Tracks

ChOij

Written in response to a flash fiction challenge posted on Chuck Wendig’s blog.

Jake hefted the bag and pushed his way through a wall of vines and into the clearing. A thorn caught him on the cheek and his fingertips came away bloody when he gingerly felt the cut. He cursed under his breath and pressed his sleeve into the side of his face while he took a look around the clearing.

The bag was heavy and full of clanking metal, so he grunted and dropped it before striding purposefully to the edge of the trees and walking the perimeter. He counted off distances in his head, idly checking leaves and twisting branches as he passed. When he finished the circuit he did a quick bit of mental calculation, nodded to himself, and returned to the bag, which he opened and up-ended. A pile of thick metal bars spilled out on the forest floor and he regarded them critically.

He picked up two lengths of metal and walked to a likely spot on one side of the clearing. Standing so that his legs were shoulder-width apart, he carefully laid the bars down, one to each side. He did his best to keep them parallel, but absolute precision wasn’t required at this point, so he didn’t spend too much time fussing with them. Instead, he walked briskly back to the bag and grabbed another two pieces of metal then lined them up much the same way.

He spent the next hour or so laying out two parallel lines of metal bars that ran from one end of the clearing to the other. His forehead was drenched with sweat when he stopped, panting, and regarded his work, which looked like nothing so much as an ambitious child’s attempt at train tracks. He took a few deep breaths, wiped the sweat away, and began the next part of the process. The important part.

He produced a rag and a small glass bottle of golden liquid from one pocket, unstoppered the bottle, and poured some of the liquid into the rag. He leaned down and wiped the rag down the entire length of one line of metal bars, replenishing it with liquid as necessary. When he’d repeated this process with both lines of metal, they seemed to glow faintly with a strange inner light.

Jake stoppered the bottle again, returned it to his pocket and took a small leather-bound journal from another pocket. He turned and walked a few feet back from the lines of metal, opened the journal and flipped through until he found the pages he was looking for. After clearing his throat and taking a deep breath, he began reading.

As he spoke the words in a steady, booming voice, the lines of metal began to shimmer. As they shimmered, they began extending further into the forest on each side. The trees parted around them, forming first an arch and then a tunnel that stood ten feet tall and a few feet wider on each side. When Jake finished his recitation and closed the book with a snap, the resemblance to train tracks was unmistakeable.

His work done, Jake returned the book to his pocket, bundled up the empty bag and sat down on the forest floor to wait. He pulled a flask from an inner pocket and took a quick slug, wincing as the liquor burned his throat. He wondered, not for the first time, why there couldn’t be an easier way to arrange a meeting with the Colonel.

It wasn’t long before he heard the far-off sounds of a train approaching. When it began applying brakes, he gathered his things and stood. The engine burst into the clearing with a squeal and immediately filled the air with clouds of steam and the smell of burning metal. A few cars passed before it came to a complete stop.

A door on the closest car opened and a conductor stepped out, beckoning Jake forward with one furry paw. Jake presented his ticket and the conductor smiled in a toothy, feline way that wasn’t altogether reassuring, but that didn’t stop him from walking up the steps into the car’s darkened interior. He was barely inside before the train lurched into motion.

The car was cloudy with sweet-smelling smoke, and the seats were full of creatures with eyes that glinted yellow and green in the dim light. Jake did his best not to stare. The car he wanted was further back, so he kept walking until the smoke thinned out and the decorations weren’t quite so shabby. Here the seats were replaced with enclosed rooms that allowed the upper-class customers a modicum of privacy, not to mention better air quality.

He found the right door and knocked. After a moment’s hesitation, a gravelly voice spoke from within.

“I said most explicitly that I was not to be disturbed!”

“It’s me, sir. You called for a meeting.”

“I suppose I did. Come in, then.”

The Colonel was alone in the compartment, sitting on one bench with his face to the window, watching the forest speed past. Jake noticed that the thick orange hair on his face and hands was starting to show a little grey.

“You’re late. Pull down my briefcase and take a seat.”

Jake did as he was told and waited while the Colonel thumbed in a code and clicked open the briefcase. He pulled a thick red file folder from within and handed it to Jake before shutting the briefcase again and setting it aside.

“Start reading. We’re going deeper into the Shade Kingdom than you’ve ever been before.”

Jake hesitated for a moment under the Colonel’s laser-like gaze, then flipped the folder open and began reading. The Colonel turned back to the window with a sigh and left him to it.

“Beautiful country you have here. Shame it won’t last.”

Jake ignored this and turned another page, only to involuntarily suck in a breath at the face pictured there. Her face.

This was going to be interesting.

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.

Who watches The Watchmen? Definitely not the Heroes writers.

First off: a disclaimer. I’m going to discuss this week’s Heroes’ episode in my post, so if you’re spoiler averse, please stop reading now.

With that out of the way, I think those of us who are current on the newest season of Heroes can all safely agree that the show is a complete mess. By the same token, I think if you are current on the show, it’s because there’s still something about it that keeps you hooked and ready for the next episode. It’s almost as if it has some kind of charisma that makes you want to forgive its plot-holes and serious lapses in writing.

It’s why I keep watching, and keep hoping that the writing will rise above the current level and the writers will avoid any serious lapses in logic or character motivation. I have a feeling I will continue to get my hopes up only to have them dashed yet again.

This week’s episode, “Villains”, was a particularly good example. It focused entirely on a flashback seen through the eyes of a “dream-walking” Hiro. It was nice to have an episode that centered on characterization as opposed to express-train “save the world” plotlines, but at the same time it only introduced more serious logical lapses to an already overstuffed storyline.

Considering how this season has been received in the press and by fans, this episode felt like a last-ditch effort to remind the folks at home about the good times from season one. A number of familiar plot points from the first season were revisited and fleshed out from new perspectives. For the most part these details weren’t much more than filler, but one storyline did at least have an interesting premise, namely that Sylar’s descent into murder and mayhem wasn’t entirely his own doing.

Essentially the roles are reversed here, with Noah Bennett as the manipulative Company man (“villain”) who wants Sylar to keep killing so that they can study him, and Sylar as the relative innocent (“hero”) who truly regrets his initial act of violence and tries to commit suicide out of guilt. Sylar is a fascinating character, and I do like seeing more of his backstory, but I do wish that it didn’t have to come at the cost of the imposing air of menace he cultivated throughout seasons one and two. That isn’t my biggest problem with this storyline, however; my real issue is with the involvement of Kristen Bell’s character, Elle.

In this flashback storyline, we are told that Bennet and Elle partnered together to study Sylar. Elle was sent in undercover to draw him out of his shell by befriending him. She has second thoughts, however, and begins to have sympathy for Sylar as they become close, and she asks Bennett to back off.

The big disconnect is that when we meet Elle for the first time in season two, she is a daddy’s girl and an immature mess, completely sheltered and reliant on The Company for everything. In her scenes here, she seems much more in-control and mature, not to mention moral. In addition to that complete change in character, there are scenes later in season two where Elle saves several characters from a rampaging Sylar. I don’t have the episode in front of me to watch, but from what I remember there wasn’t even a hint of a shared history when they confronted each other.

You could, perhaps, explain some of this away as a case of a serious mind-wipe or manipulation performed on Elle so that she doesn’t remember what happened with Sylar, but that seems like a lazy explanation for what is, on the whole, half-assed writing. This particular storyline felt like it had some potential to be interesting, but it barely stands up to any kind of scrutiny. Overall, this week’s episode amounted to nothing more than plotholes interrupted by filler.

In conclusion, I think Heroes is best appreciated when you don’t analyze it too closely. I liked this week’s episode a lot more when I first started writing this post, and my opinion seriously went downhill from there. Doesn’t mean I’m going to stop watching, though. Shameful, really…

52 Books and a “Best-of” List

As you may know, I spent 2007 reading constantly, my goal being to read 52 books (or more) over the course of the year. I’m glad to say that I successfully reached my goal – my final count was 53 books! I’ve been meaning to write a post about this all week, but I’m only just now getting around to it.

Here are some numbers for you: 11 of the books I read were audiobooks. 5 were graphic novels. 15 were library books. Terry Pratchett was by far the author I read most, with a total of 10 books by him on my list. Lemony Snicket comes in second with 4 books.

I rated every single book I read on a scale from 1 to 10, but I rarely rated anything lower than a 7, although two books did get a 6 rating (Humpty Dumpty: An Oval and The City of Ember). I definitely started a number of books that I never finished, however, and a lot of those would have gotten a 6 or below, which is part of the reason I stopped reading them.

I discovered a number of great authors that have become some of my favorites, including John Crowley, Tim Powers, John Scalzi, and Charles Stross. I also finally finished White Noise by Don Delillo, which I first tried reading back in 2002 on the plane to London – this was the third time I tried!

The full list of books I read is available on the “Books Read in 2007” page, but I’d also like to pick out a sort of loose top 10 of the books I read this year. Each book’s page has a short review that I wrote when I finished reading it.

Last Call by Tim Powers Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco Night Watch by Terry Pratchett Pattern Recognition by William Gibson On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers Old Man’s War by John Scalzi A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore Glasshouse by Charles Stross Little, Big by John Crowley Firethorn by Sarah Micklem

1. Last Call by Tim Powers
2. Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco
3. Night Watch by Terry Pratchett
4. Pattern Recognition by William Gibson
5. On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers
6. Old Man’s War by John Scalzi
7. A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore
8. Glasshouse by Charles Stross
9. Little, Big by John Crowley
10. Firethorn by Sarah Micklem

Honorable mentions go to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by you-know-who, It’s Superman! by Tom De Haven, and the Series of Unfortunate Events books by Lemony Snicket.

Other Great Albums of 2007 (A Few Late Additions)

After reading through the various year-end lists, I tracked down a few of the interesting-sounding albums I hadn’t had a chance to listen to yet, and I discovered a few gems that I’d like to recommend as a sort of coda to my top 10 list:

Iron And Wine - The Shepherd's Dog

1) Iron and Wine – The Shepherd’s Dog

The Iron and Wine cover of “Dark Eyes” from the I’m Not There soundtrack is one of the standout songs on that album, so I decided to give Iron and Wine another listen-to, despite the fact that their Postal Service cover from the Garden State soundtrack was a bit mopey. This album is uniformly great, and if I had started listening to it earlier in the year, it would easily have been in my top 10 list. Rootsy, organic, full of beautiful harmonies and melodies, and highly recommended.

Battles - Mirrored2) Battles – Mirrored

My first exposure to this album was the video for Atlas, which I saw on Subterranean, i.e. the one hour a week (including 20 minutes of commercials) when M2 plays interesting music videos. The video is fairly minimal – just a shot of the band playing in the odd glass cube pictured on their album cover – but it fits the music, which is (mostly) instrumental rock, most of which is also very minimal, and generally composed of repeated percussion and industrial sounds. I’ve been drawn to more and more instrumental music in the past year or so, just because I find it hard to listen to vocal music when I’m reading (even though this was not an issue in my younger years when I had more brain cells…) Anyways, this one has really grown on me, much like similar music by Liquid Liquid did a few years back. “Atlas” and “Race: In” are the standout tracks here, although the band’s sound is a bit abrasive and may not be to everyone’s tastes.

LCD Soundsystem - 45:333) LCD Soundsystem – 45:33

This is actually a re-issue of an iTunes exclusive in a CD form. The new version splits up the formerly 45 minute first track into six parts (essentially the “movements” of the song) and adds on three bonus tracks (two b-sides and a remix). As you might imagine from my top 10 list, I’ve become a huge fan of LCD Soundsystem thanks to their second album. Much like the Battles album, this is primarily instrumental music (kind of a departure for the band), and I actually prefer it for reading because it’s a bit more soothing whereas the Battles album is more up-beat and rock-and-roll. Maybe I’ll use it for walking music when it isn’t so cold outside…

Long Time No Blog, Guess I Better Post a Movie Trailer

Hello there, gentle readers. I know I have been uninteresting lately. I’ve even gotten phonecalls from friends who need updates, new information and stories on what’s been going on in my life… My life is boring, really. I read books, watch DVDs and TV, and work work work like a good worker bee. I haven’t had the kind of low-level creative spark that produces blog entries recently.

I have, however, just watched a trailer for a new movie from the director of Thank You For Smoking. The movie is called Juno. Watch for yourself:

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

This film has been much-buzzed-about on the various filmic blogs I follow. It was, I believe, a must-see must-acquire film at the Toronto Film Festival, which is always a good thing. The trailer projects memories of such films as Little Miss Sunshine, Junebug, and Thumbsucker, so to a certain degree it’ll surely be cinematic comfort food, simply because I like movies in that vein. Hopefully it’ll also have some of the unique bite of “Smoking” along with all of the quirkiness.

Now, I can’t promise I’ll blog more any time soon. That’s practically the digital equivalent of crying wolf. Just be assured that I’m here, and I’m reading constantly, always working towards my goal of reading 52 books in a year. Along those lines, I’ve discovered several new favorite authors recently… John Scalzi, for example, as well as fully confirming William Gibson’s place on the list.

The Ten

I loved The State back in the day, really enjoyed the oddness that was Stella, and was both baffled and amused by Wet Hot American Summer (best watched with the “fart” commentary turned on). Like many comedy groups nowadays, they’ve formed a sort of loose collective with a rotating cast of other actors brought in on the fun, and their new movie, The Ten, has a huge collection of famous folks in the mix. I’m pretty excited about it from watching the trailer:

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!

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.

!/myspace/cigarette.gif!:http://www.fantagraphics.com/artist/burns/burns.html

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.*

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…

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.

!

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.

i am totally that guy

i just realized that i’m turning into a hermit. with multiple cats. before you know it, i’ll have a whole herd of them constantly mewling and pissing on everything and i’ll have stoppped leaving my house except to pick up the newest tv guide and yell at those darn neighbor kids always throwing shit on my roof.

…the only time i left my house today was around 11:30 at night for an ill-fated trip to the local video rental store. i say ill-fated because the main purpose was to rent something funny, hopefully either anchorman or napoleon dynamite, but – of course – both were rented, because they’re very popular, these funny movies, and everyone else had already had the same idea as me.

it didn’t help that i owe the i luv video on airport… mmm… let’s say five dollars – quite an expense since i’m trying to save money and all – and the one on guadalupe… which seemed so promising at first… had a broken credit card machine. and i never have cash. well, i never have money, especially not now, but i super-especially never have cash. i almost half-heartedly rented some anime at the airport i luv video, but then i realized that i didn’t really want to watch it, and i didn’t really want to pay my late fees either.

and besides, last night i bought garden state with a target gift card i got in a sort of late christmas extravaganza. all ten dollars worth. i was hoping garden state would be even cheaper, but when i had to ask the guy to find me the only copy in the store, i had basically decided to bite the bullet and buy the damn thing no matter how much it cost. ($20 plus tax, if you must know, which came out to $11.64 after the gift card was applied. still as cheap or cheaper than i could have gotten it online.)

so i came back home, made a pot of coffee (at 12:45 in the morning, no less!), and sat down to watch the movie that so many of you have written off because it’s too popular with the hip kids, or sounds too cliche, or whatever other reasons you might imagine. course, i’ve already told you that this brand of stance on movies annoys me, most likely because there’s nothing i can do to make all those hipster douchebags stop raving about nice movies that you would like if they weren’t so overhyped.

BEGIN IMPROMPTU *GARDEN STATE* REVIEW

the movie still stands up on a second viewing, and the parts that made me laugh the first time are still just as funny. the ending doesn’t seem like such a cop-out after all. and the real strength of the movie is revealed: while the main thrust of the movie is about andrew largeman’s personal journey of growth, it’s probably one of the least pretentious versions of such a story i can remember. this is mostly because of instead of making the movie some sort of drawing-room talking heads bullshit piece, the movie is peopled with strikingly odd characters that were surely drawn directly from life, and the occasional moments of surrealism that somehow – when put all together – make new jersey into a place both bleak and magical at the same time.

i think every writer has an urge when first starting out to write something nakedly autobiographical and confessional, and this generally turns into something maudlin and annoying. the thing is, while that element was obviously the genesis of this movie, we are not hit over the head with endless dramatic scenes where braff’s character goes through emotional torment and Learns Something Important. instead, the movie is muted and subtle compared to other such filmic confessionals, and filled with genuinely funny and strange moments that truly set it apart.

garden state is definitely a first film, and perhaps it only exists because of zach braff’s role on scrubs, but the nice thing about it is that – although it does have its flaws – the moments that stand out are of the sort that i personally love seeing in movies, and i can only imagine that, given time, some maturity as a writer, and another crack behind the camera, braff will come up with something wholly original.

SO THERE’S *THAT*

why do i have the urge to drink another pot of coffee? it’s 4:49 in the morning!

all i know is that if there was some way i could never have to sleep again – without any side effects – i would go for it. my worst and most dangerous vice is my love of sleep. it’s much easier, when given the choice between sitting down and writing something, or reading a book, or finding a job, or really doing anything that might help me put my goddamn life on track, to just nod off for four or five hours, or sleep until three in the afternoon, or generally wander through my life with eyes closed and brain stuffed with cotton.

i can feel my brain atrophying in my skull. i’ve begun forgetting names i should know, telling the same stories over and over again, and re-reading sentences in novels over and over again because i wasn’t paying attention the first time around.

when i talk on the phone with my mother, she says things like “well, i hope that you can find a job that would actually make those four years of college mean something.”

meaning would be nice, but i honestly don’t think that there’s any connection between the time i spent in college – learning about life through both university sponsored and illicit channels – and the job(s) i’m inevitably going to have to take because i have about $30 in my checking account and $1100 charged on my credit card. sure, it’d be nice to be able to find a job that i could only get because i have a college degree, but honestly… i had one of those, and it made me want to gouge my own eyes out.

there are three sorts of jobs out there that seem to stem logically from my time in college. they are as follows:

(1) jobs that require warm bodies with motor and language skills (but little or no experience) to perform menial tasks considered too complicated for those without a degree

(2) jobs in more interesting specializations that, as a result, require either more experience than i have or a good bit of nepotism in hiring practices.

(3) creative jobs that wouldn’t actually have required either a college degree or even high school equivalency, just the preserverence and talent necessary to catch the eye of someone important. oh and it helps to have a portfolio/experience to prove your talent when necessary.

NACQ was a #1 sort of job. we can rule those out if they involve computers. i want my computer to be a thing of joy and relaxation, not some punishing box full of cathodes that drains my lifeforce away minute by minute.

i suppose i could do something dull and mindless if i at least got to walk around a bit and occasionally talk to some people. ironically, a lot of dull and mindless jobs tend to require experience i don’t have… unless they’re in the fast food industry, which my mother tells me just doesn’t fit into the whole life-plan thing she seems to have mapped out in her mind.

alright. i think i might be tired now.

well i lived through amsterdam.

well i lived through amsterdam. it was a regular den of iniquity, if you’d really like to know. porn stores, prostitutes and the smell of weed popped up regularly throughout the streets, especially since our hotel was next to the red light district.

the previous post was an interesting part of an article i was reading that day. (and it kind of applied to my vacation) i actually don’t agree with everything the guy says (i think he’s pretty biased, and sort of rants) but he does make some interesting points. for example, prostitutes exist whether or not they are legal, but in the states we often hear of serial killers who kill huge numbers of prostitutes. now, one might say “they’re prostitutes, so what?” but what kind of attitude is that? just because a women gets money for sex does not mean she is no longer a woman.

i think the reason that most people wouldn’t want prostitutes legalized is because they wouldn’t want to have to look them in the face on a regular basis. if things are illegal, they are kept underground and “go away” in the eyes of most people.

of course, if you watched traffic, you know that this can also be applied to the drug trade. just because drugs are illegal does not mean they go away. rather, the people who want drugs have to go to dangerous lengths to get them, and people get killed. drug dealers kill each other left and right, etc.

of course, just because they are legal does not mean there are no addicts. basically these things are very thorny issues. no one in the world has actually figured out how to get rid of things like drugs and prostitutes, simply because they are things that people want to do, whether or not they think they are right. so what is the answer? have them legalized in full view of the whole world (like amsterdam) but still have some problems or make them illegal and pretend no problem exists (like most american middle class families would prefer)?

as far as the bit about infidelity… well i’m not sure how savage plans for that to work, and i definitely don’t really agree with him. i don’t think that adultery is a natural part of a relationship. it is possible to be faithful.

anyways, gotta go back to work. meh.