Looney Logic

So, most cartoons are made for kids, right? And obviously, someone like me would never watch cartoons for fun—unless it’s Looney Toons, which is hilarious, by the way. But that’s beside the point. Where was I? Oh, yes, I never watch cartoons. Except sometimes. Sort of like that old letter “i” rule. You know the one… i before e except after c – and sometimes. So, yeah, sometimes it is.

My question with all of this is, why does all logic fly out the window when it comes to cartoons? Okay, anvil drops. Character survives. That’s no big deal. I get it. Physics and mortality rates are a whole different ballgame in the cartoon world. But why is Little Bear naked when no one else around him is? And nobody in his cartoon world acknowledges his nudity? Weird.

Then, there are the animals that walk around half-dressed. A cute tee shirt is totally appropriate. No pants, that’s fine, too. Think about it. Everyone is okay with Pooh Bear letting it all hang out, not to mention Micky Mouse, Donald and Daisy Duck, Roo, and Woodsy Owl. Oh, and Smokey the Bear even accessorizes with a hat and belt — but apparently his jeans are enough. If he were a shirtless human, those “protect the forest” ads would read a lot differently. I’m just saying.

What makes it even weirder is that in those same cartoons with the half-dressed animals, there are fully naked animals and fully dressed animals. Like Pooh gets a shirt, but Rabbit and Tigger are nude. And Mickey Mouse gets pants, but Goofy, Minnie, Pete, and Clarabelle are modest enough to be fully clothed. Or, in Tom and Jerry, Tom is naked all day. But when he visits the beach, he wears a swimsuit. Excuse me?

The examples are overwhelming. Next time you watch an animal cartoon, just pay attention.

Oh, but that’s not where the weirdness of cartoon logic stops. Animals will own other animals as pets. And all the other animals are fine with it! Or, there’s some strange animal kingdom hierarchy that makes no sense at all. Just look at Pluto and Mickey Mouse. A mouse owns a dog.

In Little Bear, Tutu is a pet dog who doesn’t speak. Her owners are humans who befriend other speaking (and clothes-wearing) animals. What?

Then, there’s Peppa Pig, who owns a goldfish, who she takes to the vet, who happens to be a hamster.

Have you ever seen Alvin and the Chipmunks? Well, in one episode, they visit the zoo. The plot thickens when Alvin gets put in a cage in a case of mistaken identity, and everyone is outraged. But where is the outrage for the non-speaking, non-clothes wearing animals on display?  What the hell is that about?

And this broken cartoon logic transforms into the downright ridiculous when you think too hard about it. There’s one scene where Donald Duck is sitting around the table with his three nephew ducklings. On the table for dinner is a roasted chicken, for fuck’s sake. Something seems deeply wrong about this.

Or the classic scene where Minnie Mouse is afraid of… a mouse.

So, the hierarchy here isn’t even based on what type of animals they are. It’s totally arbitrary. Some animals are like humans. Others are treated like animals. Or, you know, food.

Cartoon logic is, well… illogical.

Why is Road Runner just a very fast bird, while Wile E. Coyote has the wherewithal to mail order jet-powered roller skates and hand out nifty business cards? Yes, I get it, he’s a suuuuper genius.  Still.

Elmer Fudd has regular conversations with Bugs and Daffy yet tries to shoot them — and presumably eat them, anyway. Okay, well, yeah, that one I understand. I have a few coworkers I feel that way about.

As it stands, I think the incongruous nature of the cartoon world needs to be studied further. And tomorrow is Saturday. You know what that means.  Saturday morning cartoons. So, if I’m sitting in front of the t.v. with a big bowl of cereal watching cartoons all morning, it’s research, people. Research!

X is for Xenophobia

Here I am, spilling more tea about my book club. Hey, my daughter taught me that phrase and I’m going to use it whether I completely understand it or not!

As you know, I recently got kicked out of a Murdoch Mysteries group and quite frankly, I’m not sure how I didn’t get kicked out of my book club today.  And this time, it would have been a proud moment.

This was posted by a member:

I have a petty pet peeve. Just started a book and there it is again.  Characters with impossible to pronounce names.

That’s it. That’s the post. She came on to complain about hard to pronounce names. Now, you might be thinking ahhh, the fantasy and sci fi genre can certainly have some unusual character names!  But, no. She’s reading a book with Russian characters and she hates their names because she can’t pronounce them, and she can’t be bothered to Google a pronunciation. Her solution? To just give them completely new names. Simple easy to pronounce names, names that she feels are befitting her narrow-minded view of the world … um, I mean, reading enjoyment.

The frustrating thing was, as is so often the case with social media… the comments. Not all, but I’d say 90% of the comments were in agreement and the number of people who simply rename characters or give them nicknames because they’re too freakin’ lazy to learn something new was astounding.  This is a reading group. Reading. Group. Presumably this is a group of people who want to expand their horizon via the written word, but alas, no. They apparently have no desire to truly open their minds or expand their world view or tread anywhere outside of their own bubble.

Here are a few of the like-minded comments:

I hate this too. WHY do authors do this? They should be writing to their majority audience, not just a specific few.

I just make up my own pronunciation. Doesn’t matter if it’s right or wrong, all it does is identify the character. I have too many books to read to be looking up names and who cares how they’re pronounced anyway?

I make up my own names: ie: Laghoire [sic] becomes Lori. (It should be noted that it’s Laoghaire – a name with Irish origins. Apparently remembering how to spell a name is equally too much effort, much like Googling the pronunciation.)

I just come up with my own pronunciation and go with it. Authors need to do better.

I won’t even read a book if the names are too ridiculous or if I don’t know how to pronounce them. It’s definitely a pet peeve.

It’s so annoying to stumble over the name again and again. A book should flow so you can get lost in it… writers should use names that everyone knows how to pronounce and if they don’t, I just make up a name that starts with the same letter and read it that way!

If I can’t pronounce a name in a book, I just give them a name I like and then that is who they are the rest of the book.

I just give them different names. LOL! Life is too short to worry about pronouncing someone’s name.

I won’t get a book if I read the synopsis and the names are too crazy.

I make up my own version of the name which is usually better anyway.

It annoys me too so I just give them a similar name that I can pronounce. I just read a book with main characters from Nigeria and I didn’t even try. Buy a vowel for god’s sake. 

I size those long Russian and German names down to some four-letter words. I assign them names like Bob, Billy, Hank and use those nicknames all thru the book. Muslem [sic] names are even worse.

I just make a sound up in my head and go with it for the rest of the book.

Bob, Billy, Hank instead of Mikhail, Fyodor, or Piscine. A fucking arbitrary sound instead of Aiofe, Itumelang, or Adaugo. Yeah, I mean, that seems legit.

Mispronouncing names or words that you’ve only read is one thing… I personally do that quite often. Okay, fine, all the time. But once you figure out the correct pronunciation – and let’s be clear, you should figure out the correct pronunciation, you say it correctly going forward. No, it’s not that. It’s the adamant refusal to even try to learn how to pronounce these names that I find so maddening.

The original member who ignited this firestorm of xenophobia came back later to rebut comments – mine included – that called her out on her pet peeve. She claims to be “incredibly inclusive” and “loves diversity” but she’s lazy, so what?  “… but I can’t be bothered to try and figure out what the author means or how to pronounce some of these god forsaken names they come up with. So, I’m lazy. Who cares?”

There’s lazy and then there’s lazy but I’m sorry, this is waaayyy beyond lazy.  There are elements of xenophobia and racism as these readers minimize entire cultures and heritages in an effort to remake the world – even a literary one – to fit into their fantastically small bubble of existence.

Why do I find it hard to believe that these people limit their “pet peeve” to the fiction section of their lives?

So yeah, I didn’t get kicked out. But long story short, I need a new book club. That 90% statistic? I didn’t like those odds.

“Names have power.” — Rick Riordan, The Lightning Thief

“Mutilating someone’s name is a tiny act of bigotry.” – Jennifer Gonzalez

“If they can learn to say Tchaikovsky and Michelangelo and Dostoyevsky, they can learn to say Uzoamaka.” – Uzo Aduba

Midsomer Revisited

Once again, I find myself binge-watching the last couple of seasons of Midsomer Murders. Ahhh, yes, Midsomer… where the most creative murders ever known to man take place.  Squashed by a wheel of cheese? Yep. Covered in truffle oil and eaten alive by wild boar? You’ve got it.  Boiled in a vat of brewing beer? Shaken by an apple harvester? Check and double check. This idyllic English county has a knack for homicide, that’s for sure… and Wi-Fi service worth killing for.

———————–

Originally written May 23, 2017

Midsomer Lifestyle

Have any of you ever seen the show Midsomer Murders? It a great show from England about two detectives, The Barnabys (first there is Tom, played by the incomparable John Nettles, who protected and served Midsomer for 14 seasons and then Tom’s younger cousin John, played by Neil Dudgeon, who takes over when Tom retires) and their varying Sergeants who assist in their crime-solving routines. If you haven’t seen it yet here’s the basic premise: Set in the fictional county of Midsomer, the Barnabys take on and solve murder cases, which are never in short supply given the area’s shockingly high murder rate. I. Love. This. Show. I’ve been binge-watching (or rather, re-binge-watching) this week to my daughter’s dismay.  To say she isn’t into languid, picturesque British detective shows is an understatement.

the cousins Barnaby

The villages of Midsomer — many named Midsomer something, as in Midsomer Florey or Midsomer Worthy, or perhaps something as delightful as the jaunty Badger’s Drift — are so tranquil and charming that I don’t see how anyone would be angry enough to commit murder there. But murder they do, and the perpetrators never seem satisfied with just one, either; more often than not, there are multiple per show.  It’s like potato chips with these people. There was only one episode in the history of the series that had zero murders, and from what I understand, fans were outraged with that singular murder-free storyline…go figure. Who knew there were such rabid viewers addicted to rampant violence running amok amid an idyllic backdrop?  If you’re a fan of fun crime dramas this is for you. There’s no shortage of material. The show started in 1997 and as of right now, 21 seasons have already aired.

If you’re a fan of breathtaking English countryside, this is also the show for you. The locations in which they shoot are always beautiful, historical, and quaint little hamlets. They’re so quiet and comfortable-looking that I’ve daydreamed about buying a little cottage in one of these villages and living that Midsomer country life. You may be asking, “But what about, you know, all the murders that happen there?” I’ve thought about it and while it would be a disadvantage if my neighbors were getting iced all the time, it just might be worth the view. These towns are REALLY pretty. And you know, the violent crime rate does give everyone something to talk about down at the local pub. So there’s that.

Amazingly enough, while from the outside, these locations seem about as far away from modern technology as one could be, everyone (in the later episodes of course) have a laptop and a smart phone. Flip phones were all the rage in the earlier shows. It’s not just the “old-money” rich, either, in their truly opulent homes, and who seem to outnumber the middle-class residents of the area by a landslide. No, everyone from the farmer down the lane to the Lord who renovated that castle up the street have electronics that make me envious… and the data to back it up, despite nary a cell tower cluttering up the landscape. I mean, I can’t even get service in my local grocery store, let alone when travelling between towns on our rural backroads.

Outside of the steady flow of homicide, I can’t see why anyone wouldn’t want to live in Midsomer. If it existed, that is. With the lovely to-die-for (ha!) scenery AND the possibility of unlimited data, I think I could ignore the rampant carnage.

Seriously though, how is Wi-Fi not an issue in Midsomer? That’s the real mystery I think the Barnabys should spend some time investigating.

Reading Comprehension

My favorite book club recently banned “Grammar Nazis.” This is a good thing. I’m sure you’ve all heard this lovely term. Grammar Nazis are people who need to be (and demand that others be) grammatically correct all the time. Man, life is not grammatically correct. It’s okay to make mistakes. Not to mention, being a Grammar Nazi online is incredibly classist and ableist. But this upturn in book club etiquette got me thinking.

I’ve belonged to many book clubs in my life. And while some entertain a friendlier crowd than others, for some reason, every club has its own snob or multiples thereof.

Before we move on, I feel like I need to address that, yes, I realize this is such a first-world problem as to be silly. And if you wish to devote your time to something else, I get that. You can just stop reading here and move along. But if you’re on the same petty first-world page as me, you’re probably pretty annoyed by book snobs too.

In addition to the arduous duties required of the average Grammar Nazi, these book snobs (I call them book snobs, by the way) are all hyper-focused on defining what it means to be a real book.

According to the book snobs, real books are tangible. TANGIBLE, I tell you. Audiobooks and eBooks are off the table. They aren’t real. What does that even mean anyway? Are they imaginary? Do I only imagine that I’m reading on my Kindle or that I’m listening to the to-die-for-voice of Hugh Fraser reading Agatha Christie? Was it all a dream? Pretty good dream if I do say so.

I think this whole distinction between the real and the imaginary is pretty interesting if we’re getting all postmodern theoretical about it. But I don’t think that’s what they’re getting at. Which is a shame really, because that would be a great conversation.

And this is not to say that everyone should value printed books and eBooks the same way. Your preferences are your preferences. And you have a right to have them, obviously. Go you! But you don’t have a right to put down other people for having a different favorite reading preference.

So, it’s okay if you prefer holding a tangible book of paper and string and glue and ink. It’s a beautiful experience, turning the page. Believe me, I know.  But don’t be a snob about it.

Another book snobbish thing to do is genre-shaming.

I think a cozy mystery novel sounds nice. Like hot tea on a cold night. The book snob will say “god no, that’s not a real book.” And in my head, I hear them go on to say something along the lines of “I would never taint my cultivated reading palate with the likes of such filth.” Okay, yeah, so I have may made up that last bit, BUT… their actual comments aren’t far off.

On one snobbish encounter, I felt personally attacked that someone had the audacity to claim that Agatha Christie penned cozy mysteries (with all the rude connotations of a book snob behind it). If you think intricate murder mysteries written by the Queen of Crime are cozy, you might want to consider re-evaluating a few things. And what’s so wrong about a cozy mystery anyway? They’re well… cozy.

The list goes on. To the book snob, romance novels, manga, and graphic novels are all not books. That’s right. Not. Books. Maybe these book snobs have been reading too much George Orwell for their own good. Or maybe they stepped directly out of 1984 with their notebooks. Except of course, they could never be bothered to read such things. Cause, you know. Book snobs.

Oh, hey, while we’re at it, let’s talk reading goals!  Who doesn’t love some good goalsetting? What I find fascinating are the people who also keep minute details recorded on excel sheets alongside meticulously written diaries of the 10,541 books they’ve read so far this year and to top it off, they share these in our groups  to show off open a discussion.

These are the same people who forget what they’ve read. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard a book club member say, “I got halfway through that book and realized I’d read it already!” I’d be able to afford more books.  Which I guess, is why they keep diaries full of plot notes for the 500 books they read last month.  I know I’ve said this before, but if you can get halfway through a book before you remember that you’ve already read it, maybe you’re working through your TBR pile a little TOO quickly.

You might think I’m exaggerating, but this one person just said yesterday that they’ve read 345 books so far this year (500+ pages each… apparently that distinction was important) and that she reads at least one book, and strives for two, every day, never fails. I mean, good on her, but who has that kind of time!?  And seriously, no wonder they might forget what books they’ve read. How can you retain the experience when you’re cranking them out like that?

On the other hand, sometimes members will lament that they’re not reading enough or they’re falling behind in their goals. For instance, this one poor woman said sadly “I’m not reading much these days… I’ve only gotten through 32 books in the last two months.”  That’s an average of four books a week, folks. Are we supposed to feel sorry for her? What kind of goals must she have to be sad over her current reading progress? Or, is it more accurate to think that she’s humble bragging? And if so, why? Nobody cares.

Like I said, it’s great to have goals.  But when you start sharing that record as a means of lording the accomplishment over others, you start venturing into snob territory.  We get it. You read. A lot.

I’ve got news for you, just because you read a lot and have very specific ideas of what exactly makes a book a book, you’re not better than other people. You’re not better. They’re not worse. We’re all just people who like to read.

Reel Life

If you’re anything like me, you love to watch movies. You might even shape your world view and expectations around them, knowing that the real world will fall short, leaving you disappointed and disillusioned again and again. And to cope, you’ll just watch more.

It’s a cycle I’m fully aware of and entirely content participating in.

Sometimes I even try to take advice from movies, but life always gets in the way. Take Under the Tuscan Sun for example. Since 2003, Diane Lane has been convincing women that the solution to their problems is to move to Tuscany. She’s not wrong.

Okay, Diane, I’m in. Yes, I would love to move to Italy and solve all my problems by running away from them. I’ve got half of that down already.

Except, how am I supposed to afford it? Is there some sort of waiting list I need to sign up for?

In the movie (which is based on a book but doesn’t really follow the book like so many other movies based on a book), Diane’s character takes a singles trip after her marriage fails. In Italy, she decides she’s not coming home — ever. The whole time it feels like she’s taking some massively brave leap into uncertainty. But she also seems to have an endless supply of cash. With a safety net made of money, her spontaneity feels a little less risky.

I would love to be casually wealthy — you know, to the point where no one talks about how unusual it is to have so much money in the bank for no apparent reason. And I would love to just up and move to Italy and never come back.

Oh, and if I could have Diane Lane’s looks while I’m at it, that would be great. I mean, come on… the woman is gorgeous and doesn’t appear to age at all.

Unfortunately, the only remote similarity between my life and hers in Under the Tuscan Sun is a cheating ex-husband.

If I did have enough money to visit a foreign country and never come back, I would go to Ireland. And if my life were written and produced in Hollywood, I would ask to have a fairy tale ending like Amy Adams’ character in Leap Year.

Do I want to meet my soulmate in Ireland? Yes, please. Am I going to? Probably not. I’ve never even been to Ireland, and I think getting to the country in question is probably a prerequisite to meeting your soulmate there.

Life just isn’t the same in the real world versus the reel world.  Go figure.

Look at Julia Roberts in Eat, Pray, Love. Her character goes through a divorce (do you sense a theme here?) and soul searches across the world — regardless of how much money it costs.

I’ve got the divorce and the soul-searching, but I don’t think I’ll ever have the cash to find myself in Italy, India, and Indonesia. I mean, who does? Well, besides Elizabeth Gilbert, the woman who inspired the movie Eat, Pray, Love.

In the film, our heroine is seen as a brave risk-taker, but the real risk would be to try that trip without a disposable income. I’m not crazy or desperate enough to try that. At least, not yet.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against our wealthy traveling heroines — hell, if I were in their place, I’d be on a plane tomorrow and never look back.

But it’s just all so unrealistic. I guess that’s the escapism we’re drawn to when we watch movies.

Some movies, like About Time, break the illusion with outrageous elements like time travel. On a basic level, I know we all understand we’ll never be able to travel back in time, but I think it still leaves some of us wishing we could control the event in our lives.

As for most of these other movies, they leave us wishing we had more dough in our pockets. And not the brioche variety. Although now that I think about it, one can never have too much brioche.

Maybe that’s why we watch these movies in the first place. So we can live vicariously through others in a way we never could in real life.

It seems quite depressing, doesn’t it? Acknowledging that life will never be like our favorite movies is no fun. Yet we continually and willingly subject ourselves to these escapist fantasies. What the hell is that all about? Speaking of which, I think it’s time for another good romantic comedy movie binge. I’m nothing if not a glutton for punishment. It’s entertainment, after all.

Crazy Rich Asians seems like a good choice, although I’m certain I’m past the age of marrying into money. Oh, well. One can dream. And I do like to dream.

At least the characters always find their perfect happy ending, even if we don’t.

 

Got Inspiration?

Is there a film or a book that has stayed with you? Sure, there are some images from Stephen King and the like that I’ll never get out of my head (no matter how much I love horror), but for me, it’s the novel Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. Yes, it’s dated, it came out in the late 1800’s, and no, I wasn’t around for the first publication, but it’s still a fantastic read today, and relevant. People are still monsters and animal cruelty and apathy still run rampant.  To those of you who are unfamiliar with the piece, I’ll sum it up for you.

The story of Black Beauty is told from the first person (first animal?) as an autobiographical memoir told by the titular horse who is, as the title would indicate, named Black Beauty. Starting off with his early days as a colt growing up on an English farm alongside his mother, all the way to his later days and his eventual happy retirement to the country. Throughout the course of the story he encounters trials and tribulations along with many tales of abject cruelty and suffering as well as true kindness. If you haven’t read it, I highly suggest you give it a shot.

This book – and the story of Ramses from Lad of Sunnybrook, opened my eyes to the depths some humans were willing to sink, but there were also examples of compassion. In fact, these stories inspired me to become an animal advocate.

Maybe you’ve watched a movie or read a book that impacted what career choice you made, or as in my case, what types of organizations you join. I’d be curious to hear your stories in regard to what books, movies, tv shows or other forms of like media, inspired you to do certain things, or join certain groups, or even work in specific fields.

Have you ever thought what forms of inspiration may have served people throughout the course of history? What prompted Norwegian Expressionist artist Edvard Munch to paint the popular painting most commonly referred to as, ‘The Scream’? It was painted in 1893, and depicts a man holding onto his face like Macaulay Culkin from Home Alone.

Obviously, he wasn’t inspired by a movie. In this case it wasn’t a book either, but as my google search tells me, he wrote in his diary,

“One evening I was walking along a path; the city was on one side and the fjord below. I felt tired and ill. I stopped and looked out over the fjord—the sun was setting, and the clouds turning blood red. I sensed a scream passing through nature; it seemed to me that I heard the scream. I painted this picture, painted the clouds as actual blood. The color shrieked. This became The Scream.”

I know. Cool, right!?

It’s just interesting to think about what inspires people. Maybe reading Lord of the Rings inspired you to write your own story, or maybe you became an expert in mythology thanks to Neil Gaiman or a history buff courtesy of Lin Manuel Miranda.

If I asked you to tell me about a movie, book, show, comic, play, or any other form of media that impacted you in some way, what comes to mind first?

 

Shutting the Book on Bookstores

I have to share something devastating with you. You might want to sit down for this as you may be as shocked as I am.

The Barnes and Noble at the Inner Harbor, Baltimore has closed its doors for good. I know, right!? I can hardly imagine it. What used to be a multi-level oasis of pure happiness is now an empty building full of lost hopes and dreams.

photo credit: tripadvisor

photo credit: tripadvisor

photo credit: tripadvisor

No more new book smell. No more window shopping for little gifts and trinkets. No more reading in the aisles. No more meandering through row after row of the written word.

In experiencing this heartbreak, I wonder who else might be coping with the closure of their favorite store. Who else has lost a cherished brick and mortar place of business where they could physically purchase joy in the form of art, books, or other cultural goods?

We’re all aware that as our world shrinks down to the size of a laptop, we have become increasingly geared towards technology as online storefronts replace physical ones. Ecommerce is the big buzzword. Our lives, more and more, are lived through social media rather than tangible experiences.

So, are we, as a society, eschewing tangible books for mass-produced TikTok soundbites, YouTube beauty vlogs, and online shopping? Has Amazon finally killed the bookstore? And are we going to hold Jeff Bezos accountable?

Or can the death of the bookstore be attributed to the increasing availability and convenience of ebooks and audiobooks? Did technology like the Kindle usher in the slow demise of books as we know them?

Over the last twenty years or so, I have seen bookstore after bookstore close down. At first, it was the small, independent shops… between the big box stores and Amazon, they just didn’t stand a chance. Now, apparently, even the big chains are feeling the heat of our melting society. It’s disheartening, truly. I think of the 1998 film, You’ve Got Mail, where Meg Ryan plays a boutique bookstore owner. Her little shop struggles against the competition of the corporate Fox Books company and ultimately, her bookstore fails. Barnes and Noble is like the Fox Books of the real world. The irony that we’ve come full circle in this scenario is not lost on me.

Speaking of You’ve Got Mail.  Meg Ryan’s character falls in love with the owner of the company that ruined her beloved business. What’s that about anyway?? Even if he is Tom Hanks, I just don’t get it. It’s a good movie, but that resentment should feel more realistic. And it would read more like a tragedy than a romance.

Online shopping was already a huge business.  As we continue our lives through the pandemic, more and more people turn to Amazon and other ecommerce stores for their shopping. While some small bookstores remain afloat, will they be able to survive?

Bookstores, as you might have guessed, are one of my favorite places. They live and breathe creativity. The paper, the stories, the shelves, are all embedded into the very fabric of that magical place. It would be such a shame to know them only as a memory.

 

Life With No Regrets

I know I’ve mentioned my book club a few times, but much like my family, they offer so much material! The other day, a member asked a question that I personally had a very hard time answering. Other members were ready with a quick retort – most in the affirmative, which, once again, left me shaking my head… since you know, it’s a book group.  I know you’re frothing at the bit to hear the question, so here you go. They asked, “What books do you regret reading?” I know, right!?

I felt as though they might as well ask, “What air do you regret breathing?” I was, however, in the minority. Apparently, people regret reading quite a bit.

Now, you might be thinking of those heavy books, the ones that stick with you for life. And I mean emotionally weighty—not those insanely thick, must-have-on-you-at-all-times textbooks we got in school. I mean the ones that you carry in your heart. The ones that put you in a bad way if you think too much about them. The ones where you learn about the harsh realities of the real world.

The ones where the dog dies.

Even though these books don’t make us feel warm and fuzzy inside, they have value. They teach us something. Maybe we learned about the atrocities of WWII; the holocaust, the bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, the Japanese concentration camps in America. As horrific as it is to accept, we learned something about humanity in all this history.

Or maybe the heavy book taking up space in your heart is fiction. Maybe the main character, the little girl you were rooting for, the girl burdened with unimaginable pain and sadness, the girl who shows compassion and strength, the girl who feels so real, dies at the end of the book. And you are heartbroken. And you are so moved by this, you are sobbing and letting tears run down your face and onto the pages. Reading can transport us into worlds where we are free to feel and express our emotions — good and bad.

How can you regret anything that makes you feel? Makes you learn. Makes you open your mind. Makes you grow.

Now you might think, “Well, what about a book you hated? One that was just bad.” Ahhh, but that wasn’t the question. This was a question of regrets. Bad writing is bad writing, but even then, regret reading? I don’t think so.

Reading, no matter what it might be, helps us to engage critically with ideas. Reading informs us in so many ways—not just by presenting facts like those heavy textbooks from a soon-to-be bygone era. It helps us to practice forming our own opinions. It gives us the gift of expanding our language, our imaginations, and even our aspirations.

No matter what the book is about, who it is written by, or what genre it falls in, reading a book is like taking a walk. By the end, you’re somewhere else. And even if we didn’t enjoy the journey, we saw something new.

So, instead of having an answer in my book club discussion, I only had another question: Can you really regret reading a book?

What Women Want

Take a look at any men’s health magazine the next time you’re in the grocery store. Notice the sheen of sweat that seems to be perpetually glistening on their skin, as if they’re in desperate need of a shower… or two. Admire the outrageously formidable, perfectly-formed pecs and cartoonishly rounded biceps. Drink in the sight of over-stimulated veins stretching across their forearms. Think ‘The Hulk’, but on steroids. This is every woman’s dream, right? Yeah, no.

This so-called ideal body type is being forced down men’s throats by other men. Just watch any superhero or action movie… the leads with biceps on top of biceps on top of biceps in some twisted homage to Popeye the Sailor Man, back muscles that you didn’t even know humans had, and abdominal muscles so defined you could count the muscle fibers. Women don’t admire the over-the-top superhero bod nearly as much as men do. It’s a power fantasy written by men for men. Being ripped isn’t appealing merely because they’re “more attractive” as a man; it’s more appealing because more strength equals more power.

Unfortunately, too many men buy into this whole idea that the sinewy, veiny, glistening body type is the only one that women desire.

Sigh…

The women I know don’t want the piles of muscles and veins. And we can do the rescuing for ourselves, thank you very much. We don’t need Johnny Protein Powder to do it for us; we’ve been doing it for years before he came along.

What do women want, you ask? Let’s start with a brain that doesn’t have its cells clogged by creatine. They want your chivalrous (note: chivalrous, not chauvinistic) actions to show how much you care for them, six-packs be damned. Rather than the models on work-out magazines, give us a man with substance.

Give us David Tennant and the Tenth Doctor’s undying affection for those he loves.  Give us Timothy Olyphant from The Crazies, who refused to flee a zombie-infected area without his wife because he was so devoted to her. Of course, I would be remiss not to mention Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy from Pride and Prejudice. While he may have been an arrogant asshole when we first met him, his heart was in the right place.  There’s a reason why women loved Jim Halpert in The Office. It definitely wasn’t his work-out routine. Laurie from Little Women was aloof and misguided at times, but he was fiercely devoted and loved passionately. I’d take a Laurie over a Hasselhoff any day of the week.

So, men, you want to know what women want? Go ask your women friends who their fictional crushes are. I dare you. You may be surprised at their answers.

 

Game On

You may have noticed, but the world is plunging into chaos. Polar bears are on the verge of extinction, there’s a great big vortex of plastic floating in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, and well, you know… *waving vaguely at everything.* I’m not naming names or anything, but if the world were Gotham City the supervillains would be winning right about now, and Batman and Batwoman seem to be on hiatus.

We spend so much time wondering when Clark Kent is going to fly in to save the day, complete with his underpants on the outside of his pants (go figure, obviously some human cultural norms slipped past him after he crash landed) that most of us don’t realize there are millions of gamers around the planet fighting evil, likewise in their underwear, every single day. Okay, so the evil they fight is on the screen, but honestly, what’s the difference between a modern politician and a Quake 4 demon zombie anymore? If the two were in a game of “spot the difference,” I think many people would get very, very flustered trying to work out the puzzle.

Forget Superman. What if our heroes are already here on Earth? Think about it. All comic superheroes are nerds, or at least start out that way. And I mean that with the utmost respect. Superman is a journalist in his usual civilian life. Tony Stark is a complete tech-head. And Wonder Woman, well she’s just wonderful. You could even make an argument that Deadpool himself is somewhat of geek. I mean, he’s a hardcore fan of Dragon Ball, after all.  Point is, all these superheroes started off as quirky outsiders sitting around in their pajamas before getting bitten by a nuclear spider or flung into the far reaches of space and deciding to don leotard outfits, or, you know, stay in their pajamas.

Nerds. Are. Our. Future.

No one has more practice slaying demons, dragons, and whatever other monster you can possibly think of than gamers. If aliens come to attack planet Earth, or heaven forbid, a zombie outbreak occurs, it will be gamers that will be most trained in the art of holding their nerve and planning a survival strategy.

They are our superheroes.

And slowly they are gaining more and more exposure and recognition. Gaming is now big business. American teenager Kyle Giersdorf won $3 million in New York this past July after taking the top prize in a tournament for the popular online video game Fortnite. That’s a hell of a lot better than the chump change the rest of us make. And hell, most of us aren’t even doing anything nearly as fun to earn our paycheck. Speaking of which, in the office wars, I bet most gamers would come out on top as well.

I mean, seriously, any list of gaming skills reads like the perfect CV. I know I’ve said this before, but gamers have to have some serious skills to be good at what they do. Not only do their reflexes need to be as sharp as samurai masters, but they have to stay focused and keep a cool head under pressure.  They need to be able to strategize and juggle multiple tasks at once. In addition, they need to understand and remember numerous complex backstories and be proactive in finding and exploiting glitches to the betterment of their mission or team. Don’t even get me started on stamina or mental acuity… gamers are capable of sustaining a high level of concentration and can stay on task far longer than just about any office dweller. Reliability, problem-solving, productive risk-taking… I’m telling you, they’ve got it all. Such talent surely translates into marketable skills, if not the potential for true greatness.  Come on, gamers, we’re looking at you… you are the future.

Game on.