2/26/2008

Home

Plane landed in Omaha a little after midnight. Tired now. San Francisco was good. Rose & Johnny were fantastic hosts, and it was wonderful of them to let me crash in their home for a few days. I hope I wasn't too intrusive a guest. WonderCon was fun. Long days. Feet still hurt from the endless standing and walking. Throat is a bit rough from the seemingly endless talking. I was able to catch up with some friends, got a couple sketches and some cool graphic novels. The BOOM! booth was right across the aisle from the CBLDF booth. It was great to see them again. It's too bad Cody didn't make the trip, but I got to talk to Ross and Chip and Mike and Daniel a little bit. I met an editor who works at IDW. Seemed like a nice guy. We talked for a while at the Isotope party Friday night. I'll have to email him later this week. Bedtime now. More later when I'm more coherent.

2/20/2008

Left my **** in San Francisco

I'm flying out to San Francisco tomorrow (Thursday), to see Rose & Johnny for the first time since their wedding back in October, and to attend WonderCon, the first major comic book convention of the year, where I hope to hobnob with various publishers and editors and try to find out who might have employment opportunities in August, when I graduate. I'm not really putting much faith in the idea that I'll find someone this weekend who'd be willing to hire me. Graduation is still months away, after all.

At the very least, I'm looking upon this weekend as a chance to catch up with friends, see a little more of the city, and snag some cool autographs and sketches. Which reminds me, I need to find my sketchbook. I'm just looking to relax for a few days away from home, something I haven't had much of a chance to do for a while.

I fly out around 3:30 in the afternoon, and I get home Monday night, around midnight, if I'm lucky. Suffice it to say, there's a very good chance I may not be attending my Tuesday morning class next week. I'll have my phone with me, of course, if anyone needs me for anything. I'm not sure what my internet connectivity is going to be like, so emails may not be replied to for a few days and the blog might not be updated until next week. I'll be sure to upload plenty of pictures when I get back.

All y'all be good while I'm gone.

2/17/2008

Don't write crap

I spent the past two days at Creighton, where I attended the Omaha Film Festival Screenwriting Conference. I know, I know. You're saying, "Omaha has a film festival?" Yes, it does. This is its third year and its been pretty successful for the past couple years, and this week should be no exception.

The screenwriting conference is something new, though. At least, I don't remember reading anything about it the last couple years, so I'll assume it was new for this year. They brought in some screenwriters and editors, some of whom have ties to Nebraska, including Jon Bokenkamp (Taking Lives, Perfect Stranger) and Academy Award winner Mike Hill (Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind, and pretty much every other Ron Howard movie).

Also in attendance was Josh Stolberg (Passion of the Ark, which became Evan Almighty, Good Luck Chuck), who's not from Omaha, though he does have family here. As both Josh and Jon were quick to point out, just because their names are on the aforementioned films, that doesn't mean that what you see on the screen is what they wrote. It's a long, arduous process from writing your original script to the movie being in production, and a lot of people have ample opportunity to fuck up the script along the way, which means, in essence, they take no responsibility for the crappy films to which their names are attached.

Shane Black (Lethal Weapon, Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang) was supposed to be in attendance also, but he had something of a trip from hell from L.A. to Omaha and he didn't arrive until just a few hours ago, so he missed the panels he was scheduled to speak at. He will be at the screening of Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang tonight, though, and taking part in a Q&A session afterwards. I just need to decide if I'm up for going. I'm awfully tired for some reason. It's been a long weekend of sitting and listening to people talk about movies.

The conference itself, the panels and seminars, were all fun and interesting, but I don't think I really learned anything new from anyone, as far as writing and storytelling goes. I heard a lot of great stories, behind-the-scenes-of-Hollywood-type stuff, which were very entertaining and sometimes cautionary, but as far as the craft of screenwriting goes, well, the title of this blog post really sums up everything you really need to know. Don't write crap (thanks for that post-it note, Alissa). If you don't write crap, you've got a chance. The actual writing process itself, it's different for everyone, so it's not something you can really learn from a seminar or a book.

I'm not sure how many of the film festival movies I'm going to get to see, what with school and all. I should have gotten some writing done this weekend, but I was at the screenwriting conference. Oh, the irony. I got a little done in between speakers, and I've still got some time for the couple assignments I have due in the next couple weeks, so, as usual, I'm none too worried.

I just wish I had more time to devote to writing for myself instead of for class. I keep telling myself it'll come soon, after I graduate, and I may just be fooling myself into thinking that, but, as I've told myself for the past three years, school comes first. Everything else can wait.

2/12/2008

Bloody hell

So it turns out that, after this semester, I'm still two credits shy of actually graduating from college. All graduates are required to have 125 earned credit hours before they can, well, graduate, and, with the 16 credit hours I'm currently enrolled in, I'll have only 123.

Bummer. Big freakin' bummer.

I spent half of last semester, all of winter break, and now the first month of this semester under the impression that I was finally finished. That this was gonna be it. My advisor thought the same thing. Neither of us thought to actually do the math. We were just looking at required courses, what I needed to take in the School of Communication, but we never looked at the credit hours I had accumulated until last week.

The only reason I signed up for 16 credit hours this semester was because I was done, this was it, so I figured I could slog through the five classes, which is more than I've ever been enrolled in at one time before. I was unsure of myself, if I could get through five classes, get the work done, etc., and things have been going along pretty well so far, but I was starting to feel a little overwhelmed. And I know it's going to just get worse as the semester progresses.

So, what I think I'm going to do is, I'm going to drop one of my five classes and then take two over the summer. This will lighten my load for this semester and make me eligible for financial aid for the summer classes. You need to take six credit hours over the summer for the financial aid, which I wouldn't get if I were to only take one class. And then I'll graduate in August instead of May, which kinda sucks, but mainly only because I thought I was gonna be done in May. If I had known I was two credits shy going into this semester, it wouldn't have annoyed me as much when I found out.

Anyway. That's my week so far in a nutshell. How's everyone else doin'?

2/09/2008

Nebraska Democratic Caucus '08!


For the first time in 44 years, Nebraska Democrats held a caucus to determine who they want as their nominee in this year's presidential election. At caucus sites across the state, Obama and Clinton supporters (and undecideds) showed up in record numbers. (I don't have any evidence to back up that particular claim, but c'mon, the last caucus was in 1964. I'd like to think there are more Democrats in the state these days.)

I live in District 20, which stretches west to east from 132nd to 39th Streets and north to south from Pacific to I-80. Our caucus site was Westside High School (where I took my ACTs, or maybe it was the SATs, or both, way back in the day). The caucus was scheduled to begin at 10 a.m., with registration starting at 9:15 a.m. Dad and I got there around nine o'clock and the main parking lot in the front of the school was already full. We drove around the back of the school and parked near the baseball field.

Staying true to the spirit of the Democratic Party, registration was, initially, completely disorganized, with everyone milling about inside the school's main entrance, shuffling their feet and wondering how, exactly, a caucus works. No one, it seemed, had every caucused before and everyone was curious about the process.

Eventually the volunteers put up signs that directed us to line up by last name, A-C, D-G, H-K, etc. Once they actually began signing people in, it took about 20 minutes for us to go from the outer doors to the front of the line. As you can see in the above picture, taken after Dad and I signed in, the line of people still waiting to get their feet in the door was HUGE. The caucus, which was supposed to begin at ten o'clock probably didn't start until closer to ten-thirty, and even then, people were still filing into the theatre where the actual caucusing was to take place.

The organizers, and I use that term loosely, split the theatre into three sections: Obama supporters on the left, Clinton supporters on the right, and undecideds in the middle. Dad and I noticed pretty quickly, and with much glee, that the Obama side was a lot more crowded than the Clinton side. People were standing on the outside of the section, against the wall, and they were up in the balcony, as well. The organizers started to allow Obama supporters up on the stage because there were so many of us.

There was a lot of energy in the room. People were really fired up and excited to be taking part in the democratic process in this manner. The way a caucus works is, once everyone is signed in and has picked a side (Obama, Clinton or undecided), they do an initial count to make sure each group makes up at least 15% of the whole, which the Obama and Clinton sides did easily. The undecideds, however, only numbered about 50 or 60, so they, in essence, were not allowed to remain undecided. If you're part of a group that has less than 15% of the whole, you need to side with one of the larger groups or your vote doesn't count.

After the initial count, the Obama side had over 600 supporters in attendance and the Clinton supporters numbered about half that. It was basically a two-thirds to one-third split. That's about a thousand people who showed up from District 20, which, packed into a relatively smallish theatre, seemed like a whole helluva lot of people. It was wonderful to see so many people at the caucus, and such a diverse group it was, too. There were old people, young people (I even saw a few Obama babies; start 'em while they're young, I say), white people, a few black people (this is West O, after all), men, women. The amount of young people was pretty impressive. There's a reason almost every caucus and primary to date has recorded record numbers of participants and it's because young people, 18 - 30 year olds, are finally coming out and voting. Here's hoping the trend continues and they don't forget to come out for the general election in November.

After the initial count, both sides, Obama and Clinton, then had five minutes to woo the undecideds, which turned into a pretty raucous affair. The Obama side would alternately chant "O-ba-ma!" and "Yes We Can!" while the Clinton side would chant ... well, I couldn't exactly hear what they were saying. I was too busy with my Obama chants. Each side had designated one person to give a little speech to make their case for their candidate. Our Obama leader was none other than former radio personality Otis Twelve, who told us he worked for the Bobby Kennedy campaign in 1968 and that no one else has inspired him like that until now, until Barack Obama.

After the five minute wooing period, a count was taken of the undecideds who had, well, decided. The Obama crowd had picked up close to 30, while Clinton had gotten maybe 10. Then there was another five minute wooing period to try to sway the remaining 10 or so undecideds, followed by the final count tally. I don't have the final numbers yet. I'm sure they won't be all counted until later this afternoon, but it's a safe bet that Obama won two-thirds of District 20.

District 20 has 11 delegates, which will be split along that two-thirds/one-third line, so Obama will probably get seven delegates and Clinton will get four. I'm looking forward to seeing how the rest of the state turned out. I'll post an update with the final numbers when they come in tonight.

I had a lot of fun at my first caucus. Once they got things rolling, it really didn't take that long at all, maybe an hour. And being surrounded by nearly 1000 passionate voters was an amazing experience. It gives me a little bit of hope that, regardless of who wins the Democratic nomination, Nebraska might finally turn blue. Not a lot of hope, mind you, but at least a little.

I sure hope Obama wins that nomination. I fear that McCain would beat Hillary in the general election, but Obama, Obama would siphon off the McCain independents, as well as some moderate Republicans. Hillary, I believe, would have the opposite effect, driving the independents, and even some moderate Democrats, to vote for McCain. There are only nine months until the general election. Just keep telling yourself that. Only nine more months.

More caucus pictures at my Flickr page.

::UPDATE - 2/10/08 10:32 AM::

I don't think I've ever been as proud of Nebraskans as I was last night when I saw the first election results coming in. Statewide, Nebraskans chose Obama over Clinton by a 2-1 margin. In my congressional district alone, District 2, Obama won by a margin of more than 3-1. More than 75% of caucus-goers in District 2 caucused for Obama. That's pretty damn impressive if you ask me.

Of course, come November, the state will probably still go to McCain. But that's why it's called Hope.

2/02/2008

There Will Be Blood

There Will Be Blood certainly lives up to its title, both metaphorically and literally. Blood is shed, to be sure, but blood comes in many forms, be it the life-giving crimson liquid pumping through our veins, or the ties that bind families, blood-related or otherwise. The movie is a fascinating character study of a turn-of-the-century oilman, played by Daniel Day-Lewis with his usual explosive intensity. He is, without a doubt, the finest method actor working today. Day-Lewis completely disappears inside his characters, whether he's playing a Mohican Indian or a vicious New York butcher, and Daniel Plainview, the would-be oil baron, is no different.

Paul Thomas Anderson, whose previous films include the porn industry epic, Boogie Nights, and Punch-Drunk Love, for which he coaxed from Adam Sandler his finest performance to date, has crafted a dark (and darkly humorous), complex story about a country's descent into capitalism and godlessness, and the type of men who would let nothing stand between them and their fortunes.

Very loosely based on a novel by Upton Sinclair, There Will Be Blood follows Plainview on his journey from silver miner to oil prospector. He travels the West, going to potentially oil-rich counties and, with a little help from a young son he acquired after a drilling accident, talks people into selling him their land so he can dig for oil. One day, a young man comes to see Plainview, and the young man tells him about his family's ranch in California, in a town called Little Boston, where oil is seeping up from the ground. Plainview gives the young man $500 for this information and heads west to verify the young man's claim.

Plainview indeed finds oil in Little Boston and proceeds to buy up all the land in the area. He comes into contact with the twin brother of the young man who sent him there, Eli Sunday (Paul Dano, in a wonderfully devious performance), an evangelical preacher who has dollar signs as well as Jesus in his heart. What follows is a visceral, volatile struggle for both their souls and, perhaps, the soul of a nation.

Greed, God and oil, the very ideals America was built on.

Shot by Roger Deakins, who also served as director of photography on No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood looks absolutely amazing. Never has America looked so beautifully bleak as it does in these two films. Deakins has such a masterful eye for framing and lighting a movie, even the most innocuous of images carries such weight and gravitas. When an oil well catches fire and the flame shoots up and engulfs the oil derrick, it's simply an incredible sight to behold, the orange and red flames roaring against a darkening sky.

I won't go so far as to say There Will Be Blood was the best movie of 2007. That honor still belongs to the grim, desolate violence of No Country for Old Men, in my ever-so-humble estimation. But it's certainly one of the top movies of the year, and perhaps one of the best of the last several years. It's by far Paul Thomas Anderson's finest film, an American Gothic epic for the 21st century.