Monday, December 21, 2009
Christmas movie: A Christmas Story (1984) – There have been a lot of great Christmas movies, but the story of Ralphie and his quest for a Red Ryder BB gun is at the top of my list. I never tire of seeing the triple-dog-dare at the frozen flagpole, the battle with Black Bart, the pink bunny suit, the leg lamp, the pummeling of Farkus, and dozens of other classic scenes. Funny, heartwarming, nostalgic.
Animated Christmas special: Do I have to choose just one? If so, then it’s A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965). A humorous and poignant reminder of the true meaning of Christmas, capped off by Linus’s memorable recitation at the end. Honorable mention to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (remember the Abominable Snow Monster and the Island of Misfit Toys?) and The Year Without a Santa Claus. “They call me Heat Miser, whatever I touch, starts to melt in my clutch.”
Christmas song: “Reason for the Season” by Stryper (1986) – Red and green may be the traditional colors of Christmas, but for me it’s yellow and black. Yes, I know a song by an ’80s hair metal band is an unusual choice for a holiday favorite. But how can you beat a tune with razor-sharp guitar riffs, a catchy chorus, and lyrics that celebrate Jesus as the reason for the season?
Christmas episode on a television series: “It’s a Bundyful Life” on Married With Children (1987) – An homage/parody of the Jimmy Stewart classic, It’s a Wonderful Life. After an accident hanging Christmas lights, Al Bundy is paid a visit by his guardian angel (Sam Kinison). The angel shows Al how happy his family would be if he were never born. Hilarious.
Christmas food: peanut clusters – As tasty today as they were three decades ago when I was a kid. It’s almost impossible to eat just one, or two, or three …
Christmas book: The book of Matthew and the book of Luke in the New Testament cover the story pretty well!
Friday, December 11, 2009
Barnes & Noble is currently offering the Member Price for all book purchases made through its Web site. That means you can order The All-American King online at a 20% discount for hardcover or a 10% discount for paperback. Web links for both are below:
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
The best deals of the holiday season are not all found at the last minute. In fact, this festive deal from iUniverse lets you save 50% off the Web site price of any paperback or hardcover book you purchase from the iUniverse Bookstore.
With thousands of titles available, from nonfiction business guides and memiors to historical and humorous novels, you can choose the perfect holiday gifts for yourself and all the booklovers on your shopping lists.
This weekend-only bookstore discount comes to an end at midnight Nov. 29, so use the code 50OFF1109 in the checkout process when you purchase your books. The iUniverse Holiday Sale ends Sunday! Order your books today.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Today my favorite team is the Kardinals, a team that doesn’t actually exist. You see, the Kardinals are my fantasy football team. This is my second year of playing in a fantasy league. It’s a lot of fun, but beware, fantasy football can change the way you watch the NFL. Rather than caring about which teams win and which team lose, you tend to focus more on the performance of your players. A fantasy league can thus wreak havoc on former allegiances. Earlier this year, for example, I found myself rooting for Cowboys running back Tashard Choice to score a touchdown against Kansas City. That I’ve been a Chiefs fan for more than two decades did not matter. That I have rooted against the Cowboys since childhood did not matter. I started Tashard Choice that week and I wanted the fantasy points.
This past Monday night the Baltimore Ravens defense carried my team to victory. That brought the Kardinals record to 5-5. I am happy to be at .500, given the obstacles thrown at me this season by injuries to my star players, huge scores from my opponents, and my own boneheaded draft decisions (I’ve already cut my 4th and 5th round picks).
With my team still in the playoff hunt, I must now scan the waiver wire and check the injury reports. Then I’ll set my lineup for another battle on the fantasy gridiron. Go Kardinals!
Monday, October 19, 2009
Saturday, October 3, 2009
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
On Tuesday, October 6, I will be signing my book from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm at Barnes & Noble at 4550 University Avenue (The Shoppes at Three Fountains) in West Des Moines, Iowa.
The Web links for these events are:
Des Moines http://store-locator.barnesandnoble.com/event/3006149
Hope to see you there!
Saturday, September 5, 2009
Because we're the good guys.
And we're carrying the fire.
And we're carrying the fire. Yes.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
September 8: Western Iowa 56 - Drake 0
September 15: Western Iowa 41 - Iowa State 13
September 22: Western Iowa 28 - Iowa 20
September 29: Western Iowa 23 - Penn State 17
October 6: Western Iowa 42 - Miami (Florida) 6
October 13: Notre Dame
October 20: at Army
October 27: at Louisville
November 3: Memphis
November 10: North Texas
November 17: at South Carolina
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Saturday, August 8, 2009
I’m bringing flabby back (yeah)
Them other boys don’t know how to snack (yeah)
Is that a pie cooling on the rack? (yeah)
I want a burger gotta get it fast (yeah)
Take me to the fridge
Hungry babe (uh-huh)
You see the Snickers
Candy I’m your slave (uh-huh)
I’ll add some whip cream cause that’s what I crave (uh-huh)
Just don’t tell me yet how much I weigh (uh-huh)
Take me to the buffet
Come here fries
Go ahead, bring more of it
A pancake stack
Go ahead, bring more of it
Go ahead, bring more of it
Pink ice cream
Go ahead, bring more of it
Let me see what you’re cooking with
Go ahead, bring more of it
Look at those chips
Go ahead, bring more of it
Soup makes me smile
Go ahead, bring more of it
Go ahead, bring more of it
And get your flabby on
Go ahead, bring more of it
Get your flabby on
Saturday, August 1, 2009
Premiering in April, Kings was an alternate reality drama based on the biblical story of King Saul and King David. I confess I had mixed feelings about it at first. It intrigued me, though I wondered if it tried to do too much with too many different elements. But the show held my interest enough to keep watching. Each week it drew me deeper and deeper into the story. By the middle of its 12-episode run, I counted Kings as one of the year’s best television shows. The writing, production quality, and acting were superb. More than once I had to rewind a scene to absorb the full power and beauty of Ian McShane’s Shakespearean dialogue.
Despite garnering much critical acclaim, Kings did not draw high ratings. So NBC pulled the plug. We will thus never know the fate of Silas, Rose, Jack, Michelle, William, and of course David Shepherd, who at season’s end, had to flee his homeland to seek refuge among his nation’s enemies.
Goodbye Kings. You were an innovative show that deserved a much longer run.
Maybe I should check out Deadwood on DVD.
Saturday, July 25, 2009
Capote: This movie’s portrayal of Truman Capote as he researched In Cold Blood is nothing less than riveting. Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Oscar is well deserved. Infamous with Toby Jones is another fine film showing the legendary Capote at work.
Secret Window: Johnny Depp plays a mystery writer working on a new book at a secluded lakeside cabin. Trouble ensues when a mysterious stranger shows up accusing him of plagiarism. What follows is a barrel of eerie fun.
Stranger Than Fiction: Have you ever wondered if fictional characters actually exist, living out their lives in some alternate universe? This is sort of what happens when a famous novelist (Emma Thompson) finds that one of her main characters (Will Ferrell) is a living, breathing person. There are some hilarious scenes as Ferrell’s character hears Thompson’s voice narrating the events of his life. The movie also offers insights into how authors develop, write, and learn from their characters.
Misery: Bestselling author Paul Sheldon (James Caan) is rescued from a car crash in a blizzard by his “number one fan” (Kathy Bates). She takes him back to her house in the mountains and they drink cocoa and spend a delightful evening discussing his books. Well, as the title suggests, that’s not exactly what happens.
The Shining: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” What writer hasn’t typed that line over and over for hours on end?
Adaptation: A bizarre look at a screenwriter who struggles to adapt a novel for the big screen. Though a strange ride, there is plenty for writers to identify with in this movie.
Finding Neverland: Tells the story of J.M. Barrie as he worked on Peter Pan. This film reveals the magic of storytelling and the power of imagination. And, amazingly, Johnny Depp is not at all creepy as a grown man who neglects his wife to play with four boys he meets at a park.
Factotum: Shows the unglamorous life of an aspiring writer. Sometimes depressing and sometimes funny, the story of Hank Chinaski (Matt Dillon) provides a reality lesson for those who would seek to make a living with the pen. Despite the long odds he faces, Hank offers several motivating reflections on writing and its rewards.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Born on September 9, 1917, in Des Moines, Iowa, Sal Kishman led his American Legion baseball team to the 1934 state title. After graduating from Eastridge High, Kishman starred for the minor league Des Moines Demons in 1936 and 1937. The following year, he broke into the majors with the Philadelphia Phillies. Kishman, who batted left and threw right, became a fan favorite in the City of Brotherly Love. The right fielder was one of the top sluggers in the National League until the Marines drafted him before the 1943 season.
Friday, July 3, 2009
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
September 5: Central Waterloo 22 – Eastridge 6
September 12: Eastridge 14 – Tech 13
September 19: Eastridge 29 – Newton 21
September 26: Eastridge 17 – Valley 7
October 3: Eastridge 30 – Lincoln 23
October 10: Eastridge 48 – Hoover 12
October 17: Eastridge 42 – North 10
October 24: Eastridge 28 – Roosevelt 3
October 31: Eastridge (7-1) vs. Dowling (8-0) at Williams Stadium
Friday, June 5, 2009
Yesterday I rented the DVD David, a TNT television production from 1997. The scope of the movie is impressive. It covers events in 1 & 2 Samuel from Saul’s anointing to Absalom’s rebellion against King David—a runtime of three hours. The plot for the most part followed the biblical narrative. Most exceptions were likely the result of budgetary limitations. For example:
- there were no opposing armies lined up against each other during the Goliath scene
- Goliath did not look like a giant, but was instead an angry guy, somewhat taller than average, with muscles
- major battles looked like small skirmishes
- several characters from the Bible story did not appear in the movie, e.g. Abishai, Asahel, Ish-Bosheth, and Abiathar
And some of the action scenes came off as cheesy. The same can be said for the dialogue at times, like when David was boldly reciting Psalms while stabbing enemy soldiers who seemed to be doing little else on the battlefield than waiting for David to kill them.
I was familiar with only two of the cast members in David: Leonard Nimoy who played Samuel and Sheryl Lee (Laura Palmer in Twin Peaks) who played Bathsheba. The actor who portrayed Joab did a fine job, though he was much older than David—a bit distracting given that Joab was David’s nephew. The guy who played Nabal the Calebite was a hoot.
Nimoy as Samuel was great, though it was a little strange when he approached Saul after a battle and said, “Captain, I find it highly illogical that you spared the life of King Agag. The Romulans . . . I mean the Philistines will see this as a sign of weakness.” Then later, Samuel told David to bring the Ark to Jerusalem so the Israelites would “live long and prosper.” Okay, that didn’t happen. But Samuel did tell Saul at his anointing that his kingdom would prosper. Just hearing Nimoy say the word prosper was worth the price of the DVD rental.
Richard Gere portrayed King David in a movie back in the 1980s. I’ve yet to see that one, though I’m thinking I’ll rent it sometime.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
The following events take place between 9:00 am and 10:00 am.
Upon getting captured [summoned from the waiting room] I find myself strapped into a chair. My interrogator, a tall blond woman, lowers the back of my chair so that I am staring up at the ceiling. The woman wears a blue mask over her nose and mouth to conceal her identity. I know that all operatives from her home country, Oralhygienia, are highly skilled at extracting information.
On the ceiling above me are posters with propaganda slogans. One of them shows a dog hugging another dog. The caption: “Hold a true friend with both hands.” Another poster features trees and a lush green hillside. Its caption: “Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.” I hum the Star-Spangled Banner to avoid being corrupted by these subversive attempts at mind control. The masked operative shines a bright light in my face and forces me to open my mouth. She then assaults my gums with a sharp metal poker thingy. After about ten minutes of jabbing and scraping, the interrogation begins:
“Ready to talk, Mr. Bauer? Tell us the passwords for the White House security system.”
“How about now?” She drives the metal poker into the gum line below a molar.
I cry out in agony and shout, “Why do you hate freedom?”
“We do not hate your country's freedoms, Mr. Bauer. It is America's greed, materialism, and inconsisent flossing habits that we seek to destroy. Oh, could you tilt your head a little more towards me?”
“Thank you. Now where were we? Oh yes, the White House. Perhaps you might talk if you knew that we have your daughter Kim locked in a room with a cougar.”
“That didn’t work in Season 2 and it won’t work now!”
“Very well, Mr. Bauer. You have forced me to use a little something I call the Cleaner.”
The masked woman puts a paste-like substance on the tip of a small cylindrical device, which she uses to start buffing my teeth. The device sounds like a small drill, but this process doesn’t hurt at all. I consider telling her that, but decide against it. When I still refuse to talk, the woman says that I must now face their master interrogator—a man known as “The Dentist.” The woman exits, leaving me alone in the room. Deciding that it’s time to escape, I shift my body to turn on the cell phone in my pocket. I shift again to activate the speaker function and dial Chloe at CTU.
“Jack, where are you?”
“I’ve been captured. They've taken me to a torture facility, a place they call the Dentist’s Office. I’m trapped in Exam Room A and need an escape route. Can you get me the schematics for this building?”
“Sure. I’ve got ’em right here on my desktop.”
“I’m thinking if I can get out of this chair I’ll jump on the counter, punch through a ceiling tile and then shimmy out through an air vent.”
“Well Jack, you could do that. Or you could walk out the door behind you. That leads to a hallway, which leads to the waiting room and the front exit. Oh wait, Jack! My screen shows that someone is moving towards you.”
I hear Chloe taking a drink. The door to my room opens and The Dentist enters. “Hello, Mr. Bauer,” he says, while examining X-rays on the wall. “Good news. No cavities. But Yvonne tells me you still won’t give us the passwords. Perhaps this will loosen your tongue.” He pokes around in my mouth with a metal wire thingy similar to the one that his assistant used earlier. A while later he turns to write something on a sheet of paper. While he’s distracted, I’m able to wriggle free of the straps holding me in the chair. I grab a cup of Listerine and throw it in his face. I then snatch some of his torture implements [a toothbrush, a small tube of toothpaste, and a roll of floss] and burst out of the room. Following Chloe’s escape route, I race down the hallway and into the waiting room. But someone is blocking the door. So I leap through the window, landing on the sidewalk amid a shower of broken glass.
In the parking lot, I toss an old lady out of her car and prepare to drive away. From the building behind me I hear The Dentist call out, “You may have escaped this time, Mr. Bauer. But we will meet again . . . in about six months!”
09:59:58 . . . 09:59:59 . . . 10:00:00
Thursday, May 14, 2009
- Color: Blue - except for the rust spots that covered about 40% of the body.
- Acceleration: Zero to 60 in uh . . . well it eventually hit 60 mph, if traveling downhill.
- Sound System: AM radio with one small dashboard speaker. Great for listening to Paul Harvey talk about the rest of the story.
- Heater: Worked well in the summer.
- Air Conditioner: Roll down all four windows and hope for a breeze.
- Seats: Ripped vinyl. Able to reach temperatures in excess of 212 Fahrenheit when parked in the sun. Great flesh-searing summertime fun.
- Floormats: Effective at hiding the holes in the floorboard. Kept me from being distracted by the street whizzing by below.
- Engine: Well, I know it had an engine. I saw it many times when opening the hood to refill the radiator. Never did get that head gasket leak fixed, but dozens of bottles of Bar's Stop Leak kept me on the road.
- Starting: Gotta give it up here for the Datsun. Though it sat outside all year long, the car was a consistent starter. Even on bitterly cold winter mornings, the Datsun coughed to life more often than not.
- Endearing Quality: The engine would sometimes die while I sat in a busy intersection waiting to make a left turn. Good times.
I have mostly fond memories of my first car. It may not have been "a sweet ride," but for ten years it took me where I needed to go. My old blue Datsun was a good car . . . the same way that Marley was a good dog.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
North Platte is also where you will find the Buffalo Bill Ranch. There you can visit the elegant Victorian house where Buffalo Bill Cody once lived. (No, that is NOT the guy in The Silence of the Lambs)
There are many other attractions in North Platte. One of my favorite spots was Cody Park, where I took this picture. Cody Park is a magical place where the donkey and the peacock put aside their ancient hatred for each other and live side by side in peace. If only the world would follow the example set by these noble creatures.
Finally, it was in North Platte last week that I completed a one-page outline for my next novel.
It’s a start.
Monday, April 27, 2009
The winner is The Office. But the competition is tight. So much so, that I’ve decided to say a few words about each of the shows:
The Office: Boss Michael Scott, both buffoonish and brilliant, keeps me cracking up and cringing (often at the same time). Indeed everyone at Dunder Mifflin has their eccentricities and personality quirks. Yet the goals they pursue and the problems they face are relatable. The workplace interactions among these office colleagues (and often rivals) are consistently hilarious. Strong writing has kept the storylines interesting through five seasons now. My Dwight Schrute bobblehead is nodding in agreement.
30 Rock: I didn’t like this show at first, but now it is among my favorites. The humor is quick and sharp. Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin are comedy geniuses. Kenneth the Page is one of the funniest characters on TV.
Everybody Hates Chris: Easy to overlook because of its Friday night time slot, this show is one of the best comedies going today. I love Chris Rock’s narration and the contrasting yet complimentary personalities of the parents (Terry Crews and Tichina Arnold). There have been some great episodes this season as Chris faces “older” teenage issues.
The Simpsons: Debuting in the Bush administration (the first Bush administration), this is one of the greatest comedies of all time. The show is not as strong today as it was in the early 1990s, but Springfield remains a very funny place.
King of the Hill: Another animated legend. Now in its final season, Hank and company show that there is still much humor to be found in propane, drinking beer, and a boy who just “ain’t right.”
Scrubs: Perhaps the best comedy on TV in its early years. Fell into a couple of so-so seasons, before regaining its punch this year. Janitor rules. Wonder if we will ever learn his name.
My Name is Earl: Another show that started strong (it too was once my favorite), then lost momentum, and now is back on track.
Entourage: Comedy, thy name is drama. Johnny Drama.
Best Week Ever: I like the new format with Paul F. Tompkins as host, though the show is hit or miss with its pop culture commentaries. And why is it so rare for an actual person to have the best week ever?
Thursday, April 23, 2009
And the winner is . . . Breaking Bad. I must admit, I almost did not give this show a chance. All I knew about it before the first episode aired was this: The guy from Malcolm in the Middle is a high school chemistry teacher who finds out he has cancer, so he starts cooking meth to pay for his treatments and provide for his family. Cancer, chemistry, and cooking meth. I’m not a fan of any of those three subjects. But the pre-pilot critical buzz for this show was unusually high, so I tuned in. I’m glad I did.
What is so great about Breaking Bad, you ask? The acting and writing, of course. Beyond that, what stands out to me is the exquisite use of imagery. Unique angles and memorable shots of the seemingly innocuous convey a sense of foreboding—a consequence of the precarious path the two protagonists have dared to walk. And then there is the “shock and awe” factor. In the last episode, for example, there was a severed head crossing the desert on the back of a tortoise. Now that’s something you won't see on American Idol.
Watch Breaking Bad on AMC Sunday nights at 10:00 Eastern / 9:00 Central.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Monday, April 13, 2009
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Monday, April 6, 2009
Sunday, April 5, 2009
You may be wondering if my novel is anything like the television show, Kings. The answer is no--not really. Aside from drawing from the same Old Testament source material (1 & 2 Samuel) and addressing a few of the same themes, the two works are quite different. The All-American King is a work of contemporary Christian realism (assuming such a genre exists) set primarily in the Midwest. Kings, on the other hand, is a political/science-fiction/religious/Shakespearean soap opera set in an alternate universe. The show might be what you get if you threw Dynasty, Rome, and Battlestar Galactica into a blender. Plus, there are butterflies. Lots and lots of butterflies. If you want to check it out, the show is on Saturday nights on NBC at 8:00 Eastern / 7:00 Central.
So, what will my blog be about? Um . . . well, I have a few ideas:
- behind the scenes stuff from The All-American King (kinda like the special features on a DVD)
- writing fiction (On Writing is a good place to start)
- reading fiction (yes, I count Mick Foley as one of my influences)
- trying to get your work published (visualize driving a camel through the eye of a needle)
- why self-publishing might be right for you (because a camel doesn't easily fit through the eye of a needle)
- my current/future writing projects (I'm thinking that a modern-day novel about Balaam's donkey might be too much like Knight Rider)
- miscellaneous ramblings about the flotsam and jetsam of life (just like at the end of 60 Minutes)
Thanks for stopping by. Hurry back.