Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Media Consumed: October 2010

Books Read
*Stephen King's The Dark Tower: Battle of Jericho Hill by Peter David, et al
*The Zombie Survival Guide: Recorded Attacks by Max Brooks
+50,000,000 Pearls Fans Can't Be Wrong Stephan Pastis
My Friends Call Me Monster (Goosebumps HorrorLand #7) by R.L. Stine
+When Pigs Fly by Stephan Pastis
+You're Making That Face Again by Jerry Scott & Jim Borgman
*Purple Smurfs by Peyo
*Wonder Woman: The Hiketeia by Greg Rucka
Power of Plentiful Wisdom by Julia Shpak
Revenge of the Living Dummy (Goosebumps HorrorLand #1) by R.L. Stine
*Tenken by Yumiko Shirai
Marx Toys Sampler by Michelle L. Smith
The Second Glass of Absinthe by Michelle Black
Catalog #439: Burlesque Paraphernalia by DeMoulin Bros., intro Charles Schneider

* = denotes a graphic novel
+ = denotes a collection of comic strips

I read a lot of graphic novels and comic strip collection in October. "Pearls Before Swine" is, in my opinion, the best comic strip in publication today and I read two collections of "Pearls". I enjoyed the concluding saga of the prequel of Dark Tower comics, The Battle of Jericho Hill. It's not often that a story that you know ends in death, tragedy, and chaos can actually move you with the grim determination of the heroes and the flicker of hope at the end. Beyond that, my only other recommendation is Catalog #439. It's a reprint of an old catalog from the DeMoulin Brothers Company and it will be unlike anything else you ever read.

Movies Viewed for the First Time
The Social Network
The Wicksboro Incident
CSA: The Confederate States of America
Paranormal Activity 2
One Wish Too Many

Frozen was an interesting little suspense movie; you wouldn't think that a movie about three people stuck on a ski lift during a blizzard could be so engaging.

The Social Network is getting all kinds of Oscar buzz. It will win some awards and it is a good movie, but it's not a great movie. It is not the Citizen Kane of this generation. That movie was groundbreaking on so many levels. The Social Network is a rehash of a similar story, but with no originality of its own.

Extract is a movie by Mike Judge that has gotten a lot of negative criticism, but I enjoyed it. I found it to be a grown-up version of Office Space.

Airplane! is a movie I should have seen all the way through years ago, but I didn't. I'm glad I finally got around to seeing the whole thing, especially with the recent passing of Leslie Neilsen.

Lastly, Paranormal Activity 2 is a waste of celluoid. It's not scary at all, but I will grant I think it was better than the first movie.

Famous People Born on November 30th

Famous people born on November 30th:

Sir Phillip Sidney-1554
Jonathan Swift-1667
Sir Phillip Sidney-
Mark Twain-1835
Winston Churchill-1874
Robert Guillaume-1927
Dick Clark-1929
David Mamet-1947
Mandy Patinkin-1952
Billy Idol-1955
Ben Stiller-1965
Tom Varner-1976 (not the famous French Horn player)
Clay Aiken-1978
Elisha Cuthbert-1982
Kaley Cuoco-1985

Monday, November 29, 2010

Farewell, Leslie Nielsen

Actor Leslie Nielsen passed away today (Sunday, November 28, 2010). Nielsen was born Feb. 11, 1926 in Regina, Saskatchewan. I was first introduced to Nielsen when my Dad rented a VHS copy of Disney's SWAMP FOX and showed it to me. He was a great dramatic actor, but he was surely a great comic actor, too. Wouldn't you agree, Shirley?

The 3 Most Disturbing Words on TV

Mike Cosper wrote a very interesting essay about a week ago about the kind of messages that tv sends and how certain tv shows (not the ones you probably think) can subtly affect one's beliefs and values. Cosper writes:

"Good art tells the truth, and sometimes the truth is ugly. Sometimes people who suffer don’t receive a reward. Sometimes the truth involves sinful people doing sinful things, and in telling a story (even a redemptive story) it’s necessary to talk about that darkness. Sometimes what appears to be good for the heart and the family is actually an idol in disguise. At all points in the spectrum, individual tolerance for media should be constrained by a Scripture-soaked and gospel-informed conscience and by the input and feedback of our community in the church."

Read the whole essay here.

Thanks to Justin Taylor for pointing this essay out.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Training to Work for the TSA

--Jerry Holbert, Boston Herald, Thursday, November 18, 2010
Publish Post

Indiana Jones and "Where's Waldo"

Here's a "Pop Culture Shock Therapy" comic that answers the question of, "Where's Waldo?"

What I'm Reading Now

Here are the books that I'm reading right now (Sunday, November 28, 2010):

Friendship Quote

"No one can see the seeds of friendship but they grow into something beautiful."
--Winnie the Pooh

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Disney's 50 Animated Movies

Tangled is the 50th feature-length theatrically released animated film from Walt Disney Studios. Listed below is a list of all 50 films and the year they were released. At the bottom is a little viral video from Disney showing a clip from each of the movies. I know that the Walt Disney company hasn't exactly turned into the company that Walt wanted it to be, but the studio still creates some great animated movies.

1. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
2. Pinocchio (1940)
3. Fantasia (1940)
4. Dumbo (1941)
5. Bambi (1942)
6. Saludos Amigos (1942)
7. The Three Caballeros (1944)
8. Make Mine Music (1946)
9. Fun and Fancy Free (1947)
10. Melody Time (1948)
11. The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)
12. Cinderella (1950)
13. Alice in Wonderland (1951)
14. Peter Pan (1953)
15. Lady and the Tramp (1955)
16. Sleeping Beauty (1959)
17. One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961)
18. The Sword in the Stone (1963)
19. The Jungle Book (1967)
20. The Aristocats (1970)
21. Robin Hood (1973)
22. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977)
23. The Rescuers (1977)
24. The Fox and the Hound (1981)
25. The Black Cauldron (1985)
26. The Great Mouse Detective (1986)
27. Oliver & Company (1988)
28. The Little Mermaid (1989)
29. The Rescuers Down Under (1990)
30. Beauty and the Beast (1991)
31. Aladdin (1992)
32. The Lion King (1994)
33. Pocahontas (1995)
34. The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
35. Hercules (1997)
36. Mulan (1998)
37. Tarzan (1999)
38. Fantasia 2000 (1999)
39. Dinosaur (2000)
40. The Emperor's New Groove (2000)
41. Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)
42. Lilo & Stitch (2002)
43. Treasure Planet (2002)
44. Brother Bear (2003)
45. Home on the Range (2004)
46. Chicken Little (2005)
47. Meet the Robinsons (2007)
48. Bolt (2008)
49. The Princess and the Frog (2009)
50. Tangled (2010)

George Washington's Thanksgiving Proclamation

In honor of the holiday, here's a message from the first President of the U.S.A., George Washington:

General Thanksgiving

By the PRESIDENT of the United States Of America

WHEREAS it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favour; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me "to recommend to the people of the United States a DAY OF PUBLICK THANKSGIVING and PRAYER, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:"

NOW THEREFORE, I do recommend and assign THURSDAY, the TWENTY-SIXTH DAY of NOVEMBER next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed;-- for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish Constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted;-- for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge;-- and, in general, for all the great and various favours which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also, that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions;-- to enable us all, whether in publick or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us); and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

GIVEN under my hand, at the city of New-York, the third day of October, in the year of our Lord, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine.

--G. Washington

Friday, November 19, 2010

Green Lantern Trailer #1

Here's the first official trailer for the GREEN LANTERN movie coming out next summer (2011). Green Lantern is one of my favorite comic book heroes. There are things with the movie and character they probably won't get right, but I won't deny that the movie looks impressive. I saw the trailer for the first time in a movie theater tonight and a large portion of the audience actually started clapping at the end of the trailer. Warner Bros. and DC have a lot riding on this movie. We'll see if it turns out to be the tent pole that saves both companies.

Christianity and Pop Culture

I came across an interesting article today, written by Ted Turnau, about being a Christian and engagement with pop culture.

Here’s an outline of the main points:
  • Whatever else popular culture is, it is not trivial, because it is an expression of faith and worship.
  • Not all popular culture is equally meaningful.
  • Not every piece of popular culture is appropriate for engagement.
  • Popular culture works by creating imaginative landscapes for us to inhabit.
  • When thinking about a piece of popular culture it pays to know the tricks of the trade.
  • Every piece of popular culture is a complicated mixture of grace and idolatry.
  • Think carefully about how to undermine the idol and how the gospel applies to the piece of popular culture you’re sharing with friends.
  • Look for occasions where you can experience popular culture together with Christian and non-Christian friends and family.
You can read the whole article here. Thanks to Justin Taylor for pointing the article out.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Eustace Clarence Scrubb

"There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it....Eustace Clarence liked animals, especially beetles, if they were dead and pinned on a card. He liked books if they were books of information and had pictures of grain elevators or of fat foreign children doing exercises in model schools."
--C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Monday, November 15, 2010

Unable to Fail in School or Socialism in Education

As reported by The Washington Post, students at West Potomac High School in Alexandria, VA will no longer be able to receive an "F" and fail their class. Instead, they will receive an "I" and have an opportunity to receive a "regular" letter grade before the end of the year. According to the article, "the change in educational philosophy is intended to encourage students to continue working toward mastery of material rather than accepting a failing grade and moving on."

As many of the teachers at the school have pointed out, the new policy just provides an out for students not to do the work when they are supposed to. One English teacher reported that during the first quarter half of the students in her classes received an "I". I know from personal experience in teaching at high schools that unless a student commits a crime, it's next to impossible to remove them from school. I also know that if a teacher is doing their job, students actually have to work to fail. I had some students who failed a class, but they really worked at it--they never turned in any homework, they tried to sleep in class, they didn't study for tests, they didn't participate.

According to the Assistant Superintendent at the district, Peter Noonan, "If we really want students to know and do the work, why would we give them an F and move on?"

Why would you give a student an F and then move on? Well, because that's how life is Mr. Noonan. You usually don't get an opportunity to go back and fix the mistakes you do in life. This is just another example of a policy and philosophy that has no meaning in the real world. It's also another way to punish students who actually do the work when they are supposed to. It all sounds a bit socialist, perhaps even communist to me.


"Faith is embracing the uncertainties of life."
--pp. 89, In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day, Mark Batterson

Charlie Brown Vs. Franken Berry

Here's a great comic from a new comic strip I've discovered, "Pop Culture Shock Therapy". They are all funny and most are slightly twisted.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

New Graphic Cigarette Labels

This past Wednesday (Nov. 10, 2010) the F.D.A. released a series of 36 proposed images to appear on U.S. cigarette packages beginning on Oct. 22, 2012. According to the Washington Post by June of 2011, 9 of the images will be selected as the "winning images." About 20% of adults in the United States are smokers. Part of the goal of these new graphic warning labels is to drop that rate to 12% by the year 2020.

Even though the pictures on cigarette labels might turn some people off, particularly among some adults, I think that such a move here in the United States might backfire, especially among teenagers. There's going to be a whole new market out there where people are going to be trading these graphic cigarette packages like trading cards: 1 out 9, collect them all.

Personally, I'm not sure why the government keeps doing things like this. They pretend they want to get rid of "smoking," but in reality they really, really want to keep it around because tobacco is a huge cash crop for the federal treasury.

Anyway, for your viewing enjoyment, I've collected all 36 of the illustrations. Some of them don't have the written statements on them, but those are kind of superfluous when you've got pictures of dead people on morgue slabs.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Cat Research

Yahoo! has an article from the AFP about a group of scientists who have discovered exactly how cats "drink" milk. The research is going to be published in the Nov. 12, 2010 issue of Science (a scientific journal). After reading the whole article at Yahoo!, I'm left with a few questions.

First of all, I'm curious as to how much money the study cost. Often these studies go on for years and cost millions of dollars. Secondly, how much funding of the study came from government grants. Lastly, how exactly do researchers intend to apply this new knowledge they've discovered.

I understand that many products and inventions come from observing nature. I get that. I realize and understand that careful observations of the most mundane things can lead to great leaps in technology. I also can relate to the thrill of discovery that scientists and researchers must feel when observing something completely new for the first time.

However, we are in perilous times. Our governments at all levels are in major financial trouble. The federal government this month alone posted a deficit of over $140 BILLION for the month of October 2010. Research money either comes from corporations or the government, and very, very rarely a private citizen or group of citizens. I think the private citizen element is out of the question in the "how does a cat lap milk" research. That leaves a corporation or the government. If the researchers actually had an intention for their research, beyond the research itself, then some of the money might have come from a corporation. However, from the information contained in the article it seems that the researchers did the research just for the sake of doing the research. Which means the federal government probably offered up the funds.

Frivolous studies like this are one of the reasons people are so frustrated, upset, and angry at the government. People see millions of dollars spent to examine how a cat drinks milk while their uncle or brother just lost their job.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The Return of Conan

Last night, Conan O'Brien returned to television. Here's the opening sequence to the first episode of his new show on TBS.

I've got to say, it's nice see Conan back on tv. He has a style all of his own. A lot of people over 30 just don't get his humor. It can be a little darker and more bizarre than what you'll usually find with a talk show host, but it works. Here's hoping NBC will have to eat crow.


I have a confession to make: I'm semi-addicted to the current season of DANCING WITH THE STARS. Until a couple months ago, I had never seen an episode of the show. However, one of the contestants this season is Kurt Warner. Warner was one of my Dad's favorite football players of all time and I know if he was still alive, he would be watching the show because of Warner. Warner's retired from football and hasn't lived in St. Louis for years, but there are a lot of people in and around the St. Louis area who still remember him for the classy athlete he is.

Anyway, so I've seen four episodes this season and there are some things I noticed very quickly. First of all, the judges have their favorites. This was evident from the very beginning. They probably won't ever admit it, but they do. It's obvious in their comments and how they relate with the contestants.

I'm not sure how other seasons have been, but this season had two contestants who had a huge advantage over the other contestants: Brandy and Jennifer Grey. Brandy is a huge musical act with a major background not only in singing, but dancing. As for Grey, one her biggest claims to fame (after being the daughter of legendary character actor Joel Grey) is that she was the lead female in the movie Dirty Dancing. I know the dancing in that movie wasn't quite the same thing and Grey has had some physical ailments that have hindered her physicality in recent years. However, unlike a lot of the contestants on the show, she's not a dancing novice.

I'm not trying to be flippant because I know Grey was in a major car accident a few years ago and also had thyroid cancer. However, she seems to be a major whiner. She's always complaining about some body part or other hurting or about how hard it is for a woman her age to be competing. I think a lot of it is just a show for the cameras for sympathy. I've never seen her wince once during the actual competition. Not only that, but she is clearly the judges favorite. There have been a couple of times where she made some error (I'm not a dancer, so if you make an error and I catch it, you know it's big), but the judges have glossed over it and given her a 9 or 10. She also is really good at putting on a big emotional display, usually accompanied with tears, for the judges after dancing.

Jennifer Grey is the woman the judges want to win. Just think of the headlines: DIRTY DANCING STAR WINS DANCING WITH THE STARS. Personally, the consistent whining I've heard from her has really turned me off and I hope she gets voted out off before the finale.

Monday, November 08, 2010

The One Letter Win

Ken Jennings has a great post about Caitlin Burke, the woman who won a Caribbean cruise Friday on Wheel of Fortune with only an apostrophe and one letter on the board. It's a great explanation. Hopefully, it'll help put to rest the "controversy" surrounding Burke's win.