Archive for January 7th, 2008

In swing…

2008 is now a week old, and I just got all of my “In Review” posts finished. It has been an interesting week, with a dent already being started in both my “Movies” resolution, and the “Cleaning & Purging” goals.

Dents, mind you. They are a long way from being anywhere close to being done.

Now, for other updates. I have re-registered for classes, and will be taking not 1, but 2 courses. Yes, I said re-registered. I finally got my admission status resolved, and registered for the Scriptwriting class just before the “pay us or we’ll cancel your classes” deadline. Well, I got cancelled. At the same thime, however, there were other schedules that were cancelled as well, freeing up some seats in another class that I was interested in. So, it all worked out. Now, I’m just waiting for the tuition waiver to kick in. Huzzah! Now I just have to work on cleaning my office a bit more, so I can get myself ready for classes.

Also, I have finished one of the two “hold-over” titles from the reading list (2 guesses which one…) and have started a fresh stack of titles at the same time.

I’m steadily working my way through a pretty heavily recycled “To Do” list… a few things that have been pending for a few days that I want to get finished… So I’m off..

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2008 – Resolutions

I did this a year ago, and listed some of my “public” New Year’s Resolutions. The ones that I don’t mind the world seeing, commenting on, or being the recipients of. Now, again (like last year), these are in no particular order.

1) Get my weight down to between 160-175 lbs.

2) Read between 26-30 new books during the year (meaning – reading a book for the first time)

3) Return to “Book 1” – the project started in November 2006’s NaNoWriMo. Continue the work, trying to push through to about a 1/2 novel… or about 100-150 pages, and shopping for critiques.

4) Write 8-10 short stories/articles/short scripts.

5) Complete 1st draft of a script idea I’ve been working with (working title: Four Corners)

6) Train to participate in the local Biathlon event (working up to around a 7-minute mile pace for up to five miles, and sustaining a 20mph pace on a bike for an hour).

7) Get an “A” in my graduate classes.

8) Clean, organize and purge my office (and keep it clean)… trust me… it is a bigger deal than one may think…

9) Clean, organize and purge my attic space… a big undertaking, considering the attic has become one of the “catch-all” storage spaces…

10) Clean, organize and purge from the guestroom (the other “catch-all” storage space… which has made the room impossible to use for anything else… like, guests!)

11) Travel – at least 2 “decent” excursions, and a handful of weekend retreats – with some actually being “alone time” (read: no familial obligations).

12) Develop and maintain a daily writing routine (starting target: 500 words, or about 1 page a day), a regular blogging routine, and weekly postings to “Fictional Echoes”. Travel journals, and daily notes on life.

13) Return to the “Call Center” project, aiming to complete a first draft.

14) Send birthday and anniversary cards, and regular emails. Send “Thank You” notes in a timely fashion.

15) Learn to write a query letter.

16) Start building a marketing database/list of possible markets and submission locations – my personal version of a “Writer’s Market” if you will.

17) Work on the 2007 NaNo Project – “Fantasy Gilligan” (with or without Chris, but preferably dragging him back into it so he can break out of his non-writing funk).

18) Work with Ben on the “Player” script project (originally his script idea).

19) Finish 95% of my Christmas shopping by early November.

20) Work on my photography skills.

21) To watch at least 100 “new” films/items from my Netflix queue (which, as I write this, is sitting at almost 500 items – a lot are series collections, but still…).

I think I’ll cut it off here, as we are now a week into the new year… adding anything else would start seeming silly… Now, the question rolls to, “How many can I actually work on during the year…?”

I think it’s time to find out…

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2007 Year in Review, pt. 3

Here goes the breakdown in movies for the year. I will refrain from any longwinded comments, but only make some styllistic commentary, mostly on things I have not seen before.

The Libertine (2005) (N) – Dark. Interesting as a character study, a little hard to get into, but pretty decent overall.
Down With Love (2003) (again)
Quills (2000) (N) – Also quite dark, but I actually liked it quite a bit. Provided points for conversation about ranges in good and evil.
The Number 23 (2007) (N) – A very interesting concept. It’s a very different type of movie for Jim Carrey – a dark drama. Overall, though, I actually liked it quite a bit.
The Holiday (2006) (N) – A cute romantic comedy. One I could definitely sit through again.
The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000) (N) – A decent adaptation, but the book (as tends to happen) is better.
(I Now Pronounce You) Chuck & Larry (2007) (T) – I wasn’t originally keen on the idea, but it was actually handled a LOT better than I was thinking it would be. And to see a) Ving Rhames play a gay fireman, and b) Dave Matthews with a cameo as a clerk in a women’s clothing store (also gay) were hilarious moments.
Nanny McPhee (2005) (again)
Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991) (again) – I have to wonder… in the fight scene near the end, was Alan Rickman mocking Costner when he asks Costner, “Reco’nize this?” (while presenting the father’s sword). Through the entire movie, Rickman is very English, and for that one line, he seems to slide into Texan for that one line. Is he mocking Costner, or was it just a fluke in the moment? Hmm…
Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993) (again) – RH:PoT makes the humor in Cary Elwes’ line that much more hilarious (“Unlike other Robin Hoods, I can speak with an English accent.”)
History of the World, part 1 (1981) (again)
Harry Potter: Order of the Phoenix (2007) (T) (again)
Hot Fuzz (2007) – I was surprised to see some of the other members of the cast. A subtle spoof that is actually very good.
Stardust (2007) (T) – Wanted to see it after starting to regularly read Neil Gaiman’s blog for months. The night I went to see it was more of a whim, when it came out, and despite missing the first couple of minutes, thought it was a great film.
Little Children (2006) (N) – Very interesting film. Interesting characterizations, and I understand that there are some significant differences between the book and the film (about character traits, appearance, etc)… a bit heavy for repeated viewings, but good. Not quite sure if I’ll try the book though.
Transformers (2007) (T) (again)
The Queen (2006) (N) – Good movie, and fun to watch as a type of character study. Did trigger some conversations about how the source material was gathered – was the royal family involved/consulted?
Marie Antoinette (2006) – Nice film for the costumes and the scenery. Plot left me cold. it felt more like seperate moments, with the only unifying items being the character. I think it was supposed to be a character study, and did well as that. I had more fun watching the “Cribs” style clip in the bonus material.
The Departed (2006) (N) – Bloody, but I actually thought it was a very good movie. The story twists at the end really got me. I’m almost interested to see the source material (as this was adapted from an Asian movie).
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007) (T) – Always fun to watch, and seeing the battle in the Ministry of Magic helped… when I first read the part, I had a little trouble following/visualizing some of it.
Hitch (2005) (again)
Transformers (2007) (T) – A childhood favorite, and I very much like how most of this items were handled. I am concerned, though, with sequels. It’s interesting to see if they try to bring Megatron back (since Starscream DID escape… hmm…), and having grown up on the cartoon (and most of the comics), I could nitpick story points if I wanted to, but the movie was great.
Ratatouille (2007) (T) – A fun movie, and I have since adopted one of the line for use at work… “Smell the nutiness!”
The Italian Job (1969) (again)
Norbit (2007) (N) – Not bad, but I’m not about to run out to see it again.
Fatastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007) (T) – I thought it was pretty cool. Campy moments, sure, but still staying pretty true to the nature of the comics.
Enter the Dragon (1973) (again)
Shaun of the Dead (2004) (again)
The Prestige (2006) (N) – Dark. I liked it, but some of the elements were very dark, especially when compared to The Illusionist.
Pirates of the Carribean: At World’s End (2007) (T) – Great combat sequences, and an interesting story twist led to a pretty decent movie. I missed the extra bit at the end of the credits, though, when I saw it in the theatre.
The Lake House (2006) (again) (N)
The Illusionist (2006) (N) – I liked this one, too, and while it had some dark moments, it has a twist ending. After watching it, I could not help but think of Sixth Sense, with suggestions dropped through the entire movie, but in subtle ways.
Shrek the Third (2007) (T) – Not bad… not as good as number 2, but not bad.
Eragon (2006) (N) – Not a bad movie, but it’s based on a book written by someone who was 15 at the time… how good can you expect it to be? And no, I don’t think anything is really going to be able to compare with LotR for quite some time.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) (again) (N)
Just Like Heaven (2005) – A pretty good movie, that hit just a little to close to home at the time I watched it.
Spiderman 3 (2007) (T) – Not bad, overall, but a little on the long side. I think they forced too much into it, and I would have liked to see Venom make it to be used in a later movie (perhaps – spawning the whole Carnage storyline… could have been interesting…)
Shaun of the Dead (2004) – I actually liked it enough to eventually get my own copy. And I’m trying to thin down my video collection.
Blades of Glory (2007) (T) – Not bad. Some bits were a bit over the top, but it was actually not bad.
TMNT (2007) (Twice) (T) – Another one I was actually looking forward to. This was also my first trip to the movies after losing Jenn (we had already planned to go, which was my first viewing, then I went the second time, taking my nephews).
Jackass II (2006) – This is one of the last movies that my wife and I watched, and we watched with some friends, and I am actually very surprised that I watched the whole thing. I’m not planning on watching it again, nor am I looking to watch the first movie. But that is just me…
Pitch Black (2000) – A good SF movie, with a suspense/horror twist. I thought it was a very interesting idea.
Red Eye (2005) – Not a mainline movie, but I actually thought it was a very interesting story idea.

As I have listed, (T) are movies that were seen in the Theatre, (N) is from Netflix, and (again) are films that I have seen before. And, as you can see by my 2008 resolutions, I’m going to have to break this down into smaller chuncks through the year. 44 movies/viewings (with 4 of them seen twice in the year) seems to be a bit much for one post. Adjust the math a bit that becomes 40 viewings, with 10 actually carrying over as being seen at some point before 2007, making the grand “original viewings” total 30 movies. For those playing the home game.

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2007 Year in Review, pt. 2

The year has now officially ended, and the clocks have been reset. I completed (reading) 18 “new” books, while making my way through various degrees of two others. So, I came close… to my hopes of about 26.

We shall start with the “Honorable Mentions” – the two that are “Mostly Done”, and should (hopefully) be finished pretty soon.

Eric Clapton’s Clapton: The Autobiography. As I write this, I actually only have about 40 pages to go, si it will probably fall as the “First book of 2008”. The other title, The Dress Lodger by Sheri Holman has been a fixture on the list for months. It is not a bad book, it is just very detailed – very thick images that take time to fully digest. I am sitting at the half-way mark, but I want to finish, if for nothing else than to say, “Huzzah! I have conquered!” Outside of the thick images, the story is actually very good.

Now, the completed works of the year (in reverse order, or combined by author):

Just a Geek and Dancing Barefoot: Wil Wheaton – Both are actually very good, and are ripped from the pixels of his blog (with any appropriate editing and expanded exposition as the stories may call for). I’ve periodically read the blog years ago, but over the last year, it has moved into my “daily routine” (while at work, anyway). I have his latest, Happiest Days… as one of the Wheaton 300, and will no doubt read through it at some time this year.

Rita Mae Brown: Outfoxed. This was loaned to Jenn when she was nursing her leg. I don’t know if she ever got a chance to read any of it, but I know she was looking forward to it. After misplacing it for a couple of months (I kept wondering where I had put it) I added it to my stack, if for no other reason than to be able to return it. I thought it was a good read, and I seen other books by the author when browsing shelves at the bookstores. The mechanic of changing voices (from the people, to the animals, and back) was something cool to see. And since Jenn had a few story ideas for fox-hunt related mysteries, well, I know where I can look for guidance.

Steve Martin: The Underpants: A Play by Carl Sternheim. Ok… yes, it’s a script for a stage play. This just goes to show that I don’t read just novels or memoir-style items. The script itself is great. I thought it was very funny (and a very quick read). Seeing the play live, however, was another story. I know it is a comedy, but why does everyone feel the need to try to take (and perform) some comedies so over-the-top?

Katrina Firlik: Another Day in the Frontal Lobe. A book about being a neurosurgeon, by a femal neurosurgeon. It was a very good read, and helped to provide some insight to the medical field (in general), and neurosurgery as a field.

JK Rowling: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows. How could I not have read the book? There were a couple of moments that I really had to question (a couple of items that almost seemed a little forced – but with so much material needing to be tied together, I can understand), and it was a very enjoyable read and end to the series. The whole time, though, I was also thinking about how the screen adaptation is going to look… and it’s going to be very fast paced…

Chuck Palahniuk: Fight Club. My first comment on Fight Club – I have never seen Fight Club. My second comment about Fight Club – I have never seen Fight Club. It was a very interesting read, and one that may beg to be reread after seeing the movie. Maybe some of the fuzzy moments when I was reading it will click better with a visual.

Frank McCourt: Teacher Man. Funny, and very easy read. And that’s a memoir… I wonder how his fiction will read.

Sue Grafton: B is for Burglar, and C is for Corpse. Continuing the cases of Kinsey Milhone. My plan is to eventually make it through the seies.

F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Great Gatsby. Again, I say, “No, I have not read this before.” I liked the chance to see how the times were back then, from a period voice – the language, the manners, and an example of how roaring the 20’s could be…

Joe Hill: Heart Shaped Box. I started this just before Jenn passed away. It took me a while to get back to finishing it. Overall, I thought it was a good book, and an interesting idea, and he carries the family mantle well (Hill is actually his middle name… King is his last… and yes, he is Stephen’s son).

Scott Hahn: The Lamb’s Supper. My in-laws got the book for me after my wife passed. I started it soon after I got it, but some of the thicker (theological) sections took some time for me to digest. Overall, I thought it to be a good book, and presented another perspective that I could understand a bit better.

Chris Baty: No Plot? No Problem! Having tried (and under-shot) a session with NaNoWriMo, I decided this would be a good read – and it was. Now, I may need to add it to a writing rotation (to read, and make notes) – as means to help kick my own butt while writing.

Sue Grafton: A is for Alibi. I did not group this one with the others for a couple of reasons. First, this was the last full book that I read before my wife passed. Second, I read most of it on a Saturday, finishing the last few (about 60) pages on Sunday. Yeah, I thought it was that good. The others that I have read have taken me a bit longer to get through… but I like it when a book can keep me interested enough to spend almost an entire day reading. I had passed the tittles for a while, but when I kept thinking about trying to write PI/Mystery stories, Grafton was the first name that came to mind, and where I wanted to start.

Dan Brown: Angels and Demons. The book before the DaVinci Code, but with less hype. This one is similarly paced (which is a stylistic item that I like – which is why it works well in suspense style fiction), and I think hits harder than DC (I don’t want to reveal too much, but the the main storyline involves a bomb being placed underneath the Vatican, strong enough to raze it, but still leave most of Rome intact).

Cesar Millan: Cesar’s Way. Another borrowed text, as we were having some issues with the puppy, and we wanted to nip the issues. This one took some time to get through as well… but I think the training tips and suggestions were worth it.

Steven Pressfield: The Legend of Bagger Vance. I started the year with this one, and it was a very good read. I also enjoyed doing background work for the story, and discovering where it originated (it is a contemporization of an Eastern story… the specifics are now fuzzy, but I wouldn’t mind retracing and reading the original story).

That sums up the year in books… and with any luck I can make it through more in 2008. Now for the movies…

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2007 – Year in Review, pt. 1

There are two segments for this post… a recap of my 2007 resolutions, and a personal look back at where I was, going into 2007, and where I am now that 2008 is here.

Here’s the recap for my 2007 Year’s Resolutions:

1) Get my weight down to between 160-175 lbs. Nope. Still sitting around 200lbs, but I do have a membership to the campus Rec Center, and have done some working out.

2) Read between 26-30 new books during the year (meaning – reading a book for the first time). Close – I completed 18, and almost finished 2 more.

3) Finish “Book 1” – the current project started in November’s NaNoWriMo. Nope, nowhere close. Haven’t actually even looked at it.

4) Write 8-10 short stories/articles. Again, not quite. I started some story work, and have done some prompts under “Fictional Echoes”, but have not actually developed anything more substantial than a few scenes.

5) Complete 1st draft of a script idea I’ve been working with (working title: Four Corners). Nope, but I have done some thought crafting – reworking the original idea I had for it. I will also be taking a script writing class in Spring 2008, so I plan on trying to work on a lot of it then.

6) Compete in a 1/2 marathon (there’s one that I’m looking at that’s scheduled for the fall in Virginia Beach…). Nowhere close, but I did start training, with the intention of participating in a biathlon and a 5k.

7) Learn three (3) songs on bass guitar (to be able to play through completely)… (By default, one of them is going to be “Lady Madonna” by the Beatles, as I have already started on it… the other two are still undeclared at the moment). Still on the burner. I would still like to, but I would rather work on and refine my writing, than trying to start learning something relatively new. I would like to eventually get paid for writing, but I don’t think I am at the point where music can pay my bills.

8) Clean my office (and keep it clean)… trust me… it is a bigger deal than one may think… I had it almost there, and it blew up again.

9) Clean & Organize my attic space… a big undertaking, considering the attic has become one of the “catch-all” storage spaces… Still a “catch-all”, and now I am more in the mindset of purging, instead of just organizing.

10) Clean & Organize our guestroom (our other “catch-all” storage space… which has made the room impossible to use for anything else… like, guests!) Again, still a “catch-all”, and also shifting more towards a a purge mentality.

As for the personal reflections, all I can say is that it has been a very wild year…

* At this time a year ago, I was married, and still waiting out my probationary period with my job so I can start doing other things. This year, I am widowed, firmly entrenched in the job, and getting ready to start graduate school.

* At this time a year ago, I was married to a wonderful woman (Jenn), and looking forward to a happy future. This year, I am dating another wonderful woman (Mary Catherine), looking forward to a happy future, with an edge of trying to do more things “in the moment” instead of solely planning on the future.

* At this time a year ago, I was driving an Explorer as my primary vehicle. This year, it’s a Mini.
* At this time a year ago, I was lazily interested in cleaning house. This year, it’s bordering on being a solid spot on my agenda.

* At this time a year ago, I was interested in writing. This year, I am actually starting out with more of a desire – of wanting to sit, ponder, and log hours staring at a computer screen – to practice and home the craft.

* At this time a year ago, I was just starting to “get out” (work in restaurants for a couple of years, and you’ll know what I mean). This year, I have already done quite a bit more “getting out” in 2007, and am planning on maintaining the trend in 2008 – I already have a big trip to Vegas planned in February.

* At this time a year ago, I was happy. And despite all of the waves, all of the peaks and valleys and the emotional dessert I’ve had to go through, I am still in a position to be happy. Rather “zen”, I know, but that’s just where I am at.

It’s fine to reflect on and enjoy the past, and wonderful to ponder the joys of the future, but it’s this moment that we have to live in, and what we do with the collection of moments that will define us.

With that said, there are some things “from the past” that deserve some other thoughts… like books and movies… But those are subjects for other posts…

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