Category Archives: Writer

Science-Fiction Writer Kevin J. Anderson

Strange Man with author Kevin J. Anderson

Strange Man with author Kevin J. Anderson

Kevin J. Anderson (Web|Twitter) is the author of the only set of books I read in middle school: The Young Jedi Knights series. He’s also the co-author of, like, a thousand Dune books, and among his 40+ bestsellers he has over 23 million books in print. If you’re interested in science-fiction, you’ve probably read his work.

From my diary (May 28, 2014):

Over the course of the weekend [at Houston's ComicPalooza] we saw a lot of the writer Kevin J. Anderson whose Young Jedi Knight series I gobbled up in Middle School. In our few exchanges I asked how he managed to be so prolific and he answered simply, “I’m always writing.” He then proceeded to tell me about how he dictated a chapter on his drive to the Denver airport, which he immediately sent out to be transcribed, and then spent the flight editing two other chapters. He says he averages 2-3 chapters a day. …

My biggest takeaway from my time with him came hen I inquired about his method. Before doing any writing he carefully outlines and summarizes each chapter. He compared his craft to architecture stating, “It’s like a blueprint. I’m not going to start putting up walls and a ceiling saying, ‘Oh, let’s see what happens.”

I suppose this is why I spend so much time digging parts of me out of the rubble.

Kevin J. Anderson's Awful Giraffe

This was actually dictated. And then edited on the spot. He averages 2-3 giraffes a day.

 

Actor, Writer and Greek God Kevin Sorbo

Kevin Sorbo, Greek God.

Kevin Sorbo (web|wiki) is an actor, writer, and the nicest Greek God I’ve ever met. Born in Mound, MN, he attended Minnesota State University Moorhead before he realized he could do literally anything else – and so he went west. There he became famous for the title role in Hercules: The Legendary Journey (’95-’99) and, later, as … someone… in Andromeda (’00-’05).

When I met Mr. Sorbo at the 2011 Twin Cities Book Festival speaking about his memoir True Strength, I’ll admit that I expected the worst. Even as an outsider I knew him only as “Hercules” and presumed he, like a long list of others in similar positions, would actively distance himself from the role(s) that made him famous. Oh was I wrong. Leaning on the podium, unscripted, Mr. Sorbo casually chatted with the audience, gladly answering the questions fired at him ranging from “What was it like to have a stroke – and how did it affect your sex life?” to “Tell us about Kull the Conquerer”, which isn’t even a question.

I can only imagine what kind of questions he gets at conventions.

Enjoy!

Why this giraffe has a water hose for a leg, I don’t know. (I’ll let this disability modulation slide, though, since Mr. Sorbo is such a nice guy).

John Hodgman

Author and Comedian John Hodgman

John Hodgman is a comedian and writer whose most recent book is That is All (2011). Odds are you have probably seen him on The Daily Show or may recall the fact that he played the “Windows PC” on those “I’m a Mac; and I’m a PC” commercials. If those are the only mediums you know him from, I would encourage you to check out his contributions to NPR’s This American Life, which are actually pretty good.

Recently Mr. Hodgman (wiki; Twitter) did a show in Morris, MN, and even though I was unable to make the first two hours (I had to speak at a banquet) I was able to cut the drive back a bit short and make the last 45 minutes or so. Unfortunately, after the show when I was approaching him for a giraffe, my colleague Lucas Felts beat me to the punch – and what was I supposed to do? Ask for a second giraffe?

Please.

Let’s not flood the Hodgman giraffe market, now.

He's trying to look grumpy. I just have chronic grump-face.

So I simply sunk away, thinking that I would never get a chance to share a few words with one of my favorite comedians (I was actually invited to have lunch with him before the show but couldn’t make it as I was at the aforementioned banquet). After hanging around long enough chatting with friends, I ran into someone I knew who was Mr. Hodgman’s guide around campus and he was willing to let me into Mr. Hodgman’s green room  to get an autograph.

This is the conversation as I recall it; I assure you it is neither interesting nor funny. If anything, it provides insight into how awful of a conversationalist I am (hence this website’s ability for me to BS small talk).

Closing the door behind me, I leaned in to shake his hand: “It’s a pleasure to meet you, John.” As the words slip from my lips, my inner Southern Gentleman regrets being so informal. Who am I to refer to him by his first name? It’s not like we’re friends. I’m just some dude. Now I feel like I have to overcompensate: “Uh, well … I was hoping you could sign my copy of … The Chomsky-Foucault Debate (2006).”

He looks at it for a moment, silent.

“I’m sorry, but I don’t actually own a copy of your book,” I say. It was either Chomsky-Foucault, which is actually a pretty good read, or Augustine’s Confessions.

Studying the cover, “Of course. In fact, I shall sign it in this orange crayon that happens to be lying right here.”

Yeah, we’re clearly a public school.

"Noam Chomsky and Michel Foucault ... And John Hodgman"

Unable to think of an exciting question, I remembered that he had referenced in his set the fact that he went to Yale. “When you studied at your own accredited four-year institution, what was it you studied?”

“I studied literary studies, so this isn’t exactly too far removed of what I did. I don’t remember this debate specifically, but it was this kind of stuff that came up a lot.”

“Yeah, well I would like to thank you for taking the time to sign my book. Also, I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed your show … even though I didn’t feel as though there were enough Foucault references.”

Hell, there aren’t enough Foucault references in general.

“Oh ….”

“… So it goes, I guess.”

“Well, next time I’m around I’ll be sure to throw some in just for you.”

“I’d really appreciate that. It was a pleasure meeting you, sir, and I’ll be sure to get out of your hair because I know you have to fly out in the morning.”

We snap a photograph. He makes an effort to appear grumpy. I have chronic grump-face and can’t help it.

“It was nice meeting you, sir.”

“It was a pleasure meeting you as well.”

And that’s the time I told John Hodgman he didn’t reference Michel Foucault enough.

Also, it was when I realized that tea cup pigs are freaking adorable.

An Awful Giraffe Drawing by Leonardo da Vinci

Polymath and “Painter” Leonardo da Vinci,

On this Friday the 13th I thought it would be appropriate to post a particularly awful giraffe, and as I began searching my files I received an email. Innocently enough, I unsuspectingly opened it to find the most … I can’t even find the words. How does one describe the failed efforts of the most gifted polymath that has ever lived, Leonardo da Vinci? Do I posthumously congratulate him for the effort? Do I lie down and hope the nausea goes away? Do I try and mobilize Pretty Awful Giraffe-ites to contact the Louvreand have this mockery removed?

“Painter”? Yeah, and I’m Queen Latifah (I’m not Queen Latifah)

I think I’ll go with the second option and let Mr. Lucas Rayala take the wheel from here:

This well-known painting by LDV, while beloved by many in the world, is in fact a very horrible attempt to draw a giraffe.  Perhaps the worst ever.  While the neck length approaches believability, the snout is completely wrong, utterly failing to incorporate the mouth and nose in a cohesive semblance of an ungulate mammals jaw structure.  Intended to be a picture of a giraffe standing on its hind legs and eyeing a leafy branch somewhere behind the viewer, the front hooves have been mangled and forced into a crossed pattern to amateurishly fit inside the canvas space.  Also, proper giraffes are two-toed, not four (or five?!) as LDV depicts.  This beast’s habitat has been purposefully blurred in the background because LDV, despite his much-flaunted intellect, was obviously uncertain of its native environment.

I think I’m going to be sick.

Theoretical Physicist Lawrence Krauss Awful Giraffe 4 23 11

Theoretical Physicist and Author Lawrence Krauss

In light of the holiday season I thought I would treat everyone to a gift that has been sitting in the giraffe library for quite a while. Unfortunately, there is no exciting, adventure-filled story behind this as Dr. Krauss simply said, “Everything I do is better than Kaku” when I showed him Michio Kaku’s Uni-giraffe (he really doesn’t like that I guy), but you be the judge!

Theoretical Physicist Lawrence Krauss

Lawrence Krauss (wiki; web) is a theoretical physicist who teaches at Arizona State University and is the director of its Origins Project. Perhaps best known for his book The Physics of Star Trek (1995), Krauss is a popularizer of science who has written editorials in many publications and is a frequent guest on National Public Radio’s “Science Friday”. In January 2012 he has a book coming out that will address why there is something rather than nothing; in fact, in A Universe from Nothing he will make the case that “not only can something arise from nothing, something will always arise from nothing.”

Seems straightforward enough.

Though sometimes nothing is better than something.

David Eagleman's Pretty Awful Giraffe

Neuroscientist and Author David Eagleman

Dr. David Eagleman

Let me begin by saying that if you ever get the chance to meet Dr. David Eagleman (1) he is one of the coolest guys ever to just sit around and shoot the breeze with and (2) it may seem like a joke when he corrects your calling him “Mr. Eagleman” to “Dr. Eagleman” but he is totally serious (trust me on this). Unfortunately, my hoodie-wearing professors at my small public liberal arts college have corrupted my understanding of hierarchy, which I am slowly learning will likely lead to my inevitable inability to secure long-term employment.

(Note: it is not uncommon for me to refer to my Ph.D.-wielding professors as “Doc”, “Supreme Commander”, “Citizen”, etc. In fact, I am certain that I could have avoided some of the awkward moments between Dr. Eagleman and I had I simply referred to him by the latter title. I mean, Citizen Eagleman sounds like it should come with a slice of apple pie as the national anthem plays in the background.)

But I’ve digressed.

Dr. David Eagleman (web; twitter) is a neuroscientist at Baylor College of Medicine where he directs the Laboratory for Perception and Action and Initiative on Neuroscience and Law. He author of four books (with two more forthcoming) including the bestsellers Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives (2009) and Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain (2011) and has written for an array of publications including Slate Magazine, New Scientist and Discover Magazine. In addition, when he is not studying synesthesia, time perception, and the intersections of neuroscience and law he spends his free time being a Renaissance Man by geographically mapping Asp Caterpillar populations and the symptoms of their venom, inventing philosophy, and drawing giraffa camelopardalis.

Actually, as I write this I am beginning to realize why he stresses the prefix before his name – it’s an act of humility.

He must know that he could easily get away with being called The All-Knowing Dr. David Eagleman, Keeper of Time and Multi-Sensation.

Michael Shermer's Awful Giraffe

Writer and Editor Michael Shermer

Michael Shermer

Michael Shermer (web; twitter) is a humanist/atheist/nontheist/skeptic thinker best known for his seventeen books on psychology, biology, history, and … cycling, the former of which includes the popular Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time (2002) and his most recent The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies – How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths (2011). In addition, Shermer is the editor-in-chief of Skeptic magazine and also writes a monthly column for Scientific American. So, as you can probably infer, if you give this guy a pen, he will probably return it completely drained – along with an essay.

Approaching him at a convention in Fargo, ND, Shermer was happy to contribute though with the proviso that he have full artistic license to do as he wished. Having no problem with this, I let him do as he wished. After a matter of minutes he returned my notebook with what I can only call a classic. Unlike his giraffe-drawing contemporaries, Shermer saw this as an intellectual challenge; instead of just creating a reflection of the social construction we call a “giraffe” he broke it down to its barest essence. And while I am by no standard (but my own) an art critic, I do believe Shermer to be a noble successor to Duchamp and contemporary of Damien Hirst.

This is the future of art.

… And what a sad future it is.