Category Archives: Biographical

February: Denise & Fred McFeely Rogers

Those in attendance will know I am getting ahead of myself.  What about John?  I have enlisted a guest blogger to do justice on John’s report.  And said guest blogger is busy doing justice in other ways at the moment.  But grab on to your gavels, because it will come!

Those who know me know that I adore Mister Rogers.  I tend to avoid topics I already know a lot about.  But when I thought about the fact that there are people out there who don’t know the legacy of this man, I realized a report was in order.  As fate would have it, my report “coincidentally” fell on the anniversary of his death, which was February 27, 2003.  This fueled my passion to give my best and honor him well. 

I began by retelling the parable of The Good Samaritan.  In short, a well-studied Jewish man asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?”  Or rather, “Who am I required to love at this deep level?”  After answering his question with the famous parable and saying, “Which of these men was the good neighbor?”–Jesus was really saying, “Don’t ask, ‘Who is my neighbor?’ Instead ask, ‘How can I be the good neighbor?'”  And what better way to encapsulate the legacy of Fred Rogers than to say he was a man who knew what it meant to be the good neighbor.  (“Won’t you be my neighbor?” ) 

I touched on how he was a good neighbor (primarily his Little Prince-adopted perspective that “what is essential is invisible to the eyes”) as well as his habits and accomplishments (such as swimming daily and attending seminary during his lunch hour).  We viewed his famous battle to receive funding for his work, and I quoted this excerpt from Tim Madigan’s  book I’m Proud of You:

 “Something was at the heart of his greatness.  It was his unique capacity for relationship, what Esquire magazine writer Tom Junod once called ‘a fearlessness, an unashamed insistence on intimacy.’  That was true with almost every person he met, be it television’s Katie Couric or a New York City cabdriver; the Dalai Lama or the fellow handing out towels at the health club where Fred went to swim.  Fred wanted to know the truth of your life, the nature of your insides, and had room enough in his own spirit to embrace without judgment whatever that truth might be.”

I closed the power-point presentation with this touching video:

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Filed under Biographical, Religion, TV

December: Melissa

**ATTENTION OCD READERS: Please have your ritualized hand-sanitizer comforts nearby, because you are about to read a December report in the middle of our February runs. I realize this is out of order, but to be fair, Melissa deserves her post. Also, these sort of things don’t bother me very much and I make the rules. (Well, these rules.)  So take a deep breath and pretend it is December…**

This is her second report, but to say Melissa gives “reports” is such a mundane, inadequate word for what she does.  Melissa’s reports are more like performance art.  Our very first Report Night she came and gave a dramatic lesson on giant squid.

From the squid’s perspective.

With the light’s out.

With a flashlight under her chin.

Frankly, everyone needs a little Melissa-flair in their lives.  But enough about squid!  Melissa began her report…in the bathroom.  We were not with her.  So across the distance of the White’s foyer (seriously, they have a foyer), we saw the light shining from the open doorway of the bathroom that kept Melissa out of view.  “YOU ALL ARE PROBABLY WONDERING WHY I’M BEGINNING MY REPORT FROM THE BATHROOM,” she yelled.  “AT OUR HOUSE WE HAVE A CHRISTMAS TRADITION OF PLAYING GAMES AND EATING FOOD ALL DAY LONG.  CONSEQUENTLY, WE ALSO SPEND MUCH OF OUR TIME IN HERE, AS WELL: THE BATHROOM.”  Then Melissa returned to the living room wearing a tweed jacket, a pair of glasses, and a British accent.  The bathroom had transformed her into Thomas Crapper, the supposed inventor of the toilet.

We learned soon enough, however, that Thomas Crapper really did not invent the toilet, he merely made it popular.   We also learned that the word “crap” is not a derivative of the name Crapper, but instead from the Dutch word “krappe.”  I am a fan of giving credit where credit is due (see our “Welcome!” tab), so for a comprehensive look at who deserves credit for inventing our modern and convenient flush-toilet, take a look at this.  Better yet, copy and paste the entry so you can print it and read it on your next friendly visit to the commode. 

*Next time we hear from Melissa, it will be on her white elephant topic “The Worst of 2009.”

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Filed under Biographical, Christmas, History, When things get crazy

February: Mike & Entertainment Comics

Mike opened the night with his best report as of yet: the history of Entertainment Comics.  It was extremely fascinating and equally off-color.  (Let’s just say that “gay” is not the only word that has changed meaning in the last 50 years.)  It was a juicily controversial topic, as well, since the E.C. saga is intertwined with censorship woes.  When the Jewish community celebrates Purim they hiss and boo at the mention of  Haman’s name in the story of Esther.  Likewise, hissing and booing ensued at the mention of Fredric Wertham’s name, the real-life villain of the E.C. adventure.  But when the door closed on E.C., creative genius William Gaines found his open window by creating Mad Magazine. 

For a particularly piquing  E.C. story, read about the last panel of the last Entertainment Comic here.

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Filed under Art, Biographical, Comics, Cult following, Culture, Exposing "the man.", History, Pop-culture

November: Ross

Ross gave a power point presentation on Beethoven’s 9th.  We were reminded of the child prodigy Beethoven and also how he eventually became deaf.  I had not previously known the manner in which he was able to compose this masterpiece without hearing.  He devised a tool that allowed him to feel the vibrations of the piano, and from that impossible method the world forever received this:

The story of how the crowd went wild upon the first performance brought tears to my eyes.  Ross’s moral: do what you’re put on this earth to do!

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Filed under Biographical, Culture, History, Music

November: Denise

Yours truly did my very first power point presentation.  I shared on three of my favorite artists: Marc Chagall, Gwenyth Scally, and Beverly McIver.  I gave a brief detour to explain surrealism and expressionism and also noted two honorable mentions: Dorothea Tanning and Edgar Degas.  (How could Edgar Degas make “honorable mention” only?  Because these are my favorites.  Anything goes when things are subjective.  Much like expressionism and surrealism.)  For a gal who talks a lot, this was a very visual report.  Later Tracey told me that some of the images brought tears to her eyes.

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Filed under Art, Biographical, Culture

November: Mike

Mike followed with a topic he came up with only one hour beforehand: a careless or unlucky man named Phil.  (Not to be confused with this guy.)  To sum up, Phil was a co-worker back in the days Mike was a glazier.  For a fellow who fainted at the sight of blood, it was rather unfortunate that Phil carelessly severed all the tendons in his forearm with a sheet of glass after catching on fire for a separate careless act at the glass shop.  (Thankfully this was not on the same day.)  There was much cringing in the room, for sure.  Mike’s visual was a clever photo he found online of fire and glass.

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Filed under Biographical, Last minute topic, Tragedy

November: Tommy

Tommy kicked off the night with his report on Ray Harryhausen, otherwise known as the name of the restaurant in Monsters, Inc. or as the creator of such films as Clash of the Titans.  He passed around his copy of the movie The Valley of Gwangi for the required visual aid.  We not only learned about Ray Harryhausen himself, but also Willis O’Brian (“Obie”) and stop-animation in general.  You can learn more about the fascinating Ray Harryhausen here.  What I took away from the report: If your children are interested in stop-motion film-making, encourage them as little Ray’s mom and dad did so well.

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Filed under Art, Biographical, Cult following, Film