Looking Back

Posted on: 12/28/11 3:48 PM | by Jonathan McKee

Everybody’s looking back. The Top 5, the Top 10… name it. The end-of-year lists are emerging, revealing the top music, movies, and TV shows of 2011. I always find it intriguing to take a peek at the media choices people have drifted towards in a given year.

Nielsen released a few “Tops of 2011” lists last week. In their entertainment lists, they included the Top DVDs (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I leading the pack), and the Top 10 Children and Young Adult books (The Hunger Games at the top). Nielsen also shared their “Tops of 2011 Television” lists, with the Top 10 Single Telecasts (made up of 9 football events and the Academy Awards), and the Top 10 Primetime TV Programs (with American Idol, Sunday Night Football and Dancing with the Stars at the top).

2011 provided an interesting year in music as well. Rather than just providing you with a list of this year’s top music, David and I wrote a two-part Youth Culture Window article recapping the top 14 songs that went #1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, a list that included hits from Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars, Katy Perry, Maroon 5, Adele, and Rihanna. This peek into the videos and lyrics of these songs proved to be eye-opening.

The year of music certainly has ended on an interesting note, because the #1 song hasn’t budged since November 6th. Rihanna’s hit, We Found Love, has reigned in the #1 spot for 8 weeks now. I devoted a few paragraphs to unpacking the song and video in that article. The song seems to be resonating with young girls especially, with its message of even though I feel hopeless, empty and in pain, I almost would do it all over again just so I could have those good moments.

I encourage you to take a peek at that article, particularly our summary about the two common denominators we see in all the top songs of 2011.

We also provided you with a fun look at the top movies of 2011. Todd and I each provide you with our own personal Top 5 of 2011. (After posting that list, I have seen the Sherlock Holmes sequel, the new Mission Impossible film and Tin Tin. I really enjoyed the first two, but Tin Tin was mediocre at best.)

That pretty well wraps up 2011.

Only a few more days and everyone will stop looking back… and begin looking forward again.

Christmas Nerd Family

Posted on: 12/26/11 12:38 PM | by Jonathan McKee

Last week our family was all laying around the couch watching Christmas specials and we landed on the Saturday Night Live Christmas special with one of our favorite sketches, the one where Jimmy Fallon, Horatio Sanz, Chris Kattan, and Tracy Morgan sing, “I don’t care what your momma says, Christmas time is neeee-eeear…” (We love that sketch). After the sketch, Lori chimes in, “Maybe we should all dress alike like that for Christmas this year!”

Why, oh why, do we listen to Lori!!!

Yeah… we actually went to church like that!

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Ashley Just Wants Time

Posted on: 12/22/11 6:34 PM | by Jonathan McKee

Today I walked up into my home office with expectations of working until noon and then hanging out with my kids for the rest of the day. Time got away from me. At 3:30, Ashley came in my office, “Dad, are you almost done?”

I apologized. “I’m almost done baby. Just a few more minutes.”

She left my office, head hanging low.

Next thing I know, I hear her giggling in the hallway and something rustles the carpet by my chair. I peel my eyes away from my computer for a second to see a plate of cookies by my office chair… wiggling oh so slightly. On closer examination I see a string tied to the plate of cookies. I follow the string to the hallway where Ashley is slowly tugging on the other end trying to draw me out of the office with the cookie-bait!

It’s just so “Ashley.”

The fact is, Ashley just wanted some time with me. Forget any other present under the tree… time has the most value. I don’t know why I was stupid enough to let those few hours pass by.

Are you giving your family the present of “time” this Christmas? Or do they have to drag you away from work with a plate of cookies? Think about it. Five years from now are you going to look back and wish you spent more time in the office… or more time with your kids?

Don’t forget what’s important this Christmas.

Merry Christmas, from my house to yours. (Gotta go. Ashley wants me to watch Home Alone II with her.)

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A Little Christmas Contest

Posted on: 12/19/11 10:38 PM | by Jonathan McKee

Kids are mostly out of school, Christmas is just around the corner… I think I’ll give away some fun prizes!

Let’s do a fun little contest. I’ll keep it simple. You LIKE our Facebook page, or subscribe to one of our lists (our e-ZINE, my blog, or my Twitter), or simply make a comment on our most recent Youth Culture Window articles about this year’s music, and we’ll put your name in the hopper to win one of 5 new Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital copies of the new movie Dolphin Tale (Morgan Freeman, Harry Connick Jr., Ashley Judd), or one of 5 copies of my book, Do They Run When They See You Coming.

Pretty decent prizes. Dolphin Tale was actually a pleasant surprise. Todd Pearage, our movie guy says it well in our official review of the film:

I generally don’t like movies where the main character is an animal. Hollywood loves to give the animals human qualities, personalities and even intelligence – which is just annoying. That combined with the sappy trailer had me really dreading this one. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was more the story of young Sawyer than it was the story of Winter the dolphin. And while, yeah it is sappy, it’s really sappy in a pretty good way…. It’s really the story of Sawyer and the effect Winter has on his life, rather than vice-versa.

CLICK HERE for Todd’s entire review, along with discussion questions you can use to dialogue with your kids about the film.

I’m staring at the 5 copies sitting on my desk right now. I like how they do these Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital copy combos. I have a Blu-Ray that I use at home, but I only have a DVD player on my laptop, and my kids like to put digital copies in their iTunes.

10 prizes, 10 chances to win. Just subscribe, LIKE, or comment. Doesn’t get easier than that.

I’ll run this contest through the year-end, draw 10 names New Years day, and announce winners in my blog on the evening of January 2nd.

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Teenagers and Their Smartphones in 2011

Posted on: 12/19/11 12:14 AM | by Jonathan McKee

The newest mobile phone numbers are in from Nielsen in their new State of the Media Mobile Media Report for the third quarter of 2011. The results probably won’t be surprising to anyone who hangs out with teenagers. In short, more teens are getting smartphones, they’re downloading more data, texting a lot, and talking less.

Smartphones still aren’t the majority for teenagers. Only 40% of 13-17 year-olds now own a smart phone, compared to 53% of 18-24 year-olds and 64% of 25-34 year-olds. But the numbers have grown at an insane rate compared to years past. This table provides a good breakdown.

I notice several things from this table:

  • Slightly more females now own smartphones where it used to be 10% more males in 2009.
  • Every age category has more than doubled in the last 2 years.
  • 25-34 and 18-24 still dominate in smartphone ownership

According to the same Mobile Media Report, the top two sites accessed by smartphones are Google (#1) and Facebook (#2).

Nielson used data from the monthly cell phone bills of 65,000+ mobile subscribers and analyzed mobile usage trends among teenagers in the U.S.

  • Teens age 13-17 now use an average of 320 MB of data per month (a 256% increase over last year’s 90MB average). (Males used 382 MB, females used 286 MB.
  • Average number of messages (SMS and MMS) exchanged monthly by a teenager is now 3,417 per month. (3,952 by females, 2,815 by males)
  • Voice time (phone calls) has gone down from an average of 685 minutes to 572 minutes.


Christmas Cookies

Posted on: 12/15/11 4:49 PM | by Jonathan McKee

I work out… just so I can eat Christmas cookies!

Last night was just the beginning. At about 8:20 Lori and Alyssa began with the “peanut blossoms” that they make every year (a peanut butter cookie with a Hershey kiss in the middle). Then at 9:10 I joined in, helping them start making some pumpkin cookies with a cream cheese frosting. (I’m drooling just typing about them!) By 9:22 I was kicked out of the kitchen for criticizing Lori’s measuring procedure. No worries, she still brought me samples as long as I stayed out of the kitchen and shut my big mouth.

By 11-something I was fading, but Lori was still going strong… and the best was yet to come…

Tonight we make the Nieman Marcus Cookies!

Oh man… even the name makes my taste buds rejoice. The cookies taste even better than the quality of the $360 sweaters you could buy at that store (yeah… I don’t shop there). These little puppies are amazing… so amazing in fact, I’m going to give you the recipe.

Yeah, I know. I’m probably the only guy who would provide a recipe on his blog. But trust me, I know food! (Have you seen my gut? I’ve worked out 5 days this week already and I’m still carrying around 20 extra pounds. I KNOW FOOD!!!)

Don’t hesitate… just try these amazing cookies and chime in and comment once you taste these little morsels from heaven! Here’s the recipe.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
The Nieman Marcus Recipe

2 cups butter
2 cups sugar
2 cups brown sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
4 cups flour
5 cups oatmeal
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
24 oz. chocolate chips
one 8oz. Hershey bar
3 cups chopped walnuts (optional)

Cream together- butter, sugar, brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Set aside.

Using a blender, grind all of oatmeal into fine powder (do a small amount at a time). Pour into a LARGE bowl. Next, grate chocolate bar and combine with oatmeal. Now add flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda to same bowl and mix well. Combine creamed ingredients and dry mixture (here’s where the stirring takes some real strength, a strong spoon… and a big bowl!) After well blended, add chocolate chips and nuts. (and this is where I eat a bunch of the dough!)

Make golf ball size cookies. Place 2” apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 for about 9-11 min.

Oh yeah… you are gonna thank me later for this!

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Top 5 Films of 2011

Posted on: 12/13/11 4:27 PM | by Jonathan McKee

What are the best films you saw in 2011?

Think about that one for a moment, because your list might vary greatly from the typical critics… I know mine does. This year critics are talking about films like Shame, A Separation, and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Meanwhile, teenagers are talking about Twilight and The Hangover Part II. Sorry, none of the films above made my list this year. (Dare I admit that I didn’t see any of those… and didn’t really care to see them?)

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know that I love film. I’m the type of guy who will sit down and watch the Lord of the Rings trilogy in one day! (the extended additions, mind you)  If you’ve been a fan of my website, you might even remember when our movie guy Todd and I used to do a special MOVIE REVIEW PODCAST at the end of each year (those were the days, back when we had the budget to do those podcasts—thank you, recession! Now we just do it in print.)

This year Todd and I wanted to kick the dust off that end-of-the-year “Top 5 Films” element that we used to do, so we each developed a list of our Top 5 Films of 2011.

Now, for you newbies to my blog or our website, let me prepare you for our unique lists. Todd and I aren’t your typical critics by any means. Let me put it like this: in 1977, which film did you prefer, Star Wars or Annie Hall? (Because Annie Hall got all the Oscars).

Exactly! If it won an Oscar, we probably didn’t like it. If it’s on AFI’s list of the greatest films… well… it’s probably not on ours. Todd and I didn’t vote for Black Swan last year (sorry critics), and as much as I enjoyed The King’s Speech (no doubt it was a really good film), it wasn’t in my “Top 5 Films” of last year.

With that in mind… here’s a peek at our Top 5 Films of 2011, along with a little bit of explanation why.

#5 —Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Those of you who follow me on Twitter may remember receiving my tweets from the midnight premier of this film when it came out late summer. I brought my own three teenagers to the opening and all of us enjoyed it immensely! The film avoided any raunchy talk or sexual situations. Parents will just want to use discernment because of the PG-13 violence. I give my detailed thoughts about Rise of the Planet of the Apes as well as some discussion questions here.

#4 —The Help
This film was a pleasant surprise for me. Not that I expected it to be bad, but I didn’t anticipate enjoying it as much as I did. For one, I only heard women talking about this film and book, no guys at all! But I decided to set aside my desire for an action film and watched this one with the family… and enjoyed it immensely! I shared my thoughts about The Help in greater detail in this earlier blog entry.

#3 —Hanna
This film was probably one of the most unique and original films I’ve seen in years, and it kept me on the edge of my seat. Yes, this film is every bit of action that The Help wasn’t, but as surprised as I was to enjoy The Help, my wife was surprised and enjoyed Hanna. My official review here.

#2 —Super 8
J.J. Abrams (Star Trek, Mission Impossible 3, TV’s Lost…) brings this wonderful story to the screen, a nostalgic tale of a group of kids in 1979 (yes, I was a kid then) who are shooting a super 8 film when they witness a catastrophic train crash. Soon, inexplicable events begin occurring and this small group of friends start to uncover the truth. This film reminded me of what E.T. was to me in 1980 (a little language in that one too), a really fun and suspenseful film. Todd wrote up a full review and discussion questions for this film here. I would have no hesitation showing teenagers this film. The most objectionable thing is the swearing. Sadly, kids are so used to swearing these days that the PG-13 language in this film hardly will faze them.

#1 —We Bought a Zoo
This film almost didn’t make my list because of its late release, but I was invited to a screening and literally saw this film tonight… and wow! Cameron Crowe comes through once again. What can I say, I really love this director. Say Anything, Jerry McGuire, Almost Famous… this guy didn’t need to make any other films, but he did, and delivered once again, complete with classic lines that only Crowe could write. “He had me at hello” with this film. Truly my favorite of the year. Click here for my complete review of We Bought a Zoo.

Captain America-
I’ve already blogged about how refreshing Captain America was compared to other films of late. Here’s a film with good ol’ fashion values, emphasizing the importance of internal character over external features. In addition, this film is probably one of my favorite films of the year for provoking discussion with kids (and we provided discussion questions, as always). It’s an easy conversation piece because most kids enjoy the film and it’s not preachy in any way.

The Immortals– This film was profanely violent, so I would struggle calling it one of my favorites, but it was extremely well done. A great film.

Drive– Also very violent, and irresponsible. Like Michael Mann’s Heat, it offered a creative and unique perspective into the life of crime and showed many of the consequences of entering that world. Ryan Gosling was amazing.

Moneyball– I saw this on a Daddy-daughter date with my 16-year-old Alyssa, and we both enjoyed this greatly. Neither of us are baseball fans in the slightest, but the film kept us. We even joked, “It might be fun to go see an A’s game now, huh?” The writing was solid, Brad Pitt was great as always, and Jonah Hill was surprisingly effective.

The Muppets– Maybe it’s just because I grew up on The Muppet Show, maybe it’s because I think Muppets in Space rocks (if you haven’t seen it, don’t judge… that film is really clever)… but this new muppet film was a lot of fun. We saw this as a family the weekend it was released and thoroughly enjoyed it.

#5 —Rise of the Planet of the Apes

This movie made me forget about the Mark Walberg Planet of the Apes film…which is a good thing. It was so well done from the characters (both human and primate) to the action sequences.

#4 —X-Men: First Class
This one wasn’t as clean as Captain America, in fact it might have the most skin of all the superhero movies combined. So it dropped to number 4, but the action and story are fantastic.

#3 —Super 8
Everything about this movie was amazing. From the detail of life in the 70’s/80’s to the suspense of a great monster movie. I loved it.

#2 —Real Steal AND Soul Surfer
I grouped these two together (and cheated to get 6) but I loved both of these movies. Not only do they top my Top 5 Family Movies of 2011, but they are near the top of my favorite movies of the year.

#1 —Captain America
Clean, exciting, fun. This superhero movie had it all, and I can watch it with my kids.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
and Thor

What about you?

What did you like?

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Can The World Deal With Tebow’s Zeal?

Posted on: 12/12/11 9:22 AM | by Jonathan McKee

It’s not often that we hear positive words about Christians on national TV. But Tim Tebow is making a more than a few people scratch their heads and wonder, “Is this whole Christianity thing actually working for this guy?”

Those of us watching the Sunday night football broadcast on NBC this weekend might have heard Bob Costas’ halftime report about Tebow. While many in this nation are mocking Tebow’s faith, or laughing, dropping to one knee and doing the Tebow… others are taking note of his character and undeniable belief.

I couldn’t say it better than Bob Costas did:

“Still, there is no doubt that Tebow and his team benefit from his honest belief. How? Frank Bruni put it well in today’s New York Times. Whatever Tebow may lack in classic NFL quarterbacking traits, he possesses other qualities in abundance. And in his case, those qualities — confidence, equanimity, optimism — and a presence that can’t be explained, but can certainly be felt. The whole Tebow persona derives from how he sees the world, and his place in it. Those qualities, no matter how one comes by them, are an asset, perhaps especially in sports.

Good for Tebow, and those who share his beliefs. And those who don’t can still acknowledge, and appreciate, that who Tim Tebow is, is not only genuine, but for the moment at least, it makes him and the Broncos, one of the most fascinating, and in whatever sense you interpret it, uplifting stories in sports.”

Click here to read Costas entire “halftime essay.”

After hearing Costas give that report yesterday, my daughter Alyssa smiled at me with a surprised look and said, “That is so cool!”

I looked at her equally surprised. “Pinch me. I think I’m dreaming.”

How often have you seen the world take notice of a Christian because of his character?

Will they still notice if he doesn’t get that W next week against the Patriots?

Bronco fans might have flinched when Costas said, “Whatever Tebow may lack in classic NFL quarterbacking traits,” but facts are facts. Tebow can’t throw like Tom Brady. But as Costa so astutely pointed out, what Tebow lacks in quarterbacking, he more than makes up for in character. Kudos to Costas for fairly pointing out that Tebow’s internal qualities are an asset.

Imagine that… the world noticing someone’s character over performance.

New York Times Frank Bruni, mentioned by Costas above, made candid observations about Tebow’s religion as well:

Which brings us back to religion. With Tebow there’s no getting away from it. He uses the microphones thrust in front of him to mention his personal savior, Jesus Christ, and has said that heaven is reserved for devout Christians. He genuflects so publicly and frequently that to drop to one knee in the precise way he does has been given its own word, along with its own Web site, where you can see photographs of people Tebowing inside St. Peter’s, in front of the Taj Mahal, on sand, on ice and even underwater.

That zeal doesn’t go over so well with many football enthusiasts, me included. Tebow performs a sort of self-righteous bait-and-switch — you come for scrimmages and he subjects you to scriptures — and the displeasure with that is also writ colorfully on the Web, in Tebow-ridiculing Twitter feeds and Facebook pages, one devoted entirely to snapshots through time of Tebow in tears. An emotional man, he has traveled a weepy path to this point.

But the intensity of the derision strikes me as unwarranted, in that it outdoes anything directed at, say, the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, accused repeatedly of sexual assault, or other players actually convicted of burglary, gun possession and other crimes. In a league full of blithe felons, Tebow and his oppressive piety don’t seem like such horrendous affronts at all.

Besides which, to get lost in the nature of his Christianity is to miss the ecumenical, secular epiphanies in his — and the Broncos’ — extraordinary season. Their sudden turnaround isn’t just thrilling. It illustrates the limits of logic and the shortcomings of the most quickly made measurements and widely cited metrics.

Bruni’s entire article was worth reading (with a dictionary by your side).

As a parent of three teenagers and a 20-year youth ministry veteran, I have to say, it’s nice to see a positive role model emerging in a world full of lousy heroes. Having just written a summary of 2011’s number one songs and artists, I have a bitter taste in my mouth. Britney? Gaga? Kanye West? Katy Perry? These are the number ones?

Young people today need a hero. They need authentic. With Tebow, they get someone who is genuine on and off the field, a true light in a dark world. That is something worth talking about with our kids.

I pray—and you should too—that Tebow can stay true to his faith and not stumble… because all of America is waiting for him to do so.

Top 10 Christmas Gift Ideas for Your Little Lady

Posted on: 12/9/11 8:05 AM | by Jonathan McKee

Sometimes during the Christmas season, men need a little help understanding what to buy their women!

Well, a couple years ago, my friend Matt Furby and I decided that we would help these clueless husbands with some solid Christmas shopping advice. So we put together this helpful little video, the Top 10 Christmas Gift Ideas for Your Little Lady!

Click here to view the video on our YouTube page

P.S. Strangely I posted this blog from under the Sunrise Blvd bridge down by the river… where I now sleep in a sleeping bag in a cardboard box!

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