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"http://www.playbill.com/article/tom-kitt-and-brian-yorkeys-freaky-friday-will-get-studio-recording 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.