Writing Rant: Chewbacca Mom & Another Low in Publishing

 

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The Chewbacca Mom, Kristina Hagman and Another Pathetic Low in the Publishing Business

Comparatively speaking, like the movie industry that is saddled with reboots, remakes, sequels and prequels, due to desperation for big tent pole franchises to battle for box office supremacy each weekend in order to make enough money to offset the money losing movies, the publishing industry has fallen into the same trope. The majority of books lose money in print. The big name authors and movie tie-in books tend to make the majority of profits each year to offset all the debut and shrinking mid-list authors that didn’t sell well enough through the channel to take another chance.

In essence, with only a few major studios and a few major publishers left, they are in a business of risk aversion.

There have been countless autobiographies of unimportant people. With that, I mean those who don’t have a meaningful impact on the world in any way. I would argue politicians and thinkers (usually mutually exclusive) should have autobiographies to better understand their life’s work and achievements.

Over the last 30 years, there has been an evolution to make an instant buck by pre-empting the autobiography, for more of a “Here I am now” book. You know, celebrity autobiographies; usually actors and musicians and athletes/coaches, some with only a single “achievement” on their resume. Win a gold medal at 21? Let’s make an autobiography. Get 1M fans on youtube? Let’s make an autobiography. I’m sure agents have run down the Chewbacca mask lady begging her for her autobiography.

You see, I’m not naive. It is now about capitalizing while the iron is hot and making most of people’s 15 minutes of fame and temporary fandom.

But today, I saw something on yahoo news that showed just how much farther the publishing business has fallen. St. Martin’s Press (part of one of the big 5), published an autobiography of Kristina Hagman. Who the fuck is she? She is the daughter of Larry Hagman. Who the fuck is he? Well, he was on a TV show called Dallas, and was famously shot as JR in a cliffhanger. So let me get this straight, this was a publishable project because she is the daughter of Larry Hagman, a deceased celebrity from a TV show from the 1980s that few people remember, and she has more insight to him (Let me guess, it will touch upon abuses of sex/drugs/alcohol, because this adds just so much insight and helps the world cope in a meaningful way).

I was going to classify this as a new evolution of celebrity autobiographies, as the “relative of a celebrity autobiography” until I looked at the cover and was flabbergasted.

Kristina didn’t even write the book.

A new, ugly literary beast was created. They published a “ghost written, relative of a celebrity autobiography.” I guess it was too difficult for Kristina to write about her father, so she scribbled some notes for someone else to fill in the blanks on her relationship with her father. Yes, I know most autobiographies are not written by the person, but at least the source of interview material is from the actual person with the achievement or fanbase.

It is unbelievable that they killed a living tree for this book.

What’s next? An autobiography of the woman who sold the Chewbacca Mom her mask, ghostwritten of course. Imagine it … 225 pages going over the 2 minute transaction, starting with a slow replay as she put the mask in her cart and tried it on (maybe she did or didn’t, maybe dramatize it a bit) and walked few passes near the register (maybe she did, or didn’t) down the aisle and inter-splice a breakdown of the security camera footage at Kohls like the zapruder film. Maybe there can be interviews of everyone in line that day, especially the important toy clerk who brought out (a 60% chance he brought the mask out, because Dave and Shirley were on break, but let’s not get into facts) the Chewbacca mask that she bought. Maybe there was a bag checker at the door who was the last guardian for freedom.

To you authors out there struggling to get your Great American Novel sold to a publisher, don’t fret, there is still a chance you can track down a relative of someone famous 30 years ago.

Back to Kristina. Remember the book cover above? Do you see something noticeably different than the one below? Guess what Kristina removed on her website … yep, she the “Wood Block Print Artist, Painter, Writer” removed the ghostwriter name from the version on her site. Riddle me this, how would you fill in this blank: Kristina is a ____ Artist.

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Book Review: Watchmen

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Watchmen by Alan Moore

If you ask me what my favorite comic book is, I’ll answer with Watchmen. I didn’t read it when it came out, but like a total geek, I purchased all of the original comics on ebay after I read omnibus edition in 2008. For Christmas that year, I asked my girlfriend to buy me the absolute edition version of it (pictured above, except mine is still wrapped in plastic like a nerd).

The story was so imaginative and out of this world, that I read most of it in a couple days on a cruise. Stories within a story. The Comedian and unreliable narration and accusations. Dr.Manhattan and his blue _____. Night Owl and his physical issues. Ozy and his plot to save mankind. Rorschach and his morality. The past and present all coming together. And Nixen.

I don’t care what people say about literary fiction. Graphic novels when done well can tell a more complicated, enriching, and deeper tale than anything words can. By design, humans enjoy the visual medium. This is why as year go by, we gravitate to each new visual medium in droves. The Stage. TV. Motion Pictures. Comics. Sports. The Internet. Smartphones. 3D Movies and Oculus. We communicate faster and faster as our attention spans get shorter and shorter.

In a way, Watchmen is a story stuck in the 1980s, and in another way, tells a story reflective of the world today. Fear mongers will try to scare everyone and over react to tragic things around the world, which gets us to turn on each other when we should be uniting for a common purpose.

Watchmen is the greatest short comic series of all time.

CHECK OUT LADY SNOWBLOOD, AND UNIQUE REVENGE GRAPHIC NOVEL

Book Review: Lady Snowblood (Guest Review)

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LADY SNOWBLOOD by Kazoo Koike & Kazoo Kamimura

Review by Adeline Jaden

This is a  story of bloody revenge. When others saw for the first time KILL BILL’s poster, they thought: “Awesome!” When I saw the same poster, I thought: “Lady Snowblood!”

And I was dead on.

Who is she, you ask? That is the same question that lingers on everyone’s lips. Right before her blade cuts through their skull like butter. LADY SNOWBLOOD is a manga by Kazuo Koike and Kazuo Kamimura published in 1972. It tells a dark tale of revenge and vengeance; the dark path Yuki must walk on even before she was born. A woman gives birth to baby girl in prison while she serves a life sentence. She has seduced many men to get pregnant and all her inmates think of her as a whore. With the baby in her arms and dying she tells her story. How her husband was killed by a group of con-artists to gain some money, how she was raped for days and days, how her 5-year old son was killed in front of her eyes. And how she wished for her daughter to carry out her revenge. Thus Yuki was born, a revenge spirit from Hell, an instrument of death, and an assassin.

Yuki is a reverse Snow White. Her name means snow, her skin is porcelain white and her lips are red. Just not by the prickle of a needle but by her sword. And she is not one to wait for a prince. Armed with an exquisite beauty, a katana hidden in her umbrella and many talents, Yuki roams the world killing those she is paid to kill and making her way to her family’s killers. And in this path she finds herself naked in various situations. Because if there is one element that is present constantly in the comic, that is sex. After all, the comic was published by Weekly Playboy. But instead of making it a cheap, steamy pornography, the creators manage to make art, incorporating sex in a way essential to the story and Yuki’s nakedness – titillating as it might be – is a thing of terror, not pleasure. Yuki is sexy, men desire her, they get distracted by her naked body and she uses that to her advantage. And she is deadly when she gets the advantage.

Yuki is a sexy Beatrice Kiddo, a methodical killer that relies on more than her sword. She is a painter, a singer and a pick-pocket when the circumstances require her to be. She can be innocent, respectful, seductive when she needs to be. But in all, Yuki is deadly. And unforgiving. No wonder Quentin Tarantino was inspired by her story.

You can follow Adeline Jaden on Twitter @AdelinaJaden

CHECK OUT MY MOVIE REVIEW OF KILL BILL, VOLUME 1

Book Reviews: Kitchen Confidential

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Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

I honestly read the book before I knew he had a travel TV show on the travel channel. I read it cover to cover as it engaged me in a way I didn’t know a food book could. It felt as if he was giving me the inside scoop to New York City dining and I was thankful just to listen in to his secrets. He gives great maxims like don’t order the fish on Mondays and which stew is likely leftovers from the previous week.

A couple takeaways have stuck with me over a decade after reading it. I always suspect the bread brought to the table. If it’s warm, it’s generally ok. If it seems like a potpourri of bread samples, then there is no telling how many people have handled it. I also have a habit of checking out the Chef’s special. At higher end places, this is supposedly the Chef putting his or her heart and soul into something and much focus will be spent on the dish that night.

I also remember the story of his old boss who had some superpower and could summon people to repair anything he needed at 3 am. Bourdain makes New York City’s dining scene look like a cut throat business.  Only the most dedicated apprentices should apply.

Recently I watched The Big Short which you can read on another blog post. Anthony Bourdain made a cameo to explain the similarities between CDOs and left over halibut to make a soup. The only difference between the two, I would guess, is that left over halibut will only wreck you stomach.

It was funny seeing him in a Chef outfit knowing that he hasn’t been one in many years. He still writes about the industry, but wonder who today could write a book of the restaurant industry in 2016.

Book Rating: 8/10

Book Reviews: Replay by Ken Grimwood

 

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Replay by Ken Grimwood

If you ask me what the greatest time travel story of all time is I would say Army of Darkness, because in my opinion, that is how you tell a time travel story. But that was a movie. If you ask me the second greatest time travel movie, I would say Groundhog Day.

Boomsticks and Bill Murray aside, if you specifically asked me what the greatest time travel book I’ve ever read is, I would say Replay by Ken Grimwood. The story is about a 43 year old named Jeff Winston who goes back in time 25 years to replay his life over and over. Pretty awesome concept, right? Well, not if you do it over and over and keep watching everything you love and want to disappear. This becomes torture of the Quantum Leap spectrum.

About 90% of the book was a great read. The ending was a bit contrived and ambiguous but how else was he expected to stick the landing? Does he kill them all? Does he let them all live? Or does he do something in middle. What is a writer to do?

My favorite part of the book was the first iteration where  Jeff lets go and has fun in old Las Vegas.  It was almost like answering the big what if of his life. He got answers, but it didn’t fill his soul. This is what I like about the book. It wasn’t a clear answer of the best life is the life you live now. It is as random as life is.

Book rating: 9/10

CHECK OUT WHAT I CONSIDER THE GREATEST GRAPHIC NOVEL OF ALL TIME

Book Reviews: Timeline

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Timeline by Michael Crichton

I almost missed graduation. That’s how much immersed I was in the book. My parents were so confused. I had just finished 4 years of college, and all I wanted to do was read a book.It was probably the tenth book by Michael Crichton I’d ever read, and to me, it was his last great novel. I read two more Crichton novels that summer, and nothing could capture the plot, pacing, and character development in Timeline.

The story was simple. A team of researchers travel back in time to the 14th century to rescue a professor. There, all hell breaks lose they find themselves in the middle of a seige between Lord Oliver of Castlegard and Arnaut de Cervole.

The strength of the writing was the research Crichton interwove into the book. Part of me wonders if he read about the success of Outlander by Diana Gabaldon and decided put his own Sci-Fi twist on the genre, since romance is central to the story. What I found particularly strong was Crichton’s explanation of how multiverses worked. It set up the rules for what was to come later in the novel.

Less than a year later, I dragged two friends to the movies to see the movie adaptation. It wasn’t quite the same. Maybe it was some rude couple behind us commenting every ten seconds. Maybe it was trying to jam a story that big into a couple hours. All the history was shrunk to a few lines of dialogue.

But it did have Gerard Butler, before he was Leonidas Butler. Marek was the best character in the book and movie, so at least something carried over.

I did make it to graduation with about 15 minutes to spare.

Book Rating: 9/10

A REVIEW OF A DIFFERENT KIND OF TIME TRAVEL BOOK, WHICH I THINK WILL SOON BE CONSIDERED A CLASSIC

 

Book Reviews: Jony Ive

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Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple’s Greatest Products by Leander Kahney

There is simply too much to read, and as a result, I skim a lot of books. To understand how Apple changed the world, one must break apple into three parts. Steve Jobs was like Captain Kirk. He helmed the ship and boldy steered the Enterprise where it never went before. Tim Cook was like Spock, who was brainy and methodical and studious in making operating decisions. Jony Ive is what I would call McCoy, who is the heart and completed the Apple triad.

Jony Ive, an Englishman who studied industrial design, was as important to Apple as Tim Cook was. The look and feel of apple products can be attributed not only to him, but his fine team who operate secretively in a locked down area equivalent of a silicon valley Fort Knox. Everything from the iPod to the iPhone to the iPad and the apple watch were designed and developed under his watchful eye. The book gave me insight to how secretive companies develop products in an ever competitive world of copycats. It also was a testimony that there was more to Apple than Steve Jobs. It was always about the people behind the products.

One of the downsides to the book was the lack of quotes attributed directly to Jony Ive. The narrative would have been greatly improved with his version of the events leading up to the great Apple products that defined the digital revolution. This was the story many wanted to read, but were left empty and disappointed by quotes from people around him. If only the author would have nailed down more backing from Jony Ive, the book could have truly been great. A marketing push could have seen Jony presenting the intricately designed cover and showing to the world for the first time a story about him.

As for skimming the book, I read this one cover to cover.

Book Review: 7.5/10