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.