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!

Throwback Thursday – Inserting Ideas into the Public Mind

circuit handshake.jpgThis feels timely with all that has gone on in the world in recent months. Especially regarding the Russians using online personas to insert disharmony into social media sites and put out actual fake news about stuff and it worked. It actually did exactly what I wrote about back in March 2011. I know that terrorist organizations like ISIS used social media in a very savvy way to promote their worldview and recruit people. Our military public affairs figured it out late and fought hard to recapture their own media perspectives and now it is part of our toolkit.

It is a real thing that people have tapped into. I wish I was better at it, but I don’t really have an agenda, other than being here for when the time comes I have books out in the world, and to have a place to chat with people that like my books. In the meantime, I put out treacle like this post.


I’m enrolled in a course about Strategic Communication right now and with the explosion of the Facebook and Twitter revolutions across the Middle East it really puts a new face on the whole concept.  It really got me thinking about how interconnected we all are now all over the globe and how powerful the new social media really is.  I’ve read opinion that it is the most innovative development since the industrial revolution.  I’m not sure we understand all the ramifications yet.

How many of you have read Ender’s Game? (If you haven’t you really should) It was originally penned in 1977 by Orson Scott Card and there is a segment in there about Ender’s older siblings taking on personas on the “nets” to shape public opinion.  WOW is all I can say.

There was no true internet back then, not the way we know it now.  The first version of Windows didn’t come out until 1985.  The World Wide Web didn’t exist before 1990.  There were only USENET groups and electronic bulletin boards from the mid 80s until the early 90s.   Card was visionary with some of these ideas.

I see that now is the time when something like Locke and Demosthenes could actually be utilized with real effect — Agents with an agenda to shape public opinion.  Governments across the planet are fighting a war of ideas and information is a commodity.  The ability to shape global opinions through social media would be a powerful weapon if it could actually be harnessed somehow.  I think there is a kernel for a great story here.  But reality could be even more scary.  A determined group of people with money and some real savvy could build a network of social media personas to nudge opinions.  Collectively they could have a real impact on global viewpoints and if the recent events in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya are any indication they could topple governments.  Food for thought.

Clear Ether!

Plans Dashed

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We joke at work a lot about how much you get injured working out to be in better shape. Somehow I managed to herniate myself, so I am off my training schedule for the mini-marathon. I was hanging on to my schedule by the skin of my teeth as it was, running about a week behind, with hopes of catching up. But I am giving up on making it to the mini in October. There is another close by in the Spring. So, if I can manage to keep running through the Winter months I will try that one.

The sucky part, other than the surgery, is that I was starting to enjoy running again. I haven’t really enjoyed it for many years, but I was finally getting into running form again after 6 months of effort. Getting old is not for wimps.

Hey, more time for writing, right?

I hope you are having a wonderful day just the same.

How do You do Social Media?

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During my MFA course we talked about how to present yourself to the world. Marketing yourself is pretty much expected these days. The problem for a lot of writers is that they tend to be introverts by nature, and having to put themselves out there in the public eye can produce a lot of anxiety. Especially doing live events, like conventions and sitting on panels or books signings. But even beyond that there seems to be an expectation by the industry to have a presence on social media.

There are so many now, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Patreon, Twitch, Flickr, Tumblr, Snapchat, YouTube, LinkedIn, LiveJournal, Blogger, WordPress and so many more. I found a link that discussed 165 different platforms for 2019. Holy crap.

Obviously, we don’t have time to do everything, and still have time to write. I could have stopped with the first half of that last sentence. We don’t have time for 165 different platforms even if we did nothing else.

Just keeping up this blog takes up quite a bit of my time when I could be writing more for my current work in progress. So, for me I spend most of my energy on three, WordPress, Twitter and Facebook. I have accounts for LinkedIn, and LiveJournal, Flickr, Tumblr, Patreon, Instagram, and YouTube, but I rarely use them, other than to peruse the content of others.

Are my three the best three? I have no idea. My kids tell me that nobody uses Facebook anymore. I have to laugh at that because it is still the largest with over 2.4 BILLION users. That is almost unbelievable. What my kids mean is young people rarely use Facebook now. My youngest spends a lot of time on Reddit, which I can barely stand, but he loves it.

Young people are always moving onto the hot new thing. Which, I have to admit, I have no idea what that might be. I try to stay up on current events, but pop culture moves fast at times, and I have no doubt that at some point it will leave me behind.

I know there is a fine line between selling too hard and not doing any. I think the real trick is to simply be you. I know that I don’t like following people that all they talk about is their latest book, with character discussion or snippets of their novel. If I don’t see some real personality in there, at least occasionally, then I don’t want to be your friend on there. In fact, we aren’t making any sort of connection, because all I am to you is a person to buy your book.

 

So, what are your favorites? If you are a writer or an artist do you actively market yourself? How do you go about it?

5 Things Friday – What I’ve Learned About Relationships

 

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  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?

Doing a Reread of Gibson

Gibson books

William Gibson has been my favorite writer for thirty-five years. He has a new book coming out in January, Agency. So, I am inspired to go back and read all of his previous works.

Unfortunately I have misplaced two of them. I may have to buy them again. One is his co-written book with Bruce Sterling, The Difference Engine, the other is Burning Chrome.

I pretty much love everything he has written. The older stuff was ground-breaking, creating the new sub-genre of cyberpunk, and nobody did it better. The newer stuff is not earth-shattering, but I found it to be compelling and well-written. His prose seem to improve with each book, which would be the goal of any writer. He and CJ Cherryh, a very close second favorite, have been my biggest influences as a writer.

I have started on Neuromancer. Heh, so cool.

Who is your favorite? Come on, I won’t tell anyone.

A Small Win

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I’ve been running since March. I started with very short distances. Maybe two miles on a good day. I was trying to prepare myself for a Mini-Marathon in October and figured I would have time to train my body for the longer distance without too much trouble. The last time I did this was nine years ago and I went from not being able to run a half mile to running 8 miles in only a month. I used to run cross-country when I was in High School and then for fun in college, not competitively except for intramurals.

I thought for sure I would be able to get up to distance fairly quickly.

Well, being almost 55 now it was a lot different. I began officially training for the mini-marathon in mid-July, and have been almost making the distances. I am about a week behind schedule, but today I was supposed to run 5 miles for the first time yesterday. I went for it.

When I started I did not feel great. Last weekend I ran four and felt strong. The good news is I felt okay at the four mile point and was able to keep going, unsure if I was going to make it.

I did it!

I have to repeat it this week. We’ll see how that goes. I’m not sure I am going to be able to run 13.1 when the time comes, but the training continues. It is keeping me motivated. There is a mini in May if I don’t make this one, but running in the winter here is not awesome.

Setting goals and accomplishing them is very satisfying. Do you have anything you are working toward?

Transported to 1986 by a Song

gradbushMusic has this magical quality of being able to transport you to a place and time. I was driving home on Monday, listening to the 80s channel on Sirius/XM and they were recounting the top songs from this week in 1986. Number three was Highway to the Danger Zone by Kenny Loggins. It stirred up some memories. It was a beautiful afternoon and combined with the music I was transported back in time. Life seemed so full of promise and possibility.

For me the summer of 1986 was what my old roommate called the “god summer.” The summer after graduation from the US Air Force Academy. I felt invincible and immortal. When you are that age you don’t think about mortality or danger in the same way you do at 55. I was all of 21 years old, fit, and I still had a full head of hair, and I was about to embark on an Air Force career as a pilot. At least that was the plan.

Several months earlier Top Gun had been released. It was only a few short weeks from graduation and my friends and I all knew we were going to be flying jets in a few months. It had a huge emotional impact on us all. We wanted to be fighter pilots. A few of us actually made it.

Un2016-09-14 21.59.17dergraduate Pilot Training (UPT) is a special thing. They say you can teach a monkey to fly if you have enough bananas. The trick for the Air Force version is pacing. You have to stay on their timeline. But some parts of it were incredibly cool. It’s hard to describe the feeling of walking off the flightline in your G-suit, carrying your helmet, after a T-38 sortie that went well. I felt like Maverick or Iceman. I even had a callsign: Woodrow. Then I went out and drove my motorcycle home. Almost cliché. But it was real.

I have to admit, up to this point in my life I had been successful at everything I had put my mind to. Somewhere near the midpoint I was struck with a crisis of confidence. I was deeply concerned that I might not make it through. It was a real ego check. It was a struggle every day. The first half of the program it was a minimum of twelve-hour days, and often multiple sorties, and any downtime was filled to the brim with studying. Instruments and procedures and systems. By the end of the steaming hot Mississippi day I was ready to let it all go. I don’t have the mentality to do the same thing for that long, which only made it harder.

It wasn’t all work, though. Work hard play harder. Weekends were filled with lots of beer and dancing. I actually had a radio show at the local college radio station on Saturday evenings with my best friend. After the show we would find a party. That lasted until summer hit its stride and we didn’t want to leave the pool to go turn vinyl.

We were so young.

It’s interesting looking back a little more than thirty years and seeing how much time I wasted. I wasted it having fun for the most part, but let’s not kid ourselves into thinking my off time was spent productively. My advice to myself at that age, or anyone at that age, would be to find something you are passionate about, no matter what it is, and throw yourself whole hog into doing it. It took me a long time to figure out what that was, not that I was trying all that hard to figure it out.

If you haven’t seen it yet, they are making a sequel to Top Gun. Here is the trailer: Top Gun: Maverick. It looks on first blush to be a cheesy rehash of all the cool stuff from the original.

I don’t care. Take my money.

I will love this movie regardless.

While listening to Highway to the Danger Zone, it was mentioned that Kenny Loggins confirmed it will be in the new movie. The song itself is a little bittersweet for me. A few of the guys that I was a year behind at the Academy were graduating UPT that following summer. We were all in the same cadet squadron when I was a freshman and they were sophomores. They were all good guys and had a house on the edge of town with a pool. They had some epic parties. The one I remember best was the one after their assignment night. Pete got an F-15 and he played Highway to the Danger Zone over and over. He flew fighters for several years until his commitment was up and then got out of the Air Force. Sometime later he decided to rejoin and I don’t have the details, but he had a fatal crash in the jet.

I will always remember 22-year-old Pete, so excited to fly the F-15, screaming the lyrics to Highway to the Danger Zone and dancing around his house.

I graduated from pilot training in the fall of 1987 and ended up staying in the Air Force

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After my last flight

for thirty-two years as a pilot. Not a fighter pilot. I ended up in the KC-135 Stratotanker. I still teach younger pilots how to fly it.

I wonder how things would have changed if I had devoted myself to something at an earlier age, whether it might have been art or writing. Even gaming, but with a different tact, actually making something or writing articles about it for magazines.

Water under the bridge, but it was nice to reflect on that summer. I have no real regrets. Life is good and only getting better.

GenCon 2019 Impressions

The crew day 1This year was my best GenCon experience of them all.

TSR-GenCon-34-Program-2001My first GenCon was in 2001, when it was still in Milwaukee and it was something new for me then. Video gaming had a huge year and I am struggling to think of anything that was revolutionary in the RPG, Board or Card gaming industry in that time frame. Wizards of the Coast had come out with their version of the Star Wars RPG the year prior and they had a big presence that year. I am a huge Star Wars geek. There were some well-known television stars in attendance that year, as well.

GenCon moved to Indy in 2003. My whole family went down to try and get in that year. There was a line around the block of people waiting just to get inside the convention center. They were not prepared for the number of people that showed up, nor did they have a good plan for registration. A lot of people didn’t get in. Including us. My wife was quite pregnant then if memory serves and we didn’t wait around.

I missed a few years but then started attending again. I took my older two kids in 2008 I think it was. Four years ago, my oldest son, Nick, had his first taste of GenCon without tagging along with me. We had a pretty good time. I was focused mainly on the Writer’s Symposium. I then skipped a year and went back in 2016. 2017 was my youngest son’s first visit and he had a great time.

Cardspiracy Playtest

Cardspiracy Playtest

This year we had big plans and actually started thinking about what we wanted to do months in advance. I also did something this year that I had never done before, play in the First Exposure Playtest Room. It was so much fun I went back for seconds. I am adding this to my plan every year from now on. I got to test two new games being developed by Brainworm Inc., Dauntless Dirigibles and Cardspiracy. Both were fun and easy to learn. I hope they sell a lot of these games. Lock and Brent were fun to work with. I met a lot of game developers this weekend and the amazing thing to me is how many of these companies are run by just a couple or people. One was just one guy.

I always love the Art Show and Author’s Avenue area. Saw some amazing art and

Steve Williams Art

Steve Williams’ Art Work for BalanceSheet

perhaps an artist to do cover art if I end up self-publishing. I do plan to do some hybrid publishing of some older stuff or short works later on. Loved Steve Williams‘ stuff.

Nick and I sat in on Lisa Stevens talk about her experiences in the industry and it was amazing. It was a little misleading by title alone, Auntie Lisa’s Story Hour. She has to have been involvLisa Stevensed with more epic RPGs and card games than anyone in the last thirty years. She is now the CEO for Paizo Publishing, makers of Pathfinder. She helped develop Vampire: The Masquerade (One of my all-time favorites,) and got in on the ground floor at Wizards of the Coast and the development of Magic the Gathering. She was president of the Role Playing Game Association (RPGA) and the Star Wars fan club. Just an amazing life in the gaming industry, both as a player and a producer. So  much more to tell, but if you ever make it to GenCon, you have to sign up for this talk.

Steve JacksonRan into the legendary Steve Jackson. He is probably responsible for more games than anyone in the history of gaming. I don’t know that for a fact but he has been making games for a long time. Next year is his 40th anniversary for his game company, Steve Jackson Games. He told me they are working on an updated version of Car Wars. I had the original pocket game from back in the early 80s. They did a Kickstarter earlier this year to do a re-release of all the old pocket games.

Nick and I played a lot of games this year, including Magic the Gathering, The Red Dragon Inn, Hero Flix and a bunch of games demoed on the Exhibitor’s Hall floor. We both sprinkled in some discussion panels that we enjoyed.

I sat in on a talk with Cherie PriestCherie Priest and it was great. I also got her to sign a book, but was disappointed to find out the distributor for Half Price Books had stopped doing books about a month before the con, so they didn’t have any of her books for sale there. She is a lovely person.

All in all it was a great long weekend. What made it so great? Connecting to people. We met a lot of game developers this weekend. Nick just graduated from Indiana University with a degree in game design, so it has some real meaning for him, and it’s a great chance to get to know people in the industry, not just have fun, which we did. We actually learned a few things as well. Protospiel is a thing where game designers get together and playtest each other’s games. I had never heard of it before.

We are excited for next year, and plan to be even more prepared and do more playtesting. I will reserve an entire afternoon for walking the floor in the Exhibit Hall. Maybe two, there is so much to see and do and buy. One of these years we are going to stay in the Marriott and play all night.

Is there a convention you like to go to? Writing or gaming or pop culture?