Posts Tagged ‘young adult’

(I missed the memo that liking this show isn’t cool anymore, but if I abandoned every fandom ruined by neckbeards, I’d have none left)

With the sun setting on 2018, many people, myself included, are looking to the daybreak of 2019 with equal parts existential dread and necessary-for-the-sake-of-survival-but-nonetheless-tentative hopefulness. Our rotations around the sun seem to be getting more difficult, what with the deep political and ideological schisms in the country, the abysmal state of job availability and wage earning, and the fact that mentioning either of those issues immediately labeling you all manner of juvenile insults conjured up by the hard-at-work minds happily continuing to get back-doored by the powers that be. Regardless of the memes floating around regarding and oversimplifying the issues presented us this year (“2018 DIDNT SUCK U JUST DIDNT BETTUR URSELF LOLOLOL”), I know for many of us it’s been an endurance test for the ages.

But I guess I’m getting ahead of myself. Hi, I’m Jeff. Some of you might remember me as the dude that used to do shit. I used to be an avid writer and sometimes-publisher of fiction. I used to be a regularly gigging musician in a multitude of different genres. I used to dabble in podcasting and (poor) voice acting. I used to be a Literature major at Chadron State College – then was a janitor at that same college after graduating (yeah that degree was money well spent, sorry Mom and Dad), then a prep-cook at a restaurant in BFN Wyoming, and for the last year and a half I’ve been a delivery boy at a Chinese restaurant in Fort Collins, Colorado. My track record seems remarkably lackluster in my opinion, but here I am, still kicking despite it all.

Rather than further vomit my unwarranted and unneeded opinion into the endless ether of the I N T E R N E T in 2018, I’ve opted for the greater majority of this year to sit back and watch the calamity from a safe distance; a pale gargoyle perched high atop the clocktower of brooding, watching the series of tubes below descend into complete bedlam. There was once a time where I was either so conceited or so deluded by grandeur as to think my opinion held any merit or could at least serve as a form of passing entertainment for some, but anymore opinions are a lot like the assholes spouting them: completely undesired, wholly run-of-the-mill, one of several billion, and completely and totally full of shit.

Any cynicisms or frustrations I expressed in years prior have only compounded since then. For the most part, I’ve tried to opt out of keyboard jockeying and dinner-table debate — a far cry from the militant ‘anyone, anywhere, anytime’ bullshit-spouting I once championed. Spewing stupid fucking bullshit with zero fact sourcing has become a national pastime in the years since I’ve left this old blog up on the shelf, even moreso than when I first stepped away. It seems like all you need now to have people agree with you and shower you in digital high-fives is to record a vlog in a lift-kit truck, have a large red beard with an American-flag baseball cap, and just grumble out a half-cocked opinion sprinkled with politically charged insults akin to 5th grade playground fuckery. I got squeezed out of my own market (see: bitching) by the world over in 2018. That’s a bit disappointing.

Since I’ve graduated I’ve had more important considerations than calling strangers on the internet and mild acquaintances in life pants-on-head genetic tragedies. Student loan payments, inflating rent costs, and dead-end-gun-in-my-mouth jobs have taken up most of my time, and one by one all my hobbies and pastimes have fallen by the wayside in favor of THC-assisted escapism. It’s a problem I’ve been aware of and one I’ve tried to curtail, but no amount of optimistic outlook or “living for today” can seem to quell the anxieties in my brain. Is it normal to get up in the morning and feel literally physically sick at the thought of having to endure another day of work? Should it be?

I’ve had lots of accusations levied at me over the past few years. I’m lazy, unmotivated, unambitious, lacking direction, squandering my potential, and any number of other generic criticisms you receive when you’re sailing dead reckoning on the tumultuous waves of life. “When are you going to grad school?” “Are you planning on getting a real job?” and all sorts of other well-meaning but backhanded questions have me rolling my eyes so hard I can get a full view of my own brain. There was once a time when I dreamed of silly shit like being a professionally gigging musician, or writing in a style that could sustain me financially, but those things really just file me away into one of another million and two people who wish for more out of their day-to-day, but don’t have the means or the drive to seal the deal. I don’t see those goals as impossible to attain, but I do see them as something I have neither the time nor the energy for right this minute. I forsook each and every one of those things in the grind of just getting my god damn bills paid. I love Colorado, but JFC, the cost of living seems more determined by a roulette spin more than any actual rhyme or reason.

I’ve spent more than my fair share of 2018 being angry. Shocking, I know, that’s kind of been the gimmick since day one, but it’s been different lately. Being angry used to be a shtick for me; I had something to say, and a man I respect very much once told me that people are more keen to listen if you’re funny rather than just bitching incessantly and offering little alternative. This new anger has been poisonous to my psyche and my attitude: the kind that makes me walk around with a sneer on my face and wish ill upon the most non-assuming inconveniencers in my daily life. I discovered quickly that arguing with the cultitsts who support our current presidential administration was akin to beating my head against a brick wall, that people will desperately go out of their way to take a shit on anything even remotely popular in modern art and culture, and that levying any criticism at those who would rather share dank memes than actually contribute to their community in any way quickly ostracizes you from the conventional spheres of the Internet. That’s okay, though, because I don’t feel like I’m missing out on much from a Facebook feed clogged with all talk and zero action from people stuck in their college years in both personal taste and mental fortitude. Accuse me of ‘vaguebooking’ if you will, one thing remains the same about me: I’ll say it to your fucking face if you name me a date, time, and location to meet up. I’ll even bring beer. I like beer!

2018 wasn’t complete garbage, though. Mostly, but not completely. I punched way above my weight class and got married on Halloween to a lovely, patient woman who serves as the yin to my moody, overly-aggressive yang. We married in a cemetery just to really sell the whole “edgy kids” bit. I look forward to it putting a grin on my face during the Octobers to come. I’ve made quite a few new friends, something I was expecting to have difficulty with given my super friendly and approachable demeanor, and I did manage to squeeze in a few concerts (both performed in and witnessed) before all was said and done. I got to sit out on my balcony and watch the fireworks on the 4th of July with a loaded bong in my hand, and it really doesn’t get much more American than that, now does it? There’s been plenty of good in 2018 in all honesty, it just seems to get obscured by copious amounts of stupid fucking bullshit more often than I’d like.

So now we’re headed down the road, literally and figuratively. My apartment currently looks like some shitty caricature of a college student’s dorm room in a lackluster, ham-fisted sitcom about millennials — on account of our getting ready to move to the ‘big city’. The Chinese food delivery is in my rearview mirror, much to the relief of both my sanity and my nagging desire to stab shitty tippers in the eye with a set of chopsticks. The future seems murky as it always does, lending credence to those who question my motivations and my sense of direction, but if there’s one skill I’ve mastered in my short quarter-century on this planet, it’s flying by the seat of my pants. Thanks to the kindness and diligence of family members and close friends alike, we will be neither homeless nor completely broke for the first month of 2019. Hopefully, that’ll grant me the breathing room I need to land face-first into whatever godawful bill-paying, time-sucking, braindead-manager-having place of work comes next. In between whatever that is, I hope to get back on a few proverbial horses – maybe pick my guitar back up, put the pen to paper a little bit more, carve out a few more plastic models of giant Japanese robots (because at the end of the day I really am just another fucking nerd). The American Dream seems alive and well if you have enough NyQuil and naivety to get to sleep long enough to believe it. 

This is all a gross oversimplifying of a complex, difficult, and exhausting couple years, but at the behest of a few good women in my life, I decided that vomiting this series of letters and punctuation marks out into the world would maybe do me some good. Maybe that’s the key to all that I’ve been overlooking; maybe I just needed to fully embrace the art of not giving a fucking shit about the opinions of idiots, assholes, fuckfaces, and morons who are neither paying my bills nor boosting me up in any way that isn’t just a roundabout degradation of my motives or my reasoning.

So, expect to hear a little more from me in 2019. Because I’ve had a lot to say that I’ve kept pretty close to the chest for fear of kicking the beehive or screaming needlessly into the void. The scientists say that unless humanity collectively pulls head from ass, we’ve only got another two or three good decades on this spinning ball of shit, and as little as my opinion matters or as unremarkable it is in the scheme of things, its still something that’s uniquely my own. If someone can find it relatable or crack a smile at my crude, uninformed flapping about, than I’ve already done more for the collective human race than most of the dildos who went out and bought a Tesla and subsequently crashed it watching a Harry Potter film while cruising down the interstate. To any doubters, critics, or those otherwise disapproving of my motivations and my methods: buckle up, fuckers, cause it’s the end of the world as we know it, and that’s the best news I’ve heard all year.

Receperint Retro


I’m not sure about you guys, but I would hardly call myself a fan of modern art. I mean, between Andy Warhol’s neon florescent soup cans and Jackson Pollock accidentally spilling paint onto a canvas, I’m not sure I really grasp the meaning here. Is there even one? Is it one of those lame, modernist takes on “the meaning is there is no meaning, maaaaaan!” Maybe it’s above me.

Or, maybe, as Scott McCloud would have me believe, I’m looking at it the wrong way.

Copyright Jackson Pollock – I call this one, “condiments a la mode” 

The Book

This week, I finished Scott McCloud’s aforementioned “Understanding Comics: The Individual Art,” and the last few chapters dropped some pretty big bombshells on my conventional way of thinking. Just a few heavy-handed bulletpoints that may or may not have anything to do with graphic novels:

  • a single, still picture is a cartoon, not a comic. Comics = sequential art
  • Cultures cut off from the world-at-large tend to develop stylistically independent (like Japan’s manga vs. conventional comics)
  • Creation is a 6-step process, beginning with an idea and ending with the surface of the creation
    • However, the order people take this process in is often non-linear!
  • Comics (or at least cartoons) are an ancient artform, cave paintings and hieroglyphs do count!
  • Human instinct has 2 critical components: Reproduction and Survival. Anything outside of these is… art

I think any teacher hoping to include graphic novels in their courses, even just a few, could stand to throw in a few chapters out of this book. It offers some interesting commentaries on the relevance of cartoons and comics in society throughout different periods of time. Besides that, though, it also offers some interesting perspectives on artwork, and the manifestation of ideas into creative formats.

Regardless of whether or not I think Pollock’s “paintings” count as artwork, McCloud makes an interesting assertion: anything that doesn’t fulfill our primary human functions of surviving and reproducing is art. It’s self expression, even if nothing is being created. McCloud says that if anything aside from our basic animalistic instincts are cutting through, that’s artwork. It’s an interesting and perhaps radical way to look at creativity. This little bit of the book is worth the price of admission in and of itself. Scott has done his research. He’s scoured artists and contrasted their styles, done historical and sociological research, the whole nine yards. There’s a textbook’s worth of knowledge in here, cleverly hidden behind

The Artwork

The six step process of creation, Copyright Scott McCloud

McCloud hides genuine research and good information deep within each line and panel of his book. His art style throughout the book varies wildly depending on the chapter. When McCloud wants the emphasis to be on the information, the art style often takes on an extremely simple look, so we pay more attention to what’s being said. When an emphasis is being placed on the art style, the necessary touches are added; for example, the only chapter of the book to feature any color is a chapter on.. color.

Rather than opt for the lazy way out, when McCloud makes reference to hieroglyphs or the artwork of another famous painter, he does his best to draw these things himself. He emulates the style of other cartoonists (sometimes directly referencing their own panels), and points out the stylistic differences between artists. When discussing the importance of panels and shading, McCloud toys with those particular aspects to demonstrate their importance. The same can be said about most other topics Scott touches on. When he describes the collaborative process between writer and artist, he doesn’t simply opt for panels of himself speaking to us. He shows us:

The Verdict:

McCloud’s book was surprisingly dense for a 9 chapter graphic novel. A little research helped me discover that it’s part one in a trilogy, with the other two dealing with Reinventing and Making Comics. It’s hard to really compress parts of this book down into a blog post, at least for me. McCloud hammers the reader with a wealth of information in an easily digestible format. However, a lot of what he says is augmented infinitely by the panels and drawings that accompany it. It isn’t enough to summarize his points, they have to be seen for one’s self.

Ars longa vita brevis

You know, I’ve never been on “vacation.” Not in the idyllic, get-away to a beach or a cabin in the woods sense. I’ve had time off, and I’ve travelled, but I’ve never been able to just laze about on a beach. It’s a dream of mine to be able to take the ladyfriend and I on a cruise or something like that eventually, but right now the moths in my wallet are starving.

All that being said, Jillian and Mariko Tamaki’s graphic novel “This One Summer” is quite the one-two punch. In a nutshell, it deals with the coming-of-age tale of Rose Wallace and her friend Windy at their summer cottages at Awago Beach.


Photo CC- by Kim Seng – is this really paradise, or just what we’re tempered to consider paradise?

The Story:

I’ve gotta give it to Mariko Tamaki, I was never a teenage girl, but she nails all the struggles of the transition between being a kid and a teenager / “young adult”. Rose has been going to this cottage with her parents since she was five, but something’s different about this year. The rose colored glasses are starting to crack. Rose’s parents are fighting, her dad is immature, her mom is reserved and on-edge, and her friend, Windy, is a bit immature for her tastes. The book is filled with its fair share of carefree summery fuckery; Rose and Windy take an affinity to horror movies, swimming, the freedom of being able to spend their own money (on candy, but still), but for every carefree moment there are three that are emotionally exhausting.

Rose and Windy (moreso Rose) take a fascination with some local teenagers who run a c-store. They’re your typically crude, bumbling teenagers, but the mysterious of their romances and where their crude behavior / vocabulary comes from fascinates the younger girls. I remember being a kid and incorporating certain.. uh.. explicit words I didn’t quite understand in my vocabulary, and being red-faced when I was caught using them.

Largely, the story tackles the conflicts people come across in their life, despite being in “paradise.” Pregnancy, puberty, relationships, issues everyone deals with one way or another. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure how I felt about the story after I first finished the book. I had to chew on it for awhile. There are some loose ends that are never tied off, but that’s how life is. There is often no answer to the question. It was interesting to peer into the world of a pre-teen girl, though. While the book is by no means “feminist,” it is very new-wave, demonstrating how certain sexist misconceptions get placed into girls’ heads, featuring non-conventional characters (adoptive parents, lesbians, larger women who don’t look like Barbie dolls). The story really has to be read to be appreciated.

Copyright – Jillian Tamaki

The Artwork

This is where “This One Summer” really shone. Jillian Tamaki has made some of the best artwork I’ve seen in a graphic novel to date. Her style consists of some very stylized backgrounds, with some simpler looking characters – a technique Scott McCloud in “Understanding Comics” mentions is often used to make it easier to substitute yourself into the character’s shoes. The colors are very de-saturated, mostly blue line shading that makes the entire book feel like a memory.

Copyright – Jillian Tamaki

And that’s precisely what the book is – a memory. Not just of Rose, but of any of us who have experienced some difficulty coming into adolescence. Tamaki makes frequent usage of some interesting techniques, including crazy shaped speech bubbles, written out sounds in true comic book fashion (click, splash, whif, etc.), and a really great shot of the ocean that, after a page turn, becomes the sky for the next scene.

When it’s necessary, characters are drawn in more fleshed-out detail to add some weight to the seriousness of certain scenes. The artwork of this novel is what kept me page turning, perhaps even moreso than the story. I love it. It’s simplistic enough when the mood is light, like when Windy dances around Rose in what is surely a Calvin and Hobbes throwback panel, but when Rose’s parents (Alice and Evan) are going at it, the detail becomes much more surreal.

The artwork is highly non-conventional in that there are multi-page spreads, often no panels at all, and often entire portions of blank page sectioned off for text. It helps to break up the pacing of what is actually quite long for a graphic novel.

Copyright – Jillian Tamaki

The Verdict

“This One Summer” evokes this feeling from me like there’s so much under the surface that I’m not quite scraping up. It’s there. I know it is. It’s hidden right under the sand. But even just looking at the surface, I enjoyed “This One Summer” thoroughly. I think it would make a great staple for Young Adult lit classes, as well as those looking to break into graphic novels. It’s more serious (to me) than something like Laura Lee Gulledge’s “Page by Paige”, has an art style I’m in love with, and despite having weighty elements, isn’t serious to the point of inspiring depression. I’d say give it a go. It was, after all, one of Dr. Ellington’s favorite books of 2014. 

To close, here’s this:


Hey boys and girls, did you miss me?

Yes, yes, the prodigal son returns much to the chagrin of all 20 or so people that actually follow me. I haven’t updated this blog since roughly September, when my first publication(s) were headed out. Annnnd a lot of new things have happened in my life since then. With a little encouragement from a certain special someone, I decided I should breathe some life into this. Especially considering that I haven’t written for “The Eagle” (our College’s newspaper) more than once this whole semester.

above: semi-accurate representation of me this semester

I’m sure I’m not alone when I say, “holy shit I’m almost a senior in college.” When I walk out of this place next year with a Bachelor’s in Literature with a minor in Music, how unemployable do you think I’m going to be? Here’s a shocker for you (that some people will hate me for), I’m pretty sure I’m going to get my first few B’s of my college career. Granted, that doesn’t upset me. There are people that will be disgusted with the fact that I’ve lasted this long with all A’s, because, you know, <sarcasm> I wake up every morning with the thought “I’m just going to put everyone else to shame.” That’s just how I operate. I’m kind of a dick. </sarcasm> I knew going into this semester it would be a transitional one for me.

My relationship of 4 years ended back in November, and with that came an entire paradigm shift that most people probably experience once or twice in their lives. It started back when I was in high school, persisted through some rocky times, and stupidly, I proposed because of the promise of a false sense of security. But, as a good friend of mine says, “a ring never plugged no hole,” and indeed, it did not. It takes two to tango, folks, but three’s a crowd. On the bright side, that paradigm shift allowed me to pursue a 2-year-long crush that happens to double as the love of my life, so, there’s that. Am I sharing too much with you people?

the above statement is false

In terms of writing, I’m in a really strange place. I have ideas for miles and miles, and unlike when I was just starting off, I actually believe I can do these ideas justice. That was why I never wrote before, I was afraid of the “loss-of-self” that would happen to the idea between my brain and the paper. To any other writers in this predicament, my best piece of advice is: get the fuck over it. Write it down. If you hate it, you can edit it and edit it until you don’t, or sometimes you just have to hate it. H.P. Lovecraft loathed some of his most famous works. Anyway, point being, I have ideas, and I have (enough) confidence to give them a whirl… I just need to actually sit down and write them out. Typically, about the time I feel “inspired” to write is the time when I’m tired enough to want to pass out. This is called creative insomnia, and I feel no strong desire to be an insomniac. As well as it would work with my “brooding author” image, I like sleep.

Since September, I’ve had 5 short stories published. 4 in the Demonic Visions series, books 1, 2, and 3, editted and compiled by Chris Robertson. 1 by the lovely ladies at Sirens Call Publications, a few of which join me in said Demonic Visions books. In June, Demonic Visions 4 will come out, and provided I can pull my head out of my ass, I’ll have a story or two featured in there as well. My goal over the summer, as far as my writing career goes, is to branch out a bit. I love the DV series, but I feel like I need to get around a bit more with my writing, so that I might not seem like a one-trick pony. Hopefully I’ve impressed a reader (*cough* publisher) or two with my work.

Is anyone really surprised that I have work in a book with this kind of cover? You knew what you were getting into.

Recently, I feel as though adulthood has slowly settled its way into my brain. I haven’t necessarily felt ostracized from my friends, just like we are growing in separate directions. I no longer feel the need to empty my wallet during each Steam sale. Instead, payday usually brings a new slew of books onto my shelf. This year, I made it a point to be sociable and a party kind of person. Now that I’ve experienced that and found my happy medium, I’m retreating back into cynic-mode. People here at Chadron are really big fans of compromising their beliefs or opinions depending on who’s around, and I hate that shit. I have a Metallica tattoo on my left shoulder, but don’t tell the music department. They’ll all laugh heartily and scoff at me, despite the fact that half of them are most likely Metallica fans themselves. But it isn’t the cool thing to do. Apparently, high school mentality dies hard.

Thoughts of post-college life used to petrify me. Now, I’m excited to see what it holds. Even if it’s sorrow or rage or whathaveyou, at least I will have lived and learned outside of the realm of my hometown. I’m gonna pass the mic to my man William Blake to close this one off: “Expect poison from the standing water.”


Vola libere, sed semper domum redi


“Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” – Winston Churchill

Some of you, my professor included, may have noticed my lack of a blog post on a professional development book. truth time: I didn’t read one! My week was insane, and I kinda didn’t wanna read it because as much good stuff as I’m sure was in there, teaching strategies, at least right now, are not my bag. MOVING ON

30 books. 30 books is what I’ve read between January and today, if you count some rather sizable graphic novels and some over-arching comic books story arcs (a.k.a spanning several issues). For some time now, I had been down on myself for not doing as much reading as one would expect from a literature major. The classics were wearing me out, the 5 page papers were driving me insane, and I had had it up to here -invisible line- with obscure poetry about a certain red-f’cking-wheelbarrow. And just then.. a light at the end of the tunnel – an excuse to read novel after novel, not necessarily as brooding and complex as any Scarlet Letter, but much more readable, and definitely more relatable. Hell, sign me up!

And sign up I did, sign up for an “A” contract in a class called “Adolescent Literature”. After getting a look at a reading list including the likes of The Outsiders, the Hunger Games, and some graphic novels I’d never heard of, another class of reading Walden could kiss my happy, anti-transcendentalism ass. Thanks to this class, I’ve done some things I would not have before – such as start a Twitter feed, and this blog page! No one wants to hear the dumb crap I have to spew, I thought to myself. What good is a blog past me just talking to myself?
Little did I know – these blogs and tweets and crazy technological wonders were to be used as part of a learning platform – to network with other human beings. Damn! What a concept! And here I was thinking the internet was around for little more than cat videos and obscure, brooding facebook statuses (SARCASM).

This class is unlike any I’ve taken before, in the combined sense that I not only enjoyed what was required reading (most of the time), but doing my homework was a bit of a relief. Being forced to blog every week means having to regurgitate my thoughts about a book or a theme, and if I thought the author was a jackass or the book was pretentious, being able to say so for the world to see felt kinda good (still waiting on Sherman Alexie to explain to me how owning a kindle makes me a fucking elitist. Genius.) If I thought a book was awesome, being able to compare reasons why with someone else was also awesome. I wish in-class meetings had either been more frequent or had more people, but that kind of thing happens with an online medium. I still managed to get some good back-and-forths going with people, and this blog has forced me to pick back up a once-frequent medium of posting angry things on the internet. While it’s not fiction writing, it is something. I’ve decided that I’m going to start calling myself a writer. Not pretentiously, mind you, and not in the sense of “I hang around coffee shops and write” writer. But it’s something I do, and it’s something I do well. Why not take the title? I feel like I meet the qualifications.

With such a comprehensive reading list, one is forced to gain some perspective outside of the (typical) middle-class, white American adolescence. I do not know what it’s like to be an indian on a reservation, to be a raped teenage girl, a (fabulously) gay man, or anything else of the sort… and being able to glance into that lifestyle, even for just a little bit, broadens an otherwise small horizon. I won’t lie, when I first heard “adolescent lit”, I thought of some rinse-and-repeat franchise like A Series of Unfortuante Events or Goosebumps, I hadn’t considered works like The Hunger Games. This kind of literature can provide an escape point or a point of identification for adolescents – I’m just wondering where the drop off is between “young adult” and “adolescent”. Plus, what exactly is “middle grade”? Problems are not  specific to a grade level. I come from Alliance where parents can’t buy their children toys off of infomercials because they aren’t old enough to call the hotline – I know a thing or two about early onset problems. Problems in adolescent literature aren’t problems exclusive to adolescents, they just come from different perspective. Plus, every parent in every adolescent novel or horror story for that matter is a total douche. If you had just believed your kid in the first place, maybe you wouldn’t have gotten abducted by aliens.

Above: Somewhat related.

When it came to my independent reading for this class, I tried my best to convince my fellow readers and compatriots that Superman and Captain America had just as much literary complexity as lame-ass Arthur Dimmesdale or Charles Dickens’s Pip. A good 3/4ths of my independent reading had to do with graphic novels and comic books, and the accompanying blogs were me trying to convince a class of mostly women to pick up a comic book. Did I fail? Most likely. But luckily, Dr. Ellington included 2 graphic novels in the syllabus, so I can hop on the bandwagon of the success of that week. This all culminated in my inquiry project being my own syllabus for a graphic novels course. If I changed even one mind, I call that success. If I didn’t, well, you can’t win ’em all. In fact, you lose most of them it seems. Seriously though. Break the stereotype. Comics aren’t just for teenage boys, aren’t just for nerds, aren’t just for dorks. Yeah, shows like “Comic Book Men” don’t do us comic readers any favors, but come on. Dudes dig chicks who read comic books! Fact.

So I guess the question that remains now is will I continue to spill my brain droppings all over this page, even recreationally? It’s hard to say. I guess that really depends on if anyone else does. I definitely plan on continuing to skulk my Twitter account. I dunno if I’ll continue to update it, but too many people share too much cool stuff for me to just ignore it all together.

Either way, if you’re reading this, thank you for joining me on this ride. I don’t suspect it’s over – but for right now, we need to head to a rest stop. My brain can’t handle much more responsbility.


“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” – John F. Kennedy

This is it folks – not only are we on the home stretch of the year, on the last book talk of the semester.. but we’ve also reached the final book in the Hunger Games trilogy after beginning the semester with the first two. The popular opinion regarding Mockingjay seems to be that it is everyone’s least favorite of the series, but they still enjoyed it.. despite it being “boring”. Today, I’m going to explain to you not only why that is wrong, but why the series needed a clincher like Mockingjay. (spoilers: it has to do with not writing the same damn book 3 times in a row).

So, what’s going on here?

For the rare breed of the uninitiated in the Hunger Games trilogy, Mockingjay is the third and final book. The Hunger Games entail the story of the country of Panem, the shambled remains of the United States after some great war, and then following said great war, a great rebellion. Panem is split into 13 districts with a capital, and every year, each district offers up a boy and a girl to fight to the death in a televised event as punishment for a rebellion some 75 years ago. Crazy stuff. Specifically, the books follow Katniss Everdeen of District 12 and her friends in their attempts to first survive the Capital’s wrath, then quell the rebellion, and finally in the ultimate table-flipping move say “fuck it” and join the revolution. That’s Mockingjay. Katniss and Peeta Mellark (her faux love interest) have survived 2 go-rounds in the Arena, and the rebellion against the tyranny of the Capital and President Snow is fully under way. The rebellion needs a figurehead to lead them – and Katniss is first in line. With her allies either being damaged goods or captives of the Capital, the Mockingjay (Katniss’s rebel persona) is going to need a miracle for this to work.

So, why is this different from The Hunger Games and Catching Fire? Is that good or bad?

Mockingjay, rather than dealing with Katniss and Peeta’s attempts to survive in the arena (as in the first two books) take us away from the arena and place us into the thick of a warzone. Refugee camps, drone strikes, active warfare in the streets: the tensions have been building for two books, and the rubber bands are finally starting to snap. And personally, I think this is what the series needed. The first two books are great, don’t get me wrong – but they both largely have to do with the Arena and what goes on between the people inside. Catching Fire has some elements of the incoming rebellion going on, but ultimately we find ourselves back in the formula of *survive nature, kill other tributes*. A third book taking place in the arena or a 3rd set of Hunger Games would have been too much. We’ve seen it before. We don’t need another Catching Fire or Hunger Games – those books exist already! Suzanne Collins could have easily milked this series into a 5-7 book franchise, continuing to recycle the different arenas and tributes. Thankfully, she gave us instead what we needed: a change. The book is about a revolution! RE-VO-LU-TION. The entire point is breaking out of the norm, disrupting the established order in favor of something else. The arena feels claustrophobic and clamped down – but an active warzone in the streets of the capital! That’s chaos! That’s disorder! That is the change we need. Might not be what we want, but complacency never got anyone anywhere, now did it?

So, the verdict then?

I cannot for the life of me understand how anyone can see this book as boring. The book is separated into two halves – Katniss learning to be the Mockingjay and how the rebellion works, then after rescuing Peeta, actually planning and commencing the attack on the Capital (which, Hollywood is conveniently turning into MOCKINGJAY pt.1 and 2. Thanks, Harry Potter. I’m never going to get to see an entire story in one movie ever a-god-damn-gain.) The first half can tend to lag in places. Katniss spends a lot of her time dealing with an internal struggle the likes of which most of us have never even come close to experiencing. Her brooding can begin to grow tiresome, but it’s made up for with every snappy remark and every loose-cannon approach she takes to her field missions. At no point did I find myself bored, however. I always wanted to know what happened next. It was worth the wait.

Obviously, I can’t recommend that you read this if you haven’t read the first two. I mean, you could – but you’ll miss a ton of past references, have no clue who certain characters are, and probably won’t care much about this ragtag group of rebels if you don’t know how they got there. Looks like you’ll just have to read the series!

Si vis pacem, para bellum

“The dust came in so thinly that it could not be seen in the air, and it settled like pollen on the chairs and tables, on the dishes.” – John Steinbeck

The sandhills can get to be a pretty dry place. When the infamous Nebraska wind kicks up, innocent topsoil can turn into thousands of tiny needles pelting you all at once. And this is 80 years after the dust bowl. Sometimes you have to count your blessings, such as “I’m glad I don’t live in Oklahoma in the middle of a dust bowl” and “I’m glad I’m not a piano player with hands burnt to a crisp”. It’s all about perspective – today I am indeed a glass-half-full kind of person!

So, you guys hear about North Korea?

Karen Hesse’s Out of the Dust had moments that made my heart ache. Trying to comprehend the weight of being inadvertantly responsible for the death of your mother and newborn brother? Being a musician with nothing left but the ability to play.. and having ruined hands? I felt like Billie Jo and Mel from Laurie Anderson’s Speak carried their burdens in the same fashion, Mel’s outlet being artwork and Billie Jo’s obviously being music. The sensation I felt myself feeling above anything else, and maybe this was just my imagination.. was dryness. Not boring-dry, but like “jesus help me someone get me some water” dry. Everytime Billie Jo writes of the thin layer of dust on the food they choke down, everytime the dust creeps in while they are trying to sleep protected under blankets – I lick my lips and look over at the fridge just to make sure it’s still there.

Above: You are getting verrrry thirsty.

I’ve already mentioned this on Twitter (laaaaaame) but Out of the Dust is essentially a novel in poem structure – and that kind of messes with my brain. Poetic structure instantly throws up red flags of “prepare for hard-to-understand-hyperbolic-bullshit!”, but when it actually starts telling a story, it throws my calibration all out of whack. Let me just say thank jebus that this was easily readable – and interesting to boot! I can totally see another author taking a whirl at this technique and just tearing it to shreds (it would probably have something to do with vampires. JUST SAYING.)

Above: Unrelated to the discussion at hand, but not unrelated to being a Literature major

While we’re here, I’m going to take the time to (ashamedly) mention that this is only like Newbery book #4 for me. I know. Let he who has read all the way through Moby Dick without falling asleep once cast the first stone! No one? No takers? I thought not! Here’s an interesting tidbit about me: when I decided to be a lit major, I only knew the barebones of literary analysis. I have not read half of the books every lit major probably “HAS” to have read by this point. And you know something? (arrogance switch: engage) I’m damn good at what I do. Ask me sometime what I think of half of the “classics” we’re force-fed from high school up. I can’t divulge here, but the answer will involve lots of swear words. I can pull just as much if not more meaning out of the entire Injustice comic book than I can out of The Scarlet Letter. There’s a difference between being classic and being less-shelf-space. Out of the Dust ranks as “classic” in my book. My book of books. Meta-booking, I’ll call it.