Thursday, October 31, 2013

Taking the NaNoWriMo Challenge

I have been thinking a lot lately about my future self.  My present self is in desperate need of upgrade and change and breaking free.  This means I've been really trying to get my health in a better place, make my energy levels better, and hopefully be able to increase my overall productivity.

After all, ambition without energy goes nowhere.

So one thing that I have been wanting to do for a very long time is finish writing a book.  I have already written a multitude of essays, short fiction, poetry, articles, and a one-hundred page thesis. What I haven't done is written an entire book.  So, since I have had a goal of writing one particular non-fiction book, I thought I would join the masses, bite the bullet, and become part of NaNoWriMo.

So at midnight tonight I will join some 200,000 people and begin writing 50,000 words in one month.

I had tried this with a novel a few years ago, but had my whole life take over in November, so about two days of writing happened and that was it.

This time, I feel it.

I feel this memoir in me, and I'm going to write it.

And today is the first day toward becoming a professional author.  You know.  That makes money.

That is something I think my future self is going to thank me for.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Don't blame it on your virginity

I am going to say something completely shocking: virginity gets a bad rap.

To give a little background to this, you can blame this latest rant of mine on a provocative article My Virginity Mistake by .  In this, Ms. Henriquez outlines her devotion to the purity movement as a way of fitting in, and the development of what became her first failed marriage.

The culprit? In her mind, it was abstinence.  As she says:

Had we had sex before our relationship transitioned into a contract, I would have known that there was no passion, no spark, nothing happening between our bodies. I would never have agreed to marry him because sex is a significant part of a relationship and therefore a significant part of our relationship was failing. With the failure of our sex life, I felt like less of a woman, no longer a sexual creature but more of a plant. Sitting there, day in, day out, wilting while I waited for someone to take care of me.
Without having sex before marriage, I blindly walked up an aisle and committed myself to a man who didn’t know me and gave my long-held virginity to someone with whom I had no more chemistry than a second cousin.

However, I believe that this is a complete and utter fallacy. It is so much easier in hindsight to believe that had we taken a different course of action that we would have made a better choice.  Especially since she openly admits earlier in the article that she was 20 years old, and really hadn't built a solid relationship:

The morning of my wedding day, I threw up. Everyone assumed that I was nervous about having sex. I wasn’t. But it dawned on me how much we hadn’t learned yet about one another. We had known each other for three years by this point, but there was so much unexplored territory. So what was I supposed to do when my “aha moment” came as a dress was heaved over my head by seven bridesmaids? Plus, my mother had mentioned no less than 400 times, this wedding was costing them a fortune; I was getting married, there was no way out.
Being 20, and obviously not assured of herself in anyway, she obviously hadn't gotten to know the man she was marrying well enough.  To top it off, she knew the relationship was not going well and had more than just wedding jitters but all of the warning signs that this wouldn't end well.  And she didn't have the maturity to be able to stand up and say I'd rather make this expensive mistake now, rather than having to pay for the wedding and divorce proceedings.

Further, having sex before would simply have been also, giving her long-held virginity to someone unfortunately bad for her. And she talks about how they used to make out all the time, whose to say that even losing her virginity in the back of his Chevy would have ended the relationship?  The problem seemed more a lack of communication. They spent those three years in a sea of hormones but didn't come up for air to discuss anything.

It's far too easy to Monday morning quarterback our mistakes and decide that with this decision it would turn out better, but without a time machine that is completely impossible to predict.  No one knows the actual outcome of the road not taken.  It's the risk we take in life.  And I believe, trading one mistake for another isn't going to do jack.

So the real culprits of her first failed marriage were a lack of maturity and communication.

Blaming virginity is pointless.  The point here should be that sex alone solves nothing.  Relationships are too multi-faceted to rely on one component, and those who want a fully rounded relationship know this.

And there is nothing wrong with believing that our sexuality should be invested in the right relationship as opposed to one-night stands.  If we truly believe in a free society, our sexuality is ours and our body should be ours to do with as we please even when that means waiting for something meaningful. Without being maligned for that choice.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Book Review: Second Suns by David Oliver Relin

When I first received my copy of this book as an advanced reader copy, I had skimmed the cover and dove directly into reading the first chapter.  It was only in a brief moment, when I had set my book aside that I head realized that the author, David Oliver Relin, was dead.

Suddenly, what was once a compelling story, became now also a very bittersweet tale, knowing that while the world now knows the bright and hopeful tales of two doctors, it also is the last story for Relin to tell.

At the end of the book, Relin writes "Some books you want to write. Others you have to write."  You don't have to get farther than the first chapter to realize that there is a sense of destiny that brings the American ophthalmologist Geoffrey Tabin together with his Nepalese counterpart Sanduk Ruit.  Tabin, a bombastic character with a sense of adventure, and Ruit, teaming up to bring eyesight to the blind and innovate surgical procedures to be cheap, believing that everyone should have access to eyesight, not just the privileged.

Through the span of time covered, Relin is very adept at weaving their collective tale as they fight against not just less-than-ideal conditions in remote areas, but also political machinations, in order to ultimately build a base for artificial lenses in Kathmandu that makes it possible for them to spread their practices, and provide sight to people in China and Rwanda.

Some other customer reviews I have seen have argued that Relin's account can get a little tedious at times, and to a certain extent I agree.  However, the profound goodness in these stories covers the majority of tediousness, and Relin overcomes slow points with more engaging anecdotes soon to follow.

All-in-all, a beautiful read that reminds you of the amazing amount of good that can be accomplished to bring light to a world shrouded in darkness.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Things I Don't Get: Time Warner Cable vs. CBS

 If you are like me and live in one of the zones where Time Warner Cable and CBS are fueding, you know that your cable television lineup now no longer includes CBS.

Now, my question is, why don't television and cable executives understand that no good can come of their feud?

Anyone who has any interest in following the evolution of entertainment, knows that the ratings system and structure of broadcast television is changing faster than the antiquated system can keep up with.  Viewers now have options to record or stream content at any hour of the day with many of their favorite programs, or sometimes delay gratification for an entire season and the gobble shows in binge-viewing.  So, needless to say, this does affect an already faulty ratings system that depends upon randomized viewers with boxes recording viewership of live programming.

So, with declining viewership to begin with, what good does it do to play chicken over ridiculous profits? Both sides need to get a clue that the only result will be customers driven away to getting most of their programming other ways.  Either people will get fed up enough that they switch to DirectTV or AT&T U-verse and switch off the cable entirely.  Then once they do negotiate, undoubtedly Time Warner Cable will end up offloading the ridiculous amount that CBS offers onto paying customers who will no longer be able to pay and will quit.

In the meantime, we all have to suffer through radio ads where CBS encourages listeners to call up and demand that Time Warner Cable cave and bring back CBS.  Meanwhile, those of us who have heard the other side, know that CBS is demanding a new contract with a 600% fee increase.  No wonder Time Warner Cable refused to pay.

Normally I wouldn't side with big cable, but when CBS also feels too big to fail as the most watched television network, maybe we all need to reconsider when television and cable networks get too greedy for their own good and send a message to both by fleeing in droves.

For a business model that doesn't want to change, they are only enabling consumers to start an even bigger revolution whether they like it or not.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Book Review: And Sons: A Novel

The great part of getting advanced copies of possible book club selections, is that you get to read literature for free that you might not have read otherwise.  The bad part? That it can sometimes be like that literature class where the professor goes nuts over a piece of literature for reasons you can't comprehend because it just isn't that great.

So it is with And Sons: A Novel by David Gilbert.  I wanted it to live up to the pre-publication hype, but absolutely did not.  So I wrote my very honest reviews for Amazon and Goodreads below.   Enjoy.


Like many contemporary novelists, & Sons is an attempt to capture many of the feelings we want out of literature. While I had not read any of his other works, it is apparent that author David Gilbert is familiar with larger expectations for complex works by interweaving multiple viewpoints, dealing with darker themes in familial relationships, and throwing in the unexpected. In terms of style and tone, Gilbert does come across as different, unique and fresh.

However, Gilbert’s novel has a few detractors that make it have less of a broad appeal. For the most part it is a study of relationships between reclusive, privileged, New Yorker fathers and sons. While I understand the romance with the New York City life, and reflections of a Woody Allen view of the city, I still am not sure how relatable these characters are on the whole. Adding to the problem, is the bouncing weave of storylines and viewpoints that at times is hard to follow, especially when the father is named Andrew, and the son is called Andy. To confuse matters more, Gilbert drops in copies of handwritten letters that are often hard to read but essential in terms of characters reacting to these letters, and sections of the fictional author A.N. Dyer’s novels. 

As well, the novel comes across to the reader as trying too hard. In the course of building this reclusive author’s character, Dyer’s biggest classical piece of literature is called Ampersand and is constantly compared to Catcher in the Rye. Instead of feeling like a natural comparison, the number of times this is mentioned make it instead feel like that one friend who has gotten to meet a few B-list celebrities, and constantly namedrops at the most casual of dinner parties. Add to this a very preposterous plot twist that is played off as reality, and it feels like the whole novel unravels a bit. While the mildly surprising revelation near the end and the very surprising ending work much better, the middle plot twist feels like the biggest negative and turn that part of the novel into that movie that is hilarious when it wasn’t trying to be funny at all.

While the tone and style are interesting, I found the whole novel didn’t live up to the hype. Probably a semi-interesting read for some, but definitely not what I would consider to be an enduring classic.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

It's called a Byronic Hero

My apologies in advance.  I generally don't like to blog and gush about Benedict Cumberbatch, but in this case I must do so to make a point.  You see, I saw Star Trek: Into Darkness and watched the entire Sherlock series, and became instantly hooked. Here you've got an actor who is handsome, if unconventionally so, but whose strength is his ability to really sink into a role.  When he plays the villain in STID, his voice is just low enough to rattle your entire chest cavity. It's like a sound check for subwoofers.  But he isn't a pure evil, but one of a villain who has taken matters into his own hands out of necessity to try to recover and protect his crew.

And when embodying Sherlock Holmes, he is every bit the completely socially-awkward genius.  The Dr. Sheldon Cooper of consulting detectives.  Yet unlike Sheldon Cooper, he is also alluring, enticing the audience one scene at a time with a subtle charm.  While calling himself a "high-functioning sociopath" you find it incredibly hard to believe that his personality is that extreme considering the subtlety of care that Sherlock exhibits to those who he keeps closest.

So, what annoys me about Scott Christian's brief blurb introducing the trailer for The Fifth Estate is this notion of Hero-Villain.  Frankly, there is no such thing.  It just happens to be that as his star is on the rise, audiences have started to transition from "Oh, it's that guy" to actually having a name for this fellow: Benedict Cumberbatch.

What we can surmise is that he's comfortable as both villain and hero, but not as flat, two-dimensional characters. And I believe we would find him far less interesting.  As an actor he is adept at playing complexity and it suits him.

In fact, I believe the part he plays best the Byronic Hero.  Namely, right now his best role has been Sherlock hands down.  I believe that Benedict Cumberbatch has become the poster boy for the modern Byronic Hero. defines it well:

Byronic Heroes are charismatic characters with strong passions and ideals, but who are nonetheless deeply flawed individuals who may act in ways which are socially reprehensible, and whose internal conflicts are heavily romanticized. Some of their attitudes and actions may be considered immoral, and their bad actions may be as numerous as those which are heroic, but never are they evil just [just for evil's sake]; some are portrayed with a suggestion of dark crimes in their past, but never enough concrete details to establish that they actually kicked the dog

I believe that Benedict Cumberbatch happens to be a phenomenal actor who plays a Byronic Hero well, and audiences lap it up.  And, if the trailer is any indication, he is going to be flat-out phenomenal as the extremely controversial Julian Assange in The Fifth Estate. 

So instead of calling a character archetype a Hero-Villain, let's be much more specific.  Hero and villain can't be just hyphenated and made in to its own archetype.  It comes across as just plain lazy.

It's not like we are unfamiliar with Byronic Heroes.  There is an air of them in many of the major film franchises like the Batman reboots from Christopher Nolan.  Even consider the fantastic qualities of Severus Snape in the Harry Potter franchise.  Dark and brooding, possible villain, or not, or as he turns out to be the ultimate Byronic Hero.  Obviously, the Byronic Hero is here to stay, and it would be really lovely if we could learn the tropes if we are going to discuss them in popular media.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Things I Don't Get: Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo

To get me back in the blogging spirit, I am launching a brand new segment I like to call:

Things I Don't Get

I am happy and proud to be American. I love our independent spirit. When freedoms are taken away I take it a little bit personally.  All that aside, there are many times when I wonder if I was secretly born in another country and planted here, because I just don't understand aspects of my own uniquely American culture.

As a lover of television, I don't have any problems admitting that I watch a lot of television.  I do watch  some unscripted "reality" programming, but I am definitely picky.  When it comes to reality shows, I would much rather watch The Amazing Race, or shows like The Hero over shows that just generally titillate our voyeuristic side.  I like shows that improve lives, like HGTV where they renovate, or Bar Rescue or Restaurant Impossible where dying businesses are given a new lease on life.

What I have yet to understand is a show like Toddlers & Tiaras.  As exploitative and creepy as dressing children up and teaching them to act sexy and dress like adults is in the first place, the broadcast of such a culture on television is opening it up to an even wider exploitation.

However, this one child who they nicknamed Honey Boo-Boo is even more weird of a phenomenon.  Toddlers & Tiaras was apparently too small for her, so they gave her a spinoff show that follows her and her family.

The poor girl is definitely one of the homelier children I have seen.  Everyone should know their strengths and play to them, and while I don't argue that she has some personality that she could nourish with an adequate education, at this point in her life she is not a model.  Yet she is paraded around as though she was the most beautiful little girl in the U.S.

To make matters worse, the whole culture of the show seems to be to highlight bad behavior and the strangeness of her family.  As they ramp up for their second season, I was shocked, grossed-out, and utterly appalled by the ad campaign.  You see, to make you feel like you are truly part of the show, the premiere episode for this season has available a "Watch 'n' Sniff" card.

Because really, who wouldn't want to smell bad milk or fish while watching the episode?

The end of the commercial features Honey Boo-Boo farting, just to class up the whole affair.

Is this what America is all about now? Is this an image that we as Americans want to be proud of?

I just don't get it. It is a massive cultural disconnect.  If that is American culture I feel like a woman completely displaced.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Nerd Hope

Having just returned home from my second viewing of Man of Steel, this time in 3D, I do so from an entirely different perspective.  This round, I managed to read and watch a few interviews with Henry Cavill about landing the iconic role of Superman.

I knew going into the movie the first time that Cavill was a British actor who I had only seen years ago in The Count of Monte Cristo, and that he hadn't been in anything else that I had seen.  Oh, and I thought he looked the part from the production stills.  Probably the most naturally Superman-ish fellow since the childhood days of Christopher Reeve.

What I expected was an interview that revealed a usual handsome fellow.  In the states he would be a total jock from the day of his birth, a dozen babes kissing the hem of his garments.  Since he is from the isle of Jersey, I still expected a typically hot, popular, jock.  Maybe he plays polo or soccer or rugby.  And I have to out myself for journalistic integrity and say that I haven't researched what his background is in sports.  But Henry Cavill is proof positive that you cannot judge a book by its cover.

I have a revelation for you: Henry Cavill is a nerd.

By all rights he would earn honorary nerd street cred by just appearing as the quintessential comic book hero that launched an empire.  But there are actually two other reasons that make him fully-vested as nerd.

1. Henry Cavill was ridiculed for being fat. Looking at Cavill's rippling muscles beneath the iconic suit as well as completely shirtless it seems almost completely preposterous. I mean, when he enters a room, don't women's undergarments just fly off of their own free will?

From beneath an occasionally bowed head of embarrassment, in recent interviews he admits to having been called fat as a kid.  Rather than let that label control him the rest of his life, what did he do? He ate  better.  He turned it around.  

I'm imagining all overweight, self-conscious, prepubescent boys being immediately bolstered by this revelation.  There is hope that they too, may one day, be handsome grownups.  I like that.

2.  He missed the phone call telling him he won part because he was playing video games.  And what video game in particular? Was it Call of Duty? Maybe Halo? Nope.

He missed his phone call, saying he got the part of Superman, because he was playing....


I kid you not. 

Total nerd street cred.

So for other gamers like me, suddenly Henry Cavill is just a little bit cooler.  He's not above playing video games and missing hearing his phone ringing.  He's one of us.

Just one of us with ridiculous abs.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

It'll be done when it's done

Since no one has heard from me since January, it occurs to me that I have abandoned a crucial and wonderful aspect of my life.  That being this blog.

It isn't as though my roads to *ahem* weren't paved with very good intentions.  But to make this up to you, in a television show style, I shall recap now what has been happening with life and career of Sara Dean, your creative and adorable artist/writer/single gal.

1. I became Layout Editor.

My best friend put together a documentary film about intimate partner violence, and snagged yours truly as layout editor.  In case you are unfamiliar with book processes, like everything else creative,it gets finished when it gets finished.  We are so close now we can taste it.  But it took a few months of collaborating with a whole bunch of people to try and get everything just so with a severe lack of resources.

However, yours truly is also a contributing artist and my work will be featured therein.  Woo-hoo!!

2.  I'm moving to Northern California.  This fact in and of itself has its own crazy stories involved.

 In the process we have had people stand us up for appointments, encountered some really crazy drivers, eaten some tasty food.

More importantly, we discovered that someone really needs to tell the people involved in the rental markets that you can't make a three bedroom place into a six bedroom place and make it comfortable.  People generally don't want to pay that much money for a prison cell no matter how close it is to work and/or university.

So much like the Layout Editor project, there is a timing in the universe.  Want something done quickly? No matter how hard you try, sometimes you just have to accept that it will happen when it happens.  Until then, you muddle through and take each day as it comes.

Pretty sound advice for every aspect of life, don't you think?

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Musing About the Muse

Back in the day, when I was feverishly working on the Magnum Opus of my Master's Degree, I covered a very large segment about John Keats.  Like many good poets, he understood the value of Greek and Roman literature and paid homage to the muses.

I used to chuckle to myself at the idea that some magical being would come to a writer, and inspire them to write.  I knew it was likely the influences of drugs or alcohol or other natural or unnatural substances not the divine.

But lately, I've been understanding where they were coming from.

Frankly, I am more like them than I would usually care to admit.

Something has happened at the beginning of this new year.  I am inspired by everything.  My artistic side is busting a move. Today, I spent my Saturday relaxing while I still try to expel the last few dregs of a wretched cold I had a couple weeks ago but that still haunts me.  But the one thing I did not do today, which I have been doing every day for about a week and a half, is draw.  And not just draw, but draw with my new dip pens.

You see, while artists have no specific muse, I believe I might be entertaining a muse in disguise or something.  Maybe she's taking a holiday in California. Maybe it is because I am both a writer and artist? All I know is that not having drawn anything at all today after several days of being on fire has made me jittery tonight.  I feel like I'm going through some sort of addict's withdrawal symptoms just from not having inserted a nib into pen holder, dipped it's perfect tip gently in an ink bottle, and then gliding it across a paper.  But it's late at night and I don't want to do too much before sleep.  So I will merely layout my plan of action for tomorrow.  But I swear, I must work on a little soon or I may go crazy.

The artistic surge is tangible and unavoidable. I feel invigorated and I refuse to back down.

So, my love letter to my muse, my angel, my holy intangible spirit guide whomever you are that is inhabiting my soul, I welcome you.  Please stay.   Your presence is most appreciated and most welcome.   You and I can make the world more beautiful, I know we can!

Proof?  Here:

Work that is coming out of me is blowing myself away.

I feel like I'm on the verge of something amazing.  And that's a really good feeling.

Let my own inner flower unfold!