General

Is Barack Obama Like Eli Manning?

Yesterday was Super Tuesday, and now that I?ve voted, I have some predictions for the Presidential Election. But before I get into that, I want to be up front about my last prediction.

About a year ago, back when Hilary and Obama weren?t really gathering too much steam either way and kind of splitting the Democratic party, I was pretty convinced?and went out on a limb saying so?that Al Gore was going to swoop in at the last minute, take the nomination in a thunderous move, and then win theYesterday was Super Tuesday, and now that I?ve voted, I have some predictions for the Presidential Election. But before I get into that, I want to be up front about my last prediction.

About a year ago, back when Hilary and Obama weren?t really gathering too much steam either way and kind of splitting the Democratic party, I was pretty convinced?and went out on a limb saying so?that Al Gore was going to swoop in at the last minute, take the nomination in a thunderous move, and then win the Presidential Election.

Well … so much for that prediction (although I do think that had he moved a little sooner, Gore could have done it).

I?m not as convinced of my next prediction as my last, but more and more I?m starting to get the feeling that the upcoming election could be very much like the Giant?s Super Bowl victory, with a young underdog team playing quick and tough with a big flourish at the end, to win it all. I think our next president will be … Barack Obama.

Here?s why.

I find it very unlikely that Mitt Romney is going to outlast John McCain. I just don?t see it. Doesn?t mean it can?t happen, but I?ll be surprised if it does. So let?s say McCain wins.

If it?s a McCain/Hilary election, I don?t think Hilary can win. They?re actually too similar ideologically?two old guards?and too many Republicans just hate her. Hate. Her. And I think that would galvanize the Republicans, and take the election.

But if it?s McCain/Obama … well … that?s something else. It would be like Nixon/Kennedy all over again. Obama?s a bad match-up for McCain. He?s young and agile, energetic. He?s fresh and new, and speaks with vigor and vitality that we haven?t seen in a long while.

Now, I?m not making a bold prediction here, and betting the farm on this scenario. But I think it could happen, and I think it?s more likely than I thought even a few weeks ago. Despite all this talk among the candidates about being agents of ?change,? I think America is actually ready for change. New leadership, a new voice.

Will Obama pull it off? I don?t know. And I don?t even know if he would be a good president. But he could very well be the Eli Manning of the 2008 election, and rise above early expectations, making the biggest plays when they matter most.

Post edited by: rcolchamiro, at: 2008/02/08 05:37

Post edited by: rcolchamiro, at: 2008/02/09 06:17

Super Bowl Wowser! The Greatest Play. Ever.

I?ve been a Jets fan my entire life?and seeing as how I?m creeping up on 37?that?s a lot of years to watch the Jets lose. They?ve never won–or even gone to–a Super Bowl in my lifetime. But still I watch.

And while I was never a rampant Giants hater, I didn?t root for them either. But yesterday–against the Patriots (and Jets enemy) you bet yer you-know-what I was rooting all game long for those Giants. And throughout a tight, exciting game, I kept thinking, [i]they really have a chance, bI?ve been a Jets fan my entire life?and seeing as how I?m creeping up on 37?that?s a lot of years to watch the Jets lose. They?ve never won–or even gone to–a Super Bowl in my lifetime. But still I watch.

And while I was never a rampant Giants hater, I didn?t root for them either. But yesterday–against the Patriots (and Jets enemy) you bet yer you-know-what I was rooting all game long for those Giants. And throughout a tight, exciting game, I kept thinking, [i]they really have a chance, but can they hold out?[/i]

And then, with just two minutes to go, Eli Manning, the Giants? quarterback, comes up with the play of plays. That play. Scrambling in the backfield with the Patriots literally all over him, he manages to break free of a near-certain sack, and slings the ball through the air. Amazing.

But just as amazing, David Tyree, the Giants wide receiver, leaps in the air, out-jumping the defense back, and grabs the ball, and then, [i]with just one hand[/i], traps it … [i]against the top of his helmet! [/i]… as he crashes to the ground, and by some miracle, manages to hang on.

Incredible. Just incredible.

This will go down as one of the greatest plays in Super Bowl history, one of the most thrilling moments in sports we?ll ever likely see. Games like this?and these once-in-a-decade moments?really bring out the joy of what great competition can look like. And what fun it is to be a part of it.

Post edited by: rcolchamiro, at: 2008/02/08 05:36

Post edited by: rcolchamiro, at: 2008/02/09 06:17

Philadelphia Freedom

Just a quick one today, but I wanted to say that after spending a day in Philadelphia this week?a work trip?I really kinda liked it. It has that old town element from our original cities, and it?s really starting to ramp up in its downtown life as well. It?s a fairly friendly city, easy to get around, and it?s close to New York and Baltimore/Washington, D.C.

When I went down there I didn?t have any real expectations of what I would see?I always considered Philly as nothing more than an afteJust a quick one today, but I wanted to say that after spending a day in Philadelphia this week?a work trip?I really kinda liked it. It has that old town element from our original cities, and it?s really starting to ramp up in its downtown life as well. It?s a fairly friendly city, easy to get around, and it?s close to New York and Baltimore/Washington, D.C.

When I went down there I didn?t have any real expectations of what I would see?I always considered Philly as nothing more than an afterthought?but now I have to say that I?m a fan of Philadelphia.

Granted, I didn?t see enough of the city to claim any intimate knowledge of it, but what I did see, I liked, and I want to go back, hopefully sooner rather than later.

How the Writer?s Strike Helps Me

Like any TV junkie, I?m a little bummed that the writer?s strike is keeping some of my favorite shows off the air. Selfishly speaking, however, there?s a big upside for me with this writer?s strike, so I?m more than happy to wait as long as it takes for them to negotiate this out.

At the heart of the issue is what to do about Web money. Meaning, if any TV/Movies, etc. are delivered online, how much should the writer?s get paid? They want their fair share, and the studios pretty much don?t Like any TV junkie, I?m a little bummed that the writer?s strike is keeping some of my favorite shows off the air. Selfishly speaking, however, there?s a big upside for me with this writer?s strike, so I?m more than happy to wait as long as it takes for them to negotiate this out.

At the heart of the issue is what to do about Web money. Meaning, if any TV/Movies, etc. are delivered online, how much should the writer?s get paid? They want their fair share, and the studios pretty much don?t want to pay anything, or if they do, just peanuts. They argue that the Web is too new to be able to accurately compute what amount of revenue programming will produce–and by extension, what writers should get–and are therefore not paying at all.

Essentially, the studios want to figure out how they can keep the biggest slice for themselves. The writers want the same.

Thing is, if all goes well for me writing-wise, as I expect it will, some day down the line?and hopefully sooner rather than later?my time will come to cash in. Finders Keepers has potential for many mediums, as do the various other projects I?ve got in the pipeline. By the time my projects are coming up for Web delivery, I want to be protected.

So however long this writer strike takes, it takes. I miss my TV, but there?s a real issue at stake here. Not only do I support my fellow writers?who deserve to be compensated fairly?but one day Ill be on the negotiating end of things, and the more the writers work out today, the better off I?ll be tomorrow.

Jet Ski Tinkering Improved Finders Keepers

While I?ve been pruning away on Finders Keepers, I wound up spending about two full days on a Jet Ski as I made my way to a distant shore.

That is to say, within the confines of the story.

There?s an establishing scene in Finders Keepers?one that leads up to something major?I?ve been working on, where Theo is in New Zealand, and wants to discuss something important with his brother. I had done my big read of the entire manuscript at this point, had made my notes by hand on the printed While I?ve been pruning away on Finders Keepers, I wound up spending about two full days on a Jet Ski as I made my way to a distant shore.

That is to say, within the confines of the story.

There?s an establishing scene in Finders Keepers?one that leads up to something major?I?ve been working on, where Theo is in New Zealand, and wants to discuss something important with his brother. I had done my big read of the entire manuscript at this point, had made my notes by hand on the printed pages, and was just inputting the changes in the file, but I still didn?t have the language quite right. So I tinkered a little, I tinkered a little more.

[i]Yep, that looks good, but …[/i]

[i]Nah, not quite right. [/i]

So I tinkered again, cut a few lines, added something new and … no.

On and on this went over two days, and for a short chapter–probably the shortest sequence in the entire book, only 500 words or so–it took me about 8 hours to get the language right. And then I read it through again, only to realize that there was still something missing, just a little phrase here, a wrong word there …

Well, I?m happy to say that I finally got it nailed down; I?m happy with the outcome. I think this seemingly transitional, but important scene took some real doing because I initially underestimated its significance. The big action comes after this scene, but it establishes where the characters are, and why it?s important they get there.

Even after all these reads of Finders Keepers I?m still finding little things to tweak. Now, I know that I could go on like this forever, always making tiny changes here and there, but this was something I just couldn?t let go. I thought it was going to take me 10 minutes, wound up taking 10 hours.

Sometimes it just goes that way … but it’s all worth it in the end.

Post edited by: rcolchamiro, at: 2008/02/15 13:40

Post edited by: rcolchamiro, at: 2008/02/18 18:13

The Movie Weekend

Every once in a while I just make a movie marathon out of my weekend. Well, this past weekend was one of those.

Liz and I kicked off the Saturday screenings with [i]There Will Be Blood.[/i] I went in with high hopes, and came out disappointed. There’s a very good movie in there, but they needed to cut 45 minutes from it scattered throughout. While some of it works really well, and Daniel Day-Lewis delivers huge–again–there are just too many stretches that are long and dull. Best movie ofEvery once in a while I just make a movie marathon out of my weekend. Well, this past weekend was one of those.

Liz and I kicked off the Saturday screenings with [i]There Will Be Blood.[/i] I went in with high hopes, and came out disappointed. There’s a very good movie in there, but they needed to cut 45 minutes from it scattered throughout. While some of it works really well, and Daniel Day-Lewis delivers huge–again–there are just too many stretches that are long and dull. Best movie of the year? Uh … no.

Sunday was a day at home, with movies on demand. My afternoon matinee was [i]Ratatouille[/i], which I liked. I didn’t love it, but it was fun. There wasn’t quite as much to the story as I thought there would be, but it was kind of a hoot watching a rat trying to be a gourmet chef in Paris. But even though it had the animated fluffy feel, it was hard to entirely overlook the fact that it was a rat–and sometimes an entire kitchen full of rats–doing the cooking. Thumbs up, but not quite a top 10.

Our Sunday night feature was [i]The Bourne Ultimatum,[/i] the last in the Bourne series. I was in the mood for a good rock ’em, sock ’em get the bad guys kinda flick, and this did the trick. I liked this one best out of the series, with some really intense action sequences. It slipped a little for me in the believability department, given that Bourne became almost indestructable, no matter what kind of beating he took, but it was action thrills across the board.

And for a Monday night capper, Liz and I watched the last three episodes of [i]Lost [/i]Season 3–including that incredible 2-part finale. Season 4 starts on Thursday, and we wanted to get back into it. I had forgotten just how good [i]Lost[/i] can be when it’s really grooving. Awesome.

So that was my movie weekend. I don’t know if I’ll have another any time soon, but it wasn’t a bad way to spend a few days at all.

Jamaican Surprise: My Exploding Eye Socket

Now that I think about it, for a trip that was absolutely great?and it was great?my Jamaican getaway had more than it?s share of bizarre moments. As I noted in my last blog, I had an inexplicable beach anxiety situation one morning, which I ultimately figured out.

But this little act of agony occurred before I even got to Jamaica. So there we were, Liz and I, on the plane, no more than 30 minutes before we were to touch down in Jamaica, when suddenly my left eye starts to feel … weird. AtNow that I think about it, for a trip that was absolutely great?and it was great?my Jamaican getaway had more than it?s share of bizarre moments. As I noted in my last blog, I had an inexplicable beach anxiety situation one morning, which I ultimately figured out.

But this little act of agony occurred before I even got to Jamaica. So there we were, Liz and I, on the plane, no more than 30 minutes before we were to touch down in Jamaica, when suddenly my left eye starts to feel … weird. At first I just chalked it up to a twitch, just one of those little spasms that seem to come and go every once a blue moon. (Well, the moon wasn?t blue, but the water sure was …).

But then it became clear that whatever was going on was more than just a twitch. It kinda itched, and it kinda ached a little. So I rubbed at the corner of my eye a few times, like scratching an itch. But then that wasn?t enough, either. Something else was going on. So I started putting pressure on the corner of my eye socket, which relieved the pain somewhat.

But the pain itself was starting to increase. It was getting more intense. So much so that it actually had me doubled over, with me instinctively putting more pressure on the outside of my eye socket.

At this point it?s like a pencil was actually inside my head trying to force its way out through the corner of my left eye, breaking right through my skull. When it occurred to me that I?d been fighting off the possible beginnings of a cold?I was a little stuffed up?and we were finally starting our descent, changing the air pressure in the plane. And thus wreaking havoc in my head.

Figuring out the cause of it relieved some of my anxiety?but none of the physical pain. I just kept the pressure on, trying to keep my eye socket from exploding, until we touched down. And then in a matter of just a few seconds, the pain went away. Gone.

[i]Poof.[/i]

I?d never felt pain like that, and I hope I never feel it again. But once it was gone, it stayed gone. So even though I started off my Jamaican trip under bizarre circumstances, it ended up a-okay.

Post edited by: rcolchamiro, at: 2008/02/09 06:16

Why Was I Stressed in Jamaica?

Funny thing happened to me last week while I was in Jamaica. It was Saturday morning, the first full day there, and Liz and I were up bright and early. We made our way down to the dining hall, and found ourselves a very comfy table for two, outside, in the sunshine, surrounded by small trees and a flower garden. It was goooood.

We both ordered up a big breakfast. Mine was pretty much a do-it-myself hungry-man special I slung together among a few things?Jamaican French toast, crispy bacon anFunny thing happened to me last week while I was in Jamaica. It was Saturday morning, the first full day there, and Liz and I were up bright and early. We made our way down to the dining hall, and found ourselves a very comfy table for two, outside, in the sunshine, surrounded by small trees and a flower garden. It was goooood.

We both ordered up a big breakfast. Mine was pretty much a do-it-myself hungry-man special I slung together among a few things?Jamaican French toast, crispy bacon and two eggs (sunnysine up), toast, water, juice. Like the seating, it was goooood.

Overall, not a bad way to start off the day. Liz and I then made our way to the beach, and found ourselves a nice sunny spot on the small, private beach, literally inches from the water. We camped out on the cushioned beach chairs, laid back, and let the breeze do its thing.

And yet even though I didn?t have a care in the world, I was really nervous. My heart was pounding away, just racing. I figured that maybe I was still a little jag-lagged, or maybe all the blood had rushed to my gut to digest that enormous breakfast, so I tried not to worry about it, which I didn?t.

After a bit I went for a swim, chilled out in the hammock, went for another swim. But it wasn?t until noon or so that my heart rate settled down and I was stress free. And the stress never came back. It was just that one three-hour block. I was fine the next day as well.

It wasn?t until the third morning, however, that I figured out the source of my earlier stress. Liz and I were back at breakfast?just another gorgeous morning?and the waiter came along asking if we wanted coffee. Liz ordered decaf, and since I don?t drink coffee, thought I might go for some green tea. And since they didn?t have decaf green tea, I passed.

And then it hit me. I had a cup of tea that first morning?caffeinated tea. No wonder my heart raced! I normally don?t drink tea, and when I do, I try to drink decaf. So for a guy who tries to avoid caffeine, a cup of tea is like snorting speed (not that I?d know that; I swear!).

Mystery solved.

And lesson learned. When hiding out in the land of peace, let it be caffeine free.

Status Check: What?s Up with Finders Keepers?

It?s been a little while since I gave you guys a Finders Keepers update, so here?s the skinny:

As I noted last month, I embarked on an ambitious quest to prune Finders Keepers down to size. Because the manuscript was a little long, I knew I had to cut some, and dealing with the realities of being a relative unknown (at this point) in the publishing world, I need to treat Finders Keepers like a song that?s not quite radio-friendly length. As Billy Joel said so spot on in [i]The Entertainer[/It?s been a little while since I gave you guys a Finders Keepers update, so here?s the skinny:

As I noted last month, I embarked on an ambitious quest to prune Finders Keepers down to size. Because the manuscript was a little long, I knew I had to cut some, and dealing with the realities of being a relative unknown (at this point) in the publishing world, I need to treat Finders Keepers like a song that?s not quite radio-friendly length. As Billy Joel said so spot on in [i]The Entertainer[/i], ?if you wanna have it, you gotta make it fit, so they cut it down to 3:05.?

And so it goes for me.

Thing is, how do I actually do the cutting? What?s the process for doing most successfully? As I noted in an earlier blog, I went through the entire Finders Keepers manuscript?in random order?twice, reading each once from top to bottom, and then from bottom to top. In doing so I managed to clip away a considerable amount of text?two words here, four there?and without trimming anything vital. That really got Finders Keepers nice and slim.

And now I?ve gone through the entire process again. I spent the last three weeks re-reading my already pruned version of Finders Keepers (again, reading each graph twice each) just make to sure I didn?t miss anything the first time around. And sure enough, I found more to cut. Again, I didn?t trim away anything major. All the chapters are still there, all the characters too. And I kept all the jokes that still made me laugh. What I did cut were just little bits and pieces I could live without.

It?s amazing how much there is to trim when I got down and dirty ruthless. There were multiple spots where I realized I used the same joke?or same joke structure?twice in one chapter, or even a single page, when only once was necessary. That allowed me at times to cut away 20 or 30 words in one shot, and sometimes multiple lines as well. At other times, I realized I had simply over-described a scene, and was able to cut an entire paragraph, as I was slowing down the momentum. And yet other times I had 10 lines of dialogue when the same exchange was just as effective?or funny?with five lines.

And much to my surprise, I really got into it. I challenged myself. How many words could I clip without interfering with the story I wanted to tell and in the way I wanted to tell it?

Here’s an example about one of the main characters, Theo Karnes:

The original text I had was:

[i]He couldn?t shake the feeling that someone might be after him, that he had a crazed stalker of his very own.[/i]

Here’s the new version:

[i]He couldn?t shake the feeling that someone might be stalking him.[/i]

I think you can see that the new version is just as effective, using only 11 words instead of 21. Also, the original version said [i]crazed stalker[/i]. What other kind of stalker is there? So [i]crazed[/i] isn’t necessary. And if Theo felt like he had a stalker, of course someone would be after him, so again, that wasn’t necessary. So here I was able to cut 10 words without sacrificing meaning. If I do this throughout the entire manuscript, which originally came in at more than 128,000 words, I think you can see how the total words to cut will add up.

So now that I?ve wrapped up my second round of pruning?I made notes by hand on page?I?ll spend the next week or so entering the changes directly onto the file.

Once that?s done, and the manuscript is leaner and meaner than ever, I will print out and re-read Finders Keepers straight through, but this time checking only for flow. No more pruning. I need to ensure that it reads as well as I intended now that the trimming is done. Did I over-trim? Did I get it right? Do I need to make any minor tweaks here or there?

After that, I?ll ship the finalized version off to the agent I?ve been dealing with, and then we?ll see how it goes from there. But I?ve gotta say, at this point I?m feeling really good about the progress.

This three-day weekend will give me a chance to get quite a bit done manuscript wise, so my plan is to knock out a nice big chunk by early next week. I?m sort of curious myself to see what the final tally will look like. Pruning the manuscript (twice) is one thing?and absolutely necessary?but making sure that it all holds together is something else entirely.

Post edited by: rcolchamiro, at: 2008/01/20 07:51

Russ?s Top 10 Movies of 2007 (updated 6-22-08)

Now that I’ve finally seen enough movies, I’m finally able to do an entire Top 10 list of 2007. And as is true of most Top lists, this is a mix of the movies I thought were the best technically, and the ones I simply enjoyed the most.

[b]Russ’s Top 10 Movies of 2007[/b]

[i]10: The Bourne Ultimatum: [/i]My favorite of the Bourne movies, this one has some intense action sequences, while wrapping up the trilogy. Even for a movie like this it loses a little in the credibility factor-Now that I’ve finally seen enough movies, I’m finally able to do an entire Top 10 list of 2007. And as is true of most Top lists, this is a mix of the movies I thought were the best technically, and the ones I simply enjoyed the most.

[b]Russ’s Top 10 Movies of 2007[/b]

[i]10: The Bourne Ultimatum: [/i]My favorite of the Bourne movies, this one has some intense action sequences, while wrapping up the trilogy. Even for a movie like this it loses a little in the credibility factor–Bourne takes just too much of a beating to keep on trucking–but it was a kick-butt way to spend two hours. The on location shoots help sell the film, as does it’s no-nonense approach. There’s one sequence in the London subway station that’s especially intense and very, very cool. If you liked Casino Royale, you’ll like this.

[i]9: 3:10 to Yuma: [/i]This is just a good ole’ rootin’ tootin’ western with good performances, tense action and a moral fable mixed in there somewhere. Christian Bale as the reluctant hero and Russell Crowe as the man in black give their usual good performances, but Ben Foster as one of Crowe’s cronies steals every scene he’s in. It feels a little long in places, but it was tense and twisty with lots of guns a’ blazin’. Two hours well spent.

[i]8. Juno: [/i]This indie darling has a lot of great performances and a fairly simple plot?a teenage girl with an unwanted pregnancy gives the baby up for adoption?that could have gotten predictable, but didn?t. The script is almost a little bit too quirky for it?s own good with the lead character a bit too wise and together for her age, but it held me throughout and will likely hold up on multiple viewings.

[i]7. Dan in Real Life: [/i]For reasons I?m not quite sure about, Dan in Real Life didn?t connect with viewers the way Juno did, but it?s just as good, and had me feeling good. Dan Carrell scores again as a 40-ish widow with three girls who meets a new love during one weekend visiting his goofy family. Nothing fancy, just a quality, down-to-earth comedy that hits the right chords.

[i]6. The Lookout: [/i]Intense heist movie about a young 20-ish hotshot in the Midwest whose life goes terribly wrong. And then he gets mixed up with the very worst people. Had my heart pounding from beginning to end. Not to be missed.

[i]5. Gone Baby, Gone[/i]: The brothers Affleck Ben (directing/writing) and Casey (acting) both suprised me quite a bit, delivering a gritty crime story that had me sucked in from the very first frame. While by no means a fun movie, Casey Affleck is a young private investigator trying to track down a 5-year-old girl who was kidnapped, and is presumed dead. The characters are real, the twists are good, and though I never thought he had it in him, Casey Affleck really carried the lead of this movie which also had Ed Harris, Morgan Freeman and Amy Adams, who got an Academy Award nomination. Impressive across the board.

[i]4: The King of Kong: A Fistfull of Quarters: [/i]Who would have thought that a movie about Donkey Kong would be so fascinating? Well, it is. This documentary examines the best Donkey Kong players in the world, including the 25-year high score champion, and a newbie who claims to have the new high score ever. But is his score real? Is the fix in? This documentary has characters to care about, heroes and villains, and all the folks who fall on either side of the coin. The King of Kong might take place in the world of competive video gaming–in this case, Donkey Kong–but it’s about so much more.

[i]3. Michael Clayton: [/i]George Clooney hits another winner as a corporate fixer who has pangs of morality after decades of being morally and ethically questionable, if not bankrupt. Intense and complex, I?m not sure if I totally bought the ending, but it?s well worth the effort.

[i]2. Knocked Up:[/i] Laugh-out-loud funny from beginning to end that had me smiling the whole way through. The most fun I?ve had at the movies since 40-Year-Old Virgin.

[i]1. Zodiac: [/i]Often overlooked, this detailed retelling of the search for the Zodiac serial killer in San Francisco back in the 1970s just draws you in deeper and deeper and deeper. Thorough and compelling, you feel like you were the ones with many sleepless nights trying to put together a puzzle with very few clues, driving you to obsession. If you missed this one, go rent it. Now.

[b]Worth Noting:[/b]

[i]No Country for Old Men: [/i]I know this has been the critical darling, but it has one fatal flaw. The first 90 minutes are brilliant. Absolutely stunning. The last 20 minutes are flat out ridiculous, ruining an otherwise tremendous movie. And for any critic who says that the non-traditional ending is just the work of a creative mind and that I need to be more open to things, they can stick it in their ears. Should have been the year?s best movie. And it almost was. I?m not saying you shouldn?t see it, but that ending is a head-scratcher.

[i]There Will Be Blood: [/i]There’s a very good movie in here, and Daniel Day-Lewis is incredible, as always, and would be quite deserving of an Academy Award for Best Actor. But this movies was simply too long, and too slow too often. The critical acclaim is overblown. This could have been very, very good–and it is, in places–but they should have cut 45 minutes out of it. There’s just not enough meat at two and a half hours. Be prepared for some general disappointment.

[b]2007 Movies I still hope to see:[/b]

The Savages

The Assassination of Jesse James

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