Friday, June 23, 2017

"Still Star-Crossed"

I wrote this post after the pilot and then internet weirdness wouldn't let me post it. I tweaked some bits, but the only "spoilers" are from the pilot. 
"Romeo and Juliet" exists as a timeless piece I suspect in part because it is a great example of a story that can viewed as grand love ended to soon by circumstances and petty familial squabbling, or as selfish teens who dragged family members and servants into something that by all rights should have made the war between the families worse.  In fact, in a high school English class, we were assigned snippets to act out in front of class, and my group got the end, and I had the worst time not snickering because it is the only, in my opinion, false bit in the play. Sure, standing over the graves of your kids should provide perspective, but, well, Romeo and Juliet aren't even the first dead people in the play. To say nothing of the years of strife leading up to it. 
"Still Star-Crossed" covers the highlights of the play in the first episode.  So, if you are in the Romeo and Juliet are whiny brats camp, good news, they're dead.  Like several other spinoff versions - Rebecca Serle's YA When You Were Mine comes to mind - the show is concerned with the rest of the family. I think it fits nicely into what I wanted "Reign" to be, a historical soap, "Reign" just ultimately for me at least, was stymied by having picked real people but yet not wanting to be constrained by history.  With all due respect to the nice folks of Verona, my familiarity with their history is pretty minimal, so, they could be getting this terribly wrong.  
But, Capulet, Montagues, they hate each other.  The moment in the pilot that sealed it for me, was early on when swords come out, and the other townspeople all drag each other out of the way.  Because isn't that the part that's easy to forget.  As the Montagues and Capulets set fire to each others fields, and fight each other in the streets, other people are just trying to not be the fallout.  And that is pretty much the conclusion Prince Escalus has come to.  Sure, it seems he and Rosaline (now an orphaned Capulet cousin, forced with her sister to work in the Capulet household) had a little balcony moment themselves back in the day, but now that his father has died leaving him in charge, well, it is time to solve this family warfare so that Verona won't fall pray to one of the neighboring power hungry principalities.  
Rosaline and Benvolio are the only two (well, so they think) who know that Romeo and Juliet were married, not just dead and in disgrace.  They were both against it, but unable to talk their friends out of it, and now quite convinced that it's the other's fault that things went so badly. 
Escalus decides that to solve this family warfare they need a union between the families.  And so he's decided that..Rosaline and Benvolio should get married.  They are not thrilled with this plan.  There's other intrigues and such, Lady Capulet hates Rosaline for not being grateful, Rosaline's sister Livia has marrying up plans, and Paris is only mostly dead since Romeo ran him through before taking the poison.  So, the scene has been set, lots of people love and hate each other and are scheming for power.  The sets and costumes were amazing, and while again, I cannot speak to the specific costume authenticities, there is no glitter. 
While I ultimately bailed out on "Reign", I still think it will appeal to those who liked "Reign' for the soapy historical intrigue.  I imagine they will not sustain the number of sword fights found in the pilot, simply because they are going to need to hang on to more of the cast going forward, but we all know Shondaland shows will kill your faves, so probably not everyone is safe. 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Three Interesting Things

1. I usually resist think of the children framing, but in the case of Philando Castile who was killed by a police officer in a traffic stop, the stories of the students at the school where he worked asking their parents tough questions reminded me of Torey Hayden long ago saying that the questions kids ask about sex aren't the hard ones, it's the questions they ask about when the world doesn't work the way we have taught them it should that are the hardest. 
2. I didn't frequent Gifford's Ice Cream much as a kid, but certainly remember the Bethesda outpost.  The son of the founders has written about the abuse he grew up with.  
3. It looks like the world's first cat video might be thanks to Thomas Edison

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Roxane Gay in DC

With DC's MLK library under construction, some of the larger library events have been roaming around.  In a site that was perfect for me, Roxane Gay spoke about her new book Hunger with WAMU's Alicia Montgomery at All Souls Unitarian Church, aka on my street.  (Okay fine it was like six blocks away.  Still my street!) The space was packed, and well, you may or may not know the church dates to 1913, so there are fans in the seats in the sanctuary.  All of this to say is was a little toasty and there was a persistent hissing sound that may have been due to the ancient boiler system or the sound system, but in the end it was still a great evening and I for one hope for more events that are so convenient to me.  
Montgomery noted that Gay had taken an ask a stupid question, get a stupid answer approach for this book, and asked her to recount the most stupid question she had gotten so far.  Gay was asked to describe her body for an interviewer.  She declined to do so.  
Gay talked a lot about the processing of trauma, and how differently we treat self medication when it happens with drugs and alcohol rather than with food, but also noted that food is still different because you have to eat and that it changes even going to the doctor for headaches or what have you.  She mentioned being on a panel about fatness with several other authors and having a woman come up to the mike during the Q&A and say she was an OBGYN who was afraid to treat fat women and asked how to get better.  Gay's answer, get over yourself. 
Montgomery noted that Gay had referenced a loss in the book, in a way that implied that it was the loss of a child.  Gay talked further, confirming she had been pregnant, and then had lost the child far enough into the pregnancy that it felt more like a stillbirth, and that the doctor had told her her weight had caused it and while she knows better now, it was hard to get past that.  
There were a number of audience questions, and they were great.  A lot of people asked about writing advice.  Gay mentioned that she felt voice was something you find as you write more, and the affectations you picked up from others fall away.  It doesn't descend from on high, it something you find by doing.  She also talked about the need to be relentless in publishing, which is a patriarchial, looks focused, racist business.  
She had made several references to spending more time in LA of late, and one audience member asked if there had been any more movement with any of her stuff that had been optioned and Gay did mention that she was writing a pilot for Amazon called "Grown Women", much as she had said she wanted to in Bad Feminist.  There was also some discussion of "The Bachelorette", and Gay said that it's always a weird thing. It's great that there's a black bachelorette.  But being the first black anything, here Rachel is, she's accomplished, she's an attorney, and these are the dudes they have brought her?  
As I said, it was a great evening, made even better by running into folks I knew in the audience.  

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

About That Team Name Again

I am aware of the recent Supreme Court decision regarding a band name that is expected to possibly have an impact on the Washington football team's trademark status. Apparently my discussions of the team name were primarily confined to usenet because I (and the internet) are old.  But, to summarize.  I am Hawaiian, which is a kind of native American, even if the history is a little different for us than those who also fall under the American Indian or first nations umbrella.  I am Chinese.  I am a native Washingtonian. 
The team name of the Washington football team is racist.  There is no way around this.  If any other color preceded the word skin, it would have been changed a long time ago.  I'm not going to go into the long history of Americans using team names of people perceived to be savage and less than that applies to names that aren't on the face of them racist.  All of that is true and something to consider, but teams with non-racist names can have that discussion.  Our team name is racist.  
So, I agreed with the trademark office's decision to rescind the trademark.  I have supported the news outlets that decided not to use the name, and understood those that decided not to, because it is hard to talk clearly about a thing without naming it.  
Personally, I have stopped wearing anything that references the team name.  I had a great chat with the bartender at the sports bar when one beer company sent them shirts that said Washington Football this year, because it meant I had a shirt I could wear that helped new bartenders know which TV I needed to sit near and still, no racism across my chest.  
In my lifetime, the Washington men's basketball team changed it's name.  Baseball returned to DC with a brand new team name.  And the hockey team changed it's logo and color scheme at least twice.  But the football team has continued to not only act as if changing would be the worst, but to actively spend money to support continuing with a racist name. 
Code Switch did an interview with the leader of the Slants, about their fight to get the ability to trademark their band name. I've been aware of this case for a while, due to the corners of the internet I hang out it.  Pretty regularly the Slants have been asked about the Washington football team, and pretty regularly he has said that the situations are different, since the band is fighting for the right to reclaim a slur.  (The article discusses how there were other approaches.)
So, here's what I would hope.  I would hope that the Washington team does not take the victory in the Slants case as their own, and try to re-register their trademark.  I would hope that we would work to bring in a new name for the new season.  Here's why.  
During the season I was at the sports bar watching the game.  It was a game that went well for the burgundy and gold.  As such, one particularly drunk group of fans began singing the fight song.  The loudest fan sang all the lyrics.  Even the ones they no longer put on the screen at the games, because even the organization agrees that those lyrics are super racist. I have never been so embarrassed to be a Washington football team fan.  And I've been through some bad seasons.  
I want a football team with a name I'm not embarrassed to be associated with.  We're not reclaiming.  I don't care how many studies we do of people who maybe don't care.  Plenty of people do care and are offended and so we should stop using it.  We have a solution. I want us to make use of it.  



Monday, June 19, 2017

AwesomeCon is Five

It both does and doesn't seem possible that this year was the fifth year of AwesomeCon.  This year I noticed some really helpful changes.  The programming schedule listed panelists in advance, such that I was able to tell, several weeks out that I probably needed a full weekend pass.  There were signs posted throughout the convention center that had maps and arrows getting you to the main stage, to registration, and to the exhibit hall.  And rooms had clearly marked schedules that got updated as changes occurred.  
While the partnership with NASA and the Science Channel continued, and Nerd Nite returned, I hopped around a little more this year.  The LGBTQ characters in Comics panel on Friday was awesome and wonderfully moderated.  Comics in Color also was great, and discussed indie distribution channels and marketing in comics.  A special celebrity guest popped up in the Mars panel.  
Saturday I arrived to discover the line to get in to the convention center was doing a complex dance as those who arrived at the front walked up and around to get to the back of the line, and then circled back. I decided that meant I had time to go pick up some iced tea before I headed in.  I will tell you, the entrance process was slightly different each time I walked in, and while the convention center staff and Awesomecon volunteers did a great job directing us each time, it just meant you had to accept a little chaos each time.  But even that morning, which was the longest it took me to get in, it moved very quickly.  I'm sure it helped that I wasn't aiming for most of the celebrity stuff. 
The Library of Congress talked about the collection and archiving of comics.  Writers talked about writing. A team from the government talked about wargaming, and it's application for problem solving in and out of war.  Local historians and comics folks talked about the use of comics as a history tool, both for teaching about the history of DC, and beyond.  Within this panel one audience member noted that he had seen in non-fiction comics the style seemed to be either black and white simplified colorization and was that intentional to signal non-fiction. The answer he got seemed to indicate that it was not intentional (the answer was essentially, the style has to match the story, which sure).  It's possible this isn't intentional, or that it really signals more the difference in artists working non-fiction titles versus fiction right now.  But it's certainly a question that I've kept thinking about. 
I went to a panel on nerd rock, which involved singing and was about as much as my brain could happen at that point.  And then Fandom as a Subversive act, which looked at fanfic and how it can address and even correct issues in source material.  
I stopped by Sunday since I had to be downtown for book club and also realized I had not made it to the exhibit hall. So I did that before heading to a YA girls in Comics panel that in many ways ended up being a long string of recommendations for great series old and new.  

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Three Interesting Things

1. I know the London apartment fire dropped down a bit in US media, but this article talked about how the London Muslims already up for Ramadan were able to movie quickly into action.  Look for the helpers as they say.
2. I was pointed to this poem on Twitter about making things political
3. I sideye the use of Lipton as a tea, but there were some useful ones on this list for the teabag, post cuppa.  I have not tried tea on sunburn, but it does help with bug bites. 

Monday, June 12, 2017

Dear Tonys

The Tony Awards were last night and Kevin Spacey hosted with Rachel Bloom backstage.  Kevin Spacey came with an enthusiasm for theater, and an excellent ability for mimcry. I'm well aware that hosting is a thankless job, and often the great jobs are a synergy between the person out front and nameless folks backstage but much like quarterbacks get more of the glory when things go well, hosts are the targets when things don't. And it wasn't awful.  There were closet jokes and references to Carnac the magnificent, and I just became very aware that this was a show on CBS where the expectation is that viewers are a bit old.  
But the opening number with references and rifs of all the nominated musicals was fun, even if I think the use of "You Will Be Found" as a tap number was not my favorite.  
I felt like a larger than previous number of awards were awarded ahead, and that made it more inexplicable when the thing ran over.  I realize time is a fuzzy thing anytime you let people walk to a stage and then speak because they will never all take the same amount of time, or listen when your orchestra tries to play them off, or not stop to hug six people on their way.  
But, here's how I think that can be accounted for.  One imagines there's a schedule somewhere.  If you are behind, then you skip something the host is doing.  Have them do it as a video you release later.  Have them do it backstage on their cell phone.  Whatever.  But, for example, when you are already past time, having Lin Manual Miranda interrupted so that five extra people can walk out on stage in character to make a joke that really wasn't worth the extra minute that all took, don't do it.  
And hey, I'm thrilled for the folks in "Dear Evan Hanson" and "Hello Dolly".  Well aware that the casts of all the nominated shows this year were a bit whiter than the dynamo last year.  I was really pulling for Denee Benton.  It's cool.  Losing to Bette Midler is nothing to sniffle at.  
I discovered I and my little corner of the Twitter had real differences of opinion on the numbers.  I have been reading about Broadway Musicals, and often the opening number, much like the opening chapter of a book establishes the who, what, and where.  So, "Come From Away" doing "Welcome to the Rock" made sense.  I know that they are generally given a set time, and sometimes only one number fits well into that time, so sometimes that factors in to the choice.  (I do remember the one year "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" did "Brotherhood of Man" in double time to hit that time limit.)  I really like the "Groundhog Day" choice of "Everything About You", but certainly thought the folks who pointed out the show is funny and charming and this number is kind of not, were not wrong. 
I thought the "Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812" number did an awesome job of saying this show is a fun party (about, well, why spoil that).  "Waving Through A Window" is actually the second song in "Dear Evan Hansen" but it's the first one sung by Evan, so it's a great choice as far as telling you this is a show about a lonely kid.  
The thing that can be hard to remember is many people live far away from New York, and don't know if they will ever see this show unless it tours near them.  This is often their only chance to sample it outside the cast album. So, picking a number near the end doesn't matter as a spoiler, people who watch the Tonys and have access to Broadway, have likely already seen it.  And the people who haven't, often don't have any expectation that they will.  They just want to see a great number. For "Fun Home", the choice of "Ring of Keys" grabbed me and made me want to see it in a way that "It All Comes Back" - while a great song that does it's job - might not have.  

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Three Interesting Things

1. I am aware that there are some cats who like walks.  I maybe told people when I injured my knee that it was a windsurfing kittens debacle.  Apparently adventure catting is a thing. 
2. This idea that people too young to vote do not yet have political thoughts seems very silly considering I know I had deep thoughts about the Presidential election in first grade, that schools often hold mock elections, and that in eighth grade I was taking government and memorizing the preamble to the Constitution.  So, this eighth grader's op-ed about why she chose to not be in her class trip's photo with Paul Ryan (and why other students did or did not) is great.  Kudos to their teachers for fostering such critical thinking. 
3. This capture of an exchange from a year ago where a new hockey fan was born amused me. 

Monday, June 05, 2017

"Wonder Woman"

Much like, it seems, many of you, I went to see "Wonder Woman" over the weekend.  I saw after a good portion of my Twitter feed had told me it was about love (yay!), it was really a World War I movie that contained a superhero (fair), and that the island contained a realistic array of women, who had lines and personalities (true).  
I watched the TV series featuring Lynda Carter back in the day, but have generally not done much to further my Wonder Woman education in the intervening years.  I am also a person who may not have seen a superhero movie in theaters since "The Incredibles".  (I did try to watch "Iron Man" once on TV.  I fell asleep.) I watched a bit of "Gotham" and of course some "The Flash" and "Supergirl".  So I have seen non-cartoon superheroes.  But my interest is less in the building smashing. 
There is some building smashing in this movie.  I had a not good for movie knitting project with me, and worried that in general a two plus hour movie was bound to have moments where my attention would stray.  In fact it did not.  There were things that felt they could have been developed more, but honestly, we didn't need the movie to be longer, so, in the end it was satisfying, it had a good superheroey type lesson about life and love, it had a group of protagonists that had clearly defined skills and personalities that were distinct in a useful way, not in a and that's the guy with that accent way. 
In an interview with Felicia Day, I remember her talking about in the 1990's there were a bunch of movies featuring strong woman characters and then that faded away. So, my hope for this year, where we have seen "Hidden Figures" and "Wonder Woman" do great is not only that more things about women get greenlit, but that in another 30 years we think woman centered movies are normal, instead of a fad. 

Friday, June 02, 2017

"Supergirl" - That Season 2 Ender

I'm not going to recap the final two episodes of "Supergirl", mostly because it's been well covered.  But I do want to talk about some things that were unusual.  I confess I was a bit of a half-watcher this season.  I didn't love the she wants to be a reporter but her mean boss hates her storyline.  But I did love her growing friendship with Lena Kane.  In fact it addressed the thing I had talked with a Twitter friend first season, she needed a friend who wasn't a love interest or a sister.  She needed a friend.  
One of the things that "Supergirl" has never shied away from was strong women.  So, having this year's big bad be Mon-El's mom, having this year's person of dubious loyalty be Lena's mom, having the president be a woman, having Cat come back, well, look at that there are so many women in this superhero show and I haven't even mentioned her sister or her sister's girlfriend.  It isn't just seeing women characters, for all my issues with this season, they had built why each of these characters felt they way they did.  Lillian being anti-alien, Cat being pro-good story, but also pro-Earth not being taken over by evil aliens, evil alien queen being thwarted by people who wouldn't go along with her plans, and Supergirl, who had taught an alien from a planet of mostly bad guys, that being a hero to humans was a worthy goal. 
So sure, they put J'onn in a coma an episode before, to take him out of the equation.  But Supergirl and Lillian beam up to save Lena and Mon-El from Rhea, except Lillian really only meant to use it for her daughter, because whatever aliens.  Except Supergirl expected that and had a second remote that she uses to send Mon-El back because she's going to try to change Rhea's mind. 
Supergirl has fallen into the traditional trap of expecting some people to be better than they are, but she also knows that the DEO has a cannon ready to fire at the ship, so she is doing this in a way that endangers the least amount of people while still hoping that her boyfriend's mom isn't the most evil.  And so when Mon-El kisses her and leaves, picture me cheering. He knew him still being on the ship would give his mom too much leverage. Instead he needs to get back to tell Alex not to fire the cannon yet, because Supergirl is still on board.  
Turns out Rhea had some other leverage, a silver kryptonited Superman.  So Superman and Supergirl have a showdown that ends with them flying out of the ship until Supergirl finally knocks him out long enough to fly both them and Alex the Fortress where everyone can de-kryptonite.  And for the slowpokes in the back, Supergirl tries to tell Superman that the kryptonite must have also slowed him down or she wouldn't have been able to get over on him, and he's like nope, I was at full strength, nice job cousin. 
They peak through Superman's files, find an ancient Daxamite ritual they can call on, and Supergirl challenges Rhea to a duel for the Earth.  In the end Rhea cheats and Supergirl has to make use of the lead device Lena made, which makes Earth toxic to all the Daxamites, including Mon-El.  
So here's the thing. Supergirl (and Kara) made the choice that countless superheroes make.  She sacrificed some of her personal happiness for the greater good.  She tried all the right ways to fight it, but had back up plans in case other people weren't playing by the same rules.  In that sense, the only difference is the gender of the characters.  (And yes, I'm aware the the end of season 2 of "Buffy" has our heroine making a similar choice.) 
But, I can literally count on one hand the number of shows I've watched where the dude kissed the girl, or agreed to be her second in battle and actually sat back and let her fight.  Even leaving her because he knew she could handle it.  This is kind of unusual.  Sure it shouldn't be.  But it is. 
Also, both episodes, in case the titles "Resist" and "Nevertheless She Persisted" didn't clue you in, looked at trying to be good and honorable when the folks you were fighting weren't.  How having people you care about isn't a weakness, it's a strength.  That being vulnerable, or emotional, didn't make you less strong, it made you more.  And that in many ways was what made these episodes not just episodes where the superhero happened to be a girl.  There's a lot of stuff out there in the world about how being successful as a woman requires you to suppress the things we encourage women to be.  Strong fictional heroines are often expected to be good fighters with limited emotions. Added to the season long look at how many aliens were also fleeing bad aliens, so humans needed to look critically before painting all aliens with the same brush, there's a crazy awesome theme of how being your best self is a choice, it's hard work, but it's a choice you can continue to make.  And that's the thing that made Supergirl's ongoing hope that Rhea would change a realistic wish, even as she still made backup plans.  

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Three Interesting Things

1. This story about a 12 year old from Baltimore who is currently the national youth chess champion is wonderful and I hope people make books and movies about this kid.   
2. This map of rents in the DC area is hardly a surprise to folks who have priced the area, but it does illustrate a thing that I have found is not obvious to folks who haven't had to strike out on their own. Yes, the DC area has a robust job market and a decent public transit system.  However, living near transit costs you, and living not near transit either means paying for a car, or dedicating additional time, two buses to get you to metro, or three buses to get you where you're going. Also, yeah, those are the average rents. 
3. This list of bookstore owners who are authors include some suggestions for book reading.