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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Clarifying Dud Remakes

One of my earlier entries suggested that Hollywood should take a chance by remaking duds and trying to get it right. I even specifically singled out The Island and compared it to Parts: The Clonus Horror.

I should clarify something. If you're going to remake a dud, give credit where credit is due. Admit you're remaking a dud, fer cryin' out loud.

In other words, try to avoid this.

Monday, November 28, 2005

We've Jumped the Shark? D'oh!

I've thought this before, but I'll say it out loud and on the record:

The Simpsons have jumped the shark. Actually, I think they did so a few years ago.

For those of you unfamiliar with shark jumping, I refer you to this article. I knowit may seem sacriligous for me to say it, but I think they have. It's time for the Simpsons to retire gracefully before they crash and burn.

Let's face it, the Simpsons have had a major impact on our society. I can remember when it first debuted, it was roundly decried as a harbinger of the decline and fall of American society. Christians especially hated it and singled out Bart as a devil in blue pants. I find it ironic, then, that a decade later, when I went to the Seminary, you couldn't walk through the campus during the evening without hearing a Simpsons re-run in somebody's dorm room.

The Simpsons are everywhere. "D'oh!" is even in the dictionary now. Matt Groening has conquered the pop culture world. But I fear that Groening's clan has overstayed their welcome.

I know this is my opinion, and I know it may not be that popular, but if you want to see what I mean, just live out my day today with the Simpsons. It started as I watched last night's new episode, where Lisa is tutored by Milhouse in the Italian language and Marge joins some social circle called the "Cheery Tomatoes" (or something like that).

First of all, both plots were somewhat repetitive. At least, they were to me. Lisa has had a "first love" how many times? At least two or three by my reckoning. Granted, it was about time that Milhouse got his shot, but still, having Lisa getting a crush on anyone at this point has been done before, and done better. Marge joins a club because she doesn't have any friends? Ummmm, no. She's had lots of friends. She's been in countless organizations and had all sorts of chums. Sadly, the plots of this week's episode were just stale rehashes of ideas done before.

Then, this evening, I got to watch a classic Simpsons re-run, the "Who Shot Mr. Burns?" episodes. It just drove home the point for me: the Simpsons have jumped the shark. Those two episodes are funnier and more creative than anything they've put on this season.

So let the Simpsons go. Let them go off the air before they really begin to stink up the joint. Let Groening bring back Futurama. Let him come up with something new. Or, if that won't work, try shaking things up a little: let the Simpsons age. Let Bart graduate to the 5th grade. Let Maggie actually speak her first words. What would Lisa be like at sweet 16? How will Homer react to Grandpa's death? It's time to find out. No cartoon series has ever let their stars age before. Maybe the Simpsons could be ground-breaking pioneers in this way.

But whatever the case, let's recognize the plain truth: the sharks have been jumped.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Competition

I guess I'm not the only one who thinks that they have the least read blog. I did a Google search with that term and came up with at least fifty others that lay claim to the title. I'd like to beg to differ with them all, but then, I do have some readers. Hmmmmm.......

Any suggestions for a new name?

Maybe the Winds are Lonely for a Reason.....

One could easily describe me as a bibliophile. I love books. I can't help myself. I devour them. Tonight I was at a Barnes and Noble, and while checking out, the clerk asked me if I had the membership card. My reply was, "With as many books as I buy, I had better!" I keep joking with Jill that when I become a best-selling author and we build a house somewhere, I'm going to include a massive library so I can display all my books.

The one problem I have, though, is that I'm not what you would call an adventerous reader. I have my favorite authors, and I mostly just read what they write. I've even been known to read the same book five or six times if I like it. I'm also a sucker for franchise books, such as Star Wars novels. It takes a lot for me to be adventerous with my reading.

So a few weeks ago, I decided to stretch my reading legs a little and try a relatively unknown author. I'm a member at Red vs. Blue and skulk around their forums. One thread I subscribe to is "Tips for Writers from Writers". Recently, someone came onto the forum and talked about how they had self-published a fantasy novel entitled The Lonely Winds.

Now, I've always been a little leery of self-publishing. But when I read the glowing reviews on the book's website, complete with a judging form from some self-publishing contest, I was intrigued. I decided I had to give it a shot. I ponied up the twenty bucks and bought a book from a little known author, hoping to be surprised and delighted.

Sadly, I am neither.

Granted, I'm only on page 108 of 447, but I'm willing to bet that unless a miracle occurs or I suffer from brain damage that impairs my ability to judge literature, I'm going to stay unimpressed.

The reason is that B.I. Flight is a horrible author. At least, he is in my opinion. He seems in love with his (admittedly) impressive vocabulary. Unfortuntaely, while he knows large words, he doesn't always seem to know what they mean. He calls things "ironic" that really aren't. He says stuff is "interesting" when it really isn't.

Not only that, but one of his main characters drives me crazy, a man named George.

In the initial pages, George seems to be a highly cultured, intelligent man, one who uses many, many large words in the course of regular conversation. After the first seventy pages, though, George starts to "break character", so to speak, interjecting exclamations like "Great googly moogly!" and "Holy Hand Grenade!" It doesn't ring true to the picture of George that was forming and is quite off-putting.

I think the problem is that Mr. Flight never had access to a real editor. I doubt that the folks at Infinity Publishing did much for him other than take his money.

This may seem cruel and harsh, but it's the way I see things. If B.I. Flight has somehow stumbled into an area of the internet that's less read than his book, I'll apologize if you're offended, but I won't apologize for what I've said. Your novel, while creative, needed a lot more work before it came out in print.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Just for fun...

Take my Quiz on QuizYourFriends.com!

Yes, I know, it's a bit much, but I had fun writing it.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

I've seen the future....

.... and I couldn't be happier!

Okay, confession time. I'm a wrestling fan. Not the Greco-Roman kind either. Professional wrestling. Yes, I'll wait for you to stop laughing before I continue.....

Well, tonight, I saw something that made me a little hopeful. For the first time, I watched "TNA Impact" on Spike TV.

See, I've been losing interest in wrestling. After all, since the WWE bought out the WCW, it's been the only show in town. And sadly, that show has been slowly losing steam. Vince McMahon, the megalomaniac owner of the WWE, apparently didn't pay attention in high school history class about how monopolies, while a seemingly good idea on paper, really don't work in the real world.

The reason why the WWE was on top of its game in the mid- to late-90s was because of the WCW. Vinnie Mac may not want to admit it, but it's true. As any wrestling fan can tell you, for a short time there, the WCW was on top of the wrestling world. It had better ratings, more fans, was making a ton of money, and seemed ready to destroy the WWE (then the WWF. This was before they lost to a panda). That spurred the WWE on to new heights and forced them to compete. The competition made them better.

But now, the WWE has had a few years of no competition, and it's beginning to show. Lackluster storylines, horrible wrestlers who don't know what they're doing getting inexplicable pushes, it's enough to drive a wrestling fan mad.

So that's why I'm so pleased to discover TNA. They're a young upstart company, they don't have as much money as the WWE, and yes, they too have their problems, but what they have going for them is some pretty sweet action. I watched two wrestlers I had never heard of before, Christopher Daniels and Sonjay Dutt wrestle for ten minutes, and they had me on the edge of my seat the whole time because they were so good.

If TNA could get a little more money and could somehow convince Spike TV to put them in a head-to-head slot against the WWE, things could get interesting. I doubt it would ever happen; Spike TV does not have a good history of working with wrestling promotions in the past.

But hey, a wrestling fan can dream, can't he?

Thursday, October 13, 2005

"Ripped" from the Headlines?

Try "cooked up with ridiculous stereotypes." That's more accurate.

For those of you who don't recognize the title, that's the catchphrase of one of my favorite shows, Law and Order. I've been watching this show for close to eight years now, and I have rarely missed an episode. And while there are a few times when I squirm a little, last night's episode really cheesed me off.

Let me explain why: the writers, deciding to rip something from the headlines: Terri Schaivo. The episode starts out with a very sympathetic husband deciding to remove the feeding tube of his vegitative wife. Outside the hospital stands a rabid group of protesters.

At this point, I thought, "This ain't good. It's too soon, it's too fresh, it's too close to reality. This is going to be bad."

It got worse. Two minutes into the episode, sympathetic hubby died when his car exploded.

By the time the episode was over, it turned out that a "Christian" pastor and the vegitative lady's family had conspired together to kill the husband so that they could keep the woman alive. But that's not what cheesed me off. I realize that pastors aren't perfect (I should know since I am one) and that they, like anyone, are capable of murder. (Case in point)

No, what really upset me about this episode is that every Christian was presented as rabid, hypocritical zealots, people who don't see the hypocrisy evident in killing someone for a "Pro-Life" cause. Every. Single. Last. One. Of. Them.

I doubt the producers or writers of Law and Order will ever stumble on my humble little blog, but if they do, I would like to quote one of my personal heroes, Crow T. Robot from Mystery Science Theater 3000:

BITE ME!

Why? I am a Christian. I am also pro-life. I believe that abortion is not right except in very specific circumstances. I'm sorry if that offends anyone. I believe that all life is a gift from God and should be protected.

That being said, I am not a rabid, bomb-throwing zealot. Killing abortionists, bombing clinics, and then claiming that you're doing the Lord's work is simply ridiculous and unChristian. True pro-lifers understand that. Yes, some morons take it too far, but they are in the extreme minority.

What Law and Order did last night was paint everyone who is Christian and pro-life with a very broad brush and they didn't offer anything to balance the viewpoint. If they had, I doubt that I would have been as angry as I am right now.

Consider: in the past, Law and Order has done episodes regarding environmental terrorism. In those episodes, they have made it clear that the extremists are not spokespeople for mainline environmentalists. They have made it clear that those folks have taken things too far by including characters who speak from a more moderate perspective.

The more moderate perspective was missing from last night's episode, and as a result, I'm feeling a little miffed. I realize that the entertainment industry has a heavy liberal slant. I realize that they can use their little bully pulpit to say whatever they want. First Amendment and all that. I just wish that when they ripped something from the headlines, they would have done so with a little more care.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Welcome to My World!

Okay, so I did it again. I disappeared from the blogging scene. You can chalk it up to my personality. I try something new, and I get obsessed with it. Then I find something new to get obsessed about. This blog was what I was obsessed with months ago, and sometimes I remember to come and update it.

So what's my new obsession? World of Warcraft. That's right. I, like two million other users, have been suckered into the best MMORPG game ever made.

I'll admit, I was a tentative convert. I had played two other MMORPGs in the past, Star Wars Galaxies and, most recently, City of Heroes. In both cases, I wound up canceling my account and selling the software on e-Bay.

With Galaxies, I was one of the beta testers (in Beta 3, so I'm not claiming to be anything special). I fell in love with the idea of being able to live in the Star Wars universe (being a rabid fan of the original trilogy and a devourer of the books), of having my own adventures in a galaxy far, far away. And I have to admit, I had a blast .... for the first six months. After that, though, I hit the wall. I had to start grinding just to reach new levels with my character, a Wookie named Orralyyybecca (which, if you know me in real life, shouldn't surprise you). I had to log on and kill things for no reason other than I needed to to learn a new skill, and it just wasn't fun. Not only that, but at the six month mark, there were still some major bugs that should have been squashed by the development team but weren't. After six months, I pulled the plug and, while I sometimes wonder what's happening (especially after the expansion, Jump to Lightspeed, came out), I never had a burning desire to go back.

With City of Heroes, it wasn't my idea to leave. Not really. See, after burning out on Galaxies, I was wary of going back to a MMORPG. But I read such wonderful things about it, I had to see what it was like to be a superhero in Paragon City. So I ponied up the dough, bought a six month account, and took to the streets. And I have to say, I had a blast again. It was a lot of fun becoming Etz'alel, a brooding superhero who could create illusions in people's minds and control the weather. But then my computer popped a memory card. Suddenly the game couldn't work and I had to send in the tower to be fixed. Going cold turkey made me realize that I could live without it, and so I cancelled my account.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago. I had been reading about World of Warcraft in the magazines. I kept hearing about what a mindblowing game it was. And I have to say, I was tempted. I've played all the Warcraft games except for the expansion pack to Warcraft II, and I have to say, Blizzard, the company behind the games, are geniuses. I knew it would be a good experience to try out WoW. I just wasn't sure.

And then I got a free, 14-day trial in a magazine. I couldn't resist. I installed it and tried it out.

What can I say? I'm a sucker. I'm back into MMORPGs with a vengeance. As a matter of fact, my Paladin, Jensina, just took out a mean ol' ogre named Chok'Sul with the help of a few mages, a druid, and a hunter named Scrimshaw. It was a blast, even if it did take close to an hour and a half and my character died four or five times. I'd do it again (and probably will!).

Might history repeat itself? I'm guessing it will. Just wait for me to become obsessed with something again. But there's a difference this time:

My wife is hooked also.

See, Jill never really understood the allure of these games. She watched me play Galaxies, and I offered to let her try it, but she didn't want to. When I got City of Heroes, I once again offered, and she didn't want to. For some reason, though, she decided she would see what the fuss was about, and the next thing I knew, I had competition for the computer (normally Jill only uses it to check her e-mail or to write papers for a class she's taking). I'll come home from work, and she'll be out slogging through a group of troggs or spiders or something.

I have to say, while sometimes I don't like having to wait my turn to enter the world of Azeroth, it's more fun this way. Jill and I watch each other play and offer advice, moral support, and cheers. As a matter of fact, while I was fighting Chok'sul, Jill kept an eye on my teammates to make sure everyone was doing okay. Maybe the obsession will last a little longer since we're sharing it. I don't know.

So if you're a WoW player and you're on the Moonrunner server, and if someday you run across a dwarf warrior named Morabel or a Night Elf hunter named Adrisa, say "Hi" to my wife and make sure to add, "Welcome to our world!"

Friday, July 08, 2005

Here's An Idea For Hollywood

So Jill and I went to see Fantastic Four tonight, and on the way to Mankato, I started thinking about the offerings from Hollywood for this summer. And I know that people have said this before, but why is Hollywood offering us so many remakes and retreads? Just about every movie this summer seems to be a remake of something else. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Dukes of Hazzard, Bewitched, War of the Worlds , The Longest Yard, King Kong (which, I know, comes out in December, but it's still a remake), the list could go on and on and on....

Which makes me wonder. Why on earth would Hollywood keep remaking successful and/or critically acclaimed movies? I know, I know, it's the money and it's really easy to do (I mean, all the heavy lifting like story and plot are out of the way), but it seems to be an awful risk.

I mean, take a look at the flack that Tim Burton's gotten for Charlie. There are those die hard fans of the old film who will probably hate the remake or revisioning or whatever you want to call it. People are crying bloody murder because they're so worried that Burton is going to destroy a classic film, which is always a danger when you tackle any remake.

And really, remaking a successful film is a lose/lose proposition. At least, it seems like it would be to me. First of all, you have to fight to get the rights to the original movie. You have to beg and plead with whoever owns it just to get a crack at it. Then you have to dodge all the critical bullets that will fly your way while you're filming.

Worse, if your remake is a success, I don't think people really give you that much credit. After all, you just built on the shoulders of giants. It wasn't your success, it was because the story was too big or too powerful for you to screw up. And if your remake flops, well then, you're just a double loser because you couldn't succeed where someone else did.

That's why I think Hollywood is going about things all wrong when it comes to remakes. Why remake the classics? Why spend the money to redo something that people love and cherish? (George Lucas, I'm talking to you too!) Why not go out on a limb and, say, redo a flop?

I'm serious! Why not remake the movies that were just horrible to begin with? Instead of remaking Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, why doesn't Tim Burton try to fix Plan 9 From Outer Space ? Instead of redoing a classic, why not try to make the plot of Manos: The Hands of Fate make sense? I mean, Hollywood produces a lot more flops than they do hits each year. Why don't filmmakers try to go back and fix the old flops? If they need a list, they could just buy an episode guide for Mystery Science Theater 3000. That should give you plenty of material to work with. Hundreds of movies, and none of them with any merit whatsoever.

Think about it. Unlike remaking a classic, critically and/or fan acclaimed movie, remaking a dud is a win/win proposition. If your remake is a hit, you get to bask in the adulations of the fans and you'll look like a genius because you were able to make a cinematic turd shine like gold. And if your remake flops, you can just point out that the story sucked the first time around and so it's really not your fault.

Don't believe me? I think someone in Hollywood has already tried this. I keep seeing the trailers for that cloning nightmare movie, The Island, and I have to say, it looks really, really familiar. Maybe because in 1979, some guy made a movie called Parts: The Clonus Horror, about a group of clones that live in an isolated area, kept on hand in case their parts are needed in the real world. If they need to be harvested, they're told they're going to some sort of paradise. Only one of the clones escapes, yada yada yada. Sound familiar now? Someone is trying to do a dud remake. I hope they succeed. I really do.

Hollywood could learn a lesson. C'mon, guys and gals, get with it! Ishtar awaits! Roger Corman's many lousy endeavors need salvaging! Stop taking the easy road, and tackle something challenging.

Just one request from the peanut gallery. Don't mess with Gigli. Some things are just better left dead.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

U.S. to Al Qaeda -- We Give Up!

That's right. Even though I have no authority to do so, I am hereby surrendering the U.S. to al-Qaeda.

I mean, that's what Osama wants us to do, right? That's why he keeps sending his minions out to strike at us. That's why there were these terror attacks in London, right?

(Okay, at this point, we don't know for sure who did it, but given the similarities to other al-Qaeda attacks, I'm not really willing to bet against that)

They keep on striking at us because we're such big bullies and we're messing with the Middle East. Therefore, we should just pull all of our troops out Iraq so it can collapse into anarchic chaos and so extremist imams can set up a ruthless theocracy. We'll call it Taliban West.

I'm sure that's what some of the pundits out there are going to say in light of what happened in London. We should stop provoking the radical Muslim terrorists and try to play nice with them. Get out of Iraq. Leave Afghanistan alone. Stop hunting for Osama. Then we'll all be able to skip off into the sunset together.

I think that's a great idea.

No, I really do! Let's do just that. Let's give the terrorists exactly what they want. We'll get out of Iraq. That should stop all the attacks, right?

Well, no, I suppose not. After all, we're still the Great Satan, partially because we support Israel. So I guess to get them to stop the attacks, we'll have to go back on our word to our allies in the region and break a lot of different treaties and have them fend for themselves. Then they'll like us, right?

I'm guessing the answer will still be no. They'd still consider us the Great Satan since we tend to project our culture throughout the world. We export our movies, our TV shows, our fashions, and oddly enough, people around the world adopt them and imitate us. That's part of the reason why the terrorists don't like us: they think we're corrupting their daughters and a bad influence on their sons. So we'll have to cut everyone off. No more American movies. No more Simpsons re-runs. No more foreign factories making jeans. Then we'll finally have peace, right?

Well ..... maybe not. After all, we'd still be a pretty tolerant country. We'd still allow people to be different heretical religions, to say whatever they want, no matter how blasphemous it is. Our women would still be able to show a scandalous amount of skin. Our churches would still be separate from the state. And to them, that just won't do. The only way they'll be happy and put away their bombs is if everyone in the world believes and dresses and speaks and acts just like them. And until that happens, they're going to want to attack people.

So that's it. If we want to see the violence end, we have to surrender the United States completely. Terrorists, come and get it. We'll let you set up a theocratic Muslim government however you see fit. Women, report to your local town halls so you can get your burqas. The rest of us religious types will have to learn Arabic and get our own copies of the Quran.

And yes, I was being sarcastic. Live with it.

We stand with you in your time of trial.

Friday, June 10, 2005

If I Could Turn Back Time.....

Let me set the scene for you.

It's August of 2003. Jill and I are finishing up our Australian vacation in Adelaide. After about twelve days of being constantly on the go and with less than 24 hours to spend in this final city, we decided that we wouldn't do much site seeing, but instead would take in a movie.

One possible choice was to see American Wedding, the final movie in the American Pie series. The other choice (I'm sure there was more than one, but I can't for the life of me remember what the others were) is an Australian made movie called Danny Deckchair. We had seen a few commercials for it and it looked kind of interesting.

Maybe it was the exhaustion. Maybe we were feeling homesick. We went to see American Wedding and were thoroughly disappointed. If you've seen it, you know why.

Once we were home, I kind of regretted not taking the chance to experience some "native cinema", so to speak. But I just filed it under my impressive list of missed opportunities and went on with my life.

Fast forward to a month or two ago. Jill and I are at Action Video, the local video rental store here in Blue Earth (which also doubles as the 1 hour photo shop and triples as a tanning salon. You gotta love small towns) and what do we find under new releases?

Danny Deckchair! I could hardly believe it. I never thought I would see an Australian movie in an American video store, especially not here in Blue Earth (but, then again, Action Video does have a pretty eclectic selection).

Well, tonight, Jill and I rented Danny, and I have to say, I've been kicking myself. If I could turn back time, I would plop down in Adelaide and whisper in my own ear to forget the Wedding and see Danny instead.

Okay, maybe not. Time travel powers should not be wasted on such frivolous things, but anyway....

If you haven't seen this movie, hunt it down. I guarantee you'll have a good time.

Oh, and if you need extra incentive, consider this: throughout the movie, I kept looking at the lead actress, trying to remember where I had seen her before. I knew it was some sort of sci fi or fantasy movie, some big blockbuster, but I just could not place the face. So I waited until the end credits rolled and wrote down her name, then Googled her (how sad is it that Google has become a verb?).

It turns out that Miranda Otto played Eowyn in The Lord of the Rings movies. She's the one who dispatched the Witch King in the last movie.

So go out and start renting! Let's give this movie the audience it deserves!

Sunday, June 05, 2005

What $20K will buy you....

So I read about this in Entertainment Weekly, and I had to see it for myself:

http://www.panicstruckpro.com/revelations/

That's the weblink for "Star Wars: Revelations," a fan film shot on the East Coast.

First, the bad stuff. The plot is convoluted and, for the most part, well nigh incomprehensible. It took me most of the 40 minute running time to figure out what the heck these people were trying to do. The acting was lamentable. All the Jedi in the movie seemed to come from the "Whiny Anakin" school of acting. Honestly, there wasn't a single actor I wanted to "get behind" and root for. And this may sound insensitive, but they really needed to cast a larger net to find "The Emperor's Hand." For those of us in the know, "The Emperor's Hand" is a sort of assassin introduced by Timothy Zahn in his Thrawn trilogy. Zahn's Emperor's Hand is a lady named Mara Jade. You can see what she looks like here. Very sleek, very stealthy, very deadly. Zhanna, the Emperor's Hand of this movie, was not sleek, didn't appear to be able to sneak up on much of anything, and seemed mildly put out, not lethal. If we're going from a purely Star Wars perspective, this movie didn't add much to the Extended Universe.

But I still liked it. Why? As you watch the movie, keep this one fact in mind: they did this with a budget of $20,000. All the effects, everything, for twenty grand. If that's not worthy of admiration, I don't know what is.

Hollywood, take note! You don't have to spend tons of money. Simplify!

Thursday, June 02, 2005

I have to wait a year?!?

I hate it when I have to wait, but I guess I'll have to. It'll be worth it, though, for this:

http://spore.ea.com/

Want to see what I mean? Read on:

http://pc.ign.com/articles/617/617441p1.html?fromint=1

Thursday, May 19, 2005

A Disturbing Experience

Like I said in a previous post, I've picked up a new hobby, namely, making movies with The Sims 2. It's been interesting, especially since there's a small but dedicated group of individuals who are obsessed with doing the same thing. We chat about it on a BBS supported by the good folks at EA Games, offer critiques to each other, announce premieres, that sort of thing.

I usually track down the premieres that people announce. I'm always curious to see what others are doing, and sometimes, it helps me figure out what I want to do in the movies that I make. But today, something rather disturbing happened.

A Sims player announced that she had made the "best Sims movie ever." That may sound a little bold, but braggadocio goes with the territory. A few people commented on the movie, talking mostly about technical stuff, but a few commented on how sick and perverted the ending was.

I'll admit, that made me curious.

The film itself did have technical problems, and the plot was very confusing. In a nutshell, this is what happened:

A lady moves in next door to a father and his daughter. The daughter is what we call a "child" Sim, looks to be about five or six years old. The daughter invites the new neighbor over for dinner. The woman accepts. The father explains that he is a widower. At dinner (which the neighbor cooked, not the father for reasons that were never explained), the father and the new neighbor flirt a little after the daughter goes to bed. The new neighbor returns home.

So far, not the best, but not too sick or twisted, right? Keep reading.

The movie continued with a shot of the new neighbor sitting naked on her couch, watching TV. Yes, that's right. Nude. Normally, the Sims covers up nude people (like people who are showering or taking a bath or something like that) with pixelation. There are ways, however, to shut said censoring off and special skins out there that show nudity.

In walks the father. He's in his undies. The new neighbor screams at him, asking what he's doing there.

The next thing you know, the father is naked as well and they're on the couch making out, and the new neighbor is moaning. Use your imagination. Yes, that kind of moaning.

To top it all off, the movie ends by revealing that the little girl is watching her father make out with the new neighbor in the buff and is crying, distraught, and calling for her mommy.

Now, I understand the needs of storytelling, and I know that sinful human beings have sex outside of marriage. There are several things about this movie that disturbed me:
  1. The fact that the little girl was watching. That was just plain wrong. I don't know what the heck the moviemaker was trying to accomplish with that, but it was sick and very twisted.
  2. The fact that this movie was little better than porn. I mean, the beginning was okay, even if it was a little disjointed and badly filmed. But the nude make-out scene was too much. It was porn, plain and simple.
  3. The fact that this pseudo-porn was put on a site that is regularly accessed by children. The Sims 2 is rated for teens, but there are children who post on the BBS all the time. There's no way to limit who watches the movies on the websites in any way, shape, or form. Any kid at any time could just click into this movie and it wouldn't make a difference.

But none of those are enough reason to send me to my blog. To be fully honest, the people who run the BBS were quick to catch it and delete it. No, what disturbs me the most is who made this movie.

It was made by a thirteen year old girl.

Dead serious. According to the girl's website, she is thirteen years old. Does this bother anybody else? It sure as heck bothered me. This means that this girl thought that it was perfectly acceptable to produce what amounted to a pornographic moment and distribute it on the web. It means that she had to secure vocal talent (perhaps even doing it herself) to produce the suggestive moaning. And the fact that she called it the "best movie ever", well, that just makes me wonder what the heck is wrong with our society that we can arrive at this place.

I did what I could. I was one of the people who reported the movie to the people who run the BBS. But I can't help but wonder where her parents were, and what she was thinking. Maybe I'll never know. But I do know that I'll be a little nervous to watch future movies.

The Force Just Wasn't With Him

So last night, my soon-to-be brother-in-law and I went to a 12:01 AM screening of Episode III. And I have to say, not that I've had a little time to digest, I was both satisfied and a little disappointed. The action, as usual, was phenomenal. There were some memorable moments, images that will haunt me for a while (Anakin riding a droid over a lava flow is chief among them), but in the end, Lucas fell short of his ambitious vision.

SPOILER ALERT: Don't keep reading if you haven't seen the movie yet and/or want to be surprised.

For example, the scene where Mace Windu reflects Palpatine's Force lightning back onto him and "disfigures" him was just bad comedy. Especially the way Palpatine was acting. His new looks and snivelling attitude reminded me of Gollum from "Lord of the Rings." All he needed was a ring, a cave, and some dead fish. Granted, that could be an acting problem, but the fact that Lucas left it in and didn't try to fix it and make it dramatic instead of just plain silly, well, that's his fault.

Another example: Darth Vader waking up after being encased in the armor. I'm sorry, but that scene was so conry, you could have produced thirty gallons of ethanol from it! Especially when Vader stands alone and screams, "No!" I'm glad that Lucas included the final scene of Vader and the Emperor at the end of the movie. I wouldn't want my last memory of Vader in a Star Wars movie to be the quasi-dramatic scream.

Lucas also missed some prime story-telling opportunities that could have easily ratcheted up the drama as well. The sad part is, in one case, he tentatively started in a dramatic direction, but then backed off. I thought for sure that we were going to see the Jedi version of "Othello" at one point, with Anakin playing the lead role, Padme as Desdimona, Obi-Wan as Cassio, and Palpatine as Iago. Lucas almost went down that path at one point. Would that he did! It would have been so cool, and would have improved the so-called romantic subplot.

So I have a few suggestions for Mr. Lucas should he ever stumble on the Least Read Blog:

  • Stop directing human beings. The fact of the matter is, sir, you can't do that. You suck at it. Amidala and Anakin were as wooden in the movie as they were in other movies, but I doubt it's Christensen and Portman's fault. I've seen Portman in "Garden State," and I hear that Christensen does good work elsewhere too. Face facts, Mr. Lucas: you're better suited to putting together flashy CGI special effects. That's okay. You do a good job at it. Leave directing human beings to someone who can.
  • Stop writing (especially love scenes). I understand that you probably have some great ideas bouncing around in your skull. That's great. Outline them, and then give them to someone else to turn into a movie script. Face facts: you're just not that good, especially when it comes to romance scenes. Do what you did with the original Trilogy, especially Empire Strikes Back, and people will love your stories again.

Like I said, I doubt he'll ever show up and actually read them, but hey, it felt good to vent.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Twice bitten but not too shy

Last night, Jill and I went to Robots and, I must say, that was a good movie. But it's not the most memorable part of the evening for me. No no. The most memorable part of the evening was the trailer for Episode III. I honestly held my breath through the whole thing. After it was done, I was wishing that it was Wednesday (actually Thursday) at 12:01 AM so my soon-to-be brother-in-law Chris and I could be at the midnight screening.

But, at the same time, a sense of foreboding filled me. I mean, I can remember back six or seven years ago when Episode I was coming out. After all, we had been waiting years and years and years and YEARS for the prequels. Myself, I remember watching and rewatching the original Trilogy time after time after time, long enough that I subconsciously memorized all the scripts (I doubt I can recite them now, but you never know). I still remember that fateful Wednesday night, where I preached a sermon using Darth Vader as a metaphor, and then heading to the theater in Birch Run, Michigan, with my friend Michele, anxious to see the new wonder that George Lucas had prepared for us.

And what did I get? A convoluted plot mired in obscure political trickery (I mean, what the heck did the Trade Federation hope to accomplish by blockading Naboo?), disappointing Jedi nonsense (midichlorians? HELLO!), and the bad aftertaste of seeing Anakin Skywalker as a little boy who can't act (at no time should we ever see Darth Vader say, "Yahooo!" I don't care how young he is!). It took me a while, but I finally realized that Episode I was something of a disappointment.

When Episode II came out, I was a little hesitant. Not too much. After all, Anakin wouldn't be played by that snotty kid (whose name I forget and I'd prefer to remain ignorant, thank you very much). We had the promise of the Clone Wars. And so, I entered the theater, hoping that the sour disappointment of Episode I would be erased.

Lucas got it better, but he didn't get it right. Anakin and Padme were stiff and wooden. Based on what I've seen of Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman in other movies, that wasn't their fault. Perhaps if Lucas had spent more time in film school learning how to direct humans and not so much time drawing droids in the margins of his notes, things would have been better. Plus, you had the really, really, really bad romance between Padme and Anakin. I'm sorry, Lucas should be banned from writing love scenes for life. He just can't do it.

At the same time, though, while Episode II was not everything it could be, it was more than what Episode I was. Lucas spent more time in action sequences, which is where his flashy FX can really shine. And, of crouse, there's Yoda throwing down with Count Dooku. Best surprise of the whole movie.

So here we are. The saga is almost complete. In about 36 hours, we'll finally see the end of the Clone Wars, the creation of Darth Vader, and, I'm told, the birth of Luke and Leia. I should be more excited, but I'm not. Even though the trailer for Episode III was very flashy and made me hold my breath, so did the trailers for I and II. I'm worried that when I leave the theater on Thursday morning at 3 AM, I'll be disappointed and grouchy because Lucas got it wrong again.

But then, when you have to look forward to Palpatine and Yoda throwing down in the Senate Chamber, maybe everything will be all right.

Friday, May 13, 2005

An Imaginary Conversation

A little over a week ago, I was invited to speak at the local high school in a philosophy and world religions class. It was a lot of fun. But I have to admit, it wasn't exactly what I had planned.

See, the student who invited me (actually, students) never really prepped me for what I was going to do. They told me not to prepare anything, and that I should be ready to just answer questions.

So in my mind, I imagined that I would be sitting at the front of the class, facing a "firing squad" of 20+ high school students. A little scary, especially since I was warned that two of the students were atheists or agnostics or something like that and that these two were the most vocal. I was especially nervous since one of them is the son of a local pastor and, in the words of the students who invited me, "knows his Bible very well." It's not that I was worried that he would know more than me, it was just that I was worried the talk would turn into Bible-diving and alienate the rest of the class.

It turns out my fears were unfounded. Three other local pastors were invited to come in as well, and we were divided up into smaller groups. I had a group of all girls, including three Catholics (nothing wrong with that, just commenting). My group was very nice and asked some really good and tough questions.

But I have to admit, as strange as it sounds, I was hoping to talk to Atheist Boy. Especially after this past Wednesday. One of the students who invited me told me that he and A.B. lock horns all the time, and that one of his favorite arguments is that he's not a Christian because of the Crusades and the bad stuff that Christians have done.

I've heard this argument before, and the more I thought about it, I realized what I would say to A.B. if I could. Since I don't know if I'll ever have the chance, I thought I would just post it here:

IMAGINARY CONVERSATION

ME: So you aren't a Christian because of the bad things that Christians have done, like the Crusades, right?

AB: Right. I don't want to be part of a group that has killed or suppressed hundreds of thousands of people while they claim to serve some higher ideal.

ME: That seems pretty logical. I mean, I wouldn't want to either. So when are you renouncing your American citizenship?

AB: What? Why would I want to do that?

ME: Well, you say that you don't want to be part of a group that's killed or suppressed people, right? If we apply that logic to every part of your life, you should quit being an American citizen.

AB: Why would I have to do that?

ME: Just follow my logic for a while:


  • In the early 19th century, the American people were involved in the brutal subjugation of African slaves. Even though "we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal," the American government at best ignored, or worst, winked at, the brutalities perpetuated by Americans on African slaves. It was considered politically inexpedient to free the slaves, and so for at least a hundred years, people were treated like property. Even though the abolitionist movement (started primarily by Christians, incidentally) tried to get the Founding Fathers to free the slaves, they refused.
  • In the late 19th century, the American people were involved in the brutal annexation of Native American lands, forcing them onto reservations or killing them.
  • In the early 20th century, prominent American politicians, such as Teddy Roosevelt, and scientists bought into the pseudo-science known as "eugenics". Eugenics was the belief that society had to regulate how people reproduced to weed out the "undesirable" influences. Policies enacted in many states resulted in the forced streilization of thousands of people, mostly the poor, people from the "wrong" ethnic groups, the mentally and physically handicapped, and so forth. California led the way and sterilized the most people "for the public good." It wasn't until after World War II that eugenics was quietly swept under the rug, and that was because people had seen what the logical conclusion of the movement was, namely, concentration camps.
  • As long as we're on World War II, how about the fact that FDR forcibly relocated thousands of Japanese Americans to P.O.W. camps simply because they might be spies?

ME: The list could go on and on and on. All these people did horrible things, and I'd be willing to bet that all of them thought they were serving some sort of higher ideal, namely America. So if you're going to avoid groups that have tainted pasts, you should logically renounce your American citizenship as well.

AB: But Christians have still done some lousy things!

ME: I know that all too well. And yet, I'm still a Christian anyway. You know why? Because as a Lutheran, I understand the tension that all Christians live in. In Latin, it's known as simul justus et peccator, or "saint and sinner at the same time." Christians aren't perfect, and anyone who claims that they are is a liar, plain and simple. The true difference is that Christians are forgiven. That doesn't excuse the horrible things that Christians have done. It's not meant to. It just doesn't seem right to me to judge a whole group of people on the basis of what some idiots did.

AB: Oh.

And, hopefully, that would be the end of that.

Okay. I have to go. I need to head to Mankato to get tickets for "Episode III." I'm really hoping that Lucas did a decent job on this one. If not ... well, if he didn't, at least there won't be any more for him to screw up.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Where the heck have I been?

Good question! I've been busy working on a silly contest.

See, I love videogames. Love 'em! And one of the ones that has sucked me in is "The Sims 2." Absolutely love it! I've even gotten my wife hooked on it, and that's saying something (Jill does not understand why I enjoy videogames).

Anyway, every now and then, the Sims 2 will sponsor a contest of some sort. So far, they've sponsored a horror movie contest and a comedy contest. I checked out the winners of both contests (and you can too -- here's the horror movie winners and here are the comedy winners ). While some of them were good, I wondered why others won.

The most recent movie making contest is to show "A Day in the Life of a College Student". Interesting, and an obvious tie-in with the last expansion pack to come out for the Sims 2, The Sims 2 University . So I decided to try my hand at movie making.

It took a couple of afternoons, some gentle persuasion to get my wife to do a voice, and an e-mail to secure the help of my soon-to-be brother-in-law Chris, but my submission is done! Go check it out here!

Thursday, April 28, 2005

The Dayton Phonecall

Yes! Part of my faith in the government has been restored. Not a large part of it, but just enough.

One of the people to whom I sent my infamous letter was Senator Mark Dayton. I figured if I sent it to everyone who was supposed to represent me, I would get a better response.

Anyway, about a week ago, when I got home from work, there was a message on the phone.

The message was from a lady who identified herself as working for Senator something-or-other. She apologized that she hadn't gotten in touch with me sooner, but that Mark (my first clue as to who she worked for) had received my letter, and he agrees that prescription drug advertising is part of the reason why the costs are so high. Not only that, but he is working on legislation to curb the excesses and try to bring down the costs.

I was near ecstatic. Not because Dayton is supposedly writing this bill (I'll believe it when I see it. I don't have that much faith in our government), but because someone actually read the letter!

Phew! Now all I need to wait for is Norm Coleman's response. But given that it's been a few months, I'm not holding my breath.

The importance of footnotes

So I keep checking Entertainment Weekly's bestseller list every week. I keep hoping and praying that someday soon, a certain entry will have disappeared entirely. Unfortunately, it hasn't happened yet, although it is beginning to drop down the list. It's no longer number one (although it might hop up there again soon), but it has been on the list for over 100 weeks.

What book is it? The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown.

Why do I want to see it gone? I mean, that may sound a little weird, seeing as I'm an author (although unpublished) myself, and I should be happy with another author's huge success, right? And normally, I would, except for the fact that The DaVinci Code is an awful, horrible book.

I'm not just talking about the book's literary merits, although that's debatable. No, what torks me off about this book is the questionable theology that so many people seem so willing to swallow with little or no scholarly support.

I mean, let's face it, Dan Brown's "theories" (if they can even be called that, and I think I'm being generous by doing so) come from four books written by disreputable historians that very few people take seriously. Art historians disagree vehemently with his interpretation of DaVinci's symbolism, and don't even get me started on the numerous historical and theological errors that Brown makes throughout his book.

Why bring this up now? Well, I recently finished reading a book that, in some ways, is similar to Brown's wretched little opus. It too takes a controversial stand and flies in the face of conventional wisdom. The plot, such as it is, serves only as a vehicle to put forth new and radical theories and, I'll be honest, the writing isn't much to write home about.

What book is this? It's State of Fear by Michael Crichton.

If you're not familiar with this book, Crichton argues through this novel that global warming isn't happening. It's a non-issue, used by the government and other powers that be (he names Hollywood and the media as examples) to keep modern society in a "state of fear" similar to that America and Russia experienced during the Cold War.

Like I said, the plot itself was kind of a snoozer, and I actually found myself wanting to skip over the "action" sequences just so I could read what Crichton had to say about environmentalism, global warming, the history of Yellowstone National Park, among other things.

Now maybe Crichton and Brown would take exception to being compared to each other, but I think it's a valid observation. Both are on the outside of what mainstream scholars on their respective subjects would consider reasonable and orthodox. Both have taken heat for what they've written, and both seem absolutely convinced that what they think is right.

But out of the two, I have to say that, for all its controversy, State of Fear is a better book. Why?

Footnotes.

That's right. You heard me. Crichton, unlike Brown, included footnotes throughout his novel and tacked on an extended bibliography at the end of it.

Why is this so important? Because now a reader who is so inclined, could go check Crichton's research. And there's a mountain of it to sift through. Crichton, in essence, says, "Here's my reasoning for why I believe what I believe. Go check it for yourself to see what you think."

Brown, on the other hand, lists only the four pseudo-scholars and has absolutely no evidence to back up what he has to say. We have to take his word for it that, for example, Emperor Constantine collated and edited the Bible (he didn't), that there are 666 panes of glass in the Louvre pyramid (there aren't), or that Hebrew men had sex with priestesses in Solomon's Temple to communicate with God (don't even get me started!).

Hopefully more and more people will realize that Dan Brown's specialty isn't writing, it's fertilizer spreading, and they'll consign his best-seller to the dung heap of history. Until then, I'll be watching Entertainment Weekly's list and pray that more people leave it alone.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

More silliness from a mastor pol

Okay, so I published the letter I got from Gil Gutknecht, and I lamented the fact that he didn't comment at all about my crazy idea to ban prescription drug ads from television. My friend, Tristan/Chris commented that he's a politician, and so what did I expect?

Well, T/C, you were right, and the letter that I just received today proves it.

Just a moment ago, my lovely wife stepped into the den and handed me a very heavy envelope from the White House. She wanted to know why I was getting a letter. I guessed it was in response to the letter I sent El Presidente regarding my whacky scheme.

I opened the letter and started reading:

"Dear Reverend Otte:

On behalf of President Bush, thank you for your letter about Medicare. We appreciate learning your views......"

I won't print the rest of the letter. Medicare? What the heck? I didn't say one word in my letter about Medicare. The letter from Marguerite A. Murer, Bush's Acting Director of Presidential Correspondence (which makes me wonder where the real Director of Presidential Correspondence was), goes on to describe the wonderful things the President has done to fix Medicare.

You know, once again, I wouldn't have minded if the President had told me to go jump in a lake because my idea was stupid, ill-informed, and impossible to do. Instead, I learn that politicians, who are supposed to represent me, don't pay any attention to my ideas and only want to talk about themselves.

I know, I know, I know. What do I expect, right? Maybe this is why we have such low voter turnout in this country. Maybe if the freakin' pols would pay attention to what we think and have to say, people would be more interested.

But I suspect that the devil has a better chance of hosting the Winter Olympics.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Insert Generic Britney Spears Joke Here

Okay, I could have titled this post "Oops, She Did It Again!", but that would be too easy. So I went with the lazy way out for this post.

How many of you are subscribers to TIME magazine? Every week, when I get TIME, the first thing I do is turn to the "Notebook" section, which includes a collection of notable quotes from the previous week. This week, though, I found a quote that just ticked me off. Here it is:
"I have to tell the maid to buy diapers and get the pool boy to walk the dog? Can't I just make out with Kevin all the time? Being married sucks."
Britney Spears, complaining in Allure magazine about the responsibilities of family and stepchildren

Okay, Ms. Spears or Mrs. Federline or whatever I'm supposed to call her, I've had enough.

They say that confession is good for the soul, so I'll do what's good for my soul, even though it is a little embarrassing. I used to own two of Britney's CDs. I know, I know, I know. Thankfully, my wife made me get rid of them when we got married, and I have to say, it was a good thing. I've watched Britney descend into ridiculousness, and it's time for us to cut the cord and let her drop into the Bottomless Pit of Pop Obscurity. Ten years from now, people should be asking, "Britney who?"

Why? This quote is why. It shows that Britney has completely lost it. I don't know if being dumped by Justin Timberlake did it to her, but Britney is way the heck off base, and she's been slipping from base for many years now.

So here's an open letter to Britney, in case she ever stumbles into the Least Read Blog:

GET A CLUE, MORON!

Oh, poor Britney. You steal away another mother's man and you think that it'll be like playing house when you were a little girl and mommy and daddy were making you dress up in wholly inappropriate clothing for the first time? You thought that it would be wine and roses? I bet a lot of parents wish that they had a maid who could get diapers or a pool boy to walk the dog. I'd be willing to bet they wished they had a respite to just collapse for five seconds, even if making out with their significant other isn't involved.

Britney, come back to the real world soon. You need it.

Okay, that's it for me right now. Maybe I'll complain about another pop icon in the next couple of days. After Easter, though. Gotta get through that first.

Friday, March 11, 2005

It's time for the International Eat an Animal for PETA Day!

Mark your calendars! March 15 is the official Eat an Animal for PETA Day. Here's the rationale for why you should participate, a web-site that a friend passed on to me. If PETA thinks it's okay to belittle the memory of Holocaust victims by suggesting that eating meat is the moral equivalent, well then, I guess I need to have a big steak dinner that night. Who will join me?

Thursday, March 03, 2005

The Promised Letter

Okay, so I promised to post this letter from the honorable Gil Gutknecht a few days ago. Sue me. I just bought The Sims 2 University expansion pack and I've been constructing Simcordia University in honor of my alma mater.

Anyway, if you'll remember, I suggested that people write to their Congress-people and urge them to ban prescription drugs from advertising on television. I cited the costs of such ads and how that must drive up the prices; this past weekend, I ran across the Stephen King article that said drug companies were pushing dangerous drugs onto the market.

At any rate, I followed my own advice and wrote to my Representative and my Senators, plus "W" himself. So far, only Representative Gil Gutknecht has written back. I got this letter a month ago. Sorry I didn't share it sooner:

Dear Reverend Otte:

Thank you for contacting me with your concerns over the rising cost of health care. I appreciate learning your views.

I understand that rising health care costs are an increasing concern for all Americans. That's why I am a strong proponent of tort reform, and believe it will have a remarkable impace on the price of health care. The cost of the U.S. tort system for 1994 was $152 billion, a number that has grown by 125% over the last ten years.

American consumers pay 30-300% more for their prescription drugs as our friends in Canada and Europe. That's why I authored and the U.S. House passed H.R. 2427, the Pharmaceutical Market Access Act. The bill allows American consumers access to FDA-approved prescription drugs from FDA-approved facilities in 25 industrialized countries, including Canada and the United Kingdom. Unfortunately, the Senate failed to act on the bill during the 108th Congress. In the very near future, I will be introducing this legislation once again with the intention of allowing American access to affordable prescription drug [sic] via the free market.

I am also a strong supporter of health savings accounts (HSAs). HSAs give workers the opportunity to save tax-free for routine expenses, the security of insurance against major illness and the freedom of knowing you can take your account with you whenever you change jobs. These accounts can reduce health insurance premiums for families by thousands of dollars annually while giving them control over their own health care.

I believe that these measures will go a long way toward reducing the cost of health care. Thank you again for contacting me.

Sincerely,
Gil
Gil Gutknecht


Okay, now, I know, my solution of banning prescription drug ads might not be politically possible. It might be construed as restraint of trade or even a violation of the First Amendment. But does anybody else get the feeling that Mr. Gutknecht didn't read my letter? Not a word about banning ads. Just "Thanks for the idea, now this is what the grown-ups are doing."

It's not that I expected him to jump up and down with joy at my idea or enthusiastically adopt it as his own. It would have been fine if he had written back and said, in essence, "This is the dumbest idea I've ever heard in my life. You obviously don't have a grasp of reality, dork-face. Don't waste my time or postage on this idea." But instead, I get this "wonderful" letter that makes me feel like I haven't been heard.

Oh well. I'll just have to keep this in mind if Mr. Gutknecht runs again, won't I? ;)

Monday, February 28, 2005

I'm not the only one!

Okay, if you aren't subscribed to Entertainment Weekly, go out and find a current issue (by current, I mean the one dated March 4, 2005). Don't worry. I'll wait.

Now, turn to the back page and read Mr. Stephen King's essay on prescription drug ads. I have to say, my hat is off to Mr. King. My rant about prescription drugs only factored in the economic aspects of these ludicrous ads. Mr. King brings up a much more important point: the health factor.

Mr. King cites the fact that drugs like Vioxx are causing heart attacks, something that probably should have been tested and researched before the drug companies went on a mad spending spree in TV land (not to be confused with the Nickolodeon spin-off channel). I can picture what the executive boardroom must have been like:

EXEC #1 -- So, are we ready to start up a new ad campaign for our latest product?

EXEC #2 -- Oh yeah. We secured the rights to a Beatles song and found a bunch of models who don't actually use our product to swear that it changed their lives.

EXEC #3 -- But what about these results that came in from our testing facility? Shouldn't we make sure this product is as safe as possible before we start to mass market it?

At this point, I suspect the other two execs stared at their colleague in stunned silence while the CEO of the drug company fantasized about reenacting the Al Capone baseball bat scene from The Untouchables.

Okay, so maybe I have an overactive imagination, but enough is enough! Have you written your representative yet? These drug companies are clearly out of control, especially if people are dying from drugs that they're trying to shove down our throats.

In a related matter, I did hear from my representative, the honorable Gil Gutknecht. I suspect that Mr. Gutknecht didn't even read my letter. He claims to have, but he....

Well, wait, I'll just post the letter here on the blog and let you judge for yourselves.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Condescension can save the environment!

So I want to make a big Hollywood blockbuster. Let's see if I have everything I need:

  • Either a big name star and/or star of indie movies hoping to break into the mainstream --- Check!
  • Computer generated special effects that will never top those found in The Lord of the Rings --- Check!
  • A tacked-on romantic sub-plot (or several squishy sub-sub-plots that involve dying children, lost animals, or soon-to-be-reconciled divorcees) that's really unnecessary but is included to tug at the heart strings of any women trapped in the audience by their men --- Check!
  • Questionable science and plots that have holes in them so big you can drive a truck through them --- Check!
  • A healthy level of condescension for mainstream America, including the belief that I know better than everyone else ....

Uh oh. I might be in trouble there.

My wife and I watched The Day After Tomorrow the other night. It was a good Hollywood blockbuster (by which, I was entertained by the special effects. The story, which has long been acknowledged as being completely unscientific, is another story), but at the end, I was a bit miffed at Roland Emmerich.

Why? Well, Mr. Emmerich seems to think that everyone who watched the movie he produced, directed, and wrote is some kind of idiot. See, The Day After Tomorrow has a moral to its story:

GLOBAL WARMING CAN HURT OUR ENVIRONMENT!

No kidding. I kind of knew that already. But Mr. Emmerich felt the best way to pass this information along to us was by making this movie. Fair enough. He did an adequate job of setting up his premise at the environmental summit set in New Dehli. When our hero Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid) explains things to the good people at NOAA, Mr. Emmerich was pushing the boundary. But then, when the Vice President delivers his little speech at the end of the movie, I wanted to scream, "I get it! I'm not stupid! Global warming is bad!"

Apparently Mr. Emmerich thought that the majority of the people watching his flick would be so brain dead, we wouldn't catch that moral within the first half-hour. So he had to pull out the "moral stick" and beat us over the head with it at the end of the film.

Here's an idea, Mr. Emmerich: give your audience a little credit. While we may be sucked into your shoddy storytelling by all the eye-candy and killer frost, we can pick up on what message you're trying to send us without your condescending help.

It's a problem that seems to afflict Hollywood and those in charge of producing entertainment. Those of us who are "out there" (read, people who don't get their names in TV or movie credits for some reason or another) are stupid and need to be talked down to at every moment.

The same thing happens in TV. TV execs keep shoveling the same tired stereotypes and hackneyed storylines at us, and then they're shocked when an innovative show like Desperate Housewives or Lost captures our attention.

Here's a message for any Hollywood type who may have stumbled into the Least Read Blog: Give us some credit. Maybe we'll take you more seriously then.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Strong Bad lives! He lives!

One of my favorite cartoon websites is Homestar Runner. More specifically, I like the e-mails written by Strong Bad. As my wife would say, it's "boy humor." Very silly stuff. I mean, just check out the special director's cut of Strong Bad's action movie, "Dangeresque 1: Dangeresque, too?" to see what I mean.

I was clued in to Strong Bad and his awesome e-mails by my soon-to-be brother-in-law, Chris. Cool guy.

Anyway, recently, Chris sent me a picture of himself dressed up as Strong Bad. I nearly fell out of my chair laughing:



Chris as Strong Bad Posted by Hello



Naturally, I had to know why he dressed up like that. He explained it was for a convention he attended in Detroit. He sent me other pictures and this article about the convention. He's even mentioned in the article not once, but three times!

But by far, my favorite picture he sent is this one:




I love it! I absolutely love it!

And Chris .... you should know better than to send me pictures of yourself dressed up as cartoon characters. :)

How do I know I'm sick? My TV told me!

Okay, so Jill (my darling wife) and I are doing dishes this evening and we have "King of the Hill" on in the background. Toward the end of the show, a commercial comes on for a prescription drug that people can take for their asthma.

Toward the end of the commercial, the voice-over guy starts listing off the reasons why you wouldn't want to take this drug, the possible side-effects, and something about not taking it if you're going in for surgery anytime soon.

And I thought, Oh, for crying out loud! When will it end?

I don't know about you, but I am sick and tired of all these prescription drug commercials on TV and in the magazine. I think these drug commercials are bad news, and here's the reason why:

1) It encourages people to self-diagnose. These commercials describe conditions that you might or might not have, describing the symptoms, and then suggesting a treatment plan (which always involves their product, naturally). If I were a doctor, I would be sick of conversations that involve my patient diagnosing him- or herself based on commercials.

PATIENT: Doctor, I believe I have Sorvidalertan Syndrome, and I believe the proper course of treatment is a healthy dose of chlormydioxyhydrate-D, or "Chlori-O," as it's also called. I understand that the possible side effects include dizziness, constipation, and bleeding from the armpits, but I'm just so worried about the SS, I have to take it now!

DOCTOR: Really? You think you have SS? What makes you think that?

PATIENT: Well, my TV told me that's what it means when I can't breathe and my face turns purple.

DOCTOR: No, that means that your collar is two sizes too small. Next patient!

Now, I ask you, who should be deciding a patient's treatment regimen? A doctor, who has spent years training to make such decisions, diagnoses, and prescriptions? Or an untrained layman whose only source of info is a commercial featuring cartoon characters watching badly drawn neurons misfiring?

2) It drives up the drug prices. Why do you think our drug prices are so high? It's not for the orange, semi-transparent bottles, I'll tell you that much. I mean, this is basic, common sense.

Let's say that it costs $2.5 million to produce a given drug for a year. Then let's say that you spend $2.5 million on an ad campaign that includes a spot on the Superbowl. Suddenly, it's going to take twice as much money to turn a profit. And how are you going to make the extra money? Hmmmmm .... let me think about it!

So what's the solution? I think I have an idea. For the common good, to help rein in the rampant drug prices, let's ban prescription drug advertising from television, kind of like what we do with cigarettes. That way, the drug companies don't have to pump untold millions into ridiculous advertising, and they can pass the savings on to us.

Use the links below to find and write to your Representatives and Senators and urge them to ban drug advertising from TV. I already have:

Write your Representative

Write your Senators

Monday, January 31, 2005

Learning from Iraq

CNN.Com's article about the Iraqi elections

There have probably been hundreds of blogs that have had musings about what America can learn from Iraq. Most of those have probably been about what we can learn about not going to war too quickly or stuff like that.

That's not what this is about, though.

I think there's a better lesson for us to learn from the events of this past weekend.

By Sunday morning, we were hearing stories about long lines at polling places. Granted, there were some areas in Iraq where people were scared to leave their homes, but it sounds like that even in those areas, people showed up to cast their vote.

Although we don't have any definite numbers yet, it sounds like per capita, more Iraqis showed up to vote than Americans did in November.

We could learn something from Iraq.

Here, we've had 200+ years of democracy, and I think we take it for granted. On the radio yesterday, they played the sounds of Iraqis who were celebrating with cries of joy and who were dancing with the soldiers since they had been able to have a voice in who would govern them.

When was the last time you danced because you voted?

They said that in various towns and cities throughout Iraq, you could hear bombs going off in the backgroun and the sounds of gunfire and running battles as American and Iraqi troops fought the insurgents who vowed to "wash the streets with voters' blood" (see above link). Yes, people died as they went to go vote. Even more were threatened by the insurgents. And yet the Iraqis showed up anyway.

We Americans stay home and don't vote if the weather is a little drizzly. We get all up in arms about voter intimidation (as well we should), but as far as I can tell, American voter intimidation doesn't involve any violence, is usually done by guys in suits and ties with clipboards, and doesn't involve threats of washing the streets with anyone's blood. And yet Americans use it as an excuse to stay home and then whine about it. Iraqis brave the battles and stand in line, knowing that they are targets for honest-to-goodness violence, possibly even death, and they do so with joy to be part of a democratic process.

And no, I don't condone the American version of voter intimidation. Dirty tricks are no way to win an election. The point is, we Americans could learn a thing or two from our brothers and sisters in Iraq. We've got three years to see if we will.


Like I said, America can learn a thing or two from Iraq. Maybe the most important lesson is to take our responsibility

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Cautiously Optimistic about Iraq

Part of my routine on Sunday mornings is to go to the local AM station and do a radio show called "Sounds of Praise." I'm sure I'll write more about this as time goes on. We get our national news from ABC news, and the top story at both 6:00 and 7:00 was the elections in Iraq. Here's a wire story from ABC News about it:

http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory?id=455144

I have to say, I'm cautiously optimistic. It sounds like voter turnout was pretty decent in most areas. Some places had poor turnout due to insurgent violence and fear of the same, but if most people turned out, that's a good thing.

I think initial reports said that about 32 people had died in insurgent violence also. This may sound a little snide, but that's the price for democracy, something that I think most Americans forget. The only reason why we were able to cast votes last November was because people have shed their blood for our freedom and rights. It's sad that Iraqi civilians had to die. It's sad that American troops have had to die. But hopefully, their sacrifice will be remembered as the foundation for a free and democratic Iraq.

But that's just me.

Okay. Gotta run. Church starts in 35 minutes!

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Am I supposed to be linking stuff here?

I seem to remember reading somewhere that bloggers are supposed to have links in their blogs to news articles, other blogs, and stuff like that.

Okay, I've got no links for news articles, I haven't read many other blogs. But I do have a link!

Thank you to my soon-to-be-sister-in-law Keri for this one. Made me laugh:

http://www.extremeskins.com/modules.php?op=modload&name=banghaha&file=index

What's with the astrological garbage?

You know, before I leave, I looked over my profile. You know, I wanted to see what else I could add to it, take away from it. I probably could add a lot more books and such to my favorite books thing. I also wonder why they don't have any favorite TV categories or stuff like that.

But that's not what got my attention. They list my astrological sign as "aries." Which is true, I guess. I'm not disputing that I was born in the month-long period that is supposedly ruled by a collection of random stars in the night sky.

What I'm wondering is this: Why did they include that in my profile? I don't want it there. I don't take any stock in astrological signs or the zodiac mumbo-jumbo or anything like that at all. Why include it automatically? Or is it just me?

Listen, folks, astrology is a joke. I mean, humans have this natural tendency to find patterns where none exist. That's why people see the Virgin Mary in window reflections or Elvis in the mold on the underside of their refridgerator. Some ancient guy a long time ago looked at the night sky, saw this and decided it looked like a ram. Personally, I don't think it looks like a ram at all. More like a ... boomerang. Or a scythe maybe. Not the point, though.

So why does this collection of stars have anything to do with me? Not a blessed thing, as far as I'm concerned. Those stars don't do anything for me. I don't buy into that astrological nonsense, and I'm a little cheesed that it's automatically included in my profile.

But then ... I am a type B personality. Whatever. Just remember, if you look at my profile, that ain't my deal.

First post!

Wow. This is kind of ... well ... intimidating. Here I am, starting a blog, probably following a herd of cattle into this fad. I mean, a year ago, I didn't know what a blog was. Neither did anyone else. Well, maybe the people who had blogs knew what they were. But then, with all the attention that blogs have gotten, I'll bet thousands of people have signed up for blogs to let people know what they think about this or that or the other thing. They probably think that they'll be changing the world or influencing political strategies or standing on a soap box to rail against the injustices of the world.

Me, I'm at least honest. I know nobody is going to read this thing.

I mean, really, who is going to find this blog? Moreover, who is going to care what a 30 year old Lutheran pastor thinks about anything?

But what the heck. It might be good for a laugh or two. At least I'll have some fun doing it.