Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

It's Halloween, the eve of All Saint's Day. Have a Happy Halloween and in the words of E.T., "Be good." :)

Friday, October 29, 2010

Daft Punk's "DeRezzed"

I can't deny it. I'm really excited to see this movie.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Scariest Creature of Them All

I agree with this strip. I can't think of a fictional creature that is more frightening.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Here's "The Argyle Sweater" comic strip from yesterday (Monday, October 25, 2010).

Most Influential Man in America?

I debated about mentioning this. However, the results of the survey are floating all over the Internet and I'm sure it'll be talked about on radio shows for days, weeks, and (where news is slow) in some cases months to come.

Today a website called 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 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.

Why Punctuation Matters

Even though I'm not teaching at the moment, I still do my best to use correct punctuation. The use of punctuation is one of the things that separates great writers from good writers. There is power in punctuation. I couldn't always get my English students to see that when I was teaching and it's even more difficult outside of a classroom. However, punctuation is important and it can be powerful.

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

Why Book Abridgements Are Bad Or Don't Talk Down to Kids

Here's a great illustration of why literary abridgements and adaptations usually aren't very good. It's also illustrates why we don't have to "dumb" down to kids. Speak to them at their level, but you don't need to "dumb" things down. Thanks to Jack Hager for posting this strip.

Media Consumed: September 2010

Books Read
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
Wall Street
Forbidden Planet
Resident Evil: Afterlife
Sullivan's Travels
Feast II
Kelly's Heroes

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

A Pearls Tribute to Charlie Brown

Here's a "Pearls Before Swine" that's a tribute to Charlie Brown. It's from May 4, 2008.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER--International Trailer

This December, THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER finally comes to theatres. I am SO looking forward to this movie. When the teaser trailer was released a couple months ago, I was worried that they had cut one of the most important parts of book. I'm not going to give anything away, but in this trailer you can see a dragon flying around a few times so methinks they have kept that key part of the story. The first four original books in The Chronicles of Narnia continue to become more and more complex. I like THE HORSE AND HIS BOY, but as the fifth tale in the cycle, it's my least favorite. THE MAGICIAN'S NEPHEW is an origins tale and my favorite book of them all is THE LAST BATTLE; I tend to like the concluding tales of sagas the most. I'm not sure why.

"Shine" by The David Crowder Band

The David Crowder Band has written and produced some powerful worship songs. Unlike many contemporary worship songs, Crowder's songs usually are musically intricate, consisting of more than just a chorus and a few words. They also are also usually built upon sound doctrine instead of just the syrupy pseudo-spirituality of many Christian-pop tunes. Thanks to Jack Hager for directing me to this video by posting it on his blog. It's all about hope and most of it's done using Lite Brite animation.

The Relentlessly, Delieberately Uninformed

I usually don't repost entire blog posts, but Seth Godin had an unusually good one yesterday. Godin posts lots of good stuff. I often retweet his posts. However, this post I found particularly noteworthy. You can read the whole post below. Also, you can read the post here.
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...

Pearls Before Swine and Popeye

Here's a "Pearls Before Swine" strip from Sunday, March 16, 2008 that alludes to Popeye. "Pearls Before Swine" and Popeye. I love it.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Final Thoughts About and From THE DUMBEST GENERATION

"The production of spirited citizens requires more than meditations by academics and strategies by activists, and it transpires not only in classrooms and among advocacy groups. Learning and disputation, books and ideas, must infiltrate leisure time, too, and they should spread well beyond the cerebral cliques. This is why leisure trends among the general population are so important. They log the status of knowledge principle, and when the focus on under-30-year-olds, they not only reveal today's fashions among the kids but also tomorrow's prospects for civic well-being....

"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.

Larry the Croc on JEOPARDY! the final strip

Below is the "Pearls Before Swine" strip from Sunday, October 17, 2010 that concludes the saga of Larry the Croc on Jeopardy! I think Larry has become the Charlie Brown of "Pearls Before Swine".

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Larry the Croc is a JEOPARDY! King?

Here is Saturday, Oct. 16, 2010 strip "Pearls Before Swine" strip in which Larry the Croc continues to amaze everyone with his mental prowess.

Kermit the Frog Under the Pressure

It's amazing what you'll come across on the Internet. I came across this video yesterday because I'm a sucker for the Muppets, particularly Kermit the Frog. The video appears to be a homeless man performing to earn a little money.

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

Today's "Pearls Before Swine"

Here's today's (Oct. 15, 2010) "Pearls Before Swine" strip. It continues the saga of Larry the Croc on Celebrity Jeopardy!

New BACK TO THE FUTURE commercial

Next week the cast of Back to the Future is reuniting on Spike TV at the 2010 Scream Awards. In honor of the event they've re-created the original tv commercial for the movie. Michael J. Fox, Nikes, and a DeLorean. What could be better?

Thursday, October 14, 2010


I don't get MTV's show Jersey Show. You can say "It's a Jersey thing," all you like but it still doesn't make sense. Why are we, as a society and culture, making a bunch of young adults who have the mental and emotional capacity of children with no morals into millionaires and celebrities? Apparently I'm not the only one that feels that way. Last night (Wed. 10/13/10) South Park didn't hold back any punches and took on the whole Jersey Shore and "Jersey" mentality. They particularly made fun of Snookie, who's real name is Nicole Polizzi. Below is how she was pictured throughout the episode.

South Park pokes fun at everything, but they really don't enjoy most celebrities, particularly those who become famous for doing nothing.

Tears of the Saints

When I was a senior in college, I wrestled with God. It wasn't the first time, nor would it be the last. Throughout my collegiate days I had been involved heavily in ministry groups. I went on three different mission trips, twice to Mexico and once to Chicago. I usually did at least one or two service projects a week. I collected food for the homeless and food pantries. I helped out at the city rescue mission. For three years, I spent several months preparing for a two hour program for inmates at the county jail.

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.


"Because the American tradition lies in the hands of the populace, it does not demand conformity, nor does it homogenize different cultural, political, and ethnic strains in U.S. history. In fact, the opposite happens. People read and study the same things, but their knowledge amplifies differences at the same time that it grants them a shared inheritance. The more people know, the more they argue. They quarrel over, precisely, what America is about, over who the heroes are and who the villains are....

"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.

The Continuing Saga of Larry the Croc on JEOPARDY!

Here's the strip from today's (Oct. 14, 2010) "Pearls Before Swine". I really hope this storyline turns into at least a two week run.

Larry the Croc and Alex Trebek: "Pearls Before Swine" and Jeopardy!

Here's yesterday's (Oct. 13, 2010) "Pearls Before Swine" strip where Larry the Croc meet Alex Trebek

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Did You Know 4.0 From xplane

A year ago I saw the following video for the first time. It's from a company called xplane which has an office located in St. Louis. The information contained within is fascinating. They have been releasing videos like this about once a year so there should be a new one coming out in a few months. What do you think?

The Crocs Go On JEOPARDY

I'm a huge fan of both the comic strip "Pearls Before Swine" and the game show Jeopardy! Yesterday the strip began a storyline where one of the Crocs, Larry, stars on the Celebrity edition of the show. Below is the strip. I'm curious to see how it all turns out.

What I'm Reading Right Now

Here are the books I'm reading right now (Tuesday, October 12, 2010):

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Happy 10 Day!

I just realized that today is 10/10/10. Happy 10 Day everyone! Ten is supposedly a perfect number. Maybe today will be the start of something good.

Friday, October 08, 2010

I Saw An UFO

People see UFOs more often than one might suspect. I've never doubted that. However, I don't believe in aliens. In my opinion, UFOs can either be explained, are all either some sort of government (whether the U.S. government or some other country) secret projects, are some sort of secret project by some private enterprise or business. I don't think someone who claims they've been abducted by aliens to be lying. Instead, they have probably had their mind tampered by some sort of drugs (either of their own doing or by someone else, perhaps willingly or perhaps unbeknownst to them) or some form of hypnosis. If they were really kidnapped and had experiments performed upon them, it wasn't by aliens but by the government or some private enterprise.

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.

It wasn't a star. It didn't look like an airplane. It wasn't a cloud. It wasn't a contrail. It kind of looked liked a falling star, except it never moved. It just sat there in the same place. I was so fascinated by this thing that when I got to the country road that I take to Highland, I pulled over to look at it some more and take a picture.

The object continued to just sit there. Then I saw what kind of looked like two jets coming from two different directions flying towards the object. They had a very short contrail following them that disappeared almost immediately, but instead of being white these contrails were red. The jets appeared to pass by the object, but then kept right on flying. Not long after I saw another object appear in the sky just like the first one.

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


I have never read a story by Rosemary Wells before, but when I saw the beautiful cover of ON THE BLUE COMET and read the cover, it was a book that I had to read. I mean it’s a time traveling story with trains! The story follows Oscar Ogilvie, an eleven-year-old boy living from 1931 Cairo, IL. The story actually begins a few years earlier. After the tragic death of his mother, Oscar and his father find refuge together in a Lionel toy train set that they build together. The set expands and soon takes up the Ogilvie’s basement. Oscar’s aunt think’s Oscar’s dad is insane and is wasting his money, but the father and son both know better. Then the stock market crashes in 1929 and everything changes. Oscar’s dad eventually loses his job working for John Deere. They have to sell the house and all the trains. Oscar moves in with his aunt and her daughter and his dad leaves for California to try to find a job with the John Deere plant out there.

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.

Last Weekend For HARVEY

This weekend is your final chance to see Hard Road Theatre's production of Harvey. It's a great show. They really don't right comedies like this anymore. Not only that, but you can see my (Tom Varner) award-winning-deserving performance as Elwood P. Dowd.

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.

Too Young For Facebook

This past Sunday Aisha Sultan, a reporter for St. Louis Post-Dispatch, had an interesting column in the new" Home & Away" section. The column was about young children who have Facebook accounts. In the column, Sultan quotes Doug Terfehr who says his family has found a safe and useful way to merge family and Facebook.

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.


"Few things are worse for adolescent minds than overblown appraisals of their merit. They rob them of constructive self-criticism and obscure the lessons of tradition. They steer their competitive instincts toward peer triumphs, no civic duty. They make them mistrust their guides, and interpret cynically both praise and censure. They set them up for failure...

"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

It's a Small World at the Taco Bell

Stephan Pastis, the animator and creator of "Pearls Before Swine" wrote a hilarious blog entry a couple weeks ago about his experience at a Taco Bell drive-thru.

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

From Ray Bradbury

"You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them."
--Ray Bradbury

Monday, October 04, 2010

Check This Out: Jurassic Park the Musical

Several days ago, a friend of mine sent me a link on Facebook that led me to the following videos. Basically, a group of college students in Lincoln, Nebraska got together in the Spring of 2009 and put together a musical in the backyard of a house. The show was JURASSIC PARK: THE MUSICAL and around 250 people attended. A video of the show was made and has now been posted on the Internet, as well as a short documentary about the experience. I'm doing what little I can to help the videos go viral. The show is hilarious. The show is brought to you in three parts followed by the documentary. Enjoy and pass the word along.

Jurassic Park the Musical Part 1 from Mark Hennings on Vimeo.

Jurassic Park the Musical Part 2 from Mark Hennings on Vimeo.

Jurassic Park the Musical Part 3 from Mark Hennings on Vimeo.

The Making of Jurassic Park the Musical from Mark Hennings on Vimeo.


E.T., the Indiana Jones movies, the Star Wars movies, the Back to the Future trilogy, the Goonies, Harry Potter, and Frank Darabont’s Stephen King adaptations are all movies that Drew Struzan created all the promotional art. From the late 1970’s until his retirement at the end of 2008, Struzan was THE movie poster artist. His artwork came to define some of the movies he helped promote.

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

Mitch Albom On Obama & South Korean Education

A few weeks ago, Mitch Albom had a very interesting essay in the Detroit Free Press about some of President Obama's comments on education in the United States as compared to that in South Korea. Albom became famous for a little book he wrote called Tuesdays With Morrie . That was a good book, but then Albom went to write a series of other books, all bestsellers, that were mushy, pseudo-spiritual tripe. So, I'm not really a big fan of Albom. However, I concur with most of his sentiments (everything until the sappy end) in the essay.

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.

R.I.P. Stephen J. Cannell

I just found out that Stephen J. Cannell died a couple of days ago from complications from melanoma (skin cancer). A lot of people might not know who Cannell is, but at one time he was one of the most powerful tv executives around. He created two of my favorite tv shows that I watched as a kid: The Greatest American Hero and The A-Team. He was the creator of a lot of other shows too, including The Rockford Files, Hunter, Hardcastle and McCormick, Wiseguy, The Commish, and Renegade. He was a producer who was very hands on with his projects: he wrote many of the shows he produced, he directed a lot of them, and some of them he even acted in.

Friday, October 01, 2010

R.I.P. Tony Curtis

Actor Tony Curtis died yesterday (Thurs. Sept. 30, 2010). Curtis acted in a lot of movies, but the two I've seen I remember him in the most are Some Like It Hot and Spartacus. From what I've seen in the pictures, Curtis was a talented actor who never quite got his due.

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.

LeBron James Says Racism Is Now Why He Is Disliked

LeBron James says that racism is a "factor" in why he is now considered one of the most disliked athletes in professional sports. I've never been a fan of James; I think he's highly overrated and one of the most egotistical athletes ever to play basketball and I don't think he has enough talent to live up to his hype. However, let's give credit where credit is due. In his special "The Decision" broadcast on ESPN this past summer, James donated all of his proceeds from the event to the Boys and Girls Club of America. James is also a talented athlete. He's a good basketball player who has leadership potential.

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.