Category Archives: things I shouldn’t talk about

Concerning Hobbits, Love, and Movie Adaptations

So the other day a friend forwarded me a link to the very first-ever film adaptation of the Hobbit.

It’s only about 10 minutes long, and worth your time. I’m embedding it here as an example of why I’m extremely leery of anyone ever making a movie out of The Name of the Wind.

Isn’t that an absolute trip? They added a princess to the story and everything.

Now it turns out there are good reasons for why this adaptation was bizarrely short and startlingly off-script. But rather than summarize them, I’ll just link over to a post where the guy that made the film explained why it turned out as it did. It’s actually a really interesting story.

After watching it on youtube, I saw a link and followed it over to watch the trailer for the Hobbit movie.

I won’t deny that I got a bit of a tingle watching it. But honestly, my response was half-tingle, half anticipatory dread.

A dread-tingle. Or dringle, if you prefer.

You see, the first video I posted up there was bad enough to be good in a funny train-wreck sort of way.

But the trailer makes me think that the Hobbit movie is going to be good enough that big pieces of it will make me want to vomit pure bile.

“But Pat,” I hear you say, “Why the concern? The Lord of the Rings Movies were good!”

Yeah. They were good movies. I won’t argue that. They were also moderately okay adaptation of the books.

And yes, I’m aware that referring to something as ‘moderately okay’ is the very definition of damming with faint praise.

Without going into it in any detail, (that would be a whole separate blog’s worth of post) my main problem with the Jackson adaptations is that they lose the subtlety of the original stories.

It’s like this: Tolkien’s books were full of subtle tension, drama, action, good characters, and a world of startling and immersive richness.

Jackson’s adaptations had some brilliant action scenes, great special effects, some pointless action scenes, drama, melodrama, a lot of panoramic cinematography, good casting, and an inexplicably Scottish dwarf with all the character depth of a Disney animal sidekick.

So I’ll say it again. Good movies. Ah hell. I’ll even admit that they were great movies just for that fight scene with the rock troll in Moria.  But only moderately okay adaptations.

In the Hobbit trailer, I see the same thing happening. The Hobbit was a lighthearted story about a slightly bumbling average-Joe who goes off on an adventure and discovers hidden resources inside himself. (Spoiler alert.) It was fun. If the book came out today, it publishers would probably market it as YA.

While it had action and drama, it was not an action-packed Hollywood-style dramapalooza where Gandalf and Galadriel have emo makeouts.

I can tell in my bones that the movie is going to be chock full of scenes that were never in the original story. I’m not talking about a little extra dialogue here and there. I’m talking about completely invented cutaway scenes that stuff more action in, and subplots that were only barely alluded to in the book. My off-the-cuff prediction? At least 20 minutes worth.

It will be a good movie. Maybe even a great movie. But it will also be, at best, a moderately okay adaptation of the subtle, sweet book that I grew up loving.

You know that it’s going to be like? It’s going to be like wandering onto an internet porn site and seeing a video of a girl I had a crush on in high school. You probably knew someone like her. The smart girl. The shy girl. The one who wore glasses and was a little socially awkward. The one who screwed up the curve in chemistry so you got an A- instead of an A.

She was a geek girl before anybody knew what a geek girl was. And that was kinda awesome, because you were a geek boy before being a geek was culturally acceptable.

You liked her because she was funny. And she was smart. And you could actually talk to her. And she read books.

And sure, she was girl-shaped, and that was cool. And she was cute, in an understated, freckly way. And sometimes you’d stare at her breasts when you were supposed to be paying attention in biology. But you were 16. You stared at everyone’s breasts back then.

And yeah, you had some fantasies about her, because, again, you were 16. But they were fairly modest fantasies about making out in the back of a car. Maybe you’d get to second base. Maybe you could steal third if you were lucky.

And maybe, just maybe, something delightful and terrifying might  happen. And yeah, it would probably be awkward and fumbling at times, but that’s okay because she’d be doing half the fumbling too. Because the only experience either one of you had was from books. And afterwards, if you make a Star Wars joke, you know she’ll get it, and she’ll laugh….

That’s the girl you fell in love with in high school. You didn’t have a crush on her because she was some simmering pool of molten sex. You loved her because she was subtle and sweet and smart and special.

So you stroll onto this porn site, and there she is. Except now she’s wearing a thong and a black leather halter top. She’s wearing fuck-me red lipstick and a lot of dark eye makeup. Her breasts are amazing now, proud and perfectly round.

Someone’s taught her to dance, and she does it well. She’s flexible and tan. She has a flat midriff and walks like a high-class Vegas stripper. Her eyes are dark and smouldering. She has a riding crop, and she likes to be tied up, and her too-red mouth forms a perfect circle as she sighs and moans, and tosses her head in a performance designed to win any number of academy awards….

And what’s the problem with this? Well… in some ways, nothing. What you’ve found is perfectly good porn. Maybe even great porn.

But in other ways the problem is blindingly obvious. This girl has nothing in common with your high-school crush except for her social security number. Everything you loved about her is gone.

We loved the sweet, shy, freckly girl. We still remember her name, and after all these years she lives close to our heart. Seeing her in lipstick and stiletto heels dancing on a pole is like watching Winnie the Pooh do heroin and then glass someone in a bar fight.

It just isn’t something that I look forward to seeing….

And that’s how I’m going to feel when I watch the Hobbit.

I’ll be one part entertained, two parts nostalgic, two parts irritated, three parts outraged, and one part oddly titillated.

And I’ll watch it, and I’ll enjoy it, and afterwards I’ll go home and feel more than slightly sad….

pat

Also posted in Being a Curmudgeon, boding, Consistent Verb Tense Is For Bitches, movie talk, My High Horse, things I shouldn't talk about | By Pat172 Responses

New Year’s Resolutions

I’m not the sort of person who makes new year’s resolutions.

In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever made any new year’s resolutions. Ever.

But yesterday, I wandered onto goodreads and fired up this little “reading challenge” widget they have. There’s not much to it. You set a goal for how many books you want to read over the course of the year, then this thing tracks your progress.

Last year I tried it on a whim and made my goal of 150 books even though I was sloppy about keeping track. This year I decided to shoot for 250, which is probably closer to what I actually read in a year.

Ever since I fired up that silly little widget, I’ve been thinking about new year’s resolutions. Which is odd, because, like I said, I don’t typically go in for that sort of thing.

Philosophically, the concept of making a resolution has never made much sense to me. It seems to me that if you really want to do something, you should just fucking do it. Resolving to do it is sort of a bullshit intermediary step. If I’m hungry, I don’t *resolve* to go eat lunch. I just find food and put it in my mouth. Simple. Problem solved.

So why am I thinking about New Year’s Resolutions?

I think the main reason is that I had a really great New Years. Some friends came to visit. We played board games, did some tabletop role-playing, and just hung out.

It was the most fun I’ve had in ages. And after everyone went home, I felt good. Not just happy, but physically and emotionally healthy. I felt like a million dollars.

No. I felt better than that. I felt like a second season of Firefly.

Seriously. A full 22 episode season. I felt that good.

Ever since then, I’ve been rolling it around in my head. 2011 was a pretty good year for me. Book two was finally published. The Wise Man’s Fear hit #1 on the New York Times. I met Terry Pratchett, got to perform at Wootstock, and attended some very cool conventions.

(Speaking of conventions. I’m Guest of Honor at Confusion later this month. You should swing on by if you can. Jim Hines is going to be there, as is Joe Abercrombie, Peter V. Brett, Brent Weeks….

Holy shit. Robin Hobb is going to be there too. I didn’t know that until I just checked their website. How awesome is that?)

But anyway, yeah. 2011 was my first official signing tour. I met thousands of my readers all over the country. (Though I realize now, as I go looking for a link, that I never got around to blogging about that. I probably should at some point.)

For now, a picture will suffice. Here’s a shot I took from the podium at my first signing of the tour in Seattle.

(They were a great crowd.)

If you look at the highlight reel of 2011, it looks like I’m living the dream.

I’ve actually had people say that to me over this last year: “Congratulations! You’re living the dream!”

I know they’re just excited for me. But whenever I hear that, I think, “Whose dream? I don’t ever remember dreaming this….”

Now don’t get be wrong. Parts of this year have been profoundly cool. I love conventions. I love talking about writing and hanging out with readers. I love getting to meet authors that I’ve been reading my whole life.

But the fact remains that a lot of times, after going to a convention I feel exhausted and hammered flat on both sides.

On the other hand, after hanging out with my friends on New Years, I feel like I could lift a truck over my head with one hand, then go write for ten hours straight.

Looking back over these last couple years, I realize that most of my close friends left town back in 2007, just as my first book was getting published. They were getting jobs in other parts of the country, going to grad school, joining Americorp….

I missed them, of course, but I was plenty busy getting used to the whole published-author life. I started writing this blog. I signed up for Facebook. I did some signings, started attending conventions….

At the same time, I quit teaching at the University. Quit coaching fencing. Quit acting as advisor to the College Feminists.

When I look at things with the clarity of hindsight, it’s blindingly obvious what the end result of all this is: I’m suffering from a rather specialized sort of social isolation. The sort of isolation where I can go online at any point and interact with 10,000 people.

I never thought of it like this before, but hanging out with friends is psychologically healthy. Facebook and blogging and going to conventions is the social equivalent of eating Pringles. It’s fun. It’s tasty. It’s relatively harmless in moderation. But if you eat nothing *but* Pringles, you die.

Similarly, lack of genuine hanging out with real friends must lead to a sort of psychological scurvy.

This is the situation I’ve accidentally backed into.It wasn’t until I hung out with my old friends again that I realized how much I missed that. How much some part of me was starving.

So. Over these last couple days I’ve been thinking about my life. I’ve been thinking about the difference between things I do that are fun, and things I do that actually make me happy.

For example, playing some stupid flash game on my computer might be fun, but playing board games with my friends makes me happy.

Or, for another example, it might be fun to do a reading at a convention, but hanging out with little Oot makes me happy.

The difference seems to be this. If something is merely fun, it’s mostly enjoyable while you’re doing it. Something that makes you happy is different. It’s enjoyable afterwards, too. Minesweeper and cocaine are fun (reportingly.) But talking with Oot about ducks or watching Buffy with friends make me happy.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that fun doesn’t have its place. I plan on playing the hell out of Skyrim when I have the chance.

What I’m saying is that my priorities have gotten seriously out of alignment. These days, flying to San Diego for a convention don’t just feel easy, it seems like a  professionally responsible for me to do. At the same time, driving down to Madison to hang out with friends, have dinner, and watch Avenue Q seems like an extravigant and impractical use of my time.

That’s some fucked up mental arithmetic.

So, in an effort to de-kink my thinkings, I’ve decided to make some changes to my life.

In fact, I’ve done more than merely *decide* to do these things. I’ve built up bad habits in these last years, and it’s going to take some effort to break them. So I’m going to *resolve* to do them.

Here they are:

1. I’m going to hang out with Oot at least two hours every day. I’m going to make it a priority, rather than something I try to fit in around the edges of the other stuff I have going on in my life.

2. I’m going to do my damnedest to hang out with my friends at least twice a month for the express purpose of playing games, hanging out, watching movies, and just generally dicking around.

3. I’m going to start exercising at least three times a week. Because, y’know, I don’t really want to die from author-related sitting-on-my-ass-ness.

At this point, the righteous self-improvement impulse starts to gather steam and I’m tempted to continue adding things. Turning this into a laundry list of me-betterment that include things like, “pet more fluffy kittens,” “smell even better,” and “floss regularly.”

But no. I’d rather pick three important things and actually do them, rather than list 50 things then get frustrated and quit after a month.

Why am I posting these things here on the blog?

The simple answer is because… well… writing things out helps me figure out where exactly my head is on a particular subject.

In fact, I just now realize that’s a lot of the reason I bother with the blog. If my friends still lived in town, I’d hang out with them and chat about this stuff in my living room, using them as a sort of sounding board. But since they don’t, I kinda hang out in my head with y’all and write blogs.

Which, now that I’m thinking about it, might be kinda crazy behavior.

The other reason I’m posting this up here is because I know myself pretty well. I’m prideful. If I make a public declaration like this, I’m much more likely to follow through with it.

Lastly, I figured I might as well post my musings up here with the hope they might be interesting/helpful to anyone else who is having trouble adjusting to this whole living life as a grown-up thing. I was really good at being a broke, mouthy, irreverent college student. But this being-an-adult shit can be really hard sometimes….

Feel free to post up your own resolutions in the comments. Especially if you’re like me, and think that going public might help you keep them.

Keep on tranglin,

pat

Also posted in meeting famous people, musings, social networking, the man behind the curtain, things I shouldn't talk about | By Pat96 Responses

FAQ: Why haven’t you been posting on your blog?

Well, it looks like this blog isn’t going to write itself, so I guess I should just get it over with. Like tearing off a Band-Aid….

My dad has cancer.

That’s the reason I haven’t been writing in the blog for the last two months. It’s also the reason that I’ve canceled the European book tour I had planned for November.

That’s the short version. There’s more details below for people who want them.

Why am I writing about this on my blog?

1. I feel like people deserved an explanation.

When I canceled my European tour, it ended up inconveniencing and disappointing a lot of people. I had signings and interviews set up in England, France, The Netherlands, Germany, and Spain.

I figured I owed them more than a vague, “Mr. Rothfuss had to cancel due to personal reasons.”

Along similar lines, I haven’t been good about answering my e-mail these last couple months. There have been long delays and lost messages. A lot of you send in cool pictures for the photo contest and never saw the results that I’d promised on the blog.

I figured y’all deserved an explanation too….

2. To prevent gossip and rumormongoring.

When I stopped posting on my blog, the Facebook fan page, and Google+ people started asking questions. They wrote posts and sent me e-mails asking what was up. Not long after that, people started posting theories about what was wrong, where I was, what I was doing….

I knew that if I just came back after two months of silence and pretended like nothing happened, there would be *more* questions and guesses. So I’m deciding to nip it all it the bud by giving y’all the honest truth.

What kind of cancer does he have?

Lung cancer.

Those of you who have been reading the blog for a long time might remember the blog that I wrote a couple years ago where I talked about… well… a lot of things. Including the fact that my mom was diagnosed with lung cancer in the fall of 2006, and that she died about five months later, a couple weeks before The Name of the Wind first hit the shelves.

While that was happening, my dad was diagnosed with lung cancer too. In January of 2007 he went into the hospital to have two thirds of his lung removed.

Since then, we’ve been keeping our fingers crossed, hoping that his cancer was gone for good. Every six months he’d go in for a scan, and we’d hold our breath until the results came back, letting us know that he was clean. He passed the one year mark, the two year mark, but we knew until he hit 5 years, he wasn’t really considered “cancer free.”

We almost made it. But this summer, when we were coming up on our 4.5 year mark, something showed up on his adrenal gland. It took a lot of testing to be sure, but now we know that it’s the lung cancer that’s come back.

Essentially, it’s like this:

(For some of you, this image is going to be cut off. Just click on it to see the whole thing.)

[I’ve mentioned XKCD on the blog before, and I’m guessing the vast majority of you already read it. It’s one of my absolute favorite comics. And I dearly hope I’m not overstepping the bounds of politeness or the creative commons license by reposting the image here.

If you don’t read it, you really should. The author, Randall Munroe, in addition to having vasty stores of smarts and humor, has a profound talent for clear visual depictions of abstract concepts. I would hire him to map out the snarly meta-layered skein that is the plot of my trilogy, (it would make a really cool poster) but I’m guessing he has better things to do.]

How bad is it?

The cancer is: “treatable but not curable.” Which sounds nicer than “terminal,” but means pretty much the same thing.

That said, things could be worse. We Rothfi are hardy stock. We could get lucky. What’s more, the cancer has taken its sweet time coming back, and its moving slowly. These are both things I have come to admire in a cancer.

My dad is just starting his second week of chemo, and it’s going pretty well. No huge side effects. He’s feeling pretty good. He still plays golf and hangs out with Oot.

So what now?

Now I go back to writing the blog pretty much the same way I did before. Which is to say I’m going to mostly dick around, tell stories, and amuse myself.

I might talk about how things are going with my dad if I feel like it, but I don’t expect it to be a regular thing.

What can I do to help?

I’m putting an answer to this question up because, as a group, y’all endlessly surprise me by being amazingly decent human beings. And I know if I don’t address this here in the blog, I’ll probably get several dozen e-mails (if not several hundred) offering help of various sorts.

So let me say in advance: Thanks. I appreciate the offer, but odds are unless you’re an oncologist who specializes in adenocarcinoma, we’re covered.

I’ve turned off the comments on this post for the simple reason that I don’t have any desire to read comments. It’s not that I don’t want to hear your well-wishings, it’s that I don’t want to host a discussion on this topic right now. Doesn’t sound like a ton of fun to me.

If you *really* want to send some well-wishings, you can drop a card to my P.O. box, and I’ll pass it along to my dad.

You can address it to:

Grandfather Sir
PO BOX 186
Stevens Point, WI 54481

And that’s all for now.

Thanks for your patience, everyone. And stay tuned. I’ve got a large backlog of blogs built up, and I’ll be posting them up pretty quickly.

Also, this year’s Worldbuilders is on the way. We’ve got some cool things coming with that….

pat

Also posted in Fuck Cancer, Rage, things I shouldn't talk about, travel abroad | By PatComments closed

Election Day

Today, a lot of people will be encouraging you to vote.

Not me.

I’m encouraging you to do some research into the actual facts about the candidates up for election. I’m talking about real facts here. Not what you heard on a TV ad. Not some bullshit printed on a flier and mailed to you. Facts. Not spin. Not propaganda. Not some party line. Not some thing your friend heard about this guy this one time. Not fearmongering lies poured into your ear like some goddamn poison.  Facts, you fuckers. Facts!

Then and only then should you go out and vote.

If you vote without knowing the facts, you are barely a human being in my opinion.

This has been a Public Service Announcement brought to you by a joint effort of the Committee for You People Getting Your Heads Out Of Your Asses and Americans Tired Of Our Government Being Fucked Up Because So Many People Are Content To Remain Ignorant, Easily Manipulated Sheep.

Off to double-check my facts,

pat

Also posted in Rage, things I shouldn't talk about | By PatComments closed

My Fictional Nature

It’s strange to me, knowing that if I write a blog, thousands of people will read it. Thousands and thousands. A ridiculous number of people, really.

It was less strange when I wrote the College Survival Guide for the campus paper. With the column, I knew what my job was. I wanted to make people laugh, and maybe, occasionally, slip a bit of reasonable advice to my unsuspecting readership.

Pure advice is unpalatable. It’s preachy. But if you make people laugh a little, they may not notice you’ve slipped them a little bit of truth. And even if they do notice, they’re more likely to forgive you for it.

I was a tiny bit of a local celebrity when I wrote that column for the campus paper. A few hundred people read it every week. On rare occasion people would recognize me as that-guy-who-writes-that-column. Once, the guy delivering a pizza to my house looked at my name on the credit card receipt and said, “Are you THE Pat?”

I laughed. “I didn’t know I’d become superlative,” I said.

I haven’t done the column for a couple years. These days I channel my humor writing into the blog instead. But there’s a difference. Back then I was a little bit famous because people read my column. Now people read my blog because I’m a little bit famous.

There’s more to it than that, of course. People read the blog because it’s amusing, or because they’re interested in news about upcoming projects and appearances. They tune in because they’re curious about book two, or because they’re looking for writing advice.

But mostly, people read the blog because they read my book and were curious about the author.

So I tell stories and post pictures. I screed and opine. I post up little pieces of my life. Then y’all take those pieces, fit them together, and you form an impression of me in your heads.

This is the interesting thing. It’s something I think about a lot. That person you create in your head out of these bits and pieces. That Pat Rothfuss you get to know from the blog, he’s fictional.

(It’s true that you could say the same thing of anyone. You could say that you don’t really *know* any of your friends or family, you just have flawed impressions of them based on your limited perceptions and experience.

This might be true in some small theoretical way, but in a bigger more practical way it’s pure bullshit. You know your friends. Let’s not become hopelessly meta here. If you follow that line of reasoning too far you end up in the pointless philosophical morass of relativistic solipsism.)

Anyway, my point is this: I think about this fictional Pat Rothfuss sometimes. I wonder what he’s like.

I expect in some ways, fictional Pat is pretty much like me. I’m honest to the point of blinding stupidity, and I talk about things here on the blog that any sensible person would keep quiet about. Anyone who’s ever seen me speak in public can attest to the fact that I can’t help but express myself freely and clearly, even if it’s not entirely appropriate.

Still, I can’t deny that I present an edited version of my life on here. The blog lies by omission. I talk about my signings and answer fanmail. I post a cute picture of my baby and talk about the new foreign edition of my book. I link to an interview and do a fundraiser for my favorite charity.

Given all of that, fictional Pat seems to have a pretty swank life. He seems really nice. He seems kinda cool.

And that makes me feel dishonest, because it’s not really true. You’re putting together the fictional me without the grubby bits. The truth is, I am at times a contemptible human being. The truth is, I have deplorable habits.

For example, when I go on Facebook, I post status updates talking about Dr. Horrible. Or I joke about the dream where I ended up in bed with Willow and Spike. I don’t mention what happened the other day with Oot.

You see, right now Oot loves my beard. In terms of desirability, beard ranks #3 in all creation. Boobs hold the top spot, of course, and the telephone is currently a strong #2. But other than that, he loves nothing more than to clutch at my beard.

I think gripping it appeals to some primal, monkey part of him. He gets his sticky little hands tangled up in the beard, and some piece of his primal baby brain thinks: “Good. I’m safe. If we’re attacked by a predator and forced to run to safety, I won’t be left behind.”

The problem is this: if you don’t have a long beard, you have no idea how painful it is to have it pulled. He could swing from my hair from all I care. He’s even managed to kick me square in the junk several times in an ongoing  campaign of sibling prevention. Those pains are nothing by compairison. Having your beard pulled hurts as much as when you’re walking around barefoot in the middle of the night and you stub your little toe really hard against a table-leg.

Usually I’m able to head him off when he grabs for it, but his motor skills have really been developing lately. So the other day, before I know it, he has both drooly little hands in it up to his forearms, then he yanks on it for everything he’s worth.

“Ahhh!” I shout. “Stop it you little fucker!”

Oot doesn’t seem to mind in the least. For all he knows I’ve just called him by one of his other countless names, (Thunderbutt, Prancibald, The Dampener…) He just laughs and tugs the beard some more, happy to be safe from prowling lions and packs of hyenas.

Still, it’s a shitty thing to say to your baby, and I feel bad about it.

The point is this: I suspect that fictional Pat would never refer to his adorable baby as, “you little fucker.” I suspect he’s better than that. I expect he’s a nicer person than I am.

Part of me thinks, even as I write this, “Of course you don’t talk about those things on the blog. Why *would* you? That’s not why people read the blog. You’re supposed to be putting your best foot forward….”

But then I think about that fictional Pat again, and I feel dishonest. There’s a difference between putting your best foot forward and subtly misrepresenting yourself.

The thing is, professionally, I should be careful here on the blog. If I was going to be smart about this, I’d never talk about sex or politics or religion, never make any jokes that could offend anyone, never tell you a story that makes me looks like the idiot I sometimes am. The smart thing for me to do is carefully groom and maintain this fictional Pat and use him as a promotional tool.

But the truth is, the thought of maintaining that sort of professional persona makes me distinctly uncomfortable. Given the choice, I think I’d rather be too honest and have you like me a little less. I’d much prefer to look like a bit of an ass, because… well… I am a bit of an ass.

So tomorrow I think I’ll post up a story of one of the countless times I’ve made an fool of myself in public. Maybe I’ll tell a few of those stories. I don’t know if they’ll help round out the fictional Pat some of you have come to know, but I expect it will make me feel a little bit less like a poser.

Barring that, it should be good for a laugh or two.

See y’all tomorrow….

Pat

Also posted in a few words you're probably going to have to look up, BJ Hiorns Art, blogging, College Survival Guide, emo bullshit, ethical conundra, my beard, Oot, things I shouldn't talk about | By Pat113 Responses

PSA – Why You Shouldn’t Vote.

If you go to an office party, there are certain things you shouldn’t talk about. Three of them, really: Sex, Politics, and Religion. The reason is simple. You’re supposed to act professional. That means not offending people, and everyone knows that there’s no better opportunity to cheese someone off than by voicing a strong opinion on one of the big three.

The same thing is doubly true if you’re any sort of public figure. Smart public figures never stray into these dark waters because they know it’s the PR equivalent of shutting your dick in a car door. Not only will the result almost always be awkward, embarrassing, and painful, but people will talk about it for years afterward. You’ll never live it down.

For example, let’s say you read my book and you like it. So you want to like me. But then you read on my blog than I eat my bread with the butter-side-down. Then you’re horrified, because you’re a staunch proponent of butter-side-up. So you swear off reading my books forever, convince your friends to do likewise, and as a result, I eventually end up naked in a ditch somewhere, penniless and dead of scurvy.

I’ve finally come to grips with the fact that I’m a bit of a public figure, though the thought makes me somewhat uncomfortable. But I’ll be damned if I’ll ever be smart about it. I don’t like the thought of going through the rest of my life biting my tongue and thinking, “Can I say that in public? Whatever will they think? What if I offend someone?”

No. I’d much rather you hate me for who I am, than like some false face that I fake up for the blog. Screw that ten times.

So with that said, here we go. I’m going to shut my dick in the car door and talk about politics.

Ready?

Yeah, me neither.

*****

An open letter to the American populace.

Election day is coming up. That means that for months, you’ve been bombarded by all manner of forces encouraging you to vote.

I, on the other hand, would like to encourage you to do nothing of the sort. Quite the opposite in fact.

I’m not being sarcastic here. I’m not trying reverse psychology. What I’m saying is that I would like you to consider, seriously, the possibility of not voting in the coming election.

The problem is this. People seem to think that low voter turnout is the problem with elections. But that’s simply not the case. All this Rock the Vote bullshit? It’s just that, bullshit. If you think voting is a good idea because MTV told you to do it, then it is entirely possible that you are not very smart.

And if you are not smart, I’d really appreciate it if you didn’t vote in the coming election.

For example, I was eating dinner the other day at a local restaurant and I heard someone at a nearby table say, “I’m voting for McCain. I heard Obama’s into gun control. Nobody’s taking away my guns.”

I’m not making this up. I’m not exaggerating or paraphrasing. These words have been echoing around in my head for weeks, and it’s entirely possible that I will never be rid of them.

If this sounds like something that might come out of your mouth, you need to realize that you are not very smart. I’m not saying you’re a bad person. I’m not saying you’re evil. What I’m asking is that you consider the very real possibility that you might not be capable of casting an intelligent vote.

Let repeat myself just for clarity’s sake. If you’re willing to throw in with one candidate based on senseless fear and “something you heard” you are not well-informed, and you shouldn’t vote.

Again, I’m not saying you’re a bad person. What I am saying is that the fate of the nation is probably too complicated for you to deal with properly. You should stay home on election night and watch some Nascar instead. That’s right. Nice, comforting Nascar.

Similarly, I recently overheard someone say, “I’m voting for Obama. It’s about time we had a cute president.”

Oh anonymous young lady, on election night, please stay at home and watch America’s Top Model, or whatever you insipid, feckless, witfucked pogs do for entertainment. I say this simply because all available evidence points toward you not being smart enough to vote.

Well… let me correct that. You *are* smart enough to vote. All of you are. You are also smart enough to design a skyscraper or assemble a nuclear bomb. You *can* do these things….

…But you shouldn’t. You shouldn’t do these things because, odds are, you do not possess the knowledge base and critical thinking skills to do them *well.* That’s the problem.

Think for a second. If you were riding along in a plane, and the stewardess came up to you and said, “I’m sorry to bother you. But our pilot just fainted, can you fly a 747?”

Any rational human’s response to this situation has to be, “Shit no. I can’t fly this thing. People would die.”

(Except if you’re a pilot, of course. This analogy won’t work if you’re a pilot. Sorry.)

What amazes me is that sensible people who would refuse to pilot a plane because they don’t know enough to fly, will, without hesitation, rush out to vote as if they’re fully qualified. The result is that a mass of well-intentioned but ignorant people go into the booth and start pulling levers like they know what they’re doing….

…But they don’t. And because of this, slowly, our county begins to spiral out of control, spewing smoke and diving toward the hard earth below.

One final illustration.

About a month ago I was giving Sarah’s friends a ride somewhere. Two 17 year old girls.

Sarah turned around to face them in the backseat and said, “If you guys could vote, who would you vote for?”

One spoke up quickly, “McCain. It would be cool if we finally had a woman vice president.”

“Yeah!” the other one chimed in.

“Really,” I said. It wasn’t a question, just a statement. “Really,” I said. “Wow.”

“What?” one of them asked. “What do you think about Palin?”

“I think she’s ridiculously underqualified,” I said. “And her social policies are horrifying.”

There was a pause from the backseat.

“I guess I’d vote for Obama then,” the first girl said.

“Me too!” said the other.

This, in my opinion, is a terrifying snapshot of a large section of the American voting populace. They will decide who to vote for based on the information gathered from television commercials, Fox News, and youtube videos. Others will vote based on fear, based on misinformation, based on what their friends told them.

This year when I go in to vote, I know what will happen. I’m going to stand in line, and I will see some young college student, voting for the first time. Some young man, some young woman. They will be beautiful, bright eyed, and excited about participating in democracy.

Then I will see them wearing a T-shirt that boldly proclaims their political allegiance. And I will know that this beautiful young person is going to vote for a politician whose platform is pure poison to their future. I will see a young man ready to vote for a politician who will cut government funding to his university, raising his tuition and making it even harder to get a student loan. I will see a young woman ready to vote for a politician who will actively oppose her hopes for equal rights, good health care, and reliable birth control.

They will vote for politicians who will make it harder for them to get good jobs in the future. Politicians who will pollute the land and poison the waters. Politicians who will let write laws that will undermine the their right to free speech, then turn around tell them who it is legal to love.

These beautiful, young, hopeful people will go in and vote, fully believing that they are acting in their own best interest. They will vote believing that they are responsible citizens. That they are doing the right thing, that they are good people.

This last, at least, is true. They are good people. They have the best intentions. And they are slowly, confidently crashing my plane.

The truth is, no politician will every give you everything you want. But one of them will be better than the others. One of them is probably looking out for your best interests, and the others are looking out for someone else. If you aren’t smart enough to figure out which is which, that’s a problem. If you vote for the wrong one because you saw some catchy youtube video, then you are not a good human being.

So please. If you think you might be uninformed on the issues, consider not voting. If you are uninformed, not-voting is actually the responsible thing to do.

How can you tell if you’re uninformed? Here’s a tip: if you’ve spent more time planning your Halloween costume than learning about the election, you probably shouldn’t vote.

If you’re having doubts about whether or not you’re well informed, well…. congratulations. Self-doubt is the foundation stone of critical thought. If you can admit to being unsure, there’s a chance that you might actually be a rational, intellectually articulate human being. I salute you.

The next step is to get informed. Here’s my advice on that.

First, be aware that your voice counts much more in local politics that it does in the presidential race. There are going to be all sorts of names on that ballot, not just McCain and Obama. Once, my friends and I got together and realized that if we voted in a block, we would control a full 10% of our town’s votes in our particular district. That is power.

Secondly, make a list of all the loud people you know. The people who are always sure of themselves. Political pundits go on the list: Rush Limbaugh, Michael Moore, Bill O’Reilly. Other candidates include personal acquaintances, relatives, and co-workers. Most bloggers belong on this list. So do I.

Got your list? You need to stop listening to the people on it. You need to take every piece of information they’ve ever said, and pull it squirming and fighting out of your of your head, because odds are whatever they told you is terribly skewed, if not an outright lie.

Sixthly and lastly, think of the people who you respect. Not someone you’re fond of. Someone you respect. There’s a difference. For example, I’m fond of the friends that I play board games with, but I respect the scrawny math teacher I once saw step fearlessly into a fistfight to save someone from getting their ass mercilessly kicked.

Ask the people you respect what they think about the election. Then ask them *why* they think that way.

Thirdly, think of someone you know that’s smarter than you. Someone more informed than you. This is the person who, if you were going to buy a car, you would for their help. Not because they know about cars, but because they’re smart, and they they’re good at digging up information.

If you’re having trouble thinking of someone like this, here’s a hint. They are usually unassuming, considerate, and they listen more than they talk. Good candidates are teachers, librarians, and some journalists.

But honestly, occupation doesn’t matter much. For me, this person is a friend named Andy, and I don’t think he’ll be offended if I call him what he is. A computer geek. I know other smart folks, but Andy tends to be my go-to guy when something is complicated, and I can’t be bothered to do 10 hours of research to untangle the issue myself.

I’ve done my research on the election. I know quite a bit. But I still plan on talking to Andy before the event because I don’t doubt for a second that he knows things I don’t. Even better, Andy isn’t afraid to argue. Best of all, Andy is more than willing to tell me when he thinks I’m full of shit and being utterly wrongheaded on an issue.

In brief, he is my favorite sort of friend, and I have no doubt that he will help me get my head on straight before I go in to vote. I hope you have someone similar in your life.

Geh. That’s all. The pillar of burning rage inside me is guttering low, leaving me feeling kind of shaky and hollow, same as always.

If you’re still reading this, I’m sorry. It’s way longer than it should be, and has cost me a whole night’s work on the book. But if I had gone this whole election without saying anything, I would have felt irresponsible. I would have felt by saying nothing, I was effectively committing a lie of omission. A coward’s lie.

Good lord. Do I leave the comments on for this one? Though I know better, I think I will. I’m going to consider this a test, if y’all can behave like civilized human beings in the comments below, discussing politics politely and rationally, then it will give me renewed hope for the world. Good, honest conversation about the issues with other intelligent people is the key to understanding. Socrates knew that.

If things degenerate into snarky backbiting and proselytizing in the comments… well… then I guess I’ll just heave a deep, weary sigh, and another little piece of me will die.

So yeah. Comments. Disagreement is fine, so long as we’re polite and rational.

Did I mention polite and rational?

Polite and rational.

pat

Also posted in holding forth, politics, things I shouldn't talk about | By Pat127 Responses
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