Sunday, October 31, 2010
Friday, October 29, 2010
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Today a website called AskMen.com revealed the results of their annual "Most Influential Men" list. According to the website, Jon Stewart is the most influential man in America.
Really? I really don't think AskMen.com is a very reliable source of information. Even though it has actual paid writers on staff, the issues discussed about (outside of health matters) are often less reliable than information found on Wikipedia. Also, other than the gimmicks they do, such as this annual list, no one even knows the website exists.
That aside, they rank Jon Stewart as the most influential man in America. There's also three people listed in their top ten that I've never heard of before: #8 Graydon Carter, #9 Jose Mourinho, and #10 Elon Musk. I'm an avid reader and still read newspapers and magazines in addition to books. I'll be the first to admit that there's so much I don't know and that I'm not as cultured or experienced as many others. Still, you would think I'd of heard of all the people in the top ten list of the most influential men in America. But #8, #9, and #10 were completely unknowns. After doing some research I discovered that Carter is the editor for Vanity Fair, Mourinho is a soccer coach, and Musk is the co-founder of PayPal. That makes sense now because Vanity Fair is a magazine that no one reads, soccer is a sport that will never be popular in America, and unless you let people know you co-founded PayPal no one is going to know.
The real most influential man in America is a multi-billionaire (#35 of the richest people in the world) that the usual publications tend to ignore: George Soros. Soros broke the British pound in 1992 and made hundreds of millions of dollars off the stock market crash and Great Recession in 2008 (there is circumstantial evidence that he actually helped start the recession and cause the crash just so he could make more money). Soros isn't as recognizable as other American billionaires, but the guy has his hands in more political and media organizations (mostly progressive in nature) than anyone else in the country.
Jon Stewart is the most influential man in America? That's only because Soros wants you to think that. Wink, wink.
The best example of that I've seen recently is in this article by Jeff Weintraub. It's funny, but illustrates the importance of punctuation.
Thanks to Justin Taylor for pointing the article out.
Sunday, October 24, 2010
TV's Greatest Game Shows by Tom DeMichael
Jaws by Peter Benchley
*Discover Your Inner Hermit Crab by Jim Toomey
The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger
Moments With the Savior by Ken Gire
Hot for Words by Marina Orlova
CliffsNotes on To Kill a Mockingbird by Tamara Castleman
Crazy Love by Francis Chan
On the Blue Comet by Rosemary Wells
TV's Greatest Game Shows was an interesting little book that contained a little bit of nostalgia for me. I had heard of many of the shows discussed in the book and some I have fond memories. I also learned about some shows I never heard of before.
Jaws was a better movie than it was a book. I understand that the movie would never have existed without the book, but this is an instance where the movie is better than the book.
Crazy Love is a book that every Christian in America should read. It's challenging, uplifting, thought-provoking, and encouraging all at the same time.
Finally, On the Blue Comet is a great young adult novel. It's never really explained exactly how the fantastical things in the story happen, beyond some vague mysteries of time travel. However, the story doesn't need to explain itself. It's a time travel story set during the Great Depression and has some remarkable trains. It also has some beautiful, lavish illustrations that are worth the price of the book alone.
*Denotes a comic strip collection
Movies Viewed for the First Time
The Librarian: Curse of the Judas Chalice
Resident Evil: Afterlife
Wall Street was a much better movie than I expected it to be. Forbidden Planet was a sci-fi movie that I should have watched years ago. It's dated a little, but it's worth watching to see a young Leslie Nielsen and it marks the first appearance of Robby the Robot.
Sullivan's Travel was a hilarious screwball comedy. They really don't make movies like that anymore and Preston Sturges was a genius.
Feast was a decent low-budget sci-fi picture, but Feast II ranks as one of the worst movies I have ever seen.
Devil is a thought-provoking story with some heavy spiritual elements to it. The story is by M. Night Shyamalan, but he didn't direct.
Kelly's Heroes was a solid movie that reminded me of a military version of the original Ocean's 11 or The Italian Job.
Friday, October 22, 2010
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Deliberately uninformed, relentlessly so [a rant] (Seth Godin, Oct. 20, 2010)
Many people in the United States purchase one or fewer books every year.
Many of those people have seen every single episode of American Idol. There is clearly a correlation here.
Access to knowledge, for the first time in history, is largely unimpeded for the middle class. Without effort or expense, it's possible to become informed if you choose. For less than your cable TV bill, you can buy and read an important book every week. Share the buying with six friends and it costs far less than coffee.
Or you can watch TV.
The thing is, watching TV has its benefits. It excuses you from the responsibility of having an informed opinion about things that matter. It gives you shallow opinions or false 'facts' that you can easily parrot to others that watch what you watch. It rarely unsettles our carefully self-induced calm and isolation from the world.
I got a note from someone the other day, in which she made it clear that she doesn't read non-fiction books or blogs related to her industry. And she seemed proud of this.
I was roped into an argument with someone who was sure that ear candling was a useful treatment. Had he read any medical articles on the topic? No. But he knew. Or said he did.
You see a lot of ostensibly smart people in airports, and it always surprises me how few of them use this downtime to actually become more informed. It's clearly a deliberate act--in our infoculture, it takes work not to expose yourself to interesting ideas, facts, news and points of view. Hal Varian at Google reports that the average person online spends seventy seconds a day reading online news. Ouch.
Not all books are correct or useful. Not all accepted science is correct. The conventional wisdom might just be wrong. But ignoring all of it because the truth is now fashionably situational and in the eye of the beholder is a lame alternative.
I know this rant is nothing new. In fact, people have been complaining about widespread willful ignorance since Brutus or Caesar or whoever invented the salad... the difference now is this: more people than ever are creators. More people than ever go to work to use their minds, not just their hands. And more people than ever have a platform to share their point of view. I think that raises the bar for our understanding of how the world works.
Let's assert for the moment that you get paid to create, manipulate or spread ideas. That you don't get paid to lift bricks or hammer steel. If you're in the idea business, what's going to improve your career, get you a better job, more respect or a happier day? Forgive me for suggesting (to those not curious enough to read this blog and others) that it might be reading blogs, books or even watching TED talks.
As for the deliberately uninformed, we can ignore them or we can reach out to them and hopefully start a pattern of people thinking for themselves...
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
"The Dumbest Generation cares little for history books, civic principles, foreign affairs, comparative religions, and serious media and art, and it knows less. Careening through their formative years, they don't catch the knowledge bug, and tradition might as well be a foreign word. Other things monopolize their attention--the allure of screens, peer absorption, career goals. They are latter-day Rip Van Winkles, sleeping through the movements of culture and events of history, preferring the company of peers to great books and powerful ideas and momentous happenings. From their ranks will emerge few minds knowledgeable and interested enough to study, explain, and dispute the place and meaning of our nation. Adolescence is always going to be more or less anti-intellectual, of course, and learning has ever struggled against immaturity, but the battle has never proven so uphill. Youth culture and youth society, fabulously autonomized by digital technology, swamp the intellectual pockets holding on against waves of pop culture and teen mores, and the Boomer mentors have lowered bulwarks to surmountable heights. Among the Millennials, intellectual life can compete with social life, and if social life has no intellectual content, traditions wither and die. Books can't hold their own with screen images, and without help, high art always loses to low amusements.
"The ramifications for the United States are grave. We need a steady stream of rising men and women to replenish the institutions, to become strong military leaders and wise political leaders, dedicated journalists and demanding teachers, judges and muckrakers, scholars, and critics and artists. We have the best schools to train them, but social and private environments have eroded....Teachers try to impart knowledge, but students today remember only that which suits their careers or advantages their social lives. For the preparation of powerful officials, wise intellectuals, and responsible citizens, formal schooling and the workplace training are not enough. Social life and leisure time play essential roles in the maturing process, and if the knowledge principle disappears, if books, artworks, historical facts, and civic debates--in a word, an intellectual forensic--vacate the scene, then the knowledge young people acquire later on never penetrates to their hearts. The forensic retreats into ever smaller cells, where nerds and bookworms nurture their loves cut off from the world.
"Democracy doesn't prosper that way. If tradition survives only in the classroom, limping along in watered-down lessons, if knowledge doesn't animate the young when they're with each other and by themselves, it won't inform their thought and behavior when they're old. The latest social and leisure dispositions of the young are killing the culture, and when they turn 40 years old and realize what they failed to learn in their younger days, it will be too late....
"Fewer books are checked out of libraries and more videos. More kids go to the mall and fewer to the museum. Lunchroom conversations never drift into ideology, but Web photos pass nonstop from handheld to handheld. If parents and teachers and reporters don't see it now, they're blind.
"If they don't respond, they're unconscionable....Adults everywhere need to align against youth ignorance and apathy, and not fear the "old fogy" tag and recoil from the smirks of the young. The moral poles need to reverse, with the young no longer setting the pace for right conduct and cool thinking. Let's tell the truth. The Dumbest Generation will cease being dumb only when it regards adolescence as an inferior realm of petty strivings and adulthood as a realm of civic, historical, and cultural awareness that puts them in touch with the perennial ideas and struggles. The youth of America occupy a point in history like every other generation did and will, and their time will end. But the effects of their habits will outlast them, and if things do not change they will be remembered as the fortunate ones who were unworthy of the privileges they inherited. They may even be recalled as the generation that lost that great American heritage, forever."
From The Dumbest Generation by Mark Bauerlein, pp. 233-236.
Sunday, October 17, 2010
In actuality, the "homeless man" is an actor and puppeteer who filmed the video with a filmmaker friend to raise awareness and money for homeless people. You can find an interview with the two men on the CNN website that gives the inside scoop. It's a great little video and it's easy to see why it's gone viral.
Friday, October 15, 2010
Thursday, October 14, 2010
South Park pokes fun at everything, but they really don't enjoy most celebrities, particularly those who become famous for doing nothing.
Since I was about five years old I had wanted to act and be in movies. That had always been my dream. That was still my dream in college and still remains today. However, during my senior year in college I felt that I wanted to be a foreign missionary. I seemed suited for the work. I knew that the life wouldn't be easy, but because of my skills, talents, and personality I knew I would adapt to it and would adapt well. But, deep in my heart of hearts I knew God didn't want me to do that. I begged with him. I pleaded with him. I had an application to teach with an organization in China for two years that was filled out, but I hadn't sent in the mail. I don't know why, but the message I kept getting over and over was: "No. I want you here, Tom. Not there." It didn't make any sense to me and even now at times it still doesn't make sense. So, I never sent that application out and, as of yet, I've never become a full time foreign missionary. Instead, I've remained in the states and have ministered to the people around me in the best ways that I can.
I mention this because a little over a year ago someone sent me a link to the following video.
I cried when I watched it for the first time. It brought back a flood of memories and feelings from my own life. I had meant to post it right away, but then my dad died unexpectedly. I had never forgotten about the video and now seems as good a time as any. Hopefully, when you watch it, it will spur you into some action of your own. I know personally that not all of us are called to be foreign ambassadors for Christ. However, some of us are and we just need that extra little nudge.
"Knowledge breeds contention, then, but that's how a pluralistic, democratic society works through rival interests and clashing ideologies. Disagreements run deep, and messy pursuits and cravings for power cloud the ideas and values in conflict. But the battles that ensue solicit the intelligence and conviction and rightness of the adversaries, and they collide armed with the ammunition of ideas and phrases, works of art and lessons in philosophy and religion, episodes from history and literature."
From The Dumbest Generation by Mark Baurlein, pp. 217-218.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Sunday, October 10, 2010
Friday, October 08, 2010
I bring this all up because last night I saw an UFO for the first time in my life. I was on my way to Highland, IL for pick-up rehearsal for HARVEY. I had just turned on Hwy 140 when I saw this bright light.
I had to get back on my way to Highland, so I got back in the car and starting driving. By the time I got to Highland, I could see about five or six of these objects as well as the two jets. The jets had moved and gotten smaller in appearance, but they were the only objects to have done so. Also, I'm not sure if it was because of the quickly approaching nightfall and the lack of sunlight, but all of the white objects now appeared red. I got to the theatre for rehearsal soon thereafter and didn't see the objects again. And that is my experience seeing an UFO for the first time.
Thursday, October 07, 2010
Work is scarce and Oscar’s dad has a tough time at it first. Meanwhile, Oscar is working on improving his math grades at school. While his aunt and cousin go about their tutoring and speech lessons to wealthier families, Oscar stays at home. One day he meets an older man named Mr. Applegate. Mr. Applegate used to be a mathematics professor at Princeton, but his theories about Einstein and time travel were too advanced for the time. He lost his job and now travels around from place to place looking for work. Mr. Applegate helps Oscar with his math and introduces him to great literature. Mr. Applegate eventually gets hired at the local bank as a night watchman. Weeks before Christmas the bank reveals an impressive lobby display of trains, all of which used to belong to Oscar and his father. Mr. Applegate lets Oscar in to watch every night, showing him how to turn the alarm back on when he comes in. One night, Oscar forgets and two criminals show up to rob the bank. One of them doesn’t want any witnesses and tries to shoot Oscar. Mr. Applegate calls out for Oscar to jump and jump he does, becoming small enough to board one of the trains on the lobby display.
However, things grow more mysterious when Oscar discovers that he actually is traveling on a real train in real time from Chicago to Los Angeles. He needs to get back home and stop the robbers, but he’s not sure how. His journey takes him not only from part of the country to the other, but from one time to another, too.
ON THE BLUE COMET is a very creative and imaginative story. The story is basically a piece of historical fiction with some sci-fi and fantasy elements tied in. The settings of the story are grounded in reality. Many of the events that take place are historical, the places are real, and the famous people Oscar meets are people he very well could have met in those situations. I liked it how Ronald Reagan is never referred to beyond his nickname of “Dutch” or that Alfred Hitchcock is only known to Oscar as Mr. H. The famous people he meets doesn’t stop there because later he meets the Kennedys, J.P. Morgan, Nelson Rockefeller, Henry Mellon, Charles Merrill, and Edmund Lynch but they are all referred to by their real names.
The book is illustrated by Russian artist Bagram Ibatoulline. Until recently, I had never heard of the man, but not long ago I read Kate DiCamillo’s children’s Christmas story, GREAT JOY and Ibatoulline drew the illustrations for that book. His pictures for ON THE BLUE COMET are quite literally astounding. They are like looking at actual paintings from a different era. These pictures go along way in helping to further set the mood, tone, and settings of the story. I also liked the occasional use of the newspaper articles and hand-written letters in the book. They help augment the visual appeal of the text.
I very much enjoyed reading ON THE BLUE COMET. It’s a story that older elementary kids and early middle-school students who have an interest in time travel, history, or trains will enjoy and if someone likes all three they are sure to love it.
Performances are this Friday, October 8th and this Saturday, October 9th at 7:30pm at the Elementary Auditorium, 1800 Lindenthal Ave., Highland, IL.
You can buy tickets at the door or reserve them by calling 618-654-7748. Ticket prices are $8 for adults, $7 for seniors, and $6 for children.
Come on out and see the show. It's a night you will enjoy and a performance you won't regret seeing.
According to Sultan, "Terfer says most of his family lives out of town, so he and his wife created an account for their 7-year-old son a year ago as a way for him to keep in touch with relatives. They post pictures of the kids' special events, and grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins can comment.
"It's almost like getting a letter from grandma and grandpa all the time, " he explained. It was too cumbersome to e-mail photos with attachments and not an interactive experience for the children....
"It works great for us," he said because it gives his children a way to relate to far-flung extended family and develop a relationship with them."
My reaction to all of this is instead of making a Facebook page for your six-year-old (the age of the boy at the time they created the account), why not sit down with him and write a letter with him to the grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins? Why not have the kid draw a picture showing something he's done to send to grandpa & grandma? Why not actually print off a few of those digital photos for the aunts & uncles so they can frame them? And if everyone wants to keep in touch, why not call them up on the telephone once a month? These things would take just as long as it does to do things "safely" on Facebook, are safer, would be appreciated much more by the relatives, and would be a lot better quality time spent with your child than being online with them.
In short, kids that young don't need to be on the Internet and they definitely don't need a Facebook.
You can read the entire essay here.
"The twenty-first-century teen, connected and multitasked, autonomous yet peer-mindful, marks no great leap forward in human intelligence, global thinking, or "netizen"-ship. Young users have learned a thousand new things, no doubt. They upload and download, surf and chat, post and design, but they haven't learned to analyze a complex text, store facts in their heads, comprehend a foreign policy decision, take lessons from history, or spell correctly. Never having recognized their responsibility to the past, they have opened a fissure in our civic foundations, and it shows in their halting passage into adulthood and citizenship. They leave school, but peer fixations continue and social habits stay the same. They join the workforce but only to realize that self-esteem lessons of home and class, as well as behaviors that made them popular, no longer apply, and it takes them years to adjust. They grab snatches of news and sometimes vote, but they regard the civic realm as another planet. And wherever they end up, whomever they marry, however high they land in their careers, most of them never acquire the intellectual tools they should have as teenagers and young adults....the knowledge and culture traits never catch up....
If young people don't read, they shut themselves out of public affairs. Without a knowledge formation in younger years, adults function as more or less partial citizens. Reading and knowledge have to enter their leisure lives, at their own initiative....
As the rising generation reaches middle age, it won't re-create the citizenship of its precursors, nor will it ranks produce a set of committed intellectuals ready to trade in ideas, steer public policy, and espouse social values on the basis of learning, eloquence, and a historical sense of human endeavor. This is one damaging consequence of the betrayal of the mentors that is often overlooked."
From pp. 201-203 of The Dumbest Generation by Mark Bauerlein
Wednesday, October 06, 2010
He writes, "The drive-thru lane that wraps around my Taco Bell is narrow with high curbs on either side.
If you filled it with water and put multi-ethnic singing midgets along its sides, you’d have the “It’s A Small World” ride at Disneyland."To see what happens read the whole thing here.
Tuesday, October 05, 2010
Monday, October 04, 2010
THE ART OF DREW STRUZAN isn’t a collection or treasury of all of Struzan’s movie posters. Instead, it is more akin to an author’s favorites or best-of collection. Struzan worked on the movie posters and promotional materials for around 200 different films; only 40 are collected here. In addition, there are a series of sketches, some in black and white others in color, as well as comments from Struzan about each of the movies. The book contains a forward by Frank Darabont that laments the fall of the movie poster artist and the rise of digital and PhotoShopped posters.
The book is a bit larger than an average book, but smaller than most art books. It’s about 9”X12” in size with a black cover. The writing is easy to read and a person can read the entire book within a few hours or less.
Besides the artwork, some of which hasn’t appeared before in the other two Struzan books available, what I liked most about the book was Darabont’s foreward and Struzan’s comments. Which is to say, I liked the entire book. Even though it’s a book about the work of a particular movie poster artist, it provides a glimpse into the business side of motion pictures and how that often conflicts with artistic side of the movie business.
This is an excellent book that any visual artist or movie fan will enjoy and is almost a must-have for either one.
Saturday, October 02, 2010
In the past few weeks Obama and his Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan seemed to have been making a push towards lengthening the number of hours students spend in school as well as the length of the school year. As Ablom points out, even if every school in the country does that, it will not help improve the quality of education in our high schools. In South Korea, everyone still cares about education, unlike here in the U.S. where education is now seen as a "right", not a privilege.
"What you don't hear is cheerleading squads. What you don't hear is spring break trips to Cancun. What you don't hear is classes to boost self-esteem, to celebrate an ethnic group, to explore the arts. What you don't hear is Glee or High School Musical or other coolness-driven entertainment fantasies about high school fashion, sex, talent, or jockdom.
How are our kids supposed to mimic these kids when this place doesn't look anything like the American school system?
...One of the questions I was asked by the media here was, "What do our children have to do to become global leaders?" That's not a common question in the United States--not to a visiting writer, anyhow.
...How are American kids going to copy that? We're not disciplined enough, we're not hungry enough, and, most important, either parents don't say it enough, or if they do, kids ignore them.
That also doesn't happen in Korea. Respect for elders is paramount in Korean society."
Read the whole essay here.
Friday, October 01, 2010
A year and a half ago I had the opportunity to meet Curtis in Chicago. He was very friendly and seemed to enjoy signing autographs and the attention he was getting, though he was prone to wandering (particularly his hands on ladies bottoms and bosoms). Apparently, he died in his sleep at home. Rest in peace, Mr. Curtis.
However, racism is not the reason James is no longer in the favor of public opinion. It's all about loyalty, something James has shown he has very little, and money, something James has shown he adores. He could have stayed with his home team, in the state he grew up in. That would have been the loyal thing to do. Cavalier fans have supported James when others abandoned him. He was Cleveland's favorite son. But, he got greedy and despite having a multi-million dollar offer from the Cavs, he jumped ship and went to Miami, a place who was able to offer him more money.
I would not have liked James if he stayed with the Cavs, but I would have respected him a lot more. But not only did he abandon his home team, he did it on a cable special in front of the whole world. It's a little too much of, et tu Brute? Now James claims that the reason his decision is so unpopular is because of racism. That's just plain stupid and makes things even worse. The only way James will ever gain favor again is if he actually starts living up to his hype and wins and wins big.