Movies, books, and hobbits

Hile, my beloved inklings. I hope this finds you in fine fettle and pie.

This is yet another post that has gestated long in my Drafts folder. Its conception occurred when I watched the first of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit movies, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, and then read John Scalzi’s review of the same. Since that all happened a few minutes ago, I won’t go into review mode concerning that movie specifically. Instead, here are a few thoughts about Jackson’s Hobbit films, Tolkien’s The Hobbit, and, in brief, my position on books vs. movie versions.

Jackson’s Hobbit Movies

I love them. Unabashedly. Radagast is ridiculous and drives me a little batty (bird poop? really?). I wanted the Beorn scene to go more like the book (dwarves arriving two and three at a time). I might be forgetting my appendices and Silmarillion, but I’m not entirely sure what Galadriel and Legolas are doing in this trilogy. The Tauriel-Kili romance seems gratuitous and far-fetched.

But Radagast isn’t there for me. He’s there to make the kids laugh. The Beorn scene as Jackson filmed it makes far more sense in the movie than would Tolkien’s far, far slower (dragging?) approach. Galadriel makes a great addition for showing us the grave, behind-the-scenes power struggle of Good vs. Evil (as opposed to the more light-hearted material we get from Bilbo and the dwarves). Legolas…well, what would a Middle-Earth movie be without our resident surfing elf, he of the subtly snarky facial expressions?

And I adore Tauriel. She’s a hero, she’s vulnerable, she’s conflicted, desperate, determined, passionate, soft, and unyielding. She’s a female character with power and influence over the course of the story, which is something Tolkien missed the boat on. Another good reason for including Galadriel as well. Two female characters with agency aren’t nearly enough, but they’re better than none.

Side note: Seeing Galadriel’s story brought to the big screen would be FABULOUS. BRING IT, JACKSON.

So, although I admit that Jackson’s movies do have their issues — both internally and from a Tolkien-canon standpoint — I still enjoy the heck out of them. Besides, Martin Freeman is the utterly perfect Bilbo, Richard Armitage is brilliant, and Benedict Cumberbatch is exactly the Smaug I’ve always pictured. It just doesn’t get any better.

Side Note II: Jackson’s trilogy is so superior to the 1977 Hobbit, it’s barely worth mentioning, but for one element. The 1977 version of Gollum terrified me at age 9 to the point that I refused to watch the movie again until I was 16. And since then, that 1977 Gollum has remained the creepiest version of the character that I’ve ever seen. I adore Andy Serkis’s performance, but that animated Gollum from 38 years ago will always be my monster in the closet.

Tolkien’s The Hobbit

I didn’t read the book — or any of Tolkien’s works, for that matter — until I was in my mid-teens. Likely, this “delay” came about partially because I was scared of Gollum and didn’t want him in my head any more than necessary. But part of the reason was that I picked the book up at age 12, found the style of writing dull, and put it down again after reading the first page. Looking back, I find this peculiar, as I maintained an advanced reading level throughout my childhood. Why I didn’t “get” Tolkien back then is a mystery to me. When I picked up LotR a couple of years later, I enjoyed it thoroughly. So I don’t know what my deal was with Hobbit.

In my mid-teens, I came across the book at a German bookstore. I wasn’t interested in reading it in German. I wasn’t interested in reading it at all. But I did wonder why the Germans shelved this book in the children’s section. I’d been a child and tried to read it without success. Silly Germans. Imagine my surprise when I followed where curiosity led and discovered that American and British publishers considered this a children’s book, as well! Stuff and nonsense!

So, at age 17? 18? I read The Hobbit, loved it, and admitted that maybe this did qualify as a children’s book. Maybe my 12-year-old self wasn’t as highbrow a reader as she’d considered herself to be.

Books vs. Movies

There is no “books vs. movies.”

It’s apples and oranges. No. Not even that, because film and print are more different from each other than that. If we’re gonna stick with food metaphors: Books are meat and potatoes, and movies are lasagna.

I heartily enjoy meat and potatoes.
I heartily enjoy lasagna.

I can’t like one more than the other. I enjoy each at different times and for different reasons.

Both are food, but their forms are different. They require vastly different ingredients. They require different seasonings and cooking times and cookware and serving dishes. They belong to different cultures. One person will always like lasagna best. Another person will always prefer meat & potatoes. (What’s taters, precious, eh? What’s taters? >>PO-TAY-TOES.) Comparing one dish favorably over the other means stating that one person’s tastebuds and brain are superior to another’s, and that just ain’t gonna fly.

I can’t sit down to a meal of lasagna and complain that there aren’t french fries in it. Well, I can complain — but everyone will peg me as a lunatic or a bumpkin. “Don’t take Courtney out to dinner — she’ll gripe that there isn’t any sushi in the center of her cordon bleu.” I can’t order meat & potatoes and then demand to know what happened to my sausage & ricotta. It doesn’t make any sense to expect the ingredients of one dish to be mixed into another dish.

In the same way, I’ve decided it doesn’t make any sense for me to compare books and movies. Characters that work great onscreen aren’t going to function the same way on paper. Pacing that is comfortable and familiar and readable in a book is going to be deadly dull in a film. Events a writer has time to portray in a 600-page novel just can’t take place in a 140-minute movie.

The recipe for a book won’t translate directly to film. Just as directly translating German to English can result in ridiculousness, so can directly translating a book to a movie. The 1977 Hobbit pretty much tried this, and the result was a cute but not fantastic movie. Watchmen suffered translation problems. (I will say it has more issues than that, though.) From what I’ve heard, The Great Gatsby did, too; I can’t judge because I hated the book and haven’t seen the movie. But I’m sure any one of you can think of great examples where a book-to-film movie flopped because it contained too many book ingredients and not enough movie ingredients.

So I don’t compare books and their movie versions anymore. If it’s a good book, great. If it’s a good movie, great. I take each for what it is and don’t expect the same from either. It makes my mental life easier and allows me to enjoy more of the entertainment available to me. I can’t complain about that.

Hi, my name is Courtney, and I’m a carrot-buy-aholic.

Me: So, umm…I think I have a problem.

Ed: What?

Me: I bought carrots today.

Ed: …

Me: Two different kinds.

Ed: …

Me: A package of baby-cut carrots and a package of frozen, sliced ones.

Ed: …

Me: Sliced like Ruffles potato chips.

Ed: You know we already had carrots in the fridge, right?

Me: I realized that later.

Ed: We didn’t need any more carrots.

Me: I know that now. That’s why I’m saying I have a problem. Like with nail polish.

Ed: Nail polish.

Me: Yeah. I go to the store, I feel like I need to buy nail polish. That’s why I have so much of it. It’s the same with the carrots.

Ed: We didn’t need any more carrots.

Me: It’s like a compulsion. I go to the store, I have to buy carrots.

Ed: …

Me: Buying carrots. It’s a sickness. I need help. I need Carrots Anonymous.

Ed: A little K.A., huh?

Me: Well, we’re speaking English, not German, so it would be “C.A.,” but yes.

Ed: Oh, yeah. That’s spelled with a “C” in English.

Me: I have to go now. I have to find a place for all the carrots.

10 Things I’ve Done That You Probably Haven’t

One of my favorite bloggers, John Scalzi, posted a list of his 10 this morning and invited readers to follow suit. I enjoy cards, so here ya go:

  1. Moved to Germany twice and to Oklahoma twice.
  2. Crossed the Atlantic in an airplane 58 times.
  3. Sang a capella on the streets of Zurich, Switzerland, and on the Charles Bridge in Prague, Czech Republic..
  4. Petted a tarantula in spite of severe arachnophobia.
  5. Fractured my tailbone twice.
  6. Completed more than 80 oil paintings.
  7. Learned English and German fluently and achieved proficiency in French and Koine Greek.
  8. Stood atop a scaffolding to paint a church building.
  9. Viewed Dead Sea Scrolls: Psalms 31 and 33 from Cave 4, A.D. 50.
  10. Accidentally went mountain-climbing in the Alps without any gear.

________________

How ’bout y’all? What snippets of your life make your unique top ten list?

Fantasy/Sci-Fi Resource: Ent Larva and Dances With Testicles

Or: Writerly shenanigans with words, cuz that’s how I roll.

In case you didn’t know, I grew up in Germany and speak German fluently. I also speak a fair amount of French and a smattering of Italian, and I’ve had four years of Ancient Greek. This is the reason why in many of most of my novels, I make up words such as “Saltmarch” and “banegold” and have characters who speak in dialects. (I’m trying to dial back the dialect stuff, since it turns off some of my readers. See? I love y’all enough to kill my darlings!)

*ahem* Where was I?

Oh. Languages. Yes. Well, today I read something German that included the word “heimsuchen.” I’ve always considered it a peculiar word. It’s used to describe uncomfortable or scary events, mostly related to natural disasters. It’s translated as beleaguer, infest, devastate, afflict, obsess, haunt.

So, a stalker “heimsucht” a victim. Or Moore, OK, was “heimgesucht” by tornadoes on May 11th. Or the spirits “heimsuchen” the graveyard. Et cetera.

But directly translated, “heimsuchen” means “homeseek.”

That just flips my bangerang switch penchants all over the place. Homeseek. It could be a verb: the action of a specially programmed missile. It could be a noun: a tiny creature you carry around with you on your quest, only for emergency use when you’re hopelessly lost in Thornbird Forest. It could even be an adverb, although I don’t recommend those and don’t know how you’d use “homeseekily,” anyway.

Ooh. A title. Pillars of the Twelve: Homeseek (totally arbitrary number). Go do something with that.

The more I thought about this strange word “heimsuchen” and its incorrect translation “homeseek,” the more excited I got about finding other German words or phrases to translate into fantasy/sci-fi inspiration. So I did some pondering and came up with the following. Use at will–it’s all free inspiration! Credit me if you like, or not. But don’t be surprised if I use some of these myself. ; )

German word: PECHVOGEL

Correct translation: jinx, unlucky person

Direct translation: tar bird

A mech bird that dumps tar or something equally unlovely upon citizens for public infractions? A bird made of tar, created by a wizard to plague people?

German word: SÄUFERSONNE

In this case, the correct and direct translations have to be one and the same, because I don’t know of an English phrase for this. The word translates to “drunkard’s sun” and refers to the moon: Either the person is too drunk to tell the difference and thinks the moon is the sun; or s/he spends the day sleeping off a hangover and never sees the actual sun, so the moon must suffice.

But it makes me think of the phrase “drinker’s sun,” which leads to “drink the sun,” which could be really creepy in some evil ritual by the bad guys in a fantasy story.

German phrase: HEILIGER STROHSACK

Correct translation: Holy mackerel!

Direct translation: Holy straw sack (Batman)!

German word: HEUSCHRECKE

Correct translation: grasshopper, locust

Direct translation: hay scare

German phrase: SCHWEIN HABEN

Correct translation: to be lucky

Direct translation: to have pig

I think this would be awesome in a fantasy novel with villager characters. : )

German word: EISBEIN

Correct translation: knuckle of pork (in cooking)

Old usage: ice skate (noun)

Direct translation: ice leg

German word: ENTLARVEN

Correct translation: to unmask

Direct translation: to de-larva

Maybe Tolkien’s ents start out as larva? I dunno. O_o

German word: ELFENBEIN

Correct translation: ivory (the dentine, not the color)

Direct translation: elf leg

What’s the connection between elves and elephants? Write it!

German word: HOTTEHÜ

Correct translation: horse (babytalk)

Direct translation: rightleft (noun)

German word: FRIEDHOF

Correct translation: graveyard

Direct translation: peace yard

German word: EIERTANZ

Correct usage: to beat around the bush

Direct translation: egg dance

BONUS: can also translate to “testicle dance” O_o

German word: JEMANDEN MUNDTOT MACHEN

Correct translation: to muzzle someone, to shut someone up

Direct translation: to make someone mouth-dead

So there you have it, folks! Some of my favorite, inspiring mistranslations. Feel free to share which of these inspires you — and then go write it! Or draw it, or paint it. Whatever you want!

Me, I’m having visions of mouth-dead elves made of ice, tending to peaceyards full of larva that hatch into tiny trees, all whilst dodging the tar birds sent to drink the sun.

Dances With Eggs. Because really, why wouldn't you?

Dances With Eggs. Because really, why wouldn’t you?

5 Points on How to Write an Effective Book Review

Hile, inklings,

If you pay any attention at all to publishing industry news — specifically e-pub and indie pub — you know that we indie writers have a nearly insatiable craving for online reviews.

There are many reasons for this, but the crux of it is that the more favorable reviews we get, the more books we sell. Our greedy little writer-hearts like to know that the world is reading and enjoying our stories (not to mention the fact that our pocketbooks appreciate sales, too), so seeing favorable reviews and selling more books flips our bangerang switches most verily.

(Translation: We like it a lot.)

A Word on One-Star and Two-Star Reviews

And that word is: “blech.”

(By which I don’t mean “Blech,” which is German for “tin.”)

No, we don’t like low-star reviews. But I would venture to say that most of us accept them (whilst heaving heavy sighs), accept the reality of them, and accept even the necessity of them. A well-written low-star review can actually tell us valuable information about what works for readers and what doesn’t.

(Philosophical sidenote: Though I don’t believe in pandering to the crowd, I do believe in knowing one’s audience. Understanding + respecting reader expectations = okay. Pandering = not writing what writer really wants to write = not okay. Please to be noticing the difference.)

(Also, sorry about the penchant for parentheses. It’s a thing today, apparently.)

Me, when I read a low-star review of one of my own works, I indulge in a 24 to 72-hour wallow of self-pity. (I do not write a response to the review.) Then, I re-examine said review to see if there’s anything of value in it. If there is, I file that information away for possible future reference. If there isn’t, I attempt a brain-dump so that the self-pity doesn’t come back.

Sometimes, I have to repeat the brain-dump several times before it takes.

But I digress.

Brief Interlude

NOTE: Yes, I am a writer. Yes, I have strong opinions about the reviews I receive. BUT. I do recognize that reviewers aren’t writing for me. Reviewers are writing for their fellow readers.

Allow me to re-state, because this is a thing of importantness:

A book reviewer writes a review for the benefit of other readers, not for the writer’s benefit.

Basically, the purpose of a book review is to tell other readers why they would or wouldn’t enjoy reading a particular book.

Keeping this in mind, I shall ignore my greedy little writer self for the remainder of this blogpost. You’re welcome. ; )

Onward to what you really came here for.

5 Points on How to Write an Effective Book Review

1. Make it readable.

Use good grammar. If people can’t understand what you’re trying to tell them, then your review will “fall on deaf ears.” Don’t make review readers squint at their computer screens as they try to decipher whether you thought a character didn’t win ( = lose) or whether you thought he was a slut ( = loose).

For the same reason, and for the sake of all that’s good and writerly in this world, check your spelling. Use a spellchecker if need be. The pregnant main character is not a rotary phone: In the third chapter, she’s dilated, not “dialated.”

And if you’re going to write more than 7-10 lines, do please consider the beauty of the paragraph. Giant blocks of text hurt the eyeballs.

2. Be honest.

If you loved the book, say so.

If you feel neutral about the book, say so.

If you hated the book, say so.

If you didn’t finish the book, say so.

Recently, I challenged a reviewer who left a one-star review on a friend’s novel. I didn’t challenge the solitary star. I challenged the fact that the reviewer provided erroneous information in his review: He stated that Character X did not appear in the novel. He also admitted to not having finished the novel.

My challenge: Character X actually does appear in the novel — which the reviewer would have known, had he finished the book.

Now. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t advocate reading all the way through a book you’re not enjoying. I don’t finish books I don’t like. Who has the time for such shenanigans?

But. If you don’t finish the book, be honest about it — and be cautious about making absolute statements concerning the parts that you didn’t read. If you provide erroneous information about a novel, you are not helping fellow readers make informed decisions about their reading choices.

3. Give your fellow readers something they can relate to.

“If you like beach reads, you’ll enjoy this one.”

“Fantasy readers are going to eat this up.”

“This book is for the reader who’s always wondered what would happen if Orson Scott Card collaborated with V.C. Andrews.”

“If you enjoy YA novels, this probably isn’t the book for you.”

“This book reads very differently from the author’s other works, so keep that in mind.”

Whatever genre you’re reviewing, write toward it — because most of the people who read your review are going to be familiar with that genre. Let them know how a book follows expected conventions. Let them now how the book breaks from convention. Let them know whether or not the break from convention works well.

Know the expectations your genre’s readers will bring to the novel you’re reviewing. Tell them whether or not the novel will meet those expectations.

If the writer does something crazy original that amazed you, tell them to expect that, too.

But for the sake of all that’s good and writerly, do heed the following point:

4. Warn fellow readers of spoilers.

Provide details.

But not too many.

You know when you’re reading a review, and you’re trying to figure out based on the review whether or not you want to buy this book that sounds kinda cool but you’re on the fence about it, and you’re reading along and BAM! the reviewer tells you exactly what happens at the story’s climax?

No? You don’t know? Well, maybe it’s just me. But trust me — it stinks.

The words “SPOILER ALERT” are your friends. For the love of Grabthar’s Hammer, use them.

5. Have fun with it.

Don’t worry too much about what I said in #1. Make your review readable, yes. But nobody’s going to grade you. Your fellow readers just want to know what you liked or didn’t like and whether or not they can relate to your opinion.

I was going to continue this point by saying that you should have fun with your review even if you didn’t have fun with the book. But you know what? That’s probably not very realistic of me, and that might be the writer in me coming out.

If you didn’t have fun with the book, you’re probably not going to have fun with the review (unless you’re feeling gleefully vindictive, I suppose). If you feel dismal about writing the review, then your tone will likely show it. And — although the writer in me mourns this part — that’s probably something your fellow readers need to hear about, too.

________

And there you have it, y’all. My thoughts on writing an effective review. So, who are my blog-reading book-reviewers out there? Did I miss anything? Is there anything here you disagree with? Let’s talk about it. I’ve got a lot of opinions, but I’m not in the habit of reviewing everything I read. So I’d love to hear from you! What do you think?

I Was a Weird Kid, and Here’s Proof

Or: My Parallel of Trout Fishing in America.

 

Or: Snail Hunting in Germany

Once upon a time, my parents and I moved to Darmstadt, Germany, two weeks before my 3rd birthday, and that’s where I grew up.

From ages 3-6, I attended Kindergarten. (In my early 1980s Germany, “kindergarden” was basically the American equivalent of daycare. We played, we did crafts, we had field trips, and at least one of us acquired a foreign language from her fellows and from her teacher, Frau Apfelrock [Mrs. Appleskirt {I swear I am not making this up.}].)

At age 6, I started Grundschule, German elementary school.

Grandpa: She doesn’t get eaten by the eels at this time.

The Grandson: What?

Grandpa: The eel doesn’t get her. I’m explaining to you because you look nervous.

While in elementary school, I attended an afterschool “daycare” called Kinderhort. Kinderhort was within walking distance from school, and it was designed for kids whose parents worked fulltime. This way, we didn’t have to go home to empty apartments and get ourselves into trouble. ; ) At Kinderhort, they fed us lunch, we had extensive playtime indoors and out, and we had to sit down every afternoon and do our homework. After late afternoon snacktime, parents arrived to pick us up.

The Plot Thickens

One day, probably in 3rd grade, it was time for our first overnight Kinderhort trip. If I recall correctly, it wasn’t just overnight, it was several overnights. I remember feeling vaguely apprehensive over being away from my parents for most of a week, but I don’t remember saying anything about this out loud.

My parents, however, perceptive people that they are, must have known which jig was up, because they sent this note along in my suitcase:

Yes.

You read it correctly.

To bribe me into participating fully in a fun-filled field trip, my parents promised that we would go snail hunting once I got home.

Because that was what I liked to do.

Snail Hunter Extraordinaire

Even as a kid, I hated spiders. Bugs held no fascination for me. I did enjoy the roly-polies (amusingly known as Kellerasseln in German) we occasionally found beneath rocks and rotten branches, but it’s not like I wanted to take them home with me.

Snails were a different matter.

Forget the “sugar and spice and everything nice.” I had the spice, all right, but other than that, I was “snips, snails, and puppy dogs’ tails all the way.”

I HEARTED SNAILS ALMOST BEYOND COMPREHENSION.

I found them, and I brought them home. Pink shells, yellow shells, striped shells, big, little, medium. I made homes for them in terrariums (terraria?): potting soil in the bottom, sticks and stones to crawl over, shallow containers for water, and all the lettuce and cucumbers they wanted. Once a day, I misted them with water from a spray bottle. The top of each terrarium I covered with mesh held in place by rubber bands.

Do please click to embiggen cuteness.

I read books about snails. Like, the educational kind of books. I learned about how they eat, how they sleep, how they mate, how they repair damage to their shells. When some of my snails inevitably got frisky with each other, I watched the whole process and felt amazed. When the snails laid eggs, I researched carefully how best to care for them. When the eggs hatched, I suddenly had tiny escapees all over my bedroom and had to find a tighter mesh with which to cover the terrariums/a.

Me with my pets, ca. 1985. Click to embiggen.

When my friends came over, I couldn’t understand why they didn’t just want to sit there and watch the snails.

Hmm.

Most of my snails hailed from the large courtyard between our apartment building and the surrounding buildings. They were fairly common garden snails, common enough that the parents frequently had to make me set some of them free. And, of course, there was the occasional death in the snail family, which generated space for the occasional new addition. (Yes, I mourned the death of each gastropod.)

The one snail that lived with us consistently for several years, though, was The Big One.

In German, she’s called a Weinbergschnecke: literally, a wine mountain snail. Extrapolating from the “Berg” (mountain) part of her nomenclature, I named her “Bergie.” Why did I decide that this snail was female? No clue. Except that she looked like a girl. And like a Bergie. (Snails are actually hermaphrodites.)

Bergie was a helix pomatia, also known as “escargot snail.” That’s right, she was one of the edible ones, and I kept her as a pet. I always felt right courageous for having rescued her from a terrible culinary fate. Besides, she had a damaged spot on the top of her shell when I found her. Though she’d already repaired it, I knew she needed a little extra TLC.

At some point — I don’t remember why — it came time for me to set all of my snails loose, and I knew I wouldn’t be acquiring more. When I placed them carefully into the damp underbrush in the big courtyard, they slimed happily away without a clue that they now found themselves in a bigger, more dangerous, and yet more variegated world. I said goodbye to them all: pink, yellow, striped, big, little, medium.

But the only one I truly regretted was Bergie. She poked her head out, unrolled her eye stalks, and looked around as though she knew exactly what was going on. I was sad, but I thought she might be excited about this new adventure. I watched her for a few minutes as she got acclimated. Once she was well on her slow, meticulous way into the grand expanse of Untamed Flowerbeds Plot Next To Stone Wall, I went home.

Some time later — it might’ve been a few months, it might’ve been a year — we moved away. A few days before we left for good, I went hunting in the courtyard one last time. Sure enough: There, under the well-drenched leaves of a stinging nettle, sat a Weinbergschnecke with a telltale scar on the top of its shell. Bergie! Weird kid that I was, I grinned like an idiot.

But I didn’t bother her. If she had forgotten me, I didn’t want to hurt her feelings by making her remember.

Bergie

(Click for what’s pretty much life size!)

An Extremely Brief History of How I Got Gotten

Once upon a time, busyness and pregnancy exhaustion got me today.

Therefore, what you see here is the entirety of today’s blogpost.

Please to be forgiving the brevity thereof.

And they lived happily ever after.

Which, in German fairytales, reads: “And if they haven’t died, then they’re still alive today.”

The End

On Sarcasm: How Much Flesh Will You Eat?

Earlier today, I read and commented on Twitter Angst and the 2012 Olympics by blogger Ben Howard**.

Notably, my comment did not concern my aversion to the American usage of the word “Angst,” which in German has no aura of mental-emotional weirdness about it but, instead, simply means “fear.”

*ahem* But I digress. ; )

No, my comment was in reference to what Ben writes about the apparent increase of snarkiness, negativity, and cynicism on the Internet. What I said was this:

As time goes on, I watch the attitude of the masses with growing concern. When did pithiest and snarkiest and most cynical become the ideal to which we should all aspire? It seems like if you don’t infuse your every word with the utmost of sarcasm, then you’re not worth listening to.

What’s frightening about that is that the Greek root of “sarcasm” is the same as “sarcophagus” — which, directly translated, means “eater of flesh.” So basically, if we’re not tearing at each other’s vitals, then we have no right to a voice?

Is it just Ben and me? Or has anyone else noticed this?

eater of flesh


To get attention on the internet (and maybe we should be asking why you would want to), you’ve got to have the snappy, snippy comeback. You’ve got to infuse your every line with passive-aggressive insult aimed at one group or another. In order to make your side look good, you gotta make the other side look bad.

When I was in 2nd or 3rd grade, my best friend and I got teased all the time by a couple of boys who were two or three years older than we were. They laughed at us. They made fun of us. (Scarily, they picked us up and swung us around because we were too light-weight to fight back.) They mocked and insulted us at every opportunity.

I told my parents about it and tearfully asked why those boys were treating us this way.

My dad replied, “Honey, it’s because they’re bullies. They feel really bad about themselves. They feel like really small people, and it makes them feel better and bigger when they make others look smaller.”

What he really meant by “smaller” was inferior, but it would be a couple of years before I fully grasped that concept.

So. You get what I’m saying here, right? It seems that in the cyberverse, the best way to get attention is to be a bully: to make yourself look bigger and better by making someone else look smaller. You don’t get to feel superior, you don’t get to have others think you’re superior until you make someone else look inferior.

Is the internet really nothing more than an elementary school playground? Are we all really nothing but a bunch of petty, childish bullies?

I say “we” on purpose, because I know I’ve been guilty of this. When I mentioned “the masses” in my comment on Ben’s post, I mentally included myself. No, I haven’t outright bullied anyone. But I’ve done more than my fair share of sarcastic snarking. In his response to my comment, Ben calls the use of sarcasm “seductive” — and he’s right, it is.

When you’re a writer, you tend to be good with words. When you’re good with words, you tend to know pretty quickly, in any given situation, which words and phrases will cut the deepest. And if you’re in the mood — or if you’re mad about the situation/topic — or if you’re just a bully, you shoot the stealth zingers without hesitation because you know you’re going to hit your mark and feel triumphant…better than you felt before you aimed and fired.

“You.”

…I?

Sarcophagus: eater of flesh.

Sarcasm: ripping the heart and soul out of an adversary.

Or out of a friend?

Out of a beloved?

Are we creating this online culture of negativity, hate, and cruelty? Do we think because it’s not “IRL*” that it doesn’t really matter? We can toss our verbal grenades, let them explode and cause the requisite amount of damage, and then turn off our computers and pretend that we didn’t just maim someone?

No. People, NO. What happens online is real. What we say online is REAL. Words matter, and they do hurt. We don’t get to pretend that our sarcasm doesn’t affect the world IRL. We don’t get to pretend that we’re not gleefully tearing at the flesh of another soul. When we let ourselves speak those words — and yes, you do know the ones I mean — when we indulge in the pithiness, the snark, we make ourselves over into tombs for rotting meat and dead men’s bones.

And we carry that stench into every corner of our lives. Online and offline.

How many pounds of flesh are we going to eat tomorrow?

_____

*In Real Life

**Beneath his post, Ben says of himself:

“When he isn’t channeling Andy Rooney for a post about the Olympics, Ben spends his time in a field with Snoopy waiting for the arrival of the Great Pumpkin,”

which I think is positively cramazing.

Decoding Pregnancy: 5 Secrets Revealed

Hidey-ho, O Faithful Readerly Ones!

In the land of Court Can Write, we have now reached Week 22 of this thing they call Preg Nancy. I don’t know why or how Nancy gained such predominance in the naming of this condition, but there she is and there’s naught I can do about it. We carry on*.

Things have been quiet around the blog lately because what little spare energy I’ve got, I’ve been pouring into painting the cover art for Aaron Pogue’s The Dragonprince’s Heir, as well as finalizing my Monster Epic Fantasy Novel, aka Legend’s Artisans: Schism (working title). I remind me that the so-called MEFaN needs its own full, explanatory post not long hence, since it’s coming out in just a month. BANGERANG for sure — but also, OY VEY.

For now, though, I’ll share with you some recent revelations I’ve had concerning this Preg Nancy thing. I’ve concluded that humanity speaks in code about this, and one doesn’t get to decipher said code until one enters the state of being with child.

Some of these decipherings have come as a great surprise to me, and I wish someone had let me in on the secrets long ago. As I enjoy doing nice, informative things for you, my sweet inklings, I’ve decided to reveal five of the secrets to you, that you might be better prepared for your own future or at least come to a deeper understanding of certain apparently crazy women of your acquaintance (i.e. the pregnant ones). So…

Decoding Pregnancy: 5 Secrets Revealed

1. Glowing Skin
Oh, how the second trimester hormones are supposed to make a woman’s skin extra soft with that dewy glow of fertile, robust youth! A few people — a few, mind you — have said something to me in passing about how I’m “glowing.” But when I look in the mirror, I see a different picture. “Glowing skin,” my dear readers, is code for “acne.” It’s not terrible at this point, but it’s definitely more than the occasional pre-pregnancy zit. Ah, joy.

2. Ultrasound
My first ultrasound took place during Week 5 — quite early, because I was having complications and my doc just wanted to see what was going on. She showed me the screen and pointed to an amorphous blob and said, “Here’s the amniotic sac.” Then, she pointed at a teensy dot. “And that’s your baby.”

At Week 8, the ultrasound showed us a lighter amorphous blob within a darker amorphous blob. Light blob was baby, dark blob was amniotic fluid. This time, my doctor pointed out the “head” and the “rump” and two little protrusions she called “feet.” We nodded wisely. Other than that, the cool part was seeing and hearing the heart beat, which stunned the husband and made me burst into tears.

At Week 19, because I am 35 and therefore of “Advanced Maternal Age” (sheesh), we got to see the high-risk doctor for a 3-D ultrasound. By this time, Amorphous Blob had grown into Indentifiable Tiny Baby, and the 3-D ultrasound showed us an itty-bitty face with actual eyes, nose, lips, and chin.

In the non-3-D part of the ultrasound, the tech got a fabulous shot of my daughter facing the “camera.” Pardon my irreverence, but that shot just looks freaky — because most of what you see is the skull showing through. My child looked like a demonic Halloween mask**.

“Ultrasound” is code for: trust the doctor that what is growing inside you is actually human.

3. Kicking
I first felt movement on the first day of Week 16. At first, it felt like gas bubbles in places where I knew there couldn’t be gas bubbles. Within days, this progressed to little flutters like muscle spasms. On the morning of Week 19, Day 4, I looked down and saw my stomach twitch.

Feeling my baby move inside of me is the most cramazing experience in the entire universe.

It is also what I imagine it would feel like to have a baby alien of Ellen Ripley fame preparing to burst out of one’s abdomen.

4. Tiredness
“You’ll be tired during pregnancy.” = “You will feel like you’re climbing a mountain every day.”

“You’ll get your energy back during the second trimester.” = “We are pathological liars.”

5. Placenta
So, when we went in for the 3-D ultrasound, I asked the tech where inside my uterus the placenta is attached. She told me it’s right under my bellybutton.

And then she said, “It’s about the size and shape of a pancake.”

REVELATION.

In German, most commonly-used medical terms aren’t Latin-based the way they are in English. You don’t have tonsillitis, you have a “Mandelentzündung” — which, directly translated, means “almond inflammation. If you have sinusitis, you’ve got a “Nasennebenhöhlenlentzündung” — an “inflammation of the caves next to the nose.”

If you’re female, you don’t have a uterus. You have a “Gebärmutter,” which means “birthing mother” whether that organ ever births anything or not.

When you’re pregnant, what nourishes your baby is not a placenta.
What nourishes your baby is the “Mutterkuchen.”

That’s “mothercake” to you.

Yum.

* Pun intended? You bet your sweet patootie.

** Don’t be fooled by my cheeky demeanor. If I could, I would totally go in for an ultrasound every single day. Seeing my baby — her face, her arms, her legs, and her incredible little heart — is a joy that beggars description.

Can We Bare It or Bear It: The Breasts of Superheroines

So, I’ve never been much of a superhero comics reader. I was an Archie, Betty, and Veronica kind of girl for a good many years, but I only ever owned two or three superhero comics. The most memorable of these featured a Huntress short in the back. I read that one over and over again.

Addendum:
Also, there was this:

Probably 1982 or 1983...5 or 6 years old. Dude.

< /addendum >

Over the last year or so, Josh, comics aficionado extraordinaire, has done his deadlevel best to further my superhero education. Mostly, this occurs through my listening to his conversations with his son and watching said son imitate whichever superhero is on his childlike plate for the day.

Usually, Josh’s kiddo gives me new insights into Spider-Man. But Josh also introduced me to All-Star Superman and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, so I’m getting quite the smorgasbord.

This morning, Josh texted me a link to this blogpost by one Dave Dorman (which, since the writing of this post, Mr. Dorman has deleted). In his article, Mr. Dorman expresses his disapproval of a new comic called Saga, allegedly being marketed to kids.

Mr. Dorman finds Saga offensive because of this:

I know nothing about Mr. Dorman except what he says in his blogpost and in comments on that particular post: He is a father; he himself draws curvaceous superheroines; he advocates breastfeeding; and he finds Saga to be offensive simply because it’s being marketed to children.

According to several comments on his blogpost, it’s possible he posted before researching, as several people opine that Saga isn’t being marketed to children at all, and its creator intended it for an adult audience.

As of this writing, my own comment on Mr. Dorman’s post is awaiting moderation. In the meantime, here are my thoughts on the matter:

On one hand: Superhero comics marketed to kids, in which women are drawn scantily clad or in suits so skintight, every outline of every boob and butt curve is visible. These women are unmistakably meant to arouse sexual attraction. Repeat: marketed to kids.

On the other hand: A superhero comic marketed to kids (?), in which a partially bare breast is drawn to illustrate breastfeeding. Hardly any curve is visible at all.

If one disapproves of the barely-there curve of a bare, breast-feeding breast, it would be hypocritical to approve of the sexy superheroines who keep their shirts on. In superheroines marketed to children, the only difference between the bare breast and the clothed breast is the color of the ink.

I’ll also take this moment to state that I’m continually perplexed and annoyed by the apparently general North American aversion to bare breasts during public breast-feeding. Yes, I do realize I’m coming from a cultural background (German) in which public breast-feeding is considered normal and acceptable; a German would be horrified at the idea of asking a breast-feeding mother to “cover up” or leave a public area.

But this pervasive, North American distaste for public breastfeeding irritates me. To tell a breast-feeding mom to cover up or go away is to express that the breast’s primary function is sexual, which is not the case at all. Yeah, we all know guys like ’em — but they don’t exist primarily for guys’ enjoyment. Breasts exist primarily for feeding babies. And I’m saying this as a woman who has never had children.

A bare, breast-feeding breast shouldn’t be any more “offensive” or arousing than a bare arm. Or a bare hand, if you’re from a culture that considers bare arms a sexy taboo.

For another take on this, do pop on over to read Josh’s thoughts on this. I quite appreciate both his analysis of the situation and respectful but still in-your-face way in which he chooses to present it.

___________________

Weigh in, y’all. I know you’ve got something to say about all of this; just please keep it courteous and respectful of one another! : )