Jan 22, 2008

Hot Steaming Fresh Oscar Response

Can you believe it?  The Oscar nominations just came out and I am already here to discuss them.  You have to really be impressed with my commitment to this site.  (Oh, by the way, you like how I managed to fail to put up the Weekend List in just my SECOND weekend of doing it?  That is dedication.)  Where was I?  Oh yeah, commitment.  I just happened to time it right, and catch the nominations right after they were read.  So, here are my thoughts. 


Yes, that is a word.  Go look it up.  Seriously, though, this is RIDICULOUS!  Last year, I wrote an amazing post about my feelings on the lame Oscar nominations.  I read it again this morning - you should too.  Go ahead.  I'll wait.

You done?  That was fast.  Did you catch the whole thing?  Hmmm?  Even the Pirates joke?  That was funny, wasn't it?  Yup.  Oh, yeah, back to THIS YEAR.  So, I pointed out last year about how the ratings have been horrible for the ceremony because the nominees are stuff no one cares about.  Well, if you liked last year's post, here comes the lame sequel.

I once again did my number crunching on the nominees.  And this is how it looks:
Best Picture - $43.32 mil (avg.)
Director - $37.28 mil (avg)
Best Actor - $24.12 mil (avg)
Best Actress - $24.38 mil (avg)
Supporting Actor - $34.50 mil (avg)
Supporting Actress - $45.20 mil (avg)
Overall - $29.7 mil for the 19 nominated films

Like those numbers?  And the sad things is that they are skewed by American Gangster ($130 mil and 1 nomination) and Juno ($90 mil and 3 noms).  Last year I pointed out how seven times recently a category was below $40 million.  This year FOUR categories are - and the entire average is UNDER $30 million.

Again, these are totals at the time of the nominations - and these will go up some.  For examples, Juno will probably go over $100 million soon.  And a few others will get some more money (There Will Be Blood).  But again, I ask the question, "Who is watching these films?"  How can you tell me that the movies nominated in the big six awards COMBINED should be out-earned by the two highest grossing movies of the year?  Again, I am not saying that Spiderman 3 should have been up for Best Picture.  But, what about Amy Adams in Enchanted?  Or what about The Bourne Ultimatum?  That movie was the THIRD HIGHEST REVIEWED movie of the year, when critics and moviegoers were combined.  Where is it today?  What about the highest reviewed movie of the year on rottentomatoes.com?  That would be Ratatouille.  It, of course, is up for best animated film - and it did scored a Best Screenplay nom.  But, shouldn't a movie that is that well received have a shot a Best Picture?

This was the lowest grossing year from the last ten years for nominations - while being the biggest box office year ever.  I am so confused as to how there is such a wide gulf between movies now.  Critics and voters love movies that people don't want to see.  And they deride the "mass-marketed summer atrocities" - which make hundreds of millions of dollars.  Honestly, I hope the writer's strike is still going so they cancel the Oscar telecast.  Otherwise, it will probably pull in its lowest audience ever, and will just be a boring testament to the complete lack of consensus between the people who think they matter (critics and voters) and the people who should matter (ticket buyers).    

Jan 16, 2008

That Hurts

It has been a trying start to the New Year for me and my family. I'm not sure what exactly is behind everything, but I just know it has been hard. Part of the problem with working in a non-profit ministry is that you are at the mercy of other people for finances. We have to rely on donations, bookings, and sales. And when none of those things are coming in, well, nothing can really go out. So the start of the year has been VERY difficult for us. I'm not going to lie, I have not enjoyed it - and it has been the source of a lot of anger and poor choices on my part.

We have all tried to figure out what is going on - why things seem to just randomly dry up and such. And we never really get an answer. We pray like crazy, hoping that God will change things to make it better. I have been out applying for jobs, trying to come up with some income to at least cover something. Any of you in the job search mode can testify - people are not hiring very much right now. So, all of this makes it a bit of a mess. I firmly believe God led us to this ministry, that He wanted us to start it and get it going. I believe that many people have been and many more will be helped through it. And I need to trust that He knows what He is doing. This season of trial is not just for kicks or part of an elaborate hoax. It is necessary - for some reason.

I know for sure that it has served the purpose to show me some things about myself - things I certainly wish were not true. I go through these periods in my life where I get pretty complacent about things. It is not being rebellious or belligerent. It is just that I'm not as attentive as I should be. One way I can explain it is this: Growing up my mom had two rock gardens outside the front door. There were tons of white rocks, with plants sticking through and potted plants on top. One of our few regular duties was to weed the gardens. Needless to say, I loved this job - jumped right up off the couch to go sit on a stool and pull little tiny shards of grass and weed in the brutal Florida sun. Woot! I hated doing it. It was worse than anything else I had to do - even picking up the doggie doo. Now, I knew it was my job. And I knew I was going to get told to do it. I could have been forward-thinking and as I came and went through the front door bent down and pulled up the random green stuff poking through as it grew. But I stayed away from those gardens until it was demanded that I go clean them. (Lest you think I was alone in this puerile behavior - I was not the only Staples kid griping out there.) So now, what could have been a easy five-minute a week job became a three-hour marathon of weeding.

That's the way I am with my own life. I could keep up with things as I see them veering into a problem. I think that my behaviors and attitudes are not anywhere near as bad as most people. I ignore little warning signs, and after several months of doing this I am in a big mess. And then God has to get my attention and work those things out of me. It happened in high school through my English teacher Mr. Trotsky and Sunday School teachers Bob Bray and John Long. It happened again - to a more advance degree - in college through Jeff Kipi and Byron Kirkpatrick. This was where I began to understand that God doesn't want me to perform to someone else's best - He wants MY best. And I have had to do this several other times - each time is painful and difficult. God is going to get your attention - like I tell my son. If I have to take every toy, book, and movie to get you to learn to listen, I will do it. Same principle.

Well, as I get older and more mature, the things that are getting drawn out are deeper beneath the surface. I am a far cry from the punk teenager who moved to Orlando back in 1992. I have grown a lot and learned about life and myself and God. But that also means that some of this stuff that God has had to pull on was waaaaaay deep inside. As it has been tugged on, it has hurt - a lot. It hurts to hear your wife tell you things about your selfish behavior and how damaging it is to everyone around you. It hurts to have your kids point out things you are doing wrong. It hurts to read a chapter of a Tommy Nelson book and see yourself failing on 15 of 40 points. It hurts to realize that you are so far from where you thought you were and should be.

Today, I had a thought about how this process looks. I remembered reading a story - and it took me forever to realize it was Voyage of the Dawn Treader. One of the characters - Eustace, cousin of the Pevensie children from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe - was an awful kid. And through several circumstances, he turned into a dragon. He wanted to change, Aslan took him to a pool. The great Lion told Eustace to get in the pool - but to undress first. Eustace tried to take off the dragon skin three times, but it grew back each time. This is how the rest of it all went down.
“Then the lion said—but I don’t know if it spoke—You will have to let me undress you. I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.

“The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. . . . Well, he pulled the beastly stuff right off—just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt—and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly looking than the others had been. . . . Then he caught hold of me—I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on— and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I’d turned into a boy again. . . .

“After a bit the lion took me out and dressed me—”

“Dressed you. With his paws?”

“Well, I don’t exactly remember that bit. But he did somehow or other: in new clothes—the same I’ve got on now, as a matter of fact. And then suddenly I was back here.”
That story just kept going through my head all day today. The metaphor is pretty obvious with how only God can change us - and only through His power. And then he dresses us in new clothes of His making. I just kept thinking about how it has been months and months of God trying to get my attention on things. And I was not able to hear. I'm not saying every single thing that has been happening has been because of this. But I know that God certainly did want me to learn these lessons. And it has been painful. I hope that now that God has been able to rip through my arrogance, complacency, blindness, and selfishness that I will be able to work on those things He has shown me. I want to keep up with things better - not let so much time go between routine upkeeps of my soul. I want to be a better example to my kids, a better husband to my wife, a better teacher to my students, a better friend. And I hope it stops hurting soon.

Jan 13, 2008


This is one new feature I want to start - the Weekend List.  They may be silly, they may be serious.  But hopefully they will be somewhat interesting and fun.  Here's the first one.

This is kind of a follow-up to my point on the End of the Year Sports list - where I mentioned how ridiculous ESPN had become.  I find myself so irritated by the new face of sports analysis.  Hardly anyone gives true breakdowns any more - they all need to have a gimmick and an angle and a story.  Sometimes, I just want to know the basics without weird sound effects, antagonistic positions, and screaming.  

1 - SKIP BAYLESS - ESPN - Have you ever been around someone who just likes to argue?  They intentionally try to get you going, just so they have something to fight about?  That is Bayless.  He intentionally picks the most asinine position just to start a fight.  And, like most of these goofy analysts, he is adamant he is right.  The problem is, he's never right.  He could not be more wrong.  He could try, but he would not succeed.  Yet ESPN keeps on promoting him and giving him new arenas to mouth off.  This is one of those people who make me wish I were deaf.

2 - COLIN COWHERD - ESPN RADIO - A few years ago, ESPN Radio had the Tony Kornheiser Show around lunch.  I would listen to it every day on my way home to eat.  He left to do other stuff, and they replaced him with Cowherd.  Now, most influential sportswriters are from the Northeast or Chicago - he's from Portland.  He's lived in Seattle, Portland, Vegas.  And he's always touting West Coast everything.  He's arrogant and thinks he is smarter than everyone.  People who don't agree with him are called "mouth breathers" and "rednecks."  He repeats himself all the time.  He is always repeating himself.  But he says the dumbest stuff.  For example, he said every time a Whole Foods Grocery moves into town, every single other grocery store in the area closes down.  Really?  Is that so?  The Publix a half mile away from the only Whole Foods in Orlando would like to say you are, again, wrong.

3 - EMMITT SMITH - ESPN'S FOOTBALL COVERAGE - I loved Emmitt when he was playing for the Cowboys.  And I even wanted him to win Dancing with the Stars.  But when it comes to analyzing football, he is one of the worst I ever heard.  He screws up even simple points.  "He owns the league record for this, and the team record as well."  He is awkward and clumsy.  He goes to prove that just because you can run fast doesn't mean you can think fast.

4 -  AL TRAUTWIG - NBC OLYMPICS - Every time Trautwig is covering an event, it feels like it should be a Lifetime Original Movie.  Every single person has a back story that has to be told.  The event itself has to be so dramatic that we all are in constant suspense.  And, even after years of announcing gymnastics, triathlons, and more, it still seems like he is border-line clueless about the actual rules and specifics of the sport.  There are times I watch the events muted to avoid his schmaltz.


For those of you who don't know who that last one is, he yells all the time.  Just watch some NBA on ESPN and you'll see.

Well, I hope you all have a good week.  I'll pop in and out with postings.  

Jan 10, 2008


As anyone who spends any time with me has probably realized, I don't always use the best language.  Sure, I have gotten rid of the curse words that peppered my speech for the better part of five years in high school and college.  But I replaced a lot of those words with what some may describe as "euphemisms."  While they are not "bad" words, they are not professional or cultured.  I have tried to cut back on the number of these words, but have not been too successful for some reason.

Well, it seems that I have a reason now to work harder - actually three reasons.  My kids have a nasty habit of hearing people's word choices and repeating them.  This doesn't just go for me - but for all people they see.  Oh, and the television.  I never realized the minefield that Peanuts television specials were until my kids starting going around calling each other "Blockhead" and saying how "stupid" things were - or my son telling a kid at school that he was going to "slug" her.  (Yes, HER.  Don't worry.  We had a NICE chat about that one.)  Funny how they weren't quick to memorize Linus' recitation of the Christmas story from the Gospel of Luke.

Yesterday, I had an experience with this AGAIN - this time with my four year old daughter, Natalie.  I was sitting on the couch trying to get some work done, and she came traipsing in to see me.  Actually, she wanted to see the bowl of candy sitting on the piano.  "Daddy, can I have one of these little candy canes?"  My ears perked up.  Candy?  Here?  Ooooo.  So I looked over to the piano and saw a little bowl of mini candy canes.  Immediately I remembered that Heather had told me the other day she had bought fruity candy canes.  Even better.  I hate those peppermint ones.

Now my brain was in full planning mode.  I could accomplish two of my huge goals in life - not getting up and scoring candy.  So, I tossed a question out to determine how best to get myself some sweet treats.  "What kinds are there, Nat?"  She just looked at me, and in her not-sweetest tone replied, "What?"  I knew she had no clue, so hollered into the other room to Heather.  "What flavors of candy canes are these?"  Heather called back, "Um, I think there is pineapple, apple, watermelon, and grape."

[Taking a moment here, let me explain why the upcoming exchange happened.  When it comes to hard candy, I am pretty picky.  I know that you may not believe it by looking at me.  You would think I will eat just about anything that comes close to my face.  But that isn't true.  I am very picky about hard candy flavors.  I like cherry and orange and lemon - most of the time.  I HATE Jolly Ranchers and all their iterations.  I used to love Life Savers - especially the Five Flavors pack.  It had Cherry, Orange, Lemon, Lime, and Pineapple - which was always tolerable, but the fifth best flavor.  And I H-A-T-E apple, green apple, sour apple AND watermelon.  Those are the two worst flavors to me.  Grape is merely passable - and I would have to be jonesing for candy bad to eat it.  Back to the tale.]

So Heather calls with the flavors.  "Um, I think there is pineapple, apple, watermelon, and grape."  Immediately I call back to her, "Oh, so just sucky flavors."  Natalie is standing right by me and looks at me with her big bright eyes, "So can I have one of these sucky candy canes?"  I am stunned and now am trying to figure out how to fix this.  Before I can speak, she continues.  "Look, I can have this sucky pink one right here."  My brain is trying to get my mouth to get to work, "FIX THIS! FIX THIS!"  I stutter, "Uh, Daddy shouldn't have said that, Nat.  Don't use that word."  She has unwrapped the candy cane and has it in her mouth.

"Look, Dad, I'm sucking on it.  It IS a sucky candy cane.  I love sucky candy canes."  And she skips out of the room.  I just stare at the floor and wait for the door to get busted down by the Southern Baptist Convention.  At least Gabe can't understand me yet - the other two are doomed.  

[That last comment was a joke.  Gabe is doomed too.  He just doesn't know it yet.]

Jan 8, 2008

In The Words of Kids: SMART MOUTH

First of all, so much for my praises of Kevin Smith - UCF's record-setting rusher.  Like I said, he would probably have lost about $25 million staying in school.  However, the thing that really bothered me was the attitude portrayed in Smith's original announcement to stay and his announcement to leave.  At first, he was talking about loyalty and teammates and graduating and how money wasn't the most important thing.  The second speech was all "doing what's best for me" and "no one knows what's best for me" and stuff like that.  Makes me wonder who got to him - which agent or whatever.  

Second of all, I had a new album that I should have added to the 2007 BEST OF MUSIC post - but I didn't hear it until 2008.  Kevin Max's The Blood is absolutely incredible.  I always considered K-Max to be the most annoying and least talented member of dcTalk.  I think I may have underestimated him.  The album shows a huge understanding of and appreciation for the roots of Gospel music, as well as the power of Christ's Blood.  Good album.  Get it.

Now to the main event...
All my life I hear parents say things to kids.  Adult-type things - you know, these higher function comments that kids won't be able to understand because they haven't lived long enough to reach the point of enlightenment.  Dip into the Dad Bag and throw out "This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you."  "It builds character."  "Because I said so."  All of those cliched parent comments - that I find myself saying now.  I swore I never would, but I do.  Why?  Probably because my kids are smarter than me.  They ask me why they have to do something, and I really don't have a good reason every time.  So I resort to those things.

The other day, I was arguing with Josiah - our six year old.  Lately, he has developed this knack for doing ornate events to celebrate random things.  Last Friday, it was "Gabey Day" - I guess in celebration of Gabe, our three month old.  Well, it was cute, and we all liked it.  So he then translates that to mean, "Please do this every single day without end."  So he plans to do Gabey Day - with a parade and refreshments and everything.  Well, this is not going to work every day, so we tell him that it can't happen.  And he flips out - another thing he has a knack for.  "I'm just going to destroy all the Gabey Day signs, then."  And he goes to tear this stuff he made up.  Ri-diculous.  Well, he's moping around, standing with his arms crossed.  

Finally, I dip into the Dad Bag for a comment and say, "Listen, if you are going to be mopey, go be mopey in your room.  You aren't hurting anyone but yourself."  He looks at me, with a scowl on his face, and retorts, "Well, it isn't hurting ME either."  And he walks away.  Victory Josiah.  Truth of the matter is, it wasn't hurting him.  So there went another Dad Bag Comment out the window.

Jan 4, 2008

KING SIZED BLOGS: Best & Worst of 2007 - MEDIA

Well here's the last of my Year in Review posts.  Since I don't have enough on any of these topics to really put a post on each, I'll clump them up together.  I'm not sure if Greg is going to respond or if he has moved on.  Here's his link in case he still is posting about this.  One thing you will notice, I don't have a lot of "Worsts" on here, because I don't waste my money often on stuff I don't like.  

BEST - THE COLDEST WINTER by David Halberstam
When Halberstam died in 2007, I wrote about my feelings about it in this stunning and award-winning post.  He was one of the most influential writers in my life.  So, when I found out that he had finished one last book before he died, and that it was on the Korean War, I knew I had to get it.  My father fought in Korea, and I have always been interested in the topic - trying to find out some more about his experience.  That was the one thing my dad didn't ever really want to talk much about.  Well, I finally got the book and it just reinforced how much this world is going to miss a writer that talented.  For most people, reading a history book about a war (let alone a 736 page book) would be a nightmare.  Quite the opposite in the hands of a master.

In modern politics, more often than not, we have no idea what our leaders are thinking.  And expecting them to explain things is just wasting time.  That is what makes this book so unbelievable.  Ronald Reagan kept a journal while in office - talking about his thoughts on events, family, government, and more.  It is surreal, to read what was actually going on in the mind of the "Leader of the Free World" during one of the most turbulent times in American history.  Whatever you thought of Reagan, this is a must-read.  He writes about his assassination attempt, his battles with son Ron, the Soviets (whom he feared would bring Armageddon), his love for Nancy, and his faith.  When we were lucky enough to visit the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library back in June, they actually had the real journals displayed - one for each year in office.  He is the only President, and with all the concerns over "getting in trouble," he'll probably be the last.  Too bad.  I would LOVE to figure out what was behind some of W's ideas.

BEST - MAGIC by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
I have always appreciated The Boss from the outside.  I never really was a huge fan, but I liked a lot of his stuff.   At some point, I had a few cassettes.  Now, all I really have is his Best of album, which is great.  This year, Springsteen surprised everyone by putting this album out.  No one really knew he had an album planned, let alone one with the whole E Street Band.  iTunes offered the first single ("Radio Nowhere") for free.  So I used my album download on Real.com and got it.  It was really good - harkened back to the legendary songs of the 1980s with a modern update.  And, as always with Bruce, the songs are actually ABOUT something.  I was pleasantly surprised.

BEST - BLINK by Plumb
Another sneaky artist was Plumb.  She put out her latest in October without much fanfare or promotion.  Too bad.  Honestly, it is the most amazing album about being a parent ever.  Over the years, Plumb has matured as a person and an artist.  Her songs have become so much more personal.  This album was incredible.  As I listened, I heard thoughts that I feel about my kids, but much prettier.  Several times I was close to tears.  Then I realized I was a guy and I should be listening to manly music.  So I went and listened to Springsteen again.

BEST - "No One" by Alicia Keys
This song from Keys' latest album is absolutely amazing.  She is another artist who has grown a lot, and you can see the maturity in her music.  This song is the story of a person who is completely in love with their spouse, no matter what anyone says or whatever happens.  Every time I hear it, I think of Heather.  It is a gorgeous song - the music, the lyrics, the voice.  Beautiful.

WORST - Apple Leopard
For all the Windows bashing Apple likes to do, let me say that Apple was drifting close to their territory with this upgrade.  Amid all the chest thumping about innovations like Time Machine, Spaces, and Quick Look (which are great), they neglected to the erasing of print drivers, the wrecking of your wireless abilities, and the screwing up of font libraries.  And they certainly didn't talk about the legions of irritated Apple customers.  Or how you would have to buy a new router.  Or how you were wishing you (gulp) had a PC.  Then you would remember Vista, and all was right with the world.

BEST and WORST - Palm Centro
As a long time Palm Treo user, I have been hoping for a significant upgrade.  I keep seeing things like iPhone and Blackjack and hoping that Palm would try to compete.  Instead, they offered the Centro.  It is a great phone, and I love it - and so does my wife.  However, it is really just a Treo in a smaller and cuter package.  I love the upgraded features over my old phone (TV, Broadband internet, button assignments).  And I am glad I can stay with Sprint, instead of having to jump to AT&T.  However, I can't set up Sprint Music Manager on my Mac.  So I still feel ripped off.

BEST and WORST - iPhone
Not as ripped off as those people who stood in line to buy the new Apple iPhone when it came out, only to see the price drop a few months later.  While the incredible innovation should be on the Best list, the ridiculous price point, the exclusive AT&T contract, and the small storage space makes it a stinker.  If you add in the disappointing AppleTV introduction, Apple didn't do that well in 2007.

Jan 1, 2008

KING SIZED BLOGS: Best and Worst of 2007 - MOVIES II

I forgot one major thing I wanted to put on the movies post. So just imagine that you have transported yourself over there for a second, and then come back. Then get ready for Greg's scathing response.

SUPERBAD, KNOCKED UP, WALK HARD - I have seen none of those films, even though two of them were two of the biggest of the year. Moments looked funny in the previews. And a couple times, when I was by myself and deciding on a movie, I nearly went. But... These movies are disgusting. They pride themselves on "bringing back the crude and crash comedies" to the cineplex. I know I am in a minority, but I actually lost respect for every person who has contributed to this trend. And I know that puts me in danger when Will Ferrell's Semipro comes out next year, but I don't need to see that junk. Call me a Puritan. Call me a Bible thumper. Whatever. Back in the 80s, there was an explosion of movies like this. You had Porky's, Meatballs, Animal House. And then there were the horrible sequels and knockoffs. Then for years, comedy was dominated by idiots doing ridiculous things, almost cycling back to the Age of Slapsticks and Pitfalls (Jim Carrey, Mike Myers, Chris Farley). Now we have come back to "intelligent comedies." Why is it that for it to be intelligent and adult, it has to be filthy? Entertainment Weekly even went so far as to name Judd Apatow the smartest person in Hollywood - over Speilberg, Will Smith, George Clooney, Jerry Bruckheimer. All I know is that when I see "Judd Apatow" on a movie poster, I pick something else.

Okay, got that off my chest. Look for Greg's movie response soon. And then I'll have one more post on the Best and Worst of Media - which will include books, technology, and music.