Monday, January 31, 2005
Little Nazi Bastards

I had a really long post mostly written, but in an attempt to get a symbol to show up in the text, something strange happened and the browser left the posting page without saving my work. I just don't have it in me to re-constitute that post, at least not right now.

This is one of those days, I guess, when the academic load is going to supercede the blog. It'll happen from time to time. Sorry. Until I manage to post again, here's more proof that the rising generation of Americans is ripe for fascism:

One in three U.S. high school students say the press ought to be more restricted, and even more say the government should approve newspaper stories before readers see them, according to a survey being released today.

The survey of 112,003 students finds that 36% believe newspapers should get "government approval" of stories before publishing; 51% say they should be able to publish freely; 13% have no opinion.

Asked whether the press enjoys "too much freedom," not enough or about the right amount, 32% say "too much," and 37% say it has the right amount. Ten percent say it has too little.

(USA Today)

PS to Mat: I've had that Leonard Nimoy song about Bilbo Baggins stuck in my head for days you evil fucker.

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Friday, January 28, 2005
Coffee And Shaw Update

Shaw finally posted his version of events... it's like hearing our conversation in stereo. Except not really.
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Thursday, January 27, 2005
Public Service Announcement


We like it dry.


Ladies, are you too wet? You know... down there? Does your less-endowed conservative Christian husband find that he just can't get any traction when he's making his monthly deposit to your Godly Vessel? Is this not the creepiest attitude towards sex you've ever encountered?

Anyway, the nice Christian couple who make AbsorbShun natural powder is here to help:

Hi Ladies,

I had the same excess moisture problem you have. Then I discovered AbsorbShun natural powder. Now lovemaking is wonderful again!

Yes, nothing spells sexual fulfillment like a dry, dry, bone-dry vagina.

AbsorbShun is a fine powder that is 100% all natural. It's like Nature's Way of solving our problem. I love that AbsorbShun natural powder is easy to use and starts working immediately.

Your man will say he feels bigger -- you could feel that, too!

God forbid any sloppy lady-juices should make your man feel... er... smaller... or something. Enduring itchy discomfort and painful friction is your wifely duty to your husband.
You're in control. You control the exact amount of lubrication you want and how tight you want to feel by how much and how often you use AbsorbShun. Personally, I find 2 - 3 applications during our lovemaking keeps us going strong. You may need less. AbsorbShun is my way to intimacy, fulfillment and great sex!

Try it for yourself! With the money back guarantee, there is no risk.

Happy in Love,

Cynthia Koss

Eeech... what fucking freaks. No wonder Christians are so anti-sex... they think it's supposed to hurt.

Let's cut to the chase... basically, this is a conservative Christian company trying to sell you 6.5 ounces of cornstarch (sorry, "the finely pulverized cells of an unmodified, naturally occurring maize plant") for $34.95 plus shipping and handling, plus sales tax where applicable. Praise Jesus! (Extra points awarded for finding a way to work the word "shun" into the name of a purported marital aid.)

PS: Don't miss the FAQ, where you'll find helpful hints, like using a "protein conditioner" -- like Mane 'N' Tail -- to reduce any soreness after use of AbsorbShun, and that you shouldn't use it with multiple partners. (Eh? Why not?)
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Good News For My Friends Back In Memphis

Guess what, kids...

'Blue' radio to debut in Memphis

Entercom Memphis will change the call letters of radio station WJCE-680AM on Friday, and will launch a liberal talk radio format under the name Progressive Talk 680 WWTQ-AM, broadcasting the Air America Radio network.

(...)

The station's new format will offer current political topics, social activists, occasional comical twists and "a creative approach to liberal talk by the best artists available," he says. It also will offer local news, weather and traffic.

(...)

The station's scheduled lineup kicks off at 5 a.m. with "Morning Sedition" and ends at midnight with "The Mike Malloy Show." Franken will be on the air from 11 a.m.-2 p.m.

The other programs currently on the schedule include "Unfiltered," "The Randi Jones Show" [sic: it's Randi Rhodes - S.N.] and "The Majority Report."

WWTQ-AM's signal reaches Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and Missouri, making it the most powerful AM signal in the region, according to Entercom.

Memphis Business Journal

That's even better than we've got here in blue, blue Windham County, Vermont -- we only get Franken, Rhodes and Shultz. Of the three I liked Randi Rhodes the best... she never, ever seems to agree with her callers (even the liberal callers), but she's pretty cool otherwise. Mike Malloy, of course, kicks ass.

The inevitable march of liberalism across the nation continues. Republicans, we're coming for your goddamn "family values" first.

In other news, if you have a few spare minutes, some good bandwidth, and a little curiosity, you can go see a strange little film three of my buds from Memphis (Ben with the beard, Andrew in the hat, and Tim, the blone one) made. I don't really understand it, either... but with those guys, understanding it has never really seemed to be the point. (All hail Mat for doing the website.)
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Wednesday, January 26, 2005
Jesus

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Thirty-one U.S. troops were reported killed in a helicopter crash and five more died in insurgent attacks Wednesday in the deadliest day for American forces since they invaded Iraq 22 months ago.

(...)

The military confirmed casualties to reporters but gave no figures, as search and rescue teams scoured the area. The cause of the crash was not immediately known.

"Obviously, anytime you lose life it is a sad moment," Bush told a White House news conference. Mounting U.S. deaths have increased public pressure for a clearer exit strategy from Iraq.

Four U.S. Marines were killed in action in Anbar province, and an American soldier died in a rocket-propelled grenade attack north of Baghdad, U.S. officials said.

(source)

George W. Bush is a swine.

PS: Critics will point out that no matter what Bush said in response to these deaths, I would find it incorrect. And that's exactly right. Bush had the opportunity to make the right decision regarding Iraq back in March of 2003, and he did not. Since then, every decision and every move is by definition a wrong one. No amount of wiggling will erase his first barbaric, grossly incorrect choice.

Update: And apparently, this is going to continue for two more years (at least). Where will the money come from? Where will we find the troops? And what's the fucking point?



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Tuesday, January 25, 2005
Alberto Gonzales Sucks Monkey Cocks, Part II

I concur:
Unprecedented times call for unprecedented actions. In this case, we, the undersigned bloggers, have decided to speak as one and collectively author a document of opposition. We oppose the nomination of Alberto Gonzales to the position of Attorney General of the United States, and we urge every United States Senator to vote against him.

As the prime legal architect for the policy of torture adopted by the Bush Administration, Gonzales's advice led directly to the abandonment of longstanding federal laws, the Geneva Convention, and the United States Constitution itself. Our country, in following Gonzales's legal opinions, has forsaken its commitment to human rights and the rule of law and shamed itself before the world with our conduct at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib. The United States, a nation founded on respect for law and human rights, should not have as its Attorney General the architect of the law's undoing.

In January 2002, Gonzales advised the President that the United States Constitution does not apply to his actions as Commander in Chief, and thus the President could declare the Geneva Conventions inoperative. Gonzales's endorsement of the August 2002 Bybee/Yoo Memorandum approved a definition of torture so vague and evasive as to declare it nonexistent. Most shockingly, he has embraced the unacceptable view that the President has the power to ignore the Constitution, laws duly enacted by Congress and International treaties duly ratified by the United States. He has called the Geneva Conventions "quaint."

Legal opinions at the highest level have grave consequences. What were the consequences of Gonzales's actions? The policies for which Gonzales provided a cover of legality - views which he expressly reasserted in his Senate confirmation hearings - inexorably led to abuses that have undermined military discipline and the moral authority our nation once carried. His actions led directly to documented violations at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo and widespread abusive conduct in locales around the world.

Michael Posner of Human Rights First observed: "After the horrific images from Abu Ghraib became public last year, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld insisted that the world should 'judge us by our actions [and] watch how a democracy deals with the wrongdoing and with scandal and the pain of acknowledging and correcting our own mistakes.'" We agree. It is because of this that we believe the only proper course of action is for the Senate to reject Alberto Gonzales's nomination for Attorney General. As Posner notes, "[t]he world is indeed watching." Will the Senate condone torture? Will the Senate condone the rejection of the rule of law?

With this nomination, we have arrived at a crossroads as a nation. Now is the time for all citizens of conscience to stand up and take responsibility for what the world saw, and, truly, much that we have not seen, at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere. We oppose the confirmation of Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General of the United States, and we urge the Senate to reject him.

Daily Kos

Confirming Gonzales as AG would do nothing but declare to the world that the United States condones and is willing to use torture. The shreds of our credibility would be destroyed utterly, the remaining goodwill that the world feels towards our country (if not to our leadership) would wither and die. Gonzales must be opposed and rejected for the good of the entire country. We cannot afford the message that his confirmation would send; there is far too much at stake.
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They Don't Mean Much

Get yer Oscar nominations.

My first prediction: the Best Documentary award will be (rightly) won by Born Into Brothels. It's truly an amazing movie, and the academy will prove to be complete suckers for cute little Indian street urchins who take amazingly beautiful photographs. The doc category is one of the few non-tech categories that's still generally won by the best film... yes, Super Size Me is great, but it's not "Great". And you still need to be pretty capital-G Great to win this category.

For doc short, I'm leaning towards The Children of Leningradsky, but that's probably just because it's the only nominee I've seen. (Well, no, I saw Sister Rose's Passion, too, and it's good, but not as good.)
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Coffee And Shaw

Our little group, it's always been, and always will until the end...

I had coffee with my old college buddy Shaw last night; he was in town for a job interview (selling newspaper advertising... it should tell us something about the state of our economy and society that a former editor-in-chief has been reduced to pushing ad space), and we managed to meet up to hash over the old days and our current lives and everything that's gone on inbetween.

Shaw was better at keeping up with people than me... he hasn't maintained ties with everyone, but I didn't maintain ties with anyone so he's still a relative motherlode of information. He told me of the fates of most of our little circle of friends -- the marriages, the divorces, the troubled lives, the booze and drugs, the sicknesses and losses, the estrangements and reconciliations and all the other messiness. We discussed the seeming decimation of our generation ("I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness... or at least grinding hopelessness..."), the bizarre-ness of my return to the scene of our shared idealistic youth, our despair at the state of our world and our hopes for some improvement soon, or for at least an exhilerating collapse. We covered a lot of ground in a few hours.

In some way, I think seeing Shaw was exactly what I needed at this point... a friend from back in the day, a means of looking my implicitly-hovering past square in the face, but also a way to put that past into disillusioned, 30-ish perspective. It was like a really great two-person ten-year reunion. And it was comforting -- for all my little disappointments and failures, I haven't done so badly; I haven't made any of the really huge mistakes, I've made it this far without any serious regrets. And I've done some things that were entirely positive, I've managed to become more-or-less the person I wanted to become when I left here (admittedly that person hasn't gotten everything she hoped to have by now, but I consider that the less important issue.) As Shaw said last night, we've all made it to 30 (give or take, I've still got just under a year to go), and we'll all probably make it to 40. But even thinking in those terms probably says a lot about how far we've come since 20.

It underlined again for me the differences between me and my current "peers"... it's not as if I could go back to my dorm and share the evening's experience with the kids I live amongst; they can't even conceive of it. But then, I couldn't either when I was their age. They'll have to find out for themselves... and they will.

I'm sure Shaw will have something to say as well when he posts again... I'll update this with a link if/when he mentions it.

In other news, anybody who has breathed the same air as me at any point during the last few years will be relieved to learn that I do not -- repeat, DO NOT -- have tuberculosis. Yay! Yay on me!

I have my first screenwriting class today, and my academic work has officially commenced: I spent yesterday evening making notes on the first hundred or so pages of some book or other. I feel secure is saying that my passion for my subject is at an appropriately high level... I spent much of the night contemplating the end of the film idustry as we know it, and pondering the idea that Peter Jackson's current project -- a remake of King Kong -- is perhaps both tragically backwards and very appropriate. (Is it possible the man doesn't actually have any original ideas? Every time people discuss him -- particularly among NZers this statement comes up repeatedly -- they mention his talent for the witty use of convention, but is that really all he's got? I think a good case can be made. I could rant on the subject for rather a long time, but I'm saving it up for the papers.) Also, I was chagrined to find that the filmmakers I most immediately identify as insufferable wankers -- von Trier, Godard, Wim Wenders -- appear to be the most attuned to the impending changes in filmmaking. I don't want them to be right, but they are... Wenders particularly "got it." That useless drunken kraut.

I'll leave you today with a couple of images from the post-snowstorm campus. Props to whomever took the images; I can't find any credits for 'em. Click the image for a larger version.


administration building


dining hall


PS: I know I don't have to tell you what the opening quote is from.

PPS: Off-topic, but there's an interesting article on liberal secession (with an emphasis on Vermont) in today's Salon. It'll never work, and it's not a great idea, but it's a pleasing fantasy in today's political climate.

Naylor is undeterred. He offers that no state is more historically prepared for going it alone than Vermont, which he calls "the most radical state in the Union" in terms of town meetings and direct democracy. Vermont, Naylor says, was the first state to outlaw slavery in its constitution of 1777, the first to mandate "universal manhood suffrage," and is currently one of only two states that allows incarcerated felons to vote. It has no death penalty and virtually no gun-control laws, yet remains one of the least violent jurisdictions in America. It has no military bases, no strategic resources, few military contractors. All three members of its congressional delegation voted against the Iraq war resolution.

Vermont is rural and wild, with the highest percentage of unpaved roads in the nation, the highest percentage of residents living in the countryside; it was the first state to ban billboards alongside highways. It is rebellious: It fathered Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys and 200 years later elected Howard Dean. With its vigorous environmental-impact laws, Vermont fended off the depredations of Wal-Mart superstores longer than any other state; Montpelier is the only state capital in America without a McDonald's restaurant. Following mock secession debates in seven Vermont towns in 1990, all seven voted for secession.

You'll have to watch an ad first, but it's relatively painless.
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Sunday, January 23, 2005
Quite Pleased With Myself

I wish to re-iterate everything I said about snow around Christmas: New Englanders laugh at the amount of snow it takes to shut down the south. On Christmas Eve-eve in Memphis we got, what, maybe as much as an inch of snow? And over that tiny amount the entire region was all but shut down for days. I made the trip from N. Miss to Memphis and back a few times during those days, and it was considered a nearly heroic effort, requiring phone calls home when I reached my destination to make sure I'd survived. Yes, it's harder without the luxuries of snow plows and salt trucks, but still... it was only an inch of snow, folks. You'd think the world had ended.

Yesterday, around 4 PM, it started to snow here. I went out and drove the first of my two evening van runs anyway. I was a little nervous to be sure -- I hadn't driven in any significant snow in seven years, and I was debating whether to mischieviously tell my passengers that they were being driven down a steep, curvy mountain road through heavy snow by a girl from Mississippi who hadn't put her snow driving skills to work in better than half a decade, but I decided the stress would be too much for all of us. And it was a long, slow trip, frought with tension (I couldn't see jack through either the forward or rear windshields), but I got our townie students home safely, got myself and a few intrepid shoppers back up the mountain (one of the young men riding on the return trip rewarded me with an admiring "nice" upon being deposited outside the dining hall, I think for scaling a treacherously slick, steep hill on the campus approach), and then got myself back to my remote dorm in once piece. My late van run was cancelled -- nobody was going into town on a night like that anyway -- so I got to spend the long night watching the snow pile up outside.

By this morning we had accumulated, by my guess, roughly 24 inches of snow. I spent an hour digging out my nearly-completely buried car, got to campus, and did my morning van run as well. If there's such a thing as a van driver earning their wings, I think mine are now assured.

I scoff at your inch of Christmas snow. I wish I had some good snow boots, though... and I wish I hadn't already lost my mittens. And a hat would be nice. On the other hand, I have discovered that weekend brunch is left unguarded in the dining hall, meaning that self-catering students like me can sneak a plate of pancakes on late weekend mornings.

If I had a camera phone I would show you what this place looks like today. It's really beautiful.
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Friday, January 21, 2005
Republicans Dance While The World Burns



George W. Bush and Laura dance at the Patriot Ball



An Iraqi girl screams after her parents are killed when American soldiers fired on their car when it failed to stop, despite warning shots, in Tal Afar, Iraq. The military is investigating the incident.


We deserve everything we get.
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Thursday, January 20, 2005
Here Lies America

A moment of silence, out of respect for the dead.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2005
DIY Or Die, Assholes

A conversation overheard while leaving an introductory class on screenwriting:

College Guy #1: So you wanna do some screenwriting?

College Guy #2: Yeah, I've done some before... I mean, not using the standard format or anything, but I don't think that matters much anyway...

CG #1: Nah, I don't think so either...

CG #2: I don't know much about the technical stuff, but I don't really need to, I'll just leave that to the pros.

CG #1: Yeah, just focus on the creative part and get the award.

(both laugh)

Fools. Idiots. You've failed before you've even begun.

There's an assumption made here, and no matter which option you choose, these guys are fucked. The first possibility is that the Hollywood/"Indie" writer-director is a viable possibility, in which case dismissing standard screenplay format is an instant failure. No screenplay, no matter how brilliant, will even make it past the unpaid-intern reader if it isn't in Courier and correct, standard format. A petty point, but that's just the rule of the land.

And if we assume that instant absorption into the world of Sundance competition and studio screenings and award ceremonies isn't guaranteed -- necessitating we make our own first films -- then the dismissal of knowing "the technical stuff" is not merely a creative failure, but I would argue the independent filmmaker's equivalent of a moral failure as well. The statement suggests that its speaker has utterly missed the point, is going about things in the wrong way and for the wrong reasons, has no concept of what's actually involved in making a film, and is still looking for someone else to do the hard bits.

Ain't nobody going to make your film but you, so you'd best know how to do it if you ever want to see it playing somplace other than inside your head.

This was the single most frustrating thing working at the Co-op: people came in who expected us to lead them through a simple procedure: 1) instantly recognize their overwhelming creative genius and instantly align ourselves with them and their interests; 2) take their ideas and form them into beautiful, perfect films, giving them complete creative control without asking them to do any hard work; 3) put their perfect films in front of the Right People, who would then whisk them away to lives of glamour, artistic adoration, and their rightful place in the pantheon of Great Directors.

I mean, if you asked them, obviously that's not what they'd say they wanted... but that's really what they wanted. And when we're brand new, we all have those little fantasies -- they feel good, and they give us the balls to think we could actually do this big, impossible thing that nobody thinks we can do. But eventually the delusional phase has to pass, and we have to start looking at what the deal really is -- long, hard, unglamorous work for very little obvious benefit and no guarantee of success or recognition ever -- and decide if we still want to do it. Those of us who've decided we do have zero fucking patience for the delusional folks.

I'm sick of people who send their first goddamn crappy film into Sundance. The hard truth is, everybody's first film sucks... you hopefully love it anyway, since it's your baby, but that doesn't mean you can't see that it's an ugly, deformed, crippled baby that can't cope with life in the outside world. I'm sick of people who assume others -- those of us who've spent years acquiring skills and experience -- are going to put aside our own work in favor of theirs. Fuck your film: you want it made, you make it. Sure, exceptions are possible -- filmmakers pin their hopes on that one oh-so-tantilizing chance in a million with a fervor exceeded only by lottery players -- but I'm telling you, Jack, when I say it's unlikely, I'm talking being-struck-by-lightning unlikely.

And more than anything else, I'm sick of people who come into this looking for fame and money and recognition. Filmmaking is an artform, like painting or writing or dance -- if you manage to make a living, and you get some critical acknowledgement and a few awards, that's obviously incredibly good and bully for you, but does your average painter or writer or dancer do what they do for that reason alone? They do it because they must, in spite of the frustration and poverty and dead, unproductive months and years; filmmakers have to be the same. The big trade-off in the expansion of film into an artform for everybody is that not everybody is going to be able to rely on Hollywood to provide a standard by which to measure their success. What about artistic success? What about living a life doing work you enjoy and which has meaning for you? Huh? Why's it always have to be about motherfucking Sundance? Screw Sundance! Seriously! We'd all be better off if it didn't exist... Sundance fucking pisses me off, it's the bane of successful sub-indie filmmakers everywhere.

It's time for a new model, a new set of assumptions, a rejection of what's come before -- which is no longer relevant -- and the construction of something that can actually have useful meaning for us now. And leaving the hard work to other people is NOT going to part of it. That's so bourgeois-pampered-white-kid it makes me puke.

PS: The title of this post is ripped from a documentary film of the same name (well, minus the "assholes" part) about the necessity of doing one's own shit in any artistic or creative endeavor.
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Monday, January 17, 2005
Stick

Josh gave it to Shaw, who gave it to me. (At least, I assume it was me he was referring to.)

Right, let's see...

1. What is the total amount of music files on your computer?

The computer I currently work on contains zero music files... it's an old machine, and really not up to the job. The computer I was using until recently, however, had hundreds of ripped tracks on it. Probably a good 10 gigs worth.

2. The cd you last bought is:

- "Drill A Hole In That Substrate And Tell Me What You See" by Jim White

3. What is the song you last listened to before reading this message?

- "Not Dark Yet," Bob Dylan

It sounds best with snow.

4. Write down 5 songs you often listen to or that mean a lot to you:

- "Retrovertigo," Mr. Bungle

My favorite song by my favorite band. The title particularly has resonance; the idea of feeling oneself falling backwards, disoriented, though time is one I can always relate to, right now particularly. That isn't exactly what the song is about, but it's good anyway.

- "Street of Shame," Foetus

A cartoonish thing that sums up my religious sentiments rather well.

- "The Coconut Song," Harry Nilsson

I could not get enough of this one when I was six. And yes, I know it was in Reservoir Dogs. I'm trying to repress that memory.

- "Maple Leaf Rag," Scott Joplin

I grew up listening to my dad play this, which is one of a small handful of completely good memories I have of the man. I intend to learn to play it myself one day.

- "Motherfucker" by Ben Siler

As cold as it is here, I've been singing this one a lot lately.

Who are you going to pass this stick to? (3 persons) and why?

Ummmm... Denny and Mat, and I guess Dave, even though anyone who reads Dave's blog already knows what his taste in music is. But they all have blogs and any of them could surprise me.

Regular posting will resume very soon, I'm sure. It's just taking me a while to get my bearings... you know how it is.
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Sunday, January 16, 2005
Hello, Vermont

Whoooooo... yeah, okay, sure. Vermont. Marlboro. Hi, howya doin'?

Yes, I feel considerably better today, thanks for asking. Still a little woozy, a bit weak, had a rough couple of nights and I am admittedly a bit more disoriented than I might normally be... but then again, this is such a strange experience, maybe I only think I'd be less disoriented. I'll spare you the gruesome details of my misadventure with the fish, but suffice to say I haven't been that ill since I had a run-in with an egg-and-bacon croissant purchased from a sandwich shop at the Leicester Square tube station a few days before my 24th birthday. The upshot is that I'm a little behind in my unpacking, and doubly so since, when I arrived yesterday, the previous occupants of my room had not yet removed their belongings. Fortunately, sick as I was, even a bare mattress on the floor of an empty dorm room felt as welcoming as mother's arms; I was in no condition to be picky.

Nothing has changed here. Nothing. And yet, everything has changed. I took a drive through Brattleboro yesterday, and was astonished to find that everything was essentially just as I'd left it, with only a few positive-looking additions on the main drag. Mocha Joe's is still there (there are even two of them now), Brown and Roberts Hardware is still there, Sam's is still there (not the wholesale club), even the Save The Corporations From Themselves shop is still there. (I was sure that one couldn't last.) Rap City is gone, replaced by one of two bike shops, but Underground (admittedly having moved several times, and who knows how often since I was last here) is still there. Sarkis Market, sadly, seems to be gone. Oh well.

The campus is weirder still. At first glance it doesn't look much different -- a few new buildings, but no massive changes. I should've twigged how much things might've really changed from Marlboro North (my dorm)... massive remodeling has been done on the first floor. I, however, am living in one of the upstairs rooms, basically untouched in the intervening seven years. Randy, if you're reading this, I'm in your old room... nice to be put somewhere with some good memories.

Once on campus and wandering around a little, other subtle differences became apparent. A vague sense absence clicked into place when I realized the old maintenance building was gone; the dining hall is exactly the same, but better equipped. And then there's the library... apart from the addition of the science wing, it looks the same from the outside. Then I went in, and discovered that the maps in my memory are not even remotely relevant anymore. It's so clean, so spacious, so nice. I have no clue where anything is -- it took me ten minutes to find the new computer lab (though it's damn impressive), but they do forunately have handy maps at the enormous check-out counter.

I need information. I don't know how the college phone system works, I don't know how my internet connection works, I don't know anyone (although I've gotten a few looks of "do I recognize you?" from random staffers), but then again, I didn't really come back looking to make any close new friendships. I'm here to finish up old business, tie up loose ends, get a foothold someplace outside Memphis, and anything else that happens is just gravy. It would be nice to have someone to talk to, though.

Other random notes from the journey: Friday night (before the fish), lost in Schenectady, New York, I was startled to see a car with a DeSoto Co., Mississippi license plate driving in front of me. What are the chances?

The fish incident was especially unfortunate in that, already having an aloof attitude towards fish (I'm very picky about anything that comes out of the ocean), getting a bad bit of haddock really didn't encourage me to add more fish to my diet. Frankly, I don't think I'll be able to look at fish again for quite a while... I'm getting queasy just thinking about fish. Ugh.

Thanks to my beloved mother for her post; it's not half bad, maybe she should start a blog of her own. I will strongly encourage her to come visit before my time here is up, if for no other reason than for her to experience the way I feel being a lone liberal in blood-red DeSoto County. You can't walk twenty feet here without running across some anti-Bush slogan... ahh, my people.
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Saturday, January 15, 2005
Heya... This is the Momster (a.k.a. Mrs. Novena)

Sister N has asked me to let everyone know that she has reached her destination safely, and is currently resting and meditating in her new cloister... But she's feeling a bit under the weather, thanks to some nasty microoganisms disguised as a "nice meal".

Lesson of the day: NEVER EAT FISH IN AN UNFAMILIAR RESTERAUNT (the focus of Sister N's current meditation).

So... She made it... she's officialy residing in a "Blue" state... but she feels like crap, and isn't quite in to hooking everything up and posting just yet.

Not to worry! It's nothing we haven't ALL encountered at some unlucky time in our lives. But it sure damn stinks when it happens!

She has also found that her cell phone is acting a little fuzzy now that she has a few granite mountains between her and the rest of the country...

So she has asked me to let everyone know, and hopefully she will improve over the next day or so and be back to Bitchin in all her glory!

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Wednesday, January 12, 2005
Goodbye, Memphis

Today has been my pack-and-clean day, and I still have a lot to do (yes, even this late), but I need a break. I spent a good part of the afternoon rummaging through my old boxes in storage looking for books I might need for my academic work this year; I didn't actually find much that was useful, but I found a lot of stuff I'd forgotten about. Besides the obvious books (lots of books), there were old papers, old artwork, collected newspaper clippings, photographs, a copy of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette from the day after Bill Clinton's 1992 election (CLINTON WINS), a few vintage paper editions of Feed Magazine, even my winning history fair project from the ninth grade. Pretty trippy... god, I was such a teenager back then.

I've gotten one timely piece of good news. After spending two politically-charged years in blood-red Mississippi, whose airwaves are oversaturated with Limbaugh and his ilk, I have discovered that I will be welcomed to Brattleboro by a once-conservative radio station that has since flipped sides and become an Air America affiliate.

BRATTLEBORO -- A southern Vermont-based radio station will trade in the rhetoric of Rush Limbaugh and other conservative talk show hosts for the liberal commentary of Air America next week.

WKVT-AM 1490 in Brattleboro will replace four of its weekday syndicated conservative talk shows on Jan. 17 with programs from the fledgling liberal radio network Air America, which launched in March.

The station will be the second in Vermont to broadcast Air America programs, which include shows hosted by comedian Al Franken and actress Jeanne Garofalo.

The Brattleboro area is highly liberal in its political beliefs and the Air America shows will be a better fit for the station's listeners than the conservative programs hosted by Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly, said WKVT program director Peter Case.

"We're calling this a right-to-left switch," he said. "For many years, our programming leaned to the right, but Brattleboro is a very liberal area and our lineup had to reflect that."

(source)

Sweet, welcoming Vermont. Now all we need is to get Mike Malloy on in Bratt and life will be perfect.

My journey there, however, might not be so sweet; the weather forecast is telling me that I'll be dealing with a lot of rain on my way out tomorrow, and might be rained on for the greater part of the trip. Even if I get out past it, it'll be chasing me the whole way... until, of course, I hit New England, at which time it's likely to turn to snow.

This time tomorrow I hope to be in Virginia, hopefully somewhere around Roanoke. The day after that, probably between Bingamton and Schenectady, New York. On Saturday, I'll have arrived in Vermont, and depending on how long it takes me to get sorted out and hooked up, blogging will hopefully resume shortly thereafter. I feel awful for missing out on the big current stories -- the Bush administration's admission that there are no WMDs in Iraq being chief among them -- but real life calls, and when this transition is over I'll be in much more amenable surroundings.

So check back in a few days, when I will have magically turned into just another blue-state liberal academic blogger. Hooray!

9:47 PM ::
Amy :: permalink
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Tuesday, January 11, 2005
Not So Good At Goodbyes

Sorry for the temporary slow-down on the blog... it's not that there's nothing to talk about (if anything, too much), it's just that with all these preparations to move, I lack the time I would normally put into the blog. I have just under 48 hours left to get stuff done, and I'm steadily working my way through the list, but predictably I have left the most annoying parts of the process till the end.

And there are some things to do that seem superfluous but are really important to me... getting in those last bits of quality time with Memphis friends doesn't help get me ready, but I wouldn't think of leaving without doing it.

Tonight, I guess, is basically my last Co-op workshop. Pretty weird. I remember my first one well, since I presciently recorded the event in a diary:

22 May 2002

Right... so, last night I ventured out and met a group of guys (mostly guys) who have just formed a "digital filmmaking co-operative." They're doing free workshops on making digital films, out of a sort of hippie church in Midtown. I say "hippie church"... it's one of those open, semi-non-denominational things that tend to attract a very hip, progressive, peace-n-justice congregation. (Why is it that I can theoretically have a lot in common with a group and still find it so difficult to identify with them?)

But the church isn't important, these guys are. They have a pretty sweet spread out there, with an office, screening room and lounge all to themselves. They have computers, cameras, etc, pretty much everything they need. Most of them -- Denny, Joshua, and another guy -- were very friendly and warm. The other one, that I would tentatively label the leader/ego of the group (Morgan I think?) was less so, while not unfriendly. We shall see -- usually the people I feel that way about end up becoming either my best friends or arch-nemeses.

I feel okay about it all -- I don't know how well I'll naturally fit into this group, but I expect it can be mutually beneficial one way or another. The thing I wasn't expecting was how strange it would be to start doing film stuff in a place that isn't LFS, and with people who aren't Ismo, Nordo, Beckoid and Tatonka. I had no idea how much of an impact this new context would make, and what a strong counter-force it's been so far. No wonder it's been difficult to get going. (I wonder what else I haven't realized yet.)

They're organizing a small film festival which I shall try to help with as much as I can. (I'm also trying to hook up with the [Name Redacted] Documentary Film Institute/ Festival, a much more significant thing.) And I'm also going to my one Memphis high school (White Station) tomorrow to assist on Morgan's shoot. Anyway, it's good to keep busy and stay in practice.

I also got my new tripod today -- a Manfrotto 3130 fluid head on 3001BD legs. It's nice.

Morgan, of course, became one of my most beloved friends in Memphis and a source of many fuzzy hugs; a few years on, I would happily cross continents to help out on any film of his. Denny and Josh (and Brandon, not mentioned above, as well) proved to be great guys indeed, and I spent more hours than I care to count at that hippie church. I even managed to fit in pretty well, in my way, and I've met a lot of other amazing people during my time with the Co-op, too -- I won't list them by name because there are too many to remember accurately, and I would hate for anyone to feel neglected; you guys know who you are. On the other hand, those LFS people I couldn't imagine working without at the time -- my relationships with them have either died tragically or simply dissolved over time. And then I've spent three years proving my worth at the doc fest, earning a permanant place whenever I want one, and my Manfrotto tripod is still nice, still serving me well. And oh! The things I hadn't realized then would've blown my little mind.

So these frustrating years in Memphis have not been without their consolations. I'm really going to miss these people, and everything connected to the Co-op especially. I have come to genuinely love them all.

I still hope I manage to get away and not come back, though.
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Monday, January 10, 2005
Green Light

Wow, what a relief.

The one potential hitch in my college re-matriation strategy was my financial aid package. As you may know, I am poor, poor, poor, and my college is one of the most expensive in the country. They are, however, very good about financial aid -- they use the full fees paid by the wealthy students to subsidize enormous discounts for us proles, a very socialist system that allows them to maintain some semblance of socio-economic diversity on the campus. It's good for everyone. But there was always the possibility that they might not be able to come through for me on one of many arcane technical points, and even a modest shortfall could have blown a hole in the scheme. I have been quietly sweating over it for several weeks.

But I got my response today, and they really did a great job for me... loans will be necessary, and work is definitely a part of the equation, but I have been given resources enough to proceed.

So there it is. All systems, as they say, are go. I leave on Thursday.

I had another dream last night that strangely mirrored the one I described yesterday. I was walking on city streets and passed a church that was partly on fire just as the fire department was putting it out. In my dream, nobody had been hurt (although the fire department seemed to be half made up of small children), and no massive destruction had resulted... it was benign as fires go. But the repetition of the theme -- fire in a communal space -- seems notable.
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Sunday, January 09, 2005
It's Like A Party In My Subconscious Mind



This didn't really burn down.


My mind is already casting forward to Vermont. I woke up this morning out of a dream in which I was already on campus. There were minor changes (apparently the dining hall had been re-built after a fire, of which I saw photographs on the walls... is it just me or is there rather a lot of fire in my dreams?), but it was still recognizeably my old college campus.

The weird thing was, I knew everybody there. The entire student body appeared to be made up of both major and peripheral characters from my past. But while I recognized and knew them, only a handful of them seemed to recognize me. It was a lumpy sort of homecoming.


1:14 PM ::
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Saturday, January 08, 2005
Republic Of Gilead Is For Lovers

So, in Virginia there's a new law coming up for discussion in the state legislature. The law, if passed, would require all women to report fetal death within twelve hours of occurance, and incur a prison sentence of up to a year and/or a fine of $2,500 if they fail to do so. It doesn't matter how far along you are -- or aren't. It could be a third-trimester back-alley abortion or an eighth-week miscarriage; the law remains the same. All "products of conception" must be reported to the police if pregnancy fails to reach completion.

I cannot express my disgust and outrage. This law would treat a woman mourning the loss of her pregnancy at the same punitive level as arson and statutory rape (all "Class 1 misdemeanors"). It demands that women spend their first hours after a miscarriage being questioned by police, offending their own privacy rights, or risk punishment under the law for something they neither wanted nor caused.

My assumption is that this is a bold new gesture in the battle over women's reproductive rights, an attempt to criminalize abortion not only on the part of the doctor but also on the part of the mother, and to recognize fetus, embryo, and zygote alike as human beings before the law. All I can say is, if we allow laws like this to pass -- in Virginia or anywhere else -- all we will get for our trouble is more dead and maimed women and teeming masses of unloved, unwanted children.

I'm sick to fucking death of these "pro-life" (read: pro-forced-birth and fuck the rest) theocrats who decry abortion while absolutely, resolutely refusing to recognize or address their own role in the problem. They fight against effective birth control, they fight against useful sex education, they support legislation that makes life impossible for poor and single mothers while opposing any program that might support them, and then, having forced women into an impossible and deeply unjust situation, they criminalize the last desperate choice open to them.

Backwards, self-righteous, filthy hypocrites, each and every one of them.
1:03 AM ::
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Friday, January 07, 2005
My Imminent Departure




The weirdest part of any trip is the bit just before you leave. In a matter of mere days, I'm leaving Memphis and returning to my old college in Vermont, almost exactly ten years after I first made the trip. My mother and my grandfather drove me and my then-boyfriend up; the region was experiencing its annual indian summer, and the whole southern end of the state was so thickly blanketed with fog that I didn't get my first good look at my new home for two days.

I've been telling myself that this move is "six months away" for so long (seven months at least) that it has somewhat taken me by surprise that this weekend is my last in Memphis. My psyche always presents me with a few days of anxiety and trepidation before these moves -- before Anchorage, before London, before coming back from London, before LA -- and by now I've gotten very good at just taking the necessary plunge. But it's strange that as many time as I've done this, it's always there. You'd think I'd have gotten used to it by now.

I've still got a lot of organizing and cleaning and packing to do; I'm behind where I theoretically should be, but not behind what I know my actual, real-world schedule is. (I won't do my last packing until the morning I set off; I never do.) Then I've got a three-day drive, and then I will attempt to settle in on a campus with many memories, where I don't know anyone, and where everyone is either considerably older or younger than I am.

Once I get there and get my situation in order, this blog will continue as it has -- my eventual posting patterns may change, but the blog won't go anywhere. Unless, of course, Alberto Gonzales comes and tosses me in Gitmo for writing that he sucks monkey cocks. Which he does.
9:47 PM ::
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US Troops John Kerry

Have you ever wondered how American soldiers deployed in a foreign war would respond to someone who "hates" them?

They cheer and ask for autographs.

Kerry, who repeatedly charged during the presidential campaign that President Bush had botched the war effort, was greeted warmly by U.S. soldiers in Baghdad.

(...)

U.S. soldiers approached Kerry inside the restaurant of the Rashid Hotel, asking him to pose for photographs and sign T-shirts. The star-struck restaurant manager insisted on serving Kerry the restaurant's specialty, a plate of grilled chicken and lamb.

Later in the day, Kerry met with about 20 soldiers based in his home state, including reservists from the 356th Engineer Detachment and 126th Aviation Company of the Massachusetts Army National Guard at Camp Victory, where soldiers are bivouacked in luxury villas once inhabited by Saddam Hussein and his loyalists.

"They all joked about how living conditions had changed since Sen. Kerry was in Vietnam," said David Wade, the senator's communications director.

(...)

The senator said he was more interested in asking questions of soldiers, U.S. officials, Iraqis and even the journalists themselves instead of rehashing the political battles of the past campaign season.

But in several instances, Kerry attacked what he called the "horrendous judgments" and "unbelievable blunders" of the Bush administration. The mistakes, he said, included former U.S. occupation leader Paul Bremer's decisions to disband the Iraqi army and purge the government of former members of Hussein's Baath Party. Both moves are widely believed to have fueled the largely Sunni insurgency.

(source)

Kerry is visiting troops in Baghdad, Fallujah and Mosul. Note that I said IN those cities: not near them, not from them, but in them. When's the last time Bush set foot in Iraq again? Surely it couldn't be as long ago as the turkey incident? And rather than condescendingly dismissing their plight, he's asking questions and actually listening to their answers.

The wrong man is in the White House, and the shame of that is on the shoulders of those who voted for him.
2:17 PM ::
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Alberto Gonzales Sucks Monkey Cocks

Some readers are probably not going to like my choice of words; it has been noted before that I sometimes tend to have a salty tongue. But by god, it needs to be said: Gonzales truly does suck big hairy slimy monkey cocks. This, after all, is the architect of Guantanamo Bay and the brains behind Abu Ghraib. And guess what? Bush is currently hoping to make him the next US Attourney General.

In my judgment, this new paradigm [the war on terror] renders obsolete Geneva's [i.e., the Geneva Convention's] strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions.

January 25, 2002

Not torturing people = "quaint". Feel good about having him in charge of the US legal system?

Trust Bush to find a nominee that would make freedom-loving people nostalgic for the days of John Ashcroft. At least he contented himself with merely burning books; Gonzales is after our ears and genitals.

Is this the America you want to live in? One where torturers-by-proxy are in charge of the legal system? What kind of administration even makes this a reasonable question to ask?

PS: Also, it must be pointed out that if Gonzales is confirmed, he'll be the A.G. deciding the fate of a number of military torture allegations and investigations. Given that he was one of the primary influences on our current torture policy, wouldn't this constitute, you know, a pretty fucking massive conflict of interest? And as if that's not enough, Gonzales profited handsomely from the Enron scandal; as the new A.G., could we trust him to deal impartially with both Enron and other corporate scandals? I think not.

The Bush administration: waging constant war on truth and justice.
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Thursday, January 06, 2005
I Can't Believe It's Not Vietnam!

Wanna know why this war is going so badly?

An Iraqi civilian has testified that US soldiers forced him and his cousin to jump into the River Tigris and laughed as his relative was swept to his death.

"He was calling my name, said: 'Help me! Help me!'" Marwan Fadel Hassoun told a military trial in Texas.

Army Sgt Tracy Perkins, 33, is on trial for an array of charges including involuntary manslaughter.

Three other soldiers have also been charged over the incident in the city of Samarra on 3 January 2004.

Mr Fadel said he and his cousin were transporting plumbing supplies from Baghdad to the city when they were approached by US troops when their truck broke down a few minutes before a 2300 curfew.

He said they were forced to the river at gunpoint.

"We started to beg them not to throw us in the water," he said through a translator.

"We said in English, 'Please, please', but it was in vain.

"The soldiers had their rifles aimed at us. They were laughing."

(source)

Yeah, mocking civilians as they die is a brillant strategy to win hearts and minds.

FOX News says the insurgents are fighting their "liberators" because they envy our freedom and our way of life. I wonder if they've considered the possibility that they're fighting us because we keep slaughtering people they love?

And then there's this:

WASHINGTON, Jan. 5 - The Army Reserve is unable to meet its missions in Iraq and Afghanistan because of "dysfunctional" personnel policies that senior Army and Pentagon officials have refused to change, its top general has told senior Army leaders.

(...)

"The purpose of this memorandum is to inform you of the Army Reserve's inability - under current policies, procedures, and practices governing mobilization, training, and reserve component manpower management - to meet mission requirements associated with Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom and to reset and regenerate its forces for follow-on and future missions," it said, referring to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

While that alone "is of great importance," it added, the Reserves also are "in grave danger of being unable to meet other operational requirements," including those specified in other emergency plans in the United States and abroad.

The Reserves, General Helmly said, are "rapidly degenerating into a 'broken' force."

(NYT)
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Wednesday, January 05, 2005
Not Everything The Japanese Do Is Great

I went with a friend to see The Life Aquatic this afternoon; it was pretty good. Maybe not quite The Royal Tenenbaums good -- I saw that one with an ideal audience, one that got all the jokes, which really made it a great cinematic experience -- but pretty damn good. I especially admire the use of a less-than-gorgeous cast... Bill Murray really shouldn't be going shirtless by Hollywood standards, but here he does it anyway, and it's exactly the right thing to do. It's a worthy film, and I highly recommend it.

But I found the trailers particularly interesting this time. I saw a teaser for the upcoming Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy re-make (if a feature film version a dodgy BBC series can be considered a "re-make"). It didn't give much away, and contained no actual footage from the film; it was more an exercise in tone. It was very slick, all CGI, and it looks pretty high-budget for what is essentially a British production. It was simultaneously exciting and slightly distressing... it's looking very cool, but there was always a Dr Who-ish B-grade quality built into the book, and will that really mesh with a slick presentation? As Mat would say, please don't suck, please don't suck, please don't suck...

And then there was a trailer for an upcoming horror/suspense film called Dark Water. This, I know, is another re-make of a Japanese film (apparently directed by the same guy who did Ringu), but it smacked for all the world of an old film-school bar bet fulfilled:

Film student 1: I can make a horror flick out of anything.
Film student 2: Oh yeah?
FS 1: Yeah.
FS 2: Wanna bet?
FS 1: Name it.
FS 2: Okay... I bet you $50 you can't make a horror film out of... a dripping faucet!


FS 1: Shit.

Fifteen years later, Dark Water appears on our screens. You have to admit, my theory makes more sense than the idea that someone spontaneously decided that leaky plumbing could be really scary if, you know, the water was black and everything was dark and there was a cute little girl involved.

Don't get me wrong, it's entirely possible that this film could be really cool; I thought Ringu was a little over-hyped, but not bad considering the premise revolved around a possessed video tape. And I'm sure that in Japanese culture water has some meaning that adds to the gravity of an ominously spreading water stain on the ceiling. I'm just saying, this flick smells like dog from here.
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Monday, January 03, 2005
It's All In The Subtext

So, I was just sitting here minding my own business, when I overheard a piece on FOX "Wholly Without Merit" News about a school that has created a peanut-eating zone in their cafeteria in an effort to protect one child with a lethal peanut allergy. The tone of the piece was dismissive, even derisive -- sort of a "what will these crazy liberals come up with next?" kind of thing, classic FOX News stuff.

And you know what? Yeah, fuck that kid. If he didn't want to risk dying of asphyxiation in the school cafeteria -- writhing on the floor, turning blue, gasping for air and making gurgly choking sounds, gouging desperately at his throat and pleading for help while all his nose-pickin' little Republican peers watch and laugh and stick peanuts up his nose -- he shouldn't have been born with a severe allergy, that motherfucking little pussy. Why should his parents' desire to see him survive elementary school create a minor inconvenience for all these other kids? Why should the potential for his brutal, painful death cause even the slightest, most unnoticeable decrease in everyone else's "joy" (FOX News' word) in eating peanuts and peanut butter at the table of their choice? Why do liberals always want to ruin stuff for everyone else? Huh? Why?

Fuck that kid, if he chooses the peanut-allergic lifestyle, then death is just the risk he takes.

PS: We're "pro-life". (Unless you have a peanut allergy, in which case we don't give a shit.)
6:56 PM ::
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Sunday, January 02, 2005
One Last Thing About 2004

... and then we'll forget it forever. 'Cause nobody can put it any better than Ben Tripp.

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The Power of Positive Posting

A new year calls for at least one hopeful post before I get back to our regularly-scheduled bitchy snark. People have said a few times that my blog is "too negative"... which, I mean, yeah, that's a big part of the point. This blog is a catharsis for me; in my daily life I am (I feel justified in saying) resolutely optimistic and cheerful, easygoing, relaxed, et cetera. But being human, I've got my share of negativity, which comes out in two ways: sick jokes and rants on this blog.

But okay, fair enough... a little positivity isn't an unfair request. And really, I'm feeling pretty hopeful about the coming year. Most of the people I know have had to deal with a lot of heaviness and darkness over the last few years -- lost jobs, lost loves, sickness, death, poverty, and the constant, low-level grind of living in this society at this point in history -- but eventually, this too must pass. I'm not expecting explosive improvements this year; but I am looking forward to some progress, a general lifting of the gloom to make way for dramatic progress later on.

Now... time to share.

My New Year's Eve festivities generally center on reflection rather than drinking; I have my little assortment of things I do to facilitate quiet thought. The idea is to spend the last hour of the year looking back, and the first hour of the new year casting my hopes forward. I find it much more rewarding than getting smashed (although a glass of something that sparkles is always a welcome addition.) I don't exactly make "resolutions." I think the whole idea of resolving to do this or that is self-defeating; change is a process, not an act. I've found over the last few years that if I simply express and record my hopes for the coming year -- by which I mean my intentions regarding those things I actually have power over -- most often I can come back the next year to find that they've mostly taken care of themselves. Case in point, my hopes/intentions for 2004:

1) To recover some of my French (which I managed, clearing a vocabulary of roughly 2500 words, although I've forgotten a lot of them by now.)

2) To improve my diet (which I also managed, although god knows there's always room for more improvement.)

3) To work on moving to Montreal (I'm giving myself credit for this one... I'm not moving to Montreal specifically, but in a couple of weeks I'll be moving within a few hours drive of it; close enough.)

4) To make a film of my own (this is the one I screwed up on.)

Three out of four isn't too bad. I expect it's better than most people manage, and not a bad year's accomplishment, in its simple little way.

Other good things that happened that I didn't ask for:

I made a few new friends, good friends, valuable friends -- Dave, Diana, a bunch of Co-op folks -- and re-discovered some others (hi Shaw).

I found a way out of the sucking vortex of apathy and inertia that is Memphis, Tennessee.

And although I didn't manage to direct my own film yet, I did a bunch of film work this year -- I had major roles in the crews of three features, even if none of 'em are the ones going to Sundance this year.

So what am I hoping for in 2005?

1) To focus on finishing old business, laying a foundation for new possibilities.

2) To continue developing a new way to live my life.

3) To do a phenomenal job on my upcoming academic work.

4) To get to a place where I feel more confident and self-assured.

5) To make a film of my own (hey, the only failure is in giving up.)

So I guess we'll see what happens with all that, eh?

And I'd love to hear everyone else's hopes for the year... I've shown you mine, now you show me yours.
1:26 AM ::
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