MY ESSAYS & SHORT STORIES
WORDS OF WISDOM
RAVES & FAVES
MY LINK RECOMMENDATIONS
|These are things and links to whatever strikes my fancy. Favorite haunts, opinions or views I have, whatever else I feel an obligation to let other people know about.|
These are my "top five" lists of recommendations with movies, albums, songs, etc, as well as reasons why I like 'em. My taste is eclectic, though, so this is all completely subjective -- and, at times, random.
Top Five Fave Films
The Back to the Future Trilogy
This would be a "duh" response to anyone who has known me for more than five minutes. I love these films. Over the years I've ranked 'em in different orders of preference, and for most of my (young) adult life, I've really dug 'em in the ranking of Part III, then Part I, then Part II. But, honestly, who can rank their children? That's how I feel about this. This movie has a bit of every genre out there, killer performances by all actors, and absolutely fantastic characters. (Why else would I write stories with these characters for more than a decade?) It's also tight -- even now, after some 100 viewings, I still catch new details....
I know what some people are thinking -- "Ah, a Michael J. Fox movie, natch." But I really dug The Frighteners when it came out; it's one of the few movies I went out of my way to see twice in the theater. I have always had this interest in ghosts, so seeing Fox as a sort of ghostbuster was pretty neat. He also gives a fantastic performance -- it really shows his range as an actor. Plus, there's the mix-of-genre aspect to it that I liked. Now if only they would put out a DVD of this film that's got all the goodies as the special edition laserdisc has, I can die happy.... Few people know that he got his movies mixed up a few times and that there are outtakes where he was screaming "Doc!" and not "Judge!" (And then cursing at his stupidity, heh heh....)
It's a Wonderful Life
Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale (of the BTTF films) once said that this was one of the greatest time travel movies ever made -- and yet no time travel takes place. You can see the influence of this film a lot in Back to the Future Part II, with the alternate 1985.... But, anyway, I grew up seeing this movie on the TV non-stop during the holidays and it was a favorite film of my mom's, but I really didn't appreciate it until I was probably about 11 or 12 and sat down to see it from beginning to end. Wow. I love the message this film has -- that one person can make such positive changes and differences in people's lives. Add that to the fact this is a film tied in tight with my nostalgic childhood memories of the holiday season and bingo! I watch this movie once a year, around Christmas; it's my little tradition. And yes, I am a wuss; I cry every time I see the ending and everyone is paying George Bailey back for being there for them....
Can't Hardly Wait
I'm sure a few people are going "what the hell?" with this selection. This was one of those blink-and-you'll-miss-it teenage films that came out in the latter half of the 1990's, when teen films were all trendy. But, oh my God, few films have the power to crack me up on repeated viewing as this one does. Seth Green's wannabe-rapper character is hysterical! And I'll admit to having a crush on Ethan Embry after seeing his performance here; man, if a guy ever felt that way about me as he does with the Amanda in the film.... At times, this film almost feels like an extended music video -- it has a great soundtrack, uses a lot of fast cuts and camera angles, and takes place mostly at this blowout party. Great teenage comedy.
This is a true teenage movie classic -- and a fantastic comedy. I saw it for the first time when I was 17, and I laughed myself off the couch! It's got a great 1980s feel to it, too, so it's faintly nostalgic for me, since I spent my whole childhood in that decade....
Top Five Fave Albums
A brief word about this area -- music, for me, is like a time machine. This may be why I own an obnoxious amount of CDs; it's like owning that period in my life, that emotion, that memory, that moment. I play a song or album and -- BOOM -- I am back reliving the moment my friends and I were cruising around town in someone's car during high school. Or the moment I realized I had fallen in love the first time. Or the moment of celebration when I finished my first book. Whatever. I listen to music constantly, when driving, writing, doing homework, whatever. Drives my friends and family nuts, but I love background noise. These are just a few constant musical faves of mine. (Which will probably shuffle around from time to time.)
Come Away With Me - Nora Jones
I bought this album after hearing a couple of the singles and liking what I heard. Oddly, I didn't love it at first listen -- but then I started listening to it when I would go off to write in coffee shops, or need to focus and concentrate, and the songs quickly grew on me. It's such a nice, mellow album, and never ever fails to help me write when I need to listen to something soothing, comforting, and not terribly intrusive or distracting. I've got such weird tastes -- I like punk and rock, but also piano and jazz stuff. Go figure.
The Young and the Hopeless - Good Charlotte
Great record -- it did not leave my car for a few weeks! A lot of GC's stuff seems to rip off other songs -- am I the only one who hears the simularities between "The Anthum" and that Disney song from The Jungle Book that the bear sings?? -- but that familiarity also probably made it appealing for me. Some faves -- "Say Anything," which sounds like a song from the 80's; "The Anthum" and "Boys and Girls" just rock; and I love "Movin' On"!
Ready, Sex, Go - Marvelous 3
I blame my friend, Nicole, for getting me into this band. I really like Lit and Eve 6 -- their melodies, their cheeky lyrics, etc -- and was lamenting one night about "When the hell are they gonna put out a new album?" She asked me if I heard of Marv 3, which was quite similar in sound. I hadn't, so she sent me a CD of a bunch of their different songs. Bingo, I was hooked. This is probably the best of their three albums, and the last one before they disbanded. My one complaint is that "Lefty," a track that is not on any of their albums but Nicole included on her compilation, is not part of the album. (Part of it can be heard on the bonus track credits.) That song kicks ass!
ABBA: Thank You For the Music (Boxed Set)
I did my best to avoid citing Greatest Hit albums here, but I exempt a boxed set from that classification. I absolutely love this collection. I mean, if I was left alone on a deserted island and could only have one album with me... this would be it! My parents bought it for me for my 19th birthday, and it had the odd timing of coming along right when I had my first experience with falling in love -- and, a week later, first experience with a broken heart. It was like a soundtrack for every emotion I felt at the time -- and has been, since. "That's Me" -- that song is me; I mean, that's totally how I feel! "Take a Chance on Me" and "The Name of the Game"? My theme songs for my luck and lot with love! If these were on tape, not CD, I would've worn out my original copy ages ago. I don't care what people think -- ABBA rules!
Into the Great Wide Open - Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
Tom Petty is the person to listen to when driving, I think -- I could be perfectly happy with an entire collection of his albums when driving across country. There's something about the sound that makes me think of road trips, and the fun memories I have of those. One song I really love on this album is "All the Wrong Reasons" -- there's this awesome melody to it, rather haunting. "Two Gunslingers" makes me think of the showdown between Marty McFly and Buford Tannen in BTTF3, weirdly enough.
Top Five Fave Songs
"A Long December" - Counting Crows
I love this song, which is odd because I really don't like the other material I've heard from this band. But, oh man, this song has been My Favorite for years, now. Why? I have absolutely no idea. I think it's the plethora of memories I have associated with this song. I remember hearing it on the car radio during the summer of 1997, after I graduated high school, and that was a dang good summer in my life. I remember hearing it on the radio down in L.A. when on vacation down there in September '97. I remember hearing it over the radio when I was hanging out with a friend that I sort of liked in 1998. There's killer imagry to it: "And all at once you look across a crowded room/ to see the way that light attaches to a girl." The line, "I can't remember all the times I tried to tell myself/to hold on to these moments as they pass," pretty much sums up my view on life, too. I also have this odd draw towards songs with haunting melodies, or melancholy sounds to them. I think this one fits both bills. Whatever it is, hearing this song makes me stop what I'm doing, close my eyes, tilt my head back with a smile, and follow along every note with a delirious feeling. I once listened to this song on a loop about 30 times... and I never did get sick of it.
"Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)" - Green Day
Like "A Long December," I am not entirely sure why I love this song, but I suspect it has a lot to do with the memories tied to it. This song makes me think of both friends and road trips. When it came on the stereo on the road trip I took in March 2001 with some high school friends, at 1 A.M. near the California/Oregon boarder, I turned it up, listened to it, and felt for a few minutes that I was hearing the soundtrack to that moment in my life. It was a brief experience burned into the synapses of my brain forever... and that song brings it, and other good memories, back. It also has a kind of wistful sound to it: "It's something unpredictable, but in the end is right/I hope you had the time of your life."
"Free Fallin'" - Tom Petty
Another song that I can hear twenty times in one hour and not get sick of it. I remember the first time I really heard the song -- it was 1990, and my family was flying cross country to visit Walt Disney World or relatives in Ohio. I had headphones on and this song came on the airplane radio. I remember looking down from the window of the plane and having this realization where the song felt like the perfect selection for that moment in my life. I have heard the songs a ton of times since then, and each time I have the urge to drive fast, or skydive, star up at a starry night sky, or simply close my eyes and hum along, forgetting my day to day worries for about four and a half minutes.
"Fly" - Sugar Ray
This song came out during the magical summer of 1997, and the primary memory I connect with it is listening to it in the car I drove at the time -- an '86 Volvo Station Wagon -- when my friends and I were trying to find something fun to do late at night. Every time the part came near the end, where Mark McGrath says, "All around the world, statues crumble for me/who knows how long I've loved you," I'd jack up the volume and my friends and I would all scream out the line at the top of our lungs. The song also has this fun, peppy beat to it that brings to mind summer in general. It doesn't make much sense, lyrically, if you listen to it, but not every song in the world needs to, right?
"Song for a Winter's Night" - Sarah McLachlan
Technically, I've seen this classified as a Christmas song, but there's really not a thing in the song to suggest the holiday season. (Unless a mention of snow counts.) It is simply as the title says -- a song about a winter's night. To me, this song brings to mind a snowy night with a hot cup of coffee or cocoa, a roaring fire, and a great book or something. I like the images that pop into my head when I hear it, and it has the added bonus of making me feel more peaceful and relaxed when I hear it. A great song to listen to late at night when driving... provided you are not tired.
Top Five Fave Books
"The Stand" by Stephen King
There is a morbid streak in me that seems to like reading post-apocalyptic novels. ("Alas Babylon" by Pat Frank is a good one, as is the classic "On the Beach" by Nevil Shute -- they both have people dealing with the aftermath of a nuclear war.) This was the first book, though, that really scared the crap out of me when I read it, over the course of two weeks during my senior year of high school. I mean, to the point I had nightmares. Probably because the crisis seems so incredibly possible. We know people are messing with bioterrorism, so isn't it a matter of time before something gets out and kills a lot of people before it's under control? It's hella freaky if you sit down and really think about it.... The characters in this book were also great -- in spite of the mammoth length of the book (more than 1,000 pages, in paperback) I was left wishing for more, for a sequel of sorts. And if you've only seen the miniseries... Bah! That left out so much....
"Mr. Murder" by Dean Koontz
There are a couple key reasons why I probably dig this book -- it's got a really interesting premise, and the main character's name is Marty. Thus, I always picture Michael J. Fox (Marty McFly) as the main guy, and that's always a good experience for me. There is also, like, no sex in this book. I'm no prude, but I really really hate reading books where the author devotes pages and pages to sex acts between their characters. I mean, why do I need to be there with the characters during that? Whatever happened to implying, not telling? A lot of Koontz's books have at least one bedroom scene to them -- but this one doesn't. As much as I liked the book, though, I avoided the miniseries that came out of it a few years ago -- why should I let the (mis)casting of a Baldwin in the main role ruin my mental images of Marty looking like Fox?
"Timeline" by Michael Crichton
This is neat because it's a time travel tale, and it's very very accurate with it's historical details. A must, I think, when writing these sorts of things. I also like it because, unlike a lot of science-fiction/time travel stories out there, this one doesn't take place in the semi-distant future, when humans have supposedly conquered the time barrier. I'm looking forward to the film they are supposedly making on this, whenever it comes out... although I'm sure they'll slaughter it up.
The Blossum Culp and Alexander Armsworth series by Richard Peck
These are probably about middle grade, maybe young adult. But, wow. I didn't really read these until I was in junior high school, and the characters positively leapt off the pages. Once again, they kind of cross and mix up genres; there's ghosts, time travel, and this great love-hate relationship between two teens woven in there. There's four books in all -- "The Ghost Belonged to Me," "Ghosts I Have Been," "The Dreadful Future of Blossom Culp," and "Blossom Culp and the Sleep of Death" -- following a couple years in the life of Alexander and Blossom, growing up in this sleepy little town in the mid-1910s. There is this dry sort of wit that the characters have in narration that really tickle my funny bone. I really should buy these books, rather than check them out of the library once a year....
"The Lovely Bones" by Alice Sebold
My brother gave me this book (at my request) for my 24th birthday. I love the supernatural, and from what I had heard of the plot, it sounded a lot like "Remember Me" by Christopher Pike, a fave novel of mine from my youth. As expected, I loved the book! Has it all -- humor, pathos, and a mystery of sorts. I think it deserves the popularity it got.