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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Ms. Kendall

Marvin already took "Connie" in his post yesterday, so I was forced to pattern my character review today after my first one. Maybe it'll end up being this way for all the rest of them. (e.g. Mr. Meltsner, Mr. Bassett)

I've been meaning to write about Connie for a week or so now, especially after listening to quite a few Connie-centered episodes at night recently, but I've had a post every other day for a few days, and I didn't want to do it too soon, but here it is.

I'm going to try to go as in depth as I did with the Mr. Whittaker review, but I didn't put nearly as much thought into this one as that one. So, here goes.

The first episode I ever heard Connie in was Connie Comes to Town, because it was the first story on the first CD in the first album I ever had. So, other than the single-story tapes we would sometimes get from Chick-Fil-A, that was actually the first Adventures in Odyssey episode I ever heard. I've always pictured Connie at more of a college-student type age rather than the high-school age she's depicted as in her first episode. I still can't imagine Connie any younger than 16/17 years old.

Besides Whit, I think she was the first long-term character to ever appear on the show (if you don't count Tom in Whit's Visitor). In this episode she is a rebellious teenager who just wants to make her own way in life, and doesn't really want anyone to get in her way. She appears on the show as a young-ish girl seeking a job so that she can make enough money for bus fares to Los Angeles so she can see her dad and her old friends. (How or why she thinks she's going to get there without her mom's knowledge I have no idea.) "Excuse me, could you tell me how to get to Front Street?" was her first line on the show. She was trying to get to an interview for a job at a fashion center. But then Whit offers her a job almost immediately after meeting her, and she takes long as he's willing to pay as much as she was going to be paid at the fashion store. ; D

So Connie decides to stay, and throughout the first two albums, she learns a lot about Mr. Whittaker and his faith, and, especially in episodes like A Tangled Web, he acts as a spiritual mentor to her, but isn't really on her case about her being converted to Christianity. She is pretty hostile to the idea until she meets Pamela on her way to Los Angeles (a short trip, not permanent like before), a girl not too much older than her who witnesses to her. This happens in Connie, Part I, and in Connie, Part II, Connie makes the decision to repent, and surrenders her life to Jesus Christ.

Katie Leigh has done a phenominal job as Connie over the years, and Connie is often teased, on and off of Odyssey, for being the everlasting teenager. She (Connie, not Katie) doesn't graduate high school for 400 episodes, which is eleven real-life years! And when she does graduate, we see how much she really has changed, because she is willing to stand up against her principal when he told her that she couldn't use the name of Jesus at the end of her prayer.

Throughout the years, Connie stands up for her faith in numerous ways, including breaking up with a heathen boyfriend, trusting God through the times that Whit was gone in the Middle East, and seeking His will with her relationship with Mitch and his relationship to Novacom and the F.B.I. My favorite era with Connie has been the saga with Mitch and Novacom and the F.B.I. Probably my favorite album is Album 41 where she and Joann go on the trip to Washington D.C., and then she almost gets married (yes, I, like most people badly wanted her to get married). I agree with the writers' decision to have her decide to stay in Odyssey rather than to move to Budapest with Mitch though, because it would have changed the show. But I do think it would have been a solution to what else they would do with Connie, because she would be gone.

One problem that many fans have had with her throughout the years was that she almost always seemed to be bickering, mostly with Eugene. They did that for years and years, but, probably due to all of the complaining, their quarrels stopped right around the time that Eugene became a Christian. I have always really liked the quarreling because it makes me laugh, and I do the same kind of thing with my brother a lot, so I didn't mind when the arguing was brought back soon after Eugene's return and recovery from amnesia. But I've heard many people say that just as they thought that Connie had finally matured enough to stop all the bickering, it came back! And it seems like Connie has nothing else to do but argue with Eugene.

But after Mitch left, the writers have said that they didn't know what to do with Connie, so she was pretty much just in every other episode, tagging along, or being there to argue or give a woman's point of view. Thankfully, more recently, she started to write a book in response to Rusty Gordon's criticism of Odyssey. That gave her a solid thing to be doing amidst all the other storylines, so she didn't always have to be just tagging along. But I was really frustrated when The Chosen One aired, and Kelly destroyed Connie's book. I felt almost the same way Connie did for awhile, before I really thought about how much Odyssey might be changed if Connie got a book out to the public. During the next couple albums after that incident, we see a side of Connie I don't think we'd ever seen before--the unforgiving, grudge-holding person that came out only in little spurts whenever she was frustrated before. The situation is finally resolved in Chip Off the Shoulder when Connie tries to prove her forgiveness to Kelly by helping her find something that Kelly accused her of stealing.

After that episode, everything's well again, and the next thing we see Connie doing is helping with preparations for the judges who will come to discern whether or not Odyssey is the best small town in America. But after that escapade was over, in Albums 51 and 52 she's back to the guinea pig in The Inspiration Station, the arguer (and hair-cutter) in For the Birds, and the tag-alonger in The Mystery of the Clock Tower. I don't really have a problem with that, as, apart from the Novacom Saga, I've always liked Connie to be a side-story character rather than a main-story character. Maybe she'll play a big part in The Green Ring Conspiracy, but, although I know many Connie-fans would like her to do something big again, I would rather she didn't.

So that's my view on Connie. Despite all the criticisms, I really do like her character, and though she's not as well-loved (at least by me) as Whit, I would be sad if she ever left Odyssey, and the show would be a lot different without her.

Thank you for reading! Be looking out for a character review on "Mr. Meltsner" in the near future. Please comment!

P.S. I put some more special pictures up on the Special Pictures page. Enjoy! : )

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

So today's the big day.

I hope you all have a great day celebrating with family and friends. Just remember to remember the real reason for the season: God the Father gave up His only begotten Son to be given as a child to the world to die for the propitiation of our sins. Jesus Christ has appeased God's wrath and atoned for our sin, paying our ransom, so that we will not suffer eternal punishment in Hell.

As my pastor said last night, we need to remember

1. The who of the manger--Jesus Christ, the sinless, perfect God-man.

2. Why he was in the manger--He didn't just stay in the manger. He was born to die, so that we could one day surrender our lives to Him and He would save us. And He was born to reign over us forever in His eternal kingdom in the new heaven and new earth.

Thank you all for being faithful readers! I've updated the Special Pictures page with some new stuff, some of which you won't find anywhere else, so that's your Christmas present. : )

So in the words of Tiny Tim, "God bless us everyone!"

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Down or Up with FAIO?

There has been a lot of controversy in recent days regarding the FAIO website which, for those of you who don't know, is an online site where over 220 Adventures in Odyssey episodes are available for downloading. Recently an anonymous guy has started up a website called Down with FAIO. On the home page it is written:

This site is dedicated to the destruction of FAIO, a site that provides Adventures in Odyssey episodes to people for free. It takes Focus on the Family (the producers of Adventures in Odyssey) a lot of money to make the episodes. And if all the 6000+ users of FAIO would buy the albums instead of listening for free, Focus would have more money to make more products. So if you would like FAIO to be shut down, let us know. We're doing what we can here, but we need your support.

FAIO is not a good site, but it isn't necessarily bad. It is, however, taking money away from FOTF, but, as the webmaster has stated, they endorse donating to FOTF, and he does so himself. Down with FAIO is also not a good site, but not necessarily bad. It definitely brings up good points about it's point of view, but for a little while, it was being done in a somewhat hateful way. I'm glad it's been cleared up.

On the FAIO website, the webmaster says in response to the question, "Is this site legal?": "Have you ever watched a copyrighted video on Youtube? It's just like that; these episodes are copyrighted, but it's the ones who upload or download them that are in the wrong."

My problem with that answer is that the way the episodes are formatted, it's like he's asking people to download them. He puts a link that says, "DOWNLOAD" beside many of the episodes. It is a choice to just listen to the episode on the website, but many, I'm sure, will take advantage of the ability to download.

The first thing you see when coming to the "Episodes" page is this:

You are about to access the LARGEST archive of online Adventures In Odyssey episodes in existence. AIO does not make these episodes for free. They rely on donations and income from merchandise. If everyone comes here and listens for free, they can't exist. All of these episodes are available elsewhere on the web. All Faio does is collect these already-existing episodes and archive them. Faio does NOT support the uploading of copyrighted content. If you like what you hear, you should buy the episodes on CD. It's convenient, easy, and best of all, you help support a great Christian ministry. Happy Listening!
Elsewhere, on the "News" page, Zack the webmaster says

[A]fter a legal investigation...Faio was found to be perfectly legal....Whether or not this website hurts FOTF is up to it's USERS. If the users want to support AIO, they can click the buy links or a donate to FOTF link.(Found on just about every page in the sidebar, as well as multiple places around the site.) If Faio wanted to, we could provide links to EVERY SINGLE episode. Instead, we only provide links to streaming links. There are hundreds more that are download only, but downloading is against the Faio policy, and it's also against the law. Faio and most of it's users love FOTF and AIO. Many users actively support FOTF. Faio is a website that stands FOR Focus On The Family. These activists are against Faio, so really they are against FOTF too. Also, this is a FANSITE. This website was not made for profit of any sort. Any income it may get (such as from advertisements and such) goes to help this website, or straight to FOTF as a donation.
He makes some very good points, and I pretty much agree with what he says. Therefore, after digging deeper, I no longer believe that FAIO is a bad website, and therefore, do not think that Down with FAIO should be supported. That website's anonymous webmaster also pretty much renounced his hostility toward FAIO yesterday when he said

I'd like to make a public apology. I'm sorry for the things I've said. I was being very rude in some of my comments on FAIO. I've thought about it. I was just doing all this because it sounded kind of cool. I like making websites, and I liked arguing with FAIO Admin. But really, I use his sites and I download episodes from them. I don't really have any major complaint against FAIO (except the swearing and the rude comments by their followers) I will change or delete this site and make [an] apology on FAIO soon. I realize that I was being stupid. I wouldn't really be able to change FAIO by doing all this. So again I'm sorry. To you too Faio admin. BTW, don't stop visiting the blogs because of this. They were not rude in the comments they made in the guestbook. They are both good blogs. Thanks everybody.
That pretty much sums up my words about the subject too. Aside from the swearing that's apparently going on at FAIO in some of the comments, they aren't doing anything that really wrong or illegal. Hopefully my getting involved in the controversy for a short time before I had adequate information hasn't turned anyone away from my blog.

Thank you for reading! Please comment!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Grandpa's Winter Vacation

Sorry I didn't get a review out any earlier. My family went on a trip on Saturday that didn't give me enough time to listen to the episode and write a review.

Usually I can listen to the episode once on the radio and then again before I write the review, but something's wrong with the media player on the FOTF website, so I can't listen to it again. Therefore, since it's been two days since I've heard the episode, this probably won't be all that great of a review.

It was nice to hear from Grandma Lucia again, but it was really weird that it seemed like the kids had totally forgotten that they were supposed to call her "Abuelita". When they introduced her or talked to her, they always called her Grandma or Nana. I don't know why it changed. But she definitely stayed true to character, having an emphasis on tradition, although this time she was asked about her tradition before she could force it on anyone.

Ava stayed very true to character as well. Although in this episode she didn't end up working up the courage to tell her mother her opinion about the tradition. She just went along with everything and didn't voice her views like she did in Grandma's Visit. But she still did a great job, and was a wonderful Mom character.

The Parker kids were pretty good too. I was very glad that Olivia was to be the one paired up with Barrett rather than Priscilla Peterson. But then that didn't even happen, so that was even better. The game show was interesting. I used to watch Let's Make a Deal a little at my grandparents' house, but not anymore. I liked that show a lot, but the AIO version didn't seem to have much of a point. I liked how the prizes ended up holding more valuable things in them. My brother pointed out that eight-track tapes must be pretty bad for Matthew not to want to tinker with it. Plus, there's an older AIO episode where Bernard Walton remarks to someone, "You're about as interesting as an eight-track tape!"

Connie seemed a little out of character because of all the yelling she did. We haven't seen her in charge of something since For Better or for Worse, I think. But even then she wasn't an obnoxious-sounding, loud, movie-director type of organizer.

Eugene was funny when we heard him. I loved the scene where the smoke/fog machine makes everybody start choking and gagging.

I didn't so much like Whit's part in this episode. Even though he's made a good narrator in the past, I didn't like him so much as the commentator or whatever you want to call it.

So, yeah, I really don't have much to say about this episode. It had a good story premise, but I don't think that the writers did that great of a job with it. Hey, at least they mentioned Jesus! And Chris went into what the "real reason for the season" is at the end, so Brittini got her wish.

I give the episode a 5/10. Please comment!

I'm not really sure what I'm going to do throughout the winter until Album 53 airs. I may continue with the character reviews as some have suggested I do. And I'll keep up with any news that may come out about the upcoming season, as well as new podcasts. Thank you for being faithful readers throughout Album 52!

P.S. I've updated the Episode Reviews page for any of you who want to go back and read any previous reviews from Albums 51 or 52. While I did that I realized that I wasn't correct when I said that The Malted Milkball Falcon was the best episode of the season, because I saw that I had given Fast As I Can a 10/10.

Also, I started a new page called Special Pictures in order to give Mark/Reddo the pictures he wanted, and I may be putting more AIO-related things up there in the near future. ; )

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Mr. Whittaker

As I lay in my bed last night, listening to The Mortal Coil for the first time in what feels like years (and probably is), I was inspired to do a post today about Whit. Plus I figured you guys might appreciate a non-review post. I haven't really talked too much about my thoughts about how Mr. J. A. Whit has changed over the years, so I've decided to do it now.

My first Odyssey album ever was a now out-of-print collection called AIO 10-CD Collector's Edition. Apparently it's so rare that even Jacob hasn't heard about it, because it's not at the Odyssey Scoop in the Quarantine Merchandise section. I don't think I had ever listened to Odyssey before my mom got that for me and my siblings when I was six or seven. Mr. Whittaker was my favorite character from the beginning, and still to this day remains at least in the top three.

Hal Smith did an excellent job as Whit from the very start. I obviously haven't been around since the beginning, but I remember loving Whit, and being very surprised when I first heard Paul Herlinger introduce The Great Wishy Woz on the tenth disc of my first collection. I wondered for awhile who that guy was since he wasn't Whit, but he was introducing a Kids Radio program. A couple years later, after I had listened to the CDs we owned over and over again, we stumbled upon The Children's Radio Funhouse on our local Moody Radio station, where Odyssey continues to be played every Saturday morning at nine. And later we found out that AIO was also played every weekday at 4:30. I don't remember how I learned it, but eventually I found out that somewhere along the road, the original actor for Mr. Whittaker had died, and he was replaced by someone with a slightly deeper, gruffer voice.

It was soon after this that I started getting albums for birthdays and Christmas. I'm pretty sure that my first album was Gold Audio Series #9: Just in Time. I continued to like what I called (and still call sometimes) "the old Mr. Whittaker" better than "the new Mr. Whittaker". As I continued to get more albums, I got more and more used to Paul Herlinger as Whit, and eventually made him my favorite. While Hal Smith has a more bubbly voice, and is better for the wise, advice-giving Whit, Paul Herlinger is better for the computer-savvy and adventurous Whit. Action/Adventure episodes tend to be my favorite, so that's probably why "the new Mr. Whittaker" eventually won my heart.

But Paul Herlinger is also very good as the Whit who sits behind the counter giving out ice cream and advice. I wish I had been an avid listener when the switch of the actors was made so that I could be used to it at least a little bit, because I really don't like the newest Whit very much. While both of the other Mr. Whittakers were great at giving Biblical advice and counsel (especially Hal Smith), Andre Stojka as Whit seems to have nearly totally lost that aspect to his character. I understand that it's mostly due to not-as-good writing, but I also from the beginning haven't really liked his voice.

Listening to The Mortal Coil last night and hearing Whit almost die, and listening to all of the spiritual lessons he learned from that experience, it's almost like now he's completely forgotten all of that, or that he's been replaced by a different, laid-back and relaxed fake. This new Whit doesn't seem to be nearly as passionate about the kids, helping them to learn valuable life lessons and teaching them the things of God, but rather a good teacher, dragging out of the kids what they learned after they stumble, rather than catching them before they get into trouble like he used to.

So I guess I'm not complaining so much about the voice that Andre Stojka gives Whit, but the writing that he's been giving more recently. I hope that episodes will continue to get better as the seasons come and go, and I am getting more used to the new voice, but they haven't sold me yet for sure.

I'd love to hear what you think about all that I've said. Please comment!

P.S. Be sure to listen to the newest Official Podcast which features an interview with Whit (ha!) Hertford, the voice of bully Jay Smouse, and a preview of this weekend's episode Grandma's Christmas Visit. I was surprised to learn that Jay is played by an adult, but I guess I shouldn't have been since Rodney, Vance, Nelson, Ryan, Pete, Jill, Valorie, Emily, and Olivia are also played by adults. ; )

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Milkshaked-Maltball Hawk

(I know the title's cheesy, but do you have something better? [If so, tell me in the comments! :D])

This episode was very entertaining. Definitely one of the best of the season. There was great humor all the way through, and it was without a doubt the best, and most intriguing Jones and Parker mystery yet. But again, one of the only downfalls was that it didn't have a strong moral.

Whit played a great role in this episode. He wasn't too involved, but enought that it felt like Odyssey, not another show with a little Mr. Whittaker thrown in. I suspected the Broken Window twist from the beginning, but doubted it as the story went along. I couldn't figure out why he would take them. I couldn't imagine that he would have eaten all of them for any reason. I wouldn't have; I don't really like them much. Milkshaked-maltballs sound much better, imo. Anyway, that aspect of the story made him feel like the old Whit, and I continue to get used to his voice. But I cringed when he yelled to quiet the kids down when the episode started. Andre doesn't do it even close to the way Paul Herlinger used to do it. *sniffs*

I continue to really like Barrett's new voice. I'm glad that we got to hear from him and see that he was able to tear away from Club Kidchat for this fundraiser. And he was even able to take over a paper route for a friend! His character changes a lot.

I'm also glad that we got to hear from Priscilla again. I agree with Marvin in being glad that she doesn't seem to be a character that the writers will do away with soon. I found it very weird how much she needed to use the bathroom. I totally agree with Matthew in saying that she "needed to go to the bathroom more than a hyperactive puppy!" :P Apparently the relationship between her and Barrett is still going, since he was the first person to whom she thought to give the malted milkball. I guess I can deal with that, but I don't like it. What happened to the old days when boys and girls could be together a lot and not be boyfriend and girlfriend. I guess that still happens with Emily and Matthew, but even that's been speculated upon.

Nelson came back! Well, I guess we heard from him in Square One, but that wasn't very much. Other than that, though, this is his first real appearance, and I loved it. He didn't seem to be as geeky in this episode though, other than the fact that he read a book while listening to music to stay awake. (But I would have done the exact same thing.) It was interesting that he was the one to think to bring a bunch of movies. But all of the movies he picked sounded totally boring, like pretty much any other movie that's ever been mentioned in Odyssey. They all always sound like movies full of meaningless violence that don't have even a decent storyline. Georgina Cordova continues to do an excellent job with his voice, and I hope we continue getting to hear from her/him for many albums to come.

Jay was absolutely hilarious! Practically everything he said made me laugh out loud. As I told Marvin, I think he has officially stolen Rodney Rathbone's place in my heart. Though at times, he is way nicer than Rodney ever was. He learned to tell the truth in this episode just as Rodney did in No, Honestly (which happens to be one of my favorite episodes). But I loved how he was always the first to press into whoever was Emily's current suspect. ; )

Matthew was a little weird in this episode, though I can totally sympathize with his wanting to go home to bed because of the long night. It was just weird to have him constantly trying to get out of solving the mystery. But I guess it's pretty much the same as all of his other mystery episodes where Emily has to pull him into it. He continues to get close to being as well-loved in my heart as Trent and Marvin and Grady were at one time.

I was afraid at the beginning of the episode that Emily was going to narrate again, but then it just turned out to be a flash-back like in...well I can't think of any right now, but I know there have been episodes like that. Her rock-a-thon idea was pretty cool, and I think that sounds really fun. I think I'd totally be able to do it if I had action-adventure movies, music, mystery books, and sugar. ; D

Overall, it was a very engaging mystery that had me guessing most of the time. It was very funny and entertaining, but again, it seemed like the writers just came up with the story, and then tried to throw a moral in.

I give the episode a 9/10 which, I guess, makes it the best of the season, and that's pretty much true. Please comment!

Oh, BTW, everyone, I told these two bloggers I'd mention their blogs in my next post, so here they are: The Odyssey Vision and The Changing Times. The former just got started by commenter Tim B. the other day, and looks very promising. The latter has apparently been going for a long time, but I just discovered it. It is run by Ben, who has excellent insight into all of the new episodes. He has very in-depth reviews, and I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Disagreeable Reviewer

I actually really liked this episode. I was sort of expecting not to enjoy it very much, but while it did have a weak moral, it made me laugh all throughout.

Spoiler Alert: If you haven't yet heard the episode, you probably don't want to read on. : )

Mr. and Mrs. Parker stayed very true to their characters. I loved the ending scenes with all of the funny things that Mr. Parker says, and the things that Mrs. Parker had to correct him about laughing at. It was a fairly odd scheme that they came up with to test their children's trustworthiness. I wouldn't have thought to go to a college and find a drama student and ask her to act as a British (Cambridgian), Mary Poppins nanny so that I could find out how my kids would act with a pushover.

Olivia grew on me more in this episode. She stayed true to how her character has acted before, but she really is starting to sound more and more like the 11/12-year old she's supposed to be. I thought it was interesting though how sometimes she treated Matthew as the leader rather than putting herself in that position like she has in earlier episodes. I cringed during the banana fight because of the disgusting sound effects that added to the grossness that was already there just because of the bananas. (I abhor bananas.) When Matthew walked up in the middle of the fight, and the girls brought him into it, I was reminded of the hose scene in Our Best Vacation Ever. All throughout the episode I was reminded of the Barclays when the kids were bickering. I really think the Parkers will slowly start to become the central, well-loved family that the Barclays were. Who knows, maybe someday we fans will be able to say that they have just as special a part in our hearts as the Barclays and the Washingtons.

Matthew was great in this episode. Ever since The Inspiration Station, he has definitely been my favorite new kid character, and this show continued that. He always had some great idea to resolve the current dilemma, and it usually gets him in trouble. And he constantly threw in comments that made me laugh.

Camilla was a different story. Not that I didn't like her character in the story, but she was just so foolish! I mean, seriously, War of the Jurassic Aliens! Really?! Why would she even consider even wanting to watch that? Isn't she a girl? Well, I guess she is a girl who likes sports, a tomboy, but still! I thought it was great though that Whit knew exactly what movie she was talking about, and that that movie was so violent that the movie rating system had to be changed. ; D

Now to Maria/Charlotte. It struck me as weird from the start that she had a British accent, and seemed to be trying so hard to be British. Especially since I knew that the most recent Official Podcast had interviewed her about her experience as Gloria in Camp What-A-Nut. And she was trying to sound like Marry Poppins too: "Only a spoonful [of sugar]" and "Spit-spot". I was just waiting for her to say "supercalifragilisticexpealido-cious"! Until I discovered why she was acting so weird, I was wondering when she'd stop being such a pushover. And was it just me, or did she sound a lot like Dalton Kearne's guard from The Top Floor when she finally revealed herself as Charlotte?

This really was a great, very entertaining episode. The only problem was that it didn't seem to have a moral. It seemed like the writer just came up with this great idea, and then tried to throw in a lesson somewhere. It was kind of like the Novacom Saga, where most of the episode was just for entertainment, but they were concerned that someone might mention that there was no spiritual application, so there was a small something thrown in.

But aside from all that, I did really enjoy this episode, and I can't wait to hear another Parker family episode.

I give it a 7.5/10. Please comment (even if it has to be long ; D)!