Kevin Smith on Living the Dream

If you don’t know who Kevin Smith is, you’ve been living in a box buried in a caved-in cave.  He’s the wildly-successful filmmaker behind Mallrats, Clerks, Chasing Amy, and Dogma, among others.  He’s done a run on Daredevil, and I have to say he’s just as excellent at writing comics as he is making movies.  He may not be your thing, but you can’t avoid the fact he’s living the dream.

I’ve been in love with him since Clerks.  He’d captured life as a cashier perfectly.  So yeah, maybe I’m a little partial.  So sue me.

He’s started doing #Smonologues on Twitter.  You can find the very first one here, and it’s awesome, but the one I want to highlight is here.  It is a kick in the arse.  It is a reminder of the truly important shit.  And even if you’re not a “creative” person, even if what you want to do in your life has nothing to do with writing or filmmaking or art of any kind, you still need to get your arse kicked, because sometimes buttocks need prodding before you’re motivated to go live your dreams.

So here you go:

But before all of that, you gotta start with the idea – and not just the idea for the story/movie/novel/installation/song/podcast/whatever. You gotta start with the idea that you can do this – something that’s not normally done by everybody else. Since it’s not second nature to take leaps of faith, you have to SMotivate yourself. Even invent language, if you have to. Embrace a reasonable amount of unreasonability.
But nobody else can believe in you if you don’t believe in what you’re doing. I’ve willed almost all the stuff I’ve done into existence, and if I can do that, anybody can do that. So start your chatter: talk about what you’re going to do. Don’t pursue a role, LIVE that role. Like my sister told me, back when I confessed I wanted to be a filmmaker…
“Then BE a filmmaker,” she said. 
“That’s what I’m saying: I wanna be.”
And that’s when she gave me the million dollar advice…
“No – BE a filmmaker. You say you wanna be; just BE a filmmaker. Think every thought AS a filmmaker. Don’t pine for it or pursue it; BE it. You ARE a filmmaker; you just haven’t made a film yet.” 
And it sounded artsy-fartsy as fuck, but it was CRAZY useful advice. A slacker hit the sheets that night, but the CLERKS-guy got out of bed the following morning. 
So plant the seeds early & take as much time as it requires to will your goals into existence. Keep a few going, you’ll never get bored. Expect moments of discouragement, but don’t wallow in them. Remember that if an ass-hat like Kevin Smith can succeed at something like film or life, then what the fuck is stopping YOU from doing the same? I was not ‘to the manor born’. This shit was not manifest, nor was it ever offered.
And just remember that, when you read about some deal or project, sometimes that’s just some bluffy motherfucker trying to change his or her game by willing some shit into existence. 
Only guy I ever heard of who got an amazing life literally handed to him was Hal Jordan. Don’t wait for a dying alien to give you a magic ring: just do it yourself, Slappy. We can’t all be Superman, but we sure as shit can train hard, and with loads of practice, we can elevate our simple, non-Kryptonian selves to be the Batman. And who the fuck doesn’t wanna be Batman? Batman has an impeccable moral compass. He’s clever & mysterious. And when fucktards get sassy, he punches them in the face. Plus, that car.
Ideas cost nothing yet have the potential to yield inexplicably long careers & happy lives. So go ahead: dream a l’il dream. #SMonologueOff

Be it.  Live it.

This is your year.  No excuses.


Kevin Smith on Living the Dream

The Wolf in the Fault and Other Stories

I have to admit something: I may be an atheist, but I’m also a complete sucker for Norse mythology.  When I shared my home with cockroaches, I even sacrificed them to Odin.  It’s somehow more satisfying that way.

Every Thursday, I squee with glee, because I know it’s Thorsday at Lockwood’s place.  I love all of the old Norse gods and goddesses, their monsters and giants, their epic tales and their strange Nordic sense of humor.  A good portion of my writing has been inspired by them.  The imagery, the poetry, all of it’s just perfect for creating something fantastic.  Seeing Lockwood’s posts on the subject brings back all the delight of discovering that non-Greek and Roman mythology kicks serious arse.

Last Thorsday, Lockwood had a bit up on Loki, which inspired David Bressan to delve until he came up with a connection between Norse mythology and earthquakes.  The rest, as they say, is the History of Geology, which in this installment shows the mythical connection between the dire wolf Fenrir (Fenris, if you prefer) and earthquakes (and sparks a little reaction of its own).  Before professional geologists, earthquake science went to the wolves, eh?

Ragnarök obsesses one of my main characters, Chretien Pratt.  The twilight of the gods provides a fitting metaphor for what the world faces in this series (I’m not nice), and imagery of Fenrir swallowing the sun at the end of all things haunts him in his unfinished origin story, where he’s learned he’s fated to speak the world’s eulogy:

I dream of nuclear winter, ash like snow covering the bare branches of blasted trees and shrubs, broken walls of houses, pitted concrete and melted asphalt where streets and cities used to be.

There are no people here, just the great wolf Fenrir swallowing the sun.  When I look at him, I see that he has Jusadan’s gray eyes, and he is weeping.


Fenrir’s mouth burns from the heat.  The sun is halfway down.  Only a sliver lights the landscape now, and it’s thin and cold like watery gold moonlight.  Ash drifts down; heavy, silent, bitter.  I smell charred wolf flesh, old decay from a billion rotted bodies, the burned-ozone tang of radiation.

Shades of the dead fill my vision for a hundred thousand miles.  I only see a fraction of them here in this charred shell that used to be a city park, but they represent the totality.  Through them, I see all the rest, and all of them hear me.  I stand on the crumbling edge of a fountain whose statue melted into the pool halfway through the war, hand clenched around the handle of a scythe sharp enough to slice the quarks from a photon.  I have to speak, but I still don’t know what the words are.

I never wanted this.  I never wanted to be the last, and now I am forever.

Someday, we’ll talk about Odin as well, who has the unfortunate fate of being munched by Fenrir there at the end.  Did I mention I’m not nice to my characters?  Well, the Norse were really not nice to their gods.

That’s probably why I love them so.

The Wolf in the Fault and Other Stories

It's Not ADD! It's Creativity!

So Jonah Leher at Frontal Cortex has this post up: Are Distractible People More Creative?  Well, being a distractible person who likes to believe she’s creative, I found myself clicking through – after, of course, getting distracted by a few other things, like making dinner while watching Head Rush and trying to catch up on Pharyngula.

Turns out there’s good news for the terminally distracted:

Consider a recent study by neuroscientists at Harvard and the University of Toronto that documents the benefits of all these extra thoughts. (It was replicated here.) The researchers began by giving a sensory test to a hundred undergraduates at Harvard. The tests were designed to measure their level of latent inhibition, which is the capacity to ignore stimuli that seem irrelevant. Are you able to not think about the air-conditioner humming in the background? What about the roar of the airplane overhead? When you’re at a cocktail party, can you tune out the conversations of other people? If so, you’re practicing latent inhibition. While this skill is typically seen as an essential component of attention – it keeps us from getting distracted by extraneous perceptions – it turns out that people with low latent inhibition have a much richer mixture of thoughts in working memory. This shouldn’t be too surprising: Because they struggle to filter the world, they end up letting everything in. As a result, their consciousness is flooded with seemingly unrelated thoughts. Here’s where the data gets interesting:  Those students who were classified as “eminent creative achievers” – the rankings were based on their performance on various tests, as well as their real world accomplishments – were seven times more likely to “suffer” from low latent inhibition. This makes some sense: The association between creativity and open-mindedness has long been recognized, and what’s more open-minded than distractability? People with low latent inhibition are literally unable to close their mind, to keep the spotlight of attention from drifting off to the far corners of the stage. The end result is that they can’t help but consider the unexpected.

One of the reasons I write at night is because I’m so very bad at filtering out distractions.  There’s less of that in the wee hours – noisy neighbors go to bed, Twitter and email slack off, phone doesn’t ring (not that I keep my ringers on anyway), cat’s usually mellowing on the couch and friends aren’t begging me to head out for some fun.  I still manage to lose incredible amounts of prime writing time haring off after tangential factoids, spelunking the intertoobz for things unrelated to my original query, and ten thousand other things unrelated to what I should be doing.  For instance, this paragraph just took me several minutes longer than it should have because I kept messing around trying to rid myself of minor discomforts, pulling up various and sundry songs, and thinking about a zillion other things.

If the research is right, that sort of distractibility is one of the reasons I can build worlds and tell stories.  Instead of cursing it, I should probably be reveling in it.  However, I got distracted on the way to the celebration.  Well, “The Human Stain” is an incredible song.  And my hair needed adjusting.  And Yoshitaka Amano and Michael Whelan are incredible artists, so of course I had to spend a moment appreciating their works on my walls.  Did I ever tell you about the time I talked to Michael Whelan’s wife?  She’d called in to order business forms for their gallery back when I worked for the printing company.  When I found out who she was, I asked her if I could ask a very personal question – how old is Michael?  (This was back before the intertoobz could answer each and every trivial question without having to embarrass oneself.)  She told me.  And I said, “Oh, thank the gods.  I wanted him to still be alive so he can do my cover art when I’m finally published!”  She laughed and said Michael would be delighted to oblige.  She’s a lovely person, and one of my fondest memories.  And yes, I still want Michael’s art gracing my novels.

Where were we?  Oh, yes.  Distracted people and creativity.  Righty-o.  So, this is the article I shall shove at anyone who accuses me of having ADD.  Look, it’s not illness, it’s inspiration!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve just gotten distracted by something else…

Tip o’ the shot glass to Brian Romans.

It's Not ADD! It's Creativity!

In Which I Tell You About That Time I Read the Koran

George has this habit of making me think.  Last night, he voiced every thought I wish I had the eloquence to voice on the whole Koran-burning-pastor kerfluffle.  If you haven’t read it, go now and do so.

Sums it up rather wonderfully.  And then, there’s his promised response, Protesting Xenophobic Ignorance.   Yes!  That’s how it’s done!  Counterpoint to useless drivel, beautifully-delivered, and without hyperventilation.  Now, if only the religious folk would learn how to react so productively, we might have a dialogue going, and might even enjoy doing it – even when we point and laugh at each other.  Far better than overheated threats of violence and/or howls of “Help!  Help!  I’m being repressed because these people don’t agree with me!”

So, that, together with PZ’s take, pretty much sums up my feelings on the matter.  Besides, if the First Amendment’s to mean anything, some outrageous idiot has the perfect right to burn mass-produced copies of a book on their own property.  Hell, Christians do it to Harry Potter all the time, and I sincerely hope they’ll do me the same favor.  Might I suggest marshmallows with that religious frenzy?  Seems a waste of a good fire otherwise.

Anyway.  Due to the fact I had to be at work for twelve fucking hours today, I missed the whole Koran-reading thing.  That’s not to say I haven’t read many bits of the Koran, and actually appreciated several.  I’ll cannibalize anything for inspiration, thee knows.  Back in the days when I had a desk, I used to have the self-same edition George was reading sitting by the computer.  When I got blocked, I’d have a good flip through its pages until something caught my eye.  And I thought I’d share some of those moments for Day-After-Read-a-Koran Day.

Wanna know how an atheist finds inspiration in religious literature?  Then read on.  There’s even some religious conflict!

Ah, good, the gang’s all here.  Shall try not to bore you.

I have one completed novel under my belt, written when I was mightily annoyed at the soggy knights-in-tarnished-armor being trotted out as antiheroes at the time.  Alas, it’s set close to the end of the series I intend to write, so its dawn upon the world stage shall have to wait.  In medias res is one thing, but that would be taking the concept a bit far.  Because I write horribly out-of-sequence, and furthermore needed to know where things ended up in order to know where they should begin, I jumped to events arising out of that novel, and ran into two characters I’m going to enjoy foisting upon the literary stage someday.  One is the main evil human dude, and then there’s his accomplice, who practically worships him.  Worships for a good reason, as this passage from the Koran so eloquently captures:

From Daylight:

By the light of day, and by the dark of night, your Lord has not forsaken you, nor does He abhor you.

The life to come holds a richer prize for you than this present life.  You shall be gratified by what your Lord will give you.

Did He not find you an orphan and give you shelter?
Did He not find you in error and guide you?
Did He not find you poor and enrich you?

When I stumbled upon that, it led to much fruitful exploring of the relationship between these two characters, and the conflicts and plot twists that arise from it.  And yes, our poor dear worshiper was literally plucked from an orphanage by a lord – in this case, a Duke – which is why that passage caught my eye.

I have a short story collection planned, to be entitled Cautionary Tales.  The stories span the time and space of my story universe, which is a lot of territory.  What binds them together is the theme of mistakes, hence the title.  And wouldn’t you know it?  The Koran has the perfect title quote:

Cautionary tales, profound in wisdom, have been narrated to them: but warnings are unavailing.

I’ll take it!

There’s some fantastic end-of-days-doom-and-destruction bits in the Koran, ripe pickings for the dire stuff.  I have an entire sequence built around three quotes:

The Cessation

When the heavens shall be stripped bare, when Hell shall be set blazing, when Paradise shall be brought near; then each soul shall know what it has done.


…each soul shall know what it has done and what it has failed to do.


Whither then are you going?

Now, you’ll just have to trust me that these fragments work wonderfully well in context, because right now the context is in dire need of a good revision.  But the three perfectly capture a person balanced on the edge of a critical decision, and I love them for that.

I’ve noticed that most religious texts have bits and pieces which, when polished and placed in a new setting, sparkle very prettily.  And in historical context, some of the less-beautiful bits can shine as well.  Take this one:

When the sun shall be darkened,
When the stars shall be thrown down,
When the mountains shall be set moving,
When the pregnant camels shall be neglected,
When the savage beasts shall be mustered,
When the seas shall be set alight,
When the infant girl buried alive shall be asked
for what crime she has been slain,
When the records of men’s deeds shall be laid open,
When the heavens shall be stripped bare,
When Hell shall be set blazing,
When paradise shall be brought near,
Then each soul shall know what it has done.

My Islamic Civ professor noted that in ancient Arabia, it was terribly common for female infants to be exposed.  No value in a girl.  Mohammed frowned on that practice.  She explained that, as repressive as the Koran seems toward women, it was actually a vast improvement over how women were treated in those days.  She also taught Women’s Issues, so although I haven’t fully explored the context myself and a quick read through Wikipedia’s entry suggests a mixed bag, I’ll provisionally take her word for it.  That’s not to say Islam hasn’t stagnated and even backslid in the women’s rights department – it has, and rather severely.  But at least the Koran advised that murdering babies just because they’re not your preferred gender isn’t a righteous practice.  I’ll grant it that.

(Not surprising that Mohammed showed a wee bit more respect toward women than the culture at large tended to at the time.  His first wife was a businesswoman, and one gets the impression she wouldn’t take any shit.  He certainly didn’t risk having multiple wives until she was safely dead.  From what I’ve read of her, I wouldn’t have fucked with her, either.)

The above-quoted passage led to the religious conflict I enticed you with.  A long, long time ago in a workplace far, far away, I’d gone a bit wild with my new color printer and made up a couple of pages to hang at my desk.  One contained that passage; another contained a few quotes from the Tao Te Ching (chapters 2 and 14, if you’re interested), and a third a poem by Neil Gaiman .  During a hiring frenzy, before they ordered new cubicles, it came to pass that we had to share desks: one early and one late person per desk.  And a mystery materialized: when I came in every afternoon, my lovely little hangings were all crooked, and they were developing new tack holes in their corners.  ZOMG WTF??

A coworker explained that when my deskmate came in, she’d spend the first few minutes of her shift busily removing the art from my half of the desk, and the last bit of her shift putting it back up willy-nilly.  So I left her a note: please stop doing that.  Next thing I know, I’m in a conference room with the call center director, my supervisor, and the deskmate, who is slathered in crosses.  She’d called the meeting because she just couldn’t take it anymore.  Those icky horrid quotes from other religions threatened her Christian faith.  She babbled on and on about how very scared they made her.

Oh, yes, you may laugh.  I couldn’t.  I was staring down the barrel of some serious management-power.  After a few moments of stunned silence, in which my supervisor watched me with attentive interest, the call center director looked vaguely worried, and the deskmate looked like she was about to shit herself in fear (sheet-white and shaking she was), I finally said, “So why don’t you just bring in your own poster to cover them up?  You can even use magnets.  There’s a metal strip up there.”

My supervisor nearly passed out.  She’d been holding her breath, you see, because if she’d breathed, she would’ve been screaming with laughter.

The next day, I came in to an enormous, gawdawful Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul poem dangling over my offending art.  Management pulled me in later to advise just how very grown up and diplomatic I was, and thanked me for finding an equitable solution for all.  And yes, we all giggled a bit.  Well, the whole situation had been patently ridiculous.

To this day, if there was one text I would gladly burn, it would be that horrific offense against poetry.  But as I hadn’t bought the poster myself, I refrained from taking it outside for a smoke, though every literature-appreciating coworker begged me to.  That thing caused more angst in the call center than my little bits ever had.  If I ever run across a copy of it for sale, it is Bonfire Day at the Hunter household. 

Bring marshmallows.  I’ll pony up the chocolate and graham crackers.  For it is written, “When life hands you mass-produced ‘literature’ actually worth burning, make s’mores.”

*Update: See this post on Mohammed and Women’s Rights for a good discussion as to why historical context doesn’t mean jack diddly in the modern context.

In Which I Tell You About That Time I Read the Koran

Genealogy of a Dream

You will shortly understand the reason for this illustration:

Tonight, for the first time all week, my cat did not shove her dear little face into mine whilst howling, or use the bed as a trampoline, or do any of the other things designed to wake Mommy up from her nap because Kitteh wants to go hang out on the porch. This allowed me to dream. I dreamt of Edward (is that his name?) from Twilight.

Now, ordinarily, this would have been a traumatic experience. I haven’t read the books or seen the movies, but heard just enough to realize that reading the books or seeing the movies would induce terminal vomiting. However. This dream answered an important question: why the fuck would a vampire want to afflict himself with perpetual high school?

Enter Desmonda. I’m not sure what she was. Some kind of immortal, not a vampire, who as a tween (apparently before becoming immortal, or discovering she was immortal, or whatthefuckever) had been taken in by Edward during a runaway episode. Apparently, he raised her right. The dream opened with her, and she was h-h-hot and Einstein-smart. Picture her, dressed in skin-tight jeans and some sassy red shirt, purse flung casually over her shoulder, dark hair flowing, and striding up the sidewalk with an attitude destined to leave you awestruck. K? Got her envisioned?

She was going back to high school.

She was posing as a teenager specificially so she could go back to high school.

And my brain supplied the backstory: she was posing as a teenager so she could go back to high school in order to make being a nerd so irresistably sexy, so unutterably cool, that all the kids would of course strive to become nerds themselves. She was going to influence a generation to believe brains = beauty (which they do, but how many kids believe that?). And she wasn’t just preaching it to the kids, because we all know that talking to teens is rather like telling your cat to go play trampoline somewhere else.

Desmonda meets Edward coming up the sidewalk near the school from the other direction, and lo, he has independently reached the same conclusion. He, too, is returning to high school in order to make nerd the ideal every teen wishes to attain. And I can guarantee you that reason for endless high school is so much more awesome than whatever excuse Stephanie Meyer cooked up that they can only be fit onto one graph if one uses a logarithmic scale.

I may have to write this as a fan-fic story someday, just for shits and giggles. It delighted me. It puzzled me for a moment – I mean, WTF? But then I discovered the genealogy of the dream.

My friend Raji at work had been yammering about having to get New Moon soon, which made me want to cry. I can’t believe so many of my friends are so tragically coming down with this Twilight disease.

And the second element was PZ’s post, in which he immolates Mooney and Kirshenbaum’s vapid new book, then lights a thousand candles from the flames:

In order to be what it is, though, science must live. It’s a process carried out by human beings, and it can’t be gagged and enslaved and shackled to a narrow goal, one that doesn’t rock the boat. Imagine they’d written a book that tried to tell artists that they shouldn’t challenge the culture; we’d laugh ourselves sick and tell them that they were completely missing the point. Why do you think some of us are rolling our eyes at their absurd request that scientists should obliging accommodate themselves to a safe frame that every middle-class American would find cozy? They don’t get it.

Somehow, they think that Carl Sagan’s great magic trick was that he didn’t make Americans feel uncomfortable. I think they’re wrong. Sagan’s great talent was that he showed a passion for science. People made fun of his talk of “billyuns and billyuns”, but it was affectionate, because at the same time he was talking about these strange, abstract, cosmic phenomena, everyone could tell he was sincere — he loved this stuff.


Our next generation of great science communicators should be flesh-and-blood people with personalities, every one different and every one with different priorities, all singing out enthusiastically for everything from astronomy to zoology, and they should sometimes be angry and sometimes sorrowful and sometimes deliriously excited. They shouldn’t hesitate to say what they think, even if it might make Joe the Plumber surly. If you want to improve American science and the perception of science by the public, teach science first and foremost, because what you’ll find is that your discipline is then populated with people who are there because they love the ideas. And, by the way, let them know every step of the way that science is also a performing art, and that they have an obligation as a public intellectual to take their hard-earned learning and share it with the world.

Thus you have Edward and Desmonda, headed back to high school to turn science into chic.

Genealogy of a Dream

Hi, My Name is Dana, and I'm Addicted to House

Don’t watch much fiction on the teevee. Not since that splendid summer where I told time by which program was coming on next – back in the day when titles were longer and shows were, well, 80s: Hardcastle & McCormick, Scarecrow and Mrs. King, Simon & Simon, Magnum P.I., many others whose names now escape me, possibly because they were too long. That was the summer when short-lived True Blue taught me more practical jokes than I’ll ever have the time or cojones to use, and started my love affair with New York’s Emergency Services Unit (“When citizens are in trouble, they call the cops. When cop are in trouble, they call the ESU”). Good times, good times.

For years, I didn’t have cable, and thus no fiction. Well, not quite none. My best friend, Garrett, brought his Highlander videos and got me thoroughly addicted (Methos is teh awesome). Justin, who’s lined up to become my Professional Layabout should I become rich and famous, hooked me on Alias and Firefly. Chaos Lee and Justin together turned me into a rabid Buffy and Angel fan. Through the kindness of other peoples’ DVD collections, I didn’t completely lose touch with excellent teevee shows.

But for the past several years, I’ve used my television as an extension of my research (when my ex-roommate wasn’t monopolizing it, that is). People told me about shows I just had to see, and I shrugged. Too busy with writing, too disinterested in most of what’s on offer. Even the truly good stuff – Heroes, Numbers, other shows that should’ve been right up my alley – couldn’t hold my attention. Give me the Science Channel or nothing. Well, aside from the occasional episode of House.

I first saw House whilst suffering from an ear infection that left me incapable of doing anything other than lying on the couch while the world spun and my stomach heaved. My roomie had it recorded. I turned it on for reasons unknown. Writers will understand what happened next, as I’m sure all of them have had the spit-take experience of seeing one character basically embody one of your own. Turn Dr. House into a female FBI agent who is manifestly not addicted to Vicodin, and you’ve pretty much got Dusty. Although she’s a shade more diplomatic when it comes to forcing people to follow her prescribed course.

Old friends are on that show. Hugh Laurie, who played Prince George on Blackadder, is of course genius. He shocked me with his range. You don’t really equate an 18th-century British doofus with a brilliant American doctor. Anyone else have to look on IMDB before you believed it was really the same actor?

Robert Sean Leonard played one of my favorite characters in Dead Poets Society, Neil Perry. I still think of him as Neil. It’s good to see him playing an utterly awesome character on one of the best shows on teevee – he deserves a lot more recognition than he gets.

But it’s not those two who addicted me to House, as good as they are. It’s Jesse Spencer, who plays Dr. Chase. He’s brilliant. Don’t even know how to ‘splain it, but I’ll sum up this way: were I dying of some mysterious illness, I’d want him to be the one treating me (and House, of course, diagnosing, although I’d request they didn’t follow his first few treatment ideas). Watch how he interacts with patients in crisis, and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

(No, it’s not just because he’s cute. I’m not into blonds. Hell, I didn’t even fall for Orlando Bloom until he went back to being a brunette.)

Sometimes, a character will captivate me. I want to study everything about them: the way they move, the way they speak, their expressions, all of it. What this usually means is that they’re reminding me of one of my own cast members. And I’ll watch obsessively until I can place exactly who. Even if the show or movie’s teh suck, I’ll watch it repeatedly – hell, I suffered through that hideous made-for-teevee Merlin movie. That was because of this guy:

He made me realize that a minor character was actually the center of my universe. And no, it’s not because he’s a brunette. Geez, people, I’m not that shallow. And no, the character’s nothing like Mordred. Quite the opposite, in fact. They don’t even look much like each other, aside from the dark hair and gray eyes, and the slim build. That’s all beside the point. He was just enough like that character to get the Muse a-whippin’.

Whoever Dr. Chase is reminding me of probably won’t end up having more than a passing resemblance, either. Doesn’t matter. The plain and simple fact is that something’s trying to tell me somebody.

I’m just grateful that this time, it’s using an excellent show to do so.

While I feed this House addiction, any of the writers in the cantina want to tell me about the weird ways you find inspiration?

Hi, My Name is Dana, and I'm Addicted to House

J.K. Rowling Saves the World

I think J.K. Rowling must be a literary superhero. Check out these moves.

THE HARRY POTTER EFFECT….Via Dan Drezner, the NEA has released its latest survey of reading habits, and the news is good. Fiction reading among young adults is way up, and overall reading is up too. More than 50% of adults read a piece of literature last year. Huzzah!

Check out the angle on that slope! She almost got us back up to the reading level we enjoyed before cable, video games, and the intertoobz all became awesome wicked cool.

But that’s not all she’s done. She’s badass at fighting terrorism, too:

In fact, the interrogator who successfully brought down Abu Musab al-Zarqawi — and who has written and spoken publicly about how torture doesn’t work — told Laura Ingraham last month he broke one insurgent after he gave him a copy of Harry Potter.

That’s right, bitches. She’s all that.

J.K. Rowling Saves the World


Captain Future has an absolutely gorgeous diary up at Daily Kos telling the story of how this photo was taken:

The Apollo 8 mission was to just orbit the Moon, not land. The astronauts had been concentrating on the lunar surface, when Frank Borman caught a glimpse of color on the gray horizon, a conspicuous glow of blue and white against the black sky. It was the Earth. While he excitedly snapped photos in black and white, Bill Anders loaded his camera with color film, and got the shot that became historic. We know it as “Earthrise.”

And it almost never happened. But you’ll have to head over there for the full story, and the full-size photo. I invite you to read the story, and then just spend a few moments gazing at that cloud-swirled blue marble. That’s home, rising in a lunar sky.

There’s another photo, not quite as famous, but just as awe-inspiring:

Carl Sagan named it “The Pale Blue Dot.” It was Voyager’s Valentine’s Day gift to Earth, a portrait. The distance was so vast – nearly 4 billion miles – that Earth filled less than a pixel, bathed in a ray from the sun.

Seeing Earth like this places everything in a different perspective:

In a commencement address delivered May 11, 1996, Sagan related his thoughts on the deeper meaning of the photograph:

Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.

Exactly so.


Bugger This. I Want A Better World.

Just past the winter solstice, on the cusp of a New Year, my thoughts inevitably begin to play the retrospection game. I hate it. All of those end-of-year “Best of/Worst of” lists drive me crazy, my New Year’s resolutions are always the same, and it’s not like things magically change on January 1st. Every year I am firm in my determination not to indulge in the sillyness.

This year, the failure doesn’t sting. Gazing backward leaves my jaw agape. Just a few highlights: we found water ice on Mars. We learned that America’s government approved torture at the very highest levels. The world’s economy imploded with horrific speed. Barack Obama became America’s first African American president, and gave us all something to look forward to in 2009: a future.

And I became a blogger, joined forces with other brilliant bloggers, and started Carnival of the Elitist Bastards. This is of a piece with voting for Obama. I did all three things for one simple reason: I want a better world.

We can make that happen.

Several years ago, I read a graphic novel series called The Authority. You all know about Spiderman’s schtick – “with great power comes great responsibility.” Well, Jenny Sparks, leader of The Authority, takes that to its logical conclusion. If you have the power to change the world for the better, that’s what you do. No whining, no excuses. Do the job. Fix the world.

Together, we can do that.

We all have our special talents, areas of interest and expertise. We’ve put them to good use in these last many sailings, battling ignorance, expanding knowledge. We’re taking back the word “elitist” and making it respectable again. And it’s working. Have you seen the Elitist Bastards Obama’s stocked his Cabinet with? There’s a Nobel Laureate in there, for the first time ever.

Okay, so maybe we can’t quite claim responsibility for that. Not completely. But every one of us who voted for him has played a part in bringing wisdom back to Washington. I claim this year in the name of Elitist Bastard.

We have a chance now to make this a better world. Time we seize it with both hands.

This year, we shall make it our business to spread the love of learning. We shall ensure that the word “elitist” is once again a mark of distinction rather than a cry of derision. We will continue to beat down ignorance wherever it raises its dribbling head.

But we can go further.

Are you fed up with poverty? Act. Support the politicians who are working to eradicate it, volunteer, donate, train people for new and better jobs.

Fed up with ignorance? Act. Watch what your school board does. Push for better education standards in your country. Promote childhood literacy. Educate.

Fed up with war? Act. Push politicians to reach for diplomacy before they turn to armies. Get involved with programs that attempt to bring enemies together. Make people all too aware of the cost of war.

Fed up with global warming? Act. Get the facts out there. Support environmental groups. Plant a tree, green up your house, protest pollution. Roll up your sleeves and clean up a neighborhood.

We can do much more than we think, just by taking action. Signing a petition may not seem like much, but it adds one more voice, turning a murmur into a shout. Donating a few dollars may not seem like enough, but as we saw with Obama’s campaign, enough small donations add up to plenty of money for change. A few hours of your time may not seem like much, but a few hours may be all that’s needed to change someone’s life. Don’t hold back just because you can’t do much. Become a snowflake, as my character Ishaarda Telsuun recommends:

“The answer is leverage. Place a thousand snowflakes in precisely the right places, and you cause a thousand avalanches…. A thousand snowflakes can reach half the world.”

Ghandi said we must be the change we wish to see in the world. We don’t even have to become fabulously rich or powerful or prestigious to do it. All we have to do is add our snowflake’s worth of weight to the scales: enough of us together will make them tilt.

And then we change the world for the better.

Bugger This. I Want A Better World.