How Reading Fast Slows You Down

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On to the next book!

“It is not just about being well-read, it is about reading well”

Writing a book and literary blog has me thinking if I will have time to read all the books I want. I know I still can but it requires enough time management to pull off. How will I ever balance the time I spend reading with the time I spend writing? Simple, just learn how to speed read. Speed-reading is a straightforward practice. By extending the landscape of your peripheral view and minimizing the information or “skimming” for the most important information written on a page, you are on your way to being a speed-read demon! Read again.

When you read this sentence, as a reader, you cannot predict the following sequence of the message being told without having to see and read each and every word. Are there certain phrases you can notice based on diction and punctuation that serve no other purpose but to be an aesthetic and transitory choice? Most certainly, but not every sentence is worth skimming. This is not new age flash fiction. One word makes all the difference to the meaning presented versus the one personally given. Of course, the point of speed-reading then becomes less about sensibility or memory and more about tangibility or information.

I thought I would be able to devote more time, and in effect more quality, to my writing if I could just get from cover to cover in the least amount of time possible. Unfortunately and unsurprisingly, my writing suffered. Speed-reading restricts a complete understanding of a text by acknowledging only the information it provides and not the expression of it. What does reading mean for me if I am just flipping pages as fast as I would recite the alphabet?

Speed reading proves ineffectual if you intend on retaining and comprehending what you read. Otherwise, it is a remarkable feat to see how fast you can turn a page without receiving a paper cut. Your writing on a subject will be a reflection of how well you read that subject too. It is not just about being well-read, it is about reading well. Friends of mine tell me how fast they read, some coming in at less than a few hours. I cannot help but wonder why they read so fast other than to get to their next book as soon as possible. Now I am not saying it is not possible to retain a story’s characters and events within such small amounts of time, but memory does not always end up being 20/20 hindsight.

To get through every page without skipping a word (and I do falter and have to back track to words, even sentences, I missed if I am not careful) is a challenge but it does not have to be. Why bother reading fast if the margin for error is higher than your comprehension? While it seems the only benefit speed-reading has is surveying the page for grammatical errors and typos, it is a potential malpractice we can correct. Instead of measuring the pages to minute scrutiny, find the right pace.

Pacing allows you to read at the speed where you will best comprehend a text. Staples tests how fast you can read with real pieces of literature and my results were 282 words per minute which is close to the average of 300 for adults. Staples’ test also shows you how long it would take you to read certain pieces of literature after the results. I do not know if the test is giving me the benefit of the doubt or adding insult to injury, because I do know it took me a month to digest the brick that is Charles Dickens’ Bleak House, and that was with devoted hours set aside every Thursday through Sunday.

My general rule of thumb tends to be lenient with a chapter or more for reading and a page or more for writing each hour. I do this with the same attitude as Anne Lamott’s “small assignments” from her book Bird by Bird. Lamott says to read and write in balanced and gradual amounts, enough to fill a “one-inch picture frame,” to avoid getting bogged down by the rest you have to read or have to write (17). A paragraph is much more manageable than a whole page, let alone an entire book.

I am satisfied with my pace and it may be slower than yours, but reading the fastest is not what is important. Reading to comprehend regardless of when you finish reading is. Challenge yourself, read something unfamiliar to you; I would not have thought twice about reading Bleak House given its intimidating length but I was better for knowing the difference between Lord Doodle and a Dandy (by the way, not so different).

Slow and steady is the approach I take and I may not win the race of time. What I do win is the pleasure and quality of reading long after having read.

UPDATE: Tin Man Takes Turing Test: May Have A Heart

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Copyright 2015 Annelise Capossela

UPDATE (June 29, 2016):

The results are in as June 27 and the machines won (at least in my case). NPR recently covered the Dartmouth Digital Arts Exhibition where computers and artists were contested to see if we could judge if it was the work of man or machine. I’ve taken the test and I thought most of them were machines. I’m not sure if that’s me wanting robot friends but needless to say the sonnets were hard to distinguish the first few reads. Try and see if you can do the same!

ORIGINAL STORY:

Machines might be able to produce creative works of art and we are letting them. Not to worry, this isn’t Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot coming into fruition. Coincidentally enough, the three laws of robotics happened around the same time as the Turing Test in 1950. Introduced by computer scientist Alan Turing, the test measures a computer’s capability to perform automatic computing or self-management. The traditional outcome of the test proved that mathematics would not be able to choose or discern computations’ purposes. It shows but does not tell any meaning from crunched numbers and information.

The Dartmouth College Neukom Institute for Computational Science wants to prove otherwise. The goal is to program an artificial intelligence with human intelligence to show a reflection of the self. It might even show where improvements can be made. The Turing Test will disguise the computer as human to see if the computer can be as accurate as humans without human input. Three tests in the arts will be administered and judged: DigiLit, PoetiX, and AlgoRhythms, each attempting to match the human quality of a short story, sonnet, and dance music mix respectively.

Again, the study is not out to replace humankind. The tests will see how comparable a machine is to a person when creativity is concerned and if a computer can trick us into thinking a human’s output of work was given. AlgoRhythms seems to be the forerunner of the tests as far as computing goes. I don’t imagine much technique involved or taking too long to compute desirable frequencies and sounds. If the robotic shoe fits… As for DigiLit and PoetiX, there is more to be said. Words are ambiguous and deal in multiplicity. The preferred word or choice word might have a favored definition over another. Just the same, words might be synonymous with other words that could serve as replacement and that may be where the machine falters. Sonnets would have a better chance of concealing identity given the rhythm and line count of iambic pentameter. Short stories are more predictable as a single word or phrase could reveal the storyteller.

Is that a reflection of the self then? If we give the machine human input to start computing on its own, it is arguable to say that the machine was never truly anonymous like a human to begin with. The computer is built by a human and is therefore only made durable as the human who made it. I wouldn’t say this is a loophole or obvious limitation on the computer’s behalf. Sentient machines have been talked about and it sounds like they can only be made sentient if they have that point of reference, that initial human input. One machine would have the quality of being human but not become the quintessence of human beings. It indirectly creates these other sentient machines but from that first human’s input, forming a recycled pattern of human similarities, not actualities. The potential conflict is man against man, but is vicariously lived through machine against machine. Then there’s the uncanny valley, but that’s a different kind of unnerving.

So does this tin-man have a heart?

Submissions were due April 15 and from The Washinton Post‘s Nancy Szokan, the results will be held at Dartmouth’s Digital Arts Exhibition on May 18.

 

The Talk Show: Words We Like To Watch

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Cue the applause!

Television in its simplest form is a visual metaphor of communication. Who’s saying what about who or what’s being said about what are common questions that want answers. The conversations that matter most that go unheard or have never been had, need a voice. Television caters to an audience and transmits a message they want to hear. Expectations can be made for viewers over time, keeping their attention broadcast after broadcast. No other medium does this better than the talk show.

Talk shows are presented in one of two ways: scripted and unscripted. The more popular format is unscripted which shows a mutual and genuine address between the speaker(s) and audience. In scripted productions, the experience is with little to no input from the speaker(s) as a mediator for the audience. Different levels of both make a talk show, but there’s no pleasing everyone. Some viewers like to be considered and involved while others like the vicarious, autonomous role as an audience member. At the same time, suspension of disbelief can take either type of audience member out of the experience. Instances where it’s obviously scripted, for the sake of the experience, you may enjoy the moment of it all whether or not that moment garnered a surprise. Come time for the unscripted talks, you as an audience member would hope that nothing said the whole time was scripted. Though if it were the opposite, and it was revealed to be a ruse meant for further enjoyment, so be it. Just as long as everyone is aware of it.

Hosts of talk shows are distinct in their delivery. Some are strictly news oriented, others are made for laughs and a more contemporary approach to the talk show has dealt in both, although some better than others. I can’t give much of an honest look at talk shows/hosts from before my era with the likes of Johnny Carson for example. I can give some review of those that do speak to the current times, which by now are someone else’s era. I speak mainly of Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, and Stephen Colbert.¹ To be fair, there are many other talk show hosts out there that deserve attention, like John Oliver on Last Week Tonight, Graham Norton of The Graham Norton Show, the retired David Letterman of The Late Show and Craig Ferguson from The Late Late Show, Bill Maher and Larry King. Female hosts like Chelsea Handler and Samantha Bee are making a name for themselves as well. For the time being, I will refrain from talk shows that focus on food, infidelity, the morning, and anything you find your mother watching in the afternoon (I’m looking at you Ellen!) I will only showcase the late night talk show hosts.

Today, talk shows and their respective hosts are one in the same, that is, what is to be expected of a host can give off the same impression for that show. For this reason, comedy and entertainment are the popular outlets for talk shows, more so than news. During the 1960s, television showed us the real faces behind the mask that was radio. Remember the first televised presidential debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon? People who listened on the radio thought Nixon had won. Those who watched the debate thought Kennedy had won as he kept a convincing demeanor. Nixon was sweating bullets. The same factor can be applied to talk shows. Hosts gain their comedic voice and trust from their audiences and are possibly more accepting or forgiving of jests. News by nature is rigid with little room to read between the lines, but some hosts manage to poke fun at the current events. Guests also challenge or compliment the dynamics of the host. Not to mention, the talk show announcers and coworkers make great companions to their hosts. Let’s take a look at some of these late night shows.

Conan O’Brien | CONAN | Weeknights 11/10c | TBS

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He’s most likely known as the tall ginger and creepy, perverted comic… and we love him for it! Conan O’Brien got his start with NBC on Late Night in 1993. He later moved to the network’s The Tonight Show in 2009 for a short time before another host decided to change that. This reflected the talk show wars of the 1960s, where hosts competed for ratings. Business could never be mixed with pleasure, even though Johnny Carson preferred it that way, it was not a good example for his many wives, children or his long-time friend Joan Rivers. He favored his work over relationships and that standard came to epitomize the dangerous side of show business. Many of hosts took after each other, throwing witticisms at the news, doing what Carson has done. Watch Conan’s Citizenship Test and Carson’s Carnac the Magnificent. Notice a resemblance? The talk show and the talk show host were in many ways mediators of culture as it happened. We all have come to know that any news is never safe from a comedian’s point of view. Conan O’Brien is more or less news-oriented in his monologues but only on a subversive level. Some of the news and the politics shared are hard-hitting but how he pokes fun at them are not always politically mindful statements. Most of the time it introduces a matter that stands well on its own and that does not call for any personal input. The positive takeaway is that there is no sign of political or social favoritism. All news is fair gain and the more he can laugh at life, the better. Those seven months of being prohibited from airing on television was a circumstance that lit a fire under Conan. Instead of looking for work elsewhere, he decided to work at what he does best. Finding the joke might not always be funny, but laughing for the sake of laughter is what makes him so much better to watch.

The studio bits and sketches are the highlight of CONAN and where Conan’s wheelhouse shines. Even some of the interviews incorporate sketches, a common late night show practice, that make the show’s transitions much more lively for the crowd. Other interviews are a natural and spontaneous telling which is more often the case with Conan. He asks certain questions with an exaggerated confidence that seems to forgo any modesty. That hip spree dance of his at the start of the show with the jiving Jimmy Vivino and the Basic Cable Band says it all. That’s just Conan being modest; his overreactions and underwhelming reactions to the unusual and taboo are his best characteristic. As a comedian, he can seize the moment from a conversation and than move on with the rest of it or he can take his time and say close to nothing when a comment holds enough humor in itself. More than any other talk show host, Conan is the most experimental .

Long-running characters on CONAN include animator/graphic designer Pierre Bernard, stuntman and stunt coordinator Steven Ho, executive producer Jordan Schlansky (a personal favorite of mine), and of course the one and only dog who uses celebrities as his own chew-toys, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. Conan possibly has the best cast of oddballs out of the rest of the late night shows. He brings unabashed bread to the table and people can’t get enough of it! He is brutally honest with his humor and has subtle moments of self-awareness that make his show even funnier. Guests are unrestrained when it comes to Conan’s shoot-the-breeze attitude, but it always pertains to that guest. The show eases people into a fun lull when interviews begin and it keeps them awake for further, unexpected laughs. Jeff Goldblum’s interview shows a complete understanding of the Conan complex. The female guests on the show go along with the creep factor surprisingly well. Many times they have an easily skirted topic that Conan likes to chase.

Conan’s Remotes are pitted in culture wherever he goes, whether it be Armenia or South Korea, his outreach has no bounds and he’s worth watching because of it. The audience gets involved with segments, a notable one called Audiencey Awards, sometimes reaching that awkward, uncomfortable level of comedy Conan stands for. It even reaches a level you can’t come back from, which is another advantage to watching Conan’s show. When something said is too encroaching, he will detest it with the same sense of pleasure he gets out of being the creep. Sure it’s hypocritical but we wouldn’t want it any other way. Andy Richter has been Conan’s announcer since their Late Night debut and he seems to be the only late show announcer to join guests for their interviews. His his timely third wheel interjections are always welcomed; the show wouldn’t be half as funny without him. It’s the lighthearted, easy-going talk show you can go to bed happy with. Yes, you can have sex with your eyes just by watching CONAN. After seeing his autobiographical movie Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop, it shows how dedicated he is as an entertainer. You wouldn’t see it as much on TBS, but he has a drive that does not stop for anyone who isn’t fully committed. As Johnny Carson fought for his talent, so did Conan O’Brien. Life for him is improvisation and as he put it, “act as if this is completely normal.” Conan accepted what came his way from NBC and turned it around by working hard as the showman he cares to be.

Jimmy Fallon | The Tonight Show | Weeknights 11:35/10c | NBC

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America’s beloved goofball as I like to call him, Jimmy Fallon got his start in show business on Saturday Night Live in 1998. Notable for his celebrity impressions and comedic music, Fallon earned a spot as the host of Late Night after Conan had left in 2009 until becoming the host of The Tonight Show in 2014 after Hot Wheels collector Jay Leno had his fill of air time. The Tonight Show is in all honesty a variety show more than anything else. Creativity is this show’s middle name and it’s obvious that the SNL experience found its way here. Announcer Steve Higgins is a veteran writer and producer from SNL and has also been beside Fallon since his talk show beginnings. Celebrity games and skits are the highlight of the show, but the traditional opening monologue established by the show’s first host Johnny Carson still holds true. Fallon is the host most aware of pop culture references and sets out to incorporate them into the show. There’s popular segments like Thank You Notes where back-handed compliments are presented as gratitude, Hashtags involves unusual tweets from Twitter, and Wheel of Impressions has guests perform their best impressions of other celebrities. Games are abundant on the show, so much in fact The Tonight Show could be its own game show. Each are different from the rest, some using clever wordplay and others just plain antics. The Roots are the distinguished late night band with their appropriate musical cues for those special moments and needed background jingles. Jimmy Fallon has himself a jack-of-all-trades night show.

When he isn’t playing games, the real fun is invested in the comedy bits, be it an Emotional Interview, Word Sneak, or Real People, Fake Arms. Fallon takes guests out of their comfort zones with a friendly-neighbor innocence and some play along with the skit and others roll their eyes doing their best with what they have to work with. Either way, it makes the host laugh, sometimes more than the audience can. People say Fallon’s laugh is forced and I can understand why hosts would want to humor their guests, but it seems consistent with him. Laughter is unique to each person and it could be that it’s just his natural laugh. Then again, it feels like compensation for his nervous but humble spoken voice. Every now and then, he gets that same puppy dog inflection he had since day one. Looking past that, Jimmy Fallon definitely upholds being a genuine host and that’s a good thing for his viewers.

When it comes to audiences, The Tonight Show has much diversity. Fallon is the piped piper of pleasing everyone. Young people enjoy the simple yet clever use of the internet culture with games while older audiences appreciate the attention towards celebrity guests and the show’s form of comedy. By accommodation, younger generations will stay longtime viewers and in turn become an older generation for the show. No longer are the days of Johnny Carson where The Tonight Show was reserved for adults and restricted for children who had to meet curfue. To his credit, Fallon lives up to the array of characters and skits that Carson introduced. The interviews are hit or miss however. Relating to a guest, especially when you’re a talk show host, is already a hot torch to pass. How Carson carried out interviews was an ordinary albeit auxiliary process. He always gave the guest the most speaking time with him returning little input. Vice versa, when a guest spoke a yarn, Carson knew how to sew them back together. Jimmy follows the first step, but arguably lacks in the latter step. What Fallon does, besides laughing as a response or even interrupting with a joke, he takes a longer time responding and the longer he takes, the more he bombs. Bombs for Carson were found primarily in his monologues, which the audience respected even more than the jokes presented; it gave them a chance to see more of the Nebraskan boy they’ve come to love. Fallon’s bombs are the slip of the tongue or candid snapshots from elsewhere that somehow find their way into the conversation.

That’s not to say Jimmy Fallon isn’t a good host, but as the host with the most, one would expect a better interviewing process. Unless a political figure or notable celebrity hits the hot seat, it’s not usually a retentive occasion (which may be the case for most talk shows). Sometimes things got personal with Johnny Carson, whether it be an outright statement or disguised joke about his business affairs or wives. Other times he just had laughing fits during the show. Jimmy almost had a history with Nicole Kidman and couldn’t stop laughing with Bradley Cooper, both of which I consider Fallon at his most natural. These expectations of an overt shyness from Jimmy is endearing to the viewer, but with that sheepish presence it can be easily construed as a host who tries too hard to earn empathy from his audience. Watching Jimmy Fallon for the legacy of The Tonight Show is watching him only through a Carson-lens. Fallon has no business hiccups or hurdles as of yet and there’s no telling if it will be as controversial as Jared Leto replacing Carson instead of David Letterman. Comparisons and minute details will be made, but there’s no accepting that Jimmy Fallon is the next or even the modern Johnny Carson. Both may share a shy spirit and have all the adornments of games and comedy sketches, but one thing is certain: Johnny Carson is the King of Late Night and Jimmy Fallon is the Kid of Late Night.

Jimmy Kimmel | Jimmy Kimmel Live! | Weeknights 11:35/10c | ABC

2016-05-24 (6)Jimmy Kimmel is the guy you want to have a beer with. He’s also the guy who talks about your sex life. The rugged, relaxed and risque talk show host was given his own show in 2003, the first revival for ABC late night programs. Unlike most people in show business, family and friends are off limits. Kimmel on the other hand has them involved in the show, such as the late Francis “Uncle Frank” Potenza, security guard and sidekick Guillermo Rodriguez, and childhood friend Cleto Escobedo III from the house band Cleto and the Cletones. Jimmy Kimmel Live! is not an ordinary talk show in that it settles somewhere between brotherly love and intrepid approaches towards comedy. From making kids cry to confusing them and seeking those same kids’ expertise, it’s hard to say where Kimmel stands as a comedian (at least morally). Even his nephew Wesley stars in the show’s “The Baby Bachelor” and there’s already a follow-up “The Baby Bachelorette.” No child is left behind on this show. Kimmel has that average Joe aesthetic, making him more approachable than most other hosts. That may have something to do with him being the longest running talk show host on late-night television so far, but being the common man can wear thin after a while. The family appeal shouldn’t fool you, the vicarious pranks accommodate his shifty way of humor. Humor isn’t necessarily dry coming from Kimmel, it is observational but his observations are too obvious. Taking blind people to shooting range to prove they too have the right to bear arms was uneventful not because they shouldn’t carry weapons, it was only for the act itself. The blind can use guns but it seemed pointless despite the right to do so, which isn’t very funny. Can moments like this be funny? Moot as this may be, the traditional style of a talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live! promises seems absent at times.

The interviews have the charisma of a fish swimming downstream. Guests have about as much lead as Kimmel does, and even he falls behind when it comes to promoting them. However plain the show might be, he is the most friendly and family-oriented talk show host out of the rest, so there’s always a humanizing treatment of guests and audiences. Kimmel’s interview with Gordon Ramsey does not show anything new about the acclaimed chef other than his ability to taste foods allowing him to properly cook them. What better to test Ramsey’s tasting chops than to have him eat Girl Scout cookies, right? Will Forte’s interview went well, had some depth surrounding the actor’s happenings but still felt less. As a viewer, there is no balance between comedian and TV hosting Kimmel. Kimmel’s personality can be provocative yet penitent, although subtle, in certain segments. His Youtube Challenge provokes his viewers and turns them into victims for amusement. The most popular victims are none other than children during Halloween. Parents are to pretend to have eaten their kids’ Halloween candy and to record their reaction to hearing this. Most kids are screaming their lungs out and the few that take it so well, bless their hearts. Mean Tweets takes on a the form of masochism where celebrities read mean tweets from their Twitter. It stands to reason that Jimmy Kimmel doesn’t shy away from being the reprehensible comedian or the spokesman for the follies of internet users. He is painfully self-aware as a host and because of this, there is no problem of reliance on the audience’s part. While viewers may relate to the lighthearted pranks, I wonder how many of them are vicarious enough to be sadists and to a greater extent masochists.

Breaking boundaries and building a semblance of a talk show out from the deconstruction of it might be something the gruff, trouble-making host has in mind. Nothing extreme like Jerry Springer or a housewife brawl waiting to happen. Kimmel’s show would just be the hybrid love child of those TV shows. Now it’s not always that bad, but it’s surprising to see how willing people are to claim their fame despite it being only the fraction of a minute and for much less than that. What saving grace does the show have then? Guillermo Rodriguez is a security guard but he serves as Jimmy Kimmel’s sidekick instead of his announcer Dicky Barrett. This Mexican is muy cómico and he’s not afraid to show it. Comedy sketches share a similar exaggeration in their performances, but Kimmel likes to make cameos for when he dresses up or wears prosthetic makeup. The most recent one was a parody of Super Sweet 16 and, my favorite of his, Toddlers and Tiaras. These were accurate portrayals of convoluted broadcast stardom one episode at a time. Parodies on Kimmel’s show are all in good fun and rarely promote other movies. They do however promote lesser known actors. I would give Jimmy Kimmel Live! a rating, but it looks like we ran out of time.

Stephen Colbert | The Late Show | Weeknights 11:35/10c | CBS

2016-05-27 (9)The King of Satire Stephen Colbert is known for The Colbert Report, which started as a parody for The Daily Show until it became his own show in 2005. Aiming at the often political atmosphere of the news under the caricature of a conservative reporter can reveal the truth of the matter through satirist humor. Still the same old Stephen Colbert, packing his quips as a modern Jonathan Swift while making up new vocabulary such as the popular term “truthiness.” Wordplay is also his forte, as is his tongue-in-cheek jabs at his Catholic faith, which coming from Stephen Colbert’s character is easy to believe when he isn’t associated with himself, Stephen Colbert. Separating the two and discerning the character from the man is not easy however when both draw upon each other. Breaking character has been common to The Colbert Report in the past and has never had to before since satire is meant to show the folly of mankind when it happens, not to ridicule it. Even though it’s funny to catch someone slipping on that immortal banana peel, blaming the man over the banana is natural. That’s what satire does, it observes and celebrates and condemns problems as they surface to the potential of being laughable. Doing something opposed to the conventional wisdom that has found itself in the wrong many times is satire’s attempt towards adopting a better change. The truth is at hand, one joke at time. The great thing about Stephen Colbert is all the things that make him great (as he would say). No, the great thing about him is that nothing he says makes you feel politically inept to be a part of his conversation. Granted he is the most political of the talk show hosts, that doesn’t stop him from having an audience who seeks entertainment. Satire covers the playing field of culture evenly and carries over into subcultures close and far.

Colbert’s attention to ethos makes sure audiences who aren’t aware of the politics of the day understand their perfunctory nature. Speaking of nature, precocious and playful Stephen enjoys prodding and dissecting the news like the frog that it is. Or is he the frog and the news the fly? Which ever way we croak at it, Stephen Colbert knows how to hop, skip and jump through the news like the anecdotal amphibian he was meant to be. As soon as David Letterman left The Late Show, Colbert took the reigns in 2015 and has continued to progressively update the show with the framework of his previous television incarnations. Monologues and segments at the desk involve only him and revolve around the current events as they happen. Some props and skits are incorporated to heighten the joke, but it mainly relies on himself. No other person has claimed to be his sidekick, not even his uncredited announcer. The closest he has to a sidekick is the bandleader Jon Batiste of the house band Stay Human. Stephen Colbert has been a one-man show but his friends always compliment his delivery.

The highlight of the show has to be the diversity of guests. Other than the sought after actors and celebrities, The Late Show welcomes a variety of guests such as distinguished theoretical physicist Brian Greene, former cabinet holder as the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfield, eccentric but introspective James Spader, rapper Killer Mike raises an important message about prejudice and how to change separation among diverse backgrounds and communities and many more creative and thought-provoking guests. On rare occasion you get to see an interview not dominated by the political aura and even if it ends up being surrounded by politics, it is a refreshing look into a different person’s point of view. Sketches and studio bits are at a minimum with Colbert and feels residual after the concluding punchlines of the headlines. When they are presented as a separate whole rather than a portion of pseudo-news anchoring from the desk, it becomes acceptable. Telling the joke with an additional visual can be unnecessary or it can help at times. Colbert’s coverage over the election season however satisfies both comical cues. It’s been the talk of the town, and more aptly, the laugh of the town. Politics is putty in his hands! Stephen Colbert brings an even dose of humor and hoopla relevant to the masses.

Who Do You Watch?

Looking at the individual host, the overall tone of the show can be understood. Matching TV personalities can be an easy trial and error process or it may take a few nights of each host to understand them in full. Conan O’Brien is the traditional comedian who provides jokes for the long haul of the show. The bulk of his comedic style are jests and the show has a free-to-be-silly attitude throughout. Conan is the traditional host with jokes as his one and only arsenal whether it be improvisational or not. Jimmy Fallon has the variety show and harks back to the skits Johnny Carson once performed. Segments are in great numbers being just as creative as the last. Entertainment is at the core of The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Jimmy Kimmel is the practical joker who thrives on sketches more so than personal jokes. Carefree thought with small considerations makes things more spontaneous and honest on the show. He deconstructs the traditional talk show and reconstructs his own amorphous mode of a talk show. Breaking the mold is seldom found with talk shows and Jimmy Kimmel Live! continues to find its own mold. Stephen Colbert is a satirist who is socially and politically aware of the times. Although he is a political comedian, his delivery fulfills laymen and lexicon terminology while adopting cultural references where need be. The Late Show has undergone a Colbert Report transformation but delivers noteworthy content all the same. Late night television is different than day time television since the discourse of the day can be further expounded on at night. Another reason could be that night-time television has more energy if not an exact amount that the day unfolds. If you’re not a night person, you might become one with a night show.


¹ I also exclude other shows for having never watched them.

The Write Space and Where To Find It

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Welcome to my workspace.

WordPress recently posted a piece on bloggers’ writing spaces. I wrote a research paper on spatiality, taught by Dr. Christian Beck, and his course gave much needed insight into the interactions and awareness of one’s place in a space and space in a place. With that said, I’d like to add to the conversation regarding those in the humanities. Writers give birth to other worlds, some like our own, seemingly without ever missing a beat. To readers, writers are indispensable gatekeepers of the senses. Just where do they find the words that spin such a yarn? Behind a desk or in a comfy armchair, there are places we would never consider a working space, let alone a writing space.

The obvious place to start would be the desktop. The act of writing before the printing press was comprised of copying original texts in their multitude by hand. As literacy increased among populations, so did the demand for writing. A natural response to the ease of reading included easing the writing process. Finding a surface to write on plagues our existence as writers. Asking to borrow someone’s back, using a wall, the ground or another book are all uncomfortable and tedious options. After the printing press catered to its readers, the invention of the desk did the same for writers. Writers finally had a place to settle and sort their thoughts. The desk became synonymous with thinking and tinkering, a literal benchmark for business.

It is an accessory more so than a piece of furniture. What work and play is performed on and in the desk makes it your place, which directly influences the space it is found in. What you call a desk too is a mental representation of the physical, actual object called a desk. For instance, you could find yourself at a local eatery and begin jotting notes down surrounded by complete strangers. Wherever you are out in public or inside, you can set up your ideal space within a place. This is the common case of signifier (desk) and the signified (desk). A kitchen table can become a desk within a few solitary moments until, of course, others wish to join you for its opposite purpose which is exactly my largest intolerance. I want a space that reflects my manners and preferences sans interruption. I do not need to carry the clutter in your chatter that filters through one ear and the other. What I do need is seclusion and silence, but sometimes you cannot be granted such a simple request. It requires a certain headspace[1], a mental wavelength that weighs more by comparison of the tumultuous strangers near and far. If you can prioritize your thoughts and project them closer and further than the ones around you, your headspace will go undisturbed.

People also find the alternative of background noise helpful to their thinking. Not necessarily a distraction, but noise in the form of idle shuffling or small talk or television can be empowering to the writing process. The sense of dissociation takes over and the words written turn into acrobatic spurs and sudden inspired bouts. In an instant, all you need is yourself. I don’t always feel this way, in public or in the company of friends or family, and because of this I don’t even get to write sometimes. To have others in my vicinity or vacant from it is a dependency. The way I combat this liminal state is through headspace. Thinking about the physical makes the space around me either more ideal or stagnant; it depends on what I think of or attribute to the physical. Photography and daydreaming can be therapeutic means for revamping the approach towards writing. I have a photo of my two-year-old self[2] in a circle of books on my desk that I look at every now and then to make sure I see myself, to make sure I’m still there. No wonder we want an office with a view or take a peek outside the window during class. Having a chance to slow down and reassess our place in space and our space in that place makes our time there all the more compatible.

Along with convenience comes comfort and we all can agree that comfort ranks high on the priority list. Though for some writers, the regimen of a cozy, fireside lull is enough to get words out and onto the page. I have the option of not only a desk but the neighborly warmth of a floral, fanback armchair. You could melt in that chair and not fall asleep which I’ve enjoyed all the time. On the chair’s side I keep a lap-desk for when it comes time to write. It hasn’t gotten to the point where I’ll be half awake or fast asleep on account of my trips back and forth between the chair and desk. The table I’ve shaped into a desktop has been deterritorialized into striated space or a measured, occupied space. The furniture chosen as an accessory has a preferred purpose of a desk (drafting and writing) but can also function as the known purpose of a table (eating and socializing). The top of the desk/table is striated by the belongings that rest there as well. Cluttered desks or organized desks can say a lot about the headspace. Even a desk named Taylor has a lot to say. What do I make of my bed then? To put it simply, I sleep there. I’ve never had the lamp angled the right way to avoid going blind and after sitting up for a while my bottom and lower back give which results in my legs falling asleep and then myself. Sure it’s comfortable for a time, but not long enough before I feel numb and ready for a nap. By the same token, I keep my phone near my pillow when I sleep if I ever have a thought that needed to be saved for later. I should keep a journal or notepad nearby as well, or the current notes that occupy my thoughts daily to keep them coming during sleep and after, something Ray Bradbury called theatre of the mind. Writing should come as an impulse, a surge of energy no matter where you are situated and even if reaching that ideal writing space is never fully realized, it can always be in your sights, always somewhere in front of you.

The striation of my space helps me in two ways. The dynamic I have between my desk and chair is met with two different perspectives. If I need to focus for long periods of time, and that goes for lengths of time that leave you oblivious to any cricked neck or back, I will sit at the desk and belt out as much as I can. When it comes to reviewing and taking a fresh look at the writing before I set out to do it again, I sit in the chair. The process at times goes in both directions where the chair will help me focus and the desk will be for revision. The makeshift desk and the armchair are places inside my headspace, as well as in my physical space. The individual artist is flexible and constrictive, lenient and stubborn. Everything and anything is fair gain and the easiest bit of discrepancy or excuse to hyperbolize over. That stack of books needs to be off-kilter. The yellow sticky note should be wear the green one is. The cat cannot meow between the hours of awake and asleep. Whatever conditions must be set out, adorn them to yourself. In time, the space will become a reflection of the headspace.

When it comes to writing, or any hobby or profession, orientation affects performance. If this is true, then quality is dependent of quantity. I like to think of my desk as, at certain moments, “controlled chaos.” Some disarray is fine by me since I’m the only one who needs to make sense of it. To the neat freak it looks like a papercut waiting to happen. Minimalism is an idea I’ve been working at and seeing less gives me more; taking away unnecessary desk ornaments for instance helps me get to work. I have paperweights that I’ve never used, so off the desk they go. It also allows more accessibility and flexibility for necessary resources. The space goes defined on a physical level and also, arguably more so, on a mental level. What is made of that space will be ultimately thought about. In thinking about your space, you take it from being a fictional, ideal space and make it a realized, physical space. The variations of ideal spaces are countless and to make that stance are podcasters Rojé Augustin and Muy Lang Ung with their show The Right Space. It’s an introspective look at the artist’s workspace and they have a good amount of episodes to listen to now. Episode #101 introduces screenwriter Craig Pearce with his views on collaborative and individual work and his current space. Something to also look forward to is Pearce’s admiration for William Shakespeare and his shared love of words. You can skip to the twentieth and thirty-fifth minute for the talk about each and subscribe to the podcast for free over on iTunes.

When I come to write, be it in my chair or table-turned-desk, I say it depends on what I think of the space outright. I don’t harbor too much on the space I find myself in, with or without discrepancies. Some sentences are thoroughly thought of while others may be natural, spontaneous and without pretense. I find some momentary distractions motivating and rejuvenating to the writing process and others just distracting. After a long-filled page typed or written I take pseudo-breaks or move onto a different activities that might or might not relate to what was just transcribed. In some cases, it will be full on breaks that are unrelated from the task at hand, sometimes dealing in the eclectic through trivia or other research topics. These are rewards more or less for when I found inspiration or am still on the search for it. Placement and positioning within my space aren’t so much meticulous as they are practical. Any choice is personal nevertheless, and so is your space. Therefore, what you think of space is what becomes of it and what you make of it is a reflection of who you are.


[1] Headspace is the subversion of physical space with abstractions or mental space.

[2] Reminding myself where I started is always a kind refresher to where I am and will be.

 

Write Anything

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It’s been two years since the start of my blog.

I admit, it was two experimental years, but this time it will be different. That’s the intention anyway. Blogging can be a strange plane of existence. It is much different from the headspace you get when you have a pen and pad in hand. As I sit here writing (or typewriting for the hipsters out there, or not, you be you!), I notice that staring at a blank screen with the insertion point cursor bar blinking awkwardly in place excites me. Its allure can be entrancing.

We both want that exchange of Rubik’s cube speed, key to finger, finger to key. I almost got sensual there; not all sex sells ladies and gentleman. When ever I take to the keyboard or loose-leaf paper, I don’t necessarily take to it with a certain urgency, although at times I would like that precious thought to surface. For me, writing is more like LEGOs. You have this beautiful creation on the box and when you open it up, what do you have? Bags of bricks waiting to be assembled, step by step.

Writing can be a weary endeavor, but it is a fun kind of weary. The effort you put into it is a reward in itself after you come to see your final project and say with disbelief, “I wrote that?” The goal is to surprise yourself, and then when you least expect it, surprise others. Why a blog then? A few reasons actually. Blogging, like writing, is a lot like hunting. It can catch your feelings and thoughts in an instant or it can go on a long chase to get the words out of you. I have been on a chase for two years and some of you will attest that is not very long, but I will say this. The hunt has me excited and the game will only just be out of reach. What good is writing if I can expect it all the time?

To blog is to write, no matter how trivial it may sound to the person who asks. All the more reason to show them its purpose. I think of the blog as a short assignment, somewhere you can serve your thoughts as appetizers before the main course hits the table. Blogs of course are not limited to just words, we can read pictures, music, people, any topic can be read and written about. If you can read, write, and if you can write, please read. Which leads me to the pursuit of voice: who am I speaking to?

Hopefully somebody, preferably you. No not you, you. Yes, the collective you. Audience is the people who decide to relish in the task of reading you, watching you, suspending their disbelief with you. Consider yourself as audience, think of all the fans, fandoms, and fanfictions you find yourself a part of and ask, is this something I would want to partake in? Write for you and in turn you will write for the collective you; you just won’t realize it.

When I was first starting out, most of my posts were reflection pieces. They were “a day in the life” without any real takeaway for anyone else but myself. The original plan was to establish advice for readers from my experiences, but only so much wisdom can come from a first-year student in college. Observations were made but the semblance of advice was left to be questioned, or so I asked the readers. I’ve decided instead to make Wiggins’ Words a literary blog since English Literature is my major of choice. Not only that, what I’ve read and written over these couple years has been, I feel, the start I was looking for.

The blog embodies not only your reader, but yourself. Being a writer must be the best job description in the world, you get to be so many things! Now, it will just be you, your keyboard, a screen and your friend insertion point. Then, it will be readers and writers who share in the commonwealth of the thought process you set out for each other. Again, that is the vision and it’s good to keep it in your sights. What I’m writing here right now could be just the spur of the moment. It could be a thorough and time-consumed post. It won’t be any of those things however, if you don’t write anything.

Why I Hate TV (For the Most Part)

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“My living room didn’t deserve this. So I did what was right.”

Growing up, the buzz and multiple personality disorder that was television never scarred me for years to come. The Saturday morning cartoons were one of the reasons I woke up every time at 9:00 AM (the others were Frosted Cheerios and my PlayStation 2). Other than childhood memories and times of wonderful expense, all that soon dissipated. It hadn’t been the TV’s fault, not necessarily or even in the beginning, but rather the sudden flush of shows, both in number and content. How I’ve managed to hate programs, one after the next, became an arduous trudge to the living room. To this day, it’s incredible to see so many channels, most of which go unsubscribed to. I wish it was a simpler time.

TVs had exactly three broadcasts, four if you were lucky, before the introduction of Cable Television. Even with cable, that came out to a possibility of thirteen channels in the 1960s. I don’t know about your viewing needs, but suffice it to say I’m content with three channels if not breaking double-digits. Plus, those broadcasts (ABC, NBC, CBS, and PBS) mattered extensively more so than they do now. Since it was the dawn of sci-fi technology, it makes sense that these programs would be influential from its first runs onward. The issue, for me at least, nowadays these news carriers are sprinkled in with needless entertainment and melodramatic fixes. Viewerships are either easily amused, highly critical, or have the commonwealth of each attribute. Intelligence has a lot to say about what we decide to watch, but keep in mind people might know what their experiencing and missing or they might not. I rest on the county line.

By no means is this pandemic, but it could be. It’s a subject we inherently talk about but never give notice to enough or conscientiously. My mother and sister willing watch, while I willing type about, Keeping Up with the Kardashians. Why anyone feels invested and committed to the lives of others who don’t look better off is beyond me. That’s it though. Unlike myself, viewers like my mother and sister are inclined to relate to these reality shows because of one aspect and one aspect alone: drama. Somewhere in their lives they’ve either seen, heard, or had their share of drama. To what extent is not of importance. Any situation that calls upon a real-time dramatization is enough to find solace. Alfred Hitchcock is turning in his grave, I swear it’s true! Voyeurism has been ruined by reality television. No more fly on the wall, it’s up front and personal like we want it and boy are we getting it.

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“A TV show about watching people watching TV shows straight from your TV. Inception is real…”

A sadistic truth in entertainment is this; as far as TV and movies go, they’re just entertainment. Reality TV, as much as it doesn’t deserve its own grey area, doesn’t come remotely close. As soon as you place a camera in the room, you’re acting. Let’s face it, reality as we know it isn’t entertaining unless you make it such. So what does reality TV do? They create situations for us couch potatoes to enjoy at our leisure, in our reality that seems less boring because of the vicarious amusement we get from someone else’s drama! And what have I to say about relationships? They must have been alive and well until “the fight” came along, and who’s to say they aren’t healthy and progressive long after the recordings stopped. Just another way to keep its viewers happy, mindless, and tasteless. Reality isn’t a show, but it certainly is a satire.

My honest concern is with the current and new, incoming generations that won’t sedate themselves from the tube. They have to suffer the onslaught of below mediocre cartoons and sitcoms that irregularly air and the worst part is, they don’t know their suffrage. It hurts me more than it hurts them! All is not lost however, as long as TCM and TV Land are still around. Really though, there are so many better written, fun-loving shows in decades passed that still stand the test of time. Looking back to science fiction, Star Trek and The Twilight Zone, among many others, are obvious choices that make you think and feel. Batman‘s high-octane heroics gave the campy, clad Caped Crusader his crime-fighting core (and alliteration!) The Office‘s outlandish hi-jinxes in the workplace make “make-believe” a real thing and a fun thing. Criminal Minds puts its viewers in the mindset of its police operatives and its suspects, creating a more than engrossing psychological and physiological world. So many shows that exude nothing short of a movie, that do it right in a matter of a half-hour or less.

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“Here’s a cartoon with class.”

Now for the real harbingers of deficiency. Local news, mass media, and commercial content are either reports of alleged, one-sided, or, sometimes, borrowed perspectives from other news ventures, and I can’t say the same for the subjected teleprompter readers from behind the desk. Sometimes it’s downright gossip and uninformed opinions, sometimes it’s evidence that’s only semi-justified. All this causes unnecessary speculation and strife and to be frank, you’ll be the better person for not indulging in it. Advertising either makes sense or it doesn’t. GEICO’s slogan is, “15 minutes can save you 15% or more on car insurance.” Plain and simple; choosing GEICO means getting car insurance in no time at all. However, upon further review, the content of the commercial has nothing to do with the company or its slogan. They go further to make a commercial within a commercial, making light of the slogan in which person’s respond to it with, “Everybody knows that.” Finally, they understand our blight!

There’s a fine line between good and bad television and opinions as well as that fine line will vary. Not all reality television and regular television are the death of sensation, some of it helps you realize, “Oh, I shouldn’t waste my time with this anymore” and, “Surely there’s something better on?” Then there are those wholesome family shows, animated, live action, or live, that have genuine themes and substance. After surfing a plethora of channels, viewers could end up catching the waves or being lost at sea. Limiting your choices to the good programs is always ideal, but it’s also good to know what to avoid. Be willing and open, but not to the point of acceptance. Ray Bradbury puts television into great perspective in his interview, featured in the 50th Anniversary Edition of his novel, *Fahrenheit 451. I’ll leave you with its snippet of volition and vitality:

A Conversation with Ray Bradbury:

DR: There seems to have been a decline in standards of journalistic objectivity, to put it mildly.

RB: It’s not just substance; it’s style. The whole problem of TV and movies today is summed up for me by the film Moulin Rouge. It came out a few years ago and won a lot of awards. It has 4,560 half-second clips in it. The camera never stops and holds still. So it clicks off your thinking; you can’t think when you have things bombarding you like that. The average TV commercial of sixty seconds has one hundred and twenty half-second clips in it, or one-third of a second. We bombard people with sensation. That substitutes for thinking.

(From Fahrenheit 451 The 50th Anniversary Edition, page 184)

*I’d also like to call attention to a scene in Fahrenheit 451, where Guy Montag is on the run and a local news helicopter follows and records his every move. The television broadcast of it all wasn’t mind-numbing enough until the reporter conducts its viewers into catching the running man in the act by opening their doors and windows, lying in wait of his appearance.

Wiggins’ Words’ Potential (YouTube Channel)?

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“GIMP is a free image manipulation software and this is the product of that.”

Emphasis on “potential.” Yes, I also find this incredible, because it probably is. I noticed that YouTube is a popular means of visual aid and as far as a blog can take its readers, a more eyes-on experience sounds not so impersonal. As hard as I try to share pieces of me, I think it would be nice to match the words to a face, that’s not still, even though you’ve seen how handsome I can be. There’s not a high chance of it from what I’m getting at here and the list of reasons trail behind me, but allow me to explain.

For starters, I made a YouTube channel with the purpose to well, make videos which isn’t far from true. There’s this Sony Bloggie I bought from years back but have only used for Kodak moments (gaming related of course). Also there was the time I used it for a video contest that I was too camera shy to enter, so I had my dad be my voice… and face. To tell you the truth, that’s how I’m typing this sentence right now; you see, my dad won the computer I use to this day, but it was the power of my words that brought that video submission home! So is the life of a smitten Cyrano de Bergerac. It’s not like I’m unsociable, I do however find myself putting people at ease in social situations rather than myself, it’s just I’m not very good at presentation on the spot.

The possibility of me making a pinpoint rundown on what to say and when to say them has me second-guessing. I can write an essay about how I feel sometimes more so than I can tell you in the passing minutes we have between each other. When there’s wandering eyes following me and expectant ears listening, in that moment, I’m nervous but still, at least it’s not being recorded for all the eyes I can fathom not currently present. I will say I do better in an interview scenario where I can react naturally to questions in relation to me, and even if those questions could be far from relatable, I find something of reference to build up towards a breaching construct on the subject asked. Thinking fast is the dependent variable, while the independent variable is strictly the content I could produce despite the lack of green screen, special effects and cutting and editing capabilities. I could keep things simple. A white wall, a bright enough lamp, a chair, preferably comfortable, maybe a nightstand and me at the center of it all. *Gulp*

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“Believe me, if I had looks like this, I’d have no trouble – what’s this lightbulb doing on my head?”

Another worry is ceremoniously staying on track with updates. That reminds me, about my blog. My goal is to post an article monthly. No specific number but when it comes to me, you’ll see what I can pull out. I like to see content as fast as the next guy but, if that risks the quality of each post and you start to see a pattern that’s predictable and moreover filler for times long gone, no one’s missing out. As of this Fall, my college experience begins (rain check on that statement; somehow my account decided to show I’ve dropped classes in place of enrolled ones. The “school” will be hearing about this. Yeah, I’m so mad, the school in question gets air quotes!) which could mean less posts or more, whether on this blog or the possible vlog, we’ll see. Instead, I’ll share what I will when I can. Fair enough? Cool. *Heart sign*

My GIMP image up at the top of the page was impractical as it is. I used less than four tools I knew how to use because of a digital design class in high school I remember. Minor difference though, we were using Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator at the time. It’s not so different but these are pictures we’re editing here. When those pictures start moving, we have a problem. Videos seem like a tangible medium to get a handle on for some and far trickier by many. I understand Sony has software adapted for the Bloggie device, which I never bothered with. Then there’s video editors like Ezvid for free that I haven’t really seen, let alone heard, as a use being made for. You know the tutorials for the product on the product’s website that have the robotic narrator or a scripted phone prompter’s voice? Yeah, I’m not all about them either. Sometimes, just out of pure stumble, the Tube will grant that needle in a haystack we all so long for; a search well worth embarking on!

The good thing about ideas are that they start out small from humble beginnings. The other good thing about ideas are their growth from theory into a practiced law everyone can take up and pass on as their own personal admiration or agenda. The last good thing about ideas, they take a long time to cradle over as they should, so give those thoughts time to spur even more branches for that tree of a mind and in the mean time, keep watering those roots. I’m still an acorn a lone squirrel forgot existed but that’s existentialism for you.

Batman: The Ideal Hero – Childhood Love #1

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Kicking things off on a fun note, I thought I’d start with a fan favorite of mine. Growing up with Batman was like having a second dad for me, but he sounded nothing like him. Which was cool, you know, differences are what make us unique and discover other identities. That’s why I love the Caped Crusader, he’s immediately relatable to us. Bruce Wayne lives a lavish life, but his diamonds are scratched. Bruce Wayne isn’t much more himself than he is Batman. Heck, it’s just Batman because the Wayne name has been nothing but a red herring for a one man war against the crime that created him. A harrowing of hell for a bat out of hell. Sadly it’s a plan that involves seclusion, brooding, action and life altering events. Yet it is the Batman that displays sheer determination in the face of despair that makes him the brave, dynamic, foible character we all love. Sure he’s stubborn, and it may be his allies who have better judgment, but we love him for it. Batman never gives in or gives up, he only gives it his all.

Comics, television series’, movies, games, there lies more to a character in the realm of fiction. The appraisal of Batman does not go unnoticed and for good reasons. Not only is the winged vigilante of the night propelled by injustice, but it’s a vendetta that runs deeper than a personal resolve. His story begins and ends in drudgery, knowing that with his efforts, although ceaseless, he cannot end what seems endless. Batman remains fictional but his difference strikes a chord in its readers and viewers ever since his debut. The Great Depression was a time riddled with turmoil and uncertainty. With the introduction to the comic book and its respective tales of heroes alike, their began a shift in the day to day deprivation. Comics gave people a newly renowned sense of hope in their lives, what many call escapism today. Now Superman might have set the precedent first, but Batman perpetuated crime-fighting, placing emphasis on the greatest super power of all: will power. Here compiled for you is what makes the ideal hero, most notably none other than the Batman.


A Man’s a Man

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Bruce Wayne is only a man and while not a simple man, he’s still mortal just like you and I. Seeing how indomitable his spirit is, it’s hard to believe Batman can easily be riddled with bullets or fall from rooftops (heck, the man recovered from a broken back in the Knightfall story arc by the hands of Bane!) He’s human, not perfect, and to prove it there’s a fair share of mistakes both self-decided (Talia al Ghul) and guilt-driven (Jason Todd from A Death in the Family, which was the reader’s fault and choice, and the drug addiction in Batman: Venom; not to be confused with the Titan enhancement of it from the game) which seem to be unpredictable and unavoidable. All things considered, that doesn’t separate him from any of the roster of heroes, even if he’s more than hard on himself about his righteous campaigns. When Batman strays off course and doesn’t catch himself in the act, it’s a personal demon he’s failed to defeat. That’s why he strives to do and be better, as should we, cape and cowl or not.

The Symbol

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Inescapable to the cultural presence is the Batman’s logo. It’s undoubtedly the most recognizable icon that comes to mind not only in comics, but around the world. The symbol is a spur for hope and justice among the mixed emotions that come with it. A strong metaphor resonates for a man’s bereavement and plunge into combating the rogues’ underworld, striking fear into those who prey on the fearful like a modern-day Robin Hood, there’s no chance of the black and yellow ever going unnoticed.

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Perhaps the greatest calling card their is, the bat-signal allows Gotham’s Dark Knight to clock in in times of distress. While Batman’s preoccupied in the latest investigation, he needs a way to act upon crises within moments. Despite all his telecommunication capabilities, it’s understood his city needs help when the floodlight shines bright against the night sky (it’s certainly a step up from the Batphone, but it’s good to explore your options).

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The most popular and iconic means of transportation for Batman is the Batmobile, an unconventional take on the automobile. Among all the Bat-oriented things in his reach, the Batmobile is Batman’s baby. For Batman, batgrappling and gliding from rooftops only slowed him down in the past, but now he can be at the ready when disaster strikes. Other than the Batman himself it’s this allure of a hot rod that gets us daydreaming (you’ve thought of how cool it would be to drive in it, let alone have it yourself) and unless you’re Batman, your car’s probably not street legal.

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If being smart was a sport, Bruce Wayne’s mind would be its star athlete. Specializing in deduction and reasoning, applied sciences, multiple fighting styles, history, reconnaissance, architecture, computer technics, coaxing (sometimes with his fists) and just about anything he needs to know, Batman is always thinking ahead of time. There’s nothing you know that Batman doesn’t know, and if there is, he’ll find out. He’s basically the Renaissance man of comics, heck, he could tell you the eusociality of bees if he had too. Bees. My God.

An Adaptive Bat

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Batman is a walking armory. He has gadgetry that’s small in size but does extraordinary things you wouldn’t expect to fit in those utility belt patches. Batarangs, smoke pellets, tear gas, grappling rope, you name it. On top of that, he uses his environments to his advantage. Anywhere from a compacted room full of villains to a place completely out of his element immediately becomes surveyed and adapted to Batman’s tactics. He will use anything in the vicinity as a weak point for his foes. Big, small, it doesn’t make a difference. There’s something in his arsenal to handle every possible variant and it’s not any coincidence. From the very beginning, you know a great deal of preplanning and expectancy went into these possible outcomes. Years in advance taken up for the day that the unexpected befalls everyone else, but not Batman. Batman: HushJLA: Tower of Babel, and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns are clear indicators of that. Batman under the weather or under pressure finds a will and a way to overcome the impossible.

The (K)night

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Never mind the fact that Batman has a number of aliases. The most important of them all is who he is and how he came to be. A master of stealth, Batman flips his foes’ power over on its head and has them playing into his hand. You can’t shoot what you can’t see and even if you get a glimpse of him, you won’t shoot. Batman keeps criminals second guessing in the dark, having them spooked by looming shadows and corners. To see the silent predator and protector manipulate the surroundings most familiar to his prey is like watching a nature show, panel by panel. One could say his greatest ally is the still, encompassing night for he is the watchful guardian. He is the Dark (K)night.

A Creature of the Night

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The cape and cowl aren’t just for looks. Fashion meets function when it comes to stalking deviants in the night. Batman’s cowl integrates the technology of the Batcave for accessible communications and detective analysis on the fly. Speaking of fly, the cape allows for a surreal experience: gliding like a bat! For some it’s a theoretical improbability how Batman can glide with a thick piece of fabric and for those people I say watch Batman Begins, it does enough convincing. It’s a comic book world and suspending our disbelief is what makes Batman real and all the more fun. Just read Batman: Year 100, you’ll see what I mean.

The Code

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As a vigilante, you’d think Batman would have an agenda selfishly proclaimed for means all his own. Quite the contrary, he seeks out his adversaries with the intent to prevent their evil acts, never to officially end them. It’s a moral compass that cannot be taken on the wrong path. Batman does not and will not kill. He’s an anti-hero by his own definition, the difference is that he puts away with street justice and replaces it with what justice is suppose to be; fair, unassuming, poetic justice.

The Batcomputer

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A database with the digital makeup of every possible trace of villain, hero, and person there is or ever has been on profile. For Batman, criminals old and new have been configured in their own data banks for reference’s time, gathered in his all-in-one FBI and CIA personal computer. News clippings, interviews, audio and video recordings, chemical and physical analysis, it’s every supercomputer’s dream. It even has a nickname (Dupin; named after C. Auguste Dupin, the first known fictional detective by Edgar Allan Poe)!

The Bat Cave

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A sanctuary of solace, what more could you ask for? Its existence is kept hush, hidden underground through miles of caverns, with pitch black that ruins depth perception without the sonar of a bat, and the convenience of it all right under the foundation of the Wayne establishment, it doesn’t get any better. Batman isn’t Batman without a bat cave and sure enough, he puts it to good use. Housing the many Bat-vehicles, villain paraphernalia, and the extensive inner workings that run the cave’s technological systems, it’s “the” home away from home.

Money Talks

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During the day, he’s Bruce Wayne, playboy billionaire and philanthropist. He lives the stereotypical lavish life of a carefree aristocrat (as seen in Batman: Year One) but more recently realizes the mask of charitable works is enough to keep the lonesome rich act alive and believable, that is without a steady drop in friends and increase in backlash. At dusk, Batman takes the night shift, pursuing evil lurkers while Bruce Wayne takes to his lazy homebody routine. More often than not, Bruce Wayne has kept to himself as most with affluence do. The quiet approach raises no questions; really, who’s worried over a Rockefeller’s status quo? He can do just about everything and that includes being Batman (*hush hush*).Yet it’s really a sadder case than a rich, lonesome man. Even though he is Bruce Wayne, he’s more Batman than anything else each waking day and night. So, it’s not so much mystery as it is money.

The Tragic Hero

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Born into a fortunate family, Bruce Wayne never cared for the world around him accept for the things it could offer him, one carefree whim at a time. Adolescent and naive to the inescapable grime that etched the city, there wasn’t anything that could hurt him, until one fateful night out from the Monarch Theatre and into the infamous Crime Alley. This was the birthplace of Batman. This was the psychological detriment of an innocent eight-year old boy who lost his parents to a mugger that would change who he was forevermore. An origin story bittersweet as this one goes without saying, Batman wouldn’t have came to be had it not been for Joe Chill that night. Bruce Wayne would’ve never experienced Gotham from its darkest, deepest roots, only left to guess at what lurks out there at night from the confines of his mansion just outside the city limits. A selfish thought for an unfortunate turn of events but, the table’s turn when the hero we know and love has a score to settle: taking crime by the heartstrings it never had and turning that dark heart into light.

Gotham City

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The darkest plain of existence in fictional America. It’s the city of corruption, darkness, and deceit. It’s the city that took his parents, Thomas and Martha Wayne. Gotham serves as a place consumed by its own dirty pleasures with no plans of being cleansed. The city from the ground up is a walking Gothic exhibit and it’s an architectural feat all the same, made prevalent in Chip Kidd’s Death by Design and Snyder’s Gates of Gotham. Batman makes up a good percentage of the city entailed, emphasis on good, but if a city with its own criminally insane asylum doesn’t leave you dead inside or deathly worried, you are truly a Batman fan.

The Bat-Family

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Batman might prefer to work alone but he’s not afraid to lean on a few shoulders. By far the best support group you could ask for, Bruce Wayne has a small task force he can call family. Friends, friends of friends, friends’ family, he’s practically kin. Robin, all collectively, Batgirl (accompanied by the Birds of Prey), Alfred Pennyworth, Leslie Thompkins (which has to be the most influential if not least noticed person in Wayne’s life; she nursed him all his childhood and has been there for him every reunion at Crime Alley), Commissioner James Gordon, Lucius Fox, he’s not only got connections to be Batman, he’s got the loyalty and perseverance that inspire him to do just that. Every one involved is just as much Batman as Batman is Batman. In conclusion, Batman isn’t Batman, he’s Bat-family Man. Sorry if that was a trifle harsh on the tongue (and mind) but it’s true.

The Rogues Gallery

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Without question, Batman has the most interesting, depressing, dark, horrifying, cast of creepy criminals. It could be that Batman creates all his enemies, in the case of the Joker, so it seems like he has the time. Although, it could be just by chance where a new villain takes to the streets to challenge all of Gotham and that includes the big, bad, Bat. All of Batman’s foes are creative, some might say gimmicky, and disturbed because they are! It’s too much of a roster to handle at once and it keeps growing. Luckily for us we get their antics one issue at a time. For Batman, it comes as a second thought. Where we see scary and overwhelming, he sees another cowardly lot. It’s great that he can take things we’d be shocked about and down right point a stone face at it. Batman knows underneath all the gilded pride, there’s a shell of a person inside the crudest of villains (maybe except for Joker, that guy lost his mind and not even the World’s Greatest Detective can find it.)

The Joker

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Every great hero has a great archenemy and the Joker fits that bill (sorry, Hugo Strange is a definite second.) In a strange way, the Joker’s almost a reflection of Batman; dark, mysterious, unpredictable. Their complete polar opposites like yin and yang, yet they belong on the same spectrum. Both underwent a form of PTSD; Joker creates an alternate personality to ignore his true reality while Batman overcame it by making a change for the better, if not for himself then for everyone else. Other than the likelihood that the Joker and the Batman are the ultimate good vs. evil match made in heaven (and hell), it was something of an accident. You thought the Batman had a history, wait until you get a hold on the Clown Prince of Crime!

The point of reference I stand by here is Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke, and there are other graphic novels that tell of the Joker’s origin and psyche (Batman: The Man Who Laughs and Azzarello’s Joker for example). It was the 1980s that brought back the revival of the Joker both through comics and movies. According to Moore, Joker was once a regular Gothamite. He was a comedian at the time, low on money, with a baby on the way. The city made him fall desperate however, and in response joined a group of lackeys to pull off a heist at the Ace Chemicals building. Of course, he was set up to be the masked Red Hood, an anonymous identity shared with the crime world over, and sure enough, he became Batman’s fall guy. A run-in with the Bat lead to a chase which lead to a nasty splash and thus the Joker was born.

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Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman shows a similar tale, with a Joker that has credit to his name. Jack Nicholson played Jack Napier, the only name associated with the Joker (and if I’m not mistaken, there was a chat between Batman and Oracle in the first game of the Arkham series where the name Jack White was stated alongside a mention of Joker). Again, a heist to steal from the safe of the Ace Chemicals building takes place but, we’re shown a Joker sans Red Hood. Escaping on his own, Jack is the last of the criminals to face Batman and unlike The Killing Joke’s scene of events, Burton’s Batman attempts to save Jack from falling into his chemical bath demise. Precariously later, the man falls in and comes out of the polluted water a ghostly figure with red lips, green hair, and an undefeatable, maniacal cackle and grin.

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Batman #1 in 1940 starred the Joker as the unoriginal, original gangster, fully based on Paul Leni’s adapted 1928 film The Man Who Laughs. His fashion sense and overall appearance, while off-putting, was different and new from what we’re used to from a thug’s usual garb. It was the comic that showed us a villain with an insane caliber like no other (I’d also like to mention the nod made out to the first battle between Batman and Joker at the bridge, which can also be seen in The Death of the Family story arc).

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He, ladies and gentleman, is the jack of all trades, master of none. At times, Joker is an innovative villain, surprising everyone that gets in his way. Hand-buzzers, acid-spitting boutonniere, gag weapons, and his personal favorite, his signature staple, laughing gas! It’s his uncertain vanity that causes us to be the butt end of the joke, for in his eyes, the Joker sees a world without smiles. Despite his twisted take on a statement like that, I’m sure he meant it dearly as a comedian once. I’m afraid his mind remains an incorruptible trap to himself and to others.

The Influences/Adaptations

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Okay, I know what you’re thinking. Holy Bat-nipples, Bat-credit cards, Bat-puns, surreal Bat-behavior (of the 1960s in particular) and of course, all-around just a bad Batman, Batman! And I agree, a Bad-man while not unintentional is a bad thing, it’s just a silly take on what serious tones there are to be had. The movie spin-off of the television series was a diabolical rule the world situation, but the mannerisms and appearances were too corky and colorful to think of it otherwise. Unlike the Schumacher films, which were an unintentional and a complete unnecessary use of camp, some may argue its revival from its 1960 predecessor was appreciated (I’m reaching here).

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The first time I could make sense of beating the dead horse was from Batman & Robin, with its overkill of the very puns that created the only villain suitable for them, none other than Mr. Freeze. Within the first ten minutes, were given a hefty flashback of the campy Batman we used to know. Themed henchman in trench coats and goggles for what looks like skiing but is contrarily used for their ice skating. Put simply, Schumacher made campy look intentionally bad in an unintentional way. Anyone who’s seen it before the television series won’t have the same reaction: a fun and funny Batman alongside a naive, but loveable Robin the Boy Wonder that’s approachable to both adults and kids. I will say this though, Batman Forever was the better Schumacher film as far as campy reminiscence goes. Still, needs more Batusi.

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Now that that rant’s out of the way, time for a rave! Since I hopped between decades, let’s get to the meat of it. Batman The Animated Series. Need I say more? Well then, Batman The Animated Series is without a withering of a doubt the epitome of childhood animation not just for the 90s kids and crowds but for all of time. The show encompassed dark themes normally not seen in cartoons and its contrast stood out, again, to adults and children. It’s a cartoon but a drama, situated at all things decent being pulled and tugged all aloof for a world that was not too far from our own. There were your average street peddlers with guns, the believable group of ruffians that occasionally took the limelight, yet we all knew the real rogues to look forward to.

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Batman’s villains had a touch of humanity in them and how they coped with reality was both a psychological and disparaging condition. In one way you feel for their hardship, and in another, you can’t stand their malpractice to overcome it. All of them were given a spotlight, origins and everything personal. Even the lesser known villains had their own episodes (Baby Doll anyone?). You witnessed their transformations from innocent bearings and sometimes not-so-innocent bearings to the hardy, cold criminals they are today; lost in a world already lost to them. Clayface, Harvey Dent, Mr. Freeze, all of which are sad cases, however, two wrongs don’t make a right. This might sound awful to you, but I only got two seasons of BTAS under my utility belt growing up, until recently I watched the remaining seasons, so when the show was cancelled I was devastated. Then I was introduced to Samurai Jack and all was well! Though nothing replaces what BTAS did or is. Period.

Yes, the 60s and 90s have been kind to the Dark Knight, thanks to the lady’s man Adam West and the entrancing, deep voice of Kevin Conroy. Although I think it’s time we pay our dues to the characters that had their influence taken from the Batman. Let’s start with the familiar faces.

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Zorro, a fictional vigilante being the embodiment of another fictional vigilante is awesome in theory but even better in practice. An impressionable, young Bruce Wayne had his first experience with justice from the silver screen. The sight of a hero in clad, the mystery behind the man in the mask, the daredevil escapades, and the change one man could provide excited him. It was a first impression taken to heart and lived out to a T. Like Batman, Zorro has his guise which caused many a double take, as well as the acrobatics and disappearing acts that came along with it. He’s also nothing short of charm and some teases during battle or in regular conversation. Zorro even has his own cave, conducting alchemy experiments from time to time, gathering notes all alone out in the desert. One of the first influences and certainly most prominent in the Batman mythos, Zorro’s the definition of a hero’s hero. (Honorable mention goes to the Grey Ghost, voiced by Adam West, in BTAS; an inspiration of Bruce Wayne’s during his childhood, but that’s its own different story).

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Other mysterious masked men come flowing forth, such as the radio dramas The Shadow, The Green Hornet alongside Kato, The Lone Ranger with his Native American friend Tonto, and The Cisco Kid with his Mexican sidekick Pancho. The homologous heroes from comics like V for Vendetta, The Phantom Stranger, The Question, Spawn, Judge Dredd, Shadowhawk, Moon Knight, and Morbius (those last three were Marvel characters; just testing you, but all the same!) and even villains like Batzarro, Cat-Man, Ragman, and The Spectre try to steal the Batman’s thunder. Then there are the obvious adaptations from the detective genre with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes with his companion Dr. John Watson and Poe’s aforementioned C. Auguste Dupin, but recently I’ve heard of a man that holds true to all attributes above.

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Natty Bumppo, the pioneer woodsman of James Fenimore Cooper’s The Leatherstocking Tales, serves as a friendly figure, quickly gaining the honor from neighboring Indian tribes. He comes prepared as a hunter and interpreter, creating bonds between his various Indian brothers. Natty even has different aliases like the Batman, such as Hawkeye, Pathfinder, and Deerslayer. The struggle with him though serves a similar purpose to the Caped Crusader’s, which involves dealing with a daunting reality that seems uncontrollable. How Batman combats the crime world is reciprocated in Cooper’s five-novel series in that Natty Bumppo has to cope with the vanishing wilderness that is the life he’s only known. Cultural assimilation was something of a forced respect in the 19th century for Native Americans, but it’s this deeply imbedded feeling of self that Natty is afraid to lose. It’s argued Batman should change his approach, and sometimes all together, with what can be comprised of a solipsistic, uphill battle, but when there’s good deeds to be done, how can you say no? What we call obsession, he calls succession; with every fighting moment he has, there’s a chance to make the world slightly less bleak. Natty Bumppo, like the rest, are filled to the brim with good intentions.

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Here’s comes the heavy stuff. You saw it coming; parodies. Batman has had his repertoire of funny outlets and you’d think someone as brooding as Batman couldn’t possibly be ebullient. There are those who manage… and they do it so well! College Humor, Dorkly, Robot Chicken, assorted memes, Batman Begins (seriously, his voice was butchered and it’s not to remain mysterious, it’s an evident case of forced strep throat!), Mad Magazine, SNL’s Ambiguously Gay Duo, and apparently a 1960s cartoon I’ve never heard of that Bob Kane was in on the joke with, Courageous Cat and Minute Mouse. There are cartoons, to my knowledge, you can put a lineup to as well. Darkwing Duck, Spongebob’s Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy, Scooby-Doo’s Blue Falcon and Dynomutt (parodying Ace the Bat-Hound), Rat Man from The Justice Friends segment in Dexter’s Laboratory, The Tommy from Codename: Kids Next Door, just to name a few. As you can see, no matter where you place him, clearly our Masked Manhunter has quite the aspiring and inspiring crowd of characters.

He’s the Batman

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“I am vengeance, I am the night, I am Batman!”
– Batman, Bruce Wayne

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

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There are many conversation pieces to be had about Batman since his evolution with every iteration (I probably would’ve paraded all of them!) He’s an introspective character that digs deep on a personal, psychological, and philosophical level for his readers, viewers, and players. Batman defines our struggles, heavy minds, successes, and losses. For that, we thank the talents of Bob Kane and Bill Finger for giving us the touch of humanity everyone deserves.

Learning Curve

Why did the blogger cross the road?

     To get to the nearest hot spot. I don’t know how to start one of these entries, so here you go. An introduction if any.

Blogs are new to me and it seems like a better opportunity to get the word out on all things I’m devoted to. In a sense I understand blogging is either a formal or informal medium (and just so you know, I plan on practicing in both ways; you saw my joke, didn’t you?) but for the most part I found the need to share my mind.

I’m a writer. I don’t worry about labels like amateur or novice, it’s only when I get to become a professional at it that scares me. The act of someone walking up and saying to me, “You’re a master,” fills me to the brim with anxiety. I’ve been humble in all aspects of my being, I assure you, especially when someone addresses me with appraisal. Anything I hope to write won’t be a commercial success and I don’t expect it to. The writing process for me is open minded and I believe it reflects that. Never will I post something I’m not satisfied with; if I’m not happy with it for myself, who’s going to be?

Trying something new, not to stipulate that you do, can be personally worthwhile or life diluting. Every choice matters. To say that you’ll sit down today and read through someone else’s ramblings is surreal considering that someone has taken the same exact time to sit down and speak (type) to you indirectly, yet on a personal level without being in the same vicinity. Now isn’t that special? Please say yes…

Don’t take this as an irksome piece of rhetoric. If I had the chance to sit down with you, not from a technical standpoint, I’d be the Gadfly of Athens surely in your soup. Again, I’ve an open mind about subject matter of choice and I pick up on topics fairly well. I will say I tend to get more than introverted when it comes to sharing ideas though. I just figure, what good is a thought if it’s not being shared. All-consuming and solipsistic is not my selfish intent. More rather I wish to leave you with the impression that I’m the person you’d want to befriend IRL. Of course, until I have my own book signing sessions, that won’t be a problem. Not that it’s a problem. Currently speaking.

Right now you’re probably thinking, you know what, I won’t say. I’ll leave it up to you to assume instead.

Now to end my first blog… Thanks for fleeting reading!