“The object of a question is to obtain information that matters to us, and no one else.”
- Sean Connery as William Forrester in "Finding Forrester"

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Saturday, December 31, 2005

Stories to Tell

On my drive back from Montreal last night I came across a CBC radio show called Wire Tap. The website describes it this way:

Host Jonathan Goldstein invites you to tune in and eavesdrop as he talks over the phone with some of [Canada's] best storytellers. Sometimes he catches them on their cell phones making late-night trips to the emergency room, sometimes he finds them at home on a Sunday afternoon, flipping TV stations with Mexican take-out on their lap. Whether funny or emotional, their stories are guaranteed to keep you engaged. Each episode swings back and forth between Goldstein's monologues and phone chats, and it all plays out to a moody, ambient soundtrack.

Last night his topic was "Man and Beast." The first one was about a guy who let the relationship of his dreams slip through his fingers because he thought the pheromones he bought were the only thing that attracted this woman to him and when he ran out and the company he bought them from went out of business he never called her back.

The next story, though, was one I found to be somewhat profound at times, making me think about myself. It was a story about a man who drove from Ottawa to Montreal with his girlfriend and a potbellied pig they were taking to an animal sanctuary. (This is not the part I identified with.) Along the way the pig became restless and started raising havoc in the back seat. The girlfriend found it funny, he got pissed off. When they returned home they had a huge fight over how he apparently wasn't the man the animal-lover girlfriend thought he was and they broke up. He felt so lost afterwards that he would just wander around at night looking for fights to start - learning quickly that street fights with drunken Canadians isn't the best of ideas.

What spoke to me was his reasoning for doing this. He spoke of how boring his life had become that whenever he talked with anyone he found that he was repeating a lot of the same things over and over. He had run out of stories to tell. So, he would go out and look for trouble so he would feel more occupied, more interesting, more alive. I don't go out looking for trouble, but sometimes I feel like somewhere behind the joy I derive from travel or hiking or watching movies or whatever, is the thought that maybe it will make me seem more interesting. It's as though my now annual adventures make me seem more worldly and exciting than I really am. Or the fact that I write in a journal or go commune with nature from time to time makes me just the right balance between a masculine outdoorsman and a sensitive, reflective person. Or that my knowledge of movie trivia might be impressive in some way.

I'm not a spontaneous person. And while I have a good sense of humor and a certain sense of comfort in who I am, I don't carry around the type of confidence that people are drawn to. So, while I found it fun to drive up to Montreal for an afternoon on a whim, part of it was so I would have a good story to tell.

Well, it's the end of another calendar year. Tomorrow marks a fresh start, a new beginning for all of us. I'm not making any resolutions but, as is my constant hope, I will do my best to be me and to strive for those things which matter most: love, family, friendship, inner peace, and joy. May we all find what we seek, hold on to what we have, and look forward with hope and anticipation for that which awaits us in the coming year.

Happy New Year Everyone!


As you may know from reading my website or from various posts over the last 6 months, I like to travel. I like going to places I've never been to experience a slice of what life is like elsewhere in the world and to see things I've only read about or seen in movies or some travel show. Towards the end of this past season of The Amazing Race, the teams stopped in Montreal as they made their way to the finish line. One of their tasks led them to the Parc Olympique. I thought it was a very interesting design, very fluid. As I looked around at that site I found another for the Biodome de Montreal - a different kind of zoo/botanical garden that is divided up by the many climate zones found in the Americas from tropical forest to the arctic.

Satisfied that I had enough destinations to make the trip worth it, I hopped in the car to make the 4.5 hour trip up to our neighbor in the cold north for an afternoon of being a tourist. Though it took a little time to figure out my way over to the Hard Rock Cafe - my brother collects shot glasses - given that it was after dark by the time I got there, I don't know the city, and my memories of high school French are fleeting, I had a nice time and it felt good to be so spontaneous for once.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Time Off

Knowing that the time between Christmas and New Year's is often extremely quiet at work, and remembering that I still have a few vacation days left this year, I am taking some much needed time off. Tuesday into Wednesday is taken up by the annual CCYM reunion being held at Beth's church. And because my brother and his family are spending the next few days in Omaha with my grandfather, my parents and I are going over to their house on New Year's Eve, instead, to exchange gifts. But that leaves half of Wednesday through the first half of Saturday, 3 days of unscheduled time, with which to do whatever I want to do.

I generally don't make resolutions - partly because I know that I'm not disciplined enough to follow through - and I'm not planning on making any this year. However, as the year winds down so does another whole year in my life leading up to my own personal New Year's. So it might make sense, as I approach my quarter century mark, to just take those few days to find some rest and renewal.

I haven't decided on what to do yet. I thought about maybe spending a couple days at an inn up in Ontario - I had planned on going up there a couple of years ago as a birthday present to myself but my plans had to change a bit - but I'm not sure I want to spend the money since I'm starting to save for my real vacation at the end of May. I might just take a day trip somewhere I've never been, or haven't been to in a while. I mean, Niagara Falls and Montreal are only a few hours away. I don't feel the need to drive back out to Boston since I was only there in September. There's a friend I've been trying to get in touch with again that would be within a few hours' drive but I'd rather have plans first than drive down there for nothing. Or, I could just live like a hermit for a few days.

In any case, this needs to be a time for rest and for rediscovery of myself. January 1st is the beginning of a new calendar year. But, as I've said before, my birthday is my real New Year's. As I approach this nice round numbered age I will make no resolutions, but in many ways I hope it is a beginning that will leave me with hope and joy and love and peace that will last.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Film Review: King Kong

Last weekend as a part of our "executive Christmas party," my parents and I went to see King Kong. There are certainly pluses and minuses to it, as there are with all movies, but overall it was I found it to be worth seeing though it did not live up to the hype or the caliber we have all come to expect from director Peter Jackson.

The special effects were great, without a doubt. Though the dinosaurs and giant bugs could still be picked out as being CG, for the most part Kong himself was realistic enough for me to suspend my powers of disbelief for the length of the movie.

Jack Black played the part of the desperate filmmaker in search for something new and exciting quite well. It is a bit over the top at times, but it is his obsession that drives the underlying tragedy of the plot. And Black is just crazy enough to pull it off.

Naomi Watts is certainly a beautiful actress and her wide blue eyes really captured the range of emotions that her character, Ann, goes through during the course of the film. She brought vulnerability, whimsy, and compassion to the role with her adventurous spirit and her special bond with the large ape.

There are a few scenes in the movie which I found to be especially brilliant. They aren't really spoilers but if you want to skip this part just scroll on down to the cons portion of the review. First, when Ann is taken away by Kong and is faced with her almost certain death she can do nothing but revert back to what she knows, comedy. So after going through her routine, complete with juggling and Pratt falls, Kong is literally rolling with amusement. When she refuses to do any more, Kong throws the biggest tantrum and goes blazing through the jungle like a little boy who just had his favorite toy taken away.

Next after Kong escapes from the "freak show" he stars in, he and Ann make their way to Central Park. Without realizing it, they come across a frozen pond and Kong slips and falls. The utter joy that overcomes them both is just beautiful as they continue to go sliding across the ice, spinning and rolling around like a pair of kids on a snow day. The couple got to share a dance and show that laughter really can cross great divides. Sure, it's hard to believe the ice was actually thick enough to hold his weight but you can get so caught up in the moment that it doesn't even matter.

Right at the end, atop the Emipre State Building, Ann and Kong watch the sunset as they did earlier in the movie. Remembering a motion she had made for beautiful - describing the sunset previously - Kong looks at Ann and repeats it describing her. I'm not sure how I feel about the fact that Ann thinks he's talking about the sunset and totally misses his really message, but to me the more important thing is showing the tenderness of Kong and seeing how he has learned - though simply - how to communicate his feelings.

Too long. Can Peter Jackson make any movie in under 3 hours? I'm not opposed to long movies in general but the story should be strong enough to make it flow throughout that period of time so you don't even notice it. It takes over an hour for them to even get to the island where they find Kong. Again, this wouldn't be so bad if they tightened up the script some and did away with a couple of substories that were pretty meaningless.

An example of that is the friendship between the first mate of the ship and a stowaway-turned-deck hand. The deck hand tries to make off with one of Adrien Brody's pens, the first mate catches him in the act, apologizes to Brody and proceeds to tell him the boy's life story. It was, frankly, rather awkward and didn't serve the story much at all.

It's a small thing but while they are at sea I noticed that they used the same (or very similar) shot of the ship going by a number of times as a way to show a passage of time. For the editor in me it was just a little distracting.

Too many bugs and dinosaurs. Yes, this is the film that inspired Jackson to become a filmmaker and he wanted to be as true to the original as possible, but it got to be a little much.

Once Kong is finally knocked out and ready to be taken back to NYC, how do they get him on the boat? No explanation. They could've taken out the time it took to develop the unnecessary storyline above to show even the slightest bit of that part of the plot.

The last line. Coming in at #84 on AFIs Top 100 Movie Quotes, the movie closes with the line "Oh, no, it wasn't the airplanes. It was Beauty killed the Beast." Sure, it sounds good with that whole "Beauty and the Beast" reference and it's rather poetic, but it's wrong. It is not Kong's love for Ann that led to his demise - apart from his attempts to take her back from the other humans who "saved" her. Rather, it was the greed and exploitation of those who captured him and the fact that no one would just leave him alone. Plus, to be honest, doesn't Kong maim or kill a number of people throughout the film?

All in all, though, I felt that this was a decent movie. I wasn't totally disappointed, but I wasn't blown away either. Not as epic, or as well written, as it could've been but it's worth seeing.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Holiday Reversal

As I mentioned in a previous post about Christmas traditions, one of the ways my dad would make Christmas a little more fun and to make the festivities of the day last a little longer would be to create a scavanger hunt where my brother and I would have to decipher clues to find our major presents.

This year, as I am playing host to my parents, I have decided to make up a scavenger hunt for them. It's not going to be as long or elaborate as the ones my dad came up with, after all, my apartment isnt' so big as to allow me to hide a clue in a vast number of places. However, I think it will be a special part of the day.

Now, if you promise not to tip off my parents about the clues I'll share them with you.


Ok. Here it goes:

  1. Look for some "expired marine documents."
  2. Who won the Oscar for Best Director in 1986?
  3. Find a Tibetan Meditation aid.
  4. "It was many and many a year ago, in a kingdom by the sea..."
  5. The Kaufmans enjoyed life here for awhile.
  6. Now split up: Mom - #9 on AFI's Top 100 list (hint: 1993 Best Picture); Dad - "I'm from Japan."
  7. Mom - Ernie's little yellow friend makes time lots of fun here; Dad - Not between a rock and a hard place but between a hot and a cold place.

Without looking up numbers 2 or 6, can you figure out the clues? I'll post the answers after we have a winner.

Good Luck!

Update: Each clue leads to the next one on the list. They aren't all a part of the identity of the gift(s). For example: I will first give clue #1 which will lead them to a place in my apartment where they will find clue #2 which will lead them to another place to find #3, and so forth, until they find what they are looking for at the locations identified in #7. Just wanted to make that clear. Also, for the movies, they would look among my collection to find the clue inside.

Believe me, I'm being much nicer to them than my dad was to me. Once he gave me a matrix of numbers and an obscure clue to find the book he used and I had to search by page number, line number, word number and letter number and then figure out the jumble of letters to find the next clue. Good times...

Monday, December 12, 2005

Cross-Cultural Exchange

For two out of the last three years my friend Laura has been living, studying, and working in Kyoto, Japan. Laura and I became friends in college and we both spent most of our time studying religion - well, not most of our time. While I took a broader approach to religion in general, spending more time with Islam than Eastern philosophies, Laura focussed in on the language and religions of Japan - during her breaks from singing in the choir and playing ultimate frisbee.

During the fall of 2002, we both left to study abroad: me on Semester at Sea, her with the Stanford in Kyoto Program. As it turned out, my first port of call beyond our point of departure was Kobe, Japan. Laura and I were able to meet up and spend the day touring around Kyoto, visiting the beautiful temples, sampling green tea ice cream (better than I expected), and sharing some sake by the river as the sun set and locals played soccer and shot off fireworks. It was a great day! And I definitely hope to make it back at some point.

Since then, Laura came back to the US to finish out her college requirements and has recently completed yet another year in lovely Kyoto as a Fulbright Scholar. After a short visit home, Laura is now teaching English to Japanese schoolchildren and having adventures that make the world traveler in me very jealous.

Recently, Laura has been asked to be the "token foreigner" at the Christmas parties of English teaching schools for kids. Despite her wonderful photographic talent - which can be found on her website and in the archived sites (1,2) - she has asked me to look around at the many images of Christmas that appear throughout this season and send her some that illustrate how we do Christmas here in the US.

So, tonight on my way home I periodically hopped out of my car and into the cold air of Central New York to capture various decorated homes - no artificial snow here! Of course, I am more than happy to do it. At least the lake-effect snow was taking a break for a little while!

If you are interested in a thoughtful, entertaining, and unique take on life in Japan I encourage you to check out Laura's blog. Sure, it's a shameless plug for a friend's site, but in all honesty it continues to be one of the sites I visit a few times a day for the adventures, the insights, and the stories that come from half a world away.

Take a look!

250,000 and Counting!

As of about 2:45pm today, my website, including this blog, has received 250,054 hits in 2005!

Time to do some celebrating!

Friday, December 09, 2005

Christmas Traditions

Growing up as a PK I had the chance to attend a great number of Christmas Eve services. As my brother and I got older we were able to choose which service(s) we wanted to attend. Though, some years we would be helping out or singing with the choir or playing bells and had to go to all of the services. One year when I was in college, before my dad retired, we created a candle-themed background for all the hymns so people wouldn't have to wrestle with a hymnal while dealing with their children and lit candles everywhere. That year, since I ran the PowerPoint, I had to go to 5 worship services on Christmas Eve. I love candlelight and the stillness that comes at an 11 o'clock service when all the lights are down and the yellow glow on everyone's faces is just wonderful.

After all the services were done and all of the expectations and we had the chance to get out of the fishbowl that is the church, my family would just like to settle down and have a nice relaxed Christmas day. Though, when we were younger, my brother and I would rush to get up and start this day of days as soon as humanly possible, we now tend to get up at a more reasonable hour to allow for sleeping in and making the gift-giving portion last a little longer.

Once everyone was up - still in the pajamas or sweats that we were given the night before - we would put on some holiday music, get our stockings and sit around the living room taking turns opening a single item until we were all finished. After stockings were over, we would get to share in one of my favorite of holiday traditions: my mom's cinamon rolls!They aren't anything fancy, just some frozen bread dough rolled out with cinamon and sugar inside and some frosting, but they're really good! After breakfast we would move on to the bigger presents, likewise taking turns.

My parents never had tons of money to buy lots of presents with but we always felt that we got a good mix of things on our lists and some surprises too. We always felt loved. Not only to avoid a free-for-all, opening presents one at a time helped us to enjoy the day a little longer too. It added a quality to the experience even when there weren't tons and tons of presents under the tree.

Another thing my dad did to make the day last and to add excitement and anticipation was to institute our annual Christmas scavenger hunt. He would hide our big present somewhere and we had to follow the clues to find it. When we were younger the clues would be simple ones like, "look under the toaster," which would then lead us to the mailbox, and so on until we found our gift in the closet or "magically" under the tree. As we got older the clues got harder. They would be written in code or something that made us really have to work for it. When we lived next door to one of the churches my dad served he would plant clues in Bible passages in a particular pew or in a book on the shelf in his office. Then there was the year, once I could drive, when he had church members put clues on their back doors or under trash can lids and we would have to drive across the neighborhood searching just to end up back home where the gift would be waiting for us behind the couch.

It was always so much fun! I know my brother has already started with a simple version for my nephew and when I have a family of my own I know I'll do the same for my kid(s).

As for the main meal, I know some families have a meal that would rival Thanksgiving in its scope. In the same spirit of keeping the day relaxed and casual, we would simply set out snacks and chips and Chex mix and sandwich makings as a buffet so we could nibble throughout the day instead of going through all the effort of making a large dinner.

Only occasionally have we had extended family over. My brother and his family have spent the morning with us before heading to the in-laws' house, or vice versa, but we generally have set aside some time before or after Christmas to exchange presents; and we'll do that this year since they are going out to visit my grandfather in Omaha. I will be having my parents over to my apartment this year for Christmas. They came over a few years ago for my first Christmas at my old place so it's time for me to host them again.

What are some of your Christmas traditions?

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

A Little Holiday Math

I complain about this every year so I thought I'd get it over with. Now is a time when my materialistic consumer side comes out, for which I will be reprimanded, I'm sure. I can actually be a pretty generous person who doesn't seek anything in return. (Of course, it's always nice to be appreciated.)

Christmas is a time for giving. We all know 'tis better to give than to receive and we should focus on the spirit of giving rather than on the physical gifts themselves. After all, it's the thought that counts, right? As a single person, I find that I am often at a disadvantage to the rest of the gift-giving community. You see, once you're in a relationship of some sort you can go in on gifts together. "It's from both of us." I don't think it's always fair that a couple - with presumably two income streams - can get away with giving a single person one gift "from us" when the general conception is that the single person - with one income - should give one gift each. Sure, there are the restaurant gift certificates or movies or other things that become community property. I could go that route - and, being a movie person, I occasionally give them as gifts - but I like to be more personal. Even if I do give a movie, for example, I only present it to one and present a separate gift to the other in the pairing.

Another conversation I had with some other single people revealed how this type of thing is extended beyond the holiday season. After all, aside from birthdays and Christmas, singles don't have other times when they traditionally get gifts (maybe graduation too), whereas others get engagement gifts, wedding gifts, baby showers, anniversary gifts, and on and on. Yes, when new members are added to the family it is a joyous thing and it isn't a chore and it isn't about the money when we give them presents. But the exchange seems a bit lopsided to the disadvantage of the single.

As for me, I get hit doubly hard. You see, my birthday is just a few short days after Christmas so it's not uncommon for me to get a solitary present with the explanation "this is for both Christmas and your birthday." Sometimes it's a more expensive or multi-part gift - like when I got money for my vacation last year - and it's understandable, it can be a significant expense this time of year. However, there are those times when I get a single gift from a couple or family for the pair of occasions. So now it goes something like this: "this is for both from both of us." A time when I would normally get 4 separate presents (in gift-math) ends up producing only one. It wouldn't be so tough if the present count was reduced by 1/2 when a couple is doing the giving - it's not about the number after all - but when you only get 1/4 of the gifts you are "expecting" to, it's a little bit of a downer, particularly when you buy them the gifts for their special days.

I know I've gone on and on about the material side of gift giving, and I know it's bad. I'm not even that materialistic of a person and I am generally content with the thought alone. I'm not out to accumulate stuff or to keep score. In fact, situations like this in no way affect the spirit with which I give nor the nature or scope of that which I give. I just think there should be a certain amount of equity there. And a single person, such as myself, shouldn't be "penalized" for being single, nor for having a birthday less than two weeks after Christmas.

*To their credit, my parents have always done a good job of setting my birthday apart as its own special day. Even though some people keep their Christmas decorations up until after Epiphany, my parents always made sure to have the decorations down shortly after the New Year so they wouldn't still be up on my birthday. And, thankfully, they used birthday wrapping paper instead of the extra holiday paper they had left over. It's the little things that make the real difference, isn't it?

Monday, December 05, 2005

Version 3.0?

I'm contemplating a little change here. At first I just had my web banner with my url on it for my bolg environment - probably just to keep it tied in with the site. Then, thinking that I should come up with something different and unique I came up with "Soup Questions." But the more I think about it I think I should change it yet again.

My blog is still relatively young - just over 5 months old - and, being in its infancy, it is still trying to figure out it's identity. Since it is a mishmash of a little bit of everything in my life, full of my trials and questions, my joys and my uncategorizables, I thought something more fitting may be a title borrowed from one of my poems: "Uneven Dexterity." It's a poem written from the point of view of a painter who is trying to create something amazing but can't seem to make the lines as perfect as s/he would like. But, in the end, by just letting the painting become what it will it takes on it's own form and is a reflection of the artist and all the beauty that was burried deep within.

I feel that way sometimes, like I'm trying to be the best version of myself but I can't seem to get it right. But, when looking back, I find that being who I am is all that I need to be, no more, no less. And that's enough.

So, what do you think, loyal readers? Change or no?

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Not Quite Christmas

I know it's only December 4th but I'm not quite in the holiday mood yet. I'm not sure why but over the past few years a trend has developed where I haven't gotten all that excited. I'm not a scrooge about it or anything, I just haven't felt as moved by the season.

I remember when I was a kid how anxious I would be for Thanksgiving's approach - partly for the food - because it meant that Christmas would be coming, then New Year's, and then my birthday all within a 10 day period. Now that they are each less than a month away I find myself, in part, somewhat indifferent.

Don't get me wrong, I always have a nice time with my family and there's nothing that compares with my mom's cinamon rolls. But for the past 2-3 years or so I haven't been enveloped by the holiday spirit as much as I would like. Maybe it's just a part of getting older and losing some of that child-like innocence. Maybe it's been a busier fall than usual and I missed out on some of the environmental cues that help to establish the season. Maybe it's early yet. I'm not sure.

It was nice to put my tree up last week and to see all the white lights sparkle in the dark providing the only illumination for my apartment. Though I hate driving in it, I like the snow and the cold: the way the snow blankets everything and the way the cold gives me an excuse to bundle up and be cozy.

I don't want to turn this into another "woe is me" post but I'm sure some of the same things are playing into my emotions this time of year. Yes, I've had a great couple of weeks spent with my family and I've spent an uncharacteristic amount of time with friends. But this time of year makes me feel a little lonely too. I don't know if it's the commercials featuring happy couples making each other even happier - as though all it would take is a nice necklace, a seat by the fire, and a new car with a bow - but I feel a little left out.

I'm planning on spending this Christmas with my parents. We'll have our traditions and our afternoon of napping and watching our new movies in our pajamas and it will be nice. New Year's is up in the air - my family and I usually spend it playing games. And who knows how I will mark my first quarter-century to make it more special than any other Wednesday.

I just hope that as these next three weeks march on I begin to feel it return a little more each day.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Keeping Track

I was looking at the statistics for my website recently - which has a new look as of last night, by the way (Beth, yours is next, I promise) - and saw some interesting numbers. Here's some of what I found:

  • November 2005 has had the highest amount of traffic so far at just shy of 33,000 hits and 272 unique visitors
  • I am only about 5,000 hits away from 250,000 hits this year! When it rolls over sometime next month I have to figure out how to celebrate. Ideas?
  • I've had visitors from about 18 countries this month. At the end of the year I'll compile a list of all the countries.
  • I get the most traffic between 4am and noon with a peak around 9am. Who's up at 4am looking at my website? That's just TOO early. (But thanks for stopping by!)
  • The average person stays at my site for 3.6 minutes
  • Aside from my photo gallery - which accumulates a lot of hits just from looking through pictures - my blog has been viewed most at about 532 times this month
  • I get most of my traffic through bookmarks but I get traffic through links from (in order of frequency): Beth Quick, Semester at Sea, Jockey Street, Laura in Japan, Locusts & Honey, and one or two here and there from Technorati and others.

It's nice to know that others are regularly making use of my site. I hope you are enjoying it as much as I enjoy doing it. Thanks!

Friday, November 25, 2005

Film Review: Rent

Though I had never seen the Broadway show nor heard the entire soundtrack, I was drawn to see the film version of Rent. I had sung "Seasons of Love" with my high school chorus and got to sing Tom's solo part in the bridge. When I studied abroad in college I was given a compilation tape of music that spoke of new beginnings and celebrating life. One of the first songs was, you guessed it, "Seasons of Love."

The film version of Rent is a moving story of eight people making their way through a year spent in poverty-stricken New York City while battling with a lack of money, the threat of eviction, AIDS, and the desire to find oneself in the midst of such hardships. Throughout the musical, the bricolage of voices rise with triumphant swells singing the praises of life, love and the precious nature of each and every day. Uncharacteristic of most musicals, Rent has a sound all its own. Piano and electric guitar take the place of a full orchestra or operatic melodies. It has a grittier, more true-to-life feel to it. The grungy backdrop of NYC plays it's own role in the story, illustrating the vulnerability of living in uncertain times. Visually speaking - since I always notice camera angles, being a cameraman myself - I enjoyed the almost constant motion of the camera around and up and over the action, not only providing energy to the scene but also capturing the essence of the story which is to take in as much of life as you can because there is "no day but today."

Building off of Jonathan Larson's Pulitzer and Tony award-winning book and musical, director Chris Columbus offers a wonderful portrayal of such a powerful story. Bringing back most of the original Broadway cast - including, to my surprise, Anthony Rapp from films such as A Beautiful Mind, Twister, and School Ties - along with notable performers Rosario Dawson and Taye Diggs rounding out this family of friends allowed the musical genius of the original to remain intact to make this film as strong as it could ever be.

Unless you are entirely anti-musical, or even if you are, Rent is an excellent film. Go see it!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

I'm Thankful For...

  • My loving and supportive family
  • My nephew's laughter and the way he cuddles up to me
  • My true friends - and you know who you are
  • A job that I enjoy
  • Being able to travel
  • Having the courage to follow my heart
  • Knowing myself as well as I do
  • Having hope for my future
  • Being allowed to be wacky every once in a while with the CCYM
  • Sleeping in
  • Unscheduled time
  • Those things that are more than words can express
  • ...


Tomorrow marks my 25th Thanksgiving, and in those 25 years I have spent all but one with my family. One year we went to Boston to spend it with my brother's godfather. One year we had a joint meal with my sister-in-law's family. Then there was the year when I spent the holiday in the Atlantic Ocean somewhere between Salvador, Brazil and Havana, Cuba.

This year should prove to be like most others have been since my brother got married. I'll drive down to my parents' house around 9. We'll turn on the parade and comment on how poorly the singers are lip syncing to the music as they dance in front of Macy's. We'll feast on my mom's famous cinnamon rolls - they aren't made from scratch with a secret ingredient or anything, they are just one of those simple things that make a holiday special - and sipping hot chocolate as the house fills with the aromas of the meal to come. We don't go all out with the meal. There's the usual stuff: turkey, mashed potatoes, corn, bread, stuffing, maybe some pie for desert. Then it's into the livingroom where we watch movies and rest from our busy lives. We'll occasionally play a game or two and, if we're really in the mood, we'll set up a video projector and one of our 6'x8' screens (our smallest) and convert the place into our very own personal movie theater. We'll be nibbling on leftover turkey and bread all day, maybe make a sandwich for dinner, and that will take us into the evening when I'll hop back into my car and head home.

We aren't a formal bunch. We don't get dressed up, we don't necessarily pull out the fine china, more likely than not we're gathered around the table in pajamas or sweats. In a way, one of the things we're thankful for is the opportunity to be comfortable. Growing up as a PK - "pastor's kid" - there were so many expectations about how we should dress and how we should act. Believe it or not, we would get comments from parishioners about everything from how we dressed to whether or not we ate some of Mrs. So-and-so's casserole (heaven forbid I don't like to eat green beans and my mother didn't force me to have a small portion of everyone's dish or that my dad couldn't eat something because he's diabetic!). So it's always been nice to just be us.

Our holiday routine has remained pretty much intact through the years. Other than the couple of times when we've had an extended family meal everything has pretty much stayed the same. Over the past few years the carving duties have been more shared and I've either helped or done it myself. We never have had any Christmas decorations up until, at least, the weekend after Thanksgiving. I like to take them one holiday at a time. Besides, I love the colors and the smells of autumn so much anyway that I want to enjoy them as much as I can rather than slip right into the reds and greens of Christmas. The number of people that already have Christmas lights up amazes me. I even saw one house fully lit by the weekend after Halloween! And that's just crazy.

So as the meals are prepared, the family and friends gather, and you all begin to reflect on your gratitude this season, I wish you all the Happiest of Thanksgivings! (And watch your back at the malls on Friday!)

How do you spend Thanksgiving? What are some traditions your family follows? What's changed since you've grown up?

Monday, November 21, 2005

Changing Relationships

I feel a sense of sadness, a sense of loss, when I realize that some friendships won't last for years and years beyond the season of life in which they were so important, so central to everyday life. Our lives are always changing, and some relationships don't survive change.

Beth summed it up rather well, I think. Check it out.

I've written about this topic a number of times, myself, yet I never seem to be able to make much sense out of the 'why' part. I've been reflecting a lot lately about friendship and family. Maybe it's because of how the holidays snuck up on me this year. Maybe I'm just feeling a bit depressed about things. Maybe I'm just tired from working so much over this past month. Whatever the reason, I still feel like I've lost something that was once important. Something that, if it had the chance, could have remained an extremely important part of my life even until now.

Looking back at all the friends I've had in the various towns and schools, I think the one friend I've had the longest that I still have a passing interaction with is Melanie whom I've known for about 13 years. Granted, the last time I saw her was over the summer for about 5 minutes when she was picking up her little brother from an event I was at and before that I hadn't seen her in about 6 years. My friend AJ and I have been good friends since high school but then lost touch and have recently reconnected for the second time. I still occasionally exchange emails with my friend Ryan from high school but everyone else seems to have slipped away.

I still send a few emails here and there to college friends on their birthdays and the like but they, too, have begun to fade out of my life. Only one or two have remained somewhat regular participants in my journey. I've known Beth for going on 7 years now, and while our friendship, as with all others, has had dry spells and rough patches, it has remained a source of comfort and joy during some of the hardest times over the past few years in particular. Likewise with my friend Audra. Even though she's in Texas, I know that she's just a phone call away and it will be like old times again.

I don't know why it happens that even the best of relationships can disappear leaving us feeling either guilty or somewhat resentful that one of us didn't do enough to keep it going. There are certainly many that I would like to catch up with and with whom I'd like to reestablish those once-special bonds. But, then again, maybe I just need to appreciate what we once had as a valuable part of that period of my life and move on. Either way, I want to try to make my current relationships strong and meaningful so they might withstand time's testing. And as I look ahead towards future relationships, I don't know what to expect. But I live in hope...

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Film Review: Derailed

Derailed, starring Clive Owen and Jennifer Aniston, is a worthy thriller.

After a chance meeting on the morning commute into downtown Chicago, Charles Schine (Owen) and Lucinda Harris (Aniston) begin a series of rendez-vous that ultimately leads to a night in an out of the way hotel. Their tryst is interrupted when a man barges in and demands their money. But it doesn't end there. The man continues to torment and blackmail Charles until he agrees to pay him $100K. Threatening the safety of his wife and ill daughter adds to the desperation of Schine's situation leading him to take risks that he would never imagine before.

Derailed takes standard film themes - adultery, coercion, money, betrayal - and puts an interesting spin on them. For me, the twist in the film was somewhat anticlimactic, if only because the suspicions I had from the first time I saw the trailer were proven correct. However, that's not to say the movie is predictable. Being the movie nerd that I am, always expecting the unexpected, I looked at the different scenarios that could potentially play out and I picked the one that I felt would be the most interesting to pursue given how other movies have turned out.

I'm not sure I'd go so far as to rank this film with the likes of Fatal Attraction, Disclosure, or Unfaithful, but it is certainly worth watching. I was not disappointed by the script, the story, or the performances of the cast. While it may appear to be a standard thriller, with the standard depth one would expect from such a film, I was relieved that Derailed took the story to that next level to keep your interest in a way that served the story. Definitely a good flick.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

I Won!

John over at Locusts & Honey holds an occasional caption contest. I always enjoy reading the tens of entries by his other loyal readers and will, from time to time, throw my own into the ring. To my surprise and delight, this time mine won! I must say though, he usually offers amazing prizes to the winners - like dates with other bloggers or the right to name someone's new baby - but not this time. I guess I'll let it slide!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

I'm Antonio Banderas... well, not really

I regularly watch Inside the Actor's Studio on Bravo. Being the movie nerd that I am, I enjoy learning how each performer came into their profession and why they choose the roles they do, etc.

I was looking on the show's website earlier to see if they had a clip from when Elton John was on. While explaining how he could come up with a song using any text, a student brought up a copy of Ibsen's Peer Gynt. Sure enough, he did it, and it was really good too!

Alas, I couldn't find it. But what I did find was a little personality profile game that matches your responses to James Lipton's questionnaire to those of some of the actors. For those of you who are unaware, at the end of each show Lipton asks every actor the same set of questions from Bernard Pivot's questionnaire:

  • What is your favorite word?
  • What is your least favorite word?
  • What is your favorite sound?
  • What is your least favorite sound?
  • What is your favorite curse word?
  • What turns you on?
  • What turns you off?
  • What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
  • What profession would you not like to participate in?
  • If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you reach the Pearly Gates?

According to my answers - based on multiple choice, unfortunately - I matched the closest with Antonio Banderas. Go figure...

If I were to really answer the questionnaire, I think my answers would be something like:

  • Favorite Word: Schwuptiwupts (sp? - German slang meaning "oops" - remember "w" sounds like "v")
  • Least Favorite: Anything said in hate or anger
  • Favorite Sound: Rain
  • Least Favorite: Open-mouth chewing (updated)
  • Curse: Shit
  • On: Friends who make me feel like I matter to them
  • Off: Single-mindedness
  • Profession: Travel writer/photographer (updated)
  • Profession I wouldn't want to try: Anything particularly smelly or involving serious violence or danger
  • God Says: "I love you and I'm proud of you."

How about you? Play the game. Who are you like? Do the questionnaire. What would you say?

Saturday, November 12, 2005

"Get Your War On"

Today I was listening to "To the Best of Our Knowledge" on NPR on my way home from a meeting. They were interviewing cartoonist David Rees about his comic strip "Get Your War On" - a Jon Stewart-esque look at politics and the War on Terrorism.

Rees needed some satirical release from all of the war talk back in 2001 and since he couldn't find it anywhere else he'd create it himself. The result is a strip about coworkers talking on the phone about world and national news. The art is plain to make it look unassuming, that is, until you get to the biting commentary in the bubbles. They cleaned it up a bit for the broadcast when they offered examples such as:

"Knock, Knock... Who's There?... Weapons of Mass Destruction... Oh, there you are!!!"
"Knock, Knock... Who's There?... Neo-Imperialism... Neo-Imperialism, who?... I just wanted to see if you could say it."


Friday, November 11, 2005

He's At It Again...

Pat Robertson... need I say more?

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Jason needs...

I got this from Beth:

Type in "your name needs" into Google and list your top ten results. I didn't use a couple that repeated or didn't make much sense. Here's mine:

1. Jason needs to SHUT UP...
2. Jason Needs Your Help
3. Jason needs to eat according to a controlled carbohydrate meal plan.
4. Jason needs to die already - he is the reason Smallville sucks so much. (Sorry about that...)
5. Jason needs to diet because he has become too fat. (Harsh...)
6. Jason needs to respect personal space when meeting new people. (I try to...)
7. Jason needs a real woman, not a little girl. (How true...)
8. Jason needs to carry his pitch fork and he is off for a fun filled evening. (That's what I call a good time...)
9. Jason needs 2 stop acting like he is such a P*I*M*P* (I didn't think I was...)
10. Jason needs to remain in therapy. (I may need to start after this...)

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Outside Looking In

Over the past three days, I have been working with one of our bigger clients as they met for their annual state-wide gathering. All in all, it was a successful event on our side of things. Sure, there were a few glitches but we carried on and made it all come together. (There was a series of power outages the first night which messed a few things up and the power went off again overnight last night which reset a number of things and caused some issues.) We were using the facility's projectors which, to be honest, are older and not as effective as ours would've been. C'est la vie. Those in charge were pleased with our work and we feel good that they feel good.

The organizing staff, with whom we work on a number of projects year-round, are great people. The support staff, in particular, are a group of outstanding women who do some amazing work. They are extremely friendly, hospitable, and are some of the warmest people we have the pleasure of serving. We've worked with them for a number of years now and have developed more of a partnership in many ways, as opposed to a client-vendor sort of relationship.

All that being said, this was an emotionally difficult few days. While we and the staff shared some good times joking around and relieving some of the stress a large event brings to those responsible for making things run smoothly, I had a hard time feeling at ease there. Without going into much detail, the presenters who spoke over the course of the event rubbed me the wrong way - confirming the fact that had I not been there for work, I would never attend such a meeting. It's not about them personally, really. In all truth, I found most of them to be very nice people who speak very well in front of groups - I respect this skill because I don't feel I have it and I appreciate it when those I am listening to do.

What got to me was the content of their presentations. (I know it's hard to see where I'm coming from if I won't come out with the specifics, or even the general ideas, but I think it's best to leave it a little more vague given our working relationship.) While they continued on through their talks, nearly every sentence - or, at least, every other one - seemed to be coming from a source of fear and desperation. They, themselves weren't afraid or desperate, to the contrary they were extremely confident, but they seemed to be spreading a certain amount of fear. And to hear the sounds of agreement and affirmation from the crowd made me a bit uncomfortable that what was coming out of the speaker's mouth was falling on receptive ears...

And there I was, one of only two people in the entire room of over 500 that felt the exact opposite. I must say though, one of the upsides was that the band, while a little too loud for my taste, was quite good.

As a cameraman at events such as this I am often positioned somewhere along the center aisle about 4 rows from the front almost directly in front of the podium. So basically, I am surrounded. And it was really hard to have to listen to this stuff for three days straight without any escape. Let me tell you, I was about as focussed on my camera work as I have ever been! My eyes rarely left my monitor and I was smoother than ever!

At the end, when we were finally all packed up and out the door, I felt weary. Events like this are normally tiring and physically demanding during setup and striking and my right shoulder is usually quite sore from being elevated while running camera. Usually, though, it's not as emotionally taxing. The only events that left me with a similar feeling were General Conferences. What I felt at those conferences was on a different level which was certainly much more personal and painful. This time, though, I was about as fatigued as a bystander could be.

It was tough.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Driving Home

As I pulled out of the parking lot and into the street, headed for the for the highway, I was reminded of old times.

The times aren't so old - they were really only over the past couple of years - but they harkened back to a slower, more relaxed period of time. Nights when I couldn't sleep and had a lot on my mind I would get dressed, hop in the car, and just drive. There isn't anywhere I would go, in particular, I would just hit the web of major roads around the area. There's something about the darkness and the quiet and the glow of a single set of headlights in the night...

I would take these opportunities to think out whatever was weighing on me, to consider options, to figure things out. It's an enjoyable time, all in all.

From time to time, now that I live a little farther from work, I am asked how I like the commute. Before, my drive in only took about 3-5mins depending on the lights. Now, it takes about 20 - it will be longer once the area gets attacked by all the lake-effect snow off of Lake Ontario. It's not a bad drive, really. In the mornings it gives me a chance to get up to speed before work, and in the evenings it gives me some time to decompress a bit.

Despite missing out on the peak of the leaves, driving through the somewhat wooded, rural corridor each day does offer some great views of skyscapes and forested hills. Before, I would be lucky if I saw a bird or someone walking their dog on my way in. Now that I live where I do it isn't out of the realm of possibility that I might come across a deer or two on the foggy slopes that line the way.

Even though I spend so much time in my solitary confinement, I enjoy the time I get to myself during my daily journeys. While tangentially listening to NPR and commuting to and from a place where I actually get things done, it offers something different from my lonely life. I feel like I'm doing something instead of sitting at home wondering what to do.

From right now, I have roughly 33 hours before I have to be anywhere. I can do anything, go just about anywhere. Will I drive just to drive? Will I go do something new? What comes next? More of the same? Or something else?

Film Review: Good Night, and Good Luck.

Tonight I once again ventured out to one of the environments I dread: the mall. I don't like big crowds of people and I don't like feeling invisible as people constantly brush by, when there is so much room for them to go around!

Good Night, and Good Luck. opened today. It tells the behind-the-scenes story of the media battle between Edward R. Murrow and Senator Joe McCarthy in the early 1950s. It was directed, co-written, and co-stars George Clooney and features a large cast of well-known actors including David Strathairn - who does a great job in portraying the broadcasting icon - Robert Downey Jr., Jeff Daniels, Patricia Clarkson, and Frank Langella.

Not having grown up during the time of the House Un-American Activites Committee (HUAC) - when my parents, themselves, were still learning to walk and talk - and having only a passing knowledge of the subject, I found the film to be rather informative and, as far as I could tell, was a good representation of the debate that ensued between the powerful senator and the highly respected journalist.

While, at times, it felt a touch slow and could've used a little more... something... Good Night, and Good Luck. was a well thought out, worthy-watch. The film, while set 50 years ago, is timely when considering the political situation in our own country. It calls for accountability in leadership and simply asks that those in power do not go unchecked. There is a responsibility for due process before hasty decisions, for integrity in proceedings, and for avoiding even the appearance of impropriety. McCarthy accused those with whom he disagreed of being anti-American. When he turned his sights on Murrow - a journalist of unquestionable character who earned the trust and respect of the people during his rooftop reports during the bombings of London by the Germans - it was the beginning of the end.

Good Night, and Good Luck. is certainly worth a trip to the theater. Whether you are a history buff, a fan of the period-piece, or just a film enthusiast you will find this to be quality cinema.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Under a Strange Light

One of the interesting things about autumn in Central New York is how light plays in the evening. As I left work today, the sun was still bright as it began to set behind the cloud-filled sky. It shone a fairly diffuse, indirect light evenly blanketing the neighborhood in calming tones. The centerpiece of the front lawn is a tall oak, still filled with golden leaves even as all others have shed theirs. As the light came down and made its way through the branches, it was transformed into a strange yellow glow over everything.

It was kinda cool...

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Advising the President

As regular readers know I rarely, if ever, talk politics here. As part of my normal routine, I listen to my local NPR station on the drive to/from work and I read through the headlines on CNN.com a couple of times a day. I'm not really a news junkie but I think it's important to be aware of what's going on out there.

Tonight, as I read through some of the stories on CNN.com, I came across a collection of emails sent in from people across the country as advice for President Bush on how to do a better job. Now, I'm not going to comment on whether or not I agree with any of these in particular. I found that I agree with parts and I disagree with parts and I'm not sure about others. There was one, however, that I felt was on the right track, given my observations of this administration:

He has to include Democrats in the process of governing. The "either you're with me or you're against me" attitude is one of his biggest shortcomings. I resent his attitude that because I disagree with him on something makes me somehow less of a citizen. Bernie Clemens, Indianapolis, Indiana

I am not registered with any political party, however, I tend to agree more often with the Dems. There are a lot of issues on which I am rather moderate. That said, I think what Bernie, here, is saying has some real merit. Through the judicial nomination process, through legislation that is sent through, the president seems to be totally ignoring those on the other side of the aisle from whence he came. Granted, he was elected and is going to promote his view of how to direct the course of the country. But we all live here and he should realize that he needs to make decisions that encompass more than just his own point of view. To be a responsible leader means honestly and openly looking at all sides and doing what benefits the most people. Compromise is key. He constantly talked about being a "uniter not a divider" as he campaigned and yet he continues to divide.

I didn't really want to get into a political discussion but with everything over the past month or two, especially, my confidence in his ability to lead has fallen below the low esteem I held him in before.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

It's a Sickness

For those of you who know me, or have been following my posts, know that I am a movie person. I've always loved movies of all kinds and, over the past 5 years or so I've made for myself a respectable collection.

I noticed back when I was in college, though moreso after I got my own place after graduation, that I have a bit of a habit going. For some people, whenever they feel depressed or overwhelmed, or just plain bored, they reach for food - or whatever the "comfort" object/substance may be. For me, it's movies. They are my mode of escape from the world in which I live. Whenever I get bored, lonely, and/or depressed I head out to peruse the shelves of DVDs and will almost always pick up at least 2, if not more. It's my own little piece of the OCD pie.

Today was no exception. Around noon I was thinking to myself, "I have 8 hours until The West Wing, I could go anywhere, do anything..." What did I do? You guessed it: I ran down to the video store and picked up some movies. Generally, I give myself a budget to make sure I don't overdo it. Often, I see so many that I want to get that it makes for a really tough decision and I have to set some aside for next time. Well, recently I made up a wish list of movies I want to get, and damnit if so many of them were just sitting there. It made the decisions extra hard this time. I went through a number of configurations trying to get the best mix of movies and still be within my budget. I got it down to deciding between two movies and I'd be all set. Just then, I saw another movie that I'd been looking for for a long time and picked it up too. Now that I was sure to be overbudget, and not wanting to put back two, I got all three - on top of the others.

After all was said and done I got 7 new movies. To my credit, though, most of them were $9.99 or under. My spoils this time around include:

What can I say? I'm a movie person...

Saturday, October 29, 2005

A Friendly Reminder

For those of you in the US - aside from anyone in Arizona, Hawaii, parts of Indiana, or some of the territories - remember to turn your clocks back one hour due to the return to Standard Time from Daylight Savings Time tonight at 2am, or so. I wouldn't want you to be late for anything tomorrow.

Enjoy your extra hour! Do something fun and different with it!

A Good Day

After spending a couple of weeks out of town working, it was good to have today off. I caught up on some sleep, ran a few errands, reconnected with an old friend (after about 2 years), and went to a late movie with a good friend.

This past week has been a smooth, yet difficult one, to be kind. I spent 3 days with a group of, let's just say, interesting people. (I'll decline from using the group's name to protect our business relationship.) This past week was their annual statewide gathering and we provided their projection needs as well as produced a short video slide show of one of their more important functions. Aside from that, and the wonderful feedback we received from those in charge and those assembled, it was a strange time. From what I can gather, the main purpose of this event was to formally introduce people, thank everyone for saying wonderful things about you when you were introduced, dress up in fancy evening wear, and report back on similar - though smaller - gatherings across the state. And there I was right in the middle of it. Exposed. In a way only a cameraman can be.

I found it hard to sleep. With the rather uncomfortable bed, the spirited late night conversations that echoed through the entire hotel, and the haunting images as I dreamt of being in that room sitting through a never ending series of sessions which accomplish absolutely nothing. (It reminded me of my General Conference experience of dreaming about debating petitions, stemming from nonstop committee meetings, plenary sessions, and speaking only in Robert's Rules for two weeks.) That definitely does not put one in a restful state.

I felt somewhat claustrophobic the entire time. My camera position placed me on the aisle with participants on all sides - well, three sides mostly, though during some of the grand processions I was completely boxed in - and I didn't have much room to move. I felt entirely under-dressed and like I was constantly being watched. Thank God it's over!

So anyway, back to what made today good... At this horrendous event, I ran into the mother of an old friend from high school. We didn't go to the same school but we were both a part of our conference's CCYM. We became fast friends because of the excellent meshing of our senses of humor. We're certainly not a lot alike in many other ways - he's a heavy metal guitarist and I'm not so much, etc. - but we were inseparable at meetings and events. Let's just say that we caused a lot of trouble. Anyway, his mom told me that he was back in town working and I decided to drop in to surprise him. And he was shocked. We were only able to catch up for about an hour but we're definitely going to set something up for later next week.

Afterwards, I drove across town to meet up with another friend to see The Weather Man with Nicholas Cage. I was somewhat expecting it to be a somewhat corny, feel-good movie but I didn't anticipate just how funny it was going to be. I don't really see Nicholas Cage as being a comedic actor, though he always has some humorous lines in his movies, and there was some real depth to the character too. There were some portions that I think it could've left out but it was certainly an enjoyable movie.

All in all, today was a good day. Just what I needed. As I've said too many times, I've been longing for friendship. Not to diminish the meaning of any of the relationships I have with any of my friends out there, I'm glad that I have added another to my circle. (Though, when considering local friends, it's now somewhat more like a triangle when it used to be a line segment.) There have been some downers this week too: the husband of a person I've worked with passed away suddenly and I missed the funeral because I was out of town, and my dad's childhood home was pretty much lost in a fire. But, in an attempt not to end everything on a negative note, with all the ups and downs in this cycle of life I feel as though I am beginning a gradual incline and it is a welcome change from the lows of the past weeks.

I can't wait to see what the next steps will bring.

Friday, October 21, 2005

One of Those Moods

I've been in one of those moods today. You know the one: you're not tired but you feel really lathargic, you're not sad but your not excited about anything, you're not alone but you feel lonely. It came over me today and I haven't been able to shake it.

I live a fairly solitary life. As I've said before, though I don't want to be repeating myself, I don't do a lot of socializing and spend most of my free time watching movies and tv or hiking by myself. My post from earlier in the week has kind of stuck with me since. I spoke of not feeling like I had the kinds of friendships I want/need/hope for - with very few exceptions. I was reminded this week of a comment an ex had, which I wrote about before in the old journal on my website. During one of our conversations I mentioned that I was going to see a movie over the weekend and she asked, "which one?" and I told her and she followed up by asking, "who are you going with?" to which I replied, "no one, just me." She couldn't have been more shocked. She couldn't imagine how someone would go to the movies by themselves. "That's so sad, " she said - though, not in a pathetic sort of way, just...sad.

I've always been sort of a loner, I guess. It hasn't been by choice, necessarily - though I would sometimes rather be by myself - but going solo has liked me. Because I'm such an introvert and, says my mom, I have always been able to occupy myself I haven't had to rely on other people in order to enjoy a show or movie or hike. Don't get me wrong, I would almost always prefer to do those things with others. But I've learned to make do and entertain myself.

Also, something that has got me thinking about my own loneliness was finding out that another friend of mine - a younger co-worker from a camp I used to work at - has recently set a date for his wedding next March. Now, this guy is one of the nicest I've ever known and I am so happy for him. But, like other singles, I'm jealous as hell too. It's coming up on the 3rd wedding anniversary of another pair of (younger) co-workers from the same camp who got married around the time I was in Kenya. And a pair of clergy who used to be my counselors/youth advisors recently got engaged too. (Again, so happy for them.)

I get tired of hearing the lines, "there's someone out there for you," or, "when you meet the love of your life, and you will," or, "you've still got time," or, "I read the average age for men to get married is 27, so you've got a couple of years." It's not that I dismiss the support of those who say that to me, it's just that it's not helpful. When I went to the movies with my parents my mom said to my dad, "I guess there will be no necking," (since we were sitting together) and I said, "not unless you find me someone too." It reminds me of another time when I drove my dad to the theater to meet my mom for a movie after work and she thanked me for bringing her date, to which I replied, "if you wanted to thank me, why didn't you bring me one?" I'm not trying to sound depressing, I just know that when the timing is right you have to take advantage of the moment and deliver the funny line.

I'm not sure where I was going with all of this but I'll just finish up by saying that even though I'll meet her someday, I don't feel like I can say that I know that I will. Sometimes I fear that I will never meet her and I'll be like this indefinitely. And there's nothing anyone can really say to change that. After all, who knows for sure that the contrary will happen?

I hate not knowing...

Film Review: North Country

To get away and relax between two very busy weeks, I took off early and joined my parents at the movies.

North Country starring Charlize Theron is the powerful story of a woman who only wanted to make a good life for her children. Facing obstacle after obstacle - an abusive husband, an emotionally absent father, and a rebellious son - Josie Aimes decided to start her life over and took a job at a northern Minnesota mine. From the very first day, Josie comes to realize just how tough her job is going to be as she makes her way through a hostile male-dominated workplace in the early 80s. After repeated acts of sexual harassment and assault, Josie takes matters into her own hands and sues the company for its treatment of all of the female employees.

Based on the true story of a landmark sexual harassment case, North Country is a heavy film to watch. Nearly every male character - aside from burned out lawyer Woody Harrelson, compassionate father figure Sean Bean and a few other minor parts - exhibits the despicable traits of sexism, often making it very frustrating to watch as a seemingly unending barrage of offenses are thrown at the women of the movie. Aside from Theron's strong-willed, yet vulnerable portrayal of Josie Aimes is the wonderful supporting role of the ever-amazing Frances McDormand as the wise union rep who takes Josie in.

The film is told in a broken format where scenes from the trial are interwoven with episodes of Josie's experience as well as the unfolding story of a high school trauma. This style is adequately done and does not get in the way of the story. One of the only negative aspects of the film, from a storyteller's perspective, was the final couple of minutes - prior to the "where they are now" paragraphs that one is accustomed to seeing at the end of these docu-dramas. This short scene seemed unnecessary and took a little away from the climactic, though somewhat predictable, courtroom scene and subsequent denouement.

Some viewers have said that this movie is a poor attempt by Hollywood to present the issue of sexual harassment and doesn't do enough to represent the realities - particularly by "seeing a beautiful woman uglied" in "a typical courtroom drama with manipulative music and adorable children". Sometimes the realities of life are just too harsh to be fully explored through film. While North Country may not do justice to the graphic nature of what actually happened - or, sadly, what may continue to happen elsewhere - it succeeds in saturating the viewer's experience with the issue and bringing it to the forefront of your mind in a way somewhat reminiscent of Philadelphia.

The film has a solid cast and script but its Oscar-worthiness may fall short of some expectations. I enjoyed this movie - inasmuch as one can enjoy a movie about sexual harassment and assault - and definitely recommend it without reservation. Look for Theron's reliable vulnerability and courage alongside McDormand's impressive performance.

Monday, October 17, 2005


Last Friday I came to a good stopping point with what I was working on so I decided to call it a day. My dad had a late-day meeting and my mom was home from work so we had the chance to sit down, just the two of us, and chat for about an hour before my nephew was dropped off for the weekend.

My mom and I have always had a special bond. I wouldn't say that I'm her favorite - parents don't have favorites, right? - but we've always been pretty close. When I was younger, my dad would have evening meetings at the church and my brother would always be at Boy Scouts or some school rehearsal so it was pretty common to find my mom and I hanging out together. (This is probably why I like movies so much and why I'm more sensitive than your average straight man.)

We talked about our earliest memories: her, around 2 years old with her mom churning butter in the kichen and killing a snake that was going after and my uncle, and sheep in the front yard (her early years were spent on a ranch in Colorado); and me, cuddling up in a blanket my mom made for me when I was about 3 or so. I listened as she talked about how strict her mother was and how little privacy she had was relished, even during nursing school and after she moved into her own apartment. At that point, we began talking about relationships some. She told me something that I'd never heard before, that even though she enjoyed her freedom and had fun being by herself - given the control of her mom - she often felt as though no one liked her. It was interesting to learn because I've found that I feel that way a lot too.

I don't think it's a self-esteem issue because I am both conscious and proud of my gifts and talents and see their value, but particularly in college and since I often felt like an outsider even in my own circle of friends. With few exceptions, I didn't feel as close with my friends as they did with each other. I felt as though I wasn't worth - to them - spending time with. For example, on more than one occasion I invited friends over for a movie at my place on a Friday or Saturday night. The usual response was, "I've got too much work to do." I took them at their word and, generally, spent the evening alone. However, the next morning at church as we related our weekends these same friends would share that they didn't get any work done because their floormates or another friend invited them to a movie or something after we I had invited them. The other thing that seemed to happen a lot was when I would find out after the fact that a group of my friends got together and did something and never thought to invite me.

I may have mentioned it before sometime but whenever one of the group would travel abroad for a semester the rest of us would make them a journal filled with pictures and messages and reminders of home. Every year, without fail, we did this. Except one. When I left, I got a card. They said that it was a busy time of year and they couldn't take the time to get to it. The thing is, though, they were all busy semesters.

I don't want to throw myself a pity party or anything. There were a few people that took the time to be a real friend to me. One friend would always call me to come over for a movie and/or some serious UNO. Another would meet me for lunch once a week and we'd hang out after our fellowship group met and she had to stay and work. But, more often than not, I felt like I wasn't good enough as a friend for them. And I don't know why. I don't think I did anything to offend anyone. I know I have a pretty sarcastic sense of humor but only one person ever mentioned it to me when I said something wrong and we worked it out easily. I don't know what it was.

Now, there are a handful of people from college and from Semester at Sea that I still keep in touch with. Whenever any of us travel we send postcards and we keep up with birthdays. It's funny how it's the simple things that make you feel loved.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Losing Autumn

The golden yellow hues and the rich painted reds of the leaves, against the background of greens of every shade, marks the time of year that was made for me.

For as long as I can remember, autumn has been my favorite season. Being a very visual person, the fullness and range of earth-tones in the trees, in the scattered leaves on every lawn and pasted to the asphalt down every street moves me in such a basic way. I appreciate the colors of spring flowers, the brightness of summer greens, and the pristine blanket of sparkling snow in winter but there's just something about the fall.

Aside from the beautiful foliage, the flavors and aromas are wonderful as well. I love the taste of apples. Whether it's apple juice, apple cider - hard, or not - even the smell of the damp leaves in the air transport me to a very relaxed and home-like place. Every year I wait for the first hint of my favorite smell. It's not from a single source and it's hard to fully describe but it's something close to a combination of wood fireplaces and the smell of snow. (Hey, I'm from the northeast and I was born in January, of course I can distinguish a smell of snow.)

This year, though, has been a little different. For the past week or so it's been overcast, cool, and rainy in this neck of the woods. The fall colors were also at their peak last weekend. With the clouds, the rain, and the wind I wasn't able to see much of the colors. What are usually vibrant hues have been shifting towards dull browns. It's been so dreary out that I feel like I've missed out on autumn.

Sure, it's still officially fall until around December 21st, but the thing is, fall doesn't last too long in this part of the country. I have known years when our first snow began to accumulate on, or even before, Halloween. With the heat and humidity that lasted deep into September, and a little bit of early October, it feels like we're beginning to move on towards winter, skipping the nice, cool, sunny autumn and going right into the dark, rainy, cold autumn. I'm sure we have some nice days left before the 5-6 month white curtain comes down but it feels a little like the moment has past. But I'll certainly take what I can get as the days march on towards the cold.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Day in My Life

I was thinking last night just as I headed off to bed that my next post would be a day-in-the-life kinda thing. Now, since I was just heading off to bed when I decided this it could be a good idea or a bad one. In any case, I decided, so I'm doing it.

Here is a typical day for me:

  • 7:30am (too damn early) - alarm goes off - NPR on the radio - snooze button is hit
  • 7:39am (9min isn't nearly enough) - alarm goes off, snooze button is hit
  • 7:48am (9min still isn't enough) - alarm goes off, grumbling occurs
  • 7:48-8:05am-ish - turn on ABC for GMA, eat a bowl of cereal, do various "morning" activities, continue grumbling
  • 8:05-8:10am-ish - get dressed, grab stuff for lunch, wallet, keys, etc., lock up and head to parking lot
  • 8:11am-ish - turn key (the car runs better that way), head for the highway
  • 8:30am-ish - arrive at work, put lunch elements in the fridge
  • 8:30-8:45am-ish - greet dad/boss and catch up on things as he waits for his first cup of coffee, still some grumbling
  • 8:45am-ish - turn on computer, check email, weed out the junk
  • 9am-ish - begin to address any issues from email or begin working on first project
  • 9ish-noonish - work on stuff
  • noonish - lunch
  • noon:30ish-4:22pm-ish - work on stuff
  • 4:22pm-4:35pm-ish - say hello to my mom when she gets home from work
  • 4:35-5pm-ish - finish up stuff
  • 5pm-ish - hang out with parents for a few minutes
  • 5-5:30pm-ish - finally head out to the car to head home
  • 5:30-6pm-ish - arrive at home; get mail; remove watch, wallet, keys, belt; turn on computer, check any email that may have come in during the past 20mins since I left work
  • 6-7pm - watch Malcom in the Middle, prepare and eat dinner
  • 7-8pm - watch The West Wing on Bravo, or American Chopper on the Discovery Channel
  • 8-11pm - watch various programs - dependent on daily schedule
  • 11-11:30pm - watch The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on Comedy Central
  • 11:30-midnightish - check email, read blogs, general surfing
  • midnightish - bed, comence grumbling
  • midnight:30ish - finally fall asleep
  • **REPEAT**

Yeah, so that's pretty typical.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Weekly Rant About My Life

I've been feeling a bit off lately. I'm not sure why, exactly, but I haven't been myself. I'm tired, burned out, unable to focus, unmotivated, uninspired, and somewhat restless.

I've been writing and re-writing this post for the past 40 minutes and I can't seem to figure out what to say without sounding too depressed or whiny or pathetic. There's just so much that's been bouncing around my head and so many emotions that have been battling within me that I'm just getting weary. I'm confident in my religious choices but I don't want to deal with any of the potential confrontation that may be coming up next week at an event. I'm glad I live in this apartment and not my last but I feel a bit removed - even though most things aren't that different. I've been excited about some things with work but I feel so uninspired. I'm so happy when I get to spend time or talk on the phone with friends but the feelings wear off so quickly... too quickly... I long for love and companionship but I always seem to come up short, and my solitude has gotten to be so comfortably familiar. I want to do things but I never know what. It's so frustrating and I wait for the day when my life will take a turn, no matter how slightly, towards some progress, any progress, just so I know that things are starting to get better.

I ache for that day.

Thank you for putting up with my ranting.

Friday, October 07, 2005

First Look, Part II

Here's an advanced look at the art for our upcoming dramatic project. We will be reshooting it once we're on-location with the actor. But you'll get the idea.

We've done some more development of the story and I think it's heading in a very powerful direction.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

First Look

As I'm sure I've mentioned before, one of the main thrusts of the company I work for is to produce helpful, quality resources for groups and agencies, such as religious organizations, and to tell good stories. In as many years, we've put out three dramatic productions which we have written, directed, produced, etc. , two of which have garnered awards - we're waiting to find out if the most recent will be so honored.

It's that time of year again when we begin the brainstorming phase of preproduction and we sit down to develop the story. After narrowing down the overall theme - spiritual giftedness - with the annual conference resource ministries team, it is our task to come up with the plot and script. Today my dad(boss) and I spent the latter part of the afternoon hammering out many of the subtleties of our main character and his journey through the plot. Though I won't spoil it by talking about it too much here - you'll have to get your own copy HERE when it becomes available next June - I think we made a lot of really good progress. There are still a few scenes that need to be added to help the story flow and most of the dialogue needs to be articulated but I'm excited about where it's headed.

I think what makes me excited is the fact that I'm excited. Lately, I've been in a bit of a rut - I still am - and haven't really been too excited about anything and this is a welcome change of pace. In previous years as we've worked on these projects I've felt a little more like an outside observer, offering input here and there as it was asked for, during the writing phase. This time around, however, it's been refreshingly different. Today was the real beginning of the project and I was in there from the start as we came up with who the character would be and how his gift would be allowed to shine. (I actually chose what his gift would be, which thrust us into the quite active development of the plot.) We got into a lot of the psychology behind the man and, I think, have really begun to weave it all together quite well. I'm glad to be taking a more substantial role.

It's going to be a drama, but we're going to add some humor to it too. It's a very personal story and deals with some delicate issues, particularly in the character's background, so there is some weight to it. But we're going to try to lighten it up with spots of humor here and there.

I know it's me talking here, and I may not have the most objective view on it, but every year we feel like we're getting better and better with the dramas we put out and even though we're in such an early stage, I already feel that this one has the potential for being even that much more powerful that last year's.

"Soup Questions"

About a month ago, as a NAPP member, I was in Boston for the Photoshop World Expo. There, I picked up a copy of Create Magazine. In an article on company branding I came across 50 Eggs Productions. When developing her company name, Mary Mazzio decided to draw from her favorite movie as inspiration. "50 eggs," for those who are unaware, is a reference from the classic film Cool Hand Luke starring Paul Newman. In the film, Newman's character undertakes the challenge to eat 50 eggs in one sitting. His success in doing so is a great image for overcoming difficult tasks and adds credibility - he lived up to his promise that he could do it.

In a similar vain, I thought I would draw from one of my favorite movies to name my blog. It has long gone without a name, beyond my website url, and I thought it deserved one. A few posts ago I shared my movie nerdiness and it only seemed appropriate to use that as my starting point. The Godfather is perhaps my favorite movie (it's at least very near the top of the list) but it is also one of the more quoted movies out there as well. Another favorite of mine is Finding Forrester with Sean Connery. I won't get into a description of it now, but there is a scene where the protagonist asks Connery's character a series of questions: why he doesn't have to stir his soup at home, if Connery ever goes outside, etc. Connery's response to the second question is, “That isn’t a soup question is it— it fails the basic criteria of a question in that it does not solicit information that is important to you.”

I found the idea of "soup questions" to be rather fitting. Here, I often write about things that aren't really all that relevant to anyone else but are a part of my quest for answers and meaning and purpose - with some breaks for whimsey as well.

I like it anyway.

Friday, September 30, 2005

It's Been One of Those Weeks

I've had a hell of a week. Aside from everything surrounding Rascal it's been a full week. Here's a rundown of what I've been doing at work:

  • Redesigning the artwork for a series of devotional resources that my dad and I have written over the past few years
  • Preparing our new collection of Elements - backgrounds for digital presentations
  • Developing a presentation for one of our clients to be duplicated within a week (500 copies)
  • A stressful event
  • Developing the design for a client's new website
  • Gathering together, duplicating, and preparing many of our products for sale at an upcoming convocation
  • Trying to keep my head about me at work while in the midst of the emotional rollercoaster that is my life

Last night as my dad and I got back after a long evening, we found a message waiting for us from a person at EcuFilm - a division of United Methodist Communications (UMCom). They currently offer two of our dramatic videos (UMAC winners: Change of Heart and The Widow's Mite) and potentially our most recent Rite of Passage. After reviewing Elements they would like to offer it in their catalog and are interested in the now-soon-to-be-started volume two. Other good news is we are now in the early stages of developing our next dramatic production which should be released next June.

We're a small company but we're trying to do what we love and it feels good when others see the quality of our work and the value it can be. Just one example: Rite of Passage is about a dying church that needs to decide whether to be in "maintanance mode" or to "die with dignity" to help others to live. We heard a story about a local pastor who showed it to her church, they realized that the congregation in the film was a lot like where they were at, and they are now begining to turn themselves around.

I think we're doing a good thing. And it's exciting to see how people respond. It's been a busy week, a hard week, and it's easy to get bogged down with the stress. I'm proud to be working with my dad and doing what we do. As pessimistic as I can be sometimes with life and all its incarnations, I really am hopeful for whatever comes next. It's just hard sometimes.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Update: Why Can't I Catch a Break?!

I just got a call from the vet at the shelter and it turns out that in his routine checkup prior to the adoption he found that Rascal has heartworm. Not only would the months of therapy be expensive and uncertain, my mom's boss' sister (who is a vet) says that he probably wouldn't have a long life even with the treatments...

So, I'm left with a choice to make: a) adopt him and go through months of vet visits, injections, and therapies leading to an uncertain, most likely negative, outcome; or b) cancel the adoption and start this whole damn process over again. After going through the crap of this week I'm not sure I'd want to go through it again. But taking care of a sick dog right out of the gate is not what I had in mind and certainly isn't something I'm financially prepared for.


...option b...

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Update: Rascal

As the day went on and the clock digitally ticked closer and closer to 3pm - the time I would have to leave to drive out to the shelter with enough time prior to closing - I got a little impatient.

The nice woman I spoke with yesterday was very kind and supportive and was happy to see me finally work things out and get Rascal. Today, I wasn't met with the same level of customer service. Yesterday I was told that there was a really good chance that the vet would get a chance to give Rascal a once over to make sure he was healthy and up-to-date on shots, etc. before coming home. When I called today, a different person told me that the shelter is having a rabies clinic which is tying up the vet all day and Rascal hasn't been in to see him/her yet. (This I am told by someone who obviously didn't even look at a file or anything to give me any case-specific information whatsoever.) So, because I am working late tomorrow, it looks like Friday will be the day.

I really hope everything goes as planned this time. These past few days have been so filled with emotional ups and downs that I'm physically weary from it all. Saturday I meet Rascal and my application is initially approved: excited. Sunday I get a phone call that my apartment complex rejected the adoption: heartbroken. Monday, after some persuasion, the property manager will consider it: hopeful/anxious. Tuesday I am told that Rascal is to be mine: overjoyed. Wednesday after planning on picking him up I find out that I can't until Friday: bummed. The good thing that comes out of this is that I'll have a large portion of Friday and the entire weekend to get acquainted with Rascal and for him to get used to his new home before I get back to my regular work schedule.

Why does it have to be so difficult?