1/28/2007

I am Bill Gibson

I am:
William Gibson
The chief instigator of the "cyberpunk" wave of the 1980s, his razzle-dazzle futuristic intrigues were, for a while, the most imitated work in science fiction.


Which science fiction writer are you?

1/27/2007

And we'll be right back

I woke up this morning with the worst back pain I think I've ever felt. The pain itself woke me up sometime between 7 and 7:30, and I was, well, not quite paralyzed with pain, because I was able to move around, but no matter how I moved, the pain stayed with me. I was practically writhing around on my bed in a futile attempt to make the pain subside, or, at the very least, lessen. But it wouldn't let go its grasp.

At around 7:45, I made my way downstairs and popped a couple of Aleve, with the hope that they would relieve the constant, sharp throbbing, which they perhaps did do, but not before the pain became so unbearable that I woke my father and he drove me to the small medical center over near Oak View, Clarkson something-or-other. And, of course, as we walked toward the emergency entrance, my back felt amazingly better, the way it normally feels, which, as we all know, is not pain-free, but the usual, manageable level that I've learned to live with.

I don't know if it was the Aleve finally kicking in an hour after I took it, or what, but my back has felt normal (for me) ever since. So I suppose it was a wasted trip to the med center, but better safe than sorry, right?

I'm still trying to figure out what triggered this pain this morning, whatever it was. I didn't do anything out of the ordinary yesterday, nothing that should have strained my back to the extent that it'd be all tight and firing nerves this morning. I went to sleep a little after one this morning, then six hours later, I'm forced awake by this godawful agony spread throughout my lower and middle back.

If I never feel that kind of ... discomfort ... again, it'll be too soon.

1/23/2007

Please, hold your applause

Got a letter from UNO today. Someone must have made a mistake somewhere, because they seem to be under the impression that I had a 3.615 GPA last semester, which puts me on the dean's list.

How bizarre is that?

::EDITED 1/24::

I took a peek at my transcript earlier today and at my lowest point, my GPA was 1.9 (Fall 1999); my cumulative GPA is currently 3.076.

Oscar Nominations 2007

Yes, it's that time of year again, when the whole world waits with baited breath for one of the most important announcements of the year, an annual presentation that will set the stage for the coming year. I'm speaking, of course, about tonight's State of the Union address.

(Cue laughter.)

I kid, I kid. No one is going to pay attention to what that windbag is going to say tonight. But I have to watch anyway, if only to see all the people not applauding during the speech. Think about it. Without all those pesky ovations, this speech could be done in record time.

But I digress.

This post, hence the title, is about this morning's Oscar nominations, and 2006 appears to have been quite a good year for foreign (i.e. not American) films and filmmakers.

A complete list of nominations can be found here. I'm just going to run through a few of my favorites.

My personal favorite movie of 2006, Martin Scorsese's The Departed, received only one acting nomination, for Mark Wahlberg, which I think is slightly unfair to the rest of the amazing ensemble cast (I've always thought the Oscars should have a Best Ensemble catagory), though Marky Mark was quite good in the film.

Of slightly more importance, Marty also received Best Picture and Best Director nods for his Boston crime epic, and Bill Monahan got a well-deserved nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.

I will be rooting unabashedly for Scorsese to finally take home the Oscar gold this year.

Turning 180 degrees, we have Little Miss Sunshine, the little movie that could, which received supporting nominations for Alan Arkin and Abigail Breslin (this film is yet another example of why there needs to be a Best Ensemble catagory), as well as Best Original Screenplay and Best Picture nominations.

If The Departed was my favorite movie of 2006, Sunshine was a close second. It's such a quirky, funny, honest film, and while the characters are put in somewhat bizarre situations, they retain their realism and humanity, something that's very difficult to pull off these days, it seems.

Also receiving multiple nominations are Babel and Letters from Iwo Jima (both for Original Screenplay, Director and Picture, with Babel also garnering two supporting actress nods), neither of which I've seen yet, though I hope to remedy that this coming weekend (if anyone is interested in seeing either one, lemme know).

It's interesting that while Letters from Iwo Jima won the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film (beating out Pan's Labyrinth), it's not nominated for the Best Foreign Film Oscar. What I mean is, I suppose I find it interesting that the Golden Globes category refers only to the language spoken in the film (Iwo Jima is in Japanese), while the Academy Awards category refers to country of origin.

Iwo Jima is an American film, directed by Clint Eastwood. American-made with American money, yet performed in Japanese by Japanese actors. Babel, on the other hand, is by Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu, performed in four languages (the two supporting actress nominations are for women, Rinko Kikuchi and Adriana Barraza, who performed in their native languages of Japanese and Spanish, respectively), yet it won the Best Picture - Drama award at the Golden Globes and wasn't nominated in the Best Foreign Language Film category. And now it's nominated for the Best Picture Oscar rather than the Best Foreign Film award ... it's all so confusing. I have a headache now.

(Also interesting is that Eastwood's other WWII film, Flags of Our Fathers (remember that one?), only received nominations for Sound Editing and Sound Mixing. I wonder, if they had waited until 2007 to release Iwo Jima, per the original plan, would Flags have received its nominations instead? Or would another film have gotten them?)

The film that should have won the Best Foreign Language Film Golden Globe, Pan's Labyrinth, has quite a few Oscar nominations as well, including Best Foreign Film and Best Original Screenplay. Its other nominations are for Art Direction, Cinematography, Makeup and Original Score.

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan received only a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination, and I can't help but wonder, adapted from what? From the TV show, I guess. I still think Sacha Baron Cohen deserved a nomination for his portrayal of the title character.

Children of Men, unfortunately, didn't earn that many nominations either, its biggest one being for Adapted Screenplay. Its other two are for Editing and Cinematography.

Forest Whitaker received the only nomination for The Last King of Scotland, for Best Actor, which I hope he wins.

And that's about it for now. Maybe closer to awards night I'll make some predictions.

The Oscar awards will be presented February 25 on ABC.

1/22/2007

Pan's Labyrinth

This is absolutely one of my favorite movies of 2006 (even though it didn't come to Omaha until 2007).

It's beautiful and haunting and ... magical, a faerie tale the way faerie tales are meant to be, dark and grim (no pun intended). Del Toro has really outdone himself with this one.

Highly recommended. Multiple thumbs up. Go see it. You will not be disappointed.

A miscellany

So Super Bowl XLI is in two weeks, the Bears vs. the Colts, and I can say with absolute certainty that I don't care one bit. Out of all the possible outcomes of yesterday's conference championship games, the only one that would have given me a modicum of interest in the big game is if the Saints had won instead of the Bears, if only because it would have helped illuminate the still-horrible condition of the majority of New Orleans. But it was not to be. Oh well.

I'll probably watch some of the game, but not all of it. It's on a Sunday. Battlestar Galactica and Rome (both of which were awesome last night, and the new SciFi show, The Dresden Files, was pretty cool, too) take precedence.

In other football news, the Pittsburgh Steelers announced the hiring of former head coach Bill Cowher's replacement, Mike Tomlin, who will become only the sixth black head coach in the league, which I suppose is something that still requires mention, because every story I've read regarding the hire has mentioned it. You'd think we'd be past the point where the color of a guy's skin matters, but I guess not.

(And if it matters this much in the context of the NFL, just imagine how much we're going to hear about it in the next couple years as Barack Obama tries to become the first black president of the United States. As everyone knows, skin color is really the only qualification we should pay attention to when electing our public officials. Oh, and gender, too. If the candidate isn't a white male, OMG, the world might come to an end.)

I think I'm going to see Pan's Labyrinth later this afternoon (4:50 at AMC) if anyone's interested. It's a little less than two hours long, so it'll be over around 7, so I'll be home in plenty of time for the return of Heroes tonight at 8. (24 has now been relegated to download-via-BitTorrent status.)

It is, as you can maybe tell, a slow day here in the chem department office. I suppose I should be reading some of my media research book.

Pitchers and Catchers Report in less than a month!

Tim Powers is a really, really, really good writer. I just finished reading The Anubis Gates last week and now I'm working on The Last Call. I wish someone had turned me on to his work sooner. I think I have Ed Brubaker to thank for the recommendation.

I need to decide which story I have rattling around inside my skull I want to focus on for this screenwriting class I'm taking. I'm pretty sure my samurai western needs to be a comic book before it becomes a film, so that's out. The ones I'm mainly trying to decide between are the superhero drama and the crime noirish thriller. Or maybe I should just take the story I was working on last semester in the creative writing class and start turning that into a screenplay. Or I can just try to write something new, I suppose. Suggestions would be appreciated.

Okay, I'll go read my media research chapters now. Happy Monday!

1/20/2007

The Last King of Scotland

This film tells the true story of brutal Ugandan dictator Idi Amin's rise to power through a coup d'etat in 1970 and his subsequent slow descent into paranoia as seen through the eyes of his personal physician, the fictional Scottish doctor Nicholas Garrigan.

Forest Whitaker gives what many have been calling the performance of his career as the charismatic and volatile Amin, portraying the newly empowered president first as a charming and passionate revolutionary, a hero to his people, before his mistrust and quick temper turn him into a vile slaughterer of hundreds of thousands of his own people.

Whitaker's performance is utterly brilliant, going from calm, almost timid, to ferocious rage in the blink of an eye. His recent Golden Globe win for this film is well-deserved, and an Oscar is more than likely in his future, as well. He alone is worth the price of admission.

The rest of the film, while technically marvelous, falls a little flat, mainly due to the fictional nature of our protagonist, Dr. Garrigan. Newly graduated from medical school, he apparently travels to Uganda to steer clear of his parents' stodgy lifestyle back home in Scotland. He's young and craves adventure, which he hopes to find while working at a medical clinic in rural Africa.

The character, to me, is never fleshed out enough, though maybe he's not truly meant to be; rather, he's a stand-in for the wide, innocent eyes of the world, or at least of the young and naive. He accepts Amin's generosity, wealth and power with open arms and eyes wide shut. He's so enamored with the lifestyle afforded him as the president's closest advisor that he refuses to accept the horror around him until it becomes too personal to ignore. Garrigan, however, just never feels real to me. His plight, after all, never existed, which made it difficult to care about him.

Regardless, the performances are all magnificent and the scenery is simply gorgeous. It certainly looks how the cradle of civilization ought to. And Whitaker gives us a truly monstrous figure looming over it all.

1/17/2007

Hollywood: Red State, Blue State or Green State?

There's been some talk lately about liberalism vs. conservatism in Hollywood. Yesterday, MSNBC had discussions, all day, apparently, about whether or not Fox's 24 is a mouthpiece for conservative, Republican propaganda, what with the constant threat of Islamic terrorists and the ::SPOILER ALERT:: mushroom cloud that appeared outside L.A. at the end of the premiere's second night. ::END SPOILER ALERT::

And now today, USA Today has a column about various other shows with a so-called conservative bent, whether it's Studio 60's religious comedienne Harriet Hayes, Alias's super secret agent Sydney Bristow or David Mamet and Shawn Ryan's show about a Special Forces unit and their familes, The Unit.

Regarding MSNBC's coverage, I only caught Keith Olbermann's conversation with Robert Greenwald (Outfoxed) regarding Fox and 24, during which Olbermann questioned whether something like 24, with its constant terrorist threats and general use of torture could, in some way, be considered a form of propaganda for the Right, using entertainment to "brainwash" its audience into believing that we do indeed need to be "fighting them over there so we don't have to fight them here."

Greenwald sort of dismissed the notion of brainwashing, but agreed that it is something to be concerned with, that there are people out there who would watch 24 and use it as justification for the war in Iraq and the so-called War on Terror, to which I can only say, dumbfounded, you've gotta be kidding me.

The idea that some people would watch what is clearly a fictional escapist fantasy, emphasis on "fictional" and "fantasy," and somehow attempt to use it to make a point about real-world politics is, quite frankly, ludicrous. Not that I don't doubt there are people out there who would take away from 24 the idea that torture works, but I simply don't understand how anyone can think that way.

The same goes for the other aforementioned shows, the idea that, somehow, these conservative-viewed characters are meant to make some sort of political statement. I reiterate my previous point, these are TV shows meant to entertain, not educate. The idea that Hollywood (the fact that people constantly refer to the entertainment industry as one, big conglomeration is also part of the problem, though I will refer to it this way for sake of argument) has either liberal or a conservative leanings is simple-minded.

Hollywood does not have a political affiliation. Certainly, yes, there are actors, producers, studio heads, who have strong feelings one way or the other, but their work is simply not motivated by politics. Red state, blue state, it doesn't matter. The only color Hollywood is concerned with is green, as in money.

Shows like 24 and The Unit do not exist as appeasements to some perceived liberal bias in Hollywood. They exist to make money. Money for the actors, the writers, the producers and, most importantly, money for the studios. If people aren't watching, the shows don't last long. Period. Politics be damned.

I really enjoy 24 and I'm one of the most liberal people I know. I like watching The Unit, too (except it's on opposite House, so I don't get to see it as often as I'd like, which is why FSM invented DVDs), and I think Harriet Hayes is a great character on Studio 60. And that's really the point, that these shows feature interesting, complex, realistic characters. I understand that these shows, that all shows on TV, are nothing more than escapism. I don't watch them in order to gleam some meaning of life, I watch them because they entertain me.

Maybe it's because I'm a writer, or want to be a writer, or whatever, but when I watch something, a fictional TV show, I'm not looking to learn something about myself or the really real world I live in. I'm looking to learn something about these characters, about the world they live in, which, as stated above, is a fictional world. Real-world laws and politics don't enter into the equation, no matter how hard you try to force the issue.

24 is absolutely brilliant storytelling. End of story. The creators wanted to take the traditional television series format and throw it away. They realized that in order to create enough tension, drama and conflict (what every good story is made of), they needed to work in a particular genre of storytelling, the thriller. Only then would they be able to create enough cliffhangers to make it work. A comedy would not work as a show like this, for instance. And once the creators had their format, they chose a terrorism theme because this, again, helps create the tension and conflict they require to make the show work in a 24-hour period.

24 was created prior to 9/11. The first season's bad guys were Eastern European gangsters, ex-Soviet military or something (led by a horribly-accented Dennis Hopper). Sure, some of the seasons following 9/11 latched onto the Islamic terrorism angle, because art imitates life, not the other way 'round, but the idea that the show's creators are using their 24 hours of airtime to propagate Right-wing ideals is nuts. They simply want to tell a story, a taut thriller with thrills and chills, that's it. They want to tell their story and the studio wants to make money off them. Believe me, if people stopped watching 24, Fox would yank it from the schedule so fast it'd make your head spin.

It's not about Red vs. Blue (insert Halo multiplayer joke here). Like everything else in Hollywood, it's about the Green.

1/16/2007

Explodo

Apparently, this morning, a car blew up on the ... third or fourth floor of the Crossroads Mall parking garage. Or caught on fire. Or something.

I wanted to take a picture of the billowing black smoke as I stood on the frozen street below, waiting for the UNO shuttle to come 'round, but it was damn cold and I sure as hell wasn't going to go digging in my backpack for my camera in negative degree weather.

It smelled pretty bad, too, all burning rubber and plastic.

They had blocked off the entrances into the garage, too, and you can be sure that some stupid people attempted to get in anyway, driving through the exit, which is clearly marked, DO NOT ENTER. Oh yes, there are some real winners out there.

1/14/2007

Nothin' much, you?

I dunno about you, but I've noticed quite a dearth of blog posts lately. I suppose it's because, to be honest, there's nothing all that exciting or interesting going on with me these days. Just school, y'know?

The new semester began last week. I have four classes: Mass Media Research, Interviewing, Media Ethics and Screenwriting. I have a pretty good feeling about all of them right now, which is easy to say because it's still the beginning of the semester and I'm not yet deluged with papers that need to be handed in all at the same time. Then again, I'm not really foreseeing a ton of work for these classes either. There's one fairly long paper for the media research class, like, 15 - 20 pages, I think (which, if I take care of each section as it comes along and don't procrastinate, I don't think will be too bad), and the other three classes don't have any papers longer than, say, six pages or so, so I think I'll be able to spread my time evenly amongst the classes.

The screenwriting one is the one I'm most curious about right now, as I've never taken a class like this before. My previous film classes have been nothing more than history and appreciation, and maybe a little theory, but of a final product, the film itself, rather than its script. And my previous writing classes have all been basic prose work. So, yeah, I dunno. I mean, I've read a lot of books about screenwriting and storytelling, and, of course, I've watched a shitload of movies and read a ton of scripts.

It's been a while since I've written a script, or tried to. The script I finished while I was out in CA, I stalled halfway through my rewrite and I hadn't really written anything since I'd been back in Omaha except for the stories and exercises in my creative writing class last semester. It felt good, though, to write again. I seem to have this problem of, I want everything to be perfect when my fingers start clacking away at the keyboard, and I know that's not even close to possible, but, like, I don't want to write until I know exactly what I'm writing about. I try and work things out in my head before I commit them to the page, but that's really just an excuse not to actually write. It's this fear of not wanting to write crap, even though I know everyone writes crap at first. That's why FSM invented first drafts, second drafts, editors, and I know this, yet I still hesitate. And I don't know why.

It all boils down to this illogic that I can't seem to shake, that if I don't try, I can't fail. On the other hand, if I do try, and succeed, then more will be expected of me next time. I've mentally painted myself into a corner with this. I've created a no-win situation for myself and I don't know what I can do to break myself out of this way of thinking.

Anyway.

The NFL playoffs are happening as I type. I'm finding it hard to care. There are some nice storylines, certainly, especially in New Orleans, but the Steelers aren't playing, so I'm just kind of ... meh about the whole thing. (Thankfully, Pitchers and Catchers Report in about a month.)

Recently, I've found myself spending time analyzing myself, my personality, trying to, I don't know, better understand why I act the way I act, especially in regards to my relationships with others. I suppose my outlook toward writing stems from my outlook toward people, or vice-versa. If I don't try, I can't fail (of course, some would say not trying is failure). And if I do try, and something good occurs from it, then I'll be expected to continue to be that person, whoever he is. This is sounding kind of rambly, isn't it?

I'm 28 years old. I'll (finally) be done with school inside two years. I haven't had a relationship, serious or otherwise, in years. And every time I do begin to get close to someone, I find some way to fuck it up, because that's what I do. There's this girl out in CA who I've known for, what, 10 years? 11? She used to live in Florida, then went to college up north before moving out west a few months after I did. And I care about her. She was always a good friend, better than I deserved, and when things were looking to become more than that friendship, I fucked up, pulled away. Hell, I came back to Omaha. Not that I came home to get away from her or anything like that. I had some serious depression issues going on at the time, but I don't think I ever explained myself to her. I clammed up, shut her out and ran away, which is no way to treat anyone, especially someone you care about.

I can be an asshole sometimes. I'm well-aware of this fact. And I don't know why. It's easier, I guess, than actually dealing with people on a deeper level. Ever since I got back to Omaha, I've felt this weight, guilt, I suppose, due to the way I (mis)handled things with this girl. And I don't know what I'm doing with myself, y'know? I don't know what my life is going to look like in a year or two. What right do I have to have, to begin, any sort of relationship with anybody? I don't know who I am or what I want, so why would I want to inflict whoever I am on anyone else?

I wonder, sometimes, what people think when they look at me. I don't necessarily care what they think, but I'm interested nonetheless. I should qualify that by saying, I don't care what most people think, the general public, people I don't know. But there are other, closer people, my friends, or people I'd like to get closer to, to get to know better, and I find myself over-analyzing everything to the point of paralysis. Who am I in the eyes of others? Who can I be? Who do they want me to be? It's fuckin' stupid, I know. It's like this social retardation back to when I was in high school. But, like with the writing, I can't seem to break free of this mental prison I've constructed for myself.

Oh well. As they say, Rome wasn't built in a day (season two starts tonight!) and I'm certainly not going to figure myself out anytime soon. I just wonder, y'know, about who I am, why I am who I am, what I can do to change parts of who I am. You know, nothin' important.

I'd like to apologize to this girl in CA, too. I don't imagine she'd want to hear from me, but you never know. But what would I say? I'm sorry I was a jerk last time I saw you. I'm sorry I used you and abused your trust in me. I'm sorry I haven't spoken to you since that weekend in San Francisco almost two years ago. I was an asshole, scared and depressed, and you didn't deserve to be treated as an afterthought.

Suppose I can just cut and paste that into an email, or I could just let sleeping dogs lie. What right do I have to insinuate myself back into her life? Or into anyone's life, for that matter. This is how fucked up I am, that I can't imagine myself being worth anyone else's time.

Sad, ain't it?

(P.S. - I blame the weather for the above post. It's cold and snowing and I hate this time of year. I'm not depressed depressed, just, you know, a little depressed.)

1/09/2007

Children of Men

Alfonso Cuaron has quickly become a favorite director of mine, starting with his explicit and endearing Y tu mama tambien, which he followed with the only good Harry Potter movie, The Prisoner of Azkaban. Completely different types of films, but both are rich with great characters and beautiful imagery. Cuaron is, simply put, a good filmmaker, so it was with great anticipation that I waited for his latest film to open in Omaha, Children of Men. And it was well-worth the wait.

Men takes place in the 2027. Humanity, for some reason, has not been able to procreate for the past 18+ years, which has led to, shall we say, widespread panic. There's some sort of decade-long siege going on in Seattle and England is in the process of deporting all their immigrants, called "foogees" (refugees), and sticking them in detention camps. Terrorist attacks have become an everyday occurrence.

They don't know what caused this infertility, which is the only part of the film that kind of bothers me. I mean, in over 18 years they couldn't figure it out? Did all the really smart scientists quit all of a sudden?

But I digress.

The basic plot of the film is that Clive Owen is yanked out of his apathetic lifestyle and thrust into the role of guardian of a young woman, a foogee, who, miracle of miracles, finds herself pregnant. Clive is charged with getting her out of England safely for reasons which you will learn when you see the movie.

It's just a great, great movie. Very moving, very powerful, and pretty damning of present-day humanity.

1/01/2007

Resolutions

I made a list of resolutions last year and don't think I followed through on very many, if any of them. So, you know, fuck it. Except this: No more drinking.

I hardly ever drink these days anyway, but when I do, I really do, and I'm kinda tired of it. There are pictures from last night on my digital camera that I don't remember taking. I'm gonna have to check the time stamps to figure out what time I passed out this morning. So, yeah, no more of that shit.

Incidentally, the pictures will be up on my flickr page sometime tomorrow.