Friday, November 28, 2014

The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance (or Birdman) (a movie review post)

Remember the 80s and how Michael Keaton was "the man"? My first Keaton movie was Mr. Mom; now, thinking about it, I want to see it again. He was perfect in the role as this rather disheveled husband shoved into being the stay at home dad. He had this persistent look of panic that was appropriate.

But then came Tim Burton's Batman, and the look shifted from "panic" to "vacant," which really wasn't appropriate for Batman. He failed completely to pull off a believable Bruce Wayne, the reason he was chosen for the role. Then after Batman... well... nothing. For a long time. Nothing "real," at any rate.

All of that to say that on a certain level I love this movie for the sole reason of having Michael Keaton as Riggan. It brings with it a certain amount of awesome. But he was also excellent in the role. He brought with him just the right amount of desperation to make you wonder wether Riggan is completely sane or not, something necessary for the film to work. In fact, it's this question that elevates the movie from just being about a washed up actor trying to revitalize his career to being a great magical realism story. Keaton was terrific.

In fact, all of the cast were great. Some of them in the ways they normally are, like Emma Stone and Amy Ryan, but a couple of them really stood out.

Zach Galifianakis did not do his normal eccentric weirdo; instead, he was a rather fretful lawyer too heavily invested in Riggan's show. He did a good job. A really good job. If he wasn't so physically distinctive, I might not have known who he was.

But the real surprise of the show was Edward Norton. I should point out that I am not a fan of Norton. At best, I find him annoying. Rarely do I find that he lives up to his own vaunted opinion of himself. Okay, never do I find that he lives up to his opinion of himself. Except this time. His first scene is priceless and I have to think intended as a bit of self-mockery. Whatever it was, it was genius. His portrayal of Mike, a character who can only really be human when he's onstage (not a good human, mind you, but that's the only place he becomes real), is amazing. I would actually love to see Norton pull a best supporting actor nomination for this.

The camerawork is worth noting, too. It has a continuous flow to it leaving you to feel as if you are moving along with the actors, possibly stopping to glance at things that grab your attention along the way. It's not always a smooth flow, lending to the feeling of walking with the actors. The change of character perspective is often accomplished by two of the characters running into each other and the camera following the new character when the two separate.

If you want something with a clear story and no unanswered questions, though, this is not your movie. There are pervasive questions about what is real and what is imagined, and the movie doesn't really answer those. Or even try to. It's the kind of film that will leave you questioning and wanting to see it again just to see if you missed anything. Or to see the Keaton/Norton scenes again. Or to figure out the jellyfish. That's the one I want to know, so, yeah, I'm going to need to see it again.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Exploring Personality: Part Ten -- "Because I said so!"

"...let go your conscious self and act on instinct." -- Ben Kenobi

Types 8, 9, and 1 make up the intuition triad of the Enneagram, also known as the body triad because of the tendency of people in this group to say things like, "I knew it in my gut." Reactions can be very instinctual, requiring little thought and ignoring emotions. Intuition isn't well understood by science. It's the brain making a "leap of logic" and, while some studies have shown that forcing people to do something like math intuitively generates more correct responses than people who are required to "logic it out," that does not mean that people who rely on intuition are always right. It's very dependent upon the individual. The motivating emotion for this triad is anger, but it manifests differently for each of the three types (unlike for the intellectual triad where their fear is almost always about decision-making).

The Boss

When you think of the stereotypical, emotionally-detached father-figure who expects and demands unquestioning loyalty and obedience, you are thinking of the type Eight. Eights want to be "in charge," hence the title of "The Boss." They are also know as the Challenger, because they frequently put themselves in positions of challenging authority. It's hard to be in charge when someone else is telling you what to do so they have a tendency to defy authority just for the sake of doing it. This is your true rebel without a cause.

However, this is not the loner rebel out doing his own thing. Eights are almost always extroverts and often charismatic. As such, they are frequently able to gather followers for whatever it is they're doing, leading a rebellion or not.

More than anything else, the Eight wants to be in charge of his own destiny. As such, he hates to have his authority questioned. Above all else, the Eight believes in his own "rightness," whether or not there is anything with which to back up his views. This is what makes him, in his own mind, more suited than all others to be the one in charge. Questioning his authority is equivalent to questioning your own loyalty to him but, even worse, you may cause him to question himself and his own qualifications for leadership. Eights are adept at burying their own doubts, though, and proceeding with confidence, one of the qualities that make people look up to them. No matter if his path is correct or not, he will tread it boldly.

In an effort to be in control of all things and not allow anyone to have power over them, Eights are emotionally unavailable. Love, especially, can give someone else power over them or make them appear weak, so they keep their emotions as bottled up as possible. This can lead them to reject others preemptively. It's better to cut people out when they are in control of the situation rather than to risk being hurt and losing control to someone else or in front of other people.

The typical response to any sort of threat, real or imagined, to the Eight's authority, which can include anything from an actual challenge to just making him look bad in some way, is anger. Anger is the first defense mechanism of the Eight. And the first offense mechanism. It is through anger that the Eight dominates his "foes."

At their best, Eights can fight the "good fight" and do a lot of good. They are willing to protect "their people," because they willingly give back the loyalty they receive. They can come to understand that they can't please everyone (not that they're trying to) and learn to take some amount of criticism without feeling threatened. Often, this state is achieved through surrendering themselves to some higher authority or ideal.

At their worst, they become dictators, believing completely in "might makes right." They use force and violence to inflict their will upon the ones under their power.

It should be noted that Eights are almost always men (just as Twos are almost always women). It's unclear whether this is because Eight behavior in women is culturally unacceptable and, thus, they are "broken" of it early on in life.

Monday, November 24, 2014

How I Miss You in 2014

Here we are at the 2014 edition of the
In truth, I don't really have a lot to add to what I said in 2012 and 2013. I don't have any new people/blogs to add to those lists, and I figure if you want to see who I talked about before, since they are still the same, you can click the links and go back and look.

However, I do want to highlight one blog in particular that I miss, because it's not coming back.

A few months ago, we lost Tina Downey of Life Is Good. She was having some health issues, but she didn't really let on as to how serious they were, so it came as quite a shock to pretty much everyone who knew her online, I think, when she died. We weren't expecting it, and we weren't prepared. Not that you can ever really be prepared for anyone's death other than your own. I listed Tina last year in my "blogs I would miss" section of this blogfest and, now that she's gone, I do miss her. I miss her joyous outlook that she held to despite her health problems. I miss her posts about what it was like to adjust to moving to the United States. I miss arguing with her about math. I miss her comments.

I think, considering her last post was within a week of her death, that she probably misses blogging. She had no intention to quit. It's too bad the world wide web is still only the world wide. I'm sure that once we figure out how to go beyond, we'll find that she's out there somewhere still blogging away, and we'll have tons of posts to catch up on.

This blogfest has been brought to you by Andrew Leon (that's me), Alex Cavanaugh, and Matthew MacNish. You can find the other participants on the list below:

Friday, November 21, 2014

Gone Girl (a movie review (without the book) post)

Well... Here we are at the beginning of the Oscar Run. That's my new term for the beginning of what is kind of Oscar season. Technically, there is no "Oscar season;" however, it's also true that most of the movies that are nominated for best picture come out in November and December. At any rate, we went to see our first of the potential nominees.
First, I have not read the book. My wife has, but she was careful not to tell me anything about it other than read to me the "cool girl" speech. Still, I knew that there was a twist (because everyone is always talking about Twist in this one) even if I didn't know what it was. It didn't catch me. Maybe, it's because I knew there was one and was just anticipating or, maybe, it's because of how the movie starts, which is what I suspect. And I'd love to talk about it, but I don't actually want to spoil it for anyone else. So I'll just say it like this:

When you have a character alone and that character is reacting to something in a particular way, since there are no other characters around to witness the reaction, the audience is inclined to trust that the reaction is genuine.

I think that's what "ruined" the twist for me, because I had already accepted one particular reaction from one of the characters as genuine, so I wasn't able to go down the path that the director wanted me to go so as to be surprised by the truth.

My wife tells me that I would have been fooled by the book. Now, we'll never know.

Okay, all of that aside, I did really enjoy the movie. Ben Affleck is excellent. It's a rather subdued role, but he played it really well. He's a guy who isn't happy in his marriage, has financial issues, and... well, I don't want to tip anything off. Affleck is very adept, though, at switching his charm on and off, and he uses it well in this movie. Mostly, he's a disheveled mess, but he has those flashes of charisma that seemingly come out of nowhere and are instantly gone.

Rosamund Pike was an excellent choice for Amy Dunne. She has that rather cold, detached demeanor that worked really well in this role.

Beyond the two leads, I liked Tyler Perry as Tanner Bolt. A lot. I'm not really familiar with Perry beyond knowing his name, so it was good to see him in something. I don't know if his portrayal of Bolt is anything like the character in the book, but I really enjoyed him on screen.

And, you know, it's good to see Neil Patrick Harris in anything, though I don't think there was anything remarkable about this role for him other than to be reminded that he is capable of more than just being Barney, which is to same Awesome.

I won't be surprised if Gone Girl gets nominated (they seem to have slim pickings this year from what I can tell from the early lists), but it's not going to win. ]Yeah, yeah. I know last year my pick didn't even get a nomination, but I still stand by it.] It's a good, solid movie. Interesting. If you haven't read the book, you are likely to get caught up in trying to figure out what's really going on. And there's a lot in it to keep you talking about it for a few days. It's definitely worth seeing, though it's not a movie you really need to see in the theater.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Exploring Personality: Part Nine -- "I want it all!" (an IWM post)

"I want the world. I want the whole world... Give it to me now." -- Veruca Salt
Enneagram types 5, 6, and 7 make up the intellectual triad of the Enneagram. These types are data based. They are information gatherers. They tend to react to situations from a more rational viewpoint, especially when compared to the emotional triad (types 2, 3, and 4). Where other types, when asked why they did something, may say, "I don't know," the intellectuals can almost always tell you exactly why they made the decision they made and hand you the numbers to back it up. Their emotional center is fear; gathering information and making informed decisions is a way of combating that fear. The intellectuals are also attracted to ideas and ideals; relationships are less important and can sometimes be a means of achieving other objectives.

The Epicure

Also known as the Enthusiast, the Seven is best known for her pursuit of pleasure. Her enthusiastic pursuit of pleasure, because Sevens rarely get involved in activities without throwing themselves in all the way. However, this can sometimes resemble throwing yourself into the deep end of the pool without knowing how to swim.

The Enthusiast is the more common name given to Sevens, but I prefer Epicure. So here's a brief history lesson:
Epicurus, the Greek philosopher, believed that the pursuit of pleasure was the greatest good. That's a bit misleading, though, because he defined "pleasure," basically, as the absence of pain and fear. He really wasn't promoting the kind of hedonism the idea is attached to these days. Epicurus believed in a sparse and tranquil life, not the kind of behavior we associate with Sevens, today. BUT! The motivation that drives Sevens in their pursuit of pleasurable experiences is, actually, to get away from negative experiences. That's an important distinction.

Of course, it's a distinction that Sevens are not always conscious of as the knowledge of their avoidant behavior is in-and-of itself a painful thing to confront.

Because even boredom (often especially boredom) is a painful experience for Sevens, they tend to be spontaneous. Or what looks like spontaneous from the outside. The truth is that a Seven's mind is always working and planning and looking ahead to the future and what kinds of things they can do to occupy themselves. This is why they are in the thinking triad. They tirelessly collect data, often becoming instant experts on subjects, so that they can better formulate their plans for the future. To everyone else, this looks like a person who, while in the middle of doing some often highly anticipated event, suddenly wants to take off and do the next thing: spontaneous. But for the Seven, who has planned all of it out in her head in exquisite detail, it's not spontaneous at all. In fact, a Seven can frequently have a very negative response to spontaneous ideas from other people if they don't fit into the plans she's already made. Sevens also respond poorly to being told "no" about pretty much anything they've developed in their minds, whatever the reason. At that point, the person saying "no" becomes one of those negative aspects of life to be avoided.

Sevens are "life of the party" kind of people and are most often extroverts, delighting in being the center of attention. They promote fun experiences for everyone around them and are frequently leading the charge to some new activity. As such, they have a problem with follow through. As soon as an activity becomes repetitive or routine, they are ready to move on to the next thing. Because they are such good planners, though, they can be highly efficient at getting routine work out of the way. Or of coming up with inventive ways of getting around it. However, they can find it soul-killing when stuck in situations where are they are forced to do uninteresting, repetitive labor.

Sevens are especially prone to addictive behaviors of all sorts, especially when "stuck" in situations from which they feel they have no escape. Rather then face their own negative emotions, they can become critical and abusive toward those around them, highlighting others' negative qualities. When allowed to freely express their wide range of passions, though, they can become experts in many different areas and become an unemptying fountain of ideas.

It should be noted that Sevens make up a fairly small portion of people, one of the smallest personality types. It should also be noted that Sevens are much more frequently men.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Ozma of Oz (a book review post)

Because The Woggle-Bug Book, is not included as one of the Oz books, Ozma of Oz is considered the third book in the series. Despite the fact that the book is not really about Ozma (introduced in The Marvelous Land of Oz), it gets her name. She doesn't even show up until more than 1/3 into it and hardly takes center-stage after that. The title, though, is probably the greatest weakness of the book. So far, I'm enjoying each of these more than the previous one. Being only three books in, though, that's not saying much.

In a broad, cultural sense, Ozma of Oz may be the most significant of the Oz books. It introduces the character Tiktok, who is considered by many to be the first use of a robot in literature. An actual mechanical person with a mechanical brain. He's a clockwork, as the name implies, and you have to wind him up, but, unlike the Tin Man, he is completely manufactured and his knowledge was "programmed." Of course, we don't really know what that means, but it doesn't really matter. Within the structure of the book, he is just another of Baum's interesting and entertaining characters, winding down at inopportune times.

My favorite of the new characters in this book is the Princess Langwidere. The princess owns only one dress, a white one, because it goes with all of her heads, all the 30 of them. Rather than change clothes to make herself attractive, she changes heads. The white dress is because it goes with whatever head she chooses to wear. This, of course, rather confuses her subjects, because they can't figure out why she looks different every time they see her. Each head also has its own personality so, although she retains her memories, some heads are more likable than others, and she can feel bad in one head about what she did while wearing another. This whole idea is a great concept, and I wish I'd thought of it.

I should mention that this book features the return, by popular demand, of both Dorothy and the Cowardly Lion.

Now, rather than talk anymore about the story, clever as it is, I want to discuss some social issues and commentary that are worth noting.

There are no men in these books. Not really. The only real example of a man that you get is that of the Wizard in the first book, and he's a fraud. Although the Tin Man used to be a man, he is no longer. All that's left is a rather vain and pompous facsimile. Fortunately, he's also genuinely caring, or he would be insufferable. The other male personas among the main characters are just that: personas. They don't represent actual people but ideas. Then there are the soldiers in Ozma of Oz, who are rather comedic as they are all but one officers. The lone private is only there so that the others have someone to give orders to. He's also the only one who doesn't run away from danger, although the officers were supposedly chosen for their bravery.

All of the important characters in the books are women, and most of them are positive examples of powerful women, Princess Langwidere being a prominent exception. She was more interested in admiring her various heads in the mirror rather than ruling the kingdom which she was responsible for. Considering that these were written before women had the right to vote, I think this is an important aspect of the Oz books to acknowledge.

That said, we do run across Jinjur, who had been a general in the previous Oz book, who is now married and settled down. Dorothy is amazed by the change but, as Jinjur says, "I've married a man who owns nine cows and now I am happy and contented and willing to lead a quiet life and mind my own business." So, despite the fact that Baum supports the independence and power of women, there does still seem to be the underlying belief that all a woman needs is to find the right man to marry and she will settle down and give up all that other stuff. It does seem, though, that Jinjur wears the pants in her marriage; her husband is indoors nursing the black eye that she gave him for not following directions. I think, though, all things considered, we can forgive Baum this one slip. At least in these first three books, Oz gives us a powerful representation of what independent women can do.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Big Hero 6 (a movie review post)

Big Hero 6 is a movie that intrigues me on a lot of levels. It ought to have everything going for it.

It's based on a Marvel property (which I didn't even realize until I was seeing the movie (I can't say what gave it away (okay, I could, but that would be a spoiler))). That said, it's based on a Marvel property that I'm not actually familiar with so this is the rare adaptation (from a comic book) that I can see without having a picture in my mind of how it ought to be. Of course, I looked up the comic when I got home, and the path of adaptation they chose for this one is really interesting.

The comic is loosely set in the X-Men side of Marvel so has the full spectrum of mutants and all of that. The movie has removed everything that isn't technology based or transformed those things into something that is technology based. Basically, they made Big Hero fit into a slightly futuristic world in which people are still just people. And they did a really good job of it, too.

The movie does a great job with the exposition of the story. It's so typical of movies these days to just skip the exposition entirely, so I really appreciate it when a film takes the time to provide a foundation for the story they want to tell. Without having a way to check the timing on the movie, I'm going to guess the first half hour or so is all exposition. Let me re-say what I just said before: I like that!

Visually, the movie is incredible. Not just that it has great animation, but it has a great style. Actually, it looks a lot like The Incredibles, but that's not surprising considering that John Lasseter produced the movie.

Plus, it has the best drunken robot scene ever. Okay, that may not be surprising since it's probably the only drunken robot scene ever, but, still, it's hilarious.

The voice acting is adequate. There's nothing there to make any of it stand out except, maybe, for Scott Adsit, but it's hard to tell how much of that is him and how much is manipulation of his voice to make it work for Baymax.

The villain has a really cool look. That's all I'm saying about that. I mean, I'd be freaked out to have someone like that coming after me.

And the side characters work, too.

It has all the ingredients it needs for me to love it.

But I didn't.

Don't get me wrong; I really liked it; I just didn't love it. And I can't really tell you why other than that I saw the movie playing out the way it was going to go well before it got there. However, that was an interesting experience in-and-of itself, because my kids made the logic jumps the movie wanted them to make so that they would be surprised by what was actually going on when it was revealed at the end. I had to bite my tongue not to spoil it for them. For instance, at one point, my son said something about who the bad guy was, and I almost said, "No, that's not who it is," but I managed to catch myself.

I'm not really sure if that was the problem or not. It might also have been that the main emotional punch of the movie happens toward the beginning, so I had no catharsis at the end.

Really, it's not that important. It's a really good movie. It's great, even. It's just not excellent. It's not a movie I left the theater wanting to see again, which, for me, is the hallmark of an excellent film.

The short film at the beginning, though, that was awesome, and I'd love to see that again.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Exploring Personality: Part Eight -- "Give me something to believe in." (an IWM post)

"...if you shake my hand, that's for life." -- Jerry Lewis

The Loyalist

Of all the types, the Six can be the hardest to categorize. That's because the Six is, in many ways, a walking contradiction. For instance, the Six is known as the Loyalist, but the Six is just as likely to be the anti-Loyalist. The problem with Sixes is that they have a fear of committing to anything, a fear which stems from a lack of confidence in themselves with being able to make a correct decision. What if they make the wrong choice?

* * *

But for you, right now, the correct choice is to click over to Indie Writers Monthly and find out how it is that it could be the Sixes who save the world. No, seriously. They plan ahead like that. No problem too small, no apocalypse too big.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Braces Paradigm

Who here had braces when you were growing up? It's okay; you can raise your hand. No one will make fun of you. No, really, no one will make fun of you. No one's going to call you "braceface" or "metal mouth" or ask what time your mouth train is scheduled to arrive.

Actually, I never had braces. I had what I consider to be a good dentist because, when the topic of braces came up, his response was, "He ["he" being me] doesn't need them [for any health reasons]. If you get them, it would be for purely cosmetic reasons." I've never been one for "appearances," meaning that I have some amount of disdain for people who will dismiss someone else based solely upon how that person looks, so I wasn't interested in having my teeth straightened for the sake of having my teeth straightened.

But I had plenty of friends with braces, and none of them had wanted to have them. Braces were something that was forced upon unsuspecting teenagers, and they universally hated the idea. The very lucky ones, like my cousin, got to wear headgear. "Fortunately," he only had to wear it to school for the first month or so of having it, but he had to wear the headgear to bed for something like two years.

And we haven't even mentioned retainers, yet. Retainers that I hated even without ever having to have one. However, it was a fairly frequent occurrence to have to dig through trash to find the accidentally dumped retainer that I hated them. And I had this one friend who thought it was the most hilarious thing ever to stick her retainer into people's food when they weren't looking. And it was... the first couple of times she did it to someone, but it got old. Let's just say that I never took a trip to the bathroom until I was all the way finished with my food.

All of that to say that braces were not something that made you popular, and you were bound to endure some amount of teasing if you got them.

But that was 30 years ago...

The other night at dinner, my daughter asked me, "When can I get braces?" and she doesn't even really "need" them. [She doesn't "need" them at all.] So why does she want braces? All of her friends have them. Some of her friends have had them since they were six or seven years old.

That age thing there is why we left our previous dentist. When my younger son was about eight, they started pressuring me every time I had them in to get braces for him. I was rather aghast about it the first time they broached the subject of "starting him on braces" as if it was some kind of vitamin supplement. The response I got to asking them why was something about how they, now, have stage one braces for baby teeth and stage two braces for adult teeth. They had no good answer for why I would want to straighten teeth which are just going to fall out other than "it's just better." Yeah, better for them, because they get money from me for that much longer.

So I did the research (because, and those of you who have been around long enough will know, I always do the research), and the current studies show that there is no discernible benefit for getting braces for your kid before their adult teeth are in. It just means that you will have to do two rounds of braces. Even without the expense, why would you want to do that to your kid?

I can tell you why:
Braces, now, are normal. And not just normal, not just acceptable, they are the preferred state. They are a status symbol of sorts, and they are expected, hence the question, "When can I get braces?" [Like the other question she asks all the time: When can I get a [cell] phone?] Her friends have not come to school in shame, trying to hide their mouths and keep from smiling, but have come to school showing them off, "Look! I got braces!" Like it was an ice cream cone or something.

And that just goes to show you how perceptions can change, rather like with the lobster. There was a time when lobsters were considered "low" food and some states had laws against feeding lobster to prisoners more than once or twice a week because it was "cruel and unusual punishment." What a long way we've come from that (though I still don't like lobster). There are countless other examples that I could make.

I don't have any other point to make of this. I just find this kind of thing -- I'll call it "social conditioning" -- interesting.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Love Hurts (or What the Cat Did)

I know he looks all calm and peaceful in that above picture, but the cat and I have a rather contentious relationship. It's not that we don't like each other, either. In fact, the cat likes me rather more than I'm comfortable with. That doesn't stop him from threatening me with laser eyes!
No, just kidding. He never threatens. It's just a "do or do not" thing. Okay, fine! I'm kidding!

I think...

I mean, he's never shot lasers at me, but that doesn't mean I don't think he could if he wanted to.

Actually, the problem really is that the cat has a great amount of affection for me. So much so that during the middle of the night, as I've spoken about before, he will decide he needs me to come and just sit with him. He wants to hang out in the living room and stare out the window, but... it's like he's scared to be alone in the dark and needs me on the couch. Sometimes he comes and sleeps on my lap. Fortunately, now that it's colder, he's been pretty content to sleep at the foot of the bed and not worry about the window and what might be out in the dark.

But that's not what I want to talk about...

The actual problem is that one of the things cats do to "loved ones" is groom them. Have you ever been groomed by a cat? Let me just say: it's not a comfortable experience. If you want to know what it's like, go buy some sandpaper. Of course, I'm assuming you don't just have some around. When I was a kid, we always hand sandpaper on hand but, then, my dad had a tool closet full of all kinds of stuff that he never used. Including sandpaper. Because, if anything needed to be sanded, that was my job. Anyway... Go get some sandpaper and tear off a piece about the size of the end of your pinky finger. Now, take that paper, find a place on your forearm, and stroke that piece of paper in the same spot on your arm for, say, five minutes. Can you do it? No? Hurts, doesn't it? Imagine that going on for half an hour.

It leaves abrasions on the skin just like the kind you'd get when you were a kid and fell down on the concrete. The next day there will be little scabs all over in the patch of skin that he groomed, and it hurts for a couple of days. One time, he did it to my collar bone, which didn't hurt while he was doing it, but it left a mark that looked like a hickey. heh My wife wasn't amused.

Speaking of my wife, she always asks me why I let him do that to me. Her position is that I ought to just throw him off of me when he starts the grooming behavior. And, well, maybe I should, but I look at it like this:
When a baby grabs your beard... Oh, you don't have a beard. Okay, ladies, when a baby gets a fistful of your hair in its little baby hand and starts flailing its little arms around, do you throw the baby on the floor? Only if you want to be charged with child abuse, right? Yeah, yeah, but it's a cat; it's different. The cat will land on his feet.

But it's not really different. The cat doesn't know what he's doing. I mean, the cat doesn't know he's causing me pain. It's like if your kids make you breakfast in bed for your birthday and, then, sit there and stare at you so they can watch you eat it... and it's the most terrible sawdust you've ever put in your mouth. But you eat it anyway. For love. Well, so as not to hurt someone trying to show you love, because I am not saying I love the cat. [Trust me; if I had to pick between the cat and the dog,
I'd dropkick the cat out the door before you could count to three (don't tell the cat (though I suspect he already knows)). But that's beside the point.]

Which brings me to the point:
Sometimes, we do painful things for love, our own or someone else's. Even though we know whatever it is will be painful, we do it anyway. And we should. Intent means a lot. Basically, I don't want to punish the cat for something he's doing for the right reasons, even if it does hurt, and that's how we should be with people.

Oh, and by the way, I tried to take some pictures of the wound on my arm after the last time the cat did that to me, but my camera got confused by all the hair and couldn't figure our what to focus on. Maybe next time.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

"You're not my friend anymore!" (an IWSG post)

Remember those days when you were a kid... What? You don't? Well, let me remind you...

You're playing with your best friend, one of your many "best" friends (because aren't they all when you're a kid?), and everything's going fine. For a while. Then, one of you does something the other one doesn't like: had GI Joe kiss a Barbie, won in a game of Checkers, used the wrong shade of blue while coloring Spider-Man and, suddenly, the dreaded phrase rings out, "You're not my friend anymore!" Usually, that's followed by the offended party running away, probably, to go tattle while leaving the unfriended in tears wondering what s/he actually did wrong.

Of course, you didn't do anything wrong, did you? Even when you told your friend that you didn't like the picture he drew. Because, you know what, it's not wrong to have preferences.

And what inevitably happens (at least when responsible parents are involved) is that the kid who yelled "You're not my friend anymore!" is marched back in to apologize for being hurtful, which is as it should be.

[And this is when I would like to talk about being forced to eat horrible things that I didn't like when I was a kid all in the name of being polite, but I don't really have room to go into that.]

Some of you know that I do a lot of reviews ("lot" being a relative term) and that I try to focus on indie authors. Being an indie author, I know how important the reviews are. Yea! for reviews, right? But, also, I don't give any special consideration, which means I give negative reviews, too. I believe honest reviews are better for the community overall than just lying and giving someone 4 or 5 stars. This has the unfortunate result of people (metaphorically) yelling, "You're not my friend anymore!" and running off and unfriending me from all of social media. Mostly, I'm okay with that, because I should be allowed to say whether I like something or not, and I'm not the one exhibiting the bad behavior (unless you're one of those in the camp that says a bad review is bad behavior, in which case, you should yell at me right now and run on off and unfriend me).

Here's the thing, I was checking out the reviews for a book I've been looking at reading and the book only has 5-star reviews and all from people that are in the blogging community. Okay, so right away, that sets my warning bells off. I don't tend to read 5-star reviews, because they usually amount to no more than "Everything is Awesome!" But I was scanning down the reviews for this book and one of them happened to catch my eye. The reviewer had a list of all the things she didn't like about the book. Okay, that intrigued me, so I read the review. Now, let me make this clear, the review only had negative things to say about the book but, at the end, she said, basically, "But it was intense and I loved it," and she gave it 5-stars. This was not a short review, either. Paragraphs and paragraphs about the issues with the book and then gave it 5-stars. Clearly, there is some amount of dishonesty happening here.

One of  my favorite reviews for a book was by a guy who ripped the book to shreds in his review. I mean, he really tore it apart. It was an even longer review than one I mentioned above. He had absolutely nothing good to say about the book but ended with something like "But it was very creative and a good read" and gave it 4-stars. The author actually responded with, "I'd hate to have seen what you would have said if you hadn't liked it." Again, clearly, there is some amount of dishonesty happening here.

All of that to say two things:
1. Reviews are believed to be important. [It's hard to say how important, though, because there is some evidence that suggests that reviews are not as important as we think. I think early in an author's career, though, they are important.] As an indie author who wants to support the idea of doing reviews, I do reviews. We have to learn to be comfortable with giving honest reviews. It hurts everyone when all we do is lie to our friends and give them 4- and 5-star reviews. Yes, that means we have to be willing to risk people yelling "You're not my friend anymore!" at us.

It also means we have to address only the work. For instance, it would be okay for me to say, "I didn't like how the author chose to color Spider-Man's costume green. I believe Spider-Man's costume should be the traditional red and blue." It is not okay for me to say, "This author is SO STUPID! She couldn't even get Spider-Man's costume right! Flaming IDIOT! Don't read this crap!" See, when I say, "I didn't like the green the costume," someone else might see that and think, "Huh? A green costume? That sounds interesting." But, if I attack the author's intelligence, we've moved the discussion away from creativity and made it personal.

2. We have to learn not to yell "You're not my friend anymore!" That's just destructive behavior. Sure, I get that it doesn't feel good to have people not like what you worked so hard on (which is why you have to like it enough to not worry about how other people feel about it (but that's a different discussion (and one I've had before, but I'm not finding that post, at the moment)), but cutting someone off is like kicking someone out of your restaurant because she didn't like one particular dish. Maybe you should try saying, "Well, I'm sorry you didn't like this book; maybe, you'll like this other one better." Or the next one. Or whatever. What I can say for sure, though, is that, in my case specifically, I won't be returning to the particular author who unfriended me because I didn't like that particular book. She's not someone I'll continue to support.

And you might be thinking, "But a negative review isn't support," but I would argue with you that it is.
1. I bought the book, which is, honestly, more support than most of you out there are willing to give (I have hard evidence on that by looking at my sales numbers).
2. I left a review and, even if it's not a 4- or 5-star review, it shows that I read the book, which, again, is more than most of you out there are doing. And there is a component that quantity of reviews are just as important (or more important) than quality of reviews.
3. My reviews mean something. Whether I like the book or not, I give the reasons why I did or did not. Those things are important. They tell other people, like with the green Spider-Man example, whether they think they want to read it.

At any rate, all of this stuff is insecurity inducing, but, as authors, it's stuff we have to learn to deal with. If you want people (especially other authors) to be willing to give your book a review, you need to be willing to do reviews for other people. If you want to get reviews, you need to be willing to listen without unfriending people when they say, "I didn't like this one."

This post has been brought you in part by the Insecure Writer's Support Group.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

"I spend my time thinking about you..."

How many years has it been? Three? Is this really the third year of the
I think it is.

Do you have bloggers you miss? People who have just faded away and quit posting? Or post so rarely, now, that it's hard to tell they're still here? Well, this is the time to let them know that you miss them. Officially, you should pick the top three whom you miss, but I'm not much of one for rules, even if I helped make them up. Just let us know the ones who are most important to you and, then, let them know.

Also, if there are any bloggers you would miss if the disappeared, let us know who they are, too.

Join your hosts, Andrew Leon (yeah, that's me), Alex Cavanaugh, and Matthew MacNish, and sign up today!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Exploring Personality: Part Seven -- "I'm watching you." (an IWM post)

"I'm watching you, Wazowski. Always watching." -- Monsters, Inc.

The Observer
Perhaps a better name for the Five would be "the Outsider," though the more politically correct term has come to be "the Investigator." However, of all the types, the Five is the one most likely to be hanging out on the fringes looking in. Or, perhaps, not even looking in, just involved in his own world. The Five, then, is almost the definition of "introvert," inferiority complex and all. It's the person we think of when we hear the word, even if that's not precisely correct.

Fives are ill-equipped emotionally to deal with the world...

So, if you want to know how they do deal with it, you'll have to -- you guessed it -- click the link and hop on over to Indie Writers Monthly to find out.
Do it now!