Why I Bought a Kindle

Yep, you read that right. I am now the proud owner of a Kindle, despite discussing my skepticism of ereaders earlier this year. I suppose it might seem odd that I’ve made the leap considering my stance that paper books are here to stay, but I do think the two worlds can co-exist.

One of the things that changed over the past six months is that the Kindle dropped in price to be competitive with the iPad and other ereader offerings from Borders and Barnes and Noble. Once the price tag came down to $189, buying one started sounding a lot more reasonable to me.

I did check out some of the competitive offerings before I went with the Kindle. The wi-fi Nook from Barnes and Noble has a price point of $149 and some decent features, but when I got my hands on one in the store, I wasn’t too impressed with the navigation screen at the bottom of the reader. I also felt like the PDF features on the Kindle were worth spending a little bit more, as was the more robust software and online store. The Kobo from Borders didn’t really come into play just because it doesn’t have wifi or 3g capability.

However, price wasn’t the only deciding factor. I’m currently in the process of moving to a new apartment, and I’m starting to realize that owning several hundred books is actually a complete pain in the ass. When I was packing, I filled a dozen or so small boxes and still had half a bookcase of books left to pack. After carting an endless number of boxes across town, I’m definitely starting to understand that the most practical solution would be to make my new book purchases digital-only. It’s either that or I keep buying bookshelves and never move again.

Also, now that I’ve actually got a Kindle to play with, I’m starting to discover other benefits. One of the biggest is that there are a lot of free ebooks out there in the world. One of the best resources is ManyBooks.net, which provides downloads of basically every ebook format under the sun.

Most of the books on that site are ones that were published before 1923 and are in the public domain, but that basically means I’ll never have to buy a copy of a classic book ever again. Naturally, I downloaded the most intimidating tomes that came to mind: War and Peace and Ulysses. There are also fantastic modern authors like Cory DoctorowCharles Stross, and Kelly Link who release downloadable versions of their books. It didn’t take me long to stock my Kindle full of a pretty decent list of reading material.

Another nice thing about the Kindle is that it is pretty easy to read it one-handed, or lay it flat and read while eating. This is a big deal for me, since I do most of my reading during my lunch breaks. Obviously this means I’ll have to be extra-careful about spills and spaghetti sauce on my hands, but it’s a decent trade-off. I won’t have to warp a paperback out of shape just to keep it open while I’m eating.

Long story short, I’m pretty happy with my purchase so far. It doesn’t mean I’m going to stop going to the library, or buying the occasional used book at Half-Price books, but I’m hoping it will prevent me from someday suffocating to death under a pile of unread books. Or at least make my next move a little bit easier.

Priorities

Alright, as you may know, I own a lot of books, and most of the books I own are ones I’ve bought and haven’t read yet. I read constantly, and yet my book collection never seems to get any smaller. Funny how that works. Anyways, lately I’ve been trying to focus on reading books I already own, and to help myself out, I’ve made a priority pile of books that I want to make sure and read this year:

From left to right:

A Madness of Angels by Kate Griffen, Kushiel’s Chosen by Jacqueline Carey, Bite Me by Christopher Moore, The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan, Horns by Joe Hill, Sleepless by Charlie Huston, Under The Dome by Stephen King, Going in Circles by Pamela Ribon, Ariel by Steven R. Boyett, Changeless by Gail Carriger, Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch, Cuba Libre by Elmore Leonard, Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany, The Shadow of The Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet by David Mitchell.

A lot of these are fairly recent purchases, but a handful of them are books I’ve had knocking around for years and years, with Cuba Libre and Dhalgren probably being the oldest. I can distinctly remember owning Cuba Libre when I was a freshman in college, and I know I read the first few chapters of Dhalgren sometime around then as well. As for the David Mitchell book, it’s an Early Reader from LibraryThing, and I have to read it within the next few months to receive any more books from the program.

I think this could be a good way to make my book collection more manageable. By setting aside a specific pile of books that I can make smaller over the next few months, it might feel more like I’m putting an actual dent in my collection.

On Writing (Taking a Really Long Time to Bear Fruit)

Just a quick post to point out a nice long post John Scalzi made re: the dedication/stamina/stubbornness necessarily to write and get published as a novelist. Here’s a choice pull-quote I can relate to:

[Some writers] start writing something that they thought might be a book-length idea, only to find not only did it not qualify as a short story, it was better for everyone involved if the stunted, weird thing was taken behind the tool shed, whacked with a shovel and buried without anyone else knowing it ever existed.

From “Why New Novelists are Kinda Old, or, Hey, Publishing is Slow“.

Publicity Stills From “Will Eisner’s The Spirit”

Scarlett Johanssen as \"Silken Floss\"

Samuel L. Jackson as \"The Octopus\"

IGN has a few more stills, but they’re all behind the scenes stuff. Never heard of “The Spirit“? It’s Frank Miller’s first foray as a director by himself – his follow-up to Sin City (which is probably why it has a similar visual style). As for Will Eisner, he was one of the most influential comic book artists of all time, basically one of the first to write a long-form comic or “graphic novel” and establish it as a viable form of literature.

Levar Burton Would be Proud

Mr. Burton doing his rainbow thing.

I have always been a fan of bookstores and regular book-buying. In fact, I will fully admit that I have bought books simply because I liked the cover and decided the blurb was trustworthy enough. My collection of unread books now spans two bookshelves, one waist-high and one full-sized.

I haven’t always had a giant collection of unread books, mind you… back in high school, I’m fairly sure I read books as soon as I bought them or checked them out of the library. At the very least, I used to read every day of the week, sometimes (well, a lot of the time, actually…) during my deadly dull Economics class in high school…

At a certain point in college, however, I lost the knack of daily reading… but I kept buying books at the same rate. A few years later and I find myself with overflowing shelves. At points I’ve felt vaguely guilty about not reading them… I like collecting books, and I fully intend on reading all of those books at some point in my life, but for a long time the balance has been tipped more towards guilt than action.

Earlier this year, however, I read about a trend/meme/whatever where a number of bloggers wrote about taking on a challenge to read 52 books in a year… i.e. one book a week. I could never pin down who came up with this particular challenge first (perhaps it sprang full-formed from the brow of Blogger.com, or maybe it was this guy) but I liked the idea, and it definitely seems do-able because I’ve come close before. I’ve been keeping track of the books I read for the past few years, partially because I wanted to gauge my rate of reading, but also because I like making lists and rating things.

For example: in 2005 I read 41 books total. In 2006 the number dipped slightly to 37… and so far this year I’ve finished reading 15 books, which is just slightly behind one book a week. In those totals I’m including a decent number of audiobooks and graphic novels, both of which some people might frown upon as lesser forms of reading (to which I say “nyeh!”).

However, just from those recent numbers, I think 52 books is well within my reach this year. Hell, it’s probably fair to say that reading more than two books in a year of any kind is more than most folks manage, so I’ve already got a pretty healthy taste for reading to help me along. If you’re curious about my reading habits, I’ve been tracking the whole thing on my library page.

What has helped me keep reading lately is that I have stopped driving home for my lunch break. This means that instead of getting back to work a few minutes late and barely having time to finish a commercial-free television show in the process, I can sit and read a good 40-50 pages on an average day.

The great thing about this is that just exposing myself to reading every day has given me the reading bug once again, and I’ve really been enjoying reading a lot lately, finding it much easier to focus on a book for a few hours every day. Guilt hasn’t really been coming into the picture, either. I’ve been reading lately not because I think I should be reading, but because I genuinely want to sit down and read something. At the rate I’m going I think I could get on a roll and beat 52 books this year… hooray for goals!

John Hodgman: Not Just a PC, Also Funny

I listened to “The Areas of My Expertise”:http://www.amazon.com/Areas-My-Expertise-John-Hodgman/dp/0143059092/ by John Hodgman today while doing the dishes and cleaning up around my apartment. Hodgman is absolutely hilarious, and definitely needs to write another book and/or get more work (besides those lovable “‘Get A Mac’ commercials”:http://www.apple.com/getamac/.) Here’s an excerpt from the book:

Attack Ad #2: /mp3/hodgman.mp3

cathedral for a while

so tonight we had another of our bi-weekly meetings about the show we’re trying to put together. personally, i’ve been impressed that we’ve been actually meeting every two weeks. to me that’s a pretty decent level of commitment – having a core group of people that managed to show up regularly to talk about the same thing. i definitely feel like we’ve had some formless meetings (the one where we basically watched the oscars instead was kind of… less focused), but tonight was good.

for most of the meeting we went over stuff that we’ve been trying to pin down for a while. we’ve now got a tentative date and a tentative venue, but i think we’re all still kind of fuzzy on the actual parameters of this event we’re going to have. we sidestepped that issue by planning a party for three weeks from now. the idea behind the party is that it’ll be sort of a test run for the event itself – we’ll gather people around in a party atmosphere, and then at a certain point in the night we’ll pull everyone into the living room and folks will start performing (poetry, music, theatre, whatever).

the benefit of this particular way of looking at things is that pulling off a party at the yager house is a piece of cake, so taking it to that next level won’t be as hard as it would be doing the same thing in an actual venue.

the other, more palpable achievement of the night was that we picked a name for the whole… thing. the name-picking method was my suggestion. we grabbed a book (“skinny legs and all” by tom robbins) and people took turns opening it to a random page, pointing, and reading off the four words next to their finger. it’s a pretty cool way to get some interesting titles… after we had a list of about 20 good ones, we narrowed it down to “cathedral for a while”, which has a nice ring to it and fits with some of the ideas that we’ve talked about – i like the idea of making art that is both temporary and sacred, and our dada method of picking a title was appealing to all of us.

in closing, here are a few examples that i just pulled from “the demolished man” by alfred bester:

with the galaxy inside
clump of rubbery red
but it won’t help
as a war memorial
a make-believe detective
milk-white eyes disappeared
alleys were patched into
does murder turn the

and from “mort” by terry pratchett:

had a nasty forboding
away from the stranger
i just feel angry
rooftop height would have
he stuttered, trying to
the exact position that
effortlessly pronouncing a row
therefore it is prudent

This was pretty exotic stuff for a telepathic barmaid from northern Louisiana.

!/images/dead.jpg!

Lately I’ve been able to get myself to devote more time to reading. Usually only on the weekends, though. That seems to be the time that I’m most able to free myself up and branch out. Weekdays mostly consist of either vegging out or falling instantly asleep when I come home from work.

Of course, there is the odd weeknight where I go to the local laundromat and do a few very necessary loads – I got a good chunk of reading done at one this past week, although I’d be much happier if I could convince my cat(s) to never pee on my bed again, thank you very much.

Hopefully the new (bigger) litter box that now lives in the other room will help with things. I’ve also been cleaning the thing out pretty religiously, since a dirty litter box was probably the most likely cause of my recent problem.

But, back to the real subject, the reading… it’s been nice. It’s probably easier to devote more time to reading because I’m not currently caught up in any long runs of TV shows. Sure, I’ve got two sets of Smallville to watch, but I’ve been more leisurely about that; it’s a good show, but I’m not super hooked yet. (And, really, I’d like to back off on my TV show obsession at least for a short while. It is so very time consuming.)

All digressions aside, I’m currently reading a book called “Dead Until Dark”:http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0441008534/ by Charlaine Harris. It’s actually part of a series of books about a southern girl and her vampire boyfriend – I’d heard about it before, but my interest was piqued because Alan Ball, creator of Six Feet Under, is apparently developing a new show for HBO based on the books. Now that I’ve read a good chunk of the first book, I can see how it might be right up his alley. The title of this entry, by the way, is a quote from the book that particularly struck my fancy.

In fact, thanks to a cool Movable Type plugin called “Media Manager”:http://www.majordojo.com/projects/MediaManager/, I’ve got a list of books on the right-hand side of this site. The previous version of this page had a “currently reading” list thanks to an older version of the plugin. The new version, though, is pretty nice, and adds a lot of cool features. It did take a little bit of fiddling to get the plugin set up, right though… It assumed some things about my MT setup that caused problems until I did some digging and pinned them down.

In other news, I haven’t made any headway on the grad school applications. I’m not sure if I’m just procrastinating, or actively trying to talk myself out of the whole thing. And… if I am trying to talk myself out it, why exactly would I do that? Especially considering that tonight I sat down and started a new short story. I didn’t start writing it because I felt pressured to, or because I thought I should write something to use for the application… I just… had an idea and sat down to write. I didn’t write very much before I stopped, but there seems to be something key here that I’m not really grasping.

It’s not that I don’t want to be a writer… almost on an instinctual level, I _have_ to write, I need it. I can distinctly remember how good it felt to let the whole world fall away and just write and write when I sat down and wrote my plays. It was one of the most satisfying (or maybe it was the most satisfying) feelings i’ve ever had. For some reason, though, I’ve put a number of obstacles between myself and writing. Somehow it’s much easier to live my boring work-a-day life and watch tv shows instead of writing.

Then again, though, that was always the point, wasn’t it? Working on computers comes easily, almost too easily, and always has. I’ve got a knack for programming, and math and logic. That, however, seems to be one of the main reasons that I wouldn’t want to devote my life to working on computers. It’d be like sleepwalking all the time. Writing, though, is a challenge, and isn’t even really easy to get myself to do, but when I do sit down and get going with something that I’m writing, I feel awake and fully present…

To end, a mini review:

!/images/weather_man.jpg!

I watched a movie recently called “The Weather Man”:http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0384680/. I enjoyed it, although it was what the critics like to call a “downer”. I’d recommend it, though. One of the main points that the movie makes is that part of really growing up and being an adult is doing the things that are hard to do.

The whole movie is about Nicholas Cage’s journey of self discovery, and the interesting thing is that he doesn’t change that much in the course of the movie, but that is at the same time part of the revelation. He is who he is, and he can only change so much of his life. Realizing that helps him move forward and come to terms with certain things that have been troubling him. The movie does not have what you could say is a happy ending, but his character seems to have just that little bit more peace and self-understanding when it comes to a close.

White Noise

yesterday was as weird as i might have imagined, although not nearly as traumatic. i went and said hi to a handful of people, but mostly kept to myself off in a corner. it was kind of impossible to make small talk with anyone – nobody felt like nattering on about stupid little things. a lot of the people there were, as predicted, very upset. i ducked out before the reception, even though there were several people i had not said hi to… it just seemed like it would be another hour or so of uncomfortable attempts at conversation.

in other news, i finished reading “the mustache”, which is a book a bought a year or so before going to London. i started reading it on the plane, got about fifty pages in, put it down, and never looked back. it’s sort of felt like an albatross around my neck ever since – up to that point, i had never stopped reading a perfectly interesting book, and the only book i had put down because i *didn’t* like it was a tom clancy book. (now i’ve added to _that_ list with the illuminati trilogy…)

it was, fortunately, a book worth reading. i’m glad, though, that i can take it off my “unread books” shelf. next in line is White Noise, which i read two-thirds of and put down, also on the plane to London. after that is Great Expectations, which i had been listening to on audiobook for a while. i made it through the first “book” of that one, then put it down. This was about a year ago, i think.

checklist

1. seasons one through seven of buffy the vampire slayer, watched and enjoyed. i laughed, i cried, i miss it already. *check.*

1a. three more seasons of angel to watch… (hoo boy!)

2. possible new place to live (turning in application tomorrow). *check.*

2a. central air. *check.*

3. one job, boring me to tears. *check.*

3a. any idea of how to pay my bills with anything other than this job… (no check).

4. strong desire to get roaring drunk this weekend and have a really good time at the sig house on saturday night. *check.*

5. ability to finish the book i’m reading… (no check)

6. ability to sit down and be creative… (out to lunch)

7. time for bed. *check.*

closed chapters

this weekend i finished a book, finished farscape, and watched my friend eddy ride off into the proverbial sunset with his new bride.

(well, they didn’t ride… they mostly just walked up the hotel stairs to their marriage bed.)

the first was mildy disappointing (i guess even jonathan carroll can write a lame book), and the other two were bittersweet.

more than anything else, i wonder how long it will be before i see eddy again, and how much he may have changed.

i also wonder how long it will take for me to get all of my ducks in a line… will i ever make good on my dreams?

work & mr strange

so i’ve been complimented on how quickly i’ve picked up the details of my job position. apparently this department is a pretty busy one – i’ve been told the workload will probably stress me out a little until i get used to it – so when it became clear that i was pretty on point already, people were already saying “where were you months ago when we needed you?”

from what i understand, i’m going to start off doing two main things:

the first involves going through people’s applications for education discounts and reseller purchases and making sure that they’ve plugged in all the right information. this is pretty straightforward; the most important thing i have to do is make sure i don’t forget any steps, because if i do, these folks can’t make purchases. the second involves me using this special customer service e-mail program where i’ll mostly deal with customer questions involving lost passwords and accounts that don’t seem to be working.

once i’ve got myself a cubicle and all the proper login information, i’ll basically be left to my own devices, and will be able to zone out listening to music while i dot the i’s and cross the t’s. and if i’ve got any questions, everyone who can help me will be on ichat.

the benefits of being a full apple employee – as opposed to just a contracted temp like me – are pretty incredibly awesome. there’s a gym on-site for employees, they get great benefits, and there is of course the much-coveted employee discount; one time a year, you can make a big purchase like a computer, and you get *25% off the purchase*.

let’s say you went crazy and got a dual 1.8ghz g5 and a 20″ flatpanel, more memory, a 160 gig hard drive, etc., which comes out to $3522 before tax. you’d save _$880_ with an employee discount and would only pay $2641.

cool thing is, though, that you don’t even have to use your discount sometimes, because they have quarterly specials just for employees. that g5 we just looked at might be even cheaper!

now, from what i’ve been told, the average to become a “badged” employee is about seven months lately. they’ve told me a couple times, though, that since the department is growing, there’s the possibility they’ll badge the temps quicker than that.

now that i figured out the video editing issues, i don’t actually need to get a new computer any time soon. i can wait. seven months. or more, really. according to some of the forms i signed at volt, i can last as a temp up to a year, and then they’ll reassign me somewhere else. of course, it seems more likely that if i keep this job, i’d become badged well before the year is up.

this, by the way, is the first time i’ve gotten a job that seems like it’ll actually require my brainpower. it’s a nice feeling, although i do wonder what sort of stressful life i may have found for myself…

also: i started reading “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell”:http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1582344167/unsquaredance-20?dev-t=1Y3EPK63R73F26PRKG82%26camp=2025%26link_code=xm2 this week. i was lucky to find it on sunday at half price books. especially lucky because this past weekend was the grand opening of the new half price books that went in near my neighborhood, in what apparently used to be a grocery store. because it was their opening, they passed out coupons when i checked it out on friday, and one of the coupons gave you 50% off one item only on sunday. when i went to the big one that afternoon, however, it was jam-packed with people, and the line for the registers wrapped around the whole store. luckily, though, the coupon was good at any location, so i trekked over to the one on 183, walked in the door, went to the bestseller shelf, and found the exact thing i wanted. JS&MN is a pretty big bestseller lately, and only comes in one of those huge hardbacks that cost an arm and a leg. this copy was marked at $14. so i got it for $7. i was pretty proud of myself. so far the book sort of reads like a great lost Jane Austen fantasy novel, except it’s also hilarious on top of that. (if you hated Jane Austen in school, i hope you wouldn’t hold it against this book. it really is very drily funny.)

tiger, tiger!

…and so the other shoe drops. today was (finally) my last day at work, a position which was supposed to last two weeks; they had claimed that they weren’t going to let any more people go (did i believe them? besides the point), and i had actually gotten into a rhythm of reading and answering phones – today i actually answered ten or maybe a dozen, and i also finished a book that i started reading last night.

but, was i upset when they told me i was let go? no, hardly. i grinned. like a jackass. some woman – who i had never seen before – was standing and talking to the newly unemployed; this woman was sad-faced and almost trembling, as though it was a great loss, a terrible tragedy… or perhaps she thought we might riot and tear her to shreds, gnashing our teeth and howling.

i interrupted her. i said, loudly, and with a grin in my voice, that it was okay… “i hated this job.” she looked so sad, after all, i figured she ought to know. she just looked at me reproachfully and asked if she could continue. i continued smiling.

i never burn bridges, see. and it’s not like this was a bridge burnt, really, but it was probably the rudest thing i’ve ever said to someone who had been my employer. we have not, after all, been released from eligibility from further positions through adecco. we can continue getting jobs through them _if we want to_. if i hadn’t had an interview on wednesday, i’d just tell myself that i could probably find another temp agency to scare me up a job (and if this possible position falls through, i’ll begin canvassing the town yet again). not that i’ve really burnt a bridge here; rather, i’ve seen the sort of thing adecco can scare up for me, and i’m not impressed. i suppose all of you out there in reader-land think i hated this job for selfish or lazy reasons. maybe i did. mostly i just didn’t like being condescended to on a daily basis; i didn’t like the way it was implied that i couldn’t possibly know what the fuck i was doing, simply because a good number of people in the room did not, in fact, know what the fuck they were doing – be they supervisors or lowly grunts like me.

maybe i’m annoyed by the thought that i’m in debt, ready to be employed, and the only folks who will hire me would probably have hired me if i had a middle-school education. meaning that it sometimes feels like i’ve spent most of my life doing nothing worthwhile.

!

i see today in a newsprint gray

alright, i’ve modified my opinion of my job. it’s not the worst job i’ve ever had, not by far. it’s just the stupidest. any job where you’re there for eight hours and only have work to do for somewhere around five minutes just seems counter-intuitive to me. (why am i complaining about not having work to do? if i’m going to spend eight hours doing something, i’d like to feel as though i was doing it for a reason other than just money. for some reason i like things to have utility. call me crazy.)

i didn’t get any more sleep last night, but i did at least bring my book in from the start of the day. i didn’t want to do that on my first day of work unless i was absolutely sure that it wouldn’t be an issue, but today they were handing out crossword puzzles for us to do because it was clear that everyone in the goddamn room spends most of their time twiddling thumbs.

they also handed out about four sheets of paper to each of us that reiterated most of the stuff we learned in training. apparently i continue to overestimate the abilities of my coworkers, and in turn, we all get treated like we have the functional intelligence of an amoeba with a head-cold.

i bet that if these calls don’t pick up they’ll start letting us go before the minimum two weeks is up. i won’t complain. i’ll just go into more inevitable debt… unless the temp agency can get me another job quick, or i can find something else more tangible.

strangely enough, today after i left work i was in a pretty good mood. maybe it was just because i was leaving work, but i was actually decently awake, and happy, and enjoyed the music on the way home. and then i lived for about ten minutes before dying in my bed.

in other news, rest in peace hunter s. thompson. i never read any of his stuff, but he seemed like the sort of guy i would respect. sorry to hear that he felt the need to leave this world so violently.

can you say “finally”?

after much fiddling about and a general program of procrastination, i have put the final touches on “my portfolio”:http://portfolio.unsquare.com. also, if you notice, i’ve added a link to it on the upper right-hand side of this page, right below that picture of me. now that it’s “live”, it can be spidered all to hell by google so that the random web visitor has a chance of finding it.

i have a few other possible web design projects in the works:

(1) a redesign of the “iota chapter website”:http://www.iotachapter.org. sure, it’s nice enough, but i designed it when i was first getting the hang of css, and i think i can do it better now. i also want to make it so that the actives might actually be able to update it, since i haven’t been given any information to put on there unless i prod them into giving it to me.

(2) i’m a fan of those programs that keep track of your book collection. the best one i’ve found (and it’s free!) is just called “books”:http://books.aetherial.net/. i’m also a fan of “all consuming”:http://allconsuming.net, but it has a bad habit of being slow, or inaccurate, or down, or just plain difficult. i think i’d like to begin working on a php application that replicates the basic function of all consuming, plus some features from books (the reading list currently on my site is only functional at best). this would be the same idea as movable type versus blogger. part of the reason i switched to mt was because i was tired of relying on a site that might go down without warning.

alright, i’m going to go finish watching “farscape season one”:http://www.tvtome.com/Farscape/season1.html. wish me luck.

the unbearable

i went and saw a play tonight, because my friends were in it. it was written by a guy who went to southwestern. i was never _friends_ with this guy, really. i mean, we traded music recommendations, but it was more a high level of friendly acquaintance than anything else.

anyways, he wrote this play. this is the third play of his i’ve seen. the first was called, if i remember correctly, “Distance”. that play was about a husband and wife who have dinner with one of the wife’s old boyfriends. it was sort of a cliche premise to begin with, but these things can go all sorts of ways if done correctly. unfortunately, the characters were all terribly unlikable – not in an intriguing way – and the woman was thinly drawn; you couldn’t really see why the men were fighting over her. the production was well-done, though, and the show was pretty polished. i definitely wouldn’t have said it was a bad show, it just didn’t quite hit the mark.

i say polished because the other two shows of his i’ve seen have come off as the sort of things that perhaps could have used some polish. a few more drafts. more rehearsal time.

play number two was called “word and thought”. from what i remember, it was a “farce” detailing the behind-the-scenes hijinks involved in producing a new play. imagine noises off, but without the comic timing. this was one of those situations where i was sitting, watching the play, occasionally laughing, but really spending more time feeling guilty because i wasn’t laughing, because my friends were up there doing their best, and i just couldn’t muster up the laughs. this is a sort of uncomfortable feeling in your stomach – the absence of desired laughs. ultimately, the play was forgettable. i’m trying to write about it now, but there was nothing remarkable about it that stands out in my mind other than it clearly meant well but, again, missed the point – a little further off the mark this time, however.

tonight’s play was called “the unbearable marketing of being”. to give you some background, the playwright is a fan of the book “the unbearable lightness of being”, playwright bertolt brecht, and the late elliott smith. (he’s also kind of a pretentious motherfucker, and tended to project the impression that he was quite above all of the rest of us mere mortals.)

the…main story of this play was, i suppose, that two guys living in austin decide that they don’t want to work shitty jobs anymore, so, accordingly, they create a fake marketing company which sells “synergies” and “free thought”. they figure that all they have to do is talk some good bullshit and someone will buy. that someone turns out to be sabine, owner of a new belgian restaurant. they’re hired to market the opening. they create a shitty commercial that involves (1) oedipus walking around zilker park (2) george w. bush doing the same, then drinking from a bottle labeled “saudi oil”. sabine rejects this commercial, saying “no politics”. the guys don’t come up with anything else, and the opening is a failure until – surprise – milan kundera, author of “the unbearable lightness of being” shows up. behind him are a bunch of people who are interested in the restaurant because it is “new”. the day is saved. and then one of the guys gets a call on his cell phone: “elliott smith is dead. he stabbed himself.” (the other characters basically ignore this. it’s not presented in any context. there’s no reason for it.)

but wait, there’s more… the play also had two other stories intertwined with this main story. the first concerned grok, inventor of the wheel, and his problems marketing his invention, because “there’s no use for it”! the second concerned a marketplace in medieval england where a man is selling a “great new invention” – the wheelbarrow – until he gets in a duel to the death with his competitor. neither of these stories had any clear relation to the main story, except that there was some sort of marketing in them.

bigger than the story problems, however, was the fact that the whole production came off more like a rehearsal about a week before the show should open, rather than the final night of a five-night run. the actors had no energy at all. sure, i laughed at some parts, but that same uncomfortable feeling in my stomach came around while watching this show.

so i’ve seen three of this guy’s shows, each one worse than the last, each one more tossed off and jumbled than the last.

i left the theatre and i thought “i can totally do better than that. why haven’t i done anything better than that in so long? i can do better.”

who knows? not me.

recently when rebuilding this site, i’ve noticed that it took for fucking ever for movable type to do its job, most likely because i added the left and right sidebars to every page, thus increasing the page size a good bit (also helps that i have over 500 entries in this journal).

i tried to fix this using php, but “MT 2”:http://www.movabletype.org is not well suiting to publishing php, mostly because it sets the permissions wrong and pisses off my server. i set up “MT 3.1”:http://www.movabletype.org so I could play with it some, but that’s even more complicated…

so, last night, i sat for a few hours and updated all of the pages to use server-side includes, which ended up being not too hard to pull off. i also tweaked the design some more, simply because that’s what i do now, apparently. the best improvement – in my opinion – is that comments are much easier to distinguish from the entries.

you know what else i noticed? i used to write all of my entries in lowercase for the longest time. thing is, when i was looking back at those entries i liked the way they looked a lot better. so… here i am. back in lowercase.

today is my last friday at work. i think tuesday will be my last day, simply because levi is leaving for thanksgiving on wednesday, and if i were to come in to work on wednesday i wouldn’t do anything. at all. and i’m bad enough about that as it is without having to be here all by my damn self but for larry and anne.

tommorow morning is another weekly trip to juan in a million – so far i’ve gone the last two weekends, and i’m trying to make it a tradition. this weekend it’s going to be me, doug, and justin heading over there at 11am tomorrow. i think anyone that reads this that lives in austin is already going, so that’s set.

last week beau and i went and saw “sideways”:http://www2.foxsearchlight.com/sideways/, which was really very good, fucking hilarious and well written. i strongly recommend it to anyone who has a chance to see it. i’ve been going to the dobie pretty much every week too, unless they don’t have anything interesting playing. i guess i’m trying to make up for all those years i had to drive half an hour to go the movies.

i haven’t made any progress with writing anything lately. i know you guys worry about me never finishing anything, but trust me, this is something that i’m working on, and pressuring me probably isn’t going to do anything but make me feel guilty. i’m going to try and keep myself from promising to write anything for anyone until i feel like i can actually follow through.

part of my joblessness is going to focus on this issue… for example, i bought a really great book called the “dramatists sourcebook”:http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1559362472/qid=1100880423/sr=2-1/ref=pd_ka_b_2_1/002-1927809-5432063, which is full of theatre companies looking for new plays and contests with nice cash prizes. i was also recently shown the “austin chronicle short story contest”:http://www.austinchronicle.com/shortstory/, which i still have enough time to write something for if i choose to. the opportunities are there, i just have to decide that i want to take them.

Notes on "The Boring Life and Unremarkable Death of Henry Herman"

Jeff’s Notes:

Inspired by Pavement’s “Shady Lane,” particularly the line “You’ve
been chosen as an extra in the movie adaptation of the sequel to your
life.”

The premise is that one day our main character Henry is reading the
newspaper or watching TV or something of the sort and he sees an ad
for a movie production that needs extras for a crowd scene, so he
decides to go and check it out. He gets chosen, and we watch what is
apparently one of the climactic scenes of the movie being filmed.
Strangely enough, the main character of the movie-within-a-movie has
the same name as Henry, and as he starts to find out more about it he
discovers that several other characters have the names of people he
knows.

He also discovers that the current movie is a sequel to an earlier
movie, which he goes and rents. As he is watching it, he becomes more
and more disturbed because the movie is about his life. (Ex: our movie
starts with a shot of him eating breakfast, and the rented movie
starts the same way but with a different actor playing Henry.) It
turns out that the movie was based on a book – now out of print – so
he contacts the publisher to see if he can figure out what is going
on.

When they meet for a lunch date, the first thing the publisher says is
“How very postmodern or you, Mr. Herman, to show up for a lunch date
after you’re already dead!” Turns out that the book is called “The
Boring Life and Unremarkable Death of Henry Herman (an Autobiography)”
and it has his picture on the back cover. The publisher says that he
always thought it was funny that someone wrote an autobiography “where
they died at the end.”

However, there is nothing Henry can do about the book or the movies;
the rights have been sold by mysterious unreachable persons, so Henry
decides that all there is for him to do is to sneak onto the movie set
to sabotage things. Every time he shows up for a scene they are
filming the character’s death scene, and every time they’ve re-written
it and are doing reshoots because they weren’t happy with the earlier
versions, and the more Henry watches the more he wants to find out
what happens in the movie.

Our movie will end with Henry dying somehow, most likely in a very
random and “unremarkable” fashion.

Note: the movies-within-the-movie should be absurd and over-the-top,
having rewritten his life and turned it into a thriller or some sort
of heightened drama; the actor “playing” Henry shouldn’t look at all
like him, and whereas Henry’s job is dull, the moviemakers have made
it so the same job seems somehow heroic.

Mark’s Notes:

I don’t know what kind of tone you were going for or intended. Anyway
these are just some notes and ideas I’ve come up with for the movie.
Feel free to like them or use them or not, I’m just hoping it inspires
you to write something.

– So the movie opens with a series of shots showing how boring this
guy’s life is. As the movie progresses and the details of his
autobiography come to light, the sequence is repeated more and more
but every time adding something more “interesting”. Splashes of colors
on the walls behind him, stuff like that. The sequence is shot again
using incredibly tight telephoto lenses with soft light. As the movie
progresses and these sequences showcasing Howard’s (or whatever his
name is) life continue it transforms and transcends just the basic
bland moments that are his life. He does the same thing every time but
it’s shot in such a way that makes it beautiful. We see the art in his
mundane, boring life.

– The main character should get a dog midway through the movie. It’s
simple and kind of cute, but let’s say we do one of the aforementioned
sequences and midway through one of them (let’s say he’s sitting down
eating dinner), the dog barks. He smiles and goes to pet the dog,
leaving the shot entirely. Him getting a dog and loving it is a really
simple little thing for most people, but for this character (and the
audience) the dog really enriches his life. We should set the movie up
so that, while his life is boring and monotonous, small & simple
things totally enrich it and make it well…nice…? The dog is also
one of the only characters that misses him when he dies…

– Howard Herman (is that his name? I can’t remember) has a really
boring and uninteresting life, but at the end of the movie both he
and the audience should feel really great about it all — the life
that he has led. I don’t know if this was the original tone and mood
you had for the movie when you conceived it, but I think the story
would work great as sort of a feel-good movie. At his death the main
character understands his life was kind of pointless and meaningless
— but he feels pretty good about it. At the credits people should
walk away from it feeling like their lives have been enriched by
knowing this simple little guy died happy.

– Howard gains access to the film location as people realize that it
is his autobiography that the movie is based on. He mostly hangs by
the craft services table.

– The main character should develop a kind of friendship with the
actor who is playing him in the movie. The actor is vapid and very
self-involved but seeks out Howard for “tips on how to get his
character right.” At one point the actor laments to Howard (in a very
self-absorbed and vapid way) that “this whole acting thing is for the
birds.” He comments about how he is always being interviewed and
hounded by paparrazi but his own life is very meaningless and
uninteresting — that he is cursed to always pretend to be somebody
else. That people aren’t interested in him at all, but rather the kind
of job he has – one in which he is always pretending to be something
he’s not.

– If one were to ask Superman what it is like to fly, he would tell
you he wouldn’t know. He is much too busy saving people that he never
stops to think what the act of flying actually is like. Something
along those lines should appear somewhere in the film. A quote by one
of the characters or something. Maybe the actor says it to the main
character in passing…I don’t know…

– Howard should establish a friendship or maybe a love-interest (even
though I really don’t want to turn this into a romantic comedy) with a
woman who works at the book store. She doesn’t like his book – she
thinks it’s boring, pretentious, and self-important.

— The way Howard dies: Although there are very little details in his
autobiography (the book should end with something like “And then I
died.” or “My death wasn’t anything spectacular.”) he dies in some
sort of accident involving himself and the actor portraying him. I
keep thinking car accident but I think something bizarre and freakish
would be better. Everybody rushes to see if the actor is okay (he has
a small scratch on his forehead) but everybody neglects Howard who is
bleeding profusely and breathing slowly. He dies with a smile on his
face. The only thing that misses him is his dog.

for some reason i thought

for some reason i thought my last entry was much less coherent than it actually was. i read it today and it kind of makes sense (more than i expected). after i got back from the ‘dam, i’ve just spent the rest of the weekend basically sitting around. i went to the tate modern art museum saturday night, which was awesome. i also read “arcadia” by tom stoppard, which was awesome. i finished White Teeth on friday and it was pretty damn good, definitely worth a read. i just started on Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon, which has already proved to include a whole lot of details either different from or not included in the movie. so it’s as much of a revelation as i was hoping it to be. last night i watched the Dead Zone on tv (the movie with Christopher Walken) and it was pretty good, but i read the book over the summer and they left out a lot. it was sort of like the reader’s digest version of the book, which i thought was kind of lame. they didn’t develop walken’s former girlfriend at all, or really any of the other characters as much as they should have. but every time walken had a vision, it was great. his flinches were intense, especially since the director (david cronenberg) was firing a pistol offscreen every time.

i’ve got around $1100 left, which is pretty good if i don’t tell you that i started the semester with $2200. oops. of course, i actually only have about a month and a half left here. i think i’ll probably travel to another country at least once or twice more, but i’ll try and be as frugal as possible (if possible). i can go to germany and stay with a friend, so i think I might do that. cause I mean, come on… it’s Germany! yeah.

it really does sort of feel like home here. i’m probably going to have reverse culture shock when i go back to the states, which will be not so much fun. i’m probably going to try to go to grocery stores to find the things i’m used to now, and i’ll fail miserably. oh well.

i feel like as a “writer” i should be writing more or something. but i’m lazy. endlessly lazy. i mean, i don’t have that crazy drive to write at all hours of the day. does that mean i shouldn’t be a writer? i don’t think so… i mean, i’m always coming up with these images and stories. or whatever. i just need to find a niche. or something.

you know what’s kind of annoying about being here? the fact that i want to see movies like: punch drunk love, rules of attracting, the ring, etc. etc. etc. that won’t come out here while i’m here. also, michael chabon (author of wonder boys and other great books) is coming to my campus… while i’m here. DAMMIT! oh well. i’m in europe. you make some trade-offs. ha.

the fire alarm went off

the fire alarm went off last night right after i fell asleep. we all stumbled down the stairs and out to the car park in front of Sainsbury’s grocery store, which is our designated meeting place. i sat there for a few minutes and swiftly realized that i felt worse than i had felt in a very long time. my own personal barometer is that it was the worst i have ever felt without having just thrown up or been about to throw up. which is, of course, a gross exaggeration, but i was in a bad mood. once we got the “all clear” i went upstairs as quickly as i could and tried to fall back asleep as quickly as possible. but i couldn’t, of course. everyone else in the group was all hyper and awake and they all decided to stay up a little while more and hang out, which i don’t begrudge them, but i couldn’t get to sleep until they were all quiet. so that sucked.

using the internet here is a pain in the ass because i’m so spoiled about being able to use it whenever i want to. the other annoying thing is the fact that stuff closes so early and i have crap to do all day when most things are open. it’s annoying that i’m here and i want to see things but i have all this bullshit that takes up my available daytime. and, of course, when i have freetime i find some way to screw it up, by – for -example – the not picking up the pass thing. ack. i would like to be able to use my notebook. my parents are going to possibly ship me some stuff… if it’s not too expensive. we’ll see how that goes. oh well. i’m going to try and go to some book stores before they close, which will be hard because they may close verrrrrrrrrrrry soon. anyways.

I’M NOT MAD I’M JUST DISAPPOINTED!!!

I’M NOT MAD I’M JUST DISAPPOINTED!!! (OHMYACHINGHEAD)

everybody seems to be a little down in the mouth and off-kilter. and all you folks back home are thinking “what the fuck is wrong with these rich assholes that get to go to another country for school? wot a bunch of wankers!” well maybe not the last part, but anyways, you’re asking me why we’re all depressed. uhhh… welll…. we don’t know, exactly. i mean, why is anyone depressed? can the person ever really tell you? i think that “i have a crush on a girl” is the only concrete answer to such a question. (don’t worry i don’t have a crush on a girl. yet.) of course, that’s only a surface problem. i think that in my case the surface problem is the taste of dr. pepper, or the fact that i keep waking up way too early, or that i can’t sit on my computer from midnight until four in the morning.

my plan is to buy myself some coke (a-cola) and see if that matches my taste memory. i think it might, cause i already had a can of it, and it seemed to pass muster. i also think i’m going to go shopping at some used book stores and maybe go to the record store.

i’m kind of worried about my internship fitting into my schedule, and i’m actually kind of wishing i hadn’t signed up for it. i mean, if i had taken the demography class or something i’d have a lot of alternative hard work to do, but at least i’d be traveling to places. or something. i’m not sure. ack ack ack.

and when they gather around like a covenofwitches….

tell the SONSOFBITCHES tell the SONSOFBITCHES tell the SONSOFBITCHES…

that this is the life.

CURRENTLY LISTENING TO: (Jeff James) Is Terrified by the Dismemberment Plan.