Sunday, July 29, 2012

What science fiction has to teach us about the Aurora Shooting

I have to write about this because it's been rolling over in my mind and I need to talk about it. I'm not going to post any pictures because I don't want it to be the main focus of this piece and I don't want to promote the shooter's image. That you can see all over the place, anyway. You've all heard the details by now, so I'm not going to talk about that, either. You know what happened.

I've written, re-written, and edited the hell out of this post.  There are things I wanted to say about this that I decided to reserve for another day.This isn't a conversation about gun control, or a psychological profile. I'm not any kind of expert on that. I am, however, an expert on American drama and literature, so I'm going to work with what I know.

I do think it is important to construct narratives around these tragedies and acts of violence.

I'm reminded of Ray Bradbury's short story "A Piece of Wood." In this story, a solider comes up with a solution to end all violence and wars. He develops a chemical compound that instantly rusts all metal. Guns, tanks, missiles, rockets, everything. He tells his superiors that he's going to take out not only the enemy's weapons, but all the Army's weapons as well. Doing this, he believes, will stop war and violence. His superior tries to restrain him, but the solider gets away, after rusting the superior's gun. He's going off to destroy all weapons everywhere. Once the superior realized what the solider has planned, and that his gun is now a pile of rust, he breaks apart a wood chair and goes after the solider with what amounts to a crude club.

The point here is, even if all guns were banned and banished forever, or if they were all rusted away, people would still find a way to create violence. I believe Bradbury is making a visceral point--whatever the motivation, people find a way. They always do.  If not guns, then clubs. If not not clubs, it would be something else. Once again, science fiction reminds us of ourselves, and shows us our future. From this story, and its application to the events in Colorado, I am reminded that humans are a violent and cruel sad little species. Nothing new, perhaps, but what is?  One of the best examinations of humanity has been from the "Planet of the Apes" movies. Take this quote here:

 Any of you who have seen the movies, or read the books (or both), know what I'm talking about. Dr. Zaius says it perfectly: the only thing man has ever done well has been violence. He knows Taylor's secret, or his "destiny".

Of course this is a pessimistic and dire view of humanity. But I believe there's a grain of truth to it. I can think of several things humankind has done well--from art, theatre, music, poetry, technology, and so on. But what are we REALLY good at? Being mean, cold, cruel, evil, crazy bigoted assholes. At about 1:45 in, you get the heavy questions that really frame the whole movie, where we find our propulsion for the whole story, the big 'what if':

Everywhere I look, people seem to have clear cut answers. People seem to be definitely for one side, or definitely for the other side. Ban all guns. Give everyone guns.Two polar extremes. I've been asked a lot what I think about the shooting--and what can I really say that hasn't been said? I wish I lived in a clear cut simple world like that.I don't think anything will change, unless and until the basic nature of humankind changes. And unless the simians take over, I don't see that happening.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Follow Friday #9

From the Parajunkee Hop:

Q: Summer Reading. What was your favorite book that you were REQUIRED to read when you were in school?

It's hard to pick one, but I can summarize by author:
Anything by Toni Morrison (especially "The Bluest Eye"), Kurt Vonnegut, Faulkner and Ehmingway,
and of course, the all time favorite, "The Bell Jar" by Sylvia Plath.  

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Fifty Shades of Comic-Con

Fifty Shades of Comic-Con

I wanted to write a quick post about Fifty Shades of grey--not because everyone else is (which they are) but because I'm trying to figure out what this book is so popular and whay it has sold the way it has and what makes it so special. Maybe learn some tricks of the trade,too, but there a few things that confuse and puzzle me about this book. And no, it's actually not the BDSM factor.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The not so final word on 50 shades

There's a lot of hype, in case you've lived under a rock, about 50 Shades of Grey. Perhaps you've heard of this book somewhere? Well, I've heard mixed reviews about it and I found out a few facts that were puzzling to me.
One--that this book started out as Twilight fan fic. Say what?! What's amazing is that someone thought that writing Twilight fan fic was a GOOD idea. Second...really? Apparently the characters are so close in personality to the infamous Twilight characters, that would be enough to turn me off. Ana is a self-depreciating weak willed character who lets her life be run by Edward. I mean, Christian. I hate weak female characters that stay weak through the whole series. It's okay if you begin a story weak, then experience something, then learn from it, then change into someone stronger, but to not learn anything at all about yourself and always put a guy's needs in front of yours all the time is just plain silly and sends really the wrong message to people.
So what's with the popularity of the book, then? And what's with this "mommyporn" label? 
Here's a Goodreads review that has gone viral on Facebook.
We had an interesting discussion about this last night--what exactly is "mommyporn", how does something get labeled that way? The answer we came up with is that (news flash!) women like porn.


Some of us do, anyway. But most of what you see, visually, is often demeaning or degrading to women and some of us get turned on by it, but kinda feel bad or weird or uncomfortable afterwards. Which leads to another question (one that's been raised by the book) which is: what does it mean that I'm turned on by this? I'll go into that question later once I can read the book.
Another theory is that old trope that goes the way to a woman's vagina is through her head (and, I would argue, also her heart, but that's a different topic for a different day). Reading about porn is a vastly different vehicle than watching it. And I'm fascinated by the topics this had brought up and the questions about women and sexuality that its raised--the good the bad, the ugly and the rest.

So...I'm going to try--try--to read this book. Why? Because I don't want it to be said I judged a book by its hype--both positive and negative. I decided to borrow it from a friend--and I'll see how it goes.
 And post all my poignant and insightful observations  here! 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Follow Friday #8


Q: Christmas in July! Someone gives you a gift card for two books (whatever that costs). What two books will you buy?


Well, I just added Alice Hoffman's "The Dovekeepers" to my Amazon Wishlist, and I'd have to pick from the hundreds of others on the same list, but I think I'd have to try to pick up other books in the Yasmine Galenorn worlds, because I only have three, and it doesn't seem like nearly enough! 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Follow Friday #7

Q: What drove you to start book blogging in the first place?

Basically to rant and rave about the books I love--and hate. And since I've started, I can say something I've never said before. There are some books that I hate. There, I said it. I've read some pretty spectacular books (I know I'm woefully behind on reviews) but there are times when a book comes to me highly recommended, or it gets 5 stars on Goodreads, and I read it and I'm blown away by the poor, poor quality, and I wonder if people actually read (or edited) the book in question in the first place. I've also learned that my "Leave No Book Unread" policy is not a good rule for me anymore. If the book doesn't engage my interest, it will languish forever in Bad Book Hell. 
I'm also a college teacher, so I want to keep blog/opinion/rants/reviews in a separate venue than my professional persona.
The other reason I started a book blog is because I am a writer, and I wanted a platform for that. But lately I'm finding a need for an outlet to talk about things I can't really talk about on Facebook, or some other platform where I might need to be able to be myself and express my opinions in a way that I can't elsewhere. I live in a rural (read: conservative) community, and its not exactly a place where literacy is celebrated. Most people in this community would rather drill into their own molars rather than read a book for fun. And that's so sad. Or, they may read things of a dubious nature, like anything by Rush Limbaugh. 
This is not a place where thinking is celebrated (the worst thing you can do in a conservative community is think independently) and it really burns my toast that I can't always be myself for fear of ridicule, at the least. I seem to be the only one here who has a different opinion than everyone else. Total rant and true story: I strongly object to the N word for African Americans, the C word for women and the F word for gay people. It is NOT okay to say those words in front of me, and people need to know I am not cool with that. Unfortunately, knowing that seems to give immature people the idea to think they can use those words, and repeatedly, to bait me.
So...I need a place to talk, to review, to opine, promote, express, sigh, scream, connect with like minded people, imagine...and long story I am! 

Friday, July 6, 2012

Follow Friday

Q: Jumping Genres: Ever pick up a book from a genre you usually don’t like and LOVE it? Tell us about it and why you picked it up in the first place.


 I pretty much stick to the genres I like, although I like to venture out of my comfort zone now and again. I used to have a terrible bias against non fiction, since I have to read so much of it as a teacher, for my classes, it got old, repetitive, and was often dull. Nothing compared to imagination and fantasy worlds of fiction! But then I realized it was really the types of non fiction I was reading, and since I like to read people's diaries (!) I started moving more towards memoir in my non fiction choices, and that's helped a lot. 

On Loneliness, Pt. 2

He stops short of the entryway, and his shadow falls long over the carpet. "Come out and say how-do," I say jokingly. It was a f...