My crowning achievement (so far). The LEGO Palace Cinema — built over a span of several weekends.
I think I’ve mentioned before — and if I haven’t, holy cow, how have I gone this long without mentioning it? — I love building LEGO® sets. I grew up playing with LEGO bricks, so I was overjoyed when I rediscovered them a couple of years ago. As someone who is creative for work and when writing, I find a certain inner-peace when letting my imagination run free with these sets.
When I was a kid, LEGO bricks weren’t as diverse as they are today. They weren’t sold in sets that built a specific building or vehicle. There were just bricks — rectangles and squares, but with a few slanted pieces.
I had a giant tin can filled with random LEGO bricks — mostly red and white, as I remember. I had some gray base plates, windows, and some green plastic shrubs. Not a lot, but enough to build a house or a weirdly colored USS Enterprise from Star Trek. But it was nothing like the sheer number or variety LEGO offers today.
Not that it mattered. I loved building with my LEGO bricks. Well, not just building. Sorting. I always sorted them first.
I grew up a science fiction geek. In the late 1970s, it seemed like science fiction was everywhere. Star Wars had opened a portal to the mainstream, and everyone was talking about lasers and space ships. On my television, I discovered a British show called Doctor Who about a brilliant time traveler from another world who adventured throughout the universe with human companions.
This year, Doctor Who is celebrating its 50th anniversary. The year-long celebration culminates with the airing of the 50th anniversary episode “The Day of the Doctor” on November 23rd.
Though I haven’t watched the series from the very beginning (it first aired several years before I was born), I’m proud to say that it has been an important part of my life.
I couldn’t have been more than 10 or 11 when I saw my first episode of Doctor Who. It was the late ’70s, and science fiction was everywhere. In addition to re-runs of Star Trek, television was awash in new science fiction shows like Buck Rogers and Battlestar Galactica. I watched it all. Science fiction was my world.
On weekends, I often stayed up late watching an old black-and-white television in my bedroom. I think the screen was smaller than the ones on most laptop computers. On Friday night, the PBS station in Kansas City showed reruns of the BBC series Doctor Who, a different kind of science fiction show that seemed more like a weekly detective mystery with monsters.
For those not in the know, my wife and I love road trips. Last week we returned from our latest cross-country outing. We may not be world travelers at this stage in our lives, but we do enjoy getting on the open road and heading to points unknown. In this case, however, the destination was very well known — we went to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.
A picture of the St. Louis Gateway Arch at night. I took this photo on our last trip there (from the hotel, not the highway).
Now, don’t worry. I’m not going to lock the door and make you watch a slide show of our vacation photos. For one thing, no one I know has a slide projector anymore. For another, I take pretty terrible photos. Ask anyone. I’m lucky if one photo in ten is in focus. I must have trouble holding the camera still while I take a picture.
Anyway, back to the road trip. To my mind, there are two types of road trips. In the first, the journey is the thing. We pile into the car and drive to see the world. In the second, we’re headed for a particular destination and the road is the means of getting there. This trip was definitely of the latter variety.
I don’t mind driving. My wife is a great navigator and can map out a trip like a travel agent. She’s highly organized with trip planning, so I let her handle everything. My only responsibility is to sit behind the wheel and get us where we need to be.
We’re not wimps. We can go for hours without a bathroom break, stopping only when it’s necessary to get gas. We have to force ourselves to eat dinner instead of driving on to the next town (although we often opt for drive-thru restaurants). So, when we set out to drive halfway across the country in under two days, we can do it.
DreamHost, my web host for over seven years, is celebrating its sweet 16 this month. They’ve asked for their fans (of which I am one) to post some birthday wishes in exchange for a chance to get some hosting credit. I love a good contest, so here I go.
Like I said, I’ve used DreamHost for over seven years. In that time, I’ve managed a number of websites, from a full-blown movie review site to small, niche television fan sites. Now, I concentrate on this site for all my writing.
I chose DreamHost versus its cheap competitors because I’m a firm believer that you get what you pay for. And though the services at DreamHost aren’t free, they aren’t horribly expensive either. It’s a good compromise. Plus, I needed a web host that offered an easy-to-use WordPress install, as I was switching from Blogger to WordPress. The learning curve was already steep, so I was happy that DreamHost’s Goodies offered a One-Click Install. So simple!
As a writer, I strive for realism in my work. I want my characters, no matter how fantastic, to seem real to the reader. I want my stories to be free of plot-holes and last-minute deus ex machina explanations that seem contrived.
But lately, the term “realistic” has taken on a tone that makes it difficult to write about a hero who is virtuous, selfless, and more noble than the average person. In short, it’s hard to write about a hero when everyone seems to think even heroes should have flaws.
This summer, two of my favorite heroes were given big screen film adaptations. Superman and the Lone Ranger arrived in theaters with high expectations from me — and in both cases I was left wanting. I’ve already written at length about my thoughts on The Man of Steel (spoilers, sorry!). I’ve also touched on Hollywood’s recurring difficulties with pulp heroes from the 1930s and ’40s.
But the problem isn’t just in Hollywood. It’s pervasive in popular culture.