2015: 10 Things That Are Inspiring My Writing

Even though the year isn’t over yet, I’m so excited about the things that are exhilarating me and moving my writing forward that I just had to share them (note: no real spoilers here, just a few lines of non-revealing dialogue) —

#1 — Hannibal

Hopefully season three isn’t the end, but if it was — what an ending!  I can’t even count all the ways this series awes me and makes me jealous.  It is more beautifully shot and designed, more intellectual, and has more intimate relationships than almost any series I have even seen.  I did feel like they lingered on the beauty a tiny bit long in the beginning of the season but  once they picked up the pace they were incredible.  This is one of those shows that has changed me and will be with me forever.  I want to make things this rich, this thoughtful, this surprising.

Hannibal Lecter: Killing must feel good to God, too. He does it all the time, and are we not created in God’s image?

Will Graham: Depends on who you ask.

 

#2 — Mad Max: Fury Road

The trailers looked so exciting, so balls-to-the-wall, so over the top that finally seeing the feature-length film had to be a letdown.

ONE WOULD THINK.

Instead, Fury Road managed to not only hold onto that excitement and craziness for two solid hours but it also added in a great plot, strong characters, and the best female hero the genre had seen since Sarah Conner.  And finding out that — on Amazon.com — silver spray edible cake frosting is ‘often bought with Mad Max: Fury Road’ has restored my faith in humanity.

Nux: If I’m gonna die, I’m gonna die historic on the fury road!

 

#3 — Nate Ruess / Grand Romantic

I’ve really enjoyed Fun.  Now their lead singer’s new album has become one of my favorites of the year.  He has this emotive, beautiful, lilting voice and it just screams ‘story’ to me.  ‘Brightside‘ especially makes me want to write another love story.

Cause there’s just something about you my love
Something in the way you comb your hair
And fall apart at the seams

 

#4 — Friday Night Lights / Season 3

Aww FNL.  I started this series last year and have been waiting about six months between seasons.  I got past season 2 (the truncated sophomoric stumble) and watched FNL regain its footing and rise again like an eagle (or a panther) in full glory in season 3.

I love, love, love these characters.  I don’t care about football.  I don’t care about teenagers’ love lives.  I don’t care about small town politics.  But I care about everyone, and every second, of Friday Night Lights.

Tami: I love that about you.

Coach Taylor: What? That I can’t make a decision to save my life?

Tami: No. That you make the decision with such a conscience. What other coach would think like that? I think it’s because you’re a teacher first. You–you are a molder of men. And I find that admirable, and I find that very sexy.

 

#5 — Daredevil

I’m only halfway through this one, and yet have been blown away again and again by the writing and the visuals.  The use of light — greens and yellows and neon words shattered among the darkness of an endless night turn the hero’s blindness and growing heroism into a physical landscape.  And the introduction of the Kingpin rates among the best, and most surprising, entrances by a villain in TV history.  I believe Netflix has not only met the quality standards set forth by the Marvel movies, but in many ways it has eclipsed them.

Ben Urich: There are no heroes, no villains. Just people with different agendas.

 

6# — Jim Kroft / Journeys #1 & #2

How Jim Kroft isn’t famous yet I cannot say, but I’m sure he’s on his way.  ‘Journeys’ 1 & 2 are beautiful, imaginative, heartbreaking, and hopeful.  ‘Break For the Light’ is a perfect anthem for reaching for your true desires, but ‘Beijing Morning‘ is the one that breaks my heart every time.

Days may come and the days may go
Sometimes the demon is taking hold
I want the courage to make these steps
To walk from error and regret

 

#7 — The Unusuals

“You should watch ‘The Unusuals’.”  I kept hearing some version of that from my sister, again and again, over the last few years.  She’d seen it when it first came on, while I sometimes avoid new shows till I know if they’ll last.  Terrible, I know.  Well, this show didn’t last beyond its first season but it doesn’t matter, in one season it created more memorable characters, moments, and stories than many shows do given a decade.  Come for Jeremy Renner, and stay for the dialogue — heartbreaking in one moment and gut-busting in the next.  My only regret is that I didn’t see it sooner.

Det. Shraeger: I swear, if you took all the time that men wasted thinking about the female breast throughout history, there’d only be enough time to read a magazine.

Det. Walsh: What, like Juggs or Maxim?

Det. Shraeger: Yeah, you’re adorable.

 

#8 — Far From the Madding Crowd

O-M-G.  I’m not usually someone who goes gushy for love stories.  I really enjoy them, but only the well-done ones.  So I’d been aware of this movie because I love that 1800s English setting but I wasn’t sure if it was for me.  Then my friend and fellow writer Jill Hartmann-Roberts saw it and suggested we go see it together. Wow!  What a story.

There’s just something about the moments here, seconds when the light hits two people who were going about their lives, unites them in a pure second of love or lust or hate — and then the world spins on but each’s life is changed, almost ruined, because of that profound pause.  All the actors are great here, and the scenery is SO beautiful.

Bathsheba Everdene: From now on you have a mistress, not a master. It is my intention to astonish you all.

 

#9 — Dragon Age Inquistion

Bioware’s ‘Dragon Age’ series is one of my favorite sagas in video games.  ‘Dragon Age 2’ may always have the edge because, for me, it was like living and making choices inside an HBO drama — the characters were that well-written.  And you never forget your first Fenris romance!

That said, DR3 lived up to the hype and then some, with an unbelievably open world and an even better combat system.  It was the grandeur of the journey though, that caught me up most.  I don’t spend a lot of time gaming, and it can be easy for me to play around in an open world and then lose interest (see every Bethesda title ever [still enjoyed them!]).  DR3 seemed made to stop that from happening.  It united the expansive world of ‘Dragon Age 1’ with the climatic plotting of DR2, making you and your character change and grow along the way (one can feel the beats of Joseph Campbell — ‘and here the hero crosses the threshold’).  Havor, my Qunari warrior, progressed from captive to hero to leader of men — and found himself a flirty mage named Dorian along the way.  Not a bad for a hero’s journey.

Solas: I am surprised you do not practice blood magic, Dorian. Is it not popular in Tevinter?
Dorian: While we’re sharing surprises, you’ve done a lot less dancing naked in the moonlight than expected.
Solas: Tevinter lore about elves remains accurate as always.
Dorian: I wanted to see you make flowers bloom with your song, just once.

 

#10 — Chappie

‘Chappie’ is ten pounds of crazy in a five pound bag but, for me, it works.  Is it a drama?  A comedy?  An action movie?  It’s all these and more.  At its heart is Sharlto Copley — amazing and visionary — as the lead character.  Chappie learns and grows throughout the movie and since much of his ‘childhood’ is spent with hoodlums, the movie is both an indictment of violence amid poverty and an example of the power of love and family even in the worst of situations.

And it’s laugh-out-loud funny.

And filled with great action.

The best way to put it is: it’s a Neill Blomkamp story and — for some of us — that’s an awesome thing.

 

And still to come —

  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  • 007’s Spectre
  • The Martian
  • Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs movie
  • Crimson Peak

. . . and more.

Even though there haven’t been a ton of things to inspire me this year, the ones that have are off the charts!  If you have a second, tell me one of your current inspirations.

After all, this list could always use a Part 2 . . .

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What I’ve Learn After 50 Blog Posts (Tips & Tricks)

from blog.pinkcakebox.com

TA DA!  (TWEET, TWEET!)  WE MADE IT!

Happy 50th post on this website.  I was kind of surprised that it sneaked up on me.  But I’ve learned a lot since March 2nd, 2013 and I want to share what I have learned with any would-be writers or bloggers —

10 Things I’ve Learned About Blogging

  1. Trust yourself.  People who are meant to find you will find you, so don’t waste time trying to be someone you’re not.  Always be yourself.  Unless you can be Batman, then always be Batman 😉
  2. ‘Tag’ your posts.  The world is wide and tags really help like-minded people find you.  And be open to tagging anything — in the beginning WordPress suggested ‘Mental Health’ for some of my inspiring blogs and that was a great idea I’d never thought of.  I also got a ‘re-blog’ link because I mentioned ‘The Simpsons’ once but I’d added a tag for it.
  3. Stick to a few topics.  Catherine Ryan Howard had that advice in her ‘Self-Printed’ book and it has worked well for me.  It also guarantees that people who like one post will probably like more down the line.
  4. Do your own thing but also find out the needs and desires of your audience.  I write mostly about how to live an inspirational life, writing, and self publishing.  But people really like the inspiring life bit (they like me even more, but that’s just coincidental 😉 ).  So I keep that need in mind and try to help people, even a tiny bit, on their journey toward their dreams.
  5. Post regularly.  If I had one tip, this would be it (along with be yourself, be interesting etc).  The keys to the kingdom.  Catherine Ryan Howard suggested three posts a week but for a long time I was ‘too busy’.  But when I got serious about posting more often (I aim for Monday, Wednesday, and Friday) then people really started getting interested.  I did recently take a ‘birthday week break’ because, well, I’m only human (Skyrim!).
  6. Get great titles.  The number one thing I see when I look at blogs is a lack of inviting titles for posts.  Everything doesn’t have to be ‘How To Make A 10 Tips List To Drive Business’ but I see a lot called ‘Blah Blah, Dreary Day’.  And maybe that’s great and maybe it’s funny, and maybe it’s only meant to be cathartic, but I’m not that interested.  I saw one just called ‘L’ and the first line was ‘I guess this is really happening’, and I had to see the rest of that post.  I lot of times I’d pick a title, write the piece and find a better title in one of my lines, more original, more dramatic, and I’d use that.
  7. Pictures, Links, Ponies — whatever it takes.  People respond to great pictures and quotes (at least I do).  And links not only promote things you love (like my recent Frank Turner post) but they are also added valve/fun for your fans.
  8. If you can, proofread your ‘preview’ before you publish.  I have found seeing the post in its final form makes catching the error easier (warning: you will still find errors).
  9. If you Google something and can’t find the post you wanted — jump on that.  I was looking for a certain kind of list of ‘how to move to the next level as a writer’ for my Athens Writers Association meeting and I couldn’t find it!  So I wrote my own thing to bring to the group and it turned into a very successful post.
  10. Dream (and think) big.  Act successful to be successful.  I had no idea I’d have so many followers by my 50th post but I wasn’t put off when I had just one either.  I just sent my best, most professional work out into the world and hoped to find a few people who liked it.  Thank you all for being so kind as to be part of this wild ride with me.  Onward to 100!
The Amazing Austin Kleon

The Amazing Austin Kleon

49 Days (and ways) To Be Amazing By New Year’s

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  1. Spend half as much on Christmas this year
  2. Give twice as much to Charity
  3. Start that blog
  4. Get a ‘walking buddy’ and walk three times a week
  5. Make a party plan, and only go (and eat and drink) when you really want to
  6. Start your novel
  7. Write a love letter to yourself
  8. Go to a dance — and dance
  9. Find a new favorite song
  10. Plan to make 2014 amazing
  11. Picture who you want to be in 49 days (and make it happen!)
  12. Get on the Paleo diet
  13. Start Cycling
  14. Go on a blind date with the idea on finding a new best friend
  15. Do something nice for a stranger
  16. Visit your oldest relative
  17. Make a homemade gift
  18. Take a class
  19. Make a Christmas playlist that makes you want to dance all day long
  20. Make Christmas cookies with your best friend
  21. Write a love letter to your dream boy/girl (even if you haven’t met them yet)
  22. Invest in bath bubbles
  23. Buy a new comforter — super soft
  24. Volunteer
  25. Clean out your least favorite room — make it your favorite
  26. Write down one hundred people you are grateful for and tell them about it
  27. Make a ten year plan
  28. Make a five year plan
  29. Make a one year plan
  30. Don’t plan everything
  31. Pick three days between now and New Year’s to be ‘do nothing’ days — and have Ferris Bueller fun
  32. Watch a ‘Reign’ or ‘Blacklist’
  33. Buy a Frank Turner song
  34. Visit this Pinterest page
  35. Watch a TED talk
  36. Visit a state park
  37. Write a poem
  38. Buy a Christmas ornament that speaks to your craziest, awesomiest self
  39. Make your own Christmas cards out of memes
  40. Send Thanksgiving cards
  41. Become an adventurer
  42. Be kinder than necessary
  43. Spend a full day cleaning your house
  44. Smile more
  45. Give away everything you don’t love
  46. Stop apologizing
  47. Start to awe people
  48. Try a new genre of music
  49. Buy Lady Gaga’s song Christmas Tree

from ThinkGeek.com

The Post

right

Well, here it is — The Post.  Now, for my part I promise you it is the only one of its kind.  I’m not going to keep harping on this.  But I’m also going to speak very clearly and forcefully right now.

This post is about stealing.  Specifically, illegal steaming and downloading.

For the record, it’s not because I’ve had anything stolen from me or because I am religious.  I haven’t and I’m not.  This is about right and wrong.

Now, I’m sympathetic to how we got here.  Technology has come on so fast (when I was a kid in the 80s there was no internet — gasp!).  And in the ‘old days’ some sharing was allowed, or even encouraged.  You lent out your book or record to a friend so they could experience the same joy you did.  And then there were used book or record stores where you could sell or trade goods and even though the original creators didn’t get money, you were only selling your single copy and others had to be okay with buying used goods.

I also understand that the average household income has been going down since the 70s and corporate profits have been going up.

And lastly, I understand that there’s a certain kind entrepreneurial spirit that is sometimes at play.  I was recently talking to some self-publishing friends and they mentioned you could use Paypal when people bought your books, but to the sure to mark it as a ‘gift of money’ instead of a ‘payment for goods sold’ because Paypal will charge you a fee for the latter.  Now these are good people who didn’t think about it as lying or stealing, but Paypal is a business, and not paying them what they ask when you’re using their service to further your business is stealing.  And to their credit, when we talked about it, my friends agreed.  But as someone who has made signs from trash and done my own editing, I fully understand the ‘smart way’ thinking that led them to that place.

Now the fun part, where I tell you you rock and to stop making your grandmother cry

Bart: Uh, say, are you guys crooks?

Fat Tony: Bart, is it wrong to steal a loaf of bread to feed your starving family?

Bart: No.

Fat Tony: Well, suppose you got a large starving family. Is it wrong to steal a truckload of bread to feed them?

Bart: Uh uh.

Fat Tony: And, what if your family don’t like bread? They like… cigarettes?

Bart: I guess that’s okay.

Fat Tony: Now, what if instead of giving them away, you sold them at a price that was practically giving them away. Would that be a crime, Bart?

Bart: Hell, no.

— The Simpsons, ‘Bart the Murderer’ written by John Swartzwelder

Ah, the slippery slope of rationalization.  Now, I know you are a good person.  You have people you love, things that mean something to you.  You have a heart.  And as a good person you are going to have to give up stealing.  There is no justification.  People I’ve talked to who illegally download are almost always trying to justify it.  If you’re a thief, a criminal, and don’t mind that — at least you’re honest.  This post is for everyone who still believes stealing online is different than stuffing a CD down your pants and sneaking past the security guard at the local mall.

Below are the excuses / rationalzations I’ve heard:

The artists don’t get the money anyway.  Why should I give my money to a big corporation?

First of all, because it’s their property.  The same as a physical CD, they spent the time and money, took the risk, and produced a product — you take that product without paying, then you’re a thief.  Secondly, because the artists do get some of it.  They wouldn’t be doing this otherwise.  And they are getting enough to follow their dreams, and make more music, TV shows, and games you love.  And if their product doesn’t make money, guess what?  Your favorite artist would have to go and work at McDonalds.

The artists are millionaires.  And I don’t like some of them.  They don’t need my eight bucks.

 First of all, that’s still their work and effort you’re enjoying and they do deserve compensation.  And a lot of artists go through years and years of struggle to even get out there on the national stage; so just because you don’t think they deserve it doesn’t mean you get be cheap.  You would seem a millionaire to many in third world countries — can they come take your TV and wallet because you don’t deserve it?  You worked for your money and you should get to use it as you see fit — and so should every band, singer, game creator, writer, and TV producer.

Singers can do live shows for money.

Uh . . .  This one blows my mind every time.  Yes, and you can come listen to them.  But what you are suggesting is the end of every entertainment medium you love.  If illegal downloading was wide enough spread (if I couldn’t support the people you steal from) then there would be no cable TV (Do you know how much those HBO shows cost?), no professional quality CDs, no New York Times Bestsellers.  If event venues and artists who don’t mind working two jobs and releasing free content to you were the whole of entertainment, it would be a very sad shell of itself.  Your illegal downloading is killing the shows and singers you love most.

I just wanted to try it.  And after ten album listens (40 gameplay hours, etc) I didn’t like it that much.

Oh no, you don’t.  You got to experience a thing — that’s what you’re paying for.  Don’t think you’d like that album?  Then wait till it’s on Spotify, or listen to the singles on Youtube.  Rent that game instead of buying it, or only buy six-month-old games that have tons of reviews, walkthoughs, and are now half price.

I’m not stealing a physical item — it costs them nothing.

All the effort that went into creating something is not nothing.  For a CD — the case, burned CD, and paper cost about 50 cents.  That’s all.  The thousands and sometimes millions, go into the music itself — and that’s what you are stealing.  The same way when you gave a physical copy of a book to your buddy, that was maybe one sale they would miss out on as you shared your copy — but if you ‘share’ online you are taking away thousands, millions of sales.  If the artist or company made it, then they deserve payment — whether or not it’s in a 20 cent plastic jewel case.  If you wouldn’t steal from a store, you shouldn’t steal online.  It’s like that old joke —

He: Would you sleep with any man for a million dollars?
She: Well…I guess so.
He: How about sleeping with me for ten dollars?
She: (angrily) What do you think I am?
He: Oh, I know what you are.  Now we are only haggling over the price.

And lastly —

I don’t have any money.

I feel for you.  But in this day and age most people reading this have internet access.  And even if you don’t, there are a ton of events, libraries, and other public freebies.  And online you have Spotify, Pandora, Hulu, Youtube, and TONS of songs, shows, and games put up for free by their creators.  Maybe you are buying too much; try buying half as many things and wait for the ones you want most, or wait for price drops and sales.  Just because it’s new doesn’t mean it’s any better than the best of last year.

THERE IS A BRIGHT SHINY FUTURE OF PLENTY AHEAD OF YOU

. . . let go of the past.

You are a wonderful person.  You have big dreams and you want to live in a world of abundance.  That means supporting others’ dreams and works and helping make the world a more just, happier place.  You can do it.  Just stop stealing today (your grandmother would be proud) and start supporting the dreamers, the doers, and the creative freaks.  Because behind everything you steal, there’s a person like me, a nice, hardworking creator who only wants to make a living while entertaining the pants off you.

A Writer’s ‘Most Enjoyable’ TV Shows List

I put the question of this ‘top ten’ to my sister, with the stipulation of ‘most enjoyable’.  The reason was not to exclude hard-to-watch dramas but rather to alleviate the fears that one would have in creating a BEST list.  So this is really about my favorites, not the ones I believe should be on display in the Smithsonian or that we should force schoolchildren to watch.

WARNING: Tiny spoilers within.

And so without further ado —

The Nominees

(basically shows I’d seen at least one season of and could imagine making it into the top ten)

Parks and Rec

The Sarah Conner Chronicles

30 Rock

Quantum Leap

Royal Pains

Simpsons

X-Files

Justified

Deadwood

Glee

The Vampire Diaries

Nip/Tuck

The West Wing

True Blood

Boardwalk Empire

The Glee Project

Spongebob Squarepants

American Dad

Family Guy

Rocky & Bullwinkle

Being Human

House

Life on Mars (UK)

Life on Mars (US)

Sherlock (Granada)

Sherlock (BBC)

Doctor Who

Mad Men

Walking Dead

Breaking Bad

South Park

Lost

Firefly

Buffy: The Vampire Slayer

My So-Called Life

24

Freaks and Geeks

Coupling (BBC)

American Horror Story

Girls

And now, the WINNERS —

No. 15 —Mad Men

Mad Men has been a giant influence for years now, from the amazing characters like Peggy, Don, and Pete, to its beautiful, restrained look at a bygone era.  Its only not higher on my list because it’s become too restrained for my case — I just want to have my favorite characters in the same room talking about things that matter and yes, I’ve watched for hours waiting for Pete and Peggy to talk to each other.

No. 14 — Justified

An odd choice, since I’ve only seen the first two seasons so far, but the quality of dialogue and the acting is transfixing.  “I don’t think of myself as an angry man.”  “Raylan, you’re the angriest man I’ve ever known.”  Shivers.

No. 13 — Nip/Tuck

Now with this one, I’ve only seen the first few seasons but I’ll never forget them.  This show is classic Ryan Murphy — funny, daring, heartfelt, cold, warm, and with lines and characters you can’t stop thinking about.  Other Murphy shows just missed the cut.  Christian is a character for the ages, and the way he’s subverted by his experiences makes you rethink human nature.  He’s a bit like a Damon Salvatore as explored by Ryan Murphy — to which I say ‘Oh hell yes!’

No. 12 — Life on Mars (UK)

This is one of those perfect series, a phrase that you rarely hear on TV.  The American version was good too — but this one’s great.  This is another era done right; its version of the ‘70s is letting it all hang out, with the clothes and lingo taking a back seat to the sexism, racism, and the police’s occasional brutality.  But at the heart of all that is a hero who wants to get home and wants to discover the childhood (and father) he never really had.  Heartbreaking and awesome — can you dig it?

No. 11 — Sherlock (BBC)

Another near-perfect series.  I had my doubts about this one (and had always only been a light Sherlock Holmes fan) and yet it’s been fantastic, shaking the source material up and turning two of our best British actors loose to charm the pants off the audience.  The creators said they only do three episodes every few years because they want to only have the highest quality of writing — and it shows.

Sherlock Holmes: Punch me in the face!

Dr. John Watson: Punch you?

Sherlock Holmes: Yes, punch me in the face! Didn’t you hear me?

Dr. John Watson: I always hear “Punch me in the face” when you’re speaking but it’s usually subtext.

No. 10 — Doctor Who

Doctor Who is the ‘It’s so fluffy!’ line from Despicable Me turned into a series: you simply can’t deny that much excitement, passion, and joy.  It makes you glad such things exist in the world.  And yet it has a profound heart, and a real understanding of humanity that makes this such a long-running favorite.  The Doctor loves the human race in a way we ourselves often can’t, and yet at the end of the day he must stand apart from the things he loves.  Also, probably the best idea ever for a TV show.

No. 9 — Lost

This is my love it/hate it entry.  The series went on a bit long, I abhorred ‘sideways world’ and yet . . .  Great writing makes me say, “Oh!  I’m so jealous — I wish I’d written that!” And I went around all the time I was watching seasons 2 and 3 thinking that.  It wasn’t perfect, but man, it was on SO much of the time, and it brought adventure and mystery to the small screen in a way I’d never seen before or since.

No. 8 — The West Wing

I just started watching this show this year and it’s already made the top ten.  I mean, come on!  How couldn’t it?  It’s Lincoln meets The Social Network.  The characters (and actors) are some of the best ever put together (and they are so often together, in the same room talking about important things).  And the story lines make you remember what HBO made you forget: that great dramas don’t need violence and sex to have truly great drama.  This show has actually made me a better person who cares more about her world.

No. 7 — Spongebob Squarepants

‘Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?’ And so starts some of the funniest, sharpest writing anywhere on TV (I recommend seasons 2 and 3 for maximum laughs).  Spongebob must be a spiritual sibling to the Doctor, because they both live life to the fullest.  The number of quotes that are still spoken daily by me attests to its staying power.  “I’m ready!  I’m ready!’

No. 6 — My So-Called Life

This show was a couple of spots higher and I had to move it closer to number one.  I had heard about it for years and figured I’d like it, but it was just such a perfect dream of character, identity, growing up, and remaining a child that I liked it even more than I thought I would.  And that last scene with Brian — wow — it pretty much influences me (and my writing of Fall Street) to this day.

No. 5 — Firefly

This is the perfect Joss Whedon show in my mind (I’ve only seen one season of Buffy so that might change).  It has it all — super original characters, a great setting, well plotted episodes, and the best funny dialogue written possibly ever.  Come for the charming captain, and stay for his shiny crew.

No. 4 — The Vampire Diaries

I know, I know.  Believe me, I get it.  For a long, long time I never watched a Vampire Diaries even though I like Jane Austin, romantic comedies, and supernatural stories.  I figured it would be vapid, dumb, cruel, and just about guys walking around with their shirts off all the time.  On top of that, I hadn’t thought Ian Somerhalder was that great on ‘Lost’, so who would want to see him as a lead?  How wrong I was.  The Vampire Diaries turned out to be a perfectly plotted show which teases you AND builds over each season.  It is that rarest network show that is going somewhere with its lead characters.  And Elena is a Harry Potter not a Bella and her friends and family mean everything to her.  And Ian?  He blows the doors off the place as Damon and makes him one of the most compelling, most misunderstood anti-heroes in modern television.  Even if he does walk around with his shirt off a lot.

No. 3 — The Simpsons

I did a list like this many years ago and The Simpsons was number one — it says a lot that I watch it much less now and yet it still looms so large.  The show would win awards from me based only on the volume of great TV it’s given — the sheer number of lines, gags, and firsts make it the great elder statesman of today’s cartoon families.  Don’t like The Simpsons?  “Release the hounds!”

No.2 — Deadwood

Some people started with the Sopranos or OZ as their gateway drug into cable drama.  For me, it was Deadwood.  I knew it as ‘That show that won awards and everyone was always cursing’.  Then I sat down with the first season DVD and was awestruck — this was TV, not as I’d grown up with it (TV comedies and stalwart 10:00 pm dramas), but exciting, masterful, and so funny.  Not every story line later on was a winner, yet still, taken together I never saw a world like Deadwood, SD, and never again have met people like Al, Jane, or Trixie.

No. 1 — True Blood

Once upon a time all I knew of Alan Ball was American Beauty and all I knew of the Sookie Stackhouse mysteries was their bright, cartoony covers on book shelves.  Then all that changed.  Bon Temps and its residents came into my heart full force and the romance, humor, humanity, and magic of the place can never be forgotten.  When I watch True Blood (I’ve only seen through season 4) I see so many great things that I want to learn to do in my own stories — and having a kick-butt heroine like Sookie is at the top of the list.

It’s worth clicking on to read it 😉

Warning! You are Living in the Pop Culture Moment of Your Dreams

I just realized this year that we are living in the kind of time and place we are going to annoy those younger than us about for the rest of our lives.

Now, I know summer movies haven’t been that great.  I almost didn’t write this because of that.  But, I believe the ups are so amazing that we can forgive a few downs.

Personal history — since I was born in 1979, I only have a few decades to compare now to, but I think the last few years have been extraordinary.  The 1980s were charming and the 1990s were the first decade where I really paid attention to pop culture, but the now is so far beyond what I’ve seen before.

When the grand kids eyes glaze over, and they can’t listen to ‘the good old days’ of pop culture anymore — tell them to blame cable TV.  I wouldn’t even be writing this post without its influence.

I remember hearing a little about this show called ‘The Sorpranos’, and then it started winning big awards right out from under the nose of great network TV shows.  Then more and more wonderful series followed.  Now, it seems like I’ve seen so much great TV in the last ten years that just those shows (and the ones I haven’t seen) could last me a longtime, quality-wise.

Just recently I finished the second disc of Girls, season 1, from Netflix.  It’s extraordinary, and yet also ’just what we expect’ from HBO or other premium cable networks.  One network, AMC, has on at the time ‘Breaking Bad’, ‘Mad Men’, and the ‘Walking Dead’?  That’s insane.

But the rosy glow you’ll cast this era in has to do with more than TV.  You’ll talk about how radio, for a brief shining moment, was really fun to listen to, and full of art.  You’ll talk about Kanye West and fun. and Macklemore and Mumford & Sons all in the same sentence.

Then some other old-timer will mention video games and you’ll be talking about Rock Star and Valve and PopCap and Bioware and Blizzard for the next thirty minutes.

And all the great movies and books (Harry Potter!  The Road!) and comics and more.

And finally to shut you up, your grand kids will say, ‘Gee, that was interesting!  So why, in one sentence, do you think it was such an amazing time even though bio-cranial entertainment hadn’t even been invented yet?’

And you’ll say, ‘I think it was because this was the beginning of the information age and all these separate groups came together and cross-pollinated and people started to expect more from their entertainment and creators stopped being afraid to give people deep stories full of dark characters and — maybe we were just really lucky.’

And then the kid will asked how Duck Dynasty fit into all this and you’ll tell him to shut up.