Wednesday, February 28, 2007

I bought some cheese.

Also, some sourdough bread. And a few other things.

That's all I have to report.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Oscars: Aftermath

And so another Oscar season has come and gone, and yet again, much like I have seen few, if any, of the movies nominated, I have not seen the actual Oscar broadcast. Because, really, who needs to. Four-plus hours of Hollywood back-slapping and grip-and-grinning? Puh-leeze. I'll just get the winners' list off the 'Net the next day.

And the winners list seemed to mesh even better than usual with my predicts this year. 16 right out of 24 categories gives me a success percentage of about 66.6666666 (into infinity) %, or -- if my math is correct -- about two-thirds. That ain't too shabby. Let's discuss.

Best Motion Picture of the Year
Prediction: The Departed
Winner: The Departed
Thoughts: Yay Marty!

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role:
Prediction: Forest Whitaker
Winner: Forest Whitaker
Thoughts: I don't know what the movie's about, but I really like the title "The Last King of Scotland." I also like Forest Whitaker. Maybe I should watch this movie, eh?

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role:
Prediction: Helen Mirren
Winner: Helen Mirren
Thoughts: As always, you can't go wrong by voting for someone who either goes through an uglification, or manages to bear an uncanny resemblance to a historical figure.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role:
Prediction: Alan Arkin
Winner: Alan Arkin
Thoughts: Is Alan Arkin Canadian? I saw his Oscar win on the front page of either The Province or The Sun this morning (can't remember which) which seems like a weird spin for the front. My guess is they either had to ship the front to press before the Oscars were over, or else they went for Canadian content. Assuming Arkin's Canadian. If you hadn't noticed, I'm not sure.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Prediction: Jennifer Hudson
Winner: Jennifer Hudson
Thoughts: Haven't got any. This was just a "well, guess Dreamgirls might win something" prediction. I don't even know who she is.

Best Achievement in Directing
Prediction: Martin Scorsese
Winner: Martin Scorsese
Thoughts: Yay Marty!

Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen
Prediction: Letters from Iwo Jima
Winner: Little Miss Sunshine
Thoughts: No love for Mr. Eastwood this year, I see.

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published
Prediction: The Departed
Winner: The Departed
Thoughts: Yay Marty! Er, I mean, Yay William Monahan!

Best Achievement in Cinematography
Prediction: El Laberinto del Fauno
Winner: El Laberinto del Fauno
Thoughts: Dark, weird, creepy and moody wins the cinematography category. Big surprise.

Best Achievement in Editing
Prediction: The Departed
Winner: The Departed
Thoughts: It's interesting to note that not only has Thelma Schoonmaker (the winner in this category) been nominated for five Oscars, she has also won three. All while working with Scorsese.

Best Achievement in Art Direction
Prediction: El Laberinto del Fauno
Winner: El Laberinto del Fauno
Thoughts: Again, no big surprise.

Best Achievement in Costume Design
Prediction: El Laberinto del Fauno
Winner: Marie Antoinette
Thoughts: Well, I didn't have a chance in this category, as Fauno wasn't even nominated. For whatever reason, while copying the info from my Oscar ballot, I typed up the nominations for Art Direction under this category. It's easy for me to say, after the fact, that I would have fingered Marie Antoinette for the win had I actually looked at the proper nomination list, but I probably would have. That or The Queen, just because of the way period stuff tends to take the Costume Design category.

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score
Prediction: Babel
Winner: Babel
Thoughts: What did I say about big, sweeping, emotional scores?

Best Achievement In Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song
Prediction: Dreamgirls
Winner: An Inconvenient Truth
Thoughts: How often does a documentary win in this category? Next to never, I'd reckon. Although, clearly, it isn't impossible.

Best Achievement in Makeup
Prediction: El Laberinto del Fauno
Winner: El Laberinto del Fauno
Thoughts: More shiny statues for dark and creepy.

Best Achievement in Sound
Prediction: Dreamgirls
Winner: Dreamgirls
Thoughts: A movie with people singing wins best sound. Moving right along...

Best Achievement in Sound Editing
Prediction: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Winner: Letters from Iwo Jima
Thoughts: I'll blame my miss on the fact that I still don't understand the difference between this category and the previous.

Best Achievement in Visual Effects
Prediction: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Winner: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Thoughts: Did anyone else find this movie a bit underwhelming? Too much setup for part three, I think.

Best Animated Feature Film of the Year
Prediction: Cars
Winner: Happy Feet
Thoughts: I hate that title. The movie might be fine and all, but that title just rubs me so many different shades of not-right.

Best Foreign Language Film of the Year
Prediction: El Laberinto del Fauno
Winner: Das Leben der Anderen
Thoughts: Huh? How does a foreign movie, that manages to win Oscars in three other non-foreign-specific categories *not* win the foreign language category? Granted, those other wins were for more technical awards, and not for the merit of the movie, but this seemed like such a no-brainer to me.

Best Documentary, Features
Prediction: An Inconvenient Truth
Winner: An Inconvenient Truth
Thoughts: Speaking of no-brainers. Glad this category didn't turn out to be a surprise as well, otherwise I'd have to stop putting my money on the apparent no-brainers.

Best Documentary, Short Subjects
Prediction: The Blood of Yingzhou District
Winner: The Blood of Yingzhou District
Thoughts: While I wouldn't recommend making all your Oscar predictions based on what has the coolest name, this is evidence that, on occasion, it can actually work.

Best Short Film, Animated
Prediction: The Little Matchgirl
Winner: The Danish Poet
Thoughts: In honour of the winner, here is a pastry haiku.

Pastry, you are best / with fruit in your soft centre / yum, fruity pastry.

Thank you.

Best Short Film, Live Action
Prediction: The Saviour
The Winner: West Bank Story
Thoughts: I'm all used up. The haiku took the last of my energy.

Proof that horoscopes are strange. And random. And somewhat schizophrenic.

Checking my horoscope for the week, while I prepare the horoscope strip for the Quesnel Advisor newspaper, I see that the next seven days will be a rollercoaster ride of conflict as I try to appease every aspect of my horoscope's recommendations. Observe:
You are best to stick to yourself this week.

Okay. I can probably handle that. I've been thinking I need some me time lately, anyway.
Get together with those you find mentally stimulating.

Like...myself? I mean, didn't you just tell me to stick to myself? How am I supposed to stick to myself while hanging out with people I find mentally stimulating. Unless I'm supposed to get together with them, then hide in the bathroom, thinking about how much I hate them.
Plan a nice evening for two.

Again, hard to do when I'm supposed to stick to myself. Unless I'm supposed to plan a nice evening for two, then dine alone and think about how pathetic and lonely I am.

Thanks a lot, Mr. Horoscope. Now you've made me sad.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Oscars! Ack!

I don't know exactly how this happened, but apparently the Oscars are tomorrow night, and here I am without my annual know-nothing Oscar predictions. How the heck did that happen?

So here I am, about to rush through them, because I have managed to catch in time, and because this is a tradition now, after three years, maybe four, I can't actually recall. Granted, I won't be able to stick to the predictions for the top awards in my column as I have for the last few years (a point made more annoying by the fact that I was sort of struggling for a column last week as it was) but posting them at all is better than nothing.

So, let the predictions begin, starting from the bottom of the official IMDB Oscar ballot, and working my way to the top.

Best Short Film, Live Action:
Binta y la gran idea
Eramos pocos
Helmer & Son
The Saviour
West Bank Story

Interesting to see a couple of (apparently) foreign films in the list. I like the title of "West Bank Story" as it seems to be a sort-of play on "West Side Story" but I'm gonna go with "The Saviour" as my prediction here. Who's gonna vote against the saviour? Not me, that's for sure.

Winner: The Saviour

Best Short Film, Animated:
The Danish Poet
The Little Matchgirl
No Time for Nuts

I wonder if "The Danish Poet" is about a guy who writes poetry about pastries? I know that's not the *obvious* meaning of the title, but wouldn't that make for a great play on words? "No Time for Nuts" is clearly a losing bet, as everyone knows there's always time for nuts. Always. I'm gonna go with "The Little Matchgirl" to win this, because hopefully it's a movie about a girl lighting stuff on fire. That'd rock.

Winner: The Little Matchgirl

Best Documentary, Short Subjects:
The Blood of Yingzhou District
Recycled Life
Rehearsing a Dream
Two Hands: The Leon Fleisher Story

As much as I'd like to pick "Recycled Life" as the winner under the assumption that it's about recycling (and, therefore, a hot topic in the same year that "An Inconvenient Truth" made waves), I'm going to choose the movie with the word "Blood" in the title, even though I'm not entirely sure how an entire district can bleed.

Winner: The BLood of Yingzhou District

Best Documentary, Features
Deliver Us from Evil
An Inconvenient Truth
Iraq in Fragments
Jesus Camp
My Country My Country

I've actually seen Jesus Camp, and would love to show it some support by predicting a win -- it was a fantastic, if mildly frightening, look at extremes of evangelical Christianity -- unfortunately, I think this is probably locked by "An Inconvenient Truth." Global warming has been a hot, hot topic for a number of years now, this year included, and this movie was EVERYWHERE, and on everyone's mind. I even saw an article within the last few days how an oscar win here might even push Al Gore into a run for the President in the next US election. Which is maybe putting too much power in the hands of a little gold statue, but whatever.

Winner: An Inconvenient Truth

Best Foreign Language Film of the Year
Efter brylluppet
El Laberinto del Fauno
Das Leben der Anderen

Hard to comment on movies whose titles you'd need to put through a translator to understand. Harder still to make jokes about them. So I think I'll just point the finger of prediction at "Water" because it at least appears to be somewhat understandable in English. And because there's a pretty groovy Oingo Boingo song by that title.

[EDIT: After seeing it's name pop up in other categories, I've figured out that "El Laberinto del Fauno" is actually the film better known as "Pan's Labyrinth" which seems a better choice for a winner here, so I've changed my official choice accordingly.]

Winner: El Laberinto del Fauno

Best Animated Feature Film of the Year
Happy Feet
Monster House

I can't remember if this category exists every year or not. Are there always enough animated films in a year for this category to exist? I don't watch a lot of animated stuff, so I'm not really sure, but it seems plausible, I guess. I'll pick Cars for no other reason than I think it's a Pixar movie, and for the most part, Pixar stuff rocks.

Winner: Cars

Best Achivement in Visual Effects
Priates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Superman Returns

Wow, looks like a light year for SFX movies, with only three nominations here. As much as there was some nice FX work in Superman, I'm going to give this one to Pirates, just because it seemed to have a whole lot *more* FX going on. Sure it's great to make a man fly. But to make two dozen pirates look like strange, half-fish creatures is an even bigger deal.

Winner: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

Best Achievement in Sound Editing
Blood Diamond
Flags of our Fathers
Letters from Iwo Jima
Pirates of of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

I still don't really understand the difference between this category and the next one, how one differentiates between "Sound" and "Sound Editing." I want to give it to Apocalypto, because I suspect it was pretty noisy, but I think Gibson's getting snubbed this year, after proving to the world that he's pretty much completely batshit insane. So let's go with Pirates again, instead.

Winner: Pirates of the Caribbean

Best Achievement in Sound
Blood Diamond
Flags of our Fathers
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

Dreamgirls was a musical, wasn't it? I can't remember. Sure, why not, give it to that one.

Winner: Dreamgirls

Best Achievement in Makeup
El Laberinto del Fauno

I've only seen a handful of shots from El Laberinto del Fauno, but there's some bizarre, freaky, nightmarish stuff going on in that movie, and it's all thanks to the makeup work. Besides, Apocalypto continues to get snubbed, and Click is a bloody Adam Sandler movie. Let's move on.

Winner: El Laberinto del Fauno

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song
An Inconvenient Truth - "I Need to Wake Up"
Dreamgirls - "Listen"
Dreamgirls - "Love You I Do"
Cars - "Our Town"
Dreamgirls - "Patience"

Hard to go wrong here -- seems like picking something from the movie that was nominated three times in one category is a safe bet. But which one to choose? Patience, I think. Because it's a virtue.

Winner: Dreamgirls - "Patience"

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score
Babel - Gustavo Santaolalla
The Good German - Thomas Newman
Notes on a Scandal - Philip Glass
El Laberinto del Fauno - Javier Navarrete
The Queen - Alexandre Desplat

What a weird category for me this year. Glass is the only composer who's name I recognize, and yet the movie he scored doesn't ring a bell at all for me. I'll pick Babel, is it was apparently the sort of movie that you feel sort of sad while also sort of poignant, so it probably had a score like that too. Big sweeping moody music is always good for an award.

Winner: Babel - Gustavo Santaolalla

Best Achievement in Costume Design
The Good Shepherd
El Laberinto del Fauno
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
The Prestige

It's usually safe to bet on the period stuff in this category, except there's a few period pieces on the list -- Dreamgirls, The Prestige, Pirate, I think Shepherd is. What's a fella to do when faced with that particular problem? Easy. Choose the one that isn't immediately thought of as a period film. And the one with lots of freaky costumes to complement the freaky makeup.

Winner: El Laberinto del Fauno

Best Achievement in Art Direction
The Good Shepherd
El Laberinto del Fauno
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
The Prestige

Seriously, with a movie that looks as messed up as El Laberinto del Fauno, how could this not win?

Winner: El Laberinto del Fauno

Best Achievement in Editing
Blood Diamond
Children of Men
The Departed
United 93

Most people have been predicting Scorsese's The Departed as a big sweeper at the Oscars this year, and tend to agree, so I'll start the sweeps with this award right here.

Winner: The Departed

Best Achievement in Cinematography
The Black Dahlia
Children of Men
The Illusionist
El Laberinto del Fauno
The Prestige

Going for the Fauno yet again, even though I'm tempted to pick The Prestige -- Chris Nolan's films always look fantastic.

Winner: El Laberinto del Fauno

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published
Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
Children of Men
The Departed
Little Children
Notes on a Scandal

Comedies are rarely honoured at the Oscars, so that puts the kibosh on Borat. Children of Men was apparently quite good, but also quite overlooked. I'll give this one to The Departed.

Winner: The Departed

Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen
Letters from Iwo Jima
Little Miss Sunshine
El Laberinto del Fauno
The Queen

Both Babel and Little Miss Sunshine are hot picks for the Best Picture Oscar, but I don't think they're getting that one. This category could give voters a chance to hand either of those films an honourary Oscar of some kind. On the other hand, Letters has had a lot of critics raving, and it's got Paul Haggis behind the screenplay, who's been Oscar bait for the last few years, so it seems like a safer bet.

Winner: Letters from Iwo Jima

Best Achievement in Directing
Clint Eastwood
Stephen Frears
Paul Greengrass
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
Martin Scorsese

Just give Marty the damn award and admit it's at least a couple of decades too late.

Winner: Martin Scorsese

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Adriana Barraza
Cate Blanchett
Abigail Breslin
Jennifer Hudson
Rinko Kikuchi

Dreamgirls seems likely to win *something* and this seems as good a category as any.

Winner: Jennifer Hudson

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
Alan Arkin
Jackie Earle Haley
Djimon Hounsou
Eddie Murphy
Mark Whalberg

Pardon my french, but what the fuck has happened to the world that Eddie Murphy ends up with an Oscar nomination? I mean, okay, I haven't seen the movie, so maybe this is the performance of a lifetime, but I just don't see it going to him. Whalberg didn't have enough to do in The Departed to really snag the Oscar, so I'm giving it to Alan Arkin, because he's a fine actor, and because Little Miss Sunshine will probably snag something.

Winner: Alan Arkin

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
Penelope Cruz
Judi Dench
Helen Mirren
Meryl Streep
Kate Winslet

Everyone seems to be predicting Mirren, for having so completely embodied her character in The Queen. Seems like a safe bet, even against Meryl Streep, who has sort of lost some of her award-winningness in the last decade or two.

Winner: Helen Mirren

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
Leonardo DiCaprio
Ryan Goslin
Peter O'Toole
Will Smith
Forrest Whitaker

It could go to O'Toole, as a sort-of honourary, sorry-for-never-giving-you-the-award sort of thing, but Whitaker's been winning just about every pre-Oscar award around, so he's the one to put money on.

Winner: Forrest Whitaker

Best Motion Picture of the Year
The Departed
Letters from Iwo Jima
Little Miss Sunshine
The Queen

Babel's been hotly debated for a winner here, and also described, somewhat unflatteringly, as CRASH PART 2. I haven't seen the film myself, but if it's anything like Crash -- last year's best picture winner -- I have two things to say. It's probably annoying as hell. And if it wins, I'll be disgusted to the point of vomit. In fact, if Babel wins best picture, I think I'll probably retire this annual Oscar prediction thingy, out of disgust for the awards in general.

Winner: The Departed

And that completes this year's list of pointless, know-nothing, bullshit opinion Oscar predictions. Hope you enjoyed them. Check back in the next few days for a post-Oscar analysis of my wins and my losses.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The pinnacle of slightly-inclined upward motion technology.

I watched the original 1978 version of "Dawn of the Dead" for the first time last night. It's strange seeing a movie like that, almost 30 years later, separate from the general climate of the era it was released in. I know it's billed as a horror movie, and I know that it was also intended as a not-so-subtle satire on consumerism, but what I'm *not* sure of is just how funny the movie was intended to be in 1978. I found myself laughing quite a lot, watching the zombies shuffle around the mall while cheesy mall-style Muzak poured from the speakers. But was this scene more horrifying in 1978? Did the zombies send chills along with their satirical message? I really can't be sure.

I noted that 1978 era shopping malls differed little from the shopping malls of today, and after a few minutes of research (thanks wikipedia), I found that the movie had been shot at the Monroeville Mall in Monroeville, Pennsylvania.

The mall was constructed a decade earlier, which made the mall similarities even spookier -- the malls of the late 60s doesn't look much different than the malls of the late 2000s, it would seem.

I was struck by the escalators in in the mall -- certainly a staple of shopping centres, among other locales, but something about seeing the escalators in a 1970s mall made me think of the cheery, optimistic, we'll-all-be-living-on-the-moon-with-our-flying-cars attitude of the 1960s. And it occured to me that escalators were a wonderful 1960s sort of idea.

They're stairs. BUT THEY MOVE. ON THEIR OWN. It's just like science-frickin-fiction.

So I wiki'd escalators. And what do you know, they aren't really a creation of the 1960s. In fact, the modern version of the escalator appeared in 1921.


The original versions of the escalator (apparently there two competing products that ended up merged into the 1921 version) actually appeared in the 1800s.

The escalator originated in the 19th century.

Tell me that's not stunning. Tell me that doesn't make your jaw drop.

And tell me that doesn't make you wonder why, more than 100 years later, we're still using them?

Put another way, is the escalator *really* the pinnacle of slightly-inclined upward motion technology? I mean, granted, I don't really have any suggestions for improvements or new technologies, but I'm not an engineer. I'm a sort-of-geeky newspaper guy. The actual invention of something like that is sort of out of my area of expertise. Talking about it, though, is well within it.

I know there's plenty of technologies that last for a long, long time (the automobile seems a pretty obvious example) and just become regular parts of our lives. But the escalator has remained almost unchanged since 1921. That just seems...indescribably bizarre.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Another 17 down. 300-something more to go.

I dusted off the editing work last night, pushing my way through another 17 pages on the novel, bringing me to page 67 and nearly the end of chapter two. During a break in the editing, I hit the computer to print chapter three, which runs from page 67 to 97, and approximately one quarter of the novel.

Looking ahead at future editing work on the first half of the book, there's one lengthy section in the first chapter that needs a from-scratch rewrite that I haven't sat down to do yet, and another entire chapter near the end that needs to be created from scratch (when I was originally working on the book, I leapt ahead to the second half, as the first half was beginning to depress the hell out of me).

All of this work followed a dish-washing binge. Because, for reasons I could only begin to guess, I was in a super-productive mode last night.

While doing the editing work, I was listening to what I sort of consider the spiritual soundtrack to the novel, Leonard Cohen's "The Future." It's from that album that I yanked the quotes that open the first part, the second part, and the epilogue of the novel. But while editing, with the songs I had quoted drifting into my head in the background, a further idea occurred to me.

I realized that, instead of *just* using quotations from the songs, it would actually be appropriate to retitle those section based on sections from the quotations.

I rolled the idea around in my head for a bit, and found that I liked these section titles far, far better than what I had originally planned to use, so I made the official change to the manuscript.

And so, the section titles are broken down as such:

Part One: The Awful Truth
Part Two: The Miracle
Epilogue: The Light Gets In

These titles replace the originals, which were:

Part One: Faith
Part Two: Truth
Epilogue: Happily Ever After

And this is why I generally don't title things until I'm finished them. Because it isn't until I'm finished that I really know what it is I'm writing.

It's also nice to know that these sorts of random, sudden, overwhelming moments of inspiration are still able to make an appearance, even after 95% of the creation work is done, and I'm the middle of the more clinical editing stage.

Here's hoping that there's still a little bit of that inspiration left for when it comes time to do those few bits of from-scratch writing. I'm beginning to *feel* the narrator's voice again, just from reading it, so it shouldn't be too hard to sit down and find my way back into his head for those few sections. But it'd be an added bonus if those new sections were particularly inspired. Of course.

Oh, and over the course of last night's editing, I actually came across a section that seemed solid enough to post here. Taken from a scene at a funeral...

And then, I did need to be beside her, and hold her, and let her cry onto my shoulder as I cried into hers, pressing ourselves together, unaware of anything outside of us except the other, closing our eyes to the world around us, and the universe beyond that, making a new universe that would exist only of she and I, where no one died and love was eternal and just wanting something bad enough was all it took to make it happen.

And then dirt was being thrown, and the sobs came a little more loudly while the droning holy man quieted, and people started milling around, moving to comfort those they knew and cared about, because it was all over now except the mourning.

That's all for now. Cheerio.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The wait is over. Sort of.

Last night's technical difficulties have now been dealt with, and the newly face-lifted web gallery for Stick Figure Drama Season Three can be officially unveiled. It is linked in the side bar, under Stickage Season Three, but the sake of convenience, I'll also link it in this post. Right here, in fact.

Season Two will be the next to receive the face-lift treatment, followed by Season One. As the web gallery format allows me to publish commentaries along with each strip, I am currently undecided whether I will simply copy and paste the original Season One commentary as it appeared in the printed collection, or rewrite the commentary froms cratch. That's why it'll be done last.

I *may* do a up-to-now Season Four gallery before either completing the Season Two or Season One galleries, but at the moment I'm a little wary of it, as once I start the Season Four gallery, I should probably make the extra effort to make sure that it remains up to date on a weekly basis. And we all know how I am about that sort of thing, don't we?

Technical Difficulties

Those of you looking to access Season Three of Stick Figure can't. For now.

Season Three is currently being migrated to a new (and much, much better) layout, unfortunately technical difficulties have gotten in the way, preventing the new layout from going live at this time. Unfortunately, I dumped all the previous Season Three images before this technical difficulty reared its ugly head. So you'll just have to wait until tomorrow for your Season Three fix.

Yeah, I'm sure that'll be super difficult.

Friday, February 16, 2007

I really should stop watching filmmaking documentaries.

Or, I dunno, maybe I should watch more of them. Because watching them just makes me think, goddamn, I wish I was doing that. I was out making movies. Does that sound stupid? It probably does. But who gives a damn. We're all allowed a few moments of stupid fantasy now and then.

I wish I had come out of high school with a better idea of what I wanted to do. Instead, I came out of high school with almost no idea what I wanted to do. I thought I wanted to be a writer, but I didn't even know what that meant at the time. I was raised on horror and fantasy fiction, thinking that all you needed to tell a good story was some interesting twists and shocking ending. It wasn't until I was in my twenties that I realized what real storytelling was about, how you could actually use a story to say something about the world, about the human condition, about things that really mattered.

So coming out of high school, all I knew is that I wanted to write, and that got me a crappy job as a junior reporter at a crappy little 8-page newspaper. And that crappy little job somehow blossomed into a career that I still have to this day -- not writing, exactly, but newspaper. I didn't come out of high school thinking, "I want to work at a newspaper," but somehow that's what ended up happening. Careers have a way of sneaking up on you like that.

It's probably no surprise that I've been dealing with some discontentment issues lately. Those who know me personally have probably heard me say as much, and those who only know me through this blog have probably sensed it seeping through the writing lately. I'm not really going out of my way to hide it. I'm discontented.

I've been turning to just about anyone I can get my hands on for advice. There was a group discussion at the bar following one of the "Seen Change" performances that was dedicated to trying to find me a new career, something that might be more satisfying. One of the suggestions that came up was, "Write a good book," and that suggestion got me to actually start editing work on a novel that's been waiting for an edit since the summer of 2005. Which is good.

It's going slow. I'm 50 pages into a manuscript that's just shy of 400. I'm not working at it as hard as I should be, I'll confess, but I'm picking at it. Bit by bit.

Someone else told me, you're young, go have an adventure.

It's lovely advice. I want to. I wish I could.

Someone else suggested going back to school, retraining. They were doing it, why couldn't I?

Which, you know, is a damn good question.

So while browsing through the courses available at BCIT, what do I find but this.

Yeah, BCIT has a film program. And it's a film program designed with a flexible schedule to accomodate older adults who need to hold down a somewhat steady job while they go back to school. How perfect is that?

I can't afford it, of course. I could save, and maybe afford it in a year or two. Or maybe three or four depending on how many things break down (heaven knows my car doesn't have much life left in it).

And I can't help but think how much easier this would have been ten years ago. Before a stupid marriage that was doomed to failure, and the acquisition of debt that comes hand in hand with that. I can't help but think how much easier this would have been without a mortgage, without a credit line, without a visa, without an overdraft, all of which I'm struggling to make disappear so I'll be free of the remnants of that former life.

There's a part of me that wants so badly to just throw everything around me in the trash, and go somewhere else, and start over again. Maybe with the same career at a new location, and maybe with something brand new. Maybe start everything fresh, back at school again, for something I might have a passion for. Something I might actually love to do.

But there are just too many pieces of my former life that still have their claws dug into my current life. Too many to just shake off and be free of.

I'm still young. Have an adventure.

Sure. As soon as the bills from the last one are paid for.

God, I hate the word "Grok".

Hate it. Hate it hate it hate it. I fucking loathe it. Seriously.

My only regret is that I can't say that I've *always* hated it. Because I haven't. Originally, it was just a sort of passing annoyance. It has since evolved into hate.

What brings this up? The fact that GROK appeared in my inbox recently as the Oxford Dictionary word of the day.

For those who don't know the word, here's what Oxford had to say:
grok \GROCK\ verb

: to understand profoundly and intuitively

Example sentence:
No matter how many times I try to explain it, my grandmother just can't grok what a blog is and why anyone would want to read one.

Did you know?
"Grok" may be the only English word that derives from Martian. Yes, we do mean the language of the planet Mars. No, we're not getting spacey; we've just ventured into the realm of science fiction. "Grok" was introduced in Robert A. Heinlein's 1961 science fiction novel Stranger in a Strange Land. The book's main character, Valentine Michael Smith, is a Martian-raised human who comes to earth as an adult, bringing with him words from his native tongue and a unique perspective on the strange, strange ways of earthlings. "Grok" was quickly adopted by the youth culture of America and has since peppered the vernacular of those who grok it, from the hippies of the '60s to the computerniks of the '90s.

I should also admit, I suppose, that I never finished reading "Stranger in a Strange Land." It had been highly recommended by a friend who had lent me the book, but I just couldn't get through it. It was just so...dreadful. But my dislike for the book didn't have much bearing on my dislike for the word. Although, admittedly, I thought the whole "Look! Martian words!" thing was pretty lame.

So why the hatred for the word? Because it's a stupid fucking made-up word in martianese AND PEOPLE STILL USE IT.



Worse yet, it's generally used by annoying hipster-geek types who want to show their hipster-geek cred by using made up martian words. These are the some sort of hipster-geeks who probably have iPods, so I'm already hating them for that as well. If you use the word "GROK" you've probably got two strikes against you, so don't even talk to me.

On the bright side?

Well, I guess, at least they're not speaking Klingon. There's that.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Who am I?

Who am I? Who are you? That guy who lives next door, who is he? That other guy, a few houses down the street, with the dark blue car? What about him? Who's he?

Who are we?

What makes us who we are?

Contrary to Tyler Durden's manifesto -- that we are not beautiful and unique snowflakes, that we are the same decaying organic matter as everything else -- I can't help but realize that, at least on certain levels, we are unique. Perhaps not beautiful, but unique, at the very least.

I am not you, and you are not me, and the guy next door is not the guy from a few houses down with the dark blue car.

Why not?

What makes us different?

More importantly, what makes us who we are?

I've had this weird idea for awhile that there really isn't any such thing as free will, just the illusion we have of free will, based on the way we perceive time. Every choice I make is actually the only choice I could possibly make, based on the combination of my particular biology at that moment in time, as well as all of the internal and external influences I've had on my life for my entire life.

Of course, I don't realize that I have no choice but to make that choice. So I just make it. And it seems like I'm choosing. And everything continues on as planned.

So, in a way, who I am could be defined by the entirety of my internal and external experiences, as well as my particular biology.

That's me.

There's only two problems.

First, it's really boring.

Second, it doesn't leave much room for self improvement.

See, one of the problems with this particular philosophy is that, as much as you may believe it, you can never, under any circumstances, spend any time thinking about it. If you do, you end up stuck in a sort of defeatist spin. I mean, why make any choices? You have no control anyway. And there, even that choice to make choice at all was a choice that you had no choice but to make. So why bother? Just give up. Lie in bed all day watching crappy daytime television and reading comic books. Because, hey, you didn't have any choice but to choose that.

See what I mean?

But it did get me thinking, even without that particular philosophy, who much room do we really have for self improvement? I mean, there's the age old adage that a leopard can't change its spots. That who we are is who we are is who we are, regardless of how much we may want it to be otherwise.

For example, if I were to say that I wanted to be more athletic, people would say, "Well, go and play some sports then. Go to the gym. Play squash or something. Stop talking about it and do it." And I probably would. For awhile. But most people who try to change their lifestyle, they follow the new thing for awhile, then eventually drop it, revert back to their old habits. Because they're lazy? Or because that's who they are?

What if I said I wanted to be blonde? Or have green eyes?

People might tell me to dye my hair or get coloured contact lenses, but then, are those things really changing me, or are they just cosmetic differences? I don't actually become a green-haired blonde. I become a blue-eyed brunette with hair colouring and contact lenses.

What does this all have to do with? I don't know. Partly the fact that I've already sort of been bombing out on the "write every single day" part of my new year's resolution, and it's not even the end of february, so sure, I'm wondering if maybe *not* writing is some inescapable part of my biology.

And yeah, it's got something to do with last night's rant, partly my desire to be a better person, and partly that less spoken-of desire to be a worse one, the desire to be selfish and self-serving, to myself first above all else, and continue down that path until I'm happy, everyone else be damned.

But can I ever actually do either? Can I be better? Can I be worse? Or am I fated to simply remain stuck in the middle, stuck with exactly who I am, whoever that might be?

And, yeah, this is coming out as a response to the general sense of discontentment that's been rattling around in my head for far, far too long. Because when you look at your life, and you feel that sick sense of discontment, the only solution you can think of is, "Change something."

And maybe you can't.

Maybe you're just who you are.

And maybe who you are is someone who's always going to be discontented. Maybe there's no escaping it. Maybe there's no cure. And maybe there's nothing you can do different.

For those that are wondering:

Yes. Yes, I do feel better now.


I am so fucking tired.

I want to be a better person than I am.

I don't want this to impress Jesus. I don't want this because I'm afraid that God will fling me down into some firey lake of sulfur and suffering if I don't. I don't want this because I'm afraid of what might happen if I don't.

I want this because, as a human being, I should want it. I want this because, like it or not, we're different from dogs or cats or wildebeest or antelope. Maybe the only measureable difference is that we've managed to develop nuclear weapons that could wipe out the planet a few-dozen times over, but it's still measureable.

Like it or not, we're different.

And we should hold ourselves to higher standards.

So why don't we?

I feel sometimes like I can't get away from people who don't give a shit about trying to be better. People who are happy to be just as cruel and selfish as everyone else -- and better yet, people who are on a race to see who can be the most cruel, the most selfish.

That's most people, actually.

And when you look at them, stabbing each other in the back, fucking each other over, being cruel and stupid to one another for no real reason other than to be cruel and stupid, I can't help but feel, why the fuck do I bother?

Why do I give a shit about holding myself to a standard above what any and everyone else seems to hold themselves to?

I mean, the fact is, you can't win by trying to be better.

The only reward for integrity is integrity itself. There's no cash in it. No one's gonna give you a Christmas bonus or a new car or a promotion because you did the right thing. In fact, most people won't even notice, because they wouldn't know what the right thing was if it bit them on the ass.

The only reward for integrity is integrity itself, and you can't fucking buy a cup of coffee with it, so what damn good is it?

What damn good is it when you can't sleep at night knowing how many people around you have none, have no shame, have no guilt, and have no remorse. How can you sleep at night knowing there are people who are living far worse lives than you have, and are happier for it?

What I want to do is this.

I want to say, "Fuck it."

I want to say, "Fuck integrity. Fuck being a better person. And fuck any and everyone who gets in my way. I'm going to be cold and cruel and mean and selfish, and I'm going to take what I want, and I don't give a flying fuck who gets hurt along the way, because it's all about me. I have no desire to be a better person. All I want is what I want, and I won't stop until I get it, and I don't care how sick and twisted and fucked up a human being I have to become along the way to get it."

That's what I want to say.

Instead, all I can say is this: "Fuck all of you."

Fuck all of you who puts yourself first. Fuck all of you who doesn't think about who you're stepping on while you're pursuing your dreams. Fuck all of you who lie and cheat and steal. And an extra special fuck all of you who take the time to feel a little bit guilty before going out and doing it all over again.

Because I'm right.

Because we should hold ourselves to a higher standard.

Because we can hold ourselves to a higher standard, but too many of us refuse to, because we're too goddamn lazy.

Fuck all of you.

Because I don't want to be a part of you anymore.

Monday, February 12, 2007


Wilhelm, Take One.

Wilhelm, Take Three.

Wilhelm, Take Four.

Movie buffs among you might be familiar with the Wilhelm scream. If you're not, then a lengthy history (which actually filled in a lot of gaps in my own knowledge of the scream) can be found here.

Of course the history is only a tiny, tiny part of the victory I had today, in actually finding three copies of the infamous Wilhelm scream. I've wanted a copy of the audio file for awhile, and now I can't wait to find a play to sneak this thing into.

EDIT: An oversight on my part while posting this little blurb kept me from linking to the source of the three sound files linked at the top of the page, Hollywood Lost and Found, as well as their own page on the Wilhelm Scream, located here.

Friday, February 02, 2007

This makes me sad.

I came across some statistics, while engaged in my usual, daily web-browsing habits, that sort of made me a little bit sad. Here are the particulars that caught my eye:
1/3 of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives.
42 percent of college graduates never read another book after college.
80 percent of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year.
70 percent of U.S. adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years.
57 percent of new books are not read to completion.
70 percent of books published do not earn back their advance.
70 percent of the books published do not make a profit.
(Source: Jerold Jenkins,

To think that 80% of U.S. family didn't buy or read a book in the last year is just indescribably sad. Even more absurd, the article indicates that other research (which doesn't actually seem to be cited in the article, strangely enough) shows that 80% of the people in the U.S. would like to write a book one day.

Those numbers are just psychotic.

80% of people want to write a book.

80% of families haven't read a book in the last year.

Obviously those aren't the same 80%, but come on, there's gotta be some overlap between them. There's gotta be some *huge* overlap between them. So, why are there so many people who'd like to write a book that don't even bother reading them?

This makes my head hurt. It also makes me sad.

And, of course, I'm a little sad about the notion that 70% of published books do not make a profit and do not make back their advance, particularly at this point in my life, as I begin official editing work on my own novel, the first step towards what I hope will be eventual publication. Publication and, it would seem, eventual failure, if these statistics are to be believed.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Be sure!

Are you too critical about your body? With Penis Enlarge Patch you can be sure at least about one thing.
Yes! You can be sure that, somewhere, you have a Penis Enlarge Patch! And doesn't that make you feel better?