#NerdCulture

Sorry, Mom…not my f-bomb, but still my amen to Mr. Kennedy’s sentiment.

It’s no secret: my apartment is a structural testament to a deep love of books. I have multiple bookcases, one of them taller than I am, and multiple prints from the designer at Ideal Bookshelf, artwork of differing genres all over the apartment, even on the bathroom walls and over the kitchen sink. I have a pin-up calendar in the kitchen of Hot Dudes Reading, because I think the sexiest thing a man can do is read. (The other stuff a man can do is nice, too, but kind of down the list after reading, writing, cooking, and playing a musical instrument.)

This love of books has gained me some grief in my time…painted me as a hermit, a snob, and a…nerd. The last distinction was the easiest to take (hermit is a struggle because reading is often mistaken to be exclusively solitary an activity, and snob is hard to take because I like literary fiction but the super-pretentious stuff I cannot handle well), after all I have “my books and my poetry to protect me,” to start with from Simon & Garfunkel. The definition of nerd-dom from my past experience (whether with books, in high school band, or in my choice of PBS) has usually involved some kind of social banishment. Sometimes there would be other nerds, a breakfast club of us playing all the tubas and bullied by the football players.

It seems, though, as Dan has so eloquently stated above, that nerd culture has kicked out some of its base. In some cases, some of us have to apologize for liking Coldplay, the planet formerly known as Pluto, The Big Bang Theory, or (gasp) Shakespeare. Can’t I just like the sonnets and be done? But there’s proof now he didn’t write them. So Pluto and Shakespeare can go the way of symbols, like Prince or Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street.

Look, newcomers to my lifetime of separation from society…if you find my eyeglasses and my Bradbury suddenly so very fascinating, can you…let me have my Richard Bach and my Woody Allen and my Hemingway anyway? I promise to love the rest of your hipster crossover and borrowing, and let you continue to pretend that you have the same awkward default as Issa Rae. I’ll look the other way at your new-found love of Trapper Keepers if you don’t say that my definition of nerd, lived so long, isn’t enough. ūü§ď

*****

The past couple of weeks in my world have been a bit hairy at work, for reasons it’s best to keep confidential at the moment, so here’s how I’ve been medicating lately…

Reading, lately: A lot of chef, food critic, and restaurateur memoirs for some reason…but I am trying to give up a lot of meat, dairy, and eggs and therefore my excitement about food is a bit diminished, so I’m hoping to gain some food love back, somewhere.

Listening, lately: nothing in particular and everything in small doses…from Jidenna to Marcus Mumford covering Dylan to James Bay like an old blanket to Ahi to…Springsteen, always. Repeat gets abused.

Watching, lately: HBO’s Insecure, because, well, she IS a nerd, ain’t no hiding. A lot of baseball because the MLB put a For Sale sign on the rest of the season and instead of $25 a month, the rest of the year is $10. Not sure how much of that applies to post-season, but I guess I’ll find out, right? With the current work situation I watch a lot of dumb comedies, like Disjointed on Netflix and Never Stop Never Stopping on HBO, sometimes on repeat like the music.

All of this, and it’s still hot and sticky in San Diego. I still run air conditioning. This forgotten corner of the world is always sunny and festering like a Petri dish. I’m looking forward to autumn, well, someday. ūüćĀūüćā

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#DearMrBradbury

Comic Con came to San Diego last weekend, and I have never been in San Diego during one. As a literary snob I'm not much on pop culture, particularly ad nauseum, but I kept my mind open in the beginning days of the con, enjoying the Greek chorus of Cartoon Network balloons:

And the Batmobile:

And, to be fair, half of these pop references came from literature; Congressional Representative John Lewis's graphic collection March, and handmaids, and pedicabs with chairs a la George RR Martin.

But by Day 4 I wanted the lot of the world gone, and got depressed by so many people, and calmly stayed in my apartment under the A/C fan and read and watched the entire first season of HBO's Insecure. I probably drank too much, which didn't help for the long term, but helped at the time.

I needed a game plan after that week, because if situational depression hits you, you need a game plan to deal with it. I write every day, and every day the writing is more of a drill than a process; sit down with a notebook the size of a bar of soap, spit 6 pages, go home. More of a nervous tick than a process, more of therapy than a process (which isn't bad as an approach to therapy, but still), and I realized there was no process.

So there's a new mission: Saturdays I write short fiction. I write a short story a week, like Mr. Bradbury recommended once, and the editing would come when that fiction muscle hits the wall. When the first drafts no longer become a process, then I build on the process. But there was no fiction before, and there shall be now.

The story came out scared and stilted but it's out, and next week there'll be another. I'll stack 'em up. I was so scared in the Midwest of rotting on the couch in bad winter and summer weather; and I lost all patience after Comic Con. If it's going to be hot and weird humidity, and if I have to struggle viciously with loneliness, then dammit…all this shall be to do what I love. I shall make up facts…and fashion them into stories…and tell all the fake news I want, but in a way revealing more truth than idiots in all the governments.

And, please, Lord, let me tell it "puddle-wonderful." ✨

*****

What I Have Been Reading Lately: So much, because, the library for free, and it's too hot and pricey to go out much, so a LOT of reading…How To Be Human, Lucky You, The Zookeeper's Wife, and, currently, Faithful by Alice Hoffman. I get through a lot of New Yorker issues.

What I Have Been Watching Lately: The Zookeeper's Wife, and, predictably, not as good as the book. Paterson over and over because it soothes me. Moneyball because I miss Aaron Sorkin dialogue. Insecure because it makes me laugh and I love her rhymes. Okja, and a documentary out of the Bay Area called What the Health. Cut back on a LOT of meat, eggs, and dairy because of that movie. No, I'm not vegan (I can't be that disciplined and love tasting as I do), but when I mindlessly snack it's mostly hummus, veggies, and fruit. I feel a lot better but I'm still waiting for my skin to clear.

And baseball…so…much…baseball. If you watch enough baseball nuances start to amaze you or crack you up. I was watching a broadcast of the Blue Jays/A's game in Toronto last Thursday and was having a hard time determining the strike zone by the ump's calls. I thought I was losing my mind until I realized that both batters and pitchers were getting frustrated as well. By the 5th inning the Blue Jays' manager had enough and started heckling the ump from the dugout, and then was promptly ejected. Rattled, the Blue Jays' pitcher started grousing to himself on the mound, so one pitch later the ump tossed him, too. The catcher came unglued because his manager and pitcher were ejected a pitch apart, so…yep, the catcher got tossed, too. The crew chief for the umps had to come over and stand by his home plate ump, but I hope the communication was something to the effect of "Cool it, will ya?"

Weird, but funny as all get-out to watch.

Sometimes a girl needs distractions; sometimes she needs any game plan to get up off the dirt.

#NightstandChronicles #Continue #EightSecondsLeftInOvertime

Here, hold my spot.

June’s gonna get away from me and then I’m going to feel the failure more, so here’s a blog post in recap, a replay of a little ditty I like to call “So This is How We Treat Each Other Now.”

The ditty with verses about how during and after the election the catfish walked off wearing a red trucker’s hat, and you miss that catfish, but maybe them dumping you like a school lunch was the final indicator that maybe you shouldn’t have spent so much time getting attached to start with.

Not great timing, though.

So the introvert spends some time alone, finding out more about humanity in fiction than in people.  I hate doing that.  But I’m alone a lot anyway, alone in passions and in person, so might as well disappear into empathy:


I miss compassion.  And if you don’t think it’s possible to learn humanity from a novel, then may I present Exhibit A, which I am reading right now:


This book, like many others, utilizes a wild animal to demonstrate kindness.  One of the characters gets it.  The rest would rather not go there.  While I don’t advocate befriending foxes in order to have companionship, I am encouraged by the fact that foxes or rabbits or squirrels or seagulls don’t use social media.

Yep, it’s a blog…online, nonetheless…and I’ll drop the subject there.

It turns out that my friends can be found in the following pools:

  • People I work with
  • People I worked with
  • People I used to write with (2)
  • People I buy stuff from

Not a great pool.  Some great people in it, but they are busy, and most don’t read. The danger is, the ones who have the most time for me are the first group and the last.

Which means I’m working too much and I’m spending too much and I have no boundaries.  Alone time, then.  With foxes.  Not so much social media.  I don’t want to see who else has walked away because I’m me, and not, instead, loved me because I’m me.

On to what I have been doing lately, as Jamaica would start.  ‚ú®

What I Have Been Reading Lately:  The afore-mentioned fox fable, written by a lovely Brit from the Guardian.  Between this lady, Jeanette Winterson, JoJo Moyes, and JK Rowling, the UK seems to have my ears these days.  I am still working on the Chabon book, though (Moonglow)…more like lingering in it.  Today’s library visit will hopefully include a book on Islamic issues and an old Edward Abbey favorite my brother got me hooked on about six years ago.

What I Have Been Watching Lately:  Still watching Last Week Tonight, still working my way through the entire series of West Wing (again; I usually do this about once a year), still watching a LOT of baseball.  I say “watching” but most of it is the free MLB game of the day playing on my phone and I glance at it if I need a distraction from another work nightmare.  The broadcasts are a boys club of guys trying to crack each other up and sometimes they succeed in getting me to do that.  The free game is rarely the Giants, which is probably a good thing; I still bleed black and orange, but years like this means I get back to the passion of the game in general…and other players in their glory.  Also, I am hooked to the footage of the Flash and the exciting installments of his wins and losses.

I’m also still watching Real Time.  Judge away, America; while you’re at it, I also like other stuff I’m not supposed to, like Hemingway’s fiction and Woody Allen films.  The floor is yours to throw stones.  Yes, Bill Maher does offend me from time to time.  But he wakes me up, too, like Friday’s opening segment with Maajid Nawaz.  Some of my teachers in university angered me beyond measure and got me thinking in the same semester, and I’m used to be offended in otherwise productive discussions.

What I’m Watching On Film:  Last weekend was The Edge of Seventeen–dark, but I love the actors, so that one’s a keeper.  (Pro tip:  I have to dock all movies with puke scenes as 4 instead of 5 stars, so this film had a blemish in case you are also of the nature that you don’t feel you should have to pay any kind of admission price for pieces where someone pukes/pees/poops/etc.). On the rental list is The United Kingdom (David Oyelowo strikes again) and I Am Not Your Negro, which I saw at an indie theatre here in San Diego but which I loved enough to watch again.  Also, I have been rewatching, over and over, the movie Paterson with Adam Driver and Moonlight.  They soothe me.  When movies about verse-writing bus drivers and violence soothe you something’s probably not right in Denmark, but that’s my inclination these days.

What I’m Listening To:  for starters, today with the current social situation, this.  That song is a recurring theme in my life, and I take full responsibility.  Also, a band called First Aid Kit has a lovely song called “I Found A Way” that paints me over so that I can sit in a shadow and nod my head to the beat and agreement.  Also, the remastered Sgt Pepper’s, and the solo album by Dan Auerbach (don’t strain yourself; if you are trying to place that name then here’s a hint–Black Keys).  I have got a dosage of country from the latest season of The Ranch on Netflix, a wonderfully senseless show that I can also play while working to keep from getting spooked (like cattle might), and danced a little in my living room with Garth Brooks’s “Friends in Low Places.”

I do get out, too…dancing on Friday night to a jazz band by the harbor…walks down the jacaranda lane of Kettner…fireworks…cattle drives to promote the local county fair.

Still looking for humanity, after all.  ‚ô•ÔłŹ

#NightstandChronicle #Thirteen: The (Last) Japanese Lover

libraries-best-places-03

One of the wonderful things about living in a community that doesn’t ideologically or culturally agree with me very often is that by some miracle all of the people who buy books for the libraries here do agree with me ideologically and culturally. ¬†Even after nearly four years of living here, I am still surprised to find books recommended to me by The New Yorker and NPR on the New Arrivals shelves at the Carlsbad and San Diego branch ¬†libraries, even though I am fully aware that most readers here are probably reading Patterson, King, or Fifty Shades of Gray. ¬†Not that I’m condemning those choices: ¬†they simply aren’t my choices, so I’m pretty secure in reading books as they come out.

But I received a shock of another kind when I visited the Carlsbad Library last Wednesday. ¬†I was delighted to find the latest Isabel Allende book, “The Japanese Lover,” on the New Arrivals shelf, and also once again surprised; she had recently been to an event in Warwick’s bookstore in San Diego, so shouldn’t all of her books be on hold? ¬†When I went to check out the book, however, it was blocked–it was on hold in the time it took me to find it. ¬†The library let me have it anyway after a series of involving three librarians to override the hold, but I had strict instructions to “read it fast, because you can’t renew it.”

Not to worry, ladies…finally someone else shares my story taste, and I will do my best to get it back to them early.

#OnTheSurface #NightstandChronicleFour #Gatsby

  

It’s been a month of deep crushes, crushes that couldn’t be resolved in requited love.  As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’m reading works reviewed by Fresh Air contributor Maureen Corrigan, and this month the Carlsbad library contributed with her latest book on Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” called “So We Read On.”  Sometimes Corrigan can be a little narcissistic in this book (“Look what I did!” is always a red flag for us Midwesterners), but the sheer amount of love for Fitzgerald and Gatsby lit me up like I used to be lit up at university.  I would walk out of my literature classes at Missouri State (then Southwest Missouri State) floating a little.  The campus wasn’t naturally beautiful (the pretty campus in that area was College of the Ozarks, south of Branson and nearly on the Arkansas border), but I would read great stacks of books by Camus or Dostoyevsky or Austen  or Melville and go into the classroom on a commonly-known bland canvas and walk out of the classroom into Disneyland.  My heart on fire; after re-reading Gatsby, and reading Corrigan’s book, I felt like I got to go back to those classrooms for a little while, a fantastic vacation of the mind from the conservative, unimaginative desert that I live in.  Summer on Long Island!  Boats!  Roadsters!  Slinky 20’s dresses!  And either Cole Porter or Jay-Z, depending on if you watch the Coppola version or the Baz Luhrmann version.

All of this was tuition-free, too; the Corrigan book was from the library and I had the rest of the materials already.

There is a general belief here:  “Why do you need to escape San Diego?  It’s beautiful here.”  Maybe I feel this way about San Diego in parallel to the reasons Nick feels about New York; oh, yes, I can’t argue with the glory, but it ain’t my glory.  My kind of glory isn’t plastic building blocks that lock together or captive killer whales or brewery after brewery.  (Sadly, the only beer my body won’t reject is stout…a small portion of what’s concocted here.)  Well, then, the argument returns, what about that beach, that ocean…with the rest of the millions and no shade?  Ugh.  I need forests, fog, tolerance, green methods of getting around.  My sun, like Nick’s glitter, blinds and stupifies after prolonged exposure. I need my brain coaxed out of this bleached sand assault.

#ItsAMystery

When I was a child, and lived out in the middle of Ohio farmland isolation, my paternal grandmother lived in an adjoining house to ours–we could walk through a door and visit her. ¬†My grandmother spent her retirement in sedentary crossword puzzle-solving, reading mystery novels and watching mystery shows on television. ¬†I loved my grandmother’s house for finding the occasional rare book that wasn’t a mystery (she introduced me to “Gone With the Wind” when I was 13, which made my mother worry), but I detested mysteries. ¬†When I would partake in one, it seemed like half the show or story was the plot and the other half was how the writer made up enough resolution to make the sleuth look like a god. ¬†I thought most mysteries were too neat–“Rear Window” by Hitchcock was lovely, but I liked the fact that it was slightly a mystery and more of just a really great story with pretty people in it. ¬†Dennis Lehane’s stories are far from pretty, but they seem to focus more on story than genre as well.¬†

I have never read the books of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, though…there’s a sheer fear that I’m going to be disappointed.

*****

I tend to detest most genre entertainment for the reason that most of it seems formulaic and produced in a fashion too quick to be quality. ¬†As an added bonus, if you follow me on social media, you know that I tend not to watch much television. ¬†Recently, however, I was persuaded to watch “Downton Abbey”, and was hooked; by “hooked” I mean on the writing, on the cultural dichotomy, and on Masterpiece productions. ¬†Suddenly, television felt elevated beyond the network and cable stuff…it could seem literary. ¬†And, in the concept on related consumer marketing (“if you liked this, you might like…”), I tried on an episode of Masterpiece’s/BBC’s “Sherlock”. ¬†The experience seems to be a whole different brand–not just mystery, not just neatly tied up in a bow at the end, not just a general plot, but as though I’ve finally reached a definition of mystery. ¬†Sherlock isn’t brilliant–he just knows how to “observe.” ¬†His ability to know where to look and what to look for come up against the fact that he is a sociopath. ¬†He’s not a god, but he’s mistaken for one, until someone has more than three sentences of exchange with him.

The entire story, each one, is discovering with the sleuth.

Now to be brave enough to see if the reproduction is as good as the original.