Happy New Year?

Somehow, I get the feeling that 2007 is going to be worse than 2006. Maybe not for me personally, but in the context of the world as a whole. I just don't see it, the light at the end of the tunnel. Not yet, anyway.

For me, I'm sure 2007 will be fine. Not good, not bad, balancing nicely in the middle. Every year has its ups and downs, y'know? It's just a matter of when they happen and how you deal with them.

Looking back, 2006 was...365 days long. I went to school. That's about it. The trips to Chicago and Pittsburgh were fun. Jennie's and Dave's wedding was great. Other than that...school. I got my GPA nearly up to a 3.0 (it's at 2.979 right now). First time it's been that high since my first year of school at Youngstown State, lo those many years ago.

I think I'd like to say I had a bit more of a social life this past year, but hey, if it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen. I spent time with my friends, of course, but that special someone never did quite knock on my door (nevermind about the gal in North Carolina, cause I still have no idea what the hell happened there). Which is fine. I don't know if I have the attention span right now to devote to someone, which is, of course, incredibly easy to say when I don't have someone to devote my attention to.

2007 will, I think, be more of the same. More classes (only three semesters to go!). More short road trips (I'm gonna get to Minneapolis sometime this year, I promise). Anything else that happens will be purely accidental.

I hope everyone has a safe and happy new year (especially tonight and early tomorrow morning). I hope that the world stops being crazy, even though I know that's never going to happen. Never think that things can't get any worse, because they always can. The most we can truly hope for is that, regardless of the twists and turns life throws at us, we hold on tight with both hands and don't let go.


Duncan got hitched!

Check out the happy couple's wedding website.


The Good Shepherd

First off, let me say that I'm glad I didn't stay home to watch the Ohio State/Florida basketball game, as Ohio State got killed and lost by 20 points. I can say with some certainty that I did not miss much.

Shepherd is Robert De Niro's fictional origin story of the CIA, tracing the spy organization from its humble beginnings as the OSS during WWII to its botched invasion of Cuba with the Bay of Pigs fiasco in 1961. The film follows the fictional career of Edward Wilson, a composite character who went to Yale and was a member of the infamous Skull & Bones boys' club. (They can call it a secret society if they want to, but we all know it's nothing more than a bunch of drunk frat boys playing dress up.)

Recruited by the FBI, Wilson (Matt Damon) shows an aptitude for this whole spy game by turning in a professor believed to be a member of a group of Nazi sympathizers. After America enters the war, he's sent overseas to help set up a counter-intelligence operation.

Prior to going overseas, Wilson knocks up a buddy's sister (Angelina Jolie's talents are wasted in this cliched role) and does the honorable thing by marrying her. He does not return home until after the war, when he meets his six-year-old son for the first time.

What follows is...more of a cliche, really. Wilson is so devoted to his work at the CIA that his home life is basically non-existent. He ignores the wife and son he never wanted and they live together in a Stepford-family guise for appearance's sake, the All-American happy family that's anything but.

Shepherd clocks in at a hefty two and a half hours plus, much of it filled with Matt Damon trying to look torn and anguished over his job and family, which is not meant to be a knock on Damon, who does a fine job with what he's given, but rather a criticism of the writer, who created this Edward Wilson, the ostensible hero of the picture who we never get a chance to care about.

That, more than anything, is my major problem with the film: I didn't care about a single character. Maybe it's because the movie tries to tell the true story of the CIA, but chooses to do so using a fictional character. Knowing that events didn't take place the way we see them on screen, or, at least, knowing they didn't happen to this guy, it takes away from any sort of emotional attachment we're meant to have.

This guy whose father killed himself when Edward was six, who enters into a loveless marriage because he got her pregnant, whose son wants nothing more than the love and respect of a father who was never around...none of it really happened. The CIA was created without this Edward Wilson's help. He never existed.

If you want to tell a true story, then tell a true story, don't fuck it up with fiction. You can dramatize certain real events to make them more palatable to a film-goers, such as The Insider, but if the core of the film rings hollow, you have a problem.

De Niro is a fine director. Alec Baldwin, William Hurt, Billy Crudup, Michael Gambon, the Russian spy guy, they all had fine supporting performances. But I just...didn't care about any of them, which I guess points toward the writing, because that's all that's left.

Good plot. Good story. Good performances. Lifeless, empty characters.

The first three mean nothing without that last one.

Kickin' it old school

Last night was a kind of "welcome home" party for a friend who spent some time fighting in some war over in some desert-type country. He's actually been out of the war for, like, a year, right? But he was stationed down in Georgia and now he's out of the army, so there's no chance he'll have to go back, right?

We hung out for a bit on Wednesday, too, had lunch and bought comics (well, I bought comics, he browsed), and caught up. I hadn't seen him since...before he joined the army, I wanna say. Maybe briefly after basic, before he shipped out, but I don't remember. It was good to see him, see how he's doin'. He had some very amusing stories about Iraq (the one involving livestock and tasers - priceless). I'm sure he has some not-too-amusing stories as well, but we didn't get into any of those.

It sounds kind of strange, but I think the war sort of agreed with him. Or, maybe it's better to say, the army agreed with him and he just happened to have to go off and fight in a war. He certainly seems to be doing quite well. Maybe cause he's outta the army now.

I've always found him to be kind of fascinating and interesting, going back to high school. We were in the same expanded circle of friends and we talked from time to time. He always struck me as way smarter and more well-read than I was, always thinking about things in a way that had never occurred to me. He was always good for a unique perspective, regardless of the conversation, this kid with the weird nickname (which shall remain unuttered).

I'm incredibly curious about his experiences over in Iraq, from purely a storytelling perspective, y'know? I mean, I guess everyone is curious about what's really going on over there, and to get a firsthand account is pretty amazing, but I don't want to ask too many questions. It feels kind of, I don't know, rude or something. He wrote about some of it on his blog while he was over there, and a bit more while stationed in the south, but reading on a website is different from hearing it from a person's mouth. Blogs can be edited and rewritten, each word or sentence studiously examined to make sure it's the right one, whereas when you get someone talking in person, it can be all sorts of uncensored. There's less thought involved with talking than with writing.

It seems that everyone I meet, everyone I talk to these days, I look at them and listen to them and try to figure out how to use them as a character, how their experiences could be used in a story, whether it's a comic or novel or film. You know the old saying, "All the world's a stage, and the people, merely players." That's sort of how I see things these days. I try to file away bits and pieces from everyone I encounter with the idea that I might be able to use something about them for a character. Part of me thinks that's kind of...I don't know, underhanded? Sizing people up for roles in stories. But, on the other hand, you are supposed to write what you know, so I guess it just comes with the territory of being friends with a writer.

Anyway, yeah, last night was good times.

No idea what's on tap for today. I think my parents are looking to go see The Good Shepherd this afternoon, which I wouldn't mind seeing, but Ohio State and Florida tip-off at 3 and that should be a great game. Either way, I'd like to get some reading done today, too. The book I'm working on, The Anubis Gates, by Tim Powers, is pretty good so far, but I've only been reading it at night when I've been sort of out of it, so I'm not entirely sure I'm remembering all of it from night to night. I'm only on chapter two, though, so there's plenty of time to play catch-up.


Maybe I was wrong

Maybe she has just as many issues as everyone else...


...and I'm done

So here's how I think my final grades will break down:

Astronomy - 'A'

Astronomy Lab - 'A+'

Fiction Writing - 'A'

News Writing - 'B'

Small Group Communications - 'B+'

I'll update if there are any changes, but I'm pretty sure that's how it's all gonna turn out, which is perfectly okay with me. I'm just glad to be done with it all.

And now I have about three weeks in which to do nothing except watch movies and play video games. And maybe read, but I'm running out of books. (Reading The Silence of the Lambs right now; I'd never read it before, because I could just watch the movie, but I figured I should give it a shot - I think I like the movie better; the book is kinda...dry.)

Anyone else watch The Lost Room on Sci-Fi the past few days? It was a mini-series about a motel room that exists...outside reality(?) and all the objects that were in the room when it...left reality(?) all have special powers, like the scissors that rotate things or the bus ticket that sends you to Gallup, New Mexico.

Anyway, it was a pretty decent show, all things considered, except the ending was kind of lacking. It just sort of...ended. No real resolution. Just, "Here's where we decided to stop telling the story even though there are plot threads dangling all over the place." I can make three assumptions based on this ending: a) the writers didn't know how to end the story; 2) there is a lot of footage laying on the cutting room floor because they ran out of time; and C) the mini-series was conceived as a back door pilot, that is, if it did well enough in the ratings, Sci-Fi wanted it left open-ended so they have the option of turning it into a full-fledged series sometime next year.

The third option seems most plausible, but I'm not sure where the money would come from if they were to want to create a series. They pulled the plug on Stargate SG-1 (coming back in April with its last 10 episodes, to be followed by two two-hour direct-to-DVD movies) so they'd have money for the Battlestar Galactica prequel spin-off, Caprica. They have The Dresden Files and Painkiller Jane starting in 2007 and Stargate: Atlantis and Eureka returning, and, of course, BSG...I dunno. Either way, it was an interesting story, The Lost Room. I just would have preferred more of a resolution.

Speaking of TV shows, the Golden Globe nominations were announced and Heroes (one of my top three favorite shows right now, the others being Battlestar Galactica and The Wire (season four just ended and I can't wait for season five!)) received two nods, for best drama and best supporting actor (Masi Oka - "Hiro"). So congrats to the little show that no one thought was going to amount to much of anything.

House has been pretty good so far this year, too. Can't say I care too much about all the medical mumbojumbo, but that's not what the show's about anyway. Hugh Laurie just continues to impress the hell out of me. The show is worth watching for his performance alone (actually, he might be the only reason to watch the show). House is such a captivating character, though I'm beginning to wonder how long they're going to drag out this Vicodin-addiction thing. At least 'til after the new year, obviously.

Anyone know when the second season of Rome is scheduled to start up? Or Big Love? I know Ricky Gervais' Extras begins its second season on HBO next month. Gervais was on The Daily Show last night. Very funny guy. He cracks me up just by sitting there.

I suppose I'm just sort of babbling about nothing here. It's like I'm free of school and I have nothing else to think about, so my brain is being drowned in pop culture.

I think Hanukkah starts tomorrow night. Yet another of the "They're tried to kill us, we survived, let's eat" Jewish holidays. Probably the most popular, too, what with all the gift giving, which, as we all know, only came about because Hanukkah generally falls in December and all the little Jewish kids felt left out when their gentile friends would get all these toys from some invisible fat man who stalks them and breaks into their homes. Christians have the weirdest holidays. I mean, c'mon, "Ho, ho, ho?"

This is just so weird. It's like I have nothing to do for the first time in...well, months. I mean, the break between my summer classes and the fall semester was, what, a week? Week and a half? Long enough for me to go to Chicago and Pittsburgh, I guess.

I'd love to go somewhere over this break, too, but I'm not sure I can afford it. I get my last paycheck of the semester last week, but that's it, I think, until the first week of January. I'll probably start working in the chem office that week before spring classes start up, so that'll be a nice break from all the nothing I'm going to be doing for the next few weeks.

I wonder when my financial aid monies will become available...

Maybe I'll go play God of War. I bought that game over the summer and have yet to play it. Got too busy with school. Plus I wanted to play through Final Fantasy VII again, but I've given up on that because, a) I've already beaten it and b) it's a long fuckin' game.

Oh, for any Firefly/Serenity fans out there, a bit of interesting Browncoat news: work is beginning on a MMO (Massive-Multiplayer Online) game set in Whedon's future 'verse. Odds are it won't see the light of day 'til 2008, if at all, but at least this gives us somethin' to look forward to. Or, you somethin' to look forward to. I don't care much for MMOs. Gaming, to me, is a singular experience where I get to get away from people and insulate myself against the real world, not a place to socialize. If I wanted to do that, I'd go outside.

And on that note, I bid you good evening.


Almost done

This week has been finals week, the most harried and insane time of year for any student. Everyone's scrambling to get papers written, tests studied for, presentations prepared, while having that glassy-eyed, dazed look on their faces, because they seem to have lost track of what day it is.

Yes, finals week, what fun.

I wrote a three-page paper on Monday, a five-page paper yesterday and a four-page paper this morning, then I studied briefly for my small group communications cumulative final, went to campus and took the test, and now I'm back. There might have been some comic book purchasing going on in there, too, somewhere.

Alls I have left is my astronomy lab final tomorrow night, which, thankfully, is not cumulative and we get to write on a sheet of paper all the relevant formulas from the past however many weeks, so as long as I know which formula goes with which type of problem, I should be ok. Plus, I'm getting, like, a 95% or something like that in the class already, so I'm not too worried.

I got an 'A' in the astronomy class itself; that's the only class grades are back for so far. But I'm thinking I'll have an 'A' in the lab, too, obviously, and probably an 'A' in the fiction writing class, too. I'm going to guess a 'B' in the news writing class and either an 'A' or 'B' in the small group comm, not sure about that cause the teacher hasn't graded our presentations and papers from last week yet.

Suffice it to say, despite my late-semester lethargy (damned Seasonal Affective Disorder), I'm feeling pretty good about my grades. I just hope next semester involves less work. Less writing, at any rate. In hindsight, it may have been a mistake to take both the fiction writing and the news writing in the same semester, because, as I learned, it's sometimes difficult to switch my mindset from one type of writing to the other. Regardless, I survived, which is the most important thing, yes?

Earlier this week, or I guess it was last week, I got an email from, how do I put this, a former girlfriend, the one I went to school at Youngstown State for, that first year of college, whom I haven't spoken to in, what, eight years? That sounds about right. Needless to say, I was a bit surprised.

I think she was a bit surprised, too, both that she hit SEND and that I replied, as we had left things on a rather...not-speaking kind of note. I won't say things ended badly, necessarily, they just ended. I don't even remember the last conversation we had. I came home from that year in Ohio and we just...stopped talking to each other.

I won't say I didn't wonder about her from time to time, what she's been up to, that sort of thing, but I can't lie either and say I would have gone out of my way to find her after all these years. What's past is past, right? It's not that I bore her any ill will or that I held any sort of grudge (I try to avoid grudges these days, they're unproductive; which is not to say grudges might not be held against me by certain people, I've done enough shitty things in my life that I'm sure there must be one or two perfectly valid ones out there). I just, I dunno, I moved on.

As did she, from what she told me in her last book-length email (which I'm going to reply to just as soon as I have time, so if you're readin' this, Christine, I'm not ignoring you or anything, just been busy - yes, I know I have free time right now. I'm using it to write this blog entry so my adoring fan(s?) can follow my various exploits).

Seems that she's taken a bit of a roundabout route to get where she is today, too. Got married and had a kid somewhere in there as well. And that's great. I'm happy for her. It's weird how, after all this time, her emails still sound like her emails, y'know? Almost like no time has passed and we're both still dumb high school kids. But then, of course, you pay attention to the actual substance of the email and you're jerked back to the present.

So, yeah, it's just been a little weird, trying to concentrate on the present while being haunted by memories of the past (as opposed to memories of the future, right? And they call me a writer. Or, I call me a writer. What a dumb turn of phrase that is. I should change that).

Anyway, there's my update for the week. I'm gonna go work on my crib sheet for the astro lab test. Or maybe I'll just read comics. Decisions, decisions...



The "final" revision of my story for my fiction class is online. I say "final," because it's not completely done yet, but it's as done as it's gonna get before I have to turn it in in a half hour.

I imagine this story, in its entirety, will take a lot more time to write. This story I put together for class is just a few short(ish) snippets of what I'm fairly certain will end up being a much longer story. (As long as I don't get too lazy with it.)

I have a paper due tonight that I sort of haven't started on yet. I was going to write it about a topic in which I have absolutely no interest, which, of course, doesn't work for me. If I'm not writing about something I care about, I can't write. It's that simple. So I'll be scrambling a little bit in the next few hours after my fiction class. But I'm not worried. In the grand scheme of things, why stress about something so relatively insignificant?

I'm getting a sort of promotion and a tiny bit of a raise here at work. They need some help in the office, so I'm going to start working there along with sitting here in the computer lab. I think I'm going to get some hours over winter break, too, which would be awesome. I was afraid my meager income was going to dry up for a few weeks.


I'm off to class. I'll write more about my apparent Seasonal Affective Disorder later.




It's only Saturday, but the holiday weekend that began on Wednesday is nearly over. Oy, this time of year drives me nuts. It's great to see family and everything, sure, but there's really no such thing as alone time during the holidays. It's like everyone needs to fit six months worth of seeing each other into a few short days. It's kind of maddening and dizzying.

I like peace and quiet. Little children and lots of family aren't exactly conducive to that sort of environment. The closest I came to having some time by myself was yesterday when my parents and brother and sister-in-law took my niece and nephew to see Happy Feet, but I was home with my grandmother the whole time, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, except that she's a little crazy in her old age.

I've no idea what's going on today except for family pictures @ five and then dinner afterwards. During the day, perhaps there will be time and solitude enough to get some work done for class, but I doubt it. I tend to work pretty well under pressure anyway, so I'm not too concerned about it, but I'd still like to get some work done.

So, what am I thankful for this year? I dunno. I'm thankful I only have three more semesters of school, I guess. It had to happen sooner or later, I guess, my finishing college. Unfortunately it's taken this long, but on the other hand, I'm at least going to be done with it, so whatever.

I'm thankful for the family I've got, despite the lack of peace and quiet and the abundance of crazy children. (My niece is currently singing to herself in the bathroom.) I'm fairly certain I wouldn't trade my crazy family for anyone else's. At I understand this one. More or less.

I'm thankful for my small, but important group of friends. They're as supportive as anyone, and many times they help me take my mind off the more stressful aspects of my life (self-induced stress to be sure, but stress nonetheless.)

I'm extremely thankful the Democrats took back Congress a couple weeks ago. Like I said to Ryan last night, though, they need to remember that people didn't vote for them, but rather voted against the Republicans. The Dems need to now earn what they've been given and repair the damage done by the incompetent boobs in the White House.

And I'm thankful for all the kick ass comics and novels and movies and TV shows that I've read/watched over the past year. Stories are how we make sense of the world we live in, and how we temporarily forget about the world at the same time. The rare gift of escapism should not be undervalued. Stories help us keep our sanity, which we could use a bit more of lately, if you ask me.


Bob Altman died

I have the full story at the Links blog.

I've always loved Altman's movies. I think the first one I ever saw was The Player, with Tim Robbins. God, that's a funny movie. And because it was so different from almost all the other movies I'd seen to that point, I just to find out who this director was and what else he'd done.

Little did I know that I was about to stumble upon a treasure trove of greatness.

Pick a movie of his, any movie, M*A*S*H, Nashville, Gosford Park, you name it, and there's something brilliant about it, whether it's his overlapping dialogue or his superlong takes, with the camera tracking around a set without a single edit. Do you realize how difficult that is, to film a scene continuously and have no one screw up their cues? The man was a genius.

He never won an Oscar award, which is a shame, because he certainly deserved one. I think he was bestowed with an honorary one just this year, at the award ceremony in March. I guess that means all his movies were so great, it's impossible to pick the best one.

He was one of a kind. He'll definitely be missed.


Sunday night's episode of The Simpsons featured a bunch of writers, including Tom Wolfe and Gore Vidal, and had a great battle between Michael Chabon and Jonathan Franzen. ("Your nose needs some Corrections!" Chabon yelled, as he slammed the hefty tome against Franzen's face.)

It was very funny.


Happy Birthday, Dad

I stopped at Walgreens on the way home from class today, in search of a birthday card for my father, who turns 63 today. I noticed, a long time ago, that birthday cards are either sickeningly sweet or stupid as hell. There doesn't seem to be any middle ground. So I didn't buy a card, because they were all awful, and I know my father will understand.

Plus, he reads the blog anyway, and anything I write here is way more personal than anything an over-priced piece of paper would be.

It's been an interesting year. This time last year the Steelers looked pretty lousy and all but out of the playoffs (kinda like this year). Then they rallied and won eight straight games, including three on the road in the playoffs, on their way to winning the Super Bowl for the first time since 1979. I was able to celebrate a Steelers Super Bowl with my father for the first time, given that I was a year old the last time they won. So that was good.

What else happened in the last year...a lot of time was spent with the grandkids, which my father always enjoys. Being able to watch them grow up has been pretty amazing. And the best part is, they're not his kids, so they get to go home at the end of the day. Being a grandparent means you're around for the fun parts and the parents get to take over for everything else.

He got a new job a week ago. Clerical-type stuff where he's left alone to work at his own pace, which is exactly the kind of job he's wanted since before he decided to retire. I'd say it's going well, but today is only his third day on the job, so it might be a little too soon to tell.

I've gotten that much closer to actually graduating, which I know makes my father proud. Only another year and a half and then I'm outta here. If all goes according to my hastily-designed plan, that is. For a while there I think my father thought he wouldn't be around anymore by the time I got done with school, or that I wouldn't ever get done with school and he'd shuffle off this mortal coil having no idea what I was doing with my life. So, glad to say, barring any unforeseen events, my father will only have to go through one more birthday after this before I graduate.

I get nothin' but support, which is pretty amazing, I think. I've long considered myself pretty damn lucky to have the parents I do. Without them, I've no idea what might have become of me, but I can almost guarantee I wouldn't be finishing school if not for them.

Anyway, it's, you know, been a year. Like every other year, there have been ups and downs, lefts and rights. And life goes on, which is all any of us can really ask for, isn't it?


Casino Royale

Best. Bond. Ever.

James Bond films have always given a pretty sheen to the world, turning it into a place where a smooth, suave tuxedoed secret agent faced off against a colorful array of villains and psychopaths hellbent on destroying the world or some such nonsense. Bond was a cartoon. Pretty to look at, never a hair out of place, always holding a vodka martini ("Shaken, not stirred") and ready with an apropos, witty one-liner.

The world is not pretty, however, and for the first time, James Bond has recognized that fact. The world is full of dirty, ugly people who do dirty, ugly things, and James Bond is one of them. He doesn't exist to flash a bright smile while some diabolical villain unveils his dastardly plan. He exists so that you can sleep at night.

Casino Royale opens in grainy black & white (digital video?) and you immediately know that this isn't your father's Bond. In fact, Daniel Craig's 007 would wipe the floor with each and every previous incarnation of the character. Daniel Craig isn't Sean Connery. He isn't Pierce Brosnan. He's better.

This Bond is bloody and brutal, and viciously efficient. He doesn't pull punches. There is no twinkle in his soul-piercing blue eyes. (Yes, this Bond is blonde and blue-eyed. Deal with it.) He is cold. Unemotional. At least, that's what M wants him to be. What she needs him to be.

There is so much right in this film, I don't know where to begin. Daniel Craig is absolutely perfect for this role. And Eva Green, as Her Majesty's Accountant Vesper Lynd, is drop-dead gorgeous. Jaw-droppingly gorgeous. Jeffrey Wright makes a brief, but important cameo as the CIA's Felix Leiter, a man whom one day Bond will call his best friend. I look forward to his return in future installments. And Judi Dench's M, well, she's Judi Dench.

There are no gadgets in this film. No John Cleese as the clumsy-but-kindly Q. Bond is back-to-basics here. Guns. Knives. He is, as M describes him, a blunt instrument. He is a force of nature.

The car is nice. An Aston Martin DBS. It's rather a shame, really, what they do to it.

Honestly, the only negative thing I can think to mention is the theme song by Chris Cornell, of Soundgarden and Audioslave fame. It doesn't fit. It's too...much. Too loud. Then again, since they are introducing a young, brash, hothead of a Bond, perhaps subtlety was not what they had in mind. Still, it's out of place with the tenor of the film.

I wouldn't mind seeing this one again. I think this might be the first Bond film I truly loved, as opposed to simply liked or enjoyed. Sean Connery was the first. Pierce Brosnan, a worthy (eventual) successor, but Daniel Craig...Daniel Craig is Bond. James Bond.


It's Autumn; I must be sick

I hate this time of year, for no other reason than I always get sick. The schizophrenic Nebraska weather always drives me nuts. Last week, what was it, Tuesday, it was 80 degrees, then down to 60 the following day, then 40 the day after, which is about where it's been for the past few days. I don't care what the temperature is as long as it's consistent, and weather here is just crazy when we go from summer to fall and winter to spring.

I have many papers due in the next few weeks, the last few weeks of class. I guess we have maybe a month left. Finals week, not that I have many finals, is the second week of December, I think. I need to get my head clear so I can write my stories and articles.

I registered for my spring classes last week. Got all the ones I was looking to get: Mass Media Ethics, Interviewing, Screenwriting and a broadcast journalism stats class. After the spring semester I'll officially be a senior, which means, what, two more semesters to go? Something like that.

My brother and his family are coming to town for Thanksgiving next week. It'll be good to see them. Last time they were in town was for my mother's birthday in June, I think. And my grandmother is flying in, too. I'm taking bets on how soon after she gets here someone mentions her moving here. Less than a day, I'm thinkin'.

I dunno much else. My brain ain't workin' all that well at the moment. Good thing I only have one class today, though I'd much rather be laying in bed. I just hope I feel better tomorrow. I don't want to go through 10+ hours of feeling this like while on campus.

Time to change the laundry! Hope everyone is feelin' better than I am today.


Election Day

::UPDATE:: 11/07 - 11:05 PM
Thanks, America.


I'd be lying if I said I didn't care who you vote for tomorrow as long as you just vote. I do care. I care about our country and the direction in which it's been heading for the past six years.

It's gotten to the point where I almost don't recognize us anymore, as torture has somehow become acceptable and habeas corpus has been virtually torn from the Constitution. Corruption is running rampant at the highest levels of our government. We are mired in the middle of a civil war that no longer has anything to do with us, that we have no right to get in the middle of. Our soldiers and their families have sacrificed more than enough at the altar of George W. Bush's pointless, personal Crusade. It's time for them to come home.

Read Sunday's New York Times editorial. Read Rolling Stone's report on why this is the worst Congress in history, or the Think Progress blog's 109 Reasons To Dump The 109th Congress. Educate yourselves on the reality of this administration's disastrous policies, both foreign and domestic.

Three-quarters of the former residents of New Orleans still have not been able to return home. Millions of Americans are without even the most basic health care. The rich keep getting richer while the other 95% continue to struggle to get by. Kanye West was only partially correct when he said George Bush doesn't care about black people. Bush doesn't care about poor people.

If you're happy with the direction our country is heading, toward a totalitarian, authoritarian dictatorship, please, by all means, vote Republican tomorrow. If you want your Constitutional rights to continue to be systematically erased, your personal, private freedoms stripped away, be my guest, vote Republican tomorrow. I hope you can live with yourselves if you do.

Democrats aren't perfect. They don't have all the answers, nor do they claim to. But they have ideas. Some good, some not so good, but at least they welcome the debate. Rather than shutting out all opposing thought and dissenting opinion, Democrats are open to new ideas. Progressive, looking toward a brighter future rather than wallowing in the filth of the past.

Vote tomorrow. But vote Democrat. America may not be able to survive much more of George Bush's imperial presidency.


Happy Halloween!

::UPDATE:: 11:51 PM

Here is the story we workshopped in class today. It's kind of a continuation of this story, so maybe you should read that one first.

Also, here's the longer story I handed in today, a little more than six pages. The ending is a bit rushed, which I hope to change and expand in the coming weeks. Enjoy.

And, let me be among the first to extend a big congratulations to Rose & Johnny. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you will.

And thanks to everyone who called or emailed or MySpaced or texted (or even talked to me in person; how antiquated is that?) about my birthday. I felt ever-so popular, if only for a day. I appreciate your thinkin' of me in-between mouthfuls of candy.


So. Another year gone, however many left to go. I always get introspective and slightly depressed around this time of year, for what I hope would be an obvious reason. I know life isn't a race or competition. At least, not one in which you're competing against other people. It's like golf, I suppose. You're not playing whoever you're partnered up with, you're playing the course. Life is the same way. It's not about other people and how well they're doing. It's about you. It's about how well you can play the course.

(Why no, I don't think that analogy was a bit of a stretch, why do you ask?)

It's not always enjoyable, being stuck inside my head. I think too much. Like today, for instance. I've been on campus since about 9:30 this morning and I'll be here til 9 tonight (unless we get out early; keep your fingers and toes crossed). Half the day is spent in class and the other half is spent here, in this computer lab, with only my internal, boring, musings on life for company.

At least I finished (sort of) the short story that was due today in my fiction writing class. I had started it yesterday morning, or early afternoon, before or after class, whenever. I got about a page and a paragraph done yesterday, so I only had about five pages to write this morning, in the two hours of work before class. And I got it done, though the ending is a bit rushed, and not really an ending at all, just a convenient place to stop for now. I'm going to come back to it. We have to revise one of our stories for the final paper in the class, extend it to maybe 12 pages or so, and I'm going to work on this one, I think. It's a story I've been wanting to write for a long time, and while these handfuls of pages certainly won't be the entire story, they'll be the start of it.

We workshopped the story I handed in last week today in class. Workshopping is, basically, you read your story aloud to the class, then you shut up and listen to them rip it apart. But that didn't happen today. I was surprised. Relieved, I suppose. There didn't seem to be too many flaws people cared enough about to point out, not even the instructor, so I took that as a good sign that maybe I don't entire suck. I don't think I have this particular story posted to the fiction blog yet. I'll check on that when I get home tonight, and I'll post the longer one I finished this morning, too, even though it'll be much better in about a month.

Getting older is...a non-event, really. I mean, I certainly don't feel older than I was yesterday. Age is but a number, right? Your age doesn't tell you, or anybody else, who you are.

And still, I look at my friends who have actual jobs and homes, marriages and kids, and I can't help but feel that I've fallen behind somewhere along the way. Which is silly, of course, and they would be among the first to say so, but I feel that way nonetheless.

It's not worth thinking about, I know. And I don't think about it often. Usually just today, and the days leading up to it. Trick or treat indeed.

Hope everyone has a safe and happy Halloween tonight. Be good.


Questions & Answers (and a World Series)

Last night was fun. There was a lot of great art displayed at Rebel last night by a lot of great artists, some of the guys from Liquid, amongst others, including Eric, whom I hadn't seen since...I don't remember when. April? He and Liz are looking good. She's working at the Oak View Hot Topic now, and just registered for the winter quarter at Metro. Eric has been applying for promotions at West and might have an interview in the next week or two, which is good.

Dave and Devin and Jeremy and Jason, from Liquid, their artwork just amazes me. If I had money, I would just hand it over so they could buy supplies and create more art. That's what I would be, a patron of the arts. Because I love art, in all its myriad forms (still not a fan of ballet, though).

I started to wonder last night, do I enjoy hanging around and talking with artists, and admiring their work, because I think I'm nothing more than a hack? Because I'm envious of their talent and fear that I'll never create anything of any worth? Valid or not, it was a thought that kept me up last night.

Prior to a night of fitfull sleep, however, I watched the St. Louis Cardinals complete quite the improbably run to the World Series championship. Similar to the Pittsburgh Steelers of earlier this year, the Cardinals were colossal underdogs who had limped into the playoffs, just lucky to be there after an abhorrent September.

I was rooting for them the whole way, but I didn't seriously think they'd get to the Series, let alone win it. Beating San Diego in the first round was a fluke, right? Luck. And the Mets? The hottest team in baseball from April to September? There was no way the Cards' banged up lineup could match up against the Mets' heavy hitters. Then the Tigers, who also stumbled in September, giving away the division crown in the last couple weeks of the season, they still had all those great arms in the rotation, and a killer bullpen.

I would have been happy if the Cardinals had won a single game. I just didn't want them to be swept like in '04. After stealing Game 1 in Detroit, with rookie Anthony Reyes pitching the game of his life, I would have been satisfied with that. Thankfully, they had more faith in themselves than I (and most of the country) did.

Jeff Weaver, left for dead by Anaheim, 3-8 with a 6.29 ERA by July, also pitched the game of his life: 8 innings, 1 earned run, 9 strikeouts, and rookie Adam Wainwright, who had never saved a game until the last week of September, did what he had done all postseason. He just shut the Tigers down, striking out Brandon Inge (like Carlos Beltran in the NLCS) to win the World Series.

It was a helluva postseason.

Only five months until Spring Training.

Incidentally, Battlestar Galactica keeps getting better and better. Last night's six-person tribunal, playing judge, jury and executioner for those humans who had collaborated with the Cylon occupiers, was eerily prescient, given that it was written and filmed months ago. It reminded me immensely of the law Bush recently signed, the one which states the president can lock up anyone he wants, for any reason he wants, without a trial and without showing the accused a shred of the evidence against them.

I don't feel up to driving to Kansas City today, though, given the circus the house has become since the kids are here, I should probably go. I have a headache and yelling children doesn't generally help with that. Oh well.

Tonight's Becky (and Jason and TJ)'s Halloween party, so that's something to look forward to. I haven't drank for a while, but I could really go for a shot or two right now.


Weekend plans

A lot of this is tentative. I've no idea if I'm going to be able to do everything, but in a semi-perfect world, this is how the weekend would break down:

Friday - Get oil changed at 11:15 a.m. Maybe check out a movie after that if I have time (The Prestige or Flags of Our Fathers, preferably). There is an art show downtown featuring some of the guys 'n gals of Liquid Courage and other local artists. Everyone should come cause it'll be wicked cool:

Friday, October 27, from 7-11 p.m.
Rebel Interactive Studio
1217 S. 13th St.

After party-type thing at the 49er (49th and Dodge).

Saturday - Hopefully I'll have a chance to head down to KC for a few hours for this little comic con. A few writers I'd really like to say 'hi' to will be there (Brubaker, Fraction, Kelly Sue and Jason Aaron). The con ends at 5:00, so I should be back in town in time for Becky and TJ and Jason's Halloween party at Dawn's house (confusing, isn't it?), though I can say, without a doubt, that I will not be dressing up. Why? Because I haven't dressed up for Halloween since elementary school and I'd like to keep my streak alive. Regardless, a fun time shall be had by all.

Sunday - I think the Steelers play a late game this week, at 3:15. There is also the potential for World Series Game 7 to be played this night, unless the Cardinals can (hopefully) win the next two games in St. Louis tonight and tomorrow night. My father made dinner reservations for the family (my parents, my sister and her family, and, of course, myself) at Biaggi's, for my annual birthday dinner. We're having it a couple days early because, well, it's more convenient, really. I'm on campus all day Tuesday, from about 9:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., so we can't do dinner then. Plus, it's Halloween, after all, and the little kiddies need to be able to go out and get candy from strangers.

So that's the weekend in a nutshell, if all goes according to plan. I suppose, somewhere in there, I should do some writing for school, too. But who wants to work on the weekend?


About a girl...

So I met this girl.

Isn't that how all great (and tragic) stories begin? "There was a girl, the most wonderfullest girl in the world," or something like that.


So I met this girl. She lives in North Carolina (I know, I know, don't start). She has a blog, which is how we met. She left a comment on mine, I left a comment on hers, which came first, I cannot tell you (though I could probably look it up). It's really neither here nor there. Immaterial, as they say.

So I met this girl. She's pretty smart and she's pretty pretty (unless the photos have been Photoshopped (it's always strange when new words like that enter the lexicon, when nouns, proper names, become verbs, like when you "Google" something, even if you're using a different search engine), you never can tell these days, though I don't think that's the case in this instance). She has a great sense of humor (she has to if she's able to put up with me, afterall). She's well-read and well-educated (so Flying Spaghetti Monster knows why she likes my writing). She's into all kinds of music. She doesn't mind comics, and is even related to one of the most revered comic book artist families in the history of the medium.

(She's even Jewish, Mom. A nice Jewish girl, just like you've always wanted.)

So I met this girl. And she has all these great, quirky, fascinating aspects to her (indeed, being captivated by Scarlett Johansson's cleavage is certainly not of minor importance), yet there's one thing missing that I've always thought was of excruciating importance in regards to girls I'm attracted to: baggage. She seems to have no baggage.

For the most part (not always, but often), due to a complex I've only recently attempted to rid myself of (and perhaps I've done so successfully), I've been drawn to "damaged" girls, for lack of a better term. You know the type: emotionally unstable, more issues than Rolling Stone, fragile, desperately in need of a knight in dark denim and a baseball cap to rescue them from whatever tragic awfulness has enveloped and overshadowed their true effervescent nature.

It was, of course, immensely self-serving and egotistical to believe that I could, in some way, "rescue" these girls, unasked and unwanted. I suppose it was also a defense mechanism of sorts. Were I unable to protect a poor, delicate, fractured girl (perhaps there's an air of sexism and chauvinism involved as well), well, it wasn't for lack of trying. She simply had "too many issues." I got to feel good about myself because, hey, I gave it a shot. Can't save everyone, you know. And I'd simply move on to my next "distressed damsel" after a period of overwrought angst punctuated by listening to way too much Nine Inch Nails and Stabbing Westward.

So I met this girl. And as far as I can tell, she has no baggage. No issues. No broken home. No drug abuse or abusive relationships haunting her (no offense, Alissa). Of course, for all I know, she might be loonier than Arkham Asylum after Batman rounds up all of Gotham's crazies, but if so, she hides it well.

I, of course, have baggage of my own (in truth, we all do), and it really is unrealistic to think that she has none at all, but if it was something major and horrible I think I might have heard about it by now. On the other hand, she lives in North Carolina and I live in Nebraska and why would you want to share those kinds of details with someone you've known for mere months?

It's always weird, when you first meet someone. In those first few moments you can be anyone and anything you want, free from expectation. First impressions, as they say, are lasting impressions (someone says that, don't they?). But no matter who you try to be, the truth comes out eventually. You can't hide who you are, not even over the internet.

I will admit to a certain fondness for clean slates, those initial conversations, simple and baggage-free, when nothing is at stake and if you make a fool of yourself it's more charming than idiotic. But the more invested you become in someone's life, the game changes. The stakes are higher. The risk is greater. Your future depends on taking a chance on "all in" or folding and walking away from the table.

So I met this girl...

Let's Go, Cards!

What a game. I love game 7s. As nerve-wracking as they are, there's nothin' like them in sports. Tied at one going into the 9th inning. Yadier Molina, the St. Louis catcher who hit .216 during the regular season, hits a two-run homer and Adam Wainwright, a 25-year-old kid who became the team's closer the last week of September, strikes out Carlos Beltran, who has owned the Cardinals in the postseason (7 HR and 9 RBI in 14 career LCS games against St. Louis), with a wicked curveball with the bases loaded and two out in the 9th.

Wow. I didn't think I was going to get this excited about the game until that last inning when my leg started rapidly jittering up and down like Thumper. Who knew? Who freakin' knew? The Cardinals limped into the postseason with a horrible September, winning just 83 games, but that was enough to win the weak NL Central. The Mets were hot all season, owning the NL East wire-to-wire, and finishing with 97 wins. Both teams were pretty banged up coming into this series, but the Mets seemed to have this sense of destiny about them since the All-Star break, that they were supposed to get to the World Series. Hell, I even picked them to get to the Series. Just goes to show, when the calender flips to October, it's all up for grabs.

The Detroit Tigers will have had a week to rest and rejuvenate when the World Series kicks off Saturday night. They have an imposing stable of arms in the starting rotation and some killer heat in the bullpen. The Cardinals have got to be exhausted after these seven games against the Mets. The rotation is going to be a mess, and the lineup will still be banged up, but hey, except for Jeff Suppan (NLCS MVP - 15 innings pitched, one earned run) and Yadier Molina (.348 with 2 home runs and 6 RBI), they weren't all that hot the past week and a half, so why should the World Series be any different.

To be honest, I'll be happy if the Cardinals win at least one game in the Series. Winning the whole thing would be nice, don't get me wrong, but the NL has been swept the past two years (the Cardinals by Boston in '04 and the Astros by the White Sox in '05) and it'd be really nice if they could just win a game or two.

Tony La Russa and Jim Leyland, the managers of the Cardinals and Tigers, respectively, are really good friends. They started out together with the White Sox in the early '80s. After Leyland stopped managing a few years ago he became a scout for the Cardinals. It's going to be a lot of fun watching these two old war horses going head-to-head in a seven-game series.

Wow. I still can't believe the Cardinals are going back to the World Series (against Detroit no less, a team that lost 119 games three years ago). It's almost unreal. My heart says Cards in seven; my head says Tigers in five or six.

But hey, it's October. To quote the inimitable Yogi Berra, "it ain't over 'til it's over."



Perhaps it's due to my procrastination impulses, but I sure seem to have a lot of work to do in the next few weeks.

Tonight is my astronomy lab midterm, which should be relatively easy, because even if I don't know what I'm doing, it's a multiple choice test, so I'll at least have a one in four chance of getting the right answer.

I have many papers due, which I fear I might let overwhelm me if I don't get crackin' this weekend. I have an eight-page "in-depth" feature article due at the end of the semester in my news writing class. I decided to write about the Film Streams theatre again (I wrote a profile of the board director last spring), but with more of a look at the theatre itself, the planning stages, the history of the project, basically. My first interview is scheduled for tomorrow and I need to get a hold of a few other people soon, to get other perspectives on the project.

Also due in a couple weeks for the news writing class is a four-page (I think) profile of a local someone. I thought it would be interesting, given the time of year, to interview the head of the Nebraska Democratic Party, whom we had over for Rosh Hashannah dinner, along with his family, a couple weeks ago. We didn't get to discuss much in the way of politics that night, as the evening quickly devolved into a game of "How Best to Pacify the Children," with my putting in the DVD of The Incredibles winning out. Hopefully he'll be able to squeeze me in for maybe a half hour or so, which reminds me, I should email him about this...

I'm trying to recall what I have due for my creative writing class, and I don't remember. It's written down in my notebook, which is at home. In addition to whatever story I need to write, I also get to analyze, with a group, a (very) short story and we get to present our thoughts in two weeks (there are no classes next Monday or Tuesday due to fall break).

Also, the group paper for my small group communication class is due in...two weeks, as well. The paper only has to be eight to 10 pages long, which equals two pages for each member of the group, so it's not too bad. We're all supposed to have our sections done by next Wednesday, then someone will get the lucky task of fitting everything together, making sure it flows well, all that jazz. And I think we have our second test in that class in a week and a half, a week from this coming Monday, so that has to be studied for.

And I think that's all there is in the foreseeable future.

There's a small comic book convention in Kansas City the weekend before my birthday and there are two or three creators scheduled whom I wouldn't mind meeting and snagging an autograph from, mainly Ed Brubaker, whose new book, Criminal is pretty damn good.

But that weekend there's a Halloween party at...someone's house, Dawn's I guess, instead of Becky (& Jason) and TJ's, though I'm sure I'd be able to drive to and from KC in plenty of time for the party. It would just make for kind of a longish day.

I got a 92% on last week's astronomy test, which is slightly lower than the 94% I got on the first one, but I'll take it. Thankfully there was a bonus question: Without using any $1 bills, how do you get $63 using only six bills? Whoever gets it right wins, I dunno, bonus points.

I read a great comic last week, The Other Side, about Vietnam. It was written by, I guess, a cousin of the guy who wrote the book that Full Metal Jacket was adapted from. It tells the tale of two young, in-way-over-their-heads soldiers, one American, the other Vietnamise, on a collision course in the jungle. Based on the first issue (of five), it's going to be a pretty honest, brutal story about America's second most recent stupid war.

In between all the school work, I'm trying to read Jonathan Lethem's The Fortress of Solitude, which I'm really enjoying so far, being only a few chapters in. The plot is about a young boy growing up in a Brooklyn neighborhood. The story is about something entirely different.

Finally saw Walk the Line last night, on HBO. That was a really good movie. Maybe not a great movie, but a good one. I enjoyed it, which is all that really matters, right? Joaquin Phoenix was an amazing Johnny Cash. Had Philip Seymour Hoffman not so absolutely become Truman Capote last year, Phoenix would have taken home that little gold statue.

And I suppose that might be about it for today. I think y'all are all caught up. Given my workload, I'm not sure how many updates will be in my future, but given my procrasination, it's probably a safe bet to say one or two might sneak on here...


Dearly Departed

Move over Three 6 Mafia, Martin Scorsese is finally going to land his first Academy Award.

The Departed is, without a doubt (in my mind), Scorsese's best film since Goodfellas, and it would be an absolute crime if he is yet again robbed of that little golden statue come Oscar time.

A brutal, pull-no-punches crime drama, The Departed is about, at its core, family. Loyalty. It's about knowing who you are and where you came from. Two men, a cop and a crook, infiltrate each other's world and become embroiled in a high stakes game of cat and mouse.

One guy, Colin Sullivan, grew up on the mean streets of Boston working for Frank Costello, crime boss, and quickly climbs the ladder of the Massachusetts State Police, who are attempting to bring Costello down.

The other, Billy Costigan, just wants to be a good police, but his family ties stall his ascent until he agrees to go deep undercover and become a member of Costello's inner circle.

Two men working opposite sides of the law, both traitors and loyal soldiers at the same time.

I can't say enough about the incredible acting in this film. Everyone, from Matt Damon, Leo DiCaprio and Jack Nicholson to Martin Sheen (whose character is named "Oliver Queenan," which is remarkably similar to "Oliver Queen," the secret identity of DC Comics' Green Arrow, which I simply find amusing), Mark Wahlberg and Alec Baldwin, are fantastic. I've long thought that the Academy needs to create an "Best Ensemble" award and this film is the best evidence of that I've seen to date. I honestly don't know who to praise first or most.

I'm not going to get into plot too much, save for what I wrote above. There are a myriad of twists and turns that will keep your heart racing and your head spinning 'til the very end, but in a good way.

It's a powerful, violent picture about life. And death. And the importance of remembering the departed.


New story posted

Click here for my latest bit of hackery.


Welcome to October

It was 85 degrees with clear skies today, the first day of October, which is, to say the least, slightly odd. This is not typical fall weather. Or is it? With global warming, who knows? Perhaps we'll have to get used to a second season of spring after summer as well as before.

Baseball's regular season came to a close with a whimper rather than a bang for most teams. The Cardinals limped through September and only secured the division crown because Houston lost their last game of the season. I would prefer to think St. Louis won't get swept in the first round of the playoffs, but they don't have a dependable starter other than Chris Carpenter and the bullpen is a mess. Baseball is a team game and Albert Pujols can't win it all by himself. My money's on a Twins Tigers/Mets World Series. Twins Tigers in seven games.

Saw Jennie last night at a gathering at Becky (and Jason) and TJ's place. She just kind of appeared out of no where. No one knew she was in town. She and Dave are here for a funeral, so it's not as though she came to see all of us, but it was nice to say 'hi' and catch up in person for a little while. Once again, my condolances go out to Dave and his family.

Saw Megan for the first time since she's been back in Omaha, too. She's looking good, as usual. Despite her return to Omaha, I would hazard a guess and say that California definitely agreed with her. Good to have her back, though.

Ryan and Jami are in town for a couple days, too, for Yom Kippur, and an impromptu shopping trip to the Furniture Mart. It appears that they will finally be furnishing their house up in Minneapolis. I had lunch with them and Ryan's brother Daniel and Daniel's girlfriend (whose name escapes me at the moment, but she doesn't read my blog so it's okay). Always good to see them, though it's never for enough time. I might see them briefly later tonight or tomorrow after class, but they'll probably have to be on the road early tomorrow afternoon, because of work on Tuesday. I need to see about scheduling a little trip up to the Twin Cities sometime relatively soon.

I spoke with Rose for a couple hours earlier this evening. She and Robert flew out to San Francisco a few weeks back, to look for jobs and at apartments. Fortunately Rose found a job almost immediately, at UCSF, doing what she was doing here in Omaha; an apartment, however, took a little more time. But they have what sounds like a very nice place near Golden Gate Park. Robert has been back in Omaha for a little bit, but since they now have an apartment he was able to put in his two weeks and should be shipping out their furniture and himself by the middle of the month. Rose sounds like she's doing well. Still getting used to a new city, finding her way around, that sort of thing. And she doesn't know anyone yet, and without Robert there, she's understandably wary. But they'll be all nice and settled in by the end of the month. They'll do good out there, of that I'm certain.

As for myself, I'm just goin' to classes and trying to get my work done. Not much to say about any of that. Got my second astronomy test on Wednesday. I have a two-page story due Tuesday for the creative writing class. My group has an eight to 10 page paper due in two and a half weeks in my small group communications class. And that's really about it for now.

I finished reading Charles Stross' Accelerando, which is filled with some really incredible ideas about the future. Really far out there technology. The book is so dense with philosophies and ideas, I can barely wrap my head around some of it.

I think I'm going to read Neil Gaiman's new short story collection next. Reading something new by Gaiman feels like coming home again after a long time away. I've been reading his work for so long, there's a sense of familiarity about it. I can hear Neil's voice in my head, as if he were reading the story to me.

And now The Wire is on, so I'm gonna take off. If I don't get a chance to post before next weekend, don't y'all forget about the new season of Battlestar Galactica on Friday. It's gonna be awesome.

::UPDATE:: 10/07

Battlestar Galactica was beyond awesome. Holy shit.


The Squid and the Whale

I really enjoyed this movie. I had no idea who Noah Baumbach, the writer and director, was until he co-wrote The Life Aquatic with Wes Anderson in 2004, but he's definitely a favorite writer now.

Squid is the semi-autobiographical tale story of an extremely dysfunctional (i.e. normal) family in Brooklyn, circa 1986. Married for 17 (less than happy) years, Bernard and Joan decide to call it quits. Walt and Frank, their two sons, ages 16ish and 10ish, respectively, are caught in the middle of their parents' rather hostile split.

Certainly not a comedy in the vein of that other dysfunctional family of idiosyncrasy, the Tenenbaums, Squid takes a fairly harsh, acidic, raw look at what divorce can do to both parents and children. This movie really doesn't pull any emotional punches, nor does it try to overdramatize. Like life, it's neither comedy nor tragedy, but both, oftentimes simultaneously.

Baumbach wrote a very lean, sparse script. The movie clocks in at only 81 minutes. But he nailed the essence of what he was going for with each scene. He doesn't dwell. He doesn't linger. In and out, just the good stuff. In the era of 2 1/2 - 3 hour epics, it was rather refreshing to watch such a short film.

The actors were all fantastic, especially Jeff Daniels. It's almost a crime he wasn't nominated for an Oscar. Like Anderson with Bill Murray, Baumbach gets Daniels to give one of the best performances of his career.

So, yeah, the movie definitely isn't for everyone, and I can see why some people wouldn't like it. It's relatively slow-moving, in that there's no action, y'know? People talk. They argue. The little boy wipes his semen on library books. It's not a typical movie in any way, shape or form. But it was good. Good Characters + Good Dialogue = Good Movie.


Short Story #1

I finished the longer version of the previous story. It changed tone a bit, in the middle. Became something else entirely. I have no idea where it's going or how long it'll take me to get there. It's not finished, I don't think. I just need to figure out what happens next.

Anyway, enjoy...


Exercise...4? (I've lost count)

Been meaning to post this for a little while, but I keep forgetting about it. Here is my fourth short piece for my creative writing class.

This assignment was to take one of our previous stories and rewrite it from a different point of view. I chose the one about the magician and I think this version works much better, though it was only supposed to be three pages and I wrote too much, so I had to edit it down some.

Fortunately, the next assignment is to again take one of the previous stories and create a longer story from it, to rewrite and expand, basically. So I'm going to put back in the bits that I took from this magician story and rework it a little, get it up to six pages, give or take.

So the new story that's on the Fiction page is the short version. I'll have the long version finished by Tuesday (I hope).



I have not been feeling too hot lately. My head's been cloudy and my allergies have been annoying the hell out of me. I woke up with a horrid headache this morning, too. Meds haven't done anything to fix any of the problems either.

I was feeling this way over the weekend, which meant I didn't get a whole lot of work done for class. This morning I finished the story for my creative writing class that was due today, and I've barely started the news feature for my news writing class. My head's just not in it. Can't concentrate when I feel all this (literal) pressure in my skull.

I think it's the weather. We still had some 80 degree days last week and then boom, straight to 60. No gradual slope for us. Summer to autumn in a day and a half. Seasonal changes always fuck with my head, which is why I'd like to live somewhere with no seasons, like San Diego.

Did I mention I ended up with a 94 on that astronomy test of a couple weeks ago? Cause I did. I made a couple stupid errors, otherwise it would've been a wee bit higher. Oh well.

I guess I don't know much else. Tomorrow is my first Small Group Comm test, which should be relatively easy, I think. Hopefully my head will be clear enough for me to actually study.

The Steelers offense looked abysmal last night against Jacksonville. I knew it'd be a tough game, but a shutout? That was unexpected. Hat's off to the Jaguars' defense. They certainly earned the win. Not that Pittsburgh's defense wasn't good. They only gave up nine points (would've been six if not for the first interception Roethlisberger threw late in the fourth quarter). Next week is a huge game against 2-0 Cincinnati.

Also, today is international Talk Like A Pirate Day, which I assume must be a holiday of some kind for us Pastafarians, seeing as how pirates are the chosen people and all.

So, you know, don't forget to talk like a pirate. And barring that, at least be sure to watch some pirates. Or, better yet, watch these pirates.

Aargh, I love bein' a pirate.


The Black Dahlia

I wanted to like this movie. No, scratch that. I wanted to love this movie. It has all the elements of a perfect crime-noir thriller: Brian de Palma directing, based on a novel by James Ellroy (L.A. Confidential), a grim, gruesome real-life murder AND Scarlett Johansson. How could it have gone so wrong?

I won't say that the movie is terrible, because it's not. It's simply not great. It's not what it could have been. There are some wonderful scenes and some great performances. Many times it feels like a pitch-perfect 1940s crime flick, but, sadly, not often enough. The film is not greater than the sum of its individual parts.

To be honest, my biggest problem comes down to a casting decision. One of the main conceits of the film is that two of the characters look so much alike it's eerie, okay? This is, like, the lynchpin of the entire movie. And the two actresses who are portraying the supposed lookalikes? They look nothing alike!

Hilary Swank is all manly-looking with her square jaw and boxing acumen and Mia Kirshner is, you know, actually attractive. So that just never worked for me.

It's just weird. The acting is fine throughout. The directing is fine. I love the voiceover narration by Josh Hartnett's character. Everything is good on its own. I don't know if it's the editing, the story itself, but when it all comes together it all falls apart.


Pride of Baghdad

In April 2003 four lions escaped from the Baghdad Zoo during the American invasion of Iraq. Using this premise as a starting point, Brian K. Vaughan wrote a haunting and heartbreaking story about the horrors of war. Beautifully illustrated by Niko Henrichon, Pride of Baghdad is not anti-war, nor is it pro-war. It merely portrays the consequences of war, without bias and without judgement, seen through the eyes of those four escaped lions and a host of other animals who, unwittingly caught up in Man's affairs, struggle to survive amidst the rockets' red glare and the bombs bursting in air.

In telling this story with Disney-esque talking animals instead of people Vaughan is able to strip away the politics and the rhetoric. Lions, after all, don't care who is fighting who, or why; they just want to know where they can find dinner. Using animals, Vaughan has created one of the most honest and, ironically, most human stories written about the war still raging in Iraq.

I recommend this book to everyone. Buy it from Amazon, buy it from your local comic shop, borrow it from a friend, do whatever you have to do (note: I am not advocating theft) to read this story. It's that good.

Click here for a 10-page preview if my glowing praise is not enough to sway you.


9/11 - Five Years Later

My niece in Colorado, outside Denver, she turns 5 today. Happy Birthday, Charlize! (Not that she'll read this. She's 5.)

The past five years have been pretty horrific. I can't imagine them being much worse, from a national/political point of view, of course. Our inept administration...wow, there's just so much, you know? It's hard to know where to begin.

They left the war in Afghanistan before the job was done so they could invade Iraq, a country that had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11. They convinced Congress and the American people that invading Iraq was necessary due to Saddam's stockpile of WMDs and his desire for a nuclear weapon. Unfortunately, their lies worked and we've been mired in an unwinnable war, a war that quickly devolved into civil war between Shiites and Sunnis, for over three years now. We have been in Iraq longer than we were involved in World War II.

Meanwhile, the forgotten war, the first one we started, against the Taliban, oh, that's going swimmingly. After initially running off and hiding in the mountains, a resurgent Taliban has been waging a fierce battle with U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan. The violence there, some have said, is even worse than the violence in Iraq, which I find hard to believe, but it's difficult to know for sure since the media barely mentions Afghanistan anymore.

We've tortured prisoners, not only in prisons in Iraq (Abu Ghraib) and at Gitmo, down in Cuba, but also in secret CIA-run "black sites" in eastern European countries, and we continue to torture them.

The majority of people at Guantanamo Bay are completely innocent and they've been imprisoned there for over four years without ever being charged with anything.

The administration believes it's necessary to illegally wiretap millions of Americans' phone lines.

Hurricane Katrina technically didn't even hit New Orleans. The worst of the storm was to the east of the city. But the levees that surrounded the city ruptured and collapsed due to all the rainwater and flooded the city. Thousands of people died needlessly because the administration was slow and incompetent in its response.

The wealthiest one percent continue to receive tax break after tax break while the gap widens between the Haves and the Have Nots. Minimum wage stagnates at $5.15/hour because immoral Republicans in Congress refuse to hike the pay of America's workforce without attaching yet another tax cut for millionaires.

Speaking of millions, millions of Americans, many of them women and children, are without health insurance.

Kanye West had it wrong when he said George Bush doesn't care about black people. George Bush doesn't care about poor people, which is an important distinction.

He's not too fond of Jewish people either, believing that unless you're a God-fearing Christian like him you're going to hell, which he's done a damn fine job of giving us a preview of.

George Bush believes himself to be a king, an emperor, whose judgement is infallible and we're all supposed to say, "yes, sir," and allow him to do whatever he damn well pleases.

That's not America. That's not how things work here and if George Bush would take a moment to read the United States Constitution (and then have a Constitutional scholar explain it to him in small, easily understood words) he would realize that we don't live in a monarchy. We're not a dictatorship. We're not simply going to succumb to his wishes because he says so. That, despite his feeble attempts to label "the terrorists" such, is Fascism. Totalitarianism. And that is NOT MY AMERICA.

This November a hugely important election will take place. Depending on the outcome we could have invaded Iran by this time next year, stuck in yet another unwinnable war. Or perhaps, if we're oh-so-lucky, we could be in the middle of impeachment hearings for the President-Who-Would-Be-King. I suspect we'll be somewhere in the middle.

Only a Congress controlled by Democrats can strip this incredible moron of the power he's illegally wielded for the past five years. The Republicans have been nothing but yes men, pushing through every piece of legislation George Bush wants. That has to stop. Congress does not exist to do the bidding of the president. They are equal partners, along with an impartial judiciary, in governing this country. And it's about goddamn time they started fucking acting like it.

The question you have to ask yourself, five years after those towers fell, is do you feel safer yet? Cause if you do, I want to know what fantasy world you're living in.



I'm supposed to be writing a 2-3 page story for my creative writing class, a "letter" from me to whomever from a place I've never been to. Yes, I have to write a letter in which I'm pretending to be somewhere where, in reality, I've never been before. So that should be interesting. Or stupid.

Classes seem to be going well so far, I think. Haven't really gotten very many grades back, though, so I don't really know. Last week was my first astronomy test. I think I kicked ass on it, but I won't know til Wednesday.

This week we're going to be discussing my first short story in the creative writing class. So that should be...interesting. It's strange because everyone's opinion, even the teacher's, is subjective. No one can really tell you if something is good or not. They can only tell you if they think it's good. One person can love it, another can hate it. Who's right? So, yeah, being graded on my writing is always something I've kind of despised.

We handed in our first group assignment in my Small Group Communication class last week. It was, I think, a pretty silly assignment, and my group didn't exactly tackle it with relish, y'know? I hate having my grade being dependent upon other people. I'd just much rather work by myself. Not that I can't or don't work well with others. I worked retail jobs for a decade, so I think I know how to accomplish tasks within groups. But, yeah, I just prefer working alone. That way there's no one to blame but myself.

The News Writing class has been okay so far. There are some fun people in the class, which makes the time go by quicker, and the assignments are fairly easy. This week, though, I dunno. The first half of class we're going to be walking around campus trying to find a story to write about. What goes on at UNO's campus on a Tuesday night? Beats the hell out of me. So we'll see if I have any gumshoe in me, see if I can't uncover something at least vaguely interesting.

Other than class, not much else is going on. I watched The Matador the other day. Pretty funny movie. Pierce Brosnan as kind of an anti-Bond, an assassin in the midst of a midlife crisis. Very enjoyable. And last night HBO premiered Unleashed, that 2005 Jet Li/Morgan Freeman/Bob Hoskins movie. Not bad at all. It actually had an interesting story, which shouldn't have surprised me since Luc Besson wrote it.

Today is football and working on that aforementioned "letter." Tonight are the season premieres of The Simpsons, Family Guy, American Dad and one of the best shows on television, HBO's The Wire.

Tonight is also ABC's disgustingly inaccurate piece of garbage, Path to 9/11, a putrid bit of conservative propaganda that not only places all the blame for 9/11 at the feet of the Clinton administration, it does so under the auspices of "Based on the 9/11 Commission Report." The only problem is that this "docudrama" is full of lies and half truths that have been refuted by numerous experts, including those who actually wrote the 9/11 Report. The factual errors in this movie are so abundant and slanderous that ABC is opening itself up to some serious litigation should they go ahead and air it tonight and tomorrow.

I'm almost tempted to boycott Disney and ABC, but it's not like they'd actually care.


One down, 15 to go

Last night's game turned out pretty good in the end (for Steelers fans, anyway), despite some underwhelming play by both teams during the first quarter and a half.

Filling in for Big Ben, Charlie Batch stepped up big time and made some great decisions and some great passes, including three for touchdowns, tying his career high, Heath Miller had over 100 yards receiving and Willie Parker had over 100 rushing, and the Steelers defense was its usual dominant self, closing out the game with back-to-back picks by Troy "the Hair" Polamalu and Joey "the Mouth" Porter, who returned his for a touchdown (and also recorded two sacks).

You can't judge an entire season based on just one game, but the Steelers looked good for the most part. Will they be able to keep it up all season? Who knows? But I like what I see so far.


Are you ready for some football?

The 2006 NFL season begins tonight as the defending Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers host the Miami Dolphins, a team many are picking to be an AFC sleeper team this year.

The Steelers are without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (appendectomy) and Super Bowl MVP wide receiver Hines Ward (hamstring(?)), so tonight's game is no where close to being a sure thing. Plus, the Steelers didn't play particularly great at home last year. Hopefully they've at least exorcised that demon.

Like most recent NFL seasons, there is no clear cut Super Bowl favorite before any games are played. The Steelers, if able to stay healthy, certainly have a shot to repeat, but many other teams can claim the mantle of "Best team in the league." Not that being the best team means you win each year. Just ask the 2005 Colts.

I'm gonna pick the Steelers to repeat (of course), but, like I said about tonight's game, it's no sure thing. New England is always good and you can never count out Tom Brady (best quarterback in football right now - three Super Bowls in four years). Cincinnati was pretty explosive last year and if not for Carson Palmer going down on their first offensive play their season might have ended quite differently. If Palmer's leg is fully healed and he's healthy all season they'll be tough. Carolina, Philly, Seattle (if not for that damned Madden Curse) all look good in the NFC, too.

It's going to be a crazy season, that much you can be sure of. It always is. Who would have thought the Steelers would win their last eight games last year, including three on the road in the playoffs (the Super Bowl itself, held in Detroit, doesn't count, because, looking at the number of fans in the seats, that really was a home game for Pittsburgh) against the top three teams in the AFC, to win that One for the Thumb? Weird, improbable things always happen, which is why I wouldn't be surprised if Michael Vick and Atlanta broke through and won this year; or Arizona with their high-powered offense; or Chicago and their hardcore defense. Who the hell knows, right?

Okay, maybe not Arizona...

(And did you notice how I didn't even mention the Colts as a favorite? Yeah, that's because no matter how good a regular season they have, no matter how unpredictable an NFL season is, you can always count on one thing: Peyton Manning choking in January. Why would this year be any different?)


Writing Exercise #2

The second two-page story for my Creative Writing class is supposed to be about someone being embarrassed in public.

Here you go.

I don't think it's very good. It was difficult to fit into two pages. But it's done and I never have to look at it ever again.

Enjoy. :)


If you like really good, old fashioned film noir murder mysteries, then you'd definitely enjoy Brick. Set in a present-day high school, all the characters speak as if they just walked out of a Raymond Chandler novel. It takes a few minutes for your ears to get used to the way they talk and to decipher their lingo, but once you do you'll be sucked into the brutal world of high school drug dealing and broken hearted tough guys.

I'll admit, it's a little silly at first, hearing such hard boiled dialogue come out of what are supposed to be high school students, but the actors sell it really well. It almost makes you wish you talked like them back when you were that age.

Dames in distress, dangerous femme fatales, a brooding hero and Richard Roundtree (SHAFT!) as the vice principal. What more could you ask for?


Beta Blogger 2

I tell ya, there is nothin' like procrastination.

I've redone all my blogs as new Blogger Beta versions, so things are a wee bit different. Comments will no longer pop up in a new window, nor will links in the sidebar, but links in the posts themselves will still open new windows.

And it seems that I can no longer post comments on any blogs if they're not switched over to the new Beta version (which, despite my earlier concerns, is pretty easy to do). So I'm still readin' the blogs, those of you who still seem to actually put up new posts. Just can't comment until you switch.

And I'd like to take a moment to wish a happy 3rd birthday to my niece, Emma, even though she won't be reading this blog for quite some time. Her party is this afternoon if anyone wishes to crash.

Also, today is my parent's...39th(?) wedding anniversary. Yeah, 39 sounds about right. So here's to them as well. It's been nearly four decades and they haven't killed each other yet. Happy Anniversary!


Little Miss Bang Bang

See that? See what I did there, combining two movie titles like that? Clever, I know. And maybe slightly dirty, too, if your mind wanders down those types of alleyways. That's why they pay me the big bucks.

So Alissa and I saw Little Miss Sunshine Saturday night. First off, the theatre was packed. I was really surprised. It was a very impressive audience for a little indie flick that, a month ago, no one had ever heard of. Secondly, the movie is hilarious. Go see it. It puts your dysfunctional family to shame. How do I know? Because it puts my dysfunctional family to shame.

The movie is about a family that goes on a road trip so that the 7-year-old daughter can compete in a beauty pageant in California. The family includes the wannabe-self-help-guru father, near-the-breaking-point mother, heroin-addicted grandfather, voluntarily-mute-until-he-joins-the-Air-Force son, suicidal-Proust-scholar uncle (Steve Carell has never been better), and the aforementioned beauty-pageant-entering daughter. If that's not a recipe for comedy, then I don't know what is.

Seriously. See the movie. You can thank me later.

Also, I watched Kiss Kiss Bang Bang tonight, the quirky crime noir caper written and directed by the king of '80s action flicks, Shane Black.

Starring Val Kilmer and Robert Downey, Jr., Bang Bang takes everything you know or think you know about the action movie, the noir movie, and deliciously serves it up to you, albeit slightly askew, as if you were slipped a mickey before the film begins.

It might be one of my new favorite movies, along with Sunshine. Not quite top five. Hell, maybe not even top 10, but I like a lot of movies, so take that for what it's worth. It's a great, funny, slightly insane movie, but that's all part of its charm. Highly recommended.


Writing Exercise #1

The first assignment for my Fundamentals of Fiction class was to write a two-page story about where I grew up, but with a lie. I asked the teacher if we were to create just one lie, or if the whole thing could be a lie, and she said whichever, just as long as there was at least one untruth in the story.

See if you can pick out my lie.

And, enjoy.


One week down, many to go

Well, I've survived the first week of what will probably be my most difficult semester of being back in school to date. Of course, what with this being the first week, it's not like there was much work to be done. But still, a few of the days are a real grind. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays I get to campus before 10 for my job in the computer lab and get home sometime between 8:30 and 9:30, give or take. The majority of my classes meet only once a week, so they're each about three hours long.

I've finished most of the assignments that are due next week, with mainly just some reading to do...and a two-page story to finish, of which I have about a page left to write. It's supposed to be a story about where I grew up, but with a lie in it. I asked the teacher, "One lie? Can the whole thing be a lie?" And she basically said, "whatever," so I'm having a bit of fun with this one. I'll post it to my fiction blog for comments and harsh criticisms when I'm done with it.

I think the Astronomy class will be the easiest of the four. It's just an Intro class, so there really isn't a whole lot of work. Just the labs, which will be finished in-class, and some short magazine article reviews, for lack of a better term.

I'm not sure which class I'm going to enjoy the most yet. The News Writing one should be interesting, and, as I wrote before, I think I'm going to be able to handle the Fiction Writing one a lot better than I did all those many years ago.

The Small Group Communication class...that one might be the most trying. We were assigned our groups on Wednesday and I'm sure we'll all get along fine, for the most part. It's just that, okay, one of the guys, he's pretty gung-ho about this stupid war we're fighting, so that could lead to some...conversations. And the other guy, he has "no respect for" gay people. I believe he mentioned something about gays being an insult to God or some crap like that, so he annoys me solely on principle. I wanted to ask him, "Have you ever even met a gay person? Why does something that doesn't affect you whatsoever bother you so much?" But I didn't. I guess I can save that for one of our out-of-class get-togethers. I'm sure I'll get along just fine with the two girls in the group, however. They don't seem to be as close-minded (yes, I see the irony of that statement because I'm pretty close-minded about certain things, too, like, you know, prejudice and pointless wars), just young and maybe a little naive.

Anyway, we'll see how it goes. Gotta clear off the table for dinner tonight. My sister and her family are coming over. And then there's a Steelers preseason game on ESPN. And I have the new issue of Wired to read.

Remind me to mention later the new CDs I picked up this week, and the book I finished reading yesterday, The Everlasting, which I really enjoyed, though much of it unnerved me in its familiarity.


Beta Blogger

I sure hope this new version of Blogger is worth the headache it's currently giving me.


Musings on characters

Well, I'm about halfway through my day. I got to campus around 10 this morning, sat in the computer lab for two hours, walked across to the Fine Arts building, sat in a classroom for two and a half hours, and now I'm back in the computer lab for another two hours. Then I have my News Writing & Reporting class from 6 to 9ish. Then I finally get to go home, only to do almost the exact same schedule tomorrow.


There will, apparently, be a lot of writing involved with this Small Group Communication class I have Mondays and Wednesdays, along with the requisite (and obvious) group work. There are a few group papers to go along with our own reflections of how the group is working together.

Not so surprising is the amount of writing involved in the Fiction Writing class. I took this class, god, it must be about six or seven years ago by now. Same teacher. I didn't really see eye-to-eye with her about the so-called "Fundamentals of Fiction Writing" back then. I thought I knew everything I needed to know, y'know? I was kind of arrogant. Plus I didn't really care, especially by the end of the semester. I don't think she remembers me, which is probably for the best.

See, the thing that got to me last time was her, in my mind, disrespect of the types of stories I enjoy. So-called "genre" stories. You know, horror, sci-fi, fantasy, etc. She had this spiel (which she gave again today) about how we're not there to write these "formula" stories, that we're going to be doing more "literary" fiction, which I took as a slam against some of my favorite writers. Neil Gaiman, while he writes mostly in the fantasy genre, is one of the best writers around. Period. I think he was my prime example back then, that these favorite writers of mine, also including Peter David, Frank Miller, Warren Ellis, while they may write in a particular genre of storytelling, their work is far from formulaic.

Of course, me being the arrogant fool that I was, I took exception to this without actually thinking about what she was talking about, nor thinking about what my favorite writers were writing about. This teacher, I understand now, was railing against formulaic writing with good reason. It's boring. Been there, read that. Her goal is to emphasize characterization, that all good stories have good characters first, and if you have good characters then you can stick them in a sci-fi setting, a fantasy setting, crime fiction, whatever, and it works. Had I actually given thought to all this back then, I like to think I would have reacted quite differently, but probably not because, like I said, this was around the time that I really stopped caring about school in general.

It hit me, of course, later on, that the reason I enjoy the writers I do is because they understand this, they write great characters who just happen to live in certain time periods or universes or whatever. As long as you make your characters real and believable, you can put them in any situation you want. You can write about the Singularity and thousands of years in the future if you want to as long as you create real people to inhabit that world. Gaiman can write about ancient gods in present-day America and it works because his characterization, his attention to detail, makes you believe that, in this story, under these conditions, this is real.

My favorite writers may write in various genres, but they don't follow any particular formula. And that's the trick. I can pick up any Gaiman story, or Greg Rucka, or Charles Stross, and I have no idea, regardless of genre, where the story is going to go. Rucka's last Atticus Kodiak novel is a perfect example of this. With the first four novels he set up a world where Kodiak runs a personal protection service, bodyguards for hire, basically, and each novel is him and his team taking a new case. We meet Kodiak and his crew and get to really know them over the course of those few books, but the fifth one, Critical Space, completely turns the concept on its ear, ripping Kodiak, and the readers, from his comfort zone. It was quite a shock, and while not coming completely out of left field, it was extremely unexpected.

Essentially, at its core, writing is all about character. The greatest concept in the world will become an absolute shit story if there aren't realistic characters bringing us along for the ride.

So I can write my superhero story. I can write my half-Mexican/half-Japanese samurai hero's journey or my world-weary, noir-infused crime story. I can write in all these various genres as long as I inhabit the world with real people.