Philosophy, Psychology, Nerdisms, Writing from the Trenches

Posts tagged “books

A word and a promise

I am so, so, so busy. The move is 4 days away? No, that’s wrong. 5? I don’t know. My brain is fritzing and I need a few more boxes.

I promise a full post in the near future.

Until then, read a book and tell me all about it in the comments section.


The Babbling Paradigm

Recently, at a book signing, an author told at story about meeting Sue Grafton.

This author was at a major publishing event, one of those ALA’s or RT’s or RWA conferences where authors at different stages of their careers hobnob with the other members of their profession.

You all know who Sue Grafton is, right? The Alphabet Mysteries? A is for Alibi? Chances are you’ve seen these wildly popular mysteries around. She’s a very popular author.

While Jane Author was hanging out, someone said to her, “Don’t look now, but Sue Grafton is standing right behind you.”

Like all self-respecting human beings would do in that situation, Jane whipped around and yelled, “SUE!” For the next few minutes, during which she was shaking Sue Grafton’s hand, Jane blabbed her way through the encounter and didn’t actually remember what was said.

Which brings me to my point:

Who, if you had the chance to meet them, would you absolutely flip your shit over?

During lunch (with the author), she laughed about her Sue Grafton encounter and admitted that she would do it again. I answered, “We all have someone we would so that to. It’s just finding that person.”

I think this is an interesting question. Everyone has someone they would become a babbling idiot over. In the recent Nerdist podcast, host Chris Hardwick admits that he got a little flustered when talking to Tina Fey. If Tina Fey made time in her schedule to hang out with me for an hour and a half, I might lose it a little bit myself.

We’ve all seen that moment when the little girl meets the Disney princess at Disney World. Her eyes light up, she gasps, she runs across the park paying no heed to what’s going on around her. She wants to tell her everything. She babbles.

We never really grow out of that phase.

I have my stock answers: Robert Downey, Jr. and J.J. Abrams, but I don’t know if that’s particularly true. I suppose I would actually have to meet them in order to know whether or not that’s true.

You’re Iron Man. I-you-you’re Iron Man.

When does the mere idea of a meeting person become life-changing?

At the same event, a girl hung back and waited a little, quiet and unassuming. She stood in line, got her books signed, and walked around the store until the rest of the crowd cleared out a bit and the authors were left alone, signing stock and making plans for later.

When the time was right, she walked up to one of the authors and asked, “Are you ____?”

Author: “Yes.”

Girl: “Did you write _____?”

Author: “Yes, I did.”

Girl: “It’s one of my favorite books! I read it, like, a year ago and I want to read it again every time I finish another book!” She became a babbling idiot.

What does it take to be the person on the other side? How do we accept that praise? It’s not just admiration, it’s adoration. It’s breathtaking to behold. As a storyteller, I can only pray that I can reach someone on that level. You can write it off, play it down in front of your peers, ignore it in front of your friends, but that has to be an amazing moment.

You changed someone.

And, in the end, that’s all we can ever hope for.


Defending The Hunger Games

Just because we like something does not mean that we shouldn’t be critical of it. In general, I like the United States Government. I reap the benefits of centralized government. This does not mean I should just sit back and let them do what they want because I generally agree. I need to remain critical of how the country is managed.

As far as The Hunger Games is concerned, it isn’t the most perfect book ever written. The sequel and third books are on my list, but I’m not rushing off anywhere to obtain a copy. The over-hyped movie has made me frustrated with social media, as it fills both my Facebook and Twitter feeds with such gems as “OMG!! NEW HUNGER GAMES TRAILER!!1!1!!!” over and over. Stop telling me it’s the next Harry Potter. Stop telling me it’s the next Twilight.

Isn’t there anything else going on? Can we talk about something else? Oh, God, now they mentioned Rick Santorum…

Surprisingly, that’s not what this post is about.

At work this weekend, I was sitting in the break room with two coworkers, let’s call them Jo and Abner. Abner asks if he should read The Hunger Games. Poor Abner. He has been swept away by the hype and believes he is missing out on some big secret that everyone else is in on. There is a chunk of cultural literacy missing from his brain. Additionally, Abner suffers from YAphobia (a form of genre-phobia) that means he won’t even open the cover of a book that is considered “Young Adult”. Abner isn’t alone. A great many people won’t venture out of their preferred genres.

(This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As long as you’re reading, does it really matter what? Just be aware that you are most likely missing out on fantastic storytelling.)

Instead of letting Jo, who is quite taken with The Hunger Games, take over, I decided to offer a less biased viewpoint.

Me: “Do you want to read it?” This is essential. If you don’t want to read it, then don’t. If you don’t think you’ll enjoy it, don’t read it.

Abner: “What?”

“Do you want to read The Hunger Games?”

“I guess. I mean, the preview makes it look pretty weird.”

I explain that the thing that made it enjoyable (for me) was more concept than story. A group rebelled against the government, they lost, now the government kills the rebels’ children. Wait, no, it’s actually worse than that. The government takes their children, and forces the kids to kill each other while the entire nation watches. Oh, and guess what? Whoever wins gets to eat.

Yeah, when you put it that way, it’s really cool. Does that interest you? Evil governments kidnapping children and making them kill each other on national television? Where do I sign up?

Abner decided he’d take a look at it.

As I left the break room, Jo caught up with me and said, “So, you really did like it?”

“I told you I did.”

“But, then you criticized it.”

I think this is a problem, this idea that we can’t examine things we enjoy through a critical lens without being accused of hypocrisy. Let me point out that Harry Potter was just a kid and was almost killed at least once a year at the most secure place in the wizarding world, Dobby was the Jar Jar Binks of the HP film franchise, and Hermione was clearly a Ravenclaw.

Twilight…nope. I’m not going there.

But, hey, if you have some time and need something to read, go ahead and take a look at The Hunger Games.

Also, I think the movie will be fantastic.


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.


Resolute: We Are Strong

That’s right.

Two weeks in, I’m giving you a New Year’s Resolution Post featuring (gratuitous capitalization)!

Let’s dive right in.

  1. Start/Join a band
  2. Don’t talk about “The-Book-That-Will-Not-Be-Named” or, more commonly, “You-Know-What”.
  3. Save up $10,000 to move to LA
  4. Punch anyone who says “You’re so young!”
  5. Be more Internet social
  6. Read 100 books.

Let’s go in depth!

1.  This one seems to always make it on my list. I have two electric guitars, an acoustic guitar, and a bass guitar. This just goes to show, having the equipment does not automatically get you into the band. Bummer. Drag. Total waste. Except I still play often, much to my parents discontent. I need to up my street cred. I need to brainstorm band names with a bunch of crazies. I need to get my writer friends to make this happen.

2.  Ah, The-Book-That-Will-Not-Be-Named. Any guesses? I’ll give you a hint. It may or may not have something to do with vampires that sparkle. I know some of you are going to get offended that I have decided to remove You-Know-What from my day-to-day conversation. This tome is an emotional lightning rod. Whenever it is brought up, voices are raised, teams are chosen, everyone gets excited, and I’m left sitting there, wondering what the Hell just happened. I’ve also found that most of my Harry Potter references are dropping off, too. Am I moving on with my life? Probably not, but if you want to talk (argue) about Twilight, take it somewhere else. Life’s too short.

3. Oh, yeah. THIS one. I have three jobs now. One with a television network, one at Barnes & Noble, and now contract work writing for a social media company. I’m going to be a better blogger whether I like it or not because I’m getting PAID! The whole “moving to LA” thing is this nebulous lurking glob on the horizon.

I’m getting erased from people’s minds.

I’m freaking out a little bit.

I’m going to be a television writer.

4.  People: Stop saying “you’re so young”. This is a meaningless statement. Would you like me to say, “You’re so old?” No. The answer is no. Besides, the “you’re so young” is not complementary, because you are inferring immaturity and a lack of patience. I am not too young to pursue my dream. No one is ever too young or too old to do that.

5.  In the last year or two, I’ve tended to be more of a poster than an interactor. This changes! I will respond to people’s tweets, even if they have no idea who I am! I will put crap up on Google+, even though no one will see it! I will approach social media the way it was intended! The spirit of the conversation!

6. This is another one of those things that always makes it on the list. Last year, I read 65. To be fair, I was quite busy with a new job at the beginning of the year, as well as being disgruntled with the world in general. I didn’t finish reading a book until March. This year, I have my Goodreads goal set and they will be coming for me if I don’t make it. I’ve already knocked two down. We’ll see what happens.


Open Book

I want to talk about reading.

Not as a writer.

As a reader.

Because I will never be able to quantify the vast amounts of information I have learned through the simple (amazingly complex) process of reading.

I was able to read before I started 1st grade. I’m not sure what caused this. Perhaps it was a push from my parents, or maybe just the desire of wanting to imitate what they were doing. My parents read constantly. There were always books in our home, and we were encouraged to read.

This is a photo of me on the day I was allowed to get a library card:

I could make up something about how this was before the age of computer games and the Internet, but that would be a lie. I learned how to type with Mario Teaches Typing. I played Reader Rabbit. I was a Math Blaster pro. These weren’t just in my home, they were at school.

My mother is a substitute teacher, and I asked her how her day was.

“Such and so can’t read.”

“Oh. Okay.”

“She sat at her desk and cried all day because she can’t read.”

“What does that-“

“I was teaching 3rd grade.”

My brain audibly ground to a halt as I tried to force this into some kind of perspective that related to me. This is truly cognitive dissonance. I know, on an intellectual level, that people don’t know how to read. I have not met these people. And, for the first time, I really started to think about how much knowledge, pleasure, joy, and heartbreak they don’t have access to.

I’m just trying to work this out in my head, and it ended up on my blog.

The movie is never as good as the book.

There are people out there who will never know Harry Potter, or Winnie the Pooh and Piglet, or Harold and his Purple Crayon the same way I do.

I wish there was some way I could fix that.


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