Book Review: You’re Never Weird on the Internet, Almost, by Felicia Day

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Title: You’re Never Weird on the Internet, Almost
Author: Felicia Day
Genre: Memoir
Age Range: Adults and Teens
Rating: 5 stars (I loved this book!)
Versions Available: Audiobook, eBook, Hardcover

 

I’ve been a fan of Felicia Day since 2008 when I watched her play Penny in Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog. Then a friend told me Day’s own Internet show, The Guild, inspired Joss Whedon to make Dr. Horrible, so I watched all six seasons of this fun show on Netflix.

The Guild, written and produced by Felicia Day, is about a group of World of Warcraft-like gamers who end up meeting in person. The group represents the variety of computer gamers that exist—slacker teenagers, bored stay-at-home moms, penny-pinching middle aged men, socially challenged twenty-something guys, and sharp-tongued college  students. It’s available to watch instantly on Netflix.

I’m also a frequent watcher of Day’s Vaginal Fantasy Romance Book Club on YouTube—where she and four friends discuss speculative fiction and historical romance novels that have a feminist bent. Plus, though I stopped watching Supernatural regularly after season six, I always watched the two Supernatural episodes she appeared in each season, as quirky computer hacker Charlie, .

Day writes about her unusual childhood being homeschooled in the south– “for hippy, not Jesus reasons”, how she got a full scholarship to study violin and math at the University of Texas at sixteen, how she built her acting career after deciding she didn’t want to be a professional musician, and how she ended up finding a more fulfilling career on the Internet. Her book was utterly charming and inspiring for me as a writer.

Day is very honest about her struggles with perfectionism, procrastination, and her lack of confidence. Her homeschooling childhood is fascinating, but the best parts of the book, for me, were the details of how a writing class, and then a critique group, pressured her into giving up her Internet gaming addiction and take the plunge into writing. Her group then helped her produced her own TV pilot. The details of how The Guild became an Internet success are interesting, funny, messy and so real.

Day follows these exciting chapters with several soul-searching chapters on dealing with the pressures of success in an honest reassuring manner. Success is one of my biggest nightmares and so it was especially comforting to read about Day’s struggles and triumphs dealing with her own demons and health issues. Spoiler alert: She even had her own thyroid health problems!

The last chapter on Gamegate is a good summary of the nightmarish attack on Internet  women. Day is honest about how hesitant she was to speak out about these attacks and why. Her story of what happened when she did finally speak out is harrowing but inspiring. Like other women on the Internet, she’s come to terms with how thick-skinned women need be, and has found her own way to be honest and real with the public, while at the same time protecting herself. It’s reassuring, inspiring stuff!

Day reads the audiobook herself, which is like having your coolest friend tell you all about her Hollywood/ Internet adventures while you do the dishes or clean the house. I highly recommend this book for anyone who writes, likes gaming, enjoys popular culture, or just likes a good memoir.

 

Why Are Women the Heaviest Users of Today’s Technology?

Slate has an interesting interview with Intel researcher Genevieve Bell. In Bell's study of technology adoption and gender, she found that women "are the heaviest users of today’s most widespread and vital technologies: the Internet, mobile phones (voice and text), Skype, e-readers, other e-devices, GPS, and all social networking sites except LinkedIn."

Bell points out that women tend to be responsible for the bulk of the social work in their families and have the least amount of free time.  Technology helps them do their social jobs better — like keeping track of birthdays and making it easier to keep in touch with relatives who are far away.

It also allows women to enjoy entertainment around the their few minutes of free time in their busy schedule.  According to Bell, this is why historically women are bigger book buyers than men, because books are a form of entertainment that a person can fit in during the few minutes she has between caring for others.  Bell found that now women are more likely to buy eBooks and download TV shows for the same reasons.

Bell offers a take on technology that rarely gets talked about in the traditional media.  Check out the whole interview here.

The Book Thief and Whose Side Are You On?

Books:
Title: The Book Thief
Author: Markus Zusak
Year Published: 2006
Rating: 4 stars
Ages: 14 and up
Format: Listened to audiobook on mp3 player from Audible.com

A twelve-year-old girl in World War II Germany starts her life as a book thief when she arrives at the home of her new foster parents in a suburb of Munich. This is a lovely tale about regular life and how it exists even during war.  I had heard a lot of enthusiastic reviews about how this book would blow my mind.  I think it's easy for a story to get overpraised once it's been out for a while. While the story didn't blow my mind — like it seemed to do for some of my friends and family — I still enjoyed this sweet story a lot.

Music:
Ani Di Franco, Which Side Are You On? (4 stars) [2012] – Ani Di Franco's new album combines of all things I liked about her previous albums with an added maturity and wisdom.  The title song, "Which Side Are You On?" is a rousing battle cry to inspire the regular people trying to defend ourselves in the class war and culture war the right has been waging on the 99% for the past 30 years.  Her quieter songs like, "Promiscuity", are full of sage advice about why sex and relationships are good and what they have to teach you. Like her previous albums, this one comforted me, entertained me, and inspired me.

6 Gender-Essentialist Myths About Dating and the Bedroom Debunked

Music:
The Yoshida Brothers, Hishou [2007] (***)  – The Yoshida Brothers play enjoyable instrumental music that mixes a traditional Japanese sound with a pop/rock aesthetic. 

Blogs:
 6 Gender-Essentialist Myths About Dating and The Bedroom Debunked

University of Michigan psychologist Terri Conley and colleagues went through psychology studies to see which gender myths about sex could really be proven by research and found many of the myths aren't true.  I first saw a good summary of this on Feministing and then read the link it's based on at Live Science.  Here's my summary of the two links:

1. Men want "sexy", women want "status"
This stereotype only holds up on paper when college students are abstractly asked about their "ideal mate".  When researchers looked at how men and women rated real people in actual speed-dating situations the gender differences "evaporated".  "There was no difference in the way they rated their romantic interest based on those people's attractiveness and earnings."

2. Men want may sex partners, women want far fewer
Researchers found that a small number of very sexually charged individuals were skewing the average.  Turns out the typical number of partners wanted by BOTH men and women was "one". That's right.  The typical man and woman said they wanted one partner.

Also, remember those studies where they asked men and women how many partners they had and men answered with much higher numbers than women?  Turns out a lot of men over-estimated their numbers and women under-estimated theirs (probably because of social pressures.) In studies where men and women were" tricked" into thinking they were attached to a lie-detector, men and women reported the same number of partners.

3. Men think about sex more than women do
They do slightly, but it's only 18 times a day over women's 10 times a day.  The cliché that men think about sex every 7 seconds is not true. Also, men think about other needs like food and sleep more than women too.

4. Women have far fewer orgasms than men do
Studies suggest this is true, especially in one-night stands, where women had one-third of the orgasms men had.  However, in committed-relationships, "women had orgasms 79 percent as often as men". "The fact that the gap can shrink so much based on relationship type suggests that having a partner who cares about a woman's sexual satisfaction is more important than biology." 

(This is why I hate the often repeated myth that women don't like sex.  It's more like women don't like sex where their needs aren't met.  Seems to me that men who repeat this myth are basically telling others that they don't take their partners needs seriously and therefore probably aren't going to be very satisfying in bed.  At least they warn you. )

5. Men like casual sex more than women do
There was a 1989 study where "a trained young man or woman propositioned college students."  70 percent of the men said yes to the woman but no women said yes to the man.  While the study could mean that women aren't interest in casual sex, it didn't take into consideration cultural factors. (This isn't in the article but the study took place at a Florida college post-Ted Bundy, the good looking man in Florida who raped and murdered young women,  and none of the researchers seemed to realize that this could influence the results for the women.)

In another study,  when women were asked if they'd be interested in a one-night stand with someone famous (like Johnny Depp) and men were asked about an equivalent celebrity, the gender difference "evaporated."  According to the researchers, women may reject most one-night stands because they don't think the man will be good in bed.  It also seems like safety concerns and concerns about being "slut-shamed" about casual sex are greater for women.

6. Women are pickier than men
In a 2009 study researchers  found that "people are choosier when they're approached by a potential partner, and less choosy when they're doing the approaching". In our society, men are typically encouraged to do the approaching and women the receiving. If women were to do more of the approaching, we would probably start seeing more "picky" men too.

The Glitch Mob, Women at the Movies, and My Fall TV List

TV Quote: "For a while in the 1970's, our town was run by a freaky cult.  Every few years the remaining members predict the world's gonna end and they have an all-night vigil in the park. It's so annoying.  Turns out when you think the world's ending you don't aim so carefully in the Porta-Potties." (Leslie Knope on Parks and Recreation)

Music:
The Glitch Mob, Drink The Sea [2010] (***1/2) – I asked my kids to give me a list of musical groups they enjoy so I could broaden my musical listening.  This electronic group was on my son's list.  It's good — mostly wordless — atmospheric music for driving, biking, walking or writing.

Blogs:
Flick Chicks: A Guide to Women in the Movies – Check out these funny descriptions of women in the movies by Mindy Kahling.  She not only plays Kelly Kapor on The Office, but is also one of the show's producers and writers.  Her description of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl is probably one of the clearest descriptions I've read on this character-type:

The Ethereal Weirdo

The smart and funny writer Nathan
Rabin coined the term Manic Pixie Dream Girl to describe this archetype
after seeing Kirsten Dunst in the movie “Elizabethtown.” This girl can’t
be pinned down and may or may not show up when you make concrete plans
with her. She wears gauzy blouses and braids. She likes to dance in the
rain and she weeps uncontrollably if she sees a sign for a missing dog
or cat. She might spin a globe, place her finger on a random spot, and
decide to move there. The Ethereal Weirdo appears a lot in movies, but
nowhere else. If she were from real life, people would think she was a
homeless woman and would cross the street to avoid her. But she is
essential to the male fantasy that even if a guy is boring he deserves a
woman who will find him fascinating and perk up his dreary life by
forcing him to go skinny-dipping in a stranger’s pool.

Her other descriptions are equally funny:

The Woman Who s Obsessed with Her Career and Is No Fun at All
The Forty-two-Year-Old Mother of the Thirty-Year-Old Male Lead
The Sassy Best Friend
The Skinny Woman Who is Beautiful and Toned but Also Gluttonous and Disgusting
The Woman Who Works in an Art Gallery

Check them out here:  http://www.newyorker.com/humor/2011/10/03/111003sh_shouts_kaling#ixzz1cdwYe83v

TV:  I've seen all the new pilots, given the new shows their chance, and taken a hard look at all my old shows.  I like to spend about 10 hours a week watching TV so I'm pretty picky about what shows made it to my 10 hours list. 

My Fall TV List

One-Hour Shows: The Good Wife, Once Upon A Time, Castle, Revenge, The Vampire Diaries, Fringe, Grimm, and Nikita
Half-Hour Shows: Parks and Recreation, The Big Bang Theory, and Up All Night
Shows I'm Undecided About: Ringer

What shows made your list?

Grimm, Who’s a Feminist?, and Come for the Lady Gaga, stay for the empowerment

Blogs:
The Rebirth of the Feminist Manifesto: Come for the Lady Gaga, stay for the empowerment – New York magazine has a good article on the expanding world of feminist blogs and how it's inspiring a new generation of young women (and men) who believe in gender equality, much like the consciousness raising groups of 1970's.  There's also list of feminist websites to get you started. Some of my favorites are on the list: feministing, feministe, Jezebel, Shakesville, and Sarah Haskin's"Target Women" videos.  One of my favorite bloggers, Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon.net, is also featured in the article. (Reader warning: There are swear words in this article since it's about the blogging world and the blogging world doesn't sugar-coat things.)

Yes, You Are – What exactly is feminism? Can you shave your legs and be a feminist?  Be a stay-at-home-parent?  Be a man? Yes!  You can do and be all those things and more and be a feminist. Sarah Bunting (a co-founder of Television Without Pity) wrote a classic post that's my favorite response to the phrase, "I'm not a feminist but…"

Here's the start of her essay:

"'feminism n (1895) 1 : the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes 2 : organized activity on behalf of women's rights and interests — feminist n or adjfeministic adj'"

"Above, the dictionary definition of feminism — the entire dictionary definition of feminism. It is quite straightforward and concise. If you believe in, support, look fondly on, hope for, and/or work towards equality of the sexes, you are a feminist.

"Yes, you are.

"The definition of feminism does not ask for two forms of photo ID. It does not care what you look like. It does not care what color skin you have, or whether that skin is clear, or how much you weigh, or what you do with your hair. You can bite your nails, or you can get them done once a week. You can spend two hours on your makeup, or five minutes, or the time it takes to find a Chapstick without any lint sticking to it. You can rock a cord mini, or khakis, or a sari, and you can layer all three. The definition of feminism does not include a mandatory leg-hair check; wax on, wax off, whatever you want. If you believe in, support, look fondly on, hope for, and/or work towards equality of the sexes, you are a feminist.

"Yes, you are." (Read the rest here.)

TV:
Grimm (***) – A police procedural about a cop who learns his family can see evil fairytale creatures hiding amongst humans.  Grimm's executive producer, David Greenwalt, was also the executive producer for the Buffy spin-off, Angel.  Like the first few episodes of Angel, the pilot for Grimm takes itself too seriously. It's as if the show had forgotten its second "m". I started to see how this show might be fun once the big bad wolf was introduced. Here's hoping there's way more of him in future episodes.