You are a Lying Liar who Lies!

 

Sorry to accuse, but I’m sure you can’t help it. You’re human, after all.

 

Unless you’re invading aliens, in which case you may as well skip this post, because it probably won’t help you out in your conquest, or even in translating humanity, at all.

 

Anyway, we’ve discovered the television in the living room can connect directly to Netflix, and I’ve been watching it much more often, and you know, I pay for it. So that’s good. It also gives me time to knit and I’ve nearly finished the back of my first top!

 

This time, my recommended tags include: Barack Obama, United States, Mitt Romney, Maryland, Stephanie Cutter, Joe Biden, People, and History.

 

 

I is amused.

 

Mostly because, though I am accusing everyone of being a liar, it’s in relation to the TV show Lie to Me, hence the reference to Netflix. It’s not a great show, honestly, but at least it’s fun to watch. Lie to Me has another Sherlock Holmes–style character, at least in that the character has been such an enduring influence on our culture. The idea is, he can automatically tell you’re lying because Science.

 

It seems to be about on the level of every other show using Science to solve crimes. Or Numb3rs. Yes, I like that show too. Sorry, scientists, the silly conclusions and far-reaching fantasy conclusions do not stop me from watching fake science crime dramas—at least I won’t watch the CSIs…except sometimes when they’re particularly funny.

 

Back to Lie to Me. It’s a little harder to talk about because, despite having seen six episodes, I don’t know any of the character names. Anyway, so you have the genius-jerk type character, his Girl Friday, the weird guy, the new girl, and the secretary. Secretary, her name is Heidi, hardly shows up, and the weird guy takes awhile to get screen-time during the set up, but now is a foil for the new girl. The new girl is fun, but surely can’t have decent relationships outside of work, even if we haven’t seen that at all, because she doesn’t seem very clearly with humanity, except for identifying emotions. I like Girl Friday, she’s got back story and fun quirks. Main character, as I said, is a typical genius jerk, snarky, ought to get sued for harassment, can quell any naysayer with just one quip. These shows never acknowledge how attached people are to their opinions whether or not they’re caught.

 

Hotch on Criminal Minds did it better though. Mostly because he’s not a jerk, but because calling out the lawyer in the courtroom played with concepts of hubris and poetic justice

 

 

Not that Lie to Me isn’t trying to do the same thing, but the main character is supposed to pull it off every episode, and it’s less impressive that way. Also, they telegraph the guilty party a lot, and you generally know the answer as soon as the character comes on-screen. The fun comes from seeing how they’ll tease out the truth. It is nice that just because they can see a lie, they can’t necessarily force the truth.

 

A little less inerrancy, perhaps, in drawing conclusions would be nice. The characters are always right when they interpret the ‘micro-expressions.’ I are aware that these things exist but it’s not a straightforward science and there are, or should be, more ways of going wrong.

 

No, instead they’re always right. And lying is bad regardless of situation or intent.

 

For instance, I recently read about a Japanese social construct tatemae. That particular website compared it to a ‘social reality:’ for instance, when you go through the grocery store checkout line and the clerk asks how you are, you say ‘fine,’ well, unless you’re particularly socially inept or just a selfish jerk. The article I read described tatemae as similar to the white lie, but without the Western connection toward a lie: in other words, a necessary truth for social life. When trying to find that article again, I also found another article that defined it as pretense and considered it problematic.

 

That second article does make a very good point on the social scale, but in discussing Lie to Me, I want to discuss the idea that whole-scale truth isn’t necessarily a good idea. For instance, there’s no need for the woman at the end of the first episode to admit she’s glad to have gotten another candidate fired, except to cause bad blood—as if the workplace needs any more of that.

 

Culturally, in the US anyway, I don’t think our problem is increased lying, but the lying is a symptom of our overall lack of..dare I call it ‘honor’. People don’t care about how their actions, for example, cheating, plagiarizer  lying, cause problems for others and are more willing to break social norms for personal gain. A consequence, I think, of our idealization of individualism. The problem comes down to lack of ethics, and not more lying. But I’m supposed to be talking about a television show where people have already started lying, and this fictional corporation has to determine the truth.

 

Which, is, in part, the reason for the awkward nature of the show. The main character apparently started this company, and every episode they’re hired to solve two problems, often criminally related. So they have no investment except to find the Truth. Conceivably, if the client doesn’t go alone with them, the human lie-detectors could just walk away. Also, I’m not sure how they’re paid.

 

I don’t know. Several how-to writer’s books insist the protagonist must have high personal stake in the plot, otherwise the reader will question why they don’t just quit when it gets hard. Aside from that not being a desirable trait, fictionally or otherwise, it’s a valid concern. Why shouldn’t the characters of Lie to Me not walk away?

 

Heh. It’s not a question that the show asks, and it definitely doesn’t support it. That’s just what happens when I go off on a tangent. It’s a fun show to watch though. As I knit more this winter, it’ll definitely be on in the background.

 

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Review: Yesterday’s News

Yesterday's News
Yesterday’s News by Kajsa Ingemarsson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Agnes has most things in life: a job at a fancy restaurant, a boyfriend who loves her, and a best friend whom she knows inside out. Or does she? All of a sudden things begin to crumble, one by one, and soon nothing is as it was. Her boyfriend leaves her for a big busted singer, and she is fired by the sexist and abusive owner of the restaurant where she works. She gambles everything she has on the success of a newly opened restaurant, but the road to the glowing review which will open the door to fame and fortune has, to say the least, unexpected twists and turns.

In Yesterday’s News Kajsa Ingemarsson’s comic talent comes into its own. The book is one of the greatest bestsellers of all time in Sweden with more than 800,000 copies sold. Juicy and satisfying, Yesterday’s News is a story about daring and winning and about faith in yourself, a feelgood novel sure to please anyone looking for the antithesis to Stieg Larsson.

4.5 Stars

This popped up in my inbox for B&N’s “Daily Find” which meant I got it for several dollars less, and I am so vulnerable to affordable books. Described as “the antithesis to Stieg Larsson”, whose series I cannot bring myself to read after everything I’ve heard, this description won me over.

For back cover copy, it’s remarkably faithful to the book. It doesn’t overstate the drama or pull the other tricks often used to hook readers. This paragraph for the default description, in fact, names the part that won me over:

The woman in trouble is Agnes. In Yesterday’s News she will rebound from personal tragedy and find courage in the face of the unknown. In the end she stands there as the hero of her own life.

Agnes is the steady, reliable girl, without any overwhelming ambition to be somewhere else, though she had enough to get out of her isolated small town. She’s a romantic, and in that stage of life that society arbitrarily names adulthood but is so hard to define and realize once you’re actually in it. Make sure you’re a reasonably productive member of society, and mark time until you know you’re “there”: like buying a house or winning the Nobel Prize.

this is why I'll never be an adult

But she’s just lost her job and her boyfriend dumped her, and she’s lost.

Actually, that all happens pretty quickly and the rest is Agnes defining her life thereafter. Where do we find direction? and of course, what’s really important?

So if you’ve been reading..well a great many books with romantic plot tumors…and are sick of characters like Bella Swan not recognize they have a jerk for a boyfriend—I think you’ll like Agnes. She’s not really very Bella-like, she does have a backbone, but she also has little self-confidence and doesn’t recognize her own worth. What a difference that makes, when she starts to take initiative in her own life!

I remember saying I fell in love with Agnes by first chapter. She’s basically being groped by her boss, at work, in the wine cellar, and she’s just so taken aback. A “what is happening?” kind of response, which made sense to me. She fends him off, but the victory isn’t unsullied: after all, she’s lost her job, and it’s not so easy to find a new one.

All the side characters are great: her relationships with her parents and sister are easy and natural to read, but they aren’t necessarily easy for Agnes. She doesn’t always understand them, and finds they can take her by surprise.

There’s the moment, about two thirds of the novel that made me cry, for several chapters. I won’t say more, but Ingemarsson writes emotion well; the reader can relate to Agnes.

My favorite part of the book was Agnes learning she didn’t have a handle on everything and didn’t have to. She’s emotionally dependent, at the start, pretty much on everyone around her. Once Tobias leaves her, she leans on her friend. When she finally gets a job, she starts taking control, but still treats it much like a crutch. Eventually, she realizes starts standing on her own, after finally hearing a few hard truths that she never really listened to before.

When I first added the book, the top shelf was “romance” and the entire 287 pages I was looking for it. Now, she does have a romantic arc, but this is not a romance book at all. In fact, even when the love interest showed up (which was fairly obvious to all but Agnes) it still barely counted as part of her character growth: there was no romance until she actually understood what she wanted in a relationship. I squeed.

Yes, I saw most of the plot-points coming, the twist was telegraphed fairly early on. But I’d still say a lot of that’s on Agnes, on her prejudices and assumptions.

Yesterday’s News stands best as a character study than even the ‘chick lit’ genre covers, at least in the US market I know. Calling it a story about “growing up” sounds ridiculous, when Agnes starts already a functioning adult. She’s just unsure of herself, and her boundaries—she hasn’t pushed herself for a time.

I gave Yesterday’s News four stars because I loved it, but it didn’t blow me away. Now I feel like the Grinch.

Don’t be a Grinch: read Yesterday’s News!

View all my reviews

Refereeing Sanity

If the referees who made the bad call at the football game—which I know nothing about, as I don’t follow sports—aren’t getting death threats, I will be flabbergasted, flattened by shock.

What a terrible thing, this lack of surprise. How has it become acceptable to wish death on complete strangers? And for something, as dare I say, as useless and pointless as a sport game.

Some time ago, I read that, with all the movement of modern life, and lack of geographic and family connections, the college is the new hometown. That’s the place to which you swear allegiance. Perhaps sports are the same? We carve niches for ourselves, our identities, out of these fragile things like sports, or books.

On Goodreads today, I read several negative reviews of The Name of the Wind. One commentator wished the reviewer to die in a fire—it’s a common expression on the internet, though not one usually said ‘face-to-face’ in even that most figurative sense. But for that Rothfuss fan, did he truly believe the reviewer deserved that level of rhetoric? for disagreeing over a book?

And what about the commentator who offered cancer as an appropriate punishment, though more sardonically.

I’m sure, were these people actually interviewed, they didn’t mean it. What’s online isn’t real, after all.

Sports seem to bring more sincere anger though, more passion, more savagery. A bad call at my high school football game (an honest injustice) also lead to death threats, to the point where the referee had to be escorted from town by police. My aunt told me a story about substituting for a mail carrier, when something went wrong: “She said, ‘I hope you die,’ right to my face.”

I can’t claim full innocence myself. Driving exposes me to stupid people without any filter (unlike the internet) and when I’m nearly sideswiped (and alone) I’ll shriek aloud and think I hope you get in an accident (though more likely profanity-laced because I can’t seem to stop myself) but am immediately after shattered with guilt. I have to pray for their safety and happiness—which is almost worse, because I would rather they learn their lesson and not do it again.

As I hope is obvious, this is a trend that bothers me tremendously.

What little I know about the football bad call came from Good Morning America. Now I suppose I can’t blame them for giving it priority—the show isn’t designed to actually give anyone important information, just the highlights of what’s popular for ratings (although people could just go online and see all these memes for themselves). Still, when they joked about the referees hiding in the dark in their homes…I was taken aback, to say the least. People can be violent, and when you’re being threatened anonymously, likely by others who can find out far too much about you, it’s just not funny. Given that the GMA hosts have been pushing the problems with online bullying, I’m surprised no one thought to warn them that this is exactly the same problem.

I touched on the idea that all of this is due to misplaced passion. Because our modern lives have so much upheaval and so little stability, and so rarely prioritizes self-knowledge, society pushes worth based on exterior markers. With so many people in the world and the idealization of ‘individuality’, never defined of course, people latch on to anything they can to create smaller communities: things that make them unique, but not too unique. In The Googlization of Everything, Siva Vaidhayanathan calls it the “local cultural movement”, and details its causes and effects.

And I have so much else to say about that: see these bookmarks?

bookmarks

The downside of library books is that I’m not allowed to write in them.

In other words, people get irrational and won’t accept any criticism because they are insecure. No one has taught them how to learn who they are—and while this is a cultural thing, education should be a solution. But since we’ve turned schools into nothing more than a standardized test factories, people don’t even have the chance to learn it anymore (the real learning was always optional, because it can’t be forced).

I keep touching on other posts I want to do, so before I get too off track: please try to take yourself less seriously. If you love something and hear someone else talking about how much it sucks? Take a deep breath. It’s not you, I promise.

In fact, difficult as it is, try reaching out specifically to those who disagree. Don’t attack them, just listen. Try to understand.

Maybe you’ll learn something.

I feel like I’ve said this before…

It Turned Into a Meditation

 

Didn’t mention, but probably should have, mentioned I’m going to a cousin’s wedding this weekend. After all, it’s eating up two of my usual blogging days.

Despite all previous evidence to the contrary, I though on this trip, I would have been able to keep up with all my self-appointed tasks. That is in part, after all, why a laptop with extended battery power was so desirable. When you grow up in the middle of nowhere, you’re always anticipating long trips.

It may have happened. But just as I’d decided to pull out my computer and write about something—I’m not sure I remember anymore—we heard some terrible news from home.

Not personal news, as though that means much. It’s a small community. Small enough that “things like this don’t happen here” to apply, simply because people are too scattered to be prone to the kind of random violence cities suffer from.

This wasn’t random violence in any way, except that it happened victims just as innocent.

It’s the story you hear all the time in the papers and on the scroll bar of television news: nothing that makes the front page except locally, and nothing to develop an entire segment of precious TV space . Trust me, you’ve heard it before. I know it bothers me to see so little attention to such stories, since it’s often overshadowed by any celebrity doing anything.

I hate to say it, but it’s not much more or less shocking to hear than any of those other stories. I’ll think about it longer, it will be impossible not to, in such a small town. I don’t regret that. Often you never hear the follow-up as though it’s not important. But it’s harder to hear this story with names I know, people I’ve met. Not that I could change anything, have made any difference.

What is there to say? I don’t want to name anyone, focus the story. Give the family what privacy they can have. I don’t know details, and I almost wish I wouldn’t ever have to know more. That’s easier, of course, and why no one wants to talk about it.

Not long ago, my brother sent me a link to a list of stories to “restore your faith in humanity.” I love those stories. Just not so soon after something like this.

 

Let’s Not Talk Politics, Talk About Sex!

 

It bothers me that we worry more about talking about politics in public than sex. Mostly because I find sex fairly irrelevant except for the participants.

But considering how concerned people are with what’s going on in other people’s bedrooms (or wherever), I don’t know why we can’t talk about politics.

For example, one of the creepy shows on TLC (remember when it was The Learning Channel? haven’t I mentioned that before?) was about fetishes. Well, okay, why not? If you’ve got a fetish that’s a little out there, it might be comforting to be introduced to others like yourself: although one would think with the rise of the internet it’d be less necessary, and less freak show—all right, I do know TLC only airs it for the freak show reason. Look at these weird people, aren’t you glad to be normal?

So uncomfortable.

But most awkward was a point where the subject of the episode talked about how he’d “come out” to his family and friends about his fetish, which was balloons. I don’t object to anyone having a fetish. Not my business, right? But to announce to family and friends what you like to do on your own time is just too much information. That’s not coming out. Coming out as gay, for example, may be important, because parents and friends might not expect it. For a friend they may want contact information for the parents, for a significant other they’re going to want to give the talk, and you don’t want to confuse the two. Announcing you’re aroused by balloons means I’ll never invite you to a birthday party. What you think about balloons, unless I’m a romantic partner, is never going to be relevant to me.

I’m not the only with with issues with our glorification of over-sharing in our culture.

But if we can talk about what you want to do to balloons, or statues, or cars, why can’t we talk about politics?

For example, and this relates to my post on audience behavior from a few weeks ago, I saw a clip of Romney making a reference to the Americans killed in the embassy attacks, and some guy, probably a college kid thinking he was actually making a point, started yelling from the audience about, I don’t know, not politicizing Libya.

You know what? Politicians may not be the best suited at giving honor to those who’ve given their lives for the country. We have demanded that they do, however, and so every politician is and should be talking about that loss. You, kid, are not standing up for any grand social right, you are disrespecting those killed.

 

Betrayal! Confessions of an eBook Reader

As in, someone who reads e-books, not an e-book device.*

 

books

books (Photo credit: brody4)

When I was in Academic Decathlon, they asked me “What’s your favorite book genre?” My mouth went dry and I know I took too long to answer. “Fiction? …or nonfiction.” Any question connecting favorites to books strikes me as entirely unfair.

 

After all, how many books are published per day?

 

When I was a kid I wanted to read every book ever published. Even now, I occasionally get anxiety attacks over the sheer number of books I haven’t read yet, and all those brilliant works I may not ever read. By Roman times, scholars were bemoaning the breadth of important literature, and the impossibility of reading it all.

 

There’s just no way to keep up—or in, e.g., in the loop. I’ve always had eclectic reading tastes: I’ll read science and history and paranormal romance and the so-called literary novel and fantasy and memoir. I’ve never been discriminatory and I love (some) genre works as much as I love (some) of the classics. Let’s face it, some of the classics are only canon because the manuscript happened to survive.

 

Growing up with reading privilege, which is to say, a bookcase in every room, my own library before I could read on my own, I learned to love books, and especially value the physical book. Books are more than just a product, because all those words stand for ideas, a nearly direct communication from the author’s brain to yours. Fortunately, they do not include mind control, and so you are free to interpret the author as best (or worst) you can.

 

I only bought my nook after getting hooked on the local library’s e-book lending program, but reading on the computer screen, at least in terms of ‘real’ books, has never been the comfortable for me. And while I do love my nook, but…

 

As a dedicated reader of everything, I feel guilty for sidling along with the e-book bandwagon. (I’m far too timid to jump after all, and paying that much for those little text files?) People keep talking about e-books killing the traditional publishing market. Which I find problematic in two parts: first, with the rise of the dependence on technology, some form  of change was inevitable, and second because that’s just such a huge shift for so little benefit.

 

Remember when email was supposed to mean we wouldn’t use paper anymore?

 

My nook is nice. I can carry around as many books as I want; I have instant, free access to most classics (public domain), and I can read it more easily all the time. Like walking, or eating, and even knitting although turning the pages can be difficult with my fingers tangled in yarn. I can just set it on my knee and go, whereas if I try the same thing with a paperback—whoops, lost my place.

 

But O! do I miss the feel of paper and slick covers and especially typography. Not that physical books always pay the closest attention to the quality of the interior pages, but the nook can never match even an average layout…especially when the e-book designer formats the text incorrectly and it doesn’t respond to my spacing and text choices and their text choice is awful.

 

I nearly went all caps there, the phenomenon annoys me so much, but I didn’t think that’d be fair to you, dear reader.

Cover of "The Monsters of Templeton"

Cover of The Monsters of Templeton

The nook fits in my purse better than my former minimum of two novels and a hardcover, just in case. I have access to the library program books, which, though it isn’t a huge selection, is still different from the rest. I can only check out three e-books at once compared to the local library’s ten, but the two week limit means I don’t keep them three months before I get to read them—I mean I always try to finish, but you know, life gets in the way, and I couldn’t just not check them out, right? E-books don’t take up space on my shelves, which is good, because I don’t have any. And it’s easier to get new books on the nook, since I don’t live within 100 miles of a bookstore.

 

 

But I can read a physical book better: because the pages are larger, you see two at once, and flipping black and forth is easier. When I picked up The Monsters of Templeton this morning I realized I also read much faster and more happily.

 

Dear everyone, don’t give up on the paper book because some people buy e-books. Physical books are accessible and shareable and so much more valuable.

 

*I can’t find a standardized spelling for e-book anywhere.

 

Everything Sounds Better In Classical

My brother linked me to his Pandora station started from The Piano Guys, and it turns out there’s an entire genre of pop translated to music!

What can I say, I’m a snob.

I like pop as much as the next person, perhaps even more as so many people are convinced they’re too sophisticated for anything suitable for general consumption. As much as I may complain about the low standards of popular culture, or just people in general, I don’t actually object to the so-called low genres.

Actually, I’m not sure anyone actually uses the phrase “low genres”, but I’ve decided it suits my needs.

Genre Model - Interacting Elements

Genre Model – Interacting Elements (Photo credit: Derek Mueller)

Many people object to the idea of anything produced for the middle class: traditionally the largest and greatest commercial drive in the United States. With our Western idealization of the individual, even at the expense of community or society, anything aimed at the largest possible audience can’t be something to use to craft an identity. It’s a terrible sad development in our culture and I’ve already blogged of what comes from that.

But the elite especially despise the middle class: just read any “literary” novel. A great many are written by MFAs who (as far as I can tell) despise the middle class for taking up resources that they, as the battalions of culture, don’t receive.

I’ve got a whole ‘nother post in me about all the reasons I think that devoting those resources to the arts would be a bad idea, as radical as it seems.

Right now, however, I want to clarify that I don’t particularly consider myself better than anyone because of my taste in music. The reasons why anyone likes any kind of music and not another are far beyond my comprehension and aren’t related to intelligence, mental health, or virtue in any way outside of popular perception.  I’ve been reading Snoop, and in a recent chapter, Gosling reference a study saying that music is one of the primary topics people use to get to know each other.

That doesn’t mean it describes anything specific about you, but it can, and I think that has more to do which which music you enjoy, rather than the genre, and how people think of genres: like country music (is it really that bad? I just don’t hear the problem myself). So no need to judge me for being a snob (because I like the instrumental version better) or for being too low brow (because God forbid real musicians from even thinking about those dirty commoners).

Is there such a sad figure anywhere as the elitist confronted with reality?