Frozen

This past weekend we watched the Disney movie, Frozen. Twice, actually. (I know, we’re a bit behind.)

Both times as the end credits were rolling (even knowing what was coming the second time) I felt impressed. Not by any technology or effects, though the animation was flawless. It was the story.

frozen

The princesses are beautiful and “princessy”, but flawed. The “act of true love” is one of giving, not receiving. The “villain” is Self, Fear, and Worry about what others will think of you. (And so, you end up legitimately liking the “bad guy”. Well, not the one who turns out to be a bad guy, but… don’t want to give too much away!)

I’m pretty sure it just leapt up to the top of my favorite family movies list. Spots previously only held by Pixar. (Up, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, etc. It’s likely no coincidence, as John Lasseter (of Pixar) is the Executive Producer.) As I thought about how well they told this story (which was based on a Hans Christian Andersen tale, The Snow Queen), and as we discussed it together, I only became more impressed.

There are really funny moments, too. Olaf the snowman was a highlight, and Sven the reindeer. (We liked when Kristoff would “do” Sven’s voice!) There are trolls, and magic, and other things you might expect in a Disney movie.

For me, the difference with Frozen is the tumultuous inner battle in Elsa. She pushes everyone else away—including her sister, Anna, who is her best/closest friend—all in the name of doing the “right” thing. Being the “good” girl. But when she tries to break free from this iron-fisted self-righteousness, she (literally) freezes the entire village.

In the end, the one whom we think must receive an “act of true love” is the one who gives it, which breaks Elsa free from her own, lonely, frozen prison. Love always wins.

The imagery and truths in this story are just fantastic. Well done, writers.

If you haven’t seen it yet, we definitely think it’s worth owning. (We will be buying a copy very soon!)

(Bonus: The music is really good and fun, too. Lots of singing happening around here now, inspired by the movie!)

[ThisDay] Both Sides of the Story

I had an intriguing idea today.

“I wonder what I was thinking and writing on this day through the ten plus years I’ve been publishing stuff here? I wonder if it’s the same stuff I’m thinking in January of 2014?”

Seemed like an interesting enough activity to share it here with you. (Hello, you!)

For the remainder of this month, I plan to post here my favorite post from that date in GregsHead history, as well as links to the other posts from that day, should you wish to do more reading than just the one that I select.

It should prove to be an interesting study in the cyclical nature of life—or at least… of my own mind? 🙂

Today’s post is really very interesting, primarily because while it was its own post, its initial/primary purpose was to highlight another previous post! (Wow!) Please read as much as time (or interest) allows.

Without further ado, This Day In (GH) History

Both Sides of the Story

January 20th, 2012

I’ve mentioned here many times that I am learning how crucial it is to see life from multiple angles. Getting not only information from people with opposing viewpoints, but really trying to step into their shoes; see from their perspective. It’s just so crucial to communication, to cooperation, interaction… to society in general.

And so often, we—being human, flawed, self-absorbed—we aren’t even aware that there are other legitimate perspectives!

Our son Ian has been very interested in the World War II time period of history. He’s been learning every bit he can not just about the battles, but the people—the leaders in particular—involved in the story. Winston Churchill and FDR, as well as Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin. He’s previously read about Woodrow Wilson and WWI… definitely has a serious passion for history and biographies!

So much so that Mom (Jen) has even recently taken up a book about Roosevelt titled, “FDR’s Splendid Deception”, about the fact that President Roosevelt was never seen public in his wheelchair, so as to not appear weak. From all accounts, it’s a fascinating story.

Somehow all of this brought to mind a movie I had seen some time back. I posted a mini-review on that movie, Letters from Iwo Jima, and it’s counterpart, Flags of our Fathers, here on this site in 2007. Please go ahead and click the link and read that story. (That’s actually the main reason for this post: that you’d re-read that older post!)

The fascinating thing was, Flags was released first, and then Iwo Jima. They depicted the exact same story from history, but from opposite sides of the battle.

How much better off we’d be if we could do that with nearly every conflict or disagreement!

For a long time now, Jen and I and I have been reading through a modern translation of the Federalist Papers called The Original Argument. In Federalist #1, Alexander Hamilton addresses this subject (in an atmosphere where there were passionate arguments for and against the proposed Constitution):

Since the motives behind each of the opinions are so strong, it is certain that wise and good people will be found on both sides of the issues. This fact should remind us all to remain modest in our opinion—no matter how right we think we are.

I think that is still my favorite quote from all the papers we’ve examined so far. And again, how different would our political climate be today if that were the way everyone approached every issue, whether controversial or relatively benign?

Forget politics. What if we all treated each other that way? What if we presumed that we were not smarter, better, right-er than everyone else around us.

“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.”

That’s where it starts. You can’t really even care about the perpective of your adversary or opponent—or anyone—if you know you are in some way (or all ways) superior.

I’d really encourage you to read that post about Letters from Iwo Jima, and as I recommended now almost five years ago, if you haven’t seen it… do.

The more we can see things from other view points, other perspectives, the more we can live at peace with others around us. (Which is what Paul says we need to do in the verse just before what I quoted above.)

So I encourage you to take a walk in someone else’s shoes today. You might be surprised what you see.


Scripture quote is Philippians 2:3-4, from the New Living Translation

OTHER POSTS from JANUARY 20th

  1. I recommend this as a close second for best post on January 20th. Bonus: It’s shorter. 🙂
Mormon protesters, Palmyra, NY during Hill Cumorah Pageant in July

Our Experience at the Hill Cumorah Pageant

Mormon protesters, Palmyra, NY during Hill Cumorah Pageant in July

Photo credit: Vasiliy Baziuk/Messenger Post

“You’re all sinners! You are an abomination to God!!”

These words were angrily spit at the thousands of people peacefully passing through the entrance to the Hill Cumorah Pageant’s last showing for 2013—an event which was attended by this writer and his wife.

Friends of ours participated in the Pageant this year. They played various roles up front. We met them after we entered, and they were dressed in their appropriate costumes and headdresses.

Other friends were part of the groups verbally, abusively accosting people as they entered.1

(Fascinating, huh?)

It was truly such a fascinating range of thoughts and emotions as we proceeded from our parked vehicle into the Pageant grounds. You could certainly call it surreal. Many people—many of them families, with young children—quietly progressed toward the entrance. As we walked, the first thing you notice—you can’t miss it!—is a man shouting awful things over a bullhorn. Then, as you reach the entrance, emergency vehicles surround it, lights flashing, since traffic needs to be managed on these nights. At this entrance are a dozen or two folks aggressively passing out literature to everyone who passes by. (I was glad when they did seem to allow for refusals, though.)

Once you have passed through the somewhat foreboding entrance, you are greeted by many friendly, costumed folks who will direct you wherever you’d like to go, if you desire. No aggression here, just welcome.

Yet, the angry, shouting voice marches on. His bullhorn is directed at the seated crowd, inside the event.

“It’s 19th-century fiction! Joseph Smith was a [insert several negative things here]!!”

Jen and I proceeded to the popcorn stand (she loves snacks while taking in a show!) and waited there in line, marveling at the very strange environment. The yelling man (actually, there may have been at least two) continued, audible over the sounds of a passive crowd of hundreds, and thousands.

As the line progressed we noticed that one of the helpers was wearing a baseball shirt from our home school sports league! We did not recognize this boy, but introduced ourselves and had a nice chat with him. He and his sister were helping their grandparents serve the popcorn and Pepsi. (Apparently not all Christians feel the need to venomously denounce every person at this event?)

When the show began, the yelling stopped. I was grateful; several times throughout the night I noticed and was grateful that the grating (degrading?) invectives had ceased being launched from just outside the peaceful confines of the temporary outdoor theater.

The Pageant itself was equally fascinating to me, a non-LDS person. We are perhaps more familiar with the LDS church based on our living in this town, and our friendship with members of that church, but I had never seen that presentation before. The thing that most struck me is how the story seemed to mimic so many familiar Bible stories, but with different names and places. The story’s elements seemed to be “drawn from” (or at least be very similar to) sections of both the Old and New Testaments. The general story is the tale of a family of Israelites heeding the prophets’ warnings of the destruction of Jerusalem (pre-exile2) and eventually finding their way to North and South America, and all that transpired there, all the way up to Joseph Smith being shown the location of the brass plates containing the stories we had just been told of that family and their descendants.

It really was fascinating.

But even more fascinating—and my main point here today—was the angry voice(s) starting up again as soon as the stage show was finished.

Mormon protesters in Village of Palmyra during Hill Cumorah Pageant in July

Photo credit: rochester.ynn.com

I really don’t fault the motives of these folks. They are sincerely wanting to help people whom they see as on the path to hell. In their minds and hearts, it is vitally important for the folks they are “helping” (and maybe for their own consciences?) that they speak out as often as possible against this boldfaced lie.

The trouble is, sincerity and right-motives don’t always align with truth and liberty—not to mention religious freedom that we so value in this country.

C. S. Lewis said the following regarding “having others’ best interest in mind” as the motivation for your actions:

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”—C. S. Lewis

I don’t think this need only apply to governments and tyrants. There seems to be a desire to control deep in the heart of mankind. It affects all of us, but perhaps some more than others. And when it is fueled by either a divine directive or just a love for your fellow man …

well, it really gets quite messy.

What I wish I had said to the man with the bullhorn was, “Why on earth are you so angry? What do you hope to accomplish by shouting such nasty things at these people with such audible and visible animosity?” I did not. I honestly was mostly in shock at how anyone could find a logical reason for such actions.

But I do wish I had.

If you are reading this now and you were there this year (2013) or previous years on either side of that protester fence, I’d love to hear your comments as well. I plan to ask our friends who are involved with at least one of the protestor groups how they think they are helping people. They (our friends) were not shouting … so perhaps their group is different?

Regardless, the issue comes down to a religious need to be right.

The article linked below from Slate.com, written in July 2012, posed the same question that I have been asking since Saturday night (my emphasis added):

“The contrast between their messages of intolerance, their anger and hate, and our music, sense of fellowship and community does a lot to highlight our message of Christian love. They say we’re not Christian,” he continued. “But who’s acting more Christian now?”—Volunteer security guard, Hill Cumorah Pageant

Westboro Baptist church is often maligned for its tactics: shouting hateful things, wearing and hoisting those messages on clothing and banners. These people seemed to be doing the same thing.

When will we Christians learn to let Holy Spirit do the guiding into all truth?3

Perhaps we never will.

do what is right, love mercy,
and walk humbly with your God
—Micah 6:84


For further information and research, please click these links. There are articles and videos that shed more light on what I have written here above. Always good to have a bigger picture!

  1. Thankfully, the people who are friends of ours were only handing out literature with one of these groups, they were not shouting angry, hateful diatribes at everyone passing them by.
  2. See Isaiah, Jeremiah, and the stories in the history books, Kings, Chronicles, etc.
  3. 1 John 2:27, John 16:7-9, etc.
  4. Micah 6:8

It’s All Fun And Games Until Somebody Loses… the iPad?

donkey-kongMondays are video game day at the Campbell Household. We, the parents, try to limit the hours (and days) of video game entertainment here. (This is a learned behavior; after seeing that much less stringent limitations on video game time producing mean-spirited, selfish children, if not mindless automatons.)

As it so happens, today whilst I was cleaning up some virtual directories here at Ye Olde GregsHead (dot net) I came across a few video games I’ve shared throughout the years of this blog’s existence. I thought perhaps it might be fun—in that it is Video Game Day—to share them again (in one place) with you!

There’s the Penguin Game (which is quite surprisingly addictive…) and a funny little Christmas-themed game, as well as a Hulk Smash game (a favorite of our good friend, Chi).

In addition to those, there are a few other games that I have come across online, not to mention this entire site which seems to have every Nintendo NES game every sold ready and available for play through your favorite web browser.

Plus I found this Risk-like game a couple years ago that has been fun a time or two.

Do you recommend any online games? Do you play games on your computer? (The boys’ game of choice is Madden ’08, as that is the only one made for Mac. It has been known to catch my fancy a time or two, as well.)

Of course, my favorite games are word games! I have always been a big fan of Boggle in the real world. I also have fond memories of playing Scrabble with my Grandma when I was a young lad. Nowadays I can frequently being found playing either of those games against a distant opponent via a web browser, or more likely an iOS device. (Oh yeah, it’s your turn, Mom…) 🙂

Well, if you are looking for a brief distraction here on Video Game Monday… consider yourself well-supplied!

Direct-To-Consumer Content: The Future?

Online-Money-ExchangeI’m never one to do something “because that’s the way we’ve always done it”. My wife accuses me often of nearly the opposite: doing something differently simply for the sake of being different!

She may be right, but it’s not out of spite or any sort of malice. I do enjoy variety, that’s for sure.

And in most areas of life I generally do not hold to any sort of “this is how you do it” mentality.

With that preface, it’s easy to understand how I might be able to adapt to newer technologies (if they seem to hold greater merit) such as the TV shows discussion in last Friday’s post. (Be sure to read the comments there, too.) I lean heavily toward the newer, different thinking in that realm.

Early Adopter

AppleA long time ago I proffered an idea to Apple, that they could revolutionize the media industry by doing something with TV and movies similar to what they did with music. (Really. It was about the time the iTunes store came into existence. Before they offered video through the store, though. It was March of 2005.) I knew I was onto something when a few days later I received a response in serious “legalese” letting me know that Apple was grateful for my feedback, but could not accept unsolicited product ideas at this time.

Uh huh…

Well, it turns out Apple was thinking the same thing I was: Who needs cable companies? Deliver the content directly to the consumer.

They have obviously been running with this idea for a long time now, offering TV shows and movies for purchase and/or rent, as well as now books, games, etc. (Yet, they still call it iTunes… hmmm…)

But Apple is not the main subject of this discussion. The content is.

I Know From Experience…

Come As You Are - basicI am a content creator. We have music, I have books… content. Since I began I leaned heavily toward self-publishing all of this content and offering it directly to the consumer. I have not seriously (or really even casually) pursued a relationship with any distributor or other larger entity at the risk of losing control over the content. The intellectual property world however has for a very long time used these “middle men” to get the content from its creator to its consumer. (Enter advertisers and marketers, agents, publishers, producers, etc.)

And, obviously, before the internet and other such powerful, personal technologies, such “middle men” were needed. The “little guy” could not get his content, no matter how fantastic it might be, to the waiting masses. Technology advances making the production of the high-level content much cheaper, as well as new and previously not thought of technologies for distribution of that content. (Not to mention ways to consume the content: “smart” TVs, portable computers, tablets, even phones.)

All of that is to say that I believe we are already capable of a direct-to-consumer model for music and video entertainment, but the industry does not want to change. And, for obvious reasons: the middle man—networks, cable/satellite companies—is no longer needed, and they currently hold the vast majority of the power.

What About Live Events: News, Sports

This even applies to live video events. News programs, live sports—they all can use currently available technology to bring their content directly to the consumer, too. I really, really want to have a “Virtual Season Ticket” option for the Buffalo Sabres. The NHL offers a service called GameCenter through their website that streams (live) any game you’d like, except your local team! Who wants that??

The cable companies and the network who pay for the rights to carry the game do.

So we have come again to the main issue: money. Currently, more money can be had from the networks and cable/satellite companies offering very large contracts to sports leagues (and individual teams?) because they in turn can sell advertising during these sports programs and make tons of money themselves.

All at a greater cost (if not money, at least convenience?) to us, the consumer. Because Network X bought the rights to my team’s games, I have to subscribe to Cable Company A or Satellite Provider B to watch the show because (even though the team and/or league has the technology to stream the games to me, both live and on-demand) the only place I can get that channel is via that cable or satellite company.

Yuck!

So What Is Holding This Back?

Admittedly, one reason this is not happening—other than the Almighty Dollar–is that the technology is still a bit lacking on the consumer end. We have been sans cable for quite a while because we have a Mac mini connected to our living room TV (along with several other portals to view content in “normal” ways) which obviously allows us to more easily enjoy TV and movies via Netflix, Hulu, iTunes, Amazon, and others.

The next steps to tip the scales toward Direct-To-Consumer content distribution are:

  1. Superior data transfer infrastructure. I’m thinking some form of ubiquitous wireless data … like 4G, only way better—and cheaper!
  2. A “grandma-friendly” device that is affordable, and as easy as turning on your TV and “flipping the channels”. We’re close, I think… but still don’t quite have this one down.
  3. A break with “traditional” thinking. The consumer needs to shift from the radio station or TV channel mentality of having preselected content brought to you at a certain time, all at the whim and fancy of some other entity. The new reality could be you watch and/or listen to what you want, when you want to listen to it
  4. Advertising will also necessarily need to adapt. With so much more control available to the consumer, sitting through commercials is a thing of the past. If the old model holds, commercials will have to become vastly more interesting, making the consumer want to watch them, or else an entirely new way of advertising will need to emerge. I’d guess the latter will be the most likely route.

Are We Ready?

So are we ready for this yet? I AM! But is everyone? Probably not. The technology is available now to make it happen, and lots of content creators are moving that direction (or at least exploring that option). Once the “right” device comes around—like the iPod in 2001, or the iPhone in 2005—and the data transfer technology is even more accessible (and faster, better, cheaper) … well, I do believe this is the future of content distribution.

Of course, ten years from now, if we’re all still around, this post might be fun to read and say, “Ha! Boy was he wrong!!”

But I was right in 2005…


Related Reading:

How Do You Watch TV?

old-tvAre you a current TV show watcher? Do you watch one or more new and/or current television shows as they air new episodes weekly? I don’t qualify as (anywhere close to) an avid current TV Watcher, but I do enjoy a few currently running shows.

One characteristic of many current shows (at least, the ones I watch?) is that they have a continuous and developing plot line. If you do enjoy watching newer shows every week (following that unfolding story) well, unfortunately you often are left hanging.

For example, I just learned that a show I started watching towards the end of its first season was not renewed for more episodes following its second season. They probably thought they would be renewed because there was really no resolution whatsoever to the various plot lines.

This happened to me a few years ago when I began watching the Sarah Connor Chronicles, a now-defunct TV series based on the Terminator movies. It was canceled after its second season, leaving every plot line dangling helplessly in the unpredictable winds of ratings…

I also learned this week that another show I had been watching this past year was not renewed beyond its first season. Their story was somewhat resolved as they were notified of the non-renewal with enough time to rewrite the last few episodes to be more of a series finale. Whew!

So what’s the deal here? Is the most frustrating part that the show doesn’t run very long? Or is it just frustrating that they leave you (permanently) hanging when a show is canceled before it’s story is “finished”?

OR, is it possibly the most frustrating that the networks who carry these shows only use live TV as their metric for which shows are “successful” and which are not?

Yep. It’s that!

I never watch live TV. EVER. We have kids! We have a schedule! Who can sit down in the evenings and watch a TV show? (And who wants to do that without being able to forward through the commercials?) I think Jen and I have watched a combined three episodes of live TV in the past… maybe six or seven years?

I watch any current TV shows via Hulu or iTunes (if I really like it). Don’t you? Do you watch regular TV at the regular, scheduled time? We don’t even have cable here… just Netflix, Amazon Prime, and then free Hulu (and other internet content). (And of course, can purchase or rent things via iTunes, Amazon, et al.)

Really… when will these guys change their paradigm? Their thinking is very outdated. Live TV should be one of the factors in determining audience, but the main or only one? That article said one of the shows canceled from last fall had a huge DVR audience. How can they cancel a show because its viewers watch it later, on their own schedule?

Craziness.

And that doesn’t even factor in the online services like Hulu and Amazon/iTunes. I’d assume plenty of people watch current shows via Hulu, despite the fact that the content providers try desperately to make you not want to. Some shows are available on Hulu a mere eight days after they air initially on TV, some are thirty days delayed. (Some are only one day delayed. That’s nice.) Also, some shows are only available in standard definition, while others are available in HD, but only on certain devices. (And not on a computer… which is how we watch TV in our house!)

Ugh… It really does make me angry sometimes, the short-sightedness of these people. The greed and lust for power, control. Yuck.

(These people of course being the Time Warners, NBC Universal, Paramount… and so on. I’d rather not give them more time here.)

The ridiculous way that content is still delivered is mind boggling to me. You have to pay an outrageous monthly fee to receive hundreds of channels—that you mostly do not want—in order to watch a few shows you’d like to see every week… and then those get canceled because you use your DVR to watch them on your schedule?? What in the world?

And what of iTunes and Amazon, where you can pay $20-$40 or so to subscribe to a season’s worth of shows (downloaded and/or available very soon after their air date… which, is also an archaic practice…) Do those count towards the content providers’ ratings system? When someone is willing to pay money to watch a show… it should count double. Or triple!

Eventually everyone will catch up. Everything is always about money. Always. So, once someone discovers a way to satisfy the consumer’s desire for direct access to content and a way to maximize the monitization of that content, then we’ll have the new paradigm.

For now, it’s frustration for we who have moved on to a new model while we wait for the old school content providers to “catch up” (or, give in)… or… there is a reason that piracy is a problem. (And it’s not because people just want free stuff! It’s equally or more because of these ridiculous ways of thinking by the “old school” content providers.)

I’ll stick with Hulu and Netflix (old TV shows are still awesome!) and the occasional iTunes or Amazon purchase.

That is, until I come up with a way to bring the whole system down myself! Who says I can’t be the one to invent the next breakthrough technology? 🙂

Letters To God

The reviews of Letters To God are either glowing, or not kind. And, I can see where most of them are coming from.

In some ways this movie was pretty hokey. Some of the acting was bad. Some of the story was a tad unbelievable. Some of the “Christian” part seemed a bit too forced.

But I’ve seen some bad Christian movies. (There’s one with Mr. T in it, that is really only watchable because it’s funny to see and hear Mr. T say he needs to get his guns to go take down the “Antichrist”…) And, don’t forget the Left Behind movies…

But somehow this one was just different.

Cheesy, yes. Hokey, yes. Christian, yes. But there was not a dry eye in our living room. All seven of us, down to even three-year-old Emma connected with the emotional messages in this movie. And we loved it.

First, the “Christian” part was fairly authentic, and not “churchy”. (Meaning, a major portion of the film was not set inside a church building, or at church functions. Those moments were rare in this movie.) The story unfolds in the setting of “real life”. I think the movie makers wanted to keep this film accessible to the widest age range possible, so some of the more “real” stuff is toned down a bit (which leads some reviewers to say it’s less “real”) but there were good discussions on many parts of the movie amongst the three decades of ages covered by our family in the room that night. (Ages 3, 5, 7, 10, 13, and 37!)

Without giving the ending away (though, since it’s based on a true story, you already know “the ending” going into the movie…) the very real, very authentic, deep trust that an 8-year-old boy lives daily in his God is so infectious that an entire town (it seems) is affected, even changed.

The best part for me was that everything this boy (sick from cancer and the treatments he underwent to try to cure it) was only focused on other people. On top of his sickness, his Dad had died not long before he got sick! And still he only thought of his brother, his Mom, his best friend, his neighbors, the new mailman (who has a world of his own hurt) …

Do you remember that I recently was talking with our teenager about what (generally) distinguishes heroes from villains? Well that clearly stood out in this movie again, too (though there weren’t really many “villains”). The clear hero of this story is Tyler, the boy who could so easily not care one bit about anyone else. He only thinks about everyone else.

It’s because his focus is on God, and not on himself, good or bad.

We really do recommend this movie. If you just hate anything that might present life with Jesus as a reality or a real possibility, then you probably won’t much like this video. But, if you love feel-good, family-friendly, make-you-cry, “heart-warming” stories that spawn multiple further discussions…

Letters To God is for you, too.