the lawyer writer

sometimes legal                     sometimes literary                     sometimes not

Monday, May 22, 2006

Big Changes For This Blog!


the lawyerwriter is guest blogging at Sepia Mutiny for the next month, so check out my posts there. There might be occasional entries on this blog, but probably not often--just the occasional musing on the evils of the publishing industry.


the lawyerwriter is moving house! Soon (though not sure when) the lawyerwriter is going to find a new, permanent blogging home at Sirens Magazine. Those of you linked to the lawyerwriter will be sent to my new, gorgeous home, and, hopefully, regular, reliable blogging posts.

So definitely check out Sepia Mutiny for my latest posts...

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Nerd v. Geek

The source of my pop culture fixation, E! Entertainment Television (sorry VH1--you are dead to me, expect for America's Top Model marathons) is already promoting its Mother's Day show Rise of the Geeks, and while the link is incredibly unhelpful, the commercial flashes an unusual array faces: familiar ones, like Adam Brody, Zach Braff and Bill Gates, and the more radical choices like Adam Sandler (please. a total jock, not a nerd or a geek). The ladies are probably represented by the likes of Lisa Loeb and Allison Hannigan (of Buffy fame), who have their own brand of geek chic, usually involving glasses or band camp.

Now, it is important to get the terms straight, for a variety of reasons, but the most important of which is that I am both nerd and geek, and I like to have the various parts of my personality neatly labeled. I use the phrenology head in my living room as my example. To bolster my defintions, I bring in our guest consultant, Wikipedia, the largest growing encyclopedia (who would probably get a lot more writers and accurate information if they gave authorial credit, but are awesome anyway).

"Nerd" is a derogatory term for someone of high I.Q., academic standing, and either adequate or dubious social skills, depending on your definition. For example, in the 1980's, skinny underage Indian girls who spent all their time in the library were known as nerds, or, in a particular case, "Nerdja."

"Geek" is a derogatory term for someone whose passions/obsessions are outside the mainstream, making them oddballs. Many geeks are technology/science geeks, but regardless of the field, geeks are obsessive in their devotion. For example, in the 1980's, skinny underage Indian girls who stared endless into the San Jose night with an old-fashioned telescope, trying vainly to find the rings of Uranus, were known as geeks.

Therefore, please do not throw those terms around. Admittedly, I am not a geek/nerd on the outside. I do not embrace geek chic; I strive more for "corporate goth bombshell." That said, I am still a nerd and geek on the inside, which is why when the hot dog vendor on my dog walk flirts with me, I get embarassed and think he's making fun of me. Okay, briefly. As with rap, I'm old-school--if you were a geek or nerd before it became trendy, then you have felt my pain.

The following criteria will help you distinguish whether you are truly a nerd and/or geek, or simply posing as such because it is fashionable.

The criteria:

1. Own, or still own, some of the original Dungeons and Dragons game books. Don't waste my time if you just "played the game" or "watched the (crappy) cartoon or (even crappier) movie." Unless you know the difference between comeliness and charisma, know how to calculate the hit dice of a mature green dragon (breath weapon: noxious gas), why Dragonlance books rock and who the dark lord of Ravenloft is, you don't qualify. However--if you still have one of the multiple-sided dice, you have a shot. Bonus points for sides over twenty.

For the record, I own a few books, my most prized possession being The Oriental Ad&D Handbook. I was always the Wu Jen-Kensai--magic and katana power.

2. Was addicted, in a serious, disturbing way, to at least one video game in your youth. It doesn't matter if it's Castle Wolfenstein on your brother's Playstation or Tetris at work, or 3-D Tetris at work or Tekken on your cousin's X-Box. We're talking: visual impairment when not playing, blisters on thumbs, nervous twitch that causes you to stack and unstack boxes, or charge into street fights with large panda bears.

3. Love anime. I mean serious, old school, Voltron, Robotech, Starblazers, Captain Harlock and the Queen of a Thousand Thieves, G-Force/Battle of the Planets--not-just-porn anime. Anime is the true sign of the discerning nerd, before it got overly uplifted in Spirited Away and bludgeoned into hyperactive stupidity with Pokemon. Please note: the following do not count as anime: G.I. Joe (though I loved it), He- Man (go She-Ra!),Thundercats, Transformers (surprisingly!). Some argue for Inspector Gadget; I find this assertion dubious.

4. Took the SAT at least three times. I took it six. I was the only twelve-year old at the testing center. AND: took at least two (2) of the following standardized tests: PSAT, AP (at least 2), ACT, GRE, LSAT, MCAT. Extra points for GRE Subject Science. GMAT takers are neither nerds nor geeks; they were playing baseball and nominating themselves for Vice President of the student body in order to have stuff to put on their b-school resume.

5. Was continually, steadily picked last for every sport except for badminton, and that's only because the racket wasn't so heavy to lift. (Alternatively: unable to catch, throw, hit or even spot the ball during softball). Bonus points: consistently failing the state-required physical fitness requirements (fifty situps? who's in charge, Patton?)

6. Was consistently, steadily bullied by at least two (2) different individuals at two (2) different stages of childhood/adolescence/teen years. Bonus points are awarded for the higher in the social ladder your bully was--for example, a grabby stoner is far less significant than, say, The Girl Voted Most Attractive her senior year of high school.

7. Had at least two of the following at an inappropriate time: braces (say, during senior year around the prom), glasses (since kindergarten), bad skin (ah, puberty), untamed facial hair (I really should have taken a razor to myself), sudden changes in voice (singing lessons were not a good idea), cuticle chewing, an undershirt instead of a bra, nail biting, hair-chewing, unfortunate makeup choices (blue eyeshadow and big earrings), unshaven legs (learning the hard way in the locker room) and, worst of all, unfortunately ignored armpits (ditto).

8. An unusual (or unhealthy) interest (or aptitude) in technology (or pure science) to the point that when that kid from the 'Nsync tried to buy his way into space, you thought about dating him just so he'd take you along, even though you have a strict no-boy-band policy. Oh yes, and a tendency to read chaos theory or The Dancing Wu Li Masters or Brief History of Time when drunk, making for strange falling dreams. (Please: let's keep the threshold for this high. Science fair ribbons, yes. Ipod critic for Vanity Fair, not so much).

9. Knows why it's very, very important for X3: The Last Stand, to get everything about Dark Phoenix/Jean Grey/Madeline Pryor right, and if they muck it up with too much romance with Wolverine or bad special effects, they really won't get the full impact of the whole Dark Phoenix story. Plus they're already in the doghouse for the Rogue/Ice Man romance, which is so boring and not worth passing up an opportunity to introduce her Cajun, card-throwing, French-mangling lover Gambit, aka Remy LeBeau, to be played by Dennis Quaid as he was in The Big Easy, preferably with his shirt off. (I will accept Josh Lucas if he can do the accent). Which, may, MAY make up for the fact that the X-Men cartoon is off the air, even if it wasn't very good, and Jubilee was incredibly annoying and they kept fighting robots. But it doesn't make up for the fact that all the X-Men videogames SUCKED.

Sorry about that. Number (9) is an unhealthy obsession with at least one series of comic books to the point that you start drawing your own secret comic book where you have the power to fly and manage a complex, superhero-oriented lovelife.

And finally...

10. Could never really fall for someone who doesn't find it cute that, at your core, you are still a nerd and/or geek.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The Last Word on Opal Mehta

Look, it's bad enough that I've got to walk my dogs past a water-logged David Blaine five times today, but are we still beating up on that 17 year old with the unfortunately large book deal? All the browbeating is extraneous. Let the numbers tell the tale, simply:

Age of Kaavya Viswanathan when deal was made: 17

Age of person old enough to sign a legally binding contract: 18

Percentage of book completed at the time of the deal: 34, approximately

Dollars in advance: almost 500,000

Average dollars in first-time fiction advance: 15,000, maybe.

Number of William Morris agents involved: at least 4

Figures in Dreamworks deal: 6, at least

People involved in "packaging" book at 17th Street/Alloy Entertainment: uncounted.

Alloy Entertainment average percentage of advance: 30-50

Agent's percentage: 15-20

Kaavya's actual advance in dollars: 150,000 to 275,000

Date of deal: February 2005

Print run (number of books printed): 100,000

Copies shipped to bookstores: 55,000

Copies sold: 15,000 or less

Date of scandal: April 2006

Number of passages that are reportedly plagarized: 40 (some say 50)

Number of sources of plagiarism: at least 4

Publisher's loss, in dollars: 485,000 + publicity outlay, recall costs, productions costs, value of publishing reputation, smear on publishing as a whole)

Alloy's gain, in dollars: 150,000 to 250,000 (minus value of souls sold to Lucifer & Co.,)

Book deal Kaavya has now: 0

Film deal Kaavya has now: 0

Years of school she has left at Harvard: 3

Kaavya's current age: 19

Years left to live with this: 60-70, approximately.

Ebay average price for hardcover copy of discontinued book: $30.00

Number of people who have asked my dad about his daughter, Kaavya: 4

Number of people who have said to him that "She looks just like you": 2

Number of times my father wanted to say "My daughter, who goes to Harvard...": innumerable

Amount of money that I would have to be paid to make up for never be taken seriously as a writer: 7 figures, at least, and the promise that I could write privately.

Privilege of having a future as an author: priceless.