Little things can cost you everything.

In no order--

-Since I was little, and as far back as I can remember, I've always been interested in minor characters, and the people that play them. In literature, yes, but mostly in film. While the protagonist(s) hog up the attention (and are usually Big Celebrity Names), the little guys really appeal to me. And the little guys in film are usually played by the same folks. From the classic Sidney Greenstreet/Peter Lorre tagteam, to John Ford's "stock" company (Ward Bond, Ben Johnson, Victor McLaglen, and so on), to David Morse, to M. Emmet Walsh, to Luis Guzman. And on and on. And tonight, I celebrate: a minor character comes through. On the show "24," Secret Service Agent Aaron Pierce (played almost silently for five seasons by Glenn Morshower) proved pivotal to the plot of tonight's episode. And the character actors around the world rejoice.

-I'm not superstitious, but something odd has been happening to me for the past year or so that raises the hairs on the back of my neck. I don't look at the clock all that often. Really. Let's say I look at the clock ten times a day. At least once it'll be 11:11. No lie. I'm not making this up, people. It's like, why not some other time? Maybe, I'm supposed to remember it because terrorists will take over the Beaver Valley Mall, springing from the hidden layers they set up in all of the abandoned husks of stores that left the mall over the past year, locking down all of the entrances and setting up heavy weapon emplacements, saying they'll set off bombs they constructed overnight in the 47 different cell phone kiosks (while the security guards were talking on CELL PHONES near the food court) unless their demands blah blah blah, and no one will know how to disarm the bombs. No one but ME, that is, because I'll sneak in through the air ducts and enter "11:11" into the phones and disarm them, and then--of course--the terrorists will surrender because they were foiled by a bookstore employee. Well, the terrorist leader won't; he'll dash off to Spencer's and hide amid the cloud of acidic incense smoke that always seems to waft from the entrance, and since no one can survive the stench, he'll make an escape by hiding in the recycling dumpster out back (that everyone fills with non-recyclables) and jumping diving out at the last second, blending in with the non-observant news crowd that's sure to be in the parking lot. Just keep your eye on the news for this-- story at 11:11.

-Something that's been on my mind the past few months: community and regionalism. I'm not sure if this is a trait that's mainly manifests in my generation, but many people (at least the vocal ones) always talk about how much their stomping grounds suck and how they want to move and when they move it'll be so much better. So, it's basically that if you think you see a problem or flaw in the town/county/region, you toss it away and go to a cooler place. (I'd say you can see the same sort of "throw it away if it doesn't suit me" mindset in almost every aspect of American culture, but that's a rant for a different day.) I thought this way for 22 and a half years. I felt like Beaver County was a hellhole and needed to be carpet-bombed into oblivion. But then something happened. I don't know what event or thought or idea triggered the change. I really haven't thought about it. Now I don't want to run. I want to stay and fix, get my hands dirty, network, influence, change. It's funny how so many people my age (many of the Geneva students talk about how there's "nothing to do" in Beaver County). I beg to differ. I can look out my window on any morning and watch the sunlight bleed through the trees in my backyard, the hill tilting at just the right angle to let some of the warmth creep past my blinds. I can walk through West Aliquippa on a fall day, see the tiny, isolated community boxed in prisons and railyards and abandoned mills, noticing frail Italian couples brushing the blind on the door aside just so to watch the outsider, the whole scene reeking with surreal, worn, blustery, even majestic beauty. I can drive past the cemetery in downtown Beaver, the headstones that and monuments that barely reach over the top of the surrounding wall blur by in a hypnotic way. I can watch the water from the Beaver River--where it joins the Ohio--lap over the sand at the waterfront park in Rochester, doing my best to ignore the rain that's dusting the water's surface (and my head in turn). I can run on Hopewell High School's track at night, a few weeks before the students return from summer break, cool winds licking my ankles as I listen to Michael Penn CDs and spot rabbits chasing each other in the field just over there, beyond the fence, and then hit Bruster's for a bowl of chocolate ice cream when I'm finished, for a few minutes not minding that the lactose will make me double over an hour later. Now, Beaver County isn't perfect; in fact, there are many aspects that need to be improved. But will I move away because some band I like doesn't tour here or they don't have that one store I like or there isn't "culture"? No. I'll stay and join the fight.

-Oh, and since when did "culture" equate people with arts degrees going "tut tut" in a Starbucks, talking about literary theory, balancing their mochafrappachino while they're trying to type on their laptop? Sorry to sound angry; maybe Wendell Berry is impacting me.

-So, Matt Reed, when are we going to start recording?

-Michael Chabon--Pulitzer Prize-winning Pittsburgh author--said this in an interview: "...I think the best science fiction, the best mystery fiction, the best horror fiction, ought to be put on par with the best quote-unquote 'literary fiction.'" I agree wholeheartedly. Genre fiction is looked down upon, and I don't understand why. I think Raymond Chandler was one of the best writers of the 20th century, and now--60 years after his prime--he's finally starting to get his dues.

-Why do people buy pickup trucks when they will only make them lower to the ground and add neon lights to the running boards? Why do they need the truck bed? To hold their ego?

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 1/30/2006 06:43:00 PM, ,

Flicking ashes over teenage kids with poorly tuned guitars.

Yes, another Superjock segment is coming. No, I'm not done with it. No, I'm not entirely certain what it'll be about. Yes, I have writer's block. Yes, it will be awesome (when done).

I thought I'd make a post of random...things. Thoughts, concerns, questions, ideas, jokes. The whole shooting match.

-So I have a beard. This isn't the first time I've had one, but it's the first time it doesn't look horrid. There is a little area near the end of my mustache that never connected to the beard, and it's finally done so. But here's the weird part: over the weekend I had noticed that my beard isn't solid brown, like my hair. There are a few small patches of blonde hair that give the rest of the beard a "highlighted" vibe, and there are a few strands of red hair too. It's pretty cool.

-Over the past few months, I've been thinking of about some of the great Christian writers of the 20th century, especially of fiction. One thing I noticed is that a large number of them were Roman Catholic or Church of England, as far as tradition goes. C.S. Lewis: Anglican; J.R.R. Tolkien: Catholic; Dorothy Sayers: Anglican; Flannery O'Connor: Catholic; Walker Percy: Catholic; Graham Greene: Catholic; G.K. Chesterton: ...something in between; Madeleine L'Engle: Anglican. And on and on.

-The fifth season of "24" started this past Sunday night. Like last year, they had a premiere event, which translates to four episodes over the course of two consecutive days. I'm a big fan of this show. I've been watching it since the sixth episode of the first season. It's one of the most well-done shows on TV (though, story-wise, I enjoy "Lost" better). It's also one of the most violent. By the end of the fourth episode (which I just finished watching), Jack Bauer has killed seven men and knocked four unconscious. So far it's a slow year for him.

-If you know who has my DVD of Sunset Blvd., let me know, so I can kill them. It's been missing for three years. I don't know what sort of message you're trying to give me, pal, but I'm going to take it out on your face.

-Is this situation familiar. You're driving on the highway, people are zipping by you like your car is parked (despite the fact that you're in excess of the speed limit by 5 mph). You, along with the current pack of drivers who are streaking by you, crest a hill and spot a police cruiser (in)conspicuously parked behind a hill or something. Dozens of tail lights shine in unison as everyone cuts their speed in half, staring out their window as they crawl by the five-oh. See, in this case, I usually maintain my current speed and just pass everyone up. More often than not the badge can see a string of cars get all antsy when he's around (it's almost like in Star Wars when spacecraft shut their hyperdrives down). Seeing a whole line of cars screech to a halt won't, like, tip him off or anything, right?

-A man comes into the book store, grabs one of the "adult" 2006 calendars we have, brings it to the register, his wife in tow. "Man, can't wait to put this in the geeerage," he says. I ring him up and put the calendar in a bag, handing it to him. "Wow, my garage'll be complete now!" He sees I'm not responding, so reiterates: "No garage is complete without one-a these!" I respond, "I guess I don't have a complete garage then." Why is it that every time a man buys something pornographic at the store, he feels the need to nervously try to reaffirm his purchase with me? And why do I feel so satisfied when I shut them down?

-I'm working a "Winter tunes" mix CD. I'm shooting for songs that--musically--attach themselves to the season. I'm shooting from the hip, too. I'm aiming for stuff that's ethereal, creepy (in a not-creepy way), pristine, chilly. Like staring into a snow-covered field in Kansas at dusk, wind limiting your vision to a hundred paces. My track list so far:
1. "The End Is Not Near," the New Year
2. "Tell It to the Dust," Anders Parker
3. "Put You To Sleep," Dolorean
4. Something by the Arcade Fire
5. "Juliette," Crooked Fingers
6. "Lost of Love," the Bad Plus
7. "Sometimes," My Bloody Valentine
8. Either "Eskimo" or "Your Sweet Voice," both Matthew Sweet
9. Something by Codeine
10. Something Elliott Smith, probably "King's Crossing"
11. Something by Bedhead
12. "That Dress Looks Nice On You," Sufjan Stevens
13. "Marquee Moon," Television
14. "Battery In Your Leg," Blur

-There is some intense hatred for homeschoolers amongst those not homeschooled, and I don't understand it. I honestly cannot think of a legit reason for this. At all. I've always been grumpy about this, but read something tonight that pushed me into "contemplating steamrolling over houses and parked cars" mode. "But homeschoolers are dweebs that ride their OshKosh B'gosh jeans up to their navels and talk about yarn all day." Maybe, but I've met public-schoolers in the same boat. I've also heard of homeschoolers that can't add single-digit numbers together, and scrape together rent through back-alley drug deals. To everyone that feels the need to lump homeschoolers into one big group based on a misinformed stereotype: pull your head out from its current home and let it see some sun. And no, I was never homeschooled.

-Something that I've often thought about: If I ever get a book published, should I just go by "Jason Panella"? Or maybe one of the following: Jason C. Panella; J. C. Panella; J. Panella; C. Panella; J. Christopher Panella; Chris Panella; Rayford Cage. Mmmm?

-Every time I think of or mention the author Harry Turtledove, I think of that part in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, when Mr. Duncan, the owner of Duncan's Toy Chest, gives Kevin the pair of turtledoves ornaments as subtle background music underscores the action and lets you know that they'll play a part in rekindling a friendship at the end of the film.

-I've been trying to form a band for the past few years. I don't think it'll happen this year either.

-My stint as assistant editor of the Cabinet during the '02-'03 year screwed up my sleep schedule. AND IT STILL HASN'T BEEN FIXED. I'd like to go to bed midnight-ish. I'm always in two a.m. or later. Grumble grumble Cabinet grumble grumble.

-When people on instant messanger type "lol" all of the time, are they really laughing out loud? If this is the case, there are some insanely jolly 14-year olds out there.

-The Harry Potter craze stirred up a lot of interest in any sort of young adult-geared book with magical/fantasy trappings, from recent fads to canonical, from Phillip Pullman's stuff to C.S. Lewis to "Eldest." But has anyone read Susan Cooper's "Dark is Rising" series? I was really into these when I was in middle school. They're like an odd mix of Lewis' Narnia books, Celtic folklore, Highlander and Chuck Norris (I'm joking about one of these). It's been years since I've read them, and--vague pagan subtext aside--I remember them as enjoyable reads.

-Salman Rushdie on "the Da Vinci Code:" "...a book so bad it makes bad books look good."

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 1/16/2006 01:28:00 AM, ,