January 28, 2011

Monster Jam!

I just noticed that the Monster Jam show will be rolling into Nassau Coliseum again this weekend. It is a very unique sport, to say the least. Monster trucks originated in the late 70s when activities like mud bogging and truck pulling were becoming popular. Soon after, a competition ensued among truck owners to have the biggest truck and names like “Bigfoot” and “King Kong” were born. Today, Monster Truck shows are wildly popular, touring through the United States, Canada, and Europe. 

I went to a Monster Jam show in 2010 and it was awesome! After a moving rendition of the "Star Spangled Banner" and a dedication to the men and women in the armed forces, the trucks took to the arena for a freestyle driving extravaganza--popping wheelies, jumping cars, turning donuts amid a cloud of smoke and shredded rubber, exhilarating the capacity crowd. The sheer volume of so many 2,000-horsepower engines revved to the maximum absolutely rattled the Coliseum walls and made me have to hold my ears.

I was excited to see these magnificent trucks spinning their 66-inch tires. Amazing machines; they have great names too--


Krazy Train:




the unquestioned star
of the Monster Truck world,
Grave Digger:

There were occasional mishaps too, as the driver of After Shock demonstrated, getting caught up on a pyramid of cars during a wheelie and, at another point, flipping over completely. Of course, the driver was never in any danger and the Cat emerged from the driver's pit within moments to clean up the mess.

Overall, Monster Jam was a blast! This weekend, may you rev your imagination until your heart races. Cheers!!!

be strong in the Lord
and in the strength
of his might."

~Ephesians 6:10


January 22, 2011

3 Japanese Folktales

Every now and then, I stumble across a Japanese Folktale that I think is an absolute gem and I save it to my computer. Here are three of my favorites. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Love & light.
Jay Jii

House of 1000 Mirrors

Long ago in a small, far away village, there was place known as the House of 1000 Mirrors. A small, happy little dog learned of this place and decided to visit. When he arrived, he bounced happily up the stairs to the doorway of the house. He looked through the doorway with his ears lifted high and his tail wagging as fast as it could. To his great surprise, he found himself staring at 1000 other happy little dogs with their tails wagging just as fast as his. He smiled a great smile, and was answered with 1000 great smiles just as warm and friendly. As he left the House, he thought to himself, "This is a wonderful place. I will come back and visit it often." 

In this same village, another little dog, who was not quite as happy as the first one, decided to visit the house. He slowly climbed the stairs and hung his head low as he looked into the door. When he saw the 1000 unfriendly looking dogs staring back at him, he growled at them and was horrified to see 1000 little dogs growling back at him. As he left, he thought to himself, "That is a horrible place, and I will never go back there again." All the faces in the world are mirrors. What kind of reflections do you see in the faces of the people you meet?


Once, there was an emperor in the Far East who was growing old and knew it was coming time to choose his successor. Instead of choosing one of his assistants or one of his own children, he decided to do something different. He called all the young people in the kingdom together one day. He said, "It has come time for me to step down and to choose the next emperor. I have decided to choose one of you." The kids were shocked! But the emperor continued, "I am going to give each one of you a seed today. One seed. It is a very special seed. I want you to go home, plant the seed, water it and come back here one year from today with what you have grown from this one seed. I will then judge the plants that you bring to me, and the person I choose will be the next emperor of the kingdom!"

There was a boy named Ling who was there that day and he, like the others, received a seed. He went home and excitedly told his mother the whole story. She helped him get a pot and some planting soil, and he planted the seed and watered it carefully. Every day he would water it and watch to see if it had grown. A year finally went by and all the children of the kingdom brought their plants to the emperor for inspection. Ling's plant never grew. Ling told his mother that he wasn't going to take an empty pot. But she encouraged him to go, and to take his pot, and to be honest about what happened. Ling felt sick to his stomach, but he knew his mother was right. He took his empty pot to the palace.

When Ling arrived, he was amazed at the variety of plants grown by all the other children. They were beautiful and in all shapes and sizes. Ling put his empty pot on the floor and many of the other kids laughed at him. A few felt sorry for him and just said, "Hey, nice try." When the emperor arrived, he surveyed the room and greeted the young people. Ling just tried to hide in the back. "My, what great plants, trees, and flowers you have grown," said the emperor. "Today, one of you will be appointed the next emperor!" All of the sudden, the emperor spotted Ling in the back of the room with his empty pot. He ordered his guards to bring him to the front. Ling was terrified. "The emperor knows I'm a failure!" he thought to himself.

When Ling got to the front, the emperor asked him his name. "My name is Ling," he replied. All the kids were laughing and making fun of him. The emperor asked everyone to quiet down. He looked at Ling, and then announced to the crowd, "Behold your new emperor! His name is Ling!" Ling couldn't believe it. Ling couldn't even grow his seed. How could he be the new emperor?

The emperor said, "One year ago today, I gave everyone here a seed. I told you to take the seed, plant it, water it, and bring it back to me today. But I gave you all boiled seeds which would not grow. All of you, except Ling, have brought me trees and plants and flowers. When you found that the seed would not grow, you substituted another seed for the one I gave you. Ling was the only one with the courage and honesty to bring me a pot with my seed in it. Therefore, he is the one who will be the new emperor!"

A Broken Promise

Long, long ago, some children were playing at a seaside when they found a turtle. They began to bully the turtle. After a while, a young man came and said to them, "Stop it!" The children went away then.

"I really appreciate your kindness. I really would like to invite you to a wonderful palace now," the turtle said. As soon as the young man got on the back of the turtle, he was taken to a secret palace in the sea. When he arrived at the palace, he was very surprised and said to the turtle, "What a nice place!" The palace was very beautiful, and the king of the turtles gave a feast for him and he met many people. He had never seen such a good feast. He received a warm welcome there, and he was very satisfied with everything. He thought there was no other place nicer than that one. He said to the turtle, "Thank you, I am glad to have met you."

When he left, the turtle said, "I am going to give you two boxes, but you can only open one of the boxes. You must not open both. Don't forget!"

"All right. I will open only one." he promised. A large crowd of people said goodbye to him, and he went back to his land. After he got home, he opened the bigger of the two boxes. To his amazement, there was a great deal of gold in the box.

"Heavens!" he said loudly. He was rich now. He thought, "The other one must also be full of money." He could not stand not opening the box, so he broke his promise and opened it.

As soon as he opened the box, he became an old man. His hair turned white and his face was full of wrinkles. His looked like an old man over eighty years old. It all happened in a moment. After that he regretted what he did. "Just because I broke the promise..." he said, but it was too late.


January 19, 2011

Long Island Carriage Museum

So, Sunday took me out to the Long Island Carriage Museum in Stony Brook. It is a fascinating journey into the world of antique horse-drawn vehicles. I ambled happily through the winding corridors and ramps of the buildings, taking in the unique craftsmanship of these relics, mostly dating back to the 1800s. Many of these carriages were designed for private passenger use and built for elegance and comfort, though some were also used for the transportation of goods and other functions. I saw grand coaches, work carriages, and wagons; my favorite of which was the Parade Hose Carriage built in Seneca Falls, NY in 1875. Its grand spoked wheels and ornate metal-working made me marvel long at the sheer exquisiteness of it. Constructed for show only, this carriage never saw any fire-brigade action, but did make appearances in numerous parades.

The grounds also feature a one-room schoolhouse, a rather lackluster art museum, and a blacksmith shop. It is cool to look around in the place where one would go in the 1800s to pimp one's ride...

Today, may you hitch a team of horses to the covered wagon of your soul and venture out on to the prairies of imagination. Wishing you lavish dreams and warming inner sun rays. Love & light...

“For in this way there will be richly provided
for you an entrance into the kingdom
of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

~2 Peter 1:11


January 17, 2011

Happy MLK Day!

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness;
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate;
only love can do that."

~Martin Luther King, Jr.


January 15, 2011

Bela Fleck & the Flecktones

Sunday, November 22, 2009 – I got back to my house from a morning in Manhattan at about 5:00PM. It had been a very eventful weekend. On Saturday, I went to see a Star Wars concert at Nassau Coliseum and Sunday morning had brought me into the city for a matinee of Radio City Music Hall’s Christmas show. I was ready to settle into a quiet night and rest up for work the next day; some hot tea and the comfort of my sofa sounded ideal. (Un)fortunately, that scenario was not to be. At about 5:10, my telephone rang...

“Hello,” I heard my tired voice say.

“Jay, I have a complimentary ticket for you to tonight’s Bela Fleck & the Flecktones concert at Tilles Center. Fourth row. Wanna go?” the friendly voice on the other end answered. It's amazing how the bringing of such news can immediately revitalize a weary spirit. Needless to say, I was in my car twenty minutes later and out for the evening.

For those of you not familiar with Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, they are a Jazz Fusion group, formed in 1989. The band is fronted by banjo player, Bela Fleck. He is considered by many to be the world’s premier banjo player. Though the banjo is an instrument that is traditionally associated with Bluegrass music, Fleck's approach to the instrument is quite different. I have never before heard the banjo played in such diverse styles of music and with such astounding technique. It is refreshing to see.

The drummer for the group goes simply by the name of Futureman. The amazing thing about him is that he doesn’t play the drums at all! He invented an instrument called the Drumitar. It looks like some type of strange guitar, but sounds like drums, with all of the dynamics and ambiance of a live kit. Very inventive, to say the least, and I really appreciate his boundless creativity.

The band is rounded out by world-class bassist, Victor Wooten, and pianist/harmonica player, Howard Levy.

I took my seat in the fourth row and watched in amazement as this ensemble played through an eclectic collection of compositions and jammed the evening away. Probably not for casual music listeners, their sound is often intense and challenging, ranging from the softly melodic to stellar improvisations. It is so wonderful to see a group of virtuoso musicians taking their instruments to levels that only the imagination can reach. I immensely enjoyed their performance.

After the show was over, I went back stage and got to hang out with the members of the group for a little while. They were all very gracious and ready to talk about their love for music and performing. It was a great ending to an incredibly busy weekend.

“I can do everything
through him who gives me strength.”

~Philippians 4:13


January 11, 2011

Disney On Ice "Princess Wishes"

A huge bag of cotton candy and a seat at Nassau Coliseum for a "Disney On Ice" show -- what could be more satisfying than that on a chilly Saturday afternoon in January?

I first learned about this show back in November (on Cyber Monday, to be exact). I had gone to "Disney On Ice: Toy Story 3" at the same venue just a few weeks before and I wasn't really thinking about going to another one any time soon. However, when I opened the email from Ticketmaster that offered discount codes, I had to change my mind. How could I pass up a Disney show for $16.75? As it turned out, tickets for this performance were the only purchase that I made on the biggest online shopping day of the year.

This is my third experience with Disney On Ice performances and they always know just how to delight. This time around, the theme is "Princess Wishes" and the show is based on the "dreams come true" from the Disney movies. It all begins on a magic carpet ride through the Arabian city of Agrabah where we meet the street urchin Aladdin, Princess Jasmine, and the Genie from the lamp. My heart raced as these characters skated through the marketplace dodging the palace guards with their swinging sabres.

Next, the show shifts to the world of Snow White and Prince Charming. One of the best parts comes when the Seven Dwarfs arrive singing "Hi Ho Hi Ho (It's Off to Work We Go)." It is wonderful to see such a familiar scene being performed live. My foot never stopped tapping along with the tune.

From there, the scenery switches to the "under the sea" setting of the Little Mermaid. Amid the aquatic choreography, Goofy arrives with a boat to pick up some of the young princesses from the audience and bring them out on to the ice amid the action. I thought that it was great that some of the littlest spectators suddenly got to be part of the show. I'm sure it is a memory that none of them will soon forget.

Then, we meet Belle, Mulan, and Sleeping Beauty. A highlight comes when Lumiere sings "Be Our Guest" accompanied by dancing silverware. This part of the performance also features a showdown between the valiant Prince Philip and Maleficent's fire-breathing dragon than is just spectacular!

The show concludes at the castle where Cinderella arrives in a golden coach for the royal ball. Soon, all of the Disney characters appear for an epic grand finale on ice!

I must say that "Disney On Ice: Princess Wishes" is fantastic! If you should get the chance to see it, don't pass it up. It is inspiring and magical. May the rest of your week be filled with beautiful wishes and dreams come true. As the song says, "A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes." And they lived happily ever after...

"I will be filled with joy because of you.
I will sing praises to your name, O Most High."

~Psalm 9:2