Monday, June 30, 2008

If you have read my blog for a while you know I enjoy lists, making them and watching shows about them, it give me something to argue about. Recently AFI came out with their top 10 movies in their top genres. I found their list interesting, but thought I would make my own. Many of the same movies appear on both lists, but I have changed orders and have added and dropped many as well. What makes mine different is that I am also looking at cartoons from a historical perspective
I have already posted 6-10, but here is 1-5.
5. Beauty and the Beast, 1991: Disney’s follow up to the Little Mermaid. This began cartoons as not just for kids. I took a date to see this. Beauty and the beast told a good tale, created fun characters, and sang some memorable songs. The best part of the movie was the antagonist, Gaston. He is one of my favorite villains. There are few Disney villains who can shoot like Gaston or go running around wearing boots like Gaston, not to mention every last inch of him is covered with hair. The one negative part was after the Beast turned into the prince, Bell should have run off with Gaston, the prince was a too feminine to be a leading man.
4. Shrek, 2001: I love this show. What is great about Mike Myers comedy in Shrek is that the entire family can enjoy watching, but enjoy it at different levels, in other words the kids and adults are laughing at different jokes suited to their age. I also liked the way it incorporated all the old classics into the story and then mocked them. Also John Lithgow is one of the funniest men alive. This show is the ultimate family movie.
3. Cars, 2006: This is probably the favorite of my oldest son and for good reason. I like this movie so well that I show a clip of it every year to my students. The main story is entertaining, but I like the side story of how the interstate highway system changed the landscape of America, and in this case the route 66. Cars is a nostalgic look at the glory days of America’s car culture when, as the movie said, people drove not to get where they were going, but to enjoy the drive. Cars has a great soundtrack (which we listen to constantly) and the scene where James Taylor is singing is one the most touching scenes in animated movies.
2. Jungle Book, 1967: At least one classic needs to make my top five, and the Jungle Book is by far my favorite. What makes the Jungle Book the best of the classics is the music. I believe next to the number one movie this has more great songs than any other. Songs like That’s What Friends Are For, Colonel Hathi’s March, I Wan’na Be Like You, and most importantly The Bare Necessities. If you have not watched this for a long time, try it again, I promise a swinging good time.
1. The Lion King, 1994: By far the greatest animated movie of them all. The Lion King has it all, an inspiring story, comedy, and amazing songs. The main message of the story comes from Rafiki the monkey when he asks Simba what seems to be a gospel question, do you know who you are? Once Simba understand who he is and his connection to those who came before him he is able to fight his evil uncle and win the day. Along the way there are very funny scenes coming from the comedy of Whoopi Goldberg and Cheech Marin as hyenas and from Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella as Timon and Pumbaa. Lastly it has the best soundtrack. This was a collaboration of Tim Rice and Elton John. The first time I saw this move I knew it was going to be great with the opening scene of Circle of Life, it is one of great opening scenes in any movie, not just animated. But there are so many other impressive songs, I Just Can’t Wait to be King, Be Prepared, Hakuna Matata (Jake and I do a great rendition of this), and Can You Feel the Love Tonight. This is a movie that I can watch again and again and I believe deserves its top spot
So here is my list as compared to the AFI’s list. As always what makes a list fun is the dialogue, so don’t be afraid to comment. What did I get right or wrong, and most importantly what did I leave out. I look forward to hearing from you.

Friday, June 27, 2008


1. This now begins the worst time of the year, the period between the end of the NBA playoffs and the start of football. I know baseball is on, but I am just not a big fan especially in the summer. Their season is all year long, I will start paying attention in October.

2. I showed the movie Shenandoah in class, what a great show. Jimmy Stewart is still one of the greatest actors of all time. If you have not seen this movie, do yourself a favor and watch it. Stewart’s prayer at the beginning of the film is classic and the greatest prayer in movie history. There are also two scenes that should be required viewing for every man getting married, where Stewart gives advice to his daughter’s suitor. First he asked does he like her, and in another scene he explains how women do not make sense and how to handle them. Both apply still today. Very funny movie but be prepared for tears.

3. An interesting summer tv show has been USA’s In Plain Sight. USA’s new original shows have become favorites of ours and In Plain Sight has continued this. It is about the US Marshals and the Federal Witness Protection agency. My favorite part so far is that it is not set in Miami, LA, NYC, but in Albuquerque. I like the mix up from all other shows and it makes Albuquerque look like an interesting place to live and nice scenery.

4. We had a fierce game of Candy Land this week for Family Home Evening. I did take the early lead, but Savannah mounted an amazing comeback. In the end I crushed my kids hopes and dreams by utilizing all my Candy Land skills to hang on and win.

5. Good Last Comic Standing, very funny. But I do not understand how the black guy in the sweater who made wierd sounds made the cut, to me he was the least funny.

6. If you have never watched My Boys on TBS, give it a try.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

My Version of AFI's Top Animated Movies

If you have read my blog for a while you know I enjoy lists, making them and watching shows about them, it give me something to argue about. Recently AFI came out with their top 10 movies in their top genres. I found their list interesting, but thought I would make my own. Many of the same movies appear on both lists, but I have changed orders and have added and dropped many as well. The first list they showed was Animation. My first three would not make the list if they were my favorite, but since I enjoy viewing and writing from a historical perspective, I will include them:

AFI list
10. Finding Nemo 9. Cinderella
8. Shrek 7. Beauty and the Beast
6. Toy Story 5. Fantasia
4. The Lion King 3. Bambi
2. Pinocchio 1. Snow White

For my own list, the biggest difference is the higher amount of modern cartoons. I love old movies and respect the classic Disney cartoons, but not only the technology has changed in recent years, but I also believe the story lines have improved as well, not to mention the music (which to me is important in a good cartoon).

10. The Simpson’s Movie, 2007: This was not a great movie, but since I have loved the Simpson’s for so long and they have given us so many pop icons and phrases there can not be a discussion about animation without the Simpson’s. So the Simpson’s Movie represents all that the series has given us in the past 20 years. Doh!
9. Steamboat Willie, 1928: I was shocked this did not make AFI’s cut. Again not the greatest cartoon, but it was Walt Disney’s first, and that alone should make the cut. Without Steam Boat Willie we would not have Mickey Mouse and all the iconic people, places, and memories that Mickey has given us, not to mention the rest of the movies on this list if we first did not have Willie .
8. Snow White, 1937: Outside of the dwarfs, there is not much about this movie I like, yet it is the first full length animated movie, and so it makes the list. I know this is a classic, but I do not care for the story, but most of all I can not stand Snow White’s voice, it makes my skin crawl when I hear her sing, but still deserves the number eight position.
7. Toy Story, 1995: Historically this is another first, which is the major reason for it making the list. Toy Story was the first full length computerized animated movie. But at the same time Toy Story told a good story, what do our toys do when we leave the room? For a while this was our kid’s favorite and so we watched it many times. One day while my wife was shopping, my daughter lost one of the little people she like to carry around. I think my wife actually felt sad, she said after watching Toy Story she felt bad for the lost toy.
6. The Little Mermaid, 1989: Not only is this a great story but I consider this a first, which again for me speaking historically is important. I see the Little Mermaid as the first of the modern cartoons. I look at all cartoons from Steam Boat Willie to Kung Fu Panda as either before or after the Little Mermaid. It was the first great modern cartoon epic. This movie also has a classic soundtrack with some of Disney’s most beloved songs including Under the Sea and Kiss the Girl (I already said songs are what make many of the movies in my opinion).
Look for the top five next week.

Friday, June 20, 2008


1. The best part of the summer TV lineup is Last Comic Standing, I cannot stop laughing.

2. Whoopie Goldberg should be banned from hosting. The bits with her in different plays should have been funny, yet with her I never laughed. And her line about Thurgood Marshall being the only black Supreme Court Judge, I assume was a cut towards Clarence Thomas not being black enough. I did not know all blacks were required to think alike

3. I find myself surprised that I am saying this, but I was glad In The Heights won, I thought it was the most exciting performance of the night. But now that it won a Tony, I will not be able to afford it even if I could find a ticket.

4.. I loved the Celtics comeback in game 4. What made it sweeter was that they did it against Kobe. I am sure he has plenty of excuses as to why they lost. What is he going to do with the refs having to call the game fairly?

5. Speaking of comebacks, Tigers back nine on Saturday was amazing to watch. Doing it crippled makes it Leg… wait for it, wait for it….endary.

6. All Rocco had to do to stop a playoff was hit the fairway on 18. It seemed like he was the only one not to birdie the hole that day.

7. If you ever get the chance watch John Ford’s 1939 Stage Coach, it was his first western and was the beginning of a great career of story telling.

8. I showed Glory to my class. It does not matter how many times I watch it, I still get choked up at the end when the 54 marches out to the beach and the white troops cheer them.

9. Congrats to the Celtics. I am tried of Boston winning everything, but it is great to see the Celtics win again. Growing up my dad was a huge Bird, Ainge, McHale fan so I rooted for them. I also think Russell is still the greatest of all times.

10.On SYTYCD they keep criticizing the white kids for not being gangsta enough when dancing hip-hop. What does that say about black culture? Maybe black youth should aspire to be productive members of society and not gangsters. To me it sounds like they are saying you are not black enough, as if tough and black are synonymous. I have not heard the judges criticize any of the black kids for not being white enough when dancing the waltz.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Supreme Power

A very disturbing trend has reached its height this week as the Supreme Court has decided to release the prisoners in Getmo. The reason I find this disturbing is not because of the actual decision (which I am totally against), but more because the Supreme Court has made it. Article II section 2 of the US Constitution says:

"The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority;--to all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls:--to all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction;--to Controversies to which the United States shall be a Party;--to Controversies between two or more States;--between a State and Citizens of another State;--between Citizens of different States,--between Citizens of the same State claiming Lands under Grants of different States, and between a State, or the Citizens thereof, and foreign States, Citizens or Subjects."

No where in the Constitution is the Supreme Court given the right to pass laws, but yet time and again that is what the Supreme Court is doing. Article I, section 1 of the Constitution says: All Legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and a House of Representatives. In other words, just as every 5th grader learns, it is congresses job, and congress only to make the laws. Not even the President has the power to make a law, but yet the courts seem to think they can. And the problem is there is no check on their power. What ever the court says is final, there is no appeal.

Since the Supreme Court is assigned for life, they are not accountable to anyone. They can make any decision they want with no recourse. I understand why that is important, their opinions should be based on law and not the current popular political leans of the day. But the fact that 12 people alone can make such an important decision as releasing prisoners, does not seem correct. The founding fathers set up a government with checks on all three branches to guarantee no one branch became to strong, but the checks on the courts has fallen short. The only check on the judges is that the president appoints them and the congress approves them. Under this system, all radicals should be weeded out and only fair judges should be positioned. Under this system the theory has gone, if you want different kinds of judges (party allegiance) than elect a president from that party. Yet the man who made the decision to release the prisoners is Kennedy, who was appointed by Bush. Yet since he has taken office he seems more concerned about seeing himself on TV than doing his job. Kennedy is completely in love with his own mind, and wants everyone to bask in his glory.

The only option left for getting around a judges opinion is to make a Constitutional amendment. Once it is in the Constitution, then it cannot be declared Unconstitutional. This is the case with gay marriages. States have passed laws that will only allow marriage to be between a man and a woman. Yet courts have stepped in and changed the laws. Forget that the elected people from a state passed a law, a couple men and women sitting on a bench decided on their own to change the law. If states or the Federal Government pass an amendment, then the courts have no power. The problem is that the Constitution was set up to make new amendment very difficult to get. The Founder did not want to see major changes to their document every time a new party came to power. But the Founders could never have foreseen the power of the courts.

I always hate people who just complain, don’t complain give solutions. Yet the problem is I have no idea what the answer is. I do not believe the courts should cave to the will of the people, but at the same time the people’s will should not be ignored either. I do not believe this trend will stop soon. It makes this presidential election all that more important, it will be the next president who will appoint the next judges, even though with the case of Kennedy that does not mean anything anymore. There needs to be some check on the decisions of the courts, but what.

On last note about the gay marriage situation and the courts. The group that I am guessing is cheering the courts decision to allow gays to marry is the polygamists. If the government does not have the right to say marriage is between a man and a women, then why do they have the right to say that a man can not marry two women if they are of legal age and consent. It is a slippery slope the Supreme Court is playing with.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Measure of a Man

It is a day late for father’s day, but I did want to say something quickly about my dad. My dad has some real skills when it comes to working with his hands, something that I never learned from him. I am sure it was my own fault, I should have paid more attention. Sometimes it seems I struggle nailing two pieces of wood together. Though I did not learn these skills, what I did learn from my father is much more important. My father taught my brother and me the characteristics needed to be a real man and a good father. He taught us how to work (I know this makes people laugh, but when it comes time to work, I believe I know how and it shows in my career). He taught us that character is important, and that we should be men of honor and integrity. Our word is our word, and when we do a job, we should do it to the best of our ability. As a father, the best lesson I learned is to be there for your kids. The number of games my dad missed over the many years I played sports, I could probably count on one hand. He was always there and always encouraging. I try hard to follow his example. I heard a talk once where the speaker told of a story where a dying man requested just one thing on his tombstone. He asked, only if all his family agreed that it fit him, that the only thing to be written was, here lies a man. I always thought it an interesting story, and it sums up my dad perfectly. When you see my father, you can not help but think, here is a man. My goal in life is to become the kind of man he raised me to be. To be a good husband and father, and a righteous leader who follows the gospel and exercises his priesthood in the service of others. Thanks Dad.
Here is a picture of the Finck men, minus Jackson who was not born yet.

Friday, June 13, 2008


1. I believe everything Donaghy said about the NBA, not because I think Donaghy is trustworthy, but because he is only supporting what I have been seeing with my own eyes for years.

2. The fact Lisa had a chance at being Top Chef hurts the credibility of the show.

3. Why did SYTYCD have to cut out all the tappers from the top 20?

4. I do not think Obama’s new slogan “McCain is running for Bush’s third term” will hold water. It does not take a genius to see McCain and Bush are very different, only one is a conservative. Maybe he should give us a few clues about what he is going to do, before telling us who others are.

5. Horse racing will never regain its glory until horses race for more than one year. I enjoyed watching Big Brown, I would like to see him try again next year. There never would have been a movie about Seabiscuit if he only raced 4 times.

6. Watched Dan in Real Life. I liked it, but was waiting for someone to chastise the daughters for their selfness. Dan had sacrificed his own happiness for theirs and then finally found someone, and then he ended up apologizing to them. They were too caught up in their own petty problems to see their father hurting. And no, 15 years olds are not in love, and her immaturity at handling the situation shows she was not old enough to understand or comprehend love. Infatuations yes, love no.

7. I like how Burress from the NY Giants thinks. I have one more year on my contract here at the University of Texas, but I think my teaching last semester was exceptionally good, I think I will refuse to teach in the fall unless they give me more money. What would athletes do if they had to live in the real world?

8. It looks as if the reign of Roger Federer is over, he did not just lose but was beat down. Can he bounce back at Wimbledon?

9. Good luck to the Hickmans, they are moving this week and we all know how much stress that can be. See you sometime soon in VA.

10. Jake read 10 books this week by himself, I am very pleased with his progress. Together recently we have read Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, and Call of the Wild, I love having a son.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

How can something this patriotic become the subject of racism.

I had a few topics I want to speak on today, but I am going to put them aside to comment on the new Hollywood feud between Spike Lee and Dirty Harry himself Clint Eastwood. I had heard a report on this earlier but today on the news I heard a comment from Lee that made my blood boil. I need to learn to wait a few days before I comment on happenings that make me angry, because I find blogging angry does not bring out my best side, but I am breathing deeply so will give it a shot. First the back story. Clint Eastwood has made two films lately about WWII, namely the battle at Iwo Jima. I have not yet seen Flags of our Fathers, but did watch letters from Iwo Jima and even blogged about it. As I said earlier, it was a good movie, yet to me told a different story than what I believe Eastwood wanted to tell. Anyway, Lee is currently making a movie about black troops in the war, a movie that should be told and I am glad Lee is telling their story. But instead of celebrating black troops, Lee is making them an issue. He criticized Eastwood for not having black troops in his films making it seem as if black troops did not exist. Eastwood taking offence to the comments fired back that Lee has not studied the history and that his (Eastwood's) films were historically accurate. In fact there were no black troops in the famous photo of the men raising the flag, and said that Lee should shut his face. Lee, being called out and with no historical argument to challenge Eastwood, took the low road and played the feared race card, his answer to Eastwood was he was not his father and they were not on a plantation and so he could not talk to him that way. It is this last comment that angered me.

First in case anyone is not aware lets clear up the historical argument. In WWII there were black troops who fought bravely and sacrificed their lives for this nation while at the same time having to fight off racial hatred towards them. They were fighting for a country that did not value them as equal and did not allow them the basic rights of citizens at home. As I said, I am excited about this movie and to have their story told. However in WWII blacks fought in segregated units, blacks only fought in black units just as Asians fought in Asian units and whites in all white units. In the navy, blacks took jobs like cooks (Cuba Gooding Jr. in Pearl Harbor). So when you watch a movie about WWII it is very possible that in some engagements when you only see whites, it is accurate, because blacks would not be fighting in those units. It just happens that not many black units fought at Iwo Jima, and in the film (as shown on the news today) there is a scene as they pan the men preparing to fight there was a black unit. As for raising the flag, no black troops took part in the raising.

What would Lee have us do, change history, lie about the events to give him a better story? I understand the desire to showcase the accomplishments of black Americans in evens like WWII where we put so much reverence on the men who fought, but that does not mean we should fabricate it. As for his comments about the plantation, to me this is racism at its worst. If Eastwood made a racist comment, it could be career ending, so why is Lee given a pass? Eastwood’s comments had no racial element and did not deserve Lee’s response. Racism will not end in this country until all men are free to make comments without the fear of being tagged a racist. This argument must go both ways, whites need to not make racist comments, but as long as blacks and whites are treated differently, then they will always be different. As long as whites fear making a legitimate negative comment towards blacks, they will be separated, segregated mentally if not physically. Eastwood did not make a racist comment, but Lee made it racist knowing it is an argument Eastwood will struggle to win, if he tried to win it at all, knowing if he loses the label of racist could haunt him forever.

Lee’s comment also demeans the true plight of slaves. Slaves were subject to beatings, rape, murder and all sorts of physical and mental anguish. Lee was told to shut up about something he was ignorant about. How do these two things have anything in common? For a man like Lee, who has studies slavery, to compare himself to a plantation slave is insulting to everyone’s intelligence and I would think insulting to other blacks. Lee is using something as cruel as slavery to build his own fame, and to make it worse, his example did not even apply.

Spike Lee is a good film maker and I commend him for his new project, but I also condemn him for keeping racism alive in this country. His film should showcase the accomplishment of black Americans in the war, something we can all have pride in as Americans, but now instead it will be controversial and separate Americans by race instead of uniting us. Maybe that what he wants, maybe when we stop being racist his movies will stop making money.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

A Couple Quick Thoughts

I just wanted to make two different comments about issues of the week. First the Democratic VP. Now that Obama has received the magic number to officially represent the Democrats, Hillary is going to need to back out. But the bigger news is the push to put her on the ticket as V.P. I feel for Obama. I look at it this way, the very fact that Hillary is being forced on Obama is the reason I am sure he does not want her on his ticket. She is not even the V. P. yet already she is bullying him around. Do you really want a V.P. who has the public attention, power, and arrogance to question every decision you make. Will he have to defer to her on foreign policy? She may end up as the V.P., but I guess that Obama will do everything to stop it.

Secondly I just want to post a link to another story. I am a huge sports fan, but not so much an athlete fan. It seems that most athletes are spoiled crybabies with a sense of entitlement because they run fast. Yet I know not all athletes are Kobe Bryant’s (biggest cry baby of them all), and Peter King from S. I. has written a story about athletes who help who do not always get the attention or credit. If you want to read his story it is the first page here.

Monday, June 2, 2008

The Ellis Boys

I want to make a shout out to my cousins. This weekend my family went to San Antonio, Texas for my cousin Cameron’s graduation from Air Force Basic training. I was also excited about the trip because his brother, Jason, had just come home from his tour in Iraq as a Marine. Jason and I were very close growing up, but we do not get to see each other very often anymore. We had a fun time with the Ellis family exploring the River Walk and catching up. More importantly I just wanted to express my gratitude to my cousins and all others who have served this country. Both Cam and Jason are such fine young men, and I am proud of both of them for their willingness to risk their lives. San Antonio was full of men and women who are finishing boot, and everywhere you looked you could see them in their uniforms, it was very patriotic. I and my family are thankful to the Ellis’s for allowing us to join their family this weekend and take part in this occasion.

I also had the chance to talk to Jason for just a short time about his experiences in Iraq and about attitudes of the people there and our troops. I have written some about the war and my outside field of study for my Ph.D. is the modern middle east, but this was the first that I spoke to someone on the ground. I have not wanted to write much until I had. This was his impressions, and so do not represent what all soldiers and marines think, but it was interesting. I asked him who the troops wanted to win the election, and he said they did not care; they were going to do their job no matter who won. But when I asked him if the troops wanted to stay or pull out, he said they just want to go home. I asked if the people there wanted us to stay. He said the wealthy did, they had more stability now and better lives, but the average person was tired of us being there. They just want to run their own country and question if we will ever leave. I asked if things will ever get better and he seemed to have serious doubts. He explained how Sadam used the different tribes against each other. He would support and fund one powerful tribe in the area who keep all the others in their place. That was how Sadam kept power. Now with US presence, we have tried to stop this tribal system, but it is hard for people who have been fighting for so long to now get along and work together. He did see it as possible, but very difficult. I found his report very sobering, leaving me with doubts of any possibility of success. I am one who does not believe peace will ever be achieved in Israel, and so start to question if peace is possible in the Middle East. Turkey and Egypt have had a very successful democracy for years (Turkey much longer than Egypt) so it is possible, I just do not know if America can hold out long enough to find out.

This war had been hard on our troops. Jason had funny stories about Iraq, but then you could see a difference when he talked about having firefights and Marines dying. He lost a few men when they were close to coming home and that was hard on them. I can not imagine what it was like to him, I am just glad he made it home safely. I am still pleased with the way, we as a nation have celebrated our troops. I hope we continue to do so, whether or not we agree with the war, these are brave men and women and they deserve our best. I am a better man for having known my cousin Jason, he is a true friend (see blog on friends) and I hope it will not be as long until we see each other again. So Cam and Jason, thank you for what you do.