard.de, twitter.com, and digital-photography-school.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for scrapbooking, dodge charger, dodge charger 2007, unicorn cake, and dodge charger 2006. [The dodge charger stuff STILL cracks me up!]

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Billy Elliot: Dancers Soar, Writing Falls Flat November 2010
1 comment

2

How to Make a Unicorn June 2009
3 comments

3

Baby, You CAN Drive My Car! October 2007
6 comments

4

Dodge Charger April 2008

5

(Inter) National Scrapbooking Day May 2008
4 comments

WordPress further reported to me that, “Some of your most popular posts were written before 2010. Your writing has staying power! Consider writing about those topics again.”

Billy Elliot: Dancers Soar, Writing Falls Flat

Tonight I saw Billy Elliot: The Musical, the 2nd of 7 Playhouse Square Key Bank Broadway Series shows I have the privilege of reviewing as part of the official Playhouse Square Review Crew.  As usual, I’d done my pre-show homework: I’d browsed various Billy Elliot websites,  googled details about the show, watched Twitter for other people’s opinions, and read the educator’s guide for students.  I even watched a live-streamed webcast session with some of the cast and crew from Durham, NC (where this second tour opened on October 20th) and interacted via back-channel chat with the actress playing Debbie!

After all my research, I was expecting the dancing to be stylistically diverse and extraordinarily well performed – and I was not disappointed!  If you’ve ever seen “West Side Story” or “My One and Only” on stage or “Footloose”, “Flashdance”, “Dirty Dancing”, or “Save The Last Dance” on screen, you’ll recognize the universal pull that top dancers have on your very soul.  They make it look easy, and regardless of your age or physical condition, you can imagine expressing yourself through dance as artfully as they do.

At the theatre, there is something even more special about the “aliveness” and presence of it all.  When you hear and feel the reverberation of the tap shoes on the stage floor, when you see the tension in the muscles that it takes to hold an extended pirouette, then the dancing connects with you on a visceral level.  And when you suddenly remember that some of these incredibly accomplished dancers are not even yet teenagers, you are truly blown away.

But a good Broadway show is more than just flashy dance numbers.  Solid, believable acting is equally important.  Here again, the entire cast of Billy Ellit was rock solid.  The best actors and actresses truly live their parts – and you can’t conceive of them being anyone else.  I honestly could not find fault with a single character on-stage tonight.  From the feisty grandmother to the conflicted father, from the gawky pre-teens to the worn-out dance instructor, from the miners to the police – each role was lovingly and thoroughly explored and completely believable.

So if both the acting and the dancing were outstanding, why did I leave the theatre feeling disappointed? In short: the writing. I don’t care how many awards this musical has won.  If THIS is the best Broadway has to offer in the past decade, then modern Broadway is in real trouble.

LearningNerd defines plot as, “a series of events deliberately arranged so as to reveal their dramatic, thematic, and emotional significance.” The show definitely attempted to cover a good deal of emotional and dramatic ground, tackling such diverse themes as homosexuality, death, unionism, homophobia, and the parent/child relationship.  But it felt like too much was bitten off at once with none of the topics really fully or thoroughly explored.  Even the flow from scene to scene was stilted and there just didn’t seem to be a cohesive storyline, especially in the first act.

The plot of Billy Elliot: The Musical hangs its contextual hat on the British coal miner’s strike of 1984, but the reasons for the strike and the animosity of the characters for then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher are never explained.  Few, if any, musicals hinge so directly on such a specific, modern political environment.  In order to really empathize with the characters, it would have been helpful to understand the situation more intimately. As an American audience member, I felt like an outsider.

Another aspect of the writing which fell flat for me was the language.  Although the dialect was heavily criticized by a fellow Review Crew-er as being completely wrong, I wouldn’t know Cockney from Welsh from a Scottish brogue.  However, cursing in any language comes across loud and clear.  Although gritty, earthy language was deliberately used to make the musical sound more “authentic,” such foul language coming from children – and some really YOUNG children at that – was an absolute turn-off.

I read an interview with Stephen Daldry, who directed the movie and helped bring the stage version to life.  He said that it is a reality that children use bad language and that this production was not going to ignore that reality.  That may be true, but no child I know has, at the age of 7, 8, or 9 (as some of these characters were), called his/her father a bastard or so casually and frequently sworn in front of and at adults. It was jarring and it was gratuitous.  It crossed the line, in my book, to the point where it took away from my enjoyment of the first act.  I had read and heard from many other people that the language on this second tour was very much toned down from the Broadway version.  Yikes!  I very nearly brought my 9 year old to this production, but in retrospect, I am SO GLAD I did not.  This is a show ABOUT a child, but it is not a show FOR children as far as I’m concerned.

I must close this review with special mentions for the two performers who, in my opinion, nearly stole the show out from under Billy’s ballet shoes.  The first was Faith Prince, the renowned Broadway star and Tony award recipient who was educated in Cincinnati, Ohio!  She stars on this tour as Mrs. Wilkinson, Billy’s ballet teacher and she sparkled in the role – both literally and figuratively!  I thought she played the wistful yet down-to-earth part with just the right combination of grit and polish.

And finally, Jacob Zelonky who played the part of Michael, Billy’s cross-dressing, homosexual best friend, should receive way more accolades than he is.  I cannot even imagine how completely wise-beyond-his-years and mature a young actor must be to play so confidently and truthfully so complex a role.  In many ways, Michael’s role is as difficult dramatically as Billy’s is physically.  Kudos, too, to Jacob’s parents for supporting him as they must be.

So should you go see Billy Elliot?  Yes – if only to see what the buzz is about!  Read up on your modern British labor (or should it be labour?) history then prepare to be dazzled by the dancing – and let me know what YOU think in the comments!

Billy Elliot: The Musical runs at Cleveland’s Playhouse Square until December 12th, 2010.  Get your tickets here or by calling the box office at (216) 241-6000 or (866) 546-1353.

BMG – OMG!

A few weeks ago, I was selected to be a member of Playhouse Square’s REVIEW CREW – 8 regular folks who have the oh-so-hard job of watching every show in the 2010-2011 KeyBank Broadway Series on opening night and sharing our opinions on video!  Oh, and did I mention that we all got tee-shirts & goody bags and that the tickets for our seats and one guest are FREE?!  I will be blogging about all the shows from now until June.  Tonight was the kick-off to the season with Blue Man Group – and what a spectacular and high-energy kick-off it was!

I’d done my homework by reviewing the trailers on the Playhouse Square website, checking out Wikipedia, and talking to friends on Facebook, Twitter, and Plurk who have seen one of the BMG shows over the last 25 years.  But I was still unprepared for the absolutely seamless blend of technology and humanity, the simple but profound social commentary, and the exuberance and silly fun of the show!

It is impossible, really, to adequately describe the sensory EXPERIENCE of the Blue Man Group show. It absolutely must be witnessed LIVE in the same way that performance art must be experienced.  It definitely evokes facets of Cirque de Soleil in its theatricality, diverse use of lighting, and bold, wild colors.  Its use of technology is striking and as non-traditional and game changing as The Lion King’s use of puppets.  Traditional theatrical techniques and props such as scrims, screens, and creative lighting folded into more contemporary ones such as gigantic SmartPhones, interactive video, performance art, neon, and audience participation!

The show started simply, with a huge projected slide stating how different cultures can meet and grow to understand each other by creating art together, sharing experiences together.  That message was subtly but profoundly woven throughout the entire performance.  It was not at all hard to suspend disbelief and become mesmerized by the child-like innocence, curiosity, and wonder evoked by the silent gestures and movements of all the Blue Men.  Their facial reactions, hairless blue heads, stoic expressions, and carefully choreographed body movements all created – without any words at all – an impression of non-threatening foreignness and unpredictability that had the entire audience on the edge of its seat wondering just what was going to happen next.

The show is an hour and 40 minutes long with no intermission.  However, the time flies and you won’t notice the lack (unless you have a small bladder).  Honestly, the only part of the show I disliked was the interminable string of colloquialisms for one’s “posterior.”   The vast array of works and phrases – and I do mean vast! – was shown on the screen and read aloud when the audience was encouraged to get off said body part and “shake it” to simulate the world’s largest dance party.  It was completely funny the FIRST time the words spewed forth, but got less amusing as it went on and on ad nauseum.

But in general, the air of joie de vivre and downright goofiness that permeates the entire show leaves you feeling energized and cleansed.  I strongly suggest arriving early, for example, because if you arrive late, the entire show STOPS and a spotlight is turned on you as you walk down the aisle to your seat!  (And confess it now, don’t you sometimes want to do that yourself to people who are very late for a performance?!).  But nothing tops the sheer ebullience of the grand finale. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but there are 4 or 5 things happening at once and like a child who is overwhelmed by the glory of it, you barely know where to look and you sure don’t want it to end.

Blue Man Group performances run until October 17, 2010 at the Palace Theatre at Playhouse Square in Cleveland.  Call the Playhouse Square Box Office at 216-241-6000 or order online to get your tickets NOW before this spectacular sensory adventure leaves town!

The next show in the series is “Billy Elliot, The Musical” which opens on Sunday, November 21, 2010.

I’d Like To Thank…

I am so honored to announce that “Midnight Musings” has won its first blog award! Lisa over at qualcosa di bello (who I believe was the first person to ever blogroll Midnight Musings) has honored me with the Arte Y Pico award for blog creativity, design, interesting material, and contributions to the blogging community, no matter what the language. I am thrilled to accept this award. Thanks, Lisa!

[And to think I once asked my husband if it was worth blogging if no one ever read what I wrote. I’m glad I stuck with it – and moved to WordPress where I can glance at the blog visitor stats every so often. (Ok…so I look at them obsessively many times a day if I’m home…but I don’t have a problem…really! Did you know that 30 to 40 people read this blog every day? Wow!)]

There are five rules associated with this award:

1. Winners may pick 5 blogs that they believe deserve this award for their creativity, design, interesting material, and contributions to the blogging community, no matter what the language.

2. Each award given has to list the name of the author and also a link to his or her blog.

3. Each award winner has to show the award graphic along with the bestowing author’s name and blog link.

4. The award winner and the one who has given the prize must show the link of the Arte Y Pico blog so everyone will know the origin of this award. (The author is a blogger in Uruguay).

5. Each award winner should post these rules.

(Ok…so I did a little research and this award was apparently just started on Friday, May 2, 2008. But when you google it, there are already 128,000 hits. Ah, the power of the internet! The popularity of this award is growing almost as fast as the gas prices!)

In the interest of sharing the love, here are my nominees for this award. Please visit and bookmark their sites. You’ll be glad you did!

* John Schinker at Taste of Tech, who got me started and hooked on this whole blogging phenomenon, patiently answered all my questions (or referred me to the right websites for answers), and keeps me learning about and growing with new technology. He’s also the best husband in the whole universe!

* Alvin Trusty at Alvin’s Educational Technology Blog for his TSPY (Time Saved Per Year) tips and tricks! Aside from Taste of Tech, this was the first blog I ever followed (which motivated me to learn about Protopage and RSS feeds!) I hope I get to meet Alvin in person someday, even is he still hasn’t tried out the Memory Manager software I sent him. (-:

* The fine women at the Shutter Sisters collaborative photo blog, who inspired me to start my own photo blog with their meaningful prose paired with delightful visual images.

* Julie Stiles Mills at the Pragmatic Compendium whose tagline is, “I Breathe, Therefore I Organize!” I found her recently, but her posts make me laugh out loud and her style is incomparable.

* Rebecca Borelli for the Art in Your Heart blog. She is the art teacher at Woodland Elementary and I LOVE that she’s embracing technology by creating this blog. It’s the first blog my kids have bookmarked and read on their own – and even commented on!

Looking Backward and Forward

I recently browsed through my own blog, reading past posts and comments. I thought it was interesting how I have a different perspective on some of what I wrote just 15 month ago.

For example, here’s an excerpt from one of my earlier posts from January of 2007: “There are even rumors that Hilary Rodham Clinton might start a serious bid for the U.S. presidency. Although I don’t particularly like her stand on many issues, I would feel it necessary to strongly consider voting for her in order to create history and further deteriorate the historic stranglehold on power men have and do hold in this country.”

Now we are less than 7 months from the general election and not only has Hillary started a serious bid for the presidency, but she and Obama are running neck and neck with both having already garnered more votes individually than any other past presidential candidates in a Democratic primary election.

And, yes, I considered voting for her early on, but after researching the candidates’ stands on various issues, listening to stump speeches, and seeing how they react in a variety of situations, I came to the conclusion that I just couldn’t vote for her, even though she is a woman and I sincerely do want to see a female U.S. president before I die. But I plan to live to be 101 years old, so there’s still plenty of time. (-:

So this year I am an Obama supporter and so have put away my, “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of a Good Woman for President” button (obtained years before Hillary’s run), since I don’t want anyone to get the wrong impression that I think Mrs. Clinton is that “good woman.”

An April 2007 post discussed my hopes for a congress that would stand up to President Bush. I wrote, “…my fear [is] that the Democrats, having gained power in Congress, would be unable or unwilling to exercise their people-given power to stop him.” Hmm…looks like that fear has come true.

I also discussed Sunshine Week, a movement to keep discussion alive about the important of open government and freedom of information. Unfortunately, I heard nothing about Sunshine Week this year.

In contrast to my changed perspective politically, my perspective on the importance of organizing your digital photos hasn’t change one iota! Memory Manager is still the best program out there – and unlike the price of just about everything else these days, the cost of this software hasn’t changed! Everyone I know who has this program is sold on the features and ease of use. Read more about tis fantastic program here.

It will be interesting what perspective changes next year brings.

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