Booking Through Thursday: Scary

What’s the scariest book you’ve ever read?

Honestly, I don’t remember ever having been scared by a book. I don’t scare easily in general anyway, but I think visual things like movies and TV shows get me more than books in terms of fear.

The Black Glove

I don’t usually fall in love with video games, but when I do, I fall hard.

Sure, I’ve enjoyed many a game of Call of Duty, but nothing has enraptured me like BioShock. Ha, see what I did there? Rapture. Ha ha.

Anyway, my brother had a GameFly subscription one summer, and I happened to be in the living room when he started playing BioShock. He was in a plane crash, swam to a lighthouse, went down into a bathysphere to an abandoned, underwater city, and was attacked by some freaky-ass thing the second he landed. And as I gazed up from whatever the hell I was doing–most likely the internet–I was like, “What the hell are you playing, and can I play?”

And that’s about as far as Brandon got in BioShock because I pretty much took over after that and spent most of my waking moments playing that gaming. I fucking loved it, and I devoured the sequel and the more spin-off-oriented BioShock Infinite. Sure, shooting shit is fun no matter the game, but BioShock had all these layers and elements that appealed to me, from the macabre to sci-fi, with an intricate plot to go with it. I have never loved a game like I love BioShock, and that includes hours of ignoring basic human body functions to play The Sims.

Any sort of dark, creepy-looking video game tends to catch my eye now, and that’s what happened on my Tumblr dash today. Something looked freaky and actually reminded me of the look of BioShock, and turns out it’s a freaky-ass game from some of the same team. And it has a Kickstarter. The phrase “shut up and take my money” has never been more accurate.

So, The Black Glove looks really cool and weird, and I wouldn’t be blogging about it if I wasn’t convinced this could be the next big thing to wreck my gaming life in the best possible way. And I’m not gonna lie, as much as I love Kickstarter and backing things and spreading the word and seeing people reach their goals, I also want to see this succeed for selfish reasons–I really want this game in my life to play and love forever. I want them to meet their goals not just because I like to see fellow humans succeed at cool things because I really want to play this game, guys.

Shut up and give them your money.

I came down with a minor cold last week, and since spending a day recovering at home seems much wiser than going to work and I’ve managed to stockpile like three weeks’ worth of sick days, I called of Friday, slept an extra like six hours, and lounged. And got a little shit done, but I’m behind in articles that need written and some writing-career things I’ve been meaning to do.

Paul and I did go to do dinner at Primanti’s, which I think is our favorite Greensburg dining establishment. I spent the rest of the weekend mostly with him at his place.

We made a quick trip to the mall Saturday because I’m looking for Mac’s Rocky Horror anniversary makeup, and I could swear the Macy’s there had a Mac counter. If they did, it’s gone and I’m thinking of trying stores around me to get it. I’m hesitant to buy online because I’d rather get a good look at this makeup in person before I spend a lot of money on it.

Naturally, that means Saturday night was spent with Leah at a Rocky Horror screening in Connellsville, and the fact that they were screening it at all was a surprise. Sarah was supposed to join and in fact helped talk me into going, but her boyfriend’s dad unfortunately had a heart attack the night before. So Paul, Leah, and I went, and Leah and I, at least, dressed up. Paul keeps telling me he’s gonna go as Brad one year, and I think next year I’ll hold him to that. I’ve been too focused on acquiring makeup and pieces for a Columbia costume.

The turnout wasn’t huge, but the screening did do well and was a lot of fun. Afterward, we were hungry and limited to the only two places in town that serve food after 9–Bud Murphy’s or Lynn’s. Bud’s was packed due to their Halloween party, so we headed over to Lynn’s and were soon joined by Fr. Bob, who had been at said Bud’s Halloween party dressed as a Middle Eastern, which got him one very intense stare of derision from a Lynn’s patron. I don’t totally agree with the costume choice because I think it’s dicey to wear costumes from other cultures, but I’ll credit Lynn’s with only have one questionable reaction. And I’ll credit Fr. Bob for wearing items he actually purchased while in Dubai.

Back at Paul’s place, he took full advantage of my dress and fishnet tights.

Sunday, we took advantage of the unusually warm weather for October and went for a nice, long walk, then followed it up with frozen yogurt.

The nice weather has held out the past two days, but we might be getting snow for Halloween.

Friday Five: Wheeling and Dealing

  1. How would you rate your negotiating skills? Not amazing, but I could handle it. But they’re not exactly skills I use often, so they’re probably rusty yet I could be underestimating myself.
  2. When you were most pleased with a transaction involving a trade of items or services? I have no idea. Probably when I traded Pokemon cards as a kid, because I don’t know that I really do much trading of items or services this days.
  3. What’s something you happily overpay for? Generally anything I know to be high-quality or from a good source. I’ve mentioned before on Twitter that some of my Etsy purchases are probably overpriced, but it’s good, handmade stuff and most likely small businesses/crafty individuals.
  4. What’s something you acquired at an incredibly low price? I haven’t gotten any big, expensive items for really cheap, but I’ve gotten a good bit of little things pretty cheap. With eBay and Amazon, I’ve gotten books and CDs for a penny. Stuff like that.
  5. What have you sold or traded at greatest profit, either percentage-wise or dollar-wise? Nothing substantial, really. I sell old junk out of my apartment that I don’t want anymore and am occasionally pleased with how much people are willing to pay for it, but I’m not really making any profit from it.

Booking Through Thursday: For a Friend

If someone you know has just published a book—do you feel obliged to buy a copy? Even if it’s not the kind of book you’d normally read?

Short answer: No.

Of the writers I know, I can only think of one who’s published books, although this is probably because most of the writers I know are 20-somethings still trying to build their writing careers, myself included. But one of my college professors, Lori Jakiela, has published books. I bought her first memoir and some poetry chapbooks because I liked her and wanted to read them. I bought her most recent memoir because I liked everything else I read and wanted to read more. That said, due to the massive reading list I complain about a lot in these memes, I haven’t gotten around to it yet.

I hope more writers I know publish books, and as long as the content interests me, I’m open to buying them, both because I like books and reading and because supporting writers, both financially and otherwise, is important. I’d probably have to be really uninterested to avoid the book, but I wouldn’t say I feel obligated to buy it. I think there’s a level of disrespect to buying a book out of obligation, because it implies this grumbly, begrudging disinterest that you’re forced to ignore. Plus there are other ways of showing support for writers you know, like congratulating them, spreading the word about the book, etc.

As a writer who would love to publish a book some day, I would hate to think that friends and family only bought my book because they felt they had to. I’d much rather them buy it because they care about me and/or the subject matter. This even applies to my small-scale writing now–as much as I cherish and value support from loved ones, I don’t want them reading my writing because they feel they have to, and given that I write a lot about music, it would be silly. My boyfriend and best friend are good examples–I write about a lot of artists neither of them has heard of, so I can’t expect them to read every single article I put out. That said, I’m thrilled when friends who do share the interest read, and it means a lot to know someone has that interests and supports your career, especially when pageviews start turning into money. On the other side of that, it’s upsetting to write about things you know your friends would enjoy or be interested in but they don’t care or even trivialize your writing. Having my writing disregarded and put down was a huge reason why I grew really frustrated and hurt by people I really cared about.

As always, weekly meme from Booking Through Thursday.

Paul and I went to a wedding for one of his relatives on Saturday. I don’t think I was actually invited to it.

I was invited to the bridal shower last month and weaseled my way out of it by blaming my dented car–which, by the way, is now fixed, but the other driver’s insurance company wanted me to take half the blame, my insurance company advised me not to, and the two companies are duking it out in arbitration–and then Paul mentioned going to the wedding. Now, I think it’s terrible wedding etiquette and really rude to take extra people, like your kids’ significant others, to a wedding if they’re not invited, and I made that very clear to Paul and added that it made me uncomfortable to tag along to a wedding if I wasn’t explicitly invited. His response was, “But they always account for dates at weddings,” and my response was a calm, less profane, “No they fucking don’t. Weddings are expensive and you can’t just take whoever the fuck you want.” 

He did ask his sister, who insisted it was okay, so I agreed. Now, I have a feeling “okay” means “no plus one on the invitation but this family seems to think throwing extra people in is perfectly fine,” but other than being a super stubborn bitch and refusing to go unless I saw the words “plus one” with my own eyes, I couldn’t do much.

It was a nice, fun wedding, though. I’m on a quest to get Paul to loosen up and dance like a human, as opposed to a “marionette”–his description, not mine, although it’s frighteningly accurate. I decreed we shall take professional ballroom dance lessons before we get married.

Sunday night, we went to a murder mystery dinner up in the mountains by my parents’ house at this winery. I found a good Groupon deal for it–basically two for the price of one–and I’ve always thought murder mystery dinners sounded fun, so we trekked up for it. It was a fun, somewhat cheesy, pre-Halloween good time. It started with a wine tasting, and Paul and I our notorious for being easy drunks when it comes to wine–sleepy ones, too. And sure, we could’ve done the proper thing and spit it out, but fuck no, wine! Most of it was alright, although I’m admittedly not the biggest wine fan–but we did find two we really loved. We meant to buy them, but the dinner ran later than we thought, we both had to be up early for work, and we figured we could pick some up another weekend since my parents live about 20 minutes away.

The dinner itself wasn’t too impressive–typical catered dinner. The murder mystery part was fun, and if I would’ve gone with my gut, I would’ve been right. But what happens when you stick two writers in a whodunit? They dismiss the most obvious suspect as a red herring. But our theory as to who did it and why was solid.

And then I got a cold, and I suspect I’ll be calling in sick one day this week. In the meantime, I’ve found wasabi, onions, and Benadryl to be helpful.

Friday Five: Wrap It or Cap It

  1. What did you last stick a sticker on? I think myself/Paul when we went on our Kentuck Knob tour.
  2. What did you last put a lid on? The Italian dressing I used on a salad I made myself.
  3. What did you last wrap in foil? A potato, which I then baked. That was probably last week.
  4. What did you last unscrew a screw out of? Me personally, I’m not sure. But I had Paul take a look at my medicine cabinet after I accidentally knocked the bracket off that keeps it closed, and he unscrewed the back on the door to see if we could fix it. He concluded it would require welding, so my mom gave me little adhesive velcro things instead.
  5. What did you last hold together with tape? Probably a package of some sort from something someone bought off of me on eBay. Clean out apartment, make money.

I realized–and this probably should’ve been obvious, and maybe it was to basically everyone but me–that I get irritable before seeing Paul’s mom, like just the knowledge that I’ll be interacting with her puts me on edge, which obviously is not good. This happened with a few people in the past and naturally–and again, obviously–some form of apprehension like that is my sign that I need to not spend time with whoever it is. It happened in high school with the class bitch, Danielle, and I switched lunch tables for my own sanity. It happened with the Craigs, and I haven’t spoken to about half of them in something like a year or two, at least not regularly. But I can’t avoid my boyfriend’s mom on that level, unfortunately. I do my best and I have it down to only once every few months, which admittedly works out great. I still think she’s an awful woman and I’m at a point where I’m almost resentful of her because it’s very obvious that Paul’s a bit fucked up because of her, but short of screaming at her, I can’t do much.

And yes, this means I dealt with her over the weekend, and again, she was pretty much fine. It was frustrating, though, because we were trekking up to the mountains for Paul’s dad’s birthday and they’re not exactly good at planning things. Paul and I were given two possible times Friday night–1o or 12–and by 9 Saturday morning, that changed to 2. This haphazard planning works fine when you’re only dealing with the family under one roof, but when Paul’s moved out and they’re inviting me along, it gets dicey. We both have to drive an hour to come in, and I can’t speak for him since it’s his family, but my life doesn’t revolve around them and I’m not thrilled abut spending a Saturday sitting around accommodating their constantly changing plans. Plus I think it’s rude and suggests that my time and plans don’t matter.

So I decided to see Gone Girl with my mom while I waited, partly since I knew it was going to be a busy weekend, we both wanted to see it, and this might be our only chance to go that weekend.

We both liked it. It was good. I feel like maybe it was overhyped, though, because I didn’t love it like I thought I would. That said, it’s a movie definitely worthy of a second viewing, and I’d love to read the book, too. It could just be that things played out so differently from what you’d expect that it was a little jarring, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Now, I’m normally very anti-cellphones in movies (and stage productions, concerts, etc…) but I just had that sense that it was getting late and the movie wasn’t quite wrapped up yet. Since there was only one other small group in the theater and they were in front of us, I did turn my phone on, and sure enough, it’s close to 1 and Paul tries to call me. I texted him instead, and naturally, that was the time they decided to go to the mountains. Granted, there was a slight miscommunication where Paul made it sound like they were leaving at 2 when they were planning to get there at 2, but even so, it doesn’t take an hour to drive up to the mountains. So after the movie I booked it to my parents’ and Paul and I took his car to meet everyone up there. We decided on taking a separate car because Paul’s family like a more casual Ohiopyle trip and Paul likes hiking as far and long as he can, and I know from experience that going up as a big group and being at the mercy of everyone else ends in a disappointed, slightly cranky Paul.

We were there for their annual buckwheat pancake festival. I don’t know why buckwheat pancakes are so good because I ate plain ones–I didn’t want to venture into weird pancake territory–and Paul, who knows my taste pretty well, was adamant that I’d hate buckwheat pancakes. They were good pancakes, but again, possibly overhyped. Not even the street vendors up there were impressive. Plus I hate going to Ohiopyle when it’s crowded because then it’s really difficult to enjoy the place. It’s hard to park, for starters, and then everything is crowded and it’s hard to go where you want and do what you want. The one advantage of fall crowds is they’re not too interested in hiking or anything, so when Paul and I did go off on our own, we were pretty much truly on our own–unlike last time, which I believe was Labor Day, when I got stuck trekking over some rocks behind a woman in flip-flops carrying a baby. Because what could be safer?

Sunday was a surprise party for Paul’s dad, which was pretty nice and fun. Julie’s boyfriend, Michael, is solidifying himself as the favorite significant other in the family, which I joked isn’t hard to do with me around, and part of that is he actually helped out. Julie might not give him much choice, I don’t know, but I do know I’d never volunteer to pitch in for something…mostly because that means spending more time around his mom–and even the siblings get to me at times, except Emily–and we’ve already established how unwise that is.

The weekend was tame, though, compared to last night. Paul and I trucked into the city after work, met up with my parents, had dinner, and then saw Fleetwood Mac (for the second time). YES. Apparently, I didn’t write about when we saw them the last time (what the hell!?), but they were fantastic then and they’re fantastic now with Christine McVie back. I plan to write a full review of it later for AXS, but basically, I’ve been hearing my mom say for years how she didn’t want to see them live without Christine because it wasn’t the same. When they were here last year, I pretty much said, “Look, Christine said she’s not coming back. She’s been gone for 15 years. Maybe it’s time to give in and see them without her.” And then what happened? She played a show with them, realized she wanted to keep playing shows with them, and rolled into Pittsburgh about a year and a half later.

As I said on Twitter: I’ve never been so happy to be so wrong.

Friday Five: Cards Against Humanity

  1. How many of those frequent buyer stamp-cards are you carrying around, and which promises the best reward upon completion? Technically, six, although two are for the same place and one is for a place that’s since switched over to an app. The best is probably one for mini golf because it requires the fewest number of punches/stamps before you get a free game. A couple of them get you $20 off after you spend so much money.
  2. How many of those magnetic-stripped discount cards are you carrying around, and which offers the best rewards? So many. 11. Almost all of them accumulate points which then get you discounts or free stuff. The best one is probably for Sheetz, which gets me three cents off gas plus a free food item, drink, etc. after I buy 10. I’m also a big fan of the Sephora one, which doesn’t get you much more than samples, which leads to me buying more stuff there, but it fuels my addiction. The one for the local movie theater is good, too. You have to spend a good bit to get perks, but the perks are free snacks and free admission, so it’s something.
  3. How many other people’s business cards do you carry around, and which do you refer to most? Just one, and it’s an old business card from my employer’s HR guy from when I interviewed over three years ago, and this meme inspired me to toss it out because I don’t need it. I did have my therapist’s card in my purse, and that’s getting pinned to me cork board for reference.
  4. How far away from you is the nearest deck of playing cards? I don’t think there’s one in this apartment at all, actually.
  5. How many identification cards with your photo do you carry around? Just two–driver’s license and work ID.

Booking Through Thursday: Obscure

What’s your favorite genre that other people might not read? I mean, mysteries, romances, real-crime … these are all fairly widespread categories. But real readers don’t usually limit themselves to just the “big” genres … so what’s your favorite little-known type of book? Books on dogs? Knitting books? Stories about the space race? Mathematical theory?

So, I have a couple to tackle here, I think.

First, sci-fi. Now, I don’t think it’s a particularly obscure genre, but I do think it’s one that tends to be underrated and brushed aside. Sure, it’s nerdy and not all of it’s good–which can be said of all genres, frankly–but when it’s on, it’s on. You see some great writing in it, plus world building, attention to detail, creativity, observation, and social commentary. I love books that are very well-planned and intricate where maybe you’re not sure where things are going for awhile until suddenly, everything comes together perfectly.

Another is graphic novels, which is again not necessarily obscure but is looked down on and dismissed, but again, the good writers really nail it and take things beyond triviality. Plus there’s a hell of a lot to be said for being able to effectively work with both words and drawn pictures to create a good, compelling story. I wasn’t sold on the genre until I read Watchmen, then I tackled Sandman over the course of the past year-ish, and they’re both example of what I already said I love about sci-fi, too–intricacies that collide to create excellent storytelling.

And finally, something that is a bit more niche–Holocaust memoirs. My dad’s a WWII buff, so at a point in school where most kids are just starting to learn about what happened during the Holocaust, I was already well-aware, and I’ve always been interested. I’m not completely sure why. Maybe it’s the fact that someone can be so full of hatred that they choose to kill and harm so many people and that they can manage to suck enough people in that agree that they manage to pull off one of the greatest atrocities in history. Holocaust survivor stories are always heartbreaking, as well as compelling because each person experienced something different and has a different perspective, meaning no two stories are the same. I also feel that one of the best ways to get an idea of what any era, place, or event was like is to read firsthand accounts, and in the case of the Holocaust, it’s important to keep telling these stories and be aware that we have a responsibility to put an end to genocide, which is still happening.

Now, graphic novels and Holocaust stories collide excellently with Maus, which is actually two books by Art Spiegelman that tell his dad’s (and in part, his mom’s) Holocaust story, and the reason I bring up Maus is it’s the perfect example to illustrate the points I’ve already made…and I just finished the first book a few days ago. This isn’t just a rehashing of Art’s dad’s story–Maus is a comic/graphic novel, though drawn all in black and white, and it uses animals to tell the story. The Nazis are cats and Jews are mice, hence the title, and even though it seems like an almost absurdly simple framing devise, it’s ridiculously effective. It’s not that Maus wouldn’t be a strong story otherwise, but using the animals adds a layer and potential makes it slightly more accessible for younger readers–but don’t think that means it’s too juvenile for adults. My brother expects I’ll cry when I finish it, for one, plus it doesn’t sugarcoat any atrocities of the Holocaust. Art seems to have great instinct, too, because the book is written just his dad told it, complete with broken English, interruptions, missing pieces, and some father/son interaction that helps to characterize both of them, as well as show their relationship and the aftermath of the Holocaust so many years later. I highly recommend it to everyone, no matter what you like to read.