Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Children's Book Recommendation

From the illustrator of The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales and The True Story of the Three Little Pigs comes this humorous little book about a monkey, a jackass, and a mouse delivering a story about the power of books.

I can't ever recall a time in which I read a story about the power and permanence of books that starred a jackass as one of the main characters.

Older elementary kids and younger middle school boys will love this book, but if I had a younger child, I'd think I'd let her read it, too, even if there is a jackass in the story.

Sarcasm and Christianity

I worked at a Christian summer camp for several summers. During the majority of those summers during the staff training it was pounded into our heads over and over and over that, "sarcasm has no place at camp." I understood why the trainers emphasized that, but it didn't quite seem right to me. Sarcasm is overused in our culture, but that doesn't mean all sarcasm is evil. I couldn't express these thoughts very well at the time, but I recently finished reading a book that has done it better than I could have. The book is Word Pictures by Brian Godawa. Here's part of what he says about Christianity and sarcasm.
"Some Christians feel that sarcasm or satire is harsh and unloving--not befitting a Christlike treatment of people. And a cursory look at American culture confirms that concern to a degree....It turns out that an examination of the Bible yields a rather startling revelation: God uses sarcasm and mockery as an important tool of truth-telling.

God is often sarcastic in humor. And particularly in relation to sin....

Sarcasm is not below God's character, and neither is it below his people's character. The same laughing derision that God himself employs toward the wicked is also played out dramatically through God's appointed mockers--I mean messengers.....

Of course, these biblical examples do not justify all sarcasm. We many not receive actual visions or direct words from God like they did, but we can draw the principle that satire may be appropriate when applied to public sins or evil done by men who openly defy God's law, but not necessarily to the private sins of individuals with whom we have personal relationships....

The danger of using sarcasm notwithstanding, it is certainly one of the most potent tools to make a moral point and expose sin, lies, and hypocrisy with an edge of humor. The essence of comedy is precisely that we laugh at our faults and frailties, and yes, even at our sins, which elevates the excellent and the virtuous as superior. Sarcasm reinforces the values we believe in by showing the absurdity of those values that we don't. God is the original satirist. And he has built his comedy on the foundation of his apostles and prophets."

Toys Make Kids Fat

Last week I came across an article that described a lawsuit the "Center for Science in the Public Interest" was threatening to file against McDonalds. Basically, according to the organization McDonald's was responsible for making thousands of children obese because of Happy Meal toys. Toys make kids fat. That was a new one to me. Food and no exercise makes kids fat.

I realize that this lawsuit is just a big publicity campaign for the "Center for Science in the Public Interest". Still, you know if they are threatening a lawsuit but never follow-through, someone somewhere will.

Also, where did these people come up with their name? "Center for Science in the Public Interest"? There is no science involved in their lawsuit and suing McDonald's because you believe toys make kids fat is definitely not in the public interest. If anything, they should be thanking McDonald's because that little toy actually encourages a child's imagination and gets them to play and kids using their imaginations and playing are much better than kids sitting around watching tv 12 hours a day.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Stephan Pastis Strikes Again

"Pearls Before Swine" is the best comic being written right now, hands down. Stephan Pastis has a nice posting about a strip that his editor wanted changed because he thought the word "banana" was offensive. You can read the post here. Also, if PEARLS BEFORE SWINE doesn't appear in your local newspapers as part of the comics offerings, you should write to the paper's editor requesting and then demanding that it do so.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Thin-Skinned President

When I first starting preparing to enter acting as more than just a hobby, one of the things I kept hearing over and over and over was that performers have to have a thick skin. Rejection is a constant in the business and for every job someone says yes to you, you'll get at least 100 nos. People will constantly be judging and evaluating you and if you want to be successful, you can't take everything that's said personally. You have to have discernment and grow some "rhino-skin".

Though there are differences, the same advice goes for politicians. Everything you say or do will be examined, judged, and critiqued and you have to have discernment and some rhino-skin. That doesn't mean you don't listen to the people who elected you, but it does mean that you can't take every little thing personally.

Apparently President Obama doesn't have much discernment nor a very tough skin. Yesterday he fired the commanding general of U.S. operations in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, for some comments he and some of his staff made in an impromptu interview with a Rolling Stone reporter. Neither McChrystal nor his staff disrespected the President, but they were rather critical of Vice President Joe Biden and other members of Obama's administration. Some media sources have been quoted as saying that McChrystal's "resignation" came about because of his insubordination to the President which is utterly absurd. Insubordination involves a willful disobedience to a direct order and though it is frowned upon and usually punished, there are times when insubordination is called for (e.g. raping women that you are supposed to be protecting). McChrystal's comments were NOT insubordination. Perhaps they were foolish and misguided, but that's about it.

There have been comparisons to Obama's firing of McChrystal to that of Lincoln removing Gen. George McClellan of his command during the Civil War and Truman's dismissal of Gen. Douglas MacArthur during the Korean War (the St. Louis Post-Dispatch is one such newspaper that made the comparison). Such comparisons are invalid and show a willful ignorance of history. Lincoln gave McClellan every opportunity to win the Civil War early and fast, but McClellan was indecisive and lost numerous battles and a high cost and even his few victories came with large numbers of casualties over an extended period of time. McClellan wasn't a very good war-time general. Truman's dismissal of MacArthur was for the opposite reason. The U.S. was fighting in Korea as part of a U.N. conflict. Under MacArthur's guidance, the early part of the war went well. However, China started flooding North Korea with troops and equipment and the early victories were eradicated. MacArthur wanted to make a full fledged invasion into North Korea and if needed into China. Truman was against it because it would mean the U.S. fighting alone and Truman didn't want to upset those countries who were allied with us. MacArthur, however, was convinced a massive invasion was needed and continued making plans not only to invade the northern part of Korea, but even into China. Truman fired MacArthur for that, something that is closer to insubordination than McChrystal's criticizing politicians and poking fun at Vice President Biden. (By the way, MacArthur was probably right, in my opinion).

President Obama's firing of McChrystal is more akin to a spoiled teenager having his parents bail him out for breaking a school rule than that of a Commander-in-Chief leading a country's military. It was an action that was far more dictatorial than Presidential.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Ken Jennings Speaks Out

Ken Jennings, the guy who holds the record for most consecutive wins on JEOPARDY! and has won the most money ever on game shows, has written an interesting article for THE NEW YORK DAILY NEWS about reality tv and the dumbing down of America. Dumb tv shows might not a dumb nation make.

Book Thoughts

I picked HIGH SOFT LISP up to read because of the cover and the title. The woman on the front attracts the eye, but the color scheme plays with the mind on some sort of psychological level. The blurb on the back also was intriguing.

It's by far, the most bizarre book I've read this year. If you like under ground or alternative comics, you might enjoy it. Teenage boys might get a kick out of it, too because there are moments in this TPB that verge on soft-core porn. Other than that, I'd just stay away. Your life will not be enriched if you do read it and it won't be any less lively if you don't.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Come On, America! Are You Really That Dumb?!

- Almost 60% of Americans know the names of the original THREE STOOGES, but just 17% are able to name three former or current U.S. Supreme Court justices.
- 8 out of every 10 e-mails that are sent are spam.
- 14% of Americans between 18-24 can't find Iraq on a map, %18 can't locate
Afghanistan, and %10 can't locate the U.S. on a blank world map!
- 70% of Americans cannot identify the source of the phrase "life, liberty, and the
pursuit of happiness."
- Most political speeches are geared to the comprehension level of an average 7th grader. 50 years ago political speeches were, on average, spoken to people who had graduated high school.
- "karoshi" is a Japanese phenomenon of being worked to death, but even the Japanese take more vacation time than Americans.

Taken from the book 1,001 Facts That Will Scare the S#*T Out of You by Cary McNeal

Friday, June 18, 2010


THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA are my favorite books of all time. I enjoyed the first two movie adaptations, though I was a little disappointed by PRINCE CASPIAN (too much spirituality and fun fantasy were cut). Part of the reason for the rather lackluster reception was because Disney was the distributor and Disney is notorious for watering down everything. Fox is distributing the films now and the teaser trailer for VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER is now available. I have to say it looks gorgeous and I'm glad to see that the monopods did make the final cut. No images of a dragon, though, so I'm not sure if one of the most spiritually significant parts of the novel is in the movie adaptation. Nevertheless, I'm very exciting to see this movie.

Charlie Brown in a Rubes Cartoon

I love Charlie Brown. In many ways, I'm a living version of the character. Below is a comic I came across in the book The Wild and Twisted World of Rubes by Leigh Rubin. I found it to be hilarious.

Some Fun Facts

-Lightning strikes the Earth more than 5,000 times every minute.
-Once lightning enters a building, it may run through the electrical system, phone lines, plumbing, tv and radio antennas, and cables. It is also possible for lightning to pass through metal in concrete walls or flooring.
-Male desert rats can copulate up to 150 times in an afternoon.
-A tiger shark's bit is powerful enough to slice through a hard turtle shell.
-Sharks find the colors yellow and orange particularly irritating.
-A giraffe has 12-inch hooves and legs that can kick in all four directions; giraffe kicks have been known to decapitate lions.
-Swans have been known to capsize boats, attack humans on jet skis, and strangle dogs to death.
-A polar bear can rip the head off a human with one swipe of its paw.
-Pigs can become alcoholic.

These facts are taken from the book 1,000 Facts That Will Scare the S#*t Out of You by Cary McNeal.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Sea Turtle Takes Video From Sea

This video has just gone viral on YouTube. A military person lost his camera around Aruba about a year ago before it washed up in Key West, Florida. Somewhere between that time a sea turtle got a hold of it and turned it on. There's mostly just a lot of movement in and out of the water with a few shots of the turtle here and there, but the picture quality is gorgeous. It's just neat that the turtle turned the camera on, even if accidentally. Of course, those reptiles aren't that dumb. For instance, I worked with a tortoise that was rather adept at moving barricades out of the way that were keeping him from "expanding his horizons".

Thursday, June 10, 2010

What I'm Reading Right Now (June 10, 2010)

Below are a list of books I'm reading at the moment.

Moments With the Savior by Ken Gire
Word Pictures by Brian Godawa
1,001 Facts That Will Scare the S#*t Out of You by Cary McNeal
Hot For Words by Marina Orlova
101 Things I Learned in Film School
by Neil Landau & Matthew Frederick
The Complete Peanuts, 1975-1976 Vol. 13 by Charles Schulz
A Barnstormer in Oz
by Phillip Jose Farmer

World Cup Star Wars Commercial

I like this commercial because it's a parody of STAR WARS. However, I think the funniest thing about it is that they have to have people like Snoop Dog and Jay Baruchel in it because American audiences have no clue who the football players in the commercial are.

May 2010: Media Consumed

Books Read
*Signature Wound: Rocking TBI G.B. Trudeau
*Jeremy & Dad Jerry Scott & Jim Bergman
*Star Trek: Spock Reflections Scott & David Tipton
Tassel-Free Living for Grads Tim Wesmann
The Talisman Stephen King & Peter Straub
*50% Wool 50% Asinine Scott Hillburn

The two books that I recommend reading from the ones I read in May 2010 are The Talisman and 50% Wool 50% Asinine. The Talisman is a novel by Stephen King and Peter Straub written in the mid-1980s. I'm a pretty big fan of King and usually enjoy whatever of his I read. I was enchanted by The Talisman. I thought most of the story was great. The reason I say most of the story is because I felt that the story was great until the moment when the lead character in the story reaches the Black Hotel where the Talisman, an object he has been searching for during the whole story, is kept. Once he gets to the Black Hotel, the story unraveled. In short, the concluding chapters of the story just don't seem to fit with the rest of the story. Conclusions can be difficult, but I expect better from King. Still, even a let down of an ending can't ruin the "odyssey tale" woven before.

50% Wool 50% Asinine is the 2nd book of "The Argyle Sweater" comic strip collections. This book was hilarious. Comic strips are such a great way to get a dose of daily humor. You just have to read the right comic strips, because lets face it as much as I enjoy reading them, "Blondie", "Hi and Louis", and "Family Circus" probably aren't going to make you laugh as much as you'd like or need.

Movies Viewed for the First Time
April Fool's Day (1980's version)
Iron Man 2
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1925)
Robin Hood (2010)
Robin Hood: Men in Tights
Shrek Forever After
The Wizard of Oz (1910)
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1933)
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
Spies Like Us

Iron Man 2
was a great movie. Robin Hood is perhaps the best Robin Hood movie ever made; it tries to tell the origins of Robin Hood and actually tie it to real history. Prince of Persia is a good action-adventure mind candy flick. Lastly, I hadn't seen Spies Like Us since I was a kid. It's a hilarious movie. Ackroyd and Chase make a great comic duo.

April 2010: Media Consumed

Books Read
*The Wizard of Oz John Kane, adaptation
#Young Pillars Charles Schulz
Jane Austen Peter Leithart
#Math, Science, and Unix Underpants Bill Amend
#The Wild and Twisted World of Rubes
Leigh Rubin
#Ziggy Goes For Broke Tom Wilson
#Fox Trot Sundaes Bill Amend
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz L.Frank Baum
The Unlikely Disciple Kevin Roose
#The Twilight Zone: The Monsters Art Due On Maple Street Marke Kneece

* = denotes a play
# = denotes a book of comic strips, graphic novel, or TPB

Out of the books I read in April of this year, The Unlikely Disciple is the one that deserves a special mention. The author of the book was a student at Brown University who after meeting some students at Liberty University decided to spend a semester there and see firsthand just how great the "God divide" really is. Unlike a lot of books I've read that promise to be honest and unbiased, The Unlikely Disciple really is. It's an honest look at some parts of the Christian subculture by an outsider who really does his best to keep an open mind.

I read a lot of comic strip collections in April. Comic strips are great.

Movies Viewed For the First Time
Clash of the Titans (2010)
The Silo Project
Hot Tub Time Machine
Strange Invaders
Invaders from Mars (1986)
Earth Vs. the Spider

The remake of Clash of the Titans was basically crap. That remake had so much potential, but the filmmakers blew it.

The Silo Project is a documentary about a guy who records a folk-music album in an abandoned grain silo. It's directed by a close friend of mine and looks gorgeous, which is even more amazing considering he had no real budget.

Hot Tub Time Machine was a surprise that I really enjoyed. A time traveling movie hasn't been that fun since Back to the Future. I really enjoyed Kick-Ass, despite the whole "children committing violence" thing. Lastly, Chaplin wasn't as good as it could have been, but the acting was phenomenal and overall the movie was good.