Questions About Me

On Facebook the last few days I’ve seen a personal survey of sorts circulating, who you are, what you like, that sort of thing. The survey, however, showed all the hallmarks of having been copied and added to as it propogated across social media as the spellings were inconsistent (showing both American and British spelling), similar questions were worded in wildly different ways, and similar questions were separated by unconnected questions. Before I answered these, then, I decided to put on my editor’s hat, group the questions, reword them for consistency’s sake, and format them better.

Let’s go deep!

1. Are you named after someone?

My first name comes from my great-grandfather, Allyn Gardner. My middle name comes from my great-grandmother, Olive Russell.

My full name has all six vowels, each used exactly once, though not in order. When I pointed this out to my parents some years ago, they had no idea. It certainly wasn’t planned.

2. Where were you born?


3. What do you do for a living?

I’m a writer for Diamond Comic Distributors. I write the monthly PREVIEWS catalog. As I’m writing this, work has begun on my 112th issue.

4. Do you have a special talent?

None come to mind. Unless making ebooks for myself with Calibre counts as a talent.

I suppose it does.

I’ll give you an example. Two weeks ago I made an epub out of a document I had. I put it on my Kindle (I sideloaded Readmill a while back, and I like that better than the actual Kindle software), where it worked fantastically well. I put it on my Nook, too, and on my Nook the ebook had extra space between the lines.

Puzzled by this, I decided to look at some other ebooks on my Nook. Some had the extra space. Some did not.

What I discovered is that the Nook can’t handle a margin: 0; definition. It doesn’t know what to do with it. When I replaced that with…

margin-top: 0;
margin-right: 0;
margin-bottom: 0;
margin-left: 0;

…then the ebook formatted exactly like it should have, with no extra space between paragraphs. It was a puzzle, I solved it, and now I know for the future.

5. Do you like your handwriting?

I do. I enjoy writing with pen and paper. I’ve often said that writing by hand rather than at the keyboard forces different choices and produces a different quality of prose because while you can type at (or close to) the speed of thought, you can’t scratch out a word on paper at anything close to that speed. Words become more precise, thoughts become tighter.

6. Do you use sarcasm?

Absosmurfly not.

7. Do you have any kids?

No, I don’t.

8. When was the last time you cried?

Several times in the last few days, as recently as yesterday (thanks to Scott Simon’s commentary on NPR’s Weekend Edition), prompted by the story of Omran Daqneesh, the young Syrian boy who was pulled from a bombed-out home in Aleppo, Syria.

The fighting in Syria and Yemen is a subject that has occupied me greatly over the last eighteen months. I’m bothered by the refugee crisis and the fear shown by my fellow Americans toward people who need and can use our help. I watched UNICEF’s animated “Unfairy Tale” shorts about child refugees and felt utterly devastated, not only due to their plight but to my own inability to do anything meaningful to help.

9. If you were a crayon, what color would you be?

I don’t know. Turquoise Blue, maybe?

10. Do you still have your tonsils?

I do.

11. Would you bungee jump?

Possibly. It’s never come up.

12. Do you think you’re strong?

I manage.

13. What color shirt are you wearing?

Right now, I’m wearing a red t-shirt. It features Oscar the Grouch.

14. What color pants and shoes are you wearing?

Blue cargo shorts. No shoes. I wear shoes when I have to. If I don’t have to, I don’t wear shoes.

15. Do you untie your shoes when you take them off?

Depends on the shoes. My work shoes, a pair of oxford-style deck shoes, I can slip on and off withut untying them. My sneakers, those I do have to tie and untie.

16. What is your favorite cereal?

Coco Wheats!

17. What is your favorite lunch meat?

Ham! No, turkey! No, roast beef! No, chicken salad! No, don’t make me choose!

18. What is your favorite ice cream?

Mint chocolate chip.

19. What is your favorite drink?

Iced tea.

20. What was the last thing you ate?

A bowl of mint chocolate chip ice cream, actually.

21. Favorite smell?

Rain. The ink in a new issue of PREVIEWS. Freshly baked cookies.

22. Favorite sport to watch?


23. Hair color that’s real?

Black hair.

24. Eye color?

Today, they look green-gray.

25. Do you wear contacts?

I do not. I do wear glasses, though.

26. Favorite food?

Hmm. I’m not sure. It depends on what I’m in the mood for, really.

27. Scary movies or happy endings?

Happy endings.

28. Red or pink?

Why choose?

29. Summer or winter?

I like summer more. I like the sunshine and the green and the feeling of life. I like the long days and the warm nights.

30. Hugs or kisses?

Again, why choose?

31. What is on your mouse pad?

I don’t use a mousepad.

32. Who was the last person you talked to on the phone?

Someone at work. It would have been Tuesday or Wednesday. It was probably my direct supervisor or the department director. The vagueness comes from how unmemorable the conversation was. It was probably on a really trivial matter.

33. What book are you currently reading?

I’m in-between books at the moment. Next up may be Lance Parkin’s The Impossible Has Happened, his biography of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, which I received at work on Thursday. Or possibly Doctor Who: The Legends of River Song, an anthology of stories about the 51st-century archaeologist, which I also acquired recently. Or I may take a look at Tim Riley’s biography of John Lennon, which I’ve had on my to-be-read pile for about six months.

What I’ve finished recently? Steven Galloway’s The Cellist of Sarajevo, a novel based on an event during the Siege of Sarajevo twenty years ago. Nick Abadzis’ Laika, a graphic novel about Laika, the Russian dog who was sent into space in the early days of the space race. Jason Zemcik’s Leadoff Hit, a book about the Holly Spring Salamanders’ first season in the Coastal Plain League. And Ann Crispin’s Return to Yesterday, her unpublished third Zar novel. (Return to Yesterday came up in a discussion on TrekBBS recently. I hadn’t looked at the manuscript in a decade, and I read through it quickly just to remind myself.)

34. What did you watch on television last?

BrainDead on CBS last Sunday night. Tonight I’ll watch the repeat of Madame Secretary followed by the new episode of BrainDead.

35. What was the last movie you watched?

The Beatles and World War II, a reimagining of the little-seen 1970s film All This and World War II, a documentary on World War II that used vintage newsreel footage matched to covers of Beatles songs. The new film takes the idea and, using most of the same songs, uses either better footage or new footage altogether. To give you an idea, footage of Hitler is matched to “A Fool on the Hill.” The Battle of Britain is matched to “I am the Walrus.” Japan’s pre-Pearl Harbor military build-up is set to “Come Together.” Busting up German spy rings is matched to “Let It Be.” I’m still trying to process what, exactly, it was that I watched. I think I “get” it, but I’m not sure.

I’m planning on writing more extensively about this film, hopefully within the next week.

36. Favorite sound?

I’m not sure I really have one.

37. Rolling Stones or Beatles?

The Beatles.

I don’t dislike the Stones, but I never went out of my way to listen to them.

38. What are you listening to right now?

“All of the Places,” by Travis, from their new album, Everything at Once.

When I started working on this, I was listening to Die Where I Began, an album by the Will Overman Band I found on NoiseTrade on Thursday that I thought was quite nice. (I’m taken by the song “Ode to Virginia.”) After that finished, I listened to an episode of BBC Radio 3’s Sound of Cinema on James Horner from last year, inspired by a discussion on Facebook about Horner and his self-plagiarism. When that finished, I queued up Everything at Once.

Everything at Once came out a few months ago. I didn’t love it immediately as I had with some of the earlier Travis albums, but I liked it a lot. (The problem, I think, is that the songs the band used to promote the album before its release, such as the title track, were some of the weaker songs.) It’s not a groundbreaking album for the band by any means, but it has moments of magic and feels right, like a Travis album should. It also prompted me to go back and fill in two gaps in my Travis collection, Ode to J. Smith and Fran Healy’s solo album, Wreckorder.

39. What is the farthest you’ve traveled?

Las Vegas.

40. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would that be?

Washington, DC or Edinburgh, Scotland. Though if Donald Trump is elected president, Halifax, Nova Scotia would be quite tempting.

41. If you could do anything at all, what would that be?

Something that makes the world a better place. We get one shot at life, this is the only world we have. We should leave it a better place, a happier place, a kinder place when we leave. I don’t know what that something is.

42. What is the first thing you notice about people?

Presence. That may not make sense, but that’s the only way I can describe it.

43. What is the least favorite thing about yourself?

Hmm, where to start…? No, I kid, I kid.

My least favorite thing is writing-related. I have great difficulty judging the worth of my writing, and I judge it far more harshly than it deserves. For a writer, that’s something of a death-spiral; you become trapped in a nightmare of, “This isn’t good enough, I can’t do this,” and it keeps you from moving forward.

I have some techniques that help me get around this “block.” Sometimes it’s as simple as saying, “This isn’t any good,” when I send the work off for approvals. Sometimes it takes writing in anything but Microsoft Word; writing in plain old Notepad or in an email makes the writing feel like it’s less significant, like it doesn’t need to be as important.

I have been searching for a way to be more Zen about what I write and the words I use. I haven’t found that, yet, maybe because I’m looking for it. The secret to finding Zen is to find it; you have to let Zen find you. This may be something I always struggle with.

But I know it’s there. And that’s important.

44. If you were another person, would you be friends with you?

Possibly. But, for all I know, I might irritate the heck out of me. :)

Syrian Refugees, Meme Wars, and Ethical Imperatives

I tried to steer clear of the Meme Wars over Syrian refugees on Facebook last week. I saw things on both sides that irritated me; from friends on the right I saw things that were occasionally racist, and from friends on the left I saw things that mocked both religion and culture. I learned a lot about friends on both sides of the divide — and not necessarily good things.

When I say “mocked… religion,” I mean the memes that pointed out that that the xenophobia directed at Syrian refugees was incompatible with Jesus’ teachings. That’s certainly my read of Jesus’ teachings, but then, I’m a liberal atheist. A conservative Christian may see no conflict between being a good Samaritan at home and closing the door to Syrian refugees.

Neil Carter, the writer of “Godless in Dixie,” wrote last week about the Great Syrian Refugee Facebook Meme War and why the memes from the liberal side about Jesus’ teachings found no targets on the right. As he puts it, “Culture trumps religion every time.”

The conservative Christian who says to shut the doors to Syrian refugees doesn’t see a religious angle to their viewpoint on the question. They see it through their cultural and political prisms — they’re opposed to immigration in general, they’re opposed to helping refugees when there are homeless and veterans who need to be helped. These aren’t excuses. These are things they genuinely believe, and pointing out that their stance is opposed to the ethical teachings of their religion will fall on deaf ears. They would deny there was a religious dimension to the question at all. Badgering a Christian with Jesus’ teachings to make them accept something they don’t want to do won’t work. “Culture trumps religion.”

Some people live in fear. Others live in hope. Religion is just a gloss on that.

On 2011 In Review

January 1st. The start of a new year. A “turn the page” moment, a time when the slate is wiped clean and one can start fresh. That’s my feeling on every day, that the new day is a blank slate on which anything can be written, so it should be my feeling on the start of a new year, too. Except that it isn’t. New Years is, for some reason, just another day.

Many people make resolutions. They’ve taken stock of their lives, and decided that this and that will change. I don’t normally make resolutions, but here’s something I intend to do better in 2012 — tell the difference between good ideas that are productive and good ideas that waste time.

There’s a specific reason that’s come to mind, but it’s a trivial, insignificant thing, much like my mad inclination a few weeks ago to recode my website to work with Habari instead of WordPress. Yes, that’s an interesting idea, but it’s not practical or sensible. :)

Since this is the start of a new year, I’ll take stock of the year that was. A few years ago, a friend posted a list of questions on his LiveJournal, and I answered that at the time. Now I’ll use them again. :)

  1. What did you do in 2011 that you’d never done before?
    Spend time in New Jersey. I’ve been through New Jersey, but I’ve never stopped there or spent any significant time there. In November, I attended PhilCon, a science fiction convention that happens to be held across the Delaware River from Philadelphia in the wilds of Cherry Hill, New Jersey.
  2. Did you keep your new years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
    I put it this way a few years ago: “As a child I never made New Year’s Resolutions.  I’m not planning on starting now.” I plan on putting more thought into my decision-making vis-a-vis ideas as mentioned above, but I’m not sure that falls under the category of “resolutions.”
  3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
    One of my coworkers, a graphics designer, gave birth to a son in November. Among close friends, no, there were no births in 2011, though there are some impending births in 2012 among my friends.
  4. Did anyone close to you die?
    My grandmother, in July.
  5. What countries did you visit?
    Sadly, I did not leave the country in 2011. This means I need to redouble my efforts!
  6. What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011?
    Money, maybe? I’m having a difficult time thinking of anything I lacked in 2011.
  7. What date from 2011 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
    There are many I can choose from. Seeing Elbow for a second time in September was pretty memorable.
  8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
    How to choose? I built a website for a friend — and it turned out really well, I think. I wrote two articles for Star Trek Magazine — and one of those (on Star Trek: Voyager‘s “Timeless”) is, in my admittedly biased opinion, one of the best pieces I wrote for the magazine. I also did some ghostwriting this year, and the article I ghosted three weeks ago was an awesome piece of writing.
  9. What was your biggest failure?
    I was about to write that “nothing comes to mind,” but I’m not sure that that’s true. A friendship went off the rails earlier this year, and I’m not really sure why. Then there’s someone else, someone that I don’t know very well, to be honest, that I feel like I’ve treated appallingly. My failures in 2011, then, were failures of the interpersonal nature.
  10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
    Thankfully, no.
  11. What was the best thing you bought?
    I bought a mobile phone in February. I don’t know that that’s the best thing I bought, but it’s become my Shadowfax, my companion through many adventures.
  12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
    In my life, personally? Ehh… I’ll get back to you on that. No, wait, no I won’t get back to you on that. I have no idea, really.
  13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
    The Republicans in Congress. Anarchists and nihilists, all of them. Teddy Roosevelt would punch every last one of them in the mouth.
  14. Where did most of your money go?
    My student loans. And since my car is now paid off, I’ve been overpaying on my student loans. Someday I’ll see the end of them…
  15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
    The Hobbit trailer. The Star Trek/Legion of Super-Heroes crossover (I literally cried tears of joy at the office). The One Day movie. Noel Gallagher’s solo album. The Elbow gig. Shamrock Fest (and I’ve already bought my ticket for 2012’s).
  16. What song will always remind you of 2011?
    “If I Had a Gun…,” by Noel Gallagher. I wrote a little about it here; it’s a haunting piece of work that I just can’t get out of my head.
  17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
          i. happier or sadder? Happier.
         ii. thinner or fatter? A little thinner.
        iii. richer or poorer? Richer.
  18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
    Reading. My leisure reading has fallen off the map. I’m still reading a lot — I really have to, if only for work purposes — but I feel like I’m not reading the things I want to read.
  19. What do you wish you’d done less of?Arguing with people on internet message boards. In the past few months, I’ve made use of the “ignore” feature at TrekBBS, for instance, just so I don’t have to be bothered. :)
  20. How will you be spending Christmas?
    I spent Christmas with my sister, her husband, their daughter, and my parents.
  21. Did you fall in love in 2011?
    I’m not really sure.
  22. How many one-night stands?
    That would be… Zero. I’m not a one-night stand kind of person.
  23. What was your favorite TV program?
    Downton Abbey. That was can’t-miss television for me, and I can’t wait for next Sunday when the second season begins on PBS’ Masterpiece.
  24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
    This time last year I was indifferent to Mitt Romney, but now I find him an appalling example of humanity.
  25. What was the best book you read?
    One Day, by David Nicholls.
  26. What was your greatest musical (re)discovery?
    In terms of discoveries? Aerials Up. A Scottish band with a unique sound. I wrote in January about them here, and I bought their first single a few months ago.
  27. What did you want and get?
    A Hibs scarf. I have no idea how to wear a scarf, but now I have one.
  28. What did you want and not get?
    I wanted the Cubs to win when I saw them at Nationals Park on the fourth of July, but no, Mike Quade had to send Carlos Marmol up to the mound with the game on the line… Suffice it to say, the Cubs did not win that day. Still, it was a good day. I spent it in DC and attended the Capitol Fourth concert on the lawn of the Capitol Building.
  29. What was your favorite film of this year?
    Probably Winnie-the-Pooh, which was pretty much exactly what I wanted it to be.
  30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
    It was a Friday, so I worked, and apparently I wrote a lot of copy that day. I also received a Charlie Brown “Keep Calm and Carry On” t-shirt, which was cool, though it didn’t make me feel that the “Keep Calm” meme hasn’t overstayed its welcome, which it so clearly has. And I turned thirty-eight.
  31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
    The Beer Diet. :)
  32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2011?
  33. What kept you sane?
    Twitter. No, really. It’s such a great place to vent.
  34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
    Katie McGrath.
  35. What political issue stirred you the most?
    The nihilism of the Republicans, in general. They are wholly unwilling to govern, and they have an agenda that is so morally bankrupt that it verges upon evil.
  36. Who did you miss?
    Where to start…?
  37. Who was the best new person you met?
    We had some new people at work who were pretty fab.
  38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2011:
    New Jersey was designed by traffic engineers who freebased acid.
  39. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
    “We got open arms for broken hearts
    Like yours my boy, come home again”
     — Elbow, “Open Arms”

And there you have it. My 2011 in review.

On Five Movies Everyone Should See

Five movies that everyone should, in my opinion, watch at least once.

Y’know, I’ve never given this a moment’s thought. So here goes.

1. A Hard Day’s Night. It’s the first Beatles movie. It’s the black & white Beatles movie. It’s a riot. I love it. I’m too young to know what Beatlemania was, and thankfully this movie encapsulates Beatlemania and what it felt like in ninety minutes of movie-making bliss.

2. The Princess Bride. I really don’t know what to say about The Princess Bride, except that it’s memorable and romantic and funny and very, very quotable.

3. The Bride of Frankenstein. On Halloween, after sitting on my porch for two hours, waiting for the kids who never came, I’ll sit down and watch The Bride of Frankenstein. There are things about it, like, oh, anything with Doctor Pretorius, that are positively insane. I just like the old Universal Monsters movies. They’re triumphs of mood. They just don’t make movies like those any more.

4. V for Vendetta. What is it about British culture that writers seem to think that Britain is only about fifteen minutes away from fascist totalitarian republicanism? (See also P.D. James’ The Children of Men.) That’s not the reason to see the film; I’m always put in mind of that when I watch it. I like the story, which strips Alan Moore’s graphic novel down to the essentials and makes it more pointed and more relevant to these times. I like the drection. I even like the acting — and yes, this once, I can stand Natalie Portman.

5. Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Self-explanatory, isn’t it?

There. Five movies that everyone should see at least once in their lives.

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On the New York Times Personality Quiz

The New York Times is doing a little personality test.

Like most personality test, it asks questions about your interests. Unlike most personality tests, the answers are visual, not verbal.

My results?

You’re Culture Curious

People often comment on your sense of calm and refined nature. Your love of all things arty often shines through in your bright, intelligent conversation and your traditionalist nature is often reflected in your tastes and style.

When all is said and done, you are a bit of an intellect with a tendency to do a spot of soul searching from time to time.

You’re sophisticated and inquisitive with a real passion for art and culture. You pride yourself on being an early adopter of the latest music and films and always like to have a good book on the go. Your ability to bring together very diverse and even dissenting opinions is rooted in your appreciation for all points of view. You believe in immersing yourself in interesting experiences that make you look at people, places and opportunities from new angles. Being sensitive and creative you want to feel connected to the world around you and actively seek out opportunities to explore it. It’s all about broadening your horizons and living life to the full. Anything else would not fulfill your curious nature. You’ll love the list of The Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made, the Critics’ Picks and Arts Beat.

That fits. :)

On the 30 Day Song Challenge

At work, some of my colleagues have done this, the Facebook 30 Day Song Challenge. Basically, it’s a list of 30 topics, one per day, and a person taking the challenge is supposed to post a song that answers the day’s question. One coworker suggested that I should do it, so I grabbed the list of 30 questions, then off and on started answering the questions for myself, with the goal being that, once I had all thirty answers, then I would start posting them.

It’s an interesting list of questions:

day 01 – your favorite song
day 02 – your least favorite song
day 03 – a song that makes you happy
day 04 – a song that makes you sad
day 05 – a song that reminds you of someone
day 06 – a song that reminds you of somewhere
day 07 – a song that reminds you of a certain event
day 08 – a song that you know all the words to
day 09 – a song that you can dance to
day 10 – a song that makes you fall asleep
day 11 – a song from your favorite band
day 12 – a song from a band you hate
day 13 – a song that is a guilty pleasure
day 14 – a song that no one would expect you to love
day 15 – a song that describes you
day 16 – a song that you used to love but now hate
day 17 – a song that you hear often on the radio
day 18 – a song that you wish you heard on the radio
day 19 – a song from your favorite album
day 20 – a song that you listen to when you’re angry
day 21 – a song that you listen to when you’re happy
day 22 – a song that you listen to when you’re sad
day 23 – a song that you want to play at your wedding
day 24 – a song that you want to play at your funeral
day 25 – a song that makes you laugh
day 26 – a song that you can play on an instrument
day 27 – a song that you wish you could play
day 28 – a song that makes you feel guilty
day 29 – a song from your childhood
day 30 – your favorite song at this time last year

About two-thirds of this was easy to answer. One third wasn’t. And I suspect that the things that had me stumped would surprise people. Those who know me would find some expected choices, but there’s also several surprises.

The interesting thing for me came in looking up the songs on YouTube. By and large, music videos have passed me by. I grew up in rural America, and I didn’t have cable, so MTV and VH1 were largely unfamiliar to me. When I think of a song, I think of the tune and the lyrics, and I rarely think of a visual for it. Discovering the official videos for some of the 30 songs was an eye-opening experience. One song that I’ve always liked has an utterly baffling video.

Starting today, then, I’m going to start posting the answers to these on both Facebook and Twitter, using the #30DaySong hashtag for the latter.

Then, once it’s all done, in mid-May, I’ll post the full list of thirty songs and perhaps explicate some of the thinking behind certain choices.


On the Brutally Honest Personality Test

Because I love personality quizzes…

Your result for The Brutally Honest Personality Test…

Pollyanna- INFP

20% Extraversion, 80% Intuition, 27% Thinking, 20% Judging

So, you want to make the world a better place? Too bad it’s never gonna happen.

Of all the types, you have to be one of the hardest to find fault in. You have a selfless and caring nature. You’re a good listener and someone who wants to avoid conflict. You genuinely desire to do good.

Of course, these all add up to an incredibly overpowered conscience which makes you feel guilty and responsible when anything goes wrong. Of course, it MUST be your fault EVERYTIME.

Though you’re constantly on a mission to find the truth, you have no use for hard facts and logic, which is a source of great confusion for those of us with brains. Despite this, in a losing argument, you’re not above spouting off inaccurate fact after fact in an effort to protect your precious values.

You’re most probably a perfectionist, which in this case, is a bad thing. Any group work is destined to fail because of your incredibly high standards.

Disregard what I said before. You’re just easy to find fault in as everyone else!

Luckily, you’re generally very hard on yourself, meaning I don’t need to waste my precious time insulting you. Instead, just find all your own faults and insult yourself.


If you want to learn more about your personality type in a slightly less negative way, check out this.

Take The Brutally Honest Personality Test at HelloQuizzy

As an aside, I think I can get the INFP result with my eyes closed.

On World Book Day

Today, apparently, is World Book Day, and in commemoration of that, there’s a meme that’s making its way ’round the blogosphere.

The book I am reading: Currently in the bag I carry to and from work, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. This was recommended to me by a friend at Farpoint.

The book I am writing: It’s about some high schoolers and their adventures. I’m not working on it very quickly, but someday I’ll be done with it.

The book I love most: The Hound of the Baskervilles, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

The last book I received as a gift: I don’t usually get books as gifts, because I usually buy for myself what I want to read. The last book I can remember receiving as a gift is LEGO Star Wars: The Visual Dictionary, given to me Christmas 2009 by my sister and brother-in-law.

The last book I gave as a gift: I know who it went to, but I don’t remember what it was. What was in that package I sent out for Christmas? Oh! Thomas the Rhymer by Ellen Kushner.

The nearest book on my desk: On the desk, Ambrose Bierce’s Write It Write. (I keep several writing stylebooks at the office, including the AP Stylebook and Fowler’s. Bierce, actually, happens to be sitting on top of the “style pile.) Above the desk (in other words, on top of my cubicle), the aforementioned LEGO Star Wars: The Visual Dictionary. Below the desk (in other words, atop my computer tower), The I Ching: Plain and Simple by Stephen Karcher. (This is actually the book closest at hand, much closer than the Bierce.)

Thus endeth the meme-age!

Spend World Book Day today with a book. Hug a book!

On Being Inside Another’s Head

At the subway station tonight, I climbed the six flights of stairs to the Beetle, unlocked the door, sat down, put the key in the ignition, and turned. The radio came on. I heard not a song but a commercial for American Idol.

Tonight, the show was in Las Vegas. And the Idolators were going to be mangling… err… singing from the Beatles songbook.

I don’t watch American Idol. I couldn’t tell you who won any particular year, except for the first year because that was Kelly Clarkson, and she’s had a pretty decent musical career because she has a pretty good voice and a pretty powerful set of pipes. (Full disclosure: I was actually listening to Clarkson’s fourth album, All I Ever Wanted, today.)

Otherwise, though, I have no idea what goes on with American Idol.

But, the commercial had me curious and, so, when the time came I put on American Idol. And I suffered through twenty minutes of abject butchery of Beatles classics, from “Get Back” to “Here Comes The Sun,” and I decided that no one should suffer through such indignities.

If I had the power to read minds for a day, I would want to know who the fuck thought that letting a bunch of young karaoke singers mangle the Beatles library was any sort of a good idea.

Because it’s not a good idea. Not at all. If those twenty minutes were anything to judge by.

The truth is, though, I really wouldn’t want to read minds on a regular or semi-regular basis. The inside of my head is a strange enough place as it is. There’s no need to compound the confusion by having access to someone else’s thoughts.

I barely understand my own thoughts sometimes, and I’ve had thirty-odd years to get used to them. I can only imagine what I would make of someone else’s thoughts. I’m not sure I’d even understand them.

What I do think would be neat, if I had psychic powers, would be to see the world through someone else’s eyes, to hear the world through their ears. Not read a mind, per se, but to experience the universe through someone else’s perceptions. A different vantage point, a different baseline for understanding the universe.

That would be cool.

Maybe a little too Being John Malkovich for some. But I think it would be awesome. And that’s enough for me. :)

On Improbable Memories

Because this needs to be preserved forever…

Jay Smith posted on a Facebook status feed last night. “[Jay Smith] wants you to comment on this status about how you met me. But I want you to lie. That’s right. Just make stuff up. After you comment, copy to your status so I can do the same.”

I don’t know Jay very well, but I said, “Oh, why the fuck not?” But what to say…?

I really don’t know where these ideas come from, but here’s what I wrote:

It was the summer of 1967. (Note: I was born in 1973.) Jealous of Thor Heyerdahl and the stories of the Kon-Tiki expedition, we decided that we were going to show that Norwegian up at his own game — we would build a leather boat like St. Brendan, and we would sail it from Craggy Isle, off the coast of Ireland, and we would reach Newfoundland. You, me, and Phil, we spent all summer building that boat, and we launched on September 4th. We sailed, and we sailed, and Phil went batshit on us. I had to bean him, and we lashed him to the mast for seven days. God, I still hear his screams in my dreams. Phil still doesn’t speak to us, but he’d have killed us both. When we ran out of supplies, thankfully we sighted land two days later. We didn’t make it to Canada, but damn we made it to Greenland in that leather boat, lashed together with twine. Never forget it, man. Never forget it.

What’s so puzzling about this? I haven’t thought of Thor Heyerdahl and the Kon-Tiki in, oh, ever, and I’ve read up on St. Brendan’s expedition, oh, once.

Certainly nothing in last night’s episode of Downton Abbey, which was relentlessly downbeat in its final fifteen minutes, would have suggested oceanic voyages in primitive boats… :-/

For Ross Vincent, I wrote this:

I’m a production coordinator for Bridezillas; I met you and your (now-)wife when you applied to be on the show. I could see why you both enquired about being on the show; dude, if I’d married your wife, I’d have skipped drinking the vodka and gone straight to intravenous a long damn time ago. Your episode is considered one of the big highlights of the season; I don’t know where your wife got the idea for a woodland creatures wedding, but that whole thing with the chipmunks didn’t work at all like she wanted, and the less said about the unfortunate deer carcass the better. If you’re ever in Los Angeles give me a call; we’ll try that intravenous vodka.

Dayton Ward got this one:

It must have been twenty years ago now. I was a reporter for the local newspaper, the Brownton Populist. My first real writing job after J-School. I was so proud, everyone had to get their start somewhere, right? Well, six months of covering tractor pulls and livestock shows, I got my first real piece of action — I got to interview you, the local celebrity. Looking back, I wonder just why you were a celebrity; turning your Victorian-esque home into a shrine to Anne of Green Gables was more than a little creepy, especially when you insisted on doing the whole interview wearing a red yarn wig. I imagine you still take your annual pilgrimage to Prince Edward Island.

Okay, these ones are easy to explain, unlike Thor Heyerdahl and the Kon-Tiki. I saw my first-ever episode of Bridezillas yesterday, and it was fucking hilarious. And MPT showed Anne of Green Gables just before Downton Abbey.

David Mack’s improbable meeting memory went in an entirely different direction:

It was said you would be the next Baryshnikov, that you would be the ballet dancer of the generation. I do not know what happened that brought you to my door; in the monastery, we do not ask the brothers why they have come, and I shall never forget that look of anguish, as though something had rended your heart in two, that showed so clearly on your face that rainy night you arrived. I have wondered, it is true, why you walked away from a successful life and took up the cloth, but you took your vow of silence fifteen years ago so there is no point in asking. You do your duties diligently and, if I dare say so, you are an inspiration to the younger brothers for your piety and your devotion.

Since everyone else seemed to be writing improbable memories of Dave that involved guns, zombies, vampires, and booze, I thought Dave deserved something more gentle. The other option I considered was that Dave decided to become an Amish farmhand.

I think the next time I see a Facebook status like that, it’s going to start with: “Keith Richards wanted to do a couple more lines of coke, but my nose just wouldn’t take it anymore, so I stumbled through the mansion, and I tripped over you making out with Mick Jagger, and he mumbled words along the lines of ‘Fuck off, mate, can’t you see I’m fucking busy here?'”

Yes, I really do amuse myself. Thanks for noticing. ;)