Where’s the Post?

Where’s the post? I normally write posts for “What’s In A Story” on the first and third Mondays and “A Few of My Favorite Things” on the second and fourth Wednesdays but the weeks of August this year fell in such a way that we have five Mondays and Wednesdays instead of four. In light of this I am deciding to do something a little different than the usual, an episode review. This will be start of a blog post series which I will continue every two weeks or so. When I finish one show I will start on another one and you guys can make recommendations if you feel so inclined, just don’t be offend if I decide not to continue on from the first few episodes. As for the series I will be reviewing you have to wait and see what it is on Thursday. Yeah I know I am such a tease but I like it to be a surprise. See you then 🙂

Wonder, Excitement & Discovery [Part 2] – My List of 10 Recommended Episodes

Last time on “A Few of My Favorite Things,” we went over my personal background with Adventures in Odyssey as well as the people behind the stories and characters of the audio series. But now the time has come to talk about the stories that AiO tells by discussing some of my favorite stories. Now with almost 30 years worth of episodes there are some that I have not been able to listen to. With this is mind this not going to be a top 10 list where I rank the best episodes, but rather I will just list ten episodes that stood out to me personally. In addition I will only talk about episodes do not require a lot of context to understand what is going on, so that means no episodes that relate to bigger story arcs. Now that’s out of the way let’s talk story.

4ce6c308a7a8c9f91d6e0de8d32dc5fd

“On Solid Ground” (Episode 210)

I choose “On Solid Ground” as an example of a series of episodes I enjoyed listening to. It starts off like a regular Kids Radio program which is a format that AiO adopts from time to time to tell a story or a series of stories, but the broadcast is “interrupted” by OT Action News which follows the events that take place in the Old Testament of the Bible as if they were really happening. For this episode they follow the story of Abraham or Abram as he was once called and his nephew Lot and how their lives are affected by the choices they make. This first OT Action News story is great start to a great format that AiO would continue to use in future episodes.

 

“B-TV: Compassion” (Episode 345)

Like “On Solid Ground,” “B-TV: Compassion” is one in series of episodes where window washer Bernard Walton is the host of a show called B-TV where he and others tell stories that relate to particular topic they are covering. If couldn’t tell from the title this B-TV episode is about compassion and it probably has one of the funniest intros with Eugene Melstner mistaking the topic of compassion for compression. All in all this is one of the greats of the B-TV themed episodes.

 

“Hidden in My Heart” (Episode 321)

This one is a pure Kids Radio presentation that demonstrates the importance of scripture memorization but with an interesting twist. They spoof a number of TV shows including Rescue 911 (it’s a real show) renaming it Rescue 119 (after Psalm 119), Lassie or Laffie the Wonder Dog, and Star Trek aka Star Trip. It is fun listen especially if you enjoy a funny impression of William Shanter or Shattered as he is called in this parody. 

 

“A License to Drive” (Episode 194)

For those who are familiar with the series, Connie and Eugene are at odds with each other quite a lot with Eugene sometimes lording his high IQ over Connie’s more average intelligence. But despite Eugene’s success in academics he has failed to get his driver’s license, something Connie was able to pass with flying colors on her first try. With Whit’s insistence, they set up driver’s lessons so that Eugene can learn how to drive as well give Connie experience in teaching. Needless to say it is a fun ride (get it fun ride) while showing diligence in action on Eugene’s part as the student and on Connie’s part as the teacher.

 

“Welcoming Wooton” (Episode 472)

This is the episode in which we are introduced to Odyssey’s eccentric mailman, Wooton Basset. We learn right off the bat that he loves people and he does what he can to help out, even if his job performance suffers. Unfortunately his boss fires him for taking one too many well-meaning detours from his postal route. While the ultimate outcome seems a bit cliché, we get to know Wooton as a person and have a lot of laughs along the way.

 

“Called On in Class” (Episode 539)

A fun episode told from the perspective of Trent DeWhite who is facing the worse fear of his life: giving a report in front of the entire class. His exaggerated imagination is working on overdrive thinking of what could go wrong and how he is going to escape the horror that is public speaking. But in all seriousness “Called On in Class” exemplifies the fear of public speaking and the fact that is being narrated by a kid gives it a degree authenticity along with a dash of humor. Give it a listen and get caught up with Trent as he tells his story.

 

“Sunday Morning Scramble” (Episode 552)

While this episode has the simplistic set up of the a family getting ready for church, for the Washington’s it becomes Mission Impossible. While giving lots of humorous scenarios, it also reveals an important lesson about taking the time to worship God. “Sunday Morning Scramble” is one of those episodes that you have to hear for yourself in order to understand what makes it so funny.

 

“Odyssey Sings!” (Episode 572)

American Sings has come to Odyssey to find new talents and many enter into the singing competition believing it is their chance to become famous. This episode provides AiO the opportunity to satirize singing competitions series you find on TV all the while teaching that true affirmation comes not from men but from God. Additional plus for the original songs that were performed as a part of this episode especially Wooton Basset’s “Ode to Macaroni.”

 

“The Great Wishy Woz” (Episode 453-454)

Another quasi-musical and a parody to boot, “The Great Wishy Woz” is of course parodying The Wizard of Oz. It is presented as a Kids Radio program written by Mandy Straussburg who also plays Dotty. She and her little dog NoNo are swept up by a tornado and end in a different and strange world. To find their way back home the Fairy Oddmother advises they follow the Big Fat Road to ask the Great Wishy Woz for the answer. Along the way she meets Manny Kin (portrayed by Tom Riley), Metal Guy (portrayed by Bernard Walton), and Mystic Mountain Lion (portrayed by Jack Allen) who also are meeting the Woz so their wishes may be granted. “Great Wishy Woz” serves an allegory for the Christian life and you can pick up on things the more you listen. I can not recommend these episodes enough.

 

“A Lesson From Mike” (Episode 412)

For the last episode I decided to share an episode that really hit home for me. It is a story about how a girl named Julie comes to terms with the death of classmate named Mike. As Julie gets to know who Mike was she found they shared a lot of common interests and in the process begins to regret that she had never taken the chance to know him while he was alive. “A Lesson From Mike” doesn’t pull any punches and it tackles a difficult subject with depth and realism. Through this episode AiO shows us how important it is to reach out to those who are lonely. As someone who had their lonely moments in high school I agree with Julie that having a few friends can make all the difference.

A279422387884231AD0E04417A46834A.ashx

While there are many more amazing Adventures in Odyssey episodes these ten are my recommendations from what I have listened to thus far. Who knows maybe I will update this in the future, but for now this will suffice. Thank you reading and I will see you all next week.

Some Changes…

So yeah there’s going to be some changes in my plans I mention in my three month anniversary post. First of all First Thoughts is only going to be for movie trailers ONLY. I realized that having to wide of a category would be a real mess if I were to review a series episode by episode. So I decided that First Thoughts would strictly be reviews of trailers whether they be for films, TV series, or even audio dramas (and yes they do have trailers). While I am here I might as well say that I have plans on reviewing a older cartoon series episode by episode. That’s all for now but stay tuned for further updates.

First Thoughts – Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders Trailer

First of all let me say that while I am not a huge fan of Adam West’s Batman I do appreciate the fact that he played the first Batman ever even if was the groovy Batman of the 60s. While the show was campy, it was the kind of campy that can be enjoyable. Remember this show came out around the same time as the original Star Trek series which could boast of a lot its own campiness as well. But I am getting off track here, back to the topic at hand. When I saw this trailer with Adam West reprising the iconic role in animated form I knew I had to check it out.

Screen Shot 2016-08-20 at 9.52.57 AM
Behemoth TV Dinners Inc. provides you the best dynamic duo to have with your meal.

We are treated with the sight Batman and Robin tied up and about to be roasted on top a TV dinner: a predicament worthy of the original show. As they go about their pun-riddled bantering (again worthy of the show it came from) they talk about the film. And that’s it. It is surprisingly simple but that is what makes it so effective. Nowadays trailers give you a basic synopsis of the movie and sometimes you get more than you should.

Screen Shot 2016-08-20 at 9.54.14 AM
Self-aware anyone?

The minimalistic approach they went for peeked my interests but without going too deep into spoiler territory, and they pulled it off with such humor which makes this a fun trailer to watch. I especially enjoyed the self-awareness Batman and Robin demonstrated when they were promoting the release of the movie. While there is little to speculate on, what is known currently is that Adam West and Burt Ward will be reprising their role as the dynamic duo along with Julie Newmar as Catwoman; the characters of Joker, Riddler and Penguin will also be making appearances in this feature.

Screen Shot 2016-08-20 at 9.55.15 AM
We will NOT be used as utensils TODAY!

Really there is not much else to say but that I am definitely interested to see what they will do in the actual film when it comes out this fall, but whatever they do I know it will be GROOVY!

Screen Shot 2016-08-20 at 9.55.47 AM
Batman: “What are waiting for an invitation? Go watch the trailer!”

 

Looking Beyond the Surface – Making the Right Media Choices

At sometime in our lives we have probably heard the phrase you can’t judge a book by its cover. Many times it used to express the belief that just because it doesn’t look good on the surface doesn’t mean it’s bad on the inside. But what if the opposite was true? What if the book cover looks perfect but story contained within is awful? Some might think I mean awful in the sense that is not written well, but I am talking about the messages within the story itself.

It is easy to pass this off and say that is just a story; however, any story whether it be found in books, movies or TV shows reflect the beliefs the creators and by extension the culture. However we need to be aware of what we put into our minds, because while it may look good it may not be good for us. Just as the saying goes you are what you eat and those who are health conscience do what they can to watch what they eat, the same is true with what we read and watch.

I find disheartening that there are many who are unaware or apathetic towards state their minds and spirits as they read or watch media that has flawed messages. I don’t expect everyone and everything to be perfect in a story; main characters need to have flaws in order to make them relatable. But what if those same main characters who are displayed as role models are saying or doing something that is wrong? It doesn’t even have to be overt, in fact most times it’s very subtle and there lies the potential danger. If a certain behavior is displayed as normal it conveys the message that it’s acceptable when it is not.

Now I know it is not popular these days to judge media by what it may or may not be implying but if we expect not to be affected by the media we set our minds on then we are sorely mistaken. This reminds me of something I read for my senior seminar paper which addresses this issue. In her book How Fantasy becomes Reality: Seeing Through Media Influence, Karen E. Dills describes,

“…the paradox that we live in a culture where we are powerfully influenced by messages from the mass media but where many of us misread that influence because we think are invulnerable to it. I believe we deny our own vulnerability to media we are actually increasing the degree to which we can be manipulated. If you do not know you are vulnerable – indeed, if you think your are invulnerable – you will not think and act in way that protect you. Two basic errors in judgment that we make are (1) believing that fantasy stories in no way shape our realities and (2) believing that media’s reason for being is to entertain rather than to persuade us.” (p. 9)

We first have to admit the potential influence that media can have over our thoughts and second to take steps to think more critically about what we watch and why we watch it. For Christians a good rule of thumb comes from Scripture in Philippians chapter 4 verse 8:

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

When we set our minds on these things we will reflect it in our lives and verse 9 continues with this thought:

 “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

So look beyond the surface and reflect on excellent and praiseworthy media that affirms what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable.

via Daily Prompt: Surface

Wonder, Excitement & Discovery – Listening to Adventures in Odyssey

Hi I’m Kendra. You are about to travel to a place of wonder, excitement and discovery! Welcome to Adventures in Odyssey! In honor of the last month of summer for elementary, middle and high school as well as college students I decided to talk about one of my favorite audio series. The fact that Focus on the Family has produced this audio series for nearly 30 years demonstrates how many people enjoy and identify with the stories and characters from the fictional small town of Odyssey. Adventures in Odyssey has something for everyone from children to adults.

adventures_odyssey_pr
Adventures in Odyssey (1987-Present)

I remember being aware of the series for most of my life but it was not until in late elementary school that I began to listen it on a regular basis thanks to a local radio station. At 6:30 PM on weekdays (Mon. – Fri.) the station would air previously released episodes of Adventures in Odyssey while on Saturday at 8:30 AM they would aired the newer episodes. This radio station still maintains this schedule to this day and every now and again I tune it to hear the odd episode or two.

After being properly introduced to the series my family bought a number of AiO audio albums, which contain a set of episodes. One of the albums entitled “Countermoves” was recorded on tape cassettes, which I would listen to when I was younger to help me fall sleep at night. When I was older I would even listen to them in car as I drove to locations as part of my merchandising job since I had an older car with just a tape player (Oh the HORROR!). I still have this album, unfortunately I am short one tape because it got stuck in the tape player of my first car and after it was sold and exchanged for my second one I never saw it again. In light of this I am hoping to purchase a CD version of “Countermoves” sometime in the future in order to replace my incomplete cassette tape version.

maxresdefault
John Avery Whittaker: Shopkeeper, Inventor and Teacher.

Anyway enough talk about tapes and CDs, and let’s get to the amazing people behind the scenes of Adventures in Odyssey. This includes the amazing voice actors who have taken on the role of Whit’s End’s owner and operator John Avery Whittaker (or Whit to his friends) throughout AiO’s time on the air. The first voice of Whit to grace the airwaves was none other than Hal Smith, best known for his role of the town drunk Otis Campbell in The Andy Griffith Show. Upon his death in 1994, the search began to find an actor to voice the ice-cream shop owner. Two years later in 1996, Paul Herlinger became the second voice of Whit, and this was the Whit that I grew up with. Many people may unfairly compare him to Hal and while I do note some differences in performance, I believe Paul did an amazing job considering the big shoes he had to fill. Upon Paul’s retirement in 2008 (passing away only 2 years later), yet another actor by the name of Andre Stojka came in to take on the role of Whit starting in 2009 and is currently playing him in the series.

Hal Smith
Hal Smith (1916-1994)
Paul Herlinger
Paul Herlinger (1929-2010)

 

 

 

 

 

Andre_Stojka
Andre Stojka (1944-)

Of course AiO is not complete without its two other iconic characters who are employed at Whit’s End. Enter Connie Kendall voiced by Katie Leigh and Eugene Meltsner voiced by Will Ryan. Just like it’s hard to imagine Odyssey without Whit, it is equally hard to imagine not having Connie and Eugene working alongside him. Connie’s youthful enthusiasm and Eugene’s unsatiated thirst for knowledge give them an interesting dynamic to their relationship to Whit as well their relationship with each other…by that I mean friendship. Their voice actors Katie and Will are also good friends in real life and have recently wrote a book together called Adventures in Oddity in which they talk about their work both on AiO as well other projects which include Disney’s Little Mermaid, An American Tail, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and much more.

AiO Trio
Whit’s End Trio.
255px-Bernardwalton
Bernard Walton…Window Washer.

Besides the Whit’s End Trio as I like to call them there are a number of memorable characters that have been played by talented voice actors over the years. This includes actors have since passed on: Walker Edmiston, the voice actor for Whit’s friend Tom Riley and business rival Bart Rathbone, Dave Madden the voice actor for pragmatic window washer Bernard Walton, Alan Young who voiced Jack Allen a childhood friend of Whit and Janet Waldo who voiced Jack’s wife Joanne Allen (nee Woodston). Other talented voices who are still alive include Chris Anthony, Earl Boen, Steve Burns, Townsend Coleman, Corey Burton, Aria Cruzon, Jess Harnell, etc. Of course none of this would be possible without the talented directors, producers, writers and sound designers which include Phil Lollar, Chuck Bolte, Paul McCusker, and Dave Arnold just to name a few.

If you can’t already tell there is a lot to be said about this series and I have not even got into the stories yet. That will be saved for Part 2 coming up later this month. Hope you see then as we look at the episodes of Adventures in Odyssey.

Three Month Anniversary Reflection…Plus Updates

It is hard to believe that it has been 3 months since I published my very first blog post. When I first started I wasn’t even sure if I could do even 2 scheduled posts a month but I now I have 4 scheduled posts plus extra when something interesting comes up. I always did enjoy thinking critically about media and blogging has given me the chance to express my thoughts via the written word. I also have learned how to promote myself, setting up a Facebook page and doing what I can to promote upcoming posts so that people will know what is coming. While I hope to see more views and visitors on my stats page, what I desire most is that I can continue to engage in thoughtful discussions of finding the meaning within the stories of our past, present and future.

While I am here I would like to announce a few updates about a couple of different posts I am planning to do in the future alongside or in place of “What’s in a Story” and “A Few of My Favorite Things.” One them is “First Thoughts” which you may have seen already with Star Wars Rebels Season 3 Trailer. For this post category I will post my initial impressions of media I have not seen previously. This can include entire films, books, audios, TV shows, single TV episodes or even the trailers for films and TV shows. Basically if I have not seen, read or heard it before, it is fair game. I know this covers a lot of ground but considering one project I might want to review could be a different stage of production than another, having a wide spectrum is helpful so I can do a film trailer for one and the entire TV season for the other. Another category I have in the wings is one I like to call “Content of Character” in which I will look at a fictional character in depth. I have a few ideas for this but I rather wait until I am ready to share my first post. And finally I have an idea to do category of posts in which I can talk about the people “Behind the Stories” whether they be actors, writers, animators, directors, producers etc.

So as you can see a lot of ideas and hopefully I can have some of them come to fruition. For now though I will say goodbye and thank you for reading!

Are You A Watcher Or A Player? Lessons to be Learned from Nerve

Are you a Watcher or a Player? That is the question that the recently released film Nerve poses to its audience. Before going further I should say once again that I have not watched this movie, and there will be some out there wondering why don’t I talk about media I have seen. I can understand why since I did the same thing with Ghostbusters (2016).

However I argue that both of these posts are springboards for discussions about elements that can be seen within their own trailers which contain snapshots of their themes and ideas. And the main idea that Nerve demonstrates in its very first trailer is the role that augmented reality plays in the everyday life of the modern individual. Augmented reality as it is defined by Merriam-Webster:

An enhanced version of reality created by the use of technology to overly digital information on an image of something being viewed through a device (as a smartphone camera); also: the technology used to create augmented reality

Screen Shot 2016-07-30 at 5.39.14 PM
…if you dare to complete.

This is the perfect description of the game Nerve for it is presented as an extreme internet version of truth or dare. Bob Hoose from Plugged In Movie Reviews summed it up in this way:

Nerve, based on a 2012 young adult novel by Jeanne Ryan, plays on that love/hate relationship with the Internet. It tells a tale of pretty young things who are willing to risk life and limb for a splash of cash and dash of celebrity in their otherwise ordinary lives. And there’s just enough subtext beneath its kids-on-a-digital-dare veneer to keep watchers of the Watchers involved and hoping for a thought-provoking assessment of these contemporary concerns by film’s end.

Screen Shot 2016-07-30 at 5.41.17 PM
Like so fun to WATCH, but I like would never PLAY.

Given that within this fictional world, this augmented reality internet game show has led people to break the law and risk their own lives for fame and money, I am surprised that the authorities have not even attempted to shut it down because of the danger the participants can pose to themselves as well as others. I guess we have to chalk it up as a forgotten plot-hole.

However Nerve is no longer fiction. Augmented reality has become (pardon the term) a reality. There is an augmented reality game which takes the form of an internet show like Nerve and it is called The Runner. It is airing on the website go90 as I am writing this post and is hosted by a well-known youtuber Matthew Patrick the host of Game Theory and Film Theory youtube channels. In an article it was explained that,

The Runner…is the culmination of a project [Ben] Affleck and [Matt] Damon have been working on for a decade-and-a-half. It will follow its titular runner as he attempts to traverse the United States without being caught by his fellow contestants. On social media, savvy viewers will have opportunities to interpret clues that will help them determine the runner’s current location.

But the most familiar augmented reality game is the recently released and very popular Pokémon Go. And yet within less than a month of its release it has been misused and abused, from leading people to fall off cliffs and causing car accidents to robbery and kidnapping. Granted these are extreme cases, but these outcomes were the result of playing a mobile app that digitally overlays fictional pocket monsters.

Screen Shot 2016-07-30 at 5.42.43 PM
Life both on and off the web.

If anything Nerve is trying to show how augmented reality is effecting our culture and how devastating the consequences can be. In his review of the movie on Plugged In, Bob Hoose writes that,

On one hand, we’ve come to depend upon—and even take for granted—the Internet’s almost magical ability to instantaneously provide virtually any information we’re searching for. And for those who want to leverage this medium into cyber-stardom, the World Wide Web tantalizingly tempts otherwise average folks to believe that they can become household names. All it takes is a properly placed camera, enough eyeballs watching and enough thumbs clicking a “like” button.

The problem however does not lie with technology, but rather the people using the technology. Any and every technology from a simple book to most advanced computer software can be used for evil. But it doesn’t have to be that way, because we who play have a choice to either let this technology consume us or step back remember that life is more than just a game.

This is especially true for those who profess to be Christians. We are called to use what we have for the glory God and that includes game apps. We should use the technology in a way that is pleasing to Him and not let it consume us to the point we can hurt ourselves or others whether it be physically, emotionally or spiritually. Instead we should view augmented technologies like Pokémon Go as something to enjoy from time to time as well as a tool to reach out to others.

Sources:

“Ben Affleck, Matt Damon’s Go90 Series Be Co-Hosted By Youtube Star Matthew Patrick” by Sam Gutelle

“Nerve Movie Review” by Bob Hoose

“‘Nerve’ Review: It’s ‘Pokemon Go’ as a Gonzo Horror Movie” by Peter Travers

Pokemon Go and The Church: 5 Questions for Christians to Consider