Finally, my reading has paid off

February 23, 2009

I know, it’s been a long time since I’ve written. But, don’t worry, I have plenty of excuses. Actually, coming up with excuses is one of the things that I do best. My biggest excuse is that I’ve been working in Nashville a lot recently. That’s not the best excuse, since I had a computer when I was in Nashville, but it’s better for you that I didn’t write while I was there. There’s only so many “yee haw,” ya’ll, and cowboy jokes that I can make before they get old. In fact, they’ve already gotten old. Also, I bought a condo. That’s usually a decent sized accomplishment, but I made it all the more impressive while doing it without money, in a horrible economy, while spending all of my time reading instead of coming up with extra cash. (Please send me money.)

Anyway, my reading has finally paid off. I knew this day would come. It doesn’t have to do with the most recent book I read, but it has to do with the “Woe is I” book I read a month or so ago. Yes, it also has to do with pancakes. I was lounging around with Melinda today when I threw out the idea of us eating some delicious pancakes before dinner. These aren’t your usual pancakes. They’re not even your usual DELICIOUS pancakes. These are pancakes from Mandalay Restaurant near Melinda’s, and they are some crazy pancake appetizer that you are allowed to eat at dinner without your mom getting mad or girlfriend giving you dirty looks. I told Melinda, “Let’s get some pancakes. That will whet your appetite. W-h-e-t.” I don’t know why I decided to spell out whet. I don’t think I was trying to be obnoxious. Sometimes I just spell words. Melinda quickly responded, “Whet is not a word.” Holy moly. For anyone that knows Melinda, you should know that I was in trouble. She’s always right. She’s right so much (always) that every time I try to prove her wrong I fail miserably and she makes me say to her, “Melinda, you’re right….as always.” It’s really degrading and something no man should have to do. You can see why I was concerned that she didn’t think whet was a word. I figured I was about to become less of  a man. However, thanks to the power of the iPhone I was able to pull up the definition of “whet” and shove it in her face. Thanks to the silly grammar book I read, I knew that whet was a word. Unbelievable. I learned something.

I may not be right “as always” but I was right for once, and that’s good enough for me. Thank you books. I owe you one.


I’m a Short Racist

December 3, 2008

Oh no! I’m racist!

As suggested by Malcolm Gladwell I just took an Implicit Association Test (IAT) which, through responding quickly to a lot of pictures and words, is supposed to tell me my racial attitude on an unconscious level. I took the test twice, because I didn’t believe the results. But, sure enough, when I finished the IAT, these were the big, bold words staring down at me from my computer screen: “You have a strong automatic preference for European American compared to African American.” Dang it! I’m going to keep taking this thing until I can get it right. I’d really rather not be racist, I promise.

Fortunately, Malcom Gladwell says my results don’t mean I’m racist. In fact, he says that my crappy test score is society’s fault and not mine. Suck it, society. In reality, I wasn’t surprised by my score. I sincerely believe that I’m not consciously racist, but I know I’ve spent my whole life surrounded by a society that favors wealthy white people (who also happen to be straight and protestant). Sorry, my Berkeley roots are coming out quite a bit, so I better move on.

Not only am I racist, but I’m also going to get paid less because I’m short. According to Blink, 14.5% of all men are six feet or taller. However, among CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, 58% of men are six feet or taller. What’s even worse is that all things being equal an inch of height is worth $789 a year in salary. This means I need to spend less time performing well at work, and more time growing. Maybe I’ll need to go back to my “I think I can” advice from my previous post.

This book is making me think an awful lot. That’s probably not a good thing because it makes posts less funny and more ridiculous. Now, I’m going to go think happy thoughts and try to fix my racism problem.


Blink

December 1, 2008

Thanks to the amount of people that recommended it, today I started to read the book Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. I’m only about 75 pages into it, but I can already tell that it’s going to be a fantastic book. In short, the book is about “thinking without thinking” and how we can unconsciously make decisions in seconds that are better than our consciously thought out decisions that take minutes, weeks, or years. Mainly, I think I’m going to like this book because it fits in quite perfectly with my lazy lifestyle. From now on I’m doing whatever my gut tells me and I’m thinking about nothing. If I want chocolate milk, then I’m drinking it. If I want to high five, then I’ll high ten. When you say jump, I’ll say, “only if my unconscious mind tells me to.” I can already tell that Mr. Gladwell is going to be mad at me for distorting his message.

On a serious note (don’t worry, I’ll keep it short), there was already a part of the book that was very meaningful to me. It was so meaningful that I actually marked the page with a post-it note so I’d remember to go back to it. That might not seem like a huge step for you, but I very rarely ever mark up books. (I guess it goes back to the laziness thing.) Gladwell talks about an experiment that was done where African American students did twice as badly on a test if they were asked to identify their race on a pretest questionnaire. Gladwell says:

As a society, we place enormous faith in tests because we think that they are a reliable indicator of the test taker’s ability and knowledge. But are they really? If a white student from a prestigious private high school gets a higher SAT score than a black student from an inner-city school, is it because she’s truly a better student, or is it because to be white and to attend a prestigious high school is to be constantly primed with the idea of “smart”?

I sincerely believe in that last paragraph. But, unfortunately, I might ruin it with this next bad joke…

In other words, “I think I can, I think I can” is some very solid advice.


Woe Is I for Finishing this Book

November 30, 2008

I’m starting to get depressed every Sunday when I finish a book. Wait a minute, that’s not even close to the truth. I’m actually pretty happy when I finish a book, but I thought I’d sound cooler if I said I was depressed. Wow, I have issues. Thinking being depressed is cool is like thinking it’s cool to watch Battlestar Galactica (which, for the record, I do). Anyway, I have finished Woe Is I and I must say that it was delightful.

But, before I give a summary of the book, let’s talk about one of its chapter’s titles: “Metaphors Be with You.” hahahha, I could not stop laughing when I read that. If you don’t get the joke then you haven’t watched enough Star Wars. As you probably guessed, this was the chapter on metaphors. The chapter itself was good, but the title was priceless. I could have spent years and not come up with a pun that good. My hat’s off to you Mrs. O’Conner. <begin slow clap>

There were two things that I was happy to learn through the last 75 pages of the book.

  1. It’s okay to end a sentence with a preposition.
  2. It’s okay to start a sentence with and or but.

I’m sure grammar dorks (people even dorkier than me) could argue about this for years, but I’m going to take the author’s word for it and high five myself for all the times I started a sentence with and or but. (That means I get three high fives for this post alone.)

Getting back to the book, it was good and I recommend it. (I’m now convinced that people don’t read this blog for the book reviews). I thought that it would make me some grand master of grammar who kicked grammar butt and took names. I imagined myself saying stuff like, “I’m here to kick grammar ass and chew bubblegum, and I’m all out of bubblegum,” but, quite honestly, that never happened. I also thought I might get a tattoo with something like, “i before e, except after c,” or ,”I’m the comma sutra.” But, that didn’t happen either. I guess I’m much less extreme than I’d like. Instead, I mentioned the book to a few friends, and became much less anal about grammar. One of these days I’ll become the Jack Bauer of grammar, but for now I’ll just read silently and politely. (Oh no, Woe Is I would be mad at me for saying that I read politely because it doesn’t make any sense. But, I don’t like using the delete key so I’m just going to leave that sentence. Look at me, I’m finally being a rebel.)


From Strange to Creepy

November 30, 2008

With certain things in life (aka most things) there is a specific moment that can be pointed to when something goes from strange to creepy. For example, when Michael Jackson built a carnival in his backyard for kids, that was strange. When he started sleeping with these little kids in his bed, that was creepy. Or, when Janet Jackson’s boob plops* out at the Super Bowl, that was strange. When it had a decorative silver piercing, that was creepy. It’s not so hard, I’m sure we can think of endless examples. (Why did both of my examples involve the Jacksons? I don’t know, but that just turned this post from strange to creepy.)

Anyway, I bring this all up because things in my life just got creepy. Remember a few weeks ago when I read Crime and Punishment and thought it was so strange that I had a lot in common with the main character? Well, crap just got creepy a few days ago when I noticed that Fyodory Dostoevsky and I have the same birthday. Boom! My head exploded when I read this. It’s a good thing that I don’t have an axe in my apartment, because I’d hate for this to go from creepy to criminal.

*I get extra credit for this excellent word choice. “Plops” is a perfect word. C’mon, you know it made that sound.


Grammar Snob

November 27, 2008

Let’s start this thing off cheesily (even though I’m reading a book on grammar, I can still make up words like “cheesily”). I am thankful for the book Woe Is I. Not only am I thankful for this book feeding my inner grammar nerd, but I’m also thankful that it’s making me less of a grammar snob. There are so many grammar rules that it is unbelievable. Woe Is I is page after page of grammar rules, there is no way anyone can know all of these. The author, Patricia O’Conner, must be the only human on the planet with a complete grasp on the English language. A week ago I cringed whenever someone used then instead of than, or used it’s when they should have used its, or said anyways instead of anyway. However, now I realize that although I have these rules down, there are a million and one that I don’t know. Look at me, I’m growing and progressing. This book a week thing is making me a better person. Okay, that’s not true. I’m still going to judge people when they use it’s instead of its, now I’ll just judge myself as well.

Okay, here are some interesting things I’ve learned over the past few days.

  • Restauranteur is not a word. Am I the only person that didn’t know this? The word is actually restaurateur.
  • Irregardless is not a word. What the? The word is just regardless. Again, am I the only one that didn’t know this? When I googled “irregardless” the first result said, “an erroneous redundancy for regardless.” Crap, I must’ve been the only person that didn’t know. (Darn it, I just broke a rule. According to Woe Is I I’m not supposed to say “must’ve”.) (Darn it again. Quotes, period, and parenthesis. I don’t know what the crap goes where.)
  • A dash is different than a hyphen.

Anyway, if it wasn’t already obvious, there’s a lot I don’t know. However, at least I have this book to tell me how much I don’t know. Normally I just have my friends to tell me that.


Woe Is I

November 24, 2008

Darn you Google for showing me ads targeted to things that I’m interested in. An ad appeared on the top of my Gmail account promoting a book called Woe Is I which is described as “The grammarphobe’s guide to better English in plain English.” Now, I’m not a grammarphobe. In fact, I’m a grammarphile. (Did I just make that word up? Maybe.) I think it has to do with the fifth grade teacher in me, but I’ve always been incredibly interested in grammar. I don’t know what it is. Some people are obsessed with video games, others with reading or music, but me….I’m obsessed with grammar. Before you get too anal on me, just because I’m obsessed with grammar doesn’t mean that I’m good at it. It also doesn’t mean that I’m well at it (haha, grammar jokes for life).

So, after seeing the ad I made a trip to Barnes and Noble to buy the book. I’m really trying not to buy many books, since I have plenty at home that I haven’t read, but the grammar nerd in me came out and forced me to make a purchase. After reading 50 pages, I can tell you that this book was worth every penny. Take these two sentences as an example: “Though it’s technically incorrect, octopi is now so common that dictionaries list it as a second choice after octopuses, the preferred plural. Octopi is for suckers.” If reading this blog gets you nothing else in life, it will prevent you from being a sucker.

Expect to get some great grammar tips this week. Actually, don’t expect much, I’m feeling quite lazy. Anyway, first things first, time to turn off Google ads before I go and spend more money.


High Five to Ask The Dust

November 19, 2008

I know it’s only Wednesday, but I already finished Ask The Dust. This happened for three reasons. First, and most important, I’m awesome. Second, I really enjoyed the book. And third, I’ll be at an offsite for work from tomorrow to Saturday. Don’t get too excited, I promise the offsite won’t be fun. In fact, it is so not fun that I won’t even write a joke about it. _____________________ Notice that empty space where there should be a joke? See that space and think of me bored at a work function for the next few days. But, loyal readers (mom), don’t fret. While I’m off being miserable you can read my posts over and over again. The joys of the internet.

So, like I said, this book is very good. John Fante’s writing style is a little like mine. I don’t mean that it’s bad like mine, I mean that it’s very random like mine. Also, similar to me, he likes to write in short sentences. As an example of his writing style, check out the first paragraph of the novel:

“One night I was sitting on the bed in my hotel room on Bunker Hill, down in the very middle of Los Angeles. It was an important night in my life, because I had to make a decision about the hotel. Either I paid up or I got out: that was what the note said, the note the landlady had put under my door. A great problem, deserving acute attention. I solved it by turning out the lights and going to bed.”

Dang, that’s good stuff. I’m not sure if I’m allowed to post material from his book here. I hope Mr. Fante won’t be too mad at me. Just to be safe, if you read that paragraph then please send the publisher a quarter, or, if you’d prefer, then send me $10. Ask The Dust is funny, quirky, tells a great story, and (in the end) is quite sad. I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes to write, or for someone who is looking for something different to read. I’m impressed by Mr. Fante, and at some point in the next year I’m sure I’ll read another of his books.

Before I go, I’ll leave you with one more quote from the book. This is taken from a letter that the main character Bandini writes to an aspiring writer who is dying and looking for help writing: “Under ordinary circumstances I would call this a tragic situation. But having read the bile your manuscripts contain, let me speak for the world at large and say at once that your departure is everybody’s good fortune. You can’t write, Sammy. I suggest you concentrate on the business of putting your idiotic soul in order these last days before you leave a world that sighs with relief at your departure.”

I get your message loud and clear John Fante. And, with that, I won’t be posting for the next few days.


The Mentalist vs John Fante

November 19, 2008

John Fante had incredible will power. For example, this is what the back of the book has to say about him: “He was stricken with diabetes in 1955. Complications from the disease brought about his blindness in 1978 and, within two years, the amputation of both legs. He continued to write by dictation to his wife, Joyce, and published Dreams from Bunker Hill.” Holy crap, he writes even as a blind amputee, and I can’t write when The Mentalist is on tv. In my defense, The Mentalist is a little bit like Santa Clause – he knows when you’re watching, and he knows when you’re not. He might even know when you’re bad or good (so be good for goodness sake), but that’s beside the point. Anyway, if John Fante is that dedicated to writing, then you know his book is good. Likewise, if I’m so easily distracted, then you know this blog is horrible. However, you probably already knew this blog was horrible, and that’s not because you’re a mentalist, it’s because you can read.


Ask The Dust

November 17, 2008

There comes a time in every man’s life when he needs to choose a second book. Actually, that’s not true, some people don’t read books. And, even worse than that, some people in oppressive countries don’t get to choose what books they read. Anyway, I’m off topic (I got off topic in two sentences, that’s a new record for me! <streamers begin to fall as the song Celebrate blasts over the radio>).

Before I tell you about my second book, let’s talk about my apartment smelling like gas. I’ll desperately avoid the fecal humor, and move straight into the facts. For the past few days my apartment has reeked like gas. There must be a leak somewhere. I’m convinced that this can’t be good for me, but maybe (just maybe) it will make me a better writer. Dostoevsky had gambling, Hemingway had alcohol, and I inhale gas. Everyone has their vice. Actually, on second thought, I’d rather not die so I’m staying the night at Melinda’s apartment. Plus, they have a big screen tv and a Wii, so it’s a nice place to stay – but a hard place to read.

My second book is Ask The Dust by John Fante. I’ve never heard of this book, or this author, but I’m reading it because of one man’s dedication. I tried to make that last sentence sound very dramatic, almost like a guy carried the book across the desert and died handing it to me, you’ll soon see that it’s not that dramatic at all. Actually, last week I told a few of my co-workers about my book a week mission, and one of them got very excited and told me to read Ask The Dust because it changed his life. Bold statement, I know. I usually reserve statements like that for gifts from God such as chocolate milk and mayonnaise. When he mentioned this book last week he also said that he’d bring it in for me to read. Honestly, I completely forgot about all of this until the first thing he said to me this morning was, “Here’s the book,” as he slowly handed it to me. I was quite impressed that he remembered today was new book day, so I’m going to read it.

While looking for this book on Amazon I noticed that it was turned into a bad movie in 2006 starring Colin Farrell and Salma Hayek. Maybe after I read it this week I can ruin everything by watching the movie. Or, maybe not.

I’m feeling a little over-confident this week since Ask The Dust is 165 pages with large font, rather than the 505 pages of Crime and Punishment. In fact, I didn’t read at all today (too busy sniffing gas). I really do look forward to starting tomorrow (if not tonight) and I’ll keep you all updated.