Tag Archives: Calvin and Hobbes

A Post About Blogs

You know, I don’t want to sound like I’m whining, but I will say I’m envious of folks who, week after week, and in some cases day after day, find things to blog about. For me, it’s a struggle some weeks to find anything that isn’t pure fluff (like this post may end up being), and I really don’t want to write fluff, so I tend not to post when I’m having an off week.

Gordon Bonnet

Gordon Bonnet

I look at blogs like Gordon Bonnet’s Skeptophilia, and I can’t help but wonder how he does it. I can’t even keep up with reading his blog, much less post as often, and I like his blog because many of his opinions are opposed to mine—but you shouldn’t live life in an echo chamber, and I like to try and look at all sides of an issue before I form an opinion. I’m human, and there will be opinions I hang onto doggedly in the face of all evidence to the contrary. Heck, that’s what beliefs are all about. But reading someone like Gordon makes me think, and it keeps me from being the kid who doesn’t like the food even though he’s never tried a single bite of it. Gordon has a large following—the kind us writers would love to have—and I’m sure it’s translated into some book sales for him. It also gives him a largely neutral place to talk about what he believes and what he thinks should change. I’ve often thought about starting some kind of ranting blog, or one where I simply state my opinions about various subjects, but I’m not sure if I want to go down that road.

Then there’s Kristen Lamb and her Warrior Writers blog. Again, as much as I enjoy her writing, it’s a bit hard to keep up with her. She

Kristen Lamb

Kristen Lamb

has a way of getting across to you that makes it feel like she’s talking only to you, that you’re her bestest friend in the world and she’s discovered this wonderful thing she thinks will help you and she just can’t wait to tell you about it because she cares, man, I mean really cares. That attitude comes across in every post and every Facebook status the woman produces. You feel like you’re her friend even if you’ve never met her, and she deserves every bit of success she gets. I don’t think she posts daily, but she does post several times a week.

And then there’s me, struggling to come up with something once a week to talk about. I don’t want to stick with the stuff I started out talking about because, let’s face it, there are more than enough blogs about writing out there. Sure, I want to address issues pertaining to writing on occasion, but if that’s all I talk about, the only people who’ll read this thing are other writers. I have no problem with other writers, being one myself, but that’s not the audience I want. I want jus’ folks, you know? I want to give the everyman kinda person like me a peek into the life of a writer, without sounding like I’m trying to give you a peek into privilege. I’m no different than other folks. I don’t have some mysterious place I go to get ideas, other than my mind, and since the mind is a mystery to everyone, it’s not like that’s unique.

The advice that makes the most sense to me (and it comes from Kristen Lamb, by the way) is to make your blog high concept. I get high concept in theory. It’s where you take subjects everyone can relate to and find a way to say it that makes folks want to come back and hear what you have to say post after post. It’s taking something in your life and making it accessible to everyone else by showing how everyone else can either learn something from it or at least be entertained by it.

Putting it into practice seems to be an entirely different matter, though.

One of my favorite examples of high concept is Calvin and Hobbes. Calvin explores life and most of its anxieties and frustrations as well as the plain ridiculous aspects of it. He doesn’t speak like a six-year-old. He has a much better vocabulary. And yet it all seems to fit. Added to that, we get Hobbes’s opinions, which often differ from Calvin’s. Hobbes frequently acts as Calvin’s foil, showing how ridiculous Calvin can be about some things.

CalvinHobbesAnd it’s pretty much unfailingly funny. A six-year-old examining life from the perspective of a much older person, and yet he tends to react like a six-year-old. Even the strips that seem to be about something strictly humorous have an underlying question beneath them.

Twenty years after it ended (Bill Watterson stopped writing the strip in 1995, having said all he wanted to say with it), fans still wish for there to be more, and we read and reread the existing strips, generally enjoying them every bit as much as we did when we first read them.

I doubt I’ll ever come up with something to equal Calvin and Hobbes, but a weak facsimile thereof would satisfy me.

Meanwhile, I’ve rambled. Guess that’s something we all do every now and then, huh?

Later,
Gil

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And Now for Something Completely Different

Okay, so my daughter gave me an award for my blog and one of the rules is that I have to list seven things about myself. That’s why I’m calling this one “And Now for Something Completely Different.” I thought it was a good title, as it’s not going to be a blog about my most recent word count (just over 141,000 if you want to know. If not, ignore that number), but rather an attempt to fulfill that part of the award rules. Oh, and it’s also kind of an homage to Monty Python. Yeah, I’m a fan. I guess I’ll start, quite logically, with:

  1. I have an interest in quantum physics/mechanics. From a layman’s point of view, of course. At first, it was simply fascinating, because there are times when I want to just educate myself on various things. It’s sort of making up for all that not paying attention in school. The advantage, of course, is that I get to choose my subjects. Anyway, when I learned how matter at the quantum level can act as either a particle or a wave, depending on whether it’s being observed or not, I flipped. For a while, I went through a period where I felt a little disoriented because I realized that, the deeper you get into this stuff, the more you realize that the only way we see things the way we do is more or less because we’ve all agreed to see them that way. You also realize that everything you see is at least a fraction of a second in the past, because unless light reflects off it, you can’t see it. Think about it if you haven’t and see if it doesn’t mess with your mind too. I finally decided that it really didn’t matter. We’ve accepted things this way for a long, long time. Why change now? The really interesting part for me, though, was (and is) trying to figure out a way to make that apply to magic in an urban fantasy/paranormal novel. The idea is, if our brains interact with the quantum level, and we can train ourselves to control that interaction, then perhaps small changes there equal large changes in the macro world. Haven’t really fleshed it out yet, and I think it’ll take awhile to do it. Haven’t had the courage to buckle down to it.
  2. I never seem to be able to read books that are considered classics. You know, books like Catch-22; Catcher in the Rye; The House of Seven Gables and other books like that. The ones they seem determined to inflict upon you in high school. God save all our children from teachers who want them to read Moby Dick. I can do some Mark Twain, along with H.G. Wells and Jules Verne, and I really like, for the most part, Edgar Rice Burroughs. If you’ve never read any of his Tarzan books, you’re missing a treat. Ignore every old Buster Crabbe movie you’ve ever seen. Or whoever it was played Tarzan in those days. They changed him beyond all recognition. I did make it through Dracula and Frankenstein, but just barely. Neither of them was like the old Hammer Studios movies, either. Or I should say the movies weren’t much like the originals. But even though I can’t make it through them, every once in a while I get the wild idea that I should finish at least one. After all, “they” say you should. Well, “they” ain’t always right, are they? Think I’ll just avoid Hemingway and Steinbeck.
  3. I love looking at maps. I get enjoyment from buying the most recent road atlas from Rand McNally. I’ll open it up to a state at random and just look around at town names and things like that. There are some towns with really weird names out there. For example, there’s a town in New Mexico called Truth or Consequences. You gotta wonder how it got that name. There’s one here in my home state of Arkansas called Toad Suck. No, I ain’t lying. Look it up. They have a festival called Toad Suck Daze. It that don’t put you in a daze, I don’t know what will. Just a little ways east of Dodge City, Kansas is the world’s largest hand-dug well. Kansas also has the world’s largest ball of sisal twine (I don’t know what sisal twine is), and not far from there, close to the small town of Lebanon, is the geographical center of the conterminous U.S. Oh, and the Little House on the Prairie is in southern Kansas. In fact, Kansas has a lot of sites like that, but according to my brother (I’ve never been to Kansas), that’s about all it has. I’m not sure why maps fascinate me so much. Just one of my little quirks, I guess.
  4. I sometimes think I should have been a meteorologist. Storms, and tornadoes in particular, fascinate me. I used to have a pretty good collection of tornado videos, including the one known as the Kansas Turnpike Video, where a news team filmed a tornado going right over them. It was a small one, but it’s still something to watch. I’m sure it’s on YouTube or somewhere like that if you’d like to watch it. I’ve never thought to try. I liked the movie Twister, despite all its dramatic inaccuracies. Watching Twister and then learning about real tornadoes is something like watching Miami Vice and then watching a documentary like Cocaine Cowboys. Sure, Vice is exciting, and I love Scarface, but when you see what was really going on in South Florida during the late ’70s and early ’80s, Miami Vice becomes a pioneering TV show and that’s about it. It’s the same with Twister and footage of what real tornadoes can do: it’s nothing short of amazing. But, see, I wouldn’t want to be one of those guys who delivers the TV weather. I don’t want to work in the studio for The Weather Channel. Put me out there in Oklahoma and Kansas and let me chase them suckers. That’s where the real fun would be.
  5. My favorite comic strip has got to be Calvin and Hobbes, followed closely by The Far Side. None of our local papers run either of these comics anymore. I know that Gary Larson, who wrote Far Side, retired from comics and wrote some kids’ books. I’m not sure about Bill Watterson. I know he says in The Tenth Anniversary Calvin and Hobbes Book that he never allowed his characters to be licensed, and he was pretty derogatory of the comics world in general, so he may have stopped as well. I found a site online (and I’m sure there’s more than one) that posted lots of new comics every day, everything from Beetle Bailey to Mary Worth and all the ones in between. In the current crop of comics, I’d have to say Pearls Before Swine is my favorite. It’s got that off-beat humor that I really like. Cul De Sac probably has the weirdest kids on the planet, hands down. They’re not so much funny as just out there. For good old-fashioned humor, I’d have to say Pickles is best. And Zits never fails to get a laugh, along with Leann.
  6. I don’t own a suit and tie. What does that say about me?
  7. I’m such a boring person that I can’t come up with seven interesting things about myself. I’ve never been good at these kinds of things. I’ve always hated those questions on job apps that ask you to evaluate yourself, because it seems to me if you rate yourself too highly, you’re arrogant and if you don’t your self-esteem is too low to interest an employer. I worked as a security guard at a nuclear plant back in the ’80s and they made us take the MMPI as part of the application process. I won’t go into all the details of the MMPI if you’re not familiar with it, but suffice it to say it has to be the most ridiculous piece of drek I’ve ever been subjected to.

 

And there you have it. Or them. Are you ready for me to go back to talking about writing my crime novel yet? I know I am. This was harder than writing it has been. But I gave it a try. Next step is to find some blogs to give the award to and pay it forward, as the saying goes. I’ll get back to my novel next time around.

Later,

Gil