Gone Riding – On the trail of the Whispering Giants

Kanauga, Ohio. 6/8/13

Visiting Kanauga, Ohio on 6/8/13 as part of my A Trip From Z to A Grand Tour.

Many of you may know that in addition to teaching mass comm/media literacy, I also like riding my motorcycle fairly long distances.  One of the activities I try to do every summer is a Grand Tour.  These tours have a theme of things you need to collect photos of.  For example, two years ago I did a tour where I needed to collect towns with names that either started with the letter Z or ended with the letter A.  It was called “A Trip From Z to A.”

This year, I’m On The Trail of the Whispering Giants.  Whispering Giants are 10-20-foot tall sculptures of Native American figures carved out of tree trunks by artist Peter Wolf Toth.  He’s done approximately 70 of these, scattered across the United States and Canada.  The goal of the tour is to find and photograph as many of these as possible, along with your “rally flag.”  So far, I’ve collected three: ones in Lincoln, NE; Troy, KS; and Iowa Falls, IA.

Over the next few days, I’m going to be riding around the Great Lakes with my friend Matt, and I’ll also use this as an opportunity to collect more Whispering Giants. So, for the next week-and-a-half my blog is going to be devoted to stories and photos from my travels.  And then back to work!

Lincoln, Nebraska, May 3rd.

These photos were taken at the Indian Center in Lincoln.  The center provides counseling services, meeting space, and a powwow circle, among other things. I visited this Whispering Giant with my friend Mike Konz, and we had a nice chat with Nettie Grant Sikyta, who is the youth suicide prevention coordinator for the center.

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Troy, Kansas, May 20th

Finding this one was relatively easy because the town had signs leading the way.

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Iowa Falls, Iowa, May 23rd

This one was in a lovely setting, right next the the town’s veterans memorial.

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 (Keep reading – There are at least four more posts in this series.)

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Celebrate the 4th of July with Neil Finn singing about dogs

So I’m trying to be back in the habit of posting weekly to the blog, and I’m also trying to finish up my grading for my summer class, so I’m going to cheat and just post two Neil Finn (of Crowded House fame) songs about his dogs.

I’m sure you’ll forgive me because Neil is far more entertaining than I am.

Happy 4th of July!

Lester – Neil Finn acoustic solo

Lester is a song about a dalmatian he once had who was hit by a car but recovered from the accident.  To the best of my knowledge he’s never recorded it on an album, but he sometimes does it as an encore.

Anytime – Live performance with guest pianist from audience

Another lovely song about a dog who has had a traffic accident with a guest pianist Neil picked out from the audience.

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Everyone’s Gone to the Movies

We’re headed into the heart of summer, and that makes this a great time to talk about the movies.

    • Film composer James Horner dies in plane crash
      James Horner, best known for his score for Titanic, died earlier this week from injuries he suffered when the plane he was piloting crashed. I’ve long been a fan of his film music, starting with his brilliant score for Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Kahn. I loved the score Jerry Goldsmith did for the first Star Trek movie, and I loved the contrast of Horner’s work on Kahn.  He also did a wonderfully uplifting score for Apollo 13. He will be missed.
    • Remembering Christopher Lee
      Horror movie great Christopher Lee passed away June 7th at the age of 93. While he had lengthy career as a monster/creature/villain, he was best known for playing the evil Count Dooku in the Star Wars prequels and the wizard Saruman in the Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies.Top 10 Christopher Lee performances from WatchMojo
    • Why Jurassic World being a big hit is bad for movies
      Strictly speaking, anytime a movie is a big hit, that’s good for the movies.  And by all reports, Jurassic World is a great deal of fun.  (I’m hoping to finally get to see it early next week.) But Charlie Jane Anders, writing the io9 blog, suggests that it will lead to more and more over-the-top sequels of franchise movies without a shred of originality.  While I have no doubt she’s right, Jurassic World is hardly alone in encouraging such things.  And good, new original big movies are always few and far between.  On the other hand, if reading her blog post gets you go pull out the disk of last summer’s Edge of Tomorrow (aka Live, Die, Repeat), it will be a good thing.
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Students in Lexington, Neb. revive local movie theater

The Majestic Theatre in Lexington, NE.

The Majestic Theatre in Lexington, NE

If you grow up or live in a small town, you know how important it is to have a local movie theater.  Your theater is a place for people in the community to get together and have fun.  It’s a place for young people to go to on a date.  It’s the place where you make memories of those fun summer movies.

(Nope, I don’t have fond memories of the 13 times I saw Star Wars in the summer of 1977.  Nope, not me….)

I love the fact that here in Kearney we have The World Theatre, a revival/art house theater run by a community non-profit, that plays a great combination of vintage movies and films that would never play here otherwise.

These are things that people who live in urban areas can take for granted.

So I was really excited to read about a group of students in Lexington, Nebraska who worked over a several year period to purchase, renovate and restart their closed local movie theater, The Majestic. The article in the Kearney Hub newspaper today tells about a group of kids who started work in middle school trying to revive their local theater.  With the help of fund raisers, grants, construction classes, and big helping of community engagement, the venue is now open three nights a week showing first run movies like Pitch Perfect 2 and Tomorrowland.

The theater is being run as a non-profit with volunteers.

What a great gift to the town of Lexington, and what a great lesson to the young people who decided they wanted to make it happen!


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Everything is a Remix – “Wagon Wheel” Edition

I just went to see the band Old Crow Medicine Show about a week ago, and and I highly recommend seeing them if you have the chance.

They are particularly famous for the song “Wagon Wheel.”  Wait a minute, is that their song?

Well – the song is co-written by OCMS’s Ketch Secor and Bob Dylan.  How did Bob Dylan come into play? A bit of the chorus of the song comes from a bootleg recording by Dylan for a movie soundtrack recorded back in the 70s.

Ketch heard that fragment, in which Dylan mumbles quite a bit, and fleshed out the full song from it. Before Ketch started work on it, the song was known as “Rock Me Mama.”  It’s since been the signature song for OCMS.

But it was also a huge recent hit for Darius Rucker, former front man for Hootie and the Blow Fish. (And one of very few top country hits by an African American singer.)

But the roots of the song go back further – Dylan credits the words “Rock me, mama” to blues player Arhtur “Big Boy” Crudup.  And Crudup may have gotten the idea from a Big Bill Broony recording.

In short, you will see that the history of Wagon Wheel follows the themes disucssed in Everything is a Remix Part 1.  It’s not that “Wagon Wheel” isn’t an original song – it clearly is.  It’s just that almost everything in art and music owes a debt to what came before.

P.S. Devil Makes Three was the opening act for Old Crow, and they were fantastic!

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And We’re Back – Questions Worth Asking

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How “Little Shop of Horrors” would have ended if Disney hadn’t forced a change

If you’ve ever had me for class, you know that as much of a Disney fan as I can be (Love Big Hero Six and Wreck It Ralph), I really hate what the studio has done to some classic stories.  (Don’t get me started on why I hate the Disney version of The Little Mermaid!)

Among the stories I think Disney has ruined is the wonderful man-eating-plant-horror-musical Little Shop of Horrors.  The play version is clearly a comic tragedy that ends with everyone dying and the hero Seymour learning the consequences of the sin of hubris. But in the Disney movie, Seymour kills the plant and everyone lives happily ever after. And the whole point of the story is lost.

But it didn’t have to be that way!

Director Frank Oz originally shot the movie with a version of the play’s ending. And here it is – with an extended dream sequence of one of my favorite songs from the movie:

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TBT – Siskel & Ebert talk about the movies

This is a reposting (with slight editing) of a post from four years ago.  Hard for me to come to terms with the fact that this presentation is from 20 years ago!

My JMC 406 commentary class is going to be talking about writing critical reviews over the next week or two.  Here are a couple of  readings and great talk by movie critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert for my students.  But for all of you thinking about reviewing, these materials are all great.  (And, please, take the time to watch the C-SPAN video of Siskel and Ebert talking to National Press Club back in 1995.  Get passed the complaints about Sen. Bob Dole and get to where they talk about what makes movies good or bad.)

Siskel & Ebert at the National Press Club

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Movie Links for my Media Literacy Students

We’ve been talking about the movies this week in my media literacy class, and I’ve shown a range of video clips, but there are even more clips that I haven’t had time to show.  So here are links to a host of links on the movies for you:

And finally

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Columnists for your reading pleasure

Here are links to a number of columnists and columnist index pages from newspapers around the country for my JMC 406 commentary writing students, and anyone else who’s interested.  It has previously been published here in somewhat different form.

National Columnists

Commentary from newspapers around the United States:

Commentary from Nebraska newspapers:
Note: Many of the posts here are letters to the editor.  They are interesting, but they are not newspaper columns. If you use this link, check what you are reading carefully.

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