Friday, June 27, 2014

Vlogging vs. Reality Shows

On April 7, 2014, the fans of the popular Youtube video blog (vlog) CTFXC (Charles Trippy Family x Core); also known as Internet Killed Television, were shocked when Charles Trippy announced his separation from his wife Alli.  It came as such a shock because there had virtually no hints in previous vlogs about the separation.  To many, it had burst the bubble of one of the most popular vlogs out there.  Featuring Charles Trippy (who is also the bassist for the band We the Kings) and his wife Alli and their two dogs, it had previously been a positive show where Charles and Alli showed the good things happening in their life.  They record on video themselves doing daily life things and at times talking directly to the camera and the online viewers and then edit and post the videos themselves.  All of it done completely by Charles and Alli.  There are in charge of their vlogs from beginning to end.  And they felt like the perfect couple, living a great life with the people around them. 

This is contrast to reality shows which show the daily life of particular people, for example, Jon and Kate plus Eight, Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica, Little People Big World, Dance Moms.  In reality show’s case, a professional camera crew following around a family from dawn to dusk, capturing every single moment.  They also interview the subjects later about the days’ events.  Then the producers of the reality show pick a few key moments that happened in the day spiced together with the interviews gathered.  The biggest difference is that the family that is the subject of the reality show typically has no final say about what is shown on an episode of the show.  As a contrast to the DIY element of vlogging, reality shows are a major production, and producers are tasked with creating a narrative that fits into 21 to 43 minutes of footage.  They may sometimes deliberately manipulate footage in order to make it fit into the narrative they want.  (An excellent example of how reality shows are made can found on this clip Charlie Brooker’s Screenwipe: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BBwepkVurCI; warning, it does contain language)

So are there any differences from vlogs and reality shows?  If so, are the differences more positive or negative?  Do we really get a good picture of our subjects?  One of the biggest differences between vlogging and reality shows is the do-it-yourself nature of video blogging.  There are many vloggers out there and nearly all of them film and edit and have a final say about the video that comes out.  The upside of this is that all of the vloggers are not being manipulated by some outside force, like a producer.  What they say and do on the show is what they intended to do and say in real life.  However, vlogging is, by nature, positive, because the vlogs are what the vloggers want to show the world.  They want to show that they are happy people who get along with the people around them so, obviously, that is the footage that makes it into the vlogs and not the back biting and fighting and drama.  That negative footage is edited out. 

Reality shows, by contrast, emphasize the exact opposite, creating drama out of footage that may or may not have had those moments.  They choose to emphasize the fights, back biting because it heightens the tension in the show.  If you look at the emphasis that the shows place, the difference is clear: the vloggers are definitely more positive, even intentionally so.  The problem being is that vloggers are themselves intentionally manipulative.  They are in charge of their own work, so they only show the best sides of them.  That is why it came as such a shock to the viewers of Charles and Alli Trippy’s viewers when Charles announced his separation from Alli.  In the video, he talks about how he and Alli have been getting into more fights and arguments lately and decided to separate before it got worse.  While he didn’t come outright and apologize for keeping it from his viewers, he did say he thought it would get better.  But it didn’t, and now he and Alli are facing divorce.  Seeing the separation of one of YouTube’s most popular vloggers only leads me to conclude that both could be seen as manipulations, just different type of manipulations.  Reality Shows give us drama, vloggers give us positivity.  I do believe that that what vloggers emphasize is better than reality show give us.  But I also realize how vloggers only show you want they want you to see as well.  With that in mind, do we ever truly know someone we see on YouTube or on TV?  Something to ponder in our quest for reality entertainment.  

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Romance is for Other People Tidbit #26

Hello everyone! Here is Romance is for Other People Tidbit #26:

26. The main characters attend William Henry Harrison High School.

 Big Announcement on or around July 9th!

Look for a new tidbit next Wednesday!  Here are the last 25 tidbits:
1. I am releasing a novel in 2014.
2. The title is Romance is for Other People.
3. There are four main characters.
4. The first main character is Chris, male, 14 years old.
5. The second main character is Lydia, female, 14 years old.
6. The third main character is Jeremy, male, 16 years old.
7. The fourth main character is Amanda, female, 16 years old.
8.  The format is first person, split between the four main characters.
9.  The title is a quote from the novel.
10.  All the chapter titles are quotes.
11.  Plot summary (View Here)
12.  Genre: Modern Teen Drama-Comedy.  Just to be clear, it is not: Horror, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Historical Drama, Mystery, Western, or Musical.
13.  There will be a dance in chapter 3.  
14. Chapter 1 will be from Chris and Lydia's viewpoint.  Chapter 2 will be from Jeremy and Amanda's viewpoint.
15. Chris and Lydia will be auditioning for a play in Chapter 1.
16. Amanda has a best friend named Katie.
17. Chris and Lydia have not been dancing together before the beginning of the story.
18. Both Jeremy and Amanda play on basketball teams.
19. Chris Character Profile (View Here)
20. Lydia Character Profile (View Here)
21. Jeremy Character Profile (View Here
22. Amanda Character Profile (View Here)
23. Chris' Parents and Lydia's Parents are close friends with each other.
24. There is a fictional movie called Beautiful Disaster 
25.  There is a fictional band called Psycho Boyfriend

Friday, June 20, 2014

Kim Possible: A Study of the Episode "Two to Tutor"

Kim Possible was an animated show that premiered on the Disney Channel.  With its surprisingly high-quality stories and sharp, interesting characters, it was one of the few cartoon shows I watched at a time when I was out-growing cartoon shows.  Kim Possible was a teenage superhero who went to school in the daytime and saved the world at night.  She had a best friend side-kick named Ron Stoppable who was clumsy and failed a lot, but good-hearted.  Rounding out the team was Rufus, the pet naked mole rat owned by Ron.  My favorite episode of Kim Possible is Two to Tutor, and I’m going to explain why below. 

First of all, it contains the most interesting of all villain subplots.  In fact, I would argue that the villain subplot is best part of the episode.  (Not that Kim Possible main plot is bad; more on that later).  Senor Senior Sr. is an evil mastermind of a villain and his son, Senor Senior Jr., is the one of the dumbest sons of a villain ever.  He cares more about his hair and looking buff than being a superhero.  Well, in this story, Senior has finally had enough and hires…Shego.  Shego is the sarcastic sidekick of borderline insane villain Doctor Drakken, and one of the smartest villains in the Kim Possible roster (in a typical Drakken-Shego episode, she exists to point out the flaws of Drakken’s plan).  Shego immediately stops Junior’s lounging around and starts setting up various mock-up scenarios for Junior to steal something.  The thing is, it actually works!  Junior actually gets better, to the surprising chagrin of Senior, who is pushed to wayside whenever he wanders in on Junior and Shego are practicing.  The reason it works is because it show two typical villains in nontypical roles: Shego as a teacher and Junior as someone who actually gets smarter and better.  I found myself rooting for Junior because of his better performance.  But he was a villain so he has to get his comeuppance.  But it was especially fun to see Shego guide him to improvement.  Then they decide to steal something for real…

The main plot of Kim Possible is her struggle in Home Economics, specially blending for a cooking class.  This is also fascinating, because the tagline of the show is “she can do anything.”  But for one episode, Kim actually struggles with doing something: Home Economics, which a “stereotypical” girl should be great at.  Ron, however, is a natural in the class (another flip of the “stereotypical” expected behaviors).  He is patient with her and tries to teach Kim a zen-like approach to cooking.  After a few failures, Kim is ready to give up and wonders how she can complete the assignment.  To make matters worse, Ron’s cooking is so popular he decides to open a new restaurant – within the Home Ec. classroom.

The way the two stories intersect is Junior and Shego decide to go after the cookie recipe for Granny Crockett’s Frontier Cookies. Kim and Ron know that Junior and Shego are working together but don’t know why.  After that both Ron (and Junior) find what they’re looking for by suggesting a web search for “really valuable” and “heavily guarded” (!). Kim and Ron find it a few hours before Junior and Shego arrive and wait for their eventual break-in.  Shego and Junior do break in like pros but they didn’t count on Kim and Ron waiting for them.  Shego and Kim fight over a large blender and Kim falls in.  Shego turns it on, but Kim, having learned her lesson from Ron, becomes “one with the mixer” and comes out alive by grabbing and holding tight to the metal spinning beaters.  Kim comes out of it alive and surprises Shego.  Meanwhile, Ron can’t physically match Junior, but when he comes on the conveyer belt ready to fight, Rufus dumps cookie dough all over him, rendering him incapable of fighting back.  Of course, both Shego and Junior escape at the last second.  Given the nature of the cartoon, it’s unlikely that Junior will remember the lesson he’s learned, but he does say to Shego after Senior tells him he no longer needs her services, “You changed my life.  I will never forget you.”  Finally, Ron’s restaurant was shut down (something about a naked mole rat serving food), but Kim shows her prowess with the mixer and admits to Ron she had a great tutor. 

Two To Tutor is great because it flips general conventions of both the villains and the heroes themselves.  The characters are the most interesting they’ve ever been, and we can’t wait to watch what happens.  This makes it one of the best episodes of the show.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Romance is for Other People Tidbit #25

Hello everyone! Here is Romance is for Other People Tidbit #25:

25.  There is a fictional band called Psycho Boyfriend

Look for a new tidbit next Wednesday!  Here are the last 24 tidbits:
1. I am releasing a novel in 2014.
2. The title is Romance is for Other People.
3. There are four main characters.
4. The first main character is Chris, male, 14 years old.
5. The second main character is Lydia, female, 14 years old.
6. The third main character is Jeremy, male, 16 years old.
7. The fourth main character is Amanda, female, 16 years old.
8.  The format is first person, split between the four main characters.
9.  The title is a quote from the novel.
10.  All the chapter titles are quotes.
11.  Plot summary (View Here)
12.  Genre: Modern Teen Drama-Comedy.  Just to be clear, it is not: Horror, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Historical Drama, Mystery, Western, or Musical.
13.  There will be a dance in chapter 3.  
14. Chapter 1 will be from Chris and Lydia's viewpoint.  Chapter 2 will be from Jeremy and Amanda's viewpoint.
15. Chris and Lydia will be auditioning for a play in Chapter 1.
16. Amanda has a best friend named Katie.
17. Chris and Lydia have not been dancing together before the beginning of the story.
18. Both Jeremy and Amanda play on basketball teams.
19. Chris Character Profile (View Here)
20. Lydia Character Profile (View Here)
21. Jeremy Character Profile (View Here
22. Amanda Character Profile (View Here)
23. Chris' Parents and Lydia's Parents are close friends with each other.
24. There is a fictional movie called Beautiful Disaster 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Adventures in Odyssey: A Short History

There are some TV shows and movies that have such influence and popularity that they become and institution.  When people think of a successful show, spanning multiple seasons and featuring engaging characters, several come to mind, including Seinfeld, I Love Lucy, M*A*S*H, and many others.  Same goes for movies, with institutions like Star Wars, The Godfather and Casablanca.  Each one is a legend in its own right.  While there have been some great Christian-focused and produced movie and TV shows (Ben-Hur is probably the most famous example), they have not had the influence that a secular one might have.  However, in recent years, Adventures in Odyssey is the only radio drama to have had such a wide-reaching influence.  The main radio series has over 740 episodes, but also 19 videos, over 50 books, including 3 official guides, several board games and computer games.  In addition, there is a real “Whit’s End” (the local kids’ hangout) at the Focus on the Family Headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colorado.   The show, about a small town named Odyssey where big things happen, is one of the most popular fictional series produced by Christians. 

In the beginning, there was just the Focus on the Family radio talk show, which featured Dr. James Dobson, sometimes with a guest, talking about various subjects related to the Christian faith.  In 1983, the very first radio drama was produced on the show, called Spare Tire, followed by another in 1985 called House Guest, and a third called Gone Fishing in 1986, all of which were produced for Focus on the Family’s adult audience.  The first real prototype came in 1987, with the appearance of Family Portraits, which featured Odyssey and its most famous character, the owner of Whit’s End, John Avery Whittaker (“Whit”).  It was an experiment to see if audiences would respond to drama as an alternative to the TV shows and cartoons of today.  It was also the first time episodes of the drama were written specifically for children ages 8-12, with alternating storylines focusing adults and kids.  The success of Family Portraits enabled the show about Odyssey (which went from Odyssey USA to Odyssey to Adventures in Odyssey in the early days) to launch officially on November 21st, 1987, with the episode, Whit’s Flop. 

The early episodes introduced the central characters Connie Kendall and Eugene Meltsner, employees of Whit’s End.  They also introduced many elements used throughout the years, including the Imagination Station (where kids could experience Bible and Historical stories as if they were real life), and KYDS radio, which enabled the show to have a variety-show format on occasion.  For seven years, the show continued with the same central characters. Then in 1994, Hal Smith, who played Whit died.  The show send him on an “archeological mission in the Middle East,” and from 1994 to 1996, the show was without its central character, though with replacement characters Jason Whittaker (his son) and Jack Allen (an old friend).  The major storyline in the early years was of Dr. Regis Blackgarrd, a nemesis who brought evil influences into Odyssey.  In 1996, Paul Herlinger took over the role of Whit and he moved back to Odyssey.  From 1996 to 2009 (longer than the original Hal Smith), Herlinger provided Whit’s voice, until his failing health motivated him to ask the show’s producers to find another voice.  A major storyline during this period is the Novacom Saga, about a company using unethical methods in Odyssey.  In September of 2009, Andre Stojka stepped in as the third voice of Whit, and has been the voice ever since.  Most recent developments include The Green Ring Conspiracy, a spin-off album only series called The Truth Chronicles, and a dramatization of the Passages Adventures in Odyssey book Darien’s Rise. 


So what is Adventures in Odyssey doing today?  In January of 2014, the Odyssey Adventure Club was launched.  This subscription-based online club gives will be releasing exclusive Adventures in Odyssey episodes along with every single radio show ever released (all 740+).  Considering that everything is moving online these days, this service uses part of the money to fund important missions around the world, some of which were featured in the most recent episodes.  Adventures in Odyssey has changed and grown over the years, and it still remains one of most popular radio dramas of the last twenty years.  

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Romance is for Other People Tidbit #24

Hello everyone! Here is Romance is for Other People Tidbit #24

24. There is a fictional movie called Beautiful Disaster 

Look for a new tidbit next Wednesday!  Here are the last 23 tidbits:
1. I am releasing a novel in 2014.
2. The title is Romance is for Other People.
3. There are four main characters.
4. The first main character is Chris, male, 14 years old.
5. The second main character is Lydia, female, 14 years old.
6. The third main character is Jeremy, male, 16 years old.
7. The fourth main character is Amanda, female, 16 years old.
8.  The format is first person, split between the four main characters.
9.  The title is a quote from the novel.
10.  All the chapter titles are quotes.
11.  Plot summary (View Here)
12.  Genre: Modern Teen Drama-Comedy.  Just to be clear, it is not: Horror, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Historical Drama, Mystery, Western, or Musical.
13.  There will be a dance in chapter 3.  
14. Chapter 1 will be from Chris and Lydia's viewpoint.  Chapter 2 will be from Jeremy and Amanda's viewpoint.
15. Chris and Lydia will be auditioning for a play in Chapter 1.
16. Amanda has a best friend named Katie.
17. Chris and Lydia have not been dancing together before the beginning of the story.
18. Both Jeremy and Amanda play on basketball teams.
19. Chris Character Profile (View Here)
20. Lydia Character Profile (View Here)
21. Jeremy Character Profile (View Here
22. Amanda Character Profile (View Here)
23. Chris' Parents and Lydia's Parents are close friends with each other.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Ten Movies with Follow-Up Movies more than Ten Years Later

Sequels and other follow-ups by their nature tend to be made soon after the last movie was made.  If a movie is a success, then the filmmakers want to capitalize on the success as soon as possible, instead of waiting a long time.  However, recently Hollywood has started to revive several old franchises that were seemingly long dormant.  These movies’ last movie was made 10 or more years ago before the next movie is made.  To be clear, I am not talking about revival or reboots, where everything starts at square one.  I’m talking about movies that take existing characters and give them a follow-up storyline.  Prequels are ok.  On the one hand, it is exciting to see a new movie for a franchise, but on the other, it gives the hint that Hollywood is running out of ideas.  Gone are the days of the original blockbusters.  Every major movie today is based on something else.  Anyway, let’s begin:

1: Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (1999), sixteen years after Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983).  Has there ever been a more anticipated franchise follow-up?  There were so many people dying for these movie prequels to start, only to hit with the worst backlash the world has ever seen.  While I’m sure many people enjoy the prequels, in the fandom the hatred is very strong. 

2: Indiana Jones and the kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008), nineteen years after Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989).  This one, like Star Wars, was hotly anticipated follow-up to a beloved franchise.  But Indy was a lot older, and the audiences didn't take too well to the updates to the plot (despite the fact some of them were intentional).  I personally thought it was okay, but not as great as the other ones.

3: Live Free or Die Hard (2007), twelve years after Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995): The Die Hard series, with wise-cracking hero John McClain, got a sequel in 2007.  In this movie, McClain fights cyber terrorists set on selling off all government financial assets.  Surprisingly, the film was a success, scoring well with critics and at the box office, proving that revived franchises can make good movies.

4: Monster’s University (2013), twelve years after Monster’s Inc. (2001).  This prequel was a direct skewering of college life with the characters from Monster’s Inc.  It seemed to be a questionable way to continue the franchise.  Nevertheless, Monster’s University is not a very enjoyable movie, but it’s not on the level of greatness like Monster’s Inc. is on. 

5: Rocky Balboa (2006), sixteen years after Rocky V (1990).  The Rocky sequels were constantly mocked for being copies of each other.  This follows up with a now in his fifties Rocky who decides to go back in the ring.  While the base plot was not totally original, nevertheless it was warmly received by fans. 

6: Rambo (2008), twenty years after Rambo III (1988).  Sylvester Stallone dipped back into another of his famous franchise with this follow-up to the violent hero franchise of the eighties.  The film was not received well by critics and had respectable but not spectacular numbers at the box office.

7: Return to Neverland (2002), forty-nine years after Peter Pan (1953).  This one was released theatrically during the height of Disney’s run of releasing sequels to its older animated movies.  Like many of the sequels, it was not considered a great follow-up and only grossed $48 million domestically on release.

8: The Jungle Book 2 (2003), thirty-six years after The Jungle Book (1967).  Also released during Disney’s “sequel to every animated movie it ever released” period, this movie had even worse reviews than Return to Neverland.  But surprisingly, it did so well overseas that it was considered a box office success. 

9: The Resucers Down Under (1990), thirteen years after The Rescuers (1977).  At this point at Disney, it had not done many sequels to its animated movies.  The movie had okay reviews but went up against the massive hit Home Alone and as such was not a box office success. 

10: Terminator 3: Rise of Machines (2003), twelve years after Terminator 2 (1991): Another reboot of a huge action movie franchise, this one stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as the terminator.  The movies was a box office success; while not the level of Terminator 2, nevertheless an enjoyable follow-up in the terminator franchise. 


As you can see from this list, many of these movies were from the 2000s or later.  Are we running out of original film ideas?  Does it seem like there are no blockbuster movies left that are not based on some existing franchise?  Only time will tell.  Until then, we should be prepared for even more movies with sequels to long-dormant franchises. 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Romance is for Other People Tidbit #23

Hello everyone! Here is Romance is for Other People Tidbit #23

23. Chris' Parents and Lydia's Parents are close friends with each other.

Look for a new tidbit next Wednesday!  Here are the last 22 tidbits:
1. I am releasing a novel in 2014.
2. The title is Romance is for Other People.
3. There are four main characters.
4. The first main character is Chris, male, 14 years old.
5. The second main character is Lydia, female, 14 years old.
6. The third main character is Jeremy, male, 16 years old.
7. The fourth main character is Amanda, female, 16 years old.
8.  The format is first person, split between the four main characters.
9.  The title is a quote from the novel.
10.  All the chapter titles are quotes.
11.  Plot summary (View Here)
12.  Genre: Modern Teen Drama-Comedy.  Just to be clear, it is not: Horror, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Historical Drama, Mystery, Western, or Musical.
13.  There will be a dance in chapter 3.  
14. Chapter 1 will be from Chris and Lydia's viewpoint.  Chapter 2 will be from Jeremy and Amanda's viewpoint.
15. Chris and Lydia will be auditioning for a play in Chapter 1.
16. Amanda has a best friend named Katie.
17. Chris and Lydia have not been dancing together before the beginning of the story.
18. Both Jeremy and Amanda play on basketball teams.
19. Chris Character Profile (View Here)
20. Lydia Character Profile (View Here)
21. Jeremy Character Profile (View Here
22. Amanda Character Profile (View Here)