Monday, January 29, 2018

A Note for Authors Writing Police Officer Heroes

I feel like I keep starting these discussions with disclaimers.  I am not anti-police officer.  But I've seen a lot of people out and about discussion how current events have soured them on billionaire heroes and I have seen very little about police officer heroes.  I am aware that police officers can also be female or non-binary, I have not encountered those in fiction, particularly romance fiction with the same regularity, so I am not addressing that in this post.  Although the more i think on it, a non-binary police officer would be awesome, if you know of such a book, please let me know. 
I'm going to focus on heroes, as the post title suggests, this can also apply to side characters, even in non-romance.  Angie Thomas' The Hate You Give, for example has an uncle who is a  police officer and his character was great.  
Some of this was always true, some of this I and others are simply far more aware of, but of course much fiction exists in a time that is contemporary, yet divorced a bit from reality. Timelines are compressed, diseases particularly sexually transmitted ones are often non-existent, and there is a tradition of protagonists, especially male protagonists doing things that are really quite terrible and we hope there is enough groveling in the end to make it pay off.
I don't want to yuck anyone's yum, if you really like reading about guys who break rules and laws to get their true love, then all of that is cool.  But, I get the sense that some authors aren't presenting this as naughty behavior the hero engaged in because he hadn't fully confronted his emotions, but more like silly things book heroes do.  That line is obviously going to be different for each reader, but nonetheless, I'm going to submit some suggestions.  
A storyline where the police officer hero is accused of police brutality but of course everyone knows he is innocent that makes absolutely no mention of the current political climate is a lot of fantasy to ask your reader to engage in. See also storylines involving accusations of rape or other police corruption.  Am I suggesting people can only write about good cops?  Oh, heck no.  But there are things that you may not have time to address in your story, and if you don't then you can't tiptoe up to it and leave it.  Just like I can't read your story about a real estate developer looking for a fourth wife who has declared bankruptcy a time or two without going hmm, there are things that are too close to current concerns that it's a lot harder to not think of current issues. .  
Anything your hero does that could be curtailed by the heroine calling the police (following her on dates, waiting for hours outside her apartment after she has told him she doesn't want to see him) takes on an added level of danger when it is done by a police officer. Goodness knows romance and other fiction have sometimes conflates stalking and romantic pursuit, and I am aware of some of the cultural reasons for such.  But right now, yeesh.  
And if your police officer hero constantly breaks both the rules and the laws, then you are likely over the line for most readers.  Sure, he may be doing it out of serious concern for another character.  But the point of him being a police officer is often that he represents the good guys. If you wanted to write an anti-hero, you can.  There is of course room in fiction for a police officer anti-hero, but I see police officer heroes who are presented as good guys who are just hampered by mean bosses who want them to follow protocol. That is so problematic.  I suspect some authors may do this to excuse violations of police procedure.  Or to give him a little edge.  But as a reader this looks to me like a character who should be fired.  Yes, being a police officer is a job that has a lot of rules that make the job take longer.  Yes, we all sympathize with that. If you want to write a character who keeps violating the law without addressing what that really means, then I question whether you actually meant to write a hero at all. 

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Three Interesting Things

1. This case came to my attention on multiple fronts.  Imagine you wished the court case to be conducted in your native language.  Imagine the court case was taking place on your native lands.  Imagine the judge did not speak your native language so counted your appearance where you spoke only that language as your failure to appear in court.  This is actually happening in Hawaii. Yes the man also speaks English.  But restricting the defendant's ability to choose the language they feel most comfortable in seems a terrible precedent on multiple fronts, especially when there is a translator available.  
2. I do not watch this show. But this discussion of how the show went from cute idea with small conflicts to insane show with increasing level of manufactured conflict is something I think any reality TV watcher will appreciate.  Certainly I don't have access to the financials, but I do think in general the simple, I will watch people silently seethe over a small thing and discuss it endlessly with my friends gets overlooked by TV makers because the quiet buzz means I will watch ten episodes, where the people demonstrate they don't even care about their loved ones stuff gets old really fast. 
3. Jemele Hill wrote eloquently about how Michigan State, her alma mater, needs to wear it's shame in this gymnastics scandal. 

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Sovereignty at Arena Stage

I saw a preview of "Sovereignty" at Arena Stage.  I felt it started a bit slow, but then picked up pace once it had done a good amount of explaining so on balance, was great.  I learned things, I laughed, I teared up, and I finished feeling mad and hopeful.  
The playwright for "Sovereignty" is a tribally enrolled lawyer, and it operates along two timelines, a present to future one, and one in the 1800's, both surrounding court cases - one that has happened and one that likely will happen.  The 1800's timeline looks at the legal fight between the Cherokee nation and the state of Georgia as Georgia essentially tried to make things uncomfortable enough for the Cherokee to leave.  The current to future timeline looks at where things are now.  Worcester v. Georgia was decided by the Supreme Court in favor of the Cherokee Nation having sovereignty over reservation land. But the Cherokee were still forced out of Georgia, and a subsequent case decided that reservations did not have legal jurisdiction over non-tribe members who commit crimes on reservation land.  This was loophole was addressed in the most recent version of the Violence Against Women Act, but it still creates some legal grey.  All of this sounds very lawyerly, the play has several characters of a legal bent, but makes great use of the characters to demonstrate the actual effects of these laws.  Members of the Ridge family exist in both timelines, both worried about how to live and love and protect their families. It's a tough play, a lot of folks end up dead and/or injured.  But there were light moments too.  There are eight cast members, so most everyone plays at least two characters and as the play progresses the timelines overlap more swiftly, until one moment where one character, turns around and switches roles onstage.  (I heard some fellow audience members who thought that was an error, it read as entirely intentional to me although I did know exactly which scene they meant.) 
The set design was amazing, and the play tackles themes of how much and when to fight which turns out to be incredibly relevant right now. 

Monday, January 22, 2018

Adoptive Cultures and Other Fun Words

I'm noticing a thing.  If someone says, "Wow, I like cheese, must be my Italian background," it is cute if you are Italian.  One imagines it's tongue in cheek, because we all (one hopes) get that Italians are not genetically required to like cheese, but Italians certainly might have been raised in a food culture that often features cheese. But, if you were for example Chinese and loved cheese, and said, "I must be secretly Italian", it's a little less funny.  Now of course, I have swapped out the power dynamics, the Chinese do not have a history of say, showing up in Italy and declaring it theirs, or mining the good stuff and shipping it home as far as I'm aware.  (The Chinese are certainly not innocent of colonialism.)  
And why so serious, it's only a joke.  Except it's not really funny. Because we're reinforcing bad ideas about people only being able to like and appreciate a culture if there are of that culture.  This is why you see so many pretendians, folks who have decided outside of any and all genealogical evidence that they are secretly Native American or First Nations, because those ideas speak to them.  This is why you get people claiming their are transracial who are not transracial adoptees.  
You can like and appreciate things that are not genetically yours.  You can like and appreciate things that differ from how you were raised, or who you grew up with.  And I get this is like the adult version of if you love cheese so much you should marry it, but you can love cheese and not marry it.  I swear!  
Where this really becomes problematic, is when people then decide their bone deep affinity for a thing means they get to do things that only folks of that culture should do.  You can't use words that are offensive, that have been used to oppress.  Your affinity is not an all access VIP pass.  You can love it deeply, fully, wholly, and still be respectful.  And if you can't, then you didn't really love it.  You just loved pretending. 

Friday, January 19, 2018

Top Chef and Dysfunctional Teams

I usually have less to say on a weekly basis about "Top Chef" but well, for those of you who watched this week and know my need to discuss the failures of dysfunctional teams, here we are.  The conceit was three teams of three with each chef's course having a time limit and a slightly different challenge in an Olympic nod. Skating judge type scoring would be used for each round, with the team's total being calculated across rounds for winning and losing teams.  
The white team lost.  What was clear to both the viewers at home and the folks in the room (where there were non-judge guests who had been assigned table colors to encourage them to route for a team) was that Claudette, who had the first round for her team really seemed to be working alone while a lot of help plating was being given to the other two team members up first.  Claudette was shown to ask for a number of things, and it was pretty clear that Tanya was frustrated since this was all happening at the time she could have been prepping for her stuff.  I go back and forth on this.  Tanya clearly felt she was helping more than she needed to, and at one point said, I'm gonna need your help because I'm behind now.  So Claudette stopped asking for help and then when called out for having a meal that lacked balance was very quick to note she had not gotten the help she'd needed. 
So, it was clear that these three chefs had very different ideas of what kind of teamwork should be put into place for this challenge and once you're in the weeds it can be really tough to figure out how to recover because you are already overwhelmed.  As someone who is still working on the remaining items from busy season at my day job, we've had a lot of meeting about what went wrong and why we're behind and a lot of it kind of looks like this - basically I would have been on time if these folks had been willing to provide me this assistance and if I had known going in they would be stretched or unavailable I would have planned differently. 
So, then Tanya was up and she had made a critical error guessing the temperature of her meat.  On top of that, she had taken the precise cuts round and felt she had needed early prep time to work on her cuts, and her prep time had, from her perspective become help Claudette time.  One thing I think the show kind of glided over was there was a third member of this team who really didn't seem to be helping anyone either.  Chris mentioned in his talking head spot he had noticed the tension and decided he couldn't be distracted by it which, umm, okay.  
So, in the end, this team ended up in the bottom but Chris, who mostly didn't help anyone, had the best meal of the three, so he wasn't in jeopardy. Which is not uncommon in these team challenges, and why so often you see folks saying, I knew we were going down, I just figured this was the thing I could save.  It worked for him, because from what we saw, no one cared that he hadn't helped his team, and no one was mad that he hadn't helped, Claudette was mad that Tanya hadn't helped enough, and Tanya was mad that Claudette didn't want to acknowledge the help that had been given, and so, Chris sat their looking like the nice guy, Claudette saved herself in part by blaming Tanya, and Tanya, in the end went to Last Chance Kitchen. Look Tanya made enough critical errors, that I'm not saying she didn't deserve to go home.  But, this was dysfunction across the team.  Sacrificing your food for others never works out, but it's so hard to watch not helping others get so rewarded. Or rewarded unequally.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Three Interesting Things

1. The Another Round podcast did a great episode where one of the hosts talked to a lot of people about what the DNA company results really mean, so much of this article describing how three companies can provide different results, and how your results will change as the database grows, was less of a surprise to me, but still very interesting. 
2. Calling out racism is good for your health.  Pass it on. 
3. The missile alert in Hawaii created an opportunity for us to discuss many things that are wrong, including any time you have the opportunity to accidentally send a message to a large group of people, you should also have plan to rescind or retract that message. Coming so close to the anniversary of the overthrow it's also a sign of how we mistreat the island parts of our nation.  This should be much bigger than haha, some dude pushed the wrong button.  

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

More Podcastery

Last year I wrote about all the podcasts I listen to. Here are the changes I made for this year.  There's still too many and I need to trim some more but right now, this is where I am. 

1A NPR current events (Male Host)
The Broadway Cast - Playbill show talking about Broadway. (Male Host, rotating guests)
Everybody's Got Something - ABC's Robin Roberts interviews folks about their something (often struggle/survival). (Female host)
I Hate It But I Love It - Guilty pleasure pop culture (Female hosts)
The Kojo Nnamdi Show - Current events in DC and beyond (Male host)
Literaticast - Discussion of Kidlit publishing (Female host, rotating guests)
Making the Sausage - A deep look behind the scenes on TV shows (Male host, rotating guests) - on hiatus
Offshore - Stories from Hawaii Public Radio about the non-touristy bits of Hawaii (Female Host)
The Table Live - topics through a faith lens.  (Two Female Hosts, both of Christian persuasion, one of whom is known to me in real life.)
30 for 30 Podcasts - Sports documentaries (Male host, rotating guests)
Ear Hustle - Life in Prison (Female host, male experts)
Sweet and Sour - This Asian American Life (Two Female hosts)
Traitor Radio - Their tagline is, "A resistance podcast for short attention spans" (Female host, rotating guest) - now on hiatus
Up First - Short NPR recap of the morning's news 

Short run Shows
S-Town - (Male host)
36 Questions (Male and Female main characters) Fictional musical podcast. 

Update - Love And Radio - it was probably always true, but it became more clear to me this season that sometimes, in their attempts to make sure folks are heard in their own words, problematic statements are allowed to stand.  It's still a fascinating look at different folks, but something to keep in mind. 

Sampled - All of these I liked they just didn't survive the cut when my podcastery got out of control
Delete UR Account - Current Events (Male and Female hosts)
Jules and James - Fictional chance meeting story.  (Male and female main characters)
Reply All - Unusual stories from around the internet (Male hosts)
99% Invisible - design is everywhere in our lives (male host, rotating guests)
Reality Bytes - Dating in the Digital Age (Female hosts)
Smart Podcast Trashy Books - Discussions about romance books (Female host, rotating guests)
With Friends Like These - Hot topics of a liberal bent (Female host, rotating guests)

Friday, January 12, 2018

Three Interesting Things

1.  I had heard about the media men list from a friend in media. The original author speaks wonderfully about why such a list came to be, and how there was more outrage over the need for such a list than the reason for such a thing. 
2. I am all for DC having all the choices for biking and shared biking.  This post did a great job looking at how dockless bikes close a number of gaps
3. Teenagers discovered a substitute teacher was a white supremacist. 

Monday, January 08, 2018

2017 Reading Tally

Edited to remove references to authors who were later revealed to be harassers.  If you need to chat with someone about your experience with sexaual harassment and/or assault RAINN has resources by phone and by chat. 

Total Number: 153*.  There's an additional 32 if we count all of the novella shorts and anthologies, I counted by covers, so 11 are a novella or anthology.   In other years tallies have been higher and lower

I read 114 different authors**. 57 of those were new to me. Megan Erickson was the author I read the most with 5.  Next highest was Sherry Thomas with 4. 
I continue to track book diversity by characters, since there is not reliable data on authors but I can try to pay attention when I read. I had 82 this year, and some of them were even intersectional, as in characters of color who were also bisexual, and/or neuro-diverse, and/or having a mental illness.
82 were part of a series***. 
The oldest book was from 1999. Next oldest was from 2006. 55 were from 2016. One had been lingering in the TBR since 2008.  December was the banner reading month with 17. Romance was the highest read category with 76. YA was next highest with 42. 
I read 12 paper books and 14 audio, everything else was ebook. 
And some faves from the 2017 haul are:
The Rogue Desire anthology did that near impossible thing, where I liked everything in the anthology.  (I am still working my way through the next, but they are continuing on.)
Lorelie Brown's Take Me Home was a fun romance that started with a silly challenge, I can be your shocking Thanksgiving date if you promise there is pie.
Kate Elliott's Court of Fives started slow for me (I am really impatient you guys) so I switched to listening to it in audio and then bang, got to places I couldn't wait, and finished it back up in print.  
Tiffany Jackson's Allegedly looked at a girl who'd spent years in the juvenile justice system.  It features what some might call an unreliable narrator, to me it read as someone who'd been living with so many told to them versions of what happened, including the ones they told themself, that it took some untangling. 
Tracey Livesay wrote me amnesia and you can read it too.  Love on My Mind is a brother's fiancee which is typically a hard no for me, but it worked for me. Fiancee gets injured leaving future bro-in-law's restaurant, he escorts her to the hospital and fudges the relationship because his brother is out of the country.  Brother basically says awesome, can't get back, keep looking after her. And she has lost just enough time when she comes to to not remember the original fiance and some other life changes she made.
Julie Ann Long's Hot in Hellcat Canyon was a fun story of two people both with relationship experience, approaching how that worked for them.
Courtney Milan et al's Hamilton's Battalion was a delightful trifecta of stories from or just after the revolution.
Renee Watson's This Side of Home was a fun novel, that also looked at gentrification from the point of view of two twins. 
Nic Stone's Dear Martin I listened to on audio, so hadn't realized until I heard an interview that some of the scenes are intentionally light on setting. It captured the teenage years as you start to figure out the really big scope of unfairness in the world and grapple with how to address that.

*I counted re-reads if I re-read the whole thing a didn't just skip to my favorite parts. 
**I counted authors, not pen names, where possible.  I counted anthologies as one author, because it was just too unwieldy otherwise.
***Series is based on the book being part of a series, whether or not I read any others. 

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Three Interesting Things

1.This post about thinking differently about confrontation, had some interesting points. 
2. This article about surfing looks at how, on one beach at least, the gender barrier is cracking
3. This Do You Need to be an Activist to be a UU column obviously contains religion, but I think it's useful to look at the many ways people can work towards changing the world.  Protesting is a visible one, but it's just one. 

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Go Knit

It is likely a surprise to no one here that I knit.  I credit knitting with the prevention of homicide.  But a piece we are not going to provide traffic to suggest a well known female person of a certain age take up knitting.  As a friend of mine point out on Twitter, this disparages both her and knitting. 
Knitting is a great hobby.  I know people who have even turned it into a bit of a living.  But I have thoughts. 
So let's talk about why knitting is great.  And people who say go knit suck. 
1. Knitting is relaxing.  Except of course when it is not, like when the pattern or the yarn have done or not done something or there's a knot, but basically, overall, knitting is relaxing.  There are studies that like other repetitive motions, can get people to a state similar to what meditation achieves which is good for you.
2. Hobbies are good for you.  Doing a thing that exists entirely on your own schedule and your own whims is kind of amazing.  It's not how most people's paid work operates. It's why writers and other crafters who turn their work into paid stuff often find they crave a new hobby.
3. Making things is fun.  Knitting is not the only path to making things but it is a fun one.
4. Learning new things is good for you.  Learning is a good thing to keep doing.  Picking up new hobbies is one way to get there.
5. Knitting is generally considered to be coded female and/or gay.  Obviously a love of yarn has nothing to do with who you do or do not love in the rest of your life, but the reality is I have never seen anyone say, ugh, just take up knitting or something to a straight male of any age.  I also have a friend who started hauling to the yarn store across town because the yarn store near him told him he must be there to pick up girls and not knit. 
6. Context is important here. We also know that go take up knitting is code for go be quiet in the corner.  Stop being a person I have to  consider relevant.  And this is unfair to both the people (who are pretty much always women) it is directed at and to knitting. If you want someone to stop talking say that.  No need to involve knitting.  And if stop talking seems meaner or you know you will get crap for that, go knit is not the substitute that changes that.
7. Do things that make you happy.  Stop telling other people what they should be doing if what they are doing isn't harming anyone.