Saturday, February 25, 2017

Movie Review: Hacksaw Ridge

I sort of debated if I wanted to see this movie. But I'm glad I did and put it on my Netflix disc list.

My hesitation came from that it was directed by Mel Gibson and I don't really want to support him after his anti-Semitic drunk diatribe. Same reason I never watch Michael Moore movies, even on Netflix. I'm afraid some money of mine might get to him. Even one penny would be too much for Moore. I decided I could live with some money making its way to Gibson.

Hacksaw Ridge is a very good movie. It's the true story of an American medic named Desmond Doss in World War II who was a conscientious objector. He refused to touch a gun, even in basic training. This leads to a near court marshal. He was, according to the movie, the only medic in World War II that went into battle unarmed.

The first part of the movie deals with his rough childhood and home life. His abusive father (played very well by Hugo Weaving) and his mother who tries to protect the children all affected Doss's attitude toward war and guns. It was great to see a man stand up for his beliefs in the face of brutal opposition.

Vince Vaughn plays out of type as a tough but pretty fair sergeant.

The third act of the movie is the battle for Hacksaw Ridge on Okinawa in the Pacific. This part of the film was very violent and gory. It was nearly as visceral as the beach landing scene in Saving Private Ryan. So know what you're going into.

But that realistic violence makes what Doss did all the more remarkable. I won't give it away, but he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, the only conscientious objector to ever do so.

One thing Gibson did was cast Teresa Palmer as Doss's girlfriend. Palmer is not Hollywood gorgeous. She's a pretty girl, but you wouldn't expect to see her on a runway. But you wouldn't be surprised to see her as a nurse in a hospital, which was the role she played. This added a bit more realism to the movie.

My biggest objection was that Doss's hair was way too long throughout the entire film.

If the violence and gore doesn't bother you, I strongly recommend this film.

Friday, February 24, 2017

The Speculative Fiction Cantina with Clyde Riddlesbrood and Chris Gerrib

Today on the Speculative Fiction Cantina we are pleased to welcome writers Clyde Riddlesbrood and Chris Gerrib.

Clyde Riddlesbrood

I grew up in the entertainment industry working with my father at a Dinner Theater in South Jersey and started my own theater company in 2000.  I have personally been in over 5000 shows in my lifetime and as a company we have performed over 1500 shows.  Currently Riddlesbrood is one of the most successful and vibrant theater companies in the New York, New Jersey area performing more than 150 murder mysteries and dinner theater shows per year at multiple locations.  In addition to this, we produce 3 large Broadway style shows for “Arts on the MOVE” Performing Arts Program for children and teens.

Clyde's Book:

The Greatest Brochure in the World

Clyde's Links:


Chris Gerrib

Chris Gerrib admits to being a bit obsessed with Mars, but in a healthy way – all three books of his Pirate Series are set on Mars.  Chris still has a day job as the IT director at a Chicago-area bank, and holds degrees in history and business from the University of Illinois and Southern Illinois University.  He also served in the US Navy during the First Gulf War, and can proudly report that not one Iraqi MiG bombed Jacksonville, Florida while he was in the service.  In his copious free time, Chris is a past President of and currently active in his local Rotary club.

Chris's Books:

The Mars Run

Pirates of Mars

The Night Watch

Chris's Links:


From Today's Program: Brain/computer Interfaces May be Closer than You Think

Thursday, February 23, 2017

My Favorite Movies

It's time once again for the 52-week blogging challenge. And today I'm supposed to write about "My favorite movies."

This is easy.

Probably my favorite movie of all time is Lord of the Rings: Return of the King.

My second favorite movie is Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.

Despite a few bits of clunky writing (usually when the writers strayed from Tolkien), these moves are damn near perfect. And the extended editions are even better. I can watch them over and over (and often do, along with Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers).

Other favorite movies (in no particular order): Aliens, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, The Seven Year Itch, and Ghostbusters (the original).

The Seven Year Itch I enjoy because the protagonist's brain works just like mine. Plus it's a very funny movie. Another older movie I enjoy is Some Like it Hot. It's hilarious.

Aliens is the perfect military scifi movie with a few horror tropes added (even though I don't like horror, I can take it in small doses).

The Empire Strikes Back is, in my opinion the best of the Star Wars movies. The battle on Hoth is amazing, especially for pre-CGI special effects. It is a very intense movie.

And Ghostbusters is an amazing comedy. Why anyone thought to remake it, I don't know.

What's your favorite movie? Comment below.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Car Review: 2017 Audi A4 2.0T

For about a week I drove a sliver 2017 Audi A4 2.0T. And I liked it. Much better than that A3 I drove.

First of all, from the exterior it is a handsome car with the right creases in the sheet metal and the correct aggressive lines in the front fascia. The daylight running lights are some of the coolest looking I've ever seen. I enjoyed seeing their reflection in shop windows when I would park.

The interior is not as impressive with cheap-looking materials that might have come from the VW parts bin. The infotainment screen was permanently stuck to the front of the dash like an after thought. It could be turned off, but that was all. I know Audi likes its infotainment screens to pop out of the dash. This one didn't, just looked like it did. I'm not sure if the wood was fake or just looked fake.

The car didn't have a navigation system installed (even though it had buttons for one), so I wasn't able to evaluate that. European cars are infamous for having speedometers read high. And this one was, according to the GPS speed app on my phone, no exception. The speedometer read two miles per hour high.

The start engine button was in a strange, almost hard to reach place near your right knee. And the car had that stop-start function that most (if not all) new Audis have. When you stop the car at say a stop light, the engine shuts off to save gasoline. I learned (eventually) that if I ignored it, it worked best. The engine would turn on when you lift your foot from the brake. But then I would wait for it to start before putting my foot on the accelerator. If I just moved my foot to the accelerator, the engine was always on by the time I got there. So by the end of the week, that's what I was doing. Also, when you put the car in park, the engine would stop. I don't know how many times I almost got out of the vehicle when it was still "on" because the engine was off and to me, that means the car is off.

The seats were leather and reasonably comfortable. The car rode like a larger car unless the road turned rough, then you could feel its size. Like all Audis, it seemed to be carved from a single block of steel it was so solid.

The base A4 has front will drive and a manual transmission. The one I drove had Audi's Quattro all-wheel-drive system and a smooth seven-speed automatic. The automatic did its job with little fuss. It had a sport mode that always put the RPMs in the power band. This was useful for passing.

The engine, a 2.0 liter turbo-charged four cylinder had 252 horsepower which for this size car, was plenty but not excessive. The engine sounded good until you got it near the red line when it turned buzzy.

The car I drove was the "Premium Plus Quattro" model which came with a Bang & Olufsen sound system with 19 speakers. From the driver's seat I could count 11 without looking in the rear-view mirror (then I could see 13). I don't know where the other six were, probably in the rear doors. It sounded amazing playing classic rock or classical music. I didn't see any place to put in a CD. But the radio worked very well, picking up FM stations from quite a ways away (there was no satellite radio other than the preview channel).

The biggest drawback of the car, for me, was it was too small. It had four doors and a back seat but it would be tough putting adults in that space, unless they didn't have legs.

All in all I enjoyed the car. I could see buying it or maybe its S4 cousin (same car, bigger engine) if I didn't need to put adults in my back seat.

UPDATE: there is no S4, which is too bad because I think that would be a really cool car.

UPDATE 2: The S4 is coming.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

RadCon 7A

Me in My Brown Fedora
This weekend I am at RadCon in Pasco, Washington. I am a visiting pro there and will be on four panels. Look for me in the brown fedora.

The panels I'll be on are:

Saturday at 12:45 P.M. in room 2201: The Many Ways of Plotting.

Saturday at 2:00 P.M. also in room 2201: Research, Not Just for Scholars Anymore.

Sunday at 11:30 A.M. in room 2207: Grammar Mistakes (Almost) Everyone Makes (I'm the moderator).

You might also catch me in room 2129 in the Dealers' Annex where the Central Washington Writers' Guild will be selling books and other fun stuff. Check it out.

Hope to see you there!

UPDATE: I had a panel on Friday added to my schedule. It was about writing historical fantasy. Go figure. And a panel on Sunday was canceled.

Friday, February 17, 2017

A Speculative Fiction Cantina Replay with Marina Fontaine and Daniella Bova

Today on the Speculative Fiction Cantina we are playing a "best of" show with writers Marina Fontaine and Daniella Bova.

Marina Fontaine
Marina Fontaine

Marina Fontaine is a Russian by birth, an American by choice, and an unrepentant book addict.

Because of her background, Marina always appreciates an opportunity to discover, share and support pro-freedom literature. She runs Small Government Book Fan Club on Goodreads, Conservative-Libertarian Fiction Alliance group on Facebook, and a cultural commentary/review blog, Marina’s Musings. She is a part of the Creators’ Team at Liberty Island website, where she contributes book reviews and some creative work.

Marina is the author of Chasing Freedom (a 2016 Dragon Award finalist for Best Apocalyptic Novel) and The Product, a dystopian novella published by the Superversive Press.

Marina lives in New Jersey with her very supportive husband, three children and four guinea pigs, working as an accountant by day and a writer by night. Her other interests include hard rock music, action movies and travel.

Marina's Books:

The Product

Chasing Freedom

Marina's Links:


Daniella Bova
Daniella Bova

Daniella Bova and her husband live in beautiful Chester County, Pennsylvania. In addition to writing, Daniella loves reading, running in the beauty of the nature preserve near her home, the Catholic Faith, Classic Rock, Delaware Bay and the Delaware Beaches, and any and all forms of textile and fiber artistry.

Daniella is the author of "The Storms Of Transformation" Series, a near future dystopia. Book One, Tears Of Paradox, and Book Two, The Notice, were CLFA Book of the Year Nominees. Book Three, Cadáin's Watch, will be published in February of 2017.

Daniella's Books:

Tears of Paradox

The Notice

Cadáin's Watch (Storms Of Transformation Book 3) for preorder

Daniella's Links:


From Today's Show: Satellite Galaxy May be Clue to Dark Matter.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

My OCD Habits

Well, once again it's time for the 52-week blogging challenge. Today's prompt is "My OCD Habits." Just to be OCD about making sure you know what that means, "OCD" is "Obsessive Compulsive Disorder." OCD can be a serious problem, and affect people so much they can't live a normal, enjoyable life.

But in pop culture it has turned into anything someone is obsessive about, like cleanliness or making sure their books on the shelf are in alphabetical order.

I'm OCD about two things: my computer and my cars. I look at some people's home screens on their computers and it's covered with icons, might even have a file or three there, and it drives me nuts. I currently have 10 icons on my computer screen. They are all lined up neatly on the left side of the screen.

Most everything on my computer is in a directory (now called "folders"). I do have some things that defy catigorization just in documents. But the vast majority of things are organized into folders. Or sub folders. Or sub-sub folders.

The other thing I'm OCD about is my cars and keeping them clean. I have one car that I don't drive if it's snowing or even raining if I can help it. And if the weather is nice, I wash my cars' exteriors about once a week. I have them detailed in the spring (especially the one that does get driven in the snow). I am also a bit OCD about maintenance.

But if you looked at my office, you'd know I'm not OCD about neatness It's a mess.

What are you ODC about. Comment below.

Friday, February 10, 2017

The Speculative Fiction Cantina with Owen Elgie and Aran Jane

Today on the Speculative Fiction Cantina we are pleased to welcomes writers Owen Elgie and Aran Jane.

Owen Elgie
Owen Elgie

Owen Elgie has been drawn to storytelling within the Science Fiction and Fantasy genres for years. A keen sportsman in his youth and still a dedicated follower of many sports now, he grew up in Kent before moving to South Wales in 2003.

Son of an English father and a Welsh mother, he finally put pen to paper on a story he'd had running through his head for years which eventually became The Circle of Fire.

Originally planned as a stand-alone novel, it has since become the opening salvo in a series of five.

He is still living in the same house his grandparents lived in and is doing his best to stay creative.

Owen's Books:

The Circle of Fire

The Circle of Duty

Tall Tales for Dark Nights

Owen's Links:


Aran Jane
Aran Jane

Aran Jane was born in Camp Pendleton, California, attended college at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, and now lives with his wife, Sheri, in Encinitas, California.

Aran's Book:


Aran's Links:


From Today's Program: 2017 May Be the Year We Find Dark Matter.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

An Embarrassing Moment

Time once again for the 52-week blogging challenge. Today's prompt is "My Embarrassing Stories."

Hmmmm, that would be embarrassing.

Okay, here's a story that is kind of embarrassing and also funny. I've never been a big sports guy up until I found my love for University of Washington Husky football. So in my early 20s (in the early 1980s) when I was in college (for the first time) I paid very little attention to sports.

I was working at pizza place in Bellevue, Washington. Bellevue is a suburb of Seattle and there are a lot of people living there, or near there, who have money (Bill Gates lives close to there, for example). One time a woman came in named "Nordstrom" (based on her credit card) and she was wearing a diamond ring with the rock the size of an almond.

We didn't deliver. One night it was slow and a guy called in a pizza. I asked for his name (as usual) and he told me something. I have no memory now of what it was. So I cooked the pizza.

The guy who came in was amazingly tall. Bushy blonde afro (he was white) Way over six feet. The woman with him, who was probably 5'6", looked tiny next to him. (She was also gorgeous). So the guy pays for the pizza with cash and because it was slow, I said something to him like "Wow, you're tall."  He said, "Yeah." So, I said, "You have think of playing basketball?" And he smiles and says, "Yeah, I've thought about it." And takes his pizza and leaves.

So the assistant manager comes up to me and says, "Only you would as Jack Sikma if he plays basketball."

Now even I knew Jack Sikma played for the Seattle Sonics. I said, "That wasn't the name he gave me when he called in the pizza."

Oh, and he's 6'11".

So, Jack Sikma, wherever you are, sorry about that. I really did not realize it was you.

Friday, February 3, 2017

The Speculative Fiction Cantina with J.S. Burke and V. R. Craft

Today on the Speculative Fiction Cantina we welcome writers J.S. Burke and V. R. Craft.

J.S. Burke
J.S. Burke

J.S. Burke is an author, artist, teacher, and marine biologist, studying creatures of the dark abyss and diving on coral reefs. She writes and draws the Dragon Dreamer science fantasy series, with its dragons and undersea world.

Her stories blend imagination with real science and author experiences. Living on a ship far from shore, she learned to walk with the sea. The Dragon Dreamer series grew from her years at sea, a fascination with the alien, intelligent octopuses, and a love of dragons. She lives in Georgia.

J.S.'s Books:

V. R. Craft

V.R. Craft always heard you should write about what you know, so she decided to write a book called Stupid Humans, drawing on her previous experience working in retail and her subsequent desire to get away from planet Earth. She has also worked in marketing, advertising, and public relations, where she found even more material for Stupid Humans. Now self-employed, she enjoys the contact sport of shopping at clearance sales, slamming on the brakes for yard sale signs, and wasting time on social media, where she finds inspiration for a sequel to Stupid Humans every day. 

V.R.'s Books:

Fail to the Chief (by W. T. Fallon)

V.R.'s Links:

Thursday, February 2, 2017

My Biggest Fears

Wow, February already. I remember when it was Election Day.

Back to the 52-week blogging challenge. Today the prompt is "My biggest fears." I sort of did this earlier, but about global things, not personal things. So I'll do this for personal things.

My biggest personal fears are . . . death and taxes. Well, mostly death. Although taxes are inevitable. And every year I fear I forgot something and the IRS is going to come down on me like a ton of bureaucrats.

I don't like spiders much, especially big ones.

I'm not a fan of big aggressive dogs. When I was younger (maybe 8 years old) a St. Bernard chased me and tried to jump on me. That pretty much made me decide I didn't like big dogs. I've gotten better now. But if they are barking I still don't like them.

Black ice. I hate ice you can't see on the road. You're driving along and suddenly have no grip. My first car accident was caused by black ice. Yes, I've had more than one car accident.

So that's a pretty good list. What are your biggest fears? Comment below.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017


Today is the first day of February.

I remember when I was a kid growing up in the Snake River Valley in Idaho (which was 4,500 feet elevation) that February was always the coldest most miserable month of the year. Here in Central Washington State where I love now, February is always variable. This year it's starting out cold and sunny. There is wind in the forecast but as we say here, the wind doesn't blow, it sucks.

This has been the snowiest year since 1996-97, if I remember right. Usually it snows, then melts, then a month later, snows again, then melts. This year we've had snow on the ground since the first snow in late November. I remember I put the snow tires on my car on a Monday morning, and it started snowing that afternoon. Luck? No, I read the weather forecast.

I'm kind of sick of this winter. I want to be able to drive again and have a clean car and not freeze when I walk from the car to a store (or Starbucks).

And I'm very glad to see the sun today. Just sure it won't last and we'll be back to our normal gloomy winter weather.