Monday, April 5, 2010
Concerning Circumcision

Any of you who have been to my book signings know I tend to move back and forth between reading my stuff and doing Q&A.

I do this partly to break up the potential monotony of an hour of straight reading, and partly because I really like to answer questions. Any sort of question, really. That's part of the reason I became a teacher, I think. And it probably factored into my decision to keep writing my College Survival Guide for about 10 years.

I even, believe it or not, wrote a sex advice column for a while. Under an assumed name.

When I do Q&A at a reading, there are some things that get asked a lot. Things like, "Where do you get your ideas?" or "Do you base your characters on real people?"

Then there are the questions that don't get asked very often. Like, "Do you like cats?" or "How do you feel about circumcision?"

This last question got asked when I was down in Lexington. Strangely, wasn't the first time I'd been asked. I actually wrote an column on it back when I was doing the Survival Guide. As luck would have it, I had a copy of that column with me. So I read it.

After the reading when I was signing books, someone said, "You should post that one up on line."

"I probably should," I said.

So here it is...

***
Dear Pat,

I'm in a weird situation. Normally I pride myself in minding my own business. I keep my nose out of my friends affairs (literally) and generally keep my opinions to myself.

But recently I ended up doing some research into circumcision. Not female circumcision, which everyone in their right mind generally admits it barbaric and creepy, but good old fashioned guy circumcision. The type that's done to almost all newborn boys here in the good old U S of A.

I found out not only is it totally unnecessary, but it's generally bad for the little kids. Despite the fact that it's the standard thing here in the US, where almost 90% of guys are circumcised.

My problem is, I have a friend who is about to give birth. Maybe to a little boy. Now that I know all the horrible things that can result from Circumcision, I feel like I should try to tell her about it so she won't do it.

But isn't this kinda sticking my nose in where it doesn't belong? I can't think of a good way to approach her. I mean, I don't have a penis myself, so I can't really speak from experience. I have been with guys both cut and uncut, and I was surprised to find out how much I liked the unedited penis. But again, I doubt that's the right way to approach things with my friend.

How can I mention this to her without offending her for getting in her business?

Student Not Into Penis Slicing.

Your College Survival Guide, the place to go when you really need to learn the finer points of dick discussion etiquette. I'm like Miss Manners with tourettes.

Alright, SNIPS, I'm going to glide right by a few too-obvious jokes about your nose, and get right to the business of answering your question. Back when I was younger I would have taken this as a golden opportunity to make a lot of wang jokes.

But I've matured since then. So, instead, I'm going to slide as many innuendo-laden puns into the column as humanly possible. Also, just to make it a challenge, I'm going to use a new euphemism for the male member each time I refer to it.

First I feel like I need to correct one of the statements you made in your letter. Uncircumcised fellas are more common than you make them out to be. Back in the 1960's about 90 percent of baby boys got the chop, but the circumcision rate these days is closer to 60%, as more and more people get clued in to the situation by helpful folks like you and me.

Secondly, the proper slang term for an gent's uncircumcised dangle-bob isn't "unedited," it's "director's cut." Occasionally it's even a "special edition director's cut," but that's very rare.

Hmmm. You're right though. This is a touchy subject. But there's a big difference between being pushy, and just giving your friend some valuable information. Still, it should be handled delicately. Here are some opening lines you might want to avoid:

"Jenny, lately I've been thinking a lot about your baby's penis."

"Have you ever thought that hacking a chunk off the end of your newborn's wing-wang might not be the best way to welcome him into the world?"

"Y'know, if I was going to have sex with your son, I'd prefer him to be uncircumcised."





The more I think about it, maybe you don't want to try to get a rise out of her. Instead maybe you could just try to bring it up casually instead.

Maybe quoting a few facts would be the way to go. Don't be accusatory, just point out why, exactly, chopping someone's fireman off isn't cool. Point out that since the foreskin actually has about a third of the penis' nerve endings on it, cutting it off it pretty much the same as a partial clitorectomy. In plainer terms, it's like cutting off a good chunk of a little girl's clit. As you said in your letter: barbaric and creepy.

Think of it guys. You know how you think your Johnson is pretty awesome now? Imagine if it was 33% more awesome. Yeah. I know. It boggles the mind. I expect some manner of radiant light would constantly be emanating from my pants. Most of us would never leave the house. The fact that a piece of my winkie was torn off without my approval leaves me feeling a little bent out of shape. Figuratively speaking.

You could also direct your friend to a good website or two, so she can gather her own facts. www.notjustskin.org has a remarkably well-researched and easy to read FAQ on the subject. Including some information about how the surgery might be seriously traumatic for the newborns involved.

In closing, for all my fellow fellows out there, if your parents gave your special purpose the snip, don't hold it against them. Because, y'know, that would be pretty weird.

***

It's interesting to note that I wrote this a couple years before I became a dad. It was nice, actually, having done this research ahead of time. Because I knew from the beginning that I didn't want to circumcise the baby if it was a boy.

But even if I hadn't done the research, I probably would have been convinced when I saw The Circumstraint:



That's really what it's called. It's the plastic thing they strap your baby down onto so he doesn't struggle around too much while they're trying to cut off a piece of his dick. The nurses thought I was kinda weird for wanting to take a picture of it.

While part of me, the scientific part, can acknowledge the fact that something like this helps keep the baby safe during the procedure. The rest of me is filled with a mute horror at the thought of someone tying my baby down onto this thing so they can cut him. Not because he *needs* it. Just, y'know, because. Tradition. And stuff.

A lot of times when people meet Oot, they say things like, "He's such a happy baby." Or "He's so friendly and trusting."





Sometimes I want to reply, "Well, we got things off on the right foot by not cutting off a piece of his dick."

Can you imagine what sort of an introduction that must be to the world? There's a big, long squeeze, then suddenly everything is really bright and cold. Maybe you get a bit of a cuddle and a taste of breast. Then you're strapped down and someone cuts off a piece off one of the most sensitive areas of your body. Welcome to being alive, little guy.


That's all for now, folks.

pat

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Thursday, April 1, 2010
Cage Match - Kvothe vs. Jaime

As many of you know, Kvothe is one of the final four remaining fighters in Suvudu's fantasy cage match. After beating Aslan and Dumbledore, he's come head-to-head with Jaime Lannister from Martin's Song of Ice and Fire books.

Right now I'm losing. And while that stings a little, it doesn't sting nearly as much as what Sarah said to me last night.

"Are you still losing to Jaime Lannister?" she asked.

"Yeah," I said. "By a couple percentage points."

"Well, Jaime's a pretty awesome character," she said. "I don't think that Kvothe will be able to beat him."

Now she's entitled to her own opinion, of course. But still, what the hell? Whatever happened to "Stand by Your Man?" Even leaving aside the fact that I'm the pater familias, you'd think that she might at least show a little brand loyalty. After all, Kvothe as the one who puts food on our table and gives us the money to buy Oot jingly toys.

Seriously. Ow. My authorial pride is all hurty now.

Anyway, since I had a lot of fun writing up the Kvothe Vs. Aslan scenario, and a bunch of people asked for something similar for Kvothe vs Jaime, I decided to type one up. I just sent it in to Suvudu site, so it should be up there for you to see pretty soon.

Here's a link to the fight, if you want it.

And remember, this round of the fight only lasts until Friday (tomorrow) noon. So if you want to vote in the last two matches, you need to do it soon.

pat

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Home again, home again....

... jiggedy jig.

After about two solid weeks on the road, I'm back at home.

I really didn't plan on doing so many signings on this trip. But I seem to have a knack for starting things that I think will be small and having them spiral rapidly out of control.

Still, now I know I can do a reading/signing a day and not burn out. It was actually a lot of fun. In fact, if I hadn't been driving about six hours a day on top of that, it would have been downright relaxing.

The upshot is that it's much more likely I'll try to do a bit of a tour when book two comes out...

All the signings went remarkably well, by which I mean nobody threw anything at me or left the room crying halfway through. We got about a hundred people at each store, (sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less) which really surprised me, as we kinda threw this whole thing together at the last minute. I'm still more than a little baffled by the fact that some people are willing to drive 2-3 hours to come see me read and get their book signed.

What were the signings like? About what you'd expect:



(Click to Embiggen)

More details in a day or so. Right now I'm still catching up on my sleep and wading through the last of my accumulated e-mail...

pat

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Friday, March 19, 2010
Thunderdome part II - Kvothe Vs. Aslan
So Kvothe is going up against Aslan right now in round two of the fantasy cage match on Suvudu. What's surprising is that right now the votes are pretty much dead even. Half for Kvothe, half for the big cat himself.

I didn't write up a little blurb for the last fight. But I've been driving a lot over these last couple days as I go from reading to reading. So I've had plenty of time to think about how the fight between Kvothe and Aslan would go.

So I wrote it up this morning and sent it off to Suvudu. If you wander over there, they should have it posted up pretty soon. I'm actually kinda proud of that little scene.

And for those of you wondering who did the cool picture of Kvothe they're using over there on the site: it's Kim Kinkaid over at Twirling Dragon. It's one of my favorite pictures of Kvothe so far.

When Sarah saw it, she said. "Oh. He's beautiful. No wonder Fela bought him a cloak...."

That's all for now folks. I've got to get back on the road. See some of you tonight at Prince Books.

pat

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Monday, March 15, 2010
On the Road

Dear Pat,

I won't be able to make any of your readings over the next two weeks, but I was wondering. How do you get ready for something like that? I've done a little public speaking in the past, and it terrifies me. I can't help but think that it must be a million times worse if you're reading your own stuff to a huge roomful of people.

So that's my question. What does an author do to get ready for a public reading?

Best of luck on your trip.

Dan

The truth is Dan, I've wondered the same thing myself.

I mean, I know how *I* get ready for a reading. But I wonder what other authors go through when they're getting ready.

A lot of authors I've talked to admit to having public speaking jitters. Some of them downright hate it. But that's not a problem for me. Public speaking is old hat. I've done commencement addresses, sermons, lectures, and more panels than you can shake a stick at.

Plus I used to do improv comedy. And let me tell you, after you've done improv comedy, no other type of public speaking will ever scare you. It's like a trial by fire.

In general, I imagine other authors think about regular things before a signing tour. They worry about who's going to show up, or what they're going to read. Maybe they dither over what sort of shirt they're going to wear.

Me, I worry about my hair.

At least that's what I've been doing for the last several days. I'm about to leave on a little signing tour, 8 readings in 9 days. I'm looking forward to it, and I'm looking forward to seeing who shows up.

The problem is, I haven't had a haircut in about 8 months. It's something that never occurs to me until I have to make a public appearance. Normally every 3-4 months I'm forced to brush up against the edges of civilization. I go to a convention, or a wedding, or something, and so I get a haircut to clean myself up for that.

But lately I've been so busy with revisions and the new baby that I haven't done any of those things. And that means almost a whole year without a haircut. That means that I look like a cross between a hobo, John the Baptist come out of the desert, and a particularly shaggy Muppet. I look, in fact, like one of those green men statues. Except not green.

Normally I'm fine with this. But when I make public appearances I feel bad showing up looking all wodwo. I feel like if people show up to see me, I should try to groom myself down to the point where I won't frighten small children.

But here's the problem. This week when I tried to make an appointment for a haircut with the only person I trust to cut my hair and beard... but she couldn't fit me in to her schedule. And I can't trust some random barber. Last time I did that the fucker sheared me like a fucking sheep.

So now, the day before I drive off to do my signings, I'm faced with an awful choice. Show up looking like the crazy guy at the bus station, or risk a haircut that would make a prison barber wince. I still haven't decided...

The other thing that I think about before I go on a trip like this is what I'm going to listen to in the car. I've become a sucker for audiobooks lately, and this trip is going to put me behind the wheel for almost 40 hours.

So I've got a return question for some of you out there. Do you have any good audiobooks to recommend? I've already listened to everything by David Sedaris, Neil Gaiman, and Garrison Keillor.

Here. I'll start things out with a recommendation or two of my own.


The BBC dramatization of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.




These BBC audio productions of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy are really great. What's even better is that they contain different materials than the original books. That means even if you know your the source material inside and out, you can still be pleasantly surprised.

The later ones weren't done my Adams himself. But I have to say (and this is something that you will probably never *ever* hear me say again) I liked the ending of the final audiobook better than I like the ending of Adam's original novel.

I know. Blasphemy.

Anyway. Trust me. These are brilliant. Share and enjoy.


Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde.



I listened to this just recently, and I was absolutely blown away by it.

That said, I don't know how I'd describe the entirety of it to someone.

It's funny without being goofy. It's clever without being pretentious. It's original without being desperate. And it has an element of what I consider the divine ridiculousness: a delightful, subtle, strangeness that is funny while still touching on some underlying truth.

I feel like I should say more about it, but I can't think of what else to say. Except, perhaps, that it's probably the best book I've read in a year or so. And Sarah really liked it too, if that sways you at all...

So what about you guys? Do y'all have any good audiobooks that you can recommend? I'm going to need a few more before I'm done with this trip....

P.S. I'm asking for audiobooks, mind you. Don't recommend a book that you liked and you're thinking *would* make a good audiobook. The narrator makes a huge difference in these things, so don't tell me it's good if you haven't listened to it yourself.

pat

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Thursday, March 11, 2010
Thunderdome!

...or something. Is that too obscure a reference these days? Should I have gone with the cliche but easily recognizable "there can be only one?"

What I'm talking about is the battle royal going on over at Suvudu. They've taken a bunch of our favorite fictional characters and paired them up in head to head fights. They've chosen a pleasantly bizarre and diverse group of fighters: Gandalf, Cuthulu, and Hermione are all in there duking it out.

Flatteringly enough, Kvothe is in there too, paired up against Garret Jax.

It's a fun concept, and you get to vote on who you think should win. But what makes it truly entertaining is the brief descriptions that they give each of the characters, complete with strengths, weaknesses, and special attacks. Better still are the staff's narrative descriptions of how they think the fight would turn out.

I'll admit that I'm surprised how pleased I am at how how some of the voting is going. For example, Ged from the Wizard of Earthsea is currently kicking the stuffing out of Edward from Twilight.

Anyway. Feel free to wander over and take a look for yourself. It's a good time.

pat

[Edit: For those of you asking in the comments. I didn't send in a little blurb when I heard about the contest for two reasons. 1) Because I was really busy. And 2) I heard that Terry Brooks was too busy to send stuff in too. It didn't seem particularly fair for me to step in and stump for Kvothe when Brooks wasn't going to be able to do the same.

That said, Lewis isn't around anymore. And I've got a little time on my hands. So if Kvothe makes it to the match-up with Aslan, I might send a little blurb their way.]

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Saturday, March 6, 2010
Coming Soon to a Town Near You! (Offer Not Valid in Towns Not Near You)

As many of you know, a couple of days ago I decided to take a bit of a road trip down to Virginia. And, because I am an accommodating Midwesterner, I thought I might do a reading or two on my way down. So some folks could get their books signed, if they wanted.

When I posted up last week's blog looking for venues, I was hoping to maybe hear from 2 or 3 bookstores or libraries willing to help me throw a couple signings together. Maybe.

I didn't expect to get 30-40 offers. While it was terribly flattering, sorting everything out has been a bit of a logistical puzzle.

But I think I've finally got it all sussed. Here's the current list of times and places where I'll be stopping by to do readings and signings.

[Edit: All signings now confirmed.]


March 16th
7:00pm

Reading and Signing
Borders
348 East State Street
West Lafayette, IN 47906
Phone: 765-743-7775
Website


March 17th
2:00-3:00pm

Signing (No time for a reading here, I'm afraid.)
Josephbeth Book Store
692 Madison Road
Cincinnati OH 45208
Phone: 513-396-8960
Website


March 17th
7:00pm -

Reading and Signing
Josephbeth Book Store
161 Lexington Green Circle
Lexington, KY 40503-3323
Phone: 859-273-2911
Website


March 19
th 6:30pm -

Reading and Signing
Prince Books
109 East Main Street
Norfolk, VA 23510-1691
Phone: 757-622-9223
Website


March 20th
2:00-4:00

Reading and Signing
Books A Million
3312 Princess Anne Road
Virginia Beach, VA 23456

(757) 368-3167


March 22nd 7:00pm -

Reading and Signing
Borders
6701 Frontier Drive
Springfield, VA 22150
Phone: 703-924-4894
Website


March 23rd
7:00pm -

Reading and Signing
Barnes and Noble
5500 Buckeystown Pike (Fixed. Sorry.)
Frederick, MD 21704
Phone: 301-698-0121
Website


March 24th
7:00pm -

Reading and Signing
Joesephbeth Bookseller
24519 Cedar Road
Lyndhurst, OH 44124
Phone: 216-691-7000
Website

As you can see, there's not a lot of time in between those stops. So I probably won't be adding any more stops. I'll hit somewhere in Chicago in maybe a month or two, as that's relatively close to home and I can just drive down there any old time I feel like it.

I've had several people ask, "What exactly do you do at one of these readings?"

So here's the deal.

First, I drink a strong cup of coffee. Something like a white chocolate mocha with two shots of blackberry and four sugars. This is the source of my power. After one or two of these, I look like something out of Kulba Kahn and can lift up a truck.

Second, I hang out a bit and chat with the people that show up early.

Third (Readings only) I spend about an hour reading stuff and answering questions. What I read really depends on what people are in the mood for. Sometimes I read a few humor columns. Sometimes I read a little poetry. Sometimes I read a bit of one of my books.

In between readings I answer questions about pretty much anything. Sometimes I tell stories. Sometimes I give advice. There are occasional descents into madness.

Fourth, I sign books. Generally speaking, I'll write whatever you want in a book: a quote from Bast, a profession of my undying love, a letter of recommendation to grad school.

But it's best if you give me some direction. If you say to me, "Just write whatever..." there is a very real possibility that I will simply write "Whatever" in your book.

I will also try my very best to spell your name correctly. Though sometimes I fuck up.


Caveats and Addendum:

Do not touch my baby. Little Oot will be coming with me to some of these readings and signings. If you see him, you may gaze at him adoringly or coo in his direction. But touching him his not acceptable behavior.

No offense. But I don't you. I don't know where you've been. I don't know if you might be sick, or if you've been around someone sick. You might be a sociopath. You might be from Illinois.

Here's the deal. Oot is my first baby, and I'm very protective of him. So when planning your behavior around him, it would be safest if you thought of him as a tiny bear cub, and me as his momma bear. Any sudden movements or over-familiarity might lead to sudden and terrible wrath.



We clear here? Fair warning.

I occasionally cuss. I try to restrain myself if there are tiny kids present. But if the thought of hearing the word "shit" spoken aloud horrifies you, then... well... you're probably going to be horrified.

My handwriting is not pretty. My handwriting is such that young children mock me for it. Seriously.

You can have a hug if you ask nicely...


...Just don't get all handsy on me.


Lastly, one request. Since I'm scheduling these events not even two weeks ahead of time, there really isn't much time for typical promotion to spread the word about them. Most bookstores won't even be able to get up posters advertising these signings until next week.

So if you know someone that lives in the area who might be interested in coming. I'd be much obliged if you passed the news along to them. It's always so sad when I get an e-mail that says, "I just found out you were in [insert hometown here]! I can't believe I missed it!"


Thanks so much for your help everybody,

pat

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