Thursday, June 28, 2018
Lo some years ago, I had the pleasure of serving on the District Youth Steering Committee with some amazing teens (who are all now adult shaped people, but I digress) and some passionate adults. One of those adults worked as a reporter as her day job. At the Capitol Gazette.
I didn't think anything of it when I first saw the news about the shooting. As the day went on I checked into Facebook, saw some other folks marking themselves safe. And I saw one person asking for news of her. Some of her kids (two of which I also had the pleasure of working with) no longer live in the area.
Her whole Facebook page had turned into people asking her to check in.
I checked Twitter. Her name pulled up all tweets of people asking her to check in.
I felt an odd mix of emotions. We hadn't really kept in touch post-committee, so did I deserve to feel sad? She has friends and family who will feel the loss more deeply. Adding to the people awaiting word seemed unnecessary. And while I knew refreshing Twitter and Facebook would do little to make her safe, but the illusion of control was seductive.
I wrote this before I knew anything. I wrote this hoping this would be a good reminder to reach out to folks, keep up with folks. As names started coming out it was the conflicting mix of emotions, as each name wasn't the person I knew, since it wasn't any less sad for these people to be dead. This was her. I am so sad for her family. I am so sad that there are more heartbroken families tonight.
1. Ijeoma Oluo wrote this piece about what will be needed in light of Justice Kennedy's retirement. And in a week of not great, in my opinion, Supreme Court decisions, I was reminded that the courts have decided that racism and bigotry were legal before and so we worked on getting that changed.
2. When one of the cast members of Disney's Broadway version of "The Lion King" fell ill, much of the cast signed up to be possible bone marrow donors. And then one cast member got a call.
3 From what I've seen the DC restaurant called Red Hen has been handling the social media vitriol from confused folks pretty nicely. This interview with them was fun. (Also Red Hen Press, also unaffiliated with any restaurants has been pretty funny about it.)
Wednesday, June 27, 2018
In 2011, I watched the Tony Awards as I often did, mainly for a glimpse of what shows I was missing out on. Cast albums I should pick up and experience. And one of the performances was this, for the nominated musical "The Scottsboro Boys".
Even though Google existed, I just bought it and went. I had not been familiar with this specific case, I'm not even sure I had done enough due diligence to realize it was a real case. But in many ways I think that is the best way to approach "The Scottsboro Boys".
The musical is from Kander and Ebb with book by David Thompson. It uses two things to lure you in, the framing device of an African American woman waiting for transport in a clearly segregated station, and the minstrel show she unleashes. One of the performers in the minstrel asks if they can tell the real truth this time, giving the audience the sense that there are layers to this story. It is the cheeriest, most gorgeous harmonies that lead you into the story of nine African American boys found riding a train with two white women. In order to escape charges, the white women claim they were gang raped. The white women are played by two of the cast members playing the boys which tells the audience exactly which side to be on and of course also ties in the the minstrel idea. Similarly the white police officers are played by black cast members. So these black actors are, in minstrel form, portraying caricatures of another race. A writer friend felt this was an important piece and did a Twitter thread about this.
The nine boys (and one of them was twelve at the start, so boys is the correct form of address) are found guilty and sentenced to death but then granted additional trials when it was found that their legal representation was inadequate. One of the women recants her story, but the other continues to show up to each new trial.
Throughout the show, the African American woman stands up and looks at the audience, or intervenes or comforts one of the boys who has been beaten. She is there to keep reminding you that it looks fun, but is terrible, in case you have forgotten.
The cast was wonderful. The Signature Theater version left the tambourines in the orchestra but had the boys shake their hands like they had tambourines, which created an intriguing layer to the real/not real effect.
I know Kander and Ebb have done other things, but I thought a lot about how this compared to "Chicago". In many ways, both shows are peppy, jazz hands looks at how white woman tears can pervert justice. In "Chicago" you are mostly on the women's side, but the show does not let you forget the collateral damage. "The Scottsboro Boys" is entirely about that damage. Yes, it's clear that the two women were facing charges of their own had they not shifted blame. One of them sings about the challenges of being a woman in a man's world. It also takes a poke at Southern nostalgia for good old days, and Northern allyship in the my black driver says I'm great way of things. And a peek at anti-semitism too.
It does the thing many musicals do, just a little more overtly, it lures you in with tambourines and horns to get you to think about a miscarriage of justice and the show itself intentionally links itself to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960's, the Signature version went a step further having a cast member at the end appear in a Black Lives Matter shirt.
I won the Todaytix lottery for discounted tickets to the show, but it runs through July 1st.
Tuesday, June 26, 2018
It is always a challenge to revisit a show you saw before. I had the great joy of seeing "Hamilton" early in it's Broadway run. A different cast, a different theater, it's a bit like seeing a movie adaptation of a favorite book in that you have to expect some things will be different. The Kennedy Center run is a long one so, the cast and crew get to settle in for a bit, but it is still a replica of a thing. It will look and sound like the thing, there were still cheers and gasps in places where a visual gag took something to the next level or a moment of revelation came from combining the visual and the sound together.
All of this is to say, my friend and I saw it Thursday night. The cast was wonderful, the set was wonderful, if you came for a "Hamilton" experience, you got one. Certain cast members made different choices. Dan Belnavis' George Washington was less warm but stern leader that Chris Jackson had been, or as I put it to my friend - stern daddy Washington. My friend preferred Sabrina Sloan's Eliza (which is heresy, but certainly she was wonderful). Bryson Bruce handled the speed of Lafayette/Jefferson well, but I confess there was some diction lost to me in "Guns and Ships". Nicolas Christopher's Burr seemed a little off pace in the first act, but handled "The Room Where it Happens" (and all the rest of the second act) with energy and charm. And those cast members I haven't mentioned were all wonderful too, this is not a situation where anyone was awful, just little things that are often only noticeable when performing in an extremely well known property.
One of the things that was clearer to me, watching this three years later is how much the cast is on stage, even when you often think they aren't. Partly this is the immersion of "Hamilton" into the pop culture such that I now know by color which dress is for which character.
If you have somehow managed to remain unspoiled on "Hamilton", the hip-hop/pop music tale of a founding father, the touring cast will definitely entertain you. And it's a wonderful chance to see it again for others.
I'm thankful I got another chance to see this show.
Monday, June 25, 2018
Update 1: It's here! (On Amazon, other etailers still in progress, I will update this once I have those links.) If you pre-ordered, there were a few minor glitches in the original file, and a subsequent file was loaded this morning, so you may wish to update. Update 2: Kobo link is up! Update 3: Apple link is up!
I have a short story in the Cocky Cockers anthology. My story is a sweet contemporary romance with a woman who finds a dog on her porch and teams up with her cute next door neighbor to look after it. There's a good range in there from a number of authors. The lovely Jackie Barbosa wrangled us all together. And the title is not just in fun, each story includes a cocker spaniel. The money raised from the anthology will go to any legal costs, if necessary, and then to the Romance Writers of America Perseverance Fund, which helps defray the costs of dues and membership fees for members in need.
If blogging or Twitter is not your preferred method for keeping up with any book, or you like newsletters, you can sign up here. I'll only newsletter with book news and occasional book recs.
Friday, June 22, 2018
Thursday, June 21, 2018
1. Jelani Cobb reflected on the place of Juneteenth in our history and how the current policies against children and families tie into that. This post on suggestions for working against these policies was written before the executive order that changed it to family internment in some cases, but has good info and resources should you feel like calling or sending money.
2. Britni Danielle wrote about how clemency for Alice Johnson is great for her, but her case is far from unique.
3. And if you had forgotten the time people across multiple countries turned towards an octopus for World Cup predictions, this history of Paul the Octopus is here for you.
Monday, June 18, 2018
Many people know that Christian Siriano came to most people's attention first as a "Project Runway" contestant. I confess he wasn't my favorite that season, but I often like the second or fourth place contestant best. What was clear was that Siriano already had a clear vision, and an understanding of the larger business. As a sidenote, I will say, there is often a sense that many of the contestants who go work for other lines, or go back home and set up an etsy shop have not made it, or not been as successful, and I think some of that is that in much the way of many pursuits, probably way more people would like Siriano name recognition and money than want to work like that. When you consider how few - relatively speaking - "Project Runway" contestants have worked in a larger fashion business, versus, sewing stuff in their living room, it's a little less surprising. But I digress.
The hing that fascinates me the most about all of this, is that in Siriano's season, the challenge he did the worst with, was one of their "real" people challenges. Now, if you look at the list of challenges, it wasn't the first time the designers worked with a non-model. And teenagers can be challenges, and one could certainly argue that prom is different. But Christian ended up in the bottom for creating something that neither he nor his model liked and it became one of those where the judges more believed that he had had an off day than the designer who got sent home, but it was close.
And now Siriano is known for designing inclusively* in his line. For being the designer who dresses the celebrities who can't get an outfit for an award ceremony. And I am aware that basing a theory of someone's career based on a highly edited hour of TV is not a great idea, but I do think that's there's something interesting going on, that the moment where he was most in danger was part of design for just this person challenge, and now that is part of what he is most known for.
*Interestingly he mentions in that interview that "Project Runway" isn't necessarily the best choice for your career.
Thursday, June 14, 2018
1. If you are looking for queer romance recommendations for the Ripped Bodice Bingo, this list at Love in Panels has a bunch of suggestions.
2. Sarah Gailey's discussion of the sensitivity read that saved her life is both heartfelt and a look at how even those living certain identities can fall victim to the dominant narratives.
3. This remembrance of Anthony Bourdain got at his passion for both knowledge and people. He will be greatly missed.
Tuesday, June 12, 2018
The Kennedy Center's Center Stage series, allows for minimally staged short runs of productions. This run included a cast of well known folks - Skylar Astin, Betsy Wolfe, Michael Urie, Becky Newton, and John Michael Higgins to name a few. I had seen "How to Succeed", ahem, quite a few years ago when they did the pre-Broadway revival run with Matthew Broderick. So it was nice to come back to the same place for this version. Folks who have seen or heard "Pitch Perfect", "Betty Ugly" or "Waitress" won't be surprised that this was a cast that sang well, and was able to be comedic when necessary. "How to Succeed" is the story of Finch who finds the titular book and uses it's advice to finesse his way into the fast track in a large corporation. Along the way he encounters Rosemary, who has goals of her own, aka a husband, and the boss's nephew who lacks Finch's finesse and charm but still wants to get ahead also. The gender conformity is inherent in script. That's not to excuse it, it's simply to note that it's not something that can be fixed with clever line updates.
However, I think the show takes both of their goals seriously. Certainly Finch gets more time, and Finch is the one who gets to wink at the crowd a lot. Having Michael Urie play a conniving nephew is practically typecasting, but he was wonderful to watch and it was fun to watch Finch keep one upping him. There was one moment where a particularly amusing pause in a line from Finch caused Biggley (Higgins) to break for a few seconds before he could recover his lines.
This production did manage to have multiple people of color. Usually Miss Jones is cast as African American, in part because she gets the more bluesy bits in "Brotherhood of Man". But this production also had the wonderful Joaquina Kalukango as Smitty, as well as several ensemble members.
I really enjoyed the production.
Sunday, June 10, 2018
Friday, June 08, 2018
I have been engaging in a complex series of sport superstitions this year. The realization that there are college kids who can't remember when DC sports teams didn't seem like the worst teases was tough. I am not a lifelong hockey fan. I came to it later. But it is currently the only area sports team I ever had season tickets to. All sports are different live, but I maintain that hockey does the best job of welcoming you in and taking you along for a huge ride.
The the Vegas Knights fans. Welcome to the highs and the lows of sports fandom.
To the Caps - the players and all the people who make it go, to the fans new and old, and to the rest of you all in DC this week, congrats. I have a New Yorker tell me that never had he seen a city live and die by it's sports teams as much as DC. We are in a great mood right now.
Thursday, June 07, 2018
1. A friend of mine wrote this about her years as a 911 dispatcher, and how calls about people of color just being were a regular occurence.
2. This remembrance of Kate Spade and what having such a bag meant, was lovely.
3. I had thoughts about the cancellation of "Roseanne", but I thought one of the targets of one of her online screeds might do better to explain how racism isn't the same as being an edgy comedian.
Monday, June 04, 2018
The ultimate theme of season 3 turned out to be taking responsibility. I am not a huge fan of big season finale's necessarily, because I feel they often create a scenario where the show constantly has to top itself and yet, "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" has managed to do that three times in ways that are both unexpected and predictable. Anyone who watched the first episode would not have been terribly surprised to watch Rebecca stand up for herself in one relationship only to immediately turn around and make the choice to hook up with Josh mere seconds after they each left a relationship, and then just assume that this meant all the things were perfect.
And it wasn't a surprise in retrospect that Josh would not marry her, would leave her at the altar, and vowing revenge was wonderful and right and also totally not the healthy choice.
Rebecca realized that she felt guilty for having been absolved by her friends for the smaller transgressions, and decided in typical Rebecca fashion to go all in and confess all the things, leading to understandable hurt on the part of Paula, Nathan, and Josh. Normally I would say the big gesture was Rebecca hoping to make herself feel better, and I think there was a little of that. Confession is good for the soul, but there are some things that you confess to feel better about not having to keep the secret, not because anyone really needs to know what had happened. And of course, there is always that hope that the truest of friends will hear the whole list and still forgive you. Ultimately, I think it was partly Rebecca expecting to lose everyone, because she realized that she really had crossed boundaries (and legalities) and wanted to be punished because she doesn't really believe she deserves good things.
So post confession, having been manipulated by Trent to show up at Nathan's housewarming party with his new girlfriend, because Trent threatened Nathan's life, she shoves Trent off a balcony and then ends up in a scenario where, as Nathan neatly sums it up, it looks like she showed up uninvited to one ex's party in order to attempt to kill another ex. So, he suggests she make use of her new diagnosis and plead insanity. But Rebecca, after singing an awesome duet with Nathan about how nothing is their fault, ultimately realizes that that's not the road she wants to take. So she pleads guilty.
Season 4 is apparently the last season, so I fully expect that the creators are taking us on a final amazing journey. I'm so grateful for this show.