Now I’ve reached the end of my month-long, self-imposed blogging commitment, and I didn’t even end up wishing I’d picked a shorter month. Thanks to all who read and encouraged me in other ways. Now I didn’t want to do a looking-back-on-the-year or the decade, or even to be pedantic about people being pedantic about what constitutes a decade. Instead, I asked my readers to give me some topics to write about, and you guys came through — so thanks!

1. Ralph (whose handle I don’t recognize and who might actually be a clever Spambot — step forward and claim this if you’re real, Ralph!) asked an interesting question about the interface of entertainment and technology. I won’t try to answer this in its entirety, but I’ll focus in on the part of the question about writers inserting Twitter into comic book scripts (ie, characters Twittering at each other, and using the special lingo of Twitter to tell the story). To which I say, with all due respect and such, please don’t do this, writers! I mean, I know that comics are to some extent ephemeral and will reflect the pop culture of the day in ways that turn out to be baffling and embarrassing. But for some reason I can accept a dated political or musical or TV reference as a sign of the times, but a reference to out-of-date technology just comes across as embarrassing. Now it’s entirely possible that I’m wrong and that Twitter and Twitterisms have entered our lexicon for good, that they’re as much of a fixture as email turned out to be. But, to be totally honest, I doubt it. I love Twitter but I don’t expect it to be a primary form of communication for years to come. And seriously, think about what is, probably by consensus, one of the worst scenes in any comic book of the past five years — the Civil War Frontline issue where a reporter lectures Captain America for not being relevant and hip to the culture because he doesn’t use MySpace. If you thought that scene was as embarrassing as a scene could possibly be when it was published in 2007, think about it two years later, when the only thing anybody remembers about MySpace is how everybody stopped using MySpace.

2. Sigrid gave me a list to pick from, and I’ll choose, “Your favorite work of fiction that you never actually finished reading/watching”: I don’t know if this is a questions Sigrid asks a lot of people, or if she’s well- acquainted with my habit of starting things with great enthusiasm and not finishing them (Sig, you really do need to friend me on GoodReads and see how true that is –) Anyway, the one I have to confess is The Odyssey. I tend to talk about Homer a lot because I took some good classes in college where we (were supposed to) read the stuff, and also I own a ton of copies in various translations. I kind of ran out of steam before the end, though, and I’m rarely inspired to go back. I mean I know how it ends, and honestly I find Odysseus too much of a tool to be invested in whether he gets home (especially because I know he does). Now Telemachus and Penelope and Achilles-in-the-Underworld, you betcha, I’d read about them all day. Though it’s possible I haven’t read all of the Iliad either — my professor let us skip the part with the funeral games — but in any case I’m fonder of that story, Achilles the great warrior grappling with awareness of his inevitable fate, and messing up everybody else’s narrative by refusing to come out of the tent. But yeah, haven’t finished the Odyssey, should probably load that puppy onto my Kindle and barrel through it at some point.

3. Jennifer asked an interesting question about my favorite types of characters that I’ll basically boil down to, “Bilbo Baggins? Seriously?” Because I have stated in the past that Bilbo is probably my all-time favorite fictional character, and I guess he doesn’t seem to have much in common with Buffy Summers or Tony Stark. There are a couple of answers to that, one of which is that I was enchanted by The Hobbit a long time before I started thinking about what types of characters were really mine. (Plus, I also love Gandalf and Thorin and Gollum and Eowyn and Aragorn and of course Sam Gamgee, so it’s not like Bilbo is my only character foothold in Tolkien). But also, in my mind, Bilbo isn’t that different from a lot of the other characters I love. What enchants me about him is that to all appearances he’s the absolute wrong person to go on a heroic quest — he doesn’t even want to go, he’s too busy being distracted by all the dwarfs making a mess in his kitchen — but he gets over it, and he applies common sense and decency (and a little thieving but that is in the job description) and gets the job done. It’s pretty much exactly like a cheerleader learning how to kill vampires. . .or maybe not like that at all, but it makes perfect sense to me.

4. Dave Carr asked a really good question about my dream job and what I’d do to change the world, and I wish I actually had a good answer for that. I have trouble formulating goals that are simultaneously achievable and worthwhile (if I can do something, I secretly assume it’s not very valuable, and if I value something, I assume it’s not achievable). That’s a bad habit of thought, and it leads to my world-changing ideas being on the lines of, “I would tell people to stop being idiots on this particular subject and they would just stop!” So I guess that’s a way of saying if I ever had those kinds of goals, they would be in education, working from the examples and experiences of good teachers and administrators, with a core of good values based on tolerance and equality and flexibility and common sense, instead of rigidity and paranoia and hate. But I didn’t go into education when I was younger, I didn’t get the right degrees when I could have, and even if I could afford to get more education and change careers now, there’s so much systematized bureaucracy in the field — among many other obstacles — that it tends to chew people up and spit them out, and I’m not sure that I have the temperament anyway. I liked teaching a lot when I did it and sometimes I miss it very much. [I should also mention that I was broke and unhappy a lot, but I liked the teaching part.] I don’t know if that answers your question.

4(a). Dave gets a bonus answer for asking about my oft-alluded love of men’s dress shirts. I don’t, unfortunately, have anything analytical to say about it. “What Would Rick Castle Do?” is a good starting point, though. Also, wearing a sharp, well-pressed, good-fitting shirt is awesome (Castle does this), as is wearing a strategically disheveled one with the tails hanging (see Jeff Winger on ‘Community’). But do watch out for Mr. In-Between, who just looks like he was trying to wear a nice shirt and didn’t quite pull it off (see David Boreanaz during much of the late run of Angel, though from what I understand Bones is helping make up for those sins.)

5. Sarah asked about changing opinions on geeky topics. This is something that happens to me all the time, actually, which is one reason it’s both good and amusing for me to blog and write reviews, because I can look back and say, “My God, I thought that?” I will mostly own up to my changed opinions, though, mostly. One example that comes to mind is that “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” the Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band album I spent most of last year listening to, is one I didn’t care for at all the first time I heard it. I mean, “Badlands” is the opening track, and I have always loved “Badlands” (it’s the song that makes me think of a friend and former roommate, dancing and singing along in her wedding dress), but once that song ends and you get to “Adam Raised a Cain,” my 20-something self reacted with, “Really, Bruce, what are you so worked up about?” I gave the album another try after seeing my first live Springsteen concert in 2007, and discovering that bopping along with friends to “Promised Land” is a lot of fun, even though I maintain the song itself is ridiculous (seriously, there are lyrics about how the dogs in the street are howling because they understand his manpain! And, like, I know he was in his 20s when he wrote this but there have been copious chances to reevaluate). But then I started listening to it seriously in 2008, while a family member was in the hospital, and I was like, “Wow clearly I never understood this album because I did not know the right kind of pain before.” Which is also untrue (the health scare ended up fine) but it felt true when I was going through it, and that’s the best thing I can say about art that touches you in the right way at the right time. And it’s why I really really try not to judge people who love things that I don’t, because I know one day I could be them.

6. Handyhunter asked me to talk about Springsteen or crime novels, and since I just covered Bruce, I’ll talk about my feelings on crime fiction. I’ve had a long history of falling in and out of love with the “mystery” genre, starting out with Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden as an 8-year-old, and taking me through “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and Ed Brubaker’s crime comics, and the latest of Reginald Hill’s Dalziel & Pascoe series, which I’ve read in the last week. It’s funny, because I don’t think that mysteries or crime themselves are things that I really care about — and the times that I get disenchanted with the genre often have to do with overenthusiastic supporters of the genre talking about genre traditions as a good in themselves; when comic book fanboys do this, they justifiably get mocked, but somehow there seems to be a free pass for endorsing cliches if they include the word “noir”.

But I keep coming back because I like the things that are in crime novels. I like the way that they’re interested in detailed representation of geographic places, and of different social strata of people, of intense human emotions, and not just violence but the consequences of violence. Whenever I read something really idiotic about how bad crime fiction is, it usually asserts that ‘genre fiction’ is only concerned with crimes and procedures, and not with consequences; which is basically another formulation of the old, “If it’s good, it’s not sci-fi” paradox. Anybody who can seriously argue that The Lovely Bones is about consequences and, say, Gone Baby Gone isn’t — well, I hate to tell people they’re reading things wrong, so I tend to assume they’re not actually reading any amount of crime fiction at all, but just beating up on something they don’t understand. Anyway, off that hobby horse. Basically, I like the stuff. Go figure!

And, that’s my blogging for the day and, I’m pretty sure for the year. Now, I need to go figure out what my DVR has been recording all day, and if I should go buy more wine.

Happy 2010 to all!

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