Philosophy, Psychology, Nerdisms, Writing from the Trenches

Philosophy

The Non-Adopters

I have a problem.

I’m not sure if it’s a generational thing. I mean, I’m friends with people from many generations, and it doesn’t strike me as a generational thing. Here it is:

Why doesn’t everyone use Google (or, God forbid, “The Google”)?

There seems to be a subset of humanity that actively refuses to embrace technology. And the thing that really gets me is that technology is supposed to make our lives easier. If it isn’t helping you, don’t use it.

Hitchhiker's Guide to the GalaxyPerhaps this has something to do with our gadget-obsessed society. It’s enough to own the bright, shiny toy. You don’t need to know how to use it. As long as you have it, your position in society is assured. We’ve replaced technological knowledge for the appearance of technological knowledge. “I have a smartphone, but I don’t know how to use it.”

I was so excited when Apple announced the iPad, because it was like someone announcing a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Here was a handheld device (okay, maybe not palm size, but still reasonable) that had an almost guaranteed connection to the Internet. The Internet. The most complete compiling of human information so far. You want it? You can find it. Science fiction became science fact. Grab your towels.

Another thing about the iPad is that it has nearly limitless potential. Want to use it as a gaming device? Go for it. How about a medical aid for nurses and doctors? It can do that, too. I’ve been asked what an iPad does, which baffles me. You can use it as a musical instrument. You can use it to send text messages or talk on Skype. You can use it to create graphs and set up visual aids for meetings. You can use it to scan credit cards for your business. It can’t make you a cup of coffee, but it can tell you where to find some, and it get you one at Starbucks if you add money to the app.

The iPad, while a technological advancement, is also hailing back to the cave man. Here’s a stick. What does it do? It does whatever you can make it do.

Now, not everyone is ready for an iPad. I understand that. If it doesn’t somehow make life easier (again), you don’t need it.

I believe technology is the one of the foundations of human evolution. Before “I have a smartphone, and I don’t know how to use it” was “I have a rock, and I know how to use it.” Those must have been exciting times, when Caveman Jobs held an event with his turtleneck (made out of actual turtle?), and announced the rock. Maybe he was even responsible for the slingshot. Ridiculous scenario or not, human innovation cannot be denied as a major component of our development.

There’s this aspect of my personality that makes me undauntingly curious. If I want to know something, nothing will keep me from it. I will read the books, I will take the classes. If I had more time, I would study everything from Accounting to Yiddish Studies (yeah, it’s a thing) and everything in between. I understand on an intellectual level that not everyone shares this insatiable thirst for knowledge. Fortunately, I’m not related to any of those people. My parents, my siblings, my aunts, uncles, and more, all share my desire to learn.

The Internet is a portal into the garnering of information. (I don’t believe everything I read on the Internet; I’m just saying you can find factual pieces if you know where/how to look).

If I don’t know how to do something, my first instinct is to turn to Google.

Why doesn’t everyone do this?facepalm

You know another thing that’s great about Google? You can just type in your question, right into the box, and it gleans your meaning. How? They employ linguists who seem to have the ability to read minds. Their algorithms incorporate data from your history of searches. They look at the way other people have reacted who have performed similar searches. Google is trying to make your life easier. Embrace it.

I think these non-adopters are going to have a problem very shortly. Human technology is evolving alarmingly fast (not that you need to read any books on it). If you can’t keep up now, what happens when everyone is wearing Google Glass? What happens when we develop a way to store our thoughts instantaneously to the cloud?

Human evolution is so closely linked with our development of better tools, it’s possible the swift development of technology could lead to species directed evolution. Yes, our tools now could determine the future of the human race.

So, get on board. The spaceship is leaving without you.

P.S. I’m ready for my nanite injection, Mr. DeMille.


How to Achieve Your Dream

I have a dream. I don’t often talk about my dream publicly. I mean, my friends know. And my family knows. And I’m always striving, always working toward that goal. I think I have a sort of weird knock on wood mentality about my dream, like if I say it out loud, it won’t come true. It’s something that I have to keep on the inside, something that’s my own.How to acheive a dream

Before you think you know what it is, it’s not being a “writer.” Saying I want to be a writer is like saying I want to be biologically classified Homo sapien. I’ve had a problem with the word aspiring for a long time, especially as it pertains to writers. Are you writing? Yes. Are you actively pursuing a career as a writer? Yes. Than you’re a writer. If you label yourself as aspiring, my first assumption is that you’ve never actually finished writing anything that doesn’t begin with the words, “Dear Diary.”

In Hollywood, it’s weird. There’s a “who do you want to be” atmosphere that I finally reached the breaking point with.

So, here are some things I’ve learned about dreaming, straight from Hollywoodland.

1) Celebrate the victories

My dream is huge. It takes a lot of steps. Usually, when someone asks me what my dream is, I only tell them the current plateau I’m headed for. Like “head writer” or “created by.”

I have a problem taking compliments. When someone tells me they like something I’ve written, the dreamer in me reminds me that this isn’t the peak I’ve dreamed. This is a road sign to blow past. But, that’s not really the case. I’m working on celebrating these moments of compliment, because I know where they come from. Rather than answer with an I’m not there yet, I take them in stride and acknowledge and appreciate them.

2) Dreams are hard

When I told people I was moving to Los Angeles to pursue my dream, I got a lot of reactions. Most of them started with “You’re so brave.” I suppose that’s a compliment, but it struck me as odd. I didn’t think I was brave at all. I was simply doing that which was necessary to achieve what I wanted.

So, step two is to understand that some people find out that their dream is hard, and they stop going for it. There are other people that don’t acknowledge that part of their dream. There is no hard, there is only an obstacle that has to be surmounted. If you get stuck on the hard, you need to either reevaluate or quit.

3) Aspirations are misleading

So often, people want the simple answer. The question isn’t so much what as it is who. Who do you want to be?

I don’t have an answer for that. I want to be myself. I don’t want to compare myself to other people. So, Tina Fey? No. Tina Fey can be Tina Fey. I will not be better at being Tina Fey than Tina Fey is. Jane Espenson? Closer, but no. I would not make a very good Jane Espenson. (I love Jane Espenson and have the utmost respect for her.)

I understand why this is a question that people ask. It’s the same reason they have to take complex scientific theories on sci fi shows and distill them to clumsy analogies that are simple enough for a largely unscientific audience to understand.

Regardless, stop comparing me to other people. Our dreams might not be the same, and even if they were, everyone’s path is different.

4) Reputation is currency

I suppose this could be specific to my field, but I don’t think so. It’s a little bit karma, but mostly attitude. If you go out to meet people, get to know people, connect with people on a basic level, you will develop a reputation of being kind. I know myself enough that I am often considered aloof and disinterested. I’m not. I’m fully engaged, I just usually enter a receptive state.

Yes, I’m listening. But my face is apathetic. Understanding my aloofness, I have to remind my face to do things when I’m talking to people. Be aware of what you’re putting out there. People might talk about you. You don’t want them to say bad things.

That’s what I’ve learned so far. It’s a work in progress.


On Ruining Everything

A recent post about Michael Bay’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has my childhood spinning in its proverbial grave. And, before you start accusing me of hipster nostalgia, you’ve got nothing on me. I watched the cartoon, had the toys, devoured the movies, got the Christmas ornament. I even read Ninja Turtles books. Checked them out from the library. Left it outside in the rain. That put the fear of God in me.

Anyway, that point is Michael Bay is RUINING ninja turtles. Michelle Fox! What in the…how would the…but the…

Okay, I’m going to stop myself right there.

It’s sort of interesting when these types of things happen, my mind runs to cover the eyes of some imaginary child that I don’t have, nor even want at this point in my life. It’s weird, this completely unjustified righteous indignation. And, while I do think, “It’s not even the same story. You’re changing everything. Can’t you just make that movie and leave my beloved non-alien, un-Michelle Fox Turtles alone?”

Clearly not. And it’s not really my business to say so. You see, I make a stand by not giving Hollywood my money. (In most cases, it matters not.)

But, it brings me to a weird point that probably doesn’t need to be made.

You’re not really ruining it.

While attempting a Harry Potter movie marathon last weekend, I came to a stunning realization. Those movies are DEPRESSING as HELL. As I made my way through the first three years of Harry Potter on DVD, I forgot the good times that Harry had at Hogwarts. I forgot J.K. Rowling’s sly wit and subtle humor. So much of that didn’t come out in the films. I had to stop because I knew Harry’s journey just grew darker and darker.

Did the director’s of Harry Potter ruin it?

No. I had so many fond memories of reading the books. And, fond memories of gathering with my friends to go to the midnight releases. I wonder what someone who has just seen the movies must think.

Back to the point:

Ruining things.

In many ways, we don’t want pieces of our culture to die. We bow down to them and worship. It’s like the George Lucas tithe. Every ten years, we must give him more of our dollars and eat popcorn at his altar. This reluctance to try new things is killing the movie industry. (Let’s face it, it isn’t going anywhere soon.) Studios want to bet on the sure thing. And even if everyone is going out to watch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in order to hate it, YOU’RE STILL SEEING IT.

If we want to maintain our culture, we should preserve it in our minds. I remember sneaking Star Wars on the basement VHS player. I remember my shock that Darth Vader was Luke’s father. I remember those episodes of Batman: The Animated Series that introduced me to every villain and left me with a fondness for boxy Batmobiles.

At some point, we have to let go of this notion of ruining. The world is progressing. It’s not easy to build a fandom from scratch, but kids do it every year. Do I love The Nanny because of it’s timeless Broadway references or because it was a part of my youth? Mostly because of the Cici/Niles repartee. Perhaps I over-inflate the brilliance of things because I have a developmental attachment to them.

Either way, we must face the facts: Batman is growing up, the Ninja Turtles are growing up, The Nanny will not come back on the air.

Accusing people of ruining things holds us back from progress. Stop being such a Raphael.

(By the way, I can’t wait for Jurassic Park 3D)


That Color Doesn’t Look Good on Anyone

I recently threw myself a pity party. You know the one. The one where you feel like the whole world is against you; or maybe your mouth was faster than your brain; or maybe, for some reason, your being is divided between id, ego, and superego and they all hate each other at the moment.

Whatever the reason, I started the pity party. I know why. It’s that moment when your life decisions catch up with you. Not that you made any particularly bad decisions, or decisions that you regret. It was the sort of thing where you expected everything to go smoothly and forgot that the time between decision and success is LIFE HAPPENING.

And, I usually go with the flow. But, I’m a Philosophy major, a brain, one of those overly analytical introverts that are so depressing at parties (be they “pity or otherwise)…

The Universe has not subscribed to my time table.

It all started when I realized I lost touch with my voice. Wait, not my “voice,” my Voice. That mystical, magical buzzword that all writers use (it’s bullshit, but it isn’t {but it is [but it isn't.]}) I’ve been writing things for Not Me for awhile. Spec scripts, jokes, sketches; things that are me, but they aren’t (but they are {but they aren’t [but they are.]}) In the world of The Creative, there’s the whole thing about trying to get paid for your work, so you do things to increase your exposure that are not necessarily the thing that you would be doing in that parallel universe where the world is perfect. This world isn’t really available to anyone. Even people with contracts still get rejected by their editors, producers, executives, etc. I mean, J.K. Rowling and Stephen King are pretty much the only Creatives who get to say “My rules” to whomever.

Anyway, the thing that I want, more than fame, is to be able to present a project and say, “I can make this work.” And, maybe that’s what fame is? Maybe not. Whatever the case is, I don’t want to be a sellout, I want to be a silver lining. I want to be a Fixer. I want to be the person who can turn a Nothing into a Something.

Back to the Pity Party.Id, Ego, Superego

Quiet down, up there.

My Superego knew exactly who to invite to this party and made a move to protect itself. My Id, on the other hand, just wanted the immediate Pity gratification, which it sought without any consultation.

So, to those of you who were invited to the Pity Party out of Id, I apologize. I know that you love all of my parts and tried to help in the best way you could, but you were gratifying the Id, which really didn’t deserve it.

And, to those of you who were invited to the Pity Party by the Superego and showed up to throw the drink in its face, you were right. Thanks for coming.

Because, if I’m the one who wants to be able to say, “I can make this work,” sometimes the advice I need is “Make it work.”

It’s not a perfect system. My Id still begs for gratification. But, at least on some level, I’m starting to reject my self-imposed martyrdom.


I Put the “eck” in Rejected

It’s been awhile since I’ve done an overt post on writing and I just KNOW you’ve been dying for one (irony irony irony and scene). Regardless of how you feel about writers writing on writing about writing while writing, I can’t afford therapy, so I bought a domain name instead.

If you are a working writer, you’ve received a rejection letter. If you haven’t, then:

1. Screw you

OR:

2. You’re not really a working writer and you need to take a look at what you call your career.

Rejection is part of the process, and it’s something that want-to-be writers must deal with in order to progress. Sometimes, your writing sucks. Sometimes, the market is bad. Sometimes, nobody wants you. Okay. It happens. That’s life.

You pull up your big girl panties and get back to work.

This week, I got the rejection letter from my final requested manuscript. It was not a form rejection. It was kind and gentle, and I’ve developed a Twitter relationship with this agent and still enjoy talking with her, even if she didn’t want my stuff. This letter made me feel a great many emotions, but all these things were very loosely defined.

I’ve been waiting for this rejection for awhile. Now, let’s take a look at that. I’ve been waiting for this rejection. I wasn’t waiting for a “yes.” I’d been waiting for a “no.” When did that happen? When did I become so bitter and cynical that I’m expecting bad news over good?

But, regardless of expectation, every rejection letter brings up every other rejection and compresses them all into one big lump of ice right smack between the lungs. And that lump expands into a void of negativity. And the doubts rush in to fill the negative space.

I’m not talented. I can’t tell a story. I’m doing something wrong.

Your support structure tells you that’s wrong; you’re talented; you’ll get there. BUT THEY ARE LYING!!! (irony irony irony and scene)

The truth is, when you come to expect rejection, the old adage of doing the same thing and expecting a different result leads you to the crazy train.

Now, here’s the real point of this story.

The worst thing repeated rejection has done to me is trained me to not want things.

Wanting things is stupid and leads to pain, therefore the act of wanting is a gateway to pain and must be avoided at all costs.

I realized my numbness to desire when I suddenly wanted something. An opportunity presented itself and that cold lump was immediately incinerated in the burn of possibility. There was an all consuming rush, a caffeine high, an unfurling of imagination as a million different futures spread before me, none of them featuring a rejection. I had to tell someone. I had to tell everyone. I had to run home and write a blog post about it!Give It Colbert

So, there. The real travesty of rejection is not the “no.” It’s what it does to your head. It’s how it messes you up, pushes you down, leaves you on your belly so you forget what it’s like to sit, stand, walk, run.

But when something is worth wanting, maybe that’s the only thing that you need to get back on your feet.

 


Social Media for the Common Man – So, you’ve joined a social network

I was going to title this post “Don’t Be and Asshat”, but decided to be a little more upbeat with it. If you’re looking for something on not being an asshat on your social media platforms, especially if you’re a writer, I send you here. Chuck Wendig’s a little in your face, but he makes valid points and he makes them well.

So, you’ve joined a social network.http://www.yourcomputer.com/portals/0/images/QuestionKey.jpg

What do you put on there?

Well, here’s the good thing and the bad thing:

It’s really up to you.

Here are some things to get your posting started:

1. Find people who share your interests.

I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again. Social media is all about being social. You’re making connections and building relationships. You aren’t standing on a soapbox with a loudspeaker; you’re in the party working the crowd. First, you’re going to need to find some people who share your interests. And, don’t give me that crap about not knowing what your interests are. What are you looking for from people on Twitter? Book recommendations? Movie reviews? Humorous anecdotes about deep sea fishing?

There is someone out there broadcasting just that kind of information. Start following them, add them to your feed, read their blog.

2. Decide who you want to be.

This is a strange, philosophical order, but you need to pick your online persona. Not even I can be everything all the time. The most important thing is for you to be you. Being yourself in 140 characters in a daunting thought, but it’s not as hard as it sounds. It’s okay to hesitate over a post. It’s okay to hit the delete button. It’s okay to leave something in the draft box. You can take some time to decide which parts of your personality shine through on the web. Sarcasm…not always understood. Irony…not always apparent. Remember that on Twitter and your blog, most of what you post will be viewable by the public. If you’re comfortable hanging your crusty underwear out there, go for it.

Personally, I wouldn’t want too much of my life on the web, but I did post pictures of my room on my blog. I’m comfortable sharing that.

Streaming video of me sleeping? Not really me.

3. Find the line between engaging and stalking and DON’T CROSS IT.

There are celebrities on Twitter. But, guys, they’re on Twitter. They came to the party. They can’t have the expectation that people aren’t going to try to talk to them. And, if you’re interested in them or their work, I would encourage you to follow them. On the flip side, be aware that everyone wants to talk to them. Did you tweet an alarmingly clever reply to something Lady GaGa said? Don’t be offended if she doesn’t answer. People are responding all the time. On the other hand, you don’t want to be that creepy nutbag who replies, @LadyGaga LOL!!! after everything she posts. While that won’t necessarily get you negative attention, it certainly won’t stick out when you say something charming and witty and worthy of response.

Choose your responses and choose them wisely. You don’t know how someone will react to your (sorta)unsolicited attention. Don’t say, “@joshgroban I want to wear your face.”Something like, “@joshgroban I enjoy your music” is a little less creepy. For smaller-time celebrities, just be aware that the first time might surprise them. When someone you don’t know starts talking to you by referencing something you just said, it’s surprising, but we humans are getting more used to it.

4. When in doubt, Golden Rule it

Imagine you had the worst week in the world and you tweet, “Just had a really bad week.” What kind of response are you looking for?

You don’t have to be looking for a response. You can simply be mentioning your bad day because it helps you relax. But, suppose someone sees it and responds with “@your_name LOL!! I haz a bad week, 2!!1!!!” That probably doesn’t make you feel any better. That person is being an asshat. DON’T BE AN ASSHAT!

It’s not that hard. Put yourself in someone else’s position. That’s actually a primary evolutionary trait we’ve acquired to deal with the need to socialize. How would you want someone to respond? You can add a personal touch and begin to work up a rapport, but just be aware of your own feelings to help guide you in your responses. You won’t always be correct; different people have different thresholds. It’s about relationships. Those don’t always start off with a bang.

Social media can be really fun. Don’t let anything deter you from trying it out. If you aren’t having a good time, stop doing it. I won’t judge you for it.

Remember, finding your voice takes time. Connecting with people takes time. Social media isn’t magic.

I will bring you some more content creation tips in…three days? I promise three days.


We have entered the timeline

I’ve started a new job. For those of you at home keeping score, that’s three I am currently working. Every Monday is about a 16 hour day (10am-2am), as I have a conference call for job #1, web maintenance for job #1, social media updating for job #1, organizational compilation for job #3, coffee slinging for job #2, and continued research for job #3.

Did I mention I have a hard time sleeping? I figure I might as well be doing something.

Anyway, to prove to boss #3 that blogging is not nearly as hard as most people like to pretend it is, I’ve decided to make another push on my blog and keep it updated. No more hypocrisy!

As research for job #3, I’ve been reading people’s blogs. This is usually limited to the people I know. I’ve started to notice a weird trend that is a little bit haunting.

I can see the moment I entered their life.

But, that’s not all.

I can see when I started having an influence on them. I can see when our conversations went from meandering coffee talk to brain worm. I can see where inside joke shifted to social media moment. I can see the moment I went from “that quiet girl” to “she’s super smrat”.

Facebook introduced the Friendship Pages back in 2010 where you could track your interactions with all your friends. I remember when I made friends before Facebook. It was a dark and fuzzy time, much like Kansas before Oz, but I digress. Some people have challenged the Friendship Page as another level of stalking, and yes, I suppose, if one is chaotic evil, that might be something they would employ, but is there something to be gained by pulling up the (Internet) history of every friendship? Can we measure the impact we have on people?

It’s scary. Can a blog post from four years ago incite an emotional reaction, even retroactively? Are we putting too much of ourselves online?

Go with me on this one: there’s a robot uprising.

While the whole world was confusing Cleverbot into becoming the lowest common denominator on the intelligence scale, the great robot overlord is out there compiling data (in this scenario, I might actually be the robot overlord). We tell Pandora what kind of music we like; we tell Amazon what books we like; Pinterest is the best way to discover someone’s true interests. Before you take this the wrong way, I’m not saying we should abandon sharing and the Interwebz before the robots begin the uprising by distracting us with cat videos. I’m more interested in the idea of social evolution.

Based on what people post on social media sites, I have the ability to know someone on a level that sometimes only a therapist will see. I can watch a lifetime unfold in a series of once a month book reviews. For someone who spends time deep in the philosophical mire of modern day society, I can’t help but wonder: as we make more of ourselves available to other people, do we become more selfish?

I admit I started this blog with the hope that my friends and family would have the opportunity to stay up to date with my wanderings and musings. After college, when you can’t just head down the hall to Heidi’s room or walk over to Banana Bread Cottage, there’s a sudden void that you want to fill. So, I started this blog with the cynical and acidic tone that my friends would be familiar with. Then, as I tried to pursue my writing career, I was told that I needed to write a blog that agents and editors would find appealing. That approach didn’t really work for me. I went back to the friends and family meanderings. Then, I get a comment from someone I don’t know.

I was shocked.

I mean, not that I’ve ever written anything that I wouldn’t want other people reading (that stuff ends up in the draft box). It started to change me. Suddenly, I was hyperaware of everything I put on the Internet. Who was my Internet self? Do people like the truncated Internet version of who I am? What could I say that everyone would want to hear in order to get more traffic in order to-what? What am I even doing? Who cares about how much traffic I get?

But the selfish thoughts were there. I’m slowly getting over them; slowly getting back to my attempts to just write what’s on my mind and be human, not a persona or a product.

I’m not Kate 2.0. I’m Kate .4.2.1. I’m still in beta testing.


Society’s Existential Crisis

What a bright and beautiful Tuesday morning. Time for some philosophical ramblings on the state of the world.

It seems that everyone wants to ask “what’s wrong with the world today?”. The fact of the matter: nothing.

As I was listening to the insanely giddy bubblegum pop of the late 90’s and early 00’s (I like to bounce around to Nsync {take that, Justin Bieber}), there seems to be a great division between the world before 9/11 and after. The terrorist attack that rocked the nation has shaken us into a societal existential crisis.

For generations, America defined itself by its enemy. Communism (Russia, Cuba, Vietnam), Korea, Nazis. Before the string of wars that dominated the past century, America defined itself by isolationism, expansion, as well as a myriad of other ideals. Now, we are no longer defined by our enemy. Terrorism is a nebulous concept, too nebulous to help America establish an identity. We can fall back on the original tenets of freedom, equality, the American dream, but those are all nebulous, as well. We lean on philosophers and founding fathers in an attempt to get a firmer grasp on what these ideals mean specifically in order to live up to them. The fact remains that these terms are loose and open to interpretation.

For those who think there is a revolution coming, you’re a little late. The revolution is already happening. We are in a state of flux. Four of five societal tenets are changing. Socially, we are more connected than ever before. Your world is only as private as you make it, and even then, anyone with smartphone can broadcast your business to the interwebz. Economically, we are on rocky ground. Politically, bipartisanship is prevalent.

Intellectually, that’s a big one. Arguments and lawsuits over intellectual property, self-publishing vs. traditional publishing, media piracy; how can one define what an idea is worth?

There is a generation gap. I’m not talking about ‘I’m young, you’re old’, I’m suggesting there is a fundamental difference in how Gen-X and Gen-Y think. Why learn anything when all you have to do is look it up on Google? We have forgotten the importance of knowledge.

Without knowledge, there can be no wisdom. There can’t be any wisdom without dignity, either, but that’s a topic for another day.

We need wisdom to break through the societal existential crisis. We need to reflect upon the past in order to create a future instead of running headlong at a light at the end of the tunnel, hoping it’s paradise and not the oncoming train. America is a nation less than 300 years old. Growing pains, paradigm shifts, reorganization; all these things need to take place.

Who are we? What do we value? What will our legacy be?

When the people one hundred years in the future look back on the 2010’s, what will the legacy be?


Writing is Art

reading1

I’m sorry.

Up front, I’m sorry.

This blog was supposed to be the meandering thoughts that run through my head on the nature of the universe, a true home for my philosophizing, a place where my friends and family had a chance to gaze at my psyche from afar without being forced to engage me in the long, meticulous, and ultimately exhausting conversation that my introverted nature would drag them into.

A person who calcified while listening to me.

Well, I have readers beyond my friends and family, and I have friends and family who don’t even know (or don’t seem to know) that this thing exists. Thanks, followers. I hope my post-intellectual-age philosophy is amusing, thought-provoking, distracting…whatever you’re looking for. If you’re looking for more hipster cats, well, no promises.

I did not want this to be the blog of an aspiring writer, documenting each step of the journey. Most of that stuff is best kept on the inside.

But, here I am. Writing another post on writing. I can’t help it. My brain itches and this is the only way to scratch it.

Writing is an art form.

Yes, there are plenty of books that people scoff at and would not call art, but the truth is, writing is a form of art.

In jazz, the listener is told to listen to the notes that aren’t there as much as the notes that are. This isn’t just a load of crap. Music (no matter what kind) cannot be enjoyed unless people have a sense of expectation as to what is about to come next (Daniel Levitin, This is Your Brain on Music). The idea is that jazz musicians toy with listeners’ sense of expectation. When you believe one note will be played, it isn’t. Or, better yet, there is harmony and adjustment, giving the listener a different tone, pace, richness, exposing a new aspect of the piece merely by not living up to expectation.

There is a balance in this impromptu styling and the sense of expectation. Stevie Wonder’s Superstition features a steady but unpredictable hi hat in the drum line (again, Daniel Levitin, This is Your Brain on Music). This unpredictability makes you feel like you’re listening to a new song every time. Maybe not that far, but it still feels fresh, and, no better word, groovy, with every listen.

It’s the same with writing.

When reading, you need to read the words that aren’t there as much as the words that are. Writing isn’t a simple delivery system, from the page to your brain without that space between. It requires subtlety, subtext, and implication.

Every story has been told. From a young age, we are inundated with story. We absorb the master plots. We know what to expect in everything we read. Writers must learn to write the right words and leave some words unsaid. Embrace subtlety. Let it flow. You can surprise your reader by advancing a trope, then switching it up. You can calm your reader by sinking into something familiar and slow.

When you do it right, people will want to read your book over and over, steady put unpredictable; fresh and smooth; nuanced.

Get out there and write.


Reality Sets In

I’m moving to Los Angeles.

I’m moving to Los Angeles!

Oh, my God, I’m moving to Los Angeles.

Well, not until later in the year, but reality is setting in and it’s setting in hard. The other day, my dad told me we needed to talk about when we wanted to head out there. To look at apartments. Which I am perfectly capable of doing on my own, but, I mean, come on. What are fathers for if it’s not negotiating real estate? Also, like the Eiffel Tower in Paris, I’m sure I can see the Hollywood sign from every window in my apartment no matter where I live.

In other news, sometimes I feel like I’m losing my grip on reality. You know when you watch those movies/read those books where there’s a pretty obvious ticking clock?

And, my shower won’t stop dripping, so I even get the “tick tick” sound effect when it gets too quiet around here.

So, here’s my trouble.

How do I say good-bye?

I made a new friend (which is amazing, by the way) and she is going to school at MIT. In Boston! And, despite the distance, we have kept up our friendship through Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook.

But what about the others?

I honestly can’t remember who I had this conversation with, so, if it was you, let me know.

“I’m leaving.” Me

“Okay. So?” You.

“I feel like I’m trying to cut off all my connections because it doesn’t hurt as much when I finally go.”

“Why?”

“That’s how it’s always been.”

“Yeah, but you have roots here. But, your parents are here.”

“I might be the one keeping them here. When I leave, they really have no reason to stay.”

“Oh.”

Yeah, oh.

So, here’s this.

I Don’t Know How To Say Goodbye


The Reality Breakdown

This universe sucks. I don’t feel bad saying it. There aren’t any superheroes, no one can time travel, teleportation is looking more and more unlikely.

Curse you, physics. You are a harsh mistress.

The other day, while playing Arkham City, I was struck by the thought of how woefully inadequate Gotham’s police force is.

Every one of Two-Face’s henchman is wearing some kind of suit that was cut in half, then sown together with the half of another suit. He has to outsource that, right? And, let’s say you can’t find the place that is manufacturing henchmen’s daily wear. Two-Face can’t possibly clean his own suits. Find the dry cleaner, stake out the place, follow the guy back to his lair. That can’t be so hard. I mean, really, “World’s Greatest Detective”. Buzz by the closed comedy clubs every evening, you catch Joker before he starts anything.

I’m joking, of course. The untraceability of Gotham City’s most wanted is built into the Batman universe and that is one hundred percent okay. I’m not ragging on it. I have accepted the incompetence of the Gotham police. They are lucky to have Batman. Things would be terrible without him. I have suspended disbelief.

In improv, one of the first things you learn is to never say, ‘no’. In order to make progress in a scene, you have to keep the scene moving. Saying ‘no’ stops all forward movement.

This is the same with the suspension of disbelief. I remember watching the preview for Star Trek, the teaser where the Enterprise is being built in the cornfields of Iowa.

My dad turned to me and said, “That would never happen.”

“Really? That’s the problem you have with this movie? The no seatbelts thing didn’t get you?”

“They would be building it in outer space. It’d be too heavy to get off the planet.”

I blacked out after that.

I’m not a Trekkie. I have not seen Star Trek. The movie could have ended with the Enterprise attempting to achieve orbit and crashing back to Earth while Spock sits on the bridge and says, “We really should have built this in outer space.” I think it’s more likely that the universe of Star Trek allows for a ship that size to be built on Earth, then launched into space.

Dad’s statement was the equivalent of saying ‘no’ to an entire universe.

I don’t deny Dad’s right to have a point of no return. I have abandoned stories over things much sillier. When we try examine fiction through our lens of reality, things aren’t always going to hold up. The suspension of disbelief is the closest thing we have to magic.

So get lost. Let it go.

Like I said, our universe sucks.

But, that’s totally okay.


The End is Nigh

I’m a little bit in love with rampant fatalism. Why is the idea of the end of the world so attractive? It seems like everyone wants to see humanity come to its inevitable end at the hand of some violent, foreseeable (preventable?) catastrophe.

And, I’m not just talking about the whole 2012 Mayan thing.

I think humanity can only exist with the looming threat of complete disaster. I mean it. Check here. We are constantly expecting the other shoe to drop. I suppose that makes the first shoe our existence in general.

I don’t believe that 2012 will be the end of humanity, Earth, the way we do things, what have you. I do wonder what the next big prediction will be after 2012 (*cough* moon breaking orbit *cough).

Instead of focusing on major catastrophe, though, I’d like to focus on the small ones that are expected in our lifetime (not ending in 2012). This list is courtesy of my mother forwarding me emails. I hit unsubscribe, but it hasn’t caught on.

6 Things that will Disappear in Our Lifetime

1. The Post Office

Really? Really. I will concede that the post office has been in financial trouble for a long time, but as far as being unsustainable, I’m not really sure that’s true. It’s funded by the government.

Regardless, here’s your call to action:

Save the Mail

Every week, go over your Tweets. Compile them into one convenient document and send them to your top twenty followers. All @replies should also be compiled and mailed directly to the intended recipient. I purpose this stamp.

2. The Check

I agree. This is useless. Dump it.

3. The Newspaper

Two words: coffee shops. What else are people going to glance at while they wait for their coffee?

Oh, and there’s nothing better to start a camp fire/cozy house fire with. Papier mache! Birdcages! Lining the table before commencing art projects! You don’t know what you’re talking about. The newspaper’s not going anywhere.

4. The Book

I’m not even going to take this one seriously.

5. The Land Line Telephone

Refer to answer for #2-The Check

6. Music

I could write a whole blog post on this alone. Disgruntled curmudgeons (read: old people) seem to get it in their heads that when the music they like is in decline, all of music is in decline. You are wrong. Music is a staple in human society. We have made music for thousands of years. We will always make music.

This is an example of putting business too close to art. It’s like saying, “If there aren’t any newspapers, there will be no news.”

That’s not how it works. Don’t equate an industry with the actual artistic expression.

You can argue all you want. Like I said, I love the fatalists, the doom-predictors, the naysayers. I also think you’re getting all worked up over nothing. And that’s exactly what our alien overlords intended.

Chill out, guys. We’re going to be fine.


Everyone’s an Expert

I hate the word ‘expert’.

It didn’t always used to be this way. Now, everyone’s throwing around this term, and, like most overused words, it has lost it’s meaning.

These days, everyone’s an expert on something. Social media, writing, television. In fact, I do know some people who qualify to call themselves experts, but they are few and far between.

An expert is defined as a person who has special skill or knowledge in some particular field; specialist; authority.

Look at yourself. Do you really qualify as an expert? My dad studies WWII as a hobby. He knows more about the European theater than anyone I have ever met. He can identify tanks by their tread marks (okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration). The point is: if you asked him, he would deny any expertise. Here’s where we come to the weird thing about those who attain knowledge.

They (we?) realize that the more you learn, the less you know.

I work in social media. I read Mashable, Read Write Web, Web Pro News everyday. While I have learned a lot from these people, this knowledge does not make me an expert. Being the one writing for them might.

With something like social media, the field is constantly changing. Unless you are on top of it everyday, developing strategy and implementing it, you can’t rightfully call yourself an expert.

It’s hard to be an expert. This isn’t something that should be taken so lightly. The true experts of the world need to take back that word.

Better yet, invent a word that means the same thing that hasn’t been ruined.

Everyone’s a norpluck.


The Mysterious Retail Injury

I seem to be attracted to mildly hazardous jobs. Nothing incredible, like putting out oil fires, just the minor injuries.

I worked at a movie theater for a year, running the concession stand. I got an awesome visor, a nametag, and free movie-themed t-shirts. So what, The Thunderbirds was a flop. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.

Anyway, as a concessionist, the duty of popping the popcorn fell on my young, but responsible shoulders. You see, it was a point of pride that our theater had the best popcorn formula out of the three local theaters. Some even used *gasp* pre-packaged popcorn. We popped ours fresh every day. We threw it out every night. When management wanted to save money on popping oil by altering the recipe, the staff rebelled. Sort of. We just ignored the mandate.

The thing about popcorn is that it’s a piece of fluff covered in hot oil. Back then, we didn’t have a door on our popper. If you were anywhere near it when it started popping, bob and weave, my friend. And, God help you if you thought you could beat it. And, God help you if you knew you couldn’t beat it, but the customer was late for their movie. You stick your arm in the burn machine, dammit.

A popcorn kernel burn isn’t very serious. It’s a quick flash of pain, less than a bee sting, than it’s back to scooping the popcorn into the bag. Though, unlike a bee sting, it leaves nice blotch of a scar behind, so small you don’t really notice it until you get a tan.
But, those injuries weren’t exactly mysterious. You took a risk, you challenged the machine, and you lost. Humanity has made that mistake before and will make it again

My current job is as a barista.

Yes, a job that requires me to jet superheated water through a metal tube into a metal pitcher that I have to hold up in order to make sure your latte gets no foam. Additionally, we bake our own cookies, grill sandwiches, and oven-roast pizza.
These things are hot.

And, even if you aren’t clumsy, there will inevitably be a time when you bump into a steam wand, or your fingers slip onto the top of the panini grill. All four of them. I had no feeling for a week.

But, where the hell did that massive bruise on my hip come from?

I’ve come home from my job with my hands chewed up with papercuts and I DON’T KNOW WHERE THEY CAME FROM!

Something lurks in every retail establishment. First, it dries out your skin. Then, it runs you into things when you’re not paying attention. Then, it cuts you, cuts so tiny, you don’t notice, until the aforementioned dry skin turns it into something much worse.
It’s a mystery, I tell you. And, I’m not the only one. When I asked my coworkers if they had ever experienced the “Mysterious Retail Injury”, they looked confused for a moment. But, after the awkward silence, they shouted “Yes! Oh, my God, where do those bruises come from?”

It’s strange to think that retail offers an environment that allows us to function at that level. I didn’t know that making coffee was so consuming that my mind blocked out pain. Who knew popping popcorn was such a hazard.

So far, it’s been nothing life-threatening. But, you never know what Mysterious Injury lurks around the corner.


Culture of Collection – A tale of Christmas Present(s)

Don’t even try to pretend you don’t watch Hoarders. Your lip peels back in disgust at the sight of a house in such a state of disarray, it’s nearly physically painful. You placate yourself every minute or so, telling yourself, ‘I will never be like that’, but we might all be heading that way.

I live in a Culture of Collection. I have stacks of books collected around my house. As my shelves empty of books while my collection goes digital, I find other things to take their place. DVD’s, action figures, toys, *cough* an Iron Man helmet *cough*. My justification is and has always been: They look cool.

I read a post on the 90s today and suddenly, my hoarding fears rushed to the surface. I still have a crap load of Beanie Babies. Why? Dear, God, why? I didn’t even play with them when I had them. Here’s how it worked.

  1. Buy Beanie Baby
  2. Read poem
  3. Click on tag preserver
  4. Store

My cat got more use out of my Beanie Babies than I did. She killed them every night and left their rotting carcasses on the stairs for us to discover in the morning.

Keep in mind, this was so long ago, that cat is no longer alive.

Why do I still have them?

I’m on the path to hoarding. I can’t get rid of them. Every time I think of doing something with them, I remember how much I wanted them, how hard I tried to find them, and what a point of pride it was when I finally got Digger the Crab.

There was this notion that one day they would be worth something more (did that day ever come?), but now, they’re just a cute mass of nostalgia piled in a closet.

I’m not a sentimental person and, at some point, I will either decide to get rid of them or they will be in the way of something new. While I might have a tendency to collect things, I also have an OCD impulse that requires a certain balance of minimalism. Even I can have too many nerdy t-shirts (still haven’t reached the threshold on that one).

On some level, I have sympathy for hoarders. Objects are like pensieves; they contain memories, they seem to hold on to meaning. In reality, we’re the ones who have to remember the culture that we loved. We’re the ones who have to hold on to the memories. No object can arouse a full-fledged memory like a person can.

In the mean time, does anybody know what to do with a crap-ton of Beanie Babies?


A Journey Restarted

I have returned to The Fantastic World of Barnes & Noble (or the Nobley, for you who are savvy to the lingo). I’ve worked at B&N for upwards of three years, alternating between seasonal employ and full time. The last stint was a solid two year, full-time block that ended January 2nd of this year.

Let me tell you, I was ready to leave. I had a new job at a startup that looked promising, I was flexing my creative muscle to the point where my words were appearing on television (yeah, promos!). It was thrilling. I refused to enter my local bookstore for several months, holding on to my experience as only the righteously indignant can. I had my Nook. I had the library. I didn’t need to visit a store. Then, a friend of mine had a booksigning at a different but reachable B&N.

Since I’m so altruistic (insert chortle), I swallowed my foolish pride, pulled up my big girl panties, and stopped acting like a total wad.

It’s funny how often I need to do that.

Regardless of the burgeoning Texas heat, the door handle was still chill to the touch, promising an over-cooled environment on the inside. My moment of hesitation was short-lived, as a short, middle-aged man on the other side had no interest in waiting for me to rip the door open. I took a deep breath and entered. The dusky smell of thousands of pages washed over me, caught on the breeze of the air conditioning.

As I entered the B&N, a dribble of drool rolled down my chin as I stared at the shelves and shelves of books. That same old feeling started at the base of my spine and worked its way up into my brain. No matter how fast I read, no matter how much I tried, I would never, ever be able to read all these books. It was like the first time I ever entered a bookstore, but, somehow, so much more.

You see, back in the old days, I was trained in every department. Nook, music, even receiving in the back room. It was like I had returned to my home country. I knew this place, I fit in here, I could wax idiotic with the staff and they recognized me as a familiar traveler, if not a native of their local village. But, something was (and still is) missing. If this was the hero’s quest, what elixir had I returned with? Had a gained some knowledge in the last few months? Did I bring hope to the ones on the inside? I had missed an essential step in personal character growth and made a misstep along my journey.

In some ways, it didn’t matter. For me, the magic had been restored in the bookstore. I could return to my old place of employment without shame.

As it is wont to do, my financial situation became increasingly unstable. While I hadn’t locked my future into a startup, I had hoped it would provide a stable source of income for a year until I had saved up enough to move on.

Ho ho, not so. The time came when I realized I had to get a second job in order to stockpile any money. I cooked up a big humble pie and reapplied to my old job. They were more than happy to welcome me back into the fold.

Sometimes I think my life is a sitcom. It’s funny, it’s tragic, and nothing ever changes.

But, what if I want the hero’s journey? When does this girl get to leave the farm to pursue her destiny? Why am I so upset that real life doesn’t work out the way stories do?

It’s not too late to begin my epic quest, and it’s not like I don’t have options. But, it feels like I had almost hit the main road with my questing companions, only to realize I had to turn back because I forgot to pack my magic sword.


Hipsters (Or, How I Learned to Embrace Epicurus)

There’s a lot of stuff on the Internet bashing the hipster culture, but I think I’ve got it nailed.

From a distance, I am a hipster. I’m comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt with a pop culture reference. I’ve worn glasses since 9th grade, square cut frames because I don’t look so good in round/frameless. I don’t wear Converse All-Stars because I like the way they feel. I like the way they look, with a boot-cut pant leg draped across the laces, almost dragging, but not quite. Man, you pull a pair of Converse out of the washing machine and they are bright white just like the day you bought them, they look great (in the spirit of full disclosure, my attraction to Converse may be a result of my love of Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez [that's a Sandlot reference]).

I work part-time at a startup in social media and part-time as a barista at a Starbucks licensed cafe. I call myself a writer. I own a Macbook (since 2008); I have had an iPod since the original 2nd generation; I’ve had an iPad 2 since July; I’ve had an iPhone since my contract last expired. One of my favorite bands is from Europe (Within Temptation) and it’s likely you’ve never heard of them.

I fit the hipster image.

So, how can I claim to be different?

I enjoy things. I love Lady Gaga. Whenever Poker Face comes on the radio, I crank it up and sing along.

The Muppets was one of the most emotionally poignant movies I’ve seen this year.

I love reading non-fiction. I taught myself to play passable guitar so I could play (badly) and sing (equally badly).

I own a lightsaber replica, and it is awesome!

A big aspect of the hipster generation is their inability to find enjoyment in the things they do. They like obscure bands because they are obscure. They wear t-shirts “ironically”. They over-critisize every movie they see while maintaining an air of superiority. They read books to be seen, rather than books they want to read.

It’s a trap!

There are so many things available to our culture now, it’s ridiculous to waste time on stuff from which we don’t glean enjoyment.

Philosophy time!

Epicurus believed that pleasure is the greatest good. But the way to attain pleasure was to live modestly and to gain knowledge of the workings of the world and the limits of one’s desires. This led one to attain a state of tranquility (ataraxia) and freedom from fear, as well as absence of bodily pain (aponia). The combination of these two states is supposed to constitute happiness in its highest form. Although Epicureanism is a form of hedonism, insofar as it declares pleasure as the sole intrinsic good, its conception of absence of pain as the greatest pleasure and its advocacy of a simple life make it different from “hedonism” as it is commonly understood.

It propounded an ethic of individual pleasure as the sole or chief good in life. Hence, Epicurus advocated living in such a way as to derive the greatest amount of pleasure possible during one’s lifetime, yet doing so moderately in order to avoid the suffering incurred by overindulgence in such pleasure.

I’m not promoting hedonism, but it’s not a bad thing to enjoy yourself every now and again. Every hipster I’ve ever interacted with is always the same on that level: they never talk about something they legitimately enjoyed to the point where I wonder if they enjoy anything.

I’m not making any great leaps here. Take advantage of the small pleasures in life. Look for things you enjoy rather than irritate.

Be like this guy:

No one hates hula hoops.


My So-called (Immortal) Life

I love vampires.

I mean, really.

I love high-holy asskickery. I love moral qualms. I love vicious sociopathic killers. I love those looking for redemption. My only criteria seems to be they have the potential for immortal life and feed off some aspect of humanity, be it blood, emotion, or culture.

So, I present to you a thought experiment.

What if you were a vampire?

Haha! Awesome! So cool! I would run really fast and make out with hot guys (girls) and drink so much blood you wouldn’t even believe…hold the phone. That’s not where I was going with this.

What if you were a vampire 300, 400, or 500 years old?

I think you would be bored. Insanely, mind-numbingly bored. Let’s say you were turned at the ripe old age of 26. You have eternal youth on your side, but you’re not a pimply teenager anymore. Face it, stalking and biting humans is not what it was. Maybe once upon a time (maybe, mind you), people had a healthy sense of self-preservation coupled with the fear of constant suspicion that kept them in the house after dark, or safe in herds during the day. That could mean there used to be a thrill to the hunt, but that would fade. Humans aren’t so hard to separate from the back, and, as time passes, we are less and less suspicious of paranormal occurrences.

As a vampire, you rarely see another of your kind. You are completely and utterly alone. Any connection you try to make is gone within several decades, so you would stop making those connections. What would you hold on to? Say you play the piano. You have forever to perfect your art. Would you procrastinate?

Think about human ingenuity in the last 500 years. How would you react to a vastly changing world? Flight, social reform…look at the Internet. MySpace was a blink of the eye. World War II would be “that thing with Germany…you know, the second time”.

Don’t believe me? Let me refer you to one of the most stunning vampire films of all time.

Groundhog Day.

Yep, Bill Murray is a freaking vampire. As long as he is stuck in Groundhog Day, he is immortal. Truly immortal. He tries to kill himself dozens of times. Maybe he doesn’t fit the “feeding off humanity” criteria, but he is sort of a menace to it.

Obsessed with Film writer Simon Gallagher did the math and put the final tally at 33 years and 358 days. Whether you agree or not, this is one of the most interesting psychological looks at immortality.

Not to mention it’s funny.

Now, imagine Groundhog Day for 500 years. Now, that’s a vampire.


Aside

Philosophical Writer-Type seeks blog topic, ends on Big Question

This little blog-o-mine. Imma let it shine.

Today, I take presumption to a whole new level and tell you the meaning of life (hint: it’s not 42). Those of you who already know the meaning of life will continue reading and nod knowingly. Those of you who don’t will throw things and scream ‘how dare she, blasphemous Internet troll!”

It’s “make the world a better place”. It’s actually a really cool deal. You see, once you start trying to do this, everyone around you sort of takes notice. Since this blog is inherently selfish, I’ll give you an anecdote.

The other day, at Starbucks, my barista handed me my drink. As I reached for a sleeve, I cheerfully flashed a smile and said, “Thank you!” You know, because he was my enabler for the day. But, no, seriously. He just made me a cup of coffee. My Midwestern manners, wait, no, hold that thought, my humanity dictates that I should express gratitude for services rendered.

As it so happened, I accidentally cut him off mid-‘thank’. We both stopped and did a suspicious staredown. You know the one; eyes narrowed, sizing each other up out of the periphery. Now, on one hand, I understand why he would thank me. I’m a customer and the head honchos dictate that such things are supposed to be said to a customer, probably with a certain level of welcoming charm that encourages them to return. But, I was reacting to his reaction.

Did he really not have people say thank you with any sincerity? I mean, God! He could have burnt himself on scalding coffee! He was heating milk with a piece of equipment that blasts out a jet of super-heated water! Thank you for putting yourself in mortal danger so that I may enjoy a tasty soy misto! IT’S DELICIOUS!!!

Granted, I was not in a part of town that has a gracious reputation, but can we please treat other people like human beings?

I have lots of brains, lots of ideas, and very little money, but I’ve got stuff to work with. There are things that I would like to do, things that I can do, and things that I will never be able to do. I’m not going out of my way to treat another human being like a human being because it’s surprisingly natural. It’s a little thing I’ve taken to calling “not-being-a-sociopath”.

All right, all right. Yes, you might have had a bad day. Yes, things might not be going great in your life. Jobs suck. Deadlines loom. Cats start throwing up on your carpet. Your dad won’t let you walk out the door without trying to engage you in a game of 20 Questions. But none of those things are a reason to lose sight of what it means to be human.

The “hello, how are you?”…not enough. Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto.

I’m not claiming sainthood, here. I usually kvetch to my friends, which is a burden they don’t deserve to bear, but they do, with patient grace, and they sort of signed on to seeing the Monster before the Man.

So, when you are tempted to collect your decaf soy Carmel Macchiato in eye-contact avoiding silence, or you find yourself snarling at the grocer, maybe give Dr. Jekyll a minute to regain control, hm?

Be human. We were born that way.


Aside

Soapbox Podium Thumping – eBooks

*shuffle shuffle shuffle* SQUEAK! *clears throat and steps onto soapbox*

I’m about to pontificate, so feel free to ignore my opinion.

I stumbled across something I’m not going to link to because I don’t want to support the cause, even indirectly, but I want to be clear.

eBooks should not be the be-all-end-all direction of the publishing industry.

I know what you’re thinking, “Kate, you have mentioned on your blog several times how much you love your nook, and your iPad. You are addicted to gadgets. How can you say such things?”

I love eBooks. I love my nook. These things are true.

But, unless it’s an actual, physical book at some point in its history, I have a hard time taking it seriously for the simple fact that an author can’t sign it.

Every time I see that scene in Beauty & the Beast, when he shows Belle the library, my heart races, my pupils dilate, and a little voice in my head sings, “I want to go to there”. If I’m ever rich enough to build my own house, that library, be it physically possible, will make the final blueprint. You better believe there will be a track ladder. 

I suggested an author to a friend. Said author has a new book coming out soon, which I also drew to the attention of aforementioned friend. This author is someone who I know and have spent time with. Friend freaked out.

Squees, all caps on Facebook, I was thrilled, thinking, “Awesome. She’ll enjoy a good read, as all people of the world should.” Then I got this note.

“What’s your address? Will she sign stuff?”

Um. Well. Yeah, I guess. I mean, why else would you become an author if you couldn’t sign a body part…er…flyleaf or two?

Now, imagine you meet J.K. Rowling (in a parallel universe where Harry Potter is available on eBook). Would you have her sign your nook? I mean, come on. That’s not really the same. You could add a digital flyleaf in an iPad app, but it’s not the same.

As I am clearly the conflicted character in this novel, I’m going to tell you right now: if there were seven books that I could have with me at all times, the Harry Potter series would make that list in a heartbeat (maybe not all of it, but still).

eBooks rock portability, and, coupled with an eInk screen, things look pretty good. But there are some things that you need to see in hard copy.

There are some pages you need to thumb through.

There are some things that you need to get signed, if only to show off to your friends who don’t happen to eat pancakes with awesome authors.

If you’ve ever been to a book signing or plan on going to one, hold that book in your hand and think about this: without that person sitting at the table at the front of that line, this thing – this gigantic, momentous bundle of cardboard, paper, and ink squeezed by your hot, little hands that took you to a place you’d never been – would not exist without them.

You are holding a piece of someone’s soul and it’s not trapped in a little computer box.

It’s contained in this thing that you can give to your mother when she’s lonely. Or, you can read to your son when he’s sick. Or, you can rediscover when you’re swinging from your track ladder on a rainy Sunday evening.


Aside

Six Degrees

Six degrees of Kevin Bacon: fun game or way of life?

Well, its turning into a way of life.

I’m booking my social calendar for the next few weeks (I know, who’d have thought a poor little introvert like me could be so popular?), and you’d be surprised at how many people I know have someone in LA. 

I’ve got the one who knows the neighborhoods (Starbucks, Tuesday evening), the one who was out there to do improv (Starbucks, Monday evening), the one who lives there and might have a job if I can’t find anything in entertainment (phone call, next Thursday). I know a guy who knows a guy who can do a thing or two.

Nice to know things work that way. I’m looking at jobs and should start applying soon. The NBC West Coast Page Program sounds exciting, a good job with networking opportunities. Unlike the NBC East Coast Page Program (Kenneth Parcell), the West Coast focuses more on entertainment rather than broadcast news. I could be seating people for Jay Leno. (If you know Jay Leno, you can send me his email and we can skip the middle man.)

There’s an internship at Screen Gems I have my eye on. It’s a development position, much like the one I had at Sony Television, which means I’m sure to love it. I have to make the dream list now. I’ll start on the sad, not ideal existence list probably next week.

Starbucks is on it.

There will always be Starbucks.

Next time, you find out how my parents react to the announcement.

Stay tuned…


Aside

Items of Interest: Ep. 16

Phew. That was a close one. I almost didn’t find anything that I was interested in this week.

It’s been rough.

But, enough about my mental instability.

Items of Interest: Ep. 16

The Power of Three. Or, Rule of Four.

Find a need, fill a need.

You’re all familiar with the four humors, right?

Okay, crash course. Look at this.

All right, now look at the group of friends you hang out with.

Chances are, there are four of you. And, each one of you fall into one of those categories very specifically. Before you get all huffy and jump to another feed, hear me out.

You rotate. There are shifts. Things change. But, if Simon shouted “Stop!” in the middle of a rotation, these four basic types would still be filled. Almost like there’s a need to fill the basic personality types. If it works in real life, it must work in story.

Examples!

Sex and the City. Will and Grace. Frazier. The Electric Mayhem (sans Dr. Teeth).

Why does this work? No idea. Just thought it was interesting. Moving on.

The Power of Three

It’s like someone saw this trope and thought, “All I have to do to be different is get rid of a humor.”

This was a great plan because it adds a layer of previously unreachable conflict. The group of three is unnatural. It lacks balance. We are always trying to find the fourth humor to complete the picture. This is a gut-conflict. It has nothing to do with the story, or the action. We the audience feel like something is wrong and needs to be resolved. We just don’t realize it’s the fourth humor.

Example!

Harry Potter. Throughout the series, we see Ron, Hermione, and Harry rotating through the four humors. Hermione stays pretty solid as phlegmatic while Ron is pretty stable sanguine. The dynamic of the group changes every time a fourth member is added. Neville is melancholic. The Weasley Twins are choleric.

Harry remains the wild card, which helps the audience empathize with him. Like us, he is not always aware of what role he needs to play in the ever-changing dynamic.

And, all this in a world of fours!

Four Houses, four Marauders, four Founders.

We’re happy. In the end, we get our fourth. Ginny. The roles are set, the group dynamic stops spinning.

That’s why you have an epilogue. To prove you’ve stopped searching for the fourth.

This stuff is visceral. It’s not about defeating Voldemort. It’s about finding where you fit in context of four.

That’s simplified, of course. And, as all things in the real world, it’s not necessarily true all the time. But, that’s what stories are, right? Trying to find their way to a universal truth.


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