Several weeks ago, I backed a Kickstarter for Kill the Freshman, an awesome looking graphic novel written and headed up by my friend, Alex Langley. (You may know him from his successful and ultra geeky, Geek Handbook or the follow-up Geek Lust.) As a reward, his brother and project artist, Nick Langley sketched a hella-cool White Beetle, Black beetle’s own bizarro world mirror character.
They sent it scanned upside-down because they’re badass like that.
One reason I wanted to mention this worthy project is because of the recent flap about an alternate Spider Woman cover. I realize this has faded a bit from the news, but in case you missed the debate you can read up here.
Essentially, an alternate cover for Spider Woman came out that was more porn star than superhero.
Of course, anyone who buys comics is probably scratching their head and wondering “what’s new”?
I wanted to do a Goodreads Giveaway of Finis. to celebrate the first week of autumn, but they require giveaways to be printed books, and Finis. is an ebook only at this time. So instead, I’m hosting my own giveaway on Facebook! Head on over to my Finis. page on FB for more details — and while you’re there, how about giving the page a Like?
Thank you to everyone for their support. I especially appreciate the reviews of Finis. and the feedback I’ve been getting from readers all over the social media landscape. Keep it coming, and please do spread the word!
It’s that time of year again: Banned Books Week! The week where we conspicuously celebrate the fact that we, as adults*, are allowed to read what we want to and that no one else has the right to tell us otherwise or foist their hang-ups on us.
So in honor of Banned Books Week, I offer my students extra credit during the whole month of September to read a book from the official Banned Books list, one they’ve never read before, and then to write a short review explaining why they think the book was banned and whether they agree with that. (A few notes for those who might want to share this assignment: I tell them they must not, on their honor, look up why the book was banned, since that would defeat the purpose of the assignment, which is all about THINKING FOR THEMSELVES; whether they agree with the ban is completely irrelevant to their score on the assignment or whether they get the extra credit, because as long as they present a cogent argument, I don’t have to agree with it to give it high marks.)
So I’m curious: what’s your take on banned books? Have you read any banned books? What did you think about it/them?
Chuck Wendig’s blog today asks about books you love but others hate and books you hate but others love. This is really interesting to me, too. Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
* Note the “as adults” part. As a parent, I still monitor what my young children are allowed to read, as best I can. I don’t sanitize things for them, but I do strongly caution them against books which I know have too-heavy subject matter and help them gently through the consequences if they go against my recommendation. And this also has limitations. For example, I counseled my daughter when she was eight through her existential crisis over the death of Sirius Black, but there’s no way in heaven or hell I’m going to let her read anything by Kresley Cole till she’s at least eighteen — or maybe twenty-one! 😉
I was nineteen, almost twenty. We were on the glorious five-week hiatus our university called Winter Break. My college friends all hailed from different states, and everyone had gone home for vacation. And one of them wanted me to go out with him, so to make sure I thought about him while we were on opposite sides of the country, he wrote me a letter. He was an English major and I liked Shakespeare so the prose was filled with archaic forms of “you”: thou and thee and thy sprinkled everywhere like inky blossoms trying really hard.
We all wrote letters in those days, honest-to-goodness personal notes written on paper and folded into envelopes, with stamps and ink and licking the whole thing. Stamps and envelopes weren’t self-adhesive, the paper was real stationery, email was not a thing we’d even heard of, only drug dealers and doctors carried cell phones. We had long-distance phone cards, but it cost a lot more money to talk on the phone than it did to write a letter, so we wrote. The more romantically-minded of us even used sealing wax for fun, for special occasions, though often it had cracked and crumbled by the time it left the post office.
Letters are so much fun to receive. When I was a child, any piece of mail I might receive was a treasure. Birthday cards, letters from pen-pals, Highlights magazine. When I was in high school, the flood of brochures from colleges and universities that started in tenth grade filled a filing cabinet before I ever sat down to write my first application essay. In college, the mail was letters from friends at faraway schools and bills. Now it’s mostly junk mail and bills. Things that must go into the recycling or into the file, things that take up mental energy but give little of value in return. I miss correspondence and, frankly, wish I were better at it.
The one thing I always manage to accomplish, though, is love letters. Certainly for my husband, and a different sort for my children. If I’m going on a trip without them, I leave them letters on the kitchen table to find when I’m gone. If my husband has to go on a business trip, there’s always something tucked away in his suitcase, slipped in while he’s rushing around and not paying attention, a letter or card or heart-shaped stone waiting in the pocket of his dress shirt or rolled into his socks. Other than the holiday greetings we try to send out almost every year, Valentines and anniversary cards for my husband are the only cards I still give.
I love letters. I adore love letters. We need, in such a busy and disjointed world, those tactile reminders, those tangible artifacts of human interaction and loving connectedness. Write a love letter today, and someone can read it every tomorrow.
What is the most interesting love letter you’ve ever given or received?
But I do like to watch and learn. I travel on the train to work, and if I’m too tired to do anything but stare around in a zombie-like fashion, then I can’t help observing my fellow commuters. Discreetly, of course – there’s nothing more likely to have you labelled as the train lunatic (there’s one in every carriage) than sticky-beaking unashamedly at the people around you.
As a result of my gawking research, I’ve come up with a working theory about style. There are perhaps three schools of commuters. Firstly, those who are bursting through the cutting edge of fashion – whether it suits them or not. Often they are beautifully groomed, having spent at least an hour in front of the mirror before hopping on the 8.07am. I guess that I can admire the time and effort that they must go to, although part of me wants them to rebel against the sycophantic dictates of the industry that tells them they will look wonderful in neon yellow this season. Unless, of course, they do glow in neon.
The second group just don’t care, and I suppose I’d divide them into those who have a noble disregard for their appearance (a freelance sculptor I know comes into this category – he used to come to work in his pyjama top), and those who are, well, slobs. Sometimes it can be pretty hard to tell the difference. It may come down to how articulate you are. 😉
The third group? These women have their own styles, regardless of fashion. It can be a brave position to take – the peer pressure to all look the same is not inconsiderable. This third group I’d also split, but by a sort of style correlation factor. Let me explain.
There are some women I see, about whom I think: “Wow – I love that top/skirt/magician’s cape! I wonder if I should try one of those?” High style correlation. I’m not saying that my taste is better than anyone else’s, just that these people have a similar look or body shape, and they have dealt with it beautifully. They give me ideas. Sometimes it’s just a small thing, like wearing brightly coloured stockings with a monochrome outfit – a little whimsy that I saw a woman in the city carry off with terrific elan, and which I now often wear in winter. I do love colour, and being able to add a flash of it to a more sober suit is a joy.
Some people are trying but, well, they just get it wrong. We all have those days, I think. Too tight, too short, not right for our body shape or colouring. I’d call this one Low Style correlation, because of course, it’s only my personal taste that says that look isn’t right. There is a woman who I see most days, who always wears black, head to toe. Layers of black, in an unflattering cut. I long to be able to suggest to her tactfully, that unless she is in mourning, she would look so much better in colour, but I know black is easy. Perhaps even lazy. Perhaps, and I suspect this is closer to the truth, she just wants to disappear into the background, which is a bit sad.
Then there are those who provoke the thought: “Wow – you look great in that! But not for me.” These women often have superbly quirky styles – the goth girl who is as white and lithe as bamboo grown in the dark, with long green hair.
The chick who looks like she walked off the set of Mad Men (and the amount of time required to achieve that corseted, lacquered mid-twentieth century look makes me shudder).
The lady with generous curves who dresses with terrific colour sense and flamboyance.
I would never choose to wear what they have chosen, but I can appreciate it. I love the fact that they have been able to bring their personality out in their clothes: that they seem to be having fun with their appearance. I see joy and playfulness in these women, each with their very different styles.
Style is inherently a matter of taste.
What I think these women have in common is a terrific natural self-confidence. They can rock their own style, to use a great American phrase. You’ve got to admire that. My point is this: you don’t need to give a stuff about what is in Vogue this year. You don’t have to bow to some bimbo in advertising. If you love hats, then wear them with verve, and people will admire you for it. If you want to wear studs and chains, go for it. Red rubber shorts? If you can carry it, and they suit you, why not?
You may need to grit your teeth at first. It’s a scary, judgmental world out there; you need only look at the statistics about body image to get confirmation of that. To give you some examples, 7 in 10 girls believe they are not good enough or do not measure up in some way, including their looks, performance in school, and relationships (from HeartofLeadership.org). Beyond Stereotypes, the 2005 study commissioned by Dove, surveyed 3,300 girls and women between the ages of 15 and 64 in 10 countries. They found that 67% of all women aged 15 to 64 withdraw from life-engaging activities due to feeling badly about their looks.
A random stranger once reached across, tapped me on the arm, and said, “You know, you’re very pretty,” and then kept looking out the window. I was blown away and have never forgotten it. It’s only happened once. I don’t even remember what I was wearing, but I do recall the courage it must have taken for her to say that to a stranger, and also how it made me glow all day. This could be a reflection of my vanity, but there are so many images and messages out there all the time telling you that you’re not good enough. You know the ones – the photoshopped perfection of magazines, the insidious messages of advertising. That sneaky little voice that says: “You could have perfect skin if you just buy this cream.” They’re all selling hope. Hope that you will look better.
Imagine if every time we saw someone with their own style who looked terrific, we could tell them so. They might be putting their own style out there, but cowering inside. A little encouragement can go an awfully long way.
If we all had the confidence to rock our own style, the world would be a much more intriguing, varied, and happier place.
Would you like to write a guest post for our Fashion Fridays series? Check out the Fashion page on this blog for more information and some examples, then query me with your idea!