Friday, February 24, 2006

Today

“Are you going to the Neo-Nazi rally downtown tomorrow?” Tom asks as we cruise around East Colonial looking for a place to eat. Two thoughts enter my mind at this moment. One, this is the first time in my life I’ve ever been asked this question and, two, just how matter-of-fact Tom asked, as in, “are you going to the beach tomorrow?”

“Do you know if they’ll have any good floats or food stalls?” I respond just as matter-of-factly. “Because I do enjoy those types of things.”

“Why are they coming to Orlando, anyway?” he asks. "It's such a nothing town."

“Maybe they want to take in Disney World and thought they’d kill two birds with one stone.”

”Where do you think they stay?” he asks.

That’s a good question. As odd as it sounds, I’m a bit curious about it myself.

“I mean do they stay at the Hilton or Holiday Inn,” Tom muses, “or do they slum it at one of those flea-traps? How do they plan these things?”

We pull into the Beefy King lot, a local non-veggie favorite of ours.

“I’m throwing a sort of bachelor party for my buddy, Albert, tomorrow," he says, "and we were planning on going out downtown. I got all these shirts made up with Albert’s face behind bars on the front like he’s in prison, and something on the back saying that it’s his last night of freedom. It’s supposed to be kind of funny. And, well, my concern is that Albert’s black and I don’t want to have this party downtown if all these Neo-Nazi’s are gonna be down there. I mean, do you think they’re going to go bar hopping after the rally or something? What do Neo-Nazi’s do when they visit a new city?

I haven’t made any Neo-Nazi acquaintances in my lifetime and I don’t have the answers to any of these questions. But they are good questions. I realize the seriousness of this whole issue of the Neo-Nazi’s, but I can’t help but laugh at how ironical it would be to run into a group of skinhead Nazi’s while you’re wearing a silly shirt with a picture of a black guy on it.

Back at the office I find myself browsing the Orlando Library’s on-line catalog for the Erich Segal book, “The Class.” There really is no reason for me to be doing this as I’ve already got 7 books out from the library in addition to the two dozen I’ve purchased over the past couple of months and have yet to read and am currently in the middle of reading Douglas Coupland’s, “Hey, Nostradamus.” But I did a Google search earlier in the day on Java classes and a link popped up for "The Class." A former girlfriend read this book while we were dating in college and she really liked it. I remember sitting on the floor of her dormroom one afternoon reading the latest “Calvin and Hobbes” book while she read “The Class.” Looking back I think that moment said something about what direction we were each headed intellectually.

So I remembered this incident and searched the book on Amazon and they had one of those “click to look inside the book!” links and so I clicked and began reading the first couple of pages and before I knew it I was on page 23 and I was thinking, “what the hell, is this whole damn book on line?” and that’s when I stopped. So I went to the Orange County Library website to see if I could order the book for home delivery because the library here does that type of thing, and they had it and I ordered it.

But as the afternoon wore on I got to thinking about the book more and more and how much I was really enjoying reading it and I didn’t want to wait a couple of weeks for it to be delivered and decided to stop by the library on the way home from work. And of course this made no sense because of all the other books I have out and the one I’m currently reading. I wouldn’t even have a chance to read this new book for at least another week by which point it would probably already be delivered to my home. But at 5 o’clock I left the office and drove over to the library and found the book. And while I was there I got to thinking about this other book I once ordered, Patricia Highsmith’s “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” which took 11 weeks and I never actually did get it, just some card in the mail that said something like, “Sorry we couldn’t find this book for you.” I went over to the shelves marked "H" just to see if I could find it and it took all of 20 seconds before I saw it blatantly staring up at me. I wondered how “they” couldn’t find it in 11 weeks. Of course I had to take that book as well just on principle and so now I was checking out two books I couldn’t possibly read in the near future.

I’m finally making my way home when Sera calls and says I have no food in the refrigerator and she’s already eaten so if I’m planning on eating dinner tonight I’d better stop by the store and pick up something. I swing over to Winn Dixie, a supermarket chain here in Florida that I really hate. Being from the North I associate the word “Dixie” with “redneck” and “incest” and always find myself moaning in there because of how slow and unorganized everything is in that place, and of course I attribute that to their being incestuous rednecks. I pick up a packet of frozen chicken wings because they’re quick and easy to cook and I like them. With just the one item I’m thinking I can get out of this store real fast and back on the road home. I head over to the express line for five items or less but the Mexican couple ahead of me want to do a Western Union money order. This always takes a long time as there’s a lot of paperwork to fill out and on top of that the Mexican guy doesn’t speak English well and the guy behind the counter is having trouble understanding him. I move over to the next line which only has a couple of people on it but the old woman at the register is pushing 90 and is having trouble working the scanner and is asking for help on the intercom. I move over once again to the next line but as I do the guy turns the light out over the conveyor belt and says, “Sorry, I’m closed.” I turn to go back to the line with the old lady but now more people have jumped ahead of where I should have been standing. By this point I’m extremely frustrated I’m castigating myself for having done such a stupid thing like go to the Winn Dixie in the first place. So I go over to the baby aisle and carefully slip the frozen chicken wing pack in between some diapers and baby food because I don’t feel like going all the way to the back of the store where the frozen food section is and also because I’m thinking, “hey, they deserve to lose some money and be inconvenienced by the shoddy way they run this place.” And as I’m walking out I’m also rationalizing in my head that if enough aggravated customers do this maybe the store will finally get the idea and do something about it.

I drive over to a local Chinese restaurant for some take-out and it’s mobbed in there as well. I feel I don’t have a choice so I stand in line and eventually get to order my meal. There’s nowhere to sit and wait as the place is packed so I stand along the wall and begin reading “The Class.” There are lots of screaming babies running around and kids making all sorts of noise and Spanish families yapping in a language I mostly don’t understand. I’m sure they’re not paying attention to me but I think how strange it must look to see some guy standing by himself against the wall amidst all this chaos reading an Erich Segal novel.

Eventually a seat opens up and I take it and sit down and continue reading the book. The Chinese woman behind the counter is screaming out people’s food orders and I keep a close ear in case she calls mine. I really start getting into this book which disturbs me because I’m also really into “Hey, Nostradamus” and I want to finish that one as well. And now the woman is screaming out long strings of numbers and there’s a lot of confusion about whose order belongs to whom. I pull out my receipt to look for any group of numbers that might remotely sound like the one’s she’s screaming about but it only has my total and the store number. So now I’m wondering if she’s throwing my food away or giving it to someone else. I get to chapter 4 when I finally recognize my food order bellowing through the restaurant. I grab it and head back in my car and as I start the ignition and turn on the Coldplay tape that I’ve been listening to a question suddenly pops into my mind. “Where do the Neo-Nazi’s stay when they come to town?”

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Rock Star Energy

The cafeteria at work has a large barrel filled with ice and various Energy drinks by the check out register. I always laugh when I see this. I thought Energy Drinks were meant for hard workouts or outdoor physical activity--something to replenish those electrolytes. I can't see myself getting a boost of adrenaline so I can go back to my cubicle and stare at my computer screen for another few hours. Maybe I can really play games with my body and snack on some Power Bars as well--another supplement offered for sale.

But there is one Energy drink in particular that really gets me. It's called Rock Star. This brand would seem more appropriately targeted at delusional long-haired high school kids than corporate yuppies. "I'm gonna drink up some Rock Star. Yeah, baby!" And even funnier is the new Diet Rock Star Energy they introduced this week. That's for when you'd rather act like Simon & Garfunkel than Nirvana.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Blogging

So what is this blogging thing anyway? Is it just some vainglorious attempt for the average anonymo to get people to pay attention? Is it a diary of most private thoughts for the whole world to see? Maybe it's a combination of all of these.

I never could keep a journal. I've tried but it never worked out. Fortunately I have a mostly perfect memory and can recall more than I'd care to remember.

Funny how I even found out about this whole blogging thing. My boss wanted to go to Rachel's for lunch. I mostly go for their lip-smacking buffets rather than the plastic lip-smackers that work there, and so tried to Google their food menu. Not surprisingly I couldn't find it. But I did stumble on the blog of a former employee of the place. I began reading it when I got home and found myself addicted. I checked out a few other blogs to see if they were equal in intelligensia and sordidness. Unfortunately I found out that most are either gibberish or not in English. So I've limited myself to the number of blogs I visit to a handful. And one of them has seemingly disappeared from cyberspace.

But in the end it's nice to chat from time to time with interesting people from the globe over who share similar thoughts. I think that's what it's all about.

Monday, February 20, 2006

A New Direction

My book has taken a new direction. It reads better, it's more interesting and it's more fun to write. I have to thank Henry over at Ash Tree for his helpful advice.

Funny how advice like that works. A few years back I was getting tons of reject slips for travel stories and articles. Despite having read a few good writing books I just couldn't get it. Then I took a writing course(the one I had in college was crap) on-line. I was a bit skeptical about this but figured it should be better than nothing. I was told to cut down on the adverbs and adjectives. My next submitted piece to a magazine was published. Despite having read in books to cut down on adjectives and having agreed with it, I was still over using them without realizing it. The same was true with my book. I knew there was something missing but couldn't quite put my finger on it. Henry took a look and pointed out the obvious--something I quite obviously knew about but couldn't see. Now my story is progressing and it's more enjoyable to write. I feel so much better about it.

My website is coming along nicely too. I can't wait to get the new beta version up soon. The current version looks so antiquated it's almost embarrassing. It should be up in a couple of weeks. I've been so productive lately. My job gets in the way, though. If I didn't have to spend 40 hours a week here(plus more for commuting and the tiredness factor when I get home) I could get so much more done.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Lost

Sera and I have been getting into the TV series "Lost" lately. We rented the entire first season from Blockbuster and watched them all in the past 2 weeks. The show reminds me of the game "Myst." And since the 2nd season isn't available to rent we've been downloading them from ipod on-line. But people are telling me the 2nd season isn't good--it's too bizarre. We've only watched the first 5 episodes and so far we're really into it.

I've been working on an idea for my 2nd novel for some time now. It's fiction. The show "Lost" has helped me on my idea and I think I've got the story down. But I need to finish my first book. I always have the problem of trying to jump on to the next project before finishing my current one. And I end up with a bunch of incomplete projects. So I need to stay focused.

I really enjoy reading books by Jon Evans. I feel like our lives parallel one another to a degree, only he's much more advanced. He's a computer programmer/world traveller-backpacker/writer. He's published 2 novels and is far more advanced in programming than I am. He's also backpacked to more countries than I have. He wrote on his website that his third novel is finished and he's working on a 4th. And he's done all this in the past 4 years. This makes me feel like a total slacker. I'm still working on my first book. I'm hoping this is the motivation to get me really going on this. I've got to get this done. I feel really determined now. The problem, of course, is that I'm at work right now. I get this excited, motivational feeling a lot at work. Then by the time I get home I'm too tired to work on it. But I've got to stop making excuses and get going. I'm happy that I picked it up again this weekend.

I WILL GET THIS BOOK DONE SOON.

And on a more humorous note: I spoke to Gina last week. She found my blog and read my stories about her. We didn't have much time to talk so I didn't get her opinions on them. I'm glad she wasn't upset about my using her real name (though I changed her stage name). I couldn't change it because I really love the name "Gina." Gina is the cover girl for the 2006 Rachel's calendar. But the Rachel's website still has the 2005 calendar posted. I'd love to get a link to the new one to get her picture on here.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Capote

Saw "Capote" on Saturday. It's a film I've been wanting to see for a few months, but living on the fringes of the real world here in Orlando it was an impossibility. Films like this don't make it to fantasyland. But now that it's received several Oscar nods Orlando has deemed it worthy enough to show.

I can see why Philip Seymour Hoffman was nominated for Best Actor. I've always been a fan of his. His protean skills range from effiminate Scotty in "Boogie Nights" to my favorite role of his, the pompous pseudo-intellect Freddie in "The Talented Mr. Ripley." He was thoroughly convincing as the flamboyant egocentric Capote.

The film was a bit slow at points and I wished they went into the Clutter murders a bit more. I'm sure the directors didn't want to recreate "In Cold Blood" as the story deals more with Truman than the killers, but it would have made a more startling climax to the film. I get obsessed with heinous crimes such as this one, and I've researched the Clutters and the killers for several years. I'd love to ride out to Kansas some time to visit the scene.

I've started writing again. A friend came over Friday night to read over parts of my book, and she was impressed. I still feel that friends and family are biased, but who else is there for opinions? She convinced me that the story reads smoothly and quickly, and that it's easy to relate to. Maybe it will be decent, but it's certainly no Capote. But the important thing is that I'm back on it. Once again I'm hoping to work on it every day.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Books to Movies

I was thinking about the poor transition usually made from books to movies. Everyone knows that "the book is much better" than the film in most instances. I have friends who insist on reading the book first and then coming away disappointed with the film. I find it more satisfying to see the film first, then read the book. That way I can't complain how they changed this and that and I can at least enjoy the film.

But in rare instances I've found the movie to equal or surpass the book. I thought I'd mention a few of those:

"Out of Africa." I've only read the first half of the book, and so far it doesn't even resemble the film--other than the fact there's a woman running a tea plantation in Africa. The book is a collection of stories of Isak Dinesen's life on the farm. They're entertaining and extremely well written, but I've yet to come across a linear plot. The movie is wholly engrossing and emotional and beautifully filmed. Maybe something resembling the film will emerge in the second half of the novel, but I've yet to find it. So far I've enjoyed the film more so than the book, though it's unfair to compare the two.

"The English Patient." Okay, so I didn't actually read this one. Sera read it and struggled. She didn't enjoy it. We both enjoyed the film. But I've met others who didn't enjoy the novel as well.

"Out of Sight." Okay, another one Sera read and did not like. And though I pretty much despise JLo, I really enjoyed this film. In fact, it usually gets four stars from reviewers(Siskel and Ebert said it was the best film of the year that no one watched.) It's a great flick--non-linear, great score and very entertaining. George Clooney, Ving Rhames and Steve Zahn are excellent. Sera felt the book was flat and didn't enjoy the characters as much as she did in the film.

"Summer of '42." I love the book and the movie just as much. This is one of my all time favorite films. Memorable and funny coming of age story set to an emotional score. I read the book several years later and found it well written, hilarious and just as emotional. It even goes a bit further by explaining what happened to all the characters later in life.

"The 25th Hour." No surprise that the book and film are similar since the author, David Benioff, also wrote the film script. He pretty much kept it the same and it works.

There are certain films I love that are based on books I've never read, namely "The Graduate" and "Midnight Cowboy." "The Graduate" has been my favorite film for so long that I doubt I'll ever read the novel. I feel I'll only be disappointed. I need that Simon and Garfunkel soundtrack and the exceptional cinematography. That's why I doubt I'll ever see the stage version. As for "Midnight Cowboy," I've always wanted to read the book but it's out of print and I've never been able to find it.

Sometimes I see a truly awful film and am surprised to learn it was based on a novel. In those instances I'll read the novel thinking, "it must be good if they put forth the effort to make a movie out of this." I'm usually rewarded in these instances. Such was the case with "The Beach," the Leonardo DiCaprio film. I found the movie to be silly, pretentious and devoid of any form of intelligence. The book by Alex Garland is one of the best I've ever read.

There are also cases where the book and movie are good though they don't even resemble one another. I found this to be the case with "Midnight Express" and "Girl, Interrupted."

"Midnight Express" is the true story of American Billy Hayes' five years in a Turkish prison for drug smuggling. It's a good Oliver Stone film starring the late, great Brad Davis. But the movie is mostly fiction. Even Hayes has said that he couldn't see a resemblance to his story in the film, but still enjoyed it. The book is far more exciting and is a real page turner. Hayes' escape from prison is dramatic and will keep you on the edge of your seat. The moral of the movie seems to be, "don't go to Turkey." The moral of the book is "don't be stupid and smuggle drugs." Turkey is a beautiful and friendly country. Just don't commit a crime. I don't know why the film is so different, considering it's a true story, but it's still enjoyable.

"Girl, Interrupted" is a collection of stories from Susanna Kaysen's two years in a mental hospital in the 1960's. That is about the only resemblance there is to the film. I enjoyed the movie, but am not sure if I would have had I read the book first. In fact, while reading the book I couldn't understand how they even made a movie out of it. Perhaps that's why the movie is mostly fiction. In both these cases I enjoyed the book and the film. And in both cases both the book and the film are almost completely different stories.