Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Awesome Trailers

These movies are going to rock. First up, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince:

Then, next summer, a new Pixar movie! These remind me of when I used to get excited for the next Disney full-length animated feature (Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, etc.):

New Favorite Shakespearean Insult

"Sell when you can, you are not for all markets."-- As You Like It

(Yay for free outdoor Shakespeare!)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Woe for a Triple Point Score

I've played real Scrabble maybe three times in my life. It's fun and all, but I don't tend to suggest it when people are talking about board games. (Apples to Apples anyone?)

But then came Scrabulous.

It's perfect for me--I can pick a word and walk away for a few days. I can try out letters to see if what I think is a nonsense word is actually a real word. (Woohoo double letter score!) I can avoid doing work by telling myself I am doing work since Scrabulous uses words and I work with words so...yeah, it's a stretch, but it's the best Facebook application out there. (Does anyone really want to be a mutant-pirate-zombie? Except in real life, of course.)

But Scrabble, the mighty Scrabble, has given my poor little Scrabulous the smackdown.

I think companies need to better understand how the internet figures into their products. Are they getting any money from Scrabulous? No, but they sure as hell weren't before, either. I never thought, "Hey, Scrabble sounds like a good old time! Let's start a tournament!" And yet, with Scrabulous, I'd be far more willing to get my own set in case I ever want to feel like a pilgrim. (Blasphemy for the triple word score; take that, Hezekiah!) People who won't want to buy a product aren't going to be swayed by the free online version. But people who might buy it get the chance to try it out and get into the game. If anyone, Scrabble should consider Scrabulous to be a gateway drug.

Until then, Morgan and I will have to hold our Scrabulous games near and dear to our hearts.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Heck Yeah I'll Be Your Neighbor!

Mr. Rogers rocks. If you want to fight me about it, bring it on. And I've got a list of reasons why I'll win:

5. He might have been the most tolerant American ever. Mister Rogers seems to have been almost exactly the same off-screen as he was onscreen. As an ordained Presbyterian minster, and a man of tremendous faith, Mister Rogers preached tolerance first.
Whenever he was asked to castigate non-Christians or gays for their differing beliefs, he would instead face them and say, with sincerity, "God loves you just the way you are." Often this provoked ire from fundamentalists.

It's so easy to imagine the hosts of children's shows are really mean, heroin-shooting people. (Oh Steve from Blues Clues.) But apparently Fred Rogers was the same on screen as he was off screen. He genuinely cared about people, especially children--their concerns, their attitudes about themselves, how they would find their place in the world.

In talking with my boyfriend about Mr. Rogers, we realized that neither of us really remembered a lot of plot from his show. (Crayon factory visit aside.) What we did remember were specific things--feeding the fish, the street light, etc. It wasn't a show about flashing colors and cartoon animals falling off cliffs. It was a quiet, gentle show, and was therefore a comforting place for kids to address the world. (From the article--"Over the years he covered topics as varied as why kids shouldn't be scared of a haircut, or the bathroom drain (because you won't fit!), to divorce and war.")

Generally, people talk about how bad television is for kids--it makes them zombies, they never go outside and play, it makes them ravenous consumers, etc. But Mr. Rogers demonstrated that television doesn't have to be a dead zone. Like any other medium, it can be used badly but it can also be used well, to help people find their place in the world.

So my name will certainly be on the Fred Rogers for (Posthumous) Nobel Peace Prize Petition.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Battling the Genre

From Margot Rabb's interview with Mark Zusak:

Do you think part of The Book Thief’s success was that it appeals to such a broad audience of both teens and adults?

The Book Thief’s success is still a mystery to me. I actually thought it wouldn’t get an audience at all. I thought, A 580 page book set in Nazi Germany, narrated by death…Who wants to read that? Maybe its success is in the very thing that people warn authors against - to risk being trapped in a kind of wasteland between YA and adult fiction. Maybe it’s actually a good place to be. If people are arguing over the right category for the book, they are at least discussing it. It might even lead to a discussion about whether the book is simply a good book, and that’s a positive thing too. After all, when someone loves a book, they never say that they loved that Young Adult Sci-Fi Comedy or that Adult Crime Thriller. They just say ‘I loved that book,’ and that, really, is my goal as a writer.

Zusak tells it like it is. There's that special section for YA novels in most bookstores; in places like Barnes and Noble, it's near the children's section but outside it. I can understand the desire to give teen readers their "own" section, but when are teens afraid to swing by the normal fiction section? I think the more cross-age books that are available, the more people will see YA lit not as its own genre with its own particulars. (Also, read The Book Thief.)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Personal Statement

I'm not a big fan of new facebook.

1. Where are my photos? Why can I no longer click on one little button and see all of my friends' recently uploaded albums. This is annoying.

2. Why is my profile no longer called my profile and instead just listed as "Morgan Whitaker." I care about facebook as much as the next person, but I do not consider my profile and myself to be one in the same.

3. Why are the newsfeed and the wall in the same place? This doesn't make any sense to me. These two features were introduced as separate functions and it made more sense that way. The wall for that great place for my friends to make inappropriate comments about me that proved my popularity while my newsfeed was meant to tell you that I made a new virtual friend, therefore further proving my popularity. More importantly, I keep getting confused looking at other people's new walls. Wait? Did he put that picture up? Did someone else put that picture up? This makes tons of difference in my life and I will not stand for it until I get some clarification.

4. Like anyone else, I hate change. (Except Obama's change of course. Everyone loves Obama's change!)

But none of this matters because Zuckerberg doesn't give a flying fuck what anyone thinks ever. As proved by the wildly successful campaign against opening facebook up to the masses.

At least my scrabulous remains unchanged! Your turn Annie!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Our Powers Combined

It's Panda-monium!

If Only I Hadn't Given Up Art Classes

I don't tend to read comic books/graphic novels. I have a huge respect for them, but so far I haven't jumped onto that particular bandwagon and bought a bunch. The ones I have read I've enjoyed, but I finished too quickly (or at least, too quickly in my opinion because I'm used to traditional novels) and didn't run out to get the next edition. So I'd have suspected that the genre was out for me altogether.

Enter webcomics.

If this were the old school SATs, this would go like this--webcomics : comics :: blogs : columns.

For me, they work better because I can get a steady stream of updates. (Some better than others.) Also, it's cool to see an artist progress, both in terms of art and character development. Some artists have even made their webcomics into a source of income, making t-shirts and sponsoring ads to support their work.

The first webcomic I ever came across was Queen of Wands by Aerie, about a set of three twentysomething roommates and their wacky misadventures/sad mistakes/discoveries in growing up. (It's better than my lameass summary, I promise.) It's finished now, but a good place to start, especially since you get a complete arch of character and plot.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Chinese Sweethearts for you

It's almost time for some athletes to get athleting down in good old Beijing. You know what I mean: the Olympics! China's opportunity to try to prove to the world that they're not as totalitarian and crazy as you thought they were.

Their first sell? All the hotties. You thought communists couldn't be sexy (although with all those eastern european and russian models we've gotten in the past 15 to 20 you'd think it was hotness that knocked down the Berlin Wall) but China is here to prove to you that there's more to attractiveness than just capitalists. And in case you were curious, exactly none of these women are athletes at all. They were just picked by this Chinese director Zhang Yimou, also known as the dude who directed that awesome Quentin Tarantino movie "Hero" to Americans out there. So there's all plain old starlets like we like in the U.S. of A. I wonder if any of them have bad coke habits. Hopefully all. Everyone knows sex sells, and it's no different with the Olympics. Check out Shen Jiani. That cowel neck sweater says "I shop at the gap" while her eyes say "Come hither into my gap."

And then there are these adorable photos of quake orphans!! I'm pretty sure these little guys are being exploited on at least three counts. First all the compassion they solicit from the outside world by being way too fucking adorable for their own good. Two, they're still alive, which helps to prove that the evil-baby-hating Chinese didn't just kill all the orphans (good PR!). Apparently trying to remind the west that they don't kill babies all the time is one of this website's most important functions because they also feature some quintuplet "young ambassadors." I know what you're thinking. I'm thinking it too. How on earth did they not kill all three of the girls? Well these kids were born in 2002, and Beijing was picked as the host city for 2008 all the way back in July of 2001. So I'm pretty sure someone spermed up some uber-fertile Chinese broad so she could bust out these ambassadors for her country. And then there's the last orphan, who kinda looks white, and we all know how much white people love it when non-white people kinda look white. Way to take one for Team China, pale orphan baby!

But the best part about the site is definitely that you can read the entire Report on the Work of the Government as compiled by Premier Jiabao for 2006-2007. And they let you read the other reports from the past 5 or 6 years!! It just doesn't get any better.

I think this is my new homepage, mofos. Olympic/Chinese spirit all the way!

Clowning Around

By now you're probably heard that The Dark Knight is the biggest movie ever*. Time gives these reasons for its domination at the box office:

  • Heath Ledger's performance (and untimely death)
  • Good marketing/hype
  • Great reviews
I second that. The Marketing team did a great job and came up with some creative hype-builders, such as Gotham Times papers and 'I Believe in Harvey Dent' buttons. Ledger's performance was amazing (part way through I had to remind myself this was the guy from Brokeback Mountain and not just a crazy man). Not only were hardcore fans willing to shell out $10 (or more), but people who might have not been interested otherwise were swayed by good reviews. That all makes sense.

However, Time neglects to mention the "untargeted" audience. That's right.


My friend's grandmother went to see The Dark Knight against my friend's warnings. You won't like it, she claimed. It's really not for you. But Grandma surprised. This is her review:

"That Joker fellow was having a grand ol' time. He would kill people and then he would just laugh and laugh. It was a terrific film. Anyway, sorry to cut this conversation short but I have to get back to Masterpiece Theater."

Sure, we all knew fanboys would go see Batman. But what the studios didn't expect was the grandma quotient.

Great job, Grandma!

*at time of posting

Friday, July 18, 2008

A few thoughts

First of all, sorry for the semi-lackluster liveblogging. It was my first ever attempt and I thought of it about 5 minutes before I started trying to do it (which would be about 10 minutes into the show) and so I didn't have any good system to use. It was ultimately so disjointed that I killed it. Nor am I going to do this again unless I'm at home and watching it on DVR*

* Note to self, blog about the personal achievement one can attain with the joy of digitally recorded video

But alas, I was not at home. Why? Was I out watching the season premiere at some cute little viewing party downtown? No, I watched it at work.

Hey there! Wait a second! Were you really at work at 11pm last night?

Sadly the answer to that question is yes. I've been working too much (which might explain why I'm having a conversation with myself on this blog). I'm in the midst of a massive work project and that's got me in the office practically 24/7. This, is NOT conducive to personal achievement in the 21st century. Or maybe it is on some level, but I'll tell you being alone in the building after midnight doesn't really make you feel like you're getting anywhere. It just makes you lonely and paranoid.

And when you work too much, you turn into this...

I wonder what they're shilling there because right now I'd totally buy it if it would save me from this demon week.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Mellow Yellow

Artist Sam Spenser has created this installation piece, entitled, Bloom.

I'm a big fan of installation art. It's a whole experience that encourages the viewer to interact with art in a new way. Since we can see the Mona Lisa on mugs or mousepads, we're kind of used to viewing art. Pieces like these can help us reassess how we relate to art and the world.

Plus, fall is my favorite season, and these umbrellas would make even the gloomiest February day bright and crisp.

Sesame Street is the greatest program in the history of television

So earlier today I stumbled across a clip online that featured Feist on Sesame Street. The lovely songstress converted her upbeat heartbreak tune into a great bit of educational music. I won't embed it here, but it's worth checking out because not only is it adorable but they also did a decent job of marrying the traditional Sesame Street shooting style with elements from the original tune's music video.

But while watching this it hit me: Sesame Street does some really amazing stuff. So I set out on a journey to prove it. I'm tired and have been working too much recently to have the time to map this all out with an actual argument, but here's some the best clips I can find. Try to tell me these aren't all amazing!!

John John is the cutest kid I've ever seen in my entire life. Hands down.

Joey is the cutest precocious little bugger. Watch her keep fucking with Kermit. See Kermit almost break character. They let it air anyway because it's so good. That's awesome shit.

Then there are the amazing original songs...

What's the name of that song?

Mahnahmahnah (or however you spell it)

Or Oscar's ode to dumpster diving.

They even cover the classics.

All in all, it's just high quality children's programming.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


In these hard economic times, we have to pause and think of those who are struggling to make it in the business world.

(However, there is always money in the banana stand.)

Just Keep Swimming

The best week of the year is coming.

You know what it is. Shark Week.

Every time I see the commercials on the Discovery Channel, I clap my hands like a five year-old. Sharks are pure, unadulterated awesome. They're perfectly designed for what they are. As terrifying as they are, they're so sleek and graceful--it's hard not to watch them. (I'll even watch Deep Blue Sea on TBS just to see the sharks create mayhem.) But more than that, they blend so well into every day life.

Need to break up with someone? Take a cue from classic film, Annie Hall: "A relationship, I think, is like a shark. You know? It has to constantly move forward or it dies. And I think what we got on our hands is a dead shark."

Teaching your kids about pool safety? Show them this

Discussing the media? Take a hint from Gary Larson: "Newspapers will run a headline: ‘Shark kills human.’ You never see a headline from the other perspective: ‘Man swims in shark-infested water, forgets he’s shark food.’"

But remember--sharks aren't just a summertime phenomenon. While Shark Week only lasts a week, you can make shark week last all year. Take a hint from Calvin and Hobbes.

Some fun shark facts:

  • There are many stories that tell of dolphins protecting humans from shark attacks. This phenomenon was investigated in an episode of Discovery Channel's Mythbusters where in a feeding great white shark did not attack either a seal cutout or raw bait when a mechanical dolphin was placed in the water nearby.*
  • Sharks can find prey by following the electrical impulses that animals emit, and some species of shark can smell a drop of blood in one million drops of seawater.**
  • Sharks have the most powerful jaws on the planet. Both their upper and lower jaws can move.~
  • Sharks will eat other sharks.~
  • Until the 1950's, shark liver was used as a vitamin A supplement.~

**National Parks Conservation Association
~Fun Facts For Kids

Monday, July 14, 2008

Vive La France

Ah Bastille Day, the great French celebration of liberty and decapitation. Take this day as an opportunity to emulate the French a little more in your everyday life. It's insufficient just have 6 croissants and double espresso for breakfast. Better option? Be like their President.

That's right. Be like this guy. This guy is Nicolas Sarkozy and he is the President of France. He got elected by running a conservative campaign promising to strengthen the economy and always support George W. "Smarty Pants" Bush. He's at best vaguely anti-immigrant and worst a borderline Nazi. What's better, he got the notorious French community of strike-happy workers to elect him even though he argued that they all needed to work harder. That's impressive powers of persuasion, which makes sense given his track record with women.

Take a look at Cecilia. This is his second wife. The one he was married too when he got elected. There were rumors of affairs on either end, but she was his wife, at times throughout his political career had even been referred to as a chief aid, so she's probably at least a little smart. And on top of that, she's a former model. I mean, seriously people look at this woman. And Nicolas? Well, he ain't quite so pretty to look at. When you go beyond the glamour shot he's rocking earlier in the post you see he's kinda dorky looking, particularly standing next to her.

So who does he romance and marry after splitting from Cecilia?

Yup. Another former model. This time a younger and arguably prettier one. Carla Bruni. Now Bruni is a Ms. Sarkozy and she tours the world being totally gorgeous all the time. She's also recently recorded an album of music. So she's a talented former model... at least a reasonably talented one.

So there you go. That's your lesson for the day. Vive La France. Marry a model. Then marry another model. And drink a lot of wine.

Or if nothing else, go for the french fries at lunch.

Next for Wii?

Literary Video Games

Things Fall Apart When I Shoot Them
To the Lighthouse of Destruction
Finnegan's Snakes
Brave New Machete
Ulysses Kills Everybody: Boomsday!
Fists of Wrath
The Odyssey of Pain
As I Lay Dying

Anything to get kids to read, right?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Zachary's Camp Journal Day 4

Dear journal and mom,

Whew! Boy oh boy has it been a fun day at camp today. Where can I even begin? Today for breakfast I had an egg with catsup and an egg with nothing. I was hungry from yesterday because for dinner we had to eat hamburgers and mine was burnt because Ernie burnt it, and then there were no more hamburgers, so I ate buns. There were some hot dogs, but I didn't even touch those because Grandpa says they're made from butts and cancer. Now its time to go to the bathroom!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Forget Legoland

Classic photos, via Legos.

(In Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder, Alberto says that Legos are the most ingenious toy in the world because they're like atoms.)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Wild on Australia

Koalas--cute, cuddly, funny little bears* full of adorableness. And STDs.

Here's the koala trilogy of sex and scandal.

Part I: Girl-on-Girl Action (OMG)
My favorite part: "Some females rejected the advances of males that were in their enclosures, only to become willing participants in homosexual encounters immediately after," say the researchers.
Sorry, guys.

Part II: Didn't They Pay Attention in Sex Ed?
Seriously?: “Chlamydia has been a major problem in the koala population for a long time,” he said.
It's actually kind of sad, since koalas are going blind, but how much sex are these guys having so that it's a "major problem?" Koalas must be going to Studio 54.

Part III: The Ladies' Bear
Kind of creepy quote: "It has been almost non-stop sex in the koala enclosure ever since, and now even our own male is joining in."
So...are the zookeepers just hanging out, watching?

What can we learn from these little bears*? Lesbian orgies may be fun for a while, but safe sex is always important, even if you live in a pen and hold your young in your stomach.

*marsupials, actually

Welcome to Whiskey Cupcakes/HotDog Puppet

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