December 13, 2009

The Chaos Begins

This will be the last post on Dance With Sunflowers. The move over to the new domain, at, has finally been completed. All future posts will be found there. Please adjust your bookmarks and rss feeds accordingly.

You can find the rss feed here. In addition, you can follow Dance With Sunflowers and The Chaos Factory on twitter. Or join The Chaos Factory Facebook page here.

The new website is going to be more than just Dance With Sunflowers. There are going to be a number of new web experiments, combining storytelling, photography, film and whatever else strikes my fancy. Be on the lookout for two new blogging experiments which will start in the next week or two. The first is called The Man Out Of Time, the incredibly true story of Urashima Tarō and his quest to return to his family in 17th century Japan. The second is A Story In 100 Words, presenting daily literature in short bursts. Look for these and more in the near future.

Now, what you really want to know about. The Great Dan Brown Experiment will take place this coming Saturday, December 19th. Over the course of 24 hours (I hope) I will be reading The Lost Symbol, and live blogging about the experience. For those of you in the Western Hemisphere, the fun begins your Friday night. Please join me in order to provide me the moral support I need to devote an entire 24 hours to Dan Brown. Remember, all of this takes place at

Thanks to everyone who has been a part of Dance With Sunflowers. And I hope to see you all at the new website.

November 18, 2009

There Is Still Time For You To Celebrate International Mustache Month

There Is Still Time For You To Celebrate International Mustache Month

The mustache was invented more than 2500 years ago, by Peisistratos of Athens. As chronicled in The Histories of Herodotus, the original tyrant of the Greek polis carved the first mustache because he thought it made him look more execrable, and helped him accrue power. He fashioned it using a bronze blade*.

The American President also has a long tradition of imposing facial hair. What follows are the eight greatest examples of manifest destiny the new world has ever produced:

Grover_Cleveland_Mustache#8 Grover Cleveland
Cleveland was the leader of the Bourbon Democrats. This mustache makes it obvious why. The city of Cleveland is in fact named after his bourbon ’stache.
Andrew_Jackson_Brows#7 Andrew Jackson
Old Hickory reminds us that eye brows count as facial hair too. They look thick enough to erase chalk boards. Awesome.
Grover_Cleveland_Mustache2#6 Grover Cleveland
After failing in his reelection campaign in 1888, Grover Cleveland returned to private life determined to grow an even more daunting mustache. His reelection in 1892 proved his mission was a success, and made him the only president to be counted twice.
Rutherford_Hayes_Beard#5 Rutherford B. Hayes
Remember Captain Caveman? I am fairly certain Hanna-Barbara got the character design from this portrait. Hayes actually retired in 1879, but his beard carried out the rest of his term.
William_Taft_Mustache#4 William Taft
Taft’s Mustache, measuring 8 inches across, was the last facial hair to hold presidential office. It was known to have beaten Teddy Roosevelt’s ’stache in a wrestling match.
Chester_Arthur_Mustache#3 Chester A. Arthur
Much like Sisyphus, Arthur’s mustache and sideburns are forever striving to touch, but always falling just short.
Abraham_Lincoln_Beard#2 Abraham Lincoln
The only member of the Illinois Amish ever elected to federal office, Lincoln sacrificed his mustache in order to unite the country after the American Civil War.
Martin_Van_Buren_Burns#1 Martin Van Buren
Little known fact: Shortly before his death, Van Buren played the cowardly lion on Broadway.
Obama_MustacheOne can only hope that Obama realizes the majestic might of a properly grown mustache and return America to its rightful place as the most awesome nation of mustache growers this side of Russia.

*This is in fact patently untrue on a number of different levels.

November 8, 2009

Giant Cabbages From Outer Space

There are two surefire signs that Autumn has officially arrived in Beijing.

First of all, you have the two week stretch of November that is invariably the coldest of the year, thanks to the Government’s central heating rules. In America, you might think of central heating as the thermostat control that lets you turn up your heat as high as your electricity bill will allow.

In China, however, central heating is the neighborhood controlled system that allows one boiler to provide warmth to an entire village. In Beijing, November 15th is something of an informal holiday every year, as that is the date when the city’s boilers switch on. But for those first two weeks of the month, you find yourself bundling up to go to the bathroom, and showers gain you entry into the polar bear club.

The second sure fire sign of Autumn in Beijing is the deluge of 白菜 that descends on the city like an alien invasion. Harking back to the 3 vegetable winters of decades past, every old woman in the capital stocks up on the hardy cabbages, buying enough to last a family all the way to spring.

Speaking of alien invasions, I finally watched District 9 this week. Definitely worthy of all the hype. I especially enjoyed the father and son prawns. The strongest characters in the movie.

The only drawback was the documentary style. The feel of it was nice, but I was constantly annoyed because too often the scenes were shot in places and circumstances that never would have allowed for cameras. Inside the alien hideout? Close-ups during a firefight? If you are going to use the faux documentary technique, go all the way. Otherwise, YOU, the filmmaker, have violated our tacit agreement by which I, the viewer, have agreed to willingly suspend my judgment concerning the implausibility of the narrative.

And I hate it when that happens.

October 31, 2009

Francis Bacon And The Sorceror's Stone

One of the hottest pop culture trends is the mashup. You take two or more disparate ideas, creative works, images or DNA sequences, and you combine them into a cohesive whole capable of generating offspring.

My friend Ben is a big fan of Girl Talk. The musician takes hundreds of soundbytes from various songs and blends them into one track. Ben is a pretty popular guy, so I assume that his likes and dislikes are representative of all Westerners. Girl Talk must be awesome.

Another example are the novels Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. These take the classic Jane Austen tales and complement them with scenes of monstrous mayhem.

Unfortunately, I have no musical talent, so song mashups are out. And even if half the novel is already written for you, it's not like I have the time to write half a novel. I am a busy guy, and time doesn't grow on trees.

So I am left with trying to figure out a way to mashup my blog. A blog mashup might look something like this:

Wizards of Waverly Place is an Emmy Award-winning live-action Disney Channel Original Series which stars Selena Gomez, David Henrie and Jake T. Austin, as three siblings with magical abilities.

The show centers on the Bacon family, which includes Alex, her older brother Justin, and their younger brother Max; Alex's best friend Harper is also part of the storyline. The three Russo siblings are wizards and live with their father Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St Alban KC, an English philosopher, statesman, scientist, lawyer, jurist, author and a former wizard.

Bacon served both as Attorney General and Lord Chancellor of England. Although his political career ended in disgrace, he remained extremely influential through his works, especially as philosophical advocate and practitioner of the scientific revolution. He is also a former wizard, who chose to give up his powers to marry his wife Theresa, a mortal, due to a rule forbidding wizards to marry mortals.

Bacon's works established and popularized an inductive methodology for scientific inquiry, often called the Baconian method or simply, the scientific method. His demand for a planned procedure of investigating all things natural marked a new turn in the rhetorical and theoretical framework for science, much of which still surrounds conceptions of proper methodology today. He is proud of his magical ancestry and teaches his children about the proper uses of magic in "Wizard Training Class."

The children are not allowed to use magic without supervision, and only one of the three will keep their magic abilities once they are adults; this will be determined by a magic competition. Alex often gets into trouble for using magic unsupervised. Justin always makes sure Alex does not get into any more trouble than she's already in. Along the way, all of the kids learn moral lessons relating to friends, family, and school.

The Bacon family owns a sub-sandwich shop on Waverly Place.

October 28, 2009

A Great Companion For Long Road Trips

Science made a new announcement today. Apparently, cockroaches do not have to urinate in order to survive. They recycle all of their own waste and turn it back into usable materials. Roaches really are the pinnacle of evolution.

The ability to reuse their own waste originates from their symbiotic relationship with an unusual microbe known as Blattabacterium. According to Science, this microbe breaks down waste uric acid and turns it into ammonia and urea, which it then uses to construct amino acids and repair cell membranes.

Because it reuses the normally toxic uric acid rather than expelling it, cockroaches need far less water than most species. This microbe, therefore, is one of the keys to the cockroach's extreme durability.

Now that Science has discovered how cockroaches are such perfect little recycling machines, the path forward is clear: Voluntary Human Extinction. When faced with such an optimum example of life, we must do what Kasparov did against Deep Blue, and knock over our own king.

Long live the roaches.

October 19, 2009

The Great Dan Brown Experiment

We interrupt our regular scheduled blogging for two important announcements.

First, Dance With Sunflowers will soon migrate to a new location, at The process of starting up the new website and switching over will take another month or two, and in the meantime I will continue posting here. The new site will include several new blogs and other exciting endeavors I will tell you about later. Be on the look out.

Second, as part of the new website, I will be conducting my first live blogging event. I will be reading Dan Brown's new novel, The Lost Symbol, over the course of 24 hours, with a running journal of my reactions. Join me as I experience the best selling book (2 million copies sold in the first week) for the first time, with immediate feedback on what will surely go down as a modern classic.

Of course, being invested in the novel might influence my impartiality. So I am looking for someone who will lone it to me in the next few weeks. Please do not buy it with the specific intention of giving it to me, as that will defeat the purpose. But if you already have it, I will be happy to take it off your hands.

When I have a date for the Live Blogging session, as well as the debut of the new website, I will let everyone know.

To whet your appetite, here are some facts about Dan Brown's previous novel, The Da Vinci Code:
  • According to Wikipedia, it has sold more than 80 million copies to date.
  • 80 MILLION! That equals The Catcher In The Rye, and easily surpasses Charlotte's Web, To Kill A Mockingbird, or Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary
  • That's right, more than the dictionary
  • In fact, the only novels to have sold more books in the history of humankind are: Le Petit Prince, She, Dream Of Red Chambers, The Hobbit, And Then There Were None, The Lord Of The Rings, and A Tale Of Two Cities. That's it. The entire list. The Da Vinci Code is already the 8th best selling novel of all time
  • It is almost entirely based on the Umberto Eco novel, Foucault's Pendulum, which predates it by more than a decade.

October 16, 2009

Monkey Economics, Or The Evolution Of A Patriot

The newest trend in academics is trying to find evolutionary connections between humans and other species. It has been established with parrots. It has been done with dolphins. But the surest way to send creationists into a tizzy is to mention the behaviors we share with monkeys and apes.

That's what makes the concept of monkey economics so gratifying. Researchers around the world are finding that the ability to understand and practice commerce is not limited to the human species. Dr. Laurie Santos has conducted experiments that show capuchin monkeys can learn how to operate in a market environment.

The monkeys are taught that a token can be exchanged for food. When given the choice of whether to trade for apple slices or jello-cubes, they in general trade for each about 50% of the time. But when one of the sellers decides that he will sell jello-cubes two for one, they stop buying apple slices and spend most of their money on jello.

But when the experiment is shifted, the monkeys' behavior adapts in a significant way. The two sellers begin to both offer apple slices, but the first appears to offer one slice for one token, but upon receiving the payment, actually gives two. The second presents three apples, but takes one apple away after receiving the token. When presented with this scenario, the monkeys overwhelmingly buy apples from the first seller, even though statistically, they are getting the same deal, two slices for one token. This type of behavior is known as loss aversion.

Interestingly enough, when humans are subjected to similar experiments, the results are nearly identical to those with monkeys. Both monkeys and humans seem to care as much about a sense of fairness as they do with their own economic gain.

Keith Chen has taken the experiments even further. He has discovered that not only do the monkeys have a thorough understanding of the value of the money, they have taken to stealing it. One day, when a monkey was brought out of his living area into the adjacent testing area, as soon as the door was open, the subject charged at the tray of tokens and flung it behind him, sending the other monkeys into fever as they rushed to get the pilfered booty.

Even more remarkably, as Chen was trying to restore order and get the tokens back, he observed a male monkey take a token and offer it to one of the females in exchange for sex. After getting her payment, she promptly took the token and offered it to one of the scientists in return for a grape.

Yes, this is a true story!

I would like nothing more than to have Chen lock some capitalist monkeys in a room with a group of intelligent design supporters and see what transpires. It must be hard for religious right wingers to read about these results. On the one hand, here is further proof of the evolutionary link between humans and primates. But on the other hand, it is also provides evidence that these monkeys are proud supporters of capitalism.

October 14, 2009

The Life And Times Of Baron Manfred von Richthofen

Contrary to popular belief, the Red Baron was not a Robber Baron. It is a common mistake, since they have the same surname. The Red Baron was a famous World War I fighter pilot. He was very successful at his job, but he did not have a monopoly on aircraft, nor did he become a millionaire. He did however go on to star in the comic strip, Peanuts.

The Red Baron's real name was Manfred von Richthofen. No wonder he changed his name to the Red Baron. His name looks German. Since he fought in the World War on the side of the Germans, we can safely conclude that he was indeed German himself.

The Robber Barons were not German. They were American entrepreneurs. They could not fly airplanes because airplanes had not been invented yet.

Some people surmise that the Red Baron was descended from the Robber Barons. This is stupid. Obviously, once it is realized that the Red Baron is German, and the Robber Barons were American, this does not make sense. If you read this on Wikipedia, you will regret not paying for a membership at Encyclopedia Britannica.

The German word for Baron is Freiherr. It means Free Lord. How ironic! If the Robber Barons had been Free Lords, they never would have become so rich. They made all of their money by selling the products they had monopolies on. This is how an economy works. Look it up with your new Encyclopedia Britannica membership.

They do share one thing in common. They are both wicked cool. The Red Baron shot down 80 planes during World War I. If he had been in Top Gun, he would have had one of the really good nicknames, like Ice Man, not something stupid like Goose. The Robber Barons, specifically Andrew Mellon (who according to Wikipedia had a fruit monopoly), created supply side economics.

Sometimes I wish the Red Baron were descended from the Robber Barons. My life would be much simpler then.

Lyric Of The Day:

Come on, come on let's have a song
the morning sun is soon to come
we don't have time to linger on

There comes a time, there comes a
time to make it right when I was wrong
and someday girl we'll get along.

Goodbye to all your plans
you can listen to me now
your head is bent out of shape
but your feet are on the ground
but all in all, the ceiling's coming down

I take my time to face the day
it's good to hear you talk this way
so we'll keep this up as friends
this time, nothing's wrong
I'll stand up as I'll shake your hand,
we'll be alright

Then I'll do it all again

"Bows + Arrows"
-The Walkmen

October 10, 2009

Don't Let All These Facts About Robber Barons Bore You. They Are True!

You know the movie Citizen Kane? The one based on William Randolph Heast? Orson Welles plays Charles Foster Kane, the newspaper magnate and robber baron. He jealously guards his paper kingdom, hoarding all the nation's periodicals for his own personal profit while secretly pining for his long lost teddy bear, Rosebud.

These are facts.

The Robber Barons ruled the 1800's with their long names and pointed baron hats, robbing from the poor and filling their own coffers. They founded universities and built museums. They owned everything, including the government.

That all ended with the Clayton Anti-Trust Act in 1914. Congress broke up the monopolies and took away their baron hats.

Our list today does not celebrate the greatest captains of industry, but the monopolies themselves. The most famous of the Robber Barons did not necessarily have the best monopolies. Who wants to sit on a huge pile of oil? Or a giant heap of iron ore? These are the guys who, when they took you to check out their garage, really had something to brag about:

#6 James Lewis Kraft

Kraft invented the first processed cheese in 1912. By 1916, he had sold more than 6 million pounds of the very orange, but not very delicious, food like substance. His genius lay not only in the revolutionary industrial process, which allowed his cheese to be canned almost indefinitely, but in the fact that he convinced America that it was actually edible.

The purveyors of traditional cheese found themselves pushed out of the market by Kraft, whom they accused of fraud. They asked the government to regulate his products, and federal guidelines ultimately ruled that the fat and moisture content of pasteurized process cheese must match that of natural cheese. Since Kraft's invention, per capita cheese consumption in the United States has risen from 3 pounds a year to 30. And despite what your senses are telling you, the law says that it is actually cheese.

#5 Benjamin Franklin

When Franklin invented electricity, not only did he usher in a new era of science and technology, he also became insanely wealthy. Even cooler, he wielded his lightning rod like an Olympian God, using it to defeat the British and give birth to the United States of America.

His son, William, not realizing its value, eventually sold his electricity patent to Thomas Edison, allowing the inventor to finally find some value in such devices as the light bulb and the electric toaster.

#4 Cornelius Vanderbilt

Everyone loves the board game Monopoly right? Or at least the idea of the game, because it turns out that actually playing Monopoly is inordinately boring. Well, no robber baron quite captures the flavor of the old board game like Vanderbilt. I mean, he owned all the railroads. Wasn't that the best thing in the game? All four railroads?

Other awesome facts about Vanderbilt: Before he bought all the railroads, he had a monopoly on steam ships. This guy really knew how to get around. In today's dollars, Vanderbilt was the second wealthiest American in history.

To top it off, Vanderbilt's nickname was the Commodore. How cool is that? From now on, everyone has to call me the Commodore.

#3 Burgess Charles Montgomery

Before Mr. Burns became a fixture on American television, Montgomery was the quintessential corporate scoundrel. Because of the dangers inherent in nuclear technology, the US government initially allowed him a monopoly to insure the communists did not get the secret.

Montgomery for a short time had a monopoly on atoms themselves. Of course, the government soon wised up, and the monopoly was revoked. Montgomery secretly sold his atomic secrets to the Russians, for which he eventually went to jail. A very, very rich jail. A jail made of solid gold.

#2 Frederick August Otto Schwarz

Toys. One man owned all the toys in the world. He became rich, and therefore became jaded. He forgot what it meant to be a child. All joy passed from his life. His toys lost their appeal.

Until one day, an orphan boy showed up on the man's door step. The young rapscallion reminded Schwarz of his own childhood. Together they made toys that every boy and girl could love. And Schwarz became even more rich and powerful.

He still lives today, his brain mechanically fused to a toy steam engine, insuring him of eternal life. A life of endless circles and tiny pine trees.

#1 Milton Snavely Hershey

His parents gave him the middle name Snavely. Of course he went on to become a twisted, evil candy magnate. But who cares? He literally lived in the Land of Chocolate, with rivers of chocolate, and chocolate dogs you could eat out of your hands.

Yes, Milton S. Hershey was the greatest Robber Baron in history, wearing his little chocolate hat to steal the candy from babies.

Lyric Of The Day:

Who can take a sunrise
Sprinkle it in dew
Cover it in chocolate
and a miracle or two?

The candyman
The candyman can
The candyman can cause he mixes it with love
and makes the world taste good

Who can take a rainbow
Wrap it in a sigh
Soak it in the sun
and make a strawberry lemon pie?

The candyman?

The candyman
The candyman can
The candyman can cause he mixes it with love
and makes the world taste good

"The Candy Man Can"
-Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley

October 7, 2009

He Even Has A Monopoly On The Letter B

It is that time again. The weekly mail blog. Let's see what our readers have to say this week:

Dear DWS,

I have to plan out my next three months of vacation days for work. Is there any way you can give us a sneak preview of what we can expect from Dance With Sunflowers during that time so I can make some decisions?

Spencer Ross
State College, PA

Dear SR,

We at DWS like to think of ourselves as forward thinkers. Anyone can tell you what was cool yesterday (Fondue, Burt Reynolds, wood paneling on station wagons) and what is cool today (Vampires, zombies, tablet computers). But what our readers really want to know is what will be cool tomorrow.

A peak ahead at our upcoming blogs can inform us of exactly that. Rather than reacting to what is already out there in the blogosphere, we are highlighting the issues, themes and action figures that all the geeks will be obsessing about, and all the t-shirt companies will be designing for in the days ahead.

Here is what you can expect:
  1. The Robber Barons
  2. The Aeniad
  3. Vitamins
  4. The Letter B
  5. The Wizards of Waverly Place
  6. Non-Invasive Surgeries
  7. The Speed Limit
  8. Chuck Woolery
  9. Really High Levels of Magnification
Thanks for the email SR, and I hope that this will help you plan your outfit for Halloween. This year AND next.

When you begin to notice Henry Flick leaving the History Channel and popping up on MTV, and you hear American Idols singing about Andrew Carnegie, you won't be surprised. You will know that the mad splash of industrialists across our pop culture itinerary was inevitable. Welcome to Robber Baron Week!

Next Issue: Our Favorite Captains of Industry

Lyric Of The Day:

"We men are only lusty boys,
Though snowy be our locks,
So Skibo's master still enjoys
To sit and play with blocks."

-Origin Unknown

October 3, 2009

Up Next: The Phantom Menace On Broadway

Aesop wrote:
A Wolf found great difficulty in getting at the sheep owing to the vigilance of the shepherd and his dogs. But one day it found the skin of a sheep that had been flayed and thrown aside, so it put it on over its own pelt and strolled down among the sheep. The Lamb that belonged to the sheep, whose skin the Wolf was wearing, began to follow the Wolf in the Sheep's clothing; so, leading the Lamb a little apart, he soon made a meal off her, and for some time he succeeded in deceiving the sheep, and enjoying hearty meals.
Appearances are deceptive.
I was reminded of that story during a recent viewing of Watchmen. Appearances are indeed deceptive.

On the surface, Watchmen was everything fanboys and comic geeks could have hoped for. After the triple disasters of previous Alan Moore related projects (V for Vendetta, From Hell, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen), it was widely feared the movie version of Watchmen would bastardize the story. As it turns out however, Zack Snyder goes out of his way to faithfully reproduce the source material. Visually, they are virtually identical. Certainly, parts of the story had to be trimmed, even at three hours, but he still managed to keep nearly all the major story lines, maintain the same narration and pacing, and even exactly match many of the comic's scene compositions.

Yet, for all that, I was strangely disturbed as I watched. Something just felt wrong.

You remember watching The Phantom Menace for the first time? In pretty much every quantifiable way, it was a Star Wars movie. The opening music. The crawl. The swipes. The sound effects and John Williams score. Yet the further in you got, the more your heart sank.

It was a Star Wars movie, yes, but slowly there was the horrible realization that this movie just was not very good. In fact, the prequels are not really movies at all, but elaborate video games. What else to call them? The pod racing or R2-D2 and C-3PO on the assembly line are not really cinema. George Lucas grafted together some of his old characters and some potential new toy lines onto a two hour X-Box session.

And it is the same feeling I get watching the string of musical biopics that have appeared recently. Movies like Ray and Walk The Line feature fantastic performances and classic music, but they fail as movies. Rather than tell a great story, they get stuck trying to cram in all the important events in a person's life. Real life does not in general make a great movie. Contrast them with I'm Not There, a biography that uses a person's life as a starting point and crafts an interesting, groundbreaking movie.

Watchmen, for all its visual glory, has made the same mistake. The first hour of the movie lacks any real tension, because they are too busy using the comic book as a story board. Rather than try to make a trailblazing movie to match the original's legacy, the filmmakers just regurgitated the graphic novel. That story is meant to be read, it does not work as well as a movie without some serious refashioning.

It does not help that the performances are almost universally atrocious. But even if the casting director had done a better job, it would not have prevented Watchmen from being unmasked as a wolf in sheep's clothing.

September 23, 2009

The Planet Of Inexperience

In The Art of the Novel, Milan Kundera writes:
We are born one time only, we can never start a new life equipped with the experience we've gained from a previous one. We leave childhood without knowing what youth is, we marry without knowing what it is to be married, and even when we enter old age, we don't know what it is we're heading for: the old are innocent children of their old age. In that sense, man's world is the planet of inexperience.
What a beautiful encapsulation of the human experience.

Like many I suspect, I sometimes dream of having the opportunity to live life over again, to revisit poorly thought out decisions, or adjust for factors unknown at the time. Alas, we are given no such second chances. Our only alternative is to make the best choices we can based on the information available to us. We can content ourselves that every other hapless soul finds itself in the same quandary.

Thomas Nuttall (1786-1859), a pioneer botanist in the American Northwest, can literally be said to have been one of those lost souls. Despite taking part in several expeditions on the American frontier, his fellow explorers knew him to be almost permanently astray. They lit watch fires every evening because it was the only way he could make it back to camp.

His woeful itinerancy culminated one evening when, despite the fires, he failed to return, and his companions were forced to go look for him. They called out his name, and made enough noise that Nuttall heard them through the trees.

But perhaps they were Indians. They might have heard the others use his name. So he went charging into the brush in the other direction. For three days, he led his party on a winding, meandering chase through the woods. Eventually, and by fortunate accident, he led them right back to the original camp.

History remembers Nuttall as one of history's greatest failures, but he did not allow his deficiencies to prevent him from also being one of America's most important early botanists. Like Nuttall, we all bumble and bluff our way, trying to convince ourselves their is some meaning in all the bluster, and doing our best to make something of the great practical joke of life. As Kundera points out, every one of us, no matter how accomplished, is a miracle of ignorance.

Lyric Of The Day:

Teachers keep on teachin'
Preachers keep on preachin'
World keep on turnin'
Cause it won't be too long

Lovers keep on lovin'
Believers keep on believin'
Sleepers just stop sleepin'
Cause it won't be too long

I'm so glad that he let me try it again
Cause my last time on earth I lived a whole world of sin
I'm so glad that I know more than I knew then
Gonna keep on tryin'
Till I reach my highest ground

"Higher Ground"
-Stevie Wonder

September 21, 2009

First There Was Nothing...Then There Was Calvin

#1 Calvin and Hobbes

See Introduction | #9|#8| #7|#6|#5|#4|#3|#2

Not fair, you cry. It's not a webcomic. It was a newspaper comic strip, and its creator retired well before the rise of the Internet.

Perhaps, but thanks to UCLICK and Google Reader, I can still read it every day. And whether or not it truly belongs on a list of webcomics, its tremendous influence on the medium cannot be denied. An entire generation of Americans has been shaped by reading Calvin and Hobbes every morning.

As the folks at Progressive Boink expressed it:
I can confidently state that Calvin and Hobbes outclasses the rest of the comic strip world more than anything else has ever outclassed the rest of its medium. Sans this strip, the industry is characterized by guys sitting on rocks making stupid puns, a Family Circus kid misunderstanding the meaning of a word, or an overweight father playing golf while telling jokes such as I LIKE GOLF and GOLF IS HARD. It's a medium that doesn't really deserve something as good as Calvin and Hobbes, but it got it anyway, and the newspaper-reading world was made a better place by it.
Hyperbole, yes. But not by much. Calvin and Hobbes was much more than just entertaining. It made us think. Even as children, we recognized ourselves in the two protagonists, whether in their stringent refusal to yield to authority, their inability to escape their own nature, or the way in which they are so misunderstood by the adults around them. They are miniature philosophers, and we will forever owe Bill Watterson a debt for their creation.

Since his retirement, Watterson has become our generation's Salinger. The longer he resists any kind of compromise or comeback, the more the legend of Calvin and Hobbes grows. He is the Beatles, minus the solo careers, Abraham Lincoln, absent a bullet in the head.

It is incredible to realize that Calvin and Hobbes only ran for a single decade. It is as much a part of my mornings as the New York Times, breakfast cereal, or oxygen.
Be thankful we lived to see it, and feel sad for those who passed their lives in the interminable dark ages that proceeded its advent.

Milan Kundera writes:
Once upon a time I too thought that the future was the only competent judge of our works and actions. Later on I understood that chasing after the future is the worst conformism of all, a craven flattery of the mighty. For the future is always mightier than the present. It will pass judgement on us, of course. And without any competence.
Who can say how the future will judge Calvin and Hobbes. In two hundred years, will our sons and daughters will be reading it alongside Faulkner, Beckett, and Fitzgerald? I can only assert that they should be.

Lyric Of The Day:

He's a miniature philosopher
He takes notes on all he reads
But that doesn't satisfy his needs
He's a desk clerk at the bank and trust
There's so many contracts and paperwork to do
He gets so busy at the bank and trust
There is no time for Nietzsche or Camus

He's a miniature philosopher
He writes essays on Voltaire
But if he died no one would care

He doesn't know why his life turned out this way
No one ever reads his dissertations or allegoric plays
So he comforts himself while searching a rhyme
That the public rarely recognize a genius in their time
(poor little guy)
He's a miniature philosopher
Though he hasn't got a friend
He's sure he'll be famous in the end

"The Miniature Philosopher"
-Of Montreal

September 18, 2009

T-Rex De Le Mancha

#2 Dinosaur Comics

See Introduction | #9|#8| #7|#6|#5|#4|#3

It would be natural to assume that one of the major appeals of the comic as an art form is the illustrations. Dinosaur Comics proves that you are wrong.

You see, in Dinosaur Comics, every strip has identical artwork. Panel 1, T-Rex in three quarters profile, tail extended behind him. Panel 2, close up on T-Rex, mouth agape in seeming excitement. Panel 3, the scene pulls out to reveal T-Rex stomping on a log cabin, with a car parked out front, and a female Dromiceiomimus glancing back at him. Panel 4, T-Rex about to step on a human, with restless Utahraptor standing behind him. Panel 5, T-Rex peering over his shoulder at Utahraptor. Finally, panel 6, T-Rex again alone, standing pigeon-toed.

With every strip visually identical, there is no story. Nothing happens. It is much akin to Calvin and Hobbes riding the sled down the hill. You know there will be a crash every time. The allure lays in the conversation.

And every day, T-Rex and his two friends have a new conversation. They muse on all manner of subject matter, including racism, epistemology, time travel, and space murder.

Over the years, we have learned that T-Rex is an everyman. He is also an overly enthusiastic man-child in love with himself. Most of all, he is a modern day Don Quixote, passionately committed to his vision of the world, and refusing to allow setbacks, society, God, or common sense prevent him from fully effectuating his own reality.

From reading this interview, I gather the author is much like his short-armed creation. Ryan North, I salute you. You have taken the art form of Internet comics to its pinnacle.

And by the way, to carry the comparison to Don Quixote to its logical conclusion: Utahraptor is Sancho Panza, Dromiceiomimus is Dulcinea, the log cabin is Rocinante, and the windmills are God.

Lyric Of The Day:

Dinosaurs lived a long time ago
They were terrible lizards don't you know
Some ate plants and some ate meat
Some ate fish and some ate beasts
One was called Diplodocus
One was bigger than your school bus
One was called a Triceratops
Three horns to stop anything that hops
Now can't you just see yourself walking along
Leading your pet Trachadon
Or feeding your Brontosaurus Rex
Or scratching your Diplodocus' neck
Or riding on a Stegosaurus' back
Or swimming in Brachiscaurus' track
Oh what a time and oh what a fun
Playing tag with your Ignanondon
And if we had Dinosaurus now
Could they get along with a horse and a cow
Well I wish they hadn't become extinct
Dinosaurus would be nice pets and friends
To have around to run outside
And play with every day don't you think

"Dinosaur Song"
-Johnny Cash

September 14, 2009

The Balloon Is A Metaphor, Which Represents A Balloon

#3 Daisy Owl

See Introduction | #9|#8| #7|#6|#5|#4

Popular entertainment is littered with strange, dysfunctional, and variegated nuclear families. The Brady Bunch brought together a family of all boys with a family of all girls. The Munsters included a Frankenstein, a vampire and a werewolf. Different Strokes told the story of a rich, white widower, his Caucasian daughter, and two sassy black children.

But Daisy Owl may just feature the most unorthodox nuclear family ever conceived. Two human children, Daisy and Cooper, are raised by their adoptive father, an owl, and his best friend Steve. Steve is a polar bear.

What sets Daisy Owl apart, besides the absurdity, is the tenderness it displays. It lacks the cynicism that has come to suffuse our popular culture, while not drifting too far into the saccharine. It pays attention to the minutiae: small gestures, a lingering touch, an awkward silence. I will go so far as to say that Daisy Owl is the Charlie Chaplin of webcomics.

To quickly catch up to speed with Daisy Owl, check out Daisy comforting Cooper after a bad dream. Or the whole family playing basketball. Or when Cooper finds a monocle.
Or dinner at the Owl residence. Finally, the balloon.

Best of all, Daisy Owl has an entire sub-culture of dinosaurs. As when Cooper plays with his toy dinosaur. Or Cooper and his birthday cake.

It just makes me wish that I had been raised by an owl and lived in a tree house.

Lyric Of The Day:

When your mother sends back all your invitations
And your father to your sister he explains
That you're tired of yourself and all of your creations
Won't you come see me, Queen Jane ?
Won't you come see me, Queen Jane ?

Now when all of the flower ladies want back what they have lent you
And the smell of their roses does not remain
And all of your children start to resent you
Won't you come see me, Queen Jane ?
Won't you come see me, Queen Jane ?

Now when all the clowns that you have commissioned
Have died in battle or in vain
And you're sick of all this repetition
Won't you come see me, Queen Jane ?
Won't you come see me, Queen Jane ?

"Queen Jane Approximately"
-Bob Dylan

September 11, 2009

Sad Children Cannot Help But Be Awful

#4 pictures for sad children

See Introduction | #9 |#8 | #7|#6|#5

Everyone hates sad children. Pictures for sad children promises to make them stop crying. By helpfully pointing out the meaningless nature of their existence, the tears magically dry up. Because, really, what's the point?

Pictures for sad children is funny in the same way a joke at a funeral is funny. It feels weird, perhaps even wrong, to be laughing, but it is the only legitimate response when coming face to face with your own mortality.

Paul who is a ghost and his coworker Gary, who is not a ghost, switch back and forth between maudlin and melancholic as they face a life--and a death--that has failed to meet their expectations. Their work life sucks and their home life sucks.

Other moments of bitter without sweet reality include when a boy gets stuck in a mattress. Or when Gary finds an ipod in the trash. Did I mention that Paul who is a ghost is asian?

This one is my favorite.

Pro Tip: Many webcomics use alt text, which shows up when you position your cursor over the image and wait a second. "Too Late."

Drop whatever you are doing, and read the entire archive now.

Lyric Of The Day:

Turn off your mind relax and float down-stream,
It is not dying, it is not dying,
Lay down all thought surrender to the void,
It is shining, it is shining.

That you may see the meaning of within,
It is being, it is being,
That love is all and love is everyone,
It is knowing, it is knowing.

That ignorance and haste may mourn the dead,
It is believing, it is believing,
But listen to the color of your dreams,
It is not living, it is not living.

Or play the game "existence" to the end.

"Tomorrow Never Knows"
-The Beatles

September 8, 2009

It Is Also Well Drawn

#5 Dr. Mcninja

See Introduction | #9 |#8 | #7|#6

Do you remember when ninjas all of a sudden became really cool? It happened at about the same time robots became cool. And dinosaurs. And zombies.

Therein lies the beauty of Dr. McNinja: its mastery of our cultural zeitgeist. Dr. McNinja is not simply chasing after the latest iconography. It is creating it. The comic's love affair with the pop of our times goes way beyond the pirate killing ninja protagonist. It includes his gorilla receptionist, Judy, and his raptor-mounted, bandit child sidekick, Gordito. Yes, he has faced off against zombies and vampires, but he has also fought the clone of Ben Franklin, and an antagonist known simply as the Ghost Wizard.

My favorite is the appearance of gun wielding dolphins. As the t-shirt says, dolphins don't need thumbs...for revenge.

Dr. McNinja is unlike most comics you find on the Internet. It is not a single strip of panels, which always features a self-contained joke. It is also well drawn. Because it is instead modeled after a comic book, reading one panel will not mean much to you. It might just be a picture of the doctor driving with a wizard in his backseat. It might be a sketch of a giant lumberjack smashing the doctor's office. The only way to truly appreciate the adventures of Dr. McNinja is the way God intended, from the beginning.

Dr. McNinja is always bizarre, and always fun and interesting, and worth reading from cover to cover. Except there is no cover. It's a webcomic. And you can read it for free on the Internet. Awesome.

Lyric Of The Day:

If you were here
Would you calm me down
Or settle the score?
The feelings I fight (I'm a stranger in town)
Burn so bright (but if you were here)
The feelings I fight (would you ease my mind?)
(Come on!)

The sleep fled from my eyes
And I, I know that I need some
Give a thought to the one that you know

Or would you calm me down
When the breath gets shallow and fast?

"The Ghost Of You Lingers"

September 5, 2009

Humor In Two Dimensions

#6 Order Of The Stick

See Introduction | #9 |#8 | #7

Anyone who has been paying attention knows that every webcomic falls into one of the following three categories: those that revolve around video games, those concerned with role playing games, and everything else (this third category is the smallest).

Having never been inclined to worship Satan, I have not been much into role playing games. But I am a fan of fantasy epics such as Lord of the Rings and the war in Iraq, so I know a fair bit about the genre. Enough to know that most of these comics suck.

Order of the Stick is the exception. Imagine Lord of the Rings, but with stick figures. In the early days, a large part of the humor was making fun of Dungeons & Dragons, but that joke could only stretch so far. The reason the comic is now consistently among the best is because of the humorous characters and long, convoluted story which meanders randomly without ever seeming to come to a conclusion. On second thought, it's just because of the characters.

However, I know my readers are not the type to invest many hours pouring over the archived strips in order to catch up on their back stories. Therefore, here are a few of my favorites: Belkar faces workplace harassment, Roy takes a sick day, and here's your supreme leader.

I sort of feel like I started telling a funny story, realized no one was laughing, and ended by saying, "I guess you had to be there."

Lyric Of The Day:

"There's a worm in my head and a fish in the bed," she said
Confused, you will be
He's got the car on the lawn and he's using the horn again
Annoyed, she will be
Cartoon boyfriend, when you gonna rub yourself out?
"There's a girl at my door and she's begging for more," he said
"Abused, you will be"
"If you touch a hair on my head then you'd be better off dead"
She said "Oh joking, you must be"
Cartoon boyfriend, when you gonna rub yourself out?

"Cartoon Boyfriend"
-The Wonder Stuff

September 3, 2009

We Love The Ordinals

We are irate with Wired Magazine right now. Normally one of our favorite magazines, they have failed miserably when it comes to to their list of the greatest science fiction movies of all time.

They have a comprehensive list of movies, but its lack of ordinals means that we have no actual context.

Imagine you are sitting around with friends, and the following conversation occurs:

"I'm in the mood for some science fiction."

"Sounds good. What should we watch."

"Nothing too awesome. But it needs to be mildly fantastic."

"I agree. How about the 8th greatest science fiction movie of all time."

Simple right? Except how are you supposed to know what the 8th greatest science fiction movie of all time is if magazines like Wired fail to inform you.

I have been forced to interrupt my list of the best webcomics in order to quickly rectify the situation. What follows are the 14 Greatest Science Fiction Movies In The Known Multiverse:

#14 The Road Warrior

With The Road Warrior at #14, we don't have to wait to use the word dystopian.

#13 The Iron Giant

All of you who failed to see this in the theater, shame on you. It's because of poor choices like this that we end up with Transformers II and G-Force 3-D (Just wait).

#12 Back To The Future

Does for time traveling what The Time Traveler's Wife does for the spouses of time travelers.

#11 Aliens

Can anyone think of a better sequel in which a new director entered, transformed it according to his own personal vision, and then left the franchise to make the highest grossing movie of all time?

#10 2001: A Space Odyssey

The original was better, but Kubrick gets extra points for spawning the Macintosh commercial.

#9 Terminator

Featuring the first, and most certainly the best, of the Governator's one-liners.

#8 E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial

I especially appreciate that Spielburg took the time to explain the title, in the title.

#7 Terminator 2

Some people like the original better. They are wrong.

#6 Blade Runner

I always found the most frightening part of Blade Runner the giant advertisements overlooking the city like the corporate eyes of Sauron. How sad that it would also be the most prescient.

#5 Alien

A Hitchcock homage set in outer space.

#4 The Matrix

For about a 6 week period, Keanu Reeves was actually considered cool.

#3 Return Of The Jedi

Just because the prequels sucked doesn't mean the originals did too.

#2 Star Wars

It forever changed not only the genre of science fiction, but the entire movie industry. And like a true first love, we had our collective hearts broken in 1999.

#1 The Empire Strikes Back

Not just the greatest science fiction film, but the most fantabulous 124 minutes ever committed to celluloid.

Lyric Of The Day:

I look out of my window at night
I see the stars and I'm filled with fright
I got a feeling someone's looking
It ain't the aliens at the foot of my bed
It's more the ale inside my head
I got a feeling something's cooking

Science friction burns my fingers
Electricity still lingers
Hey put away that ray, how do you martians say
I love you

I read my comics from front to back
I'll be ready for any attack
I got a feeling someone's looking

"Science Friction"

September 1, 2009

Marmaduke Would Look Quite Dapper In That Top Hat

# 7 Wondermark

See Introduction | #9 |#8

The magic of webcomics stems from the freedom inherent in the medium. Unlike traditional comic strips, which are beset with strict guidelines for format and structure, as Bill Watterson famously struggled against, comics on the internet are free to evolve in any direction they wish. The variety of webcomics are stunning.

Take for example A Softer World, which takes a strip of three usually related photos and grafts a poem over them with seemingly unrelated text. Or how about Untitled Gif. I cannot even begin to explain what it is about, but I still enjoy reading it.

Imagine how great Marmaduke would be if Brad Anderson had been free to explore his full artistic vision. It might have turned out something like Wondermark.

In Wondermark, you have illustrations that look like artwork from turn of the century (the 20th, not the 21st) magazines or street fliers, with absurd story lines created. The style is stunning, and the immediate response upon first viewing it is to wonder how the artist does it. Does he painstakingly draw each one? Is their some kind of computer wizardry involved?

Apparently, the creator, David Malki ! (so astonishing, he has an exclamation point in his name) scans in the drawings from 19th century woodcuts and engravings. He then uses them as the basis for the strip. But to fully appreciate the time and labor involved, read his description of the process.

The final product is the seventh best webcomic in the universe. My favorites include In which Jody is burning some trash, In which it's Hot, and In which we went Too Far.

Wondermark is unique in that it excels in terms of both story and visuals. Not a combination you find very often in the world of webcomics. It makes me wonder why Malki with an exclamation point is not earning a real living as a graphic designer or advertiser. His parents must be very disappointed.

Lyric Of The Day:

Looking back on when i
Was a little nappy headed boy
Then my only worry
Was for christmas what would be my toy
Even though we sometimes
Would not get a thing
We were happy with the
Joy the day would bring

Sneaking out the back door
To hang out with those hoodlum friends of mine
Greeted at the back door
With boy thought I told you not to go outside,
Tryin your best to bring the
Water to your eyes
Thinkin it might stop her
From woopin your behind

I wish those days could come back once more
Why did those days ev-er have to go
I wish those days could come back once more
Why did those days ev-er have to go
Cause I love them so

"I Wish"
-Stevie Wonder

August 28, 2009

Dinosaurs Are Notoriously Bad At Making Decisions

#8 Cat And Girl

See Introduction | #9

It's been genetically proven that every new webcomic since 1995 is a direct descendent of Calvin and Hobbes. But not one is a more direct descendent than Cat and Girl.

You have a girl of undetermined age, accompanied by a cat of dubious reality. Together they muse on life, society and philosophy. The strip is even populated by the occasional dinosaur.

In the beginning (circa 1999), the strip tilted more towards Calvin's imaginary world view, fighting monsters that jump out of paintings, or facing off against invaders from outer space.

But over the years, Girl has become a speed bump in the fast lane of society, worried, alarmed or disgusted by what the masses would term progress. Nearly every strip now is a rumination on life and the human condition. Cat breezes through, seemingly unconcerned with the world at large, determined to enjoy his own personal kingdom. He does his best to bring Girl joy and solace.

Cat tries to entice Girl into having more fun. Cat tries to comfort Girl when she realizes they are not part of the elite. He helps her choose between creation and destruction. And he consoles her when she wants to give up.

Life for Cat and Girl is usually not easy. Cat takes it all in with aplomb, unfazed. Girl accepts it with a bittersweet resignation. Together, they suggest two extreme ways to go about living life. For the rest of us, we are somewhere in between.

Lyric Of The Day:

Hello cowgirl in the sand
Is this place
at your command
Can I stay here
for a while
Can I see your
sweet sweet smile
Old enough now
to change your name
When so many love you
is it the same?
It's the woman in you
that makes you want
to play this game.

"Cowgirl in the Sand"
-Neil Young

August 25, 2009

The World Needs More Laughter. Fewer Awkward Silences.

#9 Goats

See the introduction here.

I am in love with webcomics. Using your favorite rss aggregator (Google Reader in my case), they get magically zapped to your computer in a 21st century version of the funny pages. If you are tired of the awkward silences after reading Marmaduke, do yourself a favor and join the world of digital webcomics.

I am no expert, but I believe when it comes to longevity, webcomics qualify after about 6 months. Goats began on April 1, 1997. That is twelve years ago, people!

Something of an Internet institution, Goats is scatterbrained and offensive, but with adorable animals characters. The bizarro plot bounces from the Chaos Pope, to the Good Hitler movie, to a dimension full of infinite monkeys working on infinite typewriters. Anything can happen. And it does.

The characters include Diablo: a satanic chicken hellbent on government overthrow; his maniacal offspring, Oliver: cute, obscene and destructive; and my favorite, Fish: the innocent goldfish who lives in a glass of beer.

Goats peaked around 2004. The comics from this time period are among my favorite. Like when Diablo fed Oliver some chocolate. Or when Phillip challenged Diablo to a villainry duel. Or when Fish goes to do battle with the Space Wizards who have been inserting sadness into his brain.

Unfortunately, much like Harrison Ford, Goats 2009 lacks the vitality and genius of its younger days. The plot lines have spiraled out of control. The punch lines no longer sparkle. Even the artwork has declined. I keep reading, much as I went to see Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I expect a hollow reminder of how awesome they used to be, but hope to be pleasantly surprised.

So skip the new stuff, and go right for the classics. Goats used to be first rate. And it helped to popularize the genre, which ought to count for something. Like number 9 on the all time list of great webcomics.

Lyric of the Day:

I didn't die and I ain't complainin'.
I ain't blamin' you.
I didn't know that the words you said to me
Meant more to me than they ever could you.
I didn't lie and I ain't sayin'
I told the whole truth.
I didn't know that this game we were playin'
Even had a set of rules.

We named our children after towns
That we've never been to.
And it's true that the clouds just hung around
Like black Cadillacs outside a funeral.
And we were laughing at the stars
While our feet clung tight to the ground.
So pleased with ourselves
For using so many verbs and nouns.

"Black Cadillacs"
-Modest Mouse

August 20, 2009

All Sorts Of Blue

Fifty years ago this week, the greatest jazz album of all time, Miles Davis's Kind of Blue, was released. How do I know it was the greatest album of all time? Because everyone says it was. For an example, read this tribute from Slate, which should allay any nagging doubts.

As I celebrated in an earlier post, everything has been listified. What's the best movie of all time? Citizen Kane. The Best Album? Sgt. Pepper's. Who's the sexiest man alive? Hugh Jackman.

These lists are great. They avoid us having to wonder about our favorites. They demystify the seemingly unknowable. They categorize the infinite choices we are faced with everyday, and fit them into easily digested summaries. Even God agrees.

Unfortunately, not everything has been organized into a list for us. Dance With Sunflowers pledges to do its best to rectify that problem. In a continuing series of things we like, organized in the order we like them, here are the greatest webcomics on the web today.

(How do you know they are the best? Because we have read every single webcomic. That's how.)

Because of the awesomeness of these comics, to try and cram everything into one blog would fail to do them justice. So welcome to Webcomics Week at Dance With Sunflowers.

And happy anniversary Miles.

August 11, 2009

Conqueror Of The Old Northwest

Well, it has finally happened. The email responses to Dance With Sunflowers have become so voluminous, I can no longer keep up. So I have decided to start a new feature of my blog where I answer reader questions.

Let's call it the Weekly Mail Blog.

Email #1

Dear Doc,

Where have you been? You use to post several times a week. But it's been months since your last post. What's going on?

Missing you,
Holly Graham
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Dear HG,

As much as I like blogging every day, there are other things I like just as much, like trips to the dentist or sentry duty. If I blog too often, I will be neglecting these other worthwhile pursuits, and I could end up as the next Wil Wheaton.

But rest assured that I will keep blogging as much as I can, when I am not busy doing other things I enjoy more.

The Good Doctor

Email #2

Dear Doc,

I have been reading your blog, and I've been thinking, "Hey, it can't be that hard. I should start a blog of my own."

Any advice for a first time blogger? Is it even possible for a guy to start blogging without the backing of a huge corporation and unlimited resources?

Aggressively opinionated,
Roger Matthews
Coeur d'Alene, Idaho

Dear RM,

I'm sorry to say that most blogging sites require a master's degree in one of the hard sciences and three letters of reference from people that don't actually know you but will vouch for your forthrightness. As if that weren't enough, you must also show proof of certificate from one of three fully accredited etiquette and good manners training programs.

Fortunately, several of the top universities now feature major opportunities in microcommunications. Early figures indicate 27% of graduates are able to secure at least part time blogging employment within the first six months.

The Good Doctor

Email #3

Dear Doc,

Who's your favorite historical figure?

Jonas Abraham
Bucksport, Maine

Dear JA,

Benjamin Franklin was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America. A noted polymath, Franklin was a leading author and printer, satirist, political theorist, politician, scientist, inventor, civic activist, statesman, soldier, and diplomat. As a scientist, he was a major figure in the Enlightenment and the history of physics for his discoveries and theories regarding electricity. He invented the lightning rod, bifocals, the Franklin stove, a carriage odometer, and the glass 'armonica'. He formed both the first public lending library in America and first fire department in Pennsylvania. He was an early proponent of colonial unity, and as a political writer and activist he supported the idea of an American nation. As a diplomat during the American Revolution he secured the French alliance that helped to make independence of the United States possible.

Franklin is credited as being foundational to the roots of American values and character, a marriage of the practical and democratic Puritan values of thrift, hard work, education, community spirit, self-governing institutions, and opposition to authoritarianism both political and religious, with the scientific and tolerant values of the Enlightenment. In the words of Henry Steele Commager, "In Franklin could be merged the virtues of Puritanism without its defects, the illumination of the Enlightenment without its heat." To Walter Isaacson, this makes Franklin, "the most accomplished American of his age and the most influential in inventing the type of society America would become."

Franklin became a newspaper editor, printer, and merchant in Philadelphia, becoming very wealthy, writing and publishing Poor Richard's Almanack and The Pennsylvania Gazette. Franklin was interested in science and technology, and gained international renown for his famous experiments. He played a major role in establishing the University of Pennsylvania and Franklin & Marshall College and was elected the first president of the American Philosophical Society. Franklin became a national hero in America when he spearheaded the effort to have Parliament repeal the unpopular Stamp Act. An accomplished diplomat, he was widely admired among the French as American minister to Paris and was a major figure in the development of positive Franco-American relations. From 1775 to 1776, Franklin was Postmaster General under the Continental Congress and from 1785 to 1788 was President of the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania. Toward the end of his life, he became one of the most prominent abolitionists.

His colorful life and legacy of scientific and political achievement, and status as one of America's most influential Founding Fathers, has seen Franklin honored on coinage and money; warships; the names of many towns, counties, educational institutions, namesakes, and companies; and more than two centuries after his death, countless cultural references.

And to answer you question, my favorite historical figure is George Rogers Clark.

The Good Doctor

Lyric of the Day:

Everything alive must die
Every building built to the sky will fall
Don't try to tell me my
Everlasting love is a lie

Everlasting everything
Oh nothing could mean anything at all

Every wave that hits the shore
Every book that I adore
Gone like a circus, gone like a troubadour
Everlasting love for ever more

Oh I know this might sound sad
But everything goes both good and the bad
It all adds up and you should be glad
Everlasting love is all you have

Everlasting Everything