Childish Things

Hearing this week’s song of the week today brought to mind a discussion I had with another writer on Facebook a few weeks ago. The release of World of Warcraft‘s latest expansion was nigh and, as many of you know, it was introducing the pandaren as a playable race. The pandaren are basically kung-fu pandas, mystical shaolin-style monks, and their homeland is based heavily in eastern cultural tropes. (They also predate the Kung-Fu Panda movies by several years).

Now, I haven’t played WoW in many years, but my son still does occasionally, and I’d watched him play some of this content during its beta testing. It was fun stuff. the pandaren had a lot of charm and character, their abilities were clever and different than the stock WoW fare, and the world-building for their lands was gorgeous and epic in its scope.

Anyway, this writer snorted derisively at any grown-ups out there who were actually looking forward to playing panda warriors. Why? Because pandas are cute, naturally, and only children could conceivably want to play such cute creatures. I challenged him on it, because not only do I see the pandaren as neither more nor less intrinsically ridiculous than elves, dwarves, gnomes, or any of the other fantasy races you can play in WoW and similar games, but I think a fantasist attacking other people’s fantasies rather unbecoming. This writer makes his living writing face-to-face roleplaying games in which the players pretend to be monsters (as indeed I used to when I was a writer for White Wolf Games). Quite a few people would consider that sort of thing childish.

I wrote:

I just have an innate negative reaction to arguments that denigrate the tastes of others in ways like calling them “childish,” when as far as I’m concerned pretending to be a kung-fu panda is no more ridiculous or childish than pretending to be a stalwart shaman cow. Or a magical mystical mummy, for that matter.

He wrote:

I *completely* accept that the pandaren might be considered cool by players of a given age range, those of commensurately immature taste, and those who engage them as part of spending time with their kids, and I hope you’re right that those folks enjoy playing the hell out of it. But it’s not for me, play-wise, nor for the adults with whom I game on the regular…Pretending to be a bouncing anime panda-person may not be more ridiculous than pretending to be a shambling mummy, but it *is* more childish, and there’s just no way around that.

Note the pointless zealotry, the refusal to accept that any mature adult might be able to enjoy playing these fantasy creatures, while playing other fantasy creatures is presumably quite adult. Pandaren might be enjoyed by players “of a given age range” or “commensurately immature taste” or those playing alongside their children. He couldn’t just take a reasonable step back and think, “Maybe an adult might enjoy this simply because it’s fun and they get a kick out of it.” He had to insist that an adult who liked this sort of thing was not the proper sort of adult at all.

I replied:

To personalize it, I think the pandaren are cool, and were I still playing WoW I’d be looking forward to playing one. To therefore say that only people of a certain age range or “commensurately immature taste” can find them cool is insulting. I seriously doubt my tastes are any less mature than yours, and in fact the tendency to argue the “maturity” of such things seems to me an immature one.

As C.S. Lewis put it, “When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”

But, to be agreeable, I’ll cede your point that making believe you’re a scary monster is much more grown up than making believe that you’re a panda-esque warrior. Because what the hell.

Don’t try too hard to be a grown-up, folks. It’s something that happens naturally in its course, and it has nothing to do with whether you can still have fun or not.

Here’s James McMurty with our song of the week…

Teaching Myself How To Grow Old

It’s one of those weeks. People with serious depressions know them, they’re the ones when you get nothing done and don’t care because it really doesn’t matter anyway, does it? They’re the ones where you sleep way too much because if you get up, nothing’s worth doing. They’re the ones in which anger swims in your veins, disguised as anxiety and stress and frustration, ready to cut you when people do things that annoy. They’re the ones when you realize just how few friends you truly have, and how little you feel you can look to the ones you do. It’s mostly the depression talking, and a broken psyche in pain. Mostly.

Here’s our song of the week, from Ryan Adams…

License To Thrill (Song of the Week, 9/19/2012)

In the past few weeks, I renewed my long dead passport. Today, I visited the Brazilian Consulate, where I was granted a visa allowing me entry to the country for the next decade.

My status as International Man of Mystery has been restored. I have a license to thrill. If you notice the processing label the consulate used on my passport, you can see that even the Brazilians seem to recognize my status. Look out Most Interesting Man in the World…

Considering my last vacation wound up reminding me entirely too much of Stephen King’s Misery, I am really looking forward to a few weeks in a tropical paradise with a gorgeous hostess and no fear of potential sledge hammers. It’s going to be a few months before I go, but I AM READY. Except that I really need a hair cut.

Boa noite. My name is Byrd. Tim Byrd.

Raise Hell (Song of the Week, 9/14/2012)

If you’ve been with me a while, you know I’m a HUGE fan of singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile. She’s got a new album out called Bear Creek, and, because I am a nice guy, I am sharing one of the songs from it for you to thrill to.

Play it loud.

Cookie Monster Presents The Song Of The Week, 8/30/2012

It’s all about the cookies this week…

First, this isn’t a song, but it is the funniest damn thing I’ve seen in a couple or three weeks on the internet. I’ve probably watched it twenty or more times and I always laugh:

Our actual song this week I offer in honor of the Republican National Convention currently infesting Tampa, “God’s Away On Business” by Tom Waits, karaoked by Cookie Monster…

I’d sell your heart to the junkman baby
For a buck, for a buck…
If you’re looking for someone to pull you out of that ditch
You’re out of luck, you’re out of luck…

When I Leave Berlin (Song of the Week, 8/23/2012)

Bruce Springsteen recently played to a crowd of 55,000 in Berlin, which was his second biggest crowd there ever. The biggest was in 1998, with the largest crowd the band has ever played for, and it had historic import beyond its size:

Berlin, largely a working class city, has been a special place for Springsteen since his July 1988 concert behind the old Iron Curtain in East Berlin.

Watched by 160,000 people, or about 1 percent of then Communist East Germany’s population, it was the biggest rock show in East German history, and The Boss boldly spoke out against the ‘barriers’ keeping East Germans in their portion of the city.

Some historians have said the concert fed into a movement gaining moment at the time that contributed to the tearing down of the Berlin Wall 16 months later in November 1989.

‘Once in a while you play a place, a show that ends up staying inside of you, living with you for the rest of your life,’ he told the crowd on Wednesday after being handed a poster from a fan thanking him for the 1988 concert. ‘East Berlin in 1988 was certainly one of them.‘” (REUTERS)

As a special treat for the Berliners this time, Bruce and the E Streeters debuted a rousing cover of the song “When I Leave Berlin” by British folk musician Wizz Jones, and that is our song of the week. Enjoy.

Decatur, Town of Trees and Music… (SongS of the Week, 7/23/2012)

A special treat for song of the week this week: a bunch of songs.

My hometown, Decatur, Georgia, is not only an island of bright blue in a state of murky red (bright both in the sense of shining and in the sense of intellect), not only home to quite a few writers other than me (including our new Poet Laureate of the United States, Natasha Trethewey) and to the largest independent book festival in the country, but is a wellspring of incredible music. So this week, I figured I’d offer a selection of tunes from acts who either live here or launched from here (usually from Eddie’s Attic, one of the finest live music clubs in the country).

Some of these acts are known all over the world. Some are known only to specific audiences. A couple haven’t even hit their mid-teens yet and hopefully have great careers ahead of them. All of them are incredible talents.

I’ll probably add videos to this playlist over time, but there are 29 to start with, so come on in, Decatur’s fine.

Honeysuckle Homecoming (Song of the Week, 7/19/2012)

Back home in Georgia after a vacation, of sorts. There’s a lot wrong with my home state, particularly politically, but a lot to love as well, especially about my town, Decatur.

Anyway, I had this tune playing in my head as I rode an interminable bus back from elsewhere…

Introducing Sydney Rhame… (Song of the Week, 5/21/2012)

Before we get to the good stuff (and it is very good stuff), I wanted to let everyone know that my “Tim Byrd” account on Facebook has been disabled for some arbitrary, unexplained reason, possibly forever. Apparently they do this sometimes. I’ve sent in a request that they reconsider, but apparently they also take weeks to get back to you at all. So if you are (or were) my friend on Facebook, please feel free to befriend my “Doc Wilde” account which was established to promote my books, but which I’ve never really used. For the foreseeable future I’ll be interacting on there. I miss all my friends. (UPDATE: After nearly three weeks, and repeated requests for action from me, Facebook ultimately enabled my account again, all without having ever actually contacted me, in any way, to explain).

Now, on with the music.

There seems to be something in the water here in beautiful Decatur, GA. The town is a font of musical genius, and acts ranging from the Indigo Girls and Shawn Mullins to Sugarland and the Civil Wars have their roots here. Michelle Malone, who I’ve raved about a few times on the blog in the past, is another wonderful example.

On her way to greatness is Decatur’s Sydney Rhame, who is only thirteen and already a singing, songwriting sensation. This week’s song is her cover of Brett Dennen’s great “Sydney (I’ll Come Runnin’),” which I’m going to post two versions of. The first is a live performance, and I love its vitality and what Sydney does with her voice during the song. The second is a “studio” version, which Sydney made on a Mac using GarageBand, presented in a video she made using iMovie. This second video was shot around Decatur (or “the hood” as some unenlightened folk have called it), and you can see not just the charismatic young singer bouncing around but quite a few views of our great hometown.

The Warrior (Song of the Week, 4/3/2012)

Because The Astonishing Adventures of Doc Wilde happens to be kickin’ ass on Kickstarter so far…0 to 62% of our funding goal in four days flat. (That’s our minimum goal to succeed, mind you; once we reach it, we’re still not done).

(A huge thank you to you folks who’ve pledged your support!)