Friday, December 26, 2014

Three Interesting Things

1. Glitter might provide the answer to one of NASA's telescope problems
2. You know i love anything that involves spreadsheet analysis of pop culture, so Tressie Mcmillan Cottom's look at interracial relationships on TV was of particular interest to me.
3. And this story about a child who wrote to Norman Bridwell about her Clifford dog, is just adorable.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Books are Not Bran

One of the things you see and hear a lot of if you hang out in places with aspiring YA writers is people who say things along the lines of, "I want to write books for teens so they will have something good for them to read."  And I cringe inwardly.  So, here's the thing.  I hang out in places with adult focused writers too, and I have never once heard someone say, "I wanted adults to have something good for them to read."  And yes, teenagers are not adults.  (And yes, teenagers are not the only people who read YA, but I am fine with working on the idea that they are the target audience.)  And there is nothing wrong with writing a good story.  Or the story you wish was there for you as a teen.  But if you make your stories sound like healthy bran (not to disparage healthy bran, but let's face it, it's bran) - well who wants to read that? 
Also, you have to love and respect teenagers.  Otherwise, this is like someone saying well, I heard people were buying book X, and since I think book X is crap, clearly I can write a book that audience will love, because I write better. First, this may be your internal monologue (although dear God, I hope not) but saying that never worked for anyone.  Talking down to your audience has never led to more success.  (Unless you career plan is dictator.  And even then I can see problems.)  Also, I don't mean I knew I teen once I didn't hate.  Or I am related to a teen that I love.  Love and respect teenagers.  That's how you know if you can write YA.  Not just I know what teens should be reading.

Edited for spelling

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Three Interesting Things

1. Two of the protest leaders in Ferguson have gotten married.  Certainly not the lifelong change that they got involved for, but lovely nonetheless.
2. So happy for One More Page in Arlington which received a grant to make a book truck.  Seriously people, I want to see the book truck trend move like the food truck trend.
3. And I find this mom who called in to C-Span to tell her rival pundit sons to get it out of their system before they come home for the holidays hilarious.

Monday, December 15, 2014

How OCD Saved My Knitting

(Disclaimer: I recognize that many people overuse the term OCD to reference organization tendencies rather than legitimate obsessive thoughts and/or compulsions. The person in this situation self described as OCD so I am taking them at their word.)
I was in a coffee shop drinking a tea and chatting with a friend.  This coffee shop had a long center table and several small side tables.  An employee mentioned it was kind of driving her nuts that people were swapping chairs from the center table to side tables since, it both made the chairs at the long table not match and that the center table and the side tables were different heights so the chairs were different heights so people should notice the chair felt weird and really this just made her all OCD and while she certainly wasn't going to wrest chairs away from the butts of patrons she didn't know why other people weren't bugged.  (This, I should mention was said entirely in a friendly if curious tone, when you legitimately wonder how people suffer the bother of the unmatching chairs.) I and my friend immediately checked our chairs.  (Mine was right, me friend's was wrong.)  And this led to a discussion of how there were tumblr and pinterest sites about organization, and I mentioned that while my apartment was often a mess, I was one of those people who went into the drug store and rearranged the lipsticks so they were back in the correct slots. 
Well, my friend and I got up to go and were at the corner outside when we heard behind us, "Wait!  Wait!" and the lovely coffee shop staffer jogged out hand handed me my bag of goodies from the holiday market, including a yummy hat kit I had purchased at the holiday market. I thanked her and then realized that while she was clearly a lovely and attentive employees, it was probably her desire to fix our chairs that had her realizing I had left something behind so quickly while I probably would have remembered when I got home.  So really, OCD saved my knitting. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Three Interesting Things

1. Dollree Mapp, who was the subject of a historic case about unlawful search and seizure, has died.
2. In this time of holiday parties and increased togetherness, it can be a hard time for the introverts, I forwarded this essay to some introverts in my life.
3. I loved this piece about knitting as a tool for working on anxiety.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

The Katrina Problem

We are only halfway through the second season of "Sleepy Hollow" and there may be a plan that makes use of all of this. But, right now, Katrina is...not really necessary.  Katrina had moments where she seemed unnecessary in the first season, but she was also trapped in purgatory, and apparently possessed of a glittery hoo-ha given Ichabod and headless/Abraham's burning need for her.  Yes, she was (as folks on Twitter have oft pointed out, supposedly) a powerful witch.  But, no one seemed to really like her for that reason.  But, she was trapped in purgatory, so it seemed hard for her to do much more than pop into a mirror here or there to provide a helpful clue. 
In the beginning of this season she was out.  And...then she decided to hang with Headless to gather intel.  And...constantly remind everyone that Henry was good inside even though he was responsible for almost every terrible thing that happened for every episode, things that resulted in multiple deaths, and he even impregnated his mom with a demon.  (I mean, I know he's too old to be grounded, but if that doesn't at least get you a stern talking to.)  And...Katrina needed rescue a time or twelve.'s fascinating, because in this show that features not one, but two amazingly kick ass women, where there are constantly scenes where Jenny and Abbie propose the plan that everyone follows, where Jenny and Abbie carry the big guns, drive the cars, get handed the tools while the guys hold the flashlights, Katrina gets tied up or impregnated or otherwise put at risk.  And her biggest moment of empowerment this season, was in flashback when she, er, accidentally offed Ichabod's fiance. 
Now it's possible the end game is that Katrina is not all good.  That her time in purgatory or out have caused her to reconsider her choices*.  Or even that they are intentionally making a point about the differences between being a woman raised a few hundred years ago thrust into a modern world.  (Although that would be kind of a shame, given how readily Ichabod has adapted to modern ways, even if he does have a lovely rant about bank pens.) But right now, Katrina is the anchor holding back the team trying to avert apocalypse.  She sends them after things without making sure her communications can't be tracked.  (Seriously, if you can't prevent folks from hitting redial on your mirror, what good is mirror communication.)  She needs rescue.  She makes the team make promises that impair their ability to succeed. 
So, at this point, even if there is a long game, it's going to take quite a lot to make up for what we have so far.

*This interview mentions they have a long game with this.  We shall see.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Three Interesting Things

There are weeks when I feel like three interesting things should all be serious and full of important things going on in the world and weeks where I feel maybe it should just be kitten videos.  This is both of those. 
1. NPR's Code Switch blog took a quick look a racially based protest by athletes.
2. Jacqueline Woodson wrote an eloquent piece about the juxtaposition of winning the National Book Award and getting a watermelon joke.
3. A group of Swedish adventure racers found their team had an extra member of the dog variety.

Monday, December 01, 2014

A discussion of Frozen

Note: I will be discussing "Frozen" and Sense and Sensibility, so therefore revealing plot points of both. 
When I saw "Frozen" last winter, it lived up to all my hopes.  On leaving the theater I had noted the way "Enchanted" handled the true love kiss issue and that I appreciated for "Frozen" they went a slightly different direction .  And I found myself on the Disney Wiki reading comparisons to things. I see their point about some of the comparisons to "A Little Mermaid" (although I would argue that a lot of Disney movies open with a setting song). 
But the more I ponder it, the clearest comparison seems to me to be Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility. In Sense and Sensibility the Dashwood sisters have arrived at differing extreme approaches to life - one of logic, one of emotion.  In "Frozen" Elsa's mishap injuring Anna with her ice powers and as a result, their parents decide to lock up the castle and Anna's memories of her sister's powers are removed.  So, Elsa is encouraged to work on suppressing her feelings to gain control over her powers and Anna is left mostly to her own devices.  So, Anna remembers that there was a time when she and her sister had fun and played and people got to visit the castle and now her sister seems to ignore her and everything is shut up. 
Their parents die (sorry, Disney movie parents, you seemed lovely), and Elsa, as eldest, ascends to the throne.  Coronations demand things like, well, witnesses so the castle gates get opened up for one day and Elsa and Anna have differing reactions and expectations.  As demonstrated through the song (and sidenote, this is one of the things I think the musical form lends itself so well to, showing in duet form emotions surrounding the same event) "For the First Time in Forever" Elsa is trying to remain calm, reign everything in, knowing that all these people with all their eyes on her puts her at huge risk of exposing her power, which as she has been told "conceal, don't feel" her plan is to try to not feel anything for the day. 
Anna, on the other hand, is so excited to finally have people to see and talk to.  Knowing that the plan is for the gates to shut again tomorrow, she's trying to cram a whole lifetime of experiences into a single day. 
In Sense and Sensibility, Elinor is so guarded in her expressions of emotion, afraid of seeming to forward, or of revealing unrequited feelings, that at times her family is unsure of her attachment to Edward, and her sister-in-law tells people she's just after his money.  Marianne, on the other hand, ignores Colonel Brandon who to her seems too old to be passionate (at, ahem, 35) and has no trouble displaying her feelings for Willoughby, such that her family wonders if she has gotten secretly engaged. 
In "Frozen" Elsa manages to just make it through the ceremony, but Anna who has managed to go an fall in love with practically the first guy she sees and now thinks they have the most amazing connection and wants to marry him even thought they've just met.  (The characters repeatedly reference a day, but honestly, while it does go from daylight to night, I think it's still safe to count how long Anna and Hans have known each other in hours.) Elsa is so horrified by this, she loses control and ices over the ballroom, and eventually the whole kingdom.  She runs off into the mountains, where finally she feels like she can, as the song says, "Let it Go". 
In "Sense and Sensibility", Elinor manages to maintain her outward calm, until she is led to believe that Edward has married.  She breaks down, regretting not demonstrating herself more strongly, despite his pre-existing engagement.  She finds later that Edward has been jilted, and it is his brother that has married, leaving him free to propose to Elinor. 
In "Frozen", Elsa does not have a love interest, but in the mountains now has the freedom to go all out with her powers.  When Anna tracks her down to tell her about the winter, she cracks again.  (No pun intended.)  Having thought being outed and outcast freed her to be herself and do what she wanted (which as an heir to the throne with a giant secret to keep had to be so relieving) she now discovers she has caused a problem she doesn't know how to solve.  Reminded that her power can be dangerous she tries to send Anna away so she can't be harmed, but unbeknownst to both of them has iced Anna again, this time her heart. 
In Sense and Sensibility, Willoughby must suddenly leave town.  Marianne continues to write him letters and does not stop until her letters are returned to her along with other tokens, and she learns he is engaged to another.  Later the Dashwoods learn that Marianne is not the first woman Willoughby has made promises to (or suggestions of promises, given Marianne later admits they were never actually engaged) that he ultimately did not keep, have abandoned another young woman after impregnating her. (And yes, there is an interesting division in the suitors, Elinor's was circumspect given that he was technically engaged even risking disinheritance, more committed to honoring his commitments whereas Willoughby was freely passionate, although in his case, he was not willing to risk disinheritance by marrying anyone not of fortune.) 
Anna, unused to having people to talk to, falls completely for quite literally the first guy she talks to.  While admitting getting engaged seems nuts, she remains committed to the idea even after the news causes her sister to ice the kingdom and she runs off leaving her brand new fiance in charge of the kingdom.  (I could write a whole other post about how this kingdom hopefully runs itself pretty well given how carelessly it's leaders seem to trade off, but I shall resist. For now.*) Anna hasn't had a friend her own age since her sister was told to hide her power, so the connection she feels with Hans is magical.  Other people who suggest she should wait and get to know him don't understand that Anna can't count on other days to meet people.  (Sure, now that Elsa has abandoned the kingdom, she could go back and leave the gates open, but it's still an unfamiliar concept to her.)  On her journey she encounters Olaf the snowman and Kristoff the mountain man.  Anna talks easily with Kristoff and gets along with him, but has to nudge him to help her find her sister so their relationship does not seem as easy. 
In Sense and Sensibility, after neglecting herself to the point of illness, Marianne comes to see that perhaps passion just for the sake of passion has its flaws and eventually comes to appreciate the charms of Colonel Brandon. 
As Anna begins to show symptoms of being frozen, Kristoff takes her to his stone troll family.  They assume Kristoff and Anna are a couple and try (in song) to convince the pair to give each other a shot.  The trolls (who Anna and Elsa's parents had brought her too the last time she was iced) are unable to help this time, and advise that an act of true love is needed to save her. 
While the book version of Sense and Sensibility is a little less overt about Colonel Brandon, the Emma Thompson version of the movie has him retrieve Marianne who is so distraught over Willoughby, she is lying out in the cold and rain.  In "Frozen", Anna and Kristoff both agree that if Anna needs love, then she needs to be with Hans, so, as Olaf points out later, Kristoff loves Anna enough to rush her to Hans and then leave her behind.  (I will refrain from pointing out that I'm not sure of the passage of time here, but Anna and Kristoff also don't seem to have known each other that long.  Yep, refraining.)
Anna tells Hans the situation, and he reveals, that actually, he doesn't really love her.  He just wants her for her kingdom.  Oops.  So, he locks her in the room and tells others, including Elsa that she has died leaving him in charge. 
Hans had imprisoned Elsa but she managed to ice over her chains and escape.  Hans catches up to her and tells her Anna is dead.  Distraught, Elsa turns away and doesn't notice he's about to kill her. 
Olaf finds Anna and helps her realize that Kristoff loves her.  He helps her make her way to Kristoff who has had a similar realization and returned to tell her.  But, as the storm stalls Anna also sees Hans about to kill Elsa and instead jumps in the way.  This gambit works since she freezes into a solid block of ice.  Elsa is distraught because she has gained and lost Anna again.  Anna thaws, since this sisterly sacrifice is also an act of true love.  And now, each having found a little balance between emotion and suppression, Elsa figures out how to control her powers and Anna helps send Hans back to his kingdom, and also kisses (but does not, as far as we know, immediately marry) Kristoff. 
So while Sense and Sensibility has some additional secret engagements, and significantly less snow and ice than "Frozen", ultimately the lessons the sisters learn in each are similar.  Both learn that the extreme approaches on both sides carry risks, and a balanced approach leads to greater happiness and love.  Two very enjoyable approaches to this. 

*In the Script Notes podcast, Jennifer Lee mentioned that there were things like who was running the kingdom that they had answers for but that got cut, because it wasn't germane to the core plot.  I get this.  I just, still wonder.