Wherein I Repeatedly Kick the Rules in their Jelly-Parts

Soooooooo….. March vanished. Seriously, look at your calendar, and in the space March once occupied you will see a swirling vortex of nothingness. March is an empty wind rolling across a featureless plane. March is a barren wasteland, in which nothing moves, nothing grows, and, most importantly, nobody blogs. Yeah… sorry about that. Actually, you know what, I’m gonna pull a ‘sorry, not sorry’ on this one, cause I have been fucking busy. That’s right, I haven’t just been sat on my pretty little ass watching Supernatural (Season 10, BITCHES!!!!… *ahem*). As mentioned in my last post, I have a Bachelor of Arts starting this year, and on March second University exploded in my face like a shotgun with Bugs Bunny’s finger wedged in the end.

But this problem, my friends, is two fold. You see, I have this rebellious streak roughly the size of Russia. I’m very, very not good at doing as people say, even when that thing is something I enjoy doing, like writing this blog. And when, late in February, I promised you guys a particular post (on why villains are more interesting than heroes, as those of you with powerful memories or the ability to scroll downwards know), I did the equivalent of setting myself homework and with university Elmer Fudding all over my face (Ewwwwwwww, I sincerely apologise for that image), I had enough homework already, thank you very much. Also, aside from my own personal morals and, y’know, sanity (even if mine is a pretty unique sort of sanity), pretty much the only thing that will get me to do as I’m told is the notion that BAD THINGS WILL HAPPEN IF YOU DON’T DO THIS THING!!! and even then I will procrastinate until the last possible second before doing everything in a panicked whirlwind. I’m so used to this cycle by now that it doesn’t even stress me out any more, it’s just homework, my style. But because the main thing that actually gets me off my stupid (if pretty) butt is the avoiding of consequences, and not blogging when and what I said I’d blog has less bad consequences than getting an assignment in late, or not getting enough sleep, or not bathing and allowing my armpits to disintegrate into the fetid cesspool of excretion that lies at the centre of every human soul. Writing an apology post (or a sorry not sorry post, in my case) just isn’t as bad as all that stuff.

But here’s the thing, of all the twenty odd people who follow this blog, I’m probably the one who feels the worst when it sits here for four weeks straight and nothing happening. So why make a big deal of it? Well, thing is, I feel I weird kind of loyalty to you strange and wonderful people who follow the blog. You guys feel the need to clog up your probably already congested wordpress feed, just to have a glance at what I’ve got to say every month. And that is freaking touching. So honestly, thanks, to all the people who follow here, it really does mean a lot. I also have an obligation to give you guys what you signed up for, and deliver to your eye holes monthly doses of…. And there I’m stuck.

What is this blog about? Books? I guess, I mean book reviews are a thing that you can find here. Writing? Sure, but it has become far from the focus of this place. The unholy blackness that sits in the empty hollow where my heart should be? Meh. I think about all the things that people say make a successful blog. Like images, a regular posting schedule, a topic, and I find that this blog has none of those things. Maybe that’s why I’ve been doing this thing for almost a year and only twenty people have signed up for the ride. This is what I’m sure many people would call a ‘growing platform’ or even possibly a ‘failed blog’ but it doesn’t feel failed. And while it does seem to be growing (like half of you only joined up with the previous blog post), I’ve kind of stopped looking at this place like a ‘platform’. This isn’t some stage where I flog some stuff most of you probably aren’t going to buy, this is a goddamn street performance. I’m standing here, on the side of the information superhighway doing linguistic backflips, hoping that some of you will stop, toss a coin or two my way and continue with your day hopefully improved by the experience. But, even that is not all this blog is. This place is like my padded cell. This blog is the place where I can yell at the walls, talk to a crowd that mostly exists only in my hopes and dreams, where I can swing from a chandelier, where I can tear my hair out, let loose and for once in my repressed life show the world my odd, gooey insides. This place is all of those things. So this, dear reader, is my promise to you. I will tell you if I do stuff I would like you to throw money at (if you can afford it), I will dance for your amusement, I discuss the books and T.V shows and movies that I am currently obsessed with, I will call genitals ‘jelly-parts’, and brains ‘pink-squish’ and eyes ‘eye-holes’ because I can, because fuck success. Success is arbitrary, and ultimately more than a little meaningless. This will never be a ‘successful’ blog, with hundreds of thousands of followers, and sponsorships and all that other jazz. People have done that, and they can keep doing it. I have twenty people hanging onto my tail as we swing from the chandelier in the middle of this padded room. As long as this place is fun, then it is successful, as long as this place is safe, then it is successful, as long as I keep posting more than a couple of times a year, this place is successful.

So, dear reader, hang on tight or get off. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

The Need to Do (a ramble about motivation)

So motivation has been a big struggle for me recently. Not just motivation to write, but motivation to do do anything, motivation to wash my clothes, motivation to wash myself, motivation to get up in the morning, motivation to eat. Motivation to do much of anything besides lie in bed and watch Supernatural all day (nearing the end of season 5, it’s bated breath and cold sweat good, for the most part). Of course I don’t sit around all day and watch Supernatural (most days. I am a weak willed sack of monkey meat and sometimes the siren call is too much), instead I aimlessly surf the internet looking for enough dopamine to make the hours of pointlessness worth it… but it never is.
Instead both Friday and Saturday last week I wrote a thousand words of my novel. Not only that, but I fleshed out my outline a bit and learned more about my world. I need not tell the writers out there how good that feels. It’s a flood of happy hormones injected right into your pink-squishy grey matter, by your pink-squishy grey matter. It is a call to arms against the apathy that has plagued me pretty much since the end of school last year. I have been lethargic and despondent, and I put it down to not having a set in stone plan for the coming year (a situation that had since changed, Bachelor of Arts FTW!!!) but even since I have been accepted into my Bachelor of Arts, which sorts out my next three years for me, actually doing anything still seems to not being on the agenda. Until last week.
Last week I put together two pieces of flatpack furniture, because I really needed a new desk and the poor little cane ‘bookshelf’ (that was originally intended to be a shoe rack, but it was nineteen dollars and flat enough to hold books) was all but falling apart at the workload I was putting on it. So I retired the little guy and replaced it with one of those handy dandy cube storage units cunningly turned ninety degrees sideways so it would fit under my window. That and the fact that I’ve recently been reorganising my bedroom/office had led me to a conclusion…
It feels way better to do something, ANYTHING, than it is to do nothing, BUT it’s way easier to just do nothing and watch the world go by than it is to actually take on/complete a project, and all too often being the easier option is all it takes.
Another example, I could watch Supernatural as I eat dinner tonight, or I could read the wonderfully poetic book that I picked up at a closing down sale of a local bookshop the other day (a phenomenon of book stores closing down is one that gives me mixed emotions, because on the one hand you have a book store closing down, always a tragedy, but on the other you have really, really cheap book. ARRRRGH!! THE CONFLICT THAT RAGES IN MY SOUL!!!… ahem. Moving on). This book, The Age of Orphans by Laleh Khadivi is spectacular, but the language, while gorgeous, requires mental activity to equate the beautiful, beautiful words to the action. With Supernatural (or any other kind of TV… if you’re into that kind of thing) there is no such process. The action is right there in front of me with everything explained neatly and simply for a mass-consuming audience, and yet, reading Age of Orphans not only makes me realise that you can be poetic without straying into overdone purple prose, but presents a captivating tale of a young boy dealing with one of the most turbulent times the middle east has ever known. I can feel my understanding growing as I read it, and I know it will impact my writing in the best possible way and yet… I want to watch Supernatural.
So often we don’t do things because they’re hard. For years now, I have a avoided coming out as bisexual to one vast majority of my family who I really, really don’t think will have good reaction. It’s hard and I don’t want to do it. But one day, I will have to, just because that level of deception is just not a sustainable or healthy way to conduct any relationship. And it is the same, albiet with less potential for shouting matches around the dinner table, with writing.
It’s hard, but we all need to suck it up and just do it, because it’s important. Important to our mental and physical health (not saying writing will give you an awesome six pack or anything, but doing something that you are proud of, even just a little bit, every day must have a good impact on something physical, right? Like the old psychology adage, ‘everything mental is physical’). And if this week has taught me anything, it’s that the best motivation is momentum. I started out by rearranging my room, which let me to buy and put together new furniture, which led to finally getting a desk space I am happy with, which led to me writing more, which led me to reading more and that whole thing has led me to write this blog post. A thing that I am proud of, and that must be having a good effect on my brain because I feel way more active writing this now than I did watching that episode of Supernatural earlier today (like I said, weak-willed sack of monkey meat).
As people we must do to keep on doing, once something is set into motion it will stay in motion until something stops it, and once it is stopped it will stay stopped until something moves it (Newton’s Laws of Motion: helping to create motivational speeches and blog posts since 1642). And here’s a thought, that thing that always moves or stops this metaphorical object that is your motivation, is you. Not to get all ‘self-help: the power within’ cliché here, but the outside world can only give you the idea to push yourself away from Sam and Dean Winchester, it’s you that sets that ball rolling. Always. And that, is pretty damn amazing. But once the ball is rolling it’s just as easy (a lot of times way easier) to stop it again, but then, dying can sometimes seem easier than living, and everyday people choose the harder option. Why? Because life is important, your life is important, because no matter how lethargic you are now, you will do things in your important life, and doing things is important, and there are some important things that only you can do (like write YOUR book, for example). So go out there, and DO a THING. Because it’s important, and also because the dopamine rush is really, really good.

Tune in next time when we may or may not discuss villians vs heros and why Batman is cooler than Superman, but why Hannibal Lecter is cooler than both of them.

Till then, thing doers, I bid you good luck in all the things you end up doing (…*snicker* GET YOUR MIND OUT OF THE GUTTER)

Ashlee

An Incoherent, Slightly Awed Review: The Slow Regard of Silent Things.

So… I just finished reading this book. It was a small book, but that was right. It told me almost nothing I wanted to know and raised even more questions, but that too was right. This book was a right thing, a proper thing….

Hey, did I or did I not say that this review was going to be incoherent? People who have read the book should know what I was talking about. Which, now that I think on it, sort of defeats the purpose of a review. But, who am I kidding? These aren’t really reviews, they’re a convenient and potentially entertaining excuse for me to rant and rave and gush about books (it’s a full time hobby, I’ll have you know).

Anyway, now that I’ve gotten all the pedantic out, let’s talk about this bright apple seed of a book.

Now, this is a book with many covers so here’s the one all you important folks in the states, sorry, States will recognise.
Taken from Goodreads.com

But this isn’t my cover of the book, and to be perfectly honest I vastly prefer my version. Here’s the Uk version (and consequently the Australian version, hence my familiarity with it).
Also via Goodreads

I think it’s pretty obvious by now that I enjoy this book. Notice the present tense, it isn’t that I enjoyed this book. Any book can be a past experience when you turn the final page, but it takes a special kind of book to be present even after the cover has closed. The phrase “will stay with you long after the final page” is the marketing incarnation of this specialness, but it is not always accurate, due to people being the ridiculously, invariably, impossibly subjective creatures they are. So I can’t say that this book will ‘stay with you’ but all I can say is that some books are ice, they might be sharp and clear and they might pierce you to the soul, but they melt right away the instant you turn your back or snuggle up to something warmer. This book is not ice, although some might mistake it for such, no. This book is glass. Glass and copper and a subtle shine at the bottom of the Yellow Twelve (or perhaps Silver Twelve? This is a moonlit book.) This book planted shards of glass, speckles of moonlight and a few pretty pennies in my heart and they are not going anywhere soon.

Now, before you continue reading this and become as enamoured with this teardrop story as I am, I must issue a warning: THIS BOOK IS A LOCK. TWO KEYS SHALL OPEN IT. ONE IS CALLED ‘THE NAME OF THE WIND’, THE OTHER, ‘THE WISE MAN’S FEAR’. SEEK THEE OUT THESE KEYS AND THE LOCK WILL OPEN ADMITTING YOU TO THE WONDER BEYOND…. possibly. Some people out there will find it immensely boring. These people will probably also find this post to be nonsense. Eh, it’s no real skin off my back, as my main deal with people who dissagree with me is “don’t attack me for not agreeing with you and I won’t attack you for not agreeing with me, deal?” Then we shake hands and everything, mostly, remains civil (warning: disagreement deal may not apply to all issues or persons, always read the label, if symptoms persist consult your local Cthaeh… just kidding DON’T! I’m not messing with stuff that can scare Bast. Anyway…) But I digress, don’t look so surprised, the main point of this article is to tell you to read The Name of The Wind, and The Wise Man’s Fear, that’s the only way you’ll even remotely understand what these pages mean.

Oh, would you look at that, almost half way through the review and I have yet to even mention the author of all three of these fine books. You see There are some things you expect a review to do… and this one will probably not do most of them. Patrick Rothfuss is his name. Google is your bestest friend with this guy, you wont regret it. I also steal at least forty percent of my quotes, phrases and general smartness from him (well, if he doesn’t want to be quoted, then why does he speak?). Anyway, google is literally less than an inch away from your finger. Look up Name of the Wind, and Wise Man’s Fear, read both of them and then come back here. We’ll wait.

… …. … … …
Done? Awesome stuff, right? Anyway, before you are fully introduced to the sweet torture known as waiting for the dawn to rise on the third day (which we all need to calm the fuck down about, by the way. It’ll get done, just swallow a few stones worth of patience and wait!), lets talk about Auri.

Our Heroine:  Auri. Her name, which may or may not mean ‘sunny’, is perfect for her. It burns in her chest. It lifts her from the black days when she is all tangles. It is a flower in her heart. So much can be said about Auri, but not much should be said about her. She is a pretty girl who looks like the sun, and who leaves crystals in trees.

Our Hero: At first I thought it was going to be Foxen, but it wasn’t. I think it was Fulcrum, with his three threes, but it’s hard to tell.

Our Villain: Ummmmmm…. Hmmm…. I’m coming up with nothing…. Time? That seems most obvious. Time is certainly against Auri in this book. If you want to get meta (and who doesn’t?) Auri herself could be seen as the villain, in a small, broken, misunderstood and guttering kind of way. The truth is, I don’t want to even suggest a villain for this book, because it is one of the honeyed lackings. In this book, the things left out make it sweeter.

The Question: Where do I begin? So, so many questions. Just, all of the questions all of the time, and limited, hidden or just plain not there answers. Welcome to Auri’s world.

The Plot: Well, now. That would be telling, wouldn’t it?

My Honest Opinion: I have not slept with a cuddly toy in some time, and I have never cuddled a book in my sleep before. Any books on my bed are there either because I fell asleep reading them, or I was reading them in bed and the bedside table was too small or dirty and the floor was too far away. I tell you this because I’ve heard some people actually cuddle books in their sleep, and I want to make it clear that I don’t make a habit of this. The Slow Regard of Silent Things may change that.

I liked Auri a lot before I read this, she was an awesome bit of unexpected whimsy, a cool breeze against Kvothe’s fire. But, that was all she was to me. She seemed a way of tempering Kvothe, making him more human and less of a TOTAL IDIOT! (Sorry, but for a boy-genius he’s really, really stupid at times. Example: “Listen to the insane guy in the flowing black robes, HE’S TRYING TO TELL YOU SOMETHING!!” Thankfully, Wise Man’s Fear brought some reprieve from that particular frustration.)  Anyway, Auri was a lovely character with unexpected insights and she brought freshness to the books, but I was never in love with Auri the way others were, never felt that protectiveness. Now… Well, eighteen pages in and I was on the edge of the bus stop seat, praying she’s going to be ok and will get Foxen back, and this was with the entire book ahead of me. Long(ish) story short, Patrick Rothfuss made me miss my bus, and Auri is competing with Elodin for my favourite character (Why Elodin? “Stop grabbing my tits”, that’s why. Also, he ‘threw’ the main character off a roof… Kvothe’s an idiot.)

And after all this, I have one more thing to say. If you don’t like soap-making, this book may not be for you. But in Auri’s defence, it is brilliant soap.

Good night, good luck and may nothing be anything else for you,

Ashlee.

P.S. This post was finished at around four in the morning, the night before an exam. Any and all of your questions should be answered by that fact.

That One Girl on the Bus

So, the other day I was on the bus. It was one of the few times when I had ventured out into the great wide world without the precious protection of my musical earbuds. Thus it was that I could hear everything on the bus, which wasn’t so bad as this particular bus was empty. That is, it was empty until The Girl got on (dun Dun DUN). I never learned her name, but if I had to guess she’d be about fourteen or fifteen. She was wearing the uniform of the local private school. She was fairly pretty in an unremarkable way, long straight blonde hair pulled back into a ponytail by a pink, fluffy scrunchie. She was tall, and not stick thin but far from overweight. Over the course of the entire bus trip we didn’t say two words to each other. All in all there was nothing remotely special about this girl at all… Apart from the fact that when she got on the bus she was holding two large milkshakes.

It is now time to discuss the bus driver. I don’t remember what he looked like, except that he was pretty young, about early to mid thirties, and very talkative. I know he was talkative because he had previously tried to engage me in conversation that same bus trip, a feat not attempted by most bus drivers (and a near impossible one to accomlish when I’m tired, stressed and just want to get home). In any case, he put up a braver front than most, mainly because he had that casual, joking way of talking that tends to put people at ease. Unless that is, you’re insecure about something.

So, the bus pulls up to the stop and the girl steps on, holding her two large milkshakes awkwardly. The first words out of her mouth are:

“These aren’t both for me!”

But the bus driver, in his jovial wisdom, either doesn’t hear her or ignores the statement and replies with:

“How are you going to get through both of those, then?” You must understand, this was said as a joke, a light tease.

At which point the girl, now obviously deeply embarrassed, says: “One of them’s for a girl at school. I’m not fat, I promise.” She then walks up the aisle between the seats, red as a tomato and sits down with her two large milkshakes. Within minutes the feeling is passed and she is intent upon her phone. But my mind lingers on that brief exchange.

“I’m not fat, I promise.” 

Personally, I find that statement appalling. Not because the girl said it, but because she felt the need to say it.

I’m not fat, I promise.

As if ‘fat’ was a personality trait, and a bad one at that. As if she must justify her perfectly reasonable actions by assuring a stranger that she does not fall into the abominable category of Fat. The way she said it put me in mind of someone defending a distasteful joke. “I’m not racist, I promise.” Except, instead of offending entire proud cultures, this young woman was simply doing a favour for a friend.

Now I don’t know about anyone else out there, but I find it disgusting and deeply, deeply sad that this girl feels the need to say something like that. What is wrong with us, that teenage girls feel the need to seek approval from strangers for every action that seems vaguely out of the ordinary. I mean, I am positive that teenage boys suffer this as well, but let’s be honest, what young man out there has ever felt so embarrassed about taking an extra bit of food or drink onto the bus that he felt the need to defend his actions to the bus driver? What bus driver would tease that young man in the same way he teased the girl? Whatever the percentage is, I’m guessing that it’s far lower than the amount of young women who encounter the same thing.

Now, please, don’t get me wrong, I’m not condemning light hazing. I think it’s a vital part of human interaction, and a very common one at that (case in point; whenever I am walking my dog by myself, and I am passed by a gentleman out for an evening stroll I almost always hear some variation of “who’s walking who?” which, aside from getting monotonous after a while, hurts neither me nor my dog. Although it could be seen as derogatory, I like to credit myself with more sense of humour than that.) So, teasing and hazing are awesome (kinda), but what is not awesome is the instant judgement that is made when anyone, particularly women, are seen with an unexpected amount of food or drink. I’m not fat, I promise. 

How dare we tell this girl that she can’t have two large milkshakes? How dare we make it so that she must justify her completely innocent actions by explaining her reasoning to a total stranger? If she had fifteen milkshakes, twelve hamburgers and a trash bag full of McDonald’s fries, it is neither mine nor anybody else’s business what she intends to do with that food.

Now, of course, she’s a teenager and all teenagers are insecure about how they look to other people, right? Well, yes and no. Of course teenagers are insecure about pretty much everything to some degree, but once again, what teenage boy is going to assure his bus driver, of all people, that he’s not fat?

I don’t care if your fifteen or fifty, actions that don’t impact upon others are not the business of others and hold no shame, no matter what. Now, if you’re torturing a cat, or breaking other people’s property, then the police and a few other people (myself included) might have something to say. But eating? Drinking? Are we really so obsessed with our own fucked up notion of beauty that we deny people, anyone, the right to eat as much as he or she likes? Because, Lord forbid, they might stray into the dreaded realm of ‘Fat’. What a calamity that would be.

Not much humour in this one guys, sorry about that. I’ve been wanting to talk about something like this for a while and this particular instance stood out to me. Words have power, the words we use can define us. We all know this and yet we fling them around like they mean nothing. Anyway, if your looking for a really awesome exploration of the ideas discussed in this month’s blog post, I heartily recommend you read Robin Hobb’s Soldier’s Son Trilogy. Politics aside it’s also got solid characters, and a compelling storyline. I may write a review of it in the future, but only if you’re good.

And with that, Ladies and Gentlemen, I bid you adieu.

Ashlee.