Thursday, December 31, 2009

Resource Review - Videos/TV Shows/Toons That Teach

(This is part of a year long series of resource reviews I've been doing. 52 resources in 52 weeks. You can see all the reviews in one place here)

Videos That Teach, TV Shows That Teach, Toons That Teach A series of books to help use video clips in your youth ministry.

OVERALL - Three resources that all offer the same help. How to find and use video/TV clips in your ministry as ways to approach topics and start discussion

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? Videos That Teach started all this with Doug Fields and Eddie James doing the first book of 75 movies. That series is now up to four volumes. Then Eddie teamed up with his partner from The Skit Guys(who probably should have gotten their own review in this series, sorry guys!), Tommy Woodard, to create the TV Shows That Teaches with 100 episodes to draw from and then Stephen Case (author of The Book of UnCommon Prayer) jumped in with Toons That Teach (75 clips). All of these guys are top quality and well known folks. And this can be a great resource to keep on the shelf. You get a variety of options on topics for each clip, suggested questions plus the exact timing to find the clip when you need it. Very complete and very useful. Check out the multiple formats you can get these in as well (paperback, ebook, etc)

RESERVATIONS Hmmmm, don't know. Sometimes the topics don't seem to match my thoughts on the clips but that's hardly their fault. Really nothing too serious to question at all.

RECOMMENDATION I'll be honest and say I've only used the first Videos book personally. The quality of the authors leaves me with no reservations at all about recommending the entire bunch however. This is a great piece to use as a regular part of your ministry or to keep as a last minute emergency resource too (not TOO last minute, you still need to get a copy of the video or whatever!)

View From the Phlipside - 2009 review pt 2

These are the scripts from my weekly media commentary program on WRFA-LP Jamestown

My name is Jay Phillippi and I've spent my life in and around the media. TV, Radio, the movies and more. I love 'em and I hate em' and I always have an opinion. Call this the view from the Phlipside

Year in Review time this week on the Phlipside. I try not to note the passing of every single figure in the media but I do like to take note of the biggest and most interesting. Those categories are not necessarily the same.

For example this year we lost one of the greatest news men of all time. Walter Cronkite had an impact and ability to influence the thought stream of the American public like no one since. Folks like Rush Limbaugh may claim to have that kind of sway but they all lack the true broad cross section of the American public as their audience that Cronkite held. He truly was a giant of the media. I very much doubt we will ever see another figure like him. The closest we have now is Oprah Winfrey. I'm not being my usual snarky self either, Oprah comes closest to matching Uncle Walter's grasp on the American mind.

At a smaller scale but worthy of a mention next to Cronkite was Paul Harvey. Harvey's career outlasted Cronkite's but a good long stretch but since his primary medium was radio, which was fading instead of growing, he falls to a slightly lower rung. This was a man also dedicated to the news but with a more homegrown touch. For many people that folksy flavor to his broadcasts spoke to the lack of sophistication of the audience and possibly the performer. That seriously underestimates the intelligence and business acumen of Harvey. You would be hard pressed to find any other media star ever to have the kind of staying power.

Slipping down another rung we find Casey Kasem. This small time radio DJ turned his spunky personal style into an icon of popular music. Kasem didn't pretend that the subject of his program was of any particular substance or weight. He just knew that the music was important to most of us at some point in our lives. Kasem knew that music is tied to memory and gave us the chance to explore them both.

On the other hand this year also saw the death of Soupy Sales. The pie in the face king was important only in the fact that he was a childhood bringer of laughter. He wasn't a great actor or singer or even a great comedian. But he knew how to make us laugh and he was willing to do whatever it took to get us there. The world may have suffered more by his death than it suffered in any of the others. There's always plenty of news. There's often not enough laughter. RIP to them all.

Call that the view from the Phlipside

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

View From the Phlipside - 2009 Review pt 1

These are the scripts from my weekly media commentary program on WRFA-LP Jamestown

My name is Jay Phillippi and I've spent my life in and around the media. TV, Radio, the movies and more. I love 'em and I hate em' and I always have an opinion. Call this the view from the Phlipside

I thought I'd take a moment here at the end of the year to look back at what we've been talking about so far this year. My records show that there were about 150 programs recorded for this effort during the course of 2009. So I did a quick skim to see if there were any trends I could notice. A couple names popped up repeatedly during the year. For example I talked about Twitter quite a bit this year. I'll be honest and say I'm not really sure why. As the year went on it became clear that outside of a relatively small group dedicated group of Twitterers most people can't figure out just what the allure is. Business is still trying to figure out what the value is or if there is a value. Let's just say the jury is still out on that one. Oh and one more reminder that there is a Twitter for this program, just look for radiophlipside, spelled with a PH.

I also spent a lot of time talking about NBC and Jay Leno. If I treat them as separate topics they still make the list as some of the most talked about topics of the year. NBC has had just a rotten year and Jay Leno hasn't done much so far to turn things around. Actually right now may turn out to be make or break time for the new Leno show. With everything else in reruns, or like the case of "Lost", it hasn't debuted for the season yet this is the best time for people to sample the show. The problem is that too many people sample it but don't come back for seconds. Meanwhile the network itself has been sold off with the rest of the media group. The Peacock Network was the throw in on the deal, which never makes you feel very good about yourself.

You probably heard more than you wanted about NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month. It was great fun for me and I think it's a great opportunity to advance writing and creative thinking in the world. I'll just warn you now that you're probably in for a second round next November. You have been warned.

Of all the media it appears I spent the most time on TV followed closely by the internet. Music, movies, commercials, books and smart phones all got some air time as well. We talked about how we interact with the media and how people act badly for the media. NBC may fall off the list of topics in 2010 but I'm betting people behaving badly probably won't.

Call that the view from the Phlipside

Friday, December 25, 2009

View From the Phlipside - Stale TV News Anchors

These are the scripts from my weekly media commentary program on WRFA-LP Jamestown

My name is Jay Phillippi and I've spent my life in and around the media. TV, Radio, the movies and more. I love 'em and I hate em' and I always have an opinion. Call this the view from the Phlipside

One of the interesting points about the end of an old year and the beginning of a new one is the chance to look back and decide if you want to keep doing it. That's why we make resolutions at New Year's, it's a dividing point between the fixed past and the future that we hope to fix. That can be a very good thing too. For example this year the family Phlipside will take time at the New Year to clean out certain cupboards. Like the one where we discovered a cake mix that was a full two years out of date. Time to discard the old and move into a new, brighter and slightly less stale future.

All of which leads me to some end of year thoughts on the retirement of what one newspaper referred to as the "...last old school TV anchor". They were referring to the end of Charlie Gibson's tenure on the evening news at ABC. Eric Deggans at said the following about Gibson and it got me thinking:

"He's not very active online and takes his anchor role seriously. ...He is not willing to pop up in comedy sketches the way NBC anchor and frustrated stand up comic Brian Williams does. ... And he's not about to become a fixture in either tabloid news or the online world, in the way Katie Couric has managed."

Now I'm second to none when it comes to my respect for old school news anchors. Give me Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite, thank you very much. But as I read that bit from the St. Petersburg Times my initial feelings began to change. You may or may not like the new world of the internet. I've got plenty of misgivings about the wisdom of trying to communicate anything of importance in 140 characters or less. But if you're going to simply ignore the most important step in modern communications then maybe it's TIME to step aside. Like it or not it's a brave new world out there. I would remind you that the phrase comes originally from Shakespeare. It's an expression of wonder at the amazing and new people confronting Miranda in the play "The Tempest". This is a time when new things are happening all around us, when new opportunities present themselves and new challenges require new responses. A stubborn adherence to "old school" in defiance of that smacks far too much of Don Quixote. Even Murrow looked for new ways to bring news and information to people. A new year is coming. Sounds like it's time for something a little fresher in the news anchor cupboard.

Call that the view from the Phlipside

Thursday, December 24, 2009

View From the Phlipside - Tiger's Tale

These are the scripts from my weekly media commentary program on WRFA-LP Jamestown

My name is Jay Phillippi and I've spent my life in and around the media. TV, Radio, the movies and more. I love 'em and I hate em' and I always have an opinion. Call this the view from the Phlipside

So here's the question of the day: Is the Tiger Woods marital problem the biggest media story of the year? Is it the biggest story of the decade/century so far? I'm amazed at how often this question is getting asked these days. I'm amazed at the folks who are willing to lay claim that this is not only the biggest SPORTS story of the year but it might even be the biggest sports story of all time. I seriously heard someone make that claim on the air in the last couple weeks. So let's take a moment to look at this.

Is this a sport story? Well it does involve a sports figure, arguably the most high profile and influential sports figure of the last ten years. On the other hand it actually has NOTHING to do with sports. So I would classify this as a non-sports story that happens to have a sports angle to it. So that pretty much eliminates it from the biggest sports story of the year or the decade or whatever in my opinion. Next subject:

Is it the biggest news story of the year? So far this year we've had a major political battle brewing over the quality and accessibility of health care for the citizens of our country. We're fighting two wars, we are struggling with the worst financial collapse since the Great Depression, and we have unemployment running somewhere between 10 and 20 percent nationwide on average and depending on how you choose to count the numbers. That's just off the top of my head. You could add in that we swore in the first person of color to the highest office in the land this year too I think.

On the other side we have a man who has made enough money to allow him to live at a level of which you and I can only dream even if he never works another day in his life . Plus his children and grandchildren could maintain the same lifestyle without ever working a day in their lives either. He has a gorgeous wife, a wonderful family and a successful career. Oh yeah and like many other stupid men before him he decided to, how shall I say this, dally with another woman. OK, it appears he decided to dally with enough other women to form a baseball team, possibly a football team. His wife found out, she got mad, there was a scene and they may get divorced. Or they may not. That still appears to be up in the air.

No my friends it is NOT the biggest story of the year. It's a sad and pitiful little story that needs to be ignored. The only thing more sad and pitiful is that we still insist on having this discussion. Playing peeping tom on other people's troubles through the media is something we should give up as a new year's resolution.

Call that the view from the Phlipside

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

View From the Phlipside - Pepsi and the Super Bowl

These are the scripts from my weekly media commentary program on WRFA-LP Jamestown

My name is Jay Phillippi and I've spent my life in and around the media. TV, Radio, the movies and more. I love 'em and I hate em' and I always have an opinion. Call this the view from the Phlipside

Next year's Super Bowl is going to have one rather historic moment. Or more precisely it's going to have an historic absence. No, not the Bills failure to return to the big game but rather Pepsi's decision not to return to the big game. For the first time in 23 years the Super Bowl will not have a single Pepsi ad anywhere during the game. That's a big change for the number two soft drink company in the world. It may also herald a big change in the whole media advertising world too.

You see the Super Bowl isn't like any other advertising medium or event. At least not in this country. The Super Bowl is THE media event of every year. Every football fan in the country will be watching the fame or mourning the fact that they can't watch it. People who only care a little about football will be watching. And people who don't know or care about football at all will likely be watching it simply because that's where most of their friends will be that night. In the advertising industry it's all about the number of "eyes" you can access. That means the number of people you can push your message to at one time and in one place. And in the United States of America there is no better place to get seen than the Super Bowl. I mean let's face it, the game too often is boring so what do we wait for? THE COMMERCIALS! Because you know you're going to see the some of the very best of the year.

And Pepsi, perennially one of the bigger advertisers on the game, is taking a pass. It's not just the price, although a thirty second ad, just one mind you, is still running between two and a half and three million dollars. This is where you may feel the ground of the media world shifting beneath your feet a bit. They are going to put that money into something new, with a strong world wide web basis, called the Pepsi Refresh Project. It's a grant program designed to make the world a better place. Consumer will be able to go on line and vote on the projects that will be funded. The Pepsi Refresh Project is scheduled to be funded to the tune of twenty million dollars. That will be the flagship media vehicle for the cola.

Whether or not this new campaign will actually get people to buy Pepsi Cola remains to be seen. There is no doubt that this is a major shift for Pepsi and maybe in the advertising world too. It takes a lot of guts to walk away from the biggest advertising event of the year without a backward glance. We'll have to see if this idea makes the world want to sing in harmony with Pepsi.

Call that the view from the Phlipside

Monday, December 21, 2009

Resource Review - Youth Ministry Geek

(This is part of a year long series of resource reviews I've been doing. 52 resources in 52 weeks. You can see all the reviews in one place here)

Youth Ministry Geek A blog about youth ministry and technology.

OVERALL - A great blog for youth ministers with a bit of the geek in them (or who wish they had a bit more geek in them). Technology that is useful and helpful as we work with our young people and church in general.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? Chris Davis, the Geek himself, found a way to bring together his love for young people, his faith and his self professed "love of toys". He's my kinda guy. His blog is always a source for all kinds of great ideas he's found around the world wide web. Last week he shared a video of a group of teens playing "The Carol of the Bells" on their iPhones, a bunch of Christmas media freebies and the iPhone apps so our kids can do the iPhone band thing themselves. Scroll down a little farther and find excellent ways to get a little more life out of your old computer. Great for those of us on a budget. His posts are concise and easy to read. An excellent resource to keep ready.

RESERVATIONS It does tend to be very Apple/Mac oriented. Not entirely but I'd love to see the blog expand the stuff for PCs just a little more. Like it or not PCs make up most of the computing world.

RECOMMENDATION I can hardly turn my back on a fellow youth ministry geek brother. Chris's blog is a fixture on my blog reader and I've picked up some very good ideas from him. You will too.

Friday, December 18, 2009

View From the Phlipside - Verizon vs. AT&T

These are the scripts from my weekly media commentary program on WRFA-LP Jamestown

My name is Jay Phillippi and I've spent my life in and around the media. TV, Radio, the movies and more. I love 'em and I hate em' and I always have an opinion. Call this the view from the Phlipside

I've been ignoring the great Verizon/AT&T battle over the last couple months. Quite simply it all seemed pretty dull to me as the two cell phone giants battled back and forth over their current ad campaigns. Even when they took the battle into the courts trying to get a judge to order the other guy to stop it didn't raise much interest for me. But now that the court case has been settled (basically both sides agreed to go away and stop bothering the judge with this nonsense) I've taken another look. There is I think a rather important lesson to be learned by looking at what they've been fighting about.

The ad campaigns I'm referring to are what are called the "map ads". Verizon shows you two maps that illustrate how great their coverage is and how rotten AT&T's is. AT&T comes back to show you just how wrong those nasty V people are and tout all the wonderful reasons to sign up with them. There are two important things to note about this. First is what's actually being said and second is what the two companies apparently think about you and me.

Pay attention the next time you see the ads and you'll realize they're actually about two completely different things. Verizon is talking about the higher speed 3G network coverage, where to be honest they have a decided edge. But they want you to believe that it describes the entire coverage package. So it appears that you can't use your AT&T phone most places. AT&T is talking about all kinds of coverage which gives them a map that's about the same as Verizon's. They then talk about how much faster their 3G network is without mentioning that you can't always get it. Like here in Jamestown.

So what does this tell us about the companies attitude toward you and me? Simple, the fact that they went to court to get the ads pulled tells me that they think we're pretty stupid. Or at least that we don't pay much attention to what's actually being said. On that second point they are probably right. Of course that's the whole point of both campaigns so yeah they probably think we're pretty stupid too. The worst part is we probably deserve it. We DON'T pay attention, we LET advertisers get away with half truths and misleading claims and we STILL make decisions based on the incomplete information.

So the next time you listen to, watch or read an advertisement, pay attention to what's actually being said. And don't make a decision till you get all the information. That way the advertiser will learn to concentrate of the quality of their product rather than the obscureness of their advertising.

Call that the view from the Phlipside

Thursday, December 17, 2009

View From the Phlipside - Anti-social Media

These are the scripts from my weekly media commentary program on WRFA-LP Jamestown

My name is Jay Phillippi and I've spent my life in and around the media. TV, Radio, the movies and more. I love 'em and I hate em' and I always have an opinion. Call this the view from the Phlipside

This may be the worst idea to come down the media pipeline in a very long time. Or it may just be the idea in the worst taste in a very long time. I'm betting it scores very high on both scales.

I begin this little audio temper tantrum by admitting that I spend more time on Facebook than I really should. Not that it interferes with work or my personal life. At least not yet. but especially with my iPhone offering virtually ubiquitous access I check it a lot. Which is absurd because it's not as if there's always something interesting waiting for me. The occasional note from a friend, the rare but wonderful discovery of a friend I'd lost touch with (just had that happen last week again, very cool), or the random bit of lunacy that one of my siblings likes to inject into my virtual life for everyone's amusement. I mean, really, do I NEED to check it four, five, six or more times a day? No. Which is why some folks are either cutting down on their social media or just walking away. I can totally understand it.

But then you find the folks at seppukoo dot com. This admittedly tongue in cheek website offers you the chance to put an end to all of that obsessive observing of the boring details of your friends lives. By committing virtual suicide. Seppuku is the ancient Japanese tradition among the samurai of ritually killing themselves in order to preserve their honor. It's a very serious thing. The online folks (who spell the word differently) say the following about what they offer:
"Seppukoo playfully attempts to subvert this mechanism by disconnecting people from each other and transforming the individual suicide experience into an exciting 'social' experience."
The "mechanism" they are aiming at is Facebook, by the way. Once you're "gone" you get a memorial wall where folks can stop by and leave you messages.

So is this a really bad idea or just a really bad taste idea? I don't think you can argue too much with the second point. Making a joke where the word suicide is part of the punchline is just nasty. Doing it with the kind of smug, self satisfied attitude found on the web site is rather sickening. If your virtual life is interfering with your actual life, or if you're not sure where the one begins and the other ends then it may be time to take a step away for a while. Surely we can call that a virtual vacation. If you really need or want to just walk away from the whole thing then go right ahead. But spare us all the pseudo-sophistication of a web site that calls making an adult decision virtual suicide.

Call that the view from the Phlipside

View From the Phlipside - Black Hole Sequel

These are the scripts from my weekly media commentary program on WRFA-LP Jamestown

My name is Jay Phillippi and I've spent my life in and around the media. TV, Radio, the movies and more. I love 'em and I hate em' and I always have an opinion. Call this the view from the Phlipside

Over the years I've watched a LOT of movies. A couple handfuls of really great ones, dozens and dozens or outstanding ones, hundreds of OK ones, a few dozen bad ones and just a couple AWFUL movies. I'm usually pretty good at spotting the real stinkers before I waste my time and money on them. But not always. The good news is that the really putrid films will die a quick death and never be seen again. But not always.

Now let me make one thing clear. A movie can be bad and still be good. The transcendent qualities of certain old horror movies are impressive. At the very top of this list traditionally is the Ed Wood directed classic "Plan 9 from Outer Space". In a lot of ways it's not really any better or worse than a handful of other contenders but it is gloriously, wonderfully awful. I'm not talking about those kinds of bad movies.

I'm talking "Ishtar", a move so bad that when the rental video tape I was watching broke I never bothered to get another copy of the movie to finish. There have been a few others so bad that I refused to finish them. At the top of my list however is the first Disney film ever to get something other than a "G" rating, 1979's "The Black Hole". I should have known. By '79 any movie with Ernest Borgnine in it was pretty much a lock to be schlock. But I love science fiction. I very nearly walked out and demanded a refund. That's how bad this movie is. Awful acting, awful production and awful pseudo-science.

So naturally it's just been announced that they are making a sequel. It's being made by the same people who are producing next year's sequel to 1982's vastly superior sci fi flick "Tron". The movie, curiously also from Disney, is head and shoulders above "The Black Hole". When you add in the chance to use the latest computer techniques this sequel looks great. Even the early trailer looks great. "Tron-Legacy" is set to hit the theaters a year from now. But where does that leave us with the sequel to "The Black Hole"? I'm encouraged to note that the creative team is already talking about putting more science into the new movie. The original was the most expensive movie Disney had ever made to that point so hopefully they'll make a proper financial commitment to this one. And apparently the very nasty robot Maximilian will also return. So I'll keep hoping this will be the rare occasion where a sequel is better than the original. Of course that's not that hard in this case. I really don't want any more movies on my Awful list.

Call that the view from the Phlipside

Monday, December 14, 2009

Resource Review - Gives Me Hope

(This is part of a year long series of resource reviews I've been doing. 52 resources in 52 weeks. You can see all the reviews in one place here)

Gives Me Hope (.com) A website to brighten the day of you and your youth

OVERALL - A collection of submitted true stories designed to share some hope in all our lives.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? I'm a regular reader of a variety of similar sites like FML (F*ck My Life), My Life is Average, E-mails From Crazy People and others. My bet is your youth know at least FML if not several of the others. None of them has grabbed me as quickly and completely at Gives Me Hope. These are stories of people doing the right thing, making the right choices and making the world a better place. And there's a LOT more of them than you'd expect. Unless you have a heart seven sizes too small (you Grinch you) this will give your day a lift. And there are days when we all desperately need just that.

RESERVATIONS Hmmmm, sometimes the stories can be ever so slightly risque. Which might, maybe be a problem for middle schoolers. And I'm stretching even for that one.

RECOMMENDATION In a time when too many of our youth feel like the world sucks and there's no love in it for them having this kind of tool in your repetoire strikes me as a very good idea. I also see it as a great conversation starter as you read through the items. Even if you keep it for yourself it will put you into a brighter mood and make you better able to face your own rotten days. Thanks to "graduated youth" Sammi Jo Calabrese for tipping me to this great site.

Friday, December 11, 2009

View From the Phlipside - Friend of the Library

These are the scripts from my weekly media commentary program on WRFA-LP Jamestown

My name is Jay Phillippi and I've spent my life in and around the media. TV, Radio, the movies and more. I love 'em and I hate em' and I always have an opinion. Call this the view from the Phlipside

One of the recurring pieces of advice for folks who try to see into the future is to remember that people insist on doing unexpected things. We get rid of things that people are sure we'll never leave behind and we hang onto things that the experts are sure we are ready to drop at any moment.

Take as an example, libraries. Giant repositories of old school media, books, magazines all that kinda stuff. Add to it the common wisdom that nobody reads any more. Or the slightly more elitist point of view that if people do read today they only read junk. Not like the old days when folks gathered round the fire for a rousing reading of James Joyce.

But I digress. It's probably library withdrawal that's getting to me. Our local library is in the process of getting some very important and needed renovations done. Sadly for folks like me who like having that resource at our beck and call it's going be a little while longer before we can return. As with any big project the work is taking slightly longer than anticipated.

In the meantime we can consider the future of libraries. Which may not be as dark as some people once thought. Curiously it's new technology and media that are leading the way. In fact it's the new technology and medium that some folks thought would finish the library as we know it that may be breathing new life into the institution. The e-book or e-reader, of which the best known variety is the Kindle, seems to be a friend of the library. A few libraries in England have begun lending electronic versions of books and discovered a rather interesting result. The number of library members went UP! The system is very simple, you log onto the library website, select from the available titles, download it to your computer then load it into your e-reader. Actually the only one it doesn't work with is the Kindle which requires proprietary files. Seems the Kindle folks can be placed outside the clan of friends of the library. After two weeks the book erases itself so you don't even have to worry about late fees!

England has seen sharp declines in the number of visitors to its libraries and the number of books being checked out. So anything that actually increases those numbers is welcome. It's easy to overlook what a great resource a local library (and its staff I hasten to add!) are for all of us. So anything that helps bring more people back into those hallowed halls of learning, literature and leisure is a great idea in my mind.

So now we just have to wait patiently while our old friend finishes with the latest improvements.

Call that the view from the Phlipside

Thursday, December 10, 2009

View From the Phlipside - Tweet Marriage

These are the scripts from my weekly media commentary program on WRFA-LP Jamestown

My name is Jay Phillippi and I've spent my life in and around the media. TV, Radio, the movies and more. I love 'em and I hate em' and I always have an opinion. Call this the view from the Phlipside

Let's see, this story does in fact involve two different modern communication media. And it is about how and when and where we choose to use the media. They do figure prominently in the story, even though the story isn't REALLY about the media at all. What the story is REALLY about is stupidity. So that's probably more than enough reason for me to talk about it here.

Did you hear the story about the groom who updated his Facebook with a Tweet and made a video while he did it...IN THE MIDDLE OF THE CEREMONY?

Last month in Maryland a groom decided to have a little fun at his wedding. That, by the way, is his description of this whole incident. As the preacher got to the point where he declares the couple husband and wife our intrepid hero reached into this pocket and pulled out his smart phone. Then asked the preacher to hang on for a minute while he updated his relationship status on Facebook. I swear to you I'm not making this up, the video of it is on YouTube. He actually did it too, it takes him about 30 seconds to finish the task. At one point he reaches into his pocket and produces the bride's smart phone as well. Presumably to give her the chance to do the same thing.

The groom thinks people like me, who think that he's an idiot, are just a bunch of stuck up sticky beaks who don't know a good time when they see one. I'll grant him A: His new wife did not deck him, although to my eyes she is frozen in place and B: the assembled guests all seemed to take it in good humor. I was amazed to discover that he had let the preacher in on it BUT NOT HIS BRIDE! Astounding.

My bet is that she's accustomed to this kind of low rent humor from him and loves him anyway. Good for her. I just wonder if he really considered that for the love of his life this most wonderful day will now be forever remembered as the day he did the Facebook thing. That at the moment when they were pronounced joined in wedlock he went for the laugh. And oh yeah on the very first day of the rest of their lives together, during the most important moment of the day, he didn't bother to tell her what he was going to do.

In my humble opinion, with 27 years of marriage under my belt, not bright. Save it for the reception. And maybe start your marriage off with a little more dignity, a little more seriousness and a lot less stupidity.

Call that the view from the Phlipside

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

View From the Phlipside - Ripping on Rudolph

These are the scripts from my weekly media commentary program on WRFA-LP Jamestown

My name is Jay Phillippi and I've spent my life in and around the media. TV, Radio, the movies and more. I love 'em and I hate em' and I always have an opinion. Call this the view from the Phlipside

I will admit that I have a soft spot for the traditional Christmas movie slate. In fact, just to make sure that I can see them all each year I've hunted most of them down and bought them. A Charlie Brown Christmas, Miracle on 34th Street, the 1930's version of A Christmas Carol, The Walton's Christmas special, White Christmas, It's a Wonderful Life to name just some. I own them all. And December will be spent watching them all.

At the same time I'm aware of the cliche factor of it all. I know some of it is pretty cheesy. So I'm not above having some fun with it as well. Which is where the wonderful weird folks at RiffTrax enter the picture. If you're not familiar with Rifftrax then maybe you know them from their previous project Mystery Science Theater 3000. Or as it is known among the aficionados Misty Three K. The guys who made their fame by mocking bad science fiction films have turned their sights on Christmas. Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett will be joined by no less a loony luminary thanWeird Al Yankovic as they take on a variety of Christmas shorts, ads and a classic.

Oh, yes this time they're not sticking to lesser known movies that were just begging to be mocked and slandered. No, they're going for a classic of the season that, let's face it, is just begging to be mocked and slandered. Rifftrax Live - A Christmas Shorts-stravaganza will be taking on Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. And they'll be doing it live, broadcast to theaters all over America.

This is a relatively new thing that I've seen done for a couple other events over the last few years. You go to a theater (actually we'll have to go to either Erie or Buffalo. I don't see any theaters around here jumping on the Rudolph slanging bandwagon), you buy your ticket and you get to watch a live broadcast of the event. It's like the world's biggest big screen TV crossed with a midnight showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. The show hits the theater next week, December 16, with an encore presentation the following day.

If you like your humor snarky and you're not squeamish about raking a great holiday classic over the coals (I mean they are going to murder this movie) then maybe it's worth the drive to Erie, Buffalo or Williamsville. If not then grab a copy of the DVD, snuggle up under the blanket and enjoy the story of an elf who wants to be a dentist and a reindeer with a big shiny nose. And let the Rifftrax boys worry about coal in their stockings.

Call that the view from the Phlipside

Monday, December 07, 2009

Resource Review - Snopes and Purportal

(This is part of a year long series of resource reviews I've been doing. 52 resources in 52 weeks. You can see all the reviews in one place here) and - Two sites to check on Urban Legends and other online nonsense.

OVERALL - Our youth spend truly amazing amounts of time on the internet and can be naive about the information that they find there. Urban Legends have an amazing ability to hang on and we need some way of coming back to the facts whenever possible. These two sites can give you the information you need.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? I just recently got a version of an Urban Legend that I first got back in the 1980's when it arrived by FAX! It was completely wrong then and it's just as wrong now. Snopes is the best source (in my opinion)for the facts on so many stories, legends and spams. It is amazingly comprehensive and detailed. Purportal is more of a search engine that includes Snopes plus several other sites having to do with spam, emails, frauds, phishing plus viruses and malware. It's a great resource.

RESERVATIONS Snopes is so comprehensive that sometimes it's hard to figure out where to even start looking. Purportal has the problem of most search engines in that you have to come up with the right search terms to actually find what you're looking for.

RECOMMENDATION Fighting for the truth is a part of what our ministry is all about. So is helping our young people to walk in the right knowledge. While not directly spiritual these two sites are great resources to have on hand.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

A Bitter Taste of Disappointment

I did something that I knew I shouldn't do.

I hoped.

Oh hell, I did more than hope. I started to dream, to even plan just a tiny little bit.

It all came crashing down in a single page letter on Friday.

Sabbaticals are new things to me and like most new things it is both exciting and frightening. I struggled with what to do. Suddenly a perfect answer seemed to present itself. A chance to study at a great institution for a full semester in a fabulous city. It took a while to grasp the reality that such a wonderful thing might be within my grasp. With the encouragement of friends I believed.

And dared to hope.

The letter on Friday was typical, perhaps slightly nicer than most. They assured me of my wonderful qualities as an applicant. They mourned the difficult decisions they had to make. In the end it boils down to something simple.


It was long shot in many ways. So I supposed I shouldn't have been so invested in it. But it was so wonderful and it felt so right. I allowed myself to be seduced by the dream instead of a determined realism. So the letter's blow fell hard. Much harder than I had anticipated. The taste of my disappointment is bitter.

I learned years ago not to follow the path of stoicism, attempting to deny the feeling. There is no value in noble suffering to my mind. For me that is just a way to extend the pain. No, I give myself permission to wallow in disappointment for a season. A little while to embrace the hurt, to revel in it just a little bit. I feel sorry for myself and refuse to feel sorry for feeling that way.

But only for a little while. With this note that season draws to an end. This bitter taste deserves no longer time than this. I must return to my work, return to my life, return to the arms of the good and glorious that have been granted me.

For though this bitter taste will linger in smaller and smaller reserves, and I know that my tongue will seek them upon occasion it is a small sharp note in this life. I am blessed. It is my hope that I shall be blessed again. Those blessings will mellow the bitterness and age will dull its bite.

Come the morning I shall set it aside.
Come the morning I shall set it aside.
Come the morning...


Friday, December 04, 2009

View From the Phlipside - iPhone and Marvel

These are the scripts from my weekly media commentary program on WRFA-LP Jamestown

My name is Jay Phillippi and I've spent my life in and around the media. TV, Radio, the movies and more. I love 'em and I hate em' and I always have an opinion. Call this the view from the Phlipside

Oh am I in trouble now. It's not as if my iPhone doesn't tempt me with a hundred thousand apps to waste my time and lower my productivity. No, now they are prepared to reach deep into my youth and lure me away with the siren song of one of my boyhood joys. The comic book has come to iPhone.

And not just any comic books, oh no. They've landed nobody less than Marvel Comics themselves. And when I was growing up Marvel was THE comic book line to read. Marvel heroes like Spiderman, Iron Man, Captain America, The Fantastic Four, Thor and many many more were a staple for me. The denizens of the Marvel Universe were conflicted, flawed and very, very human. They struggled with acceptance, bodies that changed, sometimes against their will and relationships with members of the opposite sex. I can't imagine what attracted a growing boy to such stories.

As an adult I must admit to still having a guilty pleasure out of the occasional foray into the world of comics. In a lot of ways that's a very different world than it used to be. Comics have grown into graphic novels and the heroes are even darker and more conflicted than every before. But I will admit that I was ready and rarin' to go when I heard that they'd made a movie of Iron Man. I was even pretty pleased with the version of the shellhead that ended up on the screen.

And now I can get a Marvel fix right on my iPhone. A trio of free comic apps (Comixology, iVerse and Panelfly)have landed a deal with Marvel to sell special runs of various books. This includes a 24 issue run of Joss Wheeden's Astonishing X-men story line, a Captain America run of 30 issues (are you as amazed as I am that the old Cap is still around?) plus several others. The comics will be available at two dollars an issue. Panelfly was offering them at just a dollar but no one is sure how long that might last. Marvel has also jumped into the video arena for iPhone as well. They have a pair of "motion comics" that can be snagged at the iTunes store. One is a version of that Wheedon Astonishing X-men and the other is Spider woman.

So if you see me engrossed in my iPhone sometime soon I may NOT be researching the latest trend in media. I may be hanging with Spidey or on an adventure with Tony Starke. Oh I can feel my productivity just slipping away already.

Call that the view from the Phlipside

Thursday, December 03, 2009

So much writing, so little news

Just realized that while there have lots of posts here there hasn't been much from me personally. Part of that has just been the business of the last several weeks:

Happening #25 - a great spiritual retreat weekend for teens led by a great group of young people. I actually was NOT quite as wiped out as I often am by these (these kinds of retreats don't work well with my Myers-Briggs Introvert personality).

Then home for a day and off to:

Standing Commission on Ministry Development - Chicago! Great city! Have friends there! NEVER LEFT THE HOTEL FOR 4 DAYS! Apparently there IS some work being done at the wider church level. And the folks who are doing it work HARD! We worked 9-noon, 1-5 and 7-9 each day. I'm the chair of a sub-committee looking at the Ministry of the Baptized concept and what we need to do to make it a reality in the church. Because too often it is either just lip service or code for "ministry of the lay". Curious since I'm fairly certain the ordained have to be baptized too. Unless it comes off when the collar goes on. Met some wonderful people and largely enjoyed myself. It's always tough for me when I really don't know many people. I'm not a natural mingler. So I forced myself, tried to sit with some new folks and have conversations. Kinda painful but cool at the same time. For those who read here and are from the Beliefnet days I actually had lunch one day with someone who began talking about our friend Roseann. I about fell out of my chair! We are indeed a small, freakin' church.

Got home and immediately went to see the national touring company of "Fiddler on the Roof". A personal favorite for the whole family. VERY disappointing. Really felt like a mid-level college performance. Nothing wrong with it except it was a national touring company of Equity actors. Flat characters, lots of singers who couldn't really sing the parts (or simply sang them with no passion). Topol was supposed to be with the company but health issues caused him to pull out (Toronto got Harvey Fierstein! So jealous!). It was just sad. Plus a grumpy lady sitting in front of us. The kid and I, at moments of the show we love the most, might sing, VERY SOFTLY (like I could barely hear her and I was sitting right next to her) or hum a part we loved. Not the whole thing, a phrase or two. I repeat, VERY SOFTLY. It's really not good manners, I know but it's hard to resist, at least for me. And the lady in front of us started getting snotty about it. And was snotty from the git go. At one point she complained and neither of us were making a peep! She lost ANY compassion from me when she and her male companion bolted before the curtain call. Sorry, if you love the show that much you give some respect to the performers. I DIDN'T like it that much but I stayed for all the curtain calls. So I'll leave it to you to judge who was more out of line.

Lots of meetings, I shan't bore you with them.

I did indeed complete the NaNoWriMo challenge, breaking through the 50,000 word mark with a day to spare. I'll be posting my winner's badge on this page later this week. I'm still excited about finishing the book (I figure it's at least another 30-40k worth of writing) but I was kind of surprised by the post contest emotional let down. I was just wrung out. It was great fun.

Oh and quick plug for which I receive nothing in return. Found some really fine free software for writing longer projects (like novels but apparently folks use it for other things too) yWriter 5. It's not youth ministry related so I'm not including it in the regular reviews columns but I really enjoyed using it. The learning curve is relatively shallow, and I keep finding more and more tools. It's not Scrivener, which is the best I've ever seen (and it's what the kid uses since it's Mac only. Not free either but very reasonably priced)but it was designed by a writer who is also a programmer. So it works pretty well. If you're looking for something to do long form writing I'd definitely recommend it.

Right now is a time of waiting for me. I'm waiting to hear back on what may turn out to be a really cool thing for next year. Plus I've made a decision on my next big challenge for next year. More on those later.


View From the Phlipside - Unsocial Media

These are the scripts from my weekly media commentary program on WRFA-LP Jamestown

My name is Jay Phillippi and I've spent my life in and around the media. TV, Radio, the movies and more. I love 'em and I hate em' and I always have an opinion. Call this the view from the Phlipside

It's probably one of the newest concerns for parent right now about our kids. Beyond their grades and drugs and sex and just the general overall cruddy economic conditions parents are worried about kids and electronic gadgets. Specifically how much time our kids spend on their electronic gadgets. Turns out its not just teens who may be affected but all of us who are spending more and more time connected to our computers, our smart phones and other electronics.

A study back in 2006 has been pointed to as saying that all this time connected to our virtual lives might be limiting the diversity of our real lives. We were, according to that study, becoming more isolated from our fellow human beings because we weren't coming up for air as often as we had ten years before. The negative effects on society in general were profound because we were exposed to fewer outside points of view and that resulted in a narrowing of our opinions since we had fewer people to be involved in our lives.

The good news is that it may not be as bad as all that. The Pew Institute's Internet Personal Networks and Community survey says that the exact opposite may be taking place. People who spend a significant portion of their lives connected digitally actually have larger networks of people with whom they discuss serious issues. And what is referred to as their "core network" the people they consider most important in their lives can be up to twenty five percent larger than average. So increased use of technology actually increases the diversity of thought we hear. In an area like ours, which is not diverse in many ways, being plugged in can be an excellent way to stay in touch with more people and ideas.

Looking back at the original study is instructive as well. The internet was pointed to merely as one possible factor in the isolation of a certain portion of the American public. Other factors included longer commuting distances, more people living alone and lower voluntary group memberships. The interesting thing to note is that isolation is pretty much the only result of those factors unlike the technology. Probably the best thing that can arise from our plugged in state is connecting with friends and arranging to meet them somewhere face to face. The Pew study shows that's still the favorite method of connecting with the most important people in our lives.

Funny enough, that's what the teens have been doing all along.

Call that the view from the Phlipside

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

View From the Phlipside - NaNoWriMo 4

These are the scripts from my weekly media commentary program on WRFA-LP Jamestown

My name is Jay Phillippi and I've spent my life in and around the media. TV, Radio, the movies and more. I love 'em and I hate em' and I always have an opinion. Call this the view from the Phlipside

Well it's finally done. The National Novel Writing Month has come to an end. So has my experiment in trying to write fifty thousand words of a novel in 30 days. I'll tell how I did in just a minute. Looking back I have to admit that I really wasn't sure that I could pull it off. I knew that my daughter, a much more dedicated writer than I've ever been, had failed on her first two attempts. I also knew that because of work related projects November was a terrible month to try and get through a project like this.

But hey, my daughter wanted me to try. So I said yes. It would be a fun kind of daddy and daughter thing for a month.

Along the way I discovered or make that RE-discovered one of the great joys of my life. Story telling. With training as an actor and a career in radio that had always been mostly about story telling anyway it was such a fundamental part of my life I'd kind of taken it for granted. Now I was challenging myself to really go for it, to create a story and spin it out. Radio is designed for the short story form, a couple of minutes tops and a cloud of dust. At least the kind of radio that I did for all those years. So I'd gotten pretty good at the quick hitting story. Set the bare bones scene, find the emotional center and make your point. The NaNoWriMo challenge took me to a whole different place. The novel needs more depth, more nuance and a longer build to the climax. It has stretched me in new directions and given me back a joy in story telling that I hadn't felt in some time.

The format of the contest is interesting too. By creating a culture that doesn't encourage editing you are given the push you need to move past that carping critical internal editor. The one who points out all the misspellings, who reminds you that your concept is dumb and questions the quality of every sentence you put down. For a month I've sent that nasty inner voice on vacation. And the words have come pouring out. Sure I'll need to do a rewrite, I already know that several points from early in the writing have been changed a month later. I'll do that in the second draft. A place I've almost never made it to before. Thanks NaNoWriMo.

So how'd I do? As of 11:25 Sunday night I hit fifty thousand, one hundred and forty words. I did it, with a full day to spare. Of course my daughter beat me by four days. But that's OK. And it makes a great story.

Call that the view from the Phlipside

Monday, November 30, 2009

Resource Review - The Episcopal Church website

(This is part of a year long series of resource reviews I've been doing. 52 resources in 52 weeks. You can see all the reviews in one place here)

The Episcopal Church Welcomes You Home website of The Episcopal Church(TEC).

OVERALL - I've been holding off on doing this review because I'd been told that a new version of the web page was coming. Well they've missed two dates for completion so far. The latest word is that maybe for the New Year. SIGH. So I'm running the review I wrote originally for the current web site.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? This is primarily intended as an information source and touchstone on the internet. As for youth ministry it can be a real resource as our young people (and we very often) try to find out way along and figure out what it means to be an Episcopalian. Because the site is intended to be much more than that it can be overwhelming. My best advice is to start in the "Visitors' Center" and take a look around. The surveys which form the basis for several of the articles there were done just a couple years back and offer a great look at who we really are. Then click on the "Evangelism & Congregational Life Center" because under the latest reorganization (of the web page at least)that's where you'll find "Youth Formation". Along with LOTS of other things.

RESERVATIONS (If you want a better way to stay up to date on youth ministry in TEC go to "Episcoyouth". This is a blog that Bronwyn is using to improve communication especially as we wait for the larger web site to be updated. Bookmark it!) To be honest the youth pages haven't been updated in a while and much of the resources available there are rather old. Still of pretty high quality but somewhat dated. (As an example under resources you'll find a report on the Episcopal Youth Event (EYE) from 2005. The last EYE was in 2008 but there's no report for it). The Youth office has undergone some major changes over the last year and the new person in that slot Bronwyn Clark Skov is working hard trying to figure out what to do first, next and whenever. (For transparency's sake I will admit proudly that I count Bronwyn as a friend. We worked together as Provincial Youth Ministry Coordinators for several years. She's a great and talented lady.)

RECOMMENDATION For the moment this site is what it is - clunky and outdated and behind schedule. I am biting my tongue to keep me from making any snarky comments but you can feel free to fill them in yourselves. If you're looking for information on TEC and what we believe and who we are and all kinds of resources there's no other place on the web to go. My hope is that the youth specific resources will be brought up to date as soon as possible. You should definitely have this site bookmarked.

Friday, November 27, 2009

View From the Phlipside - Santa's Mail

These are the scripts from my weekly media commentary program on WRFA-LP Jamestown

My name is Jay Phillippi and I've spent my life in and around the media. TV, Radio, the movies and more. I love 'em and I hate em' and I always have an opinion. Call this the view from the Phlipside

Here I was all ready to leap into one of the great disputes of our age. Guaranteed to rally the cry of protest nationwide, the lead the fight for a great American value. Right up there with Truth, Justice and the American Way. Then the Post Office apparently rolled over and gave up. Even before I could work up a really good rant. Sigh. It's so hard being a talking head these days. Oh by the way, if you have any young people in the family who still believe in a certain right jolly old elf in the present delivery business now would be a good time to either get them out of earshot or turn down the radio for about two minutes.

OK, ready now?

Yes, the great Santa mail dispute apparently has died even before it got started. If you hadn't heard the U.S. Postal Service had announced it was discontinuing the annual mail to Santa routine. Since 1954 folks in the village of North Pole Alaska have been opening and responding to letters addressed to Santa Claus, North Pole. The program is a big deal in a small town where Christmas is a pretty big deal. The staff of volunteers numbers just over a dozen and they respond in the personas of Santa's helpers or elves. The Postal Service had run into a problem with a similar program in Maryland that ended up with a registered sex offender answering the children's mail. So they put in place new regulations to put an end to the practice. The new rules proposed would have created a massive amount of work for postal employees who would have had to redact (that's government talk for "black out") the children's names and remove the return address leaving only a computer code connected to each one.

Needless to say there were quite a few people who got cranky. The word of the moment, courtesy of Alaskan Senator Lisa Murkowski is that USPS has changed its mind. To be honest I'm amazed the Postal Service waded into this one at all. It has lose-lose written all over it. I have plenty of sympathy for the postal workers (hey, one of my best friends was a postal worker. Really, no joke, one of my best friends is a retired postal worker) and the Service has been struggling with deficits just like everyone else. But trying to balance the budget by taking out Santa's mail delivery? You just had to know that one would be "Returned to Sender".

Call that the view from the Phlipside

Thursday, November 26, 2009

View From the Phlipside - NaNoWriMo week 3 (with audio!)

These are the scripts from my weekly media commentary program on WRFA-LP Jamestown

(I have to admit that this is the script of the show I was SUPPOSED to record. But my daughter Rachel was with me and so we decided to ad lib a program about NaNoWriMo instead. It went very well. We did it in one take, what you hear is everything that happened, no editting. And we hit the time right on the nose. You can check out what actually went down and out on the air at the bottom!)

My name is Jay Phillippi and I've spent my life in and around the media. TV, Radio, the movies and more. I love 'em and I hate em' and I always have an opinion. Call this the view from the Phlipside

Well week three of the NaNoWriMo experiment is now behind me. At the start of this week I have only 8 days left in my attempt to write fifty thousand words of a novel in just 30 days. At the moment that prospect isn't looking too good. You see last week was a very bad week for writing.

The process of writing continues to interest me. With the "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead" approach to the contest I've found that when I have the time to sit down and write I can crank out massive numbers of words relatively quickly. In an hours time I can easily do a thousand to about twelve hundred words. The sixteen hundred I need to keep pace for each day is always done in less than 90 minutes. So you'd think that I'd be able to finish this task quite easily. So far that hasn't been the case. Last week I came out of my weekend retreat just a few thousand short and I figured I'd get caught up quickly. I managed to eat into the deficit a little the first couple days but then I had another trip (it's been a busy time for your humble radio host), this time for a series of meetings in Chicago. First day I cranked out 18 hundred words, second day 17 hundred words and I'm thinking this is going pretty well. But the energy needed to pull off some fairly long days at the meetings (I would usually be back in my hotel room ready to write at 9:30 at night) finally caught up with me. The last day I got ZERO writing done. The next day I bounced back but with only a thousand words. So as of Sunday of this week my total is just under 29 thousand words. Which means I need to find 21 thousand words in the next 8 days. That's two thousand six hundred and twenty five words a day. The good news is that I have the rest of this week off. The bad news is that's still a lot of writing.

Some new characters have popped up and with them come some interesting possibilities for my poor beleaguered main character (he just had a nasty but not serious accident). The part that worries me is I'm still in the dark as to what is causing all this uproar for these people. I hope one of them tells me soon. Down the final stretch. Next week I'll be able to tell you my final word count (or close to it) and see how I did.

Call that the view from the Phlipside

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

View From the Phlipside - IPhone Users

These are the scripts from my weekly media commentary program on WRFA-LP Jamestown

My name is Jay Phillippi and I've spent my life in and around the media. TV, Radio, the movies and more. I love 'em and I hate em' and I always have an opinion. Call this the view from the Phlipside

Apparently I'm a bad person. I never realized it, it just happened one day. After that day I must have been pretty bad. One decision is all it took. My days as a nice guy came to a crashing halt on that fateful day. The day I bought an iPhone.

I actually went in with the idea of getting a Blackberry. But the slim lines of the iPhone, the low price and a little salesmanship from my AT&T rep all pushed into the arms of the iPhone. Which I happen to really love and enjoy using. So what's with all the emo moaning about being a bad person?

That actually comes from a study done by the folks at a company called Retrevo who were doing what they called a "Gadgetry Survey". They were trying to collect some data on just who it was who were buying these snazzy little gadgets. The results were pretty ugly. For example - one out of three have broken up with their significant other by either text message or by email. Which I have to admit is a pretty scummy thing. Of course the good news is that if this is the way they choose to break up with up you then you're better off with out them anyway. It gets worse from there. A third of us would prefer a significant other with all the coolest gadgets over one with a college degree. And not surprisingly you're likely to get dumped if you don't have the latest gadgets. Also if YOU spend too much time with your electronic gadgets. There's probably an app for that on my iPhone. iPhone users are twice as likely to look at shall we say "inappropriate material" on our phones as Blackberry users are.

Along the way we think pretty highly of ourselves too. iPhone users view ourselves as media buffs and intellectuals. On the whole not a particularly choice snapshot of who we are as iPhone owners.

Of course as I take a look at all that I realize maybe I'm OK. I've never broken up with someone via text or whatever. Of course it helps that I've been in the same relationship for 30 years now. I definitely prefer the college degree over the gadgets and I don't much care about how current your gadgets are because I don't much care how current MY gadgets are. I don't look at stuff I don't need to be looking at. Besides why do it on a two inch square monitor? So I guess I'm that OTHER percentage of iPhone users. I think I can live with that.

Call that the view from the Phlipside

Monday, November 23, 2009

Resource Review - Free Serif Software

(This is part of a year long series of resource reviews I've been doing. 52 resources in 52 weeks. You can see all the reviews in one place here)

Free Serif Software - High quality free software for desktop publishing, drawing, photos and more

OVERALL - A chance to download top quality software for no cost. Serif Software is based in England and makes the previous generation of their software available for free. A great selection of programs including Photos, Documents, Web Sites, Art, even Crafts and Scrapbooking.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? Why use something other than the latest and greatest? The simple answer is that most of us don't need the latest and greatest. Add in the budgetary restraints most of us work under and this is a great solution. I've been using PhotoPlus, PagePlus and DrawPlus for the last several years and really like them. If you want the latest versions they are very versatile and usually cost much less than the big name brands. There's also pay versions of things like video editing software too.

RESERVATIONS The one thing you don't get is the manual so there's certain element of trial by error. I've found most of the functions I've needed fairly quickly however and have started branching out into more complicated work.

RECOMMENDATION It's very high quality and it's free. What more needs saying?

Friday, November 20, 2009

View From the Phlipside - Nigerian Scams

These are the scripts from my weekly media commentary program on WRFA-LP Jamestown

My name is Jay Phillippi and I've spent my life in and around the media. TV, Radio, the movies and more. I love 'em and I hate em' and I always have an opinion. Call this the view from the Phlipside

Sometimes you come across a story that just makes you smile. A story that you realize you've been waiting for, hoping for but never dreaming that you would ever see it come true. And yet here it is, in black and white, Project Eagle Claw has been launched and is making some in roads on one of the great annoyances (for most of us) or online problems (for a few of us) out there.

What's Project Eagle Claw you ask? Project Eagle Claw is an ongoing effort by the Nigerian Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to shut down Nigerian based e-mail scammers. Yes, it's really true. The Nigerian government reports that in just the first couple months of the program they've shut down close to a thousand web sites and have made 18 arrests. And that's with the project really just getting under way. Nigeria is working with Microsoft and hopes to have Project Eagle Claw running full speed sometime next year. The announcement was made here in the U.S. in the last 30 days.

It seems Nigeria is tired of being the butt of international jokes. They are tired of being best known at this point in their history as the home of scum bag scammers who rip off people for their life's savings. It's bad for the national image and bad for business. We may consider the Nigerian scams a joke but in reality they are anything but a joke. The toll in just the last few years is measured in millions of dollars and some of the scams have been sophisticated enough to nearly drag even some banks into them.

And Nigeria is tired of it. So the new program, which should be fully online before the middle of next year, is expected to nail up to five thousand scam emails a DAY and will be able to warn people who might receive them that the Nigerian government has doubts about the origin of them. It's not as if the Nigerians hadn't been trying before. The problem was the old system was slow and simply couldn't keep up with the rapidly changing digital environment. Nigeria is currently in the top ten for countries associated with internet fraud. By making the business environment a whole lot tougher for the scammers they hope to drop out of that particular elite. Now THAT'S a Nigerian offer I'd be willing to take.

Call that the view from the Phlipside

Perfect expression of my geekiness

This pretty much covers most of what makes me a geek. I love it!

I don't know if it will work here but on the home page for XKCD if you hover your cursor over the comic you get a pop up window that reads : "Moments later, the White Witch rolls up and, confused, tries to tempt the probe with a firmware upgrade"

Which just makes the whole thing that much better.

Yes, I'm a geek.


Thursday, November 19, 2009

View From the Phlipside - Suggestive Youth

These are the scripts from my weekly media commentary program on WRFA-LP Jamestown

My name is Jay Phillippi and I've spent my life in and around the media. TV, Radio, the movies and more. I love 'em and I hate em' and I always have an opinion. Call this the view from the Phlipside

About 18 months ago a lot of the media talking head world of which I'm a part climbed up on our soap boxes to make whatever point we felt needed to be made about the photographs of teen media star Miley Cyrus taken by Annie Liebovitz for Vanity Fair. I came down pretty hard on Liebovitz and Miley's dad Billy Ray Cyrus for allowing his 15 year old daughter to be placed in that kind of a sexualized setting. We are teaching our children that it really IS all about sex and that you're never too young to start. As someone who works with young people and sees the damage created by that media message I was and am very much opposed to those kinds of images of and for our young people.

And that puts me in an interesting and admittedly uncomfortable position today. You see there's another instance of an underage young person being presented in very sexy photographs in the national media. Unlike the previous flap there is virtually no outrage about this case. In this case they are shirtless photos of 17 year old Taylor Rautner. In case the name means nothing to you (I will admit it didn't to me at first) Rautner plays the character Jacob Black in the current "Twilight" movies. The new movie and its promotional materials show him with less clothing on than anything in the Cyrus photos.

And no one has said a word. Why? Well 17 versus 15 certainly makes a difference. But at 17 he's still a minor and that should make a difference or we should get rid of the legal distinction. No, the more important reason is because he's a guy and there's a double standard. And that bothers me and I believe it should bother us all. If a 40 year old man has an affair with an 16 year old girl we are all outraged. If a 40 year old woman has an affair with a 16 year old boy there's a whole lot more people who just think the young man pretty darn lucky.

The reality is that sexually suggestive images are out of control in the media. That's neither new nor news. And yes, I'm a firm believer that adults are perfectly capable of making up their own minds on how to deal with it. But this ever more casual attitude towards suggestive images of young people needs to stop. It encourages inappropriate views of our kids both by outsiders and the young people themselves. The damage to self image, the glorification of shallow life choices have potentially devastating and long term effects. If it's wrong for Miley Cyrus it should be wrong for Taylor Rautner. And we should say so.

Call that the view from the Phlipside

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

View From the Phlipside - NaNoWriMo week 2

These are the scripts from my weekly media commentary program on WRFA-LP Jamestown

My name is Jay Phillippi and I've spent my life in and around the media. TV, Radio, the movies and more. I love 'em and I hate em' and I always have an opinion. Call this the view from the Phlipside

Week two from the NaNoWriMo experiment here on the Phlipside. NaNoWriMo is the National Novel Writing Month and your humble radio host decided to take a shot at the project. The goal is to write fifty thousand words of a novel in just thirty days. That's a mere sixteen hundred words or so A DAY for thirty days. It didn't seem that hard.

Week one was pretty good. We averaged about two thousand words a day which kept us well ahead of the curve. Now among the NaNoWriMo aficionados they warn about week two. Week two is where would be novelists hit the wall, run out of steam, decided that what they are writing is utter rubbish and quit. All the experts agree, you can not give in to week two. You must push through week two. In the words of Captain Peter Quincy Taggert (If you haven't seen Galaxy Quest you must) - Never Give Up, And Never Surrender!"

Yeah, like it's that easy. Week two was particularly hard for me because I would be away and unable to write for three days of the week. So I needed those two thousand words a day just to make up the ground I'd lose over the weekend. So how'd I do? Weeeeeeellllllll...... The week began pretty well. I was still nailing those two thousand word limits. OK, I did it ONCE this week. Then one day I only hit fifteen hundred. Below the minimum but still OK because I'd created a little bit of a pad. Then there was the nine hundred word day. Really not good. By the time I had to pack my bags and get away for the weekend I had only written twenty thousand words. Now in the reality of things that wasn't bad. But by Sunday morning I needed to be at the twenty five thousand word mark since it was half way. Five thou short. Not good.

I think I did come up with a solution for a problem that had been looming and I still have ideas that I need to get down into the computer. So I'm not quitting. But now I've got no choice I need to average just OVER two thousand words a day if I'm going to make the deadline.

And of course I keep reminding myself that at fifty thousand words I'm probably not done. That's a very short novel, more of a novella really, which means I'll still have plenty of writing left to do after November thirtieth comes and goes. But I don't have time to worry about that right now. Gotta write.

Call that the view from the Phlipside

Monday, November 16, 2009

Resouce Review - Taize

(This is part of a year long series of resource reviews I've been doing. 52 resources in 52 weeks. You can see all the reviews in one place here)

Taize Home website of The Taize community in France. (My apologies for not giving the final "e" in their name but I can't figure out how to do it in the software)

OVERALL - Taize is an international, ecumenical community founded in France in 1940 by a Protestant monk named Brother Roger. Over the years the community there has drawn large numbers of young adults to weekly meetings. And there has grown up a Taize style of contemplative worship. This website will not only give you great background on the movement and it's wide range of work but can also help you figure out how to bring some of that worship style to your youth.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? The basic outline and underlying logic of such a service are laid out under the "Prayer and Song" heading along with information about how to get copies of the music. The music is very simple and can be learned quite easily. Information on how and when to visit is available, plus contacts with folks already doing similar things inspired by the Taize community here in the U.S. Taize is not a movement that you join, in fact the more I look at the site the more I realize how virtually impossible it is to sum up quickly and concisely. Start from the place that says this is a resource for contemplative prayer and then explore from there.

RESERVATIONS As just mentioned part of the problem is simply that there's TOO much information. What the site desperately needs is a "Taize for beginners" option.

RECOMMENDATION I had never even heard of this community or style of worship before the first time I was exposed to it. It hit me like a thunder clap that day. Contemplative worship isn't for everyone but I'm a firm believer that teaching our young people ways to slow down and center themselves is a vital role that the church can play. I highly recommend this site.

Friday, November 13, 2009

View From the Phlipside - NBC

These are the scripts from my weekly media commentary program on WRFA-LP Jamestown

My name is Jay Phillippi and I've spent my life in and around the media. TV, Radio, the movies and more. I love 'em and I hate em' and I always have an opinion. Call this the view from the Phlipside

It's not easy being NBC these days. The peacock network finds itself in a position that few companies, let alone media companies would ever want to be.

Let's start with that most basic of TV yardsticks the ratings. The days of "Must See TV" are long gone apparently. Overall NBC is now the number four network in the land and it's a fairly comfortable number four. Number three ABC has a reasonable margin over the peacock folks and NBC is in no danger of falling into the grasp of the CW Network. The very concept of which has got to feature hugely in the nightmares of the networks executives. The only place that NBC sees any kind of bright spot is in the 18-34 year old range where, at least in the latest ratings available they climb to number three. Astoundingly CBS, the overall number one unsurprisingly, falls to the number 4 slot. Of course everyone in this particular demographic trails Fox by a huge margin so it's really a race for second best. And NBC loses even that.

On the corporate front you have the fact that your current corporate parent, General Electric, seems VERY interested in getting rid of you as soon as possible. Maybe even worse the company most interested in buying you, Comcast, isn't really interested in you at all. Comcast wants the Universal movie slash media group to create programming for their cable channels. One rumor has it that Comcast would prefer to buy the whole group then dump the TV network and the TV stations as quickly as possible. Talk about being the ugly sister.

Finally we have the Jay Leno experiment. Leno's show five nights a week isn't doing well. Worse yet it's killing the programs that follow it. Given that the show that immediately follows Leno's lead in is the local 11 o'clock news, usually a money maker for the local affiliates that's very bad news. It doesn't get any better for the Conan O'Brien show or the Jimmy Fallon show. Both of them have taken HUGE rating hits as well.

So is there ANY good news for the bird network? Curiously yes. Among the network online sites NBC recently moved into the number one spot. That's right the number four TV network has the web site with the most viewers for the month of September. Close to double the next highest network. The newly re-designed site offered lots of special programming including looks at the wedding on "The Office" plus the return of Jay Leno's Garage (Leno is an avid car collector). We'll have to see if they can continue to hold on to that one small light in the otherwise long dark night of the National Broadcasting Corporation.

Call that the view from the Phlipside

Thursday, November 12, 2009

View From the Phlipside - Sesame Street and Rolling Stone

These are the scripts from my weekly media commentary program on WRFA-LP Jamestown

My name is Jay Phillippi and I've spent my life in and around the media. TV, Radio, the movies and more. I love 'em and I hate em' and I always have an opinion. Call this the view from the Phlipside

If you believe that there is a higher power in control of the cosmos sometimes you have to wonder at their sense of humor. For example this week was chosen as the birth date for two media icons that in many ways couldn't be much different yet in some ways are quite similar. It was 42 years ago on Monday that Jann Wenner founded the first mainstream entry in counter culture journalism - "Rolling Stone" magazine. And it was 40 years ago on Tuesday that Sesame Street started counting and spelling its way through our collective consciousnesses.

Sesame Street is so mainstream these days it's easy to forget how revolutionary it was at the time. We accept that children's TV should be smart, well written and with top of the line production values. That was something totally new forty years ago. We accept that the characters of children's programming should be media stars in their own right (just like Howdy Doody and Capt Kangaroo) but that they should be ready and able to take on serious subjects in ways that even our youngest children can understand and not be frightened by. The death of a long time actor on the show was a landmark in children's TV when the show took on the subject of his loss head on. And Sesame Street has a world wide acceptance and syndication that would make virtually any other show in the history of TV blush at their shortcomings. The best part for me is that the producers of Sesame Street are smart enough to hold on to the important parts while letting the local version adapt to the local cultural norms.

For Rolling Stone the start was not so auspicious. Wenner raised money by soliciting people on a mailing list he'd stolen from a local radio station. 34,000 of his first 40,000 issues were returned unsold even with John Lennon on the cover. Wenner adopted one very important aspect of the mainstream media for his counter culture effort, he got good writers. In fact he landed some of the most brilliant writers of his generation. Writers like Hunter S. Thompson who were going to find it hard to get started anywhere else. Maybe that's why the good doctor showed up to ask for a job with a case of beer under his arm. You may not agree with the politics (or even the music reviews) but Rolling Stone was well written and always worth reading.

Times have changed for both these media icons. Rolling Stone has changed the look and size of their print version and like everyone else is moving heavily into digital. Sesame Street keeps plugging away and has to take a certain guilty parenthood for things like the Broadway hit Avenue Q which certainly never would have had a chance if we weren't all so familiar with Oscar the Grouch and Bert and Ernie.

Call that the view from the Phlipside

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Things That I Do

A moment to catch up. It's been pretty hectic and to be honest a couple projects are really weighing me down. They don't really play to my strengths so I'm especially aware that I'm under performing. All I can say is I've done what I can and if it falls down, it falls down. I don't have the time or the energy for intense worry.

Let's see, what else is going on? Volleyball team continues to be pretty bad. Still have only won once this session I think. Came close last week, could have easily doubled or tripled our win total. It remains mostly a good time.

I'm supposed to be learning to play guitar. I must confess my practice time has dropped to zero. Just too many other things right now. But my faithful musical friends awaits with perfect patience if probably less than perfect tune at the moment.

Getting ready for my first meeting as a member of the Standing Commission on Ministry Development, a national body of the Episcopal Church. (And before anyone jumps on me for the "national" I am well aware that we are in fact an international denomination, a fact which I cherish and proclaim. There's just no easy term I can think of to represent that this body is drawn from the larger church. It's quick and easy and understandable if not perfectly precise. Bear with me). This is something of a big deal (there's a limited number of these Commissions with a limited number of seats and lots of people who want them) and it's a six year commitment. To a large degree I enjoy this kind of work and it matches my gifts as well. So I'm excited. Plus it involves at least some travel and I LIKE travel! Next week I go to Chicago. Don't know if I'll have any time to see various friends while I'm there. Since this is a first trip and a training/community building trip I'm going to work on committing most of my time to the task at hand.

I WILL be very interested in seeing what the Commission does. A quick (very, very quick) look seems to indicate LOTS of stuff for clergy and very little if any for the laity. I'm fairly certain I don't like that balance. We'll see.

You see how I am? Put me on a board and I walk through the door planning on making waves. [Evil Grin]

The current soap opera of my life concerns my cars. Two very LONG stories that I'll spare you here. The short version has a buck deer taking out the entire right side of my SUV and a flat tire on the other car (plus news that we need a new battery). The flat tire would normally only get a foot note except along the way I discovered that my car lacks a tire iron. Not sure how that happens but it makes trying to change a flat rather problematic. Borrowed one, discovered the mini-spare was almost flat. Plus a 50 mile mini-spare when you're 90+ miles from home...not real useful. So we had to try and find an open tire store on a Sunday afternoon.

Thank you Wal-Mart. I will have nothing but good things to say about them for 6 months.

The big thing right now is the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) where I am trying to write 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days. It is day 11 and I've written 18,500+. That's ahead of the minimum to stay on target but a little behind my personal goals. So I should really be writing on the novel, not on the blog. I think I've hit part of the dreaded week two slump. I'll get at least 1,000 words on the virtual page today and I have hopes of hitting 2,000. We'll see. It has been a very interesting experience, some of which I've already written about.

My immediate goal is to survive the next 10 days. Then my trip will be over, that project that is not working so well will be over and I'll hopefully be well on my way to 50,000 words. Hey, the volleyball team might just win a game too!