February 27, 2009

Is America Losing Its Heroes?


A recently found copy of Action Comics #1 was put up for auction today by Metropolis Collectibles, on the online auction site ComicConnect.com. Only about 100 copies of the first Superman comic are in existence and most copies of Action Comics No. 1 in "fine" condition go for about $126,000 at auction, but this one is expected to go for much more according to an AP story on MSNBC Today.com.

Hero

Heroes are honest human beings who didn't intend to be heroes but even without thinking about it, just take action for others when it's needed.

It takes a brave man to stand up for himself,
But it takes a braver man to stand up for someone else.

Someone who knowingly recognizes the risk that he or she faces in carrying out a certain course of action but still goes ahead and does it, purely for the common good.

Someone who sees what needs to be done and willingly does what others will not while expecting nothing in return.
Quotes from WWII Forums members (members are WWII vets or family/friends of vets)

I would consider these people to be a reliable source of knowledge on heroism and who we should consider heroes.

Is America losing its sense of who and what is a hero?
The liberal media is painting Obama and the Clintons as Heroes. But would you say that Obama meets the above definition of a hero?

Some discrepancies in my opinion would be:
  • Obama doesn't recognize the risk that he is taking and how it will impact future generations or he DOES recognize the risk and doesn't care.
  • To me Obama is trying too hard to "look like" a hero by trying to please too many groups, and people at time and in effect pleasing no one and bringing more government control and spending to the picture.
  • Saying one thing and doing another by saying he opposes earmarks and pretending to be fiscally responsible, and then passing the most fiscally irresponsible bill in American history.
These are just some of the major points against Obama's stimulus package, but I didn't really want to turn this into a political blog. I wanted people to start thinking about who we as Americans look up to and why.

Some of my heroes are people of compassion that help and give without expecting anything in return. Missionaries, (some) religious leaders and pastors. People that genuinely care about souls and lives instead of their own personal gain. I think that we can compare Superman's characteristics with what a hero should be these days...

Characteristics of a Superman Hero:
  • work in disguise
  • come from humble upbringings
  • don't brag about their accomplishments
  • save lives
  • defends the innocent
  • makes the right decisions when tough decisions need to be made
  • takes action when called upon
Let's make sure we have the right perspective before we heap praise upon our perceived heroes.
Now go bid on that Action Comics #1!

(Photo by Dunechaser from Flickr)

February 23, 2009

Best Book to Movie Adaptations

Valerie Thomas: I guess we thought that maybe Susan Orlean and Leroche could fall in love, and...
Charlie Kaufman: Okay. But, I'm saying, it's like, I don't want to cram in sex or guns or car chases, you know... or characters, you know, learning profound life lessons or growing or coming to like each other or overcoming obstacles to succeed in the end, you know.
I mean... The book isn't like that, and life isn't like that. You know, it just isn't. And... I feel very strongly about this.
~ (from the 2002 film Adaptation staring Nicolas Cage
and Meryl Streep)
I love this quote from Adaptation because it embodies the struggle that screenwriters go through in adapting a book to a film. I've attempted an adaptation before and it was alot harder than I thought it would be. You can't just pull chapters verbatim from the book and set them in scenes. So much more goes into an adaptation, like:
  • the emotion that the character will convey
  • establishing the background for a character
  • conversion into a classic three act type structure
  • making the screenplay dummy proof (suitable for the common man) with appropriate exposition and establishing scenes without spelling everything out and ruining the mystery or storyline.
  • worrying about writing "Spec" (technically correct and easily sellable to Hollywood) so you won't be made fun of or rejected outright.
  • worrying about how close you should stick to the classic three act story structure and Campbellian Monomyth
There are definitely more issues that screenwriters have to deal with but those would be beyond the scope of this blog. (Hopefully I haven't lost most of you by now ;-).

To move on, I've been reading adaptations for a long time and they are some of my favorite types of books. I just love comparing the differences in the film and the book and then finding the hidden story lines and subplots that didn't make it into the film adaptation. So, as promised, here are some of my favorite adaptations:

Next time you go watch a new movie, check and see if its an adaptation then pick up the book. Result=increased enjoyment!

(photo by Andrei Z from Flickr)

Josh Self is the writer and editor for The Horse, The Wedding PhotogBlog, Storycrafter, and a writer for The Terminal, Birmingham's most popular hyper-local blog. He always watches the movie first and then reads the book...

February 20, 2009

SEO and Blog Advertisements, Annoying or Essential?

So, I've been kind of obsessing about learning all I can about SEO (Search Engine Optimization), AdSense and web / blog advertisement companies lately. I've found some great ones and some not so great ones and I've been playing around with ad placement, size and color to see what works best for me.


(Jeremy Schoemaker of Shoemoney.com, an ultra successful SEO marketing guru and his little AdSense check back in 2005)

I know some of your may find ads annoying, but they are an essential tool for any working blogger or webmaster to have in their toolbox. They allow us to continue to provide you with great content that you can use and relate to and helps compensate us financially for the money and time we put into creating our blogs / websites in order to keep our readers up to date with new and interesting content. And that's all I'm going to say about that (before I wander too close to the Google AdSense TOS electric fence ;-)...

So, for all you webmasters, if you are not using an advertisement network on your self hosted website / blog or Blogger blog you should definitely check it out. I think the best thing that implementing an ad network does for bloggers is motivate them to pump out good content and think about keywords (writing interesting / popular articles about topics that they love).

Here are some great ad networks to start you out:
  • Google AdSense / Adwords: By far the most popular and most widely used, Google pretty much started the modern ad network and is still the biggest player today. If you've got subscribers, you WILL make some money... and another bonus is the amazing integrated Google Analytics that tells you everything about your website.
  • AdBrite: Smaller network but high payoffs so far for me. I've been seeing some encouraging numbers from AdBrite lately
  • Netklix: They claim to have ads on sites like Photobucket and Drudge Report. I just started with these guys this week so we'll see how they are. I'll report back later.
  • WidgetBucks / Yieldsense: This looks like a great affiliate style ad network. (I haven't tried it yet but it might be next and definitely in my new blog.)
  • Infolinks: An "In-Text" linking style ad network. This is one of those double underlined mini pop up bubble style ad systems. To keep your readers on your page. Paid as CPC (Cost Per Click)
  • Clicksor: Both an "in-text" and full featured text and graphical banners as well as full pages and pop-unders.
So, check those out on your own time (after you get done reading The Horse... of course!) and leave me a comment if you think these suck or you find any new ones that I might be interested in.

Next time: SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and why you should care...

February 16, 2009

The Power Of The Domain Name

I bought my first domain name ... ever the other day. I know, its kind of sad, I've been a geek this long and have never bought a domain name. I've always used my ISP's free FTP space to store my personal web page and shared files. So, I had the annoyingly long URLs like:

http://bellsouthpwp.net/x/a/xabbu/joshweddingportfolio.html or

http://www.themostspectacularlylargebusinessname.com/thissubdirectorythattheyhavewhereistoremystuff/joshuaself/mypersonalfiles/index.html~314159265

Yea, that's easy for a potentially paying client to remember you by... Maybe they'll just visit the guy with the website URL that they can remember: joesmithphotography.com. (photo by dro—ód on Flickr)

So, I finally bought joshuaselfphotography.com, suctionhorse.com, and theweddingphotogblog.com for my photography (mostly wedding) business website and my wedding photography blog. I bought it through GoDaddy and it was probably the easiest thing I've ever done. Now I need to get a nice website built and throw it up on joshuaselfphotography.com.

So, I thought I'd share some tips on finding a good / useful domain name tips and secrets that I have found out recently. First, domain name trivia!:

What is the Domain Name System?

The Domain Name System (DNS) helps users to find their way around the Internet. Every computer on the Internet has a unique address – just like a telephone number – which is a rather complicated string of numbers. It is called its "IP address" (IP stands for "Internet Protocol").

But it is hard to remember everyone's IP address. The DNS makes it easier by allowing a familiar string of letters (the "domain name") to be used instead of the arcane IP address. So instead of typing 192.0.34.65, you can type www.icann.org. It is a "mnemonic" device that makes addresses easier to remember. (photo by Collin Anderson on Flickr)

Translating the name into the IP address is called "resolving the domain name." The goal of the DNS is for any Internet user any place in the world to reach a specific website IP address by entering its domain name. Domain names are also used for reaching e-mail addresses and for other Internet applications.

fromthe InterNIC website

  • Technicians at the University of Wisconsin developed the first 'name server' in 1984. With the new name server, users were no longer required to know the exact path to other systems (using long IP addresses). And thus the birth of the current addressing system in use today. A year later the Domain Name System was implemented and the initial top-level domain names, including .com, .net, and .org, were introduced. Suddenly 121.245.078.2 became 'company.com'.
  • Today there is an estimated 19 million domain names registered, with forty thousand more registered every day. The Internet continues its unprecedented growth into the stratosphere and there is really no end in sight.

  • Where it used to cost $100 / year it now costs only $7.00 or less to register a domain name and some companies provide discounts for purchasing their other products (web hosting, spam blocker, email, etc...)
  • Squatting and reselling of domain names has become BIG business recently. I know some people who do this exclusively for their job and make GOOD money!

So, here are some steps for finding the best domain name for you or your business:

  1. research, research, research your domain name. Does anyone else have something close? Keep brainstorming until something original and catchy comes out!
  2. Think about SEO and how being descriptive with your name will help increase traffic to your site. Use at least one descriptive word in your domain name. (ie. Net"Flix".com, photographyblog.com, bigcupcoffee.com, Lloydsrestaurant.com)
  3. pick the least amount of words possible to make your domain. The smaller the name, the easier it is to remember! (de.licio.us, ebay.com, YouTube.com)
  4. try pick a catchy / rhyming / cleaver name but keep it simple. Stay away from complicated / alternate spellings, try not to use dashes "-" or other special characters.
  5. ".com" is the MOST popular and quickest remembered by the public, followed by ".net" and ".org". The average person will confuse or forget domain extensions like ".info", ".biz", ".me" and ".mobi" but, if you do buy the ".com", go ahead and buy the rest of them. This keeps your personal brand and name safe so no one can steal it in the future and blackmail you trying to sell it back to you. Then have the rest of them 301 redirected back to your ".com"
Just remember, your domain name is your image, brand, business, and personality all in a little nutshell. It will determine if someone will be interested enough to click on a link to your site or pass it by. Follow Step 1 until you get it perfect!

I hope these have helped you guys out in your domain name hunt. Do you have a tip that would help our readers out in finding a good domain name? Please leave a comment and help out the community!
(photo by twinsparc)

February 10, 2009

Does Helen Thomas Need To Retire?

After a surprisingly insightful press conference from President Obama tonight, I noticed that Helen Thomas of the Hearst media conglomerate was back in her front row seat asking the first question of the night. As usual, it was a planned question with a liberal agenda. The interesting thing was that even Obama chose to duck her question!

She asked if Obama knew of any countries in the Middle East that already have nuclear weapons. Obviously, she meant: Israel (which reportedly has them). Obama ducked the question and stated that he didn't care to speculate but any escalation would be bad right now. Then, like the crazy old person that she is, she interrupted the president twice and tried to make her point about Israel to the very end.

For those of you who don't know, Helen Thomas has been around since JFK covering the White House and presidents for over 45 years first with UPI and now she is affiliated with Hearst Media. She has always had the philosophy of asking hard hitting and usually inappropriate liberal agenda questions to conservative presidents. Well, it looks like she's finally lost her mind and is trying to take down her own kind. Maybe the Washington press corp will put her out of her misery soon.

And why is she so stuck on the Israel - Palestine issue you may ask? I did some digging and noticed in her bio that was born in Winchester, KY to Lebanese immigrants from Tripoli, which at the time was part of Syria. Ancestral vendetta? There's always been that hatred between Arabs and Israelis.

In blogging news...
Sam Stein at Huffington Post, got to ask a (overtly liberal spinned) question to the president. While I don't agree with their message, theres no denying that The Huffington Post has became a power player for political blogging and I applaude the president for allowing social and new media to finally be have a legitamate word in mainstream politics and mainstream media. Now, lets just be fair and let a few conservative blogs like Pajamasmedia's Hot Air or Townhall.com in with a few questions next time. (We all know THAT's never going to happen).

Josh Self is the owner of and writer for The Horse, and The Wedding PhotogBlog. He also writes for The Terminal and considers himself a "Conservative Leaning Libertarian". He is also a wedding photographer and Lead Trainer at The Cheesecake Factory in Birmingham, AL.

February 3, 2009

The Killers, Death Cab, and new music that I like

So, I started playing around on the iTunes Store last night trying to find all this great new music I've been hearing lately.
For those of you who don't know, I'm also a musician, been in 4 bands, played guitar for 15 years, bass for 10, piano / keys, etc... but I've been out of the music scene for a while when I got interested in film and photography. But I still have a longing and ear for good music when it comes along. So, here's what I've been groovin' on lately:


The Killers - Day and Age
I've loved The Killers since Hot Fuss came out in 2004. I used to listen to that album all the way through every time. So I was very happy with Day and Age when I heard it a few months ago. I'm really digging their single Human. The lyrics are reportedly based on a quote from Hunter S. Thompson where he commented that America is nowadays raising a "generation of dancers".

I'm a child of the 80's so I love that vintage synth sound and it sounds great with some modern rock guitar added. The production was done by Stuart Price who did a remix of "Mr Brightside" from Hot Fuss.

If you like The Killers, then you should check out 2 other great bands that have new albums:
Franz Ferdinand and Glasvegas. You've probably heard of Franz Ferdinand, but Glasvegas is a little more dark and dirty (ala B.R.M.C.) but still atmospheric and shoegazy.


Jakob Dylan - Seeing Things
I bought the first Wallflowers album the day it came out and went crazy for the lyrics, basing alot of my personal songwriting on their style. So, I was overjoyed when I heard that Jakob was putting out this album. His songwriting has actually improved (if that is possible) and Rick Ruben has done an amazing job of stripping the songs down to the basics and letting Jakob's vocals shine. Favorite tracks: "Evil Is Alive and Well", "Something Good This Way Comes", "This End of the Telescope"

Singles:

New Morrissey! - "I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris" from his new album Years of Refusal due out this month. I don't know why, but I've always found his voice interesting even though he's whiny and strange...


The Ting Tings - "That's Not My Name"
OK, this is my fun, guilty pleasure song right now... it makes me move... never mind, I'm sorry I brought this up... moving on to something more manly...


Killswitch Engage - "My Curse"
Melodic metal has always rocked my socks off. I admire metal bands that can actually sing (as well as scream! ie. Def Tones)


The Avitt Brothers - pretty much all of their early stuff from The Gleam and The Second Gleam. Great old school southern songwriting and lyrics with an Iron and Wine / Sam Beam vibe. Favorite tracks: "Murder In The City", "Bella Donna", "The Ballad of Love and Hate". They just came out with a new album called "Emotionalism" a few months ago that's worth checking out as well.
If you like Iron and Wine or the Avett Bros., you should check out Bon Iver, he has a new EP entitled Blood Bank that's really interesting and atmospheric.


Death Cab For Cutie - I've been pretty much obsessed with Ben Gibbard and his little bands (Death Cab and The Postal Service) for the past 2 or 3 years. One of the best lyric writers of all time. The new album Narrow Stairs is pretty decent, but in my opinion, not as mind blowing as Plans or Transatlanticism. (I didn't really mean to give it a bad review... just being honest)

Random pick that I just decided to check out and liked:

Company of Thieves - Ordinary Riches
Light and fun alternative rock. Strong female vocalist with a chugging rock backup. This new effort by Wind-Up Records (who brought us Creed, Evenescence and Seether) could be a nice fit into the indie female vocal sound that's so popular right now.

Well, I hope that wasn't an overload for you guys. I'm just trying to get you to try out some new music! Rock on with your bad selves until next time...