Monday, November 10, 2008

Time for the semi-seasonal blog update

No point in even talking about how long it's been since I wrote here, so we'll just slide right past that and get right to why I'm writing. And it's because I haven't got anywhere else to write.

I've spent the better part of the night sitting in front of this computer. Because, for once, for a change, I didn't want to sit in front of the television and play video games. Admittedly, I didn't know exactly what it is that I wanted to do, but I knew it wasn't that. I knew I didn't want to be around people. I knew wanted to have a beer in my hand. All of these things, under ordinary circumstances, should have told me, "What you want to do is write." So I sat down here, in front of the computer, and I waited to start writing.

The fact that I avoided the actual writing for so long should have been a sign.

I read Digg. I read my gaming sites. I got distracted by a bunch of not-terribly-funny videos at College Humor. I read a couple of articles at the Onion AV Club. Eventually, I ran out of shit to read and thought, "Well, you think you want to write. So just fucking write, you retard."

So I opened up the new play I've been working on, and spent, I dunno, maybe an hour on it. Got some stuff out, but it wasn't...good. It was just...just there. Just words on a page. Just slogging forward. Getting shit done. But it wasn't...good.

When I bored of that, I still had the need to write, so I opened this thing I've been working on about my cat. My dead cat. My dead cat who was about 12 years old who I had to put down last month, and who -- in the putting down -- led me to realize for the first time in my life that there was no God. This is something that's been haunting me for awhile now. I mean, I haven't been a practicing Christian in more years than I can count, but there was always something in the back of my mind that clung to the idea of a creator, of someone out there who, even if he didn't love us unconditionally, would at least give us some place to hang out after we were dead, even if that place wasn't completely awesome.

But then when I put the cat down, it just went. That whole idea just vanished. Suddenly, God was the most ridiculous idea on the planet.

And the truth is, I'm not really sure how one thing even really led to the other, and that's part of why I've been trying to write this thing -- to make some sense of it. To figure out how a dead cat would lead me to conclude that there is no God. But I can't make sense of it. Tonight was no different. I spent some time with that, and it went nowhere good, so I closed that one down too. And then realized...that was it. I had nothing else to work on. And still, this burning desire to write something.

So I came here.

There's another play I could be working on right now, I guess. I want to have two one-acts done for next March, for submission as ACToberfest shows for next season. I want to have two done so there are options. So it's not just trying to push one through because it's the only one available. I want to have two so I can actually go with the best one, or the one that feels right, or whatever.

But this other play is about suicide and loneliness and isolation, and to be completely frank, I'm really not feeling depressed enough right now to properly work on it.

So again, I came here.

Writing about the act of not writing is one of the weirdest, most counter-productive things I can imagine. I'm also pretty sure, in this blog's long, storied history, it's something I've done once or twice in the past. Because when you have that burning need to write something, even writing about not writing is writing. In some horrible, twisted way. Even if it just leaves you wishing that you were doing something actually productive, instead of just wasting a few more bytes in cyberspace.

I'm not completely sure, but I think that the last time I time did any serious, substantial writing -- on the play, most likely -- was before we put the cat down. And I really think that's because, since then, since I've realized that God is a joke and a fantasy, that I'm profoundly changed.

As it should be, I guess. One doesn't go from being a semi-Christian to being an atheist without a few bumps along the way.

It feels like I need to re-evaluate my whole life. Like the things I do, and why I do them, will have to be different now. When I write, it will no longer be because i feel a need to share a gift I was lucky enough to receive from some creator. It will be because...well, I'm not entirely sure why, actually. Which is probably why I'm having so much trouble actually writing anything write now.

I feel like this revelation should have freed me. Like I should be able to do anything I want now, that I'm no longer forced to live up to a set of standards created by an imaginary father figure. I should be able to do anything. I should be able to be anything.

Instead, I only feel like I'm nothing at all.

Friday, July 18, 2008

It's depressing

It seems to me that when even taking a nap is depressing, things are getting pretty close to the bottom.

Okay, it wasn't so much the nap itself that was depressing. Being in bed, hiding from the world, okay, yeah, that was good. That's always good. But somewhere in the middle of the nap I had a dream. I don't really remember much from it, except that I felt terribly alone, and then I noticed that across the street was my family's house, and my dad was there, and my brother. And I waved at them and I tried to call them over to come hang out with me and hopefully send some of my loneliness away, but they just waved a hello to me and went back into their house, leaving me alone.

And then I woke up, and I was even more depressed.

According to my commonly consulted dream dictionary, this is what it means to dream of your family: to see your own family in your dream, represents security, warmth and love. Consider also the significance of a particular family member or the relationship you have with them.

It's a nice thought, but I don't think that's a broad analysis. Having your family turn your back on you and walk into their own house could not, in any way, represent "security, warmth and love." So fuck you, dream dictionary. Guess I'm on my own for this one.

Not that it's terribly hard to figure out. Watching your family turn your back on your represents isolation and loneliness, pretty obviously. After all, if there's one group you should be able to turn to when things are at their worst, it's your family, right?

So why so depressed? Plenty of reasons, I guess, but none of them terribly good. Certain parts of life are being spun around in the turmoil of change, and I'm having a tough time with some of it.

The feeling of stagnation in other parts of life, and the feeling like it's my own unwillingness to move forward in anything, unwilling to change or improve or even just try something new, is what keeps me back, keeps me stagnant, keeps me miserable. I keep seeing opportunities -- opportunities that might be good or interesting or fun -- slide by in front of me, and instead of reaching out for them, I let them pass by and I crawl into bed and pretend the world doesn't exist.

I know it's not the best approach. It's just the only one I have.

Which isn't true, of course. There are plenty of options. I could force a smile onto my face, and fake it for everyone around me until I actually started to feel happy. I could get medicated. I could go to therapy. I could admit myself to a hospital for treatment. I could quit my job and move to some faraway place and start all over again. There are plenty of options.

But, as always, actually *doing* something when you feel this way is just about impossible.

Far easier to just lay around in bed, miserable, suffering, waiting for death to descend upon you.

Way easier.

I really don't believe in medicating depression, for the most part -- I think, as a society, we're far too overmedicated already, I don't really feel like doing my part to add to the problem. But sometimes I can't help but feel like, at least with medication in play, I might be able to start taking steps towards some kind of improvement. Because right now, I really don't have the energy to do much except lie in bed, pretend the world doesn't exist, and slip into the arm arms of a sleep that is peppered with dreams of being isolated, alone, and ignored.

Friday, April 18, 2008


Been dabbling with lyrics to a song I'm thinking I might end this current play with (I'm not 100% sold on it, because it really is a way-the-fuck-out-there, over-the-top sort of ending, and I'm not sure I'm cool with that), and I have to admit, I'm kind of fond of this bit here:

He murdered his wife and his baby
Which is odd, cuz he's usually lazy
What is he, batshit crazy?
Uh uh, he's just a drunk

That is all.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Is it spring yet?

The weather was actually warm enough last night that I was able to bring the laptop out onto the deck to spend a bit time of working on the new play. It was nice.

For the last couple of days, I've had the laptop set up on my desk, next to the desktop PC, mostly so I could juggle two different jobs at once (ripping CDs on the desktop, while I worked on a poster on the laptop). This was incredibly handy at the time, but it got me thinking that the reason I had picked up the laptop in the first place was so that I could actually do some work in locations that *weren't* my desk. Last night, I believe, marked the first time I'd taken it to the out of doors, which was pretty cool. Will likely try it again tonight.

I also stuffed a couple of the solar-charged lights in the planters out on the deck, to hopefully provide some evening illumination for my outdoor writing projects. They hadn't had time to charge, but still gave off a faint glow. I'm hoping their substantially brighter after a day charging -- they really didn't do much last night.

I bought a ten-pack of the lights a few weeks ago, mostly just because I liked them. I had no idea where I planned to use them, and I still don't really, though there are a couple of options. The first is to use them to light the path down to the central area of the backyard where I'd like to get a Gazebo put, hopefully this spring / summer (though heaven knows if that's even likely). Although with only eight lights left, I may need another pack to light the entire path (I've got a fairly long, windy back yard).

The second option is to light the various garden landings that are scattered periodically down the backyard. After, of course, putting some work into fixing them up.

The yard has seen some neglect. Actually, the last few years, the yard has pretty much *only* seen neglect. I'm hoping to change that this year. Fixing up the backyard is weekend project #1 for the spring and summer. Which is all well and good as an idea, but knowing me, once it gets to be time to do the actual work...well, the yard may very well be able to add yet another year of neglect to its list.

Monday, April 14, 2008

You're older than you've ever been.

April 14th, 2008. Almost halfway through the fourth month of the year, nearly a quarter of the way through this year. Wasn't it just Christmas? What the fuck.

In another four months I'll be 35. Where does the time go? When did it start flying by so quickly. I'm getting old. This is insane. When do I have to start worrying about bowel and prostate cancer? When do I have to start getting scared that I'm still a smoker? When do heart attacks and strokes suddenly become a tangible possibility? Am I already there?

Good Lord, how did this happen?

I'm a wreck today. Only slept a handful of hours. Spent most of the night convinced that I was going to die in my sleep. No idea why. Arms hurt, and I had the shakes. Thought it was maybe a hangover from some intense drinking the night before, but I didn't feel *that* bad throughout the day. Seemed odd that it would hit me so hard at the end of it.

Death is everywhere today. It clings to my mind from last night's paranoia, then reading a story on the 'Net about 47 year old university professor dying of pancreatic cancer, then news of a man I had known briefly a few years ago killing himself. Death is everywhere.

I should be working on that play, the new play. Not much time to get it done -- the end of April is my deadline if I want to have a hope of putting it on for Actoberfest. Time slipping through my hands again. Time flying by faster than I can keep up. Two weeks to finish a 60 page play. Should be conceivable, but I won't get any work done today. Head is too thick, too tired, can't think straight.

Four months to 35. Fucking madness. 35 and then 40, and then 50, and then 60. Blink and it's over. Blink and you're on your deathbed.

More death.

Haunting me today.

I wish I knew why.

What waits for us after this life is over? Is this it? Close your eyes, rattle out your last breath, and then nothing. Just like you never were. Just like none of it ever was. That terrifies me. Incredibly.

Can't keep thinking like this. It's depressing.

If I don't get a decent night's sleep tonight, I will go insane.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Dusty around these parts again

It's always weird coming back to this place after it's been ignored for a lengthy period. Partly because it feels like I need to make excuses about why I wasn't here, and the fact is, I've got nothing to offer, except, "Sorry, wasn't into it."

It also generally leaves me feeling like I've got to come back with some sort of big, splashy, exciting post, to make up for the last 30 or 40 days that I've left this place to stagnate. But again, I've got nothing big or splashy to offer here just a, "Hey, here I am again, apparently I'm not dead."

So, yeah, that's about it.

The novel still isn't finished, though it has been half-heartedly picked at a couple of times. A new idea for a play (an idea that, even by my own standards, is pretty fucked up) is rattling in the back of my head, with a few pages dropped down the other day. The commentary-track marathon has been a bit of a slack-off lately as well, though the dangerous-and-disturbing film fest is still going strong and on it's fifth week (though I did skip the last event, as it came in the midst of a nasty sickness). And perhaps the dangerous and disturbing films are better blog-fodder anyway.

I'm hopefully buying some bowls after work today. Large bowls. Standard cereal bowls are simply not always big enough, and yet that's pretty much all I have in the cupboard.

Yeah, it's exciting, I know.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

On fires and asses, and one being under the other.

So the Serious Moonlighting theatre group in Prince George is staging a reading of "Dinner and Drinks" tomorrow night.

As I understand, a "reading" involves a bunch of theatre types gathering together in room, sitting around with a copy of the script, and, you know, reading it. Except reading it out loud. And sort of acting while they're reading it.

Given the structure of the play itself (a bunch of people sitting around in a restaurant talking to each other) , a reading of the play is pretty the show, easily 95% of the show. There will probably be less food involved. And the waitress character probably won't move around so much. So that'll be different, but other than that, people sitting around talking, yeah, that's the play, in a nutshell.

I would have loved to have day-tripped up to PG to watch the reading, just to have the opportunity to see a bunch of other actors reading these lines. I know how they sounded when read by the group of 7 actors that *I* had on stage for the show last year, but different actors have different instincts, and the initial reading instincts are often different from the way a performance is gradually shaped over the months of rehearsal. So watching a dry a reading of a bunch of different actors would have been cool. Unfortunately, my car isn't really in road-tripping shape. So I'll have to sit this one out.

Having this reading, though (and seeing myself referred to in an email as "Williams Lake Playwright, Todd Sullivan") has sort of reminded me that I should get off my ass and do some sort of something as a follow-up. I mean, I do have a variety of writing projects on the go at the moment, and I have sort of bounced from one to the other lately, depending on what particular project appealed to me, but this moment does make me think I should maybe focusing on a new play. If only because it's really only been a play that has allowed me to feel any sort of success as a writer, and because it would be kind of cool to follow up with another sort of success as a writer.

And it's a lot easier for me to actually get a play from having-been-written stage to actually-doing-something-with-it stage, thanks to my involvement in the local theatre here. In can bring a script to the executive, say, "Hey, I want to do do this script," and very likely get a thumbs-up approval on it, unless they really hate the script. Or really hate me. Which has happened before.

Novels, on the other hand, mean shopping the product around from publisher to publisher, editor to editor, until someone says, "Yeah, okay, we'll do that." And then they sit on the book for two years before it goes out, and when it finally gets into bookstores, maybe 10 copies get sold, and those are just from friends and family. Which is sort of a sad prospect.

The novel writing still calls, though, even if the odds of success are slim-to-none. And I *have* been picking, little bit by little bit, at "Epiphanies". Which makes me feel pretty good. Even if it's only been little bits of work done on it.

But still, there's plays to write. And even though my intention after "Epiphanies" was to go back to editing work on "Waiting for a Miracle" I should probably distract myself with a little work on a play. Something. I mean, I've got three or four to choose from at this point. I could even work on them all, bit by bit. That wouldn't be a bad idea at all.

In retrospect, I've got very little to say here. All this "I should be writing more" crap has found its way out quite a lot in the last few months. I guess the reading was just yet another reminder, and it seemed like a fine excuse to blog, when I'd sort of neglected this space this past week.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Best laid plans

So, like I intended, I sat down to spend time some on some technical work with the novel last night. However, unlike I intended, I decided that chopping the current chapter into two, in order to facilitate the chunks that were missed, wasn't the best approach. Because, as I sat down to it, I realized that what was missed didn't seem to be enough to justify a chapter.

So, instead, I decided to weave into the current chapter. This approach would actually allow me to accomplish a couple of different things.

First, it would allow me to get at what was missing -- essentially, at least one confrontation with a character that A) we needed to be reminded about; and B) needed to become at least slightly more threatening, as well as a scene where the main character and narrator gets fired (which is somewhat necessary to do what I plan to in the epilogue).

Second, by weaving this material into the current chapter, it will make the chapter even longer, and even more rambling, which was the intention for this chapter from the get go. I want to try to stretch out over twenty pages, jumping all over the place, without any sort of direction, and adding even more to it would help accomplish that, as the way it was originally sitting, I had given up on it before it crossed the 20 page mark.

Thirdly, it keeps me from breaking up the one-chapter-on, one-chapter-off pattern of the flashback scenes, which would have happened if I had only added a single chapter before the current one.

The only thing I'm not sure of is whether or not adding the material to the current chapter helps to fix what I was starting to fear was a pacing problem at the end of the book. Assuming there was a pacing problem. It was just sort of a gut feeling, and nothing I knew for sure -- and likely not something I'll know for sure until I finish it, leave it for awhile, and then go back to read it over again at some point in the future.

Of course, if that pacing problem *is* there, then it'll mean a pretty serious hack-and-slash edit job on the last third of the novel to fix it. But I'm going to go ahead with it this way anyway, for now. Because it's what seems right.

Novel work is on the agenda again for tonight, then I'll probably drift to something new tomorrow, just to keep things in my head fresh. It occurred to me last night that I should have a comedy of some kind on the go at the moment, for the days when I'm feeling, you know, funny, and not dark and gloomy. Which, lately, has seemed pretty unlikely, but I think I may be dusting off "Guts" just to be on the safe side.

Monday, February 18, 2008

On Writing

So, in the interest of trying to get more content in this space on the progress of my other writing projects, here's a little update.

After finally hacking out the annual Academy Awards predictions (late, though not quite as late as last year, if memory serves me correctly) it was early enough for me to jump from that onto a completely different project -- a one act play tentatively titled "One Act Play."

Basically, it's a play about a character in a play who, upon discovering that he's going to die at some point in the play that he's in, refuses to accept his fate, drags the playwright on stage, and the two of them end up in a heated discussion that ends up being about life, death, misery, happiness, and the relationship between a writer and his characters. It's sort of a crazy, brain-hurting, experiment in meta-writing that I may not ever see through to completion, but the idea first started jangling around in my head last week, and I figured I might as well try to put some of it down on paper, just to ensure I didn't completely forget it. I don't know specifics about where it's going to go at this point, just vague notions of their conversation, and the idea of the character stepping into and out of a variety fictional situations, conceived of by the playwright.

The only problem I see with this particularly project is that it's pretty much unstageable, as the playwright actually appears on stage, and I don't want it to just be an actor *playing* the part of the playwright. That's not really meta enough for me. It'd have to be me. Which means that we could conceivably put the play on stage here, but not anywhere else. Which is fine, because I wouldn't imagine anywhere else would have any interest in a pompous meta-theatre experiment like this. I'm not sure the local theatre would be interested in a pompous meta-theatre experiment like this either, come to think of it.

On the writing agenda for tonight: I'll hopefully be returning to "Epiphanies" at long last, for some mostly mechanical work -- specifically, splitting up the most recent chapter to facilitate the addition of the chapter I think I missed while I was speeding ahead towards the resolution. I don't foresee a lot of creative work tonight, but this mechanical work will have to be done at some point before I can press on with the novel. And I do want to press on with it.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

2008 Oscar Predictions

Looks like it's Oscar season again. And it looks like the writer's strike has come to a close in time to make sure that comedy writers in Hollywood would still be able to write some likely painful and awkwardly funny jokes for the ceremony. Because even hacks need to feed their family.

As has become a tradition for me, I'll be predicting the Oscars. And, as is generally the case, I'll be making these predictions without any effort to see any of the films in the list. Because it's a whole lot more fun to be judgmental when you don't have any idea what you're talking about. Obviously, I won't be able to forget the films that I've already seen, and I won't be able to completely ignore the buzz I've heard about other films, but all in all, I think I'm going into this just as unprepared as usual.

The two big nominees this year are Paul Thomas Anderson's "There Will Be Blood" and the Coen Brothers' "No Country For Old Men," which makes this sort of an interesting year for me, as I'm enormous fan of both filmmakers. I'll be in a tough position, though, as I'm a bigger fan of Anderson, but have not yet seen "Blood" yet, so there's a very good chance I'll be tipping my hat in his direction perhaps more often than I should.

Still, we'll find out come Feb. 24, when the winners are announced.

And now, without further fucking around, my Academy Award predictions, fresh from being yanked out of my ass.

Best Foreign Language Film
  • Beaufort (Israel), in Hebrew
  • The Counterfeiters (Austria), German
  • Katyń (Poland), Polish
  • Mongol (Kazakhstan), Mongolian
  • 12 (Russia), Russian

My Pick: 12 (Russia), Russian

Justification: We don't get too many foreign films around these parts, so obviously I haven't seen any of these. Also, unless you're a seriously major film geek (or a foreign film got a surprising amount of buzz) you don't hear too much about the foreign nominees, which means very little buzz to go. So I'm picking "12" just because I think the title is cool.

Best Visual Effects
  • The Golden Compass
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
  • Transformers

My Pick: Transformers

Justification: I can't believe I actually sat through this entire movie. It made my head hurt from about twenty minutes in, and it never let up. The characters where two dimensional, I didn't give a rat's ass about any one of them, and the dialogue was cringe-worthy. But the one thing you can't take away from the film is that it's visual effects were astounding. And pretty much the only thing that made the movie worth watching. Here's hoping the sequel does us all a favour and gives us more giant-robot fist-fights and less "story" -- or whatever the fuck they want to call the crap going on between the giant-robot fist-fights.

Best Sound Editing
  • Karen Baker Landers and Per Hallberg - The Bourne Ultimatum
  • Skip Lievsay - No Country for Old Men
  • Randy Thom and Michael Silvers - Ratatouille
  • Matthew Wood - There Will Be Blood
  • Ethan van Der Ryn and Mike Hopkins - Transformers

My Pick: Transformers

Justification: I'm still not entirely sure of the difference between the sound editing and sound mixing categories. Maybe if one of them was sound *design* I'd be able to figure out, but it's not. So I just...I don't know. All I know is that a bunch of giant robots beating the crap out of each other makes for a lot of sounds going on, so I'm picking "Transformers."

Best Sound Mixing
  • Scott Millan, David Parker, and Kirk Francis - The Bourne Ultimatum
  • Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Greg Orloff, and Peter Kurland - No Country for Old Men
  • Randy Thom, Michael Semanick, and Doc Kane - Ratatouille
  • Paul Massey, David Giammarco, and Jim Steube - 3:10 to Yuma
  • Kevin O'Connell, Greg P. Russell, and Peter J. Devlin - Transformers

My Pick: 3:10 to Yuma

Justification: Pretty much just because I've heard good things about it, so I thought I'd throw them a bone, you know.

Best Live Action Short
  • At Night
  • The Substitute
  • The Mozart of Pickpockets
  • Tanghi Argentini
  • The Tonto Woman

My Pick: The Mozart of Pickpockets

Justification: Pretty much just the title again. But, I mean, could you imagine what the Mozart of Pickpockets would actually be like? I mean, imagine how nimble his fingers would be, as deft and dextrous as a piano-player's I'm sure. Also, he'd probably be really good. At pickpocketing.

Best Animated Short
  • I Met the Walrus
  • Madame Tutli-Putli
  • Even Pigeons Go To Heaven
  • My Love
  • Peter and the Wolf

My Pick: Madame Tutli Putli

Justification: Are any of these Pixar shorts? Because if any of these are from Pixar, that's my pick. Unfortunately, I have no idea if any of these are from Pixar, and I'm not allowed to look shit up on this, so I'm picking "Madame Tutli-Putli" because the name makes me giggle.

Best Original Song
  • Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova - "Falling Slowly" from Once
  • Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz - "Happy Working Song" from Enchanted
  • Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz - "So Close" from Enchanted
  • Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz - "That's How You Know" from Enchanted
  • Jamal Joseph, Charles Mack and Tevin Thomas - "Raise It Up" from August Rush

My Pick: "Falling Slowly" from Once

Justification: Apparently "Enchanted" has a 3/5 chance of taking this category, so they'd be the smart bet. The only problem is, I'm not currently placing the name, and I heard that "Once" was sort of pretty good, so I'm throwing them a bone too.

Best Original Score
  • Dario Marianelli - Atonement
  • Alberto Iglesias - The Kite Runner
  • James Newton Howard - Michael Clayton
  • Michael Giacchino - Ratatouille
  • Marco Beltrami - 3:10 to Yuma

My Pick: The Kite Runner

Justification: This movie (and the book it was adapted from) came up in conversation a few weeks ago, even though I'd never heard about it. Apparently it has something to do with the history of strife in Afghanistan, which means it'll probably have a powerful, poignant score. Or that's what I'm hoping, at any rate.

Best Makeup
  • Didier Lavergne and Jan Archibald - La Vie en Rose
  • Rick Baker and Kazuhiro Tsuji - Norbit
  • Ve Neill and Martin Samuel - Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End

My Pick: Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End

Justification: Rick Baker has a long and respected makeup portfolio...but, come on, "Norbit"? Fucking "Norbit"? You can't be serious. I refuse to even acknowledge that it was nominated. So PotC it is, then. Even if I can't even begin to tell what was makeup and what was CGI in that flick.

Best Film Editing
  • Christopher Rouse - The Bourne Ultimatum
  • Juliette Welfling - The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
  • Jay Cassidy - Into the Wild
  • Roderick Jaynes - No Country for Old Men
  • Dylan Tichenor - There Will Be Blood

My Pick: No Country for Old Men

Justification: Alright, we're finally starting to get to some of the interesting ones now, even if editing might be tough to call. Are they looking for the flashy, 10-cuts-a-second kind of editing? Are they looking for the subtle sort of editing you can barely tell is there? Are they looking for complicated, dramatic cuts? Who the fuck knows. But I'm going to go with "No Country for Old Men," mostly because I've seen it, and it was pretty well edited.

Best Documentary Short
  • Freeheld
  • La Corona
  • Salim Baba
  • Sari's Mother

My Pick: Sari's Mother

Justification: No idea what it's about, but if it involves a mother, and it's a documentary, it probably is supposed to make you cry about something. Which is as good a reason as any for it to win.

Best Documentary Feature
  • No End in Sight
  • Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience
  • Sicko
  • Taxi to the Dark Side
  • War/Dance

My Pick: No End in Sight

Justification: Yeah, I know, Michael Moore is, like, the patron saint of this category these last few years, but I'm going to go against his health-system documentary and pick what I think (and hope) is a film about the war in Iraq, which is an issue for more on peoples minds at the moment. Especially amongst liberal Hollywood types.

Best Costume Design
  • Albert Wolsky - Across the Universe
  • Jacqueline Durran - Atonement
  • Alexandra Byrne - Elizabeth: The Golden Age
  • Marit Allen - La Vie en Rose
  • Colleen Atwood - Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

My Pick: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Justification: Haven't seen it, haven't even checked out a single trailer, but from the poster design (which is about all I can judge it from) it looks like it's sort of dark, stylized, period costuming, which is hopefully enough adjectives to get it the statue. And by hope, I don't mean that I'm hoping the film wins for the film's sake -- I couldn't give a shit about the film. I'd just prefer to be right about my prediction.

Best Art Direction
  • Arthur Max and Beth Rubino - American Gangster
  • Sarah Greenwood and Katie Spencer - Atonement
  • Dennis Gassner and Anna Pinnock - The Golden Compass
  • Dante Ferretti and Francesca Lo Schiavo - Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
  • Jack Fisk and Jim Erickson - There Will Be Blood

My Pick: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Justification: Pretty much the same as last time -- dark, stylized, and period.

Best Cinematography
  • Roger Deakins - The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
  • Seamus McGarvey - Atonement
  • Janusz Kaminski - The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
  • Roger Deakins - No Country for Old Men
  • Robert Elswit - There Will Be Blood

My Pick: There Will Be Blood

Justification: Okay, I'm just gonna come right out and say this. I love Paul Thomas Anderson. I mean, sure, I love his films too. But I seriously love that *man* as well. At least in interviews and documentaries and stuff. I don't know what he's really like, I've never met him, but when he's being interviewed, he's just so manic and animated. And he's really super cute and smart too. So I'm going to dropping a whole lot of predictions on "Blood" from here on out, I think. Even though I haven't seen the film yet. I hope it deserves them.

Best Animated Feature
  • Persepolis
  • Ratatouille
  • Surf's Up

My Pick: Ratatouille

Justifcation: It's Pixar, right? Isn't it? I don't know, honestly, but a bunch of people talked about it, so yeah, it'll win. Because people talked about it.

Best Adapted Screenplay
  • Atonement
  • Away from Her
  • The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
  • No Country for Old Men
  • There Will Be Blood

My Pick: No Country for Old Men

Justification: It's tough call, actually, as my gut says it could go to "Diving Bell." But so much has been said -- and almost all of it good -- about how effectively the Coens adapted "No Country" that I can't help but put my prediction there.

Best Original Screenplay
  • Juno - Diablo Cody
  • Lars and the Real Girl - Nancy Oliver
  • Michael Clayton - Tony Gilroy
  • Ratatouille - Brad Bird
  • The Savages - Tamara Jenkins

My Pick: Juno

Justification: Juno has recently gotten labelled as this year's "Little Miss Sunshine" -- which is basically another way of calling it "The Little Indie That Could" (even though its indie status is somewhat debatable). I don't see it pulling in any major awards, so it'll likely take this one. Also, it's about a complicated and controversial topic that totally hasn't ever shown up as part of some crappy ABC after-school special: Teen pregnancy.

Best Supporting Actress
  • Cate Blanchett - I'm Not There
  • Ruby Dee - American Gangster
  • Saoirse Ronan - Atonement
  • Amy Ryan - Gone Baby Gone
  • Tilda Swinton - Michael Clayton

My Pick: Cate Blanchett

Justification: Cate Blanchett *IS* Bob Dylan.

Best Supporting Actor
  • Casey Affleck - The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
  • Javier Bardem - No Country for Old Men
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman - Charlie Wilson's War
  • Hal Holbrook - Into the Wild
  • Tom Wilkinson - Michael Clayton

My Pick: Javier Bardem

Justification: Dude was creepy as fuck. Also, that hair.

Best Actress
  • Cate Blanchett - Elizabeth: The Golden Age
  • Julie Christie - Away from Her
  • Marion Cotillard - La Vie en Rose (La môme)
  • Laura Linney - The Savages
  • Ellen Page - Juno

My Pick: Ellen Page

Justification: Well, they're sure not going to give Cate Blanchette TWO awards. And didn't she already win an Oscar for playing Elizabeth, like, ten years ago or something? So that would be weird, to have two awards to the same actor for the same character. So I'm thinking, maybe Juno gets a little extra lovin' over here. You never know.

Best Actor
  • George Clooney - Michael Clayton
  • Daniel Day-Lewis - There Will Be Blood
  • Johnny Depp - Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
  • Tommy Lee Jones - In the Valley of Elah
  • Viggo Mortensen - Eastern Promises

My Pick: Daniel Day-Lewis

Justification: I haven't seen it, but apparently if you have seen it, and you don't think that Day-Lewis is an absolute shoe-in for this, then you're a crackhead. And a stupid whore. A stupid crackwhore. And Hitler. Also, I love Paul Thomas Anderson.

Best Director*
  • Paul Thomas Anderson - There Will Be Blood
  • Joel Coen and Ethan Coen - No Country for Old Men
  • Tony Gilroy - Michael Clayton
  • Jason Reitman - Juno
  • Julian Schnabel - The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

My Pick: There Will Be Blood

Justification: I love Paul Thomas Anderson.

Best Picture*
  • Atonement
  • Juno
  • Michael Clayton
  • No Country for Old Men
  • There Will Be Blood

My Pick: There Will Be Blood

Justification: I love...okay, seriously, do I need to keep saying this?

Alright, that's all of 'em, at least according to Wikipedia (and we all know how trustworthy Wikipedia is, don't we?). I'll be back sometime after Feb. 24 to analyze the winners and beat the crap out of myself for all the picks I got wrong, plus a fair share of gloating for the picks I got right. See you all then!

*In my heart, I'm actually pretty sure that the Best Picture and Best Director wins have a better chance of going to "No Country For Old Men" as that picture is getting significantly more buzz from the critics than "Blood" is -- I'm just going out on a limb because I'm hoping to see some love for Mr. Anderson. I LOVE YOU PAUL!

Those who forget the past are condemned to probably be a lot happier

I've been reading through old blog posts lately. Not sure why. But I want all the way back to day one and started reading (and occasionally skimming) through the whole archive. And it's...well, it's interesting, to say the very least.

A lot of is a like sitting down and flipping through a photo album, except I can't do that sort of thing, because I don't usually take pictures, and when I do, they don't end up in a photo album. But that sort stroll down memory lane is a bit like what reading blog posts from 2004 and 2005 and 2006 are like.

Sometimes all it takes is one post to drop into a mindset that I had three or four years ago. And I go, "Wow, I had almost completely forgotten about that." Sometimes I'll read something that had made me angry or depressed me, and it's written in a secretive, veiled way, so as to not potentially hurt the feelings of others involved, and I'll find myself thinking, "Wow, I don't remember what I was talking about at all."

Sometimes memory escapes us, and it's gone forever. And I'm inclined to think that sometimes that's a good thing.

I read through some very painful blog posts from around 2005 and 2006, and it just about broke my heart to have to live those moments again, if not in my own shoes, than at least in the shoes of someone nearby who had seen it all, and had known it all, and had known how it was all going to turn out.

Sometimes forgetting really is better. And sometimes loving and losing isn't all it's cracked up to be, despite what some shit-for-brains philosophers might try to tell you.

The one thing that I did find interesting were the occasional references to things that I was writing at those various points in my past. Some of them like "Dinner and Drinks" that was first mentioned in 2005, eventually went on to completion. Others were just quick references to things I can't even recall anymore. Stories that had disintegrated before they'd even made much of an impact on the paper I was putting them on.

But it got me thinking...wouldn't it be cool to be able to dig out more of those moments? To have a better record of the ideas as they come to me, as they expand, as they shift and change and either vanish or struggle their way to completion? Yes, that would be cool.

Which is why I'm going to put this here.

There's a story...or maybe it's a play, I'm still not sure yet...called "The Stain." It's about a stain that someone discovers on his carpet, except he doesn't know where it came from. Or, at least, he says he doesn't know where it came from. And as he talks to his therapist about his concerns about this stain, he gradually starts to drift towards the truth. And this stain, I think, may have something to do with rape. And not just any rape, but one of the most agonizingly awful rapes imaginable.

I'm not completely sure, but it could go that way.

Because what's the point of putting it down if it's not going to be something agonizing and awful. Whether it's a rape or a heartbreak. Whether it's fiction or it's real. Agonizingly awful is where I live. Or where I should be living. I'd probably be there a whole lot more if the decor didn't suck so goddamn much.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Obligitory, bitter, post-Valentine's Day rambings

You love her
But she loves him
And he loves somebody else
You just can't win
And so it goes
Till the day you die
This thing they call love
It's gonna make you cry
I've had the blues
The reds and the pinks
One thing for sure

Love stinks

— Love Stinks
J. Geils Band

When I got married, our Master of Ceremonies made a bit of a flub during one of his speeches. Now, consider, that this man was not only a journalist, but a theatre-junky as well, which means A) He should know the importance of proper word use; and B) He should be comfortable in front of a room full of people, and not mangle his words because he's nervous.

He was talking about marital advice, and how he had once heard that, to live happily ever after, don't marry someone you can live with. Instead, and this is what he said, "Marry someone you can live without."

Which, when you think about it, is pretty poor marriage advice.

I think he meant to say, "Marry someone you can't live without," because that seems to make a bit more sense, and a better punchline for that statement. But in the last couple of days I've been thinking about this line, and this flub, and about the people you can't live without, and the people you can't live with, and how sometimes, because life is cruel and God hates us all, they're the same person.

I'm sure we all have some first-hand experience with the idea that love will turn up whenever it wants to. You don't get to call on it. You don't get to say, "Hey, love, that hot chick on the other side of the bar with the killer cleavage, you totally need to make me fall in love with her." You can maybe fall in lust with her, you can maybe even approach her and pick her up and have a few weeks of psychotic, sweaty, drunken sex. But when all that's said and done, you might have fallen in love, or you might have discovered that she chews her celery sticks way too loud and you can't stand sitting a the dinner table with her. And given the way things usually go, it'll probably be the latter.

I've done my share of falling in love, and done my share of getting my heart busted up because of it. I'm mostly okay with that, because that's that's just sort of what happens in life. You have some good times, you have some bad times, and at the end of the day or the end of the year or the end of your life, there's a balance.

But even though I can say that I'm okay with the whole love-and-then-heartbreak thing, I also need to say that I think I've pretty much given up on it anyway. Again, not because I'm tired of the heartbreak -- I mean, shit happens. It's because I'm pretty sure I've met the woman I can't live without. And now I'm living without her.

This might seem like a contradiction. I guess it is. I have an easier time with it because, while she might be the person I can't live without, she's also someone I most certainly can't live with it. And it's one of those situations where love, because life is cruel and God hates you, points you in the direction of someone who is just totally, completely wrong for you.

And it doesn't matter how much you admit that to yourself. It doesn't matter how much you say, "If we ever lived together, we'd probably kill each other within in three months." It doesn't matter how much you say, "We just don't have those many things in common." It doesn't matter how much you say, "She has horrible taste in movies and she's too driven by wealth and success and she doesn't even seem capable of understanding the attempt towards art." It doesn't matter how many times you say any of those things, because you're madly in love with her, and you can't do anything about that.

Because life is cruel and God hates you.

This idea -- being in love with someone who is just totally, completely bad for you -- beat the shit out of me emotionally for a very long time. And it still shows up now and then to give me a good solid punch in the kidney. Because it's such a contradictory idea. It tears your brain up. It drives you mad. It makes you wish that you were dead...or at least cold, heartless, cruel, and incapable of love. Or drunk.

But that's the way it goes sometimes. Life is cruel. And yeah, God probably hates you.

And you can't do anything about life's cruelty or God's hatred, so you soldier on. You say, "Meh, fuck it," and you try to forget about it, and even while you forget about it, you have to concede that you might as well give up on that whole stupid love thing at the same time. Because you've already done it -- you've already found the person you can't live without. But goddamn if you can live with her either.

The idea of not falling in love sounds bad, I guess, to some of the idealized romantic types, but it really isn't. It's surprisingly comfortable. Surprisingly safe. And it isn't even so much that you're running from the pain. The pain, broken hearts, crap like that, it isn't so bad. It's all part of the balance of life. All you're really saying is, "Been there, done that, found about the best I'm ever going to, and that didn't work out so well. Might as well call it a day."

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Commentary Commentary: Trainspotting

So it turns out that this week's commentary isn't from a film as old as I'd like (it's a 90s flick, but let's not pretend that's old) but I blame that partly on the recent realization that, in spite of my fondness for many films of the1970s, there aren't too many of them on my DVD shelf at the moment. Perhaps that something I should be adding to my list of things to do in 2008 -- expand the eras covered in my film collection.

The Trainspotting 2-disc "Collector's Series" set features two commentaries, one with director Danny Boyle, and one featuring Boyle, screenwriter John Hodge, producer Andrew Macdonald, and actor Ewan McGregor. In the interest of attempting to ensure there was never a dull moment, we opted to go with the track involving more people.

Which, it turns out, is actually not a commentary track per se.

Most commentary tracks involve people sitting in front of a television, watching the film, and talking about the film as they watch it, so that they are commenting directly about what is currently on the screen. This almost gives the experience that you are sharing the room with these people, as they reminisce about the process of making the film. Trainspotting's commentary (which, apparently, was borrowed from the Criterion Collection Laserdisc of the film) is actually taken from a series of interviews conducted in 1996, and edited together in a way that gives the impression that they are, sort of, talking about what you're seeing on the screen. Even if they aren't.

Because of this format, while the track does provide insight and information on just about any and every phase of the production -- from finding the novel, to adapting the novel, to making the movie, to reactions to the movie -- it sounds, for the most part, like four people who aren't in the same room together. When one person is talking, one person talks until his train of thought is done, and then someone else talks for awhile about something different and not entirely related to what the previous person had been talking about.

Which is fine, I guess, as far as its ability to convey information to listener. The problem is that it's terribly fun.

One of the best parts of group commentaries is listening to the interaction *between* the participants in the commentary. Hearing them laugh together as they reminisce, hearing them occasionally talk over one another as one person starts a story and another finishes it, hearing them ask each other question. The Trainspotting commentary, for all the information it provides, is painfully dry. It could have, and probably should have, been a lot more interesting. I don't place the blame on Criterion, who originally put the commentary together for the laserdisc at a time when commentary tracks were a new thing, a time when they were likely still figuring out exactly what a commentary track should be. And I can't entirely blame those who put together this new DVD collection either, as they simply might have been unable to pull the original participants together for a brand new commentary. In fact, it may very well be that there is no one to blame here at all, but in the spirit of the film, I'll blame heroin.

Because, you know, drugs are bad.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Commentary Commentary: Fight Club

So there was no new commentary track this week (I was distracted by a sudden addiction to "Heroes" after my roommate plugged his portable hard-drive containing the first and second seasons into my Xbox), which is sort of good, as I'm a little bit behind in writing about the commentary tracks in general, so I've got a (brief) opportunity to get myself caught back up again.

So, *last* week's commentary track was on the film Fight Club, one of my favourite movies, and, I think, the best movie about the feelings of meaninglessness that were such a part of the 90s, as well as the frustration those feelings bred. It's not the best film of the 90s (for my money, that's Paul Thomas Anderson's "Magnolia"), but, I think, definitely the best film *about* the 90s.

In my ever-not-so-humble-opinion.

This viewing of Fight Club's commentary followed the previous week's theme of listening to writers talk about their work. We skipped the director and cast commentaries and spent two hours with the novelist and screenwriter for the film.

And it was...well, less than compelling, to say the least.

Chuck Palahniuk, the author of Fight Club (and a hell of a novelist) is clearly excited by the opportunity to talk about his book, about the adaption, and about the film. And would wouldn't be? It has to be overwhelmingly exciting for any novelist to have a book made into a film for the first time. And to have it turn out as brilliantly as "Fight Club" would be an even better experience.

Unfortunately, all of Palahniuk's efforts to spark up conversations with screenwriter Jim Uhls are just words bouncing off the man like a tennis ball bouncing off a brick wall. Uhls simply doesn't want to talk. And when he does break the silence, it's generally to praise a particular moment from his own screenplay. He has almost nothing positive to say about other facets of the film, or about the novel the film was adapted from, and you almost get the sense that the man is frustrated novelist only working in Hollywood to pay the bills, and frustratingly jealous of the success that Palahniuk has had as a novelist.

Or maybe he's just not the talkative type. Though dropping someone like that into a commentary track is, perhaps, not the best idea.

It's unfortunate, as I think a commentary track with Pahlaniuk and someone more conversational would be interesting. The man's a great writer, and giving him the opportunity to talk about the changes from the book to the film, the things he didn't like, the things he did, would be an interesting few hours. It's just that these few hours spent with "Fight Club" weren't those interesting few hours.

Maybe next time.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Writing when it's not-writing

God, it's tough sometimes to make yourself write something, when what you're going to write isn't what you want to write, and what you want to write isn't going to get written because you put it off for too long and now it's too late to get started on it. But you feel like you need to write something anyway, because you're trying to do more of that, that writing, even if all you're going to end up writing about how much a pain in the ass it is to write when you're writing something that you don't much want to write.

Which is what this is.

So, seriously, if you want to skip this, I won't blame you. Hard to convince you to read something I don't really much want to be writing in the first place.

But here it is anyway.

I should be working on a short film script I've promised some teenagers to cobble together for them, but it's too late to really get the ball rolling on it, because I know it'll take awhile for the ball to reach a decent speed, and by then I'll be all energized from the act of creation and I won't be able to sleep. And I have enough trouble with that already.

I should also be putting some working into an old story idea that got some new material today, or a brand spanking new idea that started rattling around in my head on the drive home.

Of course, I should also be putting some work into the almost-but-not-quite finished novel, because, seriously, I need to get that fucking monster out of the way before I can really make any progress with anything else.

Oh, and there was an editorial I really wanted to try to write for this week's newspaper. That didn't pan out so well either.

Where does the time go?

How can I have the best of intentions for all this writing, and then watch as whole days just whoosh by me without anything getting done? How does that happen?

I didn't even lose the evening to video games today. Sure, I played for a bit, maybe 90 minutes, but that's hardly anything.

90 minutes.

That's shorter than some movies.

That's less than half the running time The Godfather.

It's nothing.

But still, nothing done today. No progress made on any number of projects. What the hell?

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Yes, it is a contest. And yes, you've lost.

I can't remember any more why I ever bothered signing up for a MySpace account, but I did. I do feel a degree of shame admitting it, but it's the truth. I had a MySpace account.

I probably only ever visited the site a dozen times, and more than half of those times were to receive friend-invites from strippers and people who existed only to be advertisements for online sex sites. Which was fine, I guess. I had no problems calling strippers my virtual friends. Come to think of it, I wouldn't have any problem calling strippers my virtual friends. I just don't get to meet a lot of them in my day to day life.

But outside of those few times I needed to drop by to accept friend requests from people I didn't know, there wasn't really much point in ever going to MySpace. At its most basic, the core users seemed to basically use the site as an online popularity contest. To prove just how awesome they were by having hundreds or thousands of "friends" -- with many of them, quite often, people they've never actually met.

So my response was, pretty much, "This is fucking lame."

Then along comes Facebook. And it's pretty much the same thing, except it doesn't look quite as disturbingly horrible as most MySpace pages, and unlike MySpace, it seems to actually be designed so that you can keep up on the lives of your friends. So, quite unlike MySpace, it actually seems to be, you know, useful.

Then, of course, Face book released their API, allowing third parties to design applications for use within its pages. And suddenly everyone's excited, because the possibilities of what you could do with the site are now limited only by the imaginations of the people who were working with the API.

But then something sort of sad happened.

Suddenly, a whole bunch of the people who were designing these apps started building apps that were, essentially, popularity contests.

Here's an example.

I recently noticed a "Buy and Sell You Friends" application on the facebook page of one of my friends, and I thought, "Hey, that seems sort of cool." So I installed it, and one of my friends ended up buying me, and then I bought a few friends, and thought, "Yeah, this is spiffy."

And then the friends I bought were promptly bought away by me. And then no one else bought me. And then I realized that the whole point of the application was to inflate your ego by watching as your other friends fought to possess you. But if no one gave enough of a shit about you to try to make that purchase, you just felt like a fucking loser.

Which is what I felt like.

And it's not just that one. There are "Do you want to kiss me?" applications and "Would you do me?" applications and "Am I not the most awesomest person you've ever known?" applications, and they're all there for same reason. Ego self-inflation.

And I just don't see how you can win with those.

If the application says that you're a fucking loser, then you're going to feel like a fucking loser. And if you ever realize that you're relying on a retarded online facebook application to make yourself feel like a more vital part of society, you're also probably going to feel like a loser. Because you probably are.

So instead of keeping the application installed to remind myself of how big a loser I was, I removed it, and made the decision to boycott anything that even remotely resembled a "Popularity Contest" app. Because they're just fucking depressing.

But the bigger problem for me still persists. I'm fairly sure that there are people around who like me (I can't be 100% sure, but I have it on fairly good authority that there are at least a few) and yet, somehow, I just don't inspire a passionate degree of interest. People like me, but at the same time, they don't really seem to notice a whole heck of a lot if I'm alive.

Which is also depressing.

I'm just not sure *why* this is. Is it that I'm likeable, but mostly in the background? Is it because I'm not constantly pushing myself into the front of people's consciousness? I feel like an average cheddar -- appealing enough to snack on from time to time, but nothing you'd ever go out of your way to track down.

And the worst part of it is that, until I had this Facebook experience, I didn't even really give a shit about whether or not people gave a shit about me. It wasn't worth even a moment's thought. And technically, it's *still* not worth a moment's thought. But now that I've thought it, I can't stop.

I can't stop wondering, "What the fuck is wrong with me? Why don't people give that much of a shit?"

But I also wonder, "Would I even want them to? Would I feel better if they did? Or would I just feel like they were invading my life?"

I probably *wouldn't* want them to. But that doesn't stop me from wanting them too anyway.

Thanks Facebook. You fucking bastard.

Self improvement doesn't necessarily trigger an orgasm, but it really should.

In the film "Fight Club," the character of Tyler Durden (played by Brad Pitt) says, at one point, that self-improvement is masturbation. He then implies that self-destruction is better path to choose.

It's an appealing notion, particular for someone like me who, for far too many years, has drank too much, eaten badly, and smoked like a chimney. Fuck self-improvement.

Except for the fact that this sort-of brush off of the idea manages to brings something appealing to it as well. Which is this: Masturbation is actually kind of fun.

I mean, it's not the most fun you can have, for sure. It's probably wouldn't even break the top five of sexual pass-times. But sometimes when there's nothing on TV and you haven't picked up a good book lately, masturbation can kill some time in a pretty entertaining way.

What I'm trying to say is, I've been masturbating a bit more than usual lately.

Which is to say, I've been on a sort-of self-improvement kick.

Nothing seriously over-the-top or anything like that. I haven't quit smoking, I haven't quite drinking, I haven't become a vegetarian, I'm not at the gym for two hours every single day. I tend to think that the people who do go over the top with stuff like this are the sort of people who tire of their attempts at self improvement very quickly, and return to those old habits they were trying so hard to break.

So, instead, what I'm trying to do is drink a little bit less, eat a little bit healther, get outside and take a walk every couple of days. Just little things. But little things that can be done without wearing yourself, without making you hate this stupid self-improvement kick and why the fuck did you ever think it was a good idea, little things that can eventually become a routine. And once they do, maybe push them a little further.

Masturbate a little bit more often, you could say.

All of this was ratting around in my head tonight, essentially, when I was making my third cup of herbal tea, thinking to myself, "I really do prefer these London Fruit and Herb teas the other brand I was drinking. They're much better." And then I realized that two months ago, I wouldn't have been drinking herbal tea, I'd have been drinking beer, at least a six pack tonight, because, let's face it, beer is awesome. But, instead of drinking beer, I was standing in the kitchen, noting to myself with brand of herbal fucking tea I preferred.

And I though, "Holy crap, I'm not sure I recognize myself at this moment."

And it was weird, because it was like I caught myself masturbating. And I felt a little guilty about it.

But at the same time, it felt pretty good too.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Commentary Commentary: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Most commentary tracks have a pretty common formula. They'll usually have the director talking about the movie, maybe by himself, maybe with a few other people. They'll usually throw in one or two of the primary cast members to join him, if he's not by himself, and maybe one of the tech people. A cinematographer, if the film had a particularly compelling visual style, or perhaps one of the effects people, if the film had a lot of CG work done. And that, generally speaking, is your commentary track.

And for people who want to learn about how movies get made, or find out some of the dirty secrets behind the production, or just listen to a handful of people shoot the shit and reminisce, this formula usually provides a pretty entertaining commentary track.

But sometimes you don't want to listen to that. Sometimes you want something a little bit different. Sometimes you want to spend two hours listening to just a little bit of madness. And for that, you'd be hard pressed to find a better commentary track than the Hunter S. Thompson commentary on "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas."

Hunter Thompson, of course, is the man who wrote the novel the film was based on, and a man who has lived his life pretty much the same way as his counterpart on the screen spent his time in Vegas -- pumping horrible amounts of every drug and every drink he could get his hands on into his body. And you can hear that sort of living in his voice. And in the occasional whooping hollers he bursts into, on occasion, while watching the film.

This isn't really the sort of commentary that you learn much of anything about by watching. Thompson refers to the film's director Terry Gilliam as gay on several occasions, explains which scenes he likes and which were shit, whoops, eats a radish, tries to phone Johnny Depp and then leaves a brutally violent message on his answering machine, and talks, at length, about what a disgusting human being Timothy Leary was.

In other words, it's pretty much like reading anything Hunter Thompson wrote in his life. Which means it's pretty goddamn awesome and pretty goddamn psychotic all at the same time.

If you're not a fan of the man's work, you're not likely to be a fan of the film (even if you *are* a fan of Gilliam's, because even while it's Gilliam behind the camera, and the film is full of Gilliam's visual style, this is really Hunter's movie), but if you are a fan of Thompson, there might be nothing more entertaining than sitting back and spending two hours with the king of Gonzo himself.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Grindhouse: Half Awesome, Half Teh Suckz.

I finally got the chance to check out the Grindhouse double feature from filmmakers Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez last night -- Tarantino's "Death Proof" and Rodriguez's "Planet Terror."

Unfortunately, I was checking out their individual DVD releases and not the official, theatrically released double feature. On the bright side, each film was released uncut, with about 20 minutes of footage replaced in "Death Proof" and about 10 minutes of footage returned to "Planet Terror."

I can't say either film was necessarily improved by the additional footage (having never seen the versions of these films without that footage) but I can say that "Planet Terror" was undeniably awesome, while "Death Proof" was...well, boring as shit.

Okay, the first half of it wasn't all bad, there were some psychotically gory death scenes. And the final car chase scene was definitely fun. But there's a point about halfway through the film where things just bog the fuck down, just when things were starting to pickup. And the problem is obvious. The film decides to spend just way too much time with a bunch of pointless Tarantino-esque dialogue. Worst of all, it isn't even terribly *good* Tarantino-esque dialogue. It sounds like some wannabe hack trying to sound like Tarantino and failing. Except it *is* Tarantino. So the failure is that much more painful.

In fact, while sitting through those scenes, I began to realize that out of a nearly two hour movie, there was maybe thirty minutes or so that was actually interesting. The rest of it was just...a bunch of people sitting around shooting the shit about crap we didn't care about.

Which is sort of old news, in the Tarantino department.

Then I realized something else: That there were eight hot, young chicks in this film, all dressed as exploitationally as possible (after all, these Grindhouse movies were an attempt to recreate the look and feel of bad exploitational cinema). And that, in all likelihood, Tarantino's entire creative impulse for this film was based on surrounding himself with women that he could try to hook up with.

Okay, so it sounds extreme, but I'm having a tough time thinking of any other reason for a movie with eight near-naked women and a script that was obviously slapped together during a single drunken afternoon. When Tarantino can't even effectively make a Tarantino-esque movie, you know he's just not trying. And probably into it for the poontang.

Also, I can't help but feel, watching him blather on about his film in the mini-documentaries on the second disc, that Tarantino is...well, a bit of a douche, actually.

A pompous, self-important, head-firmly-up-his-ass, douche.

It's sort of unfortunate that, for the most part, he's a pretty effective director. Outside of "Death Proof," of course.

On the flip side, "Planet Terror," is maybe the best movie ever made.

Srsly. See it. It is 17 different shades of awesome.

That is all.

Monday, January 21, 2008

That vague, sort-of radio-friendly melody makes me sad...

I'm sure we're all fairly well aware of the connections between our senses and our memory. You smell a certain smell, and it transports you back in time. Or a certain taste reminds you, vividly, of a particular moment in your own past.

For example, the taste of Eat More chocolate bars always remind me of the smell of chlorine (and, in fact, vice-versa, with the smell of chlorine always reminding me of the taste of Eat-More chocolate bars) because, as a kid, when my dad would take my brother and I swimming, we were always allowed to buy one snack from the vending machine afterwards. And I'd always pick up an Eat-More.

Certain spring smells -- sweet, fresh, and somehow *green* -- always remind of me of that fantastic period as you approached the end of the school year, summer vacation just around the corner, and even though it was still maybe 4-6 weeks away, it was close enough to taste.

Generally, these are specific senses leading to specific memories. But I just discovered -- just today, in fact -- that there's a vague, general sort of music that reminds me of someone I used to know, someone I used to be quite close to, in fact. It's that sort of dull but kind of catchy, radio friendly rock and / or pop music. Something like Nickelback, for example. Or those thousands of other bands that sound almost exactly like them.

I heard a song earlier today, I have no idea who it was from, but it had that safe, radio-friendly sound to it. And, just like that, I was thinking of her. Out of the blue. Much to my surprise.

It took me a few minutes to figure out was going, to figure out what the connection was. It wasn't really a song that I had any specific memory of her listening to or being particularly fond of, so the connection, at first, seemed almost completely random. But then I realized that, even without that specific memory, it certainly seemed like the sort of song she'd listen to, and groove to, and say, "ooooh, I like this song," even thought it was really more or less a terrible song.

She had horrible taste in music, for the most part. Well, at least compared to my own taste in music, which is probably equally horrible, but at least more...diverse, let's say. For lack of a better word.

I'm getting a little bit off topic, which wasn't a terribly clear topic to begin with, so let me just try to steer it back to the point. Which was this: I was equally surprised and fascinated to discover that this simple little song, which had no specific memory attached to it, could still very rapidly fill me with an almost overwhelming feeling of loss and sadness.

Just like that. Bang. It happened that quickly.

I didn't feel particualarly bad today. In fact, I was sitting here at work, feeling fairly good, fairly well rested, maybe could use a glass of water or something, but for the most part I was fine. And then bang, 60 seconds into a song, and I sort of want to hide in the bathroom and have a bit of a cry.

It was weird.

I'm going to be 35 years old in August. Middle-age-ish, based on current aging numbers (and based on current lifestyle choices, *cough), but you know, science, feel free to keep working on that whole extending the lifespan thing. I'm cool with that.

But at 35, I can't even imagine to think of how many different things are stored, somewhere, in my brain. Things I've forgotten about. Things that I may never remember again. Or things that might suddenly burst into the front of my brain with the help of something as simple as a sound or a smell. And I can't help but wonder, how many other times am I going to find myself suddenly filled with a surge of emotion -- happiness or sadness or anger or whatever -- because of some external stimulus, and yet have no idea what that stimulus is or what it relates to?

I'd like to be prepared for that sort of thing, if I could. Better to be able to say to myself, "Whoa, there it goes again, my volatile emotions being triggered by a faint memory that stirred by an outside source," as opposed to, "Holy fuck, I suddenly want to cry again for no apparent reason. Clearly I'm going insane."

Though I suppose in a worst-case scenario, I could just track down an Eat-More and distract myself with the vague sense-memory of chlorine.

Mmm, chlorine.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Commentary commentary: Halloween (2007)

So I had a bit of a panic when I realized that, after only one movie, I had already forgotten to maintain my intended regular-viewing of movie commentary tracks. Last weekend *should* have seen film number two of 2008 viewed, but, well, I forgot.

And, okay, it wasn't so much of a panic. I didn't break out in a cold sweat, my heart didn't start hammering in my chest. It was more of, "Oh, hey, I forgot to do that, crap," sort of realization. More disappointment than, panic, I guess.

But, not one to take disappointment well, I decided it was best to fix this problem as soon as possible. So last night I plugged in 2007's remake of the classic horror film Halloween and spent two hours listening to Rob Zombie yack about the production.

While I was a fan of Zombie's first two directing efforts -- House of 1,000 Corpses and The Devil's Rejects, I wasn't quite as impressed with his reinvention of the Halloween franchise. The extended opening, focusing on the young Michael Myers, was interesting but added little to the story, and may have actually undermined the character by attempting to overly humanize him. The middle -- and the core of the film -- is so reminiscent of the original that there seemed little point making it again. And the ending, which diverges quite drastically from the original, seems to diverge simply for the sake of saying, "Ha, see? It's different! Surprise! Boo!"

But, I am a fan of Zombie's work, and I am a fan of the Halloween franchise, so the opportunity to listen to the man dig on the process of creation while giving the movie a second crack (albeit in the background of the director's monologue) was appealing enough.

Zombie is probably one of the more entertaining commentarians among those I've listened to. His comments on Halloween include anecdotes from the film set, explanations of the mistakes that frustrated him the most, and information on which actor's were most prone to dickheadery. While none of this adds any particular depth to one's understanding of the film, it's an entertaining two hours. And let's not forget, this is Halloween. There isn't much depth required.

Most entertaining part of the commentary? Probably Zombie recounting how Daeg Faerch, the boy who played the young Michael Meyers, enjoyed the heck out of pretending to cut people up, beating the crap out of things with an aluminum baseball bat, and getting to say things like, "Fuck off." And seriously, what ten year old wouldn't?

Monday, January 14, 2008

Growing old is not growing up.

Sometimes I look around my life, and I see it cluttered with things like books and movies on DVD and video games and comic books, and I think to myself, did I ever actually grow up?

And then sometimes I think, Do any of us?

I remember as a kid watching my dad go off to work. He worked for the school district, so he was a formally dressed, suit-and-tie kinda guy, and for whatever reason that made the impression on my youthful brain that this was how one dressed as a professional. This is what a grown up did. This is how a grown up dressed.

And I remember family dinners with mom and dad and my brother, always at around 5:00, always with the four of us at the table. We'd say grace and then we'd eat, and we'd talk about our day, and none of us would be allowed to have dessert until everyone had finished their dinner, and none of us would be allowed to leave the table until everyone was finished desert. And I remember going on family vacations, the four of us. Sometimes to visit relatives, sometimes to just get it away, but it was a family event, a pilgrimage that the four of us would take as a unit. And I can remember thinking, these are the things that grown-ups do.

And now I look at my own life, with no wife and no kids and no family of my own. I don't feel like I'm lacking anything because of it. I don't feel a terrible absence in my heart. But I do feel like maybe the absence of that absence is yet another sign that I haven't grown up. That I don't feel the burning urge to get married and start a family and buy RRSPs and read the Financial Post and plan for my future and my children's future and my children's children's future is some sort of a failing on my part.

But then I wonder too if the people that *do* do these sorts of things aren't doing it because of any sort of burning desire, but simply because it's what they've been taught they're supposed to do. Get a job, get a career, get a wife, have some kids, grow up, grow old, die. This is the cycle of life, or so we've been taught by generation after generation.

How many of the people who did this actually *wanted* to do this.

Are the people who live their life like that just as jealous of my rejection of that lifestyle as I am of their ability to conform to that supposed ideal? Are they more jealous?

A strange part of my brain still feels like I should be wearing a tie to work, if only because that's what you do. If only because that's what it means to be a professional. I don't, and I won't, because a bigger part of me thinks it's silly. It's the same part of me that buys video games because they're fun and reads comic books from time to time because some of them have some pretty goddamn good stories in them. It's the same part of me that doesn't want to grow up.

It's a part, I suspect, that we all have. It just speaks at different volumes, depending on who you are.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Deadlines suck

I don't like deadlines, at least not in my personal life.

Professionally, they're a necessary evil. It's a part of life in the printing industry. You need to get your product to press by a certain time to get it out on the streets by a certain time. And to get it to press on time, you need to make sure that every other phase in its production is done in time. So week after week, day after day, there's deadlines.

In fact, I've been working in newspaper for so long I don't think I could get anything done at work without a deadline looming over my shoulder. And maybe that's why I hate deadlines so much when I finally get home.

I was laying on the sofa tonight, trying to read, and I just couldn't keep my eyes open. I was tired, wanting to nap a little, but I was trying to push my way through the book anyway. Because I was thinking, "You've got to get this done. This is reading time. Which is followed by surfing the 'Net time. Which is followed with some writing time. And then you have to go to bed."

And I suddenly realized that my whole evening was being governed by some set of self-imposed deadlines. So I promptly set the book aside, closed my eyes, and napped for an hour. Because, fuck deadlines.

I guess what struck me to was the stark contrast between today and yesterday -- which was my day off, and a day without any deadlines at all. Today, by 7:00 p.m., it seemed like that end of the day was rapidly closing in on me and I had to make sure I accomplished everything that needed accomplishing before it arrived. Yestarday, by 7:00 p.m., the day was still young, there was still so much that could be done, and there was no pressure -- self-imposed or otherwise -- about when it should be done.

Which got me to thinking. Is there a middle ground here?

How am I going to actually accomplish the sort of self-improvement projects that I'd like to do if I don't impose some sort of routine or schedule or...well, or deadline. How can I make sure I get some writing done each day if I don't say, "You have to sit down no later than 11:00 p.m. and start writing some shit down, whatever it is."

Is that even possible?

When I'm deadline free, stuff *can* get done. I had a fantastic day a few weeks back where I house-cleaned, took a walk with the dog, got some writing in, and *still* had time for video games and movies.

Unfortunately, most of my deadline free days don't go like that, as much as I wish they would. And if I try to force them into being that way, then I'm pretty much just imposing the same deadlines on myself that drive me so nuts when I impose them on myself.

It's nothing I can't live with, nothing I'm going to lose any sleep over, but at the same time it's at least a little annoying to think that, as much as I want to, I really can't have it both ways -- it's either deadlines, or non-productivity. I guess that's the way of the world.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Crappy digital cameras are so much awesome...

I got a digital camera for Christmas from my parents. It is, to put it bluntly, pretty crappy. Which is awesome. For reasons far too complex for me to explain, I absolutely adore crappy digital cameras.

This is what it looks like:

Yes, it's about 2" wide by about 1.5" tall (or at least those are my awfully rough estimates -- I'm digging out a stupid ruler just to double check how big this camera is). Apparently it's supposed to be kept in the glove compartment of my car in order to photograph damage to the car during horrible, fender-bending accidents, so I'll have evidence to provide to the insurance company, should such a horrible, fender-bending accident occur.

But that's boring. I'd rather use it to take self portraits.

Or to take pictures of my dog.

I'm assuming you can tell by these photos that I wasn't kidding when I said it was a crappy camera. These pictures are exactly as them came off the thing -- not cropped, not downsampled, and not cleaned up in any way shape or form. That's just how this thing takes pictures. And they're really not that good.

I also hope you believe me when I saw that's so much awesome. I'm really not trying to pick on my folks. Assuming this little camera doesn't eat battery life (as I've seen some cheap little digital cameras do in the past) I think I could get quite a bit of fun out of this little thing. I'm weird that way.

Also: It appears this is my 500th post. Nothing significant to report on this particular day. Perhaps something more significant for post number 501.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

People talking about movies

One of things I've decided I want to try to do this year -- which, I should point out, is completely different from resolving to do something -- is listen to more DVD commentary tracks.

I like movies. Particularly good movies. Which is to say, I like movies that I like. And liking movies, I tend to buy a fair number of DVDs. I don't have a ridiculous number of them, but I do have a collection that's growing just about every week. Because I like movies, and I like to add movies I like to my collection.

One of the things I like about DVDs are the special features. And the consistent special feature on DVDs that I think has the potential to be the most interesting is the commentary track. Listening to the director or the actor or the cinematographer or whoeverthefuck talk about the process of making the movie can help you learn about the process of making movies, as well as give you interesting (if useless) trivia about the movie in question.

The problem is, as a general rule, I never get around to listening to those commentary tracks. I buy the movie, I watch the movie, I check out the *rest* of the special features, then the movie goes on my shelf and sits there, usually until I bump into someone who hasn't seen it, then I can force them to watch it, because it's obviously an awesome movie if it's on my shelf.

But this year I want to try to change that. I want to try to listen to more commentary tracks. Specifically, I want to try to listen to one commentary track a week during the course of 2008.

I got this particular ball rolling tonight with the commentary track on David Fincher's "Zodiac" -- the 2-disc special edition of which I picked up on Friday. I'm a huge fan of David Fincher ("Fight Club" is probably the best film around about the 1990s) and I've had a perverse fascination with the Zodiac killer since I first stumbled upon the book in my adolescence, so the combination for this film was almost perfect.

I dragged my ass out to the theatre to see the movie in the summer, and wasn't disappointed in the slightest.

While the movie is a lot less visually flashy than some of Fincher's past pictures, it tells a fascinating story -- not as much a story about a killer as it is a story about the obsession of the people trying to solve the mystery -- with generally strong performances working with a generally solid script, shot beautifully by an always interesting director.

Loving the film, as well as the subject matter, I was quite eager to get a listen to the commentary track for the film. There were two to choose from -- one featuring just Fincher, and one featuring a collection of cast and crew members.

I'll admit, I have a bias for directors. They're the ones who put the movie together. They're the ones who really pour their blood, sweat and tears into a production to bring it to life. Not to discount the efforts of everyone else on the production, but let's face it, however good a job anyone else did, a movie still belongs to its director.

Unfortunately, I'm always wary of single-person commentaries. It's a lot easier to get a dialogue flowing about the movie with the help of one or two other people, than it is to provide a monologue.

To Fincher's credit, there are very few silent moments in the film, though the discussion isn't always as fascinating as you might hope. For my money, the most interesting parts where where he conceded the changes that were made to the true story in order to better serve the film they were trying to make -- the moments of artistic license. Knowing that the film took some flack from serious Zodiac experts / junkies, I was glad to see Fincher acknowledge these changes, accepting that a film is a film and sometimes you have to do what best suits the film, even if it perhaps dishonours the facts.

Which I think is an important consideration to make with this film -- and any other film that claims to be "based on true events."

The true events of any story will likely take place over the course of weeks or months or years. If you're planning to adapt those true events into a film, there is going to have to be some condensing going on, because you're going to have to cram those weeks or months or years into 120 minutes. That's not going to happen easily. And it's not going to happen without taking some liberties with those facts.

Occupational hazard.

Watching the film, and being at least loosely aware (having read the book a couple of times in the past) of the material it was based on, I can say that Fincher and co. did a fine job bringing the material to the screen. While they might have played loose with some of the details, when it was time to get the important stuff on the screen, they did a great job.

As for the commentary track, as much as it had the occasional moments of interest, it was generally a bit too dry for my taste. Anytime I feel like getting up in the middle of something to look for something to eat, or to check my email, you've lost me at least a little bit. And the Zodiac commentary lost me, at least a little bit.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

A consistent, regular output

If there's one thing I should have learned from the three years I did National Novel Writing month, it's that writing -- and by that I mean having a consistent, regular output of words on a page -- is easy. You just do it. You sit down, and you write.

Now, it's not always going to be brilliant, of course. That's something you expect going in. And, I mean, isn't that what the editing process is for, at least in part? I think it is.

So as long as you're not going to lose sleep over the quality of the work, just sit down and do it. Sit down and write. Dump a bunch of words out.

Even if you're not feeling terribly inspired by one project, you pick a different project. Or you just ignore all your projects and write a stupid blog post. Like this one.

It's not hard. You just do it.

I remember another piece of advice I heard from an author -- who it was I can't recall for the life of me at the moment -- which said, force yourself to write for 30 minutes every day. That's the only commitment you need to make. It's juts 30 minutes, how much of a loss out of your day is that?

And if the writing goes bad -- if it's uninspired or weak or whatever -- you just pick up and walk away when the 30 minutes is done. You've at least done something. But if things go really, really well, you may find yourself writing for longer than the 30 minutes. Maybe an hour, maybe two. Maybe you'll put a whole bunch of really good stuff on the page. Who knows.

And that's stuff that never would have ended up there if you hadn't sat down for those 30 minutes.

I know these things. I've experienced them first hand. Now I just need to do them regularly. And not just by wasting time with a blog post on January 2 in an attempt to prove that, yes, in the new year, I really *am* going to write more often.