Five Things I Am Into Right Now, January 2015

This is Lightning. She only has bad daysSo I’m going through a thing with a video game.

Do you remember this post? (The reference is only a few paragraphs, it won’t take you long.) There I am praising Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII.

You can feel the love.

It could be argued that it was the honeymoon stage of my relationship with the game.

See, I’ve had a long relationship with Lightning and her role-playing world, playing both of the installments before starting on the third and final part (I’m sure it could almost equal entire months if the hours were embarrassingly added together). And, as you can guess from the post then, everything was going swimmingly in our relationship. We laughed at the same jokes, enjoyed discussing our past history…. Then this damn monster called Grendel appeared in a desert world and ruined everything for us.

Ruined, ruined, ruined!

Now, I love the literary reference in the monster’s name, so the creators get points for that, but that monster destroyed my infatuation with the game and world and Lightning and sent me away. (Actually, over to Gotham City and a Batman game.) It’s not often I leave a game unfinished, especially a Final Fantasy game, so it was rough. I like to think it felt that way to Lightning too.

So here I am, it’s a new year, and I am looking for new beginnings, new possibilities. And since Lightning and I have such a long past I decided to give it another shot….

Of course, this time I am wisely playing on easy.

I have no video game shame.

Here is my first list for 2015, and speaking of video games… Continue reading

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Forward to Christmas Past! Christmas Blogposts to Check Out…

Santa on his SleighThere are a few things that I really enjoy writing about.

A favorite author or book? Bring it on! A television show I like to watch? Sure. Something odd going on in my life? Well, within reason of course. I do like to keep some privacy. There is a line there and certainly someday I will find it.

One of the things I get a kick out of each year is Christmas. Heck, I even wrote a bad Christmas song on this site in the past (here). Let me add to that- One of my favorite pieces of fiction I have ever done is a holiday movie screenplay. I still dream someday I can sell that script and see it made.

This holiday just gets me going. Basically, it is the artistic equivalent of drinking one too many glasses of hot chocolate. Here are some of the blogposts I have done about my favorite holiday. Enjoy!

The New Kid in the Audience: A Holiday Confessional. One of the first things I ever wrote for the internet was about Christmas. Want proof? Here you go. It’s my own agnostic/atheist view on a holiday I love. With a helping of Snoopy throw in for good measure.

Book Review: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I’ve done over 30 reviews on my local NPR station now, but this is easily one of my favorites. I have always loved this book and it really gave me a chance to share that love. Also, I got to read selections from the book. Check it out! You can even hear me do Tiny Tim!

Losing the Grinch: When I Became a Who. On a Christmas Eve, my house was broken into and all the Christmas presents and electronics were stolen. My oldest child was only a month old at the time, so it would not leave emotional scars for him, but it is something his parents will never forget. When I was a kid I used to have trouble falling asleep on Christmas Eve because of the excitement, now it is a very different feeling each year.

The Littlest Angel Is the Worst Holiday Story… Ever. Yes, the holiday story gauntlet has been thrown down and this is the worst in my opinion out there. Oh, it is so, so bad. The fact that people still read this every  year gives me the shivers. Seriously, I am shivering right now.

The Christmas Accordion: Holiday 2012 Thoughts. I had just finished seeing the first Hobbit film and was sitting in a coffee shop with my dad when I heard about the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary. My son was almost the same age as many of the victims. This post is about how Christmas should feel in a school, or at least how it did for me.

Neil Diamond’s “A Cherry Cherry Christmas” is the Worst Christmas Song Ever! A Holiday Musical Rant. I know, I know, Neil Diamond fans, I know. This is Mr. Diamond referencing his own work. But that doesn’t change the fact that this song is so utterly bad and inappropriate. You don’t believe me that this is the worst holiday song? Go ahead and read my post and then listen to it. If you have real courage, watch the video.

Writing a Good Christmas Story: Four Things to Consider. This is my most recent post on the holiday and here I put my writing educator hat on, trying to lay down some ground rules for what makes a Christmas story work… because honestly, most holiday stories don’t.

Five Things I Am Into Right Now, November 2014

BoredI am suffering the case of the blahs. Oh, this is not a bad thing related to my life or anything, this is related to books. I’ve done the book reviews for my local NPR station now for over a year and half. That is over 30 books. (You can listen and read my reviews via the links on this page of my site.)

See, I’m struggling through a book review by a very popular author. Some people will love the book, I am certain; others will hate it. Me, I’m just mildly disappointed and that is what gives me the blahs.

Let me start this over… I love writing a good book review. There is nothing more fun for me as a reviewer than breaking down a good book, introducing it to a listener/reader and discussing why the high points are the high points. Talking about good books is my soapbox and I like being on it, thank you very much!

I am not Dorothy Parker. She used to take a glee in writing a bad review. Me, I find it disappointing. I can do it certainly, and they are easy to do, but they do not give me pleasure. Also, I like to say more than simply “I don’t like it.” I go out of my way to explain why something doesn’t work. Okay, this could be argued as a second soapbox, but not as big or important as the other one.

But there are no soapboxes when the book is a blah, middle-of-the road, half-a-shoulder-shrug. In a way, I see this blah around me in the environment too, as all the days are gray and getting colder. Of course, the review will be written in a week or so and my life will go on. I can’t guarantee anything regarding the weather.

Let’s move on to happier thoughts! Here are the five things I think are awesome right now. Continue reading

Five Things I Am Into Right Now, October 2014

It's The Great PumpkinSo I have to accept the fact my kids are not going to be into the Peanuts. I truly see the generational gap there. While I can write a post dissecting the interworking genius of It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (which I did do here), my kids would rather watch something else.

Actually, my son had a really good answer for not wanting to watch the show. He said they used bad language. Which is true, if you consider the word “stupid” a bad word, as we try to do in our house.

And while my son loves looking at my old comics (especially Calvin & Hobbes), he has no interest in looking at Peanuts. So while I’m busy each year collecting the complete works (thanks to the releases by Fantagraphics Books), my old paperback copies sit gathering dust on his shelves. Once I tried reading him the books and he was startled by them.

“Why are they so mean to Charlie Brown?”

“Well, it’s…”

Now how would you answer that? Is it funny to be mean to someone? Are we laughing at a child’s pain? In our age of fighting bullying, is Charlie Brown a victim? Granted, in the later years of Schulz’s writing, Charlie Brown took a back seat and much of his torture disappeared (usually everything seemed to be about Rerun), but it is there in the early years tenfold.

In the next year we’ll be getting a new Charlie Brown movie. The trailer looks beautiful, but I wonder how they will handle this stuff. It could either be a rebirth for the franchise or the final nail in the coffin. When Charles Schulz died he made it very clear he wanted everything to stop after his passing. His family seems to have done everything possible to keep it going though; yet, a part of me believes Schulz had it right. Especially now.

Now on to my October list! Continue reading

Five Things I Am Into Right Now, September 2014

Doctor WhoOkay, let’s get this out of the way first. I’m not sure what I think about the new Doctor on Doctor Who.

Yes, I get why they cast Peter Capaldi, he is in an interesting choice with a vibe very different from Matt Smith and David Tennant. It’s a fresh choice. (I’m still not a fan of Clara, but really it would be hard for anyone to follow Amy, Rory, and River. It’s a pretty high bar.)

This maybe all because I thought the direction of the first two episodes felt off. A lot of people were excited to have Ben Wheatley direct the first two episodes (again a fresh choice), but there is a certain “buy in” that I didn’t feel in those two episodes. It almost (and this may seem cruel) felt like a fan’s version of Doctor Who, not truly capturing the spirit and energy of the show.

It was Doctor Who, it just didn’t feel like Doctor Who.

Oh, who knows? Maybe I am just bitter since Matt Smith is off the show and he was in many ways my Doctor. In a few episodes I might be singing a different tune (and I have no problem admitting when I am wrong).

You know, whatever happens, even if I get so out of it that I walk away from the show for a few seasons, it doesn’t mean I stop being a Doctor Who fan. I will still rewatch the seasons I love. For example, I still consider myself a Star Trek fan, even though I didn’t watch a single episode of Enterprise (did you hear that theme song?) and I thought the last film contradicted a lot of Star Trek norms (like, for example, remember when it was a big deal when Voyager could land on a planet? I guess the Enterprise could do that decades earlier.).

Let’s move on to more pleasant stuff than my possible science-fiction nerd disappointment. Here are five things for September. Continue reading

Five Things I Am Into Right Now, July 2014

Scooby GangThis might as well be called my month of nerd. With the continuously releasing news about Star Wars Episode 7, Doctor Who, The Hobbit, and everyone else fantastical, I’m in many ways in nerd heaven. Heck, I even thought the last season of Game of Thrones was the best one so far (which I wrote about here)! And there have even been rumblings about Indiana Jones!

Now, here is the thing that has been obsessing me more than any other (possibly making me a king of the nerds)- I’ve got an idea for a Scooby-Doo movie.

You know how they seem to release one to two direct-to-video Scooby-Doo cartoon each year? Some are great (and I have seen them all, so I can judge), some are okay and some are frankly bad (for example, when Shaggy sings a love song to his alien girlfriend). Well, I have an idea/plot/synopsis for a Scooby-Doo cartoon movie and it is doozy.

I’m not joking! I have an idea for a Scooby-Doo animated movie and it would be freaking great!

The trick (and it is a big trick) is figuring out how (and who) to throw my synopsis at. You see I would love to write this script (and it wouldn’t take me long), I just need to know if it would be read before I go to the trouble of doing it. So here I sit, twiddling my thumbs trying to figure out exactly how someone gets a message into the world of WB Animation. Seriously, I have no clue.

Now before anyone worries, I won’t be changing anything we know about Scooby-Doo if this script is picked up and the beats we all expect in his stories. I don’t want to break the mold; I just want to create a fun adventure in that world. Also, as a parent of two little kids who are obsessed with Scooby-Doo, it would be really great to do something like that for them.

“Hey kids, guess what? Your dad wrote a Scooby-Doo movie. Want to watch it?”

Oh, these are all just dreams, I get that. Without contacts or an agent (who works specifically with writers around this) to go to WB Animation and pitch the idea, it will only be a fun daydream. I just can’t help but dream… dream of Scooby Snacks and pizzas covered in ice cream, anchovies, pickles, hamburgers, and salami, that is.

Now on to my very nerdy list for this month! Continue reading

Our Oscar Theme Summer (Part 2)

dmbBefore I get to the films my wife and I watched as we continued our Oscar summer (which I first talked about here), I want to go off on a tangent… about Dave Matthews Band. This has no real point and doesn’t relate at all, it is just a tangent.

Here we go… A few weeks ago my wife and I saw DMB in concert, it was her first time seeing them in concert, it was my fourth. It feels like every time I go to see Dave, it is to remind myself why I don’t like seeing him in concert. Oh, I am not talking about him or his band (they are great and I will always be a fan; I own every CD), but I just really dislike the audience that follow him.

See, my wife and I came to see Dave and his band perform, but I couldn’t say that was true for a majority of the people around me.

For them it was a party with drinking, drugs, loud talking and laughter. The fact that a band was on stage giving their all didn’t even register with them. Seriously, it all felt so disrespectful for the band that they supposedly love. And let me clarify, this wasn’t just in our section of the audience, this was everywhere. Heck, the “party” atmosphere started before the band even entered the stage.

I get the whole tribal thrill of following a band like many of these people do, feeling part of a community, but I came to hear a show, see an artist I love, I didn’t come to bump into old friends or play the bongos (yes, someone had the bongos near us).

I’m sure in a few years, I’ll attempt to see Dave again and I will be reminded of this all over again. It’s what I do, but I am disappointed. And I’ve spent my days since seeing the concert listening to my CDs (including some of my live CDs) wondering about what could have been… All of the shows can’t be that bad, right? Argh, I’m doing it again.

Like I said, this was a tangent and has nothing to do with the point of this post.  It was just frustrating, and I had to get it off my chest.

Where was I?

Oh yeah, Oscar movies, round two! Enjoy! Continue reading

Five Things I Am Into Right Now, May 2014

IndyWhenever I have a sore throat I like to imagine that I sound like Harrison Ford. Not current-day Harrison, no, I’m talking classic Harrison. You know that moment in The Raiders of the Lost Ark when he looks right at the camera (Marion Ravenwood) and says “Trust me.”

Right there! That is my sore throat voice!

Of course, this is complete poppycock. I just sound like myself, but more nasally and rough.

I always expect more of my voice. I assume it can sound smooth, I also assume I can sing. Both things proven wrong many, many times. Yet, there is a chance if you drive alongside me you might see me singing in my car. I actually got in an accident once driving and singing to They Might Be Giants. I kid you not! And, forever after that, you could hear the moment of the accident in the tape. It is like a hiccup. That tape hiccup was my life flashing before my eyes.

Whatever the case, I have a little bit of a cold today. I’ll be fine, and I’ll spend the rest of my day happily imagining I have the world to save from Nazis.

Here is my list of the five awesome things I am into right now. This is a great list. Trust me. Continue reading

Five Things I Am Into Right Now, April 2014

UmbrellaSpring should be a time of rebirth, new things to discover. It’s one of the reasons that the summer blockbusters start in this month and Easter is filled with eggs and rabbits. Yet, when I look over my list I notice that much of it is filled with… well… old stuff.

Maybe this says something about me?

Or maybe I just need to stop psychoanalyzing myself?

I do it a lot, of course, but everyone that has a blog does. We are a collection of little self-therapists, the only difference is the world gets access to the notepad. And can comment on it.

Well, speaking as my own therapist, I see on this list a sonic piece of detective comfort food, a need for silly humor, a demon I can’t escape, a cartoon for the kiddies, and a CD that always puts a smile on my face. My diagnosis is that it is a something like a call for Spring, but a comforting one. So maybe I am almost on the right page, just not quite.

Continue reading

Radio Radio: Surviving My Local Radio Scene

RadioA few months ago the CD player in my car stopped working. I put a disc in, it shoots it back out.

Yes? No! Yes? No! Yes? No!

It is like arguing with a two-year old and losing each and every freaking time.

Now, I’m not a car dude. I’m one of those kind of people that don’t see a vehicle as some kind of a mark of success, it is a tool, and, if given the option, I would drive a car until the last wheel fell off.  Honestly, I just don’t care. I think the only time I have ever drooled over an automobile was when I saw an ad for the new Honda Odyssey. Not because it looked smart. No, I liked it because it came with a vacuum cleaner. With two little kids that sounded awesome! Goodbye to all those fruit snacks! I could vacuum anytime I wanted!

Every day I need to drive my son to his school, which is about a 25-minute drive. And while I would love to just listen to NPR the entire way there and back, I can’t. My six-year old hears everything and there is a lot on that I just don’t want to explain to him. For example, yesterday while getting out of the car he said, “Boy, there are a lot of wars going on, isn’t there?”

Ah… yeah… there certainly are… damn…

So, for those moments when NPR goes a little “bleak,” I’ve begun exploring the dial, switching to the local music stations. What I’ve discovered though is something akin to a time capsule.

Yes, these stations are glimpses of some other time, but where exactly those other times took place, I can’t say. Continue reading