Random Rants and A Possibly Good Thing

I don’t get this obsession with knowing every little detail of a terrible thing. For example, I do not wish to know the intimate details of the recent death of a loved one. I don’t want to know how badly he suffered or how awful it was. I know how awful it was: it’s why I keep crying. So please stop trying to tell me. This is not idle gossip. I did not wish to know every brutal detail of how my cousin died of melanoma a few years ago, but I was told – by many sources and even after asking them not to tell me. Now I have to live with this mental image of his final moments as he succumbed to respiratory failure.

So yeah, as you can tell I haven’t been having a great time of it. Everything is seriously fucked up in my kingdom and therefore I haven’t been up to blagging. I have mostly been trying to fix the unfixable – a process very much like voluntarily and repeatedly slamming one’s head into a wall (and in my case, while the house is being firebombed). As a result I’ve been in a right shite mood, and every little thing is setting me off.

The meaning is yours to experience and discern.

For example, I am so frelling sick of Hollywood making shitty movie versions of really good books. It irks the shiz out of me, but there’s not much for me to do about it but rant. Rant rant rant. I’m sorry but I like the way the story looks inside my head. I am not the kind of reader who hunts down all the interviews of their favorite authors trying to figure out what they were going for. I don’t believe that this is the point of literature. I believe it is like art – paintings, for example – where the artist composes the picture, applies the details and takes you to that other world. What that other world is like is now a construct of your mind. The meaning is yours to experience and discern.

The writer gave me all the information I needed to build their world, to live in it, experience it and feel it. If the information was good it will have a transforming effect; it will make an impact, resonate, and take hold. That’s why I read books. I do not read books so that directors can interpret them as they see fit and then build stunted visual interpretations of them that will forever taint them and compromise their integrity.

(I’m looking at you Joseph Gordon Levitt).

My dresser.

My dresser.

Sometimes I feel like perhaps I’m doing therapy wrong

I’m also super ticked because a lot of really awesome events are happening in my area that I would love to go to, but I can’t because of my crippling panic disorder. Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman will be doing a musical/reading event with a bunch of other artists and musicians in honor of Ms. Palmer’s upcoming book release. The New Pornographers have been oot and aboot. Various book events and cons. Just so many things I would love to see. But I can’t because I’m a fracking mental case.

Sometimes I feel like perhaps I’m doing therapy wrong or it doesn’t work the way I think it’s supposed to. Or perhaps it doesn’t really work at all. Anyway, everyone’s answer to my issues outside of the medical/therapeutic fields is generally ‘take something and get over it’.

I find it amusing how people who have never had issues like mine or who have never been on any sort of medication have the attitude of ‘just take a pill’ and shrug, as if that’s all it takes to make the shittiest parts of your life just go away. But they have no idea how the medication works, how your brain works and what goes into both the disorder and the medication. (Let me say right now that I think it’s disturbing how little the average person knows about how their own body works.)

Popping a pill is just not that simple. And don’t you think that with this whole nightmare that I go through on a regular basis, that I’d have done that already if that’s all it took? Trust me; I’m not a glutton for punishment.

 banana books

In interesting and non-shitty news, this week I got an intriguing email. I had submitted a portfolio to a charity that was looking for artists to make and donate work for an auction in December. This is sort of a big deal, both the charity and the auction. Plus it’s a cause that is really important to me.

Anyway, the other night I get an email from the committee or whoever that decides these things, and they loved my portfolio and want my stuff. Not only that, but, along with my portfolio I sent a proposal highlighting three options for what I could create for them, and they want all three. So they want at least (and they stressed the ‘least’ bit) five of each thing, all in less than a month.

I went into this thing thinking that it wasn’t just a long shot, but that I’d never get picked at all. But here I am, more than a tad shocked and excited. So I’ma gonna be crazy busy, what with NaNoWriMo, an art competition with a local art shop (for a much needed supply prize package), and now this. So it’s very likely that this will be my last blaggins for a while. Which is fine by you, I’m quite sure.

So with that I take my leave of you. Enjoy yet another musical road map, provided by the Psychic MP3 Player.

Portugal. The man – Everything You See (All the Kids Say Hallelujah)
St. Vincent – The Neighbors
St. Vincent – Black Rainbow
Lykke Li – I’m Good, I’m Gone
The New Pornographers – Failsafe
The New Pornographers – Go Places
The National – Conversation 16
Grizzly Bear – Ready, Able
Lou Reed – Andy’s Chest
MGMT – The Youth
Guided by Voices – The Future is in Eggs
Portishead – The Rip
Zoe Keating – Forest
Fleet Foxes – The Cascades
The Kinks – Who’ll Be the Next in Line
Say Hi (To Your Mom) – Toil and Trouble

P.S. I’m trying out a new theme. If it’s disgustingly pretentious, please let me know. I don’t mean to be, I swear.

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NaNoWriMo and Brain Leakage

I’ve decided to take a break from my weird life shits and discuss something of great and ill-advised import: I’m finally going to give NaNoWriMo a go. For many years it has been my intention to participate, but something always thwarts it. Although, really, that something has generally been me: I typically am too busy, forget when it starts, or just forget it exists altogether. Forgetting is a skill at which I excel.

But this year due to a series of badness culminating in my taking a semester off for the first time in three years (including summer breaks), I’m jumping in. I am not sure what I’m going to write though, which I guess is a big ‘oh shit’ thing in the NaNoWriMo world. Most people spend the year preparing for this like you would a marathon. Many have outlines, titles, plotlines, character profiles – everything ready to go come 12 a.m. November 1st. I’m not like that. I don’t really know what I’m going to do.

That’s not to say that I don’t have options or whatnot. I have a notebook full of story ideas that I draw from and add to frequently. So I’m set for something to write about, I just haven’t picked yet. I’m not sure if I should choose one I’ve been mulling over for a bit, contemplate something from the idea book or go completely random and pull one from a hat.

I took the semester off – as in started classes and then withdrew when life became too overwhelming – because of the stress, but also because my migraines are back. With a vengeance. I had successfully whittled them down to one every once in a while, and now I have been having them every day for weeks straight. And there really isn’t anything I can do about them other than take this medicine that doesn’t make it better so much as make me sleepy and weird. Sleepy and weird with my brain leaking out my eyes and ears. It’s crazy frustrating. I can’t read or go online like I’d normally do. I have so much to do and am just unable. Did I mention that my migraines are vertiginous? Yeah, so that’s fun. Now I think that maybe I’m setting myself up for failure with this NaNoWriMo thing. Glutton for punishment am I.

 

Arts

I’ve been encouraged to do art-type things on a more frequent basis, studio access or not, to help me deal with my current shituation. So I got this tiny Moleskine knockoff. It’s roughly 3” x 4” and I’ve been trying to scribble in it at least once a day.

In the midst of my grandfather chaos, my uncle, aunt and father have been having this sibling painting competition. Meaning they’ve been painting in these Barbie watercolor books with my nearly three year old cousin, and have decided my art degree qualifies me as judge. It also apparently qualifies my uncle to make snide little comments about my being unemployed. This is a thing with this particular uncle. I couldn’t list the bullshit immature crap he’s pulled on me since I’ve been born. No, that list would take many blog entries. He likes to take little digs at me for no reason. Literally no reason; he would say mean and nasty things to me and about me when I was a TODDLER. The man is immature as fuck. Even in his 50s.

He spent a few days using my art degree as an excuse to make little digs, implying that I’m so bad at art I can’t get employed. So I whipped out my tiny sketchbook that I have been keeping on me at all times, and his wife snatched it up and dropped her jaw. ‘CAUSE I CAN FUKKIN ART. “That’s how it’s done son.” I declared, thus slightly smiting him in front of his laughing wife, sister, brother, mother, nephew, teenage daughter and one of his teen sons.

Vengeance is mine, sayeth the pencil.

So that’s all I got. Next time perhaps I’ll regale you with tales of amusing librarians, and tell you what it’s like to cry in the basement of a house that is falling over.

Until then, please enjoy this Andrew Bird playlist, composed by my psychic MP3 player just for this occasion.

 

The Psychic MP3 Player Presents: A strictly Andrew Bird Assortment

  1. Beyond the Valley of the Three White Horses
  2. Anonanimal
  3. Polynation
  4. Happy Birthday Song
  5. Hover I
  6. Far From Any Road (Be My Hand)
  7. The Giant of Illinois (Dark Was the Night version)
  8. Orpheo
  9. Unfolding Fans
  10. Desperation Breeds…
  11. Tin Foiled
  12. Near Death Experience
  13. If I Needed You
  14. Grinnin’ In Your Face (Fingerlings 3 version)
  15. Pulaski At Night
  16. Cathedral in the Dell
  17. Fitz and Dizzyspells
  18. Frogs Singing

Vlog Versus Blog and the 24 Hour Free Quote Hotline

As I have mentioned in a previous post, I have been watching Brotherhood 2.0/The Vlog Brothers videos from the beginning to catch up with all the Nerdfighting I have missed. As classes have barely started, and I am unemployed, skint, and have no life, I have put a significant dent in the backlog – the vlog started in 2007 and I’m already up to 2011.

For those of you who may not know, the Vlog Brothers is a vlog (video blog) series on YouTube featuring the author John Green and his brother Hank, a noted environmental blogger. It began as a dare: John challenged Hank to go an entire year without using any sort of communication outside of telephone and these short videos to each other. And so it went. There were rules – absolutely no electronic communications (of course), and videos can’t be more than four minutes – and any violations were punishable. It started small, but with every new in-joke, and each creatively torturous punishment (once John had to wax his chin) the videos gained momentum. As their viewership grew, so did their content. They gave each other challenges that took on lives of their own: Challenging themselves to find a way to help make the world a better place led to The Foundation to Decrease Worldsuck, which has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for a variety of worthy causes. After Hank performed a song called “Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone From Your Pants” (based on the first big in-joke of the vlog), John challenged him to write a new song and perform it each time he posted on a Wednesday, leading to the creation of the tremendously popular song “Accio Deathly Hallows”, live performances, touring (with and without John), CDs and a record label – DFTBA Records, which produces music by YouTube musicians. This thing has grown so huge it’s unreal. Charities, record labels, websites – they even created VidCon. DFTBA, their catchphrase, has taken off and is now in the popular vernacular. Don’t Forget To Be Awesome indeed.

The best part of all of this is that everything they do is entirely community oriented. Their followers are known as Nerdfighters. As the series grew, and they realized how great their Nerdfighters were, they made the videos more and more interactive. Nerdfighters are first to note violations of rules, and are the ones who get to suggest the punishments. They donate money and time, they volunteer, and they have formed this massive, open collective online and IRL (in real life). What Nerdfighters have done over the years is simply amazing, and it’s truly changed the way people see the internet.

And the Vlog Brothers community doesn’t just include the Nerdfighters (although, technically it does, since we’re all Nerdfighters, really), but also YouTube. They have reached out and befriended other vloggers and really advocate for the potential of such connections. In December they have an event where they encourage all their fellow bloggers and Nerdfighters to make videos advocating on behalf of their favorite charities. This day is called the ‘Project for Awesome’, and the goal is to hijack the front page of YouTube with videos, each different, but each with the ‘Project for Awesome’ logo as the thumbnail. Since 2009 it’s raised thousands upon thousands of dollars for dozens of awesome charities, and each year it just gets bigger and bigger, with the full support and promotion of YouTube behind it.

All of this aside, the videos themselves are highly entertaining. While sometimes they just talk about what’s going on in their day or what’s going on in Nerdfighteria (events and whatnot), a lot of times they do theme projects, top ten lists, scavenger hunts, contests. John is really great at explaining historical and current events, and Hank still cranks out the songs. It’s fabulous.

So that should be enough back story for you to get why it was so surprising that I got into it so late in the game. Being on top of this sort of thing is sort of my thing. It took me a little bit to figure it out but now I think I have, and I think it has everything to do with it being vlogging and not blogging.

When I was at university it was sort of the belief that blogging was somewhat more adult than vlogging; blogging is what serious, opinionated people did, vlogging is what some bored, shameless pre-teen did for attention. This is a completely nonsensical notion. You get geniuses and nimrods in every population of every thing (livejournal, anyone?). But somehow I got this prejudice tainting how I saw vlogs, and as a result I missed out on a lot of things.

I missed out on an international scavenger hunt perpetrated by authors and musicians across the globe. I missed out on contests and commenting and possibly befriending (virtually) another writer who maybe could have offered some constructive advice for someone in my unique situation. I missed out on other great vlogs and other great people and other great ideas. (This is also strange, since I was a fan of Ze Frank at the time). I missed people like Esther Grace Earl, the Nerdfighter, Harry Potter Alliance warrior, and fellow New Englander who befriended John Green and became the inspiration for John’s book The Fault In Our Stars.

I missed all the charity, Thunderclaps and other events for good in Nerdfighteria. And it reminds me of why I joined Twitter. I was completely against joining Twitter, because, really who needs to listen to every thought some empty actress or teen pop star has to say. But then demonstrations were being organized via Twitter. Coups were orchestrated via Twitter. When social media is changing history, it’s ridiculous not to get involved. So I joined Twitter. And yes there were mounds of clueless crap – but there was also the journalist who fought to get racist posters removed from American subways, the artist who was assaulted and arrested at an Occupy Wall Street protest, the musician who rallied her fans into sponsoring her tour and album.

Twitter can mobilize people. YouTube can mobilize people. It’s not completely vapid bullshit after all.

So now I’m giving this vlogging stuff a chance. I am not saying I’m going to do it – I barely do this blag shiz, and frankly I’m not brave enough to put myself out there like that. It’s one thing being anonymous(ish). It’s quite another having a face. So if you have any suggestions for good vlogs I should check out, let me know. And if you haven’t already, go check out the Vlog Brothers.

Although I must warn you, John Green is a real douche about knitting. I don’t get what his problem is. Knitting would so be the best super power. Imagine if I had super knitting powers and an endless ball of wool? No one on Earth would ever be cold AGAIN. Including penguins!

He’s also really sort of obsessed with his weight. He’s like a teenage girl. Take it from a bonafide fatty, Green. Give it up.

Ooooh.

In other news of the world, I drove past a business today that had a sign boasting a ’24 Hour Quote Hotline’. Okay, I don’t know about you but I JUST FOUND MY DREAM JOB. I want to man the 24 Hour Quote Hotline. I want to answer the phone and be like “Words without thoughts never to heaven go.” And then hang up. Oh just imagine the awesome:

Ring. “A dying man can do nothing easy.” Hang up.
Ring. “
If your ancestors cut down all the trees, it’s not your fault, but you still don’t live in a forest.” Hang up.
Ring. “
Dungeons & Dragons is some of the most crazy, deep, deep, deep nerd shit ever invented. Every word you’re saying is made up. Motherfuckers talk like Yoda.” Hang up.
Ring.
“I laughed and said ‘Life is easy.’ What I meant was: ‘Life is easy with you here, and when you leave, it will be hard again.” Hang up.
Ring. “Get at least eight hours of beauty sleep. Nine if you’re ugly.” Hang up.
Ring.
“Not only is the universe stranger than we think, it’s stranger than we can think.” Hang up.

So I am getting this out there, releasing the Brain Crack if you will (told you I know the Ze). But I seriously want to do this. If I can get a phone number it’s on.

And with that I skulk off. Thanks for reading.

Here’s what I listened to while writing this; another playlist from the Psychic MP3 Player for you. Enjoy.

Beach House – Myth
School of Seven Bells – ILU
My Bloody Valentine – I Can See It (But I Can’t Feel It)
Throwing Muses – Sunray Venus
Neko Case – Hex (The Tigers Have Spoken version)
The Innocence Mission – Lakes of Canada
The National – Anyone’s Ghost
Polica – Warrior Lord
Tori Amos – Raspberry Swirl
The Dresden Dolls – My Alcoholic Friends
Guided By Voices – Sleep Over Jack
Johnny Cash – I Still Miss Someone
Pixies – Make Believe
Belle and Sebastian – The Blues Are Still Blue
David Bowie – Kingdom Come
Grant Lee Buffalo – Drag
The Flaming Lips – Waiting For Superman
The Helio Sequence – Keep Your Eyes Ahead
Rilo Kiley – We’ll Never Sleep
Throwing Muses – Rabbit’s Dying
Xiu Xiu – I Am The Center Of Your World
Architecture in Helsinki – Heart It Races
R.E.M. – Pretty Persuasion
Talking Heads – Stay Hungry
Vic Chesnutt – The Big Huge Valley
Ani DiFranco – Out of Habit (Like I Said version)
Bon Iver – Brackett, WI
Ladytron – Runaway
Portishead – Nylon Smile
The Smiths – Asleep
Echo and the Bunnymen – Porcupine (alternate version)
Kristin Hersh – Echo
The National – Lucky You

Writing Panic, Nerdfighteria, and New Knitting Jargon

Even though, logically, this would be the time when I post the next installment of the long-ass piece in which I blagged about the assets of 2013, I pull another fast one and digress yet again down a long and ridiculous tangent that has nothing to do with anything but is bothering me quite a bit. (Like that commercial in which a guy brings a flower to a date of some import, while a delectable guitar melody plays over it. Has no one noticed that the melody is in fact “Never Going Back Again” – a Fleetwood Mac song about bitterly giving up on love after a string of disastrous affairs? Seriously? What is friggin WRONG with people?)

And in that vein I refer back to my last blag post in which I mention how I’ve been knitting up a storm. And while twelve movies (make that thirteen – hello, the Breakfast Club) does fill up the time, it obviously doesn’t fill up all the time. So what else have I been watching? Well, first I went and watched all of the nerd videos I had missed this fall/winter while I was busy getting nerdier. Then, after I did that, I decided to go back in time and watch all of the early Brotherhood 2.0 videos. In order. I did this mainly because I was curious, and mainly because I was bored and knitting, and mainly because I am a fan. I mean, I watch the current videos and whatnot, but I am not an original fan. All of my DFTBA and Nerdfighting expertise came later, when I was lured in through other, related videos by Mental Floss and the like. I am not afraid to admit that; I was still at university (the first go round) and dealing with some heavy personal shit (like always) and so stuff like this got by me. This is true of other things of that time period – like Heroes, which I love and didn’t watch until years after the fact thanks to G4 and Netflix.

Now that I’ve admitted that, please don’t dump on me over it, fellow Nerdfighters. I am suffering enough knowing that too much time has gone past to bother posting replies In My Pants or otherwise when the Green Brothers need to be schooled. Maybe when I complete my time travel device, I can tell Hank that the Harry Potter series is popular in a way that hasn’t been seen since L. Frank Baum’s Oz books. Yes, it’s true: the Land of Oz was an epic commercial success that no one had seen the likes of before or until Rowling dropped her recycled saga on us. I could also fill the Brothers in on the equally epic Ninjas versus Pirates wars that went on at my college campus. Wars involving found vintage pornography and kites.

Anyway, so here I am knitting feverishly and watching John and Hank when I am struck by two unsettling things. The first being: as I watch John I can’t get the fact that this is the same guy who wrote The Fault In Our Stars out of my head. Seriously? This is the guy? Not to knock John – no, no, no. Not at all. It’s just that he is very much like my friend Dan. Too much, really (it’s doppelganger level scary), and I can’t imagine Dan writing that book. I can’t imagine John writing that book. Although when I do try to imagine who could have written that book I come up blank, so I guess the whole thing is moot.

What is getting to me, actually, is the second unsettling thing, which is that these videos are a good peek into the life of a modern day writer. They take place in 2007, in which we find John Green between two novels: the much acclaimed, already published An Abundance of Katherines, and the in-progress, still being crafted Paper Towns. This means when we don’t see John talking at home, or giving us sneak peaks of a day in a life of writing, we see John traveling… A lot: Promoting his books, going to functions, speaking at organizations and libraries and schools and even attending awards functions. He is always running around and this bothers me because my panic disorder has reached epic levels in certain departments, and traveling, especially alone is currently out of the question for me. And if I am ever to be published I will be expected to do this traveling, running around and talking and flying in planes, and whatnot. It’s bad enough I’ll have to deal with doing it all as a fatty (which is a really big concern, actually and probably will prevent my ever being published by a proper house), but doing it in a constant state of panic… I can’t even…

So concerned about this am I, I have been searching other writer’s blogs and videos and talks and interviews and articles and it’s all the same, everywhere I look. Neil Gaiman practically lives on the road. Even the Composers of Naughtiness have to do all of this. There are specific Naughtiness Composer conventions. I don’t stand a chance. My only hope will be to write something as epic as To Kill A Mockingbird, let my book work for me as I hide in my room and refuse to talk to the media.

And in case you’re wondering, yes, I have been medicated for my panic disorder in the past, but the drugs messed me the frak up and stunted my creativity in a weird way. In fact, if you read what I’ve written before, after, and during my periods of medication, you would swear that whoever was writing during was not the same person who was writing before and after. And they sucked even more than that other guy. The same goes for the rest of my art and music too – everything is forced and without, I guess, soul.

This February though, things may change in the freaking-the-fuck-out-in-the-supermarket department. Thanks to the ACA my health care is expanding and I will be able to resume my search for a mental health professional who has some experience dealing with panic disorder. Go me, and thanks Obama. (And please, I don’t need any guff, so don’t go writing nasty anti-Obama shiz in my comments section. I already get a lot of that – and plenty more – from my sadly misguided and misinformed right-wing cousins. Yes, I’ve seen the open letter from the lady in Alabama who is worried her kids won’t have health care. And I’ve successfully smote every single person who has attacked me using it as evidence. So let it go.)

Despite getting all wound up and anxious that my crazy may be thwarting my hopes of finding my book in a store one day, I keep obsessively watching Brotherhood 2.0, Year 1. I find it horribly amusing, and in a lot of ways I can see how these guys might just be In Cahoots. For all of you out there in Nerdfighteria, being In Cahoots is very much like being a Secret Sibling. We would have to meet, exchange glances and nod knowingly for me to confirm this, but so far as I can tell, all the evidence seems to be there. There is no question however, that I am a Nerdfighter. I mean, come on. Not only am I a most epic reader, I am specifically a most epic reader of Science Fiction. On top of that, I am a font of useless information. Seriously. I once inadvertently usurped a museum curator giving a tour, and ended up finishing it myself. (This has resulted in my being the go-to guide in every museum situation since.) I collect weird shit like ancient cameras, rocks, bits of discarded nature and dead bugs which I then incorporate in both my science and my art. I am an abecedarian, and I have lists of kick ass words – everywhere. This last year I didn’t make a gingerbread house I made a gingerbread… T.A.R.D.I.S.. And if that isn’t enough, I am currently enrolled in a major university, where I am studying theoretical physics. I ultimately want to use my nerdiness to make the world a better place – if not just a better informed one.

At this point I think I could actually give Nerdfighter classes. This I feel would be good, and beneficial, as the Nerdfighting community should aim to grow and spread across the earth, using it’s might against World Suck. So sign me up.

In a complete non sequiteur, I shall now present to you as promised, the epic hat stack:

The Epic January 2014 Hat Stack

The Epic January 2014 Hat Stack

That’s fourteen bald heads that shall be soft and warm in the near future, kids.

I wish to take this final moment to announce a new development in the world of knitting jargon. The knitting acronym/abbreviation Sl2,K1,PSSO – sometimes written as S2KP – shall now be referred to as Flooping The Pig. So remember, next time a pattern requires you to slip two stitches (as if to knit) then knit one and pass the two slipped stitches over that knit stitch, you are Flooping the Pig. Don’t worry, SSK – or slip slip knit – is still called Slipping the Nip. That will never change.

And with that, I am off. Please enjoy this parting gift – a playlist to get over this whiny rant to:
Fleetwood Mac – Never Going Back Again
The Goat Rodeo Sessions featuring Aoife O’Donovan – Here and Heaven
Newton Faulkner – Sitar-y Thing – Interlude
Chris Thile – Riddles in the Dark
Claude Debussy – Suite Bergamasque: Menuette
The Jane Austen Argument – Song for a Siren
CocoRosie – Gallows
Agnes Obel – Riverside
Alexandre Desplat – Mr. Fox in the Fields Medley
Bruno Coulais – Mouse Circus
Iaian Ballamy – Rabbit Band
Architecture in Helskini – Nothing’s Wrong

105 Books and a Playlist to Read This By

Part of the epic book pile atop my dresser.

Oh noes. It’s another blog entry. Set mp3 player to ‘stun’ (playlist to follow).

This year I’ve read a lot of books. So far I’m up to 105. This is an absurd number for many people, who basically ask me to repeat that number over and over again and finally demand that I explain myself. What’s to explain? I’m a homely fatty with no life. Hence books are read. In fact, books make up at least fifty percent if not a full eighty percent of my diet. This is not fat, people. This is book weight.

Words are heavy.

I will spare you, and not list the full one-oh-five here, but as promised (or rather, threatened), here are a few notable tomes I’ve perused thus far.

#23 The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
This book won both the Hugo and Nebula awards for best novel in 2010, which is how it got my attention.  It’s the kind of science fiction that I really like – the kind that is vivid and upsetting and not so far from current reality. It takes place in 23rd century Thailand the last refuge of non sterile produce in a world decimated by genetic modification.  The world as we know it is falling apart: the oceans have and are rising, global warming is rampant, carbon fuels have run out and things are now powered by manually loaded springs. Biotechnology companies dominate, their GM foodstuffs (animals and people, too) having brought a series of plagues, corruptions, contaminations and terrorist strongholds.
Like a good Philip K. Dick novel, it’s far out there, but in a way that says this could be the future, this could really happen – it’s within our reach. Which of course is more disturbing than anything else in horror or science fiction: that possibility.  It’s dense and gritty and worth a read if you are like me and enjoy seeing why you will never win any major literary awards.

#38 The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway
This is the most important thing you need to know about this book, the thing they should print in big letters on the book jacket: at one point there is a battle between super elite military, ninjas, pirates and mimes. Bam. There. That’s all you need to know.  If you require more: It’s the story of a man who ends up involved in “The Gone-Away War”, where governments team up with scientists (many physicists) to develop a weapon that makes the enemy – land and all – simply disappear. Or so they think. What results is a world half missing, but full of nightmares and sand and possibilities. Loaded with humor and a brilliant plot it is worth the read, (even though it was a little slow going for me at first) and has an excellent yet predictable twist.  I will not divulge said twist.

There’s a word for people who like to give away the twists and surprise endings of books, teevee shows, films and the like. That word is not ‘spoiler’. That word is ‘Douchebag’.

I read a lot of Ray Bradbury this year. Bradbury was genius. He wrote with this exceptionally beautiful prose that from anyone else would sound unbearably pretentious. He made it sound almost effortless. (“Hear the machinery of bees bright-stitching up the glamorous airs.” Sigh.) Although best known for his short stories and novellas about Mars – like the Martian Chronicles – if you are new to Bradbury’s work I would suggest #50 Something Wicked This Way Comes. A carnival comes to town, and two boys experience the nightmare of their lives after witnessing the otherworldly machinations of the carnies and their ilk.
For a collection of his many many short stories I recommend #90 I Sing the Body Electric, if only for the title story alone, which was adapted to become the 100th episode of The Twilight Zone. It contains a conversation on the nature of love that everyone should read.

Am going to talk about just one more book before getting my pretentious ass out of here. My brain hurts, which is actually the reason why after a month I’m still on #106 Sparks by David Quantick, when I should be somewhere around #120 living it up. You know, that thrilling #120 life.

# 19 The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
This book is probably the most honest book about living with cancer that I have ever read, including nonfiction memoires by actual cancer patients and survivors.
And it’s young adult fiction to boot.
The Fault in Our Stars is the story of a teenage girl living with terminal cancer: thyroid cancer that has metastasized to her lungs, making breathing laborious and requiring her to lug portable oxygen wherever she goes and sleep connected to a BiPAP machine – her loud and trusty dragon breathing for her so that she can rest (and survive the night).  Hazel – our heroine – loves stupid reality television competitions, takes community college classes, attends a youth support group and is obsessed with her favorite book  An Imperial Affliction. Through her cancer support group, Hazel meets Augustus Waters, a fellow survivor, and she finds love.
As cheesy as this may sound it is not. It is far from it. Augustus expands her ever-narrowing world, encouraging her to seek out the author of her favorite book to ask him why he never properly finished it (it just ends mid-stream) and to find out what happened at the end of the story. John Green writes most eloquently. You cannot help but become fully invested in these characters; as Hazel’s world opens up, so does yours as the reader. The descriptions, the sensations are palpable. You find yourself catching your breath as Hazel struggles with hers, you ache when she aches, and you find yourself glowing in Augustus’ presence. It’s almost hard to believe that this is a work of fiction written by a grown man whose cancer references come from a place of research alone. I can tell you, as a person who has suffered many losses from cancer, who has seen and experienced what cancer does to a person and their loved ones, who has had many threats (promises, really) of cancer herself, this story hit the mark with poignant accuracy. Read this book.

So that’s it for now. I’ll maybe talk about some of the other one hundred books of 2012. I definitely wanted to get to Lisa Randall’s Knocking On Heaven’s Door here, but I cannot stress enough how much my brainpan hurts. So physics is RIGHT OUT. For now. And hey – maybe there will be more on the list by then. The year is still young!

Also, here is the playlist formulated by my psychic mp3 player (a gift from my Cyborg when I was having a really rough spell a short while ago). This mp3 player is prone to playing the right thing at just the right time, or just what I wanted to listen to when I turned it on. For example: at the polls this year, it played the Stop Making Sense version of the Talking Heads ‘Burning Down the House’ when I was entering the building and queuing up; then went to Neko Case’s version of ‘John Saw That Number’ just as I was answering my ballot questions; ‘Trash’ by the New York Dolls as I re-queued and fed my ballot into the machine (I said “Godspeed Little Viking!”  and saluted as the machine ate it, to laughter and applause from my fellow voters and the volunteers); finally it played Junior Murvin’s ‘Police and Thieves’ as I exited the building, got in the car and drove away. Epic psychic mp3 player.
So here it is, what the psychic player spewed forth as I was composing this post:

Rilo Kiley – The Good That Won’t Come Out
The Dead Weather – Bone House
Elvis Costello – Radio, Radio
Tori Amos – Father Lucifer
Radiohead – Faust Arp
The Kinks – By the Riverside
Modest Mouse – Steam Engenius
Talking Heads – Stay Hungry (1977 Version)
Throwing Muses – Status Quo
Ani DiFranco – Rockabye (Like I Said version)
Talking Heads – Two Note Swivel (Unfinished Version)
Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra – Provanity
The Kinks – Johnny Thunder
Throwing Muses – Juno (Seasons Sessions Version)
Vic Chesnutt – Untitled Track from West of Rome
Bruno Coulais, et el – Fantastic Garden (From the Soundtrack to Coraline)
Mercury Rev – Delta Sun Bottleneck Stomp
Belly – Puberty
Franz Ferdinand – Live Alone
The White Stripes – The Denial Twist
The Geraldine Fibbers – Marmalade
Zoe Keating – We Insist
Yo-Yo Ma – Gigue in G major from Bach’s Unaccompanied Cello Suite No. 1