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

FD pic

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 someone told me her 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, I always watched the two Supernatural episodes she appeared in each season, as quirky computer hacker Charlie, though I stopped watching the show regularly after season six.

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 this nightmarish attack on the women on the Internet. 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!

I listened to the audiobook version, that Day herself reads, 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.

 

2012 Favorites (Part 1: TV, Movies, and Music)

Favorite You Tube Series
Husbands (seasons 1 & 2) –  An entertaining web TV series written by Jane Espenson and Brad Bell about a baseball player and an actor who get so excited that gay marriage is legal that they get married during a drunken night in Vegas, though they’ve only been dating for 6 weeks. They don’t want to set a bad example so they decide to make their marriage work– for the cause.  Espenson wrote for Buffy, Battlestar Galactica, Caprica, Dollhouse, etc.  There are tons of fun cameos by actors from various Whedon projects (including Joss himself in season 2), plus a few actors from other shows too.  Each season is only 25-30 minutes.

The Lizzie Bennett Diaries – In Hank Green’s charming modernized version of Pride and Prejudice, Lizzie Bennett is a vlogger who tells us about her marriage-crazy mother and her life with her sisters in short weekly You Tube videos.

Favorite Movies (Total Watched – 18)
The Descendants
Hunger Games (2012)
Marvel’s Avengers (2012)
The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)

Favorite Music Albums (Total Listened To – 26)
Greg Evain All Better Now (2012)
Ellie GouldingHalcyon (2012)
Lana Del ReyBorn to Die (2012)
Anna NalickWreck of the Day (2005)
Frank OceanChannel Orange (2012)

Favorite TV Shows (Total Shows Watched – 36)
Alphas (season 1)
(The) Big Bang Theory
Castle
Fringe
Girls
(The) Good Wife
Grimm
Man Men
Nikita
Parks and Recreation
Revenge

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.

Rowena Eureka Goes To New York

Life – I went to the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Conference in New York City a couple weeks ago. Since the conference I've struggled with a flood of writing assignments, plus I got some wicked cold virus that came with its own fever, chills, and sweats.  I've finally finished my writing assignments and am starting to feel healthier too.  Yay! (PS- I'm taking an excellent online writing course right now.)

 The SCBWI Official Conference Blog has good summaries of the entire conference so I'm going to link to it (and a couple other sources) to list my favorite parts:

* Cheryl Klein, an executive editor at Scholastic, gave an excellent hour-long crash course on how to revise your novel.  Her blog and plot checklist will give you a good start on revising.  Now I want to read her book on revision because the hour went too fast for me.

* Katherine Erskine's speech on how to focus on writing was full of concrete ways to nurture creativity and make sure that turns into actual writing. 

* Jennifer Laughran was my favorite agent to speak at the conference.  Not only does she know the book world inside and out, she's funny too, and sharp, and she has her own blog.

*I got to meet and talk to my regional advisers –Edie Hemingway and Lois Szymanski– and was struck by not only how truly kind both of them are, but also how much writing and publishing experience they each have.  

*I went to the extra evening LGBTQ session as a spur of the moment decision and was glad I went.  It was a refreshingly fun and honest session, full of:  good writing information, friendly people, and a list of new books I now want to read.

* I was surprised how much I liked Cassandra Clare's speech about forbidden love and how to create satisfying love triangles.  It was partly because she used shows like: Buffy, The Vampire Diaries, and Felicity as examples, but I also liked her speech because she made a lot of good points. 

Clare explained that to have a real love triangle, as opposed to a love "V", all three parties have to have a relationship and connection with each other. She used the TV show, Felicity, as an example of a love "V" because the two guys Felicity likes– Ben and Noel– have no real relationship or connection to each other.  Her example of a true love triangle was from the TV show, The Vampire Diaries.  The fact that Damon and Stefan are brothers makes their love triangle with Elena all the more interesting because the audience cares about their relationship as much as they care about Elena and Stefan or Elena and Damon.

After Clare's speech, the SCBWI Co-President Lin Oliver pointed out that if you are writing Middle Grade fiction, you can use Clare's points on love triangles by exchanging the word love or romance for friendship.

How Reading Helps Kids Develop Empathy & A Review for the TV show, Smash

Blogs:
How Reading Helps Kids Develop Empathy – If you have elementary-school-aged kids, or if you just enjoy middle grade books, check out the excellent Middle Grade blog, From the Mixed Up Files. It's chock full of helpful information for parents, teachers, and writers of middle grade readers. One of their recent posts is about how reading helps kids develop empathy.

I experienced this lesson first hand with my kids.  I read aloud to my kids until they were around 10 or 11 years old. Plus, I gave them a special book allowance, where I would buy them one book a month– in addition to their regular allowance. They were also given an extra half-hour later bedtime, if they wanted to read in bed — but it could only be used for reading. I also suggested books I thought they might like, not books I wanted them to read, but books I truly thought they'd enjoy.  As a result, they read a lot as kids and as teens. In fact, my son came home from college and was happy he was able to read a book for pleasure during his winter break.

Now that they're 15 and 18, I'm starting to see the results of all this reading. Not only has their regular reading habit helped them with their SAT scores and writing, but it also has helped them empathize with others and understand people who are quite different from themselves. They both are able to get along with lots of different people, without much drama, because they seem to understand others pretty easily.

When kids read, they get to feel what it's like to live in other parts of the country or world and even other imaginary societies.  They get to experience romance, adventure, and heartbreak vicariously, and see how others handle those situations, and what the consequences of their actions are.  This gives kids who read an upper-hand when they start dating, or have to deal with drinking and drugs, or head off to college, or when they get their first job.  There's nothing like getting to do tricky things vicariously first to help you feel more confident when you start doing them as yourself in the real world. This doesn't mean that my kids have never learned life lessons the harder self-experience way.  They have, but they also seemed to learn a lot of lessons the easy way too.

PS  – Middle Grade books are fiction novels for kids from around 8-12 years,

TV:
Smash ( 4 stars) – I watched the pilot for the new TV show, Smash, on Hulu last night and loved it.  Smash is the fictional story about a Broadway play coming to life. It starts at the beginning, when a writing team first gets the idea to do a musical about Marilyn Monroe, and I imagine will follow the story all the way up to the show's opening and beyond. 

The pilot deals with introducing the major players: the writing team, the producer,  and the director.  The potential leads are introduced as the initial production team starts auditioning for the lead role of Marilyn. 

All the major players have their own problems and dreams and I can already see what conflicts are coming, and the potential Marilyn has to be a smash hit, but also the real possibility that it might not make it to Broadway either.  The insider details of putting together a Broadway show, plus the musical numbers, plus the individual character stories make the show really fun to watch.  Smash has the strong potential to become a favorite show.

The cast of Smash is a mix of excellent unknown actors and well-known actors, like: Anjelica Huston, Jack Davenport (Coupling, The Event) and Debra Messing (Will and Grace). I don't usually like Debra Messing, but so far, her character is pretty low-key.

[The pilot is available to view for free without registration on Hulu.  It's also available for free online viewing on NBC. The show premieres on NBC, on February 6th at 10/9c.]

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?