This isn't necessarily meant to be a frightening post, but instead of the next Movie Monday, let's talk about a few books I read recently:
Cinema Alchemist, by Roger Christian
I do think it's interesting to learn how so many of the props and set pieces of Alien and Star Wars came to be, and I like the notion of this guy getting regular work because he was great at his job, but holy cats does this book need an editor. I assume books like this usually come together through a series of taped interviews more or less transcribed by a ghost writer, and so you might get a couple of things mentioned more than once as they come up in different conversations. Christian constantly repeats himself, in the space of a couple of pages, describing the same things in the same way. It's an irritating read.
Hyperbole and a Half, by Allie Brosh
At first, I kind of hated this. I found myself powering through in the quest for a meaningless 'I finished a book!' point, and gradually came to see how it could probably really help someone to make a book like this. I'm sure there must have been one story in there I liked. I don't know, I probably shouldn't even include a capsule review here.
Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?, by Alyssa Mastromonaco
This is the memoir of a deputy Chief of Staff in Obama's White House. The fun part of this book is reading about how a woman who absolutely knows not only where her towel is, but where to find the towels of every member of a presidential campaign, or indeed, the White House, gets her job done. While it might be a matter of personal taste, I think that true tales of logistical efficiency can sound exciting.
While the book was written before our last election, there are some passages that are just teetering on heart wrenching in light of our current situation. To wit,
Obama does not hold a grudge... As a boss, he isn't someone who makes you feel like you have to prove yourself; there's no external pressure to make you procrastinate or take shortcuts. He never yelled or demeaned people–even if you let him down, he would move on if you admitted it up front.
The quickest way for people to lose confidence in your ability to ever make a decision is for you to pass the buck, shrug your shoulders, or otherwise wuss out. Learning how to become a decision maker, and how you ultimately justify your choices, can define who you are.
The Freelance Manifesto, by Joey Korenman
When I was in college, I used to read all of these expensive British art magazines. I'd sit in my local Borders for hours not buying anything (it's so weird those stores are gone now) and read Computer Arts and probably, like, the official Photoshop Magazine, and a bunch of others, and figure if I picked up a couple of shortcuts I didn't know or a good technique I use on something, then it was pretty much worth it.
Each year they'd run down the same general topics - here's the summer typography issue! And eventually, I saw this article about how to do a guy-getting-hit-by-lightning visual effect. It talked about the After Effects 'lightning' effect and how you can show the flash of a skeleton by matching your actor's movement with a skeleton in Poser, and how you can composite those elements together, and the most important thing about it to me was that it was pretty much exactly how I'd already done the effect on my own a year earlier for an episode of my hockey-themed talk show, Around the Boards.
It felt great to confirm that I was on the right track, but a big part of what I got from that issue was that maybe I don't need to spend all my time absorbing 101-level advice. If you read enough self-help books, hopefully you stop needing so much self-help. Or at least, you're already familiar with what you're going to find inside.
So a decade later and I'm reading this book about how to find, develop, and maintain freelance clients, and of course I'm not doing every last thing the book happens to recommend, but I felt like, hey, I'm on the right track over here. I'm not sure if it would have been better or worse if everything the book had to say was a huge surprise to me. It'd be exciting, but... no. It's easy to say that I wish I'd gotten ahold of this book years ago, I think it's even better to see that things are going okay.