Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Flirting Book: Chapter 3

Hey hey. This is part of an ongoing review. See the other installments here

Alright so we left off at the end of Chapter 2. I thought some of the advice was solid, but I was starting to feel a bit on the fence about the book's tone. What about Chapter 3? 

Chapter 3 is titled Flirting 101 - The Basics. Ah, we're finally getting to the nitty gritty. 

It's starts off with a Shakespeare quote - cool. But then we get a quote from a 24 year old man, describing a woman he saw who had red hair and red lips and a body that says, "spend a day with me and you'll die happy." He goes on to say that everything about her screams "sex." The author says she loves this quote, because we've all noticed people like that, and we've all felt like that woman ourselves. This is another instance where I feel like the book is kind of playing with a line. There's a difference between thinking someone is sexy and thinking they are "sex." It's a subtle difference, but I think it's an important one. If the man had said he saw this woman's body and he himself thought, "I could spend a day with her and die happy," that'd be one thing. But suggesting that her body gives off that signal... problematic. 

My point: I don't like the tone of the book. 

Moving on! 

Rabin's going to tell us about the Big Three - the three fundamental things that can help us flirt confidently (and just interact with all people more confidently). The first of these Big Three are the eyes. 

There doesn't seem to be anything monumental here. The advice is to avoid aggressive gestures (staring, winking, raising eyebrows in a "woo woo" manner, etc), and to instead stay positive and inviting with the eye play. It's all good advice, but it isn't exactly new. I know this stuff already. Most people know this stuff. The one kind of interesting part is the idea of a "flirting triangle," when we look at other people's faces as upside down triangles, from the two sides of their forehead down to their chin. The metaphor goes that your eyes are like a paintbrush, the triangle is your canvas, and you want to move over the whole canvas gently rather than just focusing on the eyes. Or something. Basically, steal glances of people's chins, lips, nose, cheeks, etc. Don't just stare at them. Weird metaphor, but there it is. Again, not revolutionary. In my experience, it does improve interactions when you focus on someone, but occasionally glance at other areas of their face, not just the eyes. (That's true for interactions in general, not just flirting.)

The next of the big three is the smile. To be honest, I mostly skimmed this section because it got really annoying really quickly and started to feel like a glorified Cosmo article. It's also repetitive, which I find frustrating. Smiling is another flirting technique that I don't think requires a book to point out, but hey. Unfortunately, it's tedious and cumbersome. This part of the chapter is a lot like my physical therapy. In PT I'll be balancing on a wobbly piece of wood. I have to close my eyes and do squats on this piece of wood, while balancing (LOL YUP). While I'm doing it, I'm told, "Feel your ankles, pay attention to the small shifts in your ankles that occur when you re-balance, keep your shoulders back and low, don't lock your knees, lift your chin" and on and on and on. That's this chapter. Smile invitingly, make it happy but not too corny, don't let it be a cheshire smile, keep it charming. OKAY. So I'm not super wild about this advice. 

The third of the Big Three: Body language. After the annoying smiling advice I totally skimmed the rest of the chapter. It seems like more common sense stuff. Positive, inviting body language. 

My review for this chapter: boring, repetitive. Fine advice, but nothing I couldn't have learned from a million other sources. 

If you're reading this book, honestly just feel free to skip to the last page of the chapter, where there are handy dandy bullet points. 

And smile, dammit. 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Flirting Book: Chapter 2

Hey hey. This is part of an ongoing review. See the other installments here

"You said you'd be doing these every week! That was in November!" 

I knoooow I know. Sickness and accidents and and and the list goes on. Don't feel bad, I've neglected my other blog too. But hopefully those days are behind us. So let's talk about this book.

Chapter 2 is titled "Making Your Own Luck," so immediately, I hate it. Let me tell you something. I have horrible luck, despite being a semi-good, at least not very bad person. Within one week, my car got broken into and then hit.. TWICE. This year, I was out of the hospital for like two weeks, looking like my health problems were getting better and then.... car accident! Woo! My life, while I am grateful for it and for the friends who've become family, sometimes feels like a long string of bad luck. At this point I kind of find it hilarious (laugh instead of cry, holla) but this is all to say... I don't like conversations about luck. I don't like the argument that we get good luck by giving out good things to the world, because I know plenty of good people with bad luck. And I'm not wildly fond of the implication that if you have bad luck, you must be a bad person. And I try to do good things because it's what I should do, not because then maybe I'll get good luck in return.

Well this is turning into a regular novella. 

Point: I didn't like the sound of this chapter's title. Moving on! 

After reading the chapter's first few paragraphs, I got the feeling that what the author was talking about was actually opportunity, not luck. We create our opportunity. We don't create luck. (Which by the way, I'll agree that we can create some opportunities for ourselves when it comes to flirting and relationships but let me just also make it clear that I don't think we create our own opportunities in all facets of life - don't get me started on capitalism and the inequality of opportunity for poor people and people of color.) So yeah - we can create flirting opportunities. And in this chapter, we're given six "savvy guidelines" to help our flirting/relationship techniques. Excellent. 

The first bit of savvy advice? Get out of the house

Okay, I dig it. I feel that. Hell, I've lived that whole "wow I don't go out at all - no wonder I'm single af." So I'm counting that as good advice. So far, so good, chapter 2.

The second bit of advice is also good, but I'm noticing an irritating trend. Rabin uses a lot of hypotheticals, and sometimes it feels like we're just droning on. My eyes might start to glaze over, because every hypothetical situation is meant to make the same point. It's overdone.

But the advice. It's to go to interesting places to find interesting people. That sounds right. A lot of us say, "Yeah, I go to bars all the time, and still, I never meet anyone!" That might be true, but a bar isn't necessarily a specific place that hones in on a specific interest (unless the interest is music or beer, possibly). Rabin makes a case for taking it further. Don't just go to a densely populated place to find love, go somewhere that's guaranteed to have people with shared interest. Lectures, retreats, certain events - you get it. While I don't think a significant other needs to share the same micro interests, it can't hurt, I suppose. And Rabin makes another excellent point: even if you don't meet anyone at these places, you still get the added bonus of new friends and/or a feeling of excitement. It's refreshing, unlike going to a bar and dwelling on the fact that you can't find love. (That is, if that's why you go to the bar in the first place. I'm all for bars just for fun.)

For this reason, I joked with my friends recently that maybe I need to move to St. Louis, which has been called (by only a handful of people, but heey) America's "Top Catholic Hipster City."

Worry not; I will update you on how that goes (or doesn't go).

On to Rabin's next piece of advice: save time and energy.

Essentially, the advice is to fully be yourself, and to not pretend you're interested in things you aren't.

If I really love the idea of meeting a classy guy, I shouldn't pretend my interest in, I don't know, polo is greater than my interest in football (American football, for our international readers). It'll waste both my time and polo-man's time.

Is polo a classy sport? Was that an apt example?? I don't know which sports are the classy sports but I've seen pictures of Prince William playing polo, so...

But back to the book. Again, I think it's fine to have separate interests (good even - it's fun to show people the things that make you you), it's not fine to try and be someone you aren't.

I feel like we often do this without meaning to. I remember shopping at this grocery store with my friend. It was dimly lit and only sold organic stuff and I hated it. Loathed it. It always felt pretentious. And I remember wondering why? Is this because we wanted to seem like we're fancier than we were? Did we want to find some crazily healthy men? I don't know. But I think people tend to do this more often than we realize, and I don't think it's intentional or bad. It might boil down to insecurity, I don't know. It's like a lingering hint of when we were kids, and all we wanted was to fit in with the cool kids. Only at some point we need to realize that it's not a thing, and whatever you're into is cool. Unless you're into this shit.

Okay Susan Rabin, so far so good.

#4 is to make any place work for you.

Yeah, yeah, whether it's the grocery store or school or the post office or or or, you can flirt. The advice was pretty straightforward, but one of her examples was problematic. It involved a young man who was interested in a woman, but was too afraid to introduce himself. He was a photography student, and so he hid behind a pillar one day at the subway station they both use, and took a picture of her. After that he decided he had courage to talk to her, so he told her all about it, mentioning her beautiful smile, and said, "I think you should see the photo, maybe we can have coffee before going" or something like that. In the next paragraph, Rabin says, "You may call Marty's technique manipulation, but I call it smart."


She went on to say that studying an object (shudder) of your planned flirtation is fine, like researching a company before sending in a resume. I'd argue that taking a picture of someone and then using that to get a date is a bit different than, say, gauging what hobbies they're into for a flirting reference.

A few of her hypothetical scenarios and her real-world examples have kind of flirted with the line (see what I did there) between pursuing and irritating (or maybe even harassing?). But I turned a blind eye. This example really rubbed me the wrong way, though. So as I continued to read, it was with an attitude that was less than cheery.

Okay, our fifth fragment of flirting advice. We are to always have a flirting prop.

Sounds weird, but I actually liked this one! Sometimes an outfit, an accessory, a book - anything - makes conversation a little less intimidating. (Or, it makes starting a conversation a little less intimidating.) While reading it, I was reminded of this. I needed to go mail something, and when I handed the guy a Harry Potter postage stamp featuring Prof. McGonagall, he started a conversation. I was too slow to continue our exchange by talking about his Chewbacca shirt, but hey. That was pre-The Flirting Book.

This kind of thing happens a lot. People (including guys, so yes, this is still a blog post about the flirting book and not just Harry Potter) often initiate conversation with me if I'm wearing or holding anything related to HP or LOTR, probably because both are so beloved. When I'm holding a book I can usually count on someone starting a conversation about it. So yeah, I know what Rabin is talking about. Solid.

But some of her examples toe that line again - it's somewhere between being flirty and being weird. Carrying around a book or an object for the sole purpose of attracting the opposite sex seems odd to me (not to mention at odds with this chapter's third bit of advice about being yourself). But I let it pass and continue to read.

The last piece of advice is to be open to advances. Don't always stick in huddles and herds while out with your friends. Which, yeah fair enough. (Rabin acknowledges that it's then always possible to be cornered by a bad flirt or someone you're not interested in [hi creepy photo stalker], so she suggests developing a signal with your friends - something like tugging on your earlobe if you want them to come interrupt the flirting, or playing with your necklace if you want them to stay away for a bit and continue to let you flirt. I think this makes sense, and my friends and I have done similar, though it's often been, "In five minutes call me and tell me there's an emergency. I'll ignore you if I don't need to get out of here.")

The chapter concludes with a list of bullet points, which I honestly love. I kind of wish my copy of Pride and Prejudice came with bullet points at the end of every chapter.

So, what have I learned from this chapter? I've learned it's time I move to St. Louis (where I will walk everywhere), wear my Gryffindor jacket at all times, always carry a copy of The Hobbit and a baby name book just to show I am interested, always smile in case some rando is taking my picture, and always remember to play with my necklace (which will be a replica of Slytherin's locket).

No but in truth, I'm not hating this book. I feel like a lot of it is common sense - but forgotten common sense. I wouldn't call this book a life saver or a necessity, but it probably won't make you any worse at flirting than you were in the first place. Not that you were. I'm sure you're a terrific flirt, Dear Reader.     

See you next week for chapter 3.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

A Good Book for Nerds

By Charlotte
Book Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Official FC Rating: 

Original fan art found here.
The world Ernest Cline has written for us is not a safe one. Natural resources are depleted, the number of people living in poverty is sky high, and sweeping desperation has led to the creation of "the Stacks," communities on the outskirts of the cities to which people have fled. These communities were erected by cranes, stacking trailers and even vans upwards of 22 levels high, with a bit of scaffolding around them. They're a testament to the harsh conditions* of the world. 

But the story largely takes place in a parallel world, the virtual reality called OASIS. OASIS was created by two benevolent, nerdy, rich dudes. It's more than a video game, and by the time our story takes place, many people go to school and work in this parallel world. It's also free. (Well, it's free to get an account. It's not entirely free to do other things, like travel within the world.) When one of those founders, Halliday, dies he leaves his entire fortune, and control of OASIS, to..... someone. Upon his death an announcement is made. He's made a secret quest of sorts, and whoever solves it first inherits Halliday's money and property (we're talking billions billions). Years after the quest began, our protagonist solves the first clue, beginning the story. 

It's one kid's story, but we get a larger glimpse of his real world. There's racism, sexism, and rampant corporate greed and corruption. Since it mostly takes place in the virtual reality of OASIS, it's dystopian without always harboring the feeling of despair found in most dystopian stories. Unlike The Hunger Games, where there's a communal effort to revolt, this is really the story of one kid who just wants to solve his own problems. So I wouldn't really call it a story of rebellion, even though it's got a little rebellious flair. It's more of a fun thriller, just set in a dystopia. Still very enjoyable. 

I liked this book a lot. I wish I was still reading it! But I'd actually prefer to give this book 3.5 stars, just... we don't have an image for that. But just know it's more a 3.5 than a 4 (in my mind, anyway). I imagine that bigger nerds than me would give it four or five stars. I've got a few reasons for the rating.  

I love dystopia and I love thrillers, so that's cool. I also love fantasy, and I thought Cline played with an interesting concept when he created a fantasy using real-world things we all know like movies and video games. But sometimes he went into too much detail, describing the references ad nauseam. I know next to nothing about video games and movies and music from the 80's, and even I didn't need to have quite the amount of information he included. At times reading those parts became a drag. 

The story was what carried this book. The writing was good, but nothing spectacular. There weren't any errors I noticed or anything like that, which is always a pleasure. I hate when books are filled with bad writing. (I'm looking at you, fuckin' Twilight.) The writing, while fine, didn't give me goosebumps. If I had read this pre-Tsar, it might have had a better rating. But I'm still basking in the light of that masterpiece, holding books up to a bit of a higher standard than usual when it comes to the writing. (I know that might be snobby, and I also know writing doesn't have to be perfect for a book to be good. Hell, I don't expect I'll ever be able to meet my own standards.)  

While I liked the story line of this kid who goes on an adventure, I think Cline could have explored a few themes more deeply. I imagine the movie will be terrific, since it can just tell the story without having to focus also on broader story arcs. 

I bought this book on a whim, and when I got home and read about it online I was worried. I thought that maybe the emphasis on 80's culture or on video games meant that I wouldn't be able to really enjoy it. Totally not the case. I loved the book, and there was enough info for me to follow along without needing to have any knowledge on the subjects at hand myself. 

While I thought the ending was a bit predictable, it was also a satisfying ending. The whole story was good and well-paced, with the exception of the sometimes too-long descriptions. The book was definitely a page turner. I'd say it was good, not great, but the experience of reading it was great. I didn't want to put it down. I wouldn't put it on the same level as Tolkien, but it was fun. It's definitely one I'd recommend.   

*btw these conditions are ones we can expect to find ourselves facing one day if we don't do something about poverty and climate change. k. 

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Our 2016 Reading Goals

For avid readers, the New Year means new reading and book-related goals- and we are no exception!

In addition to listing out our reading and book-related goals for 2016, we’ve decided to do something a little interesting- at the end of each of our lists, we will be putting down our reading challenges for each other. So, without further ado…

Charlotte’s 2016 Reading Goals

One of my big goals for 2015 was to read more. Another was to get better at habits, following through, not procrastinating, etc. SO with those things in mind – I actually achieved the reading goal. I think it might be the first time ever that the number of goals I achieved is greater than the number of goals I fell short of achieving!!!

Preeeetty cool.

I read 34 books last year. I want to get to a place where I’m reading between 40 and 50 books every year (like, as a lifelong habit regardless of where I’m at in life – I want it to be one of those things that just is, even when I’m swamped with work or relationships or kids). We’ll see! But this year I agreed to do a 60 book challenge. LOLOL. I 50% have faith in myself, 50% am laughing. Like last year, though, I’m not swimming in a pool of obligations, so if I’m ever going to read that many books, this would be a good year to attempt it.

I do have a few specific reading goals:

1.    Again, read 60 books. Plays count. Short stories count if they’re in a collection. My friend Dana and I came up with these parameters. We’ll have to also be each other’s cheerleaders because reading 60 books is a lot.
2.    I WILL FINISH Pride and Prejudice. …….It might finish me, too. I was reading it in late December, but I’ve put it down for the time being. I’m distracted lately so I think I’ll do better with a non-classic at the moment.
3.    Read The Divine Comedy. This is on my list of books to finish in my twenties AND Pope Francis has recommended that Catholics (or anyone! Yay everyone! <3) read the three books during this Holy Year of Mercy. So this is the year to cross these masterpieces off my list (I’ve read and loved Inferno- very much looking forward to the others).
4.    Review at least half of the books I read. One of my personal writing goals is to post at least 45 reviews, but some of those will be for books I’ve read in the past. But I’m really into writing reviews right after reading books because I’ve noticed it’s made me a more critical and mindful reader, and I’m really enjoying that. So I’d like to review a lot of the books I read this year (ties back into my new lifestyle mode of not procrastinating, dammit!).
5.    Read at least five Catholic books. I do much better with life in general when I’m reading religious stuff, plus I think it makes me a better person.
6.    Read more funny non-fiction. My life feels overwhelming at times, seeping right into my personality and my activities and everything. I need to have more fun. Laughter is the best medicine and I think me needs some.

And now for my challenge to Liz! Liz is basically family at this point but I still throw her shade because her ass hasn’t read Harry Potter. I’ve been peer-pressuring her to read Harry Potter for as long as we’ve been friends, and THIS B STILL HAS NOT. I feel my blood pressure rising just thinking about this bogustry. As soon as we decided we’d give each other one challenge for 2016, Liz knew I was going to challenge her to read Harry Potter. Wrong she was not. It’s time. Liz, hop on the Hogwarts Express. Welcome to Hoggy Warty Hogwarts.

Liz’s 2016 Reading Goals

Like Charlotte, for 2015 one of my goals was to read more. I’ve always been a pretty consistent reader, but between balancing work, school, and internships for years when I was in college, I fell out of the habit of seeking reading as a hobby. Now that I have a stable job, 2015 was the year I kind of fell in love with reading again (not that I ever fell out of love with it, but I was able to pick it up as a regular hobby again).

In 2015 I also started to become a more critical reader, which I like a lot, and I want to hone in on these skills in 2016.

Now that I’ve started reading more, one of my top priority goals for this year is to diversify the kinds of books I read. I want to ~learn~ things.

My specific goals are:

1.    I’d like to read at least 20 books this year, so on average 1.5 to 2 books per month. I have to confess…this was my goal last year too. I got pretty close! I got to 16! And some of those books were massive! (*cough* 1Q84 *cough*). So, this year I’d like to actually hit my 20. Charlotte and I differ in opinion when it comes to massive reading goals. I don’t care as much about numerical goals as other readers because to me it’s more important to really understand and absorb what I am reading. If I am rushing to read just to hit a numerical goal and consequently fewer books really stick with me, is it worth having that goal? 20 seems like a reasonable goal given all of the various things I have going on in my life. This year I will do it!
2.    I want to write more book reviews. While I did review a good chunk of the books I read in 2015, I want to get better about writing reviews shortly after I’ve finished reading. When I wait too long to write a review, I feel like my review ends up being lower in quality. This year I want to give myself no more than 2 days after I finish reading to write my reviews.
3.     I want to read more non-fiction books. I have so many. SO. MANY. Just sitting on my bookshelves that I haven’t read. I’m guilty of seeing a non-fiction book in a store and being like “ooh this would be GREAT for my environmental science and policy collection”….and then never actually reading it. Well, not this year! I’m going to start digging into some of the non-fiction I own.
4.    I want to complete a reading challenge. This will force me to diversify the kinds of books I usually gravitate towards. I’m committed to doing this challenge.
5.    Of the non-fiction genre, I specifically want to read more books on political theory.

And now, for my challenge for Charlotte. Since Charlotte’s such an avid reader, and since she’s challenged me to read the entire HP series (which I look forward to doing!), I am challenging Charlotte to read at least three out of the five books I listed as my favorites for 2015. This means Charlotte doesn’t have to read Murakami…but she should. She should read Murakami.  

And that’s a wrap for us! We will fill you in on our progress along the way!

Char & Liz