Tag Archives: neil gaiman

Sharing Experiences

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aYLq_dmzHXs&feature=related]I was getting ready to head for bed the other night, when I happened to catch Amanda Palmer‘s discovery of her cover of Tori Amos‘ “Me and a Gun“.

I’d never heard the song before (I only have so much time), but what struck me, besides the strikingly different style for Amanda Palmer, was the discussion she pointed out about artists covering the songs based on supremely personal experiences.

Because apparently “Me and a Gun” is about Tori Amos’ experience being raped.

And the discussion (see Amanda Palmer’s twitter feed below by following the links) got me thinking about what we expect when we share our experiences through art, both as creators and audience.

I don’t know if you’re a content creator, but if you are, perhaps you can relate to the tension of knowing how much to label of your life in your work. The decision often happens simply, by answering a direct questions posed by an interested party. Or sometimes, the map remains hidden until only scholars would deign to investigate.

And if you’re predominately a consumer of created content, perhaps you feel the tension of gaining a privileged look into the normally distant and obscure life of another. There is the joy of feeling more connected to another through their openness, but it is tempered by the intrusion into the personal life of another. The disclosure of an intimate, traumatic event carries an air of awkwardness, regardless of the reason or forum for the sharing.

Because sharing experiences is not a unidirectional connection. To share an experience makes people who may have no other common link forge one. Because when we share our experiences, the person or people we share with will look for the aspect they have an understanding with. Because that’s what we do as people. It’s part of communicating with each other – finding the places where we can stand together and view the world in the most similar way.

Amanda Palmer’s cover song seems to be an expression of this very human search for connection. It is this same desire to connect with other people and sharing experiences that prompted me to learn Amanda Palmer’s “In My Mind” and perform it for the kids at work. And write blogs and stories and work to encourage high schoolers to find their voices. How do you share experiences?

What follows is the twitter links for the conversation on Twitter that started this post.
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On reading tough books

My new project at work concerns drafting a mini-curriculum set for The Sandman: Preludes & Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman as an independent reading project with either 1 or several upperclassmen because one of the 11th grade English teachers at a local high school is spending a significant portion of the class teaching cursive writing. This limits the amount of time the class reads which presents some difficulty in keeping the kids reading who dislike the activity. So I decided, along with one of the students, to create an extra program to keep him reading.

The project presents many challenges, not the least of which have to do with not overwhelming the students in the work load. So I went to the most helpful, general resource available for all daunting projects – Google. And what I discovered is that no one really uses Neil Gaiman’s series in a classroom setting.

But one post in particular caught my attention and spurred me to write some thoughts on reading. The post comes from The Graphic Classroom and is written by Kevin Hodgson, who does not recommend the series for K-12 and is hesitant about using it at the college level. I guessed at his recommendation from his introduction.

There are a handful of books that I purposely tuck away from the eyes of my children when I am done reading, for fear that the allure of a comic book will expose them to some unsettling things. Continue reading On reading tough books

The Books of Magic

The Books of MagicThe Books of Magic is an interesting trade paperback comic book. Written by Neil Gaiman with intriguing artwork from John Bolton, Scott Hampton, Charles Vess, and Paul Johnson, the story follows Tim Hunter as he learns about the existence of magic and faces a choice.

Some of the story felt a little old, but that could be due to the fact that I have read much of Neil Gaiman’s work, just not in publication order. The Books of Magic is a fun, quick read, safe for most anyone who is open to the idea of magic. Not necessarily written for kids, I would comfortably hand a copy to 12(ish)-year-old.

I have cross posted this from goodreads. There are spoilers. Continue reading The Books of Magic

Neil Gaiman at UCLA

Last week had a crazy day (Thursday, 4 Feb.). The day began with a sad trip to the vet (which sparked numerous thoughts for a different post) and some solid family time before the trek out to the new job and ended with a fight through evening rush hour traffic to listen to Neil Gaiman speak and read at UCLA’s Royce Hall.

Despite walking in (and nearly falling on my face on the way up the stairs) a half hour after the published started time, I had a fantastic time.

Neil Gaiman has always come across as collected, smart, funny, and personable online and in the recordings I’ve heard. In less mediated life, he is everything he seems in any other venue with the included element that if you wanted to rush the stage to pinch his cheeks, you’d feel his skin submit to your pressure before security tackles you to the ground (not that I did anything remotely this uncontrolled, but I knew if I’d really wanted to, I could have).

When I finally made it to my seat, Neil Gaiman was discussing something about Coraline, but what precisely his point was preceded me into the room. I did get to enjoy hearing him read from The Graveyard Book, Odd and the Frost Giants, and his poem “Instructions”.

The story of his son peddling his tricycle through the local graveyard, and inspiring Neil Gaiman to eventually write a book about the inhabitants of a graveyard raising a small boy waited until I was solidly settled. The revelation that Neil Gaiman’s son’s age is the same as my own made me count my years again to be sure (And, yes, we have currently spent the same number of years wandering the earth).

Neil Gaiman’s reading from Odd and the Frost Giants was lovely. He read the third chapter, which is one of my favorite parts because of the way the characters reveal themselves. The best part was Munchkin  sitting next to me holding her copy of the book, bouncing with excitement listening to Neil Gaiman read the first book she ever bought and read by him (Munchkin isn’t much younger than me; she’s definitely more expressively enthusiastic about much in life).

He then had a question and answer section where he answered lots of questions that apparently were written by people in the audience sometime before I could find a path to UCLA. Some of his answers were straight forward, the ones that mentioned Amanda Palmer were adorable, and the unofficial, plausibly deniable confirmation of him writing a future Dr. Who episode was fantastic.

He ended the night with a great reading of his poem “Instructions” which will be an invaluable reminder when I finally find myself in the midst of a fantastic story. The night was delightful and now ranks as one of the best nights of my life. I wish that he could have had a time where he did personalized signatures, but I think he was quite busy in his time here, and I will simply have to keep that on my list of things to do someday.

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Shared Grief

I follow Neil Gaiman on Twitter, which means for the last several days I’ve been following his grief over his cat Zoe.

I am a complete cat person, and I have a (I think) 14-year-old cat that I love dearly. I’m already dreading the phone call that will tell me she is leaving or has left this world.

I don’t know that I will post that news everywhere, but I don’t think that Neil Gaiman has overstepped any bounds. I may not keep the people I’m connected to solely by electronic means updated, but I will be keeping the people I am most connected to updated. I will need to in order to still be connected to life.

I think there is extraordinary value in sharing grief. The act of sharing grief with others makes the experience real, and the act of sharing balances death with life. The loss of life makes the live moments precious. Neil Gaiman sharing his grief with the thousands of people who are connected to him electronically reminds us all of the high cost of living.

The beauty of the interconnectedness of our lives now is the way we can share whatever we want whenever we want. In this case, it’s the deep grief over the loss of a small cat first shared with me, and now I’m sharing with you. Perhaps together we can all take the grief and appreciate the life.

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current favorite things

One Piece,                                                                                                                                                                                          J.C. Hutchins,                                                                             Big Bang Theory,                       Castle,                                                     Neil Gaiman,                                                                                                                                Amanda Palmer,                                                               CAPS LOCK,                                        Halloween costumes,                                                                                                                      Disneyland,                                                                            used books,                                                                   Hibbleton Gallery,                         7th Son,                                        With a Little Help,                                                                                    small publishing companies,                                                                                                                                 slam poetry

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Odd and the Frost Giants

I loved this story. Neil Gaiman is a master at taking a stable mythology and weaving a new story into the established set.

This story of Odd is one of the shortest. Not to say that it is in any way inferior to his other tales, it’s just that the scope of this story fits nicely into its well constructed cover.

Odd, a rather small human child, is delightful as he interacts with some of the more famous Norse gods in the same manner he interacts with humans. His practicality makes him endearing and worthy of the cheering he encourages. One of the best examples of his interactions happens early-ish in the story.

Odd sighed. “Which one of you wants to explain what’s going on?” he said.

“Nothing’s going on,” said the fox brightly. “Just a few talking animals. Nothing to worry about. Happens everyday. We’ll be out of your hair first thing in the morning.”

This exchange between Odd and the gods at the beginning of their interactions solidifies Odd’s reactions to the rest of his experiences before this tale ends.

The best part about the American edition is the biography Neil Gaiman writes at the end. The single page takes very little time to read, but those few moments are some of the best in the entire book. His last page supplies an excellent example for caring about writing, even when there is no guarantee no one will read it because there are always readers like me who will leave no word unregarded.

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Creating the system

I’ve been spending time thoroughly enjoying following the links from people I follow on Twitter on my laptop instead of the tiny screen of my Blackberry. Today I followed the link Neil Gaiman posted on his feed to his blog post. In it he talks about how all of us online are learning how to interact in this community we’re creating as we go along.

Then I read Amanda Palmer’s (a very creative singer and performer) post about why she’s ok with taking fans’ money. In it she lays out this explanation:

artists need to make money to eat and to continue to make art.

artists used to rely on middlemen to collect their money on their behalf, thereby rendering themselves innocent of cash-handling in the public eye.

artists will now be coming straight to you (yes YOU, you who want their music, their films, their books) for their paychecks.
please welcome them. please help them. please do not make them feel badly about asking you directly for money.
dead serious: this is the way shit is going to work from now on and it will work best if we all embrace it and don’t fight it.

unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve surely noticed that artists ALL over the place are reaching out directly to their fans for money.
how you do it is a different matter.
maybe i should be more tasteful.
maybe i should not stop my concerts and auction off art.
i do not claim to have figured out the perfect system, not by a long shot.

BUT … i’d rather get the system right gradually and learn from the mistakes and break new ground (with the help of an incredibly responsive and positive fanbase) for other artists who i assume are going to cautiously follow in our footsteps. we are creating the protocol, people, right here and now.

What stood out to me, besides her very logical explanation, is her comment about being part of the group adding to the foundation of the system we will leave behind too. So I started thinking about being a part of this creative team, and how I’ve always been fascinated by the lives and stories of those who have created the art from times before. Like the Modernists (note the T.S.Eliot quote in the header of this blog & the Marianne Moore chapter in my thesis). I’ve always wanted to be a part of the group that people point to when they talk about the founders of something. I realize that this is rather narcissistic, but I think most dreams are.

But what I realized is that I am a part of this community shaping the rules. I’m on Twitter, here, I read other blogs, I am connected in lots of ways to the community, which means that in some small way I am amongst the founders. And though  will likely remain among the many nameless in this group, it’s fun to watch and comment on.