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.