Tuesday, May 31, 2016

That Kind of Music

I heard, somewhere about the internet, that in light of a recent tragic event at a concert someone was mounting the argument that the type of music was to blame.  Now first I want to remind you that just about every form of art has carried the blame for the downfall of society at some point, be it novels, comics, and of course various types of music.  And, possibly because it's wrapped up with these homey images of picnics and whatever country music, currently carries the banner of being perceived as a wholesome kind of music.  I'm guessing mostly by people who don't listen to much music, but whatever.  So while I listen to less of it these days (which has more to do with me being old and listening to less new music overall) let's just look at some hit country songs that were about racy and/or criminal behavior. 
Carrie Underwood "Before He Cheats" - a woman who damages her ex's property.
Dixie Chicks - "Goodbye, Earl" - hiding the body of a murdered abusive husband.
Martina McBride - "Independence Day" - a woman who burns down house with herself and her abusive husband inside it. 
"Papa Loved Mama" - a song about the vehicular homicide of a cheating wife. And with that, I'll mention that there are a lot of songs about cheating or abusive spouses being harmed in various ways. 
Bobby Gentry and Reba McEntire - "Fancy" - a song about child prostitution
Blake Shelton - Ol' Red - a song about busting out of jail.
Joe Nichols - "Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off" - the title is fairly self explanatory, and we're going to let this song stand in for the zillions of country songs that are basically about alcohol and sex.
Hank WIlliams, Jr. - "Family Tradition" - a song about the traditions of drinking, getting high, and having sex.
Johnny Cash - "Cocaine Blues" - self explanatory title.
Willie Nelson - "Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die"  - and honestly if I listed all the country songs implicitly or explicitly about marijuana, we would be here all day.  Suffice it to say there are many.
The point of this is not to suggest that country music is the root of all evil.  The point is that music doesn't cause crime or bad behavior and trying to explain away bad behavior by blaming the music is not useful to anyone.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Three Interesting Things

1. This article looked at some of the obstacles California pharmacies are finding as they move to comply with new legislation to allow some forms of contraception without prescription.
2. I confess I only dabble in some superheroes, but this storify of what recent changes in the comics to Captain America's character means and how it relates to fandom and copyright rules is very interesting.
3. With the warning that this article seems to be incompatible with some browsers, a Massachussets liquor store and fast food chain have been engaging in conversation via sign.

Monday, May 23, 2016

A Guide to Being an Actor Cast to Play a Different Race

1. So, here's the thing, actors act.  In theory they play people who do things they would not necessarily do.  Their job is to make the audience believe they are that person.  Is it conceivable that an actor could do that across cultural and racial lines?  Yes, it is conceivable. 
2.  There is a long history of actors playing across racial and cultural lines.  Off the top of my head, Mickey Rooney played Japanese, Madonna played a Latina, a goodly number of white folks have played Middle Eastern Biblical folks, Emma Stone played a multi-racial white, Hawaiian, Asian, woman.  (There's also things where Pacific Islanders are cast as Asians, and vice versa.  Or as Middle Easterners.) 
3. Let's look at the realities. There is not a lack of actors who are Japanese, Latinix, Middle Eastern, and/or multi-racial.  If you want to argue that the casting was color-blind, and you just happened to only cast white people, oh, wait, don't. 
4. The reason it was considered acceptable to cast Mickey Rooney as Japanese for example is racism.  The character is a ridiculous caricature and I would love to believe that no Japanese actor wanted to play him, but let's face it. That's not what happened.
5. Now sure, some characters their racial and cultural background is particularly important to the story.  And sometimes, they might just happen to be so.  All of that is fine.  But if all your characters happen to be so, and all of the actors in your cast are white, um, hi, don't pretend that's all accidental.
6. We could argue that Madonna, for example, felt her experience as a figure who was both loved and hated was more important than her lack of experience as a Latina. We could argue that Emma Stone's character wasn't supposed to look mixed race. 
7. And look, in the end, I don't want to make a hard and fast rule, but...um, hi.  Let's look at how historically people of color have not even been allowed to play themselves in media.  Let's think about that. And say, that sure, someday we might be in a place where everyone is judged by the content of their acting, but we're not there.  And, let's face it, the implicit assumption in there is that there was no one of the correct racial and cultural makeup to play that part, which come on.  Give me a break. 
8. But "Hamilton" you say.  Sure, I love "Hamilton".  And sure, if you want to cast your entire cast color blindly, go for it.  But then, I refer you back to number 3, if you really went all color blind, your cast, especially your main cast, should not be all white.  If it is, I question your color blindness. 
9. And if you are the person who has been cast cross-culturally and/or cross-racially, the answer isn't, well, we look a lot alike, or it doesn't really matter, or skin color isn't the important part.  And that's super extra true if you are saying this as a white actor.  Because, come on. 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Three Interesting Things

1. This article looks at what the female dominated list of Nebula winners means about changes in science fiction.
2. This storify of Daniel Jose Older's discusion of what it's like to visit a detention center is powerful.
3. Gene Demby at NPR Code Switch looked at how we talk around whiteness when we talk politics.

Monday, May 16, 2016

When is a Romance Not a Romance?

When it doesn't have a happy ending.  Full stop.  No exceptions.  I know plenty of people like and enjoy media that involves kissing but doesn't promise a happy ending. I have certainly been known to enjoy it myself.  But just as a mystery would not be a satisfying mystery without ever finding out who did it, a romance isn't a romance if they don't end up together.  It can be romantic, heartwarming, and generally enjoyable without being a romance.  Much like the folks attempting to hold back the deterioration of the core meaning of literally, people will show up and defend the appropriate use of the word romance, not because we or they are terrible sticklers, but because as a genre definition it has meaning.  There are many fans who come here seeking that specific resolution, and they are often willing to put up with the wildest of rides, because the ride has a specific endpoint.  It might rip their heart out along the way, but it will deliver them safely to the endpoint. 
And let's face it, it's super easy to come up with ways to describe a story that involves kissing or sex or longing looks or whatever combination of the above that doesn't involve the word romance.  So, if you use the word romance to describe a story that does not fit the genre definition either you have failed to do your research - which makes me concerned in other ways about your storytelling ability - or you are trying to lure romance fans in because you have heard they are large and mighty and you are intentionally trying to trick them - which also makes me concerned for your storytelling ability if you don't even trust it enough to describe it correctly. 
Edited for spelling.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Thank You, Mr. Strahan

I've talked about my love for "Live With Kelly and Michael" before. The show in it's various iterations has been a staple of my morning for some time. There were some breaks for jobs with earlier start times, but when I could I watched it. I watched when Regis left.  I watched through the yearlong search for his replacement and had secretly rooted for Michael to get the job (assuming Anderson Cooper wasn't available) because their on air chemistry worked so well.  He was absolutely game during their incredible Halloween episodes.  I was happy to see him pop up on "Good Morning America" (when GMA lost some of their testosterone) and found his attempts to speak with an accent amusing (if terrible).
I noted the decision to move to GMA permanently with mixed feelings, I really liked his participation on Live, but also felt he fit with the GMA team well.  I am sure that the various media reports of the what and the wherefore of the change were slanted and not entirely the whole story, so I hesitate to comment too much (I mean, I have thought, if you want to email me) but in the end, I have seen both shows go through a lot of change and become different yet still interesting versions of themselves, so I am hopeful for more of the same. I do think this means I will get a little less focused Michael of a morning, and I have thoughts about who I hope will replace him on Live, but also am aware that prior to the last big search Michael would not have crossed my mind, so there are likely other great choices I haven't considered.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Three Interesting Things

1. I have been watching the news out of North Carolina (and other states in the midst of or having successfully passed a number of laws legislating LGBT+ hate) and found this statement from one school system that they were considering allowing students to carry pepper spray in case they feel unsafe in bathrooms just horrifying.  (Also, you'll note they just say female students, which is an interesting number of assumptions all bundled together.)
2. Nita Tyndall wrote a post about how sometimes it's not that you are not trying hard enough to feel better, you may need help.
3. I am a fan of the Tom Bihn products. I had missed their April Fools Day joke about making a house.  I mean, I assume it's a joke.  *checks products page*

Monday, May 09, 2016

7 Posts: That Ending in "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

[In case the title wasn't clear, spoilers abound for the final episode of season one.]
We ended where mid-pilot Rebecca believed she needed to be all along, wrapped in Josh's arms.  In another show I might have called it quits.  Not because I dislike Josh, or love, or happiness but because as they exist right now, Rebecca and Josh are not a good choice for each other.  But the thing that is clear to me is that the show knows this.  In another show, in another movie, would be presented as super romantic, at a wedding (that they both came to with other people) while a song (sung by the lovely Lea Salonga who in the context of this show is that meddling aunt who always makes things about her by grabbing a mike and singing this song) they left their significant others (sort of, because Greg went home drunk and may or may not be aware how much his world has changed) and came together and celebrated this by sneaking into the parking lot and having sex in what look suspiciously like Josh's sister's honeymoon transportation.  In other shows and movies we would hand wave away those tiny niggling details as unimportant. 
But I believe "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" fully intends to examine this.  Along with the reality that Josh loves how Rebecca makes him feel right up until he becomes aware that she also has a load of hopes and dreams about him.  They may be different from the ones that Valencia had for him, but they are still there. 
And Rebecca has spent a lot of time with Josh this year (more than even he knows) but she's still been there as his friend. She hasn't spent time in a way that would interfere with all the hopes and dreams she's pinned on him.  After all, this is just hours after she was thinking of declaring her feelings for Greg, and yes, Greg's wedding behavior left much to be desired, but after a smidge of trying to address it with him, she ditched him for Josh.  So neither of these people has demonstrated readiness for an adult relationship, and yes that's true of many people right until they decide this person is worth figuring it out for, but right now I don't think they want work, they just want happy without the work.  This, also creates a great metaphor for Rebecca's mental illness where she wants the pills and not the therapy.  (Or her physical health as she demonstrated by failing to treat her UTI.) She's managed, like many people, to show up and be great at her job and just (just!) let her personal relationships suffer, but despite the fact that West Covina has found her a good tribe of people who care about her, she still has not been putting in the work on herself.  And so, I actually view that ending as a bit of a cliffhanger, because Rebecca has really put her mental health in danger, and her ability to keep papering that over seems to be at an end.

Friday, May 06, 2016

7 Posts: Greg and the Friend Zone in "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend"

[Season One spoilers ahoy.]
Greg told us and himself early on that Rebecca was his type in kind of the worst way - "you're smart and you're ignoring me, so you're obviously my type." He upped the ante by singing (singing!) "Settle for Me". Basically Greg likes Rebecca and has continued to like her even when this has not been the best choice for him.  He dated Heather for her ability to see past some of his BS about his family, and then lost her when he couldn't quite quit the Rebecca habit.  And then he spent the day at the grocery store helping a grocery store clerk try to woo his fellow clerk who had been ignoring him in favor of the flashier guy.  Grocery store clerk did not get his girl.  And while grocery store woman realized the error of her ways, Greg was on his way to fully accepting the thing that we often forget in long romantic story arcs on TV shows.  Sometimes being the guy (or girl) that waits in the wings silently liking does not mean that one day that person were realize you were there all along.  Sometimes it just means you stopped looking at other people.  And just as Rebecca has pinned all these romantic hopes on a guy she kissed when she was a teenager, Greg has pinned his romantic hopes on a woman who went on a date with him because he was friends with the guy she was after.  And while that would make and adorable how we met story to tell the grandkids, it could just as likely be the story of the guy who misses the truth.  Who pines after a woman who doesn't really want him while ignoring a slightly more stable woman.   
Again, I'm not saying that any or all of these characters couldn't grow or change into people who deserve each other, because they could.  But people don't always like you back just because you really like them.  Especially not because you've liked them for a long time.  And yes, Rebecca has lacked consistency to say the least.  And in a case of terrible timing, she showed up right in the middle of Greg's revelation that if the liking isn't reciprocal then it doesn't matter how much he likes her. 
So, he got the girl again.  But then they were both trying to hard to keep their feelings in check that they ended up making each other a little, well, crazy.And so whenever Greg sleeps off that drunkenness and realizes that trying to be cool and feelingless turned out to have just as many consequences as being open and honest about his feelings, I hope he looks around and tries (again) dating people who like him back. 

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Three Interesting Things

1. In light of recent discussions about writing communities you are not a part of Mary Robinette Kowal has a great list about how sensitivity readers can help, and where they cannot, and your responsibility as the author.
2. And just FYI, small, white, middle class towns are not the norm in the US.
3. Apparently Daveed Diggs (who you may have heard is now a Tony Award  nominee) used to do video remakes of "Calvin and Hobbes" strips.  (Link leads to video.)

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

7 Posts: Growth and Change in "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend"

One of the things I like a lot about "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" is that the characters grow and/or change.  Not drastically.  Not at their core.  But they learn from the things they experience which is definitely getting more common in comedies these days, but is still not always the norm.  There are comedies where you have to pretend that character X didn't say they always loved a thing that they now are teasing another character for doing six episodes later.
This isn't to say that all the characters always make the best choices for themselves or don't regress, because they do.  And that's real too.  But Rebecca, Josh, Greg, Darryl, Paula, and Valencia have all learned things this first season.  They haven't always made the best choices with what they've learned.
But, and now's the point where I can't talk about how they've grown without getting a little spoilery, but after years of shows where characters kept secrets that really everyone should have known, "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" has moved pretty quickly in season one through the revelation that Rebecca is in love with Josh (which she was actually hiding from herself sort of).  Through the revelation that Darryl might also like guys.  (And special kudos for recognizing that bisexuality exists, which in this day and age should not be such a surprise, but so many shows don't even seem to consider that an option.)  Through the revelation that Greg liked Rebecca and that Rebecca might also like him.  And here's the thing.  Many many things have happened to these characters and they have grown and/or changed based on that information in - I hesitate to say reasonable way, let's say in ways that seem reasonable based on what we know about the characters.  This isn't to say I think these characters shouldn't continue to grow and change.  But it gives me a lot of hope for season 2 that they were willing to move through so much of this in season one and not try and drag out some secrets or revelations artificially.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Who Said What

In the discussion of _Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass_ one of the notes that was made was that the main character doesn't swear, she is sworn at. So, it is a YA book that contains, as some people like to call it, language, but it is about being bullied, about having such words directed at you.

To make an imperfect leap, a book that is currently experiencing a large amount of scrutiny has racial slurs being used in what I imagine is intended to be an adorable moment between to two lovers. It's still hurtful language, but it's especially jarring to the reader when they have reason to believe the characters are in a safe space. Yes, the characters were joking about thinks others might say, but like a lot of things of late that have fallen flat, knowing your audience is key. Using racially charged language or ableist language or homophobic language or language that belittles or others people is not off limits to authors. But putting such language in the mouths of your main characters is a big deal. And if you cannot do so in a way that doesn't harm your readers then yes, you just shouldn't. (I'm not linking to the author on this mostly because I don't want to give her more publicity.  The publisher in question has apologized and taken steps to try to better catch such things in their editing process.)

Some people have suggested that you can't win, you get dinged for writing only people that look like you, you get dinged for writing people that don't look like you wrong. And well, yes, that's true. Writing people who operate like people is hard. It requires work, and thought, and research. If you don't like studying and learning about all kinds of people, you may not be ready to be a writer. I would never create a character from Nebraska without doing a lot of research since I don't know what's different or the same about Nebraska, the same is true for other choices you make about your characters.

And if you get something wrong, apologize. Learn. Grow. Because being wrong about your character's language is both the same and different then being wrong about the kind of gun they used. The same because mistakes happen. You hope to learn better for next time. Different because if you were wrong by making your characters racist or homophobic or something else, you caused actual harm to your readers. And in this patriarchal, racist, queerphobic society, readers are hoping this book is a safe space. If you screwed that up, then yeah. It's a big deal. But it's not just a big deal to you. They got betrayed by the story they were reading. So yes, there is concern when writing. That's part of the job.

Monday, May 02, 2016

WRW Retreat 2016

It was the WRW In the Company of Writers Retreat again this weekend. It was a great time and I got to hang with old writer buds and meet new writer buds, and see who won a Marlene. Sarah Maclean talked about writing the dragon, since it was the feast of Saint George, known for his dragon, er, taming. Sarah Morgan talked about how writing books that touch people was just as important as being a healthcare worker (and that writers could make sure their fictional doctors always said the right thing to patients). There were workshops and panels about writing, conflict, panic, and more. There was romance jeopardy, which is not fair. And secrets were revealed about final speaker Angele Mcquade who encouraged us to dream bigger. I am so lucky to have such a wonderful local chapter and every time I whine about them making me get up early on weekends, know that while I do hate waking up early, they are worth it.