Things adults are supposed to know, but I don’t

Everyone has blind spots in their education. One of my favorite things to ask someone is “What’s the thing you’re embarrassed to admit you learned way too late?”

I read quite a bit, and always have. So there were many words I knew on paper, but never heard aloud.

For example, I’d seen lots of books talk about hors d’oeuvres. But I’d only ever been to parties with finger foods or appetizers or even “Or Derves.” I figured someday, when I was and adult, I’d go to a fancy party that had as I assumed it was pronounced “whores doo-vers.”

"Care for an a-pair-of-teef?" "No thanks, I'll just have some tap-ahs"

“Care for an a-pair-of-teef?”
“No thanks, I’ll just have some tap-ahs”

Other things were pretty similar. I thought Armageddon was pronounced “ar-MAG-uh-don”, which is actually the most bad-ass of the dinosaurs. A coworker still ardently pronounces it “epi-tome” and ,without any sense of irony, will not bend in her pronunciation of “com-promise.”

I believed the Allies fought a coalition of Not-sees and Naz-eyes in World War II. It just never occured to me that I only heard about the Not-sees verbally and only read about Naz-eyes. Like they were an offshoot organization from Lord of the Ring’s Naz-ghuls.

Robo-hitler was the worst of the Naz-eyes

Robo-hitler was the worst of the Naz-eyes

Fortunately, all these misconceptions were corrected last week, so I’m caught up.

I’m ashamed to admit that I still struggle with analog clocks. I see people glance at them and tell me the time. To me, it’s a friggin’ math problem. “Uh, ok. Which hand is the bigger one? Ok. And now the little hand is pointed at three, which means fifteen minutes. Processing…. it’s eleventy-twelve o’clock. Ish. Definitely.”

You see a clock, I see the opening credits of Doctor Who.

You see a clock, I see the opening credits of Doctor Who.

I would have fewer problems if I only used sundials or just counted each second from the last time I saw a digital clock. When someone asks the time and my only resource is an analog clock, I have a tiny panic attack. I cover this by mocking them for not having perfect chronological awareness:

“You don’t know what time it is? With the clock right there, where both of us can see it and immediately discern its meaning? Like normal, clock-literate people? Why, the state of kids today that they don’t know what time — it’s noon. I just got it.”

Terrifying things

I was thinking about writing something in the horror genre. Not being a horror-writer, I first decided to catalog the things I see in movies that I find spooky.

Eight year old japanese girls with hair hanging in their faces.

This is a whole genre of movies. It originated in Japan (I assume), but quickly swam overseas like some sort of giant, firebreathing, train-smashing lizard.

Creepy, sure. But I bet she's just playing Candy Crush under there.

Creepy, sure. But I bet she’s just playing Candy Crush under there.

The creepy prepubescent demon child can be seen in The Ring, The Ring 2 (I assume), The Grudge, and on a strange technicality, most Zooey Deschanel movies.

Cots.

Like, the economy, there’s-no-cheaper-form-of-modern-bedding-without-sleeping-directly-on-a-porcupine  hospital kind. Observe:

It conforms to your back and everlasting soul.

It conforms to your back and everlasting soul.

I know you think I picked the most horrific hospital bed Google Image Search could find. But you’re wrong. Several of the top hits also had restraints.

There is no way to walk into a room with one of these beds and not say, “Some baaaaad juju happened in here. Probably experiments. And not the delicious kind where you insert your Cheetos inside the sandwich to see what happens.”

The class you forgot you were in.

I am not a student. I have not been a student in a LONG time. But the most terrifying nightmares I have, to this day, involve some class I forgot I’m enrolled in.

“How in the hell could I forget I enrolled in this class? And the final is today? And I have to take it while in a hospital cot?”

old

“The class is in quantum germanic literature? How did I sign up for that? I’m a kinesiology major!”

I will be a geriatric someday, and will STILL wake up befuddled and panicky. I’ll be sure that I’m late for class and I have a ton of catch-up to do.

Someday I’ll write a story that involves all of these things. It will be the most terrifying thing ever, ever.

In defense of a happy ending

I have never loved an unhappy ending. In my youth, stories had dragons and princesses and everyone at the end of the story was better off than they began. That’s not how life works, outside of books. But that was the point.

Nowadays, it seems the most popular books in genre fiction are either “grimdark” or gritty re-imaginings. The more the reader likes a character, the more likely the author is to behead said character, break their will, or kill their little sisters. Sometimes in that order.

"Sad clown" seems redundant

“Sad clown” seems redundant

 

I was prompted to think on this when I was directed to Chuck Wendig’s blueprint for a story.  Notably the final bullet point in the 13 steps (10-12 provided for some context):

10. WAIT, IS THAT A LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL?

11. IT IS BUT IT’S A VELOCIRAPTOR WITH A FLASHLIGHT IN ITS MOUTH

12. WAIT AN IDEA

13. I HAVE BEATEN THE VELOCIRAPTOR AND NOW I HAVE A FLASHLIGHT AND MY PROBLEMS ARE SOLVED IN PART BUT NOT TOO NEATLY BECAUSE TIDY, PAT ENDINGS MAKE STORY JESUS ANGRY, SO ANGRY THAT STORY JESUS GIVES EVERYONE MOUTH HERPES

I’m not saying he’s wrong. What irks me is that he IS right.

"Funny story: the script called for me to say 'Yes.' I took it a different direction

“Funny story: the script called for me to say ‘Yes.’ I took it a different direction”

I hate that it’s considered poor storytelling to tie things with a bow. I loathe that there must be heartache or sorrow or death in one’s story lest it be considered frivolous or candy-coated.

It irks me that Lev Grossman is lauded for his Magician series, which I’ve described as “Narnia by way of Hogwarts, but with self-despising manic depressives.” I am dismayed that an otherwise great Batman film must end with him becoming reviled by Gotham for a really stupid reason. And every hero on AMC/HBO must be an antihero.

It’s exhausting to read a book that is lovely, thrilling, and filled with characters with whom I connect, but must be constantly wary of how the author is going to darken the last chapter to avoid the wrath of Story Jesus.

Step 13 illustrated

Step 13 illustrated

It’s the age of antiheroes. The Joss Whedon era, in which I can watch an entire movie just guessing which character is going to die. The old writer standby “Kill your darlings, recently re-popularized by Kipling/King/Rowling, has been taken to heart.

So here’s to the story wherein the badguy gets what’s coming to him, the girl gets the guy, and no one steps on the puppy.