Monday, January 23, 2012

Chuck

Chuck premiered on September 24th, 2007, and it would be trite -- but accurate -- for me to say that it has had a big impact on my life.

Anyone who knows me knows that I have an addictive personality.  It's actually a bi-product of another personality trait: apathy.  I am so apathetic that if I find something that I truly care about, I jump into it with reckless abandon.  Regular people have to divvy up their love to a bunch of different things; I stick with only a few, so they all get more love from me.  Crazy love.

There have been a number of television shows that I've gone a bit nuts over.  There's the Joss Whedon catalog, of course, of Buffy, Angel, and Firefly (Dollhouse was neither on long enough or consistently good enough for me to include).  I cared so much about Battlestar Galactica that it's hard for me to go back and watch old episodes after the betrayal that was the show's finale.  The Wire could be the best television show ever, the last season notwithstanding.  Veronica Mars and Six Feet Under can both make claims to the best single seasons of television, although VM probably gets the nod given it was nearly twice as long.  At one point, Scrubs was the funniest show on TV, having been replaced in my heart with the even funnier Community. Oh, and I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the great Friday Night Lights, too.

But Chuck is different.

Not long ago, I did an overview of my writing.  Since I tend to jump from genre to genre, I talked about the common theme behind my writing, something other than just my "voice."  In the end, I write love stories.  I've probably been writing love stories over and over again for my entire life.  And that's a big reason why I like Chuck.

Chuck is probably the only show on my list of favorite shows that is a straight up love story.

Sure, there's more going on than just the love story.  At its inception, Chuck was a wish fulfillment story.  A guy working in the Nerd Herd at a Buy More goes from college drop out with wasted potential into a super spy with a leggy blond super spy girlfriend.  He trades in his pocket protector for cool spy gadgets and travels the world doing glamorous and exciting things.

You can see that, on paper, this show had a pretty specific target audience.  That wasn't it's downfall, though.  It's downfall, at least initially, was that people tend to like their television shows definable.  They want to know that they're watching a drama or a comedy or a thriller.  Chuck was all of these things and more, and I think most people found the juggling act that it managed too much for them to handle.

But in the end it was a love story, which makes it that much sadder that more people didn't watch it.  It was a love story that spanned 91 episodes, a love story that slowly but surely grabbed a hold of me (and many others) and pulled us in.  Sure, there were times when it didn't work, but when it did...well, it was better than pretty much anything else on television.

The finale of Chuck made me cry, not just because the show was ending, but because I truly felt for the characters on the show.  And I truly felt for the actors whose tears were very obviously real.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that a huge part of why this show worked as a love story was because of the chemistry between Zachary Levi (Chuck) and Yvonne Strahovski (Sarah).  The two of them were absolutely fantastic.

For example, during the finale I wondered aloud if Chuck would get the Intersect back.  My wife said "I don't care about the Intersect I just want Chuck and Sarah to be okay," or something to that effect.  I had no idea that Nicole was as invested in the story as I was.

It will be interesting to see where the actors go from here.  I'm really hoping Yvonne Strahovski gets some great roles in the future.  While the entire cast was great, she was probably the most impressive of the bunch.  She had to cover so much ground as an actor, more so than the others, and she did such a great job with it.  I would hate to see her either not get more work or be typecast as the hot blond; she's proven she can be so much more than that.

I will admit that this blog entry on Chuck has been a bit rambling. In part, it's because it's taken me three days to finish this.  It's also a weird thing to blog about.  Unless you've become deeply invested in a television show, it's kind of a hard thing to explain, and it's even harder to explain without sounding crazy.

All I know is that Chuck meant a lot to me, and I'm really going to miss it.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Physical Fitness!

About 10 months ago, I discovered the gym or, more specifically, I discovered the glorious sense of accomplishment that came with going to said gym.

Of course, those 10 months ago the gym was this small room in our apartment building that contained a single elliptical machine, a single treadmill, and three of those multi-purpose weight machines.  Oh, and there were some free weights and a few exercise balls.

I discovered the joy of going to the gym in the morning.  By the time I was awake enough to realize what was going on, I was already on the elliptical.  It was fantastic.  At the time, I didn't have to be at work until 10:30, so I got up 8:00 to go to the gym.  I went four days a week, four days a week straight, from Tuesday through Friday.  And the I gave myself a long weekend off.

It was fantastic.  My cholesterol level went down.  Not that I've ever been overweight, but I actually had to buy new pants as the ones I owned were too big in the waist.

When we moved up to the Bay, going to the gym became much, much harder.  For one, I had to be at work at a normal hour, although I got my boss to at least give me until 9:30.  My time requirement became longer because I now had to drive to an actual gym.  That also meant that I had to get up and go early in the morning -- early on winter mornings.  And the cold makes me very, very lazy.

I've done a decent job with it so far.  My gym is filled with middle aged people, and there's nothing like seeing an out of shape forty-something to inspire me to work harder.  I'm still going because I like how it makes me feel and because I want to lower my cholesterol, but now I also want to prevent myself from becoming completely decrepit as I get older.

That's all well and good, but it occurred to me (as I watched a few minutes of the Golden Globes) that being in shape has never held the benefits for me that it does for those who are, well, actually in shape.  Don't get me wrong, I'm sure that not being a fat load probably went a long way in getting Nicole to date me.  But six pack abs and the gun show have never really been a goal of mine, because the reason for attaining those things has never been a goal of mine.

Which takes me back to the Golden Globes.  I have often said that if I had a dietitian, a job that gave me long stretches of time off, a personal trainer, and a bunch of money, I could be in great shape -- I could have those six pack abs.  If my lively hood depended upon my physical appearance, then it would be my number one priority, as I'd need the things that come along with looking a certain way.

All this is to say that it's often damn hard to go to the gym, because it's not essential to my life.  I would imagine that's the way it is for most people.  We don't have the time to be beautiful and we barely have the motivation.

Now I will go back to sitting on the couch and watching TV.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Not in Kansas Anymore

I have this reoccurring theme in my dreams.  I may go months without seeing it, but when it returns it is ultimately the same as it was the last time I had it.  Bits and pieces change, the way that dreams do, but the gist of it remains the same.

I have a reoccurring dream where I go back to college.  Not any college, mind you, but Ohio University, the place where I spent both my undergraduate and graduate years.

In these dreams, I see people that I went to college with, although it seems like who those people are changes each time.  Invariably, though, they're all in college, and in this world that's where they're supposed to be.  There's nothing strange about it.  They still have more to do before they can graduate.

But I don't.  In fact, the central conceit of these dreams is that I have already left, and I'm now returning.  The reason for my return is always the same: I don't know what else to do.  I am always going into a PhD program and I always feel like everyone else has been there the entire time I was gone, and that perhaps they have a leg up on me.

It's also very clear that I'm only pursing this degree because I don't want to do anything else, I don't know how to do anything else.  I fluctuate between the two, really.  Often I even admit as much in the dream, and claim that I could end up dropping out of college once I figure myself out.

Interestingly enough, I'm still with Nicole in these dreams.  There's always a bit about having a long distance relationship, that Nicole is back here in California doing responsible adult things while I am back at Ohio University trying to be productive, because apparently it's the only thing I CAN do that's remotely productive.

Don't get me wrong, I loved college, particularly grad school.  Those years will always be a source of inspiration for my work.  Truly, I've gotten a lot of material out of such a comparatively short period of time.  But I don't want to go back there.  Really.  It may have taken a while, but I've actually managed to grow out of that phase of my life.

But I think that, to a certain extent, I will always romanticize those years.  My friend Jay referred to it as the gravy train, albeit one we all knew would eventually come to an end.  There was a wonderful simplicity to life back then, one that I don't think I ever fully appreciated, at least not when I was living it.

I suppose these dreams say a lot about where I'm at.  I suppose I am still trying to figure out what I'm supposed to do with myself.  I think it's telling, though, that even when my subconscious portrays me as adrift in an ocean with no north star to lead me, I'm still with Nicole.

I may not know what all the things I'm supposed to be doing with my life are, but I know that one of them is being with Nicole.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Who is this guy?

Every once in a while, I like to remind people just who the heck I am.

Granted, most of you already know me to some extent.  Maybe we went to high school or college together.  Maybe we have or do work together.  Maybe you've interacted with me online.  Heck, maybe you've even read something of mine and kind of sort of liked it enough to check out my blog.

That's all pretty awesome.

I've spent the last few days trying to write a 100 word bio for Super Cool Secret Thing (that I hope to be able to talk about soon).  It made me realize what a hard time I have describing myself, which is an odd thing to realize, given how often I talk about myself.

I started with the things I would want a potential reader to know about me, like the fact that my first book, "I Pray Hardest When I'm Being Shot At," is available now from Hellgate Press, and that it was just nominated for an Independent Literary Award in Memoir/Biography.  It's important to get that out there right off the bat, since I want this theoretical reader to know that if they like what they're reading, there's an honest to god book that was not published by me out there for them to buy.

Of course, I'd also want them to come here to my blog, because all of the aforementioned information can be found here in some way, shape, or form.  And if they want to come to my blog, they should really check out my Twitter account, too.

All of that was pretty easy to come up with.  But it also all felt pedestrian.  It didn't really give an indication as to who I am, or even why anyone should care about what I do.

This has always been a problem for me.  There's a writer named Peter David who refers to himself as a "writer of stuff," and I always thought that was great.  It neatly sidesteps the issue.  Asking a writer what they write is like asking a band what they sound like, and I have found myself in both positions.

So what do I do, exactly?

If I'm honest and, I hope, being overly simplistic, I would say that I write love stories.  Really.  Over and over again I write love stories, I just dress them in different clothes.  Add some zombies, add a few wars, add time travel, add a haunted house.  But at their core, they are all love stories, because deep down inside I am a horrible romantic.

If you've ever been in love or are thinking about being in love, then I'm the writer for you.

And, really, there could be worse things to be.  After all, who doesn't love a good love story?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Monday, January 9, 2012

I've been nominated for the 2011 Indie Lit Awards!

Well, now, this is just crazy.

First and foremost, look at the books on this list for the award in Biography/Memoir:

  • Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua (Penguin)
  • Bossypants by Tina Fey (Reagan Arthur Books)
  • I Pray Hardest When I'm Being Shot At by Kyle Garret (Hellgate Press)
  • Little Princes by Conor Grennan (William Morrow)
  • Tolstoy and the Purple Chair by Nina Sankovitch (Harper)
I mean, that's just insanity.  I can't believe my name is side by side with those people.  And, as my publisher said, neither of us can believe that Hellgate is up there next to the big boys like Penguin and Harper!

The Independent Literary Awards are entirely grassroots, which gives them a certain sincerity and approachability that you don't really see in awards anymore.  I mean, absolutely no one knows who I am, yet I got nominated.  That, my friends, is democracy in action!  Granted, if/when SOPA passes, I'm sure this kind of thing will be outlawed, but I got in under the wire!

I really can't thank the directors and members enough.  It's so hard to get any kind of a publicity at all when you're an unknown author with a small publisher and neither of us is based in New York.  I can't wait for more people to read "Pray!"

Thanks also has to go to all of you who are reading this blog.  So many of you bought "Pray" and then proceeded to tell your friends that they should go buy it, too.  Word of mouth is the be all and end all of publishing these days, and if "Pray" has a long life, it's because of you!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

I am mobile!

While my wife is watching Downton Abbey, it occurred to me that I should see if there's a Blogger app for my phone and, Lo and behold, there is. I'm going to use the bell out of this thing.

As an added bonus, the picture below is my current view.