Monday, December 14, 2009
Monday, November 9, 2009
Walking into the monkey house, one man quietly gazed upon the large, dark male gorilla. The beast was at peace while all around him was bedlam. The crowd outside his cage hooted and shrieked, made odd faces, pointed and waved, all in a vain attempt to attract the attention of the recumbant beast. Within the cage a TV flickered and sang, but it was ignored as well. The man stared into the eyes of the ape, marveling at the intelligence within them and pleased with himself for noticing. Then the man saw a curious thing. The ape’s eyes usually wandered over the crowd, without finding anything of particular interest. Suddenly, however, the ape sat up straight and his eye’s tracked something unnoticed by the man, something moving from left to right at the back of the crowd. A moment later, the ape relaxed again and his eye’s wandered.
The man was curious now and wondered if this would happen again. What had suddenly gotten the beast’s attention? Watching the gorilla, the man soon saw something again attract the ape’s attention. Quickly, the man followed the gorilla’s gaze. Across the back of the room, a beautiful woman crossed from one side to the other, noticed by no one other than the gorilla, and the man. The man chuckled to himself, mere coincidence he thought.
Still, the man was curious and continued to watch the gorilla as the crowd came and went, making odd monkey noises and gestures which were of no interest to either ape nor man now. Again, the gorilla’s attention was captured. Again, a beautiful woman crossed the room, a different woman than before. Three times this happened while the man watched. Shaking his head, humbled by the experience, the man left the monkey house. The gorilla, mere object of curiosity when the man arrived, proved to be much more, able to find beauty among his captors even as they ridiculed him with their foolish japes.
Sunday, November 1, 2009
"We have reduced ourselves to religious, to denominations, to confessions...instead of following my Palestinian compatriot from Galilee, Jesus of Nazareth." Elias Chacour (The Palestinian Archbishop of Galilee) [p. 127]
"...some ... believe they have the whole truth and therefore assume others can have no truth at all. However, as Mazhar says, 'we do not own the truth; the truth owns us.' Consequently, Mazhar is very grateful for all truth found anywhere ..." (Consider this carefully all angry adherents of faith and non-faith before calling others hell-bound or superstitious fools.) [p. 95]
"God walks in the Holy Scriptures seeking people." St. Ambrose [p. 147] (Not one special group of people or another, all people.)
"Out beyond the ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,/There is a field. I'll meet you there./When the soul lies down in that grass,/the world is too full to talk about./Ideas, langauge, even the phrase 'each other' doesn't make any sense." Jalal Al-Din Rumi, a 13th century Muslim Sufi mystic [p. 73] (Shhhh...)
"All truth, by whomever it has been said, is from God's Spirit." St. Ambrose (who baptized and discipled St. Augustine of North Africa) [p. 73] (Makes drawing lines in the sand seem a little silly, no?)
Less contention, more dialogue, more truth discovered, please.
Saturday, October 31, 2009
Friday, October 30, 2009
Friday, October 23, 2009
NOTE: Since this was written, I've extended the project into this blog site with my Good News From Christianity posts. Baby steps for now. But I'm learning and expect to expand outward more soon in bolder ways. What about you?
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
I'm ready to see it again, twice over the summer just wasn't enough. Star Trek XI, the movie the reintroduces the original cast (with new, young, strong actors and actresses who look like they just came out of Star Fleet Academy training) to an new generation of potential "Trekkers" and gladdened the hearts of longtime fans, will be out on DVD on November 17. Enterprise will be surely warping through many a Christmas afternoon or evening this year!
Please note, however, there is at least one scene that is too intense for younger viewers. I know a 13 year old who found herself squirming through it ... so be careful parents.
If you didn't see this film over the summer, now's your chance to catch up on the action. For you skeptics who roll your eyes and pooh-pooh, you really should give this one a try. Sure you're skeptical after the franchise blew its warp core with the ill-fated "Enterprise," preceded by the lack-luster and all too long lasting "Voyager," but it's time to put all that away and move on. Yes, there are standard sci-fi ploys involved, including time travel and alternate universes (hey old Spock and young Spock meet without destroying universes, which is a nice twist). But get over it, see the film, and you'll most likely find you enjoy yourself in spite of your jaded skepticism.
What makes this Star Trek different is ... well, it's a really good movie first and a Star Trek movie second. The characters are a fresh look at the original crew, updated for today. You see the original characters in the new cast, but you also see them given new depth and taken further. I won't bore you with all the details, but let's take a brief look at one character, Lt. Uhura. In the original series, Uhura was basically a switchboard operator who fell to the floor and shrieked when the going got rough. Today's Uhura does a lot more. She's a zeno-linguist, talented, tough, and passionately in love with one character who ... well never mind. I don't want to spoil things for you. Never once when the going gets tough does she fall to the floor and shriek.
Dr. McCoy is fantastic and played to cranky perfection. The rest of the cast is equally entertaining and gives new twists to their old roles. The ship is beautiful and detailed. The secondary hull is very mechanical, engineering is a maze of hardware and piping, the shuttle bay appears voluminous.
The interactions amongst the crew are enough to keep you thoroughly entertained if you're a fan. Then you still have a villain. He takes a back seat to the crew in some ways but provides plenty of action and thrills as a deranged Romulan playing the 23rd century equivalent of Captain Nemo, gunning for whole planets instead of slave ships to assuage his wrath and pain.
For those of you who grew up with the original series and have seen the much-loved episodes look a little dated over time, rest assured (that is if there are really any of you out there who haven't seen this movie on the big screen already ... if there are where were you this summer .... are you all right, did you fully recover?!) there are no singing hipsters in this version, the camera does not zoom in and out at the red alert panel when trouble is coming, and a damaged ship does not tilt on the screen to indicate serious damage has occurred (I always wondered, since space has no real up or down but only out, from whose point of view was the suffering vessel tipped?), but all of the fun and plenty of new technology are packed in for your entertainment.
So, come November 17th, buy this Sci-fi movie for a friend or loved one. Make it a Star Trek Christmas for you ... and profitable enough for Paramount to do it again with the same crew and director soon!
Monday, October 19, 2009
In the beginning, you introduce your characters to the readers. Let's focus on the main character. At the beginning, you need to establish who the main character is and how he or she thinks by how that character acts, interacts with others, and responds to whatever problem faces him or her. For beginners, it is best to make the main character likeable. Antiheroes are harder to write and relate to ... and they don't crop up all that often in children's literature. In Michael and the New Baby, the main character is awakened early by the very problem that he will have to grapple with ... and come to terms with ... over the course of the book, the new baby in the house who wakes him up early with a loud cry. We quickly get to know Michael as he navigates through the day and understand the various aspects of his fear.
Give your main character some depth. Likes and dislikes, favorite objects, particular outlooks on the world, unusual quirks and fears all add dimension to your characters. You don't want one dimensional action figures, not even in a story for young children. If a character has no other purpose in life than to follow the plot, you have yourself a boring, one dimensional characature rather than a character. (You'll quickly realize you probably need to create for yourself something called the author's "bible" in which you create an entire back history for each character and a listing of all of the necessary traits, clothing, objects associated with the characters, etc., so that you can keep it all straight. It seems like busy work ... and most of it truly will not end up in the book ... but it will help you flesh out the characters, give them depth, and develop connections between them that you might not have come up with otherwise.)
To give your main character as sense of reality, give that character history. Make references to the character's friends, to incidents that occured in particular locations, to his or her favorite spots, foods, etc. Have others refer to things that have happened between them or to anticipated events to occur later in the day/week/month, etc. All of this gives a sense of a richer world surrounding your character.
Other characters need to be more than one dimensional stick figures who move into and out of the set to propel the plot forward. They too need to have a past, need to have feelings and complications that give them depth and interest. Nothing is more boring than a series of characters who are paper cut outs readers are simply waiting for something to happen to (like in a bad slasher movie where the only thing you wonder is how a particular character will die, not whether or not he or she will survive, because the writer gave you no reason to care about that character). My antagonists in the story, the oddly named Stinky Roos (again, this was initially written to amuse a 6 year old boy and the name just stuck), have a bit of history to them and a variety of characters with a variety of jobs and roles to play. They represent for Michael what he is becoming by succumbing to his fears rather than facing them. They are exaggerations of the angrier emotions and thoughts Michael is facing and help Michael, the main character, see that those fears can and should be mastered to avoid ending up like the cantankerous Stinky Roos and that babies just aren't that bad!
Giving your character an interesting prop to work with at the begining of the story adds a certain amount of interest. Readers will wonder why the character always carries that item around. Then later in the story, the character can put the object to good and surprising use later on. However, don't cheat. Make sure to incorporate that object at the beginning of the story. Otherwise it'll just feel like you're cheating by springing the object later when needed and are just coming up with a feeble way to get yourself out of a corner you've painted yourself into. Handled well, you'll make readers curious. Handled poorly, you'll end up with eyerolling.
Give your characters depth, make the main character likable so readers have a reason to feel concern about what happens to him/her and can root for the character, and give them history. Make a character's bible to keep it all straight. Do all this and then your characters can help carry the story!
When the comet fragments of Shoemaker Levy 9 impacted Jupiter, each of the 14 strikes released the equivalent energy of all of humanity's nuclear weapons exploding at once. Jupiter's response to what would have wiped life off the face of the Earth ... 14 dark smudges that disapated over time. So, rest assured, we are small, the universe is large, the LCROSS impactor caused no lasting harm. For more on the LCROSS mission, visit the Universe Today website or NASA. Either one will be glad you came.
Before you speak, or email, or blog, or Tweet, pause for a moment of reflection. Think about whether the opinion you are about the express or the words of wisdom you intend to impart will edify or enrage people. Will what you say build bridges of understanding or walls of hatred? Go for the bridges.
The other day I heard an evangelical say in a news piece that his version of Christian faith was the only one to "take the Bible seriously." As a member of one of the more moderate to liberal Christian denominations, I was irritated and failed to hear the speakers subsequent points. He'd lost me on a few ill-chosen words. In point of fact, Christianity uses the Bible as the foundation of the faith and all serious, practicing Christians take the Bible very seriously. Scripture interpretation methods differ from those of the evangelicals, but, let me repeat, all take the Bible very seriously.
It is far too easy these days to alienate one another, especially in the charged atmosphere we all live in. Decide today not to add to the anger, not to build walls, but to build bridges instead. Avoid the knee jerk rhetoric and common wisdom, refrain from the cruel jokes and barbed remarks, and instead speak in ways that will extend joy, establish peace, and build bridges.
Take a moment to remember what your mother taught you, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." Words to live by ... and it may be words that keep us alive or drive us to extinction.
Have a blessed day.
Friday, October 2, 2009
Sunday, September 27, 2009
It all starts with information. You begin the process by checking out other books in your genre. For this, you'll need your local library. Yes, you can check for books on your subject on Amazon if you are so inclined, but you'll still want to see physical copies of the books before you make your choices to see how each publisher handles the material and the layout. Go to the library (or bring their card catalogue up on line if they've gone high tech) and gather up an armful of books in your genre or on your topic. Check them out and see which publishers had an approach that is most to your liking. Go to the copyright page and get the full name of each publisher whose work you like. By taking this route, you've narrowed the field considerably before you take the next step.
Now, go back to the card catalogue and locate the most recent copy of the Writer's Marketplace that your library has. Look up each publisher who caught your eye. The Writer's Marketplace will give you a rundown on how each publisher operates and how they accept submissions. It will tell you if you need an agent to approach them. If not, it will tell you if the publisher accepts entire finished manuscripts or if they are looking for a proposal letter, an outline, and a few sample chapters instead. This is absolutely essential information as you do not want to waste your time contacting every publisher in the business hoping someone will like what you have written.
The most important step in this process, however, is to follow whatever steps the publisher asks you to take with great precision. Each publisher does things differently as each has developed a particular system that works best for them. Send them something that doesn't follow their guidelines and in most cases, your manuscript will be rejected. Why? Because your manuscript will take them more time than they are willing to spend on it if it doesn't conform to their guidelines.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Some years back, I was given my most unusual assignment. A collector's guide to the Pokemon card game was desired as the publisher, who was then experimented with moving into the world of pop culture collectibles. Personally, I knew nothing about Pokemon cards other than my kids watched the cartoon and that the cards did indeed exist. So I bought a 60 card pack and read up as much as I could. While I learned the basics, I had not mastered the ins and outs of the material. So, I gave the cards to my resident expert, my ten-year-old son, and let him fill me in on all the details. Fortunately, knowing the game rules was not required for this project as the written rules seemed largely incomprehensible to my adult mind. My son scoffed and quickly informed me nobody actually read the rules. The rules of the game as played were passed down from one kid to another by word of mouth.
Illumination was dawning.
To make a long story mercifully short, my son helped me organize the cards into their various decks, organize the book into its various chapters, and in the moment I enjoyed best, he was my most critical editor. He really took the job seriously. He was encouraging but he was also stern when he discovered errors. He had all the makings of a top notch editor if I do say so myself. It was a wonderful experience we were both able to enjoy together and a great opportunity for my child to truly help me with my job, an experience that made him feel pretty good at the time and even better when I handed him the finished copy of the book.
So, whenever possible, find a way to include your children in your day, even into some facet of the work-a-day world where they are not usually allowed to enter. You'll both be likely to find the experience memorable.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Friday, September 11, 2009
The sky for the next few days was strange. No jets rumbled over on their way to the major international airport close by. No con trails crisscrossed the sky. On the clear days, the sky was just such a large, empty expanse.
I vividly recall reassuring my children that our small town would not be on any terrorist's hit list. I hated to see that fear and doubt cross their minds.
And so, I take a moment to pause and pray. I pray for all the families of all the victims everywhere. I pray for the families of policemen and women & firemen and women lost that day or over the months to what they inhaled as they tried to save lives. I pray for all who fell and all who grieve the loss. I pray for all the fighting men and women overseas and at home struggling to follow orders and keep us and themselves safe and sane in unsafe and insane situations. I pray to God that there will come a day when the human heart is no longer twisted by hate and madness will no longer lurk in the dark recesses of the human mind. I pray that one day we might all do what God would have us do and help each other with open hands and greet each other with open arms. I pray for an end to grinding poverty, hunger, and injustice -- an end to all these and every other man made cruelty which torture so many lives and twist so many souls with hate. I pray for all who work in every little way, often without notice, to bring peace into a war torn world. I pray for all peacemakers everywhere. Please join me in this prayer.
I hope this finds you well, whoever you are, when you read this. I wish you love, joy, and the peace of God, the peace that passes all understanding.
Friday, September 4, 2009
Sunday, August 30, 2009
You write about the obvious. Simple? Yes and no. So many times some of us writers tend to overlook the most obvious points we are writing about because we are so familiar with the subject matter. Surely, we thing ...wrongly it turns out... everybody knows this or that tidbit of obvious information. Naturally, I don't have to cover that ground! And then we're stuck. Or worse, we gnash our teeth when some other writer boldly states those obvious facts, figures, stories, etc. and receives accolades for them! Then we seethe and pound our foreheads against the keyboards and wonder why we didn't think of that.
Here's an example. I've written numerous books on antiques and collectibles, along with this children's book that inspired the creation of this infrequently visited blog (thanks for stopping by actually), and I had written four books on one particular nineteenth century ceramics line. I felt I'd covered it pretty well and was done with the subject. Then the publisher came to me and asked if I had leftover images from the four volumes. I told him I did and he suggested I write a pocket guide to the subject. Since the publisher is also my boss, I agreed. Then I was stumped. After four volumes, what was left to write about? Sweat began to bead my brows and slick my palms, until I had that oh so simple inspiration, state the obvious. Define the basic terms for the newcomer to the field. Identify the different dish forms used (the average Victorian dinner set had 101 pieces so there was plenty to work with). When I was done, I'd covered all the most basic of basic information. That little pocket guide sold quickly and well.
Never overlook the obvious. It always makes a solid foundation for an article or a book and many people really won't know the information you have, in your research, written off as too obvious for words.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
That's a truth that really is out there!
Sunday, August 9, 2009
Saturday, July 18, 2009
This blog will descend for a while. I am away taking Introduction to New Testament Greek for my Masters of Divinity degree. This is a six week intensive course. As of this writing, I am two weeks in.
See you when I rise again after the summer semester ends.
Saturday, July 4, 2009
This strange flying vehicle is called the X-Jet. See it in action by going to: http://www.realufos.net/2009/07/x-jet-your-own-private-ufo-made-by-us.html Then ask yourself the following: Were these jet pods developed with technology taken from crashed UFOs? Or is this just another weird device, like the personal rocket pack, that is going nowhere fast ... outside of James Bond films? How would you like to fly your own personal little UFO?
Me, I think they look like the old Dick Tracy flying trashcans without the shower head nozzles around the base actually. Still, it would be fun to fly one!
The truth is out there ... sort of.
Friday, July 3, 2009
For adults, however, the story of Ed Asner's character is wonderful. There is a ten minute or so wordless montage that takes you through the life of this man and his wife from childhood, through marriage, and her demise (I'm not giving away much there by the way) that is as moving as it gets. Be prepared to cry (or struggle hard not to guys) several times in this film. It's far more emotionally moving for adults that my wife or I expected.
Whether you see this film in 3-D or not hardly matters. The story is wonderful and the animation is beautiful. When Carl lifts his house off its foundation and sends it flying south toward Paradise Falls in South American chasing after the adventure he and his wife long sought, the effects are powerful indeed. There are times where, if you have a fear of heights, you will have that fear activated for sure.
I'm keeping this short so as not to give away anything. Go see for yourself! Take your family and go.
If you need to see more before you're convinced, go to http://www.pixar.com/featurefilms/up/characters.html and see some of the images and renderings I couldn't legally use here. If you love animation, you'll soon be convinced!
Thursday, July 2, 2009
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Friday, June 26, 2009
This story starts on a playground. A young mother has run and errand and left her son at the local playground with friends and their moms. As she rounds the corner at the end of the block, she sees a teen on a bike pedal over to her son. This teen looks her in the eyes, glaring with hatred, reaches into his jacket, pulls out a handgun, and shoots her son through the head. The murderer pedals off down the street unchallenged. The mother rushes to her son, gathers him up, and through sobs heads for the emergency room.
My friend, on duty as chaplain assistance that day, sits with that weeping mother after she receives the news. Her son was dead before he hit the ground. His death was senseless. All that my friend could do was be a support for this grieving mother and be there for her in her darkest hour.
We hear a lot of hollow rhetoric these days. We are told we all need our weapons to keep us safe from the bad guys. Folks, there is absolutely nothing that mother could have done differently if she had been armed. Was she to act preemptively and gun down the bicycle rider for his glare before he acted? We've seen as a nation how well preemptive violence works. Was she to commit rough justice in the streets, sending a hail of bullets after that deranged kid while her son lay bleeding on the ground? Our current laws are not enough. Policemen and women are gunned down regularly by people carrying armor piercing rounds in weapons that have the police far outmatched. Lunatics steeped in hatred are arming themselves and setting off to shoot down the innocent in public places like schools and the National Holocaust Museum. This is all madness. If for no other reason that for the sake of your own children, demand better, more effective gun control for our nation.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
We've learned a lot from the ISS. Science is conducted there each and every day. We have learned that humans actually can build complex structures in orbit and that the components made by different nations will function together when assembled. For those of you who have attempted to put together anything with badly translated instructions originally written in some other language, you know this is no small feat. Recently, ISS astronauts captured an erupting volcano in its earliest moments and Earth scientists are scrambling to study the photos and learn new things. The ISS is also equipped with robots. They may not be "Robbie" or "Gort" but the robotic arm and the more massive robot for swapping out batteries and other massive objects are saving ISS inhabitants a lot of time on spacewalks these days.
On a light note, the ISS crew enjoyed this year's blockbuster movie, Star Trek, from 220 miles high. That's got to be a first of some sort.
Each and every day, this construct of the U.S., Russian, European, Japanese, and Canadian space agencies orbits at 250 miles above the Earth at speeds of 17,500 miles per hour, completing sixteen trips around the planet daily.
For much more about the ISS at ten years old and its rapidly approaching completion, go to: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/main/index.html Of particular interest is the fly through one of the astronauts provides. The early components have a small, cramped feel about them while the most recent Japanese science lab has a large, spacious, Sci Fi feel to it. The trip is fascinating.
Saturday, June 20, 2009
- antiques and collectibles
- military history
- the arts and artists
- how to carving, wood turning, scroll saw art, and various craft books
- lifestyles topics including home improvement, landscaping, etc.
- regional ghost investigations and ghost stories
Schiffer Publishing is the place to go. You can check them out at: http://www.schifferbooks.com/ There you will find instructions for writing a book proposal for the publisher. My advice to you is to follow those instructions carefully and to the letter.
There are a few things to remember if you propose a book project to Schiffer Publishing or any other publisher. First, remember to include your full name and all contact information with your proposal. Your proposal will not be pursued if the publisher doesn't know who you are or how to contact you. If you submit a proposal via email, make sure to include an obvious, clear subject line with your name and the fact that this is a proposal letter included. Remember, publishers get as much junk mail as you do. Without a clear subject line, your wonderful proposal could very well end up in the SPAM folder and will never be seen again. Make sure your proposal letter is clear, direct, and to the point (see my previous post on how to write a successful proposal letter). Make sure you have read and reread your proposal letter (don't just use spell check and let it go ... there are way too many mistakes spell check can't catch) before you send it out. A poorly written, badly spelled proposal letter will get all but the very best ideas pitched into the circular file without strong consideration. Make sure any promises you make in your proposal are promises you can fulfill. Finally, once you have submitted your proposal, resist the temptation to follow up with additional emails or phone calls asking whether your proposal has been considered yet or not. Schiffer Publishing gets many proposals and it takes a while to give each proposal due consideration. You do not endear yourself to a publisher by nagging them for results and will more than likely be rejected if you follow this course of action.
If your proposal gets you a book contract, make sure you can fulfill the contract before you sign it. Take it very, very seriously as your ultimate goal is to develop a long and healthy relationship with your publisher that will net you more than one book!
Good luck to you in your efforts to find a publisher.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
- Canobie Lake Park: Salem, New Hampshire
- Quassy Amusement Park: Middlebury, Connecticut
- Midway Park: Maple Springs, New York
- Sea Breeze Park: Rochester, New York
- Dorney Park: Allentown, Pennsylvania (if you're a Pennsylvanian, you're in luck, you have more former Trolley Parks than any other state)
- Lakemont Park: Altoona, Pennsylvania
- Waldameer Park: Erie, Pennsylvania
- Kennywood: West Mifflin (read as outside Pittsburgh), Pennsylvania
- Bushkill Park: Easton, Pennsylvania
- Camden Park: Huntington, West Virginia
- Oaks Amusement Park: Portland, Oregon
These parks were established from as early as 1879 (Sea Breeze Park) to as late as 1908 (Quassy Amusement Park). We're going to focus on Kennywood. Why? Because my family and I have been there. Also, my parents went there when they were dating. Furthermore, as a one time archaeologist I have an affinity for old things and Kennywood, located outside Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is on the National Register of Historic Places for the number of wonderful, perfectly preserved and fully functional old rides dating back to the early 1900s to go along with their rides of much more recent vintage. Finally, check out the prices. You can get in for under $35 a person, which is a pretty good deal for an amusement park these days.
Go the the Kennywood website and you'll be able to find hours, rates, and directions, so we won't bother with that here. Here's what you need to know about the park. Kennywood is located in a town with some age on it and it shows a bit. The parking area also provides you with a view of the park that is ... well ... a bit underwhelming and may concern you a bit. The worry is dispelled when you enter the park. The grounds are beautifully maintained, the rides are wonderful, and there is no difficulty in finding ways to keep yourself busy all day long.
Leave your sense of twenty-first century sophistication at the gate and try out some of the classic rides. Take a spin on the Kangaroo. This is a simple, early twentieth century rides where the cars roll around a circular track, rise up one slope, and go airborne for a few moments. Sounds simple, possibly even dull? Yes? No! It's been around for close to a century for a reason.
For me, several trips to the bumper cars are mandatory after a long drive to the park. It's cathartic for any driving adult and great fun for kids who get to drive and crash all at once. I saw one dad ride the bumper cars with his cute little two year old daughter. She was blissfully oblivious to the Mr. Hyde-like transformation that took place behind her. Daddy helped her into the car, strapped her in with him, and then his hands curled around the steering wheel and he let out a deep and heart-felt "bwa ha ha" laugh as he prepared to leave the world of careful adult driving behind in favor of the demolition derby. Trust me, the simple pleasures can be the best, especially if you have a long daily commute to work. Make sure you have family and/or friends in the other cars. It's more satisfying to have people you know to take aim at!
Check out Noah's Ark while you're at it. Thought the Ark was stuck on a mountain top half a world away, right? Not at all, it's at Kennywood. A classic walk through fun house sort of thing that rocks back and forth as you explore, it also has a surprise ending. I'll never tell, so go see for yourself.
But you really want to know about the coasters, don't you? Kennywood has plenty of them. In the 1990s, they built a steel coaster to keep up with the times called the Steel Phantom. The most interesting feature of the Phantom is it makes use of a natural ravine in the mountain side Kennywood is perched on, yes Pittsburgh is located in the mountains, to create a drop of 225 feet that is a little startling. However, the older wooden coasters are the stars of the show in my book. The Thunderbolt, built in 1968, makes good use of the ravine as well. In fact the Thunderbolt takes you from zero to full speed immediately as you car drops off into the ravine right at the start, which is a blast.
For a classic coaster ride, check out the Jack Rabbit, built in 1921. It's over 2000 feet of wooden fun with a 70-foot high hill to keep things interesting. Restored in 1991, the ride is beautiful. However, for showmanship, check out the Racer, built in 1927. The Racer has twin tracks that keeps two trains running parallel to each other for much of the ride. Kennywood claims the Racer is one of the most beautiful of the racing coasters ever to have been built and I'm not going to argue. The loading platform facade is also magnificent. It is a large structure that is impressive to look at and cleverly hides much of the ride from future riders until they are getting close to trains themselves. You hear the roar and the screams but you don't see the ride.
I have a special fondness for Kennywood as this is the first park where my daughter rode roller coasters. The beauty of the place is they have a lot of entertaining rides, with many of them being not too intense for younger children. There are also a carousel and water rides, and much else you would expect from an amusement park. But, let me stress once again, check out as many of the old rides as you can. They may be quaint compared to the high tech rides at the giant parks and may not do barrel rolls or vertical cork screws, but they will make you laugh, especially if you take a teen along who feels it is beneath his or her dignity to ride such a contraption. The grumbling only adds to the fun.
Have a great time this summer with the family. And in the evening, read the youngsters Michael and the New Baby. Hey, I've got to try to sell my book, don't I?!
If you have great memories from Kennywood or one of the other former Trolley Parks, write me, I'd love to read about them. I'll post the best.
[Historical information for this post came from http://www.kennywood.com/ and http://www.themedattractions.com/ Opinions and personal experiences related are entirely my own, provided without any prodding or guidance from any outside source.]
The photo is of the Kangaroo in action.
If you like what you read here, you can support this blog (don't let me go it alone here): You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at: http://www.oldlinepublishingllc.com/index_files/OldLinePublishingChildrensMichaelandtheNewBabybyJSBrooks.htm