Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 Graphic Novel Challenge


Give graphic novels a shot!
This challenge is very flexible: choose a level of participation:
Minor: Read 6
Major: Read 12
Masters: Read 18
Doctorate: Read 24

Below are the list of graphic novels (and TPB which can be included) I read in 2009.

1. Superman, Inc.: 1999 Annual Report by Steve Vance, et al.
2. Superman: Last Son of Earth, Books 1 & 2 by Steve Gerber, Doug Wheatly, Chris Chuckry, et al.
3. Batman: In the Darkest Knight by Mike W. Barr & Jerry Bingham
4. Gotham by Gaslight by Brian Augustyn, et al.
5. Son of Superman by Howard Chaykin, David Tischman, et al.
6. The Twilight Zone: Walking Distance by Mark Kneece, et al.
7. The Twilight Zone: The After Hours by Mark Kneece, et al.
8. The Twilight Zone: The Odyssey of Flight 33 by Mark Kneece, et al.
9. Star Trek: The Next Generation, "The Gorn Crisis" by Kevin Anderson, et al.
10. Superman: Last Stand on Krypton by Steve Gerber, Doug Wheatly, Chris Chuckry, et al.
11. Red Son by Mark Millar, et al.
12. Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? by Neil Gaiman, et al.
13. Superman & Wonder Woman: Whom Gods Destroy (Books 1-4) by Chris Claremont, et al.
14. Outlaw: The Legend of Robin Hood by Tony Lee, et al.

I had set out to finish a "doctorate" with this challenge, but after the first part of October, I lost most ambition. So, I finish with a "major" and if you count the extra books in a particular title, I got a "masters".

December 2009: Media Consumed

Books Read
The Governor by Rod Blagojevich

Yes, the only book I read was this one by the former Governor of my homestate. The writing was atrocious and it wasn't organized very well. There were a few interesting points, but for the most part it's not worth reading (unless you really, really enjoy Illinois politics).

Movies Viewed for the First Time
The Blind Side
Sherlock Holmes
The Goods
Alvin and Chipmunks
The Hangover


I loved The Blind Side. It's very inspiring. Sherlock Holmes was a great action picture. I really enjoyed Alvin and the Chipmunks, too. That was a movie that could have been completely messed up, but worked really well (I grew up watching some of the cartoons in the 1980s). As for The Hangover, there were funny moments but I once again felt like it was more like a drama than a comedy.

November 2009: Media Consumed

Books Read
*Confessions of a Swinging Single Sea Turtle by Jim Toomey
My Shorts R Bunching. Thoughts? by G.B. Trudeau
+Wait Until Dark Frederick Knott

* = denotes book of comic strips
+ = denotes a play

Not much to say about this month. There just wasn't much book reading going on.

Movies Viewed for the First Time
Blood Mania
Van Nuys Blvd.
2012


None of these movies are really worth mentioning. However, for whatever reason, I cried during part of 2012.

October 2009: Media Consumed

Books Read
The Twitter Book by Tim O'Reilly & Sarah Milstein
The Box by Richard Matheson
How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas Foster
*To Kill a Mockingbird Adapted by Christopher Sergel

* = denotes a play

October began a downturn in reading for me for the rest of the year. My Dad died on Oct.2 and I'm still not sure if I've recovered. I haven't been able to enjoy reading as much. I really enjoyed some of the stories in The Box. If you would like to know how to get more out of your reading, you should read How to Read Literature Like a Professor. It was a bit redundant for me, but I majored in English. Lastly, To Kill a Mockingbird is a magnificent play. Perhaps one day I will get to direct it.

Movies Viewed for the First Time
Zombieland
Year One
Falling Down
War of the Colossal Beast
Where the Wild Things Are
Paranormal Activity
Capote
The River Runs Through It

Zombieland
was a great escape for my brother and I during the days following our Dad's death. It's a great, fun action movie. Where the Wild Things Are was a movie I enjoyed, though it is a bit dark. The River Runs Trough It is a solid film that made me cry, but it ended to abruptly. Capote was bizarre (though Phillip Seymour Hoffman was brilliant). Paranormal Activity is the most overrated movie of the year. It's not scary at all!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Desires That Seem to Defy

"Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun." Psalm 37:3-6

As long as I can remember, I have striven to follow Jesus and delight myself in him. I was raised by two loving, Christian parents, but unlike many children raised in similar circumstances my faith became my faith at a fairly early age (around 8). I'm not sure exactly what the catalyst was but almost as long as I can remember, I wanted to follow God and do the right thing, not because that's what my parents and family wanted but because it was the right thing and it was what I wanted to do. I'm not sure how to describe it, but at a young age I realized and understood that I was nothing outside of God. I read about the young prophet Samuel and though I hadn't heard God's audible voice, I knew that he had created me and called to me. I read with vigor Paul's letters to Timothy. I discovered that there were many other people in the Bible who God called and used at a young age.

This connection to the spiritual along with an above average intellect made me a bit of an outsider and outcast. I didn't have too many friends growing up and I tended to enjoy the company of grown-ups instead of my peers. It wasn't until I got to college that I found people around my age that I felt a real strong connection with. Of course, since graduating from college I've discovered that I often enjoy the company of children and young adults better than adults: I work well with kids and there is just something about their playfulness and spirit that brightens my weary soul. And weary my soul is.

I had such high hopes for 2009. 2008 was one hell of a crappy year. I had hoped that 2009 would be better. There were some good things that happened this year (directing my 1st play for instance), but the negative things have overwhelmed those positive things and in some instances tainted them forever with tragedy. Overall, 2009 has been a very shitty year.

I used to believe the words of Psalm 37:4, "Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart." I used to believe in it fervently. It was something I clung to in my earliest trials. I sought God with a complete abandonment to everything else. No, I have never been faced with the threat of death because of my faith, but there have been many other sacrifices, challenges, obstacles, trials, and tribulations. But, I used to feel it was worth it because if nothing else I had the hope that God would give me the desires of my heart. After the past few months, I honestly don't know anymore. I feel more discouraged than I have ever felt in my life. I've lived more than a third of a century and have been a devout follower of Jesus for most of that time, yet I've experienced none of the desires of my heart. I know God is good and he loves us, but why do the desires remain unfilled.

So, as darkness surrounds me this battered and beaten warrior continues to press forward, but with a heavy and weary heart, pleading to God: when, Father, when?

Friday, December 25, 2009

September 2009: Media Consumed

Books Read
Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane
Pearls Sells Out by Stephan Pastis
*Outlaw: The Legend of Robin Hood by Tony Lee, et al.
Either You're In or You're In the Way by Logan & Noah Miller
*What the Duck by Aaron Johnson
*Old Farts Are Forever by Lee Lorenz
*Lio's Astonishing Tales From the Haunted Crypt of Unknown Horror by Mark Tatulli
+Plaza Suite by Neil Simon

* = graphic novels or book of comic strips
+ = play

Shutter Island is a great piece of fiction that also makes for a very fast read. Pearls Sells Out is the latest anthology of "Pearls Before Swine" strips and is hilarious. Either You're In or You're In the Way is a great memoir of two twin brothers and their journey in making their first movie,Touching Home.

Movies Viewed For the First Time
Inglourious Basterds
Nightmare on Elm Street
Logan's Run
An American Werewolf in London
Half Nelson
The Natural
Evan Almighty
An American Werewolf in Paris
God Grew Tired of Us


Inglourious Basterds is probably the best all-around Quentin Tarantino movie I've seen. The first Nightmare on Elm Street was a rather original piece of filmmaking. An American Werewolf in London is both incredibly funny and very sad. Half Nelson is a great drama that not only illustrates the destructive nature of drugs, but also the strong, healthy relationship that can develop between a teacher and student. The Natural is a great baseball movie that's really not about baseball at all, but redemption and second chances. God Grew Tired of Us is a documentary that wasn't as interesting as I thought it would be.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas (With the Muppets)

Last night Jimmy Fallon had the Muppets make a guest appearance on his show where they sang "The 12 Days of Christmas".  What many people may not realize is that this singing sketch is done almost exactly as it was with the Muppets back in a 1979 tv special with John Denver. The only differences being that some of the parts are sung by different Muppets and instead of John Denver, there's Jimmy Fallon. You can see the original sketch on Youtube. The Jimmy Fallon version from last night is below. Enjoy and have a very merry Christmas!


Sunday, December 06, 2009

Pearls Before Swine

love "Pearls Before Swine". Not sure how many people read the comics anymore, but you really should take time to read this strip. Saturday's (12/5/09) is a great example of why I love it so much. I have to admit, though I've never taken things as far as Pig, I can sure relate to his trouble in finding a girl.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Return of the Muppets

I grew up on the Muppets and Jim Henson is only one of two public figures I have ever mourned for after their death. THE MUPPET SHOW, SESAME STREET, FRAGGLE ROCK, and JIM HENSON'S THE STORYTELLER were all shows I devoured when I watched them. Other than a short show on the Disney Channel, however, the Muppets have basically been nothing more than merchandise pushing machines hocking everything from Pizza Hut pizza to fancy jewelery.  About a week ago, a Muppet version of "Bohemian Rhapsody" was posted on YouTube and it went viral almost instantly.  The video is the supposed to be the first of a series featuring the Muppets to be released between now and the end of 2010. A new music album is supposed to be released next year as well as a new Muppet feature length film, THE CHEAPEST MUPPET MOVIE EVER MADE. That makes me happy.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

I Hate Winter.

It's raining/snowing/freezing outside right now. I hate it. I used to like the snow, but other than on Christmas I could do without. I wish I could move to a warmer climate. Winter is the discontent of my soul.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Broken and Beaten or the New Normal

“I'm tired of all the pain I feel and hear in the world everyday. There's too much of it. It's like pieces of glass in my head all the time.”--John Coffey in THE GREEN MILE

"Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies."
--Andy Dufresne in THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION

I can’t put into words how I have been feeling the past several weeks and for a lover of words such as myself that is a difficult thing. My emotions have crossed the spectrum from moments of great joy and hope to moments of great sadness and sorrow where I have felt completely and utterly alone. In those dark times, I know that what I feel is only temporary and that it is caused not necessarily because of who I am, but because of the sin in the world in which we live. I know that I am not alone. I have a great support network of friends and family. Yet, those negative feelings are there. I give it up to Jesus and try not to let the darkness steal the joy and hope that surrounds us all if we will only see it. I know that I am not the only person to feel what I feel and that helps to a small degree. I remind myself of friends who have gone through and are going through more difficulties than I. I remind myself that I live in America and despite my poverty (by American standards) I am rich and live a blessed life. I remember that joy is all around and latch on to hope. But even with this knowledge and as strong as my faith is, I am human. I am not infallible. There are times that the darkness slips in and I am overwhelmed.

I’m not exactly where I would like to be in life. The temp job that I took after leaving teaching has turned into a permanent temporary position of sorts with no benefits and no security. I was once an itinerant substitute teacher. Now I’ve become the poster figure for the long-suffering temps of the world. No major works I’ve written have ever been published and I’ve yet to be involved in a motion picture where I get paid for my work. In matters of the heart, well, so far things haven’t turned around for me there either.

Due to my Dad’s rather recent death, I now have a whole series of obligations and duties that I wasn’t expecting. I’ve been doing my best to fulfill those, and though I am my father’s son, I am not my Dad. There are some who have a difficult time realizing and accepting that.

I have friends and acquaintances who because of a recent death or an illness or something are all hurting just as much if not more than I. Most of my closest friends live far away and though we keep in touch and see each other from time to time, I miss them. I want to see them, but can’t. Perhaps it’s because right now I’m so close to sorrow and sadness, but I’ve been noticing a lot more stories of great tragedy in the news, e.g. a young local girl who died from the Mexican swine flu or the little child who was killed after her mother sold her into prostitution and slavery.

As John Coffey said, “I'm tired of all the pain I feel and hear in the world everyday. There's too much of it. It's like pieces of glass in my head all the time.” I hear and feel much of that pain. Sometimes, I just try to block it. Then I realize that is probably the worst thing I can do because I don’t want to just exist. I want to live. So, I open myself up and though there are fantastic moments of joy and a few rare moments of happiness, there is also great pain, sorrow, and sadness and with those comes the threat of the darkness.

Yet, though the darkness threatens, it never conquers. There are times that it feels like it is overwhelming, yet it never completely overwhelms. There is always, always, always a glimmer; a flicker that shines out. In that flicker is hope, and in hope there is peace and joy and through them I find strength.

We live in a crazy, mixed-up, topsy-turvy world. Yet, there is the imprint of the divine still here. The Creation has been forever altered by sin, yet it doesn’t forget. It remembers. We remember. We know that though this is the way things are, it’s not the way things are supposed to be and that it doesn’t mean things have to always be this way.

Therefore, though I’m so very far from where I would like to be, I will not give up. I will trudge forth and continue fighting. The darkness will threaten to overwhelm and sometimes succeed, but I will not let it defeat me. I might be a beaten, broken, and wounded warrior, but I am a still a knight and there is always hope. It took almost half a century, but Charlie Brown eventually hit a homerun. Someday I will, too.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Scene from THE GREEN MILE

Paul Edgecomb: On the day of my judgment, when I stand before God, and He asks me why did I kill one of his true miracles, what am I gonna say? That is was my job? My job?
John Coffey: You tell God the Father it was a kindness you done. I know you hurtin' and worryin', I can feel it on you, but you oughta quit on it now. Because I want it over and done. I do. I'm tired, boss. Tired of bein' on the road, lonely as a sparrow in the rain. Tired of not ever having me a buddy to be with, or tell me where we's coming from or going to, or why. Mostly I'm tired of people being ugly to each other. I'm tired of all the pain I feel and hear in the world everyday. There's too much of it. It's like pieces of glass in my head all the time. Can you understand?
Paul Edgecomb: Yes, John. I think I can.

I've never killed anyone, but I can relate to both John Coffey and Paul Edgecomb.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Hope

"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love." I Cor. 13:13a.

This evening I went to a visitation service for one of my former teachers, a man who had a huge influence upon me; he cast me in my first play ever. My Dad died just over a month ago and, as I expected, as I try to adjust to life without him around, the real trial begins. I have good friend who's father had a heart attack about a week ago and my friend has spent over week watching his father repeatedly being tortured unproductively as medical officials attempt to force his father to begin breathing on his own. There's a lot of pain and suffering in this world. We are all in a crucible.

Yet, despite the storms and fires of testing, hope remains. As a younger person, hope was something I knew in my heart of hearts was good, but I really had no understanding or idea what it was or why it was good. I remember watching THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION for the first time and hearing the line, "Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies." When I heard that I agreed with it and knew it was true, but I didn't really know why because I really didn't know what hope is. I have a much better understanding now.

This world is a mean and messed-up place. There's pain, sorrow, and suffering all around. But that's not all there is. There is love. There is joy. There is peace. And there is hope. Even amidst the fires of testing in the crucible, hope remains.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Slow and Steady or the Actor Prepares

Three months ago I was having dinner with my Grandma. It was a few weeks after she had seen one of my performances in one of the musicals I was in this summer. We were talking about the show she had seen, what she enjoyed, and what she thought of my performance. During this conversation my Grandma made the comment, “You should look into that Christian theme park in Florida. I saw an ad on tv and they were looking for actors a couple months ago. You’re really good.”

This comment might not seem like much but coming from my Grandma to me, this comment was huge. I’ve known since I was in the first grade that I wanted to be an actor. That’s when I was cast in my first show. Since that time I’ve struggled with my desires and the gifts I have, and tempering those with other conflicting interests I have, as well with trying to remain a “productive” member of society. It’s not easy. It’s been a long journey for me and though I’ve taken a few detours, I have no regrets. I know who I am and though I can’t see the specifics and things rarely turn out as I expect, I have a general direction of where I’m headed. To the standards of the world, it might not seem like much, but for me it is enough.

Along this journey there have been a great many people who have stood in the way. Most of these people are loving family members and friends who just can’t understand me or the path I’m following. I don’t exactly fit any patterns or stereotypes very well and this confuses them. Over time, most of these people have come around to an understanding or at least an acceptance of the path I’m on. Until that night at dinner, my Grandma was not one of those people. She knew about my desires to entertain, knew I was talented, knew acting, or writing and now directing, were something that provided me great joy and fulfillment. However, to her it didn’t seem to make any sense that a person would want to do those things as opposed to “living a normal life”.

That night at dinner I realized that my Grandma had finally come around. It took years, but after the umpteenth show she saw, I guess she finally realized that I had what it takes given the opportunity I might one day succeed at it, even according to the standards of the world. That meant the world to me.

I’m not exactly where I’m headed, but that’s okay. The tortoise beat the hare by being slow and steady and it took almost fifty years but Charlie Brown eventually did hit a homerun. I’m just going to keep plugging away and taking advantage of those opportunities when they present themselves. Until then, the actor prepares and the writer writes.

Monday, November 02, 2009

The Prayers of the Saints

There is a weariness that affects one’s heart and soul that is more draining to oneself than any illness, unhealthy diet, or lack of sleep can cause. ‘Tis a weariness that sucks the marrow of life right from one’s bones without a person even recognizing it. Today I have felt that weariness.

The challenges that faced me were many. Burdens too heavy for one to bear. Expectations unable to live up to and meet. Matters of the heart gone wrong. Longings that never seem to be filled. Confrontations against injustice. Missing my Dad. All of this and more is what my morning contained and it was too much. There was a pain in my heart and soul that just wouldn’t stop aching and with each passing moment the aching intensified. Darkness threatened to sweep over me and I wrestled with the darkness to gain control.

Too much, too much, except for the prayers of the saints. They were with me today. The prayers of the saints lifted me. They carried me to safety.

I see dark clouds coming. I know there are many storms, tests, and challenges yet to face, but I can stand with a bit more confidence now because of the prayers of the saints.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Thought For the Day

"Opera is where a guy gets stabbed in the back, and instead of dying, he sings."
--Robert Benchley

Idiocy and Banality @ Work

I’m tired of the idiocy and banality that surrounds me at work. I was sitting at my desk this morning and overheard a conversation between two co-workers. One woman was complaining to the other about snakes and how she hated snakes and wished that all snakes were dead. As soon as she finished ranting about how evil snakes are she then told a story about a mouse that was running around her kitchen counter this weekend. She started to complain about how disgusting mice were, how they carried diseases, and how she wished that all mice were dead. I wanted to stand up and tell her, “You idiot, don’t you know snakes eat mice!” Instead I sat quietly and wept inside. I really need to find a new job.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

An Eulogy For My Dad

For those of you who don't know, ten days ago my Dad died. It was very sudden and he died in his sleep. There's a whole lot I could write about all that's happened, but for now I'm going to save most of it until I can figure a way of getting it out in a productive and useful way on paper. Anyway, at my Dad's funeral last week I delivered the eulogy. What follows is the speech I had prepared. The actual delivery was a little bit different, but it's pretty darn close.

“An Eulogy For My Dad”
Tom Varner
Wednesday, October 7, 2009

During my junior year in high school, I was looking at colleges to attend after I graduated. It was the biggest choice I faced in my life up to that point. No one in my family had ever attended college and the application process was completely foreign to my family; I felt very much alone. For months I sent out letters, looked through brochures, and watched promotional videos. I had two or three notebooks filled with the pros and cons of each and every school. Offers ranged from Ivy League schools out East to major universities in California. I narrowed them down to five schools and was seriously considering either a school in Iowa or one in Tennessee. I don’t remember if I showed my final list to Dad or he looked through it one day while I was at school. But one evening he told me this.

He said, “You know, if you end up going to the Evansville, the University of Evansville, it’s close enough to home that if you get in a play or something we can come see it. It’s far enough away to be away, but close enough that if anything happened you could get home.” I hadn’t thought of that before and reconsidered Evansville as a possibility. It was ultimately the school I would attend and it was one of the best decisions of my life. All because of that one simple comment from my Dad.

That’s how it often was with Dad. Ask anyone and they’ll tell you he was a man of few words. He was scared to death of speaking in front of people. He didn’t like to talk to strangers and even if you were a close friend or family member you would be lucky to get more than a few sentences out of him at a time. He just didn’t like to talk very much. But often when he did there were either words of wisdom or some kind of joke.

The only exception to that is when Dad told stories. My Dad liked good stories. When I was younger he used to read to me or make up stories to tell. At Christmas, our family gets together and the highlight for us isn’t the presents or the food, but the stories that Dad, Uncle Bill, and the rest of the family tell about growing up and times past. Our favorite story is the one about my Uncle Bill peeing on my Dad’s head. They were at a train trestle and my uncle was on top of the trestle and had to go to the bathroom. My Dad comes walking under the trestle and lifts his hands up, surprised to see it’s raining. Then he looks up to see his brother peeing on his head. My Dad was on a bike and my Uncle was running and Uncle Bill barely beat Dad into the house. He locked himself in the bathroom until Dad’s anger subsided. Now, you might think that story is unusual, but there are all kinds of stories about my Dad that are just as entertaining: there’s the time he got chased by a wild boar, the time he and some friends tried to roll a car over at the school, the time he hit a buffalo, the time he got shot with a bullet at work, and you get the picture.

I loved my Dad. All of us did and I know he loved us. Unless he was working, he never missed one of us kid’s baseball, softball, basketball, football games or soccer matches. He came to almost all of my plays, even the musicals and he didn’t like musicals very much. I know Dad had his faults, but we all do. As the Bible says, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Rom: 3:23).

I am extremely grateful to Dad. He showed me what it is for a father to love his son, his children, his family, his friends. I don’t know if he ever realized it, but in doing so he also showed us all how God loves each of us.

Jesus said that, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34b-35). There can be no question of my Dad’s love for us and though he was a quiet, simple man, he lived a life that Paul commanded believers in Thessalonica to do, “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody (I Thes. 4:11-12). That is how my Dad lived. He lived a quiet life. He tried to mind his own business and he did win the respect of outsiders as apparent by all the people who were here last night and today to pay their last respects. He loved us and though he didn’t speak about it much, he loved God.

As I think about my Dad, I think his greatest regret is the pain that his unexpected death has caused everyone. Dad never wanted to cause anyone or anything any pain, be it a person or animal. Dad was full of life and if he had his druthers he would have stuck around a lot longer so there wouldn’t be so much pain and sorrow for us. But as Solomon wrote, “no man knows when his hour will come,” (Eccl. 9:12a). Only God knows that.

I know that my Dad is in a better place. He’s partying with Jesus now. I also know that it is partly because of my father’s love for me, his family, his friends; that I was able to meet Jesus. And I will, therefore, see my Dad one day again.

“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O’death is your sting?...But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (I Cor. 15:56-57). Amen.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Radios In Heaven

"Radios In Heaven"--Plain White T's

Your time has already come and I don't know why
The last thing that I had heard
you were doin' just fine
It seems like just yesterday
I was laughing with you
Playing games at Grandma's house
well you taught me well, didn't you?
I hope I'm just like you

Do they have radios in heaven?
I hope they do
'Cause they're playing my song on the radio
And I'm singing it to you

You left before I had a chance to say goodbye
But that's the way life usually is
it just passes you by
But you can't hold on to regrets and you can't look back
So I'll just be thankful for the times that I had with you
I hope I'm just like you

Do they have radios in heaven?
I hope they do
'Cause they're playing my song on the radio
And I'm singing it to you
If they don't have radios in heaven
here's what I'll do
I can bring my guitar when my time is up and I'll play it for you

Tell me can you hear me now
if not, then I can try to sing real loud
What's it like up on the other side of the clouds?
I hope I'm just like you
I hope I turn out to be as good as you

Friday, October 02, 2009

2016 Olympics

I have to admit, I'm really glad that Chicago lost their bid for the 2016 Olympics. I live in downstate Illinois and even though I enjoy visiting the city, the politicians of the city think they are royalty and that Chicago is the State of Illinois. Being from downstate, it's nice to see them have to eat some humble pie for a change. I was rooting for Rio de Janeiro to win (South America has never hosted an Olympics). I'm glad they did.

12 ANGRY MEN Teaser Preview

Here's a teaser preview of one just one of the tension-filled dramatic scenes from Hard Road Theatre's production of 12 ANGRY MEN.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Today's Trivia

The first fruit eaten in space was a peach.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

12 ANGRY MEN

Just a reminder, if you're in the Highland, IL area this weekend or next (Oct. 2, 3, 9, & 10 @ 7:30pm and Oct. 4 @ 2:00pm), come on out to the Upper Elementary School, 1800 Lindenthal Ave. and see a great American piece of dramatic theatre, 12 Angry Men. The cast is outstanding and have worked really hard. The show also marks by directorial debut. This really is a show you won't want to miss!

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Government Can

Here's a funny video I found. So true. So true.

August 2009: Media Consumed

Books Read
Schooled     Anisha Lakhani
Extreme Animals  Nicola Davies
*Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?     Neil Gaiman, et al
The Boy Who Dared    Susan Campbell Bartoletti
One in a Hundred Million     Marion Urichich
*Superman & Wonderwoman: Whom Gods Destroy     Chris Claremont, et al
+#12 Angry Men     Sherman Sergel
+Night Must Fall     Emlyn Williams
+
Lil' Abner
     Norman Panama & Melvin Frank
+Flowers for Algernon     David Rogers
+The Rainmaker     Richard Nash

* Denotes a graphic novel or TPB.
+ Denotes a play.
# Denotes a previously read work.

Of the books I read in August, there's only two I wish to mention. The first is Schooled. The novel has gotten some mixed criticism, but it's really not too bad of a debut novel. It's about an Ivy League graduate who enters the teaching profession and becomes sucked into the world of private tutoring. It's not a book that everyone will enjoy, but if you have an interest in education or teaching, I think you would enjoy it. The other book is the play Flowers for Algernon. It's based on the novel of the same name. I read a short story version of the novel when I was in 8th grade and it remains my favorite short story of all time. The play is an incredible drama and the best play I've read in the past five years. I highly recommend it and if you ever get a chance to be in or see the show, then do it.

Movies Viewed for the First Time
Green Lantern: First Flight
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra
District 9
The Last Mimzy
Judge Dredd


In August, I got to see both the worst and best film of 2009 that I've seen so far.  The worst is G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. My brother treated me to this film. He had been eager to see the movie. Even he said it was BAD. Terrible dialogue.  Awful special effects. They take G.I.Joe from being an American special ops force and turn it into a global initiative.  In fact, the only thing worth seeing in this movie was the 2 minute cameo from Brendan Fraser.  The best movie so far in 2009 is District 9. It's fresh and original and has just the right mix of drama and action, with a good dose of sci-fi mixed in. Highly recommended.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Kristin Chenoweth Wins an Emmy


Just so everyone knows, this grand dame of the theatre, Kristin Chenoweth, just picked up an Emmy to go along with her Tony. I bet Oscar won't be all that far behind.

Congratulations, Kristin!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A March on Washington

Over a million people were marching on Washington last Saturday, Sept. 12, 2009. Hardly anything has been reported about it in the old media. Why?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Hard Road Theatre Delivers the Drama With 12 ANGRY MEN

Beginning on Oct. 2, Hard Road Theatre Productions, in association with the Highland Arts Council, and sponsored by Tom Hill and Burroughs, Hepler, Broom, MacDonald, and Hebrank of Edwardsville will be presenting the classic piece of American drama, 12 Angry Men.

The show is directed by Tom Varner, with assistance from Sarah Connor. The cast includes Jami Hirsch of St. Jacob, Philip Herlitz of Maryville, Adam Betz of Alton, Gentry Herlitz and Megan Rauh of Collinsville, John Goldsmith and Linda Collman of Greenville, and Highland residents John Volker, Elaine Guillot, Jeff Eye, Bill Sullivan, Rob Bowman, and John Taylor.

Varner said that, “One of the great things about this play is that it really shows what a great system we have in this country and how wise the founders were in establishing the 7th Amendment in the Constitution. It might not be a perfect system, but most of the time it works.” A former English teacher, Varner used the play as part of the curriculum in some of his classes. “The original teleplay for 12 Angry Men was written in 1954. When I first taught it in my classes I thought most of the students would be turned off. Instead, it ended up being one of their favorite things we studied. A lot has changed since 1954, but the show is just as relevant now as it was then. It really speaks to people no matter where they come from or where they are in life.”

Performances of 12 Angry Men are scheduled for 7:30p.m.on Oct. 2, 3, 9, & 10 and for 2:00p.m.on Oct. 4. All shows will be held at the Highland Elementary Auditorium at 1800 Lindenthal Ave., Highland, IL.

Tickets are $8 for adults, $7 for seniors, and $6 for children. Tickets are available at the auditorium one hour prior to each performance. All seating is general admission.

Adapted by Sherman Sergel from the Oscar-nominated movie by Reginald Rose and starring Henry Fonda, 12 Angry Men is an intense drama set in July 1959. A jury gathers after a murder trial to deliberate and decide the verdict of an accused teenager. The case appears to be open-and-shut as most of the jurors seem convinced the accused is guilty. However, one juror isn’t convinced beyond a reasonable doubt and begins to open the others’ eyes to the weakness of the case. The jury room soon becomes a tense and heated place as each of the jurors face their own prejudices, failures, and shortcomings as they struggle to reach a unanimous verdict.

Hard Road Theatre Productions is a non-profit theatre organization committed to providing the larger Highland area with high-quality, affordable, live productions. For more information about 12 Angry Men , Hard Road Theatre, or further ticket information, visit the Hard Road website at www.hardroad.org or call 618-654-7748.

Friday, September 11, 2009

July 2009: Media Consumed

Books Read
Common Sense Glenn Beck
Common Sense Thomas Paine
Wrapped-Up Foxtrot Bill Amend
Thinking Like a Director Michael Bloom
#Red Son Mark Millar, et al
*+12 Angry Men Sherman Sergel

# Denotes a graphic novel or TPB.
* Denotes a previously read work.
+ Denotes a play.

Out of the works I read in July, the two I highly recommend are Thomas Paine's Common Sense and the graphic novel Red Son. Paine's work should be required reading of all high school students that are juniors or older. The language, though a bit more flowery than what is casually used today, is actually fairly easy to follow and understand and the logic of the text is flawless. Also, many of the ideas are just as relevant today as they were over 200 years ago.

Red Son is an Elseworlds story that has Superman landing in the Soviet Union instead of the United States. I was a bit disappointed by the end, but the overall story, how it is imagined, and how it ties real history into the history of DC is brilliant. It's probably the best Elseworlds story ever written.

Movies Viewed for the First Time
12 Angry Men (1997 Cable Version)
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs
Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
Beowulf & Grendel
Reefer Madness: The Musical
Orphan
Superbad


The only movies I found that I really enjoyed from July were Behind the Mask and Reefer Madness: The Musical. Behind the Mask is a deconstruction of the horror genre that instead of being a full out parody is actually a homage to the genre that ends up adding a new dimension to it. It's filmed as a documentary about a real life serial killer (ala Mike Myers) named Leslie Vernon who has allowed a film career to document his life as her prepares to make the transition into the big time. There are a lot of funny bits in the film, but the heart of the movie are in the personal moments and conversations with Leslie and the director of the film.

Reefer Madness: The Musical is a parody of a 1930s film about the dangers of marijuana.I have yet to see the original movie, but the musical is hilarious plus it has Kristen Bell in a starring role.

Girls in Bikinis and 12 ANGRY MEN

This parody of a classic scene from 12 ANGRY MEN isn't quite as entertaining as the Sesame Street one. But, there is some humor there. Also, it applies to a completely different demographic than the Sesame Street clip from a couple of weeks ago and as I begin ramping up the publicity for my show (which opens in 3 weeks), the exposure might do us some good.

Health Care and the 800 Pound Gorilla

Another great video from PoliticalMath illustrating a major problem with President Obama's recent proposals to health care reform.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

On Stealing Liberty and Being Presidential

Tonight (Wed. Sept. 9, 2009), President Obama delivered an address on health care reform to both Houses of Congress that was televised and broadcast around the country. The President spoke for over an hour, clearly illustrating that even though Lincoln is one of his political heroes, he definitely didn't learn anything about speaking from him (President Lincoln was often ridiculed for delivering short speeches). There's a lot that I could say about the President's speech. However, there are two things I wish to address.

The first is in regards to this part of the speech: "That's why under my plan, individuals will be required to carry basic health insurance — just as most states require you to carry auto insurance. Likewise, businesses will be required to either offer their workers health care, or chip in to help cover the cost of their workers."

I am completely opposed to such an action. To begin with, the comparison between auto liability insurance and health insurance is not a valid comparison (not to mention that statistically most accidents that occur where a driver is uninsured that driver is an illegal alien). Sure, they are both types of insurance, but that's where the similarities end. It's like saying that people who raise bananas and people who raise chickens are both farmers because they both raise things. They might both be farmers, but they are completely different types of farmers. However, besides the fallacy of this argument there is the more important and critical issue of the President seeking to take away more of our freedom and liberty. It's bad enough that in my state to drive a car you're required by law to have liability insurance. However, at least that's on a state level. It's not a national thing. President Obama wants this to be national. To do so is an infringement of the 10th Amendment of the Constitution. We've had enough of our liberties and freedoms stolen by the federal government in the past five years. It's time that it stopped.

The other thing I can address from the speech regards this statement: "Some of people's concerns have grown out of bogus claims spread by those whose only agenda is to kill reform at any cost. The best example is the claim, made not just by radio and cable talk show hosts, but prominent politicians, that we plan to set up panels of bureaucrats with the power to kill off senior citizens. Such a charge would be laughable if it weren't so cynical and irresponsible. It is a lie, plain and simple."

Apparently neither the President or his advisers have read H.R.3200 (a massive 1,000+ bill that is the only one available for public scrutiny). Now, though I'm not a lawyer, I am trained in English. I know how words and phrases work, even a lot of legalese. I've only read about 20 pages of the bill, but it's so full of bullshit that's all I could handle. However, I made it a point to read the "death panel" parts. Though it is true that the bill doesn't set up a direct "death panel", persay, it does make a point of "advanced care planning" and "end of life care" which, "may range from an indication for full treatment to an indication to limit some or all or specified interventions." In other words upon implementation one of the "physicians" that has been approved by the government can choose to deny treatment to someone. Though the wording of opponents of H.R.3200, especially in regards to this part of the bill, is a bit hyperbolic, it is not cynical, it is not irresponsible, it is not a lie. That statement in and of itself is completely unPresidential and doesn't bode well for a man who campaigned upon being above the political fray.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Employment Blues

I've been working at an office temp job for over a year. It's been made clear to me that the company has no desire to ever bring me on as a regular employee, nor is there any chance for advancement or a raise. I've been pretty diligent and thorough in looking for a better job, but there really isn't anything out there. The few things that are open or either things that I'm "overqualified" for or the company has no interest in me. Anyway, two weeks ago I was informed that I was being downgraded to working two days a week "until things pick up". This despite the fact that the company hired a new high school graduate on full time. Nothing against her, but I could do all of her work probably in half the time she does it in. But I digress. This Thursday I go in to work. It was one of the two days I was scheduled. I woke up earlier than normal and there were no trains, or tractors, car problems, or unusually long waits at the stoplight at the construction zone so I actually got to work five minutes earlier than I normally do. There wasn't any orders on my desk, but that's no big deal because there's not always something there on my desk, so I immediately begin filing some paperwork in the to-be-filed tray. About ten minutes later, my supervisor walks up and says, "Tom, didn't anyone contact you?"

I said, "No. Contact me about what?"

She says, "Well, we called the temp agency yesterday afternoon and this morning, but we don't need you today. There's nothing for you to do." As she saying this the recent high school graduate is sitting behind me stuffed up to her eyeballs in envelopes that need to be stuffed to be mailed out.

"No. No one contacted me," I say.

"I'm sorry," she says and turns around and disappears.

What I wanted to say was, "No. No one contacted me. What the $*?#! If anyone contacted me and told me that I wasn't needed here today, do you think I would be standing here right now? Do you think I would have gotten up at 6am and taken the time to drive over here just so I could $*?#/$% stand here for ten minutes to have you tell me I wasn't needed today?"

I've got the almost unemployment blues.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Show I'm Directing

I'm directing a play this October. The show is 12 ANGRY MEN. A friend of mine sent me the link to the following video. It's a wonderful preview. This video really captures the essence of what the play is about. Maybe it could even change your life.

Friday, August 21, 2009

"Fireflies" Music Video

Today I came across this music video from Jack Hager's blog. It's from a band I've never heard before, Owl City. The song is catchy and a little bit inspiring. However, the music video that goes along with the song is amazing! As a filmmaker, I think it's brilliant. The idea is simple, but the execution is so complex. It probably took days to just set the room up for the opening scene. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Preview

The following commercial has been playing in three theatres in the southern Illinois area before the trailers. If you're not doing anything this weekend and are able, come out and see the show. Enjoy.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

John Hughes Is Dead

I just found out that John Hughes died today. That's sad. No one captured an era on film the way Hughes captured the 1980s. RIP John.

Spielberg to Remake HARVEY

I just found out that Steven Spielberg has signed on to direct the remake to Harvey. The movie is supposed to be a "modern" retelling of the beloved classic. Supposedly Tom Hanks is slotted for the role of Elwood P. Dowd. I love the original movie and am a big fan of the play it is based upon. I'm also a fan of Spielberg and Hanks. However, this is one movie that doesn't need to me remade. There are some films that are just better off left alone and Harvey is one of them.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Twitter Tracker on THE TONIGHT SHOW

A little over a month ago, Conan O'Brien took over THE TONIGHT SHOW. I really don't watch late night tv, but Conan rocks! I love this new weekly segment, "Twitter Tracker" (which I've only watched online). A newer segment of it aired last night, but until that becomes available, enjoy the one from the week before.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Reminder-ONCE UPON A MATTRESS

I just wanted to remind everyone of a Hard Road Theatre Production that I'm in that is still showing this weekend. The show is ONCE UPON A MATTRESS. ONCE UPON A MATTRESS is a comical & off-beat musical retelling of "The Princess and the Pea" fairy tale. The original Broadway show starred Carol Burnett and a revival version several years ago starred Sarah Jessica Parker. I portray King Sextimus, one of the rulers of the land who has been under a curse of muteness for nearly twenty years.

Performance dates are:
7:30 pm July 31 &August 1
2:00 pm August 2
This is the final weekend to see the show!

All performances are held at:
Highland Upper Elementary Auditorium
1800 Lindenthal
Highland, IL 62249


Tickets:
$9--adults
$8--seniors
$7--kids

For more information go to www.hardroad.org or call 618-654-7748.

THE GREAT AMERICAN ROAD TRIP TV Show


There's this new reality show on NBC. It's called The Great American Road Trip.  Seven families started out in Chicago traveling in RVs across America following Route 66.  The trip isn't a race, but is a journey. There are goofy challenges to compete, but no one gets eliminated if they reach a destination last.  About one family's vacation comes to an end in each episode (though there are some episodes where no families are sent home).  I'll admit the show is a bit hokey (I read on one review site where they referred to the show as the red-neck version of The Amazing Race), but I really enjoy watching this show.  It's much more real than most reality tv. I can't say for sure, but I don't think anyone was recruited for this show.  These are real families that have been given an opportunity to take a free vacation traveling across America with the chance to win $100,000 at the end.

Even though it's been ranking between #20-#35 the four weeks, NBC is disappointed by the ratings. Ratings could have been much higher, but NBC chose to begin airing the show in July when the people of the Heartland of America (who are the prime audience) aren't home and are traveling on vacations themselves. They should have aired the show at the end of May after the sweeps or at the first of June and ratings would have been larger. The show will continuing airing through August and can currently be seen on Monday nights at 7:00PM, Central Time.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

President Obama's Health Care Reform

Ten years ago I was dropped from my father's health insurance because I had graduated from college. In the decade since, I have only had health insurance for 9 months when I was teaching school full time (at a cost of over $500/month). I'm currently working as a temp worker in an accounting office. It is a job that I have held for over a year. Though I have worked diligently, it has been made clear to me that I will never be brought on as a regular member of the company.  I'm heavily underpaid and have no hope for advancement. I have been looking for other employment, but since we are in a recession and on the verge of an economic depression, job prospects have been slim (two college degrees don't seem to open as many doors as one might think).  I've given up on even dreaming about owning my own home.

Despite my circumstances, I am in opposition to President Obama's health care proposals. We all know that there are problems with our health care system. However, the answer is not in forming another government bureaucracy. Health care costs skyrocketed because of the health insurance industry, but virtually eliminating that industry by offering a "public" option will not solve any problems but only further complicate things as well as bring about even more problems. Besides, if we really hold our freedom and liberty dear, then we should know that the government is not our friend. In the best of times government is a wary ally, but in the worst of times (which these are) the government is our fiercest foe. Bridled by the Constitution, we can live with the government. However, the health care option presented before us--just one of many plans that those who are currently in the zenith of power are using--is an attempt to destroy all that we hold dear and free the bloated behemoth of government that will kill us all if we allow the Constitutional bridle to be removed.

To better illustrate this, watch the video below. It explains it much better than I can.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

In Memoriam of Frank McCourt (1930-2009)

I just found out that Frank McCourt, the former English teacher and author of Angela's Ashes and Teacher Man among others, died last Sunday (July 19, 2009) from complications from melanoma. I've been very busy this past week, but have still tried to stay on top of things in the news, but somehow I missed this one. McCourt only first became published a little over a decade ago. However, his writing was brilliant. His stories were so rich and vivid. He wrote about the most depressing and disheartening things, but it was in such a way that you couldn't help but laugh. He contributed to a few other books, but McCourt only had four books published. I wish he would have been able to write a few more. He was that good of a storyteller and writer.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

ONCE UPON A MATTRESS

I just wanted to inform everyone of a Hard Road Theatre Production that I'm rehearsing for that opens next weekend. The show is ONCE UPON A MATTRESS. ONCE UPON A MATTRESS is a comical & off-beat musical retelling of "The Princess and the Pea" fairy tale. The original Broadway show starred Carol Burnett and a revival version several years ago starred Sarah Jessica Parker. I portray King Sextimus, one of the rulers of the land who has been under a curse of muteness for nearly twenty years.

Performance dates are:
7:30 pm July 24, July 25, July 31, August 1
2:00 pm July 26 & August 2

All performances are held at:
Highland Upper Elementary Auditorium
1800 Lindenthal
Highland, IL 62249

Tickets:
$9--adults
$8--seniors
$7--kids

For more information go to www.hardroad.org or call 618-654-7748.

Friday, July 17, 2009

BACK TO THE FUTURE remake?!!!? WTF


=

I just heard a nasty littler rumor
that there's a proposed remake of Back to the Future in the works and that Zac Efron is scheduled to play Marty McFly. Please, please, please don't let this be true. No one can replace Michael J. Fox in a Back to the Future movie. No one.

Why Government Is Evil

As the bloated behemoth we know as the federal government threatens to swallow even more liberty, property, and freedom on its unsustainable course to an extinction that could destroy us all, let us take comfort in the words of one of the Founding Fathers of our country, that great patriot Thomas Paine. His pamphlet, COMMON SENSE, was read bought by 20% of the entire population of the United States and by conservative estimates read by 70% of the people in the country. In relation to the population of the country at the time (about 3 million people total--including 600,000 who were slaves and another 1-1.5 million who were indentured servants)--it is the best-selling piece of literature in American history outside of the Bible. Below are some of his words. Read them and hold them close because they contain part of the essence of what makes our country what it was, what it is, and what it should be.
+++++++++++++++++++++
"Some writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins. Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes happiness positively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first is a patron, the last a punisher.
Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one; for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries by a government, which we might expect in a country without government, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer!"
--Thomas Paine

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

June 2009: Media Consumed

Books Read
*Superman: Last Stand on Krypton by: Steve Gerber, Dough Wheatley, Chris Chuckry
**Ignorance, Thy Name Is Bucky by: Darby Conley
On Directing by: Harold Clurman
**I Did It His Way by: Johnny Hart
12 Angry Men by: Sherman Sergel

Not very much reading in June. A graphic novel, two collections of comic strips, and a book about directing a play. That was it. If you're interested in theatre directing, On Directing is worth reading even though it is a bit dated.

Movies Viewed for the First Timed
Disturbia
Drag Me to Hell
Land of the Lost
Role Models
The Hills Have Eyes (2006)
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen


I didn't watch many movies in June, either. I really enjoyed watching Sam Raimi's return to comedy-horror in Drag Me to Hell. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Role Models. It has some crude moments, but not enough to ruin the entire film. I was also extremely surprised by Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Say what you want, but Michael Bay does make movies that are enjoyable to watch. Biggest disappointment: Land of the Lost--the movie could have been hilariously funny, but the scriptwriters decided to go for wierd and it just didn't work.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Michael Jackson--What Happened to Wacko Jacko?

Michael Jackson is dead and what I want to know is, what happened to Wacko Jacko? Jackson's "public" memorial service was attended by thousands of people who just a month ago didn't care one iota about Michael Jackson. Jackson hadn't had a hit record in over fifteen years. Things were so dismal here in the U.S. that he couldn't even sell enough tickets to make a U.S. tour and had to go overseas for ALL of the 50 concerts in his "Farewell" tour that he was preparing for. Michael Jackson was seen as a freak. He was Wacko Jacko. Now that he's dead, people have forgotten or are choosing to completely ignore all the bizarre, strange, wierd, and sometimes sick things he did over the past 25 years. The masses are, indeed, fickle.

Granted, at one time Jackson was an incredible dancer and singer. He also used to seem fairly normal. Then in 1984 while filming this commercial his hair caught on fire.




That's right. His hair caught on fire. There are those who will disagree with me, but I maintain that the Pepsi Commercial accident was when Michael Jackson started to turn into Wacko Jacko. Before that accident, Jackson was just a typical celebrity. It was after that accident that he started to turn strange. He got a pet chimpanzee, named Bubbles, that he dressed in a diaper and clothes which slept in a crib at the foot of his bed. He started hanging around with young boys. He started wearing a surgical mask wherever he would go. He purchased mannequins from various stores and made them part of his entourage, bringing them with him from place to place. He even made an offer, twice, to buy the bones of "The Elephant Man." It all started when his hair caught on fire while filming that commercial.I'm not the only one who picked up on this either. Back in 2005, ROBOT CHICKEN aired the following segment. Maybe that's really what happened.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

May 2009: Media Consumed

Books Read
* My Space: Baby Blues Scrapbook #24 by Rick Kirkman & Jerry Scott
Star Trek: Prime Directive by Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens
**Twilight Zone: The Odyssey of Flight 33 by Mark Kneece, et al.
*Brevity 4 by Guy & Rodd
**Star Trek: The Next Generation--The Gorn Crisis by Kevin Anderson, et al.
Censorship: The Threat to Silence Talk Radio by Brian Jennings
*If You Weren't a Hedgehog...If I Weren't a Hemophiliac by Andrew Weldon
*Dilbert: Freedom's Just Another Word for People Finding Out You're Useless by Scott Adams
+12 Angry Men by Sherman Sergel

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

My reading for May consisted mostly of comic strips and comic books. What can I say? I read Prime Directive because I had read an article about the screenwriters of the new Star Trek movie and they said they had used the book as "inspiration" for the new movie. I'm not exactly sure how it inspired them because even though Star Trek is a pretty good movie, it's not a very good Star Trek movie, whereas Prime Directive is a pretty good Star Trek book, though not necessarily a novel. If you enjoyed the original Star Trek series, then you'll probably enjoy the book. However, if you know nothing about the original series, then the book will just confuse you.

I picked up The Gorn Crisis because I became fascinated with the idea of having Gorn as major players in the Star Trek universe (seriously--why haven't they?).

I do suggest everyone take a look at Brevity 4. "Brevity" is a great comic-strip. Lots of strips have tried to be the next "Farside". "Brevity" doesn't try to be the next "Farside", but it is similar in spirit, but is completely original. Check it out.

Movies Viewed For the First Time
X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Invaders From Mars
Star Trek
My Name Is Bruce
Get Smart's Bruce & Lloyd: Out of Control
Southland Tales
My Bloody Valentine 3-D
My Bloody Valentine (1982)
Terminator: Salvation
Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian
Fanboys
The Reaping
Up

Wolverine was okay, but was kind of a let down, especially what they did to the character of Deadpool. Invaders From Mars is a classic sci-fi film that inspired parts of Stephen Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Invaders, however, is horribly outdated, e.g. they refer to the aliens as "moo-tants", but still has some great visual images. Star Trek--it's a good movie and everybody seems to love it except for me. Bruce Campbell is the best B-Actor working today. He comes from a similar background as myself I'm not sure what the guy is like in real-life, but I really like what I've seen of him and read about him. My Name Is Bruce is Campbell's latest film that he directed and it was mostly filmed on his own property in Oregon. I watched Out of Control because I think Jayma Mays is gorgeous (she's a redhead-what can I say?).

Avoid Southland Tales. It's a terrible movie. I never liked the director/writer's first film, Donnie Darko. I still don't understand the cult fascination with that movie because it's a terrible movie. Of course, even if you liked Donnie Darko, you'll probably hate Southland Tales. I can't even recommend it for artistic value of any sort

I enjoyed both of the My Bloody Valentine movies. Horror movies can go so wrong, but the filmmakers did a good job of using the conventions of the horror genre to create something original. Terminator: Salvation had a terrible ending which basically destroyed the franchise, hopefully cemented McG's career as a major director. Night at the Museum 2 is worth watching, if for no other reason, just for Amy Adams. That girl isn't just a beautiful (redheaded) woman, but is an incredible actress, too. Fanboys is a film that every Star Wars fan will enjoy and should watch. It didn't do well at the box office and is panned by critics, but I actually liked The Reaping.

And lastly, as for Up: it's the best movie of 2009 so far. Marketed for kids, it's really a movie that adults will enjoy far more.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Independence Day

Our country is sure in a mix right now. Still, at least for the time being, it's a great country to live in. Happy Independence Day, everyone!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Rejection & Survivor

I'm a big fan of SURVIVOR. I've auditioned for every season except the first two. However, this guy, Greg Insco, walked (on heelies of all things) from Cincinnati, Ohio to L.A.to turn in his SURVIVOR application in person to the casting directors of the show. It was a 2,200 mile journey where at one point he got so hungry he ate a rattlesnake that tried to bite him and sometimes was so dehydrated that he drank water from a toilet. The producers and casting directors turned him down telling him he "would get eaten alive" and that basically, he was, too nice.

I wasn't aware of this beforehand, but apparently for the past 12 editions or so, SURVIVOR hasn't even casted people who applied to the show, but recruited people to be on it. Only 4 of the last 16 contestants actually went through the entire formal application process. The other 12 were short-cutted through.

I shouldn't be surprised, because it is Hollywood, but I am a bit. Of course, I'm going to keep sending in applications because as Charlie Brown says, "Even if there's not a million-to-one-chance, there's at least a billion-to-one-chance."

Sunday, June 14, 2009

THE SILO PROJECT

I don't have time for a long post, but I did want to put something out there. There's this cd that will soon be released and a movie that might be coming to a city near you in the next year. They're called THE SILO PROJECT. You should really check it out. I spent the weekend with some of these guys. They are phenomenal musicians. Catch them before they become big so that you can say, "I saw them before they were stars."   http://www.thesiloproject.blogspot.com/  

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Star Wars Vs. Star Trek

Here's an excellent example of why Star Wars really is better than Star Trek.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

THOR AT THE BUS STOP

Despite the obvious very low budget, there's just something about the entire premise of this movie that makes me really want to see it. The synopsis of the film is this:

"THOR AT THE BUS STOP is a comedy that begins with Thor, the Norse God of Lightning, as he makes his final journey through a suburban neighborhood on the day he is going to die fighting to save the world - and nobody cares. Thor starts a chain reaction of interweaving story-lines packed with zany characters and themes about goodness and the power of cool."


Sounds brilliant to me.

Friday, June 05, 2009

GLEE

I finally had the opportunity to watch the premier episode of GLEE. I have to say, I'm impressed. Here's the teaser finale.



From the commercials, one was led to believe GLEE would be meta-comedy, ala ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT, in a high school setting. While it's true, there are all kinds of comical moments in GLEE and the premier episode was full of pop cultural allusions, the show appears to be deeper than that; full of lifelike drama and ethos. This final scene is a great teaser because it seems to foreshadow struggle and conflict to come, for example between the Glee Club and the school's huge money-making and nationally recognized Cheerleading Team. And it's all united through joy. It'll be interesting to see how the show unfolds because lately it seems that a show that is ambitious as GLEE fails to find an audience until after it's been cancelled, ala ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT and PUSHING DAISIES.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

TOY STORY 3

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't excited to see this.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Trivia for Today

Before Jim Henson settled on FRAGGLE ROCK the series was tentatively titled WOOZLE WORLD.

The groove between your nose and your upper lip is called the philtrum.

Friday, May 29, 2009

About the new STAR TREK & alternate timelines


I was excited to see STAR TREK. Even though I am much more of a Star Wars fan, I have become a fan of Star Trek and that franchise has been a part of the pop culture background for much of my life. The new STAR TREK is a great movie. It's got some fairly well developed characters, lots of action, vivid imagery, superb special effects, etc. Movie-goers seem to love it and many have been introduced to the characters of Kirk, Spock, etc for the first time. The studio, Paramount, loves it because the film will now allow them to "re-energize" their tent-pole franchise from the ground-up and they will make huge bank. I'll admit that as a movie, I enjoyed it. Yet, overall, I was severely disappointed because as a piece of storymaking, STAR TREK is a complete cop-out.

If you haven't seen the movie, beware that what might be considered spoilers are coming.

Almost the entire new STAR TREK film is set within an alternative timeline. Writers and actors like alternate timelines because it allows them to do things with characters that they normally couldn't do. In all honesty, alternate timelines are a complete cop-out and hugely dishonest. I can understand why actors enjoy it because if they've been acting in a series for several years a change of pace might allow them to display talent that they couldn't before. However, there's no excuse for writers. Alternate timelines are something that poor writers fall back upon because they're either too lazy or uncreative enough to stay true to a character's personality while keeping it interesting. It shows a complete and utter disregard for characters and the fictional universes they inhabit.

Basically, because of the new STAR TREK movie, nothing (and I mean nothing, no Next Generation, no Deep Space Nine, no Q, no Borg, nothing) exists from before. Five different television shows, ten movies, and a series of pseudo-canon novels have been completely eradicated. I mean, the entire planet Vulcan, which played huge part in the original series and movies has been destroyed. Everything Star Trek related for the next several years, perhaps decades, will be set within the new "alaternative timeline" of the new movie. That's not to say that Paramount won't go back to the original timeline at some point in the future, but the new Star Trek is all the rage and that's what will make them the most amount of money right now in the short term. The future has been postponed for a "new past". And there won't be going back to the original format for a very long time. In my opinion what J.J. Abrams and company have done is the equivalancy of what George Lucas did with Indiana Jones and the entire alien encounter in INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

April 2009: Media Consumed

Books Read
*F-Minus: This Can't Be Legal Tony Carrillo
Liberty and Tyranny Mark Levin
*The Saturday Evening Pearls Stephan Pastis
#Twilight Zone: The After Hours Mark Kneece, et al
Star Trek: Best Destiny Diane Carey
*Suture Self Leo Cullum
The Cuckoo's Haiku and Other Birding Poems Michael Rosen & Stan Fellows
*My Bad: A Zits Treasury Jerry Scott & Jim Borgman

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

Of the books read in April, the only two I can recommend anyone looking at are F-Minus: This Can't Be Legal and The Saturday Evening Pearls. I had never heard of the comic strip "F-Minus" before, but it was hilarious. It's usually a one-panel strip that has the same type of humor that Farside used to have. The Saturday Evening Pearls is the latest collection of "Pearls Before Swine" strips and as everyone knows it's the best comic strip currently in circulation. If you like birds, check out The Cuckoo's Haiku which though is a collection of bird poems has some spectacular illustrations and is really a field guide in disguise. Also, if you're a fan of the original Star Trek series (the original--not the new timeline version), you might enjoy Star Trek: Best Destiny which tells how Jim Kirk became interested in Starfleet and also gives a few details following the events of the movie, Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country.

Movies Viewed for the First Time
The Death of a President
The Watcher in the Woods
Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children
Beyond Narnia
Once Upon a Mattress
Monsters Vs. Aliens
Observe and Report
Hannah Montana: The Movie
America Zombie
The Librarian: Return to King Solomon's Mines
Bolt

Out of the movies I saw for the first time, there's only a few I will comment on. Monsters Vs. Aliens was so much better than what I had expected. It's full of all kinds of surprises for people who grew up reading sci-fi, watching movies, or who have ever listened to Stephen Colbert. Bolt was also another movie I was surprised by, but shouldn't have been because the producer is the guy who basically started Pixar. American Zombie was a hilarious movie, but only if you enjoy zombies and if you have seen enough documentary films to know the cliches of the genre. There's actually some extraordinary acting in this film, but since it was a low budget indie and has a narrow focus, it will take some time before people begin "discovering" it.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Actor

Last weekend I had my first paying job as an actor. It was $20 for a 10-minute shoot for a corporate training video. I've wanted to be a professional actor since I was about five and even at that young of an age I defined "professional" as getting paid to act. So, I can finally say that I'm a professional actor. It feels good, real good.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Obama's Proposed Budget "Cuts"

President Obama has promised that his administration would make cuts in spending totaling $100 million. Overlooking the fact that this announcement wasn't made until after the President's administration proposed a budget nearly double of President George W. Bush's budget during his last year in office, what is $100 million from out of a $3.5 trillion budget? As this video illustrates, not much. Not much at all.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Education in the U.S.

In an interview entitled "The Apostle of Reform" in the Apr. 27, 2009 edition of TIME magazine, U.S. Sec. of Education Arne Duncan says in response to the question, 'Should students be going to school longer?' that,

" I think the school day is too short, the school week is too short, and the school year is too short."

I realize that Duncan was the head of the Chicago Public School system, but Sec. Duncan is an idiot. This statement, and others in the interview, illustrate that Duncan really has no understanding about the history of education in the United States (for example, mandatory schooling largely came into effect because of unions who wanted to cut the work force) nor the way that youth, particularly high school students, think and behave.

In all honesty we do a pretty good job of educating the students in our country until about 8th grade. Examine the statistics and you'll find that the majority of our students in the elementary grades do really well on comparative tests with students from other countries. Scores for U.S. middle school-aged students drop some, but are about the same. This is actually quite remarkable considering that the U.S. is still the only country on the planet that strives to provide a basic education to all children. We have one of the top-five populations on the Earth and we try to make sure all of our children get an excellent basic education. Also, unlike other countries which only allow testers to test "select" (aka their best) students, we allow all of our students to be tested. Sure there are problems and issues, but all things considered we are doing a decent job at the elementary to middle-school levels.

It's when students get to high school that things get all fucked up. That's because our society really doesn't want to recognize the fact that most high school students are adults and our high school system is set up to treat those individuals more as children who are prisoners in a system in which they aren't supposed to escape. Most countries in the world will not teach students beyond the 6th-8th grades unless they show aptitude and a desire to continue their education. If they show aptitude and desire for a different education than the traditional course (college prep), such as learning a trade, they are allowed to take that route or drop out of school to do so. I realize that because of those standards many students aren't allowed to have any schooling beyond 6th-8th grade. I still think we should have the opportunity for students to continue their education beyond the 8th grade if they choose. However, I also think we should allow for them to make other choices: becoming an apprentice, learning a trade, or even dropping out of school and joining the workforce if they wish. I realize that my views on this aren't very popular, especially among professional educators. But, when you're an honest person you often find yourself being unpopular.

For example, most of the time high school teachers encourage all of their students to stay in school and go on to college. Well, college isn't for everyone and we do a disservice to our students when we make them feel obligated it is something they have to do. I had a student that ended up dropping out of high school. When he did everyone else at school talked about what a terrible life that student was going to have without his diploma. I never said anything but I felt that even if that student might have it a bit more rough, he was going to be just fine. That student was a better mechanic than he was a college-prep student and he's now rather successful and is making more money than most of the teachers at the school I taught at do. As I look back on it, I think they were resentful of him because he ended up doing the opposite of what most of his teachers and what the system was telling him to and the teachers knew it was actually better for him than what they were offering. I never begrudged that student. I was glad to see him leave, not because he was troublesome, but because I knew he was going to be better off and I've always wanted the best for each of the students I have worked with.

I honestly don't think Sec. of Education Duncan wants what's best for students. Longer school days, weeks, and years aren't going to improve student achievement. In fact, doing so, especially at the secondary (high school) level will end up having the exact opposite effect.