Monday, June 25, 2018

dino ex machina: a jurassic review

I was originally going to do this review as a part of a Dozen Movie Dash, which is a random post that I do giving quick reviews of a dozen recently seen films (which, until last night, I didn't realize how random, as I haven't done one since 2014)

As a part of the DMD, I figured I'd talk about "Tag" and "Action Point" and maybe Dolly Parton's "Nine to Five" that I just watched, and of course, talk about "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom", which I saw this weekend...

Then I realized my review was longer, so taking on 11 more films would make this an obnoxiously long post... not that that has stopped me -- I mean why say in 500 words what I can say in 1500, amma right?  Up top!

So I figured I would just give this it's own post...

The reviews for this have been all over the map -- it sits at 50% critics and 62% audiences scores on Rotten Tomatoes, and 6.7 on IMDb, and after watching it, I could see where someone would love this movie, and where someone would hate it.  If you wanted more of the same as "Jurassic World", then you get it -- if you wanted a different story, then you are out of luck.

Without giving too much away, the general story is the Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard, who I really like, though I'm more a Jessica Chastain fan in the "Pick one of the two actresses that are nearly the same") is recruited by the extended family of John Hammond (Richard Attenborough, from the first film, though he is only referenced -- Attenborough died in 2014) to go get the dinosaurs on Isla Nublar. The island is being destroyed by a volcano, and Claire, who has strong armed Owen (Chris Pratt) into coming along, is to assist in getting a least a few of each species onto a transport ship, where they will be taken to a new habitat to live in peace for the rest of their days. But, of course, not is all as it seems.  

Here's the thing... we love dinosaurs. And in "Jurassic Park", we got them... and they were amazing. They were incredible, unlike anything we'd ever seen.  With "Lost World Jurassic Park" and "Jurassic Park III", some of the luster was gone, as the story was sacrificed to show us more impressive dinosaurs.  So when "Jurassic World" came along, some 14 years later after JPIII, we were ready to be dazzled again, and we were. A new generation of teen fans were discovering the T-Rex and the raptor and other extinct creatures, with new characters and new story lines and more!

But something happened between "World" and "Fallen Kingdom".  They pulled the checklist out and made sure that what made the first one so good would also be in the second one... 
  • Jerk military guy. Check!  
  • Invented dinosaur creature. Check!  
  • Claire's plucky and wisecracking assistants. Check!
  • Kid involved. Check!

And, something I've dubbed Dino ex Machina.  Remember in the very first Jurassic Park, when Grant and Ellie and the kids are surround by raptors in the lobby of the main building of the park?  All hope was lost, they were about to get eaten... and suddenly, the T-Rex comes out of nowhere to save the day??  And then at the end of "Jurassic World", Claire and Owen and the kids are cornered by Indominous Rex, and are about to get eaten... and suddenly, a giant sea monster comes out and eats them??  

Dino ex Machina.

When the dinosaur pulls a deus ex machina and improbably saves the day. And there are several of these moments in "Fallen Kingdom", by the way. It's lazy writing and was a little irritating.

One of my favorite movie jokes ever
SIDEBAR:  The official term is "deus ex machina" and is from a Latin translation of a Greek term "god from the machine."  It's defined by Wikipedia as "a seemingly unsolvable problem in a story is suddenly and abruptly resolved by an unexpected and seemingly unlikely occurrence, typically so much as to seem contrived. 

My own personal favorite example of this is in the movie "Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story" where Peter, played by Vince Vaughn, has sold the gym to White Goodman - Ben Stiller - and despite winning the tournament, is still under threat of demolition by Globo Gym... until Peter wheels out a literal treasure chest, informing White that with the money he got from selling Average Joe's Gym, he gambled it into enough cash to purchase the majority stake in Globo Gym, thereby now owning both gyms.  And on the treasure chest?  "Deus Ex Machina".  It's a brilliant joke that I think a lot of people never notice.  Thus, when a T-Rex or other dinosaurs suddenly rescue our heroes... Dino Ex Machina.

Overall, despite the last several paragraphs, I enjoyed the movie. It was loud, it was a little tense (though the fate of the main characters were never in ANY question), and the CGI was good. The best part of the film is what takes place on the island, though we are done there by the first half hour, and its onto the rest of the movie.  It's nice to see Dr Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) but he's completely under utilized in his bit parts. 

I guess you could say this movie is "Brain Candy", meaning, its loud and blowey uppy and roar filled and people in danger but the real people we love are never in real danger, and Brain Candy isn't a bad thing. Its a movie you don't have to think about, it's a movie you can just watch and not be encumbered by the thought process... but that pro is also a con, because the original "Jurassic Park" is a very smart film at it's core, even with it's absurd premise.

So go see it at the theater to get the full scope of the visual and audible... but keep your expectations lower than you want.

PS... I think you'll agree with me... the first one should have been called "Jurassic Island".  This one could have been called "Jurassic Kingdom".  The final one in this trilogy (and honestly, let's hope the final one for a long time) could have been called "Jurassic World"... and you'll see that in the 10 second blurb AFTER the credits. 



Friday, June 22, 2018

6th grade history class

So... hi.  It's been a while. I keep thinking I'll blog way more than I have, so I'll just admit, I have no idea when another blog is coming.  No clue. So enjoy this one.

Did you know that I just celebrated 25 years being a high school graduate?  (In March I also crossed the 20 year mark as a college grad -- GO TROY STATE -- but I kinda forgot about it until... well, like, just now.)

So last week, I took pictures of, then posted onto Instagram (@davedollar) and onto Facebook my 7th grade class.  I thought this summer might be a good time to spend uploading a few pictures, with my ultimate goal being to scan my yearbooks in their entirety and put them in Facebook albums... kind of a "Summer of The Class of 1993" of sorts, without the official title, and the official committment... because if I forget to upload (which is why I'm doing this now and not yesterday--Thursday), then no loss.

You may wonder why I didn't post the 6th grade class last week, but instead doing them out of order... some of you OCD folk may be all like "7th than 6th??  What kind of monster is he??"

I did this for two specific reasons, neither of which are that I forgot. No, I did it because of those black marks you see above Stephanie Phillips, Misty Kimble's, Jennifer Lambert's and Nicki Vann's heads. 

Not too long after we got the yearbook, whenever that was, myself and four of my buddies wrote our names above the girl we thought was the prettiest.  Not an ownership, mind you (Settle down, #MeToo), but more of a "This is who I want to go with".  A year later, I was petrified someone would find it, so I blacked them out with marker.

SIDEBAR: How many iterations of "dating" have there been?  "They are an item" and "Going steady" were before my time... in my day, it was "Go with".  Soon after, it apparently became "Going out with".  Unsure what it might be today.  Probably something to do with being on fleek or making rhymes like "hey hey my bae" or some such nonsense. 

Considering it's been 31 years at this point, I don't mind saying that I wrote my name over Misty Kimble's picture.  She was my first real crush, and I think I spent 4th through 7th grade moving between "kinda liked" and "loved". She actually knows this (but not in 1987 -- I would have been mortified), and thinks its funny.  As for Stephanie, Jennifer and Nicki... well, those names will remain with me.  Mostly because I've forgotten one, I'm not positive on one and sometimes mysteries are fun... because they probably don't remember either.

For the record, Greg Avant, who spent his later years pining for Jennifer Lambert, was none of guys who played this game in my yearbook.  Just to clear that up.

Moving beyond that, I did something in my 6th grade yearbook that for some reason, I didn't do in any others... I documented the 1986 to 1987 school year.

So here, in its unedited form, is what I wrote... the history of the class of 93, from September 1986 to May 1987... with a few notes in the brackets, italicized:

Shannon Williamson joined us in our 6th grade class this year. She's crazy, weird, but really likeable. She'll really clear you up when you're down.  I went to the junior high building for the first time as we entered the junior high years. Ms Whittle was my favorite teacher over Coach Champion, Coach Weeks, Mrs Rials, and Mr White. My favorite subject was Social Studies. Michael Knowles, Greg Avant, and me became ketchup brothers (we were chicken to use real blood).

Marianne Harvey, who me and Greg used to tease, moved [note--For what it's worth, Marianne, I'm really sorry I was a jerk].  I met Allen Wise. Aka needle-nose, who was teachers aid in PE.  The Tigers had their first winning season in a long, long time. This was the last year at good ol' SHS. I was conducted (note--what??) as the 4-H reporter beating out Stephanie Phillips.  This was also the last year for Terry Ferris.

There was a lot of going steady. Lee and Stephanie. Jason and Nicki. Daniel and Felicia. Auburn had a lot of controversy over Bama 21-17. Not many people liked it alot. Lee Futch and Michael Creech entered the crazy, wild, never calmed class of '93. I exempted from my semester exam 7th period on the last day of school, so I didn't have to go. Tonya [Windham] threatened to kill me, and Jason [Smith] said "I hate you"

I won 3 tigers (awards) for Social Studies. But Stan won the trophy, and he didn't win one tiger for Social Studies!

[let me clarify -- every six weeks, the highest average got a little poofy tiger award, and the fact that I won 3 out of the 6 that year, but Stan took home the year end trophy really bugged me.  Stan, I was robbed.]

Only 6 more years until "Seniors!" We had gone halfway and we think we can go the other half. I thin at sometime, everybody thinks about their senior year. Daniel [Stephenson] started listening to heavy metal, Clay and Monty will soon become a black belt, Greg, well he's my best friend so I could fill a whole page about him, Michael [Knowles] and Johnny [Knowles], well you know how they are! Come '93, I'm really gonna miss em.

But I can always look back in this book and find the wild times in 6th grade! This was also the year that people who didn't grow out of toys in 5th, they did in 6th. Thanks to Greg, Michael, Johnny, Daniel, Monty, Clay, Tonya, Stan, Jason, Allen Wise, Chris, Lee, Stephanie, Misty and Victor for making this one of the best year for a while to come. I wish I could write 100 more pages, but I don't have enough room. So I'll see you in the next yearbook to write about 7th!

Aaaand I'm back. So there ya go, 6th grade in a nutshell.  I guess next week we'll skip ahead to 8th grade.

Friday, February 16, 2018

gun control word vomit

I posted this on Facebook this morning, but I wanted to keep these thoughts handy so I can reflect later. And in a few weeks, any hope of finding this post again would be relegated to lots and lots of scrolling, unless I wait 365 days from today and let it show up on TimeHop.

Addressing the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida.

The following is what I call "gun control word vomit", several paragraphs loosely held together with one very tragic common thread.

As a very right wing conservative, I have been trying for two days to understand why asking for universal background checks is a bad idea.

I am all for the 2nd amendment, and even though I personally do not like guns, I support your right to own as many as you want, if obtained and operated legally. I support your right to own as many unnecessarily big guns, bazookas, tanks and the like, as long as you fall under the laws as set for by your state and our federal government.

But I also believe that there needs to be a paper trail for every gun owned in our country. There should be an age minimum for purchasing a gun -- 18, maybe even 21 (though its hard to argue you can die for our country in a firefight overseas at 18 and not be allowed to purchase until 21 here). Is that hard to do? You betcha. But if someone does what happened the other day, I want to know where that gun came from and if it should have been on the streets. And maybe with 300 million firearms in the country, its a task that retroactively isn't even feasible to attempt.

Which brings us to background checks. I'm for them. All of them. Anyone who sells a gun to someone needs to know who they are selling them too. Those convicted of violent crimes should not have the right to possess a weapon. Those charged and/or convicted with stalking, abuse and the like should not, at least temporarily, have the right to possess a weapon. Those who are diagnosed with certain mental illnesses should not be able to own a gun.

Personally, I don't think you can just walk into a gun shop, plunk down $150 and immediately walk out with a firearm. And I'm not sure it's all that easy at a gun show.

I don't think there are mile-wide loopholes at gun shows as portrayed by the anti-gun lobby, but I do think there are enough to be addresses. And I'm willing to adjust my opinion on all of this if someone gives me something that makes me think "Oh yeah, that's why universal background checks are not a great idea..."

My conservative friends will tell me this goes too far. My liberal friends will tell me this doesn't go far enough.

All of that said... none of this would have prevented what happened in Parkland. None of it. Perhaps this kid being unable to legally purchase a gun would have made it harder, but I have no doubt that he would have procured a weapon in another manner... when you are hellbent on the revenge you think you are owed, few things can stop you.

Finally, this falls on one person. That 19 year old punk jackwagon who decided to shoot up a school. This isnt Trump's fault, unless you want to fault him for not doing enough to stem the unmonitored purchase of guns. If so, then you can also blame Obama, George W and Clinton, as all had legislation that addressed gun show loop holes come up in their admin, and all died before a vote -- and at various times, Congress was controlled by both sides of the aisle.

Also, this isn't an NRA problem. Ben Shapiro reported that the NRA donated 200 million to their causes from 1998 to 2017 -- and likely most of that was for Republican causes. Unions donated almost 2 billion in the 2016 election, and nearly all of that was for Democratic causes. None of these shooters were members of the NRA, and the NRA didn't put the guns in their hands.

So here's my position. Stop the yelling at people about how the GOP only cares about babies before they were born, and stop using the Democratic line "There have been 18 school shootings this year alone!". The former is an incredibly stupid position to take, and the latter is an incredibly stupid talking point that has no basis (The Washington Post of all places debunked it, though I gave 15 minutes of research to it and knew half the story before they printed).

But also understand that Dems (at least most of them) aren't seeking to take away the 2nd Amendment, and many of them understand that banning guns is a completely impossible task.

Stop with the "rest of the world doesn't have this problem because they banned guns!" rhetoric. Many other countries also throw gay people off of roofs and throw acid in women's faces for speaking up about being raped, so I think our country of 330 million is doing okay in that manner.

Finally, banning the AR-15 does nothing. Because another gun will take its place. Oh, by the way, I also discovered that AR doesn't stand for Assault Rifle. It stands for ArmaLite, which is a brand name. The AR-15 isn't much different from a standard rifle, even though it looks like a machine gun. Its the (likely illegal) modifications made on such guns that cause the rapid fire, otherwise the shooter would be pulling the trigger on each shot, and would probably wear out from fatigue much faster.

If a GOP or Dem talking point looks funny, or unbelievable, look it up. Read a little and learn, which is the best way to formulate any argument.

This is my gun control word vomit, and will be so until someone gives me facts that make me think otherwise.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

the top ten books of 2017

A few weeks ago... well, 10 days ago... which is shocking, because I feel like I'm at a pace where I'm putting a winter solstice between posts, but recently, I listed the books I read in 2017, giving a brief synopsis and recommending most of them... not all of them, thought (I'm looking at you, "The Circle") but most.

My favorite book of 2014, a book I think
everyone should read. Its life changing.
But there were ten books that I wanted to mention in this post, which are my Top Ten Books of 2017.  The ones I enjoyed the most, relished as I read, put them away mentally for a possible re-read later, or that actually made me aware of how dusty it is in this room.  Seriously, two books did that for me.

So, what book will join the list of Fave Books of the Year, a list that includes Stephen King's "Doctor Sleep" (my fave book of 2013)... Carlos Whittaker's "Moment Maker" (my fave book of 2014)... Andy Weir's "The Martian" (my fave book of 2015)... and Michael Lewis' "The Big Short" (my fave book of 2016)? 

First, folow @TheDaveofPop  on Instagram for nearly daily book and movie reviews, where all of these books were originally reviewed after being read.

Now let's see the list and find out the list, shall we?

My 10th Favorite Book of 2017
"The Great Beanie Baby Bubble: Mass Delusion and the Dark Side of Cute" by Zac Bissonnette. Yes, this book is about the origins and business of those little plush animals with the red, heart shaped tag, those same ones that were supposed to be insanely valuable now and would pay your way through college. This was one of those books I circled for a while, and finally landed on, and it was delightful in the weirdest way. It chronicles the rise, fall and sort of rise of Ty Warner, founder of the Ty Company, and... well, how he's a total jackwagon. To everyone. That tag line of "Mass Delusion..." fits this journey perfectly. (it's also got another subtitle in some places, that being "The Amazing Story of How America Lost It's Mind Over a Plush Toy--And the Eccentric Genius Behind it")

My 9th Favorite Book of 2017
"Reasons to Be Pretty" by Neil LaBute.  This is a stage play written by one of my two favorite playwrights (David Mamet being the other), and right at the top, we learn that Greg has said something fairly stupid to his girlfriend Steph.  But we also learn that Steph has a flair for the overdramatic, which means she fits perfectly with their best friends Kent and Carly, two people also deeply flawed for various reasons. The sequel is called "Reasons to Be Happy", which I enjoyed, but I loved how this book/play unfolded.

My 8th Favorite Book of 2017
"Yes Please" by Amy Poehler.  When I read Tina Fey's "Bossypants", I wasn't sure I'd enjoy this book as much. I mean, "Bossypants" is hilarious, and Tina is smoking hot (two things that can potentially draw me to a book) so how could Amy compete?  She did. And more. This book is absolutely hysterical, riffing on everything from celebrity, to SNL to motherhood and marriage and life on Parks & Rec and life in general, and with her reading the audiobook, her delivery is nearly perfect. So good.

Available in paperback or Kindle. Quick
read, too... less than 200 pages

My 7th Favorite Book of 2017
"Catch Somewhere" by Megan Hall. This is the sweet story of a young lady named Kinsley who faces what so many girls do -- heartache in high school. Kins, as she's nicknamed, takes her pain out in other ways, however, through an addiction that is all too common, but having never been a 15 year old girl (nor playing one on TV), its something I don't understand. Megan Hall writes in a "dramedy" sort of manner, with a few funny pop culture references, but the story shines through the characters Hall puts around Kinsley, including a best friend and a Bible study coed. I'm not in the audience demo, but I enjoyed this very much and even found myself a little misty eyed at the "reunion" towards the end.  Got me right in the feels. Full disclosure, Megan is a friend of mine, but I can truthfully say that I wouldn't have put her book on this list had I not felt it deserving.  Also... I really like where the title comes in. It's... it's... pure.

My 6th Favorite Book of 2017
"I'll Have What She's Having: How Nora Ephron's Three Iconic Films Saved The Romantic Comedy" by Erin Carlson.  My favorite movie of all time is "You've Got Mail", so how could I resist a book that takes you behind the scenes of not just that, but "When Harry Met Sally" and "Sleepless in Seattle".  You get untold stories of casting, anecdotes from the set, and everyone from Meg Ryan to Rob Reiner to Tom Hanks to Billy Crystal and more giving their stories and insight.  Director Nora Ephron led a complicated life, and this book doesn't shy away from talking about that either, as she had plenty of personal crises during the making of each of these modern day classics. I loved the intimacy of  this book, and I recommend it for movie fans.

My 5th Favorite Book of 2017
You can read this without the others, but
I would highly recommend Start above any of
the four. 
"Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done" by Jon Acuff.  This is the final book in the Acuff Career Quadrology (which includes "Quitter", "Start" and "Do Over"), and this book is exactly what it sounds like -- getting stuff done. The whole idea is that it's easy to "Start" something, and it's even somewhat to just do-over... but finishing is the hardest part without just throwing your hands up, becoming a "Quitter".  (Hey Acuff -- see what I did there? Eh? You can email me to set up a time to be on your podcast).  Whether its a goal of losing weight or finishing a book or starting a book or getting your career in some facsimile of order, or maybe even getting your personal life figured out, this book will give you the guidance and encouragement needed.  And it's pretty funny, especially the audiobook.

My 4th Favorite Book of 2017
"Wonder" by R.J. Palacio.  Another book that I had picked up and set back on the shelf about 70 times before I decided to give it a whirl -- which I only did because my Dear Friend Janna has a cute kid who recommended it to me.  And honestly, I didn't want it to end. Little Auggie Pullman suffers from a severe facial deformity and is headed to public school for the first time. Of course, he faces the harsh reality of cruel kids around him, but also the warmth of a few random kids who decide to stand by him. We see the school year not just from his eyes, but also from his neglected sister Via, his best friend Jack Will (one of my favorite characters in this or any book in a long time), and Via's former BFF Miranda, who's perspective is very surprising. And when the "honor guard" is mentioned at the end... I mean... I wanted to openly weep. I'm a dad, so it hit me. I cannot recommend this book enough not just to kids and young adults, but anyone.  Also, see the movie.  It's not as in-depth as the book, but its wonderful too.

My 3rd Favorite Book of 2017
"The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside the Room, The Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made" by Greg Sestero. The title doesn't lie here... "The Room" is one of the greatest bad movies ever made... and when I say "bad", it's not like "Employee of the Month" Dane Cook bad... nay, its bad. I mean horrendously awful bad. And its written and directed by Tommy Wisseau, a man who believes he truly belongs in the Hollywood elite. Sestero was Tommy's closest friend for many years, and starred in the movie with Tommy, and this book is a great glimpse into the insanity of the film's production -- a film where the writing, the acting, the plots make no sense, weirdly named characters like "Chris-R" shows up for no reason to start a plot point that never pays off, or a mom's mentioning having cancer only to never be brought up again.  This book is maddening and nuts and hysterical, all at the same time. (Also, the movies is pretty great too... my 3rd fave film of 2017)

My 2nd Favorite Book of 2017
"David & Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants" by Malcolm Gladwell.  This guy is a great writer, and he does something that many books likes this fail to do -- challenge me and my opinions without belittling those very opinions I hold.  This is the story of the underdog, and how decisions made by "the little guy" can affect how the stack up against "the big guy". There is a story of the student who makes the decision to go to an Ivy League school instead of a lesser, but still great, school -- and the consequences it causes. There's a great look at the "three strikes law" in California and why it might be a bad idea, and a great take on the Biblical story of David & Goliath -- and why David actually matched up to the giant better than most people thing. Loved it.

There's just so much about this book that
is awesome -- but its got some language
and a non-PC culture throughout. 
And finally, My Favorite Book of 2017  
"Friday Night Lights: A Town, A Team, and a Dream" by Buzz Bissenger. This is the book that begat the movie that begat the TV show, all of which are classics now. Texas considers Friday night football not just a rite of passage, but darn near a religion, much like it is throughout the South.  Bissinger moved into Odessa, Texas, and spent a year there among the people, including the staff, coaches and football players of Permian High School, home of the Permian Panthers. The book chronicles the lives of a handful of players, from the tragic injury to Boobie Miles (until then, a near sure thing for college and NFL) to the good but not great QB Mike Winchell to the player who seeks to become a pastor, Ivory Christian to the embattled coach, Gary Gaines. It takes place in the 1988 season, which is just recent enough to make Odessa a modern town but still not recent enough to shed the racism and poverty which pervades the town. This is an amazing book, beautifully, if not toe-steppingly written, and it unfolds game by game, as the Panthers seek a return to the title game, living a "championship or bust" mentality the entire year.  Loved this book.

So there's my Top Ten of last year.  I've got a goal of 50 books this year, and I'm already way behind, as Stephen & Owen King's "Sleeping Beauties" was a 28 hour listen, and I'm in the midst of another 28 hour listen, "Live from New York", the oral history of Saturday Night Live by James A Miller and Tom Shales.

But I can recommend to you "One of Us is Lying" by Karen McManus -- a smart, funny, and clever whodunit with a Breakfast Club setting.

Now... back to the books.

Monday, February 05, 2018

the not top ten books of 2017

One of the things I started doing in 2013 was keeping a list of books read... or "read", I should say, as there is some question as to whether "audiobooks" is considered reading.  But you could also contest if graphic novels or plays would count as books (I count those too), so each person really has to come up with their own qualifications and rules. 

If you count the books I read (but didn't officially list) in 2012, in six years, I've managed to get through 204 books.  That's nothing compared to some of my friends, like Jessica Jobes, who reads 150 books a year or something.  But 204 is a big deal to me! 

Also, in six years, I've clocked 1773 hours and 42 minutes of read time, meaning I could reread everything I've read starting tonight, and it would take me until April 17th to finish.  I impress myself.  Again, there are those who see these numbers, shake their head and know they've already done 200 books since the beginning of the year, but for someone who didn't read much of anything from 1995 to 2012, I'll take it.  

So I will be posting my Top Ten Books of 2017, but I wanted to give a quick rundown of all the other books I read last year as well.

These are in no particular order:

SELF HELP/BUSINESS
"Free Prize Inside" by Seth GodinThe sorta sequel to "Purple Cow", its all about outside the box marketing. Its a great read for business. 

"29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life" by Cami Walker. The author was 33 when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She then sought to give 29 gifts in 29 days, and you can follow along here.

MEMOIRS/BIOS
"Without You" by Anthony Rapp I like Rapp's work in "Adventures in Babysitting", "Rent" and other projects, but I found this memoir to be... well, boring. I hate to say that about someone else's story, as mine would likely be boring too, but it just wasn't for me. 

"The Princess Diarist" by Carrie Fisher. Fisher's final book before her death dives into the 1977 production of "Star Wars", or the stories behind it, including her love of Harrison Ford. Won the Grammy for Best Spoken Word, and though I wasn't crazy about all of it, I enjoyed it. 

"The Best In the World (at what I have no idea)" by Chris Jericho. Tons of WWE backstage stories, including the accident that gave Undertaker 3rd degree burns on his chest before he went into a steel cage match. 

"My Seinfeld Year" by Fred Stoller. He was a writer on Seinfeld and he tells a few stories. Meh. 

"Your Inner Critic is a Big Jerk (and other truths about being creative) by Danielle Krysa. This book isn't targeted to me, its targeted to crafty women. Like, literally knitting and creative women. 

"Scribe" by Bob Ryan. He's been around the Boston sports scene for decades, and sports in general, and this isn't so much a memoir as it is a collection of stories from his life in it. Tales of Red Sox, Bobby Knight, Patriots, Celtics, the 92 Dream Team, his love for John Havlicek and more. Honestly, I enjoyed Al Michael's memoir more, but "Scribe" is also great for sports fans. 

STEPHEN KING
"Skeleton Crew" by Stephen King. A short story collection that was a slog to get through. Some stories were solid, many were tedious. 

"The Gunslinger: The Dark Tower" by Stephen King. I put this off for a long time, knowing that if I liked it, I would be sucked into the other 7 Dark Tower books -- books that are 25 and 30 hour commitments each. Thankfully, I didn't care for this book at all, so there goes any thought of me having to read the rest of them. 

"Gwendy's Button Box" by Stephen King & Richard Chizmar.  Another case of "does it count?", with this being a novella. And yes, I counted it because you can purchase it as a standalone book. Its a fun story that will end up leaving you with more questions than answers. 

SOCIETY/NON-FICTION
"Fast Food Nation" by Eric Schlosser. If you don't want to know where your food comes from, about the gross mistreatment of some farmers, the political side of fast food franchising or the history of food additives, stay away from this book. Otherwise, its a fascinating read. 

"Powerhouse CAA: The Untold History of Hollywood's Creative Artists Agency" by James Andrew Miller. I'm a sucker for a good oral history, and for 75% of this book, I was completely riveted. It tells the story of the formation and rise of CAA, a huge talent agency in Hollywood, and its key driver, Michael Ovitz.  Dozens of stars like Tom Hanks and Bill Murray share their opinions and experiences as well, and it was great... but when Ovitz left, the book just kind of tailspins into a revolving door of people coming and going at CAA and it loses something.  The first 20 hours would make my 2017 Top Ten. The last 5 keeps it from the list. 

"Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign" by Jonathan Allen & Amie Parnes. This book was actually pretty funny, and I believe it a darn site more than I do Michael Wolff's Trump book.  Why?  Because even Wolff has disputed the accuracy of his own book, while very few have come out against "Shattered" on the DNC side. Hillary's campaign was a mess, and this book tells why.

"The Shift: One Nurse, Twelve Hours, Four Patients Lives" by Theresa Brown, RN.  Chronicling one night in the shift of a nurse who has been in the profession a long time and has seen a lot. Tells the stories of four patients in various stages of emergencies (not everyone makes it out alive). Enjoyable. 

"When to Rob a Bank... and 131 More Warped Suggestions and Well Intended Rants" by Steven Levitt & Stephen Dubner.  The Freakonomics guys gathered their decades worth of newspaper articles and essays they wrote and compiled some of the best into this volume. Why does KFC run out of chicken? Why flight attendants don't get tipped? How do you curb gun deaths? Should there by a sex tax? This is a great read, but know that you are wading literally 132 essays. 

HISTORICAL THINGS
"Bill O'Reilly's Legends & Liars: The Patriots" by David Fisher. I've found the "Legends & Liars" series to be really great, and this collection of little known stories and anecdotes from the Revolutionary War was awesome. 

"Bill O'Reilly's Legends & Liars: The Civil War" by David Fisher. Everything I just said about "The Patriots", except about the Civil War. 

DISNEY STUFF
"The Shadow of the Matterhorn" by David W. Smith. If your uncle told you stories of his cool job he used to have, and kept referring to chicks he hooked up with at his job, that's this book.  A former cast member dishes on his time at Disneyland, and while some of it is kinda fun, much of it is awkward and random. 

FICTION
"The Circle" by Dave Eggers. I hated this book. I hated everyone in the book. I didn't care what happened to anyone.  The movie was just as bad. 

"Camino Island" by John Grisham. A departure from his courtroom dramas, this is a book about stolen rare manuscripts, slick bookstore owners and a chick undercover trying to solve the case. A quick and fun read.

"Rooster Bar" by John Grisham. While I liked the story itself, the main problem I had with it was seeing the three protagonists -- the "heroes" of our story -- shirk all of their responsibilities, which include paying back their student loans because they went to a crappy college. Proceed with caution, you may not like anyone in this book. 

"Hollow World" by Nick Pobursky. Disney World fiction with lots of violence, death, hostages, language and a fat crime boss.  Count me in!! 

"A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning" by Lemony Snicket. Another series that I wanted to read, letting the first book determine if I was going to continue.  Though I enjoyed this more than the Dark Tower, it still wasn't enough to push me to read the other books. I looked up the plots on Wikipedia, and am happy with that. 

"Good Girl" by Mary Kubica. Mia Dennett is abducted early in this novel, and we are treated to various perspectives of the story, including lead investigator Detective Hoffman, Mia's mom, and the kidnapper himself. Though not as brutal as "Gone Girl", its in the same vein. I guessed the ending about 1/2 way through the book, but it was still a fun resolution. 

POP CULTURE
"I'm Your Biggest Fan" by Kate Coyne. A celebrity writer dishes on stories about George Michael, Wynonna Judd, Tom Cruise and stalking Mariska Hargitay.  I really liked the pop cultureyness of this. 

"As If! The Oral History of Clueless" by Jen Cheney. This is the book about the movie Clueless that you didn't know you needed. From screenwriting to pitching it to studios to casting to filming to the movie's release, this is the story of the movie as told by director Amy Heckerling, Jeremy Sisto,  Paul Rudd, Donald Faison, Stacey Dash, and of course, Alicia Silverstone, as well as many more. The best parts include detailed looked at the best, most iconic scenes of the movies, including the Rollin' with the Homies, the freeway scene, the kiss at the end, the Bosstones party, the origins of "cake boy" and much more. 

PLAYS/SCRIPTS
"Steel Magnolias" by Robert Harling. Love reading plays, and this one was super familiar because I love the movie. Of course, the play takes place entirely in Truvy's Beauty Shop, but overall is pretty close to the film. 

"Barefoot in the Park" by Neil Simon. The classic about Paul and Corie, newlyweds who immediately run into problems days after the wedding. It's warm and sweet and super fun. 

"Biloxi Blues" by Neil Simon. The story is narrated by Eugene (the play itself is the second in the "Eugene Trilogy", which includes "Brighton Beach Memoirs" and "Broadway Bound" - both read in early 2018) but really centers around the conflict between Pvt Epstein and the brash Sgt Toomey, in basic training amidst WWII.  Reminded me of the Matthew Broderick movie. 

 "Star Wars: The Original Radio Drama" from NPR.  Does this count as a book? Its the drama as played on National Public Radio. It was great. I count it. Sue me.

"Reasons to be Happy" by Neil LaBute. I'm a big LaBute fan, and this book picks up after the previous "Reasons to be Pretty", with the lives of Greg, Steph, Kent and Carly, all in different places, trying to carry on after the events of the first one. 

"The Money Shot" by Neil LaBute.  The story of 2 actors who's fame has dimmed, and are being forced to tell their significant others about a very intimate scene they have to film for a movie that will supposedly reignite their careers. Funny, if not darkly funny, but full of language, as many LaBute plays are.

And the re-reads:
"102 Minutes" by Jim Dwyer & Kevin Flynn. The best 9/11 book I've ever read.

"11/22/63" by Stephen King. I re-read this after seeing the meh mini-series on Hulu, and discovered I didn't like this book as much as I did the first time. Without spoiling the ending, you'll find the story comes to a very unsatisfactory ending.

"'Salem's Lot" by Stephen King. I love this book so much, mostly for how it slowly unfolds for lead character Ben Mears, who is returning to his childhood town to write a book. And the dark house  that overlooks the town, suddenly rented by two very mysterious figures. Great characters, and its 12 through the book before you understand what is truly happening to the town.  

So that's 35 books down. I'll list my Ten Favorites of the year in a day or two, when I write the post. 

If you want to follow along with books read, movies watched, TV seen and Amy Adams pictures inserted at random, check out @TheDaveofPop on instagram! 

Monday, January 01, 2018

those 2018 what ifs

It's a new year, it's an new me!

Not really. I'm the same guy I was yesterday, but I am filled with aspirations. I do this from time to time -- start the year out with #Goals, and then never go back and check.  As a matter of fact, I just now re-read my January 2014 post entitled "The Great 48", with 48 things I wanted to do in the coming year.

And some of them I accomplished. I watched (14) plenty of movies. Started a book (20) on my 500 favorite films.  I learned how to spell "Itinerary" (but "occasionally" still throws me off)... I managed to (36) plan magic for a lot more people... I took care (39) of the pictures... (42) I take Campbell to the park frequently... (43) We paid off the car and (44) I wrote letters, continued to (47) podcast and (48) bought several lunches. Some of the 48 I almost got to, some I never even really tried, and others I knocked out of the park, albeit a year or three later.

So this year, I had another list of random things to do for 2018.  They aren't resolutions, because resolutions can be broken - and with that broken resolution can come guilt and a sense of failure. I have no time for either one of those.

So, what if I could make a list of things to do?  What if I could get them done?

This list is really in no particular order, but one of things is to (1) write more.  See, over the last several years, this whole "What is my word for the year" thing came into fashion.  You gotta pick a word.  And that is your word for that year.  Fancy, important words like "Thrive" and "Resolve" and "Intention" and "Joy" and "Antidisestablishmentarianism". Okay, so that last one isn't a Year Word for anyone I know, but it could be.

My word this year?  "Write".  I'm good at it. Not as good as many, but better than some. Its something I've been working on since I was in 2nd grade, when I tried to write a play for my classmates to perform, and got as far as the first page before I realized none of my 2nd grade peers wanted to rehearse ("The Prince & the Princess" would have been a show-stopper). 

This year, I'm going "write". I'm going "Write" in (2) the form of blogging.  No goal, no set number of blogs, no "100 posts this year!" declaration. Just more blogging.  More posts.  More writing. Even if I do 4 per month, that's at least 48 this year.  After 87 posts in 2015, I managed only 21 TOTAL from 2015 to 2017, and that includes my 1000th post.

I thought of retiring the blog, but I just couldn't do it.  And people keep checking it, because like the narcissist I am, I do check the page views. And you people are checking for new stuff. So, thank you for that.

The book in its first draft. The first of many, many
drafts to come.
Also with "Write" comes (3) finishing the book.  Did you know I was writing a book. A few weeks ago, I was 67,000 words in, though after a little editing, I'm back down to 63,000.  I'm shooting for about 80K, maybe a little more -- its a movie book.  It's entitled, simply enough, "This is a Movie Book" (thanks for that title, dear friend Clay Shaver).  And its about my 500 favorite films of all time. More information on that to come.

By the end of the year, I want that book finished and I want it (4) ready to be sent to an editor (either The Peacock Quill or Shayla Raquel, with that decision to be made later).  I won't be able to afford an editor this year, but in 2019, expect it to hit bookshelves.

In 2016, I had a goal of 160 "new to me", as in, I'd never seen them before. I ended up watching 171 movies, both new in theaters, year old films that had hit streaming services and even some classics I just somehow missed ("Bachelor Party", anyone?).  New goal? (5) To watch 170 "new to me" movies.

(Speaking of podcasts... Don't forget The Deucecast Movie Show Over 300 episodes and still going strong, filled with movie reviews, celeb discussion, pop culture stuff and much more)

I don't talk much about TV, but there are three series that I'm bound and determined to blow through... I've only fully seen season one of (6) Gilmore Girls and never seen any of (7) The Wire and plan on finally knocking out both, episode by episode.

Long book, interesting story
Likewise, in 2016, I had a goal of 45 books read--both first time reads and re-reads count, and both on paper and via audiobook.  I got my 45th read on December 28th ("Wonder" by RJ Palacio).  (8) New goal?  50 books, but there will be a handful of graphic novels and short plays I want to read as well. I've got a handful of Neil Labute, August Wilson & David Mamet scripts at the ready.  The first book of the year completed will likely be (9) "Sleeping Beauties" by Stephen King & Owen King.  Its a 25 hour audiobook, and coming into January 1, I was 11 hours in.

Don't worry... like usual, you'll get my (10) Top Ten Books of the Year in the coming week or so.  I'm actually not even sure which one is number 1.

Back in July, I randomly started a fitness quest -- to run a mile in under 9 minutes or less.  So, every day I started running one mile on the treadmill at our local Planet Fitness.  And save for a few Sundays or so, I did just that for almost three months. My first mile clocked in at under 13 minutes, which for me was major, because I hadn't actually run a consecutive mile in many, many years.  In fact, the chick at Planet Fitness let me know that it had been over 3 years since I'd been back.  As I was on the cusp of turning 42, that means I legit hadn't worked out ever since I had turned 40.

The mile whittled down to around 9:30ish, and then, at the nearby indoor playground, I jumped on a trampoline with Campbell the Kid that was way too low and *BAM* landed (and bounced up) on the bum on the hard floor.  Leg injury.  And in usual d$ fashion, after the leg was okay, I didn't go back. So I will.  At some point sooner than later.  The goal is still (11) a mile in under 9 minutes.  That'll help in (12) losing that 20 pounds I've been trying to shed for years.

So many people to see again -- my friends (13) Clay Shaver and (14) Rick Theule are in Michigan, and I need to say hey, and I had so much fun talking to my friend (15) Amy Campbell while in Tulsa, I want to buy her a drink and just sit and chat.  When I make it to Nashville, I'd like to buy my friend (17) Anna Floit a drink. My friend (18) Bill Seybolt is in Atlanta, so buying he and (19) Bill Weeks a beer is easier.  Also in Atlanta is (20) Six Flags, which I do want to return to. Don't read anything into this... there are many names that I can name of people I want to see again, and hopefully will.  I need to find my buddy (21) Writer Chris Holmes and spend an hour making fun of Hillary.

The podcast, on iTunes, on Google Play, on Stitcher and
various places online. Go get it. 
Most likely, it would happen at the annual (22) Launch Out Conference I attend.  Last year was in Tulsa, and this year is in Nashville.  Last year I spoke what I considered to be a mediocre speech.  This year, (23) I want to give the speech of my life.  Already been working on it since this past August. That is if I am chosen to speak... it's never a guarantee they'll want to hear me.

Then there is the business stuff.  Magic on a Dollar Travel Planning is going well, and I'm somewhere around 350 vacations planned over the years.  For 2018 to be a big year, I'll need at least 150 trips planned... which means I will (24) plan my 500th vacation some time this year.  On the Facebook page, I'm close to 5600 LIKEs, so what if I could get to 6000?  Maybe even 7000?


I also started a new podcast, the Magic on a Dollar Podcast, and as of right now, its 13 episodes in.  It started super strong, and has leveled off dramatically. So the goal there? (25) A 250% increase in downloads this year.  The ultimate would be to make the (26) "New & Noteworthy" on iTunes, but that is a huge goal that may or may not be attainable.

In order for the show to get better, I've got to learn a few new skills... (27) editing, for one... and (28) being able to allow guests on the show for another.

Along with that is (29) getting my website finally finished.  Mostly, I just need content, which leads us back to... you guessed it, "Write".

Plus a handful of other things from my previous list that would be good to do this year... or do more of... (30) send out more birthday and anniversary cards... (31) pray more... (32) say hello to every person who ever rings up my purchases at a counter... (33) give grace before it's asked and (34) ask for grace before it's required... (35) clean out that garage... (36) do something extraordinary. What you ask? I have no idea. I'll know it when it happens.  

Can you believe it's been out for three months, and I still don't own (37) Taylor Swift's new album, nor the new live album by (38) The Dixie Chicks.  Will remedy that in the next week or so.

Haaaay Tay...
Finally, in the back closet of our home sits my extensive comic book collection. One of my long term goals is to collect every issue of the (39) Uncanny X-Men from #200 to #544, which is the the end of its original run, and then the (40) Fantastic Four, issues #300 to #645, which is it's original run's ending.  I'm probably less than 200 issues combined from completing both desired runs. But you can't buy issues on sale if you don't know which ones you are missing.  So its likely time to (41) sort through the comics, sell some, give some out and pare it down.

Okay. There's a list of things to do this year. What if I could get these things done?  What if I could get half of these things done?

What if I buckled down and had victory after victory.

What if?

We already started the "WRITE" way.  See what I did there? Okay, okay, I'm rusty, but I'll get my groove back soon enough.

Follow d$'s personal stuff on Instagram at @davedollar, and keep up with the movies, music, TV and books on @TheDaveofPop, and follow the magic of Disney @Magiconadollar. 

Then Go Subscribe and download the Magic on a Dollar Podcast, and The Deucecast Movie Show Podcast.