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!