Monday, March 27, 2017

So Let's Talk Bathrooms

I heard someone on an NPR show way back when (okay fine, it was probably a few years ago) talking about ADA and how there tends to be this assumption that making accommodations for disabled people is super hard and causes an undue burden and how many disabled people are there really, and that in pretty much every case, the accommodations needed benefit more than just the disabled.  The example he used was making sidewalk corners wheelchair accessible and that doing that also works great for people pushing strollers, folks with wheeled bags, and people riding bikes.  
So, I thought I'd talk about bathrooms.  In DC, the right to use the bathroom that corresponds with your expressed gender identity has been the law for a while.  It is also the law that single stall bathrooms should be gender neutral.  This has had huge benefit for me as a cisgender person.  There have been studies, and in general women take a little longer in the restroom (about 60 seconds is the data I could find) and we could discuss to death differences in clothing, sit stand preferences, and likelihood a woman may be accompanied by a small person who will also need to use the facility, but in the end even 60 seconds more can add up when you really gotta go.  Putting to the side all the people who claim to be very worried about the birth gender of the people peeing next to them -  why do we care when there's no one else in there?  We do not.  So having all the coffee shops and restaurants that have single stall restrooms have both be gender neutral doesn't eliminate waiting, but does mean if one is empty you can go.  
So now when I go places where that is not the rule, I am irritated.  I think everyone should adopt this rule across the country.  (Other countries would be nice too, but let's start here.)
And those of you who are like, okay, but the shared stalls, um, no.  Not agreeing with you on that.  Unless you meant to say wherever you want to go. 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Three Interesting Things

1. "Sesame Street" has added a regular character with autism and now a recurring character with a father in jail.
2. This article on some new and upcoming YA books that take a look at race and police brutality has some great chats with the authors.  As many have pointed out, Ibi Zoboi's American Street also fits neatly within that category.  
3. This remembrance of a copy editor talks about a shared love of language and the way that we use it. 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Flash - Duet

I had been advocating on Twitter for a musical episode of "The Flash" since about the beginning.  I was aware for obvious reasons that Joe (Jesse L. Martin) could sing.  As an avid Disney channel movie watcher of a certain era, I also knew that Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker) could sing.  I assumed the rest could too. (Nice people later pointed out to me that Grant Gustin had been on "Glee", that there had been a musical episode of "Ed", and of course, with my Disney movie experience, I knew about Victor Garber. And then, for a side project, Jesse L. Martin, Rick Cosnett, and Carlos Valdes sang the Firefly theme song (video here) and I was all in.  Oh, who  am I kidding, I had already been in. 
I do not believe that every show needs a musical episode.  I think more shows should think seriously about doing on.  Or coming up with an excuse to get them to sing.  "Ground Floor" and "Ally McBeal" never did an actual musical episode. But both shows made use of the singing talents of their cast members in ways that advanced the plot.  And yes, speaking of "Ally McBeal", I'm a little sad "Supergirl" didn't follow my advice sooner.  (Also, you may recall that Jesse L. Martin guested on "Ally McBeal", and I would have love to have seen Martin and Flockhart together again.  Ah well.) 
So, when Melissa Benoist and Grant Gustin (along with Stephen Amell) did a joint interview with Conan O'Brien who asked them about the fan desire for a musical episode, and Benoist said she didn't know if there was fan outcry, I might have tweeted at her that hello, there was.  (I assume this question was planted since the episode was already in the works.)
Anyway, I was excited about the musical episode, even though I was a little bored with "The Flash", and their constant mucking with the timeline.  "Supergirl" I remain more attached to, although this year's Kara tries to be a reporter even though her boss is mean had, in my opinion, been a terrible waste of Ian Gomez. 
But singing. 
Making use of Darren Criss as the Music Meister, he whammied Kara on "Supergirl" causing Mon-El and J'onn to track him to Central City, where it turns out he whammies Barry too and they collapse but both wake up in a old school musical where they work as singers in a Club run by a dude named Cutter, in case you didn't think that there might be danger in the musical dream world. They hammer Kara's love of "Wizard of Oz" to remind you why all the characters in this world look like people that Kara and Barry know, Joe, Merlin, Iris, Mon-El, Winn, Cisco, and Doc are all there.  If you think I'm still miffed that Caitlin wasn't - you might be right.  There is at least a passing mention that HR can sing, so I'm guessing time and/or budget constraints were the issue, but I think they could have tightened up the Wally, J'onn, and Cisco capture the bad guy plot and saved us all some time for more songs. 
So, Kara sings "Moon River".  The Music Meister leads the club members, including alt-Cisco and alt-Winn in a group number of "Put a Little Love in Your Heart". Kara and Grant get kidnapped by alt-Doc and alt-Joe to find their daughter, who turns out to be alt-Iris who has been hooking up with alt-Mon-El, which throws both our superheroes who have both just kind of ended things with their significant others. Kara and Barry convince them to tell their parents about their love, and Kara and Barry each follow their alt-love back to witness this.  The dads, because alt-Mon-El is of course Cutter aka alt-Malcolm.  After singing "More I Cannot Wish From You" (trading verses, that's right Garber, Martin and Barrowman - together!), the dads hug their kids and then go off to declare war.  Oblivious to the oncoming war, Kara and Grant ask alt-Winn if he can help them with the prior instruction they received to do an original number, and he presents them with a song that any "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" fan will recognize as having the wry sensibility of one Rachel Bloom.  The song is called "Super Friend" and in addition to having references about not mucking with the timeline, it also is incredibly fun, and the characters go full on dancing on furniture and tapping throughout.  
This is what I love about musical episodes, they are often a bright spot.  Also, it's why I tend to like Barry better when he hangs with Kara, even when they are griping about their love lives, Kara is so bright, that she lightens Barry up.  (I think "The Flash"/"Arrow" crossovers reinforce what a serious, boring doom and gloom dude Oliver is compared to "The Flash" team, but on the peppy hopeful spectrum, "Supergirl is definitely the peppiest of the three.) 
Shots break out as the previously mentioned war breaks out, dream Kara and Barry race out and realize that without their powers they are not much help and both get shot.  And of course, dying in this dream would mean they die in real life. Back in Central City, Caitlin notes their dropping vitals, and Iris and Mon-El, with a nudge from the now captured Music Meister, try out the true love's kiss methodology and save them.  
And the Music Meister reveals that his point was to teach Kara and Barry that even superheroes need to get saved sometimes, and that's what love is about. 
But, you might have noticed, gee, the hour's not up yet, but we...seem to be done?  And if you had been stalking interviews you might have recalled that there was supposed to be Benji Pasek and Justin Paul song (the now Oscar winning duo who also worked on "Dear Evan Hansen").  So, perhaps it was less of a surprise to you when Barry pulled out his phone and triggered some background music so he could sing "Runnin' Home to You" which was sappy but still nice, especially as a lead up to Barry re-proposing to Iris.  (It also reminded me a bit of "You Will Be Found" although it's not like the idea of people being there for you isn't littered across the musical landscape. This isn't a knock, more a statement that this song felt very Pasek and Paul to me.) 
So, am I happy?  Sure. Overall it was great, and certainly proved that the cast has the chops to do this. I think that it suffered from trying to not be an all out musical episode.  It also had a jukebox musical feel, in that it was clear that the songs were written by different people and had different sensibilities, and not always in ways that made sense.  
But in the end, for all my quibbles, if all we got out of this was the "Super Friend" song, it was worth it.  

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Let Me Share My Wisdom

It's tempting, as you get older and figure out stuff, to share your wisdom as absolutes. Don't major in this. Only take notes like that. Real writers do this. It ignores the following.
1. Some lessons have to be learned. listened to a "Love and Radio" episode with someone who thought they were trans only to discover they "just" had gender disphoria, and one of the things asked was what do you think you would have listened too, and their answer was - I'm paraphrasing here - nothing.  I would not have listened to someone telling me I maybe wasn't this. In those cases, sometimes all you can do is share your story and hope it helps someone.  Not everything we share and do has to provide an absolute right answer for a younger version of 
2. I realized when talking to a younger cousin who was looking at some colleges my sister had applied to that my first response was to tell her to talk to my sister.  But sister had already (as have I, since I'm older) been out of college for some time.  It's a natural reflex.  So-and-so went there, worked there, looked at that, you should talk to them.  But let's face it.  Since I graduated college, even putting to the side the huge ginormous shifts in the economy, many things have changed.  The SAT has changed.  I applied before the common app was the big thing it is today. I mailed my college apps in.  There are things that are still the same about the college experience.  But there is a lot that changed.  So, my ability to advise incoming freshmen based on my path and my college experience is limited. 
3. Talk to enough authors and you will find there are a trillion different paths.  (I'm using authors as an example here.  Watch a "Chopped" marathon.  You'll see the same.) There are authors who got their first contract while in high school.  Authors who had six or seven careers before even trying to write.  Authors who wrote for ten years before self publishing.  Authors who published the first thing they wrote.  The point is there are lots of ways to become an author.  I can share my advice, the advice I would have given myself, but it may not be the best advice for you.  In fact, one of the things I look for in writing workshops is people who offer disclaimers.  Because people who think there's one true path are almost always wrong about how that path will work for me. 
4. My two siblings are both employed in a job that matched their college major.  However, my sister changed her major three times.  I changed my major from a more specific choice to general (aka liberal arts) because I figured out I could save myself a year of school and still have the qualifications needed to get the further degree I had planned at the time.  Having a plan is good. Being open to opportunities and figuring out what you want is an ongoing process not limited to college majors. 
5. As with so many things in life, people often tell you what they did as if it was an absolute.  I didn't major in English, they say, because what would that have done except teach me how to read, write, and communicate well.  Who needs those as job skills?  If anything the last decade or so should have taught us, it's this.  I have no idea what the job market will look like in four years. Social media jobs didn't use to exist.  Ride-sharing has changed drastically.  There are all types of jobs and skills that rise up and change.  Some of them will last.  Some won't.  Pursuing things that make you curious and interested can be satisfying in itself. 
6. People's brains are different.  Therefor the tools and techniques that are great for you, may make me bang my head against the wall.  And vice-versa.  So presenting your life hack as as all successful people do X, assumes that all successful people are like you.  And hi, I don't know you, but I'm pretty sure that's not true.  
7. People's bodies are different.  I write using a combination of handwriting (with a tech enabled pen), typing on a word processor, and touch typing on my phone.  I know folks who use dictation, do the whole first draft on their phone, do the whole first draft by hand.  How is kind of the least important part.  Getting the words down is what counts. If you do that typing with your nose, then, I raise my glass to you.  

Friday, March 17, 2017

"Greenleaf" Returns

I confess the episodes of "Greenleaf" stayed stacked up on my DVR for a bit and I only just finally got the first season completed last week, so I have not yet watched the start of season 2.  "Greenleaf" is about the Greenleaf family, who happen to be headed by a Bishop James Greenleaf and let's just say, the family business is church.  The catalyst for the first season was Grace, the lone Greenleaf who left not only the family business, but the family home and the town, but has at long last returned for her sister's funeral and bringing her daughter with her.  As you might suspect, since there were thirteen episodes in the first season, she and her daughter do not immediately return home, as Grace discovers that her sister's death was, as she had suspected, tied to having been sexually abused by her uncle, who was recently accused by another young church female.  
There are lots of other family secrets, affairs, conflicts about one's sexuality, jockey for coveted positions in church, and a secret illness.  Grace has two more siblings, both married, and they are all living in a large house together, which is very convenient for awkward family dinners. As with any family drama, there were storylines I cared more about than others, but, with the exception of Mac - the sexually abusive uncle - most of the people mean well.  They don't all want their secrets out sure, but they want good things for each other and the church, their approach to getting these things differ.  But Merle Dandridge, as Grace, is an amazing performance.  In fact there really isn't a weak link in the cast, which is full of faces that are familiar (Lynn Whitfield, Keith David, Gregory Alan Williams, Oprah Winfrey) and those that are likely new (Desiree Ross, Tye White, Benjamin Patterson). 
The other thing that I find clear, is much as USA had a run of lightly serialized shows that all took place where you might want to vacation, this fits well in the OWN brand.  The show is full of fully realized characters, and there is time in the show for characters to fully react to things.  There are moments where they sit, and process what is happening in their lives without talking.  
One of my favorite moments of the first season, happens with very little dialogue.  First season spoiler's ahead. 

Grace, before she left, was considered a wonderful preacher by many, including her father. In her absence her brother Jacob has been taking on the role of the preacher in the next generation. But Bishop James is worried Jacob's not being leaderly enough.  Then, James shoots uncle Mac in the church, and well, you can understand that the church board thinks James should take a little leave of absence.  Once of the church matriarchs suggests that Grace should step in to Grace's mom Mae, who has been convinced all along that Grace's return would spell ruin, so is not on board with the idea.  At her lady's day, Mae makes a speech, addressing the church's recent troubles and leading up, the audience knows, to her suggestion of herself for the new church preacher in the interim (she even points to herself as she references the need for a virtuous woman).  However, said church matriarch jumps to her feet in applause and turns and smiles at Grace, who is sitting in the audience, and many of the other women follow suit.  It is hard to say who is more uncomfortable, Grace or Mae as they both try to smile like this is what they wanted. 

So, I am in for the next season and ready to see what happens.