Christmas Decorating for the Holidays: Creative Expression Do’s and Don’ts

As creatives, we appreciate design, order (sometimes disorder) and, at times, abstract thinking to express our creativity.

Enter holiday decor. A few do’s and don’ts for a successful decorating season…

Do Decorate. When it comes to decor, I love it, but don’t love doing it. Our first Christmas tree was a tropical style tree we got at Lowe’s, glittered and all. Pic below, in all its Charlie Brown Christmas Tree splendor.

It’s fun a fun little tree. We had a Lowe’s gift card and wanted a small tree. As Tim Gunn says “make it work!” We did. Ta da!

Don’t Apologize. “No matter what happens in the kitchen, never apologize.” Julia Child. Good advice applicable to creative works of any kind. Apologizing is often nothing more than a passive aggressive attempt for affirmation–and that’s just not the holiday spirit.

Do Enjoy Music Whilst Decorating. We picked this one up yesterday… and are enjoying Mr. Buble’s take on the classics very much.

Don’t Make Your Own Music. Unless you really know what you’re doing, this might end up happening…


Do (and Don’t) Ask for Input. All creativity, like it or not, is subject to critique. Some artists love it, some loathe it.

A good critique improves the work. Another set of eyes and ears is invaluable. Often we just have to suck it up, take the critique, and make a choice: fix it or leave it.

What about the festive decoration in the picture to the left? I recently saw this little wonder and it provoked a few questions in me…

“Who’s idea was this? Husband tired of decorating? Son/daughter who miss the tree that was recently cut down?”

“What were they going for? Gothic pillar? Pumpkin point? Spire of holiday spirit?”

A critique, in this instance, might’ve been helpful. Perhaps.

What are YOUR do’s and don’ts for holiday decorations?

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Macy’s Thanksgiving Lip Syncing Day Parade Highlights

 

They’re not even trying to fake it anymore. Brazen lip syncing. A few highlights from the 2011 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade…

Lip Syncing Tom Foolery (Picasa Creative Commons)

+Cee Lo Green chewed gum while ‘singing.’ That doesn’t work.

+The casts of most of the Broadway shows (Newsies, Spider Man, etc.) didn’t even wear or hold microphones. That’s basically saying ‘we’re just here to lip sync, thanks for watching.’

+The microphone windscreen foam cover is getting larger. Some producer must’ve said “make it large enough to cover at least half of the singer’s face.”

+More masks. Nearly 88% of all performers wore masks, helmets, or extensive wig work. This was done deliberately to mask lip syncing efforts.

+The Muppets did the best job lip syncing. As always.

All that said, I still enjoyed it. And always will.

Ooooh, here comes Neil Diamond. Sounds like he’s using the recording he did in the 80’s. Go Neil go!

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UPDATE: Fresh off the press! Check out Scotty McCreery’s flub… go big or go home right!

10 Things People Hate About Thanksgiving

 

I love Thanksgiving to pieces. To absolute pieces.

Abundance

“Who wouldn’t love Thanksgiving?” I pondered. Apparently, there are a few out there.

A quick Googling (not ogling) revealed the haters. Here’s a quick compilation of some their complaints.

  1. Carving Birds. Don’t take the hate out on the bird. It gave its life so you could have a nice nap later in the afternoon. Take tips from the amazing Alton Brown, Turkey Carving 101.
  2. Working Out. According to Livestrong, the average American consumes 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving Day. That’s more than double the average daily amount. Working out will come later. One day isn’t going to kill the waistline–the other 364 days will.
  3. Giving Thanks. Isn’t it easier to just complain? For some, yes, maybe it is. But for the haters of Thanksgiving, giving thanks is quite the chore.
  4. Watching Football. I’m not a sports fan either, but there’s something about the simple recipe of 1) the sound of a football game and 2) turkey in my belly that gives me one of the best naps of the year. Ahhhhh.
  5. Eating Food. Complaints abounded about the nasty nasty food. Who are these people that hate this goodness?
  6. Slowing Down. Can’t-sit-stillers apparently would rather be at work.
  7. Traveling Stress. One point haters. Yes, it can be stressful to travel. Here’s 7 Tips to Avoid Holiday Travel Stress.
  8. Bragging Guests. Uncle Joe always brags. He’s a bragger. It’s what he does… even when it’s not Thanksgiving.
  9. Shopping Advertisements. Have you seen the Kohl’s Black Friday commercial with the Rebecca Black “Friday” song. Whew. I’ll agree with this one. It is a bit annoying.
  10. Seating Arrangements. It seems that some people just don’t like being told where to sit. Unless you’re at the kid-table and you’re over 21, suck it up and eat your turkey.

Happiest of Thanksgivings to you all.

Enjoy. Celebrate. Share.

If each of us chose to make a list of gratefulness, it would far exceed the silly list above.

What’s your take on Turkey Day?

 

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Friday Light: Our ‘Not Normal’ Creative Bents

 

Creatives are idiosyncratic. Allow me to peel back the orange peel of my “I’m normal” facade. . . (for other quirks and oddities see part 1 or part 2)

+Saying dumb things in meetings. Sometimes people try and act all “I’m important” and “I know stuff” and “I have the most amazing perspective.” Sometimes I act that way. Sometimes meetings are great. But sometimes they don’t accomplish much. In a road-to-nowhere meeting this week, I found myself contributing this: “man, I need a cigarette and I don’t even smoke.” Laughter? Yes. Productive? Naaaahsooomuch.

+Midday Treats. I’ve written about my problem with the McDouble, but I have another problem: hot cocoa. I honestly can’t remember the last time I’ve had HOT hot cocoa. Yes, I eat it dry when I need something sweet. As in powder. As in crunchy, dry mini-marshmallows. Who does this? Really? Anyone else? It’s not really all that weird. Think of those Lik-M-Aid things. Same thing. Same thing?

+Eyebrows Matter. Somewhere along the journey from kiddo to adult eyebrows became somewhat important to me. They should be balanced yet not too carefully tended as if to say ‘these eyebrows are perfect.” I can’t believe I just typed that. Anywho, it’s really the first thing I notice about people. Andy Roony’s are terrible. . . were terrible.

+Human GPS Time Estimator. I love to make predictions. Often I challenge my wife. “I’m betting we get there at 4:37. Whaddyou say?” She wagers 4:45. We took the rules from the showcase showdown rules on The Price is Right: whomever is closest to the actual time, without going over, wins. If you win, there’s no real prize. We might have to work something out to change that.

+Holding Breath. Similar to the GPS time thing, I’ll often hold my breath for a mile while driving. This only works when the speed limit is 65 mph or above. I’ll often have to speed up nearing the end of the mile. It’s such torture. No idea why I do it.

Tell me I’m not alone… please. Pretty please. Time to divulge some of your oddities. Leave a comment about so we can all feel more ‘normal.’

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Recipe for Creativity: Willy Wonka, Jelly Belly, and Avoiding the Freeways

“Who can take a sunrise, sprinkle it in dew,      

cover it in chocolate and a miracle or two?”

“The candyman. The candyman can.
The candyman can cause he mixes it with love and makes the world taste good.”

Maybe I just love candy way too much, but those lyrics are brilliance. He ‘mixes it with love.’ Folks, he ‘makes the world taste good.’

Goodness. I’ve got to watch it. Thankfully, somebody took the time to put it on YouTube…

Grow down. Let’s take a few minutes and watch it together… (if you don’t have time to watch the whole thing, at least watch around 1:58 when a little girl gets an unintentional uppercut by the countertop.)

Though most of us will never meet Mr. Wonka (or Gene Wilder), we may meet David Klein. He truly made the world taste good when he reinvented the jelly bean in the 1970’s with his famous brand Jelly Belly. Klein’s story is expertly told in the film of his life Candyman: The David Klein Story.

Quotes from Mr. Klein to feed your creativity…

“I always like to do things in new ways. Always.”

“I like to be as creative as possible in anything that I do.”

“I never like traveling freeways. I like going side streets because you’d see something different every time. You go on the freeway, you eliminate your choices.”

Quirky, childlike, and a bit of a salesman, Klein revolutionized a few simple ingredients and, yes I’m gonna say it, made the world taste good.

Isn’t that what we want as creatives? We want to take our creativity… our screenplays, our recipes, our sales presentations, our paintings, our teachings, our pottery, our books… we mix them with some passion and love, and we want to see a change in someone by what we do.

We want to enliven the senses of the world with our creativity.

For Wonka/Klein, they did it with candy through the five senses. They truly made the world taste good. I’m so glad they did. So glad, in fact, that I’ll most likely eat some candy in their honor today.

I’m curious. Why do you create? Why spend the time, the work, the energy?

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Friday Light Humor: Shameless Creativity

I love to laugh. So does my wife. We love to make each other laugh. That’s one of the reasons our relationship is so fantastic: we’re constant entertainment for each another.

One of our rituals. Just before bed, whomever is the last person to get in bed must turn out the light. Yes, I know we should get The Clapper so we can turn off our electronics via applause. Remember that device? Here’s the commercial. (If you watch it, notice the elderly woman in the last scene. I’ve always loved her acting choices. She’s in bed. Has the TV and light on and she’s just furious. Probably thinking ‘dang it all to heck, that durn TV is so fuzzy and I wanna just bang my hands together to turn it off and go to bed!” So that’s exactly what she does. Brilliance.)

But we don’t have The Clapper. We turn off lights the old fashioned way: by dancing our way to the light switch so the other person can enjoy a few giggles before bed. And folks, these dances rival anything you’ve ever seen on So You Think You Can Dance or Dancing With the Stars. In fact, last night I picked a random song on my iPhone to play for Sarah’s dance: the karaoke track of Billy Joel’s “She’s Got a Way.” And yes indeed, Sarah had a way about her. Go Sarah go. So fun.

Shamelessness. Another way we get a few laughs is to be completely foolish. Go with our gut. Try something new. Not be afraid to be a clown. I’m about 49% embarrassed by the video I’m posting below, but the 51% that is proud of this random act of silly cancelled out the 49% enough to edit this, post it, and hope that you smile, and perhaps even guffaw, when you see it.

This video is what happened a couple weeks ago when a freak Saturday morning snowstorm dusted central Pennsylvania with several inches of white just before Halloween… and yes, it’s basically improv.


How does this happen? It began at breakfast and the conversation went something like this:

She: Crazy that it’s snowing like this in October!

Me: For reals. The kiddos are gonna be trick-or-treating in the snow.

She: It’s like Christmas only it’s Halloween. What if we did a video and dressed up like we were gonna go trick or treating in the snow.

Me: And we’d sing Christmas carols too right?

She: Sure. I could be a cowgirl… kinda like Jessie from Toy Story. What are you gonna do?

Me: A Japanese geisha.

We left the rest of the bacon on the table and rushed to play dress-up.

What do we have to lose? Besides our dignity.

Speaking Fake English and Other Fake Languages

Have you ever tried to mimic a foreign language? As in: you don’t speak French, Chinese, or German but you attempt to sound like you’re speaking the language?

I’m guilty. I’ve done this on several occasions. This past weekend I made a baby giggle by performing my faux Chinese for him. He loved it. Best thing he’d ever heard in his less-than-one-year-old life. Giggles galore.

There are numerous You Tube clips of people speaking fake English. If you have a few minutes, watch this video. It’s a short film of actors doing a scene in fairly convincing fake English. Fascinating. Here’s one viewer’s comment…

Two other times in my life, I’ve publicly spoken fake langages.

Hotel in Des Moines. I was in high school at the time and was attending a function at a convention center. I don’t remember the function. I don’t even remember why I was there. I do remember my friend Jason and I were extremely bored. In our boredom, we masqueraded as foreigners in the opulent lobby by chatting in a quasi-something language as people walked by. The passers-by either thought “wow, they’re so foreign that I don’t even know where they’re from” or “what’s wrong with them.”

Rehearsal for a Play. A director once had the idea to have the actors focus only on the intent of our lines without using the lines themselves. She told us to use gibberish instead of our actual lines; our communication limited to nonsense sounds and physicalization. It’s a decent idea… until you start cracking up while trying to communicate frustration, joy, and other emotions while looking into your fellow actor’s eyes as he says “gerdarbul ferndig blarstic. Blarstic! Narful blads tog infel daldig rerg. Gowtow.”

Langauges fascinate me. I’m always amazed how humbled and awkward I feel when I’m in a foreign country where everything, including the language, is different from my normal. It’s refreshing to learn again. To communicate in broken sentences. To push through all those mistakes and uncomfortable moments.

Isn’t that what we do each and every time we create? We find our legs again and we start from scratch. We seek to communicate using our chosen language: written words, paint, ingredients, presentations. Sometimes we feel foolish. Sometimes we make mistakes. Sometimes our message may seem like gibberish.

But sometimes we bring a smile. Sometimes our seeming nonsese makes someone laugh. Sometimes we change something in someone. All because we spoke the language that only we can speak.

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Friday Light: Slightly Embarrassing Quirks and Inappropriateness

At times I want this blog to be notable. Regal. Intellectual. Thought provoking.

But that can also be boring. Hence, the reason every Friday post blends in a little humor, and today’s shares an extra dash of embarrassing quirks from childhood. Quirks volume one here.

+Earthworms. After it rained and the earthworms littered the ground, I’d don my rollerskates and ‘save’ them, tossing them back into the soaked earth from which they sought to escape. I don’t do this anymore. OK, maybe I did once or twice in the last year.

+Hot Dogs. I didn’t eat hot dogs for about five years durning my elementary school days as I’d been told they were made of earthworms. I save earthworms, not eat them = childhood logic.

+I Pledged Allegiance to a Christmas Tree. Real Christmas trees always adorned our home, but one year it grew, even in it’s little tree stand. It actually got taller. I felt badly that the poor guy would be tossed into our woods behind the woodpile. It was growing, after all. So what makes a Christmas tree feel better? Singing to it. Christmas carols. I promised the tree that I’d never forget all it had done for us. The odd ritual only lasted a week or so, but that tree died a slow death while being saranaded by a nine-year-old. Kinda like The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstien. Only not really.

+Inappropriate Nicknames. As a kid, I often went for the laugh in most circumstances. Still do. I think I was simply going for the laugh when I called my third grade art teacher a prostitute. Something like ‘oh yeah, we’ll you’re just a prostitute.’ Hmmmm. I’d never been removed from a classroom faster than I was on that day. I honestly had no idea what a prostitue was, though I imagine when I first heard the word used by others, their audience laughed so I thought I’d give it a try. Bad idea.

There’s more. Oh, yes, there’s plenty more. But that’s a start and you can read quirks volume one here.

In the meantime, please tell me I’m not alone. What kinds of crazy did you do when you were a kiddo? Leave a reply below so we can all get a chuckle…

***

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Friday Light: A Craigslist Halloween Horror Story

Once upon a time there lived a happy husband and a happy wife who lived in a happy home. This happy couple made their living acting, singing, and (sometimes to the mild dismay of the happy husband) dancing. Being actors, they were frequently between jobs and needed their ingenuity and creativity to create revenue for their happy home. As their spooky story unfolds, we visit the happy couple exactly three years ago to the day.

***

“This guy on Craigslist wants someone to do his makeup for his Halloween office party. He wants to go as an old man,” said the happy husband. “He’ll pay.”

“Go for it,” said the encouraging, happy wife.

The happy, and industrious, husband felt confident with his abilities having played numerous older characters in various theatrical productions. He knew he’d make this twenty-something office worker age 40-50 years with about forty-five minutes of makeup magic.

He contacted the office worker, they struck a deal, and made financial arrangements: $100 for about an hour or work. Jackpot. He couldn’t wait to tell his wife.

“Yeah, so he’ll pay $100 and we worked it all out. He’s gonna come over here at 6:00 Friday morning, I’ll do his makeup, and we’ll get some cash. Nice huh?” Her expression was clear. To him it read: what did you just say?

“So, if I hear you correctly, this guy from Craigslist is coming over to give you money so you can do his makeup? Is that right?”

Something about hearing his happy wife say it back to him cast doubt on the happy husband’s decision.

Three years ago today, that Friday morning plan entailed the following measures:

  • The happy wife would stay upstairs. She had the fire escape ladder at the ready if she heard any kind of skirmish.
  • The happy husband’s wallet was stripped of most of its valuables, except for a few items to make it appear ‘normal’ should the wallet be requested by wanting-to-look-old-office-guy.
  • All sharp objects were hidden.
  • The happy husband put one knife in his sock, resting against his right calf. . . just in case.

Preparations complete, the office worker arrived at the agreed time. He seemed nervous.

Why is he nervous? the happy husband thought. Maybe I’ll have to use that knife. Oh, dear.

The husband acted calmly. It was, after all, what he did: acting. With each new wrinkle formed on office-worker’s face via Ben Nye’s shadows and highlights, both the office worker and the happy husband got the results they wanted. Office worker looked old. Happy husband got paid. No one got hurt, and the happy husband was given an extra $20 tip from the happy office worker.

A happy Halloween.

***

Today, to commemorate not being robbed (or worse) by an office worker pretending to be old, the happy husband reenacted the events of the day. But this time, it was without the aid of Craigslist, for HE become that wanting-to-look-old-office-guy.20111028-075759.jpg

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