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  • State of the Social State

    So... You might have noticed that I've chosen not to post political/social stuff on here in recent months. I could make a few statements about the state of the state/nation, but I won't, even though I reserve the right to resume a rant at any time. (It is likely my mom — and sister — will feel a slight sense of relief at that last statement.)

    Anyone who knows me knows how I feel about the person I shall not name (in large part because his ego feeds off people making references to him, good and bad). Instead, I'll limit this forum to posts about family and friends.

    After all, why shouldn't I bury my head in the sand and try to avoid someone challenging my beliefs/value system? That's what others have chosen to do on some of the most difficult issues our country has grappled with in the last 45 years. (If you're wondering what took place 45-46 years ago, look it up.)

    So here is to happy places and unicorns. I have a lot of positives to post about my wife and my four kids, and look forward to sharing those things with you. If you'd like to have a discussion/debate on things that go beyond that, feel free to do so.

    Thanks... And here's to the unicorns among us!

  • A Historic Laugher for the Nats

    Last July, Jill and I were at the game when the Washington Nationals hit eight home runs — including four consecutive and five overall in the third inning — in a 15-2 rout of the Milwaukee Brewers.

    This year has been an exercise in frustration for Nats fans, as the team has struggled throughout the season. But last night, against the even more hapless New York Mets, the tide turned briefly in a 25-4 rout that we attended.

    How bad was it? Here are some real-time observations I posted during the contest:

    • The Nationals have 17 hits and 16 runs and the 4th inning isn't over yet. For a moment, they're playing up to their potential. But, with apologies to my New York friends, the Mets coming to town is a salve to anyone's season.

    • It's 19-0 in the bottom of the 5th. Rain may prove to be God's version of the mercy rule.

    • The guy wearing a Yankees jacket just left after pitcher Tanner Roark got his second hit. Even he couldn't take it anymore.

    In the eighth inning, the Mets put infielder Jose Reyes on the mound. He threw 48 pitches, more than the Mets’ starter, and gave up six runs to make it 25-1. Shawn Kelley, one of the Nats’ disappointing relievers, gave up three runs in the top of the ninth inning. He was demoted to the minor leagues after throwing his glove to the ground in frustration after giving up a home run.

    Yes, it’s one game. And yes, the Nationals have dug themselves into a hole that they can — but probably won’t — climb out of this year. Still, as someone who intensely dislikes the Mets dating back to their 1986 NLCS win over the Astros, I reveled in the coverage of the game this morning.

    A few more facts:

    • It was the worst loss by a National Leage team since July 1929, when the Cardinals beat the Phillies 28-6. It also was the worst loss in the Mets’ history.

    • Because they (mercifully) didn’t bat in the ninth, the Nationals ended the game with more hits (26) and runs (25) than outs (24).

    • The 21-run margin was the largest in Nationals/Expos history, and Elias Sports Research noted that Washington was just the 10th team since 1900 to score 25 or more runs in a home game.

    Fortunately, there is humor to be found in baseball. At one point, Mets announcers Keith Hernandez, Ron Darling and Gary Cohen stopped calling the game and read verbatim from the team’s media guide while the theme from “Masterpiece Theatre” played in the background. And even the Mets social media person got in on the joke:

  • Profanity Alert!

    I posted this sign to Facebook earlier today, in part due to exasperation over what is occurring daily in our nation's capital. Knowing how some of my friends feel about language, I understood that this might offend some people (hence the profanity alert headline).

    Here is my reasoning behind the post.

    There are times when things deserve a well placed profane word. Profanity, if not used in anger, is just a word after all. It's when it's used in anger, not exasperation, that it becomes twisted and abusive. Forms of expression should never be discouraged in our society, no matter what side you fall on.

    Back to our regularly scheduled programming...

  • Birthday Thanks

    Say what you will about Facebook and other forms of social media, but there’s no better way to mark your birthday. Thank you to everyone, especially my family (biological and extended) who took the time to make it a blessed start to 53 yesterday.

  • Another Mass Shooting

    I’ve thought long and hard about sharing this, knowing many of you will think it is my liberal take on gun control. Think about this: I’ve never shared anything by Occupy Democrats.

    Until now.

    Like others, this Facebook post  generated a great deal of discussion. I also had to make a few rebuttals:

    • On accusations of being too liberal: I didn't affiliate this man with a political party. I made no statements about guns or gun control. I haven't said a single word about a person's right to bear arms. I said he is a terrorist. And he is. End of statement.

    • Comparisons to the Las Vegas shooter: The Vegas shooter was, in my opinion, a terrorist. Anyone who commits or advocates for mass violence against innocent people is a terrorist. Period.

    • On division in our country: Why does everything have to be so divided? This shouldn’t be a time of us vs. them. We shouldn’t be keeping a mass murder scorecard: GOP 2, Dems 1 (or vice versa). That does no one any good. No one.

    • About automatic weapons in the hands of anyone with a permit: Limit them only to the military and law enforcement. Don’t put them in the hands of anyone else. Under any circumstances. That work?

  • Bowties for Parker on Playbill, BWW

    The Bowties for Parker on Broadway project I recently wrote about has been picked up by Playbill, and right now it's the lead on their Twitter feed. You also can see a Broadway World piece on the project here.

  • Defeating Bullies with Positive Outcomes

    Anyone who has ever struggled with weight or been ridiculed for not fitting in should smile at the outcome of this story about the "Dancing Man." It definitely made me tear up and have middle school flashbacks...

    Here is a 25-minute documentary that tells the story in more detail. Incredibly inspiring.

     

  • Bowties for Parker

    From time to time, the stars align … literally.

    As Tuck Everlasting started in previews on March 31, I posted a story about my friend's son who was killed in a car accident. Parker Leikam, who is Ben's age, was an aspiring musical theatre performer who had just done the lead in "Beauty and the Beast" earlier this month at his high school in Adams, N.Y.

    Last week, after we asked Ben to take a picture for the #BowtiesforParkeronBroadway social media effort, Ben posted a photo to Facebook and Instagram with Terrence Mann, one of the stars of Tuck Everlasting. Mann, it just so happens, was the original Beast on Broadway.

    Parker was killed March 23 when a driver crossed a double line to pass and struck him head on just two blocks from his home. In the days since, his friends and family have paid tribute by launching the #BowtiesforParker campaign; so far, members of the casts of Phantom, Les Miserables, and An American in Paris have participated. Several of our friends from the Newsies tour posted a picture last week as well after I sent them a note.

    Then, Steve Blanchard and his wife, Meredith, posted a photo from Denver, where they were on the road with Newsies. Steve replaced Mann on Broadway and played the Beast for 11 years in New York and on various tours. Finally, our friend Tim Federle added another photo to the cause.

    Using the hashtag #EllenforParker, the family also is asking Ellen DeGeneres to wear a bow tie on her show in tribute to Parker. His father, Chuck, has written a heartbreaking, emotional plea to DeGeneres that is guaranteed to bring tears to your eyes.

    “We want to spread the love and tolerance like Parker did,” Chuck wrote. “He was a straight A student, musician, singer, actor, theater geek and openly gay football player who could do the splits with his 6'3" 300-pound frame. He would dress as "Buddy the Elf" the last day before Christmas break and walk around school handing out candy canes. He would even go to the elementary schools for the kids there.”

    Chuck, who has been in the military for 30 years, wrote that his children “have always paid the price of moving” but noted he had been able to keep them at Fort Drum for the past seven years. He said Parker “loved and looked up to” DeGeneres.

    “I'm not asking for money or trips, just a bow tie and to tell his story … His mom and I need this. Please.”

    I’m so glad our friends are honoring Parker and hope others will as well. Especially Ellen.

  • Daily Photo: August 11, 2015

    One year and one day after the death of Robin Williams ... With Hugs, We Have Hope #vetoviolence.

    This is my entry in a social media campaign to promote suicide prevention awareness.

    1 Photo, 6 Words. VetoViolence
  • Too Much Social Media?

    Last week, a friend of mine — not a virtual friend, but someone I’ve known for 48 of my 50 years on this earth — posted a self-described “rant” about his frustrations with social media and the hate that he sees on it every time he logs on.

    Lions and flags (oh my!) aside, I could not help but agree with his basic premise, that social media in some ways has brought out the worst in our collective society. We sit behind our keyboards, state our opinions in often the most crude or basic ways, and encourage our “friends” (real and virtual) to respond.

    In case you’re wondering, my friend and I are not of the same political or social ilk. As a First Amendment advocate, I respect your right to have opinions that differ from mine. I welcome them, in fact.

    As much as I enjoy social media, I do worry about the nonstop access and overflow of information that bombards us daily, mostly — except for the photos — without filters. And I wonder about the pressure it puts our children under.

    ••••••

    Today’s kids live in a very public world, as evidenced by the number of Tumblr and Instagram accounts that follow our son and comment on everything he does. I do understand “fansies” and “Billyvers” — most that I’ve met are kind people — but I’ve also made it my business to be aware and alert because people can go too far.

    We’ve all heard horror stories about online bullying. We try to teach our kids that nothing you post/text/share is “private.” All it takes is someone who knows how to capture a screenshot or a snapchat and what you’ve posted is there forever.

    The online world, in part because it allows you to hide behind a computer screen, also has a dark side. Earlier this year, for example, an Ohio man is in prison for trying to coerce minors connected to “Billy Elliot” into sending him pornographic images of themselves.

    The man had hacked into another boy’s Facebook, Skype and Yahoo accounts to get contact information for the youths, posed as a 15-year-old girl named “Ariella Gold” online, and demanded nude photos of teen boys who were on the tour and in the New York production.

    I had met the man and seen him at the stage door when Ben was in New York with the show, and had given his name to authorities when the investigation was at its peak. Ginno, Ben’s guardian on the tour, and I talked daily about the things that we could and should do to ensure he was protected.

    We were fortunate. The man, now 25, was arrested in January 2013, pleaded guilty to multiple felonies and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

    ••••••

    I’m not saying we should go back to a different time, or that social media does not have great benefits. It does, from the trivial and mundane to the thoughtful and mind expanding. I’ve learned a great deal from my collective of friends.

    Social media also is part of my business as much as it is part of my life, more so now than ever because my former profession of choice — the print medium — is struggling greatly. While print will never be extinct, as least in my opinion, it will never have the same reach it did when we were kids.

    Jill and I try to think about that when we have talked to our kids about the smart phones that are tethered to their bodies. Their world is much more saturated than ours was growing up.

    And that’s reason enough for us all to put a little more thought into how much this noise affects all of us, and stop the shouting from our fingertips and thumbs.