Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Breached 1000 votes!

Vote! Vote! Vote Again!

As many of you know, I am applying for the Sam-E blogging position and the first round is based off votes. At the end of voting (which I believe is either at the end of this month or one week after that), the 20 people with the most votes will move on to the next round. Currently I think I am about 3-400 behind the bottom person of the top 20, but they already had a good amount of votes when I signed up, so I'm catching up to them for sure. The 'vote daily' has been both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, you can vote daily!  On the other hand, so can everyone else's supporters, and I can get a lot of people to vote for me, but the question is, can I get a lot of people to continue voting? It feels like everyday I'm starting fresh. For example, I might get 500 people to vote for me today, but then I need to re-convince them to vote for me tomorrow.

At the end of the day, I think I'm doing well and I can only continue to do well with you alls' help. The good news is that the next round is a combination of votes and editor's pick. ANNND it's a video comp, which should be fun. You get to see me act a fool on camera for a job and if that's not incentive to vote, I don't know what is.

Clicking this link will help cure world hunger.

Suite101.com writer.

Hey guys. Some of you might have heard of Suite101.com, or maybe have read an article or two on there unknowingly. Either way, it's a site where people write articles under just about any category. You have to apply to be a writer and--while I'm not sure how tight their screening process is--I applied and was allowed to join. Now, these articles are different than what I'm used to writing. Here, I can be free-flowing, off the top of the dome, just tell it like it is. But there, these are actual, legit, articles with editors and people that seem to take it seriously. You can't just post things reflecting your own thoughts. They actually have to hold weight and be credible and all that jazz. Found, right?

Either way, Suite101 gets much more traffic than this blog does and people seem to be making money off it, so I thought I'd give it a whirl. My plan right now is to post movie, books, and television show reviews. Maybe as time goes on I'll start posting more news-ish articles, or maybe even informative ones on a topic I like, but right now I'm sticking to something safe and that continually gives me something to write about without having to search for it (the TV is right in my room and the movie theatre is right down the street).

Without further ado, here are the two articles I've written so far. One is a review on Law Abiding Citizen and the other is a review on Fox's new show, Modern Family. Let me know what you think, any advice you may have to be successful at Suite101, and look out for another blog post at Scribophile tomorrow.

-Justin C. Key

Monday, October 19, 2009

Dream Journal: 9/11 part 2

I had a pretty vivid/coherent dream last night. By this, I mean it actually made sense. There weren't too many trippy dream elements.

I was in Washington, DC, walking home with one of my friends. I forget what we were out doing, but it was early in the morning. Anyway, we passed by a view of the capitol (which isn't hard to do, you can see see it from almost anywhere) and it was blown to shit! No, more accurately, it was stills standing but it looked like someone had put a big diagonal scar through it, similar to the Twin Towers before they fell.

We rushed home and, of course, it was all over the news. Apparently a terrorist had sent a scud missle all the way from over seas and hit the capitol overnight. They had videos of the impact and I remember that they kept showing it again and again and again (ok, so here's the trippy dream part, I just remembered: on the news report it said that when they found the terrorist he was being rescued by his 15-pound daughter...then later I thought maybe it was 15-pound cat...?).

I think that was about it. I remember asking if this means that they could sent a nuclear weapon over here and one of my knowledgeable friends said no for some reason that I believed. Nonetheless it's been a while since 9/11 (weird how the time has gone by and weird that there are a generation of people now how can talk and walk and think and do math problems who did not exist yet on that fateful day) and if people out there still hate America (which I'm sure they do), it's just a matter of time....

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Blogging gig at Scribophile.

I recently applied for and nabbed a blogging gig at Scribophile.com, a growing site about writing and literature where you can go to talk about your favorite books, your life as a writer, or to get peer feedback on your works. The site recently (to my understanding) had one main blogger and the owner (Alex) just hired two newbies, me being one of them of course. The great thing (besides getting a little piece of change for what I do anyway) is that the owner wants the posts to be informal, fun pieces and I'm definitely down for that. Also, I started a blog to start getting my name out there so that I can better sell myself when I finally do seek publication (time should be coming around soon, cross your fingers) and this allows me to tap in an already established (and still growing) audience.

My first post there is about combating writer's block and my next post will be about the importance of reading and how to fit it into your busy schedule. I'll be posting weekly, every Wednesday.

You can check the first post here (and feel free to comment. oh, and check out the site, too. definitely worth it):


Friday, October 16, 2009

Cross-Country Trip: Day 2: The Long Road

Day 2 was all about driving. The open road. Putting the pedal to the medal. Getting from point A to B and whatever other phrases you can think of. I think Day 2 was when I drove the whole day. I opted to do it, and at first Johanna laughed at my request, but I figured I needed driving practice time in and I was starting to enjoy going 90 on those long stretches of nothing-road.

The plan was to drive all day to the Mt. Rushmore area and find a hotel there so we could go and visit first thing in the morning. So far, so good. Only thing was we slept til about 10 a.m. and were lethargic in getting our day started. But we finally got a move on, packed up, and checked out.

Remember I mentioned the toll charges? Well, my Tom-Tom has a feature to avoid the toll lanes so we decided to try it out. It made for an interesting morning. About 30 minutes into the trip we realized that the roads we were on all looked like they hadn't been paved since afros were in style. We were officially in the backroads of America and I started thinking stuff like 'hmm, we could probably find a little farm that sells bunny rabbits on this road.' I was a little worried about the wear and tear on my car (consistently, about every 30 or so miles there was a sign that said 'bump' which should have said 'HOLY SHIT, SLOW DOWN!'), but the change in scenery was worth it. It was the kind of setting you think of when you hear of Little House on the Prairie (minus the racism) or what you see in those cheesy commercials where people are running through meadows.

Nevertheless, it was agreed that from now on we'd just pay the damn toll. But, luckily, all the tolls were behind us anyway.

The rest of the day was pretty uneventful. We listened to The Shack by William P. Young (first time author, but doesn't he just sound like he should be famous?) on audiotape along the way. I had already listened to it (which reminds me, I should post a review of it...also a post about audiotapes...ding ding ding, ideas!), but it was Johanna's first time. Without going much into it, it's basically the story of a father who loses his daughter to a serial killer and a struggling faith in God. Interesting, to say the least. But, again, we'll return to that later.

Another notable thing is that we stopped at a shop in Minnesota. It was a colorful store with quilts and dolls and hats and all kinds of other randoms. I didn't see this myself, but Johanna told me inside that she ran across an Omish man and they continued to stare eachother like they couldn't believe what they were seeing. I guess he'd never seen a real life black person and Johanna a real life Omish (or maybe she'd never seen an Omish intrigued by a black person). either way, I immediately remembered that M&M commercial where they meet Santa:

We got into Rushmore territory pretty late and discovered that we should have booked a hotel ahead of time: all of them seemed to be full for the weekend. We finally found this place with a room for 49 bucks. The cheapness was kind of scary, but it was a room and the Yelp comments weren't too bad. Either way, we had a place to rest our heads. And we'd need it, because the next day we were Mt. Rushmore and Yellowstone bound.

-Justin C. Key

Dream Journal #2

Just napped--hard--for about an hour. The main dream I can't really remember, but I think it was some kind of nightmare. Then there was this weird period of trying to get up and had 3 rapid succession dreams.

First I remember being in the bed and seeing ants crawling down the walls in waves. I remember when I would turn on the light (from the bed--how, I don't know), they'd kind of thin out, but when I turned the light back off, they just swarmed harder.

Then I thought I was getting up. This consisted of me thinking I was sliding my legs off the bed, slowly, and trying to push myself up. I felt like my body was very heavy and hard to move, which I thought was just a result of heavy sleep. I even remember checking my computer.

Then I was back in dreamworld just like that and for some reason I was driving to the edge of a dock and almost forgot to break and slid to a stop right before going over the edge.

It was weird how the dreams came so close to eachother. It was like treading water, only badly, and my head kept dipping beneath the surface. I wish I could remember that original dream. I also slept for a lot less time than it felt like.

Good Mood Gig Talent Search

Hello all. So, in my search for opportunities to get my writing out there, I ran into this little gem. http://www.sam-e.com/job/profile/305

Basically, it's a job that has you posting one post per day about how you sustain your good mood. The first round is based solely off of votes and I think they want to see who is good at utilizing social media. So, please, vote for me. And you can vote once per day, so keep returning!

Also, this explains that good mood sticker on the side, just in case anyone was wondering.

-Justin C. Key

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Cross-Country Trip: Day 1, Part 2: The Drive to Chicago

First off, did anyone notice I spelled Chicago wrong in part 1? My bad, guys.

Anyway, where was I? Ah, yes, Chicago. One thing I left out in Part 1 was that there were hella hella stupid doo-doo dumb retarded tolls. Literally every 50 miles. It made for interesting developments on day 2, but we'll get to that later.

The first thing I remember about Chicago? The traffic. MY GOD! First off, I'm already dead tired from the overnight and lack of ability to get good sleep in the passenger's seat, it's my turn to drive, and this was my first time experiencing heavy traffic. Since I included the part about Johanna's ticket, it would probably be unfair if I did not include that this trafficky, tired part of the day made me very grumpy. It's not something I'm proud of, but there, I admit it.

We finally arrived to the hotel at about 3:30. We were seriously tempted to just stay in and sleep, but it's Chicago! I'd never been. She'd never been. So we sucked it up and went out to explore. The plan was the Willis Tower and then some good ole Chicago pizza. We decided it might be easier to drive. Big mistake. It's funny, because on the way to the hotel our side was bumper to bumper and the other direction was pretty free flowing. Same stuff when we went back the same way we came: the traffic flow had switched. It was like Chicago was f'ing with us.

We finally made it to the Willis Tower and commenced operation Look Like a Tourist. This consisted of pictures, pictures, and more pictures. We took the 'tour' which first consisted of a movie telling about the history of Sears Tower and how recently Sears has been going under, the tower was bought out, and the name was changed to the wimpiness it is now. Us and a few other people got to the movie part right after they closed the doors and it was 14 minutes til the next showing so the people in front of us took it upon themselves to force entry. We just went along with it and tried to take quick seats as we heard an attendant shouting that we couldn't do that. Nothing ever became of it.

The coolest part was the top view. We got there right around dusk so we were able to see the city in the dying daylight and in all its glory at night. They even had this glass ledge that you can go out on, look down, and feel like you're standing in thin air. It was kind of surreal, but it also didn't look as far up as I thought it would.

Next stop was random Chicago pizza joint. We ordered a classic Chicago-style pizza and what we got was a big chunk of melted cheese on a thin layer of bread. Oh, and I think there were some other things mixed in there as well. It was ok, at best, at the time, but it made for crappy left overs the next day.

The good news is that the traffic back was a breeze. No, that's a damn lie. It was still terrible. And for some reason I still opted to drive. Maybe it made me feel like I had a right to be cranky if I was at least doing the driving. I don't know, maybe you psycho-analysts out there in web-world can help me out. Either way, we were back to the hotel soon, ready to rest up, and that much closer to California.

-Justin C. Key

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Dream Journal #1

Before I forget. Just had a dream that a bunch of us were hanging out with Dave Chappelle (I think) and he was telling us about this health problem he has. Then that problem kicks in, hard, and he dies. Just as we're standing over his dead body, perplexed, some of his family comes in, including a very large, very menacing man. For some unknown reason, my side draws guns in panic, making us look very guilty. Then we run, knowing that this family of Dave is going to try to kill us. We split up and I go and hide among the pool party (don't ask why there's a pool party....it's a dream).

While there, I meet this random girl who says she always wanted to have kids but she wants to be able to run first (she's extremely overweight). I give her the profound advice that you don't need to be able to run to have kids. She ponders on this revelation. Then my pursuers find me. I try to explain to them what had really happened, but they inform me they have already voted to stab me in my kidney with a pencil. I get infuriated and tell them I can prove we didn't kill Dave Chappelle because we had recorded some of our outing beforehand and on some of the tape he talks about this health problem. I proceed to yank the pencils out of their hands. They agree to go and watch the video with me.

I wake here with a weird initial feeling that I need to go back to sleep and finish this 'dream' so they won't come after me in future dreams. Welcome to my mind.

I'm going to start posting some of the dreams that stick out to me. Maybe they will become inspiration for future stories. Who knows, maybe I'll start analyzing them (I invite any reader to as well). I also hear that writing them down right after helps one master the art of lucid dreaming. Eh, we'll see.

-Justin C. Key

Friday, October 9, 2009

Why You Don't Talk To Strangers

A Poem by Justin C. Key

They met on Sunday’s wife.

A Saturday—she wore black,

A color of mourning, none other than that of the cat

Ran over in the street. She’d gone to try

To save its life. Time was against her, death to cut

The feline’s string. They met under the next sun.

They first kissed with the background of the setting sun

On the balcony of The Sailor’s Wife,

A restaurant with salmon so freshly cut.

And when the day turned in to black

His feelings for her, he had to try

To say. But in the end they just kissed. Tongues went to the cat

They first fought about the cat

That he bought for her to bring some sun

In to her life and try

To relieve her guilt from that day. His brother’s wife

Agreed to help. No black,

He said. Only white could make the cut.

A month later she slipped a cut

To her finger, startled by the playful cat.

So much blood, the sink went black

He rushed to her and held her wound up to the sun

As tender as if she were his wife.

That night she asked ‘will you love me.’ He said I’ll try.

Marriage wasn’t long after his try

But tries aren’t good enough, strings of anger cut

By any little thing done by his wife

His true love was just the cat

His eyes the darkest under the sun

So cold at noon, like coals of black

That June her first eye went black

That July she stopped tears to try

To be a good spouse for August’s sun

But September came and sanity was cut

And October’s Halloween found a hanged cat

By November she knew she was Chucky’s wife

Her body is all charred with black, for she chose to be his wife

In the end he had tried to try, to bury her out of love with the cat

But it was as if the sun boiled his brain, and like this he began to cut.

The Best Job In the World

Remember way back in the beginning of 2009 there was a slight buzz over this job that paid $100k for 6-months of enjoying the Great Barrier Reef, trying out free spa services, and basically sitting on your ass all day? Oh, and feeding the fish was one of the grueling responsibilities, too. Apparently Australia's tourism industry was suffering and they came up with the idea of paying someone a ridiculous amount of money to be pampered, enjoy the high life, and keep up a blog that would ideally increase interest in visiting that continent that we love to call a country, and vice versa.

Naturally, I jumped on the opportunity.

I had just spent three months in Australia as part of Stanford's overseas study programs. It was one of the best experiences of my life--all 22 years and 4 months of it. Along with 47 of my peers, I traveled all up and down the Australian East Coast, from Stradbroke Island to Brisbane to Cairns back down to Heron Island on the Great Barrier Reef and then to Sidney. Hands down, our time on Heron Island was the most memorable. Sure, we still had class regularly (every morning at 8 am to be exact), but our days still consisted of independent morning snorkels, mid-day volleyball with the professors, evening tanning sessions on the beach, and the occasional night snorkel (those were fun, if not a bit eerie).

We spent a total of two weeks at Heron and I imagined that my experience with The Best Job in the World (aka: Island Reef Job) would be quite similar, plus 5.5 months and minus 47 peers and 5 professors. To apply, all you had to do was submit a 60 second video (not a second more) telling why you are the man (or woman, in my case it was the former, so please: no misogyny accusations) for the job. Piece of cake, right? Wrong. In my defense, I have no video editing experience and did all of this in one night, and I think I did pretty well, considering. But some of the people who applied must work for Pixar, I swear.

My mother told me about the job, coincidentally, right after I had stumbled upon it myself. It had been posted on Yahoo!, so I knew there would be a lot of contenders. I would have started on it earlier, but that time-sucking leech of a burden you may know as college was well under way. In fact, I think the deadline was right around mid-terms. So, as things like this usually do, the time kept ticking by and ticking by and soon I was in danger of missing the deadline. So I dedicated a weekend, locked myself in one of the classroom buildings with my computer, a rented camera, and some (limited) food. The plan was to come up with a powerpoint on myself and do a presentation (on myself) in a comical, in-your-face sort of way, and film it. I had done something like this before in Australia (Blubber Love Academy) with good enough result. The presentation, as you'll see in the video, I was pretty proud of but wish I had used an HD-camera so that all the little details would shine through. In the end, my hope was that whoever was viewing these videos would first be intrigued by my charisma and overall presentation and then on subsequent views be able to unravel more from the video, like a colorful ball of yarn with a present in the middle.

I shot it myself using a tripod and basically went through the whole presentation multiple times from multiple angles. The editing was the hardest part by far. They were pretty serious about the 60 second limit and I remember getting it down to 80 seconds and not knowing how I would compress anymore. It's interesting because the fast-paced on-crack nature of the final result is because I went over it many times deleting almost all the spaces in between. So there really is no time of me doing nothing. I forget exactly how I got down to 60 seconds, but I kept chipping away over and over until it meet the criteria.

I finished the video about 12 hours before the upload deadline. Then guess what happened? It wouldn't upload. The servers were being flooded. The worst part was that I'd have to wait about 20 minutes of it acting like it was uploading just to see the error screen at the end. During this time, I read FAQ posts on the site that said, despite the technical difficulties, videos that did not make it up by the deadline would not be considered, no exceptions. It was a bad 12 hours. I was already sleep-deprived and fell asleep a few times beside the computer. For about 6 or so hours it wouldn't upload and I was really beginning to think that, after all of that, I just wouldn't be able to do it. Finally, it randomly went through.

But my worries weren't over.

The FAQ also made it clear that the time limit was to be strictly enforced. Any videos that were over 60.00 seconds were disqualified. The scary part about this was that the site recognized that some video programs would record a second or more difference from what they were using in a video's length but, for fairness, they had to measure everyone's under the same standards. In other words, I could have a program that said my video is 59 seconds, but if the program the judges are using says it's actually 61 seconds, it's disqualified. So, even after mine uploaded, I was fearful of the dreaded rejection email.

In the end, I received an email saying that my upload had gone through successfully. I could tell you in detail what happened after that, but this post is about the creative process and obviously I'm not chilling somewhere in Australia right now, so you can guess the outcome. Long story short, my video wasn't short-listed as part of the 50 that viewers would vote on. Nevertheless, here is the video for your viewing pleasure...and hopefully I never run for office.

-Justin C. Key

Friday, October 2, 2009

Cross-Country Trip: Day 1, Part 1: The Drive to Chiago

We set off at midnight. I'd tried to get an ample amount of rest beforehand, but that didn't go too well. Still, on top of the one hour of napping, I had spent 2 hours laying down with my eyes closed, so maybe that would count for something? My car was already packed and all that was left to do was to say my goodbye's--see-you-later's as my grandma would have preferred. This part wasn't as hard as you may expect, considering I had left home for school in California 4 years before. In my eyes, that was when I 'moved out' and this past summer was just me visiting home again. Either way, my mother was there to see me off.

I've always been bad with directions. This little fact combined with a week old license and a car that had been in my possession for the same amount of time ensured that I'd get nowhere without a GPS. That day I had gone out and got one of the TomTom's. I set it up meticulously and then went on my way. I had never driven at night alone before, so I tried to pretend TomTom was that side-seat driver. All was going well until I took the wrong exit en route to the airport to pick up Johanna. Of course, it quickly re-calibrated and told me which way to go, but it felt like it was taking me in circles for a long time after that. Seems I had spent 10 minutes trying to get back to a mile before the exit I had wrongly taken. Johanna's flight was delayed, so it all worked out anyway.

Johanna drove the first leg. It had been her idea to start off early so that we could get to Chicago in the afternoon and spend the rest of the day there. She'll probably be mad that I told you all this, but she got a speeding ticket within the first hour of the trip. She was shocked to discover that the speed limit had been 55 instead of 65. Needless to say, she drove 5 miles under the rest of the way, but it was the first and last ticket of our journey, for both of us.

At 900 or so miles, the drive from DC to Chicago is about 13 hours, give or take a gas station and breakfast stop. The first few hours of driving in the dark was pretty uneventful, but a smooth ride going at 50 mph. Around sunrise, it started getting light outside (I promise I'm not slow for that statement) and we stopped for some breakfast at Denny's. It would be my turn to drive next so, naturally, I had about 3 cups of coffee: I was only going off of two hours of car-sleep.
While at the diner, we met a cute middle-aged-making-their-way-to-elderly couple who were also traveling to Chicago. When we told them we were doing cross-country, they said that they had before as well and had taken almost the same path we were destined upon. It was a nice little conversation, knowing that you weren't the only crazies on the open road, at 6 am no doubt. The breakfast was good, too. Honestly, I forgot what I had, but I remember that it was good.

While I drove, Johanna took it upon herself to take pictures to chronicle our journey. I tried making it so that these pictures are beside eachother, but that didn't work. If anyone knows how to, please leave a comment.

And, I swear, we came across two of these set-ups along the way, about 2-4 hours apart! From the gas station, to the Hardees, to how the huge bathroom was set-up inside (that was the freaky, I-must-be-in-the-Matrix part), these two locations were IDENTICAL. PS: Ignore the date on these photos, that's just a result of me not fixing the settings on my camera.

Soon, as heavy fatigue and road-grumpiness was starting to set in, we began to see signs of the big city. And this is where part 1 of day 1 ends and part 2 will commence.