Friday, October 20, 2017

Project Runway: The Car Challenge

I appreciate that as they came around the corner to see cars, one of the designers said, oh the car challenge, indicating actual familiarity with the show.  There were cars filled with safety gear, the challenge was to make something out of bandages, seatbelts, harnesses, construction fencing, and other such gear.  They are down to six and the knowledge that no one would be safe this week seemed to weigh heavily on them all as they second guessed themselves.  Ayana had grabbed a ton of stuff, knowing her intention was to make a modest, aka head to toe outfit.  Kenya worries that she doesn't have enough or that since she only grabbed black things and is surrounded by folks making things in bright blue, safety orange, and safety yellow. 
Tim has concerns that Brandon is making something that doesn't look like him, so he tries again.  Tim expresses concern that Kentaro has combined many fire hoses and made something that looks like a burlap sack, so neither stylish or terribly unconventional looking.  Michael has dedicated a lot of time to twisting bungee cords and gets Tim's message to execute it in a sophisticated fashion.  
The model mirror is used. (I apologize, I have not learned all the model's names.) Michael's model is happy she's not naked. Margarita's model notes that it's very top heavy.  Brandon's model is a little concerned that her skirt is both short and angled out providing a possible booty glimpse.  Kenya's model says she would never personally wear something that enlarges her hips, but it's a cool outfit. Kenya's zipper breaks right before they go down to the runway.  The outfit is belted so they carry on as is.  (You'll note no zipper gate this time.)
Heidi says the scores were tight, no really bad ones, getting eh's from Zac and Nina.  But it does seem there's more of a top four again.  
They love Brandon's look made of cones and inflatable boats, which looks very Brandon only more color.  I will note that Brandon used green last week, so whatever.  The judges and I are not in agreement about what constitutes a street look, or an interesting design here. I mean it's fine. But, I am bored of Brandon doing the same thing the way I am happy to see Kenya and Ayana do the same thing.  So, I recognize the paradox.
Michael's outfit is short and his time spent playing with the bungee overlay and not the rest of the dress shows.  The overlay squishes parts of the dress making it look weirdly fit and I suspect Michael kind of knows it's an idea that looked better in his head.  
Kenya's black seatbelt and bandage dress is beloved.  They appreciate that she painted some of the bandages to give it dimension and texture.  It reminds me a bit of a Kini Zamora design, but in a good way.  
Ayana's outfit is amazing, it has long sleeves, pointy shoulders, and a cloud of construction fencing as a skirt.  She has a helmet head peace too.  She used broken reflectors as detail all over and it looks awesome.  
Margarita used kneepads as boob cups and created a molded top, with harnessing, and a safety tape skirt.  The judges love it, Nina says it looks superhero-esque, but Zac notes that at this point they don't know what her point of view as a designer is.  I want to note here, that in one of her mannequin interviews, Margarita pulled out the dressmaker word for Ayana and Kenya.  Right now I think Ayana and Kenya have pretty clear points of view.  Heck, as bored as I am of Brandon, he has a clear point of view.  Margarita has done a lot of different things.  And whether it's the pressure of the challenges or not, I don't know what a Margarita look looks like.  Some people that do well in the confines of the challenges,do less well with the go make a collection thing because they don't have a specific aesthetic to fall back on.  Margarita may well have a really great plan.  But it's something to consider. 
Kentaro took Tim's critique about his shapeless top and pleated but boring skirt and attached things to it.  He used an arrowhead shape, so decided to embrace the vaguely native American aspect of it, putting his model in fringed shoes, and braids.  Basically it looks costumey and not good.  
Ayana wins. Michael is out.  He is incredibly gracious about leaving.  And the episode ends with an RIP tag for designer Mychael Knight from Season three, who passed away this week. 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Amy Tan in conversation with Deborah Tannen

Amy Tan was at Sixth and I last night as part of a Politics and Prose and George Mason partnership.  Deborah Tannen - author of books on language - and Amy Tan met in the Linguistics PhD program back in the day and have stayed friends. Tannen is now a professor at Georgetown and Tan is, well, acclaimed author Amy Tan.  Their long friendship was clear. Tan spoke about how when she was in the worst phase of her Lyme disease, she couldn't write.  So her prior memoir had been compiled from previously written pieces that just needed little touches.  Now that her Lyme is well-managed, her editor suggested another memoir, and he said they could just throw together some of their long email exchanges and give folks a glimpse into the writer/editor relationship. 
So contracts were signed and ultimately, while she did include some emails, she felt she really needed to do some writing.  That emails alone would not a good book make. So she made a deal with her editor that she would send him stuff every week and he was not allowed to comment on it unless something in there was egregious and he really felt she needed redirecting.  He would send her pictures of the pile. She had been planning to call it a Writer's Memoir, and he started calling it Where the Past Begins, and she asked where he got that, and he said, that was in your last pages.  
Tannen mentioned that the mother daughter relationship had been so present in so much of Tan's work, but that here she also looked at her relationship with her father.  Tan said she had a lot of memorabilia, and found her father's diary, and lots of documents that in retrospect added context or shifted her understanding of parts of her childhood.  She also discussed that the week of the election last year was a tough writing week as she pondered how would her father have voted.  (As someone who also had a conservative father, a former real estate person no less, I confess I have wondered this a lot too.) Tan's father had been a conservative evangelical, but she hoped that also the treatment of immigrants, watching her own struggles with healthcare might have also factored into his voting. 
Tan remembered while writing this book that she had been given a test in grade school that her parents told her meant she was destined to become a neurosurgeon.  She said upon reflection it occurred to her that this might not have been the kind of test the Oakland school system was offering young children, so she googled and discovered that someone had done a study of early readers in the Oakland school system and, as an early reader, she had been a test case.  She read the book, and while the names were changed, she was able to recognize her family and see that her parents were worried that they had broken a rule, letting her learn to read early (at the time there were concerns about early exposure to reading, hence the study) and, when she found the papers indicating that her parents had overstayed their student visas and risked deportation, she realized that her parents were very worried that this woman who wanted to talk about their daughter's reading habits was really up to something else.  Tan said she doesn't really want to know what would have happened if she hadn't spent much of her life thinking she was destined to be a neurosurgeon, since that made her who she is and that maybe she would have become an unhappy neurosurgeon if she hadn't been told that.  
They took questions from the audience, including one from a fan of her children's series.  Tan said writing for children is tough because you may want to make a point, but you can't do it being didactic or prescriptive, you have to create a tale that's fun and maybe also contains a lesson.  Another audience member said she was second generation herself and worried that she wasn't sufficiently Asian sometimes and wondered if Tan felt that way.  Tan said that yes, she had felt that way.  And that when she published the Joy Luck Club she waited for folks to show up and tell her that she got things wrong.  But that her mother had said that she thought her mother, Tan's grandmother's spirit must have dictated the story to her, so she knew it felt that good to her mother. 
It was a great evening.  

Three Interesting Things

1. TV Critic Maureen Ryan talked about her own experience being sexually assaulted by a TV executive. As a fan of her work, I'm grateful she stayed in the industry, but it's tough, and I hate that people keep having to push forward through the worst experiences to keep doing their jobs. Bad days happen in any job sure, but this is the toll that knowing people can mistreat you and it won't affect their job getting skills at all.  
2. Rasika is a restaurant that has long been popular here, so knowing there's a cookbook, oh yes. 
3. And today is the last day to bid on packages for readers and writers with the money going to support the US Virgin Islands. 

Monday, October 16, 2017

Ripped Bodice Bingo

So, when I saw the Ripped Bodice's summer reading bingo, I loved it.  And yeah, I know it's fall now.  I made a goal to try for not just bingo but almost every square. I was not quite there.  Some of these I assume I wouldn't have to try hard for.  Some are like impossible to search for so you just hope for the best.  And some books, I did not finish in time. But here is my card.  And here are the books. 
Sight Unseen - Character on the Run, Anthology, Non-Regency Set-Historical, Elaborate Proposal Scene, Heroine smells like food item. 
Some Kind of Hero; The SEAL's Rebel Librarian - Character in uniform on cover 
Small Change - Food described in delicious detail (I stopped looking for this after this one, but I could have gotten this square many, many times.) 
Far From Home - Heroine named Rachel, Queer NA ish. beach read. geek/nerd elements, Asexual (new to me subgenre)
Rogue Desire - Rogue in the Title (This also would have worked for anthology, queer NA.)
Rancher's Surrender - Heroine inherits a business
Hard Wired - Broke AF hero.  
Also in progress were Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue (Queer YA/NA), First to Burn (Viking), Forged in Desire (which I did finish but not before the deadline and was planning to count for conversation would have solved the conflict even though it's a romantic suspense because the hero and heroine needed a communication class).  I don't know how I managed to get through that many books without anyone smelling like pine or sandalwood, but kudos to the authors I read this summer who avoided that. And yeah, I failed on reading dragons this summer which would have taken care of some more. 
Regardless it was a really fun challenge. 

Friday, October 13, 2017

Project Runway: Avant Garde Dolls

I am thrilled to report that we resume episodes with endings this week.  We start before we left, Claire is the winner, Michael walks off stage, Heidi and Tim want to know what's up.  Batani seems to be the first on stage to cave to the pressure of all the questions and mentions that there were concerns about Claire (and SHawn) copying other designers and their own clothes. Backstage, Michael tells Tim, and is joined by Margarita.  Tim says copying the clothes you are wearing (by which we mean using them to pattern) is within the rules.  Michael and Margarita go back on stage, Claire remains the winner, Batani is out.  
The designers return to the backroom to catch the others up.  Claire is understandably upset that she got sideswiped on the runway for concerns that had clearly been going on for weeks that no one had mentioned to her.  Margarita seems to have realized that by venting to Michael and not to Claire she has not actually preserved the nice with Claire.  Let's talk about this.  I am going to in some ways make some assumptions about motivations, but I think Margarita had noticed this patterning off their own clothes that both Shawn and Claire were engaging in, and referencing other things - they had pointed out in the model episode that Shawn's top look for her model basically looked like exactly what the model wore when she visited Shawn. The designers had hoped that this lack of originality would get noticed by the judges.  And while no one has brought out the word seamstress, that's what this is.  They think Shawn and Claire make good things that look like what is out there.  And that designers innovate.  And they were assuming the judges would agree, especially since Shawn and Claire spent time in the bottom.  And yet, here Claire is.  Claire asks if all this came up now because she won money. No one appears to answer, but you have to wonder. 
In the discussion, Margarita, who I think was trying to vent to Micheal to diffuse her own tension and now realizes that she has spread the tension further so is taking some responsibility to explain her concerns, says in addition to patterning in the bathroom, she has seen both Shawn and Claire measure items in their own closet in the hotel room.  Amy, who you may recall is a fashion professor in her other life says, well, having design tools outside the workroom is a violation of the rules. Claire - who I want to point out did have a legit gripe that people were jerks whispering about her but not talking to her - now seems to see that okay, there was this one fair point. Tim enters the backroom, asks Claire to confirm she has been using tools outside of the workroom, she does, and her win is rescinded.  And also she is gone and Batani stays.  And the cup pattern will go to Brandon who you may recall was neither top or bottom, lending credence to the idea that the biggest problem with the product placement challenges might be the product placement people. 
So, on to a normal show.  It's...a product placement challenge.  It's avant garde Shopkins. The designers are given consultation with a Shopkins fan, aka kid.  Amy says it makes her miss when her kid was that age.  Michael is thrilled his superfan is so inspired by disco given it's influence on fashion.  (I am pretty sure his fan just likes glitter, but hey, they bonded.) Margarita wonders why eliminated designers can't come be their seamstresses, and when asked who she'd want, she says Samantha. 
As with many of the avant garde challenges, it's avant garde in the sense that you could wear this to the Met Ball and look like you didn't just wear a regular outfit.  Heidi says they have four top scores (I'm guessing there were ties) and two bottom.  Kenya and Kentaro are safe. Ayana has made a delightful outfit that looks like a giant pink ruffle bell with a huge bow, and polka dot legging peeking out from underneath. Michael has made a glitter jumpsuit with some glitter piping (remniscient of Sandia) wrapping around to simulate a melting disco ball.  Brandon's outfit looks like a strappy thing, and when guest judge Kate Upton says her cooking apron is the same color, well, that was what it reminded me of, a fashion apron. That the judges love and say they knew was his. Margarita uses a few fabrics to create volume and glitter sparkle touches that looks poufy but interesting.
Batani returned to her pattern matching ways, and has also made use of volume, but in a way that is less successful, especially as she has a part on the side, she didn't cover, so it looks unfinished.  There's also a cut out in the back that emphasizes that the whole outfit is a little too tight for her model. And Amy has made an outfit that is very Amy and could have easily been something that Amy would have entered in any other challenge.  It has a high neck, uses Amy's signature neutrals, and it's well made but makes the judges feel like she didn't try.  
Michael wins. 
Batani is back out.  And Amy is too.  So we finally got a double elimination. 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Three Interesting Things

1.  The new Shondaland site talked to Beverly Jenkins about writing romance. 
2. Jemele Hill was suspended from ESPN for suggesting hitting advertisers if you disagreed with a team owner's stance on the anthem, and her co-host sat out Monday. This article looks at the juxtaposition ESPN has created encouraging folks to engage with fans via social media, and then punishing them.  I think ESPN is wrong.  I think even the appearance of caving to presidential demands is far more dangerous than upsetting the delicate balance they have with the teams they cover where they need to be able to comment and not lose access. But even there, no media organization has gotten more trust from their viewers by openly caving there either.  I eagerly await her return.  And hopefully her upcoming whatever other book/podcast/website she may choose to also engage in. 
3. I share a neighborhood with the delightful folks behind Craft Kombucha (which means I consume it pretty regularly at the farmer's market) so appreciated this piece on founder Tanya Maynigo

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Ta-Nehisi Coates

Sankofa Video and Books had an event (hosted at Metropolitan AME Church) with Ta-Nehisi Coates in conversation with Kojo Nnamdi to discuss Coates' new book, We Were Eight Years in Power. It's not unusual for DC to experience a little summery weather in early October, but the day (and the day before, to be honest) had threatened rain without rain actually materializing which meant the humidity was quite high, and let's just say, there were lots of fans going in that church.  
Nnamdi started off by asking Coates to talk a little about how the book threads together Reconstruction, the Obama presidency, and Coates' writing career.  Coates said that he felt people wanted to view the Obama presidency as a symbol of forward progress and that to his mind it was part of cycle that we saw after Reconstruction.  He also talked about how during the Obama presidency that there seemed to be a lot more opportunity for black writers to talk about all sorts of things.  He did touch on the idea that some black writers who had found success perhaps a generation before felt boxed into specific topics, but that he hadn't felt that.  He also mentioned Nikole-Hannah Jones had been an award winning journalist but now there are plenty more people ready to listen to her.  It wasn't that she wasn't doing the work all along. 
Coates' spoke about his concern with the bootstrap mentality that Obama had sometimes espoused.  He talked about being invited to the White House twice and gearing himself up the second time to ask a serious question and dive in on it.  Touching on a recent article that implied that Coates was just as bad as white nationalists, leaving centrists with nowhere to turn, he said that he was not interested in seeking common ground with white supremacists.  A lot of folks claiming to be in the middle are ignoring the fact that white supremacists want to kill people, this is a war, not a discussion point.  
There were audience questions, including one from a women who felt Coates was the person with the platform to talk to folks about COINTELPRO and political prisoners.  Coates said he didn't think he was going to get to that.  That he already had ideas and things he wanted to tackle and that each one required tons of research and reading so he could properly account for the points he wished to make, and the historical context he wanted to put it in.  And that what we really needed was an army of writers tackling all the things.  
The interview was aired on a local station but also recorded for the Kojo Nnamdi show, so it should soon be available for others to listen to. 

Monday, October 09, 2017

In The Heights Two Times

Olney Theater and Roundhouse Theater did a joint production of "In the Heights" and I went to see it.  Yes, I had seen it in April at Gala Theater when they did the Spanish version.  And since I apparently didn't write about that let's talk about both. Gala Theater's version was in Spanish, which is to say for the most part they flipped the Spanish and English in the play and had subtitles on stage.  Olney/Roundhouse did the traditional English, with a lot of Spanish mixed in. 
Gala's theater is smaller and let to a very intimate feel.  For "Alabanza" they had actors carrying candles down the aisles which led to a feeling of intimacy. The Olney Theater is larger, and they had piped in city noises - sirens and subways - something a theater in Columbia Heights did not need to do.  Also, it's not part of the performance, but I went to Gala on a rainy Friday and everyone seemed happy and in the mood to party.  While I went to Olney on a Wednesday, and the audience response was interested, but comparatively more sedate. 
In both cases the casts were great.  In both cases, a number of the actors were making their debut at that theater, but had performed in "In the Heights" before. Olney's cast had Rayanne Gonzalez playing Abuela Claudia, and I have now seen her in three local productions ("Destiny of Desire", "Oliver!") and she's been great in each.  
"In The Heights" takes place over three days in July in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City and while covering lottery wins, and romantic drama, also manages to touch on themes of immigration, gentrification, and defining success. It was a Tony award winner for music and lyrics writer Lin-Manuel Miranda among others. 
I had listened to the cast album for years, but had not managed to catch a live version until this year, so I hadn't known, until I saw a video on Twitter about the use of cell phones in the "Blackout" number.  I confess, along with a birthday month present to myself, part of my excuse for seeing it again was to see what the Olney production would do for "Blackout".  The Gala production has used flashlights, which is certainly a choice.  (I had also chatted via Facebook with someone who went to the Annapolis version, who said they used low stage lights.) Olney did use cell phones.  Very modern looking cell phones.  
The play, like many is very recent (about 10 years old, which compared to say Dickens is just a spring chicken of a play) and yet, it's already a bit dated.  The neighborhood in question is already gentrified.  Rosario's Car Service would be fighting off competition from ride sharing services.  Going to visit the Dominican Republic is fraught with additional tension these days.  Although I confess the Trump joke is actually funnier now.  
Also, after the production, the cast announced they are fundraising disaster relief for hurricane and earthquake affected folks. They were at 40,000 something.  They are hoping to get to 96,000. 
A transportation note for local folks.  There is a bus that gets you to the Olney theater, but it stops running around sixish, so you will need an alternate plan for your return trip, or to carpool out there.  

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Three Interesting Things

1.  There are two book themed giveaway donation things going on right now.  Romance cares is giving away ebooks to folks who show proof of donation to disaster relief organizations. And YA authors are behind Pub for PR where there are a ton of things you can bid on, or just donate and enter the raffle.
2. The author of this list is known to me, but that doesn't mean this list of good audio doesn't have some great recommendations.
3. And I'm so excited to see the Disney Channel's version of "Freaky Friday".  I enjoyed it so much last year.  The daughter has been recast (I suspect because looking like a teen on Broadway is different than looking like a teen on HDTV) but the mother remains the same.  (Warning, EW site contains a lot of things that autoplay.)

Monday, October 02, 2017

Puerto Rico and Other Sad Things

I had this post ready to go, and then woke up to the news about the shooting in Las Vegas.  I resist the temptation to believe the world is worse, but certainly our ability to learn quickly about awful things that are going on can lend to that appearance.  Being an American abroad, or even one who just chats with folks from other countries via social media, can often mean explaining that despite the news, the US is not a dangerous place where nearly every event can turn into the scene of a mass shooting.  It gets harder to make that supposition.  I have friends who have kids that now do active shooter drills in school.  I have friends who had to escorted from their offices during an active shooting event.  Friends who lived near this or that one.  I go to concerts and baseball games and other events where I have to plan my bag around searchability.  Plan my outfit around walking through a metal detector.I can recall easily the top shootings in modern history.  
Yesterday, I had lunch by the river, going to a baseball game with yarn friends since it was Stitch and Pitch.  And I had ice cream for dinner.  When the opportunity arises, I highly recommend having ice cream for dinner.  
As we work the ability to multi-task our horrors, I wanted to share a story about Puerto Rico.  My company has offices in Puerto Rico. I work for a company with a workaholic nature. For hurricane Irma, they closed offices in several places (including Florida) and encouraged folks to telecommute. So basically we are the it's-too-dangerous-to-be-outside-so-please-work-from-home-kind-of-company. 
After the hurricane I received updates that employees in affected areas had been accounted for and that a company match was available for charities assisting with recovery. 
Friday we got an announcement that our company was sending a plane to Puerto Rico with supplies for employees. This is unprecedented. I'm not saying my company is heartless, we (little bit like the US writ large) are good at big gestures. We come together in crises. But this, in addition to being a great thing, told me things were bad. Things are not getting taken care of and even my company could see that they couldn't expect their employees to keep on without water or food or other basics. 
So please, call your electeds. (Feel free to mention gun control too.) Give if you can. This is going to be a long haul, probably longer than the others, so if you can now great, if you can't for two weeks or months, it will still be needed then. 

Friday, September 29, 2017

Project Runway: Two by Two

I usually try to give "Project Runway" the benefit of the doubt on the shenanigans. But the episode ends with to be continued.  They have done this before.  Decided it was too hard to tell in a team of two where the failure lay, and so sent both designers back to the workroom for a short head to head face off, and then sent one home.  I'm going to confess I had secretly hoped that they would send both Shawn and Claire home, but the judges seem to be working on the theory that one of them might be talented enough to stay., Normally I would be on board with that, but at this point I don't think "Project Runway" is in charge of breaking their co-dependency.  
So, yeah, no closure here.  
The challenge is a bunch of misdirects that boil down to the designers are assigned fabric in groups of two to create an outfit for JC Penney inspired by menswear but for women. They are working in teams, but not fabric teams, so must select another designer to work with.  So, Kentaro and Brandon, Ayana and Michael, Margarita and Batani, Kenya and Amy, and Shawn and Claire.  I know that last one shocked you.  Ayana and Michael end up safe, so we spend very little time with them and will have to assume they enjoyed working together.  Kentaro and Brandon are in their brotherhood zone and Michael slyly mentions that they seemed to ignore everything Tim said to them so he hopes they get so confident they end up falling flat.  
Margarita and Batani and Amy and Kenya both have troubled partnerships.  As do Shawn and Claire.  Amy says she went into this thinking well, Kenya's been more successful than I so, I can learn from her, and then gets really nervous when Kenya is spending time on something they are trying as a back up idea rather than focusing on the primary garments and starts to realize partway through that she should have taken more ownership and then is trying to change the dynamics on the fly and so they start runway day a little snippy with each other.  It's really hard to shift on the fly and Amy and Kenya both realize that they are not working well together but are trying to figure out in limited time how to address this.  
Margarita and Batani have distinct styles and Batani is asking a lot of questions and I suspect - through my expert ability to assume things based on highly edited footage - that it's partly a question difference.  If you are a person who doesn't ask a lot of does this go here, how would I do this questions, you can sometimes interpret working with people who externally process a lot as them needing a lot of help.  Sometimes they do. And sometimes they were just asking as they thought it through in their head and if you just let them go, they figure it out.  But Margarita was trying to be the best teammate and kept jumping in, and we see very little interview with Batani so she didn't seem bothered by it, but also maybe didn't need it.  
Shawn and Claire are reaching that hour ten in the backseat of the car level of sniping.  Claire appears to possibly be trying to pull back a bit, and not jump in to help her sister on every little thing.  She says at the beginning of the episode that she's been in the bottom twice now and really needs to evaluate.  And in sisterly fashion Shawn says, I have too.  Totally ignoring that she was in the top in the last episode with a pair of pants her sister made for her.  (I do get that the sibling thing makes it very very hard to let your sibling claim a thing that you have also experienced, and first!  But whew.)  
Top is Kentaro and Brandon with hoodie mix and match separates that are pretty much the exact blend of what you would have expected of them.  Margarita and Batani are also there with a shirt dress and a fancier dress with sailoresque buttons.  Margarita wins with her asymmetric shirt dress.  
Kenya and Amy are in the bottom with a demin pantsuit with an asymmetric scoop neckline that is an attempt to make it modern and just makes it look more strange.  The other outfit has a top with a necktie and pants.  Both are a little blah but well made.  In Kenya's defense, while I wouldn't buy this outfit, it is right in line with the other things she has been making.  Just in a less interesting fabric.  
Shawn and Claire, you will be shocked to learn, created a sweatshirt inspired thing and a T-shirt inspired thing.  Shawn had Liris, one of the larger models and was very nervous that she would get called out for making crappy things for a curvy girl again, so made a sweatshirt inspired dress, with a ribbon along the edge that, let's face it, looked a lot like the sweatshirt dress Claire was in the bottom for last week.  Claire made a t-shirt that was two fabrics.  And then made a thing that looked like two sleeves sewn together and wanted to do it as a boob tie until Tim stepped in.  Then as a waist tie.  Kentaro suggested hip tie which was better and helped disguised that the jeans they made were ill fitting in the rear area.  (Their poor models say that knowing they are working with the twins, they were happy their outfits were done.) 
So Heidi announces the head to head challenge and, then the dreaded to be continued.  

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Three Interesting Things

1. This article about how ungrateful is the new uppity in reference to black Americans who try to bring light to injustice was fascinating. 
2. Kelly Faircloth has been out there writing great and thoughtful things about romance, so, while I am a little biased, I think this interview with Alisha Rai is more of the same. 
3. With all the other things going on, it's also banned books week.  This report from last year looked at a common reason that books get challenged - representing a diverse or marginalized perspective

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Baltimore Book Festival

I went up for the final day of the Baltimore Book Festival on Sunday.  I tent hopped a lot, but started with Daniel Jose Older in the Literary Salon. He read from Shadowshaper, Shadowhouse Fall (one of my favorite scenes to be quite honest, where Izzy raps) and also from the Bone Street Rumba series.  During the Q&A he discussed the idea that all stories make a statement about the world they exist in, and that writers will give you twenty tricks for setting, character building, pacing, and every other aspect of their writing and yet some will try to tell you they don't know how their characters ended up being all white, or all straight, or all cis, or all abled, it just happened. He also spoke about how writers can become better listeners instead of combative listeners, and that would ultimately help them writer better stories.  
I zipped over to the Maryland Romance Writers tent and caught part of the improv plotting panel with Christi Barth, Alexa Jacobs, Lea Nolan, L. Penelope, Maya Rodale, and Mia Sosa. They got a lot of audience participation to plot this novel on the fly. 
It was followed by the diverse and own voices panel with Andie J. Christopher, Pintip Dunn, Dawn Ibanez, LaQuette, J.L. Lora, Harper Miller, and Mia Sosa.  They talked about writing the worlds they saw, writing people they hadn't seen enough of in fiction, and writing the world their kids were seeing. 
I hopped over to the Enoch Pratt Free Library Children's Stage where they had Carole Boston Weatherford, Renee Watson, and Ronald L. Smith talking about their latest books.  Weatherford's was a picture book, Watson's was a YA, and Smith's was a  middle grade so the books were very different but the moderator did a nice job of trying to cover each author well.  
Back at the romance tent, the historical authors discussed how accurate you needed to be in your writing.  Authors Laura Kamoie, Sarah MacLean, Maya Rodale, Joanna Shupe, and E. Elizabeth Watson participated. Ultimately they agreed it was a balance as you want to create the world accurately but also remember that your audience is modern. 
I then went to see Jason Reynolds at the Children's Stage where he talked both about Patina and the Miles Morales series.  For Patina he said he grew up with girls who weren't necessarily flippy skirt girls, and he felt that was underrepresented in kid lit.  And that he watched as the girls he grew up with were asked to take on household responsibilities way earlier than their brothers or other boys on the block and he wanted to look at that.  He also mentioned that having been handed a comics franchise as a novelist was interesting, because comics writers are used to doling out information over a much larger period of time, and often reboot so there were things that he, coming from a novelist background felt were plot holes that had never been filled in, that he had to figure out explanations for.  
In the romance tent I caught the end of the paranormal and fantasy panel with authors Dawn Ibanez, Lea Nolan, Andy Palmer, and L. Penelope.
I'm really lucky to live so near so many book festivals and it was a lot of fun. 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Take A Knee and the NFL

So the NFL has placed themselves in an unenviable position.  As you may have heard, our president - who happens to also have been an aspiring NFL team owner at one point in his life, and when that failed was part of the short-lived USFL, and I'm just going to keep mentioning how incredibly relevant the 30 for 30 documentary "Small Potatoes: Who Killed the USFL?" has remained - but the president, who is not an uninterested party when it comes to the financial success of the NFL, even if we did agree that presidents should be commenting on private business, which we also don't - called the players who have been taking a knee during the flag display - a misogynistic term for being unpatriotic and suggested they should be fired. 
As a result, a large number of players, owners, and coaches either took a knee, or locked arms, or stood in the ramp, or didn't come out of the locker room this weekend.  And, you know what? Now the NFL has made everyone mad. Plenty of people had already quit, myself included, for the blackballing of Colin Kaepernick, for the CTE issues, for the racist team names, for the constant sweeping under the rug of domestic violence.  I can't speak for everyone, but I'm guessing most of those people did not tune back in this week.  And, if my twitter and Facebook are a reliable indicator (they are not) some more people quit this week because they were mad about the increased protests.  
And so now the NFL is in a place where they cannot make everyone happy, and it really looks like they are beyond the wishy washy players are able to do whatever they want that's peaceful, since it's clearly untrue and also not making any side sufficiently appeased to change their behavior.  I still love football. It's a fascinating sport.  I still have a football sized hole in my heart. But there are so many things I can do with my time, and at this rate, it doesn't look like the current NFL owners or commissioner have any plan to address anything, they are hoping it all goes away. 

Monday, September 25, 2017

"Native Gardens" at Arena Stage

I went to see "Native Gardens" at Arena Stage and it was, as hinted at in the program, both a welcome respite and a funny way to examine some current issues.  The playwright Karen Zacarias also wrote "Destiny of Desire" and while this show was, shall we say, a little more traditionally structured, there were some similar themes and basically, I am in for Zacarias's stuff.  The play was a co-production with the Cincinnati Playhouse and so debuted there last year, where I suspect some of the incredibly specific DC lines needed a little more context, there was nothing so DC, that you would lose the plot but subtleties that were richer if you had the DC knowledge to get them. 
There are four named characters in the play, an older white couple who have lived in this historic neighborhood for years and Frank is very proud of his garden.  The younger, newer, Latinx couple next door (I'm shorthanding here, there's a very robust discussion of the changing terminology appropriate for both Tania and Pablo, especially as Pablo is a Chilean immigrant and Tania is from New Mexico) moves into a house that had been rental property for years and is a bit of a fixer upper.  Pablo, trying to impress his new law firm co-workers invites them all over for a party.  Tania, who is a doctoral student and is also pregnant has not been planning to get the house or the yard visitor ready so quickly, but they decide the yard is possible, and a new fence is an important piece of this, and well, this leads to discussions of class, generational differences, cultural differences, political differences, and also the differences in types of gardening, the more natural indigenous plant approach, or the pesticide laden regimented flowers approach.  
There were many moments of laughter, of sucked in breaths or ooohs as a line dug a character deeper into trouble or seemed incredibly on point.  There are no act breaks, which meant the epilogue provided with the cast speaking directly to the audience after the final emotional moment, wrapped up some loose ends nicely.  
So, now let's get to the DC stuff.  I don't believe the specific neighborhood they are in is referenced directly, only that it's an old historic neighborhood, and that at one point there is mentioned that woo-woo organic gardening would be more appropriate in Navy Yard, or Petworth, that they could have a chicken coop in Takoma Park if they wanted. Frank at one point mentions working for the Agency, in an ominous way that leads, in my opinion to one of the best laughs of the evening, so I won't explain further.  There was one point where there is discussion of DC fence laws, and one of my fellow audience members recited the regulation along with the characters, so I'm guessing that that part was very familiar to those who have had to get fence permits. They all have what transplants (which all four characters are) would consider very DC jobs - PhD student, lawyer, defense contractor, and well, retired agency employee.  At one point Tania comes out into the backyard with an Ice Cream Jubilee pint, which was a delightfully specific prop.  
The cast was almost all new to Arena Stage, and it seems DC theater, but they were wonderful and had a great time. 

Friday, September 22, 2017

Project Runway: Models are Clients

This one was hard. Heidi came out to tell the designers their next challenge and in a completely natural and not at all staged entirely for the cameras moment, a producer interrupts to tell Heidi that Tim is blowing up Heidi's phone with selfies.  So, basically, the designers discover the models are their clients this week and they will need to come up with a non-work outfit for their model that also selfies well.  
There's an interesting shift in the way that Shawn and Claire are edited this week.  I generally think you get what you get when you sign up for a reality competition show, but I feel like the producers aren't as settled on their proposed viewpoint of Shawn and Claire so the fingerprints are a little more obvious.  We're distilling 2-3 days into an hour, and even eliminating the time that they are sleeping that's still a lot.  But this week, a few of the designers note that it is less that Shawn and Claire help each other a lot and more that Shawn asks Claire for help and critique a lot.  
Kenya, who is feeling very unsettled after Tim suggests that the matching vest and pants on her slim model might make one think stringbean, says she doesn't have a sister on the show she can ask.  She appears to get some help from Amy, but a lot of it seems to be the some look at this and tell me I'm not crazy help, which we all need sometimes.  But Kenya did hit on an important point.  The designers can help each other.  But arriving with someone who has to go to Thansksgiving dinner with you is different.  It's much easier to ask them.  And also, much harder to say no.  
I discovered when I became a telecommuter no one wandered by my desk and saw me muttering at the screen and asked if I needed help.  I couldn't stop by someone's cube after I got more tea from the break room.  I had to actually call, or email, and say, I can't figure this out.  Alternatively you often find people start asking you questions when you become a person who reliably understands things, but there are days when the things I've actually been tasked with have to take priority over assisting fellow co-workers hit their own deadlines.  It's a tricky balance - for Shawn, for Claire, and for others who are thinking well I'd be done by now if someone had fixed my pants for me. 
While Brendan makes very much the same thing, he is safe but we're going to mention that Samantha, in that careful tone one adopts when one is simply saying something, notes that his is a look that references Rey in "Star Wars" and that kind of nerd chic...will provide a lot of clients for him.  Also, because so many (3) models have confessed crushes on Brendan the producers ask him if he has crushes and he says, I have a girlfriend. 
One to the top and bottom.  Shawn is in the top, with a ruffled crop top and cropped pants.  It is a better tailored version of what she's been doing (and yeah her sister made the pants) and it looks good.  
Kentaro is paired up with his model who knows Japanese and he created an awesome Japanese inspired yet modern outfit that pairs a folded crop top (there were a lot of crop tops, folks) over an architectural skirt and pants that just looks great both still and walking. 
Kenya is in the top.  The green vest was cropped enough to tone down the dalmatian-esque print of the top, and the petal necked top, and slim pants are beautifully made. 
Claire is in the bottom for an oversized sweatshirt that she says is paired with tailored shorts but who can tell, because they are so short the models butt cheeks are showing.  She knew they'd want color so stuck a teal ribbon along the zipper.  Nina is basically like I have seen this too many times, and it's boring, next. 
Margarita went all in on her model's vision for a 90's esque bomber jacket, baggy pants, and crop top.  She seems to realize on the runway that she is not in the top so mentions that she had concerns but really wanted to please her model, which was a complete surprise to her model.  (We get the first and hopefully not last models backroom, and trust me, this came up.) I'd argue surprising your model on the runway is not good protocol when she returns next week. 
Samantha is in the bottom for a better made version of what she made last week, but it's again black over a pattern so most of the detail is lost in still and in motion.  She is wearing a version of it herself that of course shines in gold, so they tell her she keeps outshining what she made, which I'm sure is partly time, but I think she was also trying to do a more runway version, and thought that meant black. 
Tim makes sure the judges know that Claire did Shawn's pants and while they have concerns, they mostly feel like if Claire hurts herself for Shawn's success, well, that's a lesson.
In what I thought had to be a misdirect, they judges say they think Margarita has more things to show them and Samantha doesn't right now. Bye Samantha, I enjoyed you a lot. 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Three Interesting Things

1. It's been a week for natural disasters.  I recognize that power outages are part of it, but my morning news talked more about Hurricane Maria yesterday than today, so just a reminder that these things go on and sometimes people are too busy digging out of the rubble, or tending to basic things, to do the on the spot reports you might be used to.  I think there will be more resources as people get ready, and no I have not forgotten the earthquake in Mexico City, or the other floods and disasters in other parts of the world.  This ABC post has some recommendations for Mexico as does this one from Bustle
2. A deaf man was killed by police after he failed to follow their verbal instructions. Neighbors who witnessed it were trying to alert police that he was deaf. 
3. This story behind the story of the greatest recipe comment of all time is intriguing and, dare I say it, delicious. 

Monday, September 18, 2017

Co-workers vs. Team Members

In light of even more news, I want to talk about this.  Look, I can't speak for ESPN or Jemele Hill or Michael Smith or anyone else there.  But, I am someone who's been listening to them since the "His and Hers" days.  They have talked a lot about how team solidarity can work or not work.  It's a thing that comes up when you cover team sports.  In sport, as in other jobs - let's face it, there is a complex relationship where you have teams that change and go, and front office changes, and you can decide, I want to play with you, or in this place, or not.  I was just discussing with someone that when my office decided to make us all telecommuters, I had to decide.  That wasn't the place that I had signed up for.  I went and talked to my manager about what were my options.  And I made the decision to stay since the other trappings of my co-workers, and the work I did each day remained essentially the same. 
Hill and Smith have talked about how the team that they created for "His and Hers" was them.  It wasn't any male sportscaster and any female sportscaster.  There could be guests, they weren't tied together for life, but if things shook out some way, they were not going to try to create the same thing with someone else.  Anything they did with someone else was different.  I'm not suggesting that's the only way or the right way to operate.  I'm suggesting that in a lot of employment situations, we are encouraged to think of our teammates as interchangeable cogs who operate distinctly, who get paid, promoted, and chastised distinctly.  And that's why unionizing, or things like actors on the same show gathering up to get paid the same across the board still are viewed as outliers.  Everyone's got bills to pay and that's not a small thing. We can't all afford to quit, or lose a paycheck.  But there are times where you might be willing too.  And having had the conversation with your team ahead of time, means you're ready when they show up and say, so, how about tonight we have you guys instead? 
This doesn't just apply to jobs themselves.  There are times, there are always times when management asks for something that doesn't feel right.  Sometimes you can address this as individuals.  And sometimes consulting with your team and presenting a united front can be more effective.  This is easier to do, if you've already talked to your co-workers.  
Again, I don't know what ESPN management was thinking.  But it seems like they were trying to let this blow over by removing her from eyes, which of course would have sent the message that the political figures should have a say in who talks about sports on TV.  Or talks about anything on TV.  And let's not forget, all of this is because a black woman called a person who has aligned themselves with white supremacists a white supremacist. We have seen way more free speech defense for literally every person who used an abusive or racist slur.  But we're still pretending calling racists racist is the real racism.  And it isn't. 

Friday, September 15, 2017

Project Runway - Good And Evil Short Version

My computer ate my post and I was simply too sad to try to recreate my brilliance.  So, we're doing a bullet point version. 
-Shawn and Claire, aka the twins were on separate "sides" this week and I noted they did not do a combined mannequin interview, leading me to suspect the producers had been spreading out one over multiple episodes.  They still have essentially the same style, Shawn just used leather and Claire used crappy gauze so Shawn was safe and Claire was on the bottom. 
-Margarita went into a tizzy over having a large model and then it was fine. 
-Samantha fell into the classic trap of being the person who felt the most connected to the challenge and then bought bad fabric that meant her outfit just looked like an interesting idea gone wrong. Hope she rebounds. 
-Kenya on the other hand rebounded and ended up in the top. 
-Michael stayed in the top with awesomeness.  And feathers.  
-Brandon stayed in the top with something that looked like week one crossed with last week, aka, nicely made but boring.  He won.  The judges said branch out now.  We'll see if they mean it. 
-Aaron, who I had thought was coasting had just a major crisis of time management or fabric or both and sent down the runway a mess that looked worse that any of the Santino specials where he glues and stapled crap over the parts he hadn't finished and was badly hemmed at literally every hem and the strap broke so the model was holding the dress onto her boob with her arm.  
-They thrilled audience members and scared the designers breaking out the "one or more designers will go home" and then sent only Aaron.  We are now at the point where I cannot imagine one of the twins not going home next week, but we shall see.  

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Three Interesting Things

1. I was looking for kids books about consent for a friend and found this list. We tend to think of consent as to big a topic for kids since we have linked it to sexual activity, but the idea that your body is yours and that means you get to decide who hugs you even if they are an adult, that you should ask before touching classmates, is really part of the bigger idea of teaching kids that they are their own person and not something that can start too soon. 
2. I have a complicated relationship with the TV show "Younger" but one of the things it does that you don't even realize is unusual until studies like this remind you, it feature five female characters at different life stages who are not in competition with each other, but have different priorities. There are still so many kinds of characters shows usually only have one of, so you never get to see contrasts.  Anyway, here's the latest numbers on women in television
3. I'm down to one sports podcast these days, but it is SC6, from the team that brought you "His and Hers" aka Jemele Hill and Michael Smith.  It was always disingenuous to imagine that sports exist outside of race and politics.  It has become more so as players protest, as players find themselves victims of police brutality, to mention a few recent examples.  So, the idea that Jemele Hill is apologizing for creating controversy when stating on her personal platform (aka Twitter) that the president is a white supremacist, is a little ridiculous.  The president is endorsed by white supremacists, this isn't a reach or stretch or even really an opinion. And Jemele and co-hosts Michael's willingness to discuss things that directly affect the players and coaches they are covering is exactly why they are my sports podcast of choice.  And the idea that our president thinks he gets to decide who gets to be on TV is, well, that's why we're in this mess.  

Monday, September 11, 2017

Hurricane Irma

As always, be careful and do your normal due diligence for charities or fundraising.  And possibly more so with Irma, this is going to be a long term recovery.  Some of these islands won't even have power back for several months, rebuilding the rest of the infrastructure will take longer.
Tobias Buckell gathered a good list of resources here

Friday, September 08, 2017

Project Runway: Heidi is Your Client

In what has become a "Project Runway" tradition, Heidi's latest fashion venture, is this week's challenge. And the designers get the chance to make sleepwear. And paint fabric. The twins continue to make minimal effort to operate as separate entities, even though once again, Shawn gets in front of the judges, this time in the top, for what in my humble opinion was very pretty, but incredibly expected silver pajama set. Michael continues the "Project Runway" tradition of making something Chrysler building-esque, in this case a very cute nightie that ended up on the right side of the line of different but still looked like you wouldn't die trying to sleep in it.  Heidi mentioned middle of the night bathroom trips several times, but some of these outfits had bow and shoulder details that I felt sure would be a pain to sleep in, but most of those ended up safe, so back to those that got the full judging. Kentaro also ended up in the top for a gorgeous outfit that really benefited from the paint and dye treatment it had been given.
In the bottom we had Kenya, who had struggled, her paint treatment looked bad and she knew it so she got in a funk that she didn't really get herself out of and the outfit wasn't quite done and it showed.  Her saving grace at this point was, as Nina said, this is a lot of great ideas, rather then a lot of boring ideas.  (And yeah, that thinking did not work in Kudzanai's favor last week.) Aaron and Deyonte both made outfits that were boring. Deyonte seemed to be counting on the big reveal that the sleep top could be untucked (what?) and was longer than expected to be interesting.  Instead it meant the outfit looked bunchy (and his poor model that had to be uncomfortable) when tucked in, and frumpy when untucked. Aaron's suffered from a change in drape due to the painting he had done to the fabric, so it was more of a good idea gone wrong, or at least an okay idea. Hopefully Deyonte will get home to see his baby born, or at least be able to skype from the secret eliminated designer villa.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Three Interesting Things

1. This piece looks at the lack of middle ground in the fight for equality.
2. I enjoyed the Mosaic theater's performance of "Charm" so am thrilled to discover it's getting a New York run.  Go see it!
3. Libba Bray spoke about the news that a female "Lord of the Flies" was in the works.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

National Book Fest 2017

I had a disrupted morning so it was somewhat fortunate for me that many of the earlier guests at National Book Festival were authors I had seen in prior years.  I spent much of the day in the Teens room, starting with Marie Lu who talked about writing fantasy and tried to answer several fan questions without giving away too many spoilers.  (One questioner literally squeed at her answer about the relationship between two characters, which was adorable.) Then there was a YA romance panel with Melissa de la Cruz, Nicola Yoon, and Sandhya Menon. (I apologize I retained none of the names of interviewers from the Washington Post on these panels.) They talked about the inspirations for their latest, the research, and the importance of seeing relationships that looked like theirs in print.  Since de la Cruz's latest is based on a well known real life couple, there was a question about making it your own.  All the authors said it will happen organically, and often in revision as you make more and more of your own authorial choices, so just let yourself write. 
I grabbed lunch and then came back to one of the Children's areas, where Ellen Oh and Meg Medina were talking about the We Need Diverse Books anthology.  They took a pic with the audience to share with Kwame Alexander who was supposed to join them but had to cancel. They talked about inspirations for the story and forewords. And Meg Medina is working on a longer version.  They got lots of questions about favorites.  
I expected that the room with Roxane Gay would be packed (it was, not everyone made it in) so I went to see John Scalzi in Thrillers and Fantasy.  He read some shorts and giggled as he made things hard for his sign language interpreter.  He took questions from the audience, which were often exceedingly specific, as befitting the sci-fi fantasy fan base. 
Then back in Teens, Angie Thomas spoke about the inspiration for her book.  There were some interesting questions from the audience both about movie casting and the choice to have Starr date interracially. Thomas said some of the movie casting actually happened before she had finished writing the character descriptions, and only been announced later, so she understood that some people might feel that Starr doesn't look how they imagined, but the movie team had cast someone who was passionate about the things that Starr is passionate about and she felt that would come through onscreen.  As for Chris, Thomas said, that honestly, that was an authorial choice based on how to make things harder for her character.  She also had talked with her interviewer about Haley and how Haley was representative of a lot of people who are big activists, but have failed to be intersectional in their thinking. 
After that was the poetry slam, and let me tell you.  There were teens from Louisiana, Minnesota, Indiana, and DC.  They did not reveal their origins until after so we couldn't be biased.  I encourage you to seek out the video when the Library of Congress posts it.  They had to incorporate writing or books or school into the first round.  The second round was free for all.  And they covered depression, suicide, academic expectations, post election fears, eating disorders, sexual assault, white privilege, and a host of things.  There were many appreciative snaps and occasionally just dead silence as the audience processed a pointed line.  As is often the case, the pieces the got more personal, that addressed something the author felt, rather than addressed the entire world, were often more affecting.  But, there were no duds, only gradations of awesome.  And I have to tell you, watching the room murmur and go fannish because the Librarian of Congress stopped in, was a sight to behold. 

Friday, September 01, 2017

Project Runway: Fabric, Music and Innovation

Even though I remind myself that the first few elimination hardly matter as far as order it's starting to get hard.  But this week they had fabric and a pretty broad product placement theme that basically boiled down to dreams and dance.  These are the kind of challenges many designers struggle with because when you can do anything, well, what would you do?  Oh, right, the other designers are still not fans of the twins who talk constantly to each other.  (I really get that it's still likely barely w week they've all been together, but these two are doing nothing to endear themselves to others.  Michael and Margarita are speaking Spanish with each other.  I suspect some of the designers are still letting the calm, well, you have chosen a path, go all out Tim critique, to mean this is amazing, rather than, I see that this is the fabric you have keep on keeping on.  So, Kudzanai, who has decided safe is boring has picked a riot of colors and accessories.  Shawn snarks to the mannequins that when has that ever gone well, and sure.  The judges are not often fans of over adornment on top of a riot of colors, but it also, Shawn, wasn't a boring white wrap top that looks like the same thing that ended you in the bottom week 1. Margarita on the other hand, has just started her top - which is white, but has ruched sleeves and her sketch for the bottom indicates to Tim that while she's thinking Bomba style, her sketch says Bomba costume.  
She refines the plan for the skirt and flips the top, so that it has a tie front, which only works because she has a model with a minimal chest, but she does and the end result ends her in the top. Kudzanai is not so lucky.  
We are also still in the place where there are so many that some really good stuff, and in my opinion, some pretty boring stuff ended up safe. Amanda and Kenya made freaking amazing outfits and well, that's what happens when there are too many good things. 
Deyonte proved Tim's adage that bad outfits start at mood by picking a chartreuse lace that he struggled with (including getting a needle in his finger) and the outfit in the end looked messy, unfinished, and badly proportioned.  I honestly think they saved him because he won before so they think this might be an aberration.  (It might be.)
Kentaro picked black, and his outfit was well made, but the concept of lace skirt, ballet-esque stop was as boring as Deyonte's.  It was, as they said, the most obvious thing you can do when given a dance theme, was make something that looked kind of like a girl in a leotard and a tutu. 
Batani's outfit is amazing and you can see she has giving up the boring dress ways, and honestly, I'm mad this wasn't her second win.  
Brandon's outfit is beautifully tailored and really nice, but man, that puts two whiteish outfits in the top with Batani's awesome riot of color and I would wear Batani's so I am biased, but Brandon did make a fun outfit.
Kudzanai's really was kind of a mess.  There are many things attached and tacked on, and the base garment also doesn't look intentional, so the adornments look like they are there to distract you from the construction.  I still was personally more interested in what he would design for us, than I was in Deyonte, but I'm not on the show. Bye, Kudzani, I wish you well.   

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Three Interesting Things

1. It's not news that folks, especially public figures of some sort can experience harassment and hate speech on Facebook and other social media.  ProPublica is trying to track some of this
2. As heartwarming as every rescue boat or rescue story coming out of Texas is, it's easy to forget how huge the Houston area in particular is, and how some neighborhoods are not seeing boats and reporters floating through. 
3. I had not really heard that Waffle House prides itself on staying open through weather disasters (which, yes, I did read a book with that concept baked in and had assumed it was exaggerated) and that they have teams they deploy to areas.  Please tip your staff well, because that may mean they haven't gone home yet. 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Diversity is Not Harming You, Unless You're a Bigot

A well-known romance author made a post on a member forum for RWA over the weekend about how the group's focus on diversity is what's causing the organization harm, and the group used to be better and yada-yada.  I am not a member of the member board she posted this to, which is why I'm not going to mention her by name because there's a way bigger issue here.  (I mean, she's a bigot and if you want to email me, I'll tell you who I've heard it was, but since I can't point you to what she said, we are going to leave it there.)
I'm sure she's not alone.  The publishing world is changing.  It's always changing, but certainly if you have been publishing for umpteen years, I'm willing to bet that all but a small few are seeing lower advances, publisher's attempting lower royalties, lower initial print runs, publishing is not the same.  It's easy to look around and say, well, the biggest difference I see is that there are more authors of color, or more people writing characters of color, or disabled characters, or LGBTQ+ characters, and I used to be a bestseller without doing that, so, this emphasis on that is hurting me. 
This is of course the equivalent of saying readers used to only have spaghetti to choose from and now there's grilled cheese and tacos too, so if we got rid of the grilled cheese and tacos, people would have to eat my spaghetti again.  
The reality is that readers do have far more choice, RWA has adjusted to that, publishers have adjusted to that, and as an organization of romance writers, I don't think less writers or less books helps us at all. 
But the other thing I know, is that there are plenty of folks who left RWA because they were self-publishing or publishing digital first and RWA wasn't offering what they needed.  I hope we can get some of them back.  I know there are authors of color, disabled authors, and LGBTQ+ authors who saw someone flip out and thought, well, where there's one there's many, I'm not giving money to that place.  I hope RWA can move to show those authors, those writers, that people In RWA have their back.  
And, the point of private member boards is in part to give members a place to talk about stuff they don't want to say in public.  But, if you don't see why being a poophead in private gets out, if you don't see that it gets out to protect those who now need to know to make sure not to talk to you at conference lest you think that's a safe space to air more bigotry, well, hi, welcome to the internet. 
To authors and writers who say this is why they didn't join or dropped their membership.  I hear you.  I can't at this point promise there aren't more poopheads.  I can't at this point promise that there won't be a workshop where an editor or agent says something silly or harmful.  I can't at this point promise another problematic book won't get nominated for an award.  I can promise there are people working really hard to move RWA in the right direction, and it's election time, so this is something that will factor into who I vote for for the board.  

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Faking a Bestseller

Pajiba has been documenting everything that happened with the book that tried to take the number one spot on the YA New York Times Bestseller list.  I want to address one small part of the fallout.  There has of course been some suggestion that the folks that uncovered this did so out of spite, or because they couldn't believe some book they've never heard of made the bestseller list, or that lots of people buy a bunch of copies of their own book to get on the list.  So, let's address those. 
1. People get mad at books all the time.  The idea that people could have used their spite to get it removed without any other irregularities, is nuts. 
2. It's surprising when a book most industry pros haven't heard of makes the list, especially the top spot, but it's not unprecedented.  What surprised people here was less that, but that it somehow sold perfectly (usually some bookstore puts the book out a little early, etc) in an incredibly high amount, and that, if you looked, there were no copies of the books to be had anywhere. Not even a digital version. (The digital is now available, and yes, sometimes things get stuck in the push to go live process, but really, if you didn't have it ready to go on the day you hit the list?  I wonder.  It basically says book sales were not your priority.)
3. It is kind of an open secret that if you can front the money to buy several thousand copies of your book and schedule it all for release week, then sure, you'll probably make the list.  The reason for spending the six digits doing this would cost*, is that you expect to make money back in several ways - future sales, especially through positioning the book as a bestseller and speaking engagements.  While the stated reason for these bulk buys of this book was to sell it at cons, there is not yet any evidence there are enough of these books to do this.  In other words, they got sales listed in the system, and most all of them have not been fulfilled.  Because the book is out of stock.  So...even if they were planning to sell it back at cons, there aren't currently enough books to do that.  So, and yes, this is me speculating at this point, but it mostly looks like they printed enough books to have a launch and to give out a few giveaways and then faked 18,000 sales because there aren't actually 18,000 copies of this book.  So, the Times amending their list because sales are at this point not fulfilled is not spite, it is reality.  I could release a book and call 50 bookstores to order my book and not spend a penny because the book is out of stock.  But that does not make my book a bestseller, because a key part of that word is sales, and none of the sales have been fulfilled. 

*The book is priced at 29.95.  To buy 5000 copies already has you over 100,000.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Harvey Help

Lots of things happened in book world over the last few days, and I will get to them.  But you may have heard we have a historic flood going on in Texas and since the storm isn't done yet, we are really at the very beginning of all of this.  If you have the means to donate funds, there are a lot of resources that I've collected here.  Do whatever your normal due diligence is for charities.  In general, local charities tend to already have plans and contacts in place to get to the people there, and are more likely to be there, not just this week, but in the years to come.  As we have seen from other storms, this recovery is a marathon, not a sprint. Even tiny amounts help, they join up with other people's tiny amounts.  And if you can't give until next month, or next year, as I said, this is a long term thing and it's really okay.  And if you can't give at all, that's also okay.  Your survival comes first. 
Global Giving is crowdfunding with the intention that the money will go to local non-profits. 
Humanity first is giving out hygiene kits and other early necessities. 
Feeding Texas is the Texas arm of Feeding America.  (And if this reminds you that lots of people need food, Feeding America donates to food banks in your areas when you donate to the national arm.)
Austin Pets Alive has been rescuing many stranded pets. A lot of evacuation centers or hotels don't allow pets, so people often have to make tough choices. 
Texas Diaper Bank provides diapers, something a lot of evacuation groups don't have or have enough of on hand especially if folks had to leave their place unexpectedly. 
GoFundMe has aggregated the Harvey specific fundraisers. 
Portlight focuses on the needs of disabled folks displaced by disaster. 
Team Rubicon is a group of military vets with relief and rescue experience. (Just a note, this group was highly recommended, there is not a Harvey operation listed on their webpage yet, but their social media indicated they are in the process of getting a group together.)
Houston's Coalition for the Homeless works with the homeless, which sadly we expect there to be more of after this. 

Friday, August 25, 2017

Project Runway: Recycled Teams

You know I love overanalyzing a team challenge.  It's episode 2, but I think it's important to remember that we've had a week to think on these folks and they are probably in day 4, so like they barely remember where the bathrooms are. 
They were taken to a recycling plant and given five minutes to shop, right after they'd been split into teams that, yeah, totally placed the twins on the same team.  (We'll talk about that.) They grabbed things, they went back to discuss things, and team beach resort basically worked like professionals and ended up safe, so while I am seeing promising things in Margarita, we are going to ignore all of them this week.  
Team Ballin' With a Budget had Aaron, Ayana, Batani, Brandon, and Kenya, so two highs and a low from last week, and a very large range of styles which is hard in a challenge where they want you to make something cohesive and yet representative of your own style.  
Team Tsunami had Amanda, Amy, Sentell and the twins - Shawn and Clare.  Now look, I hate referring to twins as a single entity, they are distinct people and they deserve to be treated as such, but they are doing nothing to help this and still appear to be giving mannequin interviews together, and they are sharing an apartment.  Basically, short of going to the bathroom together, I don't know how they could be spending more time together, and we saw this on "Top Chef" where there was a wife and wife team together.  Unless they are planning to get eliminated together in a double elimination, one of them is going home earlier than the other, and they need to be ready.  
Okay, like I said at the top, it's day 4, they are still working on their coping as the reality of the thing hits them. 
Team BwB got a troubling lack of cohesiveness from their Tim critique so revamped some stuff and actually created a great collection.  If you didn't know it was made of recyclables you wouldn't be shocked or anything, but you would nod, and say that's so cool.  It was nice to see Batani be forced out of safe mode, and hopefully she will stay there. And Kenya struggled, but got it together and still seems so surprised to get praise that I want to hug her though the TV.  I personally think Brandon and Aaron are kind of skating, but, their team was the best this week, so there we go.  I was thrilled to see Ayana win.  She's right that fun, fashionable, and modest is a gap in the market, and if she keeps making fun stuff like this, it will be a great season. 
Team Tsunami - Shawn was thrown, still seemingly confused and doubting from having been in the bottom last week, and her team was all ready with ideas, so she kept nodding and smiling, in a way she seemed to think was convincing. Amanda quietly asked Claire if she thought there was something the team could do to help. Claire then kept talking to Shawn, and as Amy noted they just seemed to be feeding off each other's negativity.  Sentell tried to give Shawn a pep talk and their Tim critique went okay although Claire and Shawn still had no clothing pieces, but the team had great suggestions every time an issue was raised.  Which is to say, it seemed like a team with skills and plans to fix things.  
But alas, "Project Runway" teams generally need all their members to recover and Sentell in particular seemed to let concern about Shawn distract him from his outfit.  It's possible his outfit still would have been terrible, but it created the classic "Project Runway" conundrum, we the audience knew Shawn had been an anchor to her team, but her outfit also looked better than Sentell's.  And in the end it is supposedly about the clothes.  
Sentell, sensing the way the wind was blowing in their post-runway discussion, did mention that he helped with Shawn's top. Oh, and Shawn. Shawn, Shawn, Shawn. You referenced having watched "Project Runway" which means you know that into every season comes so-called real women.  So, sure, you didn't know you were getting a "curvy" model, and doing something new with recyclables is a challenge.  But it is something everyone on your team is dealing with.  It is also something that in this season will happen again.  So, saying you're not good at designing for people of size translates to, I am unprepared for handling the challenges this show will provide. Also, who do you think watches this show?  Your future customers.  Guess what size they are likely to be? You worked for Betsy Johnson and I know she makes clothes larger than a size 2. 
And as guest judge Maggie Q pointed out, the model wasn't even plus sized.  (I think Shawn was trying to be sensitive in her terminology, but they posted the model's measurements, and basically, she was what I have come to understand the industry calls a swimwear model.  She was tall and slim, but she had definable breasts and hips.) 
The team each got asked who the weakest link was, they all picked Shawn except the ones who had a sister standing on stage. But Sentell went home.  
I don't think this was producer intervention, Sentell's outfit was legit the worst this time.  But Shawn and Claire have to figure out how to separate themselves or go down together soon. 

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Three Interesting Things

1. Nicola Yoon talks about trying to help her daughter have balloon princesses that look like her
2. This article dives into how the NFL reflects that regular contact with people unlike yourself is not enough to unpack your privilege unless you work at it. 
3. A street artist paints unusual shadows

Monday, August 21, 2017

A Thing in Front of Another Thing

In the US today there is much discussion of the eclipse.  I am not along the totality (which somehow sounds incredibly dire and science fictiony even though I recognize it is exactly the right word).  But it is interesting when the world, the universe really, does things that are both perfectly normal and outside of our normal day to day existence. It has created memes, changes to traffic and tourism, and a lot of discussion about looking or not looking at the sun. 
I hope no one accepts strange potions or plants today, but if you do, well, here's hoping they make a great movie or musical about you. 

Friday, August 18, 2017

Project Runway Could Get a Driver's License

This is our 16th time doing this, and well, things are different.  These whippersnapper designers are on to some of the tricks, one hopes, and we, the audience, are a little tired of designers who think they are the next new thing, and remind us of things we have seen before.  
These twins Claire and Shawn, I feel for them, because they are clearly so used to the Oh you're twins bit, and are aware that that's part of the initial interest, and that, they also are like their own people.  I know. This is radical stuff.  
There were other people.  They said things about their design aesthetics that I will believe when I see.  Oh, and one guy who's only made one dress.  Sure, sure. 
There is a designer, Ayana, who wants to design modest clothes that align with her Muslim faith, and that does intrigue me because I see no reason that couldn't be very successful on "Project Runway" and it has not yet been done. 
We're getting a range of models this year.  Size 2 to 22.  Now, I recognize that, underneath the whining from designers (and in fairness some excitement) there is a legit complaint that the dress forms are usually one size, and size 2-22 is not one size.  This doesn't mean the more traditionally sized runway models didn't differ from the dress form and require designers to work off the dress form, or make alterations.  They did.  And any designer who thought they were getting through the season without doing that, well, I'm not sure why they would be here. 
Mr. Menswear has of course gotten a curvier model for this challenge. 
And we have a model mirror this year, so the models can share some thoughts. 
Okay, there are so many, the show is barely give you more than a thumbnail sketch of each of them, and honestly, I've been through this rodeo before, it's barely worth me trying to learn all their names right now.  Obviously they are all skilled people who can sew more than I can (no more non-sewers, yay!) and some of them are going to just run into the inevitable wall, of my aesthetic is weirder than anything Nina, Zac, and Heidi will ever like collectively but maybe being here a few episodes will get me the attention of enough people.  Plus I assume they feed you in the sequester place the eliminated designers go before being released. 
There's one design that ended up safe that I would have called out myself, but as seasoned watchers know, it was either a one off for that designer or it will catch up to them and really the order the first six or so get eliminated in means very little.  
Mr. Menswear - Brandon - ends up in the top, haha, I suspected they were trying to psych us out, and here is where we also remember surprising people make it into the top the first few episodes, and that actually also doesn't matter. His outfit was fine.  It was not top three in my opinion.  
But Batani, as another designer had already pointed out, made an outfit that was more boring than her own for her model, which is always a shame as you stand next to it in judging.  Cha Cha made an outfit that was him, in the sense that he like ruffles and pink, but, as they told him, showed no interest in the person it was adorning.  Shawn made a wonderful top, and then, trying to show how edgy she was paired it with metallic shorts that did not look well made, so looked more like she ran out of time. Deyonte made a gorgeous dress that looked more resort but the judges did not care. Kenya made a dress with pockets making her the hero of the revolution. 
So, this season looks to be interesting.  Here's hoping sewing for differently sized people becomes just normal. 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Three Interesting Things

1. I'm so sad that the current touring star of "The Little Mermaid" is facing people being surprised that the mermaid looks Asian.  Fortunately some are also thrilled. 
2. Dreamhost is fighting a request to turn over all visitor info on a website to the government.  
3. I've really enjoyed Santino Hassell's co-written books with Megan Erickson, and have his NFL stories on my TBR list.  He talks here about placing queer characters with strong systems of support while they exist in a place where they are likely to be closeted. 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Consent and Power Imbalances

As someone who has worked with teens, I have been through many workshops, and signed many forms where I agree to several things.  It is entirely age appropriate for teenagers to explore and possibly redefine their sexual identity.  There are tons of ways for them to do this that are also appropriate in communal settings.  So, acting as a chaperone or facilitator or responsible adult may mean I witness these teens expressing themselves in ways that indicate that they are in fact sexual beings.  However, as the adult with the veto power, I exist in a place where I constantly have more power.  What they may be doing is entirely appropriate, my job is to maintain the space in which they do this.  
As an adult it is also natural and appropriate for me to engage in behavior befitting my place in this world as a sexual being.  However, when I have my responsible adult hat on, what is appropriate for me to be engaging in in that moment, in that space, is not the same as what is appropriate and allowed  for those teens. I teach sex ed, so I often talk about sex with teens, but we are doing so in a specific, here are the facts way.  I am talking about it the same way I would talk about voting rights, or history.  I am not sharing personal experiences.  We may reach a place where they feel incredibly comfortable sharing very personal information with me, and my job is to trust, and hold that, to continue to create a space where they can work to be their best selves.  
So, all of this is to say, teacher/student stuff has always been a huge hard stop for me.  It's not cute to me.  It's not adorable to me if they met somewhere else, or the student is wise beyond their years.  I'm not saying books cannot contain problematic behavior.  They can.  I'm not saying there isn't space for non-consensual behavior in books.  There is.  But these things are not romance.  We say a lot that there's one rule in romance, the happily ever after.  And relationships founded on power imbalance and lack of consent do not lead to happily ever afters.  Is there a way to do this?  Yes, but the stories that keep coming up are tittering at their pushing the boundaries.  People who think consent is a cute boundary to push are not trying to write a thoughtful way through this.  
If an author wants to write taboos they can.  If a publisher says that they are reviewing a book now that sensitivities have been raised when they are releasing an erotic romance line I have concerns.  It should not have gotten to the point of arcs for someone to say high schooler and teacher is problematic no matter the age of the high schooler. I personally am not even a fan of college student TA hookups, but that's a not for me good for you squick line.  High schooler and teacher is problematic.  The whole point of it is that it's problematic (I am saying this because I read the Edelweiss description which is all the first problem the marketing is about how it's problematic).  If no one in the line of acquiring editors thought that was problematic until the internet pointed it out that points to an even bigger problem.  
So, I am glad it's being reviewed. I hope it is either not published or published with drastic story changes. And no, I don't think that's censorship.  I think there's no way to publish this as romance.  So something would have to give. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

7 Things To Do

The events in Charlottesville over the weekend are terrible. But we are already seeing some familiar equivocations and it's time to stop.  
1. It's incredibly common to sneer at millennials and those coming up behind them for being weak and wimpy and demanding safe spaces in college.  What that ignores of course, is that women students asking for places where they can be among women, students of color asking for places where they can be among other students of color is not wimpiness, it is often self care. Watching folks with flags and torches march on a college campus is just one recent overt example of that.  
2. The various social media folks asking to identify the white supremacy marchers proved this, as several students said variations of, oh yeah, that's the guy who was always saying racist and fascist things in history class. 
3. This behavior on the part of white supremacists is not new.  If this is simply the first time it became clear to you that these ideas about supremacy go hand in hand with the idea that other people don't even deserve life, well, welcome.  
4. White supremacy is strong.  Ideas of supremacy that are threatened with extinction often become bolder, more violent.  There is no historical example of these ideas dying out without people fighting back.  Inaction is not an option. 
5. That does not mean you can't take time for yourself.  That does not mean you have to weigh in on everything that happens.  
6. It also means don't let the little stuff slide, but, but, of course, not letting racism slide doesn't mean don't stop arguing with your co-worker/friend/uncle until they agree.  Some days, just saying, hey, I'm not going to accept those statements, those "joke" in my presence is enough of a first step. 
7. This article had some tips about combatting racism. The other thing to remember is this can be done as an add on to the other things you do already.  If you already teach Sunday or Hebrew school, volunteer at a soup kitchen, fold envelopes for your local politician, if your life is already full, no one is saying you need to drop everything at show up at every vigil.  You can add this into whatever work you are already doing. American ideals and American reality have always been in conflict, but we can keep working to move them closer together.