Friday, December 01, 2017

to campbell, on your 6th birthday

Dear Campbell,

Yesterday, your Mom and I were sitting at the dining room table, watching you jump up and down on your trampoline, then run over and watch the YouTube video of Melissa & Artur play on Tayo the Little Bus. 
You look like you are a miniature version of
a 14 year old in this picture. Seriously.

"Can you believe he's going to be six years old?" I asked your mom.
"Let's not even talk about it." she replied with a sigh. 

You made us smile. You always make us smile.  Well, let's be honest, not always... sometimes you drive us up the flippin' wall.  Sometimes you test our patience, sometimes you frustrate us, and sometimes you make us want to open the door and shout random unpleasant words into the night because we are so agitated at your disobedience.

But those times? Those times are few.  Mostly, you make us smile.

First, though, let's talk about the year since your birthday.  2017 has been... well, interesting to the say the least. 

As far as movies go, "Wind River" has been my favorite thusfar, though I don't expect you to see that for a long time. Several Marvel movies came out, like "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2", "Thor Ragnarok" and "Spiderman Homecoming", and all were excellent. I look forward to the day when you get into superheroes like this, and we can watch these films together.

Other movies that I enjoyed that maybe you and I can watch one day include "Baby Driver" and "Kong Skull Island" and the new Pixar movie "Coco". Your Mom and I are actually talking about taking you to see that one, letting it be your first movie theater movie ever.  But... we'll see.

I couldn't tell you a thing about music, other than Taylor Swift has a new album out, which I'll probably get and make you listen to.  And while I am doing a ton of audiobooks, I have no idea what came out this year or last, so I'm no help there either. 

As far as the world news, President Donald Trump has been in charge for almost a year now, and though he's had some hits, he's had some misses.  The news is crazy every day, so I won't even try to talk about the headlines in 2017.

Your first ice cream... well, it was sorbet, but as
far as you are concerned, it was "I's Cray"
You had some awesome milestones this year, including trying ice cream for the very first time! Strawberry sorbet from Whole Foods!  You also had your first Popsicle ever, an avocado popsicle at Steel City Pops. You ate both pretty fast and wanted more... I don't blame you.

You learned how to swim this past summer!  Ms Kerri taught you in only a few days (you still ask for "wah pay", which is "water play") and you visited your first water park, Splash Adventure, where you rode water slide after water slide after water slide. It was a testament to how good your potty training skills are because you always ask to go.  One of the few times you peed your pants this whole year was when I couldn't get you to the bathroom in time while at Splash Adventure.

Yes, you spent the whole day at a water park, but refused to pee in the pools, you wanted to go to a toilet.  Good job, kid, good job.

Campbell, you are talking like crazy now. I used to pray every night that one day you would, and somewhere around January or February of this year, you just started.  Words came slowly at first, but then quicker and quicker.  You can tell us what you want to watch now...

...okay, by the way, I have no idea what you'll be watching when you do read this, but let me tell you, not only do you dig on this show called PJ Masks (three 6 year olds put on special pajamas and become night time crime fighters)... but you love the Muppets, which makes your Dad VERY proud, especially when you see Kermit and say "KAH-MAT!!"... and you love Mickey's Roadster Racers, which is a lesser replacement for Mickey Mouse Clubhouse... and for some reason, you are now into this YouTube Channel called "MelliArt", which are these two kids named Melissa & Artur in all these videos that teach colors and numbers and fruit names and vehicle names and such.  I did the research, and apparently it hails from Greece -- you can tell by the accents of the kids and the dad, who seems nice.  Anyway, YOU LOVE that stuff.  You ask to watch "TAYO BUS" every day, and you don't just mean the Tayo the Little Bus show... you want to watch the video with the kids on the Tayo toy bus singing "Wheels on the Bus".  This is a testament to how much Mom and Dad love you, because we hear that song being sung in a slightly greek accent in our sleep now.  Aye yi yi.

Okay, back to your words...

Yes, you tell us what you want to watch when we ask... you say "please" (sounds like "peas") when you ask for things... earlier today, you went to the potty ALL BY YOURSELF (I only came to check when I heard no more splashing in the water)... you are talking SO MUCH now, and its so wonderful.

And we know you love music, because you are doing great on your piano lessons. And how you ask your Mommy to sing "Let It Go" and "Do You Wanna Build a Snowman" to you every night when you are taking a bath -- you went through a phase where you wanted to watch "Rio 2" and "Frozen" every day, and though those aren't requested much anymore, you still love the songs.  Nothing is sweeter than hearing your voice down the hall ask your Mom "Sing Lah Go peas" or "Sing Sno-mah peas" ("sing Let It Go please" and "sing Snowman please")

We always worry about you making friends... not that you can't make friends, but we hope that friends will find you, and boy, you have some this year.  It's a hoot watching you play with your classmate Barrett, and especially his little brother Fitz, who you seem to just love to chase and be around.  And I know you like Piper and Spencer and Eli because you call out their names when you see them.

I know that "imagination" is still something you are working on, as well as "creative playing"... meaning, you and I can't just sit down together and have an adventure with LEGOs or action figures -- but you are starting to get there. I watching you walk the little people figures up the toy airplane steps and I watch you mime and simulate actions that you see us do (scary) and I know your little brain is just absorbing and churning.

And I am so happy that you finally attached yourself to something like PJ Masks.  Catboy, Gekko and Owlette aren't just random names you see on TV... you know who they are, you identify with what they do, and you say their names with recognition.  Campbell, son, that's a big deal for you.

Your Mother and I love you so, so much, and we are so proud of you, Campbell.  I feel like you've developed more this year than you ever have, and its been so great to watch.  You have lots of fans too -- lots of people I know in person and online ask about you, root for you, pray for you, and really want to meet you one day.

Six is going to be a big year for you too -- more swimming lessons, more bike lessons and next fall, real public school. We are petrified. You'll be awesome.

In fact, I wrote this entire letter on this page and didn't even think of the word "Autism" until I started linking previous letters to you at the bottom... and then thought "Oh yeah... my kid has the autism. But autism can suck it."  It just shows that Autism isn't going to hold you back. I believe that, I truly do.

Now, here's the lesson I wanted to teach you.  This is important, listen up... "Respect" has become a big deal in this current day we live in.  There have been lots of news stories about people -- mostly men -- who have shown lots of disrespect to others -- mostly women -- in the way they talk to them, treat them and yes, even try to touch them and be with them in ways that aren't nice or proper or appropriate. 

"Respect" means that you treat someone you know (or someone you don't) with kindness.  It means you don't say or do anything to make them feel bad about themselves, or to make you look like you are better than them.  "Respect", especially when it comes to girls, is something that you need to always show.  If you ever show the kind of disrespect to a woman that we are seeing in the news lately, you'll have me and your mom to answer to. I don't care if you are 14 or 45.

We love you, but we need you to understand that many people aren't respectful out there.  Sometimes people won't respect you, son, sometimes people will say and do things to you and around you that will try to make you feel bad. That will try to make you feel like you aren't as good as anyone else. Don't listen to that nonsense.

You were created by God and given to me and your Mom exactly how you were meant to be.  Sometimes its been challenging, other times its been wonderful, and then so many times its just between all of that.

Remember that God loves you more than anyone ever would or could -- as much as Mom and I love you, which is more than you can imagine, God loves you even more.  We pray that one day, when you grasp the concept, you'll find Jesus in your heart as well. 

As always, I write these birthday letters to you late at night, so its likely a jumbled mess, much like my parenting skills, but I think you catch my drift.  I'm headed to bed now, as I have to get you up and cook your breakfast in about 4 hours.


To Campbell, on your 5th birthday
To Campbell, on your 4th birthday (with links to previous letters)
Learning the A-Word
My Kid Has the Autism

Thursday, August 31, 2017

the geneva walmart

So, the Wal-Mart in Geneva, AL, turns 30 today, this the last day of August.

Here you see Birmingham, Troy, Samson,
and Geneva. The pink dots are bigger than
the actual towns themselves.
Let me set the geography for the many of you that have no clue where I'm talking about. I'm from a little town called Samson, population 2100, with 2 red lights and a caution light, and 40ish members of the graduation class of 1993.  Our family moved to 201 N. Johnson Street in 1984, then across the side street to 211 North Johnson Street in 1985, and finally, 208 N. Johnson Street in 1986... yes, we moved one house over, across a street, then moved across N. Johnson to another house, and that would be the home I lived in until I moved off to college in the fall of 1993.

Samson has two main roads - the aforementioned N. Johnson, which runs north to south, and Hwy 52, which runs east to west, and essentially is the "downtown" part of Samson, Alabama.  So if you left my house, took a left once you hit town at Hwy 52, and then drove 8 miles... past the Subway/Dollar General (is that still there?) and the old peanut mill, past the log cabin house, past the pipe plant thing, past the McInnis' veterinarian office, past the caution light, past the cutoff road to go to Joey Stephens' old house and where Forrest & Charlotte Wright live (and Sandy and Cristie too), and yes, past the Sunny Meadows Cemetery (rest in peace, Jennifer W-B) you'll come to the Geneva County seat, a small city called Geneva, Alabama.

And if you did all of these things on August 31st, 1987, you'd see the brand spankin' new Walmart. To my 12 year old self, this was amazing.  I had only heard tale of such discount stores, but to have a Walmart here?  Eight miles from my house??  I mean... that was even cooler than the McDonald's in Geneva (which would be about 9 miles from my house), or the movie theaters in Enterprise (around 20 miles from my house), or even the brand new Wiregrass Commons Mall in Dothan (I lived 45 miles from a mall... those were the days).

This Walmart was amazing!  It had records and tapes, and clothes, and cool things and other cool things and it was HUGE.  I mean, not as big as that new Walmart Supercenter that opened in Enterprise in what, 1989?  But still.  A Walmart was 8 miles from me.  So awesome.

And I frequented that Walmart.  Frequently.

As a matter of fact, I can tell you with certainty that in the time it opened until I moved to Troy in 1993, I purchased the following:

The majesty of the Walmart in Geneva. To 12 year old me, it was a castle.
To 42 year old me, its a quaint reminder of childhood. 

  • Debbie Gibson's "Out of the Blue" album on vinyl, and considering it just turned 30 itself, this might be the first thing I ever purchased from a Walmart.  
  • The soundtrack to the movie "Cocktail", also on vinyl
  • A Valentine's gift for my high school girlfriend Cindy H, which I believe was pajamas
  • A birthday gift for my friend Stephanie Phillips, who said after her birthday that I didn't even get her a card. She was kidding, but I bought her a shirt.  Nowadays, a "shirt from Walmart" doesn't sound as nice as "a shirt from Target" or "a shirt from Macys", but to me, it was an awesome gift. It was white with pink stripes. It had shoulder pads. Yes, looking back, it was probably not very fashionable, and to Stephanie's credit, she wore it at least once.  But I bought it with my own money, so it's the thought that counts, right? Right.
  • Tons of paper and notebooks for the stories I wrote in junior high and high school, and I wrote a ton. By hand. I wore mechanical pencils slap out (of which I also bought at Walmart)
  • Starship's "Knee Deep in the Hoopla" and The Jets' self titled album, both on cassette. I loved The Jets
  • A pair of silk boxer shorts, just because I wanted to find out what silk boxers felt like. They ride. Bad.
  • My first tennis racket. I was inspired by Jennifer Capriati and Wimbledon back in the day, and I played tennis regularly for the next 15 to 20 years. 
  • Amy Grant's "That's What Love is For" on cassette single. I still have it.  Love that song.
  • Cathy King's baby shower gift, which was a carseat.  She was a classmate of mine, and to be fair, High School Girlfriend Cindy H and I bought it together.
  • Angie Jay's homecoming gift, because she was my date in October 1992. Until Bradley Miller screwed that up.  Don't remember the gift, but I never gave it.  There's a high school story for you. 
  • A ficus tree for Ms Peterson, my civics teacher, because her kindness saved my Troy scholarship. I left after my last final as a high school student, sped down to the Geneva Walmart, bought it and sped back, putting it in her classroom before her planning period was over.   

This Walmart holds a ton of memories for me, and I'm glad it's still open. And I'm actually glad it's not 24 hours -- its hours are something like 7a to 9p or maybe even 10p on the weekends.  And whereas the Walmart (formerly a "Supercenter", but now just called "Walmart") that is about 4 minutes from my home through traffic is a behemoth of a building, the Geneva Walmart is less than 150 paces from one side to the other.  I know because I've counted it.  150 paces would get you out of the grocery department and maybe past the self service checkout at the Walmart on Hwy 280, close to me.

And when I have a few extra minutes as I'm coming through Samson (with my old house being sold, there isn't a lot of "coming to" Samson now), I'll drive down Hwy 52, stop at Sunny Meadows and see my friend Jennifer for a minute, then stop in the Geneva Walmart. Sometimes just to walk around, though that doesn't take long. Sometimes to remember where I used to purchase records, then cassettes, then the Plexiglas case that had CD long boxes -- CD players were too fancy for my blood in 1992, I tell you.

So, happy 30th birthday, Geneva Walmart. May you be around another 30, and I'll see you soon, I'm sure.

(Many thanks to my friend Amy Warr for retweeting the WTVY-TV link that alerted me to this great holiday -- you can read their story here, though mine is better)

Friday, June 30, 2017

we wants the redhead

So, I'm a big Disney guy, but I'm not a PC guy. I think political correctness is ruining many things in the country because it's an overused term.   

Having said that, I met the news that Disney is changing up the "redhead auction" scene in the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction at Disney World with mixed feelings. 

In case you aren't familiar with the famous ride, you board a boat, which takes you through a journey through dimly lit pirate scenes. Speaking mostly of the Disney World version (thought Disneyland is very similar), you pass by a mermaid skeleton, a skeleton steering a ghost ship, down a small pitch black incline, then in between a battle between a ship and a fort. The rest of the ride will take you through various comical scenes with pirates looting and drinking and plundering and so on, with World featuring Jack Sparrow, and Land being more traditional.

There is a scene in the second half that shows an auction for... well, women.  Audio animatronics of various sizes stand, waiting to be sold, as one of the pirates yells out "We wants the redhead!" referring to a more attractive... well, woman for sale.  Yes, it's a robot, but you feel me.

Some years ago, during a refurbishment, some scenes were changed to have some of the women weilding rolling pins chasing their men (as opposed to the other way around, as it was for decades before).  Disney now wants both men and women pirates/robots to be involved in looting and buying random things at the auction.

From what I've seen on social media, most people do not want this change, want Disney to leave well enough alone and are "tired of all this PC crap and tired of companies like Disney giving in to the small minority of people who want to change it!", or some such.

At first, I thought "Why not leave well enough alone?"  I mean, it's been like that for a long time, and Disney has monorails that need to be fixed, they have garbage cans that need to be emptied way more than before, pricing is going up, Universal is atop its game and so on -- I mean, Disney has bigger fish to fry, right?

And yet...

There's something about selling a person that bugs me.  Even if it's a robot. 

If Splash Mountain depicted the selling of a slave, or at least a black slave (as that's how we usually think of "slavery"), Magic Kingdom would burn to the ground.  Heck, they won't even release the movie "Song of the South" in the US for sale or streaming (I support it being available, by the way), and so why do we think the selling of females, even depicted as campy, silly characters, are okay?

Let me stop here.  I have a feeling by now, some of you reading are thinking,  "What are you talking about?  You're falling for the same PC crap that Disney is giving in to!" and those who really know me are probably saying "Really? What about you being against (fill in hot topic of the day that I've given my opinion on in recent months) but you support this??"  For that answer, I can definitively... I don't know.  I have no idea.

I do know this, though.  Slavery, at least in this country as we know it, doesn't exist. Trafficking does.  Trafficking is not okay.  Even when it's robots.  

Gosh, I sound silly, don't I?  Robots don't traffic.  They do what they are programmed to do. And it's an old attraction back when making such amusing jokes and scenes were acceptable.  And honestly, I'm sure it's acceptable today... but I really am not bothered by Disney's move to change things up. 

I guess I just pictured some 18 year old girl who'd spent 4 years being trapped in the slave trade (re: sex trafficking), but now free and enjoying a day of magic and fun at Magic Kingdom... and seeing a scene with silly, stupid, goofy looking robot pirates that ended up reminding her of how she was stolen from her family years ago, sold to some billionaire and sent to a foreign country... or a nearby county. 

So that's it. Maybe I'm silly, and I don't plan on defending my position other than what I've stated. I have no problem with people being mad about Disney changing the scene... and if Disney makes an about face and decides to leave as is, I'll probably be fine with it.

But taking out the part where women are sold into slavery?  I'm okay with it. 

Friday, February 17, 2017

top ten books of 2016

Read the other two posts that precede this.... first, my love of audiobooks, and second, the books that didn't make the top ten.


"Superheroes Are For Real" by Ethan Bryan (2016)
I didn't count this in my Top Ten, as it's a children's book, but it's still worth the 15 minutes it takes to read.  It glorious comic book style color, its the story of a little girl who sees her dad as... well, a superhero.  It's so much fun, and such a sweet story, and my favorite anecdote from Ethan Bryan (who is a friend of mine, and pasty white) is "Someone asked me why the dad and daughter in the story are black.  My answer was 'Why not?'"  Get this book and read to and with your kids.

Oh, hey Anna Kendrick.  How you?
10 - "Scrappy Little Nobody" by Anna Kendrick (2016)
One of my favorite "new era" of actresses, as in, those in their 20s who we are witnessing the early part of what will be a long career (see, "Stone, Emma" or "Watson, Emma"), she writes various stories of her coming-up, from theater to auditions to love to life in general, all with a sort of awkward tone... because as fun as she may be, she's awkward, and that's part of her charm.

9 - "End of Watch" by Stephen King (2016)
After "Mr. Mercedes" and "Finders Keepers" (which I think is the best in the trilogy), King ends the Bill Hodges Trilogy with the reemergence of the Brady Hartsfield, the villain in the first one (with only a cameo in the second). Its a solid ending, and a great effort.  Will Patton is a regular King narrator, and though his female voices border the line between decent and silly, its still a great journey.

8 - "Right for a Reason: Life, Liberty & a Crapload of Common Sense" by Miriam Weaver and Amy Jo Clark, aka The Chicks on the Right (2014)
Let's put it this way... if you are conservative, you'll love this indictment of Black Lives Matter, Hillary Clinton, the liberal media, the hypocrisy of Hollywood and more. If you are a liberal, you will think this book is full of crap.  You can probably tell where I fall on that spectrum.

Oh, and she does.  Lauren Graham is one of my favorites on TV, playing one of my favorite TV roles ever -- Lorelei Gilmore -- and this is a quick dash through her early career, her experience on Gilmore Girls and the awesomeness of the new Gilmore Girls series.  She's full of jokes and one-liners (most land, a few do not) and great energy, and you just want to sit with her and ask all the questions about all the things. 

Before he was the best selling author of "Pride & Prejudice & Zombies" (along with "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter", which was turned into one of the worst films I've seen in recent memory), Grahame-Smith wrote up this little ditty about what to do when facing the travails and problems of a horror film. You'll learn what to do when faced with such horrors as cannibalistic hillbillies, serial killers, zombies, vampires, haunted Japanese videocassettes and more.  It's the funniest book I read all year, and anyone who's ever watched a coed go into a dark basement with a low-bulb flashlight in a film will appreciate the pop culture here.

This book is crazy good. Two parallel stories -- one is Daniel Burnham, an architect who was given the task of constructing and pulling off the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago.  The other is the story of H.H. Holmes, who was a sadistic killer who built a "murder castle", full of torture rooms and dead bodies... and both stories intertwine even though the Burnham and Holmes rarely cross paths within the story itself.  While Burnham's story is compelling, dealing with the politics and limitations of the day in an effort to make what was then one of the biggest events on the planet, its Holmes' story that brings this book to life. The building he constructed was pure evil, purposely built for killing and disposing of lots of bodies, many of them being women and children.  Oh, and this isn't a fiction book -- this is a true story, soon to be a movie with Leonard DiCaprio.

SIDEBAR... I finished the last 4 hours of this book while on a plane headed to Anaheim for training in Disneyland last September.  I was around 30 minutes from completion as I walked out of John Wayne Airport towards the Disney transportation area.  And I spent the entire trip from the airport to the Disneyland listening to the rest of the book, literally hearing the last few words as the bus rolled to a stop in front of the Grand Californian.  True story.

4 - "The Whistler" by John Grisham (2016)

Investigator Lacy Stoltz and her partner Hugo Hatch get a call from a mysterious source named Myers, who has information on the corruption at a high judicial level centering on a casino on the Tappacola Indian Reservation in the Florida panhandle.  Thus begins the unfolding of a tense tale of mafia, bad judges, money laundering and more.  Grisham went through a period of novels that told a good story and had terrible endings (I'm looking at you, "The Appeal"), but his last four or five have been at the least solid and at their best, stellar.  This falls somewhere in between, but I really enjoyed the twists.   Note:  Make sure you get a copy of the "prequel", "Witness to a Trial", available on Kindle and -- its not mandatory, but it sets up "The Whistler" really, really well.

Flynn novels always have ominous
and cool covers
3 - "Sharp Objects" by Gillian Flynn (2006)
I avoided this book for a while, because while I enjoyed "Gone Girl", and really loved "Dark Places" (avoid the movie, its terrible), I wasn't sure if I wanted to read a tale about a chick who cuts herself obsessively.  Finally, though, I felt I needed to read it to cross off all of Flynn's novels.  And I'm glad I did.  Camille Preaker is a journalist with many, many issues, who is sent by her tiny newspaper to her Missouri hometown to investigate the murder of a little girl.  Soon, another body shows up, and Camille and detective Richard Willis -- also her love interest -- try to unravel this case.  And it keeps taking bizarre turns, culminating in an ending that I sorta saw coming, but was thrilling nonetheless. 

I've heard rumors that Flynn has a new novel coming out in May, and I'm sure I'll be listening to it the day it's released.

Being a pop culture junkie, how about a book that essentially runs down the Top 100 television shows of all time, gives an additional list of "almost there" shows and another list of shows that could make future lists.  They start right out of the gate with their Top Five, as they go back and forth on which one could actually be the greatest show of all time -- The Simpsons, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, The Wire, Cheers or The Sopranos.  (I'll let you read to find out how they end up finally ranking out)

It's a great reminder of the history of television, as they dive deep into old shows like The Rifleman, Twilight Zone and Dark Shadows, and argue over how good or how bad shows like The Brady Bunch and Gilligan's Island were.  It's a fat stack of 436 pages, but I breezed through it, wondering where my favorite all time TV shows ranked... hint:  Out of The Wonder Years, Facts of Life and Scarecrow & Mrs King, only one of them showed up.  Sad!

SIDEBAR: It's no secret I'm slowly working on my own book.  It's a movie book, and it pretty much discusses my favorite 500 films of all time. I'd already decided the "talk about one by one" format was how I was going to go, and the fact this works so well here makes me comfortable in my own decision.

And.. the best book I read all year...

Just re-watched this movie this week. Its got
great re-watchability.
Math confuses me sometimes, so you toss in elements of subprime lending, collateralized debt obligation (CDO) and credit default swaps, and I'm all like "Huh?"  Enter Michael Lewis, the amazing author of "The Blind Side" and "Moneyball", two books (and movies) I love very much.  Lewis' take on the housing market collapse of the mid-2000s that led to the bankruptcy and demise of generations old firms like Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers is fantastic, and spelled out pretty easily. There is still a lot to absorb, and I'd be lying if I told you I understood most half of it, at least well enough to explain it to you, but I did come away with an full understanding of it. 

The characters in the book have depth -- especially since they are real people -- including Howie Hubler who literally lost $900 Billion (that's with a B, not a typo) in a SINGLE DAY... Steven Eisman, a hedge fund manager who is working to system to get rich and yet is still appalled by the entire thing... and Michael Burry, a market analyst with Asperger's, who saw the collapse coming and pushed through the derision and criticism of everyone else to make a boatload of cash at the end. 

If you've seen the equally excellent movie "The Big Short", Christian Bale portrays the Burry character, and what you see on camera -- the nervousness, the loud music, the shorts and t-shirt in the office, the slight lisp and speech impediment, the socially awkward style -- is exactly who he is in the book. 

SIDEBAR:  Personally, I thought he and Tom Hardy's character in "The Revenant" were miles ahead of anyone else in 2014 and should have split the Best Supporting Actor Oscar which went to the undeserving Mark Rylance in "Bridge of Spies", but that's me. I mean, its my opinion, but I'm still right.

So there ya go...  my favorite ten books of the year!   

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

books read in 2016... the not top ten

So I wanted to share my Top Ten Books of 2016... these books are all read for the first time. Though re-reads of books count toward my goal. Out of 43 books, 9 of them were read for a 2nd time, one a 3rd time and as mentioned with Harry Potter, a 5th time.  You can read about my method on my previous post, for the love of audiobooks

But first, let me tell you what I read that didn't make my Top Ten of the year...

--"The Nerdist Way: How to Reach the Next Level (in real life)" by Chris Hardwicke. Fun, but a little long and tedious in some parts.

--"The Bazaar of Bad Dreams: Stories" by Stephen King. Very enjoyable collection of short stories & novellas.

--"The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles" by Steven Pressfield. Solid take on creativity.

Read this, then watch "Making a Murderer" on
Netflix, THEN read "Indefensible", then decide
if you think Steven Avery did it. (I say yes)
--"Stuffology 101: Get Your Mind Out of the Clutter" by  Brenda Avadian & Eric M. Riddle. Some great tips on de-clutter and organization.

--"The Innocent Killer: A True Story of a Wrongful Conviction and It's Aftermath" & "Indefensible: The Missing Truth About Steven Avery, Teresa Halbach and Making a Murderer" by Michael Griesbach. The former was written before "Making a Murderer", all about Steven Avery's false conviction for a rape case, then a real conviction for the murder of Teresa Halbach. The latter was written after the Netflix doc, and it's a good companion piece to it, about what you didn't see on TV.

--"Confessions of a Terrible Husband: Lessons Learned from a Lumpy Couch" - Nick Pavildas. A really fun marriage book. Recommended.

--"Movie Freak: My Life Watching Movies" - Owen Gleibermann. Wanted a book on the life of a movie critic, got a book on the life and sexual devience of said critic.

--"Breaking Busy: How to Find Peace and Purpose in a World of Crazy" by Alli Worthington.  She's a great speaker and a great author, and this is a great reminder to just... well, slow down a bit.
--"Tribes: We Need You Lead Us" by Seth Godin.  All about the importance of the people around you.

--The Entire Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling. Order of the Phoenix is still my favorite, though Goblet of Fire is really catching up.

--"Football Confidential: True Confessions From the Gutter of Football" by Anonymous. When an NFL player tells all... don't go looking for lots of name dropping, you won't get it.

--"A Little Bit Wicked: Life, Love & Faith in Stages" by Kristen Chenoweth. A memoir of a Broadway superstar. Loved this.

--"The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" by E.L. Baum. A classic that should be read.

--"The Running Man" by Richard Bachman, nee Stephen King. The movie is better, though this was okay.  And by the way, the theme of the game show "Running Man" is the same, but otherwise, there are vast differences.

--"DisneyWar" by James Stewart. The rise & fall of Michael Eisner at Disney, and this book is amazing.

--"Purple Cow: Transform Your Team By Being Remarkable" by Jeff Goins. Do you have a marketing idea? If its a purple cow, you have a real shot at success.

--"Kill Him Some More: Notorious USA" by Caitlin Rother. Terrible true crime. Poorly written.

--"The Death of the WCW" by Bryan Alverez. Loved this book in 1996, and liked it now. A good business tale.

This is a fun book, and its cool when you know
the author as well
--"Wildflower" by Drew Barrymore. My favorite "bad girl" from the early 90s, all grown up and acting like an adult. Fun memoir.

--"Possessed: The Infamous Texas Stiletto Murder" by Kathryn Casey. I love her true crime stuff, and she doesn't fail here either.

--"Superhuman by Habit" & "Superhuman Social Skills" by Tynan. Yawn.

--"The Red Bandanna: A Life, A Choice, A Legacy" by Tom Rinaldi. The story of a heroism at the World Trade Center. So good.

--"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Interesting story, quick read. Movie was better (and longer)

--"Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explaisn the Hidden Side of Everything" by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner.  An interesting take on not just economics, but socioeconomics -- where else could you see the connect between standardized testing of US teachers and the Yazuka and sumo wrestling in Japan.

--"The Descendants" by Kaui Hart Hemmings.  The George Clooney movie is based on this book about a Hawaiian landowner, a wife in a coma, two troubled daughters and an affair. If you like the movie, you'll like the book. If not... you won't. I loved both.

And so tomorrow, my Top Ten Books of 2016

Monday, February 13, 2017

for the love of audiobooks

For the third year in a row, I reached my book goal! Because unless I have something to push towards, I can tell you that I would likely never pick up a book and absorb a single word...

Okay, let me stop here and further expound on this point, lest you call me out on whatever you'd call me out on. I use Audible. I'm an audiobook junkie... in fact, my first audiobook ever was a Christmas story (A, not The) on cassette I randomly obtained in college. It was the story of a girl who lived on the wrong side of the tracks, and was picked on by some of the more popular girls, and somehow was given an assignment to be a secret Santa to one of the popular girls... so because she had very little money due to her family not being very financially sound, she ends up making Christmas presents for the girl. And she ends up bringing joy to an otherwise shallow young lady, by making the gifts thoughtful (like, a basket with the girl's favorite things in it, or a scrapbook documenting her cheerleading career, etc).

This movie is amazing. The original from 1957 is likely a better film,  but I
enjoyed this movie so much more
I don't remember the name of the book, the author, and I'm not positive it wasn't a shorter story as a part of a Christmas collection, but there ya go. I remember being all excited about letting my friend Allyson listen to it so she'd enjoy it as much as I did, and she was like "Yeah, its great". Thanks, chick. To be fair, she did the same thing - before falling asleep - when I made her watch Showtime's version of "Twelve Angry Men" in 1997, so perhaps we didn't see eye to eye on what made compelling storytelling. Digress, I do.

When I moved to Birmingham, I visited the library one day (for you millennials, the "library" is a place where you can "check out", or "borrow", or even "free rent" books and other types of media, with the agreement that you return it in a set amount of time) and discovered this huge array of books on CD. So I visited 2 or 3 times per month, checking out anywhere from 3 or 4 to 8 or 9 books on CD at a time, importing them into my iTunes. Some loaded easily, with track names, others had tracks that were about a minute long -- some books literally had 100s of tracks to them. "Kingdom Keepers", I'm looking at you.

Some years later, after I had 100+ audiobooks loaded into iTunes, I discovered My first book ever was "Walt Disney" by Neal Gabler, this 35 hour epic biography, which I blew through in a few days. I was hooked... not only was it just a few files (four 8-hour tracks) but no CDs to deal with. I bought a few more books here and there, and realized that the 1-credit per month plan was not enough. I bumped it up to 2-credits per month and have had that ever since.

The real debate rages on... does listening to audiobooks count as reading? I say yes. Many say no.

The real answer? Who gives a rip. I call it reading, you call it listening, let's call the whole thing off, amma right?

Without, I wouldn't touch a book of any kind. Why? I'm just too busy. Through audiobooks, I can take the book in so much better... see, when I read, I have a bad habit of scan-reading. I don't mean to, but I do -- I'll even read a paragraph and have to go back a few pages to get a context of what I just read, as I may have scanned over it. The Lovely Steph Leann says I do this with emails, though I don't know what she means. Wink wink nudge nudge.

Without Audible, I would have never gone in-depth into the Steven Avery case, as documented in "Making a Murderer" on Netflix. Without Audible, I would have never discovered the benefit of the Purple Cow as per Seth Goins. Without Audible, would likely have never revisited (re-read) the downfall of the WCW in the 90s as a part of the Monday Night War. Or known what the true difference is between the movie and the book of "The Running Man".

Or gone through all of the Harry Potter novels for a 5th time. All 119 hours of it, by the way.

I had a goal of 43 books this year... and 42 of them were listened to via my iPod, thanks to Audible. This is not a shill for Audible, necessarily, they just happen to be who I dearly love.

Incidentally, this was the opening part to a three part blog post about the books actually read in 2016... and so that comes tomorrow.