Friday, December 29, 2006

Oh yeah. End of the year stuff, right?

Whoops. Too late.

Look for more end of the year content at the beginning of next year!

In the meantime, here are my belated pictures of the trip to Washington, D.C.

Finally, as you can tell, I put up something new as a profile pic. I'm not sure if it's funny or frightening. So I'll leave it up to you. Post in the comments whether you think the picture should stay or go, and unlike the Slackie voting, I'll actually go with what you decide.

Happy New Year, friends and neighbors. Behave yourselves. Designate a driver as needed. Raise a cup of gladness for auld lang syne. All that good stuff.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Knocking off the rust.

Yesterday, I started reading through a book of essays on writing short stories. It's funny how cynical I've gotten about the craft. I've internally mocked every single essay I've read, aside from the preface written by Joyce Carol Oates. One of the writers so far has suggested keeping notecards with plotlines--single phrase plot summations. He suggested even jotting down ideas from television and books, to be used in your own work.

One could argue that even Shakespeare cribbed from other people, and I acknowledge that's true. But one of the gems this guy culled from other sources was a plot where miners tried to scam a gold find for themselves, by convincing everyone else that the mine was haunted. One of the miners even posed as the ghost, in an attempt to frighten the new owner.

Anyone want to guess where this plot has been used before? Hmm?

That's right, "Scooby-Doo." And the author would have gotten away with it too, if it weren't for us pesky kids and our reruns.

Needless to say, I've read each essay thusfar with a jaundiced eye. The most help I've gotten was the same encouragement I've been hearing all my life. You must write every day. Writing is a lonely business that requires constant determination and self-discipline. (Check, please.) Writing comes from a compulsion, a need, a fire inside.**

You know, if one day deep in the future, people consider my opinion on the subject worthy of publication, I'd write this to the panicked, neurotic slacker-lit-geeks like myself:

Sometimes you just don't have the "fire." Writing is not always a mystical compulsion that drives writers onward. Sometimes, it's just a joy that can be easily overrun by other, often-lesser joys. Sometimes, what drives the writer is not a fire-in-the-belly but an intellectual belief that they can and should do something with the modest skills they have been given and have developed--that their gifts shouldn't be wasted. This isn't egoism; it's accepting what is. Some writers (by which I mean, of course, me) have to kindle their own creative "fires," because they know in the bedrock of their gut that writing's what they're supposed to do. They know that getting the ball rolling takes a lot of effort sometimes, and they must make the conscious choice to do what they know they were meant to do. Not because they are compelled, not because they "must," but because it feels right, and it's a heckuva lot better than honest work.

That last part was a joke. As you can tell, I'm not so good with comedy.

Point is, I haven't had a "fire" that consumes me or an "obsession" with writing that overwhelms me. I've just had a knawing in the back of my head, a voice saying I need to get back to it before it's too late. That the time has come to get on with the thing I know I was supposed to do with my life.

Maybe that's what everyone is talking about when they talk about the "fire" that drives the writer. I think that's a bad analogy. It's really more like a toothache; or, to put a finer point on it, a pain in the backside.

Of course, that sentiment isn't eloquent enough to be repeated in college lit classes.


Why bring this up? Because last night I wrote a short story, for the first time in more than six months, at least. I have had this idea percolating in my head for a while, and last night I got some insights and started making notes. After about four lines of making notes, I said to myself, "Why not just get up and write the dang thing?" So I did.

It's a first draft. It's pretty lousy. But the skeleton of the story is now on "paper," as it were, in my computer. I'm now kicking the concept around in my head. I know what I'm trying to say, but I also realize that I'm not really saying it yet. It doesn't work. But it will.

I've never been one for multiple revisions, mostly because when I finally get around to writing something, it only needs some minor tweaking before I'm satisfied with it.

I don't know if I've gotten worse as a writer, or my expectations of myself are now thankfully higher, but I know for certain that this little 2500-word piece needs more than a little tweaking. It needs an overhaul, possibly a few organ transplants, maybe a complete restructuring.

But now, thanks to maturity or time or experience, I have the disposition to work on it and stick with it until it really is finished, instead of just until I'm finished with it.

It feels weird to write again. Like stretching your newly-mended arm, moments after the cast comes off. It's uncomfortable and scary. You don't know if you can trust it, if it'll hold. It has to be tested--gently at first, then more fiercely. But you can't hold it in that comfortable, bent, atrophied position indefinitely. Might as well not even have it if you're not going to use it for all it can do.

So here we are. Knocking the rust off. Stretching out the smelly, pale, unscrubbed limb.

Time to go to work.

**Something I noticed last night was that I use "the triple" quite a bit. Probably too often. I have to wonder if that crosses the line from "personal style" into "nuisance." I think I may have to keep an eye out for that in the future, lest I become a self-parody.

PBB Cool Ten (12/24-12/30)

10. Merry Christmas, Texans fans! In other news: Kiss my grits, Manning!
9. James Brown died on Christmas. PBB asks that you observe a moment of silence for his passing...then yell, "Whoaw, I feel GOOD!"
8. Former President Gerald Ford also passed away this week. PBB asks that you observe a moment of silence for his passing, followed by a brief fall down a short flight of stairs.
8b. The management here at PBB would like to apologize to anyone offended by that last joke. We agree that it was in poor taste, even if we insist on leaving it in the Cool Ten. The writers responsible for the joke have been sacked.
8c. Llamas llamas llamas llamas llamas.
8d. The management here at PBB would also like to apologize for the lame running joke referencing "Monty Python and the Search for the Holy Grail." The geeks responsible for this tired movie reference have also been sacked.
7. Llamas.
6. Short work weeks make me double-plus happy.
5. So do homemade cookies and leftovers. Thanks, mom!
4. Capsule movie reviews: "Invincible"--inspiring; "The Break-Up"--better than I expected; "Charlotte's Web"--terrific, humble, "some movie."
3. Is it terribly pathetic that my favorite Christmas present was "Guitar Hero II"? ...You know what? I don't care. Because the game friggin rocks. Even if the thrash metal stuff totally eats my lunch in the later levels.
2. Looking forward to the third-annual trip to Killeen to see my favorite face-rocker, his most-excellent wife, and their new baby girl. Look out, evildoers--Hrockthgar and the SLG will unite in a mighty combination of rocking and laziness that will snuff out your dastardly NYE plans! And we will drink much (root)beer. Yes indeed.
1. Christmas with family was good stuff. I love my family.

Friday, December 22, 2006

O Holy Download

If you like Christmas music at all, download this amazing version of "O Holy Night" from the "Studio 60" show-music webpage. On the left-hand-side of the page, you'll see a listing for "O Holy Night" and a picture of a guy playing trumpet. It was performed on the show by New Orleans evacuees, and it's absolutely gorgeous.

So go on. Clickety. Enjoy the holy-day.

White Elephant

Unfortunately, I'm expected to actually get things done today, so I can't type long, but I wanted to convey some sort of Christmas greeting.

"Ho, ho, ho."

I really want to write something powerful and profound about the true meaning of Christmas. ("Lights, please?") But I'm so overwhelmed by my to-do list today that I just don't have it in me.


We had our office "white elephant" party today. For those of you who are uninitiated, you bring a horrible, silly, stupid gift to the party, and place it under the tree. Then people draw numbers, and one can either "steal" someone else's prize or take a new one. Then, at the very end of the game, the person who went first has the option to trade with someone else, no tradebacks.

Last year, I traded for an atrocious candelabra set, that was so awesomely ugly. I displayed it proudly in my office all year. This year, I regifted it.

I was one of the very last ones. The turn before mine, a friend who had acquired a really nice faucet (something she actually wanted) got it stolen by another player; then she got stuck with a bike lock. So I took her bike lock, so she could take back her faucet. I didn't really want the bike lock at first--I don't even own a bike--but I knew she'd like the faucet (she's redoing her bathroom). Of course, then I saw how awesome the bike lock was, and didn't feel so altruistic. So everyone's happy. Except for the other losers, who got lame stuff. Oh well. Bah humbug.


Had I the time or presence of mind to write something profound about the holiday, what I would have written would probably have been about how Christmas is the greatest day in the world because it signifies resurrection. By entering humanity to die for our sin, Jesus took our death upon Himself and gave us His life. I was reading Romans 8 this week, and was just struck by the sheer weight of that idea. We have life in the Spirit, because the death our flesh deserves was borne on the back of the Son of God.

My favorite verse in the Bible, one I quote almost weekly in class, is II Corinthians 5:21, which says, "God (the Father) made Him (the Son) who had no sin to BE sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God."

That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown. A little baby in a manger grew up mighty in word and deed, and lived a perfect life so that He could trade His perfection for our corruption, bear the weight and punishment of God's wrath upon our sin, and give us His righteousness and life.

In that "white elephant" trade, we got an immeasurably good deal. Because our corruption, our deserved death of body and soul, was a whole lot worse than a bike lock or an ugly candelabra. But Jesus Christ, the Son of the Most High, made that trade for our sake. He gave us what we needed, and took upon Himself suffering and punishment and wrath that He did not deserve. It was "unjust," by human standards, and He embraced that "injustice" so that God's Just anger against sin could be satisfied and we could still be spared.

And on this Monday, we who are God's Children will remember the God who became the baby, the baby who became a man, the man who lived for the very purpose of dying, and the death and resurrection that gave us a life we could never earn or deserve.

And that will make it a Merry Christmas, for one and all.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

A TKO of Awesome

Last night, I was presented with a choice: go get a much-needed haircut, or go with my friend Will to see "Rocky Balboa."

Are you kidding me? That's a "choice"? Of COURSE I went to the movie.

(Briefly, here is my opinion of the previous Rocky movies, for context: Rocky--AWESOME; Rocky II--still pretty awesome; Rocky III--less awesome, but still pretty good; Rocky IV--realistically, it's just a pretty good film, but in terms of "awesomely cheesy," it's the Greatest Film Ever Made By Humans; Rocky V--up to the streetfight--lame; the streetfight--marginally awesome.)

So here's why the experience was three-times awesome:

1) Because we went to an AMC theater, I got to use my MovieWatcher card, a little "membership" card that tallies points for every movie you see, and gives you free stuff occasionally. Last night, I got the big prize, "A Night at the Movies." (Sounds like a Marx Bros. film!) That gets me a free ticket to a non-new-release film, a small popcorn, and a small drink.

2) About 30 minutes into the movie, when the reel changed, we lost the upper third of the picture. We watched about ten minutes of people walking around with their heads cut off by the top of the screen. It wasn't so bad--kinda funny, actually. And we could tell what was going on. It did kinda ruin one of the dramatic moments of the film (yes, moments plural--there were several). But finally, someone from Guest Services walked in and said we would all get free movie passes for the inconvenience. (The downside is I had to surrender my ticket stub. If you're a packrat like me, that kinda stinks.) So, free movie pass #2--score!

3) The movie itself. You want a review? You got it. I'll employ spoiler tags when necessary.

The movie itself takes place in present time, quite a few years after the last film's events. A few of the original cast, or at least, the previous cast, are still present. Starring along with Stallone is Burt Young, whose "Paulie" hasn't aged nearly as well as Stallone has (couldn't afford the plastic surgery, I guess!). Also in the film is Tony Burton, as Rocky's trainer "Duke," who replaced Apollo Creed as Rocky's trainer after Apollo ended up on the wrong end of the Drago fight. A surprising returning character is "Little Marie" from the first film (the girl Rocky walks home who responds to his suggestion to quit smoking with "Screw you, creepo!"). Marie turns out to be a major character in this final Rocky film. (Side note: This is not the original actress who played Little Marie in the 1976 "Rocky." But according to IMDB, she reprised the role of Marie in Rocky V, and the scenes were deleted from the film. Interesting.)

Thematically, the first half of the movie has a lot to say. It deals with issues of growing older, living in the past and in memory, feeling like you have nothing to give to the world, letting others define you instead deciding who you are and defining yourself. It addresses the idea of judging people based on their appearance (both in terms of cultural accoutrement and physical age and ability). The film touches on the issue of pushing yourself to your limits, to see what you're really made of; having self-respect; letting go of past hurts and looking ahead to life.

That's the first half of the movie. The second half's main theme is hittin' folks real good.

There's some great acting in this movie, and inexplicably, quite a bit of it is done by Stallone himself. It is probably easy for him, because this character is him in so many ways (or he is the character--it's hard to see where one ends and the next begins). But he has some really great moments in the film. And the dialogue overall is well-executed. Not perfect, but often funny and at times very poignant.

The way he deals with Rocky's grief over absence of Adrian since her death, and Paulie's pain and regret over how he treated her, are rather moving. These moments really took the movie from being a good sports movie to a pretty powerful meditation on dealing with loss. I mean, this isn't Oscar-fodder, but if the Oscars weren't so dadgum pretentious, it maybe could be.

But the real reason anyone would see this movie is the fight, right? Yeah. Me too. Rocky gets back in the ring (no big secret why, but I won't dwell on it, lest I spoil it), and trains to fight yet another impossible foe. The training montage is great, but is also more realistic. The fact that he's practically a senior citizen is laughed off. The gym air is filled with dust and powder, giving the sequence a gritty, realistic feel.

The fight itself is pretty impressive, because it seems so realistic. I joked with Will that every Rocky fight has "The Turn"--the point in the last or nearly-last round where Rocky's opponent hits him hard, and Rocky bends to the point you're almost convinced he'll fall for the last time. But then, the music swells, and Rocky spins back around with a devastating hook that stuns his opponent and opens the door for Rocky to pummel him and win the match.

The thing I liked about this fight--there wasn't "The Turn." There were a couple "Turn"-like moments for each competitor, but really, the fight was just a brutal slugfest. It was gruelling, punishing, and tough to watch. During the fight, Rocky had flashbacks to images of other fights. We get things like shots of Adrian covering her face from "Rocky IV," and Mickey in Rocky's corner screaming his head off.

There's a moment when we get to hear Rocky's internal voice, willing himself back to his feet, that gave me actual chills.

An interesting parallel--in the original "Rocky," the commentators wrote Rocky off because he was too young and inexperienced. In this film, they write him off because he's too old and brittle. At the beginning and end of his career, he's not taken seriously, and has to push himself for his own sake, to earn self-respect more than anything else.

One thing I'm kinda surprised people have not given the film credit for is the visual style. Quite a bit of the movie is filmed with hand-cameras, so it has more of a gritty, stripped-down feel to it. The scenes in Las Vegas for the fight look like they were filmed with TV cameras, and have the "live TV feed" quality to the image. But the coolest parts were during the fight, between rounds when the frame would go to black-and-white, with certain objects in the frame in bold color, like blood running down a face or the gold of the boxing trunks. Reminded me of Robert Rodriguez's "Sin City" in that regard (...not that I've ever seen that movie. ahem.).

So how does it end? How it began. Rocky goes to the very last round, toe to toe with the cocky current champ who didn't think Rocky had a chance, and then Rocky loses by split decision. In this film, he doesn't even wait around for the results. I think he knew he "lost" the fight, but it wasn't about the judges' vote. It was about Rocky digging deep into the "basement" and finding every last bit of heart he knew he had, to prove to himself more than anyone else that his best stuff wasn't all behind him. And that was worth watching.

Final judgment?

If you like Rocky at all, go see this film. If you like movies about heroes, go see the film. If you like movies about dealing with aging and finding meaning, go see this film. If you like movies where people are hittin' each other real good, go see this film. If you're looking for a story that will uplift you, inspire you, and leave you feeling generally pretty good, go see this film.

If you're cynical, heartless, negative, snobby, or just overall nasty, well, just go see Apocalypto or some crap.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Green can be cool and friendly-like. (UPDATED)

[currently listening: "It's Not Easy Being Green," Kermit the Frog (from "mellow mix CD" given by a coworker) ]

1. You wanna get me a present that will make me immensely happy? Find me some kind of keychain or something, where I can push a button and Timmy from "South Park" says, "eerrrrRRR--TIMMAH!" Because that would make my year. And it would make work more fun.

2. Favorite Christmas card received so far: it has a photo of two nuns on a sled on the front, and inside it says, "You've been good this year, despite a few bad habits." Yeah, nun-humor works for me.

2b. Favorite Christmas card sent this year: ... Okay, I haven't sent any YET. But I will, I swear. Probably in January. But I'm giving my sister a Napoleon Dynamite one, because she hates the movie. (Brotherly annoyance: check!)

3. Keep nominating your Slackie favorites! You've come up with some that I haven't thought of!

4. Speaking of Slackies, I'm sorry to report that we will not be handing out an official award for "Best Adult Beverage." As it turns out, the esteemed judging panel doesn't drink, so it was decided that it was unfair to award solely based on hearsay. You are free to nominate and vote on the category, but there will not be an official announcement of the winner. We here at "Slackie 2006(TM)" apologize for the inconvenience.

5. Signs I'm really tired: it took me over three and a half minutes to realize I've been listening to Paula Cole's "I Don't Want to Wait" on the mix CD.

5b. Signs I'm really tired and even more apathetic: It just finished playing through to completion.

UPDATE: 6. Quote of the day comes from Kinsey: *randomly, in the midst of an IM session* "I wonder if I can get a pedicure at the Newark airport." For some reason, that cracked me up.

7. Finally, some linky love for your perusal and enjoyment:

7. That's it. Meeting day. Busy busy. I'll post again before the holiday, yeah? paz.

Monday, December 18, 2006

"I hear in my mind all of these voices/I hear in my mind all of these words..."

I suddenly want to creatively write, right this instant. To just go off on some fictional impetus for the next few hours. Right now. This very moment.

I need one of you to call in to my second job and ask off for me. Go ahead, I'll wait here.

[currently listening: "Fidelity," Regina Spektor]

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The *Real* Awards Season Has Begun!

As you may have heard, some other dumb award show nominations are out, which means one important thing: It's almost SLACKIE(TM) season!

So here's how it works. I'll be accepting nominations for any and all categories for a week, then I'll post the ballot next Friday. You'll have a week or so to re-vote or campaign for anyone who hasn't voted yet. Then, the big day will by January 2!

This Year's Categories are:
  • Movie of the Year
  • Album of the Year
  • Book of the Year
  • TV Show (Returning) of the Year
  • TV Show (New) of the Year
  • Worst Movie of the Year
  • Underrated Artistic Endeavor of the Year
  • Overrated Artistic Endeavor of the Year
  • News Event of the Year (serious)
  • The "TomKat" Prize for Most Ludicrous Non-story News Event of the Year
  • Sports Story of the Year
  • The "D'Oh!" Award for Biggest Screw-up by a Government/Politician
  • The "Paris Hilton" Prize for Most Over-Exposed Lingering Celebrity (formerly called the You're Still Here?!?" award)
  • The "Your 15 Minutes are Up" Award for most Over-Exposed New Celebrity
  • Blog of the Year
  • Buffoon of the Year
  • Soap/Bodywash of the Year
  • Birthday Cake Flavor of the Year
  • Beverage of the Year (adult and non-adult)
  • Best Future "Slackie"(TM) category
  • Fictional Character of the Year (male and female)
  • YouTube Video of the Year
  • Cheese of the Year

Go to it. The countdown to Slackie(TM) 2006 has begun!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Song Dedication

For anyone who needs it today.


To everyone who's lost someone they love
Long before it was their time
You feel like the days you had were not enough
when you said goodbye

And to all of the people with burdens and pains
Keeping you back from your life
You believe that there's nothing and there is no one
Who can make it right

There is hope for the helpless
Rest for the weary
Love for the broken heart
There is grace and forgiveness
Mercy and healing
He'll meet you wherever you are
Cry out to Jesus,
Cry out to Jesus

For the marriage that's struggling just to hang on
They lost all of their faith in love
They've done all they can to make it right again
Still it's not enough

For the ones who can't break the addictions and chains
You try to give up but you come back again
Just remember that you're not alone in your shame
And your suffering

When your lonely
And it feels like the whole world is falling on you
You just reach out, you just cry out to Jesus
Cry to Jesus

To the widow who struggles with being alone
Wiping the tears from her eyes
For the children around the world without a home
Say a prayer tonight

There is hope for the helpless
Rest for the weary
Love for the broken heart
There is grace and forgiveness
Mercy and healing
He'll meet you wherever you are
Cry out to Jesus,
Cry out to Jesus

"Cry Out to Jesus," Third Day

Monday, December 11, 2006

"They made a statue of us..."

I'm completely smitten with Regina Spektor. She's so purty.


(Why the radio silence, Dave? What's the reason?)

No reason. Really, there's no particular reason. I'm just not feeling the whole "blogging" gig lately. I'm not quitting, not by a long stretch. But I'm feeling... What am I feeling? Ambivalent? Maybe that's it. I'm really busy with lots of little things, and I'm just not in the mood to write a whole lot.

Plus, I think I'm trying to birth some difficult changes or decisions in my life right now (some that I may not even be aware of) and I'm getting a little twisted up in myself, so the things I could blog would probably not be of much help or edification.

(that sounded a lot more ominous than it should have. and there's less subtext here than you think.)

Either way, I feel a little disordered.

I'll get back to you on this later, maybe.

Friday, December 08, 2006


Just want to share my good news. Just got a raise. A big one.

Thank you, God. You are awesome. Such a gracious Provider.

Don't confuse it, gang. Not gloating. I did not do this. God did this.


Thursday, December 07, 2006


[Disclaimer: I've forgotten where I got half of these links. So, if you linked some of this stuff first, and I didn't note that, comment or email with a post link, and I'll tip the cap in your direction. Groovy? Thanks.]

Later today: maybe a nice "where I'm at right now" post to mix things up.

And yes, I'm still going to recap some Washington action. It will happen.

In the meantime, entertain yourselves thusly:
  • For the maplovers and the curious, here's a blog about strange maps. Interesting.
  • As we wait for the return of the second-best show on television ("Lost," of course), IGN reviews Lost's top 50 unresolved loose ends. [h-t: Pop Candy, probably]
  • Sometimes funny, often profane, E-closure is where people air out their dirty breakup laundry, including email conversations and letters from the fallout of ugly break-ups. Seriously, it's like a trainwreck--and just as fascinating.
  • Sylvester Stallone is professing Christianity and talking about the spiritual aspects of the "Rocky" movies. ...No, there isn't a punchline. (Get it? Punchline? hahahaha.)
  • Speaking of Sly, Ain't It Cool News is posting an ongoing fan-question interview of the actor here. So far, there are six parts, and I believe there will be up to six more. And I have to say, after reading some of these, either there's a ghostwriter involved on Sly's end or else he's a surprisingly articulate man. [h-t: Pop Candy]
  • Ever had your iPod (or other such device) coincidentally play the perfect song to match whatever you were doing or experiencing? Yeah, you're not the only one.
  • I was going to write a lengthy blog post about the chicken-little cries of "theocracy!" that are so prevalent in our culture. Well, so much for that. Ross Douthat beat me to it.
  • Fimoculous lists the "Best blogs you've never heard of." One of the ones I know you have heard of is #7, since I crib links from her on a regular basis. Some of my other favorites from this list: Starbucks Gossip, Indexed, and T-shirt Critic. [h-t: #7...who else?]
  • Dying to see some more footage from Spiderman 3? Die no more, ladies, die no more. [h-t: Kelly]
That's all so far. Have a good Thursday. I'll be back this afternoon.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Secret ninjas. They keep following me around.

Geez, does EVERYONE have a day now?!?

Just as long as you all realize that ETL is still the greatest fake holiday in Internets history.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Early Warning Signs of Writer's Itch

Saw part of "Alex and Emma" on TV yesterday. Yes, it's a sappy and contrived rom-com, but it's still mildy sweet and appealing. And, it also gives an interesting look into the writing process, and the way writers cull their daily lives for inspiration. (The plot is apparently a wink and nod to Doestoyevsky's writing of the novel, "The Gambler." Go figure.)

Which made me think of other movies about writers that I liked, and for the life of me, I was having trouble coming up with more than a couple.

So here's your question of the day: Have any favorite movies about writers and, more importantly, the writing process?

Here are a few I can think of:

Adaptation: Charlie Kaufman's kooky classic.
Wonder Boys: Michael Douglas and his neverending novel. (Film based on a great book, by the way.)
Capote: Phillip Seymour Hoffman was outstanding.

If we're including screenwriters/playwrights, you can probably add "Barton Fink" and "State and Main."

Anything else? C'mon, gimme your best shots. I'm in search of a little cinematic inspiration.