Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Blossoming Hope

The past few years have been really difficult ones for me.  2008 had some ups, but there were so many challenges that they seemed to destroy all the good that occurred.  2009 was one of the most amazing and difficult years of my life; for instance I directed my first theatrical production that year and starred in a production of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, but my Dad died and that's something that will affect me for the rest of my life. 2010 started out more promising, but then I got the hours of the job I was working reduced and eventually my entire job was eliminated. The first part of 2011 was really difficult, but the last part of the year hope has been blossoming.

I try to remain hopeful about things, but there is a dark vein in me: for instance I'm drawn to sad stories. I've always begun a new year in a spirit of joy and optimism, yet it seems all of that is quickly zapped away. 2011 is ending on a positive note and it is my hope 2012 will continue in that vein. Perhaps this year will be the turning point that like the Dark Tower and Roland Deschain has evaded me for so long.

Here's to 2012!

Teaching and Game Shows

-Jonny Hawkins, 2011 Teacher Cartoon-a-Day Calendar

Graphic Novel Challenge 2011

I'm not in to very many of online book challenges you can sign up for. However, a few years ago (2009). I came across the Graphic Novel Challenge and took it and completed it. 2011 is the third year I've taken the challenge. Here are a list of books I read for the challenge.

1.  The Dark Tower-The Gunslinger: The Journey Begins   by   Robin Furth, et al.
2.  Asterios Polyp   by   David Mazzucchelli
3.  The Walking Dead, Vol. 1: Days Gone Bye   by   Robert Kirkman, et al.
4.  The Walking Dead, Vol. 2: Miles Behind Us   by   Robert Kirkman, et al.
5.  Mister Wonderful   by   Daniel Clowes
6.  The Walking Dead, Vol. 3:  Safety Behind Bars   by   Robert Kirkman, et al.
7.  Superman: The Black Ring, Vol. 1   by   Paul Cornell & Peter Woods
8.  American Vampire, Vol. 2   by   Scott Snyder, et al.
9.  Heavy Water   by    Jonathan W.C.Mills
10. Cowboys and Aliens  by   Scott Mitchell Rosenburg
11. Benjamin Bear in Fuzzy Thinking   by   Philippe Coudray
12. Yellow Rose of Texas   by   Douglas Brode & Joe Orsak
13. Zig and Wikki in Something Ate My Homework   by   Nadja Splegelman
14. Cat Vs. Human   by   Yasmine Surovec
15. Mo and Jo: Fighting Together Forever   by   Dean Haspiel
16. Brightest Day, Vol. 2   by   Geoff Johns, et al.
17. The Walking Dead, Vol. 4: The Heart's Desire   by   Robert Kirkman

Media Consumed: August 2011

Books Read
Swamplandia!   by   Karen Russell
*School Days: Cartoons from The New Yorker   Ed. Robert Mankoff
*Heavy Water   by   Jonathan W.C. Mills
Tom Thumb   by   George Sullivan
*Cowboys and Aliens  by   Scott Mitchell Rosenburg
Tomatoland   by   Barry Eastabrook
+Ten Little Indians   by   Agatha Christie

* = denotes graphic novel, TPB, or collection of comic strips
+ = denotes play

Swamplandia! was a very interesting read. The tone begins rather cheery, then quickly becomes dark. Yet, the protagonist of the story remains hopeful throughout. The ending is incredibly dark, almost depressing. Some very bad things happen. What makes it all that much more frightening is that even though the world of the novel is a "different world" than our own, it really isn't.

Tom Thumb was an interesting biography about a very interesting historical figure.

Cowboys and Aliens is the graphic novel that the movie is based upon. The book is better than the movie.

I thought Tomatoland would be an examination of the history of the tomato. It has some of that, but its mostly a critique of the tomato farming industry.

Movies Watched
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Dylan Dog
Captain America
Cowboys and Aliens
Indian Summer

Rise of the Planet of the Apes was entertaining, but I also felt it was kind of short. The film could be seen as a prequel to the original series, but it's actually a complete reboot.

It didn't do well at the box office, but Dylan Dog was a really fun movie to watch.

I loved Capt so much I had to go see him again.

Cowboys and Aliens was ok, but it could have been so much more. There was so much potential in the idea, but it ended up being wasted.

Media Consumed: July 2011

Books Read
The Skinny on Creativity   by   Jim Randel
Primetime Propaganda   by   Ben Shapiro
+Ten Little Indians   by   Agatha Christie


+ = denotes a play

Three books in July. That was it. I definitely don't do much reading in the summer. Of course, in July I was in a musical, was preparing to be in another play (that got cancelled), and was preparing for the play I would start directing in August. I also took a trip to Wisconsin to visit one of my closest friends who was working at camp.

It has become more and more obvious that there is a strong liberal bias in Hollywood. However, though there have been a few scattered stories here and there and a few random studies and some anecdotes, there really hasn't been an in-depth study done on the subject with not only first-hand accounts, but with facts and figures.  Ben Shapiro has done that in Primetime Propaganda. I'm not sure how he got away meeting all the figures he met. However, what they reveal is what everyone outside of Hollywood and New York have known for years: there is a strong liberal bias in Hollywood and conservatism is frowned upon. I found the book fascinating.

I read Ten Little Indians because it's the play I began directing in August. I like the play better than the novel, though the novel is written a little better.

Movies Watched
Cars 2 (two times)
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Zotz!
The Spine Tingler
Fright Night (1985)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
Aliens Vs. Predators
Horrible Bosses
And Then There Were None
The Big Red One
Captain America
Insidious
Mr. Popper's Penguins
Cedar Rapids


Critics from both sides of the political spectrum trashed Cars 2. They all said it lacked the heart of the original Cars. The funny thing is most of those critics were the same people who trashed Cars for being too sentimental and hokey. I don't think they changed their opinion; they just want people to think they did or not remember at all. I liked Cars 2. It's a spy movie. I wish there was more of an explanation why Doc was no longer around.

I was still on my William Castle kick as one of the movies was one he directed (Zotz!) and another was a documentary about Castle (The Spine Tingler).

I found the original Fright Night entertaining. When I was younger the cover of the VHS tape always scared me so much, I kept away from it.

Many people were all gaga over the last Harry Potter movie. Personally, I think it was one the least satisfying movie out of the entire series. I'm not sure what it was. The darker tone was a huge plus, but in terms of story and cinematography, the film is lacking. Perhaps since everyone knew this was the last one that had something to do with it. Of course, I was a little disappointed by the way things ended in the book, anyway. I think Harry should have ultimately died. Instead, he lived, got the girl, and had an even better life than he had before.

Even if you don't like comic book/superhero movies, you should watch Captain America. It's one of the best movies of the year, too. The film looks gorgeous, the storytelling is superb, and it's emotionally charged (spoiler: the hero doesn't ultimately end up with the girl here). It's a movie that not only makes you feel good to be an American, but just makes you feel good.

Media Consumed: June 2011

Books Read
*American Vampire, Vol. 2   by   Various
*EC Archives: Tales from the Crypt, Vol. 1   by   William Gaines & Al Feldstein
Robopocalypse   by   Daniel Wilson
+ The Boardinghouse   by   Vern Harden

* = denotes graphic novel or comic book collection

+ = denotes a play.


During the spring and summer, I just don't read as much as I do in the fall and winter. Two of the books I read were comic book collections and one was a play.

DC sent me American Vampire, Vol. 2 to read. I didn't think I was going to like it, but I did. It's not your traditional vampire story, but isn't like the ribbons and lace version of vampires from the Twilight universe.

I read EC Archives: Tales from the Crypt, Vol. 1 out of curiosity. The visuals in those old EC comics are just amazing. The stories are also good ones. They can be frightening, but nothing that happens in the story just happens for the sake of shock or gore.

Robopocalypse was a book I picked up because it's going to be the next movie that Stephen Spielberg directs. The story is basically a more streamlined version of Terminator told in the form of an oral history.

The Boardinghouse was a play I was in that never happened. The Board of Directors for the organization cancelled it two weeks before we were to open.

Movies Watched
Into the Wild
The Tingler
13 Frightened Girls
X-Men First Class
13 Ghosts
Thirteen Ghosts
Homicidal
Strait-Jacket
Super 8
The Old Dark House (William Castle version)
Green Lantern: Emerald Knights
Green Lantern
Mr. Sardonicus
Tron

I was on a William Castle binge this summer. Castle was the poor man's version of Hitchcock. Castle made his name and fortune in the business by being a showman first and foremost. Even though all of his movies were extremely profitable and Castle was a master of many great filmmaking techniques, his showmanship kept him from getting the respect he needed and wanted from his peers and the critics. Some of his films are cheesy, but all of them are entertaining. There's an innocence in his "horror" movies that's missing in almost all major horror movies made from the mid-1970s onward.  The Tingler, 13 Frightened Girls, 13 Ghosts, Homicidal, Strait-Jacket, and Mr. Sardonicus.

Into the Wild was an interesting movie based upon a true story. However, the movie seemed to make the story's protagonist Christopher McCandless more of a hero than he actually was. For such a free-spirited person who had a seemingly high intellect, how he died (of starvation in the wilderness when there was plenty of opportunities for him to leave) is almost absurd. The movie makes it appear that McCandless had no way of leaving his self-imposed solitude whereas in real life that wasn't the case.

X-Men: First Class was a surprisingly entertaining movie despite the fact that it had very little to do with the comics on which it was based.

Super 8 is one of the best movies of 2011. It's kind of a combination of E.T. and The Goonies. It's the best Spielbergian, non-Spielberg movie I've seen.

Green Lantern was kind of a let down. The movie is an average superhero movie, but it had the potential to be so much more. It's an example of what happens when studio execs decide to make a superhero movie and not let the director and writer do their job.

I watched Tron because it's been years since I last watched it. It's a good movie, but there are elements that don't hold up well.

Media Consumed: May 2011

Books Read
The Millennials   by   Thom & Jess Rainer
Arguing With Idiots   by    Glenn Beck
And Then There Were None   by   Agatha Christie
Unthinking   by   Harry Beckwith
The Reading Promise   by   Alice Ozma

May was somewhat as a slow month as I only finished reading five books. However, if you notice there were no collections of comic strips, graphic novels, TPB, or plays. Just five regular books.  The Millennials was an interesting book about what the largest generation of Americans ever (three times the size of the baby boomers) thinks about life. I find myself in the divide between Generation X and the Millennials. The year I was born is considered part of Generation X, but I share more values and have more similar cultural experiences with the Millennials. But, that's always been the case with me, I never quite fit in exactly wherever I'm at. Anyway, the book is a must read for anyone who works with people between the age of 10-30.

I like Glenn Beck. I think he's really crazy on some things, but the direction of crazy he goes in isn't towards destruction. The direction of crazy he points towards sometimes is one of preparation and defense. Anyway, I like reading what he writes because even when there's something I don't agree with, it's presented in an entertaining manner. I think Arguing With Idiots is the best of his books that I've read.

I read And Then There Were None because it's the novel that the play Christie wrote is based upon. I've got to say, I like the play better. Christie is a great writer, but her mysteries are often so complex and have a twist that's never even hinted at so even Sherlock Holmes wouldn't even know how to solve them. The novel is a great book, though. It's probably the best mystery I've ever read.

Unthinking is a business book, but it's more of a philosophy of life book. It's filled with short stories and anecdotes that are quite interesting.

The Reading Promise is a memoir that's both a tribute to the author's father and to books and reading. Alice Ozma's father read to her every night for about nine years. It began as a bet and continued right up until the night her dad dropped her off at college. It's a great book for anyone who loves reading or wants to encourage others to read. It's also a great story about the relationship between this daughter and her father. I teared up a few times while reading it because it recalled memories of my own dad.

Movies Watched
This Island Earth
Murder By Death
Thor (2 times)
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
The Tomb of Ligeia

May was a slow month of movie watching, too.  This Island Earth is a classic 1950s sci-fi movie that's actually much better than I thought it would be. It holds up rather well after nearly 60 years.

Murder By Death is a comedy that has parodies of famous detectives that are all brought together at a mysterious house for a weekend. It's a movie I watched in preparation of directing Ten Little Indians. The movie is an oft-overlooked gem that starts Peter Falk as well as Truman Capote in a smaller role.

I went to the cinema twice with friends and family to see Thor. A lot of critics raved about the film when it came out, but have now been lampooning it since it arrived on DVD. I don't understand that. The movie is a good movie with the same positives and flaws that it had in the theatres.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is the movie that should have been the third part of the original Pirates trilogy.

I watched The Tomb of Ligeia at the Hi Pointe movie theatre as part of the Vincentennial. The movie was one of longest Roger Corman movies ever made. It's also one that had one of his biggest budgets. Plus, it has Vincent Price and Price made any movie better than it was.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Media Consumed: April 2011

Books Read
*Li'l Abner: The Complete Dailies and Color Sundays, Vol. 1: 1934-1936  by  Al Capp
*Mister Wonderful   by   Daniel Clowes
*The Walking Dead, Vol. 3: Safety Behind Bars   by   Robert Kirkman, et al.
*EC Archives: Weird Science, Vol. 1   by   Various
A Million Miles in a Thousand Years   by   Donald Miller
There I Fixed It (No, You Didn't)  by   Cheezburger Network
*Big Nate Out Loud   by   Lincoln Peirce
*Pearls Blows Up  by   Stephan Pastis
* EC Archives: Weird Science, Vol. 2   by   Various
*Superman: The Black Ring, Vol. 2   by   Paul Cornell & Pete Woods
*Reality Hunger   by  David Shields

* = denotes a graphic novel, TPB, or collection of comic strips

Most of my reading in April consisted of graphic novels and comic strips. The only regular book I can recommend is A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller. The book is a memoir from Miller about the time he spent trying to adapt his life into a fictional screenplay. Life as story is an interesting concept and in the talented hands of Miller it becomes fascinating.

I really enjoyed a lot of the graphic novels I read. After reading Li'l Abner: The Complete Dailies and Color Sundays, Vol. 1: 1934-1936, I can see why the strip went on to become one of the most popular comic strips in the country.

The Walking Dead gets better with each installment.  I read the EC Archives out of historical interest and found them fascinating. You don't seen comics treated with the respect that EC gave to theirs.

Movies Watched
Assault on Precinct 13 (1976)
Sourcecode
Jonah Hex
127 Hours
Assault on Precint 13 (2005)
Turtles Forever
Scream 4
Soul Surfer
Ahhh! Zombies!
Identity
The Stand

April can often be a nomansland for movie lovers. I didn't watch many movies at the cinema, but I did watch several view DVD.

Both versions of Assault on Precinct 13 were good, but the 1976 version is the better of the two. I found Jonah Hex entertaining.  Turtles Forever is a movie that brings together three versions of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in a way that makes complete sense according to the laws of their universe.

I enjoyed Scream 4. I'm not a big fan of horror, but I enjoy that franchise. It's so much better than most of the horror garbage people digest nowadays.

Soul Surfer was a well-done movie which is surprising in a "Christian" movie; it's a Christian movie that doesn't look or feel like a typical Christian movie.

Ahhh! Zombies! is a hilarious film about a group of kids who become zombies, but don't realize they are zombies. It's an interesting twist to see how the world looks and feels to a person who becomes a zombie.

Identity was a movie I watched several years ago, but rewatched in preparation to direct Ten Little Indians. It's a movie with a twist that many won't see coming.

Lastly, I watched the mini-series of The Stand when it first aired on tv over 15 years ago. It was a well done series then and I can still say that it still holds up well.

Though there were a few films I didn't enjoy as much as others, there's really not one I would say you should completely avoid.  Sourcecode comes closest, because of the plot, but since everything in the film is so far-fetched anyway, the ending actually does make sense. There's also some really interesting camera work that happens in the movie.

On New Year's Resolutions

Each New Year in the U.S. brings about a flurry of resolutions. People resolve to eat better, to read the Bible more, to give up smoking, to lose weight, to not get angry as much, to pray more, to learn a new language, to be a better person, to watch less tv, etc. At the start of New Year’s Day, we will “resolve” to do just about anything. A new year is full of the savory aroma of hope and brings the opportunity for a fresh start.

However, the majority of New Year’s resolutions (around 88%) ultimately fail. Though we have good intentions, we make resolutions as though they are fanciful dreams and whimsical wishes. Resolutions aren’t like that. They are not wispy wonders that can be imagined but never realized. They are, instead, like large pieces of granite driven into the Earth for all to see. They are not something to be taken lightly. When we resolve to do something, it is a serious matter.


In the NIV Bible, the word “resolve” can only be found four times (2 Chronicles 20:3, Daniel 1:8, Malachi 2:2, 1 Cor. 2:2). When you examine those verses, you’ll find that the only time someone resolves to do something is in matters of great importance. For instance, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of God when Judah was completely surrounded by her enemies and while staying with the Corinthians, Paul resolved to only know Jesus Christ.

Therefore, as another year begins, let us bask in the glow of hope and promise that comes with it, but let’s refrain from making any hasty resolutions. Let’s keep our resolutions for the times when we really need them.
**************
The above is a short essay I wrote for the January 2012 monthly newsletter, The Christian Messenger, of the Christian Church of Litchfield.

Prediction: Ron Paul Wins Iowa

I don't write much about politics here. I know there's a lot of people who despise it. I don't like the games involved in politics, but I do enjoy following political campaigns and learning about candidates.
The race to choose a Republican nominee for the 2012 Presidential Election begins in earnest next week with the Iowa caucuses. Iowa usually doesn't mean anything, even though they are the first primary. With that said, I think Ron Paul is going to pull off a victory in the state. The man has the best advertising people of any of the other candidates working for him. Just watch this ad.



See what I mean? This is a no BS ad. It takes names and kicks butt. None of the ads for any of the other candidates come close to something of this quality. I think Paul will win the Iowa caucuses. At the least he will finish in second place and because Iowa is distributing its delegates proportionately, Paul will be guaranteed a voice and presence at the Republican Convention in the summer. So, sit back, buckle up, and get ready. It's going to be one heck of a ride.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

What Teaching Can Really Be Like

--by Jonny Hawkins

Exploding Class Sizes


--Cartoon by Jonny Hawkins

A Short Commentary About End of Year Lists

Two days after Thanksgiving (Nov. 26th) I saw a blurb about the "10 Worst Films of 2011". November 2011 wasn't even over, let alone the entire year of 2011 and already someone had published an end of the year list. I understand why news outlets publish "Best of the Year" and "Worst of the Year" lists. They're fairly easy to put together, they make for popular filler, and they can also serve as a source of reflection for the communities they serve. I usually have a best of list for movies and books that I post on my blog each year. What I don't understand is why most news outlets insist on publishing these lists before the year has ended.

A year doesn't end until a new one has officially begun. I realize the chances of something major happening in those final few days of the year are small, but there is still the possibility that the biggest story of the year could happen on December 31st. If you publish the "Most Important News Stories of 2011" List so it makes the December 2011 edition of your magazine, you might end up leaving out the one event that really is the most important event of the year. I do understand that the reason why some commentators/reporters/writers/etc. publish these lists before the year is over because they won't be working when the old year ends and the new year begins. However, though I understand it, I don't really agree with it. End of the year lists should be published after a year is completely over otherwise they really aren't an end of the year list.

Post Office Closings

Here's some interesting facts about the possible upcoming post office closings in the next few months (brought to you by the folks at "Who Knew?")

A Little Something About Egg Nog

Just a little video from "Who Knew?" About Egg Nog. It's quite interesting.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tesla Is Greater Than Edison

I came across this image (sold as a bumper sticker) at The Oatmeal. You can read more in depth about why Tesla is greater than Edison in the book from The Oatmeal, 5 Very Good Reasons to Punch a Dolphin in the Mouth.
For anyone who knows anything about the history of modern technology, they know something about the conflict between Tesla and Edison. In my mind, Tesla is by far the better and greater scientist. He actually invented most of his inventions instead of stealing them and engaging in corporate espionage like Edison did.

I intend to buy a couple of these bumper stickers after the holidays with my first paycheck in 2012. You should, too. Tesla isn't just greater than Edison, he's better.


Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Spanking Machine

Here's another video about some of those crazy DeMoulin Brothers inventions. This one is about a spanking machine.



The Jedi Mime Trick

Here's a great comic from Puns of Steel, a collection of "Argyle Sweater" comics by Scott Hilburn. This one can be found on page 109. If you like great one-panel comics, you should check it out. 

Education Comics

Here are a few cartoons about teaching and education from the TEACHER CARTOON-A-DAY: 2011 DAY-TO-DAY CALENDAR by Jonny Hawkins. My favorite of the three is the one that alludes to Byron.



Monday, December 05, 2011

Happy Birthday, Walt!

- "Lio" Mark Tatulli, Monday, December 5, 2011

Walt Disney was born 110 years ago today. Say what you will about the man and his beliefs, he was one of the most creative and influential people in the movie and entertainment business of all time. Happy Birthday, Walt! 

Thursday, December 01, 2011

House of Swine and Frog*

This comic illustrates much of what I feel about THE MUPPETS.

*--HijiNKS ENSUE   Nov. 29, 2011

Star Wars and the N.R.A.



- Pop Culture Shock Therapy, Wednesday, November 30, 2011

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
Rango
Panic In Year Zero
Battle Los Angeles
Piranha 3-D
Romancing the Stone
The Maze
Paul
The Last Lovecraft
Titanic II
Limitless
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

Book Review: THE EXTRAORDINARY CATALOG OF PECULIAR INVENTIONS

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:

http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/the-cross-and-the-st-louis-cardinals

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

Book Review: A MILLION MILES IN A THOUSAND YEARS

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

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween from The Muppets!



Less than a month before THE MUPPETS is in theatres! It's the movie I've been looking forward to seeing the most all year.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Cardinals Win!

Last night the St. Louis Cardinals became the 2011 World Series Champions. At the start of September, they were 10 1/2 games out and just about everyone had written them off by that point. I was at what turned out to be pivotal game for the Cards on September 9, 2011. It was the start of a three game match-up with the Braves. The Braves had a very comfortable lead against the Cards for the NL Wild Card spot. However, the Braves ended up losing that game 4-3 in the bottom of the 10th. That was the game that things went downhill for the Braves and uphill for the Cards. Over the next 7 weeks, the Cardinals went on to have one of the biggest comebacks and turnarounds in baseball history.

Even if you're not a Cardinals fan, you have to admit that this World Series was a great series. There was some bad baseball, but there was also a lot of great baseball. Games 3 (all of those runs) and 6 (extra innings and there were two times the Cardinals were one strike away from loosing) were particularly memorable.

In post-season, all the talk is going to be about Pujols. He's a great player and if he sticks in St. Louis, he'll have a career even after he retires. They'll put him in the office, maybe even hire him as manager if he wants. He'll get a statue in front of Busch Stadium and will probably be even more adored in St. Louis than Stan Musial. His agent want a 10-year $300 million contract. Had the Cardinals not be idiots and signed Matt Holliday for such an extensive and expensive contract (7 years for $120 million) in 2009, they would have the money they needed to keep Pujols around. Holliday isn't a consistent player. He has moments of greatness, but they aren't reliable. Pujols is and has been. In the next 10 years, Pujols probably will be reliable for that time, but it's difficult to say. Ten years is a long time, particularly when a baseball player is reaching the twilight of his career. I'm not sure what I would do if I was in Pujols place. He'll make a great deal of money either way and his family should never have to worry about finances ever for at least three generations. He'll make a lot more money in the short term if he goes to New York (about the only team in baseball with a bottomless bank account). However, if I was in Pujols's shoes, I think I would stay. St. Louis has been his home his whole career and no matter where he goes, he'll never have "fans" who like him as much as they do in St. Louis. If he stays in St. Louis and he gets injured or his career ends abruptly, he'll still be adored. If he leaves, he'll be seen as a traitor who betrayed his hometown for more money; in the St. Louis area he'll be the Benedict Arnold of baseball. The true Cardinal fans'll resent him for awhile, but then welcome him back with open arms whenever he does come back to visit, but most of Cardinal Nation isn't composed of true baseball and Cardinal fans. There are only about 15% of "Cardinal Nation" that are true baseball and Cardinal fans. The rest of "Cardinal Nation" is composed of fairweather fans who care more about the spectacle than they do the game. In fact, most Cardinal fans don't even consider themselves to be a part of "Cardinal Nation" (I don't, for instance). That's a neat little marketing tool creating by the Cardinal advertisers to get people to come to the games and sell merchandise to people who normally couldn't care less about baseball.

I'm relatively young, but I'm pretty much and old foagie, fuddy-duddy in the way I view the world and see things. Pujols is a great player, but he's only a part of the Cardinals. For me, the players I've enjoyed watching the most this season have been guys like this:Lance Berkman

David Freese

Berkman is a classic old-school ball player. He's not really skinning or overtly muscular. He's built they way Babe Ruth and Joe Jackson and Ty Cobb were. He looks the way a baseball player (except for pitchers) is supposed to look in my mind. Not only that, but he plays with a pure love for the game. You can see it in his eyes every time he's up to bat and with every play that he makes (see picture above). He loves the game of baseball. This season he's had a comeback, too. The Braves and Yankees all wrote the guy off before the Cardinals signed him this year. Even though he wants to coach college baseball in Texas after he retires from the majors, I think he'd like to stick around St. Louis until then. I know I'd love watching him.

Then there's David Freese. David Freese is a St. Louis native. When you think about it, it's pretty amazing that a local boy goes into the majors and eventually becomes the hero and MVP of a World Series playing for his hometown team in the ballpark not far from where he grew up. Freese has had a good season, but it's one that got better in the post season. Freese saved the Cardinals several times not with just hits and homeruns, but with stellar plays. Other players did, too, but the other players aren't local boys like Freese. That's what makes his story that much more special.

Congratulations, St. Louis Cardinals on a job well done. 11 in 2011. I didn't think it was possible, but it's happened. My Dad and Grandpa always said the "Cardinals can never do things the easy way." I guess this season has shown that. But, even though they didn't do it the easy way, they ended up doing it the right way.