Well, the three of you who actually read this column regularly may have noticed that I took quite a hiatus the past few weeks, and unannounced at that. Some of you have even expressed concern that somehow the Earth’s gravitation pull had lost its effect on me, and that I might have been somehow flung off into space. Thankfully, no. The real reason lies somewhere between a hectic few weeks at work, an accelerated schedule at home preparing for the new baby, actually having the new baby (it’s a girl! [link now gone —Ed. 2015-08-15]), housework, lazying about, and a really terrible bout of hayfever, which, as it turns out, isn’t really a fever, and has very little to do with hay.
In any case, as an extra little bonus for all you long–suffering fans (as well as those who merely fascinated to watch a train wreck in progress), I finally saw Star Wars: The Phantom Menace a few Friday nights ago, and wrote a collaborative review with my friend AAlgar, which can be found in the Sarcastic Voyage archives. [also, sadly, now gone —Ed.]
Besides that obvious bit of turning an enjoyable evening into a half–a–column, I’ve been slacking quite a bit lately --- in writing the column, and in other aspect of my life. I have realized that I need to improve myself --- which, believe me, is much more motivating than being told “Get with it, slacker!” by some other entity. As is the case with most teenagers (or so I understand), I have retained the not–so–wonderful quality of thought that turns every suggestion for improvement into a bald force in the opposite direction --- I don't like being told what to do, or in other words, I have a problem with authority.
Self propelled embetterment being the impetus it is, though, I have assigned myself a few ultimatums to that end:
1. Read every book I own, yet have not read, before any new books are acquired.
I have, on rough estimate, at least 50 or 60 books that I personally own that I have barely cracked the covers of, much less read all the way through. These range from the mainstays of science fiction and fantasy classics (Tolkein’s Hobbit saga, Ann McCaffery’s Pern books), to Mark Twain, to [other books].
This applies to magazines as well, though some of that can't be stopped easily — subscriptions. I am, though, making a lot of headway in going through my current collection of magazines and clippings to digitize them for posterity. I think ageing the pile was a good idea. I now see a lot of the stuff I was keeping is now either archived somewhere else, or just isn't important to me anymore. It's given me a much better perspective on what articles I need to keep in the future, which — beyond a good deal of how–to articles dealing with my profession — is very little.
2. No more movie purchases until a DVD player is acquired.
I find myself searching more and more for the widescreen VHS versions of movies I want to purchase. I understand a lot of people hate the widescreen (or “letterbox”) transfer of movie, mainly on the grounds that “these stupid black bars take up half the screen.” Well, if we all had widescreen TVs I suppose we wouldn't have that problem, but for now, being the movie hound I am, I want to see the whole film, which means shrinking it to fit my non-wide TV.
DVDs, though, can show you the movie letterboxed, pan & scan (what people normally think of as full–screen on the TV), and true widescreen (if you have a wide TV or video projector). Given that, the higher resolution they contain (sharper picture), and the fact that they won't wear out like a tape will over time (they’re like CDs for video), I project at some point in the very near future, I'll be converting my collection to DVD anyway, so why buy any more movies on VHS that I'll be replacing with a DVD within a couple of years anyway? No, I’ll wait and buy all of my new films on DVD, and slowly replace my collection with the more durable medium.
3. An absolute bedtime of 10 pm & drink 12 c. of water each day.
As my parents always said (and still do, I'm afraid), a good night’s sleep and keeping hydrated the two most important keys to good health. While I may be paraphrasing (they also wouldn’t mind if I returned to vegetarianism), I believe, at least, that these two measures will increase my health dramatically. I have noticed on the few days that I have (unintentionally, you understand) followed these guidelines, that the next day, I awoke filled with energy, ready to face the world (or at least some noble, local pursuit). My energy levels have been sagging such as late as to force me to make this vow— to actually take a bit better care of my body. [GASP!]
4. Track my finances better and more regularly — and SMM.
Much to my father’s chagrin, I am truly terrible at keeping my finances under my belt. (I'm not sure if that turn of phrase means what I meant it to mean, but I like how it sounds.) For the most part, my wife and I string along from paycheck to paycheck, just making ends meet, through no fault of my own, mind you. I'm what you could charitably call a “spendthrift.” I very regularly lose track of where I am financially (even though I have it all plugged into Quicken, I don't update it every day, like I should), and often come close to overdrawing the account. The only thing that keep us from starving or living on the street is the efforts of my wonderful lifemate, who insists I give her cash to cover things like that. (I love you!)
My new vow is to become more aware of where all the money is going, keep better track of everything, and in the wise words of my Dad, "S.Y.M." — Save Your Money — so we're no longer one paycheck away from homelessness. I’ve even worked out a plan to pay off my wife’s student loan faster and start investing foolishly for the long term in the stock market, to build capital for a new home purchase and retirement (it’s wiser than it sounds).
5. Keep writing my weekly column.
As noted, I've slacked off on this duty for quite a while — nearly two months now — but I'm back, and I plan to keep with it. I need to write, even if I don't write as well (or as effortlessly) as I’d like. It’s an outlet I need, and good experience for my journeyman profession of making films. I hope I can be entertaining — or at the least, interesting — to you, my readers, at the same time.
I think I’ve set some relatively high goals for myself, considering they’re fundamental changes to my lifestyle. I'm going to do them to the best of my ability — and if you catch me lagging on any of them, feel free to give me a smack on the nose with a rolled–up e–mail. I may need some “encouragement” now and again.