Friday, October 31, 2014

the first scary movie

Out of the 2800+ movies I’ve seen in my life time, I can tell you the last 200 movies I’ve seen—I started last year, keeping track of each movie seen, typing them into my little note app… I saw 109 in 2013 (starting with Les Miserables on 1/1/13, and ending with RIPD on 12/31), and I’m up to 95 now for 2014 (starting with American Hustle on 1/2/14) and I just saw Hotel Transylvania on 10/27.

But what are the first movies I’ve seen? The first movie ever?

There are three movies that are interchangeable in my memory as my first movie I remember seeing. If I close my eyes, I can visualize snippets of each of the films--all very different movies, about as different as you can possibly imagine.
I cannot say one of these films is the absolute first film I ever watched, because who knows what I saw when I was under the age of movie accountability…
It could have been “The Muppet Movie”. My mom/grandparent’s good friend Cathy took me to the movies to see this great movie, and I remember Kermit on the log singing “Rainbow Connection”, and that scene where Animal takes the growth pills and busts through the ceiling of the old country store.

Or maybe, it was “The Shining”. Yes, that Shining, the one with the evil hotel, and Jack Nicholson, I saw that at the drive-in theater with someone, though I don’t know who. I’m pretty positive it was a family member.

Finally, it might have been “Any Which Way You Can”… wait, was that the first one? Or the second one? The other is “Every Which Way But Loose”… they both have Clint Eastwood as the oddly named Philo Beddoe, with Geoffrey Lewis as his friend Orville, and Ruth Gordon as Ma and Sondra Locke as Lynn Halsey-Taylor.

Random thought, sometimes when I take a drink from a water fountain, I see the name “Halsey Taylor” on it, which must be a water fountain manufacturer of some sort... when I see that name, I think of Sondra Locke and these movies. I might be the only person in the entire world’s population of 6 and ½ billion people to think of Sondra Locke that often, but there it is.

Anyway, I remember a big fight—Philo fought for money--and remember Philo, Orville, Lynn and Clyde, the orangutan, in a pick up truck, when they get pulled over by an officer on their way out of town, the officer tells them that he lost a lot of money betting on the other guy… Philo says, “Right turn, Clyde”, and you see this monkey arm out of the truck window throw a punch, nailing the officer in the face and knocking him out. The credits roll as the truck drives away on the desert highway. There’s this cool song that plays over the credits called “The Good Guys & the Bad Guys”, which, according to Wikipedia, was done by John Durrill… and thanks to the magic of iTunes, I just downloaded it like, right NOW, and am listening to this song for the first time in about… 20 years, at least. Maybe 25. My life rules.

I just checked on the timeline—it’s the second one. Oh, one more thing about “Any Which Way You Can”… well, a few more things, because this is my blog and I wanted to talk about this… first, the guy that Philo fights, Jack Wilson, is played a guy named William Smith, a bigtime character actor of the 60s, 70s and 80s. That cat has been in over 300 productions from TV and movies… “Any Which Way But Loose” is the first one, in 1978, and had the late, great Eddie Rabbitt singing the title track… Glen Campbell sings “Any Which Way You Can”, the main song from the 1980 sequel.

I had a completely different point for this post, before I got sidetracked by bad Eastwood films from the late 70s and early 80s…

My question is… what’s the first movie that scared you? I have an answer for myself, and it’s one word: “Poltergeist”. This wasn’t the first film I’d ever seen, as mentioned above, but it was probably in that top 20 or 50 movies I’d ever seen, ever. As a kid, I also remember snippets of “Time Bandits” and “ET” and watching “The Empire Strikes Back” (and later, “Return of the Jedi”) in the theater… but “Poltergeist”, I remember vividly.

I was 7, and the year was 1983. I lived with my Granny and Grandpa (who I called Mom and Dad growing up, as they raised me) in an apartment in Austin, Texas—they ran the joint, the Villa Rio Apartments… 4551 Airport Boulevard, Apartment 301, Austin Texas 78751… but for summers, my grandmother and I would usually go visit one of my aunts either in Florida, or like this summer, Hampton, Virginia, to see my Aunt Betty, my cousins Shannon, Frankie Jr and my cousin Marty, who I kind of idolized, cause she was older, really pretty, really smart and could do no wrong in my book. She’s still pretty awesome, 32 years later.

Anyway, don’t ask me how it came up, but somehow the film was on television. Perhaps it was a beta tape, perhaps it was one of those new fangled “VEE CEE ARE” things, but either way, the family was watching “Poltergeist” on tv… and it scared the living crap outta me.

The movie centers around the Freeling family, with dad Steven (Coach) and mom Diane (an 80s crush worthy JoBeth Williams), and their three kids, oldest daughter Dana (the late Dominique Dunne), middle child Robbie (Oliver Robins, who went on to do Airplane II: The Sequel) and the most famous of all, Heather O’Rourke as Carol Anne.

One night during a storm, the kids crawl into bed with Steven and Diane. This is back when there was little to no cable TV, and most stations when off at midnight, signing out with the national anthem, then going to a snow filled screen until early the next morning when they resumed broadcasting. Carol Anne is awakened, she crawls out of bed, seemingly being called to the TV… she gets up close to the screen, placing her hands on the front. She then watches some sort of white entity, a spirit come out of the television and then shoot into the wall of the bedroom. Carol Anne says, “They’re here…”

And this is where it starts. Crazy things start happening, as little as chairs sliding across the floor and glasses breaking on their own to a tree reaching into the window and trying to eat Robbie while he sleeps.

Let me say that again… during a storm, a tree uses its branches like arms, reaches into the bedroom window like you would reach onto the dashboard of a car from the outside, and grabs Robbie, trying to swallow and eat him. And while this is happening, Carol Anne is then sucked into the walls of the house.


Later, as they call in experts to find Carol Anne from whatever ghostly dimension she’s in, a Beast like creature shows its face, we hear the phrase “Go towards the light Carol Anne!” uttered for the first time, and after a guy sees a rotting steak move across the counter on its own power, he then rips his face off. Like what what.

This movie terrified me to no end… I’m watching it, mesmerized, and yet, now realizing that my house too is probably built onto an Indian Burial ground, just like the Freeling house. Like, I too will be be sucked into the wall…

Or worse yet…

...The house has been determined spirit free by the scientists who came… and of course, instead of hightailing it out of there with the family, they decided to spend one more night in the home. Big mistake.

Robbie is in his bed, trying to sleep. There is this clown puppet that he has in his room, again, I’m not sure why, and it’s resting in a rocking chair. Robbie looks at it, stares at it, then tries to throw his jacket over it to cover the clown face. The jacket slips off. Robbie hides under the blanket, then dares to look once more and…

…and the clown isn’t there. Okay, for me, at this point, I wouldn’t even be in that house, I’d be sleeping on a park bench if needed, but were I stuck in that room somehow, I would not do what Robbie does… no, I’m taking a leap off of that bed to the door, and hightailing it downstairs as fast as I could go.
But no, Robbie takes a different approach. He slowly looks over the side of the bed… sees only floor. And then he does what we would all do (and by “all do”, I mean “no one would do”)… he slowly peers down until he sees under the bed.  Nothing.  But as he gets up, the clown is right behind him, wrapping those skinny arms around Robbie's neck and then dragging him under the bed. 


Warning:  this clip contains scary clown things, and JoBeth Williams in her underthings being thrown around the room.  You may see "underthings", but trust me, ain't nothing sexy about this scene.  It's terrifying. 

Then, we see Robbie fighting off the clown... Diane outside yelling for help, falling into the swimming pool that they are installing, skeletons popping out of the water, then graves and coffins coming through the ground as the house collapses in on itself.  I mean, what's not to love when you are 7 and already afraid of the dark?

When I saw this film, it scared me for years, and I mean "years".  I wouldn't hang an arm, a hand, a leg or a foot off the side of  the bed at night, and wouldn't dare to ever look under the bed.  Ever.  Ever.  You die like that.  I was about 14 or 15 before this started being a little easier.  And my closet door also stays open, to this day.  I want to see the monster in the closet as it comes out to eat me.  I still think about this film from time to time.  I've seen it in recent years, and can see how it's a bit dated--some of the effects are a little off, and you can even see the way the clown arm wraps around Robbie's shoulder looks very fake... terrifying, but fake.  It's a great film.

Interesting story... at the time, it was cheaper to buy real skeletons and use them then have plastic skeletons manufactured, so that's what you see--real bones.  Also, JoBeth Williams wasn't bothered by the human skeletons, she was more concerned about the wiring around the movie set, and her being electrocuted due to the muddy water she was required to be in.  Producer Steven Spielberg got in the water with her, just off camera, telling her that it was safe, but if she died, then he would too.  Whatta guy.

Also, it's widely been rumored that director Tobe Hooper, who's credits included the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, didn't actually direct this film, but that it was Steven Spielberg who called the shots.  Both Spielberg and Hooper have vehemently denied this claim, with Tobe Hooper getting defensive many time about it... however, Zelda Rubenstein, the short little old lady named Tangina who plays a pivotal role in getting Carol Anne back from the spirits, has been very vocal when asked, saying that Spielberg was the only director she saw for the six days she filmed, and that "Tobe was only partly there"... this echoes the sentiment held by several other cast members.

And, finally, the movie is known for the "Curse of Poltergeist", due to the fact two of the cast members died at a very young age... Dominique Dunne, who played eldest daughter Dana, died six months after the film was released in June of '82 at the hands of her abusive boyfriend.  Dunne was 22.  And Heather O'Rourke, the Carol Anne character, died at the age of 12 in 1988 from complications due to surgery.   Also, two other actors featured in the sequels to the movie died unexpectedly.  The Curse is attributed to the fact they did use the real skeletons in the film.  And you can choose to believe it or not...

As for the sequels, stay away.  Both "Poltergeist II: The Other Side" and "Poltergeist III" are terrible films.  Just run. 

So there ya go.  What started out as a wandering journey through two of Clint Eastwood's arguably worst best worst craptastic films has ended up in the scariest movie I've ever seen.

Poltergeist is the essential scary movie, perhaps a perfect ghost story.  It's not gory, it's not violent, it just preys upon everyones fear of the dark, of what's under the bed, and the unseen.  It takes a simple snowy screen that we all have seen before and makes it sinister and turns a two word phrase spoken by a six year old little blonde girl--They're here--and makes it one of the most frightening things you can imagine.  If you haven't seen this film, you owe it to yourself to do so.

And the music on the ending credits... so creepy.  And the clown.  Yeesh, that clown.  I hate clowns. 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

my aunt judy

(Warning. This is a true life story of my aunt and the ordeal she faced in 2011. Though I don't get too graphic, the things I say in this post are very uncomfortable and terrible.  Read with caution.

It's also important to note that this post is an emotional response to the program I'm watching, the "Surviving Evil" episode that centers on what follows in this post. This is the story that I know.)

I'm watching one of my favorite channels, one called Investigation Discovery. Usually, I fill up on Dateline NBC, or maybe a great episode of 20/20 or even 48 Hours. I'm a sucker for murder mysteries, true life crime, I've even read several books having to do with cold cases and such... Kathryn Casey is a marvelous author of murder crimes in Texas, and I've read nearly everything she's done.

Tonight's show on Investigation Discovery is a little different... it's a show called "Surviving Evil", and each episode centers around someone--usually a woman--who makes it through what is a brutal ordeal in her life. The hour long show features two stories... the first one was a girl named April Sykes, who was essentially set on fire by the man who assaulted her.

The second story is my Aunt Judy Murrell.

Judy is the youngest sister of my mom and my other aunts, and has been single for a while now. She has two grown sons, my cousins, who are both in the military, tough guys, but solid men who serve our country. She also has a daughter named Jennifer, who is now in college.

Living in Andalusia, Alabama, she lives with her daughter, but lives a simple life, a single life... sometimes, many times a lonely life. And that's why it was okay for her to find favor with someone that in normal circumstances no one would ever want to really spent much time with. Judy is a wonderful woman... she is so proud of her sons, she's proud of her daughter, and she loves her family so much. 

Our little story is how when I was a baby, I would sleep on her chest... and go to the bathroom on her.  I was like, one, so don't judge too much. She's always been warm with me, with a big hug and she loves The Lovely Steph Leann and oh, does she love her some Campbell Isaiah.

In early 2011, Aunt Judy met Raul Del Toro, a smooth talker from Cuba who showed her just the kind of attention, said just the kind of words that a middle aged single mom from a small town wants to hear. They went out, they got close, and though he wasn't the ideal man in the eyes of Aunt Judy's older sister--my mom--or her daughter Jennifer, hey, it's Judy's life, right?

But over time, Judy began to notice something... Raul began to control more and more of the things she would say and do. He opposed her wearing anything like a tank top, or shorts he thought were too short, he made her quit her job at a local factory, convincing her that he would take care of her financially... he would routinely go through her cell phone to see if she was "running around" on him.

One night in March of 2011, he had a little too much, things got out of hand, he got violent and busted Aunt Judy's lip. She was able to call the police, and they arrived. She told police that she just wanted him to leave--Raul complied... why didn't she have him arrested for assault? He had already threatened to kill her if she ever had him thrown in jail. 

A few weeks went by, and he came back around. Smooth talking as always, he charmed his way back into her life, back into her small town Andalusia home. Jan, the sister (and my mom), had already convinced her to get a gun just in case, and Jennifer, the daughter, had already decided to not stick around when Raul was there. 

April 2011.

Raul was in Aunt Judy's home, and they began to argue again. This time, he wanted to see her phone to see what she'd been up to, and in a fit of anger, fear and maybe just annoyance, she threw it against the wall, shattering the device. It was then that the nightmare of the next 12 hours started for my Aunt Judy.

He hit her. He dragged her purse down, rifled through it and pulled out her drivers license, then burned it, to show her that she was a nobody. He then pulled out the gun that Aunt Judy had stashed away, telling her how he found it in the house already.

Raul dragged her into the bedroom, her OWN bedroom, in her own bed. She begged him not to kill her... or at least, not to kill her there--she pleaded that she didn't want her daughter to come in and find her, so if he was going to kill her, to take her somewhere and do it. Raul, in a random act of what he probably thought was kindness, agreed that we wouldn't kill her there. He would take her elsewhere. Either way, he expressed the fact that she would die very soon--but he told her he wasn't done with her yet. 

He went to the closet and began to pull out her clothes, using a knife to cut them, shred them, destroy them. Raul turned to my Aunt Judy and made her strip. He then attempted to rape her. When he was unable to do what he wanted, he did what might be the most horrific thing I can think of--he raped and assaulted her with her own gun. He hit her, he cut her with the knife... and then in a final show of humiliation, he dragged her in to the bathroom and chopped off huge amounts of hair.

Aunt Judy has always had big, poofy, thick brown hair and she has always kept it long, for as long as I remember... and he chopped it. He cut it. He tore at it. Leaving her destroy, leaving her used, leaving her... he wanted to leave her ugly, to make sure she knew that no one would want her. 

Raul Del Toro had been with her for nearly 12 hours. In that time, he raped, assault, beat and tortured... TORTURED... my Aunt Judy. And he degraded her. More than anything else, he degraded her in every way he knew how to do.

As the sun came up the next day, he made her put on a baseball cap, and then... then he hugged her and told her that he loved her. She asked that even though he loved her, he was going to kill her, to which he simply said yes.

He then dragged her outside to the vehicle in the yard. My Aunt Judy got in, and was forced to put the seat back. Raul Del Toro got in and began to drive to whatever spot he had decided to end her life. He was going to take her outside of town... and shoot her. If she was lucky, just a quick shot. But he said he was going to shoot her in the back and see how long she would crawl before she died. 

If you have lived in any small town long enough, or even in a neighborhood long enough, you recognize more than what you see on your left and right. You will recognize what you see up above too. So as my Aunt Judy lay back in the seat, bruised, bloody, violated, swollen, she could tell by the turns the car was making, and by what she saw in the upper part of the car window that they were going through downtown Andalusia.

This was now or never. She knew that if they got past downtown, past where people lived and worked, past where the town's businesses were just waking up, then it was over. If my Aunt Judy was going to act, she would have to do it now.

Instinctively, she grabbed the wheel and yanked it. The car jerked as Raul Del Toro tried to gain control back. The car swerved, around and swung into a Dairy Queen parking lot before it came to a stop. A struggle in the car ensued, and the gun, my Aunt Judy's gun, the gun Raul Del Toro had been holding, the gun was fired three times. Three gunshots blasted into my Aunt Judy, one in her chest, one in her pelvis and one into her stomach, shredding her spleen and kidney.

Raul Del Toro got out of the car and walked away. My Aunt Judy managed to get her seatbelt unbuckled, opened the door and fell out of the car in a bloody heap. She was able to stand up some, waving for help, before collapsing unconscious. 

I was at home. I got a phone call from Jan that something had happened. Something about her boyfriend or her ex boyfriend had assaulted her or hit her or something or... and shot her? Like, my Aunt Judy got shot? Three times? What are you talking about...?

Over the next 24 hours, I slowly got the details, those details that I couldn't understand because who does this to someone? Who sexually assaults someone with... a gun? Is this real?

My Aunt Judy lost a lot of blood that night. She spent many weeks in the hospital, suffered through many surgeries, and lost her spleen, her gall bladder and part of her stomach, as well as dealing with severe kidney damage. Family rallied around her, many prayers were said for her, and she slowly began to recover physically.

Emotionally, however, is a much longer recovery. Three and a half years later, she still cries at night, she still has trouble sleeping, she deals with depression. My Aunt Judy credits two things that keep her going--God and her family. She has faith in both.

My Aunt Judy is a brave woman. She dealt with more in 12 hours than most of us will have to deal with in a lifetime. She wasn't merely violated, she was destroyed in her own bedroom. 

As for Raul Del Toro, he walked away from the scene, and was actually picked up by the Sheriff's Department walking down the highway out of town. He had the wherewithal to do everything he did to my Aunt Judy, but didn't have the common sense to run and hide. And he's very lucky that John and Steven, my Aunt Judy's two sons in the Army and Marines, didn't get a hold him first, because that would have been a bloodletting the likes of which we haven't seen in a long time. 

Raul Del Toro is now serving two consecutive life sentences, and will be eligible for parole in about 25 years. I hope he receives in the prison bathrooms from an inmate nicknamed Sweet Sweetback that which he bestowed upon my Aunt Judy.

I love my Aunt Judy. She stands tall now. She deals mentally and emotionally with everything, and probably always will. But she survived. She lives. And for that, I thank God. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

reviewing 1989

A few days ago at Target, I bought Taylor Swift's new album "1989", or as it's been called in some places, "T.S. 1989", and here is a track by track review… keep in mind, when I write this, I’m hearing all of these songs but two (“Shake It Off” and “Out of the Woods”) for the very first time, and am writing this as I listen, not after I’ve heard the whole thing. So it’s like, a real time commentary.

Welcome to New York… I’m sure “poppy” is a word I’ll use a lot here, but this is definitely poppy. It’s a bubble gum version of Jay-Z’s & Alicia Keys “Empire State of Mind”, mixed with a just as excited, just as poppy version of “Party in the USA”. It’s a great lead off track and sets the tone for the album

Blank Space… This song is great. With “Shake It Off” and with this, Taylor has fully embraced the reputation of “date her, break up, get a song written about you” that has flown around her for years. This might be a contender for the favorite on the album two tracks in. “Got a long list of ex-lovers, they’ll tell you I’m insane, cause you know I love the players and you love the game…” This song is full of snappy lines just like that.

Style… This is the most 90s song I’ve heard in a long time, and for me, that’s a great thing. Yes, poppy, but a little darker than that, and more adult as well. Taylor doesn’t curse in her songs, and never directly addresses the bedroom activities that many songs go to immediately, but the insinuation is there—“…takes me home, lights are off, he’s taking off his coat…” Maybe its prayer. Who knows.

Out of the Woods… This is the second single from the album, released a few weeks ago, rumored to be written about Harry Styles… or one of the One Direction guys, who knows. I’m not a huge fan of this one, especially when it’s following the marvelous “Shake It Off”. Still, it’s not a bad track, it’s a little catchy, and you’ll find yourself “are we outta the woods!!??” a few times today.

All You Had to Do Was Stay… So far, I’m getting the impression that she’s addressing several of her past boyfriends, famous or not… Adele made a bajillionty dollars with her incredible album “21”, an entire album full of heartbreak and lost love. To say Taylor Swift is “Adele Light” is not only unfair to Adele, but also to Taylor, but in the same manner, the comparisons are there to me. It’s another song of “why did you leave, you should have stayed here” (not lyrics, just sentiment). She pulls it off though, it’s a quirky song.

Shake It Off… Taylor Swift, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways… everything I’ve ever loved about Taylor is wrapped up in two songs—“You Belong To Me”, not only my favorite Swift, but one of my favorite songs of all time anywhere… and this one. I am not tired of this, don’t know when I will get tired of it, and have heard it 2 dozen times at least. The video just adds sprinkles to an already great hot fudge sundae.

I Wish You Would… Seven tracks in, no ballads yet. This song is sort of the like the uneven sequel to Track 5, “All You Had to Do Was Stay”. Sung well, very wordy, but almost a retread of what we’ve heard. Having said that, if this catches on as a single on the radio, I’ll say the same thing about Track 5. 

Bad Blood… One of the only reasons I like “Bang Bang” by Jessie J with Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj (it’s a problem when the artist credit is like, 4x as long as the song title) is because it’s just darn fun to sing. Same with “I Love It All” by Icona Pop. This song might just fall under that category, cause it’s a loud proclamation of “Get Up Out My Face” to her ex-man. “Band-Aids don’t fix bullet holes, you say sorry just for show”… indeed.

Oh, and I have a real conflict with myself because I happen to like anything associated with Nicki Minaj.

Wildest Dreams… Not quite a ballad, I really like this track… it’s a little haunting, very seductive and very pointedly saying, “We had it all and you’re gonna miss it.” (again, not lyrics, but sentiment). The boy she’s been pining for over the last few songs is now being told that he’ll have her in his wildest dreams now, and that’s is. Burn.

How You Get the Girl… If there was any return to her country roots, this song is the one that does that.  Still pop, but it’s got more twang to it than anything I’ve heard.  This totally reminds me of "Some Kind of Wonderful", and how Watts (Mary Stuart Masterson) is trying to help Keith (Eric Stoltz) get the girl, Amanda Jones (Lea Thompson), when it’s in fact Watts who wants Keith more than anything.  Here’s how to get the girl… okay, here’s how to actually get me.  To me, this will be a track I’ll remember—one of the more different songs on the album thus far.

This Love… And now we have our true ballad.  I like it.  This album tells a story… started bright, got hurt, rebounded and is finding balance again.  Soft, a little reminiscent of old school, pre-skank soft Mariah Carey.  “This Love is alive, back from the dead, these hands had to let it go free and this love came back to me…”

I Know Places… Trying to hard. That’s the first thing I thought when this song started. The chorus is strong, and well written lyrically, like most of her stuff, but the verses are a bit much. Seems like she’s trying to be “out there” with her sound on this one, and for me, it just doesn’t work as well. I’m glad she doesn’t lead off with this song, it wouldn’t work. And she does say “damn”, so I stand corrected on Taylor not cursing. 

Clean… This one, however, has a great beginning. And the line “You’re still over me like a wine stained dress I can’t wear anymore” is both hilarious and cutting, and I love it. This is the song where she finally breaks free of the one who kept her down, be it Mayer or Styles or Warren Beatty or whoever else she dated. I really enjoyed this song.

Thus ends the regular version of the album. However, as mentioned above, I purchased Target’s Deluxe Version of the album, with bonus tracks and “songwriting memos”, whatever that is—which we’ll find out in a few minutes, I guess.

Wonderland… If you couldn’t get it from the title, it’s a play on the Wonderland from the Alice in Wonderland type story… no mention of Alice though, more of a finding-paradise-that’s-not-paradise-together type Wonderland. Bonus points for mentioning the Chesire Cat in the lyrics. I would imagine this video will have Taylor in a small Alice dress running around a strange world full of strange creatures. Not that that’s a bad thing.

You Are in Love… Another sort-of ballad, well written, well done, though it may would benefit from a little less production. I do like this song a lot, though, and it’s melody. Kudos for a beginning that sounds like the opening chords of Christopher Cross’ “Sailing”. I’m positive this isn’t what she was going for, but it’s a bonus to me.

New Romantics… With a slight sound that differs from Taylor’s usually voice, this one song is probably the poster child from her departure from country to pop. This song maybe a perfect pop song.

In summary...feel like this entire album is telling a story… the arrival “Welcome to New York”, the warning of dating Taylor, “Blank Space”… the romance with “Style”… the trouble with “Out of the Woods”… the pining and regret with “All You Had to Do Was Stay” and “I Wish You Would”, with the ignore-the-haters “Shake It Off” in the middle… the vengeful “Bad Blood”… the flaunting of “Wildest Dreams”… the new or maybe rekindled romance of “How You Get the Girl” and “This Love” and “I Know Places”… and finally, the freedom of it all with “Clean”.  The extra tracks are just that.

Bottom line? I loved this album. Even the tracks that weren't my favorite were still good... my favorites however, beyond "Shake It Off", will likely be "How You Get the Girl", "Clean" and I really like that "Blank Space". Check it out.

And because Taylor Swift....

Monday, October 27, 2014

being a fangirl

I bought Taylor Swift’s new CD, “1989” today. For whatever reason, it came out today, on a Monday, and not on a Tuesday. Right before I got to work—or better yet, I parked at work and walked up a slight hill to Target, and was at the door at 7:50. And then remembered that they didn’t open until 8. Because my primary purpose in going was to buy Taylor Swift’s new CD, I suddenly became one of “those fans”, as in, standing outside the store, waiting for it to open.

What makes it worse, was there were three 20sometthing chicks standing right behind me, ready to go in and do the same. They opened the door, and I walked quickly—but not too quick, as I wasn’t that desperate—to the left, to Target’s music section. And, even though they’ve been closed since 10pm last night, the shelves that would hold new CDs were empty.

A Target dude asked me if I needed help, and I was thinking, “Really? You have to know this is the biggest album of the year, right?” I told him, a little sheepishly and low voiced, “The new Taylor Swift CD?”


So there’s that.

He asked me if I’d rather have the regular or deluxe version, and I just responded, “Can you bring them both out?” He agreed and disappeared into the back. The three girls who were around me outside then joined me in the music section. Another Target girl came up and asked all us if we needed anything. 

And doing the creepy loser thing again, without thinking, I cheerily said, "Oh, we are just waiting on the new Taylor Swift CD!" I then wanted to facepalm, but decided against it. Finally two people came from the back, each holding boxes, handing out regular and deluxe version of the new album.

Walking to the register, I was not only the first customer actually in Target this morning, I'm the first person to check out. If Target doesn't make another dollar all day, they will have at least made $15.68--enough for a Taylor Swift deluxe edition of "1989" and a Twix Bar. 

The Medea type lady at the register looked at the CD that I handed to her. "Who is this? Is she new? We keep playing her movies and videos in the music department, so I thought she must be new..."

"She's got a new album out today, and it's supposed to be a big deal."

"Oh, okay... figured she was new."

Got my CD. Went to work. 

How is it? I wrote a track-by-track commentary, and you can find that by clicking here...

the king is not scary part 2

As a nod to a friend of mine, but also because I thought it was a good topic, I listed five Stephen King books that weren't horror stories... perhaps they dive into the supernatural just a little, or maybe science fiction, and definitely an air of suspense, but nothing like an evil hotel, like "The Shining", or a possessed car, like "Christine", or an evil, possessed clown like "It"... so here is another five of Not Scary King... you can read Part I of this post by clicking here. Otherwise, here ya go...

A little girl is hiking in the woods with her family along a familiar trail... her family is quite dysfunctional, of course, as Brother is quite annoying and Mommy and Daddy are fighting all the time. She slows a bit to take a restroom break right off the trail, slips on an embankment and ends up down a hill, completely lost. Trisha begins to drift further into the deep woods, armed with only a few things like a Twinkie, a poncho and a Walkman, which she likes to use to listen to her favorite team, the Boston Red Sox, and her favorite player and athlete crush, pitcher Tom Gordon. Thus begins a psychological story of a little girl who is not only battling the elements, but the darkness, fear and eventually, her sanity. It's thrilling, a little strange, and you'll root for Trisha the entire way. (224 pages)

CELL (2006)
More science fiction than anything, a random signal from outta nowhere is shot across the world, and everyone who is on a cell phone at that exact time is zapped in an insane zombie-like killer. Writer Clay Riddell is in Boston, and amidst the ensuing chaos and destruction that follows, sets out on a journey to try and get to his son, Jonny, in Maine. He teams up with Tom and a teen named Alice, and the trio meet good guys and bad guys as they make their way.  (355 pages)

Here's what I wrote back in 2011, listing this book at the 42nd Coolest Thing of 2010... In the fall of some year after 2012, Dale Barbara, known as "Barbie", is trying to leave the small town of Chester's Mill. Before he can get very far, however, something odd happens. An invisible, indestructible barrier--a dome, per se--is dropped over the town, keeping everyone who's out of town out of the town, and everyone who is in the town, in the town.

Big Jim Rennie, second selectman, takes over the town, appointing his corrupt friends and sick, twisted son Junior as town officials, and does his best to try and contain the opposition, which includes Barbie and newspaper editor Julia Shumway. Slowly but surely, the town's government falls apart as Big Jim's rule becomes more and more stern, and as his ego--and paranoia of losing control--spiral out of control.

Efforts to destroy the Dome fail one after the other, and everything from civility to law to just common sense begins to fall apart, piece by piece, little by little... its not a slippery slope so much as a straight up and down cliff. 

While the Dome is the central key to the novel, it is what happens to the town that becomes the book's plot. The breakdown in civilization, the loss of respect and democracy... that's the book's central storyline. When Big Jim realizes that not everyone sees it his way, its then that he begins doing whatever, and I mean whatever, is necessary to ensure his own rule is followed.  Also, one of my favorite Stephen King covers ever... (1074 pages)

JOYLAND (2013)
I listed this at the 10th best book I read in 2013... here's what I wrote about it: 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. (288 pages)

11/22/63 (2013)
One of the most random, unusual non-Stephen King stories that still plays out like a Stephen King story after all is "11/22/63". Jake is a divorced high school teacher who, through a friend who seems to be going through his own troubles, is shown a "portal" in the past... namely, 1958, at exactly 11:58am on September 9th. No matter how long he stays in the past, only a few minutes pass in the present day, along with some other restrictions of the portal. The mission is to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy on, you guessed it, 11/22/63, so Jake begins a life in the past to try and lead up to the event. And the story slowly unfolds bit by bit, and though it's a slow burn, it's worth the ride. King also gives a very interesting answer to the question, "What if JFK lived?". (849 pages)

Finally, MR MERCEDES is the latest non-horror-but-thrilling novel from Stephen King, from earlier this year in 2014. I loved this book, but will wait to review it until the end of the year. However, you can read my friend Jessica's review on it if you'd like...  and at the end of the year, I'll also be discussing King's newest book, "Revival", coming out in November.

The #31DaysofWriting is coming to a close this week! And coming tomorrow... Taylor Swift's new CD dropped today! I'll give you my own fangirl experience and a track-by-track commentary on the whole thing!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

good bo or bad bo: saturday's football

As I've done in the last few weeks, here's my take on what happened today in the world of college football... as I type, there is about 6 minutes left in the USC/Utah battle, with USC leading 21-17, with the Trojans deep in their own territory. Here's the day:

First... Good Bo and Bad Bo Is Not a Good Thing, Its a Bad Thing

Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace is a great player. The problem is, everyone asks themselves before Ole Miss plays, "Will we get 'Good Bo' or 'Bad Bo' tonight?" Folks, that's a problem. If your quarterback is unreliable enough that you actually have nicknames for your playing levels, that's not good. Apparently, it was Bad Bo tonight... Ole Miss went into Death Valley to play LSU, and the carriage turned into a pumpkin for the Rebels dream season... 17-10, in a defense struggle, Ole Miss leaves with their first loss of the season.

Not only that, but the last :15 seconds were just bizarre... with :09 left on the clock, Les Miles calls a timeout to "ice" instead of sending their guy in a field goal attempt--and yes, because of a stupid penalty, at 47 yards it was right on the edge of their kicker's abilities--coach Hugh Freeze does this trickeration where Bo tosses a quick pass which was.... intercepted./

Not only did the timeout actually ice the coach, that's a lesson Freeze learned the hard way... it's very hard to out Les Miles Les Miles.

Update... 17 seconds left, Utah has the ball at the 1/2 yard line

Second... Auburn's Defense Just Showed Up to the Game... Two Hours After It Finished
What defense? Auburn scored 42 but gave up 35, in a game that was closer than that. The South Carolina Fightin' Spurriers nearly had their way with Auburn, but did what Spurrier usually does... they somehow found a way to lose. So an Ole Miss loss and an Auburn win sets up...

Third... A One Game Playoff
I love this four team playoff system. Love it. Love it. LOVE it. When there were two teams only, according to the BCS, many of the games we are watching are moot--I mean, they are important, but one loss really just knocks you out. With Florida State playing Bessemer Tech at home and then the Colorado School of Mines later, they'll be undefeated, meaning everyone would playing to get that one single spot against FSU... so there would be about three teams with a legit shot.

Update... Utah just scored, 8 seconds left, will be 24-21 after the PAT is made.

Now? Like, at least a dozen teams have a shot at the four spots... Florida State, Alabama, Mississippi State, Auburn, Ole Miss, Ohio State, Michigan State, Baylor, TCU, Notre Dame, Georgia... they win out, they have a legit shot at the Football Final Four.

And next week... Auburn playing at Ole Miss. Both have one single loss to a ranked opponent. 

Update... Utah wins the game, 24-21, their first win over USC, and now become bowl eligible for the first time since 2011.

The loser of the Auburn/Mississippi game is likely out of the mix of the Football Final Four. Oh, there's a chance that the loser may make it with 2 losses, but not likely. That loser will still probably make a New Year's Six bowl game, but not the playoffs.

Fourth... The B1G's One Game Playoff
Michigan State, who's one loss came to the Oregon Ducks, which is still a pretty good team, plays Ohio State, who's one loss came at home to Virginia Tech, which is not a very good team... I think Michigan State is a great team who has rebounded nicely from their loss, pimp slapping the Meeeeechigan Wolverines today. I think Ohio State is still a paper tiger... if they beat Michigan State, I think the B1G gets left out of the Football Final Four. If Michigan State beats OSU, I think they have a shot at it.

Fifth... TCU Scores. And Scores. And Scores. And Scores. And Scores. And Scores. And Scores. And Scores.
Texas Christian absolutely steamrolled Texas Tech, dropping 82 on the Red Raiders. And Kansas State shuts out Texas. And West Virginia knocks off Oklahoma State. The Big XII is so up in the air, it's crazy... and what's crazier is that we are discussing TCU, Kansas State, West Virginia AND Baylor, and NOT Oklahoma and Texas for conference supremacy. 

Personally, I would love a 4 or 5 way tie for the championship, though I don't like that the ultimate tiebreaker is to let the 12 person Football Playoff Committee decide. I think the ADs of the conference should do that job... but either way, the Big XII is almost as exciting now as the SEC West. Almost.

Sixth... Georgia Could Still Win the Whole Thing
With all the talk of the SEC West, people are forgetting that Georgia is sitting over there at 6-1, with nearly guaranteed wins over Florida, Kentucky and Chuck-Southern to come. Auburn will be their only real test, but even if the Dawgs lose, they go into the SEC Title game at 10-2, and if they win, I don't know that anyone else from the SEC will go in. And Georgia could beat Florida State. Most of the top five could, really.

Seventh... Dumpster Fires Everywhere
Florida. Texas. Michigan. In flames. Three storied programs, three programs that just.. well, suck. Michigan can't do anything with Brady Hoke... Florida can't do anything with Will Muschamp... and though Texas is on the right track with Charlie Strong, it may take a season or two to right the ship. And I would imagine that the pressure in Austin is similar to that you'd find in Tuscaloosa--we need to win, and win very, very soon.

My Football Final Four Right Now... 1. Mississippi State... 2. Florida State... 3. TCU... 4. Alabama

My Top Ten
1-Mississippi State
4-Florida State
7-Ole Miss
8-Notre Dame
10-Michigan State

Friday, October 24, 2014

the king is not scary part 1

My friend Jessica Jobes, fellow blogger and avid reader, has taken on the #31DaysofWriting Challenge, dedicating her blog to book reviews--one book every day, for the entire month of October. I can tell you that she and I have different reading piles, though I think she'd be more likely to read some of the stuff in my stack in as I would be to read what she has in her stack.

She said in a Facebook post the other day that she had finished reading "Mr. Mercedes" by Stephen King... now, this is a dandy of a book, and unlike many of his horror/supernatural tales that King writes. This is a straight up serial killer whodunit cat-n-mouse chase kind of story... and so Jessica (who did a review of this very book on her own page today) asks what other Stephen King books are set in real life, and aren't supernatural, horror sort of stories.

And so I thought I would give that list of those non-horror, but still suspenseful and creepy Stephen King novels that I've read... some of them may have a touch of supernatural, but it's not in a frightening way.  All of these are available on, by the way, and I've listened to them all, as well as read the printed page.

Written under the pseudonym "Richard Bachman", it's a dystopian tale of a "Walk", where teenage boys of a certain age are commanded to... well, walk. And walk. And walk. And walk. To win, you don't outpace the other boys, or raise more money or fight anyone... you just outlast everyone else. As in, you are the last one alive. It seems like a long book for such a simple premise, but this is early in King's career... the characters are interesting, but I did find myself just wanting the book to end at some point. I liked it, but won't re-read it.  (384 pages)

Though it's kind of a crappy movie, I actually liked the film, starring David Keith, George C. Scott and a very young Drew Barrymore... but the book is 1000x better. Andy and his daughter Charlie are on the run from the government, as Andy is telekentic, and Charlie... well, she can start fires. The novel chronicles their journey, and those who betray them, culminating with one heckuva flame throwing final scene. (426 pages)

CUJO (1981)
You know the basic story... a big St. Bernard named Cujo... he gets rabies... and he starts drooling a lot and killing a lot more. It centers on two families, the Cambers and the Trentons. The former is the family that owns the dog, the latter is a family that is falling apart due to an affair by the mom, Donna. Cujo gets bitten by a bat, and it's on. A small part of the narrative even looks at the story from the dog's point of view, which is a twist. The movie with Dee Wallace (I can't remember if she was "Stone" or not) is not bad, though the ending is different. (319 pages)

MISERY (1987)
You probably know this story as well... writer Paul Sheldon is wrapping up a very popular series of books, centering on his character "Misery Chastain", and as tradition, goes up to a secluded log cabin to finish the book--and the character--off. A freak snowstorm sends his vehicle into a wooded snowbank, and he's rescued by Annie Wilkes, who turns out to be quite the superfan. Most of the book surrounds the tense relationship between Paul and Annie, who just will not have her favorite character ending the story. The book is brutal in what happens to Paul--if you've seen the movie, there's a scene where Annie breaks Paul's foot with a hammer to keep him from escaping... what she does in the book is just horrendous... (320 pages)

Undoubtedly you have seen this film, but the book(s) are even better as a whole. In 1995, it was announced that in early 1996, Stephen King would release a new novel, but broken up over 6 parts. The first, "Two Dead Girls" would come out in March of '96, then every six weeks, there would be a new chapter in the story.

The parts included "The Mouse on the Mile"... "Coffey's Hands"... "The Bad Death of Edward Delacroix"... "Night Journey" and "Coffey on the Mile", and aside from the last book, all were just under 100 pages. "Coffey on the Mile" was 144 pages. Back before Algore's Internets, I had to go to the bookstore to find out when these would come out, and the day of the release, I was at Walmart, spending my hard earned $4.44 to buy each one, consuming it by midnight.

In 1932, John Coffey, an enormous, but kind hearted and simple black fella, is arrested after he is found holding two dead little girls that were missing. He is taken to the Cold Mountain Penitentiary, led by supervisor Paul Edgecombe, a nice enough guy, with his fellow officers Brutal and a few others, and the sadistic and cruel Percy Whitmore. You also meet a few other inmates that become intrigal to the story, especially a little mouse that is known as "Mr. Jingles", along the way... there is a touch of supernatural, once you find out what John Coffey is actually all about, and you'll find yourself wanting to read each part, telling yourself "Oh, its only 100 more pages..."

This is readily available in novel form as a whole, or you can find it in a used book store in the original six parts, which is what I did a few years ago. Why, you ask, don't I have the novels that I bought originally? Well, I lent them to a chick friend in college, because she smiled at me, and she had a pretty smile. And I never got them back. She's actually here in town now, we are friends on Facebook, but I have never bothered to ask if she still had them.  (By the way--if you've never seen this movie, you should.  It's incredibly well done, suspenseful and heartbreaking.)

Part 2 to come soon, with five more "not scary King" books...

those hollywood nights, those big disney thrills

(As part of the #31DaysofWriting Challenge, we are challenged to write every single day.  Today, I'm going to cheat... well, sort of cheating... I took something that I wrote in 2011, and rewrote it, all about the trip that The Lovely Steph Leann & I took to Disneyland--not World, but Land.  I thought it was still good material, having been a draft post since June of 2011... so with the re-write, it totally counts for the daily challenge!) 

So back in May of 2011, The Lovely Steph Leann and I took a somewhat whirlwind trip (said me to her when we got back:  "that was a whirlwind trip... but then again, they all are, aren't they?") to Anaheim, California, to Disneyland--now, this is before Campbell Isaiah came along, though he was actually in The Lovely Steph Leann's tummy (or uterus, if we want to be exact).

We had a few free passes (thanks to our friends The Halperts & the Clarks) to work with, passes that would expire on May 28th of 2011 if they were not used.  We had a couple of Southwest flights to use, or they would expire, and we ended up using some Marriott points that The Lovely Steph Leann had accrued and saved over the years.  So, we flew for free, stayed for free and went for free, which makes for a nice weekend... I'd love to tell you we saved loads of money, but we just turned around and spent that money on important things like blankets, pins, a Boo plush and way too expensive corn dogs and lobster.  (but not together cause... well, eww).

We flew into LAX from Birmingham on a flight that left at 710 in the morning--Big Daddy Ron and Mama Ruthless picked us up at 545 and took us to The Birmingham International Airport & Package Store, and we were boarding within an hour of arrival.  The flight landed in Phoenix, though we kept the same flight.  (text from Hurricane Rhett, after I left a FB status that said "We are in Phoenix":  "What, did you lose a bet"?) We did end up dashing off the plane, though, to grab some lunch at the Airport Wendys and then back on the plane were we discovered the joys of the two seats by the emergency exit.

If you are willing to take the burden of the lives of 200 people on your shoulders in the .04% that plane goes down, sit by the emergency exit.  On our flight there (and the place back as well), there were two seats with extra leg room, instead of the cramped three seat row the rest of the plane dealt with.  I understood the risk and the lives (or loss thereof) of the passengers on the plane was an acceptable risk for us to have a little breathing room.

We arrived at LAX around 1130 in the morning, but due to the time change in flying west, the whole trip took about five hours or so... we came off the plane and into the terminal, I looked around in wonder as I was now in Los Angeles, the City of Angels, LA, LaLaLand, Hollyweird... and it looked... it looked... well, like an airport terminal.  Not an especially impressive one, at that.

After getting our luggage, we headed outside to catch a cab, which was a predetermined decision.  We didn't really look at shuttles because we were told by numerous people that shuttles and cabs would be about the same price, and a shuttle would stop at several different locations while a cab would take us straight there--we were headed to the Marriott Towne Place Suites in Anaheim, about a half mile from the stadium were the Anaheim Angels play, and about two miles from Disneyland itself. 

In not researching effectively like we should, we learned quickly two things when it comes to traveling via cab... first, its better to fly into a closer airport.  LAX is about 35 miles from our hotel, while John Wayne Airport is only about 20 or so.  Second, a shuttle is better.  You pay one price, set, per person.   This lesson was grounded into our brains as we watched the little fare meter tick up 30 cents at a time, every 1/9th of a mile.  One-ninth of a mile.  Thats about 3 bucks per mile.  For 35 miles.

To make sure we weren't being hornswoggled, I pulled up the GPS on my iPhone and punched in the address and map from LAX to Towne Place... Valerty Kozhevnikov (I didn't make that name up, and had to look at it about nine times when I typed it into a comment on Facebook) followed pretty much the same route as listed on my GPS, and my man was flying through some of it.  But nonentheless, the bill at the end, plus tip, topped out around $115.  Valerty didn't smile one bit the entire ride, nor really even speak to us besides, "What izz you travel to?" at the beginning... until he was unloading our luggage.  "You vacation?"  Yes, going to Disneyland.  "Yes, good place.  You have much fun."  Thank you sir.  Here is your fare.  "Thank you so much."  Big smile, and he was gone.

It was kind of a neat ride though... not for the cab itself, but to pass by all these signs representing streets and neighborhoods I hear about in pop culture... Compton and Long Beach, together?  Man, you know you in trouble.

Anyway, we checked in, it was a nice little room with a small living space (that we never sat in), a small kitchen (that we only used to keep a half full bottle of stale Coke and a partly sipped-out-of bottle of water cold), a bathroom that was functional and a bedroom that had a bed that was decently comfy enough for sleeping after walking a theme park... have to understand something, though... if any of you were to call us from Disney World in Orlando, and say, "Hey, I'm standing facing Stitch's Great Escape, and I need to get to the Splash Mountain bathrooms... can you help me?" either me or The Lovely Steph Leann would quickly start in with, "Okay, so go left across the bridge and..."  But at Disneyland?  We have no clue.   At Disney World, we can easily navigate from pretty much any of the resorts, choosing to either drive (which we do to most parks except for Magic Kingdom) or take a boat (which we would if we were staying at Wilderness Lodge) or a bus (which we do sometimes if we are going to Magic Kingdom) or a monorail (perfect for getting to the Grand Flo, the Temp or the Poly)...

But Anaheim is a whole different animal.  Its a big ol' town nestled in a bigger ol' city, and unlike WDW, we were staying off-property, which means we were on our own when it came to getting around.  We discoverd the ART, the Anaheim Resort Transit system and for $16 bucks each, we bought five day passes that would allow us rides to the park at :20 after the hour and from the park at :40 after the hour.   Of course, this again is not what we are used to, because when we want to leave Hollywood Studios we... well, we leave.  We catch the boat to Epcot, or the bus to our resort, or we just hop in the car.  But suddenly we were on a time schedule to make sure we were in time to catch the bus to the park, or risk waiting another hour (or, heaven forbid, a cab ride), and we had to be back at the bus stop soon enough to catch the bus to the hotel, or risk being caught for another hour (or, heaven forbid, miss the last bus of the night and face a cab ride).

So, we get our luggage down, we get changed and take a little nap, and around 3pm (this is Pacific, ie, Cali time) we were up and getting ready for Disneyland.  We were at the bus stop at 320, and the bus pulled up about ten minutes later, which would prove to be a habit for these ART rides. 

Luckily, the bus stop is a mere three minute walk from the front gates of the park...

...but before I dive into our vacation, let me give you a little background on Disneyland, just so you'll know. 

I'm a nut for Disney history, and much of this info comes from Neal Gabler's excellent Walt Disney bio called simply, "Walt Disney", and some of it comes from just reading various blogs and listening to Disney podcasts and the like. (ps... this is before I became a Disney Travel Specialist... want me to plan your trip?  Gimme a call...)

Disneyland was a creation of Walt Disney, and legend has it that he was with his daughters one day in a park, and began to wonder why there wasn't a place for the whole family to go and have fun together.  Though passed off as fact, even in Wikipedia, this has never been substantiated, and Neal Gabler writes in the aforementioned bio that a number of his fellow animators and employees would say that Walt all told them his idea in a different way, and few of their re-tellings has Walt saying nothing about his family at the park.

What started out as a small idea for a "Mickey Mouse Park" soon evolved into a much larger plan for a "Walt Disney Land", soon shortened to "Disney Land" and then "Disneyland", and construction started in 1954.  The park opened for a "Press preview day" that invited the press and media, as well as celebrities from around the area and their families.  What was supposed to be a stellar day was a nightmare for Disney.  They were expecting around 10 to 12K people, but over 28,000 people showed up that day.  The asphalt was still so new that ladies high heels were sinking into the ground, the plumber's strike in the area barely got the restrooms working and left them without working water fountains.  The press saw this as a greedy attempt to sell more soda and reported it as such.

Since it was in July, it was hot, but the summer of 55 saw the temperature top 101 degrees, with vendors running out of food, attractions breaking down for part or all of the day, and even though only a certain number of tickets were given out, there were people with ladders propped up on the side of the wall offering anyone and everyone a chance to climb the ladder and get in for a few bucks.   The celebrities that were scheduled to show up actually had a schedule, where their arrival times were staggered all day... and yet, they showed up pretty much all at once.  July 17th, 1955 was called "Black Sunday" years later by Walt Disney and the company.

July 18th, however, could not have been smoother.  Things were working, the water was on, the food was there and over 50,000 people came in on the official "Opening Day".

Disneyland opened with five lands:  Tomorrowland, Adventureland, Fantasyland, Frontierland and Main Street USA, then added three more lands in the coming years, that being New Orleans Square (1966),  Bear Country, which then became Critter Country (1972) and Mickey's Toontown (1993).  There was a "Holidayland" that opened in 1957, but it closed in 1961, and is considered the "lost land" in Disney lore.

Disneyland is tucked in the heart of Anaheim with a nearby park, California Adventure (and I do mean "nearby", as I counted 207 of my footsteps from one gate to the other), and when you pull up, you can see immediately some differences.  Mostly that there is non-Disney businesses--hotels, restaurants, banks, touristy shops--tightly surrounding the parks.   Walt would later lament the fact that he wasn't able to buy a lot of land in the area, which led to the flurry of places opening up and trying to capitalize on the Disneyland patrons.  He felt that, if you can be on Dumbo's Flying Circus and look out and see a hotel sign, the fantasy, the illusion of imagination was ruined. 

It was this thinking that led him to a Disneyland East, eventually called "The Florida Project"... buying enough land in Central Florida so once you entered the Walt Disney World, you could completely immerse yourself in the experience without outside distractions. 

In 1991, an idea was floated around concerning a second park in California, notably "WestCOT", a California version of Epcot, but by 1995, those plans were all but abandoned.  A new park was in the works, though, and in 1998, the parking lot for Disneyland was pulled up and turned into Disney's California Adventure, which opened in 2001.

DCA was one of Michael Eisner's last big accomplishments before his ouster in the early 2000s, though it had a rocky beginning.  For one thing, many people felt the attractions and rides weren't up to normal Disney standards in both entertainment value and quality, with some critics calling the park "mediocre".  Over time, however, Disney removed some failing attractions and added in new ones, like The Tower of Terror, and of course The World of Color, that has revived the park and peoples interest in it.  Though coming in last in all of Disney's theme parks in the world rankings in 2009, it still finished as the 11th most visited park in the world.

In 2007, Disney announced a billion dollar renovation of the park which will included a new gateway, a transformation of part of the park to the 1930s style Hollywood, instillation of vintage red trolley cars, retheming Paradise Pier into a Victorian style turn of the century boardwalk park, and of course, the addition of Cars Land, starring McQueen, Mater and the gang.

So, there is your update. 

(And this is where it ends, which is good, because I don't remember the day to day of the trip, just that we had a blast... thanks for reading)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

nick cannon and marriage

It's late on Thursday, and The Lovely Steph Leann is working hard, packing her suitcase chilling on the couch while we watch a movie, as she is set to travel to San Diego early tomorrow morning.

What's the movie, you ask? I'm about to type a sentence that I've never typed before... we are watching a movie starring Nick Cannon. It's called "Underclassmen", and it's so unknown, I can't find the Wikipedia page for it. It's got a 3.9 on IMDb, and it earns that distinction. 

We are chuckling at some parts, like you would at a frat dude in the mall slipping in water and falling on his rump. It's a terrible film... and still, it's got a few lines here and there. Apparently, there is a dead student at an uppity private school, and rookie cop Tre--played to the hilt by the former Mr. Mariah Carey--gets the assignment to play a high school student to try and find out if the suicide was really a suicide and so on and so on...

I told The Lovely Steph Leann, "Here's how this will go... he'll meet a student, she'll feel betrayed when she finds out he's not a student for real, and yet, she'll come back around when he rescues her from the danger she'll be in later."

The Lovely Steph Leann corrected me... "She can't go for a student... she'll be a teacher's assistant or something." And when Nick Cannon walked into Spanish class, she says, "And there she is."

And yes, you just read a post from me about a Nick Cannon movie.

This is marriage. Making the most mundane things fun to share together. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

shotglass to the bigtime

If you know me at all on social media, you'll undoubtedly have heard that I co-host a podcast. I've been doing it since April of 2011, with my friends Mikey & Pinky... I won't get into all of it, because I've discussed at length before...

New Logo... made with Power Point and clip art.  Not kidding.

...but our latest episode is now featured on ShotGlass Digital's webpage. Why? Because we are the newest podcast on the ShotGlass Digital Network.

What does that mean? Well, think of it this way...

Being picked up by podcasting network is like going from an independant YouTube show to a cable channel show... perhaps the cable channel is small, but the exposure is so much more.

ShotGlass Digital is kind of like Disney, without the bajillionty dollars in the bank. Disney owns ABC, ABC Family, ESPN, theme parks, Disney Channel, Disney XD, and so on and so on... in the same respect, ShotGlass features our show, TechnoRetro Dads, Rebel Force Radio, a James Bond Podcast, Skywalking Through Neverland, a Planet of the Apes podcast, and so on...

And whereas ESPN is like it's own entity under Disney, with offshoots of its own... The Geek Out Loud series of podcasts are under ShotGlass Digital, with offshoots of its own.

Anyway, I invite you to head to ShotGlass Digital and look around. If you listen to podcasts, then check out the few dozen shows there... if you are a nerd or a geek, there is something for everyone, I promise.

If you want to hear the latest episode, it's all about our favorite scary films, just in time for Halloween... give us a listen, and if you like it, head to iTunes and give us a review. Five stars is our favorite number. =)

Shameless plug post over.

i have seen the future, lil d$

I opened up the blog page as normal, then clicked on "new post", then sat back for a second. See, I've written for 21 straight days. The ideas are there... but they are longer ideas, and I don't want to write something that will be overlooked by afternoon tomorrow.

And then my friend Debra Hennessy put a simple post on Facebook, one that said:

If you could go back in time and say something to yourself in middle school, what would you say?

So then, I managed to reply in a quick comment... and realized that this is my blog post for the evening. 

So, allow me to give you the ten things that 39 Year Old d$ would tell Lil d$ in 1988, right between 7th and 8th grade..

1. "Lil d$... I know you have a crush on (name withheld). It's fine. You probably won't have this same crush in a few weeks, but you should stop now. I've seen the future, and she's not a very pleasant person. You can stop wasting your time now.

2. "Lil d$... you are actually going to marry someone who is in a grade below you right now, who is living in Jasper at this very moment. Wait, maybe it's somewhere in Mississippi. I've seen the future, and you'll do just fine."

3. "Lil d$... be nicer to those kids over there. You are poking fun now really just to make some others laugh. Not cool. They are going to be somebody. You'll want them in your corner."

4. "Lil d$... survive French Class. It sucks. You'll never need it. You might get a laugh out of a word here or there in a Sonic commercial that you'll see when... Sonic? It's a fast food place that... that's not important. My point is, I've seen the future, and you won't need French."

5. "Lil d$... conversely, find somewhere to learn Spanish. Right now. Go to a class, take a correspondence course, do whatever you need to do, but learn it. I've seen the future, it will come in handy bigtime."

6. "Lil d$... join the band now. You'll join in a year or two, but don't wait. You'll find out some of the best times you had in high school were being part of the marching band, so don't wait. I've seen the future, and you'll wish you played saxophone longer."

7. "Lil d$... you'll be getting your first job in a year or two. Sure, you'll blow some of your earnings, and that's fine. But save some. Give 10%, save 10%, and do what you will with the rest. And if you even think of opening up a credit card when you get to college, I don't care what Rebecca Miller says, I will come back here and punch me in the face. I've seen the future, and credit cards own you for a decade."

8. "Lil d$... I know you write now. You like to write. And that's cool. But don't stop in college. Keep writing. Keep doing it. And when it comes about 1995, when you get on AOL for the first time, you'll want to open up a Blog Site. B-L-O-G... yeah, rhymes with LOG. Blog. You'll know it. I have seen the future, and you'll want to start this early."

9. "Lil d$... Mom and Dad. They love you. So very much. A lot will happen between now and when they pass. Cherish the time you have. Even when it gets tough to cherish... cherish it. I've seen the future, and don't lose time."

10. "Read more. Get copies of 'Uncle Tom's Cabin' and 'The Great Gatsby' and 'Pride & Prejudice' and 'Wuthering Heights' and others, and read them. Love Samson High, but they aren't the most pressing when it comes to the classics... I have seen the future, and you'll wish you had read them already."

And here's a bonus, Lil d$...

"You need to write a story. I'll give you an idea... okay, a boy named Harry Potter. Yes, just like the main character from that movie Troll. But this Harry is a wizard. He goes to a school called... write this down... Hogwarts. HOG-W-A-R-T-S... and he has these two friends, named Ron and Hermione. Yes, 'Her-My-Ah-Nee'. Trust me. Oh, and when you are taking a break from writing, here's a business you need to start.. open up a teddy bear store where families come to YOU and pay YOU to make their own toys. Build A Bear. I have seen the future, and this is a good idea."

Oh yeah, one more thing...

"Lil d$... it doesn't matter. I know it seems like your world is ending when so and so said this, and so and so didn't do that... but I've seen the future. And It.Doesnt.Matter..."

What would you tell Lil You?

Monday, October 20, 2014

back in the day word play

Today, our friend Meredith Quintana became Meredith Pavey. After so many years of wandering alone, she--to quote my favorite Cher song (and I do have one)--"finally found someone... to take away the heartache... to take away the loneliness..."

It was a great wedding, I was given a chance to do a little MC work, though all I did really was introduce the Bride and Groom, then announce they are doing a garter toss, without the garter (Jason tossed a football with a prize, Meredith tossed a flower bouquet with a prize) and then to fruitlessly call for everyone to go outside to light sparklers to see the couple off. With four announcements, finally people started to move.

Fun fact... our friend Amy McL was supposed to be a bridesmaid, but was getting over strep throat so though she was there, she wasn't able to be a part of the wedding. Had she been in the bridal party, I observed that I actually went out with 1/2 of the bridesmaids from 1999-2001 (naturally before The Lovely Steph Leann and I started our romantic interlude). Thought it was worth a mention. Which is probably an odd statement, once you see where this whole thing is going.

I have satellite radio. I love my satellite radio, SiriusXM to be exact, and my main channel, in position #1 on the radio dials of Red Robin (my Kia Soul) is 90s on 9. Now, to add to that, you have to know I am a sucker for countdown shows... a local station puts a classic edition of Casey's Top 40 during Sunday morning's programming, and if America's Top 40 channel existed on SiriusXM, I'd listen to that a heckuva lot. 

Coming back from the wedding, The Lovely Steph Leann determined that according to Google Maps, it would take 52 minutes to get home... and as I turned on Button #1, which was 90s on 9, and looky there, it's Downtown Julie Brown telling me that we are nearing the end of the Back in the Day Replay, where they play a Top 30 countdown from this week in a past year...

This was songs from 1990, the countdown from the weekend of 10/19-21... I was in 10th grade, it was probably around homecoming time and not being that popular, I was at home on the weekends listening to the radio. 

The song that was on as The Lovely Steph Leann and I started listening? "Everybody Everybody" by Black Box. It was a song that I kinda knew, I had it on my Entertainment Weekly Maximum Music Dance Hits Disc 1, a CD set I got for free when I subscribed to EW like, back in 1994 or something. 

So as we chatted on the way back, we listened to the countdown...

"Romeo" by Dino. I didn't really know this song very well, but I was very, very familiar with Dino's first hit, "I Like It"... "you told me that you loved me now girl show me, cause that's the thing I like to do... I never ever ever had such pleasure of giving up my love this way, I want you every day... take me by the hand, I will be your man, cause that's the way you make me feel... take me by surprise, look into my eyes, show me that your love is real... that's the way it has to be cause that's the way I like it..."

Another song that came up was Nelson's "Your Love and Affection (I can't live without)"... "I been on the outside looking in, let me into your heart, oh, there's on nothing on Earth that should keep us apart! I can't live without your love and affection, I can't face another night on my own, I give up my pride, save me from being alone, I can't live without your love..."

This is one of my favorite live albums, and the cover makes me wish
I had somehow made it to this show.  How cool does that look?
And one of my favorites by Phil Collins, from "...but seriously", which The Lovely Steph Leann and I discussed the live album version, which we both loved... "We had a live, we had a love, but you don't know what you got til you lose it... but that was then, this is now, I want you back--how many times can I say I'm sorry... yes, I'm sorry... how can something so good go so bad, how can something so right go so wrong... I don't know, I don't have all the answers, but I want you back--how many times can I say I'm sorry..."

I even observed that there was a little extra something on the lines Phil gave in the live version as opposed to the radio version we were listening to.

And of course, there is this little ditty... "take heed, cause I'm a lyrical poet Miami's on the scene just in case you didn't know it so fast other DJs say dadgum if rhyme was a drug I'd sell it by the gram keep my composure when it's time to get lose, magnified on the mic when I kick my juice, if there was a problem yo I'll solve it check out the hook while my DJ revolves it"... which I of course knew every single word, and sung every single word.

As James Ingram's "I Don't Have a Heart" came on, and The Lovely Steph Leann said "YES! I Love this song!!" some thoughts rolled through my own mind.

I just reeled off nearly every word to Vanilla Ice... Phil Collins... Nelson... a Dino song... I was getting through most of James Ingram's song on now... and when Maxi Priest's "Close To You" came on at #2, as we neared our neighborhood, I blew through it too: "I just wanna be close to you... do all the things you want me to, I just wanna be close to you... show you the way I feel... I feel love when I'm lying in the midnight hour... holding you is like a dream... love is never what it seemed... when we touched, and you're holding me the way you do, girl you make my dreams come true, YOU MAKE MY DREAMS COME TRUE!!!!"

How do I know these songs? How do I still remember these songs? Is it because I have attached memories to these songs? Is it because each of these listed songs has at least 15-20 plays on my iPod at one point or another? It is because I purposefully and willfully seek them out to listen to them when I can? Yes. Yes, to all of it. Yes.

And so do you. You know songs backwards and forwards, be it "Friends in Low Places" by Garth Brooks to "Shake It Off" by Taylor Swift, I guarantee there are a couple of songs you hold dear enough to remember not just words, but inflections, extra sounds, tones and so on... like Phil Collins "Yayee!" he tosses on the end of the live version's lines of "Something Happened on the Way to Heaven".

But what if...
...what if... Dear goodness... what if I held Scripture in such high regard?

What if I were able to flip up a few channels, to somewhere in the 60s or 70s, or whatever channels the Christian music is on, what if they had Piper or Beth Moore someone, and they were reading Scripture, and I was able to just "sing" or speak long with them? 

What if, as Galatians 2:19-21 were being read, I could say "For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God, I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing"...

Or what if, when someone reads Romans 8: 1-3, when they said, "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering..." that it wasn't like Taylor Swift's new song "Out of the Woods", where I only know the first verse, but stumble mightily through the rest.

To treat the Word of God with as much reverence, as much importance, as much dedication to learning it and keeping it on me at all times as I do Lisa Loeb's "Stay", of which I can fire off that entire song in 60 seconds if needed. 

Confession, if you promise not to tell anyone... all the musical lyrics I listed above were straight from memory... all the scripture was looked up on my phone. And had to be searched for. Because I suck at my Christian Walk. 

Just some food for thought... or some word for thought.

Oh yeah, the #1 song in America, on this weekend back in 1990 on SiriusXM's 90s on 9 Back in the Day Replay hosted by Downtown Julie Brown?

"Praying for Time" by George Michael. 

To that I simply say... We have plenty of Time. We need to pray for what fills it.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

college weekend roundup

So, here I am, for the third week in a row, giving my recap for the college football Saturday that was. Not nearly as much chaos as when the college world exploded a few weeks ago, but a few upsets that give a few observations as usual...

First... Oklahoma. They Were Who We Thought They Were
That Boomer Sooner wagon that comes rolling out and around the field was essentially driven into the ditch and left for dead. Kansas State came into Norman, Oklahoma, and left with another victory over the Sooners. Pat Forde said something to the effect of "Stop me if you've heard this before... Oklahoma enters the season highly ranked and looks like they will make a run at the title, only to slowly play their way out of contention." 

And to that I say, "Oklahoma... ready to play a better, yet uninspired SEC team in the Cotton Bowl on New Year's Day." 

You could easily make the argument that Oklahoma lost the game, rather than K-State winning it, because the kicker (YOU HAD ONE JOB!) shanked a 19 yard field goal at the end, but my reply to such an argument has always been--the game should never come down to a missed field goal... your offense shouldn't put the kicker in that position.

Second... Auburn's Win over K-State Looks Really Good Right Now
Oklahoma's failings aside, Kansas State is a pretty good ball club. When Auburn went into K-State's home field and eked out a victory, and it was derided as "struggling to beat a mediocre ball club" (something Florida State has done several times this year). And now Kansas State has beaten the Sooners, are 5-1, are strong contenders for the Big XII title, and suddenly have an outside shot of making the Football Final Four.

Third... The Pac 12 This Year is What Everyone Thought the SEC Would Be
It's true. All we heard was how the SEC is down, missing key players and quarterbacks, and will likely have 2 losses per team, and might struggle to even make the Football Final Four. Well, the Pac 12 is exactly that. They are completely cannibalizing each other, the latest being Arizona State beating Stanford a few minutes ago. The SEC has four really great teams, one or two really good teams, and then the rest. The Pac 12 has no really great teams, but a bunch of really good teams that are just beating each other. 

Fourth... Muschamp? Like, MusCHUMP
Will Muschamp will soon enter the Hall of Shame alongside Ron Zook as a Florida coach who just couldn't get it done. Missouri went into the Swamp in Gainesville, and did what so many other teams are doing now... beat Florida. Handily. Like 42-13. There is a stat that tells you all you need to know... teams that hold the other team to less than 140 total yards (maybe its 120, maybe its rushing yards, but you see what I'm saying) are something like, 142-2 lifetime. The two losses? Will Muschamp's Gators. Not sure if he'll make it until Monday.

Fifth... Hawaii Loses
The final college football game of the day is San Diego State and Hawaii, in San Diego. With only a few seconds left in the game, San Diego State will beat Hawaii 20-10. The announcers just said that it's 16 straight road losses for Hawaii, and then he called them "the Rainbow Warriors". Didn't know that was still a thing. Also, this is the fourth straight week that I've stayed up to see the last play of the final game of the day. I like this trend..

Sixth... No Matter What, Jameis Winston Is a Great Player
For all the crap I give Florida State, and for all the opinions I share with many that Winston should be benched because he's got this hearing over his head, no one can deny that he is an amazing football player. Watching him work, watching him fire down the field and lead Florida State to get the go-ahead touchdown, it's pretty impressive. He's just a punk. And that's the problem.

That being said...

Seventh... Notre Dame Was the Better Team
The Irish won the game. It was a questionable holding call at the end, one that I really can't argue, but could have been called either way. Don't know his name, but the dude who held the FSU defender in the end zone, which resulted in offensive pass interference, which resulted in the touchdown with about :13 seconds left to be called back... that dude cost the Irish a shot at the national title... if the Irish win this game, they are likely to go undefeated again. However, it's what I said earlier about Oklahoma's kicker, and the same goes for the Irish--your team shouldn't be in that position anyway. 

The Seminoles will definitely go undefeated, because they just don't play anyone the rest of the year. For all the talk about the B1G being a crap conference, the ACC is pretty terrible.

Finally... Alabama Just Scored
They literally could have dropped 83 points on Texas A&M... nothing, and I mean nothing went right for the Aggies today. No defense, hostile environment and they just got outplayed in every way. And don't we remember in Week One, when they dominated South Carolina, how Kenny Hill was now on track for the Heisman, and how A&M was likely to be a Final Four Team? I'll brag and say I was one of the few people on social media that was like "yeah, let's just wait a few weeks to see what happens..."

It's notable that this time last year, Auburn was 24th in the rankings... and went on to win the SEC and come a few seconds from winning the national title... and Michigan State was unranked... and went on to a Top Five finish, a B1G title and a Rose Bowl win. 

So again, we don't know jack.

My Football Final Four this week...

The Can Happen Edition: (1) Mississippi State... (2) Auburn... (3) Florida State... (4) TCU
The Should-Happen Edition: (1) Mississippi State... (2) Auburn... (3) Alabama... (4) Florida State...

And my top ten
1-Mississippi State
2-Ole Miss
4-Florida State
9-Kansas State
10-Notre Dame