Tuesday, March 22, 2022

movie monday football

Fun fact... I actually wrote this article in 2013... I've been looking over my 30+ drafts that I've written off and on, some totally complete, one or two being completed parts of a series that is unfinished, and some half done. I even have a pointed piece about the kid who caught flack for smirk smiling at a fake protester on the steps of the Capitol -- I'll probably hold onto that one. 

But either way, here is a post about my favorite football movies... I added a few lines and did some grammar correction, but otherwise, here ya go... 

For our inaugural Movie Monday.... since football season is winding down, at least college wise, I thought I'd celebrate America's true pastime with my favorite five football centric films...

5... "The Replacements" (2000)
When pro football teams all go on strike, replacement players are used, including on the Washington Sentinals, where their star QB takes a slide instead of scoring a game winning TD so he wouldn't be hurt.  Enter Shane Falco (Keanu Reeves), who, together with his grizzled coach, Gene Hackman, and a wacky cast of teammates played by Faizon Love, Orlando Jones, Jon Favreau and Rhys Ifans, have to win three of the final four games of the season to make the playoffs.

Sure, its silly.  And goofy.  And its so much fun.  And the incredibly cute Brooke Langton is Annabelle, Shane's love interest... this movie is also known for its great line, "Pain heals. Chicks dig scars.  Glory?  Lasts forever."

What happened to Brooke Langton?  She's 50, she's still working, and still beautiful. 

4... "Remember the Titans" (2000)
Herman Boone (Denzel Washington) is hired on to coach a racially divided Williams High School, taking the reins from Coach Yoast (Will Patton), who stays on as an assistant.  Set in 1971, the school is awash in racial prejudice, as Coach Boone is told that if he loses a single game, he's fired.  

The movie, sometimes being a little sappy and predictable, is solid, fun and weaves a great story.  The cast is also stellar, with Ryan Hurst and Wood Harris as the main white and black dudes on the team who (naturally) find a way to come together, with supporting roles by Kip Pardue as the surfer QB, Ethan Suplee as the token fat guy, Donald Faison as a RB named Petey and a young Hayden Panettiere as Coast Yoast's daughter.  Oh yeah, Ryan Gosling is in this too. 

Fun fact... of course, as most films based on a true story will go, this one plays a little fast and loose with the truth -- turns out, by many accounts Coach Boone was quite the jackwagon in real life -- and lot of the racial tension drummed up in the movie was really just drummed up for the movie. Alas, Hollywood.   

3... "The Waterboy" (1998)
What a stupid film.  It just is.  And I love it.  Do I really need to tell you the plot?  Adam Sandler is Bobby Boucher, a Cajun in Louisiana who is recruit by Mr Coach Klien (Henry Winkler in this don't-take-myself-so-serious phase) to play football for the terrible South Central Louisiana State University Mud Dogs, after being rejected by the U of Louisiana Cougars... and of course, it all climaxes in... The Bourbon Bowl.  Of course it does.

You know the lines... "been playing the foosball behind mama's back!?" and "water sucks! it really really sucks!" and "I saw Vicky Vallencourt's boobies and I liked them too!"... love this movie.
 

2... "Necessary Roughness" (2001)
If you are sensing a trend here, of me liking bad football comedies, you are right.  And this one is the best of the comedic bunch.  Scott Bakula!  Sinbad!  Robert Loggia!  Larry Miller!  Harley Jane Kozak! 

Yeah, you probably know those names, and you definitely know the faces...  The football season approaches for the Texas State Fightin' Armadillos, but with most of the previous players suspended and coaching staff fired due to NCAA sanctions (the accusations here are very similar to the real life charges against Southern Methodist University, which was handed the "death penalty" in 1987--more on this later).

Enter Coach Ed Gennero (Hector Elizondo) and his assistant coach Wally (Robert Loggia), who are forced to not only deal with the NCAA restrictions, but also the ones placed on the team by the mean Dean Elias (a wonderfully smarmy Larry Miller)... Dean Miller has left Coach with only 17 players allowed on the team, forcing them most players to play offense and defense, hence, "ironman" football.
The quarterback?  A 34 year old former high school star named Paul Blake (Bakula) who never attended college and has eligibility, who also convinces a TA named Andre (Sinbad), who also has a year left, to play.

And the movie takes off from there, with supporting roles from Jason Batemen, and Kathy Ireland as a the soccer star turned female placekicker (Kathy, I've always loved you from when I was a teenager... but acting is not your forte)... Harley Jane Kozak as a professor, who becomes Paul's love interest and continues to spurn the advances of Dean Miller,  thereby fueling the Dean's hatred of the team.... Rob Schneider, before he got too ridiculous in movies, as announcer Chuck Neiderman and finally, the university president, played by former US presidential candidate Fred D. Thompson.

I love this movie and watch it every time its on, no matter where I catch the film.  Its funny, predictable and a little (a lot) ridiculous, but its so much fun.

Trivia... Texas State wasn't a real university until 2003, when the real life Southwest Texas State University shortened its name to Texas State, with the mascot the Bobcats.  In the movie, the first opponent that the fictional Texas State Fightin' Armadillos plays is the Southwest Texas State U Bobcats.  Irony.


1... "The Blind Side" (2009)
There are some who would say this film is sappy.  There are some who would say this film is made to directly pull on your heart strings.  There are some who would say that it took a little section of a mighty fine book and made an entire movie about that one section.  And they would all be right.

That doesnt change the fact that I am in love with this movie.  I love everything about this film, from the cast--Sandra Bullock in her Oscar winning role... newcomer Quinton Aaron as the lead character of Michael Oher... Tim McGraw as Sean Tuohy... Kathy Bates as tutor Miss Sue... young Jae Head as the youngest son SJ, who has some of the best lines... and of course, the good-lookin' Lily Collins as, conveniently enough, Collins Tuohy, the daughter of Leighe Ann and Sean.

You perhaps know the story, as the Tuohy's, a well to do family in Memphis, TN, ends up not only befriending but becoming the caretakers of Michael Oher, who has been shuffled around from foster home to foster home, running away each time to return to his drug addicted mother. 

The movie then chronicles Michael's story, as everyone discovers how he's been lost in the education system and how he's helped, loved and redeemed by the power of one family loving on a stranger who becomes their friend... then son.  In addition to circumstance, the other foes in the movie are an NCAA investigator who come around, questioning the Tuohy's care for Michael when he chooses what school he'll go to, and gangsta's from the Michael's old neighborhood.

How much do I love this film?  Its currently my 53rd favorite film of all time, has a total re-watchability factor (like "Necessary Roughness", I can pick this movie up anywhere and watch it to completion) and is based on a book that is also extremely awesome.


Honorable Mentions:
"Rudy" (1993) - Like it.  Don't love it, not nearly as much as everyone around me does.

"Jerry Maguire" (1996) - Considered putting this on the list, and it would have ranked #1 if I had--its my 35th favorite film of all time--but to me, this is not necessarily a football movie, not like the ones listed above.  Football plays a part, but its a football agent story.

"The Longest Yard" (1974) - The original with Burt Reynolds, not that travesty made a few years ago with Adam Sandler.

"Varsity Blues" (1999) - I only list this here because I've rewatched it recently.  It holds up, if only for the great cast--Scott Caan, Ali Larter (besides the whipped cream, I mean), Amy Smart (underrated as an actress) and of course, the late, great Paul Walker.

"The Last Boy Scout" (1991) - Like Jerry Maguire, football plays a part of the story, but is not the story.  But I do love me some Last Boy Scout, so I had to mention it.

"Quarterback Princess" (1983) - A made for TV movie with a very young Helen Hunt, a female who quarterbacks a high school team.  This used to come on cable all the time when I was a kid, and I watched it at least a dozen times.

Worth noting...

There are a couple of football documentaries that must be mentioned, including "Pony Exce$$" (2011), a film that takes on the SMU scandal as I mentioned above... "Small Potatoes: Who Killed the USFL" (2009), following the rise and fall of the 1980s USFL, including an interview with who the movie suggests might be the culprit--Donald Trump... and "Undefeated" (2011), the story of the 2009 high school team seeking its first playoff win ever...

(ps... I've never seen "Brian's Song")



Monday, March 14, 2022

a porter waggoner name drop

It's 11:52 at night. and I've got 7 minutes to finish a task.

One of them is writing. Writing something. Anything.

I love writing. For a long time, it was how I thought I'd make my living. I won "Most Talented" in the Senior Superlatives voting in the fall of 1992.. me and Christy Mock, who was an incredible singer and over these last 30 years has spent time performing in the country music circuit, including many concerts with Portner Waggoner. 

That might be the first time in 1100+ posts and 17 years of this blog I've mentioned Porter Waggoner. 

And now I've written 100 words. 

Wednesday, December 01, 2021

to campbell, on your 10th birthday

This is the 10th in an annual series of letters written to my son, Campbell, who turned 10 in December 2021 - you can find the previous letters at the bottom... 

While I usually write it on his birthday, I didn't get the time to devote to it this year like normal, but I wanted to knock it out before the year officially ended.

Dear Campbell,

Your love for trains did not diminish, as 
evidenced by the 3000 Thomas and Lego Duplo
trains we have, and that stop all the world
if we are around tracks when a train goes by
First of all, kid, what right do you have being ten years old? How did that even happen? How on earth has it been ten solid years since you came to us via Mommy's tummy and God's divine hand? 

If you remember, you were actually supposed to be born two weeks later -- I think December 17th was your expected date -- but you decide to come a wee bit early... your mom had just gone to the hospital for a check up and the doctor said, "Hey Steph, you are having a baby tonight or tomorrow."  And there went the rest of our lives, huh.

Second of all, this year has been... well, I'd say insane but that's typical for our little family. Full of stress, joy, faith and much, much more. 

Usually I fill this note with recaps from the past year, starting with any pop culture things you picked up on... well, without going down that road too much, I can say this is the year you picked up on Top 40 radio.  Okay, so remember when Mom had the grey car, the Honda, and I had the red car? And you rode with me to all of your stuff in the red car?  Mom got a new white car, a Toyota SUV, so this is what you wanted to ride in all the time. Unfortunately, I had satellite radio in my red car, but Mom did not in the white car, nor did she have a CD player, so we listened to Magic 96.5, Mix 97.3, and (sadly enough) 103.7 The Q.

Taken at Ady's Racers in December...
you had a huge grin because it was
a pretty amazing day
And you became a huge fan of Maroon 5, The Wkend, Pink, Lewis   Capaldi, Adele, and especially Dua Lipa. As the songs caught on,   you just listened, learned, and sang -- and you know their other   songs too. When Katy Perry's "Dark Horse" comes on, you yell   "ROAR!" and when The Wkend's "Blinding Lights" played, you   holler "Save... Yo.. Tears for another day..."  You spent the first half of the year obsessed with "Blinding Lights", and the back half of this year all about up Dua Lipa. 

If "Break My Heart" is on, you want  "Levitating." If that one is on, you yell 'BREAK MY HEART!"  And   at bedtime for at least the back half of this year, you ask to hear both of those songs, and if there is time, "Rolling in the Deep" by Adele.  And you love "Easy on Me", but I'll be honest with you, I can only handle hearing that one the 38 times they play it per day. 

Of course, it can backfire a bit... we have to watch constantly what is on, as the song title and artist displays on the screen, and I'm not a fan of Doja Cat, whoever the heck that is, and I don't want you walking around saying "Oh My God" (the Adele song) or "[D-Word] It Feels Good to Be Me" (Ed Sheeran). It's bad enough you like to quote Justin Timberlake, saying "Rocka My Body". 

I'm so happy you love music so much. You are doing awesome with piano -- Ms Alaina loves having you.  You do gymnastics now, and you are doing so super good at the vault -- you love just running and hurling your body at a soft mat, which is terrifying to watch, but also fun to watch you come up smiling at a maneuver well done.  

We spend much of the summer at Alabama Splash Adventure - and you finally hit all the slides (except for the free fall slide, which is pretty much a plummet straight down -- you can't do that one right now because you sat up on it and thats bad news).  We spend 3-5 afternoons per week at Next Levl, to the point where they all know by name and give you high fives. We hit any combo of Whole Foods, Publix, Target, and Wal-Mart 3 or 4 times per week, and you love them all. Sprouts too, but the buggies are smaller and you have to walk with me -- and you can be a handful sometimes, champ. 

A lot happened this year in our world around us. It struck me and your mother both how perceptive you probably are right now at everything, and while we don't talk a lot of news around you, you undoubtedly have picked things up along the way. Joe Biden is our president. This note isn't to tell you what you should or shouldn't think based on what we believe -- but as you read this, whatever age you might be, I hope that you have learned from both of us that facts are important. Look at both sides. Then figure out what you believe, and then ask yourself why. 

A great moment in November when we met up with
my very good friend Lindsay in Hollywood Studios,
and it was so cool to have her meet my little family tribe.
FYI, Campbell, like when you met Heather a few 
days prior, you held Lindsay's hand, and was quite 
the flirt.

Sometimes though, faith is all you have... and I think we started to see some of that, especially in May, when I felt like you... well, you had a breakthrough.  RPM, your therapy, has had its ups and downs. Sometimes we walk out and I'm excited you've just done so well. Other times, its been a tad bit frustrating. And sometimes we leave, and I'm all like "Well, ok. Guess that was that."

And sometimes you bust through and say whats on your mind. Back in May, with Ms Lanae, she asked you the questions and you answered. You told her that you needed more Jesus in your life. You told her that your super power was C-A-R-I-N-G.  You said your mom was cool... and your dad too. You said you loved school. When asked if a boy or a girl would be better at something like engineering, you said "does it matter?" 

Along the way in those specific sessions, this also happened -- I'll just pull from the Facebook post I wrote on May 7, 2021... Steph and I have been saying for years that he has a lot to say, he just isn't sure how to say it. This week, I've watched him speak. I've heard what he's had to say. And I'm over the moon hearing his thoughts. Simple, some sorta philosophical, some random, some just black and white.

At RPM, his communication therapy, he spent time answering open ended questions, never being led to an answer, he said the following... and these are pretty much verbatim, not embellished for impact.
--"It is fine to hope I never grow up"
--"Old people think they know everything"
--When asked (as part of a conversation about stereotypes) if he thought girls or boys would be better at science and math, he responds, "I think it don't matter"
--"One hour is long for me"
--Regarding being emotional, "it's bad to cry too much" (he's a sensitive soul)
--"Screaming is not bad if you mean to agree to stop head from hitting on the wall"
--When asked what language he wanted to learn, he said "French". When asked why, he said "It is a Floody language". When asked what is 'floody' about French, he said "It floods your head with sounds."
--"I find it weird in life I sometimes smile..." (he didnt get a chance to finsh this statement, as someone interrupted, but I do wonder where he was going with this.)
Autism. Always presume competence. And underestimate Campbell Dollar at your own peril.

Campbell, we love you so much. We love that you still believe in Santa, even at 10--or at least you play it off. We love that you are using your imagination so, so much right now. We love that you sing constantly, that you are such a helper at school (to the point where the teachers have to tell you that they can handle the leadership part, and you can just sit). We love that you love on your friends Hillary and Jack and Lily and more.

We love that Kindness is a central theme with you. We know it means something.

And obviously I have no proof, but I feel it in my soul that you and God have a connection. Whether He talks to you, or you talk to Him, or (more likely, it happens both ways, your mom and I want you to never forget how much Jesus loves you, died for you, rose for you, and will never stop loving you.

When asked about places you'd like to go, you told Ms Lanae... "I want to go to Washington. And be president. And hit the world with kindness" (direct quote from C Dollar) We love you, son. Your Dad

Birthday letters to Campbell...

Sunday, September 12, 2021

the levity of donna tucker

 

The only picture I own with myself and Donna both
in frame. She's the one on the far left, holding the
finger gun to my head. Fun fact - with the three girls 
forming the semi-circle with Donna, I actually
went out on a single date with one, dated another
for about five months, and cannot remember the name
of the third. Ah college. 
As the 20th anniversary of 9/11 ends,  I always find myself bemused by one anecdote that pops up in my head. On a day filled with chaos and tragedy and the unknown, with buildings burning and collapsing, and people losing their minds -- and rightly so -- there was one single moment of levity in that entire day... and maybe for several days.

Donna Tucker.

As a junior at Troy State, I met Donna as she was an incoming freshman. You know those people that you like, you enjoy being around, but neither you nor they put up any effort to really spend a lot of time together -- you see them around, are very friendly and genuine with each other, then you bid your adieu until the next time?  

That was me and Donna Tucker. She rushed and pledged Alpha Gamma Delta (my personal fave of the sororities full of girls who would never go out with me) and I was Farmhouse, so we definitely crossed paths routinely. Yet, we never got to know each other.

And that was okay. I'm not lamenting that Donna and I were never BFFs, or that she didn't pay more attention to me -- despite her beauty and her loud personality, I never really dug her romantically. She was just... Donna Tucker. Cute, funny, outspoken Donna. She loved Jesus, and I considered her a friend.

And when I graduated from Troy State in March of 1998, and then moved to Birmingham in August of that same year, she wasn't on my list to try to find and say goodbye to. Conversely, when she left Troy, she never had any reason to find me.  

Because that's how we are with people, and that's quite alright to be that way. We can't be besties with everyone, we just don't have time for it. But we can still be friends, good friends for coffee and conversation, without having to keep up with each other. Good friends for a smile and a laugh and sort of inside joke that's a callback to something long ago and even gas.  Like, for the car, not the Taco Bell kind.

You see, September 11th, 2001, was the last time I saw Donna Tucker, or heard her voice, or heard anything about her at all.  She may be single now, living in Tacoma. She might be a married stay at home mom to five kids over in Homewood. She could be a successful exec at an Atlanta area corporation, or an artist with an Etsy shop... I legit have no idea. I even tried to look her up on Facebook tonight, but found nothing.

Like all of you who remember that day, September 11th, was a crazy day. I saw the news about the plane hitting one of the World Trade Center towers (I was there a mere 3 years prior!) and watched in disbelief as another plane flew into the the tower, then saw the news coverage switch to Washington DC because there was an explosion at the Pentagon and heard there were more hijacked planes on the way to Disney World or Chicago or Los Angeles or wherever (it twas a blessing indeed that only four planes were taken, with only three getting to their intended targets).

I was working at 106.9 The Point, though you would know it now as 106.9 The Eagle (actually... I think at that time it was Oldies 106.9...) but either way, I was sort of interning with Rob & Shannon in the mornings as the events of the day unfolded. And around 9a, I still had to actually go to work on the other side of the building.

No one was really working, to be honest. Everyone sat in their cubes, stunned, trying to read stuff on the internet as page after page would load and crash, or not load at all, due to being overwhelmed.  MSNBC's page had the familiar picture of the South Tower with the explosion shooting from the side. Fox News page wouldn't even come up. I meandered my way through the morning and finally got to lunch, and had to get out of the office, even for just a minute. 

Of course, I knew gas was going to go up, because in times like these, it always did, so whether I was a reacting to the problem or was part of the problem, I headed for the BP station on the corner of Lakeshore and Columbiana to fill up my tank.

And as I stood there, mind whirling from everything, I heard, "Well hey David Dollar". I turned around, already knowing the face I'd see because the voice is so recognizable.

And I was right.

"Hey Donna Tucker," I replied, with a smile. 
"Been a morning, huh?" she said back, with words that seem empty, things you'd say as you passed someone familiar in a grocery store, then hurried past and then spent the next 1/2 hour scoping the aisles to avoid more conversation. No, Donna was real. It's all she knew how to be, really. 

"Yeah, you could say that," I chuckled with exasperation. 

Is this what we actually said? I have no clue. But it is the air of the words we chose. Friendly. Light. Fun. Authentic.

I asked her how she was, where she was, and she told me of her then-current life, which seemed pleasant enough.  She asked me the same type questions, and I answered in kind -- single, working, no I havent seen ____ but I've heard he's here -- and our conversation lasted no more than a few minutes, however long it took for my car and her car to top each top off with fuel.

We said our goodbyes, wished each other well, climbed into our respective vehicles, and our paths, that only slightly intertwined years before and had only for a moment touched on this day, then diverged out into different directions once again. 

It was the calm of my entire day.

I went home for a minute, back to my apartment. I shed a few tears as I watched more footage in my room. It took a deep breath, went back to my car, drove back to work and finished the day. The next few days were the same -- the radio station was like other stations, both TV and radio, with wall to wall coverage for at least three days. Even if I wanted to get away from the news, and there were times I was ready to leave it, it was all around me. At home, I could shut out the world if needed, but myself and my roommates Mikey, Shawn, Tom, Tommy, and anyone else there discussed it all at length. Probably needed to, just to voice our thoughts.

But Donna Tucker. For 7 minutes on September 11, 2001, there was no attack. There was no collapsing towers or thousands of lives lost.  For about 7 minutes, I had a warm, pleasant conversation with Donna Tucker.  It was exactly what I needed.  A friendly -- and beautiful -- face to look at, and a perky and wonderful voice to listen to when the whole world had collapsed into ugly and horrible. 

Strangely, Donna doesn't cross my mind often, and that's not an insult to my memory of her, as I can pretty much guarantee "d$" is never top of mind for her either... but she does come front and center in those front and center lobes of my brain on 9/11.

She was my levity.  She was my calm.

Thank you, Donna. And I hope you are well.  And as the world once again falls slowly apart, maybe another gas station meet up would be helpful. 


Wednesday, February 17, 2021

rush is right

 Rush Limbaugh died today. Here are my thoughts. They are my thoughts, and while I usually have no problem with dissenting opinions, if you decide to take this time to trash, insult, and make false claims, I'll just delete your comment. Simple as that.

One of the compliments I hear often when I discuss politics on a random thread, or the rare times when I post here, is that i don't make it personal, I come at it with facts in my pocket, and am amenable to changing my mind on certain things. It doesn't happen a lot, but it has happened. And sure, you may not agree with anything I say, and that's okay, sometimes even the same facts are used to strengthen an opinion on both sides.
Now, what I'm about to say may put one sentence in your mind that will be hard to forget, that being "Well, no wonder he thinks all that stuff he thinks". And I have no problem with you thinking it. Because I don't hold a belief in any opinion anymore without having reasons why. But it wasn't always this way, but probably in the last 10 years or so.
Where did I learn this? Rush Limbaugh. I've already scanned social media and seen some of the disgusting things said already, about "burning in hell" and "lies and vitriol" and such, and it makes me think back to what Rush always said -- you cannot understand his show by listening for one day, or even a week. He, maybe jokingly, maybe not, said you have to listen to his show for six weeks to make an accurate assessment.
In college, I was on the air for 2 hours every day at WTBF, playing the best of the 60s, 70s, and 80s, then worked the board for the first hour of Rush, from 11a to noon (CST). I was a Democrat, thought Bill Clinton was cool, and honestly, paid no attention to politics. Beyond six weeks, I listened for 9 months and while I wasn't sold, it taught me a different perspective... or, as I'm proud to say most people cannot say about themselves, it taught me there IS a different perspective.
Rush never told me or anyone who listened what to think. He was like all shows that did play a sound bite and he picked the context in which to discuss it, which left me with no option but to go find the full context -- and way more often than not, his context was correct.
All told, I've listened to his show pretty much daily since 1996, ended up voting for Bob Dole in my first Prez election, and have learned an infinite amount of history, wisdom, and strategies for debating and arguing my point. I didn't always agree with Rush, and sometimes he was bombastic. I would hear CNN take a Rush bite, or see people on twitter say "OMG RUSH SAID THIS EVIL THING" then see the "evil" thing and laugh, knowing the full context and weight of what was actually said.
He wasn't perfect. His nicknames were usually hilarious, occasionally too much, but many times on point. He had a Rx addiction problem many years ago that he openly discussed and took time to deal with. And no, he didn't make fun of Michael J Fox. He made a point about how Fox was being used by the media, a point that I agree with to this day.
Rush believed in American exceptionalism, and the pure belief that capitalism will help a nation thrive, conservative works, and that liberalism doesn't. Extreme positions? Maybe. But I'm not seeing a whole lot of evidence to the contrary.
The media overall hated him but wouldn't be where they are without him, playing those very same soundbites out of context. Hannity, Shapiro, Beck, would have had a much harder road had it not been for Rush. He lived in the heads of so many in the media, and even when they tried to compete (Air America anyone?) they failed miserably. By the way, I listened for a week to Air American. It was so freaking bad. Chuck D and some other dude spent a whole hour making "W Bush is so dumb" jokes. Like, what? Where was I?
Not until the advent of podcasting did Rush have any real competition -- and even then, it was a different medium.
I will miss Rush immensely. When he announced he had Stage 4 cancer last year, I knew we didn't have him for much longer. And when he came back on the air in January, I knew that his time was even more limited, and I smack myself for never trying to call in. He was my afternoon news update, a break from the I HATE TRUMP SO MUCH WAAAAA screaming that CNN, and even some parts of Fox, gave me daily.
Finally, Rush openly professed a love of God, and more pointedly, a belief in the fullness of Christ. So while Twitter is flush with "he's burning in Hell!" tweets from people who said the same about Billy Graham, if you have a belief in the Bible -- the whole thing, not the warm fuzzy parts -- then rest assured, Rush is having a pretty good day right now. (I've legit lost 3 followers in the 20 minutes since I tweeted about my mourning for his passing)
Thanks Rush for all you taught me. You get some rest now. After 25 years, I think your tens of millions of listeners and fans can take it from here.
your friend and loyal patriot
d$
xoxoxo

Thursday, January 07, 2021

late night you tubery: the music video

So I originally wrote this as a Facebook post over the course of an hour, but I realized it was way too long -- heck, I never read long FB posts, so why should you? Figured I'd copy and paste my ramblings here, and then if you wanted to come see them, then ok.

Here are my random thoughts... So I'm making the kid's lunch for tomorrow, and getting his supplements ready for the next few days. This is normally a task I'd knock out in 20 minutes, but it took me over an hour tonight. Why?

Well, I made the decision -- right or wrong -- to open up YouTube and let a music playlist go... and because I've watched these videos a ton, it knows what I want to see... and as each video played, I had some thoughts.

“Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke.  I love this video, but not for the reason you think... no, I love it because I love watching T.I. do that ridiculous dance he does. T.I. Dance gives me joy.  Also, this is a great parody of "Word Crimes" by Weird Al.

“Timber” by Pitbull ft Ke$ha. Was anyone else shocked when they found out that awesome female voice in the backup was the same voice that actually sang “brush my teeth with a bottle of Jack” in that ridiculous “Tick Tock” song?

“Cake By the Ocean” by DNCE. Anyone else still weirded out by whichever Jonas that is dropping the F bomb so many times?

“Somebody That I Used to Know” by Gotye. Has to go down as one of the best one hit wonders ever. Also does anyone else nearly scream the “Cut me out” part? real quiet “you didn’t have to” then loudly “CUT ME OUT!!!” This song is so great. The video is paint by numbers on acid. And if you don't like feet, the first 10 seconds of this video will give you the skeeves. 

but you treat me like a stranger and it
FEELS SO ROUGH
“Fireball” by Pitbull. Who put another freaking Pitbull on here? (Hint-it was me. I like Pitbull) Also, the “we’re taking we’re taking we’re taking it down/bringing it back” part is a bucket list item of mine to do on stage with a raucous crowd. One day. 

“Ex’s & Oh’s” by Elle King. First up, Ron Schneider’s daughter. Wat. Second, this is an Incredible driving song. Great drums. Good for counting.

“Run-Around” & "Hook” by Blues Traveler.  Let’s be real. Anyone can learn “WAP”. You just say a bunch of raunchy words and try to have as little talent as possible. Blues Travelers songs take some real work to learn. And “Run-Around” and “Hook” is one of the best one-two punches by any band ever. “Hook” has Paul Schafer, but “Run-Around” has the Wizard of Oz theme, and is slightly more fun to sing. Advantage.

“Impression That I Get” by The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. AAAAAAAHHHHH NEVER HAD TO KNOCK ON WOOD BUT I KNOW SOMEONE WHO HAS WHICH MAKES ME WONDER IF I COULD... you know it. Keep going it. Flailing around enhances the experience. 

“Flagpole Sitta” by Harvey Danger. I legit just laughed when this song started. It’s so stupid... and so freaking catchy... plus the lead singer (I found out later is Sean Nelson) looks like a total dork, which helps me relate. "Been around the world and found that only stupid people are breeding" is a line that just owns me.  And no kidding, I just hopped across the kitchen to the fridge to the beat of this song...

“Cumbersome” by Seven Mary Three. It’s an outrage, nay, a scandal, that 4 Non Blondes get their suck tune** on heavy rotation on SiriusXM and I never hear this song. Cumbersome freaking RULZ. And I nearly blow out my vocal cords doing the raspy voice. Worth it.

**the song I reference here is "What's Up". I have determined that I hate this song more than any other song in the history of life. I deplore this song. Were I being tortured, I could endure toenail pullings and teeth drilling, but continuous play of this might make me tell the bad guys where the money is. Toss in my 2nd worst most hated song ever, "Get What You Give" from the New Radicals, and maybe my 3rd most worst hated song ever, "Anything By Cardi B with Special Emphasis on Bodak Yello", and frankly, I'm just going to die of awesome deficiency.

I have a hard time dealing with how
adorable she is in this video.
FINALLY

I have two fave songs in the whole wide world, ever. Like all time. Not ironically, like, legit 1a and 1b. 

“Love Song” by Sara Bareilles is one of them. This song is perfect. Flawless. And the video is also awesome. I listened to it, then restarted it so I could watch it before I went to bed.

Okay, that's it. I also saw "Crazy" by Gnarls Barkley but forgot to write it down, so... next time.

Thursday, December 31, 2020

the not top ten best books of 2019 (part 1)

So, hey!  Happy New Year!  So you may be thinking "Oh, it's the last day of 2020, so this must be the favorite book list of 2020, right?"  Nope... I have had this draft, half-written, in my drafts for 8 months, so I thought since 2020 is not officially over yet, it would be a good time to finish it...

So here is my report on books read in 2019:

Every year, I list my Top Ten Fave books of the year, and while they can be from any year, they have to be first time reads for me.  In 2019, I actually only re-read two books, both I've read several times through the years, leaving the rest as brand new.  Of course, when I say "read", I do mean audio, because that's reading too... to the tune of 344 hours listened to via Audible.

So let's look at the books I read that didn't make the top ten... and I'll number them - not by the order in which I read them, but just to keep track of how many (for my own purposes because I'm bad at math)

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THE COMEDIANS
These are a handful of books written by actors and stand up comics, usually telling their story with lots of jokes and such

I was all in on the first season of "The Unbelievable Kimmy Schmidt" on Netflix.  The star, Ellie Kemper, I found to be just flippin' adorable, and so when she released (1) My Squirrel Life, a memoir of sorts, I had to grab it. In fact, it was the very first book of 2019 for me... and I was delighted. Its short, its sweet, and it's fun... though I cannot tell you that I remember much about it. I just remember liking it.


When my friend Amarylis (by morning, up from San Antone) said she had read David Spade's
(2) Poloroid Guy in a Snapchat World, I nodded. I had been circling that one for a while on Audible, and was trying to decide if I wanted to read it.  I finally pulled the trigger, and liked it. He's got another, Almost Interesting, and I'm undecided. Perhaps.

Another comedian I enjoy is Greg Fitzsimmons, and had heard Fitz discussing his book (3) Dear Mrs Fitzsimmons on the Adam Carolla podcast.  The book is somewhat of a memoir of sorts, told through a series of letters filled with funny stories of growing up.  I found it amusing, but it wasn't my favorite.  It was a well done book, just not my jam.

Finally, Annabelle Gurwitch, who I've always loved from the old school Dinner & a Movie program on TBS, put together a collection of monologues and essays called (4) "Fired! Tales of Jobs Gone Bad", as she, plus comedians like Taylor Negron, Paul F Thompkins, Dana Gould, Paul Feig, and more tell tales of how they were kindly -- and unkindly -- asked to leave various jobs. Hilarious.

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RE-READS

Might as well toss these in... the two books I re-read this year are Richard Paul Evans (5) "The Christmas Box", a short but lovely little story of a family moving in with a well-to-do matronly saint of a woman, to assist, and discovering that family is the most important thing. It's a great story to help that Christmas spirit.

Another re-read is one that I read once every 2-3 years, so I'm likely on my 4th or 5th reading of (6) "Salem's Lot" by Stephen King. Its one of my all time favorite books, and while somewhat dated (it takes place in the fall of 1975), its thrilling. If you didn't know the main villain of the book going in, it's a masterful way of slowly unspooling the horror of the story. 

Speaking of Stephen King...

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GRISHAM & KING

My unspoken, unconscious vow to read all Grisham novels continued in 2019, as I read the older classic (7) The Chamber, about an idealistic law student who is trying to save his racist grandfather from the electric chair. Grisham books are never bad, but this one was a little sluggish... I also watched the movie of the same name, starring Chris O'Donnell and Gene Hackman, aka, "The movie where Hackman destroys O'Donnell in every scene he's in".  So, I can say that The Chamber part of my life is closed for good.  Not so with (8) The Reckoning, however, which tells the story of Peter Banning, who one day long ago drove into a small town and shot in cold blood the local preacher, then gave himself up.

The power that Stephen King has on me is pretty ridiculous, as I do read -- and always have read -- anything he releases.  It's a little personally unnerving, as he politically hates me, but I'm still a fan.  One book that had previously eluded me, and intimidated me, was (9) Four Past Midnight, which contains four smaller... and smaller is a relative term, as this sumgun is just under 30 hours on audio... novellas, including "The Langoliers", about a very unfortunate, dark flight into madness... "Secret Window, Secret Garden", about an author who's own characters are driving him into madness... "The Library Policeman", about a library who's secrets are simply madness... and "The Sun Dog", my favorite of the bunch, about a very sinister Polaroid camera. And yeah, madness.

I dug the book as a whole, and it skirted my Top Ten, as did The Reckoning, but both authors have books in my Top Ten of 2019 already.

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THE WRASSLIN BOOKS... AND ANOTHER SPORTSER BOOK

Read two books on the fake sport that I love so much... and yes, I realize that while it's fake, the injuries are very real and so on and so forth. but nonetheless, first up was (10) Best Seat in the House, by former WWE and now current AEW announcer Justin Roberts. One of Roberts lifelong goals was to be a wrestling announcer, so it gives his take on his pursuit of, and finally achieving that goal -- and as all know, sometimes that goal isn't all we wanted it to be.  It's got some great stories, and I believe him, though it does come across as a little whiny in a few spots.

The other was by a guy named Sean Oliver, who has been around wrestling for a long, long time. In this book (11) Kayfabe: Stories You're Not Supposed to Hear from a Pro Wrestling Production Company, he does in fact tell some stories, though I'm unsure of whether I should have heard them or not.  The book is more of a history of his production company, Kayfabe Commentaries, which does extensive interviews with past and present wrestling superstars, and releases them on DVD and digital. The book does chronicle stories from the world of WWE, WCW, ECW, and more, and though I enjoyed the stories, it did come across as a long advertisement for his studio.


For the uninitiated... "Kayfabe" (kay-faybe) means "in story". As in, when wrestlers are in a match, they are in character, and you stay in character before and after a match. You never "break kayfabe" unless it's something major, like a serious injury, or you are "shooting", which means you are talking real life in a ring. When someone breaks kayfabe, and shoots, it's always entertaining. See CM Punk's "Pipebomb" or Nash & Hall's big hugs before they left WWF in the 90s.

While not Wrasslin, it has nowhere else to go, so I'm sticking Jeff Pearlman's (12) Football for a Buck: The Crazy Rise and Crazier Demise of the USFL here. The subtitle explains it all, and it's an excellent bit of sports history, and the words "crazy rise" and "crazier demise" are right on point. It's a wild story, and yes, Donald Trump added to that second part.  

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ONE SHOTS

Does it count if there is only an audio book, and not a tangible book?  Well, I'm counting it anyway, so there.

Author Curtis Sittenfield wrote and released a short book called (13) Atomic Marriage, about a hotshot Hollywood writer who is sent to a small Alabama town to interview a pastor who has written a book about marriage. A 12-step process, actually, on how to stay together physically, emotionally, mentally and so on. Of course, Heather, the writer, has her doubts on what this Alabama hick can teach her (and honestly, I was a little timid on how it would treat the South) but to my, and the reader's, delight, that's not at all what happened.  It's a wonderful little book, even with the ending that seems to just... well, end. I liked this quite a bit, and I wished it was actually longer.

In all my years of listing my Top Tens, the first time I ever listed a book purchased at a book fair was... well, right here. (14) "Where is Walt Disney World", part of a "Where Is..." series, this one by Joan Hulab. It's pleasant, written on a kid level, giving general history and location of The Most Magical Place on Earth.  

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STAGE PLAYS & SCRIPTS

I'm a huge fan of stage plays and screenplays. I have a few on my bookshelf, and I like the way the word is presented, as opposed to a narrative (much like "Harry Potter & the Cursed Child" is done, but I just can't bring myself to read it yet.)

So I knocked out several of these, including (15) I Love Lucy: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Sitcom by Gregg Oppenheimer, about the creation of the classic television show by way of Lucy and Desi. Enjoyed it, though wanted more from the story.

David Mamet is one of my favorite playwrights and so I found (16) Speed the Plow to read. It's about a Hollywood producer's who's influence is tested when he's torn between a promising script and a hot chick. If I had a dime for every time I had to make such a decision...

(17) The 64th Man, by Bryan Tucker and Zach Phillips, is about a washed up athlete trying to get back in the league while dealing with his own love life and family. I found it... boring. 

Neil Simon is one of my favorites, and I've been picking his plays up all along for the last few years, and in 2019, I liked (18) Lost in Yonkers, a Pulitzer & Tony Award winning play about two teens living with their grandmother in Yonkers during World War II.  The other Neil Simon play I read in 2019 will be coming later.

Another drama that I didn't enjoy as much, though still was drawn into, was (19) Dinner with Friends from Donald Marguiles, a Pulitzer Prize winning story of two couples, their secrets, divorce, and friendship. It's heavy. 

Finally, there was (20) Top Secret: The Battle for the Pentagon Papers, by Geoffrey Cowans and Leroy Aarons, about the struggle the Washington Post had to release the classified US documents about the Vietnam War.  It was engaging and tense, even though I knew the outcome.  


And then Check out the TOP TEN BOOKS OF 2019

the not top ten books of 2019 (part 2)

Make sure you check out part 1 of the books I read last year that didn't make my Top Ten... and then be sure to check for my Top Ten Books of 2019.

The numbers continue from the previous post -- again, not in the order I read them, but just to keep up with what I've listed. Also, again, bad at math and all that. 

BE MORE ORGANIZED AND IMPROVE YA SELF

While I'm not necessarily into "self help" books, I do read some if I really like the concept and the author.  I'm a big fan of Ashley Eckstein, the voice of Ahsoka Tano in "Star Wars: the Clone Wars", and a legend around Star Wars circles, and while I did enjoy (21) It's Your Universe, I recognize I'm not the target audience.  But, even not being a chick, this book still is good for everyone. 

It's her story of becoming a voice over artist, and eventually becoming the voice of Ahsoka Tano (though Rosario Dawson is playing her in The Mandalorian, and I'm excited about this, because I love Rosario Dawson hey boo).  It's a book about setting a goal and going after it, and I aligned with it nicely.

I'm also always looking for great books on the clean up process, because... well my house needs a good clean up. Hence reading Robin Zasio's (22) The Hoarder in You. Zasio is known for being one of the main people in the "Hoarders" series on A&E, and while nothing here is revolutionary, it's still a good reminder of how truly easy it is to get organized, it's just having a plan and doing it.

If you are kicking yourself for not accomplishing all that you wanted in 2019, or even 2020, though that's an entire other discussion, then... well, (23) In Conclusion, Don't Worry About It, the book by Lorelei Gilmore herself, Lauren Graham.  Lauren, a Gilmore, a Braverman, and eternal hotness, gave this speech to her high school in a commencement speech, and we got to enjoy it book form. It's worth the brief time it takes to read it.

It's always fun to be reading a book by an author who winds up sitting about five feet away from you as you read. Thus, the situation I found myself in in a Embassy Suites lobby as I was reading (24) Get Weird, while author CJ Casciotta sat nearby. He was there to speak at a conference, and I was there to listen, and it was all around a good time. It's a book about not fitting in, about using your creativity to the fullest, and about being weird and embracing that weirdness. I felt seen.

Lee Cockerell, a retired VP of the Walt Disney Company has a series of books, and this one spoke to me the most... (25) Time Management Magic was some magic I could really use.  Let's be real, nothing here is mind-blowing -- it's all basic concepts, but like Zasio's book about not being a hoarder, its advice we need to be reminded of frequently. Plus, it helps that he also has a background in the Happiest Company on Earth, which really spoke to me.

As a sidebar, he's pretty liberal in his politics and legit came after me in a thread where I wasn't addressing him nor responding to something he'd said. It was bizarre. 


Finally, one of the most popular podcasts around, The Popcast, saw one of it's hosts write and publish a book in 2019. (26) The Wondering Years: How Pop Culture Helped Me Answer Life's Biggest Questions is by Knox McCoy, and is a solid book. Knox, a Christ Follower, weaves boy bands, reality television, current musical artists and more around a number of spiritual and Biblical quandaries with God and the Christian Walk.  Believers would likely enjoy this and Knox's take -- he's quite brilliant, actually. Barely missed my Top Ten. 

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TRUE CRIME

An author I always check on for new material is Kathryn Casey, who is based in Texas and seems to be covering every major murder and sensational court case in the state -- her book in 2019 was (23) In Plain Sight: The Kaufman County Prosecutor Murders, telling the tale of Kaufman County Assistant DA Mark Hasse, executed in broad daylight, the massacre that followed, and the couple who did it. I enjoy most of Casey's stuff, and while I haven't really like the style of the last few, this was somewhat of a rebound. Good, not great.

Bryan Burrough's (24) The Demon Next Door tells how he learned that a high school classmate of his, Danny Corwin, ended up becoming a serial killer. The book is just okay.

Amanda Lamb's (25) "Love Lies: A True Story of Marriage and Murder in the Suburbs" (true crime subtitles are long) tells of how Nancy Cooper's strangled body was found in a ditch in North Carolina, while her husband claims she went out for a jog and never came back. You might know where this is headed.

(26) "Twisted: The Story of Larry Nassar and the Woman Who Took Him Down", by Mary Pilon and Carla Correa, is the first of several books & films I consumed about the Nassar, the douchebag doctor for the US Gymnastics team, and how the women he sexually assaulted found the bravery to come forward. Takes you through the first few women to speak up, then the women who followed, and Nassar's world that crashes around him. Very informative and very detailed. This is where I toss in that trigger warning thing. 

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ENTERTAINMENT

Final three books on this "outside the Top 10" list all fall under the entertainment and pop culture category list. 

(27) Best.Movie.Year.Ever: How 1999 Blew Up the Big Screen by Brian Raftery essentially just looks at a pivotal 12 month period in cinematic history -- some of the biggest movies and pop culture touchstones came out that year.  Fight Club, The Matrix, The Sixth Sense, American Pie, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, Magnolia, and so many more are all discussed, with interviews and soundbytes from Sofia Coppola, Reese Witherspoon, Taye Diggs, Matthew Broderick, and loads more. Any movie fan would love this -- in fact, while I did my list and ranking in January of 2020, I'm not even sure why this isn't in my Top 10. But I'll go with what I have, though I may re-read this one soon.



I read two books about the making of, and behind the scenes of, the show Friends. Both are excellent, but the one I liked 2nd best of the two is (28) I'll Be There For You: The One About Friends  by Kelsey Miller. Like the other (which you can guess will be in the Top 10), it's an indepth look at the creation, the casting, the premiere, and the seasons -- good, excellent, and mediocre -- that followed. If you are a Friends fan, you can't go wrong with I'll Be There For You, but I like the other just a little more. 

And then, (29) Top of the Morning: Inside the Cutthroat World of Morning TV by Brian Stetler, is another who's subtitles give you the sense of the book. It concentrates mostly on the battle between The Today Show on NBC and ABC's perpetual 2nd place "Good Morning America", and how the latter slowly chipped away at the former's decades long dominance. The book was written in 2013, years before the (deserved) fall from grace of Matt Lauer, but you can see just in his actions and words that, knowing now what we know about his douchecanoery with his female coworkers, things were not well.  It does paint a rosy picture of how NBC treated Ann Curry, and I can believe it. 

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AND THE KIDS BOOKS

Finally... books 30 to 33... 

One of the joys of being a dude who works from home is that I am able to attend school functions with my kid -- including showing up and shopping with him at the yearly Book Fair (here's to hoping 2021 will bring this back to us. Who doesn't love a good book fair?  Back in my day, I'd show up with $15 in my pocket, I'd walk out with a Beverly Cleary book, the latest Bill Wallace novel, a Star Wars read-along, a poster of a Ferrari, a Trapper Keeper folder, and some pencil erasers shaped like West Indies Komodo Dragons.  Now?  $15 might get a two books from the pre-school section and a sheet of glitter stickers.

I said earlier that "Where is Walt Disney World" was the first book I've ever listed purchased at a Book Fair... I should have said "purchased FOR ME", as these were books I bought at my kid's book fair, that I read, and that I count on my list -- you'll see why in a second.

Goodnight Goodnight Construction Site by Sherri Rusker... Mighty Mighty Construction Site, also by Rusker... Going on a Bear Hunt by Helen Oxenbury... and Me & My Dad by Allison Ritchie.

All can be read in 3 minutes or less.  So why would I put these four kids books on the list?  No, not to pad my stats. I think I get credit for these books because I read all four, every night, out loud to Campbell at bed time, and I read them every night for around six or seven straight months -- and that ain't even hyperbole.  So these count. 

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So there is my list of books that didn't make my Top 10...

The three that I would say were on the edge -- Knox McCoy's "The Wondering Years", Kelsey Miller's "I'll Be There For You" and Raftery's "Best.Movie.Year.Ever".  Toss in  "Football for a Buck" by Jeff Pearlman and Pilon & Correa's "Twisted" and there is the next five after the Top 10.

That's the Outside the Top Ten List... onto the Top Ten

the top ten books of 2019

If you haven't read the rest, make sure you catch up on The Not Top Ten of 2019 (Part One) and The Not Top Ten of 2019 (Part Two)

Without further scribble dabble scrabble, on the microphone I babble... here are my fave book that I read for the first time in 2019...

My 10th Favorite Book of 2019 - The Goodbye Girl by Neil Simon (1977)
As I mentioned, I'm a fan of plays and screenplays, and this is probably my favorite of Neil's... the story centers around Paula and her daughter Lucy, who gets deserted by Paula's boyfriend. Enter Elliot Garfield, a neurotic but kind actor, who shows up because the landlord has now rented the apartment to him... much to Paula's dismay, because she and Lucy are still living there. And you can see the conflict... and of course, romance coming at ya. The movie version was wonderful as well, garnering Richard Dreyfuss an Oscar for his portrayal of Elliot, and became the first RomCom to cross $100 million in box-office gross.


My 9th Favorite Book of 2019 - What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures by Malcolm Gladwell (2009)
I tend not to read authors who are way smarter than I am... not just smart, but super smart -- but I am always drawn to certain authors like Michael Lewis, Randall Munroe, and of course Gladwell.  This is a collection of 19 essays first featured in the New Yorker. Each was handpicked by Gladwell himself for the book, all bearing a running theme of seeing the world through the eyes of others -- even a dog. Because, you know, What the Dog saw.  Right?

Broken into three parts, it discusses people who are experts but not known, the issues with predictions and basing actions on those predictions, and the failure of intelligence, spending a chunk of time on the fall of Enron, and finally, personality and sociological discussions on random topics (I know this book sounds crazy boring, but trust me, it's well written and well read.)



My 8th Favorite Book of 2019 - The Oracle by KB Hoyle (2012)
The first narrative of our Top Ten sends us back into the mythical land of Alithia, a place that Darcy and her friends discovered -- and saved -- a year prior. This time, pushed by the princely Tellius, they set out on a quest to discover the truth of a prophecy, something that will impact her life, for the rest of her life.

If you like Narnia, with a little Lord of the Rings quest, shaken and poured over some Harry Potter, then The Gateway Chronicles is worth investing time into. I did a more comprehensive write up a few yeas ago, when Book 1 ended up in my 2018 Top Ten.

As I mentioned before in that article I just linked to, mad props to KB, my friend and a writing idol, as she has successfully done world building... which the more I read and learn, the more I understand ain't easy. 


My 7th Favorite Book of 2019 - The Run of His Life: The People vs OJ Simpson by Jeffrey Toobin (2015)
As the 20th anniversary of the murders of Nicole Brown-Simpson and Ronald Goldman hit in 2014, there was a glut of TV specials and books and retrospectives on the whole thing -- everything from OJ & Nicole's relationship to the murder itself to the infamous White Bronco chase.  

While I watched both American Crime Story: The People vs OJ Simpson, a narrative with everyone from Cuba Gooding Jr to John Travolta to David Schwimmer (!?), and the superior, incredibly good ESPN 30for30 documentary that tops out around 7 hours and 45 minutes (watch it in parts), it was this book that really filled in the gaps -- the background of all persons involved, what led to the murder, the suspicions that Toobin has about what OJ did and didn't do (by the way, I had no idea that Goldman and Nicole weren't together -- he was truly in the wrong-place-wrong-time), and the trial itself... and the absolute circus it became.  Yes, OJ got away with murder... Toobin doesn't push you one way or another, but the evidence is pretty stacked against OJ.

Also, 2020 was a difficult year for Jeffrey Toobin... he and Zoom are not the best of friends. Don't let his touching dismissal from NYTimes keep you from reading this book if you are interested in.


My 6th Favorite Book of 2019 - Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company by Bob Iger (2019)
One of the few non-King books I read as soon as it was released... ironically, I didn't even want to read it, I felt as if it might be a progressive manual for running a theme park. But Iger is the guy who brought Lucasfilm (aka Star Wars), Indiana Jones, Pixar, Marvel, and 73 billion dollars worth of 20th Century Fox to Disney, plus oversaw the creation of Disney+, among other things, so I figured it might be worth a glance.

It was.  It totally was. From his early days in production and management to working way to the Walt Disney Company, succeeding Michael Eisner (who was not in his save-the-company save-the-animation era, but in his ego trip, Imma get Walt's nephew Roy out of the company era) to basically become Mickey's 2nd in command. The book is surprisingly candid, spelling out both victories and mistakes, and he speaks with openness and honesty at major events like Shanghai Disney's opening (after it was well overbudget and sort of a disaster), the Pulse shooting in Orlando, and the alligator attack that took the life of a little boy right on the beaches of the Grand Floridian. 

Sprinkled along the way is leadership advice and bits of wisdom, but it was truly the Disney history stuff that really drew me in.  I would hope that the 10th anniversary will feature a chapter on how he resigned, then came roaring back to assist with the company as the parks shut down entirely due to COVID.

 
My 5th Favorite Book of 2019 - Generation Friends: An Inside Look at the Show That Defined a Television Era by Saul Austerlitz. (2019)
Much like "I'll Be There For You" from Kelsey Miller, this book also goes in-depth with the shows creation, the hiring and casting, the production, and the opening, middle, and closing seasons of the show. 

Why did I like this book better? More in-depth. In-depthier, if you will. Is that word?  Could it BE any more fake sounding?

Whereas Kelsey Miller's book hit the highpoints of many topics, I felt as is Austerlitz really dove deeper on things, from contract disputes to controversies to personal lives of the actors (without being schmaltzy or gossipy) and I just got more out of it.  

But either book will satisfy you. 


My 4th Favorite Book of 2019 - The Guardians by John Grisham (2019)
I'm an avid JG guy, though I have my criticisms of much of his work... many of his stories build to a great crescendo then just drop you cold with no real resolution.  Some start meh, get good, end meh. And then some start with a bang, build to a great climax, and then really give you the ending that leaves you satisfied. Thus is "The Guardians"

With a lawyer killed in his own office, a black young man named Quincy is arrested for the crime, even though we as the readers find it quite obvious he didn't do it. The one person who listens is a guy named Cullen Post, who runs Guardians Ministry, a non profit that can only take a few innocence type projects per year -- and of course, non-hilarity ensues.

Well written, riveting, and could actually qualify as a "page turner". One of Grisham's better novels in recent years (he did two at 2020 and both are great. We'll get to that on a 2020 list)


My 3rd Favorite Book of 2019 - Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou (2018)
Sometimes you find news stories and you kinda just become obsessed with them... truthfully, the US Women's Gymnastic team battle against Larry Nassar and Michigan State felt a little like that, as I read and watched multiple books and movies.  

And another story like that for me?  The story of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos. This story blows my ever lovin' mind. Holmes, charismatic and beautiful, even with the (possibly fake) deep voice that became one of her trademarks. Basically, a drop of blood can get test results back in minutes, using these incredible new machines and processes, courtesy of Theranos... and they struck multi-million dollar deals with Wal-Greens and Safeway... Holmes became a billionaire.

And it was all a sham.  

You'll read this with your mouth open, wondering how in the world someone could actually pull this off, even temporarily.

(You can also check out The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley, an excellent documentary on HBO Max.  The doc and book together make for a great pair)


My 2nd Favorite Book of 2019 - The Institute by Stephen King (2019)
Pre-Covid, it would take me a week or more to go through a book, especially if the book tops 15 or 20 hours. This one, however, I knocked out in two days, falling behind on podcasts and other things that I had to do.  But it was worth it.

The story starts with a guy name Tim, who leaves his job and find himself working for the sheriff's department in small town South Carolina.  Then it shifts to a 12 year old boy named Luke who is kidnapped out of his room in Minnesota and taken to a place called The Institute -- a secret shop that does experiments on kids, then when the kids are run through, they are put into the "Back Half", where the kids never return from.

Luke is a crafty little lad, though, as the story progresses, you'll find he isn't one to take orders. He and his merry band of other kids trapped at The Institute decide to fight back. And of course, Tim from South Carolina finds himself in the middle of this same story. 

I was caught up in this story and saw it through to the very end, one hour after another, and when it was over, I put down my earpods, sighed deeply, and smiled. Because that's what a good book should do.  


My Favorite Book of 2019 - The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11 by Garrett M Graff (2019)

I've spent the last 9 years thinking that "102 Minutes" from Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn was the best book ever written on 9/11.  And to me, it was. Until I read "The Only Plane in the Sky"

First, know that I'm a fan of oral history in books, as I love hearing the stories from the people themselves (even if they don't narrate the book itself in audio version), and in this one, it starts from early on that Tuesday morning, carrying you through the entire day and beyond.

Soundbites from Rudy Giuliani (remember when it was okay to like him?) and George W Bush and reporters and policemen and firemen and those working in the offices of the towers and paramedics and so many more. You know what happened that day.. but yet, you'll still be engrossed in the words of those were in Manhattan and in Washington and sitting at home, awaiting their loved ones to call them from United 93. 

This book blew me away. 



Up next, in a few days... or weeks... hopefuly not months... the Top Ten Books of 2020 -- more King, more Grisham, some Psycho, a helping of Karen McManis, some Neil Simon, the wild west and dreamy former Fox News anchors and so on and so on and such... twas a good year to read books, even if it was a terrible year to do just about anything else.

Tuesday, December 01, 2020

to campbell, on your 9th birthday

I was just taking a look and realized I've blogged just one single time in 2020, and it was my thoughts on a hate crime and tragedy.

May my words be much lighter and full of more love here.  

Here is my annual open letter to my son on his birthday. 

Riding with your Dad, cheesin, wearing
Mommy's vintage Leia shirt from 1983

Dear Campbell, 

My my what a year it has been.  As you get older, begin to understand pop culture and catch phrases and references, "2020" will be one for the books.  

So, there was this pandemic, see... basically, a virus came into our country, swept through the country, scared a lot of people, many people died, many more got it and were fine, and so on.  I'm sure you and I will talk about the finer points of all of this one day, but 2020 was the Coronavirus year. 

It didn't start out that way. January was a fine month, fine indeed, and I even got to go to Disneyland for my job and meet some really cool people -- I talked about you a lot.  Kobe Bryant, a legendary NBA player died in January from a helicopter crash, the Kansas City Chiefs won the Super Bowl, and the only music I really enjoyed from 2020 was a song called "Blinding Lights" from The Weeknd and music from a chick named Dua Lipa.  

There was also some song released called "WAP", but you aren't allowed to listen to it -- not so much because of the lyrics, but because I'm raising you to have taste.

It's hard to even talk about 2020 movies this year because so many of them came out on streaming services. Someone told me the other day "Can you believe 'Birds of Prey' came out THIS YEAR?!" and I actually had to go look that up to confirm, because this year has been so insane.

I keep going back to how crazy this year has been... in March, enough people had gotten this virus that basically the country shut down.  Movie theaters closed. Many restaurants closed, and the ones that did stay open only did drive thru or curbside. Wal-Mart decided it was going to close at 6pm instead of being open 24/7, grocery stores closed at 5 or 6, churches closed doors and went online, and when you came home for Spring Break, you didn't go back, as schools went virtual.

And it was really, really tough.  On our entire family. Your Mom started working from home, and we still had to get you up to try to do things online with your class -- and of course, you weren't really into that, so that was a struggle. Truthfully, I feel guilty sometimes because I feel like me not pushing you more may have set you back further, but I promise, we did what we could. 

This summer, we did our best to stay busy... we started riding bikes together, and honestly, that was a proud moment as a Dad for you. Yes, the training wheels are still on, but we'll get there. We hit Splash Adventure four or five times this summer, including once when you sat up on the 75 foot tall slide and nearly gave me a heart attack. 

You spent a little time with your friend Hillary, kinda your BFF, and watching your face the day Jack & Lily stopped by this summer was so amazing.  I hope your first instinct is always to give a handshake or a hug when you see your friends. 

2020 was the year you went all in on trains. 
Obsessed with Thomas, and in your Mom's
absence, we went on train hunts.

It's been fun to watch you at Next Levl too... I've watched you conquer those trampolines one by one, climbing up, falling backwards, failing to get back up to the ledge, whining, then trying it again. You persevere, Campbell -- its one of your attributes. 

You did get to go some this summer to a shortened summer school schedule, and you finally got to go back in September, albeit a crazy schedule. 

The Disney trip we had planned for March, the one where you saw the doctor in Florida was pushed back to May... then June... then September... then late September... but we got to go!!!

And you had your first waffles and pancakes (and syrup, which you dipped everything in, from your bread to your meat). And your first ham sandwich. And your first hamburger.  

And I'm proud to say, your first Blue Milk from Star Wars Galaxy's Edge.  And you loved it. 

Of course, you went all in on trains, including Thomas the Tank Engine -- our living room floor looks like a flippin stockyard. And all in on YouTube... by the way, you are obsessed, and probably need an intervention. 

Then... November came. 

And Campbell, this is where I have to brag on you and tell you how proud I am of you.  Every year when I do these online letters to you, hoping that one day you will read and absorb, I try to teach you a little something. Last year, we talked a little about kindness.  The year before, it was about Truth. And before that, it was Respect

This year? Adaptability.  And you showed all of us how good you are at it. 

I went away early in November for a few days, and Aunt Becky came to stay with us. And she was already not feeling great. Mommy had to take her home, to Aunt Becky's house, while you and I stayed here together... and no, you weren't happy that first night, but when we called to talk to Mommy and Aunt Becky, she (Becky) asked you "How much does Aunt Becky Love you??".  You replied "SOOOO MUCH" -- that was your thing with her, remember?  I don't know if you know, but that would be the last thing you'd say to her. And honestly, that's a good one to go out on.

Aunt Becky went to the hospital and didn't get better, then Mommy got sick with -- you guessed it, coronavirus.  And when Aunt Becky went to be with Jesus, Mommy and I fretted over how to tell you.  

On a Sunday afternoon, I finally just gave it to you -- Aunt Becky passed away and wouldn't be coming to see us anymore. You looked at me, then put on your shoes and were ready to go.  

Do you remember that day? I think you processed, and did so for much of the day. 

Your mom was gone for over two weeks... and you handled it like a champ. You didn't meltdown (much) you didn't freak out (much) and you didn't cry and scream because routine was so insane and upside down. You handled it. 

One of my fave pics of us, after getting soaked on
Splash Mountain, me losing my hat, and you having
just come down from a meltdown of epicness. 
Just the two of us. 

And I cannot tell you how proud I am of you for that. Had you had freak out moments, had you melted down every day, I'm not sure I could have handled it. 

But God took care of you, and me, and of course Mommy, who came back to us after 16 days, healthy and maybe a little tired.

Campbell, you adapted. You rolled with it, and kept on. And that is a huge trait to have. 

I know this letter is so much different from year's past, when I just gave you a recap and told you your accomplishments, but this year has been different, so it works somehow.

Welcome to 9 years old, my dear son. We love you more than you'll ever know... and still can't compare with the love that Jesus has for you. This year we began our nightly prayers together, and we'll keep praying for our family, for our friends, for our church and our pastor, for our country and our President, and that one day you'll find Jesus in your heart. Honestly, I've thought for a while now that you have your own conversations with God internally. He knows how to talk to you in ways we can't. Hopefully, you can tell me on your own one day if I was right. 

Finally, as I was driving the other day, I heard Will Smith's great remake of Bill Withers classic "Just the Two of Us"... from a father to a son, here are the lyrics I'll leave you with:

Feel the strife, but trust life does go wrong
But just in case, it's my place to impart
One day some girl's gonna break your heart
And ooh ain't no pain like from the opposite sex
Gonna hurt bad, but don't take it out on the next, son
Throughout life people will make you mad
Disrespect you and treat you bad
Let God deal with the things they do
'Cause hate in your heart will consume you too
Always tell the truth, say your prayers
Hold doors, pull out chairs, easy on the swears
You're living proof that dreams do come true
I love you and I'm here for you
With love,
Dad