Thursday, April 28, 2016

Three Interesting Things

1. I took advantage of Fox rebroadcasting the "New Girl" episode with Prince this week, and so enjoyed this piece from Liz Meriwether about working on that episode. (Also, I had fallen off so think it works well if you haven't been keeping up, although it may also inspire you to go back and watch more.)
2. I am intrigued by the possibilities presented by catnip turning out to repel mosquitoes.  If it attracts more cats, I am willing to accept that.
3. And this Baltimore teen saw his short film about running in his hometown debut at the Tribeca Film Fest.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

7 Posts: Valencia and "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend"

"Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" is a show I sometimes like for the things it hasn't done almost as much as what it has.  Rebecca showed up in West Covina having found herself a house and a job but apparently not having done any social media research*, so she was surprised to discover that Josh had a girlfriend.  Valencia.  The same woman he dated in high school.  (Which, ahem, was when Rebecca and Josh met.  I'm just saying.) 
Valencia is gorgeous and skinny and a yoga instructor.  And she is mean to Rebecca and doesn't seem to appreciate Josh for what he is, as for what she wants him to become. But. She's also kind of right.  Rebecca is after Josh (kind of).  Rebecca has secretly done a crazy thing for Josh.  But Valencia also has hopes and dreams for Josh that seem to be about him having a job that's more prestigious than part time at an electronics store.  She wants Josh to be a guy who makes decisions quickly, makes long terms plans, and, quite honestly, proposes to his on again off again girlfriend of many many years.  And those aren't really unrealistic expectations. 
Rebecca on other hand loves Josh's love for his hometown, loves Josh's passion for working with kids, loves the things about him that seem just the same as when they were teenagers.  So, on some levels, Josh is drawn to Rebecca's encouragement of a lot of the things that Valencia is hoping he will move away from. 
And there isn't really a right or wrong here (well, except for kissing someone else's boyfriend). Valencia isn't wrong to hope that now that Josh has given up his dream of becoming an actor, that he will focus on having a career.  That now that they've moved in together, that he will propose.  It's only wrong if that's not who Josh wants to be.  And up until the final episode, he was telling her that what he wanted was the same as what she wanted. 
And Rebecca really does like Valencia, and after she managed to get in with Josh's family, she (eventually) worked to make them appreciate Valencia.  When Paula almost ruined that, Rebecca took the blame, because she does, in the end, like Valencia, and realized that she didn't want to be the person who helped screw over Valencia.
So, I'm really hoping in season 2 Valencia finds herself a guy who not only appreciates her, but is willing to move forward in his life with her, rather than treating her like a comfort blanket. 

*BTW I know it's partly for the TV like surprise of finding out in person, but I also feel like this speaks a little bit to Rebecca's move being less about Josh than she likes to think it is.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

7 Posts: The Best Friend Problem in "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

One of the things I adored about the pilot episode of "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" was Paula's initial suspicion of Rebecca.  Because it makes sense that Darryl, who suddenly got an experienced law firm person volunteering to come work for his boutique firm in the suburbs didn't want to look a gift horse in the mouth.  But from Paula's perspective, this is her turf and she wants to make sure this person hasn't left their higher paying job for a silly reason that might have her running back to a big firm leaving them in the lurch with cases, or stealing the cases.  And then once Paula understands that Rebecca is there for a guy, this makes sense, because like Rebecca, Paula is willing to jump on board with this fantasy that Rebecca running into an old boyfriend is clearly the beginning of an epic love story and that any things or people in the way are just the obstacles that prove you deserve the happiness at the end. 
But it also looks at some other things that happen in friendships.  Your friends often hear you pour out your plans, your hopes, your fears, and they want them for you because in the moment you are very convincing about what you need.  Let's face it, you also tell the friends who you know are going to be the most supportive.  Then if there's a shift or a moment where you wonder if maybe you were wrong about what you needed, or you're down, your friends are there to keep you going.  And that is great.  Right up until it isn't. 
And so - and now's where we get a little spoilery about the last few episodes - when Rebecca realized that maybe Greg was a good choice for her, she didn't tell Paula.  Because she knew Paula would try to talk her out of it.  And then, of course, Paula was still trying to intervene and push her toward Josh, and when Rebecca tried to stop her, Paula got all Mama Rose, and here's the thing, Paula was right.  Not about Josh.  (More on that later.) But she is right that when Paula's pushiness, and interfering was in service of Rebecca's plans, Rebecca not only didn't stop her, she often reached out to her to help her solve things.  So, it is a shift to suddenly change the terms of their relationship and say you can't butt into my love life.  It's a shift that I think is important and necessary to a healthy friendship but from Paula's side everything was Josh, Josh, Josh, and she got very little warning that it wasn't.  To us with access to Rebecca's head, and honestly, to us with healthy distance from all the machinations, it was a revelation past due, but Paula had been fully on board, and to her it was a jerky stop.  As the show has hinted, Paula could probably use a hobby.  As the show stated outright, Rebecca and Paula built their relationship over the pursuit of Josh, so figuring out how to be friends who go to movies together or talk about books, is something that they will need to work on. 

Monday, April 25, 2016

7 Posts: The Songs of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

The songs of "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" are fascinating things.  Starting with the "Sexy Getting Ready Song*" the show made a few things clear, these were not songs you had heard before, these were not songs that just anyone with daddy issues or whatever could sing, the songs in this show would be specific.  But that isn't to say they wouldn't operate on a number of levels, making commentary on the characters and society, providing easter eggs for folks who can spot the song style it's riffing off of (which has ranged from Mama Rose to boy bands) and yet providing the specifically funny thing for that character. 
Now, I do have the tiniest of quibbles with "I Gave You a UTI". I know.  It's supposed to be funny.  And god knows that "Face Your Fears" which is one of my favorites, is full of terrible advice. (Some of which is addressed in the song.)
But overall the songs are amazing, and in many ways express the very specific viewpoint of the show whether it's with Rebecca's realization that she is actually the villain, or the guest star packed song from from the dream ghosts.
I'll talk more about this in some of the other posts, but the songs say important things.  First, they are quirky to say the least, if a chorus of children holding scissors singing to face your fears doesn't appeal to you, well, this may not be the show for you.  But also, the awareness expressed in everything from the "Sexy Getting Ready Song" to "I Have Friends" to "I'm the Villain" express that the show has an awareness that Rebecca herself does not always have. And that makes me trust the hands of the storytellers. 

 *All links lead to videos. Some of them contain language acceptable on evening broadcast TV.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Rest in Purple

Dearly beloved
We are gathered here today
To get through this thing called life

Electric word life
It means forever and that's a mighty long time
But I'm here to tell you
There's something else
The afterworld

A world of never ending happiness
You can always see the sun, day or night

"Let's Go Crazy" - Prince

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Three Interesting Things

1. Laura Ruby wrote a post about things she wish she had known before become a published YA author.
2. I have only read three of these novellas from a group of historical authors (so far) but they are great, and free in e right now.
3. And in a week where I watched a friend's documentary about her journey to connect more with her roots, this story about how an woman adopted from China met with, well, a village's worth of families to see if she was maybe their child spoke to me.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

True and Not True: A Look at "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend"

I kept meaning to write about "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" and then each week they'd do something else, so in some ways I've been waiting to see how many crazy things they could pack into this show because wow.  So now I have a lot of thoughts.  But for today let's start with the core concept.  The core concept, as expressed by the theme song, is that Rebecca ran into her summer camp boyfriend and then quit her job and moved across the country to live in the same town as him. This is both true and not true. 
My mother used to say that I gave a different answer every time someone asked my why I went abroad for college, and I will say that I did have a number of stock answers that I gave, and every one of them was true (I was told I could not cross the Mississippi, it was cheaper than almost every other school I applied to, I wanted to go abroad but had taken Latin in high school).  And each of those things together, along with lots of other things are how me and my family decided that was the best choice for me.
In Rebecca's case she was mid-panic attack at the idea that she might be offered partner in her high powered law firm when she randomly ran into Josh. So, for any observer, it was clear that if being successful was making her that unhappy, something needed to change.  Sure there are lots of other choices besides moving to the town where her summer camp boyfriend lives, but Rebecca also did some things that indicate some level of planning that get a bit glossed over in the theme song.  (Not a knock on the theme song at all here.  It's doing a lot of work.) Rebecca found herself a job, a house, and made a life for herself in West Covina.  She didn't show up with a suitcase on the off chance Josh had a spare room. 
And yes, she has pined after Josh, to the exclusion of other folks who care for her.  And yes, there are clear signs that moving to West Covina hasn't fixed everything.  But she has also found a way to use her law degree that doesn't make her panic, found a kooky band of friends, and, as her dream ghost informed her when she thought about pressing reset and trying to go back to New York, found herself a pack of people who care about her.  In other words, for all the things that are still wrong, the cross country move might still have been one of the best choices she made for herself.
Rachel Bloom (who plays Rebecca) was recently talking about the show and saying that romantic comedies tend to suggest doing grand things in the name of love are signs of how much love is worth, and they wanted to take a look at what that kind of messaging does, and what kinds of people might reach for some sort of gesture like that.  Because sure, Rebecca could have quit her New York job and gone to work for legal aid.  Or starting volunteering at a shelter. There were other choices she could have reached for.  And the move part isn't what's strange, what's strange is she told herself that it was because of Josh. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016


My high school reunion was this past weekend and I had intended to show up for one school event and one off site event, and then, things changed.  First, they added a screening of a documentary put together by a fellow alumna that I had been wanting to see.  And then, knowing some of us might change our plans, they had tipped us off to the recipient of one of the alumna awards, and it was my senior year English teacher, who I adore to this day.  (I had a lot of great English teachers, but her especially.) 
So, suddenly I was being really participatory.  And I ran into some folks from my class meeting up to take a school tour and had a chance to chat with them, and also see the changes that they had made to the school (robotics lab!) and the things that were the same (paper mailboxes!). 
In a case of small word-itis, one of the alumnae board members was my carpool buddy in elementary school, so I got to see her.  And I made sure to hug said teacher Friday night in case she was too mobbed on Saturday.  (She told me I looked great, she was glad to see me, and she didn't think think she'd ever seen my with lipstick, which is likely true, I was even more low maintenance in high school.)
Saturday I was a teensy bit fashionable late to brunch, but got there for the important bits.  Amusingly, there was a video message from an alumna who, you know, works over at Facebook now, announcing her adoration of said teacher, that they had not tested the volume on, but the core message was clear.  And the teacher was appreciative, the other award winners (which were not surprises, but no less lovely) were great.  And then post-brunch several of my classmates got asked if our class had a height requirement.  (Full disclosure, I am 5' 6" but my mother is taller, so I feel, not short, but not tall.  But someone else asked me if I got taller, and so, I have no idea.  I was not wearing heels either time so it was interesting that in this environment I was tall now.)
We wandered around the parts of the school the tour had not gotten too, and the robotics team was there (on a Saturday, guys) and we got to come in and say hi to them.
And then, we got to see the lovely Eli Kimaro, who had not been in my year but due to school size and multi-grade things like chorus, was known to me. Her documentary "A Lot Like You" is amazing.  It covers her journey with her husband to her father's home country of Tanzania, where her parents now both live, and what she discovered as she tried to delve deeper into what it meant to be Tanzanian, to be Chagga, to be of this place, and how to pass this legacy to the next generation.  That sounds like a lot, and it is.  The film manages to raise a number of things and be an interesting yet somewhat open ended exploration of heritage and culture. 
And that night there was the off site party which was well attended and provided the chance to catch up with folks, both those I see on social media and those I don't. I really do adore the folks I went to school with pretty much without exception (and well, those people were in other classes so, no need to dwell on old slights) and I love the chance to hang out with them even if nowadays I need a nap after two days of that.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Contests and Categories and Things

Sometimes I wait to post about things because, well, life and busy-ness, and sometimes I'm curious how the folks involve respond.  So, let's start by saying that the chapter involved responded and apologized. So this post is less chastisement, but discussion of how, should a similar issue occur again, this kind of thing could hopefully be avoided.
While I have not met Ann Gallagher, she writes under many pen names, including L.A. Witt and Lauren Gallagher, both of which I have read.  Semi-related to where we are going today, is that L. A. Witt's Covet Thy Neighbor is a great story that really only needed the words gay youth pastor to have me on board, but is about two men with very different experiences of Christianity and falling in love with someone who is deeply within the thing that hurt you, or has been deeply hurt by the thing that saved you.  In other words I found it a wonderful story of love and faith and confronting your past. 
This post about her recent experience with a contest moving her book due to judging issues came to my attention. I am actually currently working on a chapter contest for each of my chapters, and while the contests I am assisting with are for unpublished authors, I understand the following things: 
1. Category descriptions are often a nebulous thing.  As much as you think it makes perfect sense that all of these things go here, there is always someone else who has a slightly different interpretation, or isn't sure.  If you have a historical paranormal and there is no paranormal category, then it would be understandable if you placed your book in historical. Contests (like, for example my local WRW Marlene) often find people a little confused by the difference between single title and series contemporary which is essentially industry jargon - there is a difference in lines and shelving but for people used to dealing with more obvious things like books with cowboys vs. books with vampires, it can seem strange.
2. The sexual identity of the characters is not a genre.  (This is also true of YA but that's a discussion for another day.) But if your category specifies books that take place in the now, or books with paranormal or books with a faith journey, nothing about that implies that the characters involved must be heterosexual.  And yes, we've already been there as Gallagher/Witt mentions, if as an RWA chapter you want to exclude books based on the sexual identity of the characters, don't.  You can't as an RWA chapter.  And it is exactly the same as excluding characters based on their race, religion, and/or gender identity.  Don't.  (I also think you shouldn't as a non-RWA chapter, but admit that RWA rules do not apply to that.)
3. No one wants judges to read things they are not comfortable reading. I have had judges return entries because they had read the work previously*.  I have had people return an entry because it hit a hot button for them and they couldn't give it a fair shake. Here's the thing, I do not - as a writer, a reader, or an RWA member want people judging things they cannot judge fairly.  But that is not the book's fault.  In every contest I've volunteered with, judges are asked to check entries on receipt so if there are immediately obvious issues - be it format, be it I've read this, be it I could never read this, they can alert their category coordinator so that things can be reassigned as necessary.  If none of the judges for your category will read an entry, well, you may need to recruit more judges.
4. Don't move books without permission. There are reasons for moving a book.  If one category doesn't get enough books to move forward. If a book genuinely fits better in another category.  In each of those cases, you still need the author's permission.  Full stop. 
And here's where I speculate.  I don't know the people running the Colorado Romance contest.  I assume they meant well.  But this was mishandled. A book should not have been moved without the author's permission and quite honestly, the book should not have been moved just because the judges for a certain category didn't want to read it. It's unclear to me from their website if judges had to read multiple entries in a category but for the books to final, someone read them.  Given that the book finaled, the issue was not an ability to find judges to read them.  I hope the chapter has learned something useful from this.  It's a shame it had to happen at the expense of the author.

*Lots of writers make the rounds of contests, and for judges who volunteer widely this can be an issue. Most contests ask you if someone in their chapter has read it, but that doesn't really cover that judges outside of each chapter often get recruited.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Three Interesting Things

1. Anil Dash had tweeted this story saying it's either a look at athletic cheating accusations or life in the digital age where you can be tracked, and honestly it's both as it looks at accusations against one triathlete.
2. This short film looks at three teens fighting the good fight with depression. (Link leads to a video, it is SFW, but video.)
3. This story  of a man with a late night milkshake craving and how that transaction went is quite deserving of the clickbaity headlines.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Stories Don't Exist in a Vacuum: The Sleepy Hollow Finale Problem

I had fallen a few episodes behind on "Sleepy Hollow".  I didn't dislike this season as much as some did, I thought they were working to create some additional members of the Scooby gang, that was going to serve the show well.  Yes, I found Pandora and her whatever god dude and Betsy Ross annoying.  But I also didn't like Headless as much as other people did, so that seemed less a quality decline and more a failure to improve.  I agreed with the post imploring the show to give Abbie an onscreen love interest.  While the time skip was great, it seemed eternally unfair that Crane has had love interests in every season both in the past and present, and Jenny was now all snuggled up, and Abbie finally had a relationship...that took place entirely during the time skip.  I kept hoping they were working up to getting that reunion on screen for her, and well, I kept hoping. 
But Friday, my twitter rose up as one and cried out.  And so, even though I was still a few episodes behind I peeked at the hashtag, to learn that Abbie had been killed off. 
I am not privy to contract decisions, but whether the actress initiated it or not, ultimately the show decided to kill her off.  There were other ways, it would have been tough, but nothing a good writer team couldn't have done.  Off the top of my head, they could have determined that the witnesses power worked better in separate locations, she could have been transferred by the FBI (after all she somehow was able to go to and graduate Quantico in the time skip), she could have somehow transferred her witness-ness to her sister so that she could go fight supernatural crime in California, or she could have been sent off to hunt a specific magical thingamabob while Crane and the rest of the gang kept an eye on things in Sleepy Hollow. 
But they chose to kill her.  And look, I can see why they might have felt that was the only way to take out a main character.  I do not agree.  But if they felt that way, then I can only hope they looked around and realized strong characters who are not white, able-bodied, straight cis-men, often leave shows by dying.  There are huge examples of this.  And there are growing examples of fans pushing back.  Fans do not get the right to dictate how a show goes. But fans absolutely have the right to say that they are tired of finding again and again that shows that start off with diversity, slowly kill off the characters that made them diverse, and then claim the needs of the story when fans complain.  I confess I grew bored of "Heroes" long before this happened, but the number of white main characters, heroes even, that survived from season to season compared to non-white heroes is pretty hard to ignore. 
So, does this mean you can never kill off a character of color?  No.  There are all sorts of things that are tropes that you can do.  But, as the title of this post implies, these choices don't happen in a vacuum.  Your show will go on the list of shows that killed off a major character of color.  (Again. I haven't forgotten season 2.)  This was already a week where posts along the lines of "How many characters of color did TV kill this week?" were happening. (Or this one about female characters.) You could argue that the "Sleepy Hollow" writers had no way to know, or you could argue that a lot of shows are wrapping up and deaths tend to happen around this time.  Of course, that's exactly the point.  Yes, it happens a lot.  Because not an original choice.
And you may lose fans as a result, not because fans are fickle or never want things to happen to their faves, but because you have broken their trust.  If they signed on for a show that pushed story telling boundaries and instead got more of the same, they, especially in this time of peak TV, will move to a show that keeps surprising them in new ways. 

Monday, April 11, 2016

Intervention is Back

I mentioned before my love for "Intervention".  I believe that while one can watch with a sense of schadenfreude, it also make really clear that addiction is a disease that requires the treatment of professionals, and that family members cannot generally love or reason the addict out of their addiction. They worked to help people, and in general the focus on the depths of their addiction was to make it clear that the addict had gotten themselves somewhere past all their own boundaries, they were generally not having a great time.  And they helped people, both addicts and families.  When it returned, it felt a little different.  It seems likely they may have swapped out some producers and people either due to normal attrition or becuase some of these folks, the off camera folks, had become too well known to the addicts.  The new spin off show about addicted couples ("Intervention: Codependent") is working on a different model, in this case the addicts are aware that an interventionist is coming, the interventionist meets with the parents and the addict prior to the intervention, and then the official offer of love and treatment is made, with the surprise factor being the couple being unaware that they need to seek treatment separately. 

There have been issues where the newer episodes seem to feature addicts going a little farther, getting themselves in more danger in front of the cameras.  It's hard to say how much of that is better mobile camera technology allowing them to send addicts being filmed a little further away, and only discover what they were doing in the car until later, and how much it's simply a factor of long running shows tending to get called in on worse and worse cases.  (As an example, "Extreme: Home Makeover, in early seasons would just get called in for nice people who had adopted extra kids, or as a surprise for a winning basketball coach. By the end, you likely had a special needs child, a death in the family, and/or at least one other hardship. I suspect the person who does the pre-sorting of applicants just gets so many, they have to prioritize higher level cases.)

But they had also added the check in's where the interventionist video chatted with the former addict to catch up on how they were doing.  As a long time watcher of the crawl at the end updating us on the status of the addict (still sober, relapsed but recovered, married, etc)  really liked this. There had even been some episodes where a recovered addict had called the show to help another of their loved ones to assist them in starting their recovery.  I had certainly noticed that a high percentage of addicts spend at least some time working in a sober home, helping with the recovery of others. 

And yes, I had seen one even mention on her check in that she was now doing interventions.  So, when I spotted in an episode that Silvia Parsons was the interventionist, I was thrilled. I have never met Silvia, and possibly never will, but seeing it come full circle in that way was just wonderful and a reminder that the core premise of the show is to provide help.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Three Interesting Things

1. One book blogger talks about learning the Amazon had wiped all of their reviews.
2. One neighborhood is solving their rat problem with cats.
3. This piece looks at how often the most unusual sci-fi comes from marginalized writers.

Monday, April 04, 2016

Another Strange Analogy

So, you may have sensed I like analogies, allegories, and other such comparisons. The background here, is there has been some discussion recently about erasure of bisexuality.  As this post eloquently notes, it's tied to a lot of things and has been brewing for a while, but particularly sparked in reference to a book making use of the so-called Gay for You trope, ie a person (often, but not always male) who has only ever had straight relationships, but falls in love with a person of the same gender and essentially declares that in this one instance they are therefore gay.
Now, there are a few things here. Yes, sexuality is a spectrum.  Yes, sometimes people realize after dating someone of a different gender than previous, that oh, oh, that's what was not working in my prior relationships.  And yes, there are documented examples of folks who found their attractions shifted later in life.  (About that last link, I would be interested to see if the numbers look the same in another generation, because I think broadening acceptability might also play a role there. We may discover that maybe more people are just bi or pansexual.)
But, bisexuality (which I'm going to use primarily for this post, although I realize pansexuals also experience this) is a thing.  And if people could realize they were homosexual when they previously heterosexual, there's also the possibility that they are actually bisexual.  And I don't think anyone is suggesting we assign labels to people that they don't feel accurately describe them, but there's also a recognizable issue that people who are bisexual are often told they are incorrect about their sexuality, or that they have to have dated a certain number of people of either gender to know this for sure, or that if they date a person of a specific gender for any length of time, that that means they have picked a side.  So, referring to a story where a man (fictional man, but yes) who has only had prior relationships with women as gay for you, is problematic.  It may be true for those characters.  That character may realize that he is no longer attracted to women.  But if he remains attracted to women except for this one man, then that starts to sound like bisexuality to me. 
So, the analogy I promised.  When a marriage ends from a legal standpoint there is annulment and divorce. The idea being that annullment means that the marriage for legal purposes never existed, whereas divorce is saying that this legal arrangement is now over. In addition to the legal aspect, there are religious annulments.  My understanding is that these days, these are only using in congregations where divorce is not acceptable and while the reasons provided are often similar there are times when one cannot get a legal annulment but can get a religious annulment.  All of this is a lead up to say that there are people who have parents that from a religious perspective have annulled the relationship that produced them.  And certainly, in each case there may be very good reasons for all of this, but imagine for a moment that you are that kid. That one or both of your parents have gone to the church and said, well, as far as I'm concerned, this relationship never should have existed.  And certainly children can, should, and are loved and appreciated apart from the circumstances that led to their conception.  But, it still has to be a little weird, to realize that not only do your parents no longer wish to be together, but they have chosen, for religious reasons, to erase their relationship. 
I'm not saying I don't understand why annullment - legal and religious exist. Or that they shouldn't.  I'm again saying that words and labels do matter and just like parents annulling a relationship would feel a little like they were erasing you, calling a relationship gay for you instead of bisexual for you or some other more inclusive term, feels a little like erasure.