Monday, April 24, 2017

A Lack of Healthcare Story

When I was 21 I was kicked of my parents' insurance.  I had a job, but it was for a tiny company and I was paid monthly and not always super timely even though one of my job duties was to print the checks. I absolutely meant to do something with the COBRA packet I received and then I got busy, and there were the holidays, and so, yeah, I missed the deadline.  I probably could not have afforded COBRA without help, but that was small consolation because in February after standing for days on a convention floor, my knee dislocated as we finished packing up and my elbow broke my fall.  My knee (somewhat ironically) was fine.  My elbow ended up requiring surgery because I broke off the edge (not the center pointy bit, the side pointy bit which yes probably has a better name than that) and needed pins to put it back where it belonged, and months of physical therapy to regain range of motion. I was really lucky that I had family who was able to help look after me, drive me to all these appointments, and help me pay for this.  
Obviously I realized my error in letting my health insurance lapse and once things were on the mend started looking into getting my own insurance.  And guess what I ran into.  Pre-existing conditions.  Even though I had already had surgery, even though I had already attended multiple physical therapy sessions and had regained most range of motion, the insurance company didn't want to cover me because I had a known condition that might cost money.  
Again, I was really lucky and managed to push through that and get coverage.  But we are talking lots of time on the phone. Nowadays a series of laws, HIPAA and ACA have made such stories go away.  For now.  Right now I have heath insurance through my job. So the fact that I have injured my knee several times, suffer from seasonal allergies, have asthma, and other various conditions are all covered by my insurance.  
Prior to the ACA, my day job had me reading a lot of companies summary plan descriptions.  And some of them covered pre-existing conditions. And some of them had a waiting period.  Something along the lines of six months or a year before the employee or the employee's covered dependents could be covered for pre-existing conditions. And a pre-existing condition can be anything you've ever been treated for. Any time you had a visit about a thing, that maybe visits and visits later turns into a diagnosis.  
And really, it's easy to fault employers and insurance companies on this.  But insurance is capitalist by design. Their job is to save money.  That just happens to be at odds sometimes with our goal of getting good health care.  It is a clear case of the system working as designed even as it fails many. I do think ACA is imperfect.  I do think we could come up with a better solution.  But repealing it and replacing it with something that covers less people is not the right approach. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

"The Catch" - Charming but...

I fell out of the habit with "The Catch" last season.  It had an intriguing hook, security consultant falls for a charming man who turns out to be conning her, which he reveals by stealing all her stuff, except, it turns out, his weakness is her, and they spend the season trying to catch each other. Kind of. 
I never deleted the pass on my DVR, so when it restarted I found myself curious enough to try again, and huh.  So apparently she (Alice, played by Mireille Enos) teamed up with Interpol to catch Ben (Peter Krause) and then felt bad when he turned out to love her too, so gave him a head start and there were double crosses upon double crosses, and whatever, all this I have gleaned from the previouslies. So, Ben is in jail.  Alice's firms computers are all in custody, which, as you might imagine has put a crimp in their business.  And Ben's ex Margot (Sonya Walger) is now in charge of the evil crime family.  Rhys, Ben's partner in crime is on the outs with the crime family yet not in jail.  So, now, Interpol and the FBI (and really it hardly matters, supposed good guys) have offered Ben a deal, where they will reduce his sentence if he does this thing.  And Margot, realizing the problem with crime families is that you can trust no one, hires Alice's firm to investigate.  Needless to say, Alice and Ben are only telling each other part of what they are up to.  Oh and Alice's brother Tommy has shown up totally coincidentally because his former employers are dead, but he has some money is his name, and yeah, absolutely no reason to believe anything shady or underhanded is going on there.  
So here's the thing.  The cast, including the other three members of Alice's firm (played by Rose Rollins, Jay Hayden, and Elvy Yost) are all wonderful.  Gina Torres as our FBI agent learning how charmingly frustrating Ben is, his total inability to do a job within the defined parameters.  And T. R. Knight is knocking out of the park as the bumbling but charming and maybe not as bumbling brother.  
But here's the thing.  The cast is great.  The sets are slick.  And the plot, is there.  Do I care who Tommy's murdered employers really were?  No.  Do I think if you are chasing an international assassin you should plan an elaborate thing where everyone carries different colored umbrellas the theory being that the assassin will then be forced to shoot at all the umbrellas giving them time to catch him? I mean, spoiler alert it worked, but instead of being impressed, it makes me wonder how this international assassin survived so long.  It is the perfect example, they used a visually appealing, but ultimately not super well thought out idea to catch the assassin, turned him over to intended victim Margot, and the episode ended with her hiring them.  That is an intriguing double cross, but much like fellow TGIT show "How to Get Away With Murder" the episodes often seem like misdirects leading to a new breadcrumb revealed at the end.  So, you could fold laundry or multitask while you watched the show, and look up for the end and get most of what you needed.  
There's nothing wrong with any of this, there are plenty of shows that get by more on the charm of the cast, than the plotting.  I just find myself hopewatching, because there is such incredible potential there, and I will say that I think HTGAWM does a better job (admittedly over more cumulative episodes at this point) at making me care about the characters, instead of marveling at the visuals, and the acting.  

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Three Interesting Things

1. Having been away I am catching up on things like the annual Peeps contest which got taken over by the Washington City Paper this year.  I usually find the runner up a little more to my personal taste, but they are still all amazing. 
2. I was never a very good "Survivor" watcher, but this post about the missed opportunity the show had, as they hid under the guise of we have to show what happened, is interesting.  "Top Chef" has had issues with bullying, and this year they at least acknowledged - however awkwardly - the optics of having the first challenge at a plantation be an elimination between a black chef and a white chef.  These are all adults, they sign on for a lot, but these shows also exist in the world.  
3. I read 13 Reasons Why and found it interesting, but have listened to the criticism about the show, that for it's unflinching look at serious issues, it has issues and isn't safe for some folks.  This take (by another YA author) addressed some concerns. 

Monday, April 17, 2017


Last week I was in Venice at a writer's retreat. This opportunity came at such a perfect time for me, that I remained convinced the world would snatch it from me, but it did not. 
I decided trying to recap a whole week was silly. 
This retreat was organized by Rachael Herron - who I knew before the trip, and we spent mornings from 9am-12pm gathered up, working with writer prompts and sharing writing.  The group was writers at a mix of stages in their writing journey, fiction and non-fiction, and the propmts and excercises had meaning and help for all.  It really is, I would have thought, a tricky balance to making things useful and workable to as wide a range as we had, and yet it really worked.  
In the afternoon there were optional excursions, but it was incrediby easy to opt out, whether to explore on your own or to split into a smaller subgroup.
Basically, it was delightful.  I loved the trip.  I loved the people - some of whom I knew or internet knew beforehand, and some of whom I did not.  I was like writer summer camp.  You know, in Venice. 
I had not been to Venice before, and I loved it and see why it calls to others. 
Italy, you may have heard has a pretty carb based food tradition, which is terribly dangerous for a carb addict like myself.  There were signs in some places for vegan this, and gluten free that, and so there were options.  Had I been staying longer than seven days, I would have made a better effort to find a greater variety, but my suffering, if you call it that, was delicious. I even found a Venetian wine I liked, which for a picky wine palette like mine was a win. 
So, some numbers. 
Number of gelato consumed: 4. 1 with Bailey's on it, so while it was very tasty it's possible the Bailey's and whipped cream influenced my feelings. 
Number of pizzas eaten: 1. It was large and probably should have been shared or saved. Oops. 
Number of sights seen: At least 7.  It depends on if you count things pointed out on the walking tour, or wandered past or all the bridges and boats and towers spotted. 
Number of neighborhoods or sestieri wandered through: 4. And we took the vaparetto to Burano and Murano. 
Number of boats ridden: 10.  At least.  I may be missing one.  
Number of bridges crossed: Innumerable. 
Number of times I got lost: 1. Fortunately I was with someone who was ready to find the adventure in it.  We had headed in what I thought was a mostly northerly direction, and turned out to be north and west, which I figured out when I saw the signs for the train station.  We were adopted as we tried to follow some o fhte signs directing us to the vaporetto, that seemed to disappear and then reappear in ways that were not super intuitive and she spoke a lot of Italian at us, despite our clear lack of understanding.  We followed her, kind of (we were backtracking from a dead end) and then found a museum courtyard where we managed to convey that this was what we meant to find, and the nice smartphone had enough signal for us to verify our speadiest way back to the Grand Canal.  Certainly, the nice museum people also could have helped us so we were just the tinest bit lost but we got to see more of San Croce than planned, so there was that. 
It also appears possible that Italian mosquitoes do not like me, or are at least slow to recognize me as fresh meat.  This will require further investigation. 
Pictures of things and food.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

7 Things: DC's Missing Girls

It is a strange and surreal thing to watch a local news story become the viral thing that everyone's talking about how no one is talking about it. 
1. The Metropolitan Police Department (MPD)* recently made some changes to the way they handled missing persons cases.  They had been posting such alerts to the police listservs.  They added posting them to the Twitter account and other social media, and a website.  They have also been posting when a person is found. 
2. I tend to - anytime I see a missing person or pet posting - go back to the source.  Partly because, as we all know things move fast on social media.  Lost pets, kids, and seniors get found.  Being found doesn't always get reported on the same sources that reported being missing.  Also, not to be crazy paranoid, but there have been cases of a stalker setting up a I-need-to-find-this-person post, trying to get the internet to help them.  Stalkers would (one hopes) not be able to make use of the police, so sourcing is a good idea. 
3. Until this year, it is my understanding that the MPD's missing person's site only listed Relisha Rudd. Relisha Rudd disappeared in 2014.  I could speculate why they weren't making use of the website (MPD has said internal policy change) for other cases, but basically, if you look at the site, it looks like DC had a missing person in 2014 and then nothing until this year.  That is inaccurate. (They have now added some additional cases back to 2009, along with stats about how many missing persons cases were closed.)
4. I could tell who had looked at the site, because several of the posts I saw floating past on Twitter had Relisha's face, which I do recognize, because it was a very big deal here when she disappeared.  She disappeared about the same time as a man who was later found dead.  There was video of them together, he was not officially a person who had custody, so an amber alert was activated.  So I have seen her picture, and recognize it.  It's likely that folks who weren't here in 2014 did not see it posted all over the place the way that those of here do, but it created an easy way to tell who had bad info since I saw quite a few people listing her as someone who had disappeared this year.  She is still missing.  So, if you think committing her picture to memory will help you, this post has a timeline along with links to pictures and videos
5. All of this context does not make the overarching point that missing kids of color get less media attention than missing white kids.  I can name several missing white kids, including ones like Elizabeth Smart who was found years later.  I don't live anywhere near where Elizabeth was kidnapped, or where she was found and I still heard about it.  I cannot think of a similar case that received national attention for a child of color.  
6. One of the things the MPD and members of the local DC government said about the missing kids, is that they appear to have left voluntarily.  As others have pointed out, the key word there is appears.  Now, appears means there was no sign of struggle, no sign that someone broke in and took the child by force. Once of the kids (who has since returned) posted to Instagram that her foster family was terrible. I understand that the police have a different type of invesitgation on their hands when signs seem to point to runaway. (We could also examine why we tend to assume teenagers have runaway absent evidence. Or that running away is rebellion and not a sign that things are so bad, that being on the streets seemed like the better alternative.) 
7. I saw one post from someone with a PR background who had helped out a family member when a child had gone missing.  And she talked about how hard it was, even with her contacts and knowledge, to get media interest.  So again, we really do need to think about why some stories get national coverage and others don't.  I also saw a small backlash as people got some context and assumed that therefore they had been lied to about the missing girls.  You weren't lied to if you read a flyer and didn't follow up.  There are still missing people, many of them girls, and girls of color.  You should still think about why you still remember Natalie Holloway's name and probably her face even if you've never in your life been to Aruba.  You should still think about why a post about 8 missing girls maybe made you feel it was less of a big deal if two had been found.  That's still six families.  

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Three Interesting Things

1. You know I love a good story about teens changing the world, or at least their high school.  So these teens who interviewed the incoming principal and found some, shall we say, irregularities with her resume, resulting in her resignation, well, here's hoping this is just one high point in their careers. 
2. One of my high school classmates took her kids to see the WERK for Peace dance party by the Pences rental before they moved into the Vice President's house. So, I wasn't surprised to see that the party by Ivanka and Jared's was well received, but this interview with the neighbor caught enjoying the dance party with her wine is also a peek into how a lot of, shall we say, experienced DCers often feel about changing administrations. 
3. This discussion among several Asian American actors about "Ghost in the Shell" touches on a number of things, from the flattening that occurs when you try to strip away the cultural source of the material, to the circular arguments used for whitewashing characters. 

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Brigid Kemmerer at Bethesda Library

Brigid Kemmerer was at the Bethesda library last night.  Hannah McBride (I assume I'm spelling that right) interviewed her about both her new release, Letters to the Lost which is straight contemporary YA and there were also quite a few mentions of the Elementals series and those Merricks.  
Kemmerer said Letters to the Lost was loosely inspired by "You've Got Mail".  She was rewatching it one day and wondered how she could do a YA version, and then because her writing is not usually straight funny, but funny in the face of darkness, shifted to what if one of them was writing letters to someone who was dead.  And here we are. There is a companion book planned featuring the best friend of Declan (male protagonist in Letters).  
There was a lot of love for the Merricks, and discussion of when any future stories would be.  For those who haven't read the series, I can tell you the story wraps up, but of course, there is always more, another big bad lurking somewhere.  Kemmerer had planned to write more in the world, and has the next story started, but the publisher that has the series rights is not so much doing YA at the moment, so she is prioritizing the books that are under contract.  (So, less publishy nitty gritty version - maybe someday.) 
Letters is her first straight contemporary - I will say having finished Thicker Than Water recently, it reminded me of More Happy Than Not in that it seems like a contemporary for a good part of it, until you realize, oh, okay.  But Letters is contemporary and dual first person which Kemmerer enjoyed writing.  She also has another contemporary planned for 2019. 
She was asked about writing male POV's and said she drove her husband crazy asking what does it feel like to do this, and that, and the other when she was first writing the Elementals.  And finally her husband said it doesn't matter about what all guys think or feel, just this character.  
Kemmerer said the final (so far) story in the Elementals, Michael's was the hardest partly because she had to wrap up so many things, and by that point the series had fans and people would email her that they just couldn't wait for Michael's story and she was struggling, and pregnant, and sent 50 pages to her editor who said, hmm, maybe not quite that*, and so went back and wrote new pages that she hated. She was put on bed rest, so emailed her editor and said, I'm on bed rest for two weeks before the C-section, so I'll do nothing but write and everything will be fine.  And she (modified bed rest) went to Starbucks to meet her mom and the barista had the name that she and her husband had planned for their kid, and she told her mom, this is a sign, the baby's coming today.  Her mom told her don't be silly, but you know where this was going, so, yeah, she had to tell her editor new plan.  Anyway, the book does exist now, so it all worked out.  And Kemmerer said she's in that Starbucks all the time and never saw that barista before or after that.  

*I'm sure she was paraphrasing and encapsulating for the sake of the story.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

DEMO: Song and Dance

I confess I had paid little attention to the Kennedy Center's DEMO: Song and Dance series until a little announcement that one of the performers would be Christopher Jackson.  I would feel shallow, but I was seated next to a teenager who was bouncing in her seat at every mention in the program.  That doesn't make me less shallow, but I wasn't alone in my shallowness. 
The ides of the series is to merge song and dance in multi-genre ways. The performances are a single night which I imagine allows them to draw people unable to make a longer commitment. This evening included folks from the New York City Ballet, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the Paul Taylor Dance Company, Michelle Dorrance, Paul Irwin, and on the vocalist front Janet Dacal, Kate Davis, and the aforementioned Chris Jackson. 
The night was a bit anthology style, in that some pieces references each other, but in many ways operated independently.  Some were funny (particularly those featuring Bill Irwin, who spent the night in what I can only describle as very vaudevillian pants), some were heartwrenching, and some were joyous.  Some pieces were a little more successful than others, and I confess, while I have great appreciation for dance, it is somewhat limited to I enjoyed watching that. 
The mix of modern dance, soft shoe, tap, and ballet worked well with the various songs, which varied by era, but mostly stayed withing a mid-range tempo.  
The show ran trhough without intermission and never made me wish for one, although I did occaisionally try to peek at m program to figure out what song that was. 
Overall it was a fun evening and I'll keep a closer eye on the series in the future. 

Monday, April 03, 2017

20 Years On: "Rent"

My story of how I came to "Rent" is one of those stories that of course involved things that no longer work like that.  Anyway, I was in Borders (remember Borders) and wandering the listening stations (remember when store listening stations was the only way to try music without buying it or listening to it on the radio) and I just was blown away.  Since it was a double CD (remember CD's, okay I'll stop now) I think I had to wait and buy it on another trip but I did.  I listened, I read the liner notes, I sang along, I cut out a quote and stuck it on my wall, and so on.  So when there was finally a touring cast, I went to see it with some friends, some who were also familiar with it, and one who had no idea was just willing to come along for a show.  My recollection is that the program contained a map explaining to the uninitiated the various (well most of them) connections between the characters. 
It was amazing.  As is often the case, no matter how thorough the liner notes and cast album are, there are nuances that are clearer seeing it live.  Plus the enjoyment of seeing it live.  I went again a few years later when the touring cast came back through and brought a friend who had never been to see it.  She was blown away.  She bought us tickets for a performance a few months later in Philadelphia (near where she lived) so we could see it again. It was so great to watch someone else fall in love with the experience and be ready to talk through all their favorite bits. 
I saw the movie when it came out. I went to BroadwayCon and saw the reunion panel.  Let's just say, I'm a bit of a fan. 
So I tried to set realistic expectations for myself when I saw the reunion cast was coming to Baltimore. (They later added a DC stop, after I already had tickets.) 
"Rent" is fascinating in that it was incredibly groundbreaking when it debuted, and there are ways that it is both more and less unusual this many years later.  I find I still have the following conversation with people, well, why don't they just pay their rent, haha.  (The show explains the answer. And well, either you accept that or you don't.) 
We have better HIV drugs.  The Alphabet City gentrification referenced is pretty much complete now.  But it also seems even more likely that Mark's footage of a riot would lead to job opportunities.  And some things, like seeking a community that accepts you, finding the balance between maintaining the ideals you have and paying the bills, are timeless. 
So, the 20th anniversary tour.  Overall it was fun.  The woman next to me was a longtime fan who had never seen it live, and she had the time of her life.  It was actually clear there were both longtime fans, who chuckled more at things that were funny about the performances, and newbies (one person let out a cheer at the end of "Contact" while the longtime fans knew it ends with sadness.
The staging had the full cast on stage a bit more often than I recall from other versions allowing for quick transitions, and occasional cuts meant to jar.  A reunion tour always has the challenge of trying to both satisfy old fans and still be relevant to current audiences. The direction to the actors seemed to be to prioritize emotion over word clarity, meaning there were moments of anger or sadness, where conveying that was more important than clarity in the lyrics.
In costuming, Benny still had a blue puffy coat, but now it had neon accents, Mark's plaid had sheepskin trim making him look a little lumbersexual, and Joanne had a coat I am lusting after. Reading the bio's in the Playbill, it was sort of amusing to realize many of these actors were perhaps toddlers when the original "Rent" opened, but of course, the original cast had a lot of people for whom this was their first big job, and that's how it should be for a piece about twenty somethings trying to make their dreams come true.  
The choreography in "Today 4 U" leaned a little more towards panty (or legging crotch) flashing than drumming. Tom Collins is in some ways a gimme role for an actor with any bit of talent, since he's a loving friend and partner pretty much every moment he's on stage, and but Aaron Harrington's deep voice more than lived up to expectations.  
It was great to see, and fun to see how my views of each character have shifted over the years, although I still love and hate all of them a little. But mostly love. 

Friday, March 31, 2017

Comedy Doesn't Require Racism

I had another post planned for this morning and then, well.  When "The Colbert Report" went off the air, in the interim, "@Midnight" moved a half an hour earlier, and for a bit I watched some of the start as I talked myself through needing to get ready for bed.  (I am a natural night owl.  The world's insistence that I be a morning person vexes me, but I also need sleep.) And with the end of "The Nightly Show" it is back there.  
So, here's the thing, "@Midnight" is a comedy show disguised as a game show.  There is a format with specific segments and it encourages audience participation with contestant often playing on behalf of folks at home, and with the Hashtag Wars game where social media users are asked to chime in with their own suggestions and then they pick a winner featured on the show the next night and the show account often also retweets some faves.  
Comedy has long had a tenuous relationship with those who are marginalized, often making jokes at the expense of the poor, the female presenting, the mentally ill, and/or the non-whites. 
And look, the challenge with creating a social media hastag is that you can't control what will happen with it. Countless social media managers have watched in horror as things unrolled not how they had planned.  But the show started in 2010,  They have, according to Wikipedia, over 500 episodes.  At some point you have to take a little bit of ownership for understanding social media.  There are hashtags you can just tell are going to encourage the worst in people. Here's some samples of some that, as far as I can tell, went pretty well, #CowTV, #StarWarsSongs, #GentlerHorrorFilms.  Earlier this week they did #JapanAMovie. I still had the TV on and I immediately grabbed the remote and changed the channel. There was no way this wasn't going to encourage at least a string of boring reductive answers, and at best just out and out racism.  And look, I couldn't come up with over 500 humorous hashtag experiments, but that's why that isn't my job.  
And no, I don't need to learn to take a joke.  "@Midnight" needs to learn how to not ecourage racism (or sexism or whatever) in the name of comedy.  (Their record on rape jokes is also not good.) And let's just pretend for a moment that no one in the room could anticipate that this would go wrong. First, of all, that's not an excuse. And second - get better people in your room then.  And if you still decided to go ahead with it, then the job of the folks handling your social media was to only RT ones that weren't racist. Oh wait, that should always be their job. And if that means there's only sad, boring ones to RT, then you know you failed.  
One of the comedians involved did apologize, saying she had made a joke about how it was kinda racist, that got cut for time.  And that she hadn't considered the rest of the internet. I'm not putting this on her.  I appreciate that she apologized.  But this brings another point, the show is taped live and then cut for time.  If they chose to cut the part that noted the racism, then they made a choice. They were trying to pretend it was all fine if we didn't talk about the racism.  That it was just the internet's fault that it got racist, and that they could not anticipate this reaction. And that's just not true.  Anyone who has been on the internet could have told you. And I'm willing to bet, after I changed the channel, all the comedians in the room didn't only make non-racist non-reductive jokes.  I'm willing to bet in the room at the moment there was plenty of opportunity to see that this was a terrible idea.  And the joy of taping but editing later for time, is that they had the option to try a backup one and air that instead.  And they didn't. 

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Three Interesting Things

1. I enjoyed this interview with Karuna Riazi about how "Jumanji" inspired her novel.
2. This article about activism and crafting focuses on women crafters making a difference. 
3. This piece - Makeup as a Language of Resistance - is a wonderful exploration of the changing ways folks sometimes choose to explore and conform to gender norms. God, that made it sound like vegetables.  It's wonderful.  Go read it. 

Monday, March 27, 2017

So Let's Talk Bathrooms

I heard someone on an NPR show way back when (okay fine, it was probably a few years ago) talking about ADA and how there tends to be this assumption that making accommodations for disabled people is super hard and causes an undue burden and how many disabled people are there really, and that in pretty much every case, the accommodations needed benefit more than just the disabled.  The example he used was making sidewalk corners wheelchair accessible and that doing that also works great for people pushing strollers, folks with wheeled bags, and people riding bikes.  
So, I thought I'd talk about bathrooms.  In DC, the right to use the bathroom that corresponds with your expressed gender identity has been the law for a while.  It is also the law that single stall bathrooms should be gender neutral.  This has had huge benefit for me as a cisgender person.  There have been studies, and in general women take a little longer in the restroom (about 60 seconds is the data I could find) and we could discuss to death differences in clothing, sit stand preferences, and likelihood a woman may be accompanied by a small person who will also need to use the facility, but in the end even 60 seconds more can add up when you really gotta go.  Putting to the side all the people who claim to be very worried about the birth gender of the people peeing next to them -  why do we care when there's no one else in there?  We do not.  So having all the coffee shops and restaurants that have single stall restrooms have both be gender neutral doesn't eliminate waiting, but does mean if one is empty you can go.  
So now when I go places where that is not the rule, I am irritated.  I think everyone should adopt this rule across the country.  (Other countries would be nice too, but let's start here.)
And those of you who are like, okay, but the shared stalls, um, no.  Not agreeing with you on that.  Unless you meant to say wherever you want to go. 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Three Interesting Things

1. "Sesame Street" has added a regular character with autism and now a recurring character with a father in jail.
2. This article on some new and upcoming YA books that take a look at race and police brutality has some great chats with the authors.  As many have pointed out, Ibi Zoboi's American Street also fits neatly within that category.  
3. This remembrance of a copy editor talks about a shared love of language and the way that we use it. 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Flash - Duet

I had been advocating on Twitter for a musical episode of "The Flash" since about the beginning.  I was aware for obvious reasons that Joe (Jesse L. Martin) could sing.  As an avid Disney channel movie watcher of a certain era, I also knew that Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker) could sing.  I assumed the rest could too. (Nice people later pointed out to me that Grant Gustin had been on "Glee", that there had been a musical episode of "Ed", and of course, with my Disney movie experience, I knew about Victor Garber. And then, for a side project, Jesse L. Martin, Rick Cosnett, and Carlos Valdes sang the Firefly theme song (video here) and I was all in.  Oh, who  am I kidding, I had already been in. 
I do not believe that every show needs a musical episode.  I think more shows should think seriously about doing on.  Or coming up with an excuse to get them to sing.  "Ground Floor" and "Ally McBeal" never did an actual musical episode. But both shows made use of the singing talents of their cast members in ways that advanced the plot.  And yes, speaking of "Ally McBeal", I'm a little sad "Supergirl" didn't follow my advice sooner.  (Also, you may recall that Jesse L. Martin guested on "Ally McBeal", and I would have love to have seen Martin and Flockhart together again.  Ah well.) 
So, when Melissa Benoist and Grant Gustin (along with Stephen Amell) did a joint interview with Conan O'Brien who asked them about the fan desire for a musical episode, and Benoist said she didn't know if there was fan outcry, I might have tweeted at her that hello, there was.  (I assume this question was planted since the episode was already in the works.)
Anyway, I was excited about the musical episode, even though I was a little bored with "The Flash", and their constant mucking with the timeline.  "Supergirl" I remain more attached to, although this year's Kara tries to be a reporter even though her boss is mean had, in my opinion, been a terrible waste of Ian Gomez. 
But singing. 
Making use of Darren Criss as the Music Meister, he whammied Kara on "Supergirl" causing Mon-El and J'onn to track him to Central City, where it turns out he whammies Barry too and they collapse but both wake up in a old school musical where they work as singers in a Club run by a dude named Cutter, in case you didn't think that there might be danger in the musical dream world. They hammer Kara's love of "Wizard of Oz" to remind you why all the characters in this world look like people that Kara and Barry know, Joe, Merlin, Iris, Mon-El, Winn, Cisco, and Doc are all there.  If you think I'm still miffed that Caitlin wasn't - you might be right.  There is at least a passing mention that HR can sing, so I'm guessing time and/or budget constraints were the issue, but I think they could have tightened up the Wally, J'onn, and Cisco capture the bad guy plot and saved us all some time for more songs. 
So, Kara sings "Moon River".  The Music Meister leads the club members, including alt-Cisco and alt-Winn in a group number of "Put a Little Love in Your Heart". Kara and Grant get kidnapped by alt-Doc and alt-Joe to find their daughter, who turns out to be alt-Iris who has been hooking up with alt-Mon-El, which throws both our superheroes who have both just kind of ended things with their significant others. Kara and Barry convince them to tell their parents about their love, and Kara and Barry each follow their alt-love back to witness this.  The dads, because alt-Mon-El is of course Cutter aka alt-Malcolm.  After singing "More I Cannot Wish From You" (trading verses, that's right Garber, Martin and Barrowman - together!), the dads hug their kids and then go off to declare war.  Oblivious to the oncoming war, Kara and Grant ask alt-Winn if he can help them with the prior instruction they received to do an original number, and he presents them with a song that any "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" fan will recognize as having the wry sensibility of one Rachel Bloom.  The song is called "Super Friend" and in addition to having references about not mucking with the timeline, it also is incredibly fun, and the characters go full on dancing on furniture and tapping throughout.  
This is what I love about musical episodes, they are often a bright spot.  Also, it's why I tend to like Barry better when he hangs with Kara, even when they are griping about their love lives, Kara is so bright, that she lightens Barry up.  (I think "The Flash"/"Arrow" crossovers reinforce what a serious, boring doom and gloom dude Oliver is compared to "The Flash" team, but on the peppy hopeful spectrum, "Supergirl is definitely the peppiest of the three.) 
Shots break out as the previously mentioned war breaks out, dream Kara and Barry race out and realize that without their powers they are not much help and both get shot.  And of course, dying in this dream would mean they die in real life. Back in Central City, Caitlin notes their dropping vitals, and Iris and Mon-El, with a nudge from the now captured Music Meister, try out the true love's kiss methodology and save them.  
And the Music Meister reveals that his point was to teach Kara and Barry that even superheroes need to get saved sometimes, and that's what love is about. 
But, you might have noticed, gee, the hour's not up yet, but we...seem to be done?  And if you had been stalking interviews you might have recalled that there was supposed to be Benji Pasek and Justin Paul song (the now Oscar winning duo who also worked on "Dear Evan Hansen").  So, perhaps it was less of a surprise to you when Barry pulled out his phone and triggered some background music so he could sing "Runnin' Home to You" which was sappy but still nice, especially as a lead up to Barry re-proposing to Iris.  (It also reminded me a bit of "You Will Be Found" although it's not like the idea of people being there for you isn't littered across the musical landscape. This isn't a knock, more a statement that this song felt very Pasek and Paul to me.) 
So, am I happy?  Sure. Overall it was great, and certainly proved that the cast has the chops to do this. I think that it suffered from trying to not be an all out musical episode.  It also had a jukebox musical feel, in that it was clear that the songs were written by different people and had different sensibilities, and not always in ways that made sense.  
But in the end, for all my quibbles, if all we got out of this was the "Super Friend" song, it was worth it.  

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Let Me Share My Wisdom

It's tempting, as you get older and figure out stuff, to share your wisdom as absolutes. Don't major in this. Only take notes like that. Real writers do this. It ignores the following.
1. Some lessons have to be learned. listened to a "Love and Radio" episode with someone who thought they were trans only to discover they "just" had gender disphoria, and one of the things asked was what do you think you would have listened too, and their answer was - I'm paraphrasing here - nothing.  I would not have listened to someone telling me I maybe wasn't this. In those cases, sometimes all you can do is share your story and hope it helps someone.  Not everything we share and do has to provide an absolute right answer for a younger version of 
2. I realized when talking to a younger cousin who was looking at some colleges my sister had applied to that my first response was to tell her to talk to my sister.  But sister had already (as have I, since I'm older) been out of college for some time.  It's a natural reflex.  So-and-so went there, worked there, looked at that, you should talk to them.  But let's face it.  Since I graduated college, even putting to the side the huge ginormous shifts in the economy, many things have changed.  The SAT has changed.  I applied before the common app was the big thing it is today. I mailed my college apps in.  There are things that are still the same about the college experience.  But there is a lot that changed.  So, my ability to advise incoming freshmen based on my path and my college experience is limited. 
3. Talk to enough authors and you will find there are a trillion different paths.  (I'm using authors as an example here.  Watch a "Chopped" marathon.  You'll see the same.) There are authors who got their first contract while in high school.  Authors who had six or seven careers before even trying to write.  Authors who wrote for ten years before self publishing.  Authors who published the first thing they wrote.  The point is there are lots of ways to become an author.  I can share my advice, the advice I would have given myself, but it may not be the best advice for you.  In fact, one of the things I look for in writing workshops is people who offer disclaimers.  Because people who think there's one true path are almost always wrong about how that path will work for me. 
4. My two siblings are both employed in a job that matched their college major.  However, my sister changed her major three times.  I changed my major from a more specific choice to general (aka liberal arts) because I figured out I could save myself a year of school and still have the qualifications needed to get the further degree I had planned at the time.  Having a plan is good. Being open to opportunities and figuring out what you want is an ongoing process not limited to college majors. 
5. As with so many things in life, people often tell you what they did as if it was an absolute.  I didn't major in English, they say, because what would that have done except teach me how to read, write, and communicate well.  Who needs those as job skills?  If anything the last decade or so should have taught us, it's this.  I have no idea what the job market will look like in four years. Social media jobs didn't use to exist.  Ride-sharing has changed drastically.  There are all types of jobs and skills that rise up and change.  Some of them will last.  Some won't.  Pursuing things that make you curious and interested can be satisfying in itself. 
6. People's brains are different.  Therefor the tools and techniques that are great for you, may make me bang my head against the wall.  And vice-versa.  So presenting your life hack as as all successful people do X, assumes that all successful people are like you.  And hi, I don't know you, but I'm pretty sure that's not true.  
7. People's bodies are different.  I write using a combination of handwriting (with a tech enabled pen), typing on a word processor, and touch typing on my phone.  I know folks who use dictation, do the whole first draft on their phone, do the whole first draft by hand.  How is kind of the least important part.  Getting the words down is what counts. If you do that typing with your nose, then, I raise my glass to you.  

Friday, March 17, 2017

"Greenleaf" Returns

I confess the episodes of "Greenleaf" stayed stacked up on my DVR for a bit and I only just finally got the first season completed last week, so I have not yet watched the start of season 2.  "Greenleaf" is about the Greenleaf family, who happen to be headed by a Bishop James Greenleaf and let's just say, the family business is church.  The catalyst for the first season was Grace, the lone Greenleaf who left not only the family business, but the family home and the town, but has at long last returned for her sister's funeral and bringing her daughter with her.  As you might suspect, since there were thirteen episodes in the first season, she and her daughter do not immediately return home, as Grace discovers that her sister's death was, as she had suspected, tied to having been sexually abused by her uncle, who was recently accused by another young church female.  
There are lots of other family secrets, affairs, conflicts about one's sexuality, jockey for coveted positions in church, and a secret illness.  Grace has two more siblings, both married, and they are all living in a large house together, which is very convenient for awkward family dinners. As with any family drama, there were storylines I cared more about than others, but, with the exception of Mac - the sexually abusive uncle - most of the people mean well.  They don't all want their secrets out sure, but they want good things for each other and the church, their approach to getting these things differ.  But Merle Dandridge, as Grace, is an amazing performance.  In fact there really isn't a weak link in the cast, which is full of faces that are familiar (Lynn Whitfield, Keith David, Gregory Alan Williams, Oprah Winfrey) and those that are likely new (Desiree Ross, Tye White, Benjamin Patterson). 
The other thing that I find clear, is much as USA had a run of lightly serialized shows that all took place where you might want to vacation, this fits well in the OWN brand.  The show is full of fully realized characters, and there is time in the show for characters to fully react to things.  There are moments where they sit, and process what is happening in their lives without talking.  
One of my favorite moments of the first season, happens with very little dialogue.  First season spoiler's ahead. 

Grace, before she left, was considered a wonderful preacher by many, including her father. In her absence her brother Jacob has been taking on the role of the preacher in the next generation. But Bishop James is worried Jacob's not being leaderly enough.  Then, James shoots uncle Mac in the church, and well, you can understand that the church board thinks James should take a little leave of absence.  Once of the church matriarchs suggests that Grace should step in to Grace's mom Mae, who has been convinced all along that Grace's return would spell ruin, so is not on board with the idea.  At her lady's day, Mae makes a speech, addressing the church's recent troubles and leading up, the audience knows, to her suggestion of herself for the new church preacher in the interim (she even points to herself as she references the need for a virtuous woman).  However, said church matriarch jumps to her feet in applause and turns and smiles at Grace, who is sitting in the audience, and many of the other women follow suit.  It is hard to say who is more uncomfortable, Grace or Mae as they both try to smile like this is what they wanted. 

So, I am in for the next season and ready to see what happens.  

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Three Interesting Things

1. NPR had access to the cast album from "Come From Away" (which I did not manage to get tickets to during it's DC run, and yes, I am still a little sad about that, thanks for asking), prior to it's release (it is now out and likely available on your favorite music service) and Playbill had footage of the cast recording of the song about actual real life female pilot Beverly Bass which is hopeful and, erm heartbreaking.
2. I am not thrilled to learn that US Soccer has made standing during the anthem a rule.  I wonder if being present during the anthem is also a rule for players.  And look, this is a small thing, and sure, there are rules in my job about where and when I have to be places, but legislating false patriotism is just unnecessary in my opinion, and honestly the anthem, and the flag (which is the part we're supposed to be honoring) are not made stronger by requiring that people pretend their aren't problems.  And I'm still way more irritated by flags left up in the rain. 
3. We're getting bodega cats!  The Humane Rescue Alliance has launched a program focused on cats who are not necessarily snuggly but great at deterring rodents for homeowners and businesses who have been having rodent issues. 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Angie Thomas at Politics and Prose

It's possible the impending storm kept the crowd size down a bit at the Politics and Prose event at Busboys and Poets last night, although given the audience members who mentioned they had driven from Alabama or were from California or Hawaii it's hard to say.  (At least one of those folks had family in town.  Nonetheless, it was a long trip.)  But the room was full as Alexandria librarian Rose Dawson asked Thomas about her now officially bestselling book, The Hate U Give.  She talked about the title (which is also explained in the book), and that she had started writing it as a short story in college, after the Oscar Grant police shooting and looking at the difference in how it was being discussed at home in her neighborhood, compared to in her predominately white classes.  Her creative writing teacher told her it was too much, not the subject matter, but she was adding too many layers and plot elements to explore in the short form, that it looked like she was building a novel. 
Thomas put it to the side a couple of times, and then kept pulling it back out when the world made her mad.  She talked about her intentional use of a blended but strong family in the book, and that she wanted to give Starr a great relationship with her dad. (I will say one of the things I loved about the book is the adult characters are as wonderfully layered as the teen characters while the focus of the book is still firmly on Starr.)
There was some discussion of movie casting which was purely speculative, but some YA books are great reads, but so much of that is the internal monologue, that you have no idea how it would be a good movie, this one has enough externality, that I think it will be great.  
Thomas also talked about having a fangirl moment with Jacqueline Woodson, when one audience member asked what writer she'd love to have brunch with.  Thomas said, if she could figure out how to speak in the presence of Woodson, she'd pick her.  
All in all, it was a great night. 

Monday, March 13, 2017

NoVaTeen Book Fest

This past Saturday was NoVaTeen Book Fest and well, I can't tell you which event had my side of the metro packed, but I ended up having to wait for a second train, and as such got there a little later than planned.  But, I made it to the Stranger in the Strange Land panel with Natalie C. Andersen, Leslie Livingston, Lindsay Smith, and Ibi Zoboi.  They talked about their characters straddling worlds and cultures.  Andersen's story is about a refugee, Livingston's a young woman who is kidnapped and enslaved, Smith a Japanese American young woman sent to Japan for the summer, and Zoboi's a young woman who has just immigrated from Haiti to Detroit. 
The (Don't Fear) the Reaper Panel had Zoraida Cordova, Brendan Kiely, Nina LaCour, and Lance Rubin talking about how death featured in their books.  Cordova's features a Death Day for each bruja, Kiely's was looking at the love that you remember at the end of your life, LaCour's story is about grief, and Rubin's is about a world where we get death dates in advance.  The death date idea led to soem really intersting discussion on the panel and in the audience. 
For the mini panel segment, I went to the Q&A with Jaye Robin Brown and Katie McGarry who both talked about their books and their process to publication.  McGarry also mentioned that she had written Pushing the Limits as a standalone, but the publisher wanted it to become a series and had proposed two characters they thought would be the next couple.  (These two characters did not fall in love in the series. As a huge fan of the series, I would say that this works out fine for us all.)
The Love of the Rocks panel had Julie Buxbaum, Katie McGarry, Rafi Mittlefehldt, and Caleb Roehrig.  There was discussion of who was into mushy, smoochy stuff, and who wasn't - Buxbaum really is. Roehrig came into this more from a thrille rbackground. I confess I have grown wary of audience questions, but the teens in this panel (and others throughout the day) had good stuff.  One asked if the authors with queer characters had worried about that.  They had not, and Roehrig and Mittlefehldt both said they found writing stuff that was meaningful to them worked better and was easier to write. Another audience member asked McGarry what inspired her to write female characters that were confident in their sexuality. She thanked them for noticing and said it was important to present female sexuality as a normal thing and that people are ready to explore it at different rates and times, and that she also wrote male characters who respected that. 
The Reflection panel had Jaye Robin Brown, M-E Girard, Tiffany D. Jackson, and Will Walton, talking about the role of the perception of others in each of their books. Brown's book has a teen moving to a small town her dad warns her will not be as accepting of her out lesbian self, Girard's book is about a genderqueer teen finding that she's hit the point where everyone around her wants her to stop being who she is, Jackson's book is about a teen who was convicted of murder at age nine, and Walton's is about a teen working on coming out as gay to his family. 
And Nina Lacour did the keynote about seeing yourself reflected in fiction, about how Walter Dean Myers' Hoops had spoken to her in ways she hadn't necessarily expected and that reading widely and learning about many different kinds of people makes us all better people, people who know that we need to stand up and fight for others. 
It really is an amazing event, and I appreciate the works of the volunteers who make it happen and keep bringing authors I knew about and authors I didn't know to have on my radar but now are new faves. 

Friday, March 10, 2017

Let's Talk "Powerless"

"Powerless" apparently went through some production changes, and well, I don't know what the show looked like before, but I like what I see now. I think it's making excellent use of it's cast, and using a fun twist to make what is an office comedy.  "Powerless" takes place in Charm City, and the employees are working for a subsidiary of Wayne Enterprises (a business you may have heard of before) focusing on creating products for use by people who live in cities where sueperhero/supervillian fights mean your commute was delayed, or there's falling rubble to deal with.  Sure, at it's heart perky newcomer to the office butts up against less competent than he thinks he is boss, and sardonic but competent fellow employees and team members isn't unusual, but the superhero adjacent twist gives it enough.  This show is fun.  I am a person who has watched every iteration of "High School Musical" and still thinks Vanessa Hudgens has a narrowly specific talent.  (This is not a knock, lots of actors have narrow lanes, the trick is recognizing how best to make use of it.) And this works well, I believe her as the perky new manager with great ideas about energizing her new team, who is slowly coming up against the realities of large corporate structures.  
Alan Tudyk, Danny Pudi, Ron Funches, and Christina Kirk are all great too.  The disclaimer I should perhaps offer is that I am pretty so-so about most superhero shows (they should sing for me more, I'm just saying) so people tuning in for more superhero stuff, probably won't like this.  People who wish "The Flash" just did a whole episode with Cisco and Caitlin chit chatting as they solved a problem might find this up their alley.  
So far episodes on doing things like creating rubble umbrellas, or dating when the dating pool is full of henchmen have provided enough of a superhero slant for me. 

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Three Interesting Things

1. In my podcast mania, I had heard about Missing Richard Simmons, this article looks at the reason behind and the focus of the podcast. 
2. Having read on unusual flag use in European games before, I read this piece about the use of the Confederate flag in Italian games, which I confess produced more mixed feelings for me. (other examples I have run into before (in reading) include Israeli and Palestinian flags.)
3. And on a similar theme, English Rugby fans have apparently adopted "Swing Low Sweet Chariot" as their anthem which is strange and proof that people just like singing good songs in stadiums and care very little what the words mean.  (I mean "Flower of Scotland", Scotland's sporting song of choice is not cheery, but it's about war, which seems a more apt metaphor, than funerals, but I mean, okay, it's still about death, so fine.) So, sports fans are weird.  I think that's what we've learned now.  

Monday, March 06, 2017

Fun Book, but the Setting

I mentioned on Twitter I found a DC area set modern day retelling of "Much Ado About Nothing" set in DC and was going to read it.  The book is Carla De Guzman's We Go Together, and as a retelling, it's super fun.  I enjoyed it.  It had been on sale when I bought it, but it looks like it's $1.99 now, , so a great deal for a sweet retelling with fun characters.  Hiro and Claudia have gender swapped names, but for those familiar with the source material, the roles themselves are not gender swapped.  

I do however have nitpicky DC area thoughts:
1. These folks are all secretly rich, living in Old Town Alexandria, and an and having an M Street storefront in Georgetown.
2. They have terrible taste in cupcakes.
3. Ben runs into the middle of M Street at which point I assume he was run over by a cab and existed through the rest of the book as a ghost. The other characters never make fun of him for being a ghost.
4. It's Washington Monument not Washington Memorial, but I actually think it's meant to be the Jefferson Memorial since they are near the cherry blossom trees. (There's no other setting description in that scene, no description of the memorial, the tidal basin or anything else to orient it so it's hard to say. There are trees nearish the Monument, and also the FDR Memorial.)
5. People who have store fronts in Georgetown, do not get to call "DuPont" the ritzy side of town.
6. These people find parking instantly. In Georgetown. In front of museums. On a Sunday. In spring.
7. There's a few great mentions of the National Gallery and yet, in one scene the implication (as one of the characters is in Paris) seems to be that the National Gallery has only American artists, even though in another scene there's reference to non-American artists.  (I mentioned this was nitpicky, right?)  

8. They keep going into the Library of Congress and getting shushed.  There is no mention of where in the Library of Congress, there are reading rooms where you likely would be shushed, but there's also huge segments that are exhibitions, or conference rooms, so it feels a bit stuck in. 

Again, I enjoyed it.  But the DC stuff is something I have warned fellow locals about. 

Friday, March 03, 2017

Top Chef: The Finale

Let's just get this out there, while I had a stated preference going in, this was the least sad I could be where my personal fave didn't win.  There a clear parts in the show where they have sat the chefs down and said, talk about what's coming up, and you could see Brooke and Shirley, not struggling, but while they were sad to see Sheldon go, they clearly like each other, and are happy to compete in the finale, and if they had to lose to someone at least want it to be someone like the other, but also aren't going to throw it to be nice.  
So, they got to pick sous chefs from the eliminated contestants and while Shirley picked Casey partly to screw with Brooke, I don't think it's a bad choice, but I confess I still may be hanging on to Casey helping Carla in that finale which did not go well for Carla.  (Nothing Casey did contributed to that.  But just like they all started blaming Antonia for causing teams to lose, I have a similar probably entirely unfounded and unsupported by numbers other than these two times, well, and Restaurant Wars, theory about Casey.)
So Brooke chose Sheldon, which obviously is what I would have done.  (You know, if I was a restaurant level chef who had managed to successfully make it to the finals twice.)  And then Shirley chose Katsuji which was not what I expected but I think Shirley and Katsuji get along well, and he responds well to her in charge style, and as she pointed out, he speaks Spanish and will have input about Mexican cuisine, so it makes sense.  And Brooke chose Sam who is again not who I would have gone with (Sylva was right there, you guys) but certainly I agree with her assessment that Sam is a calm presence in the kitchen and given we have seen Brooke gets distracted that was a wise choice.  
And then the surprise sous chefs were each of their sous chefs from their restaurants which made both of them happy (although worried that the restaurant was untended).  And their spouses and Brooke's child were there for a pre-finale dinner so it did seem that knowing these two finale chefs were not likely to tear each other apart in their interviews, the show decided to overwhelm them with surprise people they love, which is the kind of thing I can get behind.  
There was some minor discussion about pork belly, which boiled down to Shirley had ordered some as back up in case her pigs weren't acceptable, and Brooke had short ribs but really wanted pork belly for that round, and Shirley was willing to share the pork belly, if the whole pig was okay, which after all that it was, so she shared the pork belly, but it should be noted said, well if I share my pork belly and you win, I want you to share the win.  So.  
The chefs came out to present their first course and discovered, in addition to their spouses their mom's were also there, which was lovely and emotional and really guys, I would be so there for less contestant sniping, and more surprise family. 
The thing with the finale is that they keep the judges commentary so close to the vest (especially, I'm sure when there's a chance the chef's family is listening) so basically, it appears everything tasted good.  Some courses one tasted a little better.  They didn't love the ramen broth that Shirley made, and they didn't love the flan that Brooke made so, in the end it comes down to subjecctive stuff, which isn't unfair, it just is what it is in these things, especially when we can't taste it.  
But Shirley's mom asking how to tell her daughter in English that she was proud of her, was seriously the most adorable thing, because she knew in this moment, in front of these people, to say that in English to Shirley was meaningful.  
Both of these chefs are great. I'm sure their food was great.  In the end the judges gave Brooke the edge.  And we all got a finale that was fun to watch. 

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Three Interesting Things

1. I recently had a discussion with some folks about the twins who had different dads, and someone said, there's actually a theory that more fraternal twins might be fertilized at different times (usually close together though) and it's simply that in most cases, it's the same person providing sperm, so who would know.  Anyway, that conversation was brought back to me by this article about superfetation - which is more common in other mammals - but can happen in humans where the body just doesn't turn off the we're pregnant no new eggs stuff, and you can in fact get pregnant again while pregnant.  Super rare, but possible. 
2. DC has a third grader up for nomination in the Goodle Doodle competition
3. This story on a children's author who was detained on her arrival into the US to be the keynote speaker at a conference is a reminder that we don't have to deport people to make visiting us really, really uncomfortable. 

Monday, February 27, 2017

So, Those Oscars

So let's talk about the rest of the Oscars first. Or part of them. I confess I DVR'd them because I had dinner plans and so had watched enough Twitter to suspect nothing on the host side was necessary to watch. I made liberal use of the fast forward button. I was one of the handful of people who thought David Letterman's Uma Oprah but was funny at the time. But this many years later, not only has name humor been done to death, but it has evolved into hahaha some people have names I'm not used to which is at its heart othering and tired and should be retired.
Hosting the Oscars is a thankless gig but there's something especially fascinating to me about the Oscars complete and utter inability to end on time. I understand you can't predict how many people the winner will hug, how long they will take to get to the stage, and it's a challenge if they try to cut anyone off. But other awards shows figure it out in various ways. And when you are so clearly over time, why not trim some of the joke bits, or the salute to movie bits. But, like I said, it's so consistent that clearly no one cares.
I had been mentioning to folks that while I adore Lin Manuel Miranda I wasn't clear why he needed to perform because the nominated song was one that he co-wrote but does not sing. So having him do an intro rap for Auli'i was great. In fact I think the spacing of the nominated songs throughout the program worked well, it allowed them to each be appreciated on their own. This may be me, but the song performances are a large portion of why I watch.
So now, let's talk about the part at the end. Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway were out there, he opened the envelope and there was an issue. It wasn't clear what the issue was, people seemed to assume he was doing a bit or maybe couldn't read. So Faye took it and read "La La Land". The cast and producers made their way to the stage. But apparently, as Warren later explained, he had read the card thoroughly and realized it said Emma Stone in "La La Land" so was the card for the wrong category. (They apparently keep duplicates on both sides of the stage so no matter how presenters go on stage there's an envelope on their side.)
So long time watchers may recall there was an issue once before. Sharon Stone was presenting two awards, they handed out the first, and then realized they had given the wrong envelope to the winner as a souvenir, so were holding the envelope announcing the winner they had just announced instead of the second. She said, I have the wrong envelope, sent her co-presenter backstage and then said to the audience, so let's all sit here and try to have a psychic moment together. Her co-presenter came back with the duplicate envelope and they read out the winner. (I wrote this up and then googled to check my memory.  I had forgotten Quincy Jones was the co-presenter.  Vanity Fair has been recapping old telecasts, so here's a link to their coverage of that Oscars.)
Prior to last night, that's the only issue I can think of. Now, we know how I love deconstructing these things. Warren opened the envelope. Realized it was wrong. Tried to send a telepathic message to the audience and his co-presenter that there was an issue. Faye I think did what most would have done, took the envelope and read it herself. She may or may not have realized that it said Emma Stone or may have just skimmed for a movie name and read that.
Now Warren Beatty is watching the cast and producers get onto the stage aware that he has no idea who won Best Picture.  I don't know if the accountants backstage were also already aware there was an issue (One imagines the accountant might have been thinking, finally I'm done, wait, what did they just say?)
So then they had to interrupt an acceptance speech to say, um, sorry guys, this isn't yours, in a moment, that because there's never been an error like this, seemed like it had to be a tacky prank, but how could it be because who would do this?
So, sadness for the producers and cast of "La La Land" because that's a terrible emotional roller coaster. And yay for the cast and producers of "Moonlight" - both of these movies are going to stick in people's minds for some time now.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Top Chef: And Then There Were Two

I had somehow convinced myself that this was the final episode so was - not sad to discover we had one more elimination - but sad because I was pretty sure this would be the most heartbreaking elimination.  
The loud birds in the quickfire sounded awesome but meant everyone spoke loud (or so it seemed from my TV screen) giving the whole thing the air of being in a loud bar.  I confess I've been playing with the Duolingo to refresh my Spanish, so I was a little surprised that Sheldon somehow thought tamal colado was going to be cheese, but I wasn't in a rush.  (I am also aware that Spanish is not prevalent in Maui the way that it is in California, where both Brooke and Shirley live. I don't think it was unfair but it is a thing.) 
But all of that wasn't in play in the elimination challenge, where they had to use a set pantry.  I do feel bad for Sheldon.  I think that noting both contestants were wrapping their fish does suggest that maybe using a different preparation works better, unless of course it turns out this particular grill is not going to allow for you to stick the fish directly on it.  
In the end - can you tell I am super sad about the result - but in the end it was very true to what we know of each chef.  A challenge where you had to work just with the ingredients and tools on hand worked great for Shirley who often makes a choice quickly and gets straight to work.  It caused challenges for Brooke who wanted to use too many things.  And Sheldon tried to go a little more rustic than his competitors with his grilling technique and ended up failing to see they had both used leaves because the more rustic grill was going to ruin the fish.  
I did feel for the judges who had a conundrum similar to "Project Runway" one person who had made something that was well done but meh, compared to a more flavorful idea that was executed less well. I am so sorry to see Sheldon go, but Brooke and Shirley are both great chefs and the finale will again make me jealous I can't steal some of the food from the judges plates.  

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Three Interesting Things

1. Teen Vogue did this piece about being bisexual at the doctor and how that can change the tone of the vists.  
2. Often I will follow a headline that promises me an untold story that, I had in fact heard.  I know, everyone's base of information is different.  But I had not heard about the internment of Aleuts during World War II. 
3. There is a Golden Girls themed cafe in New York. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

7 Posts: Planning For Just You is Hard - Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

It's not super hidden that "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" is looking at the long term effects of trying to live your life like you're in a rom-com.  Rom-coms operate on the assumption that no matter what the character says at the start, things are always better as a couple.  So provide no guidance on planning a life for yourself.  (And in fact often suggest that plans you make for yourself will be upset by your impending coupledom.) 
Heather, who seems super together, was still living with her parents.  Hector is living with his mom and seems exceedingly happy with this arrangement.  Valencia no longer enjoyed being a yoga instructor, but didn't know what else she should be.  Paula had always wanted to be a lawyer, and then, when that got in the way of supporting her husband' Scott, her worst fear came true.  He cheated on her and validated all her worries that going after things for yourself make you unlovable.  
So if rom coms have taught us bad behavior in the name of love gets rewarded, we have also been trained by media that coupling up is the desired way to approach life. Even TV shows that tend to shy away from permanently coupling anyone at the center of a show usually break that rule for the series finale, because we view weddings as closure. 
[PS.  If you're still reading and haven't watched the season finale yet - spoilers ahead.]
The first season ended with a wedding, and Rebecca finally getting the dream of getting together with Josh.  (Never mind that at the beginning of the day her dream was getting together with Greg.) The second season ended with her wedding day to Josh, with Josh, being the one to realize that this wasn't right.  Possibly because having the lighter load on planning, gave him more time for introspection.  
It is both silly and true to look to hard at the metaphor the show presented of Rebecca's wedding planning.  Rebecca decided to plan this wedding on a certain date because it being available was a sign even though she had no idea how to plan a wedding.  She found a picture of a pretty wedding and tried to recreate that exactly regardless of if it had any meaning for her or Josh. But, when she let her friends help, Valencia showed up with a perfect plan.  Nathaniel got Rebecca's dad there.  And Paula yelled at Rebecca's mom until she fell in line.  And Father Brah told Josh he dealt with uncertainty by attaching himself to the first pretty girl he could find.  
So yes, Rebecca's dad turned out to be a jerk.  Rebecca's mom showed that underneath it all she cared for Rebecca when she tried to steer Josh away from talking about Robert. Trent tried to spoil Rebecca's wedding but ultimately it wasn't Rebecca's past, but Josh's own uncertainty with his life's direction that had him choosing priesthood.  So Rebecca tried to create a perfect picture of a wedding, but what she got was a group of friends who stood on a cliff with her ready to give her whatever she needed. 
I can't wait to see what happens next. 

Monday, February 20, 2017

7 Posts: Searching as a Dude - "Crazy Ex Girlfriend"

I think media, or maybe just TV, since there are childish men in many a movie, doesn't explore as much the idea that this issue of reaching the stage where you expected your life to be done or formed or to make sense, as a male.  There are childish men on TV.  But that's often viewed as a character component and not something like Greg worrying about who would look after his dad is he left his hometown to go off to the college of his dreams, or of there was any point in doing so at his age.  Trent was played for laughs, but also made a subtle point that some of the very things that Rebecca did last year (and okay this year too), come off with an added layer of creepy when done by a man.  
And Josh.  Josh, much like Rebecca, doesn't really know that he's searching.  He had a plan. He was happy with his life and because for so much of his adult life he had been with Valencia, he hadn't really noticed that he'd spent the year finding women who he felt like gave him purpose.  
And yeah, to finish this out, we've got to get into the season finale. So, do I think Josh will be a great priest?  No.  (Teacher, quite possibly as his camp and coaching experience have shown.) But for all the differences between Josh and Rebecca, they both had been using each other for validation.  That Josh realized that enough to not go through with the marriage is great.  (It would have been nice if he had realized it enough to tell Rebecca to her face, but baby steps.) 
I hope Josh, and even Trent, find a focus or path that makes them happy.  And again, the lesson that dream ghost therapist imparted in season one is still true, falling in love is not the only way to find a lifelong goal or even a lifelong love.  Josh becoming a priest to get out of the bad habit of turning to the nearest pretty girl for validation is still looking for an external person (be it more godly) to provide him a goal. 

Friday, February 17, 2017

Top Chef - The Final Final Four

So, huh.  Brooke won Last Chance Kitchen and its possible that maybe the fact that they keep reminding us that Brooke and Kristen faced off in the finals after Kristen made it back from Last Chance Kitchen and won is a thing.  We had the quickfire which Brooke won.  And we had the elimination challenge where they had to make a margarita and Brooke won.  So obviously being eliminated got her back in the right mental space and ready for finals.  I appreciate what John was trying to do, honor the fact that they were in Mexico and include that.  As with everything, it's easy for me to nitpick from my couch, and if it had been more successful, this is the exact thing he would have been applauded for.  But.  Sometimes, when you are working too far outside your comfort zone and competing against those who are adding local twists to their own stuff, instead of trying to go all in on a cuisine that isn't their strength, well, it doesn't work quite as well.  We are down to the nitpickiest part of the competition.  
I also want to talk a little about the eliminated chef pairing.  This is one of those things that they do on these shows that is frustrating.  I understand it's a game show, and if you just wanted to cook food, you should go on "Iron Chef" or something.  But.  No one thinks that offering chefs the chance to have Katsuji, Sylva, Emily, or Casey help them is the same thing.  And I'm not suggesting that Katsuji did anything to harm John's chances.  
I think Katsuji was aware that he had nothing to gain in this challenge, and that looking like a team player on TV was to his advantage.  But let me go deeper in on the armchair psychology and suggest, based solely on highly edited TV footage that John fell into a trap.  He assumed Katsuji's lack of overt adversity meant Katsuji was cool.  Even going so far as to say, I'm sure you have no hard feelings.  Which in his head was probably clearing the air.  Instead it was him saying let's pretend we're all good, because I prefer that.  And yes, the small amount of time they had to gather up a shopping list was not really best spent trying to create a new working relationship but I can totally say I have been in this moment where someone who recognizes that there is a thing between us that they should address, but mostly thinks it's just a thing that happened that I should be fine with. But I'm standing there thinking in two days I get to hang out on the beach without this guy, I can make it two days, I can do anything for two days.  But then they want to talk about it, only not really.  So John says, in a tone that says of course you do, well that's how the game works and I'm sure you understand I have no hard feelings.  And Katsuji is then forced into a position of either outright lying - oh, it's all cool, wouldn't have it any other way - or doing what he did which was say, well, yes, I'm sure you have no hard feelings because you are still here.  
And then, John, still not fully processing the words that had been said to him, kept saying, see, Katsuji has been a great help.  Katsuji wants me to win. Now, I'm sure some of this was directed at Brooke, who had the unenviable task of assigned assistant chefs, knowing that Katsuji is a strong personality who doesn't always play with others, and that she could either assign him to someone who might then spend the whole challenge trying to tone Katsuji's ideas down or give him to John who may butt heads with him despite his assurances to the camera that he is a kinder, gentler John now.  I would have paired Katsuji with John too.  Because Katsuji and John were going to snipe at each other no matter what, at least this way everyone else could ignore them.  
And look, I think Katsuji was just as much in the wrong in the restaurant wars challenge, and think it's entirely fair that he went home, and obviously he could have come back via Last Chance Kitchen.  But, that doesn't mean that Katsuiji had to both help the chef he most butted heads with maybe make it to the finals.  And if he does, he doesn't have to pretend he doesn't resent their respective positions.  
So, I remain firmly team chef with an S name for the finals.  I am not sad to see John go.  I'm sure in his head he still thinks that saying Katsuji wants him to win was him being a bigger person and not him actually rubbing it in.  I like Brooke too and in the end Brooke, Sheldon, and Shirley have gotten the chance to get back to the finals (or in in Shirley's case) so the finals should make us all jealous that we can't share the food through the screen. 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Three Interesting Things

1. Sometimes I think spoiling the messaging of something turns it from fun into vegetables.  I mean I would rather eat delicious cake with carrots, than be offered a batch of carrots for dessert.  But I suppose now that "Dirty Dancing" is thirty we can talk about how the privilege and access to abortion aspects were central parts of the plot
2. This piece about how the Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise has accidentally demonstrated structural racism is fascinating.  
3. And if you wanted to watch Oscar nominated "13th", but didn't have a Netflix subscription, they are making it available to non-subscribers. (Warning: Link eventually plays sound.) 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

7 Posts: Rewards and Signs in "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend"

Another aspect of the new and old friendships explored this season in "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" is that it allowed the characters to grow in new ways. Darryl figured out how to bond with Nathaniel.  In Sunil, Paula found someone who saw how much of a helper she was in some of her other relationships. Heather, Valencia, and Rebecca bonded as single women.  But one thing that happens often in media, is that our character shows some growth and then the universe immediately rewards them.  Now in fiction this is kind of a shortcut, the uncaring hero rescues a cat and we all know that he isn't as uncaring as we thought.  The selfish heroine does something selfless, and we all see that she is grown.  Most audience members know that this is a storytelling shortcut, helping one person across the street does not earn you a job promotion.  
But, of course, Rebecca is not your average audience member.  So, she saw that when Paula's trip was in jeopardy now that she had kicked Scott out, Rebecca, swept in and decided to babysit for a weekend, despite her lack of experience. And she was doing pretty well, until she had to stalk Josh.  But even though Tommy was okay and home, Rebecca owned up to misplacing him and turned Josh away in favor of staying to help Paula when Josh realized that Rebecca was the soup fairy who had always cared about him. 
Now, Paula has always been biased about Josh, so she encouraged Rebecca to go after him.  
Love isn't a prize you get for being unselfish.  One of the things that Rebecca and Josh have struggled with is that they are looking for signs instead of looking within themselves.  Josh decided Rebecca being his soup fairy was a sign that she was his one true love and not a sign that she wanted him to get better.  Rebecca decided that Josh proposing was the universe telling her that she didn't have to work on herself but should go get married.  I'm a big believer in signs in fiction and in life.  But it's really easy to interpret the signs in the easy way, in the way that requires the least amount of introspection and work.  Being unselfish, much like relationships in general, is, more than a moment. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

7 Posts: The Nature of Friendship in Crazy Ex-Girfriend

This season "Crazy Ex Girlfriend" went deeper in on the nature of friendship. Part of that is Rebecca has now been there long enough that she has real friends in West Covina.  But we also got to spend more time with Heather, see more of White Josh and Hector, Father Brah, Darryl, and watch Valencia and Rebecca bond over the mutual ex-Josh-ness. We watched Paula bond with new law school friends, especially Sunil, and look at how that changed her relationship with Rebecca, and her husband.  

Some of this is of course because shaking up relationships makes for good TV, but ssh, no one wants to talk about that. (Well, except for the song they sing about the new guy.)  But also, this is very true, friendships go through phases where you spend so much more time with one person, and invariably that has to come at the expense of something or someone else.  Paula going to law school meant she needed friends who were going to law school.  Rebecca needed people who had time to sympathize about her being dumped.  Or just hang out and do single person things with.  

Rebecca and Paula had bonded hard and fast over Rebecca's pursuit of Josh and once that was on hold, it was natural that they would have to reconfigure.   

But the other thing that was apparent this season is that your friends are the ones that get you with all your flaws.  Not exactly a revelation, but they demonstrated it over and over as they tried to step up and step in and help their friends.  When Josh W. stepped in and tried to get Anna to look away from the amateur modeling at the club he was trying to help. Ultimately Anna and Josh were doomed as she began to realize that the refreshingly charming viewpoint Josh often brings to things, is also a lack of depth. Josh is a great guy, don't get me wrong.  Josh W. knew it was doomed, but figured he could maybe save Josh for one more night.  

So friends are the ones who even when they don't think you are making the best choices, try to save you from some of the fallout. 

Monday, February 13, 2017


[Quick programming note:I will get back to the 7 Posts about "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" tomorrow.]
I saw "Roe" at Arena Stage this weekend.  While I am familiar with the outcome of Roe v. Wade, and knew a little about the woman, who for the purposes of the case, was referred to as Jane Roe, but that was kind of it.  The play looks at Sarah Weddington, the lawyer who argued the case, and Norma McCorvey, who was Roe. The pay used a very interactive form of telling these two stories, often directly addressing the audience, working to put the events in context of the era, and often addressing shifts in the information available about certain characters, and also trying to tell each person's story in a way that honored the ways they have chosen to share.  So, we mostly got information about Sarah's professional life, some personal details being revealed later, while Norma we got a lot of information about because she has shared a lot about herself, while Sarah's tried to focus more on the case. 
Norma's longtime partner Connie is also prominent in the play, as are some of the Operation Rescue folks who ended up converting Norma.  (Speaking to the interactivity, there was a moment when Flip comes onstage and thanks the audience for coming out today and asks if the folks in the back can here. Some of the folks in back said yes.  He thanked them.  And then one felt compelled to add, "I don't like what you're saying though." He smiled and thanked her for listening.)
It's a tough thing to try to create a play that accurately reflects the stories of two folks whose lives touched for a huge moment, but otherwise have been very different, and while Sarah remained steadfast on her view of the case and the law, Norma's ideas have changed.  The show is interesting, thought provoking, and the kind of thing folks were talking about in the bathroom line afterwords.  

Friday, February 10, 2017

Top Chef: Secret Family Members

I always take with a grain of salt that the chefs are employing some hindsight in their talking head interviews, given they are filmed after the challenge.  But I choose to believe that Brooke and Sheldon recognized the challenge from it's use in "Top Chef: Masters" and realized that they were dealing with likely cooking newbies who may turn out to be related to them.  Clearly having that many people yelling instructions over walls barely farther away than your average cube space means that noise confusion is a factor along with the shortened time of a quickfire, so few people recognized the voice of their loved one. Also as someone who is really distracted by noises in my workspace, I have some sympathy for Brooke finding Shirley's yelling distracting, although I completely understand why Shirley ignored that.  
But these chefs were all very nice to their mystery person.  (And Shirley's husband saying this is just like our marriage, I do what Shirley tells me, was the cutest.) So Sheldon likely did suspect that was his wife, and seeing the other loved ones revealed to his fellow chef helped.  
I also was fascinated with Sheldon's finding connection between Hawaii and the South as areas with obvious regional influences on their food.  (I say this not just because he referenced Hawaii, but that helps.) And yes, having Shirley and Sheldon in the top two is really the best I could expect. 
Speaking of hindsight, I think Brooke is right that she does better with concrete challenges.  Creating her own challenge by using a combo of things from successful challenges, meant she ran into the editing issue again.  And John looks better now that teamwork isn't really required in the challenges.  I recognize that, this is the difference between being a chef in the real world and being a chef in a competition.  This is the time in the season where Last Chance Kitchen starts to bug me a little. I weirdly, for someone who won't watch it, just want someone who had a weird day early on, or a bad team challenge to fight their way back, rather than the most recent eliminated chef.  It's very backwards logic on my part.  It isn't that I don't want Brooke in the finals, I do.  Of course no matter where they put the cutoff it often is painful, so I will stop worrying over this, and go back to wishing I could eat some of the food. 

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Three Interesting Things

1. I enjoyed this story about a rock opera that covered much of the same territory that "Hidden Figures" does. 
2. I'm thrilled to hear that so many recent visitors to DC donated their Smartrip cards to local charites.  It's a trend I hope continues, and certainly something I'll think of when I make use of public transit cards in other cities. 
3. This quick interview about the woman featured in one of the We The People posters was interesting.  (Warning, after some time the link plays sound.)

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

7 Posts: When You Bring a Friend/Love Home on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

We looked at this a little last season too, when Heather went to visit Greg's mom's family and discovered they were super nice.  This season Rebecca brought Josh home for a family bar mitvah, and hoped that having Josh there would help her stay on a cool California wavelength.  One of my friends said that when she brought her now spouse home to meet her family for the first time, afterwords, her spouse said, wow, you had warned me, but they are quite something.  And I think we all kind of want that.  We all feel misunderstood by our family. (Okay fine, you raising your hand there, have no troubles, so fine, almost all).  Having someone come home and take our side is an amazing thing.  
Yes, Heather set Greg straight.  And Josh was right, that Rebecca wanted to see the worst and the unhappiness, but in his delightful and charming ability to see the best in just about everything, he also couldn't see how her mother's behavior affected Rebecca.  He couldn't see that Rebecca wasn't wrong that her cousin was digging at her unmarried status, and that underneath at least some of the questions about her move to California, were concerns that what she had done was so ridiculous that it must be a sign of mental illness that she should get over. 
Now of course, Rebecca does have some issues that need to be addressed.  And certainly, from her family's perspective, where they have likely only gotten her mother's side of this decision to go to California it doesn't make sense.  Much of the world does not really value, my job was making me unhappy even though I was succeeding and making lots of money, so I quit, and moved across the country to live in a lower stress environment, and because Rebecca doesn't fully understand that that's really what she did, she likely hasn't explained it well. 
But, family also does cause you to regress.  And so Josh in trying to smooth things over for her, smoothed so well, and had so much fun, that Rebecca didn't get to live out her dream of sitting in a corner and bitching about everyone, which likely also isn't a healthy choice.  But it is understandable.