I haven't felt this level of absolute apathy for a long time. Years, I imagine. Maybe since before I came back to Omaha from CA the first time. Or maybe I felt it those first few months after I got here. I don't remember. I don't much like it, feeling this way, that much I'm sure of, but I can say with the utmost certainty that I have no idea how to get myself out of this, whatever "this" is.

I don't know when this current funk, for lack of a better word, began. I don't recall feeling this way while I was in L.A. this summer. Perhaps I was simply too busy, too exhausted every day, to feel much of anything. It's safe to say that this probably began after the current semester started, but I'd be hard-pressed to point to a specific cause. Calling it "senioritis" is too simplistic.

It's not only classes that I've grown disinterested in, but the mundaneness of life in general, here. I suppose this could be because I don't do anything besides drive to and from campus five days a week, while on the weekends I sit around not doing school work. I spend the majority of my time reading and watching TV. Some news, so that I don't feel completely out of touch with the world. In fact, I would hazard a guess and say that I'm one of the most well-informed people I know. Of course, I don't know very many people these days, do I?

The majority of my time is spent escaping into fiction. Novels, comics, TV shows and movies. Part of me rationalizes this by claiming that I'm studying, doing research on the fields in which I'm most interested in working. This is not entirely untrue. In order to learn how to tell stories, one must read and watch stories. I like to think that every show I watch, every novel or comic I read, I'm doing so actively, rather than passively. I'm absorbing the tricks of those who have come before, so that I may add them to my repertoire.

This is, almost assuredly, bullshit.

What good is studying an art form that one wishes to emulate without actually attempting to emulate it? In truth, I seem to have devolved to my pre-CA mindset, in which I simply don't care. About anything. Which is most definitely not a good sign.

Anyway, I see that it's time for Torchwood, on the BBC. I'll be back later.



The aforementioned are distractions, of course, to which I easily allow myself to succumb. Distractions from what, I suppose, is the question. From school, I guess, though, truth be told, I never needed much of a distraction to keep me from doing homework. That always came naturally, the procrastination.

There are other distractions as well, aside from the stories into which I escape. There is a distinct lack of quiet around the house, which is certainly no one's fault. It's a home. People live here, visit here. Nieces and nephews sleep over. Grandmothers fall asleep on couches. There's arguing and yelling, a constant background din, from which there truly is no escape. Not within the walls of the house, that is. But where else am I to go? A library, perhaps, or a coffee house. But surely I can find myself as easily distracted there as here, so why not stay here and be distracted in familiarity and comfort.

Maybe the stories, be they books or television, distract me from the greater distractions of the household. While I cannot concentrate enough to research a paper or write a story, it takes far less effort to read a novel or watch a DVD.

I find myself wondering what the point of it all is, especially when I see my grandmother lose her mind as she seems to be doing, forgetting people, family, her own son. Life is a journey, however, not a destination. Just because we may reach a point where we cannot remember who we are or what we've done is no reason not to live.

There's a line from Star Trek: The Next Generation, from the cybernetic species, the Borg, that goes, "Resistance is futile," referring to the notion that conformity leads to a better world for everyone. Lately I've come to think of it as, "Existence is futile," meaning that existing in the world is not the same thing as living in it, experiencing it. To merely exist without the experience is not truly living. Yet that seems to be what I'm doing, existing. Taking up space, wasting oxygen, wasting time.

I need to get back to living my life instead of being an innocent bystander in it. I'm afraid, however, that I can't remember how, if I ever knew...


Promises Kept

On its surface, Eastern Promises, the latest film from Canadian auteur David Cronenberg, could appear to be nothing more than a bit of postmodern crime noir fluff - stylishly filmed, but devoid of the deeper meaning Cronenberg devotees have come to expect. As that initial superficial layer is peeled back, however, this story about identity, family and loyalty reveals its true, beautiful, brutal nature.

After a 14-year-old Russian prostitute dies during childbirth, Anna, a midwife at a London hospital, becomes determined to reunite the orphaned baby girl with her family. Anna (a beautifully haunted Naomi Watts) discovers a diary amidst the dead mother’s personal effects, but she needs someone who speaks Russian to translate it. Her path quickly leads her to Semyon (Armin Mueller-Stahl is terrifyingly brilliant), who, as the monstrous head of the Vory V Zakone crime syndicate, specializes in sex trafficking while masquerading as the grandfatherly owner of an upscale Russian restaurant.

It is at Semyon’s restaurant where Anna first meets Nikolai, played with ice-cold precision by Viggo Mortensen. If you’re only familiar with Mortensen as the returned king Aragorn from The Lord of the Rings, he is virtually unrecognizable behind a military-grade buzz cut and masterful Russian accent. Nikolai is the chauffer for Semyon’s wild, psychotic son, Kirill, played with wonderful intensity by French actor Vincent Cassel.

Cronenberg wields the tight, well-paced script from Steve Knight, whose credits include the disturbing 2002 film Dirty Pretty Things, which delved into the seedy underbelly of London’s human organ black market, like a true master. Every scene is filmed with an intimate intensity rarely seen these days, particularly the violence that seems to permeate every one of his films, from early ‘80s cult classics Scanners and Videodrome to 2005’s Oscar-nominated A History of Violence (also starring Mortensen). Rather than shy away from the harsh nature of his characters, Cronenberg lingers, like when Nikolai is charged with disposing of a body, frozen inside a large freezer.

After thawing the corpse with a hair dryer, Nikolai grasps a pair of pliers and goes to work on the dead man’s fingers, clipping them with a practiced restraint, to render the body unidentifiable. Where another director might cut the scene, Cronenberg urges us to watch, to feel not only the brutality of the violence, but the consequences as well.

The infamous bathhouse scene, in which a pair of thugs attacks a nude Nikolai, underscores Cronenberg’s fascination with violence and human behavior. Instead of glorifying his protagonist in battle, Cronenberg creates a messy, uncoordinated, intense scramble for survival. Nikolai is beaten and stabbed repeatedly, viciously, and we feel every visceral blow.

Between the short, angry spurts of bloodshed, Promises questions an even more fundamental principle: who are we?

In her quest to find the baby’s family, Anna struggles to understand the Russian heritage that courses through her veins. She is thrust into a world she does not understand and can only begin to fathom, endangering not only her life, but also that of her racist Russian-born uncle, Stepan (the marvelously cast Polish director Jerzy Skolimowski). We don’t begin to understand Anna’s absolute need to find the baby’s family until Stepan, after turning down his niece’s request to translate the diary, believing the dead girl’s secrets should die with her, tells Anna that the reason her own baby died inside her was that the father was a black man.

Nikolai has an even greater crisis of self. As he stands before a mafia tribunal, we see, per Russian mob custom, the entire history of his life tattooed across his body, from the gangs he’s been a member of to what prisons he’s been incarcerated within. After all he’s been through, is he still a man? Does he have a soul? Or is he simply an accumulation of experiences and skills, a tool, to be brandished by his mafia masters?

In Eastern Promises, the horror of who we are is splayed out in front of us and it’s up to us to interpret it on our own. Cronenberg sees his job as posing difficult questions, not comforting us with cookie-cutter answers, which is something he’s been doing masterfully for over 30 years.



Y'all need to watch this BBC show called Jekyll. It's one of the best shows I've ever seen. It's a modern day version, a sequel, if you will, to Robert Louis Stevenson's classic novel, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The six episode series is about a research scientist, Tom Jackman, and his slow, terrifying realization that the body he inhabits is not his alone, but something he must share with his dark alter ego.

The lead actor, James Nesbitt, plays both Dr. Jackman and the creature who comes to be known as Mr. Hyde, and he's just so amazing. In the blink of an eye he goes from somewhat nerdy, mild-mannered nebbish to horrific, rabid monster. He straightens his posture, slicks back his hair, changes his vocal inflections, and suddenly he's this whole other person. He's utterly brilliant in the role.

I honestly can't recommend this show highly enough. Buy it, rent it, download it, do whatever you gotta do to see this show.

In other news, I'm sick. Again. Second time this year? Maybe third. Throat's getting a bit sore, nose is equally stuffed up and runny, and my head is all fuzzy. Got a doctor's appointment tomorrow afternoon. It's probably just a cold, but better safe than sorry. Maybe I'll feel better in the morning and be able to go in to work, but right now I know that I'd much rather stay in bed all morning.



Does anyone outside the media actually give a shit about O.J. Simpson and his latest run-in with police? I sure as hell don't. No one I've asked in person about this gives a shit, yet every channel, whether it's a sports channel or a regular news channel, is covering this like he killed someone. And we all know that's sooooo 12 years ago.

My grandmother's memory issues seem a bit more pronounced upon her return from visiting my brother's family with my parents and sister this past weekend. I'm not quite sure where to begin, with her wondering who my mother was or with her worrying about my nephew, asking who he belongs to and fretting over him like he's some Dickensian waif with no home or family to take care of him. It's starting to get pretty ridiculous. She doesn't eat when she's by herself. When she walks, it's like she's drunk, staggering this way and that, clinging to the wall for support.

I finished William Gibson's Spook Country over the weekend. Great book. One of his best. I then began Greg Rucka's newest Atticus Kodiak novel, Patriot Acts, which I should be done with by the end of the week. His books are always quick reads.

I suppose I should head to campus. More later...


Happy bin Laden Day

I hate bin Laden, for what he did six years ago this morning, certainly, but mostly for what happened subsequently to the actual attack on September 11, 2001. He won.

The goal of a terrorist is to fuel and spread terror. Fear. And he succeeded, with a not inconsequential helping hand from the leadership of this country. No one has done a better job of spreading fear and terror than President Bush and his minions. Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rove, Chertoff, Ashcroft, Gonzales. They all had much more of a hand in crafting this Orwellian nightmare than bin Laden did. All he had to do was sit back and watch.

A month or so ago, Rudy Giuliani, who, up until 9/11 was considered to be a pretty shitty mayor, said in a speech that if you didn't want another terror attack in America, you have to vote Republican. That's what he said. He said that if you don't vote against the Democrats, you will die.

That is exactly the kind of world bin Laden wanted us to live in, and we are. A world where our so-called leaders spend every moment of every day thinking of new ways in which to scare the citizenry of the United States. They want to frighten us in the worst way, because they believe that with unbridled fear comes unwavering support. They believe that they can continually use the bogeyman of 9/11, the spectre of another terrorist attack on America, to cow their opposition, to quash dissent and to stay in power, uncontested, forever.

Bin Laden knocked a couple buildings down and murdered 3,000 people. Bush and his cronies have willingly and willfully killed nearly 4,000 American soldiers by sending them into an impossible, never ending war, and they tell us our soldiers must stay there, dying, because "we have to fight them over there so we don't have to fight them at home."


My niece was born six years ago tonight, into a world I barely recognize anymore. A world changed not by Osama bin Laden and some crazy assholes from Saudi Arabia, but by the people we charged with protecting us.

Happy birthday, Charlize. I'm sorry for what we let happen to your future. We're trying to fix it, but it might take a while.


Too much pie

It's been a little while since I posted my little comments reminder:

I welcome any and all comments, positive or negative, regarding absolutely anything I write on this blog; however, if there isn't a name of some kind attached to the comment, be it your real name or your Blogger name, the comment will remain unread and be discarded. If you haven't the courage to stand by your opinion and let us know who you are, your opinion means less than nothing to me.

This has been a public service announcement. We now return you to your regularly scheduled idiotic ramblings...

My grandmother took my father and I to lunch this afternoon. Well, technically, we took her, but she paid, so that was nice of her. Just had a burger and fries. But then the waitress asked if we wanted any dessert, and Dad got some peach pie, and I hemmed and hawed for a moment before ordering a slice of cherry pie, even though I was kinda full from the burger and didn't really need it.

Didn't stop me from eating most of it, though. So tasty. And now I'm payin' for it.

Today is Aussie's birthday, so Happy Birthday, Aussie! I guess a bunch of us at meeting at a bar downtown tonight, so that'll be fun. I hope I remember to bring the DVDs that I borrowed from him, like, over a year ago, with me to give back to him. He probably forget he even owned them at one point, so he'll just think they're a gift from me.

I need to write a five to 15 page story for my fiction studio by Wednesday. I'm to be "workshopped" in two and a half weeks and the instructor needs the stories two weeks ahead of time so he can get them copied. I can make copies myself and bring them next week, which would give me an extra week to work on the story (i.e. procrastinate), but no. He seemed pretty certain he needed to be the one to make the copies. So, whatever. I can bang out five pages in an evening. I just need to decide what I want to write about.

Football season is upon us once again. The Steelers open their year tomorrow against the Cleveland Browns. My brother-in-law and nephew will surely be here at noon, wearing their Steeler jerseys, for the opening kickoff. I won't bore anyone with some sort NFL season preview. Honestly, I don't care all that much anymore. I'd like the Steelers (and mine and my father's fantasy football team) to do well. That's about the extent of my enthusiasm this year, at least until the playoffs.

Brian K. Vaughan's Buffy: Season Eight arc began this week, with the sixth issue of the Dark Horse comic. We're finding out what Faith has been up to in the year and a half since Sunnydale went poof. While Whedon's initial arc was good, it had the burden of orienting us, the readers, as to what happened between the end of season seven and the beginning of this new comic series. It had some cool beats, some amazing moments that Whedon never could have accomplished on the small screen, but overall it was a little clunky. Vaughan, I think, will have a much more streamlined and organic storyline, as evidenced by his fantastic first issue.

(I'm in the middle of season three of the Angel DVDs. Halfway done with the series.)

For anyone I neglected to email, regarding movie night, my apologies. It's Saturday the 15th, around 6 or 7. Email me for more details if you're interested.


Crooked Little Vein

The debut novel from Warren Ellis is a short, nasty piece of work, filled with all manner of depravity and perversion, and us Ellis acolytes wouldn't have it any other way.

Crooked Little Vein is a detective story, a road trip and a guided tour of the dark, twisted underbelly of American society as seen through the eyes of a seemingly perpetually drunk and surly British writer, all rolled into one.

Mike McGill is a private eye in New York City. He is, as he likes to put it, "a shit magnet." Weird, freaky things and people constantly seem to happen to him, such as, at the beginning of this novel, a creeky, crusty old presidential chief of staff who injects heroin and monkey crap into his veins ("I have a cage of genetically modified green monkies that express anti-cancer pharmaceuticals in their feces. Once a day I have to inject dilute monkey turds. But it's better than dying, yes?") hiring Mike to find the second, secret Constitution of the United States. It seems that the Founding Fathers had a backup plan in case America went all manner of fucked, but it's gone missing.

So, armed with $500,000 of your tax dollars and a pretty, young, tattooed sex fiend ...

Trix was twenty-three, lived in the village, and had three girlfriends and two boyfriends ... "Polyamory doesn't mean I'm a slut. It just means that I have a lot of love to give and I want a lot of people in my life."

... Mike quests across the country in search of a 200+ year old book that can "fix" America. Along the way he meets all manner of colorful characters, like the rich, old Texas oil man who, while naked, strangles cows with a garrote given to him by G. Gordon Liddy and then sucks on their udders, and the group of gay men in Ohio who insist on injecting Mike's testicles with enough saline to expand his nutsack to the size of bowling balls before they'll help him.

And don't even get me started on the Godzilla bukkake.

Vein is pure Ellis from the word go. If you're a fan of Transmetropolitan or any of his other works, you'll enjoy it. And if you're not already a fan, well, I'm sure you're already screaming and running in the opposite direction.


Happy Happys

Not only is today Labor Day, it's also the fourth birthday of one of my nieces, Emma, my sister's daughter, as well as the 40th wedding anniversary of my parents, who are hosting a mishpocha BBQ tonight at the house, because, as my father explains it, "We always go to other people's homes for dinners and parties; we should have them over here." So today, Labor Day, my mother will be running around like a chicken with its head cut off, in a vain attempt to make the house presentable for guests, namely my brother-in-law's family.

Happy Anniversary, Mom & Dad. As my father likes to put it, they've been happily married for 32 years, which, out of 40, isn't too bad.

And Happy Birthday, Emma, though I'm fairly certain you won't be reading this anytime soon.

Quick update regarding my car: the guy from Triple A who looked at it and decided the problem was the alternator was kind of a schmuck. After two days of putzing around with the damn car, taking it to the service shop, wasting their time, it turns out that the only problem was the dead battery. Fortunately, my battery was still under warranty from when I had it replaced two years ago, so it was free. And the service shop only charged me about $27 for labor. I would like to send that ultimately unnecessary bill to Triple A and let them reimburse me for it since, without their "expertise," I never would have had to pay it in the first place.

I have a few chapters to read for my various classes today. I'm assuming I won't have the time nor the inclination to do so tonight, with all the people here. And I need to start writing the editorial that's due for my Thursday night critical writing class. I think I'm going to write about disgraced, soon-to-be-former Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) and the hypocrisy of the GOP for throwing him under the bus because of his gay sex scandal, while another Republican congressman, David Vitter, admitted to much the same thing, a sex scandal involving prostitutes and the "DC Madam," only he was allowed to keep his job for no reason other than his scandal was hetero in nature.

This is a major problem in our country that doesn't need to be a problem, that shouldn't be a problem, not anymore. We're in the 21st century, for cryin' out loud, and there's still all this bigotry and prejudice (disguised as "morals" and "values") simply because people are, GASP, different from one another. This country was founded upon the ideal that all men (and eventually women, and, you know, some minorities) are created equal, but we all know that's not the case, at least not in the eyes of the conservative rightwing whackjobs who want to control our lives.

If they would stop demonizing homosexuality, then perhaps men like Senator Craig wouldn't have to solicit sex in airport bathrooms (which, despite his denials that he's not gay, is what he essentially pled guilty to). If conservatives and so-called Christians would only stop trying to force shame and scorn upon people who don't deserve it, people whose only crime (or sin, if you're into that kinda talk) was to be born a little different from the right's misguided and puritanical ideal of "normal," then people wouldn't feel the need to hide who they really are out of fear of retribution from holier-than-thou bigots.

So...think I can get a decent editorial out of all that?