Archive for category Year in Review

2008 Review – The last update…

As I mentioned, I have some notes regarding the cruise, and how it impacted by Reading and Viewing lists…

Books first…
I finished Gaiman’s Fragile Things, and it was a very good collection. There are a couple of notes that I made (while reading) that sparked some possible story ideas for me… based on a line, or image, and not a other support documents. (Right, you follow that?) Technically, I did not finish until after the 1st, but all things considered, I credited it towards 2008. (Last year’s holdovers actually had other books read at the same time, instead of being read straight through)…

Despite my hopes and plans for my travel reading (LOTS of airport time!), I only got through the one book while I was gone.

So, that brings the 2008 books read to: 23 (new), and 2 carry-overs.


They were plentiful on the ship, with some being shown at night on a huge jumbotron-type screen, and others being shown on rotation onthe television channels. We watched several snippets of a lot of movies, and managed to add about a half-dozen to the “watched” list…

Journey to the Center of the Earth (2008) – was handled better than I was expecting… an interesting twist on what has now become an almost cliche movie idea…

Kung Fu Panda (2008) – Also very good, with several subtle story points and ideas that can appeal across generations.

The Dark Knight (2008) – No, I did not see it during its (original) theatrical run (I hear there’s plans to bring it back out for a possible Oscar run for Heath Ledger)… But there was something really cool about watching it in the middle of the ocean, under a clear night sky… Very good movie, that lived up to most of the hype.

Hancock (2008) – Mixed reviews prompted me to avoid the theatrical run, but I thought the idea was very good. I thought the “really big plot twist” worked, but it also felt a little off by the end of the movie… that it went from being about “Hancock” to “Hancock and the others”… Not a bad movie, but I am kinda glad I didn’t try to take in the theatrical run…

There were snippets of other movies that were watched, but not the complete films, to mention some of them, and the fact that several will probably show up on the Netflix list at some point in the future: Baby Mama, Across the Universe, Sex and the City, Golden Compass, Juno, Devil Wears Prada, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Wall-E…

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2008 – Year in Review, part 3 (Movies)

Since I will be out of the country (and away from an internet connection) at the time the new year rolls in, I decided to start my “End of Year” reviews early. In this installment, I talk movies from the past year…

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003) (N) – The movie made me interested enough to wonder how the book reads. Nice character work to keep events grounded in the confines of the ship.

Quantum of Solace (2008) (T) – Nice action sequences… I was a bit confused by exactly how soon after Casino Royale this was supposed to be taking place, but a good movie nonetheless.

Green Street Hooligans (2005) (N) – A bit violent at times, it is actually a good look a relationships in a sports-driven society, that can take things just a little too far.

Casino Royale (2006) (N) – Very nice “establishing” movie, and I liked the “hanging” ending… interested to see how Quantum picks it up…

21 (2008) (N) – Who doesn’t like poker movies? And a nice twist ending… and the lead is actually English!

National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets (2007) (N) – Not quite as good as the first, but still pretty darn good.

Once (2006) (N) – Actually very good, and with an “indie” feel the way the shots worked out. Actually went looking up the other music by the leads.

The Miracle Match (2006) (N) – It’s USA soccer in 1951, preparing to face England in the first round of the World Cup…

Children of Men (2006) (N) – Interesting concept, with very dark events. The best part was Michael Caine

December Boys (2007) (N) – Actually very good. Almost a happier-premised “Stand by Me”, if such a thing is possible.

Bourne Ultimatum (2007) (N) – It’s Bourne, all over again. A solid action movie.

Rent (2005) (N) – Starring the original Broadway cast. Interested to see how the stage version and the movie compare…

The Human Stain (2003) (N) – Not sure if I would read the book, but an interesting character study…

Blow Dry (2001) (N) – Alan Rickman not playing a bad guy. And “Filch” not being “Filch”… and Josh Hartnett with an English accent?

Hellboy II:The Golden Army (2008) (T) – Much more fantastical than the first… The tooth-fairies were very hard to watch without squirming a bit.

Hellboy (2004) (N) – Nice action, interesting character twists.

The Hours (2002) (N) – Interesting way to twine three stories together. A very worthy award, Kidman disappeared in the role.

The Incredible Hulk (2008) (T) – I liked the “on the run” feel. I’m not saying the Ang Lee version was bad, but this one just felt more natural…

Hot Fuzz (2007) (again) – It’s a good, simple, action-oriented plot. With some interesting names popping up, and some new twists on old gags…

Iron Man (2008) (T) – Very nice. It would be very difficult to see anyone else as Tony Stark.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) (T) – It’s a good yarn. Not my favorite IJ movie, but not a complete failure, either.

The DaVinci Code (2006) – A relatively faithful adaptation, but the pacing in the book is better.

Passion of the Christ (2004) [Definitive (2007)] – Very aggressive and intense scenes. Worth seeing once, to truly appreciate the events.

Brokeback Mountain (2005) – I actually liked the pace of the story, and the interplay of the relationships over time.

Henry V (1989) (N) – One of Branagh’s early Shakespeare movies… and I was surprised to realize how many others I recognized, including Christian Bale.

Lolita (1962) – Kubrick established that he likes handling questionable ideas. Makes me interested in reading “that book by Nabakov” to see how close the translation…

A Clockwork Orange (1971) (again) – I actually like the film, still… more for the themes than the images, but I wonder what it would have been like if the last chapter HAD been in Kubrick’s copy.

Bonnie & Clyde (1967) – Very forward (for it’s time) in terms of voicing character quirks (ED) and violence (the final gun fight).

Citizen Kane (1941) – Interesting film for camera & editing techniques, as well as showing different aspects of the central character. Out of the context for it’s time, though, much of the controversy it saw when it was first released is lost.

Birth of a Nation (1915) – Considering the work itself – a very good movie (technically) for it’s day – with smoke staging during combat scenes to make things bigger than they actually were, and using close ups, intercuts and camera angles – cutting edge stuff in 1915. The story lines, though, leave a lot to be desired, especially in the 2nd half. And the entirety runs for three-hours.

Grapes of Wrath (1940) – A watered down version of the book, spun just enough to make it past censors…

V is for Vendetta (2006) (N) – Made me curious to read the graphic novel, as well as the history of Guy Fawkes. “Remember, remember, the 5th of November…”

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001) (again) – Always a fun watch, even if a lot of the book is left out.

Freaks (1932) – Short by modern standards, but something that would easily fit into the Twilight Zone or Tales from the Darkside. And the Carnies are real.

Private Eyes (1980) (N) – I have never been to the Biltmore House, where the movie was filmed. MC suggested I watch it, just for the scenic value of the estate.

Sweeny Todd (2007) (T) – I had seen a campus production of the stage show. Would have liked some of the other songs (at least the lyrics for the opening) to be there. Some of the blood was excessive (but expected), and I like the “romantic quality” of the movie ending over the extra steps of the stage ending.

Peaceful Warrior (2006) (N) – Nice, with a feeling afterwards like Rocky…

Shopgirl (2005) (N) – I had read the book, and the movie helped a few details fall into place – like how to interpret Jeremy.

The Benchwarmers (2006) (N) – A fun comedy, that flows well.

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2008 Year in Review – Part 2 (Books)

Since I will be out of the country (and away from an internet connection) at the time the new year rolls in, I decided to start my “End of Year” reviews early. In this installment, I talk books from the past year…

For best results… read this post from the bottom up, to see how the year progressed…

Sue Grafton: F is for Fugitive –

Kate Mosse: Labyrinth – Good read. May take a little to get into, but (as a writer) liked looking at the characters in the alternating storylines and figuring out the past-present connections.

Pete McCarthey: McCarthey’s Bar – Not bad. A couple of places mentioned that I might like to check out. Nice text flavor, like listening in on a conversation.

Neil Gaiman: The Graveyard Book – Great. Easy read (but, it’s listed in the kids section, so I hope it would be) but bigger elements than one would expect.

T.C. Boyle: Tooth and Claw and other stories – Classic Boyle. Memorable images from individual stories; some are thicker in details than others when reading.

J.D. Salinger: Nine Stories – Meh. The stories were good, but I’m just not a fan of some of his style elements.

Tobias Wolff: The Night in Question: Stories – Not bad. There are a few “keepers” here, that I could see referencing for some of my own projects. Enough to make me want to look at some of his other works.

Clyde Edgerton: Lunch at the Piccadilly – Simplicity of style, with slice of life possibilities. A simple cast of characters, set in real-enough places.

Christopher Paolini: Eldest – Interesting twist in the series; much better (style) than the first book. Looking forward to seeing the rest of the series playing out.

Michael Crichton: Travels – Interesting accounts from some interesting expeditions. Saddened at his passing, but interested in seeking out some of the other (older) works… some of which were in my dad’s collection.

Steve Martin: Born Standing Up – Some of his movies (lately) may be seen as hit or miss, but his writing is always good.

Gregory Maguire: Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister – A bit think in some sections (details), but creative enough for a good story. May read some of the other works, after getting through more of my current collection.

Sue Grafton: E is for Evidence – Never a problem with Grafton’s books, except I don’t want to get through the series too quickly.

Neil Gaiman: Neverwhere – The first Gaiman novel I have read. Interesting story twists, and an example of crossing real and not-quite real that has kicked around in some of my own ideas. I have the BBC series in my Netflix queue, just for fun.

Kate DiCamillo: The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane – A very short book, but with a nice emotional element.

Kevin Brockmeier: The Brief History of the Dead – Nice idea for the afterlife, and I liked the pacing/sequencing between “living” and “dead” worlds… but not a big fan of the ending… but it posed some possibly interesting questions…

Neil Gaiman: Smoke & Mirrors – Eclectic collection of stories, a couple of which I have already referenced or used for material for a short story. A definite keeper.

J.D. Salinger: Catcher in the Rye – Not a bad book, but I’m not a huge fan, either. It’s a stylistic thing, that I’m just not a fan of…

Sue Grafton: D is for Deadbeat – I like the books. There’s a predictability in the pacing (after reading a few in the series) that lends itself to study material. Something to look at to get a feel for writing in the genre.

Sheri Holman: The Dress Lodger* – I liked the story. The details, while very rich, tended to bog me down in some sections. Not an easy work to get back into if you have to put it down for a while.

John Steinbeck: The Grapes of Wrath – Interesting slice-of-life piece. Juggling the characters had to be an interesting feat when he was composing the work.

Mark Twain: The Adventures of Huck Finn – Colorful, and subtle. People get so caught up on what labels are used (remember, it was written in the late 1800’s, but set in the early 1800s), that they miss the bigger picture.

J.K. Rowling: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (reread) – It’s been a few years since I first read it, and I had forgotten some of the smaller details that hadn’t carried over to the film. I have an extra copy (a paperback) for plans to mark up the text, as an exercise in writing… And I may go back and reread the entire series to see how things were put together (reveals, etc.).

Imogen Edwards-Jones & Anonymous: Hotel Babylon – A nice “guilty-pleasure” read, especially with my past work experiences. I have the BBC series in my Netflix queue, and will be interested to see how the series was adapted…

Eric Clapton: Clapton: The Autobiography* – Interesting insight into the music world, and someone that I can appreciate, even though he is not a heavy-hitter in my music collection.

* – Books that were “carried over” from 2007.

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2008 – year in Review – 1b (Resolutions)

Since I will be out of the country (and away from an internet connection) at the time the new year rolls in, I decided to start my “End of Year” reviews early. In this installment is a “resolution recap”, to see how well I did… And hints at what my 2009 list may hold…

I wrote them all here, and evaluate the results below…

1) Get my weight down to between 160-175 lbs.
–> Didn’t happen… If anything, I’ve actually gained a couple of pounds. But I have gotten Wii Fit, and MC and I have been walking around our neighborhood (when weather and daylight have permitted). Will I drop it all in the next year? Probably not, but I hope to make a dent…

2) Read between 26-30 new books during the year (meaning – reading a book for the first time)
–> Almost there… I will have 21 cleared within the week – 23 if you include the books started in 2007 and finished in 2008. And with another three weeks left (at this writing), I may still add a couple more to the list. (I’ll pop back and update with the final count after the new year)

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.
–> Nope… still stalled…

4) Write 8-10 short stories/articles/short scripts.
–> I sort of made this one… I know of four projects that were actually completed, and another couple of snippets that have been started – enough to be substantial, but not enough to be complete…

5) Complete 1st draft of a script idea I’ve been working with (working title: Four Corners)
–> Another “Sort of”… I feel like half of it is written, but once the class was over, the progress stalled.

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).
–> Not so much…

7) Get an “A” in my graduate classes.
–> An “A” and a “B”… and the “B” was the script class for the first two classes. And I got a [ ] in my class this fall (Fiction Writing).

8) Clean, organize and purge my office (and keep it clean)… trust me… it is a bigger deal than one may think…
–> Still not 100%, but it’s better than it was. Moving the entire operation helped, making me have to actually go through things that hadn’t been gone through in quite some time…

9) Clean, organize and purge my attic space… a big undertaking, considering the attic has become one of the “catch-all” storage spaces…
–> Still a work in progress, especially since I don’t want to just move everything from that attic into the new garage…

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!)
–> The move made this much easier. The guest room has mantained managability, and has easily been tidied when people have stayed over.

11) Travel – at least 2 “decent” excursions, and a handful of weekend retreats – with some actually being “alone time” (read: no familial obligations).
–> A week in Vegas, and the pending honeymoon. Most of the other travels did actually include familial visitations, but we tried to find some time for side trips by ourselves… like shopping in Myrtle Beach when we visited some of her family near Wilmington.

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.
–> Hit or miss… The output has been sporadic – but the writing has been more plentiful than in years past.

13) Return to the “Call Center” project, aiming to complete a first draft.
–> Not quite, although I did submit the existing work-up for class, with some decent feedback.

14) Send birthday and anniversary cards, and regular emails. Send “Thank You” notes in a timely fashion.
–> Mmmm… stayed close, but missed a few, too…

15) Learn to write a query letter.
–> Not officially, nor has it been practiced.

16) Start building a marketing database/list of possible markets and submission locations – my personal version of a “Writer’s Market” if you will.
–> Started, after getting the 2009 Writer’s Guide, but still in progress.

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).
–> Nope…

18) Work with Ben on the “Player” script project (originally his script idea).
–> Uh-uh..

19) Finish 95% of my Christmas shopping by early November.
–> Doing all of the shopping while on the honeymoon. That was decided early in the year, otherwise things would have been done.

20) Work on my photography skills.
–> Marginally, but will be practicing on the honeymoon.

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…).
–> Hmmm… currently at 20, but I plan to make it through a few more before leaving. Will update with the final count…

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2008 – Year in Review, part 1a (Overview)

Since I will be out of the country (and away from an internet connection) at the time the new year rolls in, I decided to start my “End of Year” reviews early. In this installment, I talk about the year in general, while part 1b will touches on the “Resolution Recap”…

Things have been interesting this past year, with a lot of changes happening in the household – the biggest of which is the background event of the year: the wedding. Much of the activity that has happened has had some bearing on the ceremony, and the resulting life together…

We travelled to Vegas in February, but the planning was already done in 2007. By the time we flew out to Vegas, the ball was already rolling on the Honeymoon plans, and things were starting to get ironed out for the wedding venue.

We bought a house… Well, a townhome. Something that has helped (although MC may still not quite fully agree) with my purging of the “extra stuff”. (The process is not complete yet, but it is much, much further along than it was a year ago.)

I started Grad School, and have completed 9 hours/3 classes… about a quarter of the requirements. MC has accepted a new position, which she will be starting after we return from the honeymoon.

We already have some travel plans in place for next year, and I am already looking at my calendar, trying to plan my year out, for productivity’s sake. But more about that in the “2009 Resolutions”.

Speaking of Resolutions… Comingsoon will be the recap post, comparing the hopes for 2008 to the reality…

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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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