Unreal Expectations

I used to love romance novels when I was younger.  Fairy tales, too.  Really, anything with a big ol’ Hollywood “And they lived happily ever after” ending.  I just loved the idea of two people meeting and overcoming whatever personality conflicts they had to realize they loved each other.  But as I got older, I realized how potentially damaging those kinds of stories are.  In fact, I just finished reading one and found it so hokey and unrealistic, that it was very hard to finish.

First off, unlike what those kinds of stories would have you believe, very few lasting relationships derive from the hero saving the heroine from whatever catastrophe threw them together in the first place.  After the endorphin from that scenario wears off, most people realize they have nothing in common.  And secondly, making love is NOT the same as being in love.  I now truly despise any movie where the romantic duo have sex and then “realize” they’re in love with each other (I’m looking at you Failure to Launch!).  Real, loving relationships take time, perseverance, and a willingness to be vulnerable to the person you’re partnering with.  You can’t have REAL love unless you’re willing to get real yourself.

One of the other “lies” that heterosexual romance novels perpetuate is that the guy somehow knows exactly how to drive the woman crazy, sexually.  He knows just the right places to touch her in just the right ways; in many cases, even better than she knows how to herself.  And these sex fests always end in a mind-blowing orgasm for her, and oftentimes he climaxes at exactly the same moment she does.  You read too many of those kinds of stories and it can truly distort your expectations of what love and sex is, or should be.

Like with Craig . . . we have what I feel is a truly loving, honest relationship.  I know he loves me, and I think he knows how much I love him.  And our sex life is amazing . . . when we can actually get it in (no pun intended).  But I’ve still got a TON of emotional and sexual baggage that we’re sorting out, some of which was caused by my years of reading these books that are truly nothing more than fantasy.  While reading this recent romance novel, I actually found myself thinking that my marriage was somehow lacking because we weren’t having sex every time we saw each other (like in the book).  I quickly realized there was nothing wrong with Craig and I, and it was shortly thereafter that I started thinking the book hokey and unrealistic.

And it’s just as bad for the “fantasy” books and movies that cater to men.  Porn usually depicts completely unrealistic situations that–if viewed too often–can make someone believe that the hot pizza delivery guy will get laid by every sorority girl when he delivers their pizzas for the pillow fight in their baby doll nighties that ALL college girls have.  *insert eye roll here*  Or what about the girl who is a virgin, but magically likes to do every nasty little sexual thing some sweaty pudgy guy wants to do to her?  *second eye roll*  Then there’s the one about the lesbian lovers who are so turned on by some random guy that they want to have a menage a trois with him.  *violent eye roll that makes my eyes stick that way*

Anyway, these kinds of stories are fine and dandy when they’re treated as the mere fantasies that they are.  But I think there are too many impressionable young men and women who come to view these as real possibilities, which then causes extreme disappointment when they’re faced with the reality of life and love.  I’d like to see more movies and books that discuss a realistic and healthy outlook on love and sex, but sadly, I don’t think they would be as successful.

Maybe if we as a country were more willing to discuss things like that–had better sex education in schools and didn’t consider the topic of sex to be so taboo (as well as discuss emotional health)–we’d be able to raise a new generation of people who didn’t look to their significant other to solve all their problems.

I don’t know, I’m just spouting here.  But I can tell you one thing . . . I won’t be picking up any Harlequin Romances anytime soon.

Just Us

This is (mostly) taken from my other blog “M*A*S Artwork,” but there are some people who read this blog that don’t know about my other one.  Plus, I’ve added a couple things here and there, so it’s worth reading again.

I’m slowly learning that starting an art business is a long, and involved process.  Especially when you also have to work a full-time job whilst trying to get it off the ground.  It doesn’t help much that Craig and I are introverts by nature, either, so it takes us a while to gather the cojones to walk into a gallery or business to ask if we can hang our art up.

But earlier this year, I did just that.  I happened to be in our local library and noticed a sign that talked about art exhibits at the main branch.  Feeling compelled, I asked how I could become one of the exhibiting artists.  Turns out all we had to do was submit a couple of our images so they could see what our stuff was about (kind of like jurying for an art fair), and then they offered us three available months.  Wanting some extra time to select our pieces & get them ready, we opted for a December show.  That also meant we had a few extra months to get over the fear of putting ourselves out on display, so to speak.

The day finally came to hang everything & voila!  We have our very own “solo” art exhibit!

Art Exhibit - Alyx Morgan and Craig SmithI suppose it’s not technically a “solo” show, since we’ll both have images on display, but if you think of us as a company, then it’s definitely a one team gig.  It’s just our art.

Craig at the PodiumWe hung everything up on November 30th, and then our opening gala/artist’s reception was this past Wednesday.  We weren’t exactly sure what to speak to, and we had no time to put together a presentation, so our opening talk lasted literally no more than 10 minutes (including the Q&A session).  Thankfully, though, everyone who showed seemed to understand that this was our first show and they were forgiving of the brevity.  Plus, it meant they could go look at our pieces earlier and then head home.  We had a downpour that day, so I’m sure people were glad to get home to their warm PJs.

And the response we got was great!  We had some friends show up who were very complimentary, but there were also some people we’d never met before who seemed to really enjoy our stuff.  Some of them pulled us aside to ask about our processes or where certain photos were taken, and we felt a little like celebrities.

Craig and I also renovated our website, and we had a lot of folks take our business cards (we also had some ask about a pricing list, YAY!), so hopefully we’ll have lots of web traffic during and after this exhibit, which may hopefully lead to purchases, which will help build our business.

So, while it’s been a long road to get to this point, it’s starting to feel like the seeds we’ve planted are germinating and growing.  And that’s a great feeling.

Another great bit . . . we were originally scheduled to be up for just the month of December, but on the day we hung everything, we were asked if we wanted to keep it up through January!  Both Craig and I had the same thought . . . Uh, YEAH!  But we managed to keep our outward response to a calm, “Sure, we could do that.”  😉

So, if you’re in the Alameda area during the months of December or January, please stop by and check out our exhibit.  The address for the library is 1550 Oak Street, Alameda, CA. You can find their hours here.  If you want us to be there to answer any questions you might have (or if you feel the need to fawn over our work 😉 ), just let me know in the comments, or send us an email through our website, here.

Failure

Failure is a funny thing.  But what makes it “funny” is how each of us perceives it.  Some people feel there’s no such thing; like in Weight Watchers.  They have a saying that gets used a lot:

There is no failure, only feedback

Which I can definitely agree with.  Just like there aren’t really any “bad” or “good” experiences in life.  Those are just labels we attach to situations in order to know how we feel about them.  And quite honestly, there’s not really any reason to feel a particular way about the things that happen to us.  But we as a collective society wouldn’t know how to behave if we didn’t know how we felt about something.

So, when we aren’t successful in an endeavor, we feel like we’ve failed.  After all, grammatically speaking, the opposite of succeeding is failing.  And we’ve grown up hearing that failing is such a horrible thing.  If you get bad grades in a subject, you can fail that class, which many people take to mean that you’re stupid.  Well, being thought stupid is even worse than failing, so we do our best not to fail, which often turns into a fear of either failing or appearing stupid.  Many people then avoid even trying out of fear of failing or being thought dumb.

But there are others who think it’s impossible to fail as long as you keep trying:

Failure is not falling down but refusing to get up.
~ Chinese Proverb

And I can agree with that, too.  After all, life isn’t REALLY over until you’re dead.  And until that happens, anything and EVERYthing else could still happen, if you work long and hard enough at it.  Take Thomas Edison, for example, and his famous quote about creating the lightbulb:

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

He’s got my vote for most persistent person in the world, because I’m not sure I’d be willing to make 10,000 attempts at ANYTHING before giving up.  Hell, any time I would ask a guy out on a date and get rejected, it took me five years or more before I could gather the courage to ask another guy out.  At that rate, I would’ve died of old age before even getting close to the numerous attempts on Mr. Edison’s part.  But still, I didn’t give up.  It took me a loooooooong time to summon my bravery, but I eventually did it.

The same is true with my writing.

I’ve been writing about my protagonist, Tabitha Patterson for about five years now.  I finished the first draft of the first novel a year after I began, and made a few revisions shortly thereafter; each time hoping it was the last one.  I even sent it out to some agents, probably SEVERAL revisions before it was ready, but I didn’t know that at the time.  So each rejection or critique I received stabbed a little bit and hurt.  Sometimes it hurt so bad that I didn’t write for months at a time, not to mention the 18 month hiatus I took while planning and executing my wedding.

THEN there was the critique that caused me to rethink and rewrite almost the entire novel.  Sludging through that was painful, let me tell you.

So why haven’t I thrown in the towel yet?  Why don’t I think of my writing attempt(s) as failures?  For several reasons:

  1. I’ve met and discussed writing with several other authors–many of whom are published–and have learned that it sometimes takes 10 years (or even 10 books) before you get published.
  2. With each story (or blog) I write, I become a better writer.  Just like learning to play an instrument (or sport), practicing something strengthens that particular muscle.
  3. I have several stories inside of me.  If I didn’t write them down, I might eventually go crazy.

Hopefully it won’t take me 10,000 books before being published, but as long as I don’t give up, I don’t believe I will have failed.

Diet or Regular?

I stopped drinking pop several years ago; back when I was about 20, in fact.  I had given up alcohol at 17, and shortly thereafter decided that I would cut caffeine from my diet as well.  I’ve never really liked coffee, but I did drink iced tea at the time, as well as Mt. Dew and Pepsi, and I vaguely remember that it was hard to stop . . . especially the Mt. Dew.

Craig, on the other hand, still loves his pop.  He’s a Coke man, so it’s good for our marriage that I stopped drinking Pepsi before we got together.  ;o)  He says he got into his 3-4 can a day habit when he went back to school to get his animation degree.  Late nights and homework deadlines meant he often had to stay up through the night, so he would get himself through them with Coke Zero and various energy drinks.  When he told me that story, I shuddered at the thought of all the caffeine rushing through his bloodstream, but since I used to be a Mt. Dew fiend, I probably wasn’t much better in my heyday.

Craig did give up drinking carbonated beverages for an entire year as a New Year’s resolution while back.  When he did that I was certain he wouldn’t enjoy the taste when he tried to drink it a year later because that’s what happened to me after I stopped drinking pop.  But nope, at 12:01 a.m. January 1st of the following year, he guzzled down two Coke Zeroes (his particular brand of poison) within the span of ten minutes.

Very few restaurants carry his Coke Zero, so when we go out to eat, Craig asks for regular Coke.  There are some restaurants that serve Pepsi and don’t seem to think there’s a big difference, so they’ll say “We have Pepsi, is that okay?” to which Craig fervently responds, “No. Pepsi is not okay.”  We’ve both taken The Pepsi Challenge before, and could ALWAYS tell the difference between the two (and quite honestly, I don’t understand the people who DON’T taste the difference), so I totally empathize with him.  When I drank pop, if someone told me they sold Coke instead, I always opted for some non-cola drink.  Craig’s the same, choosing root beer when faced with the “We only sell Pepsi products” conundrum.

But when he’s able to order Coke, something strange happens.  When our server sees his beverage is getting low, they’re generally very good at refilling it.  However, they tend to refill it with Diet Coke.  Even when they ask first, they always say “Was this Diet Coke?”

The first few times this happened, we passed it off as servers who didn’t pay attention to our order.  Maybe that was due to them being super busy, or maybe they were just really bad at their job.  But as it happened more and more, we realized it was Craig-specific.  I kid you not, this happens probably 8 out 10 times for us, and it’s become something of a joke.

We can’t quite figure out why our waitstaff’s impulse is to bring him a diet drink..  Yes, Craig’s got a belly on him, but he’s not overly obese, so I wouldn’t think people would assume he needs to drink diet soda.  He’s obviously not a woman, so the stereotype of a woman being “constantly on a diet” doesn’t apply either.

So then, why on Earth would our servers’ first thoughts be to refill his glass with Diet Coke?

Have we, as a society, become so obsessed with how fat we’ve become, or with dieting, or with counting calories, that our wait staff automatically assumes if they see a dark brown beverage in a glass that it’s diet?  Or is Craig–unbeknownst to both of us–wearing an invisible sign that reads I’m trying to stop drinking pop, so please bring me a diet drink that will cause me to make a face and not finish the beverage, opting instead to drink the bland water that’s also sitting at my table?  If it’s the latter, we need to find a way to remove that sign, or else make him a bigger one that says NO DIET SODAS ALLOWED.

Until then, he’ll just continue to correct our servers when they make the wrong assumption.

When “Fast Food” Is too Slow

I know we’re living in a fast-paced world nowadays, where instant gratification seems to take forever.  I also realize that many people are harshly affected by our current financial woes.  However, I can’t BELIEVE that we’re so hard-pressed for time and money that this has now become part of our world:

BK Delivers

First off . . . why?  Why would people want to have true fast food delivered?  There’s practically a fast food restaurant of some type on every corner nowadays (next door to at least one Starbucks), so unless you live out in the boonies, or are Amish, chances are it would take you maybe five or ten minutes to grab something from your favorite fast food joint.  And, if you are one of the groups I mentioned above, you’re probably outside of their delivery area, anyway.

Secondly, take a close look at the verbiage below the word “delivery.”  I’m sorry, but I’m calling bullshit right there.  I got some breakfast from them a couple of weeks ago and the food was tepid at best, by the time I got home to eat it . . . and I live maybe four blocks from the restaurant.  PLUS, I was in my car, driving.  So unless they’re cooking it for me in the back of their cars on the way to my house, there’s NO WAY the food would arrive “hot and fresh” if they were to deliver to me.

When I came home to find an ad for this new service on my front door (like a Chinese take-out menu) I actually laughed, thinking they’d wasted so much money on their advertising.  Then, when I saw in the fine print that there’s a $2 delivery charge and a $10 minimum order, I laughed at the people I imagined would actually succumb to this door to door advertising.  However, since then, I’ve had some time to reflect on this more and realized it might not be so stupid on BK’s part.

We as a society have been ordering take out pizza for years, right?  Most of those have a $10 minimum or less.  You can also get food delivered from any number of sit-down restaurants in your area, and with just a $12-$15 limit for delivery.  What Burger King is offering isn’t that much different, especially when you figure that a combo meal costs at least $7.  If your partner or kids want something from there too, you’ve easily got the minimum.

And with people being able to purchase groceries online, even from Amazon.com, I guess it’s not such a stretch that fast food delivery would be on the horizon.  I personally don’t buy my food online to have it delivered to me, but many people do, because of the convenience in our ever faster-paced world.

Besides, I remember when you could start using your debit cards at fast food places.  I laughed when that practice started, too, because I thought “Who’s gonna charge $4 to their credit card?  It didn’t take me even a year before I joined the ranks of people who paid for a Bean and Cheese Burrito (or something similar) with a debit card.  I did hang my head in shame at first, but we’ve become a world so adept at paying for things with plastic, it was inevitable.

I don’t know anyone who’s taken advantage of that service–and I certainly can’t see any office using it as their go-to catering company–but given where we’re headed technologically and financially, I can’t simply laugh it off as a dumb idea on BK’s part anymore.  But it still seems weird to me, and I highly doubt that I’ll ever do it myself.

What’s your take on this?  Do you think it’s a ridiculous idea?  Do you think it’s been a long time coming?  Or did you just now learn about it and are picking up your phone to call in your dinner order right now?  😉

Good Enough?

Beauty Issues

It’s a funny cartoon, but it still poses a great question: Why isn’t the face/body/etc we’re born with good enough?

There are some that might blame the media for pushing an unhealthy (and largely unattainable) depiction of what “beautiful” looks like.  And, while I would agree that the media deserves a healthy portion of the blame, I’ve no doubt that many of us would still have body issues, even without the help of movies, models and more.

Take me, for instance.  When I was a little girl, I used to want curly hair (still do, but we’ll get to that in a moment).  My nana once told my Mom that her first-born would have naturally curly hair.  “Well, I was the first-born,” I said to Nana after I found out about the prophecy, “So why don’t I have curly hair?”  My nana made up a story about how my original angel mother had naturally curly hair, but she was sick on the day I was born and I was, instead, aided by an angel with straight hair.

I’m sure Nana hoped that story would act as a salve for me, but it had the opposite effect; for years I was mad at my “angel mother” for getting sick.  AND, I was mad at my brother, David, who’d received the naturally curly hair that was supposed to have been mine.

Hating my straight hair so much, I started getting perms at the age of 10, I believe, and every four months or so, I’d sit in a chair for hours while my mom wrapped my hair in rollers.  They never gave me the gorgeous head of curls that I’d hoped they would.  Instead, I wound up with a horrible white girl frizzy afro that did NOTHING to make me feel pretty.  Still, I did it because the alternative was lifeless, straight hair.

I’ve since gotten to a place where I don’t mind my straight hair as much as I used to.  I still don’t like how it looks on me–and I still get perms as often as I can (with better results nowadays)–but I do like how luxurious and soft my hair feels when it’s straight.  And it’s much easier for Craig to brush my hair that way, too.

My point is, when I was a little girl, I don’t believe I had the media “in my face” saying “only people with curly hair are beautiful.”  And, even if that were true, why haven’t I been more “okay” with my straight hair when it was the rage and popular?

I think there will always be at least one thing we don’t like about ourselves.  I’ve never met a woman who liked the hair she was born with.  If it’s straight, they want it curly.  If it’s curly, they spend hours straightening it.  So I can’t give all the blame/credit to the media for things like that.

However, where I think the media goes overboard is with the concept of beauty=young.  Our society is so uber-obsessed with being young, that we’re failing to see what’s good and beautiful about growing old.  No, I’m not talking about having to use Depends, or maybe needing Viagra–I can see why people aren’t thrilled about those aspects of aging–but why are people so obsessed with face lifts, facial creams, hair implants and the like?

Personally?  I’m looking forward to getting wrinkles.  For a long time, I’ve seen them as a wonderful road map of one’s life.  And there are even some people who look more handsome or beautiful the older they get.  Sean Connery?  I didn’t find him attractive until he had the whole salt and pepper thing going on.  Malcolm McDowell started looking very handsome once he had some lines on his face.  And Patrick Stewart is sexy; bald head and all!

When people think that looking young will keep them beautiful, it often has the opposite effect.  Kenny Rogers is no longer recognizable!  Goldie Hawn’s lips look HORRENDOUS when she gets them pumped.  And we just saw Last Vegas recently, and I could see the ugly line where Mary Steenburgen’s face had been tucked.  It ran across her face out from her mouth, making her look like a marionette.

Now, those stars probably have studio heads pushing for them to try to look younger, but we non-celebrities don’t have the same pressures (at least, I HOPE most of you don’t).  So I hope that you will learn to embrace the visible proof that you’ve lived a good, long life.

I’ll leave you with a great poem by Jenny Joseph.  Simply click on the image to be able to read it.  And I’ll see you all at the next meeting of the Red Hat Society . . .

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Off the Cuff

When I was in high school, I took all the English courses I could.  In the literature classes, we read everything from The Grapes of Wrath and For Whom the Bell Tolls, to Emily Dickenson and e.e. cummings, and on to Faustus and Romeo and Juliet (the plays were read aloud in class).

I enjoyed the courses where we read the classics, for the most part.  To be honest, though, I usually only read what was necessary for the upcoming test and mostly skimmed, at that.  I’ve come back to some of them in the last few years to actually read what I missed by skimming (and I STILL don’t care for A Catcher in the Rye), but I haven’t gone back to read any of the poetry . . . it’s just not my thing, I guess.

But the English class I enjoyed the most was creative writing.  No surprise there, since I’m an aspiring mystery author, but it was also the first place I’d ever learned to write in a journal.  Each day, we had to write in our journals for the first five minutes of class.  Sometimes there were suggestions written on the chalkboard, and other times it was just more of a free-flowing train of thought.  I never realized it before, but I now believe Mr. Kutney had us do that so that we could clear our minds of everything that had come before his class, in order to free up the space for our creativity to run around in, and to get those creative juices flowing for whatever the day’s assignment was.

I know we wrote some poetry, and there was an assignment for writing a short story (which I still have in my file cabinet, to maybe be taken out at a later day and improved upon), but there was one assignment I remember more than all the others.

After we’d done our five minutes of journal writing one day, Mr. Kutney told us that he wanted us to write three pages of whatever thought popped into our heads.  Didn’t matter if it was a story, poem, or just more journal-type musings.  All that mattered was that he wanted three pages of it.

I couldn’t think of anything, which was rare for me.  I don’t know if it was some form of stage fright or performance anxiety, but I sat at my desk, staring at my blank pages for several minutes after we were supposed to have begun the assignment.  Eventually, I wrote down the only words floating around my brain: “I can’t think of anything to write today.”

I looked at that sentence for a couple more minutes, then a little voice in my head said Mr. Kutney SAID you could write about anything . . .  So I did.  I wrote about the fact that I had absolutely nothing rolling around in my head at that moment.  I wrote about the anxiety I felt at having nothing, and how I was likening that to writer’s block.  I wrote about my fear that I was going to get a horrible grade on the paper, since I was basically bullshitting my way through the three pages (I don’t think I used the term “bullshitting,” but that was definitely the gist).  As I got near the end of the essay, I wrote about how shocked and happy I was that it all flowed out of me so quickly and easily.

I remembered that particular essay from my high school creative writing course today because I’m sitting here, five hours before this week’s blog is set to be published, and I had nothing prepared; not even an idea in my head.  The week had been hectic, and I hadn’t had a chance before Thursday night at 7:00 pm to work on it.  At one time I had a string of blogs mostly finished and ready to publish, and each Friday, I would sit down and work on one of the next ones; editing it, perfecting it, or maybe even coming up with an idea for another future one.  However, the cache I once had has dwindled down to only one.  I even had that one all scheduled for tomorrow, but hadn’t had any time in this busy week to work on it.  It was nowhere near ready to be read by you all, so I had to crunch my way through something completely off the cuff.

So you’ll hopefully understand and forgive me for whatever horrible grammar mistakes I’ve made in this week’s blog.  I will have definitely looked it over at least twice more before Friday morning, but there’s no guarantee I’ll catch everything.  However, I have successfully bullshitted my way through another “writing assignment,” once again.  I’m not necessarily proud of that–and believe me, I will be working hard to build up another cache of blogs so I’m not so stressed out at the ninth hour–but I AM happy that I was able to meet my desired word count on it.

Oh, and by the way, I received an “A” for that paper about nothing back in high school.  THAT I was proud of.  😉

Banned Books Week 2013

Last year, I walked into my local library and saw a display of lots of books.  Upon closer inspection, I noticed that this was a display of books that had been banned around the world for a variety of reasons, and that the library was celebrating something called Banned Books Week.

ALA Freadom Slide 2013 (2)

I knew that there were certain groups who didn’t like certain books (Christians/Harry Potter, for example), but I didn’t realize there were actually groups of people who fought for–and in some cases, won–the outlawing of books.  Those were things that only happened in movies as far as I knew.  I suppose I shouldn’t have been quite so naive, but I was.

What surprised me even further was the actual list of books that have been banned in certain cities, or even countries.  As stated above, I’ve heard of the hatred for the Harry Potter books, but things like Shel Silverstein, or Roald Dahl stories sat alongside Catcher In the Rye and To Kill a Mockingbird in the display at my library.  Why would anyone anywhere think of Shel Silverstein’s poems as something that needed to be banned, I wondered.

banned_books_by_wrwarnecke-d41e8ps.pngYou’d be surprised to see what books have been banned through the years, and for what reasons.  Classics like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Grapes of Wrath, or even Moby Dick are all on there, as is The Bible.  It’s also astonishing to read the reasons why these books are outlawed.  And every year, more and more books get added to the list.

Since I love to read, I believe that everyone should have the right to read what s/he wants. Reading is an essential part of learning, and there are some wonderful books that can teach you a great number of things.  Even books that are fictional can teach you to expand your imagination, or inspire you to travel to distant lands.

When I looked closer at the library’s display last year, I saw that they were looking for readers to partake in the Banned Books Week.  I immediately signed up to volunteer to read for 30 minutes from one of the books that was in the display.  In fact, I signed up for two sessions.  Both times I wound up reading something from Roald Dahl, and both times I found a quirky book that I’d never read before.

They’re holding the event again this year.  In fact, it’s back by popular demand, and I’ve signed up for two reading sessions again this year.  I haven’t yet decided if I will read something from a book or author that I’m familiar with, or if I’ll pick a story that I’ve never heard of before.  I currently think I’ll do the latter, but we’ll see how courageous I get when the days actually come.  😉

If you’re in the area, I’d love for you to come and show your support for this worthy cause by listening to one of my readings.  The details are as follows:

Sunday, September 22  3:30p-4:00p
Saturday, September 28  3:00p-4:00p

Alameda Library
2263 Santa Clara Ave
Alameda, CA 94501

banned_books_weekIf you’re not able to make it to my readings, I encourage you to visit your local library and volunteer to read there.  Or, at the very least, browse their selection of banned books and choose one for your reading pleasure.

Every individual should be allowed to read.  And they should be allowed to choose which book(s) they would most enjoy.

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Ratings Request

When the MPAA started cracking down on movie ratings in 1984, I thought it was a little ridiculous.  I mean, all parents let their children watch Cheech & Chong movies when they’re 9 years old, right?  No?

Seriously, though, I’ve stated before that I think the responsibility falls to the parents to TALK to their kids about something they might see in a movie or cartoon, rather than put the onus on the film makers to “clean things up” for young eyes.  I can, however, see the need to inform parents just what they might need to explain to their child, so I like the fact that they now are putting explanations of WHY a movie is rated PG-13 (an example is below).

MPAA Ratings - 2 copy

However, there are some things that are missing from the descriptor box.  And I’m here today to make some suggestions to this egregious omission.

1)  Story Compromised for CGI Budget

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love turning my brain off and watching a CGI fest just as much as the next geek, but there are some movies that take it WAY too far.  You can actually feel a shift in the movie when the filmmaker geeked out on all the cool technology available to him/her.  It was done well in The Matrix, with the bullet cutting through the air scene.  That was cool!  However, all of the sweeping, sprawling underground worlds in The Hobbit got a little ridiculous.  No, scratch that; it got a LOT ridiculous!  The same is true for the complete waste of time Snow White and the Huntsman, and how often we had to see Charlize’s wicked queen morph into either the shards of black glass, black crows or melting wax-thingy.

Yes, we get it, you can do really cool special effects.  Oooh. (note the Ben Stein sarcasm there)

2)  Gross Bodily Functions

I’m not talking about scenes like in Austin Powers, International Man of Mystery where he pees for a good five minutes during the unfreezing process.  Hell, Booger from Revenge of the Nerds was one of my favorite characters.  However, any scene where you see people vomiting (pie eating contest from Stand By Me), or purposely grossed-up characters (naked Fat Bastard from the Austin Powers sequels), truly turns my stomach.  I wouldn’t necessarily avoid those movies, but it would be nice to know there’s something like that in there, so I have fair warning in case I want to wait to eat until AFTER I’ve seen the film.

3)  Movie Filmed Entirely on Hand-Held Cameras

This is my biggest gripe with some movies, these days.  The phenomenon started with The Blair Witch Project (at least, as far as I know).  I never saw the movie, but I distinctly remember those who did commenting on how “real” the film making was, because it looked like you were right there, running through the woods with them.  After that, it was only a few cinematographers that decided to film their movies like this, but the number is growing, unfortunately for people with sensitive stomachs.

We recently went to see the new Superman movie, Man of Steel.  I’d been looking forward to this movie because someone had FINALLY written a script where He-Who-Wears-Blue-Footie-PJs showed more emotion and angst than any of the other times, where Clark’s one-dimensional boy scout-ness carried over too much into his superhero persona.  I even enjoyed the spunky Lois Lane (played superbly by Amy Adams, IMO).  However, my enjoyment of the movie was greatly dimmed by the constant jiggling of the camera.

Those who are in favor of this “realistic” style of filming claim that it makes you feel like you’re right in the action.  While it’s true that my vision does appear jiggly and not smooth while I’m running, if I’m sitting in a movie theater, eating popcorn and whatnot, I’M NOT RUNNING!  It’s right there in the previous sentence: I’m SITTING.  So, to have the camera jiggle around all the time while I’m sitting still, only serves to give me a headache and make my eyes cross from trying to focus on the image I’m looking at.  I stopped watching the Bourne movies for this very reason.

I can accept this filming method to be used once or twice in a movie, but after that, PAY FOR THE *$@! STABILIZER!

So, hopefully someone from the MPAA will read this blog and take my suggestions into consideration.  Please feel free to comment if there are disclaimers you’d like to see show up in the boxes.

Enjoying “Bad” Writing

There was an article recently in The Telegraph where Dan Brown–author of The DaVinci Code, Angels and Demons, and many other books–was being mocked, again.  Apparently Dan’s got another book coming out, and this article’s author cleverly, and not subtly, made fun of Mr. Brown’s prose.

This isn’t the first time I’ve heard people talk smack about Dan’s books, and I’m sure it won’t be the last, but what I want to know is why?

Why do some people seem to enjoy bad-mouthing a successful author, simply because s/he doesn’t write their stories in the way that MFA’s or grammarians tell us things should be written?  This same issue came out with the Harry Potter books and JK Rowling.  I’m sure it also gets said about James Patterson, and many others.

There seems to be a great chasm amongst writers and readers and what’s considered “good” writing.  Those who chastise authors for their “bad” writing habits (be they grammatical errors, or whathaveyou) are quite vociferous, which I find interesting because I’ve heard so many of my fellow authors say how one should never give another author’s work a bad review.  They don’t want it biting them in the ass later on, but apparently they take great delight in reading a “critic” tear same author to shreds.

I will readily admit that I do see some of the issues with JK Rowling’s writing style and her over use of “said” tags, or adverbs, however, I still think they’re wonderful books, and I’ve read the entire series multiple times.  Each time, I’m quickly engrossed in the world she created, and the only time I’ve ever noticed her “bad” writing, is when I read it aloud to my stepdaughter, Athena.  Before that, I barely noticed the issues, probably because I skipped past the “s/he saids,” since I could easily see in my head who was doing the talking (which is indicative of GOOD writing).  Also probably because I tend to be a speed reader.

Being a speed reader is part of why I enjoy James Patterson books so much more than a Jane Austen novel.  Mr. Patterson gets to the heart of the story.  In short, action-packed sentences.  I don’t have to waste my time with all the flowery mumbo-jumbo that’s prevalent in a Jane Austen book, or many of the other “classics” that are written in a similar over-wordy style.  An author who goes off on seemingly irrelevant tangents loses me very quickly, and if I find that they write like that throughout the book, I often stop reading it and never pick up their stuff again.  As much as I’d like to read the classics, there are many I won’t ever get to, BECAUSE of the verbose language (Austen, Dickens, and Bronte being among them).

But getting back to the reaming of Dan Brown.  At the end of the article, many of the comments were in agreement of the article’s creative castigation, but one commenter aptly summed up my thoughts.  In his comment, this person said that he wondered if critics thought they would turn people on to other “literature” by simply bad-mouthing writers like Dan Brown.  He then said he believed such mocking would have the opposite effect: “They read the book, enjoy it and then find out they’re an idiot for enjoying it because only stupid people like his books.”

He also commented, “Let people read what they like without looking down upon them because you don’t like their choices. If they enjoy reading, they’ll soon find their way to better fiction.”

I wholeheartedly agree with both of this commenter’s, well, comments.  Nobody likes to be called (or even thought) an “idiot” for liking something that’s not “high brow” or “artistic” enough by someone else’s estimation.  We’ve all got our “guilty pleasures,” that, quite honestly, we shouldn’t have to feel guilty about liking.

I LOVED The DaVinci Code.  The book, anyway.  I thought the movie SUCKED (but that’s a discussion for another time, & I don’t think anyone’s “stupid” for enjoying the movie).  I didn’t enjoy Angels and Demons as much, and I haven’t read anything else by Dan Brown, but I truly enjoyed TDVC.  In fact, I couldn’t put it down when I started, and wound up devouring that entire book in just a weekend (while I was vacationing in London, mind you, so I had to get some sightseeing in).  I found it so action-packed and emotionally fraught that it was a real page turner for me.

However, I have also enjoyed some classics.  I’ve loved works by Jules Verne, Alexandre Dumas, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (naturally).  There are still more classics that I want to read, but that doesn’t mean I won’t also enjoy a bit of  “fluff” from time to time, too.

Maybe that’s because I don’t have an MFA myself.  If that’s the reason, I can tell you I don’t want to obtain one anytime soon.  I wouldn’t want the pure enjoyment of reading to be taken away from me because I kept analyzing the author’s writing choices.

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