Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Pokemoning OKC pt. 1

Pokemoning Okc: The adventure and exploration.

"It's over there!"


"over there" I point to a back yard along the side of the road.

"oh I see it!" My friend, Steven whips out his phone and aims it at the back yard.

"did you get it?!" I ask grabbing his shoulder and turning him slightly towards me so I can see his screen.

"No." he said "I ran out of pokeballs"

"How? I have like 200 of them?!"

That's how it started, that's how my getting off work at 4am turned into an adventure of exploration. The plan, was to drive Steven to a few pokestops and get him some items what it turned into. Was so. Much. More.

We head towards my house as the sun began to rise and decide to head out on foot. I needed to pick up some smokes from a gas station down the road that have them for 75 cents off. If I'm going to get lung cancer. I'm going to get it as cheaply as possible.

I live between midtown, the Asian district and the Plaza. That should give you a pretty good idea of the area. We walk a ways before coming to our first pokestops. We loot it greedily preparing to head to the next stop.

Except we don't. We ourselves stop and look inside the record shop that isn't open yet and take a glance around.

"I've been meaning to come here and see if they have any Ray Charles records for my daughter, she loves Ray Charles but I haven't gotten around to it yet"

The place in all honesty, is a mess of old albums and records. Someone has attempted to put order into the chaos but it looks like chaos is gaining the upper hand. There are piles and piles of old record and one of those bass drums kids play in marching bands. Everything is old and you know if you walked in it'd smell of dust and cardboard. We take a few more seconds to glance around before we start heading down the street again.

We don't go far before hitting another pokestops. This time it has a picture of a trolley.

"why is there a trolley here?" I ask as I look around. To me this has just been the bus stop I see people sitting at when I leave for work. That's when we notice the plaque.

I stand and narrate as fast as I can the tail of the trolley that use to be on this side of town that would take students from here to the school that was north of us. That's when I notice the metal framed trolley art price that's slightly covered by bus stop and bushes.

"huh... That's weird, I never noticed this before" we take a quick gander and went about our way.

We make it to the gas station where they keep the more affordable death sticks. I pay and begin our walk again. We are headed to a park that looks similar to a dog bone Nintendo controller. I start to head for the cross walk but before I know it Steven is walking across the road.

"What are you doing!?" I exclaim as I go to follow him confirming my mother's suspicions on if my friends jumped off a bridge, I would also jump off that very same bridge.

"I bike everywhere dude, I don't have time for cross walks" Steven speaks as he meanders to the other side of the street with my inexperienced jaywalking tail trotting behind him. That's right, I'm a rule breaker now. No pokemon are off limits. I am a trainer that can't be trained. What next!? Going into a store with no intention of buying Anything!? Jumping a fence!? This was getting exciting.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

5 Reasons You Might Want to Check Out Pokemon GO

Be Social: Pokemon Go compels you to talk with someone you normally wouldn't probably a LOT of someones. And it's a brilliant icebreaker. Seriously. You'll end up having a 10-minute conversation with someone you'd have little to no reason to say hello to, even in friendly Oklahoma. I've met more of my neighbors in the past three days than in three years and I'm damn outgoing.

• Engage with the world: When is the last time you really explored your neighborhood? I live in a historical area and It's a huge, wonderful world out there. Go explore it.

This is the Pokemon you always wanted: Seriously, the tech has finally caught up with the original spirit of the game, which is awesome.

Get off your couch: You have to actually move to make the game walk. Car rides don't add kilometers. Walking does, so does bike-riding. It makes me proud and happy to see my ENTIRE neighborhood out and about in the evenings. That's pretty magical. 

• The world needs more things that bring us joy: In light of the past week? There's plenty of bad news. I'm not saying that the bad news should be ignored or dismissed. I'm saying that in the absence of any positivity despair thrives. Don't let it. Find something that brings you joy and pursue it with wild abandon.

• Bonus Round: It's ridiculously fun. You never lost that love of a good scavenger hunt. This is an epic, global scavenger hunt. That's pretty fucking cool.

Once you join in, come find me in The Paseo. I'll be hunting Pikachu until he's mine!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Seveneves: a very not-little book about the importance of the moon

Neal Stephenson doesn't do anything half-assed. Following his career from the beginning when he came screaming onto the scene with Snow Crash - a slick, funny smart younger sibling of Burning Chrome by William Gibson, he was immediately recognized as worth your attention. A gifted storyteller with a wild imagination, Stephenson stories are rich with the unexpected and clever. A lot's change since Crash, and Stephenson has revealed himself as a little bit of a polymath-cum-renaissance man. It shows in every one of his increasingly dense tomes that show off his big, sexy brain. His books, if lobbed from a window would (hopefully) instantly kill the unlucky pedestrian below. They also double as a bludgeon, or as fellow Okie Geek Joshua Unruh is fond pointing out: a doorstop. 
I adored Snow Crash for what it was: fun, funny and fast. It was the last of Stephenson's books of a manageable size. Since then he's been wowing us with HUGE stories filled with intricate world-building and lush narratives that we inhabit for weeks, sometimes months as we experience the wonderful. 
Stephenson isn't just asking for your attention. He's the real deal, baby - he wants a commitment and if you're willing, he will take you on a trip that you can't get out of your head. But only after you've got the lingo down (no, really - Anathem has an actual glossary) and you can describe, from stem to stern the world in which all the action happens. Along the way you'll meet fascinating characters — in The Baroque Cycle, follow the adventures of the plucky (and not particularly lucky) Jack Shaftoe, a syphilitic (of course) former navy man-turned-pirate as "The Imp of the Perverse" leads him on improbable adventures. While telling his and several other people's stories, Stephenson manages to inform readers of the history (part of) world, especially the provenance of the modern financial system, primarily dealing with coinage. Yeah, it's that kind of story. Stephenson's works, when broken down by plot description, sound like PhD dissertation topics. Isaac Newton makes regular appearances.
It's wonderful. It's daunting. For someone who's thrilled at the prospect of spending no less than two months on a trilogy, it's so firmly up my alley. 

"The challenge of writing a novel in which some of the most important entities are rocks is that some of the most important entities are rocks." - Charles Yu, Sunday Book Review - New York Times, 27 May 2015

Seveneves is a treatise on the future of the human race via our scientific achievements in the middle of the 21st Century. It was my favorite book of 2015, and as my fellow hosts and sweet husband can attest, I couldn't shut up about it for months. It took me a good month to read, which is unheard of. I'm always snatching a few more minutes to continue the story, and I read really, really fast. This one took me what felt like forever, with more joy every minute. 
It begins with an unemotional account of the day we lost the moon. In the telling of this event, the author treats us, in hindsight to a dispassionate-yet-intricate description of what happened and it's effect on the characters — of which there will be very few in a short time. A few days later, the world's leading scientific minds arrive at the ramifications of the loss of the moon, and the importance of that beautiful orb hanging in our sky. 
If you are not comfortable with loving and detailed descriptions of celestial bodies, (and, okay - I really don't understand, but,) I can firmly say that this is not the book for you. Part of the joy of this book is the loving descriptions of that beautiful rock that keeps the tides in working order, and how much we would miss her were she gone. Succinctly — that's the story of Seveneves — and that's not the story at all. The opening action seems almost random until you are firmly in the story. Not a word or a moment is wasted. Nothing is unnecessary. The editing must have been brutal. What remains is jaw-dropping.
It's that kind of story. 
What follows is an impossibly good narrative about space, science, human technology and advancement told in detail that would, in less capable hands, make the most ardent science wonk squirm. And yet, when told in Stephenson's passionately curious and ridiculously informed voice: the novel is part tech manual, part compassionate meditation on the best and absolute worst that humanity has to offer. 
The result is simply staggering. It's all the things the author has to say about science in all its geeky detail — it's beautiful, it's hopeful and it's the author (and his characters) at their nerdy, curious and absolute best. 

(And if there's any objective way to express how profoundly this book moved me, it took me six months to be able to articulate it in words, rather than enthusiastic high-fives - real or emoji.)

Sunday, January 31, 2016

I like big books and I cannot lie ... (I tackle doorstop fiction so you don't have to).

I am an exceptionally fast reader. I always have been. I don't skim, I don't "speed read", I read voraciously and anything I can get my hands on. So, while the sight of a weighty tome, one that could be used as a doorstop, might make some readers quail, if I'm hooked within a few pages, it's on. Knowing that I will have something to read for the next few days is simply a relief. Reading is something I absolutely cannot do without — it was my first addiction and earned me the completely original nickname "bookworm" among my cousins. Books have been my companion for some very lonely times and places. You can plunk me down in the corner with a good book and probably forget about me for a while. My mother told me "when you're a reader, you never have a reason to be scared or lonely, ever." 
I will read just about anything I can get my hands on, and when I can fall into a narrative that I'm loving, I can think of far worse scenarios. I'm discerning, but not overly concerned what anyone else thinks of my choices and neither should you. It's true that reading is good for your brain, and a good narrative is as much escape as mental exercise. And while it should be pleasurable, something that you're not enjoying is absolutely okay to put down. Yep, I've put down Catch-22 more than a few times. I know that Kurt Vonnegut endorsed it, and kudos, Mr. Heller. It doesn't speak to me, at least yet. 
I used to feel guilty about not finishing books that I didn't enjoy, plugging through until the end until I realized, it could be just as much about you as the author. It's not the right time for that book. Put it down, and if it's something you really want to finish, pick it up again in a few months. My friend described a certain book as a "joyful experience" today &mdash that was the perfect turn of phrase. Anything that isn't for you — unless you're simply in a masochistic frame of mind — it's alright to let find you again when it's time, which may be never. 
Meanwhile, I'll be over in the corner with something to read. The really big ones? I'm thrilled to embark on that journey and let you know whether you should jump on that train. Maybe you can put this down and go grab some Pahlaniuk, which I HIGHLY recommend. He's a Hemingway, never giving more information than you need. Make no mistake: I do not believe that because a book is long, it's good. For example, I am not a big Tolkein fan. I don't enjoy two pages to describe something that takes two sentences. When you delve into an author, you're asking to trust them, and be trusted in return. Any author who is not complicit in this agreement is okay to put down. It's a relationship — if it's not mutually beneficial, move on. Meanwhile, I'll be over here, nose in a big book. Don't bother me, I'm reading and working on my elevator pitch for this book I want you all to read. 

(Originally published on my own blog, Life and Other Fatal Pursuits).

Thursday, December 17, 2015

My life with Star Wars

Later tonight, my wife and I are going to see "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" in the theater. This will actually be the first new Star Wars movie I have seen in the theater since "Phantom Menace" back in 1999.

I have actually had a turbulent time with Star Wars throughout my life.

My first memory of Star Wars was actually the trailer for the movie back in 1977. My father and I were watching a movie and it came on during the previews. The lasers and the spaceships and the special effects made both our jaws drop. We turned to each other and said "Oh, we have to see this."

And we did. My father took me to see the movie at North Park when I was eight years old. It was the summer of 1977.

Like the rest of the world, I fell in love immediately. I wanted all the stuff. I remember collecting toy proofs of purchase to send away to get a Boba Fett action figure. I'm sure I watched the "Star Wars Holiday Special" on CBS which probably at the time seemed good (again I was under the age of 10), but I remember nothing of it except for the cartoon with Boba Fett in it.

When "Empire Strikes Back" came out in 1980, I had my first experience with a spoiler. I was going to see the movie that weekend, but before that I was at a Cub Scout event with another kid who had already seen it. He told me that Darth Vader was Luke's dad. It was still an amazing movie!

In 1983, everyone was ready to see what we thought was just going to be the next chapter in the Star Wars sage, not the last! I went with my dad and some of his friends to a theater in Norman to see "Return of the Jedi". I remember the line was wrapped around the block. Back then movies were shown in just one theater, so you had to wait for that one to get out before you could see the next one.

Nowadays, they just open every theater in the cinema, until they're full.

After Return of the Jedi, my love of Star Wars waned as nothing new was forthcoming. My toys disappeared, and I think they might have actually been buried in my backyard.

For 15 years, I had no interest in Star Wars with the exception of watching the movies every now and then on VHS and then DVD.

In 1999, the whole world got excited again as a new Star Wars movie was getting released. I was just as excited. My friends and I picked an obscure theater in Midwest City rather than the mega cinemas to go see it on opening night so we wouldn't have to deal with the crowds which isn't much different than what I'm doing this year. We showed up at noon for the movie which was going to premiere that night. We wanted to be first in line. We were. In fact we were the only ones in line for the entire day. Eventually, they let us in, and I watched the last newly released Star Wars movie in a theater.

"Phantom Menace" was so bad, that I lost all interest in Star Wars for ten years. I watched "Attack of the Clones" and "Revenge of the Sith" when they came out on DVD, but not in the theater. As far as I was concerned it was over.

In 2009, I started discovering the expanded universe in comics and novels. Also, my son and I started watching "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" television show. Both were evidence to me of what Star Wars could be like if any one other than George Lucas was creating content.

It was excellent!!!

When news came that Disney was buying Star Wars from George Lucas and producing new films, I was overjoyed. I have nothing personally against Lucas. He created a wonderful galaxy, but he was truly at his best when he worked in collaboration with others like Lawrence Kasdan on "Empire Strikes Back" who is, BTW, also co-writing "The Force Awakens".

When Lucas tried to create something on his own, we got midichloreans and Jar Jar Binks.

The new age of Star Wars truly began in the summer of September of 2014 with the release of the novel "A New Dawn" and the premiere of "Star Wars: Rebels".

And, I have been along for the ride the entire time. I have read all the books and comics (with the exception of "Tarkin"). Everything released so far has been wonderful.

I can't remember the last time I have been excited about a movie, and I promise to avoid any spoilers on here or in social media.

For nearly 40 years, I've been on this roller coaster ride with Star Wars and I look forward to 40 more!

So, what's you're experience with Star Wars? Let me know in the comments...

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Public radio and I are BFFs, FYI.

I love to work, and nothing prepares you for the first surprise of realizing you love your job. You no longer see it as a thing that you do between fun times, but as an enriching, engaging important thing in your life. I had the pleasure of that at Oklahoma Gazette -- a haven for free-thinking liberal minded people. We affectionately call it "the blue bubble", and it's packed to the gills with NPR listening, local-food eating rational, (I admit, some days I refer to them as "sane". I realize the implications.) loving people who love their state, their neighbors and wow, do they love their NPR. I suspect a lot of it is so we don't feel quite as alone. And then there's the local personalities, who have actual personalities and thankfully have nothing to do with their distant cousins in the wild, with their attempts at blue material during prime broadcast time and whose idea of "challenging and insightful" include finding new ways to shame the newest ingenue pop star who might have different ideas about her body than a OKC morning radio deejay.
KGOU/KOSU have been a dramatically important part of my life since I was about 17 when I was flipping through the dial in my 1987 Honda Civic and realized that this "talk radio" as I always called it when my parents had it on, was actually interesting. Here were these lucky people whose job it was to get on the mic and tell people about what was going on out there on this green and blue ball we share. And They did it in the most engaging, authoritative and welcoming way. Here was a chance for me to be alone and tune into a learning experience that felt tailored to me. None of that stuffy lecture-hall stuff. This was in turns funny, insightful and relevant.  
Then one day not long after, that summer, I was up in Stillwater, Oklahoma doing a "nerd camp" at Oklahoma State University -- this one was Biophysics. There were these exceptionally cool ladies and dudes and they were so cool and mature and possessed of this incredible nonchalance. Smoking their cigarettes and helping me (ME! Awkward, gawky, bespectacled me!) get a rebellious new haircut and dye it a shocking color (mom was cool, Dad was less than thrilled but not over the moon). We did it all while listening to, you guessed it: NPR. If this is what the cool, smart kids were loving, maybe my parents were right for once.
Fast-forward a few years and I was coasting along with my best friend, visiting her adopted hometown of Los Angeles. It was a perfect early summer day and we were cruising with the top down along the Pacific Coast Highway. We were ridiculously young and had all the answers. Ira Glass and his new-ish show was on and I was introduced not only to Ira, (whom after 20 years of keeping each other company on weekend mornings, are on a first-name-basis), but to David Sedaris, who my stepmother was especially fond of. During this broadcast I found out why -- his charming and self-deprecating manner combined with a razor-sharp, innate cleverness made us instant friends. It was a perfect day, gone too soon and well-preserved in that romantic haze that makes all memories like that sweet. I have countless examples when Public Radio has played a part in one of those, and I treasure every one. 
I am a journalist, and as I have grown and matured in my life and in my work, NPR has always been my home. While I was living in China and feeling desperately homesick, I would jump online and listen to streaming broadcast from Oklahoma. Since falling into journalism, I have learned a lot about what makes it truly unique. Listening to it in whatever location I find myself, and learning the particulars of a new station is as natural as unpacking your things and finding that perfect spot for that special knick-knack that you have carried with you on every move, even though you know that it's a minor detail. It's what makes a house a home.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

It's all books all the time this week on Okie Geek, and just in case you missed something, we got your back!

...And Episode 10 of Okie Geek Podcast is a wrap, and boy it was more fun than a barrel of monkeys We could have talked for hours. Put a bunch of nerds in a room -- imagine that. Put a bunch of incredibly well-read people with diverse and convergent interests, well -- that's a party.

If you're curious about any of the books we talked about on the show, Here's a list of most of those mentioned, including those added by our kind listeners.

SO, in a sort of particular order, mentioned on the most recent episode (Aug.8 2015 episode  of Okie Geek Podcast, here goes:

(AHEM: *READ LOCAL - Okie writers!)

Station Eleven - Emily St. John Mandel

Teenagers from the Future by Timothy Callahan, ed.

The Years of Lyndon Johnson by Robert A. Caro (currently four out of a five-book series)

The Maze Runner Trilogy by James Dashner

The Dresden Files by James Butcher

Ready Player One by Earnest Cline

The MANY short stories of R.A. Lafferty*

Star Wars: Aftermath by Chuck Wendig

The Lord of the Rings trilogy by Tolkien, it comes up a lot.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

The Tripod Trilogy by John Christopher

The Flood (Oryx & Crake) Trilogy by Margaret Atwood

The Long and Faraway Gone by Lou Berney*

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

The Dark Tower Series - Stephen King

Hero for Hire by C.B. Pratt*

Legends of the Lightwalkers by Courtney Cantrell*

UPCOMING BOOKS you heard about here first, possibly:

Armada - Ernest Cline

the Cinderspire Series by Jim Butcher (First book releases 9-29, The Aeronaut's Windlass)

EVERYTHING by Tom Robbins. You're welcome. Start with Another Roadside Attraction and have tissues handy for Jitterbug Perfume.

And just a few that we didn't have time to mention, but put them on your list:

The Book Thief  by Marcus Zusak

Shades of London series by Maureen Johnson

Horns and NOS482 by Joe Hill

the Odd Thomas series by Dean Koontz

His Dark Materials (trilogy) by Philip Pullman

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach (and then go read EVERYTHING this woman has written.)

The Psychopath Test and Men Who Stare at Goats by Jon Ronson

Pirate Hunter: The True Story of Captain Kidd and An Underground Education by Richard Zacks

Agent Zig Zag by Ben Macintyre

... and check back often, there's bound to be more to come!

Meanwhile - Happy reading! We'd love to add your recommendations! You can comment here, or you can find us on Facebook and Twitter, too!

Okie Geek Podcast consists of our fearless leader, Micheal Cross, along with the so well-respected, erudite and witty they take him out in public Chase Harvick, bookslinging (and writing) badass, Joshua Unruh and the wordslinger-for-hire Devon Green.