Tuesday, December 01, 2015

to campbell, on your 4th birthday

Coincidentally, in my TimeHop today.
Dear Campbell,

Wow... welcome to 4 years old!  Your mom and I have said, on more than one occasion, "Can you believe this kid is about to be 4?!" and the response is always, "No, it's crazy!"

You know what 4 means, right? This means you aren't a baby anymore, and you are kind of sort of a toddler, but are actually becoming a kid... a kid who can do things, a kid who can talk, a kid who is smarter than you let on.

As I've written in a previous letter:  You were born [four] years ago on this date.  Yesterday, a year ago, I got a call from your mom that things were progressing quicker than we thought... And it was the next day, or today-one year-that you came to meet us... (it was a week later when we brought you home) 

Let's talk about the year, though... it's 2015, and my favorite films of the year so far have been a few action flicks, like "Mad Max Fury Road", "The Martian" and "Kingsman Secret Service", an animated new classic, "Inside Out", and a few comedies like "Pitch Perfect 2", along with "Spy" and of course, the super hero trend continues, with "Ant Man" being quite an unexpected hit this year.  "Avengers Age of Ultron" also came out, but just didnt pack the umph that the first one did.

Hopefully you have avoided "Fantastic Four" that came out this year, because it is a real turd bucket, let me tell you.

Your mom and I don't watch a lot of  television, other than HGTV (I like "Flip or Flop" -- don't tell your mom, but its mostly because of co-host Christina--and she likes "Property Brothers", which I assume has a little to do with Drew & Whatshisname Twin guy) and DVR'ed episodes of "Grey's Anatomy"... I do like "Survivor" and "The Amazing Race" still.  Is that still on when you are reading this in 2019 or 2022?

And as far as music goes, can I tell you that I have actually not purchased any song from iTunes this year that is actually FROM this year, other than this little ditty called "Uptown Funk"?  If you haven't seen it, get on whatever version of YouTube you have, or go find my old iPod and listen.  It's a hoot.

Now... let's talk about you.  You are super smart, kid.  You really are. I've watched you be frustrated one day over a game on your iPad that you can't figure out, then watched you the next day play the same game and you are flying through it.  Your mom and I have a volume app on the iPad that regulates how loud you  turn it up... and dang you, if you don't figure out a way around it every single time, despite the fact it's got a password on the app.

I watch you in wonder as you watch the world in wonder... I smiled when we were at Disney World this November, and you watched the big Disney buses like they were the most interesting thing in the entire world... and to you, in those moments, I think they were.

You had this thing about sticking your hand in characters mouths and
noses.  We are hoping this tendency remains (and halts) with those who
have large fiberglass heads and not real people.
You are starting to really recognize things now... while in the Winnie the Pooh ride, we could tell that you knew who Tigger was.  And when Mickey Mouse Clubhouse comes on, you know the songs--its funny to watch you stop what you are doing and stare at the TV during the Hot Dog song, sometimes jumping up and down, sometimes clapping and always smiling.   We could tell you also recognized Doc McStuffins and Jake from the Neverland Pirates, which was a treat to see.

Your fascination with opening and closing doors is also a wonder.  We watch as you love to turn locks and doorknobs, open doors, look out, then close them quickly.  Then do it again.  Whether its a door handle on a car (of which sometimes is not ours) or a door knob at school, at Pops & GG's house or the meeting house at the park, you love turning knobs.  It's hilarious.

We've watched you this year as you've learned new words too... your mom and I both have prayed many prayers over you, but one consistent prayer is that you would talk. And talk you have.  Words like "Apple", "Berry", "Turkey", "Bus", "Sock", "Up", "Outside", "Monkey" and many, many more are  things you say over and over.  You are learning names of those around you, like Mama and Dada (Mahmaamaa and Ga-Ga), which fills our hearts with joy that you know our names and who we are to you.

You and I play this game, a game that your mom can't get you to play with her and it drives her nuts... You'll say "Ga-Ga", and I'll say "Campbell". Then you say "Ga-Ga" again, and I'll look at you and say "Campbell".  And sometimes we do this three or four times, other times we do it off and on all night, and I can't get enough.

By now you have already known God has given you a few opportunities that He didn't give other kids (by the same token, they have things to deal with that you don't, so don't feel slighted).  You deal with Autism.  It's something that has kept you from learning as fast as other kids.  While your friend Carter and your friend (and perhaps lady-in-waiting, as she loves her some Campbell D) Clara are writing, having conversations with their parents, having imagination filled playtimes, you aren't there.  Well, not yet.

You can color some, and though we can converse with you, its very broken, few words and some body language needed.  Your imagination hasn't come yet--though we did watch you pick up bowls & cups and put them to your ears to hear the different sounds, which wasn't taught to you... that makes it pretty cool you figured that out.

I hate to use the word "different", but yes, there are some differences. And that's okay.  Our milestones with you are somewhat different than milestones some parents have... the day you started saying "Da-Da" and "Mama" on a regular basis was huge for us, just like the day that you learned how to jump up and down, or the day when you learned the hand motions for Itsy Bitsy Spider.

The last known picture of Campbell as a
three year old
These are the kind of things that you are learning at school, at Mitchell's Place, and it's not crazy to say that MP is changing your life, and ours.  Miss Whitton and Miss Iyanna and Miss Carrie are doing so much with you, one on one, every day, teaching you, helping you understand and learn and talk and... well, play.  We know you love to play.

But at Disney World, watching you on top of that hill where the slide was, watching you wait in line patiently and not jumping ahead of kids, watching you wait your turn before sliding... just the social interaction alone was so sweet to see.

But you have to understand something... you are SO LOVED.  Not just by us, your mom and dad.  Not just by Pops & GG and Granny Jan and Pawpaw Randy.  Not just by your aunts and uncles and cousins... but you have so many friends who have met you and love you.  Mrs Rachel was the one who gave you your iPad because she loved you, and there are countless people on social media, in your Dad's social communities and even just friends, who love you and love reading
about you and seeing your pictures and keeping up with you.  You are loved and cherished and prayed for, so don't ever forget that.

I know this has been a jumbled mess to read, Campbell, and I'm sorry for that.  I just have so much to say and want to get it all down on paper, and don't even know how to connect it, so I hope it reads well--at least well enough for you.  Your mom and I love you so much, but even more than that, Jesus Christ loves and died for you, and your mom and I both pray that you will find Him and accept Him and believe in Him.  And you know if you ever have any questions, we will be here.

You are a special kid, kid.  And you are now four years old.  And we are so proud of you, Campbell Isaiah.


My previous birthday letters... 
To Campbell on your 1st birthday
To Campbell on your 2nd birthday
To Campbell on your 3rd birthday

Thursday, October 22, 2015

three months later

They say if you haven't done something for a while, even if you did it frequently in the past, you sometimes can pick it right back up like... well, like "riding a bike".  Well, if you haven't ridden a bike in many, many years, riding a bike isn't the easiest thing in the world.  Especially if it's an undersized Star Wars bike that you are trying to navigate through the aisles of a Target.  

It's been a while since I've written anything.  I'm liable to be all over the map here, my grammar may be terrible and my sentence structure may need a de-fib kit for some life.  Which pretty much makes it like anything else I've ever written.

So I do have to ask your forgiveness for that, and for the following post.  It's not very good--I don't say that in false humility, I mean it.  I mean it's just not very good, and that's okay.  Sometimes they aren't that great... but, I do have to learn this part again.  

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure and thrill of writing up what was my 1000th post on this here blog site.  It began as a 3 part series that chronicled my own writing journey, why I wrote, who I wrote about and how it all came to be. 

That was on April 16th.  The next week, on April 22nd, I wrote the second part to it, then on April 29th, part 3 came about... which fittingly was about a "writing a dry spell".  And I say fittingly, because the final part of the series was posted six weeks later.  Called "Write Up to Now", it was the conclusion of my writing history up until that very moment. 

As it if it was written as such a purpose, I wrote: 

I can't promise you I'll blog every week, but I will try.  I have no plans to change the content... it will still be about movies, music, pop culture, life, family, Disney, random Amy Adams (whom I'm in love with) references, random Julie Wise references (because I think its funny at this point), random Troy and Samson stories, maybe the final season of American Idol, and maybe just a little bit of politics...

And I wrote it as such because I had no idea when I would blog again.  Best laid plans had me sitting down and writing the next week.  Then the next week came, and then the writing was pushed back again... and again... and again... 

A few things happened in this time frame.  I left my job.  My 40 hour per week steady paycheck job... I turned my notice in and walked away 2 weeks later to pursue my passion--being a travel planner, concentrating on Disney and Universal, eventually to expand to other travel ventures.

Plus, in working from home, I'd spend more time with Campbell, my 3 year old, as I got him ready for school every day and picked him up in the afternoon.  Theoretically, I would spend my evenings now with The Lovely Steph Leann... of course, neither one of us expected business to pick up like it did, so some nights I am still at the laptop pulling quotes and working on itineraries, even after spending 6 hours on them that day.

I turned 40.  I had all these visions and plans of my 40th birthday posts, I had a great idea for a series called "#ThisIs40" that I would write over the next year or so, discussing 40 years on Earth.  Here it is late October, and I've actually written down five topics for that series. I wrote those down in a notebook, last February.

Campbell started school.  He's talking.  Not a ton, but he's saying stuff now.  I have a book idea on paper.  Haven't typed a word down, but the idea is there.  College football season has started.  My movie podcast, The Deucecast Movie Show, is nearing its 200th episode.  I bought some stuff to work on my own Disney podcast, set to launch in September.  Of 2015, natch.

And what happens... life.  Life happens.  Life jumps in the way and says, "You got plans, so do I.  Mine supersede yours, bucko."  Houses get messy, new Disney podcasts get pushed back until January (the latest plan now), the college football season is half over, I'm already two months into my 40th year... ah life.

Life is truly what happens while you're busy making other plans.  John Lennon said that.  Nice man, shot in the back, very sad.

Now, you may be sitting there thinking, "Wait... is he not going to write anymore?  Is he shutting down his site?!"  And other people are thinking, "Wait, you still have a blog?!" and yet, a few of you are thinking, "I didn't know you had a blog site.  When did you start that?  And who reads blogs anymore?"

The answers... Yes, I am.  No, I'm not.  Yes, I do.  Yes, I do.  Over ten years ago.  And 280,500 clicks on my site means something, suckas.... 

I miss this bike.  I miss this page.  I miss being able to toss down some thoughts and say some stupid things and smart things and have people go "Wow, that was stupid" or "wow, that was surprisingly smart".  

My friend Libby Norcross said it in a speech not too long ago... "What can you not not do?"  And that's writing.  I can not not (who's there?) write.  I can not not put stuff on paper, or at least, a screen.  

Frankly, I'd love to have the time to write things down on paper... but I'm too impatient.  I actually can't type fast enough when sending an email or an instant message for my liking, and find myself using voice texting sometimes unnecessarily--then I have a ton of mistakes in the voice to text translation, have to go back and correct everything and find that it would have been a shorter time to just type it out. 

Such is.

Anyway, this is my latest blog post.  I have a ton of stuff to talk about in the coming days, weeks, months, and I still have a plan to do some "series" type stuff... especially my "#ThisIs40" idea.  Maybe people will read it, maybe they won't, but it will be a great record of my own life for years to come.

Now... I have to go and life.  

Thursday, June 11, 2015

write up to now

So, a month and some change later, here is the end of this story... 
The Story of My Write, the 1000th post is Here...
Write On Through High School (Part Two) is Here...
Write On Through the Dry Spell (Part Three) is here...

May was so uber busy for me, much of it is a blur.  Not only did I finish up and send off about 9 families to Disney World and Universal Studios, but in the last week, I've helped 5 more families get out the door to the magic that awaits. Hence, not a single word on this blog since the end of April, which makes me sad because now May 2015 will have nothing in the "published" tab in the archives over there --->

And that's how life is, huh? 

So, at the end of the last blog published, I was finishing up the "Story of My Write", which is a history of my writing... not really for you, honestly, but for me, so when I'm 77, sitting in a wheelchair in the Sunny Meadows Nursing Home and can't remember when I last took a poopy--which will probably be while I'm thinking "when did I last take a poopy?"--Campbell, 41 years old by then, can come for his monthly visit and read to me my own life stories.  Then he can tell me my name and where I am, because I likely won't remember that either.

Let's finish this entire thing up by taking you back to spring 2005.  I had been married for just over a year, I had been involved with Valleydale Baptist Church for about 6 years, The Lovely Steph Leann and I had really become close to our new Sunday School Life Connection Life Group Sunday School class (the "NearlyWed/Newlywed Class") and our church was going to New York City for a week to do some mission work in Queens and Brooklyn.  I was all in, because having been to NYC a few years previous, I fell in love with the city and had a heart for it's people. 

In a "trip meeting", where everyone comes together for cheap pizza and Milo's sweet tea in a classroom after service to watch a video about what we'll be doing, they were looking for "online journaling people"... that is, people who will be willing to write up a daily summary to share with the group back home in Birmingham.  I raised my hand because no one else did, and my name was put down.   I was told to just write up a few paragraphs at the end of each day and email it to someone in the church, and they would post it on the church website.

Challenge accepted.

But also, I wanted more than just people in our church to know what was going on, so after Star Wars Celebration (mentioned in the previous post) and that slight experience in writing, I decided I would go to Blogger.com and set up an account... I did.  And when it came to a name, I thought "Well, this is only for my NYC trip, so... New York Dave?  Nah... um... Mission Trip... Nope... Broadway... I love Broadway stuff... how about...

BroadwayDave. That works."

Now, in hindsight, I would have come up with something that would make sense beyond just this trip, but I also remember not thinking much would come of this blog after the trip.  I'd write about the trip and be done with it.  Maybe save the posts into a word document onto a floppy disk for safe keeping (remember... this is 1995, and "flash drives" were not affordable and many computers didn't have USB ports anyway).

My first post was called "Less than 30 Days", and it was a quick little blurb on who was actually going on the trip, back when my audience barely eclipsed those people.  I then decided I would practice a little writing by doing another post, this time about my love of Kelly Clarkson and her new (then) song "Behind These Hazel Eyes"...

I followed it up with a few more, including the sadness of finishing a Harry Potter book, picking up "Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince at 1201a on release day, a take on MC Hammer and a few more random notes... then the trip began, and my first trip blog came out on July 27th, 2005, introducing everyone going on the trip--remember, I'm still writing on the premise that when this trip is over, so will my blogpage.

We were staying in Manhattan at a hostel, basically... each tiny room had a thin mattressed bunk bed, a window that barely opened, and down the hall a small bathroom with a shower--one that you had to essentially duck into, as there was a frame that held the shower door... a short frame.

And it was hot.  I mean, freakin' hot.  Like, walk outside and the cold shower you just had in the tiny community bathroom upstairs a little bit ago was now negated by the hot, humid temperature at 5am.   Ick.

The sole computer in the building was downstairs and cost $5 an hour, and was old... when you typed a sentence, the cursor wouldn't move.  Then about 20 seconds later, the cursor would fly across the screen leaving in it's wake all the letters you just typed, only missing some words, misspelling words, skipping letters, forgetting punctuation and more.  So a post that would normally take me 25 minutes took over an hour.  Still, I did it.  I posted the day's events every night.

I would also send it back to the church email address and they would post it as well... only on day three, I wrote this about my roommate Larry:

So, it was hot. It still is. Anyone who knows me knows I sweat when I think too much, so last night wasn't great... though with the fan, it wasn't that bad, honestly. Larry, sleeping in the bunk under me, had a bigger problem. Apparently his fitted sheet came off, and he stuck to the plastic mattress cover in his sleep, creating that "sscchhllllleeeepppp" sound when he moved.

Someone sent me an email a few days later (I could only check my email during this hot, late night computer time) asking for the blog address, as the church stopped posting what I had written.  I found out later they thought the idea of a "shirtless Larry" was inappropriate for publishing... to me, it was the best way to explain the heat.   Oh, there was also the story of the naked French guy...

Apparently, there is a naked french guy roaming the halls. He approached Paula in a towel, but Tim only saw him wearing the Star of David on a chain on his neck. I think his name is Jon.

That probably didn't help either.

By the 11th NYC trip blog, I had made the decision that I wanted to keep blogging, because I enjoyed it.   So I did just that.

I started writing about anything and everything... I posted recaps about American Idol episodes... I talked about my marriage and fun with The Lovely Steph Leann... reviewed movies... discussed Disney... talked about friends and family... delved into politics... pop culture and more pop culture... I even did a 100 Coolest Things of the Year for a few years running...

I go back and read some of the stuff I wrote--especially about politics--and will sometimes even wince, thinking "I could have worded that better... eh, I probably shouldn't have said that at all... yikes, that was a d-bag thing to write..."

Then again, I read some of the early posts and think, "Wow... that was really funny... could I write that kind of funny stuff again?"

Evolution of a writer, I guess you would say.  Somewhere along the way I realized that yes, people do actually read what I write, especially since I had random people at church, at work and in life just tell me, "Hey, I enjoyed your blog the other day..."  People that make you say, "You read that?"

So at the end of June, Clouds is My Coffee celebrates 10 years of existence. Not nearly as old as some online journals and blogs... but way, way older than most.

And here I am, at 250,000+ page views over the lifetime of the blog... not bad, I think.  I'd probably say 100K of them came in the last two years, so I'm on my way to a million hits.  Think about that... 1,000,000 individual page views.  Holy crap. 

I can't promise you I'll blog every week, but I will try.  I have no plans to change the content... it will still be about movies, music, pop culture, life, family, Disney, random Amy Adams (whom I'm in love with) references, random Julie Wise references (because I think its funny at this point), random Troy and Samson stories, maybe the final season of American Idol, and maybe just a little bit of politics...

Obama is a tool, incompetent, and the worst president this country has ever known.

Well, maybe not too much politics, at least until after the 2016 election.

So, thanks for reading.  Thanks for visiting the page.  Don't be afraid to check out some of the blog links I have over there ---> and give them a spin as well. 

And that... is the story of my write.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

write on through the dry spell

This is the part of the show where this story gets lengthy, you, the reader, are ready to move onto something else, and I, the writer, must ask for your patience... quite simply, I want to finish this story, no matter who does (and doesn't) read it...

It's the story of my writing. How it started, like in part one... and writing in high school, which is part two... so here is part three... the dry spell in college leading up to the creation of this blog and beyond.

I think I neglected to mention that I kept a journal from about 9th grade to the summer after I graduated. Literally, I would write a sentence or two every day or two about what's happening, what I was writing, accomplishments and so on. Doogie Howser had a blue screen on his PC, I had a notebook with Paula Abdul on the front. Well, one of them anyway, because I filled about a dozen notebooks over the course of five years.

Doogie used to end every episode by writing one or two
lines that encapsulated what we just watched in the
previous 1/2 hour, almost like a "what I learned today"
thing.  Problem was, some were so vague that in five
years, he had to read over some of those and thing "What
the crap was I talking about?  What does this even mean?!"
And when I got to Troy State, I just up and stopped. No slowly ceasing to write, no gentle progression of forgetfulness when it comes to journaling, no I just straight up didn't do it anymore. I tried for about three or four days after I got to college, and when a week went by with nothing written, I just packed it away in a box. I don't think it was writer's block so much as it was, I just didn't want to do it.

I was in college from September of 1993 to March of 1998, and anyone who knows me knows that I loved the heck out of college... I made the most out of my 5 years there, and wouldn't change much of it (well, except I might not get that Discover card... darn you Rebecca Miller and your green eyes!)

How I got to Birmingham is a topic that goes onto the pile of things mentioned in this post that will become their own blog post one day, but for now, just know that the first 6 months or so in Birmingham, Alabama, were some of the hardest months of my life. I was along, I knew not a soul, the reason (I thought anyway) that I had moved here was in Tuscaloosa with nary any contact, I had no church home, and I was broke and hungry and nearly depressed.

I then sat down with a few sheets of paper and went back to a routine that I knew well. I was going to write a love letter to my very dear friends, some of my favorite people, in the form of a story... it was a "where we will be in 5 years" type story, entitled "Hey Now"--the title being a play on words from something in the story itself. And I still have it, all 55 pages, written in pencil on loose leaf paper, in a binder. It was the beginning of closure for my time at Troy State...

(this is the part where I stop typing, lean back in my chair and stare out the window, while "The Story" by Brandi Carlile starts to play)

From about July 1998 to February of 1999 were 7 of the hardest months of my life. I was in Birmingham, I was alone, I barely knew anyone, I hadn't found a church until late in that time period, the reason I had moved (her name was Amy, in case you are wondering) and I hadn't even talked, and it was painful and dreadful and expensive and... well, lonely.

You'd think I'd plunge myself back into writing, and I tried. The story I mentioned, the one I had floating in my head for all this time, I tried to put it on paper, and got nothing. I wrote "Hey Now" for my friends in college in August of 1998, but beyond that, nothing. Call it writer's block, call it lack of desire, call it what you want, not only could I not write, but I just didn't want to try.

Over the next few years, a great number of things happened--once again, more stories for another post--but in that time, I got involved in Valleydale Baptist Church... I moved into an apartment with a couple of guys who would become some of my closest and dearest friends, people that some of you know like Shawn Sharp, my buddy Mikey, Tommy Mac, Big Tom Johnson and so on. Not too long after that, we moved into a four bedroom that would be christened "The Deuce". In late 2000, I met a young lady named Stephanie Campbell, and in early 2001, we became good friends. Things were clicking.

Though I didn't own a computer until much, much later, my buddy Mikey did, as did Shawn Sharp, and so one day I sat down in front of one of those computers, and rather than taking a risk, or overthinking it, I went back to what was familiar. I took the people closest to me--roommates, good friends, etc--and wrote still another story, this time called "The Hillary Letters". It was about our friend Ty, who was in love with another friend Hillary, and a particular afternoon where a love letter from he to she gets picked up by the wrong hands, causing a series of silly misunderstandings that culminated with Mikey standing on top of the dining room table doing a John Malkovich impression right before it collapsed. I read this not too long ago (this is one of the few I still have) and it holds up, stupid as the concept might be.

The next year, I had my adult "Dayton's Quest" moment, the one that this time didn't help me discover real writing, but instead brought me back to writing. I wrote another "friends" story, this time over the course of three or four days during Christmas, and I'll be honest with you... I think its really, really good. I'm so proud of it, in fact, that I actually posted here on this website some years ago.

What I mean by "brought me back to writing" was quite simply, it let me know that I can do it--I could still do it. It let me know that yes, I can come up with things, solve problems, invent situations and lay them together in a cohesive story, and in one of my favorite tropes, I can interconnect seemingly unconnected plots with only a few passing sentences. It's called, stupidly enough, "A Very Deuce Christmas".  Perhaps it's not well written, and I know there are parts that need to be straightened up a little, but truthfully?  I like it.

So that brings us to Clouds in My Coffee. First, let me say that in 2005, I had no idea what "blogging" was. Not a clue. A group of us, Mikey and Tommy Mac included, was scheduled to go to Star Wars Celebration in Indianapolis, early that year, and Tommy created a blog set up for the trip, perhaps for us to report back, post pictures on the interweb and so on... he opened it up for us to create an account name and post.

I created the name "Dave Windu", and wrote a paragraph about the upcoming trip, not really having a clue what I was doing. But I hit publish, and there it was, for all the world to see. And it kind of confounded me. Someone suggested that I look at Live Journal and MySpace, perhaps to do online journaling there, so I opened up an account on both--hey Top 8, how are you?

And now... the final part of the story... including a mission trip, mistakes, American Idol, The Lovely Steph Leann and more... coming tomorrow.


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

write on through high school

(The beginning of this post can be found here, chronicling my writing history and where I sort of figured out that I liked writing)

As mentioned before, I had a good time writing stories that involved my friends, putting us in various ridiculous situations, but began to stick my foot in the pool of real fiction with my fairytale "Dayton's Quest".

I began to churn out stories every few weeks from there, and my friends wanted to read them, friends that went beyond just the guys I shared paper adventures with (though I did write a story called "1967" putting myself and friends in Vietnam... only Johnny Knowles and I survived the attack by the Vietcong, according to my tale--Jason Smith died a most honorable death, as did Clay Fulford #namedrop).  They would actually pass around a sheet of paper, signing up to the be the first to read whatever I wrote. 

In particular, Tammy Thomas was one of my biggest fans--to the extent I actually had fans--and that which always warmed my heart... I'll never forget her coming to me, more than once, and saying "Are you finished with the new story?  You know I'm on the list first, you know I get it first".   It's one of those small compliments probably forgotten about by everyone but me.  And she's still pretty awesome to the day (thank you Facebook!)

And just for fun, here are a few of the stories I put on paper and released:

**A story called "Tophet", which was, according to my Roget's Thesaurus, another word for "hell" or the "underworld", and it was about a man who buys a video game on Christmas Eve in a back alley from a shady dude, and then gives it to his son for Christmas the next day--and when you play the game, people die in real life, and the end of the game opens up a portal... to Hell.  Boom.  Maybe a little Poltergeisty, but I dug the concept.

**"Reach Out and Touch Someone", a play on the slogan of the old slogan from Bell Telephone (which in 1992 wasn't that far removed from being a real thing), was a divorcee with a young daughter trapped in a house with a crazy sociopath who has, somehow, nailed all the windows shut and boarded all the doors up.  At that time, it made sense. The sequel, called "Hunted", got as far as the first chapter, but was then abandoned... and it was just as well.

**"The Long & Winding Road" was a Hallmark worthy tale of a snotty rich chick who is on a hayride while visiting her country bumpkin cousin, and after a stop, is accidentally left behind with said cousin.  The two barely know each other, despite being family and live worlds-apart, but are forced to walk together, and look out for another, along the five mile long dirt road back to the church... and along the way, she learns a little of what it's like to be kind and generous.  (this is one of my favorites, by the way)

**"Radio Talk", a conversation between an overnight DJ and a caller who seems to be a little off the edge.  The entire story was written all in quotes, which at the time I thought was a pretty cool angle.  Oh, okay, fine, I still think its a cool angle. 

**And one of my favorites of all time, "Out of Time", the story of a teenager who is gravely injured in the 1930s, is given an experimental drug that puts him into a coma, and doesn't age a bit, until he wakes up in 1994 under the name John Doe.  He befriends a pretty nursing student, who helps him escape the clutches of a cruel doctor who wants our John Doe (I cannot remember his name, but this was written in 1992, so forgive me) for more experimentation--thus begins a comical chase story where John Doe and Pretty Student Nurse are trying to find an antidote for the 1930s drug, a drug that is now causing him to age rapidly.

SIDEBAR: Some years later, I came across a movie called "Late for Dinner", which actually has some of the same plotlines... remember, this was a time when there was no iTunes or Netflix or any kind of streaming service.  You had to rent this movie, and it wasn't all that popular, so our local video stores may have had one copy somewhere... but I say it now before the world--mine was an original idea, not borrowed from this film.  I still haven't seen it, by the way.   

I did a couple of more "friend" stories too, mostly as something fun to do... I wrote one called "Witness for the Prosecution" which at the time didn't sound like a lame legal cliche, about a lawyer (my friend Jennifer Lambert took that role) trying to figure out if her client is actually guilty or not (turns out Michael Creech was in fact, guilty), and another story with an equally bad cliched name I can't remember, this one a cat-and-mouse game story about two cops (my friends Stan McDuffie and Jason Smith) trying to track down a serial killer. The premise of the first one was actually pretty good, it just needed more details than my 16 year old mind could produce, while the latter was actually a little silly--but Stan's death scene was actually pretty cool.

And I even did a few stupid stories that included my friends in band, almost parodies full of inside jokes and cliches, one being a western and one being a space adventure.  And no, I didn't get the girl in either, because how am I going to write about ending up with Julie Wise (or Stephanie Phillips, who I crushed on for about six months in 10th grade) and not be completely humiliated at that concept? 

I even had an attempt at poetry, and I still have a yellow folder entitled "d$'s Real Dumb Poetry"--and the title isn't an attempt at humility. Not at all. It's so bad.  Keep in mind that though I did some stuff on a typewriter, I couldn't afford to buy ribbon over and over, so 90% of this was done with a mechanical pencil and paper. 

I loved writing.   And for a kid who is 15, 16, going on 17, I was pretty good at it.  That's not bragging, that's just saying that I know I had a knack for it. 

I scanned the Senior Superlative picture in question,
but because it was out of a yearbook, it was really
grainy.  Anyway, this is Christy and I, paired up
again, this time voted as March (April?) 93's
Calendar Couple in Home Ec.  Strangly enough, we
were never actually a couple of any kind, other than
being good friends. 

And to this day, I still don't know what the purpose
of a "calendar couple" is.  Go SHS!
I was voted Most Creative as a senior for our Senior Superlatives, alongside Christy Mock and her incredible singing voice...

ANOTHER SIDEBAR... So, to take the Senior Superlative picture, it was decided that I, who was in the band, and Christy, who was not, needed to meet in the bandroom, because we could set up a keyboard for her to use as a prop.  The prop that I needed would be a typewriter.  And while the keyboard was in a closet in the bandroom, the typewriter--a huge honk of a machine that was pretty dated even in 1993--was across the entire school in Mrs. Rials' classroom.  Those of you from Samson will know what a haul that is.  So on a warm late April midday, in the south Alabama humidity, I had to go to Mrs. Rials class, borrow a typewriter, haul that sucker across the entire school--why did I not ask for a handcart or trolley of some sort?  where were you to tell me these things?--to the bandroom, wipe off the pouring sweat, take a picture, then haul it all the way back to Mrs. Rials class.  Great picture, beautiful companion in the shot, terrible set up methods.  And if you look in the yearbook, you can't see the keyboard, and you can only see the edge of the typewriter.  Such is.  Back to the story.

...and my plans were to start drafting a book soon, maybe during high school.  I pulled out my electric typewriter, and began to type a story that was rolling around in my head, one with a guy named Peter and a girl named Julianne Frye, and a third wheel named Daily, and a best friend named Barrow, and a mean girl named Piper Huffin and a janitor named Ezekial and a couple named Troy and Suzy and...

...and it was going to be great.  Or, at least the first few pages I typed were great.  Or good.  Or terrible, who knows.  I started the story about four times and never got past page 5.  Oh, and then I graduated and went to college, which is great, because in college, I can sit up late and write, right?

And my first night at Troy State University began what essentially was a five year long case of writer's block.  More on that tomorrow.

post 1,001

Thursday, April 16, 2015

the story of my write (the 1000th cloud)

What to do for a post that marks your 1000th time you've hit "publish"?  After tossing around a few ideas, starting a few posts and then tossing a few more ideas, I decided I wanted to go back and remember how all of this got started... no, not in 2005, when the blog started--I mean, back to 1982, when I first realized I liked writing.  This post is broken up into two parts for easier reading, because I'm always too wordy.  Oh, and thanks for coming back here day after day...

How did you start writing?  I mean, if you are a writer, and I know a lot of you are.  Since I started this blog in 2005, oh, you know, ONE THOUSAND posts ago, I think another thousand people that I know have started a blog of their own... some have kept going and make for a good read, and others have done one, two, maybe five posts and it sits forgotten in the graveyard of good intentions--the blogsite edition.

Writing is a funny thing... not everyone can do it, though there are far more people who think they can (and thereby do) than actually can (and shouldn't).  I lost a bet on our podcast, The Deucecast Movie Show, and was forced to watch a Paris Hilton film called "The Hillz" (yes, with a Z).  The screenwriter is a fella named Saran Barnun, and if this film's script is to be used as evidence, Saran is someone who thinks he can write... but probably shouldn't.  Then again, I should never sing nor act, but I attempt both, so there's that...

I'm not saying I'm the end all be all, please don't get me wrong.  At no point will I wave this blog in front of anyone and say "see this!  look what I wrote!  I'm the Grisham/King/Rowling heir apparent!!" or anything of the kind, but... but I think I'm not bad at it.  Ten years later, I've got over 230K views on this site, so that's gotta count for something, right?  Maybe?  Humblebrag, indeed.

My first writing venture was when I was in 2nd grade... I decided I wanted to write a play for some strange reason, and had titled it "The Prince & the Princess", because at 7, I was striving for originality.  Once I revealed my plan to do so, several of my classmates were pretty excited about being it it.  Melissa Gonzalez and Tony Sanchez wanted to be the leads, though I cannot remember if I casted them or Melissa just insisted... doesn't matter, especially when you see how this ended. 

Becky Rocha was my villain, my evil witch... now this was a part she wanted because she was all into the bad guys in stuff.  I don't think she grew up to be Marilyn Manson (we all know that it was Paul from The Wonder Years that turned into Marilyn Manson!  Wait... what?) or anything, she was just 7 and thought the witch part would be cool.

I remember writing this bit of dialogue...

The Prince:  Hello, my princess.  You are very pretty!
The Princess:  Thank you!  I think you are cute too!
The Witch, over in the bushes:  I don't like you or you, and I'll get you!

That's it. 

In my mind I had this vision of a princess in some sort of mortal danger, and a dashing prince from a far away land had come to rescue her from the clutches of the evil, and green (because when you are 7, witches look like the Wicked Witch of the West, not all cutesy and patootsie like Hermione Granger).  Also, I'm really not sure where I was going to get the means to produce such a stage play that at the least, would require a battle scene between the good guy and bad chick, but I figured I would think of something.  And honestly, I think I would have.  

SIDEBAR:  It's important to note that I had never seen Sleeping Beauty, Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs, Cinderella or any of those movies that would have likely inspired me to such ideas.

So the script wasn't much to go on, but didn't stop me from calling a practice at recess.  Separate 2nd graders from their recess time and the response is never favorable.  So 7 year old d$ calls Melissa, Tony, Becky and Brian Bruner (my 2nd grade best friend who wanted to help) over by the school wall, where there is some open space for practice--with no script beyond three lines--and they grumble and mumble and complain.  

Sometimes I cannot remember what I had for lunch the day before, but I vividly remember that 32 years ago, Melissa said to me, "What are we doing here?  This is stupid!!" and I replied, "I made you come over here so... you could go play!"  And they did.  Thus ended "The Prince & the Princess".

Somewhere in the middle of 2nd grade, I also created a cast of comic characters.  Now, for some reason, I decided to take Gonzo from The Muppets, make him taller, sharpen his beak a little, make him not as silly and use him as a character, and yet, still call him Gonzo... I didn't really know what "plagiarism" was back then, so grant me that, if ya don't mind...

This was a drawing I did this morning, and I think I'm
pretty dead on as to what they looked like
Anyway, rather than model the rest of the gang after The Muppets, I actually drew from the Archie comics gang, and so in 2nd grade, I began to draw and write a series of short comics featuring Chip the Bird, Freddie the Alligator, Debbie the Rabbit, I Can't Remember His Name the Cat and a few others that I also cannot possibly remember at this time... I think I actually copied some stories from Archie Comics (even at a young age, I had a pretty good sized collection--now I think I have about 50 various digests, comics and trade paperbacks... but that's another blog...)

Smashcut to three years later, I've left Ridgetop Elementary School in Austin, Texas, and am now residing in Mrs Wikel's 5th grade class at Samson Elementary School (I moved in the middle of my 4th grade year), and am still writing random things.  I think I wrote a poem to Misty Kimble, my first ever crush that wasn't Jo from Facts of Life, and I always was ready in Mrs Wikel's writing assignments that forced us to use vocabulary words from the week.  I even wrote a two page story in ten minutes once because I had procrastinated the assignment until literally the last minute, and as I got up to read it, I had to sorta make up the last sentence or two, then go back to my desk and scribble it down before turning it in.  #HumbleBrag indeed.

Transformers were all the rage when it came to being a kid, as was a book entitled "How to Eat Fried Worms".  So, I decided to write a take off of it called "How to Eat Fried Transformers".  Same concept, except the kids are different, and they are eating... you guessed it, Transformers.  And it was a complete story.  A terrible, stupid, ridiculous story, but still a story.

I also started getting into comic books, so naturally, I wanted to draw my own... so, I created... wait for it... wait for it... The Foodformers.  And yes, this is just like it sounds... food that turned into robots. 

Read that again. 


That turned into robots.

I think I'll talk about the war between the Fruitibots and the Veggiecons on Dinnertrion in a different post, for the sake of not making this post 15K words...

Back in the day, networks would
make and air TV movies that
featured stars from the most popular
shows of the day... this was always
my favorite, mostly because of
the Nancy McKeon angle.
In junior high, I had a group of friends that I wrote about--specifically, I wrote them into stories, usually based on a movie I had seen recently... using my buddies Daniel, Clay, Greg, Jason, Monty and sometimes Chad, Michael & Johnny, through the glory of "Borrowed Fiction", we had a Goonies type adventure, a Commando mission where we rescued Monty from a bad guy (and I flew a plane!), a cruise caper and my favorite, a summer camp story with some elements (re: a heavy majority) borrowed from the movie "Poison Ivy".  No, not that one, I mean this one.  In that one, Daniel made out with a chick, Clay and Monty got into a karate battle with a bully, some chick named Lisa kissed me on the cheek and Greg met Millicent, and they ate cake.  I'm not making any of this up--this is directly from my memory.  Promise. 

And then, one night in 1990, I was spending the night at the aforementioned Greg's house.  He had a computer in his room, with this black screen and orange letters, which was all well and good--he also had this new thing called "Prodigy", which allowed me to get on this "on the line" thing through the telephone... but more impressive to me was the ability to type--not handwrite--things. 

SIDEBAR:  I had learned to type for the most part using the electric typewriter my parents had given me for my birthday some years before... I would end up taking typing classes in Mrs. Rials class a year or two later, but for now, it was a slower type and even some finger pecking.

Late in the evening, maybe 11p, or midnight, Greg was long asleep, and I sat down at his computer.  With the orange cursor blinking, I typed the words, "Dayton's Quest". 

I titled it "Dayton's Quest" before I even had a story, though like some writers, I knew what the story was before I typed a single letter. Heck, I had an ending, and even most of a middle, I just had to start and get the reader there.

So for the next three hours, I told the story of a villager named Dayton Petrydish, and his adventures with his best friend Flessa, as they attempted to rescue the fair Princess from the evil clutches of a bad guy who's name escapes me--and somewhere along the way, there was a wizard named Vernjox, a special sword and a wedding at the end where Vernjox turned into a condor and flew away.

It was hokey, and silly and cheesy.  And when I realized about 4am that I had no way of taking this story home, because he didn't have a printer... like a plunger, I didn't realize I needed it until I needed it.  I fell asleep exhausted, and when Greg and I awoke the next morning, he agreed to let me come back the next week so I could write the story down. And that's what I did the next weekend, over the course of 2 hours on a Saturday, I transcribed the story from the screen to 24 pieces of regular lined loose leaf paper.

"Dayton's Quest" was important, because it was my first real, true piece of fiction, fiction that didn't involve anyone I knew, fiction that required me to discuss the characters, describe them, build them for the reader...  this wasn't like writing little one and two page stories in 5th grade using vocabulary words, this was a real short story.  It helped me understand, even if I didn't realize it then, that I had a knack for it. 

A year or two later, in December of '92, I believe, Mrs. Daniels asked us to set a goal for the new year.   Some people wrote down "Lose 10 pounds" and someone else wrote "Save up for (whatever they were saving for)" and another jotted down, "Learn guitar".  I was hoping that Julie Wise would write down "Go out with d$" because that would have been the easiest A she'd ever earned, but alas.  For me, I wrote down my goal to say "Write a 150 page story". 

Turns out, Mrs. Daniels took these very seriously, and gave us three weeks to finish the assignment.  After much protest by everyone in the class--especially those who wrote down unrealistic goals of learning to tap dance or hiking some mountainous trail--we were told we had to show the effort.  So, I took "Dayton's Quest" from 24 pages to 138 pages.  

The battle scenes got a little longer, the climax was a little longer and more tense, the romantic build up between the Princess CannotRememberHerName and Dayton was a little sweeter, I think I threw in a subplot with best friend Flessa and more... I was still 12 pages short, so I then tacked on another short story, "The Long and Winding Road" (more on that one later) to the end of it, making it a total of 152 pages long... and I got an A.  Woot. 

So there's the first part of my writing story.  The second part will be here in a few days, so I hope you come back to see me again... and let me know--are you a writer?  And how did you get started?

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

avocado on my band-aid... and other observations

I got avocado on my band-aid this morning.  It was gross. 

I work in the records management department of the power company... it's my day job.  Just to be clear, though, "records management" is a fancy way of saying "I print stuff".  I print lots of stuff. Thousands of pages weekly, documents, maps, drawings, whatever other power plants need to do whatever it is they do when they get what they ask for, I print.  There are other people who print too, but I'm one of them.

Dealing with maps though, I do get an occasional paper cut.  Like yesterday.  Right across the top knuckle of my left ring finger.  Straight line, about a 1/2 long.  It didn't hurt when it happened, and maybe it took a little while for my brain to figure out "hey, that's supposed to feel bad, right?  Okay, we'll make that happen." 

Also, my kid eats two eggs and an avocado in the morning for breakfast, with some juice.  Its great protein, he loves both eggs and avocado and it tends to fill him up.  Not long ago, one regular sized avocado would last him three days... now, he nearly eats the entire thing in one sitting. 

The night before I tend to cut up avocado for him, mostly to save the trouble from doing it so early the next day.  And when I did on this night, I got avocado on the band-aid that covered up my papercut.  It was sticky, some got under the band-aid, and when I washed my hands, the bandage got all wet and soggy, forcing me to remove it.  Ick.

Sure, its annoying, but in the grand... or even tiny... scheme of things, its a small annoyance in the life of the blessed. 

Here are some other thoughts running through my head right now...

I like it when someone pulls out of a driveway right in front of me as I am zooming down the highway.  I lay on the horn as I swerve into the next lane to make sure I don't hit them, and it's always fun when I honk as I pass them, and they honk back, like I'm the rude guy. 

I've never had Nutella.  Should I?

I am addicted to "The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" on Netflix.  The stunningly stunning Ellie Kemper is Kimmy, who up until very recently, was in an underground bunker with a few other women, the "wives" of a cult leader who told them the world had been destroyed and the underground lair was the only safe place.  They escape, and the show is centered around Kimmy trying to find her way in life living in New York City.  And oh, it's funny.

I'm also addicted to Comedy Central Roasts.  I've got all of them downloaded, including roasts of David Hasselhoff, James Franco and Pam Anderson, but my favorite is Bob Saget.  They are not for the faint of heart, and I'm likely giving up any hope of being voted on as a deacon by admitting that I find them funny... but man, I find them funny.  Is it Grace abuse to watch, knowing I'll have to ask forgiveness sooner than later?  Probably. 

So this is post 999.  I actually stressed a little about what to do here, because not only is it #999, but that means the next post is #1000, and you only get your 1000th post once.  Who knows if I'll make it to 2000?  Or even 1500?  I'd like to think so...

Somehow I let March go by without posting a thing.  I don't know that many people missed it, but now when I look over at the archives, every month but March 2015 will be listed.  For someone who is slightly OCD, that stings.

Anyway, I decided for 999, I would just ramble a bit, because I'm good at it.

I just wrote four brilliant paragraphs on the controversial "Religious Freedom Act" based on something I just saw on Facebook... and then I deleted it.  Because why bring the room down...

So, coming soon... post 1000.  I'm hoping for Tuesday of next week.  And coming soon... Disney on a Dollar gets a new name and a new website and... a new podcast?   Wait, what? 

And coming soon... something that I've been trying to put together for over a year now is finally seeing the light of day... I call it "Forty for 40".  Yes, I'm turning 40 this summer.  And yes, that has something--a lot of somethings--to do with it.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, February 16, 2015

the 2014 book report part three

You can read the first part of this by clicking here... and then continue onto the second part by clicking here...

Alright, ten more books to go... let's do it!

Book 26 of 2014... "Glengarry Glen Ross", a play by David Mamet, also known for it's incredible movie adaptation.  It was short, it was thrilling, but the movie is even better. 

I started "Gone Girl" back in 2013 and got about an hour into it, and left it for something else.  Having seen the movie, I went back to the book, and was immediately sucked in for good... Gillian Flynn weaves an intricate, twisted tale where you find yourself not really liking anybody, yet rooting for at least one or two people... if you don't know the major twist in the middle, I won't tell you, but if you aren't familiar with it, it's one heckuva twist.

The book is a duel narrative, told first from Nick's point of view, then from Amy's, then back to Nick's, then back to Amy, telling us the story of a husband who has lost his wife, and a wife who's dealing with a cheating husband and more.  And the ending?  Whew. 

From major intensity to slow burn, next we picked up "Revival" by Stephen King... you meet Jamie Morton as a six year old who meets the new local pastor Charles Jacobs.  Things get a little strange not too long afterwards, with Rev. Jacobs obsession with electricity and his subsequent meltdown after a huge tragedy... we then follow Jamie through his life's ups and downs, randomly running into Charles Jacobs at various times.  It all leads to a climax that is both unexpected and insane, and it left me a little unsatisfied.  Good book, not great.

A little book called "Stuff Christians Life" by Jon Acuff was a good change of pace from the craziness of the previous two.  Back when he was Jonathan Acuff, he writes essays on everything churchy like how to not be judged when people don't see you put something in the offering plate (because you tithe online), the glory of side hugs vs full frontal hugs, hip youth pastors and metro worship leaders, and other takes on pop culture.  I enjoyed it quite a bit, but I'm also a fan of his blog--if you don't like his blog, then you probably won't care for this book as much.

Book 30 of 2014 was written by Leonard Kinsey, who has done a few adult-themed novels set around Walt Disney World.  This one is called "Habst & the Disney Saboteurs", where the main character, an unlovable loser named Reggie "Habst" Habstermeister finds himself in trouble when attractions in Walt Disney World begin to break down while he's in the vicinity.  His friend, or at least the only guy who can actually tolerate him, Charlie joins him to figure out what's happening in this situation--and it's a little crazy, I tell ya. 

Also, Charlie is a character in another book called "Hollow World", by Nick Pobursky, which makes me wonder if Leonard Kinsey and Nick Pobursky is the same guy?  Or just from the same publishing company?

My friend Writer Chris Holmes wrote a book called "Note to Myself: Thoughts to Challenge and Encourage", and its not only charming, but...well, challenging and encouraging.  He's so good at just writing one liners that make you think, that make you ponder and that motivate you.  You can shoot through this book in a half hour or less, but you want to come back a few times and really concentrate on many of the lines... personally, I would have called it "Note to Self" cause it flows better, but overall, it's an excellent book to read, to remember and to go back to.

I picked up a book that, before I even read it, I knew I was going to like, mostly because "The Princess Bride" is one of my top ten favorite films of all time.  Cary Elwes, who portrayed "Westley", wrote "As You Wish: Inconceivable Takes from the Making of the Princess Bride", a behind the scenes narrative of the iconic movie... not only is its a first person narrative from Cary, he also gets quips and stories from Billy Crystal (Miracle Max), Rob Reiner (the director), Robin Wright (Buttercup), Christopher Guest (Count Rugen) and several more--and in the audiobook, he has those people actually read many of their parts in the book.  It was funny, it was a love letter to the movie and its fans, and its full of Andre the Giant tales, including how Elwes broke his toe on Andre's oversized ATV 4-wheeler, then had to do the Dread Pirate Roberts confronting Buttercup on the mountaintop scene (notice the way Westley, aka, The Man in Black, sits down on the rock and how his leg is extended... that's because in real life, he's in extreme pain). 

If you are a fan of the movie, you should read this book... it's simply wonderful.

Book 33 of the year, "You Are a Writer (so start acting like one)" is by Jeff Goins, and is a simple pep talk to let people like myself know that yes, I'm a writer, so own it, so do it, so write it down.  It also goes through a few things you'll need to know, including platforms, passion for what you do, and is relatively short, so I breezed through it in an afternoon with a few notes here and there.

Book 34 was a last minute pickup, as I saw the end of the year approaching... on Tuesday nights, I always flip through the new releases and see what has just come out... lo and behold, Matthew Modine has written a behind-the-scenes account of "Full Metal Jacket" aptly titled "Full Metal Jacket Diaries".  The book goes through some of the trials and hardship it took for the movie to get made, directed by the ever eclectic and possibly insane late Stanley Kubrick.  And though you can tell Matthew Modine has a healthy amount of respect for Kubrick, it's pretty obvious that he feels Kubrick was a little insane and a lot intense.

The book is not very long, and seemed a fitting end to the year!  In fact, I went ahead and outdid myself by reading "Big Driver", by Stephen King, for 36 books for the year... it's a great little tale about a saleswoman who listens to the wrong person and ends up in a nightmare.  And gets some revenge for it later. 

But wait... on December 30th, I realized something... "Big Driver" and "A Good Marriage" (not mentioned yet, for the reasons I'm about to explain) which I read in July, are actually part of a larger book called "Full Dark, No Stars" by Stephen King.  They are novellas... so they don't count.  Meaning, I didn't read 36 books, I read 34.  And I had about 36 hours to finish the 35th, or miss the goal for the year.

So I downloaded the whole of King's "Full Dark, No Stars", and went to it... there are four novellas in this--the aforementioned (and best) of them, "Big Driver"... "A Good Marriage", a tense tale about a woman who discovers something a little terrifying about her husband (which pulls from a news story that was huge at the time of the writing, but I won't tell you what it is and spoil it for you)... "1922", a first person account about a man in Nebraska confessing to the murder of his wife, and how his family falls apart... and "Fair Extension", where a man has a run-in with a Devil-persona and gets more than he could ever wish for.

Thankfully, having read 2 of the 4 novellas, I only had to do 1/2 the book... and around 6pm on New Year's Eve, I finished it!  So, officially, 35 books in one single year, and I guarantee I'd never done that before.

So, here are my top ten books of the year...

The rest of my top ten first time reads in 2014, in order:
  1. "Moment Maker" by Carlos Whittaker... sticks with you, and I made notes.  So challenging to make every moment go unwasted.
  2. "I Don't Know What You Know Me From" by Judy Greer... love her as an actress, and the book is super funny.
  3. "As You Wish" by Cary Elwes... love the movie and love the behind the curtain stories, and the audio features cameos by Rob Reiner, Mandy Patinkin and more.
  4. "Shrinkage" by Bryan Bishop... funny and sad and happy all in the same book.  If you only know him from Carolla, there's a lot more to this guy.
  5. "Stuff Christians Like" by Jonathan Acuff... taken from his blog, with some new stuff too, and is laugh out loud funny.
  6. "Mr. Mercedes" by Stephen King... a whodunit thriller from King, with great characters and a crazy circus ending.
  7. "Lone Survivor" by Marcus Luttrell... tense and wrought, what he goes through is absolutely mortifying.
  8. "Rush Revere & the Brave Pilgrims" by Rush Limbaugh... I would take the history presented here over most schoolbooks nowadays.  Entertaining for kids and adults.
  9. "Note to Myself" by Writer Chris Holmes... line by line, page by page, words that make you smile, warm the fuzzies but also make you think you need to get up and do something.
  10. "Love Does" by Bob Goff... while slightly unrelatable, it's overall premise is wonderful.

And I'm almost five completed books in 2015, on the way to 40 total... do you have a book goal?  What was your favorite book of 2014?

Thursday, February 12, 2015

the 2014 book report part two

Picking up where we left off yesterday, here is the continued rundown of the books read (listened to) in 2014... the next ten are pretty amazing...

My 11th book of the year was one recommended immensely by so many people... "Love Does" by Bob Goff.  The whole premise of the book is that "Love does... everything".  It's about love when it comes to a relationship with God, how to share that love with everyone and anyone and Goff's life stories and lessons learned in life.  The only thing I didn't like was that sometimes, Bob is unrelatable.. in one story, albeit great, he talks about making his kids an offer that if they would write letters to leaders, he would take them to meet the leaders... so when a head of state from a Middle Eastern country writes back and invites the family for ice cream, they go.  Who does that?  Great story, but I know few people that could do that. 

The next 2 books were let downs... first, Daniel B. Kline and Jason Tomaszewski's "The Worst Ideas Ever" started fun, chronicling the worst public mistakes in history, like New Coke, Wendy's "Where's the Beef" fiasco and TV shows that jump the shark... but then it dives into politics and social affairs that derails the last third of the book.   Then, "Not a Match" by Brian Donovan, stories of the author's bad dates in a search of a relationship.  Good at times, boring at times, it was amusing but forgettable. 

Then, I picked up Carlos Whittaker's "Making Moments", and let me tell ya, it hit me.  This book resonated with me in a way that few books do.  I love this completely through, especially the one line that simply says:

I make moments on a daily basis, because I want to know that when life has decided it's had enough of me, it's gonna be because it's exhausted from trying to keep up.

Yes.  Yes.  Yes.  That.  That's exactly my goal for being.  It's not very long, and it's a quick read... could be my favorite book of the year?  Maybe?  We'll see.

The next one off the shelf was another winner... Judy Greer's hysterical memoir, "I Don't Know What You Know Me From: Confessions of a Co-Star".  She's one of my favorite actresses, and to me, one of the most beautiful women in the business, so when I heard she had something coming out, I actually had it on pre-order (she joins Stephen King and Jon Acuff as the only three that I've ever pre-ordered on Audible), and started it the day it was released (and finished it the next day).  It's a riot.  Judy tells stories about movies, her co-stars, anecdotes about blind dates and random happenings in and around Hollywood... and she also talks about doing her own laundry, cleaning her own house and cooking the family dinner.  If Hollywood and/or celebrity and/or funny lady stories interest you at all, pick this one up.

An older John Grisham novel, "The King of Torts" came next, telling the story of a young public defender who takes on the case of a homeless dude accused of a random street killing.  But we know there is more to it than this, there is always more to it than this, and so the story unfolds, involving Big Pharma, large settlements and suspense all around.  And unlike many of his more recent works, the ending of the book was quite satisfying.

Then we get to Bryan Bishop's "Shrinkage: Manhood, Marriage and the Tumor that Tried to Kill Me".  He's known as "Bald" Bryan on The Adam Carolla show, one of the most popular podcasts in the world (and one I listen to daily) and he's also the co-host for another great show, The Film Vault (which I also listen to)... Bryan was diagnosed with an inoperable brain cancer several years ago, and this memoir tells the story of his upbringing, his involvement with show business, radio, production and podcasting, his meeing of the love of his life, Christy, and then the discovery of, diagnosis of, and treatment of brain cancer.

On one hand, its a riot, as Bryan keeps it lighthearted, telling stories from his life, and on the other hand, its heart breaking as he and Christy spend hours, days in tears, unsure of the next step, as she--his fiance when diagnosed--loves him fiercely and takes care of him beautifully.  In many ways, its a love story as much as a biography of survival.  I listened to this while on the way to my hometown last year, to meet up with family and divide up my grandmother's (who helped raised me) belongings, so this story of life and love got me at just the right time. 

After three home runs (Whittaker, Judy, Bryan) and a double (Grisham), I was due for a strike out, and one came in the form of "Double Down" by Mark Halpern and John Heilemann, which is the recap of the 2012 elections.  They are the same guys who wrote the absolutely brilliant "Game Change", which was the 2008 elections, and though you can easily tell they are on the left wing side of the political aisle, "Game Change" was compelling story telling while not going too far left in its opinions.  Even a excoriating of Sarah Palin was permissable, as it also did a number on Hillary Clinton and especially John Edwards (full disclosure: I love Sarah Palin. Don't want her as my president, but love her still). 

"Double Down", however, is essentially one long love letter to Barack Obama.  Sure, it does give a little ding in the armor of The Big O, but it steamrolls Mitt Romney like crazy.  For every slightly negative remark on Obama--which it then makes up for by trying to explain it away--it blasts Mitt for any number of issues.  While it didn't surprise me, it was disappointing to have the book head south quickly, especially after "Game Change" was so great.

Book 19 of the year brought it back, with Stephen King's "Mr. Mercedes"... oh, so good.  While people line up at a job fair in the early morning hours, a driver plows a Mercedes Benz through the crowd, killing 8, injuring over a dozen more, especially after he backs up and charges again.  The car is found empty, the killer having gotten away.  He then sends a letter to retired cop Bill Hodges, taunting him with what has happened and promising more.  Bill pulls himself out of his depression and is determined to find the killer before more violence happens.  And unexpectedly, he's joined by a few people to help him do it.  It's not a horror story, its a good-vs-evil cat and mouse game, and it's well done. 

"American Me" is the name of Adam Carolla's third book,. and while I liked it, it's likely the least favorite of the three he's done so far.  It's his take on the American government, his rants against how stupid our country is right now, and how he'd fix it.  Obviously, its filled with language and insults, which is what makes him funny.  I enjoyed it, but "Not Taco Bell Material" is much better in my opinion. 

I was strangely drawn to "The Law of Superheroes", written by James Daily and Ryan Davidson, but I'm not sure why.  Perhaps it was the premise itself... taking comic book characters and some of their more popular storylines and see how they would fit in the American legal system.  Like, should Wolverine's adamantium claws be declared weapons when coming across the border?  Should Superman's X-Ray vision be banned as an invasion of privacy?  When Batman ties up a criminal and leaves him hanging, should that criminal be released immediately by the cops for unlawful capture?  How does Nick Fury get away with what he gets away with when leading S.H.I.E.L.D.?  When Captain America is killed, should his murderer be released from prison when Cap comes back to life? 

I know you have been thinking the same things... and I would tell you about it, but I don't remember how to.  It explains the legalese as it goes along, but it does get mired down in legal terms that had me struggling to keep up.  I loved this book as I was reading it, but forgot much of it after I finished it, because I'm not good at retaining the information. 

Not sure how I heard of Paige Rawl, but somehow I clued in on her biography "Positive".  She was born with HIV due to a bad father, and has had to live with that growing up.  She kept it a secret until early in middle school when she confided in her at-the-time best friend.  Somehow that best friend shared it with the wrong person, and it was then spread everywhere that Paige had AIDS.  She was then the subject of relentless taunting, teasing, bullying and so on, not only verbally, but through notes left in her locker, text messages she would get, phone calls and so on.  Worse yet, the school she attended would do nothing about it, almost considering it to be her fault. 

The book is heartbreaking and infuriating at the cruelness of kids (and especially teachers and people who could've helped) and sad when the low point involved a bottle of sleeping pills.  But when Paige emerges through the darkness... you knew she would... its cheer worthy and makes you smile.  Unfortunately, it's when the book turns really happy that the narrative itself drops off, so the last 1/4th of the book became a "gotta finish this", but the first 2/3rd of the book does make it worth it.

Book 23 of 2014 was a football book I found, called "The System: The Glory and Scandal of Bigtime College Football", by Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian.  Each chapter takes another story and/or scandal from the world of college football and spells it out--from the hiring and firing of Mike Leach at Texas Tech for locking the player in a storage shed to how Alabama wrangled Nick Saban from the Miami Dolphins to the horrible way Lane Kiffen sold out his Tennessee hostesses when they (as the story goes) did exactly what the coaches asked them to do in recruiting to the horrible BYU rape scandal where (again, as the story goes) a few football players walked away unblemished while the girls were left to deal with it.

It does tell several great stories from BYU and other colleges as well, though, so it's not just a "football sucks!" book. I was thoroughly entertained.

After seeing the movie, I dove into "This is Where I Leave You" by Jonathan Tropper, and was delighted.  I don't read a ton of fiction, and even then, its either classic stuff I felt I should have read (I've been putting off Anne of Green Gables for two years), or by authors that I am very familiar with (King, Grisham, maybe now Gillian Flynn), so picking up a book by someone I'd never heard of was a little rare.  Of course, the movie helped, but still.

I loved this book all the way through.  Judd Foxman, his older sister Wendy, older brother Paul and younger brother Philip all come together for the first time in a long while to mourn their father who had just passed, all under the watchful eye of relationship author and over sexed mother.  Each of the siblings have their own issues, significant others, children and so on, and I found the characters to be rich and even while some are horrible people, they are still entertaining.  Great story.

My 25th book of 2014 was a quick read, as podcaster, author and speaker (and of course, Disneyphile) Lou Mongello released "102 Ways to Save Money For and At Walt Disney World", and being a Disney magic planner, I had to read it.  I actually read most of it while eating a solo lunch at the Ghengis Grill (the book was fun, the meal was meh), and for someone who has been involved in Disneyana for some time now, most of it was reminders.  For the newbies, its a lot of great information--and even has a bonus section of "40 Free Things To Enjoy, Eat, Do & Collect" which is fun and full of ideas.

Alrighty... tomorrow, just a few more to go.... PLUS, my top ten favorite books read in 2014...