Monday, December 31, 2018

"Indecent" at Arena Stage

"Indecent" has a play within a play. The pieces times and actors shift. The play within is a real play, originally written in Yiddish and performed throughout Europe, that depicts a sex worker falling in love with the daughter of the brothel owner to explore themes of patriarchy and those who claim to represent religion. The play movies to the US in the early 1900's and does well enough to move to Broadway, where the cast is promptly arrested and prosecuted for indecency. 
The cast of "Indecent" is arranged based on age, such that characters who age shift from one actor to another, and one actress shifts her clothes mid-scene and alters her posture to immediately become a different character. While the play starts at the turn of the century, it gets to the 1950's where we can see the cycle repeat with McCarthyism. 
It's always hard to say how much a play speaks to a time versus the audience focusing on bits that seem timely. Nonetheless a look at what writing and representing your people, the breadth of them means, how art can bring hope in times of struggle, and how sometimes translation in the wrong hands can alter something beyond it's meaning are all things that seem apt right now. Because of the time periods it depicts, there is some antisemitism, most of it occurring off stage but referenced. And some of the cast members return to Poland during World War II and so they wear yellow stars as they perform the play in an attic. 
There were some times the characters spoke and the translations were projected in super titles, other times the actors spoke English - with shifting accents and facility - while the super titles alerted the audience that the conversation was in English, Yiddish, or something else. 
All of these things worked, the show in essence does a good job of teaching you how to watch it. The cast and the musicians who were onstage for much of it, moving among and with the actors, were fabulous. 
The stage design was also great. It is a play that isn't easy to watch but also doesn't revel in the struggle. It is focused on the enduring nature of art even as our own relationship with a piece of it changes. The play closed at Arena Sunday, but the Broadway version was filmed for WETA and is also available through Broadway HD. 

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Three Interesting Things

1. Lillian Li's piece on the American-ness of eating Chinese on Christmas is lovely. 
2. Celeste Ng's piece on resistance as optimism is also wonderful. 
3. This roundup of the responses author Saladin Ahmed got when he asked what male writers get wrong about teenage girls was wonderful.  (Although I admit when I saw this conversation in Twitter, one of my faves was that without glasses I do not become 100% hotter.  I look like me, without glasses.  Apologies, my search is not finding the author of that one at the moment.)

Monday, December 24, 2018

Gains Ignored Can Become Gains Lost

I was talking with a friend recently about how the numbers of women in STEM haven't significantly increased, but a lot of companies that used to run a ton of camps and other opportunities to encourage early access to the science and technology have stopped.  NPR's story about the increasing maternal death rate in the US, included the supposition that in part, we assume we have conquered these old timey only happen in the third world these days problems and have let go of many of the safeguards we used to have.  So, it is with that in mind that I took a look at the publishing reports for kidlit and romance that came out earlier this eyar.  
We are not getting better.  Not even when for the entire last year there has been one or more books by authors of color dominating the YA NYT list.  Not even when plenty of romance books by women of color have done very well, like multiple printings well.  
Now sure, publishing moves slow, 2020 slots are getting filled now by many publishers.  But, we cannot keep hoping it will get fixed by next year.  Absolutely nothing leads us to believe that will happen without work.  Publishers need to continue to hire widely and diversely, work to acquire widely and diversely.  Reviewers too.  Because it's easy to do nothing and assume there are no structural inequities that need to be addressed.  It's easy to do nothing and assume because Beverly Jenkins or Angie Thomas got through anyone who really wants to can too.  I am also going to tell you that this year, in an article I am not going to point to, a person who considers themselves well-read interviewed a debut black author and they said publishing hasn't published a romance for twenty years. That there are no agents or editors of color.  Now I know none of these things are true. I can name multiple traditionally published back authors and other authors of color.  And more who are digitally first or self published.  They are there.  But right now it's easy for the dabblers to think it isn't.  Much like someone once told me that 50 Shades of Grey contained the only strong heroine they'd ever read in romance.  There are more casual readers than there are avid readers.  And those who only read a few books a year are in some cases going to avoid genres that don't seem to view them as people.  (And before you push back, think about why you might read more books with your preferred gender in the lead.  There's a lot of stuff out there.  No reason you shouldn't lean towards the stuff that makes self insertion easy.) If all you see in the grocery store is white characters on covers, well, then, it would be easy to assume that's all there is.  
So, as folks pointed out on Twitter, this isn't just so we can feel better about ourselves.  This is so the genre doesn't die out because too many people assume it can't imagine them finding love and community. 

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Three Interesting Things

1. I feel for Mahershala Ali here.  As more and more info about the relationship between Don Shirley and his driver, as well as Don Shirley and his family, and the rest of his life outside the limited view that the movie "Green Book" provides, its clear that this is an example of how assuming that you have all the sources you need because you have a family member of one of the people you are portraying, provides a limited picture.  I really hope someone does another movie (or other work) about Done Shirley who seems to have led a very movie worthy life.  
2. Having recently been at a cookie party where these cookies were one of the offerings, I found this article about folks who might not otherwise have time to cook, but finding some comfort in baking interesting. 
3. Come for the compelling headline, stay for the deep look into the social hierarchy of naked molerats.  No wonder Rufus thought living in Ron's pocket was the good life.  Also, this is exactly the kind of locally specific and odd stuff that make me so glad DCist is part of our news-sphere again. 

Monday, December 17, 2018

How The Misused Accent Mark Signals to Outsiders Only

As an East Coaster who is of Hawaiian descent and enjoys Hawaiian food, I have been thrilled that the poke trend made it to the mainland. Sure, most of it is basically some version of sushi salad rather than poke, but hey, I actually enjoyed a so-called watermelon poke, so I can be flexible. Officially poke references a Japanese knife technique often used to precisely cut fish. But lots of food words get broadened beyond their original scope. Taco technically means folded around in Spanish. 
I also understand that our odd trademark rules mean that restaurants that want to establish a brand often choose to do so by trademarking their name. Since the idea behind trademarking is that you and only you use it, once trademarked, businesses vigorously defend such trademark, lest the argument be made that others have been operating under the same name so might also have similar rights. (P. S. Not a lawyer, and I'm sure this is an oversimplification.)
So along comes Aloha Poke, a Chicago based company that registered first. (Restaurants not planning to operate as chains don't always register because registering costs money.) And sure, they were first to file. But once they started, um, vigorously defending their trademark against actual Hawaiian owned businesses, things got heated. Aloha Poke with the funny e said they were doing this out of love not cultural appropriation and of course the real meanies were they folks that accused them of such. 
But, as others have pointed out, Hawaiian doesn't use that funny e for poke. Yes, the e is pronounced more like eh, and not silent like the English word of the same spelling. But in Hawaiian the accent over a vowel places the emphasis on that syllable. And normally Hawaiian places the emphasis on the second to last syllable. So placing that over the e actually makes the word wrong in Hawaiian. Well, you might be saying, who would know that? Obviously the majority of their customers are English speakers not Hawaiian. You're right. And that's how they have signaled - before you even walk in and look at the menu - that this place isn't for Hawaiians at all. 

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Three Interesting Things

1. A former Toys-R-Us manager has now opened a toy store and has stocked it with, among other things, dolls of color.  (Warning link autoplays video, but transcript is below.)
2. This post about how one woman (who is also a YA author) found happiness witnessing Chopra and Jonas' multicultural wedding as she plans her own was great. 
3. And a Maryland teen lobbied to get consent added to the sex ed curriculum

Monday, December 10, 2018


I read a thing about reading multiple books being bad for your sense of the narrative structure that that author is trying to create and I get it and also I want to say pbbbbbbbt. 
A few years back David Simon got in some hot water for saying he thought the current state of TV where things get recapped and discussed after every episode was harmful because as a TV creator he was making a season of TV, and it wasn't fair to judge it on discrete parts when for all you know they addressed or had a plan for a thing you didn't know yet. 
And sure. And that's been discussed to death elsewhere so I'm not going to rehash it here except to say that yes, a novel is intended as a complete form and so yes, sometimes I have told people mid-book a thing that turned out to be resolved or worse entirely abandoned by the time I got to the end. Yes, as a reader I can better immerse myself in the author's work if I focus on it and only it. It would also be great if I read everything on my couch, curled up with my cat, and with elves bringing me fresh drinks on a regular basis. Look, books are rarely ever read in a single sitting. And when you consider Charles Dickens was serialized in the paper, we can stop blaming it on modern life and our phones. (Except that I read on my phone now sometimes, which is super cool.)
I could return to the same book each time but also sometimes I am more open to this story, and sometimes I want that. Most TV makers understand that their show is being watched in between other shows. And similarly even if the only thing that interrupted my reading a book was work, people, eating, and sleeping I would still have to develop skills to return myself to the story. That's why we have "unputdownable" as a thing, books we were able to block everything else for are unusual. Will I have a better sense of authorial intent of I read one thing at a time? Probably. But we live in a busy world and so I'm going to do all the things I can to keep reading. Including switching between books. 

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Three Interesting Things

1. This story of two women who raised money to help buy off a bunch of medical debt is all the things that are both right and wrong with this country. 
2. I was thrilled to see the DC Council decriminalized metro fare evasion. It's only a civil offense in Virginia, and so hopefully that simplifies things for the transit police.  I want metro to have money, I really do, but this doesn't do that.  People who can't or won't pay do so regardless of the consequences.  
3. A twitter discussion about time led me to this article which looks at how those in academia equate reading with working and therefore find the idea of pleasure reading sort of odd.  But more broadly it applies to all the things that people wonder at you for having time to do. 

Monday, December 03, 2018

"Anything Goes" at Arena Stage

"Anything Goes" is a play from a number of talents including Cole Porter and P. G. Wodehouse. At the time it was written it was intended to be contemporary, so the 1930's a time of post-stock market crash recovery, a time when the US to UK boat journey was an extravagant party. 
The book has been revised and updated, to attempt to adapt to a modern day audience that would expect female and/or Chinese characters to have equal personhood. 
The program at Arena Stage's production mentions that they address things in classic musicals with a three pronged approach casting (Corbin Bleu is the most recognizable cast member and is biracial, there were also other visible African American, and Asian American (not just the two Chinese cast members) cast members), direction, and book changes (with permission of the writers).
"Anything Goes" is a farce, as you might expect with Wodehouse on the original team. No one is telling the truth, and of course after the first scene, they are all on the boat together. This version allowed the two Chines characters, John and Luke, to demonstrate early that they were performing their own con, which helps a lot in making them characters rather than caricatures.  It does still include the song "The Gypsy in Me". That song is one of the few that isn't instantly recognizable to audiences and, probably because using ethnicity as an excuse for bad behavior is not great. 
The production is wonderful, and the cast great. Corbin Bleu as Billy and Soara-Jaye Ross as Reno are especially notable. The cast also did a great job of being funny by being serious, even as they broke the fourth wall in one number and teased an audience member and stole the conductor's baton. Also Reno goes through more costumes than anyone and all of them were delightful. 

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Three Interesting Things

1. I was unaware of this case winding it's way through the courts where we are apparently not allowing those born in American Samoa citizenship.  I wish them luck, and hope that should we decide they are not Americans, we would be willing to give Samoa back.  
2. I saw the post about the concern that a rave review had contributed to a small restaurant shutting down.  I understand that restaurant reviewer sometimes come to journalism a little differently than others, but this reporter found out pretty quickly there was quite a bit more going on behind the scenes of that restaurant
3. Full disclosure, I am related to the author of this blog post, hence had heard this story told in person, but it is an interesting look at how diving gets dangerous when dealing with inexperienced folks. 

Monday, November 26, 2018

Teargas is Still Bad

Seems like a good day to re-up this post about how teargas is terrible.  I want to add that this NIH review found prisons was one place where the effects were noticeably worse, and remind you that we have been detaining folks in camps near the border and there is no way to localize teargas at only some of the people in the area. 

Friday, November 23, 2018

Three Thankful Things

1. My family, both made and found.  I am lucky to have many.  I've seen a lot of them this year and that's been great. Fuzzy critters included. 
2. Books and food, both things that nourish me in different ways. 
3. Yarn, even as I have cursed the seed stitch a bit this year, I am grateful for the fun respite yarn provides.  
(Also books and food and yarn have found me some great people so that ties write back to 1.)

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

"The Ice Man Job"

I was back on "Let's Go Steal a Podcast" to chat about "The Ice Man Job" aka the job that the team tries to do without Sophie. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Dear America

I need to tell you that we are in an abusive relationship. Probably several, but we have to talk about guns. They are literally killing us. They kill us in schools, movie theaters, our own homes, in the streets, in churches, in bars, at concerts, in hospitals, and I don't know how to end this list because every time I start to I think of another, offices, craft stores, gas stations. 
I know, it's in the Constitution you want to say. I will respond, first they are talking about a militia. I am always fascinated that people who claim to be strict readers skip right over the militia part. Second, it's an amendment for a reason. The amendments were designed to be parts of the Constitution that could be more easily altered. We have done it before, we can do it again. 
I do not want to live somewhere I can't promise overseas friends they can safely visit. I do not want to teach children and co workers battle triage so that we can go about our daily lives. 
The woman I had worked with this year who was murdered along with her co-workers in her office had been to shooter training at her church. Her church is the same flavor of mine and our congregations have started doing that because we had an active shooter situation ten years ago in a Tennessee church. 
I know people who have been evacuated from their offices due to shooters. This doesn't have to be our reality. 
We have the power to fix this. Yes it won't be easy. Yes the guns are just part of it. But our continued head in the sand approach is just leading to more death. 
I know the list of bad things is long, there are folks being detained in camps, there are areas struggling to survive various natural disasters. 
But we keep pretending our relationship with guns makes us special. It doesn't. It makes a lot of people dead who didn't have to be. And that has to stop. 

Monday, November 19, 2018

Here's What Gives Me Hope

I watched this year as tons of ridiculous obstacles occurred when people tried to vote. In DC, in my area, the polling places are so numerous that I walk past one on the way to mine and I only have to walk about six blocks to a polling place in an ADA compliant library. We have early voting and day of, so while I know DC has work to do (getting rid of closed primaries for one) the act of voting works pretty well. 
Oh yeah, and we have paper and machines, and the machines print out your vote for you to do one last check. 
I saw stories about people who had their polling place moved some distance, who got there to discover the polling place couldn't open on time because poll workers were late or machines were malfunctioning, or a variety of reasons. I can't imagine trying to decide if I can afford to wait four hours in line to vote, and of course you wouldn't know it was four hours at the start, so if you called your office or other obligations. And of course this is on top of new restrictions lots of places out in place, folks discovering they had been purged for not fixing the dash on one piece of government paper because fixing dashes takes time and money. 
So to hear that more people voted in the midterms than in quite some time gives me hope. It tells me that we have in fact gotten out the vote because I know some of those folks who got purged weren't able to get it fixed in time. I know some of those people who arrived at a polling place to discover none of the voting machines worked had to leave. Couldn't afford to wait. So for the numbers to look that good with all the people we know it couldn't include, is incredible. 
Voting shouldn't be that hard. The hard part should be your research. But I'm so pleased that more people are showing up in the face of whatever obstacles their region puts in their way and hope they continue to do so while we work to make voting a less arduous process for everyone. 

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Three Interesting Things

1. The Capitals dressed a women's hockey coach as their emergency goalie.  (Warning link autoplays a video, even though the story is in text.) I enjoy the various folks these teams apparently have on a list in case of emergency. 
2.  I am thrilled for Elizabeth Acevedo's Poet X winning the National Book Award.  This review of the night also includes emcee Nick Offerman's great and a smidge bawdy words about the power of books. 
3. This story of a toy monkey that escaped World War II with its owner only to help reunite some family members is part of a two parter. 

Monday, November 12, 2018

Jasmine Guillory at Politics and Prose

On Thursday, Petra Mayer of NPR and other such things chatted with Jasmine Guillory at Politics and Prose's Wharf location. They chatted about the dude who proposed mid-New York marathon, with Jasmine mentioning that now everyone sends her every public proposal ever. She talked about how with The Wedding Date she found fake dating was fun because it let you skip past some of the pretense you engaged in and get to know the real person underneath faster. 
They talked about covers, and the fun of reading romance because it promised you a clear ending. They talked about how fun Royal watching and reading jewelery blogs are, even if monarchies are an outdated system. 
It was a great event, and I look forward to reading the book. 

Friday, November 09, 2018

Three Interesting Things

1.  We all know teenager does awesome things is my jam, so here is an 18 year-old mayor.  
2. Katherine Locke gave a wonderful speech about how much of kidlit, and lit in general is about refinding or reconstituting home
3. Deb Perelman had some thoughts about bake sales

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Live Update by Teju Cole

I think of those who died today.
They held views on the matter,
one way or the other,
of our awful American problem.
I think of those who died today.
(Continues here:

Monday, November 05, 2018

"Billy Elliot" at Signature Theater

I confess these pop culture gaps, like I had somehow never seen the movie "Billy Elliot" even though it sounds basically like my jam, not to brag, but to explain that there are probably shifts and changes that fans of the movie will have specific thoughts about, that I will not.  I did know it was the story of a young boy in the 1980's in Northern England who lives in a coal mining town and while his family is primarily distracted with the miner's strike, he discovers a love for ballet.  
The Signature Theater production is staged, not quite in the round, but with the audience around three full sides which makes good use of a long space for the ensemble to work with.  To my ear, the accents the cast used sounded pretty similar throughout, with no differences between the police and miners, but some subtle differences for the sections in London.  
The cast includes two Billy's, and other rotating children.  It's understandable given how much Billy is on stage.  The few moments where he sits on the stage to listen to an adult seem almost like necessary breaks, but I never spotted a drop of sweat on Owen Tabaka.  There were actors that I had seen in "Carousel" and "The Pajama Game" both of which deal with economic struggle and union rights.  
The show moves at a quick pace, and to keep the constant tension of ballet vs. miners, they are often on stage dancing together even though we are supposed to recognize that the miner's cannot see the ballet dancers.  The show takes a quick look at masculine stereotypes, how Billy doesn't want to be known as a dancer even after had has agreed to audition for the Royal Ballet.  And there is some look at how straight and gay characters may enjoy cross-dressing, and how that doesn't need to align with their sexuality.  
There are some wonderful moments, including a trick where Billy picks up the keys using just his feet, but catches them in his boxing gloved hands that drew gasps from the audience.  Billy has a dream sequence with his older self where goes up on wires that was fun to watch.  And, I confess I am always keen to watch what happens when something goes wrong.  In one sequence a group of adult and kid dancers come out through the closet (oh yeah, there are some closet references here) and they brought with them a dress that fell off a hanger.  They tapped around it, and at one moment, one of the dancers leaned down and tossed it artfully to the side.  As the number ended another dancer detoured over to scoop it up before going backstage.  
Overall it was a good show, and now I have filled in a pop culture gap.  
Toxic masculinity. 
Scene with extra dress
Tricks with keys and hula hoops
Bobby hats

Friday, November 02, 2018

7 Things: It's NaNoWriMo Time Again

1. I hear two kinds of reasons for not participating in NaNoWrimo each year.  And hey, it is not for everybody.  November is not the best month for everyone.  (Camp in April and July, mark your calendar.)  But it might work for you if you need an external deadline.   Is it a real deadline?  Well, I think real is in the eye of the beholder. But I set deadlines for myself all the time that I ignore.  The NaNo train chugs on even when I have a really good reason for not writing.
2. Time.  The reality about time is, you will either make time or you won't.  I don't mean that in an evil, if you couldn't do it you must not care shame monster kind of way.  But we all have tons of things we could be doing every minute of every day.  
3. The other big thing I hear, is I am a real writer and I do not need a special month to make me write.  Again, real is in the eye of the beholder.  But cool.  But, just as I hear runner people who run all the time sometimes do these things, what are they called marathons, the idea is not that you couldn't wake up any day you felt like it and run however many miles, you can.  You maybe do.  But sometimes it's fun to do it with people who get it when you say, okay my characters turn out to be terribly emotionally stunted and why did no one warn me about this?  
4. NaNo encourages writing every day and not editing.  But the important part is to go. As with everything in writing, there are many roads towards a finished piece.  If not editing is making you crazy, then edit.  But really figure out if that's actually what's making you crazy or if it's easier to fix things than write new ones. 
5. Write every day.  Or don't.  Write first thing in the morning.  Or don't.  Write at lunch, in the coffee shop, on metro, on paper.  Try all the things.  Maybe not all the once.  
6. You will get stuck.  Your characters or your plot will get jammed up.  And the important thing is knowing that that happens and knowing you can fix it.  Maybe not today.  Maybe today is just a loss.  But figuring out as a writer not just how to get started, but how to keep going, how to pick up after that thing happened that FUBARed your day, that's also important. 
7. 50000 words is an arbitrary number.  It is.  So you need to figure out if that's enough to get you going, or if you need more or less, or if writing the end somewhere in there even if that means sticking in brackets that say [insert scene where they discover the dragon and team up with it] before you tack on the end. NaNo is a crazy breakneck pace.  December may not only not allow you to maintain it, but all the friends and family you waved off in November may demand to see you.  Oh, your day job too.  That thing.  So figure out how to use your momentum now to get you ready for when that time is that you can get back to this story.  Even if it's next November.  

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Three Interesting Things

1. This op-ed talks about a young woman who didn't have the words to describe the workplace sexual harassment she received until college, and she wants folks to consider that as they go to the polls. 
2. I confess, I am most intrigued at the possibility of bubble tea offerings, but this story about the Mr. Yogato business changing hands for a dollar is just great. 
3. This op-ed about Squirrel Hill being a prime target for white supremacists, is a lovely tribute to the neighborhood. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

"Little Shop of Horrors" at Kennedy Center

"Little Shop of Horrors" was part of Kennedy Center's Center Stage program, so minimally staged. It's a popular show with community theaters since its a small cast and a well known product due to the movie versions. The cast was wonderful. Whether due to the last minute casting change or other reasons, much of the cast had notebooks for parts of the show. 
Much like "Grease" and other shows, the musical differs in parts from the movie, although the biggest change is the end. In this verson, Audrey 2 looked human the whole time, although claw gloves and an increasingly grand wardrobe hinted at Audrey 2's growth. 
In some versions the original Audrey is played as super breathy, only fully unleashing a powerful voice in "Suddenly Seymour". In my opinion that would be a waste of Megan Hilty, and was pleased to see they relied on the story to do the work of Audrey's growth. 
But enough about changes. The show was fun, the cast was wonderful, and I left humming the songs. 

Monday, October 29, 2018

More Than Thoughts and Prayers

I wrote a year ago, in the wake of another mass shooting, that your church is not a safe space. I know many synagogues knew this even before the last few years saw a rise in antisemitism and actual Nazis marching in the streets. We cannot fix this with more punishment after the fact.  And we cannot fix this with more police in everyone's house of worship.  Or the grocery store.  The Kroger shooting got a little less coverage because there was so much violence to choose from last week, but let's talk about how when the shooter tried to access a nearby church where the congregation is predominately Black. (Warning: That link contains a photo of the shooter which I do not think shooters deserve. I could not find a link without one sadly.)  
So, securing our places of worship, making them hard to enter, which is counter to their very purpose, is not the solution.  People who want to kill lots of people will still do it.  And we cannot secure all the places.  Nothing we can do can make it so no one ever encounters no one who might cause harm.  But, we can work to level the playing field. I have just about wrapped up my voting research for the mid-term elections.  I am voting for folks who want less of this.  Whether that's with smaller or less guns, pricier bullets, better health care and minimum wage, and more speaking out against the various flavors of bigotry that many elected officials claim they can keep spouting with no ill effects, I hope you will do the same if you are of voting age.  
And of course, I will continue to volunteer, to organize, and to assist others working towards these goals.  

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Three Interesting Things

1. Lee and Low did a quick review of the whiteness (and straightness) of the results of PBS' Great American Reads.  To me the list looked heavily tilted towards things we all read in school, which would mean a larger portion of the population had read it than say your average thriller, but I'm having a Facebook convo where some folks are not recognizing their school reading, so perhaps my siblings and my went to schools with good reading lists.  Regardless, I do think this series from PBS has been interesting, but large group voted things are often going to get skewed, and often skewed in my opinion towards blandness.  
2. This look at "Coco" and representation and how we look to fiction for the mirages we need is short and wonderful. 
3. This interview with Steven Yeun was fascinating.  

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

"Aida" at Constellation Theatre

The Elton John and Tim Rice version of "Aida" hit Broadway at a time when my access to Broadway was entirely through cast albums.  I knew a small local version was going to have challenges living up to the spectacle in my brain, even before you get to the amazing original cast.  
This show fits neatly alongside some of Rice's work with Andrew Lloyd Weber like "Joseph and the Amazing Techinicolor Dreamcoat" in that it speeds through give the cast and the audience little time to transition through Aida's capture, becoming a slave in Egypt, Radames' attraction to her a random slave (or so he thinks), his gift of her to his betrothed Amneris, Mereb and other enslaved Nubians recognizing Aida as their princess, her decision that her love for Radames cannot outweigh her duty to her country, and the two of them being captured and sentenced to death together. (Spoiler alert.)  
The Constellation cast showed lots of glitter and glam, there were lots of triangles in the set, and they made use of the small stage.  Amneris is such a tough role, she starts off sweet, and ballady, and then moves quickly to a more rock style all in the very first song.  There were some characters in the show who slipped into  almost British accents in parts.  (And yes, I am aware that "Aida" exists in a non-specific time, possibly after British colonization of Africa.)  Radames went for more of a croony style than the edgey rocker style. Zoser was delightfully evil.  Mereb was funny in all the right ways.  And of course, a show where the title character is singing in about half the songs, is going to ride or die on Aida, and she was wonderful.  "The Gods Love Nubia" made me a little misty.  
Yes, a show where the central love story involves a character that has enslaved another is tricky at best, but this show does not ignore that.  In fact, when Aida tries to tell her dad that Radames is one of the good Egyptians, her dad asks if he had somehow not participated in the fighting and capturing of Nubians.  (This led one audience member to mutter, "Mm-hmm, this is what I am saying.")  
The smaller staging did mean some things, like the fact Radames helps Aida's dad escape by freeing the boat (which is also why Aida is unable to escape with him) and the original version's idea that the lovers meet again in a future life are left a little unclear. 
Overall, I think it can still be great fun to see a beloved (to me at least) production actually staged, so enjoyed this chance.  

Monday, October 22, 2018

Gender was Never Binary

Humans like categories. We like things to be this or that. At some point in time some cultures decided that gender and biological sex were linked things and that there were just two of them. Now lots of cultures, particularly those indigenous to North America had words that accepted a little more nuance than that. Hawaiian has the word mahu*, to represent something in between. 
I bring this up because whenever these discussions come up they tend to follow a couple of paths. Some people argue that being transgender is a new-fangled modern thing, despite the mountains of evidence that it is not. Similarly I see a lot of allies bringing up intersex folks. And intersex folks do, and it looks likely always have, existed. Where I get a little antsy is I personally am not cool limiting gender to biological determination, not the least because what's in my underwear is the business of a very limited set of people. So if I want folks in various places to stay out of my pants, then saying we'll stick with biology is not how we achieve this. Yes, sticking to a gender binary screws over more people than trans folks. And not even nature is using the binary is part of that argument, but the world I am fighting for is the one where the state of my sex organs is between me and a small group of people that I decide on. Not the TSA, not the DMV, not random person outside a public bathroom, so the argument I am making is that legislation to "undefine" trans people is harmful to us all. It isn't a trend we can get rid of, but I also will keep fighting to maintain the protections people, especially trans people need to stay safe. 
And those of you arguing that you are keeping little old me safe from the trans people, nope. Nope, as we saw with recent hearings, y'all aren't trying to keep me safe from assault, you are protecting the assaulters. So my safety is intrinsically tied to the continued safety of trans folks. They have always been here, and they deserve continued and in fact increasing protections. 

*This resource looks at quite a few Pacific Islander cultures and their words for folks along the gender identity and sexuality spectrum. 

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Three Interesting Things

1. A man who had some of his first acting experience locally is planning for his off Broadway debut
2. In light of recent news, it's clear that a lot of folks don't understand the historical reasons blood quantums were imposed on native tribes.  Also, one of the Massachusetts tribes is fighting for the right to retain what little reservation land they have.  
3. And this story about a man who was imprisoned as a teen, and who worked to become a lawyer later is a fascinating look at many things. 

Monday, October 15, 2018

Two Different Book Events

Tuesday, Benj Pasek, Justin Paul, and Val Emmich were in conversation with Ari Shapiro from NPR about the novelization of "Dear Evan Hansen". I enjoyed the show tremendously when I saw it at Arena. Certainly it is a show that deals with a tough subject, and also that deals with a lie. Shapiro asked about that, as they discussed wanting to show consequences, and they said, well, yeah, but he pays for the lie. There were some singing breaks, which were great. Shapiro asked if they have ever thought about stepping out onstage, pulling a Bareilles, they said no. 
Emmich talked about the challenge of taking this story and expanding it. There was some discussion of the need to handle the subject of suicide carefully, especially when going deeper into additional backstories. 
I confess, when movie novelizations were popular, I read a bunch and I would love for this to become a thing with musicals. And, ahem, I feel especially qualified to do so for "Legally Blonde", "Bring it On", and "Moulin Rouge". Oh and "Dave".

Sunday I went to One More Page to see the magic YA panel with Pintip Dunn, ** Sarah Glenn Marsh, and Lisa Maxwell. I was a smidge late (metro) so missed the mad libs but they talked about standalones versus series, and if simplifies were more fun than trilogies since it got rid of the middle book. Also an audience member asked if your book was a knitted object, what would it be which was certainly not a usual question. Maxwell said ski mask which was a fun answer. 

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Three Interesting Things

1. I did some digging on this story of an emotional support squirrel causing a flight to be deplaned, in part because I have known people who used sugar gliders as emotional support animals and they are often referred to as squirrels but essentially aren't.  They are still, I imagine going to fall under the classification of rodents, so not allowed on most airlines as emotional support, but most articles were using fox squirrel pictures, which, well, are just a different kind of squirrel pet.  Nonetheless, it's a different reason of sorts, for your plane to be delayed. 
2. This piece (warning: from a religious source) about the utility of cold anger, spoke to me. 
3. And I loved this interview with the two creators of "Crazy Ex Girlfriend" talking about the upcoming final season. 

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

The Hate U Give Movie

I read the book. Movies and books are different things. So I always go in expecting changes and hoping that the essence of it remains the same. "The Hate U Give" is the story of Starr who lives in Garden Heights - a majority black neighborhood that gets described on the news as crime ridden and goes to a private school that is majority white, and majority, let's say kids who get cars when they turn 16. She feels divided, one person at home and one at school. Things come to a head when she witnesses a police officer shooting her childhood best friend and has to grapple with how coming forward might change things both at home and at school. 
I had heard some describe the ending as powerful if overly neat and I think that's fair. The movie doesn't pretend to have all the answers for how to fix things and it raises way more issues than it attempts to resolve. 
I feel there are parts of the movie that go a tiny bit deeper than the book, ratchet the tension a little tighter but a lot of that is seeing the things. The movie did a nice job of balancing funny moments so you could let out a little, breathe a little, it's alot. It should be a lot. 
I had read the book and so knew exactly what was coming in some key moments and still jumped in my seat. I have a friend who found the book had her feeling so much deja vu for high school, wasn't sure she could finish. The gunshots surprised me, the teargas canisters surprised me, so it is not going to be a movie I would recommend for anyone with flash bang PTSD. 
It is a great movie. It does justice to the book. There were a few changes I am less certain of, including one that made the book ending seem a little less neat in comparison, but these are the tiniest of quibbles. 

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Three(ish) Interesting Things

1. This article talking to Holton alums about their own memories of sexual assault I think mirrors a larger thing that has been going on, as folks whether survivors themselves or not, grapple with the idea that these things happened so regularly we all heard stories.  
2.  Allison Leotta wrote about the historical reasons that victim testimony used to not be considered sufficient in sex crime cases, and how the echoes linger beyond the legal requirement having changed. (Note: link autoplayed an ad, so be ready to hit off if you don't have ad blockers set up.) 
3. Radiolab switched up their format last week and did four stories about bears.  Including one about how podcasts might protect you from bears. 

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

A Week of Reader Events

Last Monday I went to East City Bookshop for their combined event with One More Page to launch Heidi Heilig's A Muse of Fire.  As I told Heidi, A Girl From Everywhere ended up being a book I recommended to a ton of people - people who liked time traveling pirates, people who liked adventure, people who liked unusual fantasy.  There are very few books I would give to both my sister and my mom, and this was one.  There was bookish karaoke, cookies, and of course book discussion. Ellen Oh chatted with Heidi about how she re-wrote A Muse of Fire after the election, deciding the focus of the story needed to change, even if the concept of a world based on the Asian diaspora, starring a bipolar protagonist with the ability to necromance shadow puppets remained.  She talked about the use of ephemera from the world, to help ground the reader.  
Thursday I went to One More Page for their first romance panel.  I ran into a fellow romance book group bud, as well as reader/writer friends. Angelina Lopez moderated, and the panel had Lori Ann Bailey, Mia Sosa, and Sharon Wray.  Because they write very different things, it was a fun panel as they talked about writing journeys, who does and does not use their spouses to help with blocking for certain scenes, who has a playlist called woodworking so their kids will not suspect it's true nature, and how they all agreed the happily ever after was important.  
Saturday I went to Baltimore Book Festival.  I waved at the Maryland Romance tent before running over to the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) tent to catch the short fiction panel with Sarah Pinsker, AT Greenblatt, KJ Kabza, Sam J. Miller, Irette Y. Patterson, and Karlo Yeager Rodriguez. They talked about who did and did not write multiple short stories in the same world, touched on how it was less common these days for folks to write novels that basically combined shorts.
Then they had the YA panel with Kosoko Jackson, Justina Ireland, Zoraida Cordova, Vera Brook, and Gwendolyn Clare. They talked about writing for teens, staying current, and how the diversity push has affected (if at all) what they write.  
Back at the Maryland Romance tent, there was a contemporary panel with Shelly Ellis/Stratton, Shirlee McCoy, Priscilla Oliveras, and Christi Barth. They talked about keeping things current, determining how steamy to get, and research. 
I went to the Radical Bookfair Pavilion next to see William C. Anderson and Mariame Kaba (known as #prisonculture on Twitter) talking about the book William co-wrote called Black as Resistance. Kaba is notoriously picture shy, but she loves children and the children had designed a shirt that contained her likeness to sell at the festival.  Anderson had the shirt display next to him for the panel.  
Then I went to the Enoch Pratt Free Library tent for Nisha Sharma and Brigid Kemmerer talking about their contemporary YA's.  They talked about parental pride and whether that means your mom will actually read your book, and writing fun but realistic fiction. 
I went back to Maryland Romance for another contemporary panel with Stoni Alexander, Christi Barth, Andie J. Christopher, Nancy C. Weeks, and Kate Clayborn.  They talked about making sure your protagonists are interesting but also believable, and how to make sure the reader believes in the happy ending.  They also talked about how keeping secrets from the reader is tough in a book where you are deep in the character's head. 
The final panel of the day was strong female characters and had Kini Allen, Kate Clayborn, Stoni Alexander, L. Penelope, J.L. Lora, Melinda Valentine. They talked about how strong female characters are often matched with strong love interests, who love that they are strong.  
Sunday I headed back up to Baltimore.  I tent hopped less, although I did hop over to the Enoch Pratt tent to see Nic Stone.  She talked about how going to Israel helped her realize there are stories we just aren't hearing, and she came home and wrote a book.  That book got her an agent, although it was not in good shape and she and that agent ended up parting ways.  But she wrote another, got another agent, and that time, had an editor say, well, not this, but what else does she have.  She did not have anything else, so sat down and wrote up a quick proposal, which that editor bought.  They went through a lot of revisions, and ended up with this great book, Dear Martin.
In the Maryland Romance tent I saw writer's life, with Jamaila Brinkley, Robyn Neeley, Robin Covington, Alexa Jacobs,  Lori Ann Bailey, and Jessica Ruddick .  They talked about tips and tricks for squeezing writing in, and what planners people do or do not use.  
And the business of publishing panel had Christi Barth, Priscilla Oliveras, Andie J Christopher, Robin Covington, and Donna Alward.  They talked about how to keep it going and find a good balance.  
It was a great week and whew, I am glad to get some time to read all these fun books. 

Monday, October 01, 2018

Bait Girl - Or How I Ended Up with a Short Story That Reflected the News Cycle

I wrote this story a few years ago with a different plan for how it was going to go out into the world. As a writer my job is often to write what I know, and to imagine variations of that. I attended a fancy prep school in Bethesda. I was not much of a party person but I went to school Monday (and the other weekdays) with folks in the days before social media. I've been saving up stories, particularly shorts that I had written, with a plan to do something with them, eventually. 
Well, the news cycle caught up to this one when a woman, who turned out to have attended the same high school I did, became the center of a media storm. 
I have made a donation to RAINN, and if this story makes additional monies, I will donate those as well.  This was the story I needed to tell. 

Bait Girl - By day Lucy is just a normal student trying to get through her final year of high school and figure out what's next. 
By night, Lucy dons her party girl persona Zoe, gathering info and intervening to help other girls who might be in trouble. She's the bait girl. It's amazing how some eyeliner and some giggles make you blend in. 
Well, to everyone except this one boy. Will Lucy let him distract her from her mission?

Content warning: This story contains descriptions of drunken partying, and references to off page assault. It also contains a reference to an off page death due to depression. 
Please take care of yourself. I hope this story leaves you feeling empowered but if it triggers you please stop. I can recommend stories with puppies for you instead. 

If you need help, RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), is available in the US by phone - 800.656.HOPE (4673) and online at

The suicide prevention lifeline is available in the US by phone:  1-800-273-TALK (8255) and they have chat available at

Buy links: 





Universal link:

Friday, September 28, 2018

Newsletter Sneak Peak

     A sneak peek at the first chapter of a short story is going out to newsletter subscribers.  (Look at the Newsletter page if you'd like to sign up.

I wrote Bait Girl a few years ago, with a different plan for how this story would be sent out into the world. I attended a private school in Montgomery County, Maryland, a fact I have always been proud of, but that wasn't particularly interesting to those outside the DC surrounding areas, until just recently, when the specific elite culture of those private schools became really newsworthy.
This was the story I needed to tell myself right now. 

Content Note:
This story contains descriptions of drunken teen partying, and references to off page assault. It also contains a reference to an off page death due to depression. 
Please take care of yourself. I hope this story leaves you feeling empowered but if it triggers you please stop. I can recommend stories with puppies for you instead. 

If you need help, RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), is available in the US by phone - 800.656.HOPE (4673) and online at

The suicide prevention lifeline is available in the US by phone:  1-800-273-TALK (8255) and they have chat available at

All proceeds from this story will go to RAINN. 

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Three Interesting Things

1. I happened on to this video with a medley tribute of Lin-Manuel Miranda's work so far and it is delightful, if you are into that.  (Video plays sound and all of that.) 
2. I do love a story about activist nuns.  These ones are working on gun manufacturers to think about the weapons they make. 
3. Canadian teens are protesting for better sex ed and better indigenous peoples education

Monday, September 24, 2018

Serials are like MKALs

I have participated in a lot of Mystery Knit Alongs (MKALs) over the years.  Some have been awesome. Some less so.  Part of that is what you sign on for, the project is a mystery after all.  Some turned out to be more or less work than I was ready for.  And some - were just not meant to be mysteries.  
See, the idea with a mystery knit, is that you are getting the clue in pieces.  Not every pattern needs to be modular or pick up and turn from a circle to a square, but part of the mystery element is that it won't look exactly like you might expect if they just gave you the first clue and said, go forth and knit.  
So, quite honestly the worst mystery knit I ever did was the one where clue 1 was do X with colors 1 and 2 and then clue 2 was do X with colors 2 and 3.  
I think serials are often like this.  I think most authors understand that a serial installment should leave you curious about the rest of the story, but sometimes they do that rug pull thing at the end and then undo it right at the start of the next thing.  And you can only do that so many times before I know that everything you tell me (much like reality show episode teasers) is going to be less bad than you are pretending and now I don't care.  But the opposite is also true.  If you write a book, and just break it into equal parts, that's not really a serial either.  That starts to seem like you are trying to get me not to notice how much the whole book cost.  Now Serial Pub has some serials where each episode, focuses on different characters, so in that case it's less rug pull and more, oh, now I get to find out what the gardener was up to, which is another approach.  
But the overall message I have for both pattern designers and authors is that not everything is ready to be a serial or a mystery knit.  And it doesn't have to be.  You can give me a normal pattern, a novel or series of novellas, and I will happily decide it it's for me.  Using a format your story or pattern isn't suited to, does no one any favors. 

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Three Interesting Things

1.  I have a slight quibble with the Noah's Ark comparison, but this man rescues pets from natural disaster areas, so he was busy last weekend. 
2. Vallery Lomas won a baking show that got cancelled (due to the host being involved in sexual harassment) before her win ever aired.  The good news is, she's still baking. 
3. Alisha Rai wrote a sexy short about consent for Refinery 29. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

"Turn Me Loose" at Arena Stage

"Turn Me Loose" flips back and forth through moments in Dick Gregory's life. While there are time/place markers projected onto the back wall, the clearest mark was actually watching Edwin Lee Gibson (playing Dick Gregory) shift his body into that of an older or younger man. The show provides a good primer for anyone not versed in Gregory, showing his wit, is willingness to be outrageous in order to talk truth about how this country was (and is) treating many of it's citizens, and his belief that fighting for people was the greatest legacy he could leave behind. For much of the show the audience acts as the comedy show audience and there are moments of direct interaction. 
There is one other cast member who plays a heckler, a cab driver, and a radio host, but 99% of the show rests with its star. 
Several audience members near me were murmuring in agreement, often commenting, "Yes" or "Oh that was deep" at certain points, lending more to the feeling we were just at several sequential comedy shows. 
There are some references to Obama and to the current president, but otherwise it stays farther back covering Gregory's direct work with Civil Rights leaders and also his work to be able to be treated - wherever possible - like a comic, and not just a Black comic.  
It's a wonderful show, and I was pleased to see it. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

I Believe Victims

I believe victims. As I've said before no one has ever gotten money or fame from claiming sexual assault (think how many of us would be rich and famous) from claiming sexual assault. So when people take great personal and professional risk to come forward to say, hey, maybe this person shouldn't get even more power, I believe them. 
I beleived this accuser before I had her name or credentials. And I know some people think that sounds like blind faith, and well it kind of is. Innocent until proven guilty is supposedly the premise of justice and similarly I believe people who tell stories of harm done to them unless and until I have a reason to not believe them. 
So, I believe Christine Blasley Ford not because we share an alma mater, not because she's got a cool job. I believe her because the only possible thing that could come out of her being thrust into the spotlight on this is that maybe her accuser won't get more power. That's it. 
And if that's not enough for you, think about why. Why isn't a victim's recounting of what was done to them enough for you? Why do you believe the man who isn't saying I remember it differently or gosh, I was super drunk, he is saying nope, nothing happened at all. At the very least it suggests he is lying again. 
Also, this has been such a hard week for sexual assault survivors
Take care of yourself and remember RAINN is just one of the resources available to you if you need help. Call 800.656.HOPE or chat at Para ayuda en espaƱol,

Monday, September 17, 2018

Love and Laughter

I spent the weekend in Colorado for a family wedding. It was a great opportunity to meet family members and reacquaint myself with others. A number of family members had made big changes be it starting college or changing jobs and/or states and it was great to see that and to catch up with folks. 
I had a wonderful time and was thanked profusely for coming when honestly it was a joy for me. As much as the logistics surrounding family trips can take up a huge amount of my brain space, it is always such a great thing to see end enjoy their company. And it was a good reminder of this. 

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Three Interesting Things

1. David Simon got Twitter banned for, among other things, suggesting that Twitter was a cesspool for trolls.  His very colorfully worded discussion of what happened to the Tweet he refused to delete is an interesting look at Twitter's growing problem. 
2. Brittany Packnett talks about how watching Serena Williams demand an apology caused her to reflect on how, as a black woman, she had been trained not to demand such things. 
3. Local DC schoolkids got a chance to perform their own works about the founding fathers, chat with the cast of "Hamilton", and then see it themselves. 

Monday, September 10, 2018

Ripped Bodice Bingo 2018

I did Ripped Bodice Bingo again this summer, and this year, I actually remembered to submit.  I did not fill in the whole board.  I ended up reading a lot of historical that I had lingering in the TBR in search of carriage sex, and then kept finding other qualifications, so would read another.  I also read two that would have been perfect in May but had nothing queued up fill in those slots.  And one of these books was also the Romance Book Group pick for the Politics and Prose group, so that was nice.  There were no books I completely hated, there were certainly some (that I have indicated) that I would not recommend whole-heartedly just because there was some alphaholes or some dated jokes about gender stereotypes and such.  It was a lot of fun, and while yes, a couple of these books were purchased just to fill a spot, most I already had in the TBR, so it was a good chance to get to them.  

Crossing Hearts by Rebecca Crowley - soccer, older heroine
Lone Star Cinderella* by Maureen Child - fairytale retelling 
My Favorite Mistake* by Chelsea Cameron - forced proximity
Heat Exchange by Shannon Stacey - firefighter, older heroine
Savage Blue by Zoraida Cordova - YA Paranormal, mermaids

Destiny's Embrace by Beverly Jenkins - Buggy sex
Bay Side's Most Unexpected Bride* by Kerri Carpenter - fashionista, forced proximity
Seal Camp by Suzanne Brockmann - camp, damsel in distress
Running with Lions by Julian Winters- soccer, enemies to lovers, summer camp

The Harlot Countess* by Joanna Shupe - birds, mermaids, enemies to lovers, carriage sex, damsel in distress
Whiteout by Elyse Springer - forced proximity, extreme location 
Contracted Defense by Piper J. Drake - HEA 

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon - will be a movie
How to be a Proper Lady by Katharine Ashe - hero smells like man, birds, carriage sex, forced proximity, birds 
When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandyha Menon - tech in the big city, summer camp

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang - heroine older, fashionista, smells like a man, tech in the big city
The Surgeon's Secret Baby by Ann Christopher - Baby on cover        
Forbidden Rose by Joanna Bourne - birds
The Viking Queen's Men by Holley Trent - return to hometown
Heroine Worship by Sarah Kuhn - damsel in distress

Not used, but also would have worked: 
Forget You by Nina Crespo - HEA
Falling for the Right Brother by Kerri Carpenter - smells like a man
Rogue Hearts - Anthology - Return to Hometown
Love is All - Anthology - smells like a man
Cities: A Novella by Carla Guzman - time travel
The Ruin of a Rake by Cat Sebastian - Queer Historical

*gender sterteotype jokes  
*alphahole behavior, rape jokes
*homophobic stereotype joke

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Three Interesting Things

1. The perfume company in question has decided to pull this item, but this explainer about cultural and spiritual theft very interesting. 
2. This article on the many uses Cubans are finding for condoms, which seem to be more available than some other things, is fascinating. 
3. Teen Vogue talks about how the current prison strike ties into our larger history of slavery. 

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

National Book Fest

I am always thrilled when it's National Book Fest time.  I found this year the schedule made a lot of choices for me, such that I didn't make it to either of the Children's stages.  I also found the Fiction room already at capacity twice, and am sad that they've now shoved a bunch of authors into genre fiction, and yet genre fiction did not include romance. 
But, the event is free, and amazing nonetheless.  Because I couldn't get into Fiction, I got in line for the third floor, where they had the main stage.  The line was large enough that it stretched out across a good portion of the second floor too. My backup plan was to go down to children's but partly curiosity had me seeing if I could get into see Amy Tan.  I could, as it turns out.  She talked about how the writer's memoir was born, and how she learned all these things going through old family papers.  
In the Teen room, Elizabeth Acevedo talked about the genesis of Poet X, and also read from both it and the "Ode to the Rat".  She talked about that at the book launch too, how when she had told a professor she would write about a rat being from New York, he had told her he thought she needed more experiences.  She said, as a former teacher herself, she always tried to be very careful because small things we say to students and mentees can cut you and stick with you.  When an audience member asked what he said when she turned it in, she said he did not remember having said it.  He said wow, where did this poem come from.  
Justina Ireland read from Dread Nation and talked about how zombie stories were almost never really zombie stories, and if they were, that was almost a failure.  Ireland also wanted to look at the "not like other girls" phenomenon and why girls in similar situations are often told they need to compete with each other.  So this book let her look at that, look at racist structures, but wrap it in a package for zombies. 
I went to the Poetry Slam next, and as always these kids did some amazing things.  The Baltimore team had originally been going to participate, but could not, so they showed a video.  I snuck out at one point to see if I could get into the Fiction room for one more author talk, but it was not to be, but it meant I got to see the full second round of the slam, so really, good stuff.   

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Sandya Menon at One More Page

Christina June talked with Sandya Menon on Friday.  Menon said that From Twinkle With Love had existed as a darker book that she had already written and then when  When Dimple Met Rishi sold and was happier rom-com there was the idea to make the stories match tonally.  She also said her agent had suggested that a nice unifying thing was the fun names in the title and she said she made a whole list, thinking there are tons of Indian American names like this.  Apparently people (non-Indian generally) have accused her of making up such names, and actual Dimples, and Twinkles, and so on have shown up to explain that no, these are real names. 
Menon said one of her favorite scenes is where Dimple throws the coffee.  Menon watched a lot of movies as part of her research for Twinkle, and found some great stuff. She also mentioned that her next book will feature Rishi's brother which sounds like a lot of fun.  

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Three Interesting Things

1. Talia Hibbert spoke with someone about her career, and how she started writing romance while finishing up university
2. Nicole Bilderback, a face you know if you loved teen movies in the 1990's among other things, talked about this new place in US media. 
3. Roxane Gay wrote about how taking a work break with your piles of money is not the same as being punished for sexual harassment. 

Monday, August 27, 2018

"The Color Purple" at the Kennedy Center

Adapting an award winning book that has already been made into a beloved star-studded movie is not an easy task. "The Color Purple" meets the challenge with songs that ask much of the cast. Because the original properties are so well-known, there is not much rest time as the show works to tell the story of Celie, abused by her stepdad, given over to Mister/Albert in marriage for much the same treatment, cut off from her sister Nellie who has to leave their childhood home when their stepdad goes after her too. Her interactions with Albert's son Harpo, watching him love a Sofia who does not allow her husband to mistreat her, and then of course her developing relationship with Shug, who she meets through her husband's relationship with her. As such, there are almost no songs where at least three things aren't happening, even the love songs. They use male farm workers and more often female churchgoers as sort of a combo Greek chorus and narration catch up. The cast album from the revival with Jennifer Hudson, Cynthia Erivo, and Danielle Brooks provides a lot to live up to, but this cast did a great job. The DC run has wrapped up, but if you are elsewhere, keep an eye out for it. 

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Three Interesting Things

1. It turns out the event was sponsored by a group who has been behind other viral videos, but I still am amazed by the ingenuity of setting up a giant group date over Tinder with a group of men.  Kind of your own personal dating show. 
2. A local school found the perfect person to name their school after, instead of a slave owner, they changed it to the name of their first black principal
3. The internet allows so much communication and community, that sometimes, you read a whole article inspired by someone's odd post where they assumed their anecdotal experience of how (and why) men enter the bathtub a certain way was universal. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

In Defense of Eleanor Young

I saw a number of pieces where Michelle Yeoh said that she didn't want to be the villain mom in "Crazy Rich Asians".  I think this interview expresses it most succintly, but many of the pieces that riffed on it, boiled it down to Yeoh said she wouldn't be a stereotypical mean mom, where if you look at what she said, she said she thinks of Eleanor as a dragon mom, rather than a tiger mom.  
I am not at all here to argue with Michelle Yeoh. As someone who read the book and saw the movie, I do think that movie Eleanor is expressed a little more explicitly, partly due to time constraints, but while there absolutely are scenes in the movie that do not exist in the book, movie Eleanor is still book Eleanor.  
By the way, yes, I cannot go any further without spoiling both the book and the movie.  
I listened to the book in audio, and it is almost 14 hours, to give you a sense of the level of cutting the movie was doing.  Now of course, movies have visuals, and can do montages, and all sorts of things.  But as we see, Nick has asked Rachel to come to Singapore for his best friend's wedding.  And his mother discovers this at Bible study.  Now, it's possible to view that as an amusing quirk of the speed of gossip in the community.  But let's also look at this, Nick has been dating this woman for some time, enough that he is ready to take her to meet his family and propose, but he has told Rachel almost nothing about his family (other than Astrid).  And his mother found out about this woman - that she existed, that they were dating, that he was bringing her home - from someone else.  
And so, from Eleanor's perspective, Rachel is part of this pretend life he has been living in America, the one where he's a cool professor.  And as the movie points out a little more explicitly, when Nick tells Colin his plan, Nick hasn't figured out anything else other than he wants to marry her.  He hasn't figured out where they will live, hasn't even ever told her his ultimate life plan was to move back to Singapore.  He tells Rachel that his mother loves him so much that she let him be raised by his grandmother so he would be the favorite and he hasn't ever thought through the implications of that.  Eleanor is from a respected family, and Su Yi - this many years later - still considers her not a great match for her son. Rachel wasn't raised in Asia, isn't rich, is basically, even less acceptable than Eleanor, and so yes, Rachel will ruin the years of work that Eleanor has put into making Nick the favorite.  But Eleanor also knows that if they still don't accept her, they will never come around on Rachel.  
So, while the mahjong scene in the movie does not occur in the book, it basically demonstrates what the book says in more subtle ways throughout.  Nick can propose to Rachel and pretend the where they will live, and whose family will accept them is all details to be worked out later, but it isn't.  Rachel could be like Nick and accept and not worry.  Or she could look at the possible outcomes and see that none of them lead to happiness.  The concern is as the American raised Asian, Rachel won't worry about doing anything but what will make her happy, but actually it is Nick who is doing that.  
So, I agree that dragon mom is a fair assessment.  I was #teamRachel throughout both the book and movie, but that doesn't mean I didn't see that Eleanor had a point. Nick hadn't thought this through, he hadn't thought about what he was doing to either himself or to Rachel.  
Movie Eleanor comes around in a way that book Eleanor does not, not in the first book at least. But that doesn't make movie Eleanor any tamer.  I like to think that wordless scene where she shows up at Nick's hotel room stands in for a long conversation where she reminds Nick what he may be giving up.  Because Eleanor is right, Nick has been pretending his professor life is all he needs, but, as has happened with many discussions of late about generational wealth, it's easy to do that, when you can also hop on a first class flight home anytime you want without worrying about the cost. 

Monday, August 20, 2018

"To All the Boys I've Loved Before" - the movie version

My YA book club had a gathering to watch "To All the Boys I've Loved Before".  I adored the book by Jenny Han and the short version is that the movie captures the essence of it in the best way.  
The story is about a middle sister who has been writing letters to boys she has crushes on to provide closure for herself, and storing the letters in a hat box.  The letters get out into the world, causing the expected embarrassment, and because one of the letters was to the next door neighbor boy who, um, happens to be her older sister's very recent ex, she makes a deal with another letter recipient to pretend date so that it's clear any other crushes on her part are in the past.  Said fake boyfriend has just broken up with his girlfriend and wants to make her jealous.  
There are of course changes, compressions and all of that. The cast is amazing, and it managed to feel enough like a realistic depiction of now, and not something that would seem very dated in a few years, which is a neat trick. 
Buzzfeed has this list of differences between the book and movie. To me, as a Virginia adjacent person, the movie being set in Oregon was also notable. 
Jenny Han's letter about her desire for an Asian American teen idol was moving. 

Friday, August 17, 2018

Three Interesting Things

There's a theme this week. 
1. Celeste Pewter talks about how she hopes "Crazy Rich Asians" provides better possible choices for the next batch of Asian American kids. 
3. The wardrobe of "Crazy Rich Asians", including that emerald ring.