Saturday, August 22, 2009

Best Movies of the Decade

Quick, name the best movies of the decade.




Still thinking? Maybe you can help me decide what we're calling this decade anyway (the aughts?)




If you've come up with more than two at this point, I'm impressed.

With apologies to whatever program I heard discussing this, as the '00s come to a close (can that be?) the decade has not been a good one in theaters.

But when it comes to TV, I can quickly rattle off a list of shows with staying power: Lost, The Office, Arrested Development, 24, House, American Idol, Survivor, Rescue Me, Grey's Anatomy, and on an on.

Not to say there haven't been some great movies, but where's this decade's "Star Wars", "Raiders of the Lost Ark", or even its "Titanic"?

I think as close as we've come are "The Dark Knight" and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Those are the only films I can think of that were box offices successes as well as critically acclaimed.

If anything, the movies from this decade that will last are probably Pixar films like "Finding Nemo" and "Wall-E."

So what am I forgetting?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Lil' Smokies, Brett Favre, and Purple Pride

I want to use the napkins and the plates. Not just any ones, mind you, the purple and gold I bought 11 years ago. It was 1998, the Vikings were headed to the Super Bowl and I wad headed to the party store. As a lifelong Vikings fan, I was going to be ready when they won. I picked up some napkins and plates with the team logo on them, so I could eat my nachos and lil' smokies with purple pride.

With Cris Carter, Randy Moss, and Robert Smith, they were going to wipe out years of frustration, finally winning the big game. And then it happened. The most dependable kicker in football missed.

As a Vikings fan I should have known better. Of course Gary Anderson was going to miss. After all, he's gotten our hopes up by completing a perfect season until that NFC title game.

Now it's just another footnote on Wikipedia, another sign of this team's failure, along with those four Super Bowl losses, the Herschel Walker trade, and the Love Boat scandal.

But while we've had great offenses and great defenses, the one thing Vikings fans haven't had since Fran Tarkenton is a great quarterback.

We've suffered through guys like Tommy Kramer, Wade Wilson, Sean Salisbury, Rich Gannon, Jeff George, Brad Johnson and Tarvaris Jackson. Along the way there were also forgettable guys like Spergon Wynn and even St. Cloud State's own Todd Bouman.

Sure some of those guys put together a good season here or there, but arguably only one quarterback in that stretch put together a string of success, as Daunte Culpepper gave us glimmers of hope.

Tarvaris Jackson is a tremendous athlete with a strong arm and quick legs. But he hasn't shown he can win consistently. Brett Favre to the rescue -- he could have been the bona fide Hall of Fame quarterback the team has lacked.

But now that too is just another story in this team's ongoing saga of losing.

Guess I don't have to dig up those plates and napkins this season. There's always next year.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Is "Christian" music dying?


tobyMac, originally uploaded by echobase_2000.

If you look at the headliners at some of this summer's Christian music festivals, you may wonder what year it is -- 2009 or 1999.

The top tier of Christian bands is largely unchanged over the last decade. Sure dc Talk is no longer together, but frontman tobyMac (pictured) keeps the Talk train moving. Another dc Talker now fronts the Newsboys.

Both acts will be playing this year's Sonshine Festival in Minnesota, a prime example of what's changed, and what hasn't.

Sonshine's headliners include Switchfoot, Skillet, and Relient K, all bands that are well-known in Christian circles.

That's not to say there aren't up and coming bands led by faith-fueled musicians. There are tons of them. It's just they're not following the path of the Newsboys. Like Switchfoot and Relient K, the new bands would rather be market of the general market music scene, not pigeonholed as Christian.

That's great for a festival like Cornerstone that I've been a part of. Cornerstone is more on the fringes of Christian music, and this year played host to plenty of bands that don't neatly fall in the confines of "Christian" music. Bands like Anberlin, Los Lonely Boys, Shiny Toy Guns, Underoath, and Family Force 5.

They're all bands you can download on iTunes, or if you still want a CD you can get it at Target or Best Buy. That's a big change from the '90s where new Christian acts had to get their CDs into Christian book stores.

For more than the last decade, many of the young bands whose members are Christians have gone around the Christian music industry.

That's why the headliners at festivals like Sonshine haven't changed much. New bands don't want to take their place as the top Christian bands. They'd rather be like Switchfoot with hits on pop radio.

Take Anberlin. They play the late night talk shows and chart on alternative rock radio. Or Underoath, a screamo band with plenty of mainstream credibility. They'll top the Billboard albums chart, headline the Warped Tour all summer, only taking a single pit stop to play Cornerstone.

That's the new paradigm. Make music not for the choir but music that goes to the corners of the earth, competing right alongside mainstream bands.

The Christian music industry may still have a place, if nothing else for worship music for the church. But it's probably not going to be what it was. That's not to say Christians aren't still making music. They are, and will. And we'll be better for it.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Anberlin


Anberlin, originally uploaded by echobase_2000.

Here's one of my favorite shots from last week at Cornerstone.

Monday, June 29, 2009

When I plug my iPod in to my computer, every song I've listened to is "scrobbled", that is submitted at the website last.fm where it tracks the artists I'm listening to, suggests similar artists, and creates a radio station based on my tastes.

It comes as no surprise this week that Michael Jackson is the most played artist on the site (and people's iPods) this week.

Top Artists and Top Tracks Charts – Last.fm

The chart shows this past week he had twice the number of listeners of the closest acts (Radiohead, Coldplay, and The Beatles).

And of the top ten songs played for the week, only two aren't Michael Jackson songs. For the record, "Billie Jean", and "Beat It" are the top two. You have to go to #247 to find a Kanye West song or #321 to find U2.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Family Force 5 Honors Michael Jackson's Thriller

Soul Glow Activatur wears his "Thriller" shirt. And if you notice, his guitar has a Michael Jackson sticker on it too. This was from Cornerstone 2006.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Hooker for Jesus Founder Marries Christian Rocker

So Sara was sitting in the other room, checking out the headlines on CNN.com when this one caught her eye.

"Hookers for Jesus founder, Christian rocker wed in Vegas"
http://www.cnn.com/2009/SHOWBIZ/Music/06/05/nevada.prostitute.wedding/index.html

Of course she had to tell me that, and I had to know who the Christian rocker was. I think I'm pretty well versed in Christian rock, and thought there was a good chance it would be a name I'd known.

Sure enough, it's none other than Oz Fox of Stryper. He's the one on the left who can still pull off the '80s metal hair.

Anyway, a former prostitute turned Christian who runs a ministry known as Hooker for Jesus married the Stryper lead guitarist this weekend.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Haleakala National Park


Haleakala National Park, originally uploaded by echobase_2000.

Yesterday was the highlight of our Hawaii vacation for me. The one place I really wanted to go was Haleakala National Park. Now that I'm picking up on my Hawaiian language, I can tell you I think it's pronounced Holly-call-uh.

It's a massive volcano. No, you won't see any fiery lava steaming in the pit, but it's still spectacular. You get views you normally only see on an airplane. You see these huge clouds everywhere. Unfortunately, the cloud cover didn't give us a very good view of sunset, but if you're going to Maui, definitely check it out!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Surfer


Surfer, originally uploaded by echobase_2000.

So we were posing for a photo when this guy walked right past us. Since he interrupted, I didn't feel bad snapping a few frames of him with his surf board.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Why I Twitter

It's how I found out a plane had safely crash-landed in the Hudson. And how Lance Armstrong recovered a missing bike. CNN uses it to report breaking news.

And chances are you're sick of it.

So what's the deal with Twitter?

I like to say it's not blogging, but it's not instant messaging or email either. It fills some other void. Recently I had a chance to talk with Evan Williams, the Nebraska native who founded Twitter (and blogger.com before that).

But do you really want to know what Ashton Kutcher had for lunch? Celebrities have certainly gotten on the bandwagon. But so have a lot of normal folks.

Here are a few reasons I like it:

1. It allows someone to quickly and easily broadcast a short message to their "followers." Sometimes I'll post a link to a story I've done, or send a short blurb known as a "tweet" about some news item. On election night, I posted updates from the campaign headquarters of a US Senate candidates. That's useful, and I could get tweets out more often than I could on the air.

2. Networking. I've corresponded with the weekend anchor of ABC's World News. A lot of the people I follow are in the field of journalism, so I see what stories they're working on and how they approach them.

3. Solicit feedback. I might tweet that I'm going to be talking to the governor, and ask folks for subjects I might want to cover. Take advantage of what other people know.

4. It's not Facebook. You won't get invitations to join someone's "mob war" or take a quiz. And you won't read one of those "25 Things About Me" lists. If you like the status updates in Facebook, you'll like Twitter. That part is similar. But without all the other stuff.

5. Someone can follow you without you following them. On sites like Facebook and MySpace, you "friend" someone. With Twitter, if someone chooses to follow you, you don't automatically follow them back. For the twitterati like Ashton Kutcher, they might have 500,000 followers, but only follow 500 themselves. So you only follow the people you find interesting.

But there are some arguments against Twitter.

1. Some users think a little too highly of themselves. Those with a big ego will let you know how great they are.

2. The site itself is down a lot. As Twitter explodes, the site hasn't scaled well. A lot of folks don't use it on Twitter.com but rather from a dedicated Twitter app.

3. It's not Facebook. Posting pictures requires a third party app.

4. It can be a huge time suck. You can't be on all the time. And it's super annoying when you see ten messages in a row from the same person. That's a good way for me to unfollow someone.

All that said, follow me at twitter.com/stevewhitenews.

And expect another post on my blog soon with comments from Ev Williams' recent visit to Nebraska, as he talked about monetizing the site, rumors of selling to Google, and where he sees Twitter going.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Fire Foam Test


Fire Foam Test, originally uploaded by echobase_2000.

I have seen the foam and it is wet.

Literally months of work and patience paid off today. More than five years ago, the National Guard picked Grand Island for a helicopter base.

First, it was going to have Apaches, then it became Chinooks. They did the design, but didn't have money for construction. Then the weather slowed things.

Chinooks are monstrous machines. I mean massive. Just huge. I understand why they're the army's heavy lifting workhorse.

Two years ago they broke ground on a 70,000+ square foot building to hold them.

Since then, I've done occasional stories on the progress. I mean, it is an almost $18 million building with 41 full time employees and room for up to 300 soldiers.

It was supposed to be done by December. I called probably November to do a story, but it wasn't ready yet. I've been checking back every few weeks since then.

I learned they had installed a fire suppression system where they were using that fire fighting foam stuff. I knew that was my opportunity.

But it's been delayed time and time again.

Today it all paid off. Here's you see the foam spraying down. I'll post a link to the video later. In about 90 seconds, the hangar filled with enough foam to put out the fire. It was pretty sweet!

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Paul Harvey - 1918 - 2009

Paul Harvey - 1918 - 2009
Standby for news!

One of the pioneers of broadcasting, and a personal hero of mine has died.

Paul Harvey had been on the air nationally since 1951. He was 90.

I have fond memories of sitting at my grandparents' house in Iowa, enjoying a noon lunch at the kitchen table with Paul Harvey giving us his "news and comment."

Later, as a broadcaster myself, I'd listen to his reports to inform my own. Joe High, a photographer I worked with for several years and I would often plan our lunch breaks around Paul Harvey. And if the local station preempted him, we had a list of other stations we could catch him on.

He was known for his unique delivery, full of pauses, and the terrific story telling of his son, who wrote his popular "Rest of the Story" features. His wife, affectionately known as Angel produced his programs. She passed away last year.

He did his own ads, and how effective they were. It's been said he would only endorse products he himself used. And I'm sure his 25 million listeners were more than kind to his advertisers.

He spent time in Oklahoma and St. Louis before spending most of his life in Chicago, not New York or LA.

In many ways, he was the radio voice of middle America. He was a broadcaster not afraid to share his Christian faith, as he often did in this Lenten season, when he'd share the story of the man and the birds, a modern parable about Jesus.

It always struck me to hear how he wore not only a a shirt and tie, but a full suit on the radio, saying it made him stay on top of his game. I respect that.

It's been said he's the most listened to broadcaster in radio history.

He'd often close his program with a "kicker" -- a funny story that he himself would often chuckle at. Sometimes you'd hear the pregnant pauses as he either drew out the suspense, or held back his laughter. And always he ended with a hearty "Good Day!"

And now you know the rest of the story.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Muzak to be heard not listened to


"Music to be heard but not listened to --a new kind of music whose vitalizing influence subliminally satisfies the desire for sweet music."

So says an article in the KHOL-TV (now KHGI) Telecaster of August 15, 1960.

The headline reads "Muzak Music Emblem Symbolizes Quality."

Of course, now the headlines say "Muzak Files for Bankruptcy" -- just check out the links on Google News.

As synonymous as Muzak is with "elevator music" and soulless, bland background music, it's hard to think of a time when some wouldn't play pop music in their stores because it was too "irritating" (keep reading). But now we're bombarded with the likes of Lil' Wayne, Soulja Boy, and (shudder) Nickelback when we're grabbing a sandwich or shopping for trash bags.

Continuing in the 1960 promotional piece, it says "Muzak is functionally planned and specially recorded music that soothes nervous tensions and fosters the friendly feelings of customers and employees alike."

"Muzak dose not require active listening. It filters the irritating noises of the modern age. Customers feel better, more relaxed and more congenial when they're surrounded by Music by Muzak."

Sunday, February 08, 2009

U2 opened the Grammys tonight, even if they aren't up for any awards until next year.

Nearly five years ago, I blogged by favorite U2 songs.

Now here's another try, probably much the same. Let's see how things change (or stay the same). In no particular order:

Until the End of the World
Beautiful Day
40
I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For
Please
North and South of the River (favorite non-album track by far)
I Will Follow
Sunday Bloody Sunday
With or Without You
Desire
All I Want is You
Yahweh
City of Blinding Lights

U2 single most likely to skip: Stuck in a Moment

Other songs I can't quite put on my list but I would like to: The Fly, Mysterious Ways, One, Elevation, Vertigo, Walk On, Lemon, Stay, Pride.

Song I hope U2 closes their last ever show with: 40. No question about that one.

Lesser known songs I really like: Lady with the Spinning Head, Gone, When Love Comes to Town, Mofo, Dirty Day (Junk Day mix), Acrobat, Lemon

I do like the new single, Get On Your Boots. It's growing on me. I've been especially feeling the bass line. I think I was so caught up by the lyrics / delivery and guitar part to think about the bass part, but I like it more on each passing listen.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

1474 Megapixel Image of Inauguration

This is pretty cool. A 1474 megapixel shot of Pres. Barack Obama being sworn in.

You can zoom in. It's pretty cool to see all the people there, to zoom in and just look around.

Friday, January 23, 2009

When Candidates Become Presidents: How Media Coverage Changes

Journalists are pressing our new president, trying to judge how media-friendly Mr. Obama will be.

First link:
News access issues concern those covering Obama

When Pres. Obama re-took the oath of office, TV crews were not allowed in. And the article says major wire services like the AP refused to distribute White House photos of the new president, instead pushing for access for their photographers.

And a couple of links from Politico:
Obama flashes irritation in press room
Media frustration spills into briefing

I'll take Politico to task for the first. Looks like they tried to ambush Pres. Obama at an impromptu stop by the new president. There are times to ask tough questions, but that looked more like someone looking for a gotcha moment. Not classy, Politico.

The second piece shows how reporters are treating an administration that promised transparency and change.

I'm not trying to pass judgment on the new president, but look how members of the press (and White House) are drawing lines. I know the critics said reporters and the Obama campaign were too cozy, but I think those things do tend to change when candidates become presidents. I think reporters will keep a watchful eye, and I think the new administration will be a little more leery of news coverage than they were during the campaign.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Silhouettes


Silhouettes, originally uploaded by echobase_2000.

So I have some toys lined up against a basement window. Looked pretty cool that way, so here's a shot of General Grievous.