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.

 

More TV Reviews on Netflix Insant: Sherlock and Sports Night

Sherlock
Year: 2010
Genre: Three 88-minute murder mysteries
Format: Available on Netflix Instant Viewing
Rating: ****

This excellent updated version of Sherlock Holmes takes place in modern-day London.  Holmes describes himself as a "high-functioning sociopath" and  Watson is a medical doctor and veteran of the Afghan war.  The three murder mysterious are engaging, witty,  and satisfyingly solved by Holmes and Watson.  I never read the original books so I can’t compare how closely the modern update uses canon, but they do introduce Holmes’s arch-enemy Moriarty. 

Sports Night
Year: 1998
Genre: Half-hour Comedy
Format: Available on Netflix Instant Viewing
Rating: *** 1/2

If you missed this show about a late-night cable sports show the first time around, check it out now.  The cast is full of talented familiar faces. The sports anchors are played by Peter Krause (Nate from Six Feet Under, Adam from Parenthood) and Josh Charles (Will from The Good Wife).  Felicity Huffman (Lynette from Desperate Housewives) is the show’s producer and Robert Guillaume (Benson from the show Benson) is her boss.

Sports Night is written by Aaron Sorkin so the dialog is smart and funny. The cable show studios are supposed to be in the World Trade Center so there are a lot of now nostalgic shots of the Trade Center and even an eerie episode devoted a bomb treat in the building.  Initially the writing showcases Sorkin’s main weaknesses — a tendency to get preachy and have all the characters sound alike.  Within the first couple episodes, each character takes on his or her own voice, the preaching stops, and the fun begins!

Six TV Shows on Netflix Instant

Netflix Instant has added a ton of TV shows to it’s selection. Since March and April are full of repeats, it’s a good time to try out older shows you may have missed the first time around.  Here’s my list of 6 shows you might want to check out:

Half-Hour Shows:

Gavin and Stacey (*** 1/2) – This is a charming slice-of-life show about a young couple who meet over the telephone at work.  Flirty fun Stacey, from Wales, and sweet reliable Gavin, from Essex, have been talking to each other on the phone for six months. They’ve gone from co-workers, to friends, and now are ready to take the plunge and meet in person. They each bring a friend and meet up in London for the day. Though plot progresses along pretty quickly in the first season, the main fun is watching these characters interact in the regular moments of life.  Their friends Nessa and Smithy are a hoot and their eccentric family members add to the fun. 

I feel like British TV does a better job than American TV of showing how entertaining regular people — of all ages and all different types of appearances –can be living their regular lives.  This show is a good example of that. [Netflix Instant now has all 6 episodes of season one.]

Better Off Ted –  (*** 1/2) Good-looking conscientious Ted works for Veridian Dymanics, an international research and developmental firm.  He likes to think of himself a a good guy who looks out for his team, but he’s starting to wonder if his company might actually be evil.  His boss Veronica could care less if the company is evil or not, all she’s interested in is winning. This workplace satire never got the attention it deserved.  It took me about 3-4 episodes before I knew the characters well enough to enjoy the show.  After that, I laughed and laughed. [Netflix instant now has both 13-episode seasons.]

Party Down – (*** 1/2) Burnt-out Henry has been in the acting business for years now and is pretty much only known for his role in a stupid beer commercial.  He’s decided it’s time to admit he’s not going to make it in acting and start looking for a real job. So he takes a job as a caterer.  I enjoyed the show more and more as I got to know this group of wanna-be and burnt-out actors catering to pay the bills.  There’s also a bit of a romantic plot that nicely develops throughout the first season too.

As a Veronica Mars fan,  Party Down is especially fun because the show was produced and written by Veronica Mars producer Rob Thomas with former writer John Embom and others. The season one cast has three former Veronica Mars actors: Ryan Hansen (Dick Casablancas), Ken Marino (Vinnie Van Lowe) and Adam Scott (Mr. Rooks the history teacher Veronca defends in one episode).  The cast also has Martin Starr (Bill from Freaks and Geeks all grown up), Lizzy Caplan (Amy from True Blood) and Jane Lynch (now on Glee). Even more fun, many former Veronica Mars actors show up as party guests–Enrico Colantoni, Jason Dohring, Alona Tal, and even Kristen Bell. [Netflix Instant both 10-episode seasons.]

Slings & Arrows: season 1,2,3 (****) – If you love theater, check out this Canadian comedy starring Paul Gross (formerly in Due South and Eastwick).  After their artistic director dies, the New Brubbage Theater asks Geoffrey Tennant (Paul Gross) to come back and help the theater recover.  Geoffrey left six years ago when he had a nervous breakdown in the middle of Hamlet and isn’t sure he can keep his sanity working there again.  This show is funny, inspiring, and chock full of quirky actors, Shakespearean scenes, and wonderful behind the scenes theater moments.  Each season focuses on one main play: one season it’s Hamlet, of course, season two is MacBeth, and season three they do King Lear. [Seasons 1-3 available on Netflix Instant. Each season is 6 episodes long.]

Hour-Long Shows:

Skins –  (****) The first two seasons of the British version of Skins are worth checking out.  In just 20 episodes Skins told a story of adolescence that was wild, unrealistic, bawdy, sweet, cautionary, and all too real.  The show got a lot of flack for celebrating sex and drugs, but if you watch the full two seasons with this group of teens, the real message is how important having caring parents are to teens.  Without the parental guidance they need, this group tries to support each other with friendship and bonding and sometimes that just isn’t enough.

The first few episodes do seem a lot like a British version of American Pie but if you keep watching the show gets much better and is worth watching. [Seasons one and two are available on Netflix Instant now and total up to 19 episodes.  Season three is also available but starts over with a mostly different group of kids and isn’t quite as good.]

Veronica Mars– Everything falls apart for Veronica Mars when her best friend Lilly Kane is murdered. Veronica’s father, the sheriff, is voted out of office for questioning the powerful Kane family, her mother leaves without keeping in touch, all her friends turn against her, and she wakes up from Shelley Pomeroy’s party in the guest room without underwear.  Determined to find Lilly’s killer, Veronica grits through the turmoil by helping her dad with his new detective business.  The story is told with dozens of layered characters, zinger dialog, and one of the best father-daughter relationships in TV, plus it has a satisfying season ending.

 

Have you ever had someone warn you about a strong tide?  As you go through the first set of waves you heed their warning, but once you reach beyond that those waves it seems so calm you think they were exaggerating, until you look back realize you’re 20 feet from where you started.  Don’t let season 1 of Veronica Mars fool you, once you get past the moving pilot you’ll be lulled for a few episodes and wonder what all the fuss is about, until somewhere between episode 10 to 12 you’re hooked 20 feet out. [All three seasons are available on Netflix Instant but the first 22-episode season is really the best.]