First Lines: The Great John Green Re-Read Project 2018, Part 1

My current night-time reading project is revisiting all of John Green’s novels in publication order. Since encountering them nine years ago I haven’t gone back, and I wanted to see how they’ve held up. In part one of this probably two-part series, I’ll start with the first three, Looking for Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines and Paper Towns.

I first read these novels between September 2009 and February 2010. To give you some context: in September 2009 I was 29, I was living all by myself in a smallish, rent-controlled apartment just outside the city center of Amersfoort, I still didn’t know that the job I had was about to disappear on me and that I’d be working for the biggest online retailer in The Netherlands for the next five to six years.

Upon re-reading these books in 2018, I was 38, married to The Missus, living with her and a 17-year old Kid Awesome (who, when he doesn’t try to drive me stark-raving mad with his pubescent adolescing, I love to pieces) in our own apartment on the outskirts of Amersfoort’s lovely historic city center, I had switched jobs again, and was two aorta-related surgeries in the space of two years down the road from being relatively in prime condition.

You could say things changed a bit. And you’d not be wrong. But with that shift, this second reading left a whole different impression on those books.

Don’t get me wrong: I still think they’re pretty awesome. They’re still clever and smart books about young people finding out themselves, the world and their place in it, and that sort of stuff still ticks a lot of my boxes. And oh boy, while I don’t usually go looking for high-school lit class stuff like themes and symbols and deeper meanings, do they drip with them, or what?

Without turning this thing into some deep psycho-babble analysis of me, let’s just say that I am not in the same place I was nine years ago. As such, I am kinda over that whole Manic Pixie Dream Girl, You Will Meet This One Girl Who Will Totally Change Your Life For The Better™ fantasy thing I had going on inside my head. Green has been accused of using this trope, which is fairly unfair, as at least Looking for Alaska and Paper Towns try their darnedest to deconstruct this. No one is responsible for your life but you, you know?

So, looking back at my fairly gushing reviews, well, I know where I was coming from, but oh boy.

Book read
John Green — Looking for Alaska
First line
The week before I left my family and Florida and the rest of my minor life to go to boarding school in Alabama, my mother insisted on throwing me a going-away party.
Book read
John Green — An Abundance of Katherines
First line
The morning after noted child prodigy Colin Singleton graduated from highschool and got dumped for the nineteenth time by a girl named Katherine, he took a bath.
Book read
John Green — Paper Towns
First line
The way I figure it, everyone gets a miracle.

Seen Live: Daniël Lohues, “Vlier”

On account of me and The Missus taking my mother-in-law along, this year we journeyed West, to The Hague, to see Daniël Lohues perform a show in support of his latest album Vlier.

Compared to shows I saw in the more eastern parts of The Netherlands, two things are worth mentioning: first, most of the talking was done in Dutch instead of Low Saxon. I guess that is to make it easier for the audience outside of the Low Saxon-speaking area, which brings me to the second point: shame on you, greater-The Hague area. Lohues deserves a larger audience than a half-filled Koninklijke Schouwburg.

Daniël Lohues — Weg van alles (live @ Radio Gelderland)

In a few weeks time, he’ll be playing with an electric band again. Should be fun.

Seen live
“Vlier” by Daniël Lohues, at Koninklijke Schouwburg, Den Haag, on June 5th, 2018
Set list (Spotify)
Prachtig mooie dag / Volle moane / Elk mens die hef zich ‘n kruus te dragen / Kwelt / Bij de hemel in de rij / Weg van alles / De kerke / Ik haal mij’n hond op / Hier kom ik weg // De horizon komp dichterbij / En hij ploegde voort / As de liefde mar blef winnen / ‘t Stöf / Van hier tot Tokyo / A28 / Mar ik heur hier / Baat bij muziek // Angst is mar veur eben, spiet is veur altied / Op fietse / Allennig

Link Text and Location Copier, One Year Later

Exactly a year ago, I released the first version of Link Text and Location Copier, a Firefox WebExtension that helps you creating links right from the context menu.

In the past year, I released 8 minor versions with new features and 11 patches for (mostly) stupid bugs I introduced. New features include the possibility to create your own custom formats, exporting and importing of your settings (I might reconsider implementing an option for using synced storage, though), and stripping those annoying UTM-paramaters from copied links. Eventually, I need to get around to rewriting the whole thing, with better tooling, better styling of the settings page (it is quite hideous), and preferably some tests for core functionality. I also need to figure out how to do some conditional logic in the templates, so that including support for copying images makes sense.

While I primarily wrote this Add-on for my own selfish need, I am completely over the moon that it has been installed over 3,600 times, and that there are about 700 daily users. I am also very grateful for the people who filed bugs and feature requests, and who gave me some pointers how to fix a few issues I hadn’t even noticed. Without those people, this would be a fairly simple, hacked-together piece of code that would just be useful to those few who would have exactly the same needs I have for this thing.

If you want to give it a spin, you can download Link Text and Location Copier from addons.mozilla.org.

First Lines: Sleeping Beauties

Years ago, I read Owen King’s debut short-story collection cite We’re All in This Together, and I wasn’t really impressed. Being a fan of his father’s work, I guess I expected something more. So, when the announcement came that they were co-writing a full-length novel, I wasn’t overly excited.

Of course, I needn’t have worried.

Sleeping Beauties turned out to be quite an entertaining read. The plot — “What if all women in the world fall into a deep, magical sleep (which may or may not be caused by this mysterious woman who just turned up out of nowhere), and all men are left to their own devices?” — is probably mostly fluff, as neither the answer to that what-if (spoiler: men will be asshats) nor its feminist you-go-girl attitude should surprise you. But then you get to the characters (the book starts with a three and a half page long list of ‘em), and the world building, and the subtext, and all the other non-supernatural mumbo-jumbo that makes me like King so damn much. And again, that is where this book shines.

Book read
Stephen King & Owen King — Sleeping Beauties
First line
Ree asked Jeanette if she ever watched the square of light from the window.

Seen Live: Like a Bat Out of Hell (Zwolle)

In February, we went to see Like a Bat Out of Hell, a tribute to Meat Loaf and the music of Jim Steinman by a group of Dutch session musicians, in Amersfoort. As we liked the show a lot and the there was an interesting change in the line-up (Stream of Passion/Ayreon/Mayan singer Marcela Bovia took over for Floortje Smit, who had to step down due to personal circumstances), we opted for a second show, at Hedon in Zwolle.

I have little to add to that earlier review, but as that was in Dutch, I’ll repeat the key findings here: Like a Bat Out of Hell presented a great show, made with obvious love and respect for the music. The arrangements either followed the album versions, or a live version from the period where Meat Loaf toured with a single guitarist. Martin van der Starre, the project’s lead singer, had no intention to ‘play’ Meat Loaf, and the show was all the better for it. The highlight was, again, the ladies’ version of my favorite Steinman song, “For Crying Out Loud.”

Like a Bat Out of Hell plays “I’d Do Anything for Love” in De Bosuil
Gezien
Like a Bat Out of Hell: The ‘Rock and Roll Dreams’ Concert, in Hedon, Zwolle om May 11, 2018
Band
Martin van der Starre, Lisette van den Berg & Marcella Bovio (lead & backing vocals) / Menno Gootjes (gitaar, backing vocals) / Ronald Kool (piano & keyboards) / Johan Hendrikse (keyboards) / Richard Zoer (bass, backing vocals) / Sjoerd Rutten (drums)
Set list
Bat Out of Hell / You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth (Hot Summer Night) / Heaven Can Wait / All Revved Up With No Place to Go / Two Out Ouf Three Ain’t Bad / Paradise by the Dashboard Light / For Crying Out Loud // Life Is a Lemon and I Want My Money Back / Midnight at the Lost and Found / We Belong to the Night / I’d Lie for You (And That’s The Truth) / Dead Ringer for Love / It’s All Coming Back to Me Now / Total Eclipse of the Heart / Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through // I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)