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.

 

May 2009: In Brief

Dialog of the Month:
From the show Dollhouse, when FBI Agent Ballard and an environmental consultant are breaking into the Dollhouse.

Consultant: They told me this was going to be the new Eden.
Agent Ballard: Eden wasn’t a prison.
Consultant: Are you kidding me?  Even the apples were monitored!

Highlights:
Allergy Miracles
– Most Mays, my head feels like it’s being ripped apart by hellhounds, my joints are achy, and I feel poisoned.  Most Mays, I have searing ear pain and can barely manage to read a book, let alone write anything.

This May… I was healthy!!!! Whoo-hoo!  It was wonderful.  I’m still taking tons of allergy meds and doing saltwater rinsings, but the allergy shots finally tipped me over into the healthy side.  Yay!

Fiction Books Finished:
The Graveyard Book
, (***), by Neil Gaiman- An appealing middle grade book about a boy raised in a graveyard.
Two for the Dough, (***), by Janet Evanovich-  The second book in the fun Stephanie Plum series about a Jersey gal who takes on bounty hunting.

Non-Fiction Books Finished:
 The Tipping Point (***), by Malcolm Gladwell

Movies:
Star Trek (***) – Kirk and Spock are a lot sexier, Uhura actually gets to do things, and the action scenes have the same fun cheesy music as the show.  It’s still more sexist than a lot of current sci-fi and the silly all-or-nothing logic-versus-emotion debate still rages on between the characters. But the movie manages to balance the old with the new, so there’s more fun without undoing anything sacred for older fans.

TV- Top 5 Favorites of the Month  (In A,B,C Order)
The Big Band Theory finale-  Bazinga!  If you haven’t seen this show, I’d recommend it for fun summer viewing.  It consistently makes me laugh.

The Castle finale

The Dollhouse finale

The Fringe finale- was my favorite finale of the spring season.  The reveals gave me new insight into the characters and the whole first season.  Now I can’t wait to see what they do with season two.

The Supernatural finale- had the biggest cliffhanger of the spring season.  The last couple episodes dragged for me, and honestly, a lot of the action in the finale consisted of furious cell phone dialing.  Still, the last few scenes between Dean and Castiel and then Dean and Sam were what I’ve been waiting for.  Now I’m eager to see what they’re going to do in season five.

Sub Jobs:
1/2 day – media center teacher
1/2 day – media center teacher
1/2 day – media center teacher
1/2 day- 2nd grade teacher at another school
1 day – 2nd grade in Ms. S’s class
1 day- 2nd grade in Ms. D’s class
4 days – media center teacher: Lots of roaming the halls, collecting books on my cart, checking them in, and shelving them. I also taught lessons on fables, how magazines are different than books, and how to use the computer dictionary.  My favorite part was getting to wear my t-shirt that said, "So Many Books, So Little Time."

Questions and Answers About TV Watching

What role does TV play in my life? Stress release, company, information, entertainment, etc?


I use TV as a mental health entertainment/stress release buffer. I like to have several engrossing, fun stories flitting around in my head to think about. It’s like my own version of chewing gum so I won’t grind my teeth or smoke kind of thing. If I have several good stories tumbling around in my head, I think about them, instead of obsessively worrying or being overly critical of myself.  I use book reading and story writing the same way. It makes for a really cheerful life.

 
What limits do I put on my TV watching?


I try to limit myself to approximately 10 hours a week. Research shows watching more than 10 hours a week of TV adversely affects a child’s academic achievement. I’m not a child anyone—at least chronologically—and I don’t go to school anymore, but it seems reasonable to conclude that watching more than 10 hours of TV a week might affect my growth as a person too.

 

Since the research shows there’s no difference between kids who watch no TV and kids who watch 10 hours of TV a week, I aim for 10 hours because watching TV is enjoyable and gives me mental food thoughts to chew on.

 

What kinds of shows do I prefer?

Mostly I like shows that are well written, have intriguing characters, and make me both laugh and think. Here’s my list:


The Leads (Shows I Watch Regularly and Rather Obsessively)

1.      Supernatural– (CW) season 4

2.      The Big Bang Theory & How I Met Your Mother– (CBS) season 2 & season 4

3.      Pushing Daisies– (ABC) season 2

4.      Friday Night Lights– (Direct TV) season 3

5.      Fringe– (Fox) season 1

6.      Mad Men– (AMC) season 2

7.      Skins (BBCA) season 1 & 2

8.      Daily Show (Monday & Tuesday) (Comedy Central)

9.      Daily Show (Wednesday & Thursday) (Comedy Central)

10. Gossip Girl (w/ the daughterling or I probably wouldn’t watch for just myself)

11. The X-Files (season 1 on DVD in French w/ English subtitles to practice my French)

 

(Without the commercials this list adds up to about 10 hours)

 

The Understudies (recorded and stored on Tivo for instant fill-in when my leads have a repeat)

1.      The Office [only ½ hour] (There are a lot of Daily Show repeats, so I get to watch this pretty often.)

2.      Heroes

3.      Bones

4.      Gavin & Stacey [only ½ hour]

5.      True Blood

6.      Chuck

 
What do I do when I watch TV?

Just watch, though sometimes I eat my lunch while I watch a show, and sometimes I end up writing down favorite quotes from the show. I’m really picky about what shows I watch. Basically a show has to be so engrossing that I want to only watch it. If I find myself wanting to surf the web, clean, or fold laundry while I watch a show, that’s a sign I’m probably going to stop watching soon.

 
 

And You? What are your TV watching habits?


I Know What I Did This Summer, part 2 (aka: July 2008: Inbrief)

Quote of the Month:

 “…it isn’t always easy knowing who you are and what you want, because then you have no excuse for not trying to get it.” Paul, from Boy Meets Boy, by David Levithan

 


Highlights:

SCBWI Conference in Westminster, Maryland- Two days of stuff I love: information on writing, inspiring speeches, chats about children’s books, and lunch with fun friends who watch a lot of the same TV and read a lot of the same books as me.  

 

Fiction Books Finished:

None (I read the same 800-page book from late June to mid-August—gripping, but long.)

 

Non-Fiction Books Finished:

 **** Time Management from the Inside Out, by Julie Morgenstern- excellent book on how to live your goals.

 

Movies:

**** Onceappealing indie film about two musicians in Dublin who help each other deal with their personal problems by making a debut album together. I enjoyed the soundtrack too.

 

TV Enjoyed:

 **** Dr. Horrible– Joss Whedon’s adorably tragic online mini-musical about shy Dr. Horrible’s conflicting quests to be accepted into the Evil League of Evil and to date the girl of his dreams, Penny, who he met at the Laundromat.

 

**** Mad Men, season 1- evocative, addictive show about advertising writers in the early 1960’s.

 

*** ½ Flight of the Conchords, season 1- the first show I’ve seen where each guy in the duo is the straight man. You can also check out their videos on You Tube.

 

*** Supernatural, season 3- I wrote a 700-word love-letter to this show here. 😉

 

*** How I Met Your Mother, season 3.

 

Writing Lessons I Learned While Watching Supernatural

The fourth season premiere of Supernatural is on tonight. Whoo-hoo! While I was sick, I rewatched Supernatural seasons one, two, and three to cope when I was feeling my worst. I also learned a few things about writing:
 
Season 1 & 2 lessons
 
Writing doesn’t have to be serious to be good. Supernatural season 1 & 2 episodes are fun, well-written escapism. (Also, the leads can act and the episodes are skillfully shot). There’s a new monster/mystery each week and fun elements like the brothers impersonating: cops, FBI agents, Homeland Security, reporters, and even priests. They stay at rundown highway motels, use credit card fraud to pay the bills, eat gas-mart junk food, and drive across the country in their 1967 Chevy Impala entertaining themselves with fun banter.
 
Each week they solve some mysterious happening by questioning citizens and doing research. Then they fight the scary spirits and demons and save nice people in horrible trouble. In addition, there’s a season long arc, so the monster of the week plots are: 1) stories on their own, and 2) clues that add up to a long story arc as well. Fun elements and good plotting make this escapism worth watching.
 
Good writing has likable characters.  Older brother, Dean, is basically a badass with a heart-of-gold. He’s skilled at hunting demons, playing poker, picking locks, escaping the law, and making funny quips. While he loves his 1967 Chevy Impala and listening to his collection of mullet rock, his job is his life. He’s a lot more insecure and dysfunctional than his smartass comments let on and he needs his brother to keep him going. 
 
Younger brother, Sam, is the “sensitive smart one”. He gave up a “full ride” at Stanford law school to help his brother find their missing dad. He’s the one strangers open up to, the one who researches demon lore, and the one who keeps Dean going. The whole show works because you care about these two brothers and their relationship.
 
Good writing balances humor, angst, and tension. There’s a personal story line for each brother per season to provide the angst and drama. The monsters, demons, and spirits provide plenty of scary tense happenings. Balanced between the angst and tension, there’s a lot of humor and fun. It’s that balance that makes this show work.
 
Season 3 lessons
While rewatching the entire show, I noticed how uneven season 3 was – maybe it was the writers’ strike or maybe it was Dean’s tricky situation. Some of the episodes are great, but some, well, they’re disappointing. Here’s what season 3 taught me about writing:
 
Show, Don’t Tell: If want your audience to be afraid of the terrible times ahead, show it. The Groundhog Day episode did that nicely. Why is Dean’s situation so painful for Sam? We see why – over and over. It’s heartbreaking (and pretty funny, at times, too.) 
 
How do you bore your audience? Have demons preach sanctimonious sermons warning of horrible happenings- again, and again, and again. Oy!
 
Keep the crucial fun-to-angst balance: Like concentrated dish detergent, a little angsty monologing goes a long way – too much, and there are soapsuds oozing all over my perfectly fun horror-detective show. 
 
Make sure your characters maintain their internal consistency: I like Sam but Dean drives this show. So when Dean’s situation starts changing him, it’s tricky stuff. The thing I like about Dean is that even though he’s a smart-ass, deep down he cares about people and doing the right thing. He likes sex, but he’s always seemed fairly respectful of women. Sure he’s afraid of getting close; we saw in season one that getting close leads to nothing but rejection for Dean. Suddenly, in season three though, Dean’s a big jerk calling women bitches left and right. True, they’re demons and thieves, but it’s a bad look on Dean. There’s a big difference between badass and asshole.
 
Dean also suffers from the Joey TribbianiSam Malone syndrome – where the writers can’t decide exactly how smart or stupid he is. One minute he’s perfectly smart and then the next – just to get the easy joke – he’s dumber than the beef jerky he loves. With good writing, even in trying times, characters have an internal consistency.
 
I can’t wait to see how things turn out in season four. Here’s wishing the new season gets back to the stellar writing I’m use to!

May 2008: Inbrief

 Quote of the Month:

“So I will need a new number two.  My ideal choice?  Jack Bauer. But he is unavailable. Fictional. And overqualified.” Dwight Schrute, on The Office

 

Highlights:

“The jig is up, the news is out, they finally found me”…. “They” would be sinus bacterium. I’m on my third course of antibiotics to rid the suckers from my body.  At the daughterling’s music concert my head and ear pain was so bad I was sure I’d sold my soul for Supernatural’s season four return and hellhounds were ripping up my brain in payment. I started a new course of antibiotics today. Hopefully I’ll feel better tomorrow. In the meantime I’m expecting Athena to spring from my head any minute.

 

In other exciting allergy-sinus news, I have an appointment with an allergist on Friday to be tested for shots.  (Please work, please work, please work.)

 

Since my snot-filled swamp of a brain won’t write I spent most of my month subbing, sleeping, or reading.  Everyone at my school was sick with upper respiratory illnesses (hmm… I’m starting to see how I got this sinus infection). It felt good to pitch in and be useful despite my limping brain issues.  I wish doping myself up with Motrin worked as well for writing as it does for subbing. 

 

When I wasn’t subbing, I donned my metaphorical Tina Fey glasses, white lab coat, and clipboard to look over my excel charts and goal data for the school year.  (I’m sure you were busy doing the same.)  Despite my May sinus issues this has been my healthiest school year in a while.  (No, really.)  I ate healthier, slept, exercised, cleaned, subbed, did Spanish grammar, and read more than any other year.  I have the color-coded charts to prove it. 

Unfortunately my writing goals look like the twisted Metallicar wreck at the beginning of Supernatural season 2.  Here’s hoping I rebuild my writing goals this summer and have my very own “Back in Black” moment. (Did I mention I rewatched all of seasons 1 and 2 of Supernatural again in May? That show is my current escapist comfort and for some reason constantly referring to it calms me. )

 

Fiction Books Finished:

 ***** Boy Meets Boy, by David Levithan (Reread cause this is my favorite book ever. I want to be David Levithan when I “grow up”.)

*** Uglies, by Scott Westerfeld

 

Non-Fiction Books Finished:

**** Read Aloud Handbook, by Jim Trelease. (Excellent guide for parents and teachers.  Makes mighty cheerful sinus rereading as well.)

 

Movies:

*** Sex in the City Movie (I went in with no expectations what so ever and enjoyed myself.)

 

Sub Jobs:

1 day- Computer Teacher

½ day- 2nd grade class of Respiratory Illness (Yes, they’re the ones.)

1 day- 2nd grade, Ms. S’s Class

1 ½ days- 2nd grade, Ms. D’s Class

1 day- Pre-K class

3 days- Media Center Teacher

 

TV Enjoyed:

**** Battlestar Galactica
**** The Office
**** Supernatural

March 2008: Inbrief

Quote of the Month:

People often say with pride, “I’m not interested in politics.”  They might as well say, “I’m not interested in my standard of living, my health, my job, my rights, my freedoms, my future, or any future.” Martha Gelhorn, Novelist, Essayist, and War Correspondent

 

Highlights:

The battle begins: dun dun DUN.  Tree pollen season is here.   So far, I’m feeling good. I just need to do 6-10 nasal irrigations a day and shower each time after I go outside.  Beats getting chronic sinus infections.

 

Spring Break: Lots of teen boys in my basement playing computer games, lots of empty glass bowls in the dishwasher from ramen making. I also went clothes shopping with the daughterling. She brought a friend for consulting, I brought a book, and in the end I was rewarded with French fries.  Love having a daughter who accepts that her mom is not a shopper.

 

Fiction Books Finished:

*** Spiderwick Chronicles: Book 1, by Tony di Terlizzi & Holly Black

*** The Year of the Dog, by Grace Lin

 

Non-Fiction Books Finished:

****Plot & Structure, by James Scott Bell

 

Still Reading:

Dreams Underfoot, by Charles DeLint- just a few more short stories to go.

Mi llamo Maria Isabel, por Alma Flor Ada- Whoo hoo!  I’m reading my first kids’ book in Spanish–one tiny chapter at a time.

 

Movies:

*** King of Kong

*** Belle Epoque

*** ½ Children of Heaven

 

Sub Jobs:

1 day- Music teacher

3 days- Music teacher

 

TV Enjoyed:

**** Angel, season 4 (in Spanish)

 

***1/2 Living in Tokyo, on YouTube (Not really TV but I’m dying for new stuff, so close enough)

 Friendly guy with a cynical sense of humor tells me what it’s like to live in Tokyo in some 52 short episodes.

 

****Supernatural, rewatching season 1:

It’s not just the pretty boys.  They’re yummy but they’re also interesting characters in satisfying plots with excellent use of music– and I don’t usually even like metal. Can’t wait for new episodes to start again!