This post is prompted by a question I saw (and answered) on Quora, asking for five philosophies followed for everyday living. On the spur of the moment, I came up with my five, five which I think accurately represent the lens through which I view the world and are unlikely if ever to change.
“Act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with the Lord your God.” — The prophet Micah, inspired by God (Micah 6:8)
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; and love your neighbor as yourself.” — Jesus (Luke 10:27)
“The high concept [of travel] is, ‘What is the most excellent thing I can do today?’, but it must sometimes yield to realities like time and distance, weather and traffic, or even just getting to work on time. Because sometimes work is the most excellent thing I can do today, and I can only try to embellish the work with some recreation and exploration.” — Neil Peart (I apply this to more than just travel; every day I ask myself this question.)
“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” — Theodore Roosevelt
Airshows are awesome. If you’ve been, you know; if you haven’t, go and find out.
I grew up going to airshows. My dad worked in the aerospace industry and took our family to as many airshows as he could in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. I’ve been to at least fifteen by my reckoning, maybe as many as twenty. I’ve seen both the Thunderbirds and the Blue Angels at least three times each, likely more. I’ve also seen a very realistic Pearl Harbor/Tora! Tora! Tora! reenactment with Mitsubishi Zeroes, several AV-8B Harrier demonstrations, and a rare Russian Mi-24 Hind helicopter flight. (If you don’t know what those are, follow the links!)
My earliest airshow memory was talking to the pilot of an E-3 Sentry AWACS aircraft at age three. He let me sit in the pilot’s seat, wear the headset, and play with the throttle controls. I then remember walking through the aircraft, past the computer workstations (where seats would normally be on a commercial aircraft), out the aft door, down the mobile stairs, and to where Mom and Daniel were waiting in the shade of a B-52 Stratofortress, Daniel still being in a stroller at the time. It’s all documented on an old camcorder tape somewhere, along with plenty of shots of vacant sky as a fighter jet whizzes past!
Airshows never get old for me; in fact, I appreciate them more and more as I get older. I still enjoy seeing the aircraft, but now I also enjoy talking to the pilots and crew. Most of them spend the day standing around in the heat, cold, or rain, just waiting for someone to ask them about their planes. You can learn some interesting things from striking up a conversation with them, and they’re more than happy to talk. I got to speak with a B-2 Spirit pilot this past weekend (though he left his B-2 back at Whiteman AFB, darn!). Dad told me that one time, back in the late 80s, he asked an F-14 pilot about the video targeting pod on his aircraft. The pilot looked at Dad incredulously and asked, as if it were classified info, “How do you know about that?” Dad replied, “Tom Clancy wrote about it in Red Storm Rising!” (It pays to read good books.)
Perhaps above all else, I enjoy airshows because they are tangible reminders of the sacrifices that American men and women make so that we can be free in this country. For every B-17 Stratofortress that survived World War II, there were hundreds that bit the dust or limped back home over European skies; and the life expectancy of a B-17 crewman was just a handful of missions, if he was fortunate. The men and women who build, fly, and support military aircraft do it not for their own sakes but for ours, so that we may live freely, safely, and comfortably on our own soil. They have my fullest respect.
So, get online and find out if there’s an airshow near you. If there is, go. Bring your friends and family. Take good walking shoes, sunglasses, and sun protection—and a camera, too. Even if you know nothing about airplanes or aviation, go. Watch some air performances. Walk around the static displays. Talk to some pilots: ask them about their aircraft and what a day in the flight suit is like. Smile and thank them for their service. Many will autograph bulletins or even have posters they will autograph.
And, most importantly, have a great time and make great memories.
Coming soon: pictures from the 2018 Fort Worth Alliance Air Show. Stay tuned.
Last week, I wrote a post called On Indelible Imprints: Music about some of the songs that had significantly shaped me and my musical tastes, to the extent that I could remember when and where I first heard them. This week is a continuation on that theme, this time for books, specifically novels, the other art form that has entertained me, inspired me and changed the way I think.
The Hardy Boys mysteries by Franklin W. Dixon — Starting in first grade, I began checking out and reading the original series of Hardy Boys mystery novels, shelved in the children’s section of my church library (which is now a thing of the past, but that’s another story). Even now that I’m older, I can hardly think of a better series of books for young boys. Though antiquated, they still provide clean, wholesome, exciting entertainment.
The Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis — Around the time the Disney version of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe came out, Mom bought the whole Narnia series at the local Mardel and, over the coming months, Dad read them to me and Daniel every evening after supper. Great memories of a great series, complete with illustrations. What more can I say?
Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne — If there was ever a man ahead of his time, it was Jules Verne. He was writing about space travel and deep-sea diving before it was cool—no, he made it cool. I remember reading this adventurous novel while cooped up at my grandmother’s house in Wichita Falls during a very unadventurous (and deathly hot) summer. I reread it last year for kicks and still enjoyed it, vowing to read more of Verne’s works.
The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien — Dad told me I had to read each book before he would let me see its corresponding movie, so over one summer I checked them out from the library and read through them. I was young enough to like the visuals the movie provided more than the books, but I think now that I’m older I’d appreciate the books more. Either way, it’s an incredible story (I’m especially fond of Frodo and Samwise’s undying loyalty to each other), and it’s no surprise that it’s inspired so many other fantasy writers.
Mythology by Edith Wharton — I’m not a big mythology fan, but I had to read and annotate this for my ninth-grade English class. I at least gained more appreciation for some of the epic Greek and Roman tales, though unfortunately I had to study this book on a weekend vacation to San Antonio with my family.
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens — Dickens isn’t the most fun to read. In fact, he can be pretty laborious with his sentences, and that turns a lot of readers off. (You have to remember, back in the day, he was paid by number of pages and installments, so he had to make some convoluted elocutions.) While I worked my way through what was, at the time, only a marginally interesting story, to me it was the ending that hooked me. No spoilers, but one word: sacrifice.
Dracula by Bram Stoker — I’m not a fan of any modern vampire tales, but I am a big fan of Stoker’s classic. Ironically, my dad, who never reads, read this one and raved about how great it was. I picked it up and immediately understood why. I don’t categorize it as a horror novel so much as a suspense novel or a thriller. Of course, you can’t have suspense without some elements of horror, but it’s not the gritty, gruesome kind of stuff you see today. I want more books like this.
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas père — This is the most epic tale I’ve read to date. It has it all: adventure, romance, betrayal, prison breaks, treasure hunts, revenge, murder, theft, blackmail—mostly in that order. It’s also a great tale of good and bad, and how easy it is to slide from the good end of the spectrum down to the bad end. It’s long, but it’s completely worth the read.
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie — To date, this is the only Agatha Christie novel I’ve read (yes, it’s a travesty), but am I glad I read it. I started it on the return leg of a camping trip to Laredo, and couldn’t put it down. If you only read one thriller in your whole life, read this one. It’s as simple as that.
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy — I figured if I wanted to introduce myself to Russian literature, I’d might as well dive in head-first and tackle this epic work. I started it mid-December 2017, right before I graduated college, and finished it just over four months later in mid-April. My intention was to read it in a year (which could be done easily if you read just one chapter a day—there are 365 of them), but I found it hard to limit myself so I plowed ahead. This is not quite a novel, nor a history book, nor a philosophy book, but it has aspects of all three. It’s far from the easiest book to read, due to its length, number of characters, and time span (fifteen years), but if you’re interested in the Napoleonic Wars, the Russian Empire, or history told through real and imagined characters, it’s worth adding to your reading list. You can also read my writeup of War and Peace for more.
Of course there are more than these ten, and hopefully many more down the road. Maybe a part two or a list of non-fiction titles is in order. In fact, thinking as I write, I think I will compile an Indelible Imprints list of non-fiction books. Stay tuned.
A few days ago, I heard a song I hadn’t listened to in a long time play on the radio. It was one of those songs, one that I associated with a time and a place, when and where I first heard it.
A few days later, I thought of a book I hadn’t read in a few years. And yes, it was one of those books that my mind linked to a when and a where.
Needless to say, there are two things in life that have greatly affected me: books and music. I’m currently reading through Neil Peart’s Traveling Music, in which he gives a (musical) autobiography and explains some of the songs and artists that made him into the musician he came to be, and the points in his life when he heard certain tunes. In the spirit of this book, for mental exercise (and fun), I tried to recall as many songs and books tied to a memory as I could. For brevity, I decided to break this into two posts, starting with music. And now, for your entertainment, here is what I came up with:
“In the Mood” by Glenn Miller — Probably the first song I “remembered,” and my favorite growing up. I remember dancing with Mom and Dad to this song in the living room of our old house.
“Twenty-Five or Six to Four” by Chicago — In the car with Dad and Daniel in a Kroger parking lot, probably four or five years old. I thought the electric guitar solo was played by a trumpet at first, but Dad corrected me. (Thanks, Dad! Otherwise I might have taken up the trumpet!)
“New Sensation” by INXS — On a VHS tape of missiles blowing stuff up at China Lake, California. No, really. Somehow or another, Dad acquired a VHS tape of footage from missile flight tests set to rock music. There are many other great songs on that tape (“Rock and Roll” by Led Zeppelin, “Just What the Doctor Ordered” by Ted Nugent, “Bad to the Bone” by George Thorogood), but “New Sensation” stuck with me more than the others.
“Down to the Waterline” by Dire Straits — In the car with Dad and Daniel, driving to karate lessons. The three of us took lessons together for several years, and listened to the same cassette tape every time there and back. That tape also included songs by Jeff Healey, Charlie Daniels, and Foreigner.
“Message in a Bottle” by The Police — In the car with Dad on the University of North Texas campus (Denton, TX) at a BEST Robotics event. This song impressed me with how well the music fit the lyrics, the theme of the song.
Boston by Boston — I listened to this whole album several times during a family vacation to Durango, Colorado, before I started eighth grade. I’ll probably never be able to separate Durango from “More Than a Feeling” or “Rock and Roll Band”.
“Tom Sawyer” by Rush — In the car with Dad while driving to guitar lessons. This song changed everything for me. (And if you didn’t figure it out already, being in the car with Dad is a recurring theme in my musical formation.)
“Roundabout” by Yes — In the car on the way to San Antonio for my great uncle’s military funeral at Fort Sam National Cemetery. This was probably the first time I heard a bass guitar and thought, “That’s cool!”
“Things Can Only Get Better” by Howard Jones — Driving Dad’s Subaru back home from Dallas after looking at a car I wanted to buy, but wasn’t a good option. Every car we’d looked at within my budget needed repairs or had been smoked in, and I was feeling a little down. This song lifted me back up, and still does.
“Alive” by Pearl Jam — Jamming (no pun intended) in the guitar studio with Brian, my instructor. It was one of the first times I seriously played bass, and one of the last times we saw each other. Brian passed away just months later, far too young. I always think of him when I hear this song, knowing he’s still alive with Christ.
Those are just ten, and there are many more. Next week’s indelible imprints: books!
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
— Chinese Proverb
Many months ago, an idea for a novel popped into my head, as sometimes happens. When that does happen, I usually jot a note down describing the plot, characters, and so forth, and shelve the idea for later. Sometimes, the ideas stay in the back of my mind, and make themselves known just often enough for me to remember them, even though I’ve written them down. This one idea, however, persisted, and persisted to the point that I had no choice but to flesh it out.
So, on September 17th, after stewing on the idea for a while, I called up a blank document and began outlining the story. I took the idea from fifteen-second synopsis to rough-hewn skeleton to blow-by-blow summary. Midway through this two-week process, I created some deadlines for myself. I would have my outline finished before October 1st, and have my first draft done before December 1st.
I’ve found in life that having deadlines forces me to get work done. I’m very deadline-averse. I hate working down to the wire. In school, deadlines motivated me more than grades. I was the kid who finished a project two weeks before it was due so that I had ample time to tweak it if needed, and plenty of free time if I didn’t.
It’s the same with writing. I finished my outline this past Friday the 28th (though there are still a few rough spots), and started the first draft on Saturday the 29th, two days ahead of schedule. I would have been ashamed of myself had it not happened that way.
November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), a great way to write that 50,000-word novel you’ve been putting off forever. Instead of waiting another month to write (the idea is demanding to be fleshed out now!), I decided to play the game by my own rules and give myself two months to write the novel. I’m not shooting for a total word count, nor am I trying to meet a daily word quota; I’m simply working on it as much as I can every day. If it’s moving forward to completion, that’s what matters.
I don’t know how long the draft will take to revise, or even what will need to be revised once I finish drafting. I’ll come up with another deadline to beat when that time rolls around. Who knows how different the story will be then from what it is right now? I’ll put on the editor’s hat later, though. What matters now is that the story needs to be written, so I will write it.
As the work progresses, I will be releasing some tidbits, and they will be delicious. Without giving too much away at first, here is the first one, a picture that may tell a little about the plot and setting:
This novel will be big, explosive, and entertaining, ladies and gentlemen. Stay tuned.