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Apparently, today marked only the first time in nearly five years that the temperature was in the single digits for two days in a row. We're not supposed to get into the double-digits until the weekend, so I wonder how far back that record is? The most insane part about this weather is that one week ago it was literally 60 degrees out. Tonight, the wind chill is minus 30 and the actual temp is minus 10 (fahrenheit). My skin is cracked and my fingers are hating me, but I must admit that all the shoveling is making for good workouts. I've also made it my goal to jog to and from work each day, which is a little bit more exercise but also much more dangerous when the sidewalks are iced over. Tonight, I wiped out on the way home and managed to escape with no really bumps, but when I got home and opened my trusty CD case, I noticed that no less than 4 jewel cases had been broken by the slam. So sad...

The puppies absolutely hate the cold, although they really want to love the snow (which they usually have fun playing in). With the temps as they have been, they want to spend a very minimal amount of time outside, though, and laps are the favorite spot during the evenings after a daily helping of fetch.

Play time

Ha! Well, we got about a foot of snow in the past day and both the public schools and the University were closed today (resulting in a day off for TG and I). Between our house and my grandmothers, I think I spent about 3 hours of the day scooping snow and watching it drift over again. Alas, I think I have won the battle, and I was surprised to see the mailman delivering (only about an hour behind, despite getting his truck stuck several times). Three cheers for the US Postal Service. I've heard some people dog on them, but I've honestly never had any problems, and I've mailed a lot of stuff.

Wow. Tangents. I'm now sitting in my new office chair that was a Christmas gift from my mom and stepfather and I must say that it's just the thing for a person who usually steps out of the office with an aching butt from sitting on a wooden chair for too long. It's a bit cool in here, but the new chair is comfy and I have a sleeping puppy on my lap so all is well.

Left the house for the second time in a week last night to go see Elephant with tons of people that we knew. Before the feature film, a short called Marie Madeleine played, and despite being a bit style over substance, it was a mostly-enjoyable 20 minutes of expressive filmmaking. The main feature was the newest film from Gus Van Sant, so I knew that it could be a stinker despite getting a great reception at last years Cannes film festival. Even though it only ran about 80 minutes long, it unfortunately felt way too long. It was again style over substance, and although I could see many of the points that Van Sant was trying to make, I just don't feel that the film was successful doing so.

First off, the film is a very loose re-creation/examination on high-school violence, styled closely after the Columbine shooting. The film itself is shot in a way that the camera follows (cinema-verite vs first-person shooter) around roughly 15 students during the course of a couple days. Some students are given more backstory, while others are barely touched-on. The conversation is real (really vapid, mostly), and when it finally gets to the end, the killers pick everyone off with little regard. In doing all of the above, it seemed like maybe the point was to make the viewer feel like they were part of this huge, uncaring beehive of activity, and that in the end it really didn't matter who you knew or not, because it could happen to anyone. The tension built in doing this was palatable, and while the payoff was disturbing, the ending of the film felt far too abrupt and there just wasn't enough connection with any of the characters to really feel too much.

I might be wrong, but having watched Columbine unfold live (via web video), I know that only 5 or 10 minutes of that was 10 times more powerful and disturbing. Perhaps it's me that's become jaded, as there have been several other high-profile school shootings since Columbine, and several others thwarted. In the end, I felt that Elephant had some great ideas, but it just didn't pull them off well enough to really involve me as a viewer. It seemed to focus on the wrong things ocassionally, and when it did, drew attention away from the more effective parts of the film.

On a completely unrelated note, it is snowing here a lot tonight. We're currently in the middle of a winter storm warning, and it says we're supposed to get anywhere from 5-8 inches of snow (with wind). I think it was just a week ago (when the weather was about 50 degrees) that I told someone that I was hoping we'd get at least one more decent-sized snow. Apparently, my wish is now being granted.

This last week was one of those spans of time where I felt like the black turtlneck wearing jackass who has nothing good to say about anyone. I was down on humanity in general, jaded with the world, and spitting venom at whomever I felt deserved my wrath. Heck, I was even having a whole lot of fun doing that. Although I usually try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt and try to keep my faith in humanity, there were just too many instances this week that just made me want to rip people down a few notches and then give them a swift kick in the kneecaps for good measure.

Then, the long weekend arrived and all those feelings were burnt away in a 72 hour span of remodeling and social situations. TG and I tore all the old, ugly wallpaper out of the kitchen and gave it a fresh coat of paint, resulting in a much more airy and light kitchen that makes it a little easier to stomach that we don't have the money for a full remodel right now. In addition, I also got a bunch of work done in the bedroom, and there's definitely an end in sight. After much sweating and swearing over the woodwork (have you ever tried sanding and staining pine that has been painted for 80 years?), we finally just decided to paint it white again and roll, and that decision was one that I now feel comfortable with.

Even though we were inside doing housework for a good part of the weekend, it was also one of the most social periods I've had in some time. We went out to see a movie (Big Fish, by the way, is quite good), and hung out with friends). Even had band practice for a short time this afternoon and a new song is rolling out of the gates and rumbling down the path to being one of my new favorites. Top it all off with a couple new CDs and it was a very nice couple of days. I'm not in love with the world again quite yet, but definitely a larger part of it (at least until it pisses me off again).

Five years ago, I was a movie-going machine. My friend Andrew and I would hit the theater at least once a week to see flicks. We saw movies that were knew were going to be good, and we saw movies that we knew were going to be bad (but thought we'd get some redemption from schlock value). In the past year, I've only been out to see movies about 5 times, and for some reason I don't feel like I missed much. I still read a lot about films and run across things that look interesting to me, but my attention span for film has grown so that I no longer have to see films on opening weekend to feel validated (whatever that means). I was talking about this with TG and I think the main reason is that I feel so comfortable in the house here. Instead of wanting to go out to the theater and deal with the uncertainty of crowds (which have ruined several good films in the past for me), I simply find it much more comforting to wait a couple months and rent something on DVD and stay at home with TG and the puppies and lay on the floor or sit on the comfortable couch (don't even get me started about the legroom in some theaters). Having said that, there are some films playing right now that will probably pull on me enough that I will leave the safe confines of the abode at some point.

Along the same lines, TG and I have been catching up on some films lately that had sat on the DVD pile unwatched since getting them. One of these was Winged Migration, which TG bought me for Christmas. It was a great film, and if an argument can be made about watching films at home, it is with a film like this and the fact that it's just not as magnificent on the small screen as compared to watching it at the cinema. It was still an astounding film, though, and if I could make an argument for watching it on DVD instead, it would simply relate to all the special features on the DVD that talk about how the film was made. Amazing stuff that is almost as interesting as the film itself.

In addition to that film, we also recently watched White and Red of the Three Colors Trilogy by Krzysztof Kieslowski. I'd purchased this boxset of films sight unseen on DVD at the recommendation of TG and several others, so I was very excited to sit down and finally start watching this very loosly connected series of films. After all of the praise that I've read, I have to say that the films very nearly live up to all of it. Out of the first two that we watched, White has a slight edge, simply because I enjoyed the story more, but both films were amazing in terms of cinematography and performances. Amazing moments in each, and little touches that really make them unique without being obviously clever. Highly recommended, especially since you can pick up all three great films (I'm assuming Blue is as well) for only 30 dollars. There's a ton of bonus material on each disc as well, but I'm sure it will take me awhile to plow through everything.

Well, one of the things I do every year is post the list of books that I've read in the past year. This year was exceptionally bad in terms of the amount of books that I read, probably the least amount since I've gotten out of college. The list doesn't include several books that I've started, but haven't yet finished. A meager 9 books and just over 2250 pages read. Looking through the list, one of the more interesting things that I notice is that three-quarters of the books I read were either collections of short stories or essays. Due to a fragmented schedule, I think that reading shorter pieces of writing was a little easier on me than trying to finish up larger pieces of work. I haven't made any formal resolutions for the year yet, but I know that one of them will already be to read more...

If you have a young pet, you know how hard it is to take a picture of them holding still. TG got this great shot of Elsa with a case of the BT crazies.

running the BT500

Ah, it's the Two-zero-zero-four. Where did those last two weeks go? I think it had something to do with lots of family time for the holidays, as well as my younger brother getting married (congratulations Dan and Shannon), house remodeling, working on music, putting together other various little projects, and generally trying to relax a little bit for once. The long break is winding to a conclusion already and there are still things that I want to get done. Seems to be the reoccuring story around here.

I've officially been doing this section for 2 years now, and the last two months were the least amounts that I'd posted since I started trying to do a daily section. If one wanted to, they could probably read into that and say that this section is headed towards a collapse, but I don't think that's the case. Although I originally conceived the section as a place to write daily thoughts, I've never tried to force myself to sit down and write something here every single day. If I have the time, as well as something to say, then I usually try to spit out something, but real life has often thrown a wrench in my plans for doing that.

With that, I want to wish everyone a happy new year. This last one was a whirlwind for me personally, and 2004 looks to be just as busy, with lots of things already on the horizon. In simple terms, I'm excited for the future.

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