5 Things Friday: Movies

No_Way_Out_SE_1024x1024I am doing a triple 5 things day for Labor Day weekend. So 15 of my favorite movies of all time. I don’t think I could actually pick 5 out of this group. There are so many good ones to pick from and I’m sure I’m forgetting something, but these all resonate with me for one reason or another. In no particular order:

  1. No Way Out – This is one of those movies that wasn’t a big hit, but it has a great cast and a great twist at the end. Kevin Costner, Gene Hackman and Sean Young play the leads. This movie has been on my list since it came out in 1987.

 

  1. The Matrix – Keanu Reeves and the amazing story of the illusion of life. This first movie is perfect. It is in my top 3 all time.

 

  1. The Quiet Man – A John Ford masterpiece. Won the Academy award for best director and cinematography in 1952. John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara in her prime. This is a rollicking comedy set in Ireland and it is a hoot.

 

  1. Star Wars: A New Hope – Were you born under a rock? This movie changed science fiction movies from campy to awesome. I was in junior high when this came out and it had a major impact on me. It’s one of the reasons I became a pilot.

 

  1. Tron – This 1982 gem starred Jeff Bridges and Bruce Boxleitner. A software engineer creates a virtual world and then is captured by it. The CGI is pretty dated now, but the concept and story still hold up.

 

  1. Twister – Two of my favorite actors in Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton. Made in 1997, it is one of those movies I will watch if I catch it channel surfing. I have seen this movie probably more than any other. It’s all about crazy tornado chasers in Oklahoma.

 

  1. Raiders of the Lost Ark – Harrison Ford in the first of this series and amazing adventure films. Nuff said.

 

  1. Aliens – This best of this series IMHO. The original is a masterpiece, but this one is scary and funny and a helleva ride. Bill Paxton in another memorable role, along with Sigourney Weaver and Michael Biehn, from Terminator fame.

 

  1. Back to the Future – Michael J. Fox accidently goes back in time and ends up almost sabotaging his own parents, then he has to fix it so he can be born. Hilarious fun all the way through.

 

  1. Bull Durham – My favorite baseball movie of all time. Kevin Costner plays the perennial minor leaguer at the end of his career, who is called on to help coach a young pitcher with a wonder arm and little sense. Tim Robbins plays the young phenom and I think this is where he and Susan Sarandon met. She plays Annie Savoy, whom both players fall for. It’s a brilliant look at life and love in America’s pastime.

 

  1. Groundhog Day – Another movie that I will watch whenever I see that it’s on. Bill Murray is living the same day over and over. It’s heartwarming and hilarious.

 

  1. Up – This one hit me right in the feels. Pixar won a crap ton of awards for music and animation. It was best animated movie of the year in 2009. An elderly gentleman is trying to finish off his bucket list, but accidentally ends up with an unexpected stow away.

 

  1. Wall-E – Another heart-tugger. Short for Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-class, WALL-E is the last robot left on Earth. He spends his days tidying up the planet, one piece of garbage at a time. But during 700 years, he has developed a personality, and he’s more than a little lonely, until he spots EVE, a probebot looking for life on Earth.

 

  1. The Incredibles – Another Pixar masterpiece. Superheroes somehow became a liability and have to lead normal mundane lives. One family can’t seem to manage it.

 

  1. Guardians of the Galaxy – A comic book hero movie that is not what I expected. It’s balls out hilarious and action packed. I loved every second of it. Chris Pratt leads a team of misfit badasses.

Tell me about your favorites!

I hope you all have a wonderful Labor Day weekend!

5 Things Friday: Favorite Bands

Wolf Alice
Wolf Alice. Photo: Clockenflap.

I listen to a lot of music. My taste is all over the map. I generally lean in favor of heavy guitar, but if you look at this list there are several bands here that don’t feature the guitar. I like melodic stuff. If it doesn’t have a good melody I probably won’t care for it. There are exceptions, like some Beastie Boys or some Clash stuff, but overall, I have to have a good melody. I like Classical, Rock, a little bit of Country, and a lot of Alternative Rock. I enjoy the Blues and a dabble of Reggae and Pop, as well.

When I went to make this list it, on the first blush I noticed something. My first list covered a period of almost 50 years. I decided to go with it and it works out like this:

  1. Early 70s – Bread – They are probably the band you don’t know, but if you heard one of their songs you would immediately recognize it. I absolutely love David Gates. His melodic pop songs are what made this band a hit back in the early 70s.

Their top ten songs are all fantastic:

Everything I Own                    Make it with you

Guitar Man                              If

Diary                                        Baby – I’m a want you

Aubrey                                     Lost Without Your Love

It Doesn’t Matter to Me           Sweet Surrender

Go find them online. I think they will surprise you.

  1. Late 70s to early 80s – The Police – They are legendary. The made great music for only 5 years, from 78-83. Sting has had a long career afterward, but they made an indelible mark on the music scene and then stopped when they were on top. They were my favorite band when I was in high school.
  2. Early 80s to 90s – U2 – I can still remember the first time I heard one of their songs. I was a freshman in college and was in a dance club in Denver when the video for Sunday Bloody Sunday appeared on the huge wall display over the dance floor. I went back and found all of their albums and then followed them through the years with each release. They made a big switch when I was in pilot training with The Joshua Tree, and initially I didn’t like it, but after listening to it more I began to appreciate it. Under a Blood Red Sky is bittersweet for me, as I had tickets to that concert and ended up not being able to go. I did catch them live in the late 80s and it was epic. Of course, they are still making music, but the early stuff is the stuff I really love.
  3. 00s – Alter Bridge – I was sad when it looked like Creed was done. But the lead guitarist, Mark Tremonti is a workhorse and a prolific songwriter and took the original lineup from Creed and found a new lead singer, Miles Kennedy from the Mayfield Four. Much to Tremonti’s surprise, Kennedy was also a world class guitarist. Their stuff is serious rock and on the heavy side. Their ballads are fantastic, too. My favorite album is Blackbird, there is not a bad song on this album. I can put their stuff on endless loop and listen all day. They have a new album coming out in October for my birthday!
  4. 10s – Wolf Alice – I think I was listening to the alternative rock station on my cable television My Choice, when I first heard them. I went immediately to the internet and started searching for them. They are very young and fresh and the talk of the British rock scene. They have an eclectic rock vibe and a very distinctive sound. Ellie Roswell and Joff Oddie started as an acoustic duo then added a bassist and drummer and went electric and found their sound. Visions of Life won the Mercury Prize last year for best British Album. It is cool and breezy and wonderful. It also will rock your ass off. Here is one of my favorites: Mona Lisa Smile

 

Who are your favorites?

5 Things Friday – What I’ve Learned About Relationships

 

photo of couple hugging during dawn
Photo by Jessica Lewis on Pexels.com
  1. Honesty – It really is the best policy. Trust is huge. Jealousy is a horrible thing and lack of faith in the other person leads to this in many cases. I can vaguely remember being in the dating scene and trying to find someone you could trust. It is much harder than it should be. It was so refreshing meeting my wife. We don’t lie to each other and never have. I don’t have to remember what I told her to keep it straight, she already knows. We have been together a long time now, 27 years, and we have learned to trust each other implicitly. I think this is the bedrock of any strong relationship.
  2. Servant heart – This might sound funny, but what I mean is put your partner first. It takes both people doing this to make it work or resentment will follow. If you are always the one giving and not getting anything in return it won’t work in the long run. The reciprocal is also true. That is not to say we should do things to get things in return, but if both people are putting the other ahead of themselves it works fabulously. That doesn’t mean you can’t have solo time, or plan for things one person wants to do, but when you have the best interest of your partner in mind it all balances out.
  3. Communicate – This is true of just about any endeavor. It is usually the weakest link in any organization from big to small. Keeping others informed about what is going on will save embarrassment and hurt feelings. It helps others empathize if they understand what is going on. It allows you to have teamwork and accomplish things much easier than trying to shoulder a burden by yourself.
  4. Apologize – Even when you are not wrong. Sometimes it just takes someone to say they are sorry to break the ice. But especially if you are in the wrong. Being stubborn does not lead to a better relationship. My wife and I have a policy that we don’t go to bed mad at each other. I won’t say there haven’t been times when it was a close thing, but in the end we talk out whatever the issue may be, and we do try to put the other person first. Keeping that in mind when you are mad is hard sometimes, but in the long run letting go of your pride and remembering why you are together is usually enough of a reason. Making up is a wonderful feeling.
  5. Expectations –  Be clear about them up front. Don’t make your partner guess at what you expect. Don’t get mad at your partner because they didn’t do what you expected when you didn’t let them know. It is not intuitive to do this, even though it seems so obvious in retrospect. This sounds simple, and it is, but it surprises me how many people don’t do this easy thing. I tried to make it one of my priorities as a leader as well.

What have you learned about relationships?

5 Things Friday: Favorite Authors

sparth-nicolas-bouvier-primitive-city-2
Sparth

Pinning down five writers is pretty difficult (so I add a few more.) These are my current top five, but they may change over time.

5. Ann Leckie – Ann has only written five novels so far, but broke out of the chute to win the Hugo on her first release, Ancillary Justice. It started a trilogy, with Ancillary Sword and Ancillary Mercy. She followed that with Provenance, which is a standalone in the same universe. Then she broke from SF with a fantasy story, The Raven Tower. All of them are wonderful. She has a unique voice and is on my auto-buy list.

4. Hannu Rajaniemi – Huge brain on this Finnish mathematician PhD and Quantum Physics Thinktank leader. He wrote one of the best debut novels of all time with The Quantum Thief. He followed it up with Fractal Prince and Causal Angel. Probably the best posthuman stories written thus far. It is wildly imaginative and an immensely brilliant trilogy. I wrote about it here. He then broke from science fiction with a standalone novel called Summerland. I would call it weird fiction, as it deals with the newly dead and an alternate history 1938 and is set as a spy thriller. It was not my favorite, but it was brilliant in its own way. I look forward eagerly to his next release.

3. Rosina Lippi writing as Sara Donati – She holds a PhD in Linguistics from Princeton and was a tenured professor for twelve years at the University of Michigan. She writes fiction and non-fiction, but Sara Donati is her fiction pen name and she wrote a six book historical fiction series beginning with Into the Wilderness. It carries on where James Fenimore Cooper’s Last of the Mohicans left off, but introduces new characters then follows them through the end of the Battle of New Orleans. These are absolutely fantastic. I learned a lot. They are chock full of historical moments, adventure, and a dollop of romance. I wrote about it here. She followed this series with another that carries on with a young woman trying to make it as a doctor in the big city in the 1800s. It begins with The Gilded Hour and continues with Where the Light Enters, which comes out next month.

2. Caroline Cherry writing as C. J. Cherryh – SFWA Grand Master. She has written more than 80 books, two of which won the Hugo award, Downbelow Station and Cyteen. Otherwise she is probably best known for her prolific Foreigner series. She writes fantasy and science fiction and her Alliance-Union series is my all-time favorite. She writes smart, personal stories that really analyze human psychology and motivation. Fabulous world building and memorable characters are her hallmark. She also was instrumental in getting me on track early in my writing career with kindness and good advice.

1. William Gibson – He created the new subgenre cyberpunk with his debut, Neuromancer. It won the Hugo, Nebula and PKD awards. He was born and raised in the US but lives in Vancouver, Canada now. He has written eleven novels and co-wrote one with Bruce Sterling. He started his career by promoting futuristic cybernetic enhancement and artificial intelligence. He coined “cyberspace” for the propagation of Virtual Reality. His first two trilogies were in this theme, the Sprawl and Bridge trilogies. He followed these with the near future Blue Ant trilogy. His writing gets better with every novel. He has a knack for seeing below the surface and then creating a world and character to carry his prescient vision forward. He has been my favorite writer for more than half my life and I don’t see it changing any time soon. His next book, Agency, comes out in January. I think I may go back and reread all of them before the new one comes out.

 

Honorable mention:

Max Barry – Australian author of Syrup, Jennifer Government, Company, Machine Man, and Lexicon. He stuff is generally aimed at the lunacy of the corporate world. Lexicon was a departure and was an outstanding novel. I wrote about it here. He has a new book coming out in 2020 called Providence. Biting satire is his forte. I have read everything he has written and will continue to do so.

Peter Watts – I came to Canadian Peter Watts late. I have only read three of his novels so far, but he blows me away every time. His is brilliantly intelligent and writes in a way that exposes that in a cool way. He doesn’t write down to the reader, but it is not so high concept that a novice can’t follow along. His stuff is hard SF. The science is impeccable and the prose match. He has written 24 novels so far, with some of these being tie-ins for other worlds. Freeze-frame Revolution is his latest, which I read. He is best known for Blindsight, which should have won the Hugo, and Echopraxia. I have read both of these as well. I have a lot of catching up to do with his novels.

 

Who are your favorites? I really want to hear about them.

5 Things Friday: Things to Love about GENCON

Gen-Con-2019It’s Day Two of GENCON 2019. I’m there as this posts. Spent most of the day yesterday there as well, and I’ll be there tomorrow, too. What makes it so awesome? Well, here is a short list:

  1. It’s the largest gaming convention in the North America. Over sixty-one thousand people attended last year. It takes up most of the downtown convention area in Indianapolis, including the football stadium. The focus is on non-video games, i.e. role playing games, like Dungeons and Dragons, card games like Magic the Gathering, and board games like Sorry or Risk. There are so many variations on a theme. They cover miniatures and video games too.
  2. They have a wonderful writing track, one of the best in the country according to some authors. They have workshops and classes that go the entirety of the convention. This year The GENCON Writers Symposium has eight featured speakers and dozens of others lined up, from all aspects of the writing community. The guest of honor is Cherie Priest! They have remarkable writers every year.
  3. The Exhibit Hall is amazing. All the big gaming companies are there and so many of the smaller ones are also there. They have T-shirt vendors, Dice vendors, costume paraphernalia of all sorts, demo games that haven’t been published yet and about anything you can imagine that is involved with gaming. There are artists and novelists there as well.
  4. The games. Duh. They have games that go all night long, all weekend long. That does speak to one of the problems, though. People don’t stop to take care of their personal hygiene (Some people need to bathe.)
  5. All sorts of Cosplayers attend and they are everywhere. Some of the best in world can be seen and some do little skits. You can get your picture taken with every imaginable hero or character.

It’s close to me. I only live a little over an hour from the venue, so it makes it hard to come up with excuses not to go. I know a few of my friends are going, so that is a bonus as well.

Hope to see you there!

5 Things Friday: Reasons I don’t have a Blog Post

Disappoint

  1. I’ve had a long week and I’m tired. I have hit all my running goals this week, plus added in PIYO on the off-days.
  2. Trying to do too many things at one time. Couple that with not liking my options and it is easy to drop it out of my priority list.
  3. I have been busy at work (not really,) which has taken away some time to do other things I enjoy. Besides, it was way too nice outside this week to get anything done inside.
  4. It’s after 11 pm on Thursday night and I want to sleep and haven’t written the blog post yet.
  5. I don’t feel like writing (that is a thing that must be constantly fought against.) Hopefully, I will feel like it this weekend. I have made very little progress on my short story this week, and honestly, I should have finished it by now.

Oops . . .

5 Things Friday: My Favorite Podcasts

Ink to Film

Podcasts are interesting for various reasons, like the topics they cover, the style of the presentation or the personalities. I listen to all of these and a few others, and some are in different formats, like YouTube or part of a radio show. I love listening to them while I drive or workout.

 

 

 

Here are my top 5 (+1).

  1. Writing Excuses – This is my all-time favorite. Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, Howard Taylor and Mary Robinette Kowal talk about writing. The often have a guest. The guest might be an agent or an editor or an astronaut. Usually it’s another writer though. They try to keep it to 15 minutes long, which fits my attention span pretty well, and it makes it easy to catch up if you fall behind. They make a new episode every week and have been at this for almost 14 years and they have won awards. They cover about every possible angle about writing and it is damned good advice for writers of about every level. They often focus on stuff for new writers though. It is the one podcast I have kept listening to for almost its entire run. I didn’t start listening until season 3 is the only reason. I hope they do it forever.
  2. Fresh Air – It is on the radio with NPR and the host, Terry Gross, is the best interviewer of all-time hands down. Fresh Air is produced at WHYY-FM in Philadelphia. They cover about every topic under the sun, with guests that include writers, producers, actors and really about anyone that has done something interesting. They are on 7 days a week, and have won the Peabody. I have always said that I will know I made it as a writer when Terry interviews me. We all need to have dreams. It is just under an hour with commercial breaks. They also have other critics and commenters that fill up the remainder of the hour after Terry’s interview.
  3. Joe Rogan Experience – Joe is the second best behind only Terry Gross. The only other person I put in this conversation is Terry Gross from Fresh Air. Joe got his start as a standup, so he has a lot of comedian friends, but he has people on that he wants to talk to regardless of what they happen to do for a living, like Billy Corgan or Elon Musk to name a few. His interviews are very in-depth and go for as long as they naturally will. Some are an hour and a half and some are less than an hour. He has done at least one over 4 hours. He is the one podcast I don’t usually care how long it is, because he talks as long as it is interesting then stops.
  4. Ink to Film – This is a great podcast by writer Luke Elliot and filmmaker James Bailey. They take a famous movie that was based on a novel and then break down both. They start with the book, and go through the entire thing, often over several episodes, and then they cover the movie, and then compare it to the source material. It’s especially interesting to get their takes inside and outside their specialties. In all fairness I have to admit that Luke is a personal friend. But the podcast is fantastic and I am happy to say that to anyone who will listen.
  5. Radiolab – It has been around since 2002. They focus on “investigating a strange world.” Hosted by Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich, Radiolab has won Peabody Awards, and a National Academies Communication Award “for their investigative use of radio to make science accessible to broad audiences.” They actually travel and do a live show, but part of the coolness of this show is the way they edit it and the special effects they use. They cover all kinds of interesting science topics and do it in a way that is extremely compelling.

Honorable mention:

Alpha Control – They just finished their 1st season, hosted by Lane August and Kurt Kuersteiner. It’s about Irwin Allen’s classic 1960’s Sci-Fi Adventure television series LOST IN SPACE. Laen is remarkably funny and they do interviews with some of the people that helped make the original series, as well as breakdown episodes. It’s off to a good start. Again, I have to admit that Laen is a personal friend. We flew together during the Kosovo War and have know each other for more than twenty years. He is a wonderful and talented guy.

Do you have any that you like or listen to regularly?

5 Things: My favorite Music to Listen to When I Write

I can write when its quiet. I can sort of write when the television or streaming device is playing. I can write when I am in a public space and its not horribly loud. I am pretty damned good at tuning this out (Just ask my wife.) But if I have my druthers I like to listen to music when I write. Here are 5 of my favorites in no particular order.

  1. Soundtracks are great, especially science fiction movies or adventure movies. My favorite of all time is Tron Legacy by Daft Punk. I listen to this pretty regularly. Pirates of the Caribbean are all pretty good. Ironman soundtracks are also great. If you are doing horror I would recommend the Diablo game soundtracks.
  2. Playlists are also great. I made a bunch back in the day when I started using iTunes. One of my favorites in one with Alterbridge, Breaking Benjamin and Three Days Grace. I listened to this a lot when I wrote my first novel, so it has become a nostalgia thing now.
  3. Build your own playlist for that project. I haven’t really done this all the way. I’ve started a couple of times but never really finished it. I have done like a soundtrack for the movie that might be made. That is always fun. But building the soundtrack takes considerable time, time I would rather use actually writing in most cases.
  4. Pandora is good for music if you don’t have anything particular in mind. I like Bread Radio for 70s stuff and Talk Talk Radio for 80s stuff. I have a bunch of other stations, too.
  5. Spotify is unbelievable. I can pick from so many things. Songs or Albums or playlists or a particular band or even a mood. My son in law made some really great playlists. I have been listening to a lot of 311 recently. Radiohead really works for me. It is eclectic enough that it doesn’t distract me.

What do you listen to? Who are your favorites?