Christmas Carolz IV

Well, it’s Christmastime again, and with Christmas comes my annual playlist of X-Mas choons. 4 years in a row! Check out the previous three:

2010

2009

2008

Hopefully this list will remind you of some old favorites, introduce you to some new ones and provide some mirth and cheer this holiday season. Thank you, and enjoy.

Matte Badde – “Black Friday Medley: The Christmas Song/White Christmas”

Cocteau Twins – “Frosty The Snowman”

Weezer – “Christmas Celebration”

The Killers – “Joseph, Better You Than Me”

The Pogues & Kirsty McColl – “Fairytale Of New York”

Belle & Sebastian – “Are You Coming Over For Christmas?”

Kate Bush – “December Will Be Magic Again”

Ramones – “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want To Fight Tonight)”

Gruff Rhys – “Post Apocalypse Christmas”

Erasure – “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”

Flaming Lips & The Plastic Ono Band – “Atlas Eets Christmas”

Morning Musume, Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Goofy & Pluto – “Morning Musume Christmas Medley 2000″

See you back here this time next year for Christmas Carolz V!

G.

Comics In The Classroom: Grand View University

By Greg Goode

Watchmen, the seminal graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, appears on Time magazine’s 100 Greatest Novels of the 20th Century list.  In 2009, The New York Times began publishing a graphic novel bestseller list.  The same year, Heath Ledger wins an Oscar for his portrayal of The Joker, Batman’s arch-enemy, in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight.

The comic book, long considered a disposable object exclusively for children, is finally getting some respect. Further validation for the art form can be found on college campuses, where graphic novels are becoming an increasingly common part of the curriculum, including at Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa.

Matt Plowman, Grand View’s associate professor of history, first experienced comics in the classroom at another institution as part of a critical thinking class on the Holocaust. Plowman said one of the most powerful texts the class read was Maus by Art Spigelman, a graphic novel about Spigelman’s father’s experience in a Nazi concentration camp.

“I’ve seen [graphic novels] used very effectively, and communicate things that just weren’t alive on the page of a history book,” Plowman said. “Literally, it’s graphing reality for them, picturing reality and playing with it.”

Later this semester in his European Cultural & Intellectual History class, Plowman will be using V For Vendetta by Moore and David Lloyd, a graphic novel about an anarchist’s war against authority in a near-future totalitarian England.

“With European intellectual history, you kind of have to show where society’s moving,” Plowman said. “So I was looking for something that was late 20th century, and particularly with where a lot of European thinkers were going, there’s a lot of dystopia. And the graphic novels tend to be on the edge of that.”

Plowman said he picked V For Vendetta partly because of the students familiarity with the story from its 2006 film adaptation.

“I wanted them to be able to see the original intent of Alan Moore and what he’s really trying to say about society,” Plowman said. “Sometimes it’s easier for some students, rather than trying to find a movie that has a traditional novel, where they have to do more literary criticism. Especially for the visual learners.”

Kevin Gannon, professor of history at Grand View, said he’s always been intrigued by the use of graphic novels in class. Two years ago, Gannon took part in a summer reading program for the Grand View freshman class that used Gene Luen Yung’s graphic novel American Born Chinese.

“I had never taught with that before and in my discipline, it’s not very common. We use pretty standard vanilla textbooks. I was intrigued with the idea,” Gannon said. “I was a bit intimidated by the idea, too, because I had no idea how to teach it. What I learned is that it’s just like any other text.”

This semester, Gannon is assigning A People’s History of American Empire, a graphic novel that adapts writings by radical historian Howard Zinn. Gannon said students have responded to the text enthusiastically.

“For me personally, a graphic novel fits right in with the way I structure my courses and what I want students to be able to do with the texts that we read,” Gannon said.

Other Grand View instructors utilizing comics include Ken Jones, who assigned the zombie apocalypse story The Walking Dead in his Introduction to Ethics class this semester and Jim Whyte, who has given students the task of creating their own comics in his Principles of Management class.

Gannon said he sees the use of graphic novels in his class as a way of expanding his students’ ideas of what materials can be used in the classroom environment.

“I ask my students to be open-minded and look at different things as text, not just the standard printed page,” Gannon said. “If I’m going to ask my students to look at a text in that way, I should be willing to do the same myself.  And that’s where graphic novels help stretch me as a teacher.”

sorry for not existing

I just wanted to apologize for not updating this blog often enough. Everyone seems to have gotten busy with other things. I just recently logged in, and due to all of the new comments, I’ve become inspired. I will try to upload new posts on a regular basis and finish up an old series or two. Wish me luck!

-Scott

VegNews Magazine Using Stock Photos of Meat Dishes

This story is practically old news by now, and I had no intention of publicly weighing in on the matter, but for some reason, I am very bothered by this situation. So, here it is:

April 13th, 2011 – Blogger QuarryGirl received an email tip from a reader who realized that a photo on the VegNews website of a veggie burger was actually a picture of a real hamburger from istockphoto.com. Both he and QuarryGirl left multiple comments on the VegNews site notifying them of the “mistake,” all of which were immediately deleted. In fact, the reader was told that his “inappropriate and mean-spirited commenting has violated the  policy of VegNews,” and that VegNews moderators would continue to remove his comments. After further investigation, it appeared that this was a fairly common practice on the site, and that images were even doctored to remove any meaty elements, such as the bones in the picture of spare ribs below (courtesy of QuarryGirl):

Before

vegnews realribs RANT: VegNews is putting the MEAT into vegan issues   

After

vegribs RANT: VegNews is putting the MEAT into vegan issues

April 14th, 2011 – VegNews released a statement in which they neither apologized nor promised never to use stock photos again (not even non-vegan stock photos). The statement begins with, “The entire VegNews community is deeply saddened with the dialogue that has transpired over the last 12 hours.” Uhh…sorry? Wait…what? Are we supposed to be apologizing to them?

It continues with a sort-of sob story about how expensive it is to publish a magazine and trying to compete with mainstream mags and nobody was vegan eleven years ago, oh-my-god-how-sad. Oh, and they won some awards from Oprah and Martha Stewart in the process! And basically, they couldn’t have done all of this without using stock photos. Hey, that’s just “industry standard.”

It’s not like I have a problem with using stock photos, in general, but it seems pretty obvious that a vegan audience isn’t going to be to happy when they find out that they’re actually looking at a picture of chicken breast soup and not seitan stew. I think VegNews knew that, too, or they wouldn’t have kept it secret. Usually, if you feel like you have to hide something, it’s probably something you shouldn’t be doing. Another thing that I’ve been wondering about is whether or not these photos, which are supposed to correspond with a specific recipe in the magazine, even look anything like the actual dish. I mean, when I make meals from my favorite vegan cookbooks and sites, like Vegan Dad, the dish I prepare actually turns out looking something like the picture posted on the site.

Which brings me to another point: there are many vegan food bloggers who take their own mouth-watering pictures to go along with the recipes they’ve created. If they can do it without making any money from what they post, it can’t be that difficult to get a decent point-and-shoot and some white plates and snap a picture of the actual dish. There’s no one on the VegNews staff with even a bit of cooking or photography experience who would be willing to make the dish at home and take a picture of it? Even if no one at VegNews could cook or take pictures of food, which would be really strange since that’s such a major focus of the magazine, I would rather go without a picture than see a picture of a dish made of meat that probably looks nothing like the actual creation. Seriously, you don’t need a picture of every dish. Most cookbooks don’t even have pictures for all of their recipes. Same goes for Vegetarian Times, another popular veg mag.   

Is anyone with me on this? Because I was shocked at how many bloggers and commenters defended VegNews’ actions. I first saw the story on Vegansaurus, but I wasn’t terribly surprised with their wishy-washy response because one of their writers also works for VegNews. Pretty apparent conflict of interests, although they don’t seem to think that it’s clouding their judgement. A lot of people think this is akin to airbrushing images of models and celebrities, but I don’t agree. I feel like most people who like to spend their time looking at  celebrities actually WANT to see them airbrushed and made up and wouldn’t like what they saw if the person wasn’t wearing any make-up. In short, people want to be fooled when they see that celebrity, and they allow it to happen. And anyway, when you look at a doctored picture of Jennifer Lopez, you still recognize her as Jennifer Lopez. As someone who loves to cook, yes, I love to see pictures of beautiful food, but it’s just as important to me that the picture is an accurate portrayal of the dish that I am so excited to make. If you have to sacrifice a little bit of the “beauty” to do that, which I don’t see why you would unless the food is just ugly to begin with and then you shouldn’t photograph it at all, then do it.

As a final note, a lot of people are also saying that this issue is distracting from the important matters; that is, animal cruelty, political issues that affect animal matters, etc. Maybe so, but is that the fault of the vegan public or the perpetrator? People were probably assuming they could hold VegNews to a higher standard and wouldn’t have to police a company with ethics as its main focus. To be sure, they are not the first ethics-touting company to screw up, and they are certainly not the last, but I think we have the right to be disappointed that we can’t even rely on people who supposedly share our values to represent us in the way that we would like to be represented.

More takes on the matter:
QuarryGirl
Vegansaurus
The Discerning Brute
This Dish is Veg

tree of life

epic trailer!

tree of life

writer//director: terrence malick
cinematography: emmanuel lubezki
starring: brad pitt, jessica chastain, sean penn

watch the much more beautiful, high res version here.

lovingly, always–

natsky

I hope NPR does lose its federal funding by Kicknz

Before I get too far into this, I would like to point out that the only radio station I listen to with any regularity is my local public radio station, WUFT.  So, I’m not writing this article as someone that knows nothing of public radio.  Also, my problems with it are not political, as I am not some wild rightwinger.  No, here are my reasons.

I don’t know what public radio’s mission is and I’m not going to look it up.  What I will say is that, having listened to a great deal of it in the car with my dad as a kid, I got the impression that there was supposed to be some sort of commitment to the fine arts, or culturally relevant arts that might not be widely disseminated in a commercial capacity (largely, (Western) classical music and jazz).  Well, if that’s the case, then public radio in Florida has completely fallen off the boat, as my station no longer PLAYS ANY GODDAMN MUSIC.  Except for a few weekly specialty shows, classical and jazz music have been removed and we’ve been left with an all-talk format.

And what a bunch of piece of crap talk-based shows.  Granted, it’s not all bad, but a lot of it is.  Diane Rehm is awful – a terrible, underinformed interviewer that I imagine thinks of herself as a radio Larry King.  This American Life is grating.  Ira Glass should not be allowed anywhere near a microphone and the pettiness of the topics that his show covers is unforgivable, even if it is intentional.  Additionally, it should be called This New York Life, as an inordinate number of the lame stories originate there.

I’m forever annoyed by the sad and constant attempts to be politically correct, like correspondents going waaaayyyy out of their way to pronounce a name “correctly” within the context of some language, especially if it’s Spanish.  But in their ignorance or perhaps arrogance, they pronounce Portuguese names as if they were Spanish, even though the pronunciation rules are very different.  Also, can someone please explain to me why everyone that works for NPR news and “story” programs is either Jewish or Hispanic?  I’m sure that some will find that question to be racist but I’m simply asking a reasonable question based on the large number of members of those groups that work for Fresh Air and Morning Edition, etc.  Are they racially and ethnically profiling?  Are they using quotas?  Are they attempting to hire people that would not find a job in the private sector?  If you are offended by this line of questions, then you are being dishonest with yourself and non-pragmatic.

And, yes, NPR is definitely very left-leaning.  Inskeep and Gross give it away with their inflections in practically every statement.  If you listen to NPR and don’t hear this, then again, you are deluding yourself.

Now, as I said before, I listen to NPR.  It offers the least worst news on the radio that I’m aware of.  There are many good programs that avoid a lot of the biases, PC nonsense, and amateurishness.  My complaints stem from the fact that NPR receives federal assistance.  This is nonsense.  There is no reason the government should be paying for a radio network.

The fact is, if funding were pulled today, NPR (after a name change) would get along just fine as a commercial network.  According to Arbitron ratings, Morning Edition is the SECOND MOST LISTENED TO national radio show.  So, clearly something is being done right.  It just shouldn’t be done with taxpayer’s money.

70 Aspects of Batman: 34

JOHN ROMITA JR.

From Wikipedia:

John Salvatore Romita, Jr. (born August 17, 1956) is an American comic book artist best known for his extensive work for Marvel Comics from the 1970s to the 2000s.

Romita was born in New York City, the son of John Romita, Sr., co-creator of several notable Spider-Man stories in the 1960s and 1970s.

He began his career at Marvel UK, doing sketches for covers of reprints. His American debut was with a six page story entitled “Chaos at the Coffee Bean!” in The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #11 (1977).

Romita’s early popularity began with his run on Iron Man with writer David Michelinie and artist Bob Layton which began in 1978. In the early 1980s, he had his first regular run on the Amazing Spider-Man series and also was the artist for the launch of the Dazzler series. Working with writer Roger Stern on Amazing Spider-Man, he co created the character Hobgoblin. From 1983 to 1986 he had a run on the popular Uncanny X-Men with Dan Green and author Chris Claremont which was well-received. He would return for a second well-received run on Uncanny X-Men in 1993.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Romita enjoyed an extended stint on Daredevil with writer Ann Nocenti and Eisner Award-winning inker Al Williamson, noted for its creation of long-running Daredevil nemesis Typhoid Mary. His work on Daredevil was well-received, with Romita Jr. further refining his style.

Romita later collaborated with Frank Miller on a Daredevil origin story entitled Daredevil: The Man Without Fear, a revisiting of the character’s origin. He worked on a host of Marvel titles during the 1990s, including The Punisher War Zone, the Hulk, the Cable mini-series, The Mighty Thor, a return to Iron Man for the second Armor Wars written by John Byrne, and the Punisher/Batman cross-over. Klaus Janson was a frequent inker.

In the 2000s, Romita had a well-received return to The Amazing Spider-Man with writer J. Michael Straczynski. He drew Marvel’s Wolverine with author Mark Millar as part of the character’s thirtieth-anniversary celebration. In 2004, Romita’s creator-owned project The Gray Area was published by Image Comics. Romita’s art has since appeared in Black Panther, The Sentry and Ultimate Vision, a backup story featured in the Ultimate line, written by author Mark Millar.

In 2006, Romita collaborated with writer Neil Gaiman on the reinterpretation of Jack Kirby‘s The Eternals in the form of a seven-issue limited series. Romita worked with Greg Pak on the five issue main comic of Marvel’s 2007 crossover event, World War Hulk.

In 2008, Romita again returned to Amazing Spider-Man. He is also collaborating once more with Mark Millar, for a creator-owned series, Kick-Ass, published by Marvel’s Icon imprint. The Filming of the Movie: Kick-Ass, began in September 2008. Romita, one of the producers, made his directorial debut by directing an animated flashback sequence in the film.

Romita is the regular artist for Avengers, which relaunched the franchise in May 2010.

John Romita Jr. may be the best pure superhero artist working in comics today. Over the course of his over 30 year career he has worked almost exclusively for Marvel Comics, so any images of characters from other companies by him. Fortunately, in the mid-90s before Marvel and DC became parts of huge conglomerates and were still open to crossovers, Romita Jr. drew a Batman/Punisher one-shot. For a reader used to Romita’s work only appearing in Marvel comics, seeing the denizens of Gotham City drawn in his style creates a certain cognitive dissonance…but once the brain adjusts, it’s a great visual experience. To date, apart from a sketch or two, Romita Jr. hasn’t drawn Batman since, which is a shame as his style has become more stripped down and direct as time’s gone on…kind of like this sketch below, done years after the one-shot:

I love this sequence from Batman/Punisher…it’s a well drawn sequence that flows and says a lot about the characters portrayed in it:

G.