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2014 National Toy Hall of Fame Nominees Ranked

2014 National Toy Hall of Fame Nominees Ranked


Every Year in September, The Strong National Museum of Play releases its 12 finalists for the National Toy Hall of Fame.  Since 1998, the The Strong’s National Toy Hall of Fame “recognizes toys that have inspired creative play and enjoyed popularity over a sustained period.”  Selections to the hall are made on the advice of “historians, educators, and other individuals who exemplify learning, creativity and discovery through their lives and careers.”  I think that last part should read, “adult who still plays with toys,” which would probably cover most of us here at Funkhouser.

These “historians” have inducted 53 toys to the Hall of fame since 1998, including the Atari 2600, Crayola Crayons, Lincoln Logs, LEGO, Mr. Potato Head, Play-Doh, roller skates, and most recently in 2013, Chess and the Rubber Duck.  Also, three times in the hall of fame history, an item that wasn’t a “finalist” was named to the hall: Cardboard Box (2005), Blanket (2011), and Stick (2008).  (See all of the inductees)

Last Tuesday, The Strong put out the list of 12 finalists for induction into the Hall of Fame in 2014: American Girl dolls, bubbles, Fisher-Price Little People, Hess Toy Trucks, little green army men, My Little Pony, Operation Skill Game, paper airplane, pots and pans, Rubik’s Cube, Slip N’ Slide, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  The expert committee will help select just TWO of the 12 toys to enter the hall on the following criteria:

  • Icon-status: The toy is widely recognized, respected, and remembered
  • Longevity: The toy is more than a passing fad and has enjoyed popularity over multiple generations
  • Discovery: The toy fosters learning, creativity, or discovery through play
  • Innovation: The toy profoundly changed play or toy design. A toy may be inducted on the basis of this criterion without necessarily having met all of the first three.

While the newest inductees won’t be added to the hall until November 6th, we at Funkhouser thought we’d go ahead and make our vote for who we thought should get in.  Our “expert committee” included the entire Funkhouser staff along with Drew Franklin, Shannon The Dude and Ryan Lemond.  Votes were tabulated on a 3-2-1 points system to find our definitive inductees.


#12 Pots and Pans (0 Points)


Pots and Pans happen to be the least toy looking of all of the nominees, but that may make it the most likely to enter the Hall of Fame, given its predecessors of Stick and Blanket.  Pots and Pans can be used in toy cooking sets, or just by children who need something to bang on while mom and dad cook in the kitchen.  Unfortunately children are less likely to use these as toys now since kids are now being made contestants on Chopped, MasterChef and Rachel and Guy’s Kid’s Cookoff.  Stop playing with pots and pans kids, you’ve got a scholarship to win with those things.


#11 Hess Trucks (0 Points)


Apparently Hess Toy Trucks have been around 1964.  A set of toys based around the Hess Gasoline chain, a predominantly east coast company.  These toys were among the first to have working lights and sounds. Hess put these out during the holidays which make them highly collectable items.  So, we’ve got nothing against you Hess, but no Hall for you this year.


#10 American Girl Dolls (0 Points)


We’d explain why no votes came in for these dolls that explore America’s social and cultural history… but it’s better if Conan did it for us:


#9 My Little Pony (0 Points)



My Little Pony is currently making a resurgence with My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.  Also the growing world of Tumblr and Bronies, My Little Pony is back in the cultural lexicon.  Although Twilight Sparkle and Derpy Hooves (that’s a real one), get no votes from the committee.


#8 – Rubik’s Cube (2 Points)


Let’s first discuss the stress that the Rubix Cube has had to go through in the history of the Hall of Fame voting.  Since 2002, the Rubix Cube has been a finalist six times.  This is the first time it has been a finalist since 2011, where it lost to Dollhouse (the toy, not the Joss Whedon show), Hot Wheels and a blanket.  Rubik’s probably hasn’t won in all of those six times because no one on the committee has been able to solve one, I assume.  There are quite a few Rubik’s cube laying around without any stickers, having been “solved” since all sides are now black.


#7 Slip ‘n Slide (3 Points)


The Slip ‘n Slide is one of the many toys that could enter the hall of fame without the need of actually purchasing the actual toy.  Slip ‘n Slide was the toy of the summer on a hot day, get the entire group of neighborhood kids together and get to sliding.  There were about four things that make the Slip ‘n Slide not hall of fame worthy.  1) All that grass that you’d have to wash off after oversliding the too short tarp. 2) Broken bones when you tried to surf down the Slip ‘n Slide.  3) Sliding over rocks that you didn’t pick up before putting the tarp down. 4) Being the first kid to slide down the Slip ‘n Slide before the water was actually on the tarp.  But if you search Slip ‘n Slide on YouTube, people have taken the toy to the extreme.


#6 Fisher-Price Little People (3 Points – 1 First Place Vote)


Name one kid you knew growing up that didn’t have this Fisher-Price Little People farm in their house.  Fisher-Price started the Little People in 1959 with the Safety School Bus.  Originally made of wood, then later plastic, these toys have been a staple in homes around the country, and have covered schools, airports, zoos and the farm above.  This is a good shot to get in the Hall of Fame (after also having beena finalist six times), but it doesn’t make the Funkhouser Hall of Fame.


#5 Operation Skill Game (4 Points)


The Operation Skill game was invented in 1962 and has been one of the most successful dexterity games of all time.  It’s also one of the few games, along with Mouse Trap that is played without actually using any of the rules.  Just think about it.  When was the last time you played Operation and actually used the cash or cards that come along with it?  You just open the box and start to see if you can get the funny bone out with out making Cavity Sam’s nose go off.  I bet you didn’t even know his name was Cavity Sam?  Is this the kind of relationship we’re in?  Then take my broken heart, along with my bread basket…


#4 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (9 Points – Two First Place Votes)


Growing up, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were legit.  They had toys for every single character in the show.  Tell me you didn’t have toys for Bebop, Rocksteady, Krang, the Foot Soldiers and Shredder.  Not to mention Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo and Raphael.  Of course, at that time, we didn’t understand that TNMT was basically a cartoon to shill out all of these action figures to us.  But, look at that picture above.  There was so much cool stuff that went along with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  Especially the vehicle that shot pizzas at their enemies, the Pizza Thrower.  C’mon.  Also for full disclosure, Drew Franklin’s ballot:

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#3 Little Green Army Men (10 Points – Two First Place Votes)


Little Green Army Men pretty much come 20,000 to a bag, which costs about $5, I assume.  While they really only came in about 10 varieties, you could stage so many battles with them.  Except the radio guy, he was just the Zack Morris of Little Green Army Men.  Probably the only think keeping these out of the Funkhouser Toy Hall of Fame, is that outside of LEGOs, Little Green Army Men were the most susceptible to being stepped on with bare feet, and the bayonet guy became the first guy to die in the next battle.  These little guys have been around since the 1930s and are still going strong.  Except the radio guy… he was usually the first to be tested out once you learned how parachutes worked.


#2 Paper Airplane (11 Points – Two First Place Votes)


Granted, none of the paper airplanes we ever made looked like the one pictured above, but Paper Airplanes played to our creativity.  Think about it, it took one sheet of paper, but you could try out millions of different variations.  The first paper airplane that you made, the one that flew straight into the ground, sparked your interest for trial and error.  What went wrong? How do I fix it?  You make a change, and it flies a little further. Make another change, and flew in a loop and ended up behind you.  Then you bought that book from the Scholastic Book Fair and you made an overly complicated airplane, but it flew 20 feet.  Either way, Paper Airplanes have been a toy that has and will surpass the test of time, making it a perfect entry into the Toy Hall of Fame.  Also:


#1 Bubbles (12 Points – Two First Place Votes)


Nearly every person on the Funkhouser voting committee (not Drew), voted for Bubbles.  It’s just soap. According to the Toy Hall of Fame, pictures as early as the 17th century show kids playing with bubbles in Belgium.  A company in Chicago called Chemtoy (that sounds safe) started selling them in the 1940s.  But they’re nearly perfect.  Watching a kid see a bubble for the first time, then immediately trying to pop it is a pretty satisfying experience.  Even today, if you see bubbles, your first inclination is to pop them.  It’s a game all in its own.  Is that why we enjoy them?  Maybe.  Is it even a toy? Maybe.  It certainly fosters learning and creativity for sure.  Taking the stick out and trying to blow a bubble, then a bubble inside a bubble.  You never want to stop playing with it until the bottle is empty, and maybe that’s what makes it a perfect toy.


Sometimes its the simplest things that become Toy Hall of Fame inductees, like sticks and cardboard boxes.  Clearly, with the voting from the Funkhouser staff, that also holds true with Paper Airplane and Bubbles.  With all the technology, the iPhones, PS4s and XBOX Ones, you kind of forget that you don’t need all that to have a good time.  Just grab a toy, go outside, and have fun like when you were a kid.  It surely will brighten your day just a little bit.

What would your vote be of these 12 to be named to the National Toy Hall of Fame?

The Simpsons and Shocking TV Deaths

The Simpsons and Shocking TV Deaths


Though I’m sure it was lost in all of the hubbub around the Simpsons/Family Guy crossover, the shocking death on The Simpsons that’s been advertised since the beginning of summer finally occurred.  Contrary to all of the drawn-out advertisements for the episodes, the death actually happens fairly early in the episode and probably isn’t a character that you’d have expected.  And, honestly, it was fine.  It was fine the same way that the Simpsons have been fine for the past 5 years.  Not offensive, not bad, not all that funny.

It’s basically a trope these days to talk about how unfunny the Simpsons has been (compared to its earlier run) recently, but I did find myself staring rather listlessly as this episode wound its way to the point…

Aside: I think that I’m 100% on-board with the openings.  The absurdist short that comprises the opening sequence was brilliant.  The time travel, future entertainment weirdness that was on the screen for those three minutes was the best part of the night. Here is the link to watch this super awesome intro.  End Aside.


Krusty is being roasted (a la the Comedy Central roasts) and it makes him very sad.  Bart has a suggestion that he could cheer himself up about his life if he goes to speak with his father, Rabbi Hyman Krustofski, who would obviously tell him he’s a worthwhile human being.  During the conversation, right as he’s about to tell Krusty what he’s always thought of his comedy, the good Rabbi passes on in mid-’Eh’. Krusty goes through several more crises, trying to live up to what he thinks his father would’ve wanted him to do, and there are a couple of decent jokes and puns.  After the funeral, Lisa begins to worry about Homer’s health and spends the rest of the episode trying to do things to protect her father from himself.

We’ve been here before; after 26 seasons, there’s almost no way that the show wouldn’t repeat itself in some manner.  We’ve had deaths on the Simpsons before, we’ve had touching bits with Krusty seeking his father’s approval, Lisa often worries about her father, who has well-documented health problems. It’s not that the Simpsons isn’t as funny as it used to be that irked me about last night, though.  That’s fine, and these writer’s have earned the right to be lazy  many times over.

I think what bothered me was something that probably wasn’t even the writer’s fault.  I’m so tired of the ‘shocking TV death’ thing that seems to be so en vogue.  It was just as dumb and pointless an ad campaign for a TV death as the death of Brian on Family Guy.  Now, I doubt that they’re going to bring Hymen Krustofski back, due to fan outrage, but my point is the same. Whether it’s The Simpsons, Family Guy, Scandal, one of the CSI/L&O/NCIS franchises, The Leftovers, or another of the myriad shows offing people left and right, the (relatively) unearned  death of characters is a plot device that needs to go away.

While we all love to witness human emotion and we all love to see family relationships change, fall apart, and get rebuilt, killing an ancillary character is the laziest and most annoying way to do so.  It’s like they have an equation that reads:


And who knows?  Maybe it does.  Maybe I’m just a grumpy person who doesn’t have a heart.  But I can tell you that the majority of these shocking deaths on TV have the opposite affect on me.  Instead of making me sad, or connecting me to any grieving televised family in any way, their heavy handed emotional string pulling leaves me as dead inside as the characters they gleefully off.

The Vanderbilt University Guide to Football for the Uninitiated Student

The Vanderbilt University Guide to Football for the Uninitiated Student

Hello, friends. Good to see you! I have great news! No, you first. No, you. No…seriously. Go ahead. Okay, we’ll both go at the same time. One, two, three I GOT YOU TICKETS TO THE MAROON 5 CONCERT! I know how much you love them, and so I thought I’d surprise you with…wait, did you just say Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine murdered your loved one? Wow, this surprise took a weird and gruesome twist.

Friends, I don’t need to tell you that tomorrow is our face-off against the mighty Vanderbilt Commodores. It should be fun. Those Nashville smarties are always a good time. But it’s interesting to note that the eggheads from Music City, most of them, aren’t born football fans. Oh no. In fact, in the last couple of years the school has had such little luck recruiting new fans that they’ve resorted to sending out an email document to the intellectual new students explaining just what it is they’re supposed to go out and cheer for on fall Saturdays. And, lucky for you, we just happen to have gained a copy of said email document for our own perusal here today. You wonder how Commodore fans are born? I give you the Vanderbilt University Guide to Football for the Uninitiated Student. As always, you’re welcome.

To: The Vanderbilt Freshman Class
From: David Williams, Vanderbilt Athletic Director
Re: Football

Dear New Students,

We are pleased to welcome you to Vanderbilt University and your new fandom of the Vanderbilt Commodores Sporting Teams! This fall marks another banner year for the ‘Dores and we can’t wait to see you rooting on the team in all its glory each Saturday!

Focus groups have recently alerted us to the fact that many of you, while excelling in academic areas during your high school years, may not be particularly familiar with the nuances of the sport of football. That’s why today we’d like to offer up a few tips for getting through the season that we hope will help you understand the game better so you may garner maximum enjoyment of your new school’s team and its “tradition.”

I. Tailgating
Ah, the age-old tradition of tailgating at a University sports game! Tailgating is the act of congregating before a game, often in an area just outside or near the venue where the game will be played. Here you can enjoy the camaraderie of your friends and fellow students. Suggested items of conversation at a “tailgate party” may include (but are not limited to):
-How your sport team is faring statistically in its recent events
-Which player on the team is your favorite player
-The degree of agreeability of the supplied food (if applicable)
-Your opinion on the eventual outcome of the sporting match
Generally, alcoholic beverages are served at a football tailgate party, but you are by no means expected to partake in these beverages. Should you choose to do so, please know your limits. Also, please leave your paper mache swords and magic wands at home — this is not the place for them. There will be plenty of time to be a class-5 sorcerer at your local guild gathering on Tuesday nights; Saturdays are for football!

II. Attire
What’s the proper attire for attending a college football game? We have good news and bad news. The good news is that you will not be close enough (probably) to the field for a player to throw a football at your face and break your glasses — but the bad news is that there should at least an effort to wear clothing that supports your team (The Commodores!) and shows a commitment to their victory. Don’t hide that Vandy sweatshirt beneath a bulky trenchcoat; swap your Spiderman face paint for a sharp Vanderbilt logo or some eye black. A jersey is always a great idea too! If you’re worried that you may be mistaken for a player, don’t worry. Also, a “jersey” is the name of the shirt the football players wear. If you must wear a button-down shirt, be sure to make it the colors of the team — black and gold — or wear a university t-shirt over it. Not wearing school colors will certainly make you stand out like Doctor Octopus in an issue of Iron Man: Secret Invasion!

III. Gameplay
Understanding the game of football can be a daunting task at first, but you’ll pick it up in no time! One team is the “offense,” which completes a series of pre-planned plays in an effort to get the ball downfield to score a “touchdown” for 6 points. The “defensive” team tries to stop the offense. If a touchdown is scored, the scoring team will get to attempt a kick the football for an extra point. Also, a “safety” is when…actually, you know what? Just cheer when everyone else cheers.

IV. Length of Game
The game consists of four fifteen-minute quarters. If you sit through two of these quarters you will be rewarded with a marching band performance! Then only two more until you get to go back to World of Warcraft!!

V. Cheering
Cheering is an important part of being a football fan.
Wrong: Win the contest, team!
Right: Win the [game], [Vandy]!
Wrong: Make the ball go into the score quadrant!
Right: [Put] the ball into the [endzone]!
Wrong: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug!
Right: [Go Commodores]!

With the right attitude and commitment to our football team, you can help cheer Vanderbilt to victory this season! We can’t wait to spot you out at the stadium on Saturdays, after your Civil War re-enactment but before your midnight RISK marathon. See you there!

David Williams
Athletic Director, Vanderbilt University

Skittles Proves Once Again It’s the King of Weird Advertising

To many, Skittles are nothing more than those chewy fruit candies you eat out of your kids’ Halloween haul after you’ve devoured all the really good candy. But over the last few years, Skittles emerged as a brand that decided to eschew the lovable mascots and catchy jingles that are traditionally used to sell sugary garbage to kids. Instead, Skittles churns out ads that range from the weird to the grotesque — all punctuated with their “taste the rainbow” tagline — in hopes that, when you’re perusing the candy aisle trying to decide which mixture of high fructose corn syrup and artificial color dye you’re going to buy to try to plug the hole of loneliness in your soul,  you’ll think about candy shooting out of a weird kid’s head or a ginger-haired boy who has a terrible candy-based skin infection and grab yourself a giant bag of Skittles to pour down your throat.

The latest ad, featuring a giant spider and a couple of clueless kids, arrived just in time for Halloween and upholds the company’s recent commitment to mixing strange imagery and dark humor to hawk their rainbow-colored wares, proving once again that, even in a world where brands like Old Spice and Axe Body Spray seem to be locked in a battle-to-the-death to produce the most absurd ads ever, Skittles remains the World Heavyweight Champion of Weird Advertising.

Need proof? Here are five of the most memorable (and flat-out weirdest) Skittles ads ever:


5. Clench the Rainbow- Two dudes in the clutches of giant hands hatch a plan to escape that centers around locating a giant bag of Skittles.


4. Skittles Smile - An awkward schlub at the go-kart track suddenly becomes the most desirable guy around when he flashes his Skittles teeth.


3. Touch the Rainbow - A kind old man suffers a life of infinite sadness because everything he touches turns to Skittles.


2. Blend the Rainbow (aka the “Sheep Boys” commercial) – Two sheeple eat Skittles off a tree trunk and enjoy a brief respite from the living hell that must be their lives.


1. Share the Rainbow (aka the “Beard” commercial) – Behold, the creepiest commercial ever created:


If the idea of a man using his beard to feed you Skittles and caress your face doesn’t make you want to run right out and buy a bunch of candy, you must be out of your mind. Keep up the great work, Skittles!




Josh Hopkins on Celebrity Name Game and More Game Show News

Josh Hopkins on Celebrity Name Game and More Game Show News

Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 10.13.16 AM

Earlier in the year, it was announced that Craig Ferguson, host of The Late Late Show, would be taking on a new venture in hosting a game show called Celebrity Name Game.  On Monday, Ferguson’s show debuted (in syndication, mind you), and on Tuesday, #BBN’s own Josh Hopkins was one of the celebrities to play the game, and he did a pretty good job.

The game works as follows:  Two teams of regular people get to pair up with one celebrity each.  In one of Tuesday’s episodes, it was Hopkins and Sheryl Crow.  In the first round, famous names are shown on a screen behind the contestants, and the celebrity stands in the middle and tries to give clues to get the contestants to guess.  In the second round, the celebrities switch teams, a la Pyramid, and one of the contestants must give clues to their partner and the celebrity.  In the third round, the celebrities take a break, and Ferguson gives clues, in his particular style, at a podium like Family Feud.  The overall winning team must get the celebrities to guess 10 famous people, restaurants, characters, etc. in 1:15 to win $20,000.

Check out Hopkins’ performance on Celebrity Name Game:

Watch it while you have a chance, it could get taken down…


The Price is Right’s Clock Game Gets a Facelift

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The Clock Game has been a staple on The Price is Right since 1972.  In the last 42 years, the Clock Game has looked pretty much the same, other than some minor tweaks.  However, that will all change, starting Friday.  Executive Producer Mike Richards had this to say to YahooTV:

“We’ve been wanting to update Clock Game for three years now!” said Richards. “Clock Game is a classic, but we thought making the clock itself the dominant part of the set piece, rather than a small part of the display, would make it easier and more fun to watch. We’ve looked at 20 different designs and finally came up with what you see on the show in Season 43!”

This week is the premiere week for The Price is Right, and they are bringing out this new electronic look for a few of the pricing games.  Earlier in the week, Carey and TPiR reinstated a game that hasn’t been played in years called “Time is Money.”  It also has a very electronic look that is a bit different than the usual TPiR fare.  It almost looks like the show is trying to pull off a primetime look for the daytime show.  You can see the debut of “Time is Money” below:


Sports Jeopardy! Debuts on Crackle Today

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Crackle’s Original Programming is mainly known for one show, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.  Crackle can now boast that they are the home of Sports Jeopardy!.  The Alex Trebek spinoff continues the 22 minute format, but this time, as you could probably guess, all the questions are about sports. The show is hosted by former ESPN anchor Dan Patrick and follows the same rules, and yes, commercial breaks as its predecessor.  The one real change that you can see in the image above is that there are now four clues per category instead of five.  I watched the first episode, and it’s as successful of a game show as Jeopardy!, however, Patrick’s introduction of the show makes you wonder if this was not meant to be the first episode aired.  He doesn’t say, “hey, this is a new show,” but instead shills for the Sports Jeopardy! app instead.  It’s a weird intro, but the show still works as a whole.    You can watch the whole episode here, but I’ll put the preview below:


Other miscellaneous items that are going on in the game show world is that Terry Crews is the new host of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? (The question mark isn’t actually in the title anymore, I’m just asking).  Also, a woman almost won Fast Money by herself (!) on Family Feud:


Nation’s Schoolchildren Demand Congressional Work Schedule

Nation’s Schoolchildren Demand Congressional Work Schedule


more recess

Movement Spokesman, Little Johnny Johnson.

The nation’s schoolchildren are up in arms today over what they perceive to be unjust education laws.  Specifically citing Congress’ resumption of a recess, after only 8 days back from their summer recess, students from grades K-12 all walked out of their classrooms and to the playground, in an unprecedented show of underage solidarity.

Spokesman for the newly christened ‘Occupy Playscapes’ movement, Little Johnny Johnson (pictured above), told KSR that this movement was less about criticizing the idle ineptitude of our nation’s lawmakers, and more about taking a stand against inequity.

“We like to pway,” Little Johnny said adorably.  “Congwess likes to pway too.  I don’t unduwrstand why owur nation’s repwensentatives get to have weeks and weeks of wrecess, and we onwy get tirty minutes a day.”

Little Johnny’s statement was met with a raucous chorus of “Yeahs!” and “You tewll does guys boss!” and “I’m hungwy.  Where awre my Goldfish?”

Johnny’s teacher, Ms. Murtaugh, supports her student’s rights to protest, but thinks that they are missing out on valuable time in the classroom.  “Obviously I think that they should be in the classroom longer.  Learning math, science, how to read.  Getting real work done.  But when you compare them to Congress… I guess they kind of have a point.”

Johnny and his classmates are currently working on a Bill called the “Amewrican Rwecess and Pway Akct” or ARPA.  Co-sponsored by the most astute and earnest Congressman on the Hill, Rep. James Lankford (R-OK), the bill seems to have little chance of passage, but this doesn’t seem to phase Little Johnny one bit.

“This is Amewica.  We have wights n stuff.  Like the wight to skip owur naps.  And the wight to eat awll of the popsicles in the fweezor, except the puwrple ones, those are gross.  We also have the wight to nevowr ending wrecess, wike Congwess.  We awre big boys too!”

Here’s Your New Favorite Motivational Jam

Over the weekend, Apollos Hester — a wide receiver for the East View High School Patriots in Austin, Texas — became an internet sensation when his post-game interview with a local reporter went viral. In addition to having an awesome name, an amazing haircut, and a voice that sounds more than a little like Mac from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Apollos also appears destined to have a long future ahead of him as a motivational speaker.

After video of his interview blew up, the internet did what the internet always does and spit out an auto-tuned rendition of Apollos speech that you should immediately download onto your phone or iPod. That way you’ll have it handy so you can use it to get yourself pumped up the next time you need to ace a test, nail a job interview, or get hyped for the big game. Basically, any time you’re Popeye and you need a giant can of motivational spinach to help you run through a brick wall, this is your jam.

The original clip, featuring Apollos and his unique brand of unbridled enthusiasm, can be found below:





Nicki Minaj and Biblical Symbolism: What Is The “Anaconda”?

Nicki Minaj and Biblical Symbolism: What Is The “Anaconda”?

Much has been written and spoken about the questionable musical choices of the generation called the Millennials. “Manufactured,” “unimaginative,” and “crass,” are just a few adjectives used to describe the aural tastes of our teens and young adults. A look at the Billboard Top 100 for September 27, 2014, might bear this out, with songs unabashedly promoting body parts, partying, and whatever else will play to the vast middle. However, one song bucks the trend of shallowness, salaciousness, and simplicity with a stunning density of biblical and Christian ontological references. This song is, of course, Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda.”

We’ll perform a critical analysis on both the song and the video to answer the following question: what is Minaj referring to with “Anaconda”? Many images are NSFW, even though such prurient material is necessary for Ms. Minaj to make her grander, counterintuitive point.

What do we notice at the very outset? Scantily clad, callipygian beauties cavorting in a tropical setting that might be considered Paradise, an…Eden of sorts. Prominent images of the female posterior, often positioned within the frame so that the contours resemble an apple. (To be fair, apple-shaped behinds have appeared before in rap and hip-hop iconography, as in A Tribe Called Quest’s “Bonita Applebum”.) However, as we continue our analysis, we’ll see that Minaj is undoubtedly referring to that apple, the Forbidden Fruit from the Tree of Knowledge in…The Garden of Eden. Minaj’s bold choices of scenery and costuming imply that the temptations of the flesh, while powerful and seemingly irresistible, must be met head-on and defeated. Later in the video, we’ll see how Minaj suggests that human beings should deal with such urges.

Discussing her first partner, Troy, Minaj refers to the hedonistic lifestyle that he—and by extension, she—led: “gun in my purse / b*tch I came dressed to kill / who wanna go first? / I had ‘em pushin’ daffodils / I’m high as hell / I only took half a pill.” While on the surface Minaj appears to be glorifying a jet-set lifestyle of drugs, designer clothes, and other elements of mammon, she has already hinted that she doesn’t work that way. Couldn’t this stanza also be interpreted as a realization that, as written in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death”? Barely a minute later, Minaj says, “he tossed my salad like his name [is] Romaine” (emphasis mine). She could have mentioned any other type of lettuce, yet she chooses a simile including a delicious tossed Romaine salad. How much clearer could she be?romaine

Her next romantic partner, Michael, is another dangerous character who can offer Minaj physical treats that she professes to enjoy. Again, Minaj rarely disseminates her message so obviously. She raps “[unintelligible due to sound editing] bigger than a tower / I ain’t talkin’ ‘bout Eiffel.” A tower, built to demonstrate mankind’s mastery over physical laws, that ultimately leads to confusion and disorientation: does this not sound like the Tower of Babel? (more…)

TV Premieres in Full Swing – New and Returning Shows Starting This Week

TV Premieres in Full Swing – New and Returning Shows Starting This Week

Screen Shot 2014-09-22 at 10.24.04 AM

It’s that time of year again where everyone starts to clear off space on their DVRs to get ready for the new seasons of shows starting up.  Over the last couple of weeks, programs have started airing their premier episodes (i.e. Sons of Anarchy on Sept. 9).  However, with 35+ shows with season premieres over the next seven days, this is truly “Premiere Week”

Let’s take a look at what’s premiering this week:


Monday, September 22nd


Gotham leads the group on Monday as one of the most talked about premieres.  It will be interesting to see how the show sets up in the world of Gotham City without Batman as the main protagonist.  The commercials on the other hand make it look like it will be a standout show this season.  CBS is also bringing “Scorpion” to the mix, a technological procedural. The Blacklist also opens on the 22nd, which was a great show to come out of NBC last year.  You can catch all the episodes on Netflix now, and I highly encourage that.

The Big Bang Theory (CBS – 8 PM)
Gotham (FOX – 8 PM)
The Voice (NBC – 8 PM)
Scorpion (CBS – 9 PM)
Sleepy Hollow (FOX – 9 PM)
The Blacklist (NBC – 10 PM)
Forever (ABC – 10 PM)


Tuesday, September 23rd


Tuesday is business as usual for most of the networks.  NCIS: New Orleans is the main new debut, starring Quantum Leap’s Scott Bakula and The Shield’s CCH Pounder.

The Voice – Results (NBC – 8PM)
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (ABC – 9 PM)
NCIS: New Orleans (CBS – 9 PM)
Awkward (MTV – 10 PM)
Chicago Fire (NBC – 10 PM)
Person of Interest (CBS – 10 PM)
Faking It (MTV – 10:30 PM)


Wednesday, September 24th


ABC is bringing its comedy block on Wednesday night, starting with The Middle. We’ll also get The Goldbergs and Modern Family.  The newest comedy for ABC is Black-ish starring Anthony Anderson and Lawrence Fishburne.  ABC rounds out the night with their hit Nashville.

The Middle (ABC – 8 PM)
Survivor (CBS – 8 PM)
The Goldbergs (ABC – 8:30 PM)
Law & Order: SVU (NBC – 9 PM)
Modern Family (ABC – 9 PM)
Black-ish (ABC – 9:30 PM)
Chicago P.D. (NBC – 10 PM)
Nashville (ABC – 10 PM)


Thursday, September 25th


ABC returns with Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, their two top dramas.  Also, good to see on the schedule is Parenthood on NBC, which is quite a nice show in its own right.  The debut on this night is “How To Get Away With Murder” on ABC.  Normally I would answer that with “air it during Thursday Night Football on ABC, and no one will see it”, but it’s actually the title of the show.  ABC says about the show “The brilliant, charismatic and seductive Professor Annalise Keating gets entangled with four law students from her class “How to Get Away with Murder.” Little do they know that they will have to apply what they learned to real life, in this masterful, sexy, suspense-driven legal thriller.”  So there’s that.

Bones (Fox – 8 PM)
Grey’s Anatomy (ABC – 8 PM)
Scandal (ABC – 9 PM)
How To Get Away With Murder (ABC – 10 PM)
Parenthood (NBC – 10:30)


Friday, September 26th


Nothing really new on Friday night.  Reality programs and news shows.  Wait, Hawaii Five-O isn’t a reality show?

The Amazing Race (CBS – 8 PM)
Dateline NBC (NBC – 8 PM)
Shark Tank (ABC – 8 PM)
Hawaii Five-O (CBS – 9 PM)
20/20 ABC (ABC – 10 PM)
Blue Bloods (CBS – 10 PM)


Sunday, September 28th


Fox brings the comedy block with a mix of cartoons and live programming.  Brooklyn Nine-Nine returns for its second season, after a strong first season run.  Based on the success of the Disney movie, ABC’s Once Upon a Time will be bringing Frozen to the fourth season of the program.  Fox is also waiting the debut of Mulaney which comes in two weeks time.

Once Upon a Time (ABC – 8 PM)
The Simpsons (FOX – 8 PM)
Brooklyn Nine-Nine (FOX – 8:30 PM)
Family Guy (FOX – 9 PM)
Resurrection (ABC – 9 PM)
CSI (CBS – 10 PM)
Revenge (ABC – 10 PM)


What shows are you most looking forward to this week?  There is certainly plenty to choose from…

A Snooze Among the Tombstones

A Snooze Among the Tombstones


Liam Neeson is a man on fire, and he’s been blazing for at least 6 years now.  Ever since 2008′s Taken, the 62 year old actor has been on an action movie run for the ages, ending up like a latter day peak-Bronson.  Movies like the TakensThe Grey, Non-Stop, and Unknown have made Neeson the pre-eminent action anti-hero while teaching us lessons like, primarily, don’t kidnap someone Neeson loves.  With the perfect mixture of traits–a deep, gravely voice, a somewhat slight, but stocky build, a seemingly ageless, and sad face–there’s no reason that Neeson couldn’t keep dominating the action movie genre for another ten years.

This is all to say that, having seen the trailer, I was pretty excited for the new movie A Walk Among the Tombstones.  Based upon the book  by Lawrence Block, the story looked to be one of action, intrigue, and mystery.  The trailer shows Neeson as an ex-cop, now a private detective, helping someone to investigate the kidnapping (bad idea, bad guys!) of a girl.  It looked like it would have a good mysterious atmosphere, some good action, and some peak-Neeson facial expression.  Having seen it, now, I can tell you that I’m sure this is what the producers wanted you to think and (I’m sad to say) it couldn’t be further from the truth.  With the exception of maybe 5 minutes near the end, there is almost no action in this movie, the central mystery is either poorly written or poorly rendered, and the entire endeavor is intensely slow and boring.

(Warning: Spoilers to follow.  Do yourself a favor, read them and skip the movie.)


Budweiser Brings All The Feels In This Anti Drunk Driving Commercial

Budweiser Brings All The Feels In This Anti Drunk Driving Commercial

Screen Shot 2014-09-22 at 8.40.15 AM

I once thought that the opening 10 minutes or so of Disney/Pixar’s “Up” was the greatest piece of storytelling in the shortest amount of time.  However, that has just been bested by this Budweiser commercial to persuade against drunk driving.  If you thought that Matt’s Blue Lights Across The Bluegrass promo was enough to keep you from drunk driving, you haven’t seen anything yet.  Watch this commercial and then tell me that this didn’t change you in some way inside…


Airbnb Reviews from Tent City

Airbnb Reviews from Tent City



Hello, friends. How are you? What have you been up to? Hey, why aren’t you talking? Hello? Friend? Wait a minute this IS A MANNEQUIN DRESSED AS YOU. Oh, there you are! Ha! You got me. I totally fell for it. Good one. Where did you get a mannequin?

Friends, I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that the line for Big Blue Madness tickets is in up and running and Tent City is in full force. If you’ve never been to Tent City, it’s kind of like Bonnaroo for the types of people you might see at your local barber shop. You have to get there early to get in line or you’re sunk — and getting a good place in line isn’t easy. That’s why it’s fortunate, then, that the hip new app Airbnb has begun to list open tent spaces in Tent City for those seeking accommodations. If you’re not familiar with Airbnb, it essentially allows you rent a room, a house, a space or just a bed for the night from someone who has an extra one open, and for a predetermined fee. But what spaces are available on Airbnb for Tent City 2014? And how are the reviews? Let’s look at some potential candidates in a piece we’ll call Airbnb Reviews from Tent City, shall we, and see if there are any deals out there? Enjoy, friends, and I’ll see you here next week.


Orange Tent, Northwest Corner
About this listing:
Spacious mylar tent sleeps three, offers moon flap and vented windows. Easy access in and out, light and airy.
Accommodates: 3
Nearest Restroom: 45 feet
“Not bad, close to Qdoba”
images-1images-1images-1images-1 by Marion P.
Linda and Tad were great hosts; they had Nutri-Grain bars and Capri-Suns for when we needed a snack and they really made us feel at home. Comfortable, warm. Will be back. Four stars.


Peaceful Oasis in Tent City, Close to Memorial
About this listing: Large, comfortable four-person dome tent, 63 square feet, with fiberglass poles and WeatherTec moisture repellent system.
Check-in time: 2:00 pm
Pet-friendly: No
“Great tent except for Gary”
images-1images-1images-1 by Jennifer H.
Was recommended to this tent by friends. Very nice tent but host Gary kept trying to hold my hand. Woke in the middle of the night to him watching me sleep; insisted on calling the tent “Smoochville” and trying to kiss me as he claimed to be the “Mayor of Smoochville.” Good tickets not worth this. Some underwear may still be missing. Avoid at all costs.


Great Spot for Superfans, Center of Tent City
About this listing: True Blue fans host other Wildcat supporters in six-person tent with zippered doors and cushioned tarp floor. Wind-resistent walls/roof.
Accepts Credit Cards?: Yes
Cancellation policy: 24 hour notice
“Perfect for Willie Cauley-Stein fans”
images-1images-1images-1 by Charles O.
Debra and Steve seemed really cool at first, big fans of Willie Cauley-Stein; later in the evening they started showing me pictures they drew of Willie as a half-man, half-dragon and reading fan fiction about him as a space wizard in love with a human woman named “Moonwolf” (clearly supposed to be Debra). When they told me they’d pay me $5,000 if I kidnapped him I called a friend to come pick me up. They are keeping my deposit and I’m okay with that.


Luxury Camping Above-Ground
About this listing: Heavy-duty polymer material, rainfly, metal pole support, sky-vue window
Minimum Stay: 1 night
Meals: No
“Wayne Just Tried to Kill Me”
images-1images-1 by Brad M.
Can somebody please tell the police I’m in the back of a truck tent and my host wayne just told me tried to give me a WILDCATS 2014 tattoo with a paperclip and when I refused he said he was going to murder me i convinced him to let me have time to write this review and im using it as my message for help im behind the papa johns please somebody help me two stars will not use this location again


Compact and Cozy
About this listing: Petite turnkey tent with great Memorial Coliseum view; friendly host.
Smoking: No
Accommodates: 1
“This Tent is for a Dog”
images-1 by Lawrence P.
Do not be fooled by the photo; this is a tent made for a dog. The picture is of a small dog, not a regular size tent with just a very large dog, like I thought. It is a very misleading picture and if you are a normal-sized human this is not the tent for you. The dog is very cute, however. And the view of Memorial is nice.That part is accurate.


De-stress and relax in peace!
About this listing: Woven polymer material, rain/wind resistant
Bed: None
“What is this thing?”
(no stars) by Shane T.
Too small. I want my money back. Body got cold during night. I better get great tickets for this. Next year will be getting in line early, with my own tent.

Edge of Tomorrow vs. YouTube Commenters – Who Ya Got?

Edge of Tomorrow vs. YouTube Commenters – Who Ya Got?



This is a post about a movie, and how that movie was made. But it’s really a post about YouTube comments.

Earlier this week, someone forwarded me a video featuring nearly five minutes of behind the scenes footage from the Tom Cruise sci-fi action flick, Edge of Tomorrow. If you haven’t seen Edge of Tomorrow, it was sneakily one of the summer’s most entertaining movies and currently enjoys a 90% Fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes. Tom Cruise delivers one of the best and most physical performances of his career, which is amazing when you consider the fact that the man is 52-years old but doesn’t look like he’s aged a day since he jumped on Oprah’s couch nearly 10 years ago. Emily Blunt proves she’s got the chops to hold her own with one of the biggest action stars in the world. And director Doug Liman shows an eye for filming visceral action scenes that he hasn’t really displayed since he helmed The Bourne Identity. Not bad for a movie that best can be described as Groundhog Day meets Starship Troopers.

Despite all that, Edge of Tomorrow is probably the most overlooked $364 million-grossing movie in recent memory (nearly $100 million of that is from U.S. box office receipts). In fact, when it hit the DVD and VOD market a couple of weeks ago, I was surprised to see the movie is now being marketed as Live. Die. Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow, a reference to the tagline featured in the film’s original trailer. According to Variety, the studio was eager to rebrand the film in hopes of attracting an audience who may have missed the movie during its theatrical run. It’s not the first movie to undergo a dramatic shift in marketing after leaving theaters, but it’s certainly one of the most high-profile.



Anyway, back to that behind the scenes video. It’s a fascinating look at the making of many of the movie’s most explosive action sequences, and is notable for the fact that the production seems to employ practical effects over CGI far more often than most big-budget sci-fi and fantasy movies these days. I really enjoyed the opportunity to pull back the curtain on how a multi-million dollar spectacle is made. And then, either because I got so wrapped up in the experience I didn’t realize what I was doing or because I’m an idiot who enjoys self-harm, I made the mistake of scrolling down and reading some of the YouTube comments below the video. I’ll bet you can guess what happened next.



SHADE ALERT! Ugggghhh! Stupid Hobbit trilogy. Why couldn’t Peter Jackson just cast a bunch of ACTUAL Hobbits and REAL Orcs and AUTHENTIC spell-casting wizards and LEGIT 25-story-tall ancient fire-breathing dragons and shoot on location at the GENUINE Mordor instead of filming everything against a stupid green screen?! What a loser.



What do you mean “what exactly is this supposed to teach our children?” It’s supposed to teach them that, when time-altering, bug-like aliens invade our planet, they better be ready to don militarized exoskeletons, arm themselves to the teeth with anything that shoots bullets, and fight like hell for the fate all of mankind! Also, I hate to break it to you, neat4lyfe1982, but this isn’t a TV show. It’s a movie. You think Tom Cruise works on TV shows? Please. We may be living in the Golden Age of TV, but there’s no way Maverick is slumming it on the small screen. You know who stars in TV shows about alien invasions? Noah Wyle, that’s who. And Tom Cruise is no Noah Wyle.



Now wait a damn minute! You mean to tell me that those projectiles we see flying dangerously close to the well-coifed and heavily insured heads of Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt aren’t actually armed with warheads?! Well now I’ve heard it all! If you can’t trust Hollywood filmmakers these days to fire live, military-grade, murder missiles at pampered movie stars during the filming of a heavily commercialized, mass-distributed piece of fiction, who can you trust?



Right?! I feel ya, buddy. All jokes aside, I can’t even wrap my head around how they manage the Craft Services table on a movie this big, much less how they choreograph one of these crazy action sequences. Like, is there a list of specific treats that each member of the cast and crew prefers, or does someone just hand a PA $100 and tell him to run down to the candy and chip aisle at Costco and go nuts? And does the table run on a first-come-first-served basis, or are the snacks refreshed throughout the day? Are we talking about bottomless bowls of Twizzlers and Peanut M&Ms, or if, say, Bill Paxton is busy shooting a scene all morning and then comes scrounging for some candy after the extras have had their way with the table and hoovered everything in sight, is he just out of luck? So many mysteries, man.



Acting is hard, bro. But that’s what separates the men from the boys. They don’t pay The Cruise-meister the big bucks to awkwardly glance into the camera in the middle of every take. That’s why the cast of The Office does what they do and Tom Cruise lives in a mansion made of gold bricks.



The internet, everybody. Let’s hear it for the internet.






Remixing the Billboard Top Ten

Remixing the Billboard Top Ten


With so much selection for streaming and downloading music and news, you can avoid those pesky songs and advertisements that really grind your gears–even the most popular ones.

Or can you?!

Some tunes become so ubiquitous (and catchy..) everywhere you turn there’s a new lip dub video for XYZ (I’m looking at you Transy Sigs.)

Obviously, those tend to fall into the Billboard Hot 100 category, and today, female pop stars are dominant.

#1  Meghan Trainor  “All About that Bass”

#2  Taylor Swift  “Shake It Off”

#3  Nicki Minaj  “Anaconda”

#4  Jessie J, Ariana Grande & Nicki Minaj  “Bang Bang”

#5  Rita Ora & Iggy Azalea  “Black Widow”

#6  Sam Smith  “Stay With Me”

#7  MAGIC!  “Rude

#8  Ariana Grande ft. Zedd  “Break Free”

#9  Maroon 5  “Maps”

#10  Sia  “Chandelier”

Here are my feelings on much of the top-ten:



┓┏┓┏┓┃ /      Shake


┓┏┓┏┓┃         It


┓┏┓┏┓┃         Off


┓┏┓┏┓┃         She


┻┻┻┻┻┻         Said 

Haters gonna hate hate hate hate, this song is in my head head head head head.

I’m here to give you a new take on these songs, with the best remixes floating around on the Internet. I scoured YouTube and Soundcloud high and low, looking for sounds that your last choice wedding DJ (who frequents Richmond’s hottest club) couldn’t muster–I had some success!

Sia’s “Chandelier” and Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me” not surprisingly provided the highest-quality house mixes, but HOLD UP, Maroon 5–hate you, but I loved your “Maps” remixes. The fact that young people associate this song title with Adam Levine and not Karen O is still beyond horrific.

If you’re into trap music (I’m sure you are…) “Black Widow” was a popular choice, and featured three fun, fist-pumpin’ mixes.

Now, I’m just going to go ahead and apologize for the “All About That Bass” and “Anaconda” remixes being included in this playlist. They’re not that bad. Well, they’re the best that was available. It was challenging.

Here’s the top-ten chart tracks, with a unique twist added by each producer, giving new perspective on a song you already loved/loathed/tolerated your daughter screeching in the car.

@BrennanKSR + Soundcloud

Vin Diesel as Other Famous Movie Trees

He’s not just Groot.

In this not entirely safe for work supercut, Vin Diesel/Treesel shows off the versatility of his timber side, playing several, more aggressive versions of famous film trees. And hey, it’s not just Treebeard.