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.