Monday, December 11, 2017

The Line is Not Moving

I saw a thing that has stuck with me. Someone was discussing that a book that was called out for problematic portrayals had been researched, and that had been reviewed by a sensitivity reader and still, on publication, called out as portraying problematic stereotypes. They said if all that wasn't enough anymore, how was an author to keep up.  I think this person meant well.  But this is a misunderstanding of the goal.  In my opinion, the goal is to produce books that wherever possible are free of unintentional problematic portrayals.  There are many different roads to doing this, but in the end the finished product is what the readers judge.
Anyone in a client facing job knows that the customer is rarely appeased to learn that you had these safety checks or quality assurance measures in place, if their tea tastes like coffee they want a new tea.  Knowing what the establishment is going to do (or not do) for next time helps, but it doesn't solve the drink in front of us.
And I know it's not easy, we've all absorbed a lot of problematic things over the years, gotten used to hearing that women don't make sense, that fat people are inches away from death, that folks in the US not speaking English must be brand new and zillions of other harmful stereotypes.  That's why I reflexively tensed up watching "Mad Max: Fury Road" when I realized most of the women were wearing white and saw a hose, I expected that in this moment - even in this world where water was a precious commodity, they would soak all the girls so folks in the audience could oopsie, see more of them. And they didn't. 
But it's easy, and often lauded to make use of some of these expected moments.
The difference now, is that social media makes it faster for the folks disappointed to reach you.  And yes, you can't listen to everyone, and you can't make everyone happy. That doesn't mean that those complaining aren't right either though.  If your intention as an author isn't clear on the page, that's a craft problem, not a changing reader expectations problem.


Thursday, December 07, 2017

Three Interesting Things

1.  If you support folks on patreon and saw some rumblings about the changes, here's a good explainer.
2. The first uterus transplant fascinates me.
3. This piece about cats following their humans to the bathroom doesn't really answer the question, but it proposes some possibilities.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Nina Simone: Four Women

I saw 'Nine Simone: Four Women" at Arena Stage Friday and I'm still unpacking how I feel.  I thought I knew more than I did about Nina Simone when I arrived and it became clear to me that I did not.  I imagine that's sort of the point of a play like this, she's a figure that exists as part of the landscape of pop culture and yet I imagine I'm not the only one who would learn a lot from a play like this.  Part of what I'm still figuring out is how much of the research I did after seeing the play that made pieces of it clearer is a sign of a good play versus a sign that it's not as accessible as it could be to those not as well versed in the Simone landscape.
This is not to say that I don't think the play stands on it's own or that I think it doesn't make sense to some person who walks into a theater never having heard of Nina Simone.  I think it does.  But it is littered with Nina Simone Easter eggs.
The play itself is set in the bombed out 16th Street Baptist Church.  This was the moment that the playwright (per the interview in the program) felt pushed Nina from keeping her activist life and her singer life separate.  There are songs throughout, most Nina Simone songs, although a few others as well.  A jukebox musical about a woman with quite a catalogue is sort of a different experience.  None of the songs felt shoehorned in.  There are four women in the cast, as you might suspect from the title and if you were familiar with that song.  They enter the church in phases, although they are all onstage the whole time, so it creates an interesting mental shift as they go from background swayers to characters.  Nina is working on "Mississippi Godddam" and discussing activism and the treatment of women in the movement, although the characters also argue about their archetypes and how they each deal with their own perceptions and challenges and colorism. 
The play has no intermission and I don't know where you would put one but it did mean it was a lot.  There was laughter and gasps and mm-hmmms and applause.  There were parts where the characters arguments seemed to switch topic without warning and in a way that didn't seem natural, but of course, in some ways that is natural even if that's not how play characters often operate.  The set was amazing, and when Sweet Thing finally got to sing and revealed a deep alto, it was amazing.  All of them sang beautifully, I guess I had simply expected the actress playing Nina to be amazing.
Overall I enjoyed it and was glad to have the chance to see it.

Friday, December 01, 2017

Three Interesting Things

Had some weird issues posting yesterday and not enough time to troubleshoot the autopost. But here we are.
1. In light of recent news, I was directed to this piece from Meghan Markle discussing the realities of navigating life as a biracial person, the shock, confusion, and surprise as others try to define you.
2. Alyssa Cole was interviewed by Shondaland about her newest release, although she found time to talk about others. I had the chance to see both her and Alisha Rai at Politics and Prose's new Wharf location yesterday, as they chatted about books with Sarah Wendell of Smart Bitches and how showing communities of women, showing characters that feel too much, or are working on feeling too little, and the power of books that promise you hope at the end.  My understanding is that in addition to Politics and Prose's taping, and possibly a Smart podcast.
3. I saw this viral tweet about a stunt a twelve year old pulled, and found this description of the experience of going viral interesting.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Run Out of Story

I was listening to the Writer's Panel podcast, and they had a team of TV writers and one of them said to run out of story as often as possible. (I apologize, anytime they have a panel, I make no effort to distinguish voices, so I have no idea if it was Sera Gamble, Sallie Patrick, or Lindsey Shockley).  This reminded me of a workshop where Ally Carter was credited as saying, "Leave nothing behind."  The idea is that if you have some great ideas, but some of them you are saving, for another book, or another chapter, maybe don't.  Sure, there are exceptions, if you are contracted to write a contemporary YA romance, the time travel element might not be the right thing to toss in here.  But if you figured the bomb, the betrayal, the giant reveal was for later, for the sequel, maybe it's not.  
This sounds counterintuitive, but the idea make sense.  First, there might not be another book if this one feels like it's just build up. And also, if you the writer were sitting there thinking, but if I use that up now, I'll run out of ideas, then that's the part you need to fight.  You will not run out of ideas.  Ideas are a renewable resource.  And often the most interesting discoveries come when you write yourself into a corner and have to get out.  And if you're too much of a plotter to put up with this nonsense, grab your post its, your notebook, whatever your plotting tool is and start planning what happens if you use up that great idea now.  
You can do it.  And if you get stuck, my favorite fix is fire.  Trust me, I already used it in my current project.  



Friday, November 24, 2017

Three Interesting Things

1. A teenager has been adopted from foster care by the woman who used to be his English teacher.   I am so thrilled for hi, teenagers are so often overlooked as practically adults, and well, we probably don't have enough English teachers, but I am thrilled for these two. 
2. I am still loving "Crazy Ex-Girlfiend" even if I am holding a few episodes in reserve as a reward to myself, so this interview with one of the creators interested me. 
3. This article about the growing explictness of consent in romance fiction was timely considering both the world, and also a recent discussion in my romance book group after we read a book where consent was violated.  

Monday, November 20, 2017

The Pajama Game at Arena Stage

In the note from the artistic director, there's a mention that they probably didn't think the show was sexist when it was first conceived.  This was my first experience of it, so I don't know if there were explicit changes made but for a classic musical there were a minimal amount of cringey moments. The story is about Sid who has moved into a new town where he can be a factory superintendent. He gets into a dispute with an employee, which brings in the grievance committee headed up Katherine who is called Babe.  He is immediately flirtatious.  Meanwhile the factory workers at the pajama factory are already grumbling because the other factory workers are all getting paid more, and the union head is trying to get them 7.5 more cents an hour. The president of the union is a philanderer who is married to someone we never meet, but does not let that stop him from chasing every female he sees.  The factory owner's secretary has access to the ledger, and she is also flirtatious and attractive which causes tension as she is dating the factory timekeeper who gets very jealous.  Babe and Sid do begin dating, her dad likes him a lot.  But things come to a head, when the union's various attempts - such as bad button sewing and work slowdowns - to make the factory owner agree to the raise, are met with threats instead. When a frustrated Babe jams a machine, Sid fires her, and well, things get messy.  
The Pajama Game was originally choreographed by Bob Fosse, and so there were some Fosse hat tips in the choreography. There were a couple of moments in the show I saw Friday that were either deliberate prop goofs or intentional and that fact that I had to wonder because they worked with the apple falling or the hat flying to far speaks well of the cast.  Sid in particular is a hard role, splitting the line between charming and slick, and he has a lot of songs.  Babe was delightfully spunky.  
While there's some power dynamics between the men in the show and the women in the show that never get careful examination, the idea that fighting for what you believe in and that being more important than your love life (even if things work out nicely for most of the cast) is certainly something that speaks to a modern audience. 
It was a lot of fun. 


Friday, November 17, 2017

Project Runway: The Sixteenth Finale

There were not last minute challenges or trips to mood.  No surprise extras.  Kenya is gone, but she did get to make a decoy collection.  Here's what I have to say about that before I get to the final four.  I loved Kenya.  I'm so thrilled she has had this exposure and hope people across the land offer to throw money at her to make clothes. It was a very wonderful Kenya collection.  It was not a winning collection.  
For those of you who watched Tim visit a clearly pre-Irma Puerto Rico, and wondered how was there not even a chyron, there is vague mention.  Margarita is worried, unsure if her parents will make it.  (From all appearances it looks like they missed the show but made it there to hug her afterwords.)  She makes an offhand comment that power probably won't be back on for four months that now reads as prescient but her fellow designers seem unsure if it's hyperbole.  (I would have considered it hyperbole a few months ago.  Even after Flint (and DC and Baltimore).  I should know better.)
Tim, in his very Tim way, asks each designer what they heard from the judges, a very wise teacherly way to say, how did you process that?  Margarita said she heard tropical is bad.  Tim says what you can do with the time remaining is be exuberant and style carefully.  Kentaro, with Margarita's help, arranges a more cohesive order for his pieces even though he thinks cohesion is a trap.  Here's the thing.  He's right.  Doing, what, cough, cough, Brandon did, which is choosing one print and then washing out it's color in a few variations is a really neat idea.  Doing an entire collection that way, especially when you have a very specific style is really boring.  Kentaro's looks do all look like they came from the same brain.  Just not the same day.  Brandon is not worried, and it seems the designers who have been saying all along that the feedback he's been given has been so non-specific that he's coasting may have come to fruition.  He's napping. 
Now look, I don't want to hate on napping.  They have ridiculous hours on this show, plus he has a small time change.  Napping is not a bad idea.  It just doesn't say, I am taking advantage of every opportunity to present my best.  
Ayana was advised to not be lazy on the hijab, to in the looks she is included it in, think of the next wave of style there too.  And to be ruthless about fit.  She has taken this to heart. 
The morning of the show there is the usual chaos.  
Brandon's looks are the flamingo print in various stages of color washout, whites, and a pale pink.  (Kenya had similar colors although she had some black.) Everything's very tailored.  The tops are mostly oversized.  There are a lot of looped edges and ties so that half the clothes look like they are in a state of undress.  It's very very Brandon.  Brandon has Lyris in an outfit that is remniscent of his first winning outfit with a loose crop top and baggy pants with a bunched waist detail that I am not a fan of but that he has generally gotten good feedback on. 
Margarita has gone full tilt tropical, creating prints and sparkles.  There are oversized fish, drapey dresses, bell bottoms, bomber jackets, and she has given Jazmin a wrap skirt that halfway down the runway she whips off to reveal a bathingsuit to incredible audience response.  
Kentaro's looks all look like they come from the closet of his ballet dancer inspired outfit, such that I nicknamed it in my head ballerina's day off.  There is black, white, red, and pale pink.  There is tulle.  There are bunched details, looser gathered tops over leggings and slim bottoms. There are some long skirts, often with pleating.  Everything is impeccable looking, and while things like the tulle tumor ball on the hip are not my style, no one wearing that would look like they didn't have clear fashion sense. The audience is quiet and the judges later say that quiet can mean as much from a Fashion Week audience as applause.  They are leaning in. 
Ayana's is beautiful.  She has taken the hijab and headscarf note to heart and the models are wearing different styles and often have details on the headpieces.  She did this a lot throughout the season so it isn't a surprise. There are embroidery details on many of the pieces, there is shine, there are some lace cutouts designed to fall in places where they only reveal the layer underneath.  Everything looks expensive as has become the show's shorthand for well made with good quality fabric that looks like it would be from one of the good (expensive) stores. And her final dress has a tulle layered skirt with pockets and a matching headpiece with coordinating embroidery that stuns the audience in delightful ways.  
In the judging both Lyris and Jazmin were asked how they felt out there (we're just going to pretend they cut the part where they asked all the smaller sized models what it meant because other wise it seems a little too back-patty).  Both are moved to tears that they got to be out there in front of all those industry people.  Jazmin is thrilled that she got to have a signature moment. 
The judges think Brandon got a little too one note.  His argument is most collections are thirty looks and within the chapters of each set there's less variety. This is a point, but I'm not sure it says what he thinks, it says, I showed you a third of what I could have.  Margarita's they love and think it is fun and very Latina, and very Heidi.  Ayana's they love.  Kentaro seems to have blown their minds.  
Brandon seems incredibly upset to learn he's out.  I think he really really thought he had it and just can't reset quickly enough.  Margarita is out, but her family is here and let's hope they are all still safe and happy.  Ayana is out.  Everyone's family is incredibly proud, including Kentaro's who get to congratulate him on the runway.  I will say, I think this year was particularly tough. I had faves.  But you could not argue that any of these four didn't present a clear point of view.  So, as Tim said to them in his gather round, it all comes down to personal taste and who can predict that. 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Three Interesting Things

1. A comparison of all six (yes we now have six) rideshare bikes in DC is just the kind of things I am fascinated by. 
2. Millenials use libraries the most, so poo on your silly stereotypes.  (Not yours, obviously.  Those other people.) 
3. I don't know what it means when people try to term resistance a trend or a theme, but it does mean there's a plan afoot for resistance chic hotel and co-working

Monday, November 13, 2017

Families Created and Given

I was at a family wedding (and related festivities) this weekend.  I was reminded for all our foibles, I am related to a lot of amazing people.  And of course some of them I am related to by direct blood relations, and some because one of my direct relations went out and found another great person to add to our tribe.  My cousin's spouse comes from a great family, if their general ease with my loud, talkative family descending on them was any indication.  People reacted well to various uncles asking various groom side family and friends if they liked him, and they did seem too.
As can happen in this area, I was still wearing sandals as late as Tuesday, and then a cold front came in and even the New England relatives agreed it was very very cold.  (It was below freezing at some points.) I am a terrible wimp in the cold, and it didn't even snow, so I was really regretting that so many of the things that go along with looking fancy are counter to being warm.  I did slide some thermals underneath my leggings for the rehearsal dinner.  My dress for the wedding really needed tights, but I did layer two pairs. 
The bridesmaids were wearing dresses that I'm sure they picked out this summer, that were long but not particularly sleeved.  I did ask one of them if she had thermals or long johns underneath.  She did.  I applauded her fashion sense. Or warm sense. 
I joked at one point that I should be wearing a tag with a family tree and myself circled, particularly as I reintroduced myself to folks who hadn't seen me in a decade. 
Between the various toasts and the sermon, I have heard marriage compared to baseball, heard discussions of love languages, and various other storied about the bride and groom.  The minister said a thing I think we can all remember, that relationships are not about how the labor gets divided, they are about agreeing to work together continually on the relationship. And sure, there are times where you have to make sure you getting things out of a relationship, but a with a lot of other things in life, even if it doesn't turn out fair or even, you put in the work. 

Quick Project Runway Note

Hey, Folks,
Due to a DVR issue I still haven't seen the last thirty minutes of the Finale Part 1.  Obviously, the internet has caught me up on what I missed, but I can't comment on the judging decisions (other than at first glance they seem wrong). I'll try to find it before part 2.  In the interim, the nice people at EW have a recap.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Three Interesting Things

1. An article we don't even need to talk about for it's smug dismissal of romance as it pretended to allow that maybe it was fine that silly women read them, also managed to take a swipe at an author of African American stories because her characters just seemed like people.  Given that this week it was revealed an Korean American author had his book rejected because his characters didn't look in the mirror and think about how Korean they were (ugh), having discovered this response from Cheris Hodges about why she writes happy black characters wonderful. 
2. I have a love/hate relationship with "Younger" because it is spot on about some things, and, well, not about others.  But this interview with their publishing consultant explained some of the things they get very right. 
3. This article touched on some recent YA reads that involved characters that were queer and disabled. 

Monday, November 06, 2017

Your Church is not a Safe Space

I'm mad.  And sad.  In the wake of another mass shooting, I saw a wave of people expressing various things.  I know it is natural to assume that some spaces were safer.  We all do calculations because the randomness of actual life is too ridiculous to comprehend.  So we say, oh well, that happened in a city.  Oh well, that happened in the bad part of that city.  Or that happened in that state.  We do a lot of things to justify why what happened was the kind of thing that could not happen to us.  (Except it appears when the crimes were committed by Muslims.  Then we are sure legislative overhaul could fix this.)  
I am tired of responding to mass shootings.  I am sad that I have gone from wondering why flags are at half mast, to wondering which tragic event(s) this particular flag is honoring. But I was really annoyed at the people figuratively clutching pearls because it was in a church.  Places of worship have long been a target, and just of the top of my head there are bombings, burnings, shootings, and pedophiles.  One of the things I did as an adult adviser for youth conferences was arrange coverage so there was an adult awake at any time through the night, often with teen counterparts.  Folks joked that this was to make sure no one was having sex, but the reality was it was to make sure all manner of things that could happen in the middle of the night - be it illness, injury, or someone trying to break in in the middle of the night could be addressed swiftly. 
Plenty of places of worship intentionally lack on site parking.  Are surrounded by those cute planters that we know are really ramming barriers.  Just two years ago, there was a church shooting that made national news. Someone shot up a church play at a church in my denomination in 2008.  
I do get it. We want to maintain our innocence, even as several large events I've been to this year at places of worship required bag searches, and had visible extra security on hand. But we are at a point where it starts to seem a little less like innocence and a little more like willful ignorance.  If you thought your place of worship was a safe space until this weekend, then, okay, hi.  Now let's talk about what we're going to do to reduce shootings.  Whether it's better interventions for domestic violence, or reducing access to guns, we can't keep pretending a clear pattern of events is surprising. 

Friday, November 03, 2017

Project Runway: Winter Edition

The designers are told there will be snow on the runway. Fake snow of course.  They are given money to make a winter look. Brandon, being from Utah is excited.  Margarita, being from Puerto Rico, feels her winter look of a dress and a bikini may not fly.  Margarita is, for much of this episode, very concerned that she has the Tim Gunn save but that the judges and maybe others don't believe in her.  So, getting to Mood and having picked out a fur, only to discover that the show is fur free, doesn't help her confidence. Tim asks the other designers if they mind if Margarita can have five more minutes to replace the fur she didn't buy. They all agree.  Margarita continues to struggle, and feels even her model doesn't like her outfit. The model mirror reveals that she may not entirely be projecting as Liris kindly says, it's a great idea that will depend on execution since wrap coats can make people look bulkier.  Kentaro is paired with Meisha again, the model who speaks Japanese.  Kenya has Jazzmine who is curvy, so Kenya is in her element.  Tim is doing the typically pushing each designer down their own lane.  He tells Kenya this is her time to win.  And brings up the bridesmaid cliche that I hate and have already written a blog post about so we will move on. 
Once again, on the runway, there is nothing the judges hate, just degrees of concern on a few.  I'm going to confess, I understand it's "Project Runway" not Project Keep the Models Warm, and this was likely filmed in August, no matter how much AC is on in the studio, but as a person who fears being cold, I at least wanted more mention of exposed midriffs and such.  
Ayana has a color blocked coat, a diagonal pink mixed with black, over a herringbone patterned romper. The long sleeved, long panted romper is not universally loved by the judges, but they all agree it's not boring, and they love the coat a lot. 
Brandon has layered a waxed cotton green jacket over fleecy looking white.  There's an exposed midriff when the coat is open, but also a hand warmer packet attached to the pants. It's very Brandon and very well received, although they note his poor model is wearing open toed heels. (Poor, if we pretend it's really winter.)
Kentaro has also gone with white, a white fleecy looking coat, with matching shorts, and grey layered leggings that almost make the model look like she's wearing boots.  The judges love the outfit including the shorts, so who know, maybe Margarita could have made a bikini.  And look folks, if you wear shorts in winter, I'm not trying to shame you.  I have friends who dislike long pants.  You do you.  I will be wearing two sets of leggings underneath my long pants. 
Kenya has picked a large plaid and made a great coat, pairing it with a patterned top and amazingly tailored pants. The judges like each piece but feel the coat reads more casual, and the outfit reads more sleek.  (Technically the terms they used were the coat is more downtown and the outfit is uptown and but I am really over these terms.)  They are just concerned. 
Margarita, after Tim pointed out her original dress was just meh, went all in with a faux fur dress and a wrap coat. The dress has a tall neck, so that the faux fur peeks out over the top of the coat, but still creates drama when you realize the whole dress is fur.  Nina feels it was a great surprise and made her curious to see more from Margarita, although once they see the back of the dress, there are some clear time issues. I want to note, that it is such a shift in "Project Runway" over the years, how little we accept the time issue, especially this late in the season.  Certainly there are things that happen, but there are many times that designers, even now were sending barely pinned outfits down the runway and we were like, well it was a short challenge.  And yes, I remember that OG Kara Saun was always done and always had several pieces, but it just wasn't true of so many.  
They are asked to explain why they should go and who they would take with them.  And it's time for my reminder that the judges have literally never used this second part as part of their consideration.  It's just there to create drama.  They have sent home designers other designers liked, and kept designers no one else picked.  All of this is to say, no one picks Margarita.  A lot of people pick Brandon.  The judges deliberate.  Kentaro is in. Brandon is in.  Ayana is in.  Margarita is in.  Kenya is in.  So, no eliminations.  As last in the room, Kenya gets all the way to her seat before she lets the others know she's in. They are all happy for her. I'm happy too.  I know that technically fashion week has happened, so all of these folks were at least going to present a decoy.  But I'm happy we'll get to see them at least try.  Because you know there's a twist.  I knew that before they showed the preview from next week.  




Thursday, November 02, 2017

Three Interesting Things

1. I found this guide for men who find feminism confuses what, ahem, they say used to be harmless flirting, very useful. 
2. I enjoyed this look into the DC to Broadway theater pipeline. We really are lucky to have such a thriving theater scene. 
3. And this article about a woman who ended up dating the man another man had used for his profile photo, well, it's nice to remember the various good and bad ways the internet can connect us all. 

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Mean Girls

I went to see the Mean Girls musical last night and the short version was I think it will make both fans of the movie and newbies who enjoy fun high school set musicals happy.  I think they did a great job of making it work well in musical form, and I'm a sucker for a falling in love in class song, and there is one.  The cast is great, especially since other than the mean girls, Cady, Janice, and Damian, everyone plays multiple roles.  (This is not unusual for a musical, heck "Hamilton" even did this in the main cast, but it was especially noticeable as ensemble members switched wigs to play high school girls or teachers or whatever the number called for.  
So, we open with Janice and Damien giving a friendship class to incoming freshman as they tell the tale of the dangers of high school friends, telling the story of their friend Cady who was a new girl last year.  We see Cady in Africa (we'll get back to that) as her parents tell her they moved so she could get socialized.  She joins school, enjosy math, gets adopted by Janice and Damian as a new friend but then also attracts the interest of popular girl Regina George.  Janice encourages Cady to explore this friendship, warning her that Regina is evil.  Cady sees Regina as a apex predator, who protects weaker members of the pack, until she realizes her math class crush Aaron is Regina's ex, which Gretchen and Karen warn her about.  Cady splits her time between being a plastic and hanging with Janice and Damian until at a Halloween party, Regina offers to talk to Aaron and instead gets back together with him, making Cady vow to take Regina down.  
The show did a great job of spreading out the songs, Gretchen has a great one about being imperfect, Regina's mom sings about being her friend, and Karen even has a small number about world peace and Halloween.  For fans of the movie, all the best quotes show up, not always in the same place, but it meant the opening night crowd did a lot of happy clapping.  None of them felt forced, but I say this as a fan of the movie, so your mileage may vary. 
I had noticed when the ads started that Gretchen had been cast with an Asian actress and I confess I experienced some happy concern.  I'm thrilled to see Asian American actresses get more roles, but there was a joke at the end of the movie that was only funny because Gretchen was not Asian and I was worried they would leave it. They did not.  There is still group reconfiguring at the end, but that particular part is not in the musical.  Yay.  
There is however a scene set in Africa, they do specify Kenya, and then use a sunset, and a tree (possibly a Baobab, I am not very tree literate), a lion and a zebra puppet.  Basically it looks like the first five things white Americans know about Africa.  There is later a reference to a classmate of Cady's running fast because he's Kenyan, and some references to the Maasai, Kilimanjaro (which is in Tanzania, but it does border Kenya), and riding an elephant (which people don't do on African elephants).  It's unfortunate, because it puts an asterisk on my enjoyment.  I loved a lot of it, but man this stuff is, well, not unexpected from the folks behind "30 Rock" and "Great News", or even the "Mean Girls" movie.  Yes, one could argue that since Damian and Janice are narrating, some of the story tilts since their knowledge of Africa is not vast.  But Africa and Kenya deserved better. 
The show has already planned it's move to Broadway.  I wish them luck.  The cast was wonderful.  I hope they do some tweaking before the move.  



Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The NaNoWriMo Advice Post

I do a version of this every year and well, ahem, we could probably revisit those but NaNo is all about creating new words so here we go. 
1. All writing advice is just that - advice.  Suggestions are based on what worked for the person giving the advice and that includes everything here.  So any advice that works for you is great.  And any advice that didn't work for you, stop using.  If anyone had a magic key, then literally all of us would be using that and there wouldn't be a need for so much advice.  Your job is to figure out what works for you. 
2. There will be ebbs and flows.  Some of that is normal - life, plot problems all happen.  If you hit a slump that's fine.  Your job is to figure out what things need to change to get you out of it.  Beating yourself up about it is not a useful part of that. 
3. Back everything up.  Even the parts you think are crap.  Print it out, email yourself a copy, take picture of your notebook, do not let there be only one version. 
4. Try things you haven't tried before.  If you've never been to a write in, try it. If you've never tried writing in a library, try it.  If you've never tried writing from your couch while checking in with the NaNo sprints team, try it. Anything that tanks your word count, don't try again.  But just like (I hear) people who exercise get bored with the same old same old, your brain does too.  So jazz up the routine. 
5. Decision fatigue is real. So if you find at the end of the day you can't figure out what your characters need to do next, try deciding earlier, even if you can't write earlier.  Take a voice memo, write on a post it, three things, so you have that ready to go when you get to writing time. 
6. Other decisions you can eliminate will help.  If you can make a big batch of soup, or buy 60 of the same microwave meal, or lay out your outfits for the week, whatever you can take off your plate for November, do. 
7. Don't be a hermit (unless you want to).  But really, going out and talking to non-writing people will and maybe seeing some sunlight will not only be good for you, it will be good for your writing.  You will see little things out there that inspire you.  
Good luck.  Writing at any pace is a success, so however many words you get, and whatever you learn about what does and doesn't work for you is good stuff. 


Monday, October 30, 2017

A Guide to Apologizing for Hurts You Don't Recall

There has been so much news of late, and I don't want to conflate apologizing for sexual assault with apologizing for racism, but between David Cross and Kevin Spacey there is one similarity. They don't remember.  It seems convenient and yet also likely.  I watched one person talk about the shock of having someone make a racist comment to them in an airport and hearing that person laughing with a friend five minutes later.  These incidents of harm are often so huge in the memory of the person harmed and, in many cases, just a silly or drunken moment to the perpetrator.  And that's why to this day I can describe with incredible detail an eight page note I received from a supposed friend my freshman year in high school or other barbs, arrows, and transgressions made against me, that probably aren't memorable to the people who hurt me.  Either because they thought they were being funny, or flirty, or that it was so long ago.  So let's talk about how to handle this.  Because we would all love to believe we have only ever been the harmed and not the wielder of harm, and while most of us can say with certainty there are some lines we haven't crossed that doesn't mean there weren't times we still thought we were being funny and didn't stop.  
1.  It is a natural inclination to want more context surrounding the incident. I did what to you?  When?  Are you sure?  Here's the thing.  This person has taken a huge risk recounting harm done to them, to talk about a painful moment for them.  If they feel willing to talk to you, then sure.  But consider they may not want to.  They may never want to talk to you again.  They may be signaling that they are done pretending you are a person they can smile next to.  And that's okay.  Because you desire for context and understanding about your own behavior is not more important than their hurt. 
2. Apologize.  You can say, I don't remember this.  But not as an excuse.  So not, I'm sorry, but I don't remember this.  Instead, I'm sorry, I don't remember this, but that's terrible and I'm sorry.  
3. Don't equivocate.  No one cares if you were drunk, or doing a bit, or whatever other excuse you've decided to attach to your behavior.  Lots of people get drunk and don't hurt others.  If you cannot, then you should stop drinking.  See also, I was raised in a different era, I was trying out a character who was racist and apparently practicing it unknowingly on people of different races to see if I could cause them harm in a way that was funny to me. 
4.  Do not send others to say you are lovely, wonderful, and would never do this.  Silencing victims is never a good look.  
5. In the privacy of your own home, away from social media, feel free to reflect on the things that would contribute to this behavior on your part.  Don't do this as part of your apology. These are things that you ponder yourself, or possibly with your team so you can make better choices going forward.  I don't need to hear about your stop being racist or stop being a sexual predator step program.  Your improvement will be made clear by your actions, not your words.  

Friday, October 27, 2017

Project Runway: Warriors

The designers are given boxing gloves. Kentaro proves to be the savvy one, telling Brandon the important part is that the clove is pink.  They arrive at the boxing ring to meet Tim, in sweats (Ayana speaks for us all to express shock) and a representative from Avon who tells them about the work Avon has done to combat breast cancer and introduces them to some survivors. Margarita is obviously emotional, and tells the mannequins that her grandmother had breast cancer. I know the warrior/fighter parlance is getting pushback in some circles, as it implies that there are winners and losers in illness, but warrior woman is not a bad theme for a challenge.  
During the Tim critiques, Margarita is still really emotional, and Tim seems thrown.  I think it's hard to remember that at this point they have been in a weird routine for weeks, different food, different sleep, different schedules, this is the point in the trip where you think you are super fine and then a bus stop ad sends you into a meltdown.  So, getting a little emotional about breast cancer seems right on par. Tim ponders perhaps being a woman it touches her more.  I'm going to assume that Tim's real concern here was that sometimes being a little to emotionally tied to your piece inhibits your ability to critically edit it and Margarita has gold pleather and bright red, so it's something she needs to keep an eye on. 
Kentaro and Brandon have both created looks with turtlenecks and hoods, and menswear inspired elements.  Basically warrior woman is where their two aesthetics overlap, and while Brandon is working in pastel pink and white, and Kentaro is working in black and white.  Kentaro keeps tweaking and trying different elements. He also tells the mannequin, he thinks he has been too focused on what will look good on the model and not on what he likes to make, which sure, but, hmm.  Basically he seems to be flailing a bit.  Kenya has been paired with the model Liris, who I believe may have more appearances in the top than many of the models.  (Obviously, as they use one less model each week, there's no way to make a fair comparison, but she has shown to be a great asset to several of the designers.) 
So let's just go in alphabetical order. 
Ayana made a beautifully tailored top that pairs a half ruffled button down top with striped pants that have a petal detail on it.  I wonder if the judges assumed it was from Kentaro or Brandon. I think it looks very Ayana, and yes also has some of the elements Kentaro and Brandon have been playing with.  It's very editorial, and the judges love it even more up close as they see how carefully she matched the stripes.  
Brandon has created a cropped top with tailoring and buckles, topped with a hoodie drawn tightly around the model's head and layered drop crotch pants. Zac notes that he is generally not a fan of poopy pants, but these are very well tailored.  Nina loves what she continues to call his street style paired with millienial pink. Heidi wishes the hood had been down, but overall liked it. 
Kentaro's black layers mean a lot of his details are lost and the outfit looks heavy.  One could argue she does look ready to go into battle, but not in a way that is editorial or interesting. The judges do note the similarity to what Brandon did, but Brandon's outfit shows more skin and Kentaro's doesn't. 
Kenya has made a beautiful blue dress with her signature form fitting pencil skirt, and petal shoulder details.  Nina loves dresses that you could wear to work and sit at the conference table in and still have all the fun stuff be visible.  Heidi is thrilled that someone has dressed Liris so well. Nina later asks Zac about the work involved in the petals.  There's been a noticeable shift this season in Nina's interest in how things are made.  Allowing for changes in show editors of course, we have seen her demonstrate more interest in the skill required.  
Margarita described her idea that cancer is chaos and she was containing the chaos with the corset, so the corset is snug (and gold pleather) and the red is more wild.  She was also trying to do something that was very her.  The judges like it better knowing her idea, but ultimately, on my screen at least, the red is very bright, and paired with gold pleather it just reads more discount Wonder Woman than it might have in deeper colors.  I like Margarita, but this is still not something that tells me specifically what her viewpoint is. 
Brandon wins. 
Margarita is out. Except, as Tim comes back he tells her he loved the outfit, and he wants to see more of her, so is using the Tim Gunn save.  



Thursday, October 26, 2017

Three Interesting Things

1. I watched one the interviews Matt Damon did with Goerge Clooney for their new movie where Harvey Weinstein was brought up and had similar rageful thoughts. Saying someone seemed respectful in front of you without further unpacking why that might be just supports this idea that we can spot predators from afar, that they don't work, lurk, and exist among us. And yeah, I also wondered why three dudes thoughts about a predator who preyed on people not like them was getting airtime. But this post about how we can't have it both ways is spot on.
2. This article about the pages of Tinder data also looks how we about a lot of passive digital collection in our lives. 
3. The headline on this piece got some crap in my corner of the timeline, but the post itself was thoughtful about how knowing things your parents are ready or willing to discuss with you can create a disconnect you don't quite know how to address.  

Monday, October 23, 2017

Tom Hanks in Conversation with Ann Patchett

Friday night I went to the Warner Theater for another Politics and Prose event, this time Ann Patchett discussing Tom Hank's new short story collection Uncommon Type. Patchett asked Hanks as an actor when you go into interviews, what is the signal to you that your interviewer is not familiar with the thing you are promoting.  Hanks said that generally there wasn't that sort of sense, but there were signs that the interviewer hated your movie and wished they could somehow interview you without mentioning it, and usually you could tell when they did something like, "So, your new movie..."  
Patchett said for books, the sign is often when the interviewer holds up your book and says, "Wow, what a cover!".  And then they will flip to the author picture on the back, and say, "You look great there!"  And then they will open the book to the dedication page and ask about that, and that's when you know they never made it past the dedication page.  And then she asked about the dedication since it is to Rita and the kids and because of Nora. (Pop Culture Happy Hour recently released an interview with Tom Hanks.  If you would like to hear him talk about this and other things about the book with your own ears, check that out.) Hank explained that he had met with Nora Ephron and her sister Delia, who also worked on "Sleepless in Seattle" and he had liked her work, but he was kind of a big deal, and well, he had some thoughts about some things in the script that didn't reflect the way that a dad would talk to his son.  In particular he said, well, a dad would say, I'm going on this trip to get laid.  Not, oh, I know your poor feelings, or whatever.  And that afterwords, he had said, well, I think that worked great.  And Ephron has said, well, you wrote that.  And he said know, I just complained and made a suggestion.  And she said, well that's writing.  So, Ephron was the person who first treated him like a writer. And later when he wrote a thing, he sent it to her and said, is this a thing.  And she gave suggestions (about voice) and who and where to send it, and so, he felt it was because of her.  
Patchett noted that a famous photographer had recently released a jazz album at 73, so maybe we were in a moment of people who had been very successful in one career, trying out another.  She also said that she often says that she is a writer because she has no esprit de corp, preferring to work alone.  Whereas acting is a clear teamwork deal, so what are the things that are the same.  Hanks talked about taking a tough acting class where they made you be interesting while playing a side part, and that a lot of that was making an interesting backstory for that character so that even when they were setting the table it was clear other things were going on.  As an actor you have to show up knowing the character well, so that you can just create truthful moments. And then afterwords, an editor and other folks take the material you created and stitch it into something, so in many ways, acting and writing do have some overlap.  
Patchett said as an author and a bookstore owner she gets sent tons of books, and she was sent a galley of Hanks' book and eventually sat down to read it and was entranced.  She can often tell, because she is so well read, when she reads new fiction, who else the author has been reading.  And that Hanks' work had a very specific old school style, and yet seemed uninfluenced by others.  He mentioned he doesn't read a lot of fiction, more non-fiction.  And that some of these were inspired by snippets he had read in non-fiction, or from talking to various vets to prepare for movies he had done.  And one was inspired by his father-in-law's story of coming to America. 
Patchett was thrilled that he included a typewriter in each story but also wanted to talk about his inclusion of a Kobo ereader in several stories.  Hanks said he had met a woman who called it the Canadian Kindle and he had one and liked it.  Adding it, where possible, and the typewriter had become a fun thing to get him to sit down and write, where will the typewriter go.  Patchett noted for the audience that Kobo allows independent bookstores to sell ebooks to readers.  (I take advantage of this feature a lot.) 
They talked about Hanks' love of typewriters.  He has about 250.  Some are just for display, antiques with missing parts and such.  The rest, he rotates frequently, making sure they all get regular use. 
There were a number of audience questions.  One about raising kids, led to a story about an, ahem, unnamed child who skipped school one day.  They called him, after the school called them, and asked what he was up to, and the child said they were eating waffles.  So, Hanks and the child's mother did some math, they called the school to confirm the number of school days in a school year, and figured out how much that private school cost per school day.  And when the child came home, they took that money from the child's wallet.  Said child never skipped again. (Patchett did ask why the child had that much money, it was apparently Christmas money.) 
I've already read the first two stories in the collection and they are wry and enjoyable and I have spotted two typewriters and a Kobo.  


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.