Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Media Consumed: March 2011

Books Read
Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?     By: Michael Benson
Suddenly In the Depths of the Forest     By:  Amos Oz
*+Something Under the Bed Is Drooling     By: Bill Watterson
The Adventures of Sir Gwain the True     By:  Gerald Morris
+The Dark Tower-The Gunslinger: The Journey Begins     By: Robin Furth, et al.
American Lightning     By:  Howard Blum
5 Very Good Reasons to Punch a Dolphin in the Mouth     By: The Oatmeal
+Asterios Polyp     By:  David Mazzucchelli
+The Walking Dead, Vol. 1: Days Gone By     By:  Robert Kirkman, Tom Moore, et al.
Just the Right Size     By:  Nicola Davis, et al.
I Will Make of Thee a Great Nation     By:  Val Greenwood
+The Walking Dead, Vol. 2: Miles Behind Us     By:  Robert Kirkman, Tom Moore, et al.
Danse Macabre     By:  Stephen King
Drive! Zits Sketchbook #14     By:  Jerry Scott & Jim Borgman

* = denotes a previously read worl
+ = denotes a graphic novel, TPB, or collection of comic strips

The two books I enjoyed reading most in March were both by Stephen King.  The Dark Tower-The Gunslinger: The Journey Begins is the next chapter in the series of graphic novels/TPBs being published that are adapted Stephen King's Dark Tower saga into an illustrated form. I really need to read the regular books and I intend to, but until then, I'll keep whetting my appetite with this series of graphic novels.

The other book I enjoyed most was King's Danse Macabre. It's basically a treatise on horror fiction in literature and film that King adapted from a series of lectures he delivered (in the 1970s I believe). King is just a great writer in general, but I've found that the stuff I enjoy most from him is his non-fiction and his non-horror writings. Danse Macabre is all about horror, but it's a massive tome of non-fiction. I learned a lot about the genre. I know a lot of it can by crap, but now I feel I have a more thorough sharper stick to help me wade through the crap and fight off the piranhas.

Other recommendations from this month are The Walking Dead, Vol. 1: Days Gone By and 5 Very Good Reasons to Punch a Dolphin in the Mouth.  I picked up Days Gone By after having previously watched the entire first season (6 episodes) of the tv show on AMC as it aired. Even though the show can be incredibly gory, the show was some amazing tv because it was a show about the characters and their journey to survive and not just about zombies and some cliche plot. The first couple episodes of the tv show seem to have used this first graphic novel in the series as a storyboard.  As for 5 Very Good Reasons to Punch a Dolphin in the Mouth, it's a book that's kind of gross, bizarre, outlandish, and naughty. But if you can scavenge through some of the garbage you'll find some amazing gems: such as some of the best grammar instruction guides I've ever seen or the reason you need to know more about Nikola Tesla.

Movies Watched
The Lost World: Jurassic Park
Piranha (1980)
The Forbidden Kingdom
Touching Home
Panic In Year Zero
Battle Los Angeles
Piranha 3-D
Romancing the Stone
The Maze
The Last Lovecraft
Titanic II
The Expendables
Flash Gordon

Roger Corman's original Piranha was a joy to watch. Low budget and all, it's vastly superior to the 2010 remake.

Touching Home is a great little semi-autobiographical movie made by two twin brothers. It stars Ed Harris in one of the finer performances of his career.

Rango is a bizarre cartoon. It's a modern Western told with mostly animated lizards.

Battle Los Angeles was a thoroughly enjoyable, mind-candy action movie.

The Maze is a low-budget horror flick that I enjoyed because of the corn mazes my family and I used to visit.

Paul was a major disappointment.

The Last Lovecraft is another low-budget picture. It's an action comedy that is hilarious and is even more enjoyable if you know anything about H.P. Lovecraft.

A Word About THE MUPPETS Movie

I believe I've mentioned this before and I'm sure I'll mention it again at some point, but I was partially "raised" by The Muppets. What I mean by that is that I watched a lot of Muppets growing up: SESAME STREET (it used to actually be good tv), THE MUPPET SHOW, FRAGGLE ROCK, and THE STORYTELLER. All those shows had Muppets (and in most cases Jim Henson had a hand in designing them in some way). I think THE MUPPET SHOW was my favorite. It was this sweet show with a huge heart that never spoke down to kids. The humor of THE MUPPET SHOW was classic humor: it's the type of stuff they used to do on vaudeville, radio, and in the golden age of television. Sometimes the humor was subtle, sometimes it was corny, but it was humor that people from every age and walk of life could enjoy. You don't see that very much anymore. Jokes are beaten to the point they are dead and the humor isn't even humor anymore. In short, THE MUPPET SHOW was full of wit and in our current cultural landscape, wit has been forgotten.

THE MUPPETS is a movie all about bringing back wit in this forgotten age. It's about friends, family, and finding your place in the world. It's a movie that dares to threaten the void that is our cultural landscape and shout, "Hey, you think you're funny? You're not funny. This is funny!" At the same time, there is a thread of irony that runs through the film. All through the movie Kermit and the gang question themselves that, perhaps, they really aren't relevant anymore. As the villain of the film proudly boasts, the world has moved on since the Muppets last were popular (the last Muppet movie was MUPPETS IN SPACE released in the summer of 1999-I can tell you where I was when I saw it and even give you the location of the theatre). The world's a much more dark, sinister, and dangerous place. No planes had flown into skyscrapers when a Muppet movie last played in movie theatres. In 1999, unemployment in the U.S. hovered around 4%, the lowest it had been in 30 years and the longest war in U.S. history was still that conflict in Vietnam (Afghanistan, where's that?).

Yet, though this is a darker and more dangerous world, there still is goodness. The Muppets are good, they are joyful, and they are hopeful. We can all do with a lot more of that in our lives.

An Automobile Milestone

You don't get to see this happen very often in life.

I've really been places.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


At the end of the 19th Century and the beginning of the 20th Century, three brothers named DeMoulin joined together to form the DeMoulin Brothers Company. The company they started is still in existence today and is the leading manufacture of band uniforms in the country. However, the DeMoulin Brothers didn’t make their fortune selling band uniforms. They made their fortune designing, creating, and manufacturing lodge initiation devices. Replicating such a success in today’s sue-happy society would be impossible. However, it did happen once upon a time in America. The story of the DeMoulin brothers is quite interesting and at times fascinating and this unique and particular American story is finally beginning to gain some of the attention it deserves.

Last year (2010) saw the publication of CATALOG 439 edited by Charles Schneider and published by Fantagraphic Books. That book was mostly a reprinting of Catalog 439, the most famous of the DeMoulin Brothers catalogs. Now there is THE EXTRAORDINARY CATALOG OF PECULIAR INVENTIONS by Julia Suits. Unlike CATALOG 439, this book isn’t a reprinting of one particular DeMoulin catalog. Instead it is a hodge-podge of selected items from several different DeMoulin catalogs, photos from the period, essays about lodges and lodge initiation devices, and random quotes. The subtitle of the book is “The Curious World of the DeMoulin Brothers and Their Fraternal Lodge Pranks Machines—from Human Centipedes and Revolving Goats to Electric Carpets and Smoking Camels” and several of the devices invented and manufactured by the DeMoulins are featured within. However, the book itself is more like an overview of lodge life in the early 1900s.  Chapters include “The Brothers DeMoulin”, “Fraternalism 101”, “Fun Work: The Side-Degree”, “Factory Goats”, “See You in Court”, “Zzzzzt! The Shockers”, “Bang! Crash! Splat!: The Mechanicals”, and “Wardrobe! The Wearables”. The book also includes a brief introduction by magician & illusionist David Copperfield (DeMoulin artifacts are highly collectible among magicians).

THE EXTRAORDINARY CATALOG OF PECULIAR INVENTIONS is an interesting book. However, the book lacks focus. The illustrations of the book fit the chapters, but the written text that accompanies the illustrations don’t always fit those chapters. Not only that, but there is also a lot of random bits thrown in. While I was reading the book, I felt like I was reading a literary equivalent of a pop-up video. In short, the material in THE EXTRAORDINARY CATALOG OF PECULIAR INVENTIONS is fascinating, but the way it’s edited make the book feel more like a reference or trivia book; it makes a create coffee table book and conversation piece.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

How to Ride a Goat

Here's another one of those quirky little videos about the new DeMoulin-inspired book, THE EXTRAORDINARY CATALOG OF PECULIAR INVENTIONS.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Muppet T-Shirt I Designed

This summer I came across a link that was having a Muppet T-shirt design contest. The winner would receive not only some free T-shirts with his or her design on it, but a Muppet prize pack that included some cds and free passes to THE MUPPETS (which opens next week). Here's a look at process I went about creating the design for my shirt.

I began by free sketching this from some pictures of Fozzy, Kermit, and Gonzo that I found on the Internet.

 It took awhile, but using the scanner on my inexpensive printer and Paint, this was the design I came up with. It's very simple, cartoony, and childlike and that's the vibe I was wanting. The Muppets have never been about class and looking good.

The t-shirt people wanted a second background for each shirt, so this was the background color I chose for that option.

 The final product would have looked something like this.

Unfortunately, my T-shirt didn't even get the opportunity to be voted on. There was a deadline for the contest and I did get my entry in about three days before that deadline. However, a day after submitting my entry, I received an email informing me that my design wasn't even going to be put up for a vote because it didn't look "professional" enough and was too amateur.

I didn't have the tools, time, or capability of submitting something that was more professional and refined, so I didn't get to submit an entry.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Testing Your Lungs

Another strange device from those crazy DeMoulin Brothers. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Movie lover rejoice! This just out, for the first time ever, Paramount Studios is going to be releasing the movie Wings on DVD and Blu-ray for the first time ever on January 24, 2012. WINGS was the first winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1929. It's a film I've always wanted to see, but have never been able to find. Now, I will.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A New DeMoulin Book and the Human Centipede

There's a new book out loosely based around the inventions and goods manufactured by the DeMoulin brothers in the late 1890s-1930s. In promotion of that book, The Extraordinary Catalog of Peculiar Inventions by Julia Suits, there's a series of short videos that have been released by the book's publisher, Perigree. Here's the first video. It's about the Human Centipede (no, not the horrific, disgusting movie).

A Few Laughs From Ziggy

The comic strip "Ziggy" is 40-years-old this year. As part of the anniversary, Tom Wilson (II) has released a book called Ziggy that collects some of his favorite strips over the run of the comic. Here are a few of my favorites that can be found in the book.

Oct. 23. 2001

Ziggy isn't my favorite comic strip, but the strip above is one of the reasons I do enjoy the little guy. I can really relate to his sentiments here.

Aug. 1, 2009

I love penguins, but I hate Winter. That's why I fond this strip so enjoyable.

April 10, 2010

I love Chaucer. I've read many of the Canterbury Tales in the original Middle English. Most of my senior high school students hated me when I had them recited the prologue the way it was written. I'm afraid the sentiments in this comic would have been the most positive things they would have said about the experience.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Proof That the Story of Jonah Could Be True?

Here's a video clip that illustrates that the story of Jonah and the Whale could possibly be true:

Saturday, November 05, 2011

The Gospel and the World Series

Jonathan Parnell has an interesting article about World Series 2011 and the Gospel. You can read it here:


Thursday, November 03, 2011

What Fans of STAR WARS Think of George Lucas's Revisionism

--"HijiNKS ENSUE" Monday, October 31, 2011

Tuesday, November 01, 2011


During the summer of 2000, I was browsing through a bookstore and came across a book entitled PRAYER AND THE ART OF VOLKSWAGEN MAINTENANCE. The title really piqued my curiosity and I bought the book. I really enjoyed reading it and I was eager to read more from the author, Donald Miller. It would be several years later before another of his books was published, BLUE LIKE JAZZ. That book went on to become a huge international best-seller (though I’m glad to say I read it and knew about Miller long before that book went mega). I’ve read most of Miller’s other works and was eagerly looking forward to reading his latest book, A MILLION MILES IN A THOUSAND YEARS.

The book revolves around Miller’s attempt to adapt BLUE LIKE JAZZ into a movie screenplay with the help of a couple of filmmaking friends. In the process of editing and fictionalizing his memoir into a screenplay, Miller begins looking at his own life and realizes that he can take some of the elements of writing a great screenplay and adapt them into real life. He makes a decision that he wants to not just tell good stories, but wants his life to actually be a great story. He takes a writing course, begins working out, travels overseas, rides his bike across the country, and eventually meets his father, a man who abandoned his family to fend for themselves when they needed him most.

Miller is a great writer. He has a way with words; he is able to paint extremely vivid pictures with his writing. He has a very personal, almost folksy approach to the way he writes. His style is very conversational and when he writes about “big picture” ideas, he doesn’t speak down. Instead, when reading Miller you feel like you are having a long conversation with an old teacher that you’ve always admired.

The central struggle in the book is an existential conflict that all those who wish to live a worthwhile life have to face at some point in their life. Life is difficult. Bad things happen to good people. Sometimes the good guy loses. These things are true. Knowing this, how do you choose to live? Do you simply exist, choosing to go through life as a series of motions because humans are just animals anyway? Or, do you choose to actually live, pressing the best out of each moment? Existing is easy living, truly living is difficult. No one will fault you if you choose to exist. However, if you choose to live, your life will be so much more rewarding.

With that said, the only criticism I have with A MILLION MILES IN A THOUSAND YEARS is that even though it is a story about Miller editing his own life to write and live a better story, there is a slight lack of relatability in the story. It’s great that Miller was able to do some of the amazing things he did in the book, such as taking a trip to South America and hiking in the Andes and riding his bicycle across America. When reading these things and how Miller approached them, you’ll be challenged to examine your own life and want to start making choices that will make your own life story better. However, not everyone is capable or can do the grand things Miller writes about that he or the people he meets do. It makes for great reading, but some of the ideas raised seem out of reach and unattainable by normal, regular people.

Overall, I enjoyed A MILLION MILES IN A THOUSAND YEARS. It’s a good follow-up to BLUE LIKE JAZZ, SEARCHING FOR GOD KNOWS WHAT, and TO OWN A DRAGON. Live a better life and write your own great story.

Before "Good Grief."

Here's another "Peanuts"-themed strip from the middle of the summer. Snoopy reading The Five Stages of Grief is a nice touch.

--"Rhymes With Orange" Saturday, July 30, 2011

What Happened to the Peanuts

I know this comic is slightly morbid, but it really made me laugh.
--"The Argyle Sweater" Thursday, July 5, 2011