I am not a luddite

Source of image from:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/jblyberg/2073940586/

Source of image from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jblyberg/2073940586/

Let’s ignore, for a moment, all the issues currently being discussed about the Kindle and other e-Readers. A kindle, no matter how awesome the e-ink could be, is not a book. It will never have heft, texture and smell of a book.

This weekend, where I spent multiples of hours reading on a hammock, I was in heaven. I cannot even begin to comprehend how that would have worked with an eReader. It is not a question of contrast–I’m sure I could set it so I could read outside–or battery life. The actual feeling of the paper book in my hand added a level of comfort no gadget could provide.

One day, I may enjoy a kindle–for Newspapers and Magazines–but until the device can actually FEEL like a book, I won’t bother with it.


The Writer’s axiom, “write what you know,” led me to the question: What are the Blogger Axioms? If the rule was, “blog what you know,” then I think there would be far fewer blogs posts. One axiom I did read was, “don’t blog anything that would embarrass a potential employer.” This axiom has no flair. I recognize that an axiom is supposed to be self-evident, but it does not have to be bland.

There is something provocative about writing what one knows about. It implies that the writer has some sort of special knowledge, or a gift, that they are imparting to the world. Ignore the potential for pretension in this. Instead, think of some kind of writing–fiction, nonfiction, poetry, whatever–that made you sit up and say, “Holy shit. This is good.” Writing that set your brain on fire. You don’t have to actually share the list you come up with (although I’d appreciate it if you did in the comments), just recognize what makes those particular stories so fantastic.

Even a good research paper, or journal article, can have that effect. These scholarly works aim to inform the world with some new bit (or twist) of information, including HOW they came across this new knowledge. In essence, this is just the story of how the knowledge was discovered. The best of the papers, in my opinion, share this information and bring you into that research.Granted, it has been a long time since I read a journal article, but I do seem to remember being blown away by Field Theory and Cognitive Dissonance papers.

When one writes what they know about, they can impart some of their own experiences. They can create, or recreate, their story in a method that makes the reader a participant, not an observer.

Good blogs should be able to do this as well.

So what do I know? Not much. I know a lot about juveniles and delinquency. I know a little about music. I know more about scifi/fantasy than I care to admit, and I pretend to know more about Irish history than I really do. I don’t know nearly enough about Chicago to write novels about–but I do know enough to post about my city.

There is another interesting facet about this idea: The more one writes, the more one learns. Part of this has to do with reading and researching a topic; however, when writing a story, or a scene, characters begin to develop their own sense of self. What a writer starts with begins to morph into something else. The same holds true for blogs. Blogs change over time, especially if the writer blogs about what they know about.

There are books that I need to read–books on writing, specifically–that I think supplement my point. However, I’d rather hear from readers about their experiences with reading and writing.


Sorry folks, I got nothing today. Absolutely nothing.

Unless, of course, I talk about this new book I’m reading.

I was told to read this The Lies of Locke Lamora by two people. I trust their taste in fiction, even if one of them has a tendency to taunt me with particularly gruesome (and depressing) scenes.

I’m about a third of the way through the book. It reminds me of a game that Will once ran. The much loved–but ill-fated–Thieves Game. Skulduggery, con men, thieves all set in a beautifully executed fantasy world. I’ve been on a con man/glib talker kick in fiction for at least five years now. I think it has become a preferred aspect of the fiction I read.

In the eighty pages I’ve read, Lynch has managed to create and describe a wonderfully detailed setting: Camorr, a rich and diverse city teaming with merchants, peasants, nobles and thieves. Our protagonist, Locke, is clever and nimble, but thus far not particular adept at fighting. He’s the trickster, not the warrior.

All in all, I’d rather be reading the book than blogging or working…which I have to get back to now.

Ask a Bastard: The Bastard, and only the Bastard, Answers


Another week, more questions. I have had some requests by my more dedicated readers that only I answer questions. What I propose is this: If you want more than just my answer, say so in the comments. If you want my bargain-rate wisdom, and only my wisdom, say so in the question. With that out of the way, we begin with the following questions, in Reverse Order:

Res Asks:

Why? I mean, GOD, WHY?!?

Because we, as a species, cannot conceive of anything else.

Also, why does this damn nicotine patch keep peeling off at the edges? This box of patches cost almost $60 (that’s $4.28 per patch, almost precisely what I would spend on smokes), and for that kind of money, you’d think they could make something that would actually stick to your damn arm all day! My cigarettes never fell apart while I was smoking them…

The patch keeps falling off because the folks who made the patch are trying to bilk you for all your cash. They don’t want you to kick the habit. They want you to pay for their yacht’s gas.

Von Asks:

My question for next week. What, exactly, is cat vacuuming? AND Am I stupid for not knowing?

the VON is not stupid. Cat Vacuuming, which I learned from this particular reader, is “a pointless excuse used avoid any real work.” This is the same definition from Forward Motion. I use it on this blog to make a clear distinction between useful rambling and my frequent attempts to avoid real work.

Brando Asks

If no one asks a question, is there an answer?

There is always an answer. The problem is figuring out the right question to ask.

Coming up with the right question is incredibly difficult. It means going beyond simple navel gazing and serious introspection. Brando, you need to ask yourself what is keeping you from asking the correct question.

AG asks

AG is in the market for a new car. Could we get some suggestions? AG will pay up to $30K for a new car. AG would like to spend less and prefers a good deal on a used car. I also prefer foreign cars, but am happy to discuss all possibilities.

VON. You wanted to answer this question. AG, I will do more research on this question but first:

1) What are your priorities in a new car?
2) Are there certain brands you have excluded from you list?

I am saving the following questions for the next round.

Rachel Asks Two Questions–via the electronic miracle of Email

Why do bad things happen to good people? Question of the ages, I know. I was just thinking about it recently for various reasons, fortunately things have been pretty good here for us down in Indianapolis.

Hell if I know.

I don’t know if I subscribe to any particular belief system anymore. I would love to be able to say, “It is God’s Will” or “Karma” and be done with it. Spiritually speaking, I’m running on fumes. I’ll give this a shot, though.

Good people tend to do into fields wherein their resources are limited–poor pay, benefits and long hours. So when bad things happen, they don’t have the same amount of resources to cope.

For instance: My parents died far too young, my godchildren have some special needs and I know some pretty brilliant people who, given some nasty circumstances, are in a bad spot professionally speaking. There is no rhyme or reason for any of these factors. If my family had more money, my parents may have lived longer. If my godchildren came from the über wealthy, I’m sure they’d have amazing and fantastic around the clock care. If my friend were wealthy, they wouldn’t be stuck at dead end jobs.

Still. Bad things happen to everyone.

and question #2 –

What’s a good book to read this summer? Inquiring minds want to know.

This is a question that totally deserves extra treatment.

I recommend

“Gentlemen of the Road: A Tale of Adventure” (Michael Chabon)

“Don’t Get Too Comfortable” (David Rakoff)

“The Book of Vice: Very Naughty Things (and How to Do Them)” (Peter Sagal)

“The Devil You Know” (Mike Carey)

To name a quick few. I’m sure other bloggers will have a plethora of recommendations. Hell, check out my Goodreads list for more recommendations.

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