Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Movie Reviews (w/Spidey 3 Review)

Movie Reviews! I found something else I'd love to write for my blog. My reviews are not going to be in-depth, and I will rate the movie on a 5 star scale just to make it easy. I am sure I will disturb some of you since art is subjective and since movies are an art form, then our ideas about movies are going to be essentially different. In fact, I just had a thought: I'll give a movie my rating, and then my "pop" rating which will refer to how I would recommend it to a wide audience. For example, X-Men 3 was a cool movie, but I'd give it 3.5 (above average/good) but for the set that likes pop sci-fi movies, I'd give it a solid 4.

0- Terrible, don't watch it.
1- Poor film, but has some redeeming qualities.
2- Below average, maybe a rental
3- Average film, probably worth watching
4- Good movie. Recommended.
5- Excellent. A potential classic that should be viewed as soon as you get the chance.

Anything by Wes Anderson, for example, is a 5. jk

Overall rating: 3.5 (*** 1/2)
Good: Heaping portions of special effects, looks great on the big screen, Tobey does a great job acting out the comic book role, 2/3 villians are compelling and scary.
Bad: A bit too long, plot should have been tightened up some, the "Sandman" character was both the most expensive and the least interesting despite the compelling moral ambiguity.

I am not a big fan of the Spiderman movies thus far, but I've enjoyed all three of them so far. Spiderman 3 is the most enjoyable of the three films for me and that's due largely to the villains, minus the Sandman. I thought Venom was very interesting both visually and because of the internal conflict element that he/it introduces. It also turned Peter Parker into a very tragically funny character. His friend, the name escapes me at the moment but is played by James Franco, is also very interesting because he's not really a "bad" character but lashes out because of a misunderstanding. Anyhow, I don't have time to write an in-depth review, but suffice to say that the film is a fun popcorn flick but suffers from a plot that sagged in a few spots and could have done without the Sandman character entirely and, instead, should have focused on the other plot elements which I personally found more thought provoking and/or simply entertaining. The budget was absolutely ridiculous, perhaps the most expensive movie ever made, but once it hits DVD it'll likely become one of the highest grossing moves of all time.

Monday, May 21, 2007

What Do I Believe About People?

Greetings everyone!

I only have a few minutes, but I cam across something here at the university while reading for a course I am taking that I thought I'd share. It comes from the book, "Caring Enough to Lead" by Leonard O. Pellicer. It's a very easy read, and it's geared toward educational leaders. The subtitle is: "How Reflective Thought Leads to Moral Leadership" which infers that the book is more on the informal side, which it is. In fact it deals as much in real world examples as it does formal definitions. Anyhow, lately Sarah and I have been striving to speak kindly about the people around us, as we always try to do. As I was reading I took the following notes:

5 “What Do I Believe About People?”
      • Am I optimistic or pessimistic about the people I meet?
      • My beliefs will shape the way in which I interact and trust others
      • We find in people what we are looking for. If we look for the bad, we find it, if we look for the good, we will find it.
      • Our basic beliefs about people define the limits of their potential in the workplace (and in life in general)
After reading this I became very contemplative and thought about the people around me. I realize that I size people up constantly in relation to their intellectual, physical, spiritual state of being. To some degree I think that's healthy and even necessary, but it's where we go from there. I realize that I need to look for people's potential. As a teacher, at this point in my life this is part of my job: to accurately assess individual student's state of being in relation to their language skills and then employ the strategies and skills necessary to help them progress. All too often I peg their potential to learn as either low or high and then my actions, unfortunately, largely determine how well they do. Most of this is subconscious so I have to be even more aware of my practice.

This carries over into my personal life. I'll use my son as an example since I thought about him as I read this chapter. People often tell us, "What a bright little boy you have!" Is my son Carter really that smart? Well, I know he's physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy, but more than likely he would score average or perhaps above average on an IQ test (do they even have those for two year-olds?). Regardless, the fact is that I BELIEVE IN HIS POTENTIAL as does Sarah. We think he's smart, we treat him like he's smart when we challenge him and provide him with books, art supplies, and a variety of new experiences and interactions with people and places. In fact, Carter is surrounded by people who love him and believe in him. Carter, therefore, has a much better chance at finding success as he enters school because he has a pattern of support and positive reinforcement to carry him forward.

Now the trick for me, and all of us, is to think this optimistically about the potential of everyone around us, even the people (young adults and adults) who drive us crazy or don't seem to care what we think. It's our family and friends often drive us crazy the most because of our close relationships and the open manner in which we communicate.

I'm coming back to this a few minutes later and I'm out of the thought process I was in as I wrote everything above. Anyhow, this post represents some real "musings" and I'm anxious to hear what any of you have to say...

The "Torture Debate"

I found THIS very interesting read about interrogation techniques. It briefly lays out some of the "non-violent" techniques employed by the U.S. to garnish information from suspected terrorists. Some people think the techinques are too harsh.

After 9-11 ocurred and I heard agents were out interrogating suspects around the world I had the mentality of, "Whatever it takes, get the info out of them." Then, one day I watched a special on torture and intterogation on the History Channel. It changed my point of view on the matter entirely. Basically it comes down to this: when torture is employed to get information, you can get anyone to admit anything. American POW from the Vietnam war talked about confessing all kinds of crazy things that weren't true simply because they wanted to avoid further pain.

Now, I don't personally feel that all of the things you will read about in this link should be off limits, but it brings out the debate how far is too far. I have to agree with the one official who says something to the effect of using psychological tactics is the best bet.
The link again:

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Pimp My Wheelchair

One of my greatest fears is being paralyzed. I simply cannot fathom coping with not being able to walk or use my limbs...a scary thought. Anyway, I think I've found something that could alleviate SOME of the tragedy if something like this ever occurred to me. This might not work for those of you who are not quite as nerdy as me.

Without further ado, check it THE coolest wheelchair ever (and if you find a cooler one, send a link to me).

Monday, May 14, 2007

Mother's Day

We enjoyed a nice Mother's Day yesterday with my mom (pictured above) as well as my mother-in-law Susan. I know not everyone enjoys the blessing of having their own mother in their lives so I am always trying to be more aware of the advantage of having a loving, supportive, intelligent mother who has pushed me to be my best and become the kind of man I am still striving to be. So mom, if you're reading this, enjoy your iTunes gift certificate...you know, the fact that you have an iPod is a source of great pride to me as a geek.

Can You Imagine?

I received an email today from my buddy Ryan who is living over in Albania right now. He told a funny, yet sad story:
"I have one funny story to tell. I have a friend in church who we are teaching to read. He is getting it but still slow. He is 19 years old. One day we asked him about some of the scars on his arm and then he went off with enough stories to for 3 full lifetimes. My favorite was when he was 12 years old; he and his father went shooting for rabbits in the mountains. He wandered of and startled a ram. The kind with the huge winding horns. The ram ran up to him and did his head butting thing and knocked my friend down to the ground! The he got up and the ram did it again! Just like you see on Discovery, up on its hind legs and a whole powerful force of ram head coming down on his body. The second blow bashed his head in and he had to go get surgery at the nearby hospital! I think that is why he has trouble reading. Have a good week."

Holy!! Seriously... Can you imagine the kind of conversational start that would be?

"What happened man?" "Oh, I got rammed by a ram?" "Wha?" "Yeah, a freakin' ram just smashed my head with it's horns, it really hurt..."

Old Coca-Cola Ads

Hey! Just a quick post to link to this other BLOG HERE that features some really old Coke ads that I thought were cool. I am teaching a novel right now that is set during the Great Depression and every year I teach it I get this hunkering for all things American from the early 20th century. What a *romantic time period it has become although I am sure it wasn't very fun at the time.

2.fanciful; impractical; unrealistic: romantic ideas.
3.imbued with or dominated by idealism, a desire for adventure, chivalry, etc.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Chime in: Is it "Rubbing Shoulders" OR "Rubbing Elbows"?

Please help me get a free dinner by commenting on this topic:

So I am on the phone talking with my "bro" Dave Netwon the other day and in the context of our conversation I used the idiom "rubbing shoulders." When you're "rubbing shoulders" in generally means spending time with people of importance, ie. Rubbing shoulders with the rich and the famous. Dave said, "Actually, I think you mean 'rubbing elbows' right?" I replied, "Ummm...no...'rubbing shoulders' is how it goes." Being a betting man (and trust me, Dave is a betting man, but we won't go there) he bet me dinner that he was right and I was wrong. We respectfully disagreed and I told him I wouldn't make him buy me filet when I proved him wrong.

A few minutes later as Carter and I were checking out digital cameras in Costco (a few weeks ago Carter dropped ours, breaking it) my phone rang. It was Dave and he had looked up the phrase on the internet using his phone. He said he found both instances.

Results of my Googling expedition on the topic unearthed the following:
"rub shoulders with someone (British, American & Australian, informal, American & Australian, informal)
Meaning: to spend time with famous people. He's Hollywood's most popular hairdresser and regularly rubs shoulders with top movie stars."


rub elbows with someone- to meet or be with someone socially."

I think Dave is saved because a lot of other goofs have screwed up the idiom and thus "rubbing elbows" came into being, although I still think "rubbing shoulders" is the commonly used idiom that most of us use.

So it's up to you. Which form have you heard/used the most?

Dave Newton and I rubbing SHOULDERS on the day of my wedding (no, I'm not short, he's just TALL):

Friday, May 11, 2007

How do I have the time?

So, how do I find the time to blog, etc. when I work full-time, go to school full-time, and have a family (not to mention my work with youth).

#1- WIFI
With the advent of wireless internet, I can get online from almost anywhere. I enjoy WIFI internet at home, work, and school. When I get a handheld device that connect to the internet I'll be set...although that's kind of scary.
#2- Drafting
It's not like I just jump on and type out an entire blog each time, although I do that occasionally. Most of the time I start a post and then use the "SAVE AS DRAFT" feature which allows me to get an idea down "on paper" and then I can revisit it later and add to it, tweak it, etc. When I'm finally ready to roll it out, I "PUBLISH" it. Obviously I don't spend too much time drafting and editing, or my writing would be a bit more polished (when I read these over I realize that they're a little rough around the edges, but I consider my blog to be vehicle to get ideas out, not showcase copy.)
#3- I don't watch much TV
I'm not a big fan of TV and that frees up a lot of time. People say, "How do you have time for video games?" Well, these days I don't play often, and since I don't watch much TV, I probably have more "free time" when I'm home than most people. I'm always a bit taken aback by how much TV so many of my friends and family watch. Comdey, sports, news, and the occasional documentary on Discovery or History channel is about the extent of the TV in my life. Currently I am watching TUF Season 5, Planet Earth, Futurama, and the NBA playoffs. Thanks to DVR I catch these when I can (often late in the evening and on weekends) and I skip through all the commercials.
#4- Insatiable appetite for ideas and writing...I know, weird!
For me, writing is fun and I like to get ideas on paper because if I don't, it just feels like I'm bottling up too much energy. So for me, this is a form of energy release...and I like to share ideas with others and get feedback. Plus it's good for conversation. If I fun into a friend who has read my blog, we can talk about ideas and not just people and other "superficial topics."
#5- I type fairly quickly
50 plus words a minute...and I don't even type correctly. Freakazoid!
#6- I make time.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Do Clothes Matter?

These days I wear dress clothes with a tie four days out of the week. I am even "cuffed down" occasionally. Of course if I had my choice, I'd own my own business and wear cargo shorts and a t-shirt with flip-flops every day, but I don't, so I can't (I'll always remember an experience I had while working in a warehouse years ago. The company I was working for had been contracted to help ship a bunch of video games for THQ Games. The vice-president of the company came out to check on the facility and meet the operational managers and he was about 25 years old and wore shorts, a t-shirt, sandals, and had on a backpack. He also gave me 8 Xbox games for free!).

It doesn't bother me (the fact that I dress up now), however, because in the field I have chosen to work in, what one wears does have an impact on how others perceive you. If I didn't care about moving out of the classroom to do other things within the realm of education, I wouldn't worry about it. I know plenty of teachers who are wonderfully effective at what they do and they don't dress up.

The way I'm treated, though, depending on how I'm dressed has really stood out lately. First of all, when I walk around the University, the "kids" (undergrads) on campus either eye me suspiciously OR they defer respect to me by saying hello and opening doors, etc. It cracks me up because I feel more like one of them most of the time. Also, when I step into a convenience store, to grab a soda or whatever, I get better service than I do when I'm dressed down. Sometimes the way I'm treated is not as informal and friendly, and it actually kind of bugs me. So, you dress like you're important and people think you are...not everyone responds this way, but it's interesting how many actually do.

Anyway, there are entire college courses of study dedicated to the subject. I found the following on the internet (don't pay much attention to the link...I think it's actually a clothing store. Talk about weird marketing...although I guess it makes sense if you're overly analytical like me.
Do Clothes Really Matter?
from: http://www.askandyaboutclothes.com/Clothes%20Articles/Do%20Clothes%20Really%20Matter.htm

How important is what we wear? Can't people look through all the superficial fluff of fashion and see the real us?
The answer? Usually not.

"I don't get no respect!"
Rodney Dangerfield

Researchers have come up with some scientific evidence to support the notion that what you wear really does make a difference in how you influence the world around you. So now you know what you always suspected: The guy down the hall who didn't know poop and got the vice-president's slot got it not because he was smart, but because he knew how to look smart.

In situations such as job interviews, court appearances, sales presentations and first dates it is important to make not just a good, but a great first impression for maximum credibility and authority.

"You never get a second chance
to make a first impression."
-- Will Rogers

Behavioral scientists tell us that the effect of a first impression is a strong one. The process of sizing you up is something that goes on almost subconsciously. Your evaluation by a stranger takes 30 seconds or less, and can be so strong that it could take as long as five years to erase.

Why not take advantage of the research on human nature and utilize the knowledge to enhance and control how you are accepted? Since about 90 percent of you is covered by apparel, the clothing you choose makes a significant impact. This is such an important area, and one in which you can effect the greatest impression.

Daniel J. Todd or Danny Todd

I am posting my name: Daniel Todd or Danny Todd in order to try to see if a post on this blog will actually cause my name to show up in google.

Daniel Todd
Daniel John Todd
Danny Todd
Dan Todd
DJ Todd

What is Web 2.0?

Did you know that YOU are the TIME person of the year? What does that have to do with this post? Well, TIME was really trying to make a point about Web 2.0

To skip my hair-brained explanations, skip straight to the wikipedia definition of Web 2.0 by clicking HERE

Web 2.0 is what you're looking at right now. Web 2.o is simply a term used to describe the major trend on the internet towards "social networking." In other words, sites like MySpace, YouTube, Digg.com (my favorite), and blogging in general, all of which are primarily USER GENERATED, meaning the users, you and I, create or upload the content.

Digg is a great example because it's a news site (with topics ranging from world news and science to technology and gaming) which doesn't rely on a small handful of editors who decide what news will be on the site, but instead users link the news stories and then people wither digg (like) or bury (don't like) the stories...the stories that get dugg rise to the top and those which are buried, well, you get the idea.

So Web 2.o doesn't refer to any technical change in the internet, but to a shift in how content is created and consumed. The fact is that this represents a major paradigm shift that is affecting EVERYTHING from major news outlets to the music industry to TV. It truly democratizes information.

Top Web 2.0 sites

Jazz Step Closer to the FINALS

Man was it close! The Jazz barely tied the game in regulation and then took it to Golden State in OT, which I must admit I missed since I had to leave after regulation. I guess the most amazing story is that of Derek Fisher:

"I don't know how I got through this tonight. I really don't," said Fisher, who hit his only shot, a 3-pointer.

The win and Utah's 2-0 lead in the Western Conference semifinals were overshadowed by what Fisher did Wednesday. He had said Monday that one of his four children was ill, but did not go into detail on how serious it was other than to say he needed to be with his family instead of at the game Monday.

After the game Wednesday, he told how serious 10-month-old Tatum's condition was. She has retinoblastoma, a form of eye cancer that required a three-hour combination of surgery and chemotherapy at New York's Presbyterian Hospital.

"My daughter's doing well," Fisher said. "We had a successful operation in New York and I flew back and got off the plane and came to the game. I'm speechless."

Fisher missed most of the first three quarters, then ran straight from the tunnel onto the court late in the third period to a standing ovation and a few high-fives and hugs from teammates, as well as Golden State's Baron Davis.

"He got off the plane. He didn't warm up. He didn't stretch. He didn't shoot a shot," said Utah's Deron Williams, who had 17 points and 14 assists. "As soon as he came into the arena, he went straight to the scorers' table."

Ok, now it's time to take the show on the road. I figure we need to win at least 1/2 on the road so we can bring it home and shut the doors on GS's hopes.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Who am I?

Well, I think most of us first think of our own name when someone asks us who we are, but obviously our name is simply a sound with symbols attached to it. Who we really are is a much more complicated question.

In a course I am taking for my graduate degree at University of Redlands entitled "The Reflective Educator" we have been asking some of the "heavy" questions such as "What is learning?" and "What is reality?" In a conversation I recently had with the professor, he revealed some of the methods and theories he is currently using and writing about in regards to identity and I thought they were quite compelling. I will share the main idea below.

First of all, I personally believe that if we seek to understand who we are in the context of a spiritual reality, we very quickly come to a distinct understanding of who we are (the idea is that we have an inner "core" or spirit that is the "true" us), but for the purposes of this post I'd like to think about it in terms of who we are in the practical, every day sense. "Who am I at this point in my life and who do I want to become?" might be the question we're trying to answer within the framework I am about to share. With that said, if we think of ourselves like Shrek does, like an onion, we begin to realize that one of the primary ways we can find out how others view us is by first of all looking at our immediate, external being: our bodies and clothing. "Do I excercise? How much do I care about my looks? What kind of clothing do I wear? Do I dress for comfort? To impress?" Perhaps it depends on the day or the setting. "How do I comb my hair? Do I worry about styles?" These questions are all revelant to who were are.

The next level is the people with whom we choose to spend time. "Who is my closest companion? If you're married: "How do I treat my spouse?" If you have children: "How do I interact with my children?" Next level would be friends and acquaintances: "Who do I spend time with when I can choose my companions? What are my closest friends like? Do I spend time with people to help them? For my own pleasure?"

Finally you get to the most external levels: "How do I view my job? The people with whom I work? My neighbors? My fellow citizens? People of different races? People from other countries and/or religions?"

It's not my intention to provide answers to these questions or solicit responses, but simply to share this way of looking at one's self in order to become more reflective. I think sometimes we rely WAY to much on assumptions, even assumptions we have about ourselves. We must challenge who we assume we are so we can become better people. I assume I am a good father, but if I don't challenge this assumption perhaps I won't progress and become a better dad for my child.

I want to end this post with two quotes, one that is dead serious, related to the subject matter above, and the second one...well, you'll see:
"Begin challenging your own assumptions. Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in awhile, or the light won't come in."
Alan Alda


I guess I kinda lost control, because in the middle of the play I ran up and lit the evil puppet villain on fire. No, I didn't. Just kidding. I just said that to help illustrate one of the human emotions, which is freaking out. Another emotion is greed, as when you steal from a bank because you don't want to work, or something like that. Another emotion is generosity, as when you pay someone double what he paid for his stupid puppet."
Jack Handy

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Go Jazz!

It's not easy being a Jazz fan.

Most of my friends know that my favorite sport to practice is fishing (thanks to my buddy Josh Ontko I actually go a few times a year). My favorite spectator sport is Mixed Martial Arts with basketball coming in a close second. As a Jazz fan the most heartbreaking decade was the 90's as my team came so close so many times, only to have their hopes dashed on the rocks. Long live Johnny Stockton, the best all around point guard of all time (I once nearly started a fight because someone tried to tell me Steve Kerr was the best all-around point guard....I will admit Stockton's not the best offensive point guard, that probably goes to Magic, but all-around as in steals, assists, and points, definetly Stockton). Anyway, it appears the Jazz could go all the way this year. With game 1 against Golden State going to the Jazz at home, things are looking up. Next game is this Wednesday, 9PM Eastern time.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Run, it's the Grunion! Wait...

I mean, run to the grunion run!

This weekend we went down and camped at Doheney State beach (much thanks to moms and pops who footed the bill for the camp ground, RV, etc.). The State beach there offers quite a few things to do: great restaurants (not that we took advantage of them, although we did eat at a great taco place called Chronic Tacos), the little marine museum, the marina, tide pools, and the ocean institute. Other than stuff our craws, the main event was experiencing the phenomenon (singular...phenomena is plural...so hard to remember for me!) that is the grunion run. We didn't even plan on seeing it, but happened to arrive at just the right time (end of a full moon, tides, etc.)

Before reading on, you can get the "offical" story on the grunion HERE.

Basically thousands upon thousands of these little fish called grunion allow themselves to be washed ashore at which point they mate. It's really amazing to watch these little, semi-luminous fish wiggle and waggle on the shore as dozens of people, us included, watched with our flashlights in awe. Wes and I even stood out in the shallow water with our shoes off and could feel them wiggling around our ankles and feet (at the time I didn't really think too much about what was really going on around my feet). Too bad we didn't get any photos, but here's an example of what it looked like from photos I found on the web:

By the way, I found these images at a very interesting website about "things you should do in California."

Hey, hey, hey!

Welcome to electicity! Yep, you read that right.

First of all, if you don't know what a "blog" is, don't fret. Now imagine the next line coming from Naploean Dynamite's mouth: "It's pretty much like the coolest new thing to come along on the web in a long time, duh!" Be enlightened. In a nutshell: "A blog (short for web log) is a website where entries are made and displayed in a reverse chronological order. Blogs provide commentary or news on a particular subject, such as food, politics, or local news; some function as more personal online diaries."

All right, once and for all I am starting my own blog. I don't know who is going to read it besides me and a few close friends and family members, but it'll at least give me a chance to post things I am interested in and sort of create an online journal of the events in my life. I guess I could also digg my own blog to try to get certain stories and information on digg.com But that's another story.

As you may know, I am "into" a lot of things. I get very bored without things to look forward to. Obviously my family and work come first, but I am into computers/technology, science, reading, fishing, gaming, sports, etc. Without these "seasonings," life just wouldn't be that interesting. I spend a lot of time emailing links to stories, pics, videos, and I suppose I could just tell people to visit my blog to check that stuff out.

So this blog will be very eclectic, so welcome to "electicity." I am not going to worry about making this blog widely appealing, so you can skip the "niche" stuff and look for things that are compelling to you.