Monday, February 24, 2014

pride goeth before the squeeze

Before a downfall, a man's heart is proud, but humility comes before honor - Proverbs 18:12

Pride is a funny thing. Now, I know what you are thinking... with that kind of statement, you think I'm about to reveal to you some sort of deep truth, make some sort of admittance of guilt to you, where I was shamed and my pride created a downfall in my life, thereby creating a perfect teachable moment to you, born of my humiliation and, because its me, probably comical come-uppence.

No, sorry.

But I do want to talk about pride, and yes, I do have a story. 

The Lovely Steph Leann and I are celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary this week, on Friday, to be exact. Ten years we've been together, and like many marriages, we strive to not just be roommates, or to stay in our comfortable roles of Mommy and Daddy... no, we are Hubs and Wife, and as any parent will tell you, its tough to be that way sometimes.

We had a sitter overnight on Saturday night, which was great--The Lovely Steph Leann's sister Angie took young Campbell Isaiah for the night to her family, freeing us up for a non-baby 24 hour period.

Now, before you raise your eyebrows, start chanting "Bow-chicka-wow-wow" and high-fiving each other, I guess I should tell you that we were both struck on Wednesday with some sort of funk, some virus that kicked us both in the teeth... or better yet, stomach... or to really TMI it up, in the back end... and it was pretty miserable.

Also worth mentioning, I've gone through several evenings with vicious acid reflux, one night so badly that I couldn't lay flat for more than 20 minutes without having horribly painful coughing fits and...

...well, you get the idea. 

So, you can stop the sing-along to H-Town's 1994 classic "Knock Knock Knockin' Da Boots", because really, we were just happy to have some time together and some quiet. 

We went to dinner at Seasons 52, up at the Summit shopping area, a place we'd never been. We had been gifted a gift card, so we thought it was good to try it out, because we knew it might be a bit pricy. Since we had money toward the bill, it was a now-or-never type idea. And we weren't disappointed... it was a fantastic meal, the service was just awesome, the atmosphere was great, and because we declared it our 10th Anniversary Dinner (because we had a sitter... we have no sitter lined up for our actual anniversary), the server and manager even gave us some extra bonuses.

We didn't get to dinner until after 8, so it was nearly 930 by the time we finished... our movie plans were pushed off until the next day, Sunday, and we just wanted to go home, get a few around the house things done and relax. 

All went well... but those of you married folk, or in deep, serious relationship, know that sometimes one little thing can ruin an evening. And if "ruin" is too strong a word, then sometimes one little thing can be annoying enough to make you just say, "Eh. I'm going to sleep."

And we had one of those little head butting moments that everyone has, and as per usual, at exactly the wrong moment. A room full of happiness and togethery time suddenly became a room of slight tension, quiet and awkward moments and a desire of two people who probably want to just open up and say, "Ok, so this is what is bothering me" but aren't saying a word because we both know its so silly... and maybe pride is saying, "Well, why should I say something? Not my fault. Or not all my fault, anyways..."

Ah, Pride. Such a silly thing.

So, after a little chit-chat with the air thick in the room with disagreement, the lights go out. She on one side, I on the other. Silence. More little chit-chat. A few coughs here and there, some very romantic throat clearing and nose-blowing. Silence.

Silence between a husband and wife when there is something unpleasant, and worse yet, unspoken, between them is louder than a thousand jet engines. 

Finally, she turned on one side. More silence. A little more chit-chat about stuff that I don't remember.

I then felt as if I should do one single thing... no, not apologize. Not yet. I didn't feel as if I should say anything. 

I felt led to make one simple gesture. To take my hand, my left and place it on her shoulder. Just a little squeeze, nothing more. Nothing sexual, nothing funny, nothing annoying like poking her or anything. Just put that hand on her shoulder and squeeze. 

But I didn't do it. 

Why should I? Right? Putting that hand up there then tells her "Hey, its okay. I was probably being stupid. I love you." And I didn't want to do that... I mean, I wasn't being stupid! I was justified! I was in the right, I was correct on my stance on the issues in question! I'm not putting my hand up there!

And so as I lay flat on my back, in the darkness, wide awake and knowing she was too, even though she lay with her back to me, my left arm stayed still. 

Again, I felt led... just put your hand on her shoulder. That fixes it. That solves it. That's the pin that punctures the balloon of tension, that's the blade that cuts through the silence and gives her a sense of "its okay. I love you."

My arm lay still. I didn't even move my hand, my fingers.

I mean, screw that. I spend way too much time in the rest of my world being right and being treated like I was wrong, or barely getting any acknowledgment for my being right, even when I prove those people wrong. I mean, I don't know why she didn't just agree with me, why she didn't just...

...why she just...

...she didn't...

...why... me... I... me... I... me... I... me... me... me...

...and Pride laughed at me, heartily and fully. Pride laughed at me in my head and in my heart and gave me a stomach twist that no virus could ever approach.

Slowly, I lifted my left arm. I placed my hand on her shoulder, and squeezed gently. Just once. It remained there for a few seconds, then I moved my arm back to where it was. 

"I love you," I whispered.


"I love you too," she whispered back.

Pride took an hour of our precious non-Campbell time. Could have been the whole night... and what's worse is, shortly thereafter, I came down with more not-feeling-good'ness... So our time was already limited, unknown to us.

(after a long night of trying to sleep, and up early for church--me, as I had KidStuf, so I let her sleep the morning away, we had a fantastic afternoon of The LEGO Movie, lunch, a little shopping and great conversations... lots and lots of laughing... and a brief chat later on about our differences from the night before... Pride can suck it.)

What precious time is Pride robbing from you? 

And what gentle squeezes on the shoulder are you refusing to give, because Pride is telling you that you're right, they are wrong and to give in would be weak? 

(10,616 words in #15KWordsInFebruary... 4,384 to go)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

my top ten books of 2013

And finally... my favorite ten books that I read in 2013...

10th Favorite Book of 2013... "Joyland" by Stephen King (2013)... Some of King's best work is not horror or of the supernatural ilk, and this is a great example of that. "Joyland" is set in 1973, and tells the story of Devin, who gets a job at an amusement park in North Carolina. He ends up befriending a few people, including Annie and her ill son Mike, plus some of the people at the park, all set with the backdrop of some unsolved murders that occurred in the Haunted House years previous. At under 300 pages, it reads quickly, and though you might see the ending coming before you get to it, its worth the ride.

9th Favorite Book of 2013... "Not Taco Bell Material" by Adam Carolla (2013)... The follow-up to 2011's "In Fifty Years We'll All Be Chicks", Carolla takes us on another ride full of rants, whining, common sense and comedy. Adam Carolla was a carpenter and contractor before he got famous, so he starts each chapter with a description of all the homes he lived in while growing up (its a lot, and most are pretty shady), with his brand of edgy. Yes, its got a ton of language, but man, is it funny.

8th Favorite Book of 2013... "The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game" by Michael Lewis (2007)... Yes, as if you couldn't guess, this is the book the movie is based on. Whereas the movie concentrates on the story of Michael Oher, the book intersperses Oher's football life with the game itself, the strategy in recruiting, the college football landscape and even more. I thought this book was a great read for a football fan like myself, and even non-football fans will enjoy the humanizing of the game, plus, Oher's real-life story.

7th Favorite Book of 2013... "I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution" by Rob Tannenbaum and Craig Marks (2012)... As I mentioned in my take on the Nickelodeon book, I am a fan of oral narratives, and this one is fabulous. Starting from the early 80s, those who came up with the idea for a 24 hour music channel tell how they created such, the artists, producers and stars of the era talk about their experiences on the network, and some great behind the scenes anecdotes--like, a Fleetwood Mac video filming in the desert in the early 80s, when Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham absolutely despised each other, yet were forced to dance around like they were in love... or the video for the Go-Gos "Vacation", as Belinda Carlisle reveals, "Yeah, we were all completely wasted and stoned the entire shoot. Look at our eyes. You can tell." This was such a pleasant surprise for me! 

6th Favorite Book of 2013... "START: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average and Do Work that Matters"... Anyone who knows me well enough knows that I am a Jon Acuff fan... I've written numerous articles on this here bloggy site about "STARTing" and "The START Experiment" and some things in my own life that I want to concentrate on (like "PIKE", which I think I'm really doing well... I think... maybe... okay, fine, I suck. There. You happy?).

START is all about not just enjoying your work, but making your work count... and if you are miserable and think your work counts for little, its about finding work that does matter. Punching Fear in the face is the big thing, recognizing those things that make you afraid and stand in your way of doing the things you want to do--lose weight, get a better job, write a book, whatever... great book, great inspiration.

 5th Favorite Book of 2013... "Catching Fire / Mockingjay" by Suzanne Collins... I know, I know, I cheated, there are two books here. But because I couldn't knock the other 9 books out of my Top Ten, I chose to make this a tie... well, actually, I would say "Catching Fire" is 5A and "Mockingjay" is 5B, as I liked the former--the 2nd book in the Hunger Games trilogy--just a smidgen more than the latter--the finale to The Hunger Games. Katniss Everdeen is back, and in "Catching Fire", she's having to deal with the Quarter Quell, which this go around involves all the former champions to return and compete. 

If you liked the movie, you will love the book, as it goes pretty close together, but the book expounds on things with the afforded room. "Mockingjay" starts right after "Catching Fire" ends, and essentially finds Katniss leading a rebellion against The Capitol, the sadistic government that reigns terror over its lands. Good middle, good ending, though I found myself a little dissatisfied with the final appearances of two of the characters. There's that.

4th Favorite Book of 2013... "How I Slept My Way to the Middle: Secrets and Stories from Stage, Screen and the Interwebs" by Kevin Pollak (2012)... For those of you who don't know Kevin Pollak, let me tell you that you do. He's been in a bajillionty movies, is a That Guy Hall of Famer, and is an incredibly funny stand-up comedian and impressionist... which, while listening to the audiobook, was great as Pollak told his story using his own voice, plus voices of Christopher Walken, Al Pacino, Jack Nicholson and so many more. He spends a little time on his beginnings, his rise through the comedy club circuit and eventual dream casting in "Goodfellas", but much of it is just stories along the way... like, how his mom was so enamored with Jack Nicholson while visiting the set of "A Few Good Men", Jack eventually started openly flirting with Kevin's mom, to much hilarity. 

3rd Favorite Book of 2013... "The Squared Circle: Life, Death and Professional Wrestling" by David Shoemaker (2013)... are you a fan of wrestling and the WWE? No? Then head on down to #2 on this list. Wait, you are? Then read on, soldier, because this is the book for you. Shoemaker, a WWE and pop culture writer on, and known as "The Masked Man", opens the book up with his own love for wrestling as a young child, when his father would take him to wrestling events.
Then the book embarks on a short history of wrestling, from its early days in the South and Midwest to the beginning of the modern era, notably, the founding of the WWWF, which became the WWF, which is the WWE as we know now.  Shuemaker admits that this book is really a treatise on "dead wrestlers", and it kinda is, taking you through the origins, careers and demises of famous wrestling stars like Owen Hart, "Ravishing" Rick Rude, Flyin' Brian Pillman, and of course, the darkness that WWE tries to forget, the Chris Benoit murder/suicide.  If you are just a casual wrestling fan, you many enjoy this for its quirkiness... if you are a major fan like myself, you'll love this book, if only for the nostalgia purposes.  The only drawback is that each chapter is written like its a separate essay, making the book appear as a collective, as in, there are explanations for people and terms offered in multiple places throughout the book.  Otherwise, brilliant.

2nd Favorite Book of 2013... "Sycamore Row" by John Grisham (2013)... My main problem with Grisham in the last decade or so is that he just doesn't know how to end a book.  No, not every book can end happy, I get it, but sometimes the endings to some books make me put it down and say, "I just felt like I wasted nine hours of my life on this."   "The Appeal", "The Last Juror", "The Testament"... all great stories, riveting tales of legal and suspense, only to fall apart in the last 50 pages.  So, when he released a sequel to one of his greatest books--beginning, middle and end--"A Time To Kill", I just hoped the ending was going to be okay.

And it was great.  All of it.  It picks up a bit after the events of "A Time to Kill", and opens up with a suicide of a man who hates his family, has no friends and has never met lawyer Jake Brigance... though that doesn't stop him from sending a letter to Jake instructing him on his estate... essentially, giving most of his fortune to his black maid.  In the mid-80s, racism wasn't the boom it was in the 60s, but it was still very prevalent in deep South Mississippi, and this book touches on that.  The story is captivating, and I had a hard time putting it down... I think I went through it in four days or so.  And yes, the ending is good.  Its not perfect, but its satisfying for the story itself.  The best Grisham has done in a long, long time.

And finally, My Favorite Book of 2013...

I had heard that King was doing a sequel to his late 70s masterpiece "The Shining", centered around the life of the now grown-up Danny Torrence, who was the key figure in "The Shining".  I wondered how the Overlook would play into the story, and how much of it would be new ideas... and it was wonderful.

Danny, now grown and drunk like his father in the first book, still deals with the torment of the events at the Overlook Hotel so long ago, and settles in a small New Hampshire town as a hospice worker.  With his telekinetic abilities, he can see when a patient is about to die, and works with them to help them slip easier into the other side, hence becoming known as Doctor Sleep.

It also picks up the story of a little band of... well, bad people, known as The True Knot, who are just really mean and like to do bad things and use their telekinetic powers for evil... and finally, we meet Abra, who's own telekinetic powers are off the hook... and of course, Danny, The True Know and Abra all cross paths eventually, making for a thrilling ending to the book.  

If you are a King fan, this is one of the best he's done in a while, and a great throwback to his horror days... not as scary as "The Shining", but in many ways, more satisfying and complete.  Loved it.

Among the books I've read in 2014 so far... "Live from New York", the story of Saturday Night Live... and "Lone Survivor", by Marcus Lattrell, from whence the movie has come.  Reading now, Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood".  All three are contenders for my 2014 Top Ten Favorite Books.

(9,388 words written in February, 5,612 words left for #15KWordsinFebruary) 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

speaking of ke$ha

Since we're on the subject of Ke$ha, I have two thoughts...
First... I listened to her hit "Tik Tok" this afternoon on my iPhone. I mean... its just ridiculous. And not in a great "Fergie's Fergalicious is ridiculous but so, so awesome and so, so fantastic", its more of a "Ke$ha's Tik Tok is just ridiculous." One would get the sense she can't sing, because she stumbles through the song like a goofy Puff Daddy used to do... the way, Kirk Franklin is the Christian/Gospel version of Puff Daddy P Diddy Diddy Puffy Combs... when your nickname has nicknames, its a bit much. They both just talk through their songs while people with more talented voices sing behind them. Just worth a mention.

Where was I?

Yes, Ke$ha... she even mentions P. Diddy in this song, all about waking up and going straight to the party scene. Its just a... so... gah... just gah. Then, she namedrops Mick Jaggar and actually makes a reference to "gettin' crunk", of which she is way too white to be serious in the concept of Crunk. Even Lil Jon would say, "WHAT!?!"

She even has a song called "We R Who We R", which, for anyone that knows me, the use of "R" for "Are" is an almost executable offense. Hate it. Hate it hate it hate it.

But then...

Second... Have you heard her collaboration with rapper Pit Bull? It it Pit Bull or Pitbull? Oh, you know Pitbull, he is the dude from the Dr. Pepper commercial that asked us to "Let's have a real good time... a real good time... let's have a real good time... a real good time..." last year, about 50 times during every single sporting event on television.

Anyway, I couldn't tell you anything this cat sings/raps, until recently, when I discovered this little tune called "Timber"... its a silly little song about what I think is having a real good time at a club, probably doing things that God wouldn't approve of before marriage... but who should pop up in the middle of it, but Ke$ha?

And... and... she sounds awesome. The whole song is awesome. I've listened to "Timber" about 20 times in a few days, mostly just to hear Ke$ha...

SIDEBAR... Do not... I repeat DO NOT gander this video. Pitbull, who I can't actually decide if he's black, white, brown or other, is fine... Ke$ha looks, dresses and moves as if she's in a Carls Jr or Hardees commercial, holding a horribly assembled burger in one hand and a hose in the other, while floundering on a sportscar. Oh, like you haven't seen those commercials. 

So then, I went back and listened to "Your Love is My Drug", and despite the fact she does that talky/sorta singy/kinda hip-hoppy thing during the verses, she nails the chorus and makes it a goofy little pop song that is actually kind of fun.

The next step in my Ke$ha self discovery is going onto iTunes, where I perused her music, listening to bits and pieces. No, its not genius. No, its not even all that good. But its... its... more fun than I wanted to admit.

Perhaps "Tik Tok" will never be "Fergalicious"... but then again, let's be honest, nothing ever will be.  And I'm going to have to get past that stupid "$" in the middle of her name.  (Did you know "Kesha" is a historically ethnic name?  I knew a Kecia Morgan growing up, a beautiful girl, who happened to be white... I was very surprised to find that most Keshas, Kecias, Keishas and variations of such are usually attributed to the black culture.  Go figure.)

In closing, I now have two questions I must ask myself, in order that I may grow as a person...

1) How in the heck did "Tik Tok" and "Your Love Is My Drug" get on my iPod? Cause I honestly do NOT remember downloading either of them..


2) Did I just write 655 words on Ke$ha? Seriously? 

(7590 words written for #15KWordsinFeb... 7418 to go... just over halfway there)

Monday, February 10, 2014

clarity from an invisible jet

(I originally titled this post "Jumping Sticks", and was going to be a lesson from the Samson playground... and somehow, it went a different direction.  So I'll still write "Jumping Sticks" later... but for now, enjoy this "Lesson From Home")

When I moved to Alabama in October of 1984, they had just built Samson Elementary School.  I left Mrs. Underwood's 4th grade class Ridgetop Elementary in Austin, Texas, to join Mrs. Smith's 4th grade class in Samson...

...twas a good thing, too, because about three weeks before we moved, or before I even knew we were going to move, we were given the task of going to the library, picking out a book and doing a book report on it.  For whatever reason, even 29 years later, I still do not understand why I chose the 306 page behemoth-to-a-4th-grader book, "National Velvet" by Enid Bangnold.  Maybe I liked horses that week, and it had a horse on it.  Maybe I liked Elizabeth Taylor or something (I hadn't yet discovered Jo from "Facts of Life", much less real girls yet) or maybe I just thought it would be a challenge.  Either way, five days before the book report was due, I had only finished part of the book.

And then we moved like, a day or two before it was due.  So, Brian Bruner, Becky Roacha and Melissa Gonzalez, hope you did well.  You know, in early October 1984.

Where was I?  Oh yes...

...Samson Elementary was brand new, so new that they didn't even want the students leaning on the walls, cause they might get all dirty and stuff.  And with a new school, a new playground, which was also fun... jungle gyms (do they still even allow those?)... one of those fort type things with a wooden suspension bridge (that I think it collapsed with someone on it, so later it became a straight bridge)... a real life tire swing (which Leslie Whigham punched me in the stomach so hard that I lost my breath because I cut in front of her in line)... and other odds and ends of things to climb on. 

Of course, as a 4th grader, soon a 5th grader, you didn't really want to play on the "kiddie" things, so we tended to make our own fun... many times, we played "V" on the school courtyard.  One guy would be Donovan, one girl would be Julie, another chick would be Diana, and the rest would be just minions.  We would form fake guns with our hands, crouch behind planters and posts, and just yell "Pew! Pew! Pew!" for 20 minutes until it was time to go inside. 

There really wasn't any rhyme or reason as to whether you lived or died... there wasn't a laser pointer on my hand nor did any paintballs shoot out of my fingers, so I couldn't really tell you if I had truly shot Wade Fulford or Monty Powell with my ray gun, but if they chose to die--which was really them wanting to be dramatic and act out a death scene more than them building my confidence--then hey, that's lucky for me.  Another notch on my kill list. 

I do hope Campbell Isaiah will be allowed to play "V" when he gets to be in 4th grade.  Probably not.  He'll be forced to act out Downton Abbey or something, because we all know if a little boy fakes shooting an alien wearing human skin hellbent on world domination with a hand formed into a laser gun, then of course, he's going to grow up and shoot up the local community college. 

Besides "V", we also did versions of The A-Team, sometimes Knight Rider, and of course, GI Joe...

And for GI Joe, there was this one kid who had like EVERYTHING.  Well, he said he did, and who was I to doubt him?  Sometimes, The Kid in Question (I'm going to call him that, lest he actually read this and think I'm poking fun at him... well, I mean, I am, but that's besides around the point), would bring a bunch of his GI Joe figures and vehicles with him to school sometimes, and at recess, he would pass out the figures and the vehicles, like Jeeps and tanks and cool helicopters and other awesome war machines that we would see on the show that everyone watched after Transformers came on...

See, though, I was never all that popular.  I talked about this a little bit in a previous post, but please do not think I'm complaining... the more time goes by, the more I can reflect on those daily ventures of my childhood that were both meaningless and completely meaningful all at once. 

Looking back, I'm glad I never got this
guy.  Though honestly, I would LOVE to
own this dude now.  I mean, Ice Cream
Soldier?  Really?  REALLY?
So, in not being that popular, I would be towards the last of the kids to get whatever toys The Kid in Question was passing out.  I'd set my sights on a Rapid Fire Motorcycle (RAM) that I could put Roadblock in... and it would get handed off to Jason Smith.  Well, then I'd peer into the bag and see a Cobra Flight Pod, complete with Destro sitting inside... and Chad Ward would claim that one.  Finally, I would see a brilliant Cobra Rattler ground attack jet, with Wild Weasel in the cockpit, and think, "That's still in there!"  I'd stick my hand out and say, "Oh, oh!  Can I have th..." and would be cut off immediately with Daniel Stephenson already running away with it, flying it through the air, "Pew! Pew!ing" all the way down the sidewalk.

Dejected, finally, The Kid in Question would hand out the remaining figures.  I remember once, I got Bar-B-Que.  Like, really?  Bar-B-Que?  An orange guy who didn't even have a flame thrower attached? 

What to do, what to do... everyone else is flying around, playing war with their GI Joes, and I have Bar-B-Que. 

This actually happened a few times, with me getting lame figures like Chuckles, the Joe in the Hawaiian shirt, or maybe Raptor, not named for the cool dinosaur that would become popular in Jurassic Park 7 years later, no... named because he was a bird trainer, code name "Cobra Falconer"...

One day, I did get a lame figure.  And no jet to fly him in, no ATV to wheel him around in.  Just a figure.  Well, it was time to stop complaining, and start solving my problem...

So I took Bar-B-Que, bent his legs a bit and put him in a seated position.  I then declared he was "in an invisible jet", which I then, placing my thumb and index fingers on Bar-B-Que's tiny plastic waist, I zoomed him through the air to simulate flight.

"You can't do that!" came the cry of The Kid in Question...

"Yeah, yeah I can," I replied, Pew Pew'ing someone in their tangible ATV.  "My lasers are invisible too!  I just blew you up, The Kid in Question!"  Of course, rather than fighting the fact that invisible jets that just came into existence actually existed, he then contested the point that I shouldn't have blown him up, and that wasn't fair.

Of course, I didn't take any lasers. Bobbing and weaving in and out of enemy fire, I discovered the great thing about an invisible jet, especially one that is made up, is that you can kind of also make up your own rules.

Sometimes you can't just make up the rules to solve your problem.  But sometimes you can.  And perhaps the reason you are told that you can't make up the rules is because the person telling you is someone who never tried, or perhaps were beaten because they didn't try to solve their own problem.

I could have cried.  I could have complained, and for a few days, I did.  But when I got tired of complaining, got tired of crying, I figured I could keep doing that, or I could make it work.  And I made it work.

Sure, there is a big difference in problems of a 5th grader and problems of a 25 year old... 35 year old... 45 year old... and beyond.  But at its root, many times the problem is just that you dont have a solution. 

Have you tried making one up?

Try that before you declare its impossible.

Make your own invisible jet and finally fly above those things you can't seem to get past.  Your jet might be hard to make, it might take more work that wrapping two fingers around a lame GI Joe character, but you won't know until you try.

(6940 words written in #15KWordsInFeb, 13060 to go)

Friday, February 07, 2014

the slimy book of disappointment

Being a big audiobook fan... dirty little secret, I listen to audiobooks just about all the time (when I'm not listening to podcasts)... I constantly check on the "coming soon" section of Audible, to find out hwen Stephen King's new book is coming out, or when one of my favorite actresses, Judy Greer's memoir is coming, or Adam Carolla's new book, or his podcast co-host Bald Bryan's cancer memoir (these are all four books I'm excited to read), and I usually add any books upcoming of particular interest to my wish list...

SIDEBAR... my wishlist on audio is absolutely ridiculous.  You'd think I'd have a major wishlist on Amazon or something, movie fan that I am, but no, not a single thing on Amazon.  On Audible I currently have 27 titles that I'd like to one day read... biographies on Jim Henson, and Anthony Rapp (from Rent and Adventures in Babysitting)... one of my favorite sports nonfiction books, "Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer" by Warren St. John... Bob Goff's "Love Does"... "Double Down", the sequel to 2008's brilliant, election centered "GameChange" (which is also on my list to reread)... I need like, 30 credits right now. 

...anyway, that all is to say that, when I saw a book entitled "Slimed", I thought, "Hmm, that sounds like an interesting title."  Then, when I clicked on it, my interest turned to sheer joy when I saw the full, official title:  "SLIMED: An Oral History of Nickelodeon's Golden Age"

Matthew Klickstein, shame on you for taking such an awesome idea and
making it so poorly executed.



Immediately, I ordered it, and a few days later, it was released and I got it and jumped in immediately.  This was going to be awesome... I mean, I grew up in Nickelodeon's "Golden Age"... when shows like "You Can't Do That On Television" were all the rage--Mom didn't really like me watching it, my friends moms didn't like them watching it, so naturally, it was all we talked about at Ridgetop Elementary School.  It had adults smoking!  SMOKING!  On a kids show!  A sketch show, YCDTOT was from Canada, and featured many of the same characters from episode to episode, and when anyone uttered the phrase "I don't know", they got slimed--green slime dropped from the ceiling and poured all over the actor.  When they said "Water", it was then h2o that doused them.

And I loved it.  Other shows like "Hey Dude!" featuring a teenage, and so gorgeous to my 12 year old eyes, Christine Taylor... and "What Would You Do?" and kids game shows and dramas and a block of shows on Saturday night called "SNICK", featuring "Who's Afraid of the Dark", a horror anthology--for KIDS... and "Double Dare", hello! every kid's dream to run that obsticle course and get slimy by looking for a flag in a giant nose... and of course, "Ren & Stimpy", a show that my 15 year old silly self found so funny that I would cry sometimes from laughing so hard.

I was alone in my room, unpopular, not invited out, watching SNICK and then later listening to Open House Party with John Garabedian. 


I digress.

This was going to be fabulous... not only the history of Nick, but tales from behind the scenes, perhaps the fights, the Nick-sized scandals, how certain shows made it, how certain shows failed, and, of course, the infamous tale of how the creator of "Ren & Stimpy", far and away the most popular show in Nick's history at that time, was fired from his own show.

This was going to be a walk down my childhood, into adolescence.  And it was going to be wonderful, right?

The other part about this book that excited me were the words "oral history", as in, "oral narrative".  I first experienced this type of story telling when I read the excellent "Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN", the story of ESPN.  The authors didn't just tell the stories, they let those who were there tell the story... anecdotes from the likes of Chris Berman, Rich Eisen, Robin Roberts, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and so on and so on, all compiled together to make the narrative, telling the story of ESPN's beginnings, its history, its early years into its modern day.

Last year, I read "I Want My MTV", another oral narrative, with everyone from MTV VJ Alan Hunter to Jon Bon Jovi to Simon Le Bon from Duran Duran giving their take on MTV's history (more about this in my next post, my Top Ten faves of the year)

So, naturally, to not only hear Nickelodeon's story, if not complete, then at least its "golden age", from its beginning to maybe the mid-90s, told from the people there--Christine Taylor from "Hey Dude!" and maybe that kid from "Don't Just Sit There" and Marc Summers (who did the forward of the book, another selling point) and Alasdair and Lisa and Christine from "You Can't Do That On Television"--was going to be awesome.

So I dove in. 

And it sucked.

I mean, just completely sucked.

It breaks my heart to tell you this, but its a terrible book.  I mean, atrocious... it would be one thing if the book had Fabio on the cover, you would know going in that this likely would be, well, not good.  But this?   This entire idea, this entire concept was genius... there were millions of people like me who grew up on Nickelodeon, who would be excited to read the stories of their favorite childhood network... but no. No no no.

Two reason:

When reading books like "Those Guys Have All the Fun", you see a constant pattern... before you read the anecdote, it will tell you not only who they are, but WHO they are.  "Chris Berman, Anchor".  "Kenny Mayne, Anchor".  "Bill Simmons, writer,".  You get the idea.  In "I Want My MTV", there were things like "Joe Elliot, Def Lepperd" and "Downtown Julie Brown, MTV VJ" and so on... again, you get the idea.

Imagine my surprise when the first chapter, "The Tween: What It was Like Growing Up Nick" had the first name of "Christine Taylor".  No "Hey Dude", no "Actress", not even a "Ben Stiller's Wife" or "The Hot Chick in Dodgeball"... just her name.  Well, that's okay, I knew who she is.  But then?  "Danny Tamberelli".  Then "Elizabeth Hess".  Followed by "Judy Grafe".  Who?  Who?  And Who? 

No identifications.  No names.  No sources.  "Heidi Lucas" and then "Justin Cammy" and then "Trevor Eyster"... who are these people?  Not even a comment on what role they play--no "actor" or "producer" or "writer" or "best boy" or "gaffer" or "caterer to Harvey on Double Dare". 

Immediately, I was lost.  There is a huge reference in the back, with a few hundred names listed, who they were and where they are now... but to keep going back to it four times just to read a page is so tiring.

That Tween chapter I mentioned, the first one?  Not only do you not know who these people are, you don't even know who the 'tweens were.  Some were people who played adults on the shows, others were the kids, but you had no idea what their frame of reference was when they spoke. 

Secondly, it goes everywhere, from some drug use to filming to lines to school to crushes, then veers off in a completely different direction, before coming back again.  Other chapters are just like this... the one I was looking forward to, the split between Nick and the creator of "Ren & Stimpy" spent half the chapter on this, then part of the chapter somewhere else, not coming to any satisfying conclusion.

Halfway through it, I was beginning to question whether I should even stick it out... I did, begrudgingly.  And I'll never do it again.

The idea itself was brilliant.  The concept was exciting and fun, and stuck into that nostalgia that people like me have for the days when you came home from school and watched programs as they came on, because otherwise you'd miss them--no DVR or TiVo or at my house, no VCR to record it... you watched it then, because you couldn't watch it online or get the season from NetFlix or Best Buy... not in 1983. 

The disappointment.  The potential, and the huge letdown from the very beginning.  This is why "Slimed: An Oral History of Nickelodeon's Golden Age" was the worst book I read in 2013.  Matthew Klickstein--do another version, update it, and I guarantee I'll buy it again. 

(5484 words written for #15KWordsinFeb, 9516 words to go)

Thursday, February 06, 2014

a whole bunch of reading

Got a playlist going while I write, a playlist called "Sleepyhead"... just started it, and its playing "Somebody That I Used to Know" by Gotye

Books!  I managed to get through 28 books last year.  And here are the 17 books that are not in my Top Ten.. and then one that I considered the worst book of the year--that's a separate post altogether.

(next song: "Poison & Wine" by The Civil Wars)

First... the re-reads:

"Under the Dome" by Stephen King... because the mini-series was coming on TV in June 2013, I decided in May that it was a good idea to go back through this behemoth of a book.  And it was just as good--maybe better--the second time around... all about a town who gets cut off from the rest of the world when an actual dome encapsulates the town.  Its as much about town politics as it is a supernatural tale.

"Kingdom Keepers" by Ridley Pearson... if you are a Disney fan, you need to read this book.  What happens when the lights go down on the Magic Kingdom late at night?  This book, that's what.  Including what you always suspected about the dolls in "...its a small world"
(next song: "Cups" by Anna Kendrick, the radio friendly version)
(bathroom break)
(next song: "Just the Two of Us" by Will Smith, ft Stevie Wonder)

Next... the Crime Stories

I'm a fan of crime non-fiction, notably really bad crimes and such.  I know, that probably makes me a creeper, so be it.  I am addicted to Investigative Discovery, and darn if I won't watch a 2 hour Dateline special if it comes on... even taping the last part of the show if I have to leave before I find out if they found the dude guilty.  Anyway, I finally read a book by Ann Rule, who is a very famous crime non-fiction writer... and I discovered Kathryn Casey.  So I read these:

"Fatal Friends, Deadly Neighbors" by Ann Rule... a selection of crimes and murders from all over the country, notably focused on the terrible murder of Susan Powell in Utah, then the subsequent murder/suicide of the kids at the hands of father Josh Powell.   Horrific.  Great storytelling, hard to stomach.

Kathryn Casey focuses on crimes based in Texas... I read six books by her this year... the first three are just so-so... they are "A Warrant to Kill", about Susan White, who is terrorized by a local policeman named Kent McGowan... "She Wanted It All", about Celeste Beard, a manipulative wretch of a woman who does whatever she can to get her way--this was my least favorite, as you end up not caring about anybody in the this true story... and "Die My Love", which has a title suited for a Fabio cover, but is about Fred Jablin, who's wife decided she wanted him dead to get her kids back.

(next song: "The Luckiest" by Ben Folds)

The three that I loved, though, are "Deadly Little Secrets", concerning minister Matt Baker who turns out to be a really, really bad dude, especially to his beautiful wife Kari...

"Shattered", where a high school coach named David Temple brutally murders his wife Belinda--but there's so much more to the story than that.

And my favorite of the bunch, "A Descent Into Hell", the story of dating couple Colton Pitonyak and Jennifer Cave, two students at the University of Texas, who seemed headed to a life long marriage... until one of them ended up in the bathtub.  Murdered.  With no head. 

(next song: "Someday Soon" by Suzy Bogguss)

Here's three more fiction books I consumed in 2013, that aren't in my Top Ten (but some were close)

"A Time To Kill" by John Grisham... I can't remember if I read this in college, but I'm guessing no, so I re-read it.  Its great.  A little black girl is sexually assaulted and raped by a couple of white rednecks in a southern Mississippi town full of racism, and her daddy kills the suspects.  And is on trial for murder... enter Jake Brigance, a white dude who faces all odds to see if justice will prevail... its gripping, its great and an actual "page-turner"

"The Racketeer" by John Grisham... for some reason, I end up reading everything he puts out, and I read this within a week of its release.  Told from a first person narrative, its pretty good, but lags in the middle.  I honestly don't remember a lot about it, as it was the second book I read in all of 2013, but it will satisfy Grisham fans.

(next song: "Wagon Wheel" by Old Crowe Medicine Show... there are very few names cooler for a band than that)

"Kingdom Keepers II: Disney at Dawn" by Ridley Pearson... picking up where the first book left off, we have our group of kids, the Kingdom Keepers, who protect the Disney Parks from the forces of the villains that want to take over.  Takes place primarily in Animal Kingdom, and a good read for Disney fans.

And here are the four non-fiction books that aren't in my Top Ten...

"John Adams" by David McCullough... Masterful.  This is a masterpiece of literature, and any history buff will need to read it (then follow it up with the superior "1776")... from early childhood to death, this book takes you through the life of the man who would be president and a key member of our early government.  Plus, did you know that Benjamin Franklin was a pretentious d-bag?  Yep.  Didn't make my Top Ten because it is looooooooong... there are parts that you have to slog through.  The tense moments, the confrontations and war stories make up for it, but still.

"EntreLeadership" by Dave Ramsey... A great lesson in running a business told in Dave's humor and style.  Funny, educated and worth a read.  Didn't make my Top Ten only because I'm not in a leadership position that this book speaks to... well, not yet. 

(next song:  "Holy Roar" by Christy Nockel and Passion)

"Melissa Explains It All" by Melissa Joan Hart... I really wanted to like this book.  But I just didn't. Instead of a great narrative on how she got started, and great stories from behind the scenes, its just one anecdote after another, not spending nearly enough time in the projects she's know for, like "Clarissa Explains It All" and "Sabrina the Teenage Witch".  There is a lot of name dropping, and a list of drugs she did, and guys she kissed... and that's pretty much it.  Meh.

"Devil's Knot" by Mara Leveritt... A great account from start to (almost) finish of the West Memphis Three (who's story is also told one of my favorite films of 2012, "West of Memphis"), three teens who were sentenced for the murder of three little boys in West Memphis, Arkansas, in the 90s.  Leveritt tries to be unbiased, but you can tell how strongly she feels about the botched police work and who she thinks should be considered as suspects.  The book ends in 2001, and this didn't make my Top  Ten, only because between 2001 and 2010, a heckuva lot of stuff happened, including the WM3 getting released from prison...

So that's it for these books.  Tomorrow, the worst book I read in 2013, and then my Top Ten Favorite Books of 2013. 

(songs that play while I'm editing: "Godspeed" by The Dixie Chicks... "Sunday in the South" by Shenendoah... "Fool For You" by Nichole Nordeman... "Sunday Morning" by Maroon 5... "Good Enough" by Sarah McLachlan... "Must Be Doing Something Right" by Billy Currington)

(4,050 words written in #15KWordsinFeb... 15,950 to go)

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

you can't be safe on a skateboard

I don’t do skateboards. I never have, so to write about the safety, or lack thereof, of a skateboard might make me a little hypocritical. So perhaps I should concentrate on the “safety” and not the skateboard.

Oh, don’t worry, this isn’t going to be some PSA for wearing helmets and elbow guards and such… its just… you can’t be safe on a skateboard. Practically anything else in the world, no matter the danger, you can prepare for it, have safeguards in place to protect yourself from catastrophe… but not a skateboard. 

 One of my personal goals this year is to read 35 books. Now, I also have a goal of 125 movies as well, but I only count movies that I have never seen… if I didn’t, then watching “Cars 2”, “Rio” and “Winnie the Pooh” would undoubtedly put me over the top, mostly because 34 days into the year of our Lord 2014, I’ve already seen all three of those films at least four times each… that’s a legit claim, not an exaggeration. Its probably more, but that’s my guess.

SIDEBAR... Why? Campbell Isaiah freakin’ loves those movies… and when you stick him in our bouncy seat jumper thing, turn on one of those films, it might buy you anywhere from 20 minutes of free time to possibly the length of the movie. If you think you might get an entire movie out of it, don’t do “Winnie the Pooh”—its only 63 minutes. Pop in “Cars 2”, you’ll get a good hour and 48 minutes, plus credits. He loves credits. Something about the movement of the words from bottom to top, it mesmerizes him. 

Where was I?

Yes, with books, I count any and all books read, even with re-reads, as part of my goal… so far, I’ve downed “Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone” (a re-read)… “My Story” by Elizabeth Smart, the chick kidnapped out of her bedroom and held captive for 9 months… “Lone Survivor”, by Marcus Luttrell, the incredible story from which the movie is from… and “Live from New York”, an oral narrative on the history of Saturday Night Live… finally, the book I’m re-reading for the first time since 2009, and the 3rd time overall, is “It” by Stephen King, what I actually consider to be his total masterpiece.

I won’t go into the plotline really, as that’s not my point, but there is a scene where one of the main characters, Bill Denborough, meets a small kid on a skateboard on a random afternoon. They chat for a second, and Bill, a balding man of almost 40, asks to ride the skateboard this kid is holding. The kid doesn’t think it’s a good idea, telling Bill how he-Bill-could get hurt and that… “You can’t be safe on a skateboard.”

This line struck me. I’ve gotten another 2/3rd of the way through the book since that scene, but I keep thinking about that one line. You can’t be safe on a skateboard.

Think about it. Skydiving, which I’ve never done but want to do one day… it’s a dangerous sport made safe, or at least, reasonably safe, with equipment, with parachutes, and if you are on one of many dives in the beginning of your skydiving career, with someone attached to you that’s doing all the work.

NASCAR racing, or even stock car racing in general. Those cars ride hitting 200 miles per hour and more, with a list of deaths on the track, notably Dale Earnhardt in 2000, after going headfirst into a wall at 200 miles per hour… and Alan Kulwicki and Davey Allison, two of my favorite drivers as I was growing up…

But there are tons of safety precautions in the sport… HANS (head and neck support) restraints, roll bars, lots of electronic stuff keeping drivers in touch with their pit crews to watch for accidents and such. 

Pro football is constantly instituting more and more safety rules (many to the detriment of the actual game, but that’s another argument) to keep players from getting debilitating injuries.

But a skateboard? Strap on a helmet. Put on some knee pads, and some pads on your elbows. And then? Ride.

Put that foot on the board, and kick off with the other foot. Stay balanced. Don’t fall.

You can’t be safe on a skateboard.

But you know what you can be? Free.

I imagine skateboarding is riding free. Little restraints. Few things keeping your body from moving in any direction. The only real restriction is your experience.

Life. We can institute every precaution we can in what we do. We can have plans. And then put in back up plans. Then have a few back up plans for our back up plans…

…being vulnerable, this is me. I want to look at every possibility and have a plan for it. I want to know that if A happens, I’m ready. And if B happens, then I’m ready. And if K happens, or P happens, or maybe R happens, then let’s do it, let’s go, I’ve got this. Maybe not the outcome I wanted, but no surprises, right? Ready for anything. And this is a mistake, because I cannot predict every outcome… sometimes I can’t even predict the most logical outcome, the one that makes the most sense, the one that when it happens, I look at it and say, “Yeah, I shoulda thought of that… don’t know why I didn’t think anything else would happen.”

…but to truly do it… to truly go.. to truly move, to get our dreams on the road, to start traveling any road to any success, at some point, we have to be ready to take off the HANs device, undo the beaner holding the tandem skydiver to us, remove the football pads, maybe put on a small bit of protection with a knee pad…

And then ride the skateboard. At some point we have to go ahead, into the unknown, with prayer and hope know that God will bless the efforts and that you can and will be used for His purpose in what your dreams entail.

But its scary. You can’t prepare for everything. You can’t think of everything. You just have to put your foot on the skateboard, then use the other one to kick off.

You can’t be safe on a skateboard.

When it comes to your dreams, your goals, your passions, you should never want to be safe.

Of course, I've ridden Soarin' at Epcot many, many times... I would imagine you can't really be safe on a hang glider as well...

(ps… I am in no way condoning the use of a skateboard, especially if you are of the age when you have no business being on a skateboard… just saying)

(February words: 2,775... 12,225 to go for #15KWordsinFeb...)

Monday, February 03, 2014

2013 movies... the best part two

So, finally... after the my favorite ten movies of 2012 and before that I watched in 2013... here are my top ten films of 2013 that I saw in the calendar year of 2013... hope that makes sense...

10... Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)... Trumping its predecessor, 2010's Star Trek, (but only by a bit), this sequel jumps into action, and goes full blast nonstop til its very end. Added to the mix is Benedict Cumberbatch--which sounds like a villain's name, only he's the actor--playing Khan. And Khan is a villain... or is he? That's a good question that the movie takes its time to answer. The cast is perfect--Chris Pine as Kirk, Zachary Quinto as Spock, Zoe Saldana as Uhura and so on, the special effects are visually mindblowing and the story is solid. Loved this movie... hence, my top ten.

9... Prisoners (2013)... First... Hugh Jackman is freakin' awesome in this movie. I mean, unbelievable. He's a dad, along with a subdued, yet terrific, Terrence Howard, who's daughters are kidnapped. They find a suspect, Paul Dano, arrested by Jake Gyllenhaal, but can't hold him... so our dads kidnap Paul and torture him for information. And it tosses up the moral question of "What would you do?" that many movies ask but can't pull off--this one does, though. Its quick, its serious, and it just sticks with you... and the cast is superb, with no wasted roles, characters or scenes.

8... World War Z (2013)... Right out of the gate, WWZ tosses you right into the action... Its a not only a zombie movie, its a smart zombie movie, and Brad Pitt is great as a scientist and family man racing around the world to try and find a cure for what ails them. A smart, undead film is a rarity, and I really enjoyed this one. The shot of the zombies climbing the walls in Israel is pretty fantastic.

7... Monsters University (2013)... Being a Pixar fan, it was hard to not like this movie. While I don't consider it one of the best Pixar films around, and as time goes by, I think we'll hold the original Monsters Inc as the superior of the two, Monsters U is just really entertaining. The college aspect of it makes it a bit nostalgic for those of us who look fondly on our own college days, while the newer characters are all kinds of fun to watch and get to know. The "backstory" on some of the characters is fun to watch too, especially when you realize the relationship that Randall (the Monsters Inc bad guy) had with Sully... don't think too much, though, because some of the events here don't quite line up with the events of the first film, leaving you with a "If that is supposed to happen later, then why did they do ____ in this one?" kind of feeling.

But the animation is spectacular, and miles and miles ahead of 2003's Monsters Inc. Great movie, so much fun.

6... Gravity (2013)... There are some movies that you should see on the big screen, like "Star Trek Into Darkness" and "Monsters University"... and then there are some movies that almost require a large screen viewing to understand, to comprehend the scope and magnitude of the feature film you are witnessing. "Gravity" is one of those movies. It is epic, it is grandiose and it is harrowing.

A movie came out a few years ago that totally freaking The Lovely Steph Leann out, and made me all kinds of edgy, that being "Open Water", about two people stranding in the middle of the ocean with sharks all around. This is like that, except in space.

You see two faces, really--George Clooney and Sandra Bullock... and Sandy is the one that remains throughout the entire film. First, and foremost, its a gorgeous film... its a visual masterpiece and is so wonderfully put together. The acting is superb, the story is strong, and at 90 minutes, it doesn't keep going 20 minutes after it should have ended. It knows when its story is done. This is probably one of the top two or three BEST movies of the year--but this is my FAVE films, so its at #6.

5... The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)... Its great when a sequel meets and even surpasses the first in the series, and this one manages that feat. Katniss is back, done so well by Jennifer Lawrence, with her co-horts, the unfortunately named Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and Haymitch (Woody Harrelson), and through the decisions of a sadistic president of the country, is forced to once again fight in The Hunger Games... this time against previous winners. 

I read all three books in the past year, and "Catching Fire" was my favorite of the three, so it was great to see the movie follow the book so closely... for time's sake, obviously there were chunks cut out and a few things changed for time, but overall, even though I knew the outcome, I was still kept in suspense as it went on.

4... Fast & Furious 6 (2013)... One of the reasons I enjoy "Ocean's Eleven" so much is that you can tell everyone is just having a ball of fun being around each other, eating up the dialogue--which I'm sure much of it was ad-libbed... and its great that they don't take themselves so doggone seriously. Those things, plus the knowledge that you won't be winning any awards with what you are doing, is what makes the last two Fast & Furious movies a blast. 

Vin Diesel, my mancrush The Rock, the returning Michelle Rodriguez (she's not dead! Spoiler!) and the late, great Paul Walker return for some silliness about The Rock needing to stop a crime boss, so he reaches out for Vin's help and gets the gang, like Ludacris and Tyrese Gibson, back together...

But honestly, who cares? The plot is a little predictable and passable, but they know this, delivering funny one-liners and self-reverential humor... and the main star? The action sequences, which are completely absurd, are a blast. And, as I said before, the best part of this, these guys are having FUN... they know this will never be up for any kind of real award, so they wanted to make the most entertaining movie possible... and they succeeded completely. 

3... Saving Mr. Banks (2013)... In our January 5th, 2013, episode of The Deucecast, our movie podcast that I co-host, we did a "Top Ten Movies Most Anticipated 2013 Films, and here was my list: 10-Fast & Furious 6... 9-Iron Man 3... 8-The Hunger Games: Catching Fire... 7-Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (I still haven't seen this)... 6- Star Trek Into Darkness... 5 (tie) The Wolverine & Man of Steel (meh)... 4-Oblivion (blew that call)... 3-Grown Ups 2... 2-Monsters University... and my most anticipated film of 2013... Saving Mr. Banks.

Being a Disneyphile, when I heard about the prospect of this film--Tom Hanks was Walt Disney, it was filmed partly at Disneyland, it told the story of how Mary Poppins was acquired--I was giddy, and the film that I waited all year long for, didn't disappoint.

Emma Thompson is marvelous as the unsettled, impatient PL Travers, the creator and writer of the Mary Poppins books, and rather than be mad at her for being so temperamental, the film shows her as a child, and what she dealt with that grew her up in the manner that she did.

Also wonderful in a supporting role are BJ Novak and Jason Schwartzman, who play the famous Sherman Brothers, and also someone who has gotten only a little notice, Paul Giamatti, as PL Travers personal limo driver. The whole cast is wonderful, and its a family film through and through. 

2... Frozen (2013)... Disney is on a roll. I submit to you their last three animated features.... Tangled... Wreck it Ralph... and now this one. The tale of two princesses, Anna and Elsa, the former being a goofy little girl who grows up to be a goofy, lovesick teenager, the latter being the more responsible one who becomes the queen... only she has ice powers she cannot control.

The music in this film is just tremendous, especially with the Idina Menzel's power bomb "Let It Go", but don't let that overshadow the other songs, especially Olaf the Snowman's whimsical ode to what it must be like in the summertime... and no one wants to tell him what happens when a snowman meets summer. This film is gorgeously drawn, well executed, and even its flaws can be overlooked for how great it actually is. 

1... The Way Way Back (2013)... Talk about a surprise entry outta nowhere... this is the simple story of a boy named Duncan who travels with his mom (Toni Collette), and her skeezy boyfriend (Steve Carell in a completely different, welcome, role) and sister to vacation in Cape Cod. Duncan deals with all the parts of being 15, but also the emotional abuse he gets from Trent, Mom's boyfriend, and his cold sister, plus his Mom who always takes her boyfriend's side of everything.

Friendless, he meets Susanna, a daughter of a neighboring, friendly family, and then ends up visiting--then getting a job with--the local waterpark, Water Wizz.

And this is where the movie really soars... Sam Rockwell is Owen, the guy who essentially takes Duncan under his wing, with co-workers played by Maya Rudolph, and the directors of the films, Nate Faxon and Jim Rash. 

Its a true coming-of-age story filled with fun moments, growing up, remember whens and you cheer for Duncan when his life hits the upswing, and feel for him when he gets knocked down again. And seeing Steve Carell play a bad guy is just wonderful as well.

So there you have it... my favorite 2013 films I actually watched IN 2013... So glad you stuck around, now on to other things!

(#500Words... 1670 written in February, 13,330 to go for #15KinFeb)