Flash Fiction: After The War

Tennis Ball

(image via Wi Bing Tan on Flickr)

After The War is a short story I wrote for a contest at Mash Stories. The prompt was to write a 500 word story that used the terms “tennis ball”, “bunker” and “animal rights”. I didn’t make the shortlist, but you can read other entries at the Mash Stories site.

Doug. I found the tennis ball. I know you were trying to hide it from me. I don’t know why you would do that. Weren’t we friends? Didn’t we get along? I know things are different after the war, but I thought we had an understanding. We had mutual respect. That sort of thing. I mean… that was my favorite tennis ball!

They send me in as part of the clean-up crews. I’m good at it. Good at finding all the hiding places. I go in first because I’m the best. Most of the time we don’t find anything interesting. Dead bodies are old news. We’ve all seen plenty. They stink up the place and we pull them out. Pile them up and burn them. What we’re really looking for are the secrets. The things the other side kept from us all these years.

Well, today they sent me into your house. Of all places! It felt like I hadn’t been there in years, even though the war was over in no time at all. I didn’t think I’d find much in the way of secrets, but I search every house just the same.

I did think I might find you, but you weren’t there. No dead bodies, either. Just my favorite tennis ball. I only found it because a bomb blew out half a wall. It knocked down the shelf where you hid the ball. I recognized it immediately. Very sneaky of you.

Listen, Doug, I’m a patriot like everyone else here in bunker number nine. I know that if I saw you again today we couldn’t be friends. It’s just not in the cards for us. That doesn’t mean I don’t have good memories of us together. We were fond of each other, weren’t we?

I believe in the cause, I do, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to know your side of the story. It just hurts to know you hid something like this from me. It validates everything our glorious leader, Seamus, says about relationships with humans. “You can’t trust humans!” he says, and I didn’t want to believe him because you seemed okay enough.

When the uprising began, did you join in the call for our heads? Did you run and scream and hide, or did you stand and fight? You seemed like a brave enough human, like that time you scared away those raccoons, but it’s hard to compare. I learned about humans through what I saw and what the others told me, but I don’t know everything. I only really had one-on-one time with you.

If I see you again, I will want answers. I am going to keep looking, keep searching in houses. I will dig and sniff everywhere. If I find you and I don’t like what you say, I will tear out your throat. After all, I will let nothing stand in the way of my comrades and our god-given campaign for universal animal rights.

Watch Your Fucking Mouth

Al Swearengen

I’ve been reading a lot of unproduced screenplays recently, and a few things have been jumping out at me. First off: a lot of writers fumble on structure. A lot of what I’ve read has shown clear signs of competence but wandered around plotless for upwards of fifty pages. Some writers can pull off plotless, but most of them are novelists.

The other thing I’ve noticed is that a lot of writers are really bad at swearing. I’ll read a script full of characters saying fuck every other sentence and it just rings untrue. I always feel a bit silly when I ding a script for “too much swearing”, so I’ve been trying to put my finger on what bothers me about it. I’m no prude, and some of my favorite scenes and movies are full of swearing, so what’s different about these scripts?

I think the key difference is that these writers are swearing by default. They probably swear a decent amount in their own lives, they’ve watched plenty of movies full of swearing, so they throw in swearing because that’s how people sound, right? The problem is that they forget to make their choice of words about the characters saying them. The swearing is about the writer, not the characters.

People who accuse writers of laziness when they use vulgarity are missing the point. Swearwords aren’t automatically lazy; it all comes down to how you use them. Some of the greatest scenes in film and TV revolve around characters who swear up a blue streak, but they work because those moments reveal something about those characters and deepen our understanding of their feelings and motivations.

Here are a few of my favorite examples:

1) Steve Martin blows up at a rental car agent in Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

Up until this point the character has been mild-mannered and relatively patient, but he’s been through such an ordeal that he finally snaps and lets loose in the way only a man on the edge would do. The way he swears also tells us something about him as a character; it’s like a dam bursting, this sudden barrage of profanity pours forth from him and he’s punctuating every fucking word of every fucking sentence with another fucking swear word.

2) Peter Capaldi (the next Doctor Who!) in pretty much every scene of In The Loop.

Malcolm Tucker swears constantly and with evident relish. He terrorizes everyone around him and uses words like knives. He isn’t content with throwing out a “fuck” here and there, he rants and raves and spins absurd metaphors and embellishes every sentence with an acidity that jumps out of the screen at you.

3) Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross.

David Mamet wrote this scene for Alec Baldwin. It isn’t in the stage play, but it’s by far the most famous moment in the movie. Baldwin is in the zone here, he’s all rhythm and rancor and cool energy. He swears for emphasis, to make a point, to hammer home his message and it flows like poetry. Say what you will about Mamet the man, but when he could write, he could write.

4) Bunk and McNulty in The Wire.

Two characters communicate entirely through the word fuck and it’s hilarious. They give every variation of the word its own meaning. A large part of this relies on the talent of the actors and their delivery, but the humor is there in the writing. The great part about this scene is that it shows us that the characters know each other so well that they can communicate with only one word.

These are all excellent examples of writers using profanity to tell us something about their characters. Swearwords are words like any others; they have a certain bite and relish to them, but if they are used poorly, they clang and fall flat just like any other.

So, what’s the takeaway? Should writers avoid profanity in their scripts? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe they really just need to hear their words read aloud. I feel like a lot of the problems with dialogue become glaringly obvious when the words are read aloud. Mainly, though, it’s a matter of deciding why a character swears and how they swear.

See You Next Tuesday: How and Why The Onion Crossed the Line

The Onion logoThe 2013 Academy Awards ceremony was last night, February 24th, and critics both amateur and professional are weighing in with various post-ceremony reactions. There weren’t any huge upsets – Argo won Best Picture, as the buzz had predicted – and most commentators agree that Seth McFarlane relied on too much crass humor and approached the ceremony as if it was a roast instead of a celebration. However, the most lingering controversy originated from outside the event, when The Onion’s Twitter account tweeted (and later deleted) a joke that referred to nine-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis as a “c—”.

The Onion quickly posted an out-of-character apology from their CEO first thing this morning, but memories are long on the internet, and there are some people who will never forgive them for this incident. The interesting thing is that The Onion has a long history of posting edgy satire, but as far as I know, this is the only time they’ve ever chosen to publicly apologize for one of their jokes missing the mark. I definitely agree with their decision to remove the tweet and apologize; it was thoroughly tone-deaf and completely unfunny. However, I think it’s interesting to consider why that joke didn’t work when compared to other equally controversial pieces on the site. For example, earlier in the night they used the n-word in a joke about Quentin Tarantino and it seems to have passed unnoticed.

First off, the most obvious problem with the tweet is that it places a nine-year-old girl at the center of harsh satire. Even if it wasn’t the author’s intent, it was far too easy to read the tweet as a genuine attack on a child, which is not something that most people are willing to overlook. However, I also think it’s notable that the tweet’s style didn’t match The Onion’s normal editorial voice. It was written in a casual, off-the-cuff “live-blog” style and was followed by tweets structured more like their signature “Area Man” format.

Part of what makes The Onion work so well is the way they juxtapose a distanced, impersonal editorial style with shocking satire. One of the best pieces I’ve seen on the site recently, Teenage Girl Blossoming Into Beautiful Object, is also one of the most chilling things I’ve ever read because it rings so horribly true. That article is satire on the level of Jonathan Swift, where the correct response is horror, not laughter. The Onion’s comedy works largely on the understanding that they are almost always saying the exact opposite of what they believe; in rare cases, such as their stunning, pitch-perfect response to the Newtown massacre, they put less ironic distance between the article and its true intent, but those pieces are still presented as fake journalism or simulated editorials.

That distance is part of what makes it understood that the target of their satire isn’t necessarily the apparent subject of their posts. Along those lines, I’d imagine that the target of the tasteless joke about Miss Wallis was actually the sort of person who would say horrendous things about a nine-year-old actress excited about being at a massive awards ceremony. (For examples, check out the first few comments on this Jezebel post.) The problem was all about the joke’s presentation and, most crucially, word choice. Instead of working as an anti-exemplary comment on the misogynist nit-picking that dominates award shows, the tweet read as a face-value takedown of a young actress.

However, I’d argue that if the joke was presented in The Onion’s editorial style, the intent would have been clearer and the joke might have received a more measured response. Imagine, for example, if the joke was written as one of their headlines or couched in a fake editorial. Of course, I doubt there’s any way they could have worked in the c-word without coming off as grasping for shock value, and I think better jokes can be made. I do think there’s a valid satirical target found in the occasionally poisonous discussions about Miss Wallis’ nomination (or really, discussions of any actress), but the most important thing to make clear is that she is not that target.

The Love Lives of Cats and Dogs

Cat and Dog HuggingI, like many other singles of my generation, am a member of several dating websites. I’ve tried out both paid and free services with varying success, and can’t remember the last time I asked someone out in person. Honestly I think it might have happened a grand total of one time in the eight years since I graduated from college.

When browsing a dating site I start with a few general criteria: Does she live close to me? Is she within a certain age range? Does the site’s mystical relationship algorithm think we’re compatible? And, of course, do I find her attractive enough to check out her profile? I try to take the last criteria with a grain of salt, of course; online profiles can be deceptive, whether intentionally or otherwise, and sometimes pictures just don’t capture how someone actually looks in person.

The thing that surprises me, however, is that I’ve come to feel that the most important factor in a girl’s profile is how she feels about cats. She can be well-read, smart, funny and generally great on paper, but if she hates cats, it just won’t work out.

On one hand it’s a practical consideration. I live with four cats, two of which are mine. If the girl I’m dating doesn’t want to hang out at my place because I have cats, she probably won’t be cool with moving in together someday if I want to bring my cats along for the ride. On the other hand it says something about her temperament if she doesn’t like cats and isn’t willing to put up with them.

I grew up with both cats and dogs, and I wouldn’t mind getting a dog someday. However, I know that dogs are a lot of work and that I’m not ready to devote myself to training, exercising and housing a dog right now. I don’t have the patience or the yard necessary to make it work. I have cats because they fit with my lifestyle and I happen to like the furry little bastards (except when they wake me up at 7am on a Saturday).

What I find when I go on dates is that my perspective is a rare one, at least when it comes to the sort of girls I find interesting. I mostly seem to meet passionate dog owners who rave about dog ownership; in theory some may write on their profile that they like cats or don’t have an opinion, but in practice when the subject comes up in conversation, the truth is that they just don’t like cats and can list a few reasons why.

I guess what I’m saying is that what I’m really searching for is a woman who will take me, cats and all. I wouldn’t mind having a dog in my life, so I don’t think it’s too much to ask that she be willing to put up with my cats. I might be willing to compromise in other areas of my life, but I can’t imagine not having at least one cat to my name.

The only thing worse than a girl who hates cats? A girl who hates to read. Shudder.

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.


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.

Books of The Future!

Just got caught up reading a very lengthy (and contentious) comment thread over at Making Light regarding Amazon vs. Macmillan and eBooks in general, and it got me thinking. One of the commenters puts forth the idea that eBooks are the ultimate future of reading, and that those silly old things made out of paper will disappear into history shortly enough once eReaders make it big.

I see a couple of problems with this. First off, the 250 unread books currently looming on my bookshelves beg to differ. They sure aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Same with the millions of books in new and used book stores and libraries. The commenter theorizes that non-electronic books are going to become collector’s items for folks (like me) who just can’t let go of physical books and want to live in the past.

The problem with this, though, is that the argument is completely backwards. eReaders are the luxury item. The people who are most interested in eReaders are people who read a LOT because they see the attraction of carrying around 100s of books in their pockets and also because they think they can justify the sticker price. I definitely know that if I took the plunge and dropped several hundred dollars on an eReader any time soon that I’d feel the need to buy all my new books on that platform to justify the cost. Continue reading “Books of The Future!”

So… I Actually Wrote Something!

Yes, it’s true. Jeff James, continually procrastinating writer, has actually produced new work! Specifically, Episode #9 of The Leet World.

To be completely honest, I actually finished the script about a month ago, but I haven’t talked about it for a few reasons. First off, I wanted to wait until the episode was actually released. However, that happened on February 1st, and here it’s two weeks later and I’m just now writing about it. Can’t really explain that part, except that I did kind of want to wait a little while to see what people thought of the results. Most people seem to think I did a good job, so I guess it’s about time I talk about it.

In any case, I’d like to share the episode and talk a little bit about the writing process. If you’re completely new to the show, however, I’d recommend watching one or two of the previous episodes since the first part of my episode resolves a cliffhanger from the first half of the season.

Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the show, go ahead and check out the episode:

The final version you see there is about 85%-90% stuff that I wrote. The Player/hat love story (which is *great*, by the way) is the biggest addition they made, and is a joke I couldn’t even have come up with in the first place since I had no idea there was a freakin’ snow man on the map. There are also a few line tweaks and improvs here and there.

If you’d like to know more about the episode and my writing process, continue reading… Continue reading “So… I Actually Wrote Something!”

My Favorite Albums of 2007

Alright, in order for an album to end up on this list, it had to be an album that I find myself listening to regularly, even though time may have passed since it was released. I have several pretty great albums on my iPod that will end up on other end-of-the-year lists that haven’t quite grabbed me like the ten below.

This list isn’t perfect, of course, especially because I also limited myself to albums released in 2007. I guess including The Beatles album is kind of fudging things a bit, but it was a pretty amazing compilation that totally redefines what you can do instead of a vanilla “greatest hits” album.

Radiohead - In RainbowsLCD Soundsystem - Sound of SilverI’m Not There (Soundtrack)The Beatles - LoveQueens of the Stone Age - Era Vulgaris

Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Is IsField Music - Tones of TownIdlewild - Make Another WorldCaribou - AndorraRyan Adams - Easy Tiger

1. Radiohead – In Rainbows
2. LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver
3. Various Artists – I’m Not There (Soundtrack)
4. The Beatles – LOVE
5. Queens of the Stone Age – Era Vulgaris
6. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Is Is
7. Field Music – Tones of Town
8. Idlewild – Make Another World
9. Caribou – Andorra
10. Ryan Adams – Easy Tiger

To see what some of the professionals think, I recommend the AV Club Best Music of 2007 list. Much better than Pitchfork (even though I’ll read that one, too).

This Frelling Rules!


This is pretty much a complete bolt out of the blue, but from what I’ve just read on scifi.com, Farscape is being revived for a series of “webisodes”. Here’s the article:

SCI FI Channel will revive its popular original show Farscape as a Web-based series of short films on SCIFI.COM’s SCI FI Pulse broadband network, part of a slate of new original online programming.

SCI FI has ordered 10 webisodes of Farscape, to be produced by Brian Henson and Robert Halmi Jr. and produced by The Jim Henson Co.

The series will expand the Farscape universe, but the network had no announcements on casting or premiere dates.

Sure, these may be 2-3 minute long shorts that very well may barely involve any of the main characters, but I am so 100% there for this. Anything new in that universe is like manna from heaven to me, especially if it means that a new miniseries could result. Hell, I’d watch webisodes until the cows come home.

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!

God Bless You, Mr. Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut

One of my most favorite authors passed away this week, although I doubt he would have thought it sad. He was 84 years old, he lived a full life, and he wrote some damn fine classic literature for the ages. I recommend that anyone who hasn’t read Slaughterhouse-Five pick it up and read it right now. Once you’re done with that, read Mother Night, which is my favorite of his books.

He only wrote a dozen or so books in his lifetime, and I’ve read most of them, but I think I’ll track down the remaining few that I have not read and get crackin’. It seems like as good a time as any.

We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be.” – from Mother Night

Aren’t you relieved to know that you’re not a golem?

Harold brushes his teeth

I just watched Stranger Than Fiction, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I’d say this one comes highly recommended, except for the fact that I’ve read a bunch of reviews written by people who hated it.

So… I recommend it, but with a caveat: it seems to provoke strong feelings. I think you’ll either love it like I did, or you’ll hate it like the people on the IMDB message boards (if that complains about you needing a login, the title of the thread is “I really believe this is the worst film ever created…”, and that’s pretty much the main thing you need to know.)

I do have to say, though, that this is the second time a movie has stolen one of my ideas. Bastards! (If you haven’t been paying attention, I jokingly accused the makers of this fine piece of horror-porn of pilfering the premise of my first play… except I probably pilfered it from Sartre without having read his work… and I don’t ever plan on seeing the movie to confirm my suspicions…)

what a miserable way to start a weekend

yesterday i suffered through some of the worst allergies i’ve had in a while. the onset of it all came sometime late thursday night, right around the time i went to bed, which meant that i tossed and turned and generally had a bad night of it. the following workday was completely miserable, and when i finally made it home, i crashed in bed and slept for a very long time. when i woke up around 12:45 am, i felt a hell of a lot better, although i’m definitely still stuffed up. the good news, however, is that now i can breathe… most of the time.

today i went to pick up my car from the shop – i had to wait until yesterday to drop it off because i needed to work around beau’s schedule to get it dropped off in the first place, and i didn’t want to have to worry about getting to work the next day. of course, i also knew that the problem was most likely a very simple fix – before i dropped it off on friday, i also took it in to the same place on monday after work, and the very helpful Hai checked it out for me really quickly. he told me at the time that it was most likely just the speed sensor, and he was of course right. the repairs came out to $240 all told, which i guess is still a decent chunk of change, but considering that i was expecting to pay at least twice as much, i was happy.

now my goal is to go read for a few hours. i’m still ever-so-slowly working on reading “lamb”:http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0380813815/, and my goal is to try and finish it today if possible.


You Set the Fire in Me

After much waffling, I finally buckled under and bought myself a new computer. I’ve needed one for a while now – my poor old G3 iMac has been pushed far past its natural limit, and needs to be put out to pasture somewhere where noone will try to make it play full-screen video.

I was having a hard time deciding between a laptop and a new iMac, but my dad made the point that if all I wanted a laptop for, I should just get something cheap, and that if I was looking to actually upgrade my computer, the iMac was a more sensible choice. This is why it’s good to keep your parents around. Sometimes they help you make decisions.

Anyways, as soon as I got back to work on Monday I ordered the computer (20″ screen, 2.1 Ghz G5 processor… drool…) Right now the Apple website says that it should ship on Friday, so I should be able to get my grubby hands on it sometime early next week. I’m definitely looking forward to it.

Other than that, things are pretty standard. Although I do have to work this week, I’m getting paid holiday pay plus overtime for every hour I work, and we’ve gone home early both days so far – we probably won’t stay any later than 3pm all week, which is definitely nice. This is also the last week I’ll have to be on the phone all day, so that’s nice.

Tonight I sat and watched Groundhog Day on DVD. Such a good movie, and more profound than you might expect, considering it’s the sort of movie that used to get played incessantly on various cable channels.

Alright, I’m tired. I’d like to try and read a little bit before I sleep, but it probably won’t happen. Oh well… I do hope, however, that I can finish at least one of the books I’m currently reading before the end of 2005. That’d be nice… (especially since one of them, The Wizard, is due back at the library on the 3rd.)

Oh, The Shame

so, what with the start of “National Novel Writing Month”:http://nanowrimo.org i managed to goad myself into doing something writing-related.

i wrote the initial stage directions to a new short play… then i scrapped that and sat down to read the first act of my most recent play (May 2004, ouch) in preparation for a much-needed rewrite. it’s amazing how time and distance can change your perspective on something:

  • the dialogue is generally creaky and reads like it needs to be heard out loud so that i can make it sound like actual human speech
  • the whole act zooms by at an amazing clip. everything needs to slow down, add more details, develop things more.
  • the tone is all over the map. the characters don’t seem consistent at all, and the menacing tone that i’d like to go for isn’t really concretely there
  • mr. antonelli: needs to be creepier, more of a jerk. mrs. antonelli: need to play with this portrayal.
  • note for second act: no body-snatching. why not a finely crafted invention for a head?

to re-iterate: the whole thing reeks of “first draft”. i mean, it’s a whole lot more _there_ than knifepoint was after the first crack, but damn this needs some work. i’m so screwed…

I Don’t Sleep, I Dream

I seem to be stuck in a repeating cycle of being exhausted during the day at work, so I take a nap when I get home, and then I can’t get to sleep when I need to, and then accordingly I’m just as tired the next day when I get to work. As good as my intentions may be, I still end up thinking “I’ll just lie down and rest for a little while” every night when I get home from work. Inevitably I wake up three or so hours later feeling better but a little ashamed at the same time. This really has got to stop, mostly because I feel awful all day at work lately what with the whole no sleep thing.

In other news, I’ve been working my way through the second season of The OC in preparation for the third season, which starts up next week. The second season is definitely good, although I definitely feel that there’s a slight dip in quality… The show’s producers were brave enough to change the main premise the second season, which is good, because the whole “new kid in town” thing only works for so long.

It’s mildly disappointing, though, because without that particular story arc, the second season so far has focused largely on the “are they on, or are they off” nature of the various relationships in the show. I don’t mind that so much as long as there are other story arcs going on as well… but so far there hasn’t been too much else. It looks like that sort of thing is going to start picking up in the second half of the season, which is good (everything I’ve heard is that folks generally thought the first half of the season was a little slow, but that it picked up a good amount in the latter half.)

I also read a kind of “amusingly hateful review of The OC”:http://www.thedigitalbits.com/reviews3/spinsheet083105.html. I say amusing because even though the writer heaps incredible amounts of bile and ridicule on the show, he still gives it a B-, which is a comparatively good rating considering he claims that he had to drink bottles of cough syrup to stand watching the show.

from ace-host to dreamhost

so, unbeknownst to me, monday (6/20) was the one-year renewal of my account with “ace-host”:http://ace-host.net. i only found out about this because a charge for $167.40 suddenly showed up on my back statement without warning. luckily, i caught it the day it happened, so i was able to move quickly enough and fix the situation.

first off, i immediately started looking around for other hosting. i was not going to pay that much money for what i considered pretty atrocious hosting. accordingly, i was looking at “dreamhost”:http://www.dreamhost.com again, because it had received a lot of positive reviews around the net. i returned to “squarefree”:http://squarefree.com to read up a little bit more on his opinion of the site (his was one of the first sites i came across that recommended dreamhost.

…and, lo and behold, what do i see, but a promotional code that makes it so that i can get one year of hosting from them at 77 cents a month. needless to say, i immediately paid for hosting, even though i hadn’t yet canceled ace-host or gotten my money back. (dreamhost has a 90 days money back guarantee, so if i couldn’t get my money from ace-host back, i could have always just canceled dreamhost.)

after i put in my termination request to ace-host, i called wells fargo and asked them to stop payment on the charge, simply because i didn’t really trust ace-host, and i wanted to do what i could to avoid paying that ridiculous amount.

this morning, i woke up and there was a one-line response back from ace-host: “account terminated. full amount refunded.”

needless, to say, i was relieved.

so, accordingly, i’ve spent bits of the day here and there getting my site set back up. it’s still not all back to normal yet. theoretically i should have everybody back up tonight or tomorrow…

other than that, i’ve had heartburn all day (and a little yesterday and the day before). it fucking sucks. i’m starting to get worried that i’m somehow gotten acid-reflux. hopefully it’s just cause i’ve been sleeping so badly for about a week, and my body is telling me to quit it.

two things.

1. fuck you, netflix – i just watched the huuuuuugest cliffhanger in the middle of farscape season four, and i was about to pop in the next disc to resolve my extremely agitated imagination, when what do i behold but the biggest goddamn crack straight through the entire DVD! aaaaaaaaargh!

must. have. more. farscape! gnaaaargrgghhgrhghg!

2. oh sweet mother of god, this looks gorgeous: “Serenity – Full Trailer”:http://www.apple.com/trailers/universal/serenity/ – if you know what’s good for you, you read that and got pretty damn excited…

farscape –> wazoo

well, thank god for hollywood video and the fact that season two of farscape comes in two disc sets. it’s been much less frustrating to work my way through this season because of it. sure, i’ve spent a hunk of change on rentals when – if i was patient – i could always get them from netflix, but if i had chosen that path, i wouldn’t have been able to watch nine (count ’em) nine episodes today.

and boy, were they some good episodes! the first season was good, good enough to hook me on the show, but there were definitely some crappy episodes here and there, points at which i got annoyed and was really only watching them so i wouldn’t miss anything. season two, on the other hand, is not only more consistent, but certain episodes rise above the rest. my favorite episode so far is one called “won’t get fooled again”, where crichton seems to have traveled back to earth… except everyone from moya is there, and they don’t seem to know what he’s talking about. nothing cracked me up quite as much as pilot playing the bongos…

i keep going to the “episode guide on tvtome”:http://www.tvtome.com/Farscape/ and accidentally reading little spoilers. you’d think i’d have learned by now, but i’m the bug and it’s a flame. i just have to learn more about the episodes i’ve watched so far. (p.s. if you go to that page, be careful when you click on the episode guide. it goes straight to a summary of the peacekeeper wars miniseries. i couldn’t help myself, and i read just a bit of it, more than i should have…)

i suppose i should have gone outside and taken a walk at some point today – it was really nice outside – but once i got into the farscape, there was no stopping me. really, it was all i wanted to do today. and somehow i feel accomplished. nine episodes. damn. it doesn’t feel like i spent close to seven hours of the day watching farscape…


well, my new job starts this upcoming monday, and i think that my first paycheck will follow on friday (that’s what’s nice about working through a temp agency… _weekly paychecks!_)

i’m trying to not let the idea of having money again go to my head, but i have to admit that i’m already plotting some possible purchases.

first of all, i lost an important part of my “shitty tripod”:http://www.ambicoproducts.com, and the company that made it has apparently been bought off and folded into some huge electronics company. not surprising. unfortunately, this means that my chances of getting a “replacement foot” for my tripod (as in, the piece that screws onto a camera and then snaps into the top of the tripod) are infinitesimal.

not having a working tripod makes it basically impossible for me to make another “stop-motion movie”:http://portfolio.unsquare.com/film/donkey/, which i’ve been itching to do lately. and then i realized that if i was going to buy a tripod, why not do whatever i can to make it easier to film new stop motion video?

the most annoying limitation i had when making the donkey movie was that i could only take 24 frames of anything and then i had to unplug my camcorder and import the stills using iphoto. this meant i had very little room for error. the main reason i was so limited, however, was because of the 8mb flash memory card used to store still photos – trying to use DV tapes to store “stills” is an absurdity.

turns out, however, that you can now buy 128mb flash memory cards for $20. and a usb card reader for $10. so that’s three things that would make stop-motion a bit easier. of course, then i’d actually have to follow through and make something or it’d just be more money down a hole.

i seem to have this problem, see, where instead of making do with what i’ve got and creating something, i always tell myself that i need something newer and better to get the job done. so, first i bought a camcorder. then i bought a 120 gig firewire hard drive to store raw footage. -now i need a new computer because mine can no longer play back raw video clips without lagging desperately (except it did just fine when i edited “dancing with myself” or the lost “hepatitis pie” movie that crashed my computer.) it’s frustrating because in the meantime, instead of writing something now that i could shoot later, i spend my time on other things.- right. read the newer entry…

i have a strange relationship with writing. right now i can’t get myself to read anything i wrote in the past, even when i know it’s perfectly good. i don’t want to re-read living in concussion, or look at the fragments i’ve written for daniel, or anything else. something inside me just finds so much of that embarassing, and yet, another part of me knows that there’s nothing wrong with what i’ve written. nothing at all.

i’ve been trying to talk myself into starting something new. the attempts at convincing myself are becoming more numerous, and something has to break through soon. i swear it. i’ve _thought_ about trying to write more lately than i have in a long time, which, considering how things have been going, is quite a change. there was a long stretch there where i blithely went along not worrying about it at all.

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.

i have just experienced a weird moment of convergence

yesterday i read an article in the onion av club, “an intervew with Mitchell Hurwitz”:http://www.theonionavclub.com/feature/index.php?issue=4106&f=1&page=2, creator of Arrested development. here’s the important bit:

In The Beatles, you can kind of see it the clearest. You know, Paul is the matriarch, John is the patriarch, the craftsman is George and the clown is Ringo. So I wanted to get that in there, and I thought, “Maybe that will be the four kids. I’ll do a show about four kids.” As it turns out, Michael and Lindsay would be the matriarch and patriarch. The craftsman, to me, is Buster, because he’s a scholar and he’s serious, and the clown is Gob, because he’s a magician, and clowns literally are magicians.

just now, on page 261 of “The Fortress of Solitude”:http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0385500696/qid=1108030684/sr=2-1/ref=pd_ka_b_2_1/002-2059164-5768831 by Jonathan Lethem, which i have been sorely neglecting for a good two weeks now, i read the following:

‘…The Beatle thing is an archetype, it’s like the basic human formation. Everything naturally forms into a Beatles, people can’t help it.’
‘Say the types again.’
‘Responsible-parent genius-parent genius-child clown-child’
‘Okay, do Star Wars.’
‘Luke _Paul_, Han Solo _John_, Chewbacca _George_, the robots _Ringo_.’

something told me the first time i read the first quote that i needed to write it down. and here it is again. is it too superstitious for me to think that my moment of inspiration is creeping closer and closer?

ah-hah! success!

no, i didn’t get a job, thank you very much, but i did get a new screenname: ipsographic. it means “self-recording”, and i found it on a “lost words” website, in the hopes that it wouldn’t have occurred to every other human being on the planet to make it their screenname. success!

i’ll eventually stop signing on as musslerock, but for now it’s online to catch folks who wouldn’t read this.

From a Basement on a Hill

So I found Elliott Smith’s new album online, and I couldn’t resist…

When I was listening to “King’s Crossing,” my heart stopped.

the big problem is the main attraction
dominoes are falling in a chain reaction
the scraping subject ruled by fear told me
whiskey works better than beer
the judge is on vinyl, decisions are final
and nobody gets a reprieve
and every wave is tidal – if you hang around
you’re going to get wet
i can’t prepare for death any more than i already have
all you can do now is watch the shells
the game looks easy that’s why it sells
frustrated fireworks inside your head
are going to stand and deliver talk instead
the method acting that pays my bills
keeps the fat man feeding in beverly hills
i got a heavy metal mouth that hurls obscenity
and i get my check from the trash treasury
cos i took my own insides out
it don’t matter cos i had no sex life
all i want to do now is inject my ex wife
i’ve seen the movie and i know what happens
it’s a christmas time
and the needles on the tree
a skinny santa is bringing something to me
his voice is overwhelming, but his speech is slurred
and i only understand every other word
“open your parachute and grab your gun
falling down like an omen, a setting sun
read the part and we turn out fine
it’s a hell of a role if you can keep it alive
but i don’t care if i fuck up
i’m going on a date with a rich white lady
ain’t life great?
give me one good reason not to do it
this is a place where time reverses
dead men talk to all the pretty nurses
instruments shine on a silver tray
don’t let me be carried away
don’t let me be carried away
don’t let me be carried away

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.

ways to get on the internet really suck here

ways to get on the internet really suck here. about 100 more people showed up from another school yesterday, so that means this computer lab (with 12 computers, several of which are acting up) will be shared between around 200 people. from the hours of 9am to 8 pm. ack ack ack ack. also equally frustrating, CAPA will not let us put a phone line in the room, despite the fact that THEY TOLD US WE COULD IN OUR ORIENTATION PACKETS!! GAH!!!

so…. i need to find other ways to get on the net. i’m going to have to pay, but i’d like to find some reasonable set-up. like a net cafe with a membership or something. other than that, not much is going on. anyone who hasn’t read the previous entry should, because it’s filled with nudity (well, descriptions of nudity)

watched a bit of news

watched a bit of news tonight about the possibility of the us taking on iraq one-to-one in a war. i get the impression sometimes that the us government just has this desire to “fuck shit up” in retaliation for 9/11 and all, and we’re searching for a target, like a bully daring everyone to knock the chip off his shoulder. sigh.

as i write this, i’m sitting in an internet cafe paying by the hour. i really should be doing my homework but instead i’m checking email. oh well. costs more for me, i suppose.

today was my first day at my internship. i think i’m going to be busy. really busy. working in a london office was interesting. you could just sense the moments when everyone had almost simlutaneously decided they wanted to take a break, and then they would have a chat for a few minutes. today’s chat was about dentistry, because one gentleman had some unfortunate drilling and diagnosing done this morning. when break was over, it was almost as spontaneous. they just turned around, almost as if to say “we should really get back to work now, chaps. really…”

i went in actually thinking i was just going for an interview and ended up staying from 11a to 5p because the boss wanted me to read up on things about the organization.

actually listening to whiskeytown at the moment, despite what the thing may say below.