Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Art & Entertainment Musings

I'm so very bored, and we all know what that means... yes, yes... this is the week that all men prepare themselves for the football game of the year, and all women prepare themselves for its commercials (if that's not a stereotypically sexist statement, I don't know what is).

Katie Holmes has apparently been dropped from the Batman sequel. I think I just converted, because this is proof that there must be a higher power. She sucked in Batman Begins, and there's a shot in which she resembles Sloth from The Goonies. Good riddance.

Rachel McAdams is the rumored replacement for Holmes, by the way.

Chris Daughtry's album is selling well. He's a good guy, in my opinion, but he's also highly overrated. That throat-trill needs to go. There's no gimmick in music that gets older faster (except for five sorta hot British girls with stupid nicknames singing bad songs). Still, he gets kudos for that National Anthem rendition at the NFC Championship game.

There's a movie called Teeth that deals with the supposed male-oriented fear of "vagina dentata." It's supposed to be good, but I wouldn't know. I'm still in disbelief that somebody made this movie.

Some so-called "conservative family groups" are whining about Dakota Fanning's rape scene in her new movie, Hounddog. Um... why? If you can't handle such serious and realistic subject matter, put your blinders on and go watch a different movie.

Have you ever read a lot of bad poetry in a row? Have you ever read someone who writes poetry, but basically just writes the same poem over and over again, with different words? I have, and it made me sick. I've never wished illiteracy on anybody... until now.

The only thing worse than the aforementioned poet's poetry are his so-called song lyrics. Ugh.

The singer Brandy, who might be charged with involuntary manslaughter stemming from a death in a traffic accident, is now being sued by the dead woman's family for $50 million. You know, tragedy is tragedy, but Brandy hasn't even been found guilty yet. And I'm well aware that you can't really put a price tag on a life, but does anybody else think that this family is more concerned with "cash cow" than they are with mourning?

After a couple of years of wondering if Screech from Saved By the Bell was actually cool, it's been confirmed that, no, he's definitely an idiot.

Prison Break and 24 are off to fantastic starts in 2007. Heroes remains overrated and painfully derivative, yet somehow maintains my interest. Battlestar Galactica is officially a stinker. When the Hell does Lost start back up?

Smokin' Aces looks to be painfully painful. But the glutton in me just can't resist. Besides, after watching Lucky Number Slevin, I think I can handle another cheesy hit man movie.

Rage Against the Machine is supposedly reuniting temporarily to play at Coachella this year. Right on. I just hope this means that Audioslave isn't going anywhere.

Television hit Grey's Anatomy seems to be in a bit of a bind, doesn't it?

The best comic book series of the 21st Century, Warren Ellis' Planetary, is about to come to a close. Do yourselves a favor and pick up the trade paperbacks. Phenomenal stuff.

Coming full circle, there's a rumor that Katie Holmes might end up being the new Wonder Woman. I take back what I wrote earlier about a higher power.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Evolution of a Story

I just wrapped up another draft of my latest story, Clandestine's Daughter. It's a great feeling to finish something, wonderful, actually. And here I am, yet again, scanning through the pages, looking for things to change, things to leave alone, things to clean up, things to dirty, things to get rid of, and things to add. Why? Well, obviously, I want a script that's good enough to sell, but mostly... just for the fun of it.

Looking at the early incarnation of what is now Clandestine's Daughter, it's a little humorous to note that there is virtually no resemblance to the current incarnation.

Let me back up, though, as I need to specify something. What is now Clandestine's Daughter actually started out as two stories, one called The Ghosts and another called Tradecraft. Both were spy stories, with the former about a group of deep cover spies who wanted "out." The latter? Well, the latter didn't have a story, just a title (I do that sometimes).

Eventually, the group of deep cover spies became Tradecraft, while The Ghosts became The Ghost and His Daughter, which was about a little girl whose father was a spy. Which, as those that have read it already know, became Clandestine's Daughter about halfway through writing the first draft. A little weird how all those changes came about, but they did.

I read a lot of scripts and stories, as well, and one of the problems I notice with young writers (including myself) is that we usually don't know how to "react" to our own characters. We get so caught up in writing the plot, we overlook the possibilities that our own characters may or may not act the way we need them to. Case in point, I recently read a treatment concerning a Depression Era criminal. Great plot, good story (as it's based in fact), but the character provided seemed like he would do anything in the world except for following the plot points needed to tell the story.

The solution? Change the story or change the character.

I only mention this because I did quite a bit of both in writing Clandestine's Daughter. I admit it, I'm one of those "excellent at plot, poor at character" writers, and I've been trying like Hell to change that these past few years. My recent Theorem is such an example. Tightly-woven plot, cardboard "Hey-George-Lucas-Wrote-These" types of characters. Somehow, I determined that my problem with character in Theorem derived from the fact that the relationships between the characters, and not the characters themselves, were what was weak (whether that's true or not, I have no clue). But, I took that "revelation" and I approached Clandestine's Daughter intent on avoiding the same mistake.

Which brings me to the first casualty of Clandestine's Daughter. In early drafts, there were these two characters: Stephanie Bullock and Jason Cooper. As written, they were merely a way to help push the plot of the main protagonist, and had little or no story themselves. They were simply there so I could have two more characters involved in the final, glorious shootout. Cannon fodder, as it were. As you can tell, they weren't "related" to the protagonist very well, if at all.

It was about this time that I noticed the proliferation of female characters in the script. It was unintentional, I'm embarrassed to say, as I'm usually a "male-centric" writer (which I'm addressing), but the importance of women in Clandestine's Daughter was clearly paramount. A woman's murder begins the story, a little girl's journey is the story, and another woman saves the story.

Well, I figured I was onto something there.

So, I took Mr. Jason Cooper, and turned him into Ms. Erika Martin. I found a "Female Analyst" character that appeared early and also turned her into Ms. Erika Martin. The kicker? Erika Martin was to be the protagonist's fiancée. Now, if that doesn't seem random, I don't know what does.

But, it works. Instead of Jason, a complete stranger to the protagonist, chasing the protagonist, a lover is chasing him. Inherent relationship. Already it's more interesting. Now factor in that she's chasing him, while he's rescuing a little girl that may or may not be his daughter? Well, that's story.

Anyway, there's an entire gamut of things that have changed in Clandestine's Daughter, but I just wanted to point out that one. My original character didn't fit the story well, and didn't react well, so I changed him. Now, the character not only fit the story well, she was an integral part of its push, instead of just "fodder." And the new ending the addition of her character led to packs an emotional punch that existed not at all in the original draft.

Crazy how that works.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Sissy Drinks

I was informed today that I like "sissy drinks." And while this is undoubtedly true, as I am a sissy, I got to thinking... what exactly constitutes a sissy drink?

Let's examine.

The drink that prompted the sissy drink reference is a margarita. Now, despite having a sissy name, a margarita usually consists of tequila, lime, and triple sec. Lime goes with Corona, so that can't be the culprit (although Corona is sometimes referred to as a sissy beer). Triple sec is the flavor-kicker, so that is kinda "sissy." And tequila, well, there's no way in Hell anyone can label tequila a sissy component.

Then again, tequila makes Tequila Sunrises, so my logic is flawed.

Fine, margaritas are sissy drinks, but what else?

I'm also a huge Collins fan. Specifically, the traditional Tom variant of Mr. Collins. Despite the fact that the previous statement sounds a little queer, Tom Collins packs quite a kick and most certainly can't be considered a sissy drink, can it? Well, in a Tom Collins is gin, lemon, soda or seltzer, and maybe a little sugar (people who mix these well rock. I, unfortunately, have to buy Collins mix at the grocery store). Lemon is, admittedly, a bit more sissy than lime, soda/seltzer is definitely sissy, and gin, well... I'd say James Bond drinks martinis, but those are vodka martinis, so I can't use the personification of "dude" to back me up on this one.

Fine, I like another sissy drink.

What about a screwdriver? Vodka? Orange juice? You're right, that screams sissy all the way. I'm losing this argument, aren't I?

I got it... Rum and Coke! Ah ha! There's no way that's sissy. Wait, I don't stomach dark rum too well, so my Rum and Cokes are usually made (badly) with light rum, which is definitely a sissy thing to do. Fuck me.

Yep, my friend is right... I like sissy drinks.

I think I'll have another.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Randomness on a Sunday Night

Well, the Bears beat the Saints and the Colts beat the Patriots today. I'm really glad the Patriots didn't win; not because they beat the Chargers last week, but because I know I would've gotten real sick of the press pushing the whole "Superbowl Rematch" angle. 1985, anybody?

They should relabel the press the "dead-horse-kickers."

People who write bad poetry need to be stopped. People who post their bad poetry online need to have their electricity turned off.

I found a new pastime to help accelerate the carpal tunnel syndrome that I know I will one day suffer from: Guitar Hero II. Damn you, PlayStation.

Does anybody remember that U2-esque song from the late 1980s, "Under the Milky Way," by the band The Church? Did anybody know that The Church is still an active band? Does anybody know that they absolutely rock? Of course not, you're all listening to Emo/Screamo crap.

Chris Daughtry of American Idol fame sang the National Anthem prior to the Bears-Saints game. He actually started crying. Good for him.

A 29-year-old posing as a 12-year-old tried to enroll in a school. He was living with two over-40 sex offenders. I don't know who got more sick over the situation, the school authorities when they discovered the age discrepancy, or the two sex offenders when they discovered they weren't having sex with a 12-year-old. And you all wonder why I call for Armageddon so often.

For those of you with HDTVs, please don't stretch the image if you don't have an HD tuner. Squat, fat characters on Prison Break and Grey's Anatomy do not make the shows better. Set the image to 4:3, and deal with the black bars on the sides. You're the same idiots who complained about watching movies in widescreen, despite actually seeing a "larger" image, and then complained about your full screen DVDs when you bought a widescreen televison. Yes, you are. Don't deny it.

David Beckham signed a contract for how much money to play soccer in the United States? Wait a second, they play soccer in the United States? Soy de los Estados Unidos! Why don't I know about these things?

Classy people don't go around advertising that they're classy. They just are. Modest people don't go around advertising that they're modest. They just are. Honorable people don't go around advertising that they're honorable. They just are.

I want to see Rocky Balboa and I'm not afraid to admit it.

Lindsay Lohan checked into rehab. And even though I liked Mean Girls, is there any chance that they could keep her there? That would, like, kick ass.

Professional photographers know how to light a shot. If you're letting a "professional" take pictures, and he or she isn't being anal about lighting, you're getting ripped off.

Apparently there's serious discussion that Leonardo DiCaprio is the best actor of his generation. Well, he's got my vote, although I'd throw up some other names into that debate.

Thank you, NFL Network, for airing the "Making the Squad" cheerleader documentaries against the playoff games. Switching to that sure beats watching commercials. And this was WITH Tivo. Cheerleaders rock, what can I say?

People on MySpace really need to check to see if they're "posting" bulletins. I'm very sick of my friends trying to sell me Playstations, penis enhancements, cheap vacations, and cheap women. For crying out loud, change your fucking password from time to time.

For those lucky enough to live near a Macaroni Grill, try their Italian Margarita. I'm not sure what the extra ingredient is that makes a margarita "Italian," but rest assured, I will find out and load my cupboards for some nice home consumption.

If Hillary Clinton somehow manages to win the Presidency, in 100 years, people will look back, see "Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton" on the list of Presidents, and realize that the 1990s and 2000s were a very confusing time for us.

I'm going to bed.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Immigration, Terrorism, Hollywood

Two hot topics in politics right now are proliferating on the big and small screens, as of late, so I figured I'd fuel whatever fire and review three movies I've seen recently, as well as the season 6 premiere of one of the best shows on television.

Spanglish


James L. Brooks' comedy about an illegal immigrant housekeeper living with an upscale family in Los Angeles came out in 2004. I didn't see it, although I wanted to. Ever since Sex & Lucia, I've had a bit of an infatuation with Paz Vega, but that's beside the point. I bought the DVD in 2005. Strangely, I finally got around to watching it last week.

Spanglish
can, loosely, be described as a "cute" movie. However, this doesn't do it justice. It is a very good movie, well put together, and while a comedy, handles its serious themes nicely.

Adam Sandler plays John Clasky, an up-and-coming chef who is about to make his mark on the culinary world. He's a bit anti-confrontational, and this leads to various problems with his wife, co-workers, and (initially) his new housekeeper. Paz Vega plays Flor (pronouced Florrrrr, with vibratto), who wants nothing more than a better life for her daughter.

Anyway, cultures collide, John's high-maintenance wife winds up having an affair, John and Flor wind up falling love (but do nothing about it), and we're left with a satisfying, but open-ended conclusion.

Liberal Slant:
Immigrants contribute greatly to our society, this film proves it!

Conservative Slant:
Immigrants are home-wreckers and tax our social programs, this film proves it!

Jeff's Slant:
Funny movie, romantic movie, and Paz Vegas is insanely gorgeous.

V for Vendetta

A loose adaptation of the Alan Moore's absolutely spectacular comic book, V for Vendetta is a good action film that touches on certain political dangers. While nowhere near as profound as its source material, the film does attempt to place itself in the contemporary mindset, taking volatile political issues such as the Patriot Act head-on. Actually, despite half-hearted attempts throughout, this is really the only political issue that is taken head-on, as the film pays more than a bit of homage to George Orwell's vision of 1984.

While I enjoyed the movie (what can I say, I'm a Natalie Portman fan), it's unfortunate that the film dropped the multiple and far more extreme themes of its source material. The comic series was devoted to depicting the two ultimate political extremes against each other: anarchy versus fascism. In addition, the comic series was notable for remaining explicitly neutral in its own arguments. The film, however, is clearly about liberalism versus conservatism, and blatantly sides with liberalism.

Liberal Slant: Democrats good, Republicans bad.

Conservative Slant: All you art-loving, open-armed preaching idiots are going to get your asses kicked.

Jeff's Slant: Good movie, worth watching, but solely as entertainment (or if you have a Portman fetish). If you want the truly politically-charged version, read the source material.

Children of Men

Wow. This movie is phenomenal. Let me say that again... wow.

In the near future, mankind has lost the ability to procreate. No human child has been born on Earth for over 18 years. As a result, hope and faith break down, the world delves into a series of catastrophic wars, and the surviving governments become rather totalitarian. At face value, the film implies a heavy dose of racism, but under closer scrutiny, this is not the case... the film implies a heavy dose of nationalism. Otherwise known as fascism. There is a rather large emphasis on illegal immigration (albeit in Britain). Keep in mind that the director, Alfonso Cuarón, is Mexican, and the subject matter is likely near and dear to his heart. That being said, had I the talent and vision, I would have made Children of Men the exact same way he made it.

I really don't want to ruin anything about this movie, so I won't. The shock value of the scene in the dairy farm hit me like a ton of bricks, but only because I had no idea it was coming.

In other words, go see this movie. Oh, and by the way, the political messages of this film are far closer to what Alan Moore intended for V for Vendetta.

Liberal Slant: The world is going to Hell unless we start loving each other.

Conservative Slant: That's quite a naïve sentiment, but yes, the world is going to Hell.

Jeff's Slant: Wow. This movie is phenomenal. Let me say that again... wow.

24: Day 6

First of all, let me just say that I love this show. With the possible exception of "Day 3," this series has been one of the few molds of consistency on television.

Okay, on to controversy... apparently, there's a notion running around our government that the terrorist plot on 24 might serve as inspiration to actual terrorists. Right, like they aren't good enough on their own at thinking of ways to kill us. Kudos to 24 for exposing these "plot holes" in our anti-terror systems.

Let me use this as an opportunity to say that our government is clearly getting dumber by the hour. Liberal, conservative, I don't give a shit. They're all officially idiots.

I suddenly became irritated, so that's all I have to say about that. Watch the show, it's great.

Liberal Slant: We're idiots.

Conservative Slant: We're idiots.

Jeff's Slant: They're idiots. Watch the show.

One closing note: Congress is mulling over bringing back the "Fairness Doctrine," which would require news programs to always portray both sides of an issue or topic. Maybe they're not ALL idiots. It's sad that our government would have to enforce "open discussion," but it beats the alternative.

Of course, Rush Limbaugh is trying to claim it's all a conspiracy to shut him up. Hey, Rush... all they're doing is trying to get you to acknowledge the other side. Acknowledge, not agree with. Is that so bad?

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The San Diego Chargers: Heartbreak

Once again, the San Diego Chargers are going home early after a missed Nate Kaeding field goal. Two years ago in San Diego, while playing the New York Jets in an AFC Wild Card, Kaeding missed wide on a kick that would have won the game in sudden death overtime. Tonight, Kaeding missed short on a 54-yard attempt that would have put the game into overtime, in a match that clearly favored the Chargers.

That being said, Kaeding deserves little to none of the blame for the loss. The blame, instead, should fall on the shoulders of a wide receiver, and two members of the Chargers secondary.

In the third quarter, the Chargers forced a punt from the New England 18. Eric Parker muffed it, and instead of falling on it (which he could have quite clearly have done), Parker tried to pick it up. The Patriots recovered.

Worry.

That same drive, on a 3rd and 13, Shaun Phillips sacked Tom Brady and forced a fumble, which would have forced a New England punt or 40+ yard field goal attempt. Instead, Chargers cornerback Drayton Florence attempted to head-butt a Patriot, resulting in a personal foul. The drive ended with a 34-yard field goal by the Patriots' rookie kicker.

Splinter.

In the fourth quarter, on a 4th and 5, Marlon McCree intercepted Tom Brady, then fumbled it. The Patriots recovered and marched down the field for the game-tying touchdown and two-point conversion.

Crack.

Then, on the last play of the Chargers' last possession, Kaeding's game-tying 54-yard field goal attempt fell short.

Break.

The really sad part? The Patriots barely played well enough to stay in the game. Yes, Brady had his moments, as usual, but their run game was nonexistent, and their passing game was disrupted effectively. Still, when a team screws up as many times as the Chargers did today, allowing one of the greatest quarterbacks of the young 21st Century time to do his thing, he's going to do it. And he did.

Heartbreak.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Nicotine-Withdrawal-Induced Musings

I chewed the last piece of Nicorette I had yesterday. Today, I am going through regular gum like it's heroin. An entire bag of blow pops, two 60-piece cans of Eclipse gum, and a pack of Dentyne Ice have all met their demise. I'd chew on my fingers, but you can't blow bubbles with flesh... or can you? Hmm...

Scooby Doo was invented by a Japanese guy. Who'd have thought? Two things can be deciphered from this fact. One, he almost made up for the Japanese social debacle that is known as karaoke. Two, the Japanese, realizing their attempt to corrupt American culture via automobiles and electronics had failed, were trying to screw us up on cartoons. Given the proliferation of manga and anime, I'd say they're well on their way to success.

If I'm not making any sense, blame it on the lack of nicotine.

There's a pizza chain accepting pesos now. Good customer service? Maybe. Or maybe it's time we pulled a European Union and forced Canada and Mexico to adopt the US dollar. Or maybe it's time we just shut up and let a business do what it wants to do. It's called freedom. So be it.

The NFL playoffs heat up this weekend with the divisional games. The rub? My sister is throwing my niece's birthday party this weekend, even though she was born on December 30th. The rub's rub? Out of the four playoff games, my sister scheduled my niece's birthday party at 2 PM Pacific Time on Sunday. Right smack dab in the middle of the Chargers-Patriots game. Guess which uncle isn't going to the birthday party?

If I seem like a dick, blame it on the lack of nicotine. Okay, fine, I'm always like this.

I love politics. Democrats, who are supposedly for cloning, specifically in terms of research and development, are suddenly against cloned food. For R&D, they claim that what we discover can only help, not hurt our civilization. For food, it's the opposite. I'm sorry, I was under the impression that John Kerry was no longer the face of the Democratic Party. Oh, well... they'll change their mind next month, anyway.

On the other hand, the Republicans actually seem to think that adding 20,000 troops is going to help the situation in Iraq. I agree, it's going to help the insurgents find more targets. There is a solution to the Iraq problem, but I highly doubt we're going to figure it out. Neither major political party is in any position to dictate how another country rebuilds itself.

Michael Moore is an ass, albeit an intelligent and talented one. Case in point, he not-too-long ago published a piece concerning the "fact" that we have been in Iraq longer than we fought in World War II. Basically, he's trying to equate that it took us less time to "defeat the Nips and the Nazis" in less time than it's taking us to "tame the Hajjis." And, once again, he's attempting to confuse his followers and the public-at-large with apples and oranges. Mr. Moore, if you want to make a real comparison, please add the amount of time we stayed in Germany and Japan as "occupational forces," which, whether you agree or not, is what we technically are in Iraq right now. Hmm... I guess we're still ahead of the timetable, aren't we? What a dickhead.

An Air Force vet was relieved of duty due to her appearance in Playboy. The Air Force claims that she violated some sort of "honor code." How? By appearing nude in a magazine that is readily recognized as an American institution? By appearing nude in the only erotic magazine that is allowed to be sold on military bases? By appearing nude? You fucking censors need to get lives.

Speaking of censors, how is Irreversible, the French film with the most disturbing rape scene in motion picture history, allowed to be shown uncut in the United States, but Malena, one of the most unassuming erotic and sadly romantic films in history, can only be shown after 17 minutes of the original version are cut out? We Americans are a strange and contradictory culture, aren't we?

Let me clarify Irreversible... it's not just the most disturbing rape scene in motion picture history, it's the most disturbing scene in motion picture history, period. No horror or slasher movie you can think of has a scene anywhere near as disturbing and disconcerting as that one.

Let me clarify Irreversible and Malena... I don't think either film should be censored. In America, we're accused of fearing sex but accepting violence. Progressives cite Europe as the "more mature" society, because they fear violence and accept sex. Personally, I think we're both idiots. In art, there's nothing wrong with sex nor violence. I'd say we should all turn Japanese, whose art is rife with hardcore sex and hardcore violence... but those assholes invented karaoke, and I'm having a hard time accepting that.

I'm getting irritable. Would anybody care if I have a cigarette? Just kidding. Although, I am about to start chewing my fingers.

Go Chargers!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Anchorman: The Bane of MySpace

As you can probably infer from the title of this self-important blog, I did not like the movie Anchorman. In fact, I hated it. In fact, in fact, I quit watching it mid-film several times before I sucked it up and finished it. Stupid movie. I'll refrain from insulting its fans.

Let me back up and lay out the chain of events that led me to actually purchasing (yes, I bought the damn thing) and attempting to sit through this really, really stupid movie. A couple of years ago, my (ex) girlfriend and I were invited to Las Vegas for a birthday party. So we went. As if I needed the birthday party excuse to go to Vegas, but bear with me... On the flight from Raleigh to Las Vegas (can't remember where the layover was... Baltimore, maybe?) the in-flight movie was, here it comes, Anchorman. I'm not the type that usually watches the in-flight movie, preferring to either sleep or look out the window, and guess what? I didn't watch the in-flight movie. However, I did watch the scene in which the rival news crews fought each other in a back-street brawl. What can I say? It looked hilarious. Point of fact that it was hilarious, but I will no longer admit that beyond this sentence.

Anyway, did our thing in Vegas, part of which constituted an entire day spent in bed due to those lovely traveler's flus that just love to fuck people up, and then we flew back to Raleigh. The in-flight movie? Yep. I still didn't watch it, but that same back-street brawl scene caught my eye. It also didn't hurt that the movie is set in San Diego, the greatest city in America (other than the pension deficit, of course), so I went and picked it up at Best Buy a few days after we returned to lovely North Carolina.

And then I tried to watch it. And then I tried again. And again. Holy shit, what a stupid movie. I'm not a huge Will Ferrell fan to begin with, but this was just straight up crap. To be honest (and to contradict myself), I'm not sure I have ever actually watched the entire film. I think so, but I'm not sure. Okay, let's just say that I didn't. It's a bad movie.

Fast forward a bit... here I am on MySpace. At the mercy of every yuppie and yahoo that has chosen a quote from Anchorman as their so-called MySpace headline. I am so sick and tired of the "I'm kind of a big deal" and "I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany" quotes that seem to breed in this virtual playground. I guess it's sort of testament to the film that so many people remember so many stupid things about it. Either that, or we're in trouble as a society. Again, I'll refrain from any direct insults.

You know what? Since I'm refraining from direct insults, I actually have nothing further to say. Except for a pleading want of everyone to remove any and all references of that stupid movie from their MySpace pages.

But that ain't going to happen... too many people actually feel that they're truly "kind of a big deal."

Couldn't resist...

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Movie Night: 3 Reviews

Well, not exactly movie night, more like three movie nights in a row, but anyway... saw three movies on DVD. All good, one great. So, here they are, in order of "goodness."

First up is Michael Mann's Miami Vice. Given the sporadic reviews of the theatrical cut, I watched the director's cut instead and, I must say, really enjoyed it. Admittedly, the plot was convoluted enough to make Brian de Palma proud, but it tied together well. The film was nowhere near as good as Mann's two previous crime dramas (the outstanding Heat and kick-ass Collateral), but definitely worthy of being watched. Kudos for the line "Time is luck." I'll have to steal that one in the future.

Next up is the British horror film, The Descent. Again, given the complaints from horror-philes about the watered-down American theatrical ending, I acquired the unrated DVD. I'm not a huge horror fan, although I try to be, but I really, really dug this movie. Excellent setup, excellent character, beautifully shot, and great concept. This is actually the second Neil Marshall horror film in a row that I've liked (the first being the way too underrated Dog Soldiers), and if he pulls off a third, he'll officially be listed as the best horror director of all time, in my humble opinion. Like Dog Soldiers, the emphasis is less on the monsters and more on the characters. Sure, this is arguable, but the very fact that a horror movie took the time to actually develop characters is worth mention in and of itself.

The original ending, however, didn't impress me as much as I had hoped. It did keep the tone of the film better than the American ending, and helped emphasize a recurring theme (the dreams), but wasn't the film-changing shocker that I was expecting. Still, the differences in the ending merely serves to prove that American studios are pansies when it comes to less-than-traditional finishes.

Finally up is an amazing film, one that snuck in under the radar: the Australian Western The Proposition. Starring Guy Pearce and Ray Winstone, this is simply a great, great movie.

The plot centers on Charlie Burns (Pearce), an outlaw who was once a member of the aptly named Burns gang, run by his older brother Arthur. Charlie and his younger brother Mikey are captured at the onset of the film by the police. Captain Stanley (Winstone) offers Charlie a deal... kill Arthur, and Mikey goes free. Awesome, isn't it?

Although there were some cinematographical missteps (such as the preference for allowing white to blow out the image), the film's mood and look were effective and, strangely, moving. The final shot of the two brothers was disturbingly heartwarming, putting a nice finishing touch on a film that treats violence so poetically. Even the music was near-perfect. I don't want to ruin any more of the film than I might already have, but if you're an avid moviegoer, The Proposition should not be missed.

Friday, January 5, 2007

An Agnostic Form of Government

Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to the U.S. Congress, was sworn in yesterday. As a Muslim, he chose not to swear in on the Bible, but on the Qur'an. And not just any Qur'an, mind you, but Thomas Jefferson's personal copy of it. Of course, now that this has happened, Virgil Goode is probably going to convince his constituents that Thomas Jefferson should be dug up and impeached.

The fact that there was even a controversy as to what book an elected representative could or could not swear in upon is not a good sign of the times. We are a country founded on religious freedom. Founded. This was not some post-modern semi-liberal concept that came from the struggle for civil rights or from a pot-smoking sax-playing former President. We were founded on the concept. Freedom for all, regardless of religious persuasion.

Given that, what difference does it make if Mr. Ellison swore in on the Qur'an, the Torah, the Bhagavad Gita, or, why not, the Kama Sutra? Given that, it shouldn't make any difference. Why would you want a public servant to swear on a book that represents something other than his or her beliefs, anyway? Doesn't that sort of negate the whole concept of swearing?

Still, there are those, including myself, that feel that we shouldn't use any type of holy scripture as a pretext to government service. I understand the traditions behind it, and I have no fundamental problem with it, but we are, or should be, an agnostic form of government, and should operate as such.

There's an easy solution, I think, to the holy book problem. One that is as nationalistic as it is appropriate. Why don't we swear our public officials in on a copy of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence? Our public officials are not elected to serve any one god, or gods, they are elected to serve us, the people, this country. We have two documents that represent the very fabric of this nation. Two documents that are, fundamentally and philosophically, the very fabric of this nation. By swearing our officials in on those two documents, we ensure that they are swearing in to serve us, to serve the United States of America. Not the Christian States of America, not the Islamic States of America, not the Taoist States of America, but the UNITED States of America. And if there were ever an elected official that refused to swear in on those two documents, I'm pretty sure there wouldn't be many people opposed to taking their office away from them.

And, while we're at it, what's wrong with taking "under God" out of the Pledge of Allegiance? It really doesn't bother me that those words are in it, but come on, now. "One Nation, Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for All" sounds just fine to me.

We are, or should be, an agnostic form of government.

Pointless Musings

What would we make toilet paper out of if there weren't any trees?

The O.C.
has been cancelled. There are brains in Hollywood. Now if only we could get rid of One Tree Hill.

A 12-year-old special education student was charged with disorderly conduct after wetting her pants. Wow. I'd be serving a life sentence if I were charged every time I pissed myself. Okay, that's not true... it'd be a double.

I just saw a question on the Internet. Basically, who would you rather invite to a party: Paris Hilton, Jessica Simpson, or Lindsay Lohan? I'd have to say Paris Hilton, because she looks the easiest to knock out when she gets annoying.

Eli Manning's team record in the regular season since he joined the NFL is now a whopping 25-23. The Chargers? A measly 35-13.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Tomorrow, Something New

And like that, it's over. The year, for me, can officially start. In about 24 hours, I'm going to purposefully miss a flight to North Carolina, which is going to suck, but I need the time to regroup anyway. I'm a little pissed that my dumb ass paid for a non-refundable ticket, but whatever... won't be the first time I've thrown away money; certainly won't be the last.

I can now attack this year with reckless abandon, armed with my imagination and a wilting determination that just needs a little rain and shine to once again follow the sun. Strange how a simple change of date on a calendar can instantly brighten an outlook, isn't it? Then again, I've seen smaller things change lives. Wings out, winds blowing, let's jump.

These last few days have been rather full of turbulence, I must say. I think some of those semi-truck hints I mentioned earlier finally managed to crack my skull with their radiators. Realization is, undoubtedly, better late than never. To walk through life with even a hint of being blind is not exactly a preferred course of action. I have to admit, one of those hints broke my heart very dearly, but I have a year to conquer, and little time to bleed.

My Favorite Enemy

Such as I'm called. It's a long story, and a few of you know it already. The people who don't, well, we'll need to get really drunk before that cat comes out of the bag. Still, it's an apt title. Someone not too long ago told me that I'm good at meeting people. Another said that even the people who hate me, like me. Yet another told me to go fuck myself, but that's a different story.

The point? Well, I think I'm my own favorite enemy. The only thing holding me back, really, is me. That statement can probably be attributed to most of us, but for me, it's definitely true. Yes, I took some hits from others, but nothing I can't overcome and shove back in their faces. And I will... and then I'll tell them to go fuck themselves. With a smile, of course, and I'll probably buy them dinner. No sense in being rude to one's enemies, right?

Shine, Angel

I promised not to get all sappy this year, and I won't, but this deserves to be mentioned before I go all crazy on the world. Not postal, just crazy.

I have a muse, and she's a powerful muse. In fact, I can honestly say that on December 12th of last year, while sitting alone on a freezing hill, I fell in love with her. Of course, like all tortured writers, artists, musicians, what have you, my muse is so far out of my reach, only an Apocalypse can increase my chances with her. There's a theory that we do this on purpose, but I'm not sure I buy that. Art, by its very nature, is a standard set so high, that I think we look for the highest point in everything, and take a shot. Sure, we almost always fall short, but falling just short of the best is still usually pretty fucking good, wouldn't you say? Then again, in this case, falling short means coming away with nothing. But I digress...

Anyway, she's happy enough without me, and probably better off for it, but I'll always be around to make her smile if she needs, or wants. That's a promise. Shine, Angel.

Tomorrow, Something New

I don't know exactly what I'm going to be doing tomorrow, but I do know that I've prepped a new script to write. I know that I'm going to feed my dogs, my cats, and myself. I know that I'm probably going to have a runny nose, cough a few times, sleep too much, and use the bathroom at least three times. Most likely I'll take a shower and brush my teeth. But it's a new day, and something new is bound to happen. I mean, something that's never happened to me before happened to me yesterday. It was disgusting, but I still reveled in the fact that it was a brand new experience. And I'm sure, tomorrow brings something new. If it doesn't, I'll just commit a crime I haven't committed before.

That was a joke.

This isn't, however... Tomorrow, something new.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Today

I've been asked why I hate January 3rd so much, and it's such a long and complicated answer, there's never been much of a point in answering it. Not that the people who've asked really cared. The question is always the result of that fleeting curiosity that we tend to have. Wholly interested in a topic for a split-second, and couldn't care less tomorrow. I'm not even sure exactly why I hate January 3rd, anyway.

The last time I properly celebrated the day, I was still in junior high school. That was in the early 1990s, and though I've gone through the motions since, there have never been any true festivities or sense of eager observance. Now, the day is just another day, albeit with the unwanted reminders of anniversary from family and a few close friends. Few, being the key word. There aren't many people I inform of the supposed significance of the day anymore. I just can't see the point.

I guess you're thinking that I'm a tad nihilistic on this subject, and while that's not entirely true, it's close enough. Much like the New Year, this day is less a celebration than a time to ask myself exactly what I've accomplished so far. Given the virtual emptiness of the answer, I can only offer thanks for the close proximity of the two dates. I can get my pessimism out of the way all in one week, instead of spreading it out among the entire year.

A professor posed a question to a class I was in a few years ago. While there was a certain, sardonic nuance to his inquiry, it was no less relevant for it. He wanted to know how we knew who we were. Short answer is that we don't. We were told who we were by the people we think are our family. But as we have no recollection of the day we were born, we have no way to prove anything. For those that think faith is a rather outdated mode of motivation, well, you live with it every day. How do we know we're even celebrating the correct day? Again, we don't. All we have is a piece of paper and the word of our parents. And maybe a few others that claim they were there. Still, I know quite a few liars, and I've seen quite a few of those pieces of paper with errors on them, some intentional.

So what am I supposed to be celebrating? Or who, for that matter? Hell, outside of my immediate family and two others, I don't know anybody else's "special day" by memory. If I don't have it written down, I need to be reminded, just like most of you do. How can anyone call something special when it's not important enough to remember without the aid of irritating MySpace candles or an automatic calendar on a cell phone, computer, or blackberry?

Maybe I am a tad nihilistic. I am, admittedly, not the happiest of people during the holiday season. Pretty much from mid-November through mid-January. Then again, I can barely remember the last times I truly smiled about something, regardless of the time of year. Well, that's not entirely true... I've been smiling about something recently, though I sense that smile is on the verge of fading. Before that, my last true smile was in 2002. Prior to that, I have no idea.

At any rate, I'm beginning to ramble. Just know that I hate January 3rd. In fact, I'm seconds away from jumping in my beat-up truck and driving off into the night. I know I can't escape the day, but I'll be able to avoid the extraneous customs associated with it.

Have a nice day.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Waiting

One more day. And I'm forced to wait it out from my bedroom, still sick from some bug I caught last Thursday night (or Friday morning, depending on your perspective... then again, technically, it was Friday morning). One more day, and then it's tomorrow. I hate tomorrow, by the way.

The only thing worse than waiting for something you'd rather not experience, is being stuck in one place waiting for something you'd rather not experience. And here I am. Too sick to actually go into those beautiful snow-capped mountains located just outside my window. Too sick to make the long drive to the Pacific Ocean. Too sick for air travel. Oh, well, this year is only two days old and it's already past the first time I cancelled a flight in 2007. Then again, one ticket was non-refundable, so I guess that one's not really cancelled.

The only thing worse than being stuck in one place waiting for something you'd rather not experience is being stuck in a place you can't stand with people you don't necessarily care to be with waiting for something you'd rather not experience. Wait, let me back up... I guess this would mean that there are two things worse than waiting for something you'd rather not experience, right? Awesome, I think I just broke my own record for irrelevant rambling.

I hate being sick. The only thing worse than... nah, I'll spare you that one.

Anyway, here I am. Tired from yet another sleepless night, from this cold I have, and from the cold outside. Sick and tired, how lame. At least my sister bought me six new albums the other day, that's helping more than you know.

I think I'm going to start drinking now. I'll probably be drunk until the 4th, so don't waste your time calling or sending e-mail. For those of you who don't know what fucked-up anniversary tomorrow is, don't worry, you're not missing much.

Now all I have to do is continue waiting. What else is new?

Monday, January 1, 2007

Resolve

It's here now, the New Year. An arbitrary beginning to a man-made phenomenon, a year, I mean. Arbitrary, yes, but a beginning nonetheless. There are two more days before I can truly celebrate, but I have high hopes for 2007. Not as high as I had for 2006, I can't risk another letdown like that, but definitely high.

New Year's resolutions don't usually mean anything to me, probably because I've never actually kept one, but this year I'm going to have to stand as tall as I used to. Taller, even. It's either that, or 2006 will have been right... I'm quite the failure. And failure is one of the two things I don't handle very well.

I started 2006 a non-smoker. That ended on October 30th. It began again on December 12th. 2007 will not see a cigarette touch my lips.

I started 2006 a shoot-for-the-stars, goal-driven maniac. That ended when I listened to someone else. It's me first, this year. I'm not saying that to be arrogant, but I trusted my own instincts for 27 years, and they served me rather well. I'm hoping those instincts aren't rusty in year 29, despite their lack of use. That being said, I'll try not to be as big a dick as I was before 2006.

If I'm slapped in the face in 2007, I'll take it as a hint. I've been a little slow on the hint-uptake as of late. 2006's hints were like semi trucks, and I'm pretty sure I still don't register any of them.

In 2006, I resolved to finish four new scripts. Well, like I said, I've never actually kept a resolution, but I did finish two new scripts and polished up a third. My quality of writing also improved drastically last year (but it's still not good enough). I hope that 2007 will see the same productivity and improvement.

I've always been a bit of a fighter and a planner, but I must've lost every single "fight" I got into last year. Every single one. I think this year I'll just ride the winds, so to speak... see where they take me. If they blow me into a fight, we'll see how I do. I'll probably lose, but I least I wouldn't have started it.

Notice that none of those, save for the not smoking, are actually resolutions, only hopes. Or rather, the idea of hopes, the idea of resolve and resiliency. Resolve, I think, is not something that can be planned out. It's simply something that happens when you're dealt a bad hand. Resiliency is something that happens after you're hit with one. They're those questions that can't possibly be answered until you're actually there, facing those questions dead in the face. They're those winds that we hope for, that we trust to blow us in the right direction when we need them to. Maybe they will and maybe they won't.

I guess we won't know until 2008.

Happy New Year, everybody, and may the winds blow favorably.