Friday, December 30, 2016

The Secret Garden

I became aware of the musical version of "The Secret Garden" in my choral years. The group I was in sang "Come to My Garden" and I don't think that's the only reason that the song is my favorite from the show. Later, when I watched "It Factor" they featured Daisy Egan who won a Tony for playing Mary in "The Secret Garden" but was figuring out her place in Broadway as an adult. So the combination of a local production of "The Secret Garden" that included Daisy Egan  (now playing Martha, the housemaid who encourages Mary to go outside and such) was a no brainer for me.  
As is my habit of late, other than my great familiarity with the one song, I went in mostly cold. 
One of the reasons for coming in with some additional knowledge is so that you don't spend the whole time marveling at the changes.  The musical, for reasons I do understand, focuses much more on the adults.  Also, books can get away with more internal obstacles, but theater often requires a more specific antagonist so Colin's doctor is now his uncle, who was also apparently secretly in love with Lily (Colin's Mom) but also maybe wishes Colin and Archibald would all go away and either leave him the house and property, or leave him to start over.  (Yeah, I found Neville's motivation a little conflicting.) The ghost of Lily, along with Mary's parents, Mary's Ayah and some other folks who died of the cholera outbreak act as sort of a Greek chorus throughout the show, both narrating and also reinforcing the idea that these main characters of Mary, Archibald, and Colin are all living haunted lives.  
Theater productions of books, even comparatively short books, always seem shorter, and the additional emphasis on the adults tilted that more.  So yes, Mary still does discover that being outside and in the garden is good for her, and later for Colin, but Colin barely makes an appearance in the first act, and gets a comparatively short time in the second act. (The Shakespeare Theater production also cut "Round Shouldered Man".) 
Mary's Ayah does not get a name, which is interesting because the male Indian spirit Fakir does.    
So now that I'm done discussing changes, the overall idea of learning to focus outward to get through your grief is still there.  Mary is still prominent, and the staging did some interesting things to demonstrate both the idea of the creepy dark house on the moor, and the garden that begins to flourish. 
I left wanting to re-read The Secret Garden, and overall was really glad to have had the chance to see it. 

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Three Interesting Things

1. It doesn't surprise me as we have more devices that we uses to assist and track use throughout our day, that they begin to factor in things like murder cases, but this story of the police trying to subpoena info from an Amazon Echo reminded me of the discussion around the use of parrots in court cases.   
2. I don't know that it's fair to say that the efforts the Obama administration have made with the current Japanese administration are entirely because a kid from Hawaii would think to focus on that, but the visit to Pearl Harbor and the memorial was poignant, to say the least. 
3. I was pointed to this lovely tumblr that envisioned the convo that might be going on in the afterlife with Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

RIP, Ms. Fisher

Being of a certain age, 2016 has become a bit of a ranking year as far as deceased celebrities.  When I heard about Carrie Fisher, I went to look, because I had just been discussing seeing Fisher when she came to DC for the Wishful Drinking tour and found I apparently didn't blog about it.  (What? I know!) One woman shows, particularly those using a lot of audience interaction are a lot of lightning in a bottle moments strung together so it's hard to describe except to say one of the many things that made Carrie Fisher's later interviews and writing and one woman shows entertaining was she had reached a very specific point of wry humor, laced with really clear eyed understanding of her life, her challenges - both internal and external, and what she needed to best make the world work for her.  So basically, I laughed and came home with a desire to be drinking buddies (even if the drinks for non-alcoholic) with her. 
Someone with that level of fame that early, that level of life challenges, could have easily opted out of the spotlight, and I'm sure there were days, weeks, and years where Fisher wished she did or had.  But she figured out how to set what seemed from my chair in the audience to be healthy boundaries. She did interviews with her assistive dog.  She told Daisy Ridley make sure they give your character clothes, so that you are not forever an action figure without clothes. She talked about addiction, mental health, and heartbreak in ways that now seem less refreshingly honest because people like her were out there talking about it early and often.  
I am so sad for her family for their loss and so grateful the rest of the world got to experience so much of her. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016


I listen to podcasts while working.  But I had noticed a thing.  I had podcasts with male and female hosts.  I had podcasts with male only hosts.  But I had pretty much no podcasts with only female hosts.  And there were some days where about four I reached a point where my ears craved diversity and I was skipping around to find a podcast where the voices didn't all land in that lower register.  So, I looked around.  I googled podcasts with female hosts. And well, a lot of this is a lot of my own proclivities (I tend to not be into political or crafty podcasts and so far most podcasts by people famous for being funny have not been for me) but I have found some things.  So, I thought I would share.  It is terribly NPR heavy.  It is also writer and pop culture heavy.  Since I brought up gender, I will note it for each of these.
I no longer listen to all of these, but yeah, I know, it's a lot. 

-88 Cups of Tea with Yin Chang - Discussions of books and writing.  (Female host.)
-The Business of Writing in Romance - Writing from a more business side.  (Two female hosts, varying guests.) Now defunct, but some great interviews. 
-Grammar Girl - Self-titled Grammar Girls discusses some quick grammar questions. (Female host)
-How Do You Write - A look at writing process.  (Female host, varying guests.)
-Scriptnotes - Two screenwriters talk writing and movie news (Male hosts)
-The Writers Panel - discussions with writers about writing, usually Comics and TV writers. (Male host, varying interviewees)
-Minorities in Publishing - Interviews with Minority folks in publishing.  (Female host.) 
-Writing Excuses - A panel of writers (mostly book, some comic) discuss writing (Three males and a female are the main hosts.)

Current Events: 
-Freakonomics Radio - The folks behind Freakonomics look at things through, well, a Freakonomics lens. (Main hosts male)
-On the Media - a weekly review of the news media (Female and male hosts, varying contributors)
-Serial - You may have heard of this one, from the This American Life people, stories that take place over multiple episodes.  The first season took a look at a murder case. (Main host female)
-Ted Talks - People with a viewpoint on something.  (Varying speakers.)
-TWIBPrime aka This Week in Blackness- Three (to four or five) panelists discuss the weeks news with an emphasis on things that affect people of color. (Main hosts one male, and two females)
-Planet Money - Stories told through an economic/financial lens 

Pop Culture:
-Another Round - Discussions of race, gender and pop culture.  Also squirrels.  (Two female hosts.)
-Extra Hot Great - discussions and quizzes about TV.  (Currently two female hosts, a male host, and regular guests.)
-Literary Disco - Three bookish folk discuss books.  (Two males and a female host.) I confess, this one I have fallen out of interest with, they are pretty judgey about genre fic and I reached my limit on that.  
-Pop Culture Happy Hour - Four panelists discuss pop culture. (Main contributors contain a female, and two males)
-Talking TV with Ryan and Ryan - Two TV critics discuss TV. (A male host and a female host.)
-West Wing Weekly - Discussion of "The West Wing". (Two male hosts)

-Pardon the Interruption - Similar to the TC show of the same name, a look at the latest sports news (Male hosts) *
-His and Hers - Sports (Male and female host)

Trivia, Knowledge, and other Minutiae: 
-Ask Me Another - Humorous quiz show from NPR with weekly guests. (Female host, male house musician.)
-Good Job, Brain! - A trivia team quizzes each other on different manner of trivia.  (Two female members, two male members.)
-Hidden Brain - The science behind decision-making and behavior. (Male host.) *

-Invisibilia - A look a the things behind human behavior (Two female hosts)
-Nerdette - Two self-described Nerdette's discuss stories of interest to those of us with a nerdy bent. (Female hosts, although for the TV recaps they are regularly joined by a male.) 
-Song Exploder - the history behind a song.  (Male host)
-Stuff You Should Know- Two, um, know-it-alls do a deep dive into a subject.  (Male hosts.)
-Radiolab - Stories that look at the intersection between science, philosophy, and the human experience. (Male hosts.)
-Wait Wait Don't Tell Me - Humorous current event quiz show (Male host, varying panelists.)

Real Life Stories: 
-Criminal - Deep dive into a particular crime.  (Female host, varying contributors.)
-Judge John Hodgeman - Real people bring their real issues to fake internet court. (Male host.)
-Love and Radio - One interview about an unusual story.  (Varying interview subjects.) Some of these are NSFW, so use headphones. 
-Radio Diaries - is a pretty accurate title really. (Varying contributors)
-Snap Judgement - Stories about life, again usually with a common theme. (Male host, varying contributors.)
-This American Life - Stories about life, usually with a common theme. (Main host male, contributors vary weekly.)
-Tiny Spark - A look at philanthropic efforts and other attempts at making good. (Female host)
-Storycorps- Selected stories from the Storycorp project collecting stories of everyday people.(Varying interview subjects.)

Other podcasts: 
-2 Dope Queens - Comedy and comic bits talking about sex, romance, race, and hair.  (Two female hosts, varying guests). 
-Code Switch - Discussions of race and news (Male and female main hosts, varying contributors). 
-News in Slow Spanish - News in slow Spanish for those of us trying to maintain or relearn our Spanish (male and female host). 
-Fortification - Interviews with social justice organizers about the intersection of faith and justice (Female host, varying guests.)
-Sporkful - A look at food traditions.  (Male host.)

Now Defunct or on Hiatus
-Black Girl Nerds - Note: Does not podcast enough - A look at nerd news from some black girls. (Female hosts.)
-Firewall and Iceberg - Two TV Critics discuss TV.  (Male hosts) This podcast is now defunct. 
-How to Do Everything - Instructional tips on a variety of topics, (Male hosts.) This podcast has now ended. 
-PostBourgie - Discussions of race and news.  (Multiple hosts, male and female).  Podcast intermittent these days. 
-Rendered - Stories and interviews with creative folks. (Female host, varying interviewees.) This podcast is now defunct. 
-This Creative Life with Sara Zarr - Discussions with authors about writing.(Female host, varying interviewees).  Currently on hiatus
-The Year of Tea - It's about tea.  Short casts.  (Male Host).  This podcast is now defunct. 
-How to Do Everything - Two guys look into various questions about how best to do things.  (Two male hosts.) Now ended. 

*Enjoyed but moved out of the rotation. 

Friday, December 23, 2016

Project Runway - The Finale

In some ways, like sports, I find it hard to go into these things without having picked a bit of a side. I also feel for the designers, they were told cohesion was key, and in the end, it turned out the judges were also looking for a wow moment.  I don't think any of that is too much to ask, but I do think, now that the designers have so little time for their final collections, it's tough to get cohesive, innovative, and wow.  But, that is the crazy show they signed up for.  (I could also mention that one of their most wow shows ever did not win, but I swear I'm not bitter about that still.)
And of course, while the winner gets money, which is nothing to sneeze at, those of the finalists who wish to move on, have the chance now.  "Project Runway" has a mixed bag of successes and failures, but those who were ready, have gotten great opportunities.  
So, all of this is to say, I'm thrilled for Erin, but man, I had thought I was ready for it to be an interesting discussion of playful Erin or classic Laurence, and instead they found Laurence too, um perfect.  I like a good surprising show, and on that merit Erin and Roberi were more successful but I was in the end more attached to Laurence getting this money than I thought I was.  I really do think that these four had some really interesting things.  They are not all things I would wear, but heck, half the stuff that walks fashion week I wouldn't wear.  But these were great finalists and I'm so grateful I got to watch them make fascinating clothes all season. 

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Three Interesting Things

1. You might have heard the story of the black female doctor who was told they needed "real" medical professionals when she came forward for a request for medical assistance.  But as a result, she met with the airline and they are revising how they ask flight crew to seek out assistance. 
2. My grandmother always had cats. Once she was suffering dementia, it was tricky as dementia patients are not good at remembering to feed and clean up after animals. My family's solution involved a very understanding assisted care facility and daily visits from a cat care assistant.  But robotic therapy cats might be a much more achievable solution for many. 
3. This is framed as a lazy dog, but I would argue that the dog has learned efficiency, and that the Roomba will just go around it. 

Monday, December 19, 2016

Food and Friends

It was a weekend that involved bundling up and staying warm, eating yummy food made by myself and friends, knitting and otherwise.  In my extended circle this weekend involved two funerals and a new puppy.  In some ways it was a great reminder that we gather, we hang out, and it may just seem like knitting, and gossiping, and eating, but the connections and the maintenance of them through time and food make us better, fuller people and the reason on this top half of the planet we try really hard to do this this time of year is not only because of the cold and the dark, (although yes, that too).  

Friday, December 16, 2016

Project Runway: The Tim Visits

The Tim visits are my favorite part and if I had been Roberi's family, I would have demanded they have that video chat while Tim was there.  Also, time for my annual reminder to folks, hi, I love you, if you get on "Project Runway" make it to the final four and invite me as your dear friend.  Laurence told Tim her story, which viewers had gotten a peek at earlier.  Roberi talked about leaving Caracas.  Erin took Tim to a bar.  And Rik took Tim bowling which is kind of delightful.  I don't know what makes you think, I'll take Tim bowling, but these are creative minds at work here. 
Back in New York (or still in New York in Roberi's case) they showed the judges three looks with Heidi there via video chat, and Michael Kors there as an in person judge (along with Nina and Zac).  And so they were all told to work on cohesion.  I don't think the judges were wrong, and in fact it was a lot of what Tim had said during his visits, but I think the three looks can be tough, because if I show you a chocolate chip cookie, an sugar cookie, and a brownie, the brownie stands out.  But if I show you a chocolate chip cookie, sugar cookie, gingersnap, a marshmallow treat, a blondie, and a brownie, now it seems more balanced.  (This is a bad example because who says brownies, what were you thinking?  But you get my point.) 
But I'm looking forward to the finale.  These are some talented designers with excellent sewing skills, and the two have not always gone hand in hand.  

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Three Interesting Things

1. You may have heard there was a recent legislative change to Voice of America.  This article talks about what Voice of America does now and how they expect this to change their mission. . 
2. This article about how Moana is an unusual female character for demonstrating leadership through empathy and smarts rather than supreme fighting skills is really interesting but it contains a spoiler for the ending, so proceed with caution. 
3. Because it is sugar season, these three recipes can be combined into one amazing sounding thing. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

RIP, Mr. Thicke

When I was in high school "Growing Pains" not only aired new episodes throughout the year, it reran on one of the local stations every evening.  So, in an average week I watched six episodes of "Growing Pains" while doing my homework.  (I would argue that I got a lot done during this half hour, my parents may disagree.) So, I am intimately familiar with the show, watched all the reunion movies, and also know "Growing Pains" factoids like Brad Pitt guest starred twice, at a time he was such an unknown that he played a different character. As someone who at the time had flirted with the idea of becoming a psychologist, the role of psychiatrist Dr. Jason Seaver was compelling to me, plus the various sibling differences ultimately spoke to me.  I haven't revisited those episodes, so have no idea how they read now, but I was incredibly attached to them and so, with sadness saw that Alan Thicke passed away last night.  He was also a TV theme song writer, and ridiculously, I can still sing quite a few of those.  These days I understand increased ad time has limited such things, and really only "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" is committing to the theme song as a complete song, and not a short riff. 

Monday, December 12, 2016


I went to see "Carousel" at Arena Stage Friday. It included a number of actors I've seen in other local productions, so it was a gimme for me, even if I knew that musicals of a certain age tend to include problematic things.  Which is to say, while I had listened to the music some in preparation, I had decided to go in blind on plot and well, yeah.  
Let's summarize first.  "Carousel" is the story of Carousel barker Billy who loses his job for flirting too much and ends up married to one of the flirtees (who also loses her job for engaging in behavior unbecoming of a factory girl).  His sadness over being unemployed leads to drinking and spousal abuse, but when he discovers his wife is pregnant, he engages in a ridiculous scheme to get more money and ends up dead and in purgatory.  He is offered the chance to attempt to up his heavenly entry points by going back to help his daughter who is now a teen with a bit of a temper problem.  it also includes a number of well known songs such as "June is Busting Out All Over" and "You'll Never Walk Alone". 
So, having consulted post-show with a friend who was quite familiar with it, and also taken a peak at the summary here, it is clear to me that this version attempted to address some of the elements that in the original made spousal abuse seem adorable.  Yes, Julie still stays with Billy, but everyone else tells her that she shouldn't.  Domestic violence is a complex issue, and it's not impossible to address in a musical, but in this case it was clearly meant as a layer of Billy's character, not anything the show was going to spend real time exploring for Julie. Billy has to make amends but not to Julie, just to someone.  So it's essentially treated as a character flaw where the victims are unimportant other than it is preventing him from progressing on to heaven. 
The performances were great, and the orchestra was suspended over the stage in what looked like the top of the carousel.  Since it takes place in Maine there were what to my ears sounded like a good Down East accent.  

Friday, December 09, 2016

Project Runway: The Final Four

The final challenge is always so exhausting for everyone.  The designers are right at the point they can taste the end - although the end hopefully means six more weeks or whatever silly time frame they have of work.  Okay fine, honestly all five of these designers are going home to create a collection, but one of them may be a decoy.  Anyway, so, because they weren't tired at all, they whisked the designers to Austin where we met Nick Verreos who is there to tell the designers about the hotel.  Then they get swept to two locations for their unconventional shopping. I would hope that they got more than that nice meal in Austin because for a challenge that was supposed to combine high fashion and Austin's weird aesthetic, it didn't look like they got much time in Austin. 
But anyway, they made things, they got a surprise additional outfit (that I suspect was because no one was fighting so they were trying to amp up the tension, but this is just me spitballing here). No one had two bad outfits, and really it was just down to who do you want to see more of.  So Cornelius was sent home again. And we get to see what Laurence, Roberi, Rik, and Erin move forward.  I have to say, other than Laurence, none of this would have been my early challenge picks, and yet this feels about right.  So looking forward to my favorite part, the Tim home visits. 

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Three Interesting Things

1. I had missed this story the first time around, but Jennifer Lawrence's use of this story as a hilarious set story when doing promo for an entirely different film is as disconcerting as the fact that her earlier versions were very much more I did a bad thing, instead of the current oops, I ruined ancient sacred rocks.  Lol!
2. Maureen Ryan asked that TV creators keep fighting for more diversity
3. US raises pandas, sends them "back" to China unable to understand Chinese and addicted to American crackers is probably not a metaphor for anything, but there are panda pictures. 

Monday, December 05, 2016

Irony Aging Badly

I have a number of ironic t-shirts.  I even have one that says "I <3 irony" which is less ironic and a little more straight up.  In the past few years, this past year in particular, things that used to seem funny or at least a bit arch have become less so.  
One of my shirts that is no longer funny said, "The fake news is all I need." I've been a fan of the comedic news, starting with "The Daily Show" and now that we have even more offerings.  (I am aware that "Saturday Night Live"s Weekend Update also does this, it's just not a thing I ever watched regularly.)  I've talked before about both the shirt and the study that showed that what we used to call fake news was actually substantive.  As one friend put it, the jokes wouldn't be funny if you didn't know what they were laughing about.  
But of course, as more and more people move away from more traditional news, the idea of fake news has moved from news provided with laughs, to news that is actually not correct, or more insidiously, news that is intended to cause harm.  I have also talked before about being your own curator as the internet provides increasing access to information.  
I talked Thanksgiving with someone who said that just as during the Obama administration we found many people turning to conservative sites sometimes of dubious truthiness, that during the Trump administration their concern was that liberals might find much of the same. I bring this up to say recent events at a DC pizza place are not about how one person decided showing up with a gun and shooting at things (thankfully just things and not people) was the best route to the truth not because one extreme person is a representative sample of any particular viewpoint, but more to say that if or as each of us feel that the mainstream news isn't serving us, it's something we all have to be vigilant about in seeking out other sources, in examining our own biases that let some stories seem more or less true, and in making sure that we seek out reliable information. Just as reading TV reviews is often more helpful if you have knowledge of a critic's general taste and style, the same is true of news. Knowing both your own biases, and those of your news curators makes you a better consumer. 

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Three Interesting Things

1. You know when people tell you such and such mashup is the thing you needed, and you're like, I dunno, do we need a mashup of "Hamilton" and Beyonce?  We might.  We just might. 
2. And it turns out some sea lions are particular about grammar
3. Some native Americans have been reviving food and farming traditions

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

"Moana" and Problematic Faves

I saw "Moana" last week.  I really liked it. I've been humming the music.  I look forward to owning the movie.  And, I recognize that there are legit concerns that people have raised. There was an episode of "Another Round" where there was a discussion about Tyler Perry movies, in that they both fill a gap that existed in the cultural landscape, and yet, provide a fairly narrow view of contemporary black women.  I believe they called it problematic but necessary.  And this is where I think both "Lilo and Stitch" and "Moana" fit. 
Prior to "Lilo and Stitch" you could usually tell who had been to Hawaii by who knew the word mahalo, which means thank you, and as such, is plastered across many fast food trash cans in Hawaii.  With "Lilo and Stitch" they were able to add ohana to their lexicon whether or not they had traveled.  I'm all for people learning new words in new languages, but it was a weird piece of data that people would pull out to prove that, I guess, they had learned things from a Disney movie. (And okay, a growing number of people know the word hapa, but very few acknowledge that it's Hawaiian.)
Travel is expensive, I'm not saying that it's anyone's fault that Hawaii is a hard place to get to outside of movies for many people. And certainly "Lilo and Stitch" did a far better job of representing Hawaii than "Pearl Harbor" or several other movies did.  But part of this diversity in media conversation that we're having is that when there is one, or two, or even three stories about an entire region, people over-assign importance to their representation. If I write a story about a blond girl who is a cheerleader, no one reads that story and thinks, well, now I know everything about blond cheerleaders, because the pop culture landscape is littered with them.  
Already, there was the issue with the "Maui suit" (which has been pulled) where you could don dark skin with tattoos.  Already, there are reviews like this one in the local blog where people assume Moana is Hawaiian.  Moana is not Hawaiian.  Nowhere in the movie is Hawaii referenced.  But because the god Maui shows up, there are people who are going to assume she is Hawaiian without any understanding that ships, tattoos, coconuts, and rhythmic dancing exist throughout the Pacific islands and just like the ancient Greeks and Roman had similar gods and goddesses, Maui exists throughout the Pacific because a lot of the same peoples traded stories. And yes, I know there are people from Hawaii doing several of the voices, but there are also people from New Zealand, (in fact by my count there are more New Zealanders in the cast than any other Pacific island). This doesn't make "Moana" a bad story, but it highlights the need for more stories about the Pacific so that people aren't so surprised to discover that Maui is a god for multiple places. 
Also, I want to note again, I've seen the movie, there is no reference to Hawaii and the other gods referenced are specifically not Hawaiian. So for a reviewer to assume that the movie is about Hawaii speaks to the power of the assumptions we bring in there with us.  That's why more stories are needed. 

Monday, November 28, 2016

Change in the (H)air

I had the day off work a few weeks ago and went to see my hairstylist.  I tend to wait about six months between appointments, so while I adore her, it does mean I often miss big changes in her life. 
Growing up we all went to the same hair stylist through my middle, high school, and college years until she decided to make a career change to become a nurse.  So I knew the value (and the privilege) of a great stylist who knew your hair well.
As someone with wavy curly color treated hair, that curls more on the top layer and in back, the journey to finding good stylists has been filled with ups and downs.  Stylists at low end salons who do okay cuts, to stylists who nod at the things you request, and then do what they want once the scissors are in their hand.  I read a tip a while back, that when they ask what shampoo or other products you use, reference brand names they sell in that salon. It doesn't always mean that they don't make new suggestions, but there are a lot who just say, oh good, and then talk about the weather. 
Anyway, I had reached a point where I found a great stylist and then she moved to Arkansas to open her own salon.  I hopped around to other stylists at that salon, and then scoured the local salon roundup, and decided to make a switch.  I found a good stylist, and then, she was on vacation, found I liked the stylist they had referred me to even better.  She was great.  She was the first stylist I had who cut my hair dry, so she could keep an eye on the unusual curl pattern, and then wash and dried it and double checked. Unfortunately she was just far out enough in the suburbs, that one I gave up my car, it did not make sense to rent one to visit her. 
This time I referenced a thread on, of all places, Ravelry, and found a great salon in walking distance.  My first visit I recognized the receptionist as a former yarn shop owner, talk about a sign you were in the right place.  I loved my stylist there. She paid careful attention to the fact that I tended to stretch out the time between visits and cut it with that in mind.  And then she decided to move to Charlottesville.  I made an appointment with the person the salon recommended as a backup and it was - not good.  She was clearly not prepared for someone with wavy hair, she cut it wet and then flat ironed it so straight that I actually went home and fixed it. (I have a long face, stick straight hair that doesn't even curve a little around my face is not a good look for me.) 
I asked around and got some new suggestions and found my current salon, where I've been for a few years.  So, there I was, and my stylist let me know that she is moving to Nicaragua.  I am thrilled for this new life chapter for her, and of course sad for myself.  I've made use of other stylists in this salon when she's been sick, and she also gave me a referral, so I know I and my hair will be okay.  
But change is hard, and unwished for change can be very hard.  The good news is I have a few months before I have to worry too much. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Three Interesting Things I am Thankful For

1. Justina Ireland's strange little story that I am unable to describe further without spoiling. It is both happy, sad, and familiar. Poor tree. 
2. This blog post of food you might make to watch with "Moana" includes Dole Whip Cupcakes, which, why have these not existed in my life before now!  It's cool.  Off to buy more pineapple. 
3. And they are going to record "Freaky Friday" which you remember was a hope of mine.  So yay. I can be patient.  Really. 

Monday, November 21, 2016

7 Things: Being Good is a Constant Journey

I'm seeing a lot of things out there is this changing world.  With the rise of racist and xenophobic attacks a lot of people are trying to explain that they are not racist, not sexist, not xenophobic, not ableist and then trying to pull out examples that prove their claims.  So let's talk. 
1. Just because you once - or maybe even now - had a friend who was not exactly like you, this does not mean any bad phobias or -isms you had absorbed by living in this world just disappeared. 
2. You friends, family or coworkers of whatever marginalized group do no exist to reassure you that you are cool.  You may have a relationship with someone that allows you to check in and review things, but people of color, people of other religions, people who are disabled, people who are of a different sexuality than you, people along the gender binary, people from other countries, and every intersection therein, are not your sounding board.  And remember even if your relationship does allow for that, think carefully about how much and how often you are asking this person to be your interpreter.  How much others might be asking the same thing of them.  How their might be other ways you could work on yourself that don't ask others to live through harmful stories to help you feel better.  You would, I hope, never expect that victims of sexual assault should constantly listen to your stories about being groped or harassed to confirm that.  This is kind of the same thing. 
3. If you do not have friends of different identities, you should work on that.  No, I'm not suggesting there's a magical checklist that will make you good once you've achieved it.  I'm saying that the more that you can expand your circle, the more opportunity you have to listen - emphasis on the word listen - the more information you will have about other's experiences.  If you live somewhere homogenous among one identity or another, you can make use of the internet.  But, I refer you back to the above.  You can forge real relationships on the internet.  But people you have had a fun exchange with once, people who work as reporters, bloggers, or other information disseminators may have already shared the maximum amount of the information they are willing to share.  And your cool Facebook convo is not a free pass to their experiences.  
4. Being racist, ableist, xenophobic, anti-religious, or homophobic is not just about being nice to somebody once.  It is a constant journey.  If you let your state or federal enclave pass laws that harm folks without pushback, then you are part of the problem.  If you are great, until you notice your school, your neighborhood, or your workplace tipping too much into people not like you, and then you start fighting back, or just pull your kids from that school, move, and change jobs, you are part of the problem.  
5. If you vote for people that spew hate because the rest of the things they promised sound good, then you are part of the problem. If you vote for people that did not spew hate during the election, but then they sit quietly and let terrible things occur, you are part of the problem. 
6. If you tell your kids, your friends, that the terrible things that happen to them don't matter because the person probably didn't mean it that way, then you are part of the problem.  Yes, context is useful, but it does not trump harm.  People who come to you about harm will just stop telling you things.  It won't solve the harm, and those harming them will continue on.  We cannot show up for every fight, but if you can't even bear to let people tell you their stories, you are not only not stopping harm, you are contributing directly to it. 
7. If every time someone says, hey, I have concerns about this thing you did or said, you react with vitriol, saying that no one can ever win, no one is ever happy, then you are part of the problem. 

Friday, November 18, 2016

Project Runway: Let's Talk Numbers

I confess I was worried.  The whole whatever setup to get them in the helicopters mirrored enough other challenges where designers were asked to wander the city and so many of them came back inspired by the geometric architecture.  I love geometric designs, I love architecturally inspired designs, and I need to see another contestant paste a skyline across a model's chest like I need another hole in my head.  But, the designers did not fall into that trap. So kudos.  Instead some of them dug back down and found their confidence, and some of them tried to be bold in ways that were less successful. It is always, around this point, where the rubber starts to meet the road.  You can do things you've done before, and still get great responses, and do something you've done before and get, ugh, that again.  You can break out in a new direction, and get great responses, and break out and get, ugh, what is that.  At this point in their sleep deprived, sore sewing handed bodies, it starts to feel so unfair.  
But the judges - while the judging takes much longer in real life than we see on TV, slept in their own beds, with the normal roommates (I assume, but you get my meaning), ate food probably on a real plate.  So, they can say, that shoulder I've seen before, but this outfit is cute, you're fine.  That shoulder I've seen before, and I didn't super love it then, so you can die on that signature shoulder hill if you want to.  Also, I had said recently that no one sent a naked model down the runway yet this season, and Dexter, that was not a challenge dude.  Making a see through outfit with a jacket is not acceptable.  
So, Nathalia and Dexter reached the end of their time.  Which, for savvy viewers at home, means that the use of the Tim Gunn save for Cornelius threw their numbers off.  So now they are at six.  I'm guessing next week's challenge requires even numbers.  Hope the designers are ready for that. 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Three Interesting Things

1. Not surprising, but apparently Fitbit numbers showed that DC residents slept less than average on election night. 
2. So, a number of caveats, before this next link.  It talks about why many have suggested getting an IUD (or other long acting contraception coverage) now, if you haven't already.  Obviously, the IUD is not the right answer for all women or all circumstances, so discuss this with your doctor.  The possible changes (which are just theoretical at this point) will not only affect those on plans in the health exchange, but those on employer sponsored plans that expanded their coverage or eliminated co-pays as a result of the Affordable Care Act. 
3. This interview with DC's non-voting member of the House, reminded me how great she is, and that I need to remember to watch "Good Girls Revolt". 

Monday, November 14, 2016

Voting is Just the Beginning

One of our ministers at church often referenced ways we could march, protest, and other wise push for change.  She mentioned at one point that a congregation member once reminded her that's not the only avenue.  Yes, the world, the nation, the city need people advocating for the things they want.  I once went to a forensics competition, and one of the speechifiers talked about working with your elected representatives and that one had gotten on the floor and said that his constituents favor it two to one.  He had received three letters. 
The hope is usually that we elect people who have values that align with ours. But whether our fave got picked or not, it can be helpful to remain vigilant.  And if remaining vigilant seems super hard - I know this election cycle took a lot out of a lot of people - there are other ways.  Supporting things - even fun things like books or comics.  Volunteering to read books to kids or folks in homeless shelters.  Supporting larger groups who are pushing the government towards the changes you want. 
I personally am planning to work more on being the person my city council members recognize when my email shows up. And some of those ideas cost money, but you can also request those books, comics and movies you want from the library. And if they don't have it, suggest it to them.  Libraries often have part of their budget for patron requests and this will not only benefit you, but hopefully some other person who happens across this item if they add it. 

Friday, November 11, 2016

Project Runway: The Families and Friends are Here

The episodes where they bring in the family members and friends always make me super curious about the behind the scenes action. Laurence had mentioned previously that she'd been kicked out when she got pregnant. So not sure that's the only reason her daughter was her person but I imagine that's part of it.  And then you start to wonder, especially as Dexter and Roberi get friends, how much of this had to do with who in your life was willing and able to hop a plane last minute, and if Cornelius hadn't been saved, would his mom just be sitting in a hotel room sipping tea with him?  Huh, maybe that's it.  Maybe all the other relatives are sipping tea in the special room with the eliminated contestants. 
Anyway, it seems "Project Runway" has learned that if you bring families, you cannot trust them to other contestants. There will be enough emotion as these folks who've been in a reality show bubble for two weeks or so, to get to hug a real person who loves them.  And in this case, with the contestants and the contestants friend/family member having money on the line too, the idea that you were making something for them was a thing you say, and really it was a question of who made an awesome outfit for this person the judges had never met before.  
I did cringe a smidge as the models heard the judges, because, Zach was doing his normal check the hems and peak at the underside, which he generally does (at least as far as I can see through my TV screen) respectfully, but it's a strange thing for a contestant bud to sit through.  Hopefully the contestant buds have watched enough "Project Runway" that they knew what they were in for. 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Three Interesting Things

1. This was an historic election in several ways, including the election of the first openly bisexual governor
2. There will be three Asian American women in the Senate and the first Latinx woman
3. Some fascinating info on the I Voted stickers

Monday, November 07, 2016

Broken Pipelines

One of the things that has interested me is that in entering the late night comedy/news space, both Samantha Bee and Trevor Noah have worked to get a writer's room that looks a little different. Trevor Noah talked with NPR about looking at the first batch of resumes and saying, so great, but how do we get more people who aren't just like the ones on the staff already.  And they told him, this is all we got.  So he talked to friends and other folks he know from the comedy circuit and they didn't have agents, didn't have a way to make these submissions.  So they opened things back up and ended up with more people, because as Noah said, he didn't want to cover a story about Muslim people, or female people, or Asian people, and not have anyone like that in the room. 
Similarly Samantha Bee did a blind application process where they provided a clear template for what a writing sample should look like, so that access to institutional knowledge was less of a barrier.  
And I think this kind of thinking is needed lots of places.  We can't keep looking at the pipeline and going, I don't know why most of the books chosen here are by cis-het white people.  I don't know why this agent's list is almost all hegemonous.  
And look, part of the reason I started tracking books I read about diverse characters was because I knew without looking, it's easy.  There are so many stories about cis-het white people.  I have made some inroads keeping an eye out for own voices stories, ie stories where the author and the character share either ethnicity, sexuality, or other -ity's.  It's harder to track because it sometimes requires you to know a bit about an author, but there is something to it.  Reading stories from people who know a thing inside and out is more likely to expand me in useful ways.  Those people aren't always of that -ity, but the liklihood is greater.  We, as a culture, are exposed to a whole lot of stereotypical crap, it's hard to unpack.  
So, yes, we need to fix the pipeline, but not just by sitting back and hoping the next generation has more "natural" marginalized writers.  The pipeline is leaking out people at every level, to abuse the metaphor.  It's up to us to some up with creative ways to fix it. 

Friday, November 04, 2016

Project Runway: Problem Teams Again

The week's episode of "Project Runway" once again had teams.  And we'll just gloss right over the apparent "first" of doing a pop-up with a window display (yes, apparently we are just supposed to pretend the first season didn't happen) or the apparent surprise that people had that New Yorkers would take a fashion window display seriously.  Sure, sure.  That's surprising.  And let's focus on the red team.  Now, "Project Runway" teams are of course real life things, even if they are also reality show things.  You get put on teams with people in real life.  And those team members have pre-existing relationships, both good and bad, and that - particularly in a three person team, has a huge impact on dynamics. And when your team only has to last for a day*, you often figure, it's not worth trying to reset relationships, let's work hard and hope we all make it through. 
And, whether on a group project in school or in work, it is one of terribly unfair things that there are often people who do less work, and sometimes because they did less work, the work that they did was better.  Now look, I imagine Erin and Derek were a little surprised when they watched the episode.  I imagine in their heads, they were super simpatico and have really similar styles - both as far as aesthetic and work style (ie lots of breaks and snacks).  And so they viewed Cornelius's constant worry as his way, not as a warning sign that he could see issues with the fact they they had no color to break up the relentless red, not that they had a coat and a dress and nothing else even though they needed three outfits.  Not that he knew if they ended up in the bottom they were both going to pick him to go home.  And they heard Tim tell the neutral team to amp it up and tell them their choice was bold and did they have any other fabric and somehow thought Erin using Cornelius's skirt meant they were off the hook and not, that they were in trouble but since they had no fabric Tim had little other suggestion as to how they could fix it.  
So, they were probably surprised to see that they came off as team slackers who were mean to their team member.  And look, sure, reality show edits can be unkind, but in this case, I suspect it was pretty fair.  Yes, they amped up the giggling and the snacking, but in the end, one person made an outfit and a half, after being overridden for every suggestion, and two people didn't.   The neutrals team also had two friends and a third, but they at least showed Jenni saying I should probably go tell Mah-Jing so he doesn't think we're having secret meetings, which was not great, but at least an acknowledgment that as a three person team, we should try to keep everyone in the loop. 
And as the judges said, we're in the place now where perfectly fine stuff gets you sent home, and so Cornelius' pleated skirt wasn't terrible, it just wasn't great.  And the fact that he had to make a second skirt because his teammate took his first skirt went to make his teammate's outfit look good, is a factor, but still means that his outfit was the worst of the three.  Personally, I would have sent Derek home, even though I had been interested in some of his stuff, but that basic red - that he called punk rock - oof. 
But in the end they sent home Cornelius putting him in the unenviable position of being penalized for the very thing he had been trying to warn his teammates about all along.  And honestly I found Mah-Jing's sitting between them while the judges deliberated amusing.  He knew Cornelius was right, but I think recognized that nothing good would come of the things they were going to say in that moment.  
I have mixed feelings about the use of the Tim Gunn save. I felt that Cornelius should not go home yet.  But I'm not sure that Cornelius is who I expect to see in the finals, and so I may have held on to it, were I Tim.

*"Project Runway"s definition of a day is different from ours. 

Monday, October 31, 2016

NaNo Eve

It is Halloween, which means it is also NaNo Eve, ie the day before National Novel Writing Month, the beloved NaNoWriMo begins. I have been doing this long enough that the kickoff party is always a little strange, since as with many craft endeavors, it trends towards the recently initiated.  This isn't to say NaNo has nothing to offer grizzled vets.  The camaraderie of the writing gig can be found many ways. Finding your best pace (which may or may not align with the NaNo pace), your best writing time of day, your optimal writing environment are all helpful.  I tell people that I know lots of folks who like the wake up an extra hour early and write first trick.  It isn't just for self-described morning people, but still, just thinking of it make me sleepy.  But, if you tried lunch time writing, evening writing, night time writing, and nothing is working, you may secretly be a morning writer.  
I find writing a few words (like 100) when I get up in the morning, gets my brain into the story enough that when I sit down to write in the evening I'm ready to go.  
People will tell you that real writers write every day.  That real writers write to deadlines not randomly assigned months of the year.  People will tell you that real writers do a lot of things.  And here's the thing.  I can point to a real writer that does every single one of those things.  I can also point to real writers that take weeks or moths off from writing every year. That set their own deadlines, and get them assigned.  That write in mornings, afternoons, evenings, nights, or only on full moons.  Listening to other people's writing tips and processes is useful and interesting, because real writers find people and processes interesting. But any process that doesn't work for you, doesn't work for you.  Or maybe doesn't work for you just now. And that's all fine. 
Find your process.  Find the way that gets you the best words.  Happy writing!

Friday, October 28, 2016

Acceptable Protest

There have been many many examples of what kinds of protests in general our country, and more importantly our law enforcement, find acceptable over the last few years.  From the various Black Lives Matter protests being labeled everything from racist to terrorist, to the outrage from small, quiet acts of protest.  But yesterday, when a jury found the defendants of the Oregon Wildlife Refuge not guilty, when, we all know they were in occupation, and protesters at the Dakota pipeline site faced pepper spray, and if on the ground reports are true, likely far more. 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Three Interesting Things

1. If, like me, you learned a lot of what you know about the early days of AIDS research from "And the Band Played On", there was a crucial misunderstanding about a patient who had been coded as patient O (like October) and it got transcribed into patient 0 (like zero). 
2. Gene Demby wrote about how his trip to Ghana for a friend's wedding had him reflecting on his parentage.  
3. And I stumbled across this older piece where Kaui Hart Hemmings talked about her adoption, and the power of a new name at 11. 

Monday, October 24, 2016

In the Room with Taraji and Luvvie

In one of those weirdly synchronous moments I had just caught up to the episode of "Another Round with Heben and Tracy" where Luvvie Ajayi was interviewed and had picked up her book when I saw that the DC library was going to release a batch of free tickets to her chat with Taraji P. Henson about Henson's new memoir.  Well, I clicked, I succeeded and suddenly had another entry on my Saturday calendar. 
The event ended up moving locations, literally on the day of, so that goodness for event apps that update automatically.  It also started, ahem, quite a bit later than planned which was certainly not the worst thing, but Saturday was windy and a bit chilly, and while I had dressed for the weather, I had dressed for a short wait outside, and well, they didn't even let the people who had ponied up for VIP tickets in until 45 minutes after the official start time.  (It was harder to complain when one had free tickets, but I am not at my best when cold and hungry.  As it turned out I would have had plenty of time to get food before they let us in, I just didn't have any way to know that.) 
But they did let us in, and I managed to grab a seat.  The DJ was playing good music, and Henson and Ajayi came out to cheers.  Ajayi asked Henson about her career, and her decision to write a book about it.  Henson said she had started writing a memoir before "Empire" and had to reflect once "Empire" and Cookie became a thing, because she understood the spotlight would be bigger and said her makeup artist told her people needed her story.  And that surrounding herself with folks who wouldn't let her forget who she really was had helped.  She also said in the early days, while they were still filming "Empire" but before it had aired that Jussie Smollet and Bryshere Y. Gray would go with her to Target and pretend they were her security team, and she would ask them who would be their security once people saw the show.  
There was a moment where Henson suddenly looked out at the audience and said, "Is that Miss Debbie Allen trying to sneak in there?"  Apparently it was.  (I was pretty close to the front, but on the other side, thank goodness for people with better angles and social media, so now I know for sure I was also in the same room, breathing the same air as Debbie Allen.  It's cool.) Henson said Allen had been an inspiration to her, and she had gone to Howard, figuring if that's where Allen went, that's where she would go. Ajayi took a moment before continuing on with questions.
Henson said that she had found people assumed if she was a certain way in chats with creative teams, that they got stuck in their head and couldn't imagine her as something else, even though she's been studying acting for a while, had done Shakespeare in the Park and such.  And now with "Empire" and Cookie, she's worked to be very strategic to take hiatus projects that are different to keep reminding people of her range.  
Henson also said that being young, and in your twenties, was about trying and failing sometimes. Ajayi asked her what she thought her biggest mistake was. Henson said really, she tried not to focus or believe in mistakes, since that meant trying to attain perfection, instead of letting yourself be flawed. 

Friday, October 21, 2016

Project Runway: Dear Heidi

Oh, Heidi, don't fall for the designer drama. None of these designers are old enough to have invented applique.  And the whole point of an anonymous runway is in fact for you to discover or be surprised by things you thought you knew who had made them.  Yes, Erin has been making a lot of shapeless things with applique.  She tried to do what you always say, which is demonstrate that she has other things inside of her, and, well, instead you assumed the shapeless appliqued dress was hers. So, again, that's fine.  That's why the anonymous runway has been such an improvement, because sure, you know by the time you send designers home (or don't).  But the scores are made blind. 
And I appreciate that in the stress of the workroom, Erin noticed that Jenni had done and then been praised for something that looked like what Erin had been doing.  And it's a little funny that they used the talking head segment where Jenni said Erin's stuff is not her style but the judges seem to like it, and then said that this dress was the most her thing she had made.  She also said that about her athleisure outfit, so, okay. I'm sure they are all multifaceted designers when they aren't making everything under extreme stress and time constraints.
And oh, you designers.  Hi, cocktail is just not even remotely unexpected. You can say that's not your girl.  But I think you should look at Rik who made something very specific, very him, and not traditionally cocktail, and yet, no one would scoff and kick that person out of their party.  (Disclaimer: You should never scoff and kick someone out of your party for their clothes. Don't be that person.) And look, could you be a successful designer who never made cocktail wear?  Probably.  But it was easy to know going in this was going to be a thing.  For you to be unable to roll with that isn't a sign you are a bad designer, but it is a sign you are a bad Project Runway contestant.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Three Interesting Things

1. Justina Ireland talked about how finding a book character that seems like you, can feel like coming home. 
2. It turns out that the new polymer notes from the Bank of England, can be used to play a record
3. A family of bears climbed a tree together to snack on crabapples

Monday, October 17, 2016

Eight Days, Three Plays

So, I didn't quite intend to cram three plays into eight days (and yes, technically one is a musical) but I with attempts to keep November a bit open due to impending NaNo things, I had tickets to two plays two consecutive Fridays, and then a discounted deal landed in my email and suddenly there we were.  
Arena Stage's "The Year of Magical Thinking" is based on Joan Didion's book of the same name, which I confess I have owned but not read for some time.  It was in Arena's Kogod Cradle, which suited the more intimate one woman show nature of it.  Kathleen Turner is, as you might expect amazing.  Her Joan speaks to the audience as she describes the events of the year of loss that Joan experiences.  The setting was a small apartment, and there was subtle staging done to indicate the passage of time.  It's a tough discussion, as you hear Joan discuss the use of plans and lists and hopes to ward off the grief.  
Also based on a book (that I have not read), that has been turned into quite a few movies is "Freaky Friday" premiering at Signature Theater. This version seemed to me to draw more from the movie versions, with Annabel and Ellie both trying to navigate each other's lives, and there are songs.  I loved the songs.  "Oh Biology" sung as Annabel (now with Ellie inside) realizes that it's super hard to sound competent while in a body that is raging with hormones and standing next to the cutest guy.  The actresses both did a great job as their original selves and being their swapped selves.  There were moments where the staging or the sound seemed a little rough - the program indicated the song list was subject to change.  None of it seemed unprofessional, just parts that were not quite there.  I was delighted to realize Adam (aforementioned cute boy) was from the original cast of "Bring it On" and I also recognized the actor playing the younger brother the night I saw it from another local production.  I enjoyed it a lot and hope that there's a cast album in the works. 
And back to Arena for "Little Foxes" which is an original play, albeit from the 1930's.  The short version is that it is a play about terrible siblings trying to both best each other and make use of post-Reconstruction conditions to set up a factory in their town with cheap labor.  (I saw "Sweat" earlier this year at Arena, also about factory labor, and also featuring actor Jack Willis, so it's almost a theme).  The couple next to me took advantage of the act breaks to discuss whether Regina (played with casual manipulation that grew creepier by Marg Helgenberger) was an anti-heroine or a villainness.  Most everyone in the play is terrible, ranging in degree from lazy to outright manipulative, so the audience is less rooting for a victor, and more hoping that the daughter who is one of the few non-terrible folks, can escape.  Isabel Keating played Birdie (wife to one of the siblings) - with an amazing blend of nostalgia, sadness, and mania that made me sad she was probably going to be increasingly harmed by the tug-of-war between the siblings. 
Ultimately, all three were enjoyable.  "Freaky Friday" is the one I am likely to wish to see again. 

Friday, October 14, 2016

Let's Talk "Project Runway" Teams

Oh, you know I love a team challenge. So, what did we learn?  Well, a couple of things.  First, it's likely that the contestants had no way of knowing that Lifetime was going to be pushing a show that was a cross between "Shark Tank" and "Project Runway" during every commercial break, in fact I feel somewhat certain of that since for once they just did this thing without any product placement.  
But nonetheless, pitching is a thing that happens most years, as are team or partnered challenges.  Each team picked someone to be the front person for their team challenge, and while, from what we saw, the workroom work was pretty equitable (well, except Team Bouton having to people who worked on one dull dress but apparently helped a lot with other things) in the end this excess of equability meant the person who talked the most in the pitch got the credit and the blame.  This is pretty good life experience really.  
Both teams worked together pretty well, and you know what, it was still an interesting show!  
So, to go back to the pitches, one team had a very polished pitch about who and where their market was, but classic yet uninteresting sketches.  And one team had a less polished pitch, were a little less sure of their target price point, but better sketches.  
In writing the comparison might be better query, less interesting sample pages, versus the reverse.  And it turned out, better sketches had all three judges committing more money to Team Bouton.  Team Bouton correctly seemed to recognize that having gotten more money they really needed to live up to the promise.  
And Team Unity realized they had targeted a saturated area of the market and tried to fix that with fabrics, which wasn't the worst idea, except they chose kind of a weird mix of fabrics.  
I think one of the crucial things that people don't realize about the Tim critiques is that he is focused on the things you can still change.  So, if he says, this dress doesn't match the rest of your collection to one team, and you will need to own your somber color palette to the other, it doesn't mean he thinks team granny dress is in more trouble, it means he thinks team granny dress can fix their dress, and team somber colors can maybe jazz it up with accessories.  
I will say, in contrast to some other team challenges, things weren't either crazy lopsided team to team, or such a mish mash that there was no clear winner.  But I think Brik and Jenny were very lucky that the overall strength of their team kept them from too much scrutiny.  It also said something that their collection (in the end) looked cohesive while still having two pieces that the judges could immediately identify the designer. 
For Team Unity, the judges went back to the pitch.  This is another thing that I think is important less for what they said, that for what it means.  The judges overall didn't like the collection.  So they went back to the pitch and compared.  If they had loved the collection, they certainly would have mentioned that it didn't match the pitch, and if you were actually pitching Large Department Store, you probably want to adhere closer to the pitch, but in the end, they talked about the pitch because they didn't like it. 
As for the trick questions of who should win and who should go, look, in the real world, identifying the strengths and weaknesses of your team is really useful.  One the runway, first of all, it's a trick question.  They have awarded wins to people who no one suggested, and sent home people no one suggested.  So, while yes, your team loyalty is at an end here, and you should say what you think, there's also no value to saying something you can't live with, since it won't save you.  And no, they have never let anyone get away with no saying anyone, and also, if at this point you can't identify a team weakness of some sort, you have problems.  
And well, Tim, I have to disagree with you a smidge.  It is not unprecedented for someone to say, if this is what you didn't like, you should send me home.  In fact it happened in the very first season.  It has also happened since, usually with folks saying, well, if dress A is your least favorite, you should probably send me home.  Sure, it has often been uttered with less reluctance than Alex.  But I think Alex realized that he had loved his dress, and been a part of both the pitch and the fabric selection, so he was just as much at fault as any of the others if that turned out to be what they disliked most.  
Here's hoping the harmoniousness of the contestants continues on.  

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Three Interesting Things

1. A dude with a drone and a social media account, ended up helping rescue a man and his dog stranded by the flooding in North Carolina. 
2. And in another story so coincidental you wouldn't believe it if it weren't true, a woman listening to a radio interview about a novel with a female character ignoring her heart attack symptoms, decided to reroute herself to the hospital where it turned out she was having a heart attack. So listening to the radio talk about a book, may have saved her life. 
3. One of the good things about all the hubbub all over, is it led to my discovery of SorryWatch, apology experts who review apologies issued and critique them.  They were quite pleased with the RMCP's recent apology to female employees

Monday, October 10, 2016

Things That Are Not Funny

Trigger warning for discussion of suicide and depression. 
So, given recent events that have been well covered elsewhere, there's been a lot of talk about what is and isn't funny with regards to jokes about suicide. Interrobang did a great job recapping both the inciting incident, if you will, as well as the backlash aimed at various people for essentially saying, hey, jokes about suicide are not funny.  
So, here's what I have to add to this.  I know now (not like as of a few days ago, like at this point in my life) that jokes about suicide are not funny. I did not always know this, the way that I knew some other things were not joking matters.  It took me a while to get there.  I did not know this as a teenager, nor even as an early adult. And here's what happens when you don't know. I made a snarky comment. I could repeat it, but that would only cause more harm.  Suffice it to say it was callous and lacking in empathy, and not anything I should have said even to a close friend sitting in a living room.  And then, I later discovered that this same close friend had attempted suicide.  Not because of my comment. In their past, before my comment.  But the reason this friend didn't share this experience with me, is likely because I was that person who made snarky comments about suicide.  And I shouldn't have needed an up close and personal example of what suicide and depression could have taken from me to be empathetic.  
People often say this about other things, and I certainly know that I often tell people stories about others, or talk about a thing that happened to a celebrity and am sometimes surprised at the response I get. But people are listening, and when they have a thing to share, sometimes it is more important that you be the friend who showed sympathy or empathy.  When I relate a story about reality TV, I'm not thinking in my head this is a friend test, let's see what they say.  But those reactions and things stick with you.  
We talk a lot these days about unpacking privilege, and mental health privilege was one it took me personally longer to unpack.  So, yes, it does matter when people make flippant jokes about suicide.  It does matter when we make that acceptable.  It is not.  I'm sorry to my friends who had to wait for me to catch up on that.  
And if you or someone you love is struggling, please reach out for help. 
Katherine Locke has some great resources on her tumblr here, including: 

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

Hopeline Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-SUICIDE

Hopeline for Veterans: 1-877-838-2838

For Young People who are LGBTQIA, The Trevor Project: 1-866-488-7386

For Post Partum Depression: 1-800-773-6667

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Three Interesting Things

1. This post about fake police officers and other things that women fear was sadly familiar. 
2. As you may have noticed in the interwebs, there's been quite a bit of reaction to Tim Burton's comments on the relative whiteness of the cast of "Miss Peregrine's".  It is worth noting that the book on which the movie is based was pretty pale complected, but that isn't to distract from what he said.  This open letter to Burton from a black fangirl looks at that.  
3. This is an article from a few months ago, but DC apparently is unusual in the number of accused it releases prior to their trial, and this article talks a little about the process in place. 

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Tricolor Cat Day

October 1st is Tricolor Cat Day. A day to celebrate tricolor cats - be they calico, tortoiseshell, or torbie, dilute or of more traditional color, it is a day to celebrate the amazing tricolor cats.  Often female, due to the genetics attached to the tricolor markings, tricolor cats are not only delightful to look at they are often great feline companions, even if they are sometimes accused of having a little more tortitude. 
Ways to celebrate: 
If there is a tricolor cat in your household, they deserve extra attention and/or treats today. 
You could visit a tricolor cat at a friend's house or shelter. 
If you have a local cat cafe, you may be able to hang out with a tricolor cat there. 
You could also read a book about a tricolor cat. 
You can also read up more about tricolor cats - here and here, for starters. 

Friday, September 30, 2016

Banned Books are Increasingly Diverse Books

I have not forgotten that it is Banned Books Week, and, as such, want to point to this article that notes the change in books getting challenged more often reflects more and more books that are or are perceived to be about homosexuality. 

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Three Interesting Things

1. I've talked before about the place daytime soaps had in my childhood, so I was saddened to hear of the passing of Agnes Nixon, who created so many of them. 
2. Tristina Wright wrote about her recent experience with VOYA magazine concerning a bi-phobic book review. I cannot express how sad I am that this resource for librarians and other deciders of kid lit buying has turned out to be both problematic, and unable to grow or learn from these issues. 
3. And the teen birth rate continues to fall, due to a combination of lower rates of teen sex, higher rates of more effective contraception, and an assist from shows about teen pregnancy. 

Monday, September 26, 2016

A Bookish Weekend

Friday night I managed to locate a banned book hidden in the city.  (If by hidden we understand we mean placed face out on a bookshelf in the Reading Room at the Petworth Citizen.) So I felt that was a good omen for the bookish weekend ahead.  
Saturday was the National Book Festival.  Kwame Alexander brought musical accompaniment that he used while talking abut wanted to write a story about a kid who didn't like words until he met a cool librarian. 
Meg Medina talked about her memories of growing up during the Son of Sam summer, and how she realized that pervasive worry would be applicable to today's kids who deal with shooter drills.  Shannon Hale talked about her inspiration for the Princess in Black series, the idea of an unlikely superhero.  She also brought kids on stage to create their own unlikely superheroes.  And kids, I would read the tales of Ultimate Fishie.  Call me.  
Gene Luen Yang spoke with NPR Books' Petra Mayer about getting the call about the genius grant (in his car, about to go to Panera) and that with the New Superman series, he wanted to mimic early Clark Kent's journey from being a bully who misused his superstrength, to the stand up guy we think of today.  
Representative John Lewis talked about raising chickens, and how he felt a little bad now about swapping out the eggs the hens were sitting on.  He may also have commented on chickens being better listeners and more productive than some Congress people. Andrew Aydin talked about going from having Hill staffers make fun of his love of comics, to being a co-author of a graphic novel with Lewis.  He also said his mother had always advised him to stay clean shaven, but given the growing anti-Muslim sentiment, he had grown a beard to try and make use of his position of privilege as a known safe person. 
The Books to Movies panel had the Washington Post's Monica Hesse interviewing Patrick Ness, Katherine Paterson, and David L. Paterson.  Ness wrote A Monster Calls on spec (ie, with no other funding and such in place).  He and David talked about the process of encapsulating a book into a movie, that the script is going to be much shorter, so you have to figure out where to cut, and where you can have the visuals do a lot of the work.  we saw clips of each, and rumors that I teared up are just that, rumors. 
Then I went to the Poetry Slam.  They had brought six teens from across the country to compete and we weren't given their team affiliations until the end, but those Indiana teens brought it. They were asked to use a books or reading theme. Some went very specific, some went very personal, and the crowd was great too.  They covered things street harassment, teacher expectations, parents who didn't understand their educational drive, LGBTQ rights, heartbreak, and we had been advised that snapping while a poet was on was a method we could use that shouldn't break their flow, and my snapping fingers were sore at the end.  
Sunday, I went to the final day of the Baltimore Book Festival.  
I hung out primarily at the Maryland Romance Writers tent and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers tent.  I confess my ability to track names and such had deteriorated a bit, but I caught some discussions about historical romance, paranormal romance, sci-fi heroines, and romance tropes. The Baltimore Book Fest is right along the Harbor and there's a variety of food, so it was a great end to the weekend.  

Friday, September 23, 2016

Project Runway is Back

Yeah, I know, it was back last week too.  I have some early favorites, but despite the fact that this is the 15th season of Project Runway Original Recipe which means not only are there 15 seasons of this kind of "Project Runway" to watch, there are also umpteen all-stars, kids, Under the Gunn, and other variations.  Oh, and you could watch practically any other competitive reality show ever to get a sense of the following things: 
You will work in a cramped space.  Or for a while you will.  As they eliminate folks it will get less cramped. 
You will live in shared apartments with the same people you spent all day working next to. 
You will have unrealistic timetables to complete your work. 
You will have limited budgets. 
You will have to regularly discuss your life or your fellow designer's lives. 
You will be tired. 
You will be asked to work with things that are not fabric. 
And yet, they were surprised, I mean maybe they only showed the clips of the designers willing to play along and pretend to be surprised, but they were surprised to enter a room fill with stuff for the first party and be told, ha, this is your first challenge.  Yes, sometimes they have just had an opening cocktail.  Not in a room with balloons, and bags and pillows. And the first challenge being the first meeting with Heidi and Tim has happened like eight times.  So, even if you only had time to watch one season, chances were good you saw this. 
But, I give them credit, so far no one has sent a naked model down the runway.  So there's that. 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Three Interesting Things

1. The question has been raised if police offices can or should offer medical assistance to those they have shot. Yes, I'm sad we are asking this question, but the answers about differing requirements for first aid training and who pays for first aid kits are illuminating. 
2. This article about the push for prison abolition had some food for thought. 
3. "Speechless" was one of the bright spots in my week this week, and I enjoyed this interview with the creator about his choice to hire a disabled actor to play a disabled character.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Link to: The Five Things I need from White People Right Now

The saddest thing about this post from Derrick L. Weston, is that it is already one highly visible police shooting behind. And I am aware that DC has it's own recent police officer onvolved shooting that has not garnered quite as much national attention. 

Monday, September 19, 2016

Sports Romance and the Handling of the Audience

A few weeks back, there was an article about sports romance.  In it, there was mention that while plentiful, there is less sports romance featuring athletes of color, which given the current makeup of quite a few sports in the US, is out of sync.  As often happens, folks discussed this on Twitter.  And some folks showed up mad.  They said they were authors of sports romance and if they wanted to write about white people they could.  That they had happy publishers and happy readers and everyone should stop attacking them.  And buy their next book. 
So, let's unpack this.  
As writers, particularly genre fiction writers, there are a lot of thinkpieces afoot.  Most of them are a bit click baity, a little pearl clutchy, and are just there to poo-poo the thing that kids and/or women are reading.  So, I understand that when an article comes out about the thing you write, you may be predisposed to assume it is attacking you. 
Saying many of the books in a sub-genre feature white main characters is not an attack.  I mean, I guess, if it were untrue it would be an attack, but right now, there are two things working against that.  Most books in all categories are about white people.  Above and beyond the racial makeup of our country. And in the NFL, which happens to be the sport I see the most sports romance about, there are significantly more black players than white players. (Numbers for several pro sports here.) 
If your books do feature characters of color, it's still not an attack.  Because this is a big picture statement.  Just like if I said there was more heterosexual romance than queer, I'm not saying there isn't queer romance, I'm saying the numbers tilt towards heterosexuals in a way that is out of sync with the numbers in real life. 
If your books do not feature characters of color you may feel like this is an attack. It isn't.  Nor is saying, I find books that feature unrealistically white sports teams hard to read.  People saying there's a thing they can't get over in your books isn't aimed at you. If I wrote a vampire book and someone said, oh, I can't read vampires because my babysitter tortured me for three years with vampire stories*, I wouldn't say, oh but my vampires are really good.  I would say, okay, you are not my reader.  At least not for this story. 
And if it still feels like such a statement is aimed at you the author, then maybe you should look inside yourself and figure out why.  Do you maybe feel like you have been failing to represent fully in your fictional world?  If so, you can work on that.  
Also, it's becoming really common to see folks counter any criticism as being part of the call out culture, even though, jumping in people's mentions to tell them your books are just fine with all their white characters is actually more of an attack than the person who said, I can't read a sports books that ignores the existence of athletes of color.  These are separate things.  Yes, there is a rise in people calling out certain behaviors.  Sometimes those calls get vicious.  Painting all criticism as the same, in fact, attempting to imply that noting there are white characters is even close to calling someone out, is not only untrue, it's also an insidious attempt to turn people to your side and get them to attack others.  
You can write books with white characters.  There are just scads of data that prove no one has had any trouble getting books published with white characters.  No one said you had to stop writing white characters.  But it does absolutely imply that you are cherry picking.  Look, you were the one who created a world with only white characters.  You can keep on doing that.  Just like I could write a book series with only red headed vampires. (Sorry, vampires, I do seem to be picking on you today.)  Anyone who showed up and notes that I only have red headed vampires isn't attacking me.  They are noting.  I can go add a brunette vampire or not.  I can choose to explain why my vampires all have red hair or not.  But expecting readers not to notice is not only silly, it implies I hope my readers don't pay attention to things.  

*Made up example. 

Friday, September 16, 2016

Sing It On - Season 2 Episode 8 Finals!

(Note, the exclamation point is the show's, not that I'm not excited.) 
Our previouslies are all Faux Paz - reminding us that they had auditions, placed 2nd in the quarterfinals, 1st in semifinals, and now are headed to finals in New York.
It's 3 days to finals and the last rehearsal. Lynique says they have four alumni sitting in to provide critique, including Michael who we have seen before. Josh is still having 
vocal issues. He later mentions it was bronchitis, and just as a note, while the Fauz Paz had an early quarterfinal in January, their semifinals were in March, and the finals 
were in April, so it has only been a few weeks.  And a few weeks where I'm guessing he has not really been resting his voice as much as might be recommended. 
They do a run through and the alums cleverly ask them what they thought of their performance first. The group has some concerns about key and tempo. The alums all agree that 
Lynique's solo is incredible, but agree that there are some tempo, key, and dynamics issues in the set. Chris says he had to look away during "Dog Days", it was just too emotional.
David says hey are thrilled "Dog Days" is working, but are worried about the rest of the set. 

Mitul tells the group NYC will be a lot, look out for each other, self care. Lynique says they need to remember there are folks who have never seen this set, who need to feel 
the pain, the emotion., the journey, that this set can bring. 

Later, Mitul and Lynique are gathered for our grooming portion of this episode - they are getting manicures. Lynique reminds the camera that this is her last ICCA's. She asks 
Mitul if he's worried about Josh. He's worried that Josh might be worried about Josh. Mitul asks her about "Dog Days". She says she's had a tough week, missing her mom a lot. 
She would rather not cry on stage, she wants to be in control of the emotion she delivers. Mitul says Lynique is strong, but its tough to watch her go through this.

One day to go - and the party bus is here. David is hyped. Shanto asks them what if they won and there is a lot of-oh, shush, don't say that, don't jinx it. Josh says last year 
they made it to finals and "pooped on stage''- they weren't ready. Mitul says the soloists were great last year, but the rest of the group was not ready. Lynique agrees it was 
not a good performance. Josh is feeling good, tells the camera he is nervous, but knows that half of this is a mind game. David says he's heard Josh practicing in the shower, leading another member to ask if they shower together. They laugh and say no. Ah. Communal dorm showers. Do. Not. Miss.

They arrive in NYC. Josh tells his phone camera he is nervous. Lucas-brushing his teeth pops in to indicate he is fine. Todd has had four dreams that they won and seventeen 
where they lost.Todd and David, having been to finals before, aren't too nervous. Lucas' calm seems to be freaking Josh out.
On the morning of - Lynique and Mitul are calm. They make their way down to the theater. ICCA Executive Director Amanda Newman says its a special year because
so many groups are new to finals. They introduce all the groups and the Faux Paz tell us a little about them.  

Central winners, Carnegie Mellon University's Originals - Mitul says they are all male, known for unique arrangements and robotic choreography. 
Wild Card winners, Florida State University's All-Night Yahtzee (ANY) - Lynique says they used to go up against each other in the South region, and ANY usually won.
Northwest winners, University of Oregon's Divisi - Lynique says "Pitch Perfect" was based on them. They are an all female group.
Great Lakes winners, Oakland University's Gold Vibrations - Josh says they are new kids but already have a global record deal.
Mid-Atlantic winners, University of Maryland's Faux Paz. Hey, I've heard of those guys!
Midwest winners, Washington University of St. Louis' Mosaic Whispers - Mitul says they have high energy solos and hot choreography.
Southwest winners, Chapman University's SoundCheck - Lynique says they have jazzy fusion sound.
South winners, University of Central Florida's Voicebox - Dave says they are a triple threat having won awards at their semifinal for arrangement, choreography, and solos. 
Northeast winners, Boston University's BosTones - Josh says they are from the most competitive region.
United Kingdom winners, Imperial College of London's Techtonics - Lynique says they have come a long way for this. They are also an all male group.

It's time for order picking-Dave picks 5th for the Faux Paz. Michael from ANY picks 3rd. And the gentleman from the Techtonics picks 1st.

The Faux Paz head to their dressing room. Suffice it to say that they all will mention a few more times that they want to redeem last year's performance. 
It's sound check time.  Josh has asked Michael to get there early enough to hear sound check. They are still worried about Josh's solo. Post soundcheck, Michael talks about checkpoints, make sure not to push too sharp, too loud, too fast. Josh mentions that Michael noted he was pushing his voice too hard at points and pushing the group sharp, that watching their dynamics might help with that.  The quieter the quiet parts are, the less loud the loud parts can be in contrast. 

And it's time. Amanda introduces the emcees Cooper and Courtney. And while, we get to see a little more of each group this time around, it is still snippets, knowing that most of these groups are doing three to four songs, we're not even getting snippets of the whole set.  

The Techtonics sing Queen's "Bicycle Race" which seems energetic and playful. They also sing Sam Smith's "Lay Me Down" which is more emotional.  (Also it looks like they went all British thematically.) 
Mosaic Whispers sing Sia's "Elastic Heart". 
ANY sings Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabelo's "I Know What You Did Last Summer" which is very high energy. 
Divisi sings Jet's "Are You Gonna Be My Girl". 

Lynique takes a moment. She knows her mom is with her. They gather up, and do some chanting led by David to get in the zone. Time for the Faux Paz.
We see Josh's solo in Panic! At the Disco's "Emperor's New Clothes." He sounds much stronger than he did at semifinals, and the group overall seems to be less tentative on the song. They do "Mad World" by Tears for Fears. Mitul says in one of the quiet moments he could hear an audience member say, "Holy bleep" so he knew it wasn't just him feeling like they were killing it.  And then Florence and the Machine's "The Dog Days Are Over." Lynique says she could feel the audience's surprise and attention, as she starts the song.  Lynique sounds as strong and amazing as she has each time we've seen her do this solo.  Michael is seated near her dad in the audience, and they are both looking emotional, her dad lifts a praise hand. Michael and Lynique's dad both jump to their feet at the end, and it looks like a lot of the audience joins them. 
Josh says they could not have done better.

SoundCheck sings Fall Out Boy's "Centuries". 
The Bostones sing Ella Eyre's "If I Go". 
Gold Vibrations sing Tori Kelly's "Expensive". 
The Originals sing Demi Lovato's "Stone Cold" and Nick Jonas' "Levels". 

Mitul is noticing that if the Faux Paz had a weakness, it was innovative choreography. Lynique is feeling like their chance of winning is dwindling as she watches the competition.

And it's time for our video message from John Legend, who thanks all the groups and all the a cappella fans.

And now we have the results. They start with the special awards. There are two outstanding soloist awards - Ramsey Papp of the Originals and Lynique Webster of the Faux Paz. Lynique is freaking out that her dad got to see this.  

And the top three groups. 
3rd - Faux Paz
2nd - Originals
1st - Techtonics

I just want to note that the Techtonics went first. So I think we can dispense with some of this order picking superstition. 

Lynique says over 400 groups competed and they got 3rd. Mitul kind of thinks they should have gotten second, but 3rd is so good. Josh has so many emotions. Backstage they note since England won, they are top two in the US. Mitul has family there. He is proud of adding to the Faux Paz legacy.

All the groups gather on stage and sing Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance with somebody" with Lynique and Ramsey and several other soloists in a giant group number.  And that's it for this season. 

If you want to see the numeric scores, or the other special awards not mentioned in the episode, you can go here

There is a wonderful recap of the finals here, by someone who got to see the whole thing, not just the TV version, if you want a more detailed look at the performances.