Something Worthwhile from CNN?!?

CNN and all the mainstream news networks are so full of garbage that every time I go on there, I roll my eyes in sheer exasperation at the level of stupidity. But every now and then, someone writes a decent opinion column, like this one: “Three questions, from Tolstoy, for mindful parenting,” by David G. Allan.

These are the three questions:

  1. What is the right time to begin anything?
  2. Who are the right people to listen to?
  3. What is the most important thing to be doing at any given time?

I’m not a parent, but I thought all of the questions and their answers were applicable to pretty much any situation, not only between parents and children. The answers to the questions also depend on what you’re talking about. The right time to begin something could be right now, or it could be several years down the road, depending on how long the thing in question takes to begin properly.

The right people to listen to… could be your own intuition. In case of parenting, the right person to listen to could be your own child. Many parents think they (or a “professional”) know best without consulting the child to determine what he or she would want.

The most important thing to be doing at any given time, in terms of raising a child, is being present with your child. Not playing on your phone or thinking of the next thing you have to do. Just simply being there.

Perhaps these are questions to ask yourself when embarking on any new project, whether it be starting a new job, raising a kid, or doing something related to writing. It helps to take a step back and listen to yourself and think about what you’re going to do and why you’re doing it, so you can be more intentional about it.

My Blasphemous Exorcism

SPOILER ALERT!

My Best Friend’s Exorcism. With a title like that, how could you not want to read it? I thought the book would make an excellent indie movie with weird Tarantino-like special effects. The library classified it as horror, but I wouldn’t quite put it in that category; it was actually fairly difficult to categorize. I would’ve called it chick-lit with some comedy, gross-out moments, and the right amount of suspense. The horror only came through in about the last quarter of the book, but the first part was fast-paced enough to keep readers interested. Like Ready Player One, which I read about a week ago, this book was full of 80s references because it actually took place in the 80s. All of the chapter titles came from lyrics of popular 80s songs.

The author (Grady Hendrix) absolutely nailed the teenage dialogue. He did a far better job of this than many YA authors, and I was disappointed that this book wasn’t categorized as YA. I think I know why: because it was too genuine. YA is normally watered down and offers a mere simulacrum of what the teenage experience is actually like. As far as I know, he captured the essence of Charleston (South Carolina) pretty well, too, but what was really impressive was his successful use of a female main character when he is not a female. I had to keep reminding myself that the author was in fact a man.

The only thing I didn’t like about the book (and this is totally biased and says more about me than it does about the book) was that the exorcism was not performed by a Catholic priest. Some motivational speaker/weight-lifting preacher performed it, but he bailed out halfway through, leaving the main character to perform the exorcism herself, using the “holy symbols” of the friendship rather than the typical holy water and prayers. As a matter of fact, the whole “ritual” was actually pretty blasphemous. That being said, the book also did a great job of portraying the undying love between two best friends, which is not something you read about in most novels or even in real life. Many times, women and girls feel as though they have to compete with each other, so they lie and backstab and generally act like bitches to stay on top. (Some of this bitchery did happen in the novel, but it was all cleared up at the end.)

Highly recommended if you want something that’s purely entertaining. You won’t learn a darn thing from this book, but it’s a ton of fun. There are some disgusting scenes, so I wouldn’t recommend reading it while eating or if you get grossed out easily.

Nerd Novel of Nostalgia

SPOILER ALERT!

I had been hearing rave reviews about Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, so I finally got the chance to read it this past week. It’s an interesting sci-fi mashup of 1980s pop culture, Ender’s Game, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and total nerdiness. The novel is set in 2045, and the world is basically a huge video game called the OASIS (which is like the Internet, Second Life, and World of Warcraft all rolled into one). When the creator of the OASIS died, he hid an Easter egg somewhere in the worlds of the OASIS, and the lucky person who finds the egg by completing a series of video game–like quests would win a fabulous prize. Our protagonist, Wade Watts (AKA Parzival), is only 17, but he’s been immersed in the OASIS all his life and made it his life’s mission to study the work and mind of the OASIS’s creator, his greatest role model. Wade would appear to be well positioned to win the egg if not for a gang of evil corporate drones that are out to kill him, win the egg for themselves, and use their newfound power to absorb the OASIS into their own company and use it for their own ends.

There was a lot to love about this book, especially if you grew up in the 80s and knew all the video game and pop culture references. I was clueless about most of them because I was born in the late 80s and can’t remember anything from that decade, but the book still grabbed my attention because of the meticulous detail the author put into it and the obvious love he had for his subject. (And the author did mention Neon Genesis Evangelion, the best anime series ever, and Quake, a 1996 video game and probably the Greatest First-Person Shooter of All Time.) I don’t typically read science fiction because I find the worlds difficult to get into and the scenarios hard to envision, but the world this author created was not much of a far cry from the world we live in today, so it was easy to become immersed in it. Because of that, the book’s pacing was very quick—it sucked you in and kept you interested all the way until the end.

A few dislikes: I didn’t care too much for the romantic subplot because I felt as though it didn’t add much. Wade falls in love with one of his competitors on the quest for the egg, a “girl” (well, her avatar is a girl) called Art3mis, having never met her in real life. The author had a wonderful opportunity to expound on the dangers of getting romantically involved with a person you know only on the Internet (or, in this case, the OASIS), but the romance totally worked out in the end and thus was boring and predictable. (I would’ve liked for Art3mis to secretly be part of the evil corporate entity out to destroy Wade.) But people are probably not going to read this book for the romance, so I guess that’s OK. The characters’ dialogue and banter sometimes seemed a little stilted or cheesy, but I suppose that was because it was the author’s first novel. There were several redundant phrases such as “yellow in color” or “and also” that bothered me because a good editor should have caught them.

If you’re looking for a few hours to kill with a fun, adventurous book and you love the Internet, the 80s, and/or video games, you will get a lot of enjoyment out of Ready Player One. (At some point in the near future, this is going to become a movie directed by Steven Spielberg, which might be good if it isn’t destroyed by too much CGI.)