Thursday, February 29, 2024

Five Thursdays

This is the fifth Thursday in February. February only has five Thursdays because this is a leap year and it's the 29th of February.  I started wondering how much that happens. And I think, it happens every four years to a different weekday. So I investigated.

In 2020, February had five Saturdays, and the last one was the leap day.

In 2016, February had five Mondays (groan) and the last one was the leap day!

In 2012, February had five Wednesdays, and the last one was the leap day.

So apparently this is how leap days work: they are always the fifth day of their weekday.

I'm in my 60s and I never noticed that before. That's amazing.

What about the world did you not notice until late in your life? Let me know in the comments below.

And why do leap years have to be election years? Another day of campaigning. That we don't need.

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Errors in the Lord of the Rings Movies

I love the Lord of the Rings movies. They are among my favorite movies. I watch them every few months, it seems. I have the extended versions on 4K Blu-ray so the picture looks amazing.

Even if I come across them while channel flipping, I'll stop and watch them.

I'm more of a science fiction guy, but I still love the Lord of the Rings.

But as I keep watching them, I have noticed some... errors. Not deviations from the novels (lots of those), but errors in the movies themselves.

For example, big cities such as Minas Tirith will be full of people (and horses), but there's no farmland around the city to provide food for them. Same with Edoras, the capital of Rohan. I'm not sure if Tolkien talked about farmland around those cities (it's been a while since I've read the books). The Shire seems to be, in the movies, the only place growing food.

There are other errors. For example, in The Two Towers, Frodo, Sam, and Gollum are on a ridge overlooking the Black Gate of Mordor. But in Return of the King, when Aragon leads an army to the gate, the ridge has disappeared. Also, in that battle in front of the Black Gate, Aragon and others ride there on horses. But when the battle starts, the horses disappear. 

Speaking of horses. When they reach the Mines of Moria (Khazad-dûm), they let the horse Bill go because he can't go through the mines. But that horse has never been with them before since leaving Rivendell. In the novel, Bill is with them after they leave Bree.

In The Two Towers, a Uruk-hai climbs up on a big boulder to start the battle. But later when Gandalf leads the Rohirrim against the Uruk-hai, the boulder is gone.

Have you noticed any other errors in the movies? Let me know in the comments below. There are probably a lot more (see here, here, and here).

The above photo is being used under Section 107 of the Copyright Act: fair usage.

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Character Names

Someone posted in a writers' group on Facebook "How do you select the names of your characters?" 

That's a tough one. Coming up with character names is one of the most annoying parts of writing for me. My seven book series Chumba of the Intelligence Corps/Treasures of Space/Death to the Emperor the main character's moniker is "Titus Chumba."  I have no idea where I came up with that. But in Treasures of Space and Death to the Emperor, he uses a lot of pseudonyms since he's hiding from the Core Empire. The main one is "Rick Bailey." How did I come up with all those names? I have no idea nor memory of doing it. When it comes to main characters, I tend to make up a name I like.

But then there are the secondary characters. For those, I will often use a random name generator. I like the Behind the Name one because of all the options. Or sometimes I just want a quick one, so I'll use this one.

In Rock Killer, the main character's name was Alexander Chun. I decided I wanted a Korean-American name (I'd just graduated from the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, CA, where I studied Korean when I started writing it). But other names, I just made up (I wrote most of this book before I discovered the internet in 1994).

How do you come up with character names? Let me know in the comments below.


Thursday, February 8, 2024

Husky Heartbreak

The week of January 8th was a heartbreaking one for fans of the University of Washington Huskies football program. Such as myself.

You know I love my Huskies. Even when they went 0-12 in 2008. 

Then, this season after an amazing year where we went 12-0 in the regular season, won the Pac-12 championship game (against Oregon!), and won the Sugar Bowl to go 14-0, we lost badly in the CFP championship game to Michigan. We were so hoping to bring back a football championship to the Pac-12 in its last year of existence as a Power 5 conference. (The fate of the Pac-12 is still in the air as all but two schools left it). 

After losing the CFP championship game, our coach, Kalen DeBoer, announced he was going to Alabama, who had just had their coach retire. That was almost too much to bear. I was literally depressed for at least a week. And a lot of players announced they were going into the NFL draft or were going to the transfer portal.

We went from the highs of winning the Sugar Bowl on January 1st to the lows of January 9th.

In addition, Pete Carroll announced he's retiring as head coach of the Seahawks. That didn't upset me a lot (I'm sort of a fair-weather Seahawks fan), but it did add to the devastation for the community.

The Huskies have named a new head coach in Arizona's Jedd Fisch. He was, in my opinion, a good pick. Not a great pick, but a good one. He did turn around an ailing Arizona team.  He'll have a big job at Washington as most, if not all, of the good players have left. 

I was so looking forward to next year when we might do better than this year (that is, win the championship) with DeBoer as our coach. But now I'm just hoping we have a winning season and beat Oregon and Washington State. I'm hoping,

Thursday, February 1, 2024

February is the Worst

In my opinion, February is the worst month of the year. There's almost nothing to look forward to and the weather is usually awful. Some people say January is bad. But to me, it's February that's the worst.

Sure there's Valentines Day, or as two of my sons call it, "Single Awareness Day." Or "Mandatory Romance Day."

There's George Washington's Birthday, which if you work in some businesses or government, you might get off. But most don't. And there's no Christmas or New Years to look forward to. Just bleak, cold days.

Bleak because February is usually the coldest month. I'm not sure why because the solstice is in late December. You'd think as daylight hours increase, it would get warmer. However, in February, the snow is deeper and the wind is more cutting than any other month.

It's like August is the hottest month, usually, but the solstice is in June. Maybe the Earth retains heat and it takes until February to dissipate it all. 

I don't know.

Do you know why February is so bad? And how do you feel about February? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Favorite 103 Top Movies: The Top Ten List!

This is it, that last of my list of 103 favorite movies. Now we're into the movies I watch over and over again.

Previous entries in this countdown are:

109 - 90

89 - 80

79 - 70

69 - 60

59 - 50

49 - 40

39 - 30

29 - 20

19 - 11

Without further ado, let's get on with my top ten favorite movies:

10: Toy Story 2 (1999)

Yes, this movie is better than Toy Story. They get out of the house and have adventures outdoors and in a toy store and an apartment building. Fun from beginning to end (except the sad part in the middle), this is such an amazing film. And funny, too. I remember in the theater (I took my kids) laughing out loud at a part that parodies The Empire Strikes Back. And Mattel lets them use Barbie to great effect. Available on Disney+

9:  Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi (1983)

Now known as "Star Wars, Episode VII: Return of the Jedi," this is the worst of the three main Star Wars movies. But still a very good film. The Ewoks are a little too cute and the final battle where they defeat the stormtroopers is a bit unbelievable (why do stormtroopers wear that worthless armor, anyway?). The battle in space is almost too much but Luke finally confronting Vader is amazing (with a great soundtrack to accompany it). If you can watch the non-CGI version, do. It's better. Available on Disney+ (unfortunately, only the CGI-ruined version).

8: Fantasia (1940)

I am a huge fan of hand-drawn animation. And Fantasia is a tour-de-force of that art form. Plus, the music is fantastic. If you want to introduce your children to classical music, this is a sneaky way to do it. The ending is a bit overdone and long, but up until then, the dancing hippos and ostriches are worth the price of admission. Available on Disney+ 

7: The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)

English POWs, led by Alec Guinness, are held at a Japanese camp in occupied Burma. They are tasked with building a railroad bridge over the River Kwai. Guinness's character is at first reluctant, but then gets into the spirt of the thing and decides to build the best damn bridge they can. Only at the end of the film does he realize what he's done by aiding the enemy. Strong performances by Guinness and William Holden as an American POW bind this film together. Available on Max, Sling TV, and Amazon Prime Video. 

6: Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)

If you're a fan of the golden age of animation (the 40s and the 50s), you gotta love this movie. Somehow, the film makers convinced both Disney and Warner Brothers to use their characters. Want to see Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny on the screen at the same time, this is your movie. Set in a world where animated characters live and interact with real life humans. The film has an uninteresting plot and the climax is a bit overdone. But if you love animation, you'll love this film as much as I do. Available on Disney+

5: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Long, slow, but amazing. Special effects are a highlight of this film, especially for 1968. This movie is this high on the list solely on the strength of its audacity. A collaboration between Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke, it is simply an amazing film with a bit of a downer message. (Clarke has never been a fan of humans.) You have to watch this movie at least once in your life. Available on Tubi (free), Max, and Amazon Prime Video.

4: Star Wars (1977)

Now unfortunately known as "Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope," there was nothing ever seen like this movie when it came out. Science fiction in the 1970s tended to be pessimistic and dystopian (See Soylent Green and Silent Running). But this was fun, exciting, and what great special effects that were amazing for the time (zero CGI). The climax is so good they stole it for Top Gun: Maverick. Because of this film's success, the Star Trek movies were made and science fiction movies became fun again, mostly. Available on Disney+ (unfortunately, only the CGI-ruined version).

3: Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

Beautifully shot in New Zealand, this film was simply amazing. Based on Tolkien's book, and sticks to the novel more than The Two Towers does, it goes from the green, pastoral Shire to a final battle by humans and an elf against a band of orcs in a forest. Its action sequences are intense. Who would have thought swordplay could be so powerful without guns or cars? The extended version is even better with more background. And Ian McKellen plays Gandalf perfectly, exactly as I imagined him from the books: compassionate, wise, and with a twinkle in his eyes. Available on Max, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video.

2: Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

"Never tell me the odds!" For more than two decades, this was my favorite movie. Now called Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, this is the best of all the Star Wars movies. From the battle on Hoth to Luke confronting Vader when he's not quite ready, this movie keeps the plot moving fast. And the asteroid field chase is not only amazing to watch, you have to wonder how they did it in 1980 before CGI. Han Solo becomes less of a rogue and more of a sympathetic character. A bit of a downer/cliffhanger ending, though. Available on Disney+ (unfortunately, only the CGI-ruined version).

And my number one favorite movies is...

1: Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (2003)

Thousands of orcs (CGI, but you don't care, it's done so well) besiege a huge white city built into a mountain. That image is what I remember most from this movie. A powerful climax to the Lord of the Rings films. Yes, the denouement is way over-long but they are wrapping up almost nine hours of film. When the 6,000 mounted soldiers from Rohan (CGI) ride toward the orcs, you feel the pounding of the ground. The emotions of this movie are deep and hard. Peter Jackson knows how to tug at your heartstrings while exciting you with massive battle scenes. Also better on the extended version, but even the theatrical version thrills, too. Available on Max, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video.

What do you think of my top ten favorite movies? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Top 103 Favorite Moves: #19 - 11

We're getting closer to my favorite all-time movie. But today we're doing #19 - 11.

The previous post with the movies are;

103 - 90

89 - 80

79 - 70

69 - 60

59 - 50

49 - 40

39 - 30

29 - 20

So, here we go on the penultimate countdown blog:

19: On the Waterfront (1954)

A movie about corruption in the longshoremen's unions. Very well made and shows how the unions kept control. Someone threatens to go to the authorities, and a load "accidentally" falls on him. Has the classic scene with Marlon Brando: "I coulda been a contender." A very good movie that you should watch. Available on YouTube, Apple TV, and Amazon Prime Video (all paid).

18: The Lives of Others (2006)

You probably haven't heard of this movie. Made in Germany about life in the Communist East Germany (German Democratic Republic), this is a powerful film. A writer wants to write about what's happening, but of course, the government won't even allow him to have a typewriter. So, one is smuggled in for him and he has to hide it when he's not using it. Lots of little subplots (a singer is being raped regularly by a party official). This builds and builds to a powerful climax. I should watch this again soon. Available on YouTube, Apple TV, and Amazon Prime Video (all paid).

17: Citizen Kane (1941)

Considered by some as the best movie ever made. It's a little slow by modern standards, but it is still very good. Orson Wells wrote and stared in this picture, based on the life of newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst. Contains the classic exchange between Kane and his wife: "The people will think…" "What I tell them to think." Wells does a great job of both playing Kane and directing. Look for a young Agnes Moorehead (Bewitched) as Kane's mother. "Rosebud." Available on YouTube, Apple TV, and Amazon Prime Video (all paid).

16: Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

This movie is huge. Desert vistas and big battles scenes. The story is about an Englishman who helps out the Arabs during World War I to unite and fight the Turks. The train wreak scene is worth the price of admission. Peter O'Toole plays Lawrence. I need to watch this again. Available on Sling TV.

15: The Godfather (1972)

14: The Godfather Part 2 (1974)

I've decided to treat these two Godfather movies as one (they pretty much are one movie). These are among the best films ever made, if not the best. The story of the Corleone mafia family from the 1910s to the 1960s. Al Pacino plays Michael who is determined to stay out of the family business, but then is sucked into it by his need for revenge.  Watching his descent into crime and callousness is fascinating and heartbreaking. You have to watch these movies at least once in your life. Available on Paramount+

13:  Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)

I thought about treating the Lord of the Rings movies as one movie, but decided not to. The Two Towers is the weakest of the three LOTR films. (I thought the book was the weakest of the three books, too.) Huge battle sequences (with a lot of CGI but you don't care because it's done so well), but also the story of Frodo and Sam as they try to get to Mordor to destroy the ring with Gollum in tow (sometimes literally). The extended version is a little better, but still, this movie runs a bit slow even for the massive battle at Helms Deep. The movie strays a bit from Tolkien, too, which isn't good. Available on Max, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video.

12: Toy Story (1995)

Speaking of CGI: this as the first completely computer animated feature film. Quite an accomplishment. But in addition, it has a great storyline with an evil next-door kid (Sid; and we all knew a Sid growing up), a competition between toys for the affections of the child who plays with them, and a fun climax. This was Pixar's first movie and one of its best. Available on Disney+

11: The Incredibles (2004)

When I was a kid there was an animated show called "Jonny Quest." It could never be made today due to being politically incorrect. But The Incredibles reminds me of it so much. This is Pixar's first film where people die (bad guys, mostly). People with superpowers are in hiding after being sued and banned for the damage they cause while saving people. But Mr. Incredible (aka, Bob Parr) is tired of it and when an invitation comes to be super again, he grabs at it. That's when the adventure starts. Available on Disney+

Coming up next week, my top 10 favorite movies.

What do you think of my list? Let me know in the comments below.